beer prices in oslo

posted in: food, oslo 0

yes, oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and people often complain about measure it using the price of beer. the alternative newspaper natt&dag has a weekly “beer barometer” (ølbarometer) which lists oslo’s cheapest beer places, but unfortunately not online. fear not, I can share with you oslopuls’ recent survey of 55 bars around the city, with prices ranging from 29 kroner (if you buy before 1 PM) up to 92.5 kroner (at the touristy place by the sea)–all for a half-litre of beer.

(1 USD = 5.5 kroner)

high prices = more pak khom

posted in: food, oslo 0

Oslo is known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world (but was recently surpassed by Copenhagen according to ECA International–a link that was sent to me by a friend in Geneva, btw). There are many reasons for this (which I still need to figure out), but for one thing the wages in Norway are much more equalized: the difference in salaries between the rich and poor is not so drastic as in, say, the United States. You can actually make a decent wage at a menial job here–but as a result, we pay more for services that would normally be cheap in other countries. For example, I paid 75 kroner (around $12) to copy my house key the other day. And haircuts here start at 500-600.

Which is a really roundabout way to say that I don’t often eat out (“You want me to pay *how* much for that?!”), and through a friend have discovered the different Asian grocery stores in the immigrant neighbourhood of Grønland. The shops I go to now are usually run by Vietnamese, but they sell products from a range of Asian and even African countries (I didn’t know they ate so much basmati rice!). Anyway, the main reason I go to these shops is because regular Norwegian supermarkets lack a lot of leafy greens and their fresh vegetables usually don’t look, well, fresh.

The Grønland stores are relatively small when compared to big Asian supermarkets in Canada, so it’s amazing how many different kinds of vegetables they manage to import. Yesterday I decided to try one I had completely no idea about: it’s called pak khom, and it is a leafy stem with beautiful purple centres, from Thailand.

After a bit of googling, I found out I could cook it like spinach. So I used our standby morning glory recipe: first stir-fry the stems, then the leaves, and then add a sauce made of chopped garlic, sliced thai chili, black bean sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar.

Turned out great, but the stems are rather chewy so will leave that out next time.

Finally, the last thing I ate yesterday was an apricot-kiwi crumble–I’m always amazed at what a brilliant way this is for getting rid of fruit (I always buy too much). Those are frozen blackberries, btw.

stavanger’s oil museum

posted in: travel 0

Stavanger is Norway’s oil city, and so naturally I had to visit the oil museum. Norway was apparently a poor country less than two generations ago, but in 1969 oil was discovered in the North Sea. Since then, the government has been careful about limiting foreign rights to the oil. In 1972, Statoil was founded (though it was later partially privatized), and in 1975 Norway began exporting oil. Today, oil and gas accounts for a third of all of Norway’s exports, with 1/8 of its GDP coming from the petroleum sector.

One of the more interesting uses of this oil windfall has been the Petroleum Fund (now called the Government Pension Fund – Global), whereby surplus income generated from petroleum is invested in a fund. In 2004, the government established ethical guidelines for investments and have even excluded certain companies from the Fund that are considered to be in breach of these guidelines (for example, tobacco companies, companies that have caused serious environmental damage, etc.). Wal-Mart was added to this list in 2006.

Anyway, back to the oil museum! Here is a letter from the President of Phillips Petroleum Company to the Norwegian government in 1962:

Phillips Petroleum Company is interested in obtaining from the Norwegian Government an oil and gas concession covering the lands lying beneath the territorial waters of Norway plus that portion of the continental shelf lying beneath the North Sea which may now or in the future belong to or be under the jurisdiction of Norway.


Your application for an oil and gas concession cannot therefore be dealt with at the present moment, but I promise to keep your letter in mind.

Here are Norway’s 10 Oil Commandments: a declaration of principles governing oil policy that was adopted by parliament in 1971.

Finally, the value of the Petroleum Fund the day I visited the museum:

purchasing power across cities

as a follow up–when comparing the price of public transport, a friend duly noted that it would be more interesting to see the relative purchasing power of people in these cities.

conveniently, UBS has published a 2009 report on Prices and Earnings in 73 cities.

using New York as the benchmark, here are the relative purchasing powers (income / price of basket of goods & services) of some cities of note:

City Net Hourly Pay Annual Income
New York 100 100
Chicago 96.3 88.8
Berlin 89.4 77.6
Montreal 88.9 83.9
London 86.7 76.9
Toronto 85.7 80.4
Tokyo 81.4 82.2
Paris 75.2 61.3
Taipei 57.5 58.9
Moscow 55.6 49.4
Hong Kong 52.3 58.1
Seoul 51.3 57.4
Kuala Lumpur 38.4 39.5
Shanghai 25.3 24.7
Bangkok 24.1 26.0

In its report, UBS notes that when comparing purchasing power, the basket of goods and services would be different in Asian cities versus European or North American ones. For that reason, they came up with a measure based on the Economist’s Big Mac Index: working time required to buy a big mac (this is from page 11–download the full report for more info).

cities BM

It’s funny to use Big Macs as a comparison, since going to McDonald’s in North America (as a cheap place to eat) is not quite the same as in Asia, where it’s more a gimmicky thing (since it would be much cheaper to eat, say, a bowl of noodles). I’m sure McDonald’s considers that when marketing (& pricing?) its menu…

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proportion living in poverty

proportion living on over PPP $200 a day

proportion of mopeds and motorcycles

proportion of species that became extinct between 1500-2004

class auction

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Wharton takes it one step further, allowing students to sell their courses (for points) to other students. It’s all done through a Web site. Buyers and sellers are anonymous, so buddies can’t make deals. Wharton also uses a second-price auction in which the highest bidder wins, but he or she pays the amount of the second-highest bid. Economists like the second-price auction because they think it encourages more honest bidding.

In other words, Wharton has what may be the most sophisticated, and most confusing, course-registration system ever devised…

The Chronicle of Higher Education


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writing a paper on pharmaceutical patents in china (yes, pressed for time), and I came across this–the type of story that gets me all into intellectual property again.

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