By Me Today: Nintendo Pulls the Plug on Brazil

From my post today at WSJ Digits:

It’s game over for Nintendo in Brazil.

The Japanese videogame maker on Friday said it is ending direct sales of its games and consoles in Latin America’s biggest economy due to what it called a business environment that made its operations “unsustainable” there.

High import taxes have meant that games like the company’s popular “Super Smash Bros.” cost nearly 20% more than in the U.S. Other Latin American countries, which have a separate distributor, will not be affected.

Yes, This is a Photo of Me with Giorgio Chiellini

2015 01 11 np chielini

File under: Brushes with iconic soccer players in Jakarta. Related post from May: Meeting Fulham and Manchester United great Edwin van der Sar in the Jakarta airport.

I’m back after an excellent holiday break.

In the week or so I spent offline with friends and family, I had plenty of time to daydream, catch up on sleep, read books — books!* — and consider all the excellent things that happened during 2014.

And I realized: I forgot to tell you, dear friends, about how I met** Juventus and Italy great Giorgio Chiellini*** in Jakarta in August.

Yes, that’s the two of us in the photo above.

I was in Indonesia working on stories and, one afternoon, visited a five star hotel in Jakarta.

It just so happened that storied Italian club side Juventus were staying there, as they were in town for an exhibition game.

And who did I see? Yes, it was Chielini, the powerful Juventus and Italy defender.

Yes, the player who Luis Suarez bit during the World Cup last summer:

It was remarkable to see him in person.

And the answer is: No, I did not pose for the photo — like this one — as if I were biting him.

*More to come soon on a remarkable novel I read during my down time.

**By “met,” I mean that I approached him as he strode across the hotel lobby, gestured to my phone, and then stood next to him for approximately five seconds as we had our photo taken together. After which he walked away. It was not a lengthy interaction.

***No, given my love for all things goalkeeper-related, I did not bump into Juventus and Italy’s legendary Gianluigi Buffon.

The 20 Best ‘Best of 2014′ Lists

  1. Best Books of 2014WSJ
  2. The books Quartz read in 2014 — Quartz
  3. The best books of 2014 — The Economist
  4. 10 best nonfiction books of 2014 — Stephen Carter at Bloomberg View
  5. The 10 Best Books of 2014NYT
  6. The Best Books of 2014 — Amazon
  7. The Best Book Covers of 2014NYT
  8. Longreads’ Best of 2014 — Longreads
  9. The Best Movies of 2014 — Richard Brody at The New Yorker
  10. Best movies of 2014 with behavioral economics themes — Cass Sunstein at Bloomberg View
  11. The 20 best movies of 2014 — A.V. Club
  12. The Best Movie Posters of 2014 — MUBI Notebook
  13. The 10 Best TV Shows of 2014 — Vulture
  14. Best TV Of 2014 — NPR
  15. Best albums of 2014 — Rateyourmusic.com
  16. The 100 Best Tracks of 2014 — Pitchfork
  17. Best iPhone photos of 2014 — iPhone Photography Awards
  18. Top physics breakthroughs of 2014 — Physics World
  19. The Best Tech Quotes of 2014 — Vauhini Vara at The New Yorker
  20. Embedded above and on YouTube here: Top 30 Goals World Cup 2014, by HeilRJ.

Aunt Cece and Her Pecan Pie Make Their WSJ Debut

2014 12 16 aunt cece

Longtime Newley.com readers will recall that I have blogged, in past years, about my Aunt Cece’s pecan pie.

I absolutely love it. And I make a point to bake one every Thanksgiving.

I’m happy to say that her fantastic dish figures in this story I wrote for WSJ Expat about connections that folks who live abroad feel to food from home:

American holidays and customs resonate strongly with me during this time of year, even amid the heat and sunshine of my adopted Southeast Asian home.

The nostalgia surprises me sometimes. Born in Oregon and raised in South Carolina, when I still lived in the U.S. I never really cared that much about Thanksgiving, for instance. Then I moved to Thailand in 2006. It was only there, surrounded by central Bangkok’s gray concrete buildings, with puttering tuk-tuks buzzing in my ears, that this most American of holidays firmly took root in my heart.

Perhaps it was homesickness mixing with a bit of sentimentality I didn’t know I had. The result was a hankering for down-home side dishes like deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, and—best of all—my Aunt Cece’s South Carolina pecan pie, not to mention cranberry sauce and my mother’s oyster pie. My wife—also an American—and I used these dishes to maintain a connection to home and celebrate with our close-knit group of friends since our relatives were so far away. We moved to Singapore in February and continue to celebrate American holidays here, in this similarly tropical city-state.

It turns out I’m not the only foreigner whose view on his or her home country’s holidays have changed over time, though not always in ways you’d expect.

Click through for photos, input from other expats, and — perhaps best of all — the recipe for Aunt Cece’s pie.

By Me Today: Uber’s Controversial ‘Surge Pricing’ in Sydney

Earlier today, I wrote:

Uber acted quickly Monday in an attempt to tamp down the latest controversy to hit the company, saying it is offering passengers free rides amid an unfolding siege at a Sydney café after complaints that rates had soared to exorbitant levels.

The reversal came just a short time after the ride-sharing app drew criticism on Twitter for saying it was raising prices to attract more drivers to the city’s central business district, where at least one gunman had taken hostages in a cafe and placed an Islamic flag in the window, sparking concerns a terrorist attack was under way.

The fare uptick was the result of an Uber policy called surge pricing, in which an algorithm charges customers more money during times of high demand — as was apparently the case in Sydney. Some users reported that the minimum fare had skyrocketed to $100 Australian dollars ($82) for a ride.

Click through for more. And for updates about the situation in Sydney, see our live blog.

Meanwhile, I neglected to mention that I recently wrote about Uber’s regulatory issues in Southeast Asia.

John Cassidy on the Business of Journalism: VC Funding and Online Subscriptions Show Promise

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, who writes about economics and politics, on the current state of the business of journalism:

While many journalists have lost faith in the future of their trade, venture capitalists are taking the opposite view. Far from giving up on journalism, they are providing big chunks of funding to online news providers, such as BuzzFeed, Vice, and Vox. Some of what these publishers put out is mere click bait, but they also produce serious journalism, such as this story, from The Verge, a Vox site, which details how the N.Y.P.D. is using social media to lock up Harlem teens, and this interview that Vice scored with James Mitchell, the psychologist who helped the C.I.A. to develop its “enhanced interrogation”—i.e., torture—techniques.

And:

In addition, online journalism is thriving at many publications that are still widely regarded as “old media.” At the New York Times and other major newspapers, digital subscriptions are rising steadily. To be sure, the revenues from this source haven’t fully replaced all the lost revenues from print subscriptions and print advertising: in some parts of the industry, this may well never happen. But subscription-based journalism (encompassing digital and print) is rapidly becoming financially viable, at least for national publications. And that really is good news. Advertising-funded journalists are beholden to advertisers, page-view metrics, and social-media algorithms. Subscription-funded journalists are beholden to readers.

And:

The rise of online subscriptions isn’t confined to the Times. According to figures from the Alliance for Audited Media, the Wall Street Journal now has more than nine hundred thousand digital subscribers. (Its total circulation is close to 2.3 million.) The Financial Times, which helped to pioneer the metered-paywall model, which allows readers to read a certain number of stories a month before being charged, has gone further in this direction than any other major newspaper. According to Rachel Taube, a spokeswoman for the paper, it now has 476,000 digital subscribers, compared with 217,171 print subscribers. Although it is still known as the Pink ’Un, a reference to the pink paper it is printed on, it is now predominantly a digital publication.

And:

Of course, none of this means that journalism is out of the woods. Regional newspapers, which by definition have smaller markets than national ones, have been hit particularly hard by the decline in print advertising. Magazines, especially small ones, such as The New Republic, also face major challenges, which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post. Throughout the industry, job cuts and efforts to restrict wages and benefits will probably continue. Unless publishers can find a way to expand digital advertising and supplement the money they get from subscriptions, keeping costs in line with revenues will always be a demanding task. That means funding big, time-consuming investigative projects will continue to be a problem. But the argument that newspapers are dinosaurs, destined to be replaced by nimbler online competitors, looks a good deal less convincing than it did a few years ago. And considering where we have been, that qualifies as good news.

Read the whole thing. And subscribe to The WSJ here! :-)