Monday, September 25, 2006

the futility of multilateral trade talks

Well, I'm happy to report that I'm almost entirely well again. The phlegm still lingers, but the aches and sore throat are gone, and my energy is just about back to normal. And the weather here is still nice, so I walked to school today, which was lovely after so much sitting on my ass.

I bullshit my way through my international economics seminar tonight after only sort of skimming the readings. We were discussing the WTO and the collapse of the Doha round, about which I already know a fair amount. One of the articles we were assigned to read was written by Joseph Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton, who subsequently wrote an entire book on the same topic (Fair Trade for All); I read that book last spring, so I figured I could blow off that article. Most of the other things we were assigned to read were various short papers coming from the US, the EU, or the developing world, all blaming each other for the failure to come to an agreement after five years of negotiation under the Doha round. But what we're talking about is multilateral trade talks that require unanimous agreement among 150 countries that then have to go back and sell the agreement politically (well, the ones that are democracies at least) to a populace that is totally ignorant regarding even the most basic of economic issues. It's hardly suprising to me that negotiations collapsed, and it's the fault of a lot of countries, not the least of which is the US, which uses talk of agricultural liberalization to help developing nations as a guise to open up the EU's wheat market to US exports. Not that the EU isn't also ridiculously intransigent in its own ways. And what's with China and India, with booming export sectors and annual GDP growth of 10% and 8% respectively, claiming that as poor developing countries they can't be expected to lower tariffs?

Anyway, my point was that given that I'm only taking two classes, I feel a little bad when I half-ass one of them. I should really be working on econometrics right now, but I think instead I'm going to do a NYT crossword puzzle and go to sleep early (yes, getting to sleep before one a.m. is early in my world). Hopefully tomorrow I will wake up feeling totally healed and I'll have an uber-productive day.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

connecting and evicting the ants

When I upload this it will show up as being posted on Sunday the 24th, which is technically true, but really it's just 2 a.m. on Saturday night. I suppose that the prudent thing to do at this point would be to go to bed, but I've only been awake for 13 hours today, and I spent most of that time sitting in my papazan chair (with the exception of a lovely 5 block stroll to Walgreens to buy toilet paper and ice cream).

My apartment has been spectacularly messy for about a week now. In the last couple days, ants have found food in my kitchen garbage, and instead of emptying said garbage and waiting for the ants to go away (which is what I usually do), I've just been letting them go to town. Their path goes under my dining room table, so they don't really get in my way. But the garbage can had actually reached capacity today (as had all my other garbage cans, mostly due to used tissues), so I took out all the trash. As a side note, it may surprise you to know that I have three trash cans in my studio apartment--that works out to one trash can for every 150 square feet, plus a mini trash can in the basket that's hung on the side of my bed. The kitchen and bathroom trashcans are obviously necessary, but the one in the "living room" is purely for reasons of laziness. Likewise, I have about six tubes of lip balm stashed in various places in the apartment (that's one every 75 square feet, in case you're still counting), because I'm addicted to it, and again, I'm very lazy. Anyway, I emptied all the various garbages, and I also did the dishes and put away a big pile of clothing. Then I took a shower and put on a clean pair of pajamas. Being clean and having a cleanish apartment did wonders for my mood and productivity, so I've spent the past couple of hours grading exams and watching my collection of R.E.M. DVDs (beginning with When the Light Is Mine, which is their newly released compilation of music videos and live performances circa 1982-1987, when they were on their old indie label I.R.S.--my brother and sister-in-law, or Griffin and Faramond, to call them by their dorky Lord of the Rings screen names, got it for me for my birthday*). I'm still feeling fairly perky, so I think I will watch one more DVD and see if I can grade one more section of the exams (which will leave only one section left to grade--Dr. J is going to be seriously impressed with me...I don't think he understands that being sick makes it easier, not harder, for me to grade, because it forces me to be at home).

I'm not even sure why I'm writing this post. I suppose I'm feeling very isolated. Which is odd, because I saw E and M yesterday, I've talked to a several people on the phone today, and gotten several emails. But I was already feeling a tad isolated this semester because I'm only taking one class with my usual econ posse, and even before I got sick circumstances forced (or at least strongly encouraged) me to bail on McDreamy on a couple of occasions, so I haven't seen him in a while either. And the weather really has been lovely, so it would be nice to be, you know, doing stuff. I guess I'm writing this post partly to complain, and partly to add to my feeling of connectedness to the world. I guess that's the point of the blog in general. Well, that and to "hear" the "sound" of my own "voice", which you all know I adore.

*For the record, Rebel also bought me this DVD for my birthday, and unlike Faramond and Griff, who had to be instructed, she came up with the idea on her own. She was just unlucky enough to buy it for me after they'd already given it to me; she still gets credit for having a very good gift idea, even if she has to return it now. Oh, and while we're on good gifts, MJ, I got KINK Live Nine in the mail today. Yay! I was really hoping someone would get it for me. Thank you.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

antisocial shut-in

I've entered a dangerous time in the life of my cold. After a lovely 10 hours of sleep, I'm functioning at about 70% of normal capacity, and I'm desperate to get out of my apartment. But I'd probably recover faster if I just stayed here and continued to recouperate. I've never been one to be good with present discipline for future reward. On the other hand, as sick as I am of my apartment (no pun intended), if I leave it, I have to brush my teeth and put on a bra, which doesn't sound very appealing either.

Something called the Love Parade is happening in SF today. Actually, I think the official name is the "LoveFest" but the main event is a parade, and it apparently has its roots in a "Love Parade" protest that took place in Germany in 1989 a few months prior to the toppling of the Berlin Wall. M is very bitter because she wanted to go to it, but she has to go to the review session for Graduate Microeconomics, because they have a test on Tuesday. I took Grad Micro last year, and I remember I was late to the review session because the 5 wasn't running because of the parade (which at the time I knew nothing about). This is one of those things about living in SF that I should probably enjoy and take advantage of, but even if I weren't sick, all of my few friends are busy anyway. Beyond that, I suppose that there's something that seems a little silly and redundant to me about an event like the Love Parade in a city like San Francisco. It can't possibly retain much of its protest-driven origins. What would they be protesting against? The stiffling conservatism of San Francisco? The unreasonable government officials who let them use the grassy square in front of city hall as the LoveFest festival site? I suppose it's a celebration of the sort of city/community we live in, and I'm certainly all for that. I guess I just don't want to be at it. I think part of my problem is that as a frequenter of public transportation, my central impression of parades and protests is as something that makes it inconvenient for me to get where I'm trying to go. The anti-war protests in downtown Portland used to make me absolutely crazy (I'm sure some of you remember my rants: "I don't support the war! NO ONE in Portland supports the war! Why don't they go to central Oregon and tie up traffic and inconvenience people there!?"). Same deal with Critical Mass. I support and celebrate a whole mob of bicyclists getting in the way of all the cars trying to leave downtown, but I'm not in a car. I'm helping to save the earth on a crowded, smelly bus, and I just want to go home.

Three days with a cold and apparently I've become an angry, antisocial shut-in. Except not really, because I did leave the apartment yesterday to meet with M and E (and we had a lovely lunch at a place wittily named "The Crepevine"), and I'll have to leave it at some point today because I'm out of toilet paper, and if I keep using tissues instead I'll run out of them as well.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

the demand for designer shirts

I tutored that little skater boy again today. It's funny to look at economics from the perspective of someone who is just starting to learn it, because such a person's ideas about how economics works are based so much more on the real world (as opposed to actual economists, who love our nice little models and could give a shit how the real world works...just kidding...sort of). The problem isn't extrapolating from the real world, it's extrapolating incorrectly from the real world. I was trying to explain to him why as price goes up, the quantity demanded of a good goes down. This seems patently obvious to me, and I would think it would be so to anyone: the more expensive something is, the fewer people are going to want to buy it. But skater boy was thinking about things like iPods and designer shirts, which are both expensive and highly demanded (well, I don't know about designer shirts, but iPods have a pretty high demand). He's thinking that more people want the designer shirt than want the WalMart shirt, so demand goes up as price goes up. So I tried to explain that the designer shirt has its own demand function, totally separate from that of the WalMart shirt. And that the 20 gig iPod and the 60 gig iPod each have a separate demand function. On top of that, I was trying to explain that since the supply curve and the demand curve are on the same graph, the horizontal axis, which measures quantitiy, is measuring both quantity supplied and quantity demanded, and even though you're moving up the demand curve, quantity demanded is going down, because the curve has a negative slope. I guess it really is all very confusing the first time you're exposed to it. I think I got a B in principles of econ when I took it at Willamette.

I'm feeling mentally much better today, and going to see my psychiatrist was productive. But alas, it appears that I'm getting a cold, so that kind of blows. I'm sucking down the zinc to try to make it go away as quickly as possible. I feel bad because I've cancelled on McDreamy twice now in less than a week, and I may have to cancel again tomorrow because I'm all germy.

Well, its time to go to bed, because I have to get up at the butt-crack of dawn (also known as 7:15 a.m.) so that I can proctor Dr. J's micro exams for him.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

blahness, city life, and the BMW cockroach

I've had one of those "can't get out of bed" days today, so I totally bailed on everyone and everything I had scheduled. I was supposed to go to campus and work on econometrics (note to Rebel: yes, the secret evil cult of econometrics) and talk about how to code our data. Then I was supposed to meet up with McDreamy and his roommate to play games at a cafe. I would have enjoyed all of those things (well, "enjoy" is a strong word to apply to econometrics, but I would have enjoyed E, M, and H's company, and I would have enjoyed getting something done), but I just felt totally inert all day. I have an appointment with my shrink tomorrow, so that's good. It's not like I've been depressed in general lately; yesterday, for example, I had an interesting, productive, happy day. I tend to get a little blah on days where I don't have any obligations (i.e. no class) but that's why I try to make plans and schedule my time so that I don't just sit around my apartment and wallow in whatever. But I guess it doesn't work if the plans are ones that I've made with understanding friends who don't mind if I break them.

I didn't sleep well last night, so maybe I'm just tired. I did take a long nap this afternoon, which possibly just made matters worse, since it was 6:30 by the time I woke up so I felt all weird and groggy and will probably be up late again. I don't mean for this entry to be a big whine, but if I'd had a good day I'd probably be too tired to write, so you're stuck with this.

Someone just made sort of a howling noise out on the street below my window. It's been warmish here (the other day it hit 83 degrees! ooh, hot!), and it's warm up on my loft bed (I assume because heat rises) so I've got two of my windows open. Usually there's at least one open all the time because I like the cool air and I don't like the apartment to get stuffy. As a result, I hear all kinds of noises. I can tell when it's rush hour because I hear music from people's car stereos, which means that the cars are backed up nearly an entire block at the light on Gough and Fulton (Incidentally, I hear the most bizarre songs sometimes; I think someone was blasting a Huey Lewis song today). On the weekends, there's always drunk people yelling to their friends or otherwise being boisterous as they leave The Jade, which is the bar on the first floor of my building. Early in the morning a couple times a week the garbage or recycling truck pulls into the alley and makes all sorts of loud engine and beeping noises (generally I sleep through this because I'm used to it). There are sirens about once a day, and there are traffic noises all the time. When a big truck goes by, the building shakes, which actually comforts me, because I think it means that the building is retrofitted to be earthquake safe (i.e. to shake and sway, rather than crack and crumble, in an earthquake).

Anyway, my point is that I really like all these noises. Occasionally they are annoying, and I don't doubt that they'd be far more annoying if I weren't such a heavy sleeper. But I am, and it makes me feel connected to the city to constantly hear it outside. It also reminds me of India a little bit, which was an even noisier place. That was one of the first things I noticed when I got to my ma's house in Bakersfield: everything was so quiet (that's the suburbs for you, I guess).

I think I had a dream last night that I was back in India. The only thing I remember about it was that I had to go to the bathroom, and I couldn't find one. And I remember being glad to be back there. I've also been dreaming about my dad a lot. Those dreams are interesting because he'll go back and forth from being dead to being alive in the same dream. Oh, and in the most recent one I had, there was a big cockroach at his house, and it had a BMW logo on it (a little metal disc, just like on the car only tiny). I stepped on it and killed it.

Hopefully my next post will be more lively. But there was something vaguely therapeutic about writing this one, and no one's making you read it, so what am I apologizing for? I'm having a lousy day, so just deal with it people! =)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

manbags and adorable freshmen

I know, I know, I'm so overdue for a post. I have pictures from B's visit, but I just can't be bothered to upload them at the moment.

I had a very productive day today. I mostly did a bunch of annoying little errands like getting my sunglasses tightened (they were falling off my face when I tilted my head down), going to the post office to pick up some packages, and getting my prescriptions refilled. I also spent a few hours shopping, mostly for man bags for McDreamy (I think I've convinced him that it would be a superior method for transporting his PDA, cell phone, and wallet, in contrast to his current habit of wearing them on his belt like a super hero). And yes, I've only been dating him for a few weeks, and he's not my boyfriend, but I am sort of telling him how to dress (or at least how to accessorize). But in my defense, I keep telling him to just ignore my advice because it's his life and I want him to do whatever makes him happy, but he seems to want my advice, at least to some degree. Anyway, finding man bags was harder than you might think in a city with such a vast population of gay men. I guess it's just that I have something very specific (and relatively small) in mind, and I can't seem to find it.

But as usual, I did a great job of shopping for myself. I got some long-sleeved shirts on sale for $10 each at Old Navy, and when I bought them they gave me a coupon for 15% off at The Gap, so I went over there and found some good cotton underwear (the kind that has no lace or other crap and doesn't look like something a ten year old would wear), which seems increasingly hard to come by these days. And it was on sale too! I also bought a black ribbed tank top, which was utterly unjustified because I already have two black ribbed tank tops, but this one is a different style, and it was on clearance for $8 (not to mention the extra 15% off) so it was easy to rationalize.

It's time for me to go curl up with a big stack of Intro Micro quizzes and my red grading pen. Incidentally, I tutored two Intro Micro students on Wednesday, and they were just as adorable as they could be. I was going over a practice quiz with the one girl, and she'd give me the answer and I'd tell her if it was right (and if not explain what the right answer should be and why), and then I notice that she had the answers on the back of the page (because Dr. J had given them to the students in class). I said, "Oh, be sure to check and let me know if I get one of these wrong, because I'm just making up the answers as I go" and she looked a little concerned and wanted to know how long ago I took Intro Micro. The truth is that I technically never took it, but I was like, "Honey, don't worry. I've taken Intermediate Micro, Graduate Micro, and a slew of Micro-focused electives. If I couldn't tell you how a demand curve was going to shift when consumer incomes go up, they'd probably kick me out of the program." Then the boy that I tutored later (these kids are 18-year-old Freshmen, and since I have an entire decade on them I feel justified in calling them "girl" and "boy") wanted to know, after we were done going over the problem set, if it was okay if he came to my TA hours to ask me general economics questions. I told him sure. "Okay," he said, "because I try to read The Economist, and I get the political stuff, because you know, it's just about countries, but I don't understand the economics stuff." I told him that I can remember when I didn't understand those articles either and that I love to talk about economics and he can come in and ask me anything he wants. He was this precious little skater boy with semi-dreadlocks, and he was all serious about understanding The Economist. I just wanted to hug him.

And now it's time to go see if either of these kids actually passed their quizzes. More soon. Things have been hectic since B left, but they've settled down now, and should be calm for a bit, so you can expect more updates and some pictures.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

gettin' the B lovin

As you know, B has been here since Tuesday night, and we've been having a lovely time. Even getting up early and hanging out at the French consulate for several hours wasn't that bad, and she successfully procured her visa, which was the main point of the trip (other than to soak up my glorious presence). Today we're off to have lunch with another friend from college and then maybe do some silly touristy things like take a boat cruise around the bay, which I've actually never done before.

Last night in Applied Econometrics we talked about how to regress against binary dependent variables. Wait, stay with me for a minute--all that it means is that the thing you're trying to explain has only two possible outcomes, like a yes/no question. So whereas in a normal regression, you're using all your independent variables to try to explain some continuous dependent variable (say, explaining birth rates based on per capita GDP and infant mortality rates, where birth rates, of course, can take on any value along a continuous scale), with a binary dependent variables, you're using your independent variables to explain something like whether or not a person got access to credit (yes or no are the only two possible answers). It's kind of cool, because the way that you do it is to sort of put the regression equation inside of this density function with particular properties, and find the point on that function that maximizes the likelihood that the results that you actually got are the results that you would get using your equation. And the coolest part is that the computer basically does all this work for you, and all you need to do is understand the results that it's giving you and how to interpret them. I wouldn't say that I like econometrics, but at least it's finally being taught to me by a professor that I like (Dr. J, the guy I TA for) in a way that I find intuitively easy to understand.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

the mighty have fallen

I just have to take a moment to say that McDreamy came over again this evening, and he beat me at Scrabble! He got two bingos (that's where you use all 7 of your get 50 bonus points for it). I managed to get one bingo, but alas, it was not enough. The man is very good at games. And I although he doesn't have Scrabble strategy down quite as well as I do, I think he's better than me at anagraming, partly because he's more patient than I am.

In other news, I finished typing up all the names of all the borrowers we surveyed and sent it off to BJ. I'm concerned, however, because I only count 417 borrowers. We thought we had closer to 450-500, which means either that we somehow massively miscalculated, or that some surveys have gone AWOL. I don't see where they could be, but I suppose anything is possible. 417 is still just fine for a sample size, but the whole thing is a bit curious.

Monday, September 04, 2006

10 hour date

So, yesterday I had my second date with McDreamy (I don't know why that's his nickname...I think it has something to do with "Sex and the City"...I just do what Rebel tells me to do, and she told me to call him that). Needless to say, it went well. First, we met at the same coffee shop on Haight Street where we had our first date. He brought along his roommate (K, a very cool, easy-to-get-along-with woman) and they taught me how to play a very fun card game (I know, bringing your roommate on a date sounds weird, but he cleared it with me first, and the game was more fun with three people, and she was really very cool, and of course she didn't spend the entire date with us). Afterwards we walked back to their apartment, where I found out some interesting things: McDreamy is a slob (but in his defense, his room wasn't nearly as bad as the infamous Frank Estates rat turds on the floor), McDreamy is left-handed (his mouse was on the left side of the keyboard), and McDreamy is an excellent kisser/cuddler. Then we walked to a yummy burrito place on Haight (E and H, if you're reading...same one we went to right before H left for the Philippines), where he treated me to a belated birthday dinner. (Incidentally, the burrito I had was awsome. Black beans, saffron rice, cheese, and really good vegetables like broccoli, green beans, carrots, and was even yummy as a breakfast leftover.) Then he walked me back to my apartment (because I realized I'd forgotten to pay rent, and it was already the 3rd, which is the last day to pay before it's late), and while we walked we had an intelligent and interesting conversation about economics and pollution and the developing world's use of fossil fuels. At my apartment--after I paid my rent--he graciously let me kick his ass at Scrabble (although, I must say, for a relative novice, and considering that I ended up with way more of the good tiles than he did, he had an impressive performance). He also changed the burnt-out lightbulbs in my kitchen that I can't reach (he's 6'2", I think). I didn't even ask him to do it. He just offered. Anyway, the date started at 2 (well, 2:15...he's not so much with the punctuality, but I knew this from our first date, which I was also late to, and brought The Economist with me to read) and didn't end until midnight, hence the subject line.

So, it was only the second date, and we'll see how things go, but he's certainly a really good guy. Considerate, intelligent, funny, sweet, etc. He's quite nerdy, which is mostly a good thing, but if I were in charge of his life (which I'm not and never will be) I would definitely dress him differently. And he needs a haircut, but he agrees with me on that, and I can't really judge him because I need a haircut too. Anyway, it's just nice to have someone that I can take a nice walk with while holding hands and having an intelligent conversation. Of course, when B gets to SF tomorrow, she and I can do that. =)

Speaking of which, yay! B gets here tomorrow night! It's a short visit, but I'm so glad to get to see her before she goes back to Paris. Anyway, given that she's getting here soon, I absolutely MUST finish my data entry for BJ at IMED. I should have done it days ago, but I had that bout of tired blahness, and I just couldn't get myself motivated.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

yay! picture!

Okay, so here's a picture of my bed, now that blogger has decided to cooperate. Fun, isn't it?

Friday, September 01, 2006

the high life

Well, here are some pictures of my new bed. My apartment is still a bit messy, and obviously there are some wall decorations (like that Rothko print) that need to be relocated, but this is the basic idea of what my apartment will look like from now on. There is exactly 5'5.5" of clearance below the bed (I know this because that's how tall I am, and when I walk under the bed the top of my head just almost skims the underside of the bedframe). Add to this maybe about 8 inches of mattress, and I sleep a little over 6 feet above the floor. I set up a little caddy on the side of the bed next to my head where I have tissues, lip balm, hair elastics, and a little trash receptacle. At the other end of the bed, I'm about level with the storage space above my closet, so I can reach out and use it as a ledge to set a glass of water or a bowl or cereal on. Thus the only major inconveniences are going to the bathroom and bringing my laptop up and down (although the latter is not that difficult; I just unplug the power and DSL cord, climb two steps up, set the laptop on my bed, and then thread the cords through the guardrail and plug them back in when I get up there). Since it's a full-sized bed, I can sleep with my laptop (in addition to a huge pile of surveys, at the moment) up there with me without being cramped. It's amazing how quickly you get used to climbing up and down a ladder to get in and out of bed. And I thought I would be sort of freaked out by the height (the frame does shake a bit when you scoot around on the bed), but it seems very sturdy and secure (it's made out of steel, after all), and since it's so big it's hard to see how it would tip over.

My dearest B is coming for a two-day visit next week (she has to come to SF in person to get her French visa), so we'll get to see how it goes with two people (the bed frame warning label actually says that only one person should use the bed at a time, but that begs the question of why they bothered to make it a double bed; besides, I'm not one to pay much heed to alarmist warning labels...). The only problem I envision is one of us having to climb over the other to go pee or something. Right now I sleep with my head on the ladder end, but I think while she's here we should sleep the other way, so that I don't have to crawl over her head to get down the ladder (or she doesn't have to crawl over mine).

Okay, just kidding about the pictures. Blogger does this thing to me sometimes where it says its uploading the pictures, but then they mysteriously aren't there. I'll try again later.

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