Monday, March 26, 2007

South African butt plant

I actually had a really great time in Bakersfield. I guess I should expect to have a good time; otherwise, why would I visit? (Out of obligation, I suppose.) Anyway, the trip was relaxing and productive, which is what I was hoping for. My sister-in-law and I got my brother to taste raw fish while we were having sushi (think of how picky an eater I am, then marry it with intractable stubborness, and you have my brother) and we taught him how to use chopsticks. Well, okay, she did most of the teaching, partly because he takes instruction from her more readily than from me, and partly because I find that when you're learning to do something, it's usually not helpful to have more than one person telling you what to do. But I did throw in the insight that the bottom stick should be held still while the top one moves, which I think was helpful.

I spent a lot of time in our backyard helping my mom with chores and playing with the dog. The landscaping my mother has done is really beautiful, and the weather was perfect: sunny and 70ish with a slight breeze. If only Bakersfield would stay like that instead of becoming an unlivable furnace. We also did a bit of the requisite shopping; at Target, my mother-approved (and mother-financed) impulse purchase was a little succulent garden I made by purchasing three succulent plants (they're a kind of cactus without pokey things--or at least that's what they seem to be) and a red pot for them. Two of the plants I bought because they were pretty (and in my experience succulents are quite hardy), but the third I bought because it is shaped exactly like a butt. Exactly.

According to the plant's tag, it is South African, so I asked my sis-in-law about it. She said she'd seen the sort of plant before, and that the butt will open up and a second pair of "cheeks" will grow in perpendicularly to the first. Apparently it will also flower in the winter. But isn't it freaky looking right now?

DWE is coming to SF tonight, a day earlier than was expected. I hesitate to even mention this, partly because it's trivial, and partly because more important "anniversaries" have gone unexcusably unheralded by me (specifically dear, wonderful A's birthday, which I neglected while wrapped up in the PacDev converence), but today is the 6-month anniversary of when DWE and I met. It seems like it's been longer, especially given how often he's out of town, but it also surprises me that it's been that long, given how much can and does happen in half a year. So far things seem to be working out pretty well, but I guess I'll get back to you on that in another six months.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I'm in a lovely mood this evening. I presented my data analysis, or what there is of it so far, in Grad Seminar tonight. Basically I presented the same results from the PacDev conference, plus some additional regressions that I ran in the last two days in an attempt to get more significant results. In theory, this attempt was sort of successful, but the results I got are seriously weird. Anyway, I need to keep at it, because my thesis is due in 25 days, but at least I don't have to have anything prepared for class for the next few weeks. What I really should do is start writing my data analysis section, because even though I haven't settled on final results, I can write up my summary statistics (i.e. where did my data come from, what are the means and standard deviations of my variables, what are some of the characteristics of my sample of borrowers, etc).

I'm going to Bakersfield again this weekend ("weekend" in my world meaning Thursday morning to Monday morning). I was just there a few weeks ago, but as you may recall I was quite ill and therefore spent literally almost all of my time there in bed. I had been thinking about going to San Diego to see DWE this weekend, but he's not sure of his schedule, so he ended up recommending against it. Which is just as well, because I will be far more productive in Bakersfield, I will get to see my family, and DWE will be back in SF next Tuesday anyway.

Anyway, my bag is packed, I took a nice long bath, I had a good conversation with DWE, and now I'm drinking a Hornsby's and goofing off a little before bed, hence the lovely mood.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

the last two weeks

The problem with blogging, as I practice it, is that when I actually do something interesting, I don't have time to write about it, so I only post regularly when I'm watching paint peel or reading about the NAIRU. The nearly two weeks since my last post, however, have been a good bit more interesting.
I took my Macro Midterm, and I have reason to believe it went pretty well. There was half of one question that I had to sort of bullshit, so I don't think I aced it. The last question had me panicked, because it was a proof that I didn't know how to do. I had to prove that the slopes of two things were the same, but if I took the derivative (the way you find something's slope) I wasn't getting a useful answer, and if I did a series of substitutions to get the variables that I needed into the equation, I ended up losing the thing I needed to derive with respect to. So after scrawling out a desperate and aimless page of related math and graphs, I finally figured out that if I did one substitution, took the derivative, and then did the other substitution, then I'd get what appeared to be the right answer. A lot of work for what ended up being four lines long, but it's nice to be able to successfully derive a proof (even a very simple one).

I spent March 8th through 15th in D.C. (or, more specifically, at the Days Inn in Alexandria, with daily adventures into D.C.). H and JSOC were my travel companions on what could possibly have been my last Spring Break, and we generally had a very good time. We saw the usual monuments and buildings, I saw the awesome Jasper Johns exhibit (as well as a lot of other good art) at the National Gallery, and we did two cool things that I hadn't done on my previous trip to D.C.: the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the International Spy Museum, both of which I really enjoyed. I'm not very interested in either air (well, except what I breathe) or space, but I have to admit that it's cool to touch a moonrock or see the amazingly tiny Apollo 11 shuttle that carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldren, and Michael Collins (the one that stayed on the shuttle...not to be confused with the Irish freedom fighter played by Liam Neeson in the movie of the same name) home from the moon. It was also cool to see a U2 spy plane like the one that took the surveillance photos that led to the Cuban missile crisis. And at the spy museum, there was this thing where you could test yourself to see how good of a spy you'd be, and I aced it (this, of course, was based simply on being able to remember details of my fake like and to make up new, plausible details on the spot...the computer kiosk couldn't tell obvious I am when I try to lie in real life).

So, D.C. was a lot of fun, and we got to spend some time with E, who has an intership at the State department. I also spent a big chunk of time while we were in D.C. getting work done and worrying about the Pacific Development Conference, but let's see a few pictures before I get into that.

Yes, that's my finger. I'm quite juvenile.

This is part of the new World War II Memorial. It was fairly conventional, but it did evoke some vague sense of international unity, along with the important respect for and gratitude toward the dead. I liked it.

A part of the WWII memorial close to my own heart. It was dusk when we visited these memorials, and the fading light and skeletal trees and greyness were all really lovely.

Here is E standing in front of the State Department building where he works. Doesn't he look handsome and professional? My little boy is all grown up!

And here are my other two boys, not being particularly grown up.

The giant Caulder mobile in the atrium of the National Gallery's modern wing.

A smaller Caulder (actually two of them) that I found out later I wasn't supposed to be photographing. Aren't the shadows awesome?

So, as I mentioned, the PacDev conference was two days after we returned, so I spent a lot of time working on my regressions and my powerpoint presentation while we were there (I also managed to read and summarize two macro articles...possibly the most productive I've ever been on a vacation). Then, after we got back, my advisor called me on early Friday afternoon to tell me about a bunch of changes and additions he wanted me to make (in his defense, I should have called him earlier in the week, but in my defense, he could have made his expectations clearer sooner...he's been throwing huge quantities of occasionally-contradictory information at me all semester, and I'm doing the best I can to record, absorb, and implement it all). I never got the data that I needed from the MFI, so I halfway faked it with data that I do have, and then, at my advisor's suggestion, I faked it the rest of the way with more data that I have. The first part of that took a while (well, just one very long late night in D.C.) but the rest of it I was able to do in a few hours on Friday. So I generated the new variables that I needed, I added the new regressions that he wanted, and I revised my presentation again. I had to go pick up the rental car (the conference was in Davis) on Friday night, I had to practice the presentation and make sure it wasn't too long, and I had to be all nervous and panicky, so I only got about 3 hours of sleep that night.

It didn't matter, though, because my nervousness kept me awake on Saturday morning, and I think my presentation ended up going pretty well. My advisor (and my other two professors that were there) said I did a really good job, as did my classmates (of course, what else would they say?). I know I sounded nervous and I spoke a little quickly, but I generally managed to be articulate and clear, I stayed within my 15 minute time limit, and I sounded more or less like I knew what I was talking about. And it was all over by 9 a.m., so I was able to relax for the rest of the day and enjoy the other presentations. The other IDEC students that presented (H, JSOC, and a girl named C that I'm buddies with) also did a good job--nervous but articulate and knowledgable--and they all had presentations that were, in my opinion, more interesting than mine.

Which actually brings me to a minor revelation I had on Saturday, which is that I'm not sure if I'm really that excited about microfinance, and I'm certainly not all that excited about my specific thesis topic. I'm not sure what I am excited about anymore. I still really love development economics, but the uncertainty about what I'm going to do after I graduate is sort of snowballing at this point, and I'm not really sure about anything. I'm aggravated with DWE, not so much for always being out of town, but for never quite knowing where he's going to be or when or for how long. He's probably going to be back in SF on Tuesday, but he doesn't know when he's leaving again, and it could be right away. And when he leaves, he doesn't know where he's going. The only thing I know for sure is that when he does get back he'll be tired, and I'll have class. I'm sure we'll have a great time.

But then again, I just found out that he scored 20 points higher than me on the SAT, which is annoying because he beat me, but otherwise an extremely attractive quality (yes, I know how demented I am). Except for his schedule, I really adore him. He seems to think that I'm eventually going to get sick of his travelling and break up with him, and I keep telling him that it's not going to happen, but I'm starting to wonder if maybe he's right.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

pack your passports, we're going to New Orleans

I'm grading Intro Macro exams, and I came across a wrong answer so spectacularly (and depressingly) funny that I have to share. The question I'm currently grading is about whether certain transactions would be included in the U.S.'s GDP. One of the transactions is the U.S. government spending $200,000 doing reconstruction in New Orleans. This would be included in GDP, since government spending gets included (as long as it is spent on a final good or service, and not, say, as a transfer payment like unemployment insurance). Someone wrote on their exam, however, that this would not be included in GDP, because New Orleans is not within our national borders. Where does she think Louisiana is? Mexico? France? Or has she been living in a cave with her eyes shut and her ears plugged for the past couple years, thus never having heard of New Orleans?

At least I'm finally getting some work done. Grading is the easiest thing I have to do, but it's also the most boring, so it's probably good to get it out of the way.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

so much to do, so little doing

It is 11:42, and I haven't gotten a damn thing done today. Well, okay, that's not entirely true. I finished reading the book that DWE's sister wrote. I started it last night; it's only 200ish pages long, and not, shall we say, a challenging read, so it only took me a couple hours last night and a couple more this morning. Since when, you ask, is DWE's sister a published writer? Well, since last year, when she published her Christian fiction novel at a small publishing house of the sort that is not very discriminating and requires you to pay in order to be published. Anyway, I found out that DWE had not read the book yet, so I ordered it on Amazon so that we both could read it. It was, um, interesting. That's all I'm going to say.

What else did I do today? I went to the ballet, which was excellent, but I need to stop going to matinees (I can barely sit still through a two and a half hour ballet; why do parents think their three-year-old can?). Then I spent this evening watching Season 1, disc 2 of House, to which I am becoming addicted courtesy of Netflix. I have a Macro midterm in three days, I have to give a practice-version of my PacDev presentation in four days, I should have booked a hotel room for D.C. by now, my floor is covered in dirty laundry, my kitchen is covered in dirty dishes, etc. But I'm sitting here blogging. I guess the first step is admitting you have a problem ("My name is Jennifer, and I'm totally intert...").

On the plus side, I'm only a little tired, so I can in theory still get some stuff done tonight. If I stop writting this blog entry...

Friday, March 02, 2007


My advisor came up to SF today, so M and I met with him this afternoon, which ended up being very productive and helpful. He showed us how to make some necessary additions and modifications to our data so that we can run our regressions. I'm still missing the data that I need to run a village-level fixed effects regression (rather than a household-level one), but I was actually able to estimate some preliminary results today, which is exciting. (It's also a very good thing, since the Pacific Development conference is two weeks from now.)

My advisor made the weirdest comment to me today and I think I was kind of rude about it. I have a picture of DWE on my computer's desktop; it's a profile shot of him working on his laptop at the Sacramento airport, so his face is only partially visible. My advisor, who is a pretty good-looking white guy in (I think) his very early forties, saw the picture and asked who it was. I told him that it was my boyfriend. Then he said, "Gosh, he sort of looks like me." Now, like I said, my advisor is not bad looking, but I still found the comparison horrifying. First of all, he does not look like DWE (other than being of a similar age, having shortish brown hair, and being a white guy). Second of all, my advisor is, for various reasons, one of the last people on earth that I want compared to my boyfriend. He's a very nice guy, and he's a very smart guy, but he drives me nuts half the time, he can't spell my name right after almost two years (he calls me "Jen"), and I think of him as a very married, grown-up, nonsexual person.

Anyway, my reaction to him was literally to say, "Oh my god, please don't say that," in a sort of joking-yet-horrified way. And when M got there I told her to tell him that he doesn't look like DWE. I basically acted like it was the grossest thing I'd ever heard, and now I feel bad. But seriously, it was a vaguely creepy comment. (Which is not to say that he meant anything creepy by it, because he is not a creepy guy, but still.)

In other news, I'm going to the ballet again tomorrow, to see Sleeping Beauty. Other than that, it's going to be a working weekend--I have a Macro midterm to study for, exams to grade, thesis work to do, about four loads of laundry waiting, and my apartment is a pig sty. I really should have been more productive this evening, but I guess it's a little late for that.

Blog Archive