Archive for July, 2007

Mr. Holmes Goes To Washington

I’m in DC for the next two days with CBYX attending various workshops before I and the other CBYXers head off to Germany. Today we had the afternoon free to walk around and take in some of our last views of America before being away for a year. Some others and I took the opportunity to visit the Air & Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. Afterwards, since it was raining, most others in the group decided to take a taxi back to Georgetown. I and another guy, however, decided we’d rather just walk the couple miles back, deciding that our willingness to endure wetness would pay dividends in the form of some unexpected discovery or adventure. It did, as Marine One flew over our heads (no doubt with POTUS on board beaming down upon us) and then a bunch of beeping cars with Iraqis hanging out the window brandishing their national flag streamed past us.

Now I just need to experience the joy of discovering a cheap place to eat.

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Renaissance Man

I read a lot of economics blogs on daily basis, but if I had to choose just one to read it would be Marginal Revolution. Is it co-authored by two economics professors at GMU, and one of them, Tyler Cowen, is an especial delight. He earns my utmost respect not only because he’s a brilliant and engaging economist, but also because he’s extremely knowledgeable about different cultures and can speak with amazing breadth and depth about various world cuisine, art, and music (have a look at this to fully appreciate his interests). It’s not often you discover someone is both a “nerdy” genius and has also written a well-respected dining guide to the DC area. I have already pre-ordered his new book, which you can learn more about here.

I’ve been described as a Renaissance Man from time to time, but my interests are a mile wide and an inch deep–Cowen’s knowledge, on the other hand, is both deep and wide. Oh that I could have his mind!

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Stumbled upon this article and found it an interesting and informative study of German culture. The following sentence is particularly delightful:

Cutting open any human head to appreciate and learn its anatomy is a unique opportunity for reflection on our humanity…[h]owever, this opportunity, especially for a Jewish surgeon, takes on a different cast when surrounded by the murmur of German voices and accompanied by the smell of burning flesh…

Fellow CBYXers may be interested to note how the good doctor describes the casual work environment.

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Eventually, I figured out that spiritual experiences were a completely inaccurate way of determining truth, and so I left my mission.

That’s from an economist at George Mason University who describes himself as a “post-Mormon,” which is “like someone who gets a divorce, but is still on (somewhat) friendly terms with the ex. You’re fairly glad you’ve had the experience, but you really don’t feel like getting back on the same ride again.” You can read more here.

Hat tip: Bryan Caplan at EconLog.

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I now know my living accommodations for the two months I’ll be studying in Köln. The details are no doubt of little interest to anyone besides myself and co-participants, so suffice to it so say I’ll be situated several kilometers slightly to the northeast of the city centre in an area known as Dellbrück.

I estimate that my subway ride (U-Bahn) each morning to class (and the city centre) will be on the order of 20 minutes, not because of distance but rather because of frequent stops. It appears, however, that if I hop on a different train (Schnellbahn), I’ll cut the number of stops–and perhaps my traveling time–by half. This possibility warrants further investigation upon arrival.

I’m not sure many of my friends would share my feeling of utter sublimity when contemplating cavorting about on public transport. Even in Columbia, I’ve taken especial delight–completely aside from reasons environmental or economic–in being able to get around without a car. Maybe it’s because the ability hearkens back to simpler times, or because I hate finding parking spaces, or that I find the aesthetics of development predicated on inexpensive oil displeasing, but I suspect the truth is different: despite my general tendency towards introversion, I nonetheless enjoy the communal nature of public transport, which is itself often borne out of high population density. This side of my personality seems at odds with my general disposition, but if I were to sit on a psychiatrist’s couch I wouldn’t be surprised if I were told it manifested itself though a childhood experience of being lost alone in the Rockies for a few hours.

Of course, who needs the catharsis of a psychiatrist visit when you have a blog!

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Soon after I graduated I began putting my finance skills to use by investing graduation money and other income I’d saved over the years via an online brokerage. There’s a certain apprehension to placing large portions of your savings in investments that can potentially lose money–particularly in the short term–but it doesn’t take long to discover the joys of yielding even the average market return.

A consequence of this is that I am painfully aware of money sitting idly in my checking accounts earning practically no interest whatsoever and I’m constantly engaging in hand-wringing over how much cash (liquidity, to be more precise) I need to keep in reserve. Happily though, I’ve recently discovered some relatively high-yield savings accounts that allow to me to remain quite liquid while still giving me a great rate (5.05% APY in the case of one). Given that my goal is to live off the interest of my investments as much as possible during my year in Germany, this “risk-free” rate makes my goal a bit more realistic than it otherwise might.

Contemplating the time value of money also makes purchases a little more painful. As of now, I’m earning somewhere around a 25% annualized rate on my portfolio. This means that for every $100 I spend today, I’m forgoing $125 one year from now, $156 two years from now, and so on. Similarly, if I am rational, I would be indifferent to spending $1,000 today or $9,300 ten years from now. The example might seem straightforward, but I suspect not many of us think in these terms. As for myself, though I constantly fail, I try always to act as homo economicus.

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I have, as of late, been spending more time online watching TV shows because I recently canceled my cable service.

To my surprise, I’ve found this show, which is a German version of The Office called Stromberg. I watched the first episode and I think the series will serve as a good refresher course before I head off to Germany.

Incidentally, it occurs to me just as I write this post that I’ve now watched three distinctly different versions of the same basic show. I’ve watched virtually every episode of the original British and American versions, and now I’m going to see a fair amount of the German one. It’s interesting to see how the different nationalities play the main characters; I could write a term paper on how cultural differences affect characterizations–as soon as my German is up to snuff enough that I can get all the jokes, of course.

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