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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sorry to bother you, I was just waiting for Godot

An exchange that occurred minutes ago, when I went to the computer lab mistakenly expecting it to be open on Friday night during exams:

[Two Hopkins security officers and a janitor are standing at the door of the lab with the alarm going off. Thinking they are there to silence a false alarm, I start to walk in.]

SKINNY OFFICER [punching at keypad]: It's closed.

ROUND OFFICER [standing at the ready]: You can't go in.

Me: Oh, uh...

SKINNY OFFICER [still punching at keypad]: Were you going in there? You can't, it's closed.

Me: I--

ROUND OFFICER: It's closing now.

Me: What time--

SKINNY OFFICER: You can't go in there, it's closed.

Me: I didn't know it closed, sorry. What time--

ROUND OFFICER: It's closed for the night.

SKINNY OFFICER: You can't go in.

Me: Yes, but what time does it open in the morning?

SKINNY OFFICER: I don't know. [looks at ROUND OFFICER]

ROUND OFFICER: I don't know.

Janitor: It opens at 8 am.

Me: Thanks.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

War on Christmas

From an article in the Washington Post about crusading conservatives who are angry that President Bush sent a "holiday" card instead of a "Christmas" card:

"'I think it's more important to put Christ back into our war planning than into our Christmas cards,' said [National Council of Churches] general secretary, the Rev. Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman.


(I'll finally get around to writing a real post in the next few days.)

Monday, November 21, 2005


Hmm, that was a long blog hiatus. I've been busy -- there's been a lot of schoolwork as the end of the semester approaches, and I went away last weekend to visit Matt and Risa in North Carolina, and I went to New York Saturday.

It was great fun to visit Matt and Risa in Carrboro. The advantage of going down there to visit them (as opposed to them visiting me) is that I had no option but to forget about schoolwork, and it's nice to totally disengage for a change. We ate a lot, including an evening of dinner and games with some of their grad school friends.

The impetus for the trip, the Super Furry Animals concert, was quite enjoyable. The opening band (Caribou, formerly Manitoba) was really impressive. They play electronic-y music that has a lot of live instrumentation and an emphasis on drums -- there were two drummers on most songs, playing ferociously. It was good enough that I was moved to buy a t-shirt (well, they were also really cool) and pick up a used copy of one of their albums when I found it at a music store we went to the next day. I'd recommend you watch the videos for Yeti, Skunks and Jacknuggeted if you're interested.

Saturday I went to New York to see Amanda while she was there staying with her friend Tara. I took the train up, which I really love. The sun was coming up, I set myself a nice playlist on my iPod, and it was very pretty and relaxing. I got to the city rather early (before Amanda and Tara woke up) and went to Doughnut Plant on the Lower East Side, which has by far the best doughnuts I have ever had. When I went there last year with Erin, they hadn't debuted their jelly doughnuts yet; I tried one (strawberry jam with vanilla bean glaze) and it was amazing. After meeting up with Amanda and Tara, we went for brunch near Gramercy Park, and then wandered around for most of the day, hitting Central Park, an Israeli coffee shop and a frenetic knitting store. I stuck around through dinner (Thai food) and then trained back to Baltimore. Despite the fact that this was another weekend day out of town during frenetic schoolwork, it was worth it to see Amanda while she was nearbyish and spend a day in a place more bustling and cosmopolitan than Baltimore.

Meanwhile, my dad's been ill. He lost sight in one eye a few weeks ago, and it turned out to be a stroke in the eye. He got a procedure that mostly restored it, but it's obviously still rather alarming. He hasn't been feeling well since shortly after that incident, and has been getting lots of tests to find out why -- hopefully it'll be something easily fixable. It will be good to see him this week at Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

Songs that I have (re)discovered a special fondness for recently:

Elf Power - The Winter Is Coming
Interpol - Public Pervert
Flaming Lips - The Spark
Built to Spill - Made-Up Dreams
The Weakerthans - Aside
Bright Eyes - The Center of the World

Monday, November 07, 2005


Despite all the schoolwork that's coming home to roost right now, I made the somewhat foolish decision to do almost no work Saturday. I spent the morning and early afternoon at a service project in Clifton Lake High School cleaning out their destitute vo-tech wing. It was good to feel like we were helping, but it was also depressing -- the school district is just completely overwhelmed by the demands on its limited resources. As I'm learning in our neighborhood project for class, the vast majority of people with the means to do so send their kids to private schools, of which Baltimore has an unusually large number. The resultant concentration of disadvantaged kids doesn't help the learning environment, and political support for the schools collapses among the civically engaged part of the public because they don't see themselves as having a stake in them.

Saturday evening was the IPS alumni reception in Washington. We all got dressed up and ate appetizers and consumed free drinks at a fancy restaurant called Blackie's. I talked to a very helpful and friendly alum who works at the GAO, where I would dearly like to intern/work.

A bunch of us went out to a bar after the reception. I had a long argument with a few of my (female) classmates about why Boy Scouts are better than Girl Scouts. As I recall, it all came down to their "pansy knots" (I was kidding). Rana was nice enough to let me and a couple others stay at her apartment in DC so we didn't have to come back to Baltimore last night. A good outing in all.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Econ exam

We had our second microecon exam on Wednesday, and I thought it was pretty easy. But the following exchange occurred in our living room this evening.

Jason: At least this econ exam was easier than the first one.

Sarah: Yeah, and only four problems.

Me: Four problems? You mean three. I did three.

Sarah: No, it was choose one from part A, two from part B, and one from part C.

Me (agitated): But it said "choose one" on the second page!

Sarah (sympathetic): It was a typo, the cover sheet said two and she wrote it on the board, too.

Me: Oh, fuck!

I emailed the professor...hopefully she takes pity on me in some way. But it's obviously way more my fault than her fault.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Do you think this headline and graphic currently topping the LA Times homepage (about our dear SCOTUS nominee Alito) is a little weird?

Scary welcome

Here are our pumpkins lit up this evening:

Perhaps it was our impressive pumpkins, but we had a lot of trick-or-treaters. I went through more than half the candy by the time I left at 6:00. One kid: "This bag is mine, this other one is my brother's." Very smooth. April said she later had to turn away a lot of kids after the candy ran out.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Our pumpkin carving get-together was successful yesterday. We drank two and a half gallons of cider, to which April and I had added cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. I made molasses-ginger cookies (the umpteenth time I've made that recipe I got from Frances), which go nicely with cider, and April made some very tasty pumpkin bars. Other people brought Halloween junk food, too, so I ended up eating almost nothing nutritious yesterday.

I think my favorite carving was the tiny vampire pumpkin made by Natalie's ~6-year-old son (with some help from Natalie). Since some people live in apartments, we kept a few of the pumpkins to put on our stoop tonight. Handsome, aren't they? (Mine is the second face from right.)

We definitely have enough candy to richly reward any trick or treaters who dare to run our pumpkin gauntlet tonight. I'll miss most of that, though, because I'll be at the review session for our second Microecon "midterm" from 7-9pm. Sigh...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Scooter and Dogpile

So Scooter Libby got indicted. No Karl Rove, which is too bad, but some chance that he still might get it. Anyway, I think "Scooter" is a good nickname for someone involved in a scandal. Granted, it sort of has a city-hall-graft kind of feel to it, but scandal-appropriate nonetheless.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a list of the 20 most frequent searches made by people in the Twin Cities on October 21 at Dogpile.com. Embarrassing for Dogpile: three of the most popular searches are for other search engines.

Last week was brutal in terms of work. (I remarked earlier that Stats is easy -- we just had our take-home midterm, and I retract that.) Things are a bit calmer this weekend, and we're having folks over tomorrow to carve pumpkins, which should be nice. I bought two gallons of cider at the farmer's market this morning, and we're going to heat it up and put spices in it (there's also some rum that will find its way into a few mugs of it...).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Plame game

I'm having a very difficult time focusing on the stats and econ work I should be doing because of all the bubblings in the Plame leak investigation. It seems like there's a good possibility that indictments could come tomorrow, and they will almost certainly include Scooter Libby, and maybe Karl Rove.

I admit to being completely tickled by the idea of Rove being indicted. His apparent role in leaking CIA agent Valerie Plame's name was wrong/illegal, but it's really about how this case fits into all the machinations of Bush's presidency. Rove has been pulling all sorts of unethical shit for years in the service of of an agenda I despise, and that I sincerely believe is bad for the country. He's frighteningly good at what he does, and he only got caught (er, maybe) in this case because the administration really had to do backflips to make their rationale for war on Iraq work. Unfortunately, the collective realization of how we've been manipulated will come way too late to stop that, but it will reframe the political debate so that Republicans, and the Bush administration in particular, get the public disgust they so richly deserve.

This Old House

The house has been a bit of a pain recently.

First, the arrival of chilly weather made it clear how drafty it is. And my room has been leaking even more, it seems, despite a visit by a very sketchy roofer last week.

But most dramatically, the window in the third floor bathroom suddenly disappeared a couple days ago. Further investigation revealed that the wood on the outside had rotted so badly that the entire pane of glass simply flopped out onto the roof below and shattered. We put up a garbage bag, but the bathroom is now frigid.

Our landlord initially displayed the same lackadaisical attitude toward this problem that he has had toward my leaking/rotting window and our broken oven (though the oven is finally fixed as of Friday). But a harshly worded letter that Sarah and I delivered by hand earlier today got some action, with him promising to get a board over the window tomorrow to keep out the elements until the window can be replaced.

And Jason spotted a mouse leaving the pantry last night, so we'll be getting some mousetraps.

Home sweet home...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Well, isn't that adorable?

Baltimore Sun:

"Eight-year-old girl bags Md. season's first bear"

Not exactly what I was doing when I was eight, and I think I liked it that way, thank you very much.

Magnetic Ribbons

John and I were up in Original Northwood yesterday recording observations for our Policy Analysis neighborhoods project. I saw a car with a green magnetic ribbon on it and thought, "Oh crap, yet another one of those?" Then I read it:

Not bad.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mike Doughty

I went to see Mike Doughty last night (Friday) with John. Mike used to be the lead singer of Soul Coughing. You could definitely tell with your eyes closed that he was in Soul Coughing, and it's not just because his voice is distinctive. All told I think I still liked them together a bit more than his solo work (or rather his new band), but it was a really excellent concert. I bought his CD, but when I got home I realized that the woman had accidentally handed me an album by the opening band (Orinda Fink) instead. Sigh.

I'd recommend you try Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well and 27 Jennifers.

Today our IPS flag football team won the Hopkins coed intramural tournament. There were a total of three teams, and the other two failed to show up. The Policy Tools were therefore victorious, and we get free t-shirts saying so. (We divided up and played in the rain anyway since we had gone through the trouble. I'm as bad at football as ever.)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Amtrak athletic

"Amtrak Athletic Dept." t-shirt, anyone?


Saturday, October 15, 2005


When I got back from the farmer's market this morning, I noticed that there were an awful lot of people running by down at the corner. Turns out it's the Baltimore Marathon! It was good to watch the runners go by for a while, and reminded me of our pleasant morning spent watching the Twin Cities Marathon last fall. As you can sort of see from this picture (taken w/ my cell phone, so a little fuzzy), we're at the top of a bit of a hill, so everyone was extra-exerted.

My housemate Sarah reported a few minutes later that she saw a guy in front of our house in an SUV waiting to cross the marathon route who was honking his horn repeatedly at the police officer and shouting "Let us through!" When he got out of his car to yell and shake his fist, she noted that he was wearing a G.W. Bush for President t-shirt.

Along with my usual assortment of stuff from the farmer's market (I've been blowing almost $20/week), I got myself a pumpkin today. It's a tall and slender model, still rather large, probably around 15 pounds. This makes me happy because it's the first time in a while that I've had a porch to perch a pumpkin on, and I'm definitely going to carve it come Halloween. We should get trick-or-treaters, too.

Classes are still going well. I've been happy with my grades on the work we've gotten back so far, with the exception of the 68 (!) I got on the first Econ homework assignment. I did better on subsequent ones, but anything C+ or below is a failing grade in our program...so you can see how I might have been a bit concerned about the Econ midterm we had this past week. I was more stressed out for that test than I've been for any in a long time, but fortunately I came away feeling relieved -- I think I understood everything, and I came about as close to finishing as anyone I talked to (it was impossible to finish in the hour we were given). Unfortunately we have another "midterm" in three weeks.

There's a lot of group work in our classes, which can be quite a time hole. There's the neighborhood home values project from Policy Analysis that I mentioned earlier. There's another project from Policy Analysis on long-term health care. And I'm in a group for Policy Process that is analyzing how the 2005 Energy Bill got to be as screwed up as it was. With all of us in three different groups, plus sub-groups and intergroup coordination meetings, scheduling is a bit hairy. But I guess it's supposed to simulate the real world...

Oh yes, and I saw Cat Power on Thursday night (on short notice) at a bar that's not far from here. Just Chan Marshall, no backing band. It was pretty cool -- the way she uses her voice is haunting. She also leans back from the microphone and wails plaintively to great effect. I think the highlight was "I Don't Blame You," though the covers (incl. "Satisfaction" and "House of the Rising Sun) were also great. Though she appeared to be in a good mood, her infamous volatility was apparent a few times, like when she would start a song, get frustrated, slam the keys on the piano and start a different one.

Speaking of concerts, I've now made plans to visit Matt and Risa in Carrboro the weekend of Nov 11, when Super Furry Animals are playing there. Should be awesome!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Desperation is Unbecoming

Josh Marshall says the same thing I was thinking, only a lot more eloquently:

"I wonder if in his comments today about Harriet Miers the president hasn't finally brought his presidency to a sort of implosive harmonic convergence.

We are, needless to say, engaged in a vast, shambling and tragic occupation of Iraq, the nominal aim of which is to create a secular, rule-of-law-based democracy [to end] the cycle of repression, fanaticism and violence which spilled onto America's shores four years ago.

At the same time, President Bush argues for Miers' confirmation neither on the basis of her 'judicial temperament' nor her judicial philosophy or ideology but because she is a staunch evangelical Christian.

The fact that many of the president's more theocratic supporters don't seem to believe him just adds a level of irony or entertainment to those of us still holding out for the Enlightenment tradition."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Snoop Cure

Mashups, in case you're not familiar, are the vocals of one song combined with the music of another. I've not ventured into them much, but Andy Slabaugh recently posted one on his blog that tickled me. It's Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" mashed with The Cure's "Close to Me." (Since the fun is in the contradiction, it probably won't be as satisfying if you aren't familiar with the songs.)

Head over there to download it before Saturday.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Rain, rain

It started raining Thursday evening. It rained all Thursday night, it rained all day Friday, it poured all last night, and it's raining all day today. It had been dry, but I've had enough now -- I think it's the remnants of some tropical depression. Last evening the rain finally managed to find a leak in our bathroom, and the floor got covered with water before we discovered it and parked a pot there.

On the upside, no one was home when I got back (soaked) from the farmer's market this morning, so I listened to the Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin at high volume straight through while eating some of my purchases. A very nice rainy day activity.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


At least for this first month, I've had an easier time concentrating on tasks like reading research materials for long periods of time than I did during undergrad. This is probably partially due to the sense of deadline urgency that has surrounded much of the reading, and the fact that I've been good about going places without distractions, like a deserted lawn or the library. But it's still a pleasant surprise, since I had assumed that a hard part of going back to school would be a decreased ability to focus academically since being away from it. It's a good thing I haven't had as much trouble as anticipated, because the workload continues to be rather large.

In other matters, things I have narrowly avoided hitting while riding my bicycle in the past week: 1) an enormous rat 2) a syringe. Yay Baltimore!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Inside Baseball

It came to my attention today that Carleton classmate Peter Fehrs (left) has quit his job and joined the White Sox:

Saturday, October 01, 2005


"The Economist has always had all sorts of ideological disagreements with Mr Bush, but our main problem with his administration has increasingly become incompetence."

(Psst, if you want to log on to read the article, username economist@teague.airpost.net and my high school sport as password.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fall, and paternity

For the longest time the highs here just hovered in the mid-80s. Nice enough, but gets old after a while. But fall has finally arrived in the last few days. The high will be 68 tomorrow -- excellent.

Also, thought I'd post this picture I took out the window of the JHU shuttle a few weeks ago. Be sure to click for the larger version:

Monday, September 26, 2005

Classes hit

Well, I had been intending to slowly shift away from the "I did X, Y and Z today" format of my posts, but I did it faster than intended when I felt like I had little time to post over the last week or so.

The workload has really come down hard now. The reading is voluminous, and there are assignments to turn in on a regular basis in each class. I've got more to do than in all but my very busiest times at Carleton, which is a little bit of a surprise. I shouldn't overstate it -- I only did coursework for a few hours all of Saturday, for instance -- but I've had several days recently where pretty much every moment was scheduled with some task. It's not too unpleasant, since I like a large portion of the work, but it is a bit stressful.

Here are my impressions of classes a few weeks in:

Policy Analysis for the Real World: Dr. Newman is the director of IPS, and you might call this her signature class. It's sort of a trial-by-fire introduction to policy principles, thinking, and writing. Policy memos -- tightly written distillations and analysis of lots of background reading -- are due almost every week. She takes this stuff seriously, and is quite demanding. It's a disproportionate amount of our overall coursework, but I think it will probably do me a lot of good in the end.

We also have an ambitious term-long group project for the class that we've started working on. Fortunately, I'm pretty excited about the topic, which is analyzing why certain neighborhoods have been left behind in the current Baltimore housing price boom. At the end of the term, we present our findings to actual Baltimore policymakers, so it's not just an academic exercise. Group work can be exhausting and annoying in terms of logistics and personalities, but it can also be rewarding...I like John, Battle, Louise and Jaclyn, so hopefully it will be more of the latter. We're doing background reading now and get our neighborhood assignments next week.

The Policy Process: So very laid back in comparison with Policy Analysis. More lecture-oriented, which are enjoyable because Prof. Posner is actually quite funny and has some good insights since he's been at the Government Accountability Office (GAO, a very respected agency that analyzes everything under the sun) forever. Though the title can make it difficult to distinguish from Analysis, his course focuses more on how policy decisions happen, rather than the substance of them. Should be pretty useful.

Microeconomics: Harder than my initial assessment. Professor Roche comes to us via the "real world" and is very down-to-business. This is not easy for me and is going to be my hardest course. Awfully useful, though.

Statistics: Surprisingly easy, at least so far, but really time consuming. All of which is like my college stats course. The Prof works at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is sort of cool, and he's funny in an understated way. Seems like I won't learn that many new things, but the refresher is probably needed after several years since my stats-heavy comps thesis.

I manage to keep my Carleton quotient relatively high:

On Saturday I was walking to the bike shop downtown (after taking the city bus from campus) when I heard somebody call my name. Much to my surprise, Aidan Lucey and Lizzie Hayward (from Carleton) were standing across the street. They were surprised to see me, too, since I had neglected to inform them of my move (I should really send out all those emails...). Anyway, they were in town for the day from Philadelphia to see a baseball game, and were just sitting down to lunch at a sidewalk cafe, so I joined them. An amazing coincidence, but great -- I hadn't seen Aidan for a year or so, and Lizzie since we graduated. We caught up, and they invited me to come visit for concerts that don't pass through Baltimore. It's been a long time since I've been to Philly, and it's only a train ride away, so I hope to take them up on that.

The previous weekend, Matt and Risa came up to spend a few days with Chris Ashworth and Elizabeth Tipson, who just recently moved here from Carrboro themselves. We all went to the farmer's market near my house (which, to reiterate, is awesome) and cooked an elaborate, delicious and greasy dinner at the Ashworth/Tipson residence. We also found a snazzy but reasonable restaurant in Mount Vernon that we liked, and tried out the hipster diner near campus and found it to be quite good. (Do you detect an eating theme here?) Oh, and we visited with Annie and Ira, creating a rather large gathering of Carls by Baltimore standards. A very relaxing weekend -- fortunately it was right before my workload got heavy.

Whew, congrats on making it through this post. Be sure to check the comments on the previous post for true stories of the mean streets of Baltimore.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bike threats

There's a tall chain link fence on the other side of the alley behind our house; it fences off the (blacktop) playground at the neighboring elementary school.

I lock my bike in the back yard, and use the alley to go in and out. As I was leaving today, it was recess and there were two little girls hanging onto the fence across from our gate.

Girl 1 (w/ adorable pigtails): I'm gonna take your bike!

Girl 2: Shut up!

Me: Uh, sorry I need it.

Girl 1 (more ferociously): I'm gonna take your bike!!! [spying housemate's fancy bike inside yard] And then I'm gonna take that bike!

Girl 2: Shut up!

Me: Bye.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hurricane relief, political relief

Even though Bush and the federal government are now bringing all sorts of resources to bear in the Katrina disaster area, the way things are going is still making me sort of queasy. Aside from continued operational bumbling on the part of FEMA, the Bush response seems overwhelmed by politics. I know that there are plenty of politics involved in any huge thing like this, but it really does seem like it's first and foremost an effort to stop a political crisis, with the helping people secondary. This is an awfully cynical view to have, but there seem to be signals pointing this way. Perhaps most worryingly, Karl Rove has been put in charge of the reconstruction effort. Karl Rove!?

Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo is has been covering this angle for a little while, and he's a good one to turn to because he's less prone to sensationalism and mindless partisanship than other blogs. This post boils it down.

And then there's the stark financial reality of all this. I have no hesistation about ponying up tax money to help people in need, but when this is combined with all the other deficit spending this administration is doing, we're in deep trouble budget-wise. And it's going to come back to bite our generation in the ass bigtime. But don't worry, Bush says, we won't raise taxes to pay for it -- I guess the dose of unpopular reality is going to fall to his Democratic successor to break to the public.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bathroom break?

I'm into classes now and I'll post about that later. But this photo of President Bush at the UN Security Council meeting today really deserves immediate posting:

If you don't believe me, the original can be found at Reuters.

A) George Bush is passing a note to Condi about having to use the bathroom, and B) Reuters actually decided to publish the photo. W has also added an extraneous question mark, but that's nothing new.

(I saw this in a Wonkette post.)

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Annie and Ira had a very nice housewarming party for their new place in Bolton Hill last night. It's the kind of neighborhood that elicited "Ooh, fancy!" exclamations from people when they asked where I was going. The apartment is huge (and surprisingly mostly furnished), and it's in a charming old building. Also, there were people at the party with the first names Carleton (well, probably Carlton) and Jetta.

Today I returned my recalcitrant wireless bridge to CompUSA, because I'm giving up and running a wire upstairs. It will be a relief to finally have internet at home. And momentarily I'll be getting around to doing homework for the first time in a couple years.

Also, I got some more comment spam on the blog, so I've enabled the word verification thingy that will hopefully eliminate that.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


A few of us took a van tour of Baltimore this morning with Bob Seidel, who's a lifelong resident and used to be involved with IPS. He had given a presentation on the city as part of our orientation and nicely offered to give a tour. Since he's done policy work, including urban planning-type stuff, over the years, he had lots of useful info and insights about the physical and social layout of the city -- it wasn't exactly a tourist's tour.

I've seen a couple movies in the past week, both of which were excellent. Broken Flowers, the new film with Bill Murray, was great. In many ways it reminded me of an Alexander Payne (my favorite director) film: The appreciation of absurdities, dark comedy, avoidance of putting a film gloss on the details of American life, and very good (but understated) cinematography. I'll need to see some more Jim Jarmusch films soon.

The other movie was Hotel Rwanda, which Jason had gotten via Netflix. Very good, and of course very disturbing (mostly morally disturbing, since they actually went pretty easy on showing violence). You should see it if you haven't, and then wonder why we're not doing anything about Darfur.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


(Be forewarned, this is a boring post.)

We finally had our first real class this morning -- Applied Microeconomics. I was feeling fairly nervous about Econ because I've never taken a class in it before and it has always seemed to me that it operates in the same realm as computer science and math, i.e. a certain type logic and procedures that I'm not particularly good at. But class today was fairly reassuring. We jumped right in (and since class is 2.5 hours long, we got through several items), but I followed everything pretty easily. I'm sure it will get much harder, but it is no longer an unknown quantity.

That said, Econ annoys me. It's all about boiling down complex relationships to equations based on cost, benefit, etc. and most of the time failing to acknowledge that there are many, many things not included in the model. It's useful to get a background in it so that I can think about things in this way when it's useful, but the discipline's smugness is going to continue to grate on me. Luckily, IPS as a whole is explicit about balancing the quantitative with the qualitative, so I think we'll use Econ principles in our policy work in a way that isn't too simplistic.

Our class schedule is a little weird for me, compared to undergrad: One class per day (though long sessions), and no classes at all on Thursdays.

Monday - The Policy Process
Tuesday - Policy Analysis for the Real World
Wednesday - Microeconomics
Friday - Stats and Data Analysis for Policymaking

All are in the morning, except for Policy Process, which is in the early evening. It will be strange to have afternoons free every day.

I talked with my advisor today, who I'm also going to be working for as a Research Assistant. What he needs help with is evaluating a Hope VI housing grant in Frederick, MD. Most of the work will be in the spring -- on-site interviews and such. Sounds like I'm only going to take on some very light work this semester, maybe a bit less than 10 hours per week. But apparently the workload from our classes is very heavy in the first semester, so not having that many RA hours is recommended. So this will probably turn out well.

O'm off to a happy hour event where we can meet more of the second-year class. Yeah, a lot of the social events seem to involve drinking. I'm riding my bike downtown to go, so I'm keeping it to a single beer...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Fells Point

I took a bike ride to Fells Point today, which is a hip used-to-be-industrial neighborhood down by the harbor. On the way there I met up with John (from my class) at his place in Mount Vernon and we rode there together. We had been down there on Thursday for the "scavenger hunt" on our "Baltimore day" orientation. I had snapped this picture on my cell phone:

Odd, yes? Anyway, the impetus for going back there was that Sarah Brown (the Sarah in the program who doesn't live in my house) had mentioned there's a good record store there called Sound Garden (I think it predates the Black Hole Sun guys). It turns out it's pretty good, and the prices were cheaper than what I'm used to from Mpls -- i.e. new CDs were $10 to $14. I bought a recent Super Furry Animals double album (Guerilla) -- the new copy was only $11, and when I went to buy it the guy asked if I wanted to buy the $8 used copy instead. Score! (I promise not to use that interjection again.) Anyway, this is about the only thing I've found that's cheaper.

Fells Point is all cobblestoned and such, and was cool to walk around. It's not that convenient, but I'll probably come back on a regular-enough basis to go to Sound Garden. The bike ride is about 3.5 miles, but it's almost all downhill on the way there (which is fun, though as I said the traffic and pavement are scary), so the ride back is a bit of a drag.

Tomorrow we have IPS orientation. Odd, I know, but this will be covering more nuts-and-bolts details like course progressions. We also have a lunch with the faculty.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


The party came off rather well last evening. John, grad school keggers probably are better than undergrad ones, but I don't think I ever went to one at Carleton...

About 50 people came, which is a lot, but we have a fairly large, open downstairs and a front porch and back yard to accommodate them. Many of the folks in my class brought their significant others, and I actually had a pretty good time talking to them as well. There were also some people from the second-year class I hadn't met yet.

I had foolishly mentioned at some point a couple weeks ago that I've never really had a hangover, so everyone was half-jokingly encouraging me to drink a lot. I did drink quite a bit, and felt a little weird upon getting up today, but thankfully no hangover.

I'm already plotting to have a Zaireeka listening party at some point, perhaps in late October.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I had a pretty good birthday yesterday. Months ago, when I first realized that I would be here for my birthday, I resigned myself to the fact that it would be pretty underwhelming since we'd still all be in orientation and just getting to know one another. But birthdays came up last week sometime, and a few of my classmates remembered and passed the word around -- most people in my class wished me happy birthday at some point during the day, which was nice, if a little silly after a while.

Also, about 8 of us went out to Brewer's Art in honor of my birthday, where they bought me a couple drinks. When we got home, my housemate John and his girlfriend had bought some pizza and a birthday cake. Anyway, I was very impressed that anyone would want to do anything for my birthday considering that we all met a little more than a week ago.

Incidentally, it's Nina's birthday today (she's another first-year), and she's also turning 25, meaning she was born the day after me.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

'Lil Romeo says to stay in school

I went for a bike ride today (there are so many more hills here!), and saw an empty bag of 'Lil Romeo Rap Snacks laying on the sidewalk. New to me, but apparently they're "BAR-B-Quing With My Honey" flavor potato chips. And don't forget to stay in school. Awesome. Check the website -- they also come in Master P flavor!

In other news, Grizzly Man is quite something. Poignant, but not necessarily because he got eaten by a bear.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Nine of us did a service project today, mulching, raking and cleaning out junk at a large Outward Bound facility in Gwynn's Falls, a big park in west Baltimore. Doing some physical work was kinda nice. Here we are examing the largest slug I've ever seen:

Only Sarah (leaning over), Caroline (hand over mouth) and Diane (hand in pocket) are actually in my program -- the other two are other Outward Bound volunteers.

I later provided some token help to Annie and Ira in their move from Mount Vernon to their new place in Bolton Hill. We then got a beer and Ethiopian food, in that order.

Friday, August 26, 2005

This one's optimistic

Last night I saw two guys doing karaoke to Optimistic by Radiohead. They did the quasi-falsetto parts and everything. It wasn't I Will Survive, but it was pretty great. That was at The 13th Floor, which is a cool space on the, um, 13th floor of a grand old hotel north of downtown. The building is the tallest in that part of town, and it's on a bit of a hill, so the view of downtown and the rest of the city is impressive. Alysssa, a second-year at IPS, had convinced a few of us from IPS to go see a band that a couple of her friends from college are in. Surprisingly, it was actually pretty good -- intelligent rapping over jazz-inflected music. When combined with my enormous $3 glass of (crappy) wine, a nice evening. (I must admit that I've been doing a lot more drinking than normal this past week...)

A few of us went to see the Orioles play the A's this evening. The baseball was boring, but of course the point (yet again) was mostly to spend some time hanging out with our new classmates. I ate a "New York Style" hot dog that was completely submerged under piles of overbearing relish and sauerkraut.

My bike riding yesterday went smoothly enough. As a rule, the pavement is a lot worse here than in Minneapolis, which is weird considering how much harsher the weather is in MN. I tooled around to a couple neat neighborhood hardware stores in search of ant traps (they're in our kitchen) and those Command adhesive strips for putting up posters (no luck). I also picked up a couple tasty doughnuts at the decidedly old-school New System Bakery in Hampden. (This makes for exciting reading, I realize.)

No definitive word on a Research Assistant position yet, but I spoke with the assistant director of the program and she told me not to worry because she'd talked about it previously with this professor who's on vacation for a couple weeks right now.
Hopefully I'll get rolling with that soon.

It's been a good first week -- all signs are that I'm going to enjoy myself here. We'll see what I have to say once actual classes start.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


So the program has been underway since Monday. Some highlights:

It turns out that the "team building" Monday was something called "life mapping," which is just drawing a wordy diagram of major things in your life thus far. Seems dumb at first, but we then had to give 5-minute presentations to the group, and it was cool to hear everyone summarize their life and what had brought them here to this program.

We've only done about half of them so far. A lot of people have been working with various nonprofits, etc. A few have been working in Washington for Congress or other parts of the government. The oldest woman in our program has three kids, has taught high school in lots of unhospitable places, and was most recently working for the National Council of La Raza (yet she looks young and I didn't realize she was older until she told us, which is amazing). There's one woman from Japan and another from Peru. Most people graduated from college two to four years ago, with a few straight from school. There are 29 of us in total -- 6 men and 23 women. Yeah, yeah, I know. (But a surprisingly large number are married.)

Unexpected: James McBean, an accomplished fencer who was captain of our archrival team in high school, The Hopkins School, is in my class. I didn't realize this until he gave his presentation and talked about fencing. He went on to be a rival of my Olympic-caliber co-captain in their college years. He didn't remember me because I was a pretty mediocre fencer (my presumption, not his statement), but he was telling me that Matt really should be training for the 2008 Olympics because he'll still be young enough.

The math pre-test was rather frightening, with algebraic fractions inside square roots and that ugly sort of thing. But fortunately most of my classmates had also let a lot of that knowledge seep out of their ears since high school, so we're going over it all in "math camp" this week and next. This is boring but probably necessary. There's also a series of writing seminar classes, and individual sessions on a few other topics. The most immediate benefit of all this is that we're spending a lot of time together as a class getting to know each other. I've already recruited a couple people who want to go to rock shows. (LCD Soundsystem is coming in November, and there are a lot of shows in DC, but that's equivalent to going to Minneapolis from Carleton.)

The campus is nice -- brick walkways, stately buildings, greenery, etc. Since all the buildings are similar in style and the campus is larger than Carleton, I'm having more trouble getting oriented that I thought I might. Just got my student ID today, so I can get into everything now.

Tomorrow is a day off from "camp," so I'll be using it to do some urgent errands and take a bike ride for the first time since getting here, which is a little intimidating due to the more aggressive traffic and the potential to end up in a bad area. But it'll be good to bike, and I know it'll be less intimidating once I'm doing it. I'll probably take some pictures to post, too.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I'm in Baltimore.

This is a bit overwhelming, of course. First impressions:

House: Good, on the whole. It's not quite as well-maintained as I had hoped -- for instance, I've got a leaky/rotting window -- but it's got character, and I don't mean that solely as a euphemism. My room is a tad bigger that I had pictured. The common spaces downstairs are fairly nice, and we have a lot of furniture, courtesy of my housemates, all of whom moved their stuff in before I arrived. I will post some pictures soon.

Neighborhood/City: I can't get over how different this is from Minneapolis. Baltimore feels old for its age. It's denser, and the variations from neighborhood to neighborhood are dramatic and rapid. For example, two blocks east of here, it's considered a not-so-good neighborhood.

Housemates: They're pretty friendly. Jason and Sarah are the two other first-years, and they both live on the second floor along with me. Jason worked for Senator Lautenberg (of NJ) for a few years since graduating, and Sarah worked for a division of NY city government that investigates complaints against police. Jason likes to drink a lot and has a bar set up in our dining room, but I think it'll be okay.

I've only met April, who's in her second year, very briefly, but she's also friendly. John, who I met on my couple trips to Baltimore prior to this, has been away for the week. I think everyone's going to be back tonight.

I've been busy unpacking since arriving on Thursday (and fiddling with the ethernet, which hadn't been working), but I've also had the chance to get out and about a bit, which is making me a bit more comfortable with the city. Last evening I met up with Annie and Ira from Carleton. We went to a festival in Little Italy that I had heard about, and it was amusingly tiny, but there was good food and a couple entertaining things to watch, like elderly couples dancing colorfully to a band and a hotly contested bocce tournament. (So hotly contested, in fact, that a ten-minute argument broke out just before we left over a disputed call.) Afterwards, we sat at Donna's, a coffee bar, for a little while. I really enjoy their company, so I'm glad they're here.

Momentarily, Sarah, Jason and I are going to head off to our first day of Institute for Policy Studies (henceforth IPS) activities. We're starting off with two full weeks of orientation and refresher courses, which I hear from the second years is rather boring, but a good chance to get to know your classmates. Today there aren't even any classes, just a group breakfast, a "math pre-test," tour, and "team-building" (trust falls, perhaps?).

Anyway, this'll be the first time I meet most of my classmates, so it's at least exciting for that reason.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The road to Baltimore

We got off later than planned from Minneapolis yesterday -- a little before 2pm. (But lateness is expected in my family, so I don't think we did too bad.) We stayed in Portage, Indiana last night, and are now in Somerset, PA. A mostly uneventful drive thus far.

In the men's room of a restaurant off the Ohio turnpike, the plastic thingy that sits in the bottom of the urinal featured a picture of Osama bin Laden and read:

Stop Terrorism

Osama Bin Laden

Operation Enduring Freedom

Opponents of terrorism will be pleased to know that Osama got it right in the eye.

Tomorrow, Baltimore -- including seeing my house for the first time and meeting three out of four roommates for the first time.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


My parents are in town for a few days to help me move to Baltimore.

At my mother's insistence, we went to the Mall of America today. Not my favorite place, but they agreed to go via the bus/light rail, so that made it not so bad. They liked the train, which was gratifying. And they didn't get too freaked out about the guy sipping from a 40 in a paper bag in the seat in front of us on the 21 bus.

There was a Hummer parked inside the MoA that had been decked out as a Verizon Wireless promotional vehicle, with video screens and such. To accompany the footage of Jessica Simpson and other shiny happy people using their cell phones, it was blaring..."The Rat," by the Walkmen. Weird.

I saw this article in the NY Times about New Yorkers moving to Philly. Interesting enough, but this tangential tidbit is crying out for further explanation:

"Some 'can't give up their Brooklyn phone numbers,' said Heather Murphy Monteith, a dancer who runs a disco for toddlers."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bouncing baby blog

Moving away from most of my friends seems like as good a reason as any to start a blog. We'll see if I end up liking this or not -- I think I will, though.