_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.