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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.

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