Wednesday, March 23, 2005

which screwdriver turns the car on?

originally uploaded by nclinton.
this past friday, i was being a nice guy, doing some grocery shopping for christie while she slaved away at the music studio where she teaches. i noticed that her car was parked outside, it's emergency lights flashing. i investigated and found what you see in the picture. someone had been trying to steal the car, and had almost succeeded.

the photo there was actually taken the morning after, as we tried to figure out what to do. the battery ran down overnight (we couldn't turn the car all the way off). so, that morning, christie demolished the ignition with her crow bar and used a screwdriver to start her car (we jump-started it). we hope that's the last car we have to steal.

overall, an interesting (and fun?) experience, aside from the feeling-violated-and-angry part. not to mention the $300 in repairs.

Friday, March 18, 2005

what the bleep am i doing? (part 1)

first of all, let me just say that the title of this post is no way an endorsement of the alluded-to movie, which i think is a crock of bleep. if you don't know what i'm talking about, let it stay that way. if you do, i have made up my mind - i only want to hear from people who agree with me.

now. onto more interesting things. the question is, what is economics? and more specifically, what is economic research? i'm compelled to think about this question for several reasons. first, people often ask me what i do for a living (and vice versa). "i do economic research" is usually my answer, although i'm not sure what impact it has on my interlocutor. second, i am engaged in the process of interviewing candidates to replace me and it often surprises me how little these candidates understand of economic research, though they seek to work at it for 40 hours every week. third, i fear that many of my friends and loved ones have little to no understanding of what i spend every day thinking about. lastly, it's an inherently interesting question, as you'll soon see.

if you open an arbitrary textbook on the subject, you'll find some defintion of economics that uses the phrases "study of", "distribution", "choice", and "scarce resources" in some order, optionally including words like "society" or "money". here's an example from the world bank:

the study of how individuals and societies choose to allocate scarce productive resources among competing alternative uses and to distribute the products from these uses among the members of the society.

note that this is rather broad. if you think about it, this is pretty much equivalent to "the study of human behavior". i am unable to think of a question of human behavior that cannot be re-formulated such that we can pull it under the umbrella of economics, or that might lend itself to an answer using the language of economics.

this a crucial point: i'm not saying that economics gives The Answer to all questions about humans. i'm saying that economics is a toolkit, a set of methodologies and assumptions useful for answering lots of different kinds of questions about humans. there are questions that economics is not very good at answering. for instance, i would be hard pressed to answer the question "why do people believe in god?" using my economic toolkit. but it's certainly possible, nevermind that it would probably be a worthless exercise.

contrary to what many of you might think, economists don't necessarily sit around "studying money". for instance, a paper was published recently that found that if england increased paid maternity leave to one year from the current six months, infant mortality would fall by almost 7%. this was not published in a medical journal, but an economics journal.

in part two, i will describe the process of economic research and contrast it with that of other sciences. i will also tell you about this process from my own perspective and talk about what the bleep i actually do.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

christie's website

things are really coming along with christie's website (there's a link on this site). it's not live yet, but only needs a little more work. we spent most of the afternoon and evening on it - so hard to find the time unless i write it on my calendar... (see previous post). anyway, i'll let you all know when it makes it's debut.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

day of rest?

unfortunately, not this weekend. i've been spending more time recently making calendars, to-do lists, and budgets. i thought the reason i was making these things was that otherwise i would lose track of something crucial. i'm beginning to wonder whether these so-called organizers are in fact making me a busier person. what looks like a "free" day on my calendar (nothing written on it, no appointments) is begging for me to fill it in, thereby achieving some teleological end - before the day in question actually arrives. in other words, it's as if a day requires two things from me: to make it productive on paper and productive in reality. before i was only interested in the latter. so you see why i feel like there is a dark side to the calendar, so to speak.

anyway, one thing on my calendar i'm especially looking foward to is my haircut, which is scheduled for march 24th, two days before i get on a plane for tokyo. my hair hasn't been this long since 9th grade, when i dyed it bright red. (i'll see if i can dig up a photo of that.) but, ever since christie took me to chelsea, i can't imagine anyone else touching head with a pair of scissors. it's not rational, but i'm learning that few things in this world are.

Friday, March 11, 2005

some weekend reading

a few articles for your perusal.

have a good weekend.

new home

i'm finished with the website. i just don't have the time or money to continue maintaining it. and i'm so stressed out about the design that i don't ever post anything. but since i don't post anything, it seems like a big waste of time to do a re-design. ack! a viscious cycle.

so here i am. i don't mind this whole free blog thing. i don't know what i was so worked up about before. to have one's own website _just for a blog_ is not a smart investment of time, i think. if the website is primarily something else, like a place to promote one's art or have an online resume or a forum of some kind, then good. but a website for just a personal blog is like setting up one's own email server - a nice geeky project, but one without any other compelling benefits. email - like blogging - is a free service. it was a hobby of mine, and one to which i cannot now commit more resources.

the upside is that i should be more spontaneous and consistent about my posts, now that i don't have to deal with the guilt of the failing website.

so, welcome and cheers. look for interesting articles, pictures of my life (via flickr, probably), and lots of upcoming news as i get my law school and re-location plans underway.