Washington D.C.

I just realized that I have less than a week until I will be dropped off at Georgetown for classes/my internship and I have no big plans except to visit the Smithsonian, the Portrait Gallery, The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle, see the original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights at the National Archives, go to the Library of Congress and go to fantastic ethnic restaurants people recommended. I have deviated from my over-planning tendencies. To restore that, I looked through a few things on the Brightest Young Things, a D.C. culture blog, and 100 free things to do in D.C. and decided I’ll just plan when I get there.

Of the many things I didn’t plan for, I did not plan to get addicted to Science Fiction this summer. I point my finger at my favorite economist Paul Krugman in his Wired interview. He says he’s particularly into futuristic utopian as well as dystopian novels because it helps you think outside the box, think of possibilities with less constraints. He applies his theory in an economics paper called “The Theory of Interstellar Trade” back in 1978 as an assistant professor, in which he wrote about actual trade illustrating it through sci-fi:

The joke was, since time of shipment is a big factor — even, actually, in real international trade — and time of shipment would be much longer in interstellar trade, how much time do you spend on shipment, considering we’ve got the theory of relativity, which says that it depends on the observer? So, you know, playing with that. And because I was blowing off steam, I actually did the economics right, so as I said in the introduction, this was a serious treatment of a ridiculous subject, which is the opposite of what we usually do in economics.

It ended up saying that it actually doesn’t matter how much time elapses on the spaceship, it’s the time that elapses in the frame of reference of the people doing the investing that matters, which is of course obvious if you think about it for a second, but I was able to have some fun, and among other things put in a diagram of Minkowski spacetime, which has an imaginary time axis … which was a blank page, because, after all, it’s just imaginary. So I was having some fun.

With this paper, fusing Sci-fi, International trade, AND the theory of relativity he was secretly knighted as the emperor of Nerdom, where I reside. I am so in love.

Revised reading list (Sci-fi only):

  • The Ender’s Game
  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
  • Iain M. Banks’s Culture Series

Keeping up with Krugman and economics:

I read The New York Times, The Financial Times — the Financial Times has a blog, FT Alphaville, which is just for market stuff, but the next stop is a blog called Economist’s View, which is Mark Thoma at the University of Oregon. It’s a personal blog, but he actually gathers material and produces what really amounts to a daily economics magazine, with links to much of the stuff that’s going on out there in the discussion. Brad DeLong at Berkeley has a more personal blog. He was there first; he was an inspiration to me to start doing it, and he’s still a really interesting guy. I read a bunch of others in rotation, but I think basically I start each morning with those, and then I actually usually read a couple of more political blogs: Ezra Klein at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent, also at the Washington Post, on more politics, The Washington Monthly. And at that point it’s time to prepare the next class, so I move on from the blogosphere and start putting my lecture notes together.

This is such a relevant essay to what I’m re-experiencing, moving back into a city. Not just any city, but THE city. Driving through the boroughs of New York is like crossing invisible borders. Going from one street to the next, it’s no surprise to see a sudden shift in ethnic composition. For example, we were driving in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, driving eastwards. You would see Latinos, Blacks then suddenly Orthodox Jewish men dressed in traditional black clothes. It’s something that I’ve been used to for most of my life. Even beyond cities, in different countries, and even countries in such close proximity like Canada and the US, the difference in the reception of diversity and multiculturalism is quite vast. This has a lot to do with the different policies each nation decides to implement. The institutionalization of diversity which trails behind the “lived experience” which aims to accommodate the cultural and economic differences has come a long way, but there are still many flaws.

 

The most interest region to look out for is Europe, which has recently experienced a manifestation of what Americans call “terrorism.” With a decreasing birth rate hanging below the replacement rate, the cluster of socialist countries will not be able to sustain the old age pensions with its aging population, without a change in their immigration policies esp. for migrant workers.

 

There are many myths, especially the ones in this post, which fuel more hatred towards the minorities. This hatred is more pronounced during economic downturns such as the one we’re experiencing, as more people are unemployed and disgruntled. In this situation, minorities and new immigrants are easy scapegoats to blame. There is hope, however, seeing that there have been surprisingly a historical trend toward more openness (i.e. France since the revolution vs. the film, Haîne), anthropologically speaking.

Interesting post!

Pandaemonium

I gave the Milton K Wong lecture in Vancouver on Sunday.  I very much enjoyed the event- it was a stunning venue, a superb audience and a good discussion of the issues. My thanks to the Laurier Institution, University of British Columbia and CBC for inviting me. Entitled ‘What is Wrong with Multiculturalism? A European Perpective’, the lecture pulled together many of the themes about immigration, identity, diversity and multiculturalism of which I have been talking and writing recently. It was a long talk, so I am splitting the transcript into two. Here is the first part; I will publish the second part later this week. It will be broadcast in full on 22 June on the CBC’s Ideas strand.


It is somewhat alarming to be asked to present the European perspective on multiculturalism. There is no such beast. Especially when compared to the Canadian discussion, opinion in Europe is highly polarised…

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Road trip

This is probably the longest time I’ve been on the road for 2 days. Another time I took a road trip as long as this one was when I drove from Toronto to go to Ottawa.
We were just going to drive the whole day yesterday but due to unforeseen circumstances, namely the tornado we overlooked, we had to pull over to a questionable hotel that would have been rather unsafe to have the “do not disturb” sign outside the door.
We’re in Maryland now. Slowly edging towards Pennsylvania where there are Wawas.
We contributed to the state revenue of the North Carolina in a way we didn’t quite plan, but shit happens.