Week 6, Washington D.C.

I could never be a great journalist but I might make a decent historian. I don’t like to report events as they happen, but rather like to look at things as part of a trend or a grander stroke. It takes time to create a good narrative. What I’m writing now isn’t breaking news, but an account of what’s been going on in my head in the past few weeks.

So I’ve been in DC for a while. Long enough to really see the flow of the city and the people that reside here. Georgetown, the area where I live, isn’t the best representation of what it’s like to live in DC since it’s known for its 5 million colorful matchbox condos (or townhouses?) that are lined up from Prospect st up to Volta. However, an attorney/business women I met for coffee described it the best–DC is a city of many layers, and to experience all of the layers, you have to have friends in each. There is the governmental layer with the lobbyists and the Congressmen/women, politicians. Then there are the intellectuals, and the professors–DC being a city with a concentration of  world-renowned universities and think-tanks. There’s the  history and the arts in the Archives and the Smithsonians as well as in bookstores like Politics and Prose. There is also the nightlife, some high-end, and some a bit shady and maybe unsafe (e.g. in parts like Adams Morgan where one of my roommates were advised by a cab not to go after midnight.). There are many other layers, like the activists, writers, non-governmental organization (NGO) professionals, high-ranked officials et cetera, but my point is, DC is one of the most colorful, vibrant and exciting city to work and live in. As it is the case for most capitals, it is the figurative heart of America, pumping the blood to the rest of the country, feeding the policies and ideas to the 50 states. I was fortunate enough to be in DC for the monumental health care hearing. Some of my brave co-interns even stayed overnight at SCOTUS to witness the ruling. Everyone here at the minimum dabbles in politics. I am far from being fluent at it, but you cannot possibly live in DC and ignore what’s going on in Congress, the White House or the State department. It gets so American sometimes, I am more conscious of my nationality than I’ve ever before.

I’ll write something about the people I met at the program here at TFAS next time. Off to bed now.

-A

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.