Monday, February 28, 2005


I got rejected by SMYE2005. Also I was too late to submit my abstract to present at the Konstanz meeting of Polarization and Conflict research project (see 14th February). So I missed two opportunities to present my work. What a shame...

Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Friday night story

Last night I met up with Alberto and his friend Yukari, who was visiting London from Paris for this weekend. We'd been supposed to go to the V&A Friday late opening, but the museum was shut down early for security reason. According to the museum, a lot more people than expected showed interest in this month's Friday late event. With a limited capacity of the museum, they decided to cancel the event in order to avoid any madness like the one we saw in the opening of IKEA's Edmonton branch a few weeks ago.

So we had dinner at Cafe Creperie (2 Exhibition Road), the only restaurant that seemed decent to me in this area. I was correct. Their galette lived up to the Parisian's taste buds, though picky Alberto may disagree. :-)

Then we took the tube and headed for West End for drink. I don't like West End bars, but under this freezing weather (London has seen snowfalls almost everyday this week), walking to a decent bar in Notting Hill or Hoxton for ten mintus from a tube station is not a good idea. (Good things in London tend to be located far away from tube stations...)

After finding a queue in front of the Market Place (one of the few good bars in West End) and visiting a few crappy bars, we ended up in a bar called the Porters Bar. Yukari was surprised to see how noisy London bars were. Almost all bars in London play crappy music in a very loud volume, just like a nightclub, making it difficult for punters to have a chat, though most Londoners do not seem to care. The Porters Bar didn't follow such a trend, but for some reason the bar was full of noise made by visitors. I guess there's something wrong with the accoustics of this bar.

Around 11 pm, we were forced to leave the bar as it was closing. Another surprise for Parisien Yukari. Many London bars and pubs shut down at 11 pm though scrapping the regulation has been proposed by the Blair government.

We searched for another bar, finding a bunch of noisy and smelly ones...

It was at that time when I realised I wasn't holding the handle of my bag.

Where did I leave it? I really had no idea. It was not that I was drunk. I only had one shot of tequila at the Porters Bar. I was probably too knackered from madness at LSE for the past few weeks to take care of my belongings...

Inside my bag were, among others, a digital camera, a mini-disk player, and an electronic English-Japanese dictionary. Chances were I lost everything, as London's norm says, "If you find something in the street, you're lucky."

We walked back to the Porters Bar first, finding no bag. Then we took the tube to visit Cafe Creperie. No bag there either.

It was already half past midnight. The last tube train was gone. Maybe I left my bag in the tube train. So I asked the tube guy. He told me to call 0845 330 9882 tomorrow. (Actually, this telephone line is open only on weekdays. People don't know anything exactly in this city.)

Alberto and Yukari saw me off when I got on the night bus home. I have to apologise to them for destroying a good Friday night out...

The next morning, I got a call from someone unknown. A guy called John told me he found my bag in the toilet of Moon & Six Pence, the pub where he's working. He called me by finding my mobile number on the diary in the bag. He asked me what was in it. A digital camera, a mini-disk player, ... "Sorry, they are gone, though you still have a dictionary."

I went to the pub and finally got the bag back. John told me, "Someone, after finding or stealing your bag, must have walked into the toilet so he/she could search for valuables without being noticed by anyone."

As I didn't visit this pub last night, a possible explanation is that I left the bag in the Porters Bar, someone found it, took it to the Moon & Six Pence pub, browsed inside it in the toilet, took the camera and the MD player (and a red and black ball-point pen and an eye drop), and left the bag behind.

As the digital camera is gone, I won't be able to decorate this blog with some pictures... As the mini-disk player is gone, I won't be able to listen to music away from home. But the hugest loss is the mini-disk inside the player. It recorded the broadcasting on BBC Radio 1 of Fabio & Grooverider's fantastic DJ set at Fabric last November. I hope the guy or girl stealing it is a drum & bass fan who can appreciate the value of that disk...

But I was rather lucky to have the bag back. This bag is very unusual. It's silver-coloured and rectangular-shaped. The one that a business tycoon might carry. Attached inside are plastic files in which I can keep A4 size papers, which is very convenient as academic papers printed out or photocopied are all I need to read as an economics PhD student. I'm 200% sure I won't be able to find something similar in London (even in Tokyo that would be difficult).

Also inside the bag was a copy of my draft paper with plans of revision written on it. That would have been a huge loss in terms of my research.

So thanks a lot, John.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Lobbying and AIDS

A job market seminar at lunchtime. The paper is an extension of Grossman-Helpman (1994)'s lobbying model. But several comments raised by LSE faculty members were related to the lobbying model itself, rather than the speaker's extension, suggesting that it may not be a good idea to analyze lobbying behaviour based on Grossman-Helpman's framework... (The speaker ran out of time to explain her own contribution as she spent a lot of time to convince the audience on Grossman-Helpman's model.)

Late in the afternoon, Shanta Devarajan from the World Bank gave a talk for DESTIN Friday Visiting Speaker Series. The talk was probably based on this paper.

While I was listening to the lecture, I remembered what Yamada-kun wrote to me in email. He's been doing the literature survey on the macroeconomic impact of AIDS. His current conclusion is that the effect of AIDS can be in either direction depending on the assumption you make regarding the effect of AIDS on fertility rates.

Devarajan's model seemed to assume that AIDS does not have any impact on fertility rates. During the question time, I asked him on this. (I needed to pluck up the courage to do this... But I gotta do this as the challenge I'm facing right now is speak out at seminars.)

Devarajan's answer was that there is no hard evidence on the effect of AIDS on fertility. So he took a neutral stance.

If you do empirical research on this in an econometrically convincing way, I'm sure your paper will be cited by every paper dealing with macroeconomic impacts of AIDS...

Monday, February 21, 2005

Three things about empirical research in economics

DISCLAIMER: Today's post is solely about economics; if you are not an economist, you don't understand what I'm going to talk about at all. I apologise.

Number One: I wonder under which circumstances the use of a cross-sectional dataset, rather than a panel dataset, is justifiable in the 21st century economics. An exceptional case that I can think of is Shleifer and his co.'s legal origin studies (See 25th to 27th January here), though he seemed to be annoyed by criticism based on omitted variable bias concerns. (The best paper that tells you the importance of panel data may be Islam 1995 in QJE.)

Number Two: This is what my supervisor told me when I bumped into him at the STICERD communal area today.

Unlike theoretical research, trust and reputation matters a lot in empirical research as it is difficult to replicate what you've done. (Empirical researchers, like Edward Miguel does for his civil conflict paper published in JPE, have been beginning to post datasets and STATA do-files on their websites to allow others to replicate their results, though.) Telling the audience at your seminar talk that you drop observations in order to get higher t-values destroys your credibility as an empirical researcher.

Number Three: Reading Persson (2005) in order to find a better way of empirical strategy for my research, I finally understand what Robin told me when I gave a seminar presentation last Monday. An empirical methodology called "event study" seems to be the way to go. I haven't figured this out completely yet, but event study is a methodology in which you first identify an "event" that is likely to affect the dependent variable (like economic growth), then take the average of the LHS variable over a certain span of periods (like 5 years) before and after the event, and see if the difference is statistically significant. If it's significant, the event does affect the dependent variable. Obviously this demands a long time span in the data. That's why Robin suggested I use economic variables, like economic growth, which are available for a longer span of time.

This event study seems to become popular among macroeconomic empirical research, like Jones and Olken (2004), Wacziarg and Welch (2003), and Papaioannou and Siourounis (2004). And it seems like I need to jump on the bandwagon (in a good sense).

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Defaced Portraits

Stories from Russia: The David King Collection @ The Photographers' Gallery (5 Great Newport Street).

Hung on the walls of the Gallery's cafe are several pairs of portraits. One in each pair is an ordinary black-and-white portrait of Uzbek politicians in the 1930's, and the other the same portrait with a face defaced by black ink.

A Soviet photographer took photographs of Uzbek communists for a book that commemorated these people's contribution to the Soviet Union. A few years after its publication, Stalin began the Great Purge, which saw many of these figures in the book arrested and shot dead. Scared of being arrested for having photos of purged figures, the photographer defaced his own photographs by black ink.

Half a century later, David King visited this Soviet guy's house, discovering the book with many portraits blacked out. He blew up these pictures, both the original and the defaced, and made this photo exhibition.

Although there was no intention of creating a piece of art in the Soviet photographer's mind, this exhibition succeeds in delivering some message to viewers. Very clever.


The other exhibition, the photographs taken by Melanie Manchot, is not impressive at all, though this one was the reason why I visited the Photographers' Gallery today.


Leaving the Gallery, I stopped by at Bureau, a staionery store nearby (10 Great Newport Street). Although it mainly sells stationery items, it also offers a bunch of "different" stuff. (I bought a designer's bin here in the past.) I found a cool canvas drawing by an artist called Douglas M Black. I want to hang it on the wall of my bedroom, but it costs around 300 quid... (Here's another work by the same artist.)


Then I took a stroll in Chinatown. Since some months ago, you see a set of weird paintings on the walls of a little construction site at the east end of Chinatown (48 Gerrard Street). Here's one of them.


On the way home, I was stuck in the tube between stations for 10 minutes due to delay occuring in the Central Line. A normal life in London. (I'm not sarcastic. Every tube station has, since two years ago, had a board indicating how well each Underground line is operating. Initially, if the service had no problem, the board said, "Normal Service." But someone might have complained of its ambiguous meaning. Now the board says, "Good Service," if the service is operating with no problem.)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Presentation as an Economist

My presentation at EC501 Work-in-progress Seminar, where econ PhD students at LSE present their work in front of other PhD students plus two professors in charge of running this seminar.

It went well in the sense that I got loads of constructive comments, especially from Robin. It didn't go well in the sense that the way I organised my presentation confused the audience a lot. Shame on me...

But I learned a couple of things. Number one: doing research while thinking of how I will deliver my work to seminar participants improves my productivity a lot. Number two: I don't need to be afraid of talking rubbish. The stuff you're talking at a seminar is not the final product. If it's rubbish, the audience suggest the way to improve its quality. Talking lots, getting as many feedbacks as possible, and use them to improve your work. That's the way to do research.

So I took an offer from Tim to present my work at Konstanz meeting of the Polarization and Conflict research project. That'll be exciting!