Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sienna Cafe, on the lower ground of Selfridges department store in London (400 Oxford St., W1)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Night of True Playaz at Fabric

So I went to Fabric last night. Going to Fabric seems to give people an impression of hard-core nightclubbing. They don't understand. Going to Fabric means getting exposed to the world's best sound system.

I finally discovered the best place to enjoy this high-quality sound in Fabric: the upstair balcony of Room 1. Fabric has three dancefloors. Soundwise, the best one is Room 1 (the worst is Room 2, where high-pitched sound is squeaking; Room 3's soundsystem seems to have been renovated - its bass sound is better than before). But the downstair dancefloor of Room 1 has some drawbacks: it's so ram-packed you can hardly move your body at will; bottles of beer are scattered around on the floor; some parts of the floor are wet and slippery (due to beer spilt out of the bottles), making it hard to dance; those who seem to be on drugs keep dancing as if they were alone, shoving people around them; and finally the MC's microphone sometimes causes feedback. These things had kept me away from Fabric for a year.

But in the upstair balcony, all these problems are solved. Surprisingly fewer people - and they are much nicer than those downstairs - dance here, and the acoustics is much, much better. I was listening to - and dancing to - DJ Hype's wicked 2 hour set (his impromptu mix of Pendulum's 'Masochist' is just incredible - he's been doing this since a few months ago, but now it's reached perfection) and A.I.'s liquid funk set (their new approach to drum & bass production - the combination of rather simple rhythm patterns and very fat low bass line - permeates their djing style as well) from 1 to 4am. I felt enormously happy. One of the happiest moments in my life. Although I was tired (see yesterday's post), I kept dancing without interruption. Although I felt hungry around 3am, I couldn't leave the place.

I went to Fabric with Daiten-san, a Japanese guy who got into drum & bass after starting living here in London three months ago. We met for the first time - Yumiko-san introduced him to me by giving us each other's email address. He's a nice guy. If you're a Japanese speaker, check out his blog. It's ridiculously funny, like a story of mushrooms budding in his bathroom. :)

Friday, June 24, 2005

I need toughness.

Today quite a few people told me that I looked tired. Yes, they were right. I was (and am) very tired.

The only thing I want now is toughness. I'm easy to get tired from hard working, which certainly hampers my productivity in research. Some say toughness, rather than intelligence, is the most important thing to be a good researcher. I agree.

Now I start babbling. If I had a girlfriend, I would certainly get tougher. No doubt. The problem is that when I'm tired, I stop bothering to talk, and get very unfriendly and very unthoughtful. Obviously girls don't like such guys. I'm trapped.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

For those who frequent Princeton Review Discussion Board to gather information on PhD programs in economics, requires no introduction.

Probably lesser known is the fact that its ranking of economics departments is now linked from a couple of official websites of economics departments (UBC and UTI, as far as I know). Presumably, those departments which are ranked higher than usually perceived love this ranking.

What I like about this ranking is that those non-academic institutions are also ranked. By comparing the score, we see that the World Bank's research productivity is ranked as 14th in the world, falling in between those nearly top 10 (UCLA, LSE, Columbia) and those whose research productivity is almost half of top 10. I didn't know that the World Bank did that well.

What's also interesting is its new "network" ranking. This ranking counts publications not only by faculty members belonging to the university of concern but also by their co-authors outside the university. Compared to the original ranking, noticeable is the LSE's breaking in to top 10 (12th in the original; 7th in the network ranking). I suppose that this is reflected in the gorgeous list of visiting professors and seminar speakers invited to the LSE. If you keep reading my blog for the past three years, you may notice quite a few big names coming to LSE from time to time. I belive that there is a correlation between the number of professors in a university who co-author papers with a lot of people (which implies they also know quite a few researchers outside the university) and the variety of visitors to the university.

I think this is one factor - an obscure one, though - that you need to take into account when you decide which university to go. I'm not sure if this applies to pure theorists. But if you aim to be an applied economist, your research productivity depends on how widely you know the literature in economics. Take Montalvo and Reynal-Querol's paper forthcoming in American Economic Review, one of the best academic journals in economics (see 16th May). Their breakthrough comes from their familiarity with the literature on civil war and ethnicity and with a highly technical paper Esteban and Ray (1994). If Drs Montalvo and Reynal-Querol - the latter got her PhD at LSE! (I didn't know this) - just read papers directly related to civil war and ethnicity, they would never be able to write this paper.

Obviously, just talking to your supervisor and attending lectures by professors at your own university, the scope of your knowledge is limited. If, in addition, a variety of scholars visit your university and give talks on their pieces of research, your horizon expands.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Lesser-known "Good" Dictators - Part II

This post is a sequel to the post on 8th April.

Mohammad Zia ul-Haq (Pakistan, 1977-1988)

General Zia ul-Haq staged a coup after parliamentary elections earlier in 1977 resulted in the opposition party's accusation of the government, led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, of vote-rigging.

During his rule, real GDP per capita (in PPP term) steadily grew, though not impressively, from 1040 US dollars in 1977 to 1580 dollars in 1987. Zia finally agreed to hold parliamentary elections in autumn 1988 though he was killed in an air crash on 17 August of the same year.

Googling "Zia ul-Haq" reveals that he was a pro-business dictator.

After 1977 the government of Mohammad Zia ul-Haq (1977-88) began a policy of greater reliance on private enterprise to achieve economic goals, and successive governments continued this policy throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. Soon after Zia came to power, the government instituted constitutional measures to assure private investors that nationalization would occur only under limited and exceptional circumstances and with fair compensation. A demarcation of exclusive public ownership was made that excluded the private sector from only a few activities. Yet government continued to play a large economic role in the 1980s. Public-sector enterprises accounted for a significant portion of large-scale manufacturing. (Source: Country Studies - Pakistan)

Saturday, June 11, 2005


This week's The Economist magazine features a special report on Congo (no subscription required). The following story in the article is quite intriguing.

Veronique, an office worker, was separated from her daughter by the war. When peace broke out, she booked an aeroplane ticket for her (penniless) girl to rejoin her. But before the daughter could board the plane, she was detained. Her yellow fever vaccination card had been stamped by rebel health authorities, and so was invalid, the officials tut-tutted. Alas, she had no money for a bribe.

But Veronique was able to send her the equivalent of cash by mobile telephone. She bought $20 worth of telephone cards. These give you a code number which you key into your phone and thereby "recharge" it with pre-paid airtime. Veronique called the obstructive officials and gave them her code numbers to recharge their own mobile phones. It took only minutes to send her bribe across the country?faster than a bank transfer, which would in any case have been impossible, since there is no proper banking system.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Back from Syria

I've been in Syria for the past 12 days, visiting a friend of mine living there. I'll start another blog called Syria 2005 to "propagandise" this amazing country as an ideal travel destination, with photographs taken there. Check it out.