Monday, November 16, 2009

Quiescent - my word of the day

My pastor Tom preached on the addictive nature of sin yesterday. I don't really consider myself addicted to anything but his words still hit home somehow.

Addictions fill the void where God should be. It can be anything you try to use to create heaven here on earth...anything you use to supplant your suffering. Tom said addicts are only comfortable when fully occupied or incredibly dull. There's no room for meditation or contemplation on God if you're really busy and likewise if you're zoned out in front of the television. Where's the room for introspection?

As someone who values introspection, I am going to consider yesterday's message a wake-up call. Yes, I have work, school, family issues, surgery, and friends to keep up with, but I need to make room for reflection. I need to make more room for God.

Isaiah 30:15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Columbus Day and I'm working

For those of you outside of D.C., this may not seem like a big deal, but in a city in which at least two out of every three people work for the government directly or indirectly nobody else seems to be working. This kind of eerie quiet, makes me want to do a dance number in the streets....kinda like this.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Corn puddin'

My boss has a farm and brings in a variety of fresh produce. Inspired by this seemingly endless supply of squash and a recipe for corn pudding I stumbled upon recently, I made corn pudding in squash for dinner tonight.

Here's my edited version of this recipe.

Depending on the size of your squash you might have quite a bit of filling leftover - I poured my leftovers into a buttered ramekin and baked that alongside the squash for a nice, light corn-flecked pudding. Or alternately, you might use a second squash.

1 small (2 lb.) acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup milk
1 egg plus 2 egg whites
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (or more if you like)
1/2 cup chopped scallions or onions
1 tbsp of Curry Powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees with a rack in the middle.

Rub the orange flesh of the squash with the oil. Place cut side up on a baking sheet. You will want it to sit flat (and not tip), if you are having trouble just level out the bottom using a knife. If the squash is tilting on the pan, the filling will run out - bad news. Cover the squash with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until the squash starts to get tender.

In a bowl combine the milk, eggs, corn, half of the scallions, curry, and salt. Fill each of the squash bowls 3/4 full (see head notes about using leftovers). Carefully transfer the squash back to the oven without spilling (tricky!). Continue baking uncovered for another 30 - 50 minutes, or until the squash is fully cooked through, and the pudding has set. The amount of time it takes can vary wildly depending on the squash and oven. At the last minute sprinkle with cheese and finish with a flash under the broiler to brown the cheese. Keep and eye on things, you can go from melted cheese to burnt and inedible in a flash. Serve hot.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Weekend Recap

A friend from Texas asked me what I did this weekend, and I don't think I did it justice so here's take two.

I woke up begrudgingly early to work a booth at a vast right wing conspiracy conference until a lovely intern showed up (30 minutes late) to take over my duties. Then, I strolled over to Pentagon City Mall to meet up with Amanda, Jana, and Kate to review Amanda's bridal hair-do and pick up some badass designer jeans. Jeff from Denim Bar talked me into a light wash (gasp, I know). Next, we ladies luncheoned outdoors in the beautiful weather. The experience was only slightly besmirched by an exboyfriend sighting but quickly righted by our next destination: Nordstroms. Ahhh, the peace that comes from entering this culmination of capitalist perfection. After a mere hour enjoying the comforts of the establishment, I had to return to the conference to work the last couple hours. Next, home for a nap...that only lasted 20 minutes before a galpal called me with a boy counseling. Then, I donned my outfit for the evening and drove downtown to Levante for an outdoor meal with the lovely Leigh Ann and dancing with some long lost pals at the Darlington House in Dupont (mondo cool venue to rent out - note to self). Evening ended with a quite colorful X-rated meander down P street to my car - not fit for publication. Nightmares followed.

Burnt the candle at both ends to wake up for church. Decided yes, it's ok to wear the same dress as I did to Dupont last night to church this morning (but with flats and a cardigan). Picked up darling Denise for church and caught up with her post-service over coffee and pastries at St. Elmos in Del Ray (I HAD been there after all - quite cozy but it aint no Murky). After dropping Denise off at home, I had every intention of going home to do my Microecon homework but found two of my three neighbor boys locked out of their humble abode in nothing but their boxers. Keep in mind, it's like 12:30 on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Long story short, they take refuge in my living room to wait for the locksmith while I go upstairs to study when five minutes later I hear "There's a sale at the Fashion Boutique!" OMG the neighbor boys Alex and Frank have set up Mall Madness - I have to go play with them. As soon as the locksmith arrives, it's time for me to leave for another right wing/liberty loving conspiracy event, Crabfest! Beautiful weather, venue, people, and crabs - what more could a girl want? Basically for my Cowboys to win, which they didn't. But I did have someone to assuage my grief with scrumptious baked goods. ;) Not too shabby of a weekend. Finally, home to attempt the microecon problem set due the next day.

Pretty par for Whitney's course.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tariffs and trade wars

One of the first papers, I wrote in college was on the onerous steel tariffs we used to have back in 2001. Oh the folly of tariffs, subsidies, and trade restrictions. I know it's naive to think that we could ever have truly free trade, but it makes so much sense. Otherwise you get into nasty trade wars like the one we're falling into with China right now. And how arbitrary is this?! Because we decided to levy tariffs on Chinese tires, the chicken farmers of America and our already weak auto industry will suffer China's retribution. All I can do is shake my head.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy Anniversary to my Rationally Exuberant self!

So in honor of the anniversary of my blog and because it has started to get cold again, I've resolved to start blogging again, plus it's getting colder so I'll be indoors more. Another theory I have about my blogging hiatus is that my blogging was directly correlated to how much time and coffee I consumed at Murky Coffee. Since it closed, my life just hasn't been the same...sigh.

I initially started this blog thinking it would prepare me for an ambitious role in public policy analysis - or that it would at least hone my chops a bit. But let's be real. I'm a people person. I'm probs going to continue in fundraising and or perhaps consulting. I do like solving problems, giving presentations, and basically just helping people. But that upcoming Masters in Public Policy is not all for naught. I do think it has given me a more realistic perspective on government, tamed my knee-jerk "government bad" grunting, and exposed me to some awesome people. So resolved, you'll see more posts, more candor, and more slice-of-Whitney-life variety on this site from now on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I would have done well in finishing school

If I had my way, I'd be a modern day version of those women in Jane Austen novels. I'd be well educated, well read, articulate, demure but assertive when need be...and I'd know how to draw, paint, sew, play piano, and speak at least three different languages. There just never seems to be enough time!

I was reminded of this ill-fated aspiration of mine when I read this op-ed in Forbes this morning - "What about Motherhood?" - in which the author suggested to his 18 year old daughter that perhaps he should send her to a two year finishing school in Switzerland rather than college. After all, what does the American college do to prepare a young woman to be a wife and mother? Practically nothing! You may become well-educated but with college standards and requirements evaporating most women can't really be considered "well read" anymore and few colleges require the languages. Maybe if colleges required some finance, home economics, and cooking? But such suggestions are blasphemy to the liberal academia.

I would have done welll in finishing school.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chinatown Coffee Company

So Chinatown Coffee Company opened up at 475 H Street NW on Monday. After ready the Daily Candy review, I hopped over there yesterday to check it out myself because Lord knows I miss me some Murky Coffee!

First impression walking up is of the cute and unassuming store front - a little more polished than I had actually hoped for - I miss the grunge a la Murky. The interior has the cool urban industrial feel of the exposed brick wall, cement floors, and slick counters. They kept all of the old rickety tables and chairs from Murky which fulfilled some of my yearning for my old "third place" (Hat tip: Mr. McKelvey for this sociological reference). I walk right up and order my usual - Medium Skim White Mocha. She says they don't do White Mocha. Uh! At Murky, the White Mocha was so popular that they often ran out. Just another attempt to shun the yuppies. So I order a regular Mocha. It was a frothy dream and just the caffienated sustenance I've been missing for months on end. The only bummer? My "medium" is now a dainty 12 oz for $4.20 instead of the old 16 oz. for $4.95.

I took a seat in the one and only window seat - locals should note that there are now only about 40 seats at this location with no outside benches or backroom to accomodate spillover. I faced West toward the Chinatown Friendship Gate - lovely view - too bad only one or two people can have it at a time. I could see myself getting there early on a Saturday morning and camping out in the window with a good book. But I do miss my ten minute walks every Saturday morning to my grungy, hipster coffee shangri la.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blogging is a cold weather activity

So I've realized that I'm outdoors and way too active in the summer months to keep up with this blog. More when I feel like it...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July

I'm in Colorado right now celebrating a wedding, but before I left I came across this speech by Frederick Douglass originally given on the Fifth of July, 1852. Some highlights to ponder on this Fourth of July:
I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.Ă‘The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me....

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Amercans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
Click here for the full text of this magnificent and moving speech.

May we all say a prayer of gratitude today for the liberties that ALL Americans now enjoy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"How to Argue Like Jesus"

Admittedly I have not read this book How to Argue Like Jesus yet, but I can vouch for one of the authors and I think it's a cool concept. Anywho, John Facebooked all his friends, and said I could win a free book if I linked to a recent interview John and his coauthor Joe did for Christian Book Notes. So here you go!

How to Argue Like Jesus examines the life and words of Jesus and describes the various ways in which he sought—through the spoken word, his life, and his disciples—to reach others with his message. The authors then pull some very simple rhetorical lessons from Jesus’ life that readers can use today.

Both Christian and non-Christian leaders in just about any field can improve their ability to communicate effectively by studying the words and methods of history’s greatest communicator.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Waste in the education system

I'm not well versed in the pros and cons of unions but generally believe that in civilized societies such as ours they generally hinder labor mobility and cost us more trouble than they are worth. Specifically, teacher unions gum up the works of attempts to reform the public school system, but I had no idea to what an extent they soaked up money and paralyzed the system. Case in point this AP article about suspended teachers that the district is unable to fire due to their union contracts:
Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that's what they want to do.
Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its "rubber rooms" — off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.
This is one of the worst wastes of taxpayer dollars I've heard of in a while!
Hat tip: Freddie

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Homesick for Texas

I blame the torrential downpours of the last two weeks. I think it might be the first time since I moved here permanently after college that I'm actually homesick for the Lone Star State. "It's a lovely place to be born and raised, but I've had my fill, " I say at cocktail parties when introduced as the token Texan. Immediately people always want to know if I'll ever go back. Probably not for a multitude of reasons, but my friends I am homesick.

Homesick for incessant sunshine...
Homesick for being baked alive when I get into a car that's sat in triple digit heat...
...for Blue Bell Ice Cream...
...for that friendly Texan twang...
...for TexMex and margaritas...
...for pick up trucks and guns...
...for Sonic Drive-In drinks...
...for goshdarn sunshine!

How much could I pay you to stand in line?

Fascinating story about the economics of line standing to get into Congressional Hearings on the Hill. The reporter does a good job of covering both sides of the story:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Freedomfest in Vegas!!!


I get to go to Freedomfest in Las Vegas for work! Three huge reasons to get excited for Whitney:

#1 I've never been to Vegas.

#2 This is libertarian/free-market mecca. It even has a theme song called "Freedom and Gold" - lol

#3 This means my boss doesn't hate me after all! whew

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My black thumb

My college boyfriend once berated me for having gone through five cellphones during the course of our relationship. He had the same one circa 1999 and he was damn proud of that. I also went through three computers in college, two mp3 players, three printers, a palm pilot, and God knows how many other various sundry electronics that now escape my memory.

Now my office rajah (ahem Romulo) claims I'm the only one who ever has systemic computer/printer problems. I like to think I'm just a good user of these items - I use them so much and so vigorously they just give up. It's not my fault things are built to fall apart and be replaced these days! I may not be an environmentalist hippie, but I do lament the quality of consumer goods having deteriorated over time. It seems egregiously wasteful and seems to be a poor reflection of our culture. One European habit I wish we would adopt was buying high quality clothes. Europeans don't own as much as us - especially in their closet - but what they do have lasts much longer and fits even better. So there - it's the poor production quality and not my incessant mouse clicking that is the downfall of electronics in my path.

In other news, my office plants are thriving.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quintessentially Arlington, VA

So there are some places that give Arlington a little more character than this video/rap gives it credit for, but I thought my out of town friends would be amused to see a little slice of life of where I currently live. For my DC peeps, this is mucho entertaining as well!


Just moved to a new hood
and it's straight up gangsta
Let me show you around...
my town

People all around
better know the deal
that the people in this town
are ghetto for real

So when people tell me
Remy, where you calling from?
I say a straight up thug town
called Arlington

It's a real tough town
packing heat and boat shoes
my crib's in a rough spot
right next to the Whole Foods

I'm ducking gunfire daily
check to see if one got me
but that's just life in the hood
when I go get my puffed kashi

But we never do ... more

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Becoming the Party of Freedom

I've recently come out (hardy har har) about how I feel on the issue of gay marriage and was excited to see another conservative touting the same sentiment over at Big Hollywood: marriage isn’t a complex issue. Science aside, one needn’t believe that homosexuality is moral in order to understand that nowhere does the Constitution give the federal government the right to regulate marriage.

The Republican Party has made a huge mistake in advocating a kind of Cafeteria Constitutionalism. (I’ll take some guns, no helmet laws, please, a free market, and…yuck, hold the gay marriage!). One can’t legitimately invoke the Constitution to oppose federally mandated sex education, and then use the federal government to impose school prayer. Leave that fair-weather-federalism to the Left.

It’s not a state secret that the Democrat Party has become little more than a loose coalition of special interest groups with few or no coherent philosophical underpinnings. It’s also apparent that the Republicans are equally lost philosophically and couldn’t even manage to nominate a presidential candidate with the fiscal good sense to oppose corporate bailouts. Now here we are: face to face with an opportunity to take stock, recalibrate, and decide what we want from our political leaders.

Me, I implore the Republicans to become — once and for all — the party of freedom. The true moral highground is there to seize. Our Constitution was created as a shield against government encroachment on our personal lives. Conservatives should be the last people who would dare turn this document into a weapon.
To me, pressing a social agenda like this is part of the Republican party's undoing. To be consistent and ultimately successful at the ballot box, we need to always be on the side of liberty.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Contradictions, Qipaos, and Characters - CHINA

What a foreign way of life! Having been to Europe, Latin America, and Africa, I now realize that you haven’t truly “been abroad” until you’ve been to the East. In Europe as a white American, I blend into the background. In Latin America, everything is just a little brighter and louder than America, but still not so foreign. In Africa, my expectations for development were so low I’m sorry to say I wasn’t too astonished by anything. China, however, was different. From the systemic contradictions to the plethora of umbrellas, China held one surprise after another.

China’s development was impressive, but my experiences demonstrated that they still have a long way to go. For instance with all the pollution, traffic, and general overcrowding in Beijing, I’m amazed they were able to pull off the Olympics. Only by shutting down factories both to cut down on pollution and to encourage people to visit relatives in rural areas were the Chinese able to make way for Olympic guests. This, however, was a temporary fix and the city seems to be struggling to accommodate the population and reign in pollution. Some (not me) might argue the lack of Western toilets and toilet paper may be a cultural preference, but it is pretty clear sanitation overall and water quality is still an issue in Beijing, Hufei, and Shanghai so imagine what the smaller towns are like! Not to mention the personal sanitation issues of spitting and allowing children to defecate on the streets. When we visited the industrial park in Hufei, the power went out twice killing the productivity of the call center upstairs. Perhaps the economic Tiger of the East is not so scary after all.

Having read that China is a country of contradictions many times before my arrival, I thought it might merely be a rhetorical tool for authors to hedge their bets about China’s future, but now I have seen some of these ironic paradoxes firsthand. It is commonly known that civil disputes or protests are on the rise in China, yet many everyday forms of expression that I’m used to as an American were noticeably absent. For instance, I only saw graffiti once during my two weeks – on a random late-night cab ride through Shanghai – also missing were flyers, street musicians, street surveyors with clipboards, and picket lines in general. In America, these blend into the background, but in China the dearth of physical evidence of individual expression I had heard and read that I shouldn’t be worried about being attacked or mugged in China (maybe just pickpocketed) because the Chinese want to save face and make a good impression especially amongst foreigners. They had no problem ripping me off with steep prices in the market though. I often had to haggle down to 25-30% of their initial price. When I had lunch with a Chinese-American friend in Hong Kong, there were two menus – one in Chinese and one in English – everything was the same but the prices! They blatantly discriminated against English speakers by charging 10-20 yuan more per dish. For many of our lectures by Chinese professors, I found you had to read in between the lines of contradiction. Dr. Yu Yongda informed us of his “Advantage Integration Theory” which diminishes the role of natural resources or comparative advantage in a country’s development yet clearly China needs to hone certain sectors or skills if it is to be competitive globally. Once, Dr. Lu Wei even said, “Sometimes you can signal left, but turn right.” Even if I could remember the context, I don’t think that would make much sense, but to the Chinese people subtleties such as this can indicate a lot and can help clarify such contradictions. Reviewing what I have written thus far, I can see how it might seem as if I have a negative perception of China. But the Chinese people made all the difference in the trip.

My favorite part of the trip was building a relationship with my tailor’s family in Beijing. Having arrived early to Beijing, I spent a couple days wandering the city by myself and happened upon a back alley pedestrian street which was under heavy construction. Despite the physical mayhem of the street, the businesses flanking either side of this treacherous obstacle course were still open. This dusty venue is where I found my tailor in a small shop. I had priced qipaos (traditional Chinese dresses) all day and wanted to see what they had to offer. The store itself was not that impressive but they had a decent selection of qipaos and I found one I especially liked. “How much?” I asked an eager 13 year old girl. She grabbed her calculator and typed in 600. I typed in 200 and she laughed and typed in 450. I laughed and typed in 250. She shook her head and retyped 450 but when I started to walk away she agreed to 350. I said I would need to try it on first. I stepped into the makeshift dressing room which consisted of a curved shower curtain rod and a sheet of fabric. I needed only to put my arms through the dress to see that it would not fit. I stepped back out and shook my head. The girl frantically started gesturing and saying “custom, custom.” Then I noticed the disgruntled old man who had been staring at a computer screen and listening to Chinese talk radio quietly. He grunted at the girl and picked up a phone. The girl was able to communicate that I should wait. Five minutes later the energetic and smooth talking Jian Nan came bouncing into the store with her strawman of a husband in tow. Next thing I knew, I was agreeing to being measured for a custom qipao that I would only pay 420 yuan for. The 80% downpayment up front made me nervous, but Jian Nan showed me “many picture of happy Western customer” and reassured me that “we a business, we go nowhere.” Looking back, I wonder if she was hurt by my skepticism. After all, the Chinese have guanxi. When I came back to pick up my dress two days later, I brought a friend to buy a suit. The family was thrilled and Jian Nan let me pick out a scarf for free. She asked if Eric and I were boyfriend/girlfriend – all Chinese seemed very relationship focused – who is who in relation to one another at all times. I said no. She said “better or else you have babies and work too hard – always working to take care of them.” I asked her how many children she had. Obviously, she was a lower income working class girl so how could she afford more than one child? She and her skinny husband have two – they paid a heavy tax for their second child but it was worth it she said. The government is apparently caring less about this now and not enforcing the tax as much. China must be realizing the critical demographical situation they have created. Only while Eric was getting measured for his suit did I discover that the recalcitrant old man was the actual tailor and not Jian Nan. She was just the mouthpiece. I think she mixed up her pronouns somewhere because she seemed to really know her stuff and run the place, I thought SHE was the one who made my dress. Yet, her only talent is her English. That’s fine – she’s got the gift of gab even if her grammar is a little rough. They Jian family was so sincere and appreciative of my business, I wish I could go back and ask them more questions about their life and business!

Everyday encounters such as mine with my tailor and his family held their share of wonder and were the moments that made the trip worthwhile. I shall cherish many random endearing moments as well. Apparently Chinese people only like intense, slow songs for karaoke or else they are incapable of singing fast songs in English. These ballads make for some entertaining moments! Also, Chinese people are very fastidious about not having food stuck in their teeth and habitually use toothpicks after meals, but are very careful to cover their mouths. Yet, they lack any other table manners! I arrived a day early and went on a tour with a group of Chinese strangers, my first meal was a baptism by fire in not caring about other people’s germs when they used their chopsticks to eat off communal plates. Then, there were the umbrellas. So many and in so many varieties! The Chinese seem to be very conscious of protecting their skin – or perhaps staying cool? Everyone seemed to have one and many made bold, often glittery fashion statements with them. Shortly after arriving home, news coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre started picking up. CNN and BBC reporters were sent to Beijing to film segments on site, but plain clothes police officers bared any decent footage with their umbrellas. The result was a hilarious but sad dance while reporters tried to sincerely engage with the camera on a serious subject while dodging an army of umbrellas.

I loved my time in exotic China, but unlike any other trip abroad I’ve taken, I was excruciatingly thankful to be coming home to the United States of America despite the characters and genuine people such as Jian Nan that I met while I was there.

"If I could turn back time"

How about this for a romantic revelry of what coulda been? Sure, I was stoked to get my first job out of college and yeah it was a do or die (move back to TX) situation but this laundry list doesn't sound too shabby and could equip nearly anyone for a badass job after a year...

[From Seth's blog]
How about a post-graduate year doing some combination of the following (not just one, how about all):

* Spend twenty hours a week running a project for a non-profit.
* Teach yourself Java, HTML, Flash, PHP and SQL. Not a little, but mastery.
* Volunteer to coach or assistant coach a kids sports team.
* Start, run and grow an online community.
* Give a speech a week to local organizations.
* Write a regular newsletter or blog about an industry you care about.
* Learn a foreign language fluently.
* Write three detailed business plans for projects in the industry you care about.
* Self-publish a book.
* Run a marathon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

In case I'm taken captive by the Communists...

Arrive May 17th (Sunday)

May 18th (Monday)
Check in QianMen JianGuo Hotel

May 19th (Tuesday)
Free day
Casual dinner, 7:30pm. Meet in the lobby, if interested, at 7:00pm.

May 20th (Wednesday)
Breakfast at your leisure.
9:00- 10:00am Meet at hotel for orientation and introduction lecture by Dr. Lu Wei, Assistant Dean of USTC School of Management
10:15am City Tour of Tian’an Men Square, The Arch Building (go up to the ceremony level), The Forbidden City
3:00pm Late Lunch
The Heaven Temple, and Bird’s Nest and Water Cube
Evening: Free (Suggested: Attend Chinese Acrobatic Performance or Peking Opera).

May 21st (Thursday)
Breakfast at your leisure.
9:00-10:30, 10:30- 12:30 Classes at Tsinghua University (the Harvard of China).
Lectures on the Environment, the Current State of the Economy, and Labor issues.
12:30-1:30pm Lunch on campus and quick tour
3:00-6:00pm Visit to the US Embassy
Evening: Group Dinner at Peking Duck Restaurant

May 22nd (Friday)
Charted Tour to Great Wall and Summer Palace.
(on the return bus ride: Reactions and Discussion on the first week)
Evening: Free

May 23rd (Saturday)
Morning flight to Hong Kong (CO#110 8am to 11:30AM) and check into Hotel.
Hong Kong: Regal Kowloon Hotel
Address: 71 Mody Road, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Tel: HK +852 27221818 Call
Evening: Free
Meet up with May Chen! Go clubbing - Prive, DragonEye(DI), Volar, and Homebase

May 24th (Sunday)
Morning: Half day tour of Hong Kong with shopping
Evening: Free
Meet up with Nicole Alpert with the Lion Rock Institute

May 25th (Monday)
Early Morning flight to Hefei (MU#5032 10:55AM to 12:55AM) Check into hotel:
Hefei: Novotel Hefei, 0086-551-2286688; Address: 199, Wu hu Rd. Hefei, Anhui Province,
Afternoon: Classes at USTC (the MIT of China). Lecture on Entrepreneurship (Sino-American Comparative Study) or Carbon Emission Trading with USTC graduate students, Q&A and discussions
Evening: Dinner with students and Karaoke

May 26th (Tuesday)
Early morning departure to visit a local primary school (have some pencils etc. as gifts to pupils)
Afternoon: Visit City Hall of Hefei and meet senior officials lecture on Hefei Development Policy by Mr. Sheng Zhigang, Vice Mayor.
Visit Baogong Temple ( Baogong is the most uncorrupted official in the Chinese history, “Baogong” is now the Pronoun for uncorrupted official in China)
Early evening: Visit a huge labor intensive company (over 9000 workers)

May 27th (Wednesday)
Early Flight to Shanghai (DS477 8:24AM to 11:31AM). Check into hotel:
Shanghai: Hengsheng Peninsula International Hotel, 0086-21-65205888; Address: 205,Wu song Rd. Shanghai, China
City Tour and shopping
Evening: Free
Clubs May Recommends: Bling, Bloc(Volar), M1nt, and Muse

May 28th (Thursday)
Morning: Lecture by Audrey Zook and Peter Ballenger on Political Risk
Afternoon: Visit to the Nick Factory
Evening: Free

May 29th (Friday)
9:00- 10:30am Visit to Shanghai Stock Exchange, briefing by Dr. Liu Xiaodong and witness listing of new company
1:00- 3:00pm Visit to Shanghai Media Group, The first Financial and Economic Channel and News Dream Factory, Briefing and Q&A hosted by senior officials of SMG, The biggest across media group in China, owns many TV channels, radio and newspapers
Evening: Cruise on Huang Pu River and farewell dinner

May 30th (Saturday)
Visit to USTC Shanghai Campus. Classes with USTC Graduate Students. Final wrap-up session.
(We will need to depart the Shanghai campus in the early afternoon, so the group can have some final free time in Shanghai).

May 31st (Sunday)
Check-out and Individual Departure

Monday, May 11, 2009

What kids are being taught these days...

I was relatively on board with the graphics and logic behind the "Story of Stuff" video until about minute two when she depicts corporations as these fat balloon people who force governments to shine their shoes. Yeah, I'm not joking. The woman presents this anti-capitalist b.s. as factual and it has been played in over 7,000 classrooms already and has over 5 million youtube hits.

I don't want kids to be overly materialistic, but I don't want them to vilify the capitalist system that enables us to enjoy arguably the greatest standard of living in the world. And unfortunately, I don't know how you can unpack all the liberal bias in a comprehensible way to kids after they see this video. Hopefully most teachers are presenting this as a basis for discussion, but most kids can't think critically about presentation bias until high school and even then they'll take most stuff at face value. This stuff scares me!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Forget a free lunch - how about NO lunch!

Ok, this might just be funny if you're from D.C., but here's a funny commentary on Obama and Biden eating at the highly regarded Rey's Hell Burgers in Arlington, VA on Tuesday. My fave part:
Is this going to be a trend, I asked myself? In an effort to connect with all us "normals," are the bigwigs going to make a habit of this? Is Nancy Pelosi gonna take her staff to Pollo Rico for some yuca fries? Is Arlen Spector going to announce his switch back to the Republicans while popping peanuts at Five Guys? Is Justice Antonin Scalia going to finally come out of the closet while standing at the counter at Julias Empanadas? That place just can't hold that many people, Your Honor!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Is school choice dead in D.C.?

I've written before about my passion for school choice and in D.C. in particular. It looks like Obama is effectively killing the program - via Reason:
Yet working with congressional Democrats and despite his pledge to put politics and ideology aside in education, the Obama administration has effectively killed the program through a backdoor legislative move. "[Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan will use only one test in what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars," says the president. "It's not whether it's liberal or conservative, but whether it works."
hat tip: Kara

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Housing needed!

So I got word from my landlady that she's selling my cozy little townhome! Please let me know ASAP if you have any housing leads near the orange line in Arlington, VA. To add to my stress, I have a final exam this week and next and then I leave for China the last two weeks of May. How am I supposed to move in June!?!

My fave article on Obama's first 100 days

Here's the article by the ever entertaining (if somewhat turncoat) Christopher Buckley. And here's my fave thematic interpretation of Obama's first 100 days:
What Else Is On? In this analysis, Mr Obama is overexposing himself by appearing on television 23 out of every 24 hours. “The American people like him, but they want to see a fresh face on TV every now and then.” Mr Obama’s ubiquity is even suggested as the main reason for the frenzied rapture over chanteuse Susan Boyle. According to this thesis, “it’s the first time since January 20 that someone other than Mr Obama has been on television”.
hat tip: David

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


So I understand why some of the New Yorkers were upset by the low-flying Air Force One yesterday, but enough to file a class action lawsuit?!
Garcia-Rose, who works with nearly two dozen post-traumatic stress disorder patients ages 15 to 47, said she was inundated with phone calls from patients Monday morning.

"They're traumatized. They're asking 'How could this happen?' They're nervous. Their anxiety levels are high," she said.

Garcia-Rose is considering filing a class-action suit against the government for sanctioning the plane's unannounced flight. "I believe the government has done something really wrong," she said.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting stoked about my China trip

If you find good China articles over the next few weeks, send them my way. I just realized I have to read like 500 pages before I go plus the two tourguide books I want to skim through and earmark for things to do in my freetime. Thankfully, a few of the major items are taken care of for me - like the Great Wall!

And shout-out to my girl, May Chen, I love that I'm going to get to see her when I'm in Hong Kong. I'm a little nervous about what partying with her entails, but I'll come prepared!

Monday, April 20, 2009

I loathe the USPS

Like any job, there are tedious tasks I have to endure, but at a small nonprofit everyone gets more than their usual fair share. For instance, I am the main point of contact for the United States Postal Service as well as for Charitable Solicitation Registration (which is a whole another can o'worms). The silver lining to my interactions with these bureaucracies is that it reminds me of why I hate regulation - or rather why I love limited government.

In my ideal world, the federal government would stick to what it was ordained to do in the Constitution, but this is the real world. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to "establish post offices and post roads." This, however, does not imply that the federal government does or should have a monopoly on mail which is why I hope the FedExs of the world figure out how to make inroads in delivering standard mail soon. In my reading of the postal clause, I see a well-intentioned government trying to promote commerce and society and convenience by creating post offices not undue burdens on businesses or stressful delays in correspondence and package delivery! Why are there copious amounts of paperwork and unreliable delivery times?

It is because of the U.S. Civil Service and the bloated fat, cud-chewing cows that makeup the U.S.P.S. specifically. Whew that felt good. See yesterday, the post office sent business reply envelopes addressed to my nonprofit to a LIBERAL MAGAZINE. They could have just as easily shredded the donations than forwarded them! Thankfully, they have more integrity than that - plus they had a monetary incentive to correct the problem (the post office charged their business reply account instead of ours). Regardless, I am peeved, but whenever I talk to someone at the post office it's like talking in a foreign language. They don't care about serving you or making you happy because their job isn't on the line. They have ridonkulous job security that is immune to the effects of the market.

So yeah, that silver lining? It's how fired up I am to "stick it to the man" and raise money for our partners who fight such bureaucratic/regulatory nonsense!

I would dig this office...

I hate having clutter on my desk, but this solution is a bit extreme...

A Majority Female Workforce? - The Daily Beast

Is a new gender gap widening? According to the Financial Times, records show the biggest gap between male and female unemployment since collection began in 1948, as men bear the brunt of the economic downturn. Men have lost 80 percent of the overall 5.1 m

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Libertarian joke and food for thought from Fred Smith

"What happens when two libertarians agree? Both know the other has sold out."

Ok, maybe that's only funny if you're libertarian, but it makes a point. We libertarians often compete to see who is more hardcore or principled. I think it's a bunch of righteous bunk. I mean, if we're ever going to enact change we have to work with and possibly in the system we currently have. We can't keep bumping our heads against the statist wall expecting it to move!

One of my favorite free market communicators is Fred Smith over at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. I saw him speak this morning and enjoyed him thoroughly. His main point was along these lines. We can't just talk the talk anymore. We need action. Our free market movement is still relatively small "or embryonic, he said" and we will probably always be in the minority. Why? Because logically we should all be statist pigs! Many historians/economists/academics talk about the evolution of capitalism and its effects on society - increased wealth, a larger middle class, and the emergence of an intelligentsia that effectively rules the roost. This intellectual class has a vested interest in maintaining its power over the rest of the world (cue evil laugh). Ok, if you've read Hayek, you get what I'm talking about - if you haven't read Hayek, get on it. Anywho since us free marketers fight centralized power and mandates, we're class traitors. Smith argued that we need to leverage and market ourselves better. Not everyone has to be a libertarian but we need libertarian policies. Smith thinks that this can be achieved with better organization and marketing to people's core values. Here's hoping he's right and we have the means to outshout the left!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Americans vs. Brits

My entire class is taking on my British prof tonight. The question...
"Don't Americans work more?"
my prof - "Americans spend more time at work, yes."
"Well Americans are more productive than British people too"
my prof - "What was that? Once you take out the housing market, you're not actually as productive...hahahah Brits live longer too - there's a reason..."

We also argued whether you call a phonebooth a phonebooth or a tellyphone box. One of my friends said, "You know, the thing Superman changes clothes in."

There are others, but class is letting out! hizzah!

Protectionism trade good

From Tom Palmer's blog:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I <3 Texas

Texans support the 10th amendment of the Constitution - heck yeah!

My fave quote:
Perry continued: "Millions of Texans are tired of Washington, DC trying to come down here to tell us how to run Texas."

Senator Franken? vom.

I know this has been a long time coming, but I still threw up a little in my mouth when I read this headline: 3-judge panel declares Franken winner

Senator Al Franken?! ugh

I'm lucky enough to take a course from the 101st senator - Robert Dove - this semester. He was Parliamentarian of the Senate for 40+ years. I'm going to ask him what he thinks tomorrow about this heathen being a part of the distinguished rank and file. Dove isn't partisan but I'm sure he'll agree. ugh.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New fave website

I stumbled upon this RAD blog called Feather which gives you a fashion/weather forecast for the next day. It's specific to D.C. but it's by far the most exciting blogpost I read everyday.

For instance, last night's post made this following outfit suggestion. Loads of the pieces the blogger posts are out of my price range but it's a fun way to see trends and help you think about placing new pieces together. For instance, this post just reminded me that it's post Easter so I can whip out my hot white pants!

Correction - she's located in NYC - but luckily it's not too much of a different climate than down here!

About those Log Cabin Republicans

I am a Christian, and I support gay rights. For a long time, I tried to abstain from this discussion because of personal beliefs about religion and how a family should be and because I have a lot of gay friends who I love dearly whom I didn't want to offend. I didn't want to admit that while I supported gay rights, I would draw the line at marriage. But I've never felt comfortable with my position and no longer feel like I can hide behind the libertarian excuse of "governments should not be in the business of marriage anyways."

First, we need to put aside our religious beliefs. Last I checked, all Americans seem pretty on board with the whole freedom of religion thing so thus you can't use religious arguments to argue against gay political rights. If you feel really strongly about it and so does your church, nothing has to change for you. Your pastor can choose not to conduct wedding ceremonies for gay couples and you probably won't have many gay congregants as a result. Thus, your daily life will go unchanged.

One of my earliest and most basic political beliefs is a crude reduction of a Lockean principle - "My rights end where yours begin." You may have an objection or even aversion to gay marriage, but your life probably isn't affected by it. Let the people whose lives are being affected lobby for change.

I'm not the biggest fan of Meghan McCain. Let's face it, she's not the sharpest knife in the drawer and it's really just her name and connections that gets her pieces placed, but here she has a point - "A Gayer GOP:"
At the most basic level, sexual orientation should not be a factor in how you are treated. If the Republican Party has any hope of gaining substantial support from a wider, younger base, we need to get past our anti-gay rhetoric. As you can imagine, the road for gay Republicans hasn't been an easy one. Most seem to find the words "homosexual" and "conservative" inherent contradictions, much the same way so many people can’t seem to reconcile fiscal conservatism and the big-tent philosophy of freedom and justice for all. A dear friend of mine who’s both gay and Republican told me, “I find myself constantly being asked how I can reconcile who I am as a person with a party that lately has had such a gay-unfriendly message. Where I stand politically doesn't begin and end with my sexuality. Unfortunately, there is a perception that gays with moderate to conservative views are self-loathing.”
Republicans need to fight the perception that we're close-minded dictators of social morays. Advocating for gay rights could be a huge step in the right direction.

The one thing that concerns me is that as we support minority rights - such as gay rights - I don't think that we need to codify these qualifiers into law. The Declaration of Independence says that "All men are created equal." It doesn't say "all black, white, and yellow men" nor does it say "all men and women" - it just says men. We don't need to muddy the waters by creating new legislation or amending the constitution. Discriminatory laws need to be taken off the books, but I don't believe in mandating positive justice (holla my old h.s. debate days). Writing laws that single out specific groups is more divisive than unifying and creates special interest groups that often outlive their relevancy - hello NAACP! The Constitution protects everyone as is - let's just start living up to it in practice.

Suffice it to say, I love all of my friends gay or straight and believe in a loving, merciful God who is capable of accepting them and any flaws/sins ANY of them have...IF they will accept Him. And furthermore, my fervent hope is that my loved ones may all find a consistent partner to share their lives with. Who am I to judge and who am I to play matchmaker?

Monday, April 6, 2009

To sue or not to sue?

So I ventured four blocks into the Southwestern quadrant of D.C. to pick up my accident report in person (apparently D.C. police lack the "technology" to fax or email me said report). Here are the scant deets:
  • I was hit by a 2007 light blue Lexus SUV.
  • I have three eye witnesses.
  • The driver was a 45 year old woman with an unprounancable name who lives in Bristol, VA.
  • The police officer gave her a ticket.
  • The driver does have insurance - All State (whew)
  • Really there's not much else other than some codes which are meaningless to me. I think the cop administered a roadside blood alcohol test, but I can't understand the results. Ill give her the benefit of the doubt it was before 9am.
Here's my quandry. I have a moral aversion to the litigious nature of American society, but here I am smack dab in the middle of it and I feel entitled to some compensation. Lord knows when my neck will loosen up or when I'll get over my disproportionate fear of crossing streets. And I missed 4 days of work, a really cute dress and cardigan, my dignity in the ER, and my brisque no-nonsense walk for the forseeable future. I was a total innocent, minding my own business. In fact, I was an hour later to work than usual because I had spent the morning caring for my ill mother who was visiting me. See now I'm sick with myself. That reeks of entitlement. It's not like I want to strike it rich, but I am curious to see what the court would find as just compensation for what happened to me. Please weigh in!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Way to hit me when I'm down

My fave indie coffee shop is closing - tres tragic.

the official Whitney got hit by a car story

(I wrote this yesterday for facebook so I wouldn't have to repeat the details over and over)

Yesterday morning, I was walking to work from the metro. I was on the north side of L street about to cross 13th, but I had to wait for the light. So like any sane pedestrian, I waited for the cute little white walking man symbol to tell me to proceed. Being a fast walker, I broke ahead of the few others crossing with me - I had 20+ seconds to go on the walking sign countdown when BAM. And I do mean, BAM.

No, I did not see or hear the SUV coming. I'm told I must have blacked out, but I do remember thinking, "Oh my God, I'm being hit by a car" and being vaguely aware of flying limbs.
I was only out shortly, but my first thoughts were - I still have all of my limbs - where the hell are my shoes? They were several yards away. Yes, I was knocked out of my shoes and my purse was also several yards away in a different direction. I started to sit up, but then realized "Whitney you have been hit by a car - perhaps you shouldn't move"

Having always depended upon the kindness of strangers, I just sat there balling my eyes out and assessing my bodily harm without moving. A lovely woman who I will probably never meet again held my hand and was such a Godsend during those scary minutes while we waited for the ambulance (did I mention the fact that there was a fire station half a block away -within sight- and those good for nothing lazy bums never came out). I saw someone point out the SUV that hit me so it wasn't a hit and run but I never saw the woman driver. Another couple people called 911 and another man asked if I wanted him to call someone else. \I miraculously remembered the new office phone number and thought it best to call work bc they were only half a block away. Perhaps someone could come out and come to the hospital with me?

Next thing I know I'm being strapped to a very uncomfortable board with a very uncomfortable neckbrace and taken to the E.R. at GW hospital. Once at the E.R., I was handled by about a dozen people simultaneously as they assessed my wounds and made sure nothing was critical. The most tragic thing about this incident is that they cut a lovely Audrey Hepburn number of a dress right off my body. They wouldn't let me rolll to one side so they could unzip it. So sad!

Well goodness, after reading all of this you probably want to know how I am. I am fine! (relatively speaking) I do feel really beaten up or rather I feel like I've been hit by an SUV, but nothing is broken. They kept me overnight in that blasted neckbrace for observation since I blacked out. I couldn't remember what part of my body hit the ground and/or SUV first so they were worried I knocked my head. All of my Xrays and CT scans came back clean. Basically, I landed on my bum which will be black, blue, and green for the forseeable future and then bounced forward onto my knees which are scrapped up and then fell onto my left-hand side so my arm is banged up, but I think it was my arm that saved my head from the pavement. So I am now home in bed with my Percocet and chocolates. I think I'll take a nap now.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Deconstructing "The Office"

And no, I'm not talking about one of my favorite NBC tv shows "The Office." I'm talking about how traditional office environs can be stifling to my generation which is why this article caught my eye:
The Millennials are coming - armed with Facebook accounts and netbooks, the latest generation of young workers are entering the workplace ready to raze traditional touchstones of business to the ground.

Web 2.0 evangelist Don Tapscott - author of tech titles including Wikinomics and The Digital Economy - is forecasting a "big conflict" in the office, sparked by the generation of 11- to 30-year-olds who are determined to reshape the workplace in their own image.
Micromanaging has always been the bane of my existence. Not that I know if I could do any better, but I like to think that if you pick good people, empower them, and then all you have to do is hold them accountable for the good and the bad. If your employee works better barefoot curled up in the sunny corner of her office, so be it! Thankfully, I have not been chastised for this....yet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The politics of surrogacy

Megan McArdle reminded me of a paper I wrote last year on the politics and ethics surrounding surrogacy pregnancy. The article she links to "Fetal Foreclosure" talks of surrogate mother aborting babies when the money dries up. If proper contracts were drawn to establish the parameters involved, hopefully these abortions could be avoided. This is what I essentially argued in my paper - here's the introduction:

"Outsourcing Baby"
Although a longstanding practice that in varying forms dates back to Biblical times, modern issues surrounding surrogate motherhood challenge our preconceived notions about the social ideal of motherhood. What does it mean to be a mother if the bond between mother and child can be so readily severed? “Thus far, the image of surrogate mothers has been shaped principally by media, legal, and scholarly portrayals of surrogates either as motivated principally by monetary gain or as unwitting, altruistic victims of the patriarchy” (Ragone 2008 p.68). This dichotomous depiction ignores the dynamics of race, class, and gender in this delicate arrangement. Many groups in society question the ethics behind this production of children from “conservative Christians [who] decry the practice as tampering with the miracle of life…[to] far-left feminists [who] liken gestational carriers to prostitutes who degrade themselves by renting out their bodies” (Ali 2008). These issues challenge the “overriding cultural imperative that motherhood, reproduction, and family be squarely situated in a noncommercial sphere” (Ragone 2008 p.69). Modern technology continues to diminish the role of the surrogate by making pregnancy easier and her egg/ovum unnecessary. Policymakers need to be wary of this moral hazard. If surrogacy is to be an ethical and sustainable practice which enhances life chances as opposed to limiting them, policymakers should regulate interstate surrogacy so that contracts are between parties of similar geography if not class to minimize discrimination and patterns of stratification.

Please excuse the sociological mumbo jumbo language - it was done to appease my uber liberal professor (the one who called Phyllis Schafly the devil and Charles Murray the antichrist).

Shameless Posting of a Wish List

Since my birthday is April 5th, I thought I'd make some suggestions:

My Wish List

Supreme Court Drama

Ok, so maybe it's not drama but I do love a good sarcastic Scalia quote such as this:
Justice Antonin Scalia said he was “a little disoriented.”
“We are dealing with a constitutional provision, are we not, the one that I remember which said Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press?” Justice Scalia asked. He was referring, of course, to the First Amendment.
Scalia said this in reference to Citizens United vs. FEC - the most recent challenge to the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance laws from a few years ago. The case regards "Hillary: The Movie" and the government is actually trying to argue that any movie, book, media backed by corporate dollars should fall under the jurisdiction of McCain-Feingold. Well, thank you greedy government, you might have just handed the American citizens a Supreme Court decision which will give us back some of our first amendment rights!

Monday, March 23, 2009

I <3 New Zealand

So my backup country of New Zealand may be clairvoyant. They somehow *know* that I am interested in them and thus I got pinged with a facebook ad and link to this page.

Brash, Burly Baboons

A more upbeat haiku than the other day:
Brash, Burly Baboons
Stealing our food stealthily
red bottom asses
I was reminded of this haiku I wrote in South Africa last summer when I saw this headline on BBC - Cape Town to fine Baboon Feeders:
Photo-opportunity hunting tourists caught offering food to baboons will face fines, authorities in the South African city of Cape Town have warned.
This is a clear-cut case of personal responsibility. If tourists (or tourguides for that matter) want to risk their hides with a baboon for the sake of photo, so be it! Those animals are brutal and are not to be underestimated.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Flea Market Finds

1. A fun, frilly apron
2. A bike
3. A framed copy of the Desiderata...


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

debbie downer haiku

imprisoned by pain
short, brutal - can't see ahead
where is the release?

can you tell my mom is in town?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cause I'm a dork for measurement

I'll see if I have time to whip something up for this - but I think I know a few people who read this blog who might come up with something better! Let me know.
Fraser Institute's Contest on Measurement

Our Motto is "If it matters, measure it"!

The Fraser Institute is launching a new contest to identify economic and public policy issues which still require proper measurement in order to facilitate meaningful analysis and public discourse.

The Essay Contest for Excellence in the Pursuit of Measurement is an opportunity for the public to comment on an economic or public policy issue that they feel is important and deserves to be properly measured.

A top prize of $1,000 and other cash prizes can be won by identifying a vital issue that is either not being measured, or is being measured inappropriately. Acceptable entry formats include a short 500-600 word essay, or a short one-minute video essay.

Complete details and a promotional flyer can be found here.

Entry deadline is Friday, May 15th, 2009.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kudos to Obama...

for relaxing the federal stance on medical marijuana.
Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a change on medical marijuana policy Wednesday, saying federal agents will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law.
This is one step in the right direction towards legalizing and regulating the substance. If you're interested in the latest on this fight, the Marijuana Policy Project has a great website with news on both the federal and state levels.

Why I think marijuana should be legalized (in a nutshell):
  • It is a natural, fairly benign substance which arguably does less harm than tobacco or alcohol.
  • In fact, for people with chronic pain - like my mother - it can help more than it harms.
  • If regulated, any harmful ingredients currently in the market could be reduced or eliminated.
  • It frees state resources up to pursue the truly harmful, dangerous drugs that are out there (which arguably also should be legalized, but I'd like to see how the legalization of marijuana would go first).
  • Along the lines of the previous point, frees up our court system from persecuting petty criminals who deal only in marijuana.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why poor people are poor

Direct quote from my charismatic, British prof:

"Poor people are poor because they don’t have any money. If you want
to help poor people, give them money – don’t mess with production. It
will just harm everyone including the poor people in the long run!"

Quite right!

Poetic silence

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing"

It's a nice theme I try to live my life by. This verse is an even more personal and compelling standard to live up to than not doing anything your mama wouldn't be proud of or that you wouldn't be embarrassed to see published in a newspaper. I may not go to church regularly or study the Bible as much as I should, but Lord knows I pray to him at every opportunity. Whether that's my conscience that answers or actually Him every time, it's a good exercise in reflection. I'm usually sad or disappointed when people run from this introspection, but Tony reminded me today of the foreboding silence. This silence can be intimidating and is perhaps an acquired taste, but to me, it is so peaceful and fulfilling. Meditative yoga has helped me get comfortable with silence and the truth that awaits me there.
It’s easy to see why so many of us — Christians and pagans alike — spend lifetimes running from the living God, our hands stopping our ears, our mouths babbling prayers or blasphemies, all in an effort to avoid the great silence where God speaks to man. That silence is a fearful place, but there is love there, the great love of a parent. There is mercy too, and strength for the uncompleted race.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

D.C. Voucher Program

With a D.C. public school now sitting square out my window, I see the kids as young as 8 or 9 get off public transportation at the corner and walk into school each morning. Yes, many of these kids are by themselves. 78% of the kids I see walking into this particular school live below the federal poverty line.

While I can't attest to the quality of the school, I have read a decent amount about public education in the District and I wonder if this school is doing right by them. Which is why I was really upset to read in the WashTimes today that the Democrats in Congress have already made up their mind to not renew the voucher program that enables many D.C. kids to go to better schools:
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over the D.C. voucher program, appears to have made up its mind, according to an internal document obtained by The Washington Times.
Even if you don't agree with school choice, there hasn't been a comprehensive review of the D.C. program to justify uprooting the 1700 low income kids from their current schools. This is a travesty of epic proportions.

I saw the President and Founder of DC Parents for School Choice speak at CPAC a couple weeks ago and her rational and passionate plea for increased opportunity is inspiring. I hope her cause survives this Congress. Read more here at

Morning dew and gumdrops

I'm not one to hit snooze, but while I've been adjusting to my earlier schedule for my longer work commute, I have crawled back into bed after being up for a few minutes longing for that extra 20 minutes of sleep back. As I lay there this morning, I heard birds chirping outside my window. I hadn't noticed them yet this spring (it is spring, right?) and it took me back to a simpler time in my childhood full of hope and excitement for warm weather, playing softball, summer break - a time when I would sit around noticing the little things around me.

I'm going to enjoy this morning dew and crisp anticipation of the day. Why should I rush to worry about the day's agenda and stresses?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New vs. Old Window Views

Not quite as nice - not as much blue sky - but then I'm grateful to even have a window! I do get to watch the adorable elementary schools trod into school each AM.

More posts as I settle into my new digs.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Go big or go home

Apparently, that's Obama's budget for ya.

My friend, Nick, sent me David Brook's "Moderate Manifesto" column from yesterday's Times. Brooks writes:
But the Obama budget is more than just the sum of its parts. There is, entailed in it, a promiscuous unwillingness to set priorities and accept trade-offs. There is evidence of a party swept up in its own revolutionary fervor — caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.
I actually admire the political ambition even if I disagree with all of the policies. Obama is employing the "go big or go home" strategy and I'm long as he fails. Someone at CPAC this weekend said we shouldn't wish Obama to ruin the country and that realistically speaking it will take more than one presidency to undo everything that is great about this nation of ours. I agree, but still want him as an individual as a liberal aggrandizing idealogue to fail. I hope a majority of his plan falls flat on its face. Lord help us if the plans actually go through and have to be implemented!

Monday, March 2, 2009

I couldn't say it better.

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

---Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931-2005

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ten x Ten

I heart Rebecca for thinking of this:
Ladies, Gentlemen, Lovers and Leeches,

I'd like to beg and plead with you to consider taking part in my newest dream for a community art project.

See blog above.

Ten by Ten is a brainstorming of a community blog wherein participants agree to taking ten pictures of their day by 10 PM. It would be really amazing to see people from different parts of the country and world participate, so feel free to forward this on to anyone you think would be interested.

Want to play? Here are the rules:

1- Get a camera. (The camera on your phone is fine, please just set it to 'superfine' or 'high resolution' before you begin.)
2- Take pictures of the things you come across in your ordinary day before 10 PM.
3- Create short captions for these pictures
4- Answer these three questions as you would like for them to appear on the blog: 1- Name? 2- Passion? 3- Dream Job?
5- Email them to

Have a blog? Link tenbyten in your blogroll if you like.

Have feedback? bring it on.

UPDATE: Whitney's Ten by Ten

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I sometimes am squeamish about being called a libertarian...

It's often a dirty word, isn't it? Libertarian. My mother says to me in a hushed voice, "but you don't tell people you're libertarian, do you? You don't want them to think you're crazy!" Oh mom...

But I fear she's right. Saying your libertarian (or worse a Ron Paul fan) associates you with some unsavory characters. I like to think those people are just the outspoken few who just give the rest of us a bad name.

The Cato blog points out an upcoming Harvard conference with a noticeable bias "Analyzing the Free Market Mindset" or as Dan Mitchell reads between the lines, "Is Libertarianism a Sign of Mental Illness?"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The sacred cow of public policy

As I've said before, I'm pretty solidly against the home mortgage interest rate deduction. However, I thought it was about as entrenched as our silly farm subsidies and thought it would never go away. Then I read this, "Killing (or Maiming) A Sacred Cow: Mortgage Interest Deductions." Apparently, another optimistic fellow argues that this too can be up for debate.
The Great Depression provided an opportunity to rethink old policies in a major way. In the current morass, everything should, once again, be open for debate. One sacred cow that has long been in need of a good stockyard is the home mortgage interest deduction. So, in the spirit of libertarian progressivism, I suggest gradually reducing the upper limit on the deduction to loans of up to $300,000, and then refunding the tax revenues in a more productive manner.
Hizzah for a tax reduction in lieu of the convoluted MID!

Hat tip: John

Optimistic look at this crisis of opportunity

One of my GMU profs Jeremy Mayer offers up a silver lining:
A crisis of this magnitude comes along once every three or four generations and shakes up the rules of politics as usual. In such times, a good idea that has been stopped by normal politics can suddenly win. The politically impossible becomes appealing or even unstoppable.
While Mayer and I may not agree on what previously politically impossible things should be made possible (he was once a Ron Paul fan but alas has strayed), I dig the traction that ending the Cuban embargo seems to be getting. Mayer also suggests the legalization of marijuana or even entitlement reform might be feasible. Here's hoping!

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Keynes craze...

A couple weeks ago, I walked out of my first graduate school class. Funny it didn't happen when I was called a nazi (fall of 2007) or a person who affiliated with devil people like Phyllis Schafly or Charles Murray (spring 2008). I just got fed up.

We had a guest lecturer come talk to us about Keynes in our macroeconomics course. Fine. Ok, I was mentally prepared for a tedious class. What I wasn't prepared for was the ensuing Keynes lovefest coupled with derogatory comments about those crazy and unrealistic free market ideas that have "thankfully been proven wrong" etc. I bit my tongue and concentrated on keeping my cool. Unfortunately my laptop died or I would have vented my frustrations live on my blog. I made it all the way until 9:15pm (the class ends at 9:45) and the professor had obviously finished his prepared lecture and was just grinding his axe. Some snotty faced eager beaver in the front row eagerly raised his hand (why raise your hand when you're 3 feet away from the prof is beyond me), "Don't you think these irresponsible and greedy executives deserve some punitive damage for what they've done?"

As the professor started to calmly respond to this absurd question, I gathered my things and left the room. Unfortunately, my exit was punctuated inadvertently with the slamming of the door behind me. To which the professory commented, "Well, she must be an investment banker!"

No, my good sir, I am not, but I feel their pain.

The primary problem I have with Keynes is the same problem I have with neoclassical economics and all that other mainstream econ you learn in most undergraduate programs - it's assuming too much. Whether is perfect information on behalf of the neoclassical model or better information by the Keynesian planners, it assumes that some central authority is better equipped to make decisions than individual participants in the economy.

Here's a good explanation on the current Keynes craze and what Keynes was really all about.

Hat tip: David

What's your backup country?

If things continue to go south, I've seriously contemplated moving to New Zealand - Ireland is a close second. Perhaps I should visit first before I make this decision. My friends tease me that if I moved to New Zealand, I would be living amongst sheep, but I tell them I'd be living amongst sheep and men. Apparently the guy/girl ratio would be in my favor. The real reasons I picked those two countries are because #1 I can still speak English there, #2 they are in the top 10 of the Heritage Resource Bank's Economic Index of Freedom, and #3 beautiful landscapes.

Perhaps, I need to consider Denmark. Will Wilkinson has an interesting post on the possibility of government being Big and Free. He's not condoning big government, but he's giving us limited government fans hope that big government can still somehow be restrained. Counterintuitive? yes. Unlikely? yes. But here's hoping!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Taxation Without Representation

First of all, can I just say Eleanor Holmes Norton may be an obnoxious, irrational fruit fly of a woman, but at least she has a sense of humor as evidenced by her repeated barbs with my man, Colbert.

Putting aside her entertainment value though, I truly hope that this new ploy for DC voting rights doesn't actually pan out. I fear, however, it's gaining steam because of the op-eds I've seen recently:
Washington’s lack of representation is profoundly undemocratic. Its residents are American citizens who pay taxes, vote for the president and serve and die in the military. Although the city is relatively small, it is more populous than Wyoming and nearly equal to those of Vermont and Alaska.
Now this isn't some vast right-wing, racist conspiracy to keep the predominantly African-Americans in D.C. from having voting's simply a matter of the Constitution. D.C. is NOT a state! I sympathize with the bureaucracy involved in having to have Congress approve it's budget, set school policies, etc. but it's NOT a state! Nor do I think it should be - it's economy is far too dependent upon the federal government for it to ever function properly.

The one point of sympathy I do have is that D.C. residents have to pay federal taxes. The age-old argument of "no taxation without representation" is still relevant today. So, I say fine! Don't require D.C. residents to pay federal taxes - problem solved.

Incentivizing policymakers

Not that this is in anyway realistic, but Chris Buckley suggests making policymakers' pay somewhat tied to performance.

How many votes would we have for the stimulus package if senators would be held personally accountable for the results? Probably not as much!

Whitney gets quoted

"Down and Out in Washington, D.C." is an article in the new edition of Doublethink magazine and describes the increasingly bleak job and economic outlook for conservatives and libertarians in D.C. Not a big deal, but here's my two cents thrown to the article:
Whitney Garrison, a donor relations associate for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, attended a meeting for free-market fundraisers (including the Institute for Justice, the Leadership Institute, and the Institute for Humane Studies) sponsored by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation last December.

Speaker John Von Kannon, vice president of the Heritage Foundation, told the assembly that direct mail is more crucial now than ever before. While major donors may be hurting financially and cutting back on their giving, direct mail donors—those who give $1,000 or less—tend to be lagging indicators of recessions, largely unaffected by changes in the market.

Von Kannon was “optimistic,” Garrison says, “but everyone else was pretty quiet, perhaps even hesitant to agree … Nearly everyone said direct mail returns are diminishing.”

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's official, I'm going to China!

I made my deposit, booked my airfare (surprisingly cheap - only $850), and submitted my Visa paperwork today in person. It's official - I'm going - May 16-31st!!!

Here's my kickass itinerary. So I'm flying in and out of Shanghai and I'm getting to Shanghai 2 days before the program starts in Beijing. Should I fly or take a train there? Any suggestions for what to do in Shanghai/Beijing in my limited free time? Let me know!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A moment of levity

Brilliant storytelling.

What is a public good?

This is a basic economic question that warrants discussion. It's subjective and even people within the same party might disagree. Will Wilkinson points out that this crisis would have been a wonderful opportunity to have a substantive debate about what should determine spending on public works, but for the sake of expediency we're skipping that step. Expediency? When most of these programs won't go online until 2010?!

Unlike some libertarians, I do think government has a legitimate role to play in a lot of society. I don't want to just outsource everything to the private sector (especially if privatization really means playing favorites amongst a few elite government contracting firms). According to the Constitution, Congress can make laws to provide for the general welfare. The problem is in the definition of general welfare. I think that there's a case for the federal government to invest in basic infrastructure especially when it promotes interstate commerce (i.e. waterways and highways). The federal government also needs to make sure we're safe. I also think that the government should subsidize (but not necessarily run) schools, libraries, and other educational institutions like museums. The point is - all of this should be up for discussion. If only there was a reputable, high-profile Republican who could frame the debate!