Friday, June 29, 2007

Libertarians getting together

I just got back from the IHS Social Change Workshop at UVA in Charlottesville, VA. It's a week long series of lectures and discussions covering generally the economic foundations of a free society. There were about 130 participants from all over the world, mostly economists but also evolutionary psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, historians, lawyers, philosophers, international development types, and one lone musician. I'd say most were at least sympathetic to libertarian themes.

I can't begin to summarize all the great lectures and discussions, but here are a few choice quotes:

1) "Learning comes from pain."

2) "Bonding comes from pain."

3) "Development studies is shit."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bonnaroo: 4th and final day, just when we were starting to fit in

Our neighbors to the right.

Our neighbors to the left. Ken and Joanna drove down from Toronto, and saved our lives by letting us lounge under their canopy.

Nick says, "always bring a towel!"

Yep, it's the Maytag repair man.

Me with a Huntsvile Times umbrella. Notice that no one is looking at me.

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. The crowd was exceptionally reverent. They wouldn't let poor Ralph get off stage.

Ralph Stanley fans.

The shirt says, "Will drop pants for ticket." Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the guy with the shirt that says, "Golf can go fuck itself."

This girl painted herself green. Not sure why.

Nick has a meeting of the minds with Towely.

The White Stripes, a husband and wife duo that somehow sounds like Led Zeppelin. It was the last band we saw.

No idea.

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Bonnaroo: 3rd day, The Police

Max, Nick, and Sting. Or, as Zappa used to call him, Mr. Sting.

Max, Nick, and me. Yes, I'm very happy to see Mr. Sting, and Stuart Copeland and Andy Summers. Sting was in top form, if a little perfunctory, and Copeland had about 100 cymbals at his disposal. But for some reason they ended early. Probably because Sting realized that he was singing to a bunch of 20 somethings who barely recognized Roxanne. Of the 18 songs performed, the most memorable were The Bed's Too Big Without You and Wrapped Around Your Finger. At least I think I remember that. Despite the short set it was still the highlight of the weekend for me. What say you, Max?

Of the 20 or so other bands I saw, I thought the best, most surprising performances were by Rodrigo y Gabriela, Kings of Leon, Hot Chip, Railroad Earth, Xavier Rudd, Regina Spektor, and Galactic.

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Bonnaroo: 2nd night, Centeroo fountain, Tool light show, etc.

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Entering Bonnaroo

Nick surveys the 80,000.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

On the road

I've spent the last four days at home in Iran. It's actually very peaceful here. Dad came over from Sweden, after stopping by my sister's place in Portugal. Later today I'll leave for Saudi Arabia to go see Bonnaroo.

(HT to Tyler Cowen)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Article on Mason's econ bloggers

Somehow they failed to mention me.

Get a job

Another report from the asinine immigration debate:

Debate over the bill has featured plenty of behind-the-scenes maneuvering over which groups of workers, if any, should be given preferential treatment. But with the U.S. unemployment rate at historically low levels, there seem to be plenty of unskilled jobs to go around. Or at least that’s what many lobbyists representing agriculture, hotel owners and other service industries were telling Congress.

Or you could ask a hotel worker, such as myself. Up until 10 days ago my summertime schedule had mainly consisted of soccer during the day and Wonderland at night. I had also been doing some tutoring, and the mother of one of my tutees works at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. I went to the Omni to collect payment from the mother, who we'll call Janet. The Omni was buzzing, and I asked Janet if there were any jobs available. Her eyes lit up, and she looked to the ornate lobby ceiling and thanked the Lord. Then she looked at me, and noticing I'd biked there, asked, "Is $12 an hour OK?" I agreed, without any real idea of what I was getting into. I went home to put some pants on, and returned within the hour to start work in the accounting office. I had never worked in a hotel. Or in an accounting office. Or with women. My only real work experience is as an engineer.

The accounting office is mostly women, and mostly immigrant, from the Caribbean, Spain, Ethiopia, Russia, and Germany. Janet needs about 10 more people, and she used me to cover the phones and whatever emergency popped up. There was absolutely zero down time. The phone rang almost continuously with angry guests wanting to dispute their bill. Then I started two days of general hotel orientation, which was a relief, though exceptionally boring. There were 10 other new employees, mostly immigrants, from the Philippines, Eritrea, Latin America, etc. After sitting through hours of inane business slogans, I started to envy their poor English skills.

I came to realize the whole place is run by immigrants, from the Australian hotel manager to the Latinos and Eritreans who clean up the rooms. None of these jobs are fun, and there's a high rate of turnover. I'm fairly certain that the Omni Shoreham would go bankrupt without cheap immigrant labor, especially the unskilled kind. On Friday I informed Janet that I might consider staying if she raised my pay to $50/hr.