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Archive for June, 2007

Movie & Book

I’ve watched a dozens of movies recently (scroll down here to see some of them) but found most of them uninteresting. Perhaps this is because I developed a narrower taste, or the average quality of movie has fallen. On the other hand, I enjoyed most books I read and can easily find more interesting titles (the summer reading list’s not enough already). This suggests I’d put more time in reading than in watching movie. Since my internship has started, my plan’s 3 books and 1 movie per week. In the mean time I’ll try to find better substitutes for movie. Any suggestions?

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It’s been a year since I decided to do a master degree in Economics at LSE rather than at Cambridge. The decision might seem irrational to many people as Cambridge has a better reputation overall, and its tuition is around 5000 pounds cheaper. It was a tough decision, and I often asked myself whether I made the correct choice. Some reflections might provide the answer.

Location:

Living in London is a big plus in expanding my experience and cultural exposure. I can get easy (and mostly free) access to a wide range of museums and art galleries. Tate Modern and Shakespeare Globe are just around the corner, and there’re plenty of interesting exhibitions through the year (like this one). I just attended the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the re-opened Royal Festival Hall for 4 pounds and plan to go to another one featuring Mitsuko Uchida on 24th June.  I’m invited to a free movie premiere next week about a documentary on Entrepreneurship.

London also offers a cornucopia of restaurant choices. The Worldpress recenly ranked seven UK restaurants in its world’s top 50. These restaurants are still too expensive for me, but I aim to sample them after I start working. To sum up, London’s a great place for cultural discovery and learning, especially if ones has enough money.

Teaching:

LSE and Cambridge have similar course structure. Both involve lectures and problem-set oriented classes. The quality of teaching mainly depends on individual professor, and I’m fortunate to have some very good professors this year.

Here’re my favourite this year:

  • Danny Quah’s Macroeconomic lectures—his enthusiasm and energy bring life to the topics
  • Peter Davis’ classes on Industrial Economics—the current Deputy Chairman of the Competition Commission; he integrates latest IO research with his experience.
  • Vassilis Hajivassiliou’s Econometric lectures—everything’s explained in a clear, structured manner.

Course Content:

Microeconomics: I benefited least from this course. We covered standard theory and basic foundations, but I found the lectures boring with little focus on applications or recent research. Exam consisted mainly of problem solving focusing on tricky (and in my opinion trivial) details and has little relevance regarding economic understanding (although learning the basic theories are still useful in itself).

Macroeconomics: Covered standard theory (inter-temporal choices on each current account component, asset-pricing theory, real business cycle, monetary policy, growth and inequality, currency, etc.) and looked at some seminal papers. Perhaps due to time and mathematical constraints, we’re not able to look at more recent research and theory applications.

Econometrics: Good balance between theory and applied works, though I’d prefer a more in-depth treatment on time-series and panel data. Overall satisfactory.

Economics of Industry (my chosen option): The best and the toughest course. Good balance between theory, empirical research, and case study. Covered most IO topics; looked at the major papers in details and offered a good survey on latest research. We also have to write a term-paper for this course, which I found extremely valuable.

Student:

The average student quality is probably higher at Cambridge since it’s more selective in its admission. But the variance is likely to be greater at LSE due to its larger economics class (LSE’s MSc has around 150 students, Cambridge’s 1st year Mphil probably around 70). And I guess students at LSE have a more diverse background as many of them have previous work experiences in governmental organizations or business.

Other upsides:

  • The IT and administrative systems are efficient.
  • Lots of public lectures and events that are easily accessible. Some popular lectures I attended include those from Nobel laureates Robert Mundell, Robert Engle, and Eric Kandel (in Medicine), Oliver Hart (future laureate?).  Tonight I’m going to one by Paul Krugman. Most of the lectures I attended weren’t that good, and the time would probably be better off spending on articles or podcast. But still I can’t resist seeing those famous people in action, and who knows I might come across a Black Swan (Oliver Hart’s lecture was well worth the time).
  • The economic department’s considered one of the most prestigious departments within LSE so other students often look up to you (signalling & feel good effect). In Cambridge, you got a better overall signalling effect with outsiders but less prestige within the institution as the hard science subjects (math, physics, etc.) are generally considered to be more prestigious (and hence obtain more funding and benefits) compare to economics.

Some Downsides:

  • LSE is a social science institute, which means I’ve less opportunity to meet people in areas like arts, literature, or philosophy,
  • Resources are limited, and demand often exceeds supply. Two examples are the library and the career service.

Conclusion:

Reflecting on the past 10 months, I believe I gained a lot this year (though I might gain even more if I remain in Cambirdge). I’m content with my decision and would probably make the same choice given another chance.

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Two weeks break

My course at LSE ended. I’ve two weeks’ time to myself before internship starts.  The first thing I did after exam was headed to LSE library to get books I wanted to read (list below). Having access to a large social science collection helps save me lots of money, but the downside’s that they’re mainly in the social science field. A few Japanese fictions I want to read (books by Yukio Mishima, Natsume Soseki, and Banana Yoshimoto) are not available, and the recently published books are generally not available yet. Nevertheless the library has enough interesting books to keep me satisfied until the new books arrive.

 

I watched several movies lately (Babel, Emma, Little Miss Sunshine, The Holidays, Metro Ni Notte, Nada Sou Sou), with plenty more to go. But out of those I only find Little Miss Sunshine interesting and didn’t finish some of the other ones. It might be a good idea in a later entry (after watching the remaining movies) to reflect on my current taste and how it has evolved.

 

Besides books and movies, I plan to get in touch with friends, sample restaurants around London for my sister’s visit, and plan my Europe trip after the internship.

 

 

Books from LSE Library

 

The Invisible Heart—Russell Roberts

 

This book conveys how an economist thinks about a range of economic, moral, and political issues people encounter in everyday life. It’s a short story surrounding two high school teachers (one teaches economics, the other English literature) with very different views about the world. Though I’m familiar with most of the ideas covered, I enjoyed the characters’ conversations and their relationship development (it’s a love story).

 

Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid—edited by Robert. Sternberg

 

The book contains some interesting psychological views on intelligence and stupidity. One of the contributors is Carol’s Dweck. Her research indicates that people’s beliefs about intelligence affect their performances. Here’s a nice article summarizing her studies (recommended), and here’s one on how not to praise your kids.

 

Reading in progress:

 

Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World’s Cultures—Tyler Cowen

In Praise of Commercial Culture—Tyler Cowen

Meanings of Life—Roy Baumeister

The Social Dimension of Sex—Roy Baumeister

The Mind and the Market—Jerry Muller

 

Movies to watch:

 

Northanger.Abbey (2007)

Volver

Blood Diamond

Casino Royale

Children of Men

Crash

Interview with the Vampire

Miss Potter

Monty Python: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Meaning of Life, Life of Brian

Music and Lyrics

Once Upon a Time in the West

Prestige

The Illusionist

Apocalypto

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End

Shrek the Third

 

Sukida

Nana 1

One Piece movie Episode 6 & 7

1 Littoru no Namida

Shiroi Kage

 

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