Monday, October 22, 2012

How Obama lost Me

OK, so as I promised, why I didn't vote for Obama either.

This one had me a bit more torn.  Obama has done more than any other president on marriage rights and equal treatment for people like me.  That isn't saying much.  He's led from behind, especially on DADT, and he's flip-flopped so often that I'm not sure I believe him.  But nonetheless, he's helped to turn public opinion in a positive direction.  If only he could articulate his opinion in a clear way.

Speaking of, he's also not W.

I wanted him to succeed.

I sort of knew that something wasn't right when a series of nominees had tax issues. As in nonpayment.  Treasury Secretary.  Wha...?  Say what you will about John Ashcroft, but he took down Arthur Andersen because it participated in the dishonesty of Enron and WorldCom and....  If this was the change we were hoping for (or the hope we were changing for?) then we were in trouble.

And we were.  Stimulus?  Where's my 6% unemployment rate?  I'm in the 'it probably helped' camp, but it wasn't helpful to over-promise what a fiscal expansion could do.  I like shiny trains.  But again, I don't see any vision as to how to deal with the debt, and I don't see any sense of humility.

"You didn't build that."  Yes, he was saying that private companies didn't build all of that infrastructure, but they did, with the government paying.  And who ultimately pays for these things?  The taxpayers, most of whom work for private business.  They sure did build that.

The way the GM bailout was handled.

The drone war in Pakistan.

The smashing of Libya and Mali to little bits, and more leading from behind in the Arab Spring, antagonizing the Egyptian public.  Oh, and a blatantly unconstitutional war.

My airport experiences have gotten worse, not better.  Pat-downs.  Naked scanners which ooze radiation.

My immigration experiences are no fun either, and I think that they are one of the single biggest contributors to anti-Americanism among educated people in foreign countries.

Basically, Obama's civil liberties record is like Bush's but a little worse in most respects.  There is no clear vision for the future, and what vision there is seems an awful lot like 19th-century Prussia.  While Romney is out of the question, so is Obama.

Since I am voting in a state which is out of play, Gary Johnson gets my vote.  He actually deserves it.  The Libertarian party has a history of nominating nutcases, but Johnson would actually be a good president.  He'll get one percent of the vote at most.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How Romney lost (or never had) me

I'm blatantly linking to someone who says what I'm thinking better than I can.  It encapsulates why I can't support the Republicans with a few exceptions this time around, and it encapsulates why I can't support Romney in particular.

This is something which I think a lot of people don't understand.  I'm worried about fiscal sustainability; I favor cutting benefits and tax deductions for the rich; I dislike a lot of what public sector unions stand for; and I favor tax reform more generally.  I even have some moderately socially conservative positions too, combined with my desire to smash the gender binary to little itty bitty pieces.  But, on Nov. 5, 2008, I woke up, went to work, checked the news, and felt sick for the rest of the day.  The voters of California painted a target on my chest, and at that moment I became radicalized.

Under federal law, I'm still considered less of a citizen than others because I'm not romantically attracted to women.  The particular issue in this link--the ability to sponsor someone--affects me personally.  So long as there are people out there defending the so-called DOMA and saying that I have no right to love whom I love on my terms, I can't support them. They can have better views on fiscal policy or public employee unions than the other guy, but this is personal.

See this Youtube video for what I mean.  Romney may have no core convictions--this isn't always bad in a politician--but he certainly acts like it in this instance.  I can't trust him to have no convictions in this case.  "Trust me, I'm lying?"

Those who aren't against me are with me, but I am against those who are against me. Sorry, that's how it works. You haven't earned my vote.  You're a disappointment.  Not being the other guy is not reason enough for me to vote for you.

Coming next:  How Obama lost me

Saturday, August 4, 2012

No, the United States was NOT founded on Christian principles

Just to clear up some misapprehensions...

The USA was not founded on Christian beliefs.  The country was founded on a strange combination of freedom for some and slaveholding for others, with the Puritans not drinking on Sundays and the mountain folk (and later the Midwesterners) getting silly drunk on Sundays.  In fact, the founders explicitly believed that people should be free to live according to their religion, or not, as they want.  There are even a lot of varieties of Christianity, and they are compatible with things like polygamy, slavery, and so on.  Jefferson was not a Christian as we'd know it.  Washington, not strongly.  Adams was sort of a left-wing Unitarian.  Others were Catholics and others were devout Protestants of all stripes, and there were plenty of other nonbelievers in the mix.  It makes no sense to project mid-twentieth-century Pentacostalism onto these guys, much less to suggest that they favored a sort of Pentacostalist theocracy.

I mean, come on, these guys ate shrimp (banned in the Bible), fornicated with the slaves, were stone-cold drunk when they wrote the Constitution, killed each other over insults, and stole what belonged to the Indians.  At the same time, they gave fair trials, guaranteed a free press, and founded an entire country.  Great men are not necessarily good men.  Any system which relies upon the perfectability of mankind will fail, as Communism (another Christian idea) did.

Despite all this, there is something and uniquely good that the country was built on, with intellectual influences ranging from Christianity to the enlightenment to Saxon customary law.  It was the idea that freedom and responsibility were a better way to run society than figuring out what the Houses of Stuart and Wettin wanted at that moment.  Even when we haven't lived up to our ideals to treat others the way we'd want to be treated, we feel bad about it, and we try to make things better.  That is a particularly Christian way to think, but it sometimes leads in socially liberal directions.  Think, freeing the slaves, ending Jim Crow, letting women own property or drive cars, and so on.

I happen to think that anti-black bigots, anti-gay bigots, and those more fair-minded folk who just think that social change should proceed slowly should have an equal right to speak.  I simply don't believe that cities should have the authority to shut out people who think a little bit differently from them.  This does not imply a right not to be ridiculed mercilessly.  But fairness is fairness, and it applies to everyone.

But, I'd like to ask for something in return.  Christianity is about love.  Treating others as you'd want to be treated.

I want the right to spend my life with one person that I love, with all of the responsibilities that such a choice entails.

I want to care for them when they are sick, with things like hospital visitation rights.

I want to be able to transfer financial assets, pensions, and real estate upon death, tax-free, the way that any childless straight couple can.

I want to be able to meet someone, anywhere in the world, fall in love, and have them allowed into my country.  What's in their pants doesn't matter.  I care what's in their heart.

I will not live in fear.  Small minds have no authority over me.

I want our union to be recognized across state and national lines.  Right and wrong do not know such lines.

I don't want Orwellian 'Newspeak' or euphemism.  'Civil marriage' is fine.  'Registered domestic partnerships' is a mouthful, and it is intended to imply lesser status.

I will only live in a way which is honest with myself.

I pay my taxes, so that future generations can be educated, and things like roads and courts can be provided for.

I appreciate the sacrifice that parents make.  While I will not be a parent, I understand that they are the heroes of the future.  I admire my own parents.  They are role models.  They did a lot; I mean, they dealt with me for so long.

I am pro-marriage, for everyone.

Many Christians are too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kieler Woche Begins - A Really Bad Poem

It's gray and rainy outside,
as it always is here.
By the Rathausplatz, off to the side,
past the tents with beer,
the Hungarians with their wine,
the Thais with their smiles,
the tents and people go on for miles.

The French guy asks for a pack of smokes;
the Kiwis grilling seem like fine blokes.
The Danes sell different kinds of hot dogs,
and the Estonians serve nothing but grog.
The Argentines prepare nothing but meat,
and they tell me that my accent is neat.*

Eins, zwei, eins, zwei, drei.
Soundcheck erfolgt, eintritt frei.

Round midnight the crowd starts to clear.
The mood turns ugly, and people jeer.
Some look for trouble, aimed at queers.

To the Birdcage, I work my way in.
If I don't, the idiots win.
Smoke in the air, choking my throat,
it's like we're behind a great big moat.
As the night goes on, my head starts to float.

I made it home with nary a hangover.
Save one very smoked-out pullover.
I'm not a night person, especially so late.
When I get tired I begin to grate.
But is this all there is in this little city?
I certainly don't need more self-pity.

With all of these people, I still feel alone.
Of course, there is no place like home.
If I were wearing slippers I'd click them together.
Like Dorothy did in that spate of bad weather.
Did a tornado pick me up and carry me here?
To this land of sausages and watery beer?
Why does it feel like I'm the only queer?

My head still spins, four years later.
Bis später, alligator.

*I got asked, 'Sind Sie Bayerisch?'  That is a big improvement over the 'Sind Sie Nederländisch?' that I got from my neighbors when I moved apartments last year.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Things I'm up to

OK, I'm back to work.  Got swamped by administrative stuff yesterday, back to revising that sectoral reallocation paper today.  Talking about renewing my contract, got some very interesting feedback.  Also planning a trip to England to meet someone very interesting.  I feel like I know a lot more about myself after meeting this person, though too much optimism can be a dangerous thing.  More on that in the future, though, hehehe.

Watch this old bloggingheads with Tyler Cowen and Will Wilkinson to get a sense of what we've been talking about.

I actually like going to work.  My colleagues are generally nice, very intelligent, and interesting, and it's nice to have human interaction.  It's also nice to be forced to wear pants.

That said, I like my nice quiet office.  When I write or do code, it's best to be in a quiet place with some background music.  So long as I have my 'happy place' I'm happy.

It would be nice if the sun came out though.  I think I need to arrange that appointment to get some vitamin D.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter everyone

The four-day weekend is on day three and is getting a bit boring.  But, Happy Easter.

Because of the economic expansion, it was hard to find a place at brunch.  But some of us found a place and it was good.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Google Autocomplete, Part 2

Now it's the Amis' turn.

Why don't Americans vote?

If your choice for president were between a cactus and  an erratic old guy, the best thing to do is to move abroad and hunker down.

Why don't Americans like soccer?

For the same reason that we don't like communism, the Metric system, and faux-hawks.  We don't trust anything that was invented in Europe after July 1, 1789.  That includes cars.

Why don't Americans use bidets?

We wash our whole bodies.

Why don't Americans have British accents?

The same reason that the Germans speak German.

The British accent is another one of those 19th-century Communist inventions like Vegemite or the BBC which Americans inherently mistrust. Apparently the Brits spoke more or less like Virginians until dropping 'r's came into fashion sometime during the 19th century.

Why do Americans hate Canada?

We don't hate Canada.  We make fun of them (see Michael Moore's "Canadian Bacon" for a genuinely funny example, also South Park).  But the Canadians hate the Americans.  It's little-country / big-country syndrome, like Germany and Holland or Sudan and South Sudan.

Why do Americans think Obama is a cactus?

We have a sense of irony.  It's not the same as the British sense of irony.  American irony is delivered in small, obvious doses, like shots of whiskey.  British irony is delivered in large, insidious doses, like glasses of whisky.

Also, Americans like to mess around with survey-takers for fun.

Why do Americans hate Nickelback?

Wait, we do?

Why do Americans work so much more than Europeans?

The taxes are eight zillion percent lower; we have a more secular system of government with no blue laws; and if you lived in Nebraska (which makes Mecklenburg-Vorpommern seem hopping), what else would you do?

Also, our immigrant ancestors were a bit like that and it's part of the culture.  The Americans worry that "immigrants are working hard and stealing our jobs" and not that "immigrants are moving here to go onto the dole".  There are people who worry about both things, and they wear tinfoil for hats.

Why do the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?

In order to get a four-day weekend and eat too much.  Besides baseball and ill-advised military adventures, eating too much is our national sport.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Google Autocomplete, part 1

In my effort to score cheap humor points increase cultural understanding, I am going to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about Germans on Google based on its auto-complete feature.

Why don't Germans play rugby?

They play soccer instead.

Why don't Germans drink tap water?

Because drinking tap water or opening the window on a warm summer day will kill you.

More likely, it's a holdover from the 19th century when the tap water really would kill you.  Cholera and dysentery are no fun.

Why don't Germans cut potatoes and fish with a knife?

It's more fun to smash everything together with your fork into a paste and eat it that way.

Why don't Germans smile?

According to official statistics, most of Germany has a bit over 1600 hours of sunlight per year, which I think is a bit of a stretch actually.  San Diego has just under 3000.  Chicago, which is not known as a sunny place, has just over 2600.

There's all of that history.  1517, 1631, 1789, 1848, 1918, 1945.

That, and their stomachs hurt from all the carbonated water, beer, and heavy-ballast bread.

Why do Germans drink carbonated water?

Because tap water will kill them and too much beer will make them fat.  They often add juice to carbonated water (or to Sprite or to beer even) to make a 'schorle' when they don't want to get drunk but want to ingest huge amounts of empty calories.  A version of the 'schorle' but with just a splash of juice is actually a good idea.

Transporting all the bottles is a huge environmental nightmare though, and it's a pain in the rear end.  I just drink the tap water; maybe it will put me out of my misery.

Why do Germans stare?

Because you have a piece of breakfast stuck to your face.

Why do Germans like David Hasselhoff?

Because they're stuck in the '80s?

Look, don't look a gift horse in the mouth.  It's better than Kraftwerk.  And seriously, who can't like this?

Why do Germans hate the Treaty of Versailles?

The same reasons that the Mexicans hate the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Why do the Germans celebrate Christmas?

Why wouldn't they?  Plus, the Christmas markets are a chance to get falling-down drunk in a socially acceptable manner.

Why do the Germans speak German?

The same reason that the English speak English and the Aussies throw up.  Though sometimes I wonder if the German language is an elaborate postmodern stunt played on foreigners, and if the Germans really just speak English but with a Sean Connery accent among themselves.

Next up:  Those Crazy Americans.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Language question

Why do they call things "vanilla" when they're boring? I just ate an entire packet of vanilla-covered almonds. They're out of this world. "Vanilla" should mean "the most exciting thing that's happened to me this week". If you want a boring flavor, try rice pudding.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Oh Starbucks

Hey guys, I like how you're trying to mitigate your reputation for over-roasted coffee by introducing a "blonde roast". But for light-roasted coffee to taste good, the beans have to be good. I bought a pound of your beans to use for a French Press at home. It's not so good. I only drink the stuff in drip form when I have a cold and can't tell the difference. Really, you can do better. Sincerely, -A friendly coffee drinker

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

So today's Sunday, which means that the stores are closed and nothing much happens.  The highlight of my Sunday is to meet some of the guys at the nicht-Stammtisch where we eat a variety of unhealthy things and wash it down with tea or coffee.  Oh how very European.

Germany still has blue laws which govern what can be open, when.  It was a major shock to come here for the first time and find nothing much open on Sunday.  All the better, I guess, because I would have had to carry my groceries two miles in the rain.

This week is cold and rainy again, but last week the sun came out and the temperature made it to a whole 12 degrees Celsius -- low to mid 50s for you Americans.  That's what the Germans call "Das Grillwetter" and what Americans call a "heat wave".

On days like that, people bring their little grills out to the park, grill sausages (or increasingly vegetables), and drink beer.  For being such environmentalists, people are surprisingly free to do this kind of stuff, and there is a lot of litter which gets generated.  In the States you'd get arrested for having beer in public or littering.  Here people think you're a little bit weird if you don't drink in public

On your more average Sunday, there is nothing to do except go out for brunch and/or drink beer.  I actually go brunch-hopping on occasion.  There isn't anywhere to walk to, and who would want to in this kind of weather anyway?  If you have someone to brunch with, the enforced downtime can provide much needed relaxation.  After about two or three years in Germany you might actually begin meeting people.

To pick your brunch place, there are several key considerations.

  1. Does it have a roasted salmon which looks back at you?  All you can eat buffets are great in this sense because you can go after the high-value targets while the Germans inexplicably load up on bread.  There's a place up Holtenauer Str. which is like this, and the price is right.
  2. Is there an omelet station?  This is actually kind of rare.  There's one place by the seaside which has this AND the fish which looks back at you.  It's also expensive and crowded.
  3. Are the ingredients fresh and well-prepared?  Here, the clear winner is around the corner from me, in a Schicki-Micki bar which serves good food and mediocre but strong coffee and has the most confusing ordering system ever invented by a human being.  (You sort of pay as you go along and keep a tab at the same time.)  They also giggle when I speak German at them.  Nobody wants to eat the lunchmeat and cheese which have been sitting out for hours at inferior brunches.  You might get fewer nugget-shaped monstrosities, at a better price besides, at the Schicki-Micki bar.  Don't let the 1980s fashion sense of the other customers scare you away.
  4. Is there unlimited, decent coffee?  Or at least is it good if you have to pay for it?  Ordering three large coffees with brunch can be almost as expensive as the food.  For the unlimited refills, the staring-fish places have them, but the place by the water prides themselves on their bad service.  That's how they prove that they're a good place, that people will go there despite being treated like they're at the DMV.  For decent, but pricey, coffee, go to the place over by the university.  If you make it there in the AM hours, the students aren't awake yet and the cheese selection hasn't begun to grow slime.
  5. Who else goes there?  If you have to overhear someone's conversation for two to three hours, it may as well be intelligent conversation.  The Schicki-Micki place occasionally has English speakers and Germans with overly-complicated haircuts.  At its cousin, Nicht Nur Brot, the background noise is a bit strong, which can be good if you're trying to tune everyone out while reading the Bild or the Wealth of Nations.  Students go to the student place, so get there early to avoid them.  The people at the place by the water aren't as outgoing, while at the Fish Which Looks Back At You place I once had a conversation with some lesbians about their times as au pairs in America.  This can be good or bad.  You'll meet former au pairs and exchange students wherever you go, and they'll regale you with stories about fat people, speeding tickets, and bad bread.

This is the upside to the deep streak of social conservatism present in Germany.  It's a socially conservative welfare state which missed out on every bad twentieth-century trend relating to baked goods.  Abortion is very tightly regulated; shops have to close on Sundays; the Germans look askance at Dutch policies toward assisted suicide.  State funds go toward religious education (not for Muslims); and the "church tax" is alive and strong.  "Dangerous" religious cults are banned altogether.  Gays can't legally marry although there is a form of civil unions.  Maternity and paternity policies are geared toward a pro-family, pro-child stance.  They don't call them the Christian Democrats and the Christian Socialists for nothing.  These parties would mostly align themselves with old-style conservative Democrats back home.

Just so long as you don't forget to buy everything you need on Saturday, you're OK.  Always buy toilet paper, paper towels, and that kind of stuff in bulk.  And be prepared to say nice things about German baked goods to any random au pairs who might jump out of the bushes at you to practice their English.

Obamacare and the German experience

To see my reactions on the possible tossing of Obamacare in the light of my German experience, go over to my other blog.  Shorter version:  Germany is explicit about rolling health care financing in with social security.  There are major problems with doing things this way, but the upshot is that everyone gets covered while still getting to choose their doctor.  It isn't socialist but it isn't anything like a free market either.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

My new work blog

Hi everyone,

I've activated my new work blog at where I will comment mostly about economics.  This site will mostly be about non-work-related stuff, with some cross-posting.

Please keep calm and carry on.


-Yet Another Chris

Green shoots

An economic curmudgeon sez:

There seem to be some green shoots in the most recent economic data. The recovery has a way to go but it seems to be gaining strength.

But, a sack of onions will also grow green shoots if you forget about them for long enough.

Cross-posted from my other blog.

The stages of acceptance / moving to Germany

Well-made video. The thing with the groceries happened to me the first time I went shopping here, and it actually made me completely break down. I had to walk two miles in the rain with my groceries in my arms, after which I got to a wet doorknob. I dropped my eggs on the ground at that point.

It's the little stuff that gets to you--waiting for the green pedestrian light, rechts vor links, trying to pass people on the sidewalk. You're cruising along, thinking you're doing OK, and then things come to a complete screeching halt.

Think of that dream where your mom is still your mom but you find out she's in a metal band and keeps a snake for a pet. It's like that.

It really took me about two and a half years to work out all of these small things, after which I began to adapt much more quickly. Now I'm a foreigner both here and in America.

P.S. The word for "whipped cream" is "die Schlagsahne".

Friday, March 30, 2012

How to argue about politics

Everyone interested in convincing others about politics should watch this bloggingheads with Robert Wright and Jonathan Haidt. Haidt's idea is that liberals and conservatives think differently about morality, with conservatives putting weight on additional aspects of morality than liberals--in particular, more emphasis on loyalty, purity, and authority, in addition to liberals' emphasis on caring and equality. I feel an order coming on.

Haidt makes a wonderful point halfway in about how to convince conservatives that gay marriage is a good thing, which is a point that I've been making for a while now. Gays and liberals should say, "Marriage and love are good things, and we want them for us too." Loyalty also plays a big role in the thought process behind this. "I'm loyal to my brother or son or cousin, and I want him (or her) to be happy." Maintaining a proper distinction between the civil aspects of marriage and the religious aspects would help too. If I were to get married, I'd keep the church and the Pope's authority out of it. My 88-year-old grandmother is hung up on the last point. "The Pope and Bible say no, so I'll side with them." This is someone who loves shrimp and wears polyester.

For a non-conservative, Haidt does a great job at understanding the conservative mind. For those who care about freedom and good policy in general, it's necessary to understand how people think. Maybe the strategy should be to make friends, not enemies.

Listen to the whole thing. I'm buying the book.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I shouldn't be surprised at the old computer hardware that's still out there being used. I first learned how to program on a VAX--maybe I should give up economics and become a defense contractor. From Craig Newmark (not the Craigslist one).

Nobody give the institute any ideas.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

St. Matthew's Passion

I just went to a very good performance of St. Matthew's Passion by Bach, with the Opera Guy, who's a really sweet guy who is not one bit interested in me. Wow.

It's totally different when you can actually follow what's going on. The text hangs together very well, unlike many of the Bach cantatas. And the performance itself was top-notch. There wasn't a dry eye in the church during the chorale:
Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden,
so scheide nicht von mir,
wenn ich den Tod soll leiden,
so tritt du denn herfür!
Wenn mir am allerbängsten
wird um das Herze sein,
so reiß mich aus den Ängsten
kraft deiner Angst und Pein!
I just wanted to hug Opera Guy during this chorale. But the easy availability of culture, and of cultured people, is something I really like about Germany. Opera Guy is a particularly cultured guy, but there is more where that came from.

I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, where culture is something that you hide in the back of the sock drawer. (I used to go on long car rides in order to get time to myself to listen to Beethoven.) There's the Chicago of the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera, the Art Institute, a great avant-garde restaurant scene, theatre, and incredible diversity in sexual and gender expression. That was not the Chicago where I grew up. I grew up six miles south of Midway airport. There were decent Italian food and cable TV. That was it. My church (a normal Catholic church) and my high school (an all boys Catholic high school) had no choir except for one guy.

My parents are an open minded sort--in fact they're great people--but this type of stuff just isn't on their radar screen. I dragged them to a Handel concert once and they thought it was agonizing. So the easy availability of culture...people who are not afraid of it and have some serious Sitzfleisch...are something I really like about Germany.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Things I like, sunny spring afternoon edition

Sunny spring afternoons.

Tall pretty skinny guys.

Tuesday night Stammtisch.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

Wine older than I am.

Arrested Development.

The Holy Roman Empire.

Dietrich Buxtehude.

Getting lost on bike rides.

Transatlantic business class upgrades.

The flowers by my old apartment complex in San Diego.


Fabulous scarves.

Venetian glass.

How to become an expat?

The first question that anybody ever asks me is, "How do I join the glamorous expat lifestyle?" Because there is nothing more exciting than waiting in line at the foreigners' office for an Aufenthalts- genehmigungverlängerungmitgesprächstermin or going to the bakery and getting funny looks when you ask how whole the grains in the Vollkornmischbrötchen are (answer: very). Or getting together with other expats trying to string together the longest compound word which could be said in one breath (a former colleague came up with the one which I used here).

It takes hard work really. The way it works in economics is that you go on the job market once you have one and a half finished papers from your PhD dissertation. My dissertation topic on the effect of labor's bargaining power on vacancy creation during the Great Depression has been charitably referred to as "out of the box" by a certain professor who's usually right about everything. But it seemed like a hot topic at the time. Around September or so you meet with your adviser who gives the green light or red light for the upcoming job market endeavor.

Upon receiving the green light, you assemble a packet which consists of the finished paper, a cover letter, a CV, a research statement, and possibly a teaching statement. And then you send out this packet to any remotely possible place who advertises on the American Economic Association's (AEA's) website. At around the end of the November, interview invitations start coming in.

The interviews happen at the AEA meeting right after New Year's. It was in New Orleans my time around. It's like speed dating for economists. The interviews happen for 30 minutes to an hour in hotel rooms scattered around the city. The interviewers ask about past, present and future research, teaching, and the like, and the interviewees get to ask about the departments in turn. These interviews vary greatly; my most successful one was the one that I thought went the worst at the time. In another interview, the interviewer took a time-out to run to the bathroom to throw up. There is a lot of variation in how these things go.

From January to the beginning of March is flyout season, when the places fly out their short-listed candidates to give a seminar talk and to interview with individual people. Then places make their decisions and most people end up with jobs.

That did not work out for me. It was March 2008 and my ideas about the Great Depression did not catch on. Spring and the Great Recession were in the air. Looking back, I probably wasn't ready to go onto the market, and I should have gone with a different research topic.

There is a second round called the "scramble" which kicks off at the end of March or in early April--about now actually. I sent out a few more packets during the scramble, including a packet sent on a whim to the institute in Kiel. A couple of friends of mine had gone to Kiel to study German and they raved about the place (my theory is that they were drunk all of the time). Also, the institute is known abroad for its summer schools in economics. I figured that it wouldn't hurt to apply. I got an email from the institute asking to set up a conference call. They mixed up the time difference because of daylight savings time so I got woken up early by the call in California. Nonetheless, they seemed to like me; they flew me out here; and I got the job.

I moved from San Diego to Germany, turned 30, and watched the U.S. banking sector completely collapse during the same week in mid-September 2008. It was never my dream in life to live in a country where I don't really speak the language, but I figured that it would be an interesting adventure. So that's how I ended up here.

Of the other expats I know, some are here for work; one is here with his long-term boyfriend; some come here for the military; and some come here as students. These reasons are sometimes combined. I can count the number of Americans that I know in Kiel on one hand. Most expats go to Munich or Berlin, which let's face it, are more interesting places. This is the story of an idiosyncratic expat economist whose life has taken him on a journey to a place that he had never imagined.

Hello world (again)

Hello out there. I'm re-launching this blog under a new name in order to document my (mis)adventures living in Germany. I'm an American expat working in a research institute in Kiel. I've been here for four years now, and my German has progressed to the point where it is 'cute'. 'Cute' is a code-word in this context for 'horribly incompetent'.

So, (clears throat), naja. Pour yourself a nice cup of Kräutertee; put on NDR Eins; and feel at home.