Archive for the 'Thesis' Category

May Fifteenth 110515

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

In just over a month I will have been a management consultant for four years.  It’s kind of a shock, and yet anticlimatic.  I will have spent as many years out of college as I spent in college.  I will have made it through four years in an industry I never expected to be in.  Time will tell how I will look back upon these years, I hope I remember a period of growth and happiness.

Unlike last year, I am no longer embarressed to say I’m a management consultant – it’s taken me quite a while to get used to the idea, and be ok with the opportunity cost.

A few weeks ago, for the first time, I packed a week’s worth of clothes in a wheeled cabin bag.  It was kind of hilarious.  Unlike George Clooney’s smooth-wheeling consultant  in “Up In The Air”, I was a bundle of left feet and uncoordinated wheels.  I tripped over the bag a couple of times, I bumped into other people, I managed to have it fall off a handcart.  Best of all, I managed to forget my bag at the security checkpoint and only remembered just before I boarded the plane.  When I hurried back to get it, the guards were looking suspiciously at the unlabelled bag sitting abandoned on the X-ray machine.

Four years on the job, guess I’m a late-bloomer in this respect.

Coming up

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

View from the Quincy Master's Residence (8 May 2007) OR Sunset over Cambridge

It seems so unreal.  The end of the semester (in just 3 days!) will mark the end of my college career.

I feel as if I’m wasting time not thinking carefully about what I should be doing and people I should be spending time with before the opportunity slips away forever.  Already lots of underclassmen have completed their final exams, moved out and taken off to start their summer vacations, which means I won’t get to say goodbye to them.

But the truth is I don’t really know how to say goodbye to this place.  Will these four years worth of relationships and experiences all turn into a distant, hazy memory of a mirage in the years after I leave?  I don’t know, and not knowing is also scary.

I’m no longer very scared, in truth; I suppose I’ve reconciled myself to the inevitable, and I also feel some excitement for the dim promises of the future.  I’m tired of trying hard, so I’m just going to relax for a while, and see where God takes me.

UNEP Executive Director at KSG (8 May 2007) 
Achim Steiner, the new Executive Director of the UNEP spoke at the JFK Jr. Forum at the Kennedy School earlier this month (May 8th).  He is outrageously only the second speaker I’ve ever seen at this public forum, which hosts several speakers a week, from former Iran President Khatami to the current Director of the FBI to Queen Rania of Jordan.

 My first Red Sox Game! (12 May 2007)

Can you believe this was my first time at Fenway Park? Ryan was very good about explaining what was happening – the Sox trashed the Baltimore Orioles (May 12) 🙂 

PS: I got my thesis comments and final grade today.  Meh.  I thank God for the (emotional) damage control.

PPS: I got a blood titre drawn today to check if my previous Hep B immunization worked.  And I managed to pass out.  Huh?!  I will declare that I am not consciously afraid of needles or blood.  I’ve also felt faint before when having blood drawn, but this was my first full-out loss of consciousness.  Very odd.  When I woke up I didn’t realise I had fainted until I discovered that I was in a different part of the room in a different (reverse reclined) chair that I must have been carried into.  I didn’t even think to ask how long I’d been out.

First day of the final Spring Break

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Today I woke up feeling incredibly wobbly and with a steady headache, and found my room completely trashed.  Very collegiate, no?

 Done! (22 Mar 2007)

Except this wasn’t a hangover of the partying sort.  This was the thesis hangover.  After a week of not really sleeping, two weeks of not really eating, and a month of not really relaxing, it’s really no wonder that I slept for 17 hours straight and woke up feeling only partly revived.  I weighed myself this morning and was pretty shocked to see how much weight I’ve lost recently, which only confirms what I recognise (unprecedented for me) to be a thesis-induced skeletal look.  Very runway 🙂  I think my complexion for the past week would be best described as “death-mask”.

Thanks to the seemingly endless supply of fancy food at HUCE, my diet the past few weeks has been a combination of: (a) nothing, (b) horrendous junk food, or (c) very rich fancy food.  Which may explain the frequent nausea.  An illustrative food diary:

Wed 3am-6pm: four Ferrero Rocher chocolates.  Endless litres of water.  Jelly beans.
Wed 6pm-9pm: dried figs, rabbit paté on crackers, and some hard cheese.  Nausea.
Wed 10pm-11pm: spicy Doritos.
Thu 3am-8am: nothing.  Many litres of water.
Thu 8am-10am: chocolate butter croissant, iced lemon tea.  More nausea.

Trashed (22 Mar 2007) 

Meanwhile, my room…  woah.  I don’t think it’s ever been this trashed before.  When I finally woke up at 7am this morning I was startled enough to take a few pictures to record the damage.  (Laurel, this reminds me of your blog post from the day after you finished your dissertation.)

Which reminds me, I should get back to tidying.


Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Never mind that the past month was a movie-magic slo-mo head-on semi-trailer-against-train wreck.

I’m done.  Numbered, bound, and turned in for judgement.

Suddenly I can sit in the sun and chat with Christine as the envious, incomprehending freshmen and sophomores hurry by enroute to class.  I’m that senior now, I recognize the type from years of being on the other side.

I collapse into bed.

So many things I wanted to say.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Ok, so Summers is long gone as President of Harvard University, but his memory lingers on… Many people know about a certain infamous internal memo he signed about the economics of dumping toxic waste in developing countries while he was Chief Economist at the World Bank (the memo incident itself provides a fascinating look at the effects of often-inaccurate news media).  So it really shouldn’t be a surprise to come across this choice excerpt from a paper (Angeles, Guilkey, and Mroz 2005) I just found on family planning and female education:

“The empirical evidence in developing countries indicates that female education is associated with lower levels of fertility. This evidence has important policy implications. A 1992 World Bank development brief discussing the important gains from educating girls, for example, compared the efficiency of family planning and education programs for lowering fertility: ‘Educated women also choose to have fewer children. An extra year of female schooling reduced female fertility by about 5% to 10%. So, a $30,000 investment in educating 1,000 women would avert 500 births. How much does the typical family planning program spend to avert one birth? About $65. Averting 500 births would cost about $33,000, the same as educating an additional 1,000 girls, enough to justify education on family planning grounds alone’ (World Bank 1992, 2). Such conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank and its member countries, but the background paper for this brief was written by the World Bank’s chief economist and vice president for development economics at that time (Summers 1992), so it surely carried considerable weight.” (Angeles, Guilkey, and Mroz 2005, 166-167)

So in case you didn’t catch the unfortunate phrasing, Summers seems to have said that education for girls and young women in developing countries can be justified simply as a means of “averting births”.  Which of course might sound a little indelicate to the non-economist.  What I particularly liked in the above excerpt was the citing authors’ careful note that Summers’ background paper did not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank or its member countries.

24 hours to go, and 18 hours of work left.

48 hours to go; science and games

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

It’s coming down to the wire for me, although overall I think I’ve adequately adjusted to living under seige.  Food, friends, fun…  I’m finding these are all things you can do without, if necessary.

This scholarly article I just came across has got to be the most opinionated sounding one I’ve read in a while…  here’s the abstact:

“Rational addiction theories illustrate how absurd choice theories in economics get taken seriously as possibly true explanations and tools for welfare analysis despite being poorly interpreted, empirically unfalsifiable, and based on wildly inaccurate assumptions selectively justified by ad-hoc stories. The lack of transparency introduced by poorly anchored mathematical models, the psychological persuasiveness of stories, and the way the profession neglects relevant issues are suggested as explanations for how what we perhaps should see as displays of technical skill and ingenuity are allowed to blur the lines between science and games.”

Breathtaking, no?  To read all three essays on Rational Choice Theory and Welfare Analysis which comprise Ole J. Røgeberg’s 2004 doctoral dissertation in Economics at the University of Oslo, click here (pdf file will open in new window).

Have you heard?

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Sometimes research returns unexpected results; an example would be these choice passages from a 2003 journal article titled “Drug Abuse: Iran’s Thorniest Problem”:

“Iran has executed over 10,000 narcotics traffickers in the last decade, usually by hanging, and some 800 people are on death row for narcotics offenses.  Sometimes the penalties are carried out in public to serve as a deterrent. By 1999 it was obvious that harsh penalties were not having the desired effect.  Capital punishment for smugglers continues, but drug abusers are treated less harshly now.” (290)

And also:

“The law-and-order approach, of course, has its advocates. The police chief called last year for ‘more effective law enforcement.’ The head of the Judiciary said, ‘Drug traffickers and sellers must no longer benefit from any amnesty—on the contrary they must be severely repressed.’ And a Deputy Interior Minister complained in June 2001 about the number of executions: ‘Some 15,869 drug traffickers deserved death, but only 1,735 were meted capital punishment. The death sentence against 400 convicts was upheld, but finally only 233 were sent to the gallows.'” (292)

Sammi, William A., “Drug Abuse: Iran’s Thorniest Problem”, The Brown Journal of World Affairs 9, no. 2 (Winter/Spring 2003): 283-99

And today I learnt another new thing: the differences in form and usage between the em-dash, the en-dash, the hyphen and the minus sign.  Who knew?


Final reeling

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I don’t recall the details exactly (I’m sure I could cite Booth 1996 if I really needed), but the symptoms of opium poisoning and/or the withdrawal symptoms for habituated opium users can include nausea, vomitting, gastrointenstinal pain, joint aches, dizziness and periods of unrestful unconsciousness.

Oh, so that’s what it would feel like. 


It was oh-so-lovely to see Allicia again, who’s in town on break until tomorrow.  And I do remember Lena quite well from somewhere unplaceable, probably Allicia’s room.  I hope she sends me some of those pictures.  Cafe Algiers = *heart*.  Great food, wonderful beverages, excellent prices, convivial atmosphere (we sat on the terrace, bare arms and exposed necks celebrating the respite from winter).  What’s not to love?

It was great to feel like I was in a different time, place and community for a couple of hours, especially today.  Getting to chat briefly with Rich on Allicia’s phone was also a treat.  Shades of a time and place distantly remembered and still being written.  I hope I manage to visit before April!

The meeting was a new feat in plumbing, beyond what I had thought possible.  I’m pretty sure I never even imagined anything like this before, say, last week.  Now I could almost have precisely predicted the details.  I think I’m almost done talking the whole experience dry.  Maybe I’ll write about it someplace else.  But for what purpose?  Second-guessing is such a boundless excercise.


Thank God.

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Thank You, God.

I can barely believe it – I’ve actually completed a passable full draft, with just 10 days left to the submission deadline.  For those of you who don’t understand how late this is for a first full thesis draft: enjoy your blessings.  In the last 72 hours I have done almost nothing except work on this.  On Saturday I woke up, started work at my desk and then simply went to bed 11 hours later, having never left my suite once, not even for the dining hall.  And still there’re endless numbers of loose ends and abandoned sections that have been glossed over in the draft I sent out for various kind souls to review.  There’s no bibliography, or glossary of acronyms used, or any explanation of how I derived a certain key variable.  Nevertheless it’s passably done, and it only took over three hours of formatting and deleting notes-to-self and fixing all the cross-referenced numbers and footnotes to get it ready to send out. 

And I have a table of contents!  Ah, the joy of small accomplishments 🙂

Again, thank You, God.

Oh, and I even have a title for my thesis now! 

(At this point, every person who’s ever written a thesis should feel shocked since people are usually expected to declare their thesis titles months in advance.)

Where /are/ we?

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Despite everything, it’s hard to work when it feels like the sky is falling, and your world might be falling along with it.

Andrew’s parents were here for a weekend junket, and over a lovely dinner at Legal I had the occassion to fomulate this thought:

What will I immediately miss most about leaving Harvard behind?  I’m starting to think it’s going to be things like the seemingly unlimited academic resources (the supercharged Google-scholar-and-HOLLIS system, the free Naxos access, the turbo wireless and broadband web access, the expectation that professors and administrators are there for you), the ability to give admission tours (still sincerely selling the Harvard dream, after all these years), and the crazy perks (the espresso at HUCE, the OFA and UC grants, the free travel).  I don’t know how I’m going to deal with having to move this blog (do I have to?), change my email address and no longer depending on HUDS.

At least what I might have expected to be the hardest parts of the process have been essentially preemptively done for me.

Back to the crunch.