Sunday, 1 October 2006

NWU, Evanston, Illinois, America

Thought I should give you an update. This will probably take a bit of time to write - I have a lot of new impressions, and am also very busy. (Update: very busy.)

Northwestern: the course is good, and very intensive. Essentially I'm with the first year econ PhDs. They work them very hard here. I have about 12 hours of lectures a week. These require doing the reading. If you don't do the reading, in most cases you will get little or nothing out of the lecture. It is complicated mathematical stuff: the foundations of microeconomics, techniques in linear algebra, real analysis in mathematics and so forth. These are books where you read a few pages at a time. Then there are the problem sets: three a week, the fourth course doesn't seem to have them. These can take anything up to a day to do. A typical cycle is: look at them on your own, then meet up with a group to swap ideas, insights and solutions (for most courses this is allowed), then write up solutions and maybe finally another group meeting to talk over what you've got.

End result: most days and evenings, I'm busy. I probably worked harder during my final year at Cambridge, or (in different ways) while at the Simon Community or running my business. But this is the hardest academic work I've done for a long time.

A large part of me loves this. I always liked school, doing exams etc.... I was that kind of kid. Still am. And I find the problems intellectually fascinating, even though they involve no cutting-edge ideas - it's all just "the basics" in terms of what you need to be an economist/mathematician/positive political theorist. I can practically feel my brain expanding. And a lot of the other students are much better than me at this stuff. (Damn!)

Another large part of me is knackered. I need to get into a work rhythm that gives me time for myself. At the moment I find myself waking up and still being tired... coming home late... not having time for exercise... and so forth. This is not really a good or sustainable lifestyle.

More broadly... Evanston. Evanston reminds me of Wimbledon. I am moving across the city limits to Rogers Park in a week. Roger's Park is supposedly a dodgy area but I tend to think that American cities are not that bad.

At the moment I am living in Evanston with two beautiful blondes called Blaze and Cheyenne, who like to run around the house naked. When I get home they lick me all over and one of them puts her head between my legs. I will try and post some HOT NAKED PICTURES of these lovelies.... I can hear one of them panting as I type this. Woof!

America. Mmph. I have got Minima Moralia out of the library.* It's hard to be an immigrant. And me... well, I'm a cultural elitist in the land of Disney, an agnostic among the godly, and a drinker in a place where beer is £4 a pint. But.... Every year a lot of people from the UK come here. They must know something. Maybe I am just grumbling because in the UK I am quite a privileged middle class person and here, it's a stand-on-your-own-two-feet place and you are, as Paddy McAloon would say, only as good as the last great thing you've done. Maybe it's just a curve I'm going through. I left the UK thinking good riddance to smug old Auntie and it's embarrassing how soon I started downloading Radio 4 podcasts....

Random fact: David Austen-Smith does Tae Kwon Do.

* Theodor Adorno wrote Minima Moralia at a particularly bleak time of his life, as a newly arrived exile from Germany during World War II. It's a classic of bitter cultural analysis written by a hypersensitive man who is clearly missing his home very much. But... he stayed on and even, I guess, found some kind of accommodation with mainstream American academia: his empirical work on the authoritarian personality, with Horkheimer, unearthed a fox in social psychology which continued to run for some time.