Tuesday, May 3, 2011


One of my friends is studying economics hardcore. This winter he was focusing on global hunger and aspired to fast or consume a Very Low Calorie diet for 30 days, to have some first hand experience with hunger. I got really excited- what an awesome idea! Then he never did it, on the basis of he is not insane, or something. So, because I approve of disrupting the casual excess and comfort my life affords me, I decided not to eat this past February, with the caveat that fasting was my third priority, after school and health. I did a liquid fast of perhaps 300-400 calories per day, and after a few days I started missing deadlines and making a lot of small mistakes that took a lot of my day to correct. For various reasons I drove 75 miles 3 times, once to help my parents move. It was while I was moving furniture and boxes for 4 hours in their attic on the hottest Feb 6th Oakland has ever had that I decided my fast had to be over. I thought I was properly hydrated but I must have been delirious to think I could eat a bowl of ravioli comfortably. One thing I learned is my body is an amazing faster, and when it realized there was no food coming it just coped without making me hungry or anything.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

HC 110 C6 C586 1999- Consuming Desires

Where are my notes about this book? It's collected essays that are so on point and well assembled.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

HC 105 S63 2002

Adam Smith and the Origins of American Enterprise, Roy C Smith

I like history! It's so old fashioned- this book defers to Smith's describing wealth as opulence. Charming! And before the Industrial Revolution Britain's main export was wool. Wool. And Smith found that factories employed agricultural workers part time, and he illustrated the advantage of specialization with a report about a pin factory (26). A pin factory. A factory that makes only pins. A pin factory. I was just totally charmed by that, and I want to read more books focusing on individuals.

This captures my heart in the first pages by sharing that, "Most of the intellectual activity of this time was the product of talented amateurs who painstakingly learned methodology and specialization"(4) because I love working on my own.

Most of this book was so excited about America- I love that. There was such an exuberance and a

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I read in Consuming Desires and on the Sociological Images blog that our tastes are not unique things we develop but dictated by environment and class. I pretty much believe that. So I have been wanting boots all winter, fancy adventurer boots that I could wear if I were a time or space traveler since they would suit all kinds of terrain and climate and keep my feet safe from little mean bugs. Also they must never wear out. The only thing they wouldn't suit is post-apocalyptic anarchy, because they are so cute I would be shot for them. Obviously I have the feeling that I thought of these criteria myself. But really the internet television told me them. I finally ordered these:

from Boot Barn.
Update: My boots arrived yesterday! They are super comfortable and I let my new photographer friend take my portrait in them. I feel guilty for buying $120 boots when I am not working, but my budget said it was fine. I am going to track how many times I wear them before they wear out, to see if these fit the opting out of product obsolescence that upper middle class people get to do. So far I have worn them two times. One of my classmates suggested that I use a pedometer to track their steps. I'll see if I can fit my cheap pedometer into them unobtrusively.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

HC79 P6 P67 2009

Portfolios of the Poor
The Poor and Their Money presents the daily deposit collecting as neccessary under the precarious climate of poor households- saving at home is impractical because of emergency demands on the savings, or not having the whole household buy-in to the need to save. But Portfolios of the Poor goes on about the minus 40% annual return on savings (save a few cents a day for a month in exchange for one days' deposit, which of course is 3.3%) and that got me thinking. I would not go to someone's house everyday to collect ten cents from them- not for free, and not for 3.3%. I would do it as a favor, if it was nearby, but I don't understand how that can be a job.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In art there are practitioners who are not formally trained and their work is called folk art, or naive art. It can't be produced by people who are trained in color theory and persective and the art historical canon, although certainly it can be imitated by formally trained artists. There is a value to naive art that I think comes from its spontaneity and innattention to conventions. Thus, my fine art background has taught me to value contributions from people who produce work from outseide the canonical freamework.

This makes me think that there is an interesting perspective to be gained from approaching economics in a naive way. I am reading seriously a lot of books- on the order of two daily- but they are not being screened for me by professors or represented by an accredited institution. So, I am gaining a book-based body of knowledge from outside the canon. I don't have a sense of which authors subscribe to widespread theories versus outsider theories, and except for year and writing style, I don't have a framework for evaluating the texts.

My art professor in the class for which I am undertaking this reading proposed that I present myself as an economist. I was charmed by this idea, because in my department the Picasso quote- "every child is an artist. the problem is how to remain one after he grows up" has a lot of credence. They teach us early on to identify ourselves as artists rather than art students- in fact, we devote more time now to art than we will likely be able to once we are in the loan-repaying-and-self-sustaining chapter of our lives. So self-identification feels adequate and appropriate for many things, including a soft science like economics.
I excitedly shared with a friend that I get to tell people I am an economist. (I am considering using the modifier "naive" except that outside the art community that word has a pejorative connotation) He said something to the effect of "that is an interesting lie," given that I don't have formal training and I got really frustratedly excited. The historical model of theorists and writers working outside the academy is dear to my heart, and in fact to this friend's heart as well, so I was pretty much aghast.

Auxiliary: I have a house mate who has studied economics for ages, and is working on his PhD. I asked him if he would describe himself as an economist, and he said "not quite yet." I completely respect that decision, and yet it reinforced my determination to just, you know, commit to calling myself one. Maybe I am not the best economist ever, but I am smarter than some of these authors, and more engaging than a third of them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

HC 103 F59 2000

Field Guide to the U.S. Economy
This book is kind of sympathetic, like me, but not focused on accuracy, which is what I like. For example, page 118 says, "A college diploma is worth at least its weight in gold." Okay, an ounce is 31 grams, which is like 1,500 USD right now, and a piece of paper might weigh three grams I suppose.
And then on page 141, they switch the "t" in "trillion" for a b, which is really confusing. (it's correct in the graphic but not in the text) I got excited because I don't think I have ever heard what the world GNP is, and then right when I do I can't believe in it because of a typo.

So that was really frustrating because it is full of little straightforward bits I would like to quote to people.