Paris 2003-02-20

A grand reunion occurred in Paris. I arrived early in the morning and killed my time eating many croissants, drinking coffee and reading Le Monde at a café until it was time to check in to the hostel. Volkmar and Annette arrived a little later in their wee Smart and we were off to the Tomb of Napolean to meet Yola, Peter and the rest of their Canadian-found-a-great-deal-on-line-and-just-booked-it-crew. The next couple days were spent wandering about just being in Paris. Much of the time was spent looking for somewhere to eat, my vegetarianism did not help our quest.

It was the last evening that defined the trip. In the evening, Annette, Volkmar and I went up to Sacre Coeur to meet Yola et al. We bought some cheap wine, I had some fancy new flavours of Ritter sport that Volkmar brought with him. We even had some Stuttgarter Hofbraeu ! Paris is not a city with a castle on a hill, but this was close enough. It is always a treat to sit on a hill overlooking a city and enjoying the view. We then went to a fun, if touristy restaurant in Montmartre for food, music and singing. It was quite the send off. Nothing left to do except the necessary chocolate and wine shopping.

London 2003-02-23

Well, I left Paris on the overnight bus as usual. Had my bags x-rayed for the first time at Calais by the French. We boarded the bus and were just about to go to the British Passport control, when the engine wouldn’t start. We sat around as the driver turned the ignition a few times. Then the driver called out for ten strong men to help push the bus. Ten strong men got off the bus, and one sceptical man (better word-choice than smarter) did not help with the futile effort. The bus didn’t move an inch.

A little repair/tow truck came by. The CAA type fellow (AA in Britain, ADAC in Germany, but what is it in France?) looked at the engine and then decided that he would tow bus with us in out of the place that we were occupying. The truck was unable to back up directly in front of us, so he hitched us at an angle. The truck pulled forward. The coach once again did not move forward an inch, but it did tilt twenty degrees to the side. Everyone screamed. From my window seat, my eyes were looking at an ever-approaching ground. The tow-truck driver stopped and the coach righted itself. Then he tried it again. Everyone screamed again. Then they gave up and sent us to the terminal to wait for a replacement bus.

So I spent the next 5 hours, 1am to 6am, in the departure terminal for the Chunnel train. The only thing open was the duty free, and a few car passengers came through as they waited for their train to commence boarding. I walked through the duty-free umpteen times. Miffed that tax-free Boddingtons in France costs more than it does in Vancouver (it needs only undercut the excessive British price by a few percent), and it is weaker as well!

I did have homework to do, and probably would never be as bored again, but no, I didn’t manage to do it.

When I finally got to London it is hours early. I go to EasyInternetCafe (once EasyEverything) because it is the only thing open. Then head out to the Airport for a relatively stressfree return to Vancouver.


Vancouver 2003-02-23

Julie was heading off to Thailand for some travels, and this called for a going away party. It was potluck and well attended. Not a drinking and chatting party, but a quiet get-together with a game. The game was simple enough, retell a misadventure that occurred while travelling with Julie. Even the premise of this game was amazing, since almost everyone had travelled with Julie and had a misadventure to talk about. The stories alone made the evening. It was certainly a good way for every to get to know Julie even better, and the story-tellers as well. My story, the Julie sick in Peru story won second place, I think, but it was just a piece of a very grand evening. And an evening most welcome in the midst of another stressful term.

And while I couldn’t always be sure if the MA was the right thing to do, one of the clear highlights of the year was the Futsal league. All MA’s and a whole evolutionary process as the team formed. We were trounced in the first game, but that only lead to debate and discussion on how we could improve. It wasn’t always clear who was there just to have fun, and who really cared about the game. No matter what the attitude, I was very happy to put down the books and kick the ball around. After losing the first three games, we tied one and then pulled together an impressive three game winning streak going into the playoffs. This earned us a bye and a semi-final against Law. "Ooooh….foreshadowing you say, but we did well…I mean lawyers, economists…who would you pick? And I netted a hat trick, so really, what have I picked? And then the final against a campus wide team that included old-time soccer buddy Faraz. I know that he has wanted to win an intramurals tournament for six years now, but we wanted to win as well. The Palm Trees, the beloved GRD team, were down 4-2 at the half, out-shouted by the ‘Seniors Looking to Score’ cheerleaders. At yet we pulled it together, because you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise would you? A couple of quick goals, I managed a game tying one by crashing the net on a corner kick and voila, we were back in it. And then I missed on a breakaway, which is to say that I thought I megged the goalie but he fell back onto the ball to stop it. Proof of course that Hollywood isn’t God, but would you get up in the morning if you knew that the Lord was? It would all end perfectly no matter what you did, because the two big names on the playbill have to get together against all odds and amongst all humorous circumstances, and the show would have to star you. And then Andrew capitalised on an errant throw by the goalie. We were up 5-4 and holding a "picket-line" defence as ‘The Point described it. A win, photos, medals, whatever glory is associated, because well, economists have to do something aside from suffer.

My foray into UBC’s Little World Cup wasn’t quite as successful, but it was a lot of fun. My co-rec team from Osborne had a slow start, but as soon as we received the late addition of a starting goalie we began to roll. The female players were the best I have ever played with, but we weren’t the best for actually putting the ball in the net. You will realise that when I tell you I was the leading scorer through the round-robin. In the playoff tree, we lost in the Semi-Finals. We kept it close through the first half, but we just couldn’t score enough. It was a lot of fun.

"Do you believe in Pixies?"

So the truth is that I haven’t exactly warmed to Economics since I’ve started this masters. Well, okay that isn’t the truth, that is an outrageous euphemism. However, it is hard to explain my frustration with a discipline that I used to thoroughly enjoy. I think I was more caught up in the romantic elements of Economics, its relation to politics, international relations and culture in general. Of course there is nothing scientific about that, and at the advanced level, textbook generalizations are quite useless, as is the case in most disciplines. I accept this, I haven’t dropped out, and I am drawing on my long lost appreciation of stats from my baseball obsessed pre-teen years to help me obtain some practical skills.

And then one day we discussed trans-Atlantic communication in my Economic History seminar. If news from London was to reach North America it would be passed onto a ship sailing westward via Ireland, cabled from Cork to the western coast and passed onto a ship that would reach Newfoundland, cabled and carried (pony express) to Maine and then relayed to New York to some one who cared.

Then transatlantic cables were laid and information could be passed along almost instantly. The death of the monarch, the cricket score, the passing of bills could all be relayed in seconds rather than days. But such wonders of communication still need an economic motive (remember this as you sit reading this on the net), and the great expense of this technology had to be paid by some interesting party. And as much as expedience is important, most people would rather save the premium and receive the news a little later. Those who needed information right now and were willing to pay for it, only wanted to know the price of grain.

Thus this communicative bond between Britain and North America passed grain prices back and forth. It was a steady stream of commodity prices that interested the merchant exchange, and who was going to pay for some other use? You could call your grandmother in Liverpool and ask her the weather, what she had for tea, or to thank her for the socks, but how quickly does the value of this information really depreciate? It could surely wait a minute or a day, whereas grain prices always need to be updated.

And this is what annoyed me, because the most important question to ask Granny when you commandeer the trans-Atlantic link is "what is the price of wheat in London?’ And you can’t deny that the internet would have exploded the way it did if all it provided was e-mail, web-radio and on-line newspapers, rather than intertwining these valuable mediums with advertising, product information and sales, and everything else to do with e-commerce.

In the cable’s case it wasn’t reunification, but it was a reconnection with the mother country, and it is disheartening to think that all we cared about is grain prices . So I complained that there was no romance in the creation of the Atlantic cable, and by proxy everything to do with economics. And my professor’s response was "do you believe in pixies?" Which is most fair, because everything we do have came out of economic motivation. Romance applies only to the things we know, such as life, love, laughter, passion, all of which came well before fertility drugs, internet dating services, cheesy forwards and access to an html-rendered-world, and everything else that was created out of economic interest.

We cannot live without some stuff, and economists will always try to ensure that there is more stuff to be had. But as much as we already have more stuff than any generation who came before us, do we know anymore than they did. Or is it the case that when we try and increase our knowledge, all that is spit back at us is grain prices.