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Sunday, July 17, 2011

I feel like I'm at summer camp.

So I'm in Bryn Mawr. Yay! When I arrived yesterday, a serious case of campus envy set in; there's a fireplace in my dorm room. I mean, enough said! There are giant chess sets all over campus, as well as brightly colored patio furniture, and brilliant stonework everywhere. It's much smaller than my school, and has such a homey feel to it, with potted plants and bulletin boards everywhere, just quintessential college dorm life. Also, since it's an all women's school, I can't help but speculate that the campus both smells better and is less trashed, like, no dents in the walls and things. Though the pool table is admittedly a mess, cos, when have you ever met a woman who was adequate at pool?!

The weather is a challenge. It's hot outside, probably because it's July, but the classrooms are terribly cold, so a lot of the students are walking around in sweaters, which is a hilarious sight to behold.

The food is all right. Better than I expected, or at least, better than it is at my school! Still, I was not impressed with breakfast. Or the "fruit juice" that is actually florescent sugar water. And while they score points in the french fries and packaged ice cream novelties department, the vegetable side of things leaves a little to be desired. But no need to get nit-picky.

The material . . . I'm in heaven. This morning one of the speakers threw down about Wal-Mart, and he was an economist, so he had numbers and data to support what he was saying. [The interesting thing about him, too, was that in the 45 minutes that he spoke he threw down no less than four Bible verses, and three comments on the sinful nature of man. According to his Twitter feed he reads Jon Acuff. I think we have a winner.] So yeah, Wal-mart does bully suppliers and does destroy jobs, but it's also responsible for 5% of the US's GDP, so, that's serious buying power. And the average American saves $177 a year from Wal-Mart. On a cost/benefit analysis, there's more good than bad in Wal-Mart's power index. So that was really, really interesting!

That's the other thing. We've heard four speakers thus far; two philosopher historians and two economists. Ordinarily not the most riveting of subjects, but somehow IHS managed to get the most dynamic and interesting speakers around. I'm not glazing over when the talk wanders into discussion of the rational expectations theory and the Chicago school . . . partly because I'm struggling to keep up with what exactly these things even are, but also because the lecturers are skilled at staying simple while going deep.

It's a good balance, too, of the history of classical liberal ideas, of the economics behind classical liberalism, of the politics of libertarianism, of the philosophy motivating classical liberal thought. Well-rounded, the lecturers are. Which is excellent, because that had been one of my worries coming in, that my libertarian training hadn't been well-rounded and I was going to be lost the whole time. But the speakers manage to break everything down in such a way that it's simple enough to follow, but you still have to work to understand.

What I also really like is how they've set up the question and answer part of each lecture. When the speaker concludes, they send us off into discussion groups for twenty minutes, where we draft our questions. Which is good because we get to share our reactions to the talk, as well as flesh out some of the things touched upon, and figure out what we want clarified. And because the questions are written out, they're most concise and easy to answer than in an oral Q&A session. You get to see all the questions the other groups came up with, and the questions stay on the wall for the whole week.

Socially, the anxiety still ripples over me from time to time. It's nice that the Cobbs and Schuyler are here, but I'm worried that I'm leaning too much on former acquaintances and not striking out on my own enough. Of course, I analyze here too much anyway, finding myself measuring people and their reactions to situations and what they do and where they sit and what they say and who they talk to. Mostly everyone here is super fascinating: if they're not international students, then they're anarchists or radicals in some vein, or hyper-intellectuals, or hipsters in full ironic pretension.

I'm slowly being wooed to go join the Free State movement in New Hampshire. I also fleetingly considered investing in Bitcoin. [You know, so I can securely purchase all my illicit substances. NBD.]

Yeah. First impressions. I hate how self-indulgently diary-ish this is. Oh well!

2 comments:

Mark Valjean said...

I was happy to read that you seem to be doing well at your new school. Lectures, in the hands of dynamic speakers, can be fascinating. You seem like a very interesting person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world. God bless you! Have a great week!

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