Tuesday, October 8, 2019

NEUDC 2019 roundup - Indonesia papers

As always, David Evans (and Almedina Music)'s one-sentence summary of papers presented in the NUEDC conference is a useful read--even more so now as I start working on my own projects. Of particular interest to me are the 10 Indonesia-related papers. I plucked their summary of the eight papers included in the roundup below, and the titles of the other two papers are added at the end.

Summaries:
Clean energy access improves women’s lung capacity and increases women’s labor supply in Indonesia, as a result of higher domestic productivity allowing for more working hours. (Priya and Imelda)  
In Indonesia, a “1 percent increase in the proportion of [internal] migrants in the population leads to a 3.9 percent increase in the number of economically-motivated crimes reported by local media,” but—in an exciting twist—when you look at reports from household surveys, more migrants reduce the probability of being a crime victim. (Feld and Kleemans)  
How spatially misallocated is public infrastructure investment, and why? Misallocation in healthcare infrastructure is lower after Indonesia’s democratization in 1999, because (i) of a reduced bias toward previously Suharto-favored villages, and (ii) spillover effects are less internalized as districts become more focused on their own constituents. (Hsiao)  
Providing information about the level of inequality increased the likelihood that respondents would vote against the president in Indonesia. Providing information about a respondent‘s position in the distribution resulted in richer Indonesians becoming less supportive of redistribution. (Hoy, Toth, and Meredikawati)  
An index of the marginal utility expenditure (IMUE) may better capture changes in households’ welfare from receiving transfers: In over 25 percent of the Indonesian villages the IMUE measure rankings had a higher correlation with the community ranking than proxy means tests or total consumption rankings did. (Trachtman)  
As palm oil factories proliferated in Indonesia, areas around those factories had “more non-agricultural employment, higher incomes, and more people.” (Edwards)  
Rice import restrictions in Indonesia benefitted villages more suited for rice production in terms of aggregate income and nutrition. Local governments responded by directing more resources toward the more adversely affected villages: They were more likely to receive a health facility. (Sim
During Ramadan, Muslim salespeople in Indonesia are nearly one-third less productive in the two hours before sunset. After sunset, productivity shoots back up. (Hu and Wang

Titles only:
The Long Term Effects of Delayed School-going Age: Evidence from Indonesia (Arya Gaduh and Saurabh Singhal) 
Why Pay The Chief? Political Selection & Electoral Accountability in Indonesia (Gedeon Lim)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Goodbye, Misty


Thank you for all the joy. Goodnight, rest in peace. We will miss you.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pantai Revere

Boston, 14 Februari 2018

Tahukah kalian bagaimana camar makan kerang, meski mangsanya ini berlindung di balik cangkang?

Aku tadinya tidak tahu, tapi sore ini membawaku ke Pantai Revere, dan di sana aku menemui banyak burung camar. Pantai Revere sepi, sama seperti terakhir kali aku datang ke sana beberapa bulan lalu. Wajar memang pantainya sepi, karena orang yang waras ngga bakal pelesir ke pantai di bulan Februari. Angin berembus dingin dan tidak ada pilihan selain tetap membungkus diri dengan lapis-lapis jaket musim dingin.

Aku ada di pantai ini karena seperti biasa, aku tidak bisa menghitung diri ada di golongan yang waras. Semester dua sementara berjalan, dan dua minggu lagi aku ujian. Setiap minggu aku hitung total jam kerjaku lebih dari 80 jam yang aku habiskan untuk belajar mati-matian. Ini belum juga waktunya ujian, tapi ada tiga PR dengan tenggat yang saling bertumpukan.

Aku sudah tidak bisa mengingat kapan terakhir kali aku rehat di akhir pekan: hari Sabtu dan Minggu tidak ada bedanya dengan hari lainnya karena toh aku ke kampus juga. Bawa bekal seadanya, lalu berkutat di meja kantin FH. Dinding mereka kaca, jadi kantinnya terang dan enak jadi tempat membaca. Dinding mereka juga menghadap ke Sungai Charles, jadi pemandangan bantarannya menenteramkan untuk dijadikan selingan.

Tapi tiga hari terakhir buruk sekali. Senin adalah tenggat PR ekonometrika, Selasa tenggat ekonomi makro, dan hari ini tenggat ekonomi mikro. PRnya susah-susah, dan aku mulai lelah.

Tugasku aku kumpulkan jam 10 pagi di awal kelas. Pukul empat, Laurie yang sekelas denganku bertanya apakah aku berminat menyambangi kantor Hiro—dosen ekonometrika kami—untuk konsultasi. Aku tampik dan bilang aku mau jalan-jalan dan tidur biar waras.

Inilah alasannya kenapa aku lalu menuju Pantai Revere. Karena aku sudah berniat mau rehat setengah hari, aku membebaskan diri untuk mengamati sekelilingku. Aku ingat Mbak Yanti pernah menganjurkan aku ke stasiun atau terminal lalu mengamati orang-orang yang berlalu-lalang. Ketika naik dari stasiun di depan kampus, aku mengedarkan pandang dan mendapati pandangan hampir semua orang terpaku pada layar yang mereka genggam. Aku pun menimang-nimang ponselku di genggaman tangan.

Aku naik kereta tujuan Wonderland untuk ke Pantai Revere. Nama stasiun tujuannya enak didengar, dan terasa pas dengan tujuanku melepas penat. Aku ganti kereta dua kali: sekali di Park Street, lalu di Government Center. Di kereta terakhir, ada beberapa bangku kosong di gerbong paling depan. Di bangku sebelahku, seorang penumpang sebelumnya meninggalkan dua eksemplar JAMA, Journal of American Medical Association. Tanggal di sampulnya menunjukkan edisi ini terbitan Agustus 2017.

Senyumku tidak tertahan ketika aku sampai di pantai. Aku membayangkan ketika bulan Juni datang, pantai ini akan ramai dipenuhi orang. Aku justru akan mengurung diri untuk ujian agar aku bisa bertahan.

Di kejauhan aku melihat orang-orang berjalan berdua. Aku hampir lupa ini hari Valentine—tapi di kereta aku melihat juga beberapa orang membawa ikat-ikat bunga. Cori—teman sekelas dan serumahku—kemarin bertanya apakah aku ada rencana spesial dengan Freida. Aku hanya tertawa. Yang bener aja brooo.

(Aku janjian bakal ketemu dia besok kok tapi btw. Dia nawarin buat masak sayur bening buat dimakan sambil belajar di kampus besok. Aku mungkin bawa masako simpananku juga supaya sayurnya ngga terlalu sehat.)

Tapi itu untuk besok. Sekarang aku justru membayangkan clam chowder. Ini adalah masakan khas Massachusetts, dan aku jadi bertanya-tanya mengapa banyak cangkang kerang terserak di pasir pantai yang menghampar. Cangkangnya besar-besar: aku bayangkan Kaia, dan sepertinya kerang-kerang ini lebih besar dari telapak tangannya. Beberapa retak ketika aku injak.

Aku mendengar bunyi gedebuk tak jauh dari tempatku berdiri. Tidak lama, seekor burung camar datang melayang: ternyata yang jatuh adalah seketul kerang. Burung ini datang untuk menyantap kerang yang sudah ia jatuhkan. Sambil memaruh isi cangkang, burung ini menghalau camar lain yang mengincar kerangnya. Ketika aku beringsut mendekat, ia melirikku lalu mencotok cangkangnya menjauh.

Ketika camar itu berlalu, aku berdiri termangu. Kini aku tahu bagaimana camar berburu.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Rekomendasi Caleg DPR Jakarta II versi Masyhur

Awal bulan ini, saya memutuskan untuk mencari tahu siapa politisi yang mau saya pilih di Pemilu legislatif kali ini. Karena saya ada di Boston, saya cuma bakal memilih anggota DPR saja di Dapil Jakarta II (Jakpus, Jaksel, Luar Negeri). Tapi ini pun ternyata bukan perkara mudah, karena kandidatnya ada banyak. Saya memutuskan untuk menuliskan penelusuran saya di sebuah utas Twitter.

TL; DR: empat orang kandidat di shortlist saya:
  • Nuraini Hilir, PDI-P nomor urut 6.
  • Shanti Ramchand, Nasdem nomor urut 4.
  • Zuhairi Misrawi, PDI-P nomor urut 2.
  • Christina Aryani, Golkar nomor urut 1.
Utas lengkapnya (dengan edit kosmetik): 

Selasa, 5 Maret
Oke mari kita mencari siapa caleg yang patut dipilih buat pileg nanti. Karena gue ada di luar negeri, gue cuma bakal milih buat DPR di Dapil Jakarta II. Website infopemilu.kpu error mulu buat loading dapil ini, jadi kita coba yang lain: JariUngu. Banyak juga ini 105 caleg. 

(sebelumnya gue mau mengakui bias gue. Kalau gue nemu caleg yang:
- lesbian/transpuan
- etnis Tionghoa/Papua
- agama Ahmadi/Kejawen
- ibu rumah tangga
- pendidikan SMA ke atas
- lahir 13 Januari
bakal langsung gue pilih. Iya ini main politik identitas, tapi mana bakal nemu haha.) 
Saringan pertama:
1. bukan mantan napi tipikor. Dari filternya JariUngu sih ga ada di dapil ini.
2. bukan dari partai berkarya. Gue ilfil sama Tommy Soeharto.
3. bersedia publikasi CV. Kalau ngga gimana gue cari tahunya? Yang ada aja banyak. Goodbye Garuda Hanura Demokrat PKPI.
Masih sisa 74 caleg. Banyak ya.  
Urut berdasar nomor partai: PKB..... ga ada yang bikin tertarik. Targetnya pada pengen menangin PKB tapi ya trus kenapa? Gue bukan orang PKB jadi ga ngefek buat gue.
Plus ini pada ga baca panduan ngisi formulirnya apa ya. Di borangnya KPU ada petunjuk: Target/Sasaran (berisi contoh hal-hal yang akan dikerjakan ketika telah menjadi anggota DPR).... dan diisinya begitu. *keluh*. 
[Addendum: link ke file excelnya ada di sini. Bisa juga klik masing-masing gambar supaya jadi besar.] 

Lanjut 02 Gerindra. Ini alay deh pada ngisi motivasinya. Terserah deh kalau pemilih biasa pada taklid buta ke suatu tokoh, lha ini yang bakal jadi aleg. Yang mendingan cuma nomor 7 doang (Basri Kinas Mappaseng) yang ngisi targetnya agak substantif. 

Halo 03 PDIP! Wah ini mayan menarik deh ada yang bisa masuk shortlist:
Nomor urut 2 Zuhairi Misrawi sama nomor urut 6 Nuraini.
Ibu dokter nomor urut 3 Amendi Nasution juga menarik (aktif politik sejak zaman Orba!?) tapi longlist aja karena udah 71 tahun. 

Kenapa no 2 menarik? Karena Zuhairi ini pekerjaannya peneliti hehe.
Link JariUngu: https://jariungu.com/caleg_2019.php?idCaleg2019=3096 Link KPU: https://infopemilu.kpu.go.id/pileg2019/pencalonan/calon/289044 
Gue baru pertama kali denger namanya. Tapi ada beberapa artikel juga sebut nama Zuhairi ini promosi toleransi dan membela Ahmadiyah.
Sufi congress in Jakarta against Islamic extremism
Zuhairi Misrawi, head of the Moderate Muslim Society (MMS), an intellectual and NU leader, explained that Muslim mystics contribute to the government fight against fundamentalism. However for him, this fight is too often only words and empty slogans that lack concrete application. A graduate of al Azhar University in Cairo (Egypt), Misrawi criticised the government’s Anti-terrorism Department because of its silence vis-à-vis sermons by some imams during Friday prayers that promote hatred and terror in society. In his view, the government and President Yudhoyono himself shoulder some of the blame. Their slogans may show an intention to fight extremism but they end up protecting those who sow violence and division.
Indonesia: More to religious (in)tolerance than meets the eye
At the end of 2010, two Indonesian civil society organisations that work to promote tolerance and understanding in Indonesia, the Moderate Muslim Society (MMS) and the Wahid Institute (WI), separately released the results of research they had conducted on religious life in Indonesia. Both showed significant increases in the number of religiously motivated attacks and discrimination against minority religious groups.
Over the last year, MMS recorded 81 cases of religious intolerance, up 30 per cent from 2009, while WI recorded 193 instances of religious discrimination and 133 cases of non-violent religious intolerance, up approximately 50 per cent from the previous year. Among these instances, forced church closures and disruptions of worship services were the most commonly reported complaints, which also included the firebombing of an Ahmadi mosque and violent attacks on congregants.
For Ahmadiyah in Indonesia, Persecution Remains Unaddressed
“There is cause for concern here because the problem still hasn’t been solved,” said Zuhairi Misrawi, director of the Moderate Muslim Society. “In these cases, the government has not been able to provide enough protection and support for the Ahmadis in their pursuit of their right to worship."
Bapaknya juga punya halaman Wikipedia loh, plus nulis buku (Al-quran Kitab Toleransi) dan punya blog (yang tentu saja update terakhirnya dari dasawarsa lalu. Blogging ini emang udah passe ya). 
Gue lihat antara Zuhairi sama Nuraini sama-sama sempat di filsafat. Zuhairi di Al Azhar dan Driyakarya (lihat di Wiki), Nuraini di UGM. Gue ga cukup tau contoh politisi jebolan filsafat yang udah ada jadinya kayak apa sih. [addendum: Uwi nambahin kalau Rieke Dyah Pitaloka ternyata alumni filsafat juga.] 
Antara dua ini gue condong ke yang urutnya lebih bawah. Detail nomor 6 Nuraini:
JariUngu: https://jariungu.com/caleg_2019.php?idCaleg2019=3100
KPU: https://infopemilu.kpu.go.id/pileg2019/pencalonan/calon/28094

Haduh sayangnya Ibu Nuraini ini namanya ngga Google-friendly sama sekali. Seantero Indonesia pasti jutaan namanya sama. gue cuma nemu di pangkalan data dikti pernah ngajar apa aja di Universitas Bung Karno
Dua poin plus Ibu Nuraini: SMAnya di Bima ( = mungkin dari luar Jawa) dan sebelumnya jadi staf ahli legislatif, so she should know her stuff. Ohya di Jari Ungu dll tadi ga muncul motivasinya karena ditulis tangan di halaman 4 di CVnya. Untung gue telaten carinya kan ya. 
Addendum: sejak utas ini ada beberapa info tambahan tentang Ibu Nuraini yang saya temukan. Dia di Pemilu 2014 maju sebagai kandidat DPRD Jakarta dari PDI-P, dan ngga lolos. Tapi dia masuk kategori 'kandidat bersih'-nya ICW waktu itu: https://antikorupsi.org/en/news/nuraini-hilir.

Selain itu, ada wawancaranya dengan media online berdikari yang arsipnya ada di halaman ICW tersebut:
"Dalam Pemilu 2014 mendatang, sejumlah nama aktivis yang sering muncul dalam aksi-aksi protes rakyat di jalanan akan muncul di kertas suara. Salah satu dari mereka adalah Nuraini Hilir. Di tahun 1997-1998, ia menjadi bagian dari gerakan mahasiswa dan rakyat dalam melawan kediktatoran Orde Baru. Saat itu ia menjadi anggota Partai Rakyat Demokratik. Selain itu, melalui Srikandi Demokrasi Indonesia ia aktif memperjuangkan hak-hak kaum perempuan dan rakyat tertindas lainnya."
Namanya juga sempat disebut di artikel Indoprogress tentang John Tobing dan di artikel Historia tentang PRD dan penggulingan Soeharto. Dia ternyata juga punya akun twitter, tapi ngga terlalu aktif. (Saya tegor plus nanya ngga dijawab). Dari arsip artikel twitternya ini saya juga nemu dia di koran Amunisi, artikelnya ada di bawah artikel tentang girlband Go Angel'5 (iya saya juga baru tau).

(Selingan: ternyata saya defaultnya kalau nulis di blog jadi 'saya', kalau di Twitter jadi 'gue'.) Kembali ke utas:
Jari Ungu ini agak menyebalkan ya. Gue harus registrasi dulu dan ngasih data personal baru bisa lihat daftar caleg, dan ini entah kenapa websitenya lupa terus kalau gue udah login jadi harus login berulang kali.
Rabu, 6 Maret
Hmhmm mulai malas lanjut tapi tanggung udah capernya.  
Anyway yang gue baru sadar kenapa ada beberapa caleg nyebutin TKI di motivasi/targetnya: karena dapil LN tentu yang banyak bukan mahasiswa ala-ala kayak gue tapi populasi TKI. (Apakah para TKI ini tau caleg mereka ya mbuh). 
Pencerahan kedua: jelas gue bukan orang pertama yang kepikiran buat cari tau semua caleg di dapil gue. Ini satu situs yang komplit banget btw dan gue rekomendasikan buat diubek-ubek supaya tau mana yang caleg yang punya instagram dan mana yang vegetarian: https://litsuscaleg2019.wordpress.com/category/luar-negeri/ 
Anyway yang vegetarian itu Golkar nomor urut 1. Gue ga punya komentar prinsipil sih sama isian motivasi/targetnya yang kebanyakan umum begini, walaupun beberapa calegnya kayaknya hi-profile di sektor privat ya. (Ini juga berlaku buat Nasdem).

Oh satu caleg yang pantas di call-out adalah caleg 7 dari Golkar. Di Jari Ungu lolos saringan tidak pernah jadi napi tipikor tapi pernah diputus penjara karena korupsi. Lalu targetnya di CV: MENGENTASKAN KEMISKINAN DAN INDONESIA BEBAS KORUPSI.
Eh sebenernya daftarnya Nasdem menarik deng. Shanti Ramchand adalah caleg Hindu pertama yang gue lihat sejauh ini and she's like, dripping with competence? Tapi gue anaknya ga terlalu antusias sama trade dan ASEAN sih..
LinkedIn Shanti: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shanti-shamdasani-2a90a912/ Biografi di situs RSIS: https://www.rsis.edu.sg/event/rsis-cna-live-recording-of-think-tank-talk-show-episode-4/
Shanti Shamdasani is known for her in-depth expertise on ASEAN matters with focus on international trade and political analysis. Her vision on ASEAN started in 2005 where she tirelessly brings the ASEAN debate at various local and international stages. Her highest position was when she was appointed as Advisor to the President of Indonesia, H. E. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on ASEAN matters. Ms. Shamdasani also works closely with Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs on several trade negotiations with India, China, Australia and New Zealand. Her current role continue to reflect her passion and long term vision on policy, legal, trade and political framework in the region; she is the President of ASEAN International Advocacy and sits at the Boards of several Associations as Governors, Advisors and Commissioners.
Di Nasdem ada anaknya Rusdi Kirana Lion Air juga. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ trus ada direktur di Lion. Ada yang mantan Wakil Bupati Minahasa, dan ada CEO publishernya Tatler. Caleg nomor 1 punya sekolah model. Ini partai..... elit-elit semua yak. 

Mundur lagi ke Golkar dulu: Christina Aryani juga tampak kompeten sekali, jadi Chief Administrative Officer Jakarta Monorail tapi lalu gue sadar kalau monorail dan MRT itu beda yak. Yang menarik lagi dia sempat jadi researcher di hukumonline christinaaryani.com/tentang.html 
Lanjut ke PKS kita? Mari.
Kalau lo orang Klaten dan ga tau HNW dari Klaten, apakah lo tetep orang Klaten? Gue ga bakal pilih dia dan kecil kemungkinan gue pilih PKS sih. Tapi yang gue suka: semua kandidat perempuannya S1, dua orang S2, 1 S3.
Yang gue ga suka: tiga dari empat tadi motivasinya adalah, "karena diamanahi partai". Bu! Mbak! mbok ya own up gitu lho. Sampeyan beneran mau ga sih? Apa karena disuruh aja? hhhhhhh



Minggu, 10 Maret

Mari kita tuntaskan utas ini sekarang? Tinggal separo lagi dan sejujurnya ga banyak yang bikin excited juga. Tapi sebelum lanjut mau nambahin sesuatu:
Ibu Yulisa caleg Nasdem nulis dapat penghargaan "Olimpiade Sains dari Mendikbud Wardiman 2008". Ini teh penghargaan apa? Wardiman menteri 93-98, di tahun itu ibunya udah 25 tahun. Lagian emang Indonesia udah ikutan olimpiade sains? Yohanes Surya aja belum lulus PhD. 
Perindo dan PPP. PPP ini pada irit detail. Perindo ada istrinya Hari Tanoe, dan kalau kalian pernah komplain tentang Mars Partainya, si ibu ini adalah penggubahnya.  


Berikutnya PSI: Tsamara yang caleg 1 ternyata ga ngisi motivasi dan target di formnya *emoji jempol ke bawah* (atau karena udah populer?). Yang menarik di daftar ini ada dua orang pensiunan career diplomat: Iwan H.S. Wiranataatmaja (Dubes Indonesia untuk Iran, Dubes Indonesia untuk Bangladesh), Mangasi Sihombing (Dubes Indonesia untuk Hungaria). 


PAN: ...... yang patut dikomentari cuma Irawati Moerid, yang dulu atlet tenis seangkatan sama Yayuk Basuki (yang sekarang juga aleg DPR dari PAN juga). Di wordpressnya litsus ada berita kalau Irawati ini ikut demo anti LBH tahun 2017. [Aksi Bela Ulama 212 (terfoto mengibarkan bendera hitam bertuliskan Laa Ilaha Illallah putih)

PBB: pada irit detail semua ga ada yang ngisi motivasi dan target jadi ga ada yang bisa direkomendasikan ini udah terakhir horeeee Dobby is freeee!


Utas tanpa edit kosmetik di Twitter:

di threadreaderapp: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1102952229559025664.html

Thursday, January 24, 2019

JKN and human capital

This morning I finished reading two papers on my commute. The first one is a paper about JKN which was recently published in the Lancet. Most of what's covered there are familiar grounds for me, but this one paragraph near the end struck me as very interesting:
Another lesson that Indonesia and other LMICs should learn from higher-income countries is that UHC correlates with increasing per-capita GDP in all countries where the system is implemented. The Netherlands achieved UHC in 1966, and thereafter showed higher GDP per capita than before UHC was implemented. France reached UHC in 1974 and Italy in 1978, and both countries showed increased GDP per capita with UHC. Lastly, South Korea quickly achieved UHC after 12 years of implementing social health insurance schemes, and also showed increased GDP per capita (appendix) once UHC was in place. Although UHC was not the sole determinant of this increase in GDP, no evidence suggests that UHC caused decreased economic growth. The lesson for developing countries is clear, do not assume that UHC will place an economic burden on the country. (Agustina, Rina, et al. "Universal health coverage in Indonesia: concept, progress, and challenges." The Lancet (2018).)
Note on abbreviation: UHS is Universal Health Coverage. I don't think I've seen this argumentation very often when JKN is discussed. (Oke skeptisisme pertama adalah korelasi tidak sama dengan hubungan sebab akibat, tapi karena gue ga hafal trajectory pertumbuhan GDP masing-masing negara yang disebut jadi gw belum punya argumen substantif juga.) But I'm not a fan of the graph they included in the appendix:


The second paper is an old paper by Mankiw, Romer, and Weir in QJE in 1992 (I just realized it's almost as old as me). First thought was: ah we covered this in first year macro. Second thought was, this is actually quite interesting and now I get a sense of how the Solow model contrasts with the endogenous growth theory. This must be why a lot of people are banging on human capital in general and population dividend for Indonesia in particular. (And saving? But I haven't really heard about saving-driven growth ...). This is part of the reading for my development class so I wonder if we're going to talk about human capital a lot.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2937 tasks

I feel like a big boy.

I just submitted an array job that consists of 2937 tasks to BU's shared computing cluster. Granted, they are embarrassingly parallel tasks, but this is still a job that consists of almost 3000 tasks so allow me to feel pretty pleased with myself.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018

My 2018 began with fear—of not being good enough.

You see, it was the end of my first semester in the graduate program, and I barely squeaked by. So I spent my winter break vacillating between various plan Bs. I tried to clutch hard to my plan A, too, which was how I ended up stress-studying myself in the library in the dead of winter. (It's super not effective!)

I also turned thirty, with little fanfare. Freida was in Pakistan, which meant she couldn’t really make a celebration fuss. The weather was icy, but I managed to steal some snuggles from Misty.

At the end of January, the spring term started. I took Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Econometrics—the usual—but it’s one fewer class than what some of my classmates were taking. We covered money, labor search, and taxation in macro; and game theory and principal-agent problems in micro. I remembered doing so much matrix manipulation in metrics that made it too easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. My preparation for the metrics midterm was the entirety of my spring break.

I spent most of my waking hours on campus. When I tracked my hours, I often end up with 70-80 hours of work/study per week. I recalled previously having RAs submit more than 200 hours of work in a month was a cause of concern. Here it became a matter of course.

I only begrudgingly took care of the human-pet within. Preparing meals was a chore, doing laundry was a chore, showering was a chore. They still are.

The semester ended in May. But we had three weeks between then and the qualifying exams on June 1st and 5th. They were the bane of our existence, and for me especially so because I understand so little about growth theories from macro and preferences from micro in the first semester. Nevertheless, some things did make better sense on my second go of the materials.

My recollections of the actual exams themselves are now a blur, save for one: I remember being thoroughly annoyed at the macro exam. There was no way anyone could have finished that exam in three hours. I had also thought that the materials for the second half of the spring term would draw on the labor search because it was the only part where the professor bothered to assign problem sets. So did the exam test us on labor search? Of course not.

But they did mark the end of the first year, and we had a party at our house afterward. There were booze, and there were resigned relief. It was out of our hands, but there’s nothing we could do but wait until they announced the result.

The people that I talked to mentioned a 2-3 week gap between the exams and the announcement. That suited me fine, as I had planned to be traveling to Pittsburgh in mid-June for a Duolingo event. I was hoping the announcement would reach me when I was away from Boston. You see, I was worried.

So it was a surprise to find an email titled “June 2018 Qualifying Exam Results” from our program administrator in my inbox a mere week after the exam. I dreaded it, but I was still too exhausted to keep myself in suspense. Holding my breath, I tapped it open.


You know, Jane gets it.

Now that it was out of the way, though, summer can earnestly start. I had so many things planned: books to read, personal projects to launch, places to explore, exercises to do, and a research assistantship to sink my teeth in! (Yeah, I never learn how to not ruin my holidays with task babies.)

Maybe it was overly ambitious. But I did get to read some books, go places (Pittsburgh and Cleveland), do a couple of HEMA practices, and work with BU’s computing cluster. That last bit made me learn the basics of SGE, python, and git. I had a busy summer, and I didn’t really mind spending most of my time in the inferno that is room 523. Honestly, the old AC unit fanned in more noise than cool air.

I would be remiss, though, to not mention the one thing that is both my source of joy and heartbreak: the Indonesian course for English speakers on Duolingo. It had been three years in the making. I spent countless weekends working on various parts of the course: the curriculum, the contributors, the actual sentences. I screened (and in some cases, interviewed) applicants and recruited a dozen different contributors. I reached out to Indonesian language teachers and linguistic students, pored over different language textbooks and repositories. I organized words in lesson units, then wrote and translated thousands of sentence-pairs to teach to users. I think that the hardest part was having no one to bat around ideas with. It was voluntary, and it was lonely.

This was where the heartbreak came in. As we nearly completed the Indonesian tree, I wanted to get their support in launching the course. I looked at courses like the Hindi course, which received widespread publicity, and learned that staff had taken the initiative during the launch. I was hoping to get similar support… and received none of the sorts. It was very demotivating. Aku si pungguk yang merindukan bulan dan cintaku bertepuk sebelah tangan.

Had that been the end of my summer, it would have been a good/terrible end. But Freida and I had a plan to go on a hike with Cori along the Appalachian Trail. We hiked through the highest ground in Connecticut, a not-strenuous-at-all 2354 ft above sea level, although Cori unfortunately injured her ankle during the hike. Thus endeth the summer.



The Fall term started after Labor Day. I took four courses, and Development soon proved to be the most interesting one (the other three were Econometrics, Health Economics, and Public Finance). I had never taken much interest in microcredit, but as we covered the literature I began to realize how puzzling it is, which is why many are actively researching this area. I got an interesting conversation with my sister back home about her experience with microcredit loans, too.

My workload piled on pretty quickly. I had hoped to avoid getting back on the coffee wagon again but really I didn’t have a chance. Much to my dismay, I realized I couldn’t afford to spare the time to continue going to HEMA practices on Mondays—oh well maybe I’ll try again next year when I no longer have to take classes. Mbak Lina and Mbak Milda visited Boston and took Freida and me for a weekend trip to the White Mountain—which gave them ample opportunities to make sniping comments as we tried to squeeze in school works during the trip. We suffered them gamely.




There were two practical things I learned this semester: how to write a referee report, and how to go exhaust myself. The first one is hard because in my perspective refereeing is predicated on knowing the existing literature so you can make the correct call on the manuscript you’re refereeing. What do I—a new transplant in the economics discipline—know about the literature? So for every refereeing task, I end up having to wade through a sea of papers just to eke out a couple of cogent criticism. I’m sure as I get more familiar with the literature it may get easier, but in the meantime, I have resigned to devote a lot of time to prepare them.

The second practical thing was easy: I had been picking up languages and software since the summer, and it was not until halfway through the fall term that I realized the many languages I tried to pick up made switching tasks extra costly. I had mentioned (1) Python and (2) SGE; but I also dabbled with (3) Git, (4) Tableau, and (5) Swift. I had to learn (6) SAS for health economics, and I chose (7) Mata to work with matrices in econometrics. But I was still working mainly with (8) Markdown, (9) LaTeX, and of course (10) Stata. I’ve got so much stuff on my plate that there’s no way to chew it all properly.

(In all honesty, though, the econometrics class was also very practical, and it made me wonder why there aren’t more econometricians in the government carefully analyzing impact evaluations. (The answer was evident: the interests of econometricians and governments hardly overlap.))

This Fall semester had been far more enjoyable than last year’s Fall, though it was still exhausting. The last few weeks of the term were the worst: after spending the Thanksgiving break studying for a Development exam, in the following three weeks I had three presentations, a research proposal, two problem sets, a referee report, a term paper, and an econometric final exam. I wanted nothing but to veg out and play with other people’s cats until the new year.

Now that the new year is past, I am happy that I managed to do just that. Happy New Year.


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Pelesir ke Pittsburgh

Here is eternal spring: for you
The very stars of heaven are new.
The lines from Robert Bridges' poem were wrought in steel on the gate inside the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. I considered the words then turned to Freida, telling her that technically, from the Earth all the stars that we see in the heavens are new. The old stars have burned out. Our Sun is a third generation star

She shot me a look, rolled her eyes, and scooted away. Sigh. So much for Learning.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Pride Month Reading, 2018

If you have at least one openly queer friend/colleague with whom you rarely discussed gender/sexual issues anymore because you've had this conversation years and years ago, it's often easy to forget that you are living in a bubble. You see queer representations (admittedly skewed towards able-bodied white cis gay men) regularly on the media and do not gag, you read the celebratory #Lovewins hashtags and your heart feels warmed, or you might have enjoyed the parading revelry as cities burst into colors for Pride Month. You are definitely living in a bubble.

I would know it, I live in it: Boston is one such bubble. (It's a pleasant bubble, mind you.)

And it was a pretty bubble, too. In June, downtown Boston hoisted rainbow flags on their buildings to celebrate the Pride month. On the 9th, the Boston Pride Parade went through Boston's major streets, and I got an excellent view from the BPL (Boston Public Library). Admittedly I only got to see the tail end of the parade, but as it were, it was really uplifting to see so many people in high spirit.

Inside the library, the BPL observed the Pride Month by showcasing a selection of their LGBTQ+ books on the first floor. They also published a list of their recommendation on their website. These were where I get most of the LGBT themed books that I read in June:

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fantasy/Science Fiction books I'm reading, June 2018

I started my summer holiday late as I needed to study for my qualifying exams in in early June (spring term classes were over since May). There were days when the prospect of being able to read whatever I want after the exams was what kept me going. So when my exams were over, I did the only thing fitting for a liberation: going to the library and get myself an armload of books. Here are what I have been reading this month, from the Fantasy/Science Fiction shelves.

Reading F/SF books is always a pleasure, and I'm mostly happy reading the above books. Sanderson is a favorite, and the collection of his short stories and novellas in Arcanum did not disappoint. I should make a separate post for this book. It also included an excerpt of White Sand, a graphic novel based on his story, which trade paperback volumes I immediately checked out from the library, too.

I end up not liking it: the artwork is gripping for the action sequences, which is how the first volume started, but the book very quickly degenerate into a really weak political plot. Maybe things are lost in the adaptation? Dialogues were very clunky, and the change of artwork in the final chapter of the second volume from messy lines (which I thought was rather fitting with the desert world) to clean art was really shocking. I also get a really strong Dune vibe from the story with the inconsequential political manoeuvring, which was Bad. Sanderson admitted as much in his foreword: it was one of his early works, and "it was hard to escape your influences as a new writer. The first draft of White Sand was one part Dune, one part The Wheel of Time, and one part Les Miserables." I hate Dune.

Why do I hate it? I agree with this essay on Iain M. Banks by Joseph Heath who argued it doesn't makes sense to combine feudalism with energy weapons. I shit talked about Dune forcefully enough to my friends that César had his reservations when he recommended Asimov's Foundation, which runs on the same vein: Take a social structure from the past (the Imperial Rome), but make the civilization space-faring.

I find it notably quaint for Asimov to think of the nuclear power as the pinnacle of mankind's technological progress, but much to my surprise I found it a very enjoyable read. It's short and the characters are naturally dispensable (the book covers a period of almost two centuries, so characters had to die anyway). I also enjoyed the way it explored the consequences of scientific regress that comes with the decline of an empire, and the expansionary force that religion and trade can exert to uncharted civilizations. Actually, this does come out like Asimov is taking a leaf out of the European colonization history, and maybe he did. At least the brevity and the straightforward writing kept it engaging.

Which isn't something that I can say for Perdido Street Station. It's nearly 700 pages long, and boy it was a slog. I heard about Miéville from Laurie, who read and liked his other books, but they weren't available in the library. I must admit that I immediately eyed the book with suspicion when I read in the inside flap that Miéville was "reading for his PhD at the London School of Economics"--I wondered if reading Perdido would be a leisurely activity at all.

My suspicion was largely right. For much of the first half of the book, I read but did not really get what's actually happening. Miéville seems to have a penchant for erudite words. Many argued that he wrote this novel with a thesaurus open. I think if he had to take a GRE for his graduate study--maybe he just wants to not waste all the fancy vocabularies he acquired for his test. It's the only way for me to rationalize prose like these:
The thing drew on the stored energy it had drawn from the dreamshit and powered its transformation. ... It folded on itself, shaping itself out of the protean sludge of its own base matter. ... After, ... there was a brief moment when the thing in the cocoon was poised in a liminal state. ... Isaac spent many hours watching the chrysalis, but he could only imagine the struggle of autopoiesis within. ... He spent his days soldering and hammering, attaching steam-pistons and thaumaturgic engines to the nascent engine. [Underlines added.]
That was from the beginning of chapter 21, page 246-267, when Things Finally Happens and Plot Is Moving At Last. Honestly with not much of a plot in the previous two hundred pages, reading it felt like reading Mas-Colell's Microeconomic Theory book. And at least with Mas-Colell et al.'s book, they don't just show off words like "thaumaturgical"[1], "atavistic"[2], or "oneiric"[3]. And don't get me started on the occurrences of "vertiginous".

On the other hand, if you're preparing for a spelling bee, this is the book for you. I must admit I was half-tempted to set up a blog much like Jarett Myskiw's Definitive Jest that highlighted DFW's unusual/unusable vocabularies from Infinite Jest, but I realized this will require me to read Perdido again and I don't think I want to subject myself to that twice in a summer.



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[1] The top point was labelled Occult/thaumaturgical; the bottom left Material; the bottom right Social/sapiental. p166
[2] ... after the atavistic disgust and fear has gone, .... his lover had been taken from him. p438
[3] It had only been the slake-moth's oneiric hold on him that kept him standing. p475

Bonus: