Get things straight

After having too much breakfast in Saga, I can not really concentrate on serious things. So before I go into my last paper, let me get something straight, something that I always want to sort out but haven't yet had a chance. I am writing it down not to advocate any ideas, but to give myself a balance. Sometimes, you have to write them down to make sense of them.

First I want to talk about girls. In difference period of life, people are into different things. Several years ago, it is impossible for me to stop thinking about girls. Now, it is (almost) impossible for me to get excited about any relationship. It's weird, but natural. These days, the attraction of knowledge and understanding the world is just too strong to resist.

I am in a very crucial period in my life. The opportunity cost for anything is just too high. No matter what I do, I am giving up something else that is also very important and beautiful. Therefore I have to be extremely careful and dedicated to whatever I am doing.

I do agree that love is most amazing part of life, and love can not be quantified. However, being a good economic student, I have to calculate the input-output ratio. Learning and working-hard is a low-risk, high return business. The more time and energy I put into it, the better I will understand the world. This is an investment in the future. For a young man, every minute invested today is one lovely day in the future. Every dollar saved is a thousand dollar in 10 years (not considering the inflation).

On the other hand, a relationship is an adventure, a venture capital. The investment is huge, the risk is very high, and the return is uncertain. But if you are lucky, the return could blow you away. I love adventures. I'm not afraid of love or hurt. But I have to think about my goal, my responsibility, my country, my generation, and my destiny. I am just not ready yet. But will I ever be ready in my life? Maybe the state of "not being ready" is the fun part of love and life. Who know?

If this input-output analysis is running into a deadlock, let me look at love/relationship from another perspective. Choosing a girl is like picking a stock. You need to do a lot of research, follow the news (use Facebook to stalk people?), study the fundamentals and get to know the whole industry really well. It take time and luck to pick the right one. If you haven't found your right choice, you'd better not take position but keep watching.

On the other side of the world, in the field of knowledge and achievement, there are just so many great things you can do, and each of them is a "sure thing". You can pick any great minds in human history, study them, admire them, challenge them and, hopefully, be better than them. There are just much more great choices available here.

But, let me be honest. Love is beautiful. Love is desirable, especially at this age. I should be very aware of what I am giving up at this moment.

OK, enough sentimentalities. The next thing I want to sort through is "money". I use economic and politics to explain to world. I like money, but I don't really care about it because I know I won't starve. Money is my tool. Money gives me leverage to make things happen.

We are all trying to make sense of the world. Some people are more capable of understanding the world by using math and science. Some are good at music and art. For me, economic and politics "speak to me" in a way that no other subjects do.

I try to understand why. Here might be the reason: economics explains money and wealth; politics explains power and influence. People hardly agree on what is "good" or "moral" or "beautiful" or "true", but (almost) everyone loves money and power, wealth and influence. They are just more straightforward. This is human nature.

George Soros used to be a philosophy major and think about the world in more abstract terms. But, he said, he was lucky enough to get into the world of finance so that he has found a playground to practice and examine his philosophy. Through the financial market he managed to establish his own philosophy and understand the world better. This, according to him, has made him a quite happy person.

Same here. Studying economics and politics help me understand the human nature, helps me to make sense of the world. But, studying them does not mean that I buy into the status quo. Studying them just gives me the weapon to challenge them.

To conclude, I know that I am not formed yet. I am still confused. But I know my paper is due in three days. Now go back to work!


Memo: Selected Numbers for Fall 2010

Size of entering class: ~450
Total enrollment: ~ 1,400
Average selectivity: ~ 2/3
Average yield: ~ 1/4

Average need-based Financial Aid grant: ~$30,000
Average merit-based Financial Aid grant: ~$7,000
Total Financial Aid: ~$30 million
Total revenue from Tuition and fees: ~$70 million
Net tuition revenue: ~$40 million
Tuition discount rate: ~40%

Total Income: ~$51 million
Total Expenses: ~$ 52.5 million
Current Endowment: ~$30 million


Two hours in Saga @ Hampshire

The last two hours can be a great illustration of my life at Hampshire.

I went into Saga to have lunch. My advisor happen to be there, too. So we sit down and started a discussion about the end of the world. We both clearly sensed that the disasters are happening much more frequently and severely. According to normal distribution, many of the catastrophes we are experiencing now should only happen once of twice in several centuries, or in the whole life time of the universe. Financial Crisis, climate change, oil leak, volcano ash, deadly earthquakes, etc. Crises are definitely looming, and we are still asleep.

Even the hours before the huge flood, Noah's neighbors are still laughing at the Ark. I am looking forward to 2012. Of course, I don't want to see any people killed, but human as a whole need an alarm. We are living in a highly delicate world. Our prosperity is built on some fragile foundations. And a couple of bullets or a few shocks can totally disturb our civilization.

Hampshire is at a better position to get over the crisis. We have a lot of farm and water and squirrels. But big cities like New York might not be as resilient. Professor Klare said that the coming shock will be a test of resilience of different system and civilizations around the world.

So, we should all learn to farm and swim. =)

One good thing about the financial market is: if you are smart enough, you can make money when the market go bust---thanks to the derivatives. However, for human civilization, there is no financial innovation for us to hedge the risk. If the end comes, we are all over!

Then, after I finish my first plate of lunch, I saw Mark coming in. So I sat down with him to continue our discussion on Hampshire's governance and ASH renovation drama. No matter what, it is always beneficial for a young man to talk to someone who is twice as old.

Hampshire is big enough to have all the problems we will meet soon in the real world. And Hampshire is small enough so that we can make the change, hand-on! The problems we are facing now, is exactly the problems that have been troubling the greatest minds for six thousand years. And we still haven't figure it out.

Let me summarize the argument from the perspective of the administration: Hampshire is in a very dangerous position. We are living on the tuition we get on a year to year basis, so, in order to survive, we must increase our tuition revenue, which means we must get more full paid students. One reason that a lot of full paid admitted students do not come to Hampshire is that the campus tour depressed them, and in the winter, the walk from admission office to main campus is too long and too cold. Therefore, the ASH renovation is proposed.

In the above logic, a lot can be said in each step, and there are definitely better options. When I was talking to Mark, I was trying to understand what they think, and why they think so. I tend to agree with many of their statements, but from the same statement I draw totally different conclusions.

For example. Professionals are hired to do their job professionally. If we give the power to everyone on campus, we will hardly get anything done. This is a larger question of democracy. How much democracy is enough, and how much is too much? You see, Chinese government is doing no worse than their US counterpart. Hampshire has no time and money to waste, and we have to move fast. Therefore, someone will argue, we should just let the cabinet make the decision for us, and we will stay out of the way.

It will be wonderful if the administration is doing a good job. And yes, we have to move fast. But, a wrong move is even worse than "no move". When the administration is being delegated with absolute authority, they should be humbled by this trust and be extremely careful. They have the fate of Hampshire in their hand!

The real world is much darker. At least, here at Hampshire, we won't be thrown into prison or assassinated for what we are doing. And yes, the power we are asking for from the administration does not have much parallel in the real world. I am still a bit confused by the situation. What I do know is that we are facing a big question, bigger than Hampshire and bigger than ourselves. If we can come up with a solution, we might be a good candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. But, as Hampshire students, why not?

I think I should take a comparative political system course in my Div II.

Then, I had a very interesting discussion with John and some other first year students. I totally agree: Hampshire students are smart. Honestly, they are brilliant. I need to talk to more people and surprise myself on a more regular basis.

The best thing about college is finding your comrades. Someone call it networking, but comradeship is far beyond networking. Comrades inspire and challenge each other. They make each other, and raise each other up.

All these talks lead me to the question: what classes should I take next semester? Or, what do I want to do/be in the future? What are my advantages and disadvantages? These days, these kind of questions are driving me hectic. There are just too much to learn!

There's a lot I don't know, but here's what I do know: I need to survive. I need to be financially independent and politically safe. I want to be happy and make other people happy. Maybe we can go from there.



I haven't wrote much these days. Just like all college students, life become hectic when semester is about to end. But I guess I am doing fine because I don't feel too much stress, and I can still have 8 hours of sleep per day. Life has been good to me. I will make sure I don't waste the gift because I know what "normal" is.

We need balance in life. Soon enough, the first year at Hampshire is going to end. And then college is going to end, and who knows which day life is going to end, maybe sooner than we expect. The more I do, the more balance I need. Opportunity cost is too high for a young man.

Choices have to be made. Priorities have to be set. Sacrifice is inevitable. Let's not regret.