What am I up to now?

March 8, 2023

February, 2023

I’m back in Oxford! The first three weeks of Hilary TermOxford being special, this is just ‘early-winter-term’ if you’re from the US, or ‘Lent Term’ if you go to Cambridge. have been a blur. Andrea Ferrero is teaching us all about monetary economics. I find the methods interesting, the topics less so. Dr. Ferrero presented a case study on the 1724 French devaluation of the livre — which resulted in a 30% contraction in industrial production. This was intended to demonstrate that monetary policy can have real effects, but some quick maths demonstrates an even simpler lesson: don’t give 14-year-old Bourbons control of your monetary policy.

Micro and Metrics continue to hold most of my attention. Though we’re all sad to have moved on from Anders’ maximally efficient lessons on measure theory, the new lecturer for advanced econometrics,In his first lecture, he had not just one, but two xkcd comics! Martin Weidner, is covering more applied topics. This is especially appreciated at the moment, as it’s about time for the MPhil-DPhil students to think about our thesis topics for next year (or risk disappointing Meg MeyerMeg serves as advisor to all of the MPhil-DPhil students, and is also currently teaching information economics in the advanced microeconomics course. She also (presumably, unintentionally) presented two of her slides on cheap talk in almost perfect iambic tetrameter. Highlight of my week 2. ).

In week 1 of term, I spent a few hours reading old MPhil theses in the Social Sciences Library. Mainly, I wanted to understand where the bar was set — and it’s much lower than I expected. There are plenty of good theses of the genre “hey, I found a cool dataset and ran some regressions.” The majority of these are applied micro papers, which certainly makes sense as the easiest to put together. The few applied macro papers were slightly more impressive. Theory papers — especially metrics theory — consistently blew my socks off. Of course, anyone who chooses to write a theory paper in their second year is impressive enough and masochistic enough to do it well.

The first half of January was spent 2km above sea level.All this time at altitude reminded me of one of my first consulting projects, for the Colorado Air and Space Port. At 5,500 feet above sea level, their slogan was: ‘Launch Colorado: The First Mile Is Free’. Mexico City was a blast; the city is cheap and comfortable. There’s a non-linear relationship between the cheapness of a city and how desirable it is for expats. Freetown, Sierra Leone is cheap cheap — but no amount of money will let you live at US levels of comfort. In a city of a million people, there can’t be more than fifty dishwashers (and most of those will be in embassies). Mexico City isn’t nearly as cheap, and has no beaches, but has far greater amenities and hot chocolate. That, plus a far reduced risk of typhoid and malaria, attract tons of expats.

These expats tend to congregate in the same neighborhood — in bars in Roma Norte, you’re more likely to hear English than Spanish. I lived in Zona Rosa the whole time. Some travel writers I usually trust disrecommend the area, but I didn’t find the abundance of sex shops as off-putting.Tyler Cowen doesn’t mind seeing such businesses in De Wallen — are Dutch prostitutes classier than Mexican? There’s also a very large Korean community, and a growing Japanese community. La Condesa, Polanco, Roma Norte are all within walking distance. The suburb I loved most which wasn’t walkable was Coyoacan; Joe Biden’s NAFTAWhatever. visit threw a wrench in one of my attempts to spend more time there. See the eating section below for some highlights.

I have no travel plans in February, besides a couple short trips to London. A few friendsPolina, Andy, looking forward to seeing you. are coming to visit, which is a good opportunity to practice tourguiding Oxford. Anyone else passing through Oxford or London, please say hi!

Some housekeeping: there’s no page for “January, 2023,” as two people pointed out it makes more sense to name these updates for the month after they’re posted (as that’s when you’ll be reading them). No change other than naming convention.

Also, longer thoughts on books, restaurants, research, etc. have been moved to the “writing” tab at the top. This page will be a bit more list-y.


  1. Reading
  2. Eating
  3. Listening




Some favorites. This month, Finn’s list provided the most new listening material.


December, 2022

November, 2022

October, 2022

September, 2022

August, 2022

November, 2021

October, 2021

September, 2021

July, 2021

June, 2021

May, 2021

What am I up to now? - March 8, 2023 - Joseph Levine