Friday, June 29, 2012

The Old Days.

Was going through old songs by Dutch people, or those that are about the Netherlands (Jacques Brel's Amsterdam, etc.) and came across "Het Dorp" by Wim Sonneveld: Wim Sonneveld was a Dutch cabaret and singer who died in 1974. Together with Toon Hermans and Wim Kan, he is considered to be one of the 'Great Three' of Dutch cabaret. I didn't really know him except for that-guy-my-grandparents-probably-would-laugh-about. In other words, can't be funnny anymore today. Well, how wrong was I. Here is a brief 1965 sketch of him as Frater Venantius. It's fantastic (although unfortunately in Dutch only). One of the jokes: A nun meets a girl on the street who she remembers to be an old student of hers. She asks the girl "What do you do these days?". The girl replies "I am a prostitute". The nun replies "Oh no, my child. What are you saying!?" The girl responds "I am a prostitute". The nun says "Ah, luckily. I thought you said 'protestant'". This was in 1965. Lovely!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Foucault pendulum & Paris.

The day before yesterday I visited the Medieval Museum (Musee de Cluny) and the Pantheon. Given it's France with its rich medieval history, I had expected more from the first. Regarding the second: make sure to climb the building (impressive views over Paris), and also make sure to visit the tombs where famous Frenchmen are buried: "Aux grands hommes la patrie reconnaisante".  Among those buried there are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, and Jean Jaurès. The Pantheon also houses the Foucault pendulum -- a device to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. Created in 1851 it was the first proof of the rotation of the earth. Check out the Wikipedia page for an illustration.
Oh, and while in Paris, make sure to visit the Grande Mosquee de Paris. To be more precise, have (sweet) tea in the tea-house next door, smoke hookah and have some of their amazing pastries. A brilliant place in paris to read and work!
Tea and pastries!
The card you see in the picture above in the bottom left is my Carte Navigo. If you're in Paris for longer than a week and plan to use the metro a lot: get one. If I understood the lady at the desk correctly, though, you have to pretend not to be a tourist. :). Also, if possible, make sure to be in Paris during the "Fete de la musique". A great evening during which there is music at every street corner, and people are out and about: dancing, drinking, etc. I spent it at Montmatre and jumped at techno music right next to the Sacre Coeur cathedral. Fantastic!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What I'm reading over the summer.

This summer -- in addition to a pile of articles on migration, development, experiments and so on that have accumulated over the months -- I hope to read the following books. Quite the list, but mainly easy reading (the first four I already read):
 Let's see how far I get. Any other recommendations, please let me know.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Château de Vincennes

Yesterday I visited Chateau de Vincennes - a gorgeous castle just outside of Paris. It's history goes back to Louis VII (12th century). In addition to the chapel (modelled on the Sainte-Chapelle of the Palais de la Cite in Paris), the site includes a keep: 52 meters high and the tallest medieval fortified structure of Europe. At the start of the Hundred Years' War John II initiated work on this keep, which was completed in 1370. It's a very impressive construction.

The keep of Chateau de Vincennes.

The keep includes several dungeons. On the walls of these dungeons graffiti made by the prisoners can still be seen:

Indeed quite a bit different than the graffiti we think of these days. It is maybe not that strange though. The prisoners that were detained in the keep were people of (used-to-be) high standing. Some famous ones include Nicolas Fouquet (Louis XIV’s disgraced finance minister), Denis Diderot (French author and philosopher) and Donatien Alphonse François (the famous Marquis de Sade).

Talking about grafitti; hereby a must-listen-to song by Simon and Garfunkel:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Camino de Santiago pilgrimage

A friend arrived this week in Santiago de Compostela after walking the Camino. She has, in addition to her name and contact-details, the following in her automatic email-reply:


Nice! Walking the Camino is very impressive, and must be an incredible experience. I've been intrigued by it ever since I watched The Way -- a movie I watched in the plane because President Bartlett from the West Wing is the main character. It turned out to be a fantastic movie:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mitterand Library, Paris.

This summer there are no plans to visit the Congo. I do hope to write some blog-posts. For example, at the moment I am having adventures in Paris. For some reason a few friends clustered in Paris these weeks. A train-ticket Rotterdam-Paris and a couch in a friends apartment, and now I'm here for two weeks.
During this period, while meeting with friends and drinking red wine, I am working. Last Saturday I finished a draft paper about our Voix des Kivus project in Congo, which I shared with Macartan and hopefully soon with the wider world. And today I finished data entry of a Congolese village: this is part of the data I collected recently (and is currently being collected) in South Kivu. There is one major reason why I am quite productive here in Paris: the Mitterand Library of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. This is one of the largest and most modern libraries in the world and its construction was announced on 14 July 1988 by... former-French President François Mitterrand. The library was designed by the architectural firm of Dominique Perrault (thanks Wikipedia!). I have to say: they did an amazing job.

A picture I stole from the internet. Check the court-jungle. 

Last Friday I obtained a personal, electronic card that gives me access to the Research Area of the Mitterand Library: an enormous area, very quiet, and with lots of reading and work space. Show your Columbia University ID and also take some other form of ID with you (passport, driver's license), smile at the people that have to approve you (you never know with the French), and you have access.

 One of the halls. To the right the study halls. To the left view on the court-yard.

One of the study halls. The area where I'm now spending my days.

The Mitterand Library was inaugurated on 15 December 1996 and contains more than ten million volumes (this is the same for Columbia University). Location is also good: on the 14 and the C lines. Very important note: after visiting the Mitterand Library also visit "The Frog and British Library": a good, well-known bar next door.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Netherlands - Germany.

I am in France for two weeks; to meet up with friends but also to work (read: instead of sitting behind my laptop and looking at a screen 24/7 in city X, I now sit behind my laptop and look at a screen 24/7 in Paris). Yesterday we lost badly against Germany (they were really much better). The Netherlands is now unfortunately out of the European Cup. I still like this though: [June 20 update] We are now really out of the European Championship. Got this from my little brother. So proud on my fellow countrymen. :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Congo, WGAPE, the Netherlands.

Finally a post. The last three weeks were quite the rollercoaster. Shortly after sending out a grant application with Raul, Massimo and Suresh (fingers crossed!), I was in Congo for a week (May 13-21). We - Macartan, Raul and I - presented the results of our evaluation in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi (report will come out publicly soon!). The 22nd I was back in New York, but left the next day again for California. WGAPE - a bi-annual get-together of researchers working on the political economy of Africa - took place at UC Berkeley on the 24th and 25th. In brief: fantastic! In less brief: WGAPE is a small, select group of economists, anthropologists and political scientists from West-coast universities (Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkeley, etc.). This was the first time WGAPE also invited researchers from East-coast universities and I was one of the lucky ones. For two days very high quality research was presented. It's also a great place to get to know the big people in the field (Dan Posner, Ted Miguel, Jeremy Weinstein, etc.) but also fellow Ph.D. candidates -- also in more social contexts. After WGAPE I stayed an extra day in San Fransisco (Jenn: thanks for the couch!), did some sightseeing, and was back in NYC the 26th. The 27th and 28th, together with Pierce, we packed our apartment into boxes (why so many books?!) and the 30th we rented a truck and moved all of it into storage in Brooklyn. We're both gone for 3 months and want something different when back. The 31st I was in a plane again to Amsterdam via Berlin. Upon arrival in the Netherlands we left the next day again: both my little brothers ran a half-marathon and with the family we made it a weekend-away. I'm now back in Oudewater (the Netherlands) and, finally, things start to slow down.

Fig1. Dear UC Berkeley. I like you.
Please offer me a job end-2013.

Fig 2. Unloading the truck (Pierce and
truck under the left "LOADING")

June, July, August 2012
So, I'm in the Netherlands and will be here until end-August! What am I up to? One of the first things is to make the results of the Congo evaluation public. Yesterday evening I worked until 3am with Macartan and we're close to finishing the polishing of the report; so soon more! Then related to this evaluation a big thing for the summer will be: First, to do secondary analysis. The results that we find in the Congo, do they hold for certain sub-populations only? Does the development project work better in some (type of) regions than in others? Et cetera. Second, in addition to writing the academic version of the evaluation report, we have collected a lot of data during this evaluation and also a large number of ideas. So the plan is to write a set of academic papers - the first steps to be taken this summer. But first, upcoming week, I want to finish an academic paper about Voix des Kivus. The project finished more than a year ago, it has been presented at several occasions and thus it is now time to polish the paper and maybe send to a journal. Also related to VdK is a meeting in Berlin early July. Together with Macartan we're contributing a chapter to a book related to the rise and use of new technology. Very interesting (also more on this later).

Most important for this summer though is my disseration. My fifth year at Columbia University just finished and it is really time to write up some chapters. The (too many) ideas are there. The (too much) data is there. Now I have to write it. Some work for my dissertation that I am particularly excited about is based on data that is being collected since my last trip to Eastern Congo (Dec-Feb 2012). We started a set of field-experiments and village mapping earlier this year and my team in the field (South Kivu, Congo) has continued the work since. Upon my departure in February I had a first pile of hardcopies with me: data from 6 villages, around 1,200 surveys. Last trip (May 2012) I took another pile with me from Congo to New York - another 2,000 surveys). Because I will spend my time in the Netherlands this summer, I sent this data from New York to my parents place - the box arrived this morning. Thanks USPS. I'm very excited!

Fig3. What will this data tell me about migration and
cooperation in Congo?
Can't wait to process and analyze it!