Name: M. Jie; Van Xuong
Heros: John Stuart Mill, Malcolm X, the 14th Dalai Lama, Leonardo Davinci, and Woodrow Wilson.
Politics: I believe in the state.
Religion: militant agnostic.
Primary Interests: politics, economics, history, philosophy, chess, jazz, soul, funk, blues, natural history, trees, camping, street and modern art, publishing, technology, antiques, academia, photography, cinematography, drums, pianos, harmonicas, drawing, teas, and dance.
About Me: the money stacker, bank shot shooter, occasional looter, Oaktown Trooper, last second clincher, grand prize winner, lotto taker, props earner, kill you with a super soaker, block stock broker, money collector, truth seeker, sunflower seed chewer, chess teacher, free samples reacher, human insult generator, devil's advocator, deep thinker, title stripper, paradigm flipper, test crusher, shelf duster, eBay hustler, ego buster, the drinking maté cause it's the quicker picker upper.

Politics and Economics Blogs

Brad DeLong's blog
The Monkey Cage
Talking Points Memo
The Angry Economist
The Eminent Melanie Colburn
Taking Hayak Seriously
Angry Bear
Watch Blog
Marginal Revolution
Crooked Timber
Chicago Boyz
Daily Kos
Daniel Drezner
Our Word is Our Weapon
Red State
Donkey Rising
Juan Cole
War and Piece
Political Theory Daily
Heavy Lifting
Christopher Hitchens Web
The Fareed Zakaria Archive
The Official Paul Krugman Web Page
Cafe Hayak
Andrew Sullivan
Thomas Friedman at NY Times
Laylor Cyclopaedia on Political Economy

Media and Research Institutions

Uncommon Knowledge
The Nation Magazine
Reason Magazine
Monthly Review
The National Review
The New Republic
Colors Magazine
A World Connected
American Enterprise Institute
The Brookings Institution
The Cato Institute
The Council on Foreign Relations
Center for International Policy
The Heritage Foundation
Progressive Policy Institute
National Bureau of Economic Research

Music and Pop Culture Blogs

Cocaine Blunts and Hip Hop Tapes
The Broke B-Boys
We Eat So Many Shrimp
Soul Sides
Honey, Where Have You Been So Long?
Breath of Life
Office Naps
Destination Out
Captain's Crate
La Case de L'affreux Thom
Sound Roots
Soul Shower
The Of Mirror Eye
Ear Fuzz
Home the Groove
Benn Loxo Du Taccu
Soul Crates
The Smoking Section
Blind I for the Kids
Black Music Lovers
El Diablo Tun Tun
Totally Fuzzy
Musica do Bem
Dust is Back
Mutant Sounds
Do Velho Ao Novo
Strictly Beats
When They Reminisce
Time 4 Sum Aksion
Different Waters
Um Que Tenha
All of MP3
Loading Vault
Orgy in Rhythm
Best of Both Worlds
A Different Kitchen
Hip Hop Music
Nick Catchdubs

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4th May 2011


A friend of mine's father passed away recently. He and his sister organized a gathering to both remember their father and celebrate his life. A few poems and eulogies were read, among which this was my favorite. I thought I'd post it here.

The Trees
by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

15th February 2011


11th February 2011


I've been wanting to write a post for a while on my changing view of relationships. I swear it'll come soon. Maybe this weekend?

In the meantime, this project by Lauren Fleishman touches on some of the things I've been thinking about.

7th February 2011


Levis' new super skinny fit jeans, named completely seriously, "Ex-Girlfriend Jeans."

These will, of course, have to be worn without socks, but only because socks won't fit under there.

This is a new level of commitment to being hip.

21st January 2011


20th January 2011


I just participated in a social science study. There were two parts. The first part was a play on the Ultimatum Game, except there was no ultimatum. Player A got to choose how to split a 100 point pie, and Player B had to take it. The number of points corresponded with some real-world financial payoff. I was Player C, so I just observed the interaction between Player A and Player B.

Then we moved on to the second part of the game. This began with us saying how we felt (happy, angry, disappointed, other, etc). After we recorded how we felt, we played some game where we managed risk for more real-world financial reward.

Looking back, it's clear that they wanted to induce an emotion by having us play some Ultimatum Game and then see how we managed risk under those emotions.

The obvious best move for Player A is to just split the pie 100/ 0. I suppose if you're very fair, then you might split the pie 50/ 50. If somehow you read the instructions wrong and were familiar with the Ultimatum Game, then you might split it 60/40, which is the limit of what Player B usually accepts in those kinds of games.

In the game I observed, Player A split the pie 40/60, which makes no rational sense at all.

Basically shows that Berkeley students are either exceedingly charitable or exceedingly stupid.

13th December 2010


Over the last four years as a graduate student, I've been teaching and tutoring here and there. I've mostly taught politics and political economy, but this semester I did some basic tutoring in Russian history as well.

It's been fairly dispiriting, to be honest. Students just don't care. I never thought I'd be the type to be bothered by students' reactions. It's fine that not everyone is interested in politics or political economy; I don't insist that everyone find it to be fascinating. However, there is something distinctly dispiriting when you see people yawn while you speak, especially if you’re making a serious effort to make the subject engaging. It's hard to keep putting in hours to prepare better lessons when students just don't seem to care about anything besides grades. All the tips about pedagogy I've read - pace, vary your tone, create in-class games, etc - aren't nearly as effective as simply saying "this will be on the test." Mutter that and eyes will open, hands will move.

I put in effort too. I spend hours upon hours writing up extra handouts, reading rough drafts, meeting with students at any time of the day (today I just met with someone at 9 PM because that was the only time they could make it). However, it's all typically met with disinterest, psychological breakdowns, or just plain thanklessness.

First, there is the disinterest. Again, I don't expect everyone to be interested in politics or political economy. At the same time, however, I also didn't expect that it would be met with such disinterest. For example, I recently explained Federalist Paper No. 10 to a student. It's fine that she found it too arduous to read a six-page article, but when I summarized the argument for her and suggested a Marxist interpretation, she was completely unmoved. It just kind of blows me away, to be honest. If a Marxist interpretation of a James Madison's paper isn't at least minimally stirring to you, I don't know what can be. I remember when I first read Federalist No. 10 as an undergrad; I literally jumped up and down because I thought it was so exciting. Here was a paper from a founding father that is overtly anti-populist! If American Idol and celebrity gossip are engaging, can't this at least be marginally stirring? There's a string of examples like this -- questions about philosophy, totalitarianism, Marxism, epistemology, and even hot topical issues such as gay marriage are all met with boredom or incredibly superficial treatment.

Of all the subjects that I thought would be easiest to engage students with, it would be politics and political economy. Again, not that everyone has to care, but a question such as "why are some people poor" seems like a much easier question to engage students with than "is Fermat's Last Theorem true?"

Second, there are the breakdowns. For example, I've found that extra office hours only attract people who are having life crises. People show up frazzled and stressed, and then at some point, completely spill into a mental breakdown. Perhaps this because people who have their stuff together can typically make it to your regular office hours. On some level, I really want to help. On another level, I also don't feel like I signed up to be a social worker or psychiatrist.

Third, there is the thanklessness. I've never been thanked for the extra effort I've put in. Not that I need to be validated, but it would be nice to get a small thank you card after I spent hours reading through a rough draft or writing up an incredibly long email explaining something. Are thank you cards antiquated? Frankly, I'm less inspired to put the extra effort in when I'm treated like some anonymous service worker.

There are also so many students who are so far behind that I often feel like I'm spending more time teaching rudimentary skills than political economy. Many students don't know how to structure a basic expository essay even by their fourth year. I'm literally teaching seniors how to write introductory paragraphs. This semester I even had a senior who didn't know what a footnote was. Last semester I had a senior who didn't know how to look up books in the library. How are we graduating these people?

It's just all very disheartening. I didn't think this was going to be Dead Poet's Society, but I also didn't think I would be spending my time teaching such rudimentary skills to such uninspired and unimaginative people. The whole experience so far is making me question whether I like research enough to want to stick with academia. This, after all, has been at the number one public university in America. I can't imagine what it would be like at a "party school" or commuter college.

Or maybe I'll just get inured. If I'm not deriving any fulfillment from teaching, however, why am I putting up with such the low pay?

4th December 2010


OK, I swear a more substantial update coming in the next couple of days, but I can't possibly not post this. This kid mixed the dance scenes from Godard's Band of Outsiders with GZA's "4th Chamber" and then Vivre Sa Vie with Masta Killa's "Pass the Bone" (which, incidentally, used to be a GZA song).

For anyone who might unfamiliar with the original scenes, they're here and here.

See? They're much better with Wu Tang.

3rd December 2010


I haven't been updating very often, except to occasionally say I haven't been updating very often. Anna and I lived together for the summer and part of fall, so some thoughts on that. Some thoughts on the chapter I'm writing for a book. Some thoughts on my dissertation. Some thoughts about the department. Some thoughts on casual inference in the social sciences. Some thoughts on careers in academia. Some thoughts on pedagogy. Some thoughts about my parents. Some thoughts about my father. I'll post on all that shortly. But for now, a little Chet Baker, and then bed.

As a side note, with regard to this video, it looks like Chet is playing without one of his front teeth, which was lost after he was badly beaten during a heroin deal. How this hasn't affected his embouchure, I have no idea.

19th November 2010


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