According to Julie


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Ønskeleseliste

Noe av det beste ved å lese blogger, er at jeg får så mange fine tips til hva jeg ellers bør lese. Her er min liste over bøker jeg nylig har fått anbefalt fra andre bloggere, og som jeg håper jeg snart får lest:

lese med kaffeSiden jeg skal til Berlin snart, vil jeg lese bøker fra den byen. Kanskje jeg skal lese Tre Kamerater igjen…

Jeg vil lese Parissyndromet, anmeldt av Piggsvin, for jeg tror jeg vil kjenne igjen en del fra mitt eget utvekslingssemester i Paris:

Ingen får et nytt hjem på ei uke, heller ikke vår heltinne. Det er mye hverdag, mye savn og mange vanskelige, og til dels motstridende, følelser. Det er nemlig den store, stygge hemmeligheten oss som har reist på utveksling eller jobbet et år i utlandet bærer på.

Jeg vil lese The Big Short, som Kristian også har lest, fordi jeg har hatt lyst til å lese den lenge:

Disse finansmennene er kanskje vår tids beste vitner på hva slags følelse det gir å få (veldig) rett når alle andre tar (veldig) feil.

Og hvis jeg da først kommer i gang med finanslitteratur, har Finansakrobat en egen leseliste for den slags.

Jeg vil lese The Battle of $9.99, omtalt av Paul Chaffey, fordi jeg anser det som pensum:

Apples inntreden på arenaen med iPad ga forlagene akkurat det forhandlingskortet de trengte for å konvertere hele ebokbransjen fra "wholsale"-modellen til det boken kaller en "agency model", der distributøren mottar en fast prosentsats, typisk 30 prosent, av det sluttkunden betaler. Og prisen kunden betaler er det forlaget og ikke bokhandelen som bestemmer. Det spesielle som skjedde i bokbransjen da iPad kom var ikke Apples forretningsmodell, den kjenner vi også fra iTunes og App Store, men at også Amazon raskt ble presset av forlagene til å gå over til den samme modellen. Og at resultatet ble dyrere nye ebøker.

Jeg vil lese The Ocean at the End of the Lane, anbefalt av SerendipityCat, fordi det er Neil Gaiman, så jeg liker den sikkert:

Jeg synes Gaiman beskriver mye av barndommens usikkerheter så godt i boka. Frykten for å sove alene i mørket, den forferdelige dagen da ingen kom til 7-års-bursdagen. De voksne som visste alt, kunne alt, og som det var umulig å motsi. De voksne, herskerne over virkeligheten.

Jeg vil lese bøker om London, spesielt White Teeth av  Zadie Smith og There But For The av Ali Smith. Disse bøkene er anbefalt av Kathleen, som skal bruke litt av sommeren på NW av Zadie Smith. Den har jeg allerede lastet ned til Kindle’n, så jeg kan jo begynne med den.

stay inside with book

Bilder kommer herfra og herfra.

Les alle bloggpostene mine om bøker her.

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What I miss about London

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Tomorrow morning I’m off to London for three days, mainly to officially graduate from the London School of Economics. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also dreading it. I’m dreading the crowds, the cold apartments, the amount of time I’ll spend on public transportation. While I’m completely in love with Paris, I have a kind of love/hate relationship with London: It’s full of amazing things, but on normal, non-vacation days, the sheer inconvenience of living in a giant, dirty city, with endless commutes and no phone service on the Underground, mean I spend more time organizing my life then looking up at the city around me. Like in the photo above, taken when I popped out of the Underground because the Jubilee line had stopped, and I had to phone my flatmate about it.

But I still can’t wait to be back. And here are four reasons why:

4. Pubs: I never figured out the official difference between beer and ale. I thought beer was the general word, while ale was more specific. So I would ask what kind of beer a pub had, and they would only talk about Foster’s, until I whined that I wanted the interesting stuff. But whatever you call it, when any pub in the middle of nowhere (well, zone 4) has seven excellent somethings on draught and will let me taste each before deciding what I want, I’m happy. When these places also serve US-size helpings of fish and chips, I’m happier. Yeah, I know the English can be disgusting drunks just as much as Norwegians, but they can also go to pubs the way we go to coffee shops: for something that tastes amazing, and some good conversation.

3. Absence of snow: In London you can walk down the street ohe same way all year around. Back in Norway, I am now relearning how to change my gait so that I don’t fall over on the ice and snow.

2. Dancing: London’s West Coast Swing community has taught me so much, and it was totally worth it to commute an hour each way to dance and just never sleep. I haven’t really blogged about West Coast Swing here much, so I’ll just show you this video of two of my London teachers dancing. 

 

1. Londoners: M y classmates, my flatmate, my dance friends, the people I took thek train with… I just generally liked Londoners. They are polite, small-talking, fast-walking people. Londoners, there are way too many of you in London, so I think more of you should just move to Oslo and teach Oslo-people how to walk on crowded streets and shop for vintage clothes. In return, we’ll teach you not to wear shorts and sandals when it’s snowing.

Photo credit: Lena R. Andersen (my mom)


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The perfect city

The great tragedy of having lived in more than one place is that I will never, ever live close to all of my friends at once (more on that topic here). The great annoyance is that I am constantly being reminded that no society can be good at everything. For everything London excels at, it fails at something else. And while I can spend the rest of my life travelling in search of a city that has it all, I know that will only make me miss whatever I liked about my other cities more.

Just in case any of you know where I can find my ideal city, this is how the perfect synthesis between Oslo, Paris and London would work (I haven’t included Boston, because I haven’t lived there as an adult):

The city would essentially look like central Paris: a mix of wide boulevards and charming cobble-stoned pedestrian streets, with sidewalk cafés and well-dressed people. Some of the parks would be designed by Englishmen in the late 1800s. There would be at least one dramatic modern building in the style of the Oslo opera house. The city would be surrounded by Norwegian nature.

Buildings would all be built by Norwegians, as they are the only culture out of the three who prepare for winter rather than deny its existence. Single-glazed windows, insufficient ventilation and inadequate heating would be illegal. All apartments would have nice kitchens.

The British would be in charge of public transportation, as well as providing information about this service. All other forms of communication and information technology (including online banking) would be run by Norwegians. There would be telephone service everywhere, from the tops of the surrounding ski slopes to the deepest tunnels of the underground system – and free WiFi in parks, thanks to a suggestion from the French.

The French would have the overall responsibility for food, but they would be forced to import international wine. Norwegian salmon and Norwegian bread would be available even in the smallest corner shops. Most restaurants would work like in Paris: with affordable three-course standard menus served by waiters who took their jobs seriously and didn’t expect tips. Influences from the Brits would ensure some international flavor varieties like Indian, Mexican and Chinese food, but the English would be discouraged from trying to sell their own pies and mashed things to people. The cafés would be French, but with coffee from Norway.

The pubs would of course be English, but with a wide selection of draught beer from around the world. Everyone would cooperate on other forms of nightlife, but the Norwegians would be completely barred from any attempts to control alcohol policy, including prices and closing time for pubs and bars. This would instead generally be governed by the French.

People would buy their French clothes, French lingerie and French shoes from British sales assistants. These sales people would take lessons in customer service from Americans, but tone it down to a less insistent European level. Thanks to the Norwegians, winter boots and other shoes with good sensible soles would always be available. Norwegians would teach people how to dress in winter; the French in every other season.

In public places, the people would somehow combine the passion of the French with the manners of the English. They would queue and make reserved small talk, but still kiss each other in public. The English would be in charge of television and humor and entertainment in general, so there would be a lot of trilingual wordplay.

If anyone should ever wish to leave, the airport runway would be de-iced by the Norwegians.

Related posts:

Image sources: Paris Guinness Nature


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Hunting for coffee in the land of tea

“Can’t I just get a normal coffee?”

This simple question is written on a magnet on my fridge. Beside this fridge, I can get a normal coffee (black, freshly ground beans, French press). But although I sleep in a two-bedroom flat in Camberwell, I live on the LSE campus in central London, surrounded by coffee shops that don’t sell coffee and sandwich shops that don’t sell bread.

Café chains that (claim to) serve coffee and sandwiches dominate central London. There’s Starbuck’s of course, but also British chains in more or less the same format: Caffé Nero, Costa Coffee, Prêt a Manger. Just like in the US, I was initially baffled by the size of their drinks. Forget the Tall = Small confusion Starbuck’s offers; I couldn’t even get a barista to explain what the difference between a small and a medium cappuccino was. An extra shot? More of everything? No, just more milk, apparently. But to me, that means it’s no longer a cappuccino (one part espresso, one part milk, one part foam); it’s caffeinated hot milk.

The Daily Mail did a cappuccino test last October, and found that foam accounts for more than a third of the contents of most high street cappuccinos.

“Order anything larger than a 12oz cup and you are getting a watered-down coffee,”  Marco Arrigo told the Daily Mail. Marco trains baristas at Illycaffe’s Universita del Caffe in London. If only he got through to more of the hot milk purveyors around Holborn station and along Fleet Street.

Just like I wouldn’t order cocktails at a bar where they don’t know what a gin&tonic is, I usually default to americano when I’m unsure about a new coffee shop. Espresso with extra water won’t taste sour like drip coffee that’s been sitting around in a thermos for hours, and you neatly avoid the problem of too much milk or milk at the wrong temperature. And even if the espresso isn’t great, adding water will usually smooth that out a bit. It’s pretty hard to mess up an americano.

Or so I thought. English baristas add milk to it.

Specifying that I want “an americano without milk”, is like ordering “salad without marshmallows”. Yes, I know that it is possible to add sponges made of glycerin and sugar to salad, but surely that stops it being salad. (Yes, I know Americans add marshmallow to salad. That stops it being salad. Nothing can convince me otherwise.)

About half of the time, even if I manage to specify that I want my americano black (oh, it feels so wrong to have to specify that), my single-shot americano arrives in a cup so big and filled with water that I can see to the bottom.

Even if I make a conscious effort to leave the high-maintenance, over-caffeinated side of my personality on the opposite side of the Thames, this is just wrong. I may be in tea country, but I expect more from a cosmopolitan city like London.

So I have started to order like, to quote the PostSecret postcard above, a douche: “Could you make me an americano and use about half of the water you would normally use? Please!” (Must remember to say please. I am not in Norway anymore). So far only one barista has told me this was “impossible” (at the Tea and Coffee Festival at the South Bank Centre, of all places), but most of them give me funny looks. Even so, they don’t get anywhere near as grouchy as the woman behind one the LSE coffee counters did when I asked her – as a curious economics student – why the americano was cheaper than the espresso.

At the Pret A Manger next to Holborn tube station, the guy who sold me a customized americano and a BLT on bread that tasted much like marshmallows, was quite good-natured about my fussiness: “My Italian friend hates coffee in London,” he told me, “He says we add too much of everything but coffee.” I agreed and asked him why the English did this, and he shrugged and said: “It’s different in Italy. Here in England, you can get a white americano.”

I have had decent coffee here. TimeOut wrote a feature on coffee shops a while back, and if you hunt for coffee, it can be found. But even at good places, the quality is inconsistent, and it all depends on who’s shift it is and whether they have time to care (or you have time to wait). I guess I have gotten spoiled, forgetting that Oslo, despite being a terrifyingly expensive miniature city, has an amazing coffee scene.

On the other hand, walk into any London pub and enjoy at least four different draught beers, served with a smile and an offer of samples. Maybe I’ll just drink less espresso shots and more pints.


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Moving abroad means going back to the Dark Ages

“Why doesn’t this work?!?!? Oh, right, we’re in England.”

This is the explanation for any problem my Danish flatmate and I encounter. While she’s lived here for years and I just arrived, we both get frustrated over the way things work – or don’t – in the UK. Yesterday I tried to explain at least some of these problems to my flatmate using economic history: the two of us are living in a developing country. Or, since I don’t really like that term, let’s say we are living in a medieval economy.

In an essay I handed in recently, I argued that the process of economic development is the process of solving fundamental problems of exchange (FPOE), thereby moving towards a situation of optimal levels of exchange. FPOE is the technical term for what happens when trade does not take place due to a lack of trust.

For those of you who appreciate game theory:
In a Prisoner’s Dilemma or “game of trust”, A can choose to initiate exchange or not, and B can choose to cooperate (by fulfilling his side of the contract) or not cooperate. If there is no exchange, the payoff for both players is 0. If there is a successful exchange (B cooperates), both players will be better off. However, if B thinks not cooperating will get him a higher reward than cooperating, he has an incentive to cheat A, leaving A worse off than if there is no exchange. And if A thinks he is likely to be cheated, there will be no trade, leaving the game at a sub-Pareto-optimal equilibrium without an exchange.

In medieval times, in the absence of state institutions like courts, traders attempted to solve their trust issues among themselves. For example, according to the historian Greif, Maghribi traders of the eleventh-century Mediterranean developed an informal contract-enforcement mechanism based on multilateral relationships within a close-knit “coalition”. They could spread information about cheating agents and make sure they were not traded with again. Basically “If you cheat one of us, we will all boycott you.” 

Institutions like the Maghribi coalition are relationbased. They are largely implicit, personal and formed outside of courtrooms. In contrast, most of our modern state institutions are rule-based: most transactions are based on impersonal and explicit agreements, and the state can impartially enforce contracts.

The point I would like to stress in this distinction is not the existence of a state to regulate a market. It is the possibility of enforcing contracts impersonally and impartially, rather than through reputation. A rule-based system allows for large-scale anonymous trade – so it favors economic development.

Yet even a state-controlled rule-based system has certain relational elements. Citizenship gives you access to a coalition that is certainly larger than the one organized by the medieval Maghribis – but it is a coalition none the less. When a British library asks for proof of a UK address before they let me in to their reading room, when setting up a UK bank account turns into a bureaucratic nightmare for foreign students, and when I have to pay six months rent in advance unless someone who owns property in the UK can vouch for me, it is because the UK is a coalition. There is an implicit agreement that the Prisoner’s Dilemma has been resolved in advance for permanent members of the UK club, while foreigners must negotiate on their own. When you leave your home coalition, you are plunged back into the market conditions of the Middle Ages.

(This is of course only made worse by the fact that there may be institutions to help you, but you are less likely to know about them than you are to know about institutions in your home country – which may explain why I find London increasingly practical and less ridiculous the longer I stay here.)

Medieval traders went from a situation where trade didn’t take place because it was literally impossible to move goods between people, to a situation where trade was possible, but didn’t happen because of a lack of trust. Today we can initiate trade with complete strangers – not just impartially and impersonally, but instantly  – with one click on a touch screen. But «can» and «do» are not the same. We have resolved so many of the practical problems that limit trade, from transportation costs to language barriers to timing, that when we refrain from exchange now, it is almost always because of some lack of trust.

Despite our supposedly rule-based national and international institutions, we still act relationally. Recent research using simple web-based games shows how cooperation can remain stable in a large group if participants have some choice over who they interact with. When grouped together completely randomly, the participants cheated each other more and more, even though this left them worse off in total.

According to The Economist, international migrants use diaspora networks as modern day coalitions. They trust people on the other side of the globe, because they originally emigrated from the same home countries. These networks make cross-border trade easier, and they are not government-enforced.

The paradox for economic historians who study medieval times is that exchange took place without the assistance of a state regulating the market. A paradox for both scholars and policy-makers today is how exchange should take place in a globalized economy where one state can no longer regulate the entire market.

Related posts:

  • Living locally, working globally My BA dissertation about, among other things, diaspora networks and how the preference for our home coalition makes the global labor market less global
  • Illegal = global FPOE means there is no global market for music


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First impressions of living in London

It’s been about two and a half weeks since I moved here. I am still not home (it won’t feel like home until I have internet access in my apartment), but I look forward to settling in. Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts:

1. Just before leaving Norway, I noticed that I was using the word “practical” too much. I described everything as convenient and useful. Now that I live in London, my new over-used word is “ridiculous.” No water pressure in the shower if my flatmate is doing the dishes downstairs? Ridiculous. Purely decorative balconies, with no doors from the house? Ridiculous. It takes 14 days for Virgin Media to connect me to the internet? Ridiculous. I can’t buy one beer; I have to buy six? Ridi. no, practical.

2. I like British friendliness to strangers (let’s shorten it to FTS). Norwegian FTS doesn’t exist in cities. French FTS doesn’t exist at all. American FTS goes way too far (There is no way the sales assistants at department stores like my outfits that much). British FTS is all about small talk.

3. Small talk, contrary to popular belief, does not necessarily revolve around the weather. The important question is how you got to where the small talk took place. Did you take a bus or a train? How delayed was the London underground today? (Apparently, this last week was historically bad, tube-delay-wise.)

4. The London School of Economics and Political Science (let’s shorten that to LSE) wasn’t joking when it described itself as “international” and “diverse”. I don’t think I’ve met any English students so far. I’ve met plenty of Norwegians though.

6. There doesn’t seem to be ANY connection between what the weather is like and what the English Londoners are wearing.

7. Although I like to believe you can do anything in London, being spontaneous is a lot harder here than in a tiny city like Oslo. It takes you two hours to get anywhere, and once you’re there, so are thousands of other people.

8. I think I will start speaking British English with an American accent. Queue is a distinct word, more specific than line. Flat is shorter than apartment. As long as we aren’t sharing rooms, I live with my flatmate, not my roommate. Our flat isn’t flat though; it has stairs.

9. Most of the advertisements on the underground are for books or cultural events. I like this. And I like that I see so many people on public transport reading novels.

10. I also like that no matter where you go, there will be a pub serving fish and chips and an assortment of beers on tap. I am writing this at my new local pub, surrounded by families, couples, the pub’s dog, and a few people like me, with laptops and coffee.