Jan 13

Honest Advice for Your Semester Abroad in Africa

You see, not only have I personally spent a semester in Africa, but I also refuse to deceive myself or others about the nature of that experience. I went to Cameroon seeking adventure and a reprieve from the banal hedonism that had defined my college experience in the spring of my junior year. Also, I didn’t have enough French credits to go to Paris. During my program orientation (held in a small African village where we were instructed to always wear shoes lest parasitic insects lay eggs in the soles of our feet) we were told that while many students are nervous during their first few weeks in Africa, all of the several hundred students who previously participated in the program ultimately reported a highly positive experience. Not me. When my harrowing, disagreeable, grisly African sojourn reached it’s (sic) sweet, sweet conclusion, I felt so positively celebratory about finally leaving that the airline stewardess had to cut me off before we even hit the Atlantic. Continue reading →

Jan 13

The Five Basic Laws of Human Stupidity


When I left Rome to go to graduate school in 2001, one of the farewell gifts I received from an Italian friend was a copy of Carlo Cipolla’s Allegro ma non troppo.

Cipolla was an economist at Berkeley until his death in 2000; Allegro ma non troppo is a collection of his tongue-in-cheek essays.

The title can be interpreted in a few ways. The whole expression is often found in music, where it means “Fast but not too much.” “Allegro” can mean happy or cheerful, but it can also mean superficial or thoughtless, and I think Cipolla meant it in the latter sense, i.e., “Superficial, but not too much” given that the essays in the book are, for the most part, satirical. Continue reading →

Nov 12

I Think I Work at Hogwarts

I am seriously beginning to think that I work at Hogwarts. Yesterday night was the first of several salons to be organized by the Duke Africa Initiative (DAI).

As per the Chronicle article I linked to, the DAI “serves to consolidate the efforts of Duke professors who have research interests on the African continent.” The DAI was generous enough to give me a small grant to organize a conference on African political economy African political economy on campus in a few weeks.

Last night’s salon was held in the Gothic reading room, at room in Duke’s Perkins library which is exhibit A in support of my claim that I work at Hogwarts:

Duke’s Gothic Reading Room (Source: Duke Libraries.)

And here is exhibit B: Duke researchers are working on an invisibility cloak.

I rest my case.