leaving one’s peers

The federal courts want me; the summons must have gone out just as I left California. I hope having moved to Canada is a good enough excuse to not have to serve on a jury in Los Angeles, but we’ll see. I can’t imagine missing class and having to fly back – that would throw everything off.

It’s too bad, in a way. I’ve never had a federal summons and indeed I’ve never had to go into a courthouse at all. Every time I’ve been summoned at the local level, I’ve been excused over the phone. I know jury duty is usually something people grumble about, but I’d like to do it at least once, if it’s in a near enough place. And the federal summons looks so much more – serious isn’t quite the word, and neither is solemn, but the consequences for missing it without approval are much tougher and you’re considered “on call” during your time period.

They pull from surrounding counties, since there are only a few districts; had I been in California, it would have been about a 70 mile commute each day. There’s a checkbox for if you’re requesting an excuse because you live over 80 miles away. It’s about 1400 miles to here.

сколько лет, сколько зим

I’m a huge fan of re-photography – the practice of re-staging old photographs as precisely as possible and then comparing the earlier and later. Third View, focusing on the American west, is a good example. But these shots of St. Petersburg today/Leningrad during the seige take the concept to a whole new level. It’s like you can see through time (with English text here, which might actually be the original posting location – I’m not sure).


cultural geography

Isn’t Wasilla really more of a suburb than a small town? The city website’s “At Work” page talks about “small-town living” but the statistics sure look like “suburb” (or “exurb”):

One of the Mat-Su Borough’s chief exports is labor. Wasilla residents and most of the Borough’s population live within 40 to 50 miles of the state’s largest city, Anchorage, and approximately 35 percent of Mat-Su workers commute. Many local residents who work in other locations were first drawn to Wasilla because of its affordable housing and the benefits of small-town living.

A significant number of workers travel even longer distances. These commuters—about 10 percent of borough residents—include North Slope oil workers, construction workers who travel among various parts of the state, and commercial fishers (120 area residents hold commercial fishing permits).

These population statistics suggest the same thing. Look at the high rate of growth for the city and the borough of which it is a part since the 1990 census.* Wasilla may still be fairly small, but it certainly appears to be following the path of a lot of other former small towns that have been incorporated into larger metropolitan areas through the processes of urban and suburban growth.

There’s been a trend in recent years towards urban living, but if I’m not mistaken, more Americans live in suburban than in urban or rural areas. And as anyone who follows current debates over transit and urbanism knows, suburbs have no shortage of defenders. Better schools, larger houses with private yards, access to open space, more light, often cleaner air and water – there are a lot reasons many people favor suburbs over many central city areas.** Combine that with proximity to the cultural and economic power of a city and you have a pretty good idea of why many choose suburbs over small towns, perhaps after an initial move to the central city.

But how often do you hear about “suburban values”? The phrase doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation, but compare it to “small-town values”: why, after decades of suburban growth, does the latter ideal still retain such power, and political power in particular? I suppose the quick explanation is that it is the continuing influence of the agrarian ideal, but that’s somehow not very satisfying, especially since the shift away from “independent yeoman farmer” to “small-town resident, possibly but quite often not self-employed” was a non-trivial one. Why hasn’t there been another shift?

Last year on CNN Candy Crowley ran a story about Congress and its low approval rating. It was the usual “Congress isn’t getting much done, find some people to criticize it on camera for being out of touch, don’t mention the filibuster or the veto” kind of story. One of the people quoted was described as a small-town mayor. A quick search online revealed the small town to be near O’Hare airport, to have been founded as a suburb, to contain a large business park, and to have a mayor so distant from Congress and its concerns that he was mentioned as a possible candidate for Henry Hyde’s seat in the House when Hyde retired. (He chose not to run).

*Also check out the relatively low median age and high percentage of residents under 18: probably a lot of young families with children.

**Yes, not everyone, and not every suburb over every central city. That’s why I wrote many. But it’s no use denying that there are plenty of people who choose suburbs for these reasons.

the other side of outsourcing

Following up on my recent immigration/emigration post: it appears that the U.S. economic slowdown is leading American jobs lost overseas to be lost – overseas:

That does not mean the emerging world is buffered completely, particularly if both the United States and Europe slip into recession or if the financial crisis in the United States claims more and bigger financial institutions. And without question, sectors of emerging economies are already being stung.

There is growing fear especially in the fastest-growing Indian technology markets, which include outsourcing, back-office operations and call centers. Those sectors are 70 percent dependent on the United States. Several Indian technology companies have slowed their hiring because of the U.S. economy’s slowdown. In May, industrial output was up 3.3 percent, half the 6 percent increase in May 2007.

“I will have to lay off more if things don’t pick up,” said Rajiv Prem, a clothing manufacturer for U.S. retailers, including Anthropologie and Motherworks, who said the drop in orders has meant he had to close two of his three factories outside New Delhi.

Exports in China — the darling of the 21st-century economy — are also being hammered by slackening demand caused by the global slowdown and rising labor and material costs. Chen Gong, who runs a factory that makes plastic cleaning devices in Ningbo, a manufacturing city near Shanghai in the Yangtze River delta, has seen profits slip partly from the yuan’s controlled but steady rise against the dollar. It has slashed profit margins for many mid-size manufacturers from 15 to 3 percent. Many factories in nearby Guangdong province have closed their doors, and thousands of workers have lost their jobs.

“We’ll just see who can survive this,” Chen said. Experts predict as many as one-third of export manufacturers will close in the next three years.

Ultimately, that might not turn out so bad for China

Chinese exports to the United States have been flat this year and will likely experience a rare, overall decline by year-end, said Arthur Kroeber, managing director at Dragonomics, a research firm in Beijing. Yet experts said that might be exactly what China needs. A global slowdown — if tempered — could help China stage a soft landing for its breakneck economic growth.

“In some ways, this is not only welcome but desired by the Chinese,” said Vikram Nehru, the World Bank‘s chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific.


Yet in Europe and Japan, the situation is decidedly more gloomy. In Japan, a new government forecast shows slowing economic growth and rising inflation in the coming year….

In Europe, which analysts once hoped would be a pillar of economic strength in the event of a U.S. recession, analysts are now warning of possible recession. The weakening dollar has made German chemicals and cars exceedingly expensive overseas — particularly in the United States — stinging the manufacturing industry in the euro zone’s largest economy. Spain, Ireland and Britain are mired in painful housing slumps with their financial institutions squeezed by the U.S.-sparked global credit crunch.

So to reiterate, chances of American emigration for better employment: still not likely.

a nation of immigrants

I’ve been wondering for some time if there’s a chance that if there’s a prolonged economic downturn, a significant number of Americans won’t just see their jobs moved overseas, they’ll begin to follow them. I’m sure it’s extremely unlikely: a significant depression in the US would almost certainly be accompanied by a more or less worldwide one. Anyway, it’s not like Americans left the country in huge numbers in the 1930s, and even if a depression were a push factor, there still would have to be some pull factors drawing people elsewhere.

That said, I found myself wondering about American emigration again when I read this:

Why does Germany have an engineering shortage while U.S. engineers are forced into “sales”? If our engineers didn’t go into sales, they’d be unemployed. It also puzzles me how, in 2008, German industry, with an ever higher euro, keeps outcompeting the U.S. in sales abroad. The Germans are actually looking for more than half a million skilled workers, including 100,000 engineers.

Of course unemployment in the US is still fairly low, sales can pay well enough, there are restrictions on Americans working in the EU, and Germany is attracting workers from other parts of the world who likely earn less than an American would ask for. So there are some pretty easy answers to the question: why aren’t American engineers trying for those jobs? And that’s before you get to the question of whether Americans are not inclined to emigrate, not even temporarily, with the intention of sending money back and eventually returning.**

*Though the article itself is actually on an entirely different topic from this post, by the way, namely: what effect will growing numbers of wealthy young wealth-managing liberals have on Democratic (and by extension, American,) politics?

**I know very little about American emigration history. I think quite a few Americans actually left for Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the American economy was growing rapidly (outside of panics/depressions). A chart in Eric‘s book indicates that the United States was second only to the British Isles as a source region for immigrants to Canada between 1891-1910 (figure 3.2, page 68). I wonder if that number includes immigrants to the United States who later went to Canada.

the west “coast”

The geographical problems with this paragraph leave me nearly speechless:

Do you really need to ask? Obviously, I’m for building high speed rail. The California coast is a potentially excellent rail corridor with a whole bunch of kinda close urban areas. I’d say that there (potentially extending upcoast to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver) is one of the most promising possible areas for rail improvement. It’s an expensive undertaking, but one that will pay large dividends for a long time once it’s done.

(I am, of course, for high-speed rail, but I am also in favor of knowing something about the layout of the Pacific coast and its transportation routes.)


Reading this post and especially the comments had me thinking about a couple of things from my childhood:

1. I grew up hearing a lot of Mandarin and Hakka. I don’t remember a time when I was not offended by people who’d do the “ching chong” thing to make fun of the “Chinese language” – was I always offended by this? did I learn to be offended by it? was I taught to be offended? I don’t know. But I was also puzzled. Of course it wasn’t supposed to sound perfectly like “Chinese,” but it was so far off I wondered where the sounds came from. Eventually, after hearing some Cantonese, I remember thinking, “hmm, maybe that’s what people are making fun of.” I have no idea if this is true or what the origins of that linguistic slur are.

2. I remember the pbs stations would run these short spots – public service announcements, I guess – that showed kids of various backgrounds doing various things and then would end with someone saying “I’m proud to be a [ethnicity]-American.” Every time I saw the ones for Asian- or Chinese-Americans (and I can’t remember if they ran “Asian” ones or if they kept it strictly to nationality) I’d wonder, does that describe me too? I never came to a real conclusion. Reading that comment thread I just linked above, I have to assume that these spots must have run only locally, or maybe in only a few places around the country.