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Pierian Spring

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I realize this blog has been seriously neglected, in favor of making mindblowing/incremental progress on my dissertation. However, one of the side effects of intense dissertation work is spending time thinking about whether one should have undertaken a PhD to begin with, and the purpose of academia in general. The nature of PhD programs, and the fact that the tough experience is sometimes difficult to explain to outsiders (“what do you mean you forgot to pay rent because you were too busy thinking about party formation?”), is just fuel for this fire.

Thanks to the academic linking of fellow scholar-procrastinators via Facebook, two interesting essays on this topic have come my way that I believe are worth sharing.

Details below, but in the meantime, I’ve posted the best quotation I’ve seen in reference to an academic life:

“A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.”
-A. Pope


Academics Are Assholes and the Circle of Niceness

A nice post about attitudes in academia, and what you lose by “getting ahead.” I think the part aggression being conflated with competence is most definitely true, at least in my field.


On Getting a PhD

This blog post also resonates, but thankfully, in a more uplifting way.







Euro Crisis Personified

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Obviously this blog has been on hiatus for awhile (due to comprehensive exams and dissertation proposal work), I hope to resume in the summer.

In the meantime, here is an excellent map sent to me by my friend David that actually personifies the current euro crisis — France is represented by an aging (but staggering) population while Spain is a carefree lush. I think my favorite is the clean cut Finland, who seems to be laughing at its southern neighbors.


The only way forward is….forward.

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This post seeks to highlight two of the (many) viewpoints that have been circulating about the viability of the European project, given the financial instability plaguing the Eurozone. Both, however, advocate further integration to solve Europe’s problems.

The first is from the current acting chief of the IMF, John Lipisky (and soon to be replaced, now that Lagarde has been chosen as the new head of the IMF), from a recent Economist article

He is basically encouraging Europeans to take a more cohesive approach to solving the financial stability of the Eurozone by deepening the single market and strengthening the regulatory ability of the EU in monetary issues (and also weakening practices that result in national protection, etc.).

See article here:

Now contrast that with an interesting take that brings us back to early American history. Matthew Yglesias advocates for a “Hamiltonian” solution for Europe, that would essentially consolidate member state obligations into a Eurozone-wide debt, a maneuver undertaken by Hamilton after the mess that was the Articles of Confederation. Yglesias admits himself that the idea is unlikely, but still another argument from a differently-placed perspective advocating the further integration of the EU as times get tough. [Funnily enough, during the course of my fieldwork in Brussels, I encountered the Articles of Confederation reference no less than three times recently during interviews].

Article here:

It seems more than ever that the focus of the future of Europe actually rests on credibility – the notion that the level of commitment by member states needs to be clear, and the deepening of integration is a credible signal of cohesion. Both articles well worth reading.

Places to Study in Brussels

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I was recently in Brussels conducting fieldwork, and like many Americans doing research abroad, immediately looked for a place outside my hotel where I could work and grab an espresso for a few hours. Find a place where pulling out your laptop (or ipad, in my case) is acceptable is not that easy, but in my travels I discovered a number of places that work quite well.



 Karsmakers is the closest thing I’ve found to a Brooklyn coffee      shop – it  features excellent coffee, a series of wooden tables with lots of space, and an  enclosed patio area in the back that lets in the sunlight. Plenty of solo  readers were spending time there, and I saw a sign that hinted at the  availability of Wifi (I did not test, however).

Website here.

Rue de Treves 20,
1050 Ixelles, Belgium
Nearest Metro: Trone



Wet 89

 Wet 89 is a hidden gem in one of the business sections of Brussels. There  aren’t many shops or restaurants around, so the normal traveler wouldn’t  pass by. But the vibe here  is very nice, and space isn’t a problem.

Website here.

Wetstraat 89 (or Rue de Loi 89)
1040 Brussels
Nearest Metro: Maelbeek



 Filigranes is a reader’s paradise – it’s a very large bookstore, open  every single day of the year, with a café in the center. This was my  salvation when I happened to be in Brussels during Whit Monday, and  they even have a substantial English section downstairs. New York  has the Strand, Brussels has Filigranes.

Website here.

39-40 avenue des Arts, 1040 Brussels
Nearest Metro: Trone or Arts-Loi




Cafe Sara

 I think this is the name of the Café, it’s kind of across from the  Delhaize on Rue Anspach. This is a great place to hang out in for the  afternoon. Many tables with comfortable chairs, and two areas of  seating (upstairs and downstairs). Music selection is a bit interesting,  though – last time I went they were playing Christmas songs.

On Rue de Marché aux Poulets, between Rue des Halles/ Blvd Anspach
Nearest Metro: Bourse




Java City

Stumbled across this when I was jet lagged and looking for a grocery store. Conveniently located in City 2, a large mall with shops and a convenient food court (and right above the metro station Rogier, you can access it by going inside the mall). This is a busy coffee shop, but has an excellent cappuccino (with crème fraiche) and doesn’t seem to mind when tired Americans hang out in a corner and access the Wifi coming from who knows where.

rue Neuve 123
1000 Brussels
Nearest Metro: Rogier (located inside)

On the Atlantic Fence

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To begin this blog, I immediately thought of one of my favorite viral snapshots. We’ve come a long way in shortening the distance across the Atlantic – a journey that once took months by steamer or even minutes by telegraph now takes virtually seconds online (although if you browse the sometimes pessimistic current events commentary, it sometimes seems like Europe and the US are as far apart as they ever were).

Yet those issues, and others like them, will hopefully be addressed in future posts and discussion. This blog aims to pull out both interesting (sometimes amusing) and scholastically worthwhile information about European politics, and I welcome all readers who find themselves torn between continents.