Saturday, January 26, 2013

Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today Sgt. Pepper wasn't teaching the band how to play.  Back in January 1993, I was on the job market giving talks at Cornell and Duke.  On February 6th 1993, I gave my Columbia talk and quickly accepted their offer and cancelled my other talks.  I share these details because I'm amazed that 20 years have passed.   Unlike 20 years ago, this isn't a stressful January.   I'm listening to Jimi Hendrix cover Cream songs and I'm doing writing on a series of new papers and a new book project.

In LA, it is routinely 75 degrees.  I put on my sneakers and I go give my lectures.   This quarter I'm teaching Freshman 3 days a week on MWF and I teach my environmental economics course on MW.  There are 110 students in my Freshman class and 102 students in my elective class.   That's a lot of students.  Some of them find me a mildly interesting and everyone likes the jokes.  I'm been a professor for so long that I know which jokes are funny and which aren't. I especially enjoy telling jokes that people don't laugh at.  That's funny!  

Returning to the big theme here, where does the time go?  Did the Grateful Dead ever answer that question?

As I think back to what I have and haven't gotten done over the last 20 years, I would only make a few changes.   I detoured into doing some work on health economics that hasn't generated many cites but I think I was ahead of my time and the key thesis I sketched in these papers is correct and relevant for measuring improvements in the standard of living for people who have chronic conditions.   Back 20 years ago, environmental and urban economics wasn't a subfield of economics but now there are dozens of scholars who have entered the field.  Many of these guys are good friends of mine.  I claim (without evidence) that my work has highlighted what an exciting field this is and how much work remains to be done --- especially in the developing world.    

In January 2033, I will write a blog post (assuming blogger still exists) where I will look back on my last 40 years in the profession.  I need to believe that my next 20 years will be more productive than my last 20.  This better not be the beginning of the end!