Chicago Board of Trade

After the R/Finance conference, we had the opportunity to visit the Chicago Board of Trade Building. Brian Peterson, one of the conference committee members, gave us a tour of the building and took us up to the rooftop lounge for beers.

During the days of open outcry, the building housed the trading floor with pits for each commodity. With all trading being conducted electronically, the pits have been removed. Depictions of the Roman god of grain, Ceres, are displayed inside as well as a 31 ft statute on top of the building.

As you enter the building, there is the Ceres restaurant and an empty hallway where the pits were located. A wall of original Warhols is located further inside. I included some pictures of the Art Deco elevator doors and mailboxes but there is much more to see.


IMG_20151113_074021I was invited to give a research presentation at the American University of Beirut. Unfortunately, there was a bombing from the Islamic State shortly after I landed. The day of my presentation was a national day of mourning but the finance faculty was incredibly friendly and hospitable.


Beirut felt safe to walk around on my own although there are constant reminders of the civil war. Bullet holes remain in some buildings and there was a problem with trash collection for the past few weeks. Electricity is cut off twice a day at a relatively regular schedule due to insufficient generator capacity. Syrian refugees where moving farther into the city to beg on the streets. Lebanon had allowed approximately 1 million Syrian refugees into the country despite having a population of approximately 6 million.


As a former French colony, there are wonderful French restaurants and bakeries everywhere. Cats are also everywhere which keeps the rat population in check. The Most Lebanese Taxi is famous in the city and everyone takes pictures of it wherever it goes.

The next day, I visited the city of Byblos, known as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. There are some ruins from the Romans and a crusader castle in the UNESCO World Heritage Site which is well worth the tour. The city itself is entirely modern with a thriving nightlife despite the evening power outage.


Ho Chi Minh City

IMG_20150604_193212I traveled to Vietnam to present a paper at the 2nd Vietnam International Conference in Finance hosted at the University of Economics and Law in Ho Chi Minh City. The conference dinner was a marvelous buffet of Vietnamese seafood served in a pavilion along the river.IMG_20150605_224031

I also managed to visit Independence Palace, Bitexco Financial Tower, the post office, opera house, and City Hall.

Independence PalaceIMG_0472

Quebec City

QC_walkingQuebec City is the only walled city in North America. I could have spent a week just bouncing from cafe to cafe eating crepes but I was there for an academic conference. Parliament and the citadel are worth a visit. Both the fortifications and the Terrasse Dufferin are lovely walks in good weather. The city is built on a hill so bring some good walking shoes and don’t miss the farmers market. If you have time, take a bicycle ride along the river path.



Tanzhesi29-300x226Here is an outstanding view from Tanzhe Temple 潭柘寺 about 30 km west of Beijing. The tower is one of many tombs of monks who have studied here throughout the centuries. I also visited Jietaisi 戒台寺,but it was becoming very commercialized with a conference area and museum. My guide was a student I met shortly after arriving at Tanzhesi. His name is 刘天元,but his English name is Owen. He wanted to practice English with a native speaker so he translated many of the inscriptions in order for me to better appreciate the temples’ history. Owen’s mother is a high school Biology teacher and was very hospitable. She invited me to lunch with them while we waited for the bus to take us to Jietaisi.


Pictures inside the temple buildings are forbidden so I only have outdoor scenic shots. The smell of incense is pervasive even outdoors. Here is one of the temples at Jeitaisi. The covered table on the right would normally have at least one clerk pushing incense on tourists. The lack of tourists and salespeople in the picture show just how empty Jietaisi was compared to Tanzhesi. I only encountered two other western visitors and a handful of Chinese tourists here.


CNU2-300x226While in Beijing I stayed in a four-person room at the foreign exchange building of Capital Normal University (CNU). My roommates were other foreign exchange students from Mongolia, Malaysia, and South Korea. This is a picture of the library. For any map freaks out there, CNU is located on West Third Ring Road IVO of 39 56’08″N 116 18’10″E. The foreign exchange building is new so the Google Earth imagery only shows a construction site.


The foreign exchange dormitories are also used to provide lodging for numerous conferences in the summer. Unfortunately, the front stairs are roped off whenever it rains to prevent slipping I suppose. A typical meal costs about four yuan which is about 50 cents. The tap water is not suitable for drinking so each floor has a boiler to disinfect the water and each room has thermoses to keep some drinking water in the room in case you don’t feel like paying the 3 yuan for bottled water.


Guangzhou13.1-226x300This picture is an example of the neighborhood where an upper middle class family lives in Guangzhou. The interior is a three bedroom and one bathroom apartment. The kitchen and dining room is open to a cozy living room which seats 4 people comfortably. While the building’s exterior is well worn, the interior is newly refurbished with recessed lighting in the ceiling, marble surfaces, and wood floors.

We were there to visit Sun Yat-Sen University. Upon arriving at the university, we learned that a student debate had been scheduled that evening between us and some Chinese students

who had been preparing for a few weeks. There were banners everywhere advertising the event and a local politician was invited as a special guest.


Despite having no time to prepare, I believe our group performed reasonably largely due to the lack of international news available in China. Chinese students tend to repeat government talking points not particularly out of a desire to

reinforce the government, but because it is the only informed position available. This reinforced the need not just for more international news, but for journalism with primary sourcing.