High note of the trip was probably a private dinner in Paris with Chef Jean-Yves (seriously go check it out.) Low note was either 1) getting yelled at by the Pegida guy in Munich to "Wenn man im Deutschland ist, muss man Deutsch sprechen". I told him "Danzig ist so" but I don't think he knew his history well enough to get it... or 2) watching some Chinese tourists clear the shelves of a DM store of skin supplements and cram the supplements into a giant suitcase right at the checkout aisle... fucking embarrassing.
Also read The Proud Tower by Tuchman, Hillbilly Elegy by Vance, and How Asia Works by Studwell. Good pieces all. Collected some random thoughts, laid out in no particular order below:
There is a room in Emperor Franz-Joseph's apartments in Vienna where he sent the telegrams that launched World War I. It's a neat, well-organized and well-preserved room, and you can almost imagine the disciplined old Emperor trundling in before the sun rose (as he usually did) to review his day's activities and read dispatches from his dedicated civil service. But one August morning, Franz-Joseph - widowed husband and bereaved father - learned in that room his nephew was the latest casualty of the Balkan knot, and none of the old man's discipline, or skill of his diplomatic corps, or the inventiveness and commercial energy of his Empire could give him confidence in untying it.
Perhaps Franz-Joseph might have circled his eyes around the room, and perhaps he might have understood, in a fleeting moment, why he could only cut, and not untie, that knot: The telegraph itself, atop a desk originally used by Metternich; the 18th and 19th century furniture in the glow of new electric lamps; the post where a guard with a bolt-action Mauser loaded with spitzer-tipped smokeless cartridges stood, while dressed in a bright uniform for his commander to spot him through gunsmoke. Over the two centuries preceding him, the most inventive continent the world had seen had filled his room with anachronisms; those anachronisms were building up social tension between classes and between nationalities in his Empire; those tensions were boiling over and forcing his hands - hands that, through newly installed electric lights, would plunge the European continent into thirty years of darkness.
If you look at European palace cookware, stare at enough Flemish paintings, and then watch Yanxi Gonglue, you start to understand one reason why Europe industrialized before Asia; Europe learned how to transition from technological deepening in the service of a royal palace and nobility ("the Palace economy") to skills/capital-deepening for a mass market, with tiers of consumption dictated by market-driven control of resources and productivity, while Asia kept its skills and capital-deepening in-house within palace artisans / Asian "firms" never transitioned to the mass market until the dynastic system collapsed altogether.
Hypothesis: Countries develop best when each oncoming wave of skills and capital-deepening happens in a new, disruptive socioeconomic structure, whether that be a new crop of companies or a new type of economic structure altogether.
Tim Berners-Lee invented the WWW at the Swiss ECRN; there are tons of good universities in the EU churning out lots of IT talent; the EU had better-than-average internet connectivity for most of the past two decades; the EU had much better political conditions than China did for business and investment. So why are there no European webscale companies? And can Europe avoid that fate with blockchain?
Trump is a bigger problem for the European project than he is for China. China's political superstructure is not threatened by American trade frictions, but Europe's political superstructure is.
European food is really, really good. Why don't Chinese people have a better / more sophisticated appreciation of it?
I am truly blessed to be dating someone who seems to know what I am thinking without me bringing it up. But that doesn't mean I should take her ability to guess my thoughts for granted. Communication is important. So if you're reading this... I love you, and thanks for putting up with me ^_^.