Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cool Fish Stuff

Sweet. The Christian Science Monitor wrote about my brother in-law's sustainable fisheries project.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dear Editor

Four years ago I hiked the coast from SF to the Oregon border, hitching most of the long road-walk sections. There is a set of guidebooks for the entire CA coast, and they have a blurb similar to this about a development at the northern end of Sonoma county called Sea Ranch. I remember it well because rather than walking the narrow shoulder of this long stretch of highway [route description] I hitched a ride with a local who it turned out was friends with some guy that had just endowed a chair in the Berkeley econ department, and he told me Milton Friedman used to own the big house(s) just south of Sea Ranch, and I told him I'd seen this goat that was freaking out because its head was stuck in the fence, so he stopped in somewhere to call the owner, whom he happened to know. ANYWAY, then I hiked the small section of Sea Ranch where visitors are actually allowed to hike along the coast, got leered at by private security, and picked up on the very obvious vibe (thanks to all sorts of signs) that visitors aren't all that welcome. Then a couple weeks ago I read this article in the NYT about how great a place Sea Ranch is. It doesn't mention the place's history except for one sentence that, if interpreted in a certain way, might be blaming bad architecture on public coastal access. So I wrote the following letter to the editor:
In Sunday's paper, Patricia Leigh Brown described Sonoma County's Sea Ranch as a Utopia by the Sea. If a utopia is a place that spoils scenic beauty, takes away miles of coastal access from the public to put it in the hands of the super-rich, and trails visitors to the few trails that supposedly remained in public hands with private security, then Sea Ranch may indeed be a utopia. Otherwise, the only good thing that came from Sea Ranch is the furor it caused that led to the creation of the California Coastal Commission, working ever since to ensure that Sea Ranch would be one of the last developments of its kind.

and today, this got published.

Not great or anything, and I realize that the entire plot wasn't exactly public property before Sea Ranch came around (apparently it was a sheep ranch), but still, the state owns everything up to the high tide line and should protect it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oops, I did it again.

I spent Christmas day running from campus to Diablo and back, again. I did it counter-clockwise last time [trip report], so I figured I had to do it clockwise today. I was pretty close to not getting out the door since the research I'd hoped to do over the break isn't really happening (it's taking the super-duper econometrics lab servers close to 24 hours to run one stupid 45,000 observation matching regression) so I was ticked about that, and it's been raining all week. But I hit the trail at 4:30. For the first few hours in the dark and rain I was wondering why I didn't stick with my original plan and spend Christmas in Yosemite, but then it got light out, I hit the Lafayette Ridge Trail, Keep the Car Running came up on the iPod, the endorphins were flowing, and life was grand.
Lafayette Ridge Trail, an awesome roller coaster in Briones Regional Park, Diablo in the background.

Acalanes Open Space. The sun actually came out!

I feel obligated to photograph things bearing my name.

The original plan was of course to run all the way to the summit, and I felt good enough to do that until conditions became perfect for some horrible gumbo, and then I decided not to bother. That shortened the route by maybe 12 miles to somewhere around 65, I'd say.

As lame as not going to the summit was, I did get to see some cool stuff I'd never seen before, including China Wall [sat photo].

The view from 999 Panoramic Way, just before finishing. I finished the run where I started (the top of Dwight near the dirt track) just before 1:00 AM.

So I'd say the run went pretty well. If you're interested in the details of the route, see the g-map I made last time. It's pretty easy to imagine how I cut off the summit, just pinch the the part of the loop where it gets real close together even closer. I also took another slightly different route on the Tilden to Briones Reservoir EBMUD part--I went down the De Laveaga Rd. EBMUD trail that comes out right by JFK University and Orinda BART and walked along El Camino Pablo a couple miles to the res. Anyway, this is boring you. Let me just end by saying that this is mostly pretty straightforward with the excellent free East Bay Regional Parks maps (Las Trampas, Briones, Central Contra Costa Regional Trails, and I guess Tilden & Redwood) and I love this map of Diablo, but EBMUD trails are only mapped on "A Rambler's Guide to the Trails of the East Bay Hills" Central & Northern Sections, published by The Olmsted & Bros. Map Co, which have perfect scale for a long run like this. Unfortunately, these are out of print, so if anyone ever happens to come across a copy for sale somewhere, please notify me ASAP. (Their map of Tamalpais is also great).

Have I mentioned that I love listening to Fresh Air? It's the best for long runs. Doris Kearn's Goodwin's Team of Rivals has started off well also.

If you want to spend 18 seconds of your life watching a salamander I saw, feel free.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

50K, again

I ran the Rodeo Beach 50K today. I don't know what I've been doing wrong for the last four years, because I did it in 5:32, setting my second PR in 8 days. Maybe it's like grad school--I was told grades didn't matter, so I took that to heart a little too much and failed a class, and I took the "go out slow" mantra a little too much to heart when it came to 50K races. There was a 10K loop that I did in the wrong direction today, but I doubt that made much of a difference. I got a ride with a friend who ran the 20K in the morning and rode my bike home across the GG bridge to BART. Have I ever mentioned that the Bay Area in general and the Marin Headlands specifically, are really, really beautiful? Because it's true. It also doesn't hurt when you can go running in shorts and a t-shirt on December 20. No wonder I'm taking so long to get my PhD. Why would I ever want to move?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wrestling Economics/My Napoleon Complex

An idea just came to me. Am I short because I wrestled in high school, or did I wrestle because I'm short? I'm pretty sure it's the latter, but I was talking with some fellow former 103-pounders at my high school reunion last month and one said something to the effect that he thought he'd be a couple inches taller if he hadn't cut serious weight that one year. Also I just happened to think at the reunion "I felt a lot shorter than all these people in high school, but not so anymore" and I've just now realized that all the people I thought that about were wrestlers, but it could just be that I was wearing Skechers with thick soles. Anyway.) It's well known that stunting happens from malnutrition at really early ages, but I'm thinking about TB, who was the same height as me all through junior high, but then took off our last year of high school (after getting a job at Popeye's, with access to unlimited chicken). So how could I get exogenous variation in the amount of wrestling to get at the causality? Title IX, that's how.

I really doubt the height thing would work (where is there good height data on US high schoolers?), but there's got to be a more serious question that one could answer (college admissions? SAT scores?) using variation in sports offered at public schools. Any thoughts?

Listen to Fresh Air, Become Smarter. Fly a Jetpack, Become Deader.

I feel dumb because I'm not really sharing anything insightful, but I thought I should let everyone know how great a radio show Fresh Air is. On the subject of the religious left, I really liked the interview with Richard Cizik, who extremely disappointingly lost his job because of the tolerant things he said in the interview. Also, there's an interview with Frank Schaeffer, who was big in the early days of the anti-abortion movement, but has since reversed his position.

I caught up on these, and other Fresh Air episodes while grading finals the past few days. During the recent 50K I also listened to Where's My Jetpack? by Daniel H. Wilson. As the subtitle declares, it's about "the amazing science fiction future that never arrived." That future includes jetpacks, flying cars, underwater hotels, ray guns, space colonies, and robot servants, among other things. Apparently a lot of these things actually exist, they're just the size of large trucks and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they also suck. The book was entertaining to listen to while running, but that's about it.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I ran my seventh race of the year, the Muir Beach 50K in 6:09 on Saturday. That's the fastest I've ever done a 50K, and with 7,130 feet of climbing, I think it's harder than every other 50K I've done. I was sore all day Sunday, which isn't usually the case. I'm not sure whether to blame it on the fact that I actually ran sort of fast (for me, anyway) or the fact that I wore compression tights. Ever since NBA players started wearing tights a few years ago, you're (a) not allowed to call them spandex, and (b) they're supposed to magically prevent soreness and improve recovery time (and grant you 3 wishes, make you able to fly, etc.) but I pretty much hate them, and seem to feel a lot worse when I wear them. Anybody else feel that way? It was cold and windy, although an absolutely beautiful day given the expectation of rain, so I wore them anyway. I haven't gotten out of bed yet today, but I assume I'll feel fine when I do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Movie Stuff

This movie thing is neat.
This is interesting thinking.

I made a graph

Now that the election's over, reading dKos is a lot less fun. So now I actually have time to do research. And by research, I mean making graphs about sports.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Econ & Taxes

I started training today to be a volunteer with the IRS' Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Training is totally the worst part of any volunteering.

I finished teaching the course on Global Poverty & Impact Evaluation this week. Slides and handouts and stuff are all posted on the course website if you're interested. You can tell which weeks I taught because of the level of sarcasm.

I usually have a horribly small attention span when I go to seminars. This week was actually pretty interesting. Larry Katz told me that (a) people with degrees from Harvard make a ridiculous amount of money, and (b) you take the biggest hit to your wage from taking time out of the work force if you've got an MBA for an advanced degree, least if you've got an MD, and my co-teacher from the DeCal course Clair told me that people don't really donate money to charity in a social-welfare maximizing way.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cross-County Trail

While I was back in Virginia, I did a run on Fairfax County's Cross-County Trail [site has maps that might be interesting if you've ever lived in the area]. When I discovered it was only 10 miles from my old house along the trail, which follows the Difficult Run, to the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park, I had no choice in the matter and ran there and back. Biking and running, it's amazing how tiny all the hills that I thought were gigantic as a kid really are.

The CCT is a very cool trail. Despite how developed Fairfax County is, apparently the flood planes have always been public property, so there's lots of open spaces along the streams. It's very well marked, and at least on the portion I ran, very little is paved, and it was also fun to see the ultimate destination of the creek I used to play in all the time.

Another cool trail in developed areas I've just learned about is the East Coast Greenway.

My High School Reunion

I went to my tenth high school reunion. It was fun. I rocked the shorty tie.

I still cannot dunk on the 9-ft rim near the old house.

Out front of the school

Inside the old Senior Lounge

Lake Audubon

The old house, plus aluminum siding, a bay window, extra sliding glass door, and minus some elephantine bushes.

My friend's brother hates zombies.


I couple weekends ago I went to Truckee, climbed and rapelled out of a 115-foot tall tree, wore my friend's goofy coat, hiked along the ridge above Sugar Bowl from Mount Lincoln to Mount Disney, and kayaked around Donner Lake. Good times.


I finished a few books lately.

1. Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman's first novel. Hilarious but ultimately pointless. It's a weird comparison, but he's as good at sarcastic dialogue as Jane Austen. Here's a couple lines I liked.
Julia began to cry drunken, nonspecific tears that symbolized nothing beyond abstract regret. This is not uncommon behavior.
Everybody stopped talking. Journey kept coming out of the jukebox. The wheel in the sky kept on turning.

2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Basically, Catcher in the Rye for girls. Very good.

3. Animal, Vegtable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (and her husband and oldest daughter.) Kingsolver and her family eat local and grow their own organics for a year. I thought it was a little cheesy at times, but good, and inspiring as far as eating well and growing your own food.

4. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. If you didn't read this before you graduated high school, don't bother.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Dream of Economics

A few nights ago I had a dream about a research idea. I randomized the entry fee for a marathon of which I was the race director in Busia, Kenya in order to determine the causal effect of race fees on performance. Unfortunately, I woke up before I could determine the results.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Research Rant

Doing research is really annoying. I'm interested in lots of things, so the prospect of one day becoming a professor and getting paid to think about whatever I want all day is nice. So is the prospect of having summers off to go hiking and run ultras. But I'm not sure I'm interested enough in one particular thing to actually do decent research on it. I'm mostly just interested to the level that, if I had all the time in the world, I'd like to read one well-written book about the subject. For example, I'm interested in the American west: the Colorado River Compact, dams, forest fires, and recreation on public land. But I'm also interested in international development: central Asia specifically, and what economic policies could strengthen central governments to help end the rule of the gun, and whether tourism or sports can really lead to development. And I'm interested in pop culture and sports: Most movies are rated R, but the top grossing film every year is only rarely R, so are the studios leaving money on the table? Does being a backup for longer make a QB more likely to succeed in the NFL once he starts? What are the best indicators of future success that teams could use in the NFL draft? Does winning awards in a sport increase pressure/fame and decrease later performance? And I'm interested in politics (The minimum wage, unionization and the NLRB, has the US economy grown faster when the legislative and executive branches were from opposite parties? Do endorsements actually change voter behavior? How much of judges' behavior can be explained by who appointed them?) But once I actually get studying about these things, I find that I don't really care about the details, and that's where the devil is. OK. Enough of that. Back to work.

The Core and the Big Game

Friday was the annual Berkeley Econ vs. Stanfurd Econ Little Big Game. We beat them in volleyball, soccer, football, and basketball (although for basketball they didn't really have enough people to field a team so we didn't take it seriously), and lost in ultimate. Football is the sport that matters as far at the Core trophy goes, and we won 27-12. The IM football team (Stimulus Package, who ended the regular season 4-3 and start the playoffs on Wednesday) was formed as practice for the LBG and it seems to have worked. By the way, the Core trophy consists of a bronzed apple core, two wire hangers, and the first fundamental theorem of welfare economics. I think. To say any more would be to remove all doubt of my ignorance.

Tomorrow there's a Red Shirt Trade-In on campus. I can turn in any red shirt and a non-perishable food item and get a Cal shirt.

John Elway never beat Cal in his four years at Stanfurd. Watch the reason why.


This one took me a second. Math teachers for equality!

Constitutions are intended to ensure not that the majority rules, but that the majority can not oppress minorities. So on Saturday I went to the Oakland marriage equality protest. It was obvious that the SF protest would be huge whether me and my friends showed up or not, plus I can ride my bike to Oakland city hall in under 15 minutes, so I stayed local.

Best sign: "I assume the gay chickens will remain caged?" (from the Chron photos)

Best speech: "My religion says you don't eat pork, but I'm not trying to stick that in the California Constitution!" --Rebecca Kaplan, just elected to Oakland City Council

Something constructive locals can do for the cause: Call/e-mail the Alameda County supervisors and encourage them to get Alameda County to join the lawsuit to declare Prop 8 a major constitutional revision as opposed to a minor amendment thus requiring it to go through the legislature first (killing it). LA, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties have already signed on, and Alameda County voted no 62 to 38, so their constituents will support this move. For the Berkeley/West and North Oakland and E-ville folk, your supervisor is Keith Carson--district5@acgov.org, (510)272-6695.
Other Sup's info.

Monday, November 10, 2008

No Marathon for Me

The California International Marathon is full, so I guess I won't be running it next month. I had a goal to run a regular 26.2-mile marathon every year until I died, but I haven't done one this year, and no, the three 50K's (with three more possible before the end of the year), two 50-milers, and one 24-hour race do not count. No big deal, because (a)road running is less fun than trail running and (b)I've only had this goal since 2005 when I had hoped to break 3:00 in the St. George Marathon and then "retire" from road running entirely, but actually got 3:00:23. So I think I'll just admit that I've forgotten about road races completely, continue just doing ultras for several more years (maybe a couple 100's next summer?), and then focus on doing a 2:45 or 2:50 marathon if I ever move and live in some place without great trails. That sounds fun.

Apple Care?

I've got 16 days until I've owned my MacBook for a year and the included one-year warranty expires. Should I buy Apple Care to extend the warranty for another two years? Apple called me and said they'd give it to me for $183 instead of the usual $250, so I'm thinking about it. I've already had to get something fixed, and so have WF, TS, MB, HP, her roommate, and my parents. I can think of about 3 friends (AL,AR,LY,PO) that as far as I know haven't needed any repairs. That's at least 3/5 odds of needing a repair (I don't know whether these repairs were in the first year or 2nd and 3rd year of ownership, which is what I'm really concerned about), times the expected cost of $250 at the very least and probably more for any hardware malfunction (a simple top-case replacement would have been $202), which probably means I should go ahead and buy it. Any thoughts?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Crossing the GG Bridge After Hours?

I had this great plan to take the last BART train to the city next Friday night, then starting a ~25-mile run across the Golden Gate Bridge to Stinson Beach to get to the start of a 50K race by 8:30 the next morning, but then I realized that the bridge isn't open to pedestrians that late. Has anybody crossed it after hours? This page clearly shows the barbed-wire fence that shuts after hours, and also shows the No Trespassing sign, which I bet authorities might be serious about thanks to the large number of suicides. I suppose I could just rent a car or try and get a ride, but that would be a lot less ridiculous.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What Percent Happy Am I?

+79: Obama won big. I danced in the street across from the NorCal Obama HQ. OK, I took pictures of people dancing and I myself, of course, did not dance.

+5: My home state of Virginia voted Obama and now has a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators.

+2: Liddy Dole aired some of the worst ads ever and lost. (Not that there's anything wrong with being an atheist.)

+4: Nevada (where I volunteered one weekend), Florida (where I called this past weekend), North Carolina (where my oldest brother lives and volunteered), and (one can assume, if they actually had any say in it) Indonesia (where my sister lives and volunteered over the Internet) all went for Obama.

+8?: Al Franken. Hilarious, outspokenly progressive, and a Senator? I just watched him go up by 315 votes when it went from 94% reporting to 96% reporting.

-4: Crazy "Let's restart HUAC" lady Michele Bachmann beat her challenger Elwin Tinklenburg.

-5: Saxby Chambliss crushed challenger Jim Martin.

-26: California seems to have passed Prop 8. I spent the afternoon encouraging voters to vote NO at a very slow residential polling place just outside the legal 100 ft. zone, which didn't seem like the most effective thing in the world, but we had tons of people so every single polling place in Alameda county was supposedly covered. I think it's crazy that getting 8% of the people to sign something shoved in their face as they're walking into the grocery store then getting 50%+1 people to vote for anything, including taking away basic rights, makes it part of the California constitution, but I guess if you look on the bright side, the same issue has a chance to be on the ballot every two years from now until people come to their not-homophobic senses (just like Prop 4 teen abortion notification, which thankfully just failed for its third time). I'd put the over-under for re-allowing gay marriage at 12 years. But with headlines like Florida's, one can never be sure: "Voters support ban on gay marriage, but not money for community colleges."

From the same article, in the truly brilliant category:
An amendment that would have allowed community colleges to raise tax money locally, and another that would have removed archaic language from state law prohibiting foreigners from owning property in Florida, look like they won't muster the 60 percent vote needed for approval.

-2: From the NYT:
Eight days after he was convicted on seven felony counts, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska held a narrow lead in his re-election bid after three-quarters of the ballots were counted

+9: Two more western-state-environmentally-conscious-guys-with-Jack-Mormon-heritage-named-Udall have become Senators. (Decent article in Outside Mag)

-1: San Francisco decided not to rename a sewage treatment plant after W.

-: Franken lost by 601 votes, with a recount pending.
+: I'll have to console myself with high speed trains and a local parks measure.
+: While watching results I was impressed by the number of "deeply red/blue" states that elected gov's/senators from the other party by wide margins, implying we're not really all that divided.
-: CA conservative icon Tom McClintock may carpetbag himself a congressional seat.
?: CA seems to have barely passed a redistricting measure. I voted for it, but I'm no longer convinced its a good idea. CA's a left-leaning state, so it might make sense to let that be reflected in the make-up of whatever body draws the district lines. As far as I understand it the board will be made up of regular citizens, so I'm totally applying for it, but I think to solve CA's partisanship problem it's more important to get rid of the 2/3 budget supermajority requirement.
+: Chambliss fell below 50% in Georgia. Runoff!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Blue Across America

Here's an interesting cross-country hiking idea I hadn't thought of before.

Go vote (preferably for Obama-Biden-Udall-Udall-Franken-Saxby Chambliss is a jerk-No on 8).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mom, Dad, It's Coming!

That is what the kid in this episode of Amazing Stories yelled as this train was appearing out of nowhere to run through his house and pick up his Grandpa, I think. Anyway, that's how excited I am about Chinese Democracy hitting shelves November 23rd. Why am I so excited about this? Well, I'm a big fan of Chuck Klosterman, and I feel like I need to make up for the fact that I didn't like the screamy music of my elementary school, middle school, and high school days (GNR, Nirvana, Rage, respectively) until way after the fact. So that's why I just pre-ordered my copy. Seeing an ad for the album on ESPN that made me aware of the release date during Washington's horrible loss to Pittsburgh just now almost erases the sting of said horrible loss. I say almost because I'm going to be in NoVA for Thanksgiving and am considering going to the Skins-Giants game while I'm there, but I don't want to plunk down $100 to watch my team get shellacked, which I'm now pretty worried could happen. ANYWAY.

Listen to the eponymously named single here.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Be Nice to Your Mac

If you bought a MacBook before a few weeks ago when they switched to aluminum cases, be really gentle when closing it, or this will happen.

Or, I guess if you're thinking strategically, treat it crappily enough that this will happen within the first year so that they'll replace the case for free. It would've cost me $202.19 to get fixed otherwise.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Me Crying, Among Other Things

Great. Now in addition to all the pictures of me hiking naked on the Internet (that I put there myself), there's also video of me crying (while fully clothed). I've mentioned the story from the video on the blog before, and it's one of my favorites. In addition to just being a cool story, I find it really interesting in regards to my motivations for doing long hikes. Most of the time I tell people that I do long hikes to get away from it all, people included (in the Backpacker article, I put it in my typically crude terms and said I wanted to give society the finger, but I digress.) But then when I'm asked what my favorite experience was, it's never "there was this awesome sunset this one day when I was all by myself," it's always starts, "I met this cool guy," or "I met this cool lady," and goes from there. And the same goes for trail running. I love going and getting lost in Tilden by myself, but the comradery at races is awesome, and this even though I typically don't talk to that many people and feel like I'm younger than most other people out there. And I didn't party at all on the AT and was busy doing the PCT fast enough to finish in time for grad school, so I didn't really feel like I fit in, but now I think that thru-hikers are "my people," so who knows. Now I'm rambling.

Remember these awesome student reviews I got a while back? I was always suspicious it was at least partly because I said horrible liberal things like "I'm glad I'm in a union; they're the reason I have health insurance." And now I have a little evidence in favor of that--I got my reviews from last semester, and I was slightly higher than the department average for overall GSI quality.

Good ads. Vote NO on Prop 8.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


You know what was a horrible, horrible idea? Loading my iPod with Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering for a fixed-time running event.

Anyway, I finished the SF One-Day at 9 AM this morning. First, a huge thanks to everybody who sent me e-mails during the race, and to Ashley, Marcus, and Amy for coming out and running (walking, really) with me.

Before starting, my goal was to cover 100 miles. Then I had trouble running slower than 5 mph, so I wanted to keep up that pace. Then I realized that was ridiculous so I just wanted to run every step of the way, and I was back to the goal of 100 miles. Then I realized running the whole time was crazy so I just wanted to keep moving the entire time. Then finally I wanted to sleep, so I did. I ended up taking breaks of about 15 minutes, 90 minutes, and 45 minutes. I probably didn't need the last break, but the 90 minute one was wonderful for the legs, which were hurting thanks to the 40% pavement.

During the race I wasn't really having a wonderful time, but in retrospect I feel really good. My real goal was 100 miles, and after that wasn't happening I didn't have what it took mentally to really keep pushing. My feet and knees hurt, and the monotony got to me. You can't DNF in a fixy, so I didn't have that threat hanging over me to motivate me. I walked 20-22 minute laps (each lap is 1.067 miles) most of the latter half of the race, but in the last hour I started moving again and ran a 10:27 lap, an 8:38 lap, and a 7:57 lap. Then I had about 5:47 left on the clock, and I've run a mile that fast at least twice in my life, so I gave it a shot, but it took me around 7:47, so it doesn't really count. (Splits will be on the web soon. Partial results here.) I ended up covering 82.2 miles and finishing above the median.

Will I do it again? I feel the same as I did after my 100-miler a couple years ago. I remember not loving it during the race, but loving the finish and being very glad I did it, but also thinking that I prefer 50 milers and would only be excited about another 100 if a friend and I were running the entire thing together (Scott & Joe, this means you). However, the race is very close to my house (I took BART and rode my bike), it's held during the school year when I'll definitely be around, and I'm friends with the RD's and run a lot of their races, so I feel a repeat is pretty likely.

I just have to work on a few things:
1. Buy a camp chair. Getting up once you've laid down on the grass sucks.
2. Figure out the iPod thing. I don't think you're in the mental state to have a long attention span. I had two Steve Martin stand-up CD's, and those were awesome. I think I would've been much better off with a bunch of comedy CD's, podcasts like The Moth and TAL, and maybe a good fiction novel on tape, but something funny like Twain or Vonnegut and interspersed with music.
3. See if a patella tendon strap would help. My knees have cooperated with me ever since I got rid of my 50 lb. pack on the AT (knock on wood), but I've never run this much pavement before
and they weren't super happy.
4. Change socks more frequently. I wore road shoes most of the time, so dirt from the dirt portion jumped in and then got ground in on the asphalt portion.

The course yesterday morning

The course this morning

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Running in Circles

I am going to be running laps around Crissy Field in San Francisco non-stop from 9 AM Saturday to 9 AM Sunday. If you're in the area, come say hello and run a few laps with me. If you're not, click here to send me e-mail that the race directors will print out and give to me in real-time. I'm sure I'll be going crazy at 3:42 in the morning and would love to hear from you.

Oh, and what else have I been doing lately? I volunteered against Prop 8 (awesome), did a bunch of TA work (not that awesome), went to a high school buddy's wedding in Madison, Wisconsin (awesome), and finished reading Michael Lewis (of Moneyball fame)'s The Blind Side (not nearly as good as Moneyball).

Me and PC at his wedding.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dick Collins Firetrails 50

I just ran the Dick Collins Firetrails 50-miler. I'd been told that the course was fast, but I wasn't sure what to expect and was still a little worried about the fact that I didn't feel like I trained very well and that the cutoff was 13 hours, which is faster than I'd ever done a 50 before. Of course, the only 50 I'd done before is Mt. Diablo, which, with 13,340 feet of climbing has more climbing per-mile than all but maybe a couple 100's (Hard Rock, Wasatch), and has more climbing that any other 50 I know of other than maybe San Juan Solstice.

Alas, Firetrails is no Diablo. I got to the 15-mile aid station in just under 3 hours and thought "What? I'm not this fast. Oh well, if I'm doing 5 mph, I guess I better finish in under 10 hours." And I did, in 9:52. But most of the time I was thinking about how much I prefer courses that once every hour or so make you yell "What!? You've got to be f---ing kidding me," as you see how steep the trail ahead of you is. I mean, if it's not 85+ degrees, and you don't get dehydrated, and you don't feel like weeping when the aid station tells you they're out of ice, and your electrolytes don't get out of wack to make you want to vomit, and you don't chafe till you're bleeding, and you aren't forced to walk for several miles because all the sudden you feel like you have a hernia, then what fun is that?

I don't want to seem too critical, as the race was really well organized with tons of aid stations and more fans than I've ever seen at an ultra, I just enjoy steeper, more technical stuff a lot more, and Firetrails is on, well, firetrails, and often flat ones. Most of the time when I'm running flat stuff in ultras I'm wishing it was either (a)downhill so I could bomb down it, or (b)uphill so I'd have an excuse to just walk. I like to think that's also where my comparative advantage lies, but I was pretty much the median runner today, and that's about where I finished on Diablo this year as well.

Overall, a good run and excellent race schwag.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What's Going On

A few people have asked me about the economic crisis. The most accurate and enjoyable sources I have come across are all from NPR. A This American Life show from a few months ago (The Giant Pool of Money) explained everything as it stood then, and they just released another (Another Frightening Show About the Economy). Also, the correspondents are doing a daily podcast (Planet Money) and blog of their own.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Random Things

I spent the weekend volunteering in Reno. Tangentially, I spent the night in a hotel room with three other friends who also don't own a television, and thus we giddily spent the night watching trash like We Are Marshall, Project Runway, and the ridiculously good-looking Gina Carano kicking the snot out of Kelly Kobold.

After the debate last night I went to a talk by Seymour Hersh. I completely respect the guy's journalism, but I was disappointed by his talk. He flitted about from tangent to tangent, and would jump from moving and traumatic stories about the My Lai Massacre or Abu Ghraib (for example, when he first went to visit a soldier involved in My Lai, Paul Meadlo, his mother told him "I sent them a good boy and they gave me back a murderer,") to jaw-droppingly crude ad hominem attacks. I guess I'm torn about it--I agree with what he was saying, I just would've liked a little less bloviation.

My folks live in California, which I'm pretty sure Obama has wrapped up, so I wonder if I can use Sarah Silverman's hilarious video idea to get my parents to vote no on Prop 8. Please? Pretty please?

I love the sign in this Kos post.

I finished reading Kent Haruf's Plainsong. I realized I don't read a lot of fiction, and I've had this lying around for a while, so I moved it to the top of the pile. It was just OK. It's about regular people in a small town in Colorado doing regular-people things. Oddly, other than one offhand mention of Nancy Reagan, the book seemed entirely timeless and could have been set any time since the invention of the automobile. It followed several different people from the same town who didn't overlap in a very significant way, so it seemed sort of disjoint to me. I was also mildly annoyed by the lack of quotation marks around dialogue or indication of who exactly was saying the dialogue. Anyway.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things and Stuff

Nothing much has happened lately. My IM football team (Stimulus Package) won its first game, I spent most of the weekend talking smack about fantasy football with a friend who was in town (I lost 109-110, thank you very much Santonio Holmes), I went to a reading by Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and for the first time in what seems like way too long, I got a really good run in today. It only lasted 2:20, but I did some stuff up in Tilden I hadn't done in a while and was absolutely bombing down the hills on the way back with a gorgeous sunset and 4 bridges in view and Tarkio's cover of Squeeze's Goodbye Girl on the iPod.

I also finished listening to Erik Larsen's Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. It's separately about both the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and a serial murderer who was operating in Chicago at the same time. It was recommended to me by a buddy of mine who lives in Chicago when I was visiting him in Chicago during a family reunion in Chicago this past summer. Chicago. I think I should have said Chicago a couple more times in the past few sentences. ANYWAY, the book was great. Larsen made the fair extremely suspenseful (Will Chicago be chosen as the sight? Will it get built on time? Will they build something cooler than the Eiffel Tower? Will it be a success?) and also turned it into a beautiful and inspirational mass civic action, like the civil rights movement or something. And he contrasts that to one of the first serial murderers in US history. It's an unusual combo, but it seems to work for the most part.

It's certainly possible this is an exaggeration of the importance of the fair in history, but Larsen does a great job of showing how many famous people were involved in the fair, how many inventions came from it, and how Chicago was growing rapidly during the gilded age. Finally, having somewhat recently had the unfortunate experience of listening to Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, it was interesting to learn about the Chicago architects that were involved with the fair (Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright) on which her book was clearly based.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not nearly as disgusting as you might expect

I spent the weekend at the ALDHA-West (American Long Distance Hiking Association) Gathering at the Lake Wenatchee, WA YMCA camp. It's pretty close to the PCT, and it just so happens that when I was hiking the PCT in '04 this retired Microsoft m(b?)illionaire and his wife picked me up when I was hitching back to the trail from Skykomish and gave me one of the best trail-magic hookups I've ever gotten, letting me stay at their private resort that is on the same lake, but I digress. ALDHA-West is the keeper of the Triple Crown award, so I had a pretty awesome time hanging out with several other CDT '07 hikers who were also receiving their awards. Also there were some cool presentations by Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman, who spent a year hiking/skiing/packrafting from Seattle to the beginning of the Aleutian Islands, and photos from Eric Ryback's '69, '70, and '71 hikes of the AT, PCT, and CDT, in what might have been the first triple crown. Also, I learned that clam juice, tomato juice, and beer is not quite as disgusting a concoction as you might imagine. But thankfully now that I actually know what "clamato" is, I can decline all future offers of a chelada on account of being vegetarian.

The back row, triple crowners receiving awards this year, L to R: Nimblewill Nomad, Wildcat, Lint, Nitro, me, Wildflower, Li, and Eric Ryback.

Nitro, mocking the sacred institution that is the Triple Crown/paying homage to the golden age of hiking

Lake Wenatchee

Mad Monty and a tiny portion of his collection of stoves

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Look at me, I'm doing research!

Somebody should start a pool on how long it will take me to start hating research. I'd say the over-under is about 6 days. But I'm loving it for now. I mean, I try and waste time on the interwebs like usual, but all the lies about "we had 23,000 people at our rally," "thanks, but no thanks," and "Saddam Hussein and his family had a personal relationship with al Qaeda and he's about to miniaturize nuclear weapons" (start about 2:30 in) make me too angry. Also, I discovered that I didn't have to learn Perl, re-invent the wheel, or pay an undergrad EECS major to re-invent the wheel for me--every baseball stat you could ever want is available in a free download at Sean Lehman's Baseball Archive.

So, for starters, using all the MLB MVP's from 1911-2006 (excluding AL pitchers), players batted an average of .285 before winning their first MVP award and only .271 after, and 74% of the MVP winners had a lower career average after winning than before. That, of course, proves nothing. But now I'm going to use propensity score matching based on MVP votes received (and whatever else I determine makes you win the MVP award) to compare the actual winner to the almost-winners, and then maybe I'll be able to say whether winning the MVP award makes you famous, gets you a date with Jessica Simpson, and then makes you ignorant/less good at baseball by association.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Years Old and Miles and a Master's Degree

As of 3:17 this afternoon, I'm 29 years old. I played (touch) football with my IM team on Saturday, and when I woke up ridiculously sore on Sunday I decided to run 29 miles today to prove that I'm not old. Sort of as prep for the 24-hour race I'll be doing in a couple months, I decided to do the miles around the dirt track at school. I got a late start and I forgot my running hat so my bald head was getting sunburned, so I only ran 100 laps (rather than 116) before I had to go to school. Oh well. When I got to school I checked my mailbox and found the results from last month's Law & Economics field exam. On an excellent-good-pass-fail scale, I needed a pass in order to fulfill the requirements for the Master's degree/coursework portion of my program. I got a good. So I'm all done with courses, I've got a master's degree, and I'll just be doing my own original research/taking time off to hike long distances from now on. Sweet!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dems Make Econ Grow Faster AKA me pretending to do resarch

I recently read/saw two econs saying that Democrat presidents make the economy grow faster (Alan Blinder in the NYT, and Laura D'Andrea Tyson on The Colbert Report). I was bored, so here's a little regression of 1948-2007 annual real US GSP growth on the number of Democratic senators, reps, and presidents to entertain you (chained is the BEA's real gdp growth using chained 2000 dollars, dsen is the number of Dem Senators, dhouse is Dem House member, and dwh is a Dem prez. Please ignore autocorrelation, endogeneity, omitted variables, and the whole host of other problems.) Of course, spacing is retarded since HTML doesn't recognize multiple consecutive spaces.

reg chained dsen dhouse dwh, robust

Linear regression Number of obs = 60
F( 3, 56) = 2.55
Prob > F = 0.0645
R-squared = 0.1259
Root MSE = 2.2329

| Robust
chained | Coef. Std. Err. t P>|t| [95% Conf. Interval]
dsen | -.0335854 .0690005 -0.49 0.628 -.17181 .1046391
dhouse | .0194278 .0156595 1.24 0.220 -.011942 .0507976
dwh | 1.466665 .627477 2.34 0.023 .2096777 2.723653
_cons | -.1978744 2.13128 -0.09 0.926 -4.46734 4.071592

Interpreted, that means there's nothing statistically significant going on with the house or senate, but a democratic president has been associated with 1.47 percentage points higher annual GDP growth, and there's only a 2.3% chance that that's just statistical noise.

If anyone wants to teach me Perl or Python so that I can automate the process of getting the vote totals from every single AL and NL MLB MVP award since 1911 (including 1991, my favorite example) and the career stats for every player that ever received votes, I'm all ears.

If anybody has any ideas about what question I could answer using forest fires as a natural experiment, I'm all ears.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Tree Sit

The appeals court decided that, although they're going to hear the case, they're not going to keep the injunction going, so the trees are starting to come down. There are still four dudes in the tall redwood shown below, but the university gave them an ultimatum that ended exactly one minute ago. I'm at home, so I guessing I'm missing the show.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Running Stuff

1. Fellow backpacker Andrew Skurka recently finished second in the Leadville 100, which he entered "on a whim," which makes me (a)totally jealous, and (b)think that, although I have a pretty small sample size, it seems to be an easier transition for backpackers to get into ultra-running than it is for ultra-runners to get into long-distance backpacking. I'm not sure if that's actually true, or why it would be true physiologically or mentally, but it's interesting.

2. I recently noticed a Reebok billboard in Oakland with a picture of a collapsed runner and the words "Congratulations, you can't stand up. Go run easy." Or something to that effect. That sort of motivation might make a lot of sense in Oakland, especially given its lower-income residents that are more likely to be overweight and thus could use motivation to simply get out the door rather than motivation to do something hard-core.

3. It's interesting to compare that to Dean Karnazes, who was recently on KQED's Forum promoting his second book 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance. He's also been on 60 Minutes (where one segment says it's believed that Karnazes has run more miles than any other living human being. I'm not sure I believe that. He may do a lot of miles in a week, but David Horton has been doing it way longer, and then there's the rest of the world to consider), and run for 24 hours on a treadmill suspended above Times Square among other things. I think there's definitely a place for both approaches, but the economist in me wonders which method is more effective at motivating people to live healthier lives. Maybe the data fairy could hook me up and I could write a dissertation.

Good Googely-Moogely It's Hot

I rode my bike 10 miles to the start of the Redwood Park 50K today. I timed it well and got there right before the start. I ran the 50K in 7:41 or something like that, which isn't very fast, but given that my watch thermometer had the highest reading (105.5 degrees!) I have ever seen outside of that time I dunked it in a hot spring, I'm happy with it. It was so hot that a lady in front of me sat down due to a cramp, and then while I was digging an electrolyte pill out of my pack for her, she said "I'm going to faint," at which point she fell back, her eyes rolled back, she convulsed a little, and had these horribly raspy breaths, so I held her head up and sprayed some water on her. She came to pretty quick and her friends came along, so they took care of her and I kept going. After finishing I was planning on riding home, but there was all sorts of chafing going on in the nether-regions, so I hung out till the race was all over and got a ride home. Good times.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

3 Book Reviews

On my recent runs I finished three books on tape: Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean, Your Government Failed You by Richard Clarke, and The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby.

Young Men and Fire is Maclean's (of A River Runs Through It fame) book about the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire outside Helena, Montana in which 13 smokejumper firefighters died. There was some controversy over the fire because the crew leader started an escape fire (start a fire where you are so that when the big fire gets to you there's no fuel left and you'll be OK) which was unheard of at the time, so his crew didn't understand what was going on and ran right by the escape fire and were killed; some felt the escape fire was actually what killed the men (unlikely). The books drags on a bit at the end, but it's a good read, especially if you like mountains/the west/the outdoors, etc.

Your Government Failed You is Richard Clarke's (the terrorism czar that kept on trying to get everyone in government to take Al Qaeda seriously before 9/11) new book about how the government hasn't gotten any smarter in the years since 9/11. Although the book on tape was abridged, it was read by Clarke himself, so I assume he thought it was a decent abridgment. It's easy to accuse him of being a Monday morning quarterback, and I noticed a time or two that he contradicted himself (ragging on the Army generals for a last-minute scrapping of the long-held Centcom plan for invading Iraq with three or four hundred thousand troops for a lengthy post-invasion presence that he thought would've worked, but then later mentioning a conversation with Condi Rice where he said of the new quick plan: "at least it'll be quick.") What I really liked about this book were the specifics. This is not pie-in-the-sky stuff, it's specific intelligence programs that don't work and specific laws we could pass to fix them. There is a very apolitical tone throughout, and one of his major contentions is that we should limit the number of political appointees (the Department of Homeland Security (which is a mismanaged behemoth and should be unmade) has a higher percentage of appointees than any other executive department) and replace them with career civil servants. Perhaps the only vague wishful thinking part was that in order to do this, we need to make public service noble again, but Clarke was inspiring enough that I believe that might be possible.

Finally, Jacoby's Age of American Unreason is a history of anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism in America. Fundamentalist religion, TV, the Internet, Baby Einstein videos, video games, the death of reading, letter-writing, classical music, and poetry, communism, anti-communism, junk science (intelligent design, social Darwinism, thinking vaccines cause autism) and many other things are all making Americans stupid. I think this book said some really important things, but I can't imagine anyone liking the entire thing--at some point, regardless of your political stance, you're going to think Jacoby is arrogant and pompous. If anybody's read it, I'd love to chat about it, but my thoughts are well-formed enough to put in writing now. Plus, Jacoby hates book reviews on blogs.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Drill Baby Drill

Just to be clear, the thing Huckabee said that I guessed was false the second I heard it is in fact false.

And I'm happy I'll be voting for the party in which the governor (Schweitzer) of a state (Montana) whose economy depends a good deal on the extractive industries said "the most important barrel of oil is the one that you don't use" instead of the one that chants "drill baby drill" and mocks someone for being a community organizer (ha ha, spending time trying to help disadvantaged people on the south side of Chicago when you could've gone to Wall Street? Sucker!)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What Now?

I studied, I took my test, I squeezed in a couple trips, and school has started. So what am I doing to fill the time from now until December 19th when I can get a month of freedom and ski the JMT?

I'm TA-ing Poli Sci 135/Econ 110--Game Theory in the Social Sciences

I'm helping to teach a DeCal (Democratic Education at Cal, i.e. cool student-facilitated courses) called Global Poverty & Impact Evaluation: Learning What Works for the World's Poor [link to syllabus]. It's sponsored by Berkeley's new Center of Evaluation for Global Action (CEGA), an organization sort of similar to MIT's Poverty Action Lab. Basically, the idea is that although well-intentioned, it's not clear that some poverty alleviation projects actually do any good. So you should measure the impact of your project, and then, since money for such projects is scarce, you should focus your resources on those projects with the greatest benefit and not just your favorite pet cause. We'll cover (in a very applied way, at a level appropriate for advanced undergrads with a basic stats background or public policy/public health/education grad students, or basically anybody that's interested) the methods economists use to do this sort of stuff: randomized evaluations, regression discontinuity, diff n' diff, and matching.

And I'm doing the usual: 7 ultras, a hiker gathering, a wedding, my HS 10th reunion, some volunteer stuff, maybe an intramural team, and maybe, just maybe, starting to work on a dissertation.

Hey there Delilah

I decided I looked less bald bald than with hair.

The Man Burned

I went to Burning Man. Walking around the desert in a complete sandstorm white-out looking at participatory installation art while getting passed by roving double-decker buses decked out like pirate ships with blasting techno dance parties aboard is pretty awesome.

The Man

The Bummer

The Temple

A Real Live Thunder Dome

Fire Dancing