Sunday, December 27, 2009

Takengon-->Banda Aceh

I'm in Takengon. I did a short solo trip in Gunung Leuser National Park (guides apparently are not required, but should you actually want to get to any specific location as opposed to just wandering around, it might be a good idea.) The jungle was cool, but it's not my favorite--you don't get any vista-type views--it's solid jungle canopy all the time that in some sense doesn't really change. Leaches and insects and monkeys and hot springs are fun, but I prefer alpine country. So now I'm a little further north in Takengon, with one more horrible bus ride (and, ummm, GI issues) remaining between me and surfing/snorkeling in Banda Aceh. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eat Mangosteens and Live

Greetings from Kotocane, Sumatra, Indonesia. You haven't lived until you've eaten mangosteens. Seriously. So good. Also, I ate a chocolate and sweetened condensed milk sandwich fried in a crap-ton of blue bonnet. I cannot believe this was concocted in any country other than the USA.  Being vegetarian takes a little fun out of my point-and-eat approach to developing country street food (especially since I was stupid and forgot to bring a phrasebook), but all is well.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Boring Update

I've been doing research. Or trying to. Mostly on the Forest Service's 2001 Roadless Rule. I'd be interested to see if I could estimate its effect on local employment. I can't think of an identification strategy other than diff-n-diff, and I'm not sure how well even that will work, plus I have to build the data using GIS. Also, importantly, it's been done before. But right now I have 935 pages of exams to grade. I bailed on the WFR course I was going to take in January so that hopefully I can get more some research done (down time between semesters seems like a good time, and although I'd love to learn the material, if I ever want to graduate, I definitely don't have time to join a S&R group right now, which is a good chunk of why I wanted to take the course). I leave Sat/Sun for Indonesia. I'm TA-ing again next semester but I applied for a short job in February teaching impact evaluation stuff abroad. More on that later if it actually happens.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Surviving Deep Survival

I just finished reading Laurence Gonzales' Deep Survival, which I guess is about the psychology of surviving. I disliked it a great deal and would absolutely not recommend it, except for the appendix which makes up the last 20 pages. The book is a very unorganized collection of ideas from Zen, Tao Te Ching, Heroditus, philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology. It's also an attempted memoir, a tribute to Gonzales' pilot father, and a collection of very short re-tellings of survival tales. I know, sounds great, right? But in trying to do all these things, and jumping around between them, it ends up doing none of the above well. Also, you may already know some of the survival accounts from Alive, Adrift, and Touching the Void, and the original accounts are far more interesting. The stories you've likely never heard of are re-told with aggravatingly little detail. I was also irked by Gonzales' repeated mentions of spirituality and following hunches, but it's not my preference for hard statistics that made me dislike this book--I consider even the most reason-based of Gonzales' writing, in both this book and his National Geographic Adventure columns, to be totally uninspired.

The subtitle is Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. In retrospect this makes sense--it's Why, not How, which I guess is what I expected. Virtually none of the information is useful in any practical sense. That's not necessarily a fatal flaw, as even though it might not be useful information the next time I'm lost that my amygdala (or whatever) is responsible for spatial mapping, if it were written well, it might at least be interesting. This book is, however, not written well. If you want a brain book, read Oliver Sacks. If you want a random collection of scientific findings loosely connected by an unconvincing central thesis, read Malcolm Gladwell.

I did find the appendix, which attempts to synthesize the book into something practical, to be worthwhile. Gonzales offers two lists:
1. Perceive, believe, then act.
2. Avoid impulsive behavior; don't hurry.
3. Know your stuff.
4. Get the information.
5. Commune with the dead. [Read accident reports.]
6. Be humble.
7. When it doubt, bail out.


1. Perceive, believe (look, see, believe)
2. Stay calm (use humor, use fear to focus)
3. Think/analyze/plan (get organized; set up small manageable tasks)
4. Take correct, decisive action (be bold and cautious while carrying out tasks)
5. Celebrate your successes (take joy in completing tasks)
6. Count your blessings (be grateful--you're alive)
7. Play (sing, play mind games, recite poetry, count anything, do mathematical problems in your head).
8. See the beauty (remember: it's a vision quest)
9. Believe that you will succeed (develop a conviction that you'll live)
10. Surrender (let go of your fear of dying; "put away the pain")
11. Do whatever is necessary (be determined; have the will and the skill)
12. Never give up (let nothing break your spirit)

Those lists are actually pretty interesting. If you want a useful and interesting reading experience, I'd suggest reading the appendix, writing down these lists, then keep them handy while reading the books and accident reports that were Gonzales' source material yourself.

I'll end with a rare good turn of phrase I liked, written from Gonzales' stunt-pilot perspective:
Survivors know, whether they are conscious of it or not, that to live at all is to fly upside down (640 people died in 1999 while choking on food; 320 drowned in the bath tub). You're already flying upside down. You might as well turn on the smoke and have some fun.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Kayaking, Che

I did a 10 or 11-mile kayak route around Brooks Island yesterday [map]. I'm beginning to think I'm a land mammal. The funnest part was getting out and walking around on the island. Also fun is when you're within 20 yards of the shore and can see the big pelicans and other birds flying around. The rest of the time on the open water is kind of boring. Plus I got seasick and puked while paddling back. It's always on the way back when I'm moving in the same direction as the waves so I get lifted from behind. Maybe I'll get used to it, or maybe I'll sell the kayak for a profit and buy a packraft or a bike.

In hindsight, Steven Soderbergh's movie Che is probably not worth watching. I seem to recall reading reviews when it came out about how you had to already agree with everything Che did to enjoy the film. More than that, regardless of your opinion, I think you have to not be interested in history or politics at all, because the film doesn't investigate any of the politics behind Che's fighting, and it barely even mentions Che's internal motivations and just languorously follows Che and his fighters (none of whom other than Che speak enough to be at all developed as characters) through the woods. The first half about the Cuban revolution at least shows Che speaking at the UN, but the second half is literally two atmospheric and moody hours of Che walking around the Bolivian jungle. I guess a good documentary featuring analysis of his actions from both sides would be a lot more interesting.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Links: Politics & Movies

1. A good argument from Albany this morning:
[ht Indecision]

2. I just saw Precious. I thought Lee Daniels' cinéma vérité-esque rapid zoom and shaky camera work were distracting. I also thought it was manipulative of your emotions. At one point while I was sobbing, I realized everyone else in the theater was sobbing too, and pretty loudly, but it was just so obvious that was exactly what we were supposed to be doing at that moment that I then laughed a little. However, I thought the acting was fantastic and the movie was absolutely worth seeing.

3. After Obama's speech yesterday, I was struck by this quote in a Joan Walsh column at Salon:
I'm deeply disappointed, saddened even, but I don't feel betrayed. Obama has governed like the centrist he told us and showed us he is, from his early flip-flops on FISA to his Goldman Sachs-friendly bailout policies to compromising on the job-creation parts of his economic stimulus to his tepid backing of a healthcare reform public option. It's going to take hard work by activists on all of those fronts to push him to better solutions.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Race for the Soul

The PBS doc about the Western States 100 is available on YouTube [ht TrailRunningSoul]. Interesting to me since one of the runners they follow (Patti Haskins) is a friend from the PCT in '04.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Own Private Badwater. With Snow.

I hiked from Death Valley to Owens Valley. You can see more pictures on Picasa. Videos are at the end, and here's the full trip report:

Late Sunday or early Monday I finished grading exams and mailed off my scores to the professor. I printed maps using the .tpo file provided by Brett "Blisterfree" Tucker on his website, but didn't even have time to double-check that I had actually printed two copies and didn't miss anything. Monday at 2PM I had an interview for an RA job that I don't think I'll get, and at 3:30 or so, the car was loaded and I was headed to Lone Pine. After an 8 hour drive I camped in the truck at Portagee Joe campground just outside town. In the morning my friend Nano and I (who I met at ADZPCTKO a couple years ago) left his car at Whitney Portal and drove my truck to Death Valley. After getting a permit (through perhaps the easiest process I've ever had in a National Park) we drove to Badwater, and took off hiking west from 282 feet below seal level at 11:30.
The weather was a perfect 70 degrees and the polygonal salt slabs were fascinating.
After crossing the valley we headed up Hanaupah Canyon. I went up this canyon a few years ago in my only previous trip to Death Valley, but I made it a lot further this time. We went until a little after dark (which unfortunately came at a very early 5 PM) when we reached water in the canyon, which happened to be right across from a mine shaft.
The next day we scrambled to the top of the ridge between the Middle and South Fork of Hanaupah Canyon, then followed it up, and up, and up, and up over steep loose scree fields to the crest of the Panamint range. We hung a left on our only maintained trail of the hike for one mile to reach Telescope Peak at 11,049 feet.
We doubled back, went north a miler or two on the trail, and then dropped west down, down, down Tuber Canyon. There was a lot of slipping and sliding on loose rock before finally reaching the canyon floor. We followed the canyon down until dark, where we were surrounded by impenetrable brush on one side and a cliff on the other. We could also hear water so we knew we were at the first of a couple potential springs in the canyon, but we weren't going to be able to find it (or get down the cliff) in the dark, so we camped there for the night.
In the morning, after easily finding the great spring, we exited Tuber canyon into the Panamint Valley, and headed north up it then west across Panamint Dry Lake, and up the road to Panamint Springs Resort.
After an ice cream break at the resort (from the looks of the place, that word is used loosely) we headed up the road towards Darwin Falls.
We camped in the wash near the trailhead for the lower part of the falls, then explored them in the morning. There are 9 falls that require fun scrambling to see. We saw the first four. It is humanly possible to hike directly up the canyon by climbing around the falls, but the Hiking Death Valley guidebook says there are some low class-5 moves involved, so we took the longer walk around, which Brett lists as the main L2H route anyway.

After China Garden Springs (above), we scrambled up and up and up another canyon until reaching and then crossing the Darwin Plateau. We reached our lone water cache 64 miles in at the intersection of Saline Valley Road and highway 190. This is where Nano and I split up. We enjoyed hiking together, but we clearly weren't going to make it the entire way to Mt. Whitney, and he didn't feel like pushing to get to Lone Pine, so he started hitching back to Badwater to get my car. The plan was for him to switch it out with his car at the portal, but if possible, find somebody to drive my car down to Lone Pine, to where I was planning on hiking. This was at 1:30 PM on Friday. I took off north on Saline Valley road, which went around the Santa Rosa Hills and through Lee Flat Joshua Tree Forest. I covered about 15 more miles that afternoon, and went to sleep under the stars under a nice Juniper tree at 7:30PM. At about 12:45 or so, I was awoken by moisture on my face. "I guess I'll set up my tent now, good thing I didn't send it back with Nano," I thought, as the first precipitation of the trip fell. Oh, wait a minute. That's not rain. That's snow. And from what I could tell, it was really coming down. Better to hike in 1-3 inches of snow than 1-3 feet, I thought, so after setting up and then dismantling my tent, I started hiking at 1:15 AM. I soon left the White Mountain Talc Road and climbed up the Inyo Mountains towards Cerro Gordo, an active mining and ghost town. I had camped at about 5000 feet, and there wasn't much snow there, but I didn't reach the summit at 8200 feet until 5AM, at which point there was a good 4 inches of snow. All the while I could see squat, but luckily all the walking was on (relatively) easy to follow dirt roads. I would have liked to have hiked north on the crest of the Inyo mountains for a few miles before dropping x-country down Long John Canyon and walking right into Lone Pine, but with the snow and the possibility that the storm block in one of our cars at the Portal, I had to get out ASAP. So I followed the graded Cerro Gordo road down the west side of the Inyos down to the village of Keeler on highway 136. Nano and I got ahold of each other, and it turned out he hadn't switched our cars yet, but it was a relatively simple matter to eat pancakes at a restaurant in Lone Pine and then use my AAA membership to get a giant tow-truck up to the portal in a good 6-7 inches of fresh powder to tow his car down the mountain. Simple in that the tow truck was giant but was only 2WD so even it had trouble. Anyway, now that I'm warm and dry (well, sort of, my apartment has serious moisture buildup that is driving me crazy) I'm thinking how the snow wasn't that hard to walk in and jeeps were still going up and down to the Portal for fun, but if I'd been much further out, crossing the Inyos could've been bad, and just because Jeeps can get somewhere doesn't mean you can get a rear-wheel drive sedan there.

All in all I thought this trip was absolutely fantastic. Previously, when a hiker friend of mine told me about his love of the Great Basin, I didn't understand it at all. I just thought it would be hot and boring. But in the fall, Death Valley was fantastic. I do have to say that it was still lifeless, but fascinatingly so. I can literally count the animal life I encountered (insects included) on one hand. How often is that you can do your business, hike all day in the sun, and occasionally sit down in the dirt, and see not a single ant or fly? Yes, seeing a couple desert bighorn would be rad for sure, but if you think about it, the 99.9% lack of life is cool too. With the exception of the snow (which makes for great stories now) the weather was perfect. 60-70 during the day, 30-40 at night. I would prefer a little more daylight, but there's nothing to do about that. And as far as the scenery being boring; I'd disagree completely. I didn't love the desert on the PCT or CDT, but it didn't seem so stark there. By comparison with Death Valley and the Great Basin, the other high deserts I've hiked seem sort of bunched or jumbled together, in Death Valley the contrast between valley and range is stark, leading to beautiful vistas, not to mention truly unique dry lake beds and salt flats.

The route was almost all cross-country or dirt roads, with very little pavement and also very little maintained trail. The roads are often old 4x4 roads that aren't much traveled, and the cross-country sections ranged from very easy (across a dry lake bed) to very difficult (up and down Telescope Peak). I loved the x-country sections, and thought a few of the miles were some of the hardest I have ever done.

As far as logistics of the L2H go, just check out Brett's page. He's got everything you need. I'm happy to answer specific questions. Blake Wood also ran the route a while back (turns out, my escape route was the route he took) and wrote an article for UltraRunning [Thanks, ZG]. Brett's maps are all you need to do the hike, but another great, and very thorough, resource is Hiking Death Valley, which I picked up a few years ago, and is, in my opinion, one of the best two guide books I've ever read (the other being Roper's High Route book).

Videos from the hike:
Immediately after splitting up. I was a little amped at this point, so discount all hyperbole by about 10-15%.

Right before I started out hiking in the snow.

Just after crossing the peak of the Inyos near the mining/ghost town of Cerro Gordo.

A friendly discussion about parking.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Well that was fun. My truck is free, Nano's car is stuck, but aaa should fix that. While we wait, pancakes and hot cocoa in lone pine.
Snow storm. 8500 feet bailing to highway. I'm totally fine. But i think car might be stuck at whitney portal.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ugggh. And now for the good times.

Ugh. Cranked out exam grading over the last 3 days. Now I just need to print two sets of L2H maps, buy food, pack, do a job interview about a possible research assistance position for next semester, then drive to Lone Pine and then Death Valley.

I totally don't deserve this break, and should stay and do research, but I promise I'll start doing research as soon as I get back. Or maybe after I get back from Indonesia. Or maybe after I take the WFR course. Or maybe after the teacher training course next summer. Or maybe after going to Siberia next summer. Someday, definitely.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Can't Talk

Well, next Monday is still a few days off, but I seem to have gotten a bad cold and completely lost my voice, so that's not great as far as L2H goes. At least my truck is fixed (read the comments on two posts ago).

David Cross' I Drink for a Reason is un-readably un-funny.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Enthralling Shopping

A couple websites have created interesting ways to shop: and [NYT article by Richard Thaler about Swoopo, HT to Brad Delong]. Or interesting to this outdoorsy economist, at least.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Little Big Game

Just so everyone knows, the Cal econ grad students whooped up on the Stanford econ grad students yesterday. We beat them in basketball, football, and soccer. We lost in volleyball and ultimate. The Arrow-Debreu trophy, a bronzed apple core inside an Edgeworth box, depends only on football, so it will continue to reside in its rightful place (the grad student lounge in Evans) for at least another year. Photos.

I did not run 50K today because it sold out before I could register. Instead I tried out my Fivefingers. They'll take some getting used to.

I might try and hike from Badwater to the top of Mt. Whitney next week with a friend via the L2H route.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Where Men Win Glory

I just finished Jon Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory. I was disappointed and wouldn't recommend it. I've always defended Krakauer against critics of his previous books, but I have issues with this one.

1. Cite your sources.
2. If you're going to rag on Bush, do it about something non-obvious.
3. Quoting endless quotidian sections of your subject's journal is not the same as showing us that the thoughts and desires inside the heads of crazy adventurous men are the same as those rattling around inside our own heads.

In more detail:
1. Krakauer's method of crediting sources is to have a "Notes" section at the end with a list for each chapter that says "My sources were interviews and correspondence with Marie Tillman..." or "My main sources were Ghost Wars..." or something to that effect. The main text has essentially zero footnotes, end-notes or end-of-sentence citations; each chapter just gets a giant list of general sources in the back, so you have no clue who said any specific piece of information.

When re-investigating falsehoods told about a certain incident that people have already become familiar with, I feel it's essential to make your new sources part of the narrative. But Krakauer just mentions the three military friendly fire investigations and congressional testimony in the final few chapters of the book, despite the fact that they're obviously the source of much of the information for the entire book.

So after reading the book, I really have no idea where Krakauer's info came from. He's sort of accusing the military of this grand conspiracy regarding both Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, and I'd be more likely to believe that's what happened (instead of a bunch of people independently lying and misremembering to cover their own asses as they do every day) if I knew where Krakauer got any of his info from. Maybe he did a bunch of top notch investigative journalism, or maybe he just read Ghost Wars and the book by Tillman's mom.

2. Did you know that George Bush stole the 2000 presidential election? Or that we invaded Iraq despite the fact that Saddam Hussein didn't have any WMD and had nothing to do with 9/11? Personally, I already knew those things. I mean, don't get me wrong, because I hate George Bush just as much as the next guy, but re-telling me those facts without telling me any new details, and without citing any new sources seems like a waste, and is probably making readers who don't already believe these facts less likely to believe the story about Tillman.

3. I think the brilliance of Into the Wild comes from taking us inside the mind of Chris McCandless and making us realize that we all share some of those same thoughts and that same wanderlust. There's one line in this book (that I unfortunately can't find right now) about how the lust to run off to war is much more present in society than people are willing to admit in pleasant company. When I read that I line I thought, "Yes, that's what I want this book to be about." But instead Krakauer doesn't go anywhere with that (except very briefly in the postscript), and the book is mostly (not clearly verified) political journalism.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Super(?)freakonomics, with Big and Little "F"

I read Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's sequel to their book Freakonomics, namely, Superfreakonomics. If I had to describe it in one word, I would say "smug." If given two words, I'd say "not funny."

At times the book is a fascinating collection of recent research. But too often, the book feels like contrarianism for its own (or for coolness', or for conservatism's) sake.

My beefs:
Several times, they talk about how, by solving one problem, we managed to create another problem. (Ireland raised the garbage bill, so people burnt their trash, and set themselves on fire.) But the authors are not always careful to measure the magnitude of the unintended consequences, and seem a little too quick to mock whoever thought the change was a good idea (often the government).

The University of Chicago (where Levitt teaches) is described as "perhaps the most storied economics program in the world." I admit that's probably true, but it comes across as pretentious given that it was said (1)by a Chicago professor, and (2)in the context of poorly written sentimentality describing John List, who worked his way up from tiny state schools to become a Chicago professor, against all odds, while the rest of the profession was both stupid and out to get List because List proved them all wrong, and in response, they just hated him more.

They say we all have a religious need to flagellate and loathe ourselves, and attempts to reduce carbon emissions fill that need for godless liberals like me. I will let Paul Krugman and Brad Delong go after this chapter. (Delong posts way too frequently for me to keep track of, there are at least 10 related posts from Oct. 16 & 17, I linked to the final. Just google the book and you will discover the wild argument that erupted before the book was even published.)

I don't know. Perhaps, since I'm an economist and (sort of, maybe one day will) have a dog in this fight, I am being too critical and the average reader will like it. It just seemed a lot more fun when Freakonomics was about sumo wrestling and thus harmless. A friend compiled a list of reviews that mostly don't deal with the global warming ruckus. From a pure writing-quality perspective, I found the book sarcastic in obvious places with a surfeit of exclamation marks and thus not amusing.

Now, a discussion of small-f freakonomics. A few weeks ago, the macro professor I work for sent out this link. The key quote is this:
"When future generations ask the economics profession 'What were you doing while the great bubble built up ahead of the Second Great Depression?', and we have to reply 'Lots and lots of quirky little working papers about sumo wrestling and speed-dating', it is going to be really, really, fucking embarrassing"
That kind of bugged me, and in this sense I come to Steven Levitt's defense. Obviously, I think microeconomics is important, and not all economists have to study "the economy."

Personally, I am constantly struggling to find the balance between two extremes. On the one hand is very technical econometric or modeling mathematical minutia related to something to something important. Examples of something important is the returns to education, labor supply, or unemployment duration. But if you study any of those, you end up having to study the elasticity of some parameter or whether some production function or other should be CES or Cobb-Douglas, and I don't understand what the parameter means, let alone the elasticity of the parameter. (NB: actual debates way more arcane than this.)

On the other hand is something interesting, like baseball, which is generally covered by fewer people, so you don't have to go quite as deep into the details. Sometimes I'm convinced that doing research on baseball is fine--it's not going to make the world a better place, but neither will most "important" research, and it will prove that I can use basic applied econometric tools well, and I can apply it to things that will interest the average undergrad, which will be good for teaching. But fundamentally, I don't really care about baseball.

So hopefully I can find something "important" that I actually care about (in ridiculously great detail). Is that thing the protection of federal land for the purposes of conservation and recreation? Maybe. I just read Doug Scott's The Enduring Wilderness, which is basically a pretty wonky history of the Wilderness Act. I'm thinking maybe I could look at the effects on the local economy of wilderness preservation by putting together a database of all the National Parks, Monuments, and Wilderness areas, then looking at local tax revenues or something. Just a thought. The book made me aware of the existence of the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment. Maybe there's something there. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Thanks for the National Forests, TR.

This was a pretty good Fresh Air interview with Timothy Egan on his new book about the Forest Service and the giant 1910 fire that changed politicians' and the public's perceptions and thus saved the Forest Service. It portrays Gifford Pinchot in a much better light than Ken Burns' National Parks doc.

"We are rich because we have [the forests.]"--Egan's mom

Monday, November 02, 2009

Old Photos

My room-mate paid $4 for a giant box of old photo prints. I think it was well worth it.

I'll rub your chin if you rub mine.

In the future, neck pain will be but a distant memory.

So then I says to him, "why don't you watch where you're going?"

America's hi-tech medical records system.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Kayaking, Dinosaurs, Shooting Yourself

All my kayak gear came in at REI, so I had to ignore the oil spill and go paddling twice this weekend. I'm (obviously) still getting the hang of it, so I didn't go super long or far, just out along the Berkeley pier. It's also a little creepy when you have to park next to the oil spill response team's trucks and watch out for their boats dragging big balloon lines behind them. Anyway, no obvious oil slicks thus far, so it was good times. It's a blast to be charging out into open water with waves crashing on the bow, but coming back in it's a little nauseating and hard to stay in a straight line.

Why did nobody tell me about the existence of bike kayak trailers? That'd be so much cooler than driving the truck to the marina. [From streetsblog.]

Chuck Klosterman has a new book out that I devoured this week--Eating the Dinosaur. I love the essays on time travel and creative play-calling in football, and the ones on Kurt Cobain and David Koresh, ABBA, and TV laugh tracks are OK. The book has its moments of brilliance (best possible responses to real situations such as getting caught soliciting gay sex in an airport bathroom or shooting yourself in the leg in a night club) but in general I'd say I could have done with less introspection. Klosterman turned in on himself and analyzed the act of his own writing and interviewing, and I would have preferred the usual humorous insightful writing and interviewing other people. It's no Chuck Klosterman IV, but it's worth reading.

Oh, and since I think Klosterman does a good job of saying how Plaxico Burress could've defended his actions after his shooting (sorry, too long to quote), here's what PB actually said, which doesn't seem to be that different.

Deep (Long) Thoughts on Running

As readers probably know, I've done a bit of running in the past few weeks. October 10 I ran the Dick Collins Firetrails 50-miler, October 18 I ran the Diablo 50K, and October 24-25 I ran 95.5 miles at the SF One-Day. Actually, I technically only scored 94.4 miles because, despite hauling apples one last time to try and get another lap done in under 8 minutes, I missed it by a half second. (See pic below, which I yanked from DC-H's facebook (thanks!) via a shift-apple-4 screenshot)

All during these races my knee has been hurting, pretty badly at times. That's made me think more deeply than normal about running, and I've come up with two things. One, running is fun, but sometimes only type-2 fun. Two, running on pavement sucks.

First, is running fun, and do I want to keep doing it? Of course, and of course. But with my knee hurting, I haven't really wanted to do much training, and when I have gotten out, I haven't been enjoying it as much lately. It's a good thing the daylight is running out and winter's coming; I could use the off-season. I ran 8 ultras in 2008, and I've run 7 so far in 2009, with two more 50K's nearby before year's end. Of those I'll probably run one, in two weeks. Then I'll probably do the usual and take a break until February or March, when I'll run a 50K or two to get ready for Diablo in April. Right now I'm not that excited about running that race for the 6th time, but hopefully I'll feel different in the spring.

As to the SF One-Day in particular, while running it, I very much enjoyed it from 9AM to about 6PM when the sun went down. I managed to keep going at an OK pace (14-15 minute miles, which was plenty given the cushion I'd built) for the next few hours until a friend showed up at 11PM. After he left I started to lose it and slowed to 20 minute miles. A friend came from 3AM to 6AM, but by the time he arrived, I'd already given up on making 100 miles. He basically helped me keep going and for the most part we walked 20-minute miles, but before and after his help I did 29, 38, 51, 28, and 52-minute laps, mostly because I sat down and rested, and possibly fell asleep briefly. Once the sun came back up, I finished strong, just like last year, doing (in order) 18, 17, 16, 13, 11, 10, 9, and 8-minute miles. I had another 8 minutes left to try to get one more in, resulting in the above photo.

It felt great to finish strong, just like I did last year. But I also hated it pretty much all night long, just like I did last year. The Cure song Policy of Truth came on my iPod and I told myself to remember the oft-repeated lyrics: "never again is what you swore the time before." This is fascinating to me having heard so much about behavioral economics and hyperbolic discounting at school (that's fancy-speak for saying people never save enough for retirement). At 2:00 in the morning when I was abandoning the 100-mile goal, I absolutely did not care about it. Also, I remember hating pretty much everyone and everything (and telling my sister who called from Indonesia to STFU). Then the sun came up and I felt great and finished with almost 95.5 miles, 5 laps shy of breaking 100, 5 laps shy of winning my age group (this was my best and last shot to do this--PCTR has a calendar-year race series and next year I'll be in the much tougher 30-39 age group), and 5 laps shy of winning my first race mug instead of my 13th race coaster. ARG.

It's not like those extra 5 miles (which would take me an hour in good circumstances) would've been easy, but they were likely possible. In retrospect, I wish I'd sucked it up a little, but it's only easy to say that after the fact instead of in the middle of the night after running 75 or so miles. The real problem is the lack of a commitment device. It might have been nice if, ahead of time, I'd told my buddy that came out in the middle of the night if there was any chance for me to break 100, then he was to scream at me and tell me "I didn't come out here at 3 in the morning to walk with you, you f---ing pansy. Now let's MOVE!" But at the time, I would've hated him for that (see discussion of phone call above). So what I really should have done is, ahead of time, gone to economist Dean Karlan's website: There I could've written a binding contract with myself (verified by a neutral 3rd person) that if I failed to run 100 miles, my credit card would be charged any amount I chose for a donation to a charity that I despise (you can choose either side of abortion, environment, marriage equality, gun control, or Bush/Clinton presidential libraries to be your despised "anti-charity"). Having $200 potentially go to a loathsome anti-marriage-equality group would have been enough to get me those extra 5 miles.

Maybe next year. Except I hated it. Except I like it in retrospect. Except next October I better be busting my ass to get my research done for the job market.

Now, finally, to my second point: pavement sucks. Ever since my knee started hurting, I've been thinking a little about why. I read a couple more articles about barefoot running, watched some videos online (see below)
and looked into two (ridiculously expensive) methods, chi running and pose running.

My first reaction upon hearing the name "chi running" was my "just because it's thousands of years old and from Asia doesn't mean it's true" bias. (See this explanatory Onion article.) But I must admit that doesn't mean it's not true either. All the sources seemed to say that running barefoot, you take shorter strides and land on the front of your foot, whereas with shoes you point your toes up and land on your heels. Also, we may have evolved running long distances, so you'd think runner's knee and all these problems would have gotten weeded out, and running with shoes changes your form and takes you away from the way you evolved to do it. The only flaw I see with that argument is that we certainly didn't evolve running long distances on pavement. Last week this NYT article mentioned this fact. The article also mentions Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run, which advocates for barefootedness. I'd like to read this soon, but I'm 24th on the wait list at the library.

Anyway, I was convinced enough to give it a try, so during the last two races I tried shorter strides and landing on my front-foot. Like everybody says, it makes your calves tired. I also got a pair of Vibram five-fingers. Or rather one pair of KSO's and one pair of Sprints, neither of which I'm sure fit right, and one of which I'll surely be returning (you're supposed to order one size down of the KSO's, but REI doesn't carry size 40, and the Sprints in size 41 seem to fit fine, but the rubber heel sticks out oddly far in the back.) I haven't really tried them out running yet, but at least we can be sure of one thing: they look ridiculous.

Monday, October 26, 2009

California Water Bill

The California legislature released some details on the proposed water bill. I can't honestly claim to know enough to properly evaluate this proposal, but I'm pretty skeptical--I don't want the state to spend more on projects like this unless they're willing to raise taxes to pay for it it, and I don't want new dams. I like that urban users will be forced to conserve, but I'd like to see that agricultural and industrial users have to do the same.

Photos from SF One-Day

I didn't bring my camera to the SF One-Day, but somebody took a ton of photos, and some had me in them, so I made a small gallery on flickr.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apparently Not

Nope, those remains were not those of Everett Ruess.

Never again is what you swore the time before.

I ran 95.5 miles at the SF One-Day. Thanks for the e-mails and texts, and mad props to EK and SH for doing a few laps with me.

More later, perhaps. Good night.
I kind of really hate this. 67 laps.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I hurt. Terry gross, toe socks and new shoes don't fail me now! Email sys back up.
56 miles in 12 hours. Now comes the hard part. All i need is 15 min miles. Dinner sometime and much love are on me if you come out for a couple laps.
E.mail sys down. Sun going down. 9 hours 42 laps. Can i keep it up? Don't sleeping!

Friday, October 23, 2009

SF One Day II

Oh, and if you happen to live in Siberia or Indonesia and want to call me during the middle of the night, that'd be rad too.

SF One Day

From 9am on Saturday the 24th to 9am on Sunday the 25th, I will be running (jogging at best, really) in 1-mile loops around around Crissy Field in SF. Come join me for a few laps (you'll definitely be able to keep up, don't worry) or use this link to send me an e-mail which the race directors will print out and hand to me in real time. You can also see live hourly race updates. Jokes, college football updates, or any other light-hearted material to keep me from going insane would be much appreciated, especially during the night.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Toenail Removal

There's an NYT article about how some ultrarunners have their toenails removed. That one sentence is basically all there is to it. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

[Thanks to AS for the link]

Monday, October 19, 2009


I bought a kayak on Friday. Specifically, a Perception Eclipse Sea Lion. It looks like this one, except mine doesn't have a rudder. I got it used for $300 from the UC Aquatic Center at the Berkeley marina. Then I promptly ordered $500 worth of accessories from REI and Sierra Trading Post (spray skirt, wetsuit, paddle, paddle float, bilge pump, car carrying kit). That's a lot of money, but it's cheaper than a half-way decent bike (I've been thinking about a Trek 520, Jamis Aurora, or Novara Randonee touring bike for a while, but I guess I'll hold off for now).

Two things that I pretty much knew, but which were strongly impressed upon my mind immediately upon purchasing: (1) kayaks are really long and fit neither in the bed of a Ford Ranger nor through a normal hallway, and (2) owning a kayak necessitates owning a car. I guess I'm fine with that since I can currently accommodate both of those issues. I decided to buy it because the UC aquatic center closes for 3.5 months in winter, and when renting from them you're not allowed to go very far (or go camping). Also, I'm reasonably confident that $300 is a fantastic deal, so I can re-sell the kayak perhaps at a profit if I were forced to.

Anyway, hopefully within the year I'll be paddling out to Angel Island or camping at paddle-in sites on Tomales Bay, and within a few years watching whales breach ten feet away off Baja's Isla Espiritu Santo or in Alaska's Kenai Fjords (or better yet, putting that together into one long trip), or going down the Yukon from source to sea (or better yet, putting all three together into one long trip).

Thursday, October 15, 2009


There's an article about packrafting in the NYT. There's only a paragraph or so about their history or Roman Dial or rad stuff folks have done in them, however.

Speaking of rad things people have done in them, Erin & Hig's book comes out in a couple weeks. Or read their blog.

Yes, I'll probably buy their book (and a packraft) soon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Now can we fund public education in California?

A UC Berkeley professor and a UCLA-trained professor will share the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics. Thanks to the Scandinavians for filling in part of the state budget cuts.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dick Collins Firetrails 50 on a Bum Knee

I ran Firetrails 50-miler yesterday. Did I mention how boring I thought this race was last year? Yes, I did. Actually, knowing what to expect, it wasn't so bad in that respect, and instead I had a cold, did not train, and had really bad tendonitis preventing me from bending my right knee and causing me to walk for several minutes after leaving a few of the aid stations. I got to the Redwood Gate 15-mile aid station in 2:45, 15 minutes faster than last year, and I hit the turnaround at 26 miles in 4:55, but the worst knee pain was on the way back. Once I knew I wasn't going to beat last year's 9:52, I took the last three miles easy and finished in 10:20. I had fun, and the schwag from this race is great. Except I was pretty sure my collection of purple shirts was adequately sized at zero, but I guess not.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ken Burns, Afghanistan, Public Transit

Some like to claim that while we have to subsidize public transit, highways pay for themselves via the federal gas tax (currently 18.4 cents per gallon). I don't think that is accurate.

This episode of Fresh Air lays out a pretty good case in favor of sending more troops to Afghanistan. It's a little (lot) disconcerting to hear one of the best journalists covering the region say that Kabul would fall within six months of a US withdrawal. But will 40K more troops win it? Bill Maher posed an interesting question: when has a general ever said he couldn't win a war with more troops? Thinking back to these 1, 2 Fresh Air pieces from earlier in the summer, I'm reminded of the scene in Apocalypse Now where Kurtz describes the impossibility of winning against a ruthless enemy--how do you compete with an enemy who, after you give people vaccinations, goes around and chops off any arm that has a needle hole in it? Is it possible to convince residents we'll be there longer than the Taliban and to cooperate with us instead?

I just finished watching Ken Burns' National Parks documentary. If you haven't watched it, you have until tomorrow to watch it free online. I wasn't a huge fan, but I have a bunch of grading to do, so I had an easy 12 hours with it in the background. Watching it online meant the resolution was not awesome, which is bad news for nature photography. Even though this was one of the main themes of the series, I think it did a poor job of covering the dichotomous task the Park Service (or any other manager of public lands) faces--"to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." The latter half of the episodes were better in this regard, however. This NYT review points out that there were no people in the footage, which might be part of the problem.

There was a little too much over-the-top patriotism and a lot too much of people speaking in annoying breathy whispered overly sentimental tones (and I so wanted to like Terry Tempest Williams). I just wish there'd been more facts and less sentimentality. I thought the coverage of the controversies in Alaska and Wyoming after use of the Antiquities Act presidential power to create National Monuments was good, but coverage of Hetch Hetchy, Echo Park, and John Muir vs. Gifford Pinchot was a little weak. I also would have liked more accounts of adventures people had inside the parks--only a handful were mentioned and only two were built up in enough detail to build suspense. Maybe that's my main beef--to me the parks' dichotomy is between overweight people in cars and people having real wilderness adventure, and it seems like to Burns the dichotomy is between overweight people in cars and aerial photography shots with no people in them. A documentary on the Wilderness Act would've been more up my alley.

It Came to Me in a Dream

A research idea just came to me in a dream. In the dream I came up with a research idea that more hurricanes would lead to fewer Appalachian Trail hikers. I called this thru-hiker that I barely know to see what he thought about the idea and whether he thought I'd be able to get the number of annual thru-hikers from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harpers Ferry (Why have place names so often dropped their possessive apostrophes?) He wasn't so stoked on the idea, which got me a little bummed out, so I switched from hurricanes to to the snowpack. Then I woke up, and my first thought was "regression discontinuity based on arbitrary cutoff in the Sierra snowpack." There are a couple problems, however. First, I haven't yet found a policy that actually has a fixed snowpack cutoff. But I assume there is one, and if you've ever heard of one (if the rainfall/snowfall reaches X inches a year/month/week we do Y) please let me know. Second, if it's a yearly thing, there won't be that many observations. So someone please find me an irrigation or other government policy based on a fixed daily/weekly/monthly precipitation cutoff.

I should totally get agitated about the crappiness of my research right before going to bed more often.

Last week I went with a friend to hear Michael Pollan speak. He mentioned that he's writing a book of easy-to-remember rules for healthy eating. (There's a recent NYT article with typos and a super-lame interactive feature to go along with it.) Pollan's a good amusing speaker, and he mentioned two of the rules: don't get your fuel at the same place your car does, and don't eat anything you've ever seen advertised on TV. Why am I mentioning this now? Because of this 20-minute rock opera produced by the California Milk Processor Board. You must watch it now. Seriously, watch it. Then thank me for the link, then start using the word "uni-pega-cow" in daily conversation, then never drink milk again, because seriously, cows are horrible for the environment and it's totally weird for any animal to drink a different species' milk, especially as an adult.

Finally, I have a cold. I think yelling at the 49ers game gave me a sore throat, which made that part of me less able to fight off the cold virus. Perfect timing for a 50-miler this weekend.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Please Raise My Taxes, Not My Tuition

What Bob Herbert has to say about my school:

"Something wonderful is going on when a school that is ranked among those at the very top in the nation and the world is also a school in which more than a third of the 25,000 undergraduates qualify for federal Pell grants, which means their family incomes are less than $45,000 a year. More than 4,000 students at Berkeley are from families where the annual income is $20,000 or less. More than a third are the first in their families to attend a four-year college."

Read the full article.

Seriously (Californian) people, can we please repeal Prop 13, eliminate the 2/3 budget super-majority requirement, and fund public education?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Kayaking, Seals, Races, Michael Moore

This weekend I did a run involving bushwhacking and barbed-wire in Tilden, went swimming (after realizing I suck at swimming during a dip in Donner Lake this summer, I thought I better get in shape for my upcoming trip to Indonesia), and went sea kayaking. I rented from the UC Aquatic center and went from Berkeley marina to Emeryville marina and back. I got chased by a harbor seal for a good chunk of it. You might think that would be cute and fun, but they have solid black eyes, and I could think of nothing but Arrested Development season 2 episode 12. There's still an old Perception Sea Lion Eclipse kayak for sale; I'm thinking I might buy it next weekend, but I'll have to see how much the paddle, wetsuit, skirt, paddle float, and bilge pump would cost first. (Renting is pretty cheap, but you're not allowed to leave binocular sight, so that puts a damper on things.)

I watched some of the Cal game from Tightwad Hill. Horrible. I got free tickets to the 49ers game. Great.

Next week I begin three consecutive weekends of racing: Dick Collins Firetrails 50-miler on the 10th, Diablo 50K on the 18th, and San Francisco One Day on the 24-25th. I'd like to break 9:52 in the 50-miler and go over 100 miles in the 24-hour, but I haven't been training much at all.

Lastly, I saw Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story. I liked it; it gets a B+ from me. (SPOILER WARNING for the rest of this entry.) There were some absolutely hilarious moments including a great bit about the ERA using a part of this clip from a Ronald Reagan movie, and this Cleveland tourism video:

I had issues with two ideas in the film. First, "Dead Peasants Insurance" in which firms take out life insurance policies on their employees and profit when they die. It's presented as if the very idea is offensive, but as an economist, I'm used to the idea of monetizing human life (or anything else). When you talk about a specific case, it's always emotional and disturbing, but in general, it doesn't seem that crazy that an employer would take out insurance on an employee's life. Crazy if they profit from it and have incentive for them to die early, but they probably take out fire insurance on buildings they own, and employee training costs money...but yes it's weird if they want people to die. Second, the idea that the economy was not on the brink of a historic collapse and the TARP bailout got rammed through thanks to bank lobbyists. I believe that we were on the verge of disaster and that the problem was not the bailout itself, but the fact that there weren't enough strings attached. The same people are still running the same too-big-to-fail banks with no more regulation than before, and they can probably expect another bailout after the next (credit card?) bubble bursts.

As far as film-making goes, I generally find that I agree with much of Moore's stuff, but find his over-the-top accosting Dick Clark or bull-horn yelling at Gitmo kind of annoying and detrimental to an otherwise somewhat sound argument. This time, Moore stuck to his old habit of getting turned out of corporate headquarters, and his shtick is so tired that even he knows it, and it's back to being funny again. My favorite moment of the film was Moore describing FDR's proposed Second Bill of Rights (you know, the right to a good job, a home, education--that sort of thing). He says that the US has none of those guarantees, yet the countries we were at war with when FDR proposed them, and the countries we beat in that war, now have them. After which he says "I refuse to live in a country like this anymore. And I'm not leaving."


Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Some magazine (The Washingtonian, which I'm sure is absolutely free of regional bias) says my high school is the best.

Good News, Trails

I won't make a pun using the word "dam" instead of "damn," but I am stoked about this story. Four dams are coming down on the Klamath.

UPDATE: This story seems to be part of a series. A few days ago there was bad news about possible future construction.

I heard about a new long distance trail, the Bigfoot trail, from a friend named Squatch (because he's so into bigfoot stuff). I've looked into a route like this before, because there is public land all the way from Clearlake, CA to the Oregon border through Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity, and Klamath National Forests. However, it seemed like a lot of roadwalking and real danger of running into pot farms. Normally I discount that danger (and all other "dangerous" outdoor things like bears) but maybe not in this region.

For years I've been dreaming of an AZ-UT-ID border to border route. I mostly kept it to myself, even though I knew it had been done before. I just didn't know it had been done by Ray Jardine. My route would certainly be different--something along the lines of the Arizona Trail, Hayduke trail to Moab, west and then north up the Wasatch and the Bear River range until you hit the Snake, float the Snake west until Hammett or Glenns Ferry to connect with the Idaho Centennial Trail and up to Canada (then if I had time, east on the Pacific Northwest Trail over to Glacier and north on the Great Divide Trail.) When I will have time for any of this, I have no idea.

Monday, September 28, 2009

ALDHA-West 2009

I spent the weekend at a camp in Oregon near Mt. Hood for the 2009 ALDHA-West gathering. It was like most all hiker gatherings. At first, you're a little bummed because hiker X didn't show up even though he lives only an hour away, then you see some cool presentations, and then before you know it, it's two in the morning and you're doing one-armed pushups and cheerleading stunts while your friend is regaling a room full of people with a hilarious account of his vasectomy and train-hopping and so on and so forth. Then the weekend ends and you have to go home and your football teams lost and you have to go back to work. So fun, so bittersweet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are You Interested in Hating Everything?

I finally finished reading Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water. If you have not read this book, you absolutely must. I guess people that have both never been west of the Mississippi and don't care about the environment probably won't be interested (but then, why would you reading my blog?), but everyone else must read it. It's pretty dense at times, so it took me a long time to get through it, but that's basically because it's very well researched and thorough.

Summary: William Mulholland and LA stole (legally, mostly) all the water from the Owens Valley, the Colorado River has been thoroughly violated, and the Bureau of Reclamation (in competition with the Army Corps of Engineers) built way too many dams using absolutely fraudulent cost-benefit calculations and now sell the water to corporate farms (that are far larger than the legal size-limit to be allowed to purchase the water) for $7.50 an acre-foot (far less than residential customers pay), losing billions of dollars in the process as well as decimating fish populations and rapidly killing the soil with salt buildup. Also, the high plains states are draining the Ogallala aquifer. Also, humans suck.

That was basically my takeaway. It was confirmed while driving home on I-5 through the central valley paralleling the California aqueduct past gigantic CAFO's.

Memorable quotes:

Gov. Pat Brown on considering building the California Aqueduct to divert northern California's Feather River thousands of miles south (I just think this one's funny, since I love NorCal and dislike SoCal):
"Brown suggested another motive that had made him, a northern Californian by birth, want so badly to build a project which would send a lot of northern California's water southward: "Some of my advisors came to me and said, ' Now governor, don't bring the water to the people, let the people go to the water. That's a desert down there. Ecologically, it can't sustain the number of people that will come if you bring the water project in there.'
"I weighed this very, very thoughtfully before I started going all out for the water project. Some of my advisors said to me, 'Yes, but people are going to come to southern California anyway.' Somebody said, 'Well, send them up to northern California.' I knew I wouldn't be governor forever. I didn't think I'd ever come down to southern California and I said to myself, 'I don't want all these people to go to northern California.'

Granted, this dam (the Narrows Dam on Colorado's South Platte river) was never constructed, but congress passed appropriations for it and it very nearly was built:
"Here was a dam that the state engineer said would deliver only a third of the water it promised and could conceivably collapse; a project whose official cost estimate--if what two officials of the Union Pacific had privately suggested was correct--would barely suffice to relocate twenty-six miles of railroad track; a project whose real cost, whatever it turned out to be, would therefore be written off, in substantial measure, to "recreation," though the water would be unsafe to touch; a project whose prevailing interest rate (crucial to justifying the whole scheme) was one-fifth the rates banks were charging in the late 1970's; a projects many of whose beneficiaries owned more land than the law permitted in order to receive subsidized water (even after the acreage limit was stretched to 960 acres in 1982); a project that might, if the state engineer was correct, seep enough water to turn the town of Fort Morgan into a marsh; a project that would pile more debt onto the Bureau's Missouri Basin Account; a project that would generate not a single kilowatt of hydroelectric power and would be all but worthless for flood control."

From the afterword:
"You need seven or eight feet of water in the hot deserts to keep grass alive, which means that you need almost fifty thousand pounds of water to raise one pound of cow...California has a shortage of water because it has a surfeit of cows--it's really almost as simple as that."

Read up a little to make sure this project never happens:
Rampart Dam in Alaska.

Trailwork Report

Like I said in my last post, I went down to San Jacinto to a trail work training session. I puked on the drive down (bad gas station deli hard boiled eggs or just really windy dirt Black Mountain Road), then spent Friday, Saturday, and half of Sunday learning to work a griphoist. Basically this is a fancy winch device capable of controlled tension and release of a wire rope under up to 4,000 pounds of pressure. Anchor the griphoist on a tree, attach the wire rope to a big rock, crank the handle, and the rock moves. If the rock is really heavy, put a block (pulley) on the rock, thread the wire rope through the block and anchor it back on the same tree in order to get a 2:1 mechanical advantage. Or instead of doing a direct or directional pull, you can set up a high line or high lead and fly (a very generous term, they're not actually flying or even moving that fast if you're being remotely safe) big granite boulders down a slope.

Anyway, I had a pretty good time. The training was run by the Student Conservation Association (SCA), with PCTA, Forest Service, LA Conservation Corps, and California Conservation Corps participants. That made for a very different makeup than my previous trailwork experience, but the only bad thing about that was the attempt at forced enthusiasm/cheering/get-to-know-you games that clearly is not my style.

Here are a few pics:
This rock fin is pretty recognizable, about 3/4 mile south of Black Mountain Road.
Rigging a chain basket around a nice 700-lb. piece of granite
Pulling same rock down high lead

And a few thoughts:
When hiking, I am annoyed by, in order, 1)overgrown brush, 2)non-existent and thus hard-to-follow tread, 3)downed trees over the trail, and a distant 4) poor rock placement. I have a really small sample size (two), but I haven't super-loved my trailwork experiences because I hiked right through the areas where we were going to work and thought the trail was in fine shape since conditions (1), (2), and (3) were all fine. Apparently, however, horses and donkeys weigh a lot, cannot take sharp corners, and like there to be big granite steps all over the trail. I actually dislike steps since the 1.5 to 2 foot drops are jarring to the knees. But the group spends the whole time working on a really small section of trail that I didn't think needed any improvement in the first place, meanwhile I know for a fact the next 8 miles of trail is overgrown and impossible to hike without getting your arms and legs really scratched and covered in sticky plant oils.

There are really only two points to this. One, I need to sign up for brushing or logging trail work instead of rock stuff (or just ask my friend to machine me a pair of loppers with carbon-fiber handles, strap them to my pack, and go running/maintaining by myself). And two, I have no love of creating fine craftsmanship, I don't care about details, and I prefer quantity over quality. So please, if you know of quantity-based trail projects, let me know.

P.S. Granite weighs approximately 96 pounds per cubic foot.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

San Jacinto Rock Work

I'm headed to San Jacinto to get some training in rock-based trail work from the SCA. I think I'll probably end up thinking that I'd much rather be doing brushing or logging for hikers than rock work for donkeys, but I assume I'll still enjoy it.

I'll actually have AC for this drive. Thank goodness I didn't need a new compressor and got what was actually wrong fixed for pretty cheap, and my car mechanic (thanks VM for the rec) says I got new brake pads just in time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Night Running (deserves a quiet night)

I turned 30 years old yesterday. I don't know how I feel about that (I haven't done squat for research since orals and it's not looking like I'll get much of it done this semester with all my teaching, this isn't great for morale), but I had to teach until 7 PM, then I went out for a ~5 hour run in the dark. I haven't been in a while, so my right knee acted up a little/lot. I saw a bunch of raccoons and a grey fox (the only canine that can climb trees). Why haven't any of my running friends told me how fun night running is? The only times I've run or hiked at night is after having run or hiked all day long, so I was really tired at night, but if you don't start until 8 PM, it's actually pretty cool. It certainly doesn't hurt to have the killer views of the SF skyline and the fog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conservatives Respond to Krugman Article I Mentioned

Chicago econs respond to Krugman.

Krugman non-responds to the response because he's traveling and hasn't had time yet.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Techie Gear Dork or Laziness

1. I saw Ponyo this weekend. Why is it that only Pixar can make kids movies that aren't agonizing for adults to sit through?

2. I took a sea kayaking lesson on Saturday from the UC Aquatic Center. Learned basic strokes, a few rescues, etc. I enjoyed it (especially the few minutes in which we went outside the breaks of the marina and rode a few waves) enough to think about buying their last used kayak for $300. (Despite saying you should definitely, definitely try out many kayaks before buying one, the instructor also said I could easily resell this for more than I would pay for it.) My concern is that I'm too lazy to go kayaking with any regularity. I have ignored several outdoor sports (kayaking, cycling, rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, snowboarding, fly fishing, basically any sport that's not running/hiking) for years and viewed them as "techie gear dork" sports, meaning it was more about the machine than the man. Part of me likes the beauty of low/no-gear pursuits that don't require driving, but part of me thinks I'm just lazy. I can barely get out the door to go running, and all you have to do for that is change your shorts. If I had to put the kayak in the truck, tie it down, drive to the marina, put on a wetsuit, skirt, and spray jacket before getting started, I'd never get started. Part of me thinks it's stupid to have to drive to Tahoe to be able to do a sport (anything involving snow) and I can't get my head around the idea of "being into" a sport when you can only find the time to do it 6 times a year at most. The other part of me thinks I should get over that and that it would be rad to kayak all the way around the coast of Baja.

3. I had a mustache for about 6 hours on Friday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Economics for Planet Earth as Opposed to Planet Vulcan

Paul Krugman had a great article in the NYT magazine explaining the history of the last 70 years of macroeconomic thought in relation to current events and reminding me once again that I am so glad that I didn't go to the University of Chicago. (Many thanks to the Chicago prof whose first words out of his mouth upon my admit visit were: "How can I help you Garret, and why aren't you just going to Berkeley?") I have never been a particularly big fan of macro; I remember once being incensed upon learning the Real Business Cycle model (explained in the article) and being told that I didn't really observe involuntary unemployment, I just thought I did. However, I'm now teaching my second semester of macro and given the horrible times we're experiencing and the views of the professors here, it's certainly more interesting.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Enchanted Gorge Trip Details

"The Enchanted Gorge is where intimidation and challenge meet head on. This is not a place for the faint-hearted, the poorly conditioned, or the unadventuresome. Here is the proving ground for the Ultimate Sierra backpacker."
--Phil Arnot, blowing smoke out his rear-end in his High Sierra: John Muir's Range of Light

"The only thing "enchanted" about Enchanted Gorge is its name."
--R.J. Secor, telling it like it is, is his must-own The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails

I spent Labor Day Weekend doing an off-trail backpacking trip in Sierra National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park. (Skip the words and look at the pictures.) I read about the Enchanted Gorge in Steve Roper's Sierra High Route guidebook (he calls it "one of the wildest canyons in the range") and I immediately wanted to do it. I started Friday at Florence Lake and hiked maintained trail following the South San Joaquin up Goddard Canyon to Martha Lake. I camped on a bench maybe 200 feet above Martha Lake and had to set up on snow/still-frozen hail--the rain that had been falling lightly during the day must've been coming down frozen at higher altitudes. Saturday I went east over Goddard Creek Pass into the Ionian Basin, down Enchanted Gorge, and maybe 1/3 of the way up Goddard Creek (note that Goddard Creek is not in Goddard Canyon). I ended the day with a 150 foot climb up exposed class 3, maybe 4, next to a waterfall just as it was getting too dark to continue. You know, for kicks.

Sunday I continued up Goddard Creek, then went over Reinstein Pass and back to Martha Lake. Then instead of following the easy trail down Goddard Canyon, I went west over Hell for Sure pass. Mostly because of the name, which it definitely does not deserve. The trail from Goddard Canyon is on a cool bench, and the final approach is all pretty grass. My TI map shows trails going by Reddys Hole through Red Rock Basin to Thompson Pass and down to Florence Lake. Sunday night I could not find the turn-off near Lower Indian Lake, so I cross-countried to the pass near Fleming Mountain and spent the night there. Monday I verified that the Reddys Hole Trail absolutely does not exist, and the Thompson Pass trail only barely exists, in the form of frequent cairns with zero tread. From Fleming Mountain pass to Thompson pass was nice--high enough elevation that the plant growth was never that dense, and there were several pretty meadows. From Thompson Pass down to Florence Lake was hotter with lots of deadfall, so that was less fun.

Overall, it was definitely a good trip. I'd say that Secor is more accurate in his description of Enchanted Gorge than Arnot. It wasn't that pretty, and the dense brush is pretty annoying. Don't get me wrong, it was a fun challenge, but it's not walking-the-divide-in-the-Wind-River-Range/break-into-tears-at-the-majesty-of-it-all awesome, it's more just gnarly in a bushwhacking sense. And Ionian Basin left me a little underwhelmed too. Yes, the lakes are gorgeous and perfect for a near-freezing swim, but you never get a broad view of more than one of them at a time. Goddard Creek, however, was awesome. You get wide views up and down canyon, and the scrambling that you have to do, although sometimes steep, is on solid easily-done cliffs, whereas the slopes of Enchanted Gorge are mixtures of dirt, talus, and stinging nettles, and it's just a test of how well you can walk with your body at a 45-degree sideways angle with one hand on the ground.

Here are a few photos. There are several more on Picasa.
Ionian Basin

Looking back up Enchanted Gorge
Reaction to stinging nettle, plus my legs are really hairy

Lake at the top of Goddard Canyon

View of Reinstein Pass

I did a quick job of mapping my route, shown below. Topo! is pretty weak software, but I drew the route on the 1:100K series, then reduced it by 50% to fit it on one page. Solid red line is me on-trail, dashed is off. In the field I used NatGeo TI maps #205 and #809. Mapping it in Topo! and printing out a bunch of 7.5-minute stuff would be nice, but I prefer the ease of pre-printed TI's, and my GPS makes up for the loss of scale. lmportantly, I also xeroxed a few pages from Arnot and Secor, but Arnot is mostly redundant.

My route. Click to Enlarge.

On a side note, my camper shell slid halfway off while driving out on Kaiser Pass road (the narrow road that goes to Florence Lake, Lake Edison, and Vermilion Valley Resort). I guess it's time to ditch the c-clamps and open the packaging on that fancy new drill I bought so I can bolt the sucker on.

Also, can everyone please start using the phrase "nar-nar?" A friend introduced me to it this summer, and I'm a fan. It means (obviously?) "really gnarly," thus I suppose it could also be spelled "gnar-gnar," but we'll let the good folks at Webster's worry about that. Example: "Once you go over the pass, you're in the nar-nar for real."