Sunday, December 25, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Earth: Fun while it lasted

Last week I presented research at the Naval Postgraduate school, went
to a Brandi Carlile concert, saw a rough cut of a friend's movie about
the Hiker Trash on the AT, and went for a great run on Mt. Diablo,
which may have been my first real run with actual hills in it since

Friday, December 16, 2011

Me: I'd like to close my account

WF: I'm sorry to hear that. May I ask why?
Me: Because large banks are evil.
WF: May I ask what makes you think that large banks are evil?
Me: Because I have a PhD in economics and you tanked the world
economy. Not you specifically, but Angelo Mozilo and people like that.
I already zeroed out the account so it should be pretty easy.
WF: Your account has been closed. Thank you for calling.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Letters to Inmates

Anybody ever written letters to a federal inmate in the US? Did my letter to one bounce because it was coming from Kenya, or because it was greeting card size, not regular letter size?

Sunday, December 04, 2011


New post for close friends on the invite-only blog. Thoughts from econs/academics/people who have had a job are encouraged.

My last day in Busia is a boring and rainy one. The highlight so far has been vegan white bean pancakes. It's hard to make progress on my personal research when it takes 45 minutes to run one 600,000 observation Poisson regression. I think the finding is going to be that when I look at US military deaths from 1990-2006, there are no interesting effects on recruitment, while they're there and strong if I only use 2001-2006, so maybe war-time deaths are especially important.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Garden Fail

My garden in Busia has been a big failure. Gigantic pumpkin, broccoli, and zucchini plants, but none of the fruiting part. (How are you supposed to describe that since these are all vegetables?) Too much rain? Too hot? Crappy soil plus bugs?

Cuba to Florida

Not my personal favorite endurance sport, but I gotta respect it. The article is fairly insightful too-- I like the point about the effort being more inspiring from afar.

From The New York Times:

Marathon Swimmer Diana Nyad Takes On the Demons of the Sea

Why the 62-year-old can't stay out of the water. Despite the jellyfish.

Interesting, that's all.

I like what he says about change being unlikely. Seems like we could be cynic-buddies.

From The New York Times:

CURRENTS: On Sidelines, Candidate Speaks Freely

Buddy Roemer, a long shot candidate with little to lose, says American politics is plagued by a "plantation mentality" and that the wealth that built the United States may yet stifle its democracy.

This Guy

bikes all over the world and is a philosophy prof at Williams. I'm jealous. (OK, I guess I did just win a bike race in Uganda, and I'm a postdoc on a project run by some heavies, so maybe I'm not doing too shittily myself.)
[h/t MRB]

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pr0n (Not Really)

The New Pornographers are a band I'm familiar with. and are new to me.

I also went to Uganda and won a mountain bike race.

Sorry, I forgot about that one. It was a 4-man race, so no big deal, but very beautiful.

I went to Uganda and saw gorillas

Then I went to Lake Bunyonyi and did some hiking and swimming. Next up, Philadelphia, Monterey, Oakland, and Geneva.


Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
"Save what little money you possess to meet basic survival requirements, but spend your time lavishly in order to create the life values that make the fire worth the candle. Dig?" That's actually an Ed Buryn quote, but it was my favorite line of this book. It's a pretty short book, long skipable sections of which are lists of informational websites, but still a decent read. I enjoyed the first half or so, but soon realized that Potts' vagabonding isn't really for me. I do love traveling, and I could see myself never really having a normal career and instead drifting from adventure to two-year job in some crazy place to adventure until I get hit by a car, but exploring new cultures isn't really the type of adventure I most crave--my most desired adventure involves steep granite mountain escarpments and at most one or two other people who I already know. I could go on about how this book made me realize how very American my sense of humor is and how much I have no desire to change that, but instead I'll just say that you should ask me about that culture stuff over a  beer sometime, and that this book is a decent read about one of many ways to lead an interesting and unconventional life.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
by David Foster Wallace (on tape).
I alternated between laughing out loud and wanting to collapse in the middle of the street and cry because it's all so pointless and people are so horrible to each other. God, I loved this book.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (on tape).
I've mentioned how much I hated this book before, but I finally finished it.

Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
"He leaned forward and began to count off on the fingers  of the hand that held the cigarette: She aint American. She aint a citizen. She dont speak English. She works in a whorehouse. No, hear me out. And last but not least--he sat holding his thumb--there's a son of a bitch owns her outright that I gaurangoddamntee you will kill you graveyard dead if you mess with him. Son, aint there no girls on this side of the damn river?"

McCarthy isn't perfect; most of his books have at least one section dozens of pages long where the main character runs into a stranger who relates a long, boring, and pointless dream that's probably supposed to be deep but is really only long, boring, and pointless, but when you weigh that against the beauty set against all the brutal violence, he's always still worth reading.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Can anybody find me the full text of David Foster Wallace's 2000 Rolling Stone article "The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys, and the Shrub" online or in a pdf? It's not on RS' website anymore.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some of the most depressing stats I've ever read.

D. Freedman, Evaluation Review, December 2006:
"Experimental data are often analyzed by fitting regression models and their ilk. As shown in section 10, randomization does not justify such models. Experimental data should therefore be analyzed first by comparing rates or averages, according to the intention-to-treat principle. Only then should models be deployed. It must be emphasized that statistical adjustments to experimental data often depend substantially on assumptions, not just on randomization."

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Long Lost Kentucky Twin

I originally shared this on fb just because the photos were fantastic.
Then people pointed out that the dude in photo #3 is my long lost


On Mitt's plan to privatize Veterans Health:

I thought this was particularly insightful: "In fact, it's hard to
avoid the sense that Republicans are especially eager to dismantle
government programs that act as living demonstrations that their
ideology is wrong. "

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is it so wrong

that one of the things I most look forward to about being in the states next month is that I'll be able to pipe into my old department's server and run code at a decent speed?

OS Lion Sucks

Have I mentioned this yet? OS Lion is a slow and buggy piece of crap.
Don't upgrade. Now that I already did, it's kind of a pain to
downgrade because I'm stupid and only have Snow Leopard Time Machine
backups in storage in the US. I think my options are to (1) manually
back up everything I need, wipe the drive, install Snow Leopard, and
hope that all the software, photos, and music all function when I'm
done (2) wait until next month, manually back up all the photos I've
taken in the last several months, restore a Snow Leopard Time Machine
back-up from July, and add the new photos back (3) move my job market
paper research to my PC, learn to use R instead of Matlab (R's free
and I presently only have Matlab on the mac), and basically just put
the Mac to rest, or (4) scream, throw the mac against the wall, and go
for a run.

UPDATE: I went with option #1. I think I lost all my Firefox bookmarks, notes in Stickies, and lots of other app-specific preferences. What folder would have prevented that from happening?

UPDATE2: Dammit. The answer to the above question is aggravatingly obvious in hindsight (/Library/Preferences). I guess I've never had reason to figure out their stupid names before ( still remember the system that was a little more obviously labeled from way back in the Classic days.

I suppose I'll eventually get over the loss.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wisdom of Whorehouses

From Cormac McCarthy. So much in so few words.

I'm going to tell you right now cousin, when the mood comes on you for a fat woman they just wont nothing else satisfy.

Parham yonder actually claimed that a man ought not to date anything he couldn't lift. Said what if the house caught fire.
Or the barn.
Or the barn.

There was a old waddy told me one time he never knowed a woman raised on indoor plumbin to ever turn out worth a damn.

I mean if you were lookin for somebody to give a shit I can tell you right now it sure as hell wasnt Gene.

This world was never made for him. He'd outlived it before he could walk. Get married. Hell. He couldnt even stand to wear lace-up shoes.

Damn straight. I think number two's my favorite.

Climate Justice

This weekend is a chill one--sitting under the gazebo, napping, washing the dog, working on retooling my job market paper for a attempt at publication and a presentation in Monterey next month, reading Cormac McCarthy and articles on climate justice, and writing a letter to the imprisoned subject of said articles.

Here's a recent one of the articles from Outside--
Makes you want to get arrested for a good cause, huh? I also recently watched the documentary If a Tree Falls, about the Environmental Liberation Front arson and so called "eco-terrorism" of the 1990's, which is definitely worth watching. It, and the Tim DeChristopher stuff, brings up interesting issues about the validity of courts weighing political motives in crimes, the definition of terrorism, and whether we should treat terrorism just like any other crime. I agree with one of the law enforcement agencies who was involved in the investigations in the 90's in Oregon, and he puts it quite well that we ought to just classify things as crimes or not-crimes, and only prosecute based on that. I totally agree, but to be consistent, if I feel that way about terrorism, do I have to feel the same way about hate crimes? Damn hobgoblin of little minds.

What I am consistent about is being disappointed by the movie Hanna. The first 15 minutes are cool, climaxing in one great chase scene that is edited with cuts to match a very cool Chemical Brothers soundtrack. After that, you should turn the movie off to avoid boredom and poor child acting.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Lake Baringo

Motorcycling is probably the greatest means of transportation since walking, running, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and bicycling.

I rode to Lake Baringo this weekend and saw some hippos and crocs. The section from Busia to Eldoret wasn't amazing (and Eldoret traffic was horrible), but crossing the Kerio Valley from Iten to Kabarnet was fabulous. I left the house around 10 on Saturday and made it there at 5, but I left a little later on Sunday, took a different route, and spent the night in Kakamega, where I'll be living next year. I bought some roadside honey and tamarinds, I got a flat tire that cost me $1 and 10 minutes to have fixed, and I had a good time.

Taking pictures from a motorcycle would be instant death while moving, and while stopped is instant over-heating in my riding gear, but I suffered just for you. Here you go.

Motorcyle Ride

F--- this map, I'm rounding up to 700km. Also, the idea that you could go one way in 5 hours is total BS. That's not to say it wasn't awesome. Pictures soon.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Move Your Money

If you do your banking with WF, Chase, BoA, or Citi (or perhaps just anyone on this list), you should seriously move your money. I was with WF, and started the moving process to a credit union yesterday. Credit Unions are non-profit and member owned, and other non-profits or co-ops I'm a part of (REI, the PCTA) haven't f--ked the world economy, so I think it's a pretty good model. Your money's insured by the NCUSIF and backed by the full faith and credit of the US government, so there's not much to worry about, and most have agreements with tons of other CU's so you won't get the shaft on ATM fees.

Look in your area:


So here's what I've been thinking about for the last several days: constrained optimization in Matlab. I'm trying to find the optimal study sample size by maximizing the sum of several power calculations subject to a budget constraint. I haven't used Matlab in 7 years, but I've figured out the basics. The syntax isn't a problem, but the finer parts of the fmincon function are troubling. I get errors when the power is basically 1 (the power formula involves the Normal CDF). I assume that's because corner behavior is messed up. Also, what I really want to do is constrain the solutions to the set of integers, but I don't think the numerical maximization methods can handle that--I'd have to do a grid search, but if I just plain search over all the possibilities of 7 different treatment arm sizes, I think I have around 2 x 10^12 comparisons to make, which I assume will take the processor a very long time.

I'm riding my motorcycle to Lake Baringo tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

I expect this from facebook, but not google.

Google, I really liked shared items. Sucks to you for forcing me to use your facebook competitor. Also sucks to you for the reader and gmail redesign. (Readers, if it hasn't happened to you yet, it will.) How bad do they think my eyesight is that I need all this space between lines?

UPDATE:OK, you can easily change the spacing between lines. Still, I dislike the wordless icons at the top and menus that come and go.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weaponized Keynesians

Krugman (and Yglesias and Brian Beutler at TPM) are especially on point on this subject.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I swear I already sent this. Oh well. Here it is again, from the middle of my 5 hour motorcycle ride on Saturday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ride, also.

I finally put my bicycle back together. Replaced rear brake and derailleur cables and housings, and everything seems to be OK. All that's left is to buy some wire cutters and snip off the extra cable length, as my big Leatherman only serves to crimp and fray it.

Upcoming plans that might interest you: Motorcycle ride to Lake Baringo next weekend, supposedly beautiful and full of crocs and hippos. Then Nov. 19 and 20 there's a mountain bike race at Sipi Falls, a beautiful set of 3 falls on the Ugandan western slopes of Mt. Elgon. Then the weekend of the 26th I'm headed with friends to track gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, with a day at Lake Bunyonyi after. And basically a week after that I head back to the US for 3 weeks. Philly for meetings, NYC briefly, a day in Monterey to present a paper, then 10 days or so in Oakland. I'd like to leave the US around the 25th so as to benefit from the foreign earned income tax exclusion (if you live outside the US for 330 of 365 days in any 12 months you don't have to pay taxes on your first $90,000 of income. Yes I complain all the time about how wealthy people's taxes should be raised, while I'm going to pay very little. I'm not going to -not- take deductions that I legally can, but in my defense, I wouldn't be upset if they got rid of this deduction.) Anyway that leaves me with a week or two before work starts up again in January. I'm thinking I might stop in Europe on the way back, I've never seen the Alps. I don't know what I'd be able to do in Switzerland in the winter though. Suggestions?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don't Be Lame

1/4 of Yale grads become consultants or financiers.

Back to Normal

Now that I warmed your heart with some animal photos, who's up for some good old fashioned cynicism? You know I am. So much so that at lunch I rattled off my favorite talking points: (1) life is meaningless, (2) all organizations are corrupt, (3) even if development worked, higher GDP doesn't make people any happier, so what's the point?

To get a little more specific, the government is trying to weaken the FOIA.

And Mississippi wants to send women and doctors to jail for using IUD's.

Oh, and there's this:

Looking forward to a long motorcycle ride this weekend.