Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment to Sparkle Motion.

My paper, final exam, final exam grading, and research/map-making for a prof are now complete, I did the paperwork for my teaching job for Fall semester (game theory), and I went to court this morning for my bike ticket, so my summer has officially begun. (I opted for a court date. Out of sight/mind until August.) Marcus is moving to Boston, I don't have much in the way of income right now, and we canceled the interwebs at home, so I'm going to be crazy bored. Hopefully that means I'll be studying law & economics a bunch and trying to entertain you all with non-interesting comments about the subject, such as "law reviews are stupid because they're practically 50% footnotes, a good proportion of which are common knowledge" and "How 'bout that 1972 Calabresi and Melamed Harvard Law Review paper? That sh-- is awesome." But more likely, I'll end up working at the gear shop, running, gardening, and maybe even learning to sail.

But don't worry. I'll still study and pass the exam. It was on my list of 4 things to do this year. I decided against #3 on my list (under 2:50 in the St. George Marathon) because I really had no desire to fly to Vegas or Utah for a weekend when I could just run here. So instead, I'm going to run the Mt. Diablo 50K in June, Sequoia 50K in July, Headlands Hundred in August (A week before my exam. Smart, I know.), the Redwood Park 50K in September, Dick Collins Fire Trails 50-miler and the SF One-Day in October, the Stinson Beach 50K in November, and the California International Marathon, Muir Beach 50K, and Rodeo Beach 50K in December. That's it. Just those ten.

OK. Time to start studying.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Your Erroneous Zones

Marcus likes to find self-help books in the trash. Let's all enjoy a good laugh at his expense.

Gardening and Other Crap

I finished reading William Alexander's The $64 Tomato yesterday. It's about this yuppie gardener from New York's Hudson Valley, his yuppie house, his yuppie garden, and his yuppie ways. He says yuppie things like "Our rental cottage was perched on a seaside bluff next to a lighthouse in the most marvelous meadow I have ever seen," that make me gag. Now, I realize I'm a total hypocrite because there are some very Stuff White People Like-esque qualities about me, but reading about this guy annoyed me like reading about 1800's British landed aristocracy that sit around drinking tea and playing cards all day and looking down their nose at people that have to work for a living does. Anyway, besides that annoying quality, the book itself was actually pretty well written and entertaining.

To complete the full circle of hypocrisy (or self-loathing, take your pick), I planted my own garden this weekend.

These are actually the hedge in front of my house.

Here's the garden in general. There's lots of community stuff like raspberries and fruit trees.

This is my plot, with some flower and a gigantic rosemary bush I took out.

The flower I got rid of.

My plot after planting. Lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries (too late for this year? Oh well), peas, sunflower, broccoli, beans, carrots, potatoes, and sweet 100 tomatoes. I'm guessing that's too much for this tiny plot, but there's not a lot of each of those things. It seemed kinda lame to buy starters from the store, but I caved when I saw strawberries and sweet 100's. All the seeds, water, tools and everything are supposed to be provided by the city, but some jerk broke the lock and stole three linear feet of seed packets the day before I got started, so I had to go to OSH and buy my own. No biggy, the Saturday paper had a coupon.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Finally, after 5 semesters, I got my first A in grad school. The funny thing is, I got it in an undergrad class. At least this confirms that I haven't gotten any dumber in the last four years.

Also, in case you're wondering, the correct order of the Indiana Jones movies, in order of decreasing goodness, is 3,1,4,2.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Big City Mountaineers

Prevented from doing a major hike this summer by the necessity of actually making some progress in grad school, I'm squeezing in a couple short service oriented trips. At the end of June I'm doing a maintenance trip on the PCT, and in July I'm doing a week-long trip with Big City Mountaineers. Basically, they're a non-profit that takes inner-city Oakland kids backpacking. This, of course, costs them money. I've already paid my own way, but if you've got a few bucks to spare and want to help them infect young people with the love-of-backpacking disease, you can read more here and maybe donate a little. I'd appreciate it, and I think the kids will too.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I am the Antman

Francis Tapon and I and our CDT yo-yos are the subject of a feature article ("The Onion vs. Mr. Magoo") in the June issue of Backpacker magazine. (backpacker.com's correlation with the print magazine is subject to long and variable lags, so you might have to hit the bookstore.)

Funniest part: "Garret was born knowing that he was the smartest person in the world," says his mother Kathy Christensen.

Worst part: The intro page consists of separate photos of me and Francis against black backdrops, but the entire page is black so you can't tell we're not really standing right next to each other. I'm standing up and Francis is crouching, only in print we're pretty much the same size--meaning I look the size of the Antman or the Brownies from the movie Willow. Yeh, that'll do wonders for my Napoleon Complex.


Finally. I just sent in my paper on ethnicity and elections in Kenya. Having not written a paper in a long time, it's interesting to re-learn how bad I am at allocating small bits of large projects across time, how horrible I've felt having this due date weigh on me for the last two months, how not-hard it is when you actually get down to doing it, and how actually sort of fun it is to study something I'm actually interested in in real depth, even if I didn't really do much great original analysis or anything and it's mostly just a history paper.

Also, I joined and got a plot at the Golden Gate Community Garden today at their annual meeting. I think I'll try and read The $64 Tomato soon, but (1) it seems like this will be actually be super cheap and (2) I don't care because it's fun and I met cool people and I like it. (Yes, of course, I was partly motivated/reminded to do this by Michael Pollan. Here's the article.)

Now I've got to not fail my last final, grade my kids' Econ 1 finals, give them their grades for the course, volunteer at graduation, go to court, make maps of Kenyan migration patterns for the Kenya Life Panel Survey and the Girls Scholarship Program, and then summer can commence. And by "summer" I mean "studying for the law & economics field exam." A little.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hot Air

It is 85.3 degrees in my office today.
Someday, I will do this.
Or maybe just this. (Hat tip to Outside magazine.)
Or maybe, I will suck it up and finish this paper on Kenyan elections, never to write a paper again. Except for maybe a dissertation chapter or three.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Reasons I Still Haven't Written the Paper

1- I listened to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking on tape. I thought it was very interesting and had lots of cool stories about how our brain has evolved to be able to do cool stuff without our consciously thinking about it, but I think the idea's a little oversold. The intro says that we could use this idea "to create a new and better world," or something presumptuous like that. It was interesting how certain hospitals now diagnose heart attacks way more accurately than others using only 3 readings, how some tennis coach can 100% tell when someone's going to double fault, how market research thought the Herman Miller Aeron chair was fugly and wouldn't sell and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family weren't funny, why police shoot unarmed people, or how well-trained scientists can predict with accuracy whether a couple will stay together based on a 3-minute conversation, but they're certainly not all good things your brain makes you do, and sometimes instincts seem completely unrelated to the story and it just seems like statistics or "scientific research" is what's necessary to answer important questions (imagine that). So yes, it's interesting that sometimes your instincts are great, then you screw it up by thinking about it, but then if you become a pro at it and actually study it a lot you can be amazing, but I don't think we're foolishly sitting on this vast fountain of knowledge that's just waiting for us to tap it so we can learn to fly and have Jedi mind-control and rid the world of all diseases.

2- My friend Wildflower sent me her video from the CDT. Here's a low-res trailer. Part of the reason I love it when people make hiking videos is that their soundtracks usually expose me to good bluegrass, folk, or indy music that I haven't heard before. This time it was The Marshall Tucker Band's Fire on the Mountain and Brandi Carlile's Have You Ever.

3- I alternate between loving This American Life for interesting stories and hating it for its frou-frou metrosexual striped-shirtedness, but I thought this one was a very good explanation of the credit crisis with a few personal touches to keep it interesting.

Friday, May 09, 2008


These (1,2) two stories describe what I think is great news for the PCT. No more Mojave Desert/LA Aquaduct section, plus, you know, conservation in general.

Movie Review: Sicko

Just finished watching Michael Moore's Sicko. I've been pissed off about health care ever since I had Thanksgiving dinner with a former Libertarian Party Vice Presidential candidate and this annoying religious conservative guy from Washington state who claimed that he constantly saw Canadians coming over the border to get treatment in the States and both of whom claimed America had "the best health care in the world." Now, I realize that Moore showed only the good side of the Canadian/French health care systems, so I wouldn't mind seeing an objective stat on how long all the unemployed French Muslim North African immigrants that rioted in '05 have to wait for treatment, but by all the objective measures of health outcomes that I've seen (life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.), you'd have to be crazy/retarded/stupid or maybe just blinded by your rich, white, fully insured and thus far medically lucky existence to think America's system is best. And the guy from Washington didn't believe in global warming either. I'm still bitter about that.

In general, I thought this was the best of Moore's movies, with the fewest annoyingly over the top attempts to stop busy important people on the sidewalk and make them look like jerks because they won't drop everything to become a fool on camera--I liked how they scored free treatment in Cuba, but asking for treatment with a bullhorn from a boat offshore of Gitmo was a tad much. And mostly, I really liked how it stressed the broader issue: it's not just about health care, it's about the fact that we're all in this together.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mail from the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda

Remember this? Well, it came in the mail today. $503.

Looks like I'll be heading down to the walk-in court next week. The notice says something about the possibility of a "guilty 'with an explanation' plea and requests for work instead of fines," which sounds like a good approach to take. What do you think of the following arguments in my defense?

1. I ran the light when I was late for my volunteer after-school tutoring gig at the Oakland Public Library.

2. The fine for biking under the influence is only $250, and that has to be worse than what I did, so at the very least my fine should be lowered.

3. The infraction took place on the east side of the intersection, and the officer circled south on the citation.

4. Since then, I actually stop and wait for lights to change, even if there's clearly nobody coming.