Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Dream of Economics

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Research Rant

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

The Core and the Big Game

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

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

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

Constitutions



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



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

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

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2008

No Marathon for Me

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

Apple Care?

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

Friday, November 07, 2008

Crossing the GG Bridge After Hours?

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

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What Percent Happy Am I?

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


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

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

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

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

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

-5: Saxby Chambliss crushed challenger Jim Martin.

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Blue Across America

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

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

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mom, Dad, It's Coming!

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

Listen to the eponymously named single here.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Be Nice to Your Mac

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


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