Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cool Fish Stuff

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

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dear Editor

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

and today, this got published.

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

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oops, I did it again.

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

Acalanes Open Space. The sun actually came out!

I feel obligated to photograph things bearing my name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

50K, again

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wrestling Economics/My Napoleon Complex

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2008


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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Movie Stuff

This movie thing is neat.
This is interesting thinking.

I made a graph

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

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Econ & Taxes

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cross-County Trail

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

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

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

My High School Reunion

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

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

Out front of the school

Inside the old Senior Lounge

Lake Audubon

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

My friend's brother hates zombies.


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


I finished a few books lately.

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

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

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

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