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."