Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Week

This week I read about worms, externalities, and the Peabody Picture
and Vocabulary Test, but more interestingly, went for a couple
excellently muddy rides, went to Roselyn's and learned some good
Swahili vocab, and went to Iten, which is outside of Eldoret and home
to some of the runner training centers. It's maybe 4-5 hours on three
matatus--Busia to Bungoma, then Eldoret, then Iten. You can get a
reasonably nice one (i.e. one person per seat) from Bungoma to
Eldoret, but for the rest, it's the usual 21 people in a 14-legal
seats mini-van. I walked the road 6km from Iten down to just past
Kessup and stayed at Lelin Campsite, which overlooks the Kerio
Valley--finally, variation in topography! I visited a marathon
training center this morning, but was pretty disappointed that it
basically seemed like a sports camp for rich western white kids--not
at all like the one I visited last time outside Kitale in the
Cherangani Hills, which was just ugali na maharagwe na bad-ass Kenyan
runners doing 20-30 miles a day with no facilities to speak of.

I also ate at an amazing Indian place in Eldoret and found raisins and
cashews at the supermarket there, so those were wins too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tim DeChristopher

Tim DeChristopher's going to jail for 2 years for protesting (invalid) BLM oil & gas leases. He wasn't allowed to argue much of any defense in court. Read his statement before sentencing.

"I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system. I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me."

Read what Terry Tempest Williams wrote about the trial.
Get sent to jail in a few weeks in Washington, D.C. by protesting the tar sands pipeline, which Jim Hansen says would be "essentially game over for the climate."
I believe that Peaceful Uprising is the org Tim set up.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Boda Boda

Nothing like a night-time boda boda ride home from the Blue York to
make you feel alive/like you're going to die. Especially when you see
the best, longest lasting, most colorful shooting star of your life
from the back seat.

Data & Worms for Jumanne

Deworming nationwide in Kenya didn't happen in 2010, despite it being awesome; my friends mentioned.

Kenya made a data website.

NYT says the World Bank is opening up its data vaults too.

The government prosecuted an ultra-runner for small-time mortgage fraud, big fish are all still free.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Valves

Bikes in Kenya all have Woods/Dunlop valves
(http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_w.html#woods). I assumed they were
a cheap Chinese import or something, but Sheldon Brown says they're
from the UK, which makes sense given Kenya's colonial past. I couldn't
find the leak in my Schrader tube from home, so I walked to town and
pumped it up at the gas station and bought a new Woods tube and a pump
at bike parts store. I love that my reaction to prices now is
something along the lines of "What!? 250 Shillings for an inner tube,
and 300 for a pump? Highway robbery!" ($6 total)

Ugali na maharagwe

Started a mapping exercise yesterday, riding my bike to all the shops
and restaurants and recording gps coordinates and taking photos. I'll
put them all on Google Earth when I'm finished. This is a pretty easy
task when there's only a dozen places you'd ever want to go.

Went for a second ride yesterday, this time through the shamba, and I
got a flat. I'll have to walk the bike a mile to the gas station in
town and do the repairs there where the pump is. I should look around
town for a pump as well, but I bet I'll have to go to Kisumu.

Not to disrespect the recently deceased, but this was a funny
conversation last night at dinner at Chauma with a big-time VIP from
USAID who reports directly to Raj Shah (the head of the agency), and a
TV visible out of the corner of my eye.
Her: "So, with all your experience in development, what is the one
thing you would like me to take home and tell USAID? Garret, you
first."
Me: "What!? Amy Winehouse is dead!?"

This article by Philip Gourevitch (author of We Wish to Inform You...)
from the New Yorker about a Rwandan cycling team is beautiful.
(http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/07/11/110711fa_fact_gourevitch)

Some pictures: my cat, the border, this country could really use a ban
on plastic bags, the temperature in the office on a regular basis,
waiting out a rainstorm.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bugs in Eyes

I should've brought a pair of not-tinted sunglasses. The bike rides
through the shamba at dusk (from 6-7) are loaded with bug inhalation
and bugs in the eyes.

I might be living in Kakamega starting next year. It's not any hillier
than Busia, but there is a rain forest national park right out the
back door. It's a bigger town for sure. That could mean more noise and
pollution, or it could mean more people to hang out with.

Still thinking about the finer points of cluster-randomization. It's
not settled how much you should stratify, or whether you should do
pair-matching. This (http://cyrussamii.com/?p=837) is a good
discussion, but it's a little over my head.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oops I Did It Again

Loaded the rest of my photos from the last weeks in California.
http://picasaweb.google.com/gsc123/CaliforniaCountdown
Here are pictures of my bike, the road in town, and the water filter
in my house with a little surprise.

I hate it when you go home from work and then immediately take a nap
that lasts too long, then wake up at 8 or 9 and know you won't be able
to fall asleep until 3 in the morning.

Tuberculosis Pudding

I occasionally joke with people who ask me about running injuries that
I really can't help them because I'm biomechanically perfect.
Obviously this isn't true since I'm 75% midget and I get tendonitis in
my knees occasionally, but it's also not true because I get diarrhea
traveling internationally without fail. South Korea, Peru, Pakistan (I
like to blame the ice-creamy noodles I nicknamed "tuberculosis
pudding" in the market in Peshawar), Kenya 1, Indonesia, and now Kenya
2 in just five days. Actually it's not seeming like it's such a
horrible case, I just think it's a little ridiculous that the
inevitable happened so soon. And why have I never (knock on wood)
gotten sick backpacking in the US?

Also, my maid irons my blue jeans and undershirts, I took the bike out
for a ride yesterday evening through the shamba south of the road, the
sunset was amazing as is often the case, Dostoyevsky's "The Gambler"
is disappointing thus far, and I found a cockroach inside the house's
water filter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Keyhole Markup Language

Currently I live in "New House," but in two weeks I'll move into "MSF
House," which comes with a dog(!!), a giant yard, a garden, a gazebo,
an oven, and a bed that isn't laughably large given the space in the
room. It's a little less nice in terms of modern amenities, but that's
cool with me.

I took a boda to town and bought a set of metric allen keys for 500
KES. Dinner at Chauma tonight, after several nights of matoke with
groundnut sauce at Blue York, and mung beans over the weekend. (I'll
try and grow some sprouts soon.)

Sunrise and sunset is going to be 6:47 and 6:55 give or take ten
minutes for the next two years.

I have to be at the office at 8 AM like a normal person.

Spent yesterday reading McKenzie & Bruhn on how to randomize (AEJ:App
2009, http://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=9667047646383966202&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5)
and today learning KML to map seasonal vs. perennial springs and
shared vs. unshared-across-villages springs. Forget minutes, just put
everything in decimal degrees.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hakuna 5mm Allen Key

I assembled my bike and went for a ride. Google Map. Look at how flat the terrain is. Yes, I brought my GPS with me. Speaking of which, does a halfway decent set of topo maps exist for handheld GPS units for anywhere outside the developed world, or Kenya specifically? I have a Magellan Explorist 500 that I got in 2007, and it came with topo for the US that I can put on an SD card. I've got most of the Western US loaded on there, but if you don't have that, the default background map is pretty crummy in the US, and in Kenya it's horrible--all it shows is dots for the 5 or 6 largest cities in Kenya and the border with Uganda (which is actually helpful since I'm so close to it). Other than that it's a blank slate--no roads, features, nothing. Not even an outline of Lake Victoria, which is a huge bummer, since I'm definitely within a day's ride of that.

Anyway, the bike got a little dinged up in transit; I should've added a lot more padding. The disc brake discs maybe got bent a tiny bit, maybe even the large front sprocket, and the rear derailleur is a little wonky. I'm pretty sure none of the bike fundis around here have ever seen a derailleur, so I'm on my own. None of these problems are really major, it's just not perfect. I still managed to go around 20 miles pretty easily today, and right from the get-go, I realized that biking around here is going to be awesome. The first little bit was on back roads/trails through the shamba, which was pretty rad, then I went a long ways on the road to Malaba. On the way back, an older guy in a linen suit on a single speed threw down the unspoken gauntlet and we raced at full tilt for about 5 miles. I beat him to the paved road through town and stopped there, but he was just behind me and kept going, so maybe he won. The traffic on the road is totally unsafe, so I'm fine with that.

Most things are closed on Sunday, so tomorrow when the hardware stores are open I have to try and find a 5mm allen wrench. I brought my bike multi-tool, but its wrench isn't long enough to reach inside a part of my rear rack and tighten the bolt all the way, so I lost one early on in my ride today, making it a pretty noisy ride as the rack kept slapping against the frame.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Busia 2: 1 day down 729 to go.

I've arrived in Busia. Flew on KLM from SFO to Amsterdam then Nairobi.
Spent a night there, then flew to Kisumu and rode with a boss and
co-worker to Busia. Some things are the same--the road was crappy, R
is still making tea, N is still happy to see me and maybe carrying
large boxes of data from store-rooms across the street. The Internet
is still slow, but at least there's wireless. I went to the new
supermarket, Tesia. It ain't f--ing Berkeley Bowl, I can tell you
that. I'm thinking I might be able to pull off being vegan here,
however. I thought I'd have to downgrade because black beans were the
only vegan source of protein I could remember, but lentils are easy
and I even found (absolutely foul-looking) TVP at the supermarket. Had
my first Tusker last night, it comes in 500ml bottles, so that's good.
It's no Downtown Brown, but it's for sure better than cheap American
stuff.

I've almost finished assembling my bike. I need to go get a bike fundi
(handyman) to pump up the tires (I didn't bring a pump) and I'll be
all set. I chipped a good deal of paint in the shipping, and it cost
me $275 plus another 1800 Shillings in airline extra baggage fees, but
it really wasn't that big a hassle, and it'll be worth it for sure.
I've got meetings to go to today since the PI's are in town only for a
short while, otherwise I'd be tooling around on the road to Malaba.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Cleaning

The first rock concert I ever attended was the 1997 Quadrophenia World Tour by the Who at Nissan Pavillion with Marco and Paul. I got into an argument with my dad about whether or not it was "rational" to attend. I believe it ended with me yelling something like, "If Bach or Beethoven were in town, you'd think it was 'rational' to leave a friend's Eagle Court of Honor a little early to drive an hour to see them perform." Obviously, the concert rocked.

Having told you all that story, I can now donate the T-shirt from the concert to Good Will.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

All The Cool Kids Are Doing It.

The original plan was for my forearm, but it seemed too big, blocky, and high-contrast for that, and the artist recommended against shrinking it because of the text, which might blend together. So it landed on my shoulder.



"What Everett Ruess was after was beauty, and he conceived beauty in pretty romantic terms. We might be inclined to laugh at the extravagance of his beauty-worship if there were not something almost magnificent in his single-minded dedication to it."

"The peculiar thing about Everett Ruess was that he went out and did the things he dreamed about."
--Wallace Stegner

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hopefully Not My Last Ride

Last Thursday I went to Yosemite with friends and hiked an awesome 19 or 20 miles. A raging Yosemite Falls (too many people), top of El Cap, a couple miles on snow, gorgeous granite, and pretty wildflowers in a burned section. Then I went to San Diego for the Western Economics Association International conference. I presented my paper and discussed a paper on combat exposure and punitive discharges from the military in some defense economics sessions set up by RAND. As this is "the vacation conference" I of course also hung out with the Ruts, went to Del Mar Beach and Torrey Pines, and walked around the San Diego Harbor.

Today I biked a nice 38 miles. Map. Hopefully it won't be my last ride, because I came down Centennial, which really isn't that fun--too steep and straight to really enjoy. Claremont is better.

Remaining in the California Countdown: my first tattoo, a very long run, Eddie Vedder concert, and perhaps cliff jumping at Sword Lake.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

In Search of Storage Space

Do I know anyone in the Bay Area with a basement or garage who won't be moving for the next two years? Everything I own consists of 5 rubbermaids of gear/books/clothing, 2 file tubs, a box of maps, and a bicycle. All told, this is less than 3' x 3.5' x 6'. Obviously I can get a storage unit, probably a 4' x 4' for $37/mo., but it strikes me as unnecessary to pay some company money to store my stuff when I could pay a friend with a six-pack and some adventure stories.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

California Countdown

Photos from recent fun I'm cramming in before leaving.

I leave for Kenya July 13

And I'm not paddling there. Wanna buy my kayak?