Monday, October 31, 2011

Weaponized Keynesians

Krugman (and Yglesias and Brian Beutler at TPM) are especially on point on this subject.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I swear I already sent this. Oh well. Here it is again, from the middle of my 5 hour motorcycle ride on Saturday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ride, also.

I finally put my bicycle back together. Replaced rear brake and derailleur cables and housings, and everything seems to be OK. All that's left is to buy some wire cutters and snip off the extra cable length, as my big Leatherman only serves to crimp and fray it.

Upcoming plans that might interest you: Motorcycle ride to Lake Baringo next weekend, supposedly beautiful and full of crocs and hippos. Then Nov. 19 and 20 there's a mountain bike race at Sipi Falls, a beautiful set of 3 falls on the Ugandan western slopes of Mt. Elgon. Then the weekend of the 26th I'm headed with friends to track gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, with a day at Lake Bunyonyi after. And basically a week after that I head back to the US for 3 weeks. Philly for meetings, NYC briefly, a day in Monterey to present a paper, then 10 days or so in Oakland. I'd like to leave the US around the 25th so as to benefit from the foreign earned income tax exclusion (if you live outside the US for 330 of 365 days in any 12 months you don't have to pay taxes on your first $90,000 of income. Yes I complain all the time about how wealthy people's taxes should be raised, while I'm going to pay very little. I'm not going to -not- take deductions that I legally can, but in my defense, I wouldn't be upset if they got rid of this deduction.) Anyway that leaves me with a week or two before work starts up again in January. I'm thinking I might stop in Europe on the way back, I've never seen the Alps. I don't know what I'd be able to do in Switzerland in the winter though. Suggestions?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don't Be Lame

1/4 of Yale grads become consultants or financiers.

Back to Normal

Now that I warmed your heart with some animal photos, who's up for some good old fashioned cynicism? You know I am. So much so that at lunch I rattled off my favorite talking points: (1) life is meaningless, (2) all organizations are corrupt, (3) even if development worked, higher GDP doesn't make people any happier, so what's the point?

To get a little more specific, the government is trying to weaken the FOIA.

And Mississippi wants to send women and doctors to jail for using IUD's.

Oh, and there's this:

Looking forward to a long motorcycle ride this weekend.

Friday, October 21, 2011

NYTimes: Rawls on Wall Street

From The New York Times:

OPINIONATOR | THE STONE: Rawls on Wall Street

If Occupy Wall Street needs a manifesto, they should look to John Rawls and his theory of "justice as fairness."

I'm a Rawls fan. I just finished a two-night safari in the Masai Mara. I saw everything. Dozens of everything. So awesome. Pics as soon as I get back on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Money is Annoying

You might think that as an economist I would enjoy making financial decisions. But you'd be wrong. Health (three options), dental (two options), life, accidental death and dismemberment, short term disability, long-term disability, long-term care, legal, and 403(b) or 403(b) Roth retirement through three different vendors (TIAA-Cref, Vanguard, Fidelity). Employer contributions don't vest until 3 years of service, so I lose out on that. And how am I supposed to know whether my tax rate will be higher now or when I retire? Aren't old people poor? So I assume my tax rate will be lower when I retire. But hopefully by then we'll be living in a Scandinavian-esque socialist democracy, so maybe my tax rates will be higher. And I might qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, so I might be paying zero now, implying the rate will by definition be at least as high during retirement. None of the differences in health insurance really matter because they all suck out-of-network (read: in Kenya), so I think I should go with the cheapest high deductible-HSA plan. But for some reason I think that HSA's are a republican trojan horse to make sure that their taxes don't go up and the poor can't get insurance, while I also think the whole concept of employer-provided insurance has horrible adverse selection problems, so maybe it's a step in the right direction. Plus it saves me $5 a month. Who knows. More importantly, who cares. While we're at it, why don't we just plan my funeral? Pull the plug, cremate me, spread my ashes on the long trails, and send donations to something outdoorsy, something atheist, and something liberal.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Elephants and the AT

I saw some orphaned Elephants.

And a rhino.

They were adorable. Then I got some advice from the Nairobi skyline.

So 9.5 years after it all began, I went back to the start and did some hiking.


Here's a good Salon piece by Bill McKibben, organizer of the recent XL Pipeline protests, on why Obama's small donors aren't returning.

"None of us gave $50 hoping for a favor. Quite the opposite. You gave $50 hoping that, for the first time in a long while in American politics, no one would get a favor."

Then it segues to protests planned for November 6:
"Our message will be simple: If you didn’t mean it, you shouldn’t have said it. If you did, here’s the chance to prove it. Nix the pipeline.
We don’t want dinner. We want action."

Speaking of which, does anyone have thoughts on Salon's recent makeover? Several days I've looked, I've thought that their political coverage was significantly reduced and that they ramped up the pop culture, but I looked just now and all the front page articles were serious.

In more important news, I replaced my motorcycle horn. Here's the old one that quit working after 2 hours.

I also dismantled and cleaned my bicycle. It has yet to be completely reassembled. I think most of the problem is just gunk in the cable housing that prevented the rear derailleur and rear brake cables from moving freely, or prevented the springs from being able to pull out the slack completely. I bought new cable housing, cable housing ends, and cable nipples, along with brake pads and the nut to loosen my rear cassette when I was in the US. I'll put everything back together in the next couple days. Once I figure out where this spring is supposed to go.

Somebody started a charcoal-creating earth oven fire just outside my compound wall today. It's supposed to last for 3 weeks. I assume it will become less of an inferno after today. To escape it (and a mass yoga session in my living room) I took George and Mack on a walk. It was the first time that George has left the compound in the month and a half I've had him. The obvious analogy of herding cats applies 100%. It can only get better from here on out.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Kisumu, 3 AM

I'm at a hotel in Kisumu and it's 3AM. My body of course thinks it's a normal time to be awake. I'd normally solve this with sleeping pills for a couple nights after making the switch, but my luggage decided to hang out in Boston for an extra day. I think my clean underwear and I will be reunited in the morning, and then I'm headed back to Busia.

I noticed good news and bad from California today. Governor Brown signed the California Dream Act, but the Feds are prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries.

Oh, and Steve Jobs, I totally hate my new work-provided Windows laptop. Who designed this crap physically? Why does all this software not present itself in a consistent format? Who authorized all these pop-ups? I had a PC in my bedroom in high school, but there's been a Mac in the house since basically forever. Put that down as the one thing my father and I agree on.

Monday, October 03, 2011


It isn't often that I learn about academic econ articles from the Grist blog, but apparently coal generates 0.8 to 5.6 times as much negative externalities as it does actual productive economic activity.

I spent a lot of money on motorcycle safety gear and went to Amicalola Falls State Park to hike the 8-mile long approach to the Appalachian Trail over the weekend. Awesome weekend, and the memories it brought back of the hike (and lifelong trajectory) I started nine and a half years ago were wonderful. Photos soon. I'm now an employee of Emory University, and I'm headed to UNC for a water conference tomorrow. Back to Kenya Thursday.