Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stop reminding me of just how right Ashcroft was.

Obama, killing US citizens [NYT editorial]. (But don't be concerned! He's so progressive, he's come around to the Dick Cheney position on gay marriage.)

 Ashcroft: "“How will he be different? The main difference is going to be that he spells his name ‘O-b-a-m-a,’ not ‘B-u-s-h.’ ”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If your observables are correlated with the variable of interest, how dare you assume your unobservables are not?

Trees reduce crime. I love trees, but I'm not sure I buy it.

OK, maybe I should actually read this paper before calling it out, but just because you control for SES, doesn't mean you fix the problem. Unless you've got a convincing identification strategy, you've still just got an interesting partial correlation.

Monday, May 28, 2012

People don't always have mustaches when you think they do.

A friend told me we were watching a secret movie last weekend. The only clues were "1970's" and "Mustache."

My first thought was John Cazale, Dog Day Afternoon.
"I was only in five movies, but they were all awesome."

She told me that was wrong. My next thought was Burt Reynolds, Smokey and the Bandit. OK, I actually thought Deliverance, but then I googled it, and saw that Burt was clean shaven.
Will someone please buy me a vest like that already?
She told me Smokey and the Bandit was wrong.  She also told me Sally Field was not a total looker in Smokey and the Bandit. Clearly, she was wrong, but this post is about mustaches, so you'll have to look that one up yourself.
Sally Field was hot. Believe it.
Tom Selleck is 80's. There was one Cheech movie in the 70's, so that could technically count. But then I got really excited when I thought my friend told me the movie was going to feature this:
Why do more people not go like this for Halloween? (Marcus, I'm looking at you.)
Sean Connery in Zardoz, although I think Zonad might be a better name. I was thoroughly disappointed when I discovered this was not actually the movie we'd be watching.

Instead, the movie we watched was this:

Which is pretty damn good, and features this guy:
Notice how I'm smiling? That's because I have a full beard.
Who may have once looked like my father once looked, but does not have a f---ing mustache.
But I guess that's OK, because actually, neither did this guy:

So there you have it.

Mostly Puppies

George in the Window


I discovered a pottery collective nearby. Car wheel as throwing wheel.

My haul from the collective.


Sugar Cane Kids

Field Work

Breakfast spread at Martha's Guest House outside Butere

Farewell visit to my buddy S; he happened to have three adorable puppies. Blurry, but I like how this one turned out.

Holding two of them

Please do not appear at my house having driven this rig from South Africa. The jealousy cannot be contained.

Synchronized grooming

Synchronized sleeping

How Kenyans fuel their sports; I'm giving it a try. It is dirt cheap, and, you know, tastes like sugar.

The Obama Villa, one of the themed rooms at Martha's Guest House. I went for the Princess Margaret room instead.

Holding all three of them


Well, I've been working like crazy on some grant proposals. After George was hit by a car I bailed on Mfangano island, but he was recovering well (and still is) so I managed to get in a motorcycle ride Sunday afternoon and headed to a guest house an hour away in Butere. It was nice, but vastly overrated by the Rough Guide. This weekend Miles and I ran a good 14.5, I visited my buddy S's house and his windmill workshop, and I hung out with friends in Kisumu.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Run Free: NYT on Caballo Blanco

"He was a free spirit who survived on cornmeal, beans, and wild dreams"
I inserted the Oxford comma myself. I believe in them in general, and especially in this case.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Florida 8th District Representative Daniel Webster is a [expletive removed].

The Beginning of the End of the Census?

“We’re spending $70 per person to fill this out. That’s just not cost effective,” he continued, “especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.”
In fact, the randomness of the survey is precisely what makes the survey scientific, statistical experts say.
Ha ha ha ha!
When your idiotic ideology fails you, just eliminate the empirical evidence. Free platitudes for everyone!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Me on a Bored Saturday

We got a blender a few weeks ago. Hummus and lara bars from scratch. Mung beans in the background. Energy bars next. Lentil loaf tomorrow.

George is running around (albeit on three legs) and licking my face like normal.

Friday, May 18, 2012


George got hit by a car last night. He'll survive but might have a broken leg. Miles and I were having a great run with George off-leash as normal, but we were out late so it was getting dark. It was only the second time I'd gone to this area so I didn't know the trails and we ended up hitting the main tarmac road much further south than I wanted. It didn't have much of a shoulder, and he went out into the road and got hit. The matatu saw him and slowed down a bunch, so it could have been worse. The vet is on his way, but I'm not sure what he'll be able to do. It's not a compound fracture or very bloody, but it's badly swollen.
Dammit. Obviously could have been avoided if any of a dozen things had been different, but he pulls like a sled dog when he's on a leash and is under pretty good voice control when off (hasn't killed a single chicken) and we took the left turn sending us out to the paved road, and it was getting dark... Dammit.

[UPDATE: The vet, 6 hours late because he got arrested by traffic cops on the way, seems to think there's no break; George'll be walking on it in 2 days. That's great news; I'm still in a funk, and I'll believe it when I see it. I went around town looking for another vet (mine had to come from Busia) and met the District Veterinary Officer, who seemed like he had the facilities to put George under general anesthesia and set and cast any broken bones. I'll take George to him on Monday if it's not looking better, but I think everything will be OK.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jurek on Efficient Training

Pretty basic (do two-a-days or back-to-backs, etc.) advice from Jurek on how to train well when you don't have the time. (Which is me.)

Mfangano Island this weekend with the gang. I'm hoping to ride my motorcycle via Homa Bay, but the rains might make that too difficult, in which case I'll just get in the car with friends and take the northern ferry via Bondo.

View Larger Map

Dropbox and Shared Cloud Storage in General

I am with the complainers on this one:

Dropbox acts just like a folder on your computer, so if you drag and drop, stuff is moved, not copied. Only in your mind you know it's not on your computer, it's on a server somewhere, so you expect it to copy. So basically, for shared folders, you end up stealing files from your whole team.

Is there a workaround? Is Google Drive better? How about Amazon? My project only needs a few gigs, but it needs to be very simple yet hard to accidentally delete shared files. And it has to sync easily with crappy Internet access, and work on PC's. Please don't suggest Microsoft SharePoint, since it is a flaming pile of feces.

[UPDATE: In a related vein, Google drastically increased their storage prices when they unveiled Drive. Thankfully, old plans are grandfathered in.]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Berkeley Econ Warm Fuzzies

Winning the battle to keep top profs. Why Shachar stayed.

Bob Anderson's speech to LGBT grads. "UC Berkeley enrolls more Pell Grant recipients than the entire Ivy League combined."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Run, April and May in Photos

Sprints with Miles by the Onion at Garmin Connect - Details

I doubt many of you think this is interesting, but I'm a big fan of my Forerunner. I like looking at the lines my routes make on an aerial map, and I like the accurate pace recording. The pace for short laps doesn't quite show up on the watch face while running as accurately as I'd like, but it does come out well in the data uploads after the fact. The link is my first real attempt at speed in a long time. My housemate Miles destroyed me. 

They're letting me teach here for a couple years. The campus was so beautiful it was a little uncomfortable.

 Coming from Kenya, I was more used to the stuff I saw in downtown Philly.


 Friends drafted for trailwork.

8 hours done. Wasatch, we are a go.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Henry, you are talented. I exhort you!

Baseball is a really great game. Or maybe it isn't. Maybe it's Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding that's great; I don't know. I was led to believe that Chad Harbach's debut novel would lead me to JD Salinger, Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, or even Ambrose "Bitter" Bierce-levels of man-adoration. I unfortunately ended up with perhaps not even Cormac McCarthy or Philip Roth-levels of likeage.

It did have its moments of brilliance. The accounts of actual baseball games, single at-bats, even practice sessions, made me long to run stadiums, do one more pull-up, and own a glove I really like, fill a 5-gallon bucket with balls, go out to the field with my buddy Rutman, pull out first base, put in a broom stick, and practice taking grounders at shortstop (despite my having played second), trying to nail the stick with my throws.

I remember the lead of an article last year saying during some crazy last-day-of-the-season something or other that baseball is great because nothing ever happens, until it does, and then it's amazing. Chad Harbach's way of expressing that is to have the witty gay ballplayer say this:
"There's so much standing around." Owen said when Henry asked him what he liked about the game. "And pockets in the uniforms."
And I loved another exchange:
When he arrived in the locker room, Schwartzy and Owen were discussing the Middle East. Henry was late; the discussion had already entered its terminal stage.
"Israel!" Schwartz roared. He slammed the heel of his hand into the steel of his locker.
Owen shook his head and whispered, with no less conviction, "Palestine."
 So at times the book was brilliant, but at other times it felt really minor. People slept together, or didn't, broke up, or didn't, died, or didn't, but it all felt relatively inconsequential. "They're young, they'll get over it." I thought, and didn't feel very invested. Have I just completely forgotten what it was like to be in college, or was it the writing that failed to draw me in and tie me to the characters as much as I'd hoped?

And then there'd be a bunch of amazing baseball, and I'd love it again.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


To anyone remotely interested in economics of any sort, this past weekend's NYT Mag was awesome. Adam Davidson's ability to explain econ to lay people is exceptional.

For example, Mitt Romney's business partner is a delusional douchebag. (What a surprise!) Inequality is good because it inspires people to take risks and try to innovate. (Never mind Volcker's spot-on ATM quote, or any of the issues that Davidson raises.)

McDonald's is still horrible.

Couponers. Or, people who eat only processed food-like things and don't understand the monetary value of their time.

Jeff Sachs, Bill Easterly, Andrei Schleifer, and a bunch of other economists have weighed in on how to help other countries develop, so Paul Romer thought he'd join the party. Best of luck.

And unrelated, but cool: NYT held an essay contest to justify why eating meat is ethical. The winner? "Basically, it's not." Because seriously, it's not. Global warming is real, people. Says the guy who's made 16 intercontinental flights in the last 10 months.
[Update: Oops. I'm talking about the landslide popular vote winner, not the judges' mediocre choice.]

What a happy blog post!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

George After 15 Miles

Did another good run today, 14.87 miles with all sorts of creek exploration. Brought George along and he did great. Off leash the whole time, I think he might be getting more chill around chickens and goats and stuff. I love having a running partner who is more than willing to go any time I want, and ready in a split second.

Two decent runs this weekend. Finally ran enough to chafe and lose a toenail. Good to be (partway) back. Even if it means I can't do much else on the weekend.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

May 5 Saturday run, river and gold mine by the Onion at Garmin Connect

May 5 Saturday run, river and gold mine by the Onion at Garmin Connect - Details

Here's today's run. Shorter because I had to get back for a work meeting before a PI left. Fun new exploring, and great views from the gold mine--finally something that might deserve to be called a hill. I really enjoy having the Garmin to draw a little line map of where I've been and how to get home.

I was hoping to go ride my motorcycle and check out an off the beaten track hotel about an hour from here, but the rain is starting, so I think it might have to wait. But next weekend I hope to do my trailwork for Wasatch. I'm trying to arrange something with KWS in nearby Kakamega National Forest.

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Hiker's Guide to Healing

From the NYT, a girl hiking the PCT to heal her mind after being raped.

I definitely need to spice it up: Intervals over Long Slow Distance

Especially since all I have time and daylight for on weekdays is an hour before work and an hour after, at most.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Another Jurek Excerpt

This time at Runner's World on his vegan diet. I don't know that I buy the causality about better performance and fewer injuries, but I definitely believe he's right that it's perfectly healthy, and that athletes can absolutely get enough vegan protein. Just eat real food.

10 Years of Onionism

10 years ago today, I headed north from Springer Mountain. And yes, I get a little teary-eyed thinking about it.

To be honest, I actually headed south for a mile first, because I took a cab to the Forest Service road crossing that's a mile from the summit of Springer. I'd planned to maybe hike the 8-mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls SP, but I was a day behind schedule already, so I skipped it. I rode the dog (i.e., took Greyhound) from Oceanside, California to Atlanta, Georgia. Traffic was bad so I missed my first (of 11) transfers in San Bernardino, and nearly every connection after that was off, so the trip lasted half a day longer than it was supposed to.

When I got to Atlanta I had missed the only bus of the day to Gainesville, the town nearest to the state park and the start of the trail. So instead of waiting around, I took a taxi, first to cash a traveler's check (that's how long ago this was/how naive I was) at a check-cashing place, then to the Amtrak station. Having never ridden Amtrak before it struck me as unusual that the train was an hour late. As soon as the train started moving, an employee came by and looked at people's tickets, while at the same time saying something about how he was not the actual conductor. Only he said it in a sort of goofy loud voice, and I wasn't sure whether he was serious or not. After he went by, I went and took a leak. I only needed to go one stop, from Atlanta to Gainesville. The train soon came to a halt, but no announcement was made, and I didn't see anything out the window, so I didn't get up or try and get off the train. When we started rolling again and the Gainesville station passed by in the window, I flipped out and tried to find the conductor or somebody to help. Instead of helping, he and a bunch of passengers basically laughed at me. "What do you think the train stopped for, traffic?" (Yes for traffic, you idiot. They're called rights-of-way. And now after years of riding Amtrak and sitting still with no explanation in random spots for hours, I'm even more convinced that conductor was a moron.) I had been in the bathroom when the conductor went by collecting tickets, so he didn't know there was anyone in my car needing to get off, and they don't announce stations after a certain time at night since passengers are sleeping. All I could do was get off at the next station, Toccoa. I sat in the empty station for a few hours, but after a shiftless drunk bumbled by I got scared and wandered through the nearby village. No businesses were open, but there was a hotel. I told my sob story to the desk clerk, and he let me hang out on the lobby couch all night. After a while he offered me a room for free, but I didn't want to impose.

I caught the train the other direction the next morning, and the driver I'd been in touch with about a ride to the state park was there waiting for me. We stopped at his house to switch from his station wagon to his Jeep, and then he drove me to the top of Springer. I got out of his car and started running South. He said "Hey, Canada's that way," and pointed North, as if I'd be willing to skip the very first mile of trail.

I made 14 miles my first day. My pack was a Gregory Whitney. 7 pounds 8 ounces empty, 5500 cubic inches of space. I could fit myself inside this pack. My sleeping bag was a four-pound Campmor I'd had since I was 12 (what a shitty christmas present, I thought when I received it; I kept it until three years ago.) I had a one-pound stove (Primus Multi-Fuel) that could cook with any fuel known to man, liquid or gas, and sounded like a jet engine. My rain jacket also weighed a pound, my boots (Montrail Torre GTX) weighed several, I was carrying a 5-pound 2-man tent (REI Quarter Dome) and I had a one-pound lock to keep my backpack safe from roving bandits. The tent and the lock had won Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice awards, so clearly they were essential to both my survival and my enjoyment of the trail.

On my second day I made 16 miles, and on my third day I made 18 miles, and hiked the last few with Andrew Skurka. He was a Duke student hiking in his summer off, I was a BYU student hiking in my summer off, and obviously I knew the only Mormon kid he knew at Duke, so we hit it off. I never saw him again though, because he took off bright and early, and I woke up with a bum knee. I took a bunch of acetaminophen, to no avail. Some older female hikers told me the drug I needed was ibuprofen. I tried to hitch into town on a touristy road for about an hour, with no avail. I struggled 2 more miles to the next road and caught a ride relatively quickly. The first words the guy said to me were "Not a lot of people pick up hitch-hikers out here after what Eric Rudolph gone done to people." I didn't know who that was, and I was paying more attention to the fact that the guy's shotgun was in the cab, butt on the floor, leaning up against the dash, and every time the mountain road wound to the left, the barrel would slide ride into my lap. The guy was drinking a Keystone Light the whole time, and as we got into town we were the first car in line as a police officer stopped traffic to let the buses out of an elementary school. Yet the driver paid no heed and continued drinking away.

I took lots of Vitamin-I, I survived the hitch-hiking, and I survived the hike. 2,168 miles later I had none of the gear I started with, and I'd gone from 14 miles a day, getting serious tendonitis in my knee, and a 50-60lb pound pack, to a castaway 2000 cubic inch Kelty Redwing day-pack of my dad's, regularly doing 25-30 miles a day, and a pretty impressive beard. On August 23, I reached Katahdin, having walked the entire way except for 9 or 10 miles due to a fire closure. (If I did the hike now I would clearly just walk through the fire closure (Petites Gap to the James River footbridge), since the fire wasn't anywhere near the trail, or at least roadwalk around the fire, but at the time my dad happened to be visiting, and I was young and a goody-goody, so I accepted his ride. I went back the next summer and hiked the missing miles with my sister.) It wasn't all easy. I called home crying from Pearisburg, Virginia. I like to blame this on the fact that I had walked out of town with a gallon of chocolate milk in my hand and drunk it all within a few hours. But really the hiking was just hard. But I ate a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting, I saw beautiful rolling green mountains, I met cool people like DaddyMention, MeTree, UTree, Pacence, and Moon, and then I convinced my buddy Fillmore to come and hike the last third of the trail with me, and I kept with it.

On top of Katahdin I started talking to a lady with her kids and her father. I took a photo with her kids because they were wearing really bright clothing, and my Mom had mentioned something about liking photos with all of the colors of me and bunches of kids. The next summer I worked in DC and happened to notice a few articles about the Appalachian Trail in the papers--one in the WaPo about how much it sucked to hike in 28 consecutive days of rain, and this one in the NYT Travel section where I was described as "frenzied." Also in the summer of 2003 I went to my high school 5-year reunion. I had a lot of fun catching up with old friends, but when I mentioned the AT to one guy who, exactly as everyone predicted since I met him in junior high, had gone to business school and then into investment banking and then set his facebook profile photo to one of him in a private helicopter, asked me, derisively, if the AT was a life-changing experience. I responded no, and downplayed the significance of the hike because the guy was being a douche. Douche perhaps, but correct. Some things started right away--I took a bus trip into NYC to pick up my friend Fillmore (now Flatfoot) who got on the trail in Connecticut. I stopped at Schnapp's place, smelled really bad, ate the trunk of a stalk of broccoli, several Entenmanns and a dozen Krispy Kremes, and watched the musical Urinetown. I credit this trip and Urinetown, despite it being a send-up of socialism (after the rebels win and let everybody pee for free, they all get sick because there really wasn't enough water for everyone to pee. Turns out murderous capitalism is best) with starting me on the path to socialism (road to serfdom, if you will). I realized after living for free on government land for four months that my libertarianism was hypocritical bullshit. I was in favor of government-provided programs that support almost exclusively middle or upper class whites, so how could I be opposed to programs to benefit people who actually needed assistance? Other things took more time (religion), and other things I'm still working on (a career vs. dropping out completely and walking home from Patagonia), but a lot of it started with the AT.

Props to Boy Scouts for getting me into backpacking, whatever troop leader was willing to go along on my quest to hike the big 5 peaks at Lenhoks'in High Adventure camp at Goshen, my brother's buddy RH down the street who tried to thru-hike when I was in junior high, and Ciszek for telling me about Bill Bryson's Walk in the Woods and our buddy Ben's successful thru-hike as soon as I got back from Korea.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Ethiopia vs. Kenya

There's this (mediocre) NYT article about Iten, Kenya's running town:

And there's this doc about Bekoji, Ethiopia's analog:
[h/t Em]

I found the Iten article's quotes about Kenyans running because they want money pretty interesting. It's exactly the opposite of why I run, but of course my parents weren't subsistence farmers, and I didn't go hungry during dry seasons as a kid. Nor was I a poor urban minority in the US playing basketball for a way out, if that's a fair comparison. I wonder if any of those circumstances make the sport more or less fun. Fun probably isn't the right word, because to be seriously good at a sport you have to work hard, which I haven't done for sports in quite a while, possibly ever. Maybe emotionally fulfilling or rewarding is the right word.