Sunday, March 31, 2013

Additions to the Race Calendar

I will be volunteering at the C&O Canal 100 April 27-28, and I'll be running the Bear Mountain 50-miler May 4. It feels weird to have signed up for a trail run with not just one but two corporate names in the title. Instead of being organized by a husband and wife team, or an ultra-runner who's a bartender at a ski resort, or a crazy junior high school basketball coach, my money's going to a publicly owned corporation. I've never run their race in the Headlands, but I've heard things both good (brings out strong competition) and bad (littering, a big zoo, not as pleasant a vibe as the usual trail race). I guess we'll see.

Also, registration for Steamtown marathon opens tomorrow. Any takers?

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's all lies

More research on how research is a crock. Star Wars: The Empirics Strike Back, a working paper from the IZA website. Basically, they show the distribution of published p-values is funny-shaped, and what you'd expect if people were specification-shopping to get a barely significant p-value. You know, publication bias.

[h/t WB Impact Blog]


Barkley was in the NYT. I'm bummed I didn't get in this year, but that's fine. It's just silly of me to have forgotten to mention my PhD in my application essay since that would have gotten me extra weighting and a greater probability, and the race is only getting more popular as the years go by. Oh well.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Links for Hikers

Brendan Leonard is a way better blogger than I am. You should be reading Semi-Rad if you don't already.

Links for Nerds

  • An empiricist making policy decisions instead of an ideologue? I know, I'm as surprised as you are, but that's apparently what Washington state got in the guy they picked to advise them on their experiment with legal weed.
  • Economist Hulk on Twitter.
  • Most of the expenses from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are yet to come. Let me say that again: Yet to Come.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Run Log: March 18-24, Hiker Retirement

I didn't even run enough last week to merit mentioning. A hiker buddy applying to grad school in econ visited, so we did some hiking, but I was pretty worn out with travel and lecture prep, so I only ran 20 miles, plus maybe 15-20 walking. Hopefully this week I'll get back on track. From my students' perspective, I'm clearly trying to cover too much in class, so maybe if I ease up on them I'll get a minute of spare time as a byproduct.

Here's a not-horrible USA Today article on the dirtbag lifestyle, specifically retiring early. I certainly contemplate stuff like this, but I'd really like to talk to somebody who is, you know, old, who's done this. Billy Goat's the oldest hiker I know, and I think he's got some sort of pension to fall back on. Does anybody know an adventurer who lived the life who's now old and wishes they'd actually worked a little more so they could afford their meds? The platitude says that no one on their deathbed wishes they'd spent more time at work, but the economist says humans are irrational and don't save enough for retirement.

Somewhat similar to the above, young kids hike the AT (and now the PCT) every few years. I met a family of four doing the AT back in '02, then Scrambler did the PCT in '04. I assumed this happened on the AT occasionally in the 60's and 70's. How did those kids end up? What do they do for a living? Did they do the AT again as an adult? Did they take their own 10-year old kid on a thru-hike? I'd be curious. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Here's Why You Should Hate H&R Block

I was an Emory University employee last year. My name doesn't have a suffix, so I left the box blank. I assume that whoever coded H&R Block's submissions to the state of Georgia linked middle initial output to suffix input. I dropped my middle and I'll see if that works.

UPDATE: No, that did not work. H&R Block is going to refund it, however, and since they already let me calculate everything (and print it), I guess I win, assuming that Georgia can recognize a blank suffix when they see it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Good for Her, Good for Science

Most published research results are false. Publication bias is a serious problem. Nobody posts their data online. Replications aren't sexy enough to get published.

Here's a blog about some of that: Political Science Replication.

All the smart people admit everything is screwed up. Today Blattman responded to a series by 10 CEGA people about this same sort of thing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kilian in the NYTMag

He really is fast. I should get my VO2 Max tested. I wonder how much that would cost.

Watch him and Anton K run the Grand Teton.
Watch him run in Europe.

Now read this and get sad about your own life.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

California is better than everywhere else.

As I mentioned, I went to California for Spring Break and did a bunch of stuff.
East Bay Bike Party.
Pac-Dev economics conference at SFSU.
Camping at Andrew Molera State Park.
Hiking in Limekiln State Park.
Elephant Seals near San Simeon.
Hiking in Montaña de Oro State Park.
Gawking at giant avocado trees in friends' backyard.
Ventura Pier.
Steep hills in Pt. Mugu State Park.
Vegan pizza in Santa Monica.
California Condors in Pinnacles National Park.
Grading exams all week.
Almost getting another tattoo, but failing.
My 18th 50km.
Shat on twice by birds at the horse track.
Residual Income in the 8th!
Nine burritos in ten days.

Run Log: March 11-17 Another 50km

I got back up to 58 miles this week, but a lot of it was walking or hiking. Highlights were a great run straight up and then back down 1200' at Pt. Mugu State Park in SoCal on Monday, a hike around the high peaks of Pinnacles National Park (that's right, it's no longer just a Monument) Tuesday, and yet another 50km race in the Marin Headlands Saturday.

As I posted here previously, I had really hoped to break 5 hours, but I failed and only ran a 5:18. I did not eat enough, sleep enough, or charge my iPod enough the night before. Plus, the course was run in the opposite direction from all the other times I've run it, which I did not know about until a few minutes before the start, and definitely did not like. I started off fast, but felt horrible and hungry. I ate a bunch of potatoes at the very first aid station and felt a little better. By mile 10 I'd built up an 8 or 9 minute cushion, but it was gone by the halfway point, and I left the 30km aid station at 2:59. That's a minute faster than my split in Feburary, but I knew I was toast. I forced myself to keep running, but I couldn't muster more than 11's or 12's, when I needed 9:40's. And since the course was backwards, instead of having 4 gentle downhill miles at the end where it's possible to make up several minutes with a strong finishing kick and two or three 7-minute miles, the race starts with 4 gentle uphill miles that aren't steep enough to justify walking, but are definitely steep enough to be annoying, and ends with a mile to a mile and a half of bombing straight down Wolf Ridge. Don't get me wrong, I love bombing down the steeps, but it's just not long enough to make up much time.

Speaking of bombing the steeps, the other good run of the week was with Zack my ultra/econ mentor. Other than Zack, I've never had the pleasure of running with anyone who loves bombing down steep technical terrain quite like I do. Drop straight down the Claremont Canyon trail in Berkeley, straight down Burma Road on Mt. Diablo, or down 1200' in a mile at Pt. Mugu? Bring it. I miss that stuff in Pennsylvania, however, so my quads were shot for a couple days after, and I got silver dollar-sized blisters on the bottom of both feet from the heat the friction generated, but that just makes it a better story.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Oh my word. Dude by the trailname of Swami broke the Triple Crown speed record last year as part of 12 long trails and 14,000 miles he hiked over 17 months.

[Hat tip to my friends at The Trail Show podcast.]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Run Log: March 4-10

Weak week: only 30 to 35 miles of actual running. I had to write a stats exam to give on Thursday, and I flew to SF Thursday evening. Between trying (and failing) to bring George with me to SF, and student concerns over the difficulty and timing of my exam, I was pretty much at the end of my rope. Friday all I did was East Bay Bike Party, and Saturday I was at Pac-Dev (a development economics conference) all day. Sunday I finally got out again, with some hiking around Andrew Molera State Park, Limekiln State Park, and Montaña de Oro State Park as part of a long weekend roadtrip to SoCal with gf. It was mostly hiking (or driving), but gorgeous, since that's how California rolls. Photos from that later. First I have to grade exams.

Saturday, March 09, 2013


I'm walking around SFSU campus after an enjoyable Development Econ conference. Swat has no monopoly on campus beauty. Ignoring what one does for a living and focusing only on the setting, assuming you have to actually work for a living, I don't think there's a better place to do it than a college campus. Who has a corporate office with a better setting? Does even Pixar?

Monday, March 04, 2013

Run Log: Feb 25-Mar 3 Run to Philly

67.67 miles for the week. Ran 6 days, short or not at all Mon-Thursday, then started ramping up.

My friend Yoshiko, George, and I ran 25 miles from my front steps in Swarthmore to the Philadelphia Art Museum steps and back yesterday. Lots of boring concrete suburban sidewalk, a little sketchy West Philly with a decent Indian chaat place, and a little nice Schuykill River trail. I'm pretty sure that was George's longest run. He did fine.

I have another test to give this week, then next week is Spring Break. I think I should get two weeks of vacation, one where I catch up on grading, reading, and lecture prep, and one where I sleep.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Sugar Causes Diabetes, Ruggedness

This article by Mark Bittman has pretty interesting stuff on causality in medicine, given that it's impossible to run a randomized trial where you randomize a lifetime of smoking or eating lots of sugar.

Teaching is exhausting, but fun. This paper by Nunn & Puga from REStat last year is my favorite article I've taught so far this semester. They claim ruggedness is bad for GDP in most places of the world for obvious reasons (transport costs), but it's good for GDP in Africa because it reduced the slave trade, which is even worse. Really no fancy econometrics, just a simple design and lots of robustness checks. You don't want to run a regression of GDP on ruggedness because omitted variables will obviously bias your estimate, but it's perhaps less bad to run one on ruggedness, an Africa indicator, and the interaction of ruggedness and the Africa indicator. The coefficient on ruggedness is still biased, but the coefficient on the interaction is only biased if there are omitted variables correlated with GDP and differentially correlated with ruggedness in and out of Africa, or if there's an omitted variable correlated with ruggedness and differentially correlated with GDP in and out of Africa. Certainly still a possibility, but a more complicated story. They test for it with diamonds, soil fertility, malaria, and tropical diseases, among other things, and their estimate doesn't change very much. However, I made a homework assignment requiring students to add their own new variable as a robustness check, and a couple of them actually may have found something that drives out the results. Anyway, it's interesting.