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Still time to help East Africa

November 22nd, 2011 5 comments

We’ve raised over $4000 for the East Africa appeal, more than $8000 after the Australian government’s matching contribution. That’s enough to make a real difference to the lives of hundreds of people living in the most desperate conditions. But there’s still time to reach the appeal target of $5000. I started things off with a contribution and now I’ve done the half marathon as promised, finishing in a time of 1:57:16, more than three minutes below my previous best time. Surely that’s worth the effort of clicking the link and putting in whatever you can afford for this truly worthy cause.

I haven’t used any gimmicks for this appeal so far, but if we reach $5000 I’ll buy and post the after-race photo, which should provide much innocent amusement for readers, what with my special race gear and generally depleted condition.

Update The $5000 target has been reached! Thanks so much to my readers who have, as usual, given generously to help others.

I’m not going to close off the appeal for another couple of days. If you haven’t given already, put in whatever you can afford.

I haven’t heard from the race photographers yet, but presumably they will be in touch, so that I can post the evidence.

Finally, I have just learned that two runners died during the event, the first time this has happened in the 13 years it has been run. My condolences go to their families. Remember, if you are thinking of taking up any strenuous sport ,to build up slowly, have regular medical checks and stay within your limits on race day.End update

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East Africa appeal, again

November 15th, 2011 2 comments

The East Africa appeal has less than a week to run, that is, until I have to run. There have been some generous donations, but the need is so great, I hope everyone who can afford it will dig deep, and contribute what they can.

Remember that donations are tax-deductible for Australian readers and that the Australian government will match all donations dollar-for-dollar, so every dollar you actually give translates into 2-4 dollars of desperately needed assistance.

You can donate with a credit card, cheque or Bpay by clicking on the “sponsor Me” link below the image on the right.

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East Africa Famine Appeal

November 8th, 2011 11 comments

I’m in the US at present, visiting Johns Hopkins University. This kind of visit usually involves plenty of opportunities for eating and drinking, not so many for exercise. To push myself into activity, I’ve signed up for a half-marathon to be run in Philadelphia on 19 November.

That seems like a good occasion for a fundraiser. I know it’s not long since the last one, but I’ve picked a really good cause, namely relief efforts for the East Africa Famine. I’ve set up a fundraising page on Everyday Hero, with a convenient link to the left. The money goes to CARE, and I’ll write to them to ask them to put it towards their East Africa Appeal. But if you prefer to give to another charity engaged in the same effort, or even some other cause altogether.

I’ve put some thoughts about the famine over the fold. However, I’d prefer to keep the comments thread for posts regarding contributions to the appeal, other ways to help and so on. Negative comments will be deleted with prejudice. I’ll open a sandpit soon for people who want to argue about the issues hopefully as well as, and not instead of, contributing to the appeal.

Update As pointed out by commenter Peter Rickwood, the Australian government will match our contributions dollar for dollar. And all Australian donations are tax deductible. So, for someone lucky enough to be in the top tax bracket, you can give $4 worth of help for every $1 of post-tax income you forgo. A dollar a day is all it takes to feed a hungry child, so $100 of consumption forgone is enough to feed a child for a year. You don’t get an offer like that every day! It’s such a good deal, I’ve put some money in to start the ball rolling. End update

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A final thankyou …

August 17th, 2011 Comments off

… to everyone who sponsored my half-marathon run for the Queensland Cancer Council, which raised over $3000. My race performance was ordinary, but the generosity of my readers, on this and previous occasions, has been extraordinary.

I’ll be taking down the banner ad shortly. I’ve tried to thank all those who gave money, but some were anonymous, and my disorganisation is such that I’ve surely missed others. So, thanks again for a great effort.

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Race day tomorrow!

August 6th, 2011 3 comments

Tomorrow is the day for the Brisbane Running Festival, and my wonderful readers have donated $3020 to the Queensland Cancer Council. My preparation hasn’t been all it could be, but I’ve had a big boost from the support I’ve received during #quiggingate controversy with News Limited and others. So, I’m going to do my best to meet the original target, which was to do a minute under 2 hours for each $1000 raised, that is, a time of 1:57. I hope to stay with the two hour pace runner for the first half, then, lungs and legs permitting, make my big break. How likely it is that this will actually work, I don’t know, but I’ll report back tomorrow.

Update Haven’t got final results, but failed to break 2 hours. I was a little behind the pace at 18km, but planning a big burst. Instead, I tripped over an uneven bit of footpath (I’m starting to think someone is out to get me this week!) and went face first into the pavement (photos coming). That took away a lot of energy and it was all I could do to jog to the finish line. If the race time was a bit disappointing, the good news is that our collective fundraising effort for the Queensland Cancer Council was the second best overall , with $3020. That’s a marvellous effort, of far more value than a few minutes more or less taken to finish 21.1km.

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Quiggingate: NYT vs the Oz

August 4th, 2011 18 comments

Not exactly, but Paul Krugman, writing in his NY Times blog, has backed me up in my latest stoush with the Murdoch Press, as has Brad DeLong. As Paul says, this kind of attack is a badge of honour.

Last chance for sponsors

August 3rd, 2011 Comments off

The Brisbane Running Festival is on Sunday, and I’ll be attempting the half-marathon. Thanks to the generosity of readers here, we’ve raised $2320 for the Queensland Cancer Council. It would be a great encouragement to me to get the total up to $2500 or even $3000.

As I mentioned a while back, my preparation has been disrupted, so I’m not confident of breaking the two-hour mark as I originally planned – my original funding gimmick was a minute below that mark for every $1000 raised. But I will be trying hard to run the entire race, and do the best I can as regards time.

I’ve tried to thank all the donors individually, but I’ll offer a collective thanks to you all now, in case I missed anybody

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Tragedy in Norway

July 25th, 2011 84 comments

As usual on such occasions, I haven’t had much to say about the horrific events in Norway. It’s generally better, in such circumstances, to pause for reflection, and certainly some who rushed to judgement have gone badly wrong in doing so, here as on previous occasions. This is not the time for judgement, but that time will come.

Categories: Life in General, World Events Tags:

Half marathon update

July 22nd, 2011 7 comments

My training for the half-marathon has been badly disrupted by illness, so I really need some encouragement. Click on the link to the left and put some money in to the Queensland Cancer Council. I’m going to a conference now, which is going to disrupt things further, but I’ll commit to putting in 20km on the treadmill while I’m away if you guys can bring the total donations up to $2500 by Sunday.

I’m still going to do my best to beat two hours, but it’s looking quite a bit harder now

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Awards night

July 13th, 2011 13 comments

We academics love nothing better than to give each other awards. The Australian Conference of Economists is being held in Canberra this week, and the big social event was the conference dinner on Monday night, where blogger-economists were (as usual) well represented when the gongs were handed out. The “Best Young Economist” award (it says something about the pace of academic life that “Young” = “under 40″) previously won by econbloggers Joshua Gans and Paul Frijters, went this time to Andrew Leigh, who left ANU last year to become MP for Fraser in the ACT. Academia’s loss will be the nation’s gain if Andrew gets to exert some influence over public policy.

I also scored, being chosen for the Distinguished Fellow Award. Looking at the list of previous recipients, it’s a big honour to join them and I’m very grateful to my colleagues in the profession, especially since I’ve argued pretty vigorously with most of them at one time or another. The economics profession has its problems (as I argued in Zombie Economics, we haven’t been too good at learning the lessons of the Global Financial Crisis), but all things considered, it has been a force for good in Australian public policy debates.

Thanks, everyone! More please!

June 26th, 2011 Comments off

I’ve been travelling, so I only just got around to putting in my $100 as promised for the fundraising appeal. By the time I got to it, we were well past $1000, which is great. But there’s still a long way to go to the target of $5000. And, I’ve got a fair bit of training to do if I’m going to run the implied time of 1:55. So keep the money rolling in and keep me motivated to train hard.

Once again, thanks to everyone who has donated so far. The fact that I can raise funds for good causes is one of the things that motivates me to keep blogging especially at those times when it feels a bit like the 15k mark in a half-marathon.

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Fundraiser

June 23rd, 2011 4 comments

On the right hand sidebar you can see my latest fundraiser, a half-marathon run where I’ll be supporting the Queensland Cancer Council. It’s tax-deductible and there’s still time to donate before June 30, so you get the refund straight away (or, to think of it differently, you can give twice as much as you planned, and the government will pay half).

As I said last time, the deal with this fundraiser is that I’ll commit to a minute below two hours for each $1000 I can raise. We’re just about there for the first $1000, so to hurry things along, I’ll put in $100 of my own if the total gets past $900 by the end of tomorrow (Friday) evening.

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Giving one per cent

June 9th, 2011 7 comments

While we are on the subject of charitable giving, a reader has sent in a link to the Giving one percent website of a non-profit group trying to create a culture of charitable giving. Well worth a visit!

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UnFunRun fundraiser

June 9th, 2011 13 comments

It’s been a while since we’ve had a fundraiser here, but a great opportunity has just come up. I’ll be attempting a half-marathon as part of the Brisbane Running Festival on 7 August, and there’s an associated fundraiser for the Queensland Cancer Council, which promotes research, awareness and support services. So, I’ve created a webpage for my effort here, where you can donate money (before June 30 if you want to claim it in this year’s tax return!).

A good fundraiser needs a good gimmick, so here goes. I completed my first[1] half-marathon run a week ago, in a time of 1:59:24, staying just ahead of the 2:00:00 pacerunner (someone who runs with a balloon or flag at a steady pace so others can keep pace) the whole time. I was pretty tired and sore by the time I finished – it’s not what you would call a fun run! This time, I want a commitment device to push me to run at 1:55 (or even better!). So, for each $1000 I can raise before race day, I’ll commit my best effort to stay a minute ahead of the 2:00:00 pacerunner. If I can raise $5000, I’ll run at the 1:55 pace as long as I can[2]. And, if there’s $10 000, I’ll try for 1:50, which will really push me to the limit.

I’ll start the ball rolling by promising to give $200 for each minute below 2:00 hours. So, you only need to give $800 to push my time down.

This is a great chance for everyone. If you enjoy the free commentary I’ve provided, please say thanks by giving whatever you can afford. If I’ve annoyed you, toss some money into the pot, and you can enjoy a Sunday morning lie-in thinking about me struggling to keep a punishing pace (at least for a middle-aged academic) over 21.1 km.

I’ll provide regular updates, and thanks to contributors, except for those who prefer to give anonymously.

fn1. I also did one in 2010, but I had to walk a fair bit, so I don’t think it counts.
fn2. No guarantees, as I’ll slow down if I’m feeling knee damage, but I’ll do my best to push on through exhaustion.

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Neo- and post-

June 7th, 2011 22 comments

At afternoon tea yesterday, one of my colleagues raised the point that, particularly in Europe, the prefix neo- is automatically taken to be pejorative, with neo-liberal as the obvious illustration. It struck us that the corresponding, positively weighted prefix is post- , as in post-Keynesian, post-Communist and so on. [1]

My thought on this is it reflects an underlying progressivist assumption, shared even by many people who would reject explicit claims about historical progress. Given this assumption “post-X” is good, since it represents an advance on X, while “neo-X” is bad since it represents a reversion to X, implying the existence of some Y which must be post-X.

Feel free to provide counterexamples, contrary explanations and so on.

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Flooded

January 12th, 2011 47 comments

I’m still on the other side of the planet, but the news from Brisbane is bad and seems to be getting worse. Fortunately, my family and I are all out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, that’s meant we’ve suffered a fair bit of property damage, and won’t be able to do anything about it for some time. I’ll probably be off-air for a while. We’ve had some very successul appeals for help in relation to past disasters here, but I’m not in a position to run one this time. Feel free to use this thread for offers of help to those affected, and any useful insights. Please, no pointscoring or social/political debates – there will be time for that later on.

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Sandpit 300

January 2nd, 2011 31 comments

This is a sandpit for people who want to
(a) argue about the efficacy of specific road safety interventions
(b) record their status as believers (with or without qualification) in the libertarian/conservative orthodoxy that climate change is a hoax/fraud/unsupported hypothesis.

I’d request no responses to those in category (b). They are, in my view, beyond help, and there are plenty of sites pointing out their errors if they want to look.

Categories: Life in General, Science Tags:

Goodbye 2010

January 1st, 2011 76 comments

Well, 2010 is over and it’s been a year of contradictions for me. In personal and family terms, things have gone very well, starting with the birth of my first grandson, James in March. Then there’s my literary offspring Zombie Economics, which seems to be going very well, and my election as a Fellow of the Econometric Society (quite a big deal in the academic circles where I move, if not exactly a barbecue-stopper among family and friends in general).

Politically on the other hand, it’s been a year of frustration.

Read more…

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Another tragedy at sea

December 15th, 2010 Comments off

It is too early to say much about this latest tragedy, but I wanted to mark it.

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Worth reading

November 27th, 2010 8 comments

A moving post on marriage rights from reader and occasional CT commenter Tim Scriven.

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A slow motion disaster (update)

September 10th, 2010 24 comments

The floods in Pakistan never produced a dramatic moment like the Boxing Day tsunami. And one flood looks much like another on TV, so it’s hard to comprehend the scale of this disaster. But it is truly one of the worst in recent history, worse even the tsunami in terms of the destruction it has wrought, though not for immediate loss of life. There’s some more information here from Oxfam.

James Farrell ran an election-tipping exercise at Club Troppo, which raised $1150 ($250 from me). I haven’t thought of a gimmick (suggestions appreciated) but I hope we can raise at least as much here. Please give to your favorite charity and record it in the comments box. If you’re shy, email me with the details and I’ll add you to the list as “an anonymous reader”

I’m moving this back up to the top. The disaster is still going on, and help is urgently needed

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Getting some good out of the election

August 19th, 2010 6 comments

It’s hard to say anything good about this election campaign, but it is a trivial problem compared to the disaster afflicting Pakistan. To get something good out of this horse-race, James Farrell has organized a tipping competition, with proceeds going to flood relief. Get over, make a prediction and pledge some money.

Categories: Life in General, Oz Politics Tags:

Mothers’ Day open thread

May 9th, 2010 18 comments

Open for your thoughts on mothers and motherhood, reminiscences, and so on.

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Anzac Day, again

April 25th, 2010 76 comments

On this day, nearly 100 years ago, thousands of young Australians and New Zealanders ran on to the beaches of Gallipoli. Many of them died before the day was out, along with many more among the Turkish defenders and troops from Britain, Canada and many other places. By the time the campaign ended in failure, over 100 000 were dead and hundreds of thousands more severely wounded. A small toll by comparison with the main Western and Eastern fronts, but quite sufficiently horrific to be remembered a century later.

The Anzacs had no quarrel with the Turkish soldiers who were trying to kill them, nor did the people of Australia and New Zealand have any quarrel with those of Turkey. Their bravery and their lives were expended in the course of a bloody and pointless war between alliances of which the armies fighting at Gallipoli were tiny parts, over pretexts no one alive now, and very few at the time, could comprehend as the basis for a cataclysmic war.

By the time the Gallipoli attack was planned, the dreams of rapid and glorious victory that had led both sides to war had drowned in the mud of France and Flanders. It should have been obvious that this was a war no one could win. But, a peace that restored the status quo ante would mean an admission that it had all been for nothing.

Instead, the war planners kept coming up with futile strategic ideas like Gallipoli, secret weapons like poison gas, and new tactics previously considered unthinkable such as submarine attacks, without warning, on merchant shipping. By the time of the armistice in 1918, ten million or more had died, and the seeds of future wars had been sowed.

For all those who died, bravely following their country’s call to unknown battlefields, lest we forget.

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The rising generation

March 28th, 2010 75 comments

We just returned from Sydney where we saw our first grandchild, James, now two weeks old. (I’ll skip all the doting grandparent stuff, but other grandfathers and grandmothers can fill it in for themselves). It’s striking to think that he could easily be around in 2100 and, given plausible advances in medical technology, well beyond that.

When we (that is, middle-aged and older people) talk about the effects (good and bad) of our actions on “future generations”, it’s worth remembering that young people now alive will experience those effects long after we are gone.

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Crikey Group Subscription

March 3rd, 2010 1 comment

As in past years, Nicholas Gruen is organising a group subscription to Crikey. Check it out here

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Two kinds of ignorance

February 25th, 2010 99 comments

Also, in yesterday’s Fin, Geoffrey Barker accused Abbott of going for the bogan vote (paywalled), where bogan is taken to mean ignorant. Leaving aside the class/cultural analysis implicit in the term “bogan”, which I think is wrong, the argument is the same as I made in my post on agnotology, as his characterization of Rudd as a technocrat, not really at ease with the kind of politics that includes demands for authenticity and so on. Coming back to “bogan”, the big issue in agnotology is not ignorance in the ordinary sense of the term (people who don’t know much about political issues, and don’t care to learn – that is certainly part of the stereotypical bogan image, and may perhaps be descriptive of the actual demographic groups commonly associated with the term, though I don’t know of any evidence of this).

The ignorance associated with climate change delusionism and other rightwing factoids is metacognitive and has much more to do with the Dunning-Kruger effect of overestimating one’s own competence. The classic example is the kind of person who eagerly circulates reports that there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995. The only information content in such a report is that the person doing the reporting doesn’t understand the concept of statistical significance[1], and therefore is incapable of assessing any issue involving statistical analysis, of which climate change is a prime example.

The stereotypical candidate, in relation to climate change, is that of a 50+ male[2] with a business background in engineering or some similar field where practical judgement is accorded more value than theoretical expertise, and where a willingness to push on regardless is an important element of success. Journalists and opinion columnists[3], accustomed to “mastering a brief” at short notice are also highly susceptible – lawyers who may actually have to master briefs involving technical issues seem mostly to recognise that this is the kind of problem where expert judgement is required, as does the more sensible kind of economist[4]

fn1. Note for pedants. A Bayesian statistician would say that confusion over the concept of significance reflects the logical problems of the concept and the underlying classical theory of statistics. But that only makes sloppy misuse of the concept even worse. I’ll have more to say on this soon, I hope.

fn2. A demographic group to which I belong

fn3. This one, too.

fn4. This one, too, I hope.

Categories: Life in General, Science Tags:

Haiti disaster

January 14th, 2010 27 comments

The Haiti earthquake looks to be one of the worst natural disasters in recent years. Lots of aid agencies will be involved in rescue and recovery efforts, but I’ll mention PLAN International which has been active in Haiti for a long time.

Remember also that, while earthquakes and tsunamis rivet our attention, hunger and disease are cutting lives short every day. Give what you can, whenever you can, to help.

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It’s Xmas!

December 24th, 2009 114 comments

However you celebrate, or even if you don’t, I wish all my readers a Merry Xmas. I’ll be back in the New Year, and wish everyone a great 2010.

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Disasters in Asia

October 2nd, 2009 4 comments

There are lots of tragic scenes from the tsunami and earthquakes that have affected so many of our neighbours, and the terrible typhoon and floods in Manila. You can help by giving more generously than usual to the development charity of your choice. Here is a link to an appeal by CARE. ????? ?????? ???

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