14 Dec 2009

The Master Plan

Note: Lots of personal thoughts and vagaries here. Mostly because I want you guys to know where I am coming from (and going!)

A week from today, I will be on an airplane for Jakarta, Indonesia. (I am giving my students their final tomorrow.)

There, I will meet up with Anne, my girlfriend, and we will travel from Java to Bali, probably via Sulawesi. We plan to have a holiday and perhaps visit a Balinese water temple. I plan to start writing The End of Abundance, a book I have under contract at the UC Press and which is due Sep 2010.

On Jan 18, we fly to Darwin in Australia. (We know this b/c the Indonesian government, in its infinite wisdom, has a 30 day visa limit AND requires an outbound ticket on arrival.)

I was planning to go to a conference in Adelaide to present my ongoing research into all-in-auctions (lab experiments finished last week), but an old-timer told me that they were accepting all papers to get the registration fees. Since those fees were $700 (not including dinners!), I had to see his point. Unfortunately, my "participation" with cutting edge academics has been curtailed by the lack of a spare $grand. Oh well, more time for the Great Barrier Reef (before it dissolves)?

I do intend to visit a lot of Aussie water people (farmers, engineers, politicians and academics), so stay tuned for chats.

After Oz, we're going to New Zealand to... see hobbits? No, to do many things, I hope.

If you are in one of these countries and want to meet -- or know someone I should meet -- then email me!

We will come back to Berkeley in April for a few months. I am not sure what will happen after that. My book should be written; my postdoc runs out in July; we may go to S America, Africa or Europe. Maybe the book will make me famous -- enough to affect water policy -- or maybe it will just sit on my CV.

(You know, I think that I may have had some impact on the water debates, but it's terribly difficult to know if I am; it's not like I am baking bread and can measure the number of loaves or happy eaters. Water policy is a mental construct of multiple dimensions, the colors and shapes of which nobody sees the same way. It's like nailing Jello-o on the wall; you make a mess and it looks gross -- even if you manage to make it stick.)

I am sure (at the moment) that I will keep up this blog. My focus is going to shift, obviously, as I travel, and I hope to share the things I find on the way. (Don't even ask why I work so hard on this blog -- there's no obvious money or career impact, so I MUST love it...)

Oh, and I have NO idea how I will make money after July. I'll probably look for a job(s), part-time, in some field where water policy expertise is useful. If those two places are not hiring :), I may work at a cafe.

Seriously, I have no idea.

OTOH, it's all fun and games for me. I don't know if I will continue in an academic sphere (odds are bad), I do want to teach, but it's a grind if I try to make a living at it.

Frankly, I am getting a little tired of the dysfunctional politics at the state and national level. I am considering two options:
  1. Drop out and go live in the wild, drinking strong coffee, reading books and writing long letters; or
  2. Run for Congress, as the most honest, in your face, representative ever.
We'll see. (Oh, but it's lovely to know that Anne loves me and I love her. Sometimes the simple things are SO meaningful.)

Bottom Line It's good to have a master plan, but don't get all attached to it.


  1. David: Compliments on your UC book. Gratifying that someone takes my advice. Do enjoy Bali and Oz. Kakadu Park is not to be missed. Merry Christmas, Fixed Carbon

  2. Have a great time, and congrats on having a book deal - I'm just happy to get a letter in the local alternative weekly.

    As for your grind comment, you must be young. Everything is a grind to try to make a living at it.

    Except farming. Farming is easy. You should go into farming.

    Me, I'm the poorest lobbyist you'll ever meet, and I'm nowhere near joking. The beauty of academia is that, if you are good at it, you get kudos for being uncompromising and purist in your beliefs. With lobbying, not so much. In lobbying, your wealth is inversely proportional to your ethics, and the grind part tends to be on one's soul. Hence, the poverty here.

    Anyhoo, have fun in Indonesia/Australia/New Zealand! You must fish in New Zealand.

  3. That's great news on the book. Is it your diss, or a new one?
    And in AUS, try Barossa or McLaren Vale wines, and in NZ, if you can get to central Otago or Marlborough, great Pinots!
    Enjoy....Eric P

  4. Perhaps you should apply to be a White House Fellow. Applications due in January. :-) http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/fellows/

    Good luck on your travels.

  5. My guess, based on your students' entries to your blog the last few months, is that you are an excellent teacher.

    So I would definitely think about a future in academics, especially given your approach to the practice. Engagement is the future of academics.

    You are also young, and we all envy your upcoming adventure. Have fun, keep accumulating wisdom in the wide-eyed experience it offers.

    On the other side of it, you will be even a better teacher, if that's what you ultimately make as a career.

    Pretty pedantic, sorry - but I wish you the best, and do definitely envy you!

  6. Congress! Go for Congress! You'll just have to be in some extreme liberal hippy district to get elected though :-)

    Have a wonderful time in the south Pacific!

  7. Come north where the water is and help Washington State start adjudicating water allocation and teach these morons the importance of metering wells and limiting development. Have a big wedding! Bring Ann up north and live cheap in Eastern WA. where the wine is heavenly and the culture is questionable. Help the Kalispel Tribe protect the Pend'Orielle River from the military industrial complex and its water storage mega project. Live in the wilds and drink strong coffee and write letters. We need good Californians to counteract the bad Californians. Then run for Congress up here :-D!

  8. Given your travel plans, I assume you are not concerned about your carbon footprint.

  9. Anon -- if I was concerned, I'd kill myself. Since I am NOT that concerned, I'll just stick with not having kids. That puts me at about 20% of the US average for a footprint. How are you doing on that?

  10. DZ -- I am with you on the no kids. And although my first post was meant as a (bit of a) joke, you raise an interesting point: many people argue we need to act on carbon to protect our grandkids, great grandkids, etc. For me, the response is then don't have kids.

    Enjoy your trip.

  11. What if your smarts, passed down to another similar to you, but with a slightly different angle, would have solved the energy and water crises?

    Like Hayek said, people ain't units. He put it more eloquently, but it's still in there.

  12. Without getting into how smart I am (a debated question), I'll point out that it's the AVERAGE person we have to worry about, as far as policies and politics go....

  13. Show me an average person.

    Actually, it would probably be more efficient to break down carbon emissions relative to socio-economic quintiles and age. This way, we'd see that those who emit the most are also the least affected by the higher prices of internalizing their externality. We'd also realize that by targeting them to pay, we could more efficiently pay for actual carbon emission reductions.

  14. Run for congress. You've got the chops for it -- academic credentials, and in an eco-groovy topic no less, which combined with your apparent familiarity with a fair number of policy types would get you in the door with the East Bay establishment. But you seem to have enough of a "fuck it" streak that you'd have a shot at connecting with people beyond the ivory tower, especially in an election cycle that's got so much free-floating anger in the electorate. You'd probably still lose, there's no easy seat in the Bay Area, but you could probably put together a serious bid and it'd be a lot of fun... and you might get lucky and do some good.

  15. @Josh -- read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_voter_theory and you will see how going to the center of a distribution of voters is a winning strategy *if* there are opponents on both sides of the spectrum -- something that neutral districting does. Agreed on carbon taxes.

    @Adrian -- thanks for the words of support. I am TOTALLY doing this (if I do) for the fun (and learning). Winning would be great, but as a bonus :)

  16. There's a movement to radically change California government, by getting rid of career politicians and chopping their salaries in half. A group known as Citizens for California Reform wants to make the California legislature a part time time job, just like it was until 1966.



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