Archive for October, 2009

Stats: A Steady Trend

October 29, 2009

StatsOct2009

Hollidays are bad for blog stats.

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More Advice from Mankiw

October 27, 2009

Well, it appears I should have read Mankiw’s post much before:

Avoid activities that will distract you from research. Whatever you do, do not start a blog. That will only establish your lack of seriousness as a scholar.

Hmf. Next advice gives some comfort:

Remember that you got into academics in part for the intellectual freedom it allows. So pursue your passions. Do not be too strategic. Be wary of advice from old fogies like me.

Should I disregard the first advice? Or the second? Both, perhaps.

Related posts:

Journal Submission Strategies

October 27, 2009

What sparked this post was a discussion with a fellow PhD-student, where I was told that advice from several senior researchers was not to submit a basically finished manuscript because it would have to go to an only okay journal; not a top journal. Instead, the manuscript should be totally reworked and then sent to a top journal. One top journal publication is supposedly more worth than five ‘other’ publications.

I don’t understand. Anyway, it motivated me to read a recent article from the B.E. Press by Heintzelman & Nocetti on journal submission strategies. The article starts out with two quotes from famous economists:

Start with a higher-quality outlet than your eventual target […] The professional returns to choosing a better journal are higher. But a strategy of aiming high requires thick skin; the acceptance rate at major economics journals is around 10 percent. Thus, it pays to have a ‘submission tree’ in mind, a sequence of alternative outlets for your work. – Daniel S. Hamermesh [see Heintzelman & Nocetti 2009 for the reference]

Give each of your papers a shot or two at the top journals, such as the AER, JPE, or QJE. Even if you are not confident in the paper, it is worth a try for two reasons. First, as author, you are not in the best position to judge its quality; some people are too fond of their own work, and some are too hard on it. Let the editors decide. Second, the editorial process is highly imperfect. The bad news is that some of your best articles may end up getting rejected from the top journals. The good news is that you may get lucky, and some of your so-so articles may end up published in top journals simply because they hit the editor’s desk when he is in a good mood. – Gregory Mankiw [p. 1]

Fair enough; these advices does not say only to go for the top publications. More interesting, perhaps, is footnote 2 on page 2, which refers to ‘Oswald (2007)’ [again, see Heintzelman & Nocetti 2009 for the reference], which ‘shows that the best (most-cited) articles in middle-tier journals are often ‘better’ than the least-cited papers in top-tier journals.’

Heintzelman & Nocetti 2009 moves on to show that Hamermesh’s and Mankiw’s advices holds up well in their analysis.

Given the long reviewing times in most journals, however, [the advices] may not be well suited for young, untenured, professors who are more likely to be impatient and risk averse. These authors should instead consider submitting to lower tier journals first [p. 3].

And then move up the ladder?

Heintzelman & Nocetti also brings advice for less gifted authors (read: me):

[A]uthors of papers that are not of the highest quality, and especially those without an established reputation, will lean towards lower tier outlets [p. 3].

The part on reputation is somewhat unsettling. Anyway, the ‘senior’ advice my fellow student got seems to be B.S.

(Somewhat) related post:

There’s Hope

October 27, 2009

When I read that McDonalds abandons Iceland, I thought that there’s still hope after the recent financial breakdown:

Iceland’s McDonald’s Corp. restaurants will be closed at the end of the month after the collapse of the krona eroded profits at the fast-food chain …

The story also states that Norway has the most expensive Big Macs:

The most expensive Big Macs are sold in Switzerland and Norway, where the burger costs about $5.75, according to the Economist 2009 BigMac index. The cheapest are sold in South Africa, $1.68, and China, $1.83, the index shows.

Hat-tip: Marginal Revolution

Neil Young on Reviews

October 25, 2009

I’m still(!) reading Shakey; on page 669 I found a great quote from Neil Young:

Fuck reviews. Reviews don’t really matter. You can’t believe ’em when they fuckin’ praise you, and you can’t believe them when they criticize you. Because if I believe them now [after Harvest Moon, which got good reviews], that means I should’ve believed them the other times and we know that they’re wrong all the fuckin’ time.

Grindadrap

October 23, 2009

Grindadrap on the Faroe Islands

Writing Reveals the Self

October 23, 2009

On and off the last months, I’ve been reading Strunk & White’s classical The Elements of Style. Most of the book is concerned with rules for good and elusive writing and usage of English. In the final chapter, they discuss style:

In this final chapter, we approach style in its broader meaning: style in the sense of what is distinguished and distinguishing. Here we leave solid ground. Who can confidently say what ignites a certain combination of words, causing them to explode in the mind? Who knows why certain notes in music are capable of stirring the listener deeply, though the same notes slightly rearranged are impotent? […] There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rule by which writers may shape their course. Writers will often find themselves steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion [p. 66, fourth edition, paperback].

Strunk & White seems to imply that clear thinking is required for clear writing. McCloskey states that explicitly in her Economical Writing, if I remember correctly. It’s hard to argue for anything else, I guess. What concerns me is that I seldom think clearly. I take forever to straighten out an argument or an idea. Perhaps writing is not something I should pursue?

Style is an increment in writing. When we speak of Fitzgerald’s style, we don’t mean his command of the relative pronoun, we mean the sound his words make on paper. All writers, by the way they use the language, reveal something of their spirits, their habits, their capacities, and their biases. This is inevitable, as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito [pp. 66-67].

Writing reveals the Self!

Finally, some advice:

Young writers often suppose that style is a garnish for the meat of prose, a sauce by which a dull dish is made palatable. Style has no such separate entity; it is nondetachable, unfilterable. The beginner should approach style warily, realizing that it is an expression of self, and should turn resolutely away from all devices that are popularly believed to indicate style all mannerism, tricks, adornments. The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.

Writing is, for most, laborious and slow. The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up. Like other gunners, the writer must cultivate patience, working many covers to bring down one partridge [p. 69].

Motorpsycho in Concert: 20th Anniversary Tour

October 21, 2009

Alright, I’m back in Norway and Bergen. On Saturday, I attended Motorpsycho’s concert at Verftet in Bergen. Motorpsycho is out on their 20th Anniversary Tour through Norway and Europe. For reasons unclear, I was totally unaware that MP played Bergen on Saturday. A good friend, however, got in touch to confirm I was going! Strike of luck.

It was a fantastic concert. The definite highpoint was the last encore ‘The Golden Core.’ MP hasn’t played the song in almost 10 years, I think (partial evidence from the MP setlist archive; they did play it the night before in Stavanger, however). I’ve seen Motorpsycho live a number of times through the years, and ‘The Golden Core’ was the first song on my list of songs I’d like to see them play. Other highlights were a dynamic ‘Greener,’ the old and dear ‘Taifun,’ and an incredible ‘Superstooge.’ Snah is just an amazing guitarist. The outro of ‘The Alchemyst’ and the audience-sung chorus on ‘You Lied’ also gave me the chills. It was a fantastic way to get back to Bergen, spending the day with the family and the night with a high-powered Motorpsycho!

Motorpsycho, Bergen 2009

Motorpsycho, Bergen 2009; I'm in there somewhere.

Recently Visited Posts

October 13, 2009

I’ve added a new ‘widget’ to the right hand bar of the blog: Recently Visited Posts. It shows the posts visited the last 24 to 48 hours. Thus, it is possible to see what other people find interesting on Kvams. Most of the time, I guess, it will be filled up with the posts which attracts the occasional surfer or googler. Other times, it will be painfully clear that I really don’t have a lot of readers.

LaTeX Bibliography Trouble

October 12, 2009

LaTeXLaTeX is perhaps the best way to typeset your books and academic works; I use it whenever I can. When it comes to formatting the reference list according to different styles, however, I’ve had lots of trouble. Late, last night, I think I found the solution. It’s called makebst.tex and allows you to define your own bibliography style. I learned of it on medicalnerds.com, which explains how it works in great detail. Check it out, it’s really useful.

Ideally, each journal which accept submissions in TeX- or LaTeX-format should set up their own bib-style file and distribute it on their web-page. It would make everyone’s life much easier.

My only worry now is that the journal I’m preparing my manuscript for don’t accept custom bibliography style files! That would be something.

Nobel, Schnobel

October 11, 2009

Obama??!! Gimme a break!

Obama

The 11th Occasional Workshop on Environmental and Resource Economics

October 11, 2009

As said, this weekend I attended the 11th Occasional Workshop on Environmental and Resource Economics in Santa Barbara. The format of this meeting is pretty crazy. Each presenter gets 10 minutes to explain their idea, and each discussant gets 5 minutes to disucss two (!) papers. The weird thing is that it works remarkedly well. Since the meeting attracts many of the top guys in the field, the whole thing is like a blitz-show outlining the research frontier of environmental and resource economics.

Unfortunately, I was unable to give a presentation myself. I’m kind of glad to. Imagine presenting an idea you’ve worked on for months, sometimes years, and which takes you 20 pages plus to write down, in 10 minutes! I’d be in big trouble.

It was a really nice meeting. I met a lot of people working on the type of problems I’m interested in. I was also able to introduce myself to some the senior people in the field, which supposedly is a good thing for my future self. More importantly, perhaps, I got a few new ideas I’d like to look into as soon as I can get my disertation off my table. That, however, will still take some time.

The Schrödinger Experiment

October 8, 2009

The Economist reports on a couple of scientists who will try to perform the Schrödinger cat experiment on living organisms for the first time. I must admit, despite having studied physics for a full year at the university level, I never really grasped the relevance of the Schrödinger experiment. Anyway, it is the first time I’ve seen such an accurate and at the same time brief description of the experiment in the popular press:

[One] of the most famous unperformed experiments in science is Schrödinger’s cat. In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger […], who was one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics, imagined putting a cat, a flask of Prussic acid, a radioactive atom, a Geiger counter, an electric relay and a hammer in a sealed box. If the atom decays, the Geiger counter detects the radiation and sends a signal that trips the relay, which releases the hammer, which smashes the flask and poisons the cat.

The point of the experiment is that radioactive decay is a quantum process. The chance of the atom decaying in any given period is known. Whether it has actually decayed (and thus whether the cat is alive or dead) is not—at least until the box is opened. The animal exists, in the argot of the subject, in a “superposition” in which it is both alive and dead at the same time.

The thing I struggle with, I guess, is Don’t the cat know if it’s alive? Now, what the cat know may be irrelevant for the purpose of the up until now hypothetical experiment. The point is that an object can be in more than one state at the same time. Or, at least it makes the equations add up.

I’m Going to Santa Barbara

October 6, 2009

This weekend I’ll go to the 11th Occasional Workshop on Environmental and Resource Economics held at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is a small city along the coast north of LA. I won’t present at the workshop, unfortunately, as I was unaware of the workshop before I came to San Diego. (In fact, I googled the Occasional, but the webpage of an older meeting showed up on top of the list and I thus concluded that it probably wasn’t happening.) Anyway, I’m gonna enjoy the workshop, being exposed to many new ideas being explored by people in the best environment for environmental and resource economics in the world.

UCSantaBarbara

The Economics of Uncertainty, or How I’m Connected to Borch and Clive Granger

October 5, 2009

Something funny happened this morning. A small chain of events led me to be in the possesion of Clive W. Granger‘s copy of Karl Henrik Borch‘s The Economics of Uncertainty (1968).

What’s so funny about that? Well, Karl Henrik Borch was a Norwegian economist who had a big influence on the development of my school, the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration; one of the auditoriums there is named after him. Academically, Borch played an important role in the development of insurance economics. Clive W. Granger was an economist from UC San Diego. He was a giant in econometrics and was awarded the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2003. When I was a grad student at UCSD in 2007/2008, I was fortunate enough to meet Clive.

This morning I came across some leftover books from Clive’s office outside the Econ department at UCSD (I’m visiting here). Among them, I found Borch’s book. It feels almost morbid to have this book, but also, as a friend told me, it was a find and I am very happy with it.