Archive for the ‘Life and all that’ Category

Technical Change as a Stochastic Trend in a Fisheries Model

June 3, 2016

Right, I have a couple of things forthcoming. One is, as the post-title suggests, on technical change in fisheries, where I, in my first sole-authored paper in five years, suggest a state space approach to measure technical change in fisheries. The approach is applied to data from the Norwegian Lofoten cod fishery, a data set that previously has been analyzed with other, more typical methods (linear regressions).

The paper has a long history. It started in 2008, when I was a visiting grad student at the economics department of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). There, Dale Squires, who I am proud to call my friend, presented an analysis of the Lofoten data. During my visit to UCSD, I had spent considerable time studying state space models and the Kalman filter, and during Dale’s talk I wondered whether a state space model would do a better job in estimating technical change. Dale’s analysis was published in 2010, at a time when I already had acquired the data and had started to develop a model and an algorithm. In 2011, during a train trip, I started to get promising results. Progress was doomed to be slow, however, because the entire project was a side project that I only worked on in short stints every now and then. At some point in 2012, I nevertheless had a manuscript ready for submission. I sent it to the same journal where Dale’s analysis was published. After an interesting and instructive review-process, the manuscript was rejected. In the years that followed, the manuscript was sent to a handful of journals (the manuscript took various forms over the years; condensed into the letter-format at one point), but the verdict was always the same: rejection. Over these years, Dale, who I kept in touch with, was always optimistic and encouraging, suggesting alternative journals. Early in 2015, the manuscript was finally sent to Marine Resource Economics, where it was accepted after no less than three rounds of revisions. In the last round, I had to pull out my initial version, written more than three years earlier, and add discussion that was revised out at some point along the road but which obviously had its place. The manuscript was formally accepted early this year (2016), eight years after I had the initial idea.

Late in 2014, more than six years into the process, I had another idea for how to carry out the analysis. I decided to pursue this new idea in another side project. This spin-off project had much faster progress, and less than six months later, a letter-form manuscript was already rejected. After some further work, expanding the manuscript to the more typical article form, the manuscript was submitted again, and I am now awaiting its review. This much faster progress on the second side project is partly taken, by me, as evidence that I have become better at what I do. The lower degree of complexity is, of course, also an important factor in the progress.

‘Technical Change as a Stochastic Trend in a Fisheries Model’ will appear in Marine Resource Economics during the fall. The abstract reads as follows:

mreTechnical change is generally seen as a major source of growth, but usually cannot be observed directly and measurement can be difficult. With only aggregate data, measurement puts further demands on the empirical strategy. Structural time series models and the state space form are well suited for unobserved phenomena, such as technical change. In fisheries, technical advances often contribute to increased fishing pressure, and improved productivity measures are important for managers concerned with efficiency or conservation. I apply a structural time series model with a stochastic trend to measure technical change in a Cobb-Douglas production function, considering both single equation and multivariate models. Results from the Norwegian Lofoten cod fishery show that the approach has both methodological and empirical advantages when compared with results from the general index approach, which has been applied in the literature.

UPDATE: The article is now available here:
DOI: 10.1086/687931

Schizophrenic Work Ethics

May 10, 2016

In the big picture, I think of my work in two ways. First, the world’s resources are scarce and often mismanaged. There exist a seemingly constant conflict between want of development and necessity of conservation. My research into environmental and resource economics are small but potentially important contributions towards these issues. My work will almost certainly have no effect in the short run but may have a some effect in the longer run. Devoting my admittedly limited intellectual powers to this end form a motivation to put up with the many irrational incongruencies of present day academia and, according to some, low pay. (My view towards the latter vary, largely in phase with the size of my bank account.)

Second, we are just small, insignificant critters basking in a soup of organic chemistry on a speck of dust in an enormous universe that we hardly understand. My work has no significance, but I sometimes like doing it.

It is in the latter way I often understand art. Life is utterly meaningless, so why not make something beautiful.

Quote of the Day

February 5, 2015


Comic of the Day

June 20, 2013


Sounds about right.

Existential Chess

May 28, 2013

Mato Jelic is a great chess commentator on YouTube. He does not always explain the simpler things as thoroughly as I would have liked, but he has dug up some really great games from chess history. The video below is not so much chess, however, but about much larger things. The game is one of his own games, and not any game, but against former world champion Boris Spassky. If you are not so interested in the chess-part, you can forward to 2:16.

Quote of the Day

March 3, 2013

People often use the passive voice because it’s indirect, polite, unaggressive, and admirably suited to making thoughts seem as if no one had personally thought them and deeds seem as if nobody had done them, so that nobody need take responsibility. Thus the passive is beloved of bureaucrats and timid academics…

From ‘Steering the Craft’ by Ursula K. LeGuin.

Visiting UC Berkeley

February 6, 2013

The Campanile at UC BerkeleyFor the spring semester, I am a visiting scholar at the Department of Agriculural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. I consider myself extremely lucky and privileged to be here; at arguably the very best place in the world for agricultural and resource economics. Throughout most of January, there were two job market seminars each week. The candidates were stellar, of course, but the Berkeley crowd is not easy to please. Never unfriendly, never easy.

My work here will revolve around ecosystem-based fisheries managment; mostly on the methodological and empirical side, perhaps touching upon theoretcial issues. I also audit a class on empirical environmental and energy economics, take an intensive writing class, attend seminars, and hunt down treasures in the libraries. Later in the term, I am scheduled to give a seminar myself at the ARE department.

Weekends I intend to spend in the Californian countryside,  on beaches, on carousels, trams, and cablecars, in book and record stores, and at the occasional outlet mall, among other things. Went to the big aquarium in Monterey a couple of weeks back. Among amazing displays, the tuna was the unquestionable highlight. Incredible how fast those fish fly through the water.

Will Americans Pay More Taxes?

January 16, 2013

Thomas Friedman thinks so. From his op-ed column in the New York Times:

I still believe that America’s rich and the middle classes would pay more taxes and trim entitlements if they thought it was for a plan that was fair, would truly address our long-term fiscal imbalances and set America on a journey of renewal that would ensure our kids have a crack at the American dream. Then again, I may be wrong. Maybe my baby-boomer generation really does intend to eat it all and leave our kids a ticking debt bomb. If only we had a second-term president, unencumbered by ever having to run again, who was ready to test what really bold leadership might produce.

Americans allergy to taxes, I will never understand. But I do think that they need to come over it to get out of the place they are in. It would be fun to see a bold Obama, but the temporary solution to avoid the fiscal cliff did not hold much promise, I think.

The postdoc dilemma

April 25, 2012

A while ago, I read a column in Nature which I related to. Like the author, I am currently a postdoc researcher, and recognize the dilemma. The column ‘The postdoc dilemma’ appeared in the Careers section and was written by Gaston Small. The crux of the dilemma:

The job–career balance is a fundamental challenge for postdocs. Fulfilling the obligations of the project that currently pays your salary is, of course, essential, but at the same time postdocs need to push previous work through the publication process, which often entails multiple revisions. Writing grant applications, and applying and interviewing for faculty jobs are necessary activities; […] postdoc funding runs out quickly. These additional responsibilities to our careers are as time-consuming as obligations to our full-time jobs.

An important point made in the column is that in the postdoc will work on papers from the postdoc project in years after the project is over and thereby catching up on whatever time lost on non-project work.



Picture of the Day: Norwegian Spring

April 6, 2012

When I was little, I was taught that the spring months were March, April, and May. The picture below (of my car) was taken yesterday, a week shy of the halfway point of the spring season. I love this country!


A Dictionary of the Near Future

September 13, 2010

I am supposed to be working, but I then I an op-ed, by Doublas Coupland in The New York Times, caught my attention: A Dictionary of the Near Future:

The thing about the future is that it never feels the way we thought it would. New sensations require new terms; below are a few such terms to encapsulate our present moment.

I regcognize myself in a lot of the terms, Airport-Induced Identity Dysphoria, for example:

AIRPORT-INDUCED IDENTITY DYSPHORIA Describes the extent to which modern travel strips the traveler of just enough sense of identity so as to create a need to purchase stickers and gift knick-knacks that bolster their sense of slightly eroded personhood: flags of the world, family crests, school and university merchandise.

It goes deep, wonder what economists have to say about this:

CRYSTALLOGRAPHIC MONEY THEORY The hypothesis that money is a crystallization or condensation of time and free will, the two characteristics that separate humans from other species.

I am dimanchophobic every now and then, approximately once a week:

DIMANCHOPHOBIA Fear of Sundays, a condition that reflects fear of unstructured time. Also known as acalendrical anxiety. Not to be confused with didominicaphobia or kyriakephobia, fear of the Lord’s Day.

So not true:

INTRAVINCULAR FAMILIAL SILENCE We need to be around our families not because we have so many shared experiences to talk about, but because they know precisely which subjects to avoid.

Fair enough, true, but is it a real problem, or just the manifestation of deeper problems regarding attention spans or commitments, or both?

KARAOKEAL AMNESIA Most people don’t know the complete lyrics to almost any song, particularly the ones they hold most dear. (See also Lyrical Putty)


PROCELERATION The acceleration of acceleration.

Mere word play:

PSEUDOALIENATION The inability of humans to create genuinely alienating situations. Anything made by humans is a de facto expression of humanity. Technology cannot be alienating because humans created it. Genuinely alien technologies can be created only by aliens. Technically, a situation one might describe as alienating is, in fact, “humanating.”

So that’s what standard deviation means, I hear it all the time:

STANDARD DEVIATION Feeling unique is no indication of uniqueness, and yet it is the feeling of uniqueness that convinces us we have souls.

Periodic Productivity worked for me

August 11, 2010

A Report from Montréal

July 1, 2010

‘This week, I’m attending the Fourth World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economists in Montréal. It’s been great so far, except my own presentation was a bit of a mess. I presented in the morning session on the first day and I was exhausted from the travel. That’s just an excuse, but it is what it is. Been to a lot of interesting sessions. The difficult thing is always to choose between the sessions. Yesterday afternoon, for example, I had to drop Thomas Kuhn for the session on Ethics and Social Norms.

Yesterday, AERE, EAERE, and FEEM presented their FEEM 20th Anniversary Prize to Resources for the Future and Marty Weitzman. Worthy winners, for sure. I attended Weitzman’s presentation on Tuesday and it was great, as expected. Depressing conclusions on the dismalness of economics (when it comes to climate change, that is), but important research nonetheless, the way I see it.

I’m discovering Montréal a little bit at the time. As Tom Sterner said in the first plenary session, it was a great idea to have a jazz festival in parallell with the conference, and I wholeheartedly agree. I just wish I had more time to enjoy the festival; the conference and surrounding arrangements takes 15 hours a day. My hotel, I have discovered, I just at the intersection between the shopping district, the jazz festival area, the Chinese quarter, and a more questionable and run down area with strip joints on every corner. To get to the conference site, I have to traverse the strip club area, which certainly adds to my ‘daily’ experience of Montréal.

Gotta run; more session to attend to, more people to meet, more fun to be had.

Summer Mode On

June 17, 2010

My readership (counting perhaps one reader) has already noticed that the blog has moved into summer mode. I certainly have, but days are still busy. I prepare for two large conferences this summer (WCERE 2010 and IIFET 2010), that is, I make slides, I review a paper, and try to take some time off inbetween. So until mid-August, there will be little if any activity on the blog.

A Sign of Life

March 30, 2010

Just want to give a sign of life and say that I, at least in the short term, intend to keep posting on the blog. The hiatus, which just ended, was caused by a number of things: Completing and submitting my PhD thesis; that time of year; looking after my son (maternity leave); playing chess; submitting stuff to conferences; moving to a temporary apartment; living temporary; buying a house; preparing a trial lecture and the defense of my PhD; giving the trial lecture and defending my PhD; an extraordinary snowy winter; and getting a job. With all that out of the way, I hope to be able to keep this blog alive.