Tuesday, January 27, 2009

(Many) Econlinks

  • Brief but pertinent thoughts of Ricardo Caballero on the (real) causes and solutions to the current financial crisis.

  • Bill Easterly (and colleagues) have just started a very promising blog, Aid Watch. And talking about Development Economics, check out a very flattering portrait of one of its (if not the) young stars.

  • Dan Hamermesh ask the $64000 question: who changes the kissing rules? NB: having lived for quite a while in The Netherlands (and there again for two months, in a week!), I count myself one of the non-Dutch experts in three-cheek kissing :-).

  • Not sure I immediately agree with Alex Tabarrok; some people believe the Nobel in Economics should be given only every 4 years... The John Bates Clark medal was fine somewhere in between, every two years. Will the Yrjö Jahnsson- EEA award also change to annual rather than biennial frequency?...

  • I've only found out about this recently, via Tyler Cowen on MR. It should answer many of Jim Heckman's detractors. Obviously, as a student of Jim Heckman in that Oxford summer course of 2005 that he mentions (organized by David Hendry and Bent Nielsen, at Nuffield College), I could be biased (inter alia, that course was one of the best short courses I ever took; moreover, I guess I also publicly declared that I am a Heckman fan-- in Romanian). But in any case I think the material Heckman posted on his site for everybody's perusal ought to be clarifying enough, for everybody...

  • Ranking The Beatles' songs (again via the cool guys at MR, who else?). This looks (at least goal-wise) a similar endeavour to the project (also very controversial... and heavily criticized...) of David Galenson, mentioned a while ago on this blog. Would just add that I definitely agree with number 1 being Number 1 in this Beatles song top, ie. the beyond-brilliant "A Day in the Life", but I would also clearly place "Strawberry Fields Forever" second... and I would further interchange quite a few positions in top 30... and quite a lot of positions further down... So much for the "consensus of taste" :-).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sinatra and Sodini's

A quote for any week (click on the picture to enlarge).

A great dinner we had at Sodini's Green Valley Sicilian restaurant in North Beach and the ever present, ever wise Frank Sinatra himself was at (or should I say: above) our table... If you ever pass by-- you should: this is probably the best Italian restaurant in San Francisco, atmosphere- & quality-wise --, I warmly recommend the "Chicken Alla Sodini" (grilled chicken topped with ham, mozzarella and cream sauce served with linguine alla casa; add a small Caesar salad and you'll surely satisfy any appetite, no matter how hungry you start...). Pair that with a glass of the house's Merlot for the complete sensation.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chess games, more and less serious

First, the powerful Corus Chess tournament has started today (first game tomorrow) in Wijk aan Zee. Time for last year's Group A winner, Magnus Carlsen, to really make history. Ivanchuk did quite well lately, but I still don't see him with too many chances against the Viking Chessmaster, this time. Aronian is, however, always 'unpredictable': hence, if anything, he's the one Magnus should watch out for the most... Group B will also be very interesting: my bet is on the new hope, Fabiano Caruana: I saw some unbelievably smart games he played in different tournaments last year.

Second, computer chess games for the less professional players, such as myself :-). In order to have an idea whether I should get the new chess program for my Ipod (see also here), I should ask Susan Polgar how does the tChess compare to the Kasparov Chessmate , the latter available within the set of games offered on the screens in KLM intercontinental flights (now you know that other than watching good movies--2nd bullet point-- I also play a lot of chess on such flights...). I am obviously no pro when it comes to chess, but I won 15 games (and lost only 3) against the highest level the Kasparov Chessgame has ('strength' 2300, ie. playing against Kasparov's avatar...), which clearly says more about that game than about myself :-). If the Ipod chessgame is similar or lower in strength, I wouldn't bother (though in any case, I think it is absolutely great to have such a chess game on Ipods and Iphones)... All in all, I am definitely looking forward for Fritz-like strength in chess games on such devices as Ipods, KLM screens and the like...

Thursday, January 15, 2009


  • Intercontinental flights are also occasions to watch on-the-watch!-list movies you didn't watch yet: in my latest I finally saw Woody Allen's-- already (in)famous -- "Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona" (IMDb, RottenTomatoes). My verdict: the movie is excellent (my favourite from Woody Allen remains however Sweet and Lowdown), with some of the dialogues between the main characters simply brilliant. In particular, I think Javier Bardem should have also gotten (the movie did get one) the Golden Globe (though I have to confess that I have not seen yet 'In Bruges', with the winner at this category, Farrell-- hence this assessment is simply using my biased priors). Bardem's role in this movie, Juan Antonio, is a perfect maximizer of instantaneous utility, has a close-to-infinite temporal discounting factor and, needless to say, I also share with him, though so far with less practical success, the more ex/rotic principles :-).

  • Email your future self in T years, where 0.25 less than T less than 29 (constraints as of now/ for now). Check for instance if your current principles are time invariant... or simply wish yourself "Happy Birthday" for when you're likely to be alone and grumpy :-). PS. Make sure the email address you provide will actually survive those T years...

  • With the occasion of my San Francisco & surroundings trip, after my ASSA conference, I also gave a seminar at UC Merced, a very new UC university, on my (older) co-authored paper "Returns to tenure or seniority?" (download the latest draft; a new version will be available soon); get also the actual presentation from Merced, for any of you interested. The Econ group at UC Merced is very small still, but I had a great time interacting with each of them, and some really interesting comments. Many thanks to Alex, Katie, Shawn, Todd and Justin-- with very special thanks to Alex for the invitation and organizing everything! My only regret: did not manage to make it this time to Yosemite, despite its being very close to Merced! Next time, there will obviously be a next time...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Leaving Frisco in style

... with an absolutely delicious dinner at Michael Mina's restaurant in San Francisco (Mina wikilink), located just in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis hotel, Union Square.

My 3-menu choice (with accompanying yummy pictures that I couldn't help taking; the light was rather dim however; hence, ultimately, the photo quality is not what it could have been...):

  • Dungeness Crab ~ Local and Seasonal
    • Endive, Poached Claw, Aïoli
    • Butter Roasted, Whole Leg, Espelette
    • Cioppino, Backfin Meat, Tinkerbell Peppers

I paired the starter with a glass of fantastic Bernard Morey Chassagne Montrachet "Embrazées" 1er Cru 2006. Definitely worth its price :-).

  • Liberty Valley Duck ~ Foie Gras
    • Breast, Parsnip Purée, Star Anise Jus
    • Seared Foie Gras, Pink Lady Apples, Laird Brandy Gastrique
    • Leg Rillettes, Apple Butter, Wild Man Mixed Greens

I assorted the entrée with an intriguing glass of Whetstone Pinot Noir "Jon Boat", Sonoma Coast 2006.

  • Cheeses ~Goat, Sheep, Cow
    Pata de Cabra, Sylvetta, Tomato Compote
    • Vermont Shepherd, Pear Purée, Clove
    • Persille du Beaujolais, Soft Caramel, Citron

As dessert wine I had to try a glass of Chauteau Guiraud, Sauternes, 2003: turned out to be a close-to-ideal company to the Persille du Beaujolais.

Read here more, in case you will happen to pass by San Francisco and decide not to miss Mina's culinary delights: the starter+entrée dinner menu, the dessert menu, the great (this label does not cover the prices, unfortunately...) wine menus--reds, whites. The 6-course seasonal tasting menu with wine pairings looked also extremely tempting.

The economist in me: (truly deserved) Michelin 2-star dinner (see also here), for 245 dollars, gratuity included (and wine accounting for half the bill). One of the best restaurant deals I've ever made.

And to call it a night, wrapped it all up with two cocktails in the Clock Bar (also featured in a recent NYTimes list of best cocktail places in San Francisco), just oposite Mina's restaurant (the Clock Bar is Mina's first bar concept!), also in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis. The "Last Word" was very interesting (my first trial); the "Mojito" was exceptional. My third was going to be a "Boulevardier" (expected-to-be perfect at the Clock Bar...), but I would have had to drink it alone; next time, for sure there will be a next time! :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Alcatraz online

You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege.

Number 5, Alcatraz Prison Rules and Regulations, 1934

PS. I have the great privilege of free wireless internet. I guess Al Capone didn't get that :-).

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Recession-proof lunching in Sausalito

Some cafes and restaurants around the San Francisco Bay area are quite innovative in terms of marketing, adapting swiftly to any new trends.

Although in the end I opted for an old-fashioned "Sausalito burger", rather than their en vogue "Recession proof" lunch. I guess I am conservative in this respect; to keep in mind if things really do get worse, though :-)