Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Path Dependence, Behavioral Economics, and the Emmanuel Administration

Already the new administration of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is showing a shrewd understanding of path dependence. At the north end of the golf course about 2 miles from my apartment there is a wild flower prairie. Under the Daley Administration, it was fenced but runners routinely bend the fence down and cut through it creating a well trodden path through the flowers and natural plants. The Park District would replace the fence, it would be folded down, over and over with the path being more and more entrenched.

Until this week. Finally, some one woke up and bowed to reality. There is a now an opening to the path on both ends with the fence on either side to protect both halves of the bisected prairie with even a new layer of cedar chips to cushion the running path and protect the soil underneath.

What new behavioral insights will Mayor Emmanuel unveil next?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Just Watching

I sat in a bier garten drinking coffee and beer (wanted a beer, still need to work today) watching hundreds walk, jog, occasionally run by down the main pedestrian walk in Heidelberg. The waitress thought it might be a triathlon, which was possible, although only if combined with a walking/running event. The faster athletes seemed to come by later, then it slowed down again, suggesting the first crowd was comprised of family of the triathletes out for a fun run. After that, of course, you get the triathletes in order of competitiveness. So I watched, not (as I had intended) getting much work done. Nobody took it too seriously. The walkway wasn't closed, and runners weaved around tourists, not obviously annoyed at all.

Friday, May 20, 2011

TILEC Seminar

First, a lesson: "sign in" in Dutch is "aanmelden." Or at least that's what comes up on Google blogger when I open it up from Tilburg.

Had an excellent afternoon and evening yesterday hosted by the Tilburg Law and Economics Center. The Center puts on a monthly seminar series with invited speakers, always on competition/trade/economic regulation topics (shouldn't we all be so lucky!). I shared the bill with Dr. Mark Armstrong (UCL), whose work on consumer economics is quite excellent. He's one of very few writing on these topics who relies on the work of Robert Cialdini, whose contributions to the management school literature on consumer contracting are very illuminating. Dr. Armstrong noted at the outset of his talk that too few economists look to the business school literature to inform their theories.

What I liked most about his paper, "Exploding Offers and Buy-Now Discounts," is that it provides a rational choice model to explain a behavioralist critique of a previously short-sighted rational choice theory. Is this the next step in antitrust economics? We all know the rational choice hypothesis has been proved wrong, time and again. Will we now see repeated papers tweaking the general theory to accommodate the behavioralist critique? That seems to me to be undeniably a good thing.

Finally, an excellent dinner at a restaurant called Meesters in the center of Tilburg with my host Angelos Dimopoulos.

Ultra Lights

Used a gift card to try a pair of Saucony ultra light running shoes. They are real shoes, not the ones that look like slippers or those creepy ones with the ones. But they are very light maybe half of the regular cushioned neutrals. No lateral support but decent cushioning and feather weight. Gave thema four mile test drive on just about every surface I could think of. They felt great and worked on everything from concrete to trails to sand on the beach. I think I will add them to the rotation (i run in two or three different types of shoes while training and then settle down on one run for my super long runs and the marathon itself. I don't see myself doing 18 plus in these new ones but they should be fine for speed work and anything at the gym. I think I will be going with Brooks Ghost for the big day in September buying my final pair for the race in mid-August and breaking them in with about 100 miles or so before September 24th in the Hamptons.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Amusing to be following Spencer's post about running in the Netherlands with a post about running in the Netherlands. (And, speaking of "why the 'the'?" . . .). I was bushed by the time I found my hotel, a very pleasant inn set into the corner of a forest park that seems to be about a kilometer square. I napped for three hours, worked long enough to down three excellent if expensive cafes (how do you order coffee, anyway?), and tripped out the door into the forest at 7 pm. The first kilometer was by myself, and then I found the crowds. The entire town, which is only slightly hyperbolic, was out running in training groups. And not plodding along like I do when I'm just trying to get the workout in, but running -- training -- including timed laps, games of chase through some single-track, striders, and quick paces across the board. At first it was neat to see, then it got a little weird. But now I'm back to neat.

Den Haag

Despite having only 48 hours in The Hague (Why the "The" by the way?), I did get in a good 50 minute run before my talk on Tuesday. My body got me up at 5 something and I was out the door by 5:45. I ran around and through a large set of linked parks across from the hotel and conference center. There were many interesting trails, some pavement, some earth, some a little creepy at 6 AM when you don't know where it ends up and how long it will take the police to find your body. But its Holland and apparently nobody actually run here at 6 in the morning or that I didn't find the best running paths which were probably along the beach 2 miles to the east. I did have a map and managed to emerge about where I thought I would. Much to my surprise, I was in front of Miduradam, a kid's attraction that is a miniature city of perfect 1:25 scale of different parts of Holland and Europe. On my only other visit to Holland, I went there when I was 12 or 13 with my folks, but had forgotten about it and that it was in The Hague. I remember it as kind of a Legoland without the rides. Unfortunately, it was 6:30 or so and it wouldn't open for hours. But kind of cool to stumble across it 40 years later. Finished the run through yet a different park and began my day at the pre-ICN research conference which I will blog about later.