Inside Job

Last night, I finally watched Inside Job (Wikipedia | IMDB | Netflix | Amazon), the outstanding 2010 documentary about the global financial crisis that started in 2007.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please do.  It is the most eye-opening, coherent, and compelling explanation I’ve seen yet of the greed and corruption that caused the meltdown and continue to poison our financial system and government.

I can’t stop thinking about the movie.  I had a basic grasp of the subject before, so I wasn’t exactly shocked.  But seeing it all laid out so clearly in a two-hour film was enlightening.  Not to mention depressing.  It’s not a feel-good flick and it doesn’t end on a hopeful note, to say the least.

We are all affected by this crisis, and most of us have contributed to it in some way.  Greedy bankers, unethical mortgage lenders, irresponsible consumers, apathetic (non-)voters, craven politicians in both parties, clueless investors, ineffective regulators, brainwashed economists, lying ratings agencies, the lazy “news” media… all have played a part.  To quote Denzel Washington’s character, Trip, in the movie Glory: “It stinks bad. And we all covered up in it too. Ain’t nobody clean. Be nice to get clean, though.”

It’s the getting clean part that interests me now.  From what I’ve seen so far, I’m not optimistic.  If fraud and financial destruction on this scale weren’t enough to put complicit executives in prison, reduce the influence of Wall Street on Washington, and give us meaningful financial reform… I truly don’t know what it will take.

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Now there’s something I’ve never seen on my forecast before…

Blizzard Forecast in Olathe

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2011 Goals – Fitness and Tech

Don’t talk about it, be about it.
- Busta Rhymes

If I had to choose one word to summarize 2010 for me in terms of personal growth, I would go with self-control.  For too long, I had been a captive of my whims and impulses, especially when it came to food and my health.  I got sick of being fat and out-of-shape, so I finally decided to get off my exceedingly large dumper and take action.  I lost 117 pounds through diet and exercise.  I completed the Couch-to-5K program and took up running, logging 150 miles and completing my first 5K race in October.  I also started doing more cooking and much less dining out.  This helped with the family budget, another area that received some needed attention last year.

I want to build on these accomplishments and apply my self-discipline to other areas, so 2011 is going to be the year of focus.  I get a lot done as a rule, but I’ve let some of my personal and career goals get away from me.  I want to do a better job managing my time and checking off my personal to-do list.

I’ve been following Sacha Chua’s blog for awhile, and I’ve been fascinated by the way she works toward her goals and tracks her progress through detailed weekly reports to herself (and her readers).  Her enthusiasm and concentration are inspiring, as is her inclination toward honest and open self-appraisal.

In that spirit, here are some of my goals for 2011.  There are others that are too personal (family, financial, work, etc.) or mundane to post here.  But I’m happy to share my main fitness and tech/development goals:

Fitness and Health

  • Run a total of 520 miles (averaging 10 miles/week)
  • Run in two 5K events
  • Improve my 5K time to under 30 minutes
  • Increase my regular running distance from 3 to 5 miles
  • Improve my outdoor mile pace from 11:30 to 9:00
  • Reach my goal weight of 185 pounds
  • Incorporate pushups into my exercise routine
  • Do 100 pushups at a time by the end of the year
  • Don’t drink any pop (not even diet)

Tech and Software Development

  • Finish learning Python
  • Finish learning Django (Python web application framework)
  • Finish learning Android
  • Launch 3 Android applications in the market
  • Join an open source project and contribute (docs, testing, code)
  • Read “7 Languages in 7 Weeks” book and do the exercises
  • Write at least 1 blog post per week

I need to give some more thought to the planning and tracking side of this.  But at the very least, I’ll report my progress here at the start of next year.  Wish me luck!

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I Don't "Believe" in Evolution Any More than I "Believe" In Gravity

I accept evolution and natural selection as fact.  Their evidence is overwhelming, obvious, and irrefutable.  One thing you will not hear me say, however, is that I “believe in evolution.”

I detest this phrase.  It’s used all the time, even by well-informed and well-meaning individuals who understand evolution and its essential place in modern biology.

When we use words like “believe” in regard to evolution, we contribute to the ongoing, false equivalence between evolution and religion.  It subtly and mistakenly implies the application of faith and intuition, rather than reason and evidence.  This is, of course, exactly what many creationists intend.  But it also happens inadvertently even among those who acknowledge the truth of evolution.  A Google search for the phrase “believe in evolution” yields about 6,230,000 results.  I see it used frequently in news articles, interviews, and polls.  Even in political debates.

Does anyone say they “believe” in gravity?  Photosynthesis?  Atoms?  The germ theory of disease?  Radioactive decay?  DNA’s role in heredity?  Plate tectonics?  Cells?

I know I’m being pedantic here but I think that words really matter, especially when it comes to discussions of evolution and science in the U.S.  There are enough loaded terms being used around evolution as it is.  At least, that’s my theory.

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Inside the Octogenarians Studio

James Lipton, host of Inside the Actors Studio, celebrates 84 scrumtrulescent years of life today.  84 years old.  Unbelievable!  The man must have formaldehyde and guar gum coursing through his veins.

The older I get, the more appreciation I have for the actors and artists in their 70s, 80s, and 90s who defy their age, continue to work, and still make it look pretty easy.  Here are just a few that inspire me…

If I’m still alive and kicking into my 70′s and beyond, I hope I have even half the energy and commitment that these folks do.  Hats off to them!

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TV Shows I've Watched in Their Entirety

I don’t watch a lot of television.  But there are a handful of TV series of which I can say with certainty that I’ve seen every single episode.  Of course, this is much easier to pull off in the age of Netflix than it was when I used to tape The Cosby Show and Knight Rider back in the day…

  • 30 Rock (so far)
  • Arrested Development
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Chappelle’s Show (unless you count the 3rd “season,” which I don’t)
  • Firefly
  • Lost
  • The Sopranos
  • Tosh.0 (so far)
  • Weeds (so far)

Honorable mentions go to Seinfeld, The X-Files, Scrubs, and The West Wing.  And I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never seen The Wire, but I suspect that it may make the list one day.

So, for the most part, it appears that I’m drawn to shows that either make me laugh uncontrollably or suck me into an infuriating world of dangling plot lines and punishingly complex narrative.

Which TV series have you watched, faithfully, end-to-end?

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Everything is a Remix

Kirby Ferguson has created a very slick and intriguing video (part 1 of 4) that explores the boundaries of inspiration, influence, and outright theft in music.  As an occasional music arranger and lifelong music geek, this was very near and dear to my heart.  I wonder if he’ll do one on film scores… what a target-rich environment that would be.

Everything is a Remix, Part 1

Hat tip: Daring Fireball

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Hubble’s Heir

New Scientist has a great interview with Dr. John Mather, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics and senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  Scheduled for launch in 2014, the JWST will allow us to peer much deeper into space (and further into the past) than Hubble by operating in the infrared range using a much larger mirror.

Actually, a set of segmented mirrors, each only a few millimeters thick.  Folded up inside a rocket, to be unfurled and focused after being deployed a million miles out in space, about four times farther away from Earth than the Moon.  Kept at a frosty 55 degrees Kelvin by a five-layer sunshield as big as a tennis court.

Luckily, the mission is every bit as ambitious as the set of engineering challenges it produced.  The JWST is expected to give us insights into the early history of the universe, the role of dark matter in forming galaxies, and the birth of stars and solar systems.  If successful, it will build on the stunning legacy of Hubble and bring us even closer to understanding the universe and our own origins.

My favorite part of the interview… the final exchange:

Don’t you get your own observing time for having built it?

No, I don’t. Observing time on one of these things is so precious that I don’t think any person should be allowed to say, “Well, I’ll do what I want.”

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February 25, 1993 – Marc Andreessen Pitches the IMG Tag

Mark Pilgrim has posted an intriguing look back at the birth of the <IMG> HTML tag…

On February 25, 1993, Marc Andreessen wrote:

I’d like to propose a new, optional HTML tag:


Required argument is SRC=”url”.

An example is:

<IMG SRC="file://">

(There is no closing tag; this is just a standalone tag.)

It’s fascinating to revisit the ensuing conversation between Marc Andreessen (Netscape founder), Dave Raggett (W3C fellow), Tim Berners-Lee (World Wide Web inventor), and others, especially thanks to Mark’s informative commentary.

After highlighting the players, the specs, the technology, the constraints, and the long-term implications of that WWW-Talk thread, Mark closes with a critical reminder to developers and entrepreneurs everywhere (emphasis mine):

But none of this answers the original question: why do we have an <img> element? Why not an <icon> element? Or an <include> element? Why not a hyperlink with an include attribute, or some combination of rel values? Why an <img> element? Quite simply, because Marc Andreessen shipped one, and shipping code wins.

Read the whole post at dive into mark: Why do we have an IMG element?

(hat tip: @veen)

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Cousin Eddie: “Twitter Was Full!”

Apparently, Twitter had a problem with frozen timelines today.  The fail whale must be working overtime.  Let’s give him a much-deserved break and have Cousin Eddie do the honors…


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