Margin Call

Last night we watched Margin Call, a thriller whose script is a clever copy and paste of real events during our financial crisis. Because the plot elements have nearly all been publicized in the past few years, I found no suspension of belief required to completely engage.

There is however a problem with the movie. Despite the admirable attempts to make the plot comprehensible and educational while entertaining, the movie is still littered with barely explained acronyms (CDO, CDS, MBS), unexplained concepts like leveraging models, reserve requirements, and other financial jargon. We paused the movie several times as I was asked to explain. It’s a fun movie, but I’d first recommend that people first watch Inside Job and Wall Street.

For something quite educational, Bill Moyers has a great series of educational videos called Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned its Back on the Middle Class (On Winner-Take-All Politics, Crony Capitalism, How Big Banks are Rewriting the Rules of our Economy).

A very nice half-rack

Under other circumstances, I’d have been much more excited to acquire this trophy.

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Unfortunately, I acquired this rack in one of the most expensive ways.

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HDR arrives for the masses

Dynamic range has been a limitation of photography since its inception. Film and digital photographers have used a number of techniques over the years (merging film negatives, dodging and burning of film, bracketing on digital cameras) to enhance the range of their photos. The historical problem of achieving High Dynamic Range (HDR) has always been the amount of time spent post-processing the images. With film, the process could take days. With digital photos, it was reduced to hours. With the introduction of HDR on the iPhone, the process takes two seconds.

Apple added HDR functionality to the iPhone with the recently released iOS 4.1 update. With a single tap of the shutter, the camera takes three photos and merges them. When shooting a stationary subject with a steady hand, the results are excellent. Otherwise, the results are mixed. I’m certainly glad the camera I have with me has it as an option.

Carabiner specs

Biner

Price

Dimensions

Weight
(g)

Strength
(kn)

Gate
(mm)

BD Oval

$6.5

107 x 58

62g

6 x 18

18

BD Oval wiregate

$6.5

 

45g

7 x 23

25

Wild Country Helium

$12.0

 

33g

10×24

27

Mad Rock Ultralight bent

$6.0

94 x 54 x 22

32g

8 x 25

25

Mad Rock Ultralight straight

$6.0

94 x 54 x 22

32g

8 x 25

23

BD Oz wiregate

$8.5

 

28g

8 x 20

22

Mammut Moses

$9.0

 

27g

8 x 23

25

CAMP USA Nano 23

$6.0

84 x 51 x 8

23g

7 x 20

21

My walking desk

Last year I bought a standing desk. Along with biking to work a couple days each week, it was part of my plan to shed 20 excess pounds. I like my standing desk. I like it a lot. But what I discovered is that I can’t stand all day long without my knees aching. I adjusted by sitting while at work, and standing while at home.

I read that standing all day is a great way to experience joint pain. The solution is always the same: don’t just stand there, walk. I researched treadmills and decided a Bowflex Series 7 treadmill was the one. And I wanted to pay the lowest possible price. So I set up a RSS feed to watch craigslist. After several months, I didn’t see a single one sell for less than $700. So I started bidding $700 on every one that showed up on craigslist. Finally, 9 months later, I have my treadmill.

I had to move the desk up a few inches to slide the treadmill in under it. I’m tempted to move it up another couple inches. As you can see, my arms are actually sloping downwards from my elbows. I’d rather they were nearly level, but I also want Jen to be able to use my workstation.

I’ve now worked at my walking desk for two days. I walked barefoot for the first 4 miles and found the treadmill belt to be abrasive on my feet. Now I’m alternating between barefeet and socks, until my feet have built up some calluses.

Update: I did move it up 3 more inches. Now it’s just right.

Great Wolf Lodge

The Great Wolf Lodge is a lots of fun for kids. I can see why we’ve heard rave reviews. However, there’s a few things to know before your trip that are not covered in the brochure or web site.
1. the beds are great for jumping on, but not so great for sleeping.
2. the pillows are extra firm, perfect for delivering that knockout blow during a pillowfight. Bring your own for sleeping on. We saw other families hauling them in and now we know why.
3. Beware of the zombies. They look much like normal humans, but because of sleep deprivation and too much chlorine exposure, they merely resemble humans, their faces devoid of emotion, being towed around by kids.
4. If you have really little kids, plan to spend lots of time in the tadpole pond. The water in the big pools is cooler and the 4 and under kids get cold quickly.
5. The wifi coverage is pervasive and slow. I eventually turned off wifi because AT&T 3G was faster.
6. The TV has only paid programming. Bring along options. Their internet is way too slow for streaming NetFlix.

The lodge is designed to be a one stop resort, where you eat, sleep and play without ever leaving the building. It accomplishes this, but after a couple days, we had experienced everything that was age appropriate. The kids would have been happy to stay another day or two but we were looking forward to sleeping in our own bed.

sleeping pad weight versus insulation

Sleeping Pad

R-value

weight

(ounces)

M.H. Highmountain 72

6.75

29

B.A. Insulated Air Core

4.1

24

Big Agnes Air Core

22

C.D. Thermarest NeoAir

2.1

14

Z-Rest 3/4 / full

2.2

11 / 15

C.D. Thermarest Trail 1″

3.4

24