We watched some episodes of Rome. Interesting TV and full of political intrigue. The actor who plays Julius Caesar did not demonstrate the charisma that I would expect from Caesar; otherwise, I really enjoyed the show.

Personality strengths

Now, Discover Your Strengths is an interesting book about personality types---more accurately, personality strengths. It makes an interesting claim that everyone should focus on building their careers around their strengths, not on fixing their weaknesses. They have an online questionnaire that evaluates the top 5 strengths out of their universe of 34. Mine were:

  1. Learner

  2. Deliberative

  3. Responsibility

  4. Restorative

  5. Activator

I'm still mulling this over to see if this classification describes me well.


I watched An Inconvenient Truth, which was pretty good. But I thought the book was better, because I didn't have to listen to so many self-congratulatory platitudes. Interesting series of suggestions at the end, but I was annoyed that it encouraged the use of biofuels, which seem like an utter waste of resources.

The suggestion that Lake Chad has been destroyed because of global warming seems to be untrue, based on some of the reading that I have done.

Gore should have suggested that we eat less meat, buy fewer processed foods, and buy less stuff. The former consumes a great deal of energy (unless it is grass-fed), and I bet food processing does too. Finally, capitalism itself (more accurately, consumption for the sake of consumption) is responsible for a lot of the energy we consume, because all of the environmental damage is externalized. My conclusion is:

Consume less stuff. Consume less food. Consume less energy.


Well, another season of 24 has started. It literally started with a bang (a nuclear explosion). But it's degenerated into some really non-interesting stuff. Family squabbles for Jack (who barely appeared on-screen in yesterday's episode), political maneuverings in the bunkered White House, just not very good. Prison Break has been much more fun, if you want to watch complicated plots about the Presidency. Watching Jack Bauer torture his brother just isn't that fun.


My cousin Jack just pointed me at a post that he made about pesticides in food. Here's the link to the site, which rates which produce has more pesticides. Watch our for apples!

Another game

Yet another hilarious game, Oil God. It's made by Persuasive Games, the same company that made Bacteria Salad.


Here's an interesting idea that probably works reasonably well in NYC: freecycling. It's like Craigslist, but giving used stuff away.

Amusing game

An article in the NY Times mentioned the game Bacteria Salad, which is hilarious (if not a very interesting game).

Michael Pollan article

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, has an article
in this week's NY Times magazine. Well worth reading, even though its recommendations overlap with almost all of the other reading I've been doing about food. I love the opening sentences:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Silly food labels

We had some oatmeal this morning, and the box says "Helps reduce cholesterol". What a ridiculous claim: if you eat foods without cholesterol, then your cholesterol levels will go down. So every non-meat product could have that exact same label.


One of the organizations I learned about in What To Eat is Consumer Lab. They evaluate vitamin supplements; this is a valuable service, since no government agency regulates supplement makers. Most of the large corporations that manufacture supplements seem to be OK, but some of the smaller ones may produce supplements without all of the vitamins listed on the label. Even worse, some of the supplements may be contaminated with elements such as lead.

What To Eat

I finally got through What To Eat, an encyclopedic book about food: its marketing, health effects, and some about its environmental effects. Interestingly, the author also lives in NYC, so she talks about various groceries, delis, and restaurants here. More later...


We've been watching all of the episodes of Firefly, and finally got around to the movie Serenity. The movie was kind of predictable in certain ways, but was fun to watch. I enjoyed the episodes a bit more than the feature film, because the episodes focused more on the characters. But it was interesting to see the film deal with some of the politics in the 'verse of Serenity.

The Met

From Around NY

Busy museum day. We went to the Met and saw two exhibits:

Both of them were amazing!


We saw the Design Life Now exhibit at Cooper-Hewitt. Cooper-Hewitt is in a lovely building, and the exhibit had all sorts of interesting stuff. There were some novel designs for prescription drug bottles from Target (which is a sponsor of the Design Museum) that were really done well. There was even an exhibit on Google!

More garbage

Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage is also a documentary; you can see it on Google Video.


Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers is a fascinating book about how the costs of capitalism have been externalized as waste.

She gave an interesting interview that is worth reading.


The Looming Tower is a fascinating book that describes the rise of militant Islam and al-Qaeda. It is frightening how the FBI and CIA bureaucracies rendered each other useless in the runup to 9/11. It is also amazing how well-educated the members of al-Qaeda are: alienation is a powerful force.

Lawrence Wright wrote a New Yorker article this is worth a read.


We took a quick trip to MOMA, and saw a few exhibits: the retrospective on Brice Marden's work, Manet and the Execution of Maximilian, and OMA in Beijing. I must be too practical or just uneducated, but Marden's work was just not that interesting. Some of his later work is beautiful, but his earlier work did not move me. Manet's paintings were fascinating, but I also didn't find the subject matter that compelling. The OMA exhibit (which is about the construction of the China Central Television complex) was really interesting, though. I guess that I am just more interested in how art interacts the real world, rather than just abstraction for the sake of abstraction.


I just found about the Seafood Choices Alliance, which publishes the Fish List: a list of fishes that we should or should not eat, based on environmental and health concerns.

Match Point

We watched Match Point, Woody Allen's latest film. I thought Crimes and Misdemeanors was a far more interesting film. This film seemed a lot shallower, and not as interesting. It was not a boring or bad film, just not great.

My first reaction after seeing this film: is Woody Allen working on some guilt because he killed someone? Why has he made two films about murder and guilt?

The Voysey Inheritance

We saw the Atlantic Theater Company's production of The Voysey Inheritance. The play has been adapted by David Mamet; it would be interesting to know what he changed in the play. The production was really enjoyable, in an intimate theater with a luscious set. It was definitely worth seeing!


We are thinking of visiting Xi'an (formerly Chang'an) in China. During the Tang Dynasty (8th century AD), Chang'an had a population of 2 million people!


We walked by Pinkberry, a fancy dessert place in Koreatown. It looked very sleek and modern: as far as we could tell, it was a fancy frozen-yogurt place.

Electronics recycling

Lower East Side Ecology Center
and Con Edison sponsor a recycling event every year in Union Square. Time to finally get rid of that old computer!

Money mistakes

I skimmed through Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes & How To Correct Them, by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich. It's an interesting book about behavioral economics, and how some common irrationalities that we all exhibit can affect our behavior with money. Some of the issues:

  • We tend to keep separate mental accounts for our money; don't let these mental accounts affect your spending patterns.

  • Losses affect us more than gains hurt us, so we get more reckless in trying to avoid losses.

  • Sunk costs do not matter.

  • We are affected by how issues are framed: reframe issues so that you see them both as gains and losses.

  • Don't ignore small numbers, such as mutual-fund fees.

  • We tend to anchor on irrelevant information, and we treat events that are likely to be the result of change as non-random; don't pay attention to such irrelevant information.

  • Don't be overconfident about your abilities if you have little training.

  • Avoid "confirmation bias", which is our tendency to treat information as though it confirms our decisions.

  • Don't follow the herd.

  • Avoid too much information. Information can cause us to act emotionally.

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine was a disturbing movie that had some outrageous laughs in it: I almost died at the very end (which I will not give away). It is definitely worth watching!

Happy New Year

And NY gets a new governor, Eliot Spitzer. His inaugural address is nice; let's hope he can achieve some of his goals!