Friday, November 9, 2007

Lots to talk about

Since I just started this blog, it never really occurs to me to write. So as to avoid the untimely and premature death of my blog, I better get on the horse. To that end:

I have been all over the past few months. Jena and I visited my grandparents in Indiana, which is always fun. I have an amazing pair of grandparents. They are 91 and 89, and still live at home by themselves, no problem. They are a great source of inspiration. They are both so sharp and love each other so much. They live in a little town between Indianapolis and Lafayette, surrounded by a bunch of really nice people who take care of them, taking them to the grocery store, to church, to doctor's appointments, and so on. Nobody lets them do yard work. I guess that's the difference between living in the Midwest and living on the East Coast. Anyway, we had a great time. Like everyone else I know, they LOVE Jena, and Jena loves them, so it's great to get her out there to spend time with them. My grandmother taught Jena how to crochet, and we took them out on rides (they can't drive anymore). Every time I go out there, I come back more aware of just how lucky I am to have special people like that in my life.

After returning from Indiana, it was back to work, then off to New York City to do some recruiting at Columbia University. I hadn't done a career fair before, so it was fun to get out there and do some selling (hopefully I can get some help for our team too). I also, as an added bonus, got to take the train (always nice) and see my college roommate and great friend Billy, his new wife, and my friends Tyran and Kareem in Brooklyn. That was fun, although I wasn't feeling great. The career fair went well, although my feet were definitely killing me after 9 hrs of standing. The campus is beautiful, and the ride there along Central Park West was definitely enjoyable. Of course, I forgot my camera, so no pictures. Then back on the train and back to DC.

The next morning, time to drive to Hilton Head for a week of R&R with Jena and my mom. The drive was uneventful, if a little long. Once we were there, it was vacation time. We did the traditional things that you do at the beach. Sit at the pool, sit at the beach, play putt-putt (I won, extending my dominant winning streak to 3 ), eat yummy seafood (if in Hilton Head, DO NOT leave without eating at Redfish ), relax, sleep a lot. We took day trips to Savannah and Charleston, such cool cities with that old Southern charm and nifty historic districts. It was a good time had by all, and a nice way to recharge.

So, what have I been reading lately? A LOT, thankfully. My schedule has finally opened up, and while the act of traveling can be stressful and time consuming, it also affords me with a lot of downtime where I can get some reading done. So what have I read?

Free to Choose - Milton and Rose Friedman - This is Milton Friedman's 1980 rant about the pernicious nature of government's attempt to 'protect you'. It's an assault that reeks of libertarianism, while toeing the line with reality. When I was in school, I really really wish that this had been required reading. I took a couple classes in Public Economics and this would have tied together a lot of the concepts we were looking into without getting buried in graphs. Sometimes real world examples are required to make complex things clear. What I really enjoyed about this book was the discussion of government regulation, and how the only people who actually win are big business special interest groups. Ahhh, so true. It's definitely an infuriating book to read for all the silliness that it exposes. The prescient discussion of the privatization of social security is obviously very relevant 27 years later. Just sad that a paternalistic government that has failed to educate its citizens uses that same excuse when telling us that people can't handle their own money because they don't know enough. Ahhh. Anyway, it's a fantastic book. You don't need a background in economics to get the concepts in it, as it's written in a very lucid non-academic manner. Bravo, Mr. Friedman.

I also finally got around to reading Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. By now, lots and lots of people have seen the HBO miniseries by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, which was amazing. I have been meaning to check out the book, and I finally got around to it. Amazing stuff. I am something of a military history buff, and a history buff in general, but this book took you further. The amazing camaraderie and fearlessness that these men displayed during a war that wasn't driven by smart bombs and unmanned drones is absolutely striking. I simply can't imagine jumping out of an airplane, much less into a firefight behind enemy lines, then having to fight your way back to your reinforcements. Now imagine doing it repeatedly. Incredible. A very easy book to read and a great view of what it took to be a soldier in those days.

Dogs of God - James Reston - Ever read a book that made you think "Man, that was a lot of great information but who the hell was the editor?"? That was how I felt when I was reading this one. It was a book filled with interesting facts about Spain during the inquisition and the age of Columbus. All the right information was there, but instead of choosing to follow a timeline or a theme (Columbus, the exile or forced conversion of Jews, and the final showdown with the Moors), Reston skips around in time and in theme. It made the book far more confusing and far less satisfying than it could/should have been. Ah well, you can't win em all.

I also read a few guilty pleasure-type books, none of which are really worth discussing here (I was at the beach!).