Archive for January, 2009

Iceland’s government topples amid financial mess

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Looks like the current Global Recession has now added Iceland to its “wall of shame”.  Iceland’s government topples amid financial mess – at least that’s how the Associated Press describes it.  Public dissent has caused the government to disband itself.

Iceland has been mired in crisis since October, when the country’s banks collapsed under the weight of debts amassed during years of rapid expansion.

The value of the country’s krona currency has plummeted, hitting many Icelanders who took out special loans denoted in foreign currencies for new homes and cars during the boom years. In addition, Iceland must repay billions of dollars to Europeans who held accounts with subsidiaries of collapsed Icelandic banks.

Haarde’s government has nationalized banks and negotiated about $10 billion in bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and individual countries.

Wow, quite a stark picture of what happens when too much debt is amassed during “expansion years”.  Sounds familiar?  Yep, lets hope it doesn’t happen here.

Netflix and Xbox 360

Monday, January 26th, 2009

colorlogoxboxlogoPete, a friend-of-a-friend who lives in Philadelphia and works at Gamestop recently enlightened me to the fact that you can now use Netflix on the Xbox 360.  Let me tell you, its a brilliant collaboration on the part of Microsoft and Netflix.  You can download the Netflix app and link it to your Netflix account – and stream anything in your Instant Queue via your Xbox 360.  The process is absolutely painless and a free trial for Netflix is available which gives you 30 days of free rentals and streaming.  So many great movies and TV Series are available for instant streaming.  I started watching Heroes this way (yeah, I know I’m behind, just started season 1, but I was a little bit disinterested at first given the somewhat “dorky” stigma the show had initially).  A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010, Alien and Aliens, and oh-so-many other great moview are available for instant gratification.  Pete also recommends Heavy Metal 2000 as great background visuals for good conversation, which I plan to use next time friends are over to chit-chat.

Bottom line, if you have an Xbox 360 and you haven’t tried Netflix on it, you’re seriously missing out. It definitely beats digital cable’s on-demand service.  If more stuff was available on Netflix for Instant Streaming, I’d be even happier.  Also, HD streaming works if you have enough bandwidth, and let me tell you, there’s nothing better than seeing something you want in HD over your Xbox 360 with virtually zero effort!

Carnegie Mellon effected by the recession

Monday, January 26th, 2009

lvl_carnegiemellon_logoAccording to a story by the Associated Press, Carnegie Mellon is feeling the recession. CMU’s endowment investments dropped in value about 30 percent, and preparing for the long-term effects of this drop, the University froze salaries and hiring, and put capital projects on hold.

This is definitely troubling.  I suppose we’re just starting to see the long-reaching effects of the recession, but I didn’t think it would be this devastating for educational institutions.  I’m not sure if other educational institutions are feeling this – I’m sure some without gigantic endowments will be feeling it quite a bit.  I wonder how institutions like MIT, Harvard, Columbia and NYU are faring?  There’s typically an increase in NIH funding for education and research under a Democratic presidency, but Barack Obama has some tough choices to make if he’s going to get the economy back in shape, and hopefully keeping the NIH budget won’t suffer because of that.

I suppose we’ll see.  Hopefully we won’t see any educational institutions going out of business without getting the bailout treatment the industrial and financial sectors are getting.


Ring of Fire

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

HeroesI recently started watching Heroes, streaming it through the Netflix app on my Xbox 360. Its an interesting show, but I think as far as dramatic stories of superhuman power go, its a little shallow in its symbology and the moral lessons it tries to teach.  If you’ve ever talked to me about “guilty pleasures”, I’m sure you’ve also heard my lectures about the finer points of balancing story and moral lessons in TV series.

eclipseThats a post for another day though.  What brings me to the topic today is that I just read about Monday’s annular eclipse that’ll be visible for the folks that happen to live or just happen to be in the vicinity of the Indian ocean.  So there you go, good time to start watching the show if you’ve been thinking about picking it up – Netflix has the first three seasons available for Instant Streaming.  And if you’ve been meaning to read up on celestial mechanics, check out Wikipedia’s article about the Solar Eclipse phenomenon.


Friday, January 23rd, 2009
Sectera EDGE smartphone

Sectera EDGE smartphone

Apparently Barack Obama will be using a smartphone, and its being called a BarackBerry.  In reality its a Sectera Edge, an NSA-certified secure communications device for goverment use. Looks like it runs some version of Windows Mobile.  And it would be perfect for someone like me who’s clumsy with delicate technology:

“The Sectéra Edge is designed to MIL-STD-810F specifications for Drop, Shock, Vibration, Operating and Storage Temperature, Temperature Shock, Water Resistance, Dust, Humidity and Altitude.”

Now, if it was really a BlackBerry, I might actually be doing research about how to get my hands on one right now.  From past personal experience with Windows Mobile smartphones, I’m not too turned on by this particular mashup of gadgetry.  I’ll just have to be happy with my BlackBerry Bold for now.

A response to this CNN blog post struck me as hillarious:

BarackBerry, Barack the Vote, etc. Did we just elect Batman president? What’s next Barackarangs and the Barackmobile?

Indeed.  I don’t think its unnatural to get label-happy like this.  And if nothing else, the Batman comparison indicates the “coolness” currency that President Obama has.  I guess we’ll just have to see if he follows up on the things he said he wants to do and the things the electorate is expecting of him.  If he starts wearing a utility belt and/or a cape – then we’ll be in trouble. ;)