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Living Up to the International Role Model March 1, 2011

Posted by shwaldman in Politics, Society.
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I was listening to Fareed Zakaria’s GPS this morning and a couple of thoughts occurred to me. First, was the thought the financial crisis, caused by US deregulation of the banking industry, is what is causing the crisis in the Middle East. I honestly believe the turmoil will become a good thing, though it will sadly take a lot of time and many lives. I wonder how long it will before the financial managers start to tout this and take “credit” for it. The dialog is likely to become more like an SNL skit from the 80s. “Yeah, we meant to do that, that’s the ticket.” And then comes their greed in figuring out how to take advantage of it…

The collapse of the dictatorships across the Middle East is undoubtedly caused by the financial breakdown and ripple of issues that started here in the US. When people are surviving on $2 per day, the recession/depression takes a much deeper toll. These monetary issues have been causing various problems across the world and yes, international banks should accept some of the blame too, but the US unleashed the havoc. I still don’t seem to hear anyone taking accountability for this.

As I process these thoughts, I get frustrated by our politicians continuing to tout our “we are the greatest country in the world” mantra. I am not sure how other countries few our ethnocentric views, but it gets tiring pretending that we do everything right. And in that light, I appreciate that other countries look to us for our democracy, but do they see what is happening now? As a young country, we are still new to this. We are supposed to be founded on freedom and a superior capitalist society, but these systems are showing their cracks. If we are going to be the role model to other countries, we need to get this stuff figured out.

In 1776 our founder put together the basis for our life today. Two hundred and thirty-five years later, we seem to have lost our way. We want people to have freedom of expression, but that also means we allow people to spread lies and mis-information. We want people to have the freedom to carry guns, but that also means gun safety and requirements for who can carry them are lax. The Constitution was founded based on the inequalities of the time and we are still working on treated all people fairly.

At its founding, in 1776, the US population is estimated to have been about 2.5 million people. That is less than half the population of Libya and 32 times smaller than Eqypt. Today, we are a country of over 300 million and things are much more complex, globally, technically, and as a diverse society. I think it is time we revisit the laws we have. Unfortunately, we have waited so long, too long, and our country has returned into North vs South, Red vs Blue, and any other extremist view you want to check. Also, the people who are in a position (power) to make this happen are precisely the people who stand to lose the most. (Take for instance the fact that we may face a government shutdown and yet our Congressional “leaders” will continue to receive their salary and benefits!) But that is exactly the point we are seeing in the Middle East. The people are rising up and saying they have been oppressed long enough. The people in power need to have the foresight, wisdom and maturity to put the values of the people ahead of their own. In this way, who’s the teacher and who’s the student? The US needs to open our eyes!

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New Favorite Podcast: Fareed Zakaria GPS September 29, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Politics, Society.
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I know there is no such thing as an unbiased viewpoint. Every person, even the best reporter and journalist brings with them a unique perspective shaped by their experiences. And on television today, individual networks have completely segregated themselves into categories of political and social categories. For me, I find CNN to be the actual “fair and balanced” viewpoint, as opposed to the network that very incorrectly uses that as their slogan.

I have watched the Anderson Cooper 360 podcast for a while now. He does a very good job of covering national issues. I feel like he tries to ask the tough questions and gets to the heart of controversies, running a regular slogan of “Keeping Them Honest.” The network is able to draw on lots of highly qualified contributors from both sides of the spectrum.

Unfortunately, AC 360 is very local and we live in a very global society now. So, in looking for another show to get international current events, I wanted a similar open and honest perspective. And so far, I think I have found it in a show called Fareed Zakaria GPS. GPS stands for Global Public Square (in this case) and I think it reflects the open dialogue that I connect with. Again, CNN is able to access many resources with a diverse background that provides a more honest, clear reporting.

The Fareed Zakaria show only airs once a week (Sundays, I think) and Anderson Cooper’s show is on Monday through Thursday. And while the entire show is not on their podcasts, it does eliminate commercials and I am sure lots of fluff. And of course, I find the convenience of being able to watch the podcast anytime, anywhere on my computer or my ipod. I highly recommend everyone checking these out.

Gadget Review: Nike+ sensor March 5, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Fitness, Technology.
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Let’s start by saying, running and walking are the simplest of all fitness activities. Absolutely no special equipment is necessary to participate and it can be done almost anywhere. Now, that being said, there are plenty of special equipment out there for sale to make the activities more productive, more interesting, more fun, more motivating, more informative. I started running as a kid to get in shape for other sports – soccer, basketball, and even baseball, but I never participated on a running/track team.

Now, I keep running to stay in and improve my fitness. I run to relax, to get away and to clear my mind. Six years ago I got a Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS watch. For five years, it was a motivational factor in getting me outside to run, including my second marathon. For me, working full time and having two young kids, I feel pretty good about putting over 1,000 miles on it. Then last year, I upgraded to a Forerunner 305 that has the same (though more accurate GPS, but it adds a heart rate monitor, foot pod, and cadence monitor as possible accessories.

It made it so much easier to track and monitor my runs indoors as well as out. It is also great to be see my heart rate as I ran and then be able to see it graphed alongside my pace and cadence in Garmin’s Training Center software. I even used it a couple of times to see what my heart rate looked like as I slept.
But is missing from Garmin’s system is a sense of community. It is all good to motivate yourself, but if you are up for a little friendly competition, you need to look elsewhere.

And when my wonderful wife won me a new Apple iPod Touch last fall, I decided I would get the Nike+ sensor. I finally picked one up (for $20) in January. The sensor is just a small disc about the top digit of your thumb. It can fit into specific Nike shoes or can be attached to the top of ANY shoe in a little pouch (another $7). Essentially, there is a iPhone/iPod application that works like a sophisticated pedometer. It can be digitally calibrated, it stores past runs, and displays pace, time elapsed and calories burned. But after all that, it uploads runs to the Nike.com website when you Sync your iPod.

The website provides a way to track and display runs. It provides suggesting training regimes, it allows you to set up goals and share your runs with other Nike+ users. However, what is the most inspirational here is the ability to create and join challenges. Who can run the most miles in the next month? Who can run the fastest 5K in the next year? And these can be done at the team level – my state or country against yours. I am in one for the most active blood types (A+ is in a distant second place to O+).

So far (I have only put 73 miles on the device since January 21st), I am enjoying this extra motivational tool. It keeps me wanting to get running and recording distances for my challenges. There some minor bugs in the iPod app and it could use a little more functionality – like I think it should download current challenge standings when the system syncs. It couldn’t be up to date unless they also sync’d over the network, but at least it would not tie you to your computer. And the challenges have some built in biases that are difficult to overcome. But they are still very motivational to anyone who is a little competitive. And the app does let you play playlists while you run and of course works fairly accurately to record distances. All in all, this is a cool product that is fairly inexpensive if you already have an iPod.

New Forerunner 4 Christmas December 29, 2008

Posted by shwaldman in Family, Fitness, Technology.
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My other great gift I am grateful for this holiday season is a new Forerunner 305 GPS watch. I am very excited about this, what is an upgrade to my four year old Forerunner 201. I made great use of the 201, putting over 1,000 miles on it – many of which were training for my second marathon on May 2005.

However, this newer model has some awesome improvements and accessories that I plan to make use of. While it uses the same software, Garmin’s Training Center, these accessories should make that so much more useful.

First, the Heart Rate monitor will allow me to track and monitor that with the run. I had a separate monitor but having them incorporated should be very cool. Next, is the cycling cadence monitor. I have started biking more and I hope this will help me get into it even more.

But the accessory I am most excited about is the foot pod. The Training Center software does not have a place to add workouts not imported by GPS, so treadmill workouts have to be tracked separately – until now. I get many of workouts done on the treadmill, in front of my computer or TV while the kids are asleep – and it is too cold outside.

I have only taken it out of the box and charged it so far, but I look forward to making use of all the features and sharing my experiences here. Pictures to come!