Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Vacation - Part 2

One of the best days Erin and I had on our vacation was in Sedona.  The weather was cooperating with beautiful blue skies as we had the opportunity to see the beautiful rock formations with my family.  We enjoyed two hikes in search of the famous Sedona vortexes.  For lunch we stopped at the wonderful "Red Planet Cafe" with decorations from out of this world.  There were so many beautiful pictures taken that I decided to post them in their own section on Picasa.  Click here to see them.  My brother, Michael, and Erin took many of these pictures.

The next day it was time to say goodbye to my family as Erin and I got back on the road.  We decided to drive through northern Arizona to Moab before heading back to Denver.  On our way we crossed through Navajo territory to see fossilized dinosaur prints and Monument Valley.  It was all beautiful territory and I wish we would have had more time to spend there.  However, our timing did allow us to get some gorgeous photos of the sunset.  Everything, it seemed, was going great.

Then in Utah, as the night turned dark and desolate, just outside of Blanding we hit a deer laying in the road.  The oncoming cars tried to warn us by flashing their brights, but by the time we saw the deer it was too late to swerve.  So I gritted my teeth and drove over it.  The worst part was the that its head was facing us and the eyes were shining in our headlights (even though we confirmed at the gas station a little down the road that it had been dead for a few hours).  Fortunately it didn't do too much damage to the car, but it was tragic to view and left a horrendous smell.

The first order of business next morning in Moab was to wash the car.  While that helped we still needed an air freshener to control the smell.  Fortunately we had the glorious views of Arches National Park to distract us.  The ice was too slippery and our time too short for us to experience much of the park, but it was nice to see it and plan a return trip.

Finally, after another long day of driving we made it back to Denver in time to have dinner with Erin's parents.  We finally returned home exhausted, but content in a wonderful trip.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Vacation - Part 1

This last week has been a wonderful blur of Southwest American countryside, family, and great food.  Erin and I left Colorado a week ago Sunday on a windy drive down to Santa Fe.  It was so windy that we were stopped by a large tow truck blocking I-25 as it worked to overturn a semi which had been flipped over by the wind.

As we got into Santa Fe the snow was gently falling and provided an incredibly romantic backdrop for an evening in a private jacuzzi at Ten Thousand Waves, a traditional Japanese spa.  We finished the evening with dinner at "The Shed," a local favorite with great fish tacos and grilled shrimp.

The next morning the romantic snow from the night before became a foot-and-a-half obstacle to continuing our trip.  With some help from the hotel personnel we were able to make it to Tocate, another local favorite, for breakfast and finally onto the highway down to Albuquerque.  While there was snow along the road as we drove there was none by the time we reached Albuquerque.

Our main reason for stopping at Albuquerque was the rattlesnake museum.  While Erin normally shrieks at the sight of a snake when we walk outside she was thrilled to see all the snakes in the museum.  We both got "certificates of bravery" for our successful completion of the museum tour.

Our next stop was the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants, NM.  While we were expecting an old, run-down, rustic mine we were greeted with a professional, high-tech view of modern mining.  After a short elevator ride down to the mine we were free to walk around and listen to pre-recorded miners talk about the different equipment and practices in the mine.  It was a nice respite from the blizzard-like driving conditions we encountered going over the continental divide.

After a long day we finally made it to my aunt and uncle's place in Prescott, AZ.  We spent the next couple of days relaxing with my family with the traditional gift-giving and turkey dinner.  Ice in the driveway and surrounding streets left little for us to do the day after Christmas other than a short walk around Willow lake at Prescott.

In the next post I'll write about the second part of our trip and the return home.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winter Park Surprise

I cannot say enough wonderful things about my girlfriend.  In addition to accompanying me on my 30th birthday pub crawl last weekend, she arranged a surprise weekend up in the mountains to celebrate with me.  I love surprises, and while trying to keep a whole weekend a secret is difficult she pulled it off well as I had little idea where we were going or what we were doing until the last minute.

The first surprise on Friday was a fresh-baked apple pie, my favorite.  After a warm slice in the afternoon we were on the road up to the mountains.  Fortunately it had finished snowing on Thursday so the roads were clear.  Just as it was getting dark, we found the bed and breakfast that Erin had reserved for the weekend, the Chateau at Winter Park.

There was something about the place that seemed a little creepy to us, but we had already made the reservations.  While the owners were very friendly and helpful we had a horrible time getting to sleep with all sorts of noises (a train ran through behind the house), heating issues, and one of the most uncomfortable beds we had slept on.  We were thus feeling a little unprepared for the large, slightly-overcooked breakfast the next day.  We've concluded that bed and breakfasts just aren't for us.

Still, the days activities more than made up for the difficult night as we made our way to the tubing hill.  I had never been on an inner-tube on the snow and thought it a bit childish; reminding me of taking a saucer out to the snow when I was a kid.  After the first slide down I was hooked.  It was a lot of fun, and there was a tow rope that hooked to the tube to haul us back up the hill.  On our bellies or our backs, together or separate, it certainly got our blood pumping and ready for our next event.
I had been wanting to go snowmobiling since last winter, and Erin finally made it happen for us this weekend.  We got a guided tour up to the Continental Divide in a group of about seven snowmobiles.  While I drove and Erin hung on for dear life for most of the ride she got a chance at the top to take it for a spin herself.  There seemed at times a bit of a disconnect between the serene, snow-covered trees and our roaring, two-stroke snowmobiles.  But the ride through the hills and narrow, tree-lined trails (often up to 30mph) was very exhilarating.  I can't wait to go out again.

After so much excitement it was time to relax.  We had some margaritas in Winter Park and then drove out to Hot Sulphur Springs (the actual name of the town) to soak in some hot pools.  The springs were a nice way to relax as we sat and soaked up the minerals under a clearing sky and shining moon.  After a brief stop in "The Pub" in Winter Park (apparently where all the locals go on Saturday night) for dinner we went on back to brave another night at the B&B.

While we had tried some strategies for sleep we were again unsuccessful and were happy to leave the B&B the next morning with a light breakfast on our way out the door.  Still, with a stop at Starbucks on our way back we were up for a hike in Red Rocks as the weather turned warm.  After a nice long nap we finished the weekend by picking out a small Christmas tree and decorating it.  So ended a wonderful weekend with my exceptional girlfriend.  I can hardly wait until Christmas when we take a week-long road trip down to Prescott, AZ to explore and celebrate.

Monday, December 1, 2008

30th Birthday Pub Crawl

I had a hard time thinking about how to celebrate my 30th birthday party this year.  I haven't done much to celebrate my birthday the past couple of years, but turning 30 seems to have a certain importance to it that can't be ignored.  I also wanted to do something that was accessible to a lot of people and above-all would be fun.  Finally, after discussing it at length with Erin, I came up with the idea of having a pub crawl that would use Denver's light rail system.  The resulting night was one of the best birthday celebrations that I can remember.  Click here to see pictures from the night.

We started our adventure at Dave & Buster's on Colorado at 4pm.  This gave us a chance to play some games and have some snacks while everybody gathered.  After about two hours we moved on to our next stop, Hanson's on the corner of Louisiana and Pearl.  Upstairs they have a smaller bar which we had all to ourselves.  As more people arrived the night started to get into gear.

Our next stop was for dinner at the Blue Bonnet a short walk from the Alameda stop.  They have some great Tex-Mex food and margaritas.  I was also glad that they were able to accommodate our group of eight people even though we arrived an hour after the time for which I'd made our reservations.  The only downside was that they had a policy against splitting up the check so we each had to mark on a copy of the check what we had ordered and hope the waitress added it up correctly.  The difficulties were soon forgotten though as we were back on the light rail to our next stop.

Just outside the stop at 10th and Osage is a Denver landmark called The Buckhorn Exchange.  It is the oldest restaurant in Denver and feels like your stepping back in time.  As a pair of mustachioed gentleman played cowboy songs and sing-alongs in the upstairs bar the eyes of countless mounted animals looked on.  By itself the place would have been an experience, but we had more places to get to so we went back to catch the next train.

While I had initially planned on catching a train to Union Station and walking to Fado, an irish pub, we grabbed a train heading to 16th street instead.  Getting off, we took a long walk down 16th street to the Red Square, our favorite vodka bar.  The Red Square specializes in vodka infused with different flavors including pepper, pickle, and my favorite, pineapple.  After a round there someone mentioned Nallin's just a short walk away.  We walked in and almost immediately walked out again as it was more of a country bar than an Irish pub (at least based on the music).

After several more blocks of walking we finally made it to Fado for Irish coffees.  One could tell that the nights activities were getting to us when a breakdown in communication brought us about twice as many Irish coffees as we wanted.  Still, they were delicious and I, being the birthday boy, had no qualms about drinking extras. 

The rest of the night is a little hazy for me.  Our friend Neil recently got a condo in the glass house not far from Fado, so we made our way over there.  I think some of us were actually doing some crawling by this time.  Up in Neil's condo, overlooking the city, we had our last drinks of the night.  Around 2am someone called a cab and Erin and I made it home safely.  She tells me that I stayed up chatting with her for another two hours though I can't remember any of it.

The next day we woke up late and spent the rest of the day recovering.  It was quite a wild experience and I think everyone had a great time, especially me.  However, I don't think we'll be doing anything like that anytime soon.  I'm incredibly thankful for everyone that came out and that all made it through the night safely.

Thanksgiving in Buena Vista

This last week has been very much about celebrating with new and dear friends.  On Wednesday I left with Erin and her parents up to Buena Vista after a few delays.  We found a reasonably priced bed and breakfast up there called the Liar's Lodge.  As we got in we saw how beautiful the lodge was with a large, high-ceiling in the main room.  Driving around town brought us to a nice place for dinner called the Global Cafe.

The next day we woke to beautiful views of the surrounding collegiate mountains.  Though Erin and I hadn't slept well due to the heating in our room not working we were ready to get the day started.  After some geocaching, we drove over to Erin's brother-in-law's (Kevin) family's lodge nearby.  There we were greeted by the Butler family as we struggled to remember everyone's name.  The rest of the day was a mix of great food, wonderful conversations, walks in the country to see bighorn sheep, all types of games, and even a guitar recital that me and Kevin's dad put on.  It was all very fun though sometimes a bit overwhelming with all the people.

On Friday morning we had a chance to do a little more geocaching and hiking with some of the younger members of the Butler family.  It was fun watching them get excited about finding the little treasures.  That night, back in Denver, we went to watch "Four Christmases" with our friends, Brian and Cassie, who had just gotten back from Mexico.  It was a very funny movie that I would definitely recommend.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

End of Fall Quarter and One Year Anniversary

The Fall Quarter has quickly come to an end as I plan for next quarter.  Two more quarters to go and I'll have my degree.  At times I think it can't come soon enough while at others I'm eager for my next set of classes.  I enjoyed both my classes this quarter and am proud to present what I learned in my political economy class on my site (The Flexibility of Capitalism and Evolution of Capitalism). 

With the finishing of these papers and a presentation in my other class with my team on Wednesday I have to say it wasn't exactly the way I wished to celebrate my birthday.  It just happens that my birthday often occurs during finals.  It was the same last year.  Fortunately, after our presentation my team and some more friends came out to enjoy some tequila to celebrate.  While I wasn't feeling my age that night, I certainly felt it the next day.

The fun continued Friday night as Erin and I celebrated a year of being together.  I had in mind a surprise for her.  As soon as she got up to my place we went out to our first dance lesson.  We had talked about learning to dance earlier and I found a studio nearby with a good introductory rate.  The lesson was a very interesting experience as we learned the basic steps of the Tango, Salsa, and Rumba.  It was very fun as the two of us worked with our very out-going instructor privately for about 40 minutes.  We have a group lesson the week after Thanksgiving to continue our instruction.

After dancing we went to Nono's Cafe towards Littleton where we had our first post-speed-dating date.  The food has always been good there and the staff of this mom-and-pop place are really friendly.  It was nice to come back and reminisce about how we met and how our first dates went.

The rest of this weekend has been a relaxing, sleeping-in, kind of lazy weekend that Erin and I tend to enjoy.  Soon enough there will be holidays to go to and then classes to study for, so its nice to lay back and enjoy this time while we have it.

Evolution of Capitalism

Darwin's theory of evolution showed the world that through variation, reproduction, and selection the traits of a population would change over several generations to adapt to an environment. While Darwin explained this process as it acted on living animals, Joseph Schumpeter saw the same forces acting on capitalism in what he saw as a process of “Creative Destruction.” The same forces of variation, reproduction, and selection affect questions of culture, social stability, and structural change in the global economy. What's more, these forces work on multiple levels through various markets, both domestic and international. Even capitalism itself, as the actualization of an idea, is constantly evolving. The trick is then to ensure that the correct correlations between evolution and economics are made so that a clear picture of there relation can be seen.

Culture is probably the best place to start as it provides a wealth of characteristics that easily correlate with the elements of evolution. We can think of cultures “as systems of symbols and meanings that even their creators contest, that lack fixed boundaries, that are constantly in flux, and that interact and compete with one another.”i These symbols and meanings, whether they are depictions, actions, or behaviors all arise from ideas that are passed down from one generation to the next. They are the components of reproduction that are necessary for an evolving system. As they are passed on or copied, slight changes are made. Rhythms and melodies are altered in music, diverse patterns and styles are applied in art, new actions and behaviors come to represent changing attitudes of trust. All of these provide the necessary variations within culture for it to change. While there are countless variations on the symbols and meanings that make up culture those that are carried on are only the ones that a society finds most appropriate to their current situation. This is the selection part of evolution that provides the judgment of how to adapt to an environment. It causes symbols or meanings that are no longer appropriate to be discarded or destroyed while more appropriate alternatives are created in their place.
Just as there are individuals and traits in the wild that either survive or die from the forces of evolution, there are groups in society that win or lose from the process of creative destruction. This can affect the social stability of a country or region as the losers and the winners continue to interact. This is handled through the use of power and politics as the proponents of specific varieties of policies work to have them selected for development, enlargement, and continuation. In these situations, “The victorious interpretation will be the one whose adherents have the power to translate their opinion into the force of law.”ii As long as those opposed to the winner's opinion feel that the changes enacted into law were justified and do not have some kind of power to change it, the society will remain stable. However, if there is a great resentment on the losing side and some form of power that can be gathered to change the outcome than there will be instability in the society as the two sides clash. This can be seen in post-WWI Germany as the terms of the Treaty of Versailles create resentment and hostility that is backed by a growing German economic base by which to start WWII. To a less dramatic degree it can be seen in the late 19th century U.S. economic policies that created deflation helping those with capital while hurting farmers, laborers, and miners causing them to organize into the progressive movement.

This conflict and competition is not only seen in the social sphere, but also in economic markets. Schumpeter describes how a similar clash between producers and consumers would eventually result in competitive equilibrium if it weren't for the entrepreneurial spirit.iii In this vision of capitalism an entrepreneur is someone who is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation. They are the force behind the creative destruction which simultaneously creates new products and business models. At this level we can see the variation necessary for evolution in the various firms and companies competing for business. Entrepreneurs and innovation play the pivotal role of adding variation to the system. Those businesses with the most desirable products and best business practices are selected by consumers, investors, and suppliers to continue producing. This process forces companies to continually adapt to the market or be forced out by better adapted firms.

As communication and transportation have advanced the markets of competition have grown now to include the entire planet. In what is termed globalization businesses and cultural ideas are now competing not just with others in their own country, but those from around the world. While many have argued against this process, Tyler Cowen contends that "cross-cultural exchange...creates a plethora of innovative and high-quality creations in many different genres, styles, and media," which, “expands the menu of choice, at least provided that trade and markets are allowed to flourish."iv In this new world there are far more chances for variation as well as more markets that are selecting which variations will continue to exist. This has the potential for far more creation as innovations from one part of the globe can be selected as the best in another part. That means though that there is just as much potential for destruction as the local innovations and cultures are discarded for the ones from overseas. Just as in previous eras we are seeing the disenfranchised losers of that competition attempt to reverse these trends either economically as Frenchmen boycotting McDonald's or even through war as extremist Islamics fighting against the “decadent” Western culture. As the embrace of globalization continues to expand these conflicts will continue to upset the world social stability until an equilibrium of some kind is reached.

The same forces can be seen acting on the concept of capitalism and its role in structural change in the global economy. Rather than a single monolithic doctrine of economic policy, a variety of forms of capitalism have taken root throughout the world. Hall described this variation as arising from the history and culture of the different societies that are based on the market fundamentals of capitalism.v Countries also tend to reproduce an reuse their preferred forms of capitalism until a crisis occurs and they are forced to reconsider their economic policies. Finally, through the economic rise and fall of a countries economy and its citizen's acceptance of the social stability these countries select the forms of capitalism that they will continue to pursue. These decisions have affected and will continue to affect the structure of the global economy as international investors select which countries to invest their capital in, as firms select which countries to outsource their labor needs to, and as consumers select which countries to purchase their goods from.

As cultures and the economies based on them show the same elements of variation, reproduction, and selection that brings about the evolution of species over many generations, it is natural to conclude that the same kinds of results will be seen in them. Cultures and economies have evolved to where they are today and will continue to evolve through the process of “creative destruction.” Whether this will result in the government-backed corporatism of Japan that Schumpeter envisioned or a completely different state of affairs is unclear. These forces act at multiple layers with the results of competition at one level affecting the outcomes of others. With a deeper investigation of these underlying forces we may be able one day to foresee how to improve the creation while making the destruction easier to accept.

i  Findley, Carther Vaughn and John Alexander Rothney, Twentieth-century World. Sixth edition, p. 14

ii  Gourevitch, Peter, Politics in Hard Times, p. 17

iii  Schumpeter, J.A. The theory of economic development: an inquiry into profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle / translated from the German by Redvers Opie (1961)

iv  Cowen, Tyler, Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World's Cultures (2004)

v  Hall, Peter A. and David Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage (2001)
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Flexibility of Capitalism

While capitalism is the most dominant mode of economic organization in the global economy today, there isn't one country which is completely based on liberalism, its theoretical foundation. This is because liberalism, followed unflinchingly, creates a state so ruthless in its pursuit of efficiency that no society will abide the instability it causes. Instead countries pursue a diversity of strategies that take many ideas from liberalism but also temper these with different forms of government intervention. What's more, economies develop alongside societies with each influencing the other. Not only do these different societies have different views on the amount of instability they're willing to accept in exchange for growth, they are also at different stages in their development today. Each one has been affected by crisis in different ways and has developed different forms of capitalism in response. In a sense, each capitalist country is like its own business with no two being completely alike. All the while capitalism has been able to adapt; keeping the free market and invisible hand while adjusting them to suit the specific country and its society.

While economists that favor liberalism portray it as an ideal form of market organization, the history of human societies that have tried to implement it have shown a strong backlash against it. This was most notably described by Karl Polanyi when he argued that, “The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man's economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships.”i This research shows that people are not purely devoted to obtaining material goods through rational economic decisions of supply and demand as liberalism describes. Instead the social aspects of an economy must be examined rather than the economy in isolation. Polanyi goes on to show how history has demonstrated that liberalism rather than the natural state of affairs for people was a directed effort by those that supported the rationality of its theories. The self-regulating market that it favored though caused problems not just for the working class that found their labor so easily commodified, but also by land owners and merchants that were adversely affected by the price swings and instability that it brought. This led societies to once again embed the economy in the greater social structure of politics and culture in order to curtail its most unsocial aspects.

This embedded liberalism takes on different forms in different economic regimes as they are complimentary to the underlying social norms. As Ruggie notes, “international economic regimes provide a permissive environment for the emergence of specific kinds of international transaction flows that actors take to be complementary to the particular fusion of power and purpose that is embodied within those regimes.”ii By coming to a compromise between the growth and efficiency available from a free market and the stability of, for example low unemployment, from government control these economic regimes create an acceptable normative framework for society. This normative framework allows these economic regimes to last long past the initial situations which formed them such as the existence of the IMF long after the dissolution of Bretton Woods system. Since cultural and societal norms differ from region to region, these normative frameworks and the economic regimes that are built on them will differ. Even as we look across the world today we see that different regions are in different stages of development and have had more or less experience with a free market economy. Some economic regions may stay in a constant flux as different segments of society search for a policy compromise that is amenable to all and that will build the necessary normative framework of acceptance. Sachs points out that, “for a developing country rejoining the world system, the fact that the advanced economies all share certain key features...offers a relatively straightforward set of guideposts for the most fundamental reforms.”iii Though these guideposts are well known and their successes in developed countries can be clearly seen, each country must work to see how they fit in with their existing culture and society. Much of the consternation of globalization has come about by local communities and market segments fighting to ensure that their voices are heard as their countries embrace more of a free market. They want the growth, but on their terms. Each country and economic region comes to those terms on their own time line.

Often, those time lines must be greatly altered as a country faces a crisis and is forced to deal with the current situation. Each country will face crisis differently and develop different forms of economy in response. As Gourevitch writes, “Economic crisis leads to policy debate and political controversy; out of conflict, policies emerge.”
iv When the economy is sailing along and people are relatively happy there is little motivation to alter public policy. With crisis comes the need to examine what has gone wrong and how to avoid similar problems in the future. It is also an opportunity for market segments that feel ill-represented by the current norm to angle for a better compromise and a normative framework that better represents their interests. For any crisis there are a variety of options available to governments for dealing with it. For one to be implemented above another requires political backing and the power that comes with it. As each country has its own array of political segments, each with varying amount of power, they will come to different resolutions for how to handle a crisis. In addition, the policy choices that a country makes in the past has ramifications for the options available to it in the future. If demand management or protectionism worked well for the country in the past there will be a strong urge to use those procedures in future crises.

As capitalism has developed and matured around the world its participants have begun to appear more and more like the companies which help drive their economies. Some are willing to take more risks, be less stable, and experience greater volatility in the hopes of creating more growth and efficiency. Others prefer less volatility even at the cost of increased growth. This becomes clearer with the increased mobility of financial capital. Freidan argues that, “international capital mobility tends to remake political coalitions by way of its impact on the effects of national policies.”v That is, if governments want the benefits of capital mobility they need to insure that the policies they make will not cause investors to leave. This is similar to companies that list shares of the company on market exchanges and are thus influenced in management decisions by investor responses. Just as companies seek to find new and different ways of attracting investors, countries that rely on capital mobility will seek government policies that attract more capital.

Though capitalism has spread as the dominant mode of economic organization we've seen a large variety of the forms of capitalism throughout the world. While no country embraces unbridled liberalism many take liberalism and temper it in some way by government. This embedding of liberalism is different for each country as it develops and faces crises. As each country determines through power and politics what levels of growth and stability are the acceptable norm they mimic companies balancing the needs of their different stakeholders. All of these options for how a country can manage liberalism show the incredible flexibility of capitalism.

i  Polanyi, Karl, The Great Transformation, p. 46

ii  Ruggie, John Gerard, International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order, p. 6

iii  Sachs, Jeffrey, Consolidating Capitalism, p. 2

iv  Gourevitch, Peter, Politics in Hard Times, p. 19

v  Frieden, Jeffry A., The Politics of National Economic Policies in a World of Global Finance, p. 426
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thinking about thinking

I came across a few articles today that looked interesting.  They all cover the ideas of neural plasticity in some way or another.

Can everyone be an Einstein?

A Gift or Hard Graft?

Are Our Brains Becoming "Googlized?"

Interesting reading if you have time.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, November 10, 2008

Last ride of the season...and cookies!

It has been an interesting and diverse weekend starting last Thursday with an early Thanksgiving dinner.  Through the diligent work of friends completing a community betterment project the Association for International Management (AIM) and the Graduate Business Student Association (GBSA) were able to share Thanksgiving with several international students that are new to America.  The event, held at Stick-e-Star, was a great success with many international students enjoying turkey and learning a little about the holiday.

Friday night was a relaxing movie night with Erin down in Castle Rock while Saturday was an exciting night out in Denver with my Army friends, Brian, Neil, and Jon.  While the night before made it difficult to get up the next day, I was back in action after noon to take the motorcycle out for one last ride before storing it away for the winter.  After a very cold ride up to Morrison for lunch with Erin we stored the cycle away hopefully ready for action next Spring.

Back home Erin and I found ourselves cooking chocolate chip cookies from a recipe she had gotten from one of her students.  The first batch didn't turn out all that great, but by the last sheet went into the oven I think we had it down (and subsequently lost our appetite for cookie dough and cookies).

This week is the last week of the Fall quarter for me so I've got papers to read, papers to write, and a presentation to prepare for finals next week.  I'm also continuing to develop my web development business by learning about AdSense and how to use it effectively in a site.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dynamic Software Download

While working for Dynamic Concepts I was asked to create a system to:

  1. Collect information from the clients that used and downloaded the company's software.  This information would be stored to segment customers for future marketing and store their email address for segment-specific newsletters.

  2. Provide a dynamic system to ensure that customers we're downloading the latest software without the developers needing to change the web page every time they created a new version.

  3. Show and provide for download only the software versions that were specific to the user's selected system.

  4. Bundle numerous software packages together for ease of downloading.
The first page is the registration page where users are given the option of registering, signing-in, or requesting a lost password.  All of this is done in a way that hides the information that isn't used to make a cleaner, more understandable interface.

Once the user had logged in they're able to choose their operating system, select which software packages they wish to download.  Choose the type of compression utility to bundle up the software and download it.  They can also choose at this time to sign up for newsletters that are specific to their operating system.

There's a lot of behind-the-scenes action going on in this application with a database keeping track of the software naming scheme and a mix of PHP and Javascript to show everything in a clean fashion.  I really enjoyed putting this program together and look forward to doing something similar in the future.

Monday, November 3, 2008 Hell!

Don't let the title mislead you.  Erin and I had a very nice Halloween.  We spent Friday night out at JR's on 17th street.  There were a wide variety of interesting costumes to see.  We ended the night early though since Erin had to get up early the next day for a speech and debate tournament.

That meant I was on my own for much of Saturday when I took my bicycle out for a ride around Cherry Creek Reservoir.  The weather out here has been so nice that it's difficult not to take advantage of it.  That night Erin and I got dressed up again and made our way over to a house party.  We got to meet some really nice people along with friends of Erin's and mine.

Sunday was a relaxing day with a long walk in the nice weather and a concert at Swallowhill Hall.  This is a music group that gets together to play mostly folk music.  It turned out to be a fun evening.

Now it's back to working, looking for more programming work, and studying.  Another two and a half weeks and the quarter will be over.  It goes by so fast.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pet Superfood Store

As a fan of pets and organic food, I was excited to develop a store for Organic Pet Superfood (  What's more, working with small and start-up businesses has always been rewarding for me as they bring the most excitement and enthusiasm to a project.

I'm also a big fan of open-source software.  It provides a level of customization and independence that you don't normally find in propietary software.  This project was the first opportunity that I had to use one of the newest open-source eCommerce software packages out there called Magento.

Although the learning curve for getting the store to have the same look and layout as the rest of the site was somewhat steep, setting up and using the store administration was very easy and intuitive.  I'm looking forward to making more stores using this engine.

Factory Wings

This project was a collaboration with a design company that the client was using to design their new store look.  The designers didn't have much experience with ProStores and the way it used templates and store-specific tags.  That's where I came in.

The designers and I started by discussing what was possible on each side and how far we could push the technology.  They then produced three compositions for the client.  Once they had decided on the comp they liked best I began translating the Photoshop images into XHTML and ProStores code. 

This has proved to be a good strategy of specialization as there are designers who have far more experience in creating visually effective designs than me while I'm able to leverage my years of experience in programming and eCommerce to guide the client.  While there was some delay on the design side the client was very happy with the whole experience.

Harbour House Crabs

After having done several ProStores eCommerce projects a client asked to have their old store upgraded so that it could be hosted on newer servers and gain the benefits of the latest software edition.  The problem was that when their former developers had tried to upgrade it in the past the store broke.  I was called in to find the best way to move the store into the new version.

After finding the code that was causing the store to fail when upgraded I set out a plan to fix that code, upgrade the store, and move it onto the newer server.  After the client agreed to the estimate, I delegated the project tasks to my small team of very-capable developers and we got started.

While the project lasted a little longer and incurred an additional cost than estimated due to some features that the client requested to be included we finished well before the busy holiday period for a satisified client.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


For the past few years I've been struck by the desire to create a program that can learn.  A few years back my interest was sparked when I realized that learning is just another word for adaptation and that if the forces of evolution can work on adaptations the same should be true for learning. 

To that effect I've been creating a program in Java that creates a variety of genes which describe the structure and attributes of neural networks.  The program goes on to test those neural networks against a problem and breeds new genes based on the most successful neural networks.  After many generations of this the neural networks become closer and closer to solving the problem.  This is known as neuroevolution.

I set up a blog a while back to discuss my progress on the program at

Current Studies

Daniels College of Business

I'm currently in my seconde year of studying at Daniels for my International Masters in Business Administration.  I've gotten to meet a lot of great people and feel that I've learned and grown quite a bit during my time here.  All the same, I'm looking forward to graduating in June 2009.

While I've been involved with the Association for International Management (AIM) since arriving at Daniels, this year I took the increased responsibility of becoming president for this student group.  While it has been stressful at times it has also been a very rewarding experience.  What I love most is being able to connect people with others that can help and guide them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Development Services

I've developed web solutions and provided technical support for clients for several years. I've worked with partners and clients all over the US and as far away as India and Taiwan. The projects have given me the opportunity to learn a large assortment of skills (both technical and business-related) and provide a wide range of services to organizations. My passion is using technology to help groups become more organized, coordinate their activities, and streamline operations.  I've done this in the most open, honest, and professional manner possible. 

For me this means:

  • Responding to emails in a timely manner

  • Being available for communication at agreed-upon times

  • Working within defined budget constraints of a project

  • Explaining how changes in a project can increase or decrease the costs before performing them

  • Completing projects by their deadlines or communicating well-beforehand if a project deadline needs to be pushed back and why

  • Working with clients to provide the best solution to meet their needs

Technical Skills

The following is a list of applications and languages that I am highly skilled at:

  • PHP Programming w/ MySQL Database Design and Interaction

  • HTML/CSS/JavaScript Web Page Development on Apache Web Servers

  • Drupal CMS

  • Linux System Administration

  • Java Programming (especially SWT and JFace)

Additionally I am familiar with a wide variety of software applications that a project might require.

Business Skills

  • E-Commerce

  • Website Development

  • Content Management System (CMS) Setup

  • Web Applications

  • Desktop Applications

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Website Analytics


Marketing with Conscience

Redmann Mahoney, LLC (RM) offers public relations and marketing services to environmentally friendly businesses of all sizes.


Imagine. Create. Ignite.

Interactive media with a kick.  Fire it up.


This past week has been very busy and provided some much needed change in my life.  This is the first post of my new website which I've moved to recently.  The main reason I made the switch was to have more control of the site and provide a platform to show my professional work.

The reason for this was my decision last Friday to quit my internship that I had been going to for the past three months.  When I had first started I was excited to see how a large company worked and was impressed by the facilities.  However, I've come to realize that I prefer a smaller organization and even more prefer working for myself.

This site is then an opportunity to display the work that I've done in the past in an effort to promote my services both here in Denver and online.  Recently I've partnered with a local environment-friendly consulting company called RedmannMahoney.  I provide their clients with web development, eCommerce setup, domain management, and even international marketing advice.  I hope to expand this business in the coming months.

For the time being though I was excited to be leaving the cubicle world on Friday for a more flexible work schedule.  That night, Erin and I went to a Pioneer's hockey game with our friends Brian and Casey.  We've come to the conclusion that we really enjoy hockey and even enjoy college hockey over NHL.  There's just so much going on and the players are always so into the game.

Saturday found us enjoying a warm Fall twilight out in a corn maze.  It was near the end of the season, so the corn was dry and trampled in many places, so it wasn't very challenging to find our way in and out of the maze.  We had come prepared though with our mugs full of cider and tequila hot toddys.  We ended the night with a wonderful chili dinner at Erins' friends condo while we watched a football game.

On Sunday we continued the Autumn fun with a pumpkin carving party.  Erin and I learned that we both like to carve pumpkins, so we wanted to try something creatively ambitious.  With the election coming up we decided to carve Barack Obama's face into the side of the pumpkin.  Erin found a design online and two painstaking hours later we had our Barack-O-Lantern.  I like to think it was worth it.

Anyways, yesterday and today found me back to work on a mid-term for my International Political Economy class.

Next up for this week: A reporter for the school eDigest wants to write a student profile about me.  I'm helping organize a Q&A about international business in the field of sports management with a member of the US Olympic Committee.  Erin and I are celebrating Halloween!

International Political Economy Mid-Term

Here is an example of the kind of material I'm producing at school for those brave (or foolhardy) enough to read it.


    With the current credit crisis that is sweeping our country and the world, the current global economy can seem to be an incomprehensibly complex system.  However, by looking at the theoretical and ideological underpinnings of this system we can start to understand it, and the current crisis, much better.  While it can be shown that much of our understanding of political economy today is dominated by Liberalism, that was not always the case.  A look at how this theoretical understanding came to dominance will further help illuminate our current situation.  Finally we'll see that while there are a variety of views on liberalism, those that embed liberalism within the oversight of government and it's surrounding society provide more convincing solutions for crises like the one we're currently facing.

    One thing that the current credit crisis has done is exposed the ideological and theoretical underpinnings of the current global economic system.  Recently the former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, admitted to Congress that his ideology had pushed him to make flawed decisions.  This is the ideology of Liberalism; of free markets, free trade, and spontaneous order of Adam Smith's pioneering works.  It is an ideology based on the idea that less government is better and that markets, when left to their own, will create an efficient coordination of economic activities.  Milton Friedman is one of the latter proponents of this ideology as he often described economic freedom as “an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.”2  Alan Greenspan followed this ideology by letting the derivatives market remain remarkably unregulated and with little oversight from the government.  It was under this same ideology that the sub-prime mortgage market was allowed to flourish without protection from malicious lenders or suspect mortgage bundling practices.  The ideology of Liberalism maintains that a lack of government regulation was necessary to maintain an efficient market and sufficient to self-correct any irrational activity.

    What makes this ideology so compelling is the theoretical structure on which it is based.  This theory dictates the relentless use of the assumptions of “maximizing behavior, market equilibrium, and stable preferences”.3  These assumptions provide us with theorems which explain that a rise in prices will cause a decrease in demand and an increase in supply until an equilibrium is reached.  In fact, this science of economics has been able to build a remarkably elegant and detailed theoretical framework based on these assumptions and theorems.  Such is the appeal of the theories behind liberalism that “the degree of consensus on many issues among economists ... is little short of amazing.”4

    These ideological and theoretical underpinnings of liberalism as the current economic model of choice are so strong in fact, that they are largely taken for granted.  Even as Greenspan talked to many lawmakers about the current crisis, many Republicans tried to blame the mortgage meltdown on the unchecked growth of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their government backing.1  For these lawmakers, the problem isn't too little government regulation, but too much government involvement in the market.  This can be explained by the power of capital which has been theorized to create a historical bloc that is politically organized around a set of hegemonic ides that reinforce the basic tenets of capitalism.6  This means that these lawmakers are part of a government that is supported by a well-functioning market.  The more efficient and productive this market is, the better support it can provide the government.  This shows the symbiotic relationship between the state and the market as each has developed over time.  Thus for some it becomes difficult to even think of questioning the current capitalist economy without questioning the government.

    Looking at how this symbiosis between government and the dominance of liberalism has developed over time will help explain the actions that governments are now taking to address the current economic crisis.  While Liberalism was most notably expounded in 1776 by Adam Smith it has since then faced challenges by several competing theories including Marxism and Realism.  However, the theories of liberalism and the capitalist system they generated have proved to be very adaptive in the face of challenges.  During the Industrial Revolution in England the ideals of liberalism were taken to their extremes leaving laborers incredibly downtrodden and miserable.  But rather than rise up and overthrow the system as Marx predicted, the system adapted to become more accommodating to them with health and safety regulations.  During the Great Depression of the 1930's in the United States the system again faced a crisis.  Again liberalism adapted to provide relief for laborers in the form of the New Deal.

    This adaptation in the face of social concerns took on an international aspect after World War II as America emerged the victor.  It was at this time that agreements between Britain and the United States set the “terms for the reestablishment of an open world economy.”7  It was at this time that America was able impose the same form of liberalism that it had come to after the New Deal onto the global economy.  The growth of capitalism based on the theories of liberalism were then only fettered by the emergence of communism in the USSR and related countries.  When the Soviet Union fell it was further proof for many of the theories of free markets and free trade.  Of course, by that time capitalism had shown itself to be able to adapt to a variety of countries and regions as Germany and Japan, for example, showed increasing growth.

    In this historical context, it can be seen that the dominance of liberalism in our understanding of global economy has largely resulted because of the dominance of the states which have supported its existence and propagation.  As these states became more powerful, either through culture, resources, geography, or policy, they work to instill their economic ideology and policy in states that come under their sphere of influence.  This can be seen in the global economy with the concept of policy credibility which is “central to the broader task of elevating the market as the principal means of directing economic affairs.”8  This idea of policy credibility, which seeks to separate the state from the management of its money supply, though is not empirically supported.  However, because it is the norm for the current dominant countries, it is pushed on to emerging economies as the solution for a better economy and state.

    With the adaptability of liberalism and it's close relationship with the society and state with which it exists there is a strong argument that liberalism should be embedded within the social structure.  Giving the market free reign can lead to an economic correction that is both painful and often sudden.  We have seen that in the last few weeks in our current crisis.  The understanding of the dangers of a purely capitalist society have been with us before, even recently, as George Soros has written, “the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society.”9  When a society is given a clear and understandable choice, they will always choose a stable and fair economic system.  Equally offensive is the other side of the spectrum where the economy is completely subsumed by the state.  Such systems, like those in the Soviet Union, cannot be as efficient as market-driven economies and will eventually fail or change.

    That answer is embedded liberalism where liberalism is tempered by the society in which it develops.  Since different countries and regions have different societies and different politics this is going to look different from country to country.  While some may bemoan the inefficiency of so many different versions the overall effect is good.  For even in our current global crisis there are several countries that will only be slightly affected.  China, Brazil, and the UAE are just a few examples of countries that will continue to grow despite the current credit problems.10

    What's more, even in the US, the amount that liberalism is embedded will change over time.  As cultures and states become more or less risk-averse, their economies are likely to become less or more embedded, respectively.  That is, now that we have experienced such a large shock to our system America will likely remain more risk-averse for a while.  This will mean more government oversight and regulation to insure that any market corrections are small and manageable.  A look at history though shows America to be a culture of risk-takers meaning that the pendulum will not likely remain on the deeply-embedded side for long.

    While the current credit crisis in the United States is an immensely troubling concern, it has laid bare the the ideological and theoretical principles that have supported the current thinking on the global economy.  This is giving economists, policy makers, and the public an unprecedented opportunity to recognize these underpinnings and question their usefulness.  It will likely show that the current dominance of Liberalism on our theoretical understanding of the system is the result of historical events that favored America.  It will also likely lead to a movement towards more of an embedded liberalism in which government and society have more oversight into the actions of the market.  Thus even though the current crisis is troubling, we can look back at the amazing versatility and adaptability of liberalism in our past and be confident that it will continue to be a solid theoretical and ideological framework for understanding our future.

1. Andrews, Edmund L., “Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation”, The New York Times, October 23, 2008,


2. Friedman, Milton, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), Chapter 1, "The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom," p. 7.

3. Becker, G. S. The Economic Approach to Human Behavior, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), “The Economic Approach to Human Behavior,” p. 5.

4. Blinder, Alan S.

Blinder, Alan S. Hard Heads, Soft Hearts,
(New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1987), �Murphy's
Law of Economic Policy,� p. 2.


4. Blinder, Alan S. Hard Heads, Soft Hearts, (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1987), “Murphy's Law of Economic Policy,” p. 2.


6. Gill, Stephen and Law, David, Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations, (Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1993), “Global Hegemony and the Structural Power of Capital,” p. 94


7. Ikenberry, John G., International Organization, (The MIT Press, Winter, 1992) “A World Economy Restored: Expert Consensus and the Anglo-American Postwar Settlement,” p. 289


8. Grabel, Ilene, Monetary Orders, (New York: Cornell University, 2003), “Ideology, Power, and the Rise of Independent Monetary Institutions in Emerging Economies,” p. 25


9. Soros, George, Atlantic Monthly, Volume 279, No. 2, (February, 1997), “The Capitalist Threat”


10.DREA, Business Pundit, “10 Countries Least Affected by the US Financial Crisis,” (October, 2008)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ice and Fire

It's been another exciting weekend, albeit starting a little earlier than most. My friend Brian invited me and Erin to come out to the Avalanche hockey, season-opening game along with his wife Cassie and our other friend Neil (on the right). Even though the Av's lost (3-4) to the Boston Bruins it was an exciting game. There was a puck that shattered the glass behind one of the goalies and one player that slid skates-first into the goalie (it might have even been the same goalie). There was also, of course, the requisite fights for our viewing entertainment. We called it a night after the game though because I had to get up early the next day for a breakfast.

As part of being president for the Association for International Management (AIM) at Daniels I'm working on our Buddy Program this year. It's a program where we group incoming international students with local and second-year students to help them adjust to life here. Past participants have commented how helpful the program has been. So on Friday morning we kicked-off the program with a breakfast where the new international students got to meet their local "buddies." The breakfast went well with participants quickly becoming comfortable and talking amongst themselves; making plans for their groups to get together.

After a slow day at work I was happy to get together with Erin at the Rio in Lone Tree for some nachos and margaritas. It's starting to seem like we're addicted to Mexican food and margaritas in particular. We then did something that we had been talking about doing since Outlaw Day a few weeks back, smoke cigars. So after dinner we went next door to The Robusto Room which is a joined cigar bar and alcohol bar (only place I know in CO to smoke and drink inside). The small cigars we got were good and mild, but they left both of us a little light-headed. We finished the evening watching "Burn After Reading" at the movie theater across from the bar. It was really funny and eclectic with some darkly comedic moments.

With the weather turning mostly cold and wet these past two days, we've spent the rest of the weekend mostly inside. One of my business partner's (and Erin's friend) Cameron and I have finished up the latest eCommerce site we've been working on. It's an organic pet food store which you can see here: Organic Pet Superfood. It was certainly more enjoyable putting together than my 9-5 job with much more flexible hours. I hope we're able to do more work like this in the future. I guess we'll see this week.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Your Typical Ups and Downs of Life

Well, this weekend started early with a golf tournament out at Park Hill Golf Course. Really early actually since we had to be there by 7:30 am. After a few shots at the driving range some friends from a group I see a mentor with and I got started. It was a best-ball scramble and a shotgun start with our team on the 12th hole. After a cool morning the day warmed to comfortable start as we stayed at par for several holes. As always, my play was pretty inconsistent going from hitting a ball into Colorado Blvd. on one hole to sinking a 8 foot putt to give us a birdie on another hole. Altogether it was a lot of fun and I even won a prize...albeit for being the first to hit a car, but I'll take what I can get.

The game theme continued Friday night as I went out to play at a poker tournament with my friend Brian. The inconsistency of my play continued as well with me winning some hands and losing others pretty badly. Again, even though I didn't place in the poker game I had a good time and rode home content.

Saturday started off great with sleeping in and a nice breakfast. The plan for the day was for Erin and I to go by her parent's place, pick up their bikes, and take them out to the Platt river trail. We got the tires filled up, tossed the bikes in the back of my truck, and parked by the trail. It was at this time that my truck died.

Now I have to admit, that I hate taking care of vehicles. I know how to change a tire, change the oil, replace a spark plug, etc., but I usually don't do anything with my truck until I absolutely have to. So when the truck died, I finally cleaned most of the gunk that had been developing around the battery posts. That gave us a little more juice for me to drive back towards a strip mall. We even made it over to a Checker auto parts store with a jump, but just barely.

I spent the next few hours trying to get the battery out so it could be charged and the system checked. When the battery post connector wouldn't come off I finally decided the battery was not salvageable and cut the cable to it. It was only after I had replaced the cable connector and put in a new battery that the parts store merchant was able to test the system to find...that my alternator wasn't charging the battery. If I had just had the truck jumped longer to fill up the battery they could have seen that when I arrived. So now I need to find a place that will replace my alternator.

Anyways, it turned into such a stressful, frustrating afternoon that Erin and I went out for sushi at Hapa (good sushi) and played some games at Dave & Busters. Today has been much more relaxed with sleeping in, a good breakfast, and a walk along Cherry Creek. Now with a storm rolling in its a good time to stay in, do work, and finish homework for the next week. Which I'm sure will include just as many ups and downs.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Enjoying Fall Foliage, Ouzo, and Bowling

Well, it's that time of year. The leaves are changing colors and apparently, you have to time it just right to catch them before they're all gone and Winter sets in. While my memories of Fall include long hours in the front and back yards of my parent's place raking up leaves, Erin has always had fonder memories of the time. So yesterday we jumped on the motorcycle and rode up to Georgetown and Guanella Pass.

While it was very warm down in Denver, it didn't take us long to regret not dressing more warmly for the mountains. Even as we reached Georgetown it had already started raining. But after a brief break in a coffee shop, we were on the muddy, pothole-ridden rode up the pass. It wasn't too far up though when another motorcyclist coming the other way told us that it was hailing up on the top. We decided to enjoy the views from where we were and then go back down for lunch in Idaho Springs.

After lunch we enjoyed the ride back on 6th Ave. through the twisting canyons and tunnels. By the time we got back we were both tired from having been on the bike for over three hours. But there was little time to rest. We got back with just enough time to change clothes and head out to meet with our friends with whom we were having dinner.

There's a great Greek restaurant on Alameda called Pete's Central One where we enjoyed hummus, seafood, and baklava. The great thing about the place is that Pete is such a gracious host and comes around after the meal to share some ouzo with you. Though I'm not a fan of ouzo, it was a fun time.

We ended the night with a few games of bowling which were also very fun. Our first game went very well with most of scoring over 100. By the second one though I think the day's activity had caught up with us (or maybe it was the ouzo) because we all did much worse.

Still, all in all it was the kind of wonderful day, packed with activity, that I truly enjoy. I'm looking forward to another one soon.

See more pictures of the weekend here

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]