“The End” by Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker, a good read on the end of Wall Street

Michael Lewis’s article The End is covering Portfolio’s December issue. It’s a fantastic read on his forecasting the death of Wall Street back in the eighties in his book Liar’s Poker.

It highlights many of the insanities and irrational modes of operation amongst the firms of Wall Street and is an entertaining and solid I-told-you-so. I disagree that Wall Street is dead… But his insight shows us how things have to change.

The outrageous bonuses, the slender returns to shareholders, the never-ending scandals, the bursting of the internet bubble, the crisis following the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management: Over and over again, the big Wall Street investment banks would be, in some narrow way, discredited. Yet they just kept on growing, along with the sums of money that they doled out to 26-year-olds to perform tasks of no obvious social utility.

It’s a must-read, here are links worth following along the way:

Microbailouts – the economy as a freeway

An analogy I like to use for the economy and bailout(s) is a busy freeway. We’re all out there driving, going our own speeds, choosing our lanes. Sometimes you’re in the fast lane, sometimes the slow.

Traffic is always there. You can hop lanes and try to beat the overall flow, but the speed of others affects your progress.

Accidents happen. A lane or two gets blocked as a result. Cars following in the same lane as the crash are stopped and require a merge. Cars in the other lanes are still moving, but their flow is impacted as the blocked lanes attempt to merge (and rubbernecking at the carnage).

If you’re a driver in the lane of the accident, you’re stuck until you can merge to a lane of moving traffic. Your forward progress requires a merge to an adjacent lane.

The drivers in other lanes are performing microbailouts. They’re letting you in so a portion of the freeway doesn’t stagnate.


Yesterday I openly whined about walking during a commute consuming precious time. I’ve been commuting from Malvern to the office and I want the shortest time, or at least the ability to do constructive work, between these points.

After looking around on Craigslist for some type of faster transportation I came upon an ad for the Subzero skate shop – liquidating their inventory. So I dropped by and met the owner, a dude about my age (low 30s) clearing out his stuff before remodeling.

Now, I’m not a skater. I did 1/2 pipes and crazy stair jumps on rollerblades as a teen, but I haven’t touched a skateboard since I was seven and did a faceplant on a 1980s’ish Santa Cruz shorty. I’m a two-planker on snow and snowboarded a handful of times.

But with such a good sale, I grabbed a longboard for a song and walked it back to the train (I was too embarrassed to give it a kick in public).

The previously 15 minute walk home from the station (downhill) was turned in to a carving session… Making turns on this thing was like snowboarding and a downright blast. And it was only 5 minutes.

We’ll see where this leads. So far it’s fun and shaves at least 15 minutes each way.

The Inefficiency of Walking

I’m writing this while walking from the Pattison subway stop to the Ingram Philadelphia office. It takes 12-15 minutes to complete this walk and it’s not easy to type on the iPhone while doing so.

It really feels like a waste of time, this “walking” thing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lazy, out of shape, or otherwise averse to exercise. I run a 6:30 mile, rock climb a couple times a week, and love the outdoors.

But right now I’m bored. I’m not able to efficiently respond to email, trees continue to jump in front of me, and my mind is racing about while thinking of the code I want to write. I’m an inefficient human right now.

The commute for me starts in Malvern. Most days I get a lift to the train station. A walk from the train to the subway at City Hall takes 5-10 minutes (walking). Then the walk from the subway to office is 12-15. Back from the office to the subway, 12-15 again. A walk through city hall, 5-10. And finally a walk home from Malvern station, 15 minutes.

My walking math is shaky, but I think that’s 49-120 minutes of walk time. I do very little for myself or others during that time.

I mentioned yesterday on Twitter that I need some rocket shoes or a long board. I’ve seen the Roth Motors scooter and Go Motorboards. Might be a good option. I haven’t seen these around Philly though.

There’s my 15 minute rant. I’m at the office and whipping out the laptop.

–written with the iPhone WordPress app.

Unplug from the news

Dropping off a cornice at Expert\'s Return

I’ve been glued to the news this week and filled up on too much doom and gloom. There are plenty of positive things to focus on. Even if this is the start of a recession, focusing on a tanking stock market doesn’t do any good as a developer. For you stock traders, yeah, you’re boned. But for software developers, there’s much to build.

Focus on what you’re good at. Make yourself better. Enjoy life.

It’s time to switch back to loving this perfect fall weather and looking forward to a killer ski season.