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The Smartest Guys in the Room

Started: 2006-01-29 22:33:46

Submitted: 2006-01-29 23:25:32

Visibility: World-readable

Last weekend I watched Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, a fascinating look into the rise and fall of (at the time) America's seventh-largest company. It was a fascinating movie -- especially the archival footage from inside the company (including CEO Jeff Skilling standing behind a woman telling employees to "put all their 401(k) money in Enron stock"), the senate hearings into the collapse, and audio tapes of Enron's traders taking down California's power grid. The disturbing part, though, was realizing that everything Enron did was an extension of American corporate culture. Enron took standard myopic attention to earnings statements and quarterly profits to an entirely new level, thanks to mark-to-market accounting, which gave Enron a license to entirely fabricate earnings. What's troubling is that I see the seeds of Enron's hubris and ultimate downfall in my employer and in most of the rest of American businesses. Enron didn't operate in a culture vacuum.

On Saturday I took an epic nine-mile loop hike at Hall Ranch, Boulder County open space I've driven past but never actually visited. I've spent most of my hiking time in Boulder Mountain Parks; I can probably climb Green Mountain with my eyes closed. Now that I live further north I'm branching out into other trails. (And, for once, I didn't branch out for the sole purpose of Geocaching.) Somehow I had enough wireless coverage to arrange with Kiesa to invite some nearby friends over for the evening to play Settlers of Catan. (I figured enough time had passed since Thanksgiving when we played ten games in four days.) I managed to win both games (which may not have gained approval for the game in our friends' eyes); on the second game, I needed one more wood to build four road segments and one settlement, taking the longest road and gaining three victory points in one turn. Kiesa was tired and wanted to be put out of her misery, so she traded for a surplus brick and let me win. (Maybe I should come up with a handicapping scheme.)

(This scenario didn't come up last night, but I have a question the rules may not address. Suppose one player has the Longest Road card with a road of arbitrary length. Two other players each have roads of equal length, greater or equal to five segments. The first player has an opening in his road where another player may build a settlement, thus breaking the first player's longest road. If two other players have equal length roads, who gets the Longest Road?)

Today my major excitement was to complete my 2005 federal and state tax returns. I used TurboTax online again; it worked (as it has for the past several years) flawlessly with Mozilla on Linux. It's quite impressive how tax-privileged home ownership is; being able to write off much of my housing expenses (mortgage interest) is very handy.