Movie: The Informant

Last weekend I saw The Informant starring a chubby Matt Damon. It was good, but nothing like what I expected. When I bought my ticket, I was expecting to see a movie along the lines of one of the “Bourne” films. The Informant is about price fixing and corn, not international spies.(Link)

This confusion in expectations threw me. When I left the movie, I was underwhelmed. I said that the movie was good, but not what I expected. I was tempering my reaction, because I felt taken. If I had watched a preview, I would have known that the movie is based on a true story and tells the tale of Mark Whitacre (Damon), a bipolar executive at Archer Daniels Midland, who is forced into becoming a whistle blower on price fixing schemes performed by ADM and its competitors. The movie goes from there.

Reflecting on the movie, I liked it very much. The story is interesting and the dialogue is compelling. The audience is constantly hearing Whitacre’s grandiose, absurd, creative, self-indulgent thoughts, which provide most of the laughs during the couple hours of run time.

I recommend the movie to those who appreciate a creative adaptation of a real-life story. I liken the feel of this movie to Thank You For Smoking.

A Moment of Regret as a Leader

For all of the great memories I have from playing golf in high school, there is a lingering moment of regret that I am reminded of each night before I fall asleep. On the wall of my bedroom is a framed display with a picture of me swinging a golf club, my scores from that year’s state finals tournament (73-80) and a list of the top ten finishers (I believe I finished tied for 5th with my co-captain, Casey Smits). The moment of regret comes not from the second day 80, although I wish I could have played better. Nor does it come from losing ground either as a team or as an individual on the second day of competition – sometimes you just don’t have your best game when you need it. I played my heart out both days and have no complaints about my play.

What I regret is not speaking to my four teammates between the first and second rounds. There are specific points I would have made to each individual teammate – forget that your dad is following you; you’ll be the leader next year, so be one today; reign in your temper because every stroke counts; etc. I would have also spoken to the team as a whole and told them that I was proud of them, we’ve won before, and that I knew we could do it again. At least that is what I imagine I would have said – something positive and encouraging. I was, after all, the co-captain.

I vividly remember both holding my tongue at the team meeting the night before the final round and wishing that, when the tournament was over, I had spoken to the team the night before when I had the chance to. I’ll never know whether my words would have done anything, but it would have made me feel better about the outcome.

It’s been ten years since the fall of my senior year of high school, and there’s always a little bit of me that wishes I could go back, if just for a moment, to tell my younger self to say what I was thinking. Going forward, when I’m in a leadership position, I’ll never again make the mistake of being quiet when I should say something.

All It Takes Is Two Questions

College is my first recollection of experiencing choice, and looking back I got it wrong. I majored in economics and should have majored in English. This mistake was caused by making two errors. First, I was thinking long term and not living in the moment. Second, I was not following my heart. The problem was one of choice. Unless I was pursuing a trade major – engineering, computer science, art, music – I had to be vigilant about pursuing that which I loved doing. A liberal arts concentration is an extremely vague pursuit, and to get any value from it, I had to know exactly what I wanted each and every day. Even narrowed down from liberal arts to economics, there was still a vast leniency of choice within my major. I was unable to critically evaluate this as an eighteen to twenty-two year old boy.

If I were given the chance to redo college knowing what I now know, I would ask myself two questions as often as possible:

  1. Do I love what I am doing?
  2. Do I excel at what I am doing?

As long as I was able to answer both of these questions with “Yes” I would know I was on the right track – and I would not have taken Accounting I and II. There would be no room for BS – then or now. The long run would not matter. I wouldn’t have to think about what would bring me the most money or be the best major to get me into law school, because the focus would be on present day happiness.

And now, for the rest of my life I hope to learn from my mistakes in college and ask those two questions of myself – Do I love what I am doing? and Do I excel at what I’m doing? If not, then I hope I have to courage and means to change for the better.

Traverse City’s Heart Graffiti


Has anyone else noticed the heart graffiti that is becoming increasingly visible around Traverse City, Michigan? I searched the Record-Eagle website and on Google for any coverage of this graffiti phenomenon and found no mentions.

If you’re a local resident or if you have visited within the last year and walked around downtown, you can’t help but notice dozens, if not hundreds, of six to twelve inch two-toned hearts painted on walls, posts, sidewalks, and other surfaces around the city.

Personally, I like it. The hearts liven up otherwise plain spaces. If the city is deliberately ignoring the graphic decorations, I hope they leniency is not abused. Some decoration is clever and cute, but too much could become unsightly.

Have you noticed? If so, what do you think of it?

Update on October 11, 2009: I was quoted by Vanessa McCray in her Record Eagle article, “Someone Hearts TC.” What I said:

Chris Rogers of Traverse City blogged about the phenomenon, which he first noticed in a plaza off East Front Street.

Since then, he has spotted the hearts frequently. Like others, he said your creations straddle “a fine line.”

“I think it adds an interesting texture, and, fortunately, they are hearts and something not more controversial,” he said.

My Take On Obamacare: Part 1

I’m not so quick to buy into throwing out the status quo just because it’s the status quo. Nothing is perfect, I’ll give you that, and we do need to change the healthcare system. However, I don’t think that allowing the federal government to both regulate the private system and become (more of) a market participant is the best long-run solution. I simply don’t agree with allowing the federal government to sit back and watch during good times and then intervene when things go bad. I believe the free markets should actually be free of regulation and bad ideas allowed to fail.

As I understand it, there are two noble goals proposed by the new healthcare bill:

  1. Expand healthcare coverage to more American citizens; and
  2. Reduce the cost of healthcare to those Americans. (Correction: I intended to say that the goal is to reduce the cost of healthcare for all Americans.)

Other changes will include more government regulation of the private market to prevent the private insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. I assume the companies will be allowed to have some flexibility in setting higher premiums for high-risk individuals, otherwise I don’t see how this is a winning idea.

There will also be a “public option” in which the government will become a player in the market by offering a low-cost healthcare alternative to the private offerings. This is absurd to me, especially when combined with the above increased regulation. Not only will the government have control over its competitors, but the government will be in the game too. (Not that it isn’t already.)

So far this all sounds like a petri dish for corruption and increased debt.

I heard yesterday that eighty-three percent of people are happy with their healthcare and that sixty percent receive healthcare from their employer. Those two statistics, crude and unsubstantiated even, give me a whiff of why there is resistance across the board to the healthcare bill. Why change something decent and certain for something questionable and uncertain?

A principal by which I live is to question whether the band wagon is drivable before jumping on. The noble goals set out above would indeed make the United States a better and stronger nation, however I am not sold on the means of achieving them.

In the meantime, I’ll be eating well and exercising to decrease my chance of needing healthcare for a preventable self-induced condition. You should be, too.