Sunday, July 30, 2017

10% Happier by Dan Harris

10% Happier by Dan Harris was a really interesting book about meditation, with Harris telling his story of starting down the path towards trying it after being a news reporter suffering from anxiety and having a panic attack while on air at CBS's Good Morning America.  He recounts how he went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with depression, and Harris then was introduced to Mark Epstein, a writer, Buddhist, and psychiatrist who extolled to Harris the benefits of meditation.

Harris writes in the book how meditation is about mindfulness, defeating the negative voice in your head and people shouldn't over-dramatize meditation or the practice of meditating. He notes describing to others his goal in meditating to be 10% happier, and the time required simply five minutes a day, if more spent, that's great, if not, that's ok as well.

In terms of actual practice, meditation is described as sitting comfortably and just feeling your breath, when your attention wanders from it, forgive yourself and just return to focusing on the breath. It's about being in the present moment, not letting yourself be consumed by thoughts of the past or future, and viewing things with a remove, simply observing things as they are rather than having a huge emotional response to them.

Harris also writes in the book about attending a ten-day silent retreat in Marin County led by Joseph Goldstein. The first five days were difficult for him, and then after being encouraged to not struggle, or worry about the struggle so much, he had a breakthrough of sorts, not necessarily enlightenment, but something where he could see the benefit of being there. Several of the things that he noted as having taken from the retreat and speakers there were to ask "is this useful?" about a potential reaction of his to an problem or stressful situation and to respond to said difficult situation with the steps of (A) recognize it, (B) allow yourself to lean into it, (C) investigate your reaction to it, and (D) have a non-identification or non-emotional response to it. Additionally, Harris noted having learned from the retreat the practice of metta meditation, the directing positive thoughts towards another person, for instance with thinking about them and mentally wishing "may you be happy, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live with ease" towards the person.

Towards the end of the book Harris writes more about others and the notion of having positive interactions with people and acknowledging their humanity, through things as simple as having a practice of making eye contact and smiling towards those he passes. Also noted is the idea of keeping in mind the question of "what matters most?" when considering a response to situations.

The book had a lot of interesting material and the writing of Mark Epstein seems a good place to go for someone wanting to learn more about meditation.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Outlaw Sea by William Langewiesche

The Outlaw Sea by William Langewiesche was a fast and entertaining read with the subtitle A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime.

The book was published in 2004 and included as it's last chapter a feature (or slightly updated version of a feature) Langewiesche did for Vanity Fair in 2000 with "The Shipbreakers" on the largely manual tearing apart of ships in India. Additionally, The Outlaw Sea brought to mind a great 2014 story from Langewiesche titled "Salvage Beast" on Nick Sloane, a man whose business to board and attempt to either save or salvage the cargo from ships in distress.

One of the stories told in The Outlaw Law that stood out as particular interesting was on the 1994 sinking of the Baltic ferry The Estonia and how the people who had the best chance of survival just went, they didn't delay and took control of their fate, "they started early and moved fast, the mere act of getting dressed was enough to condemn people to death."

Langewiesche is an excellent writer whose work feels to be very much worthy of seeking out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Algorithms to Live By from Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

Algorithms to Live By from Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths was an interesting book with the subtitle The Computer Science of Human Decisions.

Christian and Griffiths note in the introduction that human algorithm design is about "searching for better solutions to the challenges people encounter every day" and while they cover quite a bit of additional ground, below are the concepts from the book that resonated the most with me...

Optimal stopping - if someone looking to decide on something, whether it be a job, an apartment, or a spouse, the right amount of time (whether measured in actual time or in options looked at) is 37%. Once they've looked at 37% of the choices, or for that percentage of the time allocated to searching, the right course of action is to then choose the best option come across. This percentage is noted in the book as also applying in a different way... by taking this approach, someone has a 37% chance of making the best choice, and as they continue searching past this in time elapsed or options viewed, their odds of getting the best choice don't deviate much from 37%. Also interesting in this chapter was mention of looking for parking and how one expert notes that parking occupancy ideally should be at 85%, and when parking occupancy goes from 90% to 95%, it doubles the amount of search time for a spot.

Explore / exploit - when early in something, someone should explore alternatives, when settled in, they should exploit what they know they like.

Sorting / searching - in many cases it's easier to just search rather than spend the time on sort.

Caching - the thing most likely to be looked for is the last thing used, thus it's best to cache that recently used thing so it's easily and quickly accessible.

Constraint relaxation - if someone vexed by a difficult and complex problem, they should take away some of the complexity and solve the problem they wish existed, then they've got something to work with and could add back in complexity.

Computational kindness - people prefer receiving a constrained problem, it's better to make a suggestion than to simply say to someone that whatever they want to do is fine.

Algorithms to Live By was a weighty read at times and I found some sections to grab my attention much more than others, but it definitely had some interesting concepts to it for someone willing to spend the time.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Make Your Bed by William McRaven

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World by William McRaven was a very short (about an hour to read) book from the retired U.S. Navy Admiral and written out of a 2014 commencement speech on ten principles he learned in Navy Seal training...

1. Start your day with a task completed.
2. You can't go it alone.
3. Only the size of your heart matters.
4. Life's not fair - drive on.
5. Failure can make you stronger.
6. You must dare greatly.
7. Stand up to the bullies.
8. Rise to the occasion.
9. Give people hope.
10. Never, ever quit.

The principles that resonated with me the most were the first, fourth, and tenth, with the tenth a fairly obvious one as to why it's important and first about starting your day with an accomplishment, something that can be built upon or even if nothing else goes right, something that got done out of the day.

The fourth principle about life not being fair was memorable with it's mention of how Navy drill instructors in San Diego would have people run from the beach to the water and get soaked, then roll in sand, and spend the rest of their training day as a "sugar cookie," caked in sand and extremely uncomfortable. What's key is that this directive was done sometimes as punishment for a mistake, and sometimes just because, to teach the valuable lesson that life's not always fair, you have to accept that and continue moving forward. Even if nothing else was of value from the book, this idea alone an important one.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant was a really good, and somewhat gutting to read book. Written by the Facebook COO, Sandberg, and psychology professor, Grant, Option B has Grant's research into resiliency along with Sandberg's story about life since the death of her husband and father of two children, Dave Goldberg.

The main premise from the title is that if in any situation, the preferred option A not available, someone has to make the most out of option B, they basically have no choice but to move forward, and the option B idea was quoted by Sandberg in a Facebook post 30 days after Goldberg's death.

One concept that was particularly of interest to me from the book was attributed to psychologist Martin Seligman with how three P's can stunt recovery: Personalization - the belief that we're at fault in our calamities, Pervasiveness - the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life, and Permanence - the belief that the effects of a horrible event will last forever. Additionally, below are the chapter titles, along with ideas that struck me from each.

Chapter 1 - Breathing again... includes how children are uniquely resilient and can move forward to be happy after a tragedy.

Chapter 2 - Kicking the elephant out of the room, acknowledge it... includes how when interacting with someone who has suffered tragedy it can be good rather than to ask "how are you?" to ask "how are you, today?"

Chapter 3 - The platinum role of friendship... includes the importance of being willing to be there for others.

Chapter 4 - Self-compassion and self-confidence... includes how writing helped Sandberg through some of the toughest times.

Chapter 5 - Bouncing forward... includes how there can be growth from tragedy, and that someone's death does not have to be the end of their story.

Chapter 6 - Taking back joy... includes the need for a focus on others, having happiness for them and with them.

Chapter 7 - Raising resilient kids... includes four core beliefs that help kids be resilient: that they have some control over their lives, they can learn from failure, they matter as human beings, and they have real strengths to rely on and share. Also notes how nostalgia can and should be a pleasant state of mind.

Chapter 8 - Finding strength together

Chapter 9 - Failing and learning at work

Chapter 10 - To love and laugh again

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fly by Wire by William Langewiesche

Fly by Wire by William Langewiesche was an excellent book about the landing by Captain Sully Sullenberger of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York January 15, 2009.

I've previously posted about a couple of great stories for Vanity Fair done by Langewiesche and in Fly by Wire he covers multiple topics pertaining to the successful landing of the Airbus A320 after it hit a flock of Canada geese and had both engines fail. There's interesting material on the history of the industry and airplane accidents as well as near accidents, especially those involving gliding without engine power as Sullenberger did. Referenced was a 20-minute, 34,500-foot, 90-mile glide over the Pacific in August 2001 with Captain Robert Piche in command after his airplane sprung a fuel leak and ran out.

Langewiesche recounts Sullenberger's three minute and twenty one second glide to the Hudson landing, and how it successful due to both Sullenberger's skill and fly-by-wire system the airplane operated with. Fly-by-wire is the working together of electrical control circuits and digital computers and detailed in the book is how the modern jetliner started with Bernard Ziegler building on behalf of Airbus in Europe a commercial airplane not for the top 10% of pilots like Sullenberger appears to be, but for the other 90%. The A320 is designed with flight envelope protections so that it will stop itself from doing things deemed beyond the limits of what it should and these systems were still fully functional after the bird strike killed power to the engines, making the landing on the Hudson one where Sullenberger made the right decisions and the flight control systems executed them, with keeping the airline positioned correctly all the way to the water landing.

The parts of the book about the modern commercial jet were interesting and the flight and rescue compelling, with stories of communication with air traffic control and passenger heroics, including the father of five who held someone else's baby for the crash. The plane was then in the water for four minutes until the first small ferries and rescue boats arrived, eventually getting all 150 passengers and 5 crew members off without a single fatality.

Really a well written book by Langewiesche on a fascinating topic.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbbar

Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a good book about Abdul-Jabbar's long friendship with and admiration of John Wooden. Covered is Wooden recruiting the high-school phenom Lew Alcindor to UCLA, their four years together there and the challenges Alcindor faced due to his race, his conversion to Islam at 24-years-old and taking the Abdul-Jabbar name, and the ongoing friendship between the two men until Wooden's death in 2010 at 99-years-old.

I've long admired Wooden, have posted on him and writing about him a number of times, and enjoyed quite a bit the stories from Abdul-Jabbar about Wooden. These included how with basketball he was about preparation and practice, controlling what you can control, and with people he always tried to see the best in them, despite any evidence to the contrary. One anecdote in the book I particularly liked had Wooden talking to Abdul-Jabbar about his love of westerns because of the clear good guy and bad guy, with the good guy always doing the right thing. Kareem noted how that's not realistic, to which Wooden agreed that it's not, but could be.

I also was struck by Abdul-Jabbar's story about the photo on the back cover of the book, with Abdul-Jabbar helping Wooden walk across the court at Pauley Pavilion in 2007 and feeling proud to be there for him.

The book is a nice read about both men and includes quotes from Wooden at the beginning of each chapter:

"A coach' primary function should not be to make better players, but to make better people."

"A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment."

"Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"

"You can do more good by being good than any other way."

"Things work out best for people who make the best of the way things work out."

"Friendship is two-sided. It isn't a friend a friend just because someone's doing nice things for you. That's a nice person. There's friendship when you do for each other. It's like marriage, it's two-sided."

"Players with fight never lose a game, they just run out of time."

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers was a solid book that took less than two hours to read and features the subtitle 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur.

Sivers in the book tells his story of starting the online music store CD Baby in 1998 and the things I took away seemed to fall into two primary areas, customer focus and how to run your business (with these ideas also applicable to someone simply doing work).

In terms of customer focus, Sivers early on notes how he started the business to sell his own music, then agreed to sell through the site music from others who also didn't have distribution deals with major companies, and that became his focus. With this, his two customer bases were musicians selling through his site and people who would purchase CDs on it. Several of the concepts that stood out the most to me from Sivers around customer focus were the following...


1. Be transparent - Sivers covers how purchasers and musicians whose music he selling deserved to know what was going on with the business that existed because of them.

2. Make your decisions be about your customers - with this notion of how choices should be guided, Sivers makes mention of both having the business remain operational and when it should expand. In terms of a business overall, Sivers notes that if your business there to solve a customer problem and that problem goes away, your business should either stop or change. About expansion, Sivers writes that your customer doesn't care if you expand so your decision of whether to do so should be driven by how it could serve customers, either existing or new. Part of this serving of customers and expansion is you should be prepared to get larger, if you do want to grow a customer base, you have to have the business be prepared to handle those new customers, and not have service degrade as a result of the increased volume.

3. Pay close attention to how you deal with people - Sivers covers how you should recognize that those you deal with are people like you, and treat them as such. This matters whether in a room with someone, on the phone, or communicating in any form, including electronically. Also on this subject of working with people is the idea of little things that can thrill customers or just make them happy. Sivers recounts the story of an email he wrote to go out to each customer at time of CD shipment... with it a humorous message about employees carrying the CD on a pillow and then shipping via private jet, something to bring a smile to customers' faces. Additionally, Sivers noted adding to the website store a countdown clock to when the last FedEx shipment of the day is and simply having employees quickly picking up the phone when someone calls.

Sivers in the book also very much wrote about how you run your business, with below the things that stood out to me...

Don't be a slave to a plan - Sivers write of how in many cases, you should just start doing something, you don't need a war chest of money or a full end-to-end plan, if you have an idea, start it, then you can see where it goes. Additionally, he notes the importance of being willing to change course and quotes entrepreneur Steve Blake as saying "no business plan survives first contact with customers."

Know what things are important to you - Sivers covered in the book the idea of being, not having, and to have a firm view of what makes you happy. He states that for him, it was creating useful things that benefited others, and that those things require his creative input to come about.

Think about how you decide what you do - this general topic is covered a few different ways in the book. One is that you should do the things you want to do. Sivers notes how your response to whether you want to do something should be either "hell yeah," or "no," as we're all busy and if your response to whether you want to do something simply a tepid "yes," it's better to say "no." Additionally, Sivers writes of how you especially if you're in a position of being able to do so, you should do the things you're good at and want to do, and have others do the rest if they're good at them and want to do them. He notes how CEOs don't necessarily have to be the high-powered-meeting people, if they want to spend their time on something else and can do so, they should. The last thing to mention from the book on this topic of decisions and involvement is around delegation as Sivers recounts the story of having situations come up that would require a decision of how to respond, coming up with the answer, then having a staff meeting to explain the situation and response that should occur, asking  someone to write it up in a manual, and letting people know they can follow that guide.

It was a really interesting book from Sivers and at the end of it he notes how if people like, they should feel free to reach out to him via his website to ask questions, share any stories, or just say hello.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg was a really interesting book that I picked up after previously reading and writing about Smarter Faster Better also from Duhigg.

The Power of Habit covers how habits are a powerful driver of automatic behavior, and contains a few different concepts from Duhigg that stood out to me... with underneath those, stories from the book used to illustrate them:

1. Habits follow the principle of (A) cue, (B) response, and then (C) reward.
2. Habits can be changed by replacing them with new ones.
3. Making one habit change, if it a keystone habit, can lead to other changes.
4. Belief that a habit can take hold is essential to the success of that.
5. Organizational habits can form in the same manner as individual habits.
6. People respond to familiarity, both in what they like and habits they form.
7. Habits form best when there's a social tie that helps enable it.


Tony Dungy-coached football teams – recounts how Dungy would have players in a game focus on simple execution, or response, done well when they see certain game situations, or cues... which brought to mind for me a quote from Arizona Cardinals coach Tom Moore around focusing on “the relentless execution of fundamentals.”

Household cleaning product Febreze – around Procter & Gamble positioning Febreze usage as the final thing done after cleaning, with it as a sort of reward a more powerful motivator than if the positioning something to avoid a negative in the elimination of odors… an idea that made me think of towards rather than away motivated people.

Pepsodent toothpaste and the introduction of it – covers Pepsodent entering the market a hundred years ago with both a clear cue and reward for usage of the product. In terms of the cue, it was noted that people should pay attention to the film on their teeth they can physically feel with their tongue prior to brushing. Additionally detailed was the physical reward, to the point of a craving, which comes when the film gone after brushing and the mouth has a distinct post-brushing feeling from a citric acid ingredient in the toothpaste.

Alcoa and how the aluminum company thrived – tells the story of how new CEO Paul O’Neill in 1987 came into his first public meeting and proclaimed a focus on workplace safety, while O'Neill also noted that it would be an indicator of habits across the institution. Duhigg covers how O'Neill saw that the company had bitter feelings between unions and management and viewed safety as an important goal everyone could agree on. Additionally, safety was a keystone habit, a simple and clear goal that could be measured easily, but also have execution towards it spread throughout the entire organization as for there to be zero injuries, it meant everything had to be working correctly. Part of the focus on safety involved management making the statement over and over that people throughout the company should feel free to speak up about things that they see that are important, and the positive by-product of this was as people would freely make suggestions around safety, it emboldened them to also highlight other things which they felt would improve the company. The focus on safety was a keystone habit, and from that grew a more positive company culture.

Alcoholics Anonymous and what’s caused it to be effective – Duhigg writes of how what AA espouses is very habit-based, and it focuses on replacing the routine for alcoholics from drinking to another activity. When someone faced with a cue that previously would have caused them to drink, the new routine is around meetings, sponsors, basically something other than drinking. Additionally noted in this section is how an important component of someone replacing a routine is to for them believe they can be successful at it, particularly in times of great stress. This belief can come through different forms and one that's covered is having an individual or group model to emulate that’s been successful. The thing to keep in mind as Duhigg writes of it is that a routine can’t just stop, but can be replaced by something else.

Michael Phelps and triggers and habits – covered here is how Phelps reacts to certain triggers, or cues, in advance of or during a race, and then his response. He’s practiced so long at what he’ll do that successful habits win the day. Part of this is how a successful reaction to a small cue which leads to a minor reward is a small win, something accomplished that builds on itself, very much related to this idea of belief building.

Starbucks and the habit of success – detailed by Duhigg is how the company extensively trains employees in how to react when difficult situations arise... with one Starbucks approach for dealing with angry customers the LATTE method: listen, acknowledge, take action, thank them, and explain why the problem occurred. Duhigg notes how these angry customers are like cues, inflection points that then should lead to specific responses, with those much more likely to occur if they’ve been anticipated and prepared for, through either formalized training or even just writing out what situations might happen and how to react. In terms of habit-building, it’s mentioned in the chapter that much of this training is around the keystone habit of willpower, which comes in finite amounts, so the training to build up willpower is important both because it’s hard to have in situations of prolonged stress and when you increase willpower in one area, that spills over into other areas of life. Also noted in this chapter is how self-discipline can be turned into an organizational habit and if people feel a sense of control about something, no matter how small, it means they need to exert less willpower to get through their day successfully and can be happier and more productive.

Rhode Island Hospital and the London Underground – covered by Duhigg here is, similar to how in the section on Alcoa, there should be an organizational culture where people at any level feel free to speak up about things they see. This organizational habit of openness can eliminate or at least mitigate the effects of internal fiefdoms and rivalries between groups and Duhigg notes in the stories of malpractice at the Rhode Island Hospital and the London Underground fire that a crisis can provide the best opportunity to change an organization, as it's then that change seen as most urgently needed.

Response to the song Hey Ya! and starting an exercise routine – Duhigg details how people like things that are familiar to them and in terms of music, notes how people didn't react favorably at first to the song Hey Ya! because it was so different than other music on the radio, and in order for the song to become popular, DJs would play it in between familiar songs. Duhigg also describes exercising and how people will often respond to the idea of doing it as being something done with friends, a familiar bonding activity.

The Montgomery bus boycott and Saddleback church – in this section, it's noted how community ties, both strong and weak (which extend further than strong ties), helped galvanize people behind Rosa Parks at the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott, a key event in the Civil Rights Movement. It’s also covered how this principle of both strong and weak ties being beneficial applies to job seekers and how the church Saddleback grew in large part through the groups that people would gather in within their homes, basically a combination of strong ties in small groups and weak ties while in a large church setting.

Duhigg in the book does a solid job of covering how people and organizations have the control to remake and replace habits and the key as he spells it out is to: identify the routine, experiment with rewards, isolate the cue, and have a plan.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Power Paradox by Dacher Keltner

The Power Paradox by Dacher Keltner was an interesting and short book with the subtitle How we gain and lose influence. Keltner is a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and someone I heard of from a recent article about Warriors coach Steve Kerr that noted Keltner having attended a few Warriors practices and from the practices and spending time with Kerr, being struck by his positive application of power in his role as an NBA head coach.

Keltner writes on the first page of The Power Paradox that "we rise in power and make a difference due to what is best about human nature, but we fall from power due to what is worst" and this idea of how power granted, and then what can occur with people who have varying levels of power is explored throughout the book. He defines power as making a difference in the world, altering the state of others, and notes how power most commonly isn't something that's grabbed, but given by groups to people to those who are acting in ways that advance the greater good. Specifically highlighted as key character traits that people gravitate towards those who apply them are: enthusiasm, kindness, focus, calmness, and openness, with enthusiasm the biggest indicator of someone that people will want to confer power upon.

Power as Keltner notes isn't about just grand things, but how we relate to and interact with others in our work and social lives. With that, the importance of empathy is prominently featured, both as an indicator of who will likely have power ascribed to them, and something needed once in a position of power. Keltner writes of how enduring power comes from: a focus on others through empathy, giving, expressing gratitude, and telling stories that unite. Additionally, he notes how the power of touch and simple contact between people can have an impact in creating a more dynamic connection between them.

The flip side as Keltner writes of it is how the the experience of power, minus a focus on others, leads to the abuse of power. He details out how if not worked with properly, power can lead to: empathy deficits and diminished moral sentiments, self-serving impulsivity, incivility and disrespect, and self-narratives of exceptionalism. Additionally, it's highlighted that if power held in this negative manner, it can make us blind to our moral missteps, but outraged at the same missteps taken by others.

The antidote if you will, that Keltner covers is that those in a position of power should: be aware of feelings of power, practice humility, stay focused on others and give, practice respect, and also attempt on a larger scale to change the psychological context of powerlessness. To this last point, Keltner writes of growing up in a poor neighborhood in Penryn, CA outside Sacramento, and prices of powerlessness, with the physical reaction of the body to dealing with constant stress and continual threat from those with power. This idea echos what Keltner mentions earlier in the book around how healthy relationships are going to occur when neither partner feels powerless. In writing of his neighbors from long ago and in other areas through the book, Keltner notes how those not in positions of power are much more attuned to the feelings of those with less power than them. Keltner covers well this idea that for many, once they've achieved power, the traits that likely helped them have it bestowed upon them are cast aside. This doesn't have to be the case, but just as someone should work at exercising the traits that will have groups put them in a position of power, it's key to then not let that power become a destructive force. Really an interesting book and a very fast read.

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel was an interesting book and eminently fast read about Christopher Knight, who spent 27 years living in the Maine wilderness with only two instances of contact with other people.

Finkel wrote of how Knight grew up in Maine as part of a family that largely kept to themselves and told Finkel he hadn't fled any bad situation or harbored ill will towards anyone, but just left society. He in 1986 went on a solo road trip to Florida at twenty-years-old, then drove back to Maine, went past his house, left his car with an almost empty gas tank, and walked into the woods. Knight recounted to the author how a few weeks in, he spent one night in an unoccupied cabin, then never slept indoors again, and established camp less than 30 miles from his childhood home.

Knight was in a heavily forested area near North Pond lake and accessed his living room sized camp by slipping between large boulders, and survived by pilfering food and other supplies from nearby camps and unoccupied cabins. He said that during the almost three decades there he never lit a fire so as to avoid detection, and wouldn't leave for five or six months during the winter. Everything in Knight’s camp was stolen, including the mattress on box springs and metal bed frame and while there, he would read books, listen to a radio, and just do nothing. In frigid winter stretches he would go to sleep at 7:30, then wake at 2:00 so that he could get his blood flowing and not be asleep for the coldest part of the night.

Finkel wrote a bit about hermits and those that have lived apart from society and notes that Knight is perhaps the most solitary known person in all of human history. To this point, it’s stated in the book that Knight recounted how it was solitude he sought, and never felt alone, and his two interactions with other people were a shared hello with a passing hiker in the 1990s, and then two months before his time in the woods ended, stepping out of his camp upon hearing three people hiking just outside the entrance. The hikers later said that they knew they had come across the fabled hermit and thief, but felt he should be left alone, told Knight they wouldn’t report him, and didn’t come forward until after Knight was no longer in the woods.

Knight almost certainly would have remained in the camp and continued his lifestyle and practice of stealing what he needed, but was in April 2013 arrested while taking supplies from a summer camp. The Maine game warden who caught him and state trooper who took him in later noted that they believed his story and felt very sympathetic. Knight entered the Maine court system and was treated with leniency, with him pleading guilty to 13 counts of burglary, and not receiving any jail time. He went to live with his elderly mother, whom he noted as not contacting while in the woods to tell her he safe because of his shame about being a hermit and thief, and had to for a period of time either hold a job or go to school and report to a case manager, and appear in court monthly.

Finkel wrote a good book, but wraps it up on kind of a melancholy note about Knight becoming compliant and no longer defiant about his life, with him forced back into a society he left behind, and didn’t seem comfortable at all reentering.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Great Sports Illustrated writing by Jenkins & Ballard

There's been a few different stories from Sports Illustrated in recent months that have struck me as particularly outstanding, with one from Lee Jenkins on a high school baseball phenom and two basketball-related pieces from Chris Ballard.

The Jenkins feature was "Hunter Greene is the star baseball needs" on the Sherman Oaks, CA pitcher / shortstop and a cover story, with the most recent previous SI high school athlete cover subjects Jabari Parker, Sebastian Telfair, Bryce Harper, and LeBron James. I'm often captivated by writing about potential future stars and recall the Harper piece by Tom Verducci back in 2009.

The older of the two Ballard stories to note here was "'You Can't Give In': Monty Williams On Life After Tragedy" about the NBA coach whose wife died unexpectedly. The story of how Williams and their five kids dealt with the grief and have carried on with their lives in honor of Ingrid is a great one well told by Ballard.

The final piece to note here was the cover story from the latest SI issue, with Ballard writing "Steve Kerr's Absence: The True Test Of A Leader" about the Warriors' head coach. It's great stuff on Kerr, including him being a grinder, over-communicator, someone who works with people based on how they are and what they'll respond to, doesn't take himself too seriously, and is joyful and just plain likable. Ballard wrote a really compelling story and also interesting from it was mention of how Kerr last season brought into a pair of practices Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist from Cal who studies verbal cues and the dynamics of compassion, and Ballard notes as having played a role in how the filmmakers of Pixar's Inside Out looked at emotion.