Monday, June 29, 2015

The Tiger by John Vaillant

The Tiger by John Vaillant was a really good work of non-fiction about a man-eating Amur (Siberian) tiger in the Bikin River Valley in Far Eastern Russia in the Winter of 1997.

The book was just as much about the region as about the tiger itself and it was fascinating reading how many in the area forced to scratch out an existence living off the deep forest or taiga, with the effects of perestroika and it's freedoms not helping them at all.

In relation to tigers, Vaillant describes well the relationships between people and the animals and how they can co-exist, but also how the actions of people often throw that relationship out of balance.

It was an excellent book and more about it can be found in a New York Times review by Edward Lewine.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Memorable writing - on grief, mass shootings and a papal document on climate change

A few pieces of recent writing on different subjects have struck me as particularly powerful.

On grief was a Facebook post by Sheryl Sandberg written 30 days after her husband Dave Goldberg died and for the Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin wrote "What it was like to cover Beau Biden’s funeral" about her experience as a White House pool reporter. The Sandberg piece obviously more personal, but both really profound.

About the recent murder of nine in a Charleston, SC church were two pieces, one written and one for TV, with similar refrains. For Esquire, Charles Pierce wrote the incredibly good "Charleston Shooting: Speaking the Unspeakable, Thinking the Unthinkable" and there's six amazing minutes from Jon Stewart with this link containing both the Daily Show video and a few sentences out of him talking.

In another totally different category was writing on the recent Pope Francis document around climate change with another Charles Pierce piece for Esquire titled "Pope Francis Drops the Hammer on Climate Change" and Bill McKibben for the New York Review of Books writing "Pope Francis: The Cry of the Earth," with both pieces about just how influential this document from the Pope could be.

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance was a well-written and really interesting biography on someone with a combination of brilliance, drive for himself and employees, and willingness to bet big.

Musk is unique among business leaders with his leading role in three huge and potentially impactful companies, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity and it's written about in the book that SpaceX is really the big thing for Musk as his overarching goal is to put someone on and then colonize Mars. Vance wrote a really detailed portrait of Musk and some of what struck me as particularly important or interesting is below...

Musk's grandfather was Joshua Norman Haldeman, who in 1950 decided to emigrate from Canada to South Africa, then along with Musk's grandmother in 1954 flew a private plane from Africa to Australia, believed to be the only private pilots to have done this. They also did bush expeditions in Africa and one of their children was Maye, who married Errol Musk, with one of their offspring Elon, born in 1971. He was a bright child who read obsessively and constantly corrected people, but with him not really understanding why they didn't like it. When Elon was around 8, his parents divorced and he went to live his father, someone described in the book as an intense and unpleasant man. When Musk was 10, he got his first computer and loved it, but around the middle school years was picked on relentlessly and had a miserable time, with things then improving in high school.

At 17, Musk left South Africa for Canada and then enrolled at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. In 1992, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania to pursue degrees in economics and physics and Musk today talks about then being interested in solar energy. In 1994, Musk and his brother Kimbal took a road trip to California and Musk had internships in Silicon Valley at Pinnacle Research Institute and Rocket Science Games and after graduating Penn, he and Kimbal moved to Silicon Valley. In 1995 they formed the company that would become Zip2, a web-based Yellow Pages type service, with it purchased by Compaq in 1999 for $307M, leaving Musk with $22M. Also in 1999, Musk used $12M of his money to found X.com, a finance startup that would become PayPal. In 2000, Musk was pushed out of the leadership of the company by employees and investors and in 2002, PayPal was sold to eBay for $1.5B, with Musk getting $250M.

In 2001, Elon became actively involved in space exploration, developing contacts in the industry and founding the Life to Mars Foundation. Musk tried to buy rockets from the Russians to explore space but got nowhere, then decided to build his own. The idea would be to build rockets that would serve the low end of the satellite industry, doing launches cheaper than had been done, with Space Exploration Technologies founded by Musk in June 2002. The first successful SpaceX rocket launch was in September 2008, but not with an actual customer payload onboard and the survival of the company was uncertain until it in December 2008 received a $1.6B payment from NASA to take supplies to the International Space Station. SpaceX has now become a truly solid company, selling satellite launches for less than competitors, and doing so as an American company in a largely non-American industry. In May 2012, SpaceX docked with the ISS for the first time and SpaceX wants to next send astronauts to the ISS by 2017 as well as move to reusable rockets. a first in the industry and idea that many view as impossible. Another interesting thing noted in the book about SpaceX is how it's a privately held company and Musk wants to keep it that way for a while, something that makes sense in enabling freedom of decisions, but would of course limit the huge paydays that employees of a publicly traded SpaceX might receive from selling stock.

As SpaceX was in it's early years, Musk in 2003 met J.B. Straubel, someone who shared Musk's interest in electric cars. Shortly after, Musk was courted as an investor by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who had an electric car company, Tesla Motors. Musk in 2004 put in $6.5M and became the largest shareholder as well as Chairman and also got Straubel hired. In 2007, Eberhard was taken out as CEO by investors and replaced by an interim chief who wanted to sell Tesla, with this not taking place and Musk later becoming CEO. In late 2008, Tesla was having financial problems at the same time as SpaceX and even though the financial markets had imploded, Musk was able to secure additional financing for the company. Tesla then was selling just enough roadsters to survive, previewed the Model S in 2009, went public in 2010 and then began shipping the Model S in mid-2012. In November of that year, the sedan was named Motor Trend's Car of the Year and in early 2013, Consumer Reports gave it their highest rating ever awarded. In April 2013, Tesla was having difficulty delivering Model S's and had discussions with Google CEO Larry Page about Tesla being acquired. Then in May 2013, impressive results were given to Wall Street and the stock soared, making the sale not needed. Next up for Tesla is the Model X SUV in 2015 and due out in 2017 is the Model 3, a four-door car with around a $35K price tag.

Musk's three companies, with two in Tesla and SpaceX that he's CEO of and SolarCity that he's the largest investor in and non-executive Chairman of, seem to be starting to intertwine somewhat with Tesla and SolarCity both to build products at the forthcoming Tesla battery Gigafactory in Reno and the success of SpaceX and Tesla coming in part from hardware and software working together.

Whether it's from one of these companies and current core products or other ideas Musk has put forth more recently around the Hyperloop for transportation or a space Internet, it'll be extremely interesting to see what's to come from Musk in the future and Vance wrote a very solid book on what he's done so far.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Great sports stories - by Wilner, Wertheim & Fagan

Three pieces of great recent sports writing were on an NBA coach with a remarkable past, U.S. Olympians who competed in Berlin and later fought the Nazis, and the tragic suicide of a freshman runner at Penn.

The coach's story was "A dad's legacy: Warriors' Kerr guided by father's example" by Jon Wilner for the San Jose Mercury News and it's a fascinating piece on Steve Kerr and the the impact of his father, Malcolm, who was assassinated by terrorists in Beirut while Steve at the University of Arizona in 1984.

The Olympian feature was by Jon Wertheim who wrote "Dive Bombers: American Olympians defeated Axis Powers in peace & war" for Sports Illustrated. About divers Frank Kurtz and Marshall Wayne, it's a detailed narrative that very much brought to mind the brilliant Laura Hillenbrand book Unbroken.

The third piece to note here was "Split Image" by Kate Fagan, who for ESPN wrote of the life and death of Madison Holleran. Such a sad tale of someone overcome by depression, with that depression likely exacerbated by her believing she supposed to be having the time of the life while away at college.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Profound pieces of writing - by Kruse, King, Marantz & Shapira

There's a few pieces of writing I've seen lately that were particularly touching and heartfelt, with each about distinct phases of life.

For the Tampa Bay Times in 2007, Michael Kruse wrote "On her own two wheels," a beautiful 300-word piece about a father teaching his eight-year-old daughter to ride a bike that featured the quote "I'm supposed to let go, I can't hold on forever" and for his Monday Morning Quarterback column for Sports Illustrated, Peter King wrote of his 31-year-old daughter Laura marrying her partner Kim under the title "Happily Ever After."

Also incredibly moving were two pieces in past weeks that dealt with a much different phase. Robin Marantz for the New York Times Magazine wrote "The Last Day of Her Life" on Sandy Bem, a Cornell University professor diagnosed with Alzheimer's and who wanted to die on her own terms and Ian Shapira for the Washington Post wrote the lovely story "Americans gave their lives to defeat the Nazis. The Dutch have never forgotten" about multiple generations of people in the Netherlands tending to the graves of U.S. soldiers who died during WWII.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough was a solid book by the noted historian who among many other books, wrote three I previously enjoyed immensely in John Adams, Truman and 1776. The Wright Brothers was interesting to me in that I found it a bit dry at times while reading, but then upon skimming back through after finishing, my estimation went up as I saw the depth of information that McCullough passed along in the book, with some of the details noted below:

Orville and Wilbur grew up in Dayton, Ohio and their mother died in 1889 when Wilbur 22, Orville 18 and their sister Katherine 15. The siblings then continued to live with their father, Bishop Wright, for decades to follow. The family read heavily and widely and in 1896, Wilbur became interested in human flight after reading about German glider enthusiast Otto Lilienthal. In 1899, Wilbur wrote to the Smithsonian in Washington inquiring about available reading on aircrafts and human flight and the assistant secretary of the Smithsonian provided pamphlets on aviation as well as a list of books.

In 1900, the brothers for several months left Dayton and the bicycle shop they had opened and went to Kitty Hawk, on the North Carolina Outer Banks, to start the path towards flight by working with a glider they built. The Wrights saw flight as being controllable through the concept of "wing warping" (or "wing twisting") with movements of the wings enabling airflow to cause movements of the plane. They then returned to Kitty Hawk in 1901 and while back in Dayton the following winter, had huge advances forward with a wind tunnel they built, a wooden box 6 feet long and 16 inches square that they used it to test how glider wings should be set to get them to operate as desired. In the spring of 1902 they built a new glider using what they learned from the wind tunnel and from successful glider trips, then started on the step of building a motor.

In December 1903, they flew for the first time with the motor providing power, each brother going up separately so that in case one killed, the other could continue the work and in 1904, they began flying outside of Dayton. The flights were successful, but didn't attract a lot of media attention, with in September 1904, Amos Ives Root for his company's beekeeper trade journal writing of Wilbur's first attempt to fly in a complete circle. The plane was catapulted in the air, then flew 20-25 feet above the ground and landed successfully, with the article appearing in January 1905 to little notice. Around this time the Wright brothers tried to get the U.S. Government interested in their efforts, but to no avail, even though nothing was asked for, and by the fall of 1905, the brothers knew how to fly and were doing flights of 25 miles or more. With the lack of interest from the U.S. Government, the brothers were negotiating the sale of a plane to the French and Wilbur in May 1907 sailed for Paris to negotiate and then Orville sailed for Paris and brought a plane with him. The brothers returned home, leaving the Flyer in storage in France and in Feb 1908 signed a deal selling it to the French contingent upon a public demonstration that summer.

By May 1908, Wilbur and Orville were in Kitty Hawk flying and starting to get press attention, then both returned to France and in August, Wilbur did a successful flight for the public which led to huge media acclaim. He continued doing demonstrations and they were big news in the U.S. as well and Europe and that same year Orville began doing more public demonstrations in the U.S. In 1909, the brothers as well as Katherine were in Europe and sensations with demonstrations in front of huge crowds and they returned to the U.S. heroes in May of that year, with continued public demonstrations of flying, including for luminaries and around New York City. Wilbur died of typhoid fever in May 1912 at 45 and Orville continued flying until 1918 when he stopped at 46 due to lingering pain from injuries suffered in a plane crash, and then he died of a heart attack at 77 in 1948.

The details from McCullough were interesting and what struck me about Orville and Wilbur's story from the book was how the brothers knew that while the calculations and technology had to be right to enable human flight, what was just as important was practice, through many hours spent flying, they were become proficient at it.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Outdoor writing - by Holland & Zimmermann

There's been some great recent outdoor-oriented writing I've seen with a feature for SB Nation Longform and several stellar pieces from the latest issue of Outside Magazine.

The SB Nation piece was by Eva Holland with "Unclimbable," a first-person account of a trip to the Cirque of the Unclimables, a remote area of stunning-looking granite peaks in Canada's North Territories, and it's a really cool story of friendship, loss, adventure and acceptance.

Two features from the latest Outside Magazine that stood out were "Rory Bosio Doesn't Really Train" by Nick Heil on the 29-year-old long distance (100+ miles) runner from Truckee, CA and the "The Piscivore's Dilemma" about the sustainability of fish as a food supply. It's an extensively researched and detailed report from Tim Zimmermann which covers different types of fish that can be consumed as food along with the source (i.e. farmed vs. wild) of those fish.

From the same issue of Outside was "The New Adventure Library," a feature not currently available online, which briefly overviewed 33 different tales of adventure. With the forms ranging from books to movies to daredevil adventures, there were featured things I've seen and loved as well as not previously aware of, but now wanting to check out.

Solid business writing - on Elon Musk & Tesla, wine thieves, ILM & Dr. Charles Arntzen

Some of the pieces are from a week or two ago, but there's been some really interesting business writing that I haven't posted on up until now.

From Businessweek were two excellent features, starting off with "Elon Musk's Space Dream Almost Killed Tesla," excerpted from the recently released Ashlee Vance book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. It's a fascinating look at the Tesla and Space X CEO and related to Tesla were two additional interesting pieces, first a transcript of Musk's speech introducing Tesla Energy and then San Jose Mercury News article "Is Tesla's Powerwall home battery worth the price?" by Jonathan Fahey.

The other Businessweek story to note here was "A Pinot Noir: Hunting the Thieves Behind a Rash of Six-Figure Wine Heists" by Claire Suddath, a highly interesting read which brought to mind the Max Potter book Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine.

The other two pieces of really interesting recent business writing to mention were from other sources with Alex French and Howie Kahn for Wired writing "Inside the Magic Factory: The Untold Story of ILM, a Titan That Forever Changed Film," an oral history of the George Lucas created Industrial Light & Magic, and Adam Bluestein for Fast Company writing "Meet Ebola's Soft-Spoken, Plant-Loving Arch Nemisis" on Dr. Charles Arntzen, who came in at number one on the Fast Company "100 Most Creative People 2015" list.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Atul Gawande feature on unnecessary medical care

There's a really fascinating piece of writing by Atul Gawande (who I've posted about a few times previously) from a recent New Yorker with "Overkill" on unnecessary, expensive and often harmful medical care provided. In terms of the scope of the problem, Gawande writes below...

"In 2010, the Institute of Medicine issued a report stating that waste accounted for thirty per cent of health-care spending, or some seven hundred and fifty billion dollars a year, which was more than our nation’s entire budget for K-12 education. The report found that higher prices, administrative expenses, and fraud accounted for almost half of this waste. Bigger than any of those, however, was the amount spent on unnecessary health-care services."

The reasons for the waste, or no-value care as Gawande describes it, include tests and treatments both unethical recommended (with providers trying to collect all available insurance and Medicare dollars) and simply not needed, often as a result of there being so many tests and treatment paths available. What occurs is doctors, with patients buy-in, often test for problems that really aren't likely to have a terrible result if the problem found in someone, and then treat the problem because it's been discovered. The issue from this is the care costs money for someone, whether an individual paying out of pocket, an insurer (who as a result may raise rates) or government. Additionally, testing can bring complications for patients, not to mention problems that can result during procedures; and treatment for a given ailment can preclude different, and perhaps more needed, treatment for the same or another ailment.

Just as interesting to me as the problems that Gawande presents is the better path that he provides in the piece, with two examples including one driven from a corporate perspective and one out of a government act. Gawande tells the story of a Walmart employee with back problems who had surgery recommended to him and could have had the procedure done locally, with large out-of-pocket expense incurred, or follow a path Gawande wrote about...

"Taylor had heard about a program that Walmart had launched for employees undergoing spine, heart, or transplant procedures. Employees would have no out-of-pocket costs at all if they got the procedure at one of six chosen “centers of excellence”: the Cleveland Clinic; the Mayo Clinic; Virginia Mason Medical Center, in Washington; Scott and White Memorial Hospital, in Texas; Geisinger Medical Center, in Pennsylvania; and Mercy Hospital Springfield, in Missouri. 

Walmart wasn’t providing this benefit out of the goodness of its corporate heart, of course. It was hoping that employees would get better surgical results, sure, but also that the company would save money. Spine, heart, and transplant procedures are among the most expensive in medicine, running from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nationwide, we spend more money on spinal fusions, for instance, than on any other operation—thirteen billion dollars in 2011. And if there are complications the costs of the procedure go up further. The medical and disability costs can be enormous, especially if an employee is left permanently unable to return to work. These six centers had notably low complication rates and provided Walmart a fixed, package price."

Gawande writes of how Taylor went to Virginia Mason in Seattle, and after examination there, was recommended to not have back surgery, and instead focus on recovery through rehabilitation, an approach that Taylor agreed to and as Gawande quotes him saying, "within a couple of weeks, I was literally pain free." It's a fascinating story and not entirely unexpected one as Gawande writes of the Walmart program around spine, heart or transplant procedures...

"Two years into the program, an unexpected pattern is emerging: the biggest savings and improvements in care are coming from avoiding procedures that shouldn't be done in the first place. Before the participating hospitals operate, their doctors conduct their own evaluation. And, according to Sally Welborn, the senior vice-president for benefits at Walmart, those doctors are finding that around thirty per cent of the spinal procedures that employees were told they needed are inappropriate. Dr. Charles Nussbaum, until recently the head of neurosurgery at Virginia Mason Medical Center, confirmed that large numbers of the patients sent to his hospital for spine surgery do not meet its criteria."

As a wrap-up to Taylor's story, Gawande provides the following...

"If an insurer had simply decreed Taylor’s back surgery to be unnecessary, and denied coverage, the Taylors would have been outraged. But the worst part is that he would not have got better. It isn’t enough to eliminate unnecessary care. It has to be replaced with necessary care. And that is the hidden harm: unnecessary care often crowds out necessary care, particularly when the necessary care is less remunerative. Walmart, of all places, is showing one way to take action against no-value care—rewarding the doctors and systems that do a better job and the patients who seek them out."

Another thing Gawande writes of as leading to optimism for care in the future is out of a provision in the Affordable Care that "allows any group of physicians with five thousand or more Medicare patients to contract directly with the government as an 'accountable-care organization,' and to receive up to sixty per cent of any savings they produce." Gawande writes fairly extensively of McAllen, TX and how "two McAllen accountable-care organizations together managed to save Medicare a total of twenty-six million dollars. About sixty per cent of that went back to the groups. It wasn’t all profit—achieving the results had meant installing expensive data-tracking systems and hiring extra staff."

It's a fascinating piece from Gawande and as he towards the end writes "waste is not just consuming a third of health-care spending; it’s costing people’s lives." 


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Remarkable pieces of writing on tragedy - by Carr, Junod & Teague

There were three pieces of recent first-person writing on the subject of death that really struck a cord with me, two from Esquire and one from Glamour.

The Glamour piece was the fairy short essay "My Dad, My Mentor: How Do You Say Goodbye to Your Father?" by filmmaker Erin Carr about her father, David Carr, who died in February. It was a really nice remembrance on the writer who I a few times posted on writing by and about.

The first of two Esquire pieces to note here was by Tom Junod with "The Death of Patient Zero," a followup story to his 2013 "Patient Zero" on Stephanie Lee. I wrote about the original feature in this blog post and as sad as it was to read of Lee's passing, it was almost heartening to read of the friendship that Junod and Esquire Mark Warren formed with Lee and devotion they showed to her. Also, even with the awfulness of Lee dying of cancer so young is the hopeful idea that the efforts to save her put forth by Eric Schadt and his team could continue to move forward and help save others.

The last piece to mention also centered around someone dying of cancer with Matthew Teague writing "The Friend" on his wife Nicole Teague, her diagnosis with terminal cancer, and his best friend Dane Faucheux moving in with them and staying past her death. The essay from Teague is quite possibly the most personal and open account I've ever seen someone write and Faucheux someone that comes across as an absolutely remarkable person.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Solid business writing - on Disney MagicBands, Y Combinator, NBC News & Starbucks

Some really good recent business stories included two features from Fast Company and one each from Vanity Fair and The Atlantic.

The Fast Company pieces were by Austin Carr and Max Chafkin with the Carr piece titled "The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness." It's a lengthy feature about the MagicBands that were introduced at Walt Disney World in Orlando (and which were written about in fairly gushing terms in a recent Wired Magazine story) and this look by Carr is a much more nuanced look at how difficult at times it can be to get things done in a corporate environment. Particularly fascinating to me was how the Imagineers responsible for much of the great creative output at Disney Parks appear to have been largely left out of the process, and as a result haven't really bought into the concept of the MagicBands. The piece by Chafkin was also a solid one with "Y Combinator President Sam Altman is Dreaming Big" about the Silicon Valley business incubator.

From Vanity Fair, Bryan Burrough wrote "The Inside Story of the Civil War for the Soul of NBC News" about Brian Williams and it's very much an "inside baseball" type look at corporate dysfunction and poor talent management and the last piece to note here was "The Upwardly Mobile Barista" by Amanda Ripley for The Atlantic. Ripley is the author of the excellent book The Smartest Kids in the World (which I reviewed here) and in this recent magazine piece she writes about the corporate initiative at Starbucks to fund university education for it's employees. Ripley gives a thorough look at the hiccups in the program, but all in all, it really appears that Starbucks attempting to do a very good thing.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown was a really great book about the University of Washington rowing team that went to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Brown's writing of the story came out of a fairly chance meeting late in the life of one of the rowers, Joe Rantz, and the book a fascinating one that covers a huge amount of ground. Some of the things that struck me were around the idea of a great rowing team needing to be comprised of people with absolute trust in one another, what America was like in the 20s and 30s and then the German propaganda machine leading up to WWII.

Brown chronicles in the book how as Rantz was growing up, America suffered the effects of the depression and dust bowl, leading to widespread westward migration and a number of farmers simply picking up and leaving behind homes and properties in search of something better. It was a hard time for many and the circumstances of Rantz's childhood were written of as key to what came later in the book.

Additionally, Brown has fascinating material in the book about Germany leading into the Berlin Olympics, with Nazi leadership focused on presenting to the world an image of themselves as a good and peaceful neighbor, towards the goal of buying them time to secretly build up their war powers prior to launching armed aggression. This time and place in the world is really interesting to me and brings to mind the excellent Erik Larson book set prior to WWII, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin that I wrote about in 2011.

Shortly after finishing The Boys in the Boat, I came across an interesting San Jose Mercury News feature story in "Bay Area native’s book showcases bitter rivalry between Cal and Washington in top-selling book" and the piece by Elliott Almond and Mark Emmons covers information about Brown and how his book become an enormous success and basis of a movie now in development.

Interesting Bloomberg Businessweek pieces - by Wieners, Vance, Clark & Coen

There's been some particularly interesting writing from Bloomberg Businessweek magazine over the past few weeks including a great feature story and multiple smaller pieces.

The feature was "Dying at Europe's Doorstep" by Brad Wieners and it's an important look at refugees from Africa dying as they try to cross the Mediterranean into Europe and the husband and wife team of Chris & Regina Catrambone attempting to rescue as many as possible. The parts of the story about many Europeans not wanting the immigrants to come there made me think of a June 2013 blog post I wrote linking to stories of xenophobic behavior and also fascinating from the Wieners piece was mention of Catrambone partnering with The World's Most Dangerous Places author Robert Young Pelton.

The smaller pieces from BW that struck me over the past few weeks included two at least in part by Ashlee Vance. Along with Jack Clark, he wrote "How Amazon Swooped in to Own Cloud Services" and excerpted from Vance's May 19 book release of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future was "Elon Musk Had a Deal to Sell Tesla to Google in 2013."

The other short piece to note here was written by Jessica Coen with "Nick Kokonas Is Selling Tickets to Dinner" about the restaurateur, who co-owns three Chicago-area restaurants with chef Grant Achatz, and his forthcoming for wide release restaurant reservation system Tock that revolves around diners prepaying for meals and flexible pricing based on time selected.