Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brilliant Sports Illustrated Writing

Sports Illustrated has provided some great writing over the years (perhaps all of which is now available online at through the SI Vault), but for the purpose of this point, I want to focus on both a recent story and two columns from a few years ago.


The Sept 29 issue of Sports Illustrated features a great cover story by Gary Smith on the Chicago Cubs... more to the point, on Cubs fans and their devotion (and frequently associated heartbreak).

The story brings Smith together with the same group of fans he met 10 years prior in the Wrigley bleachers and looks at what the team means (as well as what a Cubs World Series title would mean) to them.

Having just come back from a college football sojourn to Lincoln, Nebraska, I understand devotion to a team, but it was fascinating reading Smith's account of that devotion being associated with baseball. it's an entirely different topic, but my thought would be the only rival (in terms of fan association) to big time college football would be said Cubs baseball and soccer outside the US. Pro football, basketball, auto racing and hockey... certainly followed by given audiences, but I don't think with the same level of fervor as college football and Cubs baseball.

Anyhoo... the cover story is a great read and makes the reader think about what it is to be... a fan.

Not Recent: Rick Reilly pieces

"Worth the Wait" about high school runner Ben Comen who competes (and finishes) despite having cerebral palsy.

"Funny You Should Ask" about a made up conversation between a dad and his kid about sports, life and things in between.

Monday, September 22, 2008

John McCain Fumbles Through Today Show Interview

So great. My favorite part by far of McCain's bumbling Today Show interview (love that Meredith Vieira) was him talking about the nasty executives getting exorbitant compensation.

This was of course all good and well for McCain until Vieira questioned him about the $45M golden parachute received from Hewlett-Packard by key financial advisor Carly Fiorina when she was fired from the CEO role (and around the time 20,000 HP employees were laid off).

McCain's response... "I'm not familiar with that" followed up by "I think she did a good job".


Friday, September 19, 2008

Time Magazine Sept 22: National Service

Interesting cover story on National Service in the Sept 22 issue of Time Magazine.

It beings with an overview from Managing Editor Richard Stengel (who references the cover story from a year ago also on National Service). From there, the issue contains "21 Ways to Serve America"... some of the ones more personally interesting noted below along with the corresponding # in Time:

#1: Support the "Serve America Act": Bill being introduced in the Senate this month.

#4: Give Up One Day: Service events being planned for Sept 27 and Jan 19 (MLK Day). Details at http://www.events.servicenation.org/ & http://www.mlkday.gov/.

#8: Get Out!: Civilian Conservation Corps is an organization helps clean and protect parks and other natural resources.

#9: Work with the Secretary: California is the first state to have a Cabinet (CA) level position around Service & Volunteering (from this came the California website http://www.californiavolunteers.org/.) Done at a Federal level this type of position would be in the President's Cabinet.

#15: Do It Pro Bono: Service opportunities utilizing Professional skills can be found through the Taproot Foundation or http://www.abillionandchange.org/.

#21: Log On: Another place to seek out volunteer opportunities is through http://www.volunteer.gov/.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Who's Better... Obama or McCain? Not "Is Palin Interesting?"

John McCain (and his associated policies, beliefs and inclinations) is running for President against Barack Obama (and his associated policies, beliefs and inclinations). The person we should elect is the one who is "best" in two areas... the known and the unknown.

On the known side we have things like the economy, health care, energy and the environment and the unknown side we have things like foreign policy (the big events and concerns) and domestic disasters.

When I look at the known issues, I think Obama to be the candidate with the much more detailed plans and when I look at the unknown, I'm also much more comfortable with Obama due to his very measured approach (which I don't think McCain as a noted "Hawk" shares).

It appears that the McCain camp appears to also feel their candidate would come out on the losing side should the race be solely about the issues, hence the entrance of "personality"... defined by Sarah Palin (and all of the fictitious slights against her allegedly perpetuated by the Obama camp and members of the media).

There's a fascinating article from the San Francisco Chronicle titled "About Sarah Palin" which both prints and goes into depth about an extremely detailed e-mail written about Palin by a fellow Wasilla resident. My feeling about Palin after reading it is close to what it was before... she seems to have a very good political sense for backing the positions that will be popular and... she is in no way shape or form qualified to be President as soon as this coming January.

I touched on this pick a bit in a prior post about McCain (and of course not at all in a post focused on Obama), but my feeling is that Palin is both not qualified and should not be a relevant asset to McCain's campaign.

When people vote for the Presidency, they are voting for who they feel will be the best in that position (again, best being defined by how they would be in the known and unknown). They (hopefully) are not voting for the personality brought in by the VP candidate.

Hopefully the Obama camp can help steer the conversation in this very important direction. If not, I'm concerned.

"Isaac's Storm" by Erik Larson

Written on this blog back in August was a review of three Erik Larson books including "Isaac's Storm"... described as "a tale of the deadly Hurricane which hit Galveston, Texas at the turn of the 20th century".

This may actually have been my favorite of the Larson books and I felt compelled to post this given the current evacuation of Galveston as Hurricane Ike bears down on it.

It's an excellent read and most fascinating for me given the disparity between the National Weather Service official statements in advance of that September 1900 storm ("all is well, nothing to worry about") and those today in advance of Ike ("leave Galveston Island or face certain death").

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Writing from Susan Casey

In July of this year I posted "The Devil's Teeth" & other writings by Susan Casey about her book on Great White Sharks around the Farallon Islands as well as a piece she wrote for Esquire Magazine.

Since that time, I've learned that Casey works for Time Inc and writes extensively for Sports Illustrated. From the Aug 25th issue of SI, she wrote "We Are All Witnesses", that week's cover story on Michael Phelps.

Additionally, some of Casey's past SI writing can be found through doing a search on the Sports Illustrated website. Really good work...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

"Arts Fall Preview" from Time Magazine

The Sept 8 issue of Time Magazine featured brief previews of the following:

- "True Blood" television series on HBO about a family of vampires. From Alan Ball, creator of "Six Feet Under".
- "Fringe" television series on Fox about a government and corporate conspiracy. From J.J. Abrams of "Lost" fame.

- "Burn After Reading" from the Coen brothers opening 9/12.
- "W" from Oliver Stone opening 10/17.
- "Body of Lies" from Ridley Scott opening 10/10.
- "Changeling" from Clint Eastwood opening 10/24.
- "Quantum of Solace" opening 11/14.
- "Australia" opening 11/14.
- "The Soloist" starring Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx opening 11/21.
- "Twilight" from Stephenie Meyer opening 11/21.

- The new California Academy of Sciences opening to the public on Sept 27.

McCain Interview & Other Time Magazine Coverage

Posted here back on September 1st was "Obama Coverage from Time Magazine", a look at some of the pieces on Barack Obama in Time's special issue leading into the Democratic National Convention.

One week after this, Time published the issue with cover shown below leading into the Republican Convention in Minneapolis.

From this, McCain did an interview with two Time writers that could be described as "prickly" (which is the descriptive language Time uses) and belligerent and angry at worst.

A lot has been written and discussed about the character and leanings of the McCain-Palin ticket, with McCain being a war hero and Pain a staunch social conservative (to put it nicely). This interview, though, illustrates my biggest aversion to McCain... that he seems to get too dogmatic and hot-headed to lead Foreign Policy and interact with world leaders who might not have the same appreciation of the U.S. and it's principles (Vladimir Putin, anyone?). Obama may not have McCain's tenure in government, but I feel more comfortable with him than John McCain in this role.

Conversely, Palin is an interesting choice in that it's an obvious olive branch to social conservatives wary of McCain's past statements and record. Personally, though, I'm much more interested in how qualified she would be to serve as President if needed and occupy that same role "across the table from Putin" (or a similarly surly world leader).

She may certainly prove over time to be the right person for that role, but I don't think she's done enough to show it (and feel that her to proclaim herself more qualified than Obama is laughable at best).

In this same vein of "concern" about the idea of a McCain-Palin President-VP combo, Joe Klein writes in the Sept 15 issue of Time "How McCain Makes Obama Conservative". It details Klein's view of how the ticket came about and finishes off with what I feel is a fabulous paragraph...

"The Palin selection — peremptory, petulant — was another example of McCain's preference for the politics of gesture over the politics of substance, as is his sudden fondness for oil exploration ("Drill here, drill now.") and hair-trigger bellicosity abroad (Syria, Iran, Russia). His lack of interest in actual governance is disappointing; his aversion to contemplation seems truly alarming. He has done us all a favor with this pick: he has shown us exactly what sort of President he would be."

Friday, September 05, 2008

Like to Write Stuff: How Going Forward

Written on this blog a week or so ago was "Like to Write Stuff: Why & How Thus Far"... a posting that covered why I began writing this particular blog and what I've done to get to current point in time. To summarize these two topics very briefly, it's (1) to write about things I find interesting and (2) I've taken the steps to reach where I'm now happy with the content going into the blog.

So... as the overall blog introspection is designed as a three part narrative and the first two have been covered, I'm now on to the third, what I can do to try to acquire a readership (this assumes that the content going on to the blog will continue to be similar to what has been posted to date).

On blogger (which is of course used for this blog), there's a story titled "Promoting Your Blog" which features (among other ideas) the suggestions below:

1. Add your blog to listings and make available for search engines (ex: technorati).
2. Set e-mail post link to be shown.
3. Turn on site feeds (subscribe to) so that people can use RSS feed readers to view blog content.
4. Set backlinks to be shown (not sure how this works).
5. Link to other blogs.
6. Install a blogroll (example from article is a site called blogrolling and addthis might be a similar thing.
7. Leave comments on other blogs.
8. Pitch posts via e-mail, but in an appropriate way. Blogger links to this article for tips on how.

The blogger piece also has some good suggestions around content, as does the article "What Makes for a Good Blog" from the popular life organization site 43 Folders. That said, I'm pretty happy with the content being put on the blog so I'm focusing now on some of the specific activities I can try to get readers.

The suggestions above all make a lot of sense to me and I got some ideas from reading Sarah Lacy's book "Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good" (which I reviewed at this blog post).

Specifically, Lacy talks in her book about Web 2.0 companies as being both platforms and applications (with the less successful companies really being just features). From this, I realize that from a platform perspective, I can utilize the profiles I already have sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and think about adding Ning as another platform site.

From an application perspective, I'm fascinated by what Digg does and want to utilize it (also interested in technorati) as a way to try to get readers. The actual steps will be to try to figure out how to alter the html on my posts so that people can easily add or tag either the entire blog or post url.

Seems like things that can be done...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good" by Sarah Lacy

In "Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good", BusinessWeek technology and Yahoo! Finance writer Sarah Lacy paints an interesting picture of the "Web 2.0" scene and the companies and individuals in it.


An excerpt (focusing on Marc Andreessen and Ning) was featured in a May 2008 BusinessWeek issue and the basis for Lacy's book was from a Aug 2006 BW cover story (that featured Kevin Rose) she co-wrote.


Back to the book itself... "Web 2.0" roughly refers to the new generation of companies that have formed since the 2000/2001 tech downturn and includes some big and sure to be bigger companies as well as still building start-ups that may or may not make it on their own. Just as the companies in these categorizations run the gamut, so do the lead players that Lacy chronicles in her book.

Below are some of the companies and people that she gives the greatest coverage to (Lacy makes an interesting observation that new web technologies are either platforms, applications or features... hence the organization below):

Platforms (roughly described as companies and websites where people come to do stuff):

- Facebook: Currently the hottest privately owned Web 2.0 company (and perhaps hottest private or public Web 2.0 company depending on how you compare it to News Corp. owned MySpace). Lacy spends a good amount of time detailing Facebook as a company, but also Mark Zuckerberg as it's founder and CEO.

- LinkedIn: Right up there with Facebook as a predicted billion dollar company once it does go public. It's similar to both Facebook and MySpace in that it's a Social Network, but different in that it's designed for the professional set. Founder and Chairman Reid Hoffman is also profiled by Lacy, just not in as much detail as Zuckerberg.

- Ning: Another Social Networking company, only different than the prior ones mentioned in that it's much newer and aspires to the platform status achieved by the others. One of the more interesting things that Lacy writes about Ning is that it was co-founded and heavily funded by one of the leading statesman of tech (and now CTO of Ning), Marc Andreessen.

Applications (roughly described as companies and websites that people do stuff with):

- Slide: A very interesting company. I had only peripherally heard of Slide prior to reading Lacy's book, but now know it to be the force behind some of the most downloaded applications on Facebook and MySpace. One of the things that makes Slide interesting is it's nature as a "widget" or application company. People constantly use Slide products, but may not even know who is behind them... and have to go to one of the "platform" companies/websites to use them. Heavily chronicled in Lacy's book is Slide (as well as PayPal) creator Max Levchin.

Tougher to Categorize (definitely not feature, probably best described as now being application companies with potential and desire to become platforms):

- Yelp: A review website that has individual member posts on their favorite bars, restaurants, doctors and dentists (and of course many other categories) for a given local.

- Digg: A story ranking site where members "digg" specific articles found on the web, which then get listed as the "top stories" on the Digg website. A fascinating idea that seems to get at the best aspects of "participatory news". Digg also has some of the highest star power of the Web 2.0 companies as it was started by tech entrepreneur and BusinessWeek cover guy Kevin Rose.

Several other companies that Lacy spends time discussing are below:
- Six Apart & Blogger: Both "guts" companies that created (and continue to create) tools for use in blog writing.

- Technorati: Blog search engine.

- Twitter: Hmmm... not sure how best to describe Twitter so I'll just use the verbiage from it's homepage.... "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"


Another character profiled by Lacy is PayPal co-founder and Facebook investor and boardmember Peter Thiel. Lacy relates an anecdote in which Thiel provides his view that "older tech companies are eventually worthless investments". Thiel feels this is because engineers are the greatest asset of a tech company and without the carrot of going public (or being sold), those employees are going to either leave or simply

Monday, September 01, 2008

Obama Coverage from Time Magazine II

Posted on this blog back on July 29th was "Obama Coverage from Time Magazine"... a look at two different pieces from the Aug 4 issue of Time, each likely giving optimism to Obama supporters hoping he comes out on top in November.

Since that time, there has been a very focused Republican effort to chip away at Obama and his prospects in the election. Stemming in part from those efforts, McCain has gained in the polls and two different pieces in the Sept 1 Time Magazine likely boost the spirits in the opposite camp, supporters of John McCain.

In his "A Working-Class Hero?" commentary, former McCain strategist Mike Murphy writes about how Obama needs to focus efforts to try to win votes from what Murphy calls the "lunch-pail wing of the Democratic Party".

Additionally, columnist (and frequent McCain critic) Joe Klein writes his "In the Arena" piece with the title (and subtitle) "Where's the Passion?... Obama's measured style might cost him the election".

These doom and gloom (or perhaps simply helpful advice) pieces duly noted, the issue's cover story (well, the cover story was actually a series of articles on Obama and the Dems) was a terribly interesting piece titled "The Five Faces of Barack Obama" by David Von Drehle chronicling multiple views of how the candidate is seen.

Also in the issue was the editor's letter about the election coverage Time has on their site at The Page and Swampland.