This blog is all about words because they matter, they influence, they entertain and when you put them down on a page in a meaningful order, they acquire permanence. Contained here is my writing over the past 10+ years, primarily book reviews over the past ~5 years, and I also have a book review podcast, Talking Nonfiction, available on Apple or Spotify.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Time Magazine - Apr 27 Issue
"The Great Recession: America Becomes Thrift Nation" is the cover story and written by one of my favorite Time writers, Nancy Gibbs. Definitely not a long piece, but a very insightful look at how Americans are cutting back in difficult economic times... and how that can have a long-term impact on how people will even when economic conditions improve.
Also from this issue of Time is a fascinating story titled "Logging On to the Ivy League". The story details something I had heard about before, but not in such detail. In short, there's tons and tons of free university lectures available on both iTunes U from Apple and now YouTube Edu.
In addition to these well known platforms, lectures can be found through the OpenCourseWare Consortium which had been led in part by MIT efforts to have its coursework online. Also, www.AcademicEarth.org and www.TED.com are sites at which interesting material can be found.
Finally, an interesting mention in the Entertainment Short List section about a graduation speech from deceased writer David Foster Wallace. Might be worth checking out the speech...
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Health 2.0: Patients as Partners Article from BusinessWeek
This piece relates to the Jeff Jarvis book "What Would Google Do?" (which I reviewed here) in that it looks at how social networking and collaboration could be used to help people with their personal health care.
"What Would Google Do?" by Jeff Jarvis
I first came across it from a BusinessWeek excerpt which I posted about and linked to here and then made a second post about mention in the book of the blog http://www.avc.com/.
The book itself is an interesting read that looks in the first half at what Google does to be successful and the second half at how it's business principles could be adapted to other companies and industries. Granted, there's a bit of prognostication and crystal-ball seeing in this latter half, but it's definitely compelling business reading.
Jarvis himself has a fascinating background in that he was first behind Entertainment Weekly and then went on to create the blog http://www.buzzmachine.com/. From this blog (which Jarvis still writes), came his current teaching position in the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism and backing of the news website http://www.daylife.com/.
Not to take the easy way out, but it's probably easiest to switch to listing out some of the key ideas and websites discussed:
Concepts of business on the web
- Customers are in charge
- Openness in the key to success
- Most successful enterprises are networks or platforms
- Have to be searchable and able to be found on the web (whether you're a person or business)
Websites of note (not already mentioned above)
- Meg Hourihan "What We're Doing When we Blog" essay
- Posts from http://www.buzzmachine.com/ related to "entrepreneurial" (Jarvis teaches an entrepreneurial journalism class at City University of New York)
- http://www.buzzmachine.com/tips/ containing recommendations from Jarvis on "five steps to a Googlier you"
All in all... an excellent read.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Fred Wilson Venture Capitalist Website & Time Internet Business Article
I'll definitely write more about the book itself when I finish later this week, but wanted to mention and link to Wilson's site in the interim. One of the principle ideas that Jarvis puts forth in his book is interconnectedness online (as he terms it, being "Googly") and he refers to Wilson as "the "Googliest guy I know in this (venture capital), the Googliest industry."
The Wilson site features his thoughts on technology and what cool things are out there. This very much has similarities to what I try to do with this site, primary difference of course being that Wilson is actually a VC and is in what I'll call... a better position to fund and make successful these business ideas he comes across.
That said, as a recent Time Magazine article titled "The New Internet Start-Up Boom: Get Rich Slow" details, you don't really have to be a venture capitalist in order to be involved in business start-ups. If you've got an idea, the opportunities for business creation are there with much lower upfront costs than ever before.
All very interesting stuff.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Flickr: "Most Interesting Photos" Website
The Yahoo! owned photo site Flickr is unique compared to some other photo hosting sites on the web like Snapfish (which I use and is owned by HP) or Shutterfly in that Flickr was designed to have hosted photos easily viewable by the public. The result of this is a huge network of people and images with recommendations being made, comments posted and images linked to.
Out of all this interaction, Flickr has developed an algorithm that results in their "most interesting photos"... which is constantly refreshed and features what Flickr feels are the most interesting from the last seven days.
The URL is here and images can either be viewed by this opening page, by clicking on a given picture or in slideshow form.
Just for giggles, I've posted below the first image that appears right now (which will be of course different in a day/week/month)...
Really cool stuff.
S.L. Price Book Excerpt from Sports Illustrated
The story is titled "Hit in the Head" and adapted from Price's book "Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in the Minor League America". The book itself is about Colorado Rockies minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh who was killed by a batted ball while coaching first base in 2007 and much of the SI piece is about the bigger picture of dangers from projectiles faced by baseball players, coaches and fans.
I did a post referencing a different S.L. Price story several weeks ago and was very interested to read about this new book from him... enjoyed his "Far Afield: A Sportswriting Odyssey" quite a bit.
There was quite a bit of press in 2008 about shattered bats and the risk on injury these cause, but not as much attention has been paid to what a batted ball can do. However, as pitcher Joe Martinez of the San Francisco Giants found in a game earlier this month, the batted ball has huge potential for damage... video below:
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Great Isiah Thomas Story
For more details about past bizarre and destructive behavior from Thomas... his Wikipedia entry gets really entertaining once you reach the "post-NBA career" section about halfway down. Some of the highlights (and you know if they're on Wikipedia, they must be true)...
End of Continental Basketball Association ownership: "Many CBA managers blamed Thomas for the league's failure, citing mismanagement and out-of-control spending on his part. Many such managers publicly declared that Thomas ran the league into the ground, possibly on purpose to eliminate the non-NBA-owned minor league in order to make room for the NBA-owned NBDL."
End of New York Knicks employment: "As part of the reassignment agreement Thomas was banned from having contact with any Knicks' players under the rationale that he could willingly or unwillingly undermine Donnie Walsh and the new head coach."
"Sexual harassment lawsuit: In October 2006, Thomas and Madison Square Garden were sued for sexual harassment by Anucha Browne Sanders. The matter came to trial in September 2007 and Thomas was determined to have made demeaning statements to Sanders, as well as making sexual advances and repeatedly telling her that he was in love with her."
"Drug overdose: On October 24, 2008, Thomas was taken to White Plains Hospital Center near his New York City area home after taking an overdose of Lunesta, a form of sleep medication. In the opinion of Harrison Police Chief David Hall, Thomas tried to 'cover up' the incident by claiming his 17-year old daughter required medical treatment when in actuality he was the patient."
Monday, April 13, 2009
Yahoo! Travel Sucks - Dolce Hayes Mansion
1. Go to Yahoo! Travel.
2. Do a hotel search for locations within 6 miles of zip code 95118 on the night of Friday May 1.
3. See if Dolce Hayes Mansion comes up at a "Good Buy" price of $59.
4. If it does, go through the time it takes to select that, then put in your contact info and credit card number to book this "advance payment required" rate.
5. See if you get an error saying that "this rate is not available anymore, would you like to book at a different (higher) rate?"
6. Call the Yahoo! Travel 800 #.
7. Get a "Customer Service" representative who doesn't really hear you saying anything about the trouble online and does a standard search for you.
8. See if they offer you the same $59 "Good Buy" rate and then take your contact info and credit card information.
9. See if they then tell you that rate is not available anymore and ask if you would like to book at a different (higher) rate.
10. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
11. Have that supervisor not really hear you saying anything about the trouble online or on the phone and then do a standard search for you.
12. See if they offer you the $59 "Good Buy" rate at Dolce Hayes Mansion and (just for fun) take the time to give them your contact info and credit card number.
13. Laugh when they then tell you it's not available anymore and ask if you would like to book at a different (higher) rate.
14. Laugh again as their response to you telling them you'll never use Yahoo! Travel again is to ask "if there's anything else they can do for you?"
Sure... there can (but, shouldn't) be a lag time between a rate available online and on the phone. That said, this experience I had trying to book Dolce Hayes Mansion through Yahoo! Travel was a week ago... and the $59 "Good Buy" rate still appears online.
Moral of the story: Dolce Hayes Mansion either puts out intentionally misleading prices or simply doesn't know what the experience of their potential customers is (either being not good) and... Yahoo! Travel, well, I think the above speaks pretty well for itself.
Hilariously good times.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Esquire Magazine - May issue
The first was an extremely well written and compelling essay by Tom Chiarella titled "What is a Man?". I suppose some of the points he makes you could quibble with and I'm sure you could add others, but all in all... it's definitely worth the short read.
The second can't really qualify as being well written as it's more of a list with pictures. The slideshow titled "Things Every Man Should Own" has 30-some items that Esquire feels a man shouldn't be without. Similar to the Chiarella piece, there's probably other needed things not on the list, but... I don't know that someone would be the worse for it by having each of these things along with a competency of how to use.
Also from this issue of Esquire was mention of a few different books to read...
- "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen. Having begun and not yet finished (but, someday I will), I can say that it falls into that category of "writing so good it makes you feel you can't write".
- "Empire Falls" and "Bridge of Sighs" by Richard Russo. Similar to my above statement, I've had the change to read Russo's "Straight Man" and found Russo to be both an excellent writer and storyteller.
- "A Fraction of the Whole" by Steve Toltz. Whereas the books above by Franzen and Russo were recommended by Esquire readers, Toltz's book was actually highly trumpeted by Tom Chiarella in a Feb 2008 review. High praise indeed from Chiarella...
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Time Magazine - Apr 13 Issue
The most profound piece was titled "Why Are Army Recruiters Killing Themselves?". Written by Mark Thompson, it's a painful look at the pressures put on Army recruiters (particularly those out of the Army's Houston recruiting battalion) to "make mission" and meet recruiting numbers. A job characterized by 15-19 hour work days and belittlement by leadership... very messed up.
Another interesting story was by Michael Grunwald and titled "How Obama is Using the Science of Change". It looks at some of the social science behind the Obama campaign and office message, specifically how the field of behavioral economics is employed. Some of the examples put out were how get out the vote campaign efforts often promoted the idea of record turnouts to get people to "emulate their neighbors" and the more recent idea of opt-out 401K programs to encourage savings.
Also from the Grunwald article was mention of books written by some of the Obama advisers that made up what's referred to as his "behavioral dream team":
- "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness" by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein
- "Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism" by George Akerlof & Robert Shiller
- "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions" by Dan Ariely
Saturday, April 04, 2009
CC Sabathia Profile from Sports Illustrated
Written by S.L. Price and titled "Big Love 'CC'" the piece gives a very nuanced portrait of a guy that many sports fans would only associate with his recently signed $161M free agent contract. In this, there were a lot of parallels to a blog post I did about a Lamar Odom profile... both show wealthy athletes who have a lot more layers of complexity than would be expected by the casual observer.
The story on Sabathia is longer than that on Odom and able to give more details into his life and family. Additionally, though, what makes it an excellent read is really good writing provided by S.L. Price.
Further work by Price can be found through a search of the CNNSI Vault archives or through reading (as I have) his book "Far Afield: A Sportswriting Odyssey". Chronicling his time living with his family as an expat in the French countryside, it's an interesting look at a lifestyle from an outsider perspective.