Friday, May 29, 2009

Randy Johnson Profile from Sports Illustrated

Really good writing by Tom Verducci in his piece "Randy Johnson Will Grind Your Bones To Make His Bread" from the May 25 Sports Illustrated (cover below).

It's an interesting look at someone who will be the next (and possibly last) pitcher to win 300 games in a career.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"The Longest Trip Home" by John Grogan

Having finished "Marley & Me" (which I wrote about on this blog post), I decided to read the subsequent John Grogan book… “The Longest Trip Home”.

It’s subtitled “a memoir” and just as “Marley & Me” tells the story of Grogan’s life through the lens of his relationship with Marley, this book tells the story of his life (albeit a longer portion of it than in “Marley & Me”) in relation to his parents.

The book is split into three parts about distinct portions of the author’s life: his youth, leaving home, and return to be with his aged parents.

From the first part I took that Grogan had extremely loving parents who worked hard to raise him and his siblings well, and also that they were devout Catholics who worked to instill the same religious piety in their kids. This last effort leads to one of the central themes of the book as both sides of the relationship between the parents and author attempt to deal with the failing of that aim.

It’s during the third portion of the book when Grogan’s father battles illness that light is really shined on the relationship and you see how the difficulties as well as love coexist in the family. Really, it’s quite a read seeing how his father wanted things for him that he didn’t fulfill, but still the connection and raw emotion during this time.

I’m glad I read the book, but view the first two thirds as being a setting of the stage for this final portion. From a perspective of the relationship portrayed and experiences lived through, it’s powerful. I suppose that the author Ann Hood said it well in her back book jacket testimonial…

“With his telltale humor and poignant observations about life and our humanity, John Grogan delivers another emotional wallop here. The Longest Trip Home is a must read for anyone who has questioned their faith, sought to understand their identity, and loved their family. In other words, everyone.”

Particularly as a relatively new father, I can say that the book (really, the final portion of it) did indeed pack an impact.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Marley and Me" by John Grogan

I recently finished reading “Marley & Me” by John Grogan and… really liked it.

There’s a lot that struck me in this book so I’ll start first with the minutiae and then hit the big picture.

On a not as important to the book, but interesting to me level was Grogan’s mention of natural home cleaners and organic gardening as opposed to using chemicals and pesticides. It’s certainly open for debate how much harm the artificial stuff can cause, but I think it safe to say that chemicals are not going to help the body. I also found interesting from the book the idea of the Pennsylvania country lifestyle that the family moved to from Florida. It just came across as a nice way to live.

To the larger book, though… “Marley and Me” is a vibrant story of Grogan’s personal life intertwined with his experiences with his dog. Marley gave tremendously and the parts of the book in which it came across the most were (in order for myself) the times of happiness, of heartbreak and of danger (looking back on the movie it kind of amazes me that Marley’s role as protector when Grogan’s neighbor was stabbed didn’t get into the film).

I don’t recall if it was mentioned in the movie, but I was also moved by the section of the book where Grogan describes reading a noted dog trainer discuss “the unbalanced dog” and how these animals might be best just put to sleep. Maybe it’s that I’ve had a pet with behavioral problems (not able to get along with other dogs in that case), but I think these dogs more than others can impact their owners as they’re the ones who need love the most.

Overall, it’s a great book that would likely appeal to animal lovers, but also people simply interested in the human experience as it’s just as much a story of the author’s life as it is a story about a dog. Additionally, it’s the only case I can think of where I first saw a movie and then finished the book the movie was adapted from. As is probably to be expected, the book was better, but… the movie still pretty darn good.

Lots of additional information (and a huge message board populated by dog lovers and Grogan fans) can be found at the author’s website and the link to the original Philadelphia Inquirer column about Marley can be found here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain

Just finished reading "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" on my iPhone (highly recommend the "Classics" app at a cost of $2.99 for I believe now 18 books in total).

I of course did read Huck Finn as a kid and enjoyed it again now. Beyond that, not much to say about the book other to say that it's entertaining and cite here the opening words of Mark Twain himself:

"Persons attempting to find a motive in the narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fast Company Magazine - May 2009 Issue

Several stories of note in the May issue of Fast Company Magazine...

The longest story I want to mention here is that by Garth Stein on Seattle... the Fast Company City of the Year. It's got a lot of interesting things in it about a very cool place, but I noticed it less due to the content and more because I recognized it's author as the guy who wrote the excellent novel "The Art of Racing in the Rain".

Several smaller pieces were the "Top iPhone Apps" (and there's almost certainly a bunch of new cool ones at the time this post is being written) and the two below related to the book industry.

"Blurb's $30 Million Sold Proves Print Still Rocks" is about the San Francisco based self-publishing company that can be found online at and "Shelfari Brings Social Networking to Book Reading" about the Amazon subsidiary which caters to book readers and is online at

BusinessWeek Magazine - May 25 Issue

Some interesting pieces from the May 25 BusinessWeek issue:

"Wal-Mart: Making Its Suppliers Go Green" is about the "encouragement" to have an environmentally sound supply chain provided by the retail giant to it's suppliers. People can certainly quibble with some of the actions taken by Wal-Mart around it's workforce, but it is positive to see the world's largest retailer acting on behalf of the environment.

"Cisco's Big Push into New Markets" provides a look at how the networking company is currently extremely active in entering new markets... from sports to servers to consumer electronics. One interesting facet of this (particularly in relation to the server foray) is how this puts Cisco in competition with some of it's largest partners who resell Cisco gear as part of integrated solutions for corporations.

"Giving Products a Good Backstory" provides a look at the marketing firm Starlight Runner Entertainment and how it's helps corporate clients create narrative stories around existing products and marketing ideas. The end result of this being larger and more lasting narratives to influence consumers. It's an interesting read and I also found compelling the backstory of the firm's founder, Jeff Gomez, that went from being a public school creative writing teacher to launching a gaming magazine and then working for a gaming company. Very entertaining career path...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fast Company Magazine - Feb 2009 Issue

Granted, this is a bit out of order as I just posted on articles from the April issue of Fast Company, but I wanted to link to a copy of interesting pieces from the Feb 2009 Fast Company (cover below).

Previously, I wrote about and linked to a really compelling story on the plastic BPA from the Feb issue.

Two other stories of interest were... "Next-Gen Investing" about the financial planning website Thrive (found at and a listing of some of the most influential female bloggers in tech along with the blogs they author.

Interesting stuff.

Fast Company Magazine - Apr 2009 Issue

Some interesting stuff from the April 2009 issue of Fast Company...

Foremost is a large piece titled "Will NPR Save the News?" about the growth at the non-profit organization. One interesting angle of the piece is how online efforts of NPR can put it in opposition to what public radio member stations try to do.

Also from this issue is a piece titled "What Should I Do With My Life Now?" by Po Bronson, author of the book "What Should I Do With My Life?" It's a look at some of the myths Bronson associates with career change and has some interesting ideas.

A sidebar to Bronson's article is on the career development website UpMo and titled "Turn-by-Turn Career Directions".

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Growing Old with Autism Story from Time

Very heartfelt and thought-inspiring article from the latest issue (cover below) of Time Magazine.

Written by Karl Taro Greenfeld, "Growing Old with Autism" is in an excerpt from his book "Boy Alone: a Brother's Memoir" about the struggles associated with his adult brother's autism. It's somewhat painful in that it makes you think of the circumstances that some are dealt and also how that impacts their loved ones.

On a much lighter level, the last page essay by Joel Stein is titled "Give Hockey (and Me) One More Shot"... yea, it's an entertaining read.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Product Review Pieces from BusinessWeek

Below are four different product review type articles from BusinessWeek over the last few months. They come from four different issues and while three of them are more typical reviews (from the "Opinion" section by Stephen Wildstrom), the fourth bears inclusion as it's about the most impactful facet of a new product.

The three Wildstrom reviews are "Amazon's Kindle 2: Delight Is in the Details" and then two on HP laptop computers... first "HP's Mini 1000 Mi Takes Netbooks a Big Step Forward" on the company's newest netbook and second "HP's dv2 Is a Bigger, Better, Budget Ultrathin" on a traditionally sized laptop that is still in the "untralight" category.

The fourth piece is by Peter Burrows and titled "The Apple App Monster" about the app store and how it's helped create a whole new category of technology... with the iPhone as the category leader.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Federer vs Nadal Piece from Sports Illustrated

Interesting story from the latest issue of Sports Illustrated (cover below) titled "The Takedown" on the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry.

Written by S.L. Price, the story details the turn that has occurred in the rivalry with the challenger, Nadal, now besting Federer the majority of the time. The interesting question posed by Price (about whom I've previously posted) is "how can Federer be deemed the best ever when he might not be the best of his own era?"

Also from this issue of SI was a short piece titled "The Tweet Hereafter" at the current sensation of pro athletes communicating via Twitter with their fans.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Esquire Magazine - June issue

As is almost always the case, there was some excellent writing from the latest issue of Esquire. Fortunately, the best was available on (which is not always the case) and I'll have to make do with simply mentioning some of the other things of note from the issue.

Contained within was a series of summer movie previews and the most interesting was "The Road Is the Most Important Movie of the Year". Written by Tom Chiarella, it covers his screening of not yet fully edited version of the Cormac McCarthy book turned film. The writing itself in the review is excellent, but the movie as described is what's truly compelling. Chiarella writes that viewers will tell people "you have to see it, really", but also not want to see it twice themselves. Not because it's bad, but because it's... well, just read the Chiarella review and this will likely make sense.

Also from the summer movie previous section was mention of a few different movies that sound solid: Funny People from Judd Apatow, Terminator Salvation, and (500) Days of Summer.

A different section of this issue was on Esquire's Best Bars in America and featured mention of two San Francisco (which is close to me) watering holes, Tommy's Mexican Restaurant on Geary Blvd and Alembic on Haight Street. Included in this section as well was Esquire's Drink Every Man Should Know How to Make... the Old-Fashioned.

Finally, mention was made in this issue of an accolade for what I probably found to be the best written and most memorable magazine article I've seen. Chris Jones piece "The Things that Carried Him" has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, the industry's highest honor.

Time Magazine - Elizabeth Edwards Excerpt & Other Book Pieces

From three different Time Magazine issues are taken three different pieces that all fall in what I'll so eloquently call the "book category"...

Out of the May 18 issue came the piece "How I Survived John's Affair" by Elizabeth Edwards. Excerpted from her new book "Resilience", it's a first person description of the emotions and actions of Edwards as she learned of and as dealt with the cheating by her husband, former Presidential candidate John Edwards. I likely won't read the book itself, but the excerpt published in Time provides a fascinating portrait of reaction to an extremely unjust situation.

From the March 9 issue is an interesting book review of the Eric Kraft novel "Flying".

From the February 9 issue is an "appreciation" of recently deceased novelist John Updike by Time writer Lev Grossman. Not much I can add here other than to say that the piece tends to make one want to read Updike.

Rescue Shuttle Article from CNN

Interesting article from titled "Astronauts ready for rescue mission they hope never happens" about the contingencies required with something as dangerous as space travel. With space shuttle Atlantis about to launch it's crew to the Hubble Space Telescope, shuttle Endeavour is fully prepared to launch a rescue mission if required.

It's a short, compelling read that makes me think of the Chris Jones book "Too Far From Home" (strangely renamed "Out of Orbit" for the paperback edition) which I reviewed as my first real (non list of magazine articles) post to this blog.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

"Eclipse" by Stephenie Meyer

Took me a while to slog through all of it, but I just finished "Eclipse" by Stephenie Meyer.

After really liking "Twilight" (the first book in the Twilight series), pretty much liking "New Moon" and now a little bit liking "Eclipse", I think I'll take a Stephenie Meyer break before reading the conclusion to the series... "Breaking Dawn".

I shouldn't be too critical, though, as the book really isn't written for me, but rather primarily for teenage girls (and as such is very heavy on relationship melodrama). That said, I enjoyed quite a bit the first half of the original book as the anticipation and suspense building was solid. I'm sure I will finish off the series at some point, just not soon.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Joe Klein Piece on Obama's First 100 Days

Really insightful cover story from Joe Klein in the May 4 issue of Time Magazine.

The title "Joe Klein on the President's Impressive Performance Thus Far" gives an idea of the bent of the article, but it's simply an interesting read.