Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood" by Michael Lewis

Having previously read three different Michael Lewis books (which I reviewed here), I was interested to come across mention of Lewis in a Nancy Gibbs essay from Time Magazine titled "Parenting Advice: What Moms Should Learn From Dads".

In additon to having some very interesting commentary about fatherhood, Gibbs wrote about a new book by Lewis titled "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood". Based on his series of articles for Slate Magazine, it stitches together some of his experiences with his three children (not really germane to the book itself, but I also found interesting that Lewis is married to former MTV VJ Tabitha Soren).

Having now read the Lewis book, I can say it's an extremely fast read that contains some entertaining vignettes and insights about fatherhood.

Since the book itself is in pieced together form, I don't feel bad at all about giving my impressions in the same manner. To whit...

- The idea of fumbling around for the definition of and actions required of being a good father. A murky idea that has changed greatly through the years, and you just gotta make it up as you go, and have it seem both right and livable to you.

- The trauma on a first child at the birth of a second... or on the first two at the birth of a third. Following this, the inherently challenging task of two continuing to raise little functioning (almost) members of society while providing the stuff needed to stay alive for an additional member. As Lewis describes it, what previously could be done in a tag-team fashion on one child now involves much more separation of parental labor to make it happen.

- The seemingly spot-on description of the difference between paternal and Maternal love. That being that father to kid bonds need to be formed through action (helping keep alive and later just helping the young 'un) and mother to kid bonds are there from the start (that whole giving birth to thing).

- The notion of how the adult world for a child is likely a crazy, grotesque place where everything is odd and everyone sized wrong. As an example of this insane place kids inhabit, Lewis retells the anecdote of his oldest daughter asking prior to a flight about his "chickens in luggage"... yep, that's check in luggage to those who actually know different.

- The family trauma that came after the birth of their third child, Walker. First Postpartum Panic Disorder for Tabitha and then a respiratory virus (RSV) for the baby. Tough times, but really touching stuff about Lewis in effect standing guard over Walker while in recovery at the hospital. Reminds me of the first point made in this review... fatherhood is something that in many ways you have to make up as you go along.

Good stuff and worth the read for father-types.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fast Company Magazine - Jul/Aug 2009 Issue

Couple of interesting articles from the most recent Fast Company Magazine.

First and foremost is an investigative report titled "Beyond the Grid" by Anya Kamenetz. It looks in great detail at the concept of small-scale household or business power generation and it's potential. Not surprisingly, this idea of a "micro-grid" is being fought by large power utilities looking to prevent this competition by either installing and controlling it themselves or by simply making it go away. What's also very interesting in the piece is the mention of clean-energy advocates such as Al Gore trumpeting the idea of an "electric super-highway"... which is much less efficient and more costly than the micro-grid. Fascinating piece.

Also from this issue is the cover story "Amazon Taps It's Inner Apple" about the company's dominance of the online book market and impact on the larger brick and mortar based publishing industry. Closely tied into that is the speculation of how Apple might get into the fray with a larger version of it's iTouch / iPhone that could compete with the Amazon Kindle.

Another interesting piece is "Why Walgreens Is Building Its Own Universal Health-Care System" about the clinics that Walgreens operates in both it's retail stores as well as onsite at various companies. The retail-based side is interesting from it's ability to offer quick and easy (read: affordable) health care to the uninsured, but the corporate located side even more interesting in it's goal of keeping a company's employees healthy and productive.

Last story to note is titled "Why America Is Addicted to Olive Garden". As someone who doesn't find appetizing the idea of eating at Olive Garden, I was interested in this story not so much from being about the food, but rather about the corporation and how it's run.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mental Health Piece from Time

Very thought-provoking story from the annual Time Magazine "Health Issue" in it's June 22 edition.

Titled "Staying Sane May Be Easier Than You Think", it examines the idea of psychological health and both how there can be early indicators of mental health problems and ways to ward them off. Specifically, it follows the research of Dr. William McFarlane and his efforts to "pre-treat" youth prior to any episodes of psychosis.

It's the type of stuff that would likely have been viewed as being in the purview of witch doctor science in years past, but today is certainly worth consideration and debate.

Amazon & the Kindle

Couple of interesting articles I've seen lately about Amazon. From the June 22 issue of Time Magazine comes "Is Amazon Taking Over the Book Business?" by the very solid Time writers Lev Grossman and Andrea Sachs. It's just a fascinating look at a company that's remade themselves over the years and is dominating and now guiding an industry through their share of the online book sale market and introduction of the Kindle reader (and it's new iterations).

Not quite as wide ranging, but still an interesting product review is "Amazon's New Kindle DX Means Business" by Stephen Wildstrom in the June 22 BusinessWeek.

I wrote previously about written content online and the wireless reader market that Amazon practically created in this blog post... interesting topic.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Just finished reading "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson and... thought it was ok.

I think it very much falls into the category of books that I felt like I should have enjoyed due the the "classic" status, but I didn't care for it a great deal. I suppose a lot of it was due to the dialect used throughout that made it at times hard to read, but truth be told, I was glad was I finally finished it.

That said, enormous props once again to the makers of the "Classics" iPhone app (which I used previously to read "Call of the Wild" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and reviewed here and here respectively). Such a great user interface and with these three books down, I still have another fifteen different classic books I could read on this iPhone app should I choose.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sports Illustrated Kobe Bryant and Rex Ryan Pieces

A couple of solid articles from the June 22 Sports Illustrated that really get into the character of the people covered.

Attached to the cover image, Chris Ballard wrote a piece titled "Satisfaction" about Kobe Bryant's now realized single-minded pursuit of his fourth NBA title. Like him or not, I think it would be an interested read for a lot of sports fans in it's portrayal of one guy's drive.

Also from this issue was Tim Layden's story "The Joy of Rex" about New York Jets first-year coach Rex Ryan. What I found interesting about the portrayal of Rex (as well as brother Rob and father Buddy) was their dedication to football, each other and doing the job the way they felt it should be done... even if that ran counter to what others thought.

Finally, it's different than the first two pieces noted above, but also bears mentioning a hockey blog post I did on the Penguins Stanley Cup win... an article about which is also linked to from this issue.

Yep, a lot of interesting stuff in this one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Esquire Magazine - July issue

A couple of things of note from the July issue of Esquire Magazine...

Well, yeah... the cover image of swimsuit model Bar Refaeli wearing body paint (or body text as the case may be) itself is noteworthy, but the text on her is taken from the Stephen King short story "Morality" contained within the issue. I didn't find the story linked to anywhere on the Esquire website, but suspect that's by agreement between the magazine and author.

This being the case, the best I can do for links is provide this one to a description of "Morality" on http://www.stephenking.com/. The story itself is a compelling read which reminds me a great deal of the King short story "Apt Pupil"... contained in his collection "Different Seasons" (from which also came two short stories that led to the movies "Stand by Me" and "Shawshank Redemption").

Two other things I found interesting from this issue of Esquire... both of which are about one of my favorite writers, Chris Jones.

The first was his extremely short (3 paragraph) piece titled "Arrivals at the Airport". In a way the polar opposite of "Morality" by King, it's.. nice. The second was mention of Jones being honored with a National Magazine Award for his Esquire piece "The Things That Carried Him". I wrote about Jones and this piece in what was kind of my first blog post and the story itself can be found here on the Esquire site.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cloud Computing Revisited

I first wrote a post about Cloud Computing (at Google in this case) back in Jan 2008, prior to when I even regularly posted to this blog and just came across another in-depth story that makes the topic worth revisiting here.

The July 15 issue of BusinessWeek contains an in depth piece (with associated sub-stories) titled "How Cloud Computing Will Change Business" that shows a compelling area of technology taking off at a fast pace. The term cloud computing may not be familiar to all, but it's usage is close to ubiquitous. Everything from e-mail accounts through Gmail and yahoo to Facebook and YouTube involves information "in the cloud".

The BW story gets off to a compelling start when it references a Bill Gates speech back in 1990 (forever ago in technology time) that references three coming developments:

"1. A more personal PC"... iPhone anyone?

"2. More powerful communications networks"... granted high-speed Internet could be as far along in the US as in Europe and Asia, but should continue improving.

"3. Easy access to a broad range of information"... there you go, the aforementioned cloud (data on servers backed up by other servers).

Solid stuff.

Also of interest is some of the BW vignettes about various usages of Cloud Computing by companies. Probably most interesting to me was "How Clouds Can Change Management" about the uber-connected approach taken by the CEO of Serena Software. Small story, but a cool look at what a company can do when it really wants to take advantage of available technology.

Ford Motor Coolness - Who'd of Thunk It?

As someone that has happily owned a Toyota, Nissan, Toyota, Subaru and then Toyota in the 20-year car owning portion of my life, I'm now fairly amazed to be interested in what Ford Motor is doing. Press about it appearing to be the only solvent major US car company combined with two recent articles about new models make me think that maybe one day I'll actually own a Ford.

In it's July issue, Esquire Magazine named it's 2009 Car of the Year... the Ford Taurus SHO. Never would have expected what I consider to be a pretty hip and forward type magazine to talk up a Ford like this, much less a Taurus, but the car is described (as part of an interesting and short read) in pretty glowing terms. Also, as the picture below shows... it is pretty.

A second positive piece about Ford and the cars it's putting out comes from the June 15 BusinessWeek and is titled "Can Ford's "World Car" Bet Pay Off?" About current efforts at the automaker to pull off the sought-after car company trick of one model that is sold (well) globally, it focuses on the Ford Fiesta... already a success in Europe and Asia and launching in the US early 2010.

The article talks about the Fiesta body lines being modeled after the BMW 3 series, but the Fiesta image below reminds me of a stubbier version of the Subaru Impreza (which I happen to own and like).

Very interesting stuff... from Ford. I'm surprised, in a good way.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Celiac Diagnosis: A Gluten-Free Road

It's not new information to me as I was diagnosed maybe three weeks ago (just prior to my two week vacation sojourn to Maui), but I've decided to actually start doing something about the diagnosis I received of Celiac Disease. For lack of anywhere particularly better to do so, me thinks I'll use this blog to help me keep track of information and what not...


I went to see my very nice doctor at Kaiser and told her that I've lost probably 10 pounds over the last few months for no apparent reason. Some additional background is that maybe seven years ago I lost close to 20 pounds in a few months for no apparent reason. At the time, doctors didn't come up with anything wrong and my weight stabilized, but this time lab test results from aforementioned nice current doctor came back as... Celiac positive.

Celiac basically means you have an intolerance towards the dietary item gluten and having said gluten in your system if have Celiac can lead to bad stuff. Where it manifested in myself is the effect of the body having a difficult time absorbing nutrients, which leads to weight loss. Unactioned Celiac disease over time damages the small intestine and can lead to real bad stuff. However, most of what I've read to date says that the one and only current action if you have Celiac is pretty effective in getting the body working right. That one and only current action... trying to cut out glutens as much as possible from your diet.

Before I get to the whole gluten-free diet thing, I do have both a few higher-level Celiac Disease type questions I'll likely need to run by my doctor and wanted to list some of the Celiac resources I've found online.

Open Celiac Questions

1. I've read that Celiac can basically lie dormant and then be triggered by unrelated viruses or other sorta random stuff... so, is there a way to tell how long I've either had it active or dormant?

2. Is there a way to tell if it's done damage to the body... particularly damage that could be counteracted some way other than just through a gluten-free diet?

3. Do I really truly for sure have Celiac? Could it be a false positive?

Celiac Resources

1. http://www.celiac.org/

2. A search for "U497" on the Kaiser Permanente website (which is this Kaiser link if it works)

3. The Facebook group "Celiac Disease Support Group"

4. Anything I can find by my two favorite celebrity doctors Mehmet Oz (how could Oprah possibly be wrong?) or Andrew Weil (link to Celiac on his site here)

Gluten-Free Diet Resources

* fair amount of import here given that cutting out glutens appears to be the only way to improve any Celiac related maladies (some new proposed vaccine in Australia that "might" be available years from now notwithstanding)

- Trader Joe's: They publish a helpful list of gluten-free items which you can get in any store. Even more helpful, though, is the products that actually say "gluten-free" on either the packaging or cute little TJ signage. Wish that labelling signage was more prevalent.

- Whole Foods: I've heard they're good and expect that to be the case. With stuff costing that much, I would hope for the higher level of help.

- Sprout's: Had this recommended... not sure if there are any around the Bay Area.

- Fast Food: Some quick looking on the sites of my more frequently visited fast-food places reveals... most don't care. McDonald's, Burger King, Panda Express: you're outta luck finding gluten-free stuff. Taco Bell... there's a few things that are ok, not many, but a few.

Ahh... good times. Well, at least it sounds sorta romantic to refer to "my disease"... and good that it's something that can actually be dealt with. I'd really hate to be that person who has a health problem and is too stubborn or dumb to do anything about it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

All Around the Social Networking Mulberry Bush

Given that I last week did a blog post about my social-networked online life (and it's various parts and pieces) it's only appropriate that there should be two different magazine cover stories (below) that delve into the topic... albeit in very different ways.

The whole point of the blog post was to look at the different online profiles I've got and try to figure out how to have them integrate, link to and interact with one another. With that fairly dialed in (at least I feel that way for now), I found interesting the two aforementioned pieces that look respectively at online relationships (not between different profiles/sites, but between friends) and at the fastest growing social-networking site... Twitter.

In terms of online relationships between people, the June 1 issue of BusinessWeek featured the story "Learning, and Profiting, from Online Friendships" that examines the efforts from various companies to figure out how to help connections between consumers lead to increased sales for a brand or product.

These ways can range from targeted ads to friends on a social-networking site to attempting to mine and garner product recommendations between friend networks. Either way, huge potential there and it will be quite the race to see what firms to benefit from friend relationships the most... and quickest.

Taking a different approach, but very much related, was the June 15 Time Magazine cover story on Twitter. Titled "How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live", it's a detailed look at the site/tool/medium/phenomenon that according to a Time graphic, has grown some 1,300% in year over year monthly visitors.

My "related to the BW story" comment about Twitter comes largely from the article description of Twitter users figuring out new ways to use the service... one of the largest being the forwarding of links to their network of friends or followers. This forwarding doesn't of course have to be able a product or service they like, but... it could.

It's fascinating stuff and all revolves around the concept of people using the Internet as a social tool that can accomplish a lot... whether that be simple personal expression, the spreading of causes or pointing their friends in the direction of a good purchase. Definitely a lot there either way you slice it.

My Presidential Man-Crush

Recently I came across a Nancy Gibbs essay from Time Magazine titled "Tickle Me Obama: Lessons from Sesame Street" illustrates for me what I like so much about Barack Obama.

The story makes the point that Obama is the first President young enough to have grown up watching Sesame Street, but also seems to fully embrace the reasoned approach and straight ahead tacking of problems advocated on the show. Really interesting stuff...

Also from Time are a few other pieces on Obama that I think gets at what he brings to the table. Going back a few months are the Joe Klein "In The Arena" commentaries "Obama's Speech: A Tonal Masterpiece" about the budget address and prior to that "Obama's Fresh Start: Substance Over Showbiz".

Two other Time pieces that take a different approach, but also illustrate some of what I like about the guy:

- The June 1 cover story was written (also by the very solid Nancy Gibbs) about Michelle Obama and shows a very nuanced portrait of the First Lady.

- From the June 8 issue, another Joe Klein "In The Arena" essay does perhaps an even better job of showing Obama's value-add in that rather being about something he did, it's about an excellent appointment he made of someone else to do something. "Robert Gates: The Bureaucrat Unbound" is about the current Secretary of Defense and the job he has done... after remaining as a holdover appointee from the Bush Administration. By all appearances, was an excellent pick which happened to run against political convention.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A social-networked online life

I posted a couple of weeks ago to my Facebook page that I was is trying to figure out how to best lead a social-networked online life (between Facebook, LinkedIn, two blogs, Digg and now Shelfari).

The problem with having all these sites/profiles is deciding what to update when and how to have it work together. Well, I think I've got it figured out... at least for now.

Here's my various social network sites/profiles to maintain along with my view of each:

1. Facebook - a very cool tool to keep in touch with people socially
2. LinkedIn - a good tool to keep in touch professionally
3. Blogger writing & hockey blogs - sites I enjoy updating and intend to use as examples of my writing
4. Digg & Shelfari - websites I haven't used (and profiles I haven't maintained) much in the past, but seem to be a good fit for me as their thing (weblinks & books respectively) seems very much in line with what I post to the writing blog.

So... here's what I've done and the (very rough) plan:

Social-network site convergence:
1. Added LinkedIn profile link to my Facebook page
2. Added Facebook & LinkedIn profile links to my writing blog
3. Added manually (utilizing html) Digg & Shelfari profile links (as well as a link to my resume) to my writing blog
- Blog links already on Facebook page and LinkedIn profiles

Social-networking site updating:
1. Updated LinkedIn profile
2. Began copying book reviews from my writing blog to Shelfari profile
3. Thought about going through writing blog and adding webcontent linked to there over to Digg account

Social-networking site plan:
- Gonna keep doing stuff on my blogs because I like it from a creative standpoint
- Gonna keep active on Facebook because I enjoy it socially
- Will almost certainly copy book reviews from my writing blog to Shelfari as I do them
- Not much need be done with LinkedIn
- Plan to keep Digg updated, but may drop it if I find there's not enough of a point...

So... bunch of stuff that may only be interesting to myself, but the point of all this is there's lots of things that can be done online and can get somewhat scattered and/or a bit much. However, I think I've got it pretty dialed in at this point.

Now, if I could only figure out whether I want to add a Twitter account and what would be done with it... ;)

Bryce Harper baseball phenom: SI cover story

Really interesting cover story from the latest Sports Illustrated.

From Senior Writer Tom Verducci, "Baseball's Lebron" is a extremely well written look at a guy that many scouts are viewing as a can't-miss prospect. The subtitle pretty much tells what the story reveals in greater detail:

"His name is Bryce Harper. You don't know him, But every big league scouting director does. He hits the ball a desert mile, clocks 96 on the gun, and he's only 16, more advanced than A-Rod and Junior were at the same age. and his ambition is as great as his talent."

Good stuff.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Fast Company Magazine - June 2009 Issue

Lots of interesting stuff from the June issue of Fast Company Magazine.

The cover story is "The 100 Most Creative People in Business" and I've listed below some of the ones that struck me as particularly interesting (omitting some that I find interesting, but already know about). The Fast Company link on each person has both the write-up from the magazine and further information about said person's activities:

#4: Reed Hastings - CEO of Netflix. Nothing terribly insightful in the piece, but I find Netflix as a company interesting both from the perspectives of what it does and how it manages employees (i.e. trusting them to do right).

#11: Prith Banerjee - Director of HP Labs. Having toured HP Labs in the past, I can vouch that it's a fascinating place where they work on lots of cool stuff.

#16: Dave Morin - Senior Platform Manager at Facebook. I found this to be interesting in that Morin is the responsible for Facebook Connect... an initiative to let users log on to over 8,000 different sites using their Facebook login. Seems to be a much needed and big step forward in allowing people to build and link their social network identities among multiple sites.

#17: Stephen Chau - Product Manager for Google Maps and Google Earth. Interesting in that he works on a really compelling application... particularly when you consider actual photos now being included in Google Maps.

#34: Evan Williams - CEO of Twitter. Easily the most talked about website of the last year.

#37: Shai Reshef - Founder of University of the People offering close to free open-source education.

#41: Maurice Sendak - Writer of the acclaimed children's book "Where the Wild Things Are"... which is being released this fall as an incredibly cool looking feature film.

#46: Jim Jannard - Creator of the new digital movie camera, the Red One. Interesting in it's potential as a disruptive technology... serving the role of current $150,000 cameras at a cost of $17,500 (and already being used by some major directors).

#59: Noah Brier - Head of Strategic Planning at Barbarian Group Advertising. Responsible for a very compelling website called "Brand Tags" at which consumers give their quick impressions of various brands... quite the database of information being compiled.

#78: David Wiley - BYU Professor who (similar to Shai Reshef) is a driver of cheap, open-source education online.

#80: Jane McGonigal - Director of Games at the Institute for the Future. Creator of massive multi-player online games that can have a social impact.

#98: Scott Schuman - Blogger whose website http://www.thesatorialist.com/ has launched his career as a writer and photographer.

Two other things of interest from this Fast Company issue were the letter from the editor with mention of HP Marketing guy David Roman's interview about Shaun White and the story about the web bookmarking site http://www.twine.com/ launched by Nova Spivack (whose grandfather happens to be the late management guru, Peter Drucker).