Sunday, February 28, 2010

BusinessWeek Story on AT&T Problems

Pretty interesting cover story on AT&T in the in the Feb 15 issue of BusinessWeek.

The story is titled "AT&T's iPhone Mess" and stood out to me as it's got multiple angles worth reading about, with one leading to another.

First, I'm a huge fan of the iPhone and am usually interested in reading about the device itself and ramifications of it... in this case, to basically swamp the AT&T data network that provides net access for the $30/month that most iPhone users pay.

Second comes the interesting question of how companies reach for short term profits vs long term investments... with the apparent answer in this case being this one large company metaphorically squeezing the lemon and neglecting needed network investments.

Lastly, what AT&T has created is a situation ripe for the forces of Social Media. If people feel that they're being shafted by a company, there's so many avenues to communicate disgust to the masses.... and communicate disgust people have, in forums ranging from blogs to Facebook and even the simplest not even media form of Social Media, word of mouth.


From the same BW issue came another piece tied to Apple... only this one even more so. "An iPad in Your Pad? It's Up to the Apps" is a short commentary about the content that should be available on the iPad, and how important the availability of worthwhile content is to the future success of the hardware.

Personally, me thinks the content will be stellar (maybe not at first, but not far in the future) and I think the device will be, for lack of a better word, rad.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Politics Frozen Cover Story from Time

A few interesting pieces in the Mar 1 issue of Time Magazine... highlighted by "Why Washington Is Tied Up in Knots" by Peter Beinart.

Prior to reading this cover story, I saw the David Von Drehle article "Why the Tea Party Movement Matters"... and the order in which I read them led to some interesting thoughts (you know, for myself).

Von Drehle writes of how this loosely organized political movement is gaining traction with people frustrated with government and feeling there has to be a better. Contained within this group of people are those ranging from former Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo and his "Barack Hussein!!! Obama" references to much more measured non-wack job types.

From this, I found myself wondering a bit as to why exactly it's been so difficult for Obama to gain traction (not with The Crazies types, but with people who have legitimate frustration as to why it's hard for Washington to get stuff done)... and this is where the Beinart piece comes in.

It's a fascinating look at how difficult it is to get anything accomplished in a two party environment where one party contains the power (the Democrats right now) and the other party (the Republicans) is intent on blocking anything not proposed by themselves. This blocking is achieved through the tactic of a filibuster and Beinart writes that "in 2009, Senate Republicans filibustered a stunning 80% of major legislation... and GOP leader Mitch McConnell led a filibuster of a deficit-reduction commission that he himself had demanded."

Beinart closes his well written piece with his recommendations for what may help get past this political gridlock situation. Less caucuses... open primaries, a larger number of talk shows and blogs that consider both Democratic and Republican viewpoints and another legitimate 3rd party candidate (ala Ross Perot)... all things that seem like they would be a benefit.

All in way, Beinart gives some compelling writing... which may well repeat itself in much longer form in the June 2010 release of his book "The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris."


Way way unrelated to the topic in these two articles above, the product review "Shout Hallelujah, Come On, Get Appy" is some more interesting content from this issue of Time. All about the Windows Phone 7 Operating System from Microsoft... it makes me very curious to see (after a Christmas 2010 release) phones with this OS.

They may not be quite as great as the iPhone, but new handsets with this WP7 may also have access to a better wireless network than AT&T is now providing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sports Illustrated Pieces - Brian Burke & Defense in Baseball

Two different stories that I really liked from this week's Sports Illustrated.

The more impactful was "Man Of His Word" about Team USA Men's Hockey GM Brian Burke. Written by Michael Farber, the piece was about how Burke has dealt with the passing of his son Brendan at 21 years of age. Very powerful piece that gets into the support that the elder Burke showed after Brendan came out publicly as a homosexual only a few months ago. Now after Brendan's death, Brian Burke pledges to use his name to help fight for gay rights... great stuff.


On a very different note... "Feel The Glove" was by Albert Chen and a story to get one excited for the upcoming baseball season. All about how defense is the "new on-base percentage" as trumpeted in the Michael Lewis book "Moneyball", the Seattle Mariners are featured as a team built around preventing runs in the field. Can't wait for baseball.

Monday, February 22, 2010

" Planet Google" by Randall Stross

I've had the book out from the library for a while and finally got around to reading "Planet Google" by San Jose State Professor and New York Times Digital Domain columnist Randall Stross.

I was initially interested in the title after reading "What Would Google Do?" By Jeff Jarvis (which I reviewed here) and while I liked the Jarvis book more, Stross did provide good insight into one of the more interesting companies out there.

Below are the chapters of the book along with some of the topics covered in each:

Introduction - Google's stated goal of "organizing the world's information."

Chapter 1 - Open and Closed... about how Google in some areas really is "open" and not so much in others. Interesting comparison to rival Facebook on the "Open vs. Closed" question.

Chapter 2 - Unlimited Capacity... lots of data centers out there.

Chapter 3 - The Algorithm... concept of the "brains" behind Google and PageRank being done by computers.

Chapter 4 - Moon Shot... a look at Google Book Search... seems to fit very well as a venture within the overall goal of the company.

Chapter 5 - GooTube... about Google's efforts around video and subsequent purchase of YouTube. Relates to two larger questions addressed in the book of how "open" Google is and how tightly aligned with corporate objectives are all it's efforts... with YouTube perhaps being more outside the bounds than something like Google Book Search.

Chapter 6 - Small World, After All... Google Maps, Google Earth, mashups. Cool areas that certainly seem in line with the organization of information.

Chapter 7 - A Personal Matter... about privacy and ads in Gmail being targeted as a result of text from user emails.

Chapter 8 - Algorithm, Meet Humanity... looks at the initial concept of computers making search results based on PageRank, and whether there's a different or better way.

Conclusion - contains mention of how Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt control 40% of the stock voting power. That plus the fact the ad dollars have been there has enabled the founders and CEO take the company where they want it to go and avoid the problem of short term growth needs hindering long term initiatives.

Overall... pretty good book if you're curious about Google.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sports Ilustrated Pieces: Olympic Spirit & Bob Costas/Al Michaels

Two different stories that struck me from the Feb 22 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Starting off in this first SI issue since the Vancouver Olympics began was the Tim Layden piece "The Spirit Is Back" with an overview of the Games thus far. Really, though, it was Layden's first section about (for lack of a better phrase) the Olympic Spirit that got me good. I'm quite the sap for genuine Olympic human interest stuff.

The second story (and the one of the two which I really liked in it's totality) was "It's Not As Easy As It Looks" by Joe Posnanski (who I recently posted about as the frequent writer of his voluminous "Joe Blog"). This SI article is about the Olympic co-hosts Bob Costas and Al Michaels and is a really good look at two guys doing what they love and always wanted to do, but doing it in different ways. Posnanski writes of the hard work and study that Michaels brings and the different approach that Costas brings of sheer brilliance with language on the air.

Regardless of how they go about the job, Costas and Michaels are titans of Sports Broadcasting and it's impressive to me to think of how well (and for how long) they practice their craft.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Roger Ebert Profile from Esquire

Great piece on Roger Ebert in the March 2010 issue of Esquire.

From the frequently linked to in this blog Esquire writer Chris Jones, "Roger Ebert: The Essential Man" is an in-depth look at the film critic.

What comes out in the piece is the health battles that Ebert has gone through and how that's impacted and guided his life and work.

I'm always interested in the idea of a writer who also does a large amount of blogging and Ebert's blog definitely puts him in this category (with another writing resident being Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski who publishes his "Joe Blog").

To the mention of Ebert's blog, Esquire included online a link to his blog post about Jones writing the profile. Not often that you get to read both a deeply personal story about someone and then the subject's thoughts about that story.


Also of interest to me from this March 2010 Esquire issue was the extremely short Scott Raab piece "How to Teach Your Kid About Money" and a reference to the W.C. Heinz book "The Professional".

I don't find the Raab piece online so I'll just list out here some of the concepts I liked from it:
- Even at a young age, your kids should learn about money... and a $100 bill from the Tooth Fairy can help accomplish that.
- An allowance says your kids work for you... they don't, they're part of the family.


The W.C. Heinz book reference was of interest as Heinz was written about shortly after his death by the aforementioned Chris Jones... with his story "Death of a Racehorse" noted as an example of great writing.

As I looked online a bit for Heinz and his work, I found he also had a few different pieces included in "The Best American Sports Writing of the Century". Pretty good company there for Heinz...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kennedy Writing from Esquire

Really enjoyed the cover story from the Feb 2010 issue of Esquire Magazine.

This was Esquire's annual "Meaning of Life" issue with many different short pieces of (mostly) public figures giving their views of what things matter. For this particular iteration of the series, Esquire chose to have a large piece with various quotes and thoughts from Ted, JFK and Bobby Kennedy.

The piece is titled "The Kennedys: What I've Learned" and truth be told, would be a bit of a slog to get through online with it being done as a 78 page slideshow. I did find, though, linked on the Esquire site the excellent one-page "Ted Kennedy: What I've Learned" from 2003.

These pieces combined with the Sept '09 Ted Kennedy pieces from Time Magazine that I linked to in this blog made me interested in Kennedy... and in (eventually) reading his book "True Compass".

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jobs in Writing Books

It really wouldn't be accurate to say that I've read them all the way through, but I skimmed the interesting (to me) parts of two different books on the same topic... jobs in writing.

The first was "Opportunities in Writing Careers" by Elizabeth Foote-Smith and second "Careers in Writing" by Blythe Camenson.

I felt Camenson's book had more interesting content, but my thoughts out of reading each was the largest take away for me. So... first with the specific stuff and second with the thoughts:

Specific Content

Technical Writing - defined as any form of business communication that's not advertising. Takes the field out of the realm of technical manuals to the larger area of words which make up ideas.

Places to Work:
- Marketing agencies (with the smaller ones typically offering the chance to work on a wider variety of stuff)
- Corporate advertising or marketing departments
- Freelance writing

Resources for Information:
- Society for Technical Communication
- Documentation Strategies, Inc.
- Essential Data Corporation

Take Away Thoughts

Areas that could be written about:
- Business of sports
- Sports
- Building a career (in and outside of the corporate world)
- Education
- Social Media

Things that could be done:
- Volunteering
- Education… certificate programs in Technical Writing or Entrepreneurial Journalism
- Writing and more writing... perhaps a work history

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


I've only posted once previously about a movie I've seen (that being this post about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), but "Avatar" was compelling enough to me to warrant mention.

What was so interesting to me was both the story and the technology... both of which brought to mind other great films.

From a story perspective, the same "epic tale of life" that I liked so much in "Titanic" (of course also directed by James Cameron) and the aforementioned "Benjamin Button" were both here, but really... "Dances with Wolves" is the movie I most thought of based on the plot.

On story alone I would have found it a solid movie, but what really took into into a higher category for me was the technology (and I highly recommend watching it in 3D). It was amazing on the screen... and also fascinating to view the movie in the context of it being likely the first in a long line of current 3D technology live-action films.

Based on this front of the curve usage of technology and coupled with the great story, the comparison film that probably most comes to mind for me is "Star Wars."

Quite a comparison, but "Avatar" to me was quite the movie.


Postscript: Ok, after thinking about it further and being a few days removed from the amazing 3D effects, I feel now the story probably wasn't the greatest in the world (and certainly not up to "Star Wars" story territory), but the technology made this a great film to me.

To that point... interesting BusinessWeek cover story on James Cameron a few weeks ago.

Titled "King of the World (Again)" the piece details how even after the huge success of Titanic, the director had to win over sceptical studio executives when he expressed desire to make the most expensive movie ever filmed. In fact, he had to put his own money in to help develop the cameras used during shooting... which should pay off nicely for him with other directors interested in that technology for their own 3D films.

Monday, February 08, 2010

"Last Words" by George Carlin

Finished reading "Last Words" by George Carlin and found it to be fairly interesting.

Reminded me of Steve Martin's autobiography (which I reviewed here) for a few different reasons. The obvious one would be them both being stand-up comedians, but beyond that, they both knew what they wanted to do from an early age and went through periods of pretty big internal struggle around their careers. Another connection between the two is Carlin's mention of his respect for both the work of Martin and the apparent niceness of the guy himself during their sporadic interactions.

What I really liked about Carlin's book (and I guess the guy by extension) was his focus on and fascination with the power of words (as evidence, he titled one of the chapters "I do love words". What they are, what they mean... all of this fodder for examination given the weight they can hold in the world.


Two other things from the book...

- I liked his concept of children... basically "leave them alone, they're going to be alright, they're smarter than you are."

- I found interesting his time spent on the children's shows "Shining Time Station" and "Thomas the Tank Engine", both with Britt Allcroft.

After reading his book, I now find myself wanting to see one of Carlin's HBO Specials. In particular, "Jammin' in New York" sounded to be his favorite.

Sidney Crosby Profile by S.L. Price for Sports Illustrated

Great piece on Sidney Crosby in the Vancouver Winter Olympics Sports Illustrated Preview Issue.

Titled "Destiny's Child", it's written by one of my favorite SI writers, S.L. Price, and is an in-depth look at the 22 year old Captain of the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins... and now major piece of the Canadian Olympic Hockey Team's hopes for Gold.

Through Price's story a view of Crosby emerges that is consistent with other truly great athletes... that of someone born with exceptional potential who then works harder than anyone else to maximize that. This concept coupled with a recent Michael Farber SI story about Crosby stepping up his goal-scoring for the Pens by necessity really heightened the respect I've got for the guy.

The other thing that struck me about the Price story, though, was just how important winning Gold in the upcoming Olympics is to Canada. Granted, I'll be rooting for the U.S. (even though I think their shot at winning is slim to none), but unless lightening doesn't strike in the form of Gold for America, I really hope Canada does in fact beat the Russians and take the tournament.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Best Time Magazine Writing: Parenting & Family

Over the last few months, I've done multiple blog posts aggregating some of the best magazine stories I've linked to... including my favorite writing from Esquire & Sports Illustrated, BusinessWeek & Fast Company, and Time Magazine... specifically around the topics of Politics & the Economy. In addition, I've linked to a Sports Illustrated piece on their picks for Best SI Writing.


With all this, though, there's another category of great writing that I wanted to aggregate in a post... that of writing around family. It's not by design, but all of the best magazine writing I've come across in this area of family has been from Time.

Included in this category were pieces from two of my favorite Time writers. As a cover story, David Von Drehle wrote "The Myth About Boys"... a really interesting piece that basically says "the kids are alright." Additionally, Nancy Gibbs penned a short back page piece titled "Listen to the Kids" about children, tradition and establishing family traditions.

Also in this Family Writing area was an essay by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the bestseller "Eat, Pray, Love") and a book excerpt from Karl Taro Greenfeld.

The Gilbert piece is titled "A Family Divided by Obama and McCain" and about her reconciliation of differing political beliefs from her father. A compelling read not so much about politics, but rather about this idea of close family members who don't agree on everything.

From Greenfeld is "Growing Old with Autism"... an excerpt from his book "Boy Alone: a Brother's Memoir". All about the struggles associated with his adult brother's autism, it makes one think of the circumstances that some are dealt and also how that impacts their loved ones.

Just great writing all...

Tags Used Within Blog

I've been putting in labels on blog posts since I started this blog, but only in the last month or so have I realized the value of them and ability (now acted upon) to show them via a widget on the blog itself.

So, to the right of the actual posts, below the subscribe to buttons and above the archive list is...

Labels / Tags / Source Linked / Authors / Companies / Point of Post

Pretty self-explanatory, but the way it works is I've selected to appear on this label list what is now around 30 of the 900 some odd labels I've used within the blog. The criteria is based heavily on # of posts done with each label (the label of Sports Illustrated is chosen over say... McDonald's), but also keys in on authors I really like, but may not have posted about a lot... Austin Murphy as an example).

Usage of the actual labels is of course you click on one noted in this list and all the posts with said said will list out. Simple, yet a nice way to find stuff around a topic or category.


To the topic or category I've chosen to highlight (again, 30 or so at this point and likely to expand over time)...

1. Book review - you know... a book that I've reviewed after reading.

2. Where was the story I'm linking to from - typically a magazine. Reflects as a tag of the publication or website (but, mostly publication at this point) name.

3. Who was the author of the book (if I'm reviewing it) or story (if I'm linking to it).

4. What's the company being posted about - again, not every company I mention or link to a piece on, but the ones of greatest interest (which relates closely to most frequently posted on).

5. Blogging - similar to "book review" in that it's a label that I use to note what the post is about... in this case, it's about the process involved in the writing of this blog.

6. Best writing - links to pieces or books I really liked... often posts that I did pulling together said favorite pieces.

7. Websites of interest - post containing links to websites of note... stuff I want to check out further.

8. Business topics - posts around categories of business I find interesting.


This list of tags I highlight in the aforementioned tag cloud is very much a work in process (in part because I'm still working on tagging all the stories containing "best writing", "websites of interest" and "business topics"), but it leads to a pretty cool organization of the blog output.

Ahh... the blog output. I do enjoy when I read great stuff that I want to write about and just as much enjoy creating content of value... you know, at least value to myself.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hockey Playing Lamoureux Family SI Piece

Great story in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated from Senior Writer Gary Smith.

Titled "House Of Hockey", it chronicles the lives of the Lamoureux family of Grand Forks, N.D. and their six hockey-playing kids. Interesting story on a lot of different levels...

First and foremost is that these six kids aren't simply average hockey players. Offspring in the family plays or has played: top-level US college division one (two of the kids, including one who has been a NCAA Player of the Year candidate), Canadian college hockey, US Junior hockey and... oh yeah, Olympic hockey via the twin sisters who will play in Vancouver.

This by itself would make for an interesting story, but there's a lot more to the piece... ranging from the backyard pond that everyone skated on growing up (gotta build me one of those backyard rinks some day) to the battles with depression faced by one of the sons, Jacques.

I would have liked to know more about his struggle, but can't help but be impressed by someone who went through so much and still reached his current point as one of the best players in US College Hockey while playing for Air Force.

Good stuff and a compelling read for any hockey fan.