Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nike "Write the Future" World Cup Video

I had planned on including this video along with a review of the very cool Franklin Foer book "How Soccer Explains the World", but I got so darn inspired by the recent S.L. Price piece on Argentina striker Lionel Messi (reviewed here) that I feel compelled to post the video now.

That said... here's the (insert superlative adjective here) Nike Football (not the U.S. kind) "Write the Future" ad leading up to the South Africa World Cup starting June 11:

Sports Illustrated Features: Andy Ferrara & Lionel Messi

Two very compelling pieces from the May 31 issue of Sports Illustrated.

The first was written by David Epstein about West Point cadet Andy Ferrera.  Titled "Spikes on the Ground", the piece details Ferrara's collegiate track career and forthcoming military service upon graduation. 

He comes across in the Epstein piece as a leader of men (one of only four cadet regimental commanders at West Point), but also someone with a remarkable family background.  Three brothers before him entered the military and he's gone through the heartbreak of having older brother Matthew Ferrera killed in action in Afghanistan Nov of 2007.

It's moving to read of someone who deals with such loss and moves forward with an incredibly difficult path... with Andy Ferrara's statement from Epstein's article being "just because my brother died, doesn't mean I don't have to serve."


The second article from this SI that stood out to me was written by one of my favorite writers, S.L. Price"Lionel Messi: The World At His Feet" is about the F.C. Barcelona and Argentina National Team football (leading into the World Cup next month, I'll use the global name for the sport) star.  Messi the player makes for an interesting subject given his widely noted status as best player in the world, but the context around him makes for some pretty remarkable reading. 

As Price describes Messi... loved in Spain, but viewed with some combination of detachment and demanding expectation in his native Argentina.  Add to that a large personality conflict with his coach/brilliant former player/trainwreck Diego Maradona... there's a lot there of interesting to chew on. 
In the article, a 2007 Messi goal is written of and as the below clip shows, it's pretty amazing:

Monday, May 24, 2010

"The No-Cry Potty Training Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley

Just finished "The No-Cry Potty Training Solution" about... yep, potty training.

It's very different than the other books reviewed here, but I did read it and want to keep track of the highlights so will do so here.

The author, Elizabeth Pantley (website here), also wrote "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" which my wife and I found to be very helpful... and which we heard about either through "The Baby Book" by Dr. William Sears or from a talk on sleep by Dawn Fry (website here).

Anyhoo... here's the highlights I took from the book (not necessarily in the order the book had them)...

Concepts to remember:
- Potty training is only going to work when both the child and parents are ready for it
- Takes 3 to 9 months to complete the process to where there are not accidents
- Will be toilet training setbacks
- Many kids use nighttime diapers for a year or so after daytime potty training
- Potty training is different than anything related to bed wetting... which is a physiological thing that self corrects eventually

Safety suggestions:
- Install child safe covers on outlets
- Teach kids about hot and cold water from faucet
- Store electrical stuff out of reach
- Put all medication elsewhere
- Install ground fault circuit interrupters on outlets

Getting ready suggestions:
- Use cloth training pants rather than pull ups
- If you use pull ups, use ones with a liner that kids can feel moisture on
- If using a child toilet seat (which goes on a regular toilet seat), make sure you've got a light step stool to get up there... as well as any needed stool for hand washing
- Can buy a folding seat adaptor for when on trips
- Give fiber rich food and avoid junk food
- Have available diaper wipes for the first poop wipe... can use toilet paper after that

Process suggestions:
- Go potty in the morning and before bed... as well as 10 to 30 minutes after a full meal
- Can set a timer for potty reminders every two hours
- Fine to sit there for a while, both should and needs to be a relaxing time
- Make sure that hand washing is part of the process
- Best to have as little clothing as possible when learning
- If your child wants to keep pooping in their diaper, have them do so in the bathroom

Enabling suggestions:
- Don't ask, use a positive suggestion like "let's go sit on the potty now"
- Try to make it fun (games, songs, stories, sticker books, posters, prizes)
- Specific examples of this would be a potty prize treasure box with gift wrapped items to open or a song of all the steps involved

So... all in all, I'd say Pantley wrote another really helpful book about a topic that one doesn't think about much unless they have kids at the age in question, then it's a big deal.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Joe Posnanski - A Volumous Portfolio of Words

Good writing, interesting topics... excellent things both to post about, but another facet of writing that's become a big deal with the advent of the whole "New Media" thing is the vehicle used for said writing.

While newspapers, magazines and hard copy books are still very much around, now you've also got traditional media websites, wikis, blogs and twitter that can serve as ways one can communicate via the written word.

I find good writing to be the most interesting thing, but it's cool to see writers that use multiple media to communicate said good writing to their audience.  I'm sure there's others as well, but a good example of this type of solid new media author is Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated.

I say Sports Illustrated because that's where I came across his stuff, but here's what I've seen from Posnanski online...

CNNSI archive:

twitter feed:

personal blog:

Man, that's a lot of (solid) writing for one guy to put online (with a cool example of how at least the twitter feeds lead into online features linked to here). 

Combine that with Posnanski's articles in the print version of Sports Illustrated as well as his books... impressive stuff. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 24 Time Magazine: Roots of Empathy, Personal Branding, Elena Kagan & Lost

A lot of interesting stuff from the May 24 issue of Time (cover image below).

First was "At Center Court: Can Kagan Be a Consensus Builder?"  by Jeffrey Rosen.  What struck me about this profile of Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, was how darn smart she must be.  An academic background of Princeton and Oxford followed by Harvard Law... and then Professor and Dean of the Harvard Law School, she's no dummy.

Second was the the James Poniewozik piece "Preparing for Life After Lost."  Even if I didn't like the show (which I do quite a bit), I'd be interested as I find compelling stuff that falls into the "game changer" category.  As described in this story, Lost fits this bill with the way that it upended popular convention by being a complicated serial drama... and one that then ends on top rather than dragging out past it's prime.

Third was "How to Deprogram Bullies: Teaching Kindness 101."  Very interesting concept here about bringing mothers and babies into school classrooms to help teach a concept labeled Roots of Empathy (ROE).  One of the fundamental notions of the program is that people who victimize others often have been victims themselves... and can get a lot out of watching the frustration of a cute and protection needing infant.

Finally, I noted the Joel Stein last page column "Love Me, Love My Brand, Says the Sultan of Snark™."  It didn't necessarily have much gravitas for me until the part about one's personal brand being important because "if you don't give your brand some thought, you become the guy whose funeral is all about how much he loved the Mets." 

Perhaps this was just intended as a throwaway line, but it resonated with me from the perspective of people considering what they'll be known for.  It's not a knock on sports of course, but rather it's the idea of what one leaves behind for others.

South Africa Story from BusinessWeek

Pretty compelling story from the May 17-23 issue of BusinessWeek.

Written by Ken Walls, "South Africa: A Big Bounce from the World Cup" is all about the largest economy on the continent leading into it's time on the world stage starting June 11.  What struck me about the piece is both how fraught with risk / opportunity the event is for South Africa and the description of the place itself.

In terms of beauty, Walls writes of Cape Town within South Africa as being a city like San Francisco, but with the towers of Yosemite there as well.  The overall concept of the country is also terribly interesting in that you have a place that used to be something completely different during the times of apartheid, but is now finding it's way with two different races figuring out how to make it all work as a country.

Really the place sounds amazing to me and makes me think of the descriptions of it (both the land and the apartheid-era conflict) from the excellent Bryce Courtenay (author website here) books "The Power of One" and "Tandia"


A couple of other short pieces of interest to me from an older issue (Apr 26-May 2) of BW...

- "New Legal Protections for Social Entrepreneurs" is about how states are beginning to allow public corporations the choice to register as "benefit corporations"... granting them a level of exception from the public company mandate of all actions needing to be solely towards the goal of shareholder value.  Very interesting concept that seems to make sense both from allowing people to decide how to run operations and investors to opt in or out of that.

- "Innovator: Fred Brooks" is about the 79-year-old computer scientist and technology executive and his new book "The Design of Design"... sounds like a good read.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sports Illustrated Stories - Dallas Braden Perfect Game & Genes Impacting Sports

Two different pieces from the May 17 issue of Sports Illustrated that stood out to me... neither for what I thought was necessarily great writing, but both with very interesting content.

The cover story was "Happy Mother's Day" about the 19th Perfect Game in Major League history... thrown by Dallas Braden.  Written by Tom Verducci, the story chronicles the trials and tribulations that Braden has been through and how they led up to his masterpiece performance.  Such a great narrative around the performance with it being on Mother's Day / Breast Cancer Awareness Day and in front of his grandmother who raised him after his single mom passed away from cancer.

Below is the clip from Comcast Sports Net Bay Area:


From the same May 17 issue was "Sports Genes" by David Epstein about how genetic markers can and do influence athletic performance.  What was terribly interesting about this piece to me wasn't so much from the perspective of what's known now about genes and their impact on sports, but what the future holds.  With performance enhancing drugs or the possibility of their use being so prevalent in many sports, gene therapy takes the idea of artificial enhancement to a new level. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oil Spill Cover Story from Time

Interesting cover story from the May 17 issue of Time Magazine.

Titled "The Far-Ranging Costs of the Mess in the Gulf", the piece by Bryan Walsh examines the recent oil spill resulting from an explosion on and subsequent sinking of an offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Walsh paints a pretty fascinating picture on a number of different fronts.  First was the loss of 11 lives in the rig explosion and now environmental and economic impact from the resulting oil gushing from burst pipes to the ocean surface.  Then you had both the response of the responsible for the mess oil giant BP and the Coast Guard... acting on direction from the White House and other governmental agencies.

From the perspective of BP, it's interesting to read how their primary plan is to do something that's never really been done in basically putting a big cap over the spill.  From a policy perspective, the spill has already been used by various agenda carrying parties as reasons "offshore drilling is bad", "the administration is bad" and even better... "offshore drilling is good, as long as it's not off my particular shore."

In addition to detailing the event and ramifications of it, Walsh also includes in his story recommendations around energy policy and open discussion of what he terms the "ok, but not in my backyard" approach to unpleasant (and potentially devastating as this example shows) things such as offshore drilling.


Also from this issue of Time was the interesting last page piece "How a Cancer-Stricken Dad Chose a Council of Successors" by Nancy Gibbs.  About author Bruce Feiler (known for his book "Walking the Bible"), the story details Feiler's response to a rare and aggressive cancer diagnosis.  Rather than retreating, he reaches out to those he respects with the idea of them agreeing to serve as father figures for his twin toddler girls.

It's a slightly different approach, but makes me think of that taken by Randy Pausch with his book "The Last Lecture" (reviewed here).  Both meaningful actions taken with others in mind.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Gareth Thomas Profile from Sports Illustrated

Really powerful feature story from the May 3 issue of Sports Illustrated.

From Senior writer Gary Smith, "Gareth Thomas: The Only Openly Gay Male Athlete" tells a story that is statistically almost impossible to believe.  Of all the competitors in all the professional sporting leagues around the world, only one has openly come out. 

Knowing that there must be many more gay pro athletes, it seems that it would be an enormous inspiration should others step forward as Thomas has.  The story by Smith at times leans a bit towards melodrama, but is written in a style to captivate and certainly covers an important topic.


Also from Sports Illustrated, but this time from the May 10 issue, was a memoriam piece on longtime SI writer Ron Fimrite.  Interesting stuff about someone who sounds to also be quite the lyrical writer... with a "makes me want to read" description about his 1983 piece about "The Play" from Cal vs Stanford titled "The Anatomy Of A Miracle".

"The Big Short" by Michael Lewis

Recently finished "The Big Short" by Berkeley-based author Michael Lewis and felt it was an excellent read.

I was interested in this book after previously reading by Lewis "The Blind Side" (yep, that one), "Moneyball", "The New New Thing" and "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood". Good books all with the most recent review linked to here.

"The Big Short" is ostensibly about a handful of people that got rich betting against the financial hubris that preceded the real estate crash at the end of the '90s, but it's also about the mechanisms that made them wealthy.

Lewis writes about a highly complex financial system that's designed to be... highly complex and "above the common man", but does I'd say as good a job as could be done explain all the instruments of the financial industry around subprime mortgages.

Mortgage backed securities, Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), credit default swaps... all of them tools that were created to either continue riding the wave of rising home values or to bet against that prospect. Where the individuals Lewis features made their money was by basically betting that consumer home loans would have higher incidences of default than predicted by those selling the CDOs and credit default swaps.

The way it all worked as described by Lewis was pretty fascinating in that you had rating agencies like Moody's and Standard and Poor's responsible for setting the values of the credit default swaps on pretty much arbitrary or made up terms. Even worse than the ratings agencies were the financial institutions packaging the loan bunches and continually manipulating the contents to make the loan pools appear less likely to have defaults than they actually were.

The whole thing is described by Lewis as being a crazy system designed by people who figured it would go up forever. However, it didn't and the few contrarians who (to borrow a phrase) "saw the emperor had no clothes" got very wealthy very fast.

All in all, the Lewis book is entertaining and as easy reading as possibly could be given the high finance topic.

Highly recommended...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

100 Most Influential People List from Time

Interesting stuff written about some really interesting people in the Time Magazine "100 Most Influential People in the World" list for 2010... as featured in the May 10 issue.

Linked to below aren't the ones that stood out to me as most influential (note the omission of President Barack Obama), but rather the ones whose story struck me as particularly interesting and/or entertaining.

- President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil profiled by filmmaker Michael Moore. Incredible to me that Brazil will be making the dual splash (hopefully positive) of hosting first the 2014 World Cup and then 2016 Summer Olympics.

- Admiral Mike Mullen Chairman Joint Chiefs profiled by Joe Klein. An important guy that I recently posted about being on the cover of Fast Company.

Performing artist Lady Gaga by Cyndi Lauper. As is written about in great detail in this Esquire piece, someone in the mold of Madonna at the height of her fame who's been able to transcend performance and package themselves as the product.

Actor Neil Patrick Harris by fanboy darling Joss Whedon. A seemingly super cool guy (based on this Joel Klein piece from Time).

Singer/songwriter Prince by not even near Prince's level singer/songwriter Usher. Another artist like Lady Gaga who made themselves a persona. Additionally... the genius behind the song Purple Rain.

Surgeon, writer and policy advisor Atul Gawande by Tom Daschle. The author of three insightful books... last of which I reviewed here.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs by artist Jeff Koons. Piece contains an interesting comparison of consumer product and art.

Pandora founder Tim Westergren by novelist Kurt Andersen. A missive by an excellent writer about a guy who created just an excellent service.
Ivory Coast soccer star Didier Drogba by Eben Harrell. Can't wait for the World Cup to begin next month...

US Military Chief Master Sergeant Tony Travis by Sully Sullenberger. A guy called into post-earthquake Haiti that took control of the wreckage that was the airport and immediately got aid flowing in.


There was certainly some great and influential people from this issue I didn't include above (and I'm sure are also great and influential people that Time left off the list), but this was quite a cross-section of interesting folk that in many cases had very compelling stuff written about them.