Archive for January, 2009

Finished Sparks. On To Fiction.

January 28th, 2009

Onto book #5.  I don’t have much to say about Sparks.  It was a decent book, common sense really.  Don’t stifle your kid’s creativity, take an active interest in what is going on in their lives.  Some real practical information, and a much needed refresher course.

On to some Fiction.  I’m starting the somewhat heavy The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.

Authors, Books, Markus Zusak, Peter Benson, Sparks, The Book Thief

Starting Book #4 – Sparks

January 20th, 2009

I enjoyed Good To Great. Until about halfway through. Then, honestly, I struggled. I rated the book as a 5. I don’t rate how good the book is, I rate how much I enjoyed reading it. I’m not egocentric enough to think that if I didn’t enjoy something then it must not be good. About 3 million people will tell you Good To Great is a great business book. And it was. But I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as say, Outliers, or The Last Lecture.

But it’s finished and I can move on.

I’m moving on to Sparks – How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers. I’m a parent of 3, with one on the way, and I’m entering the world of raising a teenager so something like this is timely and hopefully will give me a better picture of how….well…., of how to not suck at parenting.

Authors, Books, Good To Great, Jim Collins, Peter Benson, Sparks

Good To Great Still Great

January 16th, 2009

Quick update. Still into Good To Great and ahead of schedule for the month of January. Thinking of reading some fiction after this and give myself a little break from business books for a week. If you have any fiction recommendations, be sure to let me know!

  1. The Book Thief
  2. Breaking Her Fall
  3. The Book of Dahlia

Authors, Books, Good To Great, Jim Collins

Boring Book, Good To Great, and Learning MySQL. Continuing Week #2.

January 11th, 2009

So I ran into a bit of a problem with a couple days left on my vacation. I was able to read The Last Lecture in a couple days so I started John Hodgman’s More Information Than You Require. But within the first 5 pages I realized the book was a lemon. So I stopped reading. And it was difficult. I literally went through withdrawals the last couple days in Mexico. There are a couple books waiting for me at my office, but I got home on Saturday and won’t be in the office until Monday so I started reading Good To Great and I’m glad I did. It’s an enjoyable read and because I was able to get through the relatively short The Last Lecture, I’m still very much ahead of schedule with book #3 just 11 days into 2009.

As luck would have it, I had my PHP & MySQL book with me for reference and I took full advantage of it. I’ve struggled with PHP & MySQL and have often thought that I’m just not cut out to be good at either one. I realized that I’ve always tried to tackle PHP & MySQL at the same time. So I decided to just try my hand at MySQL, and spent all of the 5 hour return flight working with MySQL. And largely because of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, I’m convinced that there generally aren’t “born naturals” and that everyone can be good at whatever they want. And about 2 hours into it I really started to enjoy myself. I’ll never have 10,000 hours under my belt, but one of many side effects of this little goal is that I’m learning other little things besides reading speed and comprehension.

So I’ve decided to shut down Bento, and create my own MySQL database that tracks this resolution. This will enable me, through PHP, to display my reading data however I want, wherever I want, and give me a reason to continue learning MySQL. To make sure I’m learning from the ground-up, I’m determined to interact with this new MySQL database solely through Terminal, rather than Navicat or PHPMyAdmin. This is something that doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m sure, someday will. Being a MySQL n00b is totally a blast.

Creating a basic MySQL table and records through Terminal:

After a couple days of working with a local MySQL database, logging into a remote MySQL server through SSH and creating a database through a command line was, I’m hesitant to admit, thoroughly thrilling.

So, long story short, I’ve started reading Good To Great, and I’m ahead of schedule. I’ve had 4 or 5 business books to read in the last month, so I’m thinking of tackling the history text that is, at this moment, sitting on my desk at work.

Authors, Books, Good To Great, Jim Collins, Side Effects

The Takeaway of The Last Lecture – Early Book 2 Completion

January 9th, 2009

This book is a no-brainer. It’s been an internet phenomenon but I have to admit that I have not seen the video. I am purposely waiting until I finish the book. The first time I was turned on to it by Zach Holmquist, my good friend and Twitter muse.

Chapter 23 talks about managing your time. And throughout the book Randy says things that make me feel less self-conscious about things in my life. My quirks, actually. Such as the idea that a single car wreck doesn’t automatically necessitate a call to an insurance company. Just because there is a dent it doesn’t mean it’s broken. This makes me feel better about not making a big deal about smacking my car into a parking garage pole last month.

I like also that talks sincerely and without romanticizing his marriage. They have problems, they work them out, and they move on. I don’t do it justice, but he is very frank about everything, not just his terminal cancer.

Chapter 23, after several chapters of anecdotes with thought-provoking endings, Randy gives us a full chapter on an area of his expertise.

  • Time must be explicitly managed, like money

Here is where I introduce a little cognitive dissonance. I don’t like having a full plate of things to do. I like it at the end of the day when I’ve worked a full, productive day. Not just at work, albeit the most important, but also at home, on the phone, and with friends. But at the same time I don’t like waking up and having a full schedule ahead of me. So while I like to remain busy and active, I like it less when it is planned out for me, an obligation. Spontaneity is the scheduling philosophy of choice. This is not just a quirk, it’s a problem. And it will be addressed by “being ok with obligation”.

  • You can always change your plans, but only if you have one.

Just like Pausch, I love ToDo lists. I get great satisfaction out of checking off those little boxes, it being a visual representation of completion and progress. My problem is finding the right medium for those todo lists. There are literally hundreds of software applications you can buy to help with with this, but I have yet to find one that works with both my personal and professional life, or even one of those individually.

  • Ask yourself: Are you spending time on the right things?

The secret here is to realize that this isn’t asking “Are you spending enough time on the right things for you?” With a wife and family, what the right thing is, may not always be the right thing for yourself, but it is the right thing for your family. But on second glance, It’s a loop right? Whatever is good for your family will then inherently be important to you (or should be). The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will stop wasting your time on things that don’t benefit your family. When your family is “cruising” and well off (or sleeping), then why not, go ahead and play that video game for an hour (or read that book, if it’s ok with Mrs. Better Half).

  • Develop a good filing system

This is not a core competency for my family. Our filing system is more of in the idea phase (perpetual idea phase). Our basement is getting finished which means we are adding 3 new rooms and an office. We have a giant filing cabinet waiting and excited to be placed it’s in corner and to be used a lot.

  • Rethink the telephone

Not a problem for me. I rethought the telephone years ago, while being hunted by collection agencies in my early twenties. I learned quickly that answering the phone was, simply, a bad idea. Then caller id came along and became widespread. So instead of just ignoring the telephone altogether, I was able to selectively filter the calls. I still don’t answer our home’s phone, despite the caller id. I have my own cell phone, so if it’s for me I figure they will try to reach me directly. My wife also has a cell phone, as does my 12 y/o. So basically, if they are calling our home number it is for my 3 or 4 y/o or a marketer, and thus it is completely ignored.

This book is golden, and it’s a fast read too. Reading time totaled about 4 hours. I had a nice finish, too, while sitting on the patio overlooking the Caribbean.

Randy Pausch’s page at Carnegie Mellon
The Last Lecture on iTunes

Authors, Books, Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Week 1 Check! Done.

January 8th, 2009

I finished Born Digital yesterday on the bus on my way to the Mayan ruins at Chichen-itza. Nice ruins, great book. Total time to read, 8 hours 45 minutes. So I reached down into my backpack and grabbed my next book, called The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. Anyone who is familiar with the internet is also familiar with Randy Pausch’s story. It was an internet phenomenon that was turned into a 200pg book and quickly climbed the NYT Bestseller list. It will be a quick read. I usually post more, but I have been out of the country on vacation. I’ll try to post again soon!

This is “The Last Lecture” that the book builds upon and has well over 8 million views on YouTube.

Author Video, Authors, Books, Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture ,

Digital Overload or “Technostress”- Chapter 8

January 5th, 2009

I’ve been thinking about this topic quite a lot lately. Blogs, podcasts, videos, RSS feeds, Tumblrs, Flickr, Facebook…. The list goes on and on. There is more information to ingest than ever before, and for me there has never been a more inopportune time than now to face this tidal wave of information.

In 2007 alone, 1,288 X 10(to the eighteenth power) bits, or 161 Billion Gigabytes, of digital content were created, stored, and replicated around the world. In lay terms, that’s 3 million times the amount of information in all the books ever written.

That is a lot data and that is just in one year. So how do you manage all that data? You don’t. You only manage the data that you need to, and choosing what that is, well that’s the tricky part isn’t it?

At one point I had 17 different domains live on the web. Not all of them were cared for on a daily basis, or weekly basis for that matter, but they were out there. Then things got hectic, I decided to start reading more, and a downsize occurred. I went from these 17 domains, all with topics ranging from Leica cameras to Apple computers to poetry, to 3 domains. You are reading one of them, and the other two are about photography and baseball, two of my favorite things. Now each of these sites gets a third of my attention, instead of each of my sites getting 1/17 of my attention. And I’m already seeing returns by focusing my energy on a select group of blogs with very specific topics. This site has only been live for 5 days and it already has had more visitors than 13 of my old sites combined for the month of December.

I used to worry about not keeping up with my news feeds. Now, on an almost weekly basis I select “mark all as read”, because I can’t catch everything, and sometimes you need to clear the stacks of “newspapers on your driveway”, and just focus on what is happening TODAY.

Speaking of keeping up, everything is on track for a successful book #1 during this first week of January. Thanks for everyone’s comments and encouraging words.

Authors, Books, Born Digital, John Palfrey & Urs Gasser , , ,

Digital Identity

January 2nd, 2009

I’m a little worried about Born Digital. The first chapter was rather dull and out-of-touch. I completed Thursday’s flag in about an hour (45 pgs). There were a few subtle comments that made me think that these two guys spent a lot of time doing research that wasn’t followed-up on. If you are doing research about photo sharing in 2006 then you may miss what is happening with Flickr. They mention photobucket as the new player in photo sharing and only mention Flickr in passing later in the chapter. Also, the phrase “sixteen year-old girl” is used non-stop for every example they give. I get the feeling that they are trying to clue-in a 50 yr-old man into what is happening online with “those crazy kids”.

The first chapter is about identity. The second chapter is about a person’s digital dossier, which is basically a pan-out of digital identity, with identity being a sub-set of a person’s dossier. Because your dossier is more broad in scope there weren’t as many “errors” in what they view as the most recent trends. They do mention, to their credit, that as soon as their book went to press it would most likely be a little out of date.

What last nights reading did do, is make me take a look at how exposed I am with my different domains. There are a couple out there that I’m having second thoughts about. Also, it made me think about past actions on other’s blog posts, forum posts, and other areas where I voluntarily submit information that may not necessarily belong online. More crucial was how it made me take inventory on my 12-yr-old and what her actions are online. She has a laptop, and is a little social butterfly. This will undoubtedly carry over to her online identity as she gets older. It’s going to get tricky.

Authors, Book Thoughts, Books, Born Digital, John Palfrey & Urs Gasser

Divide & Conquer – Book 1 “Born Digital”

January 1st, 2009

A little daunting. Just a little. I was up until 3am finishing up my “warmup” book. All told I read 108 pgs yesterday while still trying to get work in and celebrating with friends. I was beat by the time I finished.

Now I’m starting “Born Digital”, and this morning when I woke up I wondered when I would have the time to read, how far I could get, and if I could finish this by next Thursday. So I decided to break the week into page chunks. 45 pgs/day doesn’t seem so bad. So I ran to Office Depot and bought these little “flags”, divided the book into 7 roughly equal parts, glanced at what I had done, and released a sigh of relief. This doesn’t look to hard…(I say to myself).

Born Digital – Understanding The First Generation of Digital Natives.

Based on extensive original research, including interviews with Digital Natives around the world, Born Digital explores a broad range of issues , from the highly philosophical to the purely practical: What does identity mean for young people who have dozens of online profiles and avatars? Should we worry about privacy issues – or is privacy even a relevant concern for Digital Natives? How does the concept of safety translate into an increasingly virtual world? Are online games addictive, and how do we need to worry about violent video games? What is the Internet’s impact on creativity and learning? What lies ahead – socially, professionaly, and psychologically – for this generation?

Authors, Books, Born Digital, John Palfrey & Urs Gasser, Lit Hacks

Talent Is Not Overrated

January 1st, 2009

For clarification, the title of this book is a little misleading. More appropriate titles:

  1. “Natural” Talent Is A Myth
  2. Talent Is Not A Gift, It’s Something You Earn
  3. If You Work Really Hard and Deliberately, You Become Naturally Talented
  4. You Can Pretty Much Be An Expert At Anything, As Long As You Have The Time.

Authors, Books, Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated

Creativity Amidst Chaos?

January 1st, 2009

pg. 170

…Kenneth Clarke, the famous art critic and author of Civilization, believed that great art was usually created amid stability; you won’t get many great statues or symphonies from residents of a city under seige.

No doubt this holds true on an individual level with “seige” taking on several different meanings.

Authors, Books, Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated

Einstein Nobel Prize at 26

January 1st, 2009

I always tend to think of the genius Einstein as this, in his later years. But he won the Nobel Prize in physics at 26. Most people may have already known this. Not I.

Authors, Books, Einstein, Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated

“Innovation Doesn’t Strike, It Grows”

January 1st, 2009

Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, deemed by art historians the most important painting of the twentieth century.

I don’t see it. I mean, it’s great and all that. But the most important of the twentieth century? I would think that even Picasso’s own Guarnica would be more important to a society. But, Les Demoiselles is deemed important in what regard? Important to Picasso’s artistic progress? The Author doesn’t completely explain, other than it was better than what Picasso had previously painted. And that when it was finished, in 1907, it was scandalous.

Book Thoughts ,