Friday, May 8, 2009

Happiness is a Big Cup of Coffee and a Good Book

I always drink lots of coffee. Fortunately for me, I have been reading a fair amount of good books lately, too:

Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide - This one is sort of a handbook for how to do the things that the big web 2.0 sites (Facebook, Flickr, Linkedin) have done, which by itself is not that helpful. It would be like telling a football team to score more than the other team so they can win every game. This book digs a bit deeper and breaks down the recipe for success so you can use the constructs and concepts even if you aren't really competing in a similar space. I think it will be the kind of book I will re-read a few times just to spark my brain every so often. The 'further reading' section is really great. Tons of great follow-on reading for any of the topics make this book worthwhile by themselves.

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Everyone knows about this one. It's the 'highly anticipated follow-up' to the fabulous book The Kite Runner. I found the Kite Runner to be an incredibly well-written story, and I love when books can be good stories while serving as a window into cultures I am unfamiliar with. This book is no different, and if anything, the connection to the characters grows even stronger when reading this book. It's a wonderful story, and a wonderful social history of the female experience in modern-day Afghanistan. Reading this book will make you think a little deeper when you see stories of war being waged against the Taliban on the nightly news. Wonderful book.

The Lost City (Vintage Contemporaries) - This one was sort of a random recommendation by Amazon, and it has turned out to be pretty interesting - the story of a British ex-army drifter trying to find himself in a quest to find a lost city in the Andes. I am a bit more than half way through this one, and it is starting to get interesting. Full ratings to come.

I just started reading Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The book the Black Swan came highly recommended by my friend Ramsey, but I figured I'd read this one first, just to be wild and crazy. The introduction has already intrigued me. I am excited to really get into this one.

I am still working on The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. I hope that my new longer metro ride will make my transit reading more fruitful. I am also still creaking through my book on the Allied Campaign in Italy, but I am afraid that my progress through that book is as slow as the campaign itself!

I have been on a bit of a book-buying spree lately, spurred by Amazon Gift Cards. Here's what is in the queue:

The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer: And the Birth of the Modern Arms Race - I thought this would be a good follow-up to the biography of him that I read. He's such a brilliant and polarizing character. Jena wonders if I am crazy buying this book since it took me about 9 months to read the giant biography of him. She's probably right, but hey this one is way shorter!

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations - I have had numerous people suggest this book to me, so I caved. These books are short and hopefully quick reads so even if they aren't profound works of genius, you can usually get a point or two out of them without putting too much effort in.

The Conscience of a Liberal - As a centrist, I thought I would read this one, then read a far-right manifesto. I think this one should be especially interesting considering how fervently I have disagreed with Krugman's take on the banking system plans.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions - I thought this would be an interesting follow-up to 'Fooled By Randomness', and Amazon has been especially insistent in continuing to push this towards the top of my book recommendations, so I finally relented.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Every Now and Then I Get Lightbulbs

I have a good idea (I think). I have run an idea I had this morning by two people whose opinion I trust, and both of them seem to indicate that my idea is good, or at least good in principle, which is good enough for me. I am pretty jazzed about it - I think it will be a good learning opportunity, a fantastic social sciences experiment, and potentially something that could do some good, so I am hoping I can get it right, and that it drives some interest!

More about said idea when my thoughts crystallize a little more, and hopefully some samples as we go...also, things have settled down a bit, so hopefully a lot more blogging in general over the next few weeks.

There Are Really Stupid People...

And they work in the media.

Check that link, watch and listen to the legion of idiots, and then tell me what in the hell is wrong with these people?

Visiting the Grandparents

Well I am back from my trip to Indiana. I went with my mom to go and see her parents, who are a couple of pretty amazing folks. My grandfather just turned 93, and my grandmother is about to turn 91 in a couple of weeks. Let me tell you - they are still going strong! They have been married now for 71 years. That's longer than most people live. I know I have mentioned this before, but I still can't get over it. Every time we go they complain about how they can't do the things that they used to, but they live by themselves still, and with the help of a few pretty great neighbors, get along quite well! I regretfully didn't get any pictures on my trip, but here's a shot of them with my cousin Scott from our trip there for Christmas.

Every night, before they go to bed, they kiss each other five times. It's 'their tradition'. Then grandma tells me that when I am married to Jena for 71 years, we have to have our little traditions too. I think "Gee grandma, if I make 71 years of marriage, I'll be 101 - I don't think that's realistic", but watching them, you can see that if you live well, and love each other, then I suppose anything is possible.