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Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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08/28/2007

Book Review - Get Rich with Options by Lee Lowell

Category Book Review
The majority of books I've read on investing in the stock market are focused on buying and selling of actual shares of stock.  I vaguely know of options, using puts and calls to leverage blocks of stock for small amounts of capital.  But Get Rich With Options: Four Winning Strategies Straight from the Exchange Floor by Lee Lowell does a good job in explaining how that all works, and how best to structure your option trading to incur minimal risk and maximum gain.  It just takes a little bit to get past the "over the top" title...

Contents:
Part 1 - The Option Basics: It's All About the Calls and Puts; How Options Are Priced; Option Volatility; Stocks versus Options; Why Option Selling Is Your Key to Success
Part 2 - The Strategies: Buy All the Stock You Want for Half the Price; Getting Paid to Buy Your Favorite Stock; Option Credit Spreads - The All-Star Strategy; A Day in the Life of the Market Maker; Put Your Stocks to Work - Sell Covered Calls; A Bonus Strategy - Ratio Option Spreads
Part 3 - Getting Ready to Trade: Tools of the Trade; Brokers and Commissions
Conclusion; Index

Lowell has experienced the option trading life as both a member of a brokerage firm and as an independent trader.  His experience comes into play in the book, as there are detailed analyses of some of his trades that illustrate the different strategies.  Part 1 was perfect for someone like me who has heard of options, and perhaps knows the bare basics, but doesn't understand why and how they are priced.  Now all those things like volatility and deltas make sense.  Part 2 is where he gets into the strategies he uses to buy and sell options.  A couple of them are pretty easy to understand once you have the basics down (like the covered calls).  In fact, it's hard to imagine why more people don't do that.  A few seemed more complex and confusing, such as the ratio option spreads.  Perhaps with a few more readings, it might have sunk in.  But I'm not sure I was prepared by the end of the book to execute those strategies...

The main knock I have against this book is that everything's successful and works in his examples.  He's pretty clear as to where the risk lies in each of the strategies.  And it's easy to see how options *do* mitigate your potential loss risk while giving you a much better chance of walking away with some profit.  But unless you're trading thousands of option contracts with plenty in your brokerage account to cover your exposure, the average trader is going to be walking away with a few hundred or so in profit from these techniques.  Not quite "rich", but far better than watching your stock plummet or stagnate over the years.  And I *really* would have liked to see him show some of the trades that *didn't* go well.  He alludes to nothing being perfect or a sure bet, but you certainly won't see him dwell on the imperfections here...

Overall, this is a good book that covers a complex topic in an understandable fashion.  I would have preferred a bit less hype and salesmanship, but it's not so bad as to detract from some good information and advice.

08/28/2007

Does Duffbert *really* read that much?

Category Everything Else
So a question I get asked (all too) frequently is...  how do you read so much?

Fair question, and one that I thought might make for a decent blog posting...

I read around 180 to 210 books a year, cover to cover.  By all accounts, that's a bit over the national average.  :)  But the strange thing is, I don't think I read exceptionally fast or anything.  It's more a case of how much I read, and what I choose not to do instead.  Waiting for the bus in the morning along with the bus ride in ends up as 20 to 30 minutes of reading.  For lunch (if I take one), I'm likely to be found at my desk, reading.  At night before I turn off the light to go to bed, I end up reading for 30 to 40 minutes.  Coming home on the bus?  Another 15 minutes or so.  In the evenings, instead of watching TV, I'm normally on the computer, or...  reading.  All told, I probably read for an hour or two a day.

I also have a number of books going at any given time.  There's usually a "recreational read", like a novel, in progress.  There are also a number of books scattered around the house that are in varying states of completion.  Right now, there's two on the nightstand, two downstairs on my desk, and one in my gym bag.

Is this unbalanced or abnormal?  Yes.  I'll be the first to admit that I could stand to have more of a life.  I could be spending more time around the house doing repairs and such.  I could be out visiting friends or interacting with others.  But the truth is, I find reading relaxing and entertaining.  If given the option between an hour of American Idol or reading, I'll read.  I purposely don't seek out network or cable shows to watch on a regular basis.  That's not to say there aren't good things on TV.  I just don't watch it much on purpose.

This also ties in to some of the productivity sites I've read recently. People who accomplish unusual things are not normally known for "balance". People like Einstein or Edison were definitely not balanced, but they were extraordinary in their areas of interest.  A-List bloggers are not "balanced" in the time they spend writing.  But look at where that led Scoble.  An Olympic gold medalist in sports like biathlon or archery are not balanced by our definitions, but they have spent the time and effort to accomplish something that's important to them.

I don't consider my reading habits or reviewer rank on Amazon something "extraordinary" or important.  But I enjoy the process, the time is well-spent in my opinion, and I've received a number of benefits that are important to me.  Are there things I'd like to do differently?  Yeah, but apparently not so much that I've felt the need to change.

As Volker commented the other day...  "Duffbert should chew before he swallows".  I agree, but there are so many good things to chow down on.  :)

08/27/2007

You know you live in America when...

Category Humor
So the wife and I are watching a show on the Animal Planet cable channel last night.  We found it during a channel surfing session.  They're talking about these tiger cubs that are raised by their handlers in such a way as to bond with humans.  Incredibly cute...  

At first I thought they might be talking about Las Vegas and the tigers they have at the Mirage casino.  But then they cut to a clip where the handlers are walking these cubs on a leash in what looks like a Disney theme park.  But I'm sure it's not Disneyland or DisneyWorld, even though the architecture and theming is identical.  They also show the cubs playing in the handler's backyard, overlooking a pond/lake that appears to be taken right out of a Florida landscape.  But then they show the full-grown tigers being walked in the park...  on leashes...  around guests.  And there's an attraction where you can pay a fee and spend 15 minutes or so close up with the tiger cubs...  with minimal supervision.

So what does this American (and the one sitting next to me) say?  "Where is this place located, and what do they have in the way of liability insurance???"

sigh...  

FYI...  It's in Australia at a place called Tiger Island.

08/26/2007

Book Review - The Dip by Seth Godin

Category Book Review
Normally I like the books that Seth Godin puts out.  They're confrontational, off-beat, and they make you look at your current surroundings in a different light.  In his latest book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), he attempts to explain the difference between when it's right to quit and when it's right to keep on slogging in order to separate yourself from others.  While I agree with his basic premise, this seems to be one of those "hindsight is 20/20" issues.

The book is short..  as in a whopping 80 pages.  So regardless of whether you agree or disagree with him, the time investment here is minimal.  It's worth spending the hour or so to get his take on this.  The basic message as I saw it was that there's a "dip" in the process of going from beginner to expert, from starting out to dominating a market.  These dips are where things are not easy any more, not much fun any more, and it seems as if you've hit a brick wall.  But these barriers to excellence are what keeps the scarcity level up when it comes to being an expert in any given field.  Your goal is to understand whether you're in a dip (and whether you should push on) or whether you're in a cul-de-sac (where you'll never rise beyond what you are at that point).  Quitting in a dip is OK, if you determine that you can better utilize your time and talents in other areas where you are willing to push through the pain points.  Quitting in the dip is *not* OK if you're just too lazy and tired to spend the time and effort it takes to become an expert.  But for those who *are* willing to push past the dip, the rewards are high as few people are willing to put in that effort.  You could likely come up with a few other messages from the book, but that seems to be the overriding one.

The problem I see here is that there's little to go on when it comes to picking out a dip vs. a cul-de-sac.  In hindsight, it's easy to tell when someone succeeded vs. when someone should have known there was no chance to win.  But when you're in the midst of a dip, you don't have the benefit of knowing how it's all going to turn out.  You may see that there's a chance to win, while everyone else sees a cul-de-sac.  It's easy to point out examples from the past, but how often do we know or point out stories of someone who continued to persevere and ended up dying a slow, quiet death anyway?  You really can't, and as such it makes it somewhat difficult to apply this book to the here and now.

The basic message about dips and pushing through is important, and it's well worth examining your efforts in that light.  But if you're expecting a cut-and-dried formula to differentiate between dips and cul-de-sacs, as well as assurance as to how it will all turn out, you'll be highly disappointed.  There's no way to tell how the future is going to play out...

08/25/2007

Book Review - Invisible Prey by John Sandford

Category Book Review
I've been a fan of the Prey series by John Sandford over the years.  But lately the titles haven't captured my attention as much as they used to.  In the latest, Invisible Prey, I once again find myself thinking that it was an enjoyable read, but the excitement and edge isn't there any more.

Lucas Davenport is pulled into a case where an older lady and her maid are brutally murdered.  The trashed house makes it look like it could be a burglary gone bad, but something doesn't quite ring true for Davenport.  He's able to find a couple other crimes that have somewhat the same characteristics, and the common element has to do with antiques and a particular set of quilts.  You find out very quickly who the guilty parties are in the killings, and the story revolves around the desperation of the killers and their need to eliminate Lucas from the case in order to avoid being run down.  There's a subplot involving an accusation of improper behavior with a minor and a state senator.  Lucas is also involved in this case, and the killers attempt to mess up that case, also to draw Lucas in a different direction.

In many of the earlier Prey stories, there was a strong element of how Lucas would use his intellect and gaming skills to anticipate and solve the crimes.  But lately, that characteristic is more secondary, and too much time is spent dwelling on his new political position in the bureau.  The story is fine as a typical crime novel, but the things that used to draw me to Davenport aren't there much now.  I'll likely keep reading new installments in the series, but I don't know that I consider them a "must read" any more...

08/25/2007

Book Review - The Permission Seeker's Guide Through The Legal Jungle by Joy R. Butler

Category Book Review
As a writer and presenter, I know there's a number of copyright issues you can get into if you're not careful.  I didn't have the faintest idea *how* extensive those issues are until I read The Permission Seeker's Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions by Joy R. Butler.  At worst, you'll see how the nation's lawyer corps stay employed.  At best, you'll keep out of harm's way and not end up in court yourself.

Contents:
Part 1 - Overview of Rights Clearance Issues: Guide to Using This Book; Checklist of Clearance Issues
Part 2 - Relevant Rights and Laws: Copyright Basics; Trademark Basics; Common Elements of Privacy, Publicity and Defamation Law; Right of Privacy; Right of Publicity; Defamation; Other Relevant Rights and Laws
Part 3 - Clearance Issues for Specific Productions: Clearance Issues for Publishers and Writers; Clearance Issues for Visual Artists; Clearance Issues for Musicians and Music Producers; Clearance Issues for Film, TV and Audio-Visual Producers; Clearance Issues for Producers of Websites and Software; Clearance Issues for Business
Part 4 - The Process of Clearing Rights and Seeking Permission: Getting Organized; Putting Your Own House In Order; Submitting the Request for Permission; Negotiating the Rights Agreement
Part 5 - Seeking Permission to Use Specific Materials: Clearing Rights and Seeking Permission to Use Books and Other Printed Material; Clearing Rights and Seeking Permission to Use Visual Art; Clearing Rights and Seeking Permission to Use Music; Clearing Rights and Seeking Permission to Use Film, TV, and Video Footage; Clearing Rights and Seeking Permission to Use Website and Software Materials; Clearing Rights and Seeking Permission with Respect to People; Clearing Rights and Seeking Permission to Use Trademarks, Products, and Locations
Part 6 - Minimizing Your Risks and Protecting Yourself: Methods of Minimizing Risk; Dealing with Lawsuits
Appendix, Resources and Forms: Resources, Forms
Index
About the Author

I'm sure most of us at some time or another copied a picture off the web or downloaded a song or two.  And it's not easy to avoid all the stories these days about music and video piracy.  What Butler's book does is give you a comprehensive AND readable guide to what rights are present in various forms, as well as how you need to secure those rights if you want to legally use materials in your own works.  It's likely that putting a single image in a Powerpoint presentation for your department at work isn't going to put you in any legal jeopardy.  But let's say you used that same download image (without permission, of course) in an eBook you created and made available for sale online.  If the rightful owner of that image finds that you've done so, they have legal rights that can involve damages, injunctions, and other nasty obligations that can wipe out any profit you *may* have made from your book.  Much better to secure permission beforehand and make sure you won't spend any time in court defending yourself.

Even if you're not involved in a particular area, say like filmmaking, it's still interesting to read the material.  Butler not only states the law, but she includes a large number of court case references that show how the law has been applied in the past.  Of course, each case is different, but what I quickly discovered is that what appears to be reasonable may not be, and you can cross over from fair use to unauthorized use of material with ease.  This book won't tell you the answer to every situation you may encounter, but it will get you thinking about issues you need to be concerned with.  Something about ignorance not being an allowed defense...  :)

This is a book I'd recommend be on the reference shelf of any writer, artist, filmmaker, or singer.  It can protect your own rights with your creations, as well as making sure you're protected against unlawful use of others' material...

08/21/2007

Book Review - Swim against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow by Jim Hightower

Category Book Review
The fact I'm even reading a book like this says a lot about how I've changed politically over the last four years...  Swim against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow by Jim Hightower with Susan DeMarco.  Four years ago, I wouldn't have bothered as I didn't agree with his "extreme" views.  Now, I'm nodding in a significant number of places...

Contents:
Section 1 - Business: Business without Greed; Fair Trade; Cooperation Works; Socially Responsible; Putting Workers in Charge; The Good Business Life; Banking on Change
Section 2 - Politics: Shape Up, America!; Run for It!; Clean Elections; Democracy School; Build It!; Granny Power; The Politics of Fun
Section 3 - Life: Take Charge!; How We Live; A Mass Movement Arises; Flowers in the Field; The Conscience of an Evangelical
Final Thoughts; Connections; DeMarco's Reading List; Index

I first heard of Hightower from a coworker back in 2000 when I worked at Enron.  Needless to say, I thought his views were rather extreme and biased towards industry and Republicans, and my friend was out on the far left.  Now, my friend is still out in left field, but I can now see him from where I'm at.  And Hightower is making a great deal more sense.  In a very folksy, down-home manner, he skewers big business, big politics, and big polluters with a rallying cry for Americans to wake up and start thinking.  He examines how small businesses can be profitable and humane towards society, the environment, and their workers.  Politics by the corporations for the corporations is not acceptable to him, and he urges people to get out and talk to others.  Start the grass roots movements to make your voice heard.  And of course, there's the whole environmental and global warming issue that needs to be heeded before it's too late.

Do I agree with everything he says here?  No.  I got the distinct impression that for him, all big business is bad.  Even companies that are considered leaders in alternative options, like Whole Foods, are written off as pretenders that are riding the coattails of social change.  In my opinion, neither of those options are true.  If all businesses were small cooperatives, we'd be back in the 1800's.  Is big business always good and right?  No.  But let's not pretend that it's always evil and bad, either.  I *was* impressed that he actually treated evangelical Christians as people with brains who aren't living in the dark ages.  Stereotyping any group (liberals, conservatives, etc.) is bad, and he's one of the few writers (especially of the "liberal" bent) that didn't lump religion with ignorance (and yes, I just stereotyped liberals there...  sorry!).  That was refreshing...

While I may not run off to read every other book he's written, Swim Against The Current did show me that I'm changing politically, and that I'm more dissatisfied with "business as usual."  And I'm really sure that's a good thing...

08/21/2007

Registered for Lotusphere and the Dolphin...

Category Lotusphere2008
While I hope to get accepted as a speaker, I'm taking the advice given to me last year...  Register early, get the discount, and get the fee reversed if you're accepted.

And if I'm not accepted and work balks, then I write a few more articles somewhere (and plead for people to click on the ad links).  :)

Also, I got an email that had the following tidbit of info, which is nice...

New for 2008! No more dining assignments! We will be constructing a large dining tent adjacent to the Dolphin Pacific Hall. Enjoy breakfast and lunch with your colleagues, it will be one huge social network.

08/21/2007

You know Lotusphere is starting to roll around when....

Category Lotusphere2008
... when the Lotusphere dreams start happening.

And yes, I've had this one more than once.

I'm at Lotusphere, and I'm apparently signed up to speak at some session. But it's now Wednesday, I haven't attended a single session, I don't know when *my* session is, and it doesn't matter as I don't have anything prepared anyway...

Gotta wonder where this stuff comes from.  :)

08/21/2007

Managing my RSS feeds - Potential Adds and About To Miss The Cut

Category Blogging
I'm as guilty as everyone else when it comes to RSS feeds for blogs.  Show me a new bright shiny object, and pretty soon my subscription list is over 200.  Granted, since I'm not visiting each of those sites every day, it's not as if I'm spending hours searching out new info.  But still, monitoring 200+ RSS feeds somehow doesn't seem healthy (regardless of what Scoble may do).

I recently implemented a couple new categories to my Google Reader site. They are labeled Potential Adds and About To Miss The Cut.  These two categories serve as my input and output filters.

Potential Adds are where all the new bright shiny objects go.  By putting them "on probation", I can monitor how well they hold my interest past the first few entries that caused me to add them in the first place.  If I find that I really like the content over time, they get moved into one of my other permanent categories.

About To Miss The Cut is the group that either doesn't post consistently, has started to lose steam, or just plain ticked me off.  I realize that RSS means you can still monitor someone who only posts once every three months, but I just don't like those types of entries cluttering up my regular categories.  Then there are the "writers" that I *should* follow, but that are never more than one post away from pushing past my tolerance level. Surprisingly, it's not all made up of Microsoft bloggers, though there are a couple of irregulars that reside there.  :)  I really do have a permanent "Microsoft" category...

Anyway, I thought I'd share my experience with RSS feed management...  What are your favorite tips and hints to avoid RSS overload?

08/20/2007

Book Review - The Power Of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

Category Book Review
This is a dramatic counterpoint to a book I just recently read on leadership "skills", but it's far more accurate and useful...  The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval.  When I read this book and compared it to my own 30 years of experience in the business world, I would have to say they have the formula down pat.

Contents: The Power of Nice, The Six Power of Nice Principles; Bake a Bigger Pie; Sweeten the Deal; Help Your Enemies; Tell the Truth; "Yes" Your Way to the Top; Shut Up and Listen; Put Your Head on Their Shoulders; Create a Nicer Universe; Notes; Index

Thaler and Koval run an ad agency, not an industry that you normally associate with "nice"...  "Cut-throat" perhaps, but not nice.  But they've decided to do things their own way, and that involves using the power of Nice as a guiding principle.  Rather than rant, rave, and undercut others, they choose to be pleasant and work towards situations where everyone gains in the end.  This philosophy has earned them the respect and business of many high-end Fortune 500 firms that decided they didn't want to play the typical political games often associated with advertising.  In The Power of Nice, they distill their philosophy and operating principles down to a short (127 pages), entertaining, easy to read format which, if practiced by the reader, will definitely change the way you do business.

It's been my experience that being "nice" is a far greater power in the workplace over the long run than the typical "business is war" mentality.  Many of their illustrations and stories parallel experiences that I've observed or been part of.  The one chapter that really resonated with me was the "Shut Up and Listen" section.  Letting the other guy be smarter, asking questions instead of making statements, and not arguing cause you to stand out from the typical coworker or leader in today's environment.  And when you realize that everyone is "starring in their own movie, not yours", you begin to realize that it's not all about you, and you can get much further by helping others shine rather than trying to outshine everyone else.

This is one of those quick reads that you really don't have an excuse not to peruse.  It won't take more than an hour or two, and the difference in your working life will start to show up immediately.

08/19/2007

Book Review - 60-second Organizer: Sixty Solid Techniques for Beating Chaos at Home and at Work

Category Book Review
In the never-ending quest to be more personally productive and organized, I got the chance to read 60-second Organizer: Sixty Solid Techniques for Beating Chaos at Home and at Work by Jeff Davidson.  For those who aren't ready to commit to a "system" of organization, this is a perfect place to start getting things done...

Contents:
Part 1 - Embracing Powerful Perspectives: Relax - Organizing Is Not So Bad; Learn Your ABCs; Capture Your Best Thoughts; Determine "Who Created That?"; Make Profound Choices; Live and Actually Learn; "Work Smarter" for Real; Heed Pareto and His Principle; Forget about the "Right Mood"; Reward Thyself
Part 2 - Enveloping Provocative Practices: Forsake Excuses for Not Becoming Organized; Defeat Perfectionism; Start Simply; Organize According to Your Milestones; Handle Tough Things First; Immerse Yourself for 60 Seconds; Ask Yourself "Will It Be Any Easier Later?"; Organize Based On Your Priorities; Stake Your Claim
Part 3 - Listing and Charting Your Way: Recognize Fallibilities; Mark Your Calendar; Separate Long-Term and Short-Term Tasks; Develop a Clarifying Checklist; Map It Out; Chart Your Path; Plot Your Way; Add Subtasks to Your Chart; Organize with Flow Charts; Track Your Progress
Part 4 - Reclaiming Your Places and Spaces: Start from Scratch; Conquer Your Desk; Make Your Shelves Work for You; Win the Paper Chase; Face Files with Smiles; Establish Rotating Tickler Files; Pile It High; Pare Down and Win; Reduce Junk Mail; Read with Aplomb
Part 5 - Organize Travel, Meetings, and Online Activities: Manage Your E-mail; Organize Online Research; Create More Organized Meeting, Really!; Maintain Effective Meetings, the Whole Way!; Meet to Achieve Results; Organize for the Road; Handle Commuting and Travel Contingencies; Be Productive on Public Transportation; Fly Friendlier Skies; Book Your Flight Right
Part 6 - Making Your Home Your Castle: Destroy Enemy Outposts; Pick a Regular Day and Time; Approach Spaces Strategically; Adopt a Replacement Policy; Improvise When Storage Space Is Limited; Organize Your Gift Shopping; Organize Your Purchases and Related Paperwork; File Taxes on Time and Without Grief; Hire an Organizing Professional; Divide, Literally, and Conquer
Summary; Bibliography; About the Author

It seems to be all the rage to follow an organizing system these days, a system that presents a complete package of how to get and stay organized.  But realistically, it takes a lot of effort to overcome that inertia, and often the system ends up gathering dust on a shelf.  Davidson's book is great in that it gives you a number of tips to get organized, and it's not an "all or nothing" thing.  You can start in any area that is a problem in your life, such as your workspace or your storage/junk piles.  The 10 tips in that particular area of the book are quick to read, easy to understand, and you can quickly try out the recommendation.  For instance, if your filing system is broken (or nonexistent), Part 4 of the book gives you plenty of ideas on how to clean up the existing mess as well as keeping it cleaned up.  Rotating tickler files, single location for file, and questions to ask before filing all help to keep the important stuff, throw out the trash, and keep the process going.  

If you've read any books on organization before, you'll probably recognize some of the material presented here.  But it never hurts to review great ideas, and what didn't strike you as important a year ago may be exactly what you need now.  Well worth the time commitment to read and review...

08/19/2007

Book Review - The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice

Category Book Review
This book caused me to examine my spiritual life in ways many other books haven't...  The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice by Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling.  Those coming from a traditional Protestant background will have a few struggles with the concepts and terminology, but I'm convinced it's worth the effort.

Concepts:
Part 1 - Knowing God Intimately - Where Christian Mysticism Can Take Us: What Mystical Christianity Is All About; Christian Mysticism and Personal Evangelism; Christian Mysticism and Working for Justice
Part 2 - Fueling Intimacy - The Mystical Path: Awaking to Mysticism and a Holistic Gospel (Even If You're Not a Monk); Cultivating Holy Habits; Moving from Self-Awareness to God-Awareness - The Prayer of Examen; Becoming God's Friend - Lectio Divina; Deepening Our Intimacy with God - Centering Prayer; Committing to a Holistic Gospel
Part 3 - Taking Intimacy with God into the World: Avoiding Two Temptations; Connecting Intimacy and Action
Postscript; Notes; The Authors; Index

As I come from a more traditional evangelical Christian experience, seeing a word like "mysticism" raises a whole bunch of red flags.  I found it extremely difficult to lay aside my preconceived notions and connotations of that word in order to give the book a fair chance.  But once I did that (numerous times, I might add), then the message started to seep through.  Using the practices and the lives of well-known saints throughout the ages, Campolo and Darling show how building a life of spiritual practices (intimacy with God) needs to lead to a life of social justice (action).  It's not enough to live on a mountaintop trying to obtain a spiritual "high".  That relationship with God should lead to following Jesus' example of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for widows and orphans.  It's that "action" part that's missing in far too many Christian experiences today.  

The partnership of these two authors is what makes the concept work for the book.  Darling comes from more of a Catholic background, with the formalized practices often associated with that group.  Campolo is the Protestant side, where the need for ceremony and ritual is often ignored or condemned.  But the blending of these two mindsets leads you to realize that saints of old, like Francis of Assisi, didn't just spend all their time chanting in a cathedral.  They fought for social justice and took action in their communities.  This is so different than the typical "what have you done for *me* lately, God" mindset found all too frequently in today's world.  I only wish there were different words to use than "mysticism" and "mystical".  I'm afraid that many might be too quick to condemn the material as "new age" without understanding the deeper meaning and results.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to deepen their Christian experience and become more action-driven in today's society.

08/18/2007

Book Review - Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior: A Commando's Guide to Success by Richard Marcinko

Category Book Review
OK, up front I'll admit I had a fun time reading this...  Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior: A Commando's Guide to Success by Richard Marcinko.  It's not your typical leadership book with polished words and concepts.  It's raw, gritty, and will likely offend a few readers.  But I'd think twice about trying to apply this "warrior mentality" to your business life.  Odds are you'll end up hated, fired, or in jail...

Contents: The Rogue Warrior's Ten Commandments of SpecWar; Introduction, Chapters 1 through 10 - The Ten Commandments; Epilogue; A Note on Sources

The ten commandments are: 1) I am the War Lord and the wrathful God of Combat and I will always lead you from the front - not the rear. 2) I will treat you all alike - just like shit.  3) Thou shalt do nothing I will not do first, and thus will you be created Warriors in My deadly image.  4) I shall punish thy bodies because the more thou sweatest in training, the less thou bleedest in combat.  5) Indeed, if thou hurteth in thy efforts and thou suffer painful dings, then thou are Doing It Right.  6) Thou hast not to like it - thou hast just to do it.  7) Thou shalt Keep It Simple, Stupid.  8) Thou shalt never assume.  9) Verily, thou art not paid for thy methods, but for thy results, by which meaneth thou shalt kill thine enemy by any means available before he killeth you.  10) Thou shalt, in thy Warrior's Mind and Soul, always remember My ultimate and final Commandment: There Are No Rules - Thou Shalt Win at All Costs.

I had one misconception corrected quickly.  I thought the "Rogue Warrior" was a fictional character used in novels written by Marcinko.  I didn't know until I read this book that he really *was* the Rogue Warrior and was a successful covert soldier, adept at many types of warfare.  Based on his experience and training, he distilled his beliefs into what you read here.  From the perspective of someone going to war with a fellow fighter, this is exactly the type of person I'd want by my side...  ruthless, creative, and willing to do whatever is needed to win and stay alive.  But does that really translate to the business and personal lives of the readers?  I hope not...

After each of his explanations of the principle being discussed, he gives an example of how it applies to war and how it applies to business.  Generally, some of the concepts are true...  train hard, get results, etc.  But the "win at all costs" theme is the exact attitude that ended a lot of Enron executives (as well as others) in jail.  Marcinko does try and say that you have to be honorable in the way you approach this, but it's normally followed by "breaking the rules to get results".  I know what that is *supposed* to mean, but in reality it comes across as the end justifying the means.  The argument would be that there's a line that shouldn't be crossed, but I'd venture that for many, that line is too blurred to be used as an accurate measuring point.  Buying into this philosophy in an organization would make for a ruthless and brutal workforce, and not one that I'd like to return to day after day.  And I suppose in Marcinko's eyes that would make me soft and worthless...  oh, well.

If I were to step onto a combat field or a dojo, I'd want to adopt this mindset.  But if I step into my workplace, there's a few more things to be considered than just raw "kill the enemy before he kills you" emotion.  

08/18/2007

Book Review - Everyday Greatness by Stephen R. Covey and David K. Hatch

Category Book Review
Everyday Greatness: Inspiration for a Meaningful Life by Stephen R. Covey and David K. Hatch is one of those books meant to be read in small doses so that the concepts can sink in.  You may not find all the sections as applicable as others, but no one is together enough to not benefit from *some* part of it...

Contents:
Searching for Meaning: Contribution; Charity; Attention
Taking Charge: Responsibility; Courage; Discipline
Starting Within: Integrity; Humility; Gratitude
Creating the Dream: Vision; Innovation; Quality
Teaming with Others: Respect; Empathy; Unity
Overcoming Adversity: Adaptability; Magnanimity; Perseverance
Blending the Pieces: Balance; Simplicity; Renewal
Afterword; Acknowledgments; Notes

Even though the book has Covey's name on it, the material isn't written by him.  The bulk of the material consists of compiled stories and quotes from existing sources and historical figures.  Covey adds commentary to each section and chapter in order to tie them all together into a cohesive theme.  Each chapter has around three stories that illustrate the particular trait being covered.  There is then a Wrap Up and Reflections section that summarizes the stories and theme, as well as questions to ask yourself in order to more deeply examine how that trait would manifest in your life.  Finally, the chapter concludes with a number of quotes that stick with the theme but show slightly different facets of it.  All in all, there's a lot of inspiration to be had here...

For as good as this book is, I didn't find myself putting it at the top of my priority list to read.  I've had it checked out from the library for quite awhile, but there always seemed to be another book that I'd pick up over this one, rather than come back to Everyday Greatness.  I'm still not quite sure why I felt that way, but it is what it is.  Regardless, I did find a number of valuable insights, and if I owned the book I'd likely revisit it a number of times.

08/15/2007

Book Review - Silent River, Empty Night by Ralph Salimpour

Category Book Review
Silent River, Empty Night: Diary of a Pediatrician in Iran by Ralph Salimpour M.D., D.C.H., F.A.A.P is one of those books that helps you to understand that everyone has a story...  a story of struggles that many of us know nothing about.  Salimpour was a doctor in Iran during the time of the downfall of the Shah and the rise of the fundamentalist Islamic government.  In this self-published book of his memoirs, you are treated to stories of his upbringing and medical education in Iran in the 1950's.  Medical care was very primitive back then, and it was a struggle to treat significant illnesses like meningitis without many of the tools and medicines we take for granted now.  As Salimpour's pediatric practice increased, he was able to make significant advances in Iran's medical standards.  But when the Shah's government was overthrown, a reign of terror took over, one in which anyone and everyone was at risk of death at any time.  He was able to smuggle himself and his family out of the country, where they headed to America.  But not speaking English made it hard to find work, as well as the disregard of his Iranian medical training.  But through perseverance and effort, he was able to open up a practice here and make the same differences in the lives of his new neighbors as he had back in his home country.  His personal views of freedom and choice are far more real and meaningful than many of us who have grown up in America, taking much for granted.

As with many self-published books, the lack of a strong editor detracts from what could be a totally engrossing read.  Many of the chapters and stories appear to be somewhat random and don't necessarily tie into a theme or a direction of where the book is headed.  That's not to say they aren't interesting.  It's just difficult not to wonder why certain stories were included.  Still, I came away from the book with a healthy appreciation for what he was able to accomplish given his circumstances, and his devotion to the medical field and his patients is to be commended...

08/14/2007

Book Review - Beautiful Code - Leading Programmers Explain How They Think

Category Book Review
For those of us slogging out code on a day-to-day basis in the trenches, it may be a bit of a stretch to think of programming code as "beautiful".  But there really is a special beauty to code that's been well-crafted and designed to stand the test of time and use.  Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think by Andy Oram and Greg Wilson is a look into the minds of a number of developers who have very definite ideas of what makes a "beautiful" program or routine.  While some chapters are a bit more esoteric than what I could follow, the general flow and idea work well...

Contents:
A Regular Expression Matcher; Subversion's Delta Editor - Interface as Ontology; The Most Beautiful Code I Never Wrote; Finding Things; Correct, Beautiful, Fast (In That Order) - Lessons From Designing XML Verifiers; Framework For Integrated Test - Beauty Through Fragility; Beautiful Tests; On-The-Fly Code Generation For Image Processing; Top Down Operator Precedence; The Quest For An Accelerated Population Count; Secure Communication - The Technology of Freedom; Growing Beautiful Code in Bioperl; The Design of the Gene Sorter; How Elegant Code Evolves With Hardware - The Case of Gaussian Elimination; The Long-Term Benefits of Beautiful Design; The Linux Kernel Driver Model - The Benefits of Working Together; Another Level of Indirection; Python's Dictionary Implementation - Being All Things To All People; Multidimensional Iterators in Numpy; A Highly Reliable Enterprise System for NASA's Mars Rover Mission; ERP5 - Designing for Maximum Adaptability; A Spoonful of Sewage; Distributed Programming With Mapreduce; Beautiful Concurrency; Syntactic Abstraction - The Syntax-Case Expander; Labor-Saving Architecture - An Object-Oriented Framework for Networked Software; Integrating Business Partners The RESTful Way; Beautiful Debugging; Treating Code As An Essay; When A Button Is All That Connects You To The World; Emacspeak - The Complete Audio Desktop; Code In Motion; Writing Programs For "The Book"; Afterword; Contributors; Index

I think by reading the table of contents, you quickly see this isn't a light "For Dummies" read.  The contributors on each chapter are some of the most intelligent and influential software designers in the industry today.  And the topics aren't light-weight, either.  In more than one case, there is a great deal of mathematical and logical theory to prove certain designs.  Unless you have a serious background in computer science, it's safe to say that you won't get nearly as much out of those chapters as the authors are trying to convey.  I know I definitely fell into that category a number of times...

Having said that, I *did* get value out of many other chapters.  For instance, "A Spoonful of Sewage" shows what happens when a beautiful design ("wine") is compromised with a minor flaw or hack ("sewage").  Regardless of how fine the wine is, the net result is a spoiled, ruined vat of sewage.  I was reminded that it's important to not make those design compromises for the sake of expediency.  Another good example is the "When A Button..." chapter.  How do you design a system when the sole means of input for someone is a single button?  The developers here faced that issue when they were asked to design some software for use by Stephen Hawkings, a brilliant scientist who is severely physically disabled.  The sense of what's "beautiful" is tested by constraints that most of us have never considered or imagined...

I don't imagine that most people would read this book cover-to-cover with the idea that every chapter would be applicable and personal.  Writing styles vary, and the technical level of some chapters is *very* deep.  But nearly any software developer should be able to read the book and extract a number of ideas that will improve their mindset and approach to what they do on a daily basis...  writing beautiful code.

08/12/2007

Book Review - What's Science Ever Done For Us? by Paul Halpern

Category Book Review
If you're a fan of The Simpsons, then you know that they've had plenty of episodes that involve fairly scientific topics and a few well-known guest stars from the scientific community.  Paul Halpern digs a little deeper into these mysteries of science in the book What's Science Ever Done For Us: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe.  By the time you get done with the book, you'll be better edumacated about a lot of things, and you'll have an enjoyable time getting there...

Contents:
Part 1 - It's Alive!: The Simpson Gene; You Say Tomato, I Say Tomacco; Blinky, the Three-Eyed Fish; Burns's Radiant Glow; We All Live in a Cell-Sized Submarine; Lisa's Recipe for Life; Look Homer-Ward, Angel
Part 2 - Mechanical Plots: D'ohs ex Machina; Perpetual Commotion; Dude, I'm an Android; Rules for Robots; Chaos in Cartoonland; Fly in the Ointment
Part 3 - No Time to D'ohs: Clockstopping; A Toast to the Past; Frinking about the Future
Part 4 - Springfield, the Universe, and Beyond: Lisa's Scoping Skills; Diverting Rays; The Plunge Down Under; If Astrolabes Could Talk; Cometary Cowabunga; Homer's Space Odyssey; Could This Really Be the End?; Foolish Earthlings; Is the Universe a Donut?; The Third Dimension of Homer
Inconclusion: The Journey Continues
Acknowledgments; The Simpsons Movie Handy Science Checklist; Scientifically Relevant Episodes Discussed in This Book; Notes; Further Information; Index

I'll admit I was expecting far less from this book when I first heard of it.  I've seen too many "intellectuals" dissect a cartoon or story and add layers of complexity and academic baggage to the point that they've created their own fantasy world about what things "really" mean.  Fortunately, that doesn't happen here.  Halpern treats the Simpsons series with respect in terms of enjoying the episodes and understanding that they are primarily entertainment.  But he goes deeper into some of the episodes to examine the science behind the storyline.  For instance, he discusses the "fact" that water drains counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere due to the Coriolis effect.  This is tied back to an episode where Bart and Lisa were trying to prove that fact and ended up having to travel to Australia to avoid an international incident.  By the time you're done with the chapter, you know exactly what the Coriolis effect is, and whether water really *does* behave that way.  Or there's the discussion about perpetual motion machines and whether it would ever be possible to build one like Lisa did in one episode.  Again, by the end of the chapter, you know why the laws of thermodynamics mean that it's impossible to do that.  Add in a few guest appearance by people like Stephen Hawkings, and you end up with an entertaining read about solid science, along with a few "I remember that episode!" moments...

This is a definite "should read" for Simpson fans, and perhaps a really good resource for teachers who are trying to hook younger minds into the realities of science...

08/07/2007

Follow-up on my Social Media presentation at work...

Category Everything Else
Last Wednesday I gave my Social Media & Web 2.0 talk to the Strategic Communications department at work.  All in all, it went well.  There was a good level of interaction with the attendees, and many of them were being exposed to this material for the first time.  I've had a number of follow-up conversations with various individuals who were at the meeting, and I think this may have been a catalyst to get them thinking seriously about how the company can start using things like blogs and wikis to reach the market and start conversations.  

Good stuff, and I have a feeling that it won't be the last department or area I end up presenting for...  :)

08/07/2007

Book Review - The Science of Orgasm

Category Book Review
OK...  I was wandering through the library aisles (really!), and this book sorta jumped out at me...  The Science of Orgasm by Barry R. Komisaruk, Carlos Beyer-Flores, and Beverly Whipple.  I thought it might be fun to learn a little more about what happens at that "YES!" moment.  But this book really takes all the fun out of it.  You pretty much have to have a medical degree to understand a majority of it, and there's little practical material for the layman (pun not intended...  much).

Contents:  Definitions of Orgasm; Different Nerves, Different Orgasmic Feelings; Bodily Changes at Orgasm; Are Orgasms Good for Your Health?; When Things Go Wrong; Diseases That Affect Orgasm; How Aging Affects Orgasm; Pleasure and Satisfaction with and without Orgasm; The Nervous System Connection; The Neurochemistry of Orgasm; Effects of Medication; Counteracting Medication Side Effects; Recreational Stimulant Drugs and Orgasm; Depressant Drugs and Orgasm; Herbal Therapies; Hormones and Orgasm; Mechanism of Action of Sex Steroids; Nonreproductive Hormones in Orgasm; Atypical Orgasms; The Genital-Brain Connection; Orgasms after Brain Surgery or Brain Damage; Imaging the Brain during Sexual Arousal and Orgasm; The Cast of Characters - How Brain Components Contribute to Orgasm; Consciousness and Orgasm; Glossary; References; Index

Can't wait to see what Google Adwords does with *this* entry!  :)

Anyway...  this is an extremely clinical look at the physiological and psychological components that make up the, you guessed it, human orgasm.  If you ever wanted to know exactly what role 5-alpha-DHT or dehydroepiandrosterone play in your body, this book will tell you...  in detail.  Probably every study on human sexuality in the past 50 years that's ever been published is referenced in here...  multiple times.  After a couple pages of explanation on evidence that a genital sensory pathway goes directly to the brain, bypassing the spinal cord, I was ready to switch over to something much lighter...  like Reinventing Project Management.  This was one of those library books that got renewed a number of times, as I just couldn't bear to read more than 10 to 15 pages at a time.  Maybe I need a book on why I feel I have to finish a book if I start it.  :)

Seriously, I can see how someone in the medical field would find this very useful.  Also, if you're dealing with major issues like a spinal cord injury or severe reactions to medication, you'd probably be motivated to dig through the information to find answers and solutions.  But for the average male or female with relatively normal functioning parts, this is written at a level that requires far more work than it's worth.

And now I think I'll go find something a bit more readable...

08/05/2007

Book Review - Learning Web Design (3rd Edition) by Jennifer Niederst Robbins

Category Book Review
It's been awhile since I've taken a look at what passes for a beginning web development book these days.  I decided to examine Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to (X)HTML, StyleSheets, and Web Graphics (3rd edition) by Jennifer Niederst Robbins.  All I want to know is...  why weren't books like this around when I was trying to learn this stuff?

Contents:
Part 1 - Getting Started: Where Do I Start?; How the Web Works; The Nature of Web Design
Part 2 - HTML Markup for Structure: Creating a Simple Page (HTML Overview); Marking up Text; Adding Links; Adding Images; Basic Table Markup; Forms; Understanding the Standards
Part 3 - CSS For Presentation: Cascading Style Sheets Orientation; Formatting Text (Plus More Selectors); Colors and Backgrounds (Plus Even More Selectors and External Style Sheets); Thinking Inside the Box (Padding, Borders, and Margins); Floating and Positioning; Page Layout with CSS; CSS Techniques
Part 4 - Creating Web Graphics: Web Graphics Basics; Lean and Mean Web Graphics
Part 5 - From Start to Finish: The Site Development Process; Getting Your Pages on the Web
Appendix A - Answers; Appendix B - CSS 2.1 Selectors; Index

The first clue that things were different is that it's a full color book.  So not only can the code examples be color-coded for clarity, but you don't get black-and-white graphics that attempt to illustrate a full-color web page.  Next, covering XHTML and CSS together means that the reader gets the correct foundation for how to separate content from structure.  I personally still have a bad habit of using HTML <B> tags instead of using CSS like I really should.  Had I had Robbins' book when I first learned, I'm inclined to think I'd have fewer bad habits to get rid of.  Finally, she hits a sweet spot in covering issues like browser quirks and incompatibilities.  It's not so in-depth that the beginner gets lost, yet it's detailed enough that even those who have been doing web work for some time will likely pick up or rediscover a few things they didn't know or had forgotten.

For those working through the book as a tutorial, there are plenty of exercises that reinforce the skills you've acquired.  After going through the material, there should be very little in the way of HTML and CSS coding that won't make sense.  The only part of web design that this book doesn't cover is JavaScript.  So if you're coming to this book hoping to learn how to make your page dynamic and interactive via scripting, you'll go away disappointed.  Personally, I think it was a wise decision to leave that out.  The target audience is more likely to want to build a basic page with static content to get started.  Throwing programming skills at them might be enough to confuse and discourage, which would be a shame.  There's more than enough material here with HTML and CSS to get plenty of value for your book buying dollar.

I have a colleague at work who is dipping her toe into the world of web design.  She asked me if I knew of any good books to get her started.  I'll be shipping my copy to her, as I'm quite confident this will be exactly what she needs...

08/04/2007

Book Review - The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

Category Book Review
Dean Koontz has been turning out some (in my opinion) really good books lately, ones that don't rely so much on the bizarre supernatural element.  In his latest titled The Good Guy, he caught my attention immediately and it never let up.

Timothy Carrier is just a normal guy who works as a mason and is perfectly happy with his life.  One evening he stops at his friend's bar for the usual banter, reflection, and relaxation.  But two things happen that change his life completely.  First of all, someone comes up to him and hands over $10000 for a contract hit on a woman, Linda Paquette.  While Carrier is trying to recover from that strange interaction, another guy walks in expecting the money and instructions on who he is to kill.  Carrier decides that Paquette doesn't deserve a fate like this, so he tells the hit man to just take the money and walk.  But the killer has a different view on carrying out his assignment, and decides that taking no for an answer isn't acceptable.  He discovers that Carrier isn't the person who he was supposed to meet, but that just means that both Carrier and Paquette have to die.  Not content to let things go, Carrier meets Paquette and tries to explain what happened in the bar.  She has no idea why someone would want her dead, but she quickly finds out that reasons don't matter when you have a paid killer after you.  They both manage to stay one small step ahead of death, but it seems to be only a matter of time before their resources run out and they lose...

As I've mentioned in other Koontz reviews, I love the way he can turn a phrase.  I think I'd almost read the story just to watch how he does that.  But here, it doesn't seem to be quite as obvious, and it blends perfectly with the characters.  There's never any doubt who the killer is, so that's not where the suspense lies.  The unknown "why" doesn't get revealed until the end, nor does the killer's network of support.  You also know that both Paquette and Carrier are hiding major secrets about their past that they don't want to go into.  Again, they don't get revealed until close to the end, so you don't always know quite why the characters are behaving as they do.  But the story-line moves fast, the characters are real, and The Good Guy never lets up until the end.  

A very good read...

08/04/2007

Book Review - Pint-Sized Ireland by Evan McHugh

Category Book Review
A friend of mine tipped me to a book that immediately caught my interest... Pint-Sized Ireland: In Search of the Perfect Guinness by Evan McHugh.  Having spent a little time in Ireland for a software conference, I find myself drawn to the country, people, and customs.  Evan McHugh made me feel like I was right back there.  And I haven't read something this funny in quite awhile...

Contents: The first round; Dublin on tap; Beer and politics; Blood is thicker than Guinness; Love at first pint; Pub town; Heading north; The holy mountain; A land of pubs and poets; Last drinks

So the framework of the story is that Evan and his traveling companion (who was to become his wife) decide to travel over to "Oirland" to meet up with a couple of friends.  Knowing that there would be plenty of drinking (it *is* Ireland!) of Guinness, he felt that it was necessary to acquire a taste for the dark beverage.  On the ferry over, they start their training.  It does *not* go well.  His description of "moother's milk" leads you to believe that mother is none too well.  As expected, a stop at a pub is the first order of business once they meet their friends.  This Guinness goes down better, which starts the discussion as to where you can find the "perfect Guinness".  So as they travel the island via train, hitchhiking, and hostels, the question is always asked...  where can I find the perfect Guinness?  And it's always "somewhere else".  Along the way, you meet traveling companions, colorful locals, and more pubs than you ever imagine existed.  And at the end, McHugh does find the answer to where the perfect Guinness can be found.  And it's a classic...

While it sounds like this book is all about beer, it's really something much better.  It's a travel diary of sorts, written by someone who has a real knack for capturing the color and flavor of the culture.  In many instances, he writes the Irish dialogue as it sounds.  So when they are visiting their first pub, he tells his friends they had a Guinness coming over on the ferry.  The reply is classic. "Oh, you shouldn'ta doon that.  It's fookin' shite, that's why.  Now get that into ya.  We've a lotta poobs ahead of us."  After spending time with my friends over there, I know that would have been the EXACT reply I would have received, using the EXACT same words.  :)  

If you're at all interested in Irish culture, this is a must read.  Think of it as a way to understand the openness of the Irish people, and how in a "poob" you're never a stranger...

08/04/2007

Book Review - The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Category Book Review
At least in the blogging circles I follow, it's been nearly impossible to not notice the book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss.  It's gotten a ton of airplay online, so of course I had to read it for myself.  There are some interesting ideas and options presented, but if you play the full program out to the logical conclusion, it breaks down at some point.

Contents:
First and Foremost: FAQ - Doubters Read This; My Story and Why You Need This Book; Chronology of a Pathology
Step 1 - D is for Definition: Cautions and Comparisons - How to Burn $1,000,000 a Night; Rules That Change the Rules - Everything Popular Is Wrong; Dodging Bullets - Fear-Setting and Escaping Paralysis; System Reset - Being Unreasonable and Unambiguous
Step 2 - E is for Elimination: The End of Time Management - Illusions and Italians; The Low-Information Diet - Cultivating Selective Ignorance; Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal
Step 3 - A is for Automation: Outsourcing Life - Off-loading the Rest and a Taste of Geoarbitrage; Income Autopilot 1 - Finding the Muse; Income Autopilot 2 - Testing the Muse; Income Autopilot 3 - MBA - Management by Absence
Step 4 - L is for Liberation: Disappearing Act - How to Escape the Office; Beyond Repair - Killing Your Job; Mini-Retirements - Embracing the Mobile Lifestyle; Filling the Void - Adding Life After Subtracting Work; The Top 13 New Rich Mistakes
The Last Chapter - An E-mail You Need to Read
Restricted Reading; Acknowledgments; Index

So when I first started hearing about this book, I thought it was about time management...  do less and get more results.  And while that's part of it, it's not the main thrust.  Ferriss outlines a program whereby you can set up a continuous stream of income, remove yourself from the process, and collect the money.  This happens with a combination of things like outsourcing, licensing, and "traveling light".  The general concept is to create a program or product that can be delivered and serviced by a fulfillment company or a manufacturer.  Allow offshore labor to represent your company in terms of call center work.  And in as much as is possible, don't put yourself in a position where the company can't function without you on a hour-by-hour basis.  This combination of elements means that you can restrict your "work" to just a few hours per week, and then spend the rest of your time doing things that really interest you, such as traveling.  And even in the world of travel, he shows how living for three months in a place like Brazil might be far cheaper than living for three weeks in your home.  

For those who are happy working a regular job, some areas of his book still work well.  Selective ignorance can do wonders for freeing up time in your life that can be focused elsewhere.  Restructuring your email and online presence can have the same effect.  Don't let those things control you.  Set the times you'll get back to people via email, and then focus on those items which make a difference.  I was really intrigued about the offshoring concept.  I didn't know you can actually have "virtual assistants" that will take over those mundane tasks like research, scheduling, or miscellaneous tasks.  I can see how if you were a writer, you might find spending $5 an hour to have background material gathered would save you far more than that in time spent doing the actual writing.  

Where I think the book and idea falls down is that *someone* has to do the physical labor.  Yes, you could do the exact things that Ferriss outlines, and you could live his lifestyle.  But someone has to be the virtual assistant, someone has to create the product, someone has to manufacture it, and someone has to deliver it.  If everyone was focused on generating income in this fashion, then nobody would.  So while it sounds easy, it's really not.  And if it were that easy, it wouldn't work as nobody would be there to do the grunt work that underlies your income.

Worth reading?  Yes...  Are there ideas that can help you improve where you're currently at?  Yes.  Will this work for anyone and everyone?  No...

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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