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Posts Tagged ‘2010 Book Review’

Last Thursday, I had my 1,000th workout at the gym in the building where I work.  Friday was off, Saturday was Christmas and yesterday was Boxing Day.  Today, it was back to work.
And of course, that meant back to the gym – for workout 1,001.  When you say you’ve done something one thousand times, it sounds like such an achievement.  When you say you’ve done it a thousand and one, you put it back into perspective.  To me, it’s not: “Did you win the race?”  It’s: “When did you run again?”  Or as some would say: it’s not the goal, it’s the path.
Today was my last day for a while.  I’m going on a detail for work back to Baltimore, Maryland.  The detail is 120 days.  I’ll be leaving in January and back in May.  I’ll be documenting it (the trip) on this blog.  I’m not sure what to expect.  With the exception of Saudi, most of my trips away from my family have only been for a week at most and I’ve usually stayed in a hotel room.  I’m told I’ll be in some kind of longer-term accommodation.  I’m not sure what that means exactly.  I think it means a hotel room with a small kitchen.  We’ll see…
I’ll be taking some books with me, but mostly I’m planning to work, workout and blog.  Again, we’ll see…
I don’t know how many times I’m going to  get opportunities to visit the east coast, so I’m hoping a bit to get a chance to visit some of the Civil War battlefields – Gettysburg, Antietam and Manassas are the one’s which come to mind.  Gettysburg is a must.  The other two are names which have always struck me when I’ve heard them, but not being a “true” Civil War buff, I don’t currently know much about them.  Again, I’m not sure what I’ll find when I go looking, but I hear their names calling to me across the haze of history through the fog of bitter conflict.
Reading
Last Friday (X-mas eve), I finished reading “Shit My Dad Says” by Justin Halpern (2008©).  This is one seriously funny book!  More than once, I laughed until I cried.  It is just sooo hilarious.  I highly recommend it!
Movie Reviews
Yesterday, I went to see “Tron: Legacy” with my son James.  It’s a sequel of TRON, a movie which came out way back in 1982.  The funny thing is I remember seeing the original, but it could not have been before 1987, because I didn’t start programming until late 1986, so the movie would not have meant anything to me before that.  As it was, I felt I was inside a little club of folks who knew something about a world that most people didn’t.  I knew about TRace ON (TRON) and TRace OFF (TROFF), CPUs, bits, bytes and the whole speed of light, MHz cycles (light-cycles), etc…
Anyway, this version is not nearly so enthralling.  The animation / special effects are superb, and the story is fairly deep, but it just wasn’t entertaining enough for me.  Pleasant, but not enjoyable.  Reminiscent, but not inspiring.  I’m not sure how to describe a movie you expect to touch you one way, which does mean something, but just doesn’t quite reach you there.  I’m glad I saw it.  It’s worth the $7.25; but, I’m glad I didn’t pay full price and definitely glad I didn’t splurge for the 3D version.
After I got home from TRON, I had dinner and watched a terrific movie with my Hil: “Julie and Julia“.   It’s a movie about a woman who decides to write a blog about cooking her way through a cookbook written by Julia Childs.  Meryl Streep plays Julia Childs and she is fantastic.  The movie is wonderful on many, many levels: a story of newly-weds starting out, a woman finding herself, a new blogger, a new writer, a woman deeply in love with her husband and with living life, cooking (of course), and food.  Some of the levels are Julie.  Some of them are Julia.  And, some of them are both ladies (and all of us as viewers).  I would say this though, it was an intimate movie which I enjoyed watching at home (with just my wife).  I’m not sure it would have been as enjoyable on a big screen and with a crowd of strangers.   Just an observation.
And one final movie review: “Miracle On 34th Street“.  This is simply my favorite Christmas movie of all time.  If you haven’t seen it recently, you need to see the original (in black and white).  It is incredible “Americana” at it’s best.  The details are everywhere.  You really can see history in movies which are meant to be contemporary when you view them 60 to 70 years later.
Art is supposed to speak to us individually.
Enjoy all three – then drop me a comment and let me know if they spoke to you, too.
Oh, yeah.  1,002 may not be for a while, but tomorrow I start jogging at home – after work…  I guess that will be 1.
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Short version: Read the book.  It’s interesting and well written.  I believe Woodward will end up being considered one of the great historical journalist / authors of the last 40 years (and probably then next 10 or so, too).  The book highlights the reasons for our eventual political and military failure in Afghanistan.  It is inevitable…
Long version: Today I completed Bob Woodward’s latest book: “Obama’s Wars“.  The book is an insiders look at the Obama Administration, the US Military and the on-going prosecution (mishandling) of the war in Afghanistan.  By insider, I mean it is quite obvious Woodward is being fed information by a host of characters to get their view of history in his story.
The book makes several things clear – the “war” in Afghanistan is un-winnable by any normal use of the term “win”.  The current Karzai government is corrupt and not supported by the Afghan people.  The fall is inevitable.  The only question is how much money and how many lives will we waste before we wake up, smell the coffee and get out?
The best we can hope for is to kill a bunch of Al Qaeda, avoid a complete government breakdown in Pakistan (and consequent loss of up to 100 nuclear weapons to terrorists) and not completely bankrupt the United States.
Every account of every review of the situation says we can’t “possibly” stem the tide in Afghanistan unless we commit far more troops than we currently have for far longer than we can possibly afford.
The author is clearly trying to kill a political run for the presidency by General Petraeus (a potential Republican nominee) in 2012 by making him out to be a fairly self-centered and self-serving man.  He (the General) clearly states (repeatedly) that this war will take generations, yet repeatedly asks for troops while promising to be able to move us closer to victory (with numbers far less than he knows can achieve this).  A “victory” he knows will not come in anyone’s lifetime.  General Petraeus is a student of history and knows full well a Democracy cannot sustain a prolonged active conflict – either politically or economically.
The same is true for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is also made out as a scapegoat (one of many) in this tragedy of failure in leadership.  Gates is made to appear to be regretful the US abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan after the end of the Cold War and the continuation of US involvement in this region is his way of somehow assuaging his conscience.  How this will happen or why he feels the need is not fully explained, but he promises the Afghans we will never leave the area!!
The military leadership, the Pentagon, the CIA and the other “war fighting” agencies in the government do not fare well in this book.  They are apparently only efficient at getting their way in the press.  They can’t “honestly” assess a situation and provide options.  In fact, they are insubordinate and plot to refuse to provide any realistic options to the plan they feel will provide some continuation of the war effort – not victory, just continuation.
Those in the military (active and retired) who try to argue against the single option are systematically marginalized and / or derided.
The White House staff does not escape the broad brush of criticism by the author.  General Jones is used to characterize them (WH Staff) as “water-bugs” and they certainly come across that way in the narration.
The only person who survives the ridicule is President Obama, who is portrayed as thoughtful, caring, conscientious and (at times) forceful.  The author appears to be making the case that President Obama cannot simply withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.  He must allow the military sufficient rope to hang itself so he can later justify a decision (an already made decision) to withdraw from Afghanistan.  It appears this decision will come shortly after the Dec 2010 review.  (Just after the Congressional elections – what a coincidence!)
The bottom line for this book – and war – is that President Bush did exactly what he campaigned against – nation building.  He tried to topple a government he didn’t like (Taliban) and then install one he did (Karzai).  When there was initial success: the Taliban were driven from power, Bush installed a corrupt leader who would never be able to unite and lead his country independently.  Bush then lost interest and went on to illegally attack another country (Iraq) to do the same thing.  Now Karzai will fall in Afghanistan and despite the present appearance of progress in Iraq, it will also collapse before the political situation in that area stabilizes.  And no amount of propping up by the US military will make a damned bit of difference…
The remainder of this blog is my personal opinion and not really part of the book review…
Bush failed miserably in both efforts at nation building – although he was clearly a success in initially overthrowing both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.
Bush has left President Obama to clean up his (Bush’s) utter failures and, unfortunately, President Obama has followed bad advice and is choosing to slowly extract us from both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I personally do NOT believe leaving 30,000 to 50,000 troops (and a similar number of contractors) in Iraq is “withdrawing“.  I want every single post closed and every last soldier brought home.  I feel the same way about Afghanistan!!  Out NOW!!
As un-liberal, un-Democratic and un-Christian as this sounds, we do not need to be there to kill people over there – lots and lots of people.  Yes, many innocents will also be hurt and killed, but the bottom line is their leaders don’t care about them (the average person).  Their leaders only care about themselves.  If we have to blow up a few thousand innocent civilians to get to their leaders, so be it.  It won’t take many “examples” before the rest of the world realizes we are serious and mean business – and don’t mess with us.
The flip side to this is we should also stop propping up the governments of other countries and we should bring all of our soldiers home – from Europe, Asia and Africa.  If a foreign government nationalizes some part of an American company – tough!  You should have kept your capital here where it was safe or you should have invested it in such a way the government didn’t feel they had to seize your assets.  Other than American citizens overseas, we have NO national interests in other countries!!  Read George Washington’s farewell address…  Avoid foreign entanglements!
Self-governing is difficult enough for Americans here in the United States.  Let’s leave other governments to their own people for a change.
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Yesterday, I finished “The Age of Discontinuity” by Peter F. Drucker (1969©).  This book took me almost two months to complete because it is so overwhelming.  I found I could only read a few dozen pages at most before I had to stop, pause and think about what Drucker was saying.  It is almost literally one of Bacon’s few books “to be chewed and digested.”
It’s important to remember this work was penned in the late 1960’s!!  Yet, it is as fresh and descriptive today as if Drucker is sitting across a table discussing modern history with you (me).
The book seeks to review (and examine) four main “discontinuities” in our civilization: new technology, the world’s economy, the “political matrix of social and economic life”, and (most importantly) changes in knowledge (and their effects on teaching, learning, labor, work and politics).
Here is a sampling of quotes to illustrate the power of his ideas: (on American pluralism) – …a pluralist society guarantees freedom from domination by any single group.  …  In fact, the danger in pluralism, as history teaches, is not domination by this or that interest group; it is collapse into indecision and into a stalemate of competing “countervailing powers.”
(On knowledge) – This demand, in turn reflects the basic fact that knowledge has become productive.  The systematic and purposeful acquisition of information and its systematic application, rather than “science” or “technology,” are emerging as the new foundation for work, productivity, and effort throughout this world.  (Sounds like the prediction of the coming of Google!)
Knowledge work does not lead to a “disappearance of work.” …Knowledge work, like all productive work, creates its own demand.  And the demand is apparently unlimited.
(On educational and leadership testing) – No one test can possibly identify today who will be leadership material twenty years later.  For we do not and cannot know what will be needed twenty years hence.
My copy of this book is the hardbound version and roughly 400 pages.   I would estimate I have well over 50 side notes scribbled on the pages and probably a good quarter of the book hi-lighted.  This is certainly a work I will return to again – perhaps next time to try to swallow whole, but certainly to nibble away at again and again as its digestion helps me grow.
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Family stuff first: Thursday, I drove down to UCLA to pick up Rebecca.  She finished her last final at 6:30, but wasn’t allowed to move out until 11, so we went to dinner and then just hung out until she was ok to leave.
We got back to the hotel (the Hampton Inn in Van Nuys) after 12:30.  We got back on the road by 9:30 the next day (Friday, 11 June) and were home by 3:30.  All in all it was a nice, smooth trip.  I was not looking forward to the drive down – mostly because it was all by myself, but it turned out to be not bad at all.  I listened to music (sang along) and it was quite enjoyable.
I had one of my serendipity moments on the way down.  I was at the northern end of the Grapevine and looked up at the hills and saw a unusual purple color on several of the (mostly brown) hills.  My first thought was, “Wow, they’ve either had a fire already or they’ve sprayed fire retardant in advance of the next fire.  As I got closer, I realized the color was from a small flower and not a chemical spray.  It was a faint, but very distinct purple.  It wasn’t on all of the hills or spread as evenly as the brown from the grasses – which was probably why I thought it was a spray and not naturally occurring.
Anyway, it occurred to me that I was probably seeing something which only lasts a couple of days a year and which probably only happens a couple of times a year – kind of like a “desert bloom”.
I would like to make a few quick comments about the hotel.  I’m not a big fan of hotels, but this was a nice little place for the price ($130).  It wasn’t much to look at from the outside and I can’t comment on the locale, but it was reasonably close to UCLA, which was my primary criteria.  The inside was surprisingly quite nice, appearing reasonably modern and well kept.  The room was a nice size with two full size beds.  There was a large flat panel TV, and free wireless internet in the room.  The bed was very comfortable and the shower was hot with good water pressure.  The room smelled a little musty when I first entered it, but that soon went away with the AC on.  All in all, I would highly recommend it.
I injured my back last week crawling around on the floor, shifting PCs at work in Oakland.  At first I thought it was just a strained muscle, but by the end of the day, I had tell-tail sharp pain all the way down my right leg.  The next morning, Tuesday, I tried to do a light jog to work it out, but all I did was aggravate it severely.  I had to stop jogging because the pain in my leg was so bad.  The pain continued all day until I could barely walk.  I texted James to set up my inversion table and I hung when I finally got home.  I managed to relax after about five minutes and I felt my spine snap back into place.  The leg pain was gone and I gingerly made it through the rest of the evening.  I decided not to risk injury by taking Wednesday off.
I haven’t had back (and leg) pain like that in quite a while and it put the fear of God back in me.  Thank God for inversion machines!!
James’ girl friend – Natasha – graduated from high school on Friday.
Sarah had her end of year band dinner last week – Saturday before last and we went.  It was lots of laughs and we are very proud of her.  Go Minuteman Marching Band!!
Home stuff: Hil and I took a trip down to The Shed Shop in Fremont to have a look at sheds.  We picked a model and size, so now we just have to have them come out and do the site evaluation and then we agree a day for installation.  Finally!!!!  We’ll have a shed.  We’ve also decided we’re going to start doing the floors with bamboo.  It’ll take us a few years to get it all done, but at least the decision has been made to move forward.
Perhaps, the most significant thing (to me) is that Hil has finally decided she likes our house and wants to stay in it.  I think this will mean we’ll move forward on a lot of different things now.
Movie Review: Well, I finally got around to watching my DVD copy of “Slumdog Millionaire“.  It was a very intense (and moving) movie.  I discussed it with my son James who dismissed it as a chick-flick, date movie.  It was – at a certain level – simply a love story, but it was a lot more as well.  It raised questions of philosophy – are our lives destined?  It also hi-lighted man’s inhumanity towards others – particularly in circumstances of dire poverty.  Bottom line – I highly recommend it.
Book Review: Yesterday, (Sunday, 13 June), I finished “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell (2005).  The book is about how we are able to make almost instantaneous decisions based on limited information and those decisions turn out to be (frequently) as reliable as decisions we make with great consideration and lots of data / information.  Another interesting discussion was about using different parts of the brain to remember things.  If we think of the picture of a cow, we use a different part of the brain than if we think of the word “cow” and try to describe it, height, weight, color, etc., and the very act of trying to describe something tends to make us “forget” the thing we are trying to describe.  This seems to happen because of the difference in the amount of brain power allotted to long term versus short term memory.  Long term memory is virtually unlimited, but short term is “thimble sized”.  It takes some time to move memories from short to long term and the act of interpreting the memory, by describing it, seems to short-circuit the transition from short to long term memory.
I found this point very interesting because at one point, I used to “think” in text, as in when I “thought of” a “brown cow” (in my mind), that’s what I saw – the words, not the “image” of an animal.  I remember being mildly surprised at the time that others didn’t “see” the way I did.  (I asked several of my friends.)  I actively tried to “see” the image of a brown cow instead of the words when I thought of it and in the space of a couple of weeks, I started “seeing” the images.  Unfortunately, I found I had lost the ability to “see” the words now.  I’ve tried a few times to think my way back, but it seems to be completely lost to me.  I don’t know if it’s a permanently one-way street, but it certainly seems to be since I’ve never met anyone else who admits to ever thinking of things that way.
Bottom Line: the book was a very fast read and raised some interesting points for me to continue thinking about.  You can’t ask for much more than that from an author.  I now plan to make time to go back and read the author’s other work: “The Tipping Point”.
Running and Diet: Not so good of late.  With the continuing little injuries (back and legs), it’s been easy to make excuses for not running at night.  I’ve found the jogging in the Gym to be not the same.  For one, I try to run instead of just enjoying my time jogging.  I also tend to get distracted by the TV.  This means my brain is not continuously involved in my moving.  It also means, when I go do my school yard jogs, my head is missing the extraneous input (distraction) from the TV.  I believe the long term solution is to not jog at the gym and instead do other cross training, cardio workouts.
I’m still wearing my first pair of test shoes – the Ahnu Delta Water shoes.  Granted I haven’t been pounding them daily, but they still seem to have almost no wear whatsoever.  I’m already over a month using them (sporadically) and I’ve not done a hundred miles yet, but they still seem very sturdy to me.
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Memorial Day Weekend —  Three days off to relax!
At church, Father Joe said his last 1200 Mass for us.  He has finished his masters degree in Berkeley and is heading back to Malaysia.  Hil and I will miss him.  His sermons were always about Love.  Love for God and love for each other.  His final sermon was about fear of change and the unknown.  We were both struck by how this was an intensely personal statement about himself couched in a message of reassurance for the rest of us.
James went to mass with us.  It was his first time in a couple of years.
Saturday, I went to the movies with James.  We went to see “The Prince of Persia“.  It was a summer action movie about a poor child who is adopted by a King and who then goes forwards and then back thru time to save the kingdom.  Very entertaining.  I look forward to it coming out in DVD so I can see it again.
Yesterday, 30 May 2010, I finished reading “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance“, by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. (2002).  I had seen the book in the used bookstore several times, but never picked it up because my past experience is these books always end up being self-serving autobiographies.  Then, about six weeks ago, I saw the book on a list of the 100 greatest business books ever written.  This piqued my curiosity and I decided to pick it up the next time I saw it.  I ended up looking for it several times (and places) before I finally found it.  Anyway, I found it this week and dove in.
I have to admit I was both correct – it is self-serving – and I don’t care because it is both very well written and offered me some thoughtful moments.  I must admit any book which can make me consider a point vis-a-vis conditions within SSA, is a book I will review positively.  I will offer a few quotes:
“Successful institutions almost always develop stong cultures that reinforce those elements that make the institution great.  They reflect the environment from which they emerged.  When that environment shifts, it is very hard for the culture to change.  In fact, it becomes an enormous impediment to the institution’s ability to adapt.”
“The truth is that no large enterprise can work without bureaucracy.  Bureaucrats, or staff people, provide coordination among disparate line organizations; establish and enforce corporate-wide strategies that allow the enterprise to avoid duplication, confusion, and conflict; and provide highly specialized skills that cannot be duplicated because of cost or simply the shortage of available resources.”
“I’ve never been certain that I can abstract from my experiences a handful of lessons that others can apply to their own situations.”
“A successful, focused enterprise is one that has developed a deep understanding of its customers’  needs, its competitive environment, and its economic realities.”
“Execution —  getting the task done, making it happen — is the most unappreciated skill of an effective business leader.”
“Great institutions are not managed; they are led.  They are not administered; they are driven to ever-increasing levels of accomplishment by individuals who are passionate about winning.”
“Most of all, personal leadership is about passion.”
“Thus, what every CEO has to do is decide what is going to be uniquely local (decentralized) and what is going to be common in his or her enterprise.”
“Great institutions balance common shared activities with highly localized, unique activities.”
Ok.  Having said how good the writing was and having listed a few quotes, what did I find “wrong” with the work?  To start off with there is an assumption that value in big organizations comes from systems and procedures.  Gerstner downplays this assumption by repeatedly discussing all of the great individuals he worked with.  But in the end, it is the big customer which must implement the technology (internet) before the value can reach the individual customer.  I’m not sure I agree with this.  Anybody can buy a shoe at a store – on-line or in bricks and mortar.  We don’t need the internet for that.  Knowledge, though, that is different.  The more widely we can make knowledge (facts and opinions, but not lies) accessible, the greater all societies will be.  It is the PC and the internet which are driving this phenomena, not the ability to buy shoes or jeans.  I’m not dismissing the value of on-line shopping for businesses or individuals, I’m just trying to establish where I place real value.
Of course, the process of posting to the internet does not differentiate between facts, opinions and lies – but that is another discussion.  The fact that buying and selling shoes and jeans is what ultimately pays to keep the internet up and running is also something for another day.
Ultimately, the most interesting part of the book is the infrequent mentioning of research and implementation.  Where a product cannot be driven to market in a timely manner, it needs to be leveraged by “selling” the use to others who will drive the product to market.  Essentially, this and the effort to make IBM a system integrator and service supplier are the key ideas for any company based on true intelligence / knowledge.  “We know how things work together.  We make some (most) of the parts (especially the big, expensive parts,) and what we don’t make we can help you buy and put together.  You pay some for what we make, but you pay most for what we know.”  [That is me, not Mr. Gerstner being quoted.]
I have to agree, this is a true growth industry and one that a large multinational corporation can make a lot of money from.
Today I went to REI and (finally) got myself a pair of Vibram FiveFingers (KSO).  They are SOOOOOO cool!!!  I wore them home from the store and they are extremely comfortable.  The biggest downside is the price: $85.  So, this is probably the only pair I’ll ever own.  But in the meantime, they are COOL!  Black and gray with cammo bottoms.
I will continue my current test pair, but I can’t wait to start logging some miles in the KSO’s.
Incidentally, last night I ran 240 minutes – about 7ish miles.  My feet feel good and my Achilles are a little tender but not bad.  Otherwise, I feel great!  And there was virtually no wear on the Delta Water Socks (the test pair).
Also today, I picked up and watched “Paper Chase“.  It’s a movie about a first year law student at Harvard.  I first saw it when I was in my 20s and I’ve wanted to get it for ages.  I couldn’t wait to get home and watch it.  Review: Even after all these years, it’s still EXCELLENT!!  John Houseman rocks as Professor Kingsfield.  He got an Oscar for his performance.
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Today, 28 May 2010, I just finished another tremendous “running” book.  This one is titled: “No Need For Speed“, by John “The Penguin” Bingham (2002©).  He is a former columnist for Runner’s World Magazine.  The book has some very practical advice for the beginning runner, but really, it’s about the spirit and philosophy of becoming / being a lifetime runner.
The book is very reminiscent of the “Born To Run” book and juxtaposes against Sheehan’s “Running And Being“.  It’s about the joy of running, not the agony.  This is a book I’ll keep handy and browse thru every now and then for inspiration, more than for advice.  Well worth reading for a philosophy of living, not just running.
Some quotes:
“The moment of truth for many of us as adult-onset athletes is when we first realize that changing our lives is going to be much more difficult than we ever imagined.”
“The days when you have to drag yourself out the door are very often the days when you will learn the most about yourself, not necessarily as a runner, but as a person.”
“Try to keep your expectations reasonable.  You’re beginning the journey of a thousand miles with a single step.  Each step is important; every step counts.”
“Each of us can maintain an effort level of about half our maximum perceived effort almost indefinitely, regardless of what that perceived effort level is.  We may not be able to maintain it continuously, but with a few exceptions, most of us can move our bodies at about half of our perceived maximum for as long as we want.”
[I doubt this is actually true. I can go for a good distance (several miles) at 4mph.  I have done 9mph (very briefly), and feel I could do 10mph (very, very briefly).  I guess there needs to be a “fudge” factor for “extremely” slow runners like me.]
“Don’t do anything today that might keep you from running tomorrow.”
“Frustration is the first step toward improvement.  I have no incentive to improve if I’m content with what I can do and if I’m completely satisfied with my pace, distance and form as a runner.”
“For the dedicated runner, frustration is to be sought out and savored, not avoided.”
“I continue to run because I like running.  I like to run even though I’m not, by their standards, any good at it.  What matters to me is that I like to run, not what they think about my running.”
“Life can’t be taken so seriously that you live it without risk.  There are times in life, as in running and racing, when the only way to see tomorrow is to walk right up to the edge of today.”
“It isn’t the shoes, socks, clothes, or even the speed that makes me a runner.  It’s running.  I pay my membership dues every time I lace up my running shoes.  I realize that every time I challenge myself to do more, struggle to get a little faster, or face the limits of my abilities, I am a runner.”
“A real runner, not just someone who runs.”
[The contradiction between this and some of the earlier quotes is stark.  Does the author truly enjoy running, or is it all about some “other” psychological satisfaction – like testing one’s self.  This is a trap I fall into. Wanting to go faster and be “better”.  …And then I take a long, slow jog out in the fresh air, watch the clouds go by and the day change, and I realize I just run because I like running.]
Other Topics – first of many shoe reviews:
The plan is to use each test pair about 30 days and or 100-125 miles of jogging.
Model: Delta Water Shoe
Price: $40 but you can get a discount if you are a store member.
Ahnu Delta Water Shoe
Manufacturer: Ahnu
Web site: www.ahnu.com
Bought at: REI store in Concord, CA
Web site: www.rei.com
Initial impressions:
This is BY FAR the most expensive shoe of this type I’ve bought for my reviews.  More than twice the price of the next highest.
Not very easy to get on.  I tried to wear cotton socks with them.  I managed to get them on my feet, but they pulled the socks back into my toes so every step felt like I was kicking a wall.  I had to sit and remove the socks.  After that, they were extremely comfortable in a slimy, polyester kind of way.  Without socks, getting them on is a tug/slip/pull/straighten, but it’s not too bad.
The feel for the ground is excellent.  You can feel the smallest cracks in the pavement and the smallest stones, but there seems little danger of penetration by sharp objects.  I do my laps in a schoolyard and there is a fair amount of broken glass – and near the buildings – loose staples and paper clips.  (Who thought the world was so unsafe for feet!!)
So far I’ve done three runs on a treadmill and another four on the asphalt – about 25 – 30 miles and there is almost no sign of wear at all.
The good news is the slimy feeling goes away quickly because the shoes ventilation is great.  It remains to be seen how that translates into stink as they get a little more sweat in them.
I did a walk on the treadmill with maximum slope to see how the shoes felt.  I was surprised to find my foot consistently slid right off the back of the shoe.  If I were out in the boonies on a long jog, I would have had a problem with blisters under my heels in no time.  I was surprised because the shoe is relatively difficult to get on my feet and the lip feels snug enough to prevent stuff from getting in the shoe, so I imagined the sole would be more stable under the foot.
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Last Monday, 17 May I finished reading The Book of War, by Dwight Jon Zimmerman (2008©).  It is one of those encyclopedic surveys of wars, battles, generals and technologies which come out every few years.  It was interesting as an exercise (refresher), but I did not feel it offered anything particularly interesting or new.  A few of the battles and leaders were new (to me), but it was not obvious to me why they were included over other leaders which other authors might have chosen instead.
Today, 21 May I finished my second book by Stewart Liff.  This one is titled: Managing Government Employees (2007©).  It was Mr. Liff’s first book, so I’ve actually read them out of sequence.  This book was easily on a par with my last reading (Managing Your Government Career).  In fact, I’d say it was better in some ways because it gave more specific information.  Whereas the earlier reading was really for all government employees, this is more to the needs of folks in supervisory and management positions.  Again, I would highly recommend this work to any and all government leadership.  Between the two works, I am more and more convinced I need to get some time in Labor and Employee Relations and then get a detail out in the field.  There is NO substitute for program time if you want to get ahead in the government.
Speaking of which, the Leadership Development Program has been announced for the next fiscal year.  I have to get my act together and apply again.  This will be my fifth application in eight years.  I’ve been interviewed for four of them and did not make the Best Qualified List (BQL) last year – for the first time.  Anyway, we’ll see how it goes again this year.
Nothing really new on the running front.  I’ve been having a lot of minor problems for about a month and my time has really trailed off.  Mostly, I’m only jogging in the morning now (at work) and that’s not enough to get me ready for the WS100.
I picked up three pairs of “water-sport” shoes and plan to give a review of each when I finally get started back running a bit more seriously.  As “good” as it may sound to be a “natural” barefoot runner.  I doubt if I’ll ever be one.  These shoes may be as close as I ever get.
The diet is not particularly going…  I’m bouncing around at 290 to 297.  I’m still down over 30 lbs, but I should be much further along.
I’ve picked up some drum sticks and am beginning to tap with them every now and then.  Art (my sister’s husband) says he’ll loan me a drum set for the summer (about six weeks).  That should be enough time for me to lose interest or “discover” I really do like playing a musical instrument.
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On Saturday, 1 May I finished the book: “Managing Your Government Career” by Stewart Liff (2009©).  The book is a primer on how to plan a career in government.  I don’t feel it really taught me anything new, but it is definitely a book I would have liked to read 15 to 18 years ago when I was starting out in Civil Service.
Most of the book are Homer Simpson, “Duh!!“, moments.  But it is refreshing to find so many of them in one convenient place.  This, in itself, makes the book a valuable resource.  I got the book from our Training Dept resource library, and it turns out they have a second book by the same author.  That one is a previous work about managing government employees.  I look forward to reading that as well.  I’ve requested it, so now I just have to wait for it to be delivered (assuming no one else has it checked out).
The author was fortunate enough to have started his career directly in human resources.  This means all the day to day operations he was learning about were actually things he could transfer to another agency (should he decide to move around).  He then managed to take a supervisory position in a program delivery office.  Program delivery is government speak for retail facing of the public a.k.a. front-line delivery.  He then was able to transfer back into HR, this time as an employee relations (ER) specialist and then move into management.  Ultimately, he ends up directing the HR department of a moderately large agency.
One of his particularly cogent observations is to never take a job without having an idea of what the next job will be.  In other words, where will you be after you take this one.  This idea of planning each move with multiple options next and multiple options again after that is very similar to the “Indirect Approach” to warfare suggested by B. H. Liddle Hart in his writings on military strategy.
The obvious benefit is you leave yourself several options to promotion and you prevent any competing individual from blocking all of your potential plans for advancement. The only one they will seriously try to block is the one they are most interested in.
Other than my extrapolation of this strategy, the suggestions are conventional – work hard, dress well, build a network, cultivate mentors.  Or as my non-techie friends say to me, “Blah, blah, blah…”
It would have been nice if the author had provided a few more insights into the workings of the decision process for getting through to the Best Qualified List (BQL), but the best he can offer is to read the job announcement and write specifically to it. (“Duh!!”)
More importantly, how do you decide which factors are important (and realistically achievable) when you are thinking about the multiple positions you want to line up for that second and third job down the line.  Another topic might have been, when it is a good idea to lateral or downgrade in order to pick up a critical skill for that future position.
All in all, though my criticisms are details which might have improved the book for me in particular and not necessarily faults for the general reader.
The book is well written, relatively brief (230 pages) and a “fast” read.  I would highly recommend it to anyone considering a government job, anyone in their first couple of years of service, anyone in their first or second supervisory position and finally to anyone at the very senior level who might want to refresh their memory with what it’s like to have your future ahead of you so you can look out to help others as a mentor.
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Last night I went out to run in the school yard across the street.  Hil and I drove back from Mom’s and got a rough estimate of the mileage / distance – a little over 11 miles if I go via Ygnatio Road from Clayton to Walnut Creek.  Hil objected that it was too far to do as a first run and I would have to get out and try some other street runs first.  I countered that I should be able to do it in the 4 hour time limit I’d set in my 5 jogs during January.  She responded it’s not the same when you’re on the street and doing hills.  I said, I know.  That’s why I was allowing 4 hrs to do 3 hours distance.  I believe my school yard jogs are about 3.5 mph, so 4 hours is about 14 miles – more than enough to cover the distance.
Anyway, I ended up going out on the road.  I jogged up to the North Concord BART station and then down to Salvio, up past the main library and then back home along Esperanza.  I was still short of 90 minutes, so I did two laps in the school yard to finish up the 90.  In all, I estimate about a 5 mile jog.
I felt real good afterwards.  I was trying out my new shoes and they were very comfortable.  I got them for 50 bucks.  About half the price of the running store I went to last weekend.  At the moment, I believe the difference between a great running shoe and an ok one is a $3 footpad insert to increase the cushioning under the balls of my feet.  Since I’ve adopted this “new” running style, that’s where most of my pain seems to be.  I also noticed that adding the small hills to my jog last night has made a big difference in my Achilles heal not hurting at the end of my jog (or today).
Saturday, I went out and did two of my favorite things – I bought books and a new pair of running shoes.  I must have gotten about 15 books for under $75.  I got a dozen off the clearance racks, so they were $1, $2 or $3 each.
One of the books is: “Ultimate Fitness” (2003©), by Gina Kolata.  The author was/is a science writer for the New York Times.  The book is a review of the science and history behind the fitness industry.  The book was eye-opening for me because I’ve always assumed the “basics” fo fitness were grounded in solid scientific research.  As it turns out, very little of what I’ve thought was “true” is, in fact, proven.
Fundamentally, there is substantial scientific evidence that going from no exercise to four or five 30 minute sessions of any moderate exercise are enough to move a person to significant health improvement over the complete non-exerciser.  After that, there is little or no evidence of any improved benefits to health or longevity.
The author makes a key point that health is not the same as fitness and one has to do a lot more exercise to become “fit” than one needs to do to gain health.
The author makes the same claims about strength training.  A moderate amount builds you up to your natural base, but after that, you need to do a lot more and a lot more specific training to make substantial gains.
On consideration, these statements just make common sense (as uncommon as that may be).
One very interesting discovery the author relates is to do with why 220 beats per minute is considered the maximum heart rate for humans.  It turns out this was not based on any “vast and thorough” research study.  It appears the two scientists who “discovered” the rate found it by examining 10 papers on maximum heart rates.  The sizes of the individual studies is not provided, but the author states they were small samples.  She goes on to add they were limited in that they were all men, white, under sixty-five and predominantly young.  She implies the studies may have had their own internal biases because the samples were taken at cardiac centers and not from a random sampling of the population.  The stated bias is (at least) the two most likely people going to a cardiac center for testing are cardiac patients (who will not represent the general public) and young athletes, seeking to find out the limits of their fitness training.
Because the two researches were US government employees at the time and were presenting their findings at a symposium, they had the imprimatur of truth/fact.  Over time, the “findings” were repeated enough they gained the status of gospel (“urban legend”).  I think the story is particularly interesting because I’ve seen posters with the 220 number on walls at my gym and at my cardiologist.
Other than establishing that most of what I thought about exercise is marketing and misunderstood science, the author spends most of the time discounting the hype-sters of the fitness movements/fads.  Again, this is pretty much just more common sense…
All in all, a very interesting book and I highly recommend it.
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