2011 - My Favorite Books

I ended 2010 with the insane goal of reading a book a week in 2011. What was I thinking? Much like any thing resembling a new year's resolution, I failed. But I still read some great books in 2011.

In 2011 I discovered that, much to my surprise, I really do enjoy reading books on the iPad and iPhone. I have always said that I preferred paper books. But I quickly learned that e-reading (yuk, that is such a lame term) is awesome. For starters, I can read at any angle, without having the pages fall back down on my face. Secondly, I love grabbing a few pages on the iPhone when I want to. Plus, there's the added benefit of being able to carry a bunch of books with me... and being able to flag and highlight a page or a word... awesome!

Another change in my reading habit this year was the library. You know what those are? The buildings with all the books in them. Yeah, they still exist. And they are awesome. Well, ours are! I can go online and find a book and have it pulled from the shelf for me. Then, I just go to the library and it's waiting for me to pick up. Easy peasy. And get this, it's all free! What a concept.

I can't say that I will get all of my books from the library from now on but I can't imagine buying another physical book. If I must buy, I'll just buy the iBook (nah, don't like that term either).

So, (insert drum roll) here is my favorite of 2011.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

For the first time, my favorite book of the year is fiction. Yes, I realize it was published in early 2009 but I only heard of it this year. I didn't know what to expect from this book but was mesmerized by the story from the first page. The opening chapter is written in the voice of Aibileen, one of the three central characters of The Help. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the sixties, the world she described could not have been further from the life I knew growing up in northern California.

The story is about a young writer telling the story of what it's like to be an African American maid, from their perspective.

The characters are gripping and so real. The dialog between them is amazing. The pain, anguish and fear jump from the pages to the very core of my soul. I know that's pretty dramatic, but it was truly a powerful book.

I read the book mostly in airports and airplanes, traveling to Buffalo, Sioux Falls and Memphis. I met so many wonderful people that had read or were currently reading the book. I've never been in a book club but it felt like I was in one.

When I boarded a flight home to SFO I met an elderly couple in Salt Lake City that raved about the book. One of the men had just started the paperback and told me how much he, too, loved the opening chapter. The other man, his husband, said he read it on his Kindle more than a year before. The two gentlemen exchanged a look only married couples do and the Kindle husband said "I kept telling him he would love it. He never listens to me".

When we finally landed just after 2 AM I got off the plane and sat alone in the desolate terminal and finished the last few pages. I sat there and cried my eyes out, stood up, wiped the tears from my face and headed out to catch the bus to my car.

The Help made me laugh and cry. But mostly, it made me think about other groups of people that our society treats poorly. It made me hopeful that someday, we would all look back and realize we were all as foolish as Miss Hilly Holbrook.

I did, of course, read mostly non-fiction this year. One of my favorites was The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. I didn't really like his previous book, Crush It, but thought I'd take a chance on this one. It did not disappoint. More than being a book about how smart companies use social media, I read it as a view into what customer service will look like in the future, what it's starting to look like now.

A few of the books I am looking forward to finishing soon:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson No Regrets by Ace Frehely Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick

What was your favorite book in 2011?

Happy reading!


On Turning 40...

We are finally 40. Being an identical twin born on 11-11 means that I was destined to be a significance junky. Ever since I was a small child, I have always looked forward to 11-11-11, and to turning 40. Of course, for most of my life, this milestone seemed so incredibly far in the future.

But not anymore. It's here. Mike and I are finally 40. Age, as I always remember old people saying, is just a number. But, still, 40 years is a long time!

In November 1971:

  • Intel releases the first microprocessor
  • Led Zeppelin releases the album that most of us call Led Zeppelin IV, which eventually becomes one of the best selling albums of all time
  • D.B. Cooper hijacks a Northwest Orient Airlines flight and escapes by parachute with $200,000 in ransom
  • Mariner 9 becomes the first spacecraft to successfully enter Mars orbit

The past 40 years have been a blast. Now here's to another 40, with my original womb-mate.



No More iDisk? No Problem?

I love the Mac environment. Since we purchased our first Mac several years ago, we have slowly turned into a Mac-only household. With iPhones, iPads and Macs, I love how simple the syncing works. We each have a seamless experience no matter which device we're using. We can easily keep our contact list up-to-date, as well as our calendars. The four of us tend to stay pretty busy, it's awesome how simple calendar syncing and sharing are in the Mac / iOS environment. Then, there's iDisk. My own personal thumb-drive in the sky. Or, as has become popular lately, in the "cloud". iDisk, which came with our mobileMe (formerly known as Dot-Mac) account has always been one of my favorite features of the service. I kept all of my important files there and had no problem accessing it from any computer or iPhone. I liked that I didn't need to carry a thumb-drive.

But, with iCloud, iDisk's days are numbered. After June 2012, I won't be able to use iDisk.

Oh no. What will I do?

Those that know me well know that the only technology I love as much as my Apple gear is Evernote.

Evernote is so much more than a place to keep notes. It's where I keep everything! Given it's powerful indexing and searching (text in images is searchable!), it is a far superior place to store documents. You no longer need a premium account ($45 per year) to store all types of files, but the free account does have lower usage limits. There is a 50MB max per note (25MB for free users) so I won't store my video projects on Evernote, but 99.44% of my files will work just fine.

So, goodbye iDisk. You've been a good friend for many years. And thanks for the one-year notice on your shut-down. That will give me plenty of time to move my files over.


Another post about Evernote... Use Evernote to Track Your Accomplishments


Goodbye Steve Jobs

Last week, Steve Jobs, the most prolific CEO of my lifetime, died. I can't describe how I felt when I learned of his death. I had never felt this sad from the death of someone I did not know personally.

As my oldest daughter told me so eloquently: in 30 years, we'll all remember where we were when we heard the news. Just like when Princess Diana or Michael Jackson died, and just like our parents remember so clearly when Elvis, John F. Kennedy, and John Lennon died.

Steve Jobs, through the company he co-founded, had a huge effect on my life and my family. We bought our first iPod nearly eight years ago and shortly after, learned about podcasts, something that certainly changed the direction and quality of my life.

Then came the Macs, iPhones, the iPad, the Apple TV.

Apple and Steve Jobs didn't just create products, but built an eco-system where we could truly get the most of the things we love. I am able to listen to more music, record more of my own music, and stay connected with my friends and family. The things we can do with our iPad and Apple TV still seem right out of the Jetsons!

As a corporate leader, his drive was famous. My friends and family that have worked at Apple have all told of Steve's influence. His attention to detail and expectation of perfection is something I admire, both as a consumer and a manager.

Thank you Steve, for the iPod, the Mac, the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple TV, and for encouraging us to think different.


 See all my posts tagged with 'Apple'


Another Year Begins

Our youngest daughter, Makenzy, recently started Junior High (Middle School, or whatever you want to call it). I am still in shock. Where did the time go? Emily is a college freshman. Again, I am still in shock.

We have always taken a picture of the girls on their first day of school. Somehow, the 2006 picture never happened. Crazy to see how they've grown!

(click the picture for larger image)

I am so proud of our girls. They have grown to be such wonderful people!

From 26 Years to 26.2 Miles

Earlier today, my twin brother, Mike, completed The San Francisco Marathon.

For those of you that know Mike, I am going to pause there for just a second.




Mike smoked cigarettes for 26 years, two-thirds of his life. On March 13, he smoked his last one.

On his third tobacco-free day, he started feeling anxious and realized he needed something to get him through the craving, something to replace the few minutes he "used to spend with the Marlboro man".

That something was running.

After work on that third day, he wandered into the mall, purchased a pair of  running shoes and shorts. When he got home, he ventured out on his first run.

"I ran ONE MILE.  It hurt.  It hurt a lot.  I was out of breath and my legs hurt.  With that said, I certainly didn't feel like having a cigarette then.  The next morning I woke up at 5 am and ran ONE MORE MILE before work.  Yes, it still hurt, but again, it made me stop thinking about cigarettes."

From that point, Mike was hooked on running. He quickly went from running a few days a week to running nearly every day. With every additional mile, he realized he wanted more and more. His leisure 5k evening runs turned into 5 miles and then 10 miles. In just after a couple of months, he was already amassing 300-mile months. Three hundred miles in a month! As a cyclist myself, I am in awe that he is putting in those kind of miles. Running.

"It became my way to stay a non-smoker.  It then became bigger than smoking ever was."

Mike spends a lot of time on the road for work. Well, to be more precise, he spend a fair amount of time up in the air as well, but you get my point. Recently he was in Manila, just as he has been many other times. This time was different. This time he was in Manila as a non-smoker. That was new. Everyone in Manila smokes. Not Mike, not anymore. Mike runs. Recently, Mike was in Indiana and he called me late in the day. He said he went out for a run at 6 AM. It was 80 degrees and the humidity was somewhere north of 95%.

The thought of running a marathon, although seemingly an impossible feat, was something Mike started thinking of pretty early in his running days. Can I say early in his running days? It's still early in his running days. The marathon was a long-term goal. He was more focused on his first "half-mary". Yes, he quickly started speaking a new language, too.

"I ran my first half marathon in June.  It was the Pillar Point half marathon in Half Moon Bay.  Right along the coast.  It was so awesome!!  While I've never tried to be "fast", I felt great for my first half marathon.  I had no time goal set, but was able to complete it in less than 2 hours.  13.1 miles.  For me, that was quite an accomplishment.  Ok, how much below 2 hours?  Fine.  It was 20 seconds below. I finished in 1:59:40. One of the proudest personal days of my life."  

After his successful half-mary, he continued to escalate his miles. Distances quickly moved from challenging to easy; what was nearly impossible only a week or two before, became a simple warm-up. A few weeks ago we were all meeting in Manteca for an afternoon of swimming, volleyball and BBQ. He ran. To Manteca. Twenty two miles. Solo.

That was his longest run. Until today.

Mike completed The San Francisco Marathon, his first marathon, in 4:28:52.

I couldn't be prouder.

Way to go bro!

Check out the pictures I took, here.

Sadly, we missed seeing Mike cross the finish. See, Mike crossed a millisecond after the green guy crossed... and our eyes (and cameras) were fixed on him. I didn't even realize that Mike was in this shot until well after we met up him. Ooops.


Use Evernote to Track Your Accomplishments

As I wrote about before, it is important to track all of your accomplishments in real-time; Manager Tools talks about maintaining your "career management document".

There are many ways to keep this vital task simple. One great way to do it is to use Evernote, the note taking application. With desktop versions of the software available for iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, and Droid, desktop versions for Mac and Windows, and available on Evernote.com, there is no excuse to not use Evernote. The free account offers plenty of features and online storage space for most consumers.

Set up a new notebook and give it a catchy name like, ‘Master Resume’ or ‘Accomplishments for Resume’. Every time you have an accomplishment, add it to that Evernote notebook. To make it even easier, create an e-mail address to send notes directly to Evernote.

Next time you get an e-mail from your boss complimenting you on your awesome client presentation or when you get the monthly report that shows 50% sales growth in your territory, send it to Evernote. When you call us to have your resume updated, you’ll have a bucket full of accomplishments.


Thanks for the Toilet Seat Covers

Princeton defines management as “the act of managing something” and “those in charge of running a business”. What comes to mind when you hear the word “management”?

When I hear “management” used as a group of unnamed people, I think of toilet seat covers. Specifically, I think of toilet seat covers in public restrooms. Sometimes the packaging says: “Provided by the Management For Your Protection”.

photo Oftentimes I see signs at retail stores that say things like “No Bills Larger than $20” signed by, of course, “The Management”. Also, I hear things like “It was a management decision” or “I will take it up with management”.

As a manager, I take responsibility for my role and for my decisions.

People make decisions. Managers make decisions.

“Management” provides toilet seat covers.