What I Read – April 2015

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For 2015, I decided to put an greater emphasis reading more books. Each month I share what I have been reading and listening to.

Non-Fiction

  • Give and Take by Adam Grant –  MY FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK OF THE LAST FIVE YEARS! Just start reading. 10/10
  • The One Page Financial Page by Carl Richards – I have read lots of personal finance books.  Most set down rules and recommend exactly what you should do. As someone with a wife in medical school and a family now,  there are so many different factors to consider.  Richards says start with “Why is money important to me?” He walks the reader through that great question and gives the some solid ways to think about the important money decisions. 9/10
  • Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow – The opening essays by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer are worth the entire price of the book. I have followed Cory’s work closely and the power of the book is seeing his provocative thoughts all next to each other. And I think I finally understand why I like his perspective–he writes at the intersection of economics, technology, and law, which means he appreciates decision-making, modern tools and the vastly outdated rules we are governed by.  The book is about the world right now and what should change to account for the new world of media. 9/10
  • Smart People Should Build Things by Andrew Yang – Such a great title and I was interested in hearing more about Venture for America. There is too much focus on Ivy League grads going to work on Wall Street. There is also too much emphasis on Yang’s story. The stuff worth reading starts in Chapter 13 and by then I lost my interest. Opportunity missed on this one. 5/10
  • Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff – Kristin’s work is often mentioned alongside that of Brene Brown. I am interested because her approach is directly influenced by Buddhist traditions. There are many important teachings shared in the book, but this approach didn’t make a big impression on me. 7/10

Graphic Novels

  • Low Volume 1 by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini – The Sun is in its early stages of supernova and humanity uses the waters of the ocean to protect against the radiation. Stel Caine is trying to save all of humanity including her family and never gives up hope that she can do it. The story is built well for comics, but I had a hard time getting pulled into the fairly predictable plot. Maybe things happened too fast for me to really care about the characters. Not sure. 7/10
  • Lazarus by Freg Ruka, Michael Lark and Santi Arcas – This is good stuff and it is not just me thinking that, the TV rights just got picked up.
    • Volume One – The world has returned to fiefdoms and the ruling families are fighting for power. The Carlyle Family have a ringer, a super soldier named Forever. I liked this one but wasn’t sure. I ordered V2 to give it one more chance . 8/10
    • Volume Two – This volume covers some Forever’s backstory, what it is like for a ‘Waste’ family to live in this world, and the unrest created from those who don’t like it. I got even more drawn into the world and the creators made some good story choices. 9/10
    • Volume Three – The tensions between fiefdoms intensifies and Forever finds herself square in the middle. So much good stuff and it ends on a wonderful cliffhanger. I may have to start reading single issues. 9/10
  • Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke – This is an all ages comic about a girl who risks her life to save her friend Joseph after he gets sucked through an energy portal.  Zita meets a wonderful cast of characters as she tries to make her way through the alien world. The book is fun and full of surprises. There are two more books in the series with the third having just been released. So good. 10/10
  • Avengers by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena and Adam Kubert – I decided to start reading the Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers. There is a much bigger cast in this series, anchored by cast from the Avengers movies. I read issues #1-#23 and it is messy. Too many characters make it difficult to care about any of them. And it suffers greatly from the crossover effect. 6/10

We Are Having A Moment

0.

One juror, Steve Sammut, 62, said it was difficult coming to a verdict.

“We were split there for a while,” he said, adding that a key point was how Ms. [Ellen] Pao’s reviews at Kleiner deteriorated over time. He also said the witnesses for Kleiner, most of whom came from the firm, helped seal the case.

Another juror, Marshalette Ramsey, 41, said she believed Ms. Pao was discriminated against. The male junior partners at Kleiner “had those same character flaws that Ellen was cited with,” but they were promoted, she said.

“I’m going home emotional,” said Ms. Ramsey.

Ellen Pao Loses Silicon Valley Bias Case Against Kleiner Perkins by David Streitfeld, New York Times, March 27, 2015

1.

I have found that people describe me in many different ways.

Some people call me the girl who was shot by the Taliban.

And some, the girl who fought for her rights.

Some people, call me a “Nobel Laureate” now.

However, my brothers still call me that annoying bossy sister. As far as I know, I am just a committed and even stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world.

-From the acceptance speech of Malala Yousafzai, winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi

2.

I was meeting with a Boston-based VC in his office. He had a window behind his head and, unbeknownst to him or the other people in the office, I could see a reflection in that window of what was going on behind my head in the corridor (all-glass offices can be quite revealing in this way.) As I pitched him, one of his partners engaged in a pantomime in the corridor, making a circle with the fingers of one hand while poking his other fingers through the circle, then thrusting his hips in a sexual fashion. I found it rather hard to concentrate on my pitch.

It’s Different For Girls, Heidi Roizen, March 2014

3.

Karasek wasn’t satisfied. In February of this year, she and 30 other current and former Berkeley students, some as old as 60, filed two complaints with the U.S. Department of Education charging that the school violated their Title IX rights by mishandling their cases and, in some instances, discouraging them from filing reports. The 70-page, 35,000-word document alleges negligence, botched investigations, and general incompetence, and includes incidents that date to the 1970s. It comes on the heels of a federal complaint Karasek and LaVoie filed with the Department of Education last May alleging violations of the Clery Act, a 1990 law that requires universities to publish a comprehensive list of crimes on campus. And it’s one of at least 13 such complaints filed by women within the last year against Swarthmore College, Dartmouth College, the University of Akron, and the University of Southern California, among others.

Changing How Colleges Deal With Rape by Claire Suddath, BusinessWeek, April 3, 2014

4a.

By the time Rolling Stone’s editors assigned an article on campus sexual assault to [Sabrina] Erdely in the spring of 2014, high-profile rape cases at Yale, HarvardColumbia, Vanderbilt and Florida State had been in the headlines for months. The Office of Civil Rights at the federal Department of Education was leaning on colleges to reassess and improve their policies. Across the country, college administrators had to adjust to stricter federal oversight as well as to a new generation of student activists, including women who declared openly that they had been raped at school and had not received justice.

There were numerous reports of campus assault that had been mishandled by universities. At Columbia, an aggrieved student dragged a mattress around campus to call attention to her account of assault and injustice. The facts in these cases were sometimes disputed, but they had generated a wave of campus activism. “My original idea,” [managing editor Will] Dana said, was “to look at one of these cases and have the story be more about the process of what happens when an assault is reported and the sort of issues it brings up.”

A Rape on Campus: What Went Wrong by Shelia Coronel, Steve Coll, and Derek Kravitz, Rolling Stones, April 5, 2015

4b.

We would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students. Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.

Everything We Know About the UVA Rape Case by Margaret Hartmann, New York, April 6, 2015

5.

“For guys,” she said, in a slightly mystified, irritated tone, “I think they have maybe 13- or 15-player rosters, but all the way down to the last player on the bench, who doesn’t get to play a single minute, I feel like his confidence is just as big as the superstar of the team.” She smiled and shook her head. “For women, it’s not like that.”

The Confidence Gap by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, The Atlantic, May 2014

6.

This morning, a friend noted a discrepancy between two recent headlines at The Mac Observer:

March 5: “Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer to Retire, Luca Maestri to Take Over”

May 7: “PR Queen Katie Cotton Leaving Apple”

I tweeted the two headlines and corresponding URLs, with a single word of commentary: “Hmm”. I said no more partly because I was near the 140-character limit, and partly to see what the reaction would be. Some got it, but many repliers missed my point, mistakenly thinking it was related to an exodus of executives from the company.

My point was to draw attention to the disparate job descriptions: “Apple CFO” vs. “PR Queen”.

Titles by John Gruber, Daring Fireball, May 8, 2014

7.

In four studies, Bowles and collaborators from Carnegie Mellon found that people penalized women who initiated negotiations for higher compensation more than they did men. The effect held whether they saw the negotiation on video or read about it on paper, whether they viewed it from a disinterested third-party perspective or imagined themselves as senior managers in a corporation evaluating an internal candidate. Even women penalized the women who initiated the conversation, though they also penalized the men who did so. They just didn’t seem to like seeing someone ask for more money.

Lean Out: The Dangers For Women Who Negotiate by Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker, June 10, 2014

8.

With Frozen, Jennifer Lee cracked two glass ceilings at once: She became the first woman to direct a Disney animated feature and the first writer to ascend to the director’s chair on one of the company’s animated films (she cowrote Wreck-It Ralph). And she did it with a risky project. “It was a big musical with two female leads,” says Lee, who quit her job as a graphic designer in book publishing to enroll in film school at age 30. “So it was a let’s-try-to-be-fearless-and-see-what-happens kind of thing.” What happened was, the fairy tale of two sisters, released last Thanksgiving, earned $1 billion and became the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, not to mention a multiple Oscar winner and merchandising juggernaut–thanks in large part to Lee’s collaborative style (songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez helped pen the script).

Most Creative People 2014 by Bruce Fretts, Fast Company, May 12, 2014

9.

For her analysis, Armstrong divided the cohort in two, with wealthier women in one group and the working-class ones in the other. Each group tended to band together, with the poorer half feeling excluded from Greek life and other high-status social activities. Several of the low-income students, for example, balked at the cost of the $50 “rush” t-shirt, Armstrong said.

The rich women tended to view casual sex as problematic only when it was done outside of steady relationships, and even then, only when it included vaginal intercourse. Meanwhile, frequent “hooking up,” which to them included kissing and oral sex, did not a slut make. “I think when people have sex with a lot of guys that aren’t their boyfriends, that’s really a slut,” as one put it.

The poorer women, by contrast, were unaware that “hooking up,” in the parlance of the rich women, excluded vaginal intercourse. They also tended to think all sex and hook-ups should occur primarily within a relationship.

The two classes of women also defined “sluttiness” differently, but neither definition had much to do with sexual behavior. The rich ones saw it as “trashiness,” or anything that implied an inability to dress and behave like an upper-middle-class person.

One woman, for example, “noted that it was acceptable for women to ‘have a short skirt on’ if ‘they’re being cool’ but ‘if they’re dancing really gross with a short skirt on, then like, oh slut.’”

The poorer women, meanwhile, would regard the richer ones as “slutty” for their seeming rudeness and proclivity for traveling in tight-knit herds. As one woman said, “Sorority girls are kind of whorish and unfriendly and very cliquey.”

Armstrong notes that midway through their college experience, none of the women had made any friendships across the income divide.

There’s No Such Thing as a Slut by Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, May 28, 2014

10.

An Ohio middle-school student named Sophie told local news channel FOX19 that she wore a T-shirt on which she had hand-written the word “Feminist” to school on class picture day. She wore the shirt through the school day without incident, and wore it in her class picture.

However, when photos were released later, she found that the school had doctored the photo to erase the word “feminist” from her shirt.

The school’s principal, Kendra Young, told FOX19 that the photo was doctored to remove the word “feminist” to avoid any “unintended controversies.” She admitted that the shirt does not violate any school policies or dress codes, but said that the reasoning behind the decision was that students buy the photos, and she wanted to avoid any possibility of any controversy.

School erases feminist T-shirt from class photo by Nisha Chittal, MSNBC, April 17, 2015

10a.

July 2, 2014 – Diane Nelson, DC’s president, commented on the difficulties of making a Wonder Woman movie last year, saying, “We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now. I think one of the biggest challenges at the company is getting that right on any size screen. The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn’t have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes.”

10b.

February 23, 2015 – [T]his weekend brought good news on the Wonder Woman front: shooting will begin this fall for the hero’s upcoming solo adventure, with — as previously confirmed — Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad vet Michelle MacLaren in the director’s chair.

In an unrelated casting story over at Deadline, the trade reports that filming for Wonder Woman will begin later this year, with Gal Gadot in the leading role. Gadot will make her first appearance as the hero in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 before moving onto her solo film, which is set for release in 2017. The actress will then reprise the part for the first Justice League film, hitting theaters later in 2017.

10c.

April 13, 2015 – “Given creative differences, Warner Bros. and Michelle MacLaren have decided not to move forward with plans to develop and direct Wonder Woman together.”

-Link credits to Comics Alliance

11.

“At one point, Whitney Wolfe was promoted as Tinder’s “inventor” and co-founder in fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar. She named the app, and her marketing savvy was often cited as the reason it found an audience among young women. Her role in the company was widely touted as an exception to male-dominated startup culture.

According to the lawsuit, [Justin] Mateen told Wolfe, who was 24 years old at the time, that “he was taking away her ‘Co-Founder’ title because having a young female co-founder ‘makes the company seem like a joke’ and ‘devalues’ the company.” Mateen had also been designated a co-founder of the company despite joining after the fact, and argued that Wolfe’s title undermined him.

The suit says that Mateen spewed constant invective at Wolfe, often in front of colleagues, calling her (among other things) “disgusting,” a “desperate loser,” a “slut,” and a “whore.” It includes damning text messages from Mateen that further berated her. When Wolfe complained to Sean Rad, Tinder’s CEO, her concerns were ignored. She alleges that Rad eventually forced her out of the company because of the abusive situation with Mateen.”

Tinder Co-Founder’s Lawsuit Reflects Tech Industry’s Rampant Sexism by Mary Emily O’Hara, Vice News, July 2, 2014

12.

When Silvia Tomášková, director of the Women in Science program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, brings up famous female scientists with her students—and this has been happening since she started teaching 20 years ago—she gets the same reaction: “Marie Curie.” Tomášková always tries to move them on. “Let’s not even start there. Who else?” What about Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter? The experimental physicist Chien-Shiung Wu? Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood starlet who invented a communications technology that paved the way for Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth?

We Need to Stop Ignoring Women Scientists by Rachel Sawby, Wired, April 2015

13.

Scandal
The Good Wife
Broad City
The Mindy Project
Girls
Parks and Recreation
Orange Is The New Black
Veep
Homeland
Dora
Glee
Orphan Black
Agent Carter
Law & Order: SVU

14.

The petition spelled out a sorry history. “As of May 1, 2014, more than 100 USA Swimming coaches have been banned for life, making this one of the worst sexual abuse scandals in the U.S. Olympics sports world,” it stated. “Many of these coaches had well-known, long histories of sexual abuse, yet [Chuck] Wielgus enabled these men to continue to coach for years. … [He] has not been a leader in protecting victims; he has instead responded to outside pressure, and only after other avenues of obfuscation have been exhausted.”

Unprotected by Rachel Sturtz, Outside Magazine

15.

Mo’ne Davis was on the mound for the first time since her suffocating performance in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship, when she shut out Delaware-Newark National to lead Taney Youth Baseball Association of Philadelphia to the Series. Most of the announced 15,648 in attendance recognized the potential for something historic to unfold.

Could she live up to the hype?

Yes.

A Mound Becomes a Summit by William C. Rhoden, New York Times, August 15, 2014

16.

Gloria Steinem turned 80.

17.

Anita Sarkeesian, creator of the popular Tropes vs. Women video series, is at the center of yet another death threat. The Standard Examiner reports that the director of Utah State University’s Center for Women and Gender, along with several other people, received an email promising a mass shooting if they didn’t cancel a speaking engagement for Sarkeesian, who was scheduled to talk at the center on Wednesday morning.

‘Massacre threat forces Anita Sarkeesian to cancel university talk by Adi Robertson, The Verge, October 14, 2014

18.

Twin Peaks is the most successful example of a new generation of restaurants, what people in the industry euphemistically refer to as “the attentive service sector” or, as they’re more casually known, “breastaurants.” Twin Peaks Chief Executive Officer Randy DeWitt doesn’t care much for the word, not that he’s complaining. Last year, Twin Peaks was the fastest-growing chain in the U.S., with $165 million in sales.

Twin Peaks:’Hooters Just Wasn’t Racy Enough’ by Devin Leonard, BusinessWeek, September 25, 2014

19.

Over the next 12 years, Christensen personally tried roughly 40 sexual-assault cases and supervised the prosecution of another 300. His decision to focus on sex crimes was unconventional in the military. A JAG was expected to be a generalist — to learn about environmental and labor law, about contracts and medical malpractice claims — and to spend only a few years trying cases. But Christensen liked the challenge of helping victims who had no one else in their corner. He knew the base commanders often did not have their best interests at heart. Instead commanders worried that a court-martial could lead to the loss of a prized fighter pilot. It could create turmoil at the base and produce a blemish on their own records. These pressures, Christensen had come to learn, all conspired to upset the scales of justice. Time after time, he witnessed commanders demonstrating their support for the accused by sitting behind him in the courtroom; in one case, after a pilot was found not guilty of rape, the commander leapt from his perch and yelled, “Yeah!” Commanders selected the jury, which sometimes issued sentences far lighter than those meted out in civilian courtrooms. He saw one commander withdraw an airtight rape case days before trial, without explanation. He saw another commander testify at sentencing that the noncommissioned officer who had just been convicted of sexually molesting his daughter, a 13-year-old with a developmental disability, was nonetheless of great value to the unit and should therefore be retained. The judge granted his request.

The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault By Robert Draper, New York Times Magazine, Nov. 26, 2014

20.

In the capital city of Stockholm the number of women in street prostitution has been reduced by two thirds, and the number of johns has been reduced by 80%. There are other major Swedish cities where street prostitution has all but disappeared. Gone too, for the most part, are the renowned Swedish brothels and massage parlors which proliferated during the last three decades of the twentieth century when prostitution in Sweden was legal.

In addition, the number of foreign women now being trafficked into Sweden for sex is nil. The Swedish government estimates that in the last few years only 200 to 400 women and girls have been annually sex trafficked into Sweden, a figure that’s negligible compared to the 15,000 to 17,000 females yearly sex trafficked into neighboring Finland. No other country, nor any other social experiment, has come anywhere near Sweden’s promising results.

By what complex formula has Sweden managed this feat? Amazingly, Sweden’s strategy isn’t complex at all. It’s tenets, in fact, seem so simple and so firmly anchored in common sense as to immediately spark the question, “Why hasn’t anyone tried this before?”

In 1999, after years of research and study, Sweden passed legislation that a) criminalizes the buying of sex, and b) decriminalizes the selling of sex. The novel rationale behind this legislation is clearly stated in the government’s literature on the law:

“In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem… gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them.”

In addition to the two pronged legal strategy, a third and essential element of Sweden’s prostitution legislation provides for ample and comprehensive social service funds aimed at helping any prostitute who wants to get out, and additional funds to educate the public. As such, Sweden’s unique strategy treats prostitution as a form of violence against women in which the men who exploit by buying sex are criminalized, the mostly female prostitutes are treated as victims who need help, and the public is educated in order to counteract the historical male bias that has long stultified thinking on prostitution. To securely anchor their view in firm legal ground, Sweden’s prostitution legislation was passed as part and parcel of the country’s 1999 omnibus violence against women legislation.

http://esnoticia.co/noticia-8790-swedens-prostitution-solution-why-hasnt-anyone-tried-this-before

21.

For years, we thought it was us. That we were failures. We thought that if we just did twice as well as the pasty hoodie-wearers around us we’d move up through the ranks too. Instead you got twice as much work out of us than you did out of our male peers, and tossed us a few scraps of “women’s networks” and “Lean In Circles” instead of promotions and raises.

Fuck that, we’re done. It’s not us, it’s you.

http://tableflip.club

22.

I asked Gomperts why, as a Greenpeace activist, she chose abortion as her cause. She thought for a minute. Her philosophy, she said, was about the “reduction of suffering” but also about self-determination. She said she was “interested in finding the blind spots of the law.” She liked upending the system. “I enjoy that,” she said. “If I was interested in money, I’d have a company in the Cayman Islands, getting all the tax deductions I could to get rich.”

The Dawn of the Post Clinic Abortion by Emily Bazelon, New York Times Magazine, August 28th, 2014

23.

In his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, President Carter has focused his attention on what he calls “the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge” of our time – the discrimination and abuse of women and girls. The book reflects his wisdom and perspective having traveled to over 145 countries and been a firsthand witness to a system of discrimination that extends to every nation in which women are routinely deprived of education, healthcare and equal opportunity, “owned” by men, forced to suffer servitude and child marriage, or trapped, along with their children, in cycles of poverty, war and violence.

In his groundbreaking book, he also writes about the most shocking and disturbing human right abuses, ranging from the infanticide of millions of newborn girls and selective abortion of female fetuses, female genital mutilation, the global pandemic of rape, including rape being used as a weapon of war, and the worldwide trafficking of women and young girls. The book also covers many timely issues that impact women and girls in the United States, such as the way incidences of sexual assault and rape are treated with relative impunity on some of our most prestigious college campuses as well as in the U.S. military, or the social undercurrent of discrimination that results in fewer promotions, lower pay, and unequal representation in leadership positions in politics and many others sectors of society.

Jimmy Carter on His New Book Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power by Marianne Schnall, Huffington Post, March 31, 2014

24.

Hillary Clinton launches her 2016 presidential campaign.

25.

Both agree they had sex. But what actually went on between them that night, and throughout their yearlong relationship, would become highly contested. After the relationship ended, Clougherty accused Lonsdale of sexual assault. Stanford investigated whether he broke the university’s rule against “consensual sexual and romantic relationships” between students and their mentors and, later, whether he raped her. The findings from the investigations have sparked a war of allegations and interpretations, culminating last month with dueling lawsuits, filled with damaging accusations. This case, which has been picked up by the media, does not fit neatly into the narratives that have fueled an ongoing national conversation about sexual assault of students on campus. But it exposes the risks of Stanford’s open door to Silicon Valley and the pressure that universities are under to do more for students who say they’ve been raped. It also reveals the complexity of trying to determine the truth in a high-stakes case like this one.

The Stanford Undergraduate and the Mentor by Emily Bazelon, New York Times Magazine, Feb. 11, 2015

26.

#YesAllWomen

Project: The Buckstens 2014 Newspaper

2014 Buckstens Newspaper JPEGS

This year, our New Year’s card was a newspaper detailing the happenings of our family over the last year.

I started this project in 2013 and struggled to find material to fill the pages. I got myself to a half completed prototype and my commitment waned.

In December, I opened up the InDesign file again and decided to take another run at it. 2014 was a different year for us. There was so much more movement. I spent two weeks in Japan. As a family, we took at two week road to Colorado and back. There were hikes and crafts, friends and baseball. There was a kinetic nature to our year that could be more easily expressed on broadsheet pages.

This was also an experiment in publishing. You can now print books, magazines, and newspapers one copy at a time. I still find myself amazed by the fact. My first publishing project 10 years ago cost $10,000 to get the press started and get the first copy; the next 1499 copies were basically free. Today, that first copy costs $20.

Newspaper Club is this amazing company in the UK that produces newspapers in quantities 1 to 1000’s. I printed 100 copies of The Buckstens 2014 for $300 including the shipping from the UK.  I received them about 10 days after I placed the order. Amazing.

2014 Buckstens Newspaper JPEGS22014 Buckstens Newspaper JPEGS32014 Buckstens Newspaper JPEGS4

2014 Buckstens Newspaper JPEGS5

My New Mantra

“My job isn’t to predict what titles will work but rather to find authors who want to create books through insight and spread their message with conviction.”

I am borrowing heavily from Mark Suster for this one. He recently wrote a post about how entrepreneurs can rely on venture capitalists to make their hardest decisions.

Sister says he job is to:

…find great entrepreneurs who are passionate about solving a problem. They become obsessed with why the problem exists and they start chipping away at ideas for solving the problem. They develop so much conviction that they can solve it that they do the most difficult thing one can do with one’s ego. They tell the world publicly that they not only are going to solve the problem but they’re going to do it better than anybody else in the market.

I want the same kind of authors—the ones with a clear idea of the problem and the solution AND the drive to get that book into the hand of every person who can be helped.

Also see: Paul Graham on being relentlessly resourceful.

My Work in 2015

This year is going to be exciting.

How do I know?

Well, in 2012, a local tech entrepreneur, after attending one of my publishing workshops, sat down with me to talk about a book project he was working on–a novel for people who work in IT. He said, “It will be as big as The Goal“.

“Sure,” I thought.

The book he was referring to was written in 1984 by Eliyahu Goldratt. The Goal sold well over two million copies, arriving on the scene just as Lean was just taking off in manufacturing. It is still standard reading in MBA programs. The unusual part was Goldratt chose fiction to share his lessons about the theory of constraints, and it worked. The story was compelling and we wondered if Alex Rogo would save the manufacturing plant and his marriage with equal importance.

The entrepreneur also said he was already a published author and had written two books whose combined sales were over 250,000 copies. I ordered copies of The Visible Ops Handbook and Visible Ops Security from Amazon. The books were just over 100 pages each, black type on shiny, white coated paper. The list price was $21.95.

“Really?,” I thought. These unknown bestsellers lacked positioning and packaging in almost every way, making the outcome even more unbelievable. Success is success, though.

I told him to send me what he had written. The first 100 pages of the manuscript were compelling. There was wonderful tension. Anyone who had worked anywhere close to IT would recognize the problems. Readers would read this book.

The bet I was making with my business at the time was that there would be authors who wanted to avoid commercial publishing but wanted help publishing commercial quality books. That is what this guy was looking for. From my side, I had a good book written by an author with a track record for selling lots of books.

I said yes to the project and over the last three years, I have said yes several more times. The journey is worthy several more blog posts, but for today I have one big piece of news to share.

Today, I am joining IT Revolution, the small company that has grown out of this work, as General Manager.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be working (even more) with Gene Kim. Anyone who knows him or has worked with him will tell you he is a gem. Gene wants to change the lives of 1,000,000 people working in IT by finding better ways to get work done.

We have made a good start. This month, The Phoenix Project, that crazy IT novel, will pass 80,000 copies sold. In October, we co-hosted a sold out event called DevOps Enterprise. And Gene continues traveled all over the world to promote the cause.

The team we have is incredible. Aly Hoffman works with Gene and the other thought leaders working with IT Revolution. Robyn Crummer-Olsen joined us last month as editorial director to watch over all of our publishing efforts. I expect there will be others who join as we continue to grow in 2015.

Gene, Aly, Robyn and Todd

Gene, Aly, Robyn and Todd

For now, thanks for listening and Best Wishes to all of you in 2015!

#YearInReview 2014

In 2010, Seth Godin asked people to make a list of what they shipped that year. I did the exercise in 2010, 2012 and 2013. I have come to believe that this is a important exercise, especially for solopreneuers to see what they have accomplished.

The biggest thing I did in 2014 was start a publishing company. Astronaut Projects shipped five titles this year, widening distribution on two books and launching three new ones to the marketplace. As for the new ones:

  • If you work in enterprise IT or know someone who does, The Phoenix Project is a great book for them. We have more than 75,000 copies and the sales keep growing each month.
  • If being a leader is a part of what you do (and a hint: it is a part of what everyone does), then you need to read 10th anniversary edition of Radical Leap and then read Radical Edge.

Playing publisher this year has had me going to trade shows, dealing with inventory stock-outs, and planning strategy for how to build on the successes we have had. The most important thing it has shown me is how the scale of distribution can make a huge difference in the success of a book.

The second thing I did was travel. Alot. In July, I spent two weeks solo in Japan. In August, we took a two week road trip to meet my family in Colorado. And in September, I spent the better part of a week in San Juan Islands with a great friend. I also had trips to San Francisco and New York City.

The one goal I didn’t accomplish was relaunching the Every Book Is a Startup. I looked at it several times throughout the year. I got the book moved out into a format I could edit and found that I wanted to rewrite the whole thing. My view of books as startups has evolved alot in the last two years. The time to clarify those views was hard to come by. I continue to think it is important and am thinking about how I can accomplish this one in the new year.

I am grateful for everything that was 2014 and I found myself more focused on the quality of the effort rather than the magnitude of the outcomes.

There are changes afoot for 2015. More about those next week.

Resources For First Time Visit to Japan

Fushimi Inari Torii Gate - Kyoto, Japan (flickr:tombricker)

I am starting the final preparations for my trip to Japan.

I have been wanting to make this trip for a long time, so I made it one of my big goals for 2014.

The itinerary for the trip is going to be pretty straight forward. I am traveling during the last two weeks of July. My plan is to travel through Central Honshu between Tokyo, Kyoto, Kananzawa and back again to Tokyo. There will be other stops and a little bit of backtracking, but for the most part it will be a loop through those main cities.

I have done so much work preparing for the Japan trip that I thought I would share the resources that I have found most useful.

Travel Guides

The Rough Guide to Japan is by far the best overall travel guide to Japan. It provides over 800 pages of material in the kind of detail that I look for in a travel guide. I plan my own trips, routes, and destinations. Cities of all sizes are covered with recommendations for lodging, food and fun. Maps and insets with special interest topics are plentiful.

As a supplement, I also like Ben Stevens’ A Gaijin’s Guide to Japan. He organizes a couple hundred cultural touch points in a A-Z format starting with the infamous mistress Sada Abe and ending with the Japanese born Buddhist sect of Zen. The randomness and variety of Stevens’ anecdotes provide nice insights a Westerner would appreciate ahead of their visit.

On the even more niche side, as a fan of microbreweries in the US, I was concerned that I would be limited to Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo while I was in Japan. It turns out a ji-biru (micro beer) revolution underway and Mark Meli has created a wonderful English-language guide to the movement called Craft Beer in Japan. The guide starts with an explanation of how the craft movement has evolved in Japan and then a directory of breweries and specialized tap rooms by region. The beer themselves are rated by Meli and each has a short description. For me, this guide will be in heavy use on my trip.

My last mention is a few digital walking guides that I have found. White Rabbit has produced an outstanding audio tour of the otaku-geek haven of Akihabara. On iOS, you can download Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara inside the GuidGO app. Also on iOS, City Maps and Walks has over 450 GPS enabled walks with sight descriptions. I downloaded the set of Tokyo tours they have available.

Language

Being able to communicate in Japanese while I was there was important to me. What I didn’t know was the rabbit hole of language learning that I was fall into. There are so many products and opinions on the topic and I spent considerable time sorting through them to figure out what would work for me.

In the short term, I wanted to be able to speak for my trip, and I had a longer term goal to be able to read Japanese text in a variety of situations.

Here are few thoughts before I share what worked:

  • I wish the first thing that someone told me when I started was that languages are designed to be learned by listening to them. Think about how you learned your first language. The flash cards and grammar books came later attaching the symbols and structures to the language you already knew. So, find as many ways as you can to listen to the language you want to learn and follow that with finding lots of opportunities to speak it.
  • Whatever method you choose, you need to commit time to learning. It is like anything in life, you are going to make progress when you dedicate yourself. Whenever I did, I could see the improvement.
  • There are methods that you can use to accelerate how fast you learn. Do some digging into spaced repetition and its many flavors. It is amazing and it works.
  • There are a variety of opinions on how to approach learning a new language. For myself, I intend to only focus on Japanese. I also had only a hour or so a day to dedicate to the effort.

The first resource I would recommend Master Japanese by John Fotheringham. There are a lot of info products out there to help you learn a language. Most of them are a generalist guide to learning any language, full of motivation, goal setting and simple techniques to acquire the knowledge faster.

Master Japanese has all of that and much more. You get a 540 page ebook that is the most complete document I have been able to find on learning Japanese. The value for me was in the compilation and curation of resources available to learn Japanese, but the resource itself contains over 250 pages of instruction on the language itself. Most of what I suggest in both approach and resources came from John.

For me, I started with learning the Japanese alphabet. This is strongly supported in the Gabriel Wyner’s Fluent Forever system. I decided to learn both the sounds and symbols found in hiragana and katakana. The best tool to for this is Anki, an open source flashcard system with built-in spaced repetition. The community has a huge catalog of free decks on everything from state capitals to multiplication facts. Hiragana with audio and Master Katakana (with audio) are the best decks to download and use for learning the alphabet. Each card has the symbol on one side and on the other side, the romanji (English) and audible sound for how it is pronounced. Anki will tell you automatically when you need to see a flashcard again based on how well you know them.

If you are like me, you will have a hard time associating those sounds with the symbols you are being shown. The first thing to do is visit Tofugu.com and download their Hiragana42 ebook (it is also available as a webpage). Seeing a wide range of mnemonics gave me a huge jumpstart in committing hiragana to memory. The master of this technique is James Heig and you might find his book Remembering the Kana a great resource. I also like The Hiragana Song by MissHanake.

At the same time (and I want to stress at the same time), I started listening to Pimsleur Japanese. The course is outstanding. They also uses the spaced repetition to improve recall over time and all of the material is built in the context of a conversation or exchange you would have with another speaker. There is a lot of call and response like you find in other audio programs.

Pimsleur has an extensive catalog of lessons. The complete course is 90 thirty minute sessions and costs around $300 for digital and closer to $700 for the discs if you buy direct. I was able to find the entire series at our library here in Portland.

Even with the other resources, I still felt like I needed a written guide to work from and I found the perfect companion in Teach Yourself Complete Japanese. The package I bought had a written guide and audio material to support it. This book was clearly written to teach language and the context for how to apply the language. The biggest benefit is material in the TYCJ matches well with the order in which material in presented in Pimsleur. The guide also uses conversation as the primary tool to teach vocabulary and usage.

The last piece of my language training has been listening to Japanese whenever I can. The language learning experts always recommend immersion and if you can’t visit the country, you can surround yourself with media that matches the language. I created a YouTube playlist of japanese music. I started renting Japanese anime on DVD from Netflix and watching with Japanese audio and english subtitles. If you are considering that route, I recommend Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Planetes as good place to start.

So, as I head into my trip, I would say that I am still at a very basic level of Japanese. When I started back in January, I would able to dedicate a significant amount of time to the alphabet and starting through the Pimsleur series. As we got further into the year, it was hard to trade-off language lessons with other commitments. In these couple weeks prior to the trip, I am focused back on it to see what else I can add before I leave.

Travel

Plane

We are incredibly fortunate to have a direct flight from Portland to Tokyo daily. The ticket price was only 10% higher than traveling through the alternative hubs. I am not much of a travel hacker, so I paid for the ticket outright. What I did do though was sign up for a Delta American Express card during a special promotion that got me a 50,000 mile signing bonus. I am already at 78,000 miles in my account and I should earn enough miles in the next 12 months for another ticket to Japan.

Train

Everything you read will tell you to get a JR rail pass before you get to Japan. If you plan to do travel between multiple cities, that is very good advice to follow. Start by checking out HyperDia, which is a a great English language timetable for Japanese trains. Check out the major legs of your trip and pay careful attention to the overall cost of the ticket. The total cost is the fare + the seat fee. The seat fee is the piece you might miss (I did) and it can be close to half the overall cost for the ticket. Also remember, the JR Rail Pass can also be used on local JR bus lines, the Tokyo monorail, and the Narita Express from the airport.

Lodging

I am mostly staying in hostels and ryokens while I am in Japan. Hostelworld was a great resource and had listings for most of the popular lodging choices in that market segment. I booked a number of locations using the site. The average cost is around $50/night for a private room with a single or double bed.

Technology

The biggest question was how to keep connected overseas. I wanted a better option than relying on computer cafes and hostel wifi. Having done regular international travel, purchasing a plan of any sort from your US based phone carrier is limited and expensive. The other options include renting phones or buying SIM cards with minutes and bandwidth if you have an unlocked phone.

I went for the Pocket MiFi option to give me more options with my phone and my iPad. I reserved mine with Global Advanced Communications. The unit I rented75 Mbps and 12 hours of battery life. You pick the unit up at the airport and they give you a prepaid envelope to ship it back when your trip is done. The 14 day rental works out to around $5.50/day, which seems reasonable for an always-on connection that you can carry with you.

I am bringing my iPad with a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. I am trying to travel with one bag and reduce weight as much as possible with the tablet while taking advantage of its longer battery life. As a test, I used this combo on a recent business trip to New York and it worked pretty well. The most important thing I found was that you have to have all of your needed files in the cloud. Evernote was a nice solution that let you both upload and create documents. Dropbox is also an option for files that you want to reference. The Logitech keyboard is a little smaller than normal but I found it very easy to work on.

The other miscellaneous recommendations I have are:

  • I love TripIt. You email all of your reservations to them and they organize in one place in an easy to read format. The app put the details on your phone and only a couple touches away.
  • I find I use my phone more when I travel and end up short on power by the end of the day. With an iPad, Mifi, and an unpredictable schedule, I decided to bring a backup battery – IntoCircuit Power Castle 11,200 mAh, a recent recommendation on Wirecutter.
  • My iPhone is going to be the primary camera on my trip. I like using other apps besides the standard camera.
    • There are bunches of apps that apply filters but Hipstamatic is still my favorite. I know it is a little slow. I know the skeuomorphic camera UI make is harder to take pictures. It doesn’t matter, I love the results. My favorites combos are Tejas with Ina’s 1969 for color and Watts with AO BW for black and white shots.
    • Camera+ is just nice to have for the easy control over focus and exposure. The number of ways you can edit is crazy.
    • On this trip, I am going to be testing a couple of apps for night time photography. SlowShutter and AvgCamPro are the top contenders.

If you find yourself making a trip to Japan, I hope these tips help a little with your planning.

P.S. Some of the links in the article are referral links to Amazon and other sources. The recommendations are what worked best for me.

I ♥ Kickstarter

Kickstarter’s cultural currency continues to rise. In the past few weeks, The crowd sourcing site announced it has collected over one billion dollars in pledges. The most highly funded movie in Kickstarter history, Veronica Mars, was just released. And with the Facebook’s two billion dollar acquisition of Kickstarter darling Oculus this week, questions are being raised about whether backers should compensated for their early support.

I believe I feel like most backers: I don’t pledge to take ownership in a project; I pledge to enable it. I consider myself a patron, someone who can validate an artist’s idea through declaring my interest and provide monetary support to bring that idea into the world.

I have backed over 70 projects in the last five years and it has been amazing to be a part of so many great ideas. Here are some of my favorites:

This is not a Kickstarter shirt

Kickstarter Shirt

Creating a Kickstarter shirt using Kickstarter was the brilliant idea of CEO and co-founder Yancey Strickler. The image came from the campaign itself. Of course, I was going to get one.

The Crabby Wallet

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Along with my iPhone and car keys, this is a part of my everyday carry with its ability to hold five or six cards. Love it.

The WINGstand

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Before my kids took primary ownership of my iPad, it was great to use the tablet with WINGstand to create another screen to work from.

Realizing Empathy

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This project is a little more special than most. Not only was I a backer, but I also served as the editor for the book. Slim put out a call to backers for help bringing the project from his RISD master’s thesis to a more accessible book for a wider audience. I am so happy with how it turned out and proud to have contributed in a small way.

The Bluer Denim Project

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There were several factors that drew me to this project. First, Bluer Denim is designed in Portland, one of the most active cities on Kickstarter. The second was their commitment to end to end manufacturing in the United States. The final piece was the direct connection to the maker as I bought my first pair of raw selvage jeans.

The Icarus Deception

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Seth Godin went to Kickstarter with his latest book project, Icarus Deception. I have been a fan of Seth since the Purple Cow milk carton, so there was only a split second of thought before I pledged at the No-Brainer level. This package included 8 copies of the book, a 12 pound book called THIS MIGHT WORK, an alphabet book illustrated by Hugh MacLeod, an audiobook LP and a handcrafted coffee mug.

The Smartest Shirt on The Planet

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I loved this project from the moment I heard out it. Garment veteran Steven Sal Debus developed a new fabric that uses eucalyptus trees rather than cotton. This result is less water used, virtually no chemicals added and the creation on a shirt that is naturally wicking and odor free. Even with the great pitch, the project didn’t get funded, earning only $8,000 of the $30,000 needed.

I was so impressed I tracked down the company in Canada and bought four of their prototype garments. I have been using two of them and they are as great as advertised.

It’s often said that many good ideas never get the traction they deserve. I can’t think of a better example.

Elevation Dock

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As another Portland based project, I bought into Elevation Dock along with the other 12,500 backers. This is a great product that is everything that it advertises. The trouble was I upgraded to the iPhone 5 and haven’t been willing to buy the upgrade kit for the lighting connector. This can be the tricky part of backing technology projects.

TRIMR Water + Shaker Bottle

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This is the latest project I backed and I already have the bottle. I like the mixture of features (though I have poured water on myself more than once while getting used to the straw nozzle).

Here are a few of my other favorites…

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And today, I supported another project.

I can’t wait to see it.

The 100 Best, Five Years Later

I walked into my local bookstore, Powell’s, recently and found a copy of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time on the shelf. I always appreciated the happy coincidence that since my co-author’s last name was Covert, the book was shelved between Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I like to think our book’s popular location helped its sales over the years.

This paperback copy had a small black mark on bottom face denoting its remaindered status. Powell’s had bought the copy from a company that specialized in overstock inventory. Publishers printing too many copies and selling off the excess might bother some authors, but for me, I always saw an opportunity. Not the first time, I tracked down the company and bought up all the copies I could find. At three dollars a piece, remaindered copies work great as gifts, marketing tokens, or a 300-page business card.

The existence of extra inventory might give you the impression the book didn’t do well. In the sum of its many forms – hardcover, digital, paperback and audio – The 100 Best sold over 45,000 copies. In foreign markets, we sold eleven deals for translation rights. In the first year, we earned back the six figure advance we had been paid and started earning money for both the publisher and ourselves.

The book is five years old now and it is hard to think of another project that had a larger effect on my life. Professionally, my career as an editor, an agent, a literary scout, and now a publisher, all materialized around the expertise shown in writing The 100 Best. People still marvel at how quickly Jack and I chose of the books (it took about 24 hours). They still measure themselves against the list, counting the titles they have read (the record is 92).

The first lesson I learned was that book concepts have to be simple. Our initial proposal was titled “Monday Morning: An Executive Guide to The Business Ideas That Matter.” The project was ambitious. Neither Jack and I were writers, so brought in a writer to develop the concept. The idea was to construct a series of chapter length essays that examined a topic like time management or customer relationship by a method of compare and contrast. We wanted to see if we could put Peter Drucker, Stephen Covey and David Allen in a mixer and say something interesting about results. When we completed the proposal and shared it with one of the top literary agents in the business books, his answer was very clear, “I don’t get it.”

We were pretty disappointed, I more than Jack. From the start, he thought the concept was too complicated. From the man who had been reviewing business books since 1981, I should have listened more closely to those early hesitations.

To be more accurate, I was devastated. I had put a lot of work into the proposal and put even more hope into the possibilities the project would open up. It took more than a year before we returned again to the idea of a book.

In December 2006, we gathered a wonderful group of authors and publishing professionals at 800-CEO-READ’s first Author Pow-Wow. Over dinner, I told Will Weisser, the associate publisher at Portfolio, about our crazy idea to write a book and asked him if he would read the proposal. He wasn’t sure about the concept either, but he agreed.

The holidays passed and Will came back with a familiar sentiment – “I don’t get it,” but he followed with a better question – “Why don’t you just do the 100 best business books of all time?”

I groaned aloud as I read his email. My response was “That’s already been done, multiple times.”

Will wrote back, “You are right, but almost all books have been done before. Just remember the iPod wasn’t the first mp3 player. If you get it right, you get to own the category.” I felt like the gauntlet had been thrown down.

We could do a book on the best business books but it was going to have to be different and interesting. The book would be based around reviews but the richness would come from connecting the books to one another. We would recommend books beyond the list of 100 books. There was be a choose your own adventure feature when you got to the end of each review. There would be “easter eggs” with suggestions for movies, novels and events that readers would also be interested. The book would more resemble a magazine more than a book with multiple points of entry for the reviews. I think it worked. The compliment we received over and over again was “This is better than I thought it would be.”

The 100 Best also showed me a hidden love for writing. In college, I prided myself on only taking two English classes enroute to getting my engineering degree. Looking back, I missed an opportunity to learn to express myself, to share my ideas, to determine what I believed. I would find my way to blogging almost ten years later as the way to finally start writing and that would lead to my job at 800-CEO-READ.

I was a hack though. I didn’t appreciate active verbs, the rhythm of a finely constructed sentence, or the drafts it takes to create good writing. We were so fortunate to have Sally, a wonderful editor, on staff who helped Jack and I through the dozens of reviews that needed to be written and rewritten. In the book’s acknowledgements, we described Sally’s multifaceted role as “editor, cheerleader, psychologist, humorist, and referee.” I would add “teacher” to that list. I am not the writer I am today with the book project or Sally’s involvement in it.

The most common question I get asked now is whether I would change anything. I tell people who ask I wouldn’t change a thing. I know they are asking about the list of books but I like to pretend that they see the bigger picture – the sweat, the missteps, and the joy that come from having created something that helps people just a little. 100BestBusiness150