Friday, January 29, 2010

The Aftermath of the Real Estate Bubble



The insane real estate bubble enriched a few, impoverished others, and has left all of America stuck with neighborhoods that look to be beyond repair or salvage. Check out this video found at PDNPulse:


"Foreclosure: Death of the American Dream" by Lauren Greenfield from Lauren Greenfield on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Apple and ATT - Unfortunately, Their Partnership Continues with the iPad.

It must be very lucrative for Apple to tie itself to ATT.  Like the iPhone, its new iPad requires ATT service for the 3G version.  However, I refuse to use ATT for wireless because neither its coverage nor its service is as good as what I currently purchase.  Accordingly, as long as the two remain tied together, Apple won't get me, or others of similar mind, as a customer for iPad or iPhone.

These are expensive luxury goods; the basic iPad costs over $600.  At these prices, shouldn't the consumer get to decide which carrier they wish to use?  We can only infer that for Apple, the revenue generated from its ATT deal trumps the wishes of consumers.

More on Apple and ATT at CNET.     

Via Slashdot:  ATT admits i-Phone service is not up to par.

NPR Reviews "Unfinished Desires" by Gail Godwin.

A novel about bitchy girls at a Catholic school?  If you've lived it, do you still want to read about it?  To help decide, check out book critic Jane Ciabattari's review of Unfinished Desires at NPR.  Ciabattari calls Gail Godwin's book "sumptuous and spicy."

On the topic of Catholic school, don't forget the absolutely hilarious, spot-on classic by John R. Powers, Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?  In fact, a winter weekend might be the right time to read, or re-read, this funny book.







Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday.



It's Sunday. It's January. It's a good time to laze around the house drinking coffee and reading the paper.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Recommended Reading: "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" by Michael Lewis.

The Blind Side:  Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis has been turned into a movie starring Sandra Bullock.  I haven't seen the movie and have no idea of whether it is good or not.  I can tell you that the book is absolutely fascinating, and I highly recommend it.

The Blind Side is about football in America, and in the hands of author Michael Lewis this topic is riveting.  The football pyramid begins, of course, with the NFL.  Lewis describes how the game is played at the NFL level, the money involved there, and how those factors drive the American football scene from top to bottom.  Lewis engagingly explains how strategic developments in NFL play rippled down to change the life of one young, African-American man in Memphis, Michael Oher.

Even for those oblivious to the football scene, this story is absorbing:  Society values football talent and, for some lucky few with the right talent, mountains can be moved to get them on the field.  When we meet Michael Oher, he is a child living a chaotic life.  Poor, with a mother addicted to drugs, Oher nonetheless has the right talent at the right time for playing football.  Through what seems like the slimmest bit of luck, one adult takes an interest in Michael.  As a result, Michael ends up attending a white, private, Christian school where people with money, time and interest give him an opportunity to thrive - and play sports.

You may or may not like the idea that sports are the vehicle for Michael Oher to gain the attention of adults and ultimately escape poverty.  All children deserve a childhood where they can thrive, and I think author Michael Lewis successfully makes that point.  In telling this football story, Lewis throws light on the tragic corners of discrimination, child poverty, and neglect in our country and the wonderful things that can happen to a child who lives in an environment where there is love, attention, and support.  The community must pay attention to its children.  This is not a new idea, but one that always needs reinforcement and repetition.       

The many different elements of The Blind Side, from football and Christian schools to class and racial divisions in the United States, make it an unusual and compelling work. The Blind Side is highly recommended reading.






Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Airline Fees

Planning to fly somewhere soon?  Check out this excellent chart by Orbitz outlining baggage fees charged by the major airlines.

Washington Post Reviews "First Rule" by Robert Crais.

If you read Robert Crais because you are a fan of his Elvis Cole character, prepare to be disappointed:  This new book again features Joe Pike, not Elvis.  Check out a review of First Rule that appeared in the Washington Post here.

 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Book Available from Jasper Fforde, Author of the Thursday Next Series.

U.S. fans of Jasper Fforde, author of the Thursday Next and the Nursery Crimes series, can now obtain his new book, Shades of Grey.  The new book features a character named Eddie Russett and is set in a future where not everyone can see the entire spectrum of color.  However, the more colors someone can see, the higher his or her social station.  According to its Amazon description, the book is "part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller."  Sounds interesting.

Fforde's Thursday Next books, which are set in England but in a parallel universe, are quite fun.  If you haven't yet checked out that series of books, I recommended you do so.   







Friday, January 15, 2010

T.G.I.F.

Posting slowed down as I decided that the blog had to take a back seat to golfing this week.  I have been posting pictures at my 2010 photo blog:  Check them out here. I'm finishing Peace by Richard Bausch this weekend.

T.G.I.F.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coming in March: "Silk Parachutes" by John McPhee.

Silk Parachutes by John McPhee is a collection of prose pieces.  The piece that gives this book its title is about McPhee's memories of his mother; it first appeared in the New Yorker's Shouts and Murmurs column in the late '90s.  McPhee, whose style is narrative nonfiction, is a fantastic writer.  Definitely add Silk Parachutes to your list of books to look for in a few weeks.

If you aren't familiar with this author, consider this your lucky day because you now get to read for the first time Mr. McPhee's earlier works.  A complete list is available here.



 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Children's Book Recall - "Big Rex and Friends" Cloth Books.

Big Rex and Friends cloth books are being voluntarily recalled due to a risk of lead exposure.  Manufactured in China, the book has a red plastic dot sewn into it that contains a toxic level of lead, nearly 20 times the allowable limit.  For more information, check out this story in the Chicago Tribune.  

Via PW Morning Report.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday



Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting,
experience treacherous, judgment difficult.
- Hippocrates (460-400 B.C.)



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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saturday.

Relax, have another cup of coffee, and watch the sun rise.









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Friday, January 8, 2010

America's Business Community: What the Heck Are They Reading?

From 2007 to the present, our economy has experienced what experts describe as the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.  Key industries experienced failures or required government bailouts to prevent a businesses slide from dragging the rest of us along.    Lehman Brothers.  CitiGroup.  AIG.  General Motors.  These examples raise the question:  Are America's best and brightest employed in the business sector?  Perhaps Justice Scalia is correct when he suggested last year that too many of America's best minds are going to law school.

And just how is the business community shaping-up during this tough economic downturn?  Take a quick look at this week's newspapers and you'll see the following:  First, Nestle, which reportedly is a company concerned about health and wellness, purchased Kraft's frozen pizza operations (that includes Tombstone and DiGiorno).  Unless Nestle plans to stop producing these products entirely, I don't see how they will promote health and wellness.  (Yes, Nestle started as a Swiss company, but it is now very much multinational).

Second, Philip Morris, who no one can accuse of being overly concerned about consumer health, wants the FDA to adopt a regulatory scheme that encourages smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco.  Of course, in addition to causing cancer of the mouth, and necessitating disgusting spitting, smokeless tobacco contains more of the highly addictive drug, nicotine, than cigarettes.

Third, Ford announced it is putting Internet radio and Twitter in its in-car entertainment system.  Really?  Shouldn't people in cars be focused on driving safely?  I guess Ford successfully healed its pain over the Pinto.

These three moves might boost profits for the individual corporations, but none of them look good for consumers in the long run and, in my opinion, that makes each decision hopelessly fatal to long-term business success.

Nonetheless, for now we must rely on these geniuses to build a strong business community.  Which leads to the question:  What are business people reading these days?   

Number four on the NYT Hardcover Business Bestseller List: The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris.  Hmmmm . . . not a comforting sign.  The number one book on the Paperback Business Bestseller ListThe Blind Side, by Michael Lewis, concerns "the evolving business of football."  This may be an interesting book, but one wonders if it will lead to a stronger economy.

The full lists are found at the links above.  Does all of this point to a hopeless future for business?  It would be easy to be pessimistic but there is one bright spot:  At least business people are reading.







Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book Snapshots: "American Rust" by Philipp Meyer.

American Rust by Philipp Meyer is another one of those novels that some people will rave about enthusiastically.  As for me?  Unfortunately, not so much. 

The novel takes place in Buell, Pennsylvania, where the steel mill closed in '87.  The story principally concerns two young men in their yearly 20s, Isaac English and Billy Pope.  Issac:  Mother dead by suicide.  Sister escapes to Yale, and then married life, while Issac, a math whiz, has been at home in Buell taking care of his aging, ill father.  Issac's friend Billy is former high school football star.  Billy had opportunities to go to college, blew them off, can't hold a job, and is now living with his mom in a trailer.  

When the story starts, Isaac is ready to leave Buell to try and find a place where he can go to college and start living some of his dreams.  Accompanied by Billy on his way out of town, the guys get into a jam, which ultimately results in one of them being arrested.  In the remainder of the book, various characters work through the consequences of the arrest.

As I read American Rust, I waited for the author to put some literary 'magic' into the story, and lift it up into something more than its somewhat stereotypical characters and grim elements of loss and disappointment.  In my opinion, that touch of craft and art that makes a difficult story one that is also magical to read just didn't happen here, and in the end this book just didn't work for me.



   

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Books Coming in January

Here are a few new books to look for this month:









Friday, January 1, 2010