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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
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    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
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    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

Paul Tevis

Entries in books (38)

Friday
Aug192011

Bad Meetings Are Bad

Meetings that waste people’s time are bad meetings.

The “meetings are a waste of time” meme pops up on my radar every so often, and I’ve seen it floating around again lately. It irritates me. What’s the alternative? On any problem that requires more than one person’s input, communication is the single biggest determinant of success. I have yet to see a better form of communication than a group of people with a whiteboard and an example of whatever they’re working on.

This isn’t to say that all meetings actually promote useful communication. I suspect many of them inhibit it. That’s why The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making is so fascinating to me. It points out that when “business as usual” solutions fail, a different and difficult process is need to create agreements that work. The facilitator’s role is support people in this process and help them do their best thinking.

At its core, the process is about embodying four fundamental principles:

  • Full Participation
  • Mutual Understanding
  • Inclusive Solutions
  • Shared Responsibility

I suspect that whenever someone says “meetings are a waste of time” it’s because they’ve been in too many meetings that didn’t.




Update

Fitness: Pushups (8-10-7-7-15)
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 500 words, 444 seven-day average, 268 average, 38070 total, 70 words past the goal for the week; 9-day streak
Wednesday
Aug102011

Start With the Professionals

Tonight I sat down to skim one of my favorite wine books as preparation for writing my promised post about wine varietals. I’m still going to write it, but today I’m going to say instead that if you want to learn about wine, read Great Wine Made Simple. It’s my gold standard for introductory wine books. When I taught a wine tasting course, I based my curriculum on it. It’s probably what I’m trying to write in these posts. So start there, and we’ll get back to talking about varietals next week.



Update

Fitness: Ran 2 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 0 words, 116 seven-day average, 258 average, 34090 total, 1910 to go for the week
Tuesday
Aug092011

Chance Encounter

A month or so ago I found myself — as I sometimes do — at the Mercury Lounge. It was a quiet happy hour, and Dawn, the owner, was talking with someone I didn’t recognize. He was obviously someone she knew who hadn’t been around for a while. One of the other regulars eventually said to me, “That’s Craig Clevenger. I read his first book. It was pretty good.” Which is how a sample of The Contortionist’s Handbook ended up on my Kindle. Reading that sample is how the full version got there.

The Contortionist’s Handbook starts off brilliantly: John Dolan Vincent, a skilled forger specializing in identity creation, has overdosed on painkillers following one of his “godsplitter” migraines. He has to convince a psychiatric evaluator that he is not a suicide risk while keeping his cover intact. As such, nearly the entire novel is told in flashback, as John gives the evaluator his fake identity’s answers to his questions and then fills the audience in on the real ones. It’s got a Usual Suspects, neo-noir vibe to it. The prose style grabbed me immediately, and while I became less enamored of the plot as the book continued, the choice of words and turns of phrase kept me going. It was a quick read and a hidden gem.

I wonder who I’ll run into at the Merc tonight.




Update

Fitness: Ran 3.5 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 0 words, 201 seven-day average, 260 average, 34090 total, 1910 to go for the week
Saturday
Jul232011

An Inconvenient Truth

I realized today that the best way to do something I want to do is by doing two things I’ve told myself I shouldn’t.

I’ve been making concerted effort this year to read more fiction. With the exception of January, I’ve read a novel a month — and Wolf Hall, which I read in February, was long enough that I feel it counts for two. It’s rare than I can afford the time to go on a big reading binge, like I did last summer with the Dresden Files novels. If I want to read more fiction — and I do — I need to make it part of my routine. I’ve struggled to do that because I also have a fair bit of non-fiction reading that I do for professional development, and I try not overlap those.

Today I realized that the best way to read more is to have more than one book in progress at time and to read in bed. Both of these are things that I’ve said in the past are bad ideas. I can’t really focus on both a work of fiction and a professional development book simultaneously. And I know that I don’t concentrate well when I read before going to sleep. But what I figured out today is that I don’t need to focus or concentrate as much I thought I did. As I’m writing more, what I really need is just to pass more good words and well-constructed sentences through my head. I’d like to believe that when I read a novel, I absorb as much from it as I do from non-fiction. It’s just not true. I don’t remember most of the plot details of Wolf Hall anyway, and I gave that book my full attention. It’s important that I eliminate the gaps between novels; it seems like forever ago that I finished The Maltese Falcon. What I need to do is just let the flood of story bits wash over and through me, both so I can catch bits of good writing as they go past, so I can simmer a richer stew of ideas and styles in my head, and so that I can talk with others about the books we’ve both read.

So if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish The Contortionist’s Handbook before Ghost Story comes out on Tuesday.



Fitness: Ran 4 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 344 words, 325 seven-day average, 263 average, 30190 total, 190 over the goal for the week

Saturday
Jul092011

Noir Meets Magic

I’m looking for touchstones of a genre, and I’m hoping you can help me find them.

A rough description of the novel I’m working on is “a private investigator in a fantasy world.”1 This is such a simple concept that it occurs to me that there must be other examples of this kind of book out there. And yet, I’ve been having trouble finding them. The Dresden Files aren’t quite what I’m going for, since their fantasy world is our own. The closest thing I’ve seen is Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. novels. Are there are other books I should be taking a look at?




1 My high concept pitch is Raymond Chandler meets Polaris.




Update

Fitness: Ran 2.5 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 335 words, 231 seven-day average, 253 average, 25600 total, 400 to go for the week
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