January 2009

My personal challenge for myself is to read 36 books this year. I plan to read a variety of books — novels, business, spiritual, etc. I will document each book here on this blog.

First up is Duma Key by Stephen King. I should mention that by “reading” I also include “listening”. I have a 30 minute commute each day of the week and use this time to listen books. I “read” my first Stephen King book, The Stand, during my commute last year. I downloaded it from some torrent site on the interwebs as I could not find it an audiobook anywhere. It was recorded from 46 (46!!) tape sides and took me about 6 weeks to finish.

Since then, I have a problem with Stephen King. Not a problem like I want to fight him or that I disapprove of the potty words he puts in his characters’ mouths. My problem is that I can’t stop reading his books. After finishing The Stand, I “read” Desperation, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, The Green Mile — each of which I enjoyed more than The Stand. I also read (note that I actually read) “On Writing” in the hospital during the three days after my daughter Keira was born.

For me, Duma Key succeeded by exceeding my lowered expectations. I had not heard anything about the book and the synopsis did not endear me. But I persevered because I wanted to engage some of Mr. King’s more recent work so I could possibly stand out among his constant readers should I ever run in to him at the airport. I enjoyed but did not love the book.

Actually, I don’t know what to type here. I don’t feel like doing a plot summary as it does not interest me and seems an unwise use of my time. I am not a book critic, so… Here are a couple of random thoughts:

  1. This is a buddy book about the fascinating and convincing friendship between Edgar Freemantle and Jerome Wireman. I never appreciated the term muchacho until reading this book.
  2. It’s also about the supernatural and creepy — done in the very natural and earthy Stephen King style which I so enjoy.
  3. My favorite word picture of the book was at the beginning when Edgar and Wireman first met. Edgar was recovering from a crippling accident. While at Duma Key, he would walk along the beach each day to regain his strength. However, because he lived by himself, he could only walk so far or he would not be able to get back home. As he walked a little farther each day, he got closer and closer to Wireman. This is how they got to know one another. The way this partcular scene played out, Edgar walking back and forth from his house and getting ever closer to Wireman was like the description of waves coming father up the beach as the tide rolled in.

Good book, but in my opinion, The Green Mile it ain’t.

Next Up (probably): East of Eden by John Steinbeck


For personal recreational use, the iPhone is king. The app store contains a stuning array of programs in it’s catalog. The quantity, variety and quality of apps makes it a joy to browse for something new. It syncs very nicely with Outlook, is fun to use and has visual voicemail. Whoever designed the browser should be kissed on the mouth — the pinching and swiping enable me to read any web page.

The overall UI is a creative and technical masterpiece. My two year old daughter can accomplish tasks with it. Without me ever teaching her how to use it (I assume she learned everything by observation), she can:

  1. Unlock the phone
  2. Use the “home” button to return to the main menu from any program I might have been using.
  3. Use a swiping gesture to navigate to a special screen I have set up just for her which contains a program she can use to draw and look at pictures.
  4. Launch the picture application and, again, use a swiping gesture to look through my entire gallery.
  5. Launch the drawing program (Drawr) and use the shaking gesture to clear the screen when she’s ready to start fresh. The program works much like a high-tech, multi color version of an Etch-a-Sketch

But what the iPhone does not do well is a problem. I expect a $300 device with a $30 per month data plan to grant me some additional freedom from my desk. Over the course of the last few years, my job has become less about programming and more about connectedness. Therefore, I do not expect to use a mobile device to compile java code. I spend 90% of each day on the phone and composing and replying to email. And email, I’m sad to say, is one area in which the the iPhone falls disappointingly short.

I can technically compose and reply to email. But the iPhone is not up to the task of making me more productive or – at the very least – getting out the way while I read and reply to the 100+ emails I receive each day. The touch screen typing is so-so for a quick email, but for longer emails which require me to exercise some creativity and tell a story… fuggetaboutit. And after two hours of emailing, my battery is a memory.

Which is why I’ve been cheating on my iPhone with the relatively old and unhip BlackBerry 8830 for the last several weeks. As an email tool, it enables and encourages greatness. I am not uncomfortable saying that the BlackBerry email program enables me to be measurably more productive and communicate more effectively over email than I would be sitting in front of a desktop computer.

More on this tomorrow.

I’ve been an avid blog consumer for several years now. As a consumer, I typically spend 30 minutes each morning reading a variety of weblogs rather than the newspaper. 

The blogs I read are typically technology, business and thought related. My top list (in no particular order) which I read through Google Reader:

1. kottke.org
2. The List Universe
3. Soth Godin’s blog
4. The Google reader Blackberry pack
5. The Google reader iPhone pack
6. The Google reader Mobile pack
7. Wired
8. IndyCornrows and Pacers Insider
9. Boy Genius Report
10. Open Culture

11. Daily Routines
12. IndyStar.com Business Headlines

What blogs do you read? Do you use a reader or go directly to the sites?