Erling Kagge’s book Walking: One Step at a Time was delightful.
On Friday night I had dinner with John Underkoffler. John and I lived together at college and have been friends for over 35 years, working together for the past 13 or so. Our conversation rambled on a variety of topics, as is usually the case when we spend 1:1 time together.
After getting after-dinner gelato at Gelato Boy (amazing gelato, terrible name) we wandered down the Pearl Street Mall and then circled back to The Boulderado where John was staying. After dropping him off, I headed back to my car with a short stop in the Boulder Book Store, where browsing and buying a few books is one of my guilty pleasures.
Kagge’s book jumped off the shelf into my hands, along with C.S. Lewis’s The Reading Life: The Joy of Seeing New Worlds Through Others’ Eyes. Two of my favorite things to do are reading and walking (or running), so I devoured Walking on Saturday and savored Reading on Sunday.
One section in Walking really stuck with me. Kagge, Arne Næss and a few others, including a professor of archeology, took a trip to Nan Madol. While observing one of the structures, the professor of archeology said, “It is impossible, impossible, impossible.”
Arne Næss responded:
“It is completely possible but, when considered with our conventional calcuations, extremely unlikely. Philosophically, there is a chasm between the imposssible and the fantastically unlikely.”
Now, the legend of how Nan Madol was constructed, according to Wikipedia, is:
According to Pohnpeian legend, Nan Madol was constructed by twin sorcerers Olisihpa and Olosohpa from the mythical Western Katau, or Kanamwayso. The brothers arrived in a large canoe seeking a place to build an altar so that they could worship Nahnisohn Sahpw, the god of agriculture. After several false starts, the two brothers successfully built an altar off Temwen Island, where they performed their rituals. In legend, these brothers levitated the huge stones with the aid of a flying dragon.
Fantastically unlikely, but not impossible. This concept reflected nicely throughout much of The Reading Life, which contains Lewis’s essays on things like “Why Children’s Stories Are Not Just for Children”, “Literature as Time Travel”, and “On the Dangers of Confusing Saga with History.”
In the future, whenever someone tells me, “That’s impossible!” I’m going to respond with “It’s fantastically unlikely but not impossible.”
Amy and I love to read. For a number of years, I’ve recorded everything I read on Goodreads. When I write a blog post reviewing a book, I usually (but not consistently …) repost it on Goodreads and occasionally remember to post it on Amazon. Regardless, the definitive log of what I’ve read is on my Goodreads Bookshelf.
Last year Goodreads started doing a fun compilation of all that a user read in the past year with their Year in Books summary.
My goal for this year was to read 100 books. I’m at 73. The year isn’t over yet and I typically read a dozen or so books in the last two weeks of the year so we’ll see where I actually end up.
I’ve always been a high rater of books. Instead of 1 to 5, I almost always rate in the 3 to 5 range. I do this because if I don’t like a book while I’m reading it, I stop, and don’t log it.
Not surprisingly my three top genre’s are non-fiction, fiction, and biography. In the fiction category is a lot of science fiction. I’m not sure where the categories came from but in 2018 I’ll do a better job of shelving my books by actual category.
22,201 pages is a lot of pages to read. For perspective, that’s about 60 pages a day of reading. My reading between Kindle and physical book is probably 75% Kindle / 25% physical. When I reflect on Amazon’s impact on my reading (which includes Goodreads), it’s pretty remarkable.
My goal in 2018 will again be 100 books.
As my writing progress on my two books – Startup Communities 2 and #GiveFirst – continue to equal zero and the pile of unread stuff reaches higher into the sky than the stack of turtles going all the way down, I’ve decided to try a new process thing.
I’m going have a reading and writing week starting today and going through 9/17. Any excess time I have next week will be for reading the turtle pile and working on the new books. The activities are self-reinforcing – I write better when I’m reading a lot, I can only write productively for a few hours a day, and reading refreshes me a lot for future writing.
Amy’s birthday is next week (yes – it now lasts a week instead of a day) so I’m taking the week off. We are together for every possible minute, other than when I’m running and in the bathroom, so it’s a particularly great week to try this experiment since Amy also loves to read and write.
Once the US Open is finished on Sunday, we’ll have no reason to watch TV. The books and a blank screen beckon. This will either work or not. Either way, I’ll learn something.
It’s summertime and Snoopy is happy.
I’m happy also. Summer is my favorite season. I’ve always been at my most creative in the summer and some of the profound life experiences that influenced me happened during the summer.
When I was a pre-teen, summer meant tennis. Endless tennis. Eight+ hours a day in the Texas heat except for the three weeks I went to Camp Champions. It was awesome. I remember one summer with over 30 days of temperatures over 100 degrees. A break for lunch inside at the North Dallas Racquet Club felt really decadent. It was always a challenge to get back outside at 1pm, but we did it. And kept playing tennis.
I spent the summer between 11th grade and 12th grade living in Knightsbridge, just outside of London, and working for Centronics at their office in South Kensington. I wrote software on an Apple ][ to design the character sets for Centronics printers, ran a lot, learned how to drink beer, got into the drama of the Falklands War, and endured a Tube strike.
In college, summer meant going back home to Dallas. I worked for PetCom for several summers, putting in 80 – 100 hours per week writing software. Then one summer I rented a house at 2430 Denmark in Garland, Texas from my mom where Feld Technologies really got its start. I drove my mom’s Mercedes 240D around that summer – it went from 0 to 60 in about two minutes.
You get the idea. Every summer is a different adventure for me. Several years ago I wrote Startup Communities and Startup Life over the summer. This summer I’m finishing up the 3rd Edition of Venture Deals and writing the first draft of my newest book #GiveFirst. I’m gearing up to be in marathon shape with the goal of running the Portland Marathon in October. And I plan to make a healthy dent in my infinite pile of books.
This summer is going to be about writing, running, and reading. While the rest of the US is playing politics, I’m going to side step that since I expect the amount of negative energy around it will be legendary this cycle. I’m in a great rhythm around our portfolio and investing so I know what that tempo will be like. And, while I’ll travel a little, Amy and I planning on spending the summer in Boulder.
I’ll see you around town, if you are here. And now, I’m off for a two hour run.
I read over 40 books in my month off the grid in Bora Bora recently. I’ve had many requests to blog about my reading list but rather than do one big long post I thought I’d break it up into several “longish” different posts over time. If all you are interested in is my reading list, my Goodreads Brad Feld account has everything I’ve read in reverse chronological order.
This post is about biographies. I’ve always loved to read biography and expect that my 2015 reading diet will include a lot more biography and history than normal as it has caught my interest lately. I’m including company biographies in this post. I didn’t read many, but had a little Google obsession on this trip which you’ll see in a moment.
The order is in the order I read them (even though the Goodreads list is in reverse-chron order).
Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard: I finished this just before we took off. I’m not much of a hockey fan – my childhood team was the Dallas Blackhawks – but I was entranced by this book. I learned a lot about how hockey works, much of it distressing to me. The enforcer role was one I didn’t really understand and Boogaard’s story is a powerfully tragic one. The book is well-written and moves quickly, while painting a powerful picture of how hockey can really damage people.
How Google Works: Eric Schmidt (Google chairman, prior CEO), Jonathan Rosenberg (long time Google exec) wrote the trendy book of the year about Google. I knew many of the approaches and anecdotes of the book – and how Google works – from the many other things I’ve read about Google over the years. But having it in one place, organized conceptually, was worth taking another pass through it all.
Memos from the Chairman: I had high hopes for Ace Greenberg’s compendium of memos from his time as chairman of Bear Stearns, which coincided with massive growth and success for the company. While there was some cuteness in here along with a few things to reflect on, I was disappointed in how dull the majority of the book was. Maybe it was awesome in 1996 when it came out, but it felt slow and dated in 2015.
Einstein: His Life and Universe: Einstein is one of my heroic figures and Walter Isaacson just nails it. If you are an Einstein fan or just want to really learn the full story, this is the book for you.
The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution: If I hadn’t read the Einstein book, I probably wouldn’t have read The Innovators, but Isaacson had pleased me so much that I devoured this one also. This is Isaacson’s 2014 tome an a follow-up to his Steve Jobs book. It was good, but not epic.
Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the Civil War: I originally saw this at my partner Ryan McIntyre’s house a few months ago when we were over for dinner. I Kindled it and dove in. I loved it – super easy to consume and a very playful way to learn, or relearn, some history. I’m planning at least one serious Lincoln biography in 2015 so this was a good way to get a taste of it.
The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership: Everyone knows that Richard Branson is cool, and iconoclast, a massive risk taker, and amazing successful. But he’s also extremely introspective and articulate. I’ve never met him or been to Necker Island, but plenty of my colleagues have. When I started reading this one, I felt like I was doing something obligatory to read the autobiography of one of our contemporary business legends, but I really enjoyed it and by the end was glad Branson had put the energy into writing this.
In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives: As with Walter Isaacson, I eventually get around to reading all of Steven Levy’s books (I read his epic Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution in 1984 as a freshman at MIT and it has stayed with me ever since.) His Google book was awesome – much better than How Google Works. I learned a ton I didn’t know, especially about history that had either been ignored, glossed over, or repurposed. If you have any interest, relationship with, or curiosity about Google, this is the book for you.
Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age: I’ve read lots of articles on Ada Lovelace, but I’ve never read a comprehensive biography. The story was fascinating, especially when pondering what life much have been like in Victorian-era England and how much of any uphill cultural battle Ada Lovelace had. While we’ve got lots of challenges around gender still in our society, we’ve definitely made read progress in the last 150 years. This linkages to Lord Byron, Lady Byron, and Charles Babbage were fascinating and, in many ways, disheartening. Ada Lovelace was clearly a genius – I can’t even begin to imagine the amazing stuff she could have done if she was born in 1990 instead of 1815.
As a bonus, Amy and I have been watching the HBO Series John Adams and I’ve decided to start tackling biographies of American presidents and other American heroes of mine, like Ben Franklin. Look for some of this in 2015.
I’m gearing up for a long series of posts about the various books I read on my month off on Bora Bora. In the mean time, I read a bunch of stuff online this morning (from Friday through today) and thought I’d give you a taste of some of it in case you feel like digging in.
I started with How Reading Transforms Us. It’s a good frame setting piece about some new research on the impact of reading – both fiction and non-fiction – on humans. There is a pleasant surprise in there about how non-fiction influences us.
As with many of you, I’m deeply intrigued by what’s going on around the movie The Interview. Fred Wilson wrote a post titled The Interview Mess in which he expresses some opinions. I’m not in opinion mode yet as each day reveals more information, including some true stupidity on the part of various participants. Instead, I’m still enjoying The Meta Interview, which is how the real world is reacting to The Interview.
Let’s start with the FBI’s Update on Sony Investigation followed by Obama Vow[ing] a Response to Cyberattack on Sony. 2600 weighs in with a deliciously ironic offer to help Sony get distribution for The Interview. Sony’s lawyers unmuffle their CEO Michael Lynton who fires back at President Obama.
Now it starts getting really interesting. North Korea says huh, what, wait, it wasn’t us and seeks a joint probe with US on Sony hack (yeah – like that is going to happen.) After everyone worrying about not being able to see The Interview (which might now be the most interesting movie of 2014 before we’ve even seen it), Sony says Nope, we didn’t chicken out – you will get to see The Interview.
Apparently, Obama isn’t finished. Instead, he’s just getting started. He’s decided that the North Korea hack on Sony Pictures was not an act of war but is now trying to decide if it’s terrorism so he can put North Korea on the terrorism sponsors list to join Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. No wait, maybe it’s to replace Cuba which Obama has decided to restore full relations with.
Thankfully, Dr. Evil weighs in on this whole thing and makes sense of it (starting at 0:40).
At the same time we are struggling over North Korean’s cyber attack terrorism censorship thing, we are struggling with our own internal efforts by some very powerful companies to figure out how the Internet should work in the US. Hmmm – irony?
Let’s start with the cable industry’s darkest fears if the Internet becomes a utility. According to the Washington Post, Congress now wants to legislate net neutrality. And Verizon tells the FCC that what they do doesn’t really matter to them.
The FCC situation is so fucked up at this point that I don’t think anyone knows which way is up. Fortunately, we have the Silicon Flatirons Digital Broadband Migration Conference happening in February which I’m speaking at to clear this all up. Well, or at least watch some entertaining, very bifurcated arguments about First Principles for a Twenty First Century Innovation Policy.
If you are a little bummed by now about how humans behave, check out this article where MIT Computer Scientists Demonstrate the Hard Way That Gender Still Matters. For a taste:
The interactions in the AMA itself showed that gender does still matter. Many of the comments and questions illustrated how women are often treated in male-dominated STEM fields. Commenters interacted with us in a way they would not have interacted with men, asking us about our bra sizes, how often we “copy male classmates’ answers,” and even demanding we show our contributions “or GTFO [Get The **** Out]”. One redditor helpfully called out the double standard, saying, “Don’t worry guys – when the male dog groomer did his AMA (where he specifically identified as male), there were also dozens of comments asking why his sex mattered. Oh no, wait, there weren’t.”
But the fun doesn’t end with cyberterrorism, censorship, incumbent control, or gender bias. Our good friends at Google are expanding their presence in our lovely little town of Boulder from 300 employees to over 1,500 employees. I think this is awesome, but not everyone in Boulder agrees that more Googlers are a good thing. I wonder if they still use Lycos or Ask Jeeves as their search engine. And for those in Boulder hoping we municipalize our Internet net, consider FERC’s smackdown of the City of Boulder’s Municipalization position.
Oh, and did you realize the US government actually made a $15 billion profit on TARP?