Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Tipping Point

OK. Confession: I didn’t actually read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. My wife and I listened to it as we drove up to Seattle and back … with the characters from Cars playing on the DVD player for the kids in the back. I need a hard copy of this book because I couldn’t take notes on my CD. I found it a fascinating study, however, on how cultural phenomena become, well, phenomenal.

I wish I could unpack it all, but it had great insight, particularly on different kinds of people and how they relate to social phenomena. There are people who are passionate about a topic – even as a hobby – that, while they may seem obnoxious, serve as great resources for making those products better. For example (I think I read this in a different book), somebody sends Google emails with a number on it. Nothing else. The folks at Google discovered it was when the word count on their homepage is getting too high. They want to keep things simple so they appreciate the emails to keep them in check. These folks are called Mavens, I believe.

Others are connectors. They may not have the deep knowledge, but they have social networks that get the right people together to make a movement happen.

There’s one more. I can’t remember what it is, but it is those who are influential. It might even be ‘influencers.’ These are the people that move people to doing something. The cool kids in some ways.

Jotting these notes down makes me want to really get a hard copy and mark it up because it has some good insights for leadership. Sometimes, when identifying leaders, I think in singular categories. It could be any one of Gladwell’s categories at a given time, but this book is really a challenge to see the value in the myriad of different people and their giftings and contributions. Sounds almost biblical (see 1 Corinthians 12 or Romans 12).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Back to it again … The Last Nine Innings

I had the best intentions of keeping up on my blogging by catching up on the books I’ve read lately and not reflected and blogged upon. It’s now been almost a week since I’ve thought about it. But here goes…

I brought The Last Nine Innings by Charles Euchner on our trip to Kenya this summer in the event that I needed a break from all the studying I was doing on the trip. I started it on that trip, but didn’t really get into it. I think I finished it during vacation in Washington in August. It was a book that I was excited to read quite a while. I think I saw it recommended on the USS Mariner Reading List when it was a thread that several people were contributing to.

Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed reading a baseball book or two each year. I’ve enjoyed Out of Left Field, Weaver on Strategy, Cheater’s Guide to Baseball, and Moneyball (my favorite). I don’t know if I’ve reached baseball fatigue, the writing wasn’t that great, or what, but I wasn’t thrilled with this book. I didn’t devour it.

The organization of the book is interesting. Euchner uses Game 7 of the Yankees – Diamondbacks 2001 World Series as an opportunity to speak about different aspects of the game. For instance, he talks about starting pitching in the first inning – unpacking pitching in general with Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens as his examples. Then he talks about fielding in the bottom of the inning, highlighting Derek Jeter and Steve Finley … and so he goes through the nine innings with relief pitching, hitting, managing, etc…

I don’t know why I didn’t love it. It had everything. Randy Johnson winning. Yankees losing. Fascinating discussions on the science of hitting and pitching (the most violent action in all of sports!). An explanation of international scouting. Debates on pitching and fielding. A lot of great stuff, but, like I said, I wouldn’t enthusiastically endorse it like I would Moneyball or Weaver on Strategy. But if you like baseball, you’d probably like it. So … consider it endorsed, just not heartily endorsed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Nibelungenlied

The Nibelungenlied is a German medieval epic. Track the storyline here. To answer the first question, I’m reading it because, while I feel like I had a sufficient education, there seems like a lot of classic stuff I’m missing out on. Also, I’d like to be broadly read rather than have tunnel vision on a particular area. Sometimes it means I read stuff I have little interest in. Other times, I find gems that I never would have thought I’d have any interest in. This is one of them … for the most part.

The Nibelungenlied was too long, but it was a great walk through medieval honor and chivalry – as well as treachery. I don’t know why, but I often expect books like these – even the Odyssey and the Illiad – to be boring because they’re old, but the passion and fury of battle in them is always exciting. Tarantino could get some mileage out of these books – helmets splitting, blood spurting. Epic battles.

Anyway, I come away from these books impressed with the honor and courage of many of these knights and their brotherhood. Something to aspire to and to instill in my boy. The flip side of this honor and brotherhood is sometimes the demeaning of their sisters or wives and the refusal to confront the treachery of their brothers due to their commitment to one another. I only read through one of these “classics” each year (my ‘to read’ categories are pretty long) so I won’t get to King Arthur and his guys for a couple years, but I’m looking forward to see how/if honor and faithfulness develops more thoroughly.

Either way, there was a lot of good stuff. I don’t know if I brought it out in the series of “Just War?” blog posts, but I distinctly remember the author of When God Says War is Right mentions the medieval warriors who were fierce in battle and honorable off the battlefield. The Nibelungenlied does not fit that mold specifically, but there are traces of it.

This wouldn’t be my most recommended book of the year, but if you’re into medieval lit – or curious about it (you’ve probably read it already if you’re into it) – you might like it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Back to Blogging

As you can tell by the date, it’s been too long since I’ve last blogged. I’ve been busy, to be sure. But one of the reasons I like to blog is that I like to read. Too much. One year I consumed 50+ books, but couldn’t remember much of what I read. Given the dearth of good material, some may say, it may be better forgotten.

But I’m not the most discerning reader. I often like, or end up liking, much of what I read. And yet, I can read a ton and not get much from it or retain much. Maybe that’s what happens when Tom Clancy novels turn you into a reader. The stories make you move fast and you skip over all those Russian names. Anyway, blogging is my way to slow down and process my reading. Sometimes it keeps me in books too long because I’m so obsessive compulsive that I need to do a thorough blogging of a book.

Well I’ve read a bunch since my last blog, but I haven’t gotten any of it down. Instead of a thorough blogging of the books I’ve done, I’ll just give a brief sketch on what I’ve taken from the book.

I’ll probably try to find a happy medium between the exhaustive blogging I was doing before and not blogging, which I’ve been doing more recently. I hope to return this to a helpful, refreshing outlet for myself instead of a burden and, at the same time, keep my reading from being such an escape that it escapes my head without being processed. We’ll see how it goes.

A post on The Nibelungenlied tomorrow! Points for anyone who knows what that is!