Month: December 2003

Sunny Weekend

Yes, they do exist! The sunny winter weekends!

This one was particularly nice, albeit freezing cold. I skipped the Saturday ride (too lazy) but got to see the huge bunch of Spectrum riders on my way back from the gym. And today, Sunday, I dismissed the tiredness of the guy that has been working (on Saturday) until 4 AM in favor of a short ride up and down Foothill.

It was fun. All the old guys are out, and it’s a waving fest at every intersection. It feels like after a war, when you crawl out of the bunker and greet everybody that is still alive – the rain kills many a biker’s eagerness after a long season.

Long Time No See

Wow! It’s been a really long time since I last went on a ride!

It’s California winter, right now. In case you haven’t read “Guns, Germs and Steel”, this means it’s raining incessantly, and has been doing so since I started my new job, beginning of december.

New gym has new classes, and if I am lucky, I’ll be able to do some of the spinning there. They are very proud of their instructors and equipment, and I fear I have been scared by last year’s fall too badly to go in the rain again. These thin racing tires are really not good for slick roads, and California roads are clearly not made for the winter.

The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest (P. Bronson)

There you have it! What a wonderful, funny book!
Po Bronson is an amazing author. His prose reads very smoothly, he strikes the right balance between patronizing and geeky (which may be just because I am in the same balance point) and he is amazingly witty.
The First $20 Million is the story of a group of geeks that create their own startup doing … Java. Well, in the book it’s something entirely different, it’s a cross-platform scripting language that compiles once and runs everywhere. Sounds familiar?
Po (I’ll just call him that) captures the essentials of nitty-gritty Silicon Valley. The greed, the idealism, the passion of the geek. He makes a nerd’s writing code for days without sleep plausible; he conveys what it is that makes these social derelicts (and I am one of them) able to function and thrive in an environment that nobody else likes.
And he is funny. Not laughing-out-loud funny, more grin-to-smile funny. Frankly, given the subject matter, not easy to accomplish nonetheless.
I like it. I liked his other famous book, “The Nudist in the Late Shift” better, because it was more varied. Somehow Po is more the short story kinda guy.

First, Break All the Rules

Have you ever read a book that seemed to say the obvious, but whose words of wisdom you then started using as a day-to-day framework to explain to others what seemed so obvious to you?
Well, “First, Break All the Rules” is a book like that. It explains how management should be handled, and more importantly how it should NOT be handled, and takes a stand against Dilbertism of all kinds. Should seem obvious, but Dilbertism is quite entrenched in a lot of corporations, and a book with a lot of quotable sentences comes in handy.
To the content: Gallup is famous as a polling company. They have been polling a lot of employees of companies, though, and provided management support services by creating cross-sections of best practices. This book is the summary of that experience.
There are a few surprising results that come out this book. The very first one is that the immediate manager of anyone is the main focus of attention. If you like the way you are managed, you will like the company you work for, and vice versa. This means that all the best speeches from upper management are worth nothing unless they change the behavior of your manager.
The second thing that is really surprising is that the best management style is to reward the able and to punish the unable and lazy. That hardly seemed surprising to me, until I worked myself under a manager that thought everybody is entitled to the same treatment.
With these two pearls, I pretty much summarized the book. Everything else is a list of examples of managers and their real life interaction with their managed. And of course an enormous list of validation. Lots of quotables, as mentioned, will help you get through your day. Whether it’s worth it, your choice. I found the book way overpriced and wished they had a softcover edition.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (A. Franken)

Once in a while there is a book that leaves a strange taste in my mouth. This year, it was Al Franken’s “Lies”, a self-declared “Fair and Balanced Look at the Right”.
It’s my first book by this author, and I read it on a fabulous vacation in Maui. The fact itself I finished it is witness to the fact it was, if nothing else, interesting. But the taste…
The premise is that the right consistently accuses the left of all sorts of things, while claiming for itself virtue and honesty and competence. Of course, so the book goes,if you look closely, a lot of it is lies.
Franken goes through a lot of different chapters where he ‘debunks’ a lot of conservative myths, demolishes a lot of conservative people and writes to anyone’s funny bone. A lot of the time you have to agree with him, a lot of the time he is totally hyperbolic, and a lot of the time it’s up to you to guess whether he is closer to one end or the other.
Rarely have I seen something that seemed entirely wrong, albeit I confess most of the time I have to go for his research, since I don’t have time or desire to do it on my own.
And that’s pretty much where the strange taste came in. Now I feel the only way to be fair is to read a book by a conservative author, and none of the ones I have seen so far is in any way funny or humorous. If you know one, please tell me!

Bad Weather

New job, and the ardent desire to test the new route – but rain will prevent me and I’ll have to drive, much to my displeasure.

This means a new chapter in my life is starting, and as usual things are going to be a little chaotic in the beginning. I’ll have to move out of this place, too, and soon. I am already looking at new sites, and finally I’ll make the step and move to the city again. I am aiming for the South of Market area, as far down as 25th Street.

What it means for my biking is that I’ll probably lose the most beautiful bike commute I could imagine. Instead of riding up Foothill Expressway and then crossing over to the new location (on Marsh Road), I will have to find some deal involving BART. Maybe commuting to Burlingame and then biking from there is a good option.

And then, of course, I start wondering how much I will be able to follow Spectrum once I am back in the city. Those guys were my Saturday morning fun!