The Game-Changer

It’s been quiet here on the site lately as the game has changed. I’m four weeks into fatherhood, and those four weeks feel more like ten.

I’ve been trying to come up with an easy way to explain to others what being a new parent is like. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Living with a nooborn is like setting a kitchen timer on a two to three hour schedule that never stops resetting. Change a diaper, feed, comfort, put baby to sleep, knock a few things out around the house, rinse, repeat. It does not stop.

And there are the fussy times when you lose confidence in your ability to parent — can I soothe this baby? Maybe mother can try. Maybe this will work. Maybe not. These times make me realize just how little I’ve appreciated my own parents (Thank you mom and dad!).

And then there are the moments where she grins from ear to ear or unequivocally meets your eyes with hers. The pride and joy that springs from these moments is profound.

Everyone tells you “your life [as you know it] is over.” They’re right. Becoming a parent is a game changer. There are new requirements, new rules, new milestones, new joys, new sorrows, and on and on. And you learn about it all as you go along via trial and error. Googling helps, too.

Being a parent is an incredible experience.

Aviana a.k.a. “Project Aminowings” a Success

My daughter Aviana entered the world Monday night. She was a smidge under eight pounds, and (no bias I promise) she is beautiful. She is also amazingly intelligent, wanting to stay up all night in an effort to elucidate the experience of dreaming in the womb. Unfortunately, this means that between the hours of midnight and five of six in the morning, she is doing anything but dreaming!

Needless to say, “Project Aminowings” was a huge success and I am one proud papa.

Joel Salatin’s “Everything I want to do is illegal”…legal1esp03.htm

Richard Nikoley pointed me to this excellent essay by Polyface Farm’s Joel Salatin. It is one of the best things I’ve read in quite some time — a complete indictment of government interference with just wanting to be free. Joel suggests that eventually the noose will tighten too much and a cycle will assert itself once more, throwing off these heinous chains to freedom, individuality, diversity and independence. I hope he is right.

Look, if I want to build a yurt of rabbit skins and go to the bathroom in a compost pile, why is it any of the government’s business? Bureaucrats bend over back-wards to accredit, tax credit, and offer money to people wanting to build pig city-factories or bigger airports. But let a guy go to his woods, cut down some trees, and build himself a home, and a plethora of regulatory tyrants descend on the project to complicate, obfuscate, irritate, frustrate, and virtually terminate. I think it’s time to eradicate some of these laws and the piranhas who administer them.

Project AminOwings. B-Day 2009 rapidly approaching!

Above is a logo I designed for “Project Aminowings.” Early in the pregnancy, we were calling the baby “The Project” since we didn’t have a name. The little amino acid with wings logo is something I had mocked up about five years ago prior to Sonal and me getting married—I always liked the combination of “aminowings” because it forced the correct pronunciation of Sonal’s last name and the correct spelling of my last name. Alas, Sonal just took on “Owings” when we got married (oh well! I offered!). I made it an “official” logo this year. And of course, I’ve ordered a tshirt of it from (just received it but there are some color problems I’m trying to work out with spreadshirt customer service).

Here’s the front:

The actual due date is August 7, 2009, though only 5% of babies are born on their due date (can’t recall where I got that stat, sorry). The nametag is blank because Sonal and I haven’t told anyone our name. We’re expecting a girl (knock on wood). We’re excited and based on an examination yesterday by a midwife at Northside hospital, the “Project” may come a bit early or on time, which would be a surprise since everyone says your first is usually up to a week late. Of course, that could still happen.

So we’re basically on “high alert” at this point. Hard to believe we’re about to be parents.

Life changes.

Martin Armstrong’s latest on Dark Pools…real-dark-pools

Martin Armstrong continues writing his typewritten letters (from a detention center in New Jersey) regarding ongoing economic and political events. I’m no expert on Armstrong though if you’ve not heard of him, he was detained (imprisoned) for some seven years for contempt of court and only went to trial when the judge who had been detaining him was removed from the case by the NY Court of Appeals (source: wiki). There’s a pretty reasonable chance that Armstrong did nothing wrong other than crossing the State.

Oh and Armstrong had a number of models and forecasts he used to predict the market, some of which were apparently amazingly accurate. Who knows.

Armstrong’s latest letter is available on ZeroHedge, a finance-centered blog that has quickly become one of the most cited and popular finance blogs out there. Interestingly, the ZH writers are anonymous, taking on the names of various characters in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Recently, ZH took their site off of and moved it to offshore servers to further protect their anonymity and the site’s often whistleblowing content.

Getting to the point. The letter is about Goldman Sachs and what Martin calls the “club” on Wall Street. The “club” is a group of extremely powerful individuals who are out to make massive amounts of money via the financial system. Importantly, the “club” attempts to do this not by making better bets (as in, speculating), but essentially by rigging the system and creating the perfect trades. The “club” accomplishes this goal by controlling inside information.

The letter is pretty lucid and provides an interesting glimpse into what goes on behind-the-curtains of Wall Street. What struck me most about the letter is that Armstrong works to dispel the notion that there is some conspiracy theory across all central banks to control the world. What’s really going on is that the central bankers are trying to do their jobs and maintain economic and monetary order. Unfortunately, they are clueless academics. Martin realized just how impotent and lost the powers-that-be were back during the 1989 crash:

It had dawned on me perhaps when there was the 19889 Crash. I had carried two cell phones many times when the model was reaching critical turning points as it did in 1989. The markets were going nuts, and my one cell phone ran[g] that was used primarily for very special clients. it was one of the G5 Central Banks asking me outright what the model was showing and did I think they needed to intervene? As I was explaining the focus was in Japan and that there would not be any abnormal correction and thus there should not be concern about intervention, my regular cell phone rang. It was another G5 member asking the same questions.

What became very clear to me, was they truly had no idea what was taking place any more than the rest of the world. Everyone was struggling to comprehend the new world that was emerging. Communism seemed defeated, markets were crashing, and the general expectation was – Should we be rejoicing?

Most of the central banks have a lot of PHDs, with no real world experience. They have read books, but have not been in the trench to “feel” what it is truly like. This is why government employees rarely have anything worthwhile that will ever contribute to society. …

Armstrong has seen behind the curtain and knows that the authorities (in this case the central banks) are clueless, self-interested, and incapable of working together to effect change. Often, outsiders see these authorities and point out their ineptitude, understanding they are clueless academics. And that’s where outsiders go from insightful to crazy — they go on to conjure up theories of impossibly coordinated efforts by the same incompetent authorities.

In other words, it’s just like the South Park episode — Mystery of the Urinal Deuce.

So what is going on when we see Goldman Sachs making money hand over fist? Simple: they’re doing what they do best, exploiting their inside information, political connections, and their current monopolistic status on Wall Street. Is it all that surprising?

Max Keiser on Goldman Sachs

This interview with Max Keiser is fantastic. Keiser doesn’t hold back with regard to how he views Goldman Sachs as “scum” that has “co-opted” the U.S. government. He even goes on to say they are financial terrorists that effectively held the U.S. hostage by claiming that the world would end if they weren’t bailed out (essentially, Keiser is equating the likes of Hank Paulson, who was head of the treasury when the massive bailout was orchestrated and is an ex-Goldman CEO was basically working for Goldman in his role at the Treasury). And yeah, Max is an outspoken guy, but I have to wonder how many others out there on Wall Street are thinking something very similar but keeping their mouths shut (out of fear of retribution or whatever).

Regardless, you have to wonder: something is extremely wrong when an investment bank squeaked out of implosion a year ago thanks to a massive government bailout only to be the last man standing to reap the benefits of underwriting tons of equity as a quasi-bank-quasi-hedge-fund-with-supreme-access-to-the-U.S.-government and then makes enough money to pay all of their employees $300K+ in salaries/bonuses.

If that isn’t confusing, if that doesn’t make you scratch your head and say, “huh?” then just start looking around. There are a few people like Max, Barry Ritholtz, and, of course, Matt Taibbi (See his RollingStone article if you haven’t already) who are spreading the word.

And this isn’t about envy over a company being profitable. It’s about a company that is succeeding because they have massive influence in D.C. and with the Fed and Treasury. That’s not right. It’s not capitalism. It’s not a free market.

Ok that’s enough from me.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Originally posted this review on Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run on

Christopher McDougall Born to Run
Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run

I challenge anyone to read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen and not be inspired—to run, to be healthy, to be, well just, better.

Born to Run is about McDougall’s investigative adventure into the world of running, ultramarathons, the shoe industry, and the Tarahumara Indians, a seclusive group of “superathletes” known for their running endurance and speed. The tale begins with a question, “How come my foot hurts?” and ends with a race between a few elite ultrarunners and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. In between are a number of answers, questions, and challenges.

It was difficult to put Born to Run down. The book is simultaneously thrilling and informative. It not only recaptures the excitement of past distance running races (like the 1995 Leadville 100), but it also tells the backstories of BtR‘s protagonists — Ann Trason, Ken Chlouber, Caballo Blanco (or “Micah True”), “Barefoot Ted” McDonald, Scott Jurek, Jenn “Mookie” Shelton and Billy “Bonehead” Barnett. Even still, the book serves as an indictment of the running shoe industry, specifically Nike, while also laying out a compelling case that human beings evolved to be runners—chasing prey down, out-enduring them via the persistence hunt. At under 300 pages Born to Run, like the runners and races it describes, covers a lot of ground quickly.

Perhaps one of the most inspirational paragraphs from Born to Run contains the book’s title:

Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our “passions” and “desires”—it’s really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.

Born to Run is one of those rare books that captures within its pages an authentic human experience and conveys that experience directly to the reader. It’s a book in which you are awed by superhuman athletes while still seeing their core humanity. And therein is one of McDougall’s primary takeaways: every human being was born to run, the design being coded within our DNA.

Since this book review is for the Vibram fivefingers fan community, I’d be remiss not to note that BtR gives a hearty mention regarding VFFs, specifically via Barefoot Ted, who apparently inspired Vibram USA’s CEO, Tony Post, to go for a run in his fivefingers. I’m guessing this was back in early 2006. “El Mono” (Barefoot Ted) also made use of his fivefingers at various times during his trek to race with the Tarahumara. And as previously noted on this site, Christopher McDougall seems to enjoy his fivefingers for running these days, too.

Conclusion: BtR is a fantastic read, and I whole-heartedly recommend it. More than anything, I expect this book to spawn the next generation of runners, and I’m optimistic that it will take barefooting (or pseudo-barefooting/minimalist footwear) mainstream. Born to Run is yet another step in a more general movement towards acquiring a higher understanding of what it means and requires to be human.

Thank you to Christopher McDougall for telling this tale: it needed to be told!

If you’d like to snag Born to Run, just click this link to pick it up from

Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich

Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich

I read Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich whilst vacationing in Jamaica and am just now (Actual date, not finish date per this review is July 9, 2009!) getting to review it. I’m going to have to limit my review to a few quotes that I enjoyed from the book, the first of which is one that actually describes the structure of the book:

Being bushy by nature, this book will not give you a linear, step-by-step formula for health and fitness success. IT won’t provide you with a prescription or a checklist. It won’t reveal a secret antidote for aging or a breakthrough discovery for instant weight loss. Instead, this bushy material will open your mind to new possibilities, relationships and ideas that you can adapt to suite your own purposes. Most importantly, the ideas in this book will help you develop a sense of depth and sustainability in your life of physical movement. You’ll begin to realize that the world of the body is far more than one of sets, reps and calories. It is immensely rich and endlessly fascinating-an ideal life-long study.

About two paragraphs up from this one was the following great sentence:

“Specializations have their place, but they inevitably lead to fragmentation.”

I couldn’t agree more. And Exuberant Animal takes you on a “bushy,” generalist route through the mind and body. Each chapter essentially stands alone, so the book reads a bit like a series of articles. It’s a great primer for anyone interested in getting back to the core of being human — a core that is fundamentally animalistic, and, well, exuberant!

Another quote I liked from a chapter titled “Learning learning:”

“I hear you,” agreed the philosopher. “The specialists have run amok. They do one thing really well, but they can never get to the other side of the oscillation. Fragmented disciplines, isolated studies. One trick-ponies. No one goes meta anymore. Conservatives are tightening the screws at every level. Multi-disciplinary studies are out of fashion and so no one can see the big picture. When you’re a specialist, taking the big view just isn’t part of your job description. and if you can’t see the big picture, you’re not going to adopt a rhythm. More likely, you’ll live and teach in a rut.”

And finally a quote from a chapter titled “Stop Drawing Horses:”

Find out your awkwardness. Figure out what you’re good at and then—Just Do the Opposite. Go towards your awkwardness, go towards your fear, go towards your instability, your errors and your ignorance.

All “bushy” quotes, no?

There’s a lot more in this book, and I’m giving this review short shrift simply because if I don’t get it out there, I’ll never get it up. If you’re at all interested in getting in touch with your humanity, I recommend picking up Exuberant Animal, a book about a holistic, mind-body life philosophy.

Frank Forencich has been at the forefront of the movement for humans to get in touch with their nature, and if you just want to plug in to what’s up to, be sure to check out his website:

Constructive Living by David Reynolds

Constructive Living by David Reynolds

I picked up a used copy (the book is out of print) of Constructive Living by David Reynolds after reading a comment from James Hogan on Patri Friedman’s livejournal.

The book bills itself on the cover: “Outgrow shyness, depression, fear, stress, grief, chronic pain. Achieve the goal of Constructive Living—to do everything well.

At around 100 pages in length, the book is a quick read that essentially admonishes you to act your way into a better life. In keeping with my fascination/recent obsession with doing over thinking as well as Glasser’s Control Theory and Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness, CL was right up my alley.

Part of CL is about paying attention to your life. To some extent, it seems a bit like a “living in the moment” sort of mantra; however, I think the idea is much more poignant/specific than that. If I could sum up CL in one sentence, I’d clumsily suggest that constructive living is “Acknowledging your feelings and then taking control of what you are doing.”

It’s in the doing that you can outgrow your feelings. There’s a maxim somewhere in the book that has managed to stick in my brain:

“Doing wags the tail of feelings.”

To elaborate somewhat on this quote, we can’t control our feelings. And since I can’t control what I’m feeling, I also can’t control the feelings of those I care about. What I can do is control my behavior. I can do something—anything. By doing, I can change my situation, which will almost always ultimately change my feelings.

We are only what we do. So doing is not just about taking control, it’s also a rejection of wishing, wanting, can’ting, or any other type of behavior that is non-constructive. I can dream about wanting to be successful all day — those dreams may be fun to imagine, but they do nothing to advance my state.

Here’s a memorable quote from the book that somewhat deals with the idea of dreaming and doing:

The first step in changing reality is to recognize it as it is now. There is no need to wish it were otherwise. It simply is. Pleasant or not, it is. Then comes behavior that acts on the present reality. Behavior can change what is. We may have visions of what will be. We cannot (and need not) prevent these dreams. But the visions won’t change the future. Action—in the present—changes the future. A trip of ten thousand miles starts out with one step, not with a fantasy about travel.


Constructive Living includes a number of exercises at the end of the book that work to refocus your life on doing. Not surprisingly, one of the exercises is exercising. Exercising is a fundamental way to act in a positive way and can work to change your feelings. Incidentally, he also suggests preparing your own meals. It’s interesting (to me) that over the past couple years, amidst a number of things I could not control, two things I’ve returned to over and over again have been cooking and exercise, which are really two core things that make you feel like a competent and capable human being.

CL has a distinct buddhist undertone. Another maxim in the book is that “self-centeredness is suffering,” which is less about being selfish and more about focusing your attention outward instead of dwelling on your own feelings. CL is actually based on Morita Therapy, a treatment that emerged out of Japan.

For such a short book, CL is worth re-reading. Even in its simplicity it has a great deal to digest, and I’m pretty sure I missed a few things.

Coincidentally, Penelope Trunk blogged on How to have more Self-Discipline the other day, and I’d recommend her post for a complimentary expression of Constructive Living (though I have no reason to believe that Penelope Trunk has read this book, there is a lot of great overlap in her post, which is also much better written than this scribbled out book review!).

Twitter Power by Joel Comm

Twitter Power by Joel Comm

Finally adding a very small review about Twitter Power by Joel Comm. It was disappointing. In short, Twitter Power provides an overview of what twitter does as well as giving some general pointers on how to use twitter. It’s the tweeting basics, in other words.

The reason this book fails is because it is unlikely in the extreme that someone who knows nothing about twitter will by this book before taking a stab at twittering and learning either by trial and error or any number of free online resources how to do the sorts of things Joel Comm writes about in his book. And if you were like me and bought the book prior to it’s reviews, you might have thought “Hey this Joel Comm guy has a ton of followers and his book is callled ‘Twitter Power’, which strongly evokes the notion of a power-user. Let’s see what tips/tricks the big boys know!” That’s what I did anyway. And when I just now (writing this review some two months after reading the book! Today is June 26!) went to Amazon, despite the book receiving over four stars with 70+ reviews, what’s the second highest review of Twitter Power but this gem, which I whole-heartedly agree with:

I was disappointed with Twitter Power, especially after reading the many reviews that claimed this book would reveal many techniques for both beginners and pros alike. For anyone that has been using Twitter for more than a couple weeks, this book is really 101. It seems to be geared towards people that have never heard of Twitter or are just getting started. If that’s the case, this book will help you get your feet wet, but it doesn’t shed light on anything you can’t pick up on your own simply by using Twitter for a few days.

Twitter is real time with instant response in most cases, and you’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t almost immediately. You can also pay attention to the power players and note their approach. The book just points you to the top users on Twitter anyways. Save your money and do a little homework.

Another problem with this book, which I should have anticipated having previously read Joel Comm’s The Adsense Code, was that books about the internet’s latest stuff, even when bought extremely close to their completion, have a decidedly out of date quality to them by the time they are read. In the case of The Adsense Code, I even took some of the information to bat regarding certain Google policies only to be rebuffed by a friend who informed me that their policy had changed. Oof!

With twitter, just look at this graph of twitter’s traffic from

Twitter Power came out on February 17, 2009. In other words, assuming Joel more-or-less finished this book a good month or so before it went to publish, the “twitterverse” about which he wrote is no longer the twitterverse we have today. Sure, much of it has stayed the same, but much of it has also changed.

My conclusion: the model of reading-books-about-the-Internet is broken.

Finally, and I’m sure Joel Comm is a super guy, but I follow @joelcomm on twitter in hopes of gleaning knowledge about how a pro tweets and even that disappoints. For some great examples of twitter-users worth following, check out @mikemueller or the fantastic @gregormacdonald.

But don’t waste your time on Twitter Power.

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