Attended a very nice dinner with Karen Holbrook…

Attended a very nice dinner with Karen Holbrook this week, President of The Ohio State University. heard an update on the university, lots of new info for me. The growth and change in the University since my day is dramatic. Student quality has risen dramatically, as has admissions selectivity — the days of open admissions for ohio students are long gone (when I was going to OSU, they basically accepted all Ohio high school grads). The regional campuses have become 4 year residential institutions — I remember when the Marion campus was brand new, a single building. A $3.7B annual operating budget — not including capex. Nearly 60000 students — that at least hasn’t changed much.

One anecdote I heard from Karen — she always walks around on move-in day in the fall meeting new students. On day one, everyone is overwhelmed by the size of the institution. In 3 weeks that sense is gone — a student’s experience collapses down to the communities that student is involved with — the “liability” of size dissipates quickly, whereas the benefits endure. That is certainly my recollection as well.

A bundle of nonfiction

I’ve been on a bit of a nonfiction jag:

  • “The Best and the Brightest”:amazon by David Halberstam. I just couldn’t get into. Too much minutiae, not enough story telling. Contrast with The Strange Death of Liberal England which glosses over facts but tells a great story.
  • “Why Stomach Acid is Good For You”:amazon by Wright and Lenard. Interesting theory on stomach function, stomach acid, and the damage done by antacids and acid suppressing drugs. If you are taking Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec — you must read this book. It may or may not be right but it is a view you should understand for yourself. The core of it is this — heartburn caused by acid reflux is actually a symptom of too little stomach acid, and the downstream effects on your helf of having too little acid and thus incorrectly digesting food are tremendous. The heavily-marketed treatment of eliminating stomach acid does more harm over your lifetime than good.
  • “Stumbling on Happiness”:amazon by Daniel Gilbert. There are some interesting discussions in here about what really makes us happy. But I hate hate hate the writing style — just chock full of oh-so-clever wordplay, knowing asides, wacky metaphors. This crap all just gets in the way of the story. You feel like the author went through the book and forced some clever construction into nearly every paragraph. Just annoying.
  • “Nature Noir”:amazon by Jordan Fisher Smith. Wow! What a surprising book. A nonfiction naturalist book, but threaded thru with a compelling personal story. The writer has a message but rather than beat you over the head with it, he writes a moving and evocative portrait of the land and the people on it. Way more impactful than your typical nonfiction book.
  • “All Markets are Liars”:amazon by Seth Godin. I expected to hate this book as I find most trendy business books to be tiresome. But I do resonate with the core message here — marketing is about telling a story, a story that your customers probably already know and want to believe. Like most nonfiction business books, would have been better as an article or a pamphlet, but still engaging.

Switching my gaming PC

Getting ready to switch from a WidowPC box to an Alienware box. I’ve had the WidowPC box 8 months, it is a nice SLI liquid-cooled box, but it has had thermal problems from the day I got it and no longer runs. WidowPC is honestly not that responsive. I think they are just too small — my order number suggests I am approximately customer number 1000, and my support requests suggests they have handled ~4000 support requests — not large numbers, and too many requests per box.

Alienware offers onsite service and for the kind of bleeding edge boxes I buy, I think that is worthwhile. I just don’t have the time to be front line of support for myself, like Bob is for himself.

Recent mystery and suspense books

I’ve been on a modern mystery/suspense jag:

* “Ten Second Staircase”:amazon by Christopher Fowler. Very inventive and engaging mystery. 3rd in a series featuring a pair of superannuated london detctives working on bizarre crimes. A lot of fun, I’d pick up more in the series. Though good luck finding anything by Fowler in any of the big chains, they just don’t carry much by him. Pity.
* “13 Steps Down”:amazon by Ruth Rendell. Twisted little tale of obsession and murder. Nicely crafted tho hard to really connect with the book as the main characters are not very sympathetic. Still, much better fare than most mysteries.
* “The Hard Way”:amazon by Lee Child. Another great romp featuring jack reacher. These books feel like graphic novels written as prose — reacher is a classic modern day anti-hero — emotionally scarred, seemingly indestructible. A lot of fun.
* “The Janissary Tree”:amazon by Jason Goodwin. My favorite of the bunch. I’ve never had a hankering to visit Istanbul, but after reading this period mystery I am ready to go, and I am ready to read goodwin’s historical work on the ottoman empire. A great setting, great main character, good supporting cast. Definitely recommended.

Ignition blog roundup


Welcome to BostonCoach — ok this is not the cheapest way to get around, but Buston Coach has been rock-solid for us over the last several years. The service has been flawless — always arriving on time, always courteous, scheduleable on relatively short notice, works well in major metro areas and more remote areas. We are huge fans.

xbox 360 #1 blown

OK our first 360 bit the dust. locks up 1 minute after booting. 7 months into owning it — just out of the warranty phase. so $129 to get it fixed — this must be the microsoft strategy for making money, $129 every six months…

I considered buying a new one at the msft company store but they don’t seem to have them, and i am not sure the discount would be anything special.

the real pain is the amount of time to get it fixed. they are shipping us a mailing box, it will take 3-5 business days to arrive. then another 3-5 to return to them. then 3-5 to fix and 3-5 to get back. so a month gone. during summer vacation high season. not good.