Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's SoulSin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Karen Abbott walks us right into the parlors of the Everleigh Club. Giving us a sense of what it was like to be in the Levee district at the dawn of the last century. Adorning us with stories of Minna and Ada’s vicortian-era “butterflies” and the men they kept company with. The book reads like fiction telling the tale of the sisters Everleigh and their rise to fame (or infamy) in the Levee district. Abbott makes you feel like your were there as she vividly describes the brothel and the district, not to mention the characters that run amuck in it. It gives a detailed accounting of the Progressive Era reformers and their fight against “white slavery”, including the formation of the Bureau (later the FBI). I am looking forward to reading “American Rose” and “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy” in the near future. If you are interested in history, but like it delivered a little less dry, Abbott will surely be a favorite.

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Are Arizona Universities Developing the Talent to Fuel the New Economy?

We like to talk a big game about growing the economy with technology startups in Arizona.  Many brag about our universities being a strong pipeline for talent to fuel that economy.  I personally haven’t seen that to be true based on my involvement in the broader startup community.  It is time we asked, are Arizona universities developing the talent to fuel the new economy? Arizona State University certainly has a monopoly with the sheer volume of students across a number of disciplines.  In 2014 they had over 72,000 students enrolled.

Arizona University Rankings

However, volume is not enough.  They also claim to have quality, ASU is ranked 88th in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and 48th among all universities in the United States.  Much like standardized testing those metrics for quality don’t always pan out in the real world.  The only real metric is in the result.  How strong are the candidates for our schools in placing students (in this case in startups).

LinkedIn has a new University Ranker. They looked to answer, “Which schools are best at launching graduates into desirable jobs?”

They analyzed millions of alumni profiles to find out how schools around the world stack up across a variety of careers. Here’s how they found the top schools for software developers at startups:

  • First, they identified the top startups where software developers are choosing to work.
  • Next, they found people on LinkedIn who work as software developers and saw where they went to school.
  • Finally, for each school, they found the percentage of these alumni who’ve landed software development jobs at these startups, then compared the percentages to come up with the list.

Sadly no Arizona school cracked into the top 15.  Our neighbors University of California San Diego (UCSD) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) both did.  The University of Arizona did make it into the top 25 for software developers.  Again Arizona State was no where to be found, which is staggering based on the size of the student body.

How do we start to elevate the engineering mojo at our Arizona institutions of higher learning?


Developers Guide to Sending Email (SendGrid vs Mailgun)

As a developer at some point you will likely need to send email from an application.  The days of handling that on your own are long gone.  There are a myriad of services out there that will save you time and make life easy.  Often times it comes down to SendGrid vs Mailgun.  I could wax poetic about the approaches and features of both, but honestly I think a picture would be easier.  So here it is the Developers Guid to Sending Email (or Evolution of Email).


Evolution of Email

Evolution of Email

Any questions?

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The FountainheadThe Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fountainhead is more of a tome than a book, daunting to most I assume. I have not been a particular fan of Ayn Rand’s view of the world. My daughter ended up having to read this for AP English and I decided to read along. I figured a diatribe of Individualism and the smothering of Collectivism would have me disinterested in the book by the end of the first chapter.

I do have an affinity for architecture, so I figured I could slog through it one way or another. After all I had avoided reading the damn thing for 40 years already. By the end of the first chapter I was sucked in. I know many, even those that like the book, are not a fan of Ayn’s writing style, but I actually enjoyed it. There is a rawness and depth most writers lack.

I get sucked into great characters and this book is packed with them. Howard Roark the perfect protagonist. Wow. That is all I have to say about Howard. Wow. Peter Keating the poor sap caught up in it all. Dominique Francon a heroine that you won’t encounter often. Steadfast and strong except for her one weakness in the world. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, but I think this might have been the mid twentieth centuries version in many ways. Rape, sex, murder and destruction in ways unexpected. If this trio wasn’t enough throw in Gail Wynand and Roark’s antagonist, Ellsworth Toohey and you have the stuff movies are made of.

I won’t spoil it for you, but if you are a fan of philosophy this is a must read.

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In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the RulesIn-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perman does a great job telling the In N Out story. The privately held company has always kept their business close to the chest. Starting out in Baldwin Park in the San Gabriel Valley next to my wife’s home town of Arcadia our love story (link) kind of follows along the lines of In N Out. Expanding our family to the Southwest over time.

The book is a great for anyone interested in business. The Snyders were solid entrepreneurs with their “Quality, Cleanliness and Service” mantra. They refused to grow fast, but instead grow smart. The story involves multiple generations changing hands and what it takes to have business continuity in the face of tragedy.

Perman tells the story of the family as much as the business, revealing extremely personal details never fully explored in the public before. You can’t help but fall in love the matriarch and feel the heart break as the family goes through the tragedies of life. If you love a good Double Double and like to learn from business success, read the book. If you hate meat or old ladies stay away!

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Sunday Book Review : The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live LongerThe First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gretchen did a fabulous job challenging every major assumption, wives tale and commonly held belief that we have around exercising. Do you stretch before and after exercise before strenuous exercise? Do you carb load the day before an endurance event? Do you make sure to hydrate yourself frequently during that tennis match, marathon or soccer game? If so, you may be amazed at what modern science is telling you about many of these things.

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Sunday Book Review: Nudge by Richard Thaler

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and HappinessNudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thaler and Sunstein give an ample dose of psychology and behavioral economics to define the process of “choice architects”. Coining a new view (libertarian paternalism) on when and we shouldn’t nudge peoples behavior through influence.

When it comes to human behavior they classify human nature into two groups: homo economicus (the rational ideal) and everyone else (humans). We all tend to think of ourselves as the rational ideal, that which is laid out by economists. However, we rarely fall close to that tree.

Like Dan Arielly and other behavioral economists have show us, we tend to be Predictably Irrational. Whether it be logical fallacy or influence from others, we just aren’t the ideal.

Ultimately they lay out two systems of thinking. The “Reflective” and the “Automatic” systems. The Automatic system is that which is instinctive. Why do you duck when someone throws something at you? The Reflective system is deliberate and self-conscious. How did you decide what to wear this morning?

Because of these differences and conflicts between these systems, people are often subject to making mistakes that are the result of widely occurring biases, heuristics, and fallacies. Including anchoring, availability heuristic, representativeness heuristic, status quo bias and herd mentality.

The pair goes on to quite about how libertarian paternalism and choice architecture could be used to influence policy for better outcomes. At this point if you are a “political” person you will likely be highly turned off because they are not shy about the logic that should exist in policy. Many politicos are far more emotional than logical in ideology. You have been warned.

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Sunday Book Review : Getting Real by 37 Signals

Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Web ApplicationGetting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Web Application by 37 Signals

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David and Jason were ahead of their time. Preaching a more simple way. There were others at the time talking about doing things different, but these guys were making it real. A lot has changed for them since they wrote the book, but a lot in the industry has stayed the same. Looking forward to another young, hungry company to show up on the scene and rewrite some more rules. Getting even more real. We could use it.

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Arizona Innovation Summit

The Arizona Commerce Authority, MIT Enterprise Forum and the Arizona Scitech Festival put on the Arizona Innovation Summit earlier this month. It was well attended and had a wide range of innovators. Jeremy Babendure has done a fantastic job rallying the Arizona community around science and technology.

Arizona Innovation Summit

There was a mini trade show floor for organizations to share their work. Sessions of various varieties and a keynote from Logan LaPlante. Logan is 14 year old that has opened the world to the concept of Hackschooling. During lunch a number of organizers of SciTech events got together to discuss how to better work together. I believe Jeremy will be releasing something sooner than later that captured the results.

I sat with a group that had the topic of “Collaboration – Strengthening the AZ SciTech community. How do we create more opportunities for collaboration to connect with collaborators year-round?” Ideas collected:

Presence Together
Whether it be networking, cocktail hour or service events. It is apparent that there needs to be more presence with each other. Something that can be difficult with the disparate nature of Arizona’s infrastructure.

Database of Organizations
It is hard to collaborate with people that do not know what they want, but even more difficult to be found if you aren’t broadcasting it. There was mention that the AZ SciTech Festival already had started a site that contained a list of participating organizations and perhaps it just needed some more data.

Collaboration Prize
Incentivize collaboration monetarily. Have a local organization similar to The Arizona We Want annually coordinate a prize for the organizations that have collaborated together for the greatest benefit to Arizona. Similar to the Lodestar Foundation‘s The Collaboration Prize.

Workshops / Mentor (Buddy) Program
Collaboration is a skill that needs to be developed. Some organizations are doing it well, some are struggling. Regional workshops to give organizations the basic skills required and pair them with mentors to help them down the path to collaboration. (Shout out to one of my mentors that introduced me to so many people [Francine Hardaway]).

Do Shit Together
The best way to build a skill is to use it. There is way too much talking about working together in this state. It might be fun to draw interested organizations out of hat at random and pair them together.  The paired groups having six months to deliver something together. It could be a physical something, an event or who knows what…

Are any of these ideas new and stellar? No. Don’t throw them out blindly though. It is easy to say just go collaborate. It is much harder to do it in practice.  Almost impossible to do it well consistently.

I am always open to new things and working with new people. Hit me up. Let’s collaborate on something to make Arizona better.

Sunday Book Review : The Oz Principle by Roger Connors

The Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational AccountabilityThe Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational Accountability by Roger Connors

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Refreshing book that talks about accountability. It isn’t evil and it has a bad reputation. As someone who deals with commitments and visibility of work in teams, it feels like people are distancing themselves more and more from this style of think. I think that is a mistake. The book could have been half as long and the phrases “above the line” and “below the line” are used at least once per paragraph. The writing style leaves a lot to be desired but the content is definitely worth putting up with it.

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