Wednesday What’s Up

What I’m Contemplating

What I’m Playing

I had a great long weekend of gaming with Greg (and father-in-law David).

  • San Juan – Played in a bar while watching the Army / Fordham football game. Always up for this.
  • Jet Set – First time playing this game by a local designer. Good, light fun; close to Ticket to Ride in complexity.
  • Viticulture – Probably my favorite Euro game of the past 5 years. Taught this to David and he seemed to enjoy it.
  • Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles – David and I played this a year ago so it is officially an annual tradition.
  • Custom Heroes – First play for me, wacky climbing card game where the cards morph throughout the game.
  • Innovation – Two plays over the weekend. I like playing just the basic set.
  • Isle of Trains – New game for me, didn’t like it much at the start but got better. You are building a train and completing delivery contracts.

What I’m Reading

What I’m Listening To

  • Astral Weeks – I’m not sure why I wanted to listen to this again, but it has recently become my “focus music” for doing work. Van Morrison is my James Joyce, and I can even claim to get through the entire album.
  • Mr. Misunderstood – I don’t know why I wanted to listen to this country album, but I did and liked it. And a double reference to Jeff Tweedy in the title track!

How I’m Optimizing

My Favorite Business Novels

I was hanging out with a group of my coaching clients last week and made an off-hand remark about how much I enjoy business novels. What is a business novel? A business book focused on a specific category of business learning, packaged as a novel- or novella-length story.

Here are my favorites:

  • The (New) One Minute Manager – I first read this book in the late 80s and I think it holds up well. This is a short parable to help you learn the basics of situational leadership and giving effective feedback.
  • The Goal – I read this around 1997 when I was running the manufacturing execution system for Micron Technology. One of my internal customers, a process engineer, strongly suggested I read this book to learn more about how they approach cycle time reduction on the manufacturing line. This is a novel that conveys fairly complex mathematical and systems engineering concepts in a digestible way. You don’t need to understand the math to apply most of the principles. tl;dr: (1) find your bottleneck, (2) improve it until it is not your bottleneck anymore, (3) goto step 1.
  • The Deadline – This book is one of a small few that I would suggest every aspiring software development manager, IT manager, or project manager to read. I think he modeled his book a bit on The Goal, but who cares: it covers great concepts in traditional project management. Worth it even if you are an agilista.
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a TeamAlmost made the list: Death by Meeting. Patrick Lencioni’s books are most-reads for aspring senior managers and executives.
  • The Phoenix Project – In the same family as The Goal and The Deadline, we have a protagonist thrust into a difficult new role and seeking a path to success and enlightenment. This time the subject area is the modern IT field of DevOps.
  • The Adventures of an IT Leader – I haven’t finished this book yet, but I know it will make the list. This time the protagonist (why do they always have to be men?) is thrust into a CIO role without having a technology background. I plan to use this as one of my textbooks for a class on IT management this coming fall at WOU.

Thursday Things

What I’m Playing

  • Doug and I are deep into vehicles, guns, and more in Advanced Squad Leader. Progressing this far has opened up many doors for us (scenarios and campaigns) and we plan to play Blitzkreig in the West starting next week.

What I’m Reading

  • I read The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and it was good, not great. I liked the conversational tone and the history of past mass extinctions, but I expected more details and treatment on the possible next extinction.
  • I read about a third of In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs. I picked through a few that were interesting to me and enjoyed it, though it didn’t blow me away. Some of the stories gave more insight into the person than any connection to the song, which was great for people I knew of (Shawn Colvin) and not so interesting for ones I didn’t.

What I’m Watching

  • While Julie is away I’ll pick movies off my IMDB watch list that I doubt she’d like to watch and check them out from the library. This week it was La Dolce Vita, a movie I honestly didn’t expect to like. I watched the Criterion Blu-ray edition and enjoyed every minute of it. There isn’t much of a plot, but the filming was superb – the black and white reminded me of Ansel Adams contrast quality. Things I didn’t know but learned watching this:
    • I thought I had a defective DVD because of a terribly synced audio track, but then I learned that Fellini would loop over new audio in post-production for just about all of his dialog. I guess it is something you just deal with as a viewer, but it was distracting at times (mostly when they were speaking English).
    • Paparazzo is a character in this film, playing a freelance photographer who specializes in capturing candid photos of the rich and famous. Ever wondered where the term paparazzi comes from?
    • Nico is in the movie, essentially playing herself.
  • I finished Ozark last week on Netflix and highly recommend it if you enjoyed Breaking Bad.