Author Archives: David Starkweather

About David Starkweather

David Starkweather lives in the Kansas City metro area, working as a business analyst for a web development agency. He is a technology enthusiast and an avid reader. David is currently on his way to reading a book a week in 2012.

August Recap | Book A Week In 2012

It’s a month late but that’s just because I’m a month behind in reading. But fear not, the sun is setting earlier each day and its getting colder and colder each day. That means that I’ll be reading more and more each day! I’m over the hump, 37 books down and 15 (only 15!) to go if you’re keeping track at home.

Without further ado, lets look at what I read in August.

 

Siddhartha

This is written by Herman Hesse, the same guy who wrote Steppenwolf (the book, not the band), which I also read. He’s kinda far out there. His stories tend to revolve around religion/spirituality and the purpose of life.

Siddhartha is a story of an Indian man who goes in search of his purpose in life. He becomes a monk, he follows Buddha, he becomes ‘one with nature’ and then he becomes a rich man living in sin. He experiences all sides of life both good and bad, learning from each of his experiences. In the end, his life comes full circle, living again as a spiritual man, knowing no more about life than he did as a youth.

Siddhartha is an interesting book and if you’re looking for something different and maybe off the beaten path, this wouldn’t be the worst thing you could pick up. It may not however be the most exciting thing you read this year. Instead, you might consider a more modern version of this story in The Celestine Prophecy

 

 

Frankenstein

Frankenstein is a classic. It’s constantly referenced. It shows up without fail every Halloween and yet, I don’t think I’d ever actually read it. Maybe, I’d read bits and pieces maybe but never the whole thing. I’m glad I did though because its a great book.

 

 

 

 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This has been on my list for a long time. The premise is cool and kinda funny in a very smart-ass kinda way. So it’s been on my kinda-want-to-read list for over a year and well, that’s what the book a week challenge is all about. Right? So I read it…and it was great.

It’s a great mix of American history and vampire folklore. The story does a great job of bring up points throughout history and interspersing vampires into the story.  It works well and it’s lots of fun.

 

 

The $100 Startup

This is a great book from Chris Guillebeau. It is full of inspiration. If you’re looking to start your own business or just looking for some creative inspiration, it’s well worth your time.

The book reads like a list of case studies and examples of people who have done some amazing things. Not Microsoft or Facebook type behemoths but strong businesses that allow people to live comfortably working for themselves. Some of the businesses featured in this book make several million dollars a year, others are intentionally kept small by the owners. The point of all of these businesses is that whatever your interest or passion, if you work hard, you can make a business out of it. You may not be the next Mark Zuckerberg but you can get out of your 9-5 (if you want) and work for yourself.

Chris is a fascinating guy with a really good blog. Take some time and check it out.

 

The Affair

This is my guilty pleasure, it’s like a guys version of a romance novel. It’s fun to read but there aren’t many redeeming qualities about these books. They are easy to read and more or less the same general story recycled with each book but I’ll be damned if Child isn’t good at recycling his own material.

This one is more of a back story about what led of to Reacher leaving the military. It’s a good, quick read and if you pick it up, you’ll more than likely enjoy it mildly or enthusiastically. The book aside, shouldn’t we be talking about why in the world Tom Cruise is playing Jack Reacher in the upcoming movie, Jack Reacher (which is based on the novel One Shot, which again, is good and you won’t regret it if you read). Jack Reacher is described over and over in each book as being 6’5, 250. A lumbering guy who is admittedly not quick, not fast, but he is effective. That’s the main premise of the entire series, he’s a big guy who get stuff done. It’s never pretty but it’s always effective. That is essentially, Lee Child’s thesis statement for the Reacher series….and they pick Tom Cruise to play him? Cruise is the absolute antithesis of who Reacher is supposed to be. Cruise is short, nimble and for lack of better term, sexy. Reacher is none of those. He is a wandering lug of a man who rarely shaves, cuts his hair or changes clothes. <sigh> I’ll probably still watch it and I’ll probably enjoy it and just like the books, not regret watching it.

July Recap | Book a Week in 2012

Summer is really cutting into my reading schedule. Technically I’m behind a couple weeks but we’re still trudging along.

Here is what I read in July…


I am Legend

I thought the movie was ok, but more importantly I thought the premise (i.e. what the book probably is) was very cool. Then I came upon the book which I found out is quite old and it’s a sort of cult classic. So I took a chance.

It is sooo much better than the movie. Think of it more like Night of the Living Dead (the original, black and white movie) as opposed to what was portrayed in the Will Smith version of the movie. Much more story, more plot, more thought and less action/special effects. This is just another in a long line of example of how much better the book is than the movie.

 


The Leopard

Another quality Norwegian thriller from Jo Nesbo. This is a follow up to The Snowman, which was also quite good. This series follows Harry Hole, a detective in Oslo, Norway. He is a flawed hero that specialized in serial killers.

If you read and liked, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books and are looking for something with that cold, Norwegian vibe, this is a good author to read.

 

 


The Art of Racing in the Rain

I read the first paragraph and had to put it down…picked it up a month later (blocking out the first paragraph from my memory) and started back up.

I wanted to like it from the start, but nothing pulled me in. I was ready to dismiss it but then the climax of the story hit and the villain(s) entered the story. This book has quite possibly the most evil bad guy(s) that I’ve ever read. They aren’t murderous characters, they fight through words and legal actions, which is far more frustrating than throwing punches.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a decent book. It’s not going to blow you away and as far as dog stories go, it’s not at the top of the list. It is however kinda funny. It’s very sad and the ‘twins’ as the dog refers to them really are evil.

 


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop talking

This is a fascinating look at introverts and extroverts, what those terms really mean and a great look at the studies that have been done on the subject. ‘Introvert’ always seems to have a negative connotation to it, associated more closely with being anti-social. As an introvert myself, it was nice to read about all the positive aspects of being an introvert.

One aspect of the book that I didn’t quite enjoy was the polarizing talk about introverts and extroverts. Some of the examples that are provided and some of her commentary (especially at the Tony Robbins seminar) are a little extreme but those examples come early on in the book and the further into it you get, the better it gets.

Google Fiber in Kansas City

There has been a lot of news surrounding the Google Fiber project here in Kansas City. It’s a big deal for everyone and it could have some huge ramifications to the future of how we watch tv, browse the web and conduct business in general, especially here in Kansas City. Even the Time Warner technician who was at my house last week said he was really looking forward to it…and he’s going to lose business over this!

In case you missed it or were looking for more info. Below is a breakdown of what Google Fiber is offering as well as a video and some links to other articles on the subject.

How Do I Get Google Fiber?

What Kind of Plan Can I Get?

If You’re Ready to Sign Up…You Can Pre-Register Here?

Here are some additional links on the project from Google:

About Google Fiber

Google Fiber Blog

And if you want to read what everyone else thinks on the topic, check out the links below.

PC World

Engadget

Fast Company

Tech Crunch

Two Kansas City Businesses That Missed Out On The Thank You Economy

I’ve been reading The Thank You Economy, by Gary Vaynerchuck and I can’t help but think about two very different experiences that I’ve had with local businesses here in Kansas City. A few of the stories in the book have been about restaurants, one in particular about a burger joint in Milwaukee. Gary talks about all the great effort they put towards building relationships and caring for their customers, something I didn’t feel the last time I ate at Blanc Burger.

Blanc Burger

Blanc is a pretty popular place, with two locations in Kansas City and a new location in Omaha. The last time I was there, I was dining with three other people. We ordered, ate and had a good time. Then towards the end of the meal one of the people I was with found something in their burger. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was nothing. We were told it wasn’t anything to be concerned about but it obviously was something you weren’t supposed to find in a burger and to say the very least, it was very unappetizing.

We weren’t paid much attention once this happened (which I still don’t understand). Neither the manager nor the chef came to our table, in fact one of our party went to them to try and figure out what was going on. We were given our checks with a little more than an apology from our waiter (I don’t think the burger was even comped) and we left without making a scene, but with a bad taste in our mouths and no desire to return…that was nearly two year ago.

While reading about AJ Bombers in The Thank You Economy, I couldn’t help but think about how this experience could have been different for Blanc and the four of us dining together that night. What if Blanc had blown us away with caring like the amazing examples in the book. What would have happened if the manager or chef had actually cared about our experience that night. What if they had come to our table, apologized and said, “we hate that this happened and want to try and make it up to you… here is a free burger to take home”, or better yet, “here are four free burgers”, or even “here is a coupon for the four of you to try us out again. We promise we ‘ll do better next time and we want to earn your business and make sure you’re happy.” or something to that effect.

What’s the worst that could have happened if Blanc or any other restaurant took this approach instead of sweeping the incident under the rug? They lose out on roughly $20 for the free burgers. Is that worse than losing our on four customers? Had Blanc taken any of those steps, that night it probably wouldn’t be two year since any of that group had eaten at their restaurant. In all honesty, my food was fine. I might even go so far as to say it was good, but the lack of caring and almost defiant nature of the restaurant has kept that four top from coming back. In the new Thank You Economy, as Gary lays out in his book, taking care of customers is a valuable long term marketing tactic. Building a relationship with customers is key to success

The Roasterie

 

Nearly a year ago I wrote a blog post about a The Roasterie, a local coffee roaster in Kansas City, praising them for their company newsletter. I wrote a whole post on how they did a great job of creating a community and welcoming their customers into the lives of the employees at this company. Then I posted the article. I tweeted the article. I made sure to include their handle so that they saw how appreciative I was. I posted it everywhere I could. Then I waited. and waited.

Nothing happened, which wasn’t a huge surprise, just a little disappointing. I have no allusions to the amount of traffic I can bring a business from this site and I’m not whining because I didn’t get any attention. But I was a customer, a supporter, a raving fan in the waiting…just give me that push to be a life-long-enthusiastic, loyal-customer…but instead nothing happened. I wasn’t expecting an award, or a free bag of coffee or a free drink at their shop. But not even acknowledging the unsolicited praise from a random customer was a little disheartening. All I needed to to be a lifelong customer (and to shun Starbucks for good) would have been a re-tweet or a simple thanks or some small gesture to say, “we appreciate you”. Two seconds to re-tweet, maybe two minutes max if you type in my email address and write a thank you note. Do that and you’ve earned a raving fan for life. That’s the real value of the Thank You Economy.

I’m still a fan of The Roasterie and I still drink their coffee and visit their shop, not much has changed…but I also still go to Starbucks and to Latte Land and to Hattie’s down the street. That’s three other coffee shops that share my coffee budget. The Roasterie could have had a monopoly on my coffee expenses for a very long time but instead, they just get a portion like everyone else.

Embracing the Thank You Economy is not just about trying to win over disgruntled customers or trying to bribe them into liking you. It’s about creating a relationship. It’s about building a tribe full of raving fans who are loyal customers that go out of their way to promote your business for you and who spend their money with you because they love you. People buy from people they like and people buy more from brands that say Thank You.

June Recap – A Book a Week in 2012

I’m really starting to feel the heat (literally and figuratively). Falling behind is a serious reality. Truth be told, the Tour de France is really digging into my reading time. Seriously. It’s on every night from 7-10, which previously was a great time to read. Now I’m glued to the TV, reading a page here and there during commercial breaks. “The Tour de France?” you’re thinking to yourself. Yes, Le Tour has done me in..it’s just so damn exciting. Just give it a try, you’ll see! (I may or may not have a cycling addition)

Here’s a look at what I read in June…

 


The Children of Odin: The Book Of Northern Myths

Who doesn’t love a little mythology? This urge was spawned after watching The Avengers (which Thor, Odin’s son is apart of) and realizing that I’ve never actually read any Norse mythology…and I love mythology.

When I found this, it was a free kindle download from Amazon, which is great. But later after I’d started reading, I found an illustrated version for $.99. I thought that was a no-brainer and paid the buck. here are my two recommendations. Read the book and keep the dollar. The ‘illustrated’ version basically has a picture at the top of each story…let me rephrase. A crude, black and white illustration at the top of each story (maybe 10-12 all together). The cover of the illustrated version makes you think that this is going to be full of pictures of the gods and the battles, giving you a beautiful representation of the story…that’s unfortunately not the case.

Regardless, it was fun to finally read some Norse mythology. Go check it out.

 

The Hitmans Guide to Housecleaning

Sounds interesting right…right? A little different maybe? While this wasn’t bad, I thought based on the title, it could have been better, maybe even a little more unique. I had the same disappointment when I read American Psycho (which I don’t think I’d recommend to anyone). American Psycho would have been sooo much better without the blood and guts and more of the main character freaking out inside his own head at the color and font on his ‘friends’ business card…(the color was ‘Bone’ if you don’t remember). Killing people was just fluff, the real meat of that story was how this uber rich brat was so caught up in being better than everyone and having the “best” things and even a better business card that it was driving him crazy…literally. More of that and less of the actual murders would have elevated that book by leaps and bounds.

So how does that relate to The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning? The book wasn’t bad…I’d have to say it was mediocre at best, bordering on good. There just wasn’t a whole lot of memorable aspects of the story other than the setting in Reykjavik. In my opinion, much like American Psycho, this book would have benefiting from more internal dialogue. Let the reader hear what’s going on in his head as he’s stuck in hiding…better yet, when he has to find a job…make him a housecleaner as the title suggests! Walk the reader through how this former Hitman goes about cleaning a house like he would have done a hit. How he relates a mop and bucket to his former tools of the trade. That would be more interesting and much more memorable. Instead we’re left with an odd story about a hitman on the run who ends up in Iceland and falls for a girl whose parents are religious fanatics.

 

A Monster Calls

Here is another one that wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (maybe June should be the month of not what you were expecting). Again I ran across this on Amazon and judging by the cover, I thought this would be really interesting. The artwork is fantastic and a little creepy at first glance. It pulled me in.

Turns out this isn’t a horror novel or scary story, it’s a fantasy novel about a boy whose mother is dying of cancer. The monster is his conscience trying to help him through this horrible time in his life. This wasn’t a bad book by any means, just not my cup of tea.

 

The Thank you Economy

Thank You Economy is one that’s been on my radar for a long time. It’s written by Gary Vaynerchuk who runs winelibrary.com. If you’re not familiar with this, you may be more familiar with Tony Hsieh’s (founder of Zappos) book on a similar topic.

Essentially it’s all about caring about your customers and trying to create a relationship with them. It’s not Mad Men anymore, you can’t buy customers through a TV commercial or billboard.. You’re customers have an impact on your bottom line and you can’t ignore that. You can’t talk over them or buy a huge ad to shut them up. The internet has given a voice to your customers and social media has given you the tools to interact with them and show them that you feel that they are an important part of your business, which they are.

The Thank You Economy is a great concept, but one that few companies actually adopt. There are a multitude of reasons as to why (Gary actually runs down this list in the book) but the fact remains that media is changing and the way companies interact with customers is changing. To stay relevant and to keep ahead of your competition, businesses need to create relationships with their customers and start interacting with them rather than pushing them aside.

Great read, I’m glad I finally picked it up.

 

Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey

Ugh. I really like this guy, but I think I bit off a little too much writing advice in a relatively short time. The problem isn’t when I’m reading this book, because I do like it. The problem is the thought of picking it up doesn’t sound as enticing as something else I could be reading.

Truth be told, I’ve been reading this on and off for about three weeks and I’m still not technically finished. It will get read, but maybe not before the end July. Confessions of a book a week reader.