Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gump & Co.

Gump & Co. by Winston Groom

The book Gump & Co. is a continuation of the story of Forest Gump as seen in the movie and book by the same name. In it, we learn of Forest's travels and adventures throughout the 1980s and early 90s. He once again is involved in numerous historical events such as the Iran Contra affair, the Whitewater scandal, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, as well as an insider trading debacle, the felling of the Berlin Wall, and the Persian Gulf War. He also briefly played professional football for the New Orleans Saints, was an encyclopedia salesman, was involved with the development of New Coke, served a stint as a pig farmer, and ended up as a wealthy oyster harvester down in the Gulf of Mexico. All was told with various humorous events incoroporated and seemingly impossible coincidences which Forest found himself as a central part of each of these famous events. I've not read the original book but this was a bit less entertaining than the movie of the original.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

How to Grow A Beard

-Step 1 don't shave
-step 2 repeat step 1
-Step 3 trim from time to time to keep looking neat (if your name is Grizzly Adams, ZZ Top, or you live in the woods/mountains having limited contact with the rest of the world, step 3 may be omitted)
-Step 4 sculpt/shape in various creative ways with a beard trimmer or keep the traditional look

So I'm at Step 4 now. It's one of those things where you know you should do it but just don't. Kind of like those things in the back of the refrigerator that you know you should throw out but never do. A beard becomes part of one's identity and so parting with all or a part of it can be an event worth consideration. My intent is to take a phased approach toward going back to bare faced. I'll go with the goatee first then at some point may determine to trim back from there either in entirety or another phase. The original reason I grew one was not so much for the aesthetics as the convenience of not shaving every day. This iteration of the beard began in August of 2005. In the fully matured stage of the beard, I usually will trim it up once every 7 to 10 days.

Here's a picture prior to the cutting

And after


On Saturday morning, I ran the House of Hope 5k in south Kansas City and finished 3rd overall with a time of 19:20. I was fairly happy with the result considering my recent training, the rolling hills on the course, and the wind.
Check out the results here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quote of the Day

"A goal is like a postage stamp -- you gotta stick to it until you arrive"- a loose quotation often attributed to Josh Billings

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

This is a memoir of sorts of Bryson's journey on the Appalachian trail in the late 1990s. He and a long lost somewhat crazy buddy from high school hook up and make plans to tackle this 2100 mile behemoth going from North Georgia to Katahdin Mountain in Maine. Though quite out of shape, they embark upon the hike and have good times enjoying nature, including encounters with a moose and some unknown creatures that may or may not have been bears.

Throughout the book Bryson provides humorous tellings of their adventures in his characteristic droll style. One such example was when they had to hike their way through a swamp jumping from log to log and not very successfully staying vertical. After a struggle of 30 minutes to cross a small space, feeling somewhat triumphant, tired, wet, and dirty, a couple hippie looking guys came along hoisted the backpacks over their heads and adroitly crossed the same piece of swamp in a couple of minutes while staying clean much to Bryson and Katz's dismay. Another such incident was on their first day back on the trail after a hiatus when Katz fell behind. When he finally caught back up to Bryson, huffing and puffing and feeling fairly out of sorts, his pack was considerably lighter due to his throwing things off the side of the trail such as food, a water bottle, and sundry other equipment/materials. Bryson says "Stephen I really wish you wouldn't do such things." I'm perhaps not portraying it as funny as it was but in the book it was fairly hilarious.

At various points in the book, Bryson takes an aside to go into detail on the history of the Appalachian Trail both past and present, notable characters along the trail, as well as detailed descriptions of nature and the terrain. One interesting part is when he visits the ghost town of Centralia in Pennsylvania. It was abandoned about 23 years ago due to a coal mine burning in the ground underneath the town. He said that everywhere you could see smoke coming up out of the ground and realized he was standing right above a roaring fire so felt the urgent need to move on.

I've personally done a bit of hiking (a decent amount in the Smoky Mountains part of the AT) and found Bryson's account to be both accurate and enjoyable. Each multi day backpacking trip I've taken has brought memories, beautiful scenery, pictures, and war stories to tell. Even one who is not in the best shape can get out in nature, get some good exercise, and enjoy themself through hiking whether on day trips or overnight backpacking trips. I recommend the book for anyone who wants to get an idea what it's like to hike the Appalachian Trail or just wants some nice, fun reading material.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World

Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World by James Cramer.

Jim Cramer of Mad Money (on MSNBC) fame was once a hedge fund manager trading stocks and made his investors tons of money. He's retired from that business nowadays and goes more the route of advising people through his radio show, TV show, and website. In this book, he describes the ins and outs of investing and trading on the stock market and strategies for playing the cycles of the market.

One of his rules is that if you are going to invest in individual stocks, you need to spend at least an hour per week keeping up to speed on it. He also recommends diversification by having a minimum of 5 stocks in a variety of businesses sectors such technology, health care, oil, grocery/consumer goods, financial companies such as banks, among others.

He makes clear that he does not advise nearly as aggressive a strategy when looking at retirement versus more discretionary income. Mutual funds are definitely the way to go for a vast majority of people who don't have the time or inclination to truly research and investigate the fundamentals and news of a stock. He provides advice on good mutual fund managers if one wants to go more that route.

I enjoyed the stories from his days as a hedge fund manager also told in his book Confessions of a Street Addict. These helped illustrate lots of his points and rules to live by when trading/investing in the stock market.

Overall, he does a good job at helping the reader to understand the nuances of the stock market which can be esoteric to those not in the know or who don't do it professionally.

My personal advice is that unless one believes they can beat the market or the return of a professional mutual fund manager, he/she should stay away from individual stocks. While the reward can be high, the risk is also very high compared to the diversification of an index or mutual fund.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tech Tip# 3

A really nice shortcut you can implement when using Internet Explorer to surf the web is ctrl + enter. For example, let's suppose you wanted to go to All you would do is type in google then press the ctrl and enter button and www. .com will automatically be added to the previously entered google. This is my second favorite shortcut after alt + tab.
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