Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

I just finished reading Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

I remember the first time I had watched the movie. I never actually wanted to see it. Jonna had run across it by chance and told me that I HAD to watch it – that it was a movie right up my alley and that I would love it.

I remember not really believing that it was something I wanted to see but I watched it anyway. The movie blew me away. I thought it was brilliantly written and brilliantly acted. I was completely impressed.

I bought the DVD soon after that and have watched it numerous times since then – always saying to myself “I definitely have to read this book sometime”.

Well, Jake wound up buying the book for some reason and after he read it handed to me and said I just HAD to read the book. So finally, I read it.

The book is absolutely brilliant. More than that, overall the movie stuck pretty close to it, something I was very glad to see. The one thing that I hate the most is when you read a book to find that the movie makers completely trashed it. This one made it through the movie making processes pretty well intact.

If you liked the movie, you will absolutely love the book. The writing style is extremely disjointed – just like the movie. You actually feel like you are on a ride through one mans complete mental breakdown.

While the movie did a fairly good job of exposing you to the main characters inner dialog, there is nothing that compares to actually reading it for yourself.

I will say, its pretty difficult to read the book and not hear Ed Nortons voice as the narrator. Then again, he had the perfect voice for it.

If you liked the movie, you will absolutely love the book. On a scale from one to five – I give t a ten. It’s that good.

Off The Rails – The Review

I just finished reading Off The Rails by Rudy Sarzo this last week. Overall, I would say I liked it.

I’ve been a fan of Randy Rhoads since first hearing the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of Madman albums in 1983 or so. He was a unique player for his time and these two albums are of the sort that they sound just as fresh today as they did when they were released.

As a Rhoads fan, I’ve always picked up any and all information I could get on him. Every guitar magazine he’s been in, I probably have or have had it. Each article or magazine never really gave you enough, as a fan, as to what Randy was like.

Off The Rails was written using Sarzo’s daily diaries that he had kept during the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary tours between 1981 and 1982 (at the request of his accountant) and gives you an interesting glimpse of what was going on in the band at the time. While this book is probably the most detailed about Rhoads as a person, the book for me seemed to focus more on how screwed up Ozzy and Sharon were during this time, which is actually the stuff I wound up getting more interested in as the book went on.

After reading this book, you will be amazed that Osbourne has gotten to where he did, and that he actually produced the music he did over the years. Rumors have always abounded about his alcoholism and wild antics, but Sarzo gives you a very detailed glimpse into the amount of abuse Ozzy exposed himself and everyone around him to during the early days of his solo career.

Most interesting to me was the circumstances around the planned live album that became Speak of the Devil and Randy’s resistance to doing the album. Given where the band was at the time, with two albums of solo material, its easy to understand that Randy did not want to do a live album of Sabbath material, but the most telling is how Ozzy reacted and treated Randy when he refused to do the album initially.

Over the last twenty some years, we’ve heard a lot of positive things about the relationship between Ozzy and Randy. This book, if nothing else, gives you a glimpse of the “real life” circumstances on the tour and paints a much less rosy picture of the time that the band spent on the road.

That is not to say at all that Off The Rails is negative. Sarzo manages to detail all of the goings on during this time without giving the reader the feeling of reading a “tell-all” book meant to smear the participants for the sake of making money. Rudy does a great job of reporting what happened in a very balanced way that manages to get the reader to close the book and walk away thinking.

Bottom line, the book is excellent. Sarzo does a good job of reporting the daily goings on in the tour, giving you a glimpse into the life of guitar hero, and doing it in such a way that it does not feel exploitative in the least. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are Rhoads fans, or even those who just want a third party addition to the biographies already out there on Ozzy and his crew.

Off the Rails by Rudy Sarzo Now Available At

I received an email yesterday from someone letting me know that Rudy Sarzo’s long awaited book, Off The Rails is now available at The book chronicles his time with Ozzy Osbournes Blizzard of Ozz band, featuring the late great Randy Rhoads.

From what I’ve heard, this book is a one of a kind. I actually headed over to Borders yesterday to pick it up, only to find it listed in their computers as out of print. I guess I will have to forego my need for ‘immediate satisfaction’ and wait for Amazon to deliver it.

Rhoads fans have been waiting a long time for this release. I’ll let you know what I think once I get it.

Lean Principles from the Source

I’ve started reading The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From The World’s Greatest Manufacturer by Jeffrey Liker. I’ve figured that as my curiosity peaks on Lean Development and Lean Principles in general, I might as well go to the source.

Chapter One opens with a quote from Fujio Cho, the president of Toyota Motor Corporation from 2002. I read the quote and thought I’d post it up here.

We place the highest value on actual implementation and taking action. There are many things one doesn’t understand and therefore, we ask them why don’t you just go ahead and take action; try to do something? You realize how little you know and you face your own failures and you simply can correct those failures and redo it again and at the second trial you realize another mistake or another thing you didn’t like so you can redo it once again. So by constant improvement, or should I say, the improvement based upon action, one can rise up to the higher level of practice and knowledge.

Toyota is thought of as one of the most process oriented companies around, and yet they still acknowledge that you do not know everything up front and build that into the process. A book that starts out this way has got to be one interesting read!

Current Reading Queue

Thought I’d throw out a list of the current reading queue. I have two books in process, another in waiting:

  1. Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash – Currently Reading
  2. Lean Thinking : Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated – On Hold Until #1 completed.
  3. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From The World’s Greatest Manufacturer – In queue.
  4. Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas – In queue

Sensing a pattern here? I’m really intriqued by the lean way of thinking. The nice thing about it is as you read all of this stuff, you realize that they are pretty much the principles behind any agile method of development. The reading thus far has given me a good base of principles necessary to make sense out of the methodologies. There is something to be said about knowing the “why” behind what you are doing.

I’m sure there will be more to write about this later. One thing I will say: My brain hurts.

Books: Primal Branding

Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your FutureWalking through Borders last week I came across the book Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future by Patrick Hanlon. Since I had recently read The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do, the initial browse of this book intrigued me, so I picked it up.

There are certain brands that build very passionate communities around them. Think of companies such as Starbucks, Apple, or communities such as Linux. This book attempts to dissect the building of brands and communities centered around them into a “primal code” – a set of things that all of these brands have in common that foster the “zealot” type of behavior that these brands exhibit.

The author breaks the primal code of branding into the following seven components:

  1. The Creation Story – If you think about it, any of the brands listed have a creation story that is well known. Be it Jobs and Wozniak building boards in a garage, or Howard Schultz visiting coffee shops in Italy and getting his job at the original Starbucks. Each has a mythos connected with how the founders created the company.
  2. The Creed – This is what the company and / or brand stand for. Think of Apples “Building Computers for The Rest of Us”, or Starbucks “Third Place” (the first two being “Work” and “Home”). The creed is not a typical mission statement, but a short statement that sums up the values or mission of the company.
  3. The Icons – According to the author, icons are “quick concentrations of meaning that cause your brand identity and brand values to spontaneously resonate”. Some examples: The Nike Swoosh, the Linux penguin, the Starbucks white cups, the makeup of the band KISS (yes, this last one was really used as an example – and you can’t really argue with it. The KISS Army are some of the most passionate fans on the planet).
  4. The Rituals – The author describes the rituals as “the repeated interactions that people have with your enterprise”. The main concentration here is around finding the “rituals” that people go through when using your product and making them more pleasant. Some examples of this are things like the Progressive car insurance practice of settling insurance claims at the scene of the accident. Tom the Architect often blogs about “attention efficiencies”. I would put the creation of these efficiencies in the ritual category.
  5. The Pagans, or Nonbelievers – Every strong brand has its pagans, or the people or things which express what your brand is NOT. McDonalds has Burger King, Christians had the Romans, Linux users have Microsoft.
  6. The Sacred Words – Sacred words are described as “a set of specialized words that must be learned before people can belong”. Think “Big Mac”, “iPod”, “iMac”, “Venti or Grande”.
  7. The Leader – Finally, every strong brand has a person who is the visionary who “set out against all odds to re-create the world according to their own sense of self, community, and opportunity”. These are people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ray Kroc, Howard Schultz. Often these leaders have great mythologies connected to the creation story that help to inspire and create passion around the brand.

Companies may have one or more components of this code. The author asserts that the more pieces you have, the more attractive your brand and the more passionate your customers are about your company. I can’t really disagree with any of the arguments. When I first got a Mac, the first thing I did was start reading books about the creation of Apple. Its odd that as I read this book, and the different components that make up a strong brand, I found myself thinking about my own behavior around things I am passionate about and found little things that corroborated the arguments in the book. From the quick three week studies on the origins of Apple, to all of the time I spent on the history of Linux, to the “Tux Tattoo” I have on my upper back, all of these components make sense and map to real experiences I’ve had with strong brands in my life.

The author makes the point that these primal codes for branding or community building are not necessarily to be used only for business. You can use them for organizations (think the Jaycees), religions (Christianity), or even building strong beliefs within a team (a concept I’m extremely interested in as a manager).

In the very least, this book will get you thinking about how to make people passionate about a cause. The book is extremely well written and you move through the concepts very quickly. I found a lot of value out of this reading session and highly recommend that those interested in these concepts pick up the book.

The author is the Founder and CEO of Thinktopia, Inc a company focused on building “primal brands”. They also have a blog and a podcast available (to which I just found while writing this and am now subscribed).

Random Thoughts on Lean Principles

Last night I finally received my copy of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers by Mary and Tom Poppendieck. I’ve actually had quite a few books on order and as they’ve been coming I’ve hoped that they were this one. Finally it got here.

I started getting really interested in “Lean Concepts” after reading The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox, a very well written “parable” illustrating the application of lean principles and the Theory of Constraints to the manufacturing process. This was the first book in a long time that I was completely drawn into – so much so that I actually dreamed about the content after I had finished reading the book. Thanks to John Goodsen for recommending this book to me, among others, while attending a recent training.

This posting is not a book review of the Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers book – that will come later. However I did want to point out that rarely have I been sucked into a book as quickly as I have been with this one. I think that this is because what I’ve read so far maps so closely with the content of The Goal that it jarred me a bit.

Chapter One starts with the first principle of Lean Development. Identifying and eliminating waste. The authors define waste as “something that does not directly add value as perceived by the customer”. They also assert that “If there is a way to do without it, it is waste”.

Here’s the strongest piece of this argument, taken directly from the book:

In 1970, Winston Royce wrote that the fundamental steps of all software development are analysis and coding. “[While] many additional development steps are required, none contribute as directly to the final product as analysis and coding, and all drive up the development costs”. With our definition of waste, we can interpret Royce’s comment to indicate that every step in the waterfall process except analysis and coding is waste.

The argument that the authors are making really make sense to me. What pieces of accepted software development practices are adding “direct value as perceived by the customer”? Does the customer appreciate the long requirements and design processes that wind up feeding into a process in which documentation then has to be generated to change the design of the system after requirements have been frozen? Do they appreciate the fact that we have a “process” to document each change that we make, even though, when push comes to shove, the documentation is rarely looked at as often as the code is? Is the long, drawn out process we IT people use to try to keep our world under control adding immediate perceived value to our customers lives?

“Perceived value to the customer” is another reason why I have always been confused to see development teams put more value on being involved in “projects” than maintaining current systems, whether it be fixing reported defects or adding requested functionality to an application. In my mind, these smaller changes and fixing of defects found BY customers are the things that make the customers life easier and that they will get value from almost instantaneously upon deployment (not to mention that more times than not, they are “chunked” properly). Larger scale “projects”, mostly perceived by teams as “sexier” work, are essentially (in many cases) just a guess from the busines as to what might create value.

I can see from just the first part of this book that this is going to be a really interesting and valueable read. I think it will definitely get my brain working again – and I know there will probably be quite a few rambling posts like this one about thoughts I have as I go through it. This is an area of thought that completely excites me, mainly because there is so much waste in our industry (IT) as a whole. Its kind of nice to read books every now and again that confirm that many of the thought processes you go through in your professional life are not as crazy as they seem sometimes.

Books: The Culture Code

The Culture Code : An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do Over the weekend I found an excellent book by an author named Clotaire Rapaille called The Culture Code : An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do.

Rapaille, a cultural anthropologist, has consulted with large companies for years. His talent is finding the cultural “imprints” that exist for concepts or products and helping people and companies alike to use these imprints to their advantage.

The concept of an imprint starts with the assumption that learning does not happen without connected emotion to the experience being learned. The greater the emotion, the more learning takes place. The combination of the experience and the emotion create an imprint, a strong connection between the concept or experience learned, and the emotion experienced at the time. In NLP parlance, an imprint is a very strong anchor.

A “Culture Code” is characterized as “the unconcious meaning we apply to any given thing – a car, a type of food, a relationship, even a country – via the culture in which we are raised”. This unconcious meaning is, within the book, distilled to a one to three word phrase to characterize the belief system or meaning attached at cultural level.

Rapaille covers a number of concepts within this book, including things like food, money, love, work and compares the unconcious meanings of these concepts at a cultural level between different cultures like the US, France and Germany. The differences in meaning attached to these concepts is incredibly interesting when you are looking at it from the perspective of comparing cultures, but for me, the most interesting pieces were being able to relate to the meaning that I personally have for things and seeing the accuracy in which Rapaille expresses them in the book.

For example, Rapaille asserts that the American culture code for work is “WHO I AM”. The American culture, overall, associates their identity with what they do for a living. The American culture code for money, is “PROOF”. In this section Rapaille makes the point that work and money are closely related culture codes, as the meaning we attach to the money we earn acts as proof that we are good at what we do. Our commitment to work is to ensure that we “are someone” and not a “nobody”. It is our feeble attempt to create our identity.

These are just two of the codes explained in this book. Overall, I found the explanation of the concepts extremely valueable (and relevant) on a personal level and got a lot of value out of the analysis. For me, it was almost therapeutic, in that it explained a lot of the behaviors that I have had that I haven’t really been sure where they came from. With the very clearly written and thoughtful analysis and explanations of these codes, I wound up receiving quite a bit of self enlightenment out of the experience of reading this book and found it to be totally worth the price of the book.

Whether you agree with the content of the book or not, theres no denying that anyone could find some value in the information communicated in it. I give this one an enthusiastic thumbs up and highly recommend it as a few hours of high quality reading.