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Posts tagged ‘review’

Mailbox iOS App – I Like It

Last year I looked at a new app called Mailbox that was promising to tame the beast that is your gmail inbox. At the time, I was turned off for a couple of reasons:

  1. There was a wait list within the application before I could use it. There were something like 500,000 people ahead of me.  This seemed bogus to me at first.
  2. They store my email on their servers.  I have my own system of rules setup within gmail, so this did not seem like an appealing approach to me.
  3. It was only available for gmail. I have an Exchange account for work and an iCloud account for personal communications. I was really looking for a more complete solution.

I finally gave in and began using the app a few weeks ago, and I really like it. I thought through my original list of complaints, and have come to grips with them in the following ways:

  1. Because they were storing messages, they needed disk and i/o capacity. The wait list approach allowed them to grow predictably rather than get flooded and be rated as a crappy app out of the gate. I think ratings probably did suffer a little bit by the wait list (e.g. it too me a long time to go back and give them a try), but in the end I haven’t heard anything negative about their service overall.
  2. Google stores my email on their servers. If I allowed them to, with all of their data mining and ad targeting capabilities, why wouldn’t I let someone else? How much worse could it really be?
  3. Mailbox added support for iCloud and Yahoo.  This made it so that all my personal mail (gmail and iCloud) could be processed by their app, and my work email could be entirely processed by the native iPhone email app.

What does mailbox provide that my own rules based approach not?  Reminders.  With Mailbox, I have the ability to tell it to remind me of a particular message later today, tonight, tomorrow, or at some future date and time. It then removes that message from my inbox so it does not clutter my thinking.  At the appropriate time, I get a notification on my phone and the message re-appears for me to act on.  The service also works with gmail rules – I just have to go back in and change my rules that route to my old “_Read” label to the one within Mailbox.  This will make it so that newsletters and other general information sources automatically go in a “to read” list that I can process when I have free time to catch up on stuff.

So far, so good. I am happy with the application as is, but also looking forward to seeing what these guys do next.

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Book Review: Brain Rules – 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Home, Work and School

I recently read Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. I originally picked this up as a result of it showing up as a recommended item in my Amazon Recommendations. I initially looked at the first chapter – one that talks about all the benefits of exercise and the brain. This struck a chord with me and I decided I wanted to read more. Notice that the hyperlink to ‘exercise’ above goes to – the book’s companion site with additional content and videos to help reinforce topics from the book.

The book goes on in detail to discuss the differences between how short term and long term memories work (and tricks to help improve them), differences between male and female brains, and a host of other interesting topics. At times the material is dry – Medina uses the medical terms for the different areas of the brain. If you’re not into that or wanting to go to that depth, it can become difficult to follow. If you hold on through a few pages of this at a time, you will be rewarded with a rather informative read.

There are numerous takeaways I had from this book that helped me understand more about myself. Here are a few:

  1. The brain can only focus on something for about 10 minutes at a time. It then needs a diversion.
  2. Exercise increases brain function / power and significantly decreases the risk of dementia. That brings new meaning to the saying “Running is cheaper than therapy.”
  3. Sleep is vital to committing what has been learned to memory. The brain is very active while you are sleeping.
  4. Multitasking is a fallacy. You are only able to focus on 1 thing at a time. If you are familiar with single core computing, you will recognize what we refer to as multitasking (conference call and email at the same time) is actually pre-emptive multitasking.


  1. Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power
  2. Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too
  3. Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently
  4. Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things
  5. Rule #5: Repeat to remember
  6. Rule #6: Remember to repeat
  7. Rule #7: Sleep well, think well
  8. Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way
  9. Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses
  10. Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses
  11. Rule #11: Male and female brains are different
  12. Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers


Born To Run

Girl Trail Running
Originally uploaded by RyanSaul

I recently read Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, an inspiring tale of an epic adventure pitting the greatest ultra marathoners you’ve never heard of against runners that might as well have been from Mars. There are dozens of stories within this story, all weaved together to make one heck of a tale. You’ll meet a mystery man, a couple of wild college kids, and a tribe of Indians wiho live nowhere near a regular highway, much less the information superhighway. Inside. McDougall asserts through stories that:

  1. Humans have tremendous natural endurance
  2. Everything we have learned about running is likely wrong
  3. If you’re not having fun, you’re working too hard

Obviously I’ve oversimplified this synopsis but you get the point. The book is as much about the individual spirit as it is anything else. I found myself looking forward to reading this book after work and thinking about its message on my long runs and even in my last Ironman event. “Run like a Tarahumara” I’d tell myself. I’ll tell you that too. If you’re a runner looking for inspiration this winter, look no further than Born to Run.

I am Born To Run.

Skin in the Game

I recently read Skin in the Game: How Putting Yourself First Today Will Revolutionize Health Care Tomorrow by John Hammergren & Phil Harkins. I will give the disclaimer up front that I work for McKesson. Furthermore I will point out that I actually purchased this book with my own money – it was not given to me. The book is not really about McKesson – it's about us as Americans and the health care system we flow in and out of. Read on and I will explain.

There has been much talk, dating back to the early days of the Clinton white house, about health care reform. If you've been to the doctor's office lately, filled a prescription, or heaven forbid visited the emergency room, you have witnessed the need for systematic and behavioral changes first hand. I remember days in the E.R., intensive care, and later the neurological ward with my dad when we would answer the same questions over and over again. At the time I tried to look at it along the lines of police questioning where they interrogate you numerous ways to make sure you are giving the complete story. Over time I have come to realize that this was not the case. These different providers did not have an efficient way to communicate with one another. On the neuroscience floor, there was a huge (and I mean HUGE) chart that sat outside the patient's room that all the doctors and nurses would share, but even this was a paper system that stayed put. With all of the advances of modern technology there is surely a better way.

In 2001 I changed dentists and started visiting one near my home in Cumming, GA. When the assistant went to take my x-rays, there was a slight change. Instead of biting down on a piece of film, I bit down on a sensor with a cord coming out of it. The rest of the aparatus appeared the same (including the heavy lead blanket draped across me). The instant the button was pressed, an image of my teeth appeared on the screen. Instant x-rays – no developing required. This was awesome – but not pervasive. In 2007 I visited an orthopedist's office about a tracking issue with my knee. It was a new office – however the same OLD x-ray equipment. They had to take several pictures – but of course we did not know that until the first batches were developed. If only the orthopedist had the same x-ray apparatus in 2007 that my dentist had in 2001!

So what does this have to do with the book? Everything. Skin in the Game begins by giving some historical context of our system of healthcare starting in the 1800s. The media pundits are quick to talk about a crisis but do little to explain its origins – this book helps fill the gap. It then goes on to lay out ideas for ways to improve the delivery of healthcare and our access to it as consumers. Along the way you learn about innovative solutions that are already available in the marketplace to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and clinics. Throughout the book Hammergren lays out the key to advancing health care in this country each one of us being the center of care and in control. This concept is very straightforward, but requires a fundamental shift from our present day way of thinking.

Overall I give the book 4 stars – meaning I liked it and would recommend it. It does an excellent job of framing the present state of affairs in America and provides thoughtful insight to drive conversations towards a positive change in our systems and behaviors. There are several pages of reference for further reading as well as an appendix filled with "resources, web sites, tips and guidelines."

P.S. If you are the kind of person that doesn't want to buy a book because you believe it further enriches CEOs – do not let that stop you from purchasing this book. All of the author's proceeds are donated to charity as noted in the foreward. Next week I'll review The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Vintage), a book whose author I am pretty sure spent all those profits on getting elected.


I watched Untraceable [Blu-ray] this past weekend and am still marvelled by the high quality that Blu-Ray discs combined with a 1080p television provide.

The movie itself was fairly disturbing. The story follows an FBI agent involved in investigating cyber crime who is presented with the case of an uber-smart lunatic who crowd sources killing. It was somewhat of a cross between The Net and Copycat with some new twists, turns and horror. The film is not too brutal visually, but your brain fills in the gaps – definitely not one to watch with the kids in the room. It will keep you engaged and isn't full of cheese – I'll give it 3.5 stars overall.