50 Factual Errors in Dan Brown Novels

I haven't read any Dan Brown novels. I haven't seen the movies either. I've read and listened to a lot about them though. I searched my archives and I actually made a post about Dan Brown and The DaVinci Code once. Dan Brown's books make some claims as to the accuracy of the history, rituals, and other claims made in these best-selling fictional books.

The London Telegraph took on some of the claims in Dan Brown's books. They examine 50 factual errors in these books.

Maybe one day I'll read the books. I hear they're good. Heck, two movies have been made out of them. I don't have anything against the books; I've just had other priorities.

TUAW: iPhone 30% Profit Share of Apps, 30% Dropped Calls

According to The Unoffical Apple Weblog, AT&T's dropped call rate for iPhones in New York City are the exact same percentage as Apple gets in profit sharing from apps sold in the App Store: 30%. I'm not sure what AT&T's overall percentage of dropped calls is in New York City, but for the iPhone it's 30%. Wow. Not surprising though.

Ever since I got my iPhone, I've always said that AT&T is the weak link in the iPhone chain. I guess you can't say that I have any objective evidence from which to back that up. My previous few phones were Windows Mobile. You can read my rants on Windows Mobile in my archives. Windows Mobile is such a piece of crap that my phones never really ran well enough to notice whether or not I was having problems with AT&T. Once I got my iPhone, and I finally had a phone that ran stable enough, I noticed all kinds of problems. My work-issued Verizon BlackBerry didn't seem to have the same problems, although "the network" isn't without it's issues.

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Seth Godin: If Craig’s List Cost $1

Seth Godin posted an interesting idea to his blog: what if Craig's List cost $1 to post?

Seth argues that the number of scams and bogus postings would go down, and the site's revenue would soar. He adds:

Money creates a sort of friction. In the digital economy, magical
things can happen when there is no friction. You can scale to infinity.
On the other hand, sometimes you want friction.

$1 isn't a big deal, but as Seth says, it would create some friction that might be beneficial.

When Caleb was born, my wife and I had 2 dogs and 3 cats. The dogs and one of the cats were mine. I decided that with two children, I couldn't give the animals the attention they needed. I posted Wiggles the dog and "Evil Cat" on Craig's List. It was a very hard decision. Both animals really did love me, but as I said, I couldn't give them the attention they needed at that point. I read an article somewhere that you should never give an animal away for free. You should always put a nominal charge of around $25 or $50 on the animal. The charge helps create an emotional connection in the person to the animal. It's easy to pick up a free animal, but if you've had to pay a small amount of money from the animal, you're more likely to take better care of the animal. As Seth says, it creates friction.

Check out Item Not As Described for some real-life examples of ways Craig's List could benefit from a $1 listing fee.

Do you think Craig's List would change if it charged a nominal fee for posting? Would it be better, or worse? Would it change the way you use Craig's List? (Please, don't direct angry comments at me. I carry no influence with the direction of Craig's List. I'm not even sure what position I'd take on this issue if I did.)

What Is A Good Story? My Review of A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Don Miller

I can always tell when Thomas Nelson is serious about promoting a book. As a member of their Book Review Bloggers program, I get access to review copies of books in exchange for writing a minimum 200 word review of a book. They tell me that the review can be positive or negative. So far, I’d say this program seems to be working out for both myself and Thomas Nelson. Normally, a book review blogger is only allowed to have one book at a time, but every now and again, they’ll release a book that they allow a blogger to get if he or she already has a book out for review, and the review of this “extra” book must be posted on a certain date.

This was one of those books.

I struggled while reading this book with how exactly to review it. The book is non-fiction, yet it is also about stories. It’s about how the author learned about stories while trying to write a screenplay of another one of his books. Books and movies are obviously different. An author has access to the character’s mind, and can tell the reader that the character is angry, happy, sad, etc. In a movie, the audience does not have access to the mind of the character, so emotions have to be shown. That’s just one bit that I picked up from this book.

The first thing I’ll say is that I liked this book. I liked it a lot. It’s an easy read, but don’t confuse easy read with non-challenging. This book challenged me quite a bit. I read it in about 3 days. I read the first 110 pages while I was upgrading one of my computers to Windows 7. The chapters are very short and can be read through quickly.

The book starts with the author, Don, getting an early morning phone call from somebody interested in turning one of his other books into a movie. Don acts very simple minded, but sooner or later a contract is struck and he begins writing a script with two other men. Don, as a writer, seems to have trouble understanding some of the decisions that have to be made to put his story on screen. This launches him on a journey of discovery of what makes a good story.

Don begins by following the advice of one of the movie writers (I’m not sure what else to call them, producers maybe?) to attend a seminar put on by Robert McKee called Story. After the seminar, Don shares events from his life as he goes on a journey of discovery as to what exactly makes a good story. He explains concepts like “a character is what he does”, a character arc, conflict, etc. He shares some friends of his who are living great stories. As he goes along, he grows and changes.

As I began to near the end of the book, I had a sudden revelation about how it was progressing. Don was telling his story, and taking the reader along for the ride. But I also realized that Don had progressed himself. He had grown as a character within his own story. He began as that guy who always has something funny to say. He makes everybody around him laugh, and people genuinely enjoy being with him, but deep down everybody knows he’s only joking all the time to cover up an insecurity. As Don progresses as a character in his own story, I realized toward the end of the book that he’s grown into sort of a sage. He’s not that much older, but he’s wiser and more experienced and no longer telling little jokes all the time to cover up his insecurities. He’s somebody worth sitting at the feet of while learning from him.

Along the way, Don also addressed a lot of the human condition. He took a quick detour in one chapter to apparently go back to the Robert McKee seminar. I almost felt like I was in the room while this section took place. It seemed to answer so many questions I have had about why life doesn’t always seem to go right:

Robert McKee put down his coffee cut and leaned onto the podium. He put his hand on his forehead and wiped back his gray hair. He said, “You have to go there. You have to take your character to the place where he just can’t take it anymore.” He looked at us with a tenderness we hadn’t seen in him before. “You’ve been there, haven’t you? You’ve been out on the ledge. The marriage is over now; the dream is over now; nothing good can come from this.”

He got louder. “Writing a story isn’t about making your peaceful fantasies come true. The whole point of the story is the character arc. You didn’t think joy could change a person, did you? Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it’s conflict that changes a person.”

His voice was like thunder now. “You put your characters through hell. You put them through hell. That’s the only way we change.” (p180)

For some reason, I found that to be the most powerful message of the book.

Don explored in another section why most people go looking for an easier story. I came to realize that I often do this as well. It’s easier for me to watch TV, or endlessly check RSS feeds on my computer, or subscribe to as many newsletters as possible, than it is to go out and live a story.

Don also explores the difference between a good story and an epic. I saw why stories like Lord of the Rings are epics. Lord of the Rings is by far my favorite story. I say story because I saw the movies before I read the book. It truly was an epic. It called characters into a story far greater than any of them could ever be, and called them to risk greatly. And in the end, all changed for the better. Well, all the ones we cared about did. The evil ones got what they had coming. But it also didn’t display evil as a two dimensional subject. Even Gollum was a character wrapped up in conflict.

I’ve always believed that a good book changes you in some way. Either it teaches you something new, or takes you on a journey, or maybe makes you look at a subject in a new light. Somehow, if it’s a good book, something in your life or mind should change. I hope that I will come away from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years with a new outlook on story. I’m going to look at the story that my life is telling, the story that I’m giving my wife and boys to live in, and maybe find a way to tell it better.

Probably Bad News: What Happens When Journalists Don’t Check Sources

A site I've been following lately is Probably Bad News. They had a post today about two newspapers in Bangladesh taking a story from The Onion, not realizing that The Onion is satirical.

Makes you wonder about the quality of fact checking in the news you read, doesn't it?

Price and Value

I’ve done some reading on self-improvement and productivity. I’ve read quite a few books and blogs on the subjects. I’ve also signed up for email newsletters from people like Dan Miller and Brian Tracy. I also downloaded a bunch of samples of Nightingale-Conant books.

I routinely get emails from these companies, as well a The David Allen Company, Dr. Steven Covey, and plenty of others for products, seminars, GTD Connect, etc. I’d love to have each of them, but there’s always that one glaring issue: money. Dan Miller announced a new product in May. You can buy it for $4, but the total cost is $197. A GTD Connect membership is $48 a month. I’m afraid to spend that much money on products like this. I also routinely get emails from Brian Tracy about new products that are available from his store and his affiliates. All of them are advertised to help me to achieve my goals and succeed.

When it comes to products like this, however, I’m not only afraid to spend the money, I’m almost afraid not to spend the money. What if the $48/mo GTD connect membership helped me to bring in $50 or more a month? What if Dan Miller’s $197 product really did help me to achieve a 6 figure income?

Ramit Sethi has a post in his archive that addresses this to a point. He says that if a $200 dinner lands him a $50,000 project, then it was worth it.

There’s a difference between Ramit and me though. Ramit has an entrepreneurial mindset. I don’t (yet). I’m trying to learn, but how do you learn an entire new way of thinking? For one thing, I’m trying to listen to entrepreneurs lately. I read their blogs. I buy their books. I listen to their podcasts.

That of course brings out the problem of separating the wheat from the chaff. In the field of success literature, there are plenty of snakes. In some fields, there is more money to be made in selling books to people about being successful than there is in actually being successful in those fields. Watch some of the paid advertising on the Discovery Channel or TruTV early in the morning. “Make millions in Real Estate with no money down, no experience, and no actual work!”

John T. Reed has a “Real Estate BS Artist Detection Checklist” that can help. It’s applicable to just about any area where beginners are an easy target for “gurus”. If you're a novice in certain areas, it makes you an easy target for the snakes. It's much harder to discern the snakes from the real experts who can teach you something useful for your money.

Have you ever bought a product hoping it would help you to be successful, only to find yourself ripped off with a bunch of "rah-rah" motivational platitudes and no constructive help?

or

Have you ever spent money on one of these product to find that it delivered to you a value much greater than the cost of the product?

Productivity Hack: Using A Daily Capture Mind Map

Chuck Frey at the Mind Mapping Software Blog has an interesting post about using a Daily Capture Mind Map. I found this to be a fascinating idea, and I think it will address a serious weakness I have in my own productivity. I've extensively studied Franklin Covey and David Allen's Getting Things Done, but there's one thing I've just never been good at, and it's causing me a lot of problems.

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It has to do with how I track things that other people owe me. I'm not so bad with tracking things that I have to get done for other people, but I haven't found a system that works with my brain for tracking when I have to depend on other people for action items to complete my own work.

I've tried bcc'ing myself on emails to other people, then putting it in an "@Waiting For" email folder. I've tried tracking these items under an "@Waiting For" list in Remember The Milk or a similarly named Outlook category. Somehow, a lot of these things still manage to slip through the cracks.

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