Gear : Lap Happy
If you're going to be spending any serious time with your laptop, you might want to invest in a cool new product called the Oyster. Oysters are legendary for their effect on the libido, but this one's geared to your sacroiliac. The ergonomic Oyster is designed to put your laptop screen at a height that's compatible with good spinal health. No more crouching over the desk. No more scalded lap. It's also got a built-in four-port USB hub and can manage (and hide) your cables. Just add an external keyboard and mouse, and you're in business. The Oyster retails for $149 and is sold at Amazon.com or through Oyster's Web site (www.oysterdock.com).
Books : A Summer Roundup
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton)
Big idea: Master storyteller (and author of Liar's Poker and The New New Thing) Michael Lewis's intricately detailed and powerfully told tale of baseball's most unlikely successes, the Oakland Athletics and general manager Billy Beane, is the must-read of the season. Lewis starts the book with a juicy question: "How did one of the poorest teams in baseball . . . win so many games?" It's a story about how Billy Beane, a onetime player with breathtaking natural talent, came to reject the "mystical nature" of the game and the sacred intuition of the scouts and instead conduct a high-stakes "science experiment" as general manager of the A's.
Sound bite: "Billy is now on his feet. He's got Swisher in the bag: who else can he get? There's a new thrust about him, an unabridged expression on his face. He was a bond trader, who had made a killing in the morning and entered the afternoon free of fear. Feeling greedy. Certain that the fear in the market would present him with even more opportunities to exploit. Whatever happened now wasn't going to be bad. How good could it get?"
The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum (Viking)
Big idea: Meghan Daum's first novel about a young New York TV producer, whose intense life (and soaring rent) in Manhattan prompts her to go west (or at least Midwest) in search of a new life, is Sex and the City meets What Should I Do With My Life? As lifestyle correspondent for an insipid morning TV talk show, Lucinda Trout is charged with delivering pert observations on such subjects as "the spinsterization of America," "Is 37 the new 26?" and the cultural significance of the thong. From cool hunting on the streets of Manhattan to peace seeking in the heartland, Lucinda's journey transforms a classic migration (toward a simpler, purer, "better" life) into an absorbing tale of the traps and triumphs of urban female fantasy.
Sound bite: "Why was I so stirred by the selection of magazines in Sue's bathroom: Country Living, Travel & Leisure, Mother Jones? Was it merely amazement that someone living on a farm in the Midwest would subscribe to Mother Jones? Or was there truth to my mounting suspicion that I had discovered a secret pocket of American society, a place where farmers waved at semibutch lesbians, a place where women throw menopause showers and the sky — I'd noticed this even from my hotel room — seemed to eclipse the Earth itself? It could have been another planet. It was certainly a cheaper planet."
Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life by Joe Robinson (Perigee)
Big idea: Noting that the overpowering stresses of work are inspiring farmhouse fantasies in every cubicle, Robinson has a mission: to spread his practical philosophy for crafting a working life that is so rewarding, we no longer seek escape. His book is the ultimate in vacation reading: a how-to guide for prolonging your time away from the office — and for keeping your work from overtaking your life even when you're in the office.
Sound bite: "To let the free time ring without guilt, you need to change the word in front of the famous ethic that is pinning you to the wall. The operative ethic in your life should be the Worth Ethic. Measure the madness around you by whether it has worth for you, instead of whether you are worthy enough to take the ceaseless beating. Does it bring you significance, satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, contribution, challenge? Or does it cut you off from sources of internal worth, isolate you, and sabotage your health? That's not worth it, no matter the dough."
A version of this article appeared in the August 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.