Our New Book: Payments Systems in the U.S.

I’m delighted to announce the availability of my new book Payments Systems in the U.S. – co-authored with my Glenbrook partner Carol Coye Benson.

Payments Systems in the US - Benson and Loftesness

My “day job” is being a payments strategy consultant for Glenbrook Partners, a payments consulting firm that Carol, our partner Allen Weinberg and I established almost ten years ago. We’ve since grown to nine partners who cover the full range of electronic payments.

Five years ago, Carol and I collaborated to launch the first of the Glenbrook Payments Boot Camps – an educational program for payments professionals. Our Payments Boot Camp program has become very successful – with over 4,000 people having attended one of our Payments Boot Camps to date.

About a year ago, Carol took the lead on developing the idea for a book that would distill the essence of payments systems in the U.S. We collaborated on writing it – and are now very proud that it’s been published!

If you’re looking to learn more about how the payments systems in the U.S. are put together, this book is for you. It’s written in an easy to read style – giving you just the right level of information to be “smart” about payments!

Click here to order from Amazon.com!

Enjoying Nancy Duarte’s New Book: resonate

I’m a big fan of Nancy Duarte and the amazing work that she and her team at Duarte Design perform to help make presentations into something we can really enjoy. Being just up the road in Silicon Valley, I was fortunate to be able to attend one of her workshops (taught with Garr Reynolds) about 15 months ago – and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

resonate by Nancy Duarte

Nancy’s first book, published about two years ago, was slide:ology. In the preface to her new book, resonate, she notes that the new book is actually a prequel to the first – having realized that first you need to figure out the story you’re telling – and THEN you can create the most effective slides to tell that story.

I ordered the book on Friday and received it yesterday. Just finished a first pass skim to get a sense for what’s inside – and, I must say, it’s quite the “tour de force” about visual storytelling. I enjoyed her conclusion to the opening introduction:

“The future isn’t just a place you’ll go; it’s a place you will invent. Your ability to shape your future depends on how well you communicate where you want to be when you get there.”

Some of the case studies are particularly compelling – including the Steve Jobs’ 2007 keynote introducing the iPhone and Pastor John Ortberg’s storytelling from the pulpit. Lots more too!

If you enjoyed slide:ology or Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen, you’ll enjoy resonate as well. Highly recommended!

(Note: Amazon.com affiliate links included above)

Friday Night Jazz at Cafe Borrone

We joined Chris and Linda Gulker last night for a wonderful Friday evening adventure – first some early evening munchies at Cafe Borrone, then the William Gibson event at Keplers (he was reading from his new book Zero History), and, finally, back to Borrone’s listening to Clint Baker’s Cafe Borrone AllStars perform some great jazz. Truly a wonderful evening!

Chris was able to meet Gibson – one of his favorite authors. Here’s a shot of the two of them chatting just before the book signing – and another one taken by Linda!

The photo below I took with my iPhone 4 while just sitting at our outside table at Cafe Borrone – I used the TiltShift Gen application on the iPhone to generate the particular look/blur. It looks a bit “other worldly” – perhaps a scene out of a William Gibson novel?

Friday night at Cafe Borrone by Scott Loftesness

International Orange

Golden Gate Bridge (Canon PowerShot S90 HDR)

I just finished reading Kevin Starr’s new book Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America’s Greatest Bridge. As one who has shot the Golden Gate Bridge many times, I found the book to be a fascinating read – lots of history about the politics behind getting it built, the design, the construction, etc.

Were you aware that the color the bridge is painted is called “international orange“. What a great name for a color! Wikipedia says it’s “a color used to set things apart from their surroundings” – and, indeed, it plays that role with the bridge!

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, on the other hand, is a boring grey color – maybe it’s known as “Local Drab”?

[Note about the photo above: taken January 23, 2010, from the top level of Fort Point in San Francisco just below the Golden Gate Bridge – shot using the Canon PowerShot S90 using traditional HDR techniques. This is unique picture of the bridge is one of my most popular images on Flickr! For more fun, view the large image on a black background!]

Learning HDR? – Tips to Avoiding Big Mistakes!

Trey Ratcliff from StuckinCustoms.com has just published “Top 10 HDR Mistakes, and How to Fix Them“, another one of in his new eBooks series.

Top 10 Mistakes in HDR Processing - eBookTrey’s the master of all things HDR – his free HDR tutorial was my tutor when I first started playing with high dynamic range photography a couple of years ago. This new 37 page eBook walks through the top 10 mistakes beginners make when getting started in HDR. One of them, his point about saturation of the three primary colors, was a real insight for me. By the way, both Trey’s new book and his earlier one about his digital workflow both look spectacular on my iPad! I use Dropbox to get it from my MacBook Pro onto the iPad and then into iBooks as a PDF – works slick!

You can order/download this new eBook here for $9.97 – and see his other eBooks here.

(Note: If you click here to buy Trey’s new eBook, I’ll earn an affiliate fee on your purchase.)

Balance

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading two books – roughly at the same time. The balance between them is pretty amazing. And, they’re best – I think – when read together in much the way that I read them. How I ended up doing so in parallel is totally coincidental – but full of serendipity.

The first book is REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals.com. Famous for their Signals vs. Noise blog, Fried and Hansson have written loosely organized short essays about how to do business in a new way – one that emphasizes building private and profitable businesses from the get go, not looking to outside sources of capital. To those of us who seek to remain our own bosses, REWORK is a manifesto of ways to try to do that.

The second book is LINCHPIN: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. Seth is pretty amazing – he dispenses great advice on a daily basis on his blog – and his book builds on those snippets but in a more organized fashion. He’s striving to get us to realize our uniqueness – suggesting we learn to push away our “lizard brain” responses so that we can actually deliver on what we’re truly capable of. He’s an inspiration.

In the midst of reading these two books, I lost my Dad to his struggle with prostate cancer. While his life was truly a gift to all who knew him, our sense of loss was very real. In a way that I can’t really articulate very well, going back and forth in reading these two books has helped me along the way in dealing with the loss of my Dad and in reflecting on what’s important – along with the strong support from our family and friends.

I commend both of these books to you – and hope that they similarly provoke your thinking about your life – and your future.

The Quants

I just finished Scott Peterson’s The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It, a great read!

Peterson chronicles the evolution of the quants – tracing the evolution from Ed Thorp and his Beat the Dealer book about blackjack. Like many other readers, Thorp’s book had a big impact on me when I first read it. It definitely improved my blackjack playing – even if I never was good enough to get kicked out of a casino!

The meltdown of the quant funds in August 2007 is the conclusion of Peterson’s book – an engrossing read!

A Passion for Nukes

For the last few weeks, I’ve been auditing a seminar titled “EE190: Nuclear Weapons, Risk and Hope” that Stanford Professor Emeritus Martin Hellman has been teaching this quarter.

This is a subject that Marty is most passionate about – see, among other references, his website on Defusing the Nuclear Threat. Coincidentally, Marty and I had lunch a couple of weeks ago on the day he was going to hold the first class in the seminar – so I tagged along. I had recently re-watched Thirteen Days – one of my all-time favorite movies – where the US and the Soviet Union were on the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis. I’m glad I have attended these seminar sessions of Marty’s – in the process learning much more about both the history, the technology and the issues surrounding atomic weapons.

Earlier this month, an obituary in the New York Times caught my eye – Tsutomu Yamaguchi died on Monday, January 4, 2010, at age 93. According to the Times, Yamaguchi was “the only official survivor of both atomic blasts to hit Japan in World War II.” He was present both at Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the atomic bombs went off. Can you imagine? I couldn’t.

On Monday afternoon, I attended the lecture “Working Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons: Sidney Drell and George Shultz in Conversation with Philip Taubman” held by CISAC at Stanford. It was especially interesting to me to hear George Shultz’s description of the meeting in Reykjavik between President Reagan and Secretary-General Mikhail Gorbachev in which they talked about eliminating nuclear weapons.

Yesterday, I happened across this NPR story about the book The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back by Charles Pellegrino. NPR included the first chapter from the book – which begins by describing in minute details what actually took place during the first few seconds following the Hiroshima detonation. It’s very powerful in its description of that day – but still is something very hard to imagine beyond the sheer devastation that resulted.

Let’s hope, for all of our sakes, that – through the work of Hellman, Pellegrino and so many more who are trying to get us back to a nuclear zero world – that this is not something we ever have to experience ever again.

Curious About Book Edition Pricing – The Lost Symbol Example

Dan Brown’s latest novel The Lost Symbol is available in a Kindle edition – said to be selling better than the hardcover edition at Amazon.com!

Yesterday, while browsing the iTunes Store, I noticed there’s also an edition of The Lost Symbol available for the iPhone (in an edition powered by Iceberg Reader)! Iceberg says:

“We currently offer over 500 best-selling books in the App Store, and are thrilled to announce we will soon be bringing more than a million books, as well as more than 50 major magazines and over 170 daily newspapers to the iPhone.”

Frankly, I hadn’t noticed they had over 500 books for sale in the App Store!

Anyway, back to The Lost Symbol. What’s curious is the pricing: Kindle ebook edition: $9.99, hardcover edition at Amazon.com: $16.17 (plus any shipping), iPhone ebook edition: $24.99. Hmmm.