What a fun series. I loved Wool, and Dust and Shift both gave us the backstory to explain the world and how it ended up. I think the first book was by...moreWhat a fun series. I loved Wool, and Dust and Shift both gave us the backstory to explain the world and how it ended up. I think the first book was by far the best, but this gave us a nice conclusion.
(view spoiler)[It was the conclusion we wanted to see - the people finally get outside! My problem with this book is there were lots of holes. A lot of the other reviews have pointed this out too, and I'm not sure if the fact I know it was self-published is biasing me to say it could have used more editing, but feels that way a little. But the writing was great.
There were lots of things that weren't cleared up or never really fully made sense. The major one is why Thurman really felt the need to destroy the whole world - feels like there could have been a lot more to that. It also wasn't clear how he really accomplished that - was it all nuclear or was it nano? If nuclear, wouldn't the world really be a wasteland?
Whatever happened to silo 40 and other silo's that went dark? I was kind of expecting that they had already broken outside and would have been waiting there. Or perhaps they already went to the sea and Hugh will tell us their story later.
What happens to the other silos after silo one is destroyed? Didn't it power their server rooms and probably provide other stuff including guidance to the silo heads? Will they make the 200 years on their own?
The mystery of silo 17 and why the dead bodies at the top didn't rot was never really explained. I'm guessing they were kept whole by healing nano's, but it felt like there was more to that story.
I didn't understand why Anna didn't come back to life. If Thurman could do so after being killed by Donald, why not her? All the love stories (Juliet and Kyle, Donald and Anna, etc ended up sadly - I wanted one happy one. (hide spoiler)]
If anything, I think this book is about hope and resiliency. Jules and Donald and even Solo weren't perfect, and suffered through a lot, but the only thing that kept them going was hope of a better life, and determination to keep themselves alive. That determination defined them and was what we admired about them. The hope was what gave them their drive. Hope is a powerful and necessary part of human psychology. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Great explanation of the theory of constraints and operations management. It's a business classic- first published in 1984 - but still relevant as it...moreGreat explanation of the theory of constraints and operations management. It's a business classic- first published in 1984 - but still relevant as it gets at the fundamentals. I almost removed a star for trying to create a fictional story to tell the book in that was badly told/edited. Did we really need the side story about the protagonists marital issues?
One of the biggest takeaways from this book is that it's incredibly important to set the right goals to manage a complex operation. This sounds obvious and intuitive, however it's actually much harder than most people think, and easy to get wrong. It gets down to the question of: is everyone working on the "right things". The things that will lead to the business making the most money. It's too easy to find a things that are easily measurable and saying "this thing is correlated with our success, so let's focus on it". It sounds like "cost accounting" fit into that bucket.
One of the drivers of making money in any business that creates a product is throughput, or how fast a product can be made. The others are costs/operating expenses, and inventory. One of the key concepts of the book is that focusing on throughput rather than costs will yield much better results.
The bottleneck theory, or the theory of constraints, was very useful to think about. My company produces software and not physical products, but each feature we develop definitely has steps it has to go through: creating the concept, research, spec, design, implementation (backend and client), testing, QA, measure results, analyze them, iterate, etc. Focusing on where the bottlenecks are with that process can help us move faster. And every startup needs to be moving fast - and not just at building - we need to be doing build, measure, learn as fast as we can.
A consequence of the bottleneck theory that is useful to keep in mind is that in any system only the bottlenecks should be 100% utilized. Every manager will have a natural tendency to want to utilize all their resources to 100% because that just seems... wasteful if you don't. People should be working full time right? But a system can only run at the speed of the slowest bottleneck, so non-bottlenecks will by definition have spare cycles, and it's important to keep them open for the important work and not fill it up with unimportant stuff that will bog them down when you actually need them on the important stuff.
I've seen this happen many times in software. An engineer finishes a project, and the big important project coming from the design team isn't done yet, so he picks up something small in the meantime. The next day that big important project is ready to go, but the engineer only needs "one more day" to finish this thing he started. And then that day becomes two and then three (because we didn't count QA). And then we've lost 3 days on our most important project for another project that doesn't matter at all. Add that up across a large number of developers, and you've lost a lot of time.
The theory of constraints is not limited to manufacturing, as the author shows. In the end, he is advocating it as a method or process of learning.
Mark Watney is a steely-eyed missile man. A man's man. A badass mechanical engineer botanist astronaut who is stranded on Mars during a Nasa mission g...moreMark Watney is a steely-eyed missile man. A man's man. A badass mechanical engineer botanist astronaut who is stranded on Mars during a Nasa mission gone wrong, and left to fend for himself. I listened to this on audio on a roadtrip, and it flew by - what a fun story. Not surprised at all it's being made into a movie directed by Ridley Scott starring Matt Damon. Also pretty amazing is that it was self-published.
There were two great things about this book: the humor and the science. The science appealed to the mechanical engineer in me - Watney is a bit like McGyver except he knows a lot more about chemistry and botany. I didn't double-check all the science, but loved the descriptions of all the math: calorie calculations, creating water, etc. Just fun stuff.
But the humor was top notch. Weir does a great job portraying a stranded man trying to remain upbeat by talking to himself in log entries. And the excellent audio narrator only made it better.
In the end, a well told story of survival against the odds. And one of belief - I liked the CNN Mark Watney watch - you could totally imagine how into this story the media would get. We humans love a good surviving against the odds story. (less)
One of the best books on leadership I've read. Many people struggle to articulate what leadership really is. This book put a more fine point on it, su...moreOne of the best books on leadership I've read. Many people struggle to articulate what leadership really is. This book put a more fine point on it, suggesting that leadership is creating change. The author likes the word "adaptive change". Once a solution to an issue has been accepted and is in motion, it becomes a management issue - a matter of execution - not a leadership issue. Creating change is not easy:
An important point the book made was people can generally only stand so much change at a time. So you have to limit the amount of change you are creating at any given point. A leader also helps people get through the change. They have to acknowledge the change and that it will be difficult, and convincingly paint the picture of why it's worth going through.
Another good concept was that of finding the "orienting value", and finding ways to drive it home and constantly remind people of it. For instance, Roosevelts New Deal or MLK's I Have A Dream speech. Create an image that people can latch onto and keep repeating that everywhere.
Sometimes, conflict has to be worked out among constituents instead of having a solution dictated. I loved the story about Scottie Pippen disobeying Phil Jackson, and then Jackson saying to the team What happened has hurt us. Now you have to work this out. and then leaving the room. Solutions are often achieved when the people with the problem go through the process of creating the solution together.
I liked how the book got into the deeper meaning of life in the end. I've always believed that people need purpose in life, and the authors confirmed that, but warned against getting too wedded to one particular purpose. A useful reminder that the person makes the purpose, not the other way around. We can love our jobs, but it's dangerous to let them define us.(less)
I tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of simil...moreI tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of similar elements: a cathedral that needs repair, a brilliant young builder (Merthin), a love story, a priorship up for grabs, and of course political manuevering, backstabbing and evil church officials. Also like the first one, the characters were developed well, the book was hard to put down, and yet it wasn't a deep book, just a fun one. Thank goodness I finished - it was causing me to lose sleep.
I did enjoy learning about the plague, and medieval ideas on health and medicine. Amazing that the plague wiped about a third of the human population, and how little they knew about it. Was frustrated by the lack of the Monks openness to learn new things, and how little they trusted women. For instance they believed in bleeding as a solution to everything when it actually is harmful in most cases. Also was interesting that there was no such thing as a doctor - instead nuns/monks/etc served that role. (less)
5 stars for being a un-put-downable page-turner, full of interesting and engaging characters I empathized with, and for teaching me about the politics...more5 stars for being a un-put-downable page-turner, full of interesting and engaging characters I empathized with, and for teaching me about the politics and religion of the middle ages. Follet is a thriller writer, and it shows.
Fascinating that in medieval times, most villages were surrounded by walls (or were inside a castle) - because you couldn't count on the law to marauding rival lords from raping and pillaging your village. And the largest buildings other than the local lords castle, were cathedrals. Why did people spend so much time an energy building these huge monuments to God that took 10-20 years to build? The book explains that bit, with the importance of the Church in society and it's relation to the crown.
I am having trouble putting my finger on what I liked about the book. To friends who asked, I can't sell it every well. But it was a epic saga of love and power, and I loved every second. I think in the end, the lesson was that creating enemies leads you to get what you deserve. This might be a good summary of the book:
(view spoiler)[ For the record, I hate William Hamleigh. I love Jack - he reminds me a bit of Howard Roark. And Aliena was inspirational. Philip was a prude but a good dude - I still can't believe he forgave Remigius. Interestingly, Waleran is once described as good person who just misunderstood his priorities - but I don't buy that. (hide spoiler)]
The Circle is a new bay area company, but is really Google+Facebook. It dominates search and social media, has a huge sprawling campus in the south ba...moreThe Circle is a new bay area company, but is really Google+Facebook. It dominates search and social media, has a huge sprawling campus in the south bay, and is full of intelligent, ambitious young employees. This story is I think a take on where the connected nature of the internet might be taking us. It's essentially a discussion about privacy vs openness, and I think a serious 1984-esque warning about being too open.
I thought a lot of the book was kind of shallow and unrealistic. The characters weren't very well developed. And I can't imagine an HR department that would get on your case for not using social media or attending a brunch you were invited too - it was just too extreme to believe. But I suppose that was on purpose, as the author was just making a point. I appreciated the point (see below), but didn't love the story.
Mark Zuckerberg has been fairly public on saying that he believes a more open society is a better one. The notion is exactly the one Mae learns with the kayak incident - if your whole life is open to your friends and family, it's very hard to do anything dishonest or that you might regret. The premise of the Circle - that privacy and secrecy are bad - is taking this idea to an extreme that I doubt Zuckerberg or anyone else who runs a social network has ever contemplated: complete openness. Or as its motto says:
It is easy to imagine us eventually living in a world like the Circle contemplates. With public video cameras everywhere that document everything we do, and tons more data (photos, videos, texts) available to search engines to scan through. Already there are startups like Dropcam that enable public video feeds that are archived. There are atm and building and traffic cameras everywhere that the police already use. I heard of another startup that puts a video camera on you and it takes photos of everything all day and creates a montage of your day that is searchable/sortable for you. In many ways, we should already start acting like everything we do at least outside of our homes is being recorded on camera.
I think the central question the book poses is the one Bailey contemplates with Mae: is there such a thing as a good secret? Should we have privacy at all? Or would the world at large be better off if all secrets are known? I think we know where Mr Eggers stands on the subject, as the book seemed to be written in a dystopian, mocking kind of way. But it is in an interesting thought experiment, as many secrets would ultimately be better overall (not necessarily for the disclosing party, but for the overall situation), if they were known. For example you don't want to tell your friend that you know their significant other is cheating on them b/c you aren't supposed to know, but ultimately it would be better for them to know. Can you think of a secret you know that should be a secret?
But of course, there are lots of secrets that should stay secrets. Ignorance often truly is bliss, and people often just need to be weird and express themselves in ways that not everyone would appreciate if it were open. We are private beings, and yet our dignity and sense of self-worth largely stems from how others perceive us. I think this book is a thought-provoking story that shows us how our society is changing. (less)
I think there is one big idea to Slack that makes it worth reading for anyone dealing with leadership or leading at scale. A lot of the rest of the bo...moreI think there is one big idea to Slack that makes it worth reading for anyone dealing with leadership or leading at scale. A lot of the rest of the book is fairly obvious or not practical, so not giving it five stars.
The big idea of this book is that creativity can't be rushed, and if you don't build the slack into your schedule to spend some time creatively thinking about your business, you won't be able to innovate. You will only be able to be reactive, not proactive. The "Hurry Up" mindset is so easy to slip into - because there is always more to do than there is time. Providing a theory and data around the fact that having slack in your schedule is not only ok, but it's a good thing, is almost counter-intuitive, and thus really valuable to think about.
The book talks about how some companies slip into a "hurry up" mindset where everyone wants to look busy all the time. The danger of being busy is that you can too easily - especially if you are only being reactive - be busy on working on the wrong stuff.
When managing people there is another kind of slack that the book points out: the slack to give up control to someone. Highly functioning people like to own their goals and process and have leeway to accomplish them on their own. As a manager, one of the hardest tasks is to balance giving them that autonomy with occasionally checking in or diving in to make sure things are on track. If you do it too much, you will annoy people or cause them to leave - if you do it too little your team could be wasting time heading in the wrong direction.
Other interesting points:
* In a hurry up organization, there is a natural tendency to try to get people to work harder/more to meet deadlines. While this can work over short stints, it's generally not sustainable. In fact, the book had a bunch of data to show that on average overtime hours aren't more productive. * They analyzed the "star performers" in a number of companies, and the only thing they had in common they could point to was the strength of their networks. Establishing good connections and doing favors for others let's you get stuff done faster when you need to. * The book makes a point that setting Quality goals for companies can be dangerous b/c you can so easily focus on the wrong metrics. For instance, reducing the number of bugs is correlated with quality, but it isn't the same thing as making a great product. This seems pretty obvious, so I'm not sure why it needed to be included in the book. * It's important to set a vision for the organizations culture. The culture are those things that are so important to the organization that they should never change. If a organization lacks those, it will define itself as status quo and resist all change. * Effective leaders build up trust, often before they've even earned it. The most effective way to do this is to acquire trust by giving trust. The act of giving trust is an enormously powerful gesture. The author told a story about a woman giving him her 2 year old daughter to carry off the plane. The trust she showed impressed him.
A thought-provoking book about what makes people succeed. I thought it would be useful as a parent, but it wasn't really focused on children at all -...moreA thought-provoking book about what makes people succeed. I thought it would be useful as a parent, but it wasn't really focused on children at all - it was more about our education system.
It was interesting to me that it could be proven that getting a GED had no positive correlation on future success. It was even more interesting that they could correlate adverse childhood experiences to negative adult outcomes. Stress, it turns out, is very harmful especially to younger people. Stress activates a physiological system in our bodies that evolved in order to deal with physical emergencies, but we turn it on for months and years on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships, and other such stuff that comes with a stressful life. It was interesting that the primary way to battle stress in young ones is having a good mother, who hugs/touches her kids a lot.
A lot of the rest of the book was examining various qualities of successful kids. It seems we are early in our understanding of this issue, but it was interesting learning about all the thinking and experiements that have been done. I think this quote sums up the best thesis of where we are:
**spoiler alert** The conclusion to the epic of Hyperion, and a worthy one at that. I loved this series, and didn't expect I'd find the love story of...more**spoiler alert** The conclusion to the epic of Hyperion, and a worthy one at that. I loved this series, and didn't expect I'd find the love story of Aenea and Raul so powerful.
In two words, this series was about evolution and love.
The Hyperion story is Yet Another Science Fiction Story About Artificial Intelligence (YASFSAAI) - but it's a damn good one, and more thought out and intricate than any I've ever seen. The Core is split into factions - the TODO - that fight and war amongst themselves, much as humans do.
The Core evolved from people. Core entities lacked empathy - or the ability to love - and were thus never able to evolve past being a parasite on humanity. (view spoiler)[The farcaster network was their first parasitic approach, the cruciforms were their second. (hide spoiler)]
It's kind of sad that the Catholic Church is the evil character in the book. But is equally clear that after a great traumatic event like the Fall of the Farcasters, humanity turns to fear and uncertainty, and thus to religion. Unfortunately, the people in charge of that religion are the wrong sort, whose goal is power rather than the good of humanity.
The curiously named "Void Which Binds" is the true all-encompassing force in the universe. It is described in the following quotes:
The one thing I never understood about this series is the Shrike. Why does he exist? In earlier books he's an evil entity. And now we learn something more about his relationship with Colonel Kassad, but not enough to explain his presence or why Aenea is able to rein him in - he almost becomes a good guy.
The thing I love most about this book, is that the true path, which Aenea is leading humanity on, can only be explained as a love story. Her and Raul's love is a worthy and necessary ending to The Cantos.
I really enjoyed this book. Some people told me that book 3 wasn't the match of books one and two, but I really quite enjoyed it. I'm struggling to pu...moreI really enjoyed this book. Some people told me that book 3 wasn't the match of books one and two, but I really quite enjoyed it. I'm struggling to put my finger on it, but I think the dynamic of Raul, Aenea, and A Bettik was a strong one - they clearly cared for each other, and you could see that they would even love each other in the future.
It had all the elements of a great epic: strong heroes on a mission that is important to humanity, an evil empire trying to stop them, and a mysterious force in the universe trying to help them. The world is almost 300 years after the fall of the farcasters, and is described in such a way as to almost be nostalgic. The hawking mat, all the characters and elements of Cantos, the consul's ship, etc.
One of the major themes of the book seems to be how the universe can be incredibly harsh. This quote captures it nicely:
In harsh times, people often turn towards religion. Fascinating to see that after the Fall, after all the chaos and war and death that ensued, it was the Catholic church that rose to power, and goes onto to rule the universe. People are comforted by its ability to make the universe safe for them with the power of the cruciform.
One of the themes of the book is definitely fear. Fear of death in particular. De Soya fears each death he has, Raul came close to death on Mare Infinitus with the sharks. The Chitchatuk were interesting here - having to live a particularly fearful life, dependent on the thing that eats them for food (artic wraiths).
But love is the counter to the theme of fear. We keep getting hints that Aenea is the missionary from the human god and will show us all a better path through love. Raul follows her because he believes in her - and it's clearly foreshadowed they will love each other. (less)
A fun fast paced book that sucks you in right away and doesn't let go. The remnants of humanity live in a 150 story silo below the earth and can't lea...moreA fun fast paced book that sucks you in right away and doesn't let go. The remnants of humanity live in a 150 story silo below the earth and can't leave as the outside is now toxic. This is a bit of an odd thing to have happened, but it gives us a nice palette to think about things.
Everything is rationed, including how many children you can have. People self-identify by their profession and where in the silo they live: farmers and mechanics in the lowers, IT in the mids, and professional class in the uppers. The working class wear color coded uniforms to easily distinguish them.
The book was a lot about control. How to control a contained civilization, and give them hope (eg a live feed of the outside) and yet keep them in harmony and doing their functions. Strange mechanisms of control were built all over the silo: communication was oddly limited given the IT resources they have - many messages had to be delivered by courier as emails cost valuable money to send. Most strange of all - there is no elevator, which forces anyone wanting to travel the length of the silo to spend 2-3 days on the journey.
The cleaning ritual was a strange bit of culture. (view spoiler)[Upon reflection, I can see why it was necessary. If people never go outside, uncertainty of it still being bad would creep in, and people would need to try it. As perhaps happened in Silo 17. (hide spoiler)]
I really liked the unraveling of Bernard, and how he went from repulsive/annoying, to understandable once you understood his role and responsibility. (view spoiler)[His role is to eliminate any doubt in the delicate balance of the silo. Opening the book up with the doubt of Holston was brilliant as it sucked you in immediately. (hide spoiler)]
I liked Juliet too - she was the right combo of being determined to do right, and having brains and grit. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A fascinating and heart-wrenching look inside a slum of Mumbai. A good reminder some of us have it much better than others - but also that human willp...moreA fascinating and heart-wrenching look inside a slum of Mumbai. A good reminder some of us have it much better than others - but also that human willpower still matters.
One of the most interesting things portrayed was just how different the rules are for the poor in India. When your family is one bad hospital bill away from being on the streets and starving, human life takes a different value. The story that stuck with me here is when one of the boys got hit by a car on his way to school, his mothers reaction was fury - because if it were any worse it would have bankrupted the family. This quote sums it up well:
But my favorite part of the book was seeing how entrepreneurial people had to be in order to survive. Whether its sorting garbage, being a garbage middleman, or any of the other pursuits various people did to make money, it seemed that at least in one respect the rules of the slum are the same as everywhere else: you've got to work hard and be good at what you do to get ahead. It's just that in the slum, it's so easy to lose it all. Poverty begets poverty, wealth begets wealth. (less)