A history of Earth from tiny pieces of dust to our home planet's inevitable death at the hands of our sun. Fun facts - after a protoplanet named TheiaA history of Earth from tiny pieces of dust to our home planet's inevitable death at the hands of our sun. Fun facts - after a protoplanet named Theia smacked us we absorbed some of its mass and much of it became the moon, which started out 15,000 miles away after the rebound and has been drifting away from us at about 4cm per year since. The Appalachian mountains were taller 300 million years ago than the Himalayas are now. It took a billion years to move from microbes to photosynthesis. Trilobites lived for more than a quarter billion years, impressive. Our planet was turned into a giant snowball at least 3 times. Every mass extinction coincided with spikes in volcanic activity. Bio- and geo-evolution move in tandem, with perhaps 2/3 of all minerals in existence the result of a living being's existence. The earth was around 4.54 billion years before us and it will be here several billion years after we're gone, whether we destroy ourselves, leave, evolve into a mechanized hybrid species or, hopefully, a combination of the latter two options....more
I've now read all 3 of Gawande's books and this one ranks a solid second, as The Checklist Manifesto effectively argues that checklists, used for decaI've now read all 3 of Gawande's books and this one ranks a solid second, as The Checklist Manifesto effectively argues that checklists, used for decades by airline pilots, can, and have been, utilized to a great degree of success in industries ranging from surgery to investing to construction. You don't need to work in health care to appreciate the crux of the argument - the useful implementation of study and practice should never be compromised by the ineptitude of memory. A simple list of steps for complicated actions goes a long way toward eliminating stupid, costly errors, like forgetting to inject a patient with an antibiotic before a procedure or neglecting to research a board of directors' stock trades before investing in their company. Put another way, a useful checklist can help remove errors where the knowledge to avoid them was already in place....more
A 25-hour behemoth that does not dumb down the chemistry of the theory behind the bomb, the physics behind its creation, the politics behind its raisoA 25-hour behemoth that does not dumb down the chemistry of the theory behind the bomb, the physics behind its creation, the politics behind its raison d'etre, or the engineering of the facilities and processes that made it possible. Unfortunately it does throw away its 5-star rating in a laughably shallow final chapter that does little more than recount the horrors of Hiroshima. (Yes, it was terrible, as was the rape of Nanking, which killed more innocent civilians than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. That got all of a sentence here, but, yes, let's devote more time to the devastation of the Japanese than to what the Russians, Jews, Germans, British, Chinese, Koreans, Americans and everyone else suffered. The lack of self-control here was alarming, and is really unfortunate in what for 680 pages is truly outstanding non-fiction that clearly took thousands of hours of research and yielded fully realized portraits of Szilard, Oppenheimer, and Rutherford.) Read this, for the history, the characters, and the science. Just stop at the end of chapter 18, as up to that point this is a remarkable work....more
There are 3 kinds of people in the world - takers, givers, and matchers. The majority are matchers, myself included, but it is givers, Dr. Grant effecThere are 3 kinds of people in the world - takers, givers, and matchers. The majority are matchers, myself included, but it is givers, Dr. Grant effectively argues, who create the most value for society and for themselves.
As a matcher it is my default position to feel that if I've done something for you, you should return the favor and vice versa. This means I also feel that the person currently in debt to the other is in no position to go further in favor debt by requesting something else. While this is fair, it is also inefficient, slowing the amount of good created by constantly pursuing a balance rather than by constantly pursuing growth. (It's still better than being a resource-monopolizing taker, for whom favors and gifts are meant to be received and not given, but it is still not ideal.)
What Grant argues is this: givers are happier, more productive and more successful in the long run, and more likely to succeed in positions of power once there. They create value for themselves (respected, well-liked, influential, competencies in a wider range of job functions - all since giving has allowed them to work with more people and thus in more disciplines) and for their organizations - mentoring, facilitating, forming teams. In a service and group-work dominated economy these skills are very necessary. But as Dr. Grant says, if you only become a giver in order to help yourself, it probably won't work. You need a bigger goal in mind.
That objective, to borrow from my negotiations class at Wharton, is to grow the size of the pie - to make the overall rewards greater for all involved. Let's just speak in units of production. If I give 5 units to a taker, he'll take them and neither pay it back nor pay it forward. If I give 5 units to a matcher, he'll give back 5 units at some point and the growth stops there. But if I give 5 units to a giver, s/he will push it forward to someone else for whom those 5 units are 8 units. This person is someone the giver met in another department because s/he had worked with him on another project for which s/he volunteered, and thus now knows that this third party is an expert on the topic in question and can make greater use of this knowledge/work/what have you than the two of us originally involved. This expert with 8 units is now able to use that to give 5 units to 4 different people. With a taker we have 5 units, with matchers we have 10, and with givers we have 28, though the actual work put in is only slightly higher in the case of the givers. It you get right down to it, givers maximize efficiency by putting the right tools in the right hands and the right people in the right groups and positions. They grow the size of the pie by improving themselves, their colleagues, and their organizations. If you take nothing else from this review, please take that.
More about the book- many interesting stories about people in business, politics, sports, television, etc. - all used to prove a point about the benefits of giving. Chapter 3 and chapter 4 don't fire on all cylinders, as the former felt a bit padded (I don't recall a business book that doesn't have this somewhere though) and the latter became somewhat repetitive. Chapters 1, 5, 7, and 8 are where Dr. Grant is at his best - laying out his thesis, showing the value of asking questions and displaying some imperfection as an effective means of communication, giving advice on how to not become a doormat, and illustrating how a matcher or taker can evolve into a giver.
Lessons outside why being a giver is the best path: group giving into chunks for maximum psychological benefit, rather than spreading it out and minimizing the impact. 100 hours a year on any particular giving pursuit is around the saturation point for personal benefit gained. Don't stop giving once you hit it, just start giving in another direction to stay motivated, energized, and mentally rewarded. If you're not a taker, you're more likely to get the best deal if you are negotiating for someone other than yourself, as the fruit of your labor benefits another.
Dr. Grant's book and ideas are well worth your time and offer significant benefits to you, your organization, and society at large. As a natural matcher whose most positive memories from business school are centered around the one pursuit - admissions - in which I was a giver, I recommend the book and the lessons herein.
When it comes to what makes a person into a success, the traditional liberal argument is that a functioning society produced the opportunities for somWhen it comes to what makes a person into a success, the traditional liberal argument is that a functioning society produced the opportunities for some people to do well and individual triumph is less the achievement of a great human than it is the triumph of a great people. The traditional conservative argument is that one person, through tenacity, innovation, and hard work, made him/herself a success and thus created the opportunity for society to improve in the wake of that great achievement. Gladwell argues that they're both right and they're both wrong.
14 of the 75 richest people to ever live were born within 9 years of each other in the U.S. They got lucky in their timing and location, and the industrial revolution paired with a resource-rich capitalist nation provided them with what they needed to amass great wealth in steel, railroads, etc. However, they helped put themselves in that position by putting in the sweat equity, 10,000 hours to become an expert at a task, and by doing so made themselves great. Thus, it's a combination of societal opportunity, luck, and hard work that creates success. Drop one of those 3 factors and the ceiling for personal achievement falls. Gates and Jobs worked insane hours to become software experts, but had they been born in 1945 or 1965 instead of 1955 then they would not have had the chance to come of age at the exact peak time for making a fortune in the industry.
One of Gladwell's best examples is that of Canadian hockey players. The majority who make it to the NHL were born in the first few months of the year. Thus, with a cutoff date of January 1 for youth hockey leagues, these early-born are bigger, stronger, and faster than their teammates. Even if their innate talent is no greater than that of a guy born in October, the January-born will have the physical advantage in their youth, when 9 months is equivalent to 3 inches in height and 15 pounds in weight, and thus will perform better and have greater opportunities to play with a traveling team, granting him more hours of competition and thus making his chance of becoming an expert higher. The kids born in the fall are born with tremendous odds stacked against them in hockey. This is much of Gladwell's argument - luck through arbitrary and random decisions all but guarantees a huge percentage of the population will never have a chance to succeed in this field, no matter how talented.
Other useful notes - the high power index in Korean culture made Korean Air the most frequently crashing airline in the world because subordinates were afraid to object to a pilot's decision and thus risk was increased because there were in effect no checks on the pilot's viewpoint. A corporate culture change altered the dynamic and the airline became safer than average.
The math skills of disadvantaged children can equal those of privileged children if the former put in as many hours of study outside the classroom as the latter. It's not the schools that are failing. It's the lack of time put into the work for the poorer kids on average, namely due to not having a home culture dedicated to learning.
Gladwell missteps on his chapter regarding why Southerners are more violent than Northerners, on average. He claims it's the Scots-Irish herder ancestry, a culture in which you had to be tough because a rival could steal your animals, and thus your livelihood, in minutes, whereas the descendants of farmers have a more community-minded mentality. That would be great and all, except for the fact that Southerners of Italian, African, Latin, etc. descent also have slightly higher rates of violence than northerners of the same extraction. It does not stand to reason that this is a cultural influence when you examine others under the same light. If you looked at Europeans in the first half of the 20th century the logical conclusion would be that these are the most violent people on earth, while a look in the 2nd half of the century would yield the opposite. This whole chapter was about as shallow and one-note as the one from Freakonomics in which the authors argued Roe v. Wade cut murder rates in the U.S. because fewer unwanted babies were born and then became damaged adults. That argument was completely debunked on many levels (shooting rates are just as high now as they were in 1965, but the better medical care has allowed a much higher percentage of victims to survive). This argument regarding violence and ethnic heritage (even when the bulk of the people in the area are not of that ethnicity) is equally off-kilter. To be brief - skip that chapter, as well as the rather specious claim that rice-growing cultures are better at math because they come from a culture whose chief crop required more work. It would stand to reason that would make them better farmers, with more practice, but Gladwell never really makes a solid case for how this ties to math.
Overall, Part I is outstanding material and an excellent education, while Part II is quite average and oftentimes of dubious legitimacy. Thus, make it a point to read chapters 1-4 - that's 5-star stuff.
Charles Guiteau shot James Garfield, but it was Garfield's own doctor who killed him. Millard does a very good job writing the biographies of GarfieldCharles Guiteau shot James Garfield, but it was Garfield's own doctor who killed him. Millard does a very good job writing the biographies of Garfield, Guiteau, and Alexander Graham Bell, who developed an induction device in an attempt to locate the bullet in the president's body. The machine works, but Bell is only allowed to examine one side of Garfield, when the bullet is in fact lodged in the other.
I learned a great deal about these three, not to mention Dr. Bliss, more concerned with power, control, and his image than with the president's life; Roscoe Conkling - NY senator who did significant damage to Hayes's presidency and was well on his way to doing the same for Garfield, all because Conkling valued power over the good of the nation; and Chester Arthur - if this were fiction his character would have achieved the greatest "arc" over the course of the book.
There's a lot to admire about Garfield - he came from poverty and became a very educated man, deftly handling roles in politics and the military. There's also a lot to not admire about him - he cheated on his wife and though he loved bashing the South for its treatment of blacks he never seemed to complain about the U.S. Army, of which he was so recently a part, continuing its genocidal rampage against Native Americans. He was a racial hypocrite, but he did not deserve the suffering he endured while battling toxic blood infections his incompetent doctors gave him while probing his wound with dirty fingers and medical instruments that had not been sanitized. Military engineers built one of the world's first air conditioners to try to keep him cool in the dilapidated White House, but that was the only good that came from weeks of suffering as the infection took hold. Bliss should have gone to prison for malpractice, especially as it could have been prevented had he not been so arrogant and power-hungry as to insist on total control of the president's care.
Millard says a few ridiculous things (the hanging of Guiteau accomplished nothing? Really? Did he shoot anyone else in the back? No? Then I guess it did), but overall this is a useful, interesting book about an under-reported period in American history. ...more
Today's world is going through two Gilded Ages simultaneously, the 2nd for the U.S. and the 1st for the BRICs. The income inequality in these nationsToday's world is going through two Gilded Ages simultaneously, the 2nd for the U.S. and the 1st for the BRICs. The income inequality in these nations has created a situation in which the top 1% have more in common with each other than with their own countrymen. Charles Murray did an incredible job of covering this and analyzing from the perspectives of American culture splitting along class and education lines to the point that we're a pair of de facto separate societies. Herein Freeland analyzes and interviews the upper echelons of the top 1% and, though it's never really clear if she views this group as bad, good, a mixture, or what, it is a very important book for understanding today's society.
In many ways there are two kinds of plutocrats,rent seekers - those who obtained their wealth through government connections and services that do not create value for society, like trading mortgage-backed securities - and innovators - Jobs, Gates, etc. The former is generally reviled by society because their wealth accumulation did not better society, while the latter is largely (and I believe deservedly) applauded for their contributions and seen as more "deserving" of their gains. Unfortunately Freeland largely only has access to the bankers and their quips about "eating what they kill" fall on deaf ears when $750 billion in taxpayer money was needed to prop them up when their zero sum trading scheme's bills came due. They think they're John Galt's when in reality society is in no way dependent upon them, which is of course not the case for tech innovators who created a need - PCs, smart phones, etc. - and then made a profit off delivering these life-bettering products to society en masse.
Freeland seems to find it difficult to balance between the idea that the top of the pyramid create jobs and industry for everyone else and the opposite side of the coin that states societies tend to unravel, often violently, when power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few. She uses the words "Harvard" and "Goldman Sachs" more than the word "the" and her writing does suffer from this homogenous cast. Wharton and Columbia have produced as many billionaires as Harvard, and if Stanford's class were the same size it would have as well.
The author is correct in that capitalism has won, with nearly every nation on earth embracing it in some form, and with nearly every society better off for it. The problem is that the U.S. now has 84% of the wealth concentrated in the top 20%, incomes have flatlined if not slightly fallen for the middle class over the past 39 years, and our legal corruption ranking places us in the same neighborhood as Russia and China. Left unchecked those at the top can change the laws and use legacy admissions at top schools to create a hereditary oligarchy that chokes off class mobility and decreases economic competitiveness. She effectively uses the example of Venice rising to the world's richest city, creating an aristocracy based on family lineage, and then falling behind more innovative European cities as their meritocracies created more wealth. A similar fate looks to be in its initial stages in the U.S., Russia, and China, amongst others, and it may be that the country best able to resist this urge to consolidate wealth and position and then denying others access to it will be the one best able to take advantage of the next century.
Parts of the book are out of place - performers make more now because the audience is now the globe rather than a concert hall - and much of the last third of the book (excluding the strong conclusion) was repetitive. However, this was a 4-star book overall and the content within is extremely useful knowledge as we navigate a Gilded Age from one corner of the earth to the other....more
A tremendously important book, illustrating how a confluence of societal changes involving agriculture, pharmaceuticals, immigration, and the declineA tremendously important book, illustrating how a confluence of societal changes involving agriculture, pharmaceuticals, immigration, and the decline in middle-class jobs in small town America led to the explosion of a drug that allows a person to work without rest or food, and that causes premature aging, wild mood swings, and contamination of any area in which it has been consumed. This a 4.25 star book and I highly recommend it for a very insightful analysis of how meth rose to prominence and has since evolved into a national scourge, especially in rural locales like Oelwein, Iowa....more
This is a very useful book, not only for high-stakes negotiations but for everyday bargaining as well. Negotiation is a mixture of information, leveraThis is a very useful book, not only for high-stakes negotiations but for everyday bargaining as well. Negotiation is a mixture of information, leverage, and attitude. When different variations can and should be applied makes a ton of difference in each side leaving happy. Some quick hits in case you don't read this:
Ask tons of questions - making sure the other side gets what is important to them makes it easier for you to obtain what you value.
Change your approach depending on the stakes and the relationship - a one-time transaction, a spouse/family member, a merger, etc. - some call for accommodation more than others.
Don't lie, ever. Dodge the question if you feel it is disadvantageous to answer it.
Give large concessions on small matters, but only give small ones on large matters, and then only as part of an exchange.
Evenly split whatever synergies are created.
The better alternative to a deal you find, the more you can ask for.
Negotiating well is a good skill to develop because effective bargainers who play by ethical rules create situations that make everyone better off. I really recommend this book for personal development.
Well worth the read, as the author details several medical topics with interesting stories from inside the OR. I learned things like: the reduction inWell worth the read, as the author details several medical topics with interesting stories from inside the OR. I learned things like: the reduction in the frequency of autopsies is limiting medical advances; citing the wrong cause of death happens about 1/3 of the time, the same frequency as it did 40 years ago, despite the advances in nuclear medicine, imaging, etc.
If you blush too much you can have surgery to stop it all together. However, you won't be able to sweat above your chest any longer, so exercise will make your legs and stomach sweat like crazy.
Medical malpractice suits have little correlation to the doctor's overall ability. Every doctor makes mistakes, but thanks to the checklist getting implemented (similar to what pilots have) rates of preventable disease and death have decreased.
Algorithms are better than the world's best medical professionals in predicting heart attacks.
Inducing nausea is more effective than inducing pain if you want to bring someone down.
The medical profession is almost as bad as a teachers' union when it comes to getting ineffective and harmful doctors out of practice.
I most highly recommend the chapters "When Doctors Make Mistakes", "Final Cut" and "The Case of the Red Leg"....more
If you want to know all about mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps, and the lightly educated individuals who led most of their funds intoIf you want to know all about mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps, and the lightly educated individuals who led most of their funds into the ground, then this is the book. The stock market is fear and greed manifest, but there are enough highly intelligent bond traders out there that when a few greedy idiots in over their heads decide to invest in securities they don't fully understand someone will be there to take advantage of their hubris. An unregulated insurance market made possible by the privatization of the ratings agencies and their complicity in rating securities comprised of barbell shaped credit scores AAA cost the world economy at least $2 trillion. Four fund managers successfully bet against this insanity. One, Hank Paulson, wouldn't talk to Lewis, but the other tree, all of whom are very different personalities, get an in depth profile. ...more