I had been meaning to write a review shortly after reading this, but time kept slipping away. I think my lack of writing right away is also an indicatI had been meaning to write a review shortly after reading this, but time kept slipping away. I think my lack of writing right away is also an indication of its impact. Meh. It was interesting reading short biographies of people's lives (the rich guy who became a cop or the couple that went into the tree farm business together), and the author had some keen insights here and there. I didn't highlight or underline any of them, though. Overall, people go out and do things with their lives. It didn't really provide an answer to the question of what should I do with my life. But, by way of example, it is an encouragement to get out there and do....more
One day The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine by Michael Kuhar showed up on my Kindle; and one night when I couldn't get to slOne day The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine by Michael Kuhar showed up on my Kindle; and one night when I couldn't get to sleep right away, I decided to start reading it. The book was a pleasant surprise. It was easy to read, probably written for the high school level; it taught me not only about drug addiction but about myself; and it was sensitive while offering hope. The book covered the sensitive topic of drug addiction by explaining the mechanisms involved and by peppering the narrative with case studies of or quotes by people who were addicts or recovering.
Drug addiction is a function of the drug, the person, and the environment: not all drugs are equally addictive, not everyone responds the same way to a given drug, and environmental factors such as stress and availability influence a person's desire to seek the drug. The author also presented figures to illustrate how drugs work in the brain, which were helpful but perhaps not necessary because his descriptions of the figures were quite elaborate (seriously, the captions were paragraphs by themselves, which wasn't a bad thing, it was just very thorough).
Where the book was the most eye-opening personally, however, was when the author discussed withdrawal symptoms for alcohol. They can include, for example, "irritability, agitation, craving for more alcohol, insomnia, sweating, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and even seizures." Furthermore, one of the vignettes was about a guy who had ignored the warning signs of heavy drinking and ended up with end-stage liver disease. While I never considered myself a heavy drinker, I have noticed some of the symptoms Kuhar listed in myself every once in a while. I wouldn't have thought they could be related to alcohol. It was also humorous when Kuhar mentioned that people commonly think they "must hit 'rock bottom' before they are shaken into action and seek treatment. Although a crisis can help, it isn't necessary for things to be at an absolute worst before getting help." It's funny how when it's said out loud like that, the flaw in the logic that "rock bottom" is the only trigger for change is so apparent. Perhaps it would be good to cut back on the drinking, especially if "it can take about three months of treatment for a patient to show significant improvement."
The book might have been dry at times, but such is the nature of technical matters. The author even used first person a time or two (who was his editor? don't they know this is like a text-book, and you should never use first person? I kid, but only because of the number of times the author apparently, deliberately used "the author" when referring to himself). But Kuhar was sensitive when discussing people who are addicts. Likewise, he concluded with hope. "It is possible to stop using drugs and begin to lead a normal life. Sometimes it is a long road, so it is best to start as soon as possible." For this, I say, Thank you, The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine, for showing up on my Kindle....more
Dee West's review about sums it up for me... definitely read like long blog post. This book could have been improved if the author had done some formDee West's review about sums it up for me... definitely read like long blog post. This book could have been improved if the author had done some form of lit review rather than relying solely on common knowledge or intuitive thinking. If nothing else, it is a simple reminder to get out and be friendly....more
As other reviewers noted, there was a lot of self agrandizing throughout the book. Who knows what he left out if he didn't think it supported his hypoAs other reviewers noted, there was a lot of self agrandizing throughout the book. Who knows what he left out if he didn't think it supported his hypotheses or, heaven forbid, might make him look bad? Therefore, I'd say take his advice with a grain of salt. He was certainly proud of his achievements, though. In some respects, I think the main take-away for me is simply that I need to find and hone my own leadership style, whatever that is. Use common sense principles such as respecting others, striving for excellence, delegating, and having fun to make my team not just the best it can be but the best, period....more
The high school robotics team I coach started using Twitter more frequently so that supporters of the team could stay involved. This was especially trThe high school robotics team I coach started using Twitter more frequently so that supporters of the team could stay involved. This was especially true for the regional competition in late March, when team members' extended family were out of town. But, Twitter seems to have more potential for good than just broadcasting updates during the build season and competition. Other FRC teams are on Twitter, as well as sponsors. With this in mind, as Mandy and I were browsing in Barnes and Noble one day, I noticed Twitter for Good by Claire Diaz-Ortiz on the shelf and thought it might help. Twitter for Good provides a framework for using Twitter and tips for being effective.
Diaz-Ortiz introduces the TWEET model as a framework for using Twitter. Target refers to the goal of one's account (personal, information, fund-raising, or a combination). Write refers to creating content. Engage refers to tools for interacting with the Twitter community. Explore involves interacting with the Twitter community. And Track involves objectively measuring the effectiveness of one's Twitter account.
Like the other books I've reviewed, it doesn't meet the academic rigors I typically subject to books. The distinction between Engage and Explore was never very clear to me. The words felt too much like they were contrived for the sake of the acronym. Likewise, there were no cohorts using the TWEET method and results discussed. Coming from an employee of Twitter, the book is also biased favorably towards Twitter and therefore doesn't ponder on reasons not to use Twitter.
Nonetheless, Twitter for Good is chalk-full of case study examples of how different people and organizations have used various aspects of the TWEET framework (unfortunately, some of those are fictional, but oh well). There are references to online resources at twitter4good.com. And, I like the list of measures one can use for tracking one's account.
Helpful? Overall, I would say yes. It gave me new ideas for how to use Twitter effectively: how to reach out to other teams, sponsors, and the community. Next steps for me are to refine my plan and goals for the team's Twitter account and then engage/explore!...more
The director of advanced technology at Tennant Company, who also supports the FIRST robotics team I coach, highly recommended Why Innovation Fails: HaThe director of advanced technology at Tennant Company, who also supports the FIRST robotics team I coach, highly recommended Why Innovation Fails: Hard-Won Lessons for Business to me last summer. It was very difficult to find the book, but Mandy was able to arrange it as a birthday gift from Granny. Interestingly, the source of the recommendation and rarity of the book created a substantial amount of hype in my mind about the book. Having finished it now, I'll admit I feel a little let down. While it certainly had its moments, it was not the life-altering, eye-opening testament to creating truly innovative products I imagined it would be.
Why Innovation Fails' strongest moments were the definition of innovation (pgs 38-40), characteristics of adopters (pgs 43-44), the checklist for critiquing hype (pgs 81-82), the dangers of "bad thinking" (chap 6), emphasis on and techniques for market research (chap 7), the correlation between the source of ideas and probability of success (pg 208), description of the Stage-Gate(TM) process (pg 209), and the gentle reminder that failure is an option (chap 13). As mentioned in my status updates while reading the book, I felt reminded a number of times of the importance of the Universal Design Principles - to keep the end user as the focus throughout the design process. Likewise, one must also be mindful of the the resources used develop the innovation - that is, not to throw them away but to be mindful of the design process such that the resources are well-spent.
On the flip-side, the weakest moments were the apparent bashing of ideas that did not pan out. It was difficult for me to discern if Franklin was applying the critical analysis techniques he set up in the earlier chapters or if he was simply calling out ideas that failed spectacularly for entertainment purposes. Franklin also locks his book into a specific time period by calling out "doomed technologies" [emphasis mine] such as 3G or Anoto's wireless pens (Livescribe seems to be using the technology quite successfully). Lastly, the organization could probably have been improved upon - fewer boxes and fewer questions in the Appendix.
I think if I had applied the hype checklist to this book before reading it, my expectations probably would have been more realistic. Maybe I should have asked, "Why is this book so difficult to find, really?" True, the authors' thoughts seem to be a little disorganized, that he has seen maybe a few hundred too many bad ideas, and like he's trying to meet a word quota. But I did appreciate the references to studies in product development and his international perspective. "Group think" and ego involvement are real issues to be cognizant of during product development (citing personal experience here). Some of his case studies - like metric vs standard units - were also quite illustrative. So... without the hype, would I have read it? Yes. Without the hype, would I recommend it to others interested in design and innovation? Again, yes....more
I liked the format of the book: short, single-topic chapters that presented a design project; heavy on cool pictures; thoughtful infographics; and Q&A sections interviewing leaders in design. Some of the projects are really quite inspiring, and the breadth of topics - from architecture to boats to robots to video games - kept my interest.
The conclusion was thought-provoking as the author pontificated the future of design - infinite computing, digitized reality, democratized design, and amazing complexity. But, it felt a little open-ended, like 'now what?' I'm not sure what it was exactly. Unfortunately. Maybe it felt too open-ended, and my engineering mind wants a box and more tangible conclusions. The other thing I was wished was that the author for each section was better identified. Contributors were listed at the end, but I wish there was more info on who wrote what piece.
In any case, it was a good read. I think I am going to pass it off to my robotics team this year and have each team member read a chapter, Q&A, and infographic a week then report to the team what they read....more
I liked the references to individual studies highlighting some of the contradictions in how we make choices. But, for each of those references, there's no way to know the validity of the individual study. How many people were involved in the study? Was statistical significance achieved? Which reminds me... the way they used footnotes in the book was dumb. There were no numbers. Instead, the relevant phrase was repeated at the end of the book in the notes section. The reader had no way of knowing of a block of text had a footnote related to it by looking at the page he or she was reading.
It also irks me when an author inaccurately uses evolution to make a point. Schwartz says we have difficulty with choices because early humans had only limited options: live in a cave or not live in a cave; eat or don't eat. Was he there with those early humans to know what choices they faced or how they made decisions? It's mere speculation and a waste of paper.
I think the recommendations I will use - and Mandy and I have started doing - are the following: * limit options: instead of considering all the options available, pick two, three, or four and compare only those * practice an attitude of gratefulness: Mandy and I started sharing five things each of us is thankful for at the end of the day (not every day, but every so often). * good enough is good enough: the solution I pick doesn't need to be perfect.
Was it a Good Read? It was a read. I feel more educated. Now onto the next thing....more
As billed, The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning is an introductory guide to managing personal finance. The targAs billed, The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning is an introductory guide to managing personal finance. The target audience is people 20-45 years old, and the author presents three case studies - a young professor starting a family, an entrepreneur, and a young professional - all looking for financial wisdom. Top themes included saving at least 10% for retirement, investing in mutual funds, living within one's means, and making sure one has the correct amount and type of insurance. Other topics included wills, paying taxes wisely, saving for a child's education, and buying a home vs renting.
Overall, the book seemed okay. The format was easy to read, and content was presented in manageable doses. Because the book spoke in broad terms, I think its best service was as a reference when talking with a financial adviser in real life. This book helped with knowing what questions to ask....more
Onions are to cooks what history is to authors. Onions, like history, have many layers. Cooks fry onions in a buttery batter to add texture and flavorOnions are to cooks what history is to authors. Onions, like history, have many layers. Cooks fry onions in a buttery batter to add texture and flavor. Likewise, authors will paint pictures of historical events to improve the audience's reading experience. But, while the overall presentation may be improved, the original crispiness of the onion may be lost. I think this is the case with Jesus A Revolutionary Biography: the subject matter was very provocative and well presented, but it seemed like the author John Dominic Crossan added too many assertions - too many unsubstantiated claims - for me to conclude that this presentation is a truly historical account of Jesus's life. It just felt, at times, he was being too intentionally provocative with some of his claims. The areas I think Crossan did well were his accounts of Jesus's birth stories; John the Baptist; and the greater, social context in which Jesus lived. The parts that were lacking for me were his accounts of the Passion, his ambivalence regarding the Eleven or Twelve apostles, the time immediately following the crucifixion, and his humanist perspective.
Prior to reading Jesus A Revolutionary Biography I had not been able to see mythology in the Gospel accounts. I had heard people talk about it, but it has been too well-ingrained in my brain that they were true, historical accounts of Jesus's life. In response to someone claiming the Gospel of John was a spiritual romance, [Author: C.S. Lewis] wrote in "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism" (in Christian Reflections), "I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this." But now, I can see where parts of the Gospels can be interpreted as mythical creations. Crossan referenced other stories that were circulating in Jesus's culture about Caesar's birth account or about the bad ruler who whimsically executed his prisoners. Of course, I can't know for sure what the first century Christians were thinking, but knowing that these other stories existed, I can see how they would want to leverage off of them to give themselves a sense of credibility or validity that their leader - that their story - can fit in the larger (i.e. Mediterranean) picture of world history. Jesus had in their experience the same amount of grandeur Caesar had for the Romans' experience. What better way is there to convey that grandeur than by recreating that story within their own tradition?
I had previously thought of the Jordan River as simply the location where John baptized. But reading about the accounts of other Jewish rebels from the same time period (approx. 100 BC to 100 AD), it seems that the Jordan was more than just a place on a map. The Jordan is where Moses and Joshua crossed into the Promised Land. Crossan presented well how Jewish peasants, under Roman occupation, would want to recreate their scenarios of old to gain freedom. It wasn't that John baptized in the Jordan, it's that John baptized in the Jordan.
The other kudos I want to give to Crossan before my criticism begins are his references to other period literature. I appreciated his references to Josephus and Philo and to other Roman authors. I appreciated how he put them in context, too. For example, while Josephus was Jewish, he was also hired by the Romans (or indentured to? an elite slave?). One can see how that would skew his accounts of historical events.
Crossan's interpretation of the Passion was lacking primarily in presentation. It is a significant claim, I would say, to say that all four accounts (M, M, L, & J) are prophecy historicized rather than history remembered. He attempted to make his point by bringing in the Essenes and their biblical scholarship, but it was difficult for me to connect all his dots. I think it would have helped if he had shown more examples of Old Testament literature the first century Christians would have used and elaborated on the Epistle of Barnabas more. Somewhat related, I wish he had explained in more detail why he thought the prophecy about the virgin birth from Isaiah 7 was taken out of context.
Crossan's accounts of the Eleven or Twelve left me a little confused. On page 108, he makes the claim that the Twelve was created after Jesus's death as a means for demonstrating a new Israel, or a new order (there were 12 tribes, now there are 12 disciples/apostles). Jesus didn't actually have 12 guys following around with him as he toured through Israel, he claimed. But later, when Crossan was talking about the time surrounding Jesus's death and appearances, he makes effort to show how Paul didn't think of himself as one of the Twelve, how Luke didn't see Paul as a candidate to replace Judas (pgs 166-9), or how there were political struggles for who was first among the apostles. While Crossan made an interesting assertion there about the fictional nature of the Twelve, I think this area needs a little more follow-through.
Crossan's last chapter felt too out of context - too much of a departure from the theme of the book. It was not about the historical Jesus, and Crossan didn't really go into the impact of the historical Jesus. I guess maybe he did, but the last chapter was more about the political struggles after Jesus's death than his impact... unless the impact of his death was a void that needed to be filled.
Throughout the book, Crossan gives very little credit to the supernatural. He side-steps Jesus's healing miracles by claiming not that the diseases were cured but that people's perceptions of the diseases had changed. If this were the case, why do the Gospels read so clearly that an individual changed after healing and not the community? Also, Jesus was not resurrected, but people imagined that he appeared after his death. True, God of the Gaps is not a good explanation for all cases, but to completely ignore God's presence, I think, is equally inadequate.
Overall, Jesus A Revolutionary Biography was worth the read. It challenged my perceptions; and it presented new, relevant information that I would not have considered otherwise. I appreciated how he supported his claims about the Gospels' relationship to mythology by citing other literature from the time period (whereas C.S. Lewis's argument is based solely on his authority). My palate is wetted to looking more into period literature (esp The Didache, The Gospel of Thomas, The Epistle of Barnabas, the works of Josephus, and the historical Constantine). So how shall I compare this work? It was like a lettuce wrap from PF Chang's: light at crispy with some substance, but it wasn't quite the main course. 3 stars!...more
Steven King wrote an interesting and slightly cynical article for Entertainment Weekly about how to interpret critics comments that advertise movies.Steven King wrote an interesting and slightly cynical article for Entertainment Weekly about how to interpret critics comments that advertise movies. For example, "actors as you've never seen them before!" actually means "actors terribly miscast for their parts!" I think the same could be said for some of the reviews on the cover of this book. "I read the book one sitting" probably more closely means "ya, I skimmed through it." Unfortunately, while A Contrarian's Guide had a couple good parts, overall it didn't provide me with much new insight. It was a lot of common sense written on paper. Sorry this isn't a very thorough review, but there really isn't much else to say. Also, dinner is about ready, so I must go....more