Fun book, more of a ride than a book. I enjoyed it for what it was -- an extended rant. Here's some notes.
1. We are incredibly un-selfaware of the effFun book, more of a ride than a book. I enjoyed it for what it was -- an extended rant. Here's some notes.
1. We are incredibly un-selfaware of the efficiency of our own brain processes. We think we are learning when we feel fluent, rather than when we are actually storing stuff away. We think we can multitask because we aren’t aware of the extra work when we task switch. 2. Light is a frickin’ drug. We dope ourselves with it at night and it keeps us from sleeping right. Install f.lux on every device you have that can run it. https://justgetflux.com/ (not sure why this is in this book, but I also read a book on sleep this summer, v. true.) 3. People underestimate the value of machine learning because we don’t think the things it is doing for us are that great, sometimes because of #1 above. Tons of examples in the book (and elsewhere) of people rejecting smarts and only being proved wrong with getting it into users hands. 4. We need a higher-level idea of user’s goals – the more we can figure out about their true goals (the ones they will actually work to) the better the tools can be. User’s don’t want to write a PowerPoint or use a menu. (like, duh, right? that’s the point of the book, which is pretty obvious, it’s the details that matter) 5. “You know what? Fuck dropdowns.” (maybe you had to be there – that was the best moment in the book. 6. This guy gets at least a third of the stuff wrong, but the book was totally fun. (e.g. restaurants did not (IMO) mistakenly think customers don’t want to talk to a person – they installed touch screens because people who can take orders are more expensive than computer hardware and software) But it’s great to read strong opinions bluntly spoken. Or really, an irreverent, crazy, tirade. (I guess that explains Trump?)
This novel manages to evoke emotion and convey, it seems, exactly what the author wants. The emotional landscape rises and falls, but never dives or sThis novel manages to evoke emotion and convey, it seems, exactly what the author wants. The emotional landscape rises and falls, but never dives or soars. Throughout, you feel that you are in the hands of a storyteller who is in complete control of the craft of writing. Unfortunately, the story itself is of a life with no sense of the promise or the excitement of life itself, of a girl with no belief in her ability to choose the course of her life. In fact, in the universe that the author has created, it feels that she almost has no ability to do so in any of the big ways that really matter. The currents that push her around don't seem that strong, but they are too much for Eilis: the only choices she makes are inner choices, or choices where she chooses the path of least resistance. It's not clear that this leads her to a bad life or any worse one than if she had tried to wrest control of her destiny, but I found her passivity and lack of agency depressing. I give this book more credit than it otherwise deserves because it was utterly immersive and compelling reading. I'm sure that I'll remember this story, but I'm not sure I could say that I actually liked it....more
It's like a nostalgic Neal Stephenson decided to rewrite Charlie and the Chocolate factory. The book was a fun roller coaster that managed to make meIt's like a nostalgic Neal Stephenson decided to rewrite Charlie and the Chocolate factory. The book was a fun roller coaster that managed to make me feel like a high school kid while also, somehow making me feel smart for recognizing 80's nerd trivia. (Gary Gygax! Joust!) I didn't particularly like the 80s, but I did like this book, and I never once felt sad that these kids from the future were spending all of their time immersed in one not-so-bad decade from the past. ...more
I ate up the parts of this book that were about giant trees and the process of cloning and saving them. But the story veers off into the weeds with thI ate up the parts of this book that were about giant trees and the process of cloning and saving them. But the story veers off into the weeds with the author's credulous stories of everything from near-death experiences to psychic tree dowsers and even a massage from a squirrel. (Oh, and water has memory.) His science reporting exhibits the same flaws I see in so much reporting -- a lack of context and perspective, whether that’s reporting hard numbers or vague claims. Stories that happened to a single person are hard to separate from studies that actually examine things scientifically. The main criteria for inclusion seems to be that the story have something nice to say about the power of trees and forests. So I'm left treating the new things I encountered with more than a little skepticism. It sure would be nice to know if trees really do exude chemicals that make people and animals more healthy, and whether the salycilates released by willows actually make the fish and animals healthier around the trees. It seems like he’s made the case that forests along the shore make for better fisheries (“When Forests Disappear the Se Dies”) – but once you’ve lost my scientific trust, it’s hard for me to know how much to believe. So the story has to stand without the science. Luckily, it does. The quest to clone the biggest trees is magnificent and quixotic, not based entirely on science but neither is it just the feverish dream of a mystic. To plant a tree is a noble thing that doesn't have to be scientific, exactly: as W. S. Merwin wrote, "On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree.' The stories of the various hunts for the biggest trees, the tragic end of so many wonderful trees, the triumphs and the personality of David Millarch – these make the book worth reading and will stick with me for years, perhaps forever. ...more
A phrase I hear often in Nigeria is idea l’a need. It means “all we need is the general idea or conce
Near the end of this slight book, Teju Cole says
A phrase I hear often in Nigeria is idea l’a need. It means “all we need is the general idea or concept.” People say this in different situations. It is a way of saying: that’s good enough, there’s no need to get bogged down in details. I hear it time and again. After the electrician installs an antenna and all we get is unclear reception of one station, CNN, instead of the thirty pristine stations we had been promised, the reaction isn’t that he has done an incomplete job. It is, rather: we’ll make do, after all idea l’a need. Why bother with sharp reception when you can have snowy reception? And once, driving in t town with one of the school drivers, I discover that the latch for the seat belt is broken. Oh, pull it across your chest and sit on the buckle, he say, idea l’a need. Safety is not the point. The semblance of safety is what we were after.”
That sums up this book well enough. Reading it doesn’t give you a clear picture of the country or the protagonist, but your feel oddly comfortable that you’ve got idea l’a need. Not that it’s as unclear as that makes it out, but it is an oblique view – a fictionalized version of the (one must assume) real journal of a young man who has been long outside the country and seems to be struggling to make a good impression on the reader, while also struggling to understand ‘his’ country when both he and it have changed over the years. How can we get a clear picture from all that?
But we feel like we do get the general idea. We can tell that the narrator is only pretending to try to decide if he will return to Nigeria and write, we grasp his desire for his country to succeed and we get a feeling for the chaos that lies always just a few steps away. We see the huge contrasts and contradictions in everyday life for both rich and poor.
We read of the thugs pacing like jackals as they prevent the contents –including a car-- of a container from America and we feel that we are reading some kind of truth.
Some stories are told as they were heard, adding one more transformation from the ultimate truth. But yet, again, we feel that there is truth here. Perhaps Uncle Bello, accosted for money and then threatened by a man on an overpass when he didn’t pay enough really did turn the tables on him and suggest that he was someone to be feared, reducing the bribe required.
--Waste me? Waste me? Are your eyes functioning? Look at me very well before you say another word. You don’t recognize me? I will injure you, I will kill you. Do you know who you are talking to? Ehn? Do you know me?
…all the while quaking in his shoes. Or maybe he didn’t, and this is the story he tells to make himself feel better. The narrator accepts it at face value and whether we do or not, we accept that life in Nigeria is filled with this kind of stress, we feel that we understand it.
This is a book worth reading with the right expectations. There’s no plot, there’s no resolution – it feels like a series of well-edited blog posts. In fact, I didn’t realize it was fiction until after I finished. But there are moments, more than a few, that leave you feeling like you have in some small way, got a very clear picture of a small event that somehow gives you the idea l’a need.