Interesting account of J Bretz's geological research in Eastern Washington. I appreciated the direct, journalistic style and enjoyed learning how BretInteresting account of J Bretz's geological research in Eastern Washington. I appreciated the direct, journalistic style and enjoyed learning how Bretz came to form his then-controversial theory. His conclusions point to a truly awe-inspiring cataclysm, but the book (mostly) avoids sensationalism.
Bretz's portrayal as a "rebel geologist" gets equal play with his Scablands research, but the drama is a shade paler than the title suggests. The author does a great job explaining Uniformitarianism, Catastrophism, and how they were significant to the debate, but the philosophical clash still feels esoteric and decidedly not riveting. Unlike, say, plate tectonics, there was no decisive discovery that completely validated Bretz's theory; opposition to his ideas just decreased until most people accepted his explanation of things. ...more
Very funny as read by the author; I think much of the humor might be lost if reading the print version. I enjoyed the entire book, but her account ofVery funny as read by the author; I think much of the humor might be lost if reading the print version. I enjoyed the entire book, but her account of the SNL years was particularly interesting to me. I appreciated her self-deprecating humor and laughed out loud more than once. I'm sure parts of the book are funnier to parents than non-parents.
It is a bit disingenuous for Fey to claim that her most famous (only?) impression didn't profit her. In response to Sarah Palin ("A lot of people are capitalizing on, I don't know, I think, perhaps, exploiting that was done via me, my family, my administration."), Fey points out that actors receive no royalties for Internet use. Yeah, ok. On the other hand, "exploiting"? Give me a break....more
Turns out that the fascinating man with the fascinating ideas should have used a ghost writer when it came to his memoirs. This collection of serializTurns out that the fascinating man with the fascinating ideas should have used a ghost writer when it came to his memoirs. This collection of serialized articles, written by Tesla long after his commercial successes had come and gone, provide an interesting sketch of the inventor, but they're really too short and too general to stand up as a bona fide autobiography. ...more
Interesting memoir of crabbing in Alaska's Bering Sea (and points south), supplemented with stories of others lucky and not-so-lucky. Upton describesInteresting memoir of crabbing in Alaska's Bering Sea (and points south), supplemented with stories of others lucky and not-so-lucky. Upton describes his experiences clearly and simply, weaving a narrative around the monotony and routine, magnificent natural surroundings, colorful companions, and occasional danger.
Here's the back-story you never hear on Deadliest Catch, and I found the history fascinating: the birth of the King Crab fishery, its peak 130 million pound harvest in 1980, and its crash down to 30 million, then 3.5 million pounds two years later; the transition from a derby to quota system; and the introduction of the 200-mile exclusion zone. Day-to-day crab fishing is also explained in more depth, but the television show has done a remarkable job of communicating the details.
I appreciated Upton's journalistic, no-nonsense delivery, and couldn't help comparing him to Ernest K. Gann, one of my favorite authors. But where Gann's Fate is the Hunter is a riveting account of his personal dance with death, Upton mostly recounts danger through cautionary anecdotes passed from fisherman to fisherman.
I don't mean to fault Upton for cheating death less dramatically or less often; I enjoyed both books, neither of which was overly sensational. Somehow, though, Gann's was also thrilling. ...more
Can't say I loved this book, but I found it interesting—and depressing (I kid, I kid!). Gladwell's premise is essentially, "If you're reasonably smartCan't say I loved this book, but I found it interesting—and depressing (I kid, I kid!). Gladwell's premise is essentially, "If you're reasonably smart or talented, have a good work ethic (possibly inspired by your forebears or culture), and get the opportunity to work really hard, you're on the road to success, baby!"
These aren't exactly world-shaking ideas, although Gladwell (a Canadian) admits that they may generate controversy across the border in the land of rugged individualism. I'm sure he's right, since many Americans may see Outliers as an attack on the idea of the "self-made man," pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, etc. Gladwell talks a lot about chance, which sounds a lot like "luck."
He's not claiming, though, that success is all luck and no hard work. He's saying it's all hard work, but sometimes a chance opportunity is what enables a successful person to work hard. These "opportunities" take many forms, such as parents making sacrifices to secure a good education for their children; a culture that highly values a strong work ethic; a native tongue that expresses some mathematical concept in a particularly clear or succinct way; or simply being born at the right time.
Gladwell argues articulately that if we accept the opportunity to work hard is a key to success (instead of some 1-in-a-million genius or talent), personal success starts to look like something we can foster. He provides lots of entertaining examples and case studies, which he analyses from this point of view.
Ability + hard work + land of opportunity = success. What could be more apple pie? ...more
I started this book almost by accident, and really wasn't looking forward to the difficult subject matter—even if this memoir eventually turned out toI started this book almost by accident, and really wasn't looking forward to the difficult subject matter—even if this memoir eventually turned out to be uplifting, faith-affirming, inspirational, eye-opening, etc. It was all those things, of course.
Gbowee tells an intensely personal story that feels genuine and unguarded, maybe at the cost of a little polish. She doesn't ignore her own shortcomings; she's not a saint. In this context, though, that just serves to emphasize how extraordinary changes may be effected by ordinary people.
Part II of the book contains the meat of her activist history, and I found it the most engaging. (Part I describes the early experiences critical to her development as a peace worker; Part III is an extended epilogue.) ...more
Somehow this ended up on my phone for free (an Audible promotion?) and I actually listened to it. I've never given Rob Lowe a second thought, but I enSomehow this ended up on my phone for free (an Audible promotion?) and I actually listened to it. I've never given Rob Lowe a second thought, but I enjoyed this more than I expected. He seems pretty down-to-Earth for a super-mega-hunkastar.
Lowe's sordid past isn't even in the same league as, say, Roman Polanski, but it's certainly interesting enough. He mentions his belief that stardom freezes a person's emotional maturity at the moment it happens, and he became a star early.
He owns his early jerk-ness, though. The fact that he got a clue, grew up, and moved on says a lot about him, and I respect a bad boy who ends up happily married for twenty years.
He also does a great Christopher Walken, which I always appreciate....more
The wide margins and short chapters of this thin volume are important physical features Bauby's memoir. They're a constant reminder that every word, eThe wide margins and short chapters of this thin volume are important physical features Bauby's memoir. They're a constant reminder that every word, every letter came at a very high cost. It's impossible to forget, if a passage seems short, that it had to be dictated one letter at a time, using an amazingly laborious process called partner-assisted scanning—an interlocutor recites the alphabet until the "speaker" indicates the correct letter has been reached, at which point the letter is copied down.
It amazes me that Bauby was able to compose and edit each chapter in his head, then dictate it from memory. It's obvious that Bauby absolutely had to write this book, whether or not it was ever published. It's an extended letter to his family and others close to him, and that's how I read it.
A geeky aside, since I'm a tech guy: Bauby didn't describe in detail the scanning method he employed with Claude Mendibil, but it sounds like a simple linear search. Even with the alphabet arranged in decreasing order of frequency, this is still O(n). On average, it looks like you'd have to check ~12 letters before you found the right one.
Searching a Huffman tree, on the other hand, is only O(log n). Mendibil could have held up a chart depicting the alphabet Huffman-encoded into an optimal binary search tree for French (click below for my version), then, starting at the root, pointed to each node. On a blink from Bauby, she would move down to the right, otherwise down to the left. Reaching a leaf would mean a letter had been selected. This would have meant more blinking for Bauby, but almost a 3× increase in dictation speed. On average, you'd only have to check ~4½ letters each time.
Here's a hodge podge of reflective observations, Amazon.com corporate history, and strange personal anecdotes, many approaching TMI territory. As longHere's a hodge podge of reflective observations, Amazon.com corporate history, and strange personal anecdotes, many approaching TMI territory. As long-form casual writing, this book is uneven and its style distracting. As an exposé or true history of Amazon.com, its corporate culture, well-known CEO, or his metrics-driven management, this book is little better than that story you heard about the guy who wrote that blog—you know, he was on NPR, talking about that thing—and feels about as authoritative.
I don't have a problem with Kalpanik's insights or personal impressions (full disclosure: I work for Amazon.com); I'm just not sure what to do with them. They don't rise to the level of investigative journalism, but neither are they a compelling memoir, even though I can relate to a lot of the details. What better illustrates this than my glacial progress through this slim volume? It took a long time to read because Kalpanik couldn't hold my interest.
This was a CreateSpace (self-published) book, and perfectly makes the case for old-school publishing. Sure, publishers may sometimes stand in the way of a refreshing outlook or stifle the little guy's unique creativity, but that would have saved me some time in this case....more