I’ve been a big fan of Dr. Seuss’ books and characters for a long time. I did not grow up with these books (I did not grow up in an English speaking cI’ve been a big fan of Dr. Seuss’ books and characters for a long time. I did not grow up with these books (I did not grow up in an English speaking country), but ever since I was exposed to them I embraced with enthusiasm his zany and, yes, wacky sense of humor and appreciation for playful oddities. Now that I am a parent I have been buying his book with relish and enthusiasm, and exposing our little boy to them from the earliest age.
“Wacky Wednesday” is perhaps one of Dr. Seuss’ most “challenging” and educational books. In addition to the playful and repetitive rhymes, the illustrations themselves pose a little challenge of discovering the discrepancies between what we would expect in the “normal” world, and what we instead encounter in these illustrations. This is indeed a fun and educational activity, but it may not be the most suitable for the very young readers. Our kid is still too young to appreciate even the text and illustrations in their own right, but we hope that by exposing him to Dr. Seuss from the earliest times he may grow to like him and his work as well. ...more
Margaret Thatcher has become one of the foremost icons of the twentieth century. The first female British prime minister and one of the longest-servinMargaret Thatcher has become one of the foremost icons of the twentieth century. The first female British prime minister and one of the longest-serving prime ministers in Britain, she had acquired the reputation of unwavering dedication to the core conservative principles, and a steadfast way of implementing them through the public policy. Internationally she is also known, with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, as one of the main actors throughout the last decade of the Cold War that brought the end to the European Communism. It is exactly her firm and unapologetic repudiation of Communism in all of its forms that had earned her the moniker “Iron Lady” by her Soviet critics.
That passing of Margaret Thatcher earlier this year marked the end of an era. It also marked the revival of the many debates concerning her influence, policies and legacy that have been dormant for a while. This short Kindle Single, written by one of her most ardent admirers, is an attempt to put into a perspective many of the key aspects of her life and career. It is a fairly personal account that also manages to provide a wealth of information that many of us have forgotten, or were not as keenly aware of.
Even though Thatcher’s changes have had enormous impact on the UK policies and life, they have always had their more than fair share of detractors. Many of her critics to this day are all too eager to point to some failure – real or contrived – of her policies. However, as this short Kindle Single rightly points out, it’s neither fair nor intellectually honest to criticize an essentially right-wing politician along the metrics of the left-wing desiderata. What her opponents to this day consider to be her biggest failures are still things that have garnered her an enduring admiration on the right.
Nonetheless, Baroness Thatcher did have her share of failures and setbacks, something that she herself was always more than willing to acknowledge. Some of those were apparent while she was still working at 10 Downing Street, while the others are the unintended consequences of her policies that have only become obvious in the recent yeas. It’s these latter ones that this Kindle Single zeroes in. The gradual but unmistakable deterioration of the British social fabric can in a large measure be attributed to the unbridled individualism that has come to dominate the country’s way of thinking and can be traced to the economic and social changes in the 80s. In that light the title of this Single, “Always Right,” is not without its small share of irony.
This is a very well-written and timely short introduction to the Iron Lady. It’s a much-needed reminder of her greatest accomplishments and legacy. ...more
I’ve been a longtime fan of the Wired magazine, and for the past few years a regular subscriber as well. In my mind no other publication properly captI’ve been a longtime fan of the Wired magazine, and for the past few years a regular subscriber as well. In my mind no other publication properly captures the excitement, the ethos, and the aspirations of the digital world and culture, especially the way they are embodied in the Silicon Valley. Even though technology in all its manifestations is at the core of what Wired (and the Silicon Valley) is all about, the mindset to which it belongs far surpasses those confines. In a way Wired is about innovation and entrepreneurship applied to all aspects of our modern life, including the economic and social spheres.
One important aspect of the Wired magazine has always been good, in-depth, writing. Many of their articles over they years have become intellectual reference points for our understanding of the entirety of digital economy (terms such as the “long tail” and “crowdsourcing” first appeared on the pages of this magazine). Most of the articles in this collection indeed reflect this high standard of tech penmanship and insight. The articles are exhaustive in their breadth and depth, and sometimes even exhausting to read – the article on Microsoft antitrust case alone reaches to hundred and twenty magazine-sized pages. Many of the articles could have been turned into short books in their own right, and all of them could have been published today separately as eBooks (or Amazon Singles for instance).
Even thought the writing in this publication is invariably extraordinary, and the stories themselves give you a great glimpse into the tech world over the past two decades, not all of the content is equally interesting. While some of the articles have retained their freshness and relevance even today (a testament to the quality and the timelessness of their insight), some are quite onerous to read and feel like an exercise in navel-gazing. Well over a decade after the bursting of the 1990s tech bubble, it’s more than obvious to anyone how shallow and self-absorbed many of the most hyped products and services of that era were. A couple of articles that cover the “irrational exuberance” of that era are annoying to read today, but serve as a powerful reminder to be weary of the unfounded hype. They indirectly validate the common-sense notion that what ultimately works is the honesty, integrity, and products and services that are based on something that is solid and real.
A couple of articles in this collection were truly inspiring. The article about the crazily optimistic people who are drawn to the Silicon Valley from all corners of the world reinforces the notion that if you are really smart, willing to work hard, and can stomach the unparalleled levels of risk then you can still make it over there. The story of the illegal-immigrant high-school kids who built an award-winning robotic submersible that bested even the most sophisticated teams from places such as MIT is such an all-American underdog tale.
This is a wonderful collection of articles that can enlighten and inspire anyone who is interested in the ever-advancing digital revolution that we are a part of. ...more
The combination of art and spirituality seems to be a very natural one, and yet many spiritual traditions throughout the ages have looked with suspiciThe combination of art and spirituality seems to be a very natural one, and yet many spiritual traditions throughout the ages have looked with suspicion at art. Quakers, Sylvia Judson’s own religious community, always prided themselves on exquisite simplicity of life and shunned all visually ostentations displays, which included almost all art. Judson wanted to change this attitude to some extent, and her book “The Quiet Eye” is an important and valuable example of this.
This book is a collection of many beautiful images of art throughout the centuries. Each image is accompanied with a quote, most of which have some important spiritual message to convey and are in some way related to the image they are associated with. Both the quotes and the images are beautiful and they stimulate the imagination. The stimulus is a subtle one, and the experience is mean to be inward and introspective. In this regard the book is very much in tune with the Quaker tradition.
This is a very beautiful small book that eschews trappings of cheap and trite spirituality. It could be used as a small traveling companion for all of our spiritual journeys. ...more
Higher education, particularly in the US, is on the verge of a major structural change. There has been a lot of speculation in recent years about theHigher education, particularly in the US, is on the verge of a major structural change. There has been a lot of speculation in recent years about the ever-increasing cost of higher education, the mounting student college debt (which has surpassed one trillion dollars this year), and the growing uncertainty of the job prospects even for college graduates. Hardly a week goes by without another major story in the media about some disconcerting aspects of the higher educational ecosystem. Books and articles (such as this one) proclaiming the existence of the higher-educational bubble pop out on a very regular basis. Rarely, however, have I had the opportunity to read an account of the current state of higher education from one of its more distinguished leaders. “Higher Education in the Digital Age” promises to be just such book.
The book is based on the Tanner Lectures on Human Values delivered at Stanford University in the fall of 2012. The main lectures – and the bulk of this book – are written by William Bowen, former president of Princeton University. The rest of the book is comprised of the responses by some equally distinguished higher educational luminaries, including the current president of Stanford University. All of the contributors to this book are clearly very familiar with the virtues and the problems of the higher education. Stanford in particular has in recent years been investing a lot of time and resources on trying to make education more affordable and accessible – from increasingly more generous student financial aid packages, to the launching of its own online educational initiative. The online education seems to be one of the main directions in which the future of education is headed, and this book makes an assessment of its potential and pitfalls. It gives many interesting insights and “rebuttals” of the criticism of higher education. Its definitely worth reading in order to get the sense of what academic leaders are thinking right now as far as their own profession is concerned.
So what is the conclusion of this book? I don’t have the nitty-gritty economics expertise to do the full justice to the arguments presented in it. However, I have spent most of my professional life in the academia, and together with many years of undergraduate and graduate training I have a fairly good idea of the ills and the shortcomings of this system. My sense is that the “correction” to the higher-educational bubble is inevitable, and it’s more likely to happen sooner rather than later. Its effects, in turn, will probably be much more dramatic, in ways that we can’t fully appreciate right now, than what most people expect. With that in mind I think that this book is grossly underestimating the extent of the upcoming crisis. It proposes palliative measures where much more structurally radical changes are in order. After reading this book I was left with a renewed sense that the leaders in the Ivory Tower have managed to thoroughly immure themselves in their world and are largely impervious to the economic forces that affect all the other aspects of the modern world. They might present this as a virtue, but more and more people are increasingly viewing it as a potentially devastating defect. Their analysis of the current system may be correct as far as it goes, but I am afraid that we are on a verge of a truly radical educational revolution. I was reminded of what Henry Ford’s quipping that if he had listened to his customers he would have built a faster horse. Alas, after reading this book I got a sense that it was a valiant attempt to make a case for a faster higher educational horse. ...more
Politics is, quite frankly, one of my passions. Aside from my own political leanings, values and interests, I have an overarching interest in the entiPolitics is, quite frankly, one of my passions. Aside from my own political leanings, values and interests, I have an overarching interest in the entirety of the political process in its own right. I always try to read well-informed and as far as possible objective accounts of the “big picture” of what makes any particular political system tick and what makes it special and idiosyncratic. My expectations of this very short introduction to the American politics were along those lines, unfortunately this book falls far short of my expectations.
Even though the author aims to give an overarching introduction to the American politics as a whole, the book reads more like a hodgepodge of various topics and themes in American politics. Some are reasonably well informative (such as the topic on the elections), while others left me scratching my head. The chapter on the office of presidency was almost entirely devoted to the history of 20th century presidential public addresses, while the chapter on Senate spent inordinate amount of space on Filibuster. These are all interesting topics to be sure, but in my mind they are far from representative of what the most important characteristics of those two political institutions are. In an extremely short introduction as this one, such a choice of topics is inexcusable.
As bad as the choice and treatment of topics are, those flaws pail in comparison with my biggest issue with this book: its unapologetic and in-your-face left-wing bias. Every single Republican political issue has been thoroughly criticized, oftentimes beyond what is objectively warranted, while the Democratic decisions are either not remarked upon or praised. The virtues and the flaws of the entirety of the US political system are judged along the lines of the left-wing issues. The concluding chapter in its entirety is dedicated to “income inequality” and its effects on democracy.
Let’s present the extent of the bias of this book in terms of its illustrations. Out of ten pictures in the book four are of Democratic politicians (Woodrow Wilson, Nancy Pelosi, Elena Kagan and Allen Ellender), three relate to liberal causes (minority voters, union protesters, and Occupy Wall Street protester), two are more or less neutral (a department of agriculture worker and George Gallup), and only one has anything to do with Republicans – an old 1874 cartoon of the GOP elephant. I can’t think of a more unbalanced set of illustrations for a book of this kind.
This book should be the exhibit A in the case against the ideological indoctrination of the American college professors. They are clearly unable to see their own biases, and continue the fiction of presenting themselves as impartial intellectuals. Generations of American college students have been fed a steady diet of books of this type. Fortunately, more and more of them are starting to learn about the real nature of the American political process from the alternative media and educational resources. ...more
The First World War is by far the lesser known of the two major 20th century military conflicts that bear the name of a World War. This is partly dueThe First World War is by far the lesser known of the two major 20th century military conflicts that bear the name of a World War. This is partly due to the fact that it is the earlier of the two wars and thus farther from our collective memories. More importantly, in my opinion, is the fact that it was a war much more limited in scope – both in terms of the geographical extent of the conflict, as well as the impact it had on the civilian populations. It was, in many respects, a very “static” war. The advancements in the military technology had far outpaced the advancements in the military strategy. Nonetheless it was a war that caused an enormous number of casualties and it had sawn the seeds for the future cataclysm of World War II.
This very short introduction is an interesting and engaging introduction the World War I. The author is clearly an expert on this subject, and he manages to present a very coherent and unifying picture of this conflict. The writing is fluid, and all fans of good historical writings would certainly enjoy this book.
The book covers all the main causes of the World War I and it shows why the ever-increasing tension between the main European powers made the conflict all but inevitable. It covers some major turning points in the war, as well as the more ambiguous battle results that could have changed the course of the war had they not come at such heavy prices. It gives a fair and, to the best of my knowledge, unbiased account of the main developments involving all sides in the conflict. I was particularly intrigued with the account of the dramatic changes and personnel adjustments in the German highest-ranking military staff, something that I didn’t know anything about until I had read this book.
This is a great book at every level and one that I would strongly recommend to anyone who wishes to know more about the First World War. ...more
It is hard to write a review of a book by one of the most famous writers of all time (in any language), especially since literally criticism is not exIt is hard to write a review of a book by one of the most famous writers of all time (in any language), especially since literally criticism is not exactly my forte. So I’ll try to make this review brief.
Mark Twain is best known for his long novels, especially Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but he was also a master of that quintessentially American genre of short story writing. Some of the stories in this collection are indeed masterpieces, and have for years been included in most short fiction anthologies. All of them embody at least one of the quintessential Mark Twain themes: local color of his characters and ear for dialect, subtle and not-too-subtle moralizing, over-the-top ridicule of societal norms and customs, and snapshots from various parts of the world. The stories vary a great deal: some are just a couple of pages short, others are practically novellas; some are humorous, others are serious and even very gloomy; some are realistic, others are brimming with fantastic details; some are entertaining, other are tedious and hard to follow. One thing that I certainly appreciate about all of them, and this is why I still feel that this collection merits full five stars, is that they are very raw and largely unpremeditated. The short story has since Twain’s time become all too standardized and professionalized. Even though most contemporary short stories are technically incredibly executed, I do miss the rough edges and the spontaneous risks that the writers in the past took. In that regard Twain’s writing is still some of the best that the short story genre has to offer. ...more
I have to admit: when I first got this book I thought it was yet another vanity book project by a powerful egomaniacal Silicon Valley bigshot promisinI have to admit: when I first got this book I thought it was yet another vanity book project by a powerful egomaniacal Silicon Valley bigshot promising to solve all of the World’s problems by recasting them in the mold of his own special insight. I’ve read several such books and have even bought into the hype of some of them. They were full of grand proclamations and even grander visions of the future, but most of them left any crucial nitty-gritty steps out and did not really connect with the majority of the ordinary workers hoping to further their own careers. However, I was in for a big pleasant surprise. “Rebooting Work” is a succinct and to-the-point case for the emerging world of entrepreneurial approach to the individual careers.
Maynard Webb is a well-known figure in Silicon Valley circles. He has helped reinvigorate eBay’s technological backbone and push it into the stable and sophisticated online trading platform that it has become. In “Rebooting Work” he tries to distill decades of experience working in the high-tech sector, mentoring workers and colleagues, and helping launch a new online working platform in LiveOps. The book tries to instill the entrepreneurial mentality in all workers; regardless of what work environment you might find yourself in right now. The goal, in the words of this book, is to become a “CEO of your own career.” The book presents a simple four-square grid of four different types of career situations, and tries to help you to the successful entrepreneurial square.
One of the big points of the book is that the recent developments in technology, especially the wide penetration of fast internet, are finally making it possible for a vast majority of workers to work virtually from anywhere. I am afraid that this is still more of a desideratum than an actual reflection of the state of marketplace for work. However, just a few years ago I would have also thought that a book like this one is unrealistic in its expectations. Today I am much more cautiously optimistic. “Rebooting Work” presents the reader with the vision of work in the 21st century as it should be. I sincerely hope that it does become a fully functioning reality before too long.
**** What could have made this book even better. ****
I would have like more concrete examples of various careers options and steps in building them from scratch online. This would also include a proper assessment of various career tools and skills, and ways of acquiring them. In particular I would have liked a better advice of how marketable various skills are and will be in the upcoming years.
This book is a great resource, motivator, and a mindset builder for the kind of work world that will (hopefully) emerge in the upcoming years. It’s very to the point and largely devoid of hype and overselling of the case that it’s making. However, you should still be prepared to do most of the footwork on your own and be able to avail of various online and offline resources that are out there. ...more
We've been exposing our son to books pretty much since he was born. (I know, I know, we are those kinds of parents.) We've liked several children's boWe've been exposing our son to books pretty much since he was born. (I know, I know, we are those kinds of parents.) We've liked several children's books, but this one has become one of our favorites. It's simple, straightforward, and easy to read. The rhyming pages really appeal to small children and infants. The illustrations are easy to interpret, colorful, and surprisingly artistic for this kind of book. This is a board-book, which makes it very sturdy and capable of withstanding assaults by the grabby little hands and vicious little mouths. Our boy alos loves to bang it with his palm, which I guess is another selling point for the book. It's a beautiful little book that can bring your child many years of joy....more
The sense of beauty is one of the most fundamental human universals. No one is immune to aesthetic appeals, and it seems that the appreciation of theThe sense of beauty is one of the most fundamental human universals. No one is immune to aesthetic appeals, and it seems that the appreciation of the beauty is an exclusive human characteristic. This very short introduction aims to introduce the general reader to some of the fundamental intellectual underpinnings of this essential concept. Unfortunately, the book falls short with respect to this objective.
I am a huge fan of Roger Scruton's writings, and have read many of his articles and books, and have reviewed several of his books (including his other book in this series [[ASIN:0192801996 Kant: A Very Short Introduction]]). He is extremely erudite and insightful, and he is able to find a new, fresh, perspective on many of the ageless topics. However, I think that with this Very Short Introduction he has widely missed the target. He makes no bones about the fact that this is an exclusively philosophical outlook on beauty, which is extremely disappointing considering all the great insights that the psychology has given us in recent decades on that topic. At the beginning of the second chapter Scruton attempts to give some evolutionary backing for the sense of beauty, but after just a few pages that approach fizzles away and transforms into various philosophical speculations and musings on sexuality.
In his philosophical musings Scruton doesn't seem to be grounding much of his ideas within the overarching western philosophical tradition. He mentions Plato and Kant a few times, and maybe on a few occasions some of the other prominent philosophers. For the most part, though, one gets a sense that the material in this book has been wrought whole-cloth out of Scruton's own omphaloskepsis. Scruton is indeed a great thinker, and many of his ideas are extremely interesting, but after a while I got really bored with all the self-indulgent writing.
The book is very long for a very short introduction, and at 164 pages it is one of the longest ones that I had read. It could have used a fair amount of editing for content length.
If you are interested in some interesting philosophizing on the topic of beauty, then this book may appeal to you. However, this is far from being an authoritative and up-to-date account of our understanding of beauty as a concept. ...more
From some other reviews I've gathered that this is not the full original version of "There's a Wocket in My Pocket," but I don't find this to be a majFrom some other reviews I've gathered that this is not the full original version of "There's a Wocket in My Pocket," but I don't find this to be a major issue for me. I've never read the original, and only wanted to get a classic children's literature read for my infant son. Dr. Seuss's books are invariably playful, whimsical and charming, and this one is no exception. They can be a lot of fun to read. The little ones who are just learning to speak a playful rhyming sentences can be really attractive. Our son is still too young to fully understand what even the "regular" words mean, so we read him this book mostly in order to expose him to the very act of reading. For that purpose this small book is more than adequate. It's much smaller than most other board books that we own, and even the smallest infant can hold it relatively easily. It's also very durable and can withstand many months and years of infant abuse. A true treasure....more
Ever since I read “Singularity is Near” I’ve been fascinated by Ray Kurzweil – his wirings, ideas, a predictions. He’s not been afraid to go on the liEver since I read “Singularity is Near” I’ve been fascinated by Ray Kurzweil – his wirings, ideas, a predictions. He’s not been afraid to go on the limb and make some brave and seemingly outlandish forecasts about the upcoming technological advances and their oversize impact on people and society. One of the main reasons why I always found his predictions credible is that they can, in a nutshell, be reduced to just a couple of seemingly simple observations: 1. Information-technological advances are happening exponentially, and 2. Information technology in particular is driving all the other technological and societal changes. The rest, to put it rather crudely, are the details.
In “How to Create a Mind” Kurzweil zeroes in on just one scientific/technological project – creating a functioning replica of the human mind. He uses certain insights from information technology and neurology to propose his own idea of what human mind (and by extension human intelligence) are all about, and to propose how to go about emulating it “in silico.” Here too Kurzweil reduces a seemingly intractable problem that the humanity has grappled with for millennia to just a couple of overarching insights. In his view the essence of virtually all cognitive processes can be reduced to the scientific paradigm of “pattern recognition” – an ability of computational agent to identify and classify patterns. And the information theoretical and engineering tool for emulating the kind of pattern recognition that goes on in a mind is the mathematical technique called “hierarchical hidden Markov chains” (HHMS). What gives Kurzweil confidence about this insight and this kind of approach are the successes that he has had in starting and marketing companies which used HHMS for speech and character recognition. Many of these technologies and their derivatives have in recent years made it to the wide ranging set of consumer products (Apple’s Siri is just one such example), so it’s not surprising that Kurzweil would be feeling exceptionally confident about his insights. However, the history of computation and artificial intelligence is filled with examples of paradigms that seemed promising at one level of “thinking” complexity only to be proven ineffective at tacking more sophisticated problems. Furthermore, even though I am not an expert at neuroscience, Kurzweil’s descriptions of what goes on in an actual biological brain come across as not too sophisticated. He is obviously well informed on many neurobiological topics, far above what even a well-educated reader may know, but from what I know about biology the intricacies of the brain are still too complex to be reduced to a simple (simplistic?) model. Kurzweil may still turn out to be right about what he is proposing in this book (and if I had to bet I would loath to bet against him), but the evidence that he presents leaves a lot of potential gaps and pitfalls that would need a lot more convincing to completely bridge.
This is definitely a very well written book with a lot of interesting and though-provoking insights and predictions. Anyone interested in scientific and technological progress in the upcoming years and decades would greatly benefit from reading it, especially since it’s such an enjoyable book. I highly recommend it.
Weather has always been one of the most consequential and most unpredictable aspects of our World. The importance of weather on all facets of human liWeather has always been one of the most consequential and most unpredictable aspects of our World. The importance of weather on all facets of human life cannot be underestimated. Storms and hurricanes can have a huge impact, and even less dramatic weather patterns (such as droughts) are of enormous significance. It is no surprise that people have been trying to predict weather for as long as there are any records of civilization, and perhaps for much longer. However, aside from some folk wisdom and very rough rules of thumb, until very recently predicting weather has been little more than guesswork. Things started changing towards the end of the nineteenth century, when a combination of better understanding of the laws of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and overall weather patters convinced many scientists that weather forecasting is, in principle, within the reach of the scientific method. Implementing that vision has been far from easy though, and that program has had many obstacles that it needed to overcome.
“Invisible in the Storm” is the story of the development of modern scientific meteorology. In particular, it tells the story about the importance of mathematics and its use in solving the problem of weather. It turns out that the equations that we use to model the weather are very complicated and complex, and at best we can hope to have very approximate solutions. Early advances in the mathematical weather modeling had to rely more on some shorthand and general principles that could be judiciously applied to some already observed situations. The full exact solution of the weather equations will probably elude us forever, and even approximate solutions are almost impossible to construct. This is partly due to the phenomenon of “chaos” that has in fact first been widely studied and appreciated exactly in the context of the weather.
The alternative to the exact solutions was to use the numerical methods in which smooth functions are replaced by their “pixelated” equivalents. Numerical methods reduce the extremely complicated differential equations with somewhat less complicated and manageable sets of algebraic equations. However, even the simplest numerical methods involve thousands of variables and equations, and early attempts to solve those were nothing short of heroic. Furthermore, the solutions of those early numerical attempts were disastrous in terms of their accuracy. Numerical methods only gained traction with the advent of computers, and only within the last couple of decades were we able to make reasonably accurate predictions that go beyond a single day.
This is a thoroughly well written and researched book. If you were unfamiliar with the content of mathematical research in meteorology it would be an incredibly valuable resource and an introduction to this subject. The authors clearly understand their subject, both in terms of its content as well as the rich and interesting history. All of the more mathematically advanced topics are covered in separate boxes throughout the main text, and if higher math is not something that you are familiar with you can safely skip those. Nonetheless, you should be fairly well educated and versed in the scientific method in order to fully appreciate this book. ...more
Work seems to be one of the most important aspects of most of our lives, and we spend many years preparing for it, doing it, and stressing over it. HoWork seems to be one of the most important aspects of most of our lives, and we spend many years preparing for it, doing it, and stressing over it. However, most of us don’t get to reflect on what is the nature of work in its own right, and it may be surprising to realize that the regimented work and work schedule that we take for granted today is quite an exceptional and recent historical development.
This short introduction tries to put the notion of work in a broader historical and social context. The book covers several aspects of modern work environment, and shows how we’ve gotten to this point in the long history of work. It also covers some recent changes in the nature of work (telecommuting for instance), and it anticipates a few further developments in the upcoming years.
Unfortunately, this book is written from a very academic standpoint, and most of it is not even presented from the “soft” social science perspective. It is mostly based on pseudo-humanistic analysis that is so prevalent in the modern academia. It relies too much on neo-Marxism and cultural Marxism for the analysis and interpretation. Most of it is implicit, but there are a few very explicit invocation of Marxist terms and rhetoric. Aside from being very ideologically skewed, this approach has a concomitant problem of not being very useful. It approaches work and the work environment from the perspective of an ever-increasing field of complaints grievances, and victimhoods. Essentially you are being exploited, abused, or alienated if you are looking for work, not looking for work, not being able to find work, working, being underworked, being overworked, being under qualified, being overqualified, working in the office, working form home, working full time, working part time, if you are a woman, if you are a minority, and if you are retired. The 99% of us are victims (something that is stated quite explicitly in the closing pages of the book), work sucks, and it’s only probably going to get worse. I couldn’t have thought of a more depressing book and message on work. I would discourage anyone from reading this book, lest your whole attitude to work becomes irrevocably gloom and desperate. It’s not a good read, and it’s not even all that scholarly. I would have expected much better form the Oxford University Press. ...more
We all have many painful and even traumatic experiences in our lives, many of which come to shape us in ways that we are only partially aware of. TheyWe all have many painful and even traumatic experiences in our lives, many of which come to shape us in ways that we are only partially aware of. They end up influencing our relationships and interactions, and can significantly shape our entire outlook on the world. Most of us don’t have the courage or desire to speak about them even to people that we are closest to. Going out of our way to actually write about them and make them available to the wide audience takes a particular kind of inner strength. And in “Broken Pieces” Rachel Thompson does just that – she brings out some of the darkest and most traumatic experiences of her life and lays them out for the World to see.
As the title of this book suggests, the personal experiences explored in “Broken Pieces” and their impact on Rachel’s life are fragmented and disjointed. There are certain themes that join them, such as trust, intimacy and sexuality, but overall there is no overwhelming sense of what impact one experience may bare on the others – if any. Rachel is bearing her soul out, for all of us to see, and letting each one of us take away our own lessons that we find in these incidents. This book avoids being preachy and patronizing, which in itself is remarkable since these kinds of traumatic experiences are precisely the ones that are most often taken as the basis for some greater agenda. There is no hidden agenda in “Broken Pieces,” but a wealth of valuable life lessens that most of us will be fortunate enough not to have to go through ourselves.
The book is written as a series of fragmentary essays. The “narrative” (if it can be called that) jumps from one experience to another, often going back and forth in order to reinforce certain points. Thompson is a wonderful stylist, and the whole book is written in a very lyrical and poignant prose. This is not a book for leisure reading, but a powerful testament to the resilience and the indomitable nature of human spirit. Regardless of your own life path, there is a lot in this book that will inspire you and give you encouragement to come to terms with your own dark places. ...more
Getting sidetracked form our plans and initiatives is all too common of occurrences. Weather it’s not sticking to our New Year’s resolutions, or not fGetting sidetracked form our plans and initiatives is all too common of occurrences. Weather it’s not sticking to our New Year’s resolutions, or not following up with contacting an important business contact despite our best intentions to the contrary, we’ve all had to deal with not sticking up with our plans. Francesca Gino’s “Sidetracked” is a book that aims to help us stick to the plan by mining many deep and valuable psychological insights.
This is a thoroughly well researched and informative book. Gino possesses a wealth of well-constructed research and experience – both inside the university labs and in the business world. This book is filled with carefully explained studies that have taken many years to collect and establish, as well as many insights from the business consulting. The book is well written and engaging, and Gino takes great care to explain the mechanisms of her and her colleagues’ research in great detail. These are some of the best explained social science findings that I’ve come across in popular accounts, and anyone who has even the passing interest in psychology and social sciences in general would greatly benefit from reading this book. After reading it I have a much better appreciation for my own motivations, drives and blind spots, as well as those of others around me.
For all its great qualities, this book is not without some shortcomings. Most of the “real world” examples come from the business world (I guess this is not surprising for a book published by the Harvard Business Review Press) and oftentimes have more to do with big-scale corporate decision-making than with individual and personal decisions. Furthermore, I found it hard to see how some of the psychological insights and principles that were investigated throughout the book have direct bearing on getting sidetracked. Finally, this is really not a “self-help” book despite what its subtitle may suggest. The actual advice that it gives, or the concrete steps that it espouses, are minimal and usually relegated to just a couple of pages at the end of each chapter. Turning deep insights into concrete actionable advice has always been one of the most difficult tasks in any field, and I was hoping that this book would have done a better job of it.
This a smart, insightful, and very well written book that has a lot to offer to everyone who is interested in psychological underpinnings of our decision making. However, it has a somewhat limited value as a practical guide that can be immediately applied in our daily lives. ...more
This is a cute and well designed little book, aimed at toddlers as they learn their ABCs. We meet Babar and his family and friends - Celeste, AlexandeThis is a cute and well designed little book, aimed at toddlers as they learn their ABCs. We meet Babar and his family and friends - Celeste, Alexander, Flora, Zephyr - as they take us on the tour of the alphabet, one letter at a time. Each letter has an illustration and a short sentence associated with it. The sentences are alliterating to a large extent, with multiple words starting with the featured letter. The illustrations are neat, and are likely to appeal to the little ones. The book's pages are all made out of sturdy cardboard, which will help it withstand years of abuse by the eager little hands (and feet, teeth, etc.) Or so we hope. :) ...more
Aung San Suu Kyi is a remarkable figure. She is a peaceful fighter for her country’s freedom, a winner of the Noble Peace Prize, and an inspiration toAung San Suu Kyi is a remarkable figure. She is a peaceful fighter for her country’s freedom, a winner of the Noble Peace Prize, and an inspiration to many around the globe who yearn for freedom from all sorts of oppressions. She seems to be the rightful heir to some other giants of the non-violent struggle in recent times, notably Marthin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi. She is equally admired for her determination and resilience, as well as the simple and unassuming charisma that she has exhibited over the course of almost quarter of a century of involvement in Burmese politics.
This is a very well written and detailed book about the life of Aung San Suu Kyi – the “Lady” from the title – and to the much lesser extent about the Burmese pro-democracy party that she is heading – the “peacock.” The book covers some of the lesser-known aspects of Suu Kyi’s life, including parts of her private life that have been hinted at in the media but have in large part remained hidden. In fact, it’s the personal aspects of her struggle that I find the most heart-rending and painful to read about. The sacrifice of separation form her family and the inability to be at her husband’s side during his dying days would have been too much to bear for anyone.
Even though Suu Kyi is by any account a heroic figure, it remains unclear how effective her tactics have been in bringing the change and reform to Burma. Popham paints a very sympathetic picture of her political engagement, but after reading this book I am left feeling that Suu Kyi might lack the savvy and political shrewdness necessary to be an effective agent of change. However, this is all very speculative as the political situation in Burma can often defy all rational expectations.
Even though this is a very interesting and readable book, it is not without a couple of shortcomings. For one, Suu Kyi herself, primarily due to her severe isolation, been able to contribute much direct material for a biography of this kind. Most of the material on which the book was based comes from second- and third-hand sources. Furthermore, the arrangement of the material does not follow a strictly linear progression in time. The narrative jumps back and forth a couple of times, which can be mildly annoying.
Overall, I really liked this book but I really hope that one day Suu Kyi will be able to write an autobiography – and one with a very happy ending despite all the travails she had gone through. ...more
The last couple of decades, and the more recent years in particular, have seen a remarkable advances and achievements in all fields of consumer technoThe last couple of decades, and the more recent years in particular, have seen a remarkable advances and achievements in all fields of consumer technology. Hardly a day passes without a news article about some new breakout gadget, website, or software being launched. The struggle in the market for the hearts and minds of the increasingly tech-savvy and interconnected users is assuming, with only a slight exaggeration, epic proportions. At stake are not only new markets and new product opportunities, but the very nature of how we live, work and interact with each other. And yet, at the core of these “digital wars” are just a handful of companies that exert an oversize influence on the rest of the tech sector. Three of these – Apple, Google, and Microsoft – have by now become the defining and dominant players, and this book explores their rise over the past fifteen years (or in the case of Microsoft a gradual decline and struggle for relevance).
There have been many books written about each one of these three tech giants, but this is the first one that I know of which explores their interactions and strategic maneuvers with the respect to the others. The book is written in a very accessible journalistic style, but it still manages to go in depth when needed explaining certain relevant technological terms and concepts. The author clearly understands the relevant technological trends and the ways that these companies have managed to capitalize on those – or not. Although I am a huge fan of technology and follow these companies and their products much more closely than the average person, this book was still able to provide me with a lot of new information and insights.
I would have liked, thought, that in addition to the three giants this book covered a few more “minor” players in the tech arena. Amazon and Facebook in particular come to mind, as well as a host of other interesting companies whose products and services are having a major impact on the way I work, interact and amuse myself – Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Netflix, etc. I would have also liked that instead of focusing on companies this book dealt more with the tech trends in their own right. Granted, many of these trends are single-handedly defined (or used to be defined) by the three profiled companies (search and Google, smartphone and Apple), but I think that the broader approach would have been more informative and provided us with an idea of what we can expect in the next decade or so of high-tech innovation.
Weather you are a seasoned tech-aficionado or just someone who is interested in learning more about the most prominent tech giants of today, this book will have a lot to offer. But you might want to hurry and read it very soon – many of the trends and insights from this book may become dated already a year form now, if not sooner. ...more
I am a huge fan of social media and use it constantly for promoting my content and personal brand. Social media is a multifaceted beast, and there areI am a huge fan of social media and use it constantly for promoting my content and personal brand. Social media is a multifaceted beast, and there are as many uses of it as there are people who engage with it. For companies and other organizations it has been a very mixed bag. For the most part they’ve struggled to understand how social media can help them with the traditional marketing objectives – brand exposure, lead generation, conversion, etc. There are currently hundreds of books out there that try to teach you about social media, but most of them are more fluff then substance. This is decidedly not the case with “How to Measure Social Media.” It is by far the most substantive and to-the-point book on the subject that I’ve come across.
Most of the book deals with the rationale and the effectiveness of various approaches to the social media. It explains very clearly how to go about your goals and how to persuade the executive team in your company to approve and invest in various forms of social media marketing. I found the last couple of chapters very useful in particular as they give examples of various software packages and services that can help you with your social media strategies. Most of these are geared towards the use by large corporations, but there is also a chapter on how to use a particular low-cost alternative. The book is very critical of various aspects of these services, and it tries to give you the best information on what really works for your social media purposes.
This book is clearly geared towards the use of social media for in large businesses. I would have liked more info on the use with small businesses, non-profit organizations, or individuals who are trying to build their own social brand. Some of the insights and techniques in this book can be extrapolated to those situations as well, but for the most part they would be an overkill.
If you are involved with the marketing strategy for a medium to a large company then this book is a must. Today you cannot afford to ignore the social media, nor can you afford to experiment and improvise with the social media strategy. This book will provide you with important insights and ideas that will greatly help you and your company with devising a measurable social media strategy.
This is a really cool and eminently educational book for your toddler. It covers some of the most important early words that any child should learn –This is a really cool and eminently educational book for your toddler. It covers some of the most important early words that any child should learn – body parts, colors, animals, modes of transportation, people. It is instructive and all of the illustrations are nice and clear. The book is durable and sturdy, and it will survive (at least for a while) an attack of any aggressive infant.
On Amazon’s website the book is marked to be appropriate for the 2-5 age range, but on the cover it indicates a 0+ age, i.e. it could potentially be used even with the newborns. It’s unlikely that the newborns will be able to understand much, and quite unlikely that they will learn any of the words, but the experience of looking and holding a book can be a valuable early learning lesson in its own right.
We really like this book and would strongly recommend it to all parents who are looking to teach their kids their first words. ...more
The recent revolution in electronic publishing has brought the prospect of being published to the widest possible audience possible. It is now possiblThe recent revolution in electronic publishing has brought the prospect of being published to the widest possible audience possible. It is now possible more than ever before in history for all of us to become authors, to distribute our works to the public, and earn some money in the process. However, the biggest obstacle that most authors face is their inability to actually attract readers and buyers. The technical problems of distribution, and even of writing and editing of manuscripts, have by and large been resolved. The book marketing, unfortunately, has proven to be a much bigger challenge.
“100 Small Fires …” is a very useful and informative small resource for authors. Whether you are self published or have been published through and established publishing house, you will need all the help that you can muster in promoting your book. “100 Small Fires …” gives you many good ideas on how to go about it. Many are by now very familiar to most aspiring authors (such as building your online and social media presence), but there are many others that are unusual and creative. I found all of these suggestions interesting enough, although quite a few felt a bit gimmicky. My favorite suggestion was to try to make an audio version of your book – with accessible recording devices, it is now easier than ever before to make your own audiobook. The audiobook market is still very much low on content, and if you can make an audiobook that appeals to a wide audience and sell it at a substantially higher price than your ebook, then you could really distinguish yourself and make a lot of money in the process.
“100 Small Fires …” is very good at giving you an estimate of the total cost of each of these promotional tricks and strategies. Unfortunately, when it comes to actually assessing how effective any one of them is, it falls short. Even if you had all the money in the world and could spend it at all of these “fires,” it probably wouldn’t be such a good idea to actually do so. I wish we could have been given a better assessment of effectiveness of various strategies, but that would have probably required a substantially more in-depth analysis. ...more
The global economic and financial crisis that started in 2008 is the worst such crisis in almost eighty years, and its end is nowhere in sight. It hasThe global economic and financial crisis that started in 2008 is the worst such crisis in almost eighty years, and its end is nowhere in sight. It has affected everyone, and its repercussions are still being debated and studied. In recent couple of years the particularly troubling aspect of that crisis – the crisis in the finances of the Eurozone – has been grabbing the headlines and creating a lot of uncertainty in markets and economies around the world. It is hard to keep track of all that is happening in European financial world, and even harder to detangle the complex set of circumstances and events that lead to the situation that we are in right now. That’s where “Europe’s Financial Crisis” comes in handy – it is a relatively short yet well researched book that provides a coherent and sensible explanation of the crisis in Europe thus far.
This book is organized in chapters that are mostly an expended version of articles that the author had written. They nonetheless form a cohesive whole and a coherent story. Each chapter is followed with the links to the further resources. The writing is eminently clear and accessible, and I found myself eager to pick this book up and hard for me to put it down. Many of the main problems that I’ve been reading about for months have started to make much more sense – in particular why Euro has been such a controversial currency all along, and why it’s so hard for the governments of various European countries to agree on how the best to prop up the weaker Euro area economies. After reading this book I am much more convinced that Euro, despite its many flaws, will most probably survive. Its survival seems to be the least undesirable outcome out of many unpalatable options for everyone concerned.
Even thought his book primarily deals with the crisis in Europe, the nature of modern Finance is such that no region can be viewed in isolation. The book provides a brief overview of the financial troubles in the US, not least because this is where the current economic woes have had its origin. The book also elucidates some really interesting insights about the US financial markets. These have had a remarkable string of successes in recent months, but as this book clearly shows the major US financial indexes have hardly moved from their 2009 lows when compared to the price of gold or some other much less inflated measures. This is a very troubling insight, and it shows that this crisis is far from over even in the US.
If you are looking for a very informative look at the main issues with the current European economic and financial woes, then this short book is an excellent resource. No single book will probably ever be capable of answering all the most pressing questions, but this one at least gives some understanding of all the main issues that are at stake. ...more
Ancient Rome is one of the most famous and most reflected upon topics in all of history. In many respects modern historiography is to a large extent bAncient Rome is one of the most famous and most reflected upon topics in all of history. In many respects modern historiography is to a large extent been influenced by the study of the classical period, and Rome in particular. Furthermore, Rome has influenced many artistic works; from Shakespeare’s plays to the HBO miniseries to name just a couple that immediately spring to mind. There is no shortage of books and other resources on this topic. Even so, David Gwynn’s very short introduction to the Roman Republic stands out. It is a very lucid, cogent, and interesting book that can serve as a great source of information on this topic for the modern readers. In particular, it focuses on the Republic, the part of Roman history that has been understood, both by the Romans themselves and the modern historians and interpreters, as the most noble and politically advanced period in the life of Rome.
This book, as the name suggests, covers the republican era of the Roman history: from the end of the Roman kingdom until the beginning of the Roman Empire. It is a period during which Rome has risen from a small state in the Apennine peninsula to the status of the World power that dominated the Mediterranean and much of the continental Europe as well. The book provides some very interesting new insights that I have not come across before. For me the most intriguing insights are the ones that make explicit the degree to which concepts of “dignitas” and “gloria” pervaded the thinking and decision-making of the Roman politicians and other leaders. The latter one in particular, according to Gwynn, was one of the major driving forces behind the Rome’s militarized and expansionistic policies, and it had in the end lead to the fall of the Republic.
This is a very enjoyable and interesting book, and one that every true history buff would be well advised to consider. It is one of my favorite titles in the “Very Short Introduction” series. I highly recommend it. ...more
Several alien spaceships have visited Earth at some point in the late twentieth century. Their landing sites seem to have been chosen at random, and dSeveral alien spaceships have visited Earth at some point in the late twentieth century. Their landing sites seem to have been chosen at random, and during their visit they made almost no attempt at contact with humans. When they finally left, their landing sites were permanently altered and “polluted” with various artifacts and substances, and the sites themselves exhibit many strange and troubling behaviors. In the years and decades following the aliens’ departure a vast array of scholars, scientists, technology experts, military interests, and black market opportunists tried to make sense of the visit and leverage the landing sites for their own varying interests. However, exploring the sites was always a very risky activity, and those who dared to venture within their carefully guarded perimeters frequently exposed themselves to harmful and often lethal consequences. These landing site visits, however brief, had impact not only on the explorers, but also subsequently on almost everyone who the explorers came in touch with.
This short Sci Fi novel reduces the subgenre of the alien visit to its most basic elements: the landing sites themselves, mysterious left-over artifacts, and the fundamental and irrevocable change that this visit has brought upon the human civilization. Within this minimalistic setup it is still possible to extract a surprising amount of narrative richness and human and intellectual drama. The main protagonist, Redrick “Red” Schuhart, is a hard-nosed “stalker” – an opportunistic and illegal rummager of the visitation zones – who is trying to make the most of his ability to extract valuable artifacts and sell them on the black market. Red is an almost prototypical antihero who is nonetheless guided by some high-minded principles and moral standard. This moral probity particularly comes into play in his relationship with his own family. He tries his hardest to protect them and help them out, especially since they have incurred a personal tragedy due to Red’s involvement with the visitation zone.
This is a very deep and richly psychological book. Readers accustomed to the more western-style science fiction may find it more philosophical than what they are accustomed to reading. The “Roadside Picnic” nonetheless has a very well developed plot and nuanced and believable characters. This is science fiction at its best – good writing, rich plotline, and deep, potentially open-ended, questions and problems that it grapples with. ...more
Trust is one of those fundamental concepts that all of us take more or less for granted. It is essential glue that binds all functional relationships,Trust is one of those fundamental concepts that all of us take more or less for granted. It is essential glue that binds all functional relationships, and thanks to trust it is possible to live in incredibly complex societies with many oftentimes very competitive interests and yet be reasonably assured of one’s safety. However, once we start probing the nature of trust deeper, we realize how nuanced the notion of trust it really is. It involves much more than mare factual accuracy, knowledge, and it’s not restricted to individual human beings, but it has a much wider scope.
In “Trust: A Very Short Introduction” Katherine Hawley takes on a wide-ranging tour of trust, as it is best understood today. The book focuses on cultural, psychological, and philosophical questions that are relevant for the deeper understanding of this concept. The book is fairly detailed for such a short introduction, but it still manages to be accessible and informative for a wide range of readers. Hawley is an engaging and well-informed writer, and this book was definitely a pleasure to read. It is one of the better such book in this “Very Short Introduction” series. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic of trust, as well as most other curious readers who want to broaden their intellectual horizons. ...more