Surprisingly short, Click is a Gladwell-y book, which I am a known sucker for. It covers the "magical" feeling of really connecting wiyh someone. TheSurprisingly short, Click is a Gladwell-y book, which I am a known sucker for. It covers the "magical" feeling of really connecting wiyh someone. The first part of the book is about when people are likely to click: vulnerability, proximity, resonance (or "flow"), similarity (quantity, not quality!), and a safe space. The second and shorter part covers the benefits of clicking, which seemed pretty obvious: you're happier and perform better.
The book has interesting real-life examples and studies. Paper copy, so it's available for borrowing....more
The book had some very cool visualizations. It left me a little unsatisfied...I guess what I really wanted was some code to get started, but instead mThe book had some very cool visualizations. It left me a little unsatisfied...I guess what I really wanted was some code to get started, but instead most chapters only vaguely discussed how to make their visualization. But if you're just looking for cool visualizations, this is the book for you! (minus the last two or three chapters)
Also, the book is quite expensive as it's full color throughout. Paper copy, available for borrowing....more
This book was interesting in parts but very long. I guess I'm not as interested in early history, because I enjoyed everything from 1600 on more. TherThis book was interesting in parts but very long. I guess I'm not as interested in early history, because I enjoyed everything from 1600 on more. There were definitely some good popes, but there were also a lot of bad ones - it was surprisingly common to use the position for personal gain (making nephews cardinals and such), although this stopped around the 1800s.
While Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) was against Nazism by the start of World War II, the author presents pretty good evidence that he was anti-Semitic, and he spoke out against the Holocaust much later and more mildly than he should have. Indeed, when the SS sent some Jews from Rome itself to Auschwitz he did not speak out against it, nor did he ever apologize.
It sounds like John Paul II was a pretty good pope - he certainly did a lot of good for Catholicism's image, although he missed an opportunity to review old Catholic teachings on the ordination of women, birth control, and gays. Sad.
- Best part of the book - the papal conclave of 1159. All but three of the 30 members voted for Cardinal Roland. One of the three, though, was the pro-imperialist Cardinal Octavian. Just as they were about to crown Roland with the papal mantle, Octavian lunged at him, snatched the mantle and tried to put it on himself. A scuffle ensued, during which his chaplain produced another mantle (clearly indicating this had been planned), and Octavian put it on (backwards), ran to the throne, and proclaimed himself Pope Victor IV. He then ran off and ordered some clergy to acclaim him as Pope.
This lead to a schism for a good while. There were 30 such "antipopes" throughout history...although it's been over 500 years since the last one!
- One of the only popes to abdicate (in 1292), Celestine V was encouraged to do so by Cardinal Benedetto Caetani, who "introduced a secret speaking tube" into Celestine's cell and "simulated" the voice of God telling him to resign or face eternity in Hell. Then Caetani became the next Pope (Boniface VIII)...so I guess that worked out for him!
- In 1329, supporters of German King Louis IV (who opposed the pope) formally condemned a straw effigy of Pope John XXII (attired in full dress). As the author dryly notes, "This bizarre performance did little to enhance the reputation of either emperor or antipope"...
- For a brief while in 1409 there were three popes! The successor of one, John XXIII "reduced the Papacy to a level of depravity unknown since the days of the pornocracy in the tenth century". Apparently he seduced at least two hundred women, "to say nothing of an alarming number of nuns"...
- Pope Alexander VI (1492) fathered eight children by three different women. And he made five family members cardinals!
I enjoyed the book on balance, but 2000 years of history is really a lot to cover....more
Poor Economics is about the world's poor (living on the equivalent of 99 cents a day, not including housing) and how best to help them. There are bas Poor Economics is about the world's poor (living on the equivalent of 99 cents a day, not including housing) and how best to help them. There are basically two broad schools of thought on how to help: for example, in education one group (the "supply wallahs") says we just need to get kids into schools with good teachers, and the rest will take care of itself. (i.e. ensuring the supply of education will solve the problem) The other group (the "demand wallahs") says there's no point in doing this if the parents don't believe there's value in education, and it's a waste of money (and possibly screws up the free market) to spend aid dollars on it.
It should come as no surprise that people generally are in one group or the other based on ideology. This book was written by the cofounders of the Poverty Action Lab, which conducts randomized control trials to actually figure out what ways of helping the poor are the most effective.
One of the big questions is whether a "poverty trap" exists with respect to a particular issue. A "poverty trap" means that if you're stuck at a very low income level, there's no good way to increase your income without getting an infusion of cash. "Supply wallahs" generally believe that poverty traps exist, and giving aid will help people get out of the trap and support themselves, while "demand wallahs" generally believe that poverty traps don't exist and aid will be wasted.
Now, to randomly call out parts I found interesting: (yay for Kindle highlighting!) - A nutrition poverty trap would be if people were hungry enough to make them weak and unable to work, and thus spiral down into making less and less income. This does not seem to be the case for most adults, as when the poor get more money to spend on food they tend to spend it on better-tasting calories instead of more calories, thus indicating that they weren't seriously short on calories in the first place. However, getting proper nutrients to children is a problem, and giving away food with lots of nutrients does make children develop better. Each year of improved nutrition for a child increases their average income as an adult. - Malaria is a serious problem in a lot of poor countries, and one simple preventative measure is to sleep under a bed net to keep out mosquitos. Poor people seem to realize this is a generally good idea, but bed nets are rather expensive (equivalent of $10) and the effects are hard to see immediately. (it's hard to quantify _not_ getting sick in the short term) Poor people, like all of us, are prone to procrastination in these sorts of circumstances, and so giving away bed nets does help to break the cycle. In fact, after being given a free bed net, they're more likely to buy one at full price when given the opportunity later. More developed societies have lots of ways to force us to do things that are good for us but that we might put off otherwise - for example, schooling is mandatory for children, and vaccination is mandatory to enroll in school; our drinking water is chlorinated for us; and our sewage is piped away. This lessens our cognitive load so we don't constantly have to make important decisions and fight the urge to procrastinate. Research has shown that we have a limited supply of willpower that gets drained when we have to have decisions, and it's no surprise it's harder to make good ones when you have to make them all the time. - In Brazil, the state doesn't promote family planning, but when telenovelas (soap operas) with female characters with small families (none or one child) first became available in an area, the number of births would drop dramatically. - Microfinance does help people make money, but the effects weren't as radical as many had hoped. - A study in Uganda showed that only 13 percent of money allocated by the government for schools actually was received by the schools. (presumably the rest was lost to corruption, etc.) This, of course, is depressing and is why some think most foreign aid is useless without good governmental institutions. However, these results were reported in Uganda and there was an uproar, and when the study was repeated 5 years later, the number was up to 80 percent, showing that just having people care about corruption can be powerful in itself.
There's more good stuff in the book, but I'm all summarized out. You can read more about it at the book's website pooreconomics.com....more
I have a secret desire to found a technology startup, which probably comes from reading too much Hacker News. I'm pretty happy with my current job, anI have a secret desire to found a technology startup, which probably comes from reading too much Hacker News. I'm pretty happy with my current job, and I don't think I'd actually handle the stress of doing a startup very well, so I doubt it will ever happen. But reading books like this push me towards it. It makes running a startup sound so exciting! (and skips over the long discouraging parts)
This is a collection of anecdotes about founding, running, and eventually selling CDBaby. It's a very quick read, and it's entertaining. My favorite section:
My friend Sara has run a small online business out of her living room for twelve years. It's her whole life. She takes it very, very personally.
Last week, one of her clients sent her a ten-page-long scathing email, chopping her down, calling her a scam artist and issuing other vicious personal insults, and saying she was going to sue Sara for everything she's worth as retribution for the client's mishandled account.
Devastated, Sara turned off her computer and cried. She shut off the phones and closed up shop for the day. She spent the whole weekend in bed wondering if she should just give up. Thinking maybe every insult in this client's letter was true, and she's actually no good at what she does, even after twelve years.
On Sunday, she spent about five hours - most of the day - carefully addressing every point in this ten-page email; then she went through the client's website, learning everything about her, and offered all kinds of advice, suggestions, and connections. Sara refunded the client's money, plus an additional $50, with gushing deep apologies for ever having upset someone she was honestly trying to help.
The next day, she called the client to try to talk through the situation with her.
The client cheerfully took her call and said, "Oh, don't worry about it! I wasn't actually that upset. I was just in a bad mood, and didn't think anyone would read my email anyway."
When we yell at our car or our coffee machine, it's fine because they're just mechanical appliances.
So when we yell at a website or a company, using our computer or our phone, we forget that it's not an appliance but a person that's affected.
It's dehumanizing to have thousands of people passing through our computer screens, so we do things we'd never do if those people were sitting next to us.
It's too overwhelming to remember that at the end of every computer is a real person, a lot like you, whose birthday was last week, who has three best friends but nobody to spoon at night, and who is personally affected by what you say.
Even if you remember it right now, will you remember it next time you're overwhelmed, or perhaps never forget it again?
Anyway, I'd recommend it if you're at all interested in startups, or reliving the dot-com era. (which is kinda coming back these days! so...yeah)...more
This is a collection of interesting neurological cases. Dr. Sacks goes into some detail about the case and what the underlying cause might be. The booThis is a collection of interesting neurological cases. Dr. Sacks goes into some detail about the case and what the underlying cause might be. The book can be a bit depressing at times because there often is very little he can do to help the patient, and it can feel a bit disjointed - the cases are roughly grouped together, but there's not usually much in common between them. But all in all it was a good read.
59 Seconds is a self-help book with a twist - it talks about being happy, etc. but it does so based on a bunch of studies, kinda like Poor Economics.59 Seconds is a self-help book with a twist - it talks about being happy, etc. but it does so based on a bunch of studies, kinda like Poor Economics. (liking these kinds of books is like liking science!) It covers a lot of different areas - here are the most interesting things I found: - After experiencing a traumatic event, talking about it doesn't generally help, but writing about it does. (possibly because writing lets you organize your thoughts and create a narrative) - As an exercise, writing down five things a day you're grateful for makes you a happier, more optimistic, and healthier person. - Not exactly new news, but buying experiences makes you happier than buying things, possibly because looking back you tend to remember them fondly, as opposed to things which you get used to and decay over time. - In children, low self-esteem tends to cause materialism. - If you're presenting good news and bad news (or, in the case of lawyers, a strong argument and a weak argument), it's better to present the bad news before the good news. - Favors are most effective (in affecting moods and establishing friendships) when they're small but thoughtful. If the favor is too big, it can create uncomfortable pressure to reciprocate. - Convincing yourself to work on something for "just a few minutes" is a good technique for beating procrastination. - Eating half a meal at normal speed and then slowing down to half speed can dramatically reduce your appetite, crazily enough! - Having shrubs and trees around seems to reduce crime in an area. (yes, the study was properly controlled) - Going on a date? Choose an activity that's exciting and causes your date's heart rate to rise, and he/she'll think it's because he/she likes you. (I believe this falls under the "slightly evil" category of tips) - To make a complicated choice, it's best to think about it for a while and then switch to another mentally-intensive activity, like working on anagrams or something. Apparently this is a good way to get your subconscious to do your work for you! - Praise children for trying hard, not for being smart, lest they get demotivated whenever they run into something tough. - Putting a mirror in front of someone when presenting him/her with different food choices results in a 32% reduction in unhealthy food consumption.
Anyway, the book was good and dense, but I think I'm ready to move on from the self-help genre for a while....more
The summary is a bit NSFWish, so here goes: The authors' main thesis is that the standard narrative of human sexuality and how itery interesting book.
The summary is a bit NSFWish, so here goes: The authors' main thesis is that the standard narrative of human sexuality and how it evolved is totally wrong. The standard narrative goes something like this: A woman want to mate with a man who has a lot of resources and is monogamous with her, so when she gives birth the man will help her raise the child. Men want to mate with as many women as possible to spread his genetic material around, and he wants exclusivity with the women to be sure that the children they're raising are his. This results in a "mixed strategy" of pair-bonding - one man, one woman.
A lot of the book is dedicated to tearing down this narrative. They talk about the "Flintstonization" of prehistory - the tendency to take the culture of today and project it into the past. They also talk about some studies and books that have been written that support the narrative and tear them down a bit.
Of course, it's a bit hard to say what human culture was like before the advent of agriculture, but we can examine chimpanzees and bonobos (our closest ape ancestors), as well as primitive cultures today. In most models of human nature, chimpanzees are considered to be closest to humans, but bonobos (who were one of the last mammals to be studied in their natural habitat) are just as close. Bonobos and humans are the only species that have nonreproductive sex.
Anyway, I'll jump to the punchline: their model proposes that our prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were not monogamous at all, or even polygynous (one male, multiple females), but there was a lot of multimale-multifemale mating. This helped to solidify social relationships within tribes. (no group-living nonhuman primate is monogamous) The parental involvement "problem" wasn't as much an issue, because if a women has a child and has had sex with a lot of men in the tribe, then they don't know which one is actually the father and they all feel responsible for raising the child.
Under this model, Darwinian competition for mates is replaced with sperm competition - some of the chemicals in ejaculate seem designed to kill/prevent other sperm from fertilizing the egg.
So their point is that monogamy is certainly possible for humans, but the way we evolved makes it "unnatural" and very hard to do. Which is no huge surprise, given the myriad examples of adultery we hear about.
I always feel like I'm selling a book short a bit when I write a review, and this is especially true in this case. It's very interesting, and has a surprisingly breezy and entertaining tone. (despite the fact that I knew nothing about evolutionary psychology) Highly recommended!...more