I got this book as a gift from other Star Wars fans at the office. It is a funny compendium of facts about the Star Wars universe, presented as infogrI got this book as a gift from other Star Wars fans at the office. It is a funny compendium of facts about the Star Wars universe, presented as infographics. Some is mildly interesting, some is rather far-fetched, some is completely bogus. Makes a nice present for any Star Wars fan. ...more
The book has three parts: Tolkien's "The Story of Kullervo" itself, essays he wrote on the Finnish Kalevala, and a final essay by editor Verlyn FliegeThe book has three parts: Tolkien's "The Story of Kullervo" itself, essays he wrote on the Finnish Kalevala, and a final essay by editor Verlyn Flieger on how Tolkien drew inspiration from Finnish stories.
In "The Story of Kullervo" Tolkien is giving his own rendition of the story of Kullervo from the Kalevala, adding his own touches. Just like Elias Lönnrot first collected Finnish stories in the early 19th Century and synthesized them, taking some creative liberties, Tolkien is going a step further, re-imagining some of the names and streamlining the plot somewhat. He is not aiming for an authentic rendition of the Finnish of Kullervo, but rather he is expressing how the story resonated in his mind, how it fired up his imagination, how he saw it unfolding.
The essays are two versions of talks Tolkien gave at Oxford about the Kalevala and Finnish lore. In them, you can feel how Tolkien essentially fell in love with a certain version of Finnish culture.
I am very fond of these poems. page 99
He extolls the uniqueness of the material in the Kalevala and the quaint charm of the folklore from Finland. These stories go hand-in-hand with the landscape of Finland, its language, and the singing tradition in which they are told. We get to see the genesis of Tolkien's narrative style and especially the oddity that is the character of Tom Bombadil in The Lord of the Rings. With his magic based in songs and his love and dominion over his domain in the Old Forest, he looks like Tolkien's re-imagining of Väinämöinen.
Also, his description of the nature of the Finnish language reminded me of a French children' song that describe the processing of wool. The song playfully changes the proper termination of words just to make them rhyme. For example:
Tondons, tondaine La laine des moutaines Tondons, tondaine La laine des moutons
The words "tondaine" and "moutaines" do not exist in French. They are transformations of "tondons" (to shear) and "moutons" (sheep) made especially for the song to make them rhyme with "laine" (wool). In this simple nursery rhyme, I think French speakers can find a small taste of the playful sound of the Finnish runos that make up the Kalevala.
The final essay by editor Verlyn Flieger traces the lineage for how the Finnish Kullervo leads to Tolkien's "The Story of Kullervo", which leads to The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. She clearly traces how elements of Kullervo become part of the story of Túrin Turambar in The Silmarillion, down to the speech from his sword before he dies. She also postulates on how some of these elements also resonate with Tolkien's own life: he lost his father and then his mother at a young age, he was fostered by relatives, and he was at first kept away from the girl he loved.
I will end with last quote:
... all obey the great Rule of the Game in the Kalevala which is to tell at least three lies before imparting any accurate information however trivial. It had become I think a kind of formula of polite behaviour, for no one seems to believe you until your fourth statement (which you modestly preface with 'all the truth I now tell you, though at first I lied a little'). page 82
The first half is all exposition and a little too thick on forced drama. The action is too short and unsatisfying. The villain is quite one dimensionaThe first half is all exposition and a little too thick on forced drama. The action is too short and unsatisfying. The villain is quite one dimensional....more
This book and Clean Code by Robert C. Martin have a lot in common but address it in different ways. While the later is more practical with lots of examples and case studies, this one reads more like The Book of Five Rings: here's a piece of advice, go think about it carefully....more
After reading a few articles by DHH on Medium, I figured I'd look at his books.
This book is about both running an distributed organization and workingAfter reading a few articles by DHH on Medium, I figured I'd look at his books.
This book is about both running an distributed organization and working for one. Companies need to go after the best talent, wherever it is, and not limit themselves to the local talent pool. Employees need to look for the best opportunities, wherever they are, and not limit themselves to local employers. Today's technology can really make remote work happen.
Much like Rework, it reads like another collection of opinions, delivered in rapid succession, with little connective tissue. Don't get me wrong, these opinions appeal are very appealing to me and I would love to put them to the test. I was just hoping for more depth.
Early in the book, when describing the downsides of office life and trying to motivate people to try working remotely, a lot of the advice boils down to "if something doesn't work for you, change it for another." Whether it's an employee, your job, your boss, you name it. For many people, it is easier said than done, especially of your have many constraints.
I liked the bit about becoming more productive by having fewer M&Ms. That's meetings and managers, not the candy. It definitely brought me back to my early days at Google where they had few managers on purpose and counted on contributors to self-organize and self-manage and decide how to best get work done.
When discussing hiring remote workers, they look for character and a proven ability to do the work, and less for credentials. They also referenced guerrilla hiring from Joel Spolsky: make sure the candidate is smart and gets things done. They put more importance of the cover letter and test project, then on the resume, kinda like contacting.
There are times when the writing just becomes trite. Like this passage:
It won't be easy, but lots of things that are worth doing aren't easy. It just takes commitment, discipline, and, most important, faith that it's all going to work out. (page 179)
Because of the lack of depth, a lot of the advice boils down to taking the authors on faith. Since they only have one data point to support their ideas, this is a lot to ask for....more
After reading a few articles by DHH on Medium, I figured I'd look at his books.
This book is about the corporate culture at 37signals and how it differAfter reading a few articles by DHH on Medium, I figured I'd look at his books.
This book is about the corporate culture at 37signals and how it differs from traditional top-down structures that try to plan everything. I was hoping it would resonates with what I experienced at Google.
Medium articles are great for a quick read that will introduce some new idea or concept. They are great for reading during the commute or during a short break. But they don't work as well for me for going deep in a topic or for doing long-form coverage, where the author can explore all aspects of a subject. I was hoping this book would be the authors' long-form into their ideas about company culture. Instead, I got what felt more like a quickly put together collection of their Medium articles. It gets a little rant-sy at times and foaming-at-the-mouth, so to speak. A lot of the advice goes against accepted norms (which isn't bad in itself) but can come across as reckless. There are many instances where a little more context would help guide the reader, instead of the generic jump-in-the-deep-end-and-figure-it-out-it-will-be-okay-it-worked-for-me.
As the book wore on, the advice kept getting more and more anecdotal and reckless. The tiny chapter structure felt like the book suffered from ADHD. The authors would simply spew out whatever they happened to think about a given topic, without taking the time to think it through.
I like books that question preconceptions. But I am less fond of books that act like a Michael Crichton novel. Crichton has a habit of taking a new-ish or fringe idea and claiming that all other opinions are ignorant and wrong because he knows so much better. This book sometimes felt like that. The authors have been successful with their method at 37signals. But they only have one data point on which to base their opinion. How much of their success is really due to their revolutionary insights versus just a stroke of luck? Without repeating the experiment multiple times, you cannot really tell. However, it is very easy to delude ourselves into thinking we are geniuses, especially in the absence of contrary evidence.
Fried and DHH never really make a point. They fire quick quips in rapid succession, more in an attempt to drive something home than to shore it up. It doesn't mean their ideas are wrong, but the the constant pounding gets annoying in the long run....more
This book shows how to apply principles from psychology and cognitive science when building user interfaces that are used by humans. Unfortunately, thThis book shows how to apply principles from psychology and cognitive science when building user interfaces that are used by humans. Unfortunately, the author only has had limited exposure to psychology, so his knowledge lacks depth. He can point to research and quote various researchers, but it feels more by rote than internalized and comprehensive understanding. This is immediately apparent in the preface and shows up periodically along the book.
I appreciated the quick tour of psychological concepts. It gives many pointers for things to read further.
decisions with an uncertain outcome
how to influence the decisions of others
persuasion, with a focus on ELM
These models clearly appeals to the author, but he could do a better job of convincing his readers that they are worthwhile models. It is not clear to the lay person whether these models are gaining traction in the psychology/behavior community. The way the author uses them to solve design issues reads more like a list of \"life hacks\".
Each concept is treated on its own, with few connections to each other. The formula for each chapter quickly becomes tedious. The author should have connected or contrasted the material on persuasion with the other psychological principles in the book. The case study near the end was a missed opportunity to tie the elements of the book together. They are hastily put together and rapidly glossed over, with too much focus on what was used and not enough on what was left out or why it didn't apply in that context.
The author also places a lot of value (to much, in my opinion) on having researchers drive the user testing. Yes, professionals will get you the very best results, but there is a lot you can do on your own and still get a much value.
In summary, the book is an interesting list of pointers for further research.