Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Willpower Instinct
(Kelly McGonigal, 8:26)
I've never read books written by twin siblings before, but Kelly McGonigal's book is almost as good as her identical twin sister Jane's Reality is Broken. Kelly's topic is the psychology of doing things that aren't instinctive. I particularly enjoyed learning about the paradoxical impact of celebrating successes, which automatically triggers an impulse to slack off. Both McGonigals have a tendency to jokey, glib writing style, which is ultra-accessible, even if it slightly undercuts the import of their messages.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly
(John Kay, 240pp)
An inflated magazine article. Not at all improved for having been padded out. Some obliquely interesting observations, but nothing of sustained value here. Move along...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories
(Nathan Englander, 224pp)
I bought this in hard back, and snacked on its delicious stories on several shabbat afternoons. The only criticism I can articulate is that I wish there were more, and even more. I don't know why I was allergic to his novel, set in Argentina, since his ear is pitch perfect here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Lean Startup
(Eric Ries, 8:44)
Hey ho! Let's pivot. I enjoyed this book. Its mapping of lean manufacturing into the entrepreneurial realm was quite engaging. Startups manufacture bricks of answers, using minimum viable products to experimentally probe the state space of possible solutions that enable valuable enterprises. Only after finishing the book did I realize how similar this is to Philip Greenspun's idea (2003) of the 'minimum launchable feature set.'

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Great Reset
(Richard Florida, 6:53)
Interesting, non-apocalyptic point of view on what's happening. Florida's favorite solution is Rapid Rail. As persuaded as I might be that the supercities could be great engines, alas, RR ain't likely to happen. So, the salvation will have to wend through some as yet unknown path.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Star Wars Light Sabers: A Guide to Weapons of the Force
(Pablo Hidalgo, 64pp)
This is the sort of ridiculosity that I have to troll through to connect to my kids, who are fascinated with "light savers" even though the only star wars I've consented to showing them is the fan version, Star Wars Uncut.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Power of Habit

Power of Habit
(Charles Duhigg, 10:38)
Sparked by his superb chapter excerpted in the NYT on Target's data mining, I bought this book from the author at a Habit Design Meetup held on 2/22. I chipped away, but didn't make it through this Gladwellian feast until I bought a 2nd copy on audible. Duhigg tells a great story. Only occasionally does he seem to be stretching the definition of 'habit' too far.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

You are not a gadget

You are not a gadget
(Jaron Lanier, 7:40)
I've wanted to read this since this came out in 2010. I recently heard Lanier speak, and while he can't prevent himself from digressing on intellectual bon bons, his basic point is quite piercing: 15 years into the web, it's time to replace hope with some empiricism. And almost no one is making a living as a digital creator. Alas, his dystopia can only be averted if we embrace Ted Nelson's trans-splendification.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

(Mary Karr, second half only, 5:49 out of 11:40)
Not as good as Liar's Club, but it's still moving to hear her read her poetically refined prose. The 2nd half jumped straight into the chapter where she starts recovery, meets DFW, and eventually dates him for a summer. Because she's 12-stepping, and eventually accepts baptism as a Catholic, there's a limit to how much "horse dukey" one can tolerate.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America
(Les Standiford, 11;02)
Loved this. Learned a lot of early labor history, and particularly came to appreciate the flinty form of Frick, the man who amassed so much great art. Homestead strike eventually left at least 30 dead, but the strikers intimidated the Pinkertons, only to have this amount to a Pyrrhic victory. Carnegie tried too hard to be liked, but none ever said that of Frick. Also learned that Charles Schwab, who ran the US Steel Corp, was no relation to the broker of the same name.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Payments Systems in the U.S.
(Carol Coye Benson & Scott Loftesness, 166pp)
Pretty interesting, esp'ly if you're the kind of person who wonders what happens to your excreta once you flush. Or in this case, make a payment.