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February 13, 2011


I'm sure anyone who is reading this blog has probably gotten sick of the recent stream of book review reposts. In looking back at previous years I see a spike during the first part of each year. Being able to say that with confidence gives me joy. Like many quantified self activities I've gotten into recently, I don't always have an agenda when starting to track. I have however often found such data to be beneficial in retrospect. That and how else could I get my geek on by being able to whip out my phone and showing my trending candlepin bowling average...

This blog entry title harks back over a dozen years and like so many things, I've got the "data to prove it!" Not that I quite know why I'm saying that. It fits with the topic so I'll go with it. Drat, lost my train of thought. Oh right, in the vein of my friend David's attempt last year, my joy tonight isn't just from noticing trends but also in recalling and recording what has been a pretty cool weekend. The short summary includes Friday night drinks and watching Incendiary (3 out of 5). Saturday included my weekly inbox zero, playing with Flash Builder, cooking a roast with an onion and mushroom bourbon sauce and mashed yams, watching Big Fish (4 out of 5), and seeing Terminus (delightfully dark and curse the guy who started snoring!). Lastly Sunday brought a brunch party (preceded by making a lovely loaf of Amaretto banana bread), finishing Outliers (3 out of 5), watching Sunset Limited (4 out of 5), searching out and finding Harney & Sons' Winter White Earl Grey, and getting around to what you are reading now. Most importantly none of it felt rushed. Now perhaps a little repose.

Tags: life qs


OutliersOutliers by Malcolm Gladwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When reading this book the classic nature versus nurture discussion kept playing in my head. Throughout the book for those that become hugely successful (the outliers) there are clearly elements of nature at play (you need to be good enough) but overall nurture clearly plays a bigger role in the authors view. I'm lumping being in the right place at the right time (aka luck) under nurture since that seems to be a common theme especially when it comes to when you were born. The other clear theme I found was that outliers don't just happen, there is a clear lineage of accumulative advantage at work. That for me was particularly telling in the chapter that touched on the Baltimore students and the California Achievement Test. Less advantaged students showed similar gains those more more advantaged during the school year but lost that gain during the summer. Overall I found the pacing and presentation of the book to be uneven but still demonstrating the key theory well, if not offering any counter examples.

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Some notes I took while reading:

10: ... thinking about health in terms of community.
25: ... skewed age distributions exist whenever three things happen: selection, streaming, and differentiated experience.
30: Success is the result of what sociologists like to call "accumulative advantage."
38: Achievement is talent plus preparation.
65: ... old enough to be a part of the coming revolution but not so old that you missed it. Ideally, you want to be twenty or twenty-one, ...
80: ... only has to be [good] enough ...
101: ... practical intelligence includes things like "knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect."
104: ... "concerted cultivation." It's an attempt to actively "foster and assess a child's talents, opinion and skills." ... "accomplishment of natural growth." They see as their responsibility to care for their children but to let them grow and develop on their own.
149: ... autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward - are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.
166-167: ... "culture of honor." ... he has to make it clear, through his words and deeds, that he is not weak.
194: We mitigate when we're being polite, or when we're ashamed or embarrassed, or when we're being deferential to authority.
204: ... "Power Distance Index" (PDI).
246: Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard ...

Tags: books life success

February 8, 2011


Spoiler alert.

Idoru (Bridge Trilogy, #2)Idoru by William Gibson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A light and amusing exploration of pattern matching, celebrities, interspecies love, and fandom. A few too many caricature only characters and a rushed conclusion left me wanting more (I've not looked at the other Bridge Trilogy books). The author examines some intriguing phenomenon but doesn't get enough into their implications. At its heart the book felt like the story of two unconnected characters inadvertently joining up to save the day.

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Tags: books scifi

Plastic Fantastic

Plastic FantasticPlastic Fantastic by Eugenie Samuel Reich

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book chronicles the multiple year fraud perpetrated by Jan Hendrik Schon in the scientific community concerning his research around various new materials for transistors and nanotechnology. Unfortunately I found the bias of the author that the scientific method doesn't work as stated in the introduction tainted the rest of the material. Instead of laying out the facts and letting the reader draw their own conclusions about the scope and validity of the scientific method the book at times feels like a rant against it. The mixed chronological order that some of the material is presented in makes the timeline hard to follow. While I found the overall story interesting I suspect I'd appreciate another authors take on it more.

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Tags: books mos science