Tuesday Jul 18, 2006

Back from Thailand...

I just got back from two weeks of holiday in Thailand. It was a blast. We made the round. Starting in Phuket for some time in the sun. Then on to Chiang Mai for some time shopping and trekking. Then on to Bangkok for more shopping and a bit of city life. The good news is that I got some time off the grid and got a chance to do some reading.

I just finished A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Bryson is typically known for his witty chronicles of his travels. However this book was quite different. Bryson found himself viewing the world in wonder (from a plane as a matter of fact). You see, he didn't know much about what made this planet (Earth in case you guessed wrong) and how it worked. His desire to know more drove him to dedicate three years of his life to reading just about everything he could get his hands on that related to planet Earth. The book in fact is his description of just about everything he read. In fact, why he calls it A Short History of Nearly Everything is because it is almost just that. The book traverses such subjects as the universe, the earth, planets, atomic science, chemistry, biology and anthropology. Some might consider reading about science from a guy who writes funny travel logs is not all that wise, however I have to say that Bryson has done a stellar job of taking rather complex subjects and distilling them down into something most people will understand. It was just the right level, not too dilute and no too overbearing.

I would suggest this book to anyone who would trully want a great overview of science in the past 300 or so years. In fact, I think this book would make a great school text that all science students should read.

If you get a chance, pick it up. Well worth the time. And it won't take you the three years that it took Bryson.

Thursday Jun 29, 2006

A man about machines...

I just finished a couple of books that I thought I would share with you. Both books, I Know You Got Soul and Clarkson On Cars are by Jeremy Clarkson. If you don't know Jeremy then you have never seen the TV show Top Gear. If you have never seen Top Gear then you must not like cars, toys or anything mechanical.

Jeremy is hilarious however some of the humor is lost to a non-Brit such as myself. I Know You Got Soul is essentially Jeremy's salute to machines and the related engineering that have seemed to give the inanimate objects a soul. His critical observation in regards to machines having a soul is that they must intrinsically have a flaw, as all humans do. In some ways this book reminded me, not by name only, of Tracy Kidder's The Soul Of A New Machine. If you love mechanical things and think that machines are the purest form of engineering, then you will enjoy this book. Nothing deep, just a good laugh and review of a number of wonderful machines that do indeed have a soul.

Clarkson On Cars is of course focused on cars. There is nothing new in this book. In fact, it is a collection of past columns that Clarkson has written. I you love cars and want a good laugh, this is a great read. You will find yourself smiling a lot and wondering if Clarkson is really that politically incorrect in real life.

Saturday Mar 11, 2006

Read Me First

I thought I would begin to share my reading list. Let me start by relaying my reading taxonomy. In general I have three categories for my reading materials.

The first is current events. This is essentially news which I get it from multiple channels. I use a RSS reader to capture, search and sort articles from a plethora of news agencies. I do the same with a number of blogs. This way each day I can quickly see what is new from the last time I reviewed. Don't you love RSS? In addition to the digital world, I usually carry with me a number of trade rags and magazines. Current subscriptions include Business Week, ComputerWorld, MIT's Technology Review, The Economist and Business 2.0.

The second category of reading would best be described as personal development, some of you may know this a "self help" No, I don't spend my time at the book store perusing the self help isles for "chicken soup for something", "101 excuses", and "Dr. Phil's diet extravaganza - do what I say, not what I do". Rather this category tends to be focused on management best practices, business tactics and strategy development. Most of the reading I do in this category comes on old fashioned paper. The regular rag I read is Harvard Business Review, but that is usually supplemented by a number of books that cover todays chic business topics.

The third category is of course personal enjoyment. This is a broad category for me as it has included books from easy to read thriller novels to geek oriented physics topics.

Having described my reading taxonomy, let me share a few of the recent books I have read.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
A fun book. If you think economics is dull, this is the book for you. Interesting perspective and analysis of all kinds of subjects from crime and drugs to parenting and education. If you like numbers and analysis (attention Sigma folks) and have a free afternoon, give it a read.

10 Rules for Strategic Innovators - From Idea to Execution by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
This book should have been titled "3 Suggestions" instead of 10 Rules. It reads not all that unlike most business strategy books. The three suggestions (rules) are forgetting, borrowing and learning. Yup that is it. The basic idea is that strategic innovators should forget their current business, leave behind the baggage. Borrow useful things from the existing business that can align and be leveraged by the new business, that is if you have not heeded the previous rule and remember the old company. Then learn from the new business. Like most business books, it does provide a good reminder of basic concepts that we all to often forget. Having said that, leave this one on the shelf.

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman and Oliver Wyman
Easy read and an interesting perspective on the global market based world in which we live, TODAY. How technology and other factors have placed everyone at the same global level (advantage and disadvantage). We are all connected and thus form a global community never before experienced.

That is it for now. I may create a category for my reading...




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