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Blech. Started reading this and struggled mightily. I almost didn’t pick up Guns, Germs, and Steel at the library b/c I was not enjoying this sequel. However, I’m happily enjoying Guns, Germs, and Steel right now– think he put his best work into the first book!

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

160 pages in, I’m loving this story of 2 magicians who bring magic back to England in the early 1800s. A bit frustrated/disturbed by the footnotes– it’s a clever tactic, but I don’t want to feel guilty for skimming/skipping them, and I don’t want to miss anything if there’s good info in them. So far, I haven’t seen any info in the footnotes that is hilarious, or absolutely not-to-be-missed. My only regret so far is that it’s a bit too hefty to take on my flight to NYC next week.
400 pages in, I am swept up in this tale. Thankfully, Jonathan Strange arrived on the scene, b/c he is much more likable than his cohort Mr. Norrell, who wants to keep all magical secrets to himself. Norrell is pleased to be able to talk to Strange, but keeps a cache of books he doesn’t want Strange to read in his country estate. Occasionally he will reference one of these books b/c it’s hard for him to keep track of what books he wants to keep a secret from Strange. J. Strange help the Britons win over the French by means of paving roads, moving towns and rivers, raising Neopolitans from the dead. Lady Pope (raised from the dead by Norrell) is enchanted and exhausted by midnight dancing, along with her husband’s butler, Stephen Black. Norrell’s men, Drawlight & Lascelles, conspire to make trouble between Strange & Norrell. So much action! Only drawback right now is the spelling of “surprize” and “chuse” for surprise and choose. Not sure why she insists upon this spelling, I suppose to get that old English affect.
Now finished, all ~780 pages. Great storytelling! I am ready for more from Ms. Clarke!

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Pacific Mexico

Focusing right now on pages 364-474, since I’m going to Zihuatanejo next month. I can see this book getting a lot of future use as well.
***
Putting the book down now, post-Mexico. The Zihua section was not particularly good. Short on information and maps.
As for my own trip, stayed at Hotel Catalina in Playa de la Ropa in Zihua for a week. Hiked to Playa Manzanillo for snorkelling (also accessible by $40 boat ride) a couple of times, and took a boat to Isla Ixtapa for snorkeling on Playa Carey (VERY recommended). Sunset from the bar at Brisas Ixtapa one night, but that was the extent of Ixtapa for me. The rest was pure Zihua, some time spent in El Centro, walking along the beach from Playa Madera to the center of town, 2 pajaros verdes (parrots) lurking in the window of a bar along the walk. Walked the opposite direction to Playa Las Gatas for more snorkeling, beer and fish tacos. Car not necessary or very useful, although it did take me on an extended dirt road tour to Barra di Potosi, where I was the only one on the beach. Zihua a gorgeous bay, it would have been great to discover it years ago before the jetskis and parasailing invaded. Hay muchos americanos tambien. Es la vida.

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The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Max was born old and gets younger as he lives his life. Set in San Francisco, the writing is tolerable, but the storyline starts to grate on me. I probably should have finished this one before starting Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which was so bright and shiny that Max Tivoli seems dullish in comparison.
The last 50 pages were good– not a bad story overall.

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Blink

Just finished the hottest book on the market. Check out the envy I generated!
The always interesting Malcolm G. does it again with another book chock full of learning and ideas. The hype surrounding the book did somewhat dampen my enjoyment of it, but it was a positive experience (and quick read).
Intro chapter goes into the Getty/fake kouros incident from the mid-80s, when the Getty museum did all sorts of scientific and legal research on a statue they were buying for $10M. Logical thought said yes, this statue is real. However, art experts reacted differently to the statue, with intuition. In the blink of an eye, we can make snap judgements that are more valid than extended study decisions.
Second chapter goes into the idea of “thin slicing” reality– by looking at a thin slice of time, you can make judgements about quality of people’s relationships, teaching ability, etc.
Other notables from the book– the rogue commander in the Pentagon’s War Games exercise who didn’t go by the rules and thus sunk 18 of the Red Team’s ships before any shots were fired by the Red Team. After 2 days of sulking, the Red Team stripped the Blue Team of any power and played a scripted game which they won hands down, and then promptly invaded Iraq.
Also, Amadou Diallo in NYC, who made the mistake of standing on his stoop one night in 1999. Cops thought that seemed suspicious, and split second decisions led them to shoot him 41 times. They thought he had a gun, but he was only reaching for his wallet. Scary.
Cook County Hospital’s heart attack detection elements– less information allows you to make quicker decisions.

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Getting Things Done

Types of things to keep track of:
* projects list
* project support material
* calendar actions/info
* list of “next actions”
* list of “waiting for”
* reference material
* list of “someday/maybe”
Steps to get things under control:
1. Gather all out of place stuff into an inbox
2. Sift through, taking one item at a time. If you can take care of the item in 2 minutes, do it. If not, decide what the next action is & put in pending/delegate/trash.
*****
Now that I’m finished, I feel well prepped to tackle my own piles of mess. And I’ll try to read 43Folders more often (a site that sprung up out of love of Getting Things Done)

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SF bookstore arranges books by color

Chris Cobb, a San Francisco artist, created an installation art piece by arranging the books in Adobe Books by color. He called his work “There is Nothing Wrong in this Whole Wide World” and it was one of the most endearing pieces of art I’ve ever experienced. Just by grouping the books in an order outside the norm caused me to discover books I’d likely never pick up. And the overall effect of the rainbow of colors was incredible– it diffused happiness throughout the store. I am now a huge Adobe bookstore fan, what with their resident cat and willingness to be the site of this great work.

It lasted from November 2004 through January 2005, but I’m only writing about it now b/c I started reading I Capture the Castle, a book I found in the green section.

 

I Capture the Castle

Awesome first sentence caused me to purchase this book from the green section of the rainbow-organized books at Adobe bookstore in SF.
“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.”
In the midst of reading it now, and have to keep reminding myself that it’s set in the 1930s. It seems to reach back much further in time than the 20th century.
Dodie Smith also wrote 101 Dalmations.
*****
I finished this one last night; it was a whale of a tale, a gem, a fantastic book. Not sure why I’m stuck in catchphrase land, but can’t think of anything original to say to describe.
Two sisters, Cassandra (the narrator), and her older sis Rose, get mixed up in a love tangle with the new American landlords of Scoatney- Simon & Neil Cotton. The Mortmain family is barely eking by on a 50 year old lease of the castle that the Cottons inherit, the father wrote one famous book then crapped out. Cassandra tells the story to us through journal entries. Good stuff.
The only complaint I had was in the edition I was reading, at the very end when I was basking in the glow of a completed story, I happened to glance at the page after the end, which was filled with inane “study questions”, like “This was published in 1948. What do you think people’s reactions were then?” and “What does the title mean?” and “Why does Cassandra tell us the story through her journal?” The dispassionate questions brought me back to junior high school days when we actually had to answer those types.

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Earth

Blah. It was a real struggle to get through this, and I confess to major skimming after page 150. I’ve read books that deal with the subject of geology that are presented in an interesting manner– this was not. Fortey attempted to lighten his tone by interjecting personal stories along the way, like his mule Buttercup, who took him to the Grand Canyon floor. Yawn.

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The Light of Day

Tom Peters recommended. I had a tad bit of trouble getting into it, but now am swept up in this dizzying dazzling story. George, the private investigator, falls for Sarah, a cheated on wife who has him follow Bob & Kristina to the airport to ensure only she got on a airplane and report back how the farewell went. Sarah kills Bob later that night. Interwoven stories, zipping back and forth in time. Helen is George’s daughter, Rachel his ex-wife who left after he was branded a crooked cop. The first spying he did on his dad, having an affair with Carol Freeman (mom of a girl he had a crush on).

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Vision
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Leadership
Habit 3: Put First things First: Principles of Personal Management
Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Interpersonal Leadership
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Principles of Empathic Communication
Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

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