Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde is a great story about the office of special operations in an alternative history England.   Thursday Next is introduced as a Literica Ops (Special Ops 27) agent who investigates literature issues.   She is plunged into the exciting world of Special Ops 5 when a manuscript is stolen in a bizarre fashion.

The world that Thursday inhabits is an alternative to what we know.  Winston Churchill tripped and died as a child, Wales is a walled off state behind an iron curtain, cloning animals is common with Dodos being favored pets, and airships are the preferred mode of transport as airplanes never became popular.

Above all, this story is fun.   The writing style is entertaining with colorful commentary such as "I was born on a Thursday so my parents named me Thursday.  My brother was born on a Wednesday so they named him Anton."

Also, the story is full of literary references, half of which I'm sure I missed.   The Eyre of the title is none other than Jane Eyre who you meet through the course of the story.
I'll definitely be reading more Thursday Next novels.

Have a Little Faith

Have a Little Faith: A True Story is Mitch Albom's second non-fiction work after Tuesdays with Morrie which I enjoyed.  This story followed Mitch as he met with his rabbi for several years because his childhood rabbi had asked him to give his eulogy.    At roughly the same time, Mitch came to know of a struggling Detroit pastor who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and was preaching from a church with no heat and a giant hole in the roof.

The story seemed mostly of a growth story of Mitch's character as he met with his rabbi.  This was a good story, but Mitch tried to mix in the story about the Detroit pastor and did a poor job of convincing the reader that his rabbi and this other pastor were of equal importance or in someway had their stories intermingled.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fatherhood

Fatherhood by Bill Cosby is a great book.   This is Bill Cosby's tongue in cheek guide to being a father.   It really stands out when compared to other humorous books about parenting in that Bill Cosby genuinely loves kids and loves being a father.  While he does chastise his children for not listening, he also takes the time to mention that they are still loved and valued.   This is markedly different and came across clearly while I was reading.

Whenever your kids are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God's omnipotence did not extend to His kids.  After creating the heaven, the earth, the oceans, and the entire animal kingdom, God created Adam and Eve.  And the first thing He said to them was "Don't"-he hurled no negatives at the elephant-but to the brightest of His creatures, teh ones who get into Yale, He said "Don't."
"Don't what?" Adam replied.
"Don't eat the forbidden fruit."
"Forbidden fruit? Really? Where is it?"
Is this beginning to sound familiar? You never realized that the pattern of your life had been laid down in the Garden of Eden.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One Two Three... Infinity

One Two Three... Infinity by George Gamow is a survey of scientific topics.   I really enjoyed the section "Playing with Numbers" and "Macrocosmos".

The book starts with a poem which tickles my funny bone.
There was a young fellow from Trinity
Who took the square root of infinity
But the number of digits
Gave him the fidgets;
He dropped Math and took up Divinity.

The book includes a survey of several scientific topics and the number theory was the most interesting.   It discussed the concept of infinity in a way that was very familiar after reading The Mystery of the Aleph. Prior to this reading, I hadn't considered the difficulty of expressing large numbers.   Imagine a roman citizen trying to express the concept of 1 Million.   Here is 1E6 or 1 * 10^6 or 1,000,000 in Roman Numerals :


MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

I'd recommend picking up the book and skimming it to find sections that interest you.

Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin was a good read.   It's mostly a discussion of how the broadcast medium has changed over the last several decades and how you should react to that by developing a culture of marketing through customer permission.  This includes opt-in messages, events, and long term interactive campaigns.

We think of television as still being a mass market and yet Godin points this out:
The final episode of Seinfeld made media headlines.  Yet thirty years ago Seinfeld's ratings wouldn't have made Nielsen's list of top twenty-five shows of the season.
Permission Marketings is summarized as being anticipated, personal, and relevant.
Anticipated - people look forward to hearing from you.
Personal - the messages are directly related to the individual.
Relevant - the marketing is about something the prospect is interested in.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Millionaire Next Door


The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. This is a popular book that describes what the average millionaire really looks like. I've read this book before, but it was good enough to warrant a reread.

The book was split into a couple of large sections. First, they discuss who the average millionaire is and how they got to be that way. The book characterizes most millionaires as first generation millionaires who drive older cars and wear "normal" clothes. Several interesting anecdotes are shared describing the surprise between how people perceive "millionaires" and what real millionaires are like.

The second half of the book talks about children of millionaires and the concept of Economic Outpatient Care (EOC). EOC is when rich parents provide financial support to their children and the book discusses how that financial support, though well meaning, is often detrimental to their children's success in life.

My wife and I like this story as an explanation for how "stuff" can motivate you to spend more money:

Take, for example, the affluent parents who gave their son Bill and daughter-in-law Helen a $9,000 rug that we were told contained millions of hand-tied knots. Bill is a civil engineer who works for the state. He earns less than $55,000 a year. His parents feel compelled to help him maintain a lifestyle and level of dignity congruent with someone with a graduate degree from a prestigious university. Of course, the expensive rug looked out of place in a room filled with hand-me-down furniture and inexpensive light fixtures. So Bill and Helen felt compelled to purchase expensive walnut dining room furniture, a crystal chandelier, a solid-silver service, and expensive lamps. Thus the gift of the $9,000 rug precipitated the consumption of nearly that same amount for the other "affluent artifacts."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meatball Sundae


Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin was an entertaining read as is are most of Seth Godin's books. The unappetizing title is supposed to represent how traditional companies (referred to as factories, producing a widget) try to use "new media" and social media as "toppings" on their existing business plans.

Godin describes that reality is that new media and old companies don't go well together. New media, embracing your customers more directly, requires a new business model to succeed.

This is a good read if you are trying to adapt your company to use new media/social media to market yourself.