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Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Grownup

The GrownupThe Grownup by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Book of the Month Club.

This was a strange book. It was essentially a short story in book form. It follows a woman as she tries various things to make money. One of those things is to fake being a psychic. She goes to houses and pretends to cleanse them. Things get strange when she feels real psychic energy in one of the houses, and meets the son of the owner.

I was disappointed in the ending. Without giving too much away, the kid was a spoiled brat. As much as the woman was getting by as a fraud, the kid is an even bigger fraud. He just wants to get something for himself, and he'll do what he has to, including changing his story, to get it. I'm glad I didn't pay for this book. It wouldn't have been worth it.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

1984 and Star Trek.

I saw the picture of the "There are 4 lights" sign at the march for science. It reminded me that there are a lot of similarities between that episode and George Orwell's 1984. We think of 1984 as Big Brother and surveillance everywhere, but there's more to it than that. In the novel, Winston, the main character writes in his journal, "Freedom is the ability to say that two and two make four. Given that, all else follows." Later on, Winston is arrested. O'Brien, the Party member, says "If we say two and two is five, it's five." He then uses this to torture Winston. O'Brien holds up 2 fingers in his left hand and 2 fingers in his right hand, and asks, "How many fingers are there?" When Winston says, "4," he is beaten. After several rounds of this, Winston finally says, "It's whatever you say it is." At the end of the novel, Winston is sitting in the pub. He traces in the dust on the table, "2+2=5." At the end of the episode, Picard says, "You know, there really were 5 lights."

The point of both the novel and the episode is that there are objective truths that no one can change just on a whim. Freedom is the ability to accept these truths, and act in accordance with them. In an appendix to 1984, Orwell talked about Newspeak, the language in the novel. He quoted the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In Newspeak, that entire passage could be reduced to one word: crimethink. It was a crime in Orwell's world to even think that way.

In torture, one of the elements is the torturer is right, and you're wrong, regardless of the evidence. That's what the episode and the novel were trying to portray. Even such simple questions as the number of lights or what is 2+2 can be twisted to give the torturer leverage.

I realize this is a long post. I also realize it's not like a lot of other posts on here. To me, though, this represents what Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek. He used science fiction to explore current social issues. Other authors like Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Rod Serling did the same thing. Freedom is the ability to say that 2+2=4, and that there are 4 lights. Given that, all else follows.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Cash Flow for Life

Cash Flow For Life: How To Generate An Income OnlineCash Flow For Life: How To Generate An Income Online by Jon Mac
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book for free plus shipping from the author.

This is a promotional book to get you to buy other services from the author. He talks about opening Facebook store to sell products made by others. He goes through all the details of how to do it, and provides examples of websites used by others. He even discusses selling the business later.

I liked this book because it didn't have a lot of fluff. I've read a lot of these books, and many of them have excess material that has nothing to do with the main point of the book, which is building a business. I do not always like being distracted. I like that at the end of each chapter, he asks a series of questions, designed to get you to think about what was just said. Sometimes that alone can help move you along. All in all, a good book.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

The Fishy Business Handbook for Mermaids

The Fishy Business Handbook for MermaidsThe Fishy Business Handbook for Mermaids by Raina Mermaid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I helped Raina edit this book. My name is listed in the book.

This is Raina's third book about being a professional mermaid. This book is more of a workbook than the other two. It is designed to be read in conjunction with the other two, as it references them frequently.

She addresses several issues she avoided in the first two books. One is mermaids who take advantage of you, or act inappropriately. Between the writing of the secondam and third book, she had to fire one of her mermaids for acting inappropriately. The key is to be firm. The second is working with kids. Some people shouldn't work with kids.

The book also includes pictures of how to get in a mermaid tail, and how to pick up a mermaid in a tail. It includes samples of contracts and media communications. Some of this information can be adapted to other businesses as well. An excellent book, along with the others, for anyone looking to be a professional mermaid. With Disney's scheduled release of a live-action Little Mermaid next year, there will be a lot more interest in mermaids. These books will be there to help.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Mastering Civility

Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the WorkplaceMastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace by Christine Porath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Everyone wants civility in the workplace. People want to be treated fairly. The author makes the case that civility is good for the bottom line, and can make the workplace better. There are several tests in the book to determine how civil you are.

The book sounds like a lot of others I've read. It's good as far as it goes, but there are some things missing. For example, she recommends that employers ask prospective employees, "What would former employers say about you?" In many cases, the answer is, "They will only confirm dates of employment." Thanks to lawsuits, many employers are skittish about saying anything beyond that. Most companies won't go the trouble of deeper investigation.

Another area that doesn't go that far is in her chapter on what if incivility happens to you. Her advice is to focus on yourself and your situation. That's fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't address the situation when the incivility raises to discrimination or harassment. That requires focus on eliminating the problem, rather than simply focusing on yourself. That area was missing.

A minor issue. She uses Pete Carroll, coach of the Seattle Seahawks, as an example of civility in the NFL. After he left USC, the NCAA found significant recruiting violations had occurred during his time there. USC had to vacate several wins, including a national championship, and lost several scholarships. Reggie Bush gave back his Heisman Trophy. There was a sense that Pete Carroll got out of Dodge before the hammer fell. I don't think that was a good example.

Overall, a good book, just not complete.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

World Almanac 2017

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2017The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2017 by Sarah Janssen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I get a copy of this every year. It's a good reference book. It lists a lot of historical data and current events information. Obviously, things are described in a nutshell, because of space limitations, but it is a good starting point. As a writer, I use this to see if what I'm saying has any semblance of truth. When you write fiction, you can make things up, but they sound more believable if there is some basis in fact. Later editions include pictures of the prior year's events. This was published in mid-November, shortly after the elections, so anything after that is not included. It's a great book. You don't usually read it cover to cover, but it has something for everyone.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Operation Mermaid giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Operation Mermaid by Joseph McGarry

Operation Mermaid

by Joseph McGarry

Giveaway ends December 31, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

You're A Leader, Charlie Brown

You're a Leader, Charlie BrownYou're a Leader, Charlie Brown by Carla Curtsinger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a bullet point rang out!

I can imagine Snoopy being told to write a business book, and sitting on top of his doghouse writing this. I grew up with Peanuts. I've also read a lot of business books. This is the first time I've seen them together. It seems an odd combination. Charlie Brown was described as "wishy-washy" in the comics. How could he be a leader?

The book uses not only Charlie Brown, but also a lot of the other characters, such as Linus, Lucy, Sally, Schroeder, even Snoopy. It is sprinkled with classic Peanuts cartoons and illustrations. There is a helpful summary of the bullet points at the end of the book. A lot of them are ones that have appeared elsewhere. Some of them are "Learn from failures." "Know what kind of leader you are." "Write in a concise but conversational style." (Although, if anyone starts any memos or reports with, "It was a dark and stormy night," they picked up the wrong message.)

It's a short read. That can actually help business readers, since they won't worry about a lot of details. I also liked the cartoons. Very enjoyable, which you rarely hear about business books.

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