my recent reads..

Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters; From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima
Power Sources and Supplies: World Class Designs
Red Storm Rising
Locked On
Analog Circuits Cookbook
The Teeth Of The Tiger
Sharpe's Gold
Without Remorse
Practical Oscillator Handbook
Red Rabbit

Monday, October 27, 2008

Get Motivated

I hate motivation books; all that sickly rah-rah and exultations that you too can be like Donald Trump if you just repeat to yourself three times: "I am a success. I am a genius. People love me."

Justin Herald's book Get Motivated is refreshingly different, and a thought-provoking read. You may find it in the bookstore in the "Management Self-help Guru" section, but it is probably better classified under sociology.

This is about common sense philosophy for real people. Justin Herald tells it like it is, and sometimes you might not like it (ethics are important? you gotta actually work hard? Jeez!).

Here's a selection of chapter headings
  • Contender or pretender?
  • Victim of victor?
  • Stickability
  • You set your standards
  • The sad passing of common sense
  • Your future is not in your past
  • Don't just do something ... sit there! (my favourite quote)
He touches repeatedly on the idea of setting your own moral and professional standards and then not letting yourself be swayed or pushed into accepting less.
If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

This reminded me of another great quote from Anthony Bourdain on Chef's Story:
My best advice if you are starting out and want to be a success: set yourself high standards and stick to them.
(or words to that effect ...)

A refreshing read, and highly recommended. It may be just what you need to get a fresh perspective and work towards being a more positive life. Or not. I'll leave you with The Bitter Stick Girl's brilliant observation:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thomas of Hookton and 1215, The Year of the Magna Carta

Bernard Cornwell is a master and commander when it comes to bringing alive European history from the last millenia. Where Patrick O'Brian has the sea, Cornwell has the land.

I've read most of the Richard Sharpe novels, but I first encountered the grail quest series as audio books from audible.

I must say that in combination with narration by Seán Barrett, I was absolutely hooked from the out. Together, they bring 14th century Europe to life like I have never heard before. Cornwell with his words that pump life into long dead stories, and Barret with his voice that just seems to call down through the ages.

If only my 2nd form history lessons were like this. But how can history teachers brought up in the 1950's, using text books written by dainty scholars hope to convey a true sense of the times?

It may look quaint in a tapestry, but battle with sword and bow is particularly brutal. But of course for the men of the time it was just all part of life. As Cornwell tells the tale of Thomas of Hookton, the grim reality of life leaps from the page with Barrett's voice.

Seriously, the best way to "read" the grail quest series is to listen on audible. there are three volumes:

A great companion read is 1215: The Year of Magna Carta. It is a fascinating - and less dramatic - study of England in the 13th century: the years of Prince John, the legend of Robin Hood and of course the Magna Carta.

It was only after reading this, and having been embued in the era thanks to the Grail Quest audible recordings by Seán Barrett, that I finally got a true sense of the complex relationship between France and England after the Norman conquests of Britain.

And then there is the Magna Carta. Probably more significant as a legend and ideal than an actual statement of rights. In its time, it seems to have been seen by some as a scandalous concession to the masses. Even Pope Innocent III condemned the charter as
..not only shameful and demeaning but also illegal and unjust, thereby lessening unduly and impairing his [the king's] royal rights and dignity

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Premature Exultation

No better lesson on counting chickens...