Tag Archives: books

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So David Brin personally edited my self-published scifi novel, No Other Gods

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About 18 months ago I started my first science fiction novel, No Other Gods. I worked on it about 30 minutes a day, usually at 6AM before phones started ringing and emails started dinging.

A couple of months ago I finished it (edited three times, proofread by 2 pros I know) and self-published it to Amazon. It was doing OK, and got some great reviews, but nothing huge.

So I decided to take a leap of faith and started to @ message people on Twitter about it who were interested in science fiction. One of the ones who came up when I searched Twitter was David Brin, who’s of course a best-selling SF author with something like 20 books to his credit.

Shockingly, he responded.

I asked if he’d like a copy of my book, he gave me his email address, and I sent him a copy. A couple days later he made my day when he read the first chapter and emailed back: “Okay you got decent action chops. Still no promises when I can get beyond the wakeup scene. But you are no amateur.”

Then 7 days later, he blew my mind when he emailed again, having read the entire book. This time he said:

“John, thanks for sharing your novel. You have very solid skills. The work makes no pretense of being deep, but it is completely professional and successful at what it aims to be. I would be happy to provide a comment/blurb for you to use, if you like.

I went ahead and took some notes. Some inconsistencies I noticed and some typos. They are provided below. I hope they are useful.”

Obviously I wanted a comment/blurb from him (!!) but below I carefully read through his notes. There, David Brin had carefully compiled about three pages of detailed notes on my first attempt at a novel, ranging from a couple remaining spelling errors to suggestions on foreshadowing events, deepening emotional connections with characters, and one unbelievably critical suggestion on enhancing and clarifying the goals and motives of the main villain of No Other Gods … one of the “gods.”

MIND. BLOWN.

Bestselling authors (and working scientists) don’t take time out of their day to edit unknown self-publishing “authors” books. They just don’t. It doesn’t happen.

Except … it did.

I made all the changes he indicated, re-submitted to Amazon as a second edition of the book, and included his promo blurb right on the front cover:

“Non-stop action! An eternal champion battles his way across centuries, gradually learning to ask the question: why?”

Wow, wow, wow.

With the help of that recommendation, No Other Gods is now climbing Amazon’s SF time travel bestseller list, hitting the first page of the list for the first time today at #18.

Thanks David Brin!


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Props from a master: sci-fi legend David Brin makes my day

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I have been promoting my first science fiction novel, No Other Gods, on Twitter and Facebook and this blog. And the sales have been starting to come.

So have the positive reviews: 4.9 stars so far on Amazon, which is great.

But the best has been the result of taking a if-you-don’t-swing-you-can’t-hit attitude and approaching some big-name authors and personalities about the book. David Brin is a best-selling sci-fi author — and a scientist, by the way — with novels like Postman and Heaven’s Reach that I’ve personally read and loved. He’s such a respected author that he’s the one the Asimov people picked to write the final posthumous novel in the Foundation Series, Foundation’s Triumph.

He responded to a tweet that I directed to his attention, and then we emailed back and forth, after which I sent him a copy of No Other Gods.

This was the response:

david brin response no other gods

Brin’s schedule is crazy, and he must get a million queries from just-starting-out authors like me. But he read the first part of the book, liked it, and said I am “no amateur.”

That made my day.

Hopefully, he’ll also find the time between writing and speaking and working to read the rest, and give me some feedback on the complete novel.


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Launching No Other Gods in the next 10 days

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I’m super-happy to be able to say that I’m launching my science fiction book, No Other Gods, within the next 10 days.

I think you’re going to love it.

No-other-Gods-coverIf you want to be notified when it launches, please just add your name on this page — I’ll send an email to you when it is live and available. I have learned so much from people who have given me early feedback, and the book is way better for people who have already signed up there and read early “beta” versions.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the book:

Geno exists only to fight and to die. But he doesn’t die, and as he fights, he remembers. And as he remembers, Geno becomes more and more who he really is.

From ancient Sumer to earth’s distant future, Geno battles with sword and laser, arrow and particle beam, seeking only to obey the will of the gods. At least at first.

“Thou shalt have no other God than me,” the ancient commandment says. But slowly Geno learns that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic … and that those who claim to be gods, who require his obedience and worship, may be all too human themselves.

Human enough to desire the only woman in his life, Livia. Human enough to envy, and to kill what they no longer require.

And here’s a few words from people who have already read it:

“John is an amazing new talent to watch out for!”

– Matthew Mather, author of Atopia Chronicles and CyberStorm, just picked up by 20th Century Fox

“Very impressive writing! It pulled me into the story right away. I really like the style of writing; articulate, engaging and constantly makes you want to read more. It was actually hard for me to stop but I have a very early start tomorrow.”

– Andi Gutmans, creator of the PHP programming language

“An Asimov tone with a bit of a Battle Royale feel and a Game of Thrones twist!”

– Simon Dawlat, CEO of AppGratis

“John Koetsier delights with his prose — few writers are as much a joy to read. In all of his octaves, Koetsier haunts you: In his whimsical or light moments, his words levitate off the page. In his dramatic turns, his pace and punctuation push you over. You won’t stop!”

– Matt Marshall, editor of VentureBeat

“Blends myth and technology in the story of a futuristic warrior serving the gods. John Koetsier has created a scifi page-turner with enough historical detail to ground it.”

– Meg Simpson, game designer

“Prepare to be swept away into a fascinating world where all is not what it seems – this is one amazing journey you’ll never forget.”

– Eunice Schaap, editor

“Battle descriptions are awesome and the action was pure adrenaline injected into my brain!”

Alexandre Rocha Lima e Marcondes, Geeks with Blogs

 


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Wonderful Colorful House iPad app: launched!

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It’s with a great deal of pride and satisfaction that I’m able to announce that my iPad app, The Wonderful Colorful House, is now live on the Apple app store.

It’s been a long and winding journey.

The trip started about 15 years ago when I made up a bed-time story for my daughter, Gabrielle. It was about a kid in the great white North, Tullik, who hated cold and hated white, and who was looking for a better — more wonderful — home.  She loved the story, and asked me for it repeatedly, and suggested that I write it down.

Which I did.

And then, more than a decade later, I met Bas Waijers, an amazing New York artist who was the creative director for the project and painstakingly illustrated the entire app. And Nick Dalton, an accomplished technologist who has built many apps, and built the actual app. And we brought on Mark Greenberg, a Chicago-based musician and sound engineer, who created an amazing soundscape, along with many special effect sounds.

Together, we created an app more than 15 years in the making. And we offer it up to you, today.

Enjoy!


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Sneak peek … and free first chapter: No Other Gods

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I’ve both longed for and dreaded this day: my baby is being born. She’s coming out in the world and the world may not like her. But she must be born. And maybe the world will love her 🙂

And so you – thank you SO much – are the first audience hearing her little cries as she emerges.

I’ve already released the full version to my VIP list of beta readers. If you hurry, you can still get on that list.

But I wanted to open up the first snippet of the first chapter to a wider audience. Maybe you don’t have a lot of time. Maybe you’re worried that it will suck. Maybe you’ve got a little Missouri in you: you wanna see it before you commit.

So I’m releasing this first chapter on Scribd. You can read it here, you can read it there, or you can download it and read it anywhere. And no, it’s not a Dr. Seuss book 🙂

Read, enjoy, and let me know if you want more!

No Other Gods Chapter 1 by John Koetsier


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VIP access to No Other Gods, my first novel

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I’m giving a few select people early pre-publishing access to my first book, a science fiction novel title No Other Gods.

A man and a woman exist, knowing nothing but that they are warriors for the gods. They fight, they die, they fight again at different times, in different places. But each time they learn a little more, and eventually they see that not all is as they have been told.

No Other Gods is the story of Geno and Livia, who seek the truth, and find themselves.


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The Wonderful Colorful House

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I’m working with some friends on a really cool iPad app for kids, The Wonderful Colorful House.

We’re getting a little closer to reality – publishing to the app store – so I thought I’d share a little bit more about it. Here’s the spec doc, which will give you a sense of what we’re doing …

I’m doing this with a few friends, particularly Bas Waijers, the illustrator and designer for the project.

The site is under construction – it will live at wonderfulcolorful.com.


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Kindle: more expensive than print?

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Why would a digital version be more expensive than a print version?

I know Amazon does a ton of price experimentation. Buying from Amazon can be a little like reserving a seat on a plane: nobody has paid exactly the same price you did.

But a digital product should be cheaper than a paper product, you would think. After all, there’s no packaging, no storage, no shipping, no postage. Just the product itself: the words and ideas you paid to share.

So I was fairly surprised to see this:

The Kindle edition is $17.52, but the hardcover – hardcover – is $14.44. That’s $3 cheaper to get the actual dead tree version.

That’s odd, but it’s not the only oddity. The pricing is even more complex: the book is new from $13.00, but the Amazon price is $14.44? This is just weird.

Amazon is one of the smartest companies in the world. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. The question is: are they working so hard to scientifically optimize pricing for extracting maximum value from clients’ wallets that they’ve lost simplicity (and sense) in pricing?


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The Benevolent Dictator

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I just received an advance copy of Michael Feuer’s book The Benevolent Dictator. Feuer is the founder and former CEO of OfficeMax, and the book is largely based on his experiences and learnings as he took that company from 0 to 1000 stores in about 15 years.

The subtitle is “empower your employees, build your business, and outwit the competition,” and I found the book intriguing primarily because I’m so immersed in the online/electronic world, and this book is by a guy who’s so bricks-and-mortar.

A couple insights I liked were an emphasis on the mucky side of business success … “discipline and process is the secret.” It’s not attractive – who doesn’t want instant gold – but it’s true. Another was his very kaizen way of boots-on-the-ground managing, leading to almost instant process improvements.

As the saying goes, you don’t make omelets without breaking a few eggs, and I’m sure Feuer broke more than his share along the way. People who say things like “whenever I asked for anything it should be inferred that I said please,” and when he received something “it should be implied that I said thank you” are probably not the easiest people in the world to work for or with.

Feuer is best when he’s recounting a business story that illustrates a point … and weaker when he’s making abstract generalities.

Overall: 7 out of 10.


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Digg is dead (and it dug it's own grave)

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Remember the Digg effect? It was the second major moniker for a tidal wave of traffic (the Slashdot effect was first).

The tidal wave was caused, of course, by a massive community that shared links. When one became popular and reached the home page, thousands upon thousands of surfers would flood a website … resulting in much the same effect as the barbarian hordes descending on Rome: servers would melt down in flames.

In response, of course, everyone who wanted traffic and thought that sort of disaster was a nice problem to have put the Digg button on their site … one of the first (after Technorati, I think) social sharing buttons on the web.

However, after multiple community upheavals, redesigns, and months of dithering, Digg’s traffic dropped significantly last year. And it isn’t coming back.

Which was fairly obvious from this:

This is just a random TechCrunch post, but see the numbers:

  • Digg: 5 diggs
  • Twitter: 818 tweets
  • Facebook: 167 likes
  • Google Buzz: 100 shares

Only 5 diggs!

In other words, Digg is increasingly less relevant. As site owners notice and start to remove it from their preferred social bookmarking buttons, this will only increase.

RIP Digg. You dug the hole.


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Know Kno No

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I can’t figure out what to make of the Kno.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s an e-reader. But not like the iPad, not like the Kindle, and not like the myriad of competing Android-based tablets in the marketplace today.

The Kno is aimed straight at education, and is designed to replicate the physical experience of a book … while adding enhanced digital features. So is every other e-reading tablet, you might think. But not quite. When I say replicate, I mean replicate. As in size … lots of it.

The Kno is not one tablet but two. And it’s not 7″ or 10″ … it’s 14″. Times two.

That’s right … two 14″ tablets joined together that open like a book and aim to faithfully replicate the experience of cracking open a full-size textbook and reading it. Pixel-for-pixel.

Wow.

Here’s the part that I seem to be terminally confused on: is this a good idea, or is this just slavishly adhering to an old paradigm? In other words … is this the best thing ever, a new revolution in digital technology, or is it just a better buggy whip in the day of the horseless carriage?

I’m not quite sure.

More screen space is always better. But the price … probably $1000, and the size, and the weight, and the probably battery life, and the probable slow user interface (small processor driving a huge screen) … make me think this is not a winner.

But it certainly is intriguing. As long as you don’t try to fit it in your pocket.


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SWAT the systems thinking: highly recommended

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I’ve read more than a few books about systems thinking and business processes, including All That Matters About Quality I Learned in Joe’s Garage, a few on the Toyota Production System, and several on kaizen and lean manufacturing.

But I have to say that Timothy Johnson’s latest book SWAT: Seize the Accomplishment ranks up there with the best of them, and maybe beyond.

It’s another in Tim’s series of business books that are written around stories: business realities woven into narrative. It’s definitely his best yet.

Systems thinking is not natural for most people. In today’s complex business processes, inputs and outputs are widely separated in space and time … often by continents and months, if not years. So inefficiency and worse, ineffectiveness are hard to spot and harder to fix.

(Inefficiency, of course, is doing the right thing in the wrong way, and ineffectiveness is doing the wrong thing, period. You want to improve the first, but you need to ensure you’re locked on to the second.)

Since systems aren’t things and can’t easily be visualized, it helps when SWAT makes the system come alive. Embedding the information in an engaging story is something that makes the teaching transparent and the learning effortless. Plus, the book is brief and to the point: perfect for busy people.

I learned from SWAT while enjoying SWAT: I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve business (and other) processes while focusing on the outcome.


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Very cool: new e-mag concept

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Watch to the end to see the very smart and simple UI elements:

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.


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Finally: my thoughts on the Amazon Kindle

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kindleI’ve owned and been reading from a Kindle for a couple of weeks now. A number of people have been asking when I’ll post some thoughts on it … so here goes.

What I didn’t like

  • I won’t be curling up with it
    I stare at a screen 10-12 hours a day, sometimes more. That might be the 3.5″ screen of my iPhone, the 23″ plus 13″ screens of my laptop and external monitor, or the 42″ screen of my TV (this one is a little rare lately!).

    Surprise, surprise … in my downtime (which means: recreational reading) I don’t want to stare at a screen.

  • It’s just not as good a reading experience as a book
    The Kindle is definitely a gadget … and it doesn’t feel like a book. And, it doesn’t read like a book.

    I’m a fast reader, and I find I need to turn the pages so often that it gets annoying. A page on Kindle at a decent but not tiny resolution is not very many words, meaning that I’m flipping more than once a minute. Each time there’s a little hesitation/interruption in my reading process, my state, my flow. Each time, it’s annoying.

  • I don’t like the positioning of the buttons
    The buttons are oddly placed. If you want to hold it widescreen, you can’t reach the Next Page button without effort (a couple of times a second, remember). The big buttons on the left and the right are BOTH for Next Page … whereas intuitively the left side might be Last Page and the right page might be Next Page. The small button above the next page is Prev Page on the left and Home on the right … another inconsistency.

    And don’t get me started the on the “5-way button” that is masquerading as a mouse.

  • The keyboard hates humans
    Writing notes on the Kindle – page notes, footnotes etc. – is a masochistic exercise. The keyboard is easily the worst I’ve ever used. Painful! Slow! Annoying!

  • I just want to touch it NOW
    Sorry, world. iPhone has spoiled me rotten and now when I can’t use touch on a small screen it gets extremely annoying. Several times I found myself touching the screen trying to do something quickly and easily … only to find that the device was, after all, dumb and unresponsive.

  • Books not on Kindle
    Having a Kindle makes you want to buy books on Kindle … or at least acquire them. And when you have the capability of getting books INSTANTLY on Kindle, you want to. So when books are not available in Kindle format … even books by people who should be clueful enough like Seth Godin … it gets annoying. Having to get it shipped and having to wait a half a week for the physical object suddenly seems intolerable.

    In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of books that are in the public domain which sellers of e-readers who don’t make their money selling books make it easy for you to access. Not Kindle. It’s hard to get free books from, say, Google or Project Gutenberg on your Kindle. You need to download third-party software, install it, find books, and then transfer them over to your Kindle via USB.

What I did like

  • Immediacy
    Obviously, getting a hot new book right away (read, in a couple of minutes) is a wonderful, excellent, exciting feature. This is perhaps the best feature of the Kindle.

  • Small, thin, and portable
    The Kindle – I got the smaller, 6″ version – is so thin and light you won’t know you’re carrying it around. It’s easy to just slip in a bag and run. I could even fit it in my jeans’ back pocket (but I don’t recommend sitting down!)

  • Business/trade books
    While I didn’t like the Kindle for relaxation and recreational reading, I found it just fine for books that I’m reading for information: business books, books about technology, etc. etc. I would typically dive into a book for 5-15 minutes, and then get back to whatever I was doing.

    For this kind of reading – Twitter-style, you might say – I think the Kindle works fine.

  • Battery life
    As long as you turn it completely off – important caveat: sleeping is not off – the battery lasts a loooong time. This is great … you don’t have to take the charger along on a week-long trip. Just throw the Kindle in the bag and go.

. . .
. . .

Overall, I think I’ll stick primarily to paper books for now when I want to read for fun. For business/trade books, I’ll probably switch just due to convenience, price, and availability.

Interestingly, I recently played with a Nook in a Barnes & Noble and actually liked it better. David Pogue savaged the Nook in the NY Times, but I liked the feel better, felt there were a few more words on the screen, and really liked the touchscreen feature. It’s not perfect, but I think they may have a winner in the 2.0 version.

After a few more months of using the Kindle, I’ll probably update these thoughts.


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E-book sales expected to surge

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Obviously … the revolution is accelerating. Wow.

For every 100 books we sell in physical, we sell 48 Kindle books,” said Cinthia Portugal, a spokeswoman for Amazon.com. “This is up from 35 books for every 100 in May. Our customers tell us they read more with Kindle because they never have to worry about running out of books.”

via E-book sales expected to surge.


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Sony wants to "re-kindle" your love of reading

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Wow. This is great – you can’t invent stuff this good.

Sony has had a digital reader product for some time now: Reader Digital Book. Lately Amazon refreshed its Kindle, and is of course getting much more virtual ink.

So here’s a small piece of Sony’s marketing campaign that I stumbled across during a routine Google search:

sony-kindle

Re-kindle your love for reading indeed!


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Great Service Shoutout: Blurb, Nielsen Norman Group

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Complaints are too easy – I like to blog raves as well as rants.

I’ve just received excellent, above-and-beyond, unexpected great services from two class organizations: Blurb, and the Nielsen Norman Group.

Blurb recently printed the book I did for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. A number of books arrived with scratches. I emailed them, they asked for a photo, I emailed a photo back, and they immediately shipped out new copies.

Nielsen Norman Group publishes usability studies, among other things. I ordered a downloadable product from them, not realizing it was only part of a study and not terribly useful on its own. Upon getting and reading through the study – and realizing that it was not what I needed – I emailed customer service. They immediately refunded my money, and asked me to delete the PDF from my computer, which I did.

Simple, fast, helpful.

In both cases: wow and thanks. You exceeded my expectations.


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50th anniversary

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My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. So my sisters and I held a celebration at the Four Seasons in Vancouver … and we also created a book showcasing my parents’ lives and our life as a family.

I used Blurb to create the book. It was great, but as with all projects like this, the hard work was in selecting, digitizing, and cleaning up the photos. My wife Teresa and I probably put in over 50 hours of work into the book, but the results are spectacular.

Here’s a link to the book, and a limited preview:


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On Alan Dean Foster

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It’s hard to see a writer that could be so good settle for so much less.

I recently revisited an author I followed in my teens, Alan Dean Foster, and picked up one of his more recent titles, Reunion.

My mini-review, as I posted it on Shelfari:

Sophomoric. I read a lot of Alan Dean Foster as a teen, enjoying it though realizing this was not anything approaching great literature.

The two most unfortunate things about Alan Dean Foster novels:

1) Gratuitous use of vocabulary
Didn’t an English teacher ever tell him to stop pulling out a thesaurus? Has he never read Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, or Strunk & White? Does he still think he’s 13 and impressing people with big words?

2) Poor editing
Has he had such boffo box office that he’s now immune to expert copy editing? Numerous head-scratching cases of oddly counterposed sentences jump out of the text. Example on page 8: ” … the elongated beach resort was one of the least crowded on the continent. It well suited the multitudes that thronged to its shores …” Huh? Is it uncrowded, or is it thronged? The beach can hardly be both.

In both these characteristics, Foster’s writing is definitely in the “baffle them with bullshit” category.

Annoying. He could be so much better.


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Backed up on Beyond Booked Solid

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beyond booked solidMichael Port sent me a manuscript of his latest book, Beyond Booked Solid a couple of months ago. It’s the follow-up book to Book Yourself Solid.

In spite of all good intentions, it sat on at table in my office for two months. I’ve just now started to crack it open and check it out. I have to say, I like it.

More as I get farther into the book …


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Quote of the day

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I’m currently reading Chris Hunter’s Eight Lives Down, an autobiography of his time in Iraq with the British army as an explosives technician, defusing bombs and IEDs.

He starts off every chapter with a quote, and I really appreciated this one:

We tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.

– Gaius Petronius (AD 66)

Having gone through my fair share of re-orgs in the past decade, that 2000-year old quote rings very true.


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Shelfari

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I like to keep track of what I’ve read.

What I’ve done till now is just post titles and authors to this blog. I noticed and checked out Shelfari years and years ago, but never really got the hang of it, and never really posted any books to it.

However, I just tried it a few days ago, and it’s incredibly easy … so I’m going to try entering my books there. They’ll still display here via the Shelfari widget.

One thing that I might miss is that occasionally I would add a mini review to a book. I know you can do it on Shelfari too, but I’m not sure how to expose that on this site.

We’ll see if this works long-term.


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Recently on my bookshelf …

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Going back to the library today …

  • Bloom, by Wil McCarthy
    Great book – read it first years ago, but always a pleasure.
  • Shooter, by Jack Coughlin
    Disturbing book by a ex-Marine sniper.
  • Homegoing, by Frederik Pohl
    Great, as Pohl usually is, with a twist.
  • Love Thy Neighbor, by Peter Maas
    An excruciatingly honest and painful biography of a journalist in the Serb/Bosnian cesspool of the middle 90’s.

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Recently on my bookshelf …

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I just finished my recent semester and can get into some serious reading. Here’s what’s been on my bookshelf lately:

  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond
    Great book, really excellent … exploring the various factors in how societies fail. Talked about Anasazi, Norse in Greenland, Easter Island, Rwanda, and many other cultures/societies.
  • Bias, by Bernard Goldberg
    Interesting book on the bias in what and how established media cover the “news.”
  • East of Desolation, by Jack Higgins
    Fluffy but enjoyable.
  • The Borman Testament, by Jack Higgins
    Ditto.
  • The Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmon
    Overrated – bigtime. I am seriously not impressed with books that mix science fiction and fantasy …

More details later … but we’ve got to run into town to the library, mall, and grocery store as it’s snowing outside and we’re a little worried we won’t be able to drive soon.


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Amazon marketplace: sorry, your purchase has been sold

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Yesterday I bought 27 books from Amazon – mostly from the marketplace. Why not? The book are almost new, and they’re easily half off or less.Today I got a notice that a book I bought via the marketplace was previously sold.amazonNo biggie – I just went back to Amazon, chose the next available seller for the book, and bought it again.Here’s the deal: when Amazon sends out that kind of email, they should include a link to re-purchase. That would probably increase their sales from people whose purchases are no longer available.And would make an already very usable store even more so.


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Recently on my bookshelf …

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John Varley’s Mammoth:Great read with a nice twist at the end.Blindsight by Peter Watts:Dark – both literally and figuratively. Impressive work, though.Menace in Europe, by Claire Berlinski:Good read, but a pretty pessimistic view of Europe’s direction. Berlinski should know, though: she’s a grand-daughter of Jewish escapees from Hitler’s Germany and lives in Europe today.Platinum Pohl, by (of course) Frederick Pohl:Collected best short stories of Frederick Pohl … and Pohl’s best is very, very good.


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Latest books …

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Some books that I’ve just finished up:

  • Witnesses of War, by Nicholas StarGardt
    About children’s lives under the Nazis before, during, and slightly after WWII. Appalling, moving, engrossing. 
  • In Search of Stones, by M. Scott Peck
    Peck’s tale of a trip he and his wife took to the UK in search of dolmen and menhirs … which he intertwines with frank discussion of himself, his life, what he’s learned, and his mistakes. One important thing to remember from this book: the concept of “overdetermination,” the idea that most things have more than one cause … they are “overdetermined.” We like to have one cause, and one effect, but that’s simplistic. 
  • Ashes of Glory, by Ernest B Furgurson
    The story of Richmond, Virginia, the “other capital” of the US … at least during the civil war. A little tedious and narrowly-focused, but interesting. Most memorable anecdote: Abraham Lincoln comes to Richmond shortly after the city is taken. Black men and women surround him. One aged black man doffs his cap and offers a short bow. Lincoln doffs his cap and bows in return. That must have been a big deal to those just-recently-slaves. Wonderful! 
  • A Perfect Hell, by John Nadler
    The story of the Canadian-American commando unit “First Special Service Force,” composed somewhat of misfits, which fought like heroes and died by the hundreds in multiple campaigns throughout WWII. All that you need to know about them to know something of them is that the Germans called them “Schwartzer Teurel,” or Black Devils.

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Made to stick … sticks

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Not a single person has passed through my office and seen the cover of this book without touching it to see if, in fact, the cover has duct tape stuck to it:

made to stick

(It does not.) But it is bumpy and tactile, just as if it was.

And the book is very, very good.


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What information consumes

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Was finally reading through Tim Ferris’ Low Information Diet ebook and was struck by this quote from Nobel and Turing prize-winner Herbert Simon:

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients.

Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.


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Books for the past few weeks

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I’ve had some really good books out from the library … been on a bit of a history kick lately …

Here’s a selection:

Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson
Excellent book – wonderful story of 2 amateur deep-sea divers who through sheer persistence and amazing energy and effort wrote a new chapter in WWII history.

Walking Up and Down in the World, by Smoke Blanchard
Extremely interesting life story of a hiker, moutain climber, trucker, guide, naturalist, photographer, author, and much, much more. (See this post of mine on a different blog for an interesting quote from the book.)

Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century by Martin Gilbert
Jerusalem, city of peace, has always been a bloody city. This is a good but very narrowly focused history of Jerusalem’s last 100 years. Note: published in ’96 so a bit out of date.

Me Against My Brother by Scott Peterson
Seriously disturbing, but still something you can’t put down. Journalist Scott Peterson writes of something like 20 years in Africa, particularly during the Somalia crisis of Black Hawk Down fame, the ever-lasting civil war in the Sudan, and the genocide in Rwanda (of Hotel Rwanda fame). Required reading if you want to understand something about African wars and their insidious connections to African aid.

Agincourt by Juliet Barker
A detailed history of one of the most famous victories England has ever won. Fascinating, especially for it’s portrayal of the famous and remarkable King Henry V.


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