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Book Review: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

BlinkBlink by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting book on how humans make immediate decisions without a lot of obvious information. It opened up a lot of interesting ideas to pursue and offers a number of links to other books I want to read.

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Book Review: Escape from the Ivory Tower by Nancy Barron

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I saw this book in the book raffle at Science Online 2012. I didn’t get it in the raffle, but decided to buy it later. I’m glad I did. My longer review is on Goodreads.

There is a lot to like about this book for scientists or technologists who are leery of working with the media. It should be on the list of to-read books for many scientists who want the public to know about their work.

Book Review: Before the Lights Go Out by Maggie Koerth-Baker

February 26, 2012 1 comment

I reviewed the book Before the Lights Go Out by Maggie Koerth-Baker on Goodreads. I got a preview copy at the Science Online 2012 conference in January 2012. Excellent reporting from a member of the Boing-Boing crew.

Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers UsBefore the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us by Maggie Koerth-baker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Science Online 2012 Book List Links

February 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I kept losing links to the Science Online 2012 and other non fiction and science books so I plan to post the links here.

My Reading List from Science On-line 2012

  • The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA by Jeff Wheelwright – ReadMy Review
  • Before The Lights Go Out by Maggie Koerth-Baker – My Review
  • Escape From the Ivory Tower by Nancy Baron – To Read
  • Here Is A Human Being by Misha Angrist – Reading Now
  • The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin
  • The Calculus Diaries
  • Geek Dad
  • Pink Boots and a Machete
  • Life In The Treetops by Margaret Lowman

The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess

February 17, 2012 1 comment

The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNAThe Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA by Jeff Wheelwright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent book on the story of a New Mexico valley interweaving the genetic issues with BRCA in a close community. A very touching story that I enjoyed a great deal.

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Driving Technical Change by Terrence Ryan

February 6, 2011 2 comments

I have over three decades in the scientific and software development world so I was curious when I noticed Terrence Ryan’s new Pragmatic Bookshelf book “Driving Technical Change”. The subtitle is “Why People on Your Team Don’t Act on Good Ideas, and How to Convince Them They Should”. This subtitle tells you a lot about what Terry was writing about. He is mid career in the software development field and has worked in a number of companies. He has had a lot of enthusiasm about bring new ideas and tools into his teams. This enthusiasm comes out as a bit of frustration as he describes the battles with colleagues to embrace new technology and techniques. He turned that frustration into a search for ways to convince the skeptics that the changes were worth the effort.

He approaches the reader by offering a list of stereotypes for the skeptics in an organization in part two of the book. In part three, he offers techniques for mitigating the push-back you get from each type of skeptic. Part four offers strategies for the reader that could be useful in pushing for change. As I read the book, I was often nodding my head agreeing with many of his thoughts. The skeptics do come out and many are the stereotypes that he describes. Sometimes the same people take on several of the behaviors and sometimes the people change behavior depending on the topic. Some people are your allies on an issue and then become your enemy on others.

I think the book is best read by someone with a few years of experience in a technical field, but not so many that they already understand office politics. After a decade or two in a technical field, you know the landscape. The interaction of people on a team comes down to culture and politics of your organization. If you understand people and politics, you will go a long way in making your work life easier. You will also know when to fight the battles and when to retreat. Knowing when to retreat is the most important since most people are competitive and want to fight. That is where the maturity makes a big difference in your career. This is similar to the stock market decisions. It is easier to know when to buy a stock than when to sell.

Another important issue is to decide who you are and what you want in your career. Do you want to fight for technical change on your team or do you move from team to team or company to company looking for that great fit? Which is more comfortable for you? This book could help someone on that quest, but should be partnered with other resources on career development and change management.

Rockwell Exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art 2011

January 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Miss Hunt and I visited the NC Museum of Art yesterday to view the current Norman Rockwell exhibit. We are members so we get the first visit tickets for no cost. This turned out to be a good thing as far as I was concerned.

This exhibit follows a number of exhibitions at NCMA such as the Monet exhibit several years ago. They usually have a big exhibit about once a year. This is the first year where members don’t get unlimited access to the special event exhibits. That policy was changed and I can see that it would be a hit to the funding. The memberships are very reasonable and one free visit is most I would do for most of the exhibits.

The Rockwell exhibit is a large one. It starts with a number of paintings in several rooms that were excellent. The crowd was something of a problem in those rooms though so I tend to go where the crowd isn’t to view the paintings. The folks with headphones are annoying and in their own worlds so they can get in the way. Some were a little rude in just jumping in front of you. Most of these were the older folks surprisingly. We figured that 3pm on Friday afternoon would be less crowded so my annoyance probably had a lot to do with calculating incorrectly when to attend.

After the front rooms of paintings, there was a constriction in the walkways were they were looping a large video describing his life and work. This was an unfortunate placement since many people got in the way and you had to scoot around the outside trying not to get in the way of people standing and viewing the video. Basically, they placed the video viewing area in the hallway which did not work.

Behind the video area, there was a large room with all the covers Rockwell did for the Saturday Evening Post. This was mobbed which was okay since I didn’t have a lot of interest in these illustrations. There were several larger paintings of the cover art which were the best things in the room. Not surprisingly, this room seemed to be the most interesting to those in attendance. The older people who would have remembered the covers from their childhood seemed to be riveted. This was great as it must have brought back many pleasant memories for them.

After fighting my way through the video crowd again, I got to the other back room where there were a number of other illustrations. The most memorable were those of JFK and Ike and some of the works he did for the original Peace Corp. After that was a room showing the methods he used in doing an illustration he did of the civil rights movement. It is weird today to realize that black people could not be shown on a cover except as servants back then.

The working drawings and photos in the last room were interesting to show method and procedure, but I thought it was a poor choice for a high end exhibition. There is a question on whether an exhibit such as this should have concentrated on illustrations rather than artwork. I would have expected that at the NC Museum of History, but it took me by surprise at the NCMA.

The North Carolina Museum of Art is definitely worth going to for the amazing content of the galleries which are all free to view. It is an amazing value to people who are interested in art in general. The Rodin gardens are great. The outdoors park is great. I love the place and appreciate all that people do to make it available. I just didn’t much care for the Rockwell exhibit. I am glad I didn’t have to pay the $15 ticket price. I would have been very annoyed on leaving it. YMMV

Categories: Reviews