Thursday, October 27, 2005

Only the Paranoid Survive, by Andrew S. Grove

Only the Paranoid Survive, by Andrew S. Grove

Unfortunately, I’m continuing my series of mediocre books. This one discusses strategic inflection points, those times for a business when its fundamentals are about to change. For instance, with Intel the point where they decided to phase out its memory chip business for microprocessors was strategic. While I found this fairly interesting, I was disappointed that it was so focused on looking backwards: a lot of stuff about how to look back and tell when an inflection point occurred but very little about how to determine when one is happening or how to react to one.

I think my current company is in the midst of an inflection point right now. Not a market-driven one as discussed in the book, but an internal one. Our main product wasn’t designed to be scalable, but we are now trying to sell it into enterprise sites. Needless to say, it isn’t going as smoothly as you’d hope. There has been a lot of talk around the choices: do we rewrite or rearchitect? Clearly the resulting decision will dramatically affect the future of the company, but which way to go?

First Sentence:
I’m often credited with the motto, “Only the paranoid survive.”

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tales to Astonish, by Ronin Ro

Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution, by Ronin Ro

This is a biography of Jack Kirby, one of the most influential comic book artists in America. I knew that a lot of the pioneers of the heroes we know today got screwed by the publishers but not many of the details. When I got into comics as a kid, Kirby was one of the names spoken in hushed tones in the shops. Yeah, we were geeks. Anyway, this book details the life of Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and the original X-Men to name just a few. If you recognize a character from Marvel Comics there is a good chance that Kirby drew him or her if not having a hand in the actual creation. Kirby created art at an amazing rate: ten hours a day, seven day a week. Today’s artists make a lot of their money by selling their original art, but much of the art Kirby created was stolen or misplaced by Marvel. There was a period where Kirby and Marvel weren’t even speaking; amazing considering the obvious influence he had on the company. Imagine Chrysler not welcoming Lee Iacocca or Microsoft ignoring Bill Gates. In the background of all this drama, the comic book industry is unfolding into what we see today. If you enjoy comics, you’ll be fascinated by this story.

First Sentence:
Jacob Kurtzberg was tired of being poor.

The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century, edited by Turtledove and Greenberg

The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century, edited by Harry Turtledove and Martin H. Greenberg

If the title didn’t clue you in, this is a collection of short stories dealing with time travel. As I’ve mentioned before, I like the idea of time travel and alternate fiction. This is a pretty good collection, but with the word best in the title I was surprised with the lack of anything by Bester. In any case, this was a solid book. Several stories are familiar, such as Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder and Clarke’s Time’s Arrow. Most were new to me, though, and pretty good. Henry Kuttner’s Time Locker was my favorite; one of those stories where the bad guy gets what he deserves in a most entertaining way. A good read, all the way through.

First Sentence (from the introduction):
We’re all time travelers, whether we know it or not.

Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi

Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi

Networking is not something I enjoy. I understand the importance of it, but hate what I feel is the forced nature of conversation. I don’t consider myself to be shy, but neither am I the guy that announces his presence with a yell when he walks into the room. I’m the guy in the back of the lecture hall making snide remarks about the fools asking questions to hear themselves talk. While I like my coworkers, I prefer to eat lunch by myself with a good book to simply get away from the office. I’d rather be at a bar with my friends than at a happy hour passing out business cards. Networking is not my thing.

I picked up this book because I hoped it would help me change my attitude. Didn’t help much. There was some good stuff in here, I admit: making introductions between my friends that might enjoy / benefit from each others company and then stepping out of the way, for instance, is something I’ve been trying to do. Unfortunately, the general tone of the book reminded me of the self-centered idiot that won’t shut up about his accomplishments sitting next to you on the red-eye. I hate that guy.

Is this a good book? Probably. Did I enjoy reading it? No.

First Sentence:
“How on earth did I get in here?”

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