Book Review – When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink

We are all familiar with the expression “timing is everything.“ From ice hockey to investing, success often depends on doing things at the right time. But how do we know when it is the right time? Sometimes we can play where the puck is going, or figure out the right moment to act by a careful read of the market, but in other cases the right time depends on us; it depends on us knowing when to do things.

Daniel Pink’s new book, When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing, looks at when we should do things to be the most efficient, the most productive, and the most inspired. The “when” he discusses is the time of day, the time of the year, or even the point in a project where we should or shouldn’t do certain things.

He poses a certain number of questions early in the book:

Why do beginnings—whether we get off to a fast start or a false start—matter so much? And how can we make a fresh start if we stumble out of the starting blocks? Why does reaching the midpoint—of a project, a game, even a life—sometimes bring us down and other times fire us up? Why do endings energize us to kick harder to reach the finish line yet also inspire us to slow down and seek meaning?

We’ve all experienced flagging interest in projects, or difficulty trying to make it through the day, the week, or the month, but we generally don’t think that we might have started — or continued our projects — at the wrong time.

Read the rest of the review on The Startup Finance Blog.

What Happens When Your Crime Library Goes Up In Smoke? – CrimeReads

The lightning bolt blasted down from the fast-moving summer storm, exploding into our roof, through our attic, and into the guest bedroom. Fire erupted on the bed. My sons put out that fire in the bedroom, but the roof and attic were ablaze. Within two minutes, my family were out of the house, with our pets, pulling our cars out of the garage, as the flames spread. Despite the heavy rain, smoke already wreathed our home. We got out with the clothes we had on our backs. We were safe. We watched our home burn as multiple fire departments responded, as news crews and the Red Cross arrived, as dozens of our neighbors gathered around us to offer comfort, as our family tried to grapple with what seemed an unimaginable new reality.

Hours later, after the fire was out, the fire chief helped my wife and I wade through a foot of water in the remaining shell of our home.  We surveyed, in disbelief and shock, the catastrophic damage—missing walls and floors, splintered beams, debris everywhere. The air reeked of smoke and the raw, wet innards of our house. Then I saw, by the glow of my flashlight, sodden and burned books on the shelves and in the water and I thought, for the first time: Oh. All my books.

Jeff Abbott is a best-selling crime fiction author who I have known for more than twenty years. Last year, a lightning bolt struck his house, burning the entire house down. Fortunately no one was hurt, but his huge library was decimated.

You don’t think something like this will ever happen to you, but Jeff gives some tips about recording information about what you own just in case.

Source: What Happens When Your Crime Library Goes Up In Smoke? | CrimeReads

The Unamericans

My motives for writing this story are conventionally American. I value my freedom to be what others may not wish me to be. I am proud to read whichever book I want, from The Satanic Verses to S&M pictorials to the speeches of Saddam Hussein. Although I sometimes write about politics, I do not consider myself political — or is it in fact political to hold some degree of disrespect for whichever fellow citizens have been set in power over me? In this, if Steinbeck is to be believed, I am very American: “Americans almost without exception have a fear and a hatred of any perpetuation of power — political, religious, or bureaucratic.” Yes, like my father, I am proud to be an American, at least sometimes. (Shortly before he died, in 2009, he told me: “I used to be proud to be an American. Now I’m ashamed.”) I’m proud that when I’m ashamed I can say so without being hauled off to a secret prison. I must love any government that allows me to excoriate it.

I am an aging man, more or less satisfied with life, self-employed, able to turn down jobs that don’t suit me, free to say no to almost anybody and accept the consequences. I have gotten out of the habit of being a “team player,” if I ever was one. I am proud of this American Way of Life in which I am, at least in my own view, anyone’s equal. These ideas that I have are predicated on the notion, common to my fading generation, that my private life is no one’s business.

William T. Vollmann, the polymath author of fiction and non fiction – most recently of the fascinating, yet frustrating, two volumes Carbon Ideologies (Amazon.com) – wrote this essay for Harpers in 2013 after he learned that he had been suspected of being the Unabomber.

At first, I do not mind admitting, I was thrilled to have something new to report to my friends. No other member of our circle had ever been mistaken for the Unabomber! Their expressions of astonishment flattered my vanity; I nearly mistook myself for someone important. But presently I began to feel offended, and when I learned that the Unamericans had watched me for years, indeed surveilled my house, I felt, as people say after burglaries, violated.

Read Life as a Terrorist: Uncovering my FBI file.

Photo Book Review: In My Room, by Saul Leiter

Saul leiter in my room 59 gifThe nude female body as a subject has a long history in art, and in photography. In fine art, it has always been more or less sedate – though see Courbet’s L’Origine du monde – but in photography, it has often been more osé. Nude photography follows the unwritten rules of the patriarchy; in most such photos, the woman is an object, often in ludicrous positions, or in situations that serve as nothing more than backdrops to their bodies. Photo magazines are full of nude or semi-nude photos – so-called “boudoir” photography – that serve to codify the tropes of this genre: for example, a naked women in high heels in front of a waterfall. There are certainly many exceptions, and nude art photography – to distinguish it from “I know it when I see it” pornography – can be very attractive, without demeaning its subjects.

Read the rest of the article on my photo website.

Amazon UK’s Subtle Pro-Brexit, Pro-Trump Bias

Amazon UK runs a lot of deals on Kindle ebooks. There’s a daily deal, where there books are offered, usually for £0.99, there are other occasional daily deals, and there’s a big monthly deal, with hundreds of books ranging from £0.99 to a few pounds. Lots of people take advantage of these deals to pick up books they might not have read at bargain prices, or often to begin or complete a series of books, such as mysteries, fantasy novels, etc. I check the list every month, and often find books that I’d been wanting to read; for a pound, it’s a no-brainer to buy them.

Among these deals are non-fiction books. This month, Amazon’s selection is surprisingly political; not that there are a lot of political books in the lot, but that most of them are pro-Brexit, pro-Trump, and anti-Corbyn (Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party). Here’s what you can find this month in the monthly deal selection.

This one’s thesis is very clear from its title: the EU is bad:

Kindle1

Here’s a biography of Jeremy Corbyn. It might not be biased, but the title is clear. It’s published by Biteback Publishing, which is owned by Michael Ascroft, former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party:

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Here’s another one attacking the Labour party. Coincidentally, also published by Biteback Publishing:

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In fact, it looks like Michael Ashcroft’s publishing house has quite a deal with Amazon this month. I wonder why? Perhaps because it’s likely that there will be new elections in the UK soon?

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This one is also pretty clear; another from Biteback Publishing, as are all the rest of the books I cite below:

Kindle2

Here’s a memoir from the person who led the Leave.eu campaign:

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A book “written” by Nigel Farage:

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Here’s Ann Coulter’s pro-Trump screed:

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And another pro-Trump book:

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Another pro-Brexit book:

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And one more for good measure:

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It’s not uncommon for a publisher to offer a bunch of its titles at a discount to Amazon. (It’s worth noting that the first book above, The Great Deception, is from a different publisher, Bloomsbury, who is a generalist, not a propagandist.) But having this many books that clearly lean in a specific direction politically is dangerous. People who scan the sale titles will see these books, all clearly ideologically biased, and not see only other options at these low prices. A publisher funded by an ideological politician is selling books at bargain prices in order, perhaps, to try to sway public opinion at a time when the UK is in crisis. I think this shows Amazon’s bias as well.

The Guardian view on lengthening books: read them and weep – The Guardian

At 500 pages, The Overstory is a “majestic redwood” of a novel. Its place on this week’s Man Booker shortlist is testament that long books are fine by the judges.

[…]

One book survey found that the average number of pages had increased from 320 to 400 pages between 1999 and 2014. Some think that the shift to digital formats has contributed, not least in removing the fear of being crushed beneath your duvet by your bedtime reading.

[…]

Writers are not the only ones reluctant to kill their darlings. Director’s cuts tend to expand rather than contract movies. Viewers of Apocalypse Now Redux – 49 minutes longer than the lengthy original – can testify that there’s sometimes good reason for studios to interfere with a creative vision. Yet executives too can overrate the long and sprawling.

One culprit can be the misguided sense that volume equals value for money. Another is the odd association between physical heft and artistic or intellectual merit – “weighty” is a compliment, “slight” is an insult.

Interestingly, I opined about this back in June, specifically mentioning The Overstory, a new novel by one of my favorite authors. I’ve put off reading it because it’s long, and I’ve been more interested in reading shorter books these days. Oddly, the books that have caught my eye in recent months have been longer, and I haven’t bought many of them; I’m still in search of shorter, tauter novels to read.

Source: The Guardian view on lengthening books: read them and weep | Editorial | Opinion | The Guardian