Category Archives: Books

“Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun” – book review and some thoughts on product design

It has been a while since I written anything on my blog – was a bit busy. Then I decided to write a tiny review of this book but fell under the spell of Steven Sinofsky’s long form write ups and was trying to finish this tiny review turn too big for way too long. I end up finishing this abruptly and  posting using truly Bill Gates’ approach of “get it out there, fix it later”, as sticking to “keep it secret till you make it perfect” Apple approach is way to difficult to adhere to. So if anything is wrong here I’ll edit it later 🙂

I’ve recently finished listening Audible’s audio-book “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun” by Paul M. Barret and it was so good that I can’t help writing (a bit) about it here on my blog. I have quite broad range of interests without allergy to go deeper in any number of narrow topics, so on my ever-growing to read/to listen list there are always very diverse books, with topics ranging from economics and linguistics to IT, to history and I never know what else.

From that vast array of topics two have special importance for me: philosophy and history. I just keep noticing that way too many people dismiss first as something you can read/listen only after smoking some weed (I almost quote one of my former school classmates here) and the second as something of a little value and relevancy to our present-day life. It makes me a tiny bit sad to see those disciplines neglected and grossly underestimated. Seriously, the negligence and ignorance about each of these domains is by itself a topic not for a blog post, but for an essay or even a whole book 😊 What could be more important to slow down and to think about “how do we think about things” and “what is worth to think about in the first place” along with “being acutely aware about what has been done and tried before you”? I hardly can name anything more important I think…

Anyhow getting back to the Glock book, it was one of those which just caught my attention somehow (back then I haven’t had any interest in guns beyond general vague subconscious man predisposition to all things military), and it then waited for something like 5 years before I decided to listen to it. Essentially as many of other books in my Audible wish list it landed there thanks to serendipity and maybe some clever Amazon recommendations algorithms.  And as it happens sometimes with the book turned out to be absolutely brilliant and it was just waited for the right time to be listened to (in this case it means some experience with pistol practical shooting and Glock pistol). Another example of the same random-perfect choice for me was “The Language Instinct – How the Mind Creates Language” book by Steven Pinker– this book too was sitting in my wish list for about 5 years and was added there instinctively, and despite I was interested in linguistics when I put it on my wish list, while it was sitting there I managed to learn a lot of stuff about the topic, took some Coursera courses which introduced me to some of the linguistics problems, and then I finally got around that book and it was just “wow” and “why I haven’t listened to it earlier” and “it is a book which eligible to re-read/re-listen many times”…

Looping back from randomly selected books and importance of history to the Glock book. It is one of those non-fiction books which introduce you to the history of the specific topic with great details, and I strongly believe when such books are written by informed person with keen interest to the topic, almost any topic can be really fascinating to dive in. In this case book has it all: history of engineering and enterprise, some political and cultural background, corporate rivalry and person/character evolution – there are so many facets covered in the book which make you understand a lot of things better (if you wish to) or merely enjoy fascinating unfolding of the great story (and as it often happens, true stories turn out to be way more exciting and unpredictable than most works of fiction). I won’t be writing coherent review of the book, but rather list some of my take-aways from it.

On good product. This book is in itself an example of good product design, where even a name (for informed person) designed to spark your interest and buy the book. I mean the title “The Rise of America’s Gun” combined with black Glock pistol on a white background should spark in you an interest as to how Austrian made pistol from old Europe can be an America’s gun, meaning a gun of a country where guns culture is a part of a nation´s psyche and where some other epic names used to reign supreme? Surely you know that gun which won the west? And it wasn’t Austrian one, right? So this book is artfully designed product about another good product which appeared out of nowhere (not exactly of course) and won the market which it possibly it never could have dreamed of, and it won it in a big way. But to understand how you need to know the history which will tell you that everything was important: right timing for entry to the market, a bit of luck, huge amount of controversial (but free for the company) publicity, importance of designing from scratch – good story about good product can teach you a lot about what is important for products, and this knowledge is transferable, meaning that it can be relevant not only to pistols design and manufacturing but, let’s say, for modern day software products or any other products. So I’ll just try to highlight some points from the book which show importance of learning from history and how it can be still relevant.

On engineering. Designing from scratch is something you should do to really innovate. And it does not mean you throw away history/what has been done before you – on the contrary you have to critically review with a pair of fresh eyes and then design from scratch. Before starting development of his gun Glock bought tested and disassembled number of popular guns available on the market:  and come to conclusion that all of them unnecessarily complex (too many parts).

What was really new for gun design is the following:

  • Pistol was designed for complete production on CNC (computer-controlled) tools = lower production cost. This was possible as Glock didn’t have an existing production plant and he was able to build one with this in mind
  • Pistol frame was made out of light, resilient, injection-molded plastic. And it is first commercially successful firearm which was designed with such material. Glock had begun learning about the material when he bought an injection-molding machine to make handles and sheaths for the military knives he produced in his garage. Glock hired former employees of a bankrupt camera manufacturer who brought advanced injection-molding and plastic-design skills. This allowed Glock pistol be remarkably strong and resistant to corrosion, a major problem with traditional steel guns. And light too. Bug main reasoning behind this design was getting savings on raw material and labor anddistinct ergonomic advantages over gun cobbled together from blued steel and walnut. There were earlier attempts to use polymer frame which had not had any success due to design shortcomings (American Remington Nylon 66 rifle and the German Heckler & Koch VP70 pistol)
  • Glock worked with shooters and wooden pistol models on a early design stages to decide on grip-to-frame angle which allows to point gun “instinctively” – and initially it was defined as 22 degrees. Angle was a bit reduced later but up to now unconventional  grip-to-frame angle of Glock makes difficult to shooters to switch to any other pistol (majority uses other angle).

All established market players were all intheir product-market fit (PMF) stage – they just were to attached to their existing gun designs and in PMF stage your business is about extracting more money from existing product – there is neither time no motivation for building different/new product. It is not only “we always done it like that” and “we cannot do it differently” mindset it is also “we have not tools for that” syndrome.

Innovation through removing features. One thing which was crucial for this product is taken away an essential feature and throwing it away, transforming absence of this feature into feature in its own right. I haven’t done any research on this, but I bet external safety trigger was once innovative product feature and selling point for some other gun. We can see this rather a lot in software products (especially as they move to the cloud) – we gradually lose some features we can fiddle with but after a while embrace the increased simplicity and efficiency of that, and the same happens with hardware products (think of mobile phones and bold move of throwing away hardware keyboard).

So Glock was able to sell idea of removal of external safety trigger (though technically it has some sort of 3 step internal one, but from usability POV there is just a trigger and no safety trigger) – it was major selling point as it introduced simplicity of use.

Your strength is your weakness too. Book brilliantly illustrates problem of fit to market stage – old gun manufacturers were busy extracting money from existing product designs with no ability to change them. Unfortunately even zeal of product fans and legendary brand image stop supporting you if there is new better product addressing clients’ needs.

And it is not only syndrome that we did it like that all the time, so we can´t change it, it is also “we don’t have tools” syndrome.

On time to entry (to the market). Glock not only won contract for Austrian army he also been in time (without any plans of doing so) to address concerns of American law enforcement organizations which were prepared to embrace necessity of moving away from west beloved revolvers to different gun. There were reasons for those concerns, in particular incident known as 1986 FBI Miami shootout  which eventually lead to the process of searching for new gun for FBI (1987) and later for other law enforcement agencies. Long story short that incident show inability of revolvers to compete with semiautomatic weapon in the hands of professionals. 4 minutes of shooting, 8 FBI agents armed with revolvers and some shotguns VS 2 criminal, only one of them having Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic riffle which was sufficient to do suppressive fire.

On shaping client needs. Shape your client needs (Apple way) or at least talk to your clients early in design stage. Nobody asked for plastic pistol, and even once they get it some were to attached to their revolvers considering Glock an ugly gun – that has changed after it was adopted by professionals (publicity matters) and other shooters – then everybody discovered usability, efficiency and gun acquired its own cachet of best gun, instead of “ugly” people started to call its look “futuristic”… From ugly duckling to the pistol of the future.

On publicity. Publicity matters. Sometimes even not a very good one. Glock received a lot of free publicity on different occasions – congress hearing related to it being terrorist gun invisible for metal detectors and some completely irrelevant descriptions from Hollywood action movies which cemented gun presence in popular culture. Most of the publicity was free of charge and some was bad, but as Bill Gates used to say “whatever they say about us it is always better than not saying anything about us” (not 100% sure on exactness of quote but I believe it is something from MSFT early days).

Maybe someone still remember that epic description of non-existing Glock 7 in Die Hard movie:

Not a gun model nor single word in description provided is true, but main thing that everybody talking about your brand and you not paying for product placement ads.

On brand storytelling and company message. “Glock perfection” message and personal inventor/businessman legend was formed by some accidents, then supported, developed and shaped by company and its fans. At some point it just start living on its own. So if you as a business don’t have one you’d better work to have it early on and have it right – it may work for you later.

From humble beginnings to the arrogance of success. I believe the Glock as a product centered business is in its product-market fit (PMF) stage, but as it always the case with tangible and software-less product such periods are far longer than for any software or software-enabled/smart product. But still we may expect that somebody will come up with biometry based safety trigger totally blocking ability to fire the pistol to anyone but its legal owner or something that decrease complexity of a gun even more (we still have noise, moving parts and metal parts). But interestingly for Glock pistol and probably for most of the modern pistols in general, almost every remaining issue to address can be sold and believed by many people to be a feature they want to have and keep. Though in retrospect we may see that being big and cool looking, and surrounded by legends even, have not saved revolver(s) as a product – it was superseded by semi-automatic pistols and Glock had become just early entrant to the market which now enjoys status of perfect reputation and seemingly never ending PMF 😊

If we look at the personal evolution of Gaston Glock we may also see that he is changed quite a lot from a timid engineer to more flamboyant person with different lifestyle and demands. But let personal things be personal.

On corporate intrigue and creative accounting. This book covers unsuccessful assassination and I would say that it adds to the overall story twists and dynamics you normally expect to see in fiction movies rather than in history books… Though one would say you can expect than when there guns and a lot of money going around… There is nothing funny when such things happen in real life but nonetheless the way it happened reminded me that fight scene from 2004 Punisher movie for some reason…

And just to conclude, or to address people who tend to scroll down and read final paragraph only: this is a fantastic book which can entertain (education and thinking is always optional nowadays) and contains some surprises and unexpected twists. For me it was really interesting to know more about Glock pistol and its business and development story. Just before I listened to this book I tried Glock 17 on a shooting range right after using heavier, larger caliber Tanfoglio Limited within the same training session and I should tell that now I know what features of the Glock explain my immediate results improvement.

P.S. Tanfoglio is a beautiful, high quality pistol, pleasant to hold but it is still an example of that harder trigger pull resistance and larger stopping power even in highest quality does not provide you with benefits of an easy and consistent results which you can get with light trigger (and light weight) pistol which just makes it easy (maybe even dangerously easy) to shot.

P.P.S. I can mistake about trigger pool resistance though – geeks can read up some specs.

P.P.S. For those who found this post strangely incongruous with normal topics of my blog posts be sure to wait for the next one about pottery (no it won’t be considered as something you can shot at 🙂 ). I’m really have plans for this post stay tuned.

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“Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages” by Ammon Shea

It has been silent here for a while as I was enjoying some time relaxing on the seaside. My holiday gave me a bit of time to catch up on couple of books which were on my reading list way too long. I managed to complete “Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages” by Ammon Shea and “Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft” by G. Pascal Zachary. This blog post about the first one.

Looking on the title “Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages” you may get quite good idea about story line/contents of this book. It is indeed about a man who sat down for one year with paper set of OED volumes and read them all from A to Z. Are you intrigued already? Or like most of the normal people wondering “Why ?”… Essentially it is a book for vocabulary/dictionary geeks by dictionary geek. Author just sharing with you his experience as he goes through OED, paying deserved homage to masterful book of that class which is being judged by their completeness, yet never being read in their entirety.

I was really excited to read it as I have been well prepared/fascinated by OED thanks to books of Simon Winchester – “The Meaning of Everything” and “The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary“. Also in the course of learning English ESOL-way and prepping to FCE/CAE/CPE exams I acquired great love/annoying habit of paying attention to advanced vocabulary and completeness of my English vocabulary to the extent that I can’t resist temptation to learn that new/old obscure/sesquipedalian (isn’t it cool when even spellchecker does not know how to spell this word? 😉 ) word whenever I bump into one. I guess it is high time for me to order this t-shirt:

sesquipidalian

What is interesting about this book is that its author is vocabulary/dictionaries geek, who complains in the book that even on the conference of professional linguists where he had a lot of fun his pursuit of reading OED from cover to cover were poorly understood, but still he wears vocabulary skeptic hat 🙂 Meaning that unlike some other authors of books about words/vocabularies (let’s say something like “Verbal Advantage”) he gives you a disclaimer right of the bat that big/advanced vocabulary or even worse knowledge of huge amount of really obscure words won’t bring you any tangible benefits. Rather, he warns us, after reading a lot of OED you may lose ability to communicate in normal language understood by people. But nonetheless there are a lot of fun in knowing a word which means specific thing an idea which you don’t know existed till you find it. It’s like “I always thought there should be a word for this and lo and behold – I found it finally!” 🙂

Another funny thing that despite being geek spending tons of time in library he is conscious enough to observe strange “library people” around him and even pause to reflect a bit whether he becomes one of them 🙂

So most of the people will decide whether to read this book or not after single glimpse to its title, which for me was enough to put this book on my reading list – really liked it.

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Books: Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington

I’ve recently completed “Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington” by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. I bought 3 analogue books (hardcover, i.e. not eBooks) of these authors translated to Russian more than year ago and only now managed to read one of them 🙂 The fact that these books were lying around for such a long time made me think that I should fully switch to eBooks – it at least saves some free space at home 🙂

In this book wrapped into humor, satire and anecdotes about US political arena you may find quite a few ideas/concepts from formal logic and epistemology which is quite in line with book’s subtitle “Understanding Political Doublespeak through Philosophy and Jokes”. Book actually touches a bit on epistemology, definition of truth, formal logic and quite thoroughly covers common argument fallacies but it is written in a way that you can consume it as an easy read without noticing this.

I especially liked the following in this book:

Chapter with tiny recap of definitions of truth. Book does not discuss in details classical account of knowledge spoiled by Edmund Gettier who introduced cases where classical account of knowledge fails, but it covers correspondence theory of truth (Bertrand Russell), coherence theory of truth (Hilary Putnam) and pragmatic theory of truth (Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey). Book also suggest that it seems that former French president Jacques Chirac introduced his own theory according to which words which were said to journalist true if, and only if, they can be “recorded and published in press” 🙂 .

Comprehensive overview of formal and informal argument fallacies covered by this book, which includes: appeal to authority, force argument or appeal to the stick (argumentum ad baculum), thesis replacement or irrelevant conclusion (ignoratio elenchi), appeal to hatred or appeal to spite (argumentum ad odium), argument from ignorance/appeal to ignorance (argumentum as ignoratiam), weak analogy, slippery slope argument, appeal to nature, appeal to human (argumentum ad hominem), appeal to hypocrisy or “you too!” (tu quokue!), mind projection fallacy, quoting out of context (aka contextomy/quote mining), equivocation, appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam), accepting blame with condition, idea of kairos from classical rhetoric (eukairos and kakakairos). who is speaking? (qui dicit?), with this hence because of this (cum hoc ergo propter hoc aka “correlation does not imply causation“), after this hence because of this (post hoc ergo propter hoc) and so on.

What’s important this overview is easy to read. Whether they are fallacies or tricks to use depends on your vantage point 🙂

Selected biographies of some talkers and demagogues in the end of the book. They are funny and reminded me the same historical writing style you can find in “An Utterly Impartial History of Britain: (or 2000 Years Of Upper Class Idiots In Charge)” by John O’Farrell.

Tiny bit of critique of “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” for bad use of statistics. Book hints that some of brilliant and unexpected conclusions which made this book bestseller do not seem to be justified, but sometimes we accept something like that just because it unusual and so on, without examining author arguments deeply enough. Actually “Freakonomics” was used to illustrate post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. But stories from that book so appealing to re-tell to others with a bit of suspense before you present conclusions that it is no wonder that this book sales exceeded 4 million copies.

I guess I will move on and finally start reading two other books I bought earlier along with this one – “Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes” and “Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between.”

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The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

As I’m trying to cultivate a habit of reflecting on whatever information I consume I’m trying to write a blog post on each book I read. Recently I completed “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair which I started to read with no knowledge about the author or plot apart from phrase that “this book propelled author’s political career” or something like this.

I allowed myself a bit of Wikipedia reading once I done with the book and it is interesting to see that there was a “Federal response” to the book by President Theodore Roosevelt who described this book as a “crackpot” because of the writer’s socialist positions. And to quote author of the book on socialism, he said in 1951:

“The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label.”

Upton Sinclair, Letter to Norman Thomas (25 September 1951)

Irrespectively on whether you think socialism is a crackpot or not the book is worth reading unless you are that type of “oversimplify it” person who would never read anything like “Das Kapital” and employ the joke that “this book would have better to be burnt before it had seen the light as it had produced too many bloodshed, revolutions and couple of evil empires” as an excuse to not reading what that bearded guy meant to say to begin with.

First quarter or even half of this book is amazingly vivid description of squalor and hardships of wage worker at the time where wage slavery was a commonplace. But book take you through couple of cycles and unexpected turns through the eyes of naive Lithuanian immigrant to US who hoped to find his happiness doing decent work in The Yards.

1280px-Livestock_chicago_1947

Union Stock Yards, Chicago, 1947 (source)

My initial impression was that it you lack enthusiasm or excitement about your current job or workplace you should read this book it with switch your perception a little bit I’m sure. But as the story goes on and book elaborates on unscrupulous practices of business owners and world of politics you gradually will be returning back to reality thinking that in a way world does not changed as much as our shiny media channels present it to us (and given the fact that you have an ability to select your media channel you may end up living in “echo chamber” of reality of your choice where your view of the world supported by media and evidence which you selected just because it supports your view). Anyhow I had a chance to work on production line just a little bit at some point in my life and thanks god it was not meat production (but there was a chance to end up there at one point of my life 🙂 ) and yes conditions are better but not radically as essentially the model is the same and with overwhelming win of consumerism and demonstrative consumption in society you may feel divide between wage worker and office staff even sharper: I still remember interesting feeling when while signing off from short stitch as a worker on production line I had to get some sign off from person responsible for personal’s food and on that occasion I had to visit administrative personnel canteen donned in my dirty working suit causing glances from neatly dressed administrative personnel. This is one thing to know that some people have separate canteen and sitting in clean office while you doing your shift in the noisy and and dusty environment of production line, and completely another to be exposed to such contrast – I kind of felt the divide and that type of “you don’t belong there” attitude back then. In short working conditions definitely way better nowadays but not as radically different as some dreamers or careless optimists never caring to look around them may think.

After author almost reaches the peak of his depiction of how poor life conditions may destroy one’s optimism, health and even system of values in life book takes unexpected turn. And here I can quote the book I guess:

“They were trying to save their souls—and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?”

The first turn is towards showing dirty politics and defunct society system which I guess would be amazing read for somebody who takes for granted American hyper efficient image of dream state of freedom and equal opportunities which it projects masterfully with barrage of Hollywood movies and what not else. I guess I can recommend “Detroit: An American Autopsy” by Charlie LeDuff for those who need more up to date reality check to contrast image with reality.

And quite unexpectedly (for me, as I don’t read anything neither about author or about the book), our fallen and corrupt by the life on the bottom of Chicago’s society protagonist, which it seems about to die because of his miserable life conditions within a few pages or so, discovers new wonder and purpose and hope – socialism. And this is what is being uncovered in the last quarter of the book giving it a sort of almost happy end if you can call it so giving what had happened to our hero in the first half of the book.

And apart from socialism last jump or twist is on public healthcare in general and eating meat in particular – quite an interesting to see a passage arguing that meat producing industry is largely profit-driven attempt to earn on poor species whose brains not only programmed to be “pattern recognition machines” but, alas, also “pleasure seeking machines” and in more healthy “socialist” society moving away from meat consumption would be sort of natural and unavoidable.

Anyhow this was a strong book which worth reading and to conclude just one more quote from the book to spark your interest maybe:

“And now in the union Jurgis met men who explained all this mystery to him; and he learned that America differed from Russia in that its government existed under the form of a democracy. The officials who ruled it, and got all the graft, had to be elected first; and so there were two rival sets of grafters, known as political parties, and the one got the office which bought the most votes.”

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A Little Book of Language by David Crystal

A Little Book of LanguageA Little Book of Language by David Crystal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just done listening audio edition of this book and this is just a little comment/review about it.

Initially because of the word “little” in the title and number of opening chapters talking about how children develop their language abilities I was slightly concerned that I picked a wrong buck which going to talk exclusively about children speech development 🙂 But it turn out that this “little” book give all encompassing overview of all things language starting from children speech development and touching on all possible things language related: applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, forensic linguistics, etymology, dictionaries, endangered languages and languages revival, dialects and regionalisms, speech therapy so it is really Little book of Language.

In case you are not linguistics/language geek who wants to know everything about language you may find such book useful for example if you need what facet/aspect of language/linguistics you are interested to learn more about.

I guess I’m going to add more David Crystal‘s books on my ever growing to read/to listen list, and I think it is high time to finally read/listen something by Naom Chomsky as his books were on my to do list way too long 🙂

View all my reviews

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Signed first edition of Seveneves

Last friday I received my copy of signed first edition of Neal Stephenson’s latest book Seveneves, delivered from Barns and Noble. I was almost in the middle with my reading of it on Kindle as I obviously get ebook faster (both things were preordered before release). Pleasure was somewhat spoiled by the fact that nice paper book was damaged in transit – looks like package was exposed to water and book I got is not in perfect condition to say the least 🙁

Package

Some pictures can be found below.

Front cover:

Seveneves 01 Front cover

Neal’s signature:Seveneves 02 Neal's Signature

Picture of Izzy on the back of front cover:\nSeveneves 03 Picture behind the front cover

SIDE NOTE/IRRELEVANT DETAILS: By the way once I reached above picture I spend some time pondering what is the word which describes this part of the book, and end up referring to this as “pictures on the back of the book cover”, posting a question on english.stackexchange.com – “Which word can I use to refer to pictures on the backside of the book covers?”  in parallel. Question was answered and it seems that proper word here is “endpaper” 🙂 Though this term doesn’t imply that this part of bock has an illustration on it so it is necessary to use of something like “front endpaper illustration” and “back endpaper illustration”.

Picture of something else on the back of back cover:Seveneves 04 Picture behind the back cover

Book spine:\nSeveneves 05 book spine

I will refrain from any comment on the book itself until I done with my reading, but definitely write something afterwards.

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The Art of Conflict Management by Professor Michael Dues

I recently finished listening to  (at least first pass done, maybe revisit it later – most of Great Courses titles worth revisiting/more than one listen) of 24 lectures series from The Great Courses on conflict management – “The Art of Conflict Management: Achieving Solutions for Life, Work, and Beyond” by Professor Michael Dues from University of Arizona.The Art of Conflict Management

This course uses dramatizations to illustrate conflict situations and ways of handling them, and tries to emphasize practical side (some assignments suggested in the end of each lecture) which is as usual by far more difficult than any theory.

My takeaways from this course is number of interesting models and shortcuts to think about conflicts (triangulation, defunct conflict strategies etc.), then science and history behind widespread buzz-word “win-win”. It was interesting to know ideas behind the word which is being thrown around sometimes mindlessly nowadays. We can trace back almost any concept or technology to the initial (in hindsight sometimes plain and simple) idea or scientific paper. For Kerberos technology it was project Athena, based in turn on a paper published in 1978 by Needham and Schroeder (Needham–Schroeder protocol), for win-win idea it was 1948 Morton Deutsch’s PhD paper about win-win solutions. Basically he distinguished 2 types of conflicts: competitive conflict, a situation that requires one party to lose in order for the other to win, and pure conflict, a situation in which both parties can fully win. This is important distinction and gives you different point of view on possibilities for conflict resolutions, in addition to point of view which is formed by long standing idea of  adversary system which comes from Ancient Greece.

There also was a nice overview lecture on overarching managerial theories – really good summary on each and overview of transition from one to another. I also liked  the story mentioned at some point there on etymology of the word bureaucracy (which is French in origin, and combines the French word bureau – desk or office – with the Greek word κράτος kratos – rule or political power).

Next I going to start listening to my first audio book in French which is surprisingly enough “Le journal d’un fou” by Nicolas Gogol 🙂 And I also got another title from The Great Courses – “Building a Better Vocabulary” by Professor Kevin Flanigan.

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Nietzsche & Bodybuilding :)

Not so long ago I discovered very good blog about serious literature where the author tries to give his own interpretations to the great works of literary classics, posts there are dense and try to uncover main ideas contained in literary works and what was possible meant by their authors. And more over each post accompanied with short YouTube video (on average 5 mins) where blog’s author speaks about the book in question with some presentation/graphic material. Here is the link to this blog: The Great Conversation

I should admit that the amount and quality of content in this blog is amazing, and personally I’m going to follow it 🙂 Also if you a bit into great literature and on look out for thoughts and ideas which literature contains in abundance, you may be interested in this blog too.

Now to the topic of this post of mine. 🙂 “Nietzsche & Bodybuilding”, where is connection you may ask? 🙂 Well in the analysis of Nietzsche’s “On suffering”  which you may find on aforementioned blog author draws some parallels between Nietzsche views on suffering and bodybuilding. Though it is a bit unclear to which particular work/works of Nietzsche this blog post corresponds to (looks like it is about Nietzsche views on suffering in general) I enjoyed it anyway.

Let me quote a bit from this post:

\n\n

Nietzsche claims that man is composed of two parts – a creative part and a part that is created – in other words, mind and body. According to him, the body is meant to suffer, and the mind is meant to fashion something beautiful out of the suffering of the body. “In man creature and creator are united: in man there is material, fragment, excess, clay, dirt, nonsense, chaos; but there is also the creator, the sculptor, the hardness of the hammer, the divinity of the spectator, and the seventh day – do you understand this contrast? The body must be fashioned, bruised, forged, stretched, roasted, and refined – it is meant to suffer.”

An athlete, such as a bodybuilder, is the epitome of this idea. A bodybuilder subjects his body to the pain and suffering of training in order to create a physique that is aesthetically pleasing. The weightlifting adage, “No pain, no gain,” is an echo of Nietzsche’s ideas.

It is also somehow reminded me about one of the best essays on working with weights I read so far – Iron and the Soul by Henry Rollins. This one may interest you if you are avid gym goer or just thinking about what it gives or may give you.

As a person interested both in literature/ideas and sport I found these parallels interesting. Another interesting thing I learnt for this blog so far is the fact that Einstein once said that “Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist” (this is from the post  DOSTOEVSKY: The Brothers Karamazov)

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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Shortly before the end of 2014 I finished listening to “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. This was unabridged version of classic piece of British literature in audio book format narrated by Michael York.

Brave_New_World_Audible_Cover

I first discover this book some time ago when listening to recordings of “Science-Fiction and Politics” class by Courtney Brown which he did at  Emory University, which is available in iTunes Podcasts if you interested to listen it too. This is amazing class where they took a list of some good science fiction books as a reading assignments for a class and during the classes trying to look at these books from the angle of politics, changes in society and how those may be relevant to real world politics and changes. At the end of the day most of good science-fiction books depict very different societies, where world either changed by technology or globally changed in some other way and this gives a lot of space for questions such as how big changes are brought about and executed, how people react and adapt to them etc. Very interesting approach. Another book from that class which made it to my “To read list” is a 1977 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle “Lucifer’s Hammer”, though it was just briefly mentioned in this course if I’m not mistaken.

Anyway I just wanted to write a few words about Brave New World, not in support of “need to share culture” (one which replaced “need to know culture” these days), but rather in support of habit to reflect on what you consume (read, watch, listened to) 🙂 To my non professional view this book written in 1931 very acutely reflects on fear of two things: consumerism and prosperity brought about by technological revolution plus dictatorship/total control, probably loss of soul and awareness that technology only will never solve humanity problems also. These two things (consumerism plus total control over society) paired together in this book to present us scary picture of society which offers perfect stability at expense of such things as art, freedom and even true science, by conditioning people into perfect crank of consumer society. Non consumption and everything non generating new demand are enemies of the new society. Sex and Soma (drug which keeps people happy) are built in into depicted society as things to be consumed massively and in an unrestrained way and necessary to maintain stability of the system. By the way the drug’s name soma is an allusion to a ritualistic drink of the same name consumed by ancient Indo-Aryans which is described as being prepared by extracting juice from the stalks of a certain plant. In both Hindu and Zoroastrian tradition, the name of the drink and the plant are the same, and also personified as a divinity, the three forming a religious or mythological unity.

This is a strong book about somewhat scary things, but as it presents us with very big picture (edifice of new system/society), this somewhat offset scariness of the picture. In a way books about real, commonplace bad things of everyday life produce stronger feeling of fear/gloom as they don’t hide this “everyday/commonplace dark side of our lives” behind any grand things or ideas showing that bad things just there without any particular reason and justification. It seems that we live in a world much closer to one depicted by this book, but do not think that it is scary. Author who lived in a moment of transition and early days of consumerism culture, in the presence of some totalitarian regimes was capable to draw a more vivid picture of these two things paired together and went wrong. As we somewhat moving in the similar direction embracing consumerism and giving up on religion, search of meaning and some other things as a society, we, at the same time, became less aware about dangers of this direction. The questions such as: “How bad the deceiving shine and prosperity may be upon a closer look? Do we really need just stability and prosperity no matter the price? How much of personal freedom could be sacrificed for prosperity and stability?” are still relevant anyway, since the time of Hobbes “Leviathan” we still trying to figure out how the state and society should be arranged and how the way we organize things on a large scale may be reconciled with the way individual man wants or tries to organize his life.

Anyway “Brave New World” is a book which most likely make you think about interesting questions which written masterfully, and it means that it meet main criteria of a good book.

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Review: Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing

Some Remarks: Essays and Other WritingSome Remarks: Essays and Other Writing by Neal Stephenson\nMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a good mix of (mostly short-form) writing: from a little bit unexpected (like introductory piece about perils of sedentary lifestyle) to proper “Neal’s style” things. By “Neal’s style” I mean “extremely rich in details, festooned with brilliant and simply explanations of difficult things/ideas and really thought provoking”. I especially liked “Mother Board Mother Earth” (fascinating introduction to the world of submarine cabling which provides foundations for our modern communication systems) and rocket-science/big project execution related pieces “Locked In” & “Innovation Starvation”. And if you are fan of Baroque Cycle there are some related interviews in this book too.

View all my reviews

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