I haven’t been writing any language learning related blog posts for quite some time now. It is not because there is nothing to write about, on the contrary I have a lot of ideas big and small in language learning department, but I’m too busy with technology/work and other things.
Anyhow I’m very actively learn Spanish language and the moment, keeping on hold French and Afrikaans and postponing desire to learn other languages 🙂 I’m about to receive (unless I failed my exam) my DELE B1 certificate. Subjectively I can say that my writing capability still requires a lot of work as well as speaking lacks control of tense system though I can say a lot using limited amount of tenses and doing a lot of mistakes 🙂
My learning strategy includes loads of input from day-0 (listening, reading) and I’m currently reading “La carta esférica” by Arturo Pérez-Reverte and in this book I stumbled upon the following idiomatic expression – “dejar a alguien en la estacada”. Here is the passage from the book:
Además, siempre preferí contratar a asalariados eficientes antes que a voluntarios entusiastas… Un mercenario al que pagas bien no te deja en la estacada.
Pérez-Reverte, Arturo. La carta esférica (Spanish Edition) (Kindle Location 3386). Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial España. Kindle Edition.
So I decided to read up a bit on the phrase and below you may find what I learnt. Disclaimer: most of the post talks about etymologies of phrases/words and these are frequently contested, I have to warn you that I didn’t do rigorous scientific check/verification and you are more than welcome do double check these theories. 🙂
I quickly found English equivalent for this expression – “to leave someone in the lurch”, and while meaning was clear both expressions required some extra checks in dictionary to understand where they came from. So basic modern meaning of both expressions is to abandon someone in difficult situation.
Let’s start from the Spanish one – “dejar a alguien en la estacada” if you are in a mood for definition of meaning in Spanish here you are – “La expresión ‘Dejar a alguien en la estacada’ es comúnmente utilizada para señalar cuando a una persona se la ha dejado abandonada a su suerte en una situación que podría ser peligrosa, apurada o de difícil solución, no brindándole la ayuda o auxilio que precisa” (source). But what is this “estacada” where our troubled person left? It actually comes from medieval jousting tournaments, martial game based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry.
Tournament between Henry II and Lorges, 16th century
Tournament field for this competition was fenced by “estacas” – wooden posts which formed sort of palisade and land within this fence was called “estacada” (tournament’s arena sort of). During tournaments, after competition was over only knight which felt from his horse (often heavily wounded) left on that land and victorious knight used to leave arena without helping or paying attention to one which stayed on the field. From this takes origin phrase “dejar a alguien en la estacada” which in modern language used to refer to “leaving someone in difficult or dangerous situation”.
What about English version? As you can see Spanish idiom has rather military origin and its English equivalent despite having similar meaning in modern usage has completely different origins. It also revolves around of the place where you left the troubled person – “lurch”. And honestly I had to look it up as I haven’t had an idea about what it could be. Dictionaries list number of meanings of which, knowing sense of the phrase, you may guess that one which we have in the phrase “to leave someone in the lurch” is this:
“a decisive defeat in which an opponent wins a game by more than double the defeated player’s score especially in cribbage“
I also found interesting blog post which offers more interesting and fitting options for origins of lurch, such as:
1. Lurch is a noun that originated from lich – the Old English word for corpse. Lych-gates were the roofed churchyard entrances that adjoin many old English churches and are the appointed place for coffins to be left when waiting for the clergyman to arrive to conduct a funeral service. Hence ‘left in the lych/lurch’ supposed to mean “left in a quite difficult situation”…
Lychgate at the Church of St. James the Less, Philadelphia
2. Second theory states that jilted brides would be ‘left in the lurch’ when the errant bridegroom failed to appear for a wedding.
Those two seems to be apt/interesting yet only listed as suggested explanations with no evidence to support them.
And while most of the dictionaries link the lurch with losing/bad situation in cribbageaforementioned blog post mentioned above suggests that word/phrase “originates from the French board game of lourche or lurch, which was similar to backgammon and was last played in the 17th century (the rules having now been lost). Players suffered a lurch if they were left in a hopeless position from which they couldn’t win the game.” But again, looking at illustration they have there game board looks similar to the one for cribbage.
And after looking at both Spanish and English idioms which convey one idea yet have different origins I realized that both cribbage board and jousting tournament field have something in common…
Modern 120-hole cribbage board
Giovanni Ferri, Saracen joust in Piazza Navona in the 25th of February 1634 (Seventeenth century)
Don’t you think?
Russian version anyone? If you interested in a Russian equivalent of “dejar a alguien en la estacada” / “leave someone in the lurch” I think it will be “бросить на произвол судьбы”, phrase which literal translation goes as “to leave someone to the arbitrariness of fate”… As you can see yet again completely different phrase to convey the same idea. Russian phrase centered around “fate” which is blind and not in a sense of unbiased Themis (known to Russian speakers as “Фемида” [Femida] and aka Justitia aka Lady Justice), but rather blind in its cruel arbitrariness. So to leave on to the arbitrariness of fate would be leaving vulnerable person in really difficult situation.
I’ve just seen CBT Nuggets video on YouTube entitled “How to Transition to DevOps” and though I cancelled their subscription quite some time ago it sparked my interest and made it very tempting to subscribe again (if only not my financial and time budget constraints).
I really like expressive quotes and explanations which use analogy and one from this video which I really liked can be found below. Along with some basic theory on what is and how to approach DevOps in this video Shawn Powers shows little demo which demonstrates how to use Chef recipe for configuration management, and next goes the following conclusion:
“…configuration automation is awesome example of how DevOps is kind of taking two different worlds the world of installing packages and uploading files and code which allows us to programmatically solve problems and put them together kind of like peanut butter and chocolate goes together to make a Reese’s Cup and it’s you know awesome it’s better than the sum of its parts…”
Nice. And I also need to try these Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups now even if it a bit violates healthy diet 🙂 Think it goes well with coffee and IT training videos (if consumed in limited amounts).
I just looked at DevOps courses available at CBT Nuggets at the moment and though it seems there is no DevOps overview/general course available so far they already have courses on specific tools (Puppet, Chef, Docker, Ansible).
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 as a result this tiny review turned into something too big and I was trying to finish it 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 too 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 be wrong about trigger pool resistance though – geeks can read up some specs. Update May 2018: Recently I tried again both Glock 34 and CZ Shadow – and indeed CZ has super easy trigger if compared to Glock where you need to put more effort while pressing it because of “built in safety”.
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.
I’m currently doing a bit of revision of 70-410 content going through “Microsoft Windows Server 2012 70-410 with R2 Updates” training by Garth Schulte. First of all I already passed 70-410 exam and did 70-410 course by James Conrad, but just to take a break before 70-411 I decided to review 70-410 content + go through 70-698 CBT Nuggets course and take an exams on Windows 10 (yes it counts as a pouse before 70-411).
Few words about updated 70-410 training by Garth. First of all it is fully designed with R2 in mind (James Conrad’s course was pre-R2 + some R2 modules added later) so you can’t find there gotchas and detours related with hiccups related with recent release of a product, instead as it covers stable and current release you will find there well structured up-to-date content and as one expect from Garth well covered PowerShell side 🙂 I also like very good slides summarizing key facts you have to memorize before exam – they provide you with compressed knowledge (I guess I stole getAbsract slogan here 🙂 ) you need before taking your exam. Some examples:
Those slides are just great to review before exam (so it could be a good idea to save some screenshots as you go through the course).
Good job Gath 🙂 Once I done with this training and my Win 10 exam I will be focusing on 70-411. And I’m just wondering how do I inject TCF exam and preparation for it in my schedule…
I’ve recently took exam 70-741 which is currently still in beta. I heard some feedback that this exam is quite tough, and honestly giving the fact that sub-net calculation skills tend to fade away without regular practice along with “great constants” (especially new set of IPv6 prefixes and other things you have to remember) I expected to be the difficult one.
Though after watching George Dobrea’s (@gdobrea) 70-741 preparation session recorded at TechEd NA I realized that I rather like practical focus on the exam – much better have network only stuff in one exam instead of having it dispersed across all the other exams in tiny nuggets as we have it in previous generation of certification exams from Microsoft. I really like the way they structured it now, and even early retake of 1 exam requirement is rather good/expected.
After taking beta exam itself I would say that I really liked it as question are really practice focused with short and concise possible answers and really test both your understanding of how it works as well as how to work with it (PowerShell/GUI).
I’m not sure whether I passed or not (for beta exams results being sent to you only after release date and only if you passed this exam) – but overall I didn’t feel like I failed despite plethora of questions about new things and some old things I didn’t remember well enough. Examples of things exam touches on which require revision for me are TrustedAnchors DNS zone, IPAM in general, DNS scavenging, root DNS server and Network Controller.
And just one more observation: The way MSFT orchestrates their product launches for last three product generations or so is really remarkable example on how to do it for any software company. They have it all: well before fancy launch events there is a work and engagement with community and early adopters, exams, training courses and books are prepared to be published just around the release date and by now already traditional free ebooks “Introducing …” available well before the release date clearly communicating selling points and positioning of product (touching on technical topics quite well but mainly giving you a big picture). Probably not any software company has that scale to afford all of this, but if you are vendor of enterprise grade software with established client base you may learn how to do launches from Microsoft – probably no surprises here, at the end of the day this is a company shipping software products since November 1985 release of Windows 1.0 – surely they know how to do this. But by now they really achieved remarkable mastery in product launch process which I can’t help noticing.
When your work is focused on specific product and services around it (does not matter if you in development, support or sales team of product centered organization) the most rewarding thing is to see real-world examples of how your product is applied in practice by clients. It is even better when it was implemented in such a way that client does not mind to share their implementation story with wider public in a video format. Really good to see such examples of how K2 really works for business.
Fozzy Group was able to built K2 based portal automating such things as contracts management, specification management, supply schedule management, sales forecast and score card just in one year. I don’t think you can see such BPA go-live dynamics with conventional code-heavy custom development as well as with some major (semi-)specialized products which end up being adjusted/customized for years (incurring high consultancy fees in the process) before business is able to go-live with them.
Amazing example from retail area which to my mind one of the activities where automation can bring great and measurable benefits. IMO most of the retailers still underutilize technology to its highest potential, but I hope we will see some changes as time goes by.
This blog post covers some issues I run into while installing Windows 10 Anniversary Update on one of my machines and some other issues I discovered/fixed in the process 🙂
As I twitted earlier that for me Windows 10 Anniversary update failed on one of my home machines:
Machine was really low on space on C drive and installation of update failed with error code 0x800705b4. Once I realized it I tried to use available option to move download folder to another drive and freed up enough of space on C drive – but in spite of this I kept getting this 0x800705b4 error. Back then there was no MSFT KB on this and after a while Windows Update even stopped to offer Anniversary Update to me. So I give up temporarily.
Yesterday I decided to give it another try and as Anniversary Update was no longer offered via Windows Update I downloaded Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant from support.microsoft.com:
Once downloaded, this tool provides you with wizard style UI for upgrade:
This tool allowed me to re-try installation of Anniversary Update, but I end up with the same 0x800705b4 error. This time Google I some how come across to an official MSFT KB dedicated to this error. I guess I wasn’t able to find this useful KB earlier as I tried to search something specifically applicable to Anniversary Update whereas it was rather generic Windows Update error.
First suggestion from above mentioned KB was “sfc /scannow” executed from elevated command prompt seemingly helped me, but I’ve got credentials prompt at update installation stage. At this point I decided to give a call to MSFT support, or rather I opt out to request call back from them which I received relatively quickly – and it helped me to move on further. I was explained that I have to activate my Windows using my Windows 8.1 key I had by means of issuing the following command:
This brings you the following Windows which allows you to activate your Windows system:
Once activation succeeded I was advised to start update process from scratch, and I also get a recommendation to use update from installation media to speed up this process. I opt out to continue with Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant.
But alas once I did activation I run into the same error and “sfc /scannow” was not able to fix it, and I proceed to suggestion #2 from MSFT KB – use DISM to to fix Windows Update corruption errors. And solution is to run this:
KB also states that you have to use repair from source here but I decided to try online repair first and run into the following problem:
Error message here is rather non descriptive and give little hints what is wrong for real. And I realized that I already struggled with this back when I tried to play with Windows To Go and give up on this. But since then answer to this appeared in the Internet:
Essentially this error caused by misplaced MiniNT key in registry which makes DISM thing that you try to service Windows PE installation. And truth to be told I have nobody to blame for that except me as I did a little unsupported trick to enable ReFS support on Windows 8.1 long time ago and I seen some other issues caused by this unsupported registry hack. So take away here is that it you use this enable ReFS trick either enable it to format drives, then remove registry key or if for some strange reason you may want to keep it be prepared to issue like non-working Windows Restore and this DISM error 50.
Anyhow once I removed MiniNT key DISM cleanup-image worked well for me and I was able to install Anniversary update, albeit not without another minor glitch which cause disproportionate amount of fuss in the Internet (example) – look like people don’t see how Anniversary Update being rolled out smoothly on 80%+ of super-diverse hardware base and moaning about individual issues with random configurations/old hardware saying that MSFT does a poor job here. Just for your reference on two other machines I have this update installed without slightest issues automatically (and one of them was really old Dell desktop with customized configuration). Glitch I’m talking about is that during update installation on a first boot I got an endless spinning circle on a black background and being experienced with this I waited up to 4 hours, then looked and the interned where a lot of folks report that it was necessary to unplug different Bluetooth USB dongles to get around this issue, and some even report that they were guided by MSFT to do 3-times hard power off to go to recovery mode… 🙁 Just in case I removed my Logitech Unifying receiver from USB port and waited a bit more (~15 mins or so), then just powered down my desktop and switched it on again – system started just fine.
So with a bit of help here and there my entire house hold now runs Windows 10 Anniversary update (2 desktops & 1 laptop). I hope this blog post may help those who run into similar issues.
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:
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.
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” 🙂 .
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.”
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.
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.”