Category Archives: Books

100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying – Sarah Cooper

2. Translate percentage metrics into fractions

If someone says “About 25% of all users click on this button,” quickly chime in with, “So about 1 in 4,” and make a note of it. Everyone will nod their head in agreement, secretly impressed and envious of your quick math skills.

3. Encourage everyone to “take a step back”

There comes a point in most meetings where everyone is chiming in, except you. Opinions and data and milestones are being thrown around and you don’t know your CTA from your OTA. This is a great point to go, “Guys, guys, guys, can we take a step back here?” Everyone will turn their heads toward you, amazed at your ability to silence the fray. Follow it up with a quick, “What problem are we really trying to solve?” and, boom! You’ve bought yourself another hour of looking smart.

The book presents a sarcastic view of how to act during meetings, including 100 advises of how to look smarter, while not having a clue of what the discussion is about. The funny thing is that it resembles so much the modern world.

Some of the advises include:

1. Draw a Venn diagram. …

2. Translate percentage metrics into fractions. …

3. Encourage everyone to “take a step back” …

4. Nod continuously while pretending to take notes. …

5. Repeat the last thing the engineer said, but very very slowly. …

6. Ask “Will this scale?” …

7. Pace around the room. …

8. Ask the presenter to go back a slide.

The author, Sarah Cooper, is a comedian that worked for companies like Yahoo! and Google and has a blog called The Cooper Review.

When I started reading the book, I genuinely thought that it is some self-development book. Well, it is mostly a humorous take of corporate meetings, but, as the motto says, “It is funny because it’s true!”.

Tarkin – James Luceno

His strategy of flying boldly into the face of adversity was studied and taught, and during the Clone Wars would come to be known as “the Tarkin Rush”.

The book, happening in the Star Wars universe, presents an important episode in the life of Wilhuff Tarkin, the Imperial general. His unique and advanced stealth ship is stolen and used against the Empire by a cunning crew. He is tasked, together with Darth Vader, to catch the thieves by the Emperor himself. The entire story is told by using flashbacks and memories, neatly arranged.

James Lucerno is a veteran of Star Wars novels, specializing in stories of the antagonists. In this book, the reader can gave a glimpse in the life and of personality of the famous Imperial Moff, later Grand Moff, Wilhuff Tarkin.

Tarkin is meant to represent the military power: ruthless, efficient, domineering. But his personal background is rather surprising, and seems unfit with the personage.

The plot is compelling and the characters are well developed, but I would not go so far to say they were memorable. The Star Wars universe is beautifully constructed, giving depth and engaging the reader.

However, I have found the vocabulary used rather poor, despite some good tries of the author. The background of the protagonist does not seem fit with his career and personality. It often feels that his inner motivations are not explored in depth. The plot is engaging, well-thought and unpredictable, but more could be drawn from it.

Overall, a solid piece of work from Lucerno, an enjoying book for the fans of the genre.

 

Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee

She didn’t need ordnance; she needed someone who could work around the problem. And that left her the single undead general in the Kel Arsenal, the madman who slept in the black cradle until the Nirai technicians could discover what had triggered his madness and how to cure him. Shuos Jedao, the Immolation Fox: genius, arch-traitor, and mass murderer.

The book is the first in the “The Machineries of Empire” trilogy, a military sci-fi saga set in a humanoid futuristic world.

The story of the first book revolves around Jedao, a genius strategist with a twisted story. The protagonist is undead, his conscience being kept alive by a black cradle, and he needs a human anchor to move. Jedao is a prisoner of the hexarchate, an all-dominating, tyrannical empire, which we find later our strategist wants to destroy.

Jedao’s anchor is a woman, Kel Cheris, an infantry company commander, with remarkable military skills.

Jedao, the undead genius strategist with a twisted story. His conscience is kept alive by a black cradle, and he needs a human anchor to move. A breathtaking military scifi saga, awarded by Nebula and Hugo awards.

The world-building is profound and brusque, the reader being immediately immersed into the new vocabulary and organisation of the world. The explanations come only later and they are sometimes subtle and sometimes straightforward.

The plot is rather simple, a difficult rebellion needs quelling and the infantry commander chooses as weapon the infamous undead strategist. They go together to fight the rebels. However the story progresses rather nicely, with a entertaining action, careful character construction and motivations, and unexpected turns.The strong point of the saga is the world-building: a humanoid world divided into six classes, with exotic weapons, needing constant balance and removal of heresies.

Yoon Ha Lee’s saga is similar to Warhammer 40,000 stories, but less grim and hopeless; and no new species, but castes.

The story won multiple sci-fi nominations, including to Nebula and Hugo awards. A good read for the fans of the genre.

The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu, (Translator Ken Liu)

No. Many of the best scientists can be fooled by pseudoscience and sometimes devote their lives to it. But pseudoscience is afraid of one particular type of people who are very hard to fool: stage magicians. In fact, many pseudoscience hoaxes were exposed by stage magicians.

This is an amazing hard scifi book by the Chinese author Cixin Liu, masterly translated by Ken Liu, discussing human nature and communications beyond the solar system.

An engaging and creative plot, accurate use of mathematics and astrophysics, great character development makes this volume one of the best scifi books in the last years. The book won the prestigious Hugo and Nebula scifi book awards.

The book is the first part of the the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, which expands the theme of human resilience and entrepreneurship.

The plot is skillfully developed as a detective story around the experiences of Wang Miao, a nanotechnologist in current day China,  involving a computer game and an old research station. The book starts with the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the development of a secret research stations and we are gradually brought to present life and introduced to the scientist Mr Miao. Shi Qiang, the cunning detective who guides the protagonist, is a superbly created character, down to earth and creative.

Overall, an exceptional hard scifi book, with a well-built, engaging plot and memorable characters, deserving all the praise it got in the last years.

La grande histoire de la Belgique – Patrick Weber

Bourguignonne, espagnole, autrichienne, française, hollandaise… la Belgique possède la plus singulière des histoires, aussi passionnante qu’un roman d’aventures. Des siècles de guerres, de mariages diplomatiques et de luttes religieuses qui ont semé la graine d’un royaume né d’une révolution romantique en 1830.

Le livre présents l’histoire du territoire qui fait maintenant la Belgique, en commencent avec la Belgique celtique jusqu’à contemporanéité. L’histoire a un point de vue classique, focussé sur la succession des chefs politiques, mais fait parfois des mentions aux développements sociales et économiques.

Patrick Weber fait une très compréhensive et entrainante présentation de l’histoire de ce pays. Tous les périodes sont présentes : la Belgique preféodale, féodale, bourguignonne, espagnole, autrichienne, la Belgique dans le sillage de la révolution française, la Belgique néerlandaise, la révolution belge, Leopold le Ier, Leopold le IIème, Albert le Ier, Leopold le IIIème, Baudoin, jusqu’à Albert le IIème.

Des petits sous-chapitres sont inclus avec des détails des différent provinces ou villes belge, dans la période que le chapitre présent.

On peut comprendre mieux maintenant la signification des nommes des stations de métro à Bruxelles : Toison d’Or, Joséphine-Charlotte, Mérode, Simonis et autres.

C’était un très bon livre, facile à lire, en sélectant les détails importants de l’histoire belge, en essayent d’être neutre politique (même que l’auteur parait être wallon), je recommande à tous.

Full Spectrum Dominance – William Engdahl

For the faction that controls the Pentagon, the military industry and the oil industry, the Cold War never ended. It went on ‘below the radar’ creating a global network of bases and conflicts to advance their long-term goal of Full Spectrum Dominance, the total control of the planet: land, sea, air, space, outer space and cyberspace …

The book discusses the military strategy of the United States in modern times, which the author describes it as “Full Spectrum Dominance”. This strategy means a total dominance of the United States over all fields: military, culturally, in space, energy, etc.

The book presents many captivating and forceful arguments, showing deep thinking over some events that shook the world. The research is extensive, but some conclusions seem at times far fetched.

Not everything he says is wrong though. If Engdahl’s book is read in parallel with The New Digital Age by Jared A. Cohen and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, many of the possibilities and opportunities created by digitalisation may well be used for military purposes.

Engdahl is a profound thinker, using a realpolitik analysis apparatus to make a critique of the neo-conservative military doctrine. Pentagon is seen as a cunning force, having no scruples in imposing its will.

The author, William Engdahl, is an American writer with a degree in engineering and jurisprudence from Princeton University and a graduate study in comparative economics at the University of Stockholm. He is an original thinker, writing and commenting on the major events in the world.

Make your bed – Admiral William H. McRaven

None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. Like the small rubber boat we had in basic SEAL training, it takes a team of good people to get you to your destination in life. You cannot paddle the boat alone. Find someone to share your life with. Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.

The book is a powerful and succinct self-development book by the retired 4-star admiral, William McRaven. He gives several life advices based on his experience and SEAL training.

Admiral McRaven was the legendary head of the US SEALs, during the bin Laden operation. Apparently, he was much appreciated within the US special operations forces. His book is not a memoirs, but just a sum of good life advice.

Now President of the University of Texas at Austin, the author based his book on the commencement speech at the university in 2014.

His first advice is to start the day with an accomplished task, such as making the bed. Each accomplished task gives confidence and pulls another accomplished task in the day and so on.

I find his advice useful and wise. Success brings success indeed.

The biggest critique to the volume is its brevity, at only 173 small pages with large font. However, the book seems written by the admiral himself, as the style of writing is rather simple and straightforward; but nonetheless elegant.

The book has a beautiful hard cover, a timeless masterpiece.

A book I fully recommend reading for its beauty, simplicity and wisdom.