Category Archives: Books

Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Whenever I finished filming a movie, I felt my job was only half done. Every film had to be nurtured in the marketplace. You can have the greatest movie in the world, but if you don’t get it out there, if people don’t know about it, you have nothing.

This is the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger, starting with his childhood in Austria, his first bodybuilding contests, going to the United States, becoming best bodybuilder, then becoming actor, one of the best paid in Hollywood, then businessman, owing city blocks and airplanes, then governor of California. An impressive story by all accounts.

By what Arnold does best is being inspirational, with many, many good quotes in the book. Some readers might know his speech, the 6 rules for success.

1. Trust yourself

2. Break some rules (not the law)

3. Don’t be afraid to fail

4. Ignore the naysayers

5. Work like hell

6. Give something back

Here is an inspirational video, the original speech and the transcript of the speech.

A giant among men

What is impressive about him is the tenacity, the discipline, the ambition and the cold calculations done to succeed. Arnold went well beyond what was necessary to win.

For example, he went to public bodybuilding demonstrations, in parks and prisons, growing the field. Of course, he gained the titles, he was the one growing the bodybuilding business, bringing money and fame for all involved, including referees and competitors. For movies, I quoted him, saying that making the movie is only half the job, the other job being promoting it. Being Governor of California was not a fluke, Arnold going to the Republic Party conferences years ahead his bid to be elected.

He started his first business when he was still competing as bodybuilder, renting apartments. He gradually expanded his real estate, earning millions from his business.

He really left no stone unturned when fighting for a goal he set for himself. His great breakthrough was the acting career and he talks most about coming to the United States and trying to succeed. Bodybuilding was not enough for this man.

He read books, took English classes, business classes, acting classes, everything in his power to become an actor. And like Sylvester Stallone, he never accepted anything less than the main role. He believed in his star and pulled others to do the same.

Arnold was a social butterfly, knowing all the main Hollywood starts BEFORE his first movie. He names dozens of famous people as friends, so his social reach must have been exceptional.

Of course, his book, like any autobiography, shows only his best part, leaving aside failures. The first part of the book talks about his childhood, forming years, coming to America and his first years. The second part is as governor of California and it is mostly on politics, unattractive for some readers.

Overall, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man of contrasts: he has high discipline for himself, but he cannot be faithful to his wife; he is a bodybuilder, but smokes cigars; he is an environmentalist, but drives a Hummer.

His book is widely considered one of the best inspirational stories that one can read and I fully recommend it.

[Featured picture by Gage Skidmore]

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other – Sherry Turkle

Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.

This is a very thought engaging book, looking how communication technology changes our social interconnections. It is more than social media, the book looks at how people text instead of talk, hide behind an avatar, interact in video games, comment anonymously, have virtual pets and number hundreds of online friends.

In the first part, the book focuses more on social robots and how they help people: the elderly, to deal with attachment, loss of friends and isolation, children being in other countries or cities; and the children, for whom social robots are virtual pets. In the second part, the book looks at social networks and how mobile communication technologies are affecting human communication today.

An insightful book on social robots and the effect of mobile communication technologies and social media on human communication

The book is a well-researched, well-reasoned account, much based on interviews, of the changes that communication technology brings on social level. Some things are well-known, such as the profundity of the communication diminishes with the distance and complexity. For example, text says less than a phone call, and both less than a video. But there is more to that: a letter takes time and thought, while a quick SMS, which is also a text, gives much less information to receiver.

The author, Sherry Turkle, is an MIT technology and society professor, specialized in the effects of these new communication technologies and social robots on humans. She writes in consecutive books on these topics and the results of her interviews. You can watch some of her ideas on TED Talks as well.

In a way, the author long anticipated the problems with fake news, cognitive bias and confirmation bias that we are confronting today. She looks systematically at what could be the root causes of these dangerous symptoms.

This is a book that I  really recommend reading for the insightful conclusions that her interviews show.

[Feature photo by Fraser Smith]

Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World – Stuart Diamond

Debbie Simoncini-Rosenfeld, vice president of an insurance company, was trying to deal with her eight-year-old daughter, Jessica, “screaming and yelling” to stay up later than her 8:30 bedtime. Her daughter wanted to read later at night. So Debbie traded her daughter a 9:30 P.M. bedtime in exchange for no bare-belly shirts at school and no riding her bike in the street. Debbie valued her daughter’s decorum and safety more than a later bedtime; her daughter valued a later bedtime more than decorum and safety. “Children like to be involved in making the rules,” Debbie said. “If they get something, they will give up something.”

There are many books around talking about negotiation: win-win situations, strategies, how to relate, how to present, etc.. Authors offer trainings, games and motivational speeches, have a website and recommendations from famous people. This book is no exception. Except one: it is absolutely packed with examples.

This is the best part about the book: it has hundreds of examples, of real situations when trying a negotiation worked. It has really good advice. For example, negotiation for a better price is not possible in the shops of an airport, but it is possible wherever you talk with the owner or manager of a shop. This happens a lot in the street shops. However, sometimes all vendors have the same price for the same product or type of product. In this case, the simple question: why should I buy from you and not from the next shop? makes wonders. Simply asking if the price is negotiable is enough sometimes to open the door for an unexpected saving.

Trading and negotiating

The book is having one main principle: we are different and we value differently products or services. What is unimportant for him is valuable for her and viceversa. That makes the basis of trade: diversity in value we give to products and services.

Also, what matters is how things are perceived from the other side. It is always about the other side, because it is them whom you need to convince. Therefore, it is critical to understand what they want, what is valuable for them and what is not. Hence, listen to them and then make a proposal. There is always more to trade than appears at first sight.

Frankly, it is one of the best books, from any category, I have ever read. It has a good feeling after it, reading how people got what they wanted, how things got working.

[Featured picture by Australia High Commission, Suva – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]

Prostii Europei. Cum se sinucid civilizatiile – Traian Ungureanu

Si, în fond, ce mare lucru ar fi de spus? Nimic mai mult sau mai putin decat ca lumea noastra e pe punctul de a desfiinta lumea noastra. Ca valorile, indrazneala si increderea care au facut civilizatia Europei sunt in retragere. Si ca pe urmele lor alearga, foarte grabita, o idee unica si palida: abandonul mascat în cuprindere toleranta.

Europa si lumea occidentala au învatat sa sustina idei care le slabesc. Negarea traditiei, defaimarea identitatii nationale, religioase si culturale sunt, în gura si în practica elitelor conducatoare, probe de virtute. Înainte de a se risipi, lumea la care renuntam e data uitarii sau cedata de cei ce ar fi trebuit sa o aiba în paza.

Cartea pe care o aveti in fata e ceruta si scrisa de acest curent, de angajamentul pro- declin pe care elitele conducatoare il pretuiesc exact in masura in care isi vor pretuita superioritatea morala. Asadar, cititi o carte pe care o datorati epocii. Singurele lucruri care vin de la coautor sunt impotrivirea la cliseu si refuzul opiniei tainuite.

“Prostii Europei” este o critica dura impotriva corectitudinii politice, mai ales la nivelul elitelor Uniunii Europeane. Cartea are trei parti, Uniunea Europeana; zona anglofona cu State Unite si alegerea lui Trump, Marea Britanie si Brexit; si Romania.

Chiar in rezumatul lui Traian Ungureanu, cartea se concentreaza in jurul catorva idei:

– conform autorului, acceptarea imigrantilor fara un filtru va aduce la islamizare si diminuarea a ceea ce numim civilizatie. Aceasta se intampla deoarece noii imigranti nu vor sa se integreze sau sa munceasca, vin doar pentru beneficiile sociale.

– cei mai mari dusmani ai democratiei sunt chiar cei care vorbesc de progres, fiind inconstienti de consecintele profunde, anti-democratice, a ceea ce propun;

– pentru elite, mai ales pentru cele europene, democratia si in principal alegerile democratice devin gradual tot mai incomode si indezirabile. In acest sens, da exemplul referendumurilor repetate pana la alegerea dorita sau referendumuri pur si simplu ignorate. De asemenea, oriunde partide de dreapta au fost alese, elitele europene au fost foarte critice la adresa lor.

– stanga se prezinta cu un inchipuit avantaj moral, iar dreapta este banuita de fascism. Se ignora ororile comunismului.

– plecarea a o cincime din romani in strainatate este o mare drama pentru tara, ce probabil va bloca dezvoltarea Romaniei. Autorul este foarte pesimist cu privire la viitorul Romaniei, cresterea economica de acum este iluzorie, fiind putine investii care sa dainuie, precum in infrastructura.

– decalajul economic, cultural si de gandire dintre Transilvania si restul regiunilor creste.

O critica a corectitudinii politice din lumea occidentala.

Traian Ungureanu face chiar el parte din elitele europene, fiind europarlamentar, asa incat comentariul lui este facut in cunostinta de cauza. El argumenteza ca fara dezbatere si fara valori solide, inhibate acum de corectitudinea politica, degradarea civilizatiei si lumii europene sunt ireversibile.

Autorul noteaza indepartarea elitelor de omul de rand si da exemplul imensei surprize a Brexit si alegerea lui Trump, considerate imposibile de presa mare si de sondaje.

Cel mai grav in viziunea lui Traian Ungureanu, dincolo de corectitudinea politica, este indepartarea de valorile democratice. Apar zorii unei noi nomenclaturi, technocratice, cu un nou limbaj de lemn.

Cartea nu are un fir narativ, ci se prezinta sub forma unor articole, multe preluate articolele lui Traian Ungureanu din ziarul “Adevarul” din ultimii ani, altele fiind noi.

“Prostii Europei” a fost foarte bine primita de intelectualii de dreapta romani. Bunaoara, HR Patapievici considera corectitudinea politica pusa in lumina de volumul lui Traian Ungureanu o “teroare morala, un cosmar asemenea stalinismului”.

Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation – Patrick Dunleavy

Part of the positive help that comes from exposing your text to a fairly wide range of commentators, from family or partners to supervisors, fellow students and wider seminar audiences, is that it can help counteract the development of disabling private standards of criticism.

Going out into the professional world at conferences is also generally encouraging for PhD students, since it tends to show you that standards there cover quite a broad range. Doctoral researchers normally cannot match the sweep of large-scale confirmatory research projects or the thematic ambition of major authors. But in terms of doing well-based and consistently-pursued research many PhD students can match or outclass most academics doing conference papers.

The important thing is to have a realistic image of your likely professional audience, one that encourages you to ‘see what may be thought against your thought’ in Nietzsche’s terms (from the epigraph to this chapter) without paralysing you from composing, developing and upgrading your text.

The book gives solid advice how to write a PhD. It is considered one of the best in the field. The purpose is not to read it from page 1 to 250, but to dip in and out, according to needs. This is why the book is somewhat modular in approach.

Good book for early PhD candidates

It is very important in the early stages of a PhD to understand how to build your research design and the research question. The book explains in detail every step, from research design to conclusions and defending the thesis.

The book is very useful for PhD candidates. It is pragmatic and full of good advice, although a bit too long and detailed at times. It is mostly directed to social sciences and humanities, but it applies to all fields.

The author, Patrick Dunleavy, talks from experience, sitting on various committees listening to students defending their thesis from various disciplines.

A good book for those who need it.

 

Prince Henry “the Navigator”: A Life – Peter E. Russell

Henry begins with a text listing his view of what the objectives of any man’s life are…First of all is man’s duty to secure salvation for his soul. This is by definition the most important goal of human life. Next is the pursuit of honour for himself, his name, his lineage and his nation. Honour, declares the prince, is passed on by inheritance from generation to generation and so concerns the very essence of worldly existence. If he possesses honour, a man’s name and reputation will endure until the world’s end…He dismisses as worthless most of the activities necessary either to make life tolerable or, indeed, to keep going at all.

Prince Henry “The Navigator” is a detailed biography by Peter Russell of the famous Portuguese prince who started the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the 15th century.

The Prince was obsessed by his crusading destiny and, under his pressure, the Portuguese conquered Ceuta. He then goes against everyone, seasoned sailors and common knowledge, to fund expeditions going beyond Cape Bojador, a place after which sailing was considered impossible. This was a crucial moment that defined the destiny of Portugal.

A splendid expeditions and commerce organizer.

Prince Henry also organized and pushed the discoveries for decades, until his death, despite the fact he was constantly struggling with bankruptcy. The trade with Guinea (mainly slaves) and, principally, the riches from Madeira (wood, dyes, sugar) brought much wealth to the country and showed that profit could be made from maritime discoveries.

He was open to people of skill, hiring foreigners in his service, mainly Genoese to develop trade. Rusell suggests that some of the funds to finance the expeditions were coming from the Genoese merchant houses in Portugal.

The ascetic Prince was very close to his retinue, always trying to help them and give them positions. Maybe his court was not always paid in time, but he tried to take care of his knights and servants.

The biographer is a balanced writer of Price Henry’s life. The debacle of Tangier, when the Portuguese attacked the Marinid Morocco’s port, again at the Prince’s pressure, shows a darker side of the noble. To be allowed to leave, the Prince agreed to give back Ceuta, leaving his brother as guarantee. He never returned the city to the Moroccans and his brother died in prison.

While the Prince always presented his expeditions as religious attempts to christianize Africa, the purpose looks more likely to be profit. Putting the cross of the Order of Christ, where he was leader, on the sails certainly helped to boost this image. In practice, no churches were built in Africa and he cruelly defended his monopoly of trade to Guinea, especially against the Castilians.

But, why was he starting the expeditions? Why not others? Maybe the answer lies on two aspects: first, he was conditioned to go towards the sea, there was nothing of enough value, or too costly to get if North Africa was attacked; secondly, he wanted more than others to become famous. The biographer suggests that the Prince strongly believed that he could get by sea to the mythical kingdom of Preacher John, a Christian kingdom full of riches in Africa. Of course, the conditions were set for discovery: internal stability in Portugal, with Castile fighting internal wars, no threat from Africa, ships that could travel such long distances, enough wealth to finance the expeditions, skilled and courageous sailors, etc..

The books is lengthily, still not enough detailed as it could have been. However, it is a classic, maybe the best biography of the famous Portuguese prince.

[Featured photo by André Luís from Lisbon, Portugal]

Manipulation : 300 trucs et astuces pour obtenir tout ce que vous voulez – Gilles Azzopardi

Les aînés, plus obéissants ?

C’est bien possible. Une étude menée par deux psys de Nouvelle-Zélande, Matthew Haley et Bruce Ellis, auprès de 350 frères et sœurs, montre que les aînés sont plus respectueux des règles et les cadets, plus rebelles. Cela serait dû au fait que les parents accordent systématiquement plus d’attention et de soin – 3 000 heures de câlins et d’attention en plus entre 4 et 13 ans – aux aînés qu’aux cadets.

Manipulation est un petit livre qui donne des conseils pour améliorer les relations interhumaines. Pour exemple, le livre parle de comment se faire obéir les enfants, même des plus coriaces ou s’imposer, même quand on n’est pas chef.

Petit livre pour être des meilleurs négociateurs

Les conseils sont généraux, mais ils sont souvent supporter par des références aux articles scientifiques. C’est un mix de conseil familiale et conseil de travail, pour trouver un lieu de travail ou pour faire mieux le lieu de travail existent.

Le livre est petit, mais mignon et utile. C’est un bon rappel pour  essayer d’être plus calmes and rationnelles dans la vie personnelle et professionnelle.