san diego, CA, United States | Member Since 2008
Pimsleur programs are easy half hour lessons done in a conversational style.There isn't an extensive vocabulary,but a steady building of 5-7 new words per lesson with a thorough integration of previous lessons woven into the fabric of the practical dialogues.The one thing missing from this particular program is a transcript with Chinese characters.I spent a year learning the basics with another book and then made my own transcripts.There were many words I heard wrong and thus developed bad habits.If you want more vocabulary buy the Living Language product.You can download free transcripts to insure your pronunciation and develop literacy along with listening and speaking.I have also done Pimsleur Portuguese,which you could probably do without a transcript,since it is a western language and is much closer to English than Chinese.Pimsleur products are great for people with limited time and the dialogues are fun and imaginative.I would give them five stars,but they don't seem to think that a transcript is necessary.Without a native speaker to correct your mistakes you really need the written aide to learn Chinese properly.
I had already listened to The Facebook Effect, Steve Jobs bio and Always On recently. This one really grabbed me, since it was billed as a modern day 1984. That it is. In the book there is a lot of talk about transparency and even the floors of this future empirical company, The Circle, are made of glass. The heroine, Mae, is a recent college graduate whose friend helps her get a job at the latest internet company that is kind of the future Facebook with its convergence of internet platforms. She is hooked up to a headset which speaks to her in her own voice;asking her opinions and preferences on various products. She need only to nod up and down or left and right to answer as she multi-tasked with her various Ipad like devices starting out in what they called customer experience. She soon moves up and becomes what they call clear. She wears a camera, known as a see change camera, and due to her extraordinary social ability gains a huge following. She has several love interest throughout the book and it all culminates in a viewing of a vast fish tank where a shark, an octopus and some sea horses are placed. I don't want to give away the ending, if that was what it was, but it made me want to go back and try to understand the symbolism the author had in mind. It was so chillingly close to our modern mobile society that I would love to find somewhere on the internet where we could discuss the impact this book could have on how we interact with the internet.
I had heard of bee colony collapse in the news and this is a great in depth coverage of what exactly colony collapse disorder is.We discover there are many things that are hurting bee: verroa mites, pesticides, feeding them fructose pancakes and working them to death are all contributing factors. I was left feeling that man has this need to bend nature to his will, but nature bites back with disease, predators, and extinction in some cases. Man seems to come up with band aid after band aid to solve these problems without regard to how it affects other things in the same environment. We are losing our connection to the earth and its resources. One bee keeper in Vermont let nearly all his bees die and started over with Russian bees and good cultural practices. He also did this in a remote area. His bees are robust and get better with each generation. He see the pests as warning signs that he has done something wrong or that simply a certain amount of pests are to be expected. He doesn't want to rely on yet another quick fix. Industrialization of food is the overall problem. This book is a lot like things from Michael Pollan, Paul Roberts or Joel Salatin. All advocates of smaller scale, diverse farming, something the world seems to be moving away from with such a big population. The bees are living beings and need a rest just like you or me. The book finishes with a short history of pollination and also treats us to the details of bee reproduction, and the kinds of things flowers have done to attract their gracious hosts. The narrator spoke clearly enough, but he spoke a bit too quickly at times. If he had paced himself the delivery would have been a bit longer, but much easier to grasp. Sometimes I had to repeat an entire chapter to fully get the meaning. Maybe this would have been a better book to simply read.
Although I liked Molokai better than this book;Honolulu wasn't bad either. This is really historical fiction, since we travel back in time to Hawaii just as America wrested it from the natives. They used Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese and, as is the star of our story, Koreans to cut the sugarcane fields at the time.Our heroine is a young Korean picture bride who is at first thrust into this shocking poor life. Suddenly married to a cane cutter who drinks, gambles and beats her. She does everything to try and make herself useful and desirable, but in the end has to flee from her abusive husband. She runs into a hooker who helps her out temporarily and they become fast friends. She sees some torn dresses in the trash one morning and recalls how it was to sew back home with her mom. The hooker finds her skill quite good and she and the others begin paying her for her work. The hooker moves to Samoa and our heroine goes on to make her own way in a pineapple factory, where she meets her future husband. They have a family and open a Korean restaurant. There are many meeting between our heroine and her friends who also came along from Korea and had varying levels of success. Her former husband comes back to attack her and she rebuffs him and he is sent to jail. Her children learn to surf and become friends with the locals, who share their culture with them. The book proceeds through the Great Depression and the Koreans all manage to stay tightly together; each pursuing their version of the American dream. Later in life the heroine begins to make Hawaiian shirts for a Chinese businessman and they are very fortunate to succeed with this endeavor. She is employed as the factory manager for the man, but finds the work unfullfiling. She start her own modest sewing operation and finds greater happiness.The narrator was really good. She changes voices which gave the characters life and even though I didn't find this story as believable as Molokai it was pretty good. There were many characters and I usually don't like that, but here it was well paced and easy to follow and lots of threads were drawn to connect the costars with the heroine. I hope Mr. Brennert comes out with other books about the islands.
An American inventor fed up with modern life moves his family to Honduras. They buy an island and attempt to spread modernity by building a massive ice making machine in the jungle. Some pirates come and their fancy machine not only kills them when it explodes, but also contaminates their island. The family flees with what little they have and starts again, but too close to the sea. Anticipating this the father builds their house to be like and arc,which is necessary when the rainy season finally takes them out to sea. They drift into a missionaries camp, some friends from their passage to Honduras, and the father again does something foolish. This was pretty good and was even made into a movie, but the movie lacked the details. This is one of Theroux's better fictional works.It made me think that perhaps modernity is sometimes a dangerous thing and some places should never be modern.
Mr. Diamond is a well versed scholar in many fields and has produced many long winded novels that tie such things and anthropology, science and history into a fairly easy to follow chronological order. His writing is perhaps a bit too academic at times, but he is a passionate scientist that would like to see more money spent on us understanding this mess of a world we have created fully. Doug Ordunio is the right narrator for this sobering account of modern history. For a faster paced and more interesting account pick up An Edible History of the World.That said now I understand the Europeans weren't necessarily smarter. They were just dam lucky. In so many ways they weren't as smart as their Asian and Native American counterparts. Just more ruthless and cunning.
This traces the heroes life from China to the American dream. He is married and has a child, buys a home, and even buys a Chinese restaurant. In China he was a teacher, but when he arrives in America he can only find work as a janitor. This gives him time to work on poetry, since he only has to clean up and check off his work hourly, but his ambitions grow and he discovers that the American dream he believed so strongly in wasn't his dream after all. This was a great way to see America from a recent immigrants eyes.
I have lived in China for 4 years now. I am well beyond what is presented here, but if you are planning a short trip this will give you the rudiments of the language. I endorse Living Language products and would recommend that you also download the PDF and follow along to further speed your progress. Both Living Language and Pimsleur products have made me conversant in Chinese. Now I am working hard at reading and writing.
The author is a misanthrope, for that matter so am I. Tired of the 9-5 grind for a second time, he returns to the hot, laid back life of flip flops and sand. There are many funny things that happen, as could only happen on an equatorial island and we are treated to all of the hilarious details along the way. Simon Vance is a fabulous narrator once again. With a clear British accent that add to the humorous prose. I am a big fan of Mr. Troost and look forward to listening to his latest work soon.
Phil is an ex military elite from England and his stories of handling the customs officers with their Blackberries and white shirts are really amazing. We get to hear about all the intimidation that goes on in DRC. He buys into none of it, and always makes the immigration guys shake his hand and make eye contact with him before he gives in to their requests.
The more interesting part of the story is his interaction with the native fishermen, who are very poor and lead very austere lives, but know their way through the jungle quite well. Phil speaks French, Swahili and practices other languages along the way while he plies his canoe up to 12 hours a day.
In some ways it reminded me of Kira Salak's book where she kayaks 600 miles through Mali to the city of Timbuktu. She is treated well in some places and with great hostility in other places.
Both adventurers are fantastic athletes, and both are a bit crazy in my opinion, to put themselves in knowingly dangerous parts of the world. It must be part of their psyche to tempt fate and test their abilities beyond what most of us would consider reasonable.
This man's five month journey from Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean is a harrowing tale where we are treated to his deepest thoughts during stressful situations.
I am a big fan of world history books. Tom Standage is one of the best. I listened to the History of the world in Six Glasses first, which I also highly recommended. This is another first rate title, which I felt achieved its end in a lot fewer words than say, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. It is along the same lines as some other books I endorse. 1491 and 1493. One of which I read and the other I listened to. If you have ever wondered where the food we take for granted came from this book traces the history of such things as potatoes, corn and rice in great detail. It compares today's computer driven science to the the science of food production in the previous centuries. He makes the point that half of us wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for the breakthrough of fixing nitrogen from the air into the soil and further creating more efficient genetic hybrid dwarf plants to feed our ever increasing population. I found the fact that sugar can be produced on a small amount of land, even though it is labor intensive is probably a good reason for it's proliferation as a cheap additive to our burgeoning food supply. I discovered that rice can be grown in poor soil and never needs to be rotated like wheat or potatoes. No wonder we have so many people in Asia. I also found it interesting that most of the successful countries got that way by first securing their own food supply and then diversifying their economies into other areas. This was a great pleasure to listen to and my attention only flagged at a few points during this great book. Otherwise I would have given it five stars all the way. What could be more sacred than man's connection to food.
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