Monrovia, California, United States | Member Since 2012
My first reaction to Andrew M. Grant’s “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Management” was “You’ve got to be kidding! Are you really telling me that if we hold hands, sing ‘Kumbaya’, and share our shovels in the sandbox, everything will be okay at the office?”
That’s not what Grant was saying - at all – but it took an uncomfortably long time for him to get to that point.
Grant advances the position that those who give generously, both professionally and personally, are more likely to be successful than “takers” (about 15% of people) or “matchers” ( about 70%). It’s a compelling argument, and Grant backs up his position with widely regarded studies and valid statistics. According to Grant, a business organization is well served by finding and developing givers (sharers), whose collaborative work with other givers often returns far more than the work of takers or matchers.
Grant also points out an important fault of givers: Statistically, givers are also more likely to be low achievers or failures, if they become “doormats.” Grant has some valuable tips for doormats to recognize takers, and extract themselves from “no sum” or “negative sum” relationships.
I listened to “Give and Take” on the heels of Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” I wondered until halfway through the book if Grant was even considering women in the workplace. Many of the “giver” techniques he recommends are the very techniques that, when used by women leaders, erode whatever leadership foundation they have.
Grant eventually points out that the communication techniques he is recommending will not work for anyone presenting in a leadership role (at a board meeting, for example), although they will work for a leader as a team member.
Grant has some invaluable tips for how women can effectively negotiate higher salaries and gain respect in an organization, even while they are “givers” (or “sharers”, in my parlance).
This book didn’t have the impact “Lean In” did for me, but it had some invaluable suggestions I will incorporate into my life. I am now much more confident about being a “giver” and recognizing “takers”.
I had an unexpected issue with the narration of this book: Brian Keith Davis, the reader, is so smooth, he reminded me of Casey Kasem, the host of American Top 40. I listened to that radio show every Sunday night as a teenager, eagerly waiting to find out what the new Number 1 song was. Several times, after an especially positive anecdote in “Give and Take”, I expected to hear a current pop song. As I write this review, the Number 1 Billboard song Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop.” That is especially apropos for this book.
About seven years ago, when the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was still at UCLA, as I was dragging exhausted, sunburned and way over sugared children (who still have no idea what it means to have actually met Sally Ride), I passed the "Sisters in Crime" booth. A bright paperback title caught my eye: "The PMS Murder".
I love the LA Times Festival of Books so much there's a clause in my child custody agreement that I always get my kids that weekend, and that title sang to me. I was so cranky with the fabled monthly symptoms by the end of that day that if just one more 'First Five' balloon had hit me in the face, I would have popped it with one of the bazillions of pens and pencils my kids collected that day.
So, I bought Laura Levine's "The PMS Murder" (2007), and had her sign it, without even caring what it was about. The title alone felt like vindication. And then I read it - that evening. The next year, I found Laura Levine again. I bought two more paperbacks. Eventually, I read them all, hardbacks included. That was, until I started The. Long. Commute. And Laura Levine's Jaine Austen mysteries weren't on Audible. Until now.
"Death of a Neighborhood Witch" (2013) is a laugh-out-loud jaunt through the below-Wilshire, less fortunate but still striving part of West Los Angeles. Levine captures that real Los Angeles, the one where apartment walls are apt to collapse in the next earthquake: native Spanish speakers are derided and assumed illegal; and the right shoes make woman, even if she's wearing Louboutins by day and eating Top Ramen every night.
The witch in question is a one-season Morticia Addams derivative sitcom star Cryptessa Muldoon. Someone attempts to frame Jaine for her murder - but who? The list of suspects is long, their foibles many, and what they say - well, Levine wrote for Laverne & Shirley (1976 - 1983). I suspect that Penny Marshall delivered most of Levine's lines. And Jaine's cat, Prozac - let's just say if I get a cat, I'm naming it Xanax. Or Sir Librium.
Brittany Pressley's narration disappointed me because after half a decade, I'd really began to identify with Levine's advertising writer/detective Jaine Austen. Especially the problems with errant slenderizing undergarments. Pressley isn't the Jaine voice I've heard in my head, which was My Own Voice. I got over that, and Pressley was pretty good. I never confused one character for another.
If Marcia Clark's fictional District Attorney Rachel Knight catches beautiful but cynical and tawdry Los Angeles, Levine's Jaine Austen captures commuter busses, taco stands, boring jobs, and Angelinos with always sunny dreams.
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The day after I finished Seth Mnookin's "The Panic Virus" (2011) I heard Paul Krugman's March 30, 2014 New York Times Op-Ed "Jobs and Skills and Zombies." Referring to the 'skills gap', Krugman says, "It’s a prime example of a zombie idea — an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die." Mnookin makes the same point about the idea that vaccines cause autism: that theory's long ago disproven, and anti-vaccine/autism activists should let it pass peacefully.
That isn't to say that vaccines are either entirely safe, or entirely effective. They are neither, and no one should fault actress/activist Jenny McCarthy for demanding an investigation, especially with the recent substantial increase in autism diagnoses. Mnookin discusses some spectacular public health failures, including a MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine campaign in the United Kingdom that killed 19 children in a small community. The vaccine, stored without preservatives at the time, was contaminated with staphylococcus. There have been polio vaccine campaigns that have given people polio, and still do - although it's usually a very mild case. Mnookin's point is that, after careful study, autism isn't a complication - even of the preservative thimerosol. And, by the way - thimerosol hasn't been used in vaccines in the United States for more than a dozen years.
[Reviewer's commentary: Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, using (in part) intelligence provided by Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi administering CIA-funded Hepatitis-B vaccines in Abbatobad. The program was dramatized as a polio vaccine program in Kathryn Bigelow's 2012 movie "Zero Dark Thirty." According to a March 27, 2014 Huffington Post article, at least 30 polio health workers have been killed in Pakistan since then. That makes the odds of being killed while administering the polio vaccine substantially higher than the odds of having an adverse reaction to the polio vaccine.]
The book was well written and engaging, although it was a bit repetitive. That actually means, like Andrew Solomon's "Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity" (2012), various chapters can stand alone without the entire book. Solomon's book, by the way, has a lot of information on autism and disabilities and is a good follow up to "The Panic Virus."
Mnookin points out a problem for everyone: deciding not to vaccinate, especially against pertussis, or whooping cough, eliminates crowd immunity. As Nancy Shute reported for NPR on September 30. 2013, "Vaccine Refusals Fueled California's Whooping Cough Epidemic." In 2010, 10 babies in California who were too young to be vaccinated died.
Setting aside the 'good of the many' argument for immunizations, Mnookin drives home - with actual dollar amounts - that money and other resources that could be used to study the actual cause of autism, and to treat those on 'the spectrum' are being used to disprove a zombie theory. Dr. Temple Grandin, a PhD and widely respected scientist with autism recommended iPads for people with autism in her 2013 book "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum." How many occupational therapists could have been hired, and how many iPads could have been purchased, for what the government has spent repeatedly studying the non-existent autism/vaccine link?
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I'm a Sherlock Holmes/fan, with a little "f" in fan. That translates as 'I know when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was knighted (1902); that he was a medical doctor (University of Edinburgh, 1881); and that he died in 1930. I have all of the Holmes stories and novels in two leather bound books with small print and pages edged in gold. They were probably meant to be decorative, but I've read and reread them so many times, the bindings are coming off.
I am glad that writers like Robert Pohle, Gillian Linscott, and Lyndsay Faye are Fans with a big "F" for Fanatic. Their admiration of Doyle and his writing style made this an enjoyable collection of "new" Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
Some plots were more intricate than others. In a few cases, I solved the mystery in a few minutes. I kept listening, hoping I was wrong and was disappointed to be right. The writing was uneven - some language was spot on; other dialogue was wooden, forced and anachronistic. What worked very well was listening to the narrator, Graeme Malcolm because no matter whose writing, it's the same "voice".
Each story is about 30 to 45 minutes long, which is a good length for my commute.
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John Perry's "The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing" (2012) is a fun little listen - if you get around to it (Imagine a winking emoticon here).
Dr. Perry (he has a PhD) is a philosopher and is on the faculty at Stanford and the University of California, Riverside. Unlike a psychologist, Perry takes what is (procrastination, in this essay) and looks at it a different way. A psychologist would take what is (a bad habit) and try to change it. In Perry's philosophy, have something you keep putting off? Put something more daunting on your "to do" list, like learning Ancient Latin; don't do that; and do what you've been putting off instead.
Perry was awarded a 2011 Ig Nobel for his work in this essay. "To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important." The Igs are awards for real research that "first make people laugh, and then make them think."
What I really, really liked was Perry's suggestion to put a "don't do" on the "to do" list. It works like this: Suppose that you normally hit the snooze on the alarm a couple of times. Or six. Put on your "to do" list, "don't hit the snooze button". And when you get out of bed the first time, there's a check mark on the "to do" list. It's a 'Not to Do' To Do List. That works for me.
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There's a couple of sure ways to get me interested in a book by an author I haven't read before. One way: have a bunch of highly paid talking heads argue vehemently about what the book actually says, all using the same quotes to back their arguments. That's how I ended up reading/listening to former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates' memoir, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" (2014) earlier this year.
Another way to grab my attention is to have community members and conservative parents try really hard to ban the book at schools and libraries. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" has been, off-and-on, one of the top 10 banned books since it was published. According to the American Library Association (a non-profit dedicated to NOT letting books be banned), its been taken off the shelf for: offensive language, abortion, drugs/alcohol/smoking, violence, suicide, homosexuality, and it's sexually explicit.
Now that I've listened to "Wallflower" I can confirm it has all of that - and more. There's also a rape and more than one child molestation. That's a lot for a short book - it's 256 pages in print and a 6 hour 20 minute listen.
The plot and the subject matter isn't easy to hear, but I think it's important for teens to know life can be very, very difficult - and people go through hard times. That's a little patronizing, but that's a reviewer problem, not the book itself. I'm almost 50, I have high schoolers, and I just can't think of a better way to put it.
I was a little disappointed with the vocabulary. Sure, Stephen Chbosky used all the right words - there wasn't a silly euphemism to be found. However, the vocabulary level wasn't quite 5th grade. Since the main character spent most of the book reading literature, the juxtaposition was jarring.
This is 9.0 AR points (source: arbookfind dot com).
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I'd heard of Susannah Cahalan's "Brain on Fire" (2011), but I'd also heard Cahalan's a New York Post reporter. "A tabloid reporter?" I thought. "A writer from the rag famous for headlines like 'Headless Body found in Topless Bar' (April 15, 1983) and 'Weiner's Rise and Fall' (June 17, 2011)?" Clever headlines, sure - but aren't all tabloid writers as nutty as their ledes? "Maybe the job did her in," I thought, mentally dismissing the book.
My newspaper snobbery almost made me miss a very well written, insightful book based on sound, peer reviewed and published scientific research. In her mid-20's, working a dream job in New York City with a new boyfriend, Cahalan developed Anti-NMDA- (N-methyl D-aspartate) receptor autoimmune encephalitis, At the time - and probably still - people who develop signs and symptoms of that disease are diagnosed with psychosis of unknown origin, or schizo-affective disorder. The only really unexplainable symptom is seizures - others, such as abnormally high blood pressure, can be misdiagnosed as an concurrent, but unrelated problem.
Cahalan was lucky - she has a well educated family, and her bitterly divorced parents set aside their animosity to aggressively advocate and care for her. In fact, Cahalan's parents' new spouses were admirably supportive, despite Cahalan's paranoia - which had her saying particularly hurtful things to one and all. Even with parents and a boyfriend convinced Cahalan had more than "just a mental illness", pinpointing the cause was long and arduous - and almost didn't happen in time to prevent irreversible physical and mental problems. The treatment was an arduous course of steroids and intravenous immunoglobulins and plasmapheresis. Cahalan's care ended up costing her insurer over $1 mil, although if she had been properly diagnosed to begin with, the bill would have been 25% to 50% less.
Cahalan did something that was incredibly brave: she carefully researched and wrote about a situation that not only almost killed her, but also had her acting in ways that she later found were incredibly embarrassing. The most courageous admissions were about the hallucinations she knows she had - but are such vivid memories, she still half believes they were true.
Audible, I blame you for making me a newspaper snob in the first place. (That happens when the monthly subscription includes a 48 to 52 minute every weekday New York Times Audible Digest; your drive is about an hour; and the NY Times writing's usually pretty good.) Audible, I also thank you for knocking me off my literary high horse to find a writer worth the listen. I'm not going to start reading the New York Post, but I will look for other medical/scientific books by Cahalan. And, yeah, maybe I'll actually read a Post article along with an especially "punny" headline.
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Cancer books seem to fall into IMPORTANT categories, like factual and vaguely or actually scary (Siddhartha Mukharjee's 2010 "The Emperor of All Maladies"); herbs/alternate life style/dietarily inspirational ("A Dietician's Cancer Story" Diana Dyer, 2010); humorously practical (Fran Drescher's "Cancer Schmancer" 2003); or melancholy and ending with the death of a neighborhood curmudgeon and/or a loved one (too many to name) who passes on an Important Life Lesson just before dying. If you're looking for one of these kind of books, then John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" (2012) isn't for you.
I had avoided Green's book for a long time because I was afraid it would be one of those latter Inspiring Stories, a saccharine sweet tale that tastes okay going down, but leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I was wrong.
"The Fault in Our Stars" was a heartbreaker, but in a clear, unsentimental and pragmatic way. 16 year old Hazel Grace and 17 year old Augustus Waters probably had my fellow commuters wondering just what kind of breakdown I was having. They would have had time to notice: I sobbed through an entire chapter, with traffic stop and stop again.
Is "The Fault in Our Stars" true to a 16 year old girl? I don't know. I was a 16 year old girl for a year, and I'd like to think I can relate - but I was 16 in a different century. Kind of LATE in a different century, but still - a different century.
Green's an unobtrusive voice, but he comes through in Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters scared parents. The parents want nothing more than to spend what time is left with their children; and their teens want nothing more than to be normal - you know, embarrassed by hovering moms; sneaking out the window on naive dads; and taking absurd risks and going on adventures. Come to think of it, it was the Mom in me crying with the parents.
"The Fault in Our Stars" haunts and is haunting. It's a good listen.
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I'm not really sure what Marissa Walsh's "Girl With Glasses: My Optic History" (2006) was. An autobiography? Not really, I don't know where Walsh went to college except that it was probably one of the Seven Sisters, Is Walsh trying to do for glasses what Lisa Birnbach did for dock siders sans socks and polo shirts in "The Official Preppy Handbook" (1980)? Probably not - it wasn't advice l about which glasses work well with plaid skirts and blue blazers.
I've decided that no matter how Audible or Barnes & Noble categorizes GWG (Walsh's nickname for the type), it's a mildly amusing memoir framed by half a dozen pairs of glasses, interspersed with occasional forays into contact lenses. Walsh, in contacts, is literally a different person. She's aimlessly striving, uncomfortable in her own skin, annoyingly uncertain about clothes, and doesn't fit in no matter where she is. Wearing glasses, Walsh is a clever observer; wry and charmingly self deprecating; becomes a New York hipster; and doesn't care about blending . Walsh writing about being in contacts is forgettable; in glasses, she's got super powers.
I'm not sure what the text version looked like, but I suspect it has lots of lists, bolding, bullet points and italics. If that's the case, the narration worked fine. GWG was an okay enough way to pass a three hour traffic jam on the 405 South.
The joke is that prostitution is the world's oldest profession, and there's a debate about the second. Is it politics? Ronald Reagan joked at a business conference in Los Angeles on March 2, 1977, that "Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." Is it motherhood, as Erma Bombeck claimed in "Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession" (1983)? Or is it spying - as both Phillip Knightley says in his 1986 book, "The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the 20th Century" - and Professor Vejas
Gabriel Liulevicius in this Great Courses lecture series "Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History" (2011)?
Whenever spying started, it is the world's most versatile profession. Liulevicius points out that a spy can be anyone. A 13th Century merchant on the Silk Road might be gathering intelligence for Genghis Khan's Mongol Hoards. A highly respected but deeply in debt American Revolutionary War general, feeling slighted by being passed over for promotion, might sell secrets to the British - as Benedict Arnold and his wife did. An arrogant Southern Confederate Army Command might believe the propaganda that Blacks were subhuman and could not pass on military plans to the forces fighting to free them, and speak improvidently in front of a 15 year old black girl serving dinner. A politically idealistic and unrealistic group of young men might agree to spy for the communists, and rise high in a democratic government before being discovered, but after betraying hundreds (Kim Philby and the Cambridge 5). Spies can be soldiers, mothers (Valerie Plame), prostitutes (Mata Hari, arguably), friends and enemies.
Liulevicius does discuss the reasons people become spies - including idealism (Jonathan Pollard, a Naval Intelligence Analyst who spied for Israel); money (Aldrich Ames, CIA, for the USSR/Russia), the desire to "get one over" on people who underestimated him (Robert Hanssen, FBI, also for USSR/Russia).
Liulevicius lectures are fascinating, and emphasize the development of the tools of the profession - the tradecraft - over the last two millennia. He also discusses how tradecraft failures lead to the discovery of spies. Liulevicius doesn't throughly discuss the reasons for the failures, but the situations he mentions appear arise from a combination of hubris, laziness and arrogance of spies themselves and handlers, rather than a lack of technical resources or expertise. That psychology alone warrants another lecture.
Liulevicius does not discuss the morals and ethics of spying, other than to mention the oft repeated maxim that "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail" which is credited to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, who disbanded the OSS (Office of Special Services) at the end of World War II. The OSS was reconstituted in fairly short order as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).
Liulevicius mentions Pvt Chelsea Manning (formerly PFC Bradley Manning), an intelligence analyst who stole hundreds of classified communications and gave them to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Former NSA (National Security Agency) contractor Edwin Snowden's intelligence leaks didn't become public until 2013, two years after this Great Course was published. Liulevicius didn't argue that Manning was a spy, and I'm sure he'd agree Snowden wasn't one either. Both men used brute force spy techniques (they were present with the intelligence and copied it), but neither were employed by any outside entity when they acquired the intelligence. Both sold the information to the "highest bidder", although the goal wasn't money for either man. It was an expression of moral belief, a desire fame, or both.
In light of these recent revelations, it would be great to hear Liulevicius talk about whether the US government's intrusion into the privacy of its citizens - its spying - is a reflection of paranoid politicians, an insular society, or just business as usual - made unusually transparent. Perhaps an updated course, Audible/Great Courses?
This is a good course, but like all Audible versions of Great Courses, there's no accompanying course material. I'm fine with that - I wouldn't have read a book along with it anyway. A true Table of Contents would have been nice, and that's available at the Great Courses website.
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I downloaded Mark Hanson's "The Nerd's Guide to Being Confident" (2013) right before heading off for a day trip to Mt. Baldy. By the time I realized I was so totally NOT the target audience for this book, I had no signal and couldn't download a different book for the drive - so I listened anyway.
I'm not a recent male college grad with self esteem issues on my second or third real job, trying to get laid by a woman in 3 dates or less, as cheaply as possible. I am a straight woman, and I've dated more than one man who has (intuitively) followed Hanson's advice. Dated them once, and definitely no sex. Maybe a polite peck on the cheek.
Not that some of Hanson's advice isn't really good, because it is. Have varied interests. Don't compromise ethical or moral beliefs to date a woman. Don't use time worrying about why someone doesn't want to spend time with you or trying to get them interested - find someone who doesn't waste your time. Adjust your language so you don't mistake your (often temporary) feelings for what you are. Good hygiene is a necessity.
What doesn't work that Hanson advises is being a c**** a** that only talks about himself and his interests. Unless you happen to do something really, really, interesting (maybe you've discovered a brand new energy source that will also solve the drought? You work for JPL/CalTech and just discovered life on another planet?), there has to be give and take. Quite frankly, any girl that doesn't want to share at least a few things about herself is just shining you on to get the date over with, doesn't want you to know anything about her, and will never return your calls; or she has serious self esteem issues of her own. And if some girl does go to bed with you, worry about what she wants, not just what you are going to get out of it. Have some pride in what you do.
According to Hanson, "Some people think I'm an idiot" (from his website). I don't think he's a COMPLETE idiot, just a partial one.
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