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Don Middleton

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  • 175
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  • 198
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  • The Perfectionists

  • How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World
  • By: Simon Winchester
  • Narrated by: Simon Winchester
  • Length: 11 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 617
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 558
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 546

The New York Times best-selling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancement - precision - in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Somewhat less than perfect

  • By enya keshet on 06-19-18

How to make an inherently exacting and tedious subject interesting

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-15-18

Simon Winchester is a human treasure, and one of my favorite authors. Since I first listened to his book on the Indonesian volcano, Krakatoa, I have immersed myself in all of his non-fiction. And what a journey it has been. Subjects I would know little to nothing about. From the making of a great dictionary to China and its ceramics to the origin and history of two vast oceans and on and on, he has educated me and broadened my understanding of all of us. Now he has done the same for precision engineering. You don’t even have to like engineering to become fascinated by these individuals and their stories that have shaped our societies and even the natural world.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Energy

  • A Human History
  • By: Richard Rhodes
  • Narrated by: Jacques Roy
  • Length: 11 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 234
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 215
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 213

Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy. Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Does not disappoint.

  • By Parts on 07-22-18

Not as comprehensive as perhaps is warranted today.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-27-18

It is a history, so no peek into what may be just over the horizon, such as “gasoline from sunlight” an industrialization of what plants do with photosynthesis - make a liquid source of energy with sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. And because he wanted to write a much shorter book, this is not nearly as comprehensive as his two books on the making of the atomic and nuclear bombs. But still, a worthwhile listen. And he makes a great case for keeping nuclear energy as part of the mix of future electrical generation.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • West Cork

  • By: Sam Bungey, Jennifer Forde
  • Narrated by: Sam Bungey, Jennifer Forde
  • Length: 7 hrs and 50 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 23,585
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21,067
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 21,070

This much we do know: Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered days before Christmas in 1996, her broken body discovered at the edge of her property near the town of Schull in West Cork, Ireland. The rest remains a mystery. Gripping, yet ever elusive, join the real-life hunt for answers in the year’s first not-to-be-missed, true-crime series.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • ENTERTAINING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING

  • By Ann on 02-13-18

An unresolved true crime mystery

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-17-18

At its best this is a review of all the leads that can be developed in what may be an unsolvable mystery. And how the personalities that become enmeshed in a crime investigation affect that process. I rated the performance low because the producers overuse of background music — at times bringing the music level up to a point of obscuring the narration.

  • IQ

  • By: Joe Ide
  • Narrated by: Sullivan Jones
  • Length: 9 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 5,270
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,926
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4,908

A resident of one of LA's toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores. East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch. They call him IQ. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • IQ way better than OK

  • By green ice cream garden on 12-21-16

Gritty, beautifully narrated, wonderful

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-21-17

Joe Ide has written an exemplary suspense novel; made even better by Sullivan Jones’ narration. I had no idea that I, a 71-year-old white guy, could be so completely sucked into the world of black Southern California hip-hop. Wow!

  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes

  • A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America's Enemies
  • By: Jason Fagone
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
  • Length: 13 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,157
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,067
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,060

In 1912, at the height of World War I, brilliant Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith went to work for an eccentric tycoon on his estate outside Chicago. The tycoon had close ties to the US government, and he soon asked Elizebeth to apply her language skills to an exciting new venture: code breaking. There she met the man who would become her husband, groundbreaking cryptologist William Friedman. Though she and Friedman are in many ways the Adam and Eve of the NSA, Elizebeth's story, incredibly, has never been told.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An important biography, perfectly told

  • By sarah brown on 10-25-17

Well told, researched and intriguing.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-27-17

A story, that by necessity, shrouded in government classification and, by tradition, dismissed by male prejudice, is finally told of a great mind and personality. Wonderfully narrated as well.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • The Industries of the Future

  • By: Alec Ross
  • Narrated by: Alec Ross
  • Length: 8 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,248
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,935
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,916

Leading innovation expert Alec Ross explains what's next for the world, mapping out the advances and stumbling blocks that will emerge in the next 10 years - for businesses, governments, and the global community - and how we can navigate them.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Ok review of what is now. Not much future.

  • By Sam on 05-06-16

"Emerging Industries" at its core

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-03-16

Alec Ross has an interesting perspective. As a former high ranking State Department appointee concentrating on science & technology under Secretary Hilary Clinton, Mr Ross has done extensive travel and met with thousands of leaders in those fields around the world. He has a great understanding of environments that facilitate the development of companies and jobs. He relates them both anecdotally and statistically. This makes for an important book.i

I rated it overall very high for that reason. Rather than trying to look well into the future and make informed guesses, this book looks at industries that are just starting out now and makes informed predictions. A much more practical approach. I did not rate it quite as high in the"story" category because the writing style, while good, tends tends to be that of a policy wonk or corporate report. The narration is adequate but not exception.

  • Sisters in Law

  • How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World
  • By: Linda Hirshman
  • Narrated by: Andrea Gallo
  • Length: 13 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 407
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 375
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 373

The author of the celebrated Victory tells the fascinating story of the intertwined lives of Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first and second women to serve as Supreme Court justices.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Insightful and thought-provoking

  • By Jean on 09-08-15

Engaging look at the 1st two WOTSC

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-14-15

Being a man who came of age in the 1960s, I have often wondered why social change, especially those things that seem like no-brainers such as equality among races and the sexes have taken so long. Well, some of those answers can be found in this book.

Democracies and republics such as ours -- any self-correcting form of governance really -- just take time for big things to get accomplished. Churchill once said, "America can always be counted upon to do the right thing. After first exhausting all other possibilities." He said that in relation to WWII, but it is true in nearly everything we do. Especially in those two biggest challenges already mentioned: race and gender.

Being a passionate centrist and committed feminist, I found the portraits of the SC Justices Sandra Day O'Conner and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be both compelling and understandable. I would have given this five stars in all categories other than the fact that Ms Hirshman's writing style is derived from years of being a terrific lawyer. Therefore all of the facts are laid out in a logical, sequential order in a way that is comprehensible and persuasive, but lacks the punch of a really great storyteller. But that is really splitting hairs. If you want to understand how social change occurs within and via an institution like the Supreme Court this is a must read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Between the World and Me

  • By: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Narrated by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Length: 3 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 17,543
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 15,787
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 15,704

"This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it." In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of "race", a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Heartfelt Self-aware Literary Masterpiece

  • By T Spencer on 07-30-15

An articulate African-American examines race

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-03-15

Written as an open letter to his son, this small volume does the best at explaining the world as many, if not most, black people see it. He explains how violence, as directed toward black bodies has always been the real problem with the legacy of slavery. And he isn't just talking about the violence of slavery itself with rape and whipping directed at the slaves as a means of control. It's the attitude that black slaves are less than human which allows whites to assume that it is acceptable to use such corrosive methods. It's the prohibition of literacy and education throughout that period and which followed – the lynchings and Jim Crow laws that consecrate such reprehensible attitudes. It is even the economic violence that was directed at black families through red-lining of property throughout most of the 29th century and separate-but-equal education that deprived them of the ability to move up in the world.

Currently, when municipalities rely on quota s (explicate or implied) for substantial portions of their operating budgets, police will often go after the low-hanging fruit – such as the poor or least educated in which there will be less chance of blow-back to the arresting officer – by using the easiest marker of all; what someone looks like. And resistance is met with force – often deadly. And, as Mr. Coates points out, if that force stops the arc of a black life, be it slave, a case of mistaken identity, or someone criminal, the arc of each of those lives has stopped and too often little is done to hold those responsible accountable.

The writing is truly beautiful – bringing to mind James Baldwin, whom Mr. Coates admires greatly. Mr. Coates is also the author of a much praised and provocative article entitled “ The Case for Reparations”. Other prominent rights activists such as Bryan Stevenson have non-monetary proposals which may be more effective, such as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions or such things as markers at the very spot of every lynching with a synopsis of what occurred at that place. These would go a long way to whites owning their past much as the Germans have faced the horror of the Nazi reign and worked to change the very attitudes toward ethnic groups which allowed violence toward those same groups in much the same way that violence has been perpetuated against black bodies. Through that process of allowing the outside world to see the Nazi death camps and all that entails, Germany went from the most intolerant of nations to among the most inclusive. Just witness their present attitude toward refugees from Syria and North Africa as evidence that such things can be turned around.

As a white person (all four of my grandparents came from Ireland), and even though I grew up in mixed-race working class neighborhoods of Kansas City and went to very integrated schools, I cannot imagine the fear of violence that must gnaw at a majority of black kids even today. Ta-Nehisi Coates, who also narrates, will give you a real sense of what it must be like with his book.

Don M. Queen Creek, AZ

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Misbehaving

  • The Making of Behavioral Economics
  • By: Richard Thaler
  • Narrated by: L. J. Ganser
  • Length: 13 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,370
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,818
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,783

Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans - predictable, error-prone individuals. Misbehaving is his arresting, frequently hilarious account of the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth - and change the way we think about economics, ourselves, and our world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I'm a lot smarter than I was before

  • By Barrie Bramley on 10-04-15

Not just for 'econs'

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-28-15

If you have often looked askance at the views of economists, you should give this book a listen. Economics is the social science that seems most often populated by idealists. Normally this breaks into two camps – roughly along the competing views of Friedrich Hyek and John Maynard Keynes. You can think of them as founding fathers of modern economic thought. They, as did most of their followers, used optimized models and assumptions. Assumptions such as that all people make rational economic decisions. You know like anyone possessing a PhD in Economics would. This is called “rational market theory” and as with almost all economic theory it is chock-full of assumptions. This is something that even traditional economists are aware of. Nearly all of their jokes revolve around the premise that “economists make a lot of assumptions.” Kept that in mind the next time an economist tells you a joke. You might even “get it” enough to laugh.

In the past several decades a growing group of econs (as Thaler likes to call them) have challenged many of those assumptions and begun to study and perform experiments in a field that melds their work with that of another social science – psychologists. It as come to be called “behavioral economics”, but one could just as easily think of it as “more-real-world” economics. Thaler, who modestly and effectively deflects credit, was an early adherent of this approach. The book contains solid economic thought explained in a way that is very helpful to the rest of us – those that find scholastic economics both boring and unrealistic.

Thaler proclaims that “Econs use optimized models” and then tells us that “One can learn a lot about the world without imposing optimizing models.” Through a series of (often humorous) stories he leads us though his world and the history of behavioral economics, explaining concepts that have been the foundation of economic thought in the simplest possible way. As an example, when explaining the concept of the “efficient market hypothesis”, he helpfully includes the definition of “hypothesis” as “a theory that can't really be tested” and explains how tempting it is to use such things. A dictionary might not define the word that way, but it is certainly appropriate here.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in economics or economic policy – even die-hard traditional economists. It may not convert you but it will give you much to ponder. For myself, I will now order Thaler's earlier book “Nudge” which I somehow missed.

Don M - Queen Creek, AZ

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Elon Musk

  • Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
  • By: Ashlee Vance
  • Narrated by: Fred Sanders
  • Length: 13 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 42,716
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38,160
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38,087

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley's most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs - a real-life Tony Stark - and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new makers.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The best of competence porn

  • By Tristan on 08-20-16

Gifted people should attempt the extrordinary

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-01-15

If anything is to be learned from Ashlee Vance's biography of Elon Musk is that gifted children often have unsettled childhoods. However if those same kids develop into financially successful people the world might be better were they to put those resources and their talents to work doing things that seem to be impossible. I originally ordered this audio book because it seemed to me that Mr. Musk had attempted to do two of the three hardest and most complicated engineering and manufacturing tasks any one could attempt. One was space vehicles, and the other modern cars. I would say that the third is aircraft, which Musk may attempt later. That he has so far succeeded in the two he has tried is amazing. He not only did this but, I was to learn, he and his employees have totally rethought both systems, and are doing it entirely within the US, and with American labor.

His story could have be the all-to-familiar tale of a hi-tech engineer in Silicone Valley or Wall Street physicist-turned-finance-guy that made a pile of money early – in his case as a founder of PayPal – and then retired to live a life of luxury with no more than a dose of philanthropy to “give back to society”. Musk pushed past all of that to pursue childhood fantasies and dreams – turning them into real-life gains for humanity.

Consider that his company, SpaceEx, was the first private company to put a payload in orbit. Only a handful of entire countries had done that before. In fact SpaceEx, I believe, is the only organization (including countries) to have a orbit-payload-enabled booster rocket successfully execute a controlled lift-off, hover and vertical landing. As for electric cars, by starting from scratch, the whole process has been rethought. And going beyond the physical layout of the vehicle, the company is organized differently. Early in the process, his team at Tesla recognized that their vehicle (and electric vehicles in general) will have less need for maintenance and repair – a mainstay of dealerships. So Tesla made the decision to sell them directly through the internet and by showrooms that stand in conjunction with free solar-powered charging stations. He is getting a lot of serious push-back from traditional dealerships and, by extension, several state governments for this. But it really is the most efficient method. Without substantial maintenance income, Tesla dealerships would have had an extremely hard go of it and would have had to raise the already high sticker price too high to be practical. And efficiency is one of the many obsessions of Mr. Musk.

The only quibble I have with the text is that author makes a little too much of the apparent misery of Musk's childhood. Bullying has always been hardest on gifted children and Musk was obviously gifted. Surely the role of his parents, both positive and negative, must have been an even a larger influence than any school beatings. At least Elon as a child never really had to overcome grinding poverty. The book makes it clear that his father (also an engineer) left much to be desired as a parent – although no one in the family agreed to provide examples. But the fact is Musk choose to live much of his teenage years with his father even after his parents split. As strident and pedantic a task-master as anyone could image, his father still allowed his children to roam and explore to a great degree. To the teenage Elon, this must have been worth putting up with the negative stuff.

This the kind of book that both inspires and repels. It provides insight into much of what drives this extraordinary and often difficult man. And for those of us not blessed with his kind of visual photographic memory (and so very few are) we should take in this story to both marvel at its nuance and sincerely hope that the contributions of Musk continue.

To all of us, but especially to those to whom financial success has come, “Be ashamed to die until you have scored some victory for humanity.” – the educator Horace Mann, as quoted by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

124 of 142 people found this review helpful