Monthly Archives: September 2018

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free ProductivityGetting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Back in 1995, I tried a time management calendar application that could categorize and color code everything I did to down 5 minute packets. It took me embarrassingly too long to realize and admit how much time I was putting into classifying and recording my time. Some years later (~2004), an arm of the Navy wanted those in administrative positions – I was a civilian Deputy Public Works Officer – including the military(!) to assign our activities on a time sheets in 15 minute granularity. I caused a stir when I created a new job order number for accounting for our time, which ended up taking several hours per week. (The requirement went away after three two-week cycles.) And when I got to my current employ ten years ago, one of my staff had an insanely complicated multi-tiered file folder system for tracking documents for construction projects – I nixed that after waiting the appropriate now-I’ve-seen-enough time.

This book is assigned reading for a class, related to a track on productivity in the pubic sector. Apparently, quite the thing long enough ago that I wasn’t paying attention while working on whatever other quite-the-thing fad was the buzz. I’m going to go out on the proverbial limb and guess that most in my class won’t read it. It’s bad. Continue reading

The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve by Steve Stewart-Williams

The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture EvolveThe Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve by Steve Stewart-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got a review copy of this back in July from the publisher through NetGalley and unfortunately had a couple of others in front of it with ticking expiration dates, as well as assigned reading for a class and a few other obstacles. I needed to devote some dedicated time to reading this because there is so much here. One other unfortunate complication came up when my ereader glitched and couldn’t verify the license…losing all of my notes from the first half of the book. Redownload, back in business, but sans those notes.

Stewart-Williams explores Darwinism, genetics and sex differences, reproduction, altruism, and cultural influences. (He also includes his takes on how to refute Blank Slaters and Anti-Memeticists in two appendices). I grind my teeth over the sections for which I lost my notes (apologies to the publisher/author – I’m sure other reviewers will be able to synopsize), but trust me that there are wealths of information to be had in there on attractions and preferences, practices, selection, offspring and rearing, monogamy, polyandry and polygyny; altruism and selfishness. And memetics.

Stewart-Williams’s analyses are cogent, his arguments sound; he pokes logical holes in prevalent (and past) theories. He supports his theses with facts and induction (with deduction thrown in.) He cautions against the “risk of mistaking elements of one’s own culture for aspects of human nature,…”

I mark this as five stars because seldom does a book evoke a paradigm shift in me (It happens, just rarely) and this book did. For twenty some years now, I have been resolved to the position that humans evolved to believe in religions – with exception, of course – and the wake-up here was a smack-in-the-face memetic solution that religions (and God) evolved for the human brain. Finally, something that makes sense to me.

Now, as thoroughly researched and eloquently composed as Mr. Stewart-Williams is in this book, he referenced at least one Disney Nature series myth when trying to make a point in his altruism section: “Like suicidal lemmings…”

I would like to read this again, but in physical form. It does not lend well to electronic reading as i couldn’t follow cites easily, or “flip” back and forth between sections as I digested the contents.

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The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth

The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English LanguageThe Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An improvement over The Etymologicon, this was quite an emjoyable and informative read. I think it is a safe bet that the reader won’t be using many of these words in casual conversation. Nor in less than casual conversation, but they’re still cool words to know.

For The Day’s Jaunt, Forsyth has arranged his exploration in 19 hourly segments, with each looking at words related more or less to that time of day. Awakening, ablutions, breaking fasts, traveling (to work), meetings about “work”, taking breaks, faking work, lunching, more “work”, making others work, oops…tea time, finally doing work, just in time to leave, picking up necessaries and necessities, supper and libations, courting, going home, …bed time. My summaries don’t tell the whole story as there are numerous side studies in each chapter.

Forsyth’s wit comes out more in this book than his first. Despite my glib thoughts about using these words in casual or serious conversation, any reader will be enriched for knowing them. I will read this again someday. If you’ve not read it, go find it and do.

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