Long time no write

Just realised it’s been over 6 months since the last time I posted here.

Nothing special happened in the meantime, except that my elder son has been accepted to a master program in Carnegie Mellon and I am taking him there in early August. I am very happy and proud.

Yesterday I’ve been to Camaraderie  [re]Launch Party. Camaraderie is a coworking space that used to be in the east part of the Toronto downtown. Now they have moved to a nice place on Roncesvalles, just a few minutes’ walk from Dundas West subway station. Here’s their website: http://camaraderie.ca. They have a nice collection of books on business on premises (together with a coffee-maker and other things vital for business), and, since I am moving into a smaller apartment, I decided to donate my collection of business books to them. However my hoarding instinct cannot tolerate me parting with the books, so maybe I should give each of them one final reading and review them here. Stay with me for updates on great books such as The Whuffie Factor by Tara Hunt.


(Almost New Year) resolution

Talked to Ian G. today at Joey de Villa‘s birthday (Joey, thanks again for the great party!). Ian recommended this book titled Get Clients Now!
 It’s a 28-days actionable marketing program for professionals, consultants and coaches. So Ian and I decided to have something like a contest – each of us will follow the book and blog about it, and, of course we will exchange our impressions and basically help each other stay on the bandwagon. I have just ordered the book from the Toronto public library. I write here about it as an additional motivation. Shame on me if I don’t do the entire program! In this case, any of you may say that I don’t really fulfill my promises! 

P.S. Ian G. recommended this excellent one hour podcast (targeted at Rails consultants but broadly applicable) talking about Get Clients Now! and some other good books about consulting business development.

Book review: True names and eternal questions: Vernor Vinge and the cyberspace frontier

This book contains “True names”, a novella by Vernor Vinge, and nine essays on deep political and technological issues underlying the novella. As it often happens with true artists, Vinge, who published his story in 1981, predicted a lot of problems that we face today. He was the first to describe cyberspace (although the actual term was coined later by William Gibson). The book poses so many questions that we are asking ourselves still and they, if anything, become more acute.

To what extent shall we cede our freedom to the government in the name of fighting the “four bogeymen”, or what Bruce Sterling characterized as “four horsemen of Modern Apocalypse”: terrorists, child pornographers, drug dealers and mafia? And if the “key escrow” scheme were realized in the USA, for example, how would that not make it a totalitarian state? Besides, if you outlaw the weapon (in this case, cryptography), then only criminals will have weapons, right?

Another interesting issue raised by Vinge is the cyberspace and people’s lifes in it. Almost 30 years later we know that people can get divorced because of virtual reality and even sue for very real money to compensate them for their loss of virtual property. One can be poor in real life (or in “real life”?) and be a powerful magnate in cyberspace. On the other hand, Vinge’s character gets caught by the police because he is wealthy and influential in both the cyberspace and the reality.

The characters of the novella have to keep their true identities — their True Names — secret to avoid prosecution by the “Great Adversary”, the US government that tries to find them out.The police who busts into “Mr.Slippery”’s house one day calls itself Welfare department, and they accuse “Mr.Slippery” of “interference with the instrumentalities of National and individual survival”. The police lets “Mr.Slippery” off the hook but only so he finds out and turns in to the police a certain “Mailman”, another cyberspace character.

Read the rest of the article at Blogging Idol website

My article for Blog Idol contest: Review of Tom Rand’s Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit

Both in the YouTube clip for the book and in his TED talk, Tom speaks about possible replacement to fossil fuels we are hooked on. His confidence that we can kick the habit is contagious. Just a few solar farms in Sahara can produce enough electricity for the entire world! Instead of burning coal to heat water, use geoexchange technology that can reduce energy use and carbon emissions by up to 70%, and lowers peak electrical load in the summer months. Tom is currently implementing this technology by converting a derelict building at 357 College St., Toronto, into a green hotel.

Sounds great. However I am a pessimist, or an extremely cautious person (call it what you like), and I have been taught by experience that, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. As some of you may know, it is actually possible to make a gravity-powered clock, for example. The only catch is that manufacturing this clock will be a lot more expensive than a regular alarm clock and a lifetime supply of batteries.

I will be happy if someone explains to me that I am mistaken and the obstacles to Tom’s suggestions that I see are no obstacles at all.

(Read more at BlogIdol website…)

Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit – Tom Rand’s book and talk

Tom Rand of MaRS just published a book: Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, 10 Clean Technologies to Save Our World.

It’s 240 pages (hard-cover) of accessible text and stunning photography. Great to flip through, but with solid, fleshed-out analysis. Out now in Canada (in Chapters on April 15th), in about a month in the US.

There’s also a short video “trailer”, both funny and hard-hitting. Designed to go viral!

This project is advocacy, pure and simple. It’s timely, important – and something Tom is very passionate about. His goal is to educate the public about our options and why it’s important to consider them carefully.

If you’re in the Toronto region on April 15th, Tom will be giving a “book launch” talk at MaRS at 6 pm in the main auditorium. It’s free, but space is limited and registration is required.

It would be wonderful if you could support this effort by:

Tom is also looking for corporate sponsors to distribute the book internally, or to sponsor a print run for schools/libraries. Got any suggestions or contacts?

You’ll find everything you need at www.kickthefossilfuelhabit.org (video, link to buy the book, publisher info, etc.).

Some functionality Amazon is missing

Just something that occurred to me recently while I was looking for this book to buy it online. (I needed it for my translation work on “The Children’s Book” that is full of references to British mythology; the book was recommended by ASB herself.) I found the book at amazon.com for $70, and decided I cannot afford it. Then I entered it into my wishlist but that did not help a lot. Finally a good and kind soul checked amazon.co.uk for me and, hoorray, there it was, for $20, including shipping.

This simple story made me believe there are two important pieces of functionality that Amazon is missing.

1. There should be an option for the people to contribute small amounts towards somebody’s wishlist. Right now, if I am not mistaken, if I want to buy someone a gift from their wishlist I can only splurge for the entire book, which can be tricky if the book in question is expensive. It is much easier for 5-10 people to contribute smaller amounts. This would be especially convenient for groups of friends, relatives etc. who want to give an expensive item (think rare editions, anniversary gifts etc.)

2. There should be an option for searching “other Amazons” if the book is not at amazon.com. Right now you have to do it manually: go to amazon.ca, amazon.co.uk and so on which is a) non-intuitive and b) tedious. It would never occur to me to look at amazon.co.uk if it were not for that friend’s kindness.

My list of literary translations as of today

The flattening of language is a flattening of meaning

I am now reading God’s Secretaries, a great book by Adam Nicolson about the making of the King James Bible. It was a new translation made by a whole team of learned men upon request of King James. This version of the Bible shaped the British history and was shaped by it. Nicolson’s book  is a wonderful reading, but one passage especially attracted my attention as it described what we would call now the workflow of a translation team in the early 17th century England. A copy of a Bible with the translators’ notes and markings was accidentally discovered in a British library.

Here’s an excerpt from Nicolson’s book.

Read the rest of this entry »

Free new books for book lovers – just publish your review afterwards

Do you like to read? Do you spend a ton of money on books? Do you love to share your book opinions with other people?
http://www.minibookexpo.com is for you! Just go and select the books. The publisher will even pay for the shipping. The only thing you have to do is to blog about the books you got.
(You have to be in Canada or US. Shipping to other countries may be arranged for some books, but you have to check.)

Malcolm Gladwell presents his new book “Outliers” – Toronto, Dec.1

See the notes and the complete video of the presentation here: Notes from Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” presentation at Rotman School of Business, Toronto, December 1, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” and “The Tipping Point” will make a presentation based on his forthcoming book, “Outliers: The Story of Success” (Little Brown, release date: November 18, 2008). The fee of $31 includes one seat at the presentation and one first-edition copy of “Outliers”.

5:00 sharp – 6:15pm, December 1, Convocation Hall, University of Toronto, 31 King’s College Circle, Toronto

Registration will be available from 4:15 until 5:00. The presentation will begin at 5:00 sharp with introducing the guest speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, Staff Writer, The New Yorker Magazine and Author of “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” and “The Tipping Point”. He’ll make a presentation based on his forthcoming book, “Outliers: The Story of Success” (Little Brown, release date: November 18, 2008). The presentation will adjourn by 6:15.

Prof. Roger Martin, Dean, Rotman School of Management and Author, “The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking” (Harvard Business Press, 2007), will host the session.
TO REGISTER FOR THE SESSION: The fee is $31 per person plus GST. The fee includes one seat at the presentation and one first-edition copy of “Outliers”. Register by noon on December 1 at www.rotman.utoronto.ca/events. Questions: e-mail at events@rotman.utoronto.ca or call 416-978-4193.