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The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $8.99

509 of 518 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book of its kind I've ever read, May 15, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I read a lot of books in this genre - call it "professional self-help." I've spoken professionally a few times now about leadership and communication, and for my most recent one just a few months ago I did a ton of reading research and a lot of it was books like this one. Most of them are mediocre. I began reading The Charisma Myth expecting more of the same, frankly: platitudes, some common sense stuff, the kinds of advice that will only make sense to people who don't need it. I was just hoping for a tidbit or two that would be useful.

I don't really gush about things. If anything I tend to be very demanding and therefore very critical. Like I said, I think most books in this genre are essentially useless.

The Charisma Myth is a truly phenomenal book. It's so good that I have recommended it to several of my colleagues and it has already changed the way I manage my team and relate to my coworkers. In fact, my first gut reaction when I read it was "I guess I should stop speaking, now, because everything I'd want to talk about is covered in here."

Here's the thing: most of these kinds of books give you a few things:

1. Platitudes: useless, pithy sayings.
2. Random Anecdotes: stories that don't really offer any takeaway you can act on.
3. Abstract Imperatives: things like "be a good listener!" If you're not already a good listener that's kind of like saying "Roast Beef Recipe: Get some beef and roast it." It's not helpful - it doesn't tell me what actual specific actions to take.

Here's what this book gave me:

1. Extremely concrete, specific actions: Every piece of advice about conduct or mindset is accompanied by direct actions to take. When you're in a conversation and find your mind drifting, bring it back to a physical sensation in the present, like the feeling in your toes. That's just one example of many, but they're all things you can actually DO, not abstract imperatives like "be a better listener" or pithy-but-vapid stuff like "smile more!"

2. Visualizations: I've never seen anyone push visualization like Olivia does. She makes the compelling point that visualization is something top athletes and actors have known about forever. In my talks I've always felt slightly uncomfortable urging people to do visualizations, but not anymore, not after reading this. She runs through a lot of specific visualizations, and they're immediately useful practices.

3. Taxonomies: Of the most useful business and management blogs I read, some of their most useful posts (I'm thinking of randsinrepose.com, for example) are taxonomies. "The five kinds of meeting attendees." "The four kinds of firefighting." Or whatever. These are helpful to me because by enumerating a problem space as a handful of distinct categories they help me crystallize my own thinking about it. Olivia does this when she enumerates the four kinds of charisma. Look, I think I'm a good manager and leader, an empathetic guy and good at my job, I'm not gonna lie, but I'd never thought about it in this way. This was pretty eye-opening to me. I read this part and thought, oh yeah, I've got the "focus" and "kindness" charisma but less of the "authority" and definitely least of all the "visionary" charisma. And that gives me specific things to work on, and a way to understand why I'm better at motivating people in certain circumstances rather than others.

To anyone who wants to be more charismatic: to be more successful at work, more able to positively influence those around them, more able to open up and make real connections with others, and just more able to lead a rich and happy life - and I know how this sounds, I swear I don't usually gush like this! - this book tells you everything you need to know. Everything! No other book I've read does that.

To be clear, that's like saying Rippetoe's "Starting Strength" tells you everything you need to know to be a very good, extremely strong weightlifter. You still have to do a ton of really hard work! This book doesn't make you magically charismatic. But it gives you direct, specific, applied practices that, if you do them, will make you more charismatic and enrich your life. Of all the pop psychology, management, leadership, and professional self-help books I've ever read, I cannot say that about a single other one.

I give this book my absolute highest recommendation. It is absolutely superb. I don't say that lightly.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 24, 2014 2:32 PM PDT


Thinking, Fast and Slow
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best coherent work on behavioral economics I've ever read, March 22, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
While there are plenty of references on cognitive bias, including the excellent and entertaining site, YouAreNotSoSmart (also highly recommended), Thinking does the best job of any I've read of taking the entire field of behavioral economics and giving it a coherent overall context. Most others are just laundry lists of various biases. Kahneman does a great job through the book of presenting a compelling model of a human and how we make decisions and behave. His writing style is excellent; he routinely poses thought experiments that let the reader feel the visceral tugging of cognitive bias for himself. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment
Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment
Price: $25.01
56 used & new from $24.99

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars So sloppy I couldn't even use it for a sloppy project., January 15, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm building a new kitchen for my RV, so it needs exactly one drawer. The existing one is a piece of junk, so I only needed to do better. I'm not talking fine joinery here - I was going to screw the front, sides, and back to each other with no joinery at all. But, I figured, I ought at least to route a little dado edge into the bottom and a groove around the side so it fits together and helps keep it square. So I got this attachment for my Dremel.

This thing is a piece of junk. All the adjustments are so sloppy they're useless - and I'm not working on a high-precision project here.

The gate (so you can trace an edge) is held on with two metal poles and the whole assembly has enough flex it's hard to get it perfectly straight. It has no markings for measurement so I had to measure by pushing the router down and kind of eyeballing where the bit was hitting and trying to tighten without moving anything. Finally got that right.

Then you can adjust the depth - it's this threaded rod with two big plastic nuts that pin it in place, and then it hits a stop at the bottom to keep the plunger from going down any further. It does have a ruler for measuring, and the manual even tells you that a full turn of the plastic nut is something like 0.06", implying you can be really precise. No matter how hard I tighten those nuts down, during use, they rattle loose and the threaded rod slips and my careful measurement is totally shot, I'm routing twice as deep as I wanted.

Then, worst of all is the actual plunger. The whole thing slides up and down on those two big metal rods, but there's enough wiggle in the mechanism that when you've got the router all the way down, the plunge mechanism can twist enough on the rods to wiggle the bit at least 1/16" in either direction.

All I was trying to do was take a piece of pine (the softest wood ever) and put a 1/4" deep groove 1/2" from the completely straight edge. My best effort, the fourth drawer side, still looked like the work of a drunk termite.

Faced with the slightly tougher (but still totally trivial, if I had a real router) task of routing the rabbet into the edge of the bottom, I'm giving up.

This thing isn't even good enough for a lazy woodworker like me to make a sloppy pine drawer for an RV kitchen. Don't waste your money. It's a real nightmare to use.


Giro 100 Proof Winter Gloves, Black, Small
Giro 100 Proof Winter Gloves, Black, Small
Offered by BikeSomeWhere
Price: $31.50
2 used & new from $31.50

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fingers aren't actually connected., November 28, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I wish I could omit the star rating here because I didn't end up using these gloves, I'm returning them, but I wanted to post a review to say that inside each "lobster claw", the fingers are still separated - there's cloth between the two fingers in each "claw" that keep your fingers separate. It's thick enough that you can't really rub your fingers together. And I don't really understand why they would do that.

I bought them on the basis of the review that said they're the warmest gloves for cycling, even including the Pearl Izumi lobster gloves, but I'm returning them because the Pearl Izumi lobster gloves don't separate the fingers like that - your index + middle fingers are touching and so are your ring + pinky. My hands get very cold in cold weather and the only thing that really helps is insulation + skin contact between fingers, being able to rub fingers together when they're cold. I wear heavy-duty mittens for snowboarding for that reason, but obviously can't bike in full mittens since I need to operate shifters and brakes.

This seems like a really questionable design decision, and I'm sitting here holding both the Pearls and these Giros and the insulation seems identical weight, but the Pearls let my fingers touch.

Buyer beware.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2012 10:09 PM PST


JavaScript: The Good Parts: The Good Parts
JavaScript: The Good Parts: The Good Parts
Price: $13.49

185 of 204 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good data, but scattered and inconsistent, unclear who it's written for., January 20, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm a long-time C, C++, and Java programmer (videogames, predominantly) learning Javascript to do some web work, so I picked up this book because the reviews were good and the notion appealed to me - learn the subset of this rather sloppy language that you can use as a good language.

My TL;DR version of the review: this book is a hodgepodge of different information about the language, but some of it is so complicated it'll go immediately over the heads of new programmers, and then some of it is so mundane (even pedantic, talking about very specific aspects of coding styles) it felt goofy and out of place. It seems to me that any specific individual reading this book won't really find more than one or two chapters very relevant. I give it 3 stars because the useful parts were useful to me, but I skimmed and ignored 80+% of the book.

Crockford's writing is personable and clear, and the book's organization is straightforward. Here's my chapter-by-chapter breakdown. Note that this is all from my perspective, what I personally found useful or not, but my point is, while other readers will certainly disagree with me about what was useful, I have trouble imagining any one person finding more than about 20% of the book useful.

Chapter 1 is an introduction and high-level explanation of the point of the book.

Chapter 2 covers basic grammar and the likes, which was helpful though it's not aimed at any particular familiarity with other languages so it's trying to be comprehensive, which meant that as an experienced programmer in other languages I had to skim it and just look for differences with what I'm already used to.

Chapters 3 and 4 were the most useful parts of the book for me: the section on objects and functions, data scoping and closure, which really takes a new way of thinking if, like me, you have a lot of experience with languages without closure and anonymous functions and the like. Crockford does a good job of explaining this and giving relevant examples. This section was 20% of the book and was the only section I found really useful.

Chapter 5 covers inheritance. He presents two methods, one using new and constructors like one of the languages I'm more used to, and gives a couple reasons to avoid this, and then digs into the prototypal method, which is unfamiliar to me. The problem is that he uses totally abstract examples here - classes representing animals and methods that return their names or the noises they make - and it was very hard for me to relate it to any actual application, and since the prototypal style is a fundamentally different paradigm I don't feel like I really grasped it from his writing. Since he builds a framework of extension methods throughout the book, once I started to lost his train of logic I was utterly lost. And the "meta" nature of javascript, assigning functions to methods that return other functions that wrap functions, I found it easy to get lost.

Chapter 6 covers arrays. If you've used scripting languages this stuff is very simplistic, a stark change from Chapter 5, which is quite sophisticated. Again, my point here - I don't know who would simultaneously understand Chapter 5 and still find anything in Chapter 6 useful.

Chapter 7 is a significant change of direction; it's a long chapter on regular expressions which I skimmed very quickly since I know them from using perl. This part seemed odd, since regular expressions are common to several languages, and there's nothing particularly unique about javascript's usage of them. It felt a bit misplaced in this book. Certainly they're an important part of the language, but again made me wonder: who's the book for?

Chapter 8 is a reference for core API functionality and his extension methods; this feels like stuff I'd just google while coding, not terribly valuable to me personally.

Chapter 9 is a diversion on coding style, and felt wildly out of place and kind of insulting: if this book is for a seasoned programmer this is just going to trigger unpleasant flashbacks to arguments you had back when you were a junior programmer. If you're a new programmer and this stuff is news to you, other chapters in the book are going to be utterly incomprehensible to you.

Chapter 10, "The Beautiful Parts," is all of a page long, but a nice summary of the good aspects of the language.

Appendices A and B cover some of the "Awful & Bad Parts" of javascript in detail; this was the second-most interesting part of the book to me, though it's brief and you've picked it up if you read the rest of the book. Still, definitely value here. Though worth noting: he inserts some more editorializing here, ala Chapter 9 - he calls out some things that aren't specific to javascript, like switch statement fallthrough, as bad parts, which I found annoying. Stick to aspects unique to javascript and point out real dangers instead of offering advice on very broad aspects of coding style, I kept thinking.

Appendix C is about JSLint, the lint for javascript. It was useful only in the sense that I didn't know JSLint existed, and now I do, but then he gives a long swath of what amounts to JSLint documentation, which I have to imagine exists on the JSLint site, and felt like filler.

Appendix D is about JSON and just some reference information about the format. Maybe useful, but no authorial insight, just docs.

Overall, glad I read it, but I was pretty underwhelmed given the generally great reviews of the book on here.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 9, 2014 9:04 PM PST


Everlast Deluxe Speed Rope
Everlast Deluxe Speed Rope
Offered by Thessaly's Trinkets
Price: $14.95
15 used & new from $9.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 9ft rope, not 10ft, November 1, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
One of the reviews states this is a 10ft rope in the title, which is why I bought it, being 6'4". I just received it and it says quite plainly on the back it's a 9ft rope. The product description doesn't specify, so I figured I'd leave another review to clarify (another review says it's 9ft but only in the review text, which I missed.)

I wish there were a way to not give it a star rating and just leave this as an informational posting, but I'll give it 5 stars so I don't tank the rating of what - handling it right now - appears to be quite a good 9ft jump rope.


Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $9.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not "actionable", instead nuanced and compelling., September 27, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I knew I'd like this book on marketing by Moon, a professor of the same at Harvard Business School when, right in the beginning, she notes that scholars can add to a field in two ways: by distilling it, or by enriching it with shades of nuance, and she intended to do the latter. I'm sick of distillation-books lately, of which there are too many, books that clearly would rather be 10-page bullet-list outlines if only you could sell those for $10+. Different is not like those, as the title would imply. It felt like an intimate conversation with the author, and yet covered a lot of the same ground as Innovator's Solution, but from a marketing perspective, complementing IS's business perspective. I enjoyed this and feel like it helped me by giving me new lenses to use in examining products and companies and thinking about the topics myself.


Contact Solution Contact Travel Case
Contact Solution Contact Travel Case
Offered by LilGift
Price: $19.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Large, cheap materials, hard to open the lens cups, August 24, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This thing showed up and I was surprised at how big it is. Somehow it didn't look so large in the photos, and I have some expectations for how big a contact lens case is. This thing is like a whisky flask, it's large.

Also, the plastic it's made out of is stiff and not very rubbery, so squeezing it doesn't feel particularly good, I felt like it'd crack without a whole lot of use.

Most damning, the actual lens cups are really hard to open. I had to use a butter knife to pry one open. There's not a convenient plastic flap on the lid to hook a fingernail under or anything.

I bought the case because all the other ones I've found leak like crazy when I travel with them and they bounce around my bag. I was hoping this one would be a good solution for that. But what I specifically want - and hoped for - was something leakproof because it had rubber gaskets in there. This doesn't, and if the plastic at the caps wore away much, they'd start leaking too.

The instructions that came with the case said that you should replace the case itself every few months. What? Every few months? It's a plastic contact lens case, it should last forever!

Overall, felt cheap, was bulky, was super hard to use. My search for a small leakproof contact lens case continues.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2011 6:43 PM PDT


Talk Less, Say More: Three Habits to Influence Others and Make Things Happen
Talk Less, Say More: Three Habits to Influence Others and Make Things Happen
Price: $12.49

155 of 168 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Says a bunch of obvious stuff in superficial ways, August 24, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I do not think there are many people that will find this book useful. Most people will be in one of two camps:

1.) If you think about communication at all, probably nothing in this book will be new to you.
2.) If the information in this book *is* news to you, then its style will not be helpful to you.

The book is intentionally short and takes a very imperative tone. I read the whole thing in under 30 minutes. The problem is, with nuanced topics like communication, when you distill them down that far, you end up with recommendations like - I am not making these up, they are taken directly from the book:

"Be tolerant of different viewpoints"
"Contain the outbursts"
"Show respect"

Those are particularly egregious examples, but my point remains, as I read this book every page just felt blindingly obvious.

That would be fine, if the book were evocative and resonated. Plenty of books in this genre tell us what we already know but do so in an emotional way so that it really sticks, or speaks to us anew. Patrick Lencioni's "Five Dysfunctions of a Team" is a great example - the whole book is an evocative 'fable', a story, with well-developed characters that bring his points to life.

By contrast, Talk Less, Say More distills even the stories down. Here's an example, verbatim:

"Sharon learned the hard way that firing off an e-mail was not the right way to thank the vice president who interviewed her. The vice president chose another equally qualified applicant, in part because the other applicant took the time to send a handwritten thank-you note. Sharon lost the job by not noticing that the vice president valued a personal approach. If she'd scanned his desk during the interview, she would have noticed many handwritten notes."

That's not evocative at all. All of the stories are just like that - very matter-of-fact with no interesting characters or anything memorable. There's nothing emotional to any of them.

In fact, I found nothing emotionally compelling about the entire book, and that's why I say that if this information *is* new to you, I doubt you'll be able to meaningfully use it. Dieken provides checklists at the end of each section for what points you should work on, but if you have the self-awareness to fill out those checklists, then by definition you don't need them.

I'm sure when Ms. Dieken works personally with clients, they benefit immensely because she's able to observe them and give personalized feedback, but the value isn't just in the words she's saying but her demeanor, her engagement, her personal connection: all the things she talks dispassionately about in this book.

Some people might find this an entertaining read, but it's hard to imagine anyone reading this book and actually using it to become a better communicator.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2014 8:09 AM PST


Motorola S9-HD Stereo Headset - Wireless Connectivity - Stereo - Behind-the-neck - Gloss Black
Motorola S9-HD Stereo Headset - Wireless Connectivity - Stereo - Behind-the-neck - Gloss Black

2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre, October 20, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
These headphones are functional, but in just about every way disappoint me at least a little.

The rigid form factor is inconvenient. I constantly feel like I'm going to snap them as they flex when I want to put them in a bag or something. They get caught on everything. The rubber earpieces constantly come off. I have several other pairs of earbuds and never have this problem, even with the little Etymotics and whatnot, because they pack down small. These headphones are just awkward, and the earbuds are right on the ends and catch on things all the time. I've lost two full sets of earbuds now.

Also due to the rigidity, these things don't really fit very well. They hang on the ears just fine, but they don't really seal in the ear canal like an Etymotic, but they kind of feel like they're supposed to - they're not foam earbuds obviously intended to sit outside the ear.

If you really jam them in to make a good seal, the bass is absurdly overwhelming, it's horribly distorted. If you leave them out of the ear the sound quality is passable but nothing great.

I have spotty reception with them - if I put my iPhone in my pocket they'll sometimes cut out, but then other times I can leave the phone on my counter and walk around my apartment 20 feet away and they're fine. I'm happy to assume this is not the headphones' fault, but then again having the bluetooth receiver on the back of the headphones seems like kind of a bad choice - and again, if they weren't rigid and I could clip the receiver onto a shirt collar, I could find a better position.

I wore these biking a couple times but due to the lack of clean seal in the ears, the wind noise renders them unusable. As a headset for having phone conversations they're... adequate. Sound quality is OK. My cheapo single-earbud headset specifically for phone conversations is worlds superior, though.

Like I said, the headphones work - and I do wear them at the gym and whatnot, it's nice not to have the wires. But there's really nothing positive I can say beyond "These are functional cordless headphones." Every other aspect of the design is mediocre, frustrating, or otherwise a letdown.

It's too bad, I really wanted to love them.


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