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Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip
Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip
by Lisa Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars Realigning boundaries, focusing the edges, February 21, 2016
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Lisa Robertson's poetry is one of the best ways I know to sharpen and reconfigure your brain. Stuck in a rut? Keep seeing things the same way? Captured by your own language games? Try Lisa Robertson as a tonic.

Magenta is one of those colours that open your eyes. You have to look closely to see it in nature, it is often around the edges of things, where roots come out of the ground, at the juncture of stem and leaf, where clouds disappear. The same with the language in these poems.

Hex triplet #FF00FF
sRGBB (r, g, b) (255, 0, 255)
CMYKH (c, m, y, k) (0, 100, 0, 0)
HSV (h, s, v) (300°, 100%, 100%)

Interesting that is is one of the three components of subtractive colour.

The book is among many things a careful study of sentences. The forms of your sentences are the boundaries of your life. This book gave my life new boundaries.

"And you did not die outside of love
And you do not judge."


Team Roles at Work
Team Roles at Work
by R. M. Belbin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $43.81
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How we can work better together, July 9, 2013
This review is from: Team Roles at Work (Paperback)
Meredith Belbin manages to pack a great deal into this 147 page book. There is more content and value in this book than in many 500-600 page tombs.

There is a growing amount of evidence that we are moving into a teams of teams world. The most innovative companies are not hierarchies, or even matrices (though that is what the org chart may suggest) nor are they networks of individuals. They are self-organizing teams. These teams are resilient to the extent that they have overlaps, are bounded by semi-permeable membranes and include diversity. But what kind of diversity, this is the question that Belbin answers.

It is not gender, orientation, race or culture that are the most important to diversity (though each of these can be important) but our orientation to how we work with others. Belbin has used a variety of psychological and industrial organization research tools to team out the nine most common roles that people play in teams. None of us are good at all of these roles, and many of us have not even learned which roles we are most likely to succeed in. But success in today's work environment requires this kind of self-understanding, and leaders and HR experts need to become much better at designing teams with the necessary diversity and in helping people to understand and cultivate a few (2 or 3) key roles where they can succeed and identifying those roles where they are programmed to fail.

The roles are well described in the book and on the Belbin website, but to tweak your interest here is a brief summary.

Specialist: Single-minded, self starting, dedicated. Provides knowledge and skills in short supply.

Completer Finisher: Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches out errors and omissions. Delivers on time.

Implementer: Disciplined, reliable, conservative. Turns ideas into practical actions.

Teamworker: Co-operative, perceptive, diplomatic. Listens, builds, calms the waters.

Monitor Evaluator: Sober, strategic discerning. Sees all options. Judges accurately.

Shaper: Challenging, dynamic, thrives on pressure. Has the drive and courage to overcome obstacles.

Co-ordinator: Mature, confident, a good chairperson. Clarifies goals. Promotes decision making, delegates well.

Resource Investigator: Extrovert, enthusiastic, communicative. Explores opportunities Develops contacts.

Plant: Creative, imaginative, unorthodox. Solves difficult problems.

Most of the book is about these roles, how they interact and how they condition team success. But in the last chapters Belbin also draws out the larger implications for organizational structure and how these interact with social and political trends.

The book compares the role strengths and weaknesses of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Reagan was a classic Resource Investigator (these tend to be good at communications) and Co-ordinator. Thatcher was an extremely strong Shaper (probably needed to drive change in a parliamentary system). This made me wonder about Bill Clinton and Barrak Obama. Clinton also seems to be a strong Resource Instigator. I wonder in Obama is not much more of a Monitor Evaluator? And how about Bill Gates (primarily a Shaper?) or Steve Jobs (a classic Plant?).

One chapter of the book on which I plan to spend more time considers how well people with different roles can manage, work for, and work with people other role profiles. Chapter 6 Interpersonal Chemistry in the Workplace is a dense chapter, too dense for me, so I am planning to map it out visually and put the results up on the Nugg blog.


Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age
Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age
by Douglas Rushkoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.70
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn to live with contradiction, November 12, 2012
I often flip through the references in a book before reading it. This helps me get a general idea of where the book fits in the larger conversation. I am looking for a few landmark references that are important to my own thinking, and a few surprises, references that I don't know but that intrigue, or references I did not expect to see together. Douglas Rushkoff's books generally surprise in a good way, and Program or be Programmed is no exception. The references include Harold Innis The Bias of Communication, Second Edition to Norbert Weiner's The Human Use Of Human Beings: Cybernetics And Society (Da Capo Paperback) and Sherry Turkle's Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (which I have not yet read). I am intrigued.

In this book Rushkoff gives ten suggestions (which he calls commands) for how to live more authentically in the digital world we are building.

1. Do not always be on. (Disconnect from time to time.)
2. Live in person. (Get out and meet people in the flesh.)
3. You may always choose `none of the above.' (Don't let systems define your choices.)ou
4. You are never completely right. (And the world is not binary.)
5. Be yourself. (Use your real identity online whenever you can.)
6. One size does not fit all. (Some things need to be personal, or local, others global, don't confuse them.)
7. Do not sell your friends. (They are not a commodity.)
8. Tell the truth. (The web is good at uncovering lies.)
9. Share, don't steal. (And be generous with your acknowledgements.)
10. Program or be programmed.

I would add one more, "Seek out contradictions" (hang out with people you disagree with or with whom you have to work to build the common ground needed for communication). Too many of us spend too much time talking to people we already agree with, and if we are not careful our on-line social networks can reinforce this.

The most controversial point in this book is Rushkoff's tenth commandment, Learn How to Program. Do we all need to learn how to program or is programming a geek activity for a small group of people? There are two levels to this. Basic concepts from computer science are core to understanding our world and can be widely applied across many disciplines. I would include Object Orientation, Packet Switching, Bayesian Networks, Graph Theory, the Relational Data Model among the core memes of our age. Then there is the mental agility that comes from learning at least some basic programming. Both are important. Rushkoff's plea that we all learn to program and that we begin teaching programming in high school (I say elementary school) is well grounded. He even recommends some resources with which to get started, such as Daniel Shiffman's Learning Processing, Second Edition: A Beginner's Guide to Programming Images, Animation, and Interaction (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive 3D Technology).

I have some quibbles. Rushkoff's comments on the evolution of communication from language through writing through the printing press to networked communication seem to me to be terribly Eurocentric. There are traditions of writing and printing older than that of `the peoples of the book' in India, China and their intersecting cultural spheres. One interesting reading on these lines is Jack Goody's The Interface between the Written and the Oral (Studies in Literacy, the Family, Culture and the State). And Rushkoff's summary of the emergence of currency is so abbreviated to be misleading. See David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years. But these are quibbles and do not take away from the force of his arguments or the importance of his commandments.


Invisible Giant: Cargill and Its Transnational Strategies
Invisible Giant: Cargill and Its Transnational Strategies
by Brewster Kneen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $35.00
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great research and detail lacks a conceptual framework, November 3, 2012
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A compilation of information on Cargill, the world's largest private company. Needs a better analytical framework but there is a lot of important information here about how global food production is organized. Cargill's ability to think of the world in terms of production basins, water-borne transportation routes and consumption centers is useful, shows why Cargill needs to be a transnational. The use of IP to mean 'identity preserved' is a good indication of the importance of provenance to the future of the food system. It was also interesting to think about how Cargill organizes its value web to manage risk, and frequently to off load risk to smaller players who are not in a position to say no.

The author slips in the occasional value judgement, and I tend to agree with them, but he does not do the extra work to justify them. Five stars for research, two stars for organization and analysis, rounded up to four stars.


Ru
Ru
by Kim Thúy
Edition: Paperback
36 used & new from $5.92

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic and Precise, July 7, 2012
This review is from: Ru (Paperback)
Not a conventional novel, this book captures the Vietnamese immigrant experience to Montreal in a way that a conventional novel would not. In some ways it is closer to poetry in the precision of its language and observation and the emotional force conveyed.

The story is about much more than Vietnam or being a refugee and Montreal. It is also about being a daughter and a mother. The figure of the narrator's autistic son Henri is threaded through the book. I normally avoid allegorical readings but I could not help think about snow, the linguistics divides in Montreal (where I grew up) and the linguistic tensions in Vancouver (where I now live).

Reading this, strangely, made me feel more at home in Vancouver and drew me back to Montreal - the smell of rotting urban snow, the heat, the collage of sounds up on Mile End.

I read this in Sheila Fischman's excellent translation (Canada owes a huge debt to Sheila Fischman) but enjoyed it so much I will work through it in French as well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2016 7:52 AM PST


On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life
On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life
by Kristen Steele
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I ride a bike everyday, life is good.", January 26, 2012
This is a wonderful little book put together by Amy Walker, an editor of Momentum Magazine. It has fifty short articles, 5-6 pages on many different aspects of urban cycling. This is a book for people who use, or are thinking about using, their bikes for transportation. It covers all sorts of topics, from Internally Geared Bicycle Hubs (I have avoided these but after reading the article by Aaron Goss I am reconsidering) and how to dress for the weather (there is no bad weather just bad dressing) to how to cycle with children, carry loads on your bike and how to organize your community and make cycling safer. The articles are all well written and easy to read. Some are even inspiring like those by Deb Greco and some of Amy Walker's). I especially enjoyed Amy Walker's "Riding in the Rain." (I ride a lot in Vancouver and Cambridge MA, and I ride all year, so I get to enjoy the rain a lot.)

If the book has weaknesses it is that it is very North American centric. I learned a lot about urban cycling, and how society and urban design shape the experience, by cycling in Tokyo and Copenhagen (very different approaches and experiences). I am looking for books that tell us about cycling from the East Asian, South Asian, Latin American, African and European perspectives.

Note that this book is not a How To manual and if you get into cycling and books about cycling you will want to read more. Some other books to look for are Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, Effective Cycling: 6th Edition, Cycling - Philosophy for Everyone: A Philosophical Tour de Force and Bicycle Diaries.


Urban Code: 100 Lessons for Understanding the City (MIT Press)
Urban Code: 100 Lessons for Understanding the City (MIT Press)
by Anne Mikoleit
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.66
64 used & new from $8.06

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patterns in Soho, September 11, 2011
I have spent a few afternoons huddled on a stoop in Soho waiting while friends and family shop (Patterns 65: People sit with their back protected and 66: Sitting people observe their environment). I was ostensibly reading a book of poetry but mostly just watching, and because I was sitting low to the ground what I mostly watched was people's shoes. In Soho shoes are a badge of tribal membership. And watching shoes one gets a good feel for the rhythms of the street (Patterns 1: People walk in the sunshine, 3: Street vendors facilitate pedestrian movement, 13: Tourists carry bags, 17: Street vendors reinforce fluctuations, 42: People walk more slowly in the afternoon).

This is a wonderful little book on urban patterns, closely observed, in Soho NYC. It picks out what makes Soho work as a place - its intensity, consumerism, variety and intimacy. There are many suggestions in here for other places as well. I would like Vancouver to study these patterns and see how they could be applied on Commercial Drive, along Robson, in Yaletown and Gastown, or along 4th and in smaller communities like Marpole. Could we apply Pattern 20: Cars Park in Niches and get rid of on-street parking in places - think of all the possibilities this would open in Yaletown.

The book is not perfect, but it could be a starting point for a great pick up in the study of urban patterns, and it builds well off Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Cess Center for Environmental) and Kevin Lynch's The Image of the City (Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies Series) classic work. I hope we can see similar books about other parts of NYC, other cities (can someone do this for Aoyama in Tokyo), and other types of urban environment.

I felt the book had a few serious flaws, that prevented me from giving it five stars.

1. It situates Soho overwhlmingly as a site of consumption. This is superficial as I know a number of designers and makers, even a few artists, who make things in Soho and making is, or should be, as important to us as comsumption.

2. The patterns are primarily captured and thought out visually . The soundscape has patterns too and these often reveal intimacies and rhthms that are otherwise hard to notice.

3. I would have liked to have seen more data cited. There are interesting economic claims on density, cars, shopping patterns and rents that I tend to believe but would like to see back up.

4. The patterns are not linked into a system and there is no index (see Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software for some best practices.

My favourite patterns? Pattern 85: Weeds Reduce Aggression and Pattern 100 Fracture Create Friction.

Ten years after 9/11 NYC remains a wonderful diverse and dynamic place. And a resilient one. Thank you NYC and its people and its first responders.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2011 12:36 PM PDT


Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life
Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life
by M. A. Nowak
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $49.78
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelatory, June 9, 2011
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There are so many good things to say about this book I think I will begin with my misgivings!

Not a fault of the book, but before reading this you may want to brush up on your math, especially on systems of differential equations and matrix algebra. Martin Nowak is a fluent and elegant writer and this extends to his math, which (for me anyway) flows wonderfully. But I don't spend enough time on math so I had to slow myself down as I read, think carefully and test my understanding.

There is very little 'biology' in this book. It is mostly on the theoretical structures that underlie evolution. I prefer my evolution with rather more biology. I hope someone will write another book (preferably many books) that goes deeper into applying these ideas to living systems (yes, the chapter on HIV was compelling and the chapter on cancer interesting).

I was disappointed by the Further Reading section. It did not provide enough context about the books mentioned or thread them together into a story. In fact, it seemed a bit rushed - and I had set aside some time to read it carefully.

On to the books strengths.

This is one of the best examples of expository prose I have read in a long time. Martin Nowak can make complex ideas clear and not waste a lot of words doing so. Anyone writing about complex topics where it is important to link the math and ideas could benefit from studying this book. As an example, the description of the Chomsky hierarchies of formal languages is the best I have read.

The presentation of the key equations is exemplary. The components of the equation are all labeled and explained. All books that need to explain equations should take this approach. I plan to copy the quasispecies equation explanation and put it up above my desk.

In general, the quality of the graphics is excellent and they really add to the presentation of the ideas. This is not a book for the Kindle or iPad. Get the physical thing (I plan to buy a couple of extra copies for friends and colleagues).

And the content. Evolutionary Dynamics leads the reader through the past two decades work on uncovering the mathematical framework for evolutionary processes. It provides a compelling (I will use this word too often in this review) introduction to evolution and how to formalize it. A good treatment on fitness landscapes (though this is one of the weaker sections of the book - only in cpmparison with the rest of the book though, as it is still excellent).Good coverage of standard topics like evolutionary games, with a very orderly presentation in which understanding is built up from games in infinite populations to games in finite populations with a great treatment of the classic prisoner's dilemma game and an explanation of why each strategy works. I had not thought through the impact of errors on the popular Tit for Tat or Forgiving Tit for Tat. The implications of this are far reaching. Then there are the chapters on evolutionary graph theory and spatial games. Wow. These alone will open wide fields for future research. Absolutely necessary reading. The book concludes with good applications of evolutionary dynamics to HIV, virulence and parasites and cancer. The final chapter on languages evolution is powerful and the insight into coherence threshold and how it determines the maximum size of a search space (with the universal grammar as the search space for language learning) can be applied in many other fields.

Speaking of other fields, I believe that the approach taken in this book to evolutionary dynamics will eventually replace much of what is now called economics. Economic activity is not about finding equilibriums in the allocation of scarce resources. It is about the competition of replicators in dynamic fitness space. Organizations are a form of replicator. In fact may products are also replicators and trends towards modular and configurable systems, collaborative design, just in time production, local production, etc. will make them more so. This book provides some of the formal tools needed to think about these questions. As an example, the model of value provided by Tom Nagle see The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing (5th Edition)when combined with cost to serve provides a definition of advantage which can be interpreted as fitness. The system of features-benefits-value drivers with the value driver equations and data can be modeled using the concepts from von Neuman of reproduction and replication (see von Neuman's The Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata - why isn't this book in print and in wide circulation?). There are other obvious applications. I would love to see a blend (mashup if you prefer) of evolutionary dynamics and parametric design (see Elements of Parametric Design, or even music composed using some of these equations ...

I will reread this book soon and expect to reference it many times. And I hope a soft cover edition at a lower price comes out so that I can give it to many people.


Mothertalk: Life Stories of Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka / Edited by Daphne Marlatt
Mothertalk: Life Stories of Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka / Edited by Daphne Marlatt
by Roy Kiyooka
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $0.63

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For mothers and their children, an ur text, June 4, 2011
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I hope that my wife, who is Japanese, and all three of my children will read this book. There is nothing terribly unusual about Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka's life story, but its ordinariness is what makes the book extraordinarily profound. And she did have some amazing children, including artist and poet Roy Kiyooka whose book Pacific Windows: Collected Poe is one of my favourite books of poetry.

The book has an interesting composition. Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka was interviewed in Japanese in her early 90s. Japanese translator and community activist Matsuki Masutani translated the transcripts, and then Roy Kiyooka rewrite them in an English where he tried to capture his mother's Tosa-ben (the dialect of Tosa Prefecture where she grew up). Roy died before he could complete the project and the final text was organized by poet Daphne Marlatt (her book Steveston is worth searching out in this context). The result is magical.

Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka was the daughter of a samurai sword master. She came to Victoria at the age of 18 and basically lived in Canada the rest of her life giving birth to seven children. The two oldest children grew up with their grandparents in Japan, though both eventually settled in Canada. Her stories capture what it meant to be a woman and an immigrant in western Canada in the 20th C. There is a lot to learn from them about perseverance, acceptance, pain and taking joy from the small things in life.

One of the most compelling things about the book are the short vignettes that capture a person's life in a short, evocative paragraph. An example "I knew a Hiroshima woman who became a prostitute that way. She got herself pregnant and gave birth to an albino child. She had slept with so many men she had no idea who the child's father was. In those days people looked down on albino children not to mention the mother so she took the child and went to the States where she met a Black guy who fell madly in love with her. They had several kids and though things weren't easy for a mixed race couple her life improved. I knew her in her old age and admired her. She had survived all the scars of her profession without loss of pride while the city she grew up in and never returned to lay in ashes."

Reading this book helps uncover some of the deep threads that tie together Roy Kiyooka's poetry and art (and he is one of Canada's most important poets). But more than that, it helps us understand where we live and how it got to be how it is --- how much we have depended on strong immigrant women who suffered to keep their families together and still found a lot to be happy about. A deep creativity lies under her life, something we can all be thankful for.


The Strategic Pricing of Pharmaceuticals
The Strategic Pricing of Pharmaceuticals
by E.M. (Mick) Kolassa
Edition: Paperback
Price: $39.43
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding pharma pricing is critical to the larger conversation of healthcare reform, April 10, 2011
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Pricing is a basic business process, but one that often does not get the executive attention it warrants. Pricing, especially value-based pricing, is a powerful way to align an organization around creating differentiated value for its customers. Can value play an equally important role in the healthcare system?
This is a difficult question, and well beyond the scope of an Amazon review, but reading this book is a good step for those interested in how to improve healthcare in the US and other jurisdictions. Mick Kolassa's book looks at what makes pharmaceutical pricing unique:
- Pharmaceuticals are subject to derived demand, demand is in response to medical need and the payer, prescriber (buyer) and user are generally different.
- Pharmaceuticals are negative goods; those who purchase or consume them would generally prefer not to do so.
- Pharmaceuticals are experience goods, we can only really know if they will work after we use them.
These three characteristics make pricing pharmaceuticals different from pricing most other goods or services. If one is using value models such as Economic Value Estimation (see Tom Nagle The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing (5th Edition)) to understand prices one has to create models for Payers (governments and insurance companies), Prescribers (doctors), Care Providers (hospitals and clinics) and the poor patient (who often has little say in the matter, but will protest by not following prescriptions carefully).
Pharmaceuticals are also part of fundamental value and social questions - "Is it ethical to deny a person a treatment that would save their life? "What happens if prices are too low and pharmaceutical company R&D dries up?" "Should a Payer have the right to control what drugs a "Prescriber can choose?"
Mick Kolassa and his co-authors have extensive experience in all of these areas and offer important insights. They also cover the unusual role of contracts in the US healthcare system (contracts generally set the terms of trade rather than consummate actual sales) and look briefly at international issues.
This book could be improved by more formal use of value modeling and more coverage of pharmacoeconomics and it would have been nice to have the many examples supplemented with some complete case studies that covered pricing questions from R&D though to the end of a molecules lifecycle. Hopefully the authors will publish such a book at some point.
I hope we will see more books on pricing in specific segments. Books on pricing of industrial goods, B2B software, professional services, design etc. would all be valuable and help to put pricing and value at the center of business discussions.


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