Book review: Snow Crash

Book cover for Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

As part of my reading list for the year, I make it a point to include “classic” science fiction. I consider pretty much anything written prior to the year 2000 as classic.

One of the other elements I look for in these classic works is their ability to stand the test of time. I’ve read books from Asimov, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Peter Hamilton, Joe Haldeman, Orson Scott Card, and others. I find it fascinating how many things these authors foreshadowed in their novels that have come to pass or are close to happening. It’s even more amazing when you consider that some of these novels were written over 50 years ago, and some are even older!

For my latest classic science fiction read, I read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. A good friend and former colleague suggested I read Stephenson’s works, and he strongly recommended that I start with this one.

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Takeaways from the Pygmalion Effect

Over fifty years ago, researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson performed an experiment where teachers were told which students in their class had higher potential based on the student’s performance on an IQ test. The students were tested again at the end of the year. The students the teachers were told had higher potential improved their scores more than the others. The catch? The students labeled as higher potential were not based on the test results. The researchers chose them randomly.

“Higher expectations lead to higher results” was the primary finding of the study. It’s become known as the Pygmalion Effect, or Rosenthal Effect. It’s a powerful finding that can be applied across many facets of our life.

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Book review: Slow Burner

Book cover for Slow Burner by Laura Lippman (Amazon Hush Collection)

Next to science fiction, the short story format is one of my favorite types of fiction to read. I love how an author can capture your imagination and compress an engaging story into a compact form. I especially like how a really good short story comes to a close but leaves you with unanswered questions. It forces me to replay the story over and over in my mind and allows me to fill-in the blanks.

Amazon, my nemesis, has been doing a great job putting together short story collections. After reading their Forward collection, I recently finished reading the six short stories of their Hush Collection. Instead of reviewing each of the books individually, I’m going to focus on my favorite of the group, which was Slow Burner by Laura Lippman.


You can see my ranking of all the books in the Hush Collection here: Ranking the Amazon Hush collection of short stories


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No such thing as a wasted vote

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein

As we finally move on from the 2020 Presidential Election, I decided to reflect on my posts from four years ago. I wrote three posts following that election:

Since that time, nothing has changed. I could repost those same articles, change the year from 2016 to 2020, and they would be just as applicable today as they were then.

Given that the system has not changed, no one should be surprised at the result. The election did more to divide us than to unite us. If Einstein were alive, I believe he would agree that our process of electing a President has reached new levels of insanity.

I still believe what I stated four years ago – it’s time we had more than two viable candidates to choose from for President. If anything, this year’s election only reinforced and strengthened my belief.

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Book review: Digital Minimalism

Book cover for Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

It’s amazing how fast life can change. When I think back 20 years ago, I spent time online, but not all the time. I would regularly check emails, and I might use the internet occasionally in the evening to check sport scores, read up on current events, or do some research. At most the internet was a diversion, a source of entertainment.

These days the internet is a pervasive, integral part of my life. I couldn’t do my work without it, and even when not working, I spend time online researching articles, or doing what I’m doing now – writing on my blog. Even when I’m not on my computer, I carry the internet around with me on my smartphone (currently using a Pixel 3 playing for Team Android). Not only does my phone keep me connected through voice calls and email, but I use it a lot for text messaging to keep in touch with friends and family.

For some, the connection goes even deeper. They are glued to the apps on their phone, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, or whatever the latest social network du jour is. It begs the question, is there a point where you can be over-connected?

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Government for Sale

California 2020 ballot proposition 22

If you have $200,000,000 lying around, there’s something new you can do with it. You can write your own law in California. That’s effectively what Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and others did recently so they could classify their employees as independent contractors. It allows them to save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by not having to pay their fair share of FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare), unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and state and federally mandated benefits such as health benefits, family and medical leave, and paid time off.

I usually don’t get too wrapped up in politics, but this one got me pretty wound up, as those close to me can attest. But, the election’s over, the people have spoken, and Proposition 22 passed. So before I put this one behind me, there are just a few remaining items I’m going to say, and then I’ll let this one rest for good.

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Book review: Chaos Monkeys

Book cover for Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez

There are a number of notable technology startup communities across the U.S. There’s Boston, Austin, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boulder, Seattle, and Raleigh-Durham. Still, even today, the one that stands head and shoulders above all these areas and others is the Bay Area of Northern California. I liken it to being in the major leagues of technology, particularly when it comes to tech startups.

I’ve not been involved in a Bay Area startup, and at this point in my career, I doubt that I ever will be. But as someone who works in tech, it’s interesting to read stories about the Bay Area technology scene. From the outside it always seems so glamorous, but one knows that’s never the whole story. For every Facebook and Google, there are hundreds of forgettable companies, or ones that no one ever hears about.

Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez is an autobiographical look at that other side of Silicon Valley. The subtitle, Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley, is a good indication of what to expect when you read it.

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The press needs to do better, and so do we

What would you think if 2% of the population drove the discussion on the most important issues facing the country? How would feel if this 2% was driving the country apart rather than uniting it? Would you feel part of a representative democracy?

Well, this is the situation we are trending towards, if we’re not already there.

As my one of my favorite bloggers, Michael Mace, pointed out in his most recent post, We’re not as divided as we think we are, 2% of the US population writes 97% of the political posts on Twitter. It’s these posts that are promoted by the press. These posts, which are usually very opinionated and highly controversial, are picked up by the press and presented as though these are the views of the majority of Americans.

Source: We’re not as divided as we think we are – Mobile Opportunity

It begs the question, why does the mainstream press behave this way?

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Book review: Your Greatest Power

Book cover for Your Greatest Power by J. Martin Kohe

Our attitude towards the events that happen in our lives and around us has a huge impact on our outlook on life. It affects our mood. It determines our level of success (or failure). The choices we make determine if we are going to help make the world a better place or contribute to making it worse.

In Your Greatest Power, J. Martin Kohe examines the power of choice and how to use it to make a positive impact in your life, the lives of those around you, and the world in general.

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