Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review : Economics of Ego Surplus

Title : The Economics of Ego Surplus

Author : Paul McDonnold

Publisher : Starving Analyst Press

ISBN : 978-0-9829038-0-3

I received the review copy of this book a month back but the only reason I kept postponing picking this book up to read was the uninviting title page of the book which looked very drab and dreary. But once I started reading it, I felt too bad for the book as the cover page does not convey even the smallest fraction of the power packed story that is between the covers. And the title of the book does not help either. The information, the plot, the suspense, the climax and the narrative are full of excitement and adventure with no dull moment.

The story of a college instructor Kyle Linwood is an entertaining concoction of an action story, a thriller and also a guide to important facts and trends in economics. Kyle is all geared up to spend a relaxing summer with his girlfriend, but very unexpectedly he gets an offer from the FBI to work with them in solving a case of internet terrorism targeting the US financial backbone. Soon enough the panic tremors start jolting the whole nation and Kyle works on the case diligently which leads him to UAE. This whole exercise raises many questions about his own fundamentals in life and how everything fits like puzzle pieces. It is an interesting read how Kyle in association with FBI tries to foil the aggressive attempts of economic terrorists. Divulging anything more about the story would be giving away too much. The character portrayal of Kyle is very believable, not giving an impression of some super hero taking upon the terrorists all by himself.

There are quite a few economic concepts which are explained in an extremely simpler way which make them easily understandable, for instance the role of governments in salvaging the melting down economy and many other macro-economic concepts here and there. This book can be an interesting supplement for students who are taking up courses in economy.

The short and succinct chapters are very neatly written with appropriate subtitles. No attempt of stretching the narrative unnecessarily. I am sure this book will make many readers happy as it has the capability to quench the literary thirst of many.

Its prequel, 5 Pillars, 7 Sins is now available as a Free eBook in several formats. You can check it out here

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review : Teaching Lab Science Courses Online

Title : Teaching Lab Science Courses Online

Author : Linda Jeschofnig and Peter Jeschofnig

Publisher : Jossey-Bass

ISBN : 978-0-470-60704-6

Learning science includes laboratory experience as a main ingredient for complete understanding of the subject, be it the dissection of the animals to see the viscera or adding the chemicals to see the reaction taking place under controlled environment or some physical phenomenon being carried out with specific equipments. In order to satisfy this criteria, the conventional school of thought propounds face- to-face learning as the only method of teaching and learning science. But with changing times when technology has influenced and literally revolutionized almost all patterns of thinking, how can this field be left untouched. As per the Department of Education Study, the science illiteracy is on the rise in America and to control this trend, making science experiments available to more and more people who are interested in taking up these courses should be made more easier. And making the same available online means increasing the reach by manifolds.

The authors of 'Teaching Lab Science Courses Online' have extensively covered all facets of this topic beginning with - the need to teach online, the comparison : online teaching vs face to face teaching, the specified tools and techniques helpful in this cause, the effectiveness and pitfalls of this mode of teaching, how to incorporate academic integrity in online science courses and the methods to incorporate online lab assignments, are some of these.

More and more instructors who have actually taught online believe that the commercially available lab-kits to be used at home are very much feasible and highly effective. This opening up of education offers opportunities to many people who cannot spare time to go to the campuses or the people who want to continue education in their convenient time. Not just that the research shows that the student-instructor interaction is much more purposeful and meaningful in online courses. And the social networking sites are easily providing the forums through which the fellow students can interact too.

The authors discuss the practicality of pre-packaged kits for the remote students and these would require instructors working closely with the companies manufacturing such kits, so that the hazard levels are kept under stricter checks while keeping the cost component minimal too so that the affordability does not become an issue.

Linda and Peter - the authors of this book are retired college professors who have been recognized as passionate pioneers in the field of distance science education. This book explores the options available to the students who are looking for valid science laboratory experiences. The online education is reality of new age and is here to stay in a big way.

This book offers a great help to the instructors who want to take their courses online, by walking them through the requirements in terms of appropriate software, modification in the course material, incorporation of 'use-at-home' lab kits, selection of lab options and many more informative guidelines. The authors address the potential obstacles while following this path and the possible remedial options to overcome the same thereby making the reach of education wider and broader with no boundaries and limitations whatsoever.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review : Many Lives Many Masters

Title : Many Lives Many Masters

Author : Brian L. Weiss

'Many Lives Many Masters' is an interesting, engaging and enlightening read. The subject addressed in the book is the one greatly written about and well debated upon. It can be termed as theory of rebirth, reincarnation, after life, permanence of soul, many lives etc.

Through this book, Dr. Weiss describes his own experience with Catherine who was 27 years old when she came to him for the psychiatric help regarding her anxieties, panic attacks and phobias. While the doctor tried all possible conventional methods to cure Catherine but nothing seemed to work with her until she transitioned to hypnotic trans state wherein she could recall her past-life memories and experiences which clearly indicated the causes of her present life specific symptoms. The treatment worked with her so well that she started showing immediate improvement in her overall approach towards life, and her issues just vanished completely. Her hypnotic states not just were improving her condition, they were in fact a great learning experience for Dr. Weiss himself wherein he could get to decipher the secret messages from the spirits belonging to the other world regarding life and death.

The author is an acclaimed graduate of Columbia university, a M.D. from the Yale university School of Medicine and Chief Psychiatric at a major hospital and has over 37 papers and many book chapters that are published in this field to his credit. He is an expert on brain chemistry. So he was rightly surprised and skeptical about what his experience with Catherine was leading him to believe. But his skepticism started losing its ground when over and over again he witnessed the miracle this process was bringing in Catherine's life and how everything seemed to fall in just the right place and of course the extremely significant messages relayed to him from the other world with Catherine as a conduit.

This book brings to fore the age old belief that there is a supreme authority who is behind the existence of every single thing in this world and good or bad, our actions stay with us and to settle the accounts of our previous incarnations we need to keep coming in the world. Many religions have already been imparting the knowledge of the theory of cause and effects through our karmas and the subsequent births but the cases like Catherine reinforce this philosophy. The author highlighted another very significant point that the exercise with Catherine made him realize that the fear of death which scares almost all living individuals can be overcome to a great extent with this knowledge simply by being aware that we were there before this and we will be there after this life too, its just that we move from one state to another and in this process attempt to gain wisdom and learn for the benefit of our soul.

Found some repetition of text - specifically when the author is trying to explain the authenticity of what Catherine was saying while being regressed - she was not an actress, didn't do drugs, had not read anything about afterlife and after death experiences. Almost verbatim passage is repeated on a couple of occasions.

Overall a very gripping and engaging read and readers will find answers to some of their own personal questions. This book can serve as a great introduction for the readers who are new to this field of knowledge and research.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review : Reality Bites

Title : Reality Bites

Author : Anurag Anand

Publisher : Srishti

ISBN : 978-93-80349-37-4

The story begins with Atul's first day in the Delhi Engineering College (DCE) and soon the readers are taken two years back to his first hostel experience when he had moved from a small, secured and confined world of a small home in Hissar to a much bigger world Delhi High School Hostel. The objective behind this transition was the lofty aim of his father that Atul should be able to secure a seat in a prestigious engineering college in a good stream.

Atul experiences a newer world, a wider variety of individuals and gradually settles down accepting the ups and downs of the new hotel life. He forms many acquaintances but develops friendships with a few including his roommate Senti and 'cure-of-all' Bengali. He falls in love with a smart chic straight from glossy pages of a filmy magazine Ayesha and lets himself gratify his sensual pleasures but his dream world does not last too long and he is forced to face the reality soon enough. But there is one more corner too to make this a typical love triangle. The book has covered almost all the ingredients which form a major part of any new adult's life while taking his/her first independent steps in the outer world - experimenting with new found freedom, attraction of opposite sex, charm of first love, standing up for others, believing in unity of group while managing the pressures of exams and scoring reasonably at the same time.

I must compliment the author on his linguistic skills, the story flows smoothly without any errors whatsoever, which is a major grudge that I have against new authors especially Indian authors. Every incident takes the narrative forward and some analogies and comparisons do manage to tickle the funny bone on many occasions.

The author has adequately tried to pepper up the story with humour but it still falls flat on many accounts. The plot is not strong enough to hold the interest of the readers for too long and in the middle somewhere, the desire to just finish it off starts creeping up. I guess Chetan Bhagat has become a source of motivation for many new authors but there has to be some substance to satisfy the appetite of readers otherwise the book fails to make any impact. This book comes across as a direct lift from 'not very successful' melodramatic movie. And I guess, the book is written to cater to a very small segment of readers, not sure whether this will appeal to them too. The cover of the book does not help either.

I firmly believe that a book which can hope to appeal to readers should fall broadly in either of these categories:

  1. Book offering some unique idea, out of the box thought, new plot or some extraordinary event which has never been presented before.
  2. Book working on known plots or ideas but the outstanding handling and packaging of the same enables it to rise above the rest. From handling and packaging I mean - either the narration is very witty or engaging or presented in such a fashion that something is there for the readers to savor.

For me, this book falls short in qualifying for any of these.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review : Temple of Destiny

Title : Temple of Destiny

Author : Neeraj Singhvi

Publisher : Pustak Mahal

Temple of Destiny takes us to a journey of self realization when a person named Harrod travels to India in pursuit of finding answers to his queries. He comes to Guru Satyanand's ashram and on the very first day he is put into a course of four cycles -

The cycle of connectivity and integration

The cycle of wisdom

The cycle of self recognition

The cycle of self actualization

This book is dedicated to Harrod's progress in the first cycle - The cycle of connectivity and integration. He is asked to follow a very simple regimen of getting up early in the morning, meditating a little while followed by spending an hour or two in observing a tank with some fishes in it placed in a room which has nothing else there. In the evening , Guru invites Harrod to share his emotions and experiences of watching the activities of the fishes in the tank. This seems like a very trivial task to Harrod initially. With his mind already working at an accelerated pace desiring to learn too much too soon, he had his own apprehensions and doubts whether he would be able to learn anything from this activity. But as he spends more and more days doing the same set of activities in strict timely fashion, he realizes how every little thing and every small activity has the potential of teaching so much. Every day he gets an opportunity to delve deeper into his observation about the fishes, their happiness, their feeding patterns, their attachment with each other as well as with him, their need to have clean surroundings in order to cultivate positive and happy thoughts and much more.

Harrod narrates his observations to the Guru in the evenings and Guru helps him channelize his thoughts in such a manner that he begins to correlate many things and starts seeing the connection and common thread binding all living creatures thereby showing him the essence of the principal of connectivity and integration of mind, body, earth and the universe.

During their discussions together, Guru talks about the futility of materialistic life and how unimportant it is compared to the inner peace and inner happiness that we could attain which would eventually go with us. He enlightens Harrod about the bond of love and how emotions start ruling a human mind which leads to more suffering for the person himself/herself as well as the others concerned.

But I guess the most significant lesson that he learns and in turn all the readers will learn is how significant it is to slow down sometime and observe our surroundings. Once we master the art of observing keenly, we will be able to mend our own actions ourselves.

As I began reading this book, I was a little unsure, what unique thing will this book offer when there is a deluge of self-help books in the market. On some points, my doubts were proved wrong while on some I felt I doubted it correctly.

However, there are some serious problems with this book - the author mentions the course of fours cycles for the self-realization process but nowhere in the text is this mentioned that this book is dealing with just the first cycle or it is part I or the readers should expect or should not expect the other cycles in the following parts or just the first cycle description was the aim.

Unfortunately another Indian book which suffers from typos, grammatical mistakes and repetition of words and even repetitive text. I strongly believe that these spoilers ruin the overall impact of the book.

Overall a one time read book, not great but not bad either. My rating for this book would be 3/5.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review : The Steve Jobs Way

Title : The Steve Jobs Way

Author : Jay Elliot with William L.Simon

Publisher : JAICO

ISBN : 978-81-7992-768-7

I really like reading autobiographies, however I am not a great fan of biographies. But I guess some people are so great, so larger than life, have so power packed years on this earth and their personalities are so captivating that whatever is written about them is sure to make an interesting read. I still maintain that I would love to read an autobiography of Steve Jobs if and when he writes one but given that there is none right now, 'The Steve Jobs Way' stands some chance among the many books that have already been written on him and on his working style.

Jay Elliot, the author of this book had the opportunity to share the enthusiasm and excitement of Steve Jobs from a very close proximity during his stint as the Senior Vice-President of Apple Computers, so he has written with authority about Steve Jobs as an innovator, as a thinker, as a professional and as a person himself.

A creative thinker par excellence, Steve Jobs dropped out of college and followed his obsession - the passion for the product and that for the product perfection. He understood some very basic business fundamentals quite early on in his life - identifying and valuing innovation at any cost, philosophy of hiring, identifying the rare gems of talent among a sea of people, going to any lengths to bring the bright people into the Apple's fold, being a greatest consumer first before delivering a product, product comes first, commitment to excellence and the attention to detail so that nothing remains unnoticed.

His steadfast faith in his own ideas and passion to make them come true and the openness to learn from his own mistakes worked perfectly in tandem with the business acumen that was his second nature. And with all these traits in his kitty, he had a rare combination to have accomplished what he accomplished, not just in terms of money but much more than that, much bigger than that in the form of the respect and appreciation that he earned for himself as well as for his products.

It seems like his magical touch worked on almost all the things that he ventured into - Apple, Mac, iTunes, iPhone, iPod, iPad,and not to forget Pixar, NeXT. The Apple products are known for their user-friendliness, beauty, sleekness, excellence and awe-inspiring factor.

A slice of Steve's deep conviction that he is destined to change the world is evident through an argument that he offered (which later became very famous ) while he was trying to woo John Scully to switch from Pepsi to Apple - "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water, or do you want a chance to change the world?"

The book has been very intelligently categorized into five sections based on the integral aspects of iLeadership - Product, Talent, Organization and Marketing and what all significant lessons the author learnt during his years with Steve Jobs in Apple Computers.

The author traces the journey of Steve Jobs from his early years in Apple when he struggled with Woz to make a name for themselves through the years when Apple had nothing to do with Steve and later to the time when he became synonymous to Apple again.

Steve very particularly gets involved in all the stages of the entire value chain - the conception of the idea of a feature or a product, actual manufacturing of the same, the marketing of the product and finally to the point of sale.

A nice book for the people who are looking for some kind of motivation in the business ventures or otherwise. This book which elaborates upon Steve Job's practical approach to iLeadership will surely influence the working style of many and will ignite some sparks in the endeavours towards the goals. But at the same time, this book will raise a question in the minds of the readers - will the iLeadership that has been adhered to by Steve Jobs will continue to be followed in his absence too?

There are some very obvious flaws in the writing, there is mention of the time when Jay Elliot joined Apple

but his duration in the company is not talked about and the situation and circumstances which led him to leave Apple.

After having read and appreciated this book, I feel this is not all, there has to be much more to Steve Jobs than this.

The excerpt from the book which I liked the most -

"Nothing stays the same in business, and the only way to meet innovation is with more innovation."

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