Audiobook Reviews

Lately, I’ve been checking out a lot of audio books to read while I drive around town. It makes the driving so much more relaxing and enjoyable. You get the added benefit of learning something. Here are a few I’ve listened to recently.

On Negotiating by Mark H. McCormack

This is a great audiobook with loads of practical experience and advice on the strategies and techniques behind negotiating. McCormack presents numerous anecdotal examples to illustrate his points and brings his business leadership experience to the fore to provide very valuable insight and information. The material is highly valuable and you will find yourself thinking back to it when you encounter any type of situation that requires coming to an agreement. The biggest lesson to me was about thinking big during a negotiation. Don’t be afraid to make an insultingly high or low offer. If you start out splitting the difference during a negotiation you will have even less leeway and you will likely end up with a bad deal. The higher and lower you go (depending on if you are the buyer or seller) the more room you have to maneuver. This book is highly recommended for anyone. You will soon find new opportunities to put these techniques to work.

Stop Paddling & Start Rocking the Boat: Business Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks (1995) by Lou Pritchett

This guy has a folksy charm with his Memphis twang and fantastic stories gleaned from his 36 years with Procter & Gamble. Starting off in sales right out of college he worked his way to head of P&G’s Phillipines division and onward. Most memorable yet simple idea: if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. Don’t quit, don’t stop. Keep working to improve yourself and your work. It’s a process that never ends.

Your thought for the day: Change

From Frank Herbert, courtesy of Quipsmart, a blog for quotations, which I’m trying to update regularly:

Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.

Frank Herbert’s Dune had an enormous impact on me. It has as much to do with our world and history as it has to do with Herbert’s artificial world and history. There is a strong human dimension to his first book: the power of destiny, the influence of history and tradition, and the relationships between family members. It’s also a book about growing up, and taking your place in the world around you.

Books for young people

I was talking with Jody about books we had read as kids, and I thought it might make a good post.

  1. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This was a good series, which I remember little about, except for its good description of pioneer living, like living in a sod house, for example.
  2. The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald. I read these in my fifth grade class. When you finished your work you could read from the bookshelf in the classroom. That’s where I discovered this series. The stories revolve around these brothers as they get into mischief and solve mysteries.
  3. Flinx Series by Alan Dean Foster. This is a good sci-fi series about an orphan, Pip, and his pet flying snake, Flynx.
  4. The Oz books by L. Frank Baum. These were essentially fantasy books, before fantasy was a genre. There’s a lot going on in the Oz books. Magic, witches, and other assorted craziness. I never really understood the whole Ozma / Pip situation.

Consumption Junction

Friday night I went to see Keanu’s new movie, Constantine, which is based on a comic book by Alan Moore, the creator of The Watchmen and From Hell. It was enjoyable, although you shouldn’t expect to leave feeling overwhelmed by it. The religious dimension to the film was interesting. I liked the idea that heaven and hell exist as parallel realities behind our everyday reality, and that some people are part angel or demon.

Afterwards, we walked over to Borders and I purchased the Baltazar Gracian (pronounced gray-thian) book of aphorisms, The Art of Worldly Wisdom. As a compilation of experience and advice it will make a nice companion to other similar books in my library like the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Michel de Montaigne’s Essays, and Nietzsche.

Info dump

  • To the detriment of my own posting regularity I have ended up posting a lot more to my account than anywhere else. In the six months since September I have posted to it 432 times. Compare that with the 1561 entries I have posted to the blog over the past four years. That’s more than twice the frequency. Granted, the posts to are less substantial, but it is obvious that it is seeing a lot more activity from yours truly. With the Firefox extension you just have to right click a link or page to send it to I dump much of the information I sift through directly into there. Since anything goes you can gather a good idea of the kind of stuff I’ve been reading about. is a godsend for people who like to sift through massive amounts of varied information.

  • I finally finished reading Pat Conroy’s novel “Beach Music“, which I’ve been nursing for a few months. Like most of his other books I’ve read (The Prince of Tides, The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini) I could really relate to the story and the characters. Conroy also has an effusive, bittersweet style that I enjoy.

    Now that I have read a few of his books I am starting to see a number of similarities among them all. Most of the characters possess a lot of the same personality traits, and the family circumstances are often strikingly similar. There is usually a harsh military father, a sibling with schizophrenia or mental illness, eccentric grandparents, and an overwhelmingly dominant yet fiercely loving mother figure. I’ve also noticed that several of Conroy’s female love interests are emotionally remote, and troubled. Usually his protagonists are in love with someone who is either unwilling or unable to love them back. His protagonists find some way to come to the rescue while also ultimately failing to achieve the love they want. Loss seems to be a common theme. It is interesting how Conroy resolves certain relationships. It’s hints at an actual lack of resolution the author might have felt when writing.

    At times, I feel amibivalent about his work. Much of what he writes is only thinly disguised as fiction and you feel like you become a part of his very real and palpable family suffering and drama. There is so much of his raw emotional reality dripping from the writing. It makes me wonder what drives him to tell his story as fiction. Is it a desire to express something that still causes pain thereby creating distance from it? Does he want to confess to his readers but hide from their scrutiny? I can’t help but feel that there is something sadly narcissistic about turning important life experiences into novels. The pain is very real, but he wants to draw attention to it as well.

    All that being said, I’ll probably check out the non-fiction work, “My Losing Season” next. Here are a couple related links:

    1. Pat Conroy interview on “Beach Music”
    2. Pat Conroy audio interview on Fresh Air

Caught with my book pants down

Damn. Damn. Damn. I’m devouring this book, A Storm of Swords, and I’m quickly starting to realize that there’s no way in hell the sequel is going to be out in time for me to read when I finish this installment.

This series is very good as I mentioned earlier. In thinking about it today, I realized a few things that make it exceptional:

  1. It is character and plot driven. Fantasy novels often get caught up rhapsodizing over the setting, the history, the culture, and fantastic elements of the story and forget about the story itself. In this series the details support and help move the plot forward. Sure, there are swords, dragons, giants, and the other fantastic trappings you would expect, but it is in service to the narrative. The characters make the story come alive and the plot gets you involved as a reader.
  2. On a related note, the details provide richness. This richness fleshes out the world, it doesn’t distract.
  3. The world is fantastic but realistic. The characters are complex. Some “bad guys” do good things, some “good guys” do bad things. There are few overt judgments and no priggish morality. If I may be heretical, The Lord of the Rings was often tedious in its simplistic view of good and evil.
  4. The entire series is wall to wall with action, intrigue, sex, violence, and good dialogue. It is unpredictable. Anything can happen to anyone and any character can die at any time even if he or she seems essential.
  5. The story is told from several different points of view and these points of view are often conflicting. The reader is given an opportunity to think about what’s actually going on, which is rare.

Let’s just say I’m glad to find a good series to enjoy. It’s not heavy reading, but I think you might like it.

Little bits worth mentioning

  1. My mom called and told me she got promoted to Vice President at whatever the name of the company is that she works for. I’m proud of her.
  2. We had the McRib challenge today. A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) ate 8 McRib sandwiches. It was excruciating to watch. I don’t think I could have held down more than 2.
  3. I’m in the thick of a new (new to me) fantasy series by George R.R. Martin. You know a series is going to be good when the author has two middle initials. The books are engrossing, especially for their level of detail. I do find myself getting annoyed by the recurring mention of certain words or phrases. It’s hard to read when you keep rolling your eyes. All in all, they are excellent as far as fantasy novels go. If you go to his website, he has a section where he lists what he’s currently reading, which is cool because I like getting book recommendations from authors.
  4. If you’re like me, you don’t make a lot of money. So, it’s good to know where it’s going and how much you have squirreled away in different accounts and locations. For that reason, I heartily recommend Microsoft Money. I’ve been using it for almost 2 years since it came preloaded on my laptop. I liked it, so much that I bought the 2004 edition some time last year. Microsoft Money connects to my bank and downloads and organizes all my transactions. I can pull reports on how much I’ve spent on coffee throughout the year, for example, and it does other things like provide reminders to pay bills, etc. Microsoft Money has really helped me get my financial house in order. I can honestly say that it has saved me thousands of dollars just because I have a handle on my money situation. Knowledge is power. I haven’t tried Quicken, but I would assume it does a lot of the same things.

I like lists and bullets

I haven’t been inspired to write long entries and I find little notes to be more helpful lately.

  • Soundtrack for today:
    1. Pantera – This Love You have to love caveman lyrics like: “You keep this love, fist, scar, break”
    2. Notorious B.I.G – Hypnotize It just came on the radio. Nice sampling.
  • Christmas wishlist:
    1. XM MyFi
    2. Treadmill (I have a spare tire that needs puncturing especially if I even think about going to my 10 year high school reunion.)
    3. Books by or about Otto Weininger. I’ve always been perversely fascinated with history’s heretics.
  • Provocative William Blake quotations:
    • Active Evil is better than Passive Good.
    • Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
    • The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion.

Selections from the Hagakure:

This is a nice passage:

    “To hate injustice and stand on righteousness is a difficult thing. Furthermore, to think that being righteous is the best one can do and to do one’s utmost to be righteous will, on the contrary, brig many mistakes. The Way is in a higher place then righteousness. This is very difficult to discover, but it is the highest wisdom. When seen from this standpoint, things like righteousness are rather shallow. If one does not understand this on his own, it cannot be known. There is a method of getting to this Way, however, even if one cannot discover it by himself. This is found in consultation with others. Even a person who has not attained this Way sees others front the side. It is like the saying from the game of go: “He who sees from the side has eight eyes.” The saying, “Thought by thought we see our own mistakes,” also means that the highest Way is in discussion with others. Listening to the old stories and reading books are for the purpose of sloughing off one’s own discrimination and attaching oneself to that of the ancients.”

Herbert’s “Dune”

  1. Dune, Prophecy, Eugenics and Islam
  2. Islamic themes in Frank Herbert’s “Dune”
  3. George Lucas also ripped off Frank Herbert