Category: Personal

Book Review: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

scrum coverI first came in contact with Scrum when I was working at Google and since then, I’ve been applying it to the startups I co-founded with good outcomes. Since I was searching for a job, I kept seeing “Scrum Master” come up over and over and I thought it was about time that I learned all the details of Scrum to be able to be a proper Scrum master. Well, in only a couple of ways I finished the book and discovered I was already a proper Scrum master, having learned all the details about it from my time at Google and blog posts.

About the book itself, it’s short and entertaining with enough story telling to keep you engaged even if you only have a passing interest in Scrum. The system is rather simple, with only a few moving pieces and I’m glad of that. Simple systems tend to work better. The testimonials of how much productive a team is with Scrum feel exaggerated completely out of proportion, but then again, some companies are so terrible at producing anything at all, being the cradle of dysfunction, that is no surprise their productivity can be doubled or quadrupled.

★★★★☆

Buy The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time in USA

Buy The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time in UK

Advertisements

Book Review: Build the Fort: Why 5 Simple Lessons You Learned as a 10 year-old Can Set You Up for Startup Success by Chris Heivly

build the fort coverThis is a short and sweet book that compares the act of starting a company, a startup, with that of building a fort. It’s a very enjoyable read with the childhood stories of building a fort and it reminded me of those days in which it seemed easier to find a co-founder.

I’m not sure the book had anything new to me having already read so many other books about starting companies but it was still an enjoyable read and it’s good to get concepts refreshed. This book puts a lot of emphasis in socializing the idea and indeed that gave me a lot of food for though regarding how I’m going about my own startup.

I think it makes a very good first book about startups or a refresher for someone that’s been doing it for a while and needs a refresher.

★★★☆☆

Buy Build the Fort: Why 5 Simple Lessons You Learned as a 10 year-old Can Set You Up for Startup Success in USA

Buy Build the Fort: Why 5 Simple Lessons You Learned as a 10 year-old Can Set You Up for Startup Success in UK

Book Review: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

Better Angels of our NatureIf you are one of those people constantly watching news and worrying about the sorry state of the world. Read this book. It’ll convince you with data, instead of baseless sensationalism, that life has never been more peaceful, safer and better than right now.

I procrastinated on starting reading this book because I already fully buy Steven Pinker’s proposition that we are living the most peaceful time in human kind, but I’m glad I’m reading it now. This book is full of well researched nuggets of information that are very interesting.

I’m fascinated by the explanation of why USA is so violent compared to all other developed countries (having murder rates similar to third world countries). I’m not sure I buy all of it, but it’s interesting to see how things were different there compared to western Europe, Canada, etc.

Having been raised in one of the dysfunctional governments he describes as promoting violence through corruption and negligence, I was thrilled when he called them crappy governments, because that’s the category they have in my mind. I was a little bit miffed by him using the word “negro”. He used it to refer to groups of people back when those groups of people were referred to as negros and in the context of their class struggle, but it was still weird.

Another interesting aspect was how people that live in crappy governments do differently in some psychological tests showing how deep a dysfunctional authority can affect people and why countries that are at the top remain at the top and countries that are at the bottom, remain at the bottom.

This book is long, and in a good way. It feels it covers everything there’s to cover about the subject, so, it would be impossible for me to do a full review. All I’m going to say is this: read it. It’ll surprise you in at least one way. It may change how you see the world entirely.

★★★★★

Buy The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined in USA

Buy The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined in UK

I had to stop watching Lost in Space

I’m referring to the new series, the Netflix one. I’ve never really watched the old one but I’ve seen enough clips to know: “Danger Will Robinson”. There are several reasons why I stopped watching even though I’m starving for non-pessimistic future space science fiction.

The first one is that I don’t enjoy seeing people make obvious bad decisions. When it was the kids making bad decisions it was annoying but it made sense, they are kids after all. But when it’s adults, I can’t stand it. These are supposed to be a selection of the most intelligent and capable adults on earth, and yet, they constantly make bad decisions.

Some spoilers ahead. Stop reading here if you don’t want to be exposed to them.

For example, Maureen Robinson decided to go do an experiment with a high altitude balloon, on her own, without telling anybody, on a planet of unknown levels danger. She should have taken a few people with her and notified other people where she was going to be. This is what we do on earth when we go hiking or some other wilderness adventure. At the very least her ex-husband would have jumped into the opportunity as he’s hungry for her acceptance but also being a former military man, he’s a good asset. This almost cost her life in a very stupid way.

Ignacio Serricchio, the mechanic, not notifying everybody what happened with Dr. Smith. Judy Robinson not notifying everybody what happened with Dr. Smith. See a pattern? There’s a lot of information hoarding. When you are in a life-or-death situation in such a small community of survivals, you don’t hoard information. You share it so that if they are part of a bigger puzzle, someone can put it together.

I had to stop watching when Maureen Robinson discovered their impending doom and didn’t immediately tell everybody. I don’t know if she’ll tell them afterwards but just considering not doing was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I sort of understand keeping doom-predicting information from the general population of Earth, to avoid panic, specially if the average person can’t do anything about it. This is not the case. They are a elite, they are a small community of highly capable people that should know if they are doomed to work their asses off to solve the problem, using resources that maybe they would have been saving for the future otherwise. A future that doesn’t exist.

Oh… and electricity, physics, astrophysics and medicine are all horribly wrong. Not a little wrong, not a little exaggerated: horribly wrong.

Book Review: Kettlebell – Simple & Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline

51Loz+pS70LThis book is almost like a graphic novel, lot’s of pictures (expected) and a big font with lots of padding (not so much). It’s very non-PC, so, if you are easily offended, move on. My review here is of the book and not the program. I still have reasons to believe the program is sound and this book might even be good at teaching how to do the program.

The reason why I’m giving it only one star, is because there’s a lot of pseudo-science and a fair amount of bullshit in this book. Some things are clearly scientifically wrong, others, it’s just some anecdata or something someone said as justification for something.

For example, on page 69, he compares a challenge between a body builder and a marathon runner. First he says the body builder wins, with no data to back it up. Was this experiment run? who participated? what were the results? But what’s even worse, it continues to modify the experiment citing that someone said they would bet on the bodybuilder. I’m probably nitpicking once of the worst offenders and it’s also possible that this story-telling style works well for most people and the data is sound. I understand how story-telling is important, but I also want the data.

★☆☆☆☆

Buy Kettlebell – Simple & Sinister in USA
Buy Kettlebell – Simple & Sinister in UK

If the online world voted, we would have a better world

I’ve seen many cases of this before, but never one as clear as this. Mike Pence, the vice president of the USA, just released a children’s book about a bunny titled “Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President” and at the same time, John Oliver of Last Week Tonight released a counter-book titled “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo“.

How can you make a counter book against a children’s book? Well, Mike Pence is known for being homophobic, for his views that women should not be in the military. Trump even said, regarding talking about gay people “Don’t ask Mike, he wants them all hung”. John Oliver’s book is about gay bunnies getting married. It’s promoting the values that Mike Pence is against.

I’m not a democrat, I’m not a republican, I’m not a feminist (that one is a bit more complex), I’m not gay, I’m not a Tory, I’m not labour, I’m not black. I’m socially liberal, fiscally conservative person. Or something like that. I do believe that tolerance is a good thing, including letting people chose who they love, who they marry, etc. From that point of view I dislike most conservative governments, from Trump’s to the one in the country I live in, the Tories (Theresa May).

I don’t understand how Trump got elected. I do understand why the group of people that voted for Trump did so. There’s a sector of white middle and lower class in the US that feel disenfranchised as their jobs, their way of living, is disappearing. I don’t believe Trump will solve it, but the problem exist and thus people suffering from it were very likely to vote for Trump.

But Trump’s government is anti-gay, anti-black, anti-women and anti many, many other things. All of those demographics surely outweigh the ones voting for him. This is why I don’t understand how Trump got elected. What were all those other people that Trump’s government is against doing on voting day?

Back to the bunny book, look at the reviews for Mike Pence’s book, Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President:

Marlon Bundo's Day in the Life of the Vice President

Marlon Bundo's Day in the Life of the Vice President - reviews

and now look at the reviews for John Oliver’s book, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo:

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo - reviews

Now, let’s not kid ourselves. All those reviews, for and against both books, by now, are nothing but political commentary. This is political commentary on a neutral website: Amazon. It’s not political commentary on a political site that is likely to have only one side of the argument. And this is happening on other neutral sites as well, such as Goodreads:

John Oliver vs Mike Pence.PNG

By now, this is a popularity contest and a popularity contest that John Oliver is winning by a landslide. A popularity contest in which a story about a gay bunny is winning against the vice president of the United States.

Since an election is nothing else than a popularity contest, where were all those people that are writing reviews on Amazon on voting day? This is a message for everybody, no matter what you believe or what country you are in: get out of your lazy ass and vote!

There are various confounding factors that I want to address:

  • A lot of these reviews might be international and those wouldn’t have an effect on US elections.
  • Reviews are written by people with access to the internet and there might be a high correlation with Internet access and being anti-Trump, gay, lesbian, female, black, liberal. But didn’t Trump win by masterfully using the Internet and social media among other things?
  • John Oliver announced the book last night, so, there might be a pro-John Oliver wave that will die down quickly and in the long run, Mike Pence’s book might prove to be the winner of the popularity contest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

leonardo-da-vinci-9781501139154_hrThis book was fascinating. I always thought of Leonardo Da Vinci as an artist who did other things aside from painting. This book changed my mind. Leonardo saw himself as a philosopher/scientist/engineer (those were sort of one and the same back then) who also paints; and after reading this book, I have to agree.

I think if it wasn’t for the fact that he didn’t publish his findings, he would be the father of modern science. His science/engineering was strongly empirical. He even disregarded religious explanations for things. I am in awe at many of his findings and discoveries. I’m also amaze at his acceptance of his sexuality, even when part of the world was claiming it was evil (to be fair, Florence in that time was sort-of like the liberal capital of the world).

I’m also glad he wasn’t a tortured soul. Yeah, he had his problems, but he seemed to have lived a long good life and that’s rare for people as exceptional as him. Another rare ocurence is that he seemed to have been appreciated in his time (not as much as later, but at least he was no Van Gohg).

I’m listening to the audio book and there’s a PDF companion that you can use to look at the paintings and drawings being described. I rarely find myself in a position to look at them as I listen to audio books while doing chores, driving, running, etc. Nevertheless the descriptions are good enough to appreciate the techniques but not the art obviously.

In the explanations of why Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings were so good I find myself in awe of the techniques he developed for his art. Specially if we consider that just perspective was something not understood very well long before his lifetime. I guess the renaissance was an important time for the development of art (I know, doh!). Something that annoys me is when the author makes subjective comparisons of the art as if they were objective (best painting, best technique, etc). Thankfully, this is not very common in the book.

★★★★☆

Buy Leonardo da Vinci in USA
Buy Leonardo da Vinci in UK

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

omnivores_dilemma_by_michael_pollan1So far the tone of this book is disgustingly hippish. I think it presents some interesting data, but the way it presents it is so annoying:

– everything modern is bad
– everything mainstream is bad
– the only good alternative is primitive farms
– food and nature is a mystery that we cannot grasp so all efforts to synthesize fertilizers, pesticides, etc are doom to fail
– the natural cycle of chickens, cows, pigs, etc is perfect and shouldn’t be tampered with (mind you, these animals are almost as artificial as computers these days).

The part that annoys me the most is how it attributes negative connotations to the term agrobusiness. The definition of that word is “the businesses collectively associated with the production, processing, and distribution of agricultural products”, so, his idyllic small farms are as much agrobusinesses as the Monsatos he criticizes.

Another example I found ridiculous is when a farmer would refuse to ship him some food because burning fossil fuels to deliver his product was against his principles and instead told him: “If you want to try it, you’ll have to drive here”. Guess what! Driving to a location burns more fossil fuels than shipping a small package through highly efficient delivery companies (unless you drive an electric car and even then, I’m not sure).

I understand if the recommendations of the author were for an individual but he often talks about society as a whole without exploring the economic implications of using much more manual labor to produce food: can we actually feed the world with traditional farms? I don’t know and I have an inkling that the answer is probably very complex and not explored a lot in this book that advocates everybody to eat from those traditional farms.

★☆☆☆☆

Buy The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals in USA
Buy The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals in UK
Buy The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals in Canada

Book Review: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin

80571For this review I’m considering, without any fact checking or cross referencing, that this biography is factual and true to the events although clearly some of the statements in the book would be hard to evaluate as they describe the feelings of large groups of people.

I knew a bit about The Manhattan Project and it was fun to have another take on those years of science, innovation and destruction. What I didn’t know is what happened before and after in the life of Oppenheimer.

During the earlier years, I was surprised by how active Oppenheimer and other people were in the projects of the communist party. It sounds as during those days, for many Americans, it wasn’t the enemy’s ideology but a potential solution to their ongoing socioeconomic problems. Some glorified the Soviet Union before they knew and understood how tyrannical it was. I can’t begin to fathom at the absurdity of the witch hunt that was McCarthyism and what a negative force it excreted on the American scientific society. I can’t help but notice the parallel with the trial against Alan Turing.

What surprised me the most about what I read in this book was Oppenheimer’s transformation. You could never guess that the boy and young man described in the early chapters could ever become a leader of scientists, a pragmatic that could put a practical goal above the intrinsic curiosity that pushes people into science and achieve so much. I guess the fear of a Nazi world was a great motivator.

★★★★☆

Buy American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer in USA
Buy American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer in the UK
Buy American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer in Canada

Book Review: Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents by Great Britain Home Office

81DKEZAB9NLThe only real way to judge this book is whether it helps you pass the Life in the United Kingdom test or not and I don’t yet know that. I’ve read the book (it actually took me one full day to go through all of it) and I’m probably going to re-read at least once, but for my actual study I’m using the mock tests at: https://lifeintheuktests.co.uk/life-i… I’ve found many sources of mock tests, but that one seems to have the hardest questions and I personally know someone that passed the test studying from there.

Judging the book by itself, I found it terrible. There’s two reasons for that:
– It’s written for the lowest level of English that would allow you to become a citizen, so, the prose is terse and simple.
– It’s designed to cover just the information you need to pass the test and nothing more, so, it’s almost a regurgitation of facts.

About the last point, for some bits of history that I know a bit about and that are super interesting (WWI, WWII, Scotland’s joining the UK, and a few more) I found the book super boring and skipping all the interesting bits just because it’s not in the exam. It makes sense for this book but it makes for a boring book. I have to admit that it made me curious about some things that I want to read more about and also some places I want to visit now.

★☆☆☆☆

Buy Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents in USA
Buy Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents in the UK
Buy Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents in Canada