Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life


Benjamin Franklin:  An American Life
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I read this book after I read Walter Isaacson's book on Einstein. This book too was enjoyable and interesting. I could level the same criticism as I did for Einstein which is that you need an English degree to read the book. Often the author could have used much simpler language. Other than that, the book was great. It was refreshing to see that an icon such as Benjamin Franklin was very much human. He made many mistakes over his life and had an awful relationship with his son. We will, of course, remember him for his many ingenious inventions, writings and ideas. He was also more a pragmatic man than an idealist. Everything is a shade of gray in Franklin's world - nothing is black and white.

The book was also useful as a means to learn about American history. I was also interested to find out more about other countries Franklin lived in. Unknown to me he spent many years outside America in Britain and France.

I would recommend this book for those interested in finding out more about Benjamin Franklin.



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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: Einstein: His Life and Universe


Einstein: His Life and Universe
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This is possibly one of the longest books I have read but I am eventually finished. I have always enjoyed reading biographies and this one was no different. While this is a merely one account of Professor Albert Einstein I found it very insightful. We as humans have to wonderful ability to romanticise great people and I believe Einstein is no different.

Einstein was a very complex soul and definitely not a model citizen. He was no doubt one of the smartest people of his generation but very little of what he wrote seemed to have ever been proven (well what I can see from the book being a layman). He was theoretical physicist who engaged in many thought experiments but never had the empirical evidence to back it up (other than his bending light theory). He was a celebrity of his time and was not shy of the limelight even though he claimed he shunned it. Having said that, Einstein left his make on history and the world is a better place for having experienced him.

The book was generally well written. My only complaint is the author favoured using many unfamiliar words and I constantly had to make use of the built-in Kindle dictionary. This could be a function of my limited intelligence but I thought there was often a simpler word that could have been used.

Overall, I would recommend this book to learn more about the famous Professor Albert Einstein.



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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at All


Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at All
Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at All by William Knowlton Zinsser

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



This book is built on an interesting concept. The power of writing should be used across multiple disciplines and not just in the English classroom. The book is about writing in plain English and takes aim at those who hide behind jargon and are obsessed with sounding intelligent. The book has two parts. The first deals with writing in general while the second has many examples of writing across different disciplines (from mathematics to arts). I enjoyed the book and recommend it.



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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review: The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich


The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich
The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



A good book but not a great book. Entertaining all the way through. I must admit I had no idea Marc Rich & Co was Glencore, the listed company and in fact had no idea who Marc Rich was before I read this book.

I did feel that while the author kept stating his neutrality, he was rather sympathetic to Marc Rich. Marc Rich is a billionaire and former commodities trader who was hunted by the US law enforcement agencies for a myriad of charges. My own take is that it was a bit of a witch-hunt but I would hardly say that Marc Rich is an upstanding citizen. He traded with many blacklisted countries such as Cuba, Apartheid South Africa and Iran. I believe everything he did was motivated by profit.

I would recommend this book as an entertaining and quick read for anyone interested in the commodities world or would like to read a scandalous story.



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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

[Video] Did Microsoft Get It Right or Wrong?

In 1999, Microsoft published this video about the Smart Home of the Future. In my opinion, things seem to be panning out pretty closely to this video...