Monday, May 21, 2018

James K. Polk by John Seigenthaler, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

James K. PolkJames K. Polk by John Seigenthaler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pleasantly surprised by how prolific and successful a president he was. He was no Jefferson or Lincoln, but definitely better than the presidents before and after him. He incorporated California and Oregon territories (which had sort of been incorporated already, but the Brits were jointly in charge), and annexed Texas, which caused a war. Still, he accomplished things, which is more than can be said of the other presidents during this time.

Extremely interesting the manner in which he was finally given the nomination.
Truman's quote about Polk (and also Kennedy's) also very interesting.
Polk apparently instituted a real "big block of cheese day", which Jackson gets credit for but didn't really do.
Marx has a racist quote in here too (p. 147)


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Friday, May 18, 2018

The Library of Musical Instruments by Kim Jung-hyuk, Kim Soyoung (Translation)

The Library of Musical InstrumentsThe Library of Musical Instruments by Kim Jung-hyuk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


 
"The concert opened with a short silent film. A man in a suit was lying on a railway track, attempting a suicide. The train didn't come. The man got up and then lay down again. The man appeared to be uncomfortable and turned in his lying position. The next day, the man showed up again, this time with a pillow in his hand. He placed the pillow on the railway track before he lay down on it. The day after that, the man showed up with a blanket. The day after that, the man showed up with a shack on his shoulder. The man placed the shack on the railway track. The shack was lit from within. The light went out and a train was seen approaching from far off. The train was getting closer and closer. When the train almost came in contact with it, the shack was lit again. The moment when everyone was expecting a collision, ban, they heard guitar sounds."



That sounded like a really cool concert to me. This book was very refreshing. A collection of short stories made to be harmonize like an orchestra. And the stories themselves were fun and original. For example, one of them (aptly called a Remix) took the first and last two sentences from another famous novel, with a made-up story in between. Anyway, I usually don't like short stories, and I feel like I didn't get some of these, but it's still 4.5 stars, rounded up.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Chinese Language: Its History and Current Usage by Daniel Kane

The Chinese Language: Its History and Current UsageThe Chinese Language: Its History and Current Usage by Daniel  Kane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many interesting tidbits, although I feel like I found this at the right time. A few years ago most of it would've been over my head, and yet I read it early enough that most of it was new to me.

The points on pronunciation and grammar were especially useful, since they addressed points and details that were never covered in my classes (like why 沒 has that darn water radical).

And apparently our words for "tea" and "ketchup" both came from Hokkien. And 葡萄 came from Greek. huh. The section on ancient pronunciation was fascinating as well.

My new favorite expressions:
畫蛇添足
井底之蛙
and definitely:
天不怕,地不怕,只怕洋鬼子說中國話


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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de' Medici by Miles J. Unger

Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de' MediciMagnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de' Medici by Miles J. Unger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm surprised this is the first time I've come across a biography of this man that I've been hearing of my whole life. A very interesting man, who obviously loved art and poetry, was thrust into the political intrigue of renaissance Florence, and succeeded with flying colors, always regretting the fact that he couldn't spend more time on his art. The book does a great job of detailing his life, as well as Renaissance Florence, with appearances by Ficino, Verrocchio, Davinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Savonarola, Macchiavelli, etc. etc.

Also, apparently Piero de Medici once asked Michelangelo to sculpt him a snowman. Michelangelo refused.



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Friday, April 20, 2018

The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it)

The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it)The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure by Michael E. Raynor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Someone needs to write an adaptation of this book for Entrepreneurs, or at least for people in business who don't work for Fortune 500 companies. The ideas are excellent and, as far as I know, not discussed in any other business book, but it would be great if they could be made more actionable for your average person (who doesn't respond to shareholders, have multiple departments under them, or can afford to allocate Microsoft-style resources to different strategies).

Some quotes I liked:

"If diversification efforts lower the performance of the firm overall, but the performance of each new business venture is still above the firm's average cost of capital, then diversification will 'create' value." (p. 161)

"...nothing big starts big, and tomorrow's whale is today's minnow. The problem is that most of today's minnows are tomorrow's meals, and knowing which is which remains a challenge." (p. 184)

"And when it comes to strategy and the long term, uncertainty is the only constant, and choosing options over commitment is the most reasonable response to that uncertainty." (p. 271)



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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar: A Student's Guide to Correct Structures and Common Errors by Qin Xue Herzberg, Larry Herzberg

Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar: A Student's Guide to Correct Structures and Common ErrorsBasic Patterns of Chinese Grammar: A Student's Guide to Correct Structures and Common Errors by Qin Xue Herzberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is excellent for someone who has already studied some Chinese, but likes having the main grammar rules clearly spelled out as a reference, which, incidentally, was exactly what I needed.

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to follow the simplified characters, since they usually confuse me, but the sentences were simple enough. I was also afraid that the "Bad Chinese" examples might stick with me more than the proper examples, but for the most part everything was very clear.


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Sunday, April 01, 2018

A.D. 500: A Journey Through The Dark Isles Of Britain And Ireland by Simon Young

A.D. 500: A Journey Through The Dark Isles Of Britain And IrelandA.D. 500: A Journey Through The Dark Isles Of Britain And Ireland by Simon Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Still not sure if I liked the format or not. Written as a travelogue by Byzantine explorers in the 6th century. It made a lot of the information fresh and relatable, although I was often wishing to delve into more detail in terms of the the prevalence, veracity, etc. etc. of certain facts and occurrences. Anyway, still very interesting and entertaining.


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