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Good Business Practice

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Finally, finished this book the other night. Just about stuck in there to the end. I use to really like Stephen Donaldson. The Thomas Covenant series is a fine collection of books, until maybe this one. This book irked me. Frankly, it was just too long at 896 pages. You could train to become a doctor in that length of time.

The first three books in this series were just superb. Original, well written, interesting & kind of shocking. The second three books were a little bit long in the tooth, but enjoyable. The final three books, of which this is the second, is a series too far.

My criticisms; too long, too long, too long & some of the words used were just too obscure. I do not mind expanding my vocabulary but this book is too heavy to hold in one hand while holding a dictionary in the other.

The first book in the final trilogy took its time to get going, but this book only got interesting about 200 pages from the end.

The self doubting main character has always been a little overdone in the series, & this continues in this book ad nauseam. The number of words wasted describing the self doubts of the main character would fill a good size novel in itself.

I wanted to like this book, but in the end I just about finished it. I started this back in January & have squeezed another few books in between starting & finishing it. After enjoying the other books in the series, I kept waiting for this book to capture my imagination, but it never really happened. The emphasis on the self doubts, the impossible odds stacked against the good guys & the never-ending selection of half-baked characters just wore me down to not bothered. The number of characters has ballooned, with character development being forgotten.

I listened to an interview with the author on audible.com (free), & I have to say - “Stephen - take a reality check, your books are pretty darn good but not even close to where you think they are“. A book becomes a classic when people fall in love with the book, not because of the heft, the number of characters, or the number of plot twists. Books become classics when they are written well, & they resonate.

I have read the majority of the authors work, including his Space Opera which I enjoyed. I would like to see the author set himself a challenge, to write a novelette size book, that is based entirely on dialogue, with absolutely no reference to the characters state of mind (unless he says it aloud). Plus, no words, or variants on words that you would not find in your average broadsheet newspaper.

Sorry, to say, this is one Thomas Covenant fan, who will not be reading the final book when it is released. Not unless audible.com releases a substantially abridged version, or there is a kids picture book version released. Why, because, life is too short, & there are too many good (read not bloated) books out there.

Current Mood: monday blues

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I purchased this book last week as an audio book from audible.com, for $4.95 as part of their Feb 29th, Leap year sale. Thought it sounded kind of interesting & was hoping for something light & easy on the grey matter. Have been listening to it all week, to & from work. Have to say it’s is a damn good book.

Without giving away any of the story, this book is about a man who grew up surrounded by wealth & status, who fell on hard times. His father was a writer for the New Yorker magazine, he lived in a 37 room house just outside New York, he went to Yale, had a senior advertising jobs, married, had kids & led a life of privilege. But it all fell apart for him, due to bad decisions & mistakes he made. I think I found this book interesting because the main character truly messed up. He wasn’t unlucky in life, he just kept piling one bad decision on another.

I am not giving any of the story away by telling that he ended up working for Starbucks, & this profoundly changed his life. The hows & where-fors you will need to read to discover.

This is a simple book, more of a skimmed latte than an expresso, but it is an honest book. When you read a good biography, you always feel like you should read more biographies. It’s the true story, honesty element, that makes it resonate.

I couldn’t help at times feeling like this was one of those books that fits the bill of : everyone has one book in them. It is not slickly written. It actually repeats itself a bit. The story is not exactly original, how hard work make a person a more complete character.

This book is, I suppose a bit of an advertisement for Starbucks. You do get a good bit of Starbucks culture, history & overall philosophy. My own experiences with Starbucks is limited. I once spent some time in Vancouver, where there is a Starbucks on every street corner. On one street there were two Starbucks directly opposite each other. I found their coffee tasty, their cakes good & the atmosphere relaxing. I remember sitting in one, on an early Sunday morning, & being surprised at the number of people that came in with their computers & settled down for a coffee. No-one was in a rush. I understood the term 3rd place then. In Ireland the local pub used to be like this. Pop in for a pint. Most people not actually talking, but still a sense of community just being there.

Some people dislike the whole multi-national element of Starbucks. This I somewhat understand. I have yet to be in a Starbucks in Ireland, although I live close enough to one. I once was in a Starbucks in Barcelona, & I have to say it felt wrong. I should have been in a tapa bar, soaking up the Spanish atmosphere, & drinking bad coffee. Once I worked with an Australian who hated Starbucks, but had no issue with McDonalds. Made sense to him I suppose (well, he liked burgers, but not coffee).

Back to the book. This book has a number of different themes running through it:
The value of hard work.
The importance of work culture, respecting your colleagues & your employer.
The importance of making time for your children.
The Starbucks corporation.
New York
Famous people.
Advertising & marketing
The search for happiness

The author growing up had the opportunity to meet a lot of famous people from Hemingway to Jackie Kennedy. These antidotes are scattered throughout the book, & are quite interesting. Interesting because the author was so stuck up, he didn’t approach these people like most people would. He even knocked over a cup of tea, from the Queen of England.

I suppose you could call this book, either feel-good or nauseating depending on your level of scepticism. That I will leave to you. I personally would recommend, you learn a little about coffee & a little about how every little thing that you do in life matters. Every little thing. You eventually become the net result of everything that you think & everything that you do. Again, either a frightening or a good thought. So, go buy a coffee, put your feet up & read one man’s story of his journey back to happiness. Something I suppose we all should celebrate.

For more book reviews visit: http://www.Interwoveness.com

Current Mood: good good

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This is an interesting book. The author examines why do some companies go from successful companies to very successful companies, while the majority never grow to become great companies. This book is based on 5 years of research that the author carried out on 7,000 companies. 9 companies in particular were selected for detailed examination. These 9 companies had achieved what the author describes as breakthrough performance. These companies had achieved huge levels of success from their initial start-up, & had maintained & built on this success over a prolonged period.

The majority of business books focus on how to run your business if it is a small start-up, or how to run your business like a multi-national company. The question this book asks, is how do you make that jump across from start up to a real player in your industry. As always there is no secret formula, but the author sets out to try & find common traits between these breakthrough companies.

This books examines how the nine selected companies succeeded in their own particular industry. There is a good range of diversity in the companies selected, from IT to clothing, to manufacturing, to consulting. Being from the European side of the Atlantic pond, some of the companies are familiar, while some are not. The companies selected include Chico's FAS, Express Personnel, The Staubach Company, Intuit, Polaris & Paychex.

The majority of the book focuses on the main traits that have driven these companies forward. The author & his team examined these companies from a number of different perspectives. Their financial performance, their competitive environment, their CEO style & their corporate culture.

Each chapter focuses on one of these traits. Some of the common traits are: making the company sovereign, upping the Ante & ensuring the appropriate company scaffolding. Some good practical ideas are contained within each chapter. For example the role of insultants (internal consultants), importance of a strong independent board & the useful of local business networks.

Have to say this book is an enjoyable read, or in my case an enjoyable listen (unabridged audiobook from audiobooks.com). The author spent time with each of these companies, got to know their CEO & talked to people on the ground. Each company was very different, but each had managed to focus on a segment of its chosen market & had achieved extraordinary success. Working for a relatively new start-up company myself I have to say I read this book looking for signposts & tips on how to structure a growing company. What ethos is required to lead the market? The book is quite entertaining with excellent quotes throughout, like Quicken 47th mover advantage when they entered the personal finance market.

A lot of the ideas presented are far from original, but when they are presented together, they are quite powerful. Small companies need to be nimble, but also very focused. They need to really lead the markets they are in. While watching careful for opportunities to expand into other markets. They must be willing to take calculated chances, & must be willing to fail. They need to have a strong, open-door management team that leads from the front. Additionally it helps if you choose a market which is growing, & can enter it & develop as the market matures.

Issues like company character are discussed. The role of the company is to hire ordinary people & facilitate them to do extraordinary things. Not to try & hire extraordinary people as most companies try to do. Have to say, that this rooted in reality sentiment runs through the book.

I would recommend this book to almost anybody working for a company, particularly a new / expanding company.

For more business book reviews visit

Current Mood: groovy

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Mac Software Review: Macjournal 5 Upgrade

I have only very recently discovered Macjournal, a journal & blogging program from Mariner software. I have tried a good number of journal type software for the Mac & really struggled to fine the right one.

My requirements:

I am not looking for an application that can store everything in my digital life. I use Devonthink to store everything from license codes to shopping receipts to Web articles. This database application is perfect for that. Most other things get stored everywhere from Delicious Library to Wallet.

What I require is a place:

  1. Where I can collect / record my thought.

  1. A place where I can draft up my blog before copying it across to Rapidweaver (Web site creator) for publishing.

  1. A way of publishing straight to some blogging site like Live Journal without having to type directly into the site.

  1. A place where I can collect writings on a give topic across a period of time.

Similar applications

Pony’s Notebook - Liked the interface & the notebook styled theme but the rest of the package did not inspire. Just didn’t find it useful or intuitive.

Vijournal - used this for a while, straight journal keeping & blog publishing is pretty straightforward. I found the interface a bit annoying. The pop out tabs were justawkward. The interface now feels a bit dated & again just not very intuitive.

Macjournal released a paid upgrade for this application about 2 wks ago. $20 to upgrade or $40 to buy from scratch. Luckily enough I purchased Macjournal 4 for $20 in Mariner’s software 2007 year end sale. Just as well, as I would have been pissed having to fork out another $20 after only a month of use. Shouldn’t developers be more honest about pending upgrades, especially one month in advance.

So to the new & improved Macjournal 5.

New Feature:

  1. New cleaner interface.

  2. Ability to post video, music & other types of files into your journal.

  3. Re-scale photos.

  4. Set up smart searches.

  5. Use your isight camera directly into your journal.

  6. Open multiple documents at the same time.

New features - they don’t tell you about.

  1. Ugly as f*** new icon. Please bring back the old one.

  1. Bugs galore. Just lost about 10 minutes work due to problems entering & exiting the full screen mode. Advice: save often. Hopefully this stability issue will be solved with a upgrade (currently on 5.01). I have had numerous crashes doing similar activities.

  2. Formatting with bullets is buggy.

The new look & feel is an improvement. It feels more modern & is keeping up with the newer Leopard styled applications.

Macjournal was released in 2002, it is now onto it’s 5th iteration. It is described as the world’s most popular Mac journalling software, now updated for the blogging age.

I would recommend this software. It is intuitive but pretty powerful. Very quick to jump in & out off. Create a new entry or a new journal. Just what I need. If I want to tackle a big project, well this mightn’t be the application but for my needs this is spot-on.

For more Mac software reviews visit:

Current Mood: Good
Current Music: Silence

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Seen Explosions in the Sky in the Tripod in Dublin last night.

They are a band from Texas that consist of 2 guitarists, a bassist, a drummer & no singer. They play atmospheric, melodic, mellow/heavy guitar music with nay a word. Quite hard to describe the genre of the music. They have released six albums, with cheerful titles such as The Earth is Not a Cold & Dead Place, from 2001 to 2007. Their music is more uplifting then depressing. They just need some cheerful song/album titles.

I find their music really relaxing, some great melodies. Classical music for the modern age.

So didn’t know what to expect of them live. Some of their music is ultra quiet & intricate - how would this sound live. I thought they might be four sombre individuals - serious out types.

Have to say I was pleasantly surprised. They were so into the music, thrashing away - giving it heart & soul. They played the best of their four albums & really held the attention of the crowd. I wasn’t sure whether this gig was going to be any good but I have to say I seriously enjoyed it.

I now have a better appreciation of their music & their musicianship. On a couple of tracks the drummer was fabulous & could have held the track on his own. The sound was superb live. Will definitely listen to their music more.
Hopefully they will play Dublin again soon.

Stand-Out Tracks
The Birth & Death of a Day
A Song for Our Fathers
Greet Death
Your Hand in Mine
Time Stops

Current Mood: Awake
Current Music: Explosions in the Sky

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