What I’ve Read Lately

 

Thomas Mellon and His Times, by Thomas A Mellon

This man was really something.  He was the Irish patriarch of the Mellon banking clan.  I don’t agree with everything he says but he definitely believed in hard work.  He also was very active in raising his children.  He made his fortune by taking his earnings from the law profession and investing in real estate and construction of houses, as well as coal mines and the like.  Some railroads and stuff.  And then the bank.  Very conservative, thorough, and detail oriented was Mr. Mellon. 

Surprisingly, Thomas Mellon states that you don’t have to be a salesman to be successful in business.  He was however, apparently a master networker.  He knew he was going to be a lawyer and met most of his future clients working in the prothonotary’s office, though.  The legacy he left to his heirs is amazing in that it has lasted a long time. 

Spook Country, by William Gibson 

Not as good as Pattern Recognition, but interesting nevertheless.  Learned about some interesting concepts, such as Spatially Tagged Hypermedia, or Locative Art.  Some other interesting things: 

  • “Music today is atemporal.” 
  • “Intelligence is advertising turned inside out.”
  • “The holding of knowledge in dignified privacy helps ensure desired results.” 

And oh yeah, about shipping containers, so I eventually want to read The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson.  Anybody ever notice how in the first episode of Firefly the crew of Serenity is at the Eavesdown Docks on Persephone and surrounded by shipping containers? (See pic at top of post from stillflying.net) Cool! 

The Golden Ratio, by Mario Livio 

An interesting book describing Phi, which is a mathematical ratio that somehow shows up naturally in nature, in music, in math.  I’ve always been interested in the Knights Templar, who apparently were interested in so-called “Sacred Geometry.”  Livio debunks the use of the ratio in many architectural wonders such as the Great Pyramid as well as in Renaissance art.  It’s doubtful, I suppose, that the Templars knew of it since the ratio made an appearance in Europe in the Renaissance and after their time, although they may have learned of it from the Arabs (who learned it from the Greeks!) and then kept it secret.  If so, Livio doesn’t comment on it.

Virtual Light, by William Gibson 

Part of his Bridge Trilogy.  The scenes involving the security guard, Rydell, weren’t as interesting as those involving Chevette and Yamazaki.  His portrayal of the squatters’ community on the bridge was great.  I liked how it shows that a neighborhood tends to grow organically and not by top down control.  (Ahem – I’m looking at you, Pittsburgh Government!  Luke, are you listening?) 

Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath 

An interesting read on how to make messages more interesting.  There are six characteristics of “sticky” messages – Simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, stories – the acronym is SUCCES.  The idea is to incorporate as many of these characteristics into your message as possible.  A perfect example is how urban legends stick in your mind years later but corporate initiatives don’t.  There’s more on Wikipedia and their website, but I recommend reading the book for both the examples and for the summary in the back of the book.

Scott

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