Thursday, 11 December 2008

Seth Godin: Tribes

Seth Godin wants you to use the Internet to communicate your passion to others.

As the pace of change increases, the "rush from stability" combines with new technology to present everybody with opportunities for leadership, but the fear of failure inhibits people from acting differently.

The book is a loose collection of anecdotes about creating and leading "tribes" in a world of new technology. A tribe is a group that shares strongly held beliefs or aims and forms around a leader.

The essence of leadership is a willingness to fail and to lead people further than they have ever been.

Key Quotations

  • "Today's market place rewards heretics." (p. 11).

  • "Being charismatic doesn't make you a leader. Being a leader makes you charismatic. (p. 127)

Seth Godin

Seth Godin (born July 10, 1960) is an American author of business books. Godin popularized the topic of permission marketing and set up the website,


Sunday, 6 April 2008

Robert Greene: The 48 Laws of Power

Robert Greene has written a book in the tradition of Machiavelli. He illustrates his "laws" with historical examples of what happens when they are followed or transgressed. Each chapter concludes with a section discussing the reversal of the law. The book is charmingly laid out with the main narrative flanked by fables, anecdotes and maxims. 

But a question arises: Is Greene's rhetorical display of candour to be taken at face value, or are the "laws" themselves merely playful inventions of a fertile mind that has found a lucrative publishing niche?


Key Quotations

  • An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power, a mistake that will cost you a lot more than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing your feelings.
  • Like Janus, the double-faced Roman deity and guardian of all gates and doorways, you must be able to look in both directions at once, the better to handle danger from wherever it comes. 
  • Deception is a developed art of civilization and the most potent weapon in the game of power.

Robert R. Greene

Born in Los Angeles in May 14, 1959, Greene attended the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received a degree in classical studies. He has worked in New York City as an editor and writer for several magazines, including Esquire, and in Hollywood as a story developer and writer. He lived for years in London, Paris, and Barcelona. In 1995 Greene was involved in the planning and creation of the art school Fabrica outside Venice, Italy. (Source: Wikipedia)


Wednesday, 23 January 2008

W. F. & E. S. Friedman: The Shakespearian Ciphers Examined

Is there a secret cypher buried in the First Folio edition of Shakespeare's plays, or hidden on his epitaph? If
such a cypher exist, does it show that Bacon wrote the plays?

The rules governing cyphers must be unambiguous, the solution grammatically and semantically coherent. Two cryptanalysts working independently should reach identical answers.

In 1955 two professional cryptographers, William and Elizabeth Friedman, subjected the "cyphers" and "secret sigilli" to scientific testing and proved them false.

Elizabeth Wells Gallup thought Shakespeare's first folio concealed Bacon's bilateral cypher, but her results were subjective, her premises fallacious.

Other patent absurdities are patiently debunked.

Key Quotations

  • Taking a page from an ordinary school edition of Julius Caesar, we produced our own message, a good outspoken one: Dear Reader: Theodore Roosevelt is the true author of this play but I, Bacon, stole it from him and have the credit. Friedman can prove that this is so by this cock-eyed cypher invented by Doctor C. (p. 162-3) [This passage debunks Dr. Cunningham's cryptographic theory by applying it's method and producing the above "message".]
  • With each successive letter deciphered she had a choice - limited but definite - of possibilities; and so, as she went on, there would be a kind of collaboration between the decipherer and the text, each influencing the other. Hence perhaps the curious maundering wordy character of the extracted messages, very like the communications of the spirit world: with some sense but no real mind behind them, just a sort of drifting intention, taking occasional sudden whimsical turns when the text momentarily mastered the decipherer. (p. 264)
  • may well wonder if reasoned argument is going to carry much weight with investigators who are so constantly moved by the providential ordering of the merely coincidental. (p. 284)

W. G. & E. S. Friedman
W. G. Friedman (1891-1969) was a US Army cryptologist who ran the research division of the SIS in the 1930s, and similar services into the 1950s. His team, led by Frank Rowlett, broke Japan's PURPLE cipher, thus disclosing Japanese diplomatic secrets in World War II.

E. S. Friedman (1892-1980) was a Shakespeare enthusiast, cryptanalyst, and pioneer in U.S. cryptology who introduced her husband to the field. After working for the U.S. Navy she moved to the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Prohibition and Bureau of Customs where she successfully broke the increasingly sophisticated cyphers of numerous international smuggling and drug running rings.


David Hurley

Monday, 7 January 2008

William Shakespeare: Romeo And Juliet

Romeo is lovesick for Rosaline until Mercutio persuades him to gatecrash their enemy, Capulet's, party. Romeo promptly falls for Capulet's daughter, Juliet, scales a wall approaches Juliet's balcony and is well met by moonlight. A conniving Friar secretly marries them the morning after.

Romeo intervenes in a swordfight, inadvertantly causing Mercutio to be killed by Juliet's cousin. He avenges Mercutio's death. Juliet is upset, Romeo banished.

Juliet feigns death rather than (unlawfully) marry Paris, her father's choice. All suppose her dead, including Romeo, who kills Paris outside, himself inside the tomb. Juliet revives, plucks Romeo's dagger and perishes beside Romeo.

Key Quotations

  • True, I talk of dreams,
    Which are the children of an idle brain,
    Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
    Which is as thin of substance as the air
    And more inconstant than the wind, who woos
    Even now the frozen bosom of the north
    And, being anger'd, puffs away from thence
    Turning his side to the dew-dropping south. (Mercutio)
  • With love's light wings I did o'erperch these walls,
    For stony limits cannot hold love out,
    And what love can do, that dares love attempt. (Romeo)
  • My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
    My love as deep: the more I give to thee
    The more I have, for both are infinite. (Juliet)

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, as a young man he moved to London where he worked as an actor, writer, and part owner of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men, a theatre company.

His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several shorter poems. His plays are performed more often than any other playwrite's and include comedies, tragedies, histories, and genre-crunching tragi-comedies and romances.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

John Bunyan: The Pilgrim's Progress (Part The First)

Bunyan wrote his vivid Protestant allegory while imprisoned for unlicenced preaching. Christian, encumbered by sin, flees the City of Destruction for the straight and narrow road to the Celestial City.

Passing through much tribulation, Christian encounters sloughs, valleys, hills and meadows. His sins fall from his back at Calvary, his friend Faithful is martyred at Vanity Fair. With his new friend Hopeful, he negotiates an English landscape undergoing enclosure; they are cast into Doubting Castle for trespassing upon Giant Despair's land.

The characters Christian meets represent types of Christian virtue, worldly carnality, or spiritual experiences that edify, entice or terrify.

Key Quotations

  • I saw then in my dream, so far as this Valley reached, there was on the right hand a very deep Ditch: That Ditch is it, into which the blind have led the blind in all ages, and have both there miserably perished. Again, behold, on the left hand, there was a very dangerous Quag, into which, if even a good man falls, he finds no bottom for his foot to stand on: Into that Quag King David once did fall, and had, no doubt, therein been smothered, had not he that is able plucked him out.

  • What a Fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty? I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will I am persuaded open any lock in Doubting Castle.

  • Then I saw that there was a Way to Hell, even from the Gates of Heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.

John Bunyan (1628-1688)
Born near Bedford, the son of a tinker, Bunyan served in the parliamentary army during the Civil War. He became an enthusiastic believer and was received into the Baptist church in Bedford by immersion in the River Great Ouse in 1653. He was imprisoned in 1660 for preaching without a licence and wrote Pilgrim's Progress while in prison.

Other notable works include Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and The Holy War.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen Covey's bestseller discusses how to integrate seven basic principles of effective living into your basic character to improve your performance from the inside out.

The principles are: Be proactive; begin with the end in Mind; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to understand; synergize; sharpen the saw.

Covey uses a computing metaphor to emphasise that "you are the programmer" of your own thoughts. By setting a mission statement, goals and roles for yourself, and seeking greater interdependence, you will, he argues, become a more effective person.

Key Quotations

  • Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.
  • Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.
  • simply can't think efficiency with people. You think effectiveness with people, efficiency with things.

Stephen R. Covey
Born October 24, 1932 in Salt Lake City, Utah. His latest book is The 8th habit, published in 2004. Covey lives with his wife Sandra, and their family in Provo, Utah, home to Brigham Young University where Dr. Covey taught prior to the publication of his best selling book. He is a father of nine and a grandfather of forty-seven; he received the Fatherhood Award from the National Fatherhood Initiative in 2003.


David Hurley

Monday, 15 October 2007

Hermann Knell: To Destroy A City

Hermann Knell was nineteen when his city was destroyed in an air-raid in March 1945. Knell wonders why Würzburg was destroyed beyond any military necessity. Why was strategic bombing pursued beyond all humane considerations?

German Zeppelins bombed London and Paris in World War One. The British found aerial bombing a convenient method of controlling rebellious natives. But during World War Two strategic bombing escalated in destructive scale and was used as an indiscriminate method of attacking the civilian population of the enemy.

Knell devoted his life to researching the history and consequences of strategic bombing. This book is the result.

Key Quotations
  • There is a psychological need to forget, and a moral obligation to remember.
  • But by looking at the mass graves and the rubble of my hometown I felt that the leaders responsible for the bombing war should also be made accountable. I decided then and there that I would dig into this bombing. I knew little about it then and all its implications but I was going to study it, and as history is normally written by the victors, I as a vanquished would put down what I thought about it.
  • In the years immediately after 1945 I was ready to prove that there was a criminal who got away. But as the years have passed, so has my pain and the loss has passed into history. So has Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur Harris. I now want to know why it all happened. What were the reasons behind it? I might wish to judge, but I cannot and do not wish to condemn. The case is too complex.
Herman Knell b. 1926, Würzburg, Germany. Emigrated to Canada after the Second World War and became an engineer. Lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Kay McSpadden: Notes from a Classroom

As a culture, we often root for the underdog. We love to see teachers motivate students whose every word and gesture reek of defiance. After the initial, yet brief, breaking-in period, movie star teachers cleverly inspire every student to overcome years of poverty and intellectual neglect and to out-achieve their privileged, suburban counterparts. In her compilation of essays, Notes from a Classroom, Kay McSpadden has teaching days that fit the Hollywood bill, and days that would wind up on the editing room floor. She lets us in on it all, thus inspiring, frustrating, motivating, captivating, challenging and teaching us.

Key Quotations
  • But this is the real world, and I don't know why some students from horrible backgrounds and with overwhelming odds against them prevail and why others crumble. If I did, then I might be less at a loss for what to do for the angry girls and boys that come into my classroom.
  • When they read their poems to the class, I learn again that I love teaching. It can be a hard lesson to hold on to some days. But it is the lesson that keeps me steady, that sends me back into the classroom every year.
  • Fortunately - or perhaps unfortunately - I am a hard headed skeptic who has always preferred testing things for myself, so I didn't quit after that very first difficult year. I did indeed have disrespectful, indifferent students, but I also had many more students who were willing to learn and willing to teach me how to teach them. Teaching was very hard, but it was also great fun.
Kay McSpadden writes op-ed columns for the Charlotte Observer and has been teaching high school English in rural South Carolina for 30 years.

Beth Donofrio, September 16th 2007.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Kishore Mahbubani: Can Asians Think?

"Can Asians Think?” asks Mahbubani. If they can, what were they doing during the European Renaissance and the Enlightenment? Not much, it seems.

But now, following Japan's example, a new self-confidence is emerging as Asians consider how their societies have developed in recent years. American fashions prevail amongst the poor, but educated Asians are turning to their own cultures for identity and inspiration.

Meanwhile, western democracies are disengaging from the Third World, despite the need for engagement, if only to dampen mass immigration into Europe.

Western nations often demand democratisation when they should first emphasise economic development and globalization.

Key Quotations
  • The most painful thing that happened to Asia was not the physical but the mental colonization. Many Asians… began to believe that Asians were inferior to the Europeans. Only this could explain how a few thousand British could control a few hundred million people in South Asia.
  • Educational excellence is an essential prerequisite for cultural confidence. To put it plainly, many Asians have realized that their minds are not inferior. Most Westerners cannot appreciate the change, because they can never directly feel the sense of inferiority many Asians experienced until recently. (p. 24)
  • In the eyes of the North African population, the Mediterranean, which once divided civilizations, has become a mere pond. What human being would not cross a pond if thereby he could improve his livelihood?

Kishore Mahbubani

Friday, 10 August 2007

Shigeyoshi Matsumae: Materialism in Search of a Soul

argues that since historical materialism is based on Newtonian science, modern science renders Marxism redundant.

Relativity, probability and uncertainty have replaced nineteenth century determinism. Were he alive today, Marx would have accepted the change and adapted his system to accommodate it.

Matsumae shows how Western science suffered under the hostility of the church during "the age of faith". Then faith gave way to doubt. Materialism backed by scientific progress came to dominate European thought and ushered in "The Age of Determinism". In its turn, materialistic determinism has been replaced by scientific indeterminism and a renewed appreciation of things spiritual.

Key Quotations

  • Materialism was rooted firmly in the science of the time, and this gave an impressive weight of logical development to Marx's historical dialectics. With the dawn of a new era, with new conceptions of the world accompanying new advances in science, the apparently unshakable foundations of materialism and historical dialectics were swept away. (p. 105)
  • ...the universe cannot admit of material representation, and the reason, I think, is that it has become a mental concept. (p. 124)

Shigeyoshi Matsumae (1901-1991)