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E-books: does @page99 approach still work?

21 Apr

I have borrowed several e-books from the local library. It just occurred to me that @Page99 here depends on reader choices. It is thus dependent on such vagaries as:
– size of screen on the device used for reading
– screen orientation: portrait vs landscape
– font size chosen.

My choice is the book I am currently enjoying

“How we invented freedom & why it matters”

by Daniel Hannan.

It has won Paddy Power’s Political Book Awards Polemic of the Year in March 2014 so my views are clearly shared wider. I hasten to add that I do not share Mr Hannan’s political views but I am impressed with his well argued case.

First, finding a page number at all is difficult. In OverDrive (Adobe software used by our lending library) I can see in the summary how many pages I have seen. Every look at a page is counted- thus ‘pages viewed’ counter is of little use. Pages are numbered at the bottom starting with 1 for each chapter. So that counter is not accurate either.

Then it occurred to me to look at the back of the book into the Index. Sure enough I found there a name on p.99.

Page 99 deals with the Norman Conquest battles of 1066. It contains a story of King Harold and his brothers who fought Norman invaders lead by William, later King William I. This page captures the battle that led to crucial changes in England – it was not just that one King was replaced by another but a whole ruling aristocratic layer was also replaced by the knights loyal to new Norman king. What is more, and it is the heart of this book, the next section in this Chapter being THE ROOTS OF OUR RIGHTS.

This page thus depicts one of the crucial events in English history. It could not be more symbolic. The page is at the beginning of the section Yet it introduces what became the turning point in English history and the central tenet of the book as depicted on the book sleeve, which states

This book tells the story of freedom and explains how it is a uniquely ‘British’, rather than ‘Western’ invention.

Reviews reboot

7 Apr

I came across a really interesting site called The Page 99 Test with the subtitle “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” –Ford Madox Ford Definitely sounds intriguing and I will try it out in my reviews.

Above is a quote from my second post here. A good idea I am putting in place now. Subject is

Scaling up Excellence by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao

Published by Random House Business Books

Page 99 title is CUT COGNITIVE LOAD. There are three paragraphs. Here is most of it:

scaling entails subjecting people to an onslaught of unfamiliar, difficult, and upsetting changes and chores. The sheer volume and complexity often overwhelms the “working memory” of individuals who do it, which produces blind spots and bad decisions and saps (individual’s) willpower.

Researchers call this condition “cognitive overload”, and it’s unfortunate effects are well documented.. An experiment is recounted claiming that extra mental effort required induces people to take the easy way out and gobble down the less healthy cake.

Seven is the “magic number” for memory researchers. In 1956 , psychologist George Miller showed that people could hold “seven, plus or minus two” numbers in short-term memory. Yet organizational designers rarely head the implications of Miller’s Law or thousands of subsequent studies on the hazards of overtaxing our brains. As organizations expand and mature, rather than rationing or subtracting load, leaders and teams often pile on so many metrics, procedures, and chores that people lose the capacity and willpower to do the right things. There follows example of Office Depot where the new president faced clashing facts: “mystery shoppers” evaluations were at all time high, yet store sales were falling. After many visits to stores Peters found that clerks and managers felt so pressured to do tasks like sweeping floors and stocking shelves that they routinely ignored customers’ questions and needs

Summary.. Too much information is bad for you and those who depend on your decisions. Designing systems in organizations to deal with complexity is essential but almost never done. It is no wonder people make choices that turn out to have effects opposite of the intended ones.

From Present to Future Orientation or Seeking Balance

31 Oct

It is sometimes unbelievable to discover how quickly time goes. For instance, last time I posted here was almost nine months ago! Long enough to have a baby- and yet no book reviews.

Instead, I will post some points from the webcast I was listening to with Prof Philip Zimbardo, Stanford University social psychologist who was broadly talking about the themes covered in his new book The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life (Paperback). Instead of this specific webcast I recommend Prof Zimbardo’s talk on this topic at Commonwealth Club available on

Perhaps the best recommendation for the learning opportunity that his talk offered is my return to this blog just a few hours after hearing what Prof Zimbardo had to say. He has developed a scale which looks into past, resent and future orientation which can be found at his website along with some reading resources. It is instructive to take it and reflect on the results in conjunction to the optimum.

I was impressed by his generosity to share with the us, his unseen audience. Lovely and alive person though he is 76y old!

Questions for housekeeping

30 Dec

Reviewing books I own looks a simple organisational task. It is until I started to put it into practice.

I have now come up with a logistic issue. Namely, our/my books are spread on bookshelves, tables, surfaces all around the house. Where will I put the books that I have reviewed?

Easiest would be to allocate a shelf for that purpose. Well, that would presuppose mixing different books together- something that is not the case at present. And, I would need to empty a shelf for this- none are free now.

Another option would be to put the books that have been reviewed into a box and keep on updating the list of them placing it on the top. This could be a good way to keep track of the location of books and their list- I would have the same list on the computer too. Boxes would need to have a unique ID as would the shelves later.

Well, may be a simple boxing solution will work.

NB. I have later noticed that the white bookshelf on upper landing has very few books and is strategically placed! So, that is a second option.


Five and a half years on we are in the new house. The first addition to our home has been to build a full wall double depth bookshelf. Thus the books are now mostly in two places: sitting room and my husband’s study. So, no more excuse that I do not know where to start.

My first week list of books to review- blog about

29 Dec

How exciting! I have a first comment on my blog from an experienced book reviewer- thank you Jan for the encouragement.

My challenge for the first week is to review the 5 books on the table closest to me. They are:

1. The failure of market failure Towards a 21st century Keynesianism

By Will Hutton and Phillippe Schneider
NESTA (London), Provocation 08: November 2008, 31p

This is really more of a pamphlet, so will test the template and should be quick to review as I have also heard the lecture by Will Hutton where he introduced this booklet. Hope that is not ‘cheating’.

2. FREAKONOMICS A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J Dubner
PENGUIN BOOKS, Revised and Expended Edition, London, 2006. 320p.

I know, this is an ‘old’ bestseller, but I did not want to buy it at the time when all the hype went around, kind of matter of principle. I then started to read their highly popular blog column in the New York Times and have enjoyed the variety of themes they and their guest writers tackle. Must have mentioned it to my daughter, as she chose to buy this book for me for Xmas this year and especially suggested I read chapter 6 about baby names.

3. REINVENTING KNOWLEDGE From Alexandria to the Internet

Ian F. McNeely with Lisa Wolverton
W.W.NORTON&CO, New York, 2008, 318p.

This is one of the real ‘finds’ from the time Gary and I spent picking the books we may be interested in from the shelves at COOP on Harvard Square when we visited Cambridge at the end of October-beginning of November 2008. Once I found this book and discovered that the authors were both fellows at Harvard and did history for their respective PhD’s I was even more excited. Fancy walking by pure chance into the subject that my daughter is now researching as part of her own PhD and stumbling onto the topic that is of great interest to me? I love these coincidences.

I have already spent some time reading this book in US and taking notes, so hopefully it will make it easier to finish the review in time without getting too much sidetracked by details.

4. The HOW of Happiness A practical Guide to Getting the Life You Want

Sonja Lyubomirsky
Sphere, London, 2007, 373p

I have been waiting to get this book for some time, ever since I first came across the work of Dr Lyubomirsky in an article printed, of all places, in the Financial Times. I have since heard her speak several times on webcasts for people involved in the work in Positive Psychology or for the members of IAPP. Her conversation with Prof Ed Denier in October 2008 was really interesting so I checked her book at COOP and ordered it from Amazon on our return back home (sorry but economics of book buying and their weight means that however much I appreciate very special atmosphere of the Harvard COOP, we can not afford to buy all the books we determine we want to read there).

5. HAPPIER Can you learn to be happy

McGraw Hill, Maidenhead, UK, 2008, 207p.

I have heard about Tal Ben-Shahar and the popularity of his lectures to Harvard undergraduates first a couple of years ago. Then I heard him personally on BBC Start the Week program and listened to his podcast. A fascinating person and clearly someone with great ability to engage and communicate well. As I am interested in exploring how best to get the concepts of positive psychology transfered via school education to the secondary school kids it struck me as worthwhile acquisition. Another COOP find bought via Amazon in UK in November 2008.

What do ll these books have in common then? They are all in one way or another linked to my work interests. I have got them in the last two months. Oh, and the two books about Happiness have both yellow covers! Four books are paperbacks, only Reinventing Knowledge is a hardback.

* * * * * *
In the process of finding the sites to link with for each of the books above, I came across a really interesting site called The Page 99 Test with the subtitle “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” –Ford Madox Ford Definitely sounds intriguing and I will try it out in my reviews on the book whose search brought it up- Reinventing Knowledge. That way I should have two reviews for it.

What is this Year long Project about – First Idea

25 Dec

As I went to bed last night- late again (2.30am) but not as late as recently- I could not get to sleep straight away. So, I thought about the Project and this blog.

The Idea that kept coming back is to catalogue- with my notes of quotes and comments- the books I have in my home library. That would be useful, fun and interesting. I would finally know what books I own. I could dispose of those that are of no consequence or past it. Given the real mix of books on my shelves and tables, this could be really unexpected bonus.

Now, for practicalities. First, if I am to cover ALL MY BOOKS, then reading would need to be fast and typing even faster. This means I will need to get my typing speed increased by an order of magnitude- hence get through Mavis Beacon typing course asap. Even at the rate of ONE BOOK A DAY I would only cover 365 books and there are more of them in the house. Plus, realistically, I will not manage that rate. So, I will go for 250 books capture over 2009 year. I do not know where she finds these challenges, but they look really a good idea- parcelling a big task into small and achievable chunks.

This commitment entails some choices. For the moment I have no idea what criteria to use. I can consider this later, once I have tried to see on a few examples how this task develops.

As a committed researcher, I am checking out existing Book Review Blogs. Sure to learn something useful. Becky’s Book Reviews has a great idea: setting up a number of challenges for the year. Her 2008 Challenges can be found here Another site that I like is a busy and varied Janice Harayda’s One minute book reviews which introduces a simple template for reviews. This is the one I will try in my first attempt (hope to get the author’s permission- generously granted in the comment below, thank you).

Wish me luck in this year long commitment. What I need is the support and reminder of why I am doing this.