Evolution by Stephen Baxter

As a dedicated member of the human species, I was curious when my advisor recommended this book about human evolution. The author uses an engaging approach to discuss the changes that took place as early primates from the Cretaceous period evolved bit by bit towards modern humans and beyond!

Evolution by Stephen Baxter

Baxter selects 19 individuals and follows each through a portion of their lives. The first is a tiny, rat-like primate living along-side dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and the last is a distant relative of humans living 500 million years in the future. As we get to know each individual we get a sense of what motivates them, how they live, and how they have built upon that which their ancestors used to be successful.

I had two big take-aways from this book. Continue reading “Evolution by Stephen Baxter”

Inerpersonal Check List

My father, a well known psychotherapist, uses a personality model known as the Interpersonal Check List (ICL). This model is notoriously hard to administer, score, and graph. I developed a program to do all of these things automatically.

Interpersonal Check List

This is a 128 question test where people mark whether or not adjectives describe them. Thus a person might check yes to “Good Leader” and no to “Hard to Impress.” Once all the appropriate answers are marked, each one is weighed and put into an appropriate bin. The size of each bin marks the prominence of that personality trait in the person.

I’ve used this program as my first e-commerce venture. Visit http://www.shawnlankton.com/icl to get information about the program, download the fully-featured demo, or purchase the full program!

The Myths of Innovation

I just completed this book, The Myths of Innovation, by Scott Berkun after receiving a recommendation (and borrowed copy) from my friend/colleague Jimi Malcolm.

This short, fast read talks about the myths that people have about the process of innovation, and some steps on overcoming these myths and innovating well anyway! Although I found the book inspiring and informative, I think I can sum up all of Berkun’s talking points briefly below and save you the trouble of reading the book : )

Myths of Innovation

  • Work hard.
  • Work on meaningful problems.
  • Work on hard problems.
  • Work diligently and tirelessly, but take well-earned breaks to reflect. He belabors the point that innovation comes from persistent effort, not “ah ha” moments.
  • Frame and re-frame the problem you’re working on. By following the same rules and same metrics for success that everyone else follows, you’re doomed to mediocrity. Re-examine the problem and re-frame it.
  • Work really, really, really hard.

Finally, here is a video from the “Google Tech Talk” series. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’ll bet you can get the gist of the whole book over the 1 hour video.

Hackers and Painters

Last night I finished Hackers and Painters. This book is a collection of essays by Paul Graham, a PhD computer scientist, entrepreneur, and accomplished painter. (All of the essays are also available on his website) He makes a lot of great points about economics, entrepreneurship, design, and society. He also rants ad nauseum about his belief that LISP is the best programming language ever.

Hackers and Painters

One of my big take-aways from this book are that to be successful in a tech startup you must work very hard, and make a product that is beautifully designed and loved by users. Furthermore, you must continue working hard and improving constantly or you’ll get squashed by big competitors. If you can do this, then Graham claims success is inevitable.

Steve Pavlina

Recently, I’ve been reading motivational articles by Steve Pavlina. This guy is pretty remarkable (he finished two undergrad degrees in just three semesters!). Now he spouts wisdom about getting what you want out of life. I epically like some of his concepts outlined in these articles:

Overwhelming Force
Cultivating Burning Desire
The Power of Clarity

He makes some very good points about how setting goals and then making very strong and directed actions to accomplish those goals. From reading his stuff I’m getting a big surge of can-do attitude and am eager to try to tackle some goals I’ve been putting off for a while!

Practical Magic

This weekend I finished reading a book that had been on my “to read” list for *years.* This is a book written by my father in 1980 three years before I was born (and again in 2003). The book, Practical Magic, is not about wizardry or any other kind of Harry-Potter magic. It is instead about some fantastic methods and results in doing brief therapy. My take away though, was on how directed attention to people’s communication methods and your own can be very important.The book talks in depth about peoples’ sensory representation systems (auditory, visual, kinesthetic). It then teaches how to learn by looking and listening carefully, which one(s) an individual uses. The observation is then made that by understanding how people are repenting the world to themselves you can relate to them on a much more comfortable and profound level. This is a large part of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).

The book’s supposed audience is other therapists wishing to use these NLP ideas in any type of therapy, but I think that anybody reading this book could learn something useful. Just days after finishing it I’m finding myself watching eye movements and body language and listening for linguistic queues to help me understand the ways people are experiencing their world.

Suburban Nation

Over my Christmas Travelling I finished “Suburban Nation” by Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and Speck. It was a very interesting read that really identifies the pattern that you see all through all of the United States. It points out the fact that no matter where in the country you go, as soon as you get out of whatever ‘downtown’ remains, you see the same Bed Bath and Beyonds, Best Buys, Targets, Wal Marts, McDonnalds, Wendys, Starbucks, housing pods specking the paved, parking spot covered, unwalkable terrain.
Not only does “Suburban Nation” identify this problem… The authors also discuss the historical caues as well as the current policy that keeps this type of development going. The book makes me yearn to live in a world where everybody lives in a real town, and I don’t have to feel like I’m in the same city everywhere I go! It also makes me happy that the place that I live now I can ride my bike to the gym, to work, to class, and to the grocery. I can even walk to the neighborhood bar or cafe!

I’m hoping I can keep a similarly city lifestyle once I’m a ‘grown-up.’