Jul. 7th, 2010

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59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Most self help books are effectively worthless. A few platitudes, a bit of psychobabble and rarely the odd bit of common sense wrapped up in a lot of waffle. Rarely will they have anything like the life changing effects promised on the cover.

Fifty Nine seconds by Richard Wiseman is different. It contains solid advice on a variety of subjects, backed up by properly cited research, with each chapter summarised into handy bite size chunks that can be digested in less than a minute. It covers subjects including personal happiness, memory, relationships, parenting and self motivation.

Excellent for dipping into and concise enough to be practical.

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For the Win For the Win by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In the dungeons and fairy kingdoms of the online gaming world, a new breed of worker is emerging. The gold farmers are teenagers from the slums of Mumbai to the backwaters of China, toiling in internet cafes and back rooms to earn gold to sell to westerners eager to get their avatar to the next level. These workers don't see the fruits of their labours though - the ones making a profit are the bosses and the owners of the cafes who pay a pittance and expect long hours in return, but when it's a choice between playing the game and working in a factory, then it's no choice at all.

Little by little, the workers come to realise that they have the power to withhold their labour. A network is formed between Yasmin, the girl from the slums, Ashok, an economics guru, Leonard from Los Angeles, a handful of young Chinese men and others and they begin to form a union called the International Workers of the World Wide Web, mentored by the mysterious Big Sister Nor. When a strike is called, the bosses and governments will respond with fists and knives and guns. Can the Webblies (as they call themselves) fight back with just the weapons of the virtual world?

This is possibly Cory Doctorow's most radical and subversive book yet, introducing its audience of young adults to the concepts of globalisation, market economics, the inner workings of virtual worlds and the power of trade unions. He does so with a plot that builds to a genuinely thrilling conclusion with characters who have to make life and death decisions about where their loyalties lie.

Excellent, and available as a free download from the author's site.

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It felt almost Autumnal this morning, with overcast skies, the taste of rain in the air and a generous helping of fallen leaves on the grass. Still fairly warm though, at least when you manage to escape from the breeze.

It scarcely seems possible that it is five years since the 7/7 bombings. Lest we forget, this is why religion must be regarded as a poisonous and malign influence on the world that should be consigned to the dark ages where it belongs. All of the fine art, oratorios and gilded cathedrals can not hold a (votive) candle to the life of one person getting on a bus to go to work, or a single abused child kept quiet with the threat of hellfire.

In games news, I have been trying some different Carcassonne tactics out, looking to maximise my score in the early part of the game and not committing meeple to fields until the mid game. There is a certain amount of luck in the order the tiles are distributed, but not as much as you might think - the sign of good game design, I think.


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September 2010


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