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Friday, February 2, 2024

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs


I don't remember exactly where I came across OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as a method of goal setting. But I was intrigued and bought John Doerr's book Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. I had previously encountered SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), but OKRs sounded like a better way to set goals. Having tried and failed with SMART goals a number of times over the years, I thought OKRs might be a better fit.

Doerr was a big fan of Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel who first introduced Doerr to OKRs. So Doerr wrote this book in an attempt to better spread the OKR mantra. In Measure What Matters, Doerr give a history of Grove's methods and how they related to Doerr's life, then goes on to explain the method with a series of case studies from successful businesses that use the model.

At the beginning of the book, I was quite on board with things. The book was well written, the case studies were interesting, and I was excited to make OKRs work for me. Unfortunately, the more I kept reading, the more my enthusiasm for the book waned. I started to feel like I wasn't really getting to understand the method in a more in-depth way, which I would expect from the book. The case studies also weren't really helpful - the more the book went on, the more it felt like everyone was saying "we succeeded because of OKRs," without really going into nitty-gritty details. I actually felt like the most useful part of the book was the appendix with Google's OKR playbook (published with their permission), which actually walks you through how to set good objectives and key results, as well as pitfalls to watch for. Prior to that, a good chunk of the book started to feel like fluff and filler, which wasn't great; it made me want to stop reading.

I also went into reading Measure What Matters hoping for help with personal goal setting. But Measure What Matters is very much written for companies and their leadership, not for an individual trying to improve themself. So that was very disappointing as well.

While I am glad to have encountered the idea of OKRs, I didn't feel like Measure What Matters was a very effective book for learning about them. I also feel like other books will be more helpful for individuals wanting to set effective goals for themselves than this one is.


Monday, January 29, 2024

Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding

 

While perusing the library the other day, I stumbled on Daniel E. Lieberman's Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding. Lieberman takes an anthropological look at exercise to explain why so many people in the modern world struggle with getting enough exercise, even though pretty much everyone knows how good it is for you.

Exercised is a big, dense nonfiction book, so it might be a bit intimidating to pick up. But Lieberman's writing is accessible, and his subject matter is interesting. He looks at the differences between modern Western people, and people elsewhere in the world (with a particular look at hunter gatherer people who are still around today), dispelling many myths that people have about exercise, showing that we evolved to conserve as many calories as possible, and so it is entirely alien for us to actively seek out burning calories for fun.

The statistics he shares are fascinating. He directly challenges many of the beliefs people I know hold about aging. He shows the benefits of exercise for a broad range of conditions (and it's surprising how many things are improved by exercise). While reading Exercised, I discovered a lot of fun things that I've been sharing with my friends and family, which will hopefully change our entire outlook on exercise (and aging). While exercise isn't a magic bullet that can stop everything, being active into your later years drastically decreases your chances of a shortened healthspan (and decreases your risk of many chronic diseases!)

The one thing I wish Exercised did better was tackle what we can do to increase our exercise in this modern world where so much activity has been removed (mainly thanks to driving and other modern conveniences). That chapter didn't offer much more than "be social," which, while understandable (humans are social beings who evolved to hang out with others) was a bit of a letdown. What should someone who commutes long hours and barely has time to see their family and friends do?  Are there better tips to help people get started, knowing that once they start they will feel better afterwards? I guess other books will have to help more with these and other solutions (this is an anthropological look at exercise, so in some ways I guess this chapter didn't really fit within the rest of the book, and that's why it felt so underwhelming).

All in all though, I am glad to have read Exercised. I feel like my outlook on exercise has changed, and it has inspired me to try to better fight my evolutionary drive to sit and do nothing, all in the name of better health!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

System Collapse


 I was excited to see a new Murderbot Diaries book at the library the other day!  And even more exciting, this one actually does pick up after Network Effect! Unfortunately, it's been three and a half years since I read that book, so I didn't remember a lot of what happened. :(

System Collapse has Murderbot, ART, and their humans trying to save some colonists from enslavement by a corporation, Barish-Estranza. But every time they turn around, the mission gets more and more complicated. First, there's a second group of colonists who have split off from the primary group (and the primary group long lost contact with them). Then, much to their dismay, once Murderbot, some of the humans, and a segment of ART in a drone locate them, they discover that Barish-Estranza has gotten to the second group of colonists first!  

And all the while, Murderbot isn't functioning the way it should.  Something happened to it (which it redacts through most of the book) and it is trying to make sense of everything. Unfortunately, that means that it isn't able to keep everyone safe the way it normally can.

While I enjoyed System Collapse, I really felt that I needed to reread Network Effect.  I couldn't remember who ART's humans were, and only vaguely remembered what had happened to everyone. I recommend rereading that before jumping into System Collapse if it's been awhile for you, too.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Atalanta


I started Jennifer Saint's Atalanta over a month ago, while I was on a short trip visiting family. I read about half of it while I was away, but once I got home, life got away from me and I didn't go back to it until a few days ago.

Atalanta tells the story of Artemis's champion, the huntress the goddess raised after she was abandoned on a hilltop to die as an infant. Atalanta grows up to be a fierce warrior, adept at hunting, making the goddess proud. But when word comes to the goddess of Jason and the Argonauts' quest to obtain the Golden Fleece and bring glory to the pantheon, Artemis decides to send Atalanta on the quest as her champion. Atalanta has to fight and prove her right to be counted among the other heroes of the quest (who are all male, and look down on women), all while striving to remain true to her goddess.

I'm not overly familiar with Greek mythology (beyond very basic things), so I was quite excited to read Atalanta, especially when I realized the book would deal with Jason and the Argonauts as well. I've heard of them, but didn't really know anything about their quest. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, with Atalanta's upbringing among Artemis' nymphs and her struggle to prove her place with the Argonauts.  But the second half of the book really started to lose me. Keeping in mind that I'm not familiar with the story, I found the conclusion of the Argonauts' quest rather anti-climatic (and honestly, so did Atalanta, as the Fleece was won by trickery, not through bravery). Their return went fairly smoothly, especially compared to the journey to get there. Their welcome and the subsequent murder of the king and disappearance of Jason and Medea felt kind of glossed over (I would have thought that people would have gone after them or something, but nope). The boar fight likewise happened rather quickly, and then Atalanta kind of hid herself away for awhile with nothing really happening (it was with good reason, but made for not very exciting reading). And then the end of the book kind of happened rather abruptly, especially when she realized she was in love with Hippomenes and they ran off together.

I believe a lot of these events are true to the mythology (I just checked Wikipedia), but again, the book didn't really treat them well.  Atalanta's earlier relationship with Meleager felt earned through all the events they survived together. Her relationship with Hippomenes felt rather forced, and kind of shoehorned in because of the mythology, not because Atalanta actually felt things for him through their history. 

So I'm not quite sure what to think of Atalanta. It was an interesting read because I got to learn more of Greek mythology. I also really did enjoy the first half of the book.  But the second half didn't really work for me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Vampire Slayer Volume 3


It took me awhile to get (and read) The Vampire Slayer: Volume 3, but I finally have!  And I have to say...it was a bit underwhelming compared to the first two volumes.

Starting up where Volume 2 left off, Willow and Faith enter Hungrus' lair to save Buffy. Willow triggers her magic to help, but accidentally taps into a well of dark energy (it's the generational magic of the slayers). She kills Hungrus and, as the dark magic starts to consume her, starts plotting to unmake reality to do away with the world's suffering. Faith attempts to confront her, but when that goes poorly, she decides to tell Buffy about what has happened.  Buffy confronts the rest of her friends angrily, then they all go off to stop Willow.  Faith and Buffy manage to get through to her and convince her to give Buffy her destiny back. Then at the end, Giles calls someone to help rehabilitate Willow: Tara.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, beyond more of a fight with Hungrus I guess.  But definitely not Dark Willow sitting around for a good chunk of the story as she became one with the dark magic. There was also a lot less of Spike and Xander in this one - Xander finally decided to dump his boyfriend (his boyfriend didn't respect him at all, so it was a long time coming), and Spike was just basically along for the ride (he seemed more active in the earlier volumes because he ended up helping people out just trying to get closer to the Slayer).

Volume 4 is due out next month, but I'm honestly not sure if I'm going to read it. I found this one just okay, and with the main story feeling over (Buffy got her slayer powers back), I don't really feel the need to keep going. But who knows, maybe when the library gets it I'll give it a read.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Graphic Novel Interlude


I have a pile of graphic novels that a friend lent me.  While I really want and need to read some of the books I own (I'm going to be moving in the nearish future), I decided it was a good idea to get through the books that people have lent me first (so I don't accidentally pack and/or lose them).

So I started with Godzilla vs The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which was a pretty ridiculous romp. Rita finds a magical stone that lets her travel to another world without the Power Rangers, but finds Godzilla instead!  Tommy was brought along with her, and tries to stop Godzilla from destroying the world, mistakenly thinking Godzilla is one of Rita's monsters. The other Rangers come to help, and after failing to take down Godzilla, they realize that he is their best bet in stopping Rita and an alien race called the Xiliens who keep summoning more and more monsters to destroy them!

Next up was Sonjaversal. I'm not familiar with Red Sonja at all, but I still enjoyed this graphic novel. The different Sonjas of the multiverse all pray to their god or goddess, and gain power but in exchange for keeping to a condition.  The gods or goddesses are all different, the conditions are all different, but that is the essence of their power.  Saint Sonja is the only one who can commune with the gods or goddesses directly.  It is her job to keep everyone true to their oath.  When they break their oath, she has been pitting the oathbreakers against each other, with the winner being forgiven.  But no matter how many Sonjas she sends after Red Sonja, they all die!

This was a very interesting graphic novel which seems to open up so many story possibilities for the many different Sonjas (and honestly just for coming up with all kinds of creative takes on Sonja).  I also really liked how the Sonjas were all so different.  While they were (almost - shout out to Lacrosse Sonja!) all great at killing, they killed in different ways. Some were futuristic Sonjas, others were more modern, and yet others were more fantasy-esque.  Even the devil was a Sonja!  

While I admit that I probably won't specifically go looking for more Red Sonja stories, I did enjoy reading this one.


Next up was Die!namite Volume 1, which was an insane story bringing various Dynamite characters together into a zombie apocalypse that threatens the entire universe! I didn't know who some of the characters were (like Project: Superpowers), but I did recognize Red Sonja, Vampirella, and John Carter (from Edgar Rice Burroughs' books). No one is safe as the zombie plague spreads from world to world and throughout time! 

While this one started out rather interesting, it really shone at the end.  Our heroes have retreated to the last safe place and are being assaulted by zombies.  They realize that the whole cause of the plague is that Hel is looking for her assassin who forsook her and is hiding there from her.  With the help of Hel's super-powered zombies (members of Project: Superpowers who succumbed to the zombie outbreak almost immediately), they manage to take down Red Sonja.  But rather than becoming a zombie, she ends up assuming the mantle of Hel's assassin.  And in an even crazier twist, she murders Hel and assumes command of the undead army herself!

While I was expecting at least one of the main characters to become a zombie by the end, what happened with Red Sonja took me by complete surprise!  


Prior to that moment, I was on the fence about reading more of this story.  But now that this happened, I would definitely like to read Volume 2!!!

Finally, my friend lent me Operation Dragon. Have you ever wondered what WWII would have been like with dinosaurs?  This graphic novel helps to answer that question!

A disgraced ex-cop named Rick and a mobster trying to escape his past named Tony cross paths in the Pacific Theater.  Despite hating each other from when they previously met, the two end up working together with an intelligence officer on a mysterious mission.  Her mission brings them to a hidden island where the Japanese have been raising and training dinosaurs as their super-weapons!  

Operation Dragon is a lot of fun.  It takes a little bit for the story to really get going (the book holds off on revealing the dinosaurs, even though thanks to the cover and the book's blurb, the audience is well aware of what is happening. But once the trio get to the island, and the US Rangers show up and attempt to rescue them, things really get going.  How will the US forces escape?  And how will they stop the Japanese from shipping dinosaur eggs out to the rest of the Pacific Theater?

I also really liked the interplay between the three main characters, especially Rick and Tony. How they went from absolutely hating each other to being able to work together made this story that much more interesting. 

So there we have it - the pile of graphic novels I got through over the last few days!  

I'd also like to note that previously on this blog I missed talking about was Crossover Volume 2.  My friend who lent me these four graphic novels lent me that as well.  I reread the first volume and then read the second one awhile ago. Unfortunately I forgot to post about it here at the time, and now I don't remember what I thought of it.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Sonic the Hedgehog: Scrapnik Island


I haven't read a Sonic the Hedgehog story in a long time, but saw this one at work and wanted to give it a shot!  Sonic and Tails take refuge from a storm on one of the old Death Eggs, which crashed in the ocean. There they discover the Scrapniks - old, discarded badniks which Sigma-117, himself a badnik, has rebuilt so they can be free from Robotnik's programming. The Scrapniks help Sonic and Tails rebuild their plane. But while looking for a part that they need, Mecha Sonic's old programming is triggered!  

I really enjoyed this story about second chances and building the life you want to build.  Your future is in your hands, even if you start out as a badnik - you can change your programming and live the life you want.  It's a very cute story, and I very much recommend it for all Sonic fans!