February 2nd, 2013

Briana and Aunty Tara
  • blinger

Book 1 - 2013

Book 1: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – 598 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
From the author of the bestselling biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, this is the exclusive biography of Steve Jobs.Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years--as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues--Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs spoke candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted. Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple's hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

Let me tell you a story almost as long as this one about my experience with Apple. I can't quite remember if my exposure to Apple was to the old multi-coloured turtle like Macintoshs or to my iPod. I remember the year I got my iPod but not when I first saw those Macs so I can't work it out. Anyway, my first computer, or the family computer as it was, was an old 486 my computer technician uncle cobbled together for us in 1995. It was amazing! It sat in my room (being the only person who didn't share a room at the time - my sister came along the following year) and it had a very simple user interface (a concept I only know understand). The best programs however ran through an old DOS system you had to enter commands into that at the time I understood perfectly (I even entertained the idea of getting into IT for a number of years and I'm sure its because of that old 486). We had three amazing games - a tetris game that my cousin spent hours playing when she came to stay from the coast; an asteroid shoot-em-up that my brothers, my Dad and I used to compete for highest score on (my Dad thought it reminded him of the old arcade games) and an awesome version of monopoly that had these awesome little 'people' who ran around the board in place of pieces. Oh how I loved that machine. But technology moves on and after getting the internet in 2000 (New Year's Day!), I eventually came in contact with both iPods and Macintoshs. I never actually used the Macintosh, I only saw it at my sister's school - a row of them lined up in their bright colours. As all my previous experience had been with IBM style computers they seemed like alien pods to me, but that was that. Then came the iPod. I don't remember when I decided I wanted one, all I know is I was in Year 12, my senior year as the Americans would call it, and I was working. I somehow made an agreement with my parents that if they bought me an iPod I would pay them back for it. Man, did the other kids at school think I was cool. At the time, I had the iPod, one of the first flip phones (a Samsung) and a laptop, all of which I'd bought myself from my work savings. The other kids thought I must have been loaded! I went to a Catholic school, run by the local archdiocese and therefore, whilst charging fees, charging very minimal ones for a private school. My family were lower middle class, I wore second hand uniforms, discount department store clothes and my parents made a lot of sacrifices to send myself, and then my two brothers and now my sister (who has just started grade 12 herself) to a private school. I was not rich. I was just money smart (I'm an accountant!). I'd never been that into music until I'd started earning money in Year 10 and I'd gotten into Michelle Branch, who's song All You Wanted was on the radio a lot at the time. I got given a discman as a birthday present and Michelle, Avril Lavigne, Vanessa Carlton and the Goo Goo Dolls were on rotation a lot (in fact, I remember discovering Complicated and A Thousand Miles ages before they really took off - through the internet - and feeling partially responsible for their success as a result) but the fact that I could play one after the other without having to carry around or change discs was amazing. I had a laptop so iTunes was not an issue, and off I went with my '1000 songs in your pocket'. I loved that thing! It was 2nd or 3rd generation so it still had the old wheel and separate buttons and it was black and white but it did the job. A few years later, I upgraded, to a black version where the buttons were on the wheel, and I still have that thing to this day. It still works, and when I have long flights I charge it up and take it and my iPhone to listen to music on the plane. Anyway, in 2008 I started full time work and by this stage, everyone had iPods - those little white headphone cords were everywhere! Not long after I started at my new job (still there!) the iPhone came out. I was not an Apple fan yet and I was dubious that a computer company could do a phone. So I didn't early adopt. But I watched everyone around me, and over time I became envious of those beautiful little things. And then in September 2009 my family bought a desktop iMac. The thing is massive (we still have it!) My Dad was so sick of getting viruses on his old Microsofts based computers (we had about ten of them of varying ages) that he wanted something that he could use that was almost virus proof. It took a while for us to get our head around how the thing worked, but eventually, the intuitive nature of that machine started to click for us. The more I used it the more I liked it. But I was still exposed more heavily to my old Microsoft based laptops, one for work and one for home so I never had a thought about buying a Mac myself. The iPhone was a different story and finally in May 2010 I got one - a 3GS. I distinctly remember my cousin saying 'you'll never go back' and she was right. The thing was like a revelation! It was a masterpiece. I could go for walks and take both my entire music library and my phone. How had I ever lived without four million apps, that allowed me to do everything from throw scrunched up paper into a rubbish bin to count calories. In fact, in 2011, when I decided to go on a diet before taking a big adventure across the 'pond' (the very large pond) to America, I used an app on my iPhone - I lost over 10 kilos and I've kept it off. Of course, it was the app not the iPhone that helped me, but without the Phone I'd have never had the app, or any knowledge about the website it was based on's existence. But it was November 2011, when my Grandmother passed away, and I used my Dad's iMac to design a slideshow of photos complete with music that I could fade in and out for the funeral that I realised I wanted a Mac too. In January, for a birthday/Xmas present my Dad took me to a department store and I bought a Macbook, which I'm sitting writing this one now. I've never looked back. It's beautiful. I hate my work Lenovo now because it doesn't have the cool mouse slide function which allows me to move from screen to screen without clicking on buttons. Updating my iPhone to the 4S in 2012 was a breeze because I synchronise like devices together. I can download a song on my Macbook and pull it to my iPhone while at the gym through iCloud. It all just works! Finally, in November 2012, I completed my collection, buying an iPad that means I can write my stories on the train of a morning without having to squint at my iPhone screen with my atrociously poor eyesight. I'm an Apple fan, a hipster if you want to call me that.
And how does that correlate to this book. This book made me appreciate all my Apple devices, the beauty of them, the thought behind them, the ingenuity and the care so much more. Steve Jobs was a tyrant, he was a big bit nuts, and he had some really odd ideas about things. But he knew how to make technology that was user-friendly, clever and intuitive as well as pretty. It might seem strange, but pretty matters. I learnt so much about the IT world, about the birth of computers, about user interfaces, about getting music companies on iTunes, and about the little things we take for granted now in our IT devices that Apple pioneered or perfected. Isaacson's account of Jobs is not always nice. It is honest, raw and critical. But it also highlights just what he has done for the world and just influential that is. It made me proud to be different, to think differently (a campaign I don't remember but a quality I have and fought for a very long time) and it made me want nothing more than to keep trying to grab my dreams, to keep wanting to do great things. The crazy people really do change the world, I've always believed that, but this book exemplified it for me. I'm grateful to have read it, I'm grateful for all the wonderful things Steve did, for all the people who sacrificed so he could, all the people who have worked and created and dreamed alongside him and now, after him. An engaging read, an amazing man, an inspiring rise and fall. Long live the crazy ones!

1 / 50 books. 2% done!

598 / 15000 pages. 4% done!

Currently reading:
- The Iliad
by Homer – 408 pages
- The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory – 437 pages
- Rock Chicks: The Hottest Female Rockers from the 1960s to Now
by Alison Stieven-Taylor – 314 pages

And coming up:
- The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
- The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
- One for the Money
by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages


#10 Tad Williams 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven: A Bobby Dollar Novel"
A rather unusual book. Bobby Dollar is an angel, but not a very angelic one. He rather reminded me of Bogart's rough but good guys. In fact, the whole story is rather reminiscent of the "Maltese Falcon": sleek oily Dukes of Hell, irresistible but treacherous dames, best friends who are not all they seem. I have really enjoyed it and look forward to any sequels, which actually look quite possible.

#11 Umberto Eco: On Beauty
This is rather a coffee table book. Too dense to digest large portions in one sitting. It was nice to recognize familiar paintings and excerpts and to put them together in order to see the big picture: how the concept of beauty has changed through the ages. I suspect, the book 'On Ugliness' might be more interesting though.
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Book 6 for 2012

The Ship Who Won by Anne McCaffrey & Jody Lynn Nye. 330 pages.
Anne McCaffrey has long been one of my favourite authors, but I'm sorry to say, towards the end of her life her books decreased in quality rather a lot and this is one of the later ones.
Set in the same universe as the classic The Ship Who Sang, it tells of another "brainship" named Carialle and her "brawn" Keff,  exploring uncharted systems looking for alien intelligence. 
On a planet called Ozran, they think they've found some, but further investigation proves that the "aliens" are descendants of a human colony ship, using alien tech that they don't fully understand, and in danger of destroying the entire planet if someone doesn't stop them…
Alas, a rather cliche plot, not particularly well-executed and plot elements introduced and never properly resolved make this book rather disappointing and just a little bit dull.