Monday, February 19, 2018

Review of "Graeco-Persian Wars," by Konstantinos P. Kontorlis

Review of
Graeco-Persian Wars, by Konstantinos P. Kontorlis

Three out of five stars
 The author was Classics Master at the Varvakios School in Athens and that comes through in a strong pro-Greek bias in this book. This is demonstrated in the first sentence of the third paragraph of the book.
“The triumph of the small Greek world over the innumerable armies of the East was mainly due to the divine light of freedom which for the first time shone so brightly and which filled the hearts of the Greeks with an incomparable heroism.”
Similar statements are made at various points, somewhat overshadowing what was a victory that led to the rise of Greece to a dominant position in the Eastern Mediterranean. Of course, this statement ignores the fact that it is quite possible that there were more slaves in Greece at this time than there were free people.
 The battles that led to a decisive victory of the Greeks over the Persians are described in a manner that is accurate within the bias. Maps of the disposition of the forces of both sides are given, it is clearly stated that the locations are only probable rather than certain. It was a point where history could have turned, had the Greeks been defeated it is possible that the course of Western Civilization would have been very different.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review of "Personality At Work," by Ron Warren

Review of
Personality At Work, by Ron Warren ISBN 9781259860355

Five out of five stars
 For much of the book, Warren concentrates on the outsize personality of the late Steve Jobs and to a lesser extent, largely as a comparison, his original partner Steve Wozniak. It is a classic case of concentrating on an extreme case to make a point about the more general situations. What I like about Warren’s approach is that he does not overly glorify Jobs, he presents him in a realistic light as a man that at one point failed miserably yet was able to learn and adapt enough to be successful in the long run. But only because in his last years he had people that acted to keep him under control.
 The book opens with a brief history of the early years of Apple and the contrasting personalities of Jobs and Wozniak. Despite and because their strengths complemented each other so well, they were able to make and market a completely new product that made both tens of millions of dollars. Never one to be comfortable in the spotlight, Wozniak left the company to teach in the public schools and be a role model for successful people giving back to the community. Jobs continued to drive people via browbeating, yelling, insulting and generally being a poster boy for a bad boss.
 Unfortunately, many executives used Jobs as a role model, mimicking his nasty approach to people. Yet, as Bill Gates famously said regarding people following the Jobs model, “These people have the a-hole part down, but not the genius.” Using this as the explanatory premise, Warren describes situations where cooperation is the only path to successful completion of complex tasks.
 His description of the successful landing of Quantas Flight 32 after an engine literally exploded early in the flight is riveting reading and should be required reading for all “pilots” that may be forced to steer through crises. It is a demonstration of how teamwork and relying on human expertise caused what could have been a doomed airliner to land safely with no casualties.
 This book should be required reading in all MBA programs, for Warren demonstrates using simple, circular graphs what traits in the proper mix can turn most people into successful executives. From the timid, otherwise very competent person, to the arrogant, over puffed and unyielding strutter, all can learn to move in the right direction, which is towards greater success. He also describes with explanation the person considered the worst CEO of all time.
 In many ways the formula for the success of a CEO can be summed up in the single line, “Pass the credit and take the blame.”

Review of "American Classic," by Laurence Lafore

Review of
American Classic, by Laurence Lafore

Four out of five stars
 As a lifelong residence of Iowa, I have seen many of the architectural styles described in this book. I did graduate work at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, so I have been physically near some of the buildings Lafore critiques. Which is an accurate word regarding this book. The author does not hesitate in making negative statements about what he considers a failure of the architectural melting pot that is Iowa City.
 There is no question that many different architectural styles could be found in Iowa City in the early seventies and Lafore does an excellent job of describing how they have influenced the specific buildings featured in this book. From Greek to many areas of Europe, the people transplanted to Iowa City brought their style of buildings with them.
 The weakness of the book is that it is written in a rather rigid academic style, the author was a Professor of History at the University of Iowa and an amateur in architectural history. Although it is very interesting to see and read about the specific architectural influences exhibited in the buildings, a little more conversational tone would have made it a better book.