Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review of "101 Puzzles in Thought & Logic," by C. R. Wylie Jr.

Review of
101 Puzzles in Thought & Logic, by C. R. Wylie Jr. ISBN 0486203670

Four out of five stars
 While these puzzles are a bit challenging, they are all of the type where persistence will always allow you to solve them if insight fails. The first section of over sixty problems have a form similar to the following:
“In a certain bank, the positions of cashier, manager and teller are held by Brown, Jones and Smith, although not necessarily respectively. The teller, who was an only child, earns the least. Smith, who married Brown's sister, earns more than the manager. What position does each man fill?”
 Making a simple table, eliminating the obvious impossibilities first and then working through the remaining options will fairly quickly reveal the solution.
 The remaining problems are generally alphametics. For example, number ninety-two is

  - LESS

 These problems are solved by eliminating the obvious assignments, for example, S, L, and D and Y cannot be zero. Once these impossibilities are eliminated, moving through the possibilities will eventually lead to a solution.  Of course, some of the puzzles can be solved more quickly if you recognize a specific relationship between the digits.
 If you are interested in mental challenges that are easy enough to always solve with effort and hard enough to make you work for it, this is a book that will fill that ecological niche.

Review of "A Whack On the Side of the Head: How to Unlock Your Mind for Innovation," by Roger von Oech

Review of
A Whack On the Side of the Head: How to Unlock Your Mind for Innovation, by Roger von Oech ISBN 0446380008

Five out of five stars
 My first exposure to this book was in a series of faculty development seminars. Reading through the book and then carrying out discussions and role-playing made what can often be a boring chore something to look forward too.
 Although some of the references, specifically those regarding computers, are very dated, the overall concepts are timeless. Valuable inspiration does not appear on a timetable, daydreaming and letting your mind wander are generally the best ways to capture the insights that lead to new ideas, better products and more efficient ways of doing things.
 Of course, to the modern spreadsheet reading, drive out the last pennies of unnecessary cost mindset, such actions are seen as “a waste of time” and a danger to the profit margins. That is unfortunate and in general wrong. History is replete with instances, some of which are mentioned in this book, of great and revolutionary ideas being spawned from a silly thought or looking at something and thinking about it in a different way.
 Change was fast when this book was written and it is even faster now. Companies that were great a decade ago where the decision makers were secure in their business models and lacked creative vision are now the fodder for business books about what can go wrong. Nearly thirty-five years after it was first published, this book can still serve as a guide to keep your organization out of that particular pit.

Review of "Dreams Unto Holiness: Exploring the Power of a Sweet, Transcendental Sleep," by Marsha Sinetar

Review of
Dreams Unto Holiness: Exploring the Power of a Sweet, Transcendental Sleep, by Marsha Sinetar 
ISBN 9781535544108
Three out of five stars
 The point of this book is that a supreme being communicates with humans through their dreams. Assigning significance and meaning to dreams is hardly new, the first Greek work on dream interpretation was “Oneirocritica,” written by Artemidorus in the second century CE. Much of the content was based on lore handed down among the diviners. In the more modern era, psychoanalyst Carl Jung developed a theory of dreams that was based on our imaginations and mythic narratives.
 Despite being scientifically analyzed and studied in depth, dreams are still shrouded in mystery, making almost any broad interpretation possible. Therefore, the content of this book is both reasonable and questionable. Reasonable to the extent that the practice of religion is an inherent part of human behavior, yet questionable because there is so much about dreams that are still unknown.
 Therefore, it is easy to conclude that there will be two primary reactions to this book. If you are a religious person and are willing to entertain the idea that God communicates directly with you, it will be a reinforcement of your beliefs. However, if your position is otherwise, then you will consider it just another book of minimally useful pop psychology.