Category Archives: Book Review

Review: JavaScript: The Good Parts

I really like the idea of pointing out the “good parts” of a language, encouraging good coding practice by using the bits that make sense. This book takes just such an approach, and is unabashed about highlighting the parts of the language that the author thinks are bad, such as the poor scoping rules for variables.  More importantly, the book has proposes best practices for working around the limitations, as well as utilizing features in an effective way.  For example, utilizing a single global object instead of a pile of individual global variables reduces potential naming conflicts with other modules.

For developers who already know one or a dozen other languages already, this is a refreshing approach to getting up to speed in a language that has a number of features that are not in common with other languages.

Review: Introducing Maven

If I’m going to read a whole book on a technology, I’d like a bit more depth.  Why does this work, rather than just how it works.  While following the examples in the book, I was able to learn how to build configuration files and utilize Maven.  But a different book might have provided more underpinnings: what is the fundamental paradigm that will obviate the need to go through tutorials and practice.

Review: Singletasking

The successful man is the average man, focused.


You would not believe how difficult it is to be simple and clear. People are afraid that they may be seen as a simpleton. In reality, just the opposite is true.


Dr. Earl Miller at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “You cannot focus on one [task] while doing [an]other. That’s because of what’s called interference between the two tasks.… People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves. The brain is very good at deluding itself.

Chapter 2

Singletasking is characterized by high energy and sharp focus … yielding exceptional results and respect.

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.

The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.


Part II

Focus and simplicity. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean, to make it simple. It is worth it because then you can move mountains.


…the fact that we are hesitant to be alone with our thoughts.

The prefrontal cortex shrinks from the stress of constant overload. The amygdala takes over, flooding the brain with negative emotions such as fear, aggression, and anxiety. As gray matter shrinks, we become cognitively impaired.2

Lewis Cass: “People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do.”

When I conduct 360-degree feedback assessments, one of the most shocking and common results for executives is that they are perceived as untrustworthy. This does not mean they are unethical. It usually indicates the leaders don’t prioritize their staffs’ needs.

Receiving undivided attention for five minutes seems universally preferable to being held hostage in someone else’s hectic office for forty-five minutes, while scores of other tasks take precedence over the meeting itself.

One technique that may help you to integrate Dr. Kross’s advice is to use third-person pronouns or your own name when writing, thinking, or speaking about challenges you face. Practicing self-reflection to work through life’s challenges is one of the most beneficial applications of singletasking.

Always do one thing less than you think you can do.


Review: Winning

It turns out there’s a lot in common between books by successful sports coaches on how they achieved what they did and books by business professionals who’ve reached the upper echelon.

The first is that to get someone to read your book, you have to have objective accomplishments that your prospective reader can understand.  You might read a book on the Jamaican bobsled team, for example, but it would be because you expect the story to curious and entertaining, not because the Jamaican bobsled team won a gold medal and made you wonder how you could do it as well.  That would be true even if the skills they acquired were actually greater than those of a team who had the advantages of, say, snow.  Similarly,  a book written by Steve Jobs after NeXT computer ceased being a company wouldn’t be read for insight on how to be Steve Jobs, even if Steve Jobs turned out to be, say, Steve Jobs.

The second similarity is that the skills required to succeed at sports or business are definitely not the same set of skills needed for teaching nor writing books.

The most significant similarity is that there is not a long list of prescriptive instruction for success.  It’s neither clear that the decades that sports coaches and entrepreneurs can be conveyed with a sit of prescriptive tasks, nor even that the writers are fully aware of the steps they took to success.  Is “Neutron Jack” Welch who he is because he invented a reproducible formula for management?  Or is his good fortune in having experiences that honed him to be the head of GE?  Is it the respect and intimidation others feel around him as a result of his personality?  His inherent skill in understanding and directing people?  His innate understanding of the nature of business?

Ultimately, there’s only so good an autobiographical business book can be.  We can gather insights into the thinking and behaviors of someone successful, but we can’t know whether their own understanding of the origin of success can be conveyed in even the slightest way through a book.

But on the other hand, there’s only so bad such a book can be either.  Getting any insight from someone who’s had extraordinary success, including their own view, and even their indulgences is worth the time it takes to read on of their books.

Review: Using Microsoft Project 2010

Sometimes a book is limited by its subject.  I was hoping for evidence that Microsoft Project can be used in a modern software environment to save time and make things easier.  Instead, I got something better.  This book, in its careful and politically correct detail, convinced me that Project is less useful for software, but could be of utility to users managing bridge building or other huge projects.

In short, the overhead of a tool like Project is enough that it’s not worth the time unless project management is your full time job, and even better if you’re not the only person managing projects.