Disrupted by Dan Lyons

Posted by on May 3, 2016 in 2015, 4 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

Disrupted by Dan Lyons

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons

Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Hachette
Format: Hardcover
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 258
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

For twenty-five years Dan Lyons was a magazine writer at the top of his profession–until one Friday morning when he received a phone call: Poof. His job no longer existed. “I think they just want to hire younger people,” his boss at Newsweek told him. Fifty years old and with a wife and two young kids, Dan was, in a word, screwed. Then an idea hit. Dan had long reported on Silicon Valley and the tech explosion. Why not join it? HubSpot, a Boston start-up, was flush with $100 million in venture capital. They offered Dan a pile of stock options for the vague role of “marketing fellow.” What could go wrong?

HubSpotters were true believers: They were making the world a better place … by selling email spam. The office vibe was frat house meets cult compound: The party began at four thirty on Friday and lasted well into the night; “shower pods” became hook-up dens; a push-up club met at noon in the lobby, while nearby, in the “content factory,” Nerf gun fights raged. Groups went on “walking meetings,” and Dan’s absentee boss sent cryptic emails about employees who had “graduated” (read: been fired). In the middle of all this was Dan, exactly twice the age of the average HubSpot employee, and literally old enough to be the father of most of his co-workers, sitting at his desk on his bouncy-ball “chair.”

Mixed in with Lyons’s uproarious tale of his rise and fall at Hubspot is a trenchant analysis of the start-up world, a de facto conspiracy between those who start companies and those who fund them, a world where bad ideas are rewarded with hefty investments, where companies blow money lavishing perks on their post-collegiate workforces, and where everybody is trying to hang on just long enough to reach an IPO and cash out.
With a cast of characters that includes devilish angel investors, fad-chasing venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and “wantrapreneurs,” bloggers and brogrammers, social climbers and sociopaths, Disrupted is a gripping and definitive account of life in the (second) tech bubble.

My Thoughts:
I happened to see a link to a review of this book on Twitter and decided it souded fun. When I saw that the author is a writer on the TV show Silicon Valley I figured it was going to be an amusing skewering of the culture of tech start-ups. I was right.

By the way, if you’re not watching Silicon Valley, you should be. It’s hilarious.

Yes this book is hilarious in places but at the same time it’s horrifying. Lyons tells his story of what it’s like to be a displaced worker who finds himself in an organization that caters to an employement pool of people half his age.

Arriving here feels like landing on some remote island where a bunch of people have been living for years, in isolation, making up their own rules and rituals and religion and language—even, to some extent, inventing their own reality. This happens at all organizations, but for some reason tech startups seem to be especially prone to groupthink.

While the story if his experience is amusing and sometimes laugh out loud funny, Lyons is clearly telling the story from only his viewpoint. He’s pretty harsh with regards to some people and I’m not sure I would want him on my team at work. Nevertheless, he does make me laugh.

Dharmesh’s culture code incorporates elements of HubSpeak. For example, it instructs that when someone quits or gets fired, the event will be referred to as “graduation.” This really happens, over and over again. In my first month at HubSpot I’ve witnessed several graduations, just in the marketing department. We’ll get an email from Cranium saying, “Team, just letting you know that Derek has graduated from HubSpot, and we’re excited to see how he uses his superpowers in his next big adventure!” Only then do you notice that Derek is gone, that his desk has been cleared out. Somehow Derek’s boss will have arranged his disappearance without anyone knowing about it. People just go up in smoke, like Spinal Tap drummers.

When Lyons moves beyond his own personal experiences and looks at the broader picture of the the tech startup world is when things get a bit horrifying. The practices of investors and founders that reap ridiculous payoffs from companies that are more marketing than substance while losing billions. I was fascinated and appalled at the information about how some business are developed, funded and fail.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Doc by Mary Doria Russell

Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in 2015, 4 stars, Book Review, Mary Doria Russell | 4 comments

Doc by Mary Doria Russell

Doc by Mary Doria Russell

Genre: Historical Fiction, Western
Publisher: Random House
Format: Hardcover and Ebook
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 394
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

The year is 1878, peak of the Texas cattle trade. The place is Dodge City, Kansas, a saloon-filled cow town jammed with liquored-up adolescent cowboys and young Irish hookers. Violence is random and routine, but when the burned body of a mixed-blood boy named Johnnie Sanders is discovered, his death shocks a part-time policeman named Wyatt Earp. And it is a matter of strangely personal importance to Doc Holliday, the frail twenty-six-year-old dentist who has just opened an office at No. 24, Dodge House.

My Thoughts:
I fear that this book was a victim of timing. I liked it but if I had read it at a time when both my reading mojo and attention span were in better condition I likely would have LOVED it. That said, I do plan to read the follow up book (Epitaph) but only when I’m sure I can be fully engaged with Russell’s writing. Her writing is wonderful and my reading of it in small snippets here and there did a disservice to the story.

While the book is primarily about Doc Holliday it is also about Wyatt Earp and their friendship. She includes background on the Earp brothers as well as Bat Masterson. This is all pre “Gunfight at the OK Corral (which is what the sequel, Epitaph is all about) but there is plenty of action.

Russell’s writing paints pictures as well as it tells stories and is just lovely to read. My favorite parts are the gently humorous tidbits here and there along the way.

I have friends from the South who will be nodding their heads about this quote

Johnnie had recognized the kinship as well. “I can always tell Southerners,” he told Doc at the barbershop. “Northerners’ll tell you where they’re goin’, not where they’re from. Southerners’re like Indians. They’ll ask who your relatives are until they find out, oh, my mother’s sister married your father’s uncle, so we’re cousins!”

The city council meeting/poker game made me smile.

By the end of the poker game, the new ordinances had been discussed and written up. Public drunkenness was prohibited. Why allow cowboys to wander the street when they could be corralled inside, drinking and gambling and whoring? Disorderly conduct—understood to mean prostitutes soliciting during daylight hours—was also banned. Everybody knew where to find the girls anyway. No riding on the sidewalks passed without quibble. No horses above the ground floor of any building took longer.

This about Bat Masterson sums up law enforcement of the day (Note Wyatt Earp had only read one law book).

In 1878, Bat was, after all, just a modestly educated twenty-four-year-old kid who’d won a county-wide popularity contest by three votes. He had read one fewer law book than Wyatt himself. And, in any case, it would be nearly a century before proper police procedure for handling crimes went much beyond (1) arrest a suspect within a few hours and (2) beat a confession out of the bastard.

I wish I had read this at a time when I could have completely immersed myself. The more I think about it though, the more I realize how much of it did manage to stick with me despite the less than ideal reading circumstances.

54f4d-rating_4stars Rating 4/5

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Audiobook – Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 in 2015, 4 stars, Audio, Book Review, Craig Johnson | 1 comment

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson narrated by George Guidall

Genre: Short Stories
Series: Related to the Walt Longmire Series
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 2014
Length: 5 hours, 8 minutes
Read by: George Guidall
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
A collection of short stories related to but not integral to the Walt Longmire series.

Why I Read It:
I love everything I’ve read by Craig Johnson and I prefer to listen to the audiobooks.

The Book:
From the author’s website:

On the heels of the Hillerman award­winning short story “Old Indian Trick”, the earliest appearances of the sheriff who would go on to star in Craig Johnson’s bestselling, award­winning novels and the hit series Longmire, fans rejoiced when Johnson began sending out a short story every Christmas Eve that featured an episode in Walt’s life that didn’t appear in the novels.

Featuring an introduction by Lou Diamond Phillips, who plays Henry Standing Bear on A&E’s Longmire, Wait For Signs collects those beloved stories and one entirely new one for the first time in a single volume. With glimpses of Walt’s past from the incident in “Ministerial Aide” when the sheriff is mistaken for a deity, to the hilarious “Messenger,” where the majority of the action takes place in a Porta Potty, Wait For Signs is a welcome addition to any Longmire fan’s shelf and a wonderful way to introduce new readers to the fictional world of Absaroka County, Wyoming.

My Thoughts:
I’ve actually read some of the short stories in this collection. Several of them were released a few years ago in ebook format as Christmas in Absaroka County. I also read a couple of them as individual ebook releases. They are all fun in their own way.

Many of them take place around the Christmas holidays but not all do.

The new to me stories in this collection were:

Firebird – On New Year’s Eve at the Durant Home for Assisted Living, Walt manages to solve both a current crime and several old unsolved ones.

Several Stations – A crashed Toys R Us truck didn’t hurt the driver and Walt manages to use his lines from a fill in performance in A Christmas Carol but just confuses people. He also does a bit of playing Santa too.

High Holidays – Chasing down people who drive off without paying for their gas is a routine call for the Sheriff’s department but not always. Beware of trying to fool a man who once dated a Jewish girl.

Thankstaking – Henry Standing Bear is not a fan of Thanksgiving but this year as he and Walt prepare for their holiday dinner at the Red Pony Café things may change that.

Petunia, Bandit of the Bighorns – Known as the ewe that launched a thousand strays, Petunia is a very special sheep and her story as told by Walt is hilarious.

Even though I’d read the other stories in this collection I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them again because I prefer to hear Craig Johnson’s stories as narrated by George Guidall. He’s absolutely wonderful and all the storied that weren’t new to me were even better in audio format.

The stories I’ve read before are reviewed in these posts:
Christmas in Absaroka County and Messenger.

My only complaint about this audiobook is that the introduction by Lou Diamond Phillips is not read by either Phillips himself nor is it read by George Guidall. The man reading the introduction consistently mispronounces Absaroka (the county where Walt works and much of Craig Johnson’s stories take place). It was like fingernails on a chalkboard to hear that error so many times during the introduction. That was a big mistake by the audiobook director.

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the book

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for the narration

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Nutshell Review: Hawkeye Vol. 3: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction

Posted by on Dec 15, 2015 in 2015, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Comics, Matt Fraction | 0 comments

Hawkeye Vol. 2: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction with art by Javier Pulido and Annie Wu

Hawkeye Vol. 3: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction

Genre: Superhero Comics
Series: #3 in the Hawkeye series
Publisher: Marvel
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 120
Source: Library


The Book:

From the back cover:

Kate Bishop heads to Los Angeles to get away from New York, life, and Clint Barton – but not away from trouble! Because Madame Masque is hanging out at poolside with the rich and famous as well! As Kate helps a reclusive and Sixties-damaged pop music genius find his lost masterpiece, Madame Masque finds Kate. By which we mean starts trying to kill her again. This one has it all! Characters! Plot! Story! Dialogue! Theme! Meaning! Message! Action! A little exposition! Fire! Arrows! Criminals! Neighbors! Large bodies of water! Clients! Cops who don’t care! A system that victimizes the victims! The dog! In a broken town where cynicism and apathy has its claws around the throat of the good and decent, Lady Hawkguy is the only hero you can trust!

My Thoughts:
Superhero comics aren’t my normal thing but for some reason I really enjoy this Hawkeye series. Neither Clint Barton (the Hawkeye associated with the Avengers) nor Kate Bishop (Hawkeye of the Young Avengers) have special powers. They’re both just the best archers EVER. Clint is a bit of a smartass and Kate is full of wry wit too.

It’s a little bit of the Marvel Universe that I enjoy outside of the movies. This is not an Avengers thriller. This one’s not even about Clint Barton that much. This edition is a compilation of issues featuring Kate Bishop after she decided she needs to get away from Clint for a while to forge her own path.

She takes off to L.A. with Clint’s dog (coolest dog in comics). There she runs across a former nemesis who wants her dead. She gets away and lands a job cat-siting that soon leads to helping out her new neighbors that soon has Kate acting as a private eye.

There’s plenty of action, a lot of humor and some pretty involved story. I missed Clint a little but it was great to focus on Kate on her own for a while.

Only one of the issues in this edition is drawn by Javier Pulido and that’s fine with me. His art in this one is a little simpler and makes Kate seem much younger. Annie Wu’s art in the rest of the book is much more interesting. She does a much better job of expressing story in the characters’ faces.

It’s a fun series even if like me, you aren’t fully invested in the whole history and world of the Marvel characters.

I’m looking forward to reading volume 4 soon.

3.5 stars Rating 3/5

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Nutshell Review – Audiobook – A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen

Posted by on Dec 11, 2015 in 2015, 3 stars, Audio, Book Review, Rhys Bowen | 1 comment

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen narrated by Katherine Kellgren

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: #2 in the Royal Spyness series
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date: Originally 2009, this edition 2010
Length: 8 hours, 57 minutes
Read by: Katherine Kellgren
Source: Purchased


The Book:

From the publisher:

The Queen of England has concocted a plan in which penniless aristocrat Lady Georgie is to entertain a Bavarian princess and conveniently place her in the playboy prince’s path, in the hopes that he might finally marry.
But queens never take money into account. Georgie has very little, which is why she moonlights as a maid-in-disguise. She must draw up plans: clean house to make it look like a palace; have Granddad and her neighbor pretend to be the domestic staff; un-teach Princess Hanni the English she’s culled from American gangster movies; cure said princess of her embarrassing shoplifting habit; and keep an eye on her at parties.
Then there’s the worrying matter of the body in the bookshop and Hannis’ unwitting involvement with the Communist Party. It’s enough to drive a girl crazy.

My Thoughts:
This is a fun series. I read the first one in print and had heard a recommendation for the audio editions so decided to give that a try.

I’m glad I did. Katherine Kellgren does a good job with a cast of characters with a cast of characters from a variety of places and social classes. She’s fun and entertaining to listen to while I’m driving.

Set in 1932 London where Lady Georgianna (Georgie) Rannoch is 34th in line to the throne but penniless and unable to get a job because for women in her class that’s just not done.

The titular Royal Pain is the visiting Bavarian Princess that the Queen orders Georgie to entertain. The Queen also want’s Georgie to try to use Princess Hanni to divert the attentions of the Prince of Wales away from the American Mrs. Simpson.

This is a charming light cozy mystery series set in one of my favorite places and eras. The mysteries aren’t nearly as involved as all the social politics and rules.

I will probably continue this series in the audio format.

3 stars Rating 3/5 for the book

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the narration

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Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo

Posted by on Dec 10, 2015 in 2 stars, 2015, Book Review | 0 comments

Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo

Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo

Genre: NonFiction
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Viva Editions
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 155
Source: Purchased


The Book:

From the publisher:

The One Secret of Highly Successful People: List Making
What do Sir Richard Branson, Martha Stewart, Sheryl Sandberg, Ellen DeGeneres and Madonna have in common? Each is a list maker and history shows us that change creators make their to-do lists and check them often. A recent survey by the career website LinkedIn.com found that 63% of all professionals frequently create to-do lists.

If you’re part of the 37% and feel like you’re chasing your own tail, author Paula Rizzo (ListProducer.com), a top national TV producer, delivers the solution. You can still find time to relax, read a good book, enjoy your hobby and do the things you love. Listful Thinking shares secrets, time-saving tips and the fine art of getting it done.

My Thoughts:
As a devoted list maker the idea of this book appealed to me. I knew that it wasn’t a book that would change my thinking because list making is already part of my organization and planning. Do I think this book would change the thinking of someone who was not already a list maker? Nope.

I was hoping that I might get some ideas for different ways to organize and use lists but there really wasn’t much of that either. Rizzo gives examples of ways she uses lists but it’s nothing new for me.

She also discusses digital list making applications and programs. She’s a big proponent of Evernote. I like Evernote but because I cannot easily use it from my work computer it’s not something I can fully embrace as an easy part of my daily routine.

My concern with her chapter about technology is that it will likely soon be out of date.

This was a quick read but certainly not a book that will convert someone who is not a list maker into a devotee. For folks who are already chronic list makers it really doesn’t offer anything new.

2 stars Rating 2/5

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