Thursday, July 05, 2007

Went to see Ratatouille on Independence Day. Another great movie from Pixar. I think there is a great business story about Pixar that will be written some day. How does a former hardware company become one of the most consistent film studio of the last 15 years? So far they have released seven features and there is not a dog among them - all seven are not only technological marvels, pushing the state of computer animation, but overall great films as well.

I also finished The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle. It's about a private detective who is fascinated with disappearances. The chapters alternate between the main plot and little mini-stories that detail some of the most famous disappearances in history.

It started off slow with too much back-story but got better as the main characters got more involved in the main story. About half way through it changes from a standard private eye story into more of an urban fantasy but it did it smoothly enough that it didn't lose my interest. Not my favourite book of this year but an OK read.

Amazon Link:
The Mysteries

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Last night I finished Executive Intelligence by Justin Menkes. My girlfriend was looking at business books in the library and I picked up this one.

There are a lot of books on what makes a good executive and this one tries to cut across the grain of all of them by simplifying down to the basics. His hypothesis is that executive performance is mainly driven by a kind of intelligence, a sub-set of general intelligence that is focussed on critical thinking applied to three areas - business tasks, relations to others and self-awareness.

It's an interesting idea but not very completely developed in this book. A lot of the book feels like filler - short chapters with ambitious titles but not much meat on their bones with a lot of anecdotes taken from CEO interviews. It gets better towards the end when Menkes criticizes not only some of the most popular other theories like "emotional intelligence" and "charismatic leaders" but manages to side swipe most other current theories as focusing on side issues and things that only have indirect effects on management quality.

One other nice feature is that his main points, and particularly his criticisms, are backed up by actual research rather than just anecdotes and supposition. I don't do much hiring of CEOs but there are a number of things I can take from this book and apply to my own job where I do help interview prospective new hires.

If you're interested in this topic, you can get the gist of this book in an hour or two, mainly by looking at one detailed chart, skimming the first half of the book and reading the last few chapters in more depth.

Amazon Link: Executive Intelligence

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Last night I finished Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton.

Hamilton writes long books best described as space opera. His main success has been with the Night's Dawn Trilogy, a sprawling work involving the dead returning to life by possessing the living - an unusual theme in SF.

Pandora's Star is similarly sprawling, involving multiple characters on multiple worlds but stays to more familiar SF ingredients - wormholes, "hive" consciousness aliens, hidden conspiracies and, eventually, interstellar war.

It's a good book and the story/characters were engaging enough that I'm looking for the sequel right now but the large cast did start to blend together by the end. Hamilton likes to take his time developing his plot's and this book is no exception, most of the first half of the novel would probably be brief background in another author's hands.

Amazon Link: Pandora's Star