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Reviews Written by
J. Grattan "JIM GRATTAN" (Lawrenceville, GA USA)

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White Collar Sweatshop
White Collar Sweatshop
by Jill Andresky Fraser
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from CDN$ 1.25

3.0 out of 5 stars The author feels the pain, but the analysis comes up short, Oct. 21 2001
This review is from: White Collar Sweatshop (Hardcover)
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of "White-Collar Sweatshop" is that it comes as a surprise to the knowledge workers of America's Fortune 500 that corporations are willing to treat them so abysmally. Most of the conditions of the 19th century sweatshops are present in these corporations: speedup and exorbitant workloads, excessive and not fully compensated work hours, interpenetration of non-work lives by the corporation especially via new electronic technologies, rule by intimidation and arbitrary decisions, and powerlessness - all of which produce a great deal of stress, anxiety, and other health problems.
I find it to be a major failing of the book that the author did not explore the ignorance of U.S. labor history exhibited by the various knowledge workers that she interviewed. Though the author did acknowledge that the ascendancy of the labor movement in the few decades after WWII positively impacted white collar working conditions, it was hardly noted the period was an aberration in the long history of generally hostile labor-management relations.
The blissfully ignorant organization man of the fifties has had the rug pulled out from under him by the rise of Wall St, investment bankers, globalization - the entire neo-liberal project. The short term rise of stock prices aided considerably by squeezing and eliminating workers has become the focus of corporate managements. The paternalistic organizations of the fifties were only too happy to increase salaries, benefits, and pensions when they ruled the post WWII world. Now the lament of reduced financial rewards is certification that today's knowledge workers have no idea of just how little standing they have in large corporations. Company spokespersons channel any discussions of negative repercussions to workers from management decisions as necessitated by competitive pressures.
The author's suggestions for improvement of the situation are quite hollow. The first suggestion for individuals to stand up to the corporate giant is surely a course of self-sacrifice. She accepts that white-collar workers don't like unions without addressing the issue of employee power. Legislated European-style works councils are not mentioned. The political behavior of knowledge workers is not mentioned at all. Is there a connection to supporting the Repubs and workplace conditions? The author feels the pain of workers subjected to sweatshop conditions, but for a veteran of business affairs that is clearly insufficient. I expected far more.

How to Save Thousands of Dollars on Your Home Mortgage
How to Save Thousands of Dollars on Your Home Mortgage
by Randy Johnson
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.22

4.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting detail, but could be better, Oct. 15 2001
This book is written by a mortgage industry insider and makes the claim that it will reveal the inner workings or even secrets of the process of obtaining a mortgage. And there is some interesting detail concerning ARMs, lender rate sheets, zero-point loans, etc.
But I think the book lacks organization and consistency. Like a lot of "insider" books it needed to have been read by a lot of "outsiders" for coherency before publishing. The author is not consistent in using the terminology that he defines at the start. He often is not clear about when he is talking about the firm originating your loan or the ultimate buyer of the loan. He creates as much confusion as clarity in his sloppy use of the terms: rebates, points, loan discount points, or loan origination points. Furthermore, for a detail-oriented book I was surprised that section numbers of a standard settlement form, 800, 900, 1000, etc, were not referred to when discussing closing costs.
I would have like to have seen more realistic discussion about the ability of a consumer to force a loan originator to reveal or discuss the profit margin on a loan as the author suggests one do. As far as I know American businesses are not in the habit and in fact resist revealing markups to consumers.
For some readers this book may be just what they are looking for, but I suspect that for most the detail is just not presented in a way that makes it particularly understandable or usable.

Don't Waste Your Talent: The 8 Critical Steps To Discovering What You Do Best
Don't Waste Your Talent: The 8 Critical Steps To Discovering What You Do Best
by Bob McDonald
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from CDN$ 3.34

2.0 out of 5 stars This book is mostly a waste itself, Oct. 9 2001
This book falls squarely in the self-help book genre and has all of the usual oversimplifications. One is urged to shed the various nefarious social systems which have operated on one since birth causing untold Stress, to find one's True Self, and to return to those very systems, mostly family and work, a new recharged and in-charge person. According to the authors, most simply need to go through a self-assessment process and thought experiments to reveal Personal Visions for the future.
Nowhere in the book do the authors discuss the power dynamics of the broader economy, society, and the polity and the impacts on persons. Managers are depicted not as powerful players in organizations who demand adherence to rules but as employee allies who want you to achieve your self-defined goals. Perhaps the authors could have reflected on the reason that labor unions formed. Or perhaps they could have pondered as to why social-democratic political parties exist in most democratic societies. The answer is most certainly not that corporations are interested in your True Self. Try the fact that workers and citizens need help against powerful players.
The authors operate a company that sells Whole Person Technology out of which comes a Personal Vision. Their customers are mostly large corporations which only adds suspicion about whom is to benefit. In fact, most of their individual customers seem to find happiness where they were previously unhappy. How convenient. For the readers of this book a battery of tests is available on CD for the tidy sum. The book has an unmistakable feel of being a promo for their self-help products.
In addition, the book is clearly intended for professionals, executives, managers, knowledge workers, etc. The book is loaded with snippets of case studies of such workers. Of course, they all found their Personal Vision. Apparently blue-collar workers don't have near the need to find a True Self.
Is the book completely bogus. No. It is Briggs-Myers on the cheap. Yes, distinctions between introversion and extroversion, specialization and generalization, logical and spontaneous, etc are minimally presented. If someone was hopelessly in the wrong job, perhaps that would be seen by reading this book ignoring the question of how he or she got there in the first place. But the book greatly oversimplifies the ability of individuals to make major transformations in their lives. I suspect that for most the costs and risks, resources and information available, and the power to affect change make real changes nearly impossible. And books that oversimplify the problems do not help.

The Market System: What It Is, How It Works, and What To Make of It
The Market System: What It Is, How It Works, and What To Make of It
by Charles E. Lindblom
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 1.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting reflections on the market system, Sept. 28 2001
Professor Lindblom approaches his study of the "market system" in a rather circumspect manner but ultimately the book informs. The first part of the book is largely instructive. He defines the market system as "a system of society wide coordination of human activities not by central command but by mutual interactions in the form of transactions." Coordination is for both "social peacekeeping" and cooperation. Markets are an arena for mutual adjustment and not simply or even mostly for competition as some would contend. He contrasts the flexibility of markets with the rules and authority of a command system. The state under girds the market system by providing for liberties, property and contract rights, policing, infrastructure, a monetary system, etc. The author furnishes the analogy: if the market system is a dance, the state supplies the dance floor. He is especially wont to point out the interpenetration of the market system with society and the polity. The market system is not some purely economic formulation like, say, the law of supply and demand.
A key claim by purists is that the market system establishes efficiency prices, or the correct price based on the free interactions of all buyers and sellers. The author squashes that notion. There are any number of inefficiencies and compulsions that undermine claims of efficiency. Among them are so-called spillover effects or externalities, transaction termination, manipulation of buyers, inequality of resources, inequality of market position, arbitrary pricing by monopolies or governmental interference - to name a few. In addition, the author identifies "prior determinations" as distorting efficiency prices. Custom, laws especially those of inheritance, and historical accident distribute assets and skills that distort and taint current market transactions.
The author spends some time examining the quid pro quo basis of the market system. The general rule for entering the market system is that any request for benefits or goods is invalid without an equivalent market offer. Traditional societies have generally acknowledged at least some claim to society's output by virtue of membership. But market systems turn inhumane quid pro quo into a moral virtue. The author points out that the concept of community allows for "love thy neighbor," but in market societies one has no neighbors. Critics contend that the market system affects personalities rewarding small-mindedness, cunning, and deceit over wisdom. Yet the author is more inclined to view market behavior as an example of role ethics and not to be deplored.
Perhaps the major concern of the author concerning the market system is the disproportionate power granted to elites in a market system and the subsequent impact on freedom and democracy.
Clearly entrepreneurs and corporations and to some extent governmental elites are the movers and shakers of market systems. Market and political elites constantly bombard the public in one-way communication with their messages for purposes of controlling and manipulating the public's market and political behavior making a mockery of the much proclaimed "consumer sovereignty." Elite control and hierarchical arrangements are made to seem natural in an ostensibly democratic society.
Governments offer any number of inducements to corporations: tariff protections, loans, cash and land grants, purchase of goods, patents, tax concessions, information and research services, subsidized advertising, etc. School systems are geared to corporate needs. But those concessions to market elites are clearly a case of the exercise of political inequality.
In addition, it is problematic for democracy when rights usually conferred on real, living citizens are granted to institutions such as the fiction that corporations are legal persons. He contends that institutions should be constrained to pursue assigned purposes and no others. For corporations that would include rights to buy and sell and manage a workforce. As it is, corporations play the role of oversized, unfairly empowered citizens. Utilizing public funds, that is, sales receipts, and organizational resources, corporations engage in overt political and philanthropic activities at a level that overwhelms normal citizen participation and influence.
If the market system distorts democracy, why is it that no democratic state has turned away from the market system? According to the author the assault on the public's mind by market and political elites has produced "a remarkably high degree of conformity of thought endorsing or accepting the market system."
Free-market ideologues tout the freedom of the market system. But in the face of "distracting and obfuscating" communications from elites, is it possible to exercise free choice. Some have suggested that such manipulation actually degrades mental acuteness, and though sympathetic the author finds that to be an overstatement. The unfreedom of workplaces also brings into question the claim of the market system as being freedom enhancing. In the author's words: "People at the end of the 21st century may look back with astonishment on our era's discrepancy between democratic principle and autocratic practice in the corporation."
In the end, the author though noting the considerable problems of the market system remains confident that the market system can best deliver the benefits to society as first defined. He points out that every market society can choose varying degrees of control over spillovers, monopoly, corporate powers including political powers, managerial authority in enterprises, investment, and distribution of income and wealth. Purchase, subsidy, tax, and related devices can be used by the state to make the market system livable.
Undoubtedly, free-market types will not find much to enjoy in this book. Others may contend that the author was unwilling to drive the final nail into a system that he clearly finds to be problematic. But the book is a very interesting study of the market system.

Red Eared Slider Turtles Real
Red Eared Slider Turtles Real
by Jordan Patterson
Edition: Paperback
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to red-eared sliders, Aug. 28 2001
This book adequately covers the essentials of owning a turtle: housing, feeding, breeding, and diseases. The section on breeding is a little more extensive than in other intro books. A plus is that most of the pictures are in color. One thing missing from this book and others is a discussion of turtle behavior and sensory capability. Do they hear, see, smell, taste well? Do they like to hide? How long do they or can they stay submerged? Apparently and incorrectly, it is assumed this is all common knowledge. While this book will give one a start, owning a turtle is definitely a work in progress.

Red-Eared Sliders
Red-Eared Sliders
by Phillipe De Vosjoli
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, basic information, Aug. 28 2001
This review is from: Red-Eared Sliders (Paperback)
This is a good basic book about red-eared sliders. You will learn details about sex identification and varieties, environmental needs, diseases, feeding, and even breeding. The author does a good job of describing the types and sizes of enclosures needed, water filtration, basking and light needs, and temperature. The need to have an easy system of water cleaning is emphasized. There is some discussion about recognizing symtoms of sickness and how to solve the problem usually either through changes in the environment or diet. Even with a book such as this, caring for turtles would definitely be somewhat of a learn as you go endeavor. This book can get one started but careful observation and fine tuning is required.

Barnett's Manual
Barnett's Manual
by John Barnett
Edition: Paperback
5 used & new from CDN$ 160.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive with many details, yet perhaps a little dated, Aug. 27 2001
This review is from: Barnett's Manual (Paperback)
I haven't seen any bicycle maintenance books that come close to providing the kind of detail that Barnett's Manual does - detail in such areas as exact measurement and classification of parts and threads, tool part numbers for many manufacturers, and elaborate torque specifications. The Manual actually consists of four volumes with vol 4 consisting of material extracted from the previous three for easy access. The repairs and adjustments are conducted via written step-by-step procedures. Many of the adjustments utilize self-adhesive markings that are put on the bike for the purpose of exactly increasing or decreasing the tightness of bearing adjustments. Proper torquing is always specified. The Manual attempts to be comprehensive covering both road and mountain bikes and all sorts of groupos. Some of these are covered better than others. The manuals also deal with frame preparation using facing and threading tools. In some ways the manuals are a little dated. For example the wheel building and truing sections use traditioanl rims and spokes, not to mention traditional hubs. But modern wheels are using vastly reduced spoke counts, exotic spoke materials and shapes, and cartridge type hubs. The translation from the old to the new is hardly discussed, if at all. Cartridge hubs in particular are given insufficient weight. On the other hand the adjustment of newer STI derailleur systems is superb, not to mention threadless headsets, V-brakes, etc. The author probably would contend that his manuals facilitate learning the principles of bicycle repair and maintenance and that dealing with new technologies would follow the same guide lines. And there is of course some truth in that. However, a purchaser of these manuals could be disappointed if he or she expects every bicycle part to be covered in detail, becasue they are not.

Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance
Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance
by Lennard Zinn
Edition: Paperback
40 used & new from CDN$ 2.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Generally adequate but plenty of gaps, Aug. 26 2001
All in all the book is not too bad but there aren't many books against which to compare it. I think that many adjustments and some repairs could be successfully undertaken from following the author's guidelines. But the book is uneven. Throughout the book there is a shortage of technical detail or information that could have easily been given. Sometimes it is critical, sometimes not.
For example in dealing with chains, there is no mention of chain identification such as a Hyperglide or HG chain despite the ubiquity of Shimano chains. Or it is stated that nine speed chains are more narrow than those for 7 or 8 speeds. Well, what is the measurement? Or the author instructs to drive the old pin all the way out in doing chain maintenance on an HG chain. Usually it is much easier to reconnect the chain with part of the old pin still in. It is stated that a Shimano tool does not damage the plates of a Shimano chain but others do. Well, Park tools are by the most purchased tool by home enthusiasts. Does a CT3 chaintool tool cause damage? The reader or future home repair person is left to wonder. In fact there is almost total absence of exact tool identification in the entire book. That is the kind of thing that a beginner needs to know.
In adjusting derailleurs presetting the barrel adjusters is not done. Setting the front derailleur limit screws before tightening the cable is not done. It is this kind of inconsistency in most every chapter that plagues this book. But the beginner would have no way on knowing this. So that is why I must qualify the chances of a person following this book having success in his or her repair.
A more complete book is the Barnett's Manual. But of course it is about four times as expensive and it too is not without its problems. It attempts to cover all types of bikes but its attention to detail and specifications and procedures can often overwhelm rather than really help the reader. The bottom line is that if you know next to nothing about bikes, you can learn a lot from this book. But there is still lots more to learn. Seek out other sources. Use the internet.

Captains Of Consciousness Advertising And The Social Roots Of The Consumer Culture
Captains Of Consciousness Advertising And The Social Roots Of The Consumer Culture
by Stuart Ewen
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.28
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Consumer society revealed, Aug. 23 2001
This book is a penetrating analysis of the origins of our mass-culture, consumerist society. First, the author debunks the notion that consumerism was a natural technological development or clearly represents progress.
The author makes evident that the captions of industry sought to exert control over the entire social milieu beginning in the 1920s. Their foremost project was to define American life as consumerism. Consumption was marketed as far more than acquiring the essentials of life; it was a means to transform one's life: to achieve social esteem, to escape otherwise mediocre, humdrum lives. It was very much an individualistic approach to life in contrast to the traditional focus on small communities or extended families.
Industrialism was not easily swallowed by workers of the 19th and early 20th century. Traditional social bonds became irrelevant in factory production. Also under scientific management work was systematically deskilled and redefined by management. The strike wave of 1919 and the "Red Scare" of the early 20's convinced economic elites to set upon a course of pacification of discontented citizens in addition to measures of suppression.
The advertising in the 20's tried to convince that the mass production of consumable items was of tremendous benefit to society. The "freedom" of workers as consumers to transform their lives more than offset the actual loss of control over work processes. Every effort was made to see that mass-culture goods penetrated and hence defined all areas of life. Non-acceptance of that corporate-defined world was not viewed kindly. Virtually all non-market activity was cast as secondary, if not illegitimate. Buying superceded voting as the means to social remedy. Even families became purchasing units.
By the 1950s the transformation of the US to a consumerist culture was virtually complete. The penetration of corporate-owned television into all households ensured that alternatives to consumerism would not surface which was a continuation of the trend of centralization of all media outlets. The free-market and free trade ideologues of the 1990s are merely following in those same footsteps.
Though written 25 years ago, this book remains relevant today. More recent authors such as Kuttner, Schiller, Lindblom, or Frank can only add to what Ewen has already said.

Massive Swelling
Massive Swelling
by Cintra Wilson
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 12.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Celebrity and celebrities sliced and diced, July 25 2001
This review is from: Massive Swelling (Paperback)
Fame and celebrity are beyond any doubt a huge lure in our society, but the author is absolutely unrelenting in exposing and puncturing the ugly, bloated underside of celebrity and its ramifications.
The author primarily targets singers, actors both movie and stage, entertainers, wannabes, chieftains, and the cheerleaders of celebritism for their distorted lives where everyday realities and decencies are ignored and which can proceed in positively obnoxious and harmful directions. The celebrities selected for skewering are hardly surprising. The calamitous lives of Michael and Elvis; the grotesqueness of disfiguring plastic surgery as a means to stay or get on top (see Cher); the unrestrained lewdness of aging Hollywood actors and moguls; and the sleazy, smarmy Las Vegas entertainer, a la Wayne Newton, easily serve to make the point.
The broader culture is hardly spared. The hugely deforming and crippling aspects of small girls pursuing fame through sports, namely gymnastics and ice skating, pushed by celebrity hungry parents and coaches is a chilling reminder of the costs of reaching for fame. In addition, the connection between unimaginative entertainment and the promotion of noncontroversial celebrity is examined. Not spared is the unquestioning obsession with celebrities that the broader culture exhibits.
Though unfamiliar with her writings, the book seems to be snippets of previous work - probably columns - and does lack the continuity of a more conventional book. Her phraseology is often catchy and original as well as outrageous but at times can be awkward and difficult requiring rereads to grasp the intent.
The book is rated fairly highly due to its outrageousness and irreverence towards a phenomenon that needs skewering. A decision to read this book would hinge on one's interest in the dissection of the shenanigans and sicknesses exhibited by mostly show-biz personalities and the broader culture intent on celebrity.

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