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Gil Broza "Agile development mentor" (Toronto, ON, Canada)

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The Night Shift
The Night Shift
by Dr. Brian Goldman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.27
16 used & new from CDN$ 2.01

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one Emergency Room visit you'll want to make, Oct. 11 2010
This review is from: The Night Shift (Hardcover)
Hidden somewhere in the book's introduction is the sobering sentence, "Sooner or later most of you are going to need the services of someone like me." For me, that statement has been verified more than once. And so, I'm grateful to Dr. Goldman for sharing in such a clear and engaging format what it's like "on his side of the gurney".

The E.R. experience is tense enough without the exaggeration we witness in TV dramas. Even though the night shift depicted in the book is really an elaborate composite, I would think it's a good a sample as any. Being recounted in the first person, as opposed to the common alternative (reporting/journalism style) lends it a much deeper, humane aspect.

I particularly like the balanced and highly empathetic view Dr. Goldman takes in his book. He doesn't pander to gore and unlikely theatrics, and uses few literary mechanisms such as "little did I know". Humour and seriousness are well blended. He balances empathy and respect with reasoning and calculated choices. The story is easy to follow and it gets into medical details only to the extent they are needed to explain situations. And in more than one place the story surprisingly digs into Dr. Goldman's own personal history and sometimes painful experiences, which heighten my appreciation for his truly demanding work.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever been or might be an E.R. patient. And if you have been a regular listener of his "White Coat, Black Art" show on CBC, let me assure you this book does not duplicate what you heard there. You might recognize a few details or a couple of stories, but this book is something else!

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
by Carol Tavris
Edition: Paperback
21 used & new from CDN$ 2.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering, Nov. 28 2009
We all know that taking responsibility for our actions is the right thing to do. But why do so many people -- some of them very influential -- fail to do so?

This engaging book tells dozens of fascinating stories, some of them well-known historical accounts, some of them from the news. They come from medicine, the criminal justice system, marriage, and nations. In all these stories, people deal awkwardly with situations, make bad decisions, behave foolishly or cruelly, or hold strange beliefs. The stories alone would make this book a great read.

The common thread running through all the stories, the common reason for all the behaviours, is a simple subconscious act: self-justification.

The psychological term "cognitive dissonance" is well known: the tension that occurs when a person holds two inconsistent cognitions. Typically, one will be a thought, a belief or a value and the other will be something the person does or did. For instance, "eating a lot will make me fatter" and "I really like my coffee and cake every afternoon".

What few people seem to realize is how difficult it is for us to live with cognitive dissonance, and how self-justification automatically kicks in: the elaborate mental gymnastics we do to justify *to ourselves* what we've done. "The cake puts me in a good mood". "It's instead of a snack". "I just have to have it". "I exercise so much anyway".

The authors go to great lengths to explain that self-justification isn't just about clever excuses or not admitting mistakes. It's a natural subconscious mechanism that helps us go on living. The trouble with it -- which they communicate eloquently and unequivocally -- is that it often backfires, getting us deeper in trouble.

Some of their examples are chilling. The detectives who planted evidence because the evidence they did have was inadmissible; couples whose marriages are quickly going downhill because each side believes he's acting rationally but his partner isn't; the judge who said that convicting the true killer doesn't mean that the wrongfully-convicted person is innocent.

This trouble extends to groups and nations. The example I'm personally familiar with: my homeland, Israel, where we always said how right and moral we were and how wrong and immoral "they" were; it's always the other side who "started it"; and here we are in 2009 and still no closer to the solution, which is *both* sides agreeing to put down their self-justification and admitting their responsibility for the situation. The book gives the counter-example of South Africa, where tensions had run so high a bloodshed seemed inevitable, but a mutual, unlikely agreement to stop self-justifying has led to most outstanding results.

I'm a little disappointed that only a few pages are dedicated to the research and examples that show that not all is lost. That different approaches to learning, and the meaning of mistakes, are not ingrained; they are cultural and learned, and can be overcome.

If you'd like to take more responsibility in your life, read this book. If you'd like to figure out others' behaviour better, read this book. And if all you want is an interesting pastime... read this book.

But Wait ... There's More!
But Wait ... There's More!
by Remy Stern
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful read, Nov. 15 2009
The book's introduction ends by saying, "this is a book about one of the largest, most sophisticated industries in America that you're probably familiar with, yet know nothing about." Every element in this statement is right on the mark.

Through numerous examples, detailed journalistic research (clearly not insider knowledge), and well-written stories Remy Stern tells us how this huge, visible, yet rather quiet industry operates. The book explained so much I truly didn't know. Having once gullibly purchased one of the mentioned examples, I could certainly anchor the topic in personal experience.

The book made for great airplane reading as well as bedtime reading. Two things bugged me though:

1. The author seems to consider as junk almost every product sold on infomercials or home shopping channels, or implicitly inferior to parallels sold on other sales channels. The occasional balanced view (typically, "the product works but the marketers' promises are inflated") seems to drown in the overall cynical tone.

2. The book isn't properly broken down to topics and chapters. Each chapter contains several subjects, which aren't clearly separated and aren't given headlines. Logical stopping points were hard to find and at some point I just gave up, reading portions until I felt like stopping, even in mid-subject.

I only recently started my own business, and I've had to learn a ton about marketing and selling my services. I've learned from various sources, some of which felt more right than others. This book has shown me where the somewhat blurry line passes between proper, ethical, honest marketing and other kinds of marketing I naturally didn't want to be associated with.

Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Madern Medical Breakthroughs
Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Madern Medical Breakthroughs
by Morton A. Meyers
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 2.78

3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating yet hard to follow, Oct. 8 2009
The book's ultimate thesis, plainly stated from the beginning, is that much of modern medicine can be traced back to serendipity (the "happy accidents") instead of directed research. Having a scientific background but being always on the receiving end of medicine, I was found that somewhat surprising, so I dove into the book.

The first 100 pages or so are fascinating. The stories are long, surprising, with just the right amount of twist. Dr. Meyers explains every concept and topic incredibly clearly and doesn't use jargon. He certainly makes his point in the first few chapters, including an important side-point: few researchers actually admit to serendipity and luck before receiving the awards for their discovery.

So far so good. And then the chapters change. Almost each chapter is now 2-5 pages long, the stories are brief, and they all end with a brief mention to the tune of "well, that was yet another case of serendipity". The chapters don't follow each other logically or chronologically. At this point, I found myself utterly confused.

As far as making a scientific topic accessible to laypeople, the way popular science books do, this book is a great read. However, it's neither an attempt at a complete proof of its thesis nor an attempt to coherently lay out the milestones of medicine's history. Ultimately, I'm disappointed.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
by Chip Heath
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.75
95 used & new from CDN$ 3.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Overturns Many Communication Habits, June 29 2009
Despite great feedback and evaluations from my students and clients, every now and then I'll be asked a question that totally baffles me. "I thought they understood", my mind says. "Didn't I explain this clearly enough?", it wonders.

From colleagues, I learnt to make training engaging and interactive. The NLP courses I've taken taught me to choose words that fit my audience's preferred sensory representation for information (visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic), to choose language that passes mental filters and doesn't generate resistance, and to structure the material to fit various learning styles. And still, I get the occasional baffling questions. Not too often, but enough for me to notice.

The book, "Made To Stick", sheds a very powerful light on this very quandary. Its entire point is: anyone can have great ideas or messages, and to make them stick (take hold, propagate), they must be packaged and presented a certain way.

The authors have analyzed numerous successful and unsuccessful presentations of ideas, and offer very simple criteria for success. Have an idea? Package it this way:
- Simple: Focus on the compact, core message
- Unexpected: Surprise the listener/reader
- Concrete: Anchor the message in concrete examples
- Credible: Make sure the audience can agree that the message's believable
- Emotional: Have your audience feel the message, rather than analyze it
- Story: Rather than deliver the punchline, tell a story that engages the listener to identify the punchline

Of course, the authors wrote the book according to these very principles, so it's practical and extremely engaging from the very first page.

After 240 fascinating pages, the authors go back and *explain* the reasons for these criteria. For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it has to make the audience pay attention, understand and remember it, agree and/or believe, care, and be able to act on it. I always took these matters for granted, hence my quandary; as they repeatedly explain, it's a problem every expert faces, and they have a name for it: The Curse of Knowledge. The book is incredibly useful because it recasts these criteria for stickiness as a simple checklist of the six principles above (whose very surprising acronym is SUCCESs).

Since reading this book, I've had occasion to practise with its ideas in emails and meetings, and the results have been very gratifying. I am looking forward to upgrading my training materials!

Working Among Programmers: A Field Guide to the Software World
Working Among Programmers: A Field Guide to the Software World
by Bruce Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.65
5 used & new from CDN$ 20.65

4.0 out of 5 stars An accurate account of the programmer persona, Dec 9 2006
Bruce Taylor clearly enjoys working with programmers and sees them for what they are: human beings. In his book, he takes great care to lay out all the facets of that curious programmer persona, which most programmers seem to share but rarely notice. This book lives at the intersection of psychology, coaching and engineering, which personally I find fascinating. The book is a great read: concise yet comprehensive, presented in layman's terms, and easy to follow.

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