Crisp It Up!

I don't think it's just me, but a lot of podcasts that I used to enjoy seem to be gathering barnacles and getting longer and longer. I'm now firmly of the opinion that if a podcast is longer than an hour then I'm going to get bored while I'm listening to it.

Starting with This Week in Tech and followed by other podcasts like EngadgetHD, PC Magazine Podcast, and even The Instance! have started covering topics at depth where they ramble and as a result they are getting closer to two hours long than one.

I'm not sure that the Manager Tools/Career Tools method of breaking up long items into multiple short segments is much better, as I've been skipping topics lately when they are in three 40-minute segments.

I sure wish the trend was more towards Wall Street Journal This Morning, where they cover a lot of info in just a short amount of time. Of course they plan and execute a radio show every day so they are veterans at this stuff. However, all of the podcasts I listen to have been making shows for over a year.

I'm at the point where I'm considering cutting more programs off my list. Perhaps it's because I'm back to working from home 4 out of 5 days a week that I've lost my tolerance for long podcasts, but it really seems to me like they've gotten longer.

(I also hate how trying to grab links from google searches includes a bunch of stuff in the URL you don't want.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review, Technology” Monday, Apr 27 2009 06:31 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Casino Royale

It seems that a great many people want continuity with the previous James Bond films when they go to see Casino Royale but the best way to approach it is to think of a variety of people are recruited to be James Bond in Her Majesty's Secret Service, and this latest blond-haired boy is just getting started. This movie was a refreshing look at a tough but human man becoming a double-0 agent and earning his chops. This was not supposed to be a continuation.

As a result, I like Judi Dench as M. I imagined that this M had recruited a few Bonds already and her tired and harassed demeanor had been earned through previous experiences. That Q and Moneypenny were missing did not bother me either, as this new Bond needed to prove himself first before having somewhere to grow.

The movie was a little long in some ways. I felt lost and at sea during a romantic interlude that was just a little long. I found myself annoyed at the oversold Sony placement in that same interlude. I generally pass it over when the movie is going well.

Even so, this was a great “learning” movie. Moviegoers love the plot of the young punk who gets downtrodden but learns to rise above it. From the Karate Kid to Star Wars, right? This Bond earns his luster as the movie progresses. I don't miss the easy humor of the Roger Moore era, because the Roger Moore Bond did not have the “learning” movie. He was already there, in his element.

This movie had top-notch gritty action sequences, beautiful locations and people, and at least one cool car. Gambling took center stage, for good reason, and it was handled well. I've read reviews that didn't like the gambling, but that's one of those things that Bond does, folks. Get used to it.

I give it four out of five stars, and rate it above most of the Bond movies I've seen. I just wonder how they'll follow it up.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Sunday, Nov 19 2006 10:07 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: MT Structured Blogging Plugin

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Thursday, Dec 15 2005 12:12 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Monday night Misty and I pre-screened Harry Potter at the Goblet of Fire in hopes of seeing that it would be appropriate for Alana (8) and Ryan (now 6). We came to the conclusion that it's probably too scary for them as yet. Perhaps I should not let Alana see it until she actually reads it and still asks to see it.

So, the widespread discussion about this new movie (and book) being considerably darker than the previous ones is certainly true. There's the same peril and adventure, but a decidedly nastier tone. People are actually killed and not saved in some way for the first time in the series. We have our first one-on-one confrontation with the nemesis. The light-hearted tone has faded somewhat.

However, we have a new addition that may be welcome for some in that each of our chums is starting to have romantic feelings. Of course they are confused and many angsty mistakes are made. That must be a given. We have our first dance and the usual comedy around asking people out, dressing up, and dancing.

The film checks in at two and a half hours and yet we still missed important parts of previous adventures. There's very little of the normal school stories, or even a Quidditch match. Confrontations with Snape and Malfoy feel truncated. There's no recognition of Harry's birthday (which starts off each book/year). There's no Headless Nick that I remember.

So, this film comes across a little rushed and flat compared to previous ones. I agree with others that Harry's cohorts appear to have done better acting around early teenage emotional issues compared to the main actor. Ralph Finnes did a great (and evil) performance. Little else really jumped out at me, except the new defense against the dark arts instructor. This is not going to win as my favorite of the four films, and none of these four compares to, say, Lord of the Rings. I gave the others a pass as being movies for children, but this one is no longer for children (at PG-13). And I certainly won't take my 8-year-old to see it.

Now I need to pre-screen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Wednesday, Dec 7 2005 07:16 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Veronica Mars

Based on a recommendation I recently purchased the DVDs for the first season of Veronica Mars. While Misty and I have only watched about half of them, I am pretty impressed with this television show, which is now in its second season. Misty and I enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and we were promised more snappy comebacks and teen hijinks and the series hasn't disappointed.

For those that haven't heard about it, Veronica is a high-school girl whose father is a private investigator. They live in Neptune, California, where the class divide is rather wide. There's a bunch of rich & pretty kids, and there's the kids of the servants of the rich & pretty. Veronica's father used to be the Sheriff of the county where Neptune is sited, and so she managed to rub elbows with everyone in the school. Her father fell from grace, however, due to his handling of the murder investigation of Veronica's best friend—daughter of a powerful software magnate.

The plot is very complex and detailed, and the arc moves forward with details and glimpses. It's a great murder mystery with plenty of the other PI stories wrapped into the package, and it has the background of a 90210. It's got a little bit of angst, but not as bad as an argument between Buffy and Angel.

Misty misses Spike and I miss Cordelia, but this show is considerably more real than the Buffyverse. There's no super powers. However, Veronica is plenty sharp, but at least she makes mistakes. Her mistakes are less technical and far more reflect the fact that she has the emotional experience of a late teenager.

We're still working our way through the series, and we have to pay attention to the details! I like it a lot, so I strongly recommend it to others (so far).

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Wednesday, Nov 23 2005 10:20 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

Review: Serenity

Last night I went to watch Serenity with Misty and our buddy John McEnroe. For a science fiction flick there was definitely a feel of a lot of fans of the television series Firefly present, but I have not seen the series. I haven't watched any significant television since Babylon 5 finished. After that, I was worried that the “arc” television series was a rare breed.

Instead I focused on DVD's of series that had strong appeal. I have the aforementioned Babylon 5 alongside many other great arc-based series. It was on the advice of friends I trust that I tried Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Stargate SG-1. I never saw more than the first season of Star Trek: Voyager or any of Andromeda or, with apparent misfortune, Firefly. Even so, I went into this movie with an open mind.

Perhaps there was less time spent on the characters because of the pre-existing series, but I understood well enough. I don't think I was as invested in some of the folks as much as others in the audience. I liked the bad guy, but I had to take some time to understand the dynamic. Emotions were drawn in broad strokes and I was worried that everyone was going to be a caricature. I wanted some of those feelings that seemed real and not overdone that I had enjoyed in some of the better moments of Buffy and Angel. Sure, they had their overwrought angst at times, but the target demographic is into that.

First thing that struck me as different than recent episodes of Star Wars was that the folks in Serenity had decent dialogue that the actors enjoyed delivering. Comparison of this movie with the love scenes of Star Wars reminds you that oppressive gloom still exists in some people's lives. There was plenty of violence, and a plot that, while driven reasonably openly, made you wonder who was going to survive at the end. If I had been more invested in the characters I would have been on the edge of my seat. Who was a red shirt? Who was a star? I couldn't tell, and I liked it.

As for the story itself, I don't want to ruin it. It was decent, had some good ahas and twists, and didn't require extensive foreknowledge of the universe to follow. It also made me wonder what I had missed from the series, as some of the jokes, meaningful looks, or references seemed to be connected to something that had happened before.

If you are a sci-fi fan that likes a bit of weirdness, go see it.

Update: I'm adding this one to the Beltway Sunday Drive at Outside the Beltway.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Saturday, Oct 1 2005 08:36 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Spielberg's War of the Worlds

I went to see War of the Worlds yesterday full of lowered expectations primed by a variety of negative reviews I had already seen around the Internet. Luckily lowering my expectations led to an enjoyable experience at the theater.

I have read the novel by H. G. Wells, and I have seen the original movie from the 50's, both of which have their own tone. I never heard the famous radio drama, however, so I have missed out on some of the history of this story. While most people should be familiar with the premise, I'll try not to ruin the ending anyway.

The story is based on the idea that distant aliens have watched Earth from afar and plotted its demise from long ago. This particular telling of the invasion is more faithful to the book than the old movie, even keeping the three legged tripods from the novel. (I suspect Wells, like the later L. Neil Smith, want aliens that were, well, alien, not exhibiting the same bilateral symmetry of most species on Earth.)

The movie is quite creepy and horrifying, as the novel and the radio show were intended to be. When our gaggle of friends was discussing the movie afterward, Independence Day was brought up. Of course, the ending of that movie was intensely unsatisfying to me. This movie handled the ending far better, although some aspects were weak. I get the feeling that Spielberg hates endings, as I have been unhappy with the last act of many of his movies. However, the opening and ending narrations (by Morgan Freeman) directly quoting the novel were excellent bookends to the story in between.

As corny as Tom Cruise has been in public, he made a solid performance in this movie. He was a solid realistic anchor. In fact, most of the special effects in this movie were no so much spectacular as realistic. It is the realism of the entire thing that makes it so creepy. It's as though this could happen, if you can suspend reality enough around the items that are far-fetched.

After all, burying death machines on a planet such as ours before the dawn of recorded history is a very long-term plan. However, I can buy that. Crossing space with people is a lot more tricky affair than sending hardware. Ship the hardware first and the people afterward. One could even wonder if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was really the delivery of underground death machines all over the planet. Robert Ebert had difficulty with this point, I can let it pass.

Spielberg had to modernize certain aspects of the novel to make it pass for modern day. We can accept that. There is very little in the modern world that is common with the world of 1898. At least Spielberg does not set those two worlds at war as well. In doing so, Spielberg also had to change the story to make it more emotionally compelling. The characters so added did not take anything away from the novel's undercurrent. Survive! Do what is necessary! Wonder at your luck!

There is less of the sense of wonder in this movie as there was in, say, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T., as these aliens are most definitely a threat. But you can feel it when people want to know what's going on, or they crowd around a hole in the street where lightning struck tens of times. Random quotes from the crowd also underscore the “we have no idea what is going on” aspect. Spielberg is trying to tell a human story with an alien backdrop. The point is the relationship between a father and his two children, not the invasion from another planet. That sets this movie apart from the B-movies of the 50's or Independence Day.

As I said at the beginning, I ended up liking the movie and I expected not to. I don't know if will work as well as a DVD in the hyper-distracted household. You have to sit there and experience it. A lot of movies lose their impact in the home. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review, Science Fiction” Saturday, Jul 2 2005 07:43 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Yes, people already gathered that I was disappointed, but I needed to write down (or rant) a few more thoughts. Take what I write with a grain of salt. I didn't like Willow very much either.

I loved the original Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back; I felt a little burned by the lazy Return of the Jedi; and I thought the prequels were more advertising for Industrial Light and Magic than they were movies. Many people have postulated that George Lucas has lost the fire in his belly for directing. I don't think so. I think George Lucas loves art directing in terms of special effects.

But Episodes I, II and III were not just art, they were movies about people and I think all of us that watched Ep III Saturday night were disappointed because the people were two-dimensional, unsurprising and driven to their conclusions by fate. (Recall that the musical theme of the big fights in the prequels was titled “Duel of the Fates.”) Where's a character as compelling as any in the original trilogy? Obi-Wan, perhaps, Palpatine, sure, but who else?

To me, the difference between fate and free will is the difference between fantasy and science fiction. When Anakin was fated to be a Jedi by blood in Episode I it was no different to me than any of the three billion Disney Princess stories: you're born into greatness, you don't earn it. This clashes with my world view. I was far happier with the Atlas Shrugged undertones of The Incredibles than the great train wreck of Darth Vader's life.

Prophecy, destiny, the will to power and noble blood run through the Jedi in these stories, and it makes them into snotty, arrogant blue bloods. They deserved Darth Vader bringing them into balance by wiping them out. The only things truly interesting in this series were the Emperor's back-story and the magnificent fighting of a real martial artist in the first prequel.

This movie had excellent special effects, but all my criticisms from May 20th still hold. A commenter to that post said that it had a time-proven plot that appealed to kids. What plot is that? Evil sometimes wins because good is stupid? Fall in love and destroy the universe? I think kids would prefer a lecture on Aristotle's four virtues (prudence, justice, courage and temperance) than see this treatment of essentially the same material.

At least now we know that people who get wrinkles are drawing on the dark side of the force.

Do the prequels change the original trilogy for me? Perhaps a little, but not in a positive way. Sure, plot holes were sewn up handily as Episode III progressed, but what happened to little things, like R2D2's thrusters? How does Darth Vader know he's Luke's father but doesn't recognize his own droids, one of which he built himself and the other which kept his fighter working all the time? How does he not recognize Leia's hairstyle as a retro look his own wife sported for at least a minute of screen time, and therefore surmise that someone with such an odd sense of style had to be his daughter?

The mysteries of the original series are now horribly disfigured. Now we no longer wonder if Yoda could kick butt if he wanted to. Now we instead wonder what's going on in Chewbacca's mind as he knows a heck of a lot more than he is saying.

I was neither happy nor unhappy with this movie. I'm not going to go see it again in the theater. I probably will buy the DVD when it comes out. I suspect that if Lucas wanted to make some money, he could completely redo the original special effects in digital. Those stories, in their original form, are far more interesting than these last three.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Monday, May 23 2005 03:56 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I watched The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last night and was rewarded with campy science fiction fun. While there were a few surprises, notably the changes in the storyline, it was a lot of fun. My wife had never read the book or seen any previous material so it was quite new to her. I was worried because she had talked to a friend who said the movie was horrible. I determine that the friend was talking about the old rendition, not the movie that was released into the theaters yesterday.

The parts I liked were the surprisingly good special effects and notably British humor. I especially liked Alan Rickman voicing our depressed robot, Marvin. The parts I didn't like are when I felt the story drag a little and the jumps away from the storyline I remembered that felt tacked on for universal appeal. There were only a few places where I felt the film was padded, but my wife mentioned that the movie felt short. Some have said the movie was more a set of skits tacked together. Of course, Douglas Adams used to write for TV, so his books read a bit like a serial anyway, so that's part of the appeal. I liked who they picked for Arthur and Trillian, Ford and Zaphod were passable.

The emphasis on the Trillian romance was expected in order to widen the appeal of this book to more people, but I heard teenagers in the audience who were bored. They didn't grow up with The Hitchhiker's Guide as a permanent resident of the private collection like I did. I'm not sure if the other books of the trilogy will make it to the big screen, but they left the opening there for sure.

Someone get me a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster.

5/2/2005 Update: Captain Ed has posted his review at Captain's Quarters. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Saturday, Apr 30 2005 07:07 AM  |  Permalink  |  4 comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Microsoft Anti-Spyware Ineffective

I had mentioned that I installed Microsoft's Anti-Spyware Tool (which is in beta test) to give it a whirl. So far it has found exactly one problem to date and otherwise annoyed me with modal dialog boxes indicating it did a nightly run with no results.

I'm not the only one to have noticed. The Associated Press, who I generally don't take seriously as a news organization, has nonetheless posted a review of the same tool. The review is significantly negative but nonetheless apologetic for criticising Microsoft. If it had been some other vendor it wouldn't have received a free ride.

For now the other tools I use (AdAware, SpyBot, Norton Antivirus, Zone Labs Integrity Client) have nothing to fear from this new upstart. After all, I have something almost unheard of in the PC industry: a laptop that gets regular daily use on the Internet thats has not been reinstalled from scratch in four years…

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Friday, Jan 21 2005 02:36 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: The Teaching Company's Change and Motion: Calculus Made Clear

Based on Jacqueline Passey's comments on The Teaching Company's work, specifically Change and Motion: Calculus Made Clear, I got this particular set of four DVDs on sale and gave them a look over the past few weeks.

As a piece of background, when I got my Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Widener University I only needed on more class to get a minor in Mathematics, so I did. Does that make me a mathematician? Hardly. I haven't used much more than Discrete Mathematics, Logic, Linear Algebra and Statistics since then, although remembering a lot of fuzzy details allowed me to get past some discussions better than others. When I started graduate school at Widener, we were doing systems of vector differential equations. One of my more favorite books was Knuth's Concrete Mathematics.

Professor Michael Starbird is reasonably engaging and humorous, and he makes a good try at bringing dry material to life. He has arranged the lecture in a way to focus on the big picture in a relatively non-mathematical way, although it doesn't hurt if you understand Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry.

This math course is presented for the non-mathematical. It is more of an explanation of Applied Calculus with fairly simple but interesting applications. When I took Calculus in my undergraduate days it was immediately applied to Engineering Physics. After all, I started on an Engineering major and switched to Computer Science later. As a result I thought many of the examples were somewhat simplistic… but how would this work with someone unfamiliar with the subject?

I think someone with no significant background in mathematics would benefit from this treatment. There's history, application, simplification, and very good explanation as to why we're doing these exercises. For example, a typical dry book on the subject would start with limits, then derivatives, then integrals and would probably concentrate on the mechanics of their calculation. This series starts with an application and slowly derives the tools for solving the posed problem, explaining the fundamental theorem, finally, in the fourth lecture over an hour and a half into the series. Even then it is missing limits, but they are not sorely missed.

If you know someone that is struggling with Calculus because they want to know why things are the way they are and what the heck is this thing good for, and loves a little dose of history in the process, this is a great series for them. In fact, I would suggest exposing new students to this material before they take Calculus. In fact, I would suggest exposing new students to this material before they take Physics.

Overall, I think I will examine some more of The Teaching Company's materials—especially the history—but their materials are very expensive. I didn't mind paying the sale price for this series on Calculus as it was no worse than buying a few DVDs from the Standard Deviants. But, if one bought it at list price it would cost $255, not including another $30 or so for shipping. Some of their DVD sets with 72 lectures cost half a kilobuck or more. I wish they had more business materials as that's what I'm studying at the moment.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Friday, Dec 10 2004 04:43 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

Review: Team America: World Police

It's been a while I've been to see something made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, generally because it's hard to see their deliberately offensive material when there's kids in the house. Even so, one likes their ability to take pot shots at almost everyone. Last night's movie had its share. Last night's movie also had its share of humor that was a little too repetitive.

The premise of the movie, as rewritten by Fox News to be readable by the general public, is that people in the world fall into three groups: sissies, jerks, and psychos. It's up to the jerks to stop the psychos and up to the sissies to keep the jerks from being totally carried away. It's a decent premise, although the way it was presented was offensive to my wife and she rejected the message on that basis.

However, much of the movie is spent being rude to beloved or hated icons. Seems enough like satire to me. Most actors and entertainers who speak about politics are fair game. Michael Moore gets particularly unbecoming attention as a putrid, fat suicide bomber. The movie Pearl Harbor and Ben Affleck are derided in song (although it gives credit to Cuba Gooding, Jr.). Most of the actors pictured were unliked by me before the movie started, because of their idiotic statements in the past not because of what they do in the movie.

Some of the in-jokes about movie-making were paricularly uproarious for me. The ong “Montage” had me rolling on the floor. I snickered when a marionette tried to point to the heart of another. I loved the goldfish in the background of the submarine scenes. And the ferocious “panthers” were not to be missed. Nods were mode to movies, especially Kill Bill and Thunderbirds. Almost any action movie cliche gets coverage. Even the stroll through Washington, DC to see the monuments to our forefathers is ironically pictured with puppets in familiar poses.

I suspect I was one of the few that got the philosophical in-joke of calling the bad guys “malignant narcissists.” Tammy Bruce will be so happy. Too bad many conservatives won't see this movie because it is so offensive.

Many have noticed the irony of the Team America destroying cultural treasures wherever they go to defeat terrorists. I found that to be funny. Although I admit I don't have a lot of love for the bribe-taking French so there was no love lost, for me, to see the destruction of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc d'Triomphe, or the Louvre. The rampage in Egypt was similar but not as heart-felt.

Scatalogical humor abounds, including puppet sex, throwing up, bad words, sodomy and the memorable theme song. Par for the course for these South Park creators.

The movie will offend most, and it spends too much time on certain gruesome moments, but ultimately I liked it. I felt it picked more on the sissies than it did the jerks. I never really cared about the story of psychos except the indomitable Kim Jong Il. And to the chagrin of the actors depicted, I don't much care for them either. It's a pity that Matt and Trey did not use their Dubya and Kerry puppets that they made. It would have been nice to see them lampooned in Team America fashion.

Many in Hollywood are appalled because the message of the movie is generally supportive of the idea of pre-emptive war to stop psychos from destroying the world. Such is life. I'm glad that these two guys that made their fortunes non-traditionally can thumb their noses at Hollywood elitists. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Saturday, Oct 16 2004 10:29 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Star Wars, DVD Edition

So we sat down the entire family to watch a movie I first saw when I was seven years old. In fact, I watched it nine times that year, once in Spanish. It was probably the first major memorization piece I did, competing with the Preamble to the Constitution.

Misty and I were perhaps trying to reproduce the intense excitement we, as youngsters, had that summer. We experimented by doing “Family Movie Night” with seven-year-old Alana, and almost-five-year-old Ryan.

George's changes to the movies were subtly different from the old Special Edition, but dramatic from the original version, which I still have on Laserdisc. The cleanup of special effects artifacts is phenomenal, although I could still see discolored blotchy regions of reddish black around the Tie Fighters attacking the Millenium Falcon. No one else noticed. I believe everyone focused on the great picture and sound.

The golden standard of Family Movie Night is Finding Nemo. It's brilliant color and unusual location are hard to compete with for the four-year-old set. Even that movie in the theater had the occasional repetitive questions, dramatic outbursts and forgotten plot points. The only times where there was no fidgiting and asking the endless talking were during the space battles. Alana actually fell asleep for the final assault, although she often stays up that late on weekends.

For me, personally, it was a great rendition of the classic. For Misty I could tell she was annoyed with the family bickering (and possibly with my occasional direct quoting of lines as they were said) but says it was really cool. It was special for her since she hadn't seen it for decades and it was the first movie she saw ina theater. Alana says she didn't like the movie because it was violent. She says she prefers Star Trek, although she wasn't firm on that point. Ryan liked the movie, and even remembered the name the next morning. He especially liked “when that guy destroyed that big robot-ship.”

We'll see how it goes when we move on to the slightly more violent and definitely darker Empire Strikes Back.

Update: I forgot to comment on the music during the final battle. Yes, the music was dropped to an almost inaudible level. That disturbed me at the time. I should go review the laserdisc to see the difference.

The Star Wars soundtrack was one of the first movie soundtracks I listened to for its own sake. John Williams raised the statute of the movie with its soundtrack. It is another element that set the movie apart from its counterparts. Compare it to the music in V: The Final Battle for stark contrast.

Between the score for this movie and the vinyl rendition of The Hobbit I grew up a strange kid. I would have preferred to hear that score throughout the battle rather than during the quiet parts. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Saturday, Sep 25 2004 09:10 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Essentials

Digitally Obsessed reviews Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Essentials.

What annoys me about this new MST3K set is that it includes a movie I already have along with a new one. I'd rather have one of their four-packs or movies done individually. I don't want to re-buy material I already have!

As a result I don't have Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on DVD, MST3K style. I still have my videotaped version, though. links

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Monday, Aug 16 2004 09:52 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Review: The Effective Executive, Revised by Peter F. Drucker

I read this book on my recent trip to and from Austin to visit with my EVMS team. This is an interesting short book about effectiveness, not limited to executives but applicable to all knowledge workers. As the jacket states,

The measure of an executive, Peter Drucker reminds us, is the ability to "get the right things done." This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results.

The book starts with an essay with the theme, "effectiveness can be learned." He goes on to point out that the value of a knowledge worker is his or her ability to contribute to the corporation, not to attend meetings. Thus, it makes sense that his essential practices are related to this theme:

  1. Know thy time
  2. What can I contribute?
  3. Make strength productive
  4. Set the right priorities
  5. Make effective decisions

Most of knowing ones time is realizing where it all goes. Meetings are generally not a way to contribute to the organization. Working with customers might not be either. He asserts that an executive's time belongs to everyone else. As far as contribution goes, an executive easily falls into the trap of handling operations instead of really contributing to the company. He points out that organizations are supposed to be multipliers of the contributions of the knowledge workers within them, but typically fail at this. Another common trap is by being within an organization an executive may lose his or her global view.

While some of the book goes all the way back to the first essays from Drucker in 1966, most of it still rings true today. It helps that the text has been revised several times since then, most recently in 2002.

Compare his list of five with Covey's list of seven habits:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win/win
  5. Seek first to understand, then be understood
  6. Synergize principles of creative communication
  7. Sharpen the saw: principles of self-renewal

Some are certainly similar, especially prioritization, but Covey emphasizes communications, relationships, and self-development . I think Covey's list reflects our modern sensibilities, but Drucker's view has its merit. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review” Wednesday, Aug 4 2004 08:44 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks


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