Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Book Review: Dancing With the Devil in the City of God

Dancing With the Devil in the City of God 
By Juliana Barbassa
ISBN 978-1-4767-5625-7
308 Pages

This is the forty-eighth book that I have read this year, towards my goal to average reading a book a week for the entire year, which I totally blew away last year.

Juliana Barbassa is a journalist that was born in Brazil but spent many years growing up in Iraq where her father worked for the Brazilian State Oil Company. They returned to Brazil but her father’s career would take her to Houston. After 20 years she moved back to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro in 2010 to witness the city and the country as it prepared for the 2014 World Cup and ultimately the 2016 Olympic Games. Barbassa gives a great history of the city and country including the military dictatorship that ruled for 20 years and what has happened since so called democracy took over. She covers everything from politics, to the police, the gang wars, urban renewal, how it is to be a business owner in the country and the environment.

After reading this book those living in countries such as the United States should have a better appreciation for our quality of life compared to Brazil. That is not to say that Brazil does not have some wonderful people, some of whom I had to the opportunity to work with last year. However, it is clear after reading this book that the country, and especially Rio de Janeiro, has some serious problems it still needs to work on. Also, for all those that whine about how hard it is to be in business in the United States, read that book and appreciate how good it is here compared to there. While it may not be impossible to run a business in Rio it definitely is not for the faint of heart.

However, while you can take heart in how we are better off we still have skeletons in our closet, especially when it comes to Urban Renewal and how it was run from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, and in various cases the way some projects still happen.

Overall the book is an excellent read and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to see what Rio de Janeiro is doing to get ready for the Olympics, its history, and the current conditions that residents face in the city. It is also a great book to inspire some soul searching on the mistakes we have made in the past and how we can do better in the future.

This book gets an A.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Goal Block

English: football goal
English: football goal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people know what writer's block is but what is goal block? Well it is actually the same thing except in this case you have a difficult time getting your goals down on paper. I went through this in the last week as I put together my goals for the month of September. There are several things I am looking to accomplish this month but putting down in goals proved to be difficult so therefore I went back to basics.

I previously said that goals need to be specific, written down, have a time line, and be realistic. I also have written that you need to have long range goals, medium range goals and short range goals and that the short and medium range goals should lead up to your long range goals. The difficulty was trying to write the goals so that they would be specific enough to create a good goal.

After several failed attempts at creating goals I finally decided to throw everything I had written and go back to the basics and look at my long range and medium range goals to see where I currently stand on them, what I can do in the next month to move toward those goals and what I other activities I must get done. I also had to take into the account the amount of time I would have over the next month to accomplish these goals.

By going back to the basics and knowing what I needed to accomplish I was able to set good goals for the month of September. This allowed me to set my goals for this week and for each day of the week so I am prepared for the month.

If you are having trouble setting goals for a particular month, week, or day go back to the basics, look a your long range and medium range goals, think about what you need to accomplish this month that sets you on track and if necessary do something that lets you clear your mind and come back at it again later so that your mind is clear and you can set goals that you will achieve.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: If the Allies Had Fallen

Animated map showing German and Axis allies' c...
Animated map showing German and Axis allies' conquests in Europe throughout World War II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always enjoyed alternate reality stories and a few years ago I started reading a variety of fiction about alternative realities. After reading a few books from one of the more popular authors of alternative history Harry Turtledove I wanted to read more from other authors and while searching Amazon the book "If the Allies Had Fallen: Sixty Alternative Scenarios of World War II" and decided to take look at it so I rented it from the library.

The first thing I discovered about the book is that it was not an alternative history book but a book about alternate scenarios that could have happened in World War II. Fortunately I also am a fan of history so the book proved to be an interesting read. The book is 284 pages plus a couple of pages of information about the different authors of the book. Most of the writers are professors so the book can truly be considered an academia book.

Second, the book title is extremely misleading since it really does have little to do if the Allies had fallen. There is only two sections of the book that talk about what would have happened if Germany had won the war. The first was the most confusing which takes place about half way through the book when one of authors discusses one possible scenario and then in the last paragraph gives an alternate history like it had really happened. The second section is the final 12 pages of the book that discuss certain scenarios that could have seen a German win in the war but most of prefaced saying that they were extremely unlikely.

One of the most interesting scenarios in the book discusses D-day and when the invasion should have happened but did not. It really gives an interesting light to the politics going on in Great Britain at the time and shows some of their motives.

Another aspect of the book that is interesting is the authors take on the situation in Japan. There will always be the controversy about whether the Japanese were ready to surrender or not and whether the dropping of the bomb was really necessary. The authors do a good job of showing both sides of the argument and the motivations behind each side but without passing judgement so you can make up your own mind which side is true.

Because it is an academia book it is a more tedious read although not terrible. Despite the flaws and the misleading title I give the book 4 stars because it does give an excellent run down of World War II and what could have happened during the war.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Last Years Reading List

English: Open book icon
English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in my post about the goals for next year, last year I read a total of 87 books after after seeing a posting from speaker and friend Rich Hopkins that he was going to try to read a book a week and decided to do the same.

My reading list included fiction, urban planning and design, motivational/self-help, business, history, biographies and politics. The fiction category comprised mainly of Star Trek books and the Tomorrow, When the War Began series which is a Australian version of Red Dawn but because they comprise a seven book series are much more details and character development than the Red Dawn movies.

Except for the Star Trek books most of which I purchased since they are not available in our local library, all the books I read came from the Multnomah County Library.

Here is a listing of the books by category:

Category/Title                                         Author:                                      Recommended?

Motivational/Self Help

The 5 Love Languages                           Gary Chapman                           Yes
Barefoot Executive                                 Carrie Wilkerson                        Yes
Raising Positive Kids                             Zig Ziglar                                    Yes
Think and Grow Rich                             Napoleon Hill                             Yes
The Millionaire Next Door                     Tom Stanley/William Danko     Yes
Be the Miracle                                         Regina Brett                               Yes
Hijacked By Your Brain                         Julian Ford, Jon Wortmann        Yes
How Full is Your Bucket?                      Tom Rath, Donald Clifton          Yes
Life Without Limits                                Nick Vujivic                               Yes
Break Out                                               Joel Osteen                                  Yes
Wishes Fulfilled                                     Wayne Dyer                                 No
Life Reimagined                                     Richard Leider, Alan Webber     Yes
How to Win Friends and Influence...     Dale Carnegie and others            Yes
100 Ways to Motivate Yourself             Steve Chandler                            Yes
How Successful People Think               John Maxwell                              Yes
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind             T. Harv Ecker                              No
E-Squared                                               Pam Grout                                   Yes
The Butterfly Effect                               Andy Andrews                            Yes
Better Than Good                                  Zig Ziglar                                     Yes
Outliers                                                  Malcolm Gladwell                        No
Relentless                                              Tim Grover                                   Yes
Power of Your Subconscious Mind      Joseph Murphy                             Yes
The Purpose Driver Life                       Rick Warren                                  Yes
Instant Influence                                   Michael Plantalon                          Yes
Drive                                                     Daniel Pink                                    Yes
Finding A Way to Win                         Bill Parcells                                   Yes
Top Performance                                  Zig Ziglar                                       Yes
Take The Lead                                      Betsy Meyers                                 Yes
Motivation Manifesto                           Brendan Burchard                          Yes
Get Motivated                                       Tamara Lowe                                Maybe...


Daybreak Zero                                       John Barnes                                   No

Star Trek: 

From History's Shadow                         Dayton Ward                                 Only for Star Trek Fans
The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms              Dayton Ward                                 Yes
Voyager: Protectors                               Kristen Beyer                                Only for Star Trek Fans
No Time Like the Past                           Greg Cox                                       No

Tomorrow When the War Began:

Tomorrow When the War Began          John Marsden                                Yes
The Dead of Night                                John Marsden                                Yes
A Killing Frost                                      John Marsden                                Yes
Darkness Be My Friend                        John Marsden                                Yes
Burning For Revenge                            John Marsden                                Yes
The Night is for Hunting                       John Marsden                                Yes
The Other Side of Dawn                       John Marsden                                Yes

Urban Planning/Design:

Zoned Out                                             Jonathon Levine                           Only to Planning Nerds
Planning a New West                           Abbott, Abbott, and Adler            Yes
Ethical Land Use                                  Timothy Beatley                           No
Planning and Diversity in the City       Ruth Fincher, Kurt Iveson            No
Planning With Complexity                   Judith Innes                                  No
Portland Edge                                       Various                                         No
The Seaside Debates                             Robert Davis, Tod Bressi,           Yes
American Urban Form                         Warner, Whittemore                     Yes
Living Over the Store                           Howard Davis                              Yes
Principles of Ecological Landscape
    Design                                              Travis Beck                                   Yes
How to Study Public Life                     Jan Gehl, Birgitte Svarre              Yes
Design for an Emphatic World             Ryn, Hawken                               Yes
Cities for People                                   Jan Gehl                                        Yes
Death and Life of Great American
    Cities                                                 Jane Jacobs                                   Yes
Walkable City                                       Jeff Speck                                     Yes
Urban Design                                        Cuesta, Moughtin, Moughtin       Yes
Living Streets                                        Bain, Gray, Rodgers                    Yes
Happy City                                            Charles Montgomery                   Yes
Urban Design Handbook                      Urban Design Associates             Yes
New Urban China                                 Laurence Liauw                           No
Toward Sustainable Communities        Various                                        Yes

Democracy and Populism                    John Lukacs                                 Yes
That Used to be Us                               Friedman, Mandelbaum               Yes
Planet of Slums                                    Mike Davis                                   Yes
New American Militarism                   Andrew Bacevich                         Yes
To Serve God and Wal-Mart               Bethany Moreton                          Yes
The Metropolitan Revolution              Bruce Katz, Jennifer Bradley        Yes
Bowling Alone                                     Robert Putnam                              Yes
Rise of the Creative Class                    Richard Florida                             Yes
Collapse                                               Jared Diamond                               Yes
The Elusive State of Jefferson             Peter Laufer                                   Yes
Convention Center Follies                   Heywood T. Sanders                     Yes


Retail 101                                            Nicole Reyhle, Jason Prescott       Yes
Supply Chain Strategy                        Edward Frazelle                             Yes
Retail Doctors Guide to Growing
        Your Business                             Bob Phibbs                                    Yes


They Got it Wrong: History               Emma Marriott                             Yes


Steve Jobs: The Exclusive                  Walter Isaccson                             Yes
Jim Henson                                         Brian Jay Jones                              Yes
Thomas Jefferson                               John Meacham                               Yes
Albert Einstein                                                                                           Yes
Elizabeth Smart                                  Elizabeth Smart                              Yes
Neil Armstrong                                  Jay Barbree                                     Yes
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos
       and the Age of Amazon              Brad Stone                                      Yes
Steve Jobs: The Man who Thought
       Different                                      Karen Blumenthal                          Yes


Frontiers Past and Future                    Carl Abbott                                   Yes

Sorry about the formatting but it is a Blogger thing.

It should also be noted that while I recommend all the books in the Politics/Social category I may not necessarily agree with everything that the book has to say.

I still have many books on loan to read plus I also received some for Christmas that I plan on reading soon also.

Happy Reading Everyone...            

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Are your goals set for 2015?

It is that time of the year that we start thinking about what has happened in the past year and start thinking about the new year to come. This is also the time that people think up New Years resolution's that get forgotten by January 2nd, I have already discussed the importance of setting goals and how to set them.I  also talked about a good planner to keep track of what you need to be doing. Today I am going to discuss putting them together to set your yearly goals and to make plans for the year to come.

Last year I had a small planner that was about 5X7 but it just did not work out the way I wanted it to. I found that I liked to have more room to put hourly schedules in and have room for important dates. This year I purchased a planner that measures 9X12 but is still convenient to carry around. This planner is an weekly appointment book that is broken down by 15-minute intervals 7 days a week and runs from 7am to 8pm.

In addition at the there is a monthly calendar at the beginning of every month. One feature that attracted my attention to this particular planner was that both the monthly calender and the weekly appointment sections have an area for notes that I can write my goals for that month and week into and see them every day as a reminder of what I am going to accomplish. I will have to say it sometimes scary to see how fast the calendar is already filling up and we haven't hit the new year yet.

Now that I have a planner that I like that allows me to put in my monthly and weekly goals there is the job of getting the yearly goals done. As I mentioned on the posts about setting goals there are long range (life) goals, medium range goals and your yearly goals with the yearly goals set up as stepping stones to those big life or long range goals.

Last year I accomplished several of my goals a lot sooner than I had planned for which means I set the bar too low so this year I am raising that bar. For example I hit my weight loss goal by the first of September and even though I do not have that far to go I want to hit my final weight by the time I attend an importance conference from April 17th to April 21st. While this is a tight deadline it creates a challenge to overcome especially since I want to buy a nice new suite for the conferance and don't want it to be too big after a few months!

Another goal I set up was to have an update set of life goals by April 1st. While I already have a set of life goals, they should be reevaluated every few years to ensure that you are on the right track or when you have major life changes that cause you to reevaluate your priorities in life. An example using a medium range goal is that I have a picture of a Ford Raptor on my desk as it was something I wanted a few years ago. Well life has changed and that Raptor no longer appeals to me so that goal has changed.

On the other hand there is also times that you may reevaluate how aggressive you are with a goal. I have mentioned previously that I added a goal during the year to read a book a week after seeing the that my friend Rich Hopkins was doing it. Well not only did I meet the goal I blew it away by reading 87 books this past year. While I could say I want to be even more aggressive this year instead I am actually sticking with the 52 from last year. While I love to read there was times last year that reading became a choir so I am going to work on enjoying it again instead of worrying about how much I am reading.

Now is the time to get those goals in order and ready for the challenges the of the new year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays and Christmas memories

First of all I want to wish all of you the happiest of holidays, writing this as another Christmas Eve dawns.

The other day I was asked what kinds of Christmas traditions have we started with our family since we adopted our children and it took me a while to think about it. We have tried our best to give them a good Christmas experience but what defines our family when it comes to the Christmas tradition.

I then flashed back to my earliest Christmas memory which is not one that many people would want to remember. It was the Christmas after I had turned six years old and I spent most of the Christmas season at La Vina hospital which included having surgery. I was suffering from double phenomena, had fluid in my lungs, bronchitis and other things wrong we me and wasn't expected to live (fooled them...). But that set up what would become a Christmas tradition when the hospital allowed me to go home and decorate the Christmas tree.

Every year after that the decorating of our Christmas tree became a family tradition, Then after having worked retail for several years, my Christmas spirit was largely gone as I would often see the worst that our society had to offer. People pulling guns on each other to get the some poorly made piece of junk VCR that wouldn't last six months because it was made extra cheaply to be sold cheaply for Black Friday, people at the doors after we closed on Christmas Eve blaming us that their childrens's Christmas would be ruined because we closed and so on.

However, despite that there was still treasured memories including that cause you to truly remember which ironically usually involved when you give to others including the year that we worked at a homeless shelter making Christmas dinners and giving to organizations that help others during this time of year.

But now, as a father I can once again see the better part of Christmas. Of course we do our best that our children truly understand the true meaning of Christmas but in today's over commercialized world it is not always easy. What is something that we can do that will given them that precious memory that lasts a life time? Most of the time those memories are something that happen by chance, not something that is planned.

One minor thing that we started doing is to go look at Christmas lights on either Christmas day or Christmas Eve. Because I have to get up early on Friday this year we are going out tonight. They even get a bigger thrill because we allow them to go out in pajamas and bathrobes when we take the drive.

What are your special memories of the holidays?

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas and create some special memories.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Death and Life...

DSC_0022.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is times that we seem to go through certain activities in our day that become so routine that we often don't think about them. Then comes a day that not only changes that so common routine but also has a major impact on your life. It is a day that you think about what is most important in life, makes you think about those who are most important to you, and may have an impact on your very future. Yesterday was one of those days for me and it started first thing in the morning.

At least three, and usually four or five a days a week I head to the Portland Community College track and exercise as it is just a short walk down a trail from where I live. I arrived at the track at about 5:30 and was about to start my first walk around the track when I noticed something laying along the track about a quarter around from where I start. At first I thought it might be some garbage that was dragged there by the neighborhood foxes or coyotes that live in the area but as I got closer I realized it was a person lying on the ground.