Friday, May 1, 2009

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by Dalai Lama

Rating 2/5

the first book about Buddhism that I read was “an end to suffering” by Pankaj Mishra. I liked it very much and in my excitement I picked up this popular book by the Dalai Lama. I was disappointed.

I found much of his writing is similar to that of Deepak Chopra, I am surprised that people have not called his bluff yet. In his writing he does not seem to be the great person that he is made out to be in the media.

In the book, someone from the audience and asks “how to deal with suffering, great loss, loss of child”. To this the Dalai Lama offers vague, half baked solutions, shallow analysis “... idea of rebirth”, “ stop worrying because long-term worrying is harmful.” these fantasies solutions, with reward and punishment. They are not true insight into human suffering.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Prelude to foundation –Isaac Asimov

Rating: 3/5

my first Asimov book. The best part is that it is not bad. Story and writing are plain. I do not see much creativity in the story, he does not take advantage of all the possibilities that science fiction offers. I will read one more book from the same author just to see whether he is consistently like this.

Extra comments:
my friend, who recommended this book, says Asimov's cool idea is that humanity does not change over time. I think the lack of change depicted shows the lack of creativity of the author.

Just as an example: how about predicting a world where humans do not have the internal conflict and hence do not have external conflict (by internal I am referring to inside the human, this is somewhat like J. Krishnamurti's vision). Our e-mail exchange follows:

My friend replies:
There is no such thing as a perfect balance.
Not in nature, not in the Universe.
Physics proves it, energy transfer is not 100% efficient either. There is always loss of energy while transferring.
Therefore there is no such thing as complete harmony in balance inside or outside.
As History has proven, Humans prefer to live quite selfishly within themselves, for themselves and are therefore entirely unpredictable individually. Which is why Asimov treated them as a Whole to predict their behavior.
You'll need Psychohistory to predict the future of human nature OR look deep enough inside to discover the ONE truth. 

I'll wait to see what future prediction to come up with.

I agree with Agent Smith in the Matrix, we won't stop until we destroy our own host and therefore ourselves, like Viruses.

How about that?

My reply:
agent smith's view is common,well known,pessimistic,easy and tempting.
it is based on short history of humanity.
asimov's time is waaaaaaaay far into future. by then i suspect things will be much more different.

[this is just one prediction, just to show how to be different from asimov. based on what u r saying, asimov believes human nature doesn't change. where's the creativity in that]

about perfect balance and nature:
in some aspects of human life we have already broken away from nature's rules.  Especially in aspects related to culture, literature and other creations of the mind.  a large complement of the prediction that I made is related to what humans would believe at that time, and because our beliefs have some independence from the rules of nature, I think that the perfect balance rule you mentioned may not apply so strongly.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth - Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi

Rating: 3/5

these are just my notes from reading the book about halfway:
“the choice was now made in favour of vegetarianism, the spread of which ends for it in my mission.”
Just because he chose to be a vegetarian why is it natural for him that he should spread it, that others should follow?

Gandhi is very honest in this book, he mentions details that people would normally be shy to talk about. For example about his obsession with sex, other attitudes, some bad things he did in his youth.

If all the things that he is navigating in this book come from memory (no Journal) then I must saying he has excellent memory. Or, he is good at making up the details.

Page 317: “I saw that bhramacharya, which is so full of wonderful potency...”. This statement from the book implies that potency is desirable. Most people have sex, Gandhi wants to become portent by not doing it. But both (common people and Dundee) are united in their desire for potency. So at a deeper level aren't the two the same?

seven spiritual laws of success – Deepak Chopra

Rating: 1/5

he has some cool insights, although sufficiently vague that they can be interpreted in many ways. For example, “all of creation is the result of the unmanifest transforming itself into the manifest.” But most of the book seems quite fake and mushy, it has a lot of new jargon like self-referral, pure-potentiality, infinite creativity. Somewhat like the motivational speakers on TV: “you are a healthy, confident, successful man. Women find you attractive...”.

I can see that this would be appealing to a large audience, but I cannot understand why they are so stupid.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Superclass by David Rothkopf

Rating: 3/5

This is not the peek into the lives of the rich, famous and powerful that I was expecting. It is a social commentary/analysis of the place of the superclass in the world (it is at the top).

No major insight, the author does not pick a fight even though this is such a polarising issue (pulling society apart). No strong statements, no big predictions.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres

2 stars out of 5

Picked it up because I am interested in data mining but I was already a bit disappointed when I saw that a co-author of freakonomics (I don't like that book very much) has a comment on the cover.

I didn't find anything wrong (inaccurate) in the book but it is very light and shallow. It contains many shallow examples of data mining but very little real insight. Good to know that many people on Amazon field the same way.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Games Indians play by V. Raghunathan

Rating: 2/5 stars

The book is incomplete, it does not provide a solution to the problem. Even the explanation of the problem is not very deep, or broad,or thorough.

He makes a good list of observations of Indianness, I especially liked the example of traffic on the two sides of the railway crossing : )

But he repeats variations of the prisoner's dilemma, the maximiser's problem, etc. over and over. He does not provide examples of working systems or how we could get out of our bad habits.

The preface by Infosys man Narayana Murthy is like a book review by a high-school student. He talks more about the book than he talks about the topic of the book, makes empty praise for the author.

But the author is a successful businessman, was a professor at IIM, then why is this book such a mess? Maybe he didn't put much effort into it?