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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Don't Send a Resume

This was a little number from the used book store business section. It's a diminutive book that is short in length but it has a lot of great advice for career searchers.

The book talks about how the technique of sending a resume along when you hear about an opening, just won't work anymore to get you the job that you are looking for. The book was published back in 2001 when times were a little tough, but unemployment wasn't nearly as pervasive as it is now.

The advice seems solid. You should learn about the company, preferably by talking to people who work there. You need to find out what specific issues the company is having and your plan to address them. You should learn who the decision makers are and market the hell out of yourself. In spite of the title the book even discusses how to write a resume that will pack a wallop when they read it.

I haven't had the chance to apply for a new job since I read this but the advice all sounds good. Next time I'm looking for a change I'll let you all know how it works.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty

This book was recommended by one of the managers at work. It's subtitled as "The ONLY social networking book You'll ever need." I completely agree. Personally I had no real idea what a social network was. I guess you could say I had friends, coworkers, acquaintances and so forth but never thought of them as a network.

The main thing the book adds to your normal social network is it talks about keeping it organized, tells you how to keep in contact with people and tells you how to maintain a network. The first has pretty handily been taken care of by technology. The second is almost taken care of by technology, but if someone is really important to you the conversation should involve more than a Facebook happy birthday. The third, well the third is basically just the golden rule of giving what you would like to get.

Who do people want to network with? People that can point them towards good jobs, good people that can solve their problems and good advice. It's about looking out for the people that you care about and helping them when it counts. Basic but powerful stuff and the more organized you are about your network the better you'll be able to help people when they need it.

I rate this as the best business book I've read so far this year. I don't regret it at all and have been recommending it to anyone who has been looking at a career change or on how to get out there and meet some new people in the office. Also if you are in my network, hit me up, I have a copy sitting around to share.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Zadig

Ever since I read E=MC2 I have wanted to read some Voltaire. Last summer I bought Candide. It was my first even Kindle book, I didn't even own a Kindle back then, I just used the Kindle program for my Droid. I started reading Candide immediately and fell in love with it. unfortunately a four inch back lit screen is not an ideal reading format so I gave up after a couple of hours. Soon after I purchased a Nook, and then a few months later a Kindle but by that time finishing Candide fell by the wayside for a bit. In a download frenzy of Amazon classics I picked up Zadig and started reading it.

What I love about Voltaire is that his stories sound like Bible stories in viewpoint, vocabulary and because they are told in parable form. However unlike The Bible, no divine creator sets things right. Whether things go right or wrong, fate is in the driver's seat and we mortals are just along for the ride. The books feel like Sunday school lessons delivered by Heller or Vonnegut. I almost expected every chapter to end with "I had to laugh like Hell".

The story of Zadig reminds me of Joseph from the bible. The book begins with Zadig about to enter wedded bliss with his fiance Simere but this is not to be. His rival Orcan eventually wins the heart of Simere and Zadig finds another bride. Now that he is distrustful of women, Zadig designs an elaborate scheme to fake his death and test the loyalty of his wife, Azora. She fails to pass the test which also involves an elaborate scheme where he fakes his own death and pretends to leave his modest fortune to his best friend.

Zadig begins to wander between kingdoms, like the Old Testament, it is set in the middle east in early days where each city and the surrounding farms or pastures are a different kingdom. He is promptly captured but like quickly rises to become an adviser to the king. After a set of adventures involving queens, fools, imaginary creatures and hermits he rides the ups and downs that fate deals him and eventually becomes a king. The ending is happy but you absolutely know that Zadig could have just as easily ended up a blind prophet in India.

The book wasn't too long. I finished in in a couple of afternoons. I really liked the translation of the free version on Amazon.com. I assume this was a scanned version of an out of copyright translation because a couple of the letters were consistently switched. This didn't ruin the book but was a little distracting. If you want a perfect copy you will probably have to go to the library or pony up a small amount of change. I would recommend giving up an afternoon or two to read this. Not only will you realize that people who have been dead for 350 years can make you laugh, but what's more impressive than saying you've read some Voltaire at your next cocktail party?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Desert Rose

I love reading books that get mixed reviews. If you check out the Amazon page for The Desert rose you will see critics and readers are all over the map on this one. Larry McMurtry is almost as well known for his romances as his westerns. Somehow he has the talent to pull off Terms of Endearment and Streets of Laredo. He does this by mastering the art of developing characters and making them living things who react realistically in their little worlds.

The Desert Rose is a story about a Las Vegas showgirl who is approaching 40. She used to be the most beautiful woman in Las Vegas but she has been surpassed in pulchritude by her daughter. Harmony doesn't have a lot of profound thoughts, that's also a McMurtry literary device. His characters generally lack the ability to engage in soul searching. You don't see them go through a lot of internal struggle, it's always the world they live in that they are struggling against.

The book is pretty much a pure character study of Harmony and secondarily her daughter Pepper. They both move around the same circles but rarely interact. Harmony is about to end her career as a showgirl while Pepper is about to start hers. In spite of how similar their lives will be, they are terribly lacking in shared moments. We even are denied the scene where both of them would be on stage together because the show producer, wisely, tells Harmony that to put them both on stage together would just highlight how much Harmony's looks would be overshadowed by her daughter's beauty.

So many of the reviews tend to excoriate Pepper for how she treats Harmony. Personally I didn't get that out of the book. I can't see how having a showgirl mother who has had terrible relationships with men who are drunks and criminals can put Harmony in a place where she deserves traditional motherly respect. Honestly I think there were only two scenes where the two of them were in the same room and most of that time was marked by what they didn't say.

The book is pretty short, at 256 pages. It's an easy read too so it's only an afternoon or two to make it through. I wouldn't say that I recommend it particularly but if you're a fan of McMurtry or have a spare couple of bucks at the used bookstore I'd say it's better than watching reruns of American Idol.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blue Angel

I love a good piece of literary fiction. You could almost say that's what I live for, the rest is all just reading I do to make sense of the fictional constructs of great imaginations.

Blue Angel was a great read. It is the story of a professor at a small college who has writer's block. He has been working on his next novel for a long long time. He passes his day by teaching short story classes. He is happily married and overall happy with his job until he meets Angela Argo. Meeting Angela exposes how thin his surface happiness is.

He ends up having an affair with Angela, she seduces him in her dorm room. He takes her manuscript to his agent and when he gets back all hell breaks loose. Angela presses a sexual harassment case against him. She claims that he used his position as a professor and his ability to present her book to his agent as leverage to make her have sex with him.

The one thing I disliked about this book was that the ending left a lot of questions unanswered. The books ends in a sexual harassment hearing where everyone testifies against our protagonist. After the scene though I was almost left with the impression that maybe we have only heard one side of the story, maybe the professor did use poor Angela. When I read other reviews of the book it's either well loved or firmly hated. I think that what would have made it a bit more perfect would have been a better explanation of the motives of the other characters.

So even though this novel is deeply flawed and ultimately raises several unsatisfying questions, I couldn't put it down until I finished it. That is ultimately how I tell whether or not a story is a success.

Friday, August 12, 2011

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

Do you ever eat your broccoli first? I usually do. Sometimes I'll have a frozen bag of broccoli or cauliflower for a whole meal. That's what reading the MLA handbook is like. I did something that was almost completely unpleasant because it was good for me. I had to learn how to write again in an academic setting and this book was exactly what I needed.

I learned a lot about grammar, voice, and punctuation. If you look at my older posts you'll see that I used to put two spaces between the period and the next letter, an old habit left over from learning how to type on actual typewriters. Now that modern fonts are made with periods smashed up against the last word of the sentence, a writer doesn't need to add the extra space.

I also learned a lot about citations. I knew the basics, and another great thing about the modern world is that word processing software will let you add your citations as you go along and print your bibliography or works cited list at the end of your article with the click of a menu bar. What I really learned was that you can cite anything, pictures and paintings, musical scores, interviews, pamphlets, comic books and an endless list of other forms of art that are not necessary written academic texts. It really opened my eyes to the number of things that a person can consider to be educational or worthy of referring to in a serious piece of writing.

So I would never recommend this book to anyone as a light summer read or as something to carry around with you as a break between appointments, but I would highly recommend it as an eye opener for academic writers.

Gilmore Girls

So today was the first day of watching Gilmore Girls with Sofia. She was transfixed! We watched the first two episodes together. I can't believe I never saw a single episode of this series, I really do like it so far.

In the first episode we get introduced to the characters, see the relationship between Lorelai and Rory and Lorelai's parents. I loved how in the second episode how Lorelai wore the cutoffs to the first day of school.

The scene outside the restaurant where Lorelai asked Rory about dating the guy from the coffee shop reminded me of last night's Curb Your Enthusiasm. I never thought of the don't eat where your ex is as an overall rule but I have experienced the results of that decision firsthand.

Years ago when I was waiting tables, I had a short fling with a waitress that I worked with. Now that I'm older I know how crazy it is to have anything going on with anyone you work with but I guess that's what youth and restaurants are for. The short affair didn't end well, I honestly don't know what was wrong but it ended up with her not talking to me and me not talking to her and then I quit and moved out of state. Two years later I went back to the restaurant, she had not worked there the full time but was back and recognized me when my friend and I went in for a meal after a night at the bar. We sat in another waiter's section but still the service was terrible. We ended up sitting for two hours after our order was taken, actually my friend took off after an hour and I ended up sitting the two. Eventually I just left. I guess I ended up better off than Larry David but I'm sure that my meal never coming out was a going away gift from the waitress.

So Lorelai, take the advice from Larry and myself, don't date the coffee guy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Society: The Basics

In order to shorten the time that I have to spend going to classes, I am going to attempt to pass some CLEP tests. In order to get my degree in economics I have to take other social science credits, I guess I should be passingly familiar with psychology if I'm looking at behavior and probably should be somewhat familiar with sociology if I'm discussing gender pay gaps. For two dollars at the thrift story I got a copy of Society:The Basics and read it in lieu of taking a sociology course.

I do love sociology, I can see why students end up thousands of dollars in debt with a degree they can't use to pursue an in depth knowledge of the subject. I thought that each of the chapters was fascinating. I liked learning about how we define gender roles, family structures and was completely engaged by the discussions of social conflict theory. It was good to take a look at all of the structure in my life that I take for granted and realize how much of it is just there by general agreement between me and the people around me. We know that is the case because other societies manage things differently.

As I was reading through the book, trips to the mall took on whole new levels of meaning. What does it mean when you see someone with a polo shirt, or a boyfriend that is shorter than her? Why are teenagers usually in large groups but adults rarely so? Why is that person dressed all in black? The style of clothes that go along with the black can create totally opposite meanings. At the beach I saw a huge pile of cigarette butts in front of a bench. 30 years ago when smoking was just a characteristic and not a sign of deviance, would smokers have littered as much?

That's exactly what I love about education. I love it not for the questions it answers, but for the questions it makes you ask.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Flash Fiction: Very Short Stories

This winter to get some credits between semesters I took a short story class. It was one of the best college classes I've had. Nothing turns my gears faster than looking at symbolism, story structure, theme and character development in literature. A few of the indie writers I follow regularly publish flash fiction either on their own sites or on sites like Brevity.

Flash fiction is a short story that is no more than a page or two long. It usually doesn't include all of the elements of a literary story, it's hard to do a lot of character development alongside exploring a theme. Done well they either explore a mood or character and make you think a bit. Done poorly they are a one page Twilight Zone episode that depends on a twist ending.

This book contained some fantastic stories, most of the very good ones were from literary authors that are already established at longer forms of literature. Pumpkins from Francine Prose was my favorite story which did a little exploration of a relationship. Most of the stories though were quite forgettable. The good news is that each of them took less than five minutes of my life to read. Even the episodes of Law and Order and the prison shows on MSNBC that I have watched can't claim to have taken less of my time.

Short stories were invented to uniquely fit into the American lifestyle during the industrial revolution. Each was designed to be read in a single sitting after a long day's work. Flash Fiction is the genre of the Internet age, designed to be read while iTunes is updating. This book showed me that this genre has potential, but we're not quite there yet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The White Tiger

This book is about a poor boy who grows up in India. He originally was offered the chance to go to school and escape the life of poverty he was destined to lead, but because of his family's debts and poverty his life was derailed and he was sent to work in a tea shop.

The book is masterfully written. I loved the care that Aravind Adiga put into each sentence. All the details about India were complete and compelling, I could imagine myself in each place that he set the different parts of the story. This book also was the best plotted book I've read outside genre fiction in a long time. Most of the literary books I've been reading either have unsatisfying endings that sound like the author had reached page count and was ready to move onto the next project. Adiga paced this novel perfectly and when it comes to its Cask of Amontillado style ending you are in the perfect frame for the climax.

This book won the Man Booker prize in 2008 and I say it was well deserved. If you are looking for a good summer read I would highly recommend this book.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fat 40 and Fired

This was a book I picked up as another free Kindle download. I'm starting to learn that if it is free, I should probably spend some time reading something else. It's not that this book was bad, it just wasn't good.

This is the story of an Australian chap, who is CEO of a company and decides to take a year off. He spends his year off training for a swim marathon, taking care of his children, and taking some European vacations. Of course his wife keeps her full time job.

The "fired" part of the title is misleading, the author pretty much up and quit. One of his big trials while he was on his extended vacation was fending off the headhunters and resisting the urge to work. Somehow the life of an unemployed elite is supposed to make us look at our own workaday existence and wonder why we're stuck in the rut we're in.

I was not inspired. I'd like to say I was angered or outraged that some CEO was telling me that the reason I feel so out of control and balance in my life is because I take things too seriously. Unfortunately I was just bored. John the Revelator supposedly said "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth". Now I know what he meant.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Spice: A History of a Temptation

This was the most dreary dense book I've read in a long time and I've been reading textbooks. This book took me about two and a half years to finish. At one point I thought it was lost and I was actually happy that I had an excuse not to finish. Unfortunately, I live the life of a functional shut in so it was just under a stack of books that I'd stacked in a shopping bag.

The book tells the history of spice from ancient times to the end of the medieval period. There were interesting facts sprinkled here and there. I learned that the commonly cited fact that medieval people used used spice in order to choke down rancid meat is a falsehood. Then there were a couple of interesting narratives such as the story of alewives in England and how they adulterated their beer with chicken droppings and whatever they had around to cover the taste of stale flat beer.

Mostly I learned that all writers are not created equal. This book was recommended by the Amazon system which thought that if I liked Kurlansky's Salt that I might like Spice. They were wrong. If you've tried Salt like I have and want something more, pick up another Kurlansky book, not this one.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Outliers

I love Malcolm Gladwell's writing. His writing is clear, easy to read and sounds just like you're having a conversation with a good friend. He and Stephen King are probably the best two writers at making you feel as if reading is an effortless conversation.

Outliers is a group of stories about exceptional people. People who either accomplish rare things or are considered outstanding. He shows that even though we tend to think exceptional accomplishment and success come from merit, society actually has systems and rules set up that pre-dispose winners to be the people that we admire and aspire to emulate.

Unfortunately Gladwell is usually long on story and short on solution. He tells the story of how hockey and baseball players born at certain times of year are much more likely to go to the pros. Then he talks about how kids that are born after the school cutoff and thus are older in their classes are more likely to go to better colleges. Then he talks a bit about how wealthy people raise their children to ask more questions than poor people do. Then we're out.

That isn't a complaint about Gladwell, I don't mind a big thought provoking look at our society without a clear cut set of solutions. The only complaint I have is that book stores somehow keep putting his books in the business section. When I read a business book I'm expecting to have a problem diagnosed and a solution defined. I think his books would be better set in the philosophy or biography section. But small complaints about marketing aside, I still enjoy his work and the best part is that a large amount of his longform journalism is online for free!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Marilyn Monroe

So Marilyn Monroe would have been 85 yesterday. I don't really know why the media is so enchanted by the birthdays of dead celebrities. I guess it makes it easy to find copy to print since nobody really wants to read about the results of for example the capitol hill debate about the debt ceiling or about how foreign regimes are cutting off the body parts of 13 year old boys in the middle east.

Until Yesterday I'd never seen a Marilyn Monroe movie, it was complete coincidence, I'd been watching the movie off and on for about a week and had recorded it two weeks ago. The movie was The Misfits her last film, and also the last movie that Clark Gable appeared in.

I'm not giving spoiler alerts for a 50 year old movie so I'll jump right in. Marilyn plays a woman who is visiting Reno to get a divorce. She and her friend, who is some kind of professional divorce witness, meet up with two men at the local casino and go home with them. Marilyn accepts the offer of one of them to live in his home and Clark Gable ends up wooing her and living in the house with her. She goes out on the town and every man wants her, which causes old Clark to become jealous. Clark is a cowboy bum who hates working for wages for some reason and who decides to go catch some wild horses in the mountains. Marilyn goes along with him and two other men who are completely struck with her and once she finds out that the men are just going to sell the horses for dog food rather than keep them as pets, freaks out and causes a scene. The cowboy and the guy who loaned her the house decide that no woman is worth giving up horse meat for, even though Marilyn's character offers to pay an 80 percent premium over market value for the horses. The movie also includes drunken driving scenes, rodeos and plenty of scenes of Marilyn sighing and being tragically submissive. The movie ends with Clark throwing Marilyn to the ground and then relenting to her demands to free the horses. Then they ride away in his truck, homeless and vowing to have babies together.

What can you say to that? At some point was white trash considered sexy? I would highly recommend a listen to Doug Stanhope's "Drambuie" sketch from his most recent album to go along with a viewing of this movie. The main message I got from this movie is that nothing is more romantic than a jobless drunk homeless man who beats you but afterwards feels so guilty about it that he treats you like the princess you really are. I wasn't around in 1958 so I'm hopeful that this was actually a high art tragedy and not a romance but wow, why star Marilyn Monroe wearing fur coats and designer clothes if it was meant to be a sad movie and why the romantic music as she rides off into the starlight with her homeless drunken beau?

Supposedly, Marilyn was an intellectual who collected literature and read difficult texts on breaks, so maybe this was a tragic screenplay meant to expose the plight of divorced women before the modern feminist movement. Unfortunately I suspect that is is just a sad commentary on where we were at as a society before the 1960s.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Anthem



I don't agree with Rand Paul. I'm not talking about how I don't agree with him on any kind of government policy of proposal, I just don't agree that you can go around calling Anthem a novel. I read the Kindle edition so I'm not sure how many pages it has but it only took about an hour to read. Normally I call that a short story but I guess if you want to stretch you could call it a novella.

The story starts out like a standard dystopian novel written in the age of communism. Everyone is assigned a career after they graduate high school, everyone is poor and miserable and every good idea is repressed. The main character finds a secret hiding place where ancient technology is sitting around and spends his weekends reading books in the subway. Eventually he decides to share his knowledge with the ministry of science but they won't accept his findings because he doesn't have the proper academic credentials. He ends up running away with some girl and re-discovers his individuality and vows to populate the earth with children that are free from the chains of communist and intellectual oppression.

The story is pure Ayn Rand. There are three reactions people can have to this story. Many people will be inspired to know that there is another soul out there who knows what it is like to have your good ideas rejected and cheers your superior individualism. A second reaction is to be disgusted that such a poor piece of philosophy is even being discussed on the floor of the US senate. My reaction was to laugh a bit about the tortured prose at the end of the novel where the character discovers individuality and to delete the story from my Kindle.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Economic History

I finished my last paper for American economic history today. The professor gave us the option to get one of two textbooks so of course I got both and read them cover to cover. Rather than make anyone suffer through two posts I'll just do a single post about them both.

The books were American Economic History by Hughes and Cain and get ready for this title, The Evolution of the American economy: Growth Welfare and Decision Making. Surprisingly enough, the one that was a more challenging and informative read was the one with the shorter title. Since the Evolution was published about ten years ago, I suppose that speaks well for the literacy of college students today vs. a few years ago.

So what did I learn? I learned an amazing amount of history about the Civil War. I'd heard of Robert Fogel by coming across his name in a few other textbooks but I was completely unaware of all his work surrounding the civil war. I was familiar with him as a railroad skeptic, meaning he believes that much of the economic growth of the US would have happened without railroads, and I'd heard of his work in anthropometrics. I hadn't heard about Time on the Cross though, what a bombshell what must have been on the 70s economic scene. I won't comment on the content, I may need to run for public office someday but I will say that the coverage of his work was very detailed in the textbook and it was good and balanced and well, interesting. Personally I love how history has become more than dates and places and now you have to think and do math and understand models.

Another part of economic history I'd never really put a lot of though into was the rise of mass distribution. I know it's a big part of our history, the stories about Sears and J.C. Penny and Woolworth's are as much a part of American capitalism as J.P. Morgan and Rockefeller. For all my life though stores have always just been there. I never really thought about how stores carrying a stable set of items at fixed prices was actually an economic revolution. I can't imagine haggling over a can of beans or a burrito for lunch every day. Can you tell I'm itching to have some good Mexican food?

The descriptions of the Great Depression were pretty enlightening as well. I've of course read plenty about it in Macroeconomics and in history books but it was nice to see them smashed together.

I finished my last paper today, except for minor edits I'm done with the course and I'm glad to be done. I don't think Umass Lowell offers any other economic history classes so I guess I'm done with them. Guess what? While I was finishing it up I saw that the boom and bust folks have another video out so I'll leave you with the most awesome economist rap video in history, it's even better than the first one

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roland's Restaurant

Unfortunately, if I Google my first name  and the city I live in I don't even come close to being on the first page. Most of the page is taken up by Roland's Restaurant, a highly regarded diner in the tree street area of Nashua. My wife and I passed up several establishments that we had coupons for in order to give the place a try.

The restaurant is on a main road coming off of the freeway, right off the exit is a series of stop signs and every time I drive down the road I manage to miss at least one. If I ever get a ticket it will be for running a stop sign off of exit four in Nashua.

Urban Spoon had the restaurant listed as a French restaurant, I've never been to a French restaurant or eaten any French food other than French toast. After seeing the menu I realized that Urban Spoon had it all wrong. The menu was fronted by a generic Greek style picture. You know the one you've seen a hundred times with the picture of the Parthenon-like structure on the front. I didn't see any Greek items on the menu though, instead it had a large assortment of burgers, pizza and dinner specials like roast lamb shank.

[caption id="attachment_531" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="My Big Fat Greek Menu"]Roland's Menu[/caption]

My wife and I decided to order the same thing, we tried the Fish and Chips. The food was fantastic and the service was not too bad. The waitress told us the Fish and Chips were better than Brown's Fish and Chips at Hampton Beach. I won't ever have to go compare because the fish at Roland's was fantastic. What I liked as well is that they served a fair portion at a fair price rather than bringing out a mountain of food for a couple bucks more.

[caption id="attachment_532" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Fish and Chips"]The Fish and Chips at Roland's[/caption]

After we ate at Roland's we went to the bodega next door. I haven't been to a slummy little grocery store since Las Vegas and this one had all the usual trappings of an establishment that caters to the lower class. It had lottery tickets, a variety of international grocery selections and a large selection of the world's cheapest wine and beer. Joanna picked up some coconut milk, I picked up a lottery ticket and some MD 20/20. The lady at the counter had a hard time counting money for some reason, she almost gave me three dollars in extra change. That's a hard route to take when you are running a low margin business like that. When doing business in a location where you're likely to be a semi regular victim of robbery and shoplifting, I can't imagine that you can mess up the till too much and stay in business for too long.

The lottery ticket was a loser of course, not that you expect to win in that part of town. I was happy to be supporting the schools and jails in my local community and to dream the dream of picking up a spare $20. I lost big time on the "Mad Dog" though. When I lived on Fremont street in Las Vegas, the low quality liquors I was partial to were the malt liquors so I never did a wine tasting on skid row. Bumwine.com has been warning me about this vicious liquid for years but I failed to listen. In spite of the label promising me the sweet, sweet taste of tropical banana, whatever was inside that bottle tasted like the contents of a bum's stomach. I seriously tried my best to swallow more than a cupful, but the sour taste of ripened sweat and bile made me want to vomit. I ended up flushing most of it down the toilet. I guess being able to afford a cheap vodka in a PET bottle is one more reason for me to not pack it all in and live on food stamps.

So if you're looking for something to do one afternoon and are around the bad parts of Nashua, do visit Roland's restaurant but do NOT take the wine tour.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Service that Sells

My long running tradition of being thrifty buying books came to an end today when I purchased a package deal of e-books on the minimalist lifestyle that was advertised on several blogs I visit. I could have gotten a huge stack of paperbacks I'd never read at the sale at the local bookstore that is going to be happening today but instead I thought I would expose myself to the world of the self published author who's said goodbye to the cubicle and is willing to forgo capitalist gain so that they can spend more time doing things they love that don't cost money.

Service That Sells was well within the tradition of cheap though, at the car dealership I take my car to for oil changes they have a "leave one take one" bookshelf. The book was on the shelf and I thought I'd give it a whirl while I waited to see that extra services the shop thought they would try to sell me. After the oil change was finished I decided to take one even though I didn't bring any to give. Oh well, the used book economy at the car dealership has just become a victim of the free rider problem and I'm always happy to hand out an economic lesson.

Service That Sells is a quick handbook to running a restaurant. It was an absolute blast to read. Instead of being full of terrible parables or motivational speeches this book was full of practical advice on affecting the bottom line of a restaurant business.

Much of the advice applies to every kind of business, for example the chapter about employee motivation. This was the first business book I've read that discussed that people come into work to make money. The only reason you get treated nicely by anyone at a business is because they want to sell you something. People who don't want to sell you something want to bash your head open with a club and take your stuff so doing business with your fellow man by selling him stuff is actually what we call civilization. The book discussed how a successful business aligns the employees with its goal of selling stuff and if you provide the proper training and incentives your staff will treat your customers well and help you sell whatever it is you're selling.

Pure genius, I can't tell you how many books I've read that tell you if you pump people up with sunshine and "company values" you'll get good results. Pump them up with knowledge and pay that depends on good performance and you'll probably create an environment where people want to sell.

The book also has chapters on cutting costs, and promoting the business. Honestly this book was so good that it made me want to go out and start a restaurant right away. Honestly every time I've been to a restaurant since has been a disappointed because the authors gave such a clear vision of what top notch service could look like that I've felt short changed by they guy who doesn't offer to make a suggestion ever since.

So let me say that this book is probably going to be the best business book I read this year and let me close with a plug for a place that "gets it". Fat Daddy's in Nashua has offered the best service I've ever had in a coffee shop every time I've stopped by. They ask what I'm in the mood for and make helpful suggestions, they give service with a smile and make me feel welcome. I honestly would visit this coffee shop every day if I had the time. I'd just like to note that I don't receive compensation or any kind of coffee discount for recommending the place, it's just somewhere I'd recommend you go to see exactly what "Service That Sells" is all about.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Estabrook Grill

My wife and I were sitting around at home today wondering what to do. We got in the car to go out and in the blue Valpak coupon envelope that comes a couple of times a month there was a coupon to Estabrook Grill. It was a $5 off $25 coupon and neither my wife or I had heard of it so it was time for a lunch adventure.

The restaurant was on Palm Street. For those of you not from New England, I'll inform you that any street named after a tree is in the bad part of town. This seems almost universal in the larger cities. I have a feeling that there was a big tree naming fad going on in the post WW II building boom years and now all those old neighborhoods have been abandoned to the poor and unemployed while the wealthier families moved out to the suburbs.

If you would like to hear my fairly universal tip on how to recognize whether or not you're in a bad neighborhood it is to count the number of people around outside doing nothing. Try it, drive through the suburbs and you'll see people gardening or in a lot of neighborhoods you'll see no-one at all. You may see parties or people out for a walk but if you see people standing around doing nothing, you're in the wrong neighborhood.

So thanks to Google maps on my Droid, we found the restaurant easily. It was actually a nice looking place in an old mill building, you can see Joanna in the front of the restaurant here:



[caption id="attachment_512" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Joanna at the restaurant"][/caption]


When we got into the restaurant, we realized that we were the youngest people there. What we found out is that the mill building has been converted into condominiums for elderly people! It was kind of cool to be the youngest person in a place, that hasn't happened to me in a while. The restaurant was seat yourself so we sat by a window. Unfortunately the view was a prime view of one of the tree streets and there was a nasty mound of trash in front of the house across the street. Lots of people were just standing around in the street doing whatever nothing they do.

The special today was of course corned beef and cabbage, I didn't really feel like a dinner so I went for the Cobb salad. This was the first restaurant I've been to where they had poutine on the menu and Joanna wanted to give it a try so she went with the appetizer sampler plate. I've never found the concept to be appealing so I decide on the Cobb salad.

The portions were generous, here are photos of us and our plates:



[caption id="attachment_513" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Joanna with her sampler "][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_514" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="The Big Salad"][/caption]


The food wasn't perfect, the Cobb salad had apples but the apples were very green and bitter. Joanna thought that the wings on her sampler were too hot and the fries in the poutine weren't that fresh. It wasn't a bad meal but it wasn't food I'll be thinking of and wanting to try again in a few weeks. Our bill came to $24.98 but fortunately our server took the coupon anyway. If I had to sum this place up I'd label both the food and the service adequate but not passionate.



[caption id="attachment_515" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Courtyard at the Eastabrook and Palms retirement community"][/caption]


After the meal we walked around the courtyard a bit, it was a nice little place and if I make it to an age where I can stop working I wouldn't mind living in a little place like that, but preferably in Las Vegas.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Atomic Lobster (with bonus content)

I'm a sucker for a cheap book. That's part of the reason I bought the Kindle and the Nook. The Nook works with every e-pub or PDF you can find online and the Kindle has free books galore available for download. Sometime free is a great deal, sometimes you get what you pay for. Atomic Lobster by Tim Dorsey is just slightly worth more than free.

Apparently there is a whole series of books dedicated to the  adventures of Serge, a serial spree killer, and Coleman, a petty criminal who is none too bright. Coleman commits various petty crimes and takes drugs, people end up trying to kill Coleman because of his stupidity and self-centered attitude, so for some reason Serge lights them up in outrageous ways. I assume Atomic Lobster was an attempt to turn on a new audience to this genre, if Atomic Lobster is a good example of Tim Dorsey's writing, I'm not a fan.

I'm not squeamish by any means. Vulgarity, grotesque horror and the breaching of social norms is the kind of stuff I really get off on reading. Lazy plotting is something that makes my stomach turn though, and lackadaisical attempts at humor make me cry. This book had loads of both. Yes, it had it's bright moments when I wanted to laugh but then it had pages of dreariness that made me dread going back to my Kindle.

Why did I finish this? Sometimes just muddling through something painful reminds you of how wonderful the good stuff is. Sometimes you eat that burnt steak you made for dinner because you'll be damned if you're going to pay for a decent hamburger once you've spent all that time cooking.

So thanks for the experience Amazon and Tim Dorsey. Next time I read a terrible book I'll be thinking at least this isn't Atomic Lobster.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Madame Tussaud

Madame Tussaud is my first delve into the historical fiction genre. I actually got this book for free as a giveaway on goodreads. If you don't already putter around goodreads.com you should join me there because I'd love to see what you're reading. Goodreads is everything you wish reading was when you were a lonely high school kid with nothing better to do on a Friday night than read some Stephen King or Piers Anthony and wish you had a job and a car. It turns reading into a social experience which is exactly what reading was always missing. Instead of having to read a bunch of signs at the local library looking for a cool book club or skulking around a downtown coffee shop with a book you think is cool you can actually immediately meet up with people that like the same books as you do.

Madame Tussaud officially is released today so I can officially comment on it. Just as I wrote before, I've never read any historical fiction. I've read fictional history, history, economic history and some alternate history book that was about some South African skinheads who go back in time to the civil war and give the south machine guns to try to extend apartheid. I seem to remember the alternate history book promising some kind of sequel where everything is set right but I never bothered to look for it. I'll have to add it to my goodreads shelf one of these days and see what other people thought of it.

So Madame Tussaud was a women who lived through revolutionary France.  I knew she would live because the book is written in a first person viewpoint, that's usually a dead giveaway that the main character survives. After reading the modern European history book and the French economic history books over the last couple of years it was refreshing to get a lighter take on the events of the revolution and its aftermath. By lighter I mean lighter in tone and less didactic. It was nice to read something about the time period that doesn't have or need a footnote on every page.

The story is grand. Marie the main character works with her uncle in a wax museum and has to straddle the worlds of royalty and patriots. Because of her work modeling the famous people of France she knows members of the royal family as well as important revolutionaries. The story is a good tru-ish narrative about the events of the revolution and tells the story of how this upper middle class family did their best to survive the starvation, the violence and tried to stay away from the guillotine.

Madame Tussaud does survive and lived to be an old woman of 90 something which is an accomplishment even today. In addition to her eponymous wax museums all over the world she left behind memoirs of her life and one of the first ever prenuptial agreements. Michelle Moran did a fantastic job of writing a story that kept me reading, I was actually up until a quarter to three last night finishing up the epilogue. The book is designed to be a girlie book and had a light touch of romance but it wasn't a major feature of the book and was just a bit of back story so it never got to an intolerable, roll of my eyes level as I feared it would.

The plot was plausible, the characters were likable and the ending was satisfying. I can truly say that I enjoyed it much more than a lot of the high literature I've been trying to read lately, I actually wanted to keep turning the pages instead of having to force myself to.  I've developed a habit of rifling the pages that I haven't read and wondering how many hours away I am from just being done with the book. I didn't do that much with this one, I was very entranced.

So thank you Crown books for the opportunity to check this out. I completely enjoyed it and would certainly love to read Ms. Moran's other books.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Slut Lullabies

This was probably the most bizarre purchase decision I've ever made. I was buying Loose Girl, a diary of some kind of tawdry behavior, and this book was one of Amazon's "frequently purchased with" selections. I must have had some extra money or been feeling some kind of a sense of entitlement that day because I hit the "buy them both" button and two days later they arrived at my garage door in a small flat Amazon box.

Both of them sat on my bookshelf for a long while.  Have you seen my backlog?  Here's a representative photo:

[caption id="attachment_481" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="I hope I read these all someday."][/caption]

You can see that they're double layered, except for the bottom shelf which is trade paperbacks on their sides.  I also have two boxes full of books by my bed.  At the pace of one per week I have a lifetime of reading on the shelves alone.  Having a Kindle and Nook adds to my "what should I read" decision debacle whenever I finish something and can't decide what I'm in the mood for next.

So I chose to read Slut Lullabies because I wanted to read some short stories and because I wanted something a little thinner than 300 pages.  The book has 10 stories in it, all of them are 15-30 pages long and all of them feature women as the main characters. Almost all of the stories include some straightforward descriptions of sex.  I didn't find them to be tawdry or shocking though, they read more like diary entries.  The characters are from different walks of life, some single, some married, some teenagers and some in their 30s.

The stories were all pretty entertaining, Gina Frangello even used some cool literary techniques like playing around with a stream of consciousness type point of view on one story about two couples who went on a cruise together. Another of the stories was about a teen aged girl who's mother keeps bringing home different men and takes flack from her friends for it. All of the characters were interesting and the stories all had a decent narrative so I don't remember having a moment of not wanting to pick it back up.

Would I recommend it? That's a complex question for this book, it's not like Annie Proulx's  Wyoming Stories which had some strong content but had such a sense of place and character that it becomes a cultural commentary. These stories were more entertainments, like good episodes of Laverne and Shirley. Honestly this book sits in a narrow niche, stories about women that are not romances where the stories revolve around relationships but it's not quite high literature. If something like that sounds appealing it will be at a used book bin near you, right next to the Sheteyngart novels.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

God is Not Great

Christopher Hitchens has had a large amount of media coverage lately because he is dying and he is completely unapologetic about being an atheist. I've been reading his articles on Slate.com for years but never knew much about his life until this book was published and the media coverage on it started. I was fortunate enough to come across a copy and gave it a read last fall.  It's taken me a while to write about it because it took me some time to gather my thoughts about it.

Hitchens spends the greater share of this book on a criticism of Christianity. I believe most of his criticisms were apt.  Hitchens makes the claim (and the subtitle of this book) "religion poisons everything." His main hypothesis is that people would be better off altogether if religion did not exist and that a great share of the bad acts that have happened throughout human history are directly inspired and caused by religion.

Hitchens describes a question he was once asked, about if he came across a group of men at night would be less afraid if they were coming from a prayer meeting. Hitchens does a creative description of some of the places he has visited that just start with the letter B.  He then goes over Belfast with it's Catholic radicals, Beiruit and the Muslim radicals, Bombay and how its radical religious activists have taken over the city, and caused the recent name change to Mumbai. Hitchens concludes that in many cases he would feel much better if he knew a group of strange men at night had not come from a prayer meeting.

Hitchens also describes his role as the devil's advocate in the beautification of Mother Theresa, yes the real one he discusses being invited to the Vatican to testify.  He describes how according to his investigation, a woman claimed that she had a tumor that was cured by the healing powers of the deceased nun, but that the woman was undergoing medical treatment at the same time. Hitchens posits that the beautification of Mother Theresa may cause the prolonged illnesses or deaths of several people in India and elsewhere as they turn to faith healing for relief rather than to medicine.

A smaller portion of the book but more rare is a critique of eastern religions.  Many of the people who find themselves disaffected with Christian religions turn to Buddhism or other religions that they see as less tainted by greed and corruption. I myself have been attracted to Taoist philosophy as an alternative to Christian philosophies. Hitchens brings up several events in Hindu and Buddhist history that are as egregious and immoral as the inquisition or the crusades. In fact he titles the chapter "There is no Eastern Solution."

I've read quite a few critiques of this book, many of them focus on the fact that many religious people are good and fine people. None of the critiques I've read have been able to refute the assertion by Hitchens that people who are good are good regardless of belief, not because of it. He discussed the good works of several atheists and agnostics like Thomas Paine, Bertrand Russell, and Charles Darwin. He then discusses how we may be counting several historical figures as religious simply because they did not feel free to discuss their doubts of the prevailing religion publicly. I believe he is probably right about this, the lessons of Socrates, Shelley and Scopes were probably well learned by those who were afraid to challenge the moral order. The other day in an advice column I read the story of a woman who was afraid to discuss her lack of religious beliefs on Facebook because she was afraid of the consequences she would face at work.  I'm sad that this type of thing is still going on on modern day America.

One criticism I thought of was what about the evil acts of those that do not profess any religious belief? Several communists come to mind and several dictators such as Hitler and Hussein only seemed to use religion tangentially. In fact if you compare Iraq under Hussein to its neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, the religious freedom allowed looks somewhat liberal. Looking at evil behavior on a deeper level makes me believe that there is something other than a belief in God that turns an institution evil. Perhaps anarchists have a valid point when they say that all institutions and organized groups will turn to evil at some point if their power is unchecked.

I found this book to be a very interesting read.  It is certainly one of my favorite books of the past while. I will miss Christopher Hitchens when he's gone.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Russian Debutante's Handbook and last Gary Shteyngart post

I finally memorized how to spell Shteyngart but it will not do me much good because I have finished all three of his books.  I haven't faithfully read the entire cannon of a single author since I went on Stephen King, Mario Puzo and Piers Anthony binges in high school.

The Russian Debutante's Handbook is about a Russian Jewish man named Vladmir Girshkin who works as an immigration officer.  A retired Russian sailor offers Vladmir a deal where if Vladmir can get the sailor U.S. Citizenship, Vladmir can have a job working for his son, who is the Russian Mafia head of the fictional city of Prava.  The story is set in the early 1990s and Prava is a stand in for Prague, a destination that was idolized as a post communist, but not without some creature comforts city where the misanthropic grunge youth of my day could run away to and become artists.  When I was adventuring in the early 1990s I badly wanted to run away to Prague myself.  I was always fascinated by the Levi's commercial where a man trades a couple of pairs of jeans for a Yugo.  I never had the guts or imagination to get a passport though so my Prague dreams never came true.

Girshkin ends up taking the deal, not out of desire to move to Prava but because he narrowly escapes being raped by a gangster in what shouldn't be, but is, the most hilarious hotel male rape scene I've ever read.  My tastes must lean heavily towards the vulgar because just like in Choke, the tragic debauchery made me keep laughing out loud which made my wife keep asking what was so funny. Shteyngart brings an overweight dominatrix, a self obsessed writer, a whole slew of stereotypical Russian gangsters and a whole avant-garde eurotrash youth scene along for what was a fairly pleasurable ride.

I absolutely loved the layout of this book, every chapter was concise and read as if it could have been a complete short story.  I love when authors show that kind of literary talent and are able to being a series of short narratives together to show an arcing storyline with a plausible ending that is triggered by the action of the main character.  Actually after reading this book I have to ask what happened in Shteyngart's other books, it seems as if his imagination improved but his skills somehow deteriorated.

The book wasn't all perfect, this one had the best ending of any of his three books but the last couple of hundred pages could have used some serious cutting.  It includes a 25 page chapter of the main character visiting Auschwitz.  It's an interesting read and a great description of a tourist visit to Auschwitz but it really didn't have anything to do with the story or develop the characters.  The main character was well defined as an athiest Jew early on in the first chapters so this visit-right in the middle of the resolution of the novel no less-didn't add to the story.

I'd give this book a thumbs up to a prospective reader.  Yes it's not a perfect novel but it's hard to find one that is and it's one of the better  literary style novels I've read in a while.  Of course be forewarned that Shteyngart is not for the kids or for those that want to remain pure of heart and spirit.  He's absolutely on the vulgar side but like Palahniuk he handles it well and the scenes are rib tickling and move the plot along.

So to discuss Shteyngart overall, I'm satisfied after reading his books that it was time well spent.  If I end up attending a cocktail party and the conversation goes down a literary path I feel well prepared to say that I can discuss something current.  Shteyngart is a master at creating dystopian worlds.  While I've almost forgotten about the characters in Super Sad True Love Story the world is a place where I spend quite a bit of my idle mental time.  Every time I see an article about oversharing, social networking, web privacy breaches or nasty politics I think a bit about that novel.  It's so haunting that I feel like the man in Stephen King's story "The Man in the Black Suit", who is pursued by thoughts of  his demon until he is too old and helpless to do anything if the demon decides to come for him.  Absurdistan was set in what was the present at its time of publication and The Russian Debutante's Handbook was in the past, although since Shteyngart is the same age as me it may be a novel he started as a young man in his twenties and polished enough to publish over the next few years.  His earlier two novels are much more character driven and his over the top character casts will be what I return to when I daydream about them.

Shteyngart has the pernicious literary habit of worshiping New York City.  While I have no problem with novels being set in New York, after all those millions of stories in the naked city must be told, I'm growing weary of the starry eyed worship of the city that was better explained and better left alone to the time period when Woody Allen was making watchable movies.  Each of Shteyngart's characters is a secular Russian Jewish immigrant, which I assume is how Shteyngart sees himself, however the characters spend a whole lot of time lamenting their genetic fate even though those laments don't end up driving a lot of plot.  Shteyngart should really go out and get some family therapy instead of trying to foist his insecurities onto his characters and thereby his readers.  In my opinion if the characters' background was left as background and not as a place for them to wallow between scenes his novels would be much more punchy and his Amazon star ratings would improve by a whole star.

Shteyngart is such a master of human nature and the English language though that his sins are forgivable and his novels well worth reading.  His character's actions are unexpected but exactly in character and his sense of place and human motivation are right on target.  His tragic and deeply flawed characters are all lovable which is exactly what makes good literature.  He knows that what we all want is to be loved for our flaws and his descriptions of that love are so apt and transcendent that I believe that people will be reading his books for years to come.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Public Finance and Public Policy

Jonathan Gruber is an MIT economist who is writes prolifically about public policy issues.  I was very interested in taking this class because I'm interested in the financial aspects of government, as in how does the government decide if a project is worth undertaking based on interest rates and other financing costs.  Sadly this course and book had very little to do with financing, most of the book was about policy issues.

This did not make it a bad book or a worthless course, it just means that if you want to look more at the actuarial side of government you'll need to look elsewhere.  Some of the things I learned about were why insurance markets fail and why the government is the primary provider of social insurance, why we try to create progressive tax systems and why the government should be involved in education.  Most of the models were simple microeconomic models that are at least hinted at in first level economics courses so if you're paid attention there this book just goes more into depth on those topics.  It was good to become familiar with terms like the Coase theorem and Pigou taxes though, those were topics that I'd read before on economic blogs but didn't really know what they meant and how they are applied to government policies today.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Macroeconomics

As I go through school I'll review my textbooks, I consider them a perfectly legitimate way to get close to 52 books a year. Besides that idea, if a class is worth taking a textbook is worth reading. This last semester one of my classes was macroeconomic theory, which is going deeper into the variables that move the economy such as money supply, interest rates, the marginal propensity to invest or save and so on.

Before I took this class I thought I was much more interested in microeconomics. Macroeconomics focuses on what moves large groups of people to make changes while microeconomics tends to focus on smaller groups. After this class though I'm impresses at how much macroeconomics matters.

What interests me most about the subject is how logical and explanatory the models are at explaining what has happened in the past, yet how poor they are at giving a good explanation of what will happen in the future. The models are constantly refined and pondered over and updated.  It reminds me of psychology which attempts to look at the human mind and discover a pattern of behavior that will have some predictive power over future behavior and allow us to change it. The more I learn about social sciences the more I realize that either we as humans behave in completely random ways when unexpected events happen, or that we know so little about ourselves that these pursuits are far from being exhausted.

My favorite part of the course was wrapping my head around IS/LM/BP models. It was so fascinating to see how changes in local interest rates may change the economy and foreign exchange rates. It also finally explained all that time in algebra playing with matrices, and learning how to manipulate three lines to find an equilibrium point. I imagine the math gets really fun and mind bending when you're not treating the lines as straight.

The other best part of the course was the professor, Ron Olive. I think this review on his rate my professor page sums it up perfectly:

Get the Book. If you're looking for an easy class go elsewhere. If you want to learn Economics take Ron Olive. 10 Problem Sets, 2 take home tests and one in class final (T/F, matching, definitions) He will make you work for it, but grades fairly.

The Froyen book was a perfect companion to this teaching style, it explained the models well, showed the math and explained the concepts perfectly. It's one of those books that I really wanted to keep, but Amazon's textbook buyback program offered a price far too lucrative for me to pass it up. Also, the glorious thing about textbooks is that I will be able to buy it back for a few paltry dollars once a new version comes out in a year or so. If you're looking to learn economics, I'd say buy this book and if you're looking for a companion class, I would seek out Professor Olive and take his course.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Absurdistan and Marginalia

One thing I will miss about paper books is finding things in them when I buy them used.  I frequently find things like business cards and addresses.  I always wonder if the book affected the person who read it before the same way it affected me.  I'd love to have a conversation with the previous owner and tell them how much I enjoyed the sacrifice they made by donating it or to tell them how much I agree with the decision to purge it from their shelves.

My favorite things to find are inside cover inscriptions and notes.  That's when you really get a chance to know a bit about what the previous owner - or the person who bought it for them - really thought about the book.  Here's what I found inside Absurdistan:

[caption id="attachment_432" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Mary's note."][/caption]

Absurdistan is another novel by Gary Shteyngart the same author who wrote Super Sad True Love Story.  The main character, Misha Vainberg, is another Russian Jewish man like the main character in Shteyngart's other novels.  Misha is fat, way fat, and spends almost the whole of the book having sex with larger women.  I don't know if that was the grossness that turned Mary off or if it was Misha's constant eating.  This book is the penthouse letters of Russian cuisine.  Misha eats platefuls of sturgeon, caviar, boiled eggs and all manor of sausages and pickled vegetable relishes before this novel winds down.

The general plot of the novel is that Misha is trapped in Russia because of his mobster father's crimes.  He had attended college in America thanks to his father's insistence that he become an American Jew.  He also spends a good share of the novel trying to come to come to grips with his botched back alley circumcision that his father arranged after rediscovering his Jewish heritage (I'm sure that Mary wasn't impressed with the detailed descriptions of Misha's mangled member either).  His father is assassinated and Misha is offered a deal by the "family" to take his share of the money and get out of the family business.  Misha hears that he can buy a passport in a small country on the shores of the Black Sea called Absurdistan and decides to go in order to get out of Russia and return to his beloved New York City.

Once Misha arrives in Absurdistan, a war breaks out.  Through his travels throughout the tiny country it is revealed that the war is orchestrated by the U.S. department of defense and Halliburton.  At first I thought Mary was totally off base about how this is a parody of the crazy world stage but after I finished I decided to do a little googling of some of the terms that Stheyngart's Halliburton characters used like "cost plus" and "logcap".  After that I started to feel a little ill.

The book comes to a satisfying  ending which actually made it a little better than Super Sad True Love Story. I've actually Started on another Shteyngart novel and if I finish in a timely manner Shteyngart will be the first multi-novel author who's books I will have read in entirety in a long time.

So RD, I'm glad you decided to pass this book on to the used book store.  I throughly enjoyed it.