Posts Tagged ‘history’
Google shows you how possible it is to take an idea and then make it into a meteoric rise to a very successful company. Larry Page and Sergey Brin took Page’s idea of downloading the entire web onto his computer turned it on its head and within a few years they were making pots of money. They made a negative amount in the first two years but when they finally started charging people for their work in year three they made $US7 million. What started off as a research programme became Google.com.
I had no idea when I got my first computer and then subsequently got myself online by myself in January 1999 that Google was so new, they launched in September 1998. To me they were the only search engine worth using, I toyed with some of the others but they didn’t return good results, Google did. People were able to find what they were searching for and not something entirely different.
Most people take their funding money and spend it on marketing but Page and Brin did something totally different. They spent their money on getting the basics right, they didn’t even spend money on their home page instead having something totally basic and uncluttered, something which has become a hallmark of Google. Google sell advertising but there is none on their home page. Their funding money was spent on computers, lots of them and making certain they worked together and worked right, making certain the software was right and then finally hiring people but they’ve spent nothing on marketing…ever, or at least not at the time of writing this book in 2005.
Apart from having a great idea that actually works, Page and Brin found their guiding angel in the form of John Doerr, not only did he help fund them and find more funding for them but he also insisted they employ someone who knew about business. Doerr sent people to Page and Brin asking they be interviewed and they were all sent packing…except for Eric Schmidt, he became their Chief Executive Officer and kept them on the straight and wide when it came to the business. Brin and Page had many ideas, they wanted full control of those ideas but they needed someone to complete the triangle and keep them on a sound business footing. Schmidt was that man.
Brin, Page and Schmidt steered Google through to being a multi-million dollar company. Even when they had to float on the Stock Exchange they managed to keep control, they have always done things in their way, a way that is not necessarily what everyone else does. Let’s take their recruitment procedures as an example. At the back of the book is Appendix II, the GLAT or Google Labs Aptitude Test, two questions are:
1. Solve this cryptic equation, realizing of course that values for M and E could be interchanged. No leading zeroes are allowed.
WWWDOT – GOOGLE – DOTCOM
9. This space left intentionally blank. Please fill it with something that improves upon emptiness.
Ok, so there’s a maths question and a question that could be anything and is up to the user to decide. Only a little different. Then there’s how they treat their staff, they employ a full time chef who creates fabulous, healthy dishes for everyone in the building, this is supplied free of charge, as are the Segways to get around and so many other perks of the job. When you start working there you’re divided up into groups of three to work together and while you’re supposed to do the work assigned to you you’re also meant to spend 20% of your time working on your own projects, once they’re developed enough you get to present them and if they’re deemed appropriate assigned as a project for the company.
I loved this book as I love most business books written about a particular company or a particular segment of business, I think it could be used in class to help figure out how to get a company to go from Go to Woah, Big Business! It was competently written but not brilliantly, although it is easy to read.
And now for something completely different.
I picked up this book as I knew the author before she started writing it and I also know the subject matter. The NCJW is the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia and this is its history.
Started by Dr Fanny Reading in July 1923, it was an unusual group and became more unusual as time wore on. Dr Reading was an unusual woman to start with, she was a medical doctor and single at a time when women only aspired to marrying well and having babies. She had clear ideas and communicated them thoroughly. She made sure to meet every boat and bring every Jewish person who was not being met into the fold and take care of them. Reading also brought in as many young women as she possibly could. Reading led by example and expected everyone to help out to the same extent.
So many interesting things about this book. The first was to note how many family members were involved and to what extent. I had no idea my grandmother was a National Vice President. One thing I noted was the changed from ‘womens’ issues to international issues. It started with NCJW looking at how they could help women wanting a religious divorce so they could remarry, a topic that is still relevant decades later. I suspect it will never end.
Why did I read it? Wrong question. Why did I take so long to get round to reading it is a much better question as I’ve had it on my shelf for some years. It’s a slow read, well written but I always find history challenging to read and I put it off for that reason and also because I wasn’t yet ready to read about my family. Did I enjoy it? Most definitely, it was very nicely written despite some typos and small factual errors but how much of that is because I’m relatively close to the subject and am going to know too much is something I don’t know.
What this book doesn’t cover is how it affected the family and that would make an interesting book in its own right but could also be written about any organisation.
I read biographies and autobiographies to find out about other people’s lives, to find out how other people do things and to get a different point of view. In one respect this book was good as it showed me all those things, but on the other hand it was too close to home as I remember some of the incidents discussed and they affected me greatly even though I was half a world away.
Yitzhak Rabin was a peacemaker in Israel and he spent most of his life working towards that goal. He was assassinated by a Jew before he could complete the task. This book was written by his wife, Leah, who was married to him for 47 years and had the enormously hard task of comforting the family, Israel and Jews throughout the diaspora, from what she’s written in the book she didn’t really have a lot of time for her own grief as she was too busy comforting everyone else. Behind every great man is a great woman and this marriage was no exception. Leah Rabin was one such lady, strong, with a mind of her own which was in perfect accord with her husband’s, she was able to slip in with diplomatic statements made at the correct time and was able to make speeches which concorded with Yitzhak’s policies both during and after his death.
When I first started this book it was at the time of my aunt’s death and the book starts with Yitzhak’s assassination. My grief was rather raw already so I didn’t cope at all well with the remembered grief of losing Yitzhak who was Prime Minister of Israel for the second time and had to stop reading it…I find it hard to read through tears. I only picked it up again recently and found it much easier to cope with, the tears still flowed but not as much so I was able to keep reading. I found the book to be very well written with just a few phrases where Leah reverted to Hebrew grammar rather than English grammar. It talked about both of their lives and showed how they both came to Israel, both fought in the War of Independence, how they met and then married. This is not really a book about Yitzhak and his achievements but more a book about the two of them and how they both fought for the Independence of Israel and also for peace.
One thing I found most interesting was during the War for Independence. When I was growing up one of the authors who seemed of great importance was Leon Uris. He wrote a number of books and the one I read was called Exodus which is about the foundation of Israel and the conflicts that were fought in order to bring this about. One of the things I remember quite clearly from the book is the Arabs abandoning their homes and villages before the Jews could get there to fight them and the Jews being concerned for the Arabs and asking the few they saw to stay. Leah does talk about this and talks about the fighting that happened and how the Arabs generally stayed and fought. I never wondered about Uris’ version of those events but now I read about it from a different point of view I have to wonder why he exaggerated this point. Definitely Leah Rabin does mention some of the Arabs and how they evacuated before the Jews got there but quite clearly talks about it as something that happened in places and was not widespread as Leon Uris made me believe.
Leah and Yitzhak Rabin spent some time overseas and she makes it quite clear how they made friends wherever they were and how upset everyone was at Yitzhak’s death.
Anyway, I do recommend this book. I think it is a fairly balanced view of events and does give some insight into both Yitzhak and Leah and how they coped with different problems.
If you were following my Twitter feed or my Facebook earlier today you would have noticed me complaining about reading a book instead of listing books. It’s totally my own fault and I have no-one else to blame but I’ll try and blame the author…let’s see how I go.
I picked up The Chalet School in Exile by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. All I was going to do was look at the publishing date so I could get some idea of a price for it, seriously, but I took a look at the first couple of pages as they weren’t in such good condition and ended up on the first page of the book. Bad move, very bad move. The Chalet School books are seriously good books, I won’t claim to have read all of them as there are around 60 books and some of them are hard to get but I have read a fair few and they are addictive reading.
The Chalet School books are essentially about a private girls school set in the Austrian Alps until 1938 when they relocate to the island of Guernsey. The Austrian Alps is supposed to have very good air and be very good for people with delicate health. The founder of the school, Madge Bettany, has a 12 year old sister who is delicate so she kills two birds with one stone by setting up a school there, thus providing herself with a job and a career. Madge Bettany is a tyrant for good manners and teaching girls the important things in life and these include a good education in topics such as languages (they alternate using French, German or English as the main language of the day), history, geography, science, sports, needlework and being good all round people.
During the life of the series, Madge marries and has children, her twin brother marries and has four children but as they live in India (which is considered a bad place for children at that time) the children live with Madge and Jo (her younger sister), Jo also marries, has children and becomes an accomplished author – at this point you can speculate on whether the books she writes are written about the school, it is certainly suggested within the books.
There are many students and they all have their quirks. Many of the younger ones like playing tricks or bad grammar and are told off in no uncertain terms. There are accidents, illnesses and so many other things that I couldn’t possibly write about them all in one blog. I’m over 400 words and I haven’t even begun to tell you why this particular book took over my morning.
The Chalet School in Exile starts its journey in mid-March 1938 just at the time Hitler invades Austria and draws it into the Third Reich. It’s both an interesting and horrific time in history. In this book Madge and her husband, Jem, are looking at the school and whether it’s safe to continue. Jem is worried while Madge is not which was typical of that time, many people didn’t think there would be a problem and were proved so wrong. During half term they move the school nearer to the sanitarium run by Jem as they feel this is safer but found nothing was safe as Jo’s adopted sister, Robin, tried to save a Jewish man from being beaten. The girls with her help and they all find themselves unable to go back to school. They are smuggled out of Austria very quickly and move to Guernsey where they stay for a while until Madge sets up the school on the island. They have all sorts of fun and games including a spy and the birth of Jo’s children. That’s all I’ll say about the plot as it’s very involved and there’s so much in it. If it was being written now then it would not be limited to 190 pages but would be much bigger and I suggest would be 400+ pages.
This particular book is a spellbinder, I’ve read it before and couldn’t put it down then so I have no idea how come I thought today would be any different. It was written in 1940, only a year or two after the events it’s talking about and is aimed at children. There are many difficult concepts but then again, those were very difficult times and the children in Britain would have known bombings, food shortages, having to grow your own food and so much more. They would have heard about the war and would have known some of what was going on. It was quite clear in this book that people had some knowledge about the concentration camps and some of the other atrocities that were going on, some of the spouses of Jo’s school friends somehow made it out of a concentration camp and to Guernsey. The writing is good and some of the harder concepts are glossed over so younger children should be able to cope with them, it will open up a whole slew of questions, though. It is a page turner, I couldn’t put it down as I had to turn over the page and find out what was happening next, I know I’ve read it before and had a really good memory of it but I still had to find out what was on the next page, the only time I looked up in the entire book was to look up one name so I could place it in a historical timeline.
I have 14 more Chalet School books to be listed. I do hope I don’t have the same problem with them otherwise I’ll be a long time listing.
I’ve used this book for Teaser Tuesday twice as I’ve found it a challenge to get through. I know I’ve promised more blogs about AussieCon 4 but I figured you’ve been waiting for this for longer so it was well past time for this book
From the back of the book:
Jewels and Ashes is the result of a journey of discovery. Moving effortlessly between centuries and continents, and across inner and outer landscapes, it is an astonishing achievement. In one stroke, the Jewish historical experience has become mainstream literature.
I really can’t describe the book any better than that, the writing is another matter entirely. This novel was so challenging for several reasons. Arnold Zable takes us on a journey through time between Melbourne, Australia and history-torn Europe. He takes us through the pogroms in Russia in the 1900s, through the Holocaust and also through various other parts of history. Zable looks at one member or branch of his family and follows their journey through life in whatever part of the world he/she was in, looking at the people currently living there, the buildings where his family lived and also at the history of the area. His writing is very rich with words without providing us with a terribly big book – it only has 210 pages while feeling like there is 1,000 pages. There is so much in each paragraph I regularly and frequently found myself going back and reading paragraphs multiple times to ensure I’d got everything from it. Zable has written a book that begins and ends with his parents and his relationship with them, and while it feels like a poem as there’s so much imagery and so many poetic phrases it is presented as a novel. He spends a lot of time travelling through the areas he’s writing about and tells about his travels there. On so many occasions I felt as if I was there with him and could see the people and houses as well as the surrounding countryside.
I can’t say enough nice things about this book, but I did find myself in tears on so many occasions. It does deal with challenging issues, the pogroms in Russia and the Holocaust are a good part of that. It was wonderful to be able to see the parts of the world where some of my family came from without actually going there, not that it negates the need for a trip but it does help. I was also able to understand some of the feelings that would have been going through any community which had managed to get themselves out of Europe and into the safety of Australia or New Zealand, the vast majority of my family were living in Australia before the troubles in Germany and WWII.
I can’t say enough nice things about this book. If I was in the habit of giving stars I’d have to say eight out of five, it’s that good that wouldn’t have enough stars for it.
Regeneration – Pat Barker
A few weeks ago I was happily Twittering and came across a competition run by Penguin Australia. They gave a link to a website depicting a large number of their new reprints and we had to choose a book and tell them why we wanted it…on Twitter. This was a challenge…a 140 character challenge. I chose a book which I can’t recall the title of and popped back to Twitter with something to say only to find a friend had exactly the same idea so I ditched that idea and went back to the page to find another book. The only one I could write anything funny about was Regeneration so I tweeted back to PenguinAus – Regeneration as my body has to look good some time this century – and I won. I was happy until I got the book and realised I’d won a book I wasn’t really interested in so I took it on holidays and I’m glad I did. It’s a very hard book to read and I needed the extended time and concentration a holiday provides.
The book is about mental health during the first world war. We’re looking through the eyes of patients of a mental asylum, people who have been sent there as they’ve had a breakdown and the medical personnel were trying to put them back together so they could be sent back to war. Part of the book is also from the point of view of the best psychiatrist at the mental asylum. Captain Rivers is in the forefront of a new technique to bring the patients in the mental asylum back to normality. Prior to that people were supposed to just suck it up and get back to the front, they were encouraged to forget all they’d seen and heard and just return to normality. Captain Rivers’ technique was to get them to talk about it, to talk to them about their nightmares and make them face what they’d already faced, in other words to be debriefed and to learn to deal with all the horrors that made up WWI. In this book we learn some of those horrors and also learn to understand that it’s generally not one episode that makes a man lose his mental stability, but the accumulation of everything they’d seen and heard, the accumulation of having to stand in the trenches for 48 hours at a time, sometimes kneedeep in water and filth and the accumulation of losing their friends, family and comrades in such shocking circumstances.
I found it very hard to read, mostly due to the topic being WWI which was shocking and what those men had to put up with which was just abominable. Emotionally it was the hardest book to read that I took with me and that includes Janet Frame’s, Owls Do Cry (I’ll be reviewing this book soon). It’s fairly graphic in what happened in the first world war and even more graphic in how some of the men coped. One of the patients leaves the hospital grounds and ends up in a relationship with a young lady who has a job in a munitions factory. We see how some of the jobs she is given turns her skin yellow and we see her loading ammunition belts, ammunition which we understand will be used later to kill the enemy.
Having mentioned all the hard things about this book I now need to tell you that it is very well written. I enjoyed the writing, it is a fairly easy style to read which compensated somewhat for the heavy topic. The characters were well written and it was easy to feel empathy with them. It was possible to see the different layers in the characters and to see that some were sicker than others. Barker shows that it’s not easy having a mental illness in WWI and that it is possible to be somewhat better, but she doesn’t have anyone getting completely better, in fact she shows that even the medical staff can have their own problems and how they deal with them.
Warnings: After all of that I’m sure you don’t need any warnings.
This book is now for sale on the Suz’s Space website.
This is one of the most talked about books this year. I heard so much about it from so many sources I just had to read it.
This is a really fabulous book. It details the journey of the Sarajevo Haggadah as seen through the eyes of a book conservator. I don’t know how much is correct, but the forensic ideas are just fabulous. To take such a small sample and be able to state where and when this book was looked at is just amazing. I truly admire the author for taking the facts and weaving this fantastic story around them.
Not only that, but I felt I was there. In each section of the book I felt I was really there watching and following the story.
One small segment of the book I felt wasn’t needed. How much of that was due to me wanting my 16 year old to read it and how much of it was because I felt it was out of place is a question I can’t answer. Until this point I was thinking it would be a fantastic book for her to read as it would give her a possible career to aim for. She is interested in so many elements of the work that goes into book conservation and I felt it would be good, but then came the sex scene. The first one was okay, it was glossed over, but the second one was not okay. She won’t be able to read this book for another couple of years.