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Monday, March 3, 2014

Spoiler-free review of Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance

A short spoiler-free review of "Words of Radiance" has been turned in and will be published in the next 24 hours with the Deseret News. I'll include a link to the article when it posts online.

Update: Click here to access published review for Deseret News. 

Over the next several weeks, I hope to write a few more reviews and would like them each to be in-depth and focus on certain themes, characters, etc. These reviews will not be spoiler-free, but I'll provide spoiler notices and hold off until the most hardcore of the fans can work their ways through "Words of Radiance."

*****
UPDATE 3/04/2014 --

Request for topic in series of Words of Radiance reviews?
If anyone has a specific request of a topic, character, theme, analysis, etc., to include in a planned series of "Words of Radiance" reviews, please feel free to make requests via email or in the comments section of this post.

Topics under consideration
Topics I am considering devoting 3-4 entire posts to include:
  • Spren
  • Shardblades
  • Brandon's acknowledgement one book may be written from the perspective of a character who has already passed away
  • Interludes: Integral or disposable?
  • Grandiose scope
  • Books No. 10+ - or the pros and cons of Brandon's verbosity and how many books the series is likely to have when the last words are finally published
  • Ghostbloods
  • Social castes
  • Cosmere: Magnum opus or too complex?
  • Character names in fantasy as a method for engaging readers

Questions for Brandon?
I'll also be sending a short list of questions that Brandon will be answering via email. If you have a question you'd like me to consider including in my list, please let me know.

A unique portion of my review/assessment of Words of Radiance
Also, while this isn't something you'll find associated with most reviews, I will occasionally make notes about the quality of the paper, bindings, etc. Although I finished the book via an electronic copy sent by the publisher a good little while before the hard copy arrived, I still thumbed through the hard copy to get a feel for the physical copy - as well as see some things missing from the ARC.

In fact, I was very impressed by the artwork, etc. However, I was surprised for a book with such an affordable cost per page ($28.99 for 1,088 pages) to have such fine quality of paper and a binding of better quality that anticipated.  For example, I once reviewed a book by a well-renown publisher who knows better than to produce shoddy material. The book was authored by a prestigious man, a master of many fields. The paper in a book of approximately 200 pages sold for approximately $2.00 less than Words of Radiance - yet the quality was so poor each time I touched the page it was like scraping fingernails across a chalkboard.

Tor has provided readers with durable, comfortable paper of a finer quality than is necessary at this price - something that should signal appreciation the publisher has for enriching the reader's experience. Additionally, the binding is not of poor quality - though this is likely out of necessity because of the page length.

In essence, Tor has encapsulated the masterful writing and artwork that comprise Words of Radiance in a hardcover book that should easily be able to withstand even a $10 increase in price. That the price is not higher suggests Tor is forecasting a high volume of sales. However, I also believe it is a sign of an ethical publisher in a number of ways. Now, I make this estimation based on a ludicrous sample size of one -- but as someone who has read from most major publishers, this quality appears to be more than a necessity to accommodate the massive size of the manuscript. Although this and sales forecasts almost surely played a role, Tor may be quietly providing readers with a high quality of workmanship for the cost in a lauded effort to retain its readers.

Kudos.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The role of feedback in attracting and keeping talent

Liz Ryan of Forbes.com has a wonderful piece out this month, entitled, "10 Ways Companies Drive Away Talent." The entire article is worth a read - and 2-3 minutes per category no matter how strong you think your organization, private or nonprofit, is in successfully combating the dangers identified by Ryan.

As I read through the list I noticed several that are dangers many leaders would recognize as challenges and accordingly guard against.

At the same time I noticed one danger in particular that many chief executives may be tempted to recognize as challenges for other organizations, but not their own.

Take a few minutes and think about the following text from Ryan:
Hear no evil feedback systems
My science friends tell me that entropy is a feature of closed systems. When no new information comes in, things break down. So it is in corporations where there’s no upward feedback, such that executive leaders are spared the inconvenience of reacting to messy reality and permitted to bask in the awesomeness of their delusional plans undisturbed. If your employer doesn’t have robust, active, constant feedback mechanisms in place and an appetite for hearing about life on the street, you’re pushing away talent as we speak.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2014 State of the Union

When I saw advanced notes of the text for tonight's State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, I worried a devotion to action would only increase partisanship - even while pleas for compromise were to be used as a deterrent to any one branch of government acting on its.

As I pondered more upon the subject I realized it is just the next step is what has been brewing for far too many years. This brief post won't go into detail, but it is becoming increasingly clear all three branches are seizing powers that erode the checks and balances so integral to our government.

And for those who say it isn't anything new, perhaps it's not. But the degree to which it is taking place is so great we may actually need to look back all the way back to the 19th century to see power-grabs and partisanship forming such a strong nexus.

It doesn't seem to matter what political party is in charge, to what degree it is in charge, or even if there is supposed to be a technical objective approach. Every branch seems to be increasingly seizing, inventing, or interpreting new powers.

This goes for the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court; as well as Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

And it needs to change.

Unfortunately, all the rhetoric in the world won't bring about the change that enables the return of a more functional government.

Yet despite the challenge of change, it is by no means impossible - though it will be hard to accomplish. 

In the end we need to vote for leaders who have the skills needed to govern. We need leaders with vision, leaders who can be bi-partisan, leaders who can compromise, leaders who can discern the difference between minutiae and principles - because when we make every issue one of principle we only dig our holes deeper and fill our packs with more weights.

God grant that the extremism in our government dissipate, that our discord be replaced with harmony - even with the occasional dissonance which adds layers of depth and complexity. Furthermore, if we cannot solve these problems now, let us vote for leaders who have the ability to lead - through both word and example.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Finished reading Words of Radiance, Book Two of the Stormlight Archive

Photo Source: Tor.com
I have finally finished reading the advanced copy Brandon Sanderson's, "Words of Radiance."

It is not a short read - but overall, the length actually enriches the reading experience. Sanderson fans are likely to find the book worth the wait.

That's all I will say until my review is published.

My review will correspond approximately with the official release date of the book, March 4, 2014. However, I may take a rare approach and do a two-part review: one in the traditional mold and another with spoiler information (post-publication) included to do justice to some of the topics that deserve a thorough exploration.

In the meantime, TOR has posted a generous amount of preview material than can be read online for free:

Click here for the Prologue and chapters one and two.

Click here for chapters three, four, and five.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reading Brandon Sanderson's 'Words of Radiance'

(Source: Tor.com) Endpaper by artist, Michael Whelan
This is day one of my reading schedule for the ARC of Brandon Sanderson's book, "Words of Radiance," the second volume of The Stormlight Archive.

The book is scheduled to be released March 4, 2014.

I am looking forward to immersing myself in Sanderson's adventure and then sharing my review.

Those who are as excited as I am to continue the adventure that began with Sanderson's first contribution to the Stormlight Archive series, The Way of Kings, you can pre-order Words of Radiance here.

While I won't be posting updates on my progress or thoughts while reading the ARC (per the privacy agreement associated with this ARC), odds are the quality will be found to be consistent with Sanderson's prior work.

In fact, TOR reported in the summer of 2013 that Sanderson requested more time to work on the book to ensure the long novel didn't skimp on quality at the expense of quantity.

(Source: Tor.com) Words of Radiance manuscript
In regards to quantity, Sanderson recently tweeted, "The press Tor is using cannot physically manufacture a book longer than 1088 pages. Good thing that's the exact length of Words of Radiance."

Judging by the size of the manuscript, I should stop writing and get to reading...


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* NOTE: For those interested in any updates by the publisher and some fascinating blog posts during the period Sanderson was writing the book, check out this link at TOR.com.




Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Most overused business words of 2013

The end of each year brings with it lists. Media outlets around the world publish their top stories, video sites rate their most popular offerings, and search engines list the most searched for terms and phrases.

Of particular interest to those in the business world is a mixture of two lists ranking the most overused business phrases of the year.

The first list comes to us courtesy of Business Insider. In this instance, the publication reached out to an agency responsible for compiling such lists and went on to show the research illustrated the business people of today are more and more defining themselves by terms that are increasingly IT-related. That has some interesting implications, one of the more humorous is that I suspect people who have a Facebook and Twitter account list themselves as "Social Media" experts.

The second list comes to us courtesy of LinkedIn. The structure of LinkedIn itself and the methods used to selected words to describe yourself leave me with less faith in their list than I would prefer, yet they are also collecting data from 259 million members - either serving to strengthen the bias inherent in the ways in which you can describe yourself or to perhaps have a stickiness factor where connected friends and respected profiles create a desire for others to emulate them.

This particular list is fascinating. While I have these few criticisms of the data, I wonder if part of it also has to do with not understanding the meaning of words. For instance, I have spent years studying innovation (disruptive innovation, to be more precise) and have dedicated a career to trying to strengthen the sustainability of the nonprofit sector. I struggle to believe that tens and tens of millions of people understand these terms as I do - just as I struggle to believe I understand other terms on the list as well as others who swim in the deep waters of their particular alphabet pools.

I think there are other reasons why these words may be showing up as well. In particular, a transition continues to take place where lines that blur one sector of the market from another combined with  increasing requirements to demonstrate success through evidence-based practices forces people to become moderately familiar with the terms to have a basic understanding of the changing world in which we do business.

Questions aside, the list from LinkedIn is truly fascinating and certain readers would be wise to modify their profiles to be more original.

Thus with the stage set, the top 10 overused buzzwords on LinkedIn are:

1. Responsible (used twice as much as any other word on the list)
2. Strategic
3. Creative
4. Effective
5. Patient
6. Expert
7. Organizational
8. Driven
9. Innovative
10. Analytical

*Note: For a great article and info graphic by LinkedIn blogger, Christine Choi, click here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Update: How many pages and regulations are in Affordable Care Act

Height of ACA legislation, March 2013 (Washington Post)
A little more than two years ago I wrote an article addressing the number of pages in health care reform's Affordable Care Act (ACA).

While the posting was the result of a day of research that went into a larger project, my initial discoveries were startling. The law itself has just over 2,400 pages - and approximately 2,000 instances in which specifics of the legislation were to be created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Setting aside for the most part numerous questions about the blurring line between the legislative and executive branches of our federal government, I was curious how many pages the legislation would eventually contain.

At the time, very few of the approximately 2,000 sets of HHS regulations had been released - yet what had been released sentenced more than a few trees to their untimely deaths.

Using a crude calculation to produce a ballpark estimate I could use for purposes of illustration, I estimated if the current pace was maintained, ACA's 2,600 pages would ultimately grow to more than 170,000 pages.

I concluded the article with a caveat stating it was doubtful the 71.5:1 regulation-to-legislation ratio would be maintained. I also explained that an estimate of total pages would not be nearly as accurate as a calculation of total words. Since my purposes of illustration were concluded, I indicated I might return to the issue one day and provided a few guidelines for anyone who wanted to do the research themselves.

* * * * *

UPDATE: Today, I discovered CNSNews.com has done the nitty-gritty (read: dry and tedious) work and estimated as of Oct. 14, 2013, there is a ratio of 30 words of regulations for each word of the original health care reform legislation.

Although I have not done the calculations myself, CNSNews.com used the same sources and strategies to arrive at their estimates. The differences between their article and mine are that the estimates are (obviously) more currently and the estimates are portrayed far more accurately in total words as opposed to total pages.

CNSNews.com estimates the legislation itself contains approximately 381,517 words and the additional regulations released as of Oct. 14, 2013 equal 11,588,500 words.

Put simply, health care reform is now 30x larger than when it was signed into law - and there is more growth yet to come.

Thank you to CNSNews for taking the time to go a step further and provide the public with a perspective on the length of the legislation.

I should also add that other individuals and organizations have almost certainly produced similar calculations. I am simply updating the length of the legislation here and referring readers to the first group I came across who has a recent regulation-to-legislation word ratio.