Read Read Read

My new years resolution this year is to read a book a week. On new years eve I was having a drunken conversation with my brother in law (technically my sister in law’s brother) and I was complaining that I feel like I’ve stagnated in my mental development. I hadn’t felt particularly encouraged or challenged in quite a while. I then realized that I hadn’t read a book in nearly three months. Somehow, in the extremely indolent time post grad school I had also forgotten to read. Wonderful.

I’m on track this year so far and will try to post at least once a month with the books I’ve read along with a short description and review.

I’ve just finished:

Malcolm Gladwell – What the Dog Saw: And other Adventures

Malcolm Gladwell is a genius and one of my all time favorite authors. This book is a collection of essays and so can be jumped around and/or left in the bathroom for casual perusal. Gladwel sees the same puzzles we all do but actually quests out to find the answers. For example: Why does one brand of ketchup dominate a supermarket shelf while there are dozens of mustards? Answer: read the book. Haha.

One of my favorite chapters is the one the book is named after “What the dog saw”. Gladwell meets and analyzes my hero, the dog whisperer, Cesar Milan. He concludes that its Milan’s extreme confidence, as shown through extremely subtle body movements, is the secret to his super powers. He expands on this by quoting research where people can predict the competence of professionals by watching 2 second video clips. I think it was a previous Gladwell book where I also read about another study in body language and how every minute body language detail is responded to by another’s body language. Unknowingly our bodies continuously act and react to each other multiple times per second. Fascinating. This is why confidence is so sexy, because it bleeds out of our bodies, and there’s no real way to fake it. Body language gives you away.

Barbara Demick – Nothing to Envy

The most fascinating and heartwrenching book I’ve read in a long long time. I’ve been interested in North Korea for at least 10 years, but this is the first book that has introduced me to the everyday life of North Koreans. Most books focus on security or human rights and skip the culture of normal citizens. What a tragedy.

As a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times in South Korea Demick extensively interviewed defectors living in South Korea and in the book tells their stories from an intimate perspective. The stories are terribly fascinating and focus not only on tragedy. There are love stories as well. I had forgotten that prior to the 1990s North Korea was a relatively decent place to live. Actually until the mid 1980s it was better off than South Korea and lost its power and economy only in the 90s. It is the only country in the world that went from a developed country to a black hole.

Which leads me to my next book, because I want to know… what the hell happened in North Korea? I know they were propped up by the USSR and China, but what exact economic policy blunders were made that caused the 90s fiasco? My next book is The Impossible State by Victor Cha.


Capacitative Stylus Review Roundup


As a student the iPad has really helped to consolidate all my files and notes. During my first module in business school I was juggling several binders and notebooks and always seemed to leave the one report I needed at home. Boom, enter the iPad. Problem solved. However, taking notes on an iPad without a stylus is impossible. My handwriting is bad as it is. Using my sausage fingers makes my notes look written by a pubescent child with broken fingers.

So I got a stylus, which I didn’t like, so I got another. And then I got another, and another, and another. Here’s my experience with the following styli, hopefully they’ll help save you some time.

Adonit Jot Pro

I really want to like this, especially after the $30 I shelled out for it and all the kickstarter hoopla it had. However, I don’t, and here’s why. 1) The damn thing misses strokes when you write quickly. 2) Its hard tip makes annoying tap tap tapping sounds. 3) It doesn’t work at certain angles, making for an uncomfortable writing experience. 4) It’s not good for navigation and casual use.

I don’t want to have to think about using my pen at the right angle and right speed and right anything. It should just work, and at $30, it should work damn well for a long time. Thankfully the tip hasn’t broken, but there are lots of reports on the interwebs of it falling off or splitting in half. Apparently Adonit is coming out with a pressure sensitive model for around $100 soon, hopefully that one won’t suck.
Amazon Link $30

Kuel H10

I was stuck using this junk for two months. I have largish hands, okay, I have gorilla hands, so its small form may just bother me more than others. However, I can’t imagine anyone using this comfortably for any period of time who’s older than five. But not only does the size suck, the tip sucks too. These types (the majority) of styli have a hard rubber tip surrounded by another thin rubber tip. It’s hard to explain. But if the second layer extends too far it makes an annoying yak yak yak sound. Maybe it’s gotten worse over the two months. I did use it quite vigorously. Nonetheless, styli shouldn’t do that.
Amazon Link $13

VIPERTEK Premier 2-in-1 Capacitive Stylus and Executive Pen

This has quickly become my carry around stylus. I always carry three things in my pocket: a highlighter, pen, and stylus. Yeah, I guess I’m a nerd. But I’m a student, so I suppose that’s a nerd license. Anyhow, combining the pen and stylus cuts the load by a third.

I really like this stylus. It’s large, long, hefty, and writes smooth. It probably isn’t good for drawing as the head is pretty thick, but for writing and navigation it does just fine. And I like the pen. It’s a gel tip, not ball, which is my preference.

I do have a couple reservations. As I mentioned, it’s quite hefty. It hasn’t started to bother me, and I haven’t done any lengthy writing sessions with it yet, but it may. Also I don’t really care for the styling. As any of my friends know, even though I love Apple products, I care more for function over form. Score for a nerdy 2-in-1 pen. 
Amazon Link

AYL (TM) Newest Generation Slim Capacitive iPad Stylus

I was excited for this pen as it’s a top seller on Amazon and has a nice long form that I’m keen on. However, it too suffers from the same annoyingly lose tip as the Kuel. I suppose this might be nice if you’re looking for precision, but I can’t get over the squeak.
Amazon Link $12

BoxWave Capacitive Stylus

I rather like this one. The tip feels sturdy. The only thing is that it’s a little short for my monster hands. Why are styli always so short? Where do these companies think people are going to be keeping them that they need to be made so short? Pens aren’t short, why should styli be? Strange. 
Amazon Link

Griffin GC16040 Stylus

See the Boxwave review above. These styli are almost exactly identical. I’m not sure who released their styli first, but whoever followed definitely pulled a Samsung. (Kudos to you if you got that reference. And you’re a tech nerd.) The Griffin is slightly thicker though. Just a bit thicker, thus for me, giving it the edge.
Amazon Link $11


Here’s my preference from best to worst.

1. Vipertek
2. Griffin
3. Boxwave
4. AYL
5. Adonit Jot Pro
6. Kuel H10


Steve Jobs Bio

Yeah it was good. It’s amazing what he could accomplish through his intelligence, willpower, and sheer I’m-going-to-follow-my-intuition-and-fuck-you mentality. What really surprised me was his artistry and devotion to design. I always knew Apple was sexy, but I didn’t know Jobs was the fountain that leaked that sexy. The best part of the book are the anecdotes of Jobs’s quarks. He’s got plenty of them. Here’s my favorite passage (though somewhat typical from Jobs’s constant need for design perfection) from a scene when Jobs is drugged up in the hospital:

Despite all the coddling, Jobs at times almost went crazy. He chafed at not being in control, and he sometimes hallucinated or became angry. Even when he was barely conscious, his strong personality came through. At one point the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated. Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. The doctors looked at Powell [his wife], puzzled. She was finally able to distract him so they could put on the mask. He also hated the oxygen monitor they put on his finger. He told them it was ugly and too complex. He suggested ways it could be designed more simply. “He was very attuned to every nuance of the environment and objects around him, and that drained him,” Powell recalled.