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In Which The Physical World Manifests Itself As Annoyance

or: Where I Come Up With A Really Pretentious Sounding Title That Actually Somewhat Contradicts The Content Of The Post

So there’s a book I wanted to read. I’m not sure why, because it’s not that great a book. I think I wanted to study the magic system a bit, but now that I’m reading it, the whole magic system is just kind of… magic… The rest of the book contains many things I feel like I can learn from though, so probably still worth it… except that…

I am a cheap ass bastard and didn’t want to shell out $5.99 for (the Kindle version of) a book that I wasn’t really sure I was going to like in the first place (turns out to be a great decision in this case). But the problem with being a cheap ass bastard is that I get books from the library. Now, the library, for it’s part, has done a wonderful, remarkable job of making books available in electronic forms (both eBooks and audio downloads). This particular book, however, was not available in any electronic forms. Just paper.

Arg.

Paper.

In order to read this book while waiting for something or someone, I have to carry it around with me. I can’t just take out my phone and load up my Kindle (or other eReading) app and have it sync my location with my iPad and my actual Kindle (soon to be a Kindle Paperwhite). I can’t read it in bed at night (or in the morning since it’s still dark when I wake up in the winter). Soon I’ll have three different ways to read eBooks without any lights.

Plus, it’s just one book. The whole “read anywhere” thing is probably the most common reason that people say they love eBooks. But when you’re like me and pretty much constantly reading: 1) fiction book, 2) tech/programming book, and 3) non-fiction book, only having a single book in a form that takes up as much (or more) space and weight than a reading device that has all three options (and more) feels very encumbered.

It’s only 274 pages, so that’s a relief… But I’m not gonna lie, after this, I’m tempted to download the eBook version of any paperback books I own just to be able to read them more quickly and easily and pleasurably*. I know that’s technically illegal and I haven’t actually done it yet, so don’t come after me right now… but in those cases, I have already bought (or was given) a hard copy, so the author (and publisher) is getting their money. I’m sure if you asked the authors, they’d be happy to let me read whichever version was best for me (in fact, I’ve seen and heard a couple others say basically that when asked what the best way to buy their book is. “Buy whatever version is best for you. Then buy whatever version is best for your friends. *wink*wink* *laugh*”)

Finally, the promised contradictory message contained in the title of the post: Obviously, since I’m still using a device that exists in the physical world, then there isn’t really a way to get away from reading books in the physical world, even if the content is contained on sheets of transistors instead of sheets of paper. So really, the physical world is manifesting itself no matter how I choose to read. It’s just the paper part that’s the annoyance.

burning-book

And, scene.

* Did anyone else immediately think of a 50 Shades joke there?

Book Recommendation: Talent Is Overrated

(The link is to the paperback which comes out in May 2010 – there is a hardcover available now)

I read this book back in July and since then I’ve thought about it on almost a daily basis. The hypothesis, stated by itself, sounds fairly ridiculous because it comes down to: There is no such thing as talent. Perhaps I feel so strongly and was so influenced by the book because I’ve kind of always felt it was true, but presented in the book are studies that provide the kind of evidence I’ve always believed in a more anecdotal way.

My personal favorite example (not presented in the book) is Michael Jordan. Say what you will about Jordan (and if you don’t know why I qualify it that way, then don’t worry about), but he practiced, and practiced right. I’m sure there were people who spent more time playing basketball than Jordan in high school (okay, I’m not actually sure about that, but it’s possible), but Jordan, like Jerry Rice – who is actually used as an example in the book, used his time most efficiently.

There is the well known story of Jordan getting “cut” from his high school varsity team as a freshman (but mostly because freshman weren’t allowed to be on varsity – I know how that is). As a result of that slight, Jordan would go to the gym early every day and practice. Did he have talent? I would argue no, and that’s why it’s so hard to explain Talent Is Overrated. Most people would scoff at the notion that Michael Jordan didn’t have some natural talent. But I would say he didn’t.

Did he have a genetic disposition for height that made him grow to 6′ 5″ (or however tall he actually was)? Yes.

Did he have a very strong work ethic? Yes.

Did he have a natural talent for basketball? No. He just combined the two factors above and decided he wanted to play basketball.

I would argue that anyone with his height and the same strong work ethic could be the best in the world at playing basketball. Anyone who disagrees with that probably underestimates Jordan’s work ethic. He didn’t get better simply because he was destined to become the best basketball player ever. He got better because he wanted to become the best basketball player ever, and he wanted it more than anyone else.

Yes, he played in a time when the media exposure was just right, and he played on a team that was able to put people around him who also worked hard and were able to play like Jordan wanted them to play.

If you think I’m biased… well of course I am. But I’m not the only one. Someone else wrote a book about it and cited studies from people who were researching the same idea.

If you don’t think there’s a chance you’ll ever believe that people aren’t born with innate talent, then don’t bother reading Talent Is Overrated. But if you think that maybe the people who are the best at what they do got that way because they worked hard and worked smart, then I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.