A Little Different Book Review

The most surprisingly resonating fiction book I’ve read in a while inspired a little more experimentally formatted review:
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As We Speak: Reading Notes

The below are reading notes of some good old truths, new aha-s and pro tips from a pretty good concise communications guidebook called As We Speak: How to Make Your Point and Make it Stick by Peter Meyers and Shann Nix. Mostly focussed on public speaking, especially to larger audiences – but touches upon other topics as well, such as small meeting settings, managing crisis communications, using comms & presentation technology and structuring 1:1 tough conversations.

The book was assigned as reading for a brief reflection essay in the Generative Leadership class at Stanford, but I would (and have already) recommended it as a no-brainer purchase for any manager to hand out to people on their team who need a little comms help. They’ll get through it in a few hours and be grateful for the few very tangible things they can implement the same day.

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Finding The Best Medium Class Stereo Amplifier

Apologies for the utter audio-gadget-geekiness of this post, but figured I have to share my notes. A Google search for “naim primare densen heed comparison” returned very little useful & recent material when I embarked on a search for a stereo amp recently. I hope the below somehow helps the next person trying.

Setting

For reasons beyond my control I was stuck at home for a few weeks in a state that allowed for little talk or work, but the more for light reading and writing and most of all – listening to music. While at it, I came to a conclusion that I’ve outgrown my good old Arcam AVR200, one of the most “musical” AV receivers in its class and at its time about 10 years ago. It’s the usual story of being too busy to sit down and just listen, and the limits of sleeping kids in the house set to the volume you used to operate on in college. My current setup has been quite fine for the quiet loungy backdrops for when you have some guests over, but just a bit too… bland when you really focus on it.

To make things even more complicated, my upgrade needs are somewhat “temporary” (as in those things that usually end up becoming permanent). After my awe over the sound of the Estelon speakers late last year (disclosure: followed by an investment into the company) it is only a question of time when I’ll make that upgrade step too, just not sure to which model yet. So for now I needed something to match my “temporary” Audes Maestro 145 floorstanders – a good price-performance bet any time, with capacity to fill the room (especially at the lower end), but definitely not the easiest to drive.

As a source I’ve effectively moved away from CD-s (played via Arcam DV88+ or even plain Sony BDP-S383) to Sonos ZP90 streaming either MP3 or ALAC files locally or live from Spotify or Rdio (when available). Everything is increasingly digital, with all the benefits and problems coming with it.

In this context, I set myself on quest to buy a good, musical stereo amp between 1000-2000 EUR, available in Estonia immediately for home audition or purchase.

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Mitchell’s number9dream

number9dream_cover.jpg

The way I met this book is quite as bizarre and coincidental as David Mitchell‘s writing itself. I happened to finger through a flight magazine (probably SAS, and probably Copenhagen-London) and stumbled on a brief book review of something that sounded like “fast-paced cyberfiction set in modern Tokyo”. Given my childhood love for anything cyberpunk and that I was just freshly under Tokyo influence, I really wanted to get that book. Alas, I immediately forgot the title.
Weeks later, I was walking down Market Street in downtown San Francisco, to get my rental car from a parking lot and drive to SFO to fly out. I passed a small bookstore and somehow the memory of that review crawled out from the back of my brain. I entered the store, still clueless on what to look for and spent probably half an hour googling various combinations of “tokyo dream 9 nine cyber fiction” type search strings on my Blackberry. Once I finally found the name of Mitchell, I also found the M-shelf with the last copy of the book.

number9dream
is all about this sort of seemingly coincidental events by themselves, set physically and situationally well apart, but building up to a great storyline of Eiji’s quest to find his father from the faceless concrete maze of Tokyo. There is a hint of technology playing it’s part (as it is in our lives), but it is not pure cyberfiction per se (if that’s what would scare you away from reading it).
If I could think of the most kliché-ridden way of describing the stylistic mix, I’d say that number9dream is William Gibson meets Lost meets Robert Ludlum meets Kazuo Ishiguro meets your favourite yakuza manga and then a black and white Japanese 2nd World War movie to top.
Mitchell’s command of detail and dialogue is stellar and his time spent as an Englishman in Japan brings a distinct angle of knowledgeable but still a bit distant outsider reporting to the whole thing. The only thing this book could live without is the sidestory of Goatwriter, which feels like an artificially attached showoff of Mitchell’s ability to also switch easily from minimalistic japanese translations to archaic few dozen syllable phrase constructs of a victorian fairytale.
VERDICT:
Must read.


Which Michelin gave Hakkasan Their Star?

Canadian jumbo crab
Hakkasan (SkypeFind reviews) has been on my to-go list for a long time. Can’t even remember who was the very first to recommend it (and maybe the place was just better a year+ ago?). It is right around the corner from our London office, but for a reason or another I never made it.
Now I did and what a complete disappointment it was.
GOOD:
* Those who had ’em, praised the cocktails.
* Dimsum & duck appetizers were nice.
* That’s it.
BAD:

* Well manned (headcount-wise), but careless service. The wet wiping cloth coming between you and your food kind.
* Robotic sommelier who says his lines and just does not listen if you ask something about the wine. As in ignoring you.
* Loud and overcrowded as a cocktail bar… on the restaurant side on Monday night.
* Most appetizers could not compete on Cheap Chinese Takeaway championships if they tried.
* My crab (pictured above) tasted like paper towels. I rarely leave my seafood uneaten.
* All this and more for about 100 pounds per head.
Who exactly decides on Michelin stars these days? Some Anatoli Michelinovski running a parallel business in some dark alley?
And #19 in the 50 World’s Best Restaurants list??? Come on…
PS: my friends say that the same owner’s Yauatcha is still a good place for dimsum.