Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kosher Chinese, by Michael Levy

This book's subtitle is "living, teaching, and eating with China's other billion."   It is the experience of a Peace Corps volunteer assigned to teach English in Guiyang.

The opening line of a book sets the tone.   I feel very kindly towards Mr. Levy, who wrote:  "I strongly believe there is no species of millipede I will ever find palatable."

But it is very difficult to cross over from an interesting (check), amusing (check) travelogue to a brilliant one (not so much of a check).  Perhaps Peter Mayle did it with A Year in Provence.

Still, this was a fun, cheerful read.   He portrays the Chinese people in a lovely but not apparently unrealistic way.

I recommend it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Time of My Life, by Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi

I'm not a huge fan of biographies, at least not of biographies of performers.   I'm more the Winston Churchill or Einstein biography fan.    But this book was in the house.  And besides, who doesn't love Dirty Dancing?  And Mr. Swayze was fantastic in one of my favorite movies, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

So I read it and was pleasantly surprised:  it is well written and interesting -- well as interesting as it can be to read about the life of someone you don't have any particular tie or interest in.    And Mr. Swayze does seem to have been as straight up a good guy as he seemed to be (something that isn't guaranteed when it comes to Hollywood types -- but one of the points of this book is, I believe that Mr. Swayze and Ms. Niemi are far from being real Hollywood types -- and yes, that's a compliment).

If you're a fan of artist biographies, or of Mr. Swayze or Ms. Niemi, then this is probably a delightful read for you.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Foundations of Financial Management, by Stanley B. Block and Geoffrey A. Hirt

Yes, yes, I am aware that this is hardly what one would call a typical leisure book.   But I found it in the house (presumably a text book that one of the kids was unable to sell back to the college book store) and thought it might be fun.    Since it is a text book, I took some liberties -- that is, I didn't do the homework problems, and I skimmed many of the sections that were quite familiar to me, or overly burdened with detail that I studied long ago and wasn't interested in repeating.

Overall this is a surprisingly pleasant book.   There are many examples using well known firms and their data, and many (mostly) topical sidebars (even for this 2005 edition).

The transparencies used as graph overlays to help explain annuities and present value were great.

One complaint though:  very early on in the book, at page 11, the authors damaged the credibility of their subjective comments (although I continued to trust their statement of accounting fact).   They gave an example of two alternatives for the financial manager of a firm to consider in orchestrating earnings per share (EPS).   In alternative A, the EPS would be $1.50 in period one and grow to $2.00 in period two.   In alternative B, the EPS would be $2.00 in period one, dropping to $1.50 in period two.

The authors pointed out that the total earnings are equal.  They asserted that alternative B is "clearly superior because the larger benefits occur earlier."   Bah humbug!    Imagine what happens to a publicly traded firm who's EPS drops by 25% from period to period.   It would be a disaster and the financial manager who took this advice would be apt to find herself an unemployed former CFO.

(Newer editions are available.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First Lessons in Beekeeping, by Keith S. Delaplane

My caveat to this review is that I've never done beekeeping -- so it is possible that, were I an experienced beekeeper, I would have a different view.   But as a novice:  this book rocks.

It is complete, clearly written, provides ample detail.   I learned more than I'd expected to -- in fact, more than I expected I'd want to.     I couldn't be more pleased.

What surprised me the most on this topic:   beekeeping is like any other livestock activity -- meat goats, cattle, etc.   Just smaller, they fly, and they sting.   The care and feeding of the livestock (bees) includes dealing with supplemental feed, diagnosing herd ailments and treating them, and the like.    They take up less space, but do need to be further from public gathering spots.   Feed is cheaper (compared to meat on the hoof), but you don't wear a mesh veil to avoid getting stung by your goats.

So for those of you who, like me, imagined that beekeeping would be very simply scraping out some honey a few times a year, think again!