Archives For August 2016

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rating: 3.5 stars

For whatever reason, when I was a teenager, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books were always books that I had on my “to read” list but it’s only now that I’ve actually gotten around to reading them. There must have been a lot of talk amongst my friends about them. 25+ years later, I’m finding these pretty enjoyable light reading.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe takes up immediately after the end of Hitchhiker’s Guide and involves the same main characters. They’re on a galactic road trip, essentially caught up in the whirlwind of Zaphod’s drama wherein he is trying to figure out a personal mystery that lead to him stealing a spacecraft in the first book. Along the way, you get to know a very little more about the characters, see some pretty interesting planets, and almost get to watch the end of the universe.

Honestly, the most impactful thing about this book is all of the cultural references that I had seen previously, but never knew the origin. Much of those are found in other science fiction (movies, etc) but also randomly in other places. There is some always-fun British humor, of course. Dry wit and sarcasm galore.

Overall, the story didn’t go much of anywhere. The character development is pretty glacially slow. Towards the end there was some ironic time travel (for some reason, I find that I loathe time travel stories and elements… not sure why). Thankfully, it was a pretty short book and a “quick” read. I have all 5 books in a Kindle collection, but this one made me wonder if I’ll get through them. Maybe I’ll save it for when I’m needing some sarcastic dry wit or British humor. I’m still glad I’ve read the book, though.

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The Industries of the Future
The Industries of the Future by Alec J. Ross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rating: 4 stars

What I liked about this book: Generally good writing style that allowed it to flow. Interesting take on the concepts of globalization and how it will effect the choices our children will have to make in regards to their education and future jobs. Good examples of the effects of globalization with interesting people, places and situations coming into the new economy.

What was not so great: This book is very much an “overview” and almost seems more targeted towards non-Americans with a very hopeful tone for certain regions and political regimes (which is great, just that I am not that target audience). There was a fair amount of political pushing toward traditional American Democrat agendas. It wasn’t so heavy-handed as to be offensive, though.

As a man in my mid-forties now (sigh), there has been profound change in the world over my adulthood in a way that really alters my outlook for the children of Gen-X’ers such as myself. If you watch the news, it’s almost always portrayed as a bleak future with little hope for our children. This is a huge change from when I grew up – there seemed no end to the optimism about our future and the never-ending opportunities that were before us. Work hard and the world would be your oyster. Now, it seems kids are wary of the world and the opportunities seem few and far between. Not only that, but you can work harder and somebody in India will still be available to work twice as hard at half the price.

So, going into this book, my thought was there is still opportunity out there. It is likely just harder to find. And best to ignore the media on what your future is likely to be like. But where is that opportunity for America’s youth? Where should I be pointing my kids’ efforts and how can I help guide and prepare them so they can realize the opportunities that are out there?

In many ways, The Industries of the Future ties in with The World Is Flat (and Hot, Flat and Crowded) by Thomas Friedman. In summary, for those of us here, we are best served by avoiding traditional old-school jobs and careers that put a premium on doing one thing well. Work to be broad in your knowledge and skill set. Learn languages. Look for opportunities to combine your specific knowledge with new technology and possibly even emerging markets. Be quick on your toes and expect change.

Overall, I found this to be a thought-provoking and well-reasoned book. Interesting examples of technologic change and how it has effected certain regions and industries are found throughout the book and are fairly engaging. Definitely worth the read if you are a young person or have young people in your life that you will be influencing.

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