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review 2017-10-10 18:55
Down and Out in the New Economy / Ilana Gershon
Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today - Ilana Gershon

Finding a job used to be simple. You’d show up at an office and ask for an application. A friend would mention a job in their department. Or you’d see an ad in a newspaper and send in your cover letter. Maybe you’d call the company a week later to check in, but the basic approach was easy. And once you got a job, you would stay—often for decades.
 
Now . . . well, it’s complicated. If you want to have a shot at a good job, you need to have a robust profile on LinkdIn. And an enticing personal brand. Or something like that—contemporary how-to books tend to offer contradictory advice. But they agree on one thing: in today’s economy, you can’t just be an employee looking to get hired—you have to market yourself as a business, one that can help another business achieve its goals.

 

An anthropologist’s view of the job seeking/hiring process. It makes me extremely happy that I am close to retirement. There’s been a sea-change in how people look at the process:

…in the mid-twentieth century, corporations believed that shareholder value depended on the ways in which a company contributed to stable careers and stable communities. Since then, corporations have changed their philosophies—their present concern is with keeping their stock prices as high as possible.

 

With this change in orientation, companies have encouraged job seekers to change their self-view as well. Instead of the “renting your time to your employer” model that has held sway since the Industrial Revolution, job hunters are now encouraged to think of themselves as their own businesses, “Me, Inc.” They must now seek to show that they are the “best fit” business-wise for a potential “partner.”

This basically means that each of us is an independent contractor, responsible for our own health care and retirement costs. The unequal nature of the relationship renders employment unstable at best, temporary at worst.

For the most part, consideration and respect for job seekers was thin on the ground, and having a thick skin for being treated shabbily is a necessity for people actively looking for work these days.



After reading this volume, I am quite skeptical of LinkedIn as a venue to find employment. All I can do is repeat what I said above: Thank goodness that I’m only a few years from retirement!

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review 2017-10-09 03:47
The Raupo Book of Maori Proverbs
The Raupo Book of Maori Proverbs - A.W. Reed,Timoti Karetu,A.E. Brougham

Not a book to read, more of a reference, but I've been on the lookout for collections of Aboriginal / Maori myths and came across this when I was in New Zealand in June.  It's exactly what it says on the packet: a book of the different proverbs used by Maori over time, in both the original language and an English translation.  They're sorted by broad subject ranges and most of them include a small explanation (or a longer one if the proverb doesn't translate clearly, or uses idioms specific to the Maori).

 

Excellent for what it is.

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review 2017-07-24 20:01
The Lost City of the Monkey God / Douglas Preston
The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story - Douglas Preston

My friend Barbara recommended this book to me, so really how could I refuse? Especially once I found out that much of the action takes place in Honduras, a country that I have been interested in visiting for several years. Why? The Lovely Cotinga, that's why (have a look at http://www.sabrewingtours.com/hondura...

But I think I may be cured of that desire now. You see, in addition to the anthropological research and the jungle exploration (poisonous snakes, hip deep mud, and unremitting rain, anyone?) there ends up being a fair amount of discussion of insect-bourne disease. A number of the team were infected with Leishamaniasis by the bites of sand flies. What is easily done can be difficult to undo and they struggle to find treatment options. Most of the world's victims of this disease are among the poorest people on earth--if they had money to spend on drugs, the pharma companies would be doing the necessary research. But that's not the way things are.

Now, I am one of those people that biting insects adore. In fact, I was just at a family reunion and I think I heard everyone say at some point, "Oh, mosquitoes love me!" So apparently it is a family trait and as I sat in their attractive midst, I did get only 3-4 mosquito bites. But I am hardly encourages to brave Hondruas, even for the most beautiful bird. Sorry, Lovely Cotinga!

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review 2017-04-08 12:32
That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us
That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us - Erin Moore,Lynne Truss

Given the number of times I read parts of this book out loud to MT, and the fact that it didn't drive him nearly as crazy as it usually does when I did so, I should rate this book higher than I did.  It's good: interesting, funny and informative.

 

The title is 80% accurate but I'd argue that it's aimed far more pointedly at Americans than it is at the British (and why is it 'the British'?  Why can't I just write 'British'... odd).  Most of the terms included are Britishisms and that makes sense; the British get far more American-culture exposure than Americans get of the British, so probably need less help.  Erin Moore is also an American expat living in London, so her view is naturally inclined towards her experiences and viewpoint.

 

Moore uses each of the terms as a springboard to discuss related cultural disparities between the UK and the US and I found a lot of these fascinating and sometimes hilarious.  I had no idea, for example, what sod was short for, or that stiff upper lip actually started out as an Americanism.  And she has made me hopelessly self-conscious, probably forever, of my use of the word quite.  

 

Americans use the word quite in the sense of "totally" or "completely".  As Moore uses for an example: to say 'he's quite naked' means, of course, that he's totally without clothing - he can't be partially naked.  That's pretty much the only way we use quite.

 

The British though, they use it to also denote a degree of negativity.  Moore's explanation puzzled me - I wasn't able to grasp the idea.  But luckily, I had a hair appointment yesterday, and my hairdresser is English!  I immediately quizzed him, asking for clarification (upon reading further in the book, I've also discovered I probably offend him regularly with all my direct questions...oops).

 

It seems (and may the Brits I know here correct me if I'm wrong) that they use quite the same way we Americans might say "meh" or "it was ok" (say if we were talking about a restaurant).  In other words it was quite good means, actually, no, it wasn't.  Aren't you quite clever? actually means You're a dumb-ass.*  

 

Well, hell.  Since reading this I have stumbled over every instance of quite in my speech and writing; if nothing else it has made clear to me how often I use the damn word.

 

The rest of the book was great and didn't cause me any more crises of confidence, thank goodness.  At the end, I can't say why I'm not giving this 4.5 or 5 stars except to say that when I finished it, I could say I enjoyed it thoroughly (notice the absence of the q word) but I didn't love it.  But I still highly recommend it.

 

 

*Aussies do this too, but they use average, as in The movie was average meaning that movie sucked which took me ages to figure out and caused me no end of confusion.

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review 2017-02-27 17:19
Seven Skeltons / Lydia Pyne
Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World's Most Famous Human Fossils - Lydia V. Pyne

An interesting exploration of the reasons that certain paleo-human fossils achieve the status of icons in popular culture. What makes a fossil catch the interest of everyday people? Firsts are always attention grabbing, as are remains which include skulls or very complete skeletons. A good nickname or discover story helps too (see Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis). And you can’t beat good old-fashioned controversy either!

When controversy is one of the requirements, it becomes obvious why the author chose Piltdown Man, the English fake, as one of her iconic fossils! Talk about controversial—and people continue to speculate today about who all was in on the hoax and who got fooled. Humans are attracted to good stories, especially mysteries, so I guess Piltdown deserves this position.

Also interesting was the choice of Peking Man, where the actual fossils were lost in the swirling turmoil of WW2 in China. Only casts of the major fossils remain, but once again there is a very noir mystery surrounding the fate of the real McCoy. The mystery is like catnip to puzzle-solving people and the search for the original fossils continues.

I was most interested in the final two chapters, concerning the Flores Island “Hobbit” and Australopithecus sediba. The first I was only familiar with through the original news announcements and the second was unknown to me. I’m not sure that we could label either of them “iconic” just yet, but there is certainly potential.

Interestingly absent were any of the Leakey family’s discoveries, as was any discussion of the personal rivalries between Richard Leakey and Donald Johanson (Lucy’s discoverer). Hearteningly present was the open attitude of the paleoanthropologists who are sharing their data on Australopithecus sediba—instead of hoarding the fossil and the data, they are opening the doors to any researcher with an interest and showing a new, inclusive way of doing paleoanthropological research which gives me great hope for the future.

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