Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality"

"Nature's bellman: an anachronistic, virtually obsolete animal. People drag their luggage through their own house, down the driveway, into their car, up to the airline desk, off the luggage carousel, into the back of a taxi, through the revolving doors, up to the desk, and now, now some guy with a crew cut wants to help? You've taken it twenty-five hundred miles, and some dude wearing gloves wants to jump in for the last twenty feet and get tipped for it?" (Tomsky, 127)
Yeah, but after you read this book you will tip the bellman anyway (or you'll be sorry). Revenge in the form of key bombing or worse could make your hotel stay less than desirable.

This book is to the hotel industry what "Kitchen Confidential" was to the restaurant industry. Tomsky even has even channeled Anthony Bourdain's voice in writing the secrets behind the front desk (and more) in the hotel. Travelers should tip, tip, tip and read the book to find out how to save money to pay for those highly encouraged tips.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Outliers: The Story of Success

     Outliers are statistical anomalies. When they are good ones such as stories of brilliant success we tend to attribute the success to innate brilliance or luck. Malcolm Gladwell argued and proved (in this book, Outliers) through studies and examples why that is not the case; but that it is instead hard work with a bit of luck that results in phenomenal success.
    Whether one is curious why the Beatles were such a world wide phenomenal sensation (hard work in the strip clubs of Hamburg, Germany) or why Bill Gates made huge sums of money from computing (being fortunate to go to a school with access to some cutting edge electronics) this book answers these questions and more. How many hours does it take to become an expert on something? The magic answer: 10,000 hours! The Beatles, Bill Gates, Mozart...all logged in ten thousand hours before they made it big time. So like your mother always told you: practice, practice, practice!
   Interestingly the book spends a lot of time discussing the precipitating events and factors in airline crashes. Korean Air was an outlier, in a bad way, they were 19 times more likely to crash than the average airplane. (It was largely a cultural problem with copilots not being able to vocalize safety concerns due to their culture. Asiana is also a Korean based airline. It was an Asiana flight that crashed last week in California.)
   Gladwell also theorizes on the phenomena of Asian children's excellence at mathematics. But most interesting is his discussion on the "achievement gap" between minorities and non-minorities in the US in education. His statistics and commentary provide evidence that disadvantaged children lose more knowledge over the summer time than advantaged children. (Gladwell, pp.255-260) It is the accumulation of these losses over repeated summers that puts minority children so far behind the curve. His solution is to dispose of the traditional three month long summer break that is a hang over from our days as a primarily agricultural society (when we needed our kids to help reap the harvest) and that Americans now consider a necessary part of an American childhood.
   A thoughtful and insightful read. One will consider ethnic stereotypes, folklore legends, American a new light. Outliers is an interesting read; I still liked his book Tipping Point better but it is well done.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


    The killing of Navy Seal Chris Kyle by a Marine prompted me to read a book that has been on my reading list for a while. Sadly, Kyle was buried last week after being shot by a serviceman that he was trying to help overcome PTSD. Knowing this before reading the book made the book a bit eerie at times, as in when he said he most often got injured stateside rather than on deployments. He was deployed four times to Iraq and became the most lethal sniper in American history.

    As Kyle said " I always seemed more vulnerable at home. After every deployment, something would happen to me....Overseas, on deployment, in the war, I seemed invincible." (Kyle, 109) In "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" he chronicles his life in and out of war. There are sections written by his wife, Taya, which round out the book by showing his personal side.

   I found one part particularly interesting. Kyle was describing his BUD/S training and the tremendous dropout rate and the mental and physical rigors of the course. One fellow shattered his hip in the course, and subsequently had a hip replacement. After 18 months of rehabilitation he finished the course, WITH a replaced hip, and according to Kyle was serving on active duty during Kyle's tours.  I knew these guys were tough, but that is out of this world.

  He was a tough guy, hesitant to leave the service for fear of leaving his teammates behind. He put his family first, and finally got out of the Navy. He continued to care about his fellow soldiers and was so sadly removed from his family by an American veteran he was trying to help. It was a tragic end to such a remarkable man.