Category Archives: Economics

Accidental Empires by Robert X Cringely

How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date by Robert X CringelyLast night I finished Robert X Cringely’s  Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date (published in the 1990s).

I much preferred Founders at Work: Stories of Startup’s Early Days by Jessica Livingston (published in 2007).

I think what I liked about Livingston’s book was that since it was in interview-format, it was straightforward.

But Cringely’s book felt very gossipy.

Of course, Livingston had the benefit of writing her book a decade.

My opinion, don’t read this book — it’s more reflective of the time the book was written than of the computer industry.

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Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date by Robert X Cringely

How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date by Robert X CringelyI’ve been very slowly reading Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date  by Robert X Cringely.

So far I’m really not enjoying this book (published in the 1990s) about the start of the personal computer industry.

Click here to view the table of contents or here to read an excerpt.

Stephen Baker's The Numerati

I went to the library the other day and picked up a copy of Stephen Baker’s The Numerati, which I first wrote about here.

The book is organized into seven chapters which describe ways that data is being analyzed in mass quantities: Worker, Shopper, Voter, Blogger, Terrorist, Patient, and Lover.

You’d think that Lover would be the most interesting but it had the least substance; Voter (about Josh Gotbaum of Spotlight Analysis) was by far the most interesting chapter.

The Numerati was such a quick read that I finished it in just a few short disappointing hours.

I felt Baker was stretching to fill out his book with examples of how mathematicians are dangerously invading our privacy by quantifying and analyzing our lives.

Still, it was entertaining; just keep your expectations low.

Books from Steven Greenhouse's The Big Squeeze

Here is a list of books mentioned by Greenhouse in The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, in case you want to learn more:

Not sure if I will actually read any of these.

I feel quite certain that labor relations must change if the United States is to remain competitive and the envy of the world, but reading about how poorly fellow Americans are treated just makes me sad.

Not sure how that change will be created but I do feel like the companies in Bo Burlingham’s Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big (one of my favorite books) are good examples of how companies should be run — for best profitability, happiness (click here to read a bit about this book) and likelihood for creating the “City on the Hill in which prosperity and fairness reigned” (as Greenhouse said on page 78).

Boss Hog

The gorging that is Thanksgiving that made me think of this…

When I last wrote about Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, I neglected to mention Jeff Tietz’s horrifying article about modern pork production, “Boss Hog” posted December 2006 on Rolling Stone online.

I won’t go into details but trust me when I say that after reading this article I could not eat pork for weeks.

Okay I’ll post just the first paragraph:

Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pork processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year. That’s a number worth considering. A slaughter-weight hog is fifty percent heavier than a person. The logistical challenge of processing that many pigs each year is roughly equivalent to butchering and boxing the entire human populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston, Denver, Louisville, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Las Vegas, Portland, Oklahoma City and Tucson.

That’s just the start. It gets much worse. Very eye-opening.

Steven Greenhouse's The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker

Finally finished reading Steven Greenhouse’s The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker (click here to view all my posts about this book).

While this book was educational, it was also a bit too depressing for my taste. It was quite smart of Greenhouse to put his chapter about the companies that treat their workers well (chapter nine, Taking the High Road) where he did; if it had been any later I was considering not finishing this book.

And I pretty much always finish a book I start.

I was relieved when I finally got to chapter sixteen, Lifting All Boats, with Greenhouse’s recommendations categorized as follows:

  • fighting wage stagnation
  • cracking down on wage theft
  • safeguarding the safety net
  • curing an unhealthy health care system
  • increasing retirement security
  • putting some movement back into the labor movement
  • grappling with globalization
  • easing the climb upward
  • respect as a remedy

So my final thoughts….this book is good. I’m glad I read it. But if you aren’t used to hearing about terrible working conditions and wages, be prepared to be sad.

The Opt-Out Revolution

After reading what Steven Greenhouse has to say about Lisa Belkin’s October 2003 New York Times Magazine cover story titled “The Opt-Out Revolution” I decided to take a break from reading The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker and re-read this article about highly successful Princeton-educated women leaving their careers to raise families.

I remember when I first read it when it was published and feeling for the first time that my own belief that success should be defined by joyfulness and a happy family (and not by one’s accomplishments and career) was perhaps shared by other educated women.

It was such a relief.

Anyway, it was good to re-read this article. Now back to reading The Big Squeeze.