Sep 2005

Books that have Shaped Me #2

This posting is for the second book in this series of books that have shaped the way I think, feel, and look at the world.

The second book in the series of books that were influential to me is Buddhism Without Beliefs, by Stephen Batchelor.

This book strips out all the things you would traditionally think of in a religion to the point that you wouldn't think a religion exists (you don't even have to believe in the Buddha, karma, or anything like that). But yet, one does. Perhaps, you could argue that it is the core of many or all religions. Simple things like Awareness, Integrity, Compassion, Becoming, and how to practice these things. Well, perhaps not so simple to do, but simplicity in terms of a religion.

This book taught me that, despite what I think of religions in the past, they do have value. (I have previously doubted this mostly due to all the pain that they cause along the way.) This is despite what you may have learned about your particular religion, and is something you can still learn even if you don't believe in any religion in particular.

It is perhaps interesting that Stephen Batchelor chose Buddhism as the means to write this book, for it probably could have been written from the perspective of any religion. My feeling is that he chose Buddhism because there may be less of a stigma to challenging the central thought of Buddhism (since this is what the Buddha always encouraged anyway). Other religions are less tolerant of challenges to their central cores. That's my theory, anyway.

Whichever way you look at it, a fine book.

The previous book in this series was: Simplicity.

PÜNCT is out!

PÜNCT is out! This game has just been published.

Pünct is the final game in the fantastic Gipf Project. This project is a series (actually, six) of abstract strategy games, all independent, yet interrelated. Abstract strategy games sometimes have the reputation of being dry, boring, hard to learn, geeky (think chess). The Gipf games are none of these.

NB: Edward de Bono dislikes chess because he feels that it is complex for complexity's sake (see my previous posting). I tend to agree.

These games are all very easy to learn, can be played with pretty much anyone, and can be played at many different levels. You realize the depths of the game only with replay, though you don't need to know them to have fun.

Each of the games in the series have a unique play mechanic that makes the game stand out, even from other similar games. In my mind the most unique is Tamsk , where you need to manipulate time as part of the gameplay.

Perhaps the most interesting twist in the Gipf Project is the use of potentials, where special pieces may be used with Gipf (the flagship game of the series, and my favourite) that tie in with the other games. All the pieces are very simple and do only one thing. They may be added in pretty much any combination, and yet dramatically change the game. It's a pity that more people don't play with the potentials, because they really are a stroke of genius.

If anything could be called a magnum opus in the gaming world for achievement by a game designer, this would be it for Kris Burm.

My copy of Pünct is already on order to complete my Gipf Project collection. I have no doubt it will be played often.

Books that have Shaped Me #1

I read with great interest Tim O'Reilly's posting about books that shaped how he thinks. It made me want to write a similar list for myself. Here I'm thinking about books that changed the way I look at things or changed the way I think or feel. That's pretty general, since I suppose anything can change the way you see, think, feel, etc. What I'm really getting at is the books that have caused a dramatic change in me.

Me, being my procrastinating self when it comes to web stuff (I'm sure you've noticed that my web posts are few and far between), thought that I should post a book at a time, because otherwise the list will never get compiled. So here, in what will be a (small) ongoing series, are what I feel are the books that have changed me. |Book #1: Simplicity, by Edward de Bono

It can sometimes be hard to come up with a list like I'm mentioning. However, this book was easily at the top of the list without a second thought. If I had to pick one book by de Bono (and I own many), this would be it. I consider Simplicity to be his finest work. In Simplicity, de Bono takes a clear honest look at what simplicity really is.

One of de Bono's main ideas, which he comes to again and again through his books, is that thinking is a skill that must be taught, it is not innate to us as humans. Sure, we can string thoughts together, but he believes that we must practice in order to really think. That's pretty radical if you stop to ponder what that really means.

In a similar fashion, de Bono addresses simplicity in this book. Simplicity is also a skill that must be taught. Many people pay lip service to simplicity, it's a buzzword, something to put on performance appraisals or on advertising. However, what is simplicity, really; how do you do it? How do you know you've made things simpler? How do you go about making things simpler? Ask yourself this question and I'll bet that you're hard pressed to answer in anything other than mere generalities.

De Bono talks all about simplicity with refreshingly clear writing without marketing talk or Death Sentences. In retrospect, now know that I had no idea what simplicity was before reading this book. Now, it is something that I am beginning to learn and, I suspect, will always have to relearn. I have a lot of respect for people who can make things simple for, as de Bono points out, simplicity is gained by shifting complexity somewhere else.

This book has affected my whole approach to looking at just about everything. It is not enough for me to wish things to be simple, as if I could snap my fingers (which I could never do anyway) and make it all come true. It is no longer good enough for me to call things simpler when I have no way of reckoning that. I have to create simplicity as I go along. I have to think about it. If I don't, it won't happen. I have to be willing to start over to make things simple.

And I have to keep trying.

This book woke me up about simplicity. It gave me some tools to try to make it happen. It made me want to keep trying.

That's why this book is #1 on the list.

Stay tuned for further postings.