Monday, October 12, 2015

Jamie Oliver, The Kitchen Crusader, Unauthorised Biography by Gilly Smith - Book Report #147

At first I was a bit wary of this book.  It was the word "unauthorised" that raised a warning flag.  To me, it sounded like a volume that would do nothing but tear the guy apart, otherwise why wouldn't it be authorized?  

What I found was a well researched story of his early life, culled from many print and TV interviews.  I found it was actually quite balanced in portraying the man.

I must confess that I am a giant fan of Mr. Oliver. He has changed everything about how I cook and how I purchase food. So I really wanted to just like the guy.  I really didn't want to find out that he was some kind of jerk you'd never want to be in the same room with.  According to Smith, Oliver is pretty much what you see on TV.  

The dark side that is Jamie Oliver, like many rebels (think Jobs or Musk), is that he can be single-minded in his pursuits.  This can lead to stresses in his marriage and create friction with the institutions he has targeted.  This guy has the ability of Thor and can come in with a great big hammer and smash things up.  But it is his passion that ultimately comes through and even though he may have upset people along the way, most concede that he is doing good things and is working form a noble place.

Much of the book dug deeply into his movement to improve food quality in the UK's schools and how it has impacted other movements, such as Slow Food and the local/organic trends in food culture.

It sure made me think more deeply about my own food hang-ups and gave me some positive energy to continue on the path of consuming better quality ingredients.  The local/organic thing is much more than eating healthier but there is also a very real economic impact that results from the purchases we make.  This should also be considered when deciding to buy local or not.

I would recommend this book as it will get you thinking about food culture, agriculture, pesticides and making informed choices.

The author's web page is:

Gilly Smith

* * *

I found this at a lovely used book store on Whyte Ave, uninspiringly called The Edmonton Book Store, but don't let that discourage you.  I have never seen such an outstanding collection of non-fiction in one place, plus, the basement is a literal treasure trove of western Canadian history.  I must go back soon.  They are located at 10533 82 Ave.

Visit the website at -

* * *

I will be donating this book to my library in the hopes that somebody else can get behind the notion of paying attention to what we eat.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance - Book Report #146

Subtitle Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Think what you will but you've got to agree that Elon Musk is a very interesting man.  He's often been described as a real world Tony Stark of the Iron Man comics and movies.  And in many ways he is; in at least how motivated he is to think outside the box and to see his vision come to fruition.

He is a billionaire who is unafraid to risk all of it to make things work.  To him, it seems, money is only a tool, much like a hammer, to achieve his ultimate goals for humanity.  Money is a luxury most people lack and he is using his for a greater good.

I was fascinated by this book.  I took every opportunity to read a page or two when I could not devote a nice slice of time to it. He is also sometimes compared to Steve Jobs, at least in how abrasive and quick to fire people who do not meet his expectations.  Unlike Jobs he is motivated by forcing humanity into a sustainable and space faring world of the science fiction he read in his youth.  Not by creating a gadget.  He is not content with the pace of progress we've been experiencing for the last 50 years.

I've got to say; I agree with him.  Ever since Apollo ended the promise of  a technological, space-traveling future has withered away.  The world needs risk-taking, motivated individuals like Tesla, Edison, Bell, Diamandis, Branson, Jobs, Berners-Lee and Musk.  These folks, and so many others, have transformed our world in profound ways, making the world a better place.

On the subject of Musk; only time will tell what his contributions will do to transform our live.  He certainly knows what he wants to get out of his endeavors - nothing less than Mars!  Just think about all the ancillary benefits this kind of goal would bring to people around the world.  The massive effort needed would employ so many folks that it is staggering to even contemplate.

Think about how many new jobs, jobs that did not exist 30 years ago, have been created by the adoption of the Internet. Musk will not be satisfied with anything less than a paradigm shift in humanity's direction as a single people.

In any case I found the book fascinating and I am so glad I had the opportunity to read it and learn about this interesting man.

Ashlee Vance's web page is here:

Elon Musk
Ashlee Vance