Reading Reflections (2 Jan 2018)

I picked up a book titled Tsarevich Ivan and the Grey Wolf. This was another version of the Fire Bird story, one by Irina Zheleznova, a bit longer and more interesting one. Here we have Baba Yaga and Koschei the Deathless making an appearance. The story follows the same path till the journey to retrieve the horse with the golden mane. Only the descriptions are richer. After that, instead of the wolf getting Yelena the fair for Ivan, he has to rescue her from Koschei. And to do that he has to get hold of sword from two goblins, seek Baba Yaga to find out how Koshei can be killed, then retrieve Koshei’s life from its hiding place – opening an iron door to the hollow inside an oak tree, retrieving a chest, a hare from inside it, a duck from inside the hare, an egg inside the duck. Here he gets help from a pike to travel to an island where the oak tree is located and in retrieving the egg. But he kills the hare himself with his sword and the duck with an arrow. The ending is same with his brothers killing him and the wolf reviving him the dead water and live water.

The second story I read was titled Red Hill by Vitaly Bianki. It is a simple story of two sparrows seeking a place to nest. The male sparrow is quarrelsome and gets into trouble trying to snatch a hole in a garden belonging to another sparrow. It gets expelled from the garden and needs to move to red hill. There, while it continues to be quarrelsome with the other birds, that is not the main source of trouble. The main antagonist happens to be a ginger cat, that manages to eat away all its eggs. The birds try to escape to the other side of the river but the cat reaches there as well but is attacked by the male bird which manages to inflict enough injuries upon it to rescue its family. A simple take but with a strong conflict that completely engages the reader.

Then I started a third book, one I had as a childhood titled Alice by Yulia Drunina. It is the tale of woman and her daughter rescuing a fox and taking it home.

The other book I made progress with was the Tamil book Parthiban Kanavu. Managed to get through 17 pages. The story focuses on a boatman and his wife who are dear to the Chola king. We get to know that the Chola king has refused to pay tribute to the Pallava monarch and is going to war with him. The book is rich with descriptions. The author is clearly in love with every aspect of the Chola kingdom. Starting with the banks of Kaveri to the road infrastructure in the Chola kingdom and the scenery is described in loving detail rick with metaphor. That is what makes the descriptions interesting – they are not dull detail but one can feel the author’s reverence and excitement through those words.

Fifth Discipline was yet another book I started in the New Year 2018. So far, it’s been interesting. It talks about individuals’ desire to learn rather than just fit a role and to develop system thinking beyond their specific role. It quotes examples from history such as the Catholic papacy and European monarchies where decisions were taken individualistically without foresight leading to eventual collapse of the system.  It also quotes an example of how most businesses die within 40 years due to the same reason. The organizations turn into bureaucracies which lose the vitality with employees indulging in politics to save themselves rather than working together to achieve a common vision. The book talks of this culture of arbitrary decision making which is either a compromise between various individuals or mandate from the top. The author laments the lack of dialog to challenge assumptions and really get to the core of the issues.

While Built to Last and Good to Great was about why organizations succeed, this book addresses the other side of the coin – why organizations fail. One of the interesting things that came up was the eagerness to jump on the bandwagon of bubbles rather than investing in lasting businesses and staying put.

The book starts with an interesting example of a beer game with three sets of entities – the retailer, the wholesaler and the manufacturer. An increase in demand takes time to be communicated from retailer to wholesaler and to manufacturer. While there is only doubling of demand, there is lag between information reaching manufacturer and in this period, there seems like market has very high demand and retailer keeps placing orders with wholesaler and wholesaler with manufacturer to meet backlog. By the time the manufacturer get his act together, it seems as if there is much more demand than there actually is. So, manufacturer increases capacity much more than required and the wholesaler and retailer end up stoking much more. Suddenly there is too much supply and not enough demand.  AN interesting simulation to show how lack of communication can result in disaster. 

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