Shan WeiJian : Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America

Shan went through Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and was able to witness and experience the results of then that time central planning.

He highlighted numerous time that he stopped schooling after 12 ( elementary school ) and was sent to the Gobi Desert for crop cultivation (manual labour).

Do take note that during that time, reading / education was frowned upon unless they are doctrines from Mao, Marx and Lenin

He had a hunger for reading and taught himself Mathematics using candlelight without any system.

Stayed there for a total of 6 years, and was one of the first cohorts of Chinese students allowed to study in US after the Cultural Revolution.


7 min

1hr 18 min

My Take from the interview

  1. He was brought up in a society whereby he had no choice, it was only when he went to US then he was asked ( given ) to make decisions/choices
  2. His hunger for knowledge during that 6 years in Gobi allowed him to acquire the ability to study in US -> that is why he believe strongly in Knowledge that it will bring you out of poverty
  3. What I think was very important during the Gobi days, he was with this Chinese Pilot whom was trained in the US, their conversation about the US opened up San’s mind to a different world
  4. Reading is always important as it opens another world -> it opens your imagination
  5. In his opinion – Hope is something we will strive for
  6. Another interesting thing that i notice is the way he look at how to resolve situation. sometimes people talk about half empty and half full, he put forth the notion of what are the differences and what are the similarities and we should reconcile base on our similarities. ( this is a personal opinion )

All the Birds in the Sky

by Charlie Jane Anders


  • Difficulty Level : Young Adult
  • Length :320pages ( roughly 2 days)
  • Type: Fantasy Fiction
  • My Rating: **


Laurence a wiz kid in tech and Patricia a prodigy in Magic went through strange encounters and training that prep them to what they will be

It will be in their lifetime when the forces of Tech will clash with the forces of magic due to their different interpretation of how things should be done.

Book Review:

To be honest, this book could had been better, i do feel there is potential in the plot. A person whom is a genius in tech and a lady who is able to transcend magic boundaries.

i just feel that there should have been more effort to build up the characters, give them more context. Certain scenes were pretty abrupt like the fight at Denver, it was like finished in a few pages. With one of the lady witch head cut off, which was pretty abrupt.




Powers (Annals of the Western Shore #3)

by Ursula K. Le Guin


  • Difficulty Level : Young Adult
  • Length :502pages ( roughly 3 days)
  • Type: Fantasy Fiction
  • My Rating: *****


Young Gav can remember the page of a book after seeing it once, and, inexplicably, he sometimes “remembers” things that are going to happen in the future. As a loyal slave, he must keep these powers secret, but when a terrible tragedy occurs, Gav, blinded by grief, flees the only world he has ever known.

In what becomes a treacherous journey for freedom, Gav’s greatest test of all is facing his powers so that he can come to understand himself and finally find a true home.

Book Review:

This book is not constructed in those epic manner ( single hero, born of tragedy, learnt many skills, kill the dragon and become the hero ) , instead it is a journey of how a slave named Gav find his direction in life through many trials.

Instead, the author truly took effort to plot a detailed description of the many different “worlds” the Gav move to. In a way, i feel it is a progression from the second book whereby we talk about forced oppression, this book is about caged mentality.

This book is about perception, example, how do you know it is right? Just because someone is nice or good to you? It is right? But due to the lack of opportunities ( or exposure or knowledge ) you will just accept things as it is.

Just a few examples from the book, Gav and his teacher Everra were brought up as slaves, in their world, they were taught that their masters were law,they were taught they have to sacrifice everything for their masters and to trust everything they say. The concept of disobedience was non-existent.

When he ran over to Barna, he wanted a society of Free Men, a place with no slavery however the hypocrisy is that Barna has everything and everybody have to listen to him.

I don’t know whether the younger generation will appreciate her way of story telling. I personally find that her metaphor are interchangeable, slavery to me is a form of abuse. There are many incidents whereby spouses (typically men) will physically abuse their other half. They will find excuses like children or their other half have done something wrong or they were drunk. Of course family structure is very complex in nature and everybody have to decide how they wish to lead their life.

This is one book i will re-read again after a few years.


Voices (Annals of the Western Shore #2)

by Ursula K. Le Guin


  • Difficulty Level : Young Adult
  • Length : 341 pages ( roughly 4 hours )
  • Type: Fantasy Fiction
  • My Rating: *****


Ansul was once a peaceful town filled with libraries, schools and temples. But that was long ago, before the Alds came. The Alds believe demons hide in words, and so they ban reading and writing, acts now punishable by death. What few books have survived are hidden in the Waylord’s House for safekeeping, in the care of the Waylord, crippled by years of torture, and the daughter of his heart, Memer.

And now times are changing. The Uplands poet Orrec Caspro and his wife Gry have arrived, and in his voice is a clarion call, awakening a conquered people.

The second book of the Annals of the Western Shore, Voices is a haunting and gripping coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of violence, intolerance and magic.

Book Review:

I thought the first book was ok but this second one is insanely good. I am truly impressed with the way she is able to compose so many ideas into a novel and make it so good. It is a good novel that managed to combine topics on conflicts, religion, revolution, culture and oppression in a readable manner.

Through the character of Memer, the half Alds and Ansul, the result of the war on the city, it tackle how the society views woman in that era. It shows the identity issues and how an oppressed woman felt and how she manages.

The relationship between the Alds and the Ansul, is really like an analogy about religious conflicts in the modern world. Through the weaving of the story, like how we always pre-judge or jump to conclusion about the other person without trying to understand them. ( either as a person or their culture )

In the end we are actually just human, we are just the same. I think in a blatant sense, she is also trying to highlight that education is Key, not necessarily to enlightenment but at least to Knowledge. At least you wont be afraid of the Unknown.

Gif(Annals of the Western Shore #1)

by Ursula K. Le Guin


  • Difficulty Level : Young Adult
  • Length : 286pages ( roughly 4 hours )
  • Type: Fantasy Fiction
  • My Rating: ***


Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability–with a glance, a gesture, a word–to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young people, friends since childhood, decide not to use their gifts. One, a girl, refuses to bring animals to their death in the hunt. The other, a boy, wears a blindfold lest his eyes and his anger kill.

In this beautifully crafted story, Ursula K. Le Guin writes of the proud cruelty of power, of how hard it is to grow up, and of how much harder still it is to find, in the world’s darkness, gifts of light.

Book Review:

This is the first book of Annals of the Western Shore series, each crafted in a different manner, Gifts has philosophical meaning using the analogy that powers or talents can be used for good or bad things . It focus on exploring what it means for a person to have a potentially lethal ability and the how one will choose.

It also touches on Parents’ expectation on their children on how the children need to conform to either family traditions. Questions whether to groom and nurture their talent or to leave it absent.

better knowledge of human nature – and you will get Gifts.

Alibaba’s World: How a Remarkable Chinese Company is Changing the Face of Global Business

by Porter Erisman


  • Difficulty Level : Adult
  • Length : 256pages ( roughly 4 days )
  • Type: Business, Technology, Entrepreneur
  • My Rating: ***

Book Review:

This is a story of how Alibaba, from a small company survive and overcame their problems, its like a David versus Goliath story. Mr Porter was the International PR person when Alibaba started, he gives his perspective of his observations over at Alibaba.

From their relationship with Ebay, Yahoo and Google, the ups and downs, the author did a good job writing an entertaining journey when he working there. I have not read the other book on Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built, I always think it is always good to look at as many perspectives as possible.

The quote i like from him is

” I’d joined Alibaba thinking I might learn something about business. But the most valuable things I’d learned from Jack were about life.”

At the end of the book he did gave 40 takeaways on what he learnt at Alibaba e.g.

  • In the Spring Prepare for Winter
  • Entrepreneurs Don’t Complain About Problems—They Solve Them
  •  Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
  • Embrace—Don’t Run Away from—Tough Decisions
  • Have the Team Work for the Goal, Not for the Boss
  • Don’t Let It Get Personal


Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

by Cathy O’Neil


  • Difficulty Level : Adult
  • Length : 272pages ( roughly 4 days )
  • Type: Current Affairs, Big Data, Technology
  • My Rating: ****

Book Review:

O’Neil’s background is in education as a Math Professor after which she went to be a Hedge Fund analyst and she also sat with the Occupy War Street as well.

This book is about how Big data and Mathematical algorithms if used wrongly and blindly can lead to continuous negative feedback loops. She argues for the good and the bad of relying on such methods.

The Mathematical formulas were used to assist humankind, to be more efficient and to help save time and resource so that we can ultimately have a better quality of life. However, the intent will alter how the data will be used.

She used examples ranging from education, to policing , search engines , insurance differentiating and how we are fed with information discreetly. This is a great book for people to expand their understanding and be expose to how corporations utilize all the data that we provide to them as individuals.