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Last active Oct 29, 2019

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Book Reading List Queue

My ideal goal is to read at least one book a month, on average. (Yay success in 2018.) I've been very bad at this goal but still have it. This is a mostly most-recent-first sorted non-exhaustive list of books (sometimes papers or short articles too) I've read with short 'reviews' or thoughts. There are spoilers since this list is mainly meant for myself. At the end there is a non-exhaustive non-sorted list of books I'd like to read before I die.

I may eventually sort these by subject as the list or my desire to procrastinate grows, and maybe go through change logs and memory to try and annotate when a book was actually read -- maybe even add all the books I read before I started this log, even if I don't recall the plot very well. Finally, here's a link to my Amazon Wish List in case you're looking for gifts. ;)

The Dark Forest - Cixin Liu -

Fantastic. So many fun thought experiments. The first book is really just setup for this one.

My earlier complaint about the ending of the first book is rescinded, I'll just suspend my disbelief and allow the quantum FTL communication and chock it up to new physics. Additionally if our understanding of physics is really still so primitive, I do think this resolution of the fermi parodox is pretty compelling, though I still suspect at least one of the hunters from time to time to make a gambit for harnessing galactic-scale structures to shake up the status quo equilibrium and gain at least galaxy-wide dominance. If matter is finite, there's a lot of it out there that seems to not be put to much intelligent use at the moment, so I still think (hope) the great filter is behind us, unlike ahead of us as implied by this book. I'm looking forward to the third book.

The Expert System's Brother - Adrian Tchaikovsky -

I could not remember why I added this to my wishlist, but I received it for my birthday and being short I read it over the last couple evenings. I enjoyed it, but I suspect that if I picked at the flaws in the artificial intelligence gone amok theme here I'd enjoy it less, so all I'm saying here is it's not "hard". Anyway now that I've finished it I've gone back to try and find what caused me to wish for it, and found the reason. Basically in a thread on Chinese sci-fi there was hope that they could deliver on themes that western sci-fi had neglected, I answered among others a "Like what?" question with "An Anti-Enlightenment message". What I mean by that is dense. Anyway someone suggested this book, which "explores a back-to-basics society with hidden tech keeping it afloat", might touch on what I mean. Unfortunately it doesn't. The "hidden tech keeping it afloat" is, in part, eugenics, sure, but not in any anti-enlightenment form. So the search continues, I guess.

Icons and Symmetries - Simon Altmann -

This has three "chapters", or sort of transcriptions of lectures. The first two were really great. It's a lot of food for thought on human progress. Why it took 8 years (!) before Orsted basically did an experiment by accident that led to wider understanding of electromagnetism. Why it took years for Hamilton's quaternions to be treated as rotation matrices, not vectors. The whole idea of polar (ordinary) vs axial vectors that I don't think I'd ever seen before.. (axial being the kind you can identify by rotating a pipe, but under reflection it has interesting properties). The difference between the icon and the object, the map and the territory, the dangers of using icons to mean multiple things (or forget certain contexts)... The third chapter was a bit hard to follow technically because I don't have a background in solid state physics, but what I did follow at the high level was still interesting. It's a short book but a really neat one on the history of science and math and how the notion of using principles to help guide you is wrought with all sorts of danger, even when you can find a (in this case "post-Curie") decent principle. In these examples, not having a full appreciation of symmetry, but at the same time being hypnotized by seemingly elegant symmetry (in the icon), both contributed to progress delays.

Spice and Wolf - Volume 1 - Isuna Hasekura -

Watched the anime, wanted more, read the first light novel. A fun read, retells half the first season of the show. I also appreciate the show even more for the little changes they did. To me if animes are based on a manga or light novel, they are best when they do things a bit differently in recognition of their different medium. And the light novel was great the way it was, too. Now, how do I get my own kenrou companion...

Design It!: From Programmer to Software Architect - Michael Keeling -

This was the second office book club book. Because we didn't really do the "get your hands dirty" simulations, and skimmed the third section of the book which is mostly a reference of interesting techniques to build better architectures, I don't think we got as much out of the book as we could have. Additionally most people in the club don't have the relevant background experience to really grasp some of the lessons or be able to argue with them. Also-also our company is structured in a crazy way, but this book kind of assumes "modern" / in-fashion software practices and assumes your scope is one self-contained product. Not too useful for adding somewhat contained but necessarily complected features to a 20 year old product with PM hierarchies that keep the ICs far, far away from the customers most of the time. And no advice for how to get from some other place to the place he assumes you to be.

Anyway, I got some things out of this book, but it's not one I would have picked for myself, and I think my time would have been better used with another book. The book is very long-winded in places and has a lot of fluff. Some of it might just be due to the formatting. There are a lot of bullet point items, and it makes it seem like the book was constructed from some number of 30-60 minute slideshow presentations. I would bet at least half of the bullet points could be removed entirely. I didn't like the example project which you see revealed "progress" on at the end of each chapter. I'd have preferred a self-contained case-study chapter. For aspiring architects, I think reading Joel Spolsky would be a better use of time. And then seeing actual architecture discussions, not just this hypothetical Lionheart one (kudos to the "use system metaphors" from Kent Beck exercise in the third section which finally gave a description of the point of the Lionheart project I could readily understand) from books like The Architecture of Open Source Applications.

Common Lisp in the Wild: Deploying Common Lisp Applications - Wimpie Nortje -

Good short book. I'm a professional programmer who's had the misfortune to be stuck in JavaLand for the past 4 years. I'd like to use Lisp more. I've been dabbling with it for quite a while, but until this book I hadn't really found something that I thought was sufficiently similar to the "professional" project structures I'm used to in JavaLand. (That's not necessarily a dig on Lisp -- it's flexible enough to let you get away with simpler project layouts, whereas Java practically requires a full maven experience to have sanity.) I appreciated this book giving a simple Makefile approach and showing how to use qlot (version pinning) with quicklisp (package fetcher) but also how to keep the Lisp experience in development. There's no tradeoff between structuring for development and structuring for a deployable build! Also UIOP: such a great package I never knew I had all this time.

As it says on the tin, shared libraries aren't really covered, though some advice is given that will be helpful when it comes time to deploy my game. I'd have liked to see a complete example, though. 'trivial-gamekit has support for distribution, it'd be neat to have a book-guide on how to do something like that to save the effort of looking under the hood. Another content suggestion I'd make is to take the final example of a webapp and package it in Electron or something.

Dichronauts - Greg Egan -

Enjoyable hard sci-fi as expected. The geometry of the world is crazy and enjoyable to puzzle through (and read more about on his site) but maybe a bit much to puzzle through all the time. Still I think even someone not very interested in maths can follow along and enjoy the story itself, which was a fun alien adventure.

A Planet of Viruses - Carl Zimmer -

A brief intro to the viruses around us and their history, pretty interesting. Didn't know a lot of (most of?) the things. e.g. that a virus genome is responsible for a crucial placenta-coating protein in mammals. Only improvement I'd make would be more pictures (but fortunately google provides).

The Earth is Enough: growing up in a world of flyfishing, trout, and old men - Harry Middleton -

Dad recommended this to me, it took me some years to actually start it... But I'm glad I've finished it. The last bit was somewhat difficult, emotional. To me this book offers a glimpse at a rather idyllic life of mountain men who took up unprofitable sustenance farming in order to fund their even more unprofitable hobby of fishing. Fishing is something else, my dad ruined me by exposing me to it as a child! =P Rainbow Trout are indeed fun to catch, even if you let them go, though I do love to eat them. Maybe one day I'll have to try flyfishing. And maybe one day I can buy my own land that not only includes some sort of well but access to a river or lake. At least I don't plan to be a farmer, I'm too modern for such labor, instead I'll keep chugging along a little bit longer with upfront work in the world of high-tech so I can subsidize my dream later.

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship - Uncle Bob Martin -

I read this as part of my office's first book club. Yay mutual betterment of ourselves! Never have I argued with a book so much (many notes/comments I penciled in the margins) and still enjoyed reading enough to read every page.

I went in to the book feeling pretty skeptical about its ultimate value, but also wanting to give it a fair shake and adjust my priors. Good thing, too, because my priors were whack. I did gain some value from it apart from calibration, which is less interesting to talk about right now (more interesting months from now after seeing if there's a persistent change), so I'm just going to talk about my thoughts on my Bayesian update. It ended up being longer than I wanted, so maybe would have been better as a blog (this gist is supposed to be for shorter thoughts after reading), but whatever. tldr to future-me I'd recommend the book. tldr in case Uncle Bob somehow sees this, thanks for the read.

From a few popular drama-posts on the net in 2017 and maybe in prior years (not sure when the name "Uncle Bob" started registering with me, though it did ring a negative connoting bell months before I started reading the book) I had the opinion of Uncle Bob as this crufty old guy who maybe was a good programmer but was also all about discipline (somehow), bondage (when discipline is lacking), doing things the hard way back when men were men because hard is good, ignorant about better ways, and the only bit of modernism in him being that someone convinced him about the value of unit tests (but apparently, I read, he would hate non unit tests and everything else for some reason). Generally, I avoid reading people similar to that -- they do exist. But after reading this book I realized my perception was very wrong -- he's not like that -- and another point in favor of not letting people color your perceptions about other people when you haven't even read the primary source material. At some point into the book I visited his website and lo-and-behold the man uses Clojure these days. (I like Clojure.)

There was some drama about tools and formal methods and at-least-for-life-critical-stuff-like-medicine-we-should and yadda yadda and somehow Uncle Bob got characterized as "anti-tool, tools-useless except unit tests, just use your free will and be disciplined and don't screw up" position, which I don't think he actually has.

I wonder if those against him have ever seen any medical device code. Let's look at a snippet: Don't also forget that "security" is something for tough-looking on-site med staff to look after, not medical device programmers. (There's some horror code stories from Tesla too the anti-Musk part of the industry circle jerked over for a few days, despite cars being mobile death machines, and there's little reflection that other car companies are just as bad if not worse. You think they use TLA+ extensively at Toyota? Lol.)

When you see what these "life critical" systems are up against in terms of developer incompetence, of course everyone is looking for tools to save them, but they won't, because even if a battery of tools could improve things tremendously, developers that produced such incompetent code are too incompetent to use them. Something from The Practice of Programming book, the best [tool] is the one between your ears. (That book may have said debugger, I will claim to believe the [tool] replacement even if K&P don't.) More competent developers would already be using such tools as appropriate. Hopes that we can somehow get tool use to be mandated and adequately enforced are faint as the hopes that software managers figure out how to read and integrate Deming's work. I can't even hope that the industry will find agreement on when using certain tools is appropriate or not, or ever discover a tool that is universally god with no downsides to consider in a tradeoff.

Tools that are useful are tautologically useful. But what will make you use them? Discipline. Mandate. That's it. You have to want to become a better craftsman, you have to want to produce cleaner code, before you can actually do so. The alternative is being forced to or else you lose your job. Leaving aside the challenges of successfully using force, does anyone want that? (Rhetorical, people call for the deaths of programmers for far less.)

Anyway, I don't agree with a lot of the book, but I also do agree with a lot. A lot of programmers would be better served following the book religiously than whatever chaos they do now, even if I might disagree with what I would in that circumstance view as foolish inconsistencies that would result from misplaced religious devotion.

As for the straw man advice of "Just don't screw up", I'd still like to strengthen it a bit for a position I at least want to take. In other contexts, it's perfectly reasonable to expect "don't screw up", and sound advice to give because it implies an action plan if you're afraid of screwing up. (Namely, practice, simulation.) The consequences of screwing up can range from financial to embarrassment to injury to death, either to the person who screws up and/or to the people around them. Screw ups still happen, but it's entirely possible to perform without screwing up, it happens all the time, in fact more so than screw ups (which is why civilization can progress at all). I want to encourage an attitude of "don't screw up (and implicitly, practice to make yourself better so you're less likely to screw up)" rather than "fear! uncertainty! doubt! We practice fear-driven development, but that's ok, because I have this One Cool Tool that will take away the fear without you having to actually think!" It's best not to fear at all, but when you fear, it's best not to be driven by it.

Game Engine Black Book: Wolfenstein 3D - Fabien Sanglard -

A book on the internals of the game. As the back cover states, "this is an engineering book", and it delivered. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It's taught me some new things (like how joysticks worked), given me some ideas for future research, and shown me lots of great tricks like the linear feedback shift register. Early on it also has the best description of floating point I've seen; I was satisfied with my academic understanding (I have a CE degree after all), but just the abstraction of seeing it as a range of base powers of two + offsets until the next power is such an efficient description for the representation and the problems that arise with precision that my previous satisfaction was shallow! I'm looking forward to the author's Doom book. (May it have a few less typos!)

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid - coolkyousinnjya -

So far read all the volumes that have come out in English, will continue reading as new ones are out. I haven't really read a manga before, and only have a couple others in Japanese that I've put off since translating would take a long time, but I was enchanted by the anime and entered a dragon maid craze. :) I like the manga too. Never enough Tohru! <3

Land of Lisp - Conrad Barski -

This book came out in 2010, and my mom got it for me for Christmas... Who knows what psychological factors come into play with the book reminding me of her and my cat, but holy cow it took me nearly 8 years to finish! I'm finally done.

Overall I liked it, especially the drawings. The main critique I'd offer would be that perhaps functional style was emphasized too much, much of the code felt like what I'd expect to see if a Scheme or Clojure programmer was forced to write in Common Lisp. (So it didn't actualy feel "sticky" to the brain and writing Lisp afterwards I still look basic things up.) Specifically, the over-frequent use of inner functions via 'labels for closure benefits rather than separate helper functions with a couple extra params (or generic methods on objects...), recursion (and often not tail-recursion) instead of various looping facilities, and raw car/cdr and their (admittedly useful) mutant forms rather than some structs or CLOS objects to help hide that. I just can't remember that the caddr of our "data structure" is always some particular thing, I'd like a get-thing that does the caadr/caddr/whatdr. But maybe that's the point, that I should have felt more free to redefine code as I saw fit rather than typing it more or less verbatim from the book. The CLISP specific functions are where I differed by necessity (calling system programs and the web server come to mind as the only ones) since I used SBCL for everything. Anyway, thank you author for the journey.

The Age of Em - Robin Hanson -

I pre-ordered this book and have been slogging through it in chunks for the last two years (apparently there's now a revised 2018 edition with more content!) but now I'm done. I enjoyed it despite what I can only call the "dryness" of it; it's been characterized as a history book of the future which seems like both a compliment and minor insult (history books are often rather dry compared with other non-fiction, but they don't have to be). It wasn't overly dry however. I thought the first sections and last sections were the best bits, and much of the contents can be gleaned with a short time investment from watching some of the various talks the author gave when the book was coming out. The meaty middle with many details was interesting but made for slower and less exciting reading for me. The only critique I'd offer is that the frequent speculation of increased usage of prediction markets was a bit distracting. Prediction markets unfortunately don't seem to be taking over the current economy very quickly despite offering potentially huge improvements in efficiencies, so while I can agree that they're more likely in the em era due to the em era being more efficient, I still find that weak support. It probably wouldn't have bothered me if I hadn't had background of the author, being an occasional OB reader for over a decade now. But perhaps this is part of a long-game? After some initial reading about Deming, I found a mythic retelling that he went to Japan after the war, told their CEOs that his methods were the way American companies did things (they weren't), and they adopted them so that they could rival American manufacturing. Thanks to adopting them, they surpassed American companies who were in fact not practicing Deming's methods, scoring some points in Deming's favor for his predictive abilities. Perhaps prediction markets need a similar event of adopting them not directly for their efficiency gains but only to gain status and maybe compete with someone one thinks is already using them, i.e. copycatting.

A Critique of Democracy - Michael Anissimov -

Finally finished this short guy. The title of this book should really set expectations: it is best seen as a critique of democracy. Where it ventures into replacements, it is noticeably weaker, however it provides a lot of reasons why democracy itself is pretty bad. It should provide sufficient background to use when challenging modern democratic thinkers, and suggests an ordering of the approaches as well since one could just as well start with any of them. Since I've made all these arguments before it'll help to write them all down here. The key ideas/approaches: 1) our evolutionary history primes us to want Leaders 2) Democracy tends to hyperpolarization and a competition over government resources, people don't even align on beliefs very much but rather their labels 3) Democracy and republics can be seen as a form of publicly owned government, whereas monarchies are privately owned. Private government has a lot of benefits in terms of incentives towards good governance, Hoppe's book is summarized. 4) Societies can be judged by more than just GDP (and type of government tends not to correspond with GDP growth anyway) 5) Economic Inequality isn't an issue 6) Democracy is an illusion anyway, iron law of oligarchy kicks in for everything 7) Democracy is an illusion anyway, cognitive biases and other psychology research get in the way of proposed things like "wisdom of crowds" or "voting giving people what they want".

The End of Eternity - Isaac Asimov -

Listened to this on audible. I liked it a lot. Great mix of time travel story with thoughts on the proper future of humanity. Nice romanticism too. I can especially see it appealing highly to young nerds who have trouble with women...

The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu -

Very good hard sci-fi, I can tell why people call it China's best, it's easily better than most sci-fi worldwide... I didn't realize I had sucked myself into another trilogy until partway through and telling a friend I had started, but at least everything has been translated, so maybe I'll get to the other two this year as well! Most of the science (especially the astrophysics) was described so convincingly that I have no idea if it's actually a real thing to use the sun as an EM amplifier or not. There was only one annoyance I had and it was towards the very end, it was the introduction of faster-than-light information travel via quantum entanglement. That's not allowed by the science. But because everything else is so good, I'll allow it for narrative purposes. (Another minor complaint that might just be a translation thing, I found nothing 'superintelligent' about a particular program, it's just a rather powerful program...) I look forward to logging in again for the next book.

Beyond Happiness - Ezra Bayda -

I didn't get that much from this. (I listened to an audio book version.) However I think the Three Questions it promotes throughout are a good mental pattern. "Am I truly happy right now?" "What blocks happiness?" "Can I surrender to what is / accept and live in the present?"

Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee -

Neat science-fantasy but I'm left confused about how 'calendars' and 'formations' work apart from 'magic'. Reminded me of the taking of Iserlohn Fortress in LotGH. Battle scenes were pretty well written, I had fun reading the story even though I had to just carry on despite not understanding the significance of everything (especially the what seems to me something like Jungian archetypes people are identified with, how many there are, what the main traits of each are, the roots and their variants...). Learned the author is trans which helps explain the loose sex-gender pairings that have been going on for hundreds of years. Once machine intelliences were introduced I was cheering for them. Let the machines rule! These humans suck. The ending sets up nicely for a followup, and I learned there's a planned trilogy with the second book already out and the third coming soon. I'll probably read the second one sometime later this year.

Mort - Terry Pratchett -

This was my first Terry book, I found his writing style charming, but I can imagine it pissing a lot of people off who expect their authors to be serious! The story was interesting and well told. It hasn't left me with much to think about but it was fun while it lasted. I am kind of interested in more of the Discworld.

The Mote in God's Eye - Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle -

JP died recently, I didn't know who he was, but when I learned, I figured I should read a few books he did. This one was good. The aliens feel alien, the characters are memorable. It could have been shorter, but I didn't mind.

The Enchiridion - Epictetus (via Elizabeth Carter) -

Even more stoicism, this is just a different translation of the first half of Art of Living but they seem to agree pretty well. I figured I better read other versions, like I've done with the tao te ching. Still much I find myself in agreement with. My biggest disagreements are probably on what is within one's control to change (like death, or how crystaline one's assigned actor role in life is), but not so much the folly of trying to change things outside of one's control. I guess what I mean to say is that beyond the binary control or out of control, there is a contnuous field of Influence, and it's important to know it.

As A Man Thinketh - James Allen -

More stoic-like thought. The key idea is that you are your own thoughts (but what else could one be?) and that you can shape your external circumstances by shaping your internal thoughts to reflect your external vision. I don't really disagree, and I have successfully thought my way out of certain mind patterns and I see the truth in wrong thought resulting in ugliness on the outside. But there is a missing detail in all of this, which is that the ability to think, the ability to reshape one's thoughts, is not evenly distributed. Some men will find it easy to remake themselves after gaining certain insight. Others will struggle their whole lives. This isn't to say that the goal to self-evolve is impossible for anyone, but it is more challenging, and men should set their expectations accordingly. As many religions and philosophies have taught, even the simplest man can learn to accept their lot in life with grace and dignity and pursue their duties with focus and care. That isn't a bad life. It may not be the high self-actualization that could happen with a master sculptor who has sculped their own lives and overcome their own many hellish challenges to get there, but it's still a good life.

Art of Living - Epictetus (via Sharon Lebell) -

Good short book on stoic meditations. Stoic philosophy has a lot to like, only some minor disagreements from me.

The Waking Dream - Ray Grasse -

Originally I read most of this for a class in school 3 years ago, I finally got around to finishing. I remain unconvinced in any practical value of the symbolist worldview (especially when its best shot at evidence is but it certainly is an interesting topic of study. I don't doubt that prior to the scientific age, symbolist ways of thinking dominated, and I think even today fragments of the whole are still in wide use which makes these elegant compositions into a unified body of Symbolism so compelling. My main objection on practicality is not just as a skeptical atheist reductionist, but on the grounds that such a worldview does not seem to produce reliable, accurate predictions, the core criteria of a belief's value regardless of if that belief was arrived at scientifically or perhaps divine inspiration. I'd recommend the book to anyone curious about symbolism and meaning or even just their history.

The Art of War - Sun Tzu -

I listened to this one, narrated by Littlefinger. :) While I definitely didn't get as much from it as if I had read it, it convinced me that this book's popularity is overblown. If I was in a position of military command, this book would be invaluable, but trying to apply it to every day non-military life seems like a stretch.

Models - Mark Manson -

I finally powered through the last 30 pages. I got this book sort of on a whim, it was being pimped as 'an ethical pickup-artist book'. The ethical aspect is really just that it's not about game. It has some useful bits and could probably successfully red pill someone who is under the delusion that women think the same way as men, or the other delusion that women are naturally chaste and pure and innocent and should be worshipped, but if you're already red pilled the easy to see route to getting women is by acting manly. The book does have some useful tips on that beyond get in shape, be well groomed, dress sharp: the most interesting bits are about how to be confidently vulnerable, always being more invested in yourself than her, and to polarize rather than compromise or hide in dull commonality.

Unfortunately the book's biggest shortcoming is that most its advice (especially on how to escalate to sex) is rather unhelpful for anyone (like me) with sort of traditional beliefs about sex, marriage and alcohol abuse, whether religiously framed or not.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling -

I haven't read this maybe since I was 10 or 12. It still holds up, and I'm also impressed by the movie since that is more recent in memory. The movie didn't really cut out anything important, only changed a little bit, and was a great adaptation. The book itself reads quickly, though I suspect I read it faster when I was younger -- certainly the 5th book, which was quite a bit longer, I recall staying up all night to read it... Why did I read this? I've long had the hard covers of all of the books except the first one, which I only had in soft cover. I bought the hard cover on Amazon recently to complete the collection at last, and decided to read it again too. I probably won't go through the rest of them at this time though.

In the Ruins - Greg Egan -

Just some fun, interesting short sci-fi I had in my tabs about where Twitter et al. may be taking us. It's pretty disturbing, I can't even. But also extremely amusing. Go spend the 15 or so minutes to read it.

A Fire Upon The Deep - Vernor Vinge -

This sci-fi had been on my list for a long time. Maybe a year ago I read the prolog and was immediately intrigued, but then the first chapter was totally off in another part of the galaxy with lesser beings and I lost interest. This time it still took me about 100 pages to get into (out of its 600 or so). In the end it wasn't quite what I expected, but still a fun and neat story that I enjoyed quite a bit, enough to spend many hours at once just reading. The underlying magical premise of different zones of space where faster-than-light travel is permitted was interesting, too. The writing was good and I'd like to read more from Vinge.

Two things I didn't like about it: first I thought character descriptions didn't make sense until quite a while after the characters/species were introduced; second I'm generally not a fan of stories where "side A knows x, side B knows y, side C knows z, and audience knows all x,y,z but everything would go much nicer if all sides knew more than one thing." I like it when information is revealed to both the audience and the important characters that are impacted by it in a similar time frame, preferrably at the same time. This happens more toward the end of the book as characters converge physically which was nice.

Learn to Play Go, Volume II: The Way of the Moving Horse - Janice Kim, Soo-hyun Jeong -

Continuing my Go studies, I'm getting better. Lots of useful information in this volume all the way through. In the final synthesis I scored 21/25, which is "excellent." On to volume 3!

Candide - Voltaire -

Actually I listened to the LibriBox recording, but I felt nothing was lost. It was a very fun story, perhaps classified as a tragic comedy, with both wit and scathing bits both in the lines and between them. What else is there to say? I bought the linked version in 2012... As the story got underway I did recall the beginning few chapters, so at least I attempted to read it back then (the linked version contains the French and a translation, and I wanted to go through the French at the time). It's worth going through the text to earmark a few choice sections (Martin is a particularly lovable cynic).

Learn to Play Go: A Master's Guide to the Ultimate Game (Volume I) - Janice Kim, Soo-hyun Jeong -

My coworker got me into the game of Go, I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I read this book all the way through recently, it was a good read for total beginners and noobs like me. When I was almost done I played my coworker again and finally beat him (with only 5 undo moves...)! I'm looking forward to continuing the series. Maybe then I can become stronger... I'd be thrilled to reach the 9kyu stage, though that will probably take a few years if I keep at it.

Worm - Wildbow -

Finished this behemoth in about 3 weeks. About 1.68 million words, something like 22 average length novels. I knew going in that I wouldn't be able to stop, and I cost myself some sleepless nights. But at the end of it? Would I go back in time and read it again? No. It's ultimately not worth 22 other books' worth, to me, but it was still a good story. A common critique I also knew about before going in was that it's in serious need of editing -- true, but I'm not sure editing would do that much for its overall quality. Editing is polish, it can't make something bad good, and it can't make something good great. Was Worm great? To me, not really, but it was close, it was really good, and for many parts of it I couldn't bring myself to stop reading.

Masters of Doom - David Kushner -

I never really embraced nerddom or did very nerdy things (besides perhaps doing well in school and playing Nintendo and Chess) much until puberty, around 2002. I've been playing catch up (not too quickly) in a lot of ways since on things I missed out on in the 80s and early 90s. Doom and PC gaming in general was one of those things. I played the shareware version and had fun (I didn't upgrade from a sound-less windows 95 machine to XP until 2003 or 2004...), but that was about it. At some point in my programming life of the last decade I learned a good deal about the holy John Carmack, and this book cements his legendary status in my mind along with the other John, John Romero. It's a book about a time and culture I wish I had been old enough and interested enough to be a part of, a great read. Similar to What the Dormouse Said, though I think this book reached me deeper since I am still a gamer at heart.

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius -

A fine classic, I listened to the linked audio version. Stoicism is my default-personality, so I find it easy to agree with much in this text. There are points of comfort, too, in dealing with struggles. If I am to overcome them, then do not complain, as they will soon be over, and if I am not to overcome them, then also do not complain, for I will soon be consumed by them!

As usual, I can't agree with the deathist views in this work. If I were to convince Aurelius of this in his style, I might say only: it is man's nature to overcome his nature.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality - Eliezer Yudkowsky -

I forgot to update this file, but the last chapter was released on pi day, and so that was the point I finished this. It goes beyond fanfiction in my mind, a great piece of sci-fi crafted on top of a fantasy world. It was incredibly refreshing to read a fiction book where all the characters are smart. I think I've re-read this thing up to 60-80% of its content twice in its existence, I really enjoy it and recommend it pretty often to anyone who liked the Harry Potter series and who also likes sci-fi.

Schild's Ladder - Greg Egan -

The level of "hard" to this hard sci-fi puts all others I've read to shame. It makes use of differential geometry and loop quantum gravity, mainly. Ultimately I had to skip understanding some technical details (like, I don't fully follow the 3D version of Schild's Ladder, though I grasp the 2D version) so that I could finish the great story, but hopefully one day I'll get to them and can come back to it with an even greater appreciation. Fortunately I understand basics of quantum theory like superposition and decoherence. It's taken me several days to add this book to my list, as I've been contemplating its excellence and wondering how I would rank it. In the end I enjoyed Permutation City more, but this definitely ranks up there with the sci-fi mentioned in my last review as my favorites.

For future reference, the things I need to study before attempting a reread are: Superselection, loop quantum gravity, the references at the end of the book, Egan's own Foundations, E7 (mathematics), Lie groups and Lie algebras, the paper "A new quantum so(2,2) algebra" by Herranz, orthogonal groups, differential geometry in general (but specifically affine connections and parallel transport and 'connections', holonomy, the levi-civita parallelogramoid, geodesics in 3D and in general relativity). It'd be nice to study it in the language of geometric algebra so there are the books "A New Approach to Differential Geometry using Clifford's Geometric Algebra" and "Treatise of Plane Geometry Through Geometric Algebra". Alas the last time I started studying geometric algebra I got lost in the weeds, mostly because there are two camps, and while I can with focus sometimes make sense of one or the other under consideration, translating between the two is difficult. (The camps being purely analytical forms of the math, and math that can easily be implemented on a computer and mapped to real world objects.)

The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson -

Superb sci-fi. Hard sci-fi, too. My only "complaint" (and it is so very minor) is the lack of aerial tech beyond transport ships and space tech beyond satellites, but the book's world doesn't need them and makes more sense without them. I would just think to myself "I'm glad no one seems to have any drones." Unlike my experience with Banks (two more novels of his I will eventually try), Stephenson leaves me feeling quite good after finishing, like my time shouldn't have been spent with some other sci-fi, and along the way I immensely enjoyed his wordplay. I will forever think of the house of the venerable and inscrutable colonel when driving past that certain fast food joint. I kind of want to read more and to explore the ramifications of the conclusion -- but I'll be content to leave that to my imagination.

The [neo]reactionary/royalist/dark enlightenment thede (or the beginnings of a phyle as this book might put it), mostly on the internet, has been of interest to me lately. This book conveys I think a great example of a possible world humanity may be heading towards this century, and depicts why Victorian culture and morality is one of the best possible for humanity. The book is an interesting argument in favor of reactionary positions.

One last rambling thought: maybe that's why I like this book, Permutation City, and the Golden Age so much. It uses earth-humans as characters, at various points in potential earth-human future. With the Culture, it's just about 'humans' or other aliens in general. Perhaps this is shallowness on my part, or just plain familiarity. TV show sci-fi is, almost without exception, about earthlings, even if humans have scattered into the wider galaxy. And the themes explored can often be relevant to today, or our near future.

Excession - Iain M. Banks -

This is my second Culture novel... and honestly I'm left feeling much the same after I read the first. I had a good time reading the book and enjoyed the world it's set in and the tech it explored, but it felt a little thin on theme. It's not really a complaint, but it took about 400 of the 500 pages of the book for everything to finally come together. And by around page 460, I realized it wouldn't be possible to have a satisfactory ending. I feel a bit cheated out of a proper ending. I mean, I can see what the author was trying to do. The overarching theme is how a civilization deals with (and exploits) an Outside Context Problem, it's not really about the problem itself. And instead of a more clichéd ending where the outside context becomes understood and part of the inside context, it just goes away... And minus a few lives, plus a few character growths and fulfilled wishes, and the report in the Epilogue, more or less everything returns to status quo. I guess this is ultimately the way the Culture works. I did enjoy the scheming and conversations of Minds, however I never got the impression of their super-intelligence like I did in The Golden Age. I'll have to reflect on why that is.

Influence: Science and Practice - Robert B. Cialdini -

Quite an amazing read. Could also be titled "Compliance". I've long been aware of many of the cognitive heuristics and biases humans share, and was mostly concerned about them in myself and in others to the extent that they perform "irrationally" in some situation or another. This book is all about how compliance professionals can use our heuristics to their advantage, with the principles of consistency, commitment, scarcity, authority, and others. It's a pretty disturbing book and it goes over numerous scientific studies. It also includes defense suggestions, which on the whole are pretty helpful, but the book ends with a defense solution that while it could be effective I have my reservations about. The author suggests reacting in a belligerent way to people caught applying compliance techniques, with boycotts, nasty letters, and so on. I think a more effective solution could be a top-down level of control from a monarch, but good luck with that. The author justifies his solution by mentioning that because humans have created such a complex environment for themselves, humans will need to rely more and more on their heuristics to combat cognitive overload and general fatigue, and so it is very important that such heuristics are accurate and don't get taken advantage of. My reservation with this is that such heuristics still serve as big biases, and it would be Gnon who takes advantage of us rather than other humans. A future-looking solution is to augment human cognition such that we can function effectively and without tire in a fully rational, deep-thinking mode of thought in all our activities, where indeed we would have the computational power to reflect "I just heard a sound that is possibly a hungry tiger, perhaps I should start running and verify later" and not be eaten midway through the thought, and avoid the pitfalls that come from our present knee-jerk responses to such stimuli.

This is probably the most important psychology book I've read, though The Moral Animal was pretty high up there too, and Judgment Under Uncertainty, while I haven't finished it, is a solid read... I would definitely recommend this one as a first pick. It has cartoons! Especially if you ever thought "Are there things about human nature as or more disturbing than what the Milgram Experiment shows?"

Death is Wrong - Gennady Stolyarov II -

Recent family deaths have encouraged me to pick this book up and support the author and his goal. It was a very quick read. I'm not sure if I would classify this as a kid's book... maybe if the kid was between 10-12 (or a teenager), or as smart and penetrating as the author was at age 4+. The illustrations are neat. It's very much like an information pamphlet in that it contains the basics of what one needs to know, with links to more in-depth work at SENS. While it doesn't take an argumentative tone, it successfully gives some basic and good counter-arguments to simplistic reasons people offer when they defend death. The examples from other species on earth of long-lived animals and trees and biologically immortal jellyfish are particularly good to know about. I wish more literature on this subject was published and wide-spread. If I live to see death conquered, it is going to be both a joyous and heartbreaking time for humanity. Those of us still left will remember those who have departed, and remember the emotion of someone leaving existence forever. We will feel terrible for not doing more to hasten the defeat of death. I already feel bad for not being able to convince anyone to sign up for cryonics -- and have yet to do so myself, though my only remaining excuse is soon no longer available. (Student, no job, now graduated, and soon employed.) Is there balm in Gilead? Will post-death humanity's oldest beings manage, will they be forgiven by each other and by themselves?

A few reasons for doubting the inspiration of the bible - Robert Green Ingersoll -

Entertaining, but nothing new here. It's also focused entirely on the Old Testament, I wish it had picked at a few New Testament absurdities. Only 17 e-pages, very short. The Brick Testament online is "better" because it's actually a lego-illustrated guide to the Bible (both Old and New) with direct quotes, not just references, and while the Brick Testament doesn't make any authorial remarks on the absurdity, disgustingness, or falseness of the Bible as this manuscript does, I really think those are self-evident...

I don't think this will help make an atheist of anyone who is only religious as far as having a "personal god" and who just use the Bible to cherry-pick nice-sounding passages here and there.

Skunk Works - Ben Rich -

Truly a book for engineers, this is chuck full of the stories around the creation of three of the most impressive aerial vehicles ever: the F-117A stealth fighter, the U2 spy plane, and the Blackbird. Note: stay away from dealings with the Navy. As a mere programmer ("Software Engineer"), soon with a degree in Computer Engineering that I feel has really only enabled me to tinker at a graduate-student level, I find myself feeling totally inadequate in breadth of skill and ability to do quick mental estimates compared to this book's highlighted real engineers. Perhaps one day there will be a MOOC for Mechanical Engineering...

Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World - Interviews and Selections by Graham Allison and Robert D. Blackwill, with Ali Wyne -

The title of the book delivers. Lee Kuan Yew is a great man who speaks and writes with clarity.

What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry - John Markoff -

Modern computer history at its finest. This book is packed with information on "the who" of the computer revolution, focused on individuals and their immediate organizations, with a clear separation between funding and building, explorations of the individual's motivations and philosophies and conflicts that arose between great men. It also sheds light on the role that mind-altering drugs and hippie culture brought to the table, especially on making Personal Computing into the force it became. One could take any of the names mentioned in this book and spend a long time researching the individual beyond what's presented -- it's almost dizzying to think of the intellect and talent and capability for work that the group of people as a whole held. It would have been radical to have been a part of.

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day - Arnold Bennett -

I'm going to try some of his suggestions. Ideally in a few months I can change the preface to this reading queue. (Update: no such luck. But the lessons are important, especially on consistently doing just a tiny amount in order to preserve your self-respect instead of setting an ambitious goal for consistency of a large amount that you will inevitably fail at.)

Patriarcha - Robert Filmer -

This document makes a great case for the right of Kings to be divine or natural, not necessarily as a whim or allowance of "the People". Locke apparently attacked this document by taking literally the claim that authority comes from Adam and that no King can prove they are one of Adam's heirs. If this is a true summary of Locke's view, it is surely a ridiculous one. First of all, if you allow for a First Human, then we are all his heirs. Each of us has inside us the blood of the original king. So there is nothing on that ground for a king to show that he is related to Adam. Second, the use of Adam is to elaborate on the fatherly nature of power and its precedent even up to the beginning of mankind. (Foseti remarks the use is also to prove his point on religious grounds, given some of his opponents tried to use religious arguments against monarchy.) For Filmer's argument is all about fatherhood being the natural source of Kingly power, which I can agree with.

He also makes a very convincing case (in a very boring-for-reading way) that absolute Kings are the historical status quo and a stable government should continue with that. His case is made by pointing at history, with names of rulers and their actions I have no real idea about but I take Filmer's word for it. He also makes a convincing case that a King cannot be bound by his laws, only by his will, and any contradiction between his will and his laws will inevitably favor his will. This is an important point in modern affairs in that a sovereign entity is not subject to any law, it is only subject to its own will (or the will of a foreign sovereign that is stronger).

I do not agree with Filmer that subjects should unconditionally obey. I'm just too modern for that. makes some further interesting remarks on this text.

Military Nanotechnology: Potential Applications and Preventive Arms Control - Jürgen Altmann -

This book covers a lot of ground. It discusses what sorts of research projects are being done worldwide (mostly in the US, mostly military funded (though a lot medically motivated and funded)) on nanotechnology, how much money is being spent on them, and lists specific technologies that are on the horizon for 5-20 years or longer. It also discusses the challenges/benefits of molecular nanotechnology. It's amazing how close to reality sci-fi can be...

Perhaps the most interesting section of the book breaks down and evaluates military applications under the criteria of preventive arms control. Broadly, there are three categories:

Effective arms control, disarmament, and international law; Maintain and improve stability; Protect humans, environment, and society.

The applications include, again broadly:

Electronics, photonics, magnetics; Computers, communication; Software/artificial intelligence; Materials; Energy sources, energy storage; Propulsion; Vehicles; Propellants and explosives; Camouflage; Distributed sensors (Generic, Battlefield, Treaty verification); Armor, protection; New conventional weapons (Metal-less arms, Small guidance, Armor piercing, Small missiles); Soldier systems; Implanted systems, body manipulation; Autonomous systems (Unarmed, Armed); Mini-/micro-robots incl. bio-technical hybrids (No weapon function, Target beacon/armed); Small satellites/space launchers; Nuclear weapons (Auxiliary systems, Computer modelling, Very small weapons); New chemical weapons; New biological weapons; Chemical/biological protection/neutralization.

Happily, most of these likely military NT advances are neutral or only slightly dangerous in the categories of arms control, except the subarea of stability that involves arms races and proliferation for pretty much everything. There is the suggestion that a country might not want to develop certain technologies because that would incite others to do so as well, and that just increases the likelihood that a terrorist group would get a hold of any of them. Another exception is that new chemical and biological weapons are all-around dangerous. The author has a lot to say about how to effectively have preventive arms control depending on the area of technology and the area of control. There is no need for pessimism all around, especially because there is precedent with biological warfare bans etc. However the book does recommend a complete ban on small arms, light weapons, and munitions that contain no metal. I think this is interesting in that in the US at least, 3D printing has made possible such weaponry, and the State seems to have no interest in shutting it down. (And by now it may be too late.) I think the US's history of individualism and its present state of government dysfunction (in all areas, but particularly in law enforcement) will create a lot of problems for control in the civilian sector. It doesn't even have to be NT, it could be standard microsystems technology (MST) that has become such a commodity as the case has become for 3D printing, robotic parts, and powerful microcontrollers.

Molecular nanotech is on a completely different playing field. Fortunately it's still far out, but as it becomes more feasible, there is a huge incentive to be the first entity to build and control a universal molecular assembler or in general self-replicating devices. Arms control over this seems unlikely.

The author did a talk a while back that I think is a nice prelude to the specifics found in the book:

Friendship is Optimal - Iceman -

Does fanfiction count here? Whatever. It was fun for the ideas it looked at, none of which were new to me. I'm indifferent to the story, critical in some parts, but in the end it was interesting enough to make my way through. I'm working through several nonfiction books right now, I promise.

Inheritance - Christopher Paolini -

Well, I had read the previous three, so I had to finish it. And.... I liked it overall despite is flaws. (The actual writing was sometimes annoying but I got over it -- I've read and probably written worse.) I didn't like the ending. I still don't particularly like the system of magic they have, and it would be interesting to see a fanfic/alternate telling done by someone with a scientific mind, and with rational characters in the style of Methods of Rationality. Is the energy law still proportional to 1/r^2 in Alagaësia? How come no magician has ever thought of a gun before?

The Wind Through the Keyhole - Stephen King -

I think this is the first SK book I've read, I enjoyed it. I guess I got it for my dad and he recommended it. It's three stories nested together decently. It makes me want to look at the other Dark Tower books. I'm left wondering how much is 'magic' or how much is just 'sufficiently advanced technology' left from the old ages. And radiation sure does weird things.

The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks -

Another sci-fi book, but it was a good ride. It took about 100 pages for me to get into, but after that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing itself is superb. On a more meta-level, the claim I've seen elsewhere that the Culture is the utopia we have to do better than is now laughable to me--I would rather live in the Golden Oecumene than the Culture, though they both have problems.

The Golden Transcendence - John C. Wright -

After taking forever to arrive, I teared through this last novel in three or four evenings. Fantastic! The frustration with Phaethon's stupidity of the previous novel is mostly gone, happily. There is small frustration with the stubbornness of Silver-Grey philosophy... it reminds me heavily of Objectivism--but, the better, reasonable parts of Objectivism. The book also doesn't beat the reader over the head with it, and there is plenty alternate philosophy explored for contemplation. The trilogy isn't about the philosophy, after all. That's part of why it is a fantastic trilogy, with a fantastic finisher. I think I may like this third one the best of the three, but the trilogy as a whole is very complete and is by quite a bit my favorite trilogy ever.

The Phoenix Exultant - John C. Wright -

In some ways worse (at least near the beginning, when Phaethon seems uncharacteristically stupid for a 3000+ year old), in some ways better, than the first book, but a very kickass book altogether. I ready it much more quickly than the first book, which indicates I liked this one even more. A lot more of the book world's philosophy for its powers is exposed which I found fascinating and suitable. The plot has thickened and it will be interesting to see how it gets resolved. Amazon, ship me the next one faster! It wasn't Prime-eligible. :(

Thunder in the Sky - Translated by Thomas Cleary -

This is actually two texts. The first is The Master of Demon Valley, the second is The Master of the Hidden Storehouse. The first is related to the Taoist classic I've read below, Chuang-tzu, but it's actually from a school of thought called Tsung-heng hsueh. "Vertical and horizontal learning." "The learning of freedom of thought and action." "Control others without being controlled by others." "The science of letting all hell break loose." The school was either a splinter of Taoism or profoundly influenced by Taoism or the Taoists simply cannibalized the work. The work elaborates a science of power. It is a very subtle work, one more subtle than the Tao Te Ching (which the translator references many times in his notes to help in understanding the work). It's very psychological. I will be reading it again sometime in the future, because I do not understand it all.

The second work, The Master of the Hidden Storehouse, is fully Taoist (and possibly apocryphal) but startlingly clear, potent, and wise. Some truths it has written are eternal, but some do not fit the present age. (Which is okay--the book was created in a different season, to apply all of the things we do in winter when it is summer outside would be unwise.) This book should be required reading for any sage-king in training, or anyone who wants to understand the proper role of government, leadership, war, education, and wisdom.

The Golden Age - John C. Wright -

This is my new favorite sci-fi. It explores a not-too-unrealistic and fascinating hypothesis for what a not-optimally-positive-but-not-negative Singularity might look like for humanity, and is heavy on futuristic tech.

Probabilistic Logic Networks: A Comprehensive Framework for Uncertain Inference - Ben Goertzel, Matthew Iklé, Izabela Freire Goertzel, Ari Heljakka -

Profound, practical, difficult. I bit off more than I could chew by selecting this as a research project for a Game AI class. Nevertheless, I powered through it and apart from the backwards chainer (admittedly the 'meat' of the framework, I just hardcoded the solution because my demo was due... with maybe 4-8 more hours I could probably have had a basic chainer working great) got a neat clone of their Fetch example to work by implementing a very basic subset of PLN and whipping up a quick game world.

The book successfully convinced me that it's the right approach to the things it's useful at doing, and the general OpenCog project is pretty damn awesome with lots of neat stuff in it. (The OpenCog wiki also has a nice list of errata in the book.) Maybe in a year or so I'll be ready to tackle something like this again and be successful at it. I think a "PLN Basics" for other people would be useful in itself even if it wasn't practical for production purposes...

Signal Processing First - McClellan, Schafer, Yoder -

I dare you to resist the kitty! Anyway, I read this book and did its exercises for a digital signal processing course. It's a great undergrad book. It's missing a few pieces like filter design (e.g. butterworth filters) that we covered outside the book, but it covers the fundamentals in a clear way. It's best to go through it at a top-level first and get the big picture before delving in. The class was probably my favorite mostly-theoretical class I've had so far, and I'll put the methods into practice next year.

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline -

This was assigned reading for an English class, so I got it out of the way with the start of the semester. It's a simple book, telling a simple story with simple language, but it's a good story and kept me entertained. There are references galore. My main criticism is that it required an annoying suspension of disbelief at the very beginning before about 1/3 through the book giving out an explanation that made such a suspension unnecessary, and then it required an even more annoying suspension of disbelief for the latter third's tale of corporate incompetence. Still, these are minor criticisms. If you liked Harry Potter, you'll probably like this.

Dr. Francia - Thomas Carlyle -

Great essay about a Dictator and his labors on dramatically improving Paraguay. It gives rise to several thoughts that go against modern lore: a good dictator is exponentially superior to any democracy, the manner of punishment is more important than the punishment itself, but death is a valid punishment, disorder is the enemy. Are these things true? What evidence would support them? There are many other insights to be gained from this pseudo-biography.

Information Theory in Statistical Mechanics: Equilibrium and Beyond - Benjamin Good -

A short, interesting paper showing the power of approaching statistical mechanics from a basis in probability theory, specifically using MaxEnt.

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood - James Gleick -

This is perhaps the best book I've read in the past five years. It's completely engrossing with a history of information, that little physical quantity we take for granted but few of us ever seem to study. I often tell people to learn a little about information theory, probability theory, and decision theory, this book covers the why for the first two as one of its many gifts. As a history book alone it's worthwhile--learn about when and why logarithms were invented/discovered and how they were so crucial for the world before computers. Learn about the development of computers and computing theory, try to get in the frame of mind of the greats of centuries past struggling to comprehend what it means to program, or process data, or extract meaning from information. Learn about the difficulties in comprehending codes that eventually led to Morse Code. Learn about the history of spidernetics. The author delivers some great layman explanations for so many crucial 20th century discoveries that are completely ignored by the vast majority of the populace, yet he doesn't shy away from giving the simple equations when they're enlightening for their simplicity. This book is chock full of great stuff. Go read it.

The Practice of Programming - Brian W. Kernighan, Rob Pike -

This is what a general purpose programming book should look like. Enlightening, engaging, it has actual code examples! And not stupid or trivial ones either, I was impressed by their introduction of markov chains so soon and ending with a perfect climax on the key ideas of JIT compilers. It was a treat to learn from two masters, I'm sad I never read this earlier when it would have been even more valuable to me. My only criticism is that their implementation of binary search was broken, just like 99% of them pre-this-article:

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! - Richard Feynman -

I actually listened to this in audiobook form, which I think I might try doing more often for my non-technical books. (If I can find the audio forms anyway.) Listening seems to take a lot less effort than visually reading and holding a book and turning a page, or in the case of ebooks, I can still do stuff on my computer while listening. (I also listen at times 2 speeds.) This was a collection of often hilarious stories showing more of Feynman's character and his commentary on science, education, and other things. He did a lot more than just physics. I read his QED (Quantum Electrodynamics) sometime last year I think, which was a very good introduction to the science without delving into the math.

Everyone should read this book, or listen to it. It's not technical, it's not even pseudo-technical, it's more like an autobiography in the form of an adventure story. Very inspiring. Feynman's one of my heroes.

How to Read a Book - Mortimer Adler & Charles van Doren -

Most people don't know how to read. Sure, they can "read" as in see words on a page and grasp their meaning for the moment, but they don't know how to really read. They can't remember what they've read, they don't know how to ask the book questions (and find answers), they don't know there are levels of reading beyond what is done in public schools. This book is not about how to read faster (which is just a matter of stopping your sub-vocalization and not using the auditory cortex), it's about how to read. In summary, three levels beyond elementary reading are inspectional reading (with systematic skimming, superficial reading..), analytic reading, and finally syntopical reading. (Not every book deserves anything above inspectional, but the inspectional stage is necessary to determine that.)

On the subject of analytical reading, I found myself largely prepared for the rules it suggests. I found that interesting. Basically, there is a generalization to some of the rules, which can be found here: (including all sub-linked posts). If you're in school and you read one book over the summer between semesters, this is probably the one.

Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity - Joel Spolsky

This is a fun and great book for any programmer, though probably the most surprising thing I got from it: I no longer hate Microsoft. Oh sure, I still don't like Windows, or any MS products really (except their keyboards and mice), but I can't really hate the company. I'll still be bitter, probably, and as they continue to do things I don't like I might get more bitter. But if they offered me a 6-digit salaried job, I might not turn it down... am I going crazy?

Anyway, if you're in the software business at all this is a fun book. Parts of it are dated (ew CVS mentions), others still ring true.

The Book of Five Rings - Thomas Cleary (translator)

Miyamoto Musashi describes the school of Two Swords through a series of scrolls on military science. It's a fascinating read and a nice insight into the minds of Japanese culture, as there is a lot of that embodied in the text. There is a lot of "this must be considered carefully" in there, which I enjoy, reminds me of some math books that say "convince yourself" or "verify that this is true". He makes it clear not to just follow him blindly, but to read and think and find if you come to the same conclusions.

A great motif is to always be in the mindset of killing. Parrying, dodging, etc., those should be done for the goal of killing, not for themselves. Every move should be with the intent to cut down the enemy. There is also a lot said about remaining unbiased. Don't favor the huge swords above all, don't favor the tiny swords above all, win by whatever means using whatever weapons, and it turns out two swords (long and short) tend to lead to better outcomes in battle.

I'll leave you with this, from the Scroll of Emptiness: "As long as they do not know the real Way, whether in Buddhism or in worldly matters, everybody may think their path is sure and is a good thing, but from the point of view of the straight way of mind, seen in juxtaposition with overall social standards, they turn away from the true Way by the personal biases in their minds and the individual warps in their vision."

Chuang Tzu: Basic Wrtings - Burton Watson

This text is significantly more advanced than the Tao te Ching, yet the translator does an excellent job of providing footnotes noting where the translation was difficult, corrupted, possibly fraudulent (e.g. inserted by some later author with an agenda), and noting other translations or interpretations. Without that helpful guide parts of the text would have been very startling. There are also many references to folk tales and cultural idioms which the translator graciously provides background for.

The book is filled with humor and wisdom, there are many great quotes to take from it, and in general it's a great supplement to the Tao te Ching for learning (or not-learning as it were) about the Tao and becoming a better person. Highly recommended, though I'd suggest rereading for further understanding. Having read the Tao te Ching multiple times, I can always grasp a little more each time, my understanding becomes more complete. So it should be with Chuang Tzu's writing, I'll reread it sometime. (If you want my notes on the Tao te Ching, check out )

Parallel Universes - Max Tegmark -

I read this paper I don't know how many years ago, but I'm beginning to think it ought to be mandatory reading in every introductory science class. Why? Purely for the enlightened view that a scientific model can predict unobservable entities. Just because there are unobservable entities does not make a theory unscientific! A somewhat classic version of this is: "imagine a space ship leaves from earth and travels very close to lightspeed for enough time that, due to the expansion of the universe, they are no longer physically able to return to earth even at lightspeed and cannot even in principle interact with the earth. Do they still exist? Our best theories as well as Occam's Razor as well as common sense says yes."

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Ending Aging

Mathematical Go -- Chilling Gets the Last Point

The Way To Go

Making Good Shape

A Handbook of Traditional Living (50% done)

Power of Now

Iron Kingdom


Clever Algorithms

Quantum Computing Since Democritus

Ancient Rome

Roll, Jordan, Roll (50%)

Red Mars

Three New Deals

Cutting the Fuse

Artificial Intelligence for Games

Men Among the Ruins

A Canticle for Leibowitz

The Age of the Pussyfoot

Proofs from the book

The Influence of Sea Power Upon History

Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning

Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn't

Probabilistic Graphical Models

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Storm of Steel

The 10,000 Year Explosion

Morals by Agreement

Hacker's Delight

Game Engine Architecture

The Awakening of Intelligence

The Art of Special Effects Animation

Mathematics in India

Philosophy in the Flesh

Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy

The Corporations that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational

Others in Mind

The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940

The Master Switch

The Little Schemer

Hackers and Painters

Planning Algorithms

More Asimov stuff

Introduction to functional programming with Lambda Calculus (Read about 1/5 of it.)

How to Solve It

Div, Grad, Curl and all that (Read sections to help with various classes.)

Data Analysis: A Bayesian Tutorial

Bearers of the Black Staff

Modern Quantum Mechanics (Tried reading, gave up.)

Principles of Uncertainty (Chapter 1, one of the final chapters on why hypothesis and significance testing are crap.)

Modern Cosmology

Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and biases

Real Time Rendering (Paused at chapter 4, the Math Chapter of Matrices)

C++ Database Development C++ Database Development (Most of the book is source code. Skimmed the rest.)

Probability Theory (Finished through chapter 2.)


Purely Functional Data Structures (I think I stopped after functional red-black trees.)

Let Over Lambda

Reading in the Brain

Kushiel's Chosen Kushiel's Avatar Kushiel's Dart

Feynman Lectures on Physics (The electromagnetism sections were great for helping me in my class. Death to Giancoli textbooks!)

Calculus Made Easy (I'm good at Calc, just want to see a different approach to it.)

Timeless Decision Theory

The End of Faith (I got maybe 50 pages into this. It's not a very good book.)

Watership Down (I don't know why but I stopped reading at around the 75% mark and returned it to the library. I'd probably have to start over.)

The Art of Happiness

A Thousand Splendid Suns

USB Complete

Some Arabic books

Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Simarillion (all again)

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft

Timeless Reality

Princess Bride

The Science of Fractal Images (read chapter 1-2, I think)

Game Programming with Python (last read maybe 1/2 of this in high school)

The Mythical Man-Month (finishing...)

My System

Human Action (last read maybe 1/3 of this in high school)

Programming Collective Intelligence

Phantoms in the Brain

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