2016 Reads – complete round up

2016 was so far the best year in reading for me. I set out with (a rather naive) goal of 45 books and was able to complete 35. I know that not all books are equal but having a goal is motivating. Most of these books did come from my annual read list that I set out in Jan 2016 but I do pick up strong recommendations throughout the year.

I read 5 hardcopy books and 30 audio books.

You can view the complete list of books and authors is here.

Biographies

  • Einstein
  • Elon Musk

Both of these biographies are a must read. It becomes clear after reading the books that fundamentals of everlasting legacy are still hardwork, perseverence and curosity. There is no such thing as ‘genius’. Circumstances (bad, more than good) play a strong role in making strong people. Also, marriage and kids are not a barrier to productivity as most people believe. 

Space Exploration

If there is one human quality that would decide its future, it would be curosity. Curosity about what is out there, people who go after it,  and the tools, science and stories that enable it. These are very close to my heart. Col. Chris Hadfield (ex-commander of the ISS), Yuri Gagarin (first Human in space) and Adam Steltsner (team lead for EDL on Mars Curosity rover) are people to look up to in this curosity aspect. All of these books I highly recommend. 

  • An astronaut’s guide to life onearth 
  • Starman
  • Right kind of crazy

Parenting

Problem with being an left-brained engineer is that you need to find a solution, a method to the madness, an optimal solution – any solution to almost every problem. Once you become a parent, you have a daunting challenge – a startup, maybe more than a startup! Learning from years of hardwork of other parents is my way of doing away with basics so I can add more value to my relationship with my daughter. 

Tina Payne and Dan Seigel have done a wonderful job in the first two books below. I highly recommend these books for parents with kids 3 and older. In fact, I reread whole brain child this year to refresh the ideas. Happiest toddler is for those parents who have kids younger than 4. A good book with solid advices. 

  • No drama discipline
  • Whole brain child
  • Happiest toddler on the block

Self help and productivity

Now this is the most controversial section of any library – but its like cheesy pop songs, everyone hums them and likes them but no one admits to being a fan. Its like a guilty pleasure. Sometimes, you don’t want to miss out on something super basic and other times you just need validation for your ways. Either way, self help books are going to stay in my yearly reading lists. 

Here are the ones that I do recommend:

  • Crucial conversations
  • Effective engineering
  • Will power instinct
  • The startup of you
  • The life changing habit of tidying up

Here are some that I couldn’t extract much value from. Maybe because Ive already heard the advice a lot of times (confidence gap) or I couldnt relate to it (way of the seal). Sometimes I cant invest or commit to the advice (mindfulness) and sometimes I will just sleep on it for now (rich dad)

  • The confidence gap
  • The way of the seal
  • Mindfulness
  • Rich dad poor dad

Business

  • Creativity inc
  • Derailed
  • Zero to one
  • The lean startup
  • Effective executive
  • Hooked

Science

Two categories from science made it to my list this year. Neuroscience and statistics (some would argue whether it is a science after all). Michio Kaku’s future of mind is a wonderful primer into knowing how far we have come to understand the most complex thing in the universe and where the research is heading. 

In better angels of our Nature, Pinker’s basic premise is that violence has declined in recent history. While the statistics presented are sound-ish, I still couldn’t come to terms with his research and day to day reality. It does give hope but …

  • Better angels of our nature
  • The future of mind
  • Signal vs noise

Engineering

  • The complete friday Q&A (iOS)
  • Design and analysis of experiments
  • Python data science essentials
  • Data science handbook

Mike Ash is a great resource of iOS internal workings. He is a true hacker and someone I really look up to. The complete friday Q&A has great articles on internals of ObjEctive-C language and runtime as well as a lot of core Cocoa API. Some content is rather dated but is still useful in understanding a lot of concepts. 

Other books mentioned are great reference for getting started and motivated toward data science, experimentation and such things.

Politics

  • Who rules the world (Noam Chomsky)

A brutal account of American imperialist and interventionist ways in south american politics and in general future of the world since WW2. It became so depressing I had to put it down. I do recommend it if you have the stomach for some hard truths!

Fiction

Dont watch the movie. Read the book. They ruined it in the movie.

  • Girl on the train
  • Herzog (incomplete)
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Dear Diary: Dubai Airport

Aug 10, 2014 – 8.00pm

Dear Diary,
Now I make a promise to myself. You see, if you don’t travel too much, you fall prey to a lot of luring by big brands. There is so many fine bottle of spirits n wines that you can gift to someone, you can buy yourself a pair of Police sunglasses or treat yourself with a burger chain you probably would not get a chance to eat anytime soon. But one has to draw a line. I promised myself I would not spend a single euro at the Dubai airport – one of the most alluring airports i have ever seen.
An airport is a very fascinating place.In most countries, it usually reflects the culture and temperament of the nation that built it. With Dubai, it’s different. There is nothing, not even speck, arabic about this airport. Its luxurious. Its international.
They are fascinating because you get to see so many different kinds of people at the same time that for a second it really makes you realise your true place in the world. All sorts of people.
At the same time it’s depressing. It shows you that you are one of those rare few who can afford to take a flight. Who can afford to travel around and even do window shopping at world’s top brand outlets. Most people in the world don’t even know these brands names, let alone know where to find them. All the artificialness of the airport, the squeaky cleanliness, the allure and grandeur makes the whole situation so much more hopeless. Do we really need airports with marble floors more squeaky clean than the drinking water of half of the world? IS it really worth it to buy something from these so called “duty free” shops – knowing that the extra you are paying them is going to get invested in these brands only getting bigger? Why do all the janitors have to be of a certain race here? Where are all the ugly people? … FOr a second you can really get lost and forget that there is a world out there that cannot imagine, in their wildest dreams, how dubai airport would look like.
Hence I make a promise to myself not to spend a euro here. To refrain. I can spend it and then I can “roll with the punches” of my impulse and adjust rest of the budget accordingly. But why? Fuck corporation, fuck capitalism, fuck oligarchy, fuck affluent lifestyle.
I feel hungry even though I had a good breakfast in the plane just an hour or so ago. I’ll abstain till I get to my next flight. They’ll hopefully serve something nicer. These guys are going to rip me off on currency converting.
Good bye

Books, Gigs, Tech, Talk

2 books behind schedule. But “2” is just a number, right? You cannot “quantify” books. Setting up a goal of number of books is utterly naive. There are books you want to revisit over and over no matter how big. There are also books you simply cannot make yourself to go through, no matter how small. This journey is about finding these kind of books and sharing the knowledge and process.

Continue reading “Books, Gigs, Tech, Talk”

Tips on Learning new Algorithms

Someone on Quora recently asked What is the most important skill to develop in algorithms? Here is my response.

Read Zaki Shaheen‘s answer to What is the the most important skill to develop in algorithms? on Quorahttps://www.quora.com/widgets/content

Mediocrity…

Oh the unused potential.
1-albert-einstein
I love stereotyping. Stereotyping is good. An unfortunate stereotype that I see is of people with serious lack of resources and access to knowledge and information. These are unfortunate people and perhaps the only way for them to progress is by sheer luck. They can be very hardworking in offering human sacrifices to secure their crop but they will most certainly fail. They have an empty or perhaps regressive feedback loop which encourages them to sacrifice harder next year, contemplate on their sins more and create more rigorous rituals. Unless there is someone born with serious mental mutation to generate the idea of the century, or someone comes and teaches them from outside, they will not progress. Not for centuries.

Continue reading “Mediocrity…”

Dichotomies…

When was the last time you were in awe after reading a simple solution to a problem that had haunted you for days.. perhaps on StackOverflow, Martha Stewart’s website or in some book or forum? When was the last time you saw a product that changed by orders of magnitude how we do something like make a call, washing the dishes, driving a car? Do you have memories of things you experienced decades ago that you still cherish.. like a feature film, a song, a recipe?
How do people come up with solutions so elegant, products that charm and experiences so memorable? Are they simply more “innovative” from the get go?

Continue reading “Dichotomies…”

The year, so far…

General thoughts

The tale of two lists

2016 started on a high note. I am certainly enjoying the audiobooks. Having set up a few categories to read from this year, I am more determined than last year to cover a broader set of topics.

I highly recommend setting up two important lists: The read list and the hack list. If you are a new reader, just get reading. 1 book in a year is immensely better than 0 but once you are reading 4-5 books in a year, you will start to love it. By the time you can do 20 or more books, you will need to prioritize what you read. Similarly, the hack list helps you prioritize your personal projects. If you have not deliberately undertaken and completed a small personal project, I would suggest just commit to one and do it. Once you realize your potential (and everyone has boatload of it), you will want to do more. Once you are able to do more predictably, you will have to plan where those precious hours go.

Here is my read list 2016 (here is read list 2015). Here is my hack list 2016 (without any method to madness). I’ve started the hack-list this year so it is not very well structured and I have yet to see how it pans out at the end of the year. An experiment I am excited about.

The tale of two advantages

I have realized two advantages: The commuter advantage and the weekend advantage.

I think having a commute is a double edged sword. It is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. The commute (2 hours every weekday) is not terribly tiring if I get enough rest while at home. It does give an advantage of 2 hours to myself, undisturbed (mostly, not counting the screeching of the trains). This allows me to pursue personal projects and learning but it is also taking away 2 hours that I could otherwise spend with family or at work (both of which have an appetite for more).  I guess I have to spend more time in coming days in time-budgeting. My health initiative suffer greatly because of this.

Similarly, the weekend advantage is a self realized one. You could spend it binge watching netflix, traveling around, lazing around or just sleeping. Or, if you are like me, you can spend it with family in the daytime and coding/learning in the night time.

Books read

Science & Space Travel

  • Astronaut’s guide to life on earth ★★★★★
  • Starman (In progress)
  • The future of mind ★★★★★

Product development

  • Hooked ★★★

Fiction

  • The last question ★★★★★
  • Girl on the train (In progress) ★★★★

Self help

  • The confidence Gap ★★★
  • Way of the seal (abandoned) ★
  • Creativity Inc (In progress)
  • Happiest toddler on the block (abandoned) ★★★

Statistics and Data science

  • Signal vs Noise ★★★
  • Python data-science essentials (continued) ★★★★
  • First course in design and analysis of experiments (continued) ★★★★

Academics

Personal projects

  • Patio herb garden (not started) – sigh
  • Let’s Hack Book (shelved – will come back to it later)
  • Grocery planner app (to be started)
  • From the hack list, lots of smaller projects.

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