Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible

The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible

The book is like a sparrow, little, but fairly comprehensive. It intentionally leaves out math details and the book therefore illustrates well. While depth wise the book, from place to place, is not much more than what you can find at some web wiki, the writing is not loose or free-wheeling like blogs. It reflects careful selection of words and presentation.

I spent ~90 minutes to finish it, very well spent 90 minutes. Some insights are hard to find elsewhere. Kolmogorov's salvage of probability (p81), life story of Leonid Levin and the Chinese city map (p91, p100, p101) are among the most entertaining. Coverage of machine learning, albeit brief, sheds great light on some of my experience I have in the market today. I think there are different kinds of NP over the history of human being. There should be time variant and time-invariant NP solutions.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis

A straight talk, well written book about a profession most people admire, a profession in crisis.

From analytics/measurement perspective, if one's weighting is not data-based, not 'objective', one really rather should not be doing weighting, scoring, or ranking. US News & World Report, as the book presents, publishes law school ranking that appears to be using arbitrary weighting that has contributed to law schools' crazy and creative behavior towards  boosting their scores. The stories on law school student transfer, deans' book cooking details are saddening for a profession that ought to be doing something of much 'higher' standard and taste.

The entry level associate salary is shocking. I initially thought after so many years of hard studies and exams, they should get more than $160K. But I guess I watched too much Boston Legal where the life style there really reflects the top of the crop, not the norm.

Employment statistics is hard to believe. One case that when a law school graduate gets a full time gig  as food server and the dean counts it as 'employed'? is really.... :how good it is to turn law school into a revenue center for short turn profit really requires some soul searching.

Luckily my son has told me he is not going to law school.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius

Most of the coverage on his core work escapes me. The book was written in 1990, 23 years ago, but does not give any sense of being outdated. A very well written book.

LW's relations with Keynes is intriguing. Why at his very young age he was already so sensitive about his Jewishness is puzzling. It would be very interesting to see some coverage of his experience with Virginia Wolf, if in fact they met.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

1. The discussion of the imposter syndrome (~P29) is per se a bit arrogant, although quietly so. It is not problematic since the person seems to have the height and the foundation. 
2. The 'flat A' (p33): it is not that men don't regret that they forgot something in their exam answers. Men probably don't openly talk about that as often; doing so may appear weak. The trait that you get an A and still regret about is what makes you more successful in your next job. I admire that in SS. I am a bit turned off by people who drink a lot right after exams. I live in Chestnut Hill, MA, the middle of arguably the country's best college town. I see many student swamp bars and restaurants upon the completion of a quarter. I wonder how much regret is behind the drinks and parties
3. Connecting with Larry Summers: many say SS got lucky and was on fast track once getting into LS's wing and network. The thing is: as it turns out now, Larry's 'pick' of SS apparently is a great one. Obviously Larry cannot possibly pick everybody that passes into his radar. The deciding factor I suppose has lot of to do with SS 
4. This book is rumble-in-writing. It may not score very high as a sociological thesis. In citing findings and publications to get points moving, the skill is not there at advanced levels. The kill, the intellectual bent and edge, however, is felt throughout. If you read this book to get to know her better, this style serves better. I am glad she is not co-writing the book with a 'biographer'
I am not sure how and what to use the 34 pages of Notes (Page 183 to Page 217): why this book needs to put Notes at the end?
5. The 'sit-at-table' story (p27): Perhaps in the conference room in DC, the ladies were used to not come straight to the tables where seating means ranking, seniority, factions, power, authorities,... structured, while a conference room in the West Coast naturally is more unstructured. So attributing
the ladies slow to the table side to gender roles may be a bit too fast 'out of confounding' 
6. The book uses quite many experiment findings, many of which are self-reporting and are good for news reporting, but not analytically rigorous. A lot of generalizations are hasty. In the field of analytics, at least as far as I know, we don't comment on female colleagues’ style, success, personality, or likability. Your success is in your work. There could also be geo-difference: a DC suburban area may have very different gender culture from Brookline, MA
7. The whole page 42 deservers reading multiple times. Every graduate school dean who intends to improve his or her performance rating system must read this page 
8. How not to create environment where speaking up about one's own success is weighted too much towards self-promotion is interesting managerial subject. In the world today where emails prevail over speaker phone, girls are not necessarily lacking channel of speaking out
9. I don't agree that women go out to negotiate their salary and they have to justify it. Among other things, the one sitting across the table negotiating on behalf of the company is a woman 
The book, after page 90, starts to hurry up. 'Reading value' goes down precipitously. I don't have many bright spots to comment on.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

To save everything, click here : the folly of technological solutionism

To save everything, click here : the folly of technological solutionism

The book somewhat reads like a PhD dissertation without a clear subject. It piles on a lot of blog literature (not much book or research literature), a lot of comments, or rather rants (not very oral, well written, yet rant or rumbles).

The definition of solutionism captures some ongoing trends, but nowhere near representative. To a large degree, the book defines the term in such a way to make its criticism stronger.

The book does not object to the fact the 'Internet' has a lot of promises. A lot of initiatives and actions used as examples of solutionism do appear premature, lack of premeditation, analytics, analysis or just proper thinking. Some do appear stupid. As we all know, as a new wave or paradigm shows, somebody has to show up to try a lot of things. And we, human being, are known for trial and error (and trial and stupid as well). I don't see any reason to laugh or criticize them. If you, for whatever reasons, are not jumping in to join the swim (as I do), at least you should respect those who try. I mean respecting intellectually and wishing them good luck. If you do decide on the sideline and judge, you better have some better ideas.

I am not a huge believer in things like crowd-sourcing. If you see a beggar standing by the road side asking for small changes, isn't he not crowd-sourcing? I don't see any point jumping into a lot of so-called collaborations. Many are just 'asking for free bee' in disguise. When Linux first got started and caught on, many have spent day and night contributing to it. Then later several closed the sources and talked the bulk of the built up knowledge and started companies to offer commercial versions. How many of those who contributed a lot and big got any meaningful, say, the company stocks, or at least any form of 'thank you'? This is currently the case with Hadoop  and analytics based on Mahout, or even Java. With this said, these evolutions have little to do with the solutionism defined by the book.

I like Carr's Shallows better overall. It is at least much shorter. This solutionism book requires a lot of energy to organize and write. I certainly admire that. The solutionism defined as the target of criticism for the book lacks analytical underpinning and does not reach very deeper. Many comments read like complaints, many of which are quite eloquent and gracefully composed.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment

How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment

It appears about peer review of funding process. As I read on, I find it tranquilizingly analytical, like quiet but vibrant water flowing down and around stones and rocks. The book carries undercurrents that permeate beyond, while correlate closely with suggested topic areas. Insights derived from fair observations with steady patience are most enriching.  

Once she lays out, most you may say “Oh, it is obvious. Oh, I know that”. The seemingly plain texting and texture of the narrations suggest deep, not necessarily hard-nose or so-called tough, thinking. The book also emits warm, coil twists that probably only a female author could render.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Robert Oppenheimer: His Life and Mind

Robert Oppenheimer: His Life and Mind

The book has 695 pages. A thorough history of the person. Quietly analytical. Loaded with details on the history of nuclear physics, quantum physics throughout the two World Wars. The unfolding of his correlations with Communists is fair-speech. Explains very well why he was investigated and haunted, his own behavior and characteristic triggers, among others.  

Surprisingly his math was sloppy and loose among physicist of his caliber and repute. His advice to his brother on how to deal with girls was practical and hilarious. Somehow I believe his success was more due to his talents beyond physics. The Manhattan project could not be made so successful just by one’s talent in physicist, or any scientific specialty. The genius lies in exceptional capability to open paths when and where nobody else has clue or directions.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking

The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking

Not a tutorial, handy pocket book remining you of your age and wisdom. Bought it at Harvard coop bookstore. Found it catching dust there, though. A dry-fish style book, however tasteful.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Half-Life of Facts

The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date, by Samuel Arbesman

Two websites to take home : devnothink and mendeley

This book has some historian and sociology hues, but first and foremost it is very analytical. Simply so. The parts I particularly like are phase transition and the discussion of 'nice people do tend to win more Nobel".

The book is fairly interdisciplinary. Synthesis seems to be the trend now

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer"

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

The first ~100 pages are classic. Then the rest goes down as the Second World War entered the book. Vienna around the turn of the century was historical. Mark Twain's activity during the period carried a perspective never seen before. Everybody else seemed a bit psycho or neurotic in certain ways.

I thought more lay-in of philosophy, therefore allowing the book to transcend the gold milieu of the chapters a bit, should make the book more lasting and intellectually adorable.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"The Physics of Wall Street"

"The Physics of Wall Street: A Brief History of Predicting the Unpredictable", by James Owen Weatherall

The title says physics. The coverage is multidisciplinary. I don't recall seeing anybook that has managed, in lucid and coherent fashion as this book does, to elaborate through complex and intriguing history of prediction sciences.

The story of Mandelbrot picking rejected trash from his uncle and developed it into his own theories is the best. This is very informative how Zipf, Pareto and the prediction science are stringed together in this book. The best intellectual and information value, to me, lies in pages before page 75.

Pages after 75, though, overlap much with common knowledge. Lack of computation converage is understandable given the writer's lineage in philosophy. The book does not smell much of arrogance, as some claim it does. If somebody has reached certain height, it is not avoidable part of what he sets sights on is under him, not above. If that sounds disrespectful to you, then raise youself or just be it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Getting Started

I once had a list of >200 books listed at my linkedin.com profile. But linkedin decided to kill everybody's book list. I had 21 followers then. After the removal, I received emails from about 50 people saying they actually had been watching my list as well. So with 70 + fans I thought perhaps restarting the reading list and short-blogging a bit makes sense.

Why the name? My Chinese name is the same as one of Qin Dynasty emperor's name. My best friends have been calling me that for over 3 decades. So here it goes.