Wednesday, July 31, 2019

2019 Reading Part I

I have no idea how, but despite welcoming our fourth child in February I managed to read voluminously this semi-annual period, almost 4,000 pages. I wasn't coding or taking any classes, but that is still probably twice what I normally read. The selection of books was all over the map. I only grouped them together after the fact. Some were for professional development, some for personal interest on the topic, and others because they were considered "Great". Of the "Great" books some truly deserve that epithet but others not at all.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Information Arbiters (Pools v. Streams)

Information Arbiters I Subscribe To:

Why I Still Receive Email Newsletters:
The greatest blessing of the internet carries with it a subtle curse. The explosion of rich and interesting information created a major problem for those who want to understand what's going on in the world but are not in front of their computers all day digesting the steady information stream. On the one hand we have access to all kinds of data and analysis from the most diverse sources but on the other hand, the cost of filtering it is extremely high. This isn't even a comment on "fake news". It's just a note about the difficulty of finding items that are useful or particularly good.

I've found myself relying on intermediaries, arbiters of information, who can roll up what they believe to be interesting and useful and send it out to the world. This doesn't, at first, seem to be all that scarce or valuable a service but an information arbiter has to have a well-developed sense about what is useful and good and be able to apply the time and resources towards the collecting, filtering, and curating. It is extremely valuable.

Twitter is an interesting tool. Once I purged all politicians and political journalists from my feed it got really good and helpful. Relative to politics, people seem more willing to post and comment on the world as it is and not how they would like it to be when it comes to business, finance, technology, and defense. But, the problem with my Twitter feed is that it's another stream, a flow of information, that doesn't sort and pool. Things might get retweeted but for the most part once a story it gets deployed into the stream it is heading away from me immediately. 

One of the most important open-source feeds of intelligence on military and defense matters was the daily email from the Department of Defense known as the Early Bird. Researchers pulled stories from national and international newspapers and journals and compiled them into one document. In the internet age that email document included hyperlinks to the original articles. Created in 1965 and killed off in 2013, it was then picked up by Defense News and is still widely used today by security professionals to keep tabs on what's going on. Instead of having to constantly watch an information stream or set up a system of Google Alerts a morning email is sent with a large sample of yesterday's news. Somebody does the cognitively demanding work of searching, filtering and curating for me.

Of course, there are biases of many flavors that emerge in this product. Early Bird pulls from English sources and it reflects the thoughts of Defense News researchers about what is important. It's a wide picture but not the whole picture. Keeping that in mind, the Early Bird is still extremely useful. 

Thinking about the Early Bird made me look around to see what other products are out there of a similar type and value. I've only been looking for a bit and the above list reflects my bias and current interests. I'm still experimenting and I have to triage heavily with these newsletters. But, I don't need to know what is happening RIGHT NOW. I have the luxury to look at the long view on most things to orient my thinking. These newsletters help a bunch.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2018 Reading Part II

Two of these books will give you a hint as to why my overall reading volume fell off these six months. Returning to programming and learning coding became my passion project from August through the rest of the year. I purposely chose not to invest time in learning computer science while I was in Afghanistan. Surviving, you know, seemed like it required a greater degree of daily investment than normal life. Anyways, I also spent a good portion of this summer studying for the GRE (again!) before turning to Codecademy to learn Python 3 through their Computer Science Pro and Data Science Pro courses. Satisfied that I've learned enough to be dangerous I'm now engaged in Andrew Ng's Neural Networks and Deep Learning MOOC to get a better sense of the mystery around Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. However, I was able to enjoy more Knausgaard and Vargas Llosa as well as tackle Tyler Cowan's magnum opus.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

2018 Reading Part I

Wrapping up my tour in Afghanistan I found this 6 month period to be extremely prolific and fruitful for reading. And I feel like the books I read amounted to an embarrassment of riches. The biggest change was switching to literature and, from the perspective of a father of three daughters, I tried to engage with the work of some of the most famous female authors. Knausgaard continues to be brilliant. Ferrante was an incredible find. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre kept me thinking for weeks and months.  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

What I Read in 2017

**Updated Jan 15th to include two books I had completely forgotten about; The Right Stuff and My Struggle Book 2**

This post also includes 2016 Part II. That period was mostly consumed by my failed attempt to complete Harvard's Introduction to Computer Science course hosted by edX. I enjoyed the challenge and completed about half of the coursework but then had to turn my attention to a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. Spending most of 2017 in the conflict that defined the era of my military service definitely taught me some lessons (future posts). 

For now here are my book recommendations....