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[其他] Summary of reading: July - September 2016

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Smile゛盛夏 发表于 2016-10-1 08:01:07
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  • "Everydata" by John H. Johnson and Mike Gluck - in this book the authors set to show how we consume data every day in suboptimal ways; specifically, how laymen unfamiliar with the basics of statistics and probability can often be fooled by the media and bogus research "conclusions". The idea of the book is great, but I found the execution mediocre. The authors have some good ideas to pass along and interesting examples and demonstrations, but unfortunately these drown in incoherent rambling-like style of writing, jumping from topic to topic haphazardly and a tone reminiscent of tabloids more than of non-fiction books. I mean, it's OK to use some quips, jargon and personal tone from time to time, but this book overdoes it. It also comes across as a not-so-subtle advertisement of the authors' respective private consultancies for statistical analysis and training/coaching. On the brighter side, the book      doesappear well researched and there are plenty of references provided for every chapter if one is interested in deeper dives into the topics presented.   
  • "JavaScript & jQuery" by Jon Duckett - a companion to the author's "HTML & CSS" book, focusing on the other side of modern web programming - JS. It uses the same colorful glossy format, though with somewhat more information density, and manages to cover the web-scriptability aspects of JS pretty well. What I mean to say is that the book doesn't spend too much time discussing programming paradigms in JS, but rather focuses on how to      useit to manipulate the DOM, process events and interact with users. There's also quite a bit of focus on jQuery and modern HTML5 elements and DOM-stuff relevant to JS. The book tries to cater to beginner programmers though I seriously doubt someone new to programming will really manage to learn JavaScript from it. However, if you already have some programming experience and want to learn about how to make your web pages dance without heavy libraries (jQuery is so ubiquitous to be considered as "vanilla" as JS itself these days). It does discuss Angular briefly in one chapter, but overall sticks to the basics.   
  • "Basic Economics" by Thomas Sowell - Cetainly one of the best books about economics I've read in the past few years, perhaps ever. This is maybe the second time I started re-reading the book (well, re-listening in this case) immediately after finishing it the first time - it's that good! The author sets out to explain basic micro and micro-economic phenomena in the world from first principles, based on such fundamental issues as pricing, supply and demand, and the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses - the latter being a central theme throughout the book. He touches on a huge spectrum of topics - from price controls, to differences in productivity between countries, to why payday loans charge so much interest, to the ways many countries shot themselves in the feet by imposing government control of the market. One sobering perspective that comes out from the book is that politicians are very often incentivised to make un-economical decisions, acting fully rationally from their point of view. The solution is, of course, restriction on the power the government has over the free market. Surprisingly, Sowell manages to bring his points across without going too much into polemics; instead, he sticks to facts, historical studies and economic first principles. I can't recommend this book highly enough - if you only ever read one book on economics in your lifetime, this should be it.   
  • "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" by Thomas Sowell - A collection of several loosely-connected essays on history, sharing the common thread of examining ingrained historic perceptions of race and ethnicity. For example, one of the essays explains how what we now know as "Black culture" isn't African in origin, but rather is peculiar to the South of the US, and originated in certain parts of Northern Britain. Another essay compares Jews to other "middlemen minorities" (like Chinese in South-East Asia and Armenians in the Ottoman Empire), concluding that the history, and treatment by other nationalities, of such minorities has a lot in common. Very well written and insightful book.   
  • "Python machine learning" by Sebastian Raschka - this would be an average plus book, had it not been published by Packt. Packt makes it a fairly low-quality work, as usual, with weird formatting and bad editing.   
  • "The girl on the train" by Paula Hawkins - a light, engrossing mystery novel about a missing woman in London, told in first person from the points-of-view of three women protagonists. Starting with about 2/3 into the book everything became painfully obvious, so it was a bit of a drag to read until the main character realized what's going on. Also, the main character - Rachel, must be one of the least likable protagonists I've encountered in books lately. It's very hard not to feel repelled by her behavior and general state of mind.   
  • "Applied Economics: Thinking beyond stage one" by Thomas Sowell - the central theme here is making decisions that make sense in the short term, but turn out badly in the long term. Sowell once again pounds politics as the obvious culprit here - passing laws and regulations that boost their status with the voters for the duration of their term in some political office, but leading to problems years later when no one remembers what the original cause was. Overall, much of this book is rehashed from Basic Economics, so I found it much less exciting. It's still a good read, but reading it shortly after Basic Economics feels a bit repetitive. There are some new topics, though, which are very interesting. One is the economics of discrimination. Sowell claims that it is government policies that enable discrimination, and that free markets are actually discouraging wide-spread discrimination. He makes a very well-argued case for this, with tons of examples from different countries and eras.   
  • "Economics" by Timothy Taylor (audio course) - pretty good, long course. I found Sowell's "Basic Economics" better, though the course spends much more time on macro economics, which Sowell covers less (with the caveat that macro economics in general doesn't feel very scientific to me).   
  • "Deep Work" by Cal Newport - a guideline to fighting procrastination and the modern distractions of the internet and social media on the way to greater productivity. I'd say this book has the same idea as Csíkszentmihályi's "Flow" but is much less thorough and much more handwavy. I did like it overall; in particular, the thesis of work quality often beating work quantity resonates strongly with my own experience. Still, "Flow" is significantly better IMHO.   
  • "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey - an excellent book about life in a mental asylum. I can see why this book is controversial w.r.t. teaching it in school - it certainly glorifies opposition to authority and the feel-good of defying rules.  
  Re-reads:
  
       
  • "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy  
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穹顶之下 发表于 2016-10-2 05:07:18
如果你活着,早晚都会死;如果你死了,你就永远活着
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梦香 发表于 2016-10-10 17:42:18
very good
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