Books on 2012-03-02

My brilliant friend Harvey Multani recommended a strategy to narrow your focus on interesting problems. He said to go to a bookstore and walk around, picking up the first 10 books that look interesting to you. Then sit down, read the first 2 pages in each. Put in this initial burst of effort to find out what problems you really want to focus on.

He suggested an interesting way to approach a book from the start: read the table of contents to gain the overall skeleton of the book, then read the index to understand the important parts.

So I went to the Stanford Book Store and found some books.

Here are some notes from the first iteration.

I especially enjoyed: Nuclear Power, Steve Jobs, Enchantment, The Five Love Languages, A Long Bright Future, and Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence.

Nuclear Power: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
ISBN: 9780199584970
xi[Energy is the single most important commodity for our survival and continuation of our society. With energy we can produce water and food.]
xi[Many scientists believe that the current global warming has been initiated by human activity and in particular by our production and use of hydrocarbon fuels.]
x[the strategic importance of energy inevitably leads to geopolitical concerns.]

Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
ISBN: 9780192893215
[The fact that the broad powers of human intelligence show differences has been recogniced since antiquity.]
[The former is a quack diagnostic kit and the latter sells a political message that relegates research facts and emphasizes spin.]
[we should not be claiming things that go against or ignore the best evidence in the field.]
[The best scientists are their own most severe critics.]

Diplomacy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
ISBN: 9780199588503
xiii[Diplomacy — not unlike some other ancient professions — has been around a very long time.]
xiii[‘the art of saying nice “doggie” until you can find a rock’: Wynn Catlin]
xiv[I also want to give some sense of the way in which skilful diplomacy, as well as rashness, excessive caution, and clumsiness, can have important ramifications for the fate of nations.]

Shakespeare: A Very Short Introduction
ISBN: 9780192802491
1[The notices of the life and career of England’s greatest poet are not only sparse and brief, but unusually cryptic.]

Steve Jobs
ISBN: 9781451648539
[The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.]
xvii[He had been scattershot friendly to me over the years, with occational bursts of intensity]
xvii[I didn’t yet know that taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation.]
xvii[I had known him since 1984 … he was petulant even then]
xvii[talking to him afterward, I found myself rather capitivated, as so many others have been over the years, by his engaing intensity.]
xviii[When he had something to pitch … the beam of this charm would suddenly refocus on me, and he would take me to a sushi restaurant in Lower Manhattan to tell me that whatever he was touting was the best thing he had ever produced. I liked him.]
xviii[he found the endeavor of assessing historic influence fascinating.]
xviii[His persistence baffled me.]
xix[He was in a reflectivve mood, and we talked for more than an hour.]

Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth
ISBN: 9780743287005
xiv[Iremmeber thinking: With all his money and with all his power, he is both lonely and alone.]
xv[Through my understanding of money, I have been blessed with the opportuity to be intimately involved in everything my heart desired]
xv[Through the work of our firm, thousands of jobs have been created and preserved.]
xv[The power to procreate is God given and beautiful, but if misused it can bring remarkable pain and tragedy. Likewise, money is a two-edge sword, and has an equal capacity for creating happiness or misery.]
xv[money should be controlled for the sake of personal and social good.]

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
ISBN: 9781591843795
[Many men can make a fortune but very few can build a family. — J. S. Bryan]
xviii[Seeing a Macintosh for the first time was the second most enchanting moment of my life (the first most enchanting moment was meeting my wife). My introduction to Macintosh removed the scales from my eyes, parted the clouds, and made me hear angels singing.]
xix[When Boich showed me what MacPaint could do, my mind did somersaults.]
xix[I define _enchantment_ as the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization, or idea. The outcome of enchantment is voluntary and long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.]
xx[This book is for people who see life for what is _can_ be rather than what it can’t.]
xx[it takes more than instant, shallow, and temporary relationships to get the job done.]
xx[The greater your goals, the more you’ll need to change people’s hearts, minds, and actions.]

Paradigm Found: Leading and Managing for Positive Change
ISBN: 9781577315339
[To the women and gentle men who dare to follow principles for positive change.]
[If the cause is right, the means will come. — Gandhi]
xiii[I already had a great deal of respect for Anne’s intelligence, her passion, and her commitment to making the world a better place.]
xiv[we cannot in good conscience stand by while the human rights of half the world’s people may be compromised simply because of their gender.]

5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts
ISBN: 9780802473158
9[I feel secure in the warmth of their love. I am blessed and grateful.]
9[This book is a tribute to their honesty.]
12[We only dated six months. It was a whirlwind romance. It was really exciting! But after the marriage, it was a battle from the beginning.]
13[Everything I did was wonderful, but once we were married, it seemed I could do nothing right. I honestly don’t know what happened.]
13[Most of the jokes and pithy sayings contain some truth, but they are like offering an aspirin to a person with cancer.]
14[People speak different love languages.]
14[The more we use a secondary language, the more comfortable we become conversing in it.]
14[If we are to communicate effectively accross cultural lines, we must learn the language of those with whom we wish to communicate.]

Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners
ISBN: 9780446557665
2[The best way to get a really good look at something in your day-to-day life is, of course, to not look at it at all. … Go somewhere where things are so different, where every one of your preconceptions and assumptions will be made so glaringly obvious, it will be like looking at pictures of yourself naked: searingly verite.]
2[Her vibe was equal parts friendly and purposeful — family pet meets load officer.]
4[Take notes — it’s considered respectful and not wonkish.]

A Long Bright Future
ISBN: 9781610390576
ix[The university’s long-standing dedication to public good and its close ties to Silicon Valley create a culture rife with the spirit of possibility.]
ix[a commitment to build a world that supports long life.]
xi[friendship can transcend generations]
xii[Anyone who has ever lived with someone writing a book knows that it can be difficult.]
1[What are we going to do with super-sized lives?]
1[Old age itself is a new phenomenon.]
2[Today there are more than 70,000 centenarians in the United States, roughly four times the number there were just ten years ago.]
2[One prominent demographer has suggested that most of the children born in the developed world since 2000 will live for a century.]
2[Most children — not just a lucky few — will grow up in families in which four or five generations are alive at the same time.]
2[Everything will change: education, work, financial markets.]
3[The fact is, humans are wired to live in the present, not plan for the future.]
3[when was the last time you caught yourself daydreaming about what you’re going to be doing twenty years after you’ve been handed your gold watch?]
4[As a society, we have little concept of what it is like to be a happy, healthy one-hundred-year-old.]
4[By 2030, there will be more Americans over sixty-five than under fifteen.]

The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary
ISBN: 9780393340532
[treasured colleague and delightful friend]
xiv[by and large it is safer to speak of analogues and generic connections than of direct adaptations or translations.]

Here Is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics
ISBN: 9780062074232
2[“People believe in the magic of genes, and buy into the idea that they are the deepest secrets of our being. But maybe my credit card records come closer to being a deep secret of my being.”]

Symmetry: The Ordering Principle
ISBN: 9780802715388
1[Any notion of symmetry is completely entangled with that of asymmetry]

Learning Python: Powerful Object-Oriented Programming
ISBN:9780596158064
[To Vera. You are my life.]
xxxi[It is free, portable, powerful, and remarkably easy and fun to use.]
xxxi[self-paced introduction to the language]
xxxii[advanced core-language topics]
xxxii[A vast amount of existing code was writting for Python 2, and it won’t be going away any time soon.]
xxxi[I encourage you to begin with Python 3.0; it cleans up some longstanding warts in the language, while retaining all the original core ideas and adding some nice new tools.]

Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence: Theories, Methods, and Technologies
ISBN: 9780262062718
xi[fundamental aspects of biological intelligence, such as physical embodiment, behavioral autonomy, self-healing, social interaction, evolution and learning, that make biological organisms prone to errors and sometimes difficult to predict, but also so success to survive in unknown and changing environments.]
xii[a technological revolution where desktop computers are dissolving into a swarm of virtual and physcial artifacts … in need of real-time and embedded intelligence, autonomous behavior, self-adaptation, and social awareness to interact, merge, and substitute with us.]
xii[a toolbox of design principles for engineers]
xii[its full appreciation requires also an understanding of neural systems, of developmental systems, and of behavioral systems.]
xii[simply curious about the future of artifical intelligence]
xiii[The course quickly became so successful that we had to restrict access in order to maintain a high standard of teaching.]
xiii[there was no book that spanned the entire field]
xiii[We were much slower than expcted in delivering the manuscript.]
1[All biological systems result from an evolutionary process.]
1[developing algorithms insprited by natural evolution … to generate solutions to problems that were too difficult to tackle with other analytical methods.]
1[Whereas natural evolution does not have a predefined goal and is essentially an open-ended adaptation process, artificial evolution is an optimization process that attempts to find solutions to predefined problems.]
2[evolutionary electronics]
2[The theory of natural evolution rests on four pillars: population, diversity, heredity, and selection.]

The Agile Samurai: How Agile Masters Deliver Great Software
ISBN: 9781934356586
vii[Deliver Something of Value Every Week]
xiii[although computers run the code, it’s people who create and maintain it.]
xiii[I am going to show you how to crush your agile project. I mean really knock it out of the park.]
xiv[if you’re looking for how to set things up right from the start, I suggest going through the book from beginning to end.]
xiv[Fun Bits with Purpose]
xiv[You can’t take this stuff too seriously, and it helps if you can approach the material with a bit of a sense of humor.]
xv[Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.]

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