Category Archives: Books

Book: Dreamland by David K. Randall

imageHave you seen a dream about a monkey and an elephant?

No.

You should, it’s great!

Ok, compensating for the long reading of the previous book, I started reading fast. At the moment, I’ve almost got three more, but will be writing in English only on one of them (one is Russian and one is fiction – who wants to know what I think about 1984? No one wants!). The book is David Randall’s Dreamland.

First of all, I started this reading not because I cannot sleep but because I thought, maybe the quality of my sleep was rubbish. See yourself: 4-5 hours a day wasn’t enough for me. And even when I started sleeping 6 to 7 hours it was better, but still not perfect. Well, I can’t sleep 8 to 10 hours, can I?! That’s waste of my time! Ok, as far as I understand it now, I can, actually. For now. And I better do it, while I can.

The most amazing thing I learned from the book, is that nobody knows anything about the subject. There are various experiments on this piece of the picture and that, but nothing can tell you what is sleep and why you need it exactly (yeah, like rest, learn, and something else, probably…). But we’d better were sleeping better and more than we do.

The book, then, just tells us some separate facts about sleep, dreams and some stuff around it. So there is not much thought except that it is important, and I won’t do any reasonable report on the book, just several facts from the book:

1) We are constructed to sleep in two parts. Go to bed early, then wake up in the night, do something (there are some pretty spicy suggestions in the book), then sleep till morning. And, sure, don’t forget about siesta! The day dreams are in our specifications. That’s what we are supposed to do biologically, even though we don’t need that in the modern world. Just no one cared to tell your organism about it.

2) We learn and create new stuff in our sleep. That’s the fact. Everyone heard about quite sane scientists, who made their discovery while dreaming. That. Is. Fact. So, after learning something while you’re awake, the best course of action is to practice the stuff (that improves the overall result) and make sure this night your sleep is long (more than 6 hours) and undisturbed.

3) BTW, your mattress doesn’t matter if it’s not worn-out. I mean, you shouldn’t care if it is hard or soft. You should care you like it, and you are accustomed to it. Your habits are more important than a mattress vendor’s marketing.

4) Quantity of sport activity doesn’t matter too. At least not directly. What you think about your achievements – matters. Like, if I ran 1km in 15 minutes and think “I’m so cooooool”, I’ll be sleeping well. If you ran a marathon in 2:30 and believe that your result sucks, you’ll be tossing about all the night and scaring away flocks of sheep with your beta waves. The most important not to screw your own brains. Be calm, be cool. And sleep well.

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A book: Black Swan by Nicholas Taleb

image– What’s the probability of meeting a dinosaur in the street?

– Around 50/50: you either see one or you don’t.

One of the most long-lasting books in my library: I’ve spent almost three months reading it. Not that it’s not interesting, or it’s very large, or something like that. It’s just that I needed to stop and think over what I’ve just read. Well, there was one thing which made it hard for me to read the book (I’ll tell about it later), but other than that it’s just abnormal. And, while there is little in the book I haven’t thought about myself there was much food for thought.

I’m not going to recapture the book for you, the main idea is that judging many events in our life with standard statistics, based on the normal distribution is futile if not plain stupid (well, NNT believes it’s stupid). Aaaand, that, actually, gets quite a range of subsequences. From unpredictability of what’s action will bring you success to “(almost) all Nobel prize winners from Economy are idiots”. You’d better read the book, because it seems to be quite close to the truth.

Meanwhile, here’s what I found out to be interesting aside of what I’ve mentioned already:

1) Taleb says we cannot forecast our future. Actually, we cannot even tell what and why happened long ago. It’s even more difficult. More distinctly it’s described with some kind of test: it is nearly possible to predict what kind of pool will create an ice cube. But it is totally impossible to judge the form of the cube, basing on the pool.

2) There was a mention of quite popular story about Umberto Eco’s ant library. Well, as attractive idea as it is, beware or else you’ll be buying books, but not reading them at all.

3) Why cannot we “predict” our own history? Well, even leaving aside what was described in Orwell’s “1984”, our brain is quite lazy and we are susceptible to the following fallacies when dealing with history:

a. Illusion of understanding. Everyone thinks he knows what goes on. Nah, we don’t.

b. Retrospective distortions. We see the past more organized than it was. It’s way too easy to find absolutely solid-state explanation of what just happened. Solid-state and incorrect. (I like a joke about it: during one of major financial crisis one economist calls his friend: “Hi Steve, do you understand what’s happening?”. “Sure, listen I can explain it to you…” starts Steve, but is interrupted: “No I can explain it myself. Do you understand what’s happening?!”).

c. Simplification of the reality (Taleb calls it “platonification”). We cannot take in, save comprehend, the whole complexity of the world. Our brain immediately starts creating models. As in “leave out nonessential details”. And often we don’t really know what’s nonessential in this particular situation.

4) Induction is, generally not the only and the safest way of forecasting the future. The central example of Taleb’s is a turkey which receives its food 100 days in a row, gaining wait. But on 1001 day there comes a butcher:

(illustration from the book)

Besides the fact that we cannot successfully predict the particular events, there is one more law I already mentioned in my blog (Russian): negative results don’t give us any answer in sense “the thing we don’t know don’t exist”. Just one observation of isolated fact or event will ruin the whole 2000 years’ experience.

5) Markowitz tricked everyone and wasn’t too right. Hey, I wrote a paper in my university on Markowitz! Hands off Markowitz! =)

6) Sometimes NNT uses metaphors in otherwise mathematically sound proofs. That’s rubbish and makes some places a bit less convincing. We see it Nassim, stop doing that 😉

7) For me the book has finally explained, why all the predictions are rubbish (from Gartner to everyone else). I felt it deep in my guts but wasn’t able to explain why.

8) Still I’d say a couple words in support of all those “predicting guys”. Average human like me should have some model to act. It’s better to do something according to the model which may not work (or may work for that matter) than looking for the absolutely correct model all your life without doing anything. And having at least some model is much easier psychologically. Just remember: there is day 1001. After all someone should have done all that stupid stuff on which Nassim Taleb made his observations.

9) One important consequence of the previous item: «Forecasting by bureaucrats tends to be used for anxiety relief rather than for adequate policy making». And it is sometimes really important and useful to know how to use it. Just be careful to use it fully understanding what and why you are doing.

10) We cannot predict future technological advances. Even theoretically. It’s all somewhat random.

11) We’re all lucky people. Why? I just cite the book here: “Imagine a speck of dust next to a planet a billion times the size of the earth. The speck of dust represents the odds in favor of your being born; the huge planet would be the odds against it. So stop sweating the small stuff. Don’t be like the ingrate who got a castle as a present and worried about the mildew in the bathroom. Stop looking the gift horse in the mouth—remember that you are a Black Swan.”

Have fun reading it even though it’s somewhat tough because it seems like mr. Taleb is very offended by the leading economists and their getting Nobel Prize. A bit too much venom for my taste, Mr. Taleb 😉

Books which changed my life

clip_image002Not only mine, actually. I read many different books. Sometimes it’s real junk, sometimes it’s something very clever. It happens that the book changes my opinion on the book itself (Don Quixote turned out to be quite sad book and Moomintrolls can be source of citation for many life occurrences) or changes/throws doubts upon some particular aspect of my life.

For the last several years I’ve read only two books which influenced my life and behavior. I won’t recommend reading them, so that you don’t think I’m advertising anything 😉 I’ll just tell you what they mean for me and some other people.

The first book is David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. I started reading it when I just had started managing my group and besides my usual mail flow I was hit with nine more. Time zipped away, the head was about to blow because of information flow, tasks and necessity to control all of it. The situation was quite dire: I had to change or just give up and return to system administration. That was when I invented and adopted several tricks which slightly improved the situation and… someone suddenly gave out the book. It turned out that I already got about 30% of the tools mentioned in it (It’s, BTW, my definition of a good book: it’s good, if you had had to invent considerable part of the tools described in the book). From the remaining 70% I implemented about half, using the book as guide and about 10% picked up after one of the recent trainings. As a result, empty Inbox, couple of my own know-hows and Allen’s system gives me everything I need now to be cool and as productive as my laziness allows me 😉

My coach advised me to read the second book, which led to changes in my approach to the management of my team. Well, changes were brewing and I, again, had “invented” some of them, but hadn’t implemented them, because I was too hesitant: everything inside me screamed “It won’t work!!!” The book triggered the chain of changes: I shrugged off all doubts and decided to experiment. The result was rated high both by me and my team. I have now much more time and stopped wasting my time. My guys achieved greater freedom and space for creativity. I’m talking, of course, about Daniel Pink’s “Drive”.

As I told you previously, I don’t recommend read them. But if you are a fan to implement some counterproductive process for your employees or you have gazillion started tasks and 1500 emails in your inbox… Well, what you lose? =)

Free ebook: Introducing Windows 8: An Overview for IT Professionals

0160.image_5186E8A3Just a new eBook for us, IT Pro.

Deployment, management, security, recovery. All you need to bring the OS to your users.

Download links are below.

PDF Introducing Windows 8- An Overview for IT Professionals – PDF ebook
Mobi Introducing Windows 8-An Overview for IT Professionals – Mobi format for Kindle
ePub Introducing Windows 8-An Overview for IT Professionals – ePub format

Freebies: books

imageTake notice: My new feed address is now http://feed.feedcat.net/806052. Please re-subscribe.

 

A couple of books I believe are worth at least stealing a look at. Free books, of course.

 

1) The book has been advertised in almost every Windows-related blog for several days. I believe that you couldn’t have missed it but just in case you haven’t read about it I give you the link. Introducing Windows Server 2012 is quite small and cannot cover all I would want to know, but it is named “Introducing…”. It’s definitely the place to start if you haven’t been tracking news all over the internet. You can get it in four different formats: 3 to download and paper version.
2) Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 User. Easy-to-read book about security and privacy. It unlikely teach anyone who is not already concerned with those matters, but is users read it it would make security professionals a bit less tired and less paid Winking smile 

Freebies: books and other learning stuff

imageWhat it takes to be a good specialist? Usually everyone agree that the vital element to it is to learn much. With MS, it is usually easy enough: TechNet and MSDN are great sources of information. No, really, most of official courses I sit on (to be honest – there was not many of them) don’t give you as much info as those two. If you are lucky enough, you’ll get a great trainer and then you can have even more than in TechNet, but usually it is only a good way to quickly refresh, restructure or get some basic knowledge. Anyway, it’s quick and I recommend it to you if you have an opportunity to be away from your work for several days: it’s quick, and you can polish your skills and knowledge after the course is over. Another knowledge source are books. There are good ones, excellent or not so much. Finally, there are eLearnings. They are somewhat between books and “offline” courses. You receive more visual content, you even can look at and listen to a tutor, but the only way to ask questions is Google (or BING, if you wish).

After such a long introduction, let’s go down to our freebies: MSLearning blog has done its spring cleaning and put a lot of stuff on the board for free (registration is needed only to receive updates on it, downloading doesn’t require it). There are mostly eBooks (or parts of the eBooks), clinic sessions and exam coaching sessions. It can be interesting to take a look. Or just download it to stash for good 😉

MS Guru writes a thriller, MS OneNote starts in iPhone

What a crazy world, one can say… Still it is true:

New book of Mark Russinovich

Mark Russinovich has wrote a thriller book named Zero Day. Something about cyber crime, cyber attacks and so on. I won’t even read the excerpts: I’ll just get this book as soon as I can after it is out (March 2011). Pre-0rder i$ @v@i1@b1e. Winking smile

OneNote is on iPhone/iPod.

And it even works, though I haven’t yet fully synchronized it from my SkyDrive storage. The process is to be continued soon, though.Download it on the Apple store and enjoy. It is “free for a limited time”