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Reading List – 2016

6 Jan

Busy 2016. Less reading.

Reading List – 2016

  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Good mystery novel. Also a movie)
  2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (Excellent novel on African-American lives.Pulitzer prize winner. Also a movie.)
  3. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis (Very funny and incisive, Michael Lewis’ take on Wall Street in the 1980s)
  4. Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni (Good book on the college-admissions craziness)
  5. The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic About the Outbreak of World War I by Barbara L. Tuchman (Too detailed. Makes it unreadable. Pulitzer prize winner.)
  6. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Good novel. Pulitzer prize winner.)
  7. Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird by Mary McDonagh Murphy (Good book with real-life information about the characters in the original book)
  8. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Too long, too much wordplay. Pulitzer prize winner.)
  9. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton (A well-researched history lesson on Harriet Tubman)
  10. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (The best father in the world turns racist. Shocking. Nowhere near To Kill a Mockingbird)
  11. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (6 pages worth of story, told in 600 pages. Too much wordplay. Pulitzer prize winner.)
  12. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Good novel set in post Vietnam era. Pulitzer prize winner  )
  13. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (A moving story of a father and son in a post-apocalyptic world. Pulitzer prize winner. Also a movie.)
  14. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (A decent book. Pulitzer prize winner.)
  15. Tinkers by Paul Harding (An ok, below average, book. Pulitzer prize winner.)
  16. Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism–From Goldwater to Trump and Beyond by E.J. Dionne Jr. (A great account of why and when the right went radical.)
  17. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down (book 11) by Jeff Kinney (A typical wimpy kid book.)
  18. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
  19. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (A beautiful collection of stories with intersecting lives. Pulitzer prize winner.)
  20. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (A collection of emotional stories. Pulitzer prize winner.)
  21. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Reading List – 2015


Reading List – 2015

22 Mar

A list of books I read last year. My very short take is included at the end.

Reading List – 2015

    1. Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart by Lisa Rogak (Very good, if you get your news from The Daily Show)
    2. How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson (Must read. The history of scientific innovations)
    3. A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz (Terrible. Rambling.)
    4. What Makes a Hero?: The Surprising Science of Selflessness by Elizabeth Svoboda (Good.)
    5. Correlated: Surprising Connections Between Seemingly Unrelated Things by Shaun Gallagher (Good in the beginning, then gets monotonous)
    6. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Volume 1 by Arthur Conan Doyle (Very good. If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, you already know the stories.)
    7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney (Best Wimpy Kid book in the series)
    8. The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self by Alice Miller
    9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney (Excellent, if you are into Wimpy Kid kind of books)
    10. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (Must read. Tells the history of Amazon)
    11. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney (Excellent, if you are into Wimpy Kid kind of books)
    12. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James (Ok, but certainly not worth the hype)
    13. Blasphemy by Tehmina Durrani (Great, but extremely terrifying)
    14. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant (Very good. Explains why givers are better than takers)
    15. Selma 1965: The March That Changed The South by Charles Fager (Very good. Events reported in detail.)
    16. Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks
    17. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Don Norman (Good, but very few examples)
    18. AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World’s Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena by Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown (Science meets entertainment)
    19. An Equation for Every Occasion: Fifty-Two Formulas and Why They Matter by John M. Henshaw (Good read if you love science)
    20. A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume One by George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham, Tommy Patterson (Crash course for people who have not seen the TV series or read the novel)
    21. A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume Two by George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham, Tommy Patterson (Same as Vol 1)
    22. A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume Three by George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham, Tommy Patterson (Same as Vol 1)
    23. A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume Four by George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham, Tommy Patterson (Same as Vol 1)
    24. HBR’S 10 Must Reads: The Essentials by Peter Ferdinand Drucker, Clayton M. Christensen, and 2 more (Great read)
    25. Monsoon by Wilbur Smith (Great  novel. Should have been a movie)
    26. The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber (Good parenting tips)
    27. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Very good novel)
    28. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson (Great history of computing. Must read)
    29. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Pulitzer prize winning novel)
    30. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Pulitzer prize winning novel. Best book of all time. Movie equally awesome.)

Reading List – 2014

We Won The Internet

13 Mar

Yes, we won the Internet on February 26, 2015. But, first things first.

What is Net Neutrality?
For douchebags,

“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.— Senator Ted Cruz on Twitter

For educated folks, The Oatmeal has explained net neutrality beautifully with an example. Simply put, net neutrality is all about information on the Internet being treated equally. Which means, a movie on Netflix or a video on YouTube has the same priority as any other video from a small startup. The cable companies like Comcast or Time Warner cannot charge money from any company to speed up their videos streaming and slow down feed from companies that do not pay.

In the beginning …
Everything was hunky-dory and information on the Internet was free. Free as in air, not free as in beer. And all information was considered equal. This was the default so we never paid – or had to pay – attention to concepts like “net neutrality”. Everyone received the same content on the Internet and all content from all companies was treated equally.

Then this happened …
Netflix started slowing down for Verizon and Comcast customers. Netflix, being the most popular online TV and movies provider, consumed about 25% of the total bandwidth of the Internet connection in 2012, which rose to 35% in 2014 during peak TV viewing hours. So, some service providers started asking Netflix to pay more for more bandwidth usage. Netflix declined and these service providers started throttling Netflix.

Courtesy Netflix

Courtesy Netflix

Paid prioritization
Because money is king; to hell with customers

In February 2014, Netflix agreed to pay Comcast, and later to Verizon, to stream its videos at higher bandwidth. Then the streaming speed went up again.

Courtesy Netflix

Courtesy Netflix

Verizon vs. FCC
Federal Communications Commission is a US government agency that oversees and regulates all communications, including TV and radio airwaves and wire and cable transmissions. In 2005, the FCC had issued guidelines to promote net neutrality. These were not formal rules, so the ISPs were not legally bound to obey them. In 2011, Verizon sued FCC and asked the court to overturn the open Internet rules. The court ruled in favor of Verizon on the grounds that the Internet providers are not classified as common carriers and as such, FCC does not have authority to regulate them.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996
In 1934, congress enacted the Communications Act to regulate the wire and radio communications. The Act was amended in 1996 into the Telecommunications Act and the Internet was included under its purview. The Act made a distinction between “telecommunications service” and “information service” wherein the telecommunications service are more stringently regulated than information service, which included the Internet service providers. The Act was intended to foster competition among the providers but due to consolidation in the industry, only a handful of providers remained operational in each region. Verizon won the lawsuit on the grounds that it was an information service provider and hence, cannot be regulated by FCC, which was the right decision.

What is Title II of the Telecommunications Act?
One of the seven titles of the Telecommunications Act, Title II outlines the provisions of “broadcast services”, which includes “Common Carriers”. Title II stipulates that common carriers can’t “make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” In February, FCC voted in favor of reclassifying the ISPs as Common Carriers, which means the broadband Internet service will be treated as telecommunications service and not information service.

The fight ahead
President Obama has openly and strongly supported net neutrality. The final rules have not been announced; however, there has already been an outcry from the industry, which was expected. However, many leaders of the Republican party have strongly spoken against the rule change. Lawsuits would undoubtedly follow once the rules are announced, and it might take years before things are stable again.

Until then, we, the people, have won the Internet. People: 1 – Douchebags: 0.

Recommended readings

What The FCC’s Net Neutrality Ruling Means For You
Verizon, the FCC and What You Need to Know About Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now

A Zinger And A Wink

23 Jan

I don’t post political matters on my blog but I can’t resist the awesome zinger followed by a wink from the president at the State of the Union 2015 address. A man with nothing to lose and it shows.


Reading List – 2014

9 Jan

Books I read in 2014

  1. Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray
  2. Happiness Around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires by Carol Graham
  3. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova
  4. The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now! by Mark Hyman
  5. On Virtues: Quotations and Insight to Live a Full, Honorable, and Truly American Life by Sheldon Whitehouse
  6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney
  7. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
  8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney
  9. The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America by Amy Chua
  10. ADHD Does Not Exist by Richard Saul
  11. The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
  12. The Garfield Treasury by Jim Davis
  13. Worth It … Not Worth It?: Simple?: Profitable Answers to Life’s Tough Financial Questions by Jack Otter
  14. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
  15. The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears by Mark Batterson
  16. Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
  17. Deception Point by Dan Brown
  18. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd
  19. Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown
  20. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  21. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
  22. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald
  23. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  24. Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World by Phillip Landrigan
  25. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
  26. The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day by David J. Hand
  27. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
  28. Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked by Paul Raeburn
  29. The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards
  30. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  31. How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
  32. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  33. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney
  34. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
  35. Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa
  36. The Innovator’s Method: Bringing the Lean Start-up into Your Organization by Nathan Furr, Jeff Dyer, and Clayton M. Christensen (Foreword)
  37. Agile Project Management for Beginners: Mastering the Basics with Scrum by Bryan Mathis
  38. Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
  39. The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline
  40. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B. J. Novak
  41. 1,000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently by Marc Chernoff and Angel Chernoff
  42. You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself by David McRaney

Reading List – 2013

(Deliberate) Practice Makes Perfect

6 Nov

Practice makes perfect. It’s a very famous quote that I’ve heard and read since I was a child.
Practice makes perfect

But is it true? The answer is both yes and no.

When we perform an activity – any activity – for the first time, we don’t do it correctly. Reading and writing for kids, calculus for high-school students, driving, piano, soccer, everything is learned. The more we do it repetitively, the better we get at doing it. Practicing piano for a few hours every day makes us better than practicing for a few hours every week. Though inherent talent, intrinsic motivation, feedback, and support or coaching does play a role.

So the answer is yes, practice does make us better- not perfect – but better, which is okay since perfection has a different meaning for everyone.

Practice makes us better only to a certain extent. After that, practicing more doesn’t necessarily lead to an improvement in skills. Why? This is where “deliberate” comes into the picture. You need to figure out what parts of a skill you have mastered and what parts you still need to get a grip on, so you can make a “deliberate” decision to practice only those parts that you are not yet proficient in. While playing the piano, it might be certain types of notes. In tennis, it might be the backhand. In physics or math, it might be a certain topic or problem. Practicing everything, all the time, only wastes time. More time should be devoted to learning new skills.

In cognitive psychology, researchers call it metacognition, the knowledge about one’s own knowledge. If you are aware of how much you know and how much you need to learn, you’ll be able to use different strategies to learn the content or skills.

Adaptive learning
A common buzzword these days is adaptive learning, which has different meaning for different people, but it generally means the content or assessment adapting  to the learner’s knowledge or skill level. If you answer a few questions correctly, you are presented with a higher-order content or questions. If you don’t do it well, you get lower-order content. This way, you spend your time learning new or higher-order things, and not spending a lot of time on content that you already know well. This is the premise of my adaptive learning model for K12.

Related readings
Over-Practicing Makes Perfect
No. 1 Reason Practice Makes Perfect

The Gifted Child

8 Sep

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test is administered every two years. Students from 65 countries took the test in 2012, and United States ranked 36th in Math, 28th in Science, and 24th in Reading. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have expressed a lot of concern, while some researchers say the data has been blown out of proportion.

The American children, however, rank first in self-esteem. The children, since their birth, are told they are special. Their self-esteem doesn’t take a hit so everybody is given a prize in competitions. They get independence to decide what to study and when, and how much TV to watch. In absence of role models to look up to for inspiration, more and more children are taking the easier route and studying humanities and business. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) has fewer and fewer takers, and over the last few years, the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search has been dominated by Asian kids.

In schools, kids take tests for “giftedness” just to prove they are above average. Parents are proud of their gifted kids. The kids who qualify the tests get to go attend higher curriculum classes a few times a week. Until the sixth grade in my school district! For some reason, the schools don’t find it necessary to nurture their gifted kids after the sixth grade. There are many kids who are “late bloomers”. They may not fare well on the gifted tests, but they perform very well academically in later years.

Are they bored?
It’s a very common complaint from parents that their gifted child gets bored in the classroom because the environment or curriculum is not challenging enough. So they need to take higher-level curriculum to sustain their interests. I don’t agree with this view. The kids are gifted in certain subjects but there are a lot of subjects and topics taught in the classroom. The teachers may not be trained or experienced enough to engage the students. The bored kids will be bored … in any class, in any curriculum. Because they have a tendency to get bored easily.

Are they really “gifted”?
The kids who score in the 98th percentile are, no doubt, above average, and we need to nurture them. However, are they truly “gifted”? I think not. The word “gifted” sounds like they are wizards like Harry Potter and we are truly blessed to have them between us. They are intelligent and have a lot of common sense but “gifted”? Really? How about “talented”?

Multiple intelligences
Identifying gifted children through standardized tests is not the right approach. True, there are kids who are intelligent and can perform well on verbal and non-verbal tests. However, there are kids who are promising in other fields such as arts and music or athletics. The schools do not think it is necessary to identify those gifted students early and nurture their talents. They may never find someone who encourages them to pursue a career for which they have a natural flair. The gifted kids go on to become successful members of the society. However, most of the successful people in business and academics are those coming from the other 98% of the population that didn’t get identified as gifted.

I know a thing or two about gifted kids because I have two in my home.

You are not special

Additional readings
US teens lag in global education rankings as Asian countries rise to the top
The Wrong Way to Treat Child Geniuses
The Illusion of the ‘Gifted’ Child