With all this (almost) new found time here at the start of the holidays, I have actually had some time to read books that I might enjoy in a non-work related sort of way. Instead of just having to read or understand certain texts as part of my course, which can be fun and somewhat enlightening at times, it is also brilliant just to not do that for once.
And so going with this opinion and state of mind, in the middle of exam term I bought the 2600 Archive (The Best of 2600 – A Hacker’s Odyssey) book to leaf through and check out – ideally as a bit of a change to the normal stuff that I was doing (revision!). I bought it thinking that it would most likely be a reference book or a collection of old (and great) articles from 2600 that were good and worth reading, but on actually reading the book, it is clear that it is fundamentally far more than that. It is in itself a history of technology (from the 80s) starting with telephone systems going all the way up to the modern age, but it is written and presented in such a different way than everything else on the topic. The depth given is extraordinary, to such an extent that the systems mentioned and talked about are explained in such a way where you are made aware that the author of the particular article clearly knows much more than the manufacturer of the actual device in terms of it’s minute flaws and peculiar characteristics. It is truly a fascinating account of the hacker’s conquest in discovering technology throughout the last 30 years. Well worth having a look through and/or a read of.
Also in my quest to read more enjoyable things, I came across the concepts and ideas of Saber-metrics while frolicking around on Wikipedia a few weeks ago – following some interesting leads from this great New Yorker article on basketball strategy (How David Beats Goliath, New Yorker, May 11 2009 – well worth a read) And so the Wikipedia article on Saber-metrics led me to the book Moneyball – The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. It is very well written, incredibly informative and also surprisingly addictive. I also think it could still have some serious appeal to the reader if they did not know much about baseball, however, maybe a little understanding is needed… I also feel now that I should read some more about Saber-metrics, it’s pretty phenomenal!
Now having read Moneyball and slightly starting to understand/get interested in the idea of statistical outliers and anomalies in economics, sports and pretty much everything else, I stumbled upon (or rather had suggested to me) Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell which I just started yesterday. Going on the same statistical approach to life and looking closer at data and trends etc., it hopes to in some way understand what might be going on – thus sounding like an excellent light read.
Daring Fireball also suggested Free by Chris Anderson (who is also the author of The Long Tail, another book I intend to read in the near future) which I will be reading soon (provided I can be assed to read an eBook… (no success yet – not even with Eucalyptus! – Maybe because I have no current desire to really read any of Project Gutenberg‘s books… Oops.)) And I also have The Bonfire of the Vanities to finish (which has been going on and off since January (if only I had the paperback edition I would be able to take it down to Cambridge more easily and actually finish it sooner).
Fun times ahead…