What I read in September 2022

Published: 2022-10-12

Books

The Man From the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann by Ananyo Bhattacharya

This book explores the life of a time-traveler. Someone who theorized, pondered, and invented tools that would create the lives of some and destroy the lives of many. Game theory, quantum mechanics, The Manhattan Project, computers, and the RAND Corporation are just some of the many disciplines which von Neumann dabbled. This book helps explain those wide-reaching fields and the many lives they impacted.

At times during this book, I was a bit lost. Part of that wandering was due to the highly technical chapters that didn't come with any explanation--though I didn't expect much seeing how this book was written by someone with a Ph.D. in physics. But part of that wandering was that this book didn't really explore the "visionary life of John von Neumann" as the subtitle claims. Instead, it explored more of the inventions and fields that the life of John Von Neumann invented. The beginning has the traditional origin story of our main character, but after that, the narrative of his life isn't cohesive. You do, however, learn much about the lives of the people he worked with and the work they produced together. Book notes here.

Leadership by Henry Kissinger

This book profiled six leaders who led during a dramatic half-century. The leaders in this book influenced the world that followed the two colossal world wars that engulfed Europe and its allies. Their duties included reorganizing collapsing governments, cities, and countries; humbly accepting defeat and enduring global embarrassment; attempting to create global peace; and much more. These leaders struggled to create long-term policies when everything that came before was focused on the immediate.

Kissinger's own experience with each of the leaders made this book all the more interesting. There was plenty of research and due diligence from Kissinger that profiled each subject well, but each chapter ended with Kissinger's reflections and lessons from the personal relationships he maintained with each statesman. I didn't know that when I started reading it and it was a welcomed surprise. For some reason, these interactions made each subject more personal and real, not just someone whose name is in the history books a few times. Book notes here.

Articles

Solitude and Leadership - An exquisite critique of the current political/bureaucratic systems in higher education and other elite institutions as well as an encouragement to carry the burden of leadership, and with it, the inevitable embrace of solitude.

The History of Blogging by Wikipedia - When you think about it, there are a lot of weird things that have happened. Blogging is one of those weird things. I've always wondered who the first person to put their thoughts online were. This article did a pretty good job of answering some of my questions.

The Steve Jobs Archive - The title gives it away, but this is from their website: "A timeline of quotes, videos, and audio from Steve Jobs." It's all pretty illuminating.

What I've Learnt About Writing by Scientific Discovery - *4 lessons from an editor of science articles. The most eye-opening lesson for me was #2, "Writing is about communicating." The author points out that writing is about communicating information that the writer knows but the reader doesn't. This sounds obvious, but I find myself writing facts/statements that I know are true, but on the surface sound like opinions because I'm assuming my reader has the exact same knowledge that I do. 'Tis not so. *Compliment with Noah Smith's writing advice.

How to make a proper iced coffee - I've been drinking (and making) iced pour-overs for 4 years now and this is the only way I've ever seen it done. Unbeknownst to me, some people make hot coffee and pour that over ice (yikes), so thought I'd share this brilliant method and exceptional documentation.

Engaging with History by Morgan Housel - "The more you see a behavior throughout history, the more you realize how ingrained it is in human behavior, which makes you more confident that it'll be part of our future. It's the only way to forecast with accuracy."

Miscellaneous