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drizzy's books

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Nicole Perlroth: This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends (2021, Bloomsbury Publishing) 4 stars

Zero day: a software bug that allows a hacker to break into your devices and …

A nice bible of the big cyberattacks that shaped our world

4 stars

This is a great little bible of leaks & cyberattacks of the last decade that have shaped our modern world. Nicole's work at New York Times gave her access to curious set of characters. From Italian contractor-hackers for hire, through Argentine's old guard hacking for fun all the way to elite NSA hackers hacking for their country.

Most of the stories were not new for me, but she packaged them up for ordinary people. Accessible, readable and fun. Full of detail but short on technical jargon. There's a lot of notes in the back of the book to back up most of the stories as well. If you've never heard of Stuxnet, Petya, WannaCry and others, this book might make you throw away your iPhone/Android and any other electronic device.

I suppose a small consolation for people might be: Unless you build nuclear centrifuges or are a political activist in …

Titus Winters, Tom Manshreck, Hyrum Wright: Software Engineering at Google (Paperback, 2020, O'Reilly Media) 5 stars

Review of 'Software Engineering at Google' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I might not be a Google fan, but even I admit they know how to scale. And I am not above learning from their engineering...

As far as IT-related books go this is fairly "soft" book. There is not much code to go over and the code that is there is more as an example.

But just because it is soft does not mean it's not good. Book covers everything from working in a team, documentation, version control, code review all the way
to testing and deployments.

What is unique about this book is how well it shows two aspects of software engineering that change everything:

- Time
- Scale

With engough time requirements change, people come and go etc. With scale, a piece of code that was performant enough suddenly crawls to a halt. And this
book is filled with examples of unexpected problems these things can bring.

Best …

Gabriel Weinberg, Lauren McCann: Super Thinking (Hardcover, 2019, Portfolio) 4 stars

Review of 'Super Thinking' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

As the authors note in the foreword - they tried writing a book they wish they had when they started their careers. I believe they succeeded. I also wish I read this book much earlier in my life.

I've read and reviewed other books that all feel related to topics covered here, namely Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman or Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. Both of these get referenced several times in specific examples.

If this book was a professional person it would be a generalist. It covers cognitive biases, fallacies and buzzwords or phrases that you might have heard but perhaps don't understand the meaning of. And it strikes a decent balance between covering a lot of things and explaining each of them well. This is by no means a specialist literature for learning about all the ways our brains are broken. …

Freakonomics (2006) 4 stars

A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Which is more dangerous, a gun …

Review of 'Freakonomics' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This book has been on my list for a while, many people recommended it and I see why. The authors are an interesting match - and economist and a writer. Asking weird questions, getting even weirder answers.

The book makes several compelling points for reevaluating how we view our lives. It is written with the idea that incentives shape many aspects of modern lives and I can’t argue with this premise. I have seen too many people “gaming the system” when the incentives are set badly. Typical example might be to reward programmers based on number of lines of code they produce. That specific example was not part of the book but it might as well have been.

Among other things - conventional wisdom is often wrong. We should not always accept it blindly but look at incentives of people who peddle these wisdoms. Experts touting this or that often …

Suzanne Collins: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2020, Scholastic Press) 4 stars

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female …

Review of 'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

It’s not over until the mockingjay sings

So how about a Hunger Games prequel you say? Well, I’ve read the original books long ago and so I won’t be able to make a comparison. On its own, the story is engaging as you follow the future president Snow through his mentorship of 10th Hunger Games and beyond as the slow descent into darkness begins.Pitting kids to fight each other to the death in an arena is a unbelievable proposition. So having a bit more background into how it came it be is a welcome thing. And the book certainly seems to try and show just how even some of Panem citizens feel uneasy about the games themselves, but unable to voice their opinions. And so they just go along with the tradition even long after the war.If history has shown us anything it’s that most people will hide behind the …

reviewed Different Seasons by Stephen King (Stephen King Collections, #2)

Stephen King: Different Seasons (EBook, 1982, Warner Books) 4 stars

Includes the stories “The Body” and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”—set in the fictional town …

Review of 'Shawshank redemption.' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

He said he didn't think anyone died happy, but you could die well

The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them.

Well this certainly was something new. A set of four novellas - slightly longer than a short story, but not quite a novel straight from King's great mind. And all of them hinting/connected to each other a little bit. Making them part of a single world. Most of King's book are considered a part of a single world anyway right?The first one a direct inspiration for Shawshank's Redemption. So most people will already know the broad strokes of the story. But it was still fun to read.The second (and longest) about a co-dependent and twisted relationship between and old Man with a terrible past and a young boy that grows up and grows dark with each passing page.The third about a boyish adventure like …

Stephen King: Under the Dome (Hardcover, 2009, Scribner) 4 stars

Under the Dome is the story of the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine which …

Review of 'Under the Dome' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

If you don't control your temper, your temper will control you.

Stephen King is no stranger to putting more or less ordinary people in strange situations and let them deal with it. This book follows a similar recipe, cutting off a small town from the rest of the world completely. A drifter ex-soldier as one of the main heroes is not a novel idea. Neither is the"island" idea of being cut off from rest of the world. And of course neither is a despot trying to take over his little corner of the world. Put it all together and you get Under the dome.Looking back at the story, the villains are quite easy to identify early on. But their slow change from small-town jerks to full on villains is nevertheless quite a thing to watch. I kept asking (and still wonder) why and how would ordinary people let someone grab …

Ben Aaronovitch: Moon Over Soho (2011, Gollancz) 4 stars

Review of 'Moon Over Soho' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

First law of gossip - there's no point knowing something if somebody else doesn't know you know it.

A nice short and witty continuation of officer Grant's adventures. There's more magic, London and jazz vampires so what more can you ask for?There's nothing about this book that particularly jumps at me as being "wow, that was awesome". Certainly not nearly as much as the first book in the series where everything was new and exciting. But it does follow similar recipe for being entertaining so I won't complain.I certainly want to see officer Grant becoming a proper wizarding copper. Hopefuly he will survive his encounters with the supernatural and magical creatures.

Paul Kalanithi: When Breath Becomes Air (2016, Random House) 4 stars

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training …

Review of 'When Breath Becomes Air' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Severe illness is not life-altering, it's life-shattering. Less of an epiphany and more like someone had just firebombed the path forward.

There is no hiding from death. This book certainly doesn't shy away from the message. I feel this will not really be a spoiler, as you'll learn in the preface, the author is no longer alive.

Speaking of the preface - there is a phrase that repeatedly came to my mind as I read this book - a prose poem. Do not be mistaken, there's very little actual poetry in this book (though there is some), but the prose has that quality, rhythm, cadence and urgency to continue with the next line.

I found the writing brilliant. At times full of gore and action of surgery, only to be replaced with serenity of a quiet dinner with friends. This might be a book about dying, but it is …

Cal Newport: So Good They Can't Ignore You (2016) 5 stars

Review of "So Good They Can't Ignore You" on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Do not follow your passion. That's the gist of this book, but oh what an oversimplified and ultimately useless advice it would be.

And this could have been one of those "happy go lucky" type of books, full of personal anecdotes and fluffy marketing. The book is full of various personal anecdotes, but they are mostly there to show how messy good careers can be.

Book is structured and written in a very readable way (exemplified by me getting through it in a few days while taking copious notes). Best of all - there is a fair amount of actionable advice. No bombastic fake advice to make you into a successful business owner in a week, but actual things you can do day to day in your work to improve things over time for yourself. There's a few rules which I'll highlight to start with:
Rule 1: Don't follow your …

Kahneman introduces two modes of thought - system 1, fast and intuitive, and system 2, …

Review of '[CD] Thinking, Fast and Slow By Kahneman, Daniel' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Shortly after I started reading this book I read an article on taking smart notes and so I naturally applied it for recording interesting quotes and tidbits from this book. Following is not even close to all of my notes, but more their condensed summary.

I no longer remember why exactly I added the book to my reading list. It's in one of my self-improvement drawer. And in that regard I think I will have a hard time practically using things I learned from this book. As even the author himself noted - even decades of studying this field has not helped his intuition too much. There are several reasons for this - most notably that the errors in our judgement often come from "System 1" in our head - the intuitive, quick associative memory that mostly runs amok and makes split-second decisions throughout our lives. The slower, logical part …