The circle

Jun. 5th, 2017 02:03 pm
izard: (Default)
After [profile] blau_krahe suggestion, I just read it during this long weekend. The narrative style in Russian is very similar to "Холодная зона" by the way.

It is fun to read, but unlike "Холодная зона", everything in this book seems just trivial. First 20% or so is absolutely realistic, then as the plot becomes somewhat darker in the following 10% of the book, the rest 70% becomes obvious. So I guessed all the remaining plot after I read the first 30%, just thinking: "What would an american author write to make absurdity grow until a possible maximum is reached." I think if the author would have been european, it would not be that easy.

So in a hindsight, I would recommend reading the first 30% of this book, skipping all the rest but last 5 pages or so.
izard: (Default)
Russian popadancy/althistory that does not suck. 1933-1937, 0% technical progress, nobody warns "tovarisch Koba et al". Group of "popadancy" just try to make WW2 into a series of smaller scale conflicts by clever espionage plots.
izard: (Default)
After reading a great Russian translation of "Houston 2015", I found out that it is a prequel for "Houston 2030" by the same author. I read it too, but unlike "Houston 2015", I cannot recommend it to everyone. (Russian translation is still great btw, and both books are free in Russian)

In "Houston 2015", I found the most plausible description of Russia (some ~30% of the plot happens in Russia) from an american author. Both novels are hard sci-fi and scientifically accurate, but "Houston 2015" is I think 100% technically correct, and in "Houston 2030" I don't find plausible how author extrapolated a tech tree.

All characters in "Houston 2015" are perfect, and in "Houston 2030" some characters are there just to support the story, and some are to support the world. So if you like post-ap and hard sci-fi, you may still like "Houston 2030".

In "Houston 2015" the author described management and expat types very well, showing ageing generation of managers who understood the field being replaced by MBA-types who manage by metrics and politics. I also liked it that even when the author shows regret about this matter, he still shows those new manager with sympathy they deserve, as most of them are still good men and women (nothing personal).

The verdict: "Houston 2015": almost must read, in Russian or English. "Houston 2030" - almost on par with "The road" and "Postman", read if you liked those.
izard: (Default)
"Бинарная плащаница" is a nice cyberpunk novel. It is a sequel/fanfic for "The enclaves" series by Panov. I think it is almost better than original series because it does not focus on a wrong kind of mysticism. I highly recommend it but only if you liked the originals. Unfortunately, it is impossible to read the book w/o good understanding of "The enclaves" universe and a plot of at least 2 last books of the series.
izard: (Default)
The author claims he writes hard sci-fi superhero comic novel. Much like in "Цветок камнеломки", the book is about singularity. As Bostrom noted, one of possible causes of the singularity could be a strong AI developed by a small dedicated team "in a garage".

This book is about a discovery in physics that triggers singularity, but unlike "Цветок камнеломки" the settings are modern, not USSR. Also protagonists come from social and educational background that I understand quite well.

Unfortunately as action evolves and more ppl gain "supepowers", the script turns much closer to other books from samlib.ru where main characters are super-spetznaz types who fight with "пиндосами" and "масонами". Completely weird - reading something where jokes are familiar and protagonist's figure is even more familiar, but he still fights with illuminati and other enemies of Russian state.
izard: (Default)
It is great and I was proud to support the experiment

And now I understand what had always HPMOR reminded me of: "The last ringbearer". Both are brilliant examples of fan fic that turns a world of fantasy to something tangible and real, with a slight touch of mysticism. Although I don't quite like the trans-humanism becoming a major factor in the story Yudkowsky created.
izard: (Default)
A good novel in Russian. Alas, the author only accepts webmoney not paypal. Upd: http://alex-anpilogov.livejournal.com/90257.html
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Those who design embedded systems without implementing a watchdog should be sentenced to eternal porting of Toyota Camry ETSC code to an obscure programming language.

My entertainment system was down throughout 12 hour flight home, it was showing this picture and was not reacting to input. So I took some time to re-read "Up" on this flight, and compared it with "Reaching the moon". Both books were written by [livejournal.com profile] karial

The books contain tons of useful advises on building a management career, but not only that. The content is fully applicable for those who pursue an engineering career in organizations which have a technical career ladder (e.g. distinguished engineer/technical fellow at MSFT or principal engineer/fellow at INTC). So I have recommended both books to my mentee, an experienced Russian speaking engineer who had only recently started his career in a multinational company. Both books have big sections describing specifics related to women in management. It makes it all even more interesting for women, and could help men to get some insight about what could be relevant for their female peers.

Second book seems to contain a bit more specific advises on some difficult topics like counteroffers, receiving negative annual review, promoting a project that has many stakeholders from different org functions, etc. There are also a few things that make the second book different. One of them is that the first book was assuming that the reader is pursuing a management career in a big public company with a corporate culture that promotes leadership development and meritocracy. In the second book, there are five references to other "organizations with bad org culture and nepotism", where the advises from the book do not fully apply. I think it is not all black and white, there is a continuum here, plus different division of the same company may have different levels of meritocracy/nepotism.

I think these references to "bad" organizations came in light because some Russian speaking readers wrote LJ comments on how advises from the first book do not work in some big Russian companies. I also have a feeling that some of the topics for the second book were inspired by questions that were asked in LJ and Facebook comments. Inna is very open to discussion, and she is probably the only CxO level executive who often gives readers very good personal advice in her LJ and facebook group (but the question has to be clear, concise and interesting for the audience, or else the answer could be "You are in a hot air balloon").

Both books differ from american books of the same genre. A story in a typical american book evolves around two or three ideas, going all around them, studying them inside out with plenty of examples and anecdotes. Inna's books are not short of anecdotes and real life examples, but they lack a single recurring theme. I like it more this way: when reading an american book I always have an urge to jump from third chapter to the last.

Actually there was a kind of recurring theme: you have to be positive(without exceptions) and proactive(but do not step to other's turf!), and your boss is probably right(even if you think he is wrong). In a trade off between subjective idealism of positive thinking and vulgar materialism of engineering culture the author clearly leans towards positive thinking. As a manager is acting through people, I guess making focus on subjective things makes sense. As an engineer I don't like it, but I should use the tool that works, and this seems to work.

Just to mix the positive image of modern public companies with a bit of sad reality, I highly recommend a brilliant series by [livejournal.com profile] _mak_ : 1, 2, 3. Or this one. Dilbert would work too.
izard: (Default)
This book was on my reading plan for couple of years already. Then few months ago I bought it, it was on sale in Powells. It was quite difficult to start reading it: on week days I wanted to read something easier and on weekends there was always something more fun to do.

So recent vacation was a perfect timing: 20 hours in airplanes, guesthouse room where there was no TV, short tropical rains, relaxing on a beach after swimming.

My expectations for the book were probably too high. I thought I will find a reasonably strict proof that strong AI approach is wrong. I support strong AI hypothesis, and some of Penrose's arguments against it seemed quite artificial for me. Instead of a proof I found that 3/4 of the book were just a good introduction to some of mathematical and physical concepts of 20th century and last quarter was some vague reasoning about unproven possibilities of quantum effects in our brains.

However the book is great, and I wish I could read it in 1998! Then I would probably have higher marks on physics exams in Uni.

Next book to read:
"Diplomacy" by Kissinger.

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