Category Archives: Books

Books #2

Like I did for January, this post is a set of brief comments about the books I read during February. I’m having relatively unproductive months lately, so seeing that I did go through these is reinvigorating. ☺

As I said before, one of my objectives this year is to expand the set of genres I read even more — not only keep on reading fiction, but some philosophy and history as well. I didn’t pay an awful lot of attention to the philosophy classes during high school (we have those in Brazil), so it’s an obvious place to begin. That, and a friend’s recommendation. After reading a bit of Seneca, I’ve put his works on the brevity of life, happiness and grief on my reading list.

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7 years to receive a letter

I was reading a book on the life of the italian Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci in China (1582–1610). During that period, he taught the chinese about the Art of Memory used in Europe and contributed some of the images from his memory palace for a book about the teachings of christianity in chinese.

A curious fact is the time that was necessary for a letter from China to arrive in Europe by means of the Portuguese and Spanish trade routes—seven years. Given that my e-mails can arrive practically instantly, I was baffled at the thought of waiting that long to get a response.

The Jesuits in China knew enough of the sea’s dangers to send each of their letters to Europe in two copies—one via Mexico on the Spanish galleons out of Manila, and one via Goa on the Portuguese carracks leaving Macao. Ricci’s superior Valignano may have been startled that one of his letters to Rome took seventeen years in transit from Macao, but Ricci accepted six to seven years as the norm for receiving an answer to a given letter.

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Books read in the second quadrimester of 2015

Following my first post on books between the first quadrimester (Jan-Apr), here’s the list for May-Aug. There’s also a post on the books I read read during 2014.

I didn’t read as much as I wanted… but being able to measure how much I’m reading is nice, and I’m coming up with ways to improve on that, e.g. don’t read a book on Haskell and a treatise on Memory written by a historian in parallel.

(I’ve recently discovered that quadrimester is sometimes used as a synonym for quarter in english. Well. In 2016 I might try breaking it into Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4.)

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Notes on To Engineer is Human

To engineer is human (see in Amazon or in Goodreads) is a 1992 book about how knowledge of past design failures is useful in current projects, strongly biased to civil engineering. Some examples are repetitive and not studied in depth, thus making the book a bit dull at times. Even then I found some very interesting reflections and quotes that I wanted to comment on or simply organize for later reviewing.

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Excel trying to take over the world

Intuitively, it is not just the limited capability of ordinary software that makes it safe: it is also its lack of ambition. There is no subroutine in Excel that secretly wants to take over the world if only it were smart enough to find a way.
— Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence

I wouldn’t be so certain about it.

There are “scientists” (economists) who think it is OK to use Excel for making predictions that affect several people, as you can see from this article in The Guardian. Essentially, they didn’t add four years of data from New Zealand to a spreadsheet. Other methodological factors were in effect as well. And all of this contributed to lots of people losing their jobs in various countries when the recommended austerity measures were put in place. Imagine if Excel wanted to take over the world.

The paper that discusses in depth about Reinhart and Rogoff’s mistake is “Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogo ff“.

Books so far in 2014

I have a lot of books.

I’ve finally decided to organize my collection and keep track of what I read. In this post, I’ll list the books I read since January — or at least an approximation given by the email confirmations of the ebooks I bought, my memory and the ones in my bookshelf. I also divided them in sections. Papers are included as well.

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Meus livros favoritos sobre JavaScript

JavaScript é uma linguagem bonita. Dinâmica, com tipagem fraca e herança prototípica, é difícil de se entender e usar corretamente. É mais do que um brinquedo.

Já faz um tempo que eu estou com vontade de escrever sobre JavaScript. Resolvi falar um pouco sobre as duas melhores fontes que eu li até agora, além do Google obviamente.

São eles:

Um clássico. Ouvi falar muito sobre ele em vários cantos da Internet e decidi comprar quando foi citado em quase todas as palestras da trilha JavaScript do The Developer’s Conference 2011. É um livro muito bem estruturado, abordando todos os aspectos da linguagem “pura” (sem trabalhar com APIs, bibliotecas, etc). Fala muito sobre a sintaxe e apresenta a idéia das bad parts da linguagem, ou seja, daquelas features que mais prejudicam do que ajudam.

Entretanto, é um livro bastante denso e dificilmente se entende tudo o que ele está falando numa primeira leitura. Cheguei a ler alguns capítulos três vezes até começar a entender o que estava falando. Recomendo fortemente mexer com JavaScript enquanto lê o livro, além de aprofundar assuntos mais complicados, como expressões regulares e closures.

Ao final, fala sobre o JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), mostrando algumas de suas vantagens e apresentando o código de um parser seguro para ele, feito em JavaScript. É uma boa forma de ver se está entendendo a linguagem: tentando ler algum código.

Esse livro tem uma idéia bem diferente do anterior: Nele, o autor ensina a idéia básica por trás do desenvolvimento voltado a testes, apresentando a ferramenta JsTestDriver e mostrando vários usos simples. Depois, o livro começa.

Há vários capítulos explicando como as funções são implementadas pelos interpretadores, como funciona a prototype chain, enfim, o que acontece por trás do JavaScript. Muita atenção é dada para aplicações de closures (como memoização e a module pattern).

Depois, muito se fala sobre a herança de objetos – primeiro mostrando a quantidade de gambiarra necessária para se implementar “algo parecido com classes”, depois partindo para a belíssima forma de herança aproveitando-se natureza prototípica de JavaScript. E ele não acaba aí. Ainda tem capítulos falando sobre event delegation, feature detection e aplicações de Test-Driven Development, tendo um capítulo dedicado ao Node.js, por exemplo.

É um livro incrivelmente completo e que ajuda a cimentar os conhecimentos sobre JavaScript mostrando um número tremendo de exemplos e de soluções práticas que eu consigo ver uso imediato hoje em dia.

Também estou esperando para ler o Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja (John Resig, Bear Bibeault), que foi escrito pelo Resig, criador do jQuery. Diz-se que o livro “ensina você a escrever sua própria biblioteca JavaScript”. Espero ansioso.