Two Links Tuesday- July 22, 2014- Free eBooks edition

Books from The Great Books of the Western World that are available for free to download: If you’re not reading something technical for your job, read these classic books and make yourself a better person.

If you do want to read something technical for your job, let me suggest Think Complexity. It discusses graph algorithms, scale-free networks, fractals, and the game of life. It contains Python code, so it will also help you be a better programmer. I read most of it while awaiting assignment at Booz Allen.

Life Tips- How to Win at Monopoly


I’m a little hesitant to post this, because Monopoly is my favorite board game and I like to win. But here are two great webpages with way too much quantitative information about probabilities of hitting spaces on the board and rolls to recoup an investment:
Probabilities in Monopoly by Truman Collins
How to Win at Monopoly by Tim Darling

Here are a few of my strategies:
-Ideally, be the first to get a monopoly. Any monopoly, though the ones on the second side are preferable. Build 3 houses ASAP on each property.
-Trade. Always trade. (I also employ lots of trading in fantasy football). Be willing to give up bit pieces to get monopolies. Or even to get pieces that give you the CHANCE of picking up a monopoly. Be willing to give expensive monopolies to people that are cash-poor if it gives you a monopoly you can build on.
-Railroads are only good early in the game, in my opinion. Trade them later on for anything that increases your chance of a monopoly.
-Until <5 properties are available, get out of jail ASAP. After that, never pay to get out of jail early.
-I mortgage more bit pieces than the average player to get cash to build houses.
-Try to be the person who knocks others out of the game, because then you get their property, which is almost always valuable, even it it’s mortgaged. Position yourself in the end game to knock people out.
-Sometimes it’s wise to trade a bit piece for cash if it both gives you needed cash and starves someone who has an expensive monopoly of cash to build with.
-Know which properties others are likely to hit with their next roll. Build there if possible.

Book Review- Earth Afire

Earth Afire: The First Formic War
Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, 2013

earth afire

Ender’s Game, written by Orson Scott Card in 1985, is probably still my favorite book. Highly recommended. I read it for freshman English class at St. Xavier High School. Ender’s Game tells the story of the Second Formic War—a war waged by children against an alien species threatening Earth. I don’t want to give spoilers for Ender’s Game —you should read it!— so I’ll stop there.

Earth Afire is the second book in what is most likely a trilogy of books describing the First Formic War. Earth Unaware was the first book, which I read a couple years ago. Earth Afire follows Card’s tried and true method of having multiple competing storylines involving personal struggle and determination that eventually coalesce. Like many books in the Ender’s Game universe, Earth Afire uses at least one storyline that involves an intelligent, precocious child. We also see the initial efforts of Mazer Rackham, the hero of The First Formic War in Ender’s Game.

Overall, a pretty good book. Not the best in the series by a long shot, but a good read nonetheless. I would have had certain storylines be more realistic to the probable actions of the non-major characters, but that’s okay. A very interesting book series keeps on keeping on.

Two Links Tuesday- July 15, 2014- Grad Student Resources Edition

First Time on the Market? This page is a collection of essays written for The Chronicle of Higher Education. I jumped around a read a few. There are many good ideas about how to conduct a job search, interview, and deal with offers or rejection. Just note that each article is a sample size of one and your situation might not fit their suggestions perfectly.

Craig Holden’s Career Resources Page: Professor Holden teaches finance courses at Indiana University, and I took his “Asset Pricing Theory” course in Spring 2014. Some of the links on this page are specific to finance grad students, but many of the links to suggestions about how to write papers and find relevant papers are applicable for many students.

Book Review- The Firm

The Firm
By John Grisham, 1991


Fast-paced lawyer drama, with additional threat of death by the mob. Fast read because you won’t want to put it down. That’s probably why they made it into a movie, but I haven’t seen the movie. Will probably interrupt your daily work cycle and make you less productive. You’ve been warned.

John Grisham was given an honorary degree at my UNC graduation. He has had a very interesting life and is a great speaker, though his speech to us was very short. E.O. Wilson gave the commencement speech.

Theory Tuesday- Statistics’ Place in Big Data

Interesting, but long, talk about statistics place in the Big Data world:

I’d suggest watching from about 10 minutes in to about 40 minutes.

“Statistics”, “data mining”, and “bioinformatics” are all on the decline according to Google Trends, while “Big Data” is booming. Many big data people don’t see the need for statisticians because of their seemingly antiquated/belligerent/unhelpful opinions on model validity, result confidence, and experiment design. However, people who ignore statistics are condemned to re-create statistics.

In my experience, the people who don’t see value in statistics are action-oriented and typically mathematically-ignorant. These people want to do something, and they are not especially interested in how accurate their actions are. More responsible big data teams will be built with people with three skill sets: programming, math/statistics, and domain knowledge.

Book Review- Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled-and Knuckleheaded- Quest for the Rocky Mountain High

Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled- and Knuckleheaded- Quest for the Rocky Mountain High
By Mark Obmascik, 2009

halfway to heaven

While in Colorado for a recent trip, I read Halfway to Heaven. It’s an amusing narrative about the trials and tribulations of hiking all of the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado—of which there are over 50. The hikes were primarily done in summer, which did not give much guidance for our May trip that saw 4+ feet of snow from the trailhead to the peak for every mountain of interest for us. And the snowy climbs Obmascik describes only worsened my anxiety—slides, avalanches, and post-holing. Nonetheless, it is a very interesting book that gives a great idea of mountain customs, etiquette, and concerns. You’ll learn about the people who hiked all the 14ers in less than 2 weeks, the woman who wants to be photographed naked on each peak, and the modern-day prospectors that still camp out and mine the Rockies, hoping to strike it rich. Recommended for anyone that enjoys hiking, climbing, the Rockies, and/or adventure narratives.