Reading – 2014

December 2014

  • Confessions of a Public Speaker NOTES: enjoyed this book as I have all of his books. Selected quotes / passages:
    • Long passage / chapter about how our brains are hardwired to make us feel stress whenever we’re standing in front of a group of people because we’re alone, which historically (millions of years) has not been a good place to be.
    • On the dynamics of large rooms with people that are sitting all over the place: make it a point to get them to move closer together because the resulting atmosphere will be 10x better for you because everyone will have to pay attention AND there’s zero chance that people won’t listen to you because as the speaker, we always collectively obey whoever is talking.
    • On preparation: 1) take a strong position in the title, 2) think carefully about your specific audience, 3) make your specific points as concise as possible, 4) know the likely counter arguments from an intelligent expert audience.

November 2014

October 2014

  • Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland NOTES: Bought this in anticipation of our trip to Iceland, started reading it before the trip, read most of it on the flight to and from Iceland and then finished the week after returning. First part reminded me too much of our year long visit to England so I had to quit but overall turned out to be a fun book to read, especially being able to relate to the places that she and her family walked around in Reykjavík. Recommended if you’re doing a trip to Iceland and want to understand some of the recent background / culture about Iceland.
  • The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More NOTES: I don’t think I’ve ever bookmarked as many pages in a book as I did in this book. Really really enjoyed this book. A bunch of notes:
    • Chapter 1 started about talking about the Agile Family Manifesto, which struck a chord with me, especially the part about Sunday night retrospective meetings. Definitely putting something like this in place in our own family. See also:
    • The flowchart they put on the wall in the kitchen (stuff to do, things in progress, things done) and then went on to describe the Thanksgiving dinner they ran using agile. 🙂
    • The self directed morning checklist (available here on page 6)
    • On the importance of family dinner or at a minimum, a time when the family comes together on a regular basis to talk and share about who and what the family is and has been, see pages 13 and 14 of the family checklist above for more details on what questions and stories we should be telling. The most important story / theme being an oscillating / up and down story where kids realize that things go bad and then good and then bad but that all the while the family remains strong and that you can weather any storm.
    • Family rituals at dinner time including the 10 / 50 / 1 rule (10 minutes of quality talk time, 50% of the time should be kids talking and 1 new word every day). Bunches of suggestions on how to look and find new words (look through magazines for words you don’t know, etc..), autobiography night when kids tell stories about their past and then answer questions about who, what, when, where, why and how… pain point night when kids can bring up something that’s causing them issues and the whole family pitches in to try and help fix their problem… word game night (alliteration game, thesaurus thursday, fill in the blank, what’s the difference between)… bad and good.
    • Family mission statement. In the works. Page 54, 9 qualities of successful families (communication, encouragement of individuals, commitment to family, religious orientation, social connectedness, ability to adapt, expressing appreciation, clear roles, time together, more here). See also page 9 of the above PDF doc for ideas on how to generate said mission / values statement.
    • On fighting: doesn’t matter how often you fight, it matters how you fight. Most fights happen when you’re trying to get somewhere or at the beginning or ending of the day, those are natural tension points. On negotiation / fighting techniques: (isolate your emotions, go to the balcony, step to their side, don’t reject but instead reframe, build them a golden bridge)
    • On kids and managing money: famzoo (, on allowances (1 dollar per year of age per week, which seems like a lot, not tied to chores which are part of what you do as a family), on how you split up the money (spend, save, give away, share).
    • On having big discussions / talking: when arguments come up (think about what you did first, focus on what the other person is feeling, apologize)
    • On traveling (family vacation checklist, having fun games in the car like “I’m thinking of time when we went to a place…” or “I’m creating a world in my head that does…”, missions (I need 3 united airlines bag tags or I need you to find out the name and hometown of the women sitting there in red), amazing race games where kids get points for doing things like climbing mountains or going behind waterfalls)
    • Chapter doing about doing goruck with the kids, which is probably a couple years off for me… but then I think we’re going to start the middle one (almost 5) on a 5k this year.

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

  • How to Change the World NOTES: forget how I decided to read this one but bookmarked a ton of pages / quotes:
    • On finding satisfaction in helping others: “… only the person who actively seeks to make changes understands that there is a choice to be made about how we lead our lives, and can observe clearly the effect they are having. To change the world is to have a sense of purpose, and that’s something we can all cultivate. Just ask yourself, every so often: ‘Why am I doing this?'”
    • “When we are immersed in activities we love, we are living our intrinsic values. These are not the general values that everybody gives lip service to but a collection of ideals that are important to us individually – values that get us out of bed in the morning or make us turn off the TV if something upsets us.” And then to figure out what your values are: “… what do I think of as a good life, in the fullest sense of that term? What kind of life do I truly admire and what kind of life do I hope to be able to look back on?… Try writing the answer to the question ‘Who am I?’ ten different times.”
    • “A similar exercise involves making a note of events or relationships that have made you feel truly alive in the recent or distant past and then, (just as important) trying to analyze why.
    • Quote from novelist Iris Murdoch: “The exercise of our freedom is a small piecemeal business which goes on all the time, and not a grandiose leaping about unimpeded at important moments.” Reminds me of DFW.
    • Link:
    • Link:
    • Link:
    • Quote on creating peace: “… If we are going to find lasting solutions to external conflict, we first need to find a way out of internal conflicts that poison our thoughts, feelings and attitudes towards others. No conflict can ever be solved so long as all parties are convinced their right. A solution is only possible when at least one begins to consider how he or she might be wrong.”
    • Really interesting couple of paragraphs on what’s called the Borda count or preferendum (link:, which is helpful when parties don’t want to choice A vs. B, you force them to rank A, B and C.
    • Overall, a quick read but something that kicks you in the face a little bit and makes you think about what you’re doing and why.
  • Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War NOTES: loved this book, both for what I learned about aviation as an aviation / military plane nerd but even more so reading about what Boyd did after his fighter pilot days, how he worked and the ideas he came up with. Surprised that I wasn’t recommended this book earlier along the way. Some quotes / excerpts:
    • “Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road. And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go. If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments… Or you can go that way and you can do something — something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors… And your work might make a difference.” – interesting quote and he definitely lived his life that way but he might have been the only guy at the Air Force that could have gotten away with what he did, ie: you have to be incredibly talented to be able to thumb your nose at authority AND get away with it.
    • Great paragraph about how the author believed that Boyd made a decision to go independent so that he wasn’t relying on anyone.. he stopped buying clothes, kept his glasses in a sock, didn’t buy cars and lived in an apartment. Sadly it looks / feels like he completely ignored his family and their needs but the “… reducing his needs to zero.” was / is a good mindset. Either that or making a gazillion dollars.
    • Link to a paper he wrote on “… complex event processing and decision theory, and in particular, deduction, analysis, and differentiation vis-a-vis induction, synthesis, and integration”: Destruction and Creation
    • Quote on the subject of that paper: “… and that our awareness of these changes cause us to restructure the relationship is present in subtle and often unseen ways in almost every facet of our lives. It is a vital part of how we cope with our world; it shapes our decisions and actions. The danger — and this is a danger neither seen nor understood by many people who profess a knowledge of Boyd’s work – is that if our mental processes become focused on our internal dogmas and isolated from the unfolding, constantly dynamic outside world, we experience mismatches between our mental images and reality. Then confusion and disorder and uncertainty not only result but continue to increase. Ultimately, as disorder increases, chaos can result. Boyd showed why this is a natural process and why the only alternative is to do a desctructive deduction and rebuild one’s mental image to correspond to the new reality.” Emphasis mine.
    • Book: Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hilter’s Most Brilliant General
    • On military strategy and the books he read about said topic: “.. none of the victorious commanders threw their forces head to head against enemy forces. They usually did not fight what is known as a ‘war of attrition.’ Rather, they used deception, speed, fluidity of action and strength against weakness. They used tactics that disoriented and confused – tactics that caused the enemy to ‘unravel before the fight.'”
    • “… believed in attacking with ‘moral conflict’ — that is, using actions that increase menace, uncertainty and mistrust in the enemy while increasing initiative, adaptability and harmony within friendly forces.” Example of the Mongol horsemen and how just their appearance sometimes causes armies to flee.
    • On a presentation that one of his guys did to a bunch of generals: “.. Spinney made no recommendations in his brief, so he was to be a nihilist, a destroyer. But the omission was deliberate. Spinney knew that if he followed the usual procedure and included a list of recommendations, the focus would shift from the problem to which chores would go to what agency. He wanted the focus to remain on the problem.” Awesome level of meta thinking.
    • “Boyd’s belief in using the adversary’s information against him is the practical application of Asian writings, particularly The Japanese Art of War, in which translator Thomas Clearly talked of ‘swordlessness’, or the ability to defend oneself without a weapon, a concept that by implication means using the enemy’s weapon against him.
    • The first of his three guiding principles: “… you can never be wrong… If you’re wrong, they’ll hose you.” Probably more true in the military but definitely a reminder to do your homework and do it really really well.
    • … Richards set up to two websites: and to showcase Boyd’s ideas and how they relate to business, which now sadly are gone. 🙁
    • Quote: “Every morning when Wyly arises, he asks himself, ‘What is my Schwerpunkt today?'”
    • Last, not a quote, but gosh, brilliant guy but he left NO time for his family whatsoever. Would have been better for him to stay single and not get married at all, ie: Chip Kelly.
  • Scandinavia: At War with Trolls–A Modern History from the Napoleonic Era to the Third Millenium NOTES: didn’t bookmark anything, I read in anticipation of a trip to Norway (Oslo, Bergen) we did this month. Dry, but a good read if you want to understand a bit about the Nordics, as they call them here in England.

June 2014

  • Tales of Iceland or “Running with the Huldufólk in the Permanent Daylight” NOTES: trying to get a feel for Iceland, not exactly a family book.
  • Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic NOTES: …
  • The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy NOTES: hard to fly through this book but there were / are lots of good nuggets/ ways of thinking about stuff, some quotes:
    • … knowledge is indeed highly subjective, but we can quantify it with a bet. The amount we wager shows how much we believe in something… Borel argued that applying probability to real problems, such as insurance, biology, agriculture, and physics, was far more important than mathematical theorizing.
    • … The propositions that are in doubt …constitute the most interesting part of science; every scientific advance involves a transition from complete ignorance, through a stage of partial knowledge based on evidence gradually becoming more conclusive, to the stage of practical certainty.
    • page 86, a couple paragraphs on Alan Turing, who arguably might have made one of the largest contributions to the Allies winning WWII through his work with cryptography and Bayesian analysis and then was horribly treated by England and eventually committed suicide. I need to visit his memorial in Manchester (
    • On one of the first guys to apply Bayesian to business problems (Robert Schlaifer): “.. Schlaifer wondered how executives could make decisions based on no data. Whatever prior information they had about demand for their product was obviously better than none. From there, Schlaifer got to the problem of how sample data should be used and how much money should be spent getting it. Updating prior information with sample data got him to Bayes’ rule because it could combine subjectively assessed prior probabilities with objectively attained data.
    • wikipedia:

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

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