A short review of the “Art of War for Women” by Chin-Ning Choo.

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The Art of War.

NOTE: this review is not about a similarly-titled book by Sheetz-Runkle, and not about a similarly-titled book by Huang and Rosenberg.

The “Art of War”, not such a long time ago used to be fairly unknown to the western audience. Maybe because there had already been a well-established western military tradition, represented by von Clausewitz. The Soviets, however, perhaps due to being actively involved with Asia since the very establishment, were much more open to the Eastern tradition, and the Art of War was a part of the Soviet intelligence curriculum for a long time. Eventually the West has also fallen victim to this millennia-old book on strategy and tactics, and the Art of War began its triumphant parade over the business culture. This was also partly fuelled by the very visible progress that the Asian cultures, from Mongolia to Japan, had by the end of the 20th century. One of the most prominent marks of the era was a recent British independence slogan “Will the Brexit Referendum make London the Singapore-on-Thames?”. Such an astonishing claim to be made in the former capital of the world.

The book by Ms Choo introduces the concept of the 21st century being the “Century of Asia” at the very beginning of the book. Indeed, although the book is full of citations from the Art of War, my feeling was that they were cherry-picked with the main purpose of adding Ms Choo’s book an Asian flavour, rather being the core knowledge carrier.

Maybe it’s actually for the best. To each his own, I am still planning to lay my hands on the old book itself, and thankfully, the “for Women” version was not much of a spoiler.

The second claim that is firmly made in the book is that the 21st century is going to be the century of women. That’s probably a thing that nobody is going to argue against, since the technology is making the world a much more comfortable place for women, so even though I would be more careful about attributing the whole century to just a since human trait (sex), we are definitely going (in fact we already are) seeing more female influence on the everyday life.

The core ideas.

The book is roughly structured around five aspects of success.

They bear fancy Chinese names, but for simplicity I am just writing them out in layman terms:

  • Personal qualities
  • Temporal properties
  • Fixed properties
  • Skill
  • Implementation

Each chapter is dedicated to one of the components of success, and in each of those the author tries, beyond presenting the basic concept of a component and the actions that are needed to nurture this component, some additional traits that are supposed to be more related to women than men.

Quite unsurprisingly, as the book progresses, each subsequent chapter bears less “femaleness” and more “practical guidelines”.

In general, I cannot say that I highly assess the parts that are more dedicated to the sexual dimorphism. The management chapters were quite good. I have made a lot of records, and rearranged some of my working practices, following her advice. The “female” parts, to be honest, did not help illuminating how exactly sexual dimorphism affects the differences of performance between the employees of different sexes too much. The book contains quite a lot of female encouragement and debunking of old misconceptions about women, which is a great thing, but seems to be of less use to those who have already given up those misconceptions. However, developing “conceptions” (pun intended), that is the understanding when and how exactly sexual differences can be used as a leverage, and where they should be kept in mind as a thing of concern, is sub-optimal, in my opinion.

Conclusion

The book is short, and can be done in a couple of evenings. It is probably worth reading as an encouraging material, although women who have already decided to be the best of themselves, are unlikely to need any more encouragement. Some anecdotal evidence is nice, it feels very nice to be able to relate yourself to some real-life examples. Some paragons of female success are also given, from various areas of life, from politicians to doctors and managers. The management-related, gender-agnostic chapters are just good and worth looking even more than once. Is it the book to be read to find out about gender differences and how to use them – perhaps not, and it is also not a good book about the “Art of War”.

The main military thought that you can derive from it is that avoiding defeat may be often a much more efficient strategy than winning a battle. After all, Suvorov is believed to be emphasising this a lot.

The Russian translation is horrible, however.

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A short review on “The Madness of Crowds” by Douglas Murray (2019).

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I have read the “Madness of Crowds”. It is a book about several kinds of inequalities in the society, to which a lot of effort has been paid in order to compensate for them, and although up to a certain point a lot of this effort paid off, recently the effects became more controversial than working.

Douglas discusses four big (in the amount of text dedicated to them) inequalities, and many more small ones.

I think that the main point that should be taken away from the text is that much more thinking needs to be done before deciding on an important issue, even if this issue may seem perfectly obvious to the referential group. If someone is offering you a “clear solution” to an issue, doubt it even if it is a direct extrapolation of the solution to the same issue as it used to be in the past. Doubt it if is the same solution to a different issue, no matter how similar it may look. Doubt it in any circumstances.

Another thing that I take out of his book is: read the classics. Not the classical fiction, but the classical thought. The older guys, like Democritus, Protagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Confucius, Babylonians, they have been outdated and superseded… but it is astonishing to see how slowly the process of change goes in the human nature, compared to the human tools.

There is also one thought that is not terribly new, at least I heard it several times from different people, but which, I tell myself, is worth repeating. When listening to people giving advice, try to distinguish the people who are giving you good advice because they want you to become better from people who give you bad advice because they want you to fail.

The book is not too long, a native speaker can probably get through it in a couple of evenings.

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A review on “Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards J. Heuer Jr.”

Abstract

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Richards J.Heuer Jr.is one of the people who revolutionised the way intelligence content is produced in the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S.A. Speaking crudely, his main contribution was the introduction of the “Scientific Method” into the everyday routines of the CIA analysts. This book is partly his self-reflection on this transformation, and partly a list of heuristics that any intellectual worker could employ to improve his own efficiency (and self-satisfaction). I found it very good. It clarified quite a bit of concepts I had been only vaguely aware of, and helped me hone a few of my own ideas.

I actually recommend reading it to everyone, and perhaps would even suggest studying it at school, because it is hard to find a skill of more generality than a skill of thinking. And the intelligence aroma just makes the book more exciting for kids.

If you are interested in more detail, welcome under the cut.

Continue reading “A review on “Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards J. Heuer Jr.””

The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem

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Read it if you haven’t already. Re-read otherwise.

It is a great text. The book is short, it’s just a little over 260 kilobytes. I actually read it at school, but forgot almost everything. I guess, I was not old enough at that time to appreciate the complete sense of the book. Lem is a genius, obviously. And in addition, the book is the only thing I remember about my high school history teacher Markelov, besides trying to test “digital learning materials” on our class, and trying to convince me that mentally ill people are beyond help. But the book suggestion was good.

I particularly liked the sarcastic depiction of an imaginary “scientific congress” consisting of people whose complete lives consist of travelling from a conference to a conference. I liked the reference to the prevalence of sexual themes in the “liberated” culture, all too common nowadays.

The reference to the overpopulation turned out to be completely wrong, the world population growth seems to be decelerating, but many of his other prophecies seem to be still plausible.

I believe that the reference to the domination of the chemically-induced virtual reality should be taken metaphorically. I doubt that drugs can make you feel that much of a difference with the real life. However, the reference to the sheer amount of drugs in our life in the not so distant future is probably correct.

Rioting is included.

I really liked the reinforcement of my conspiracy theory that the government is putting sedative medicine into the tap water, just to make the population less critical. The reference to the illicitness of negative emotion display is also happening already in our life. The language discussed in the “far future” part of the book is a nice try to imagine how the language is going to be changing, and how it may be affecting the dominant philosophy.

Briefly, irrespective of the anti-utopian scent (common to so many futurological works), this book reinforced my optimism and the belief in the progress and the bright future.

A short review on “The Culture of Chinese Communism and the Secret Sources of its Power” by Kerry Brown

Abstract

Kerry Brown is a well-known scholar of Chinese culture. The Communist Party of China could not have avoided his attention.

I have read this book at a book club, and would like to share some of my impressions.

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Continue reading “A short review on “The Culture of Chinese Communism and the Secret Sources of its Power” by Kerry Brown”

Proposing programming language features

This blog hasn’t had enough attention for quite a while. This is not, however, because I have abandoned it, but rather because the original purpose of this blog, that is dumping essays regarding books I read, is still valid. It’s just that the most recent book has taken an order of magnitude more time than I had expected it to take.

Okay, I’m going to write a bigger and better review on the “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs”, but the book altogether took so much time, effort and emotions, that even writing the review is going to take a while.

Meanwhile, one of the by-products of my reading happened to be a proposal of a feature to be included into the Scheme Language, that is needed in order to support all the code examples in the book.

(Yes-yes, you’re not misreading it. The book published in 1996 is _still_ not covered by the existing language standard in full. Otoh, it means that there is a chance of achieving things.)

Now that the proposal has an official number, there is going to be a public discussion among the potential Language System providers, and maybe (if it passes the review), we will have this feature officially recognised.

Watching discussions of experts on what they may actually work themselves is a fascinating experience, and a chance to improve own skills too. In this case the discussion is not expected to be too heated, however, but anyway.

https://srfi.schemers.org/srfi-203/ — this is the link to my recent proposal.

It speaks about quite an interesting approach to generating computer images, that builds on top of the classical features present in most drawing languages, such as PostScript, TikZ, MetaPost or SVG. While the expressive power is largely the same, the degree of abstractness is greater, which leaves gives greater code reusability and flexibility.

Scheme is by not means the only language that has a community feature review process.

  • Python has Python Enhancement Proposals (PEP)
  • Java has Java Community Process (JCP)
  • Scheme has Scheme Requests For Implementation

The image in the header is a digital copy of a work of M. Escher, whose works have inspired the original author of the “Picture Language” Peter Henderson. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.137.1503

A Review on The Light That Failed by Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes

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I have read “A Light That Failed”. This review is not a part of the series of reviews on technological books. Nevertheless, in order for a brain to keep moving, some humanitarian reading is advised.

This book was a part of a book club in discussion in Shanghai. Speaking briefly, it discusses the new (2019) tendency in politics in which the western politicians start using the rhetoric that they have not been using so far; the rhetoric that is not unlike the one used by the authoritarian politicians. Surprisingly, the book is known among readers in China, it has a rating on DouBan. The book is not related (at least, directly) to the eponymous novel by Rudyard Kipling. The book is not related (at least, directly) to the eponymous film of 1939, based on the work by Rudyard Kipling.

Continue reading “A Review on The Light That Failed by Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes”

A Review of LiShan Chan’s Philosopher’s Madness

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I have read the “Philosopher’s Madness” by LiShan Chan. It is a book about mental illness, British Education, academic careers, their successes and failures, Overseas Chinese, Singapore and Dubai, writing and reading.

This review is not a member of the technological book reviews series.

If you are still interested, welcome under the cut.

Continue reading “A Review of LiShan Chan’s Philosopher’s Madness”

A Review for GNU Autotools by John Calcote (1st. ed.)

/ I saw a book titled ≪Die GNU Autotools≫ and I thought “My feelings exactly”. Turns out the book was in German. – Tim Martin./

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I have read the GNU Autotools: A Practitioner’s Guide by John Calcote.

This is a small review of mine. This time the review is really small, mainly because there already is a good review, written by Flameeyes  https://flameeyes.blog/2010/08/20/book-review-autotools-by-john-calcote/, and even though ther review was arranged by the original publisher, No Starch Press , it is technically accurate and psychologically unbiased.

What I do have to add are just a few of my own experiences.

Russian kids are not taught a proper lesson in computer information exchange.

While this statement is a bit radical, most often there is not a single consice introductory lecture which would teach people how to make descent programs, and saying broader, software pakages out of scattered and disperse algorithms, which people are taught to create in high school and in universities.

Most people learn this by either struggling with Microsoft’s documentation, or (even worse) by copying existing Free Software projects, and tweaking the scripts.

This is a very bad approach.

I know, this is a very emotional statement. But my experience says the following: the less structured is the field you are studying, the more structure needs to be present withing the courses given.

As an example: C, C++, HTML, are reasonably well-structured topics. No matter how you approach the studying, there is only one definitive standard of those, and you have almost no chance of completing your tasks successfully unless you comply with the rules.

As an opposite example, creative writing is not that structured. Your literature teacher may give you good grades, or bad grades, but that would quite often be affected by his personal properties rather than his experiences with the audience you are targeting. In case of the high school class essays this doesn’t matter so much, because your target audience IS your teacher, but it gives you little expertise on how to write for other people.

Therefore, creative writing teaching should require much more elaborate courses than computer programming, exactly to overcome this uncertainty.

Making software packages is an ill-defined task.

You cannot ever solve it precisely. You can reach some level of closeness to the original goal, but as life evolves, your projects have no choice but to adapt to the changing world. Therefore creating software packages is a badly structured task

This makes it necessary to have a structured course. Calcote’s book provides such a course.

Indeed, despite being called “A practitioner’s guide.”, it is more of a good theory treatise than a cookbook. And this is good, not bad. Nowadays canned recipies are in abundace, at StackOverflow, for example. But well-narrated explanations are as rare as they have ever been.

Shall this book be studied at school.

No. Of course not. But it would be a very good idea to let university freshmen read this book as a part of their ‘practice of programming’ introductory classes.

Statistics

This book is 315 pages long, and required 29 hours 54 minutes of my time, including doing exersises and writing this review. This makes it roughly 10 pages per hour, 6 minutes per page. Those were produced in 11 study sessions, each session 2 to 4 hours, and was accomplished in one week, with more than one session per day on the weekend. The book was printed out on paper, and I was making annotations with a pencil. For practical text writing I was using GNU Emacs 26.2. In the