September 29, 2008

The Marathon and Half-Marathon : A Training Guide (by: Graeme Hilditch)

Posted in Books tagged , , , , at 2:11 pm by pmatos

I reviewed it here.

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January 24, 2008

Rich Dad Poor Dad (by: Robert T. Kiyosaki)

Posted in Books tagged , , , at 12:31 pm by pmatos

Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Rich Dad) by Richard T. Kiyosaki

Personal Comments:

I can still remember when this book was recommended to me by a friend, in a comment to a post of mine where I said: “I’ll never be rich”. I think it was the first time someone recommended me a book, so I could not ignore it. I added it to my Amazon wishlist, finished what I was reading and got it!

I read the book in a week, so it is a very light, simple to read, small book. It has about 240 pages, the authors english is clear and straightforward. I recommend it!

Now, let me add that there might be some small spoilers for the rest of my comments but nonetheless you should keep reading if you’re unsure about this book. This book is about financial literacy. It is not technical, consider instead a motivacional book on why you should become literate financially. The author talks about how his two dads gave him two very different educations although they were both intelligent man. One education was focused on financial literacy, the other was focused on intelectual literacy. Even though some of his opinions might shock most of us (because we resemble his poor dad) it’s interesting to get some of his ideas, tips, and references to keep being intelectual literates with a foot on the financial side. The book is not an excellent piece of literature, the author very repetitive, so I guess, that you’ll have to stand that if you want to extract the good things the author has to teach. In the end, you’ll disagree with some things and agree with others but I’m sure that you’ll learn some very important things. One is that financial literacy is indeed important, that you can change your life a lot if you do follow some small advices. I would say go for it. It’s a cheap book that can be read in a blink. Thanks Nuno for his recommendation…

August 10, 2007

I’ll never be rich…

Posted in Books, Programming, Scheme at 1:34 pm by pmatos

As already everyone in the Lisp community knows, Lisp In Small Pieces had a small price in the last few days. It became #1 in Amazon.ca books and then the price went back to $94.40.

I had the time to buy myself one copy of it yesterday by $3.95. I thought myself as a lucky guy who found a great book for a real bargain and that I was smart buying one. So, I told this story to Jenny, Jordi and Noura here in ECS and it seems Jenny business eye caught immediately how stupid I was in buying only one!!! Well, in fact, if I had any kind of business intuition I would have bought not one but 10 or 20, to sell them afterwards by higher prices but obviously lower elsewhere so that I could sell them and have a huge profit.

Two questions remains: If I had bought 20 of them would I be able to sell them (are there enough Lispers out there without the book willing to buy it)? And out of curiosity, did anyone buy more than one book in order to profit from its selling in the future?

Oh well, this way I’ll definitely never get rich… I’ll just keep saving some money to be able to buy some cheap things for me but I’ll never get to be a wealthy man.

July 15, 2007

Turing: A Novel About Computation (by: Christos H. Papadimitriou)

Posted in Books at 12:14 pm by pmatos

Turing: A Novel About Computation by Christos H. Papadimitriou

Personal Comments:

(Note: This comment refers to the Portuguese translation published by Bizâncio. The portuguese translation is titled: “Turing: Um Romance sobre Computação”)

Last Valentine’s day I was in Portugal and my girlfriend offered me this book, which was definitely to my taste. I was eager to read it for three reasons:

  1. I knew Christos Papadimitriou from his Computational Complexity book which I enjoyed a lot;
  2. I liked the idea of using computer science inside a novel;
  3. The Scientific reviewer of this collection is Felix Costa, one of the best teachers I had back in Instituto Superior Técnico;

Overall, I didn’t like the book. The book is well-written but it is confusing and the computer science parts seems to be thrown into the novel without any kind of context. They just show up out of nowhere and for a computer scientist there is not much to learn.

On the other hand, I just might be plainly biased. Why? Because the book started and after the first three chapter I said to myself: “I won’t like this…” and so it was, I kept repeating this to myself until I finished the book in the vain hope of having a surprise and the book turning to be very good. This didn’t happen. As chapters started and ended I got more and more frustrated and nothing seemed to make sense. However, I might have lacked the insight to understand the brilliancy of the book, I’ll give you that. This because Doxiadis comments the book as being great, it was reviewed by many people one of them being Don Knuth, so… probably it was me who was not able to grasp its essence. For this reason I’ll read it again next year hoping that by then I’m able to provide a better ranking… for now… the book is taking an F!

May 13, 2007

The Man Who Knew Infinity: Life of the Genius Ramanujan (by: Robert Kanigel)

Posted in Books at 12:02 am by pmatos

The Man Who Knew Infinity: Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel

Personal Comments:

I’ve always had great curiosity of the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan, so I decided to get this book. One of the first results by its name in Amazon.co.uk. In fact, this is a biography of Ramanujan but not one biography I specially like. Most of the book is well-written, most of it however has nothing to do with the mathematics in Ramanujans life. It talks a great deal about India, his mom, 1st world war and Hardy but you could compact the book to about 150 pages on Ramanujan and to about 10 pages on the mathematics of Ramanujan. The biography is very general and it is not focused on his mathematics. It is indeed unfortunate. Well, one of my objectives was accomplished, now I do know a great deal more about his life, unfortunately, not about his mathematics. Oh well, maybe I can find that in another book… overall is a nice read, and a good value for money.

March 12, 2007

The High Lord (by: Trudi Canavan)

Posted in Books at 1:44 pm by pmatos

The High Lord: The Black Magician Trilogy Book Three by Trudi Canavan

Personal Comments:

I’ve just finished this book during this night. Well, I must say that since friday I read non-stop 350 of the 650 pages of this book. I just couldn’t stop. Not only I knew I was finishing the trilogy but I also was completely stuck to the action and adventure surrounding the main characters of this book. Definitely, I can say that book 3, this one is the best one of the trilogy. Not only due to the amount of magic action surrounding the whole story but also because there was no boring stories or endless rescues like there was on the previous books (although as I already mentioned, the other books are great).

The end, however, is nothing like I imagined it to be. Everything pointed out to a specific ending until about chapter 38 (of 39). In chapter 38 everythings changes and you feel a little bit depressed, but surely enough the epilogue comes to the rescue. I’ve already been thinking who should be the actors for the main parts of a movie trilogy made from the books. :-) I would have Scarlett Johansson (she would have to paint her hair) as Sonea, Tom Cruise as Akarin, and Richard Gere as Rothen and Matt Damon as Dorrien for the main parts… heheh Wouldn’t that be nice!

I got really thrilled when I heard Trudi is preparing a prequel and a sequel to the trilogy which should be out by the end of 2008. Isn’t that great?!? Well, I recommend you all reading this trilogy. It’s really awesome. I won’t be forgetting the main characters so soon… they really became part of my life in the last couple of months. Thank you Trudi.

February 5, 2007

The Novice (by: Trudi Canavan)

Posted in Books at 10:28 pm by pmatos

The Novice by Trudi Canavan

Personal Comments:

Indeed… Trudi Canavan is surely making you breathless after reading the first two books of this awesome trilogy. In fact, there’s not much to say without spoiling those which might read it. Let me tell you that in this story you have thrill, you have action (more than in the first book) and surely _a lot_ of suspence. In fact, it is the mystery, the suspense (one of the facts why “The Da Vinci Code” is also quite good) that makes you keep reading even though you should be already sleeping hours ago… That’s why, you just look at the clock and you say to yourself “Oh, one more chapter…” And this keeps happening chapter after chapter… and in the end of the book you have a major mystery on the line… and argh, you then have to buy the next book to know how the story will unfold! Comparing with the first this book had more action, mainly due to the first part of the first book being somewhat boring at times. This book is all action, mystery, suspence, thrill and unfortunately you devour the almost 600 pages very fast and you are only left with the third book… Well, at least you still have one! In regard to the story about magicians, the fact that it is about magicians doesn’t mean you get to ‘see’ a lot of magic happening. I would compare it with the magic you get to see in the lord of the rings. Although you have magicians in the trilogy you also don’t get to see a lot of magic… but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t great… right on the contrary!

December 14, 2006

The Magicians’ Guild (by: Trudi Canavan)

Posted in Books at 5:16 pm by pmatos

The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

Personal Comments:

The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan is the first book of the “Black Magician Trilogy”. As you might have guessed, I’ve not read the other books, yet!
This book is an easy an enjoyable read. In fact, not probably the 30 pages until the story settles and you understand what’s going on. The first 30 pages were quite hard to go through but after that everything changes. You’ll have a furious adventure filled with mistery and mad runs, emotion and also some humour. Turns out Trudi is a great writer which was able to write a very nice fantasy from which a film would be just great! In fact, after reading the book I only thought when could I check it in the cinema and which actors were good for a given role. I do recommend it because it is very nice book and by a very low price as you can see by the amazon.co.uk page.

The end is quite astonishing because it end on a really sensational part. Well, it will really, really make buy the second book. By reading only the first you don’t really feel satisfied because although the read was great up until now, the best is yet to come.

November 15, 2006

Alister McGrath and his lecture on Dawkins God

Posted in Books, Life at 11:53 am by pmatos

[Sorry for the late post. I really wanted to post this some days ago but it has been very hard to find some free time.]

Well, as I have posted previously, last Thursday by 19.30 I went to see the lecture by Alister McGrath with the same title of his 2004 book : “Dawkins God”.
Alister McGrath was an invited speaker of the “Christians in Science Society” of the University of Southampton. I have not read Dawkins God and I only know Dawkins point of view on God through his latest book “The God Delusion” [although his opinion has been widely published in his previous numerous books]. Curiously, Alister McGrath is also from Oxford [Dawkins from Oxford].

First I’ll let you know all about the presentation, then I’ll comment on it.
Incredibly the lecture room [a huge one] was completely full, people were standing up and you could just find people of every age in the seats. The Christians in Science Society presented Alister CV for 5 minutes, explaining this time would be needed since people should know Alister background. Briefly [from memory], he was educated atheist, he got graduated in Chemistry and then did a PhD in Theology, has been Professor of Historical Theology and his Director of many things, has a lot of acronyms before and after his name, etc. Well, to end up saying that he knows very well both sides of the issue, the scientific and religious one.

Initially he talked about who was Richard Dawkins, which took about 15 seconds and showed a funny-looking photograph which he left on-screen for some time while explaining he was there to destroy the link Dawkins put up between science and religion. Dawkins says a real scientist ought to be atheist. McGrath says religion and science are completely different thing and one cannot mess with the other. So McGrath, set up the 5 grounds for the criticism of religion in The God Delusion and talked about some religion myths Dawkins set up during the book. So, he says, the lecture would be about answering to Dawkins on what he said about religion.
So he goes through each of the 5 grounds for the criticism of religion:

1. Does Science lead to atheism?

His main argument stands that the nature interpretation is consistent with all belief systems, being it atheism [which he says it is like any other belief system] and that’s why Huxley invented the word agnosticism. Moreover, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, an atheist, said that scientist cannot comment on religion and that those who are atheist are surely not for scientific reasons.

2. Dawkins on Faith

McGrath quotes a bunch of theologist which say that the best explanation for some things is definitely not science and that then faith comes up to explain things. That Christians should not let think that religion fills in the gaps of science, since then they would be killing themselves in a sense that these gaps get narrower and narrower. What Christians should understand is that religion by itself has its own field of action and that is fields which cannot have materialist views, like, what’s our purpose on earth, why thinks happen the way they do, why equations of the universe really work, why science works, etc.

3. Is God a virus of the mind [a meme]?

Well, McGrath doesn’t spend much time on these. It says Dawkins uses memes incorrectly and that for a long time, memes are no longer an explanation for anything because they are obsolete so this chapter on The God Delusion is automatically discredited.

4. Religion impoverishes theists view of the Universe.

McGrath goes on to explain that obviously that is not true since, when theists look at nature, they do not stand thinking that God creating everything and that’s it. The fact that we know that God created everything is more a motivation of learning how it works. To learn how great can our God be, so that he created such a marvelous Universe.

5. Religion is a bad thing.

And McGrath says… “Ah, but there were already many atheists doing bad things.” And that the world could not survive without religion. However, it accepts that religion can also bring a lot of problems… but so as atheism.

After this, he presented his next book to be out on Fev. 2007 : “The Dawkins Delusion?” but him and co-authored with his wife.
In the time for questions and answers there were some nice things he said that is worth quoting.

So, he starts by pointing out that Atheism is very vulnerable because: is reductionsist of science, only believes what is proven [unable to discuss other problems], and it has problems with meaning questions.

Interpretation of the bible depends on science, so sometimes is interpreted wrongly, but that’s because of science, it’s not a problem with the bible. Oh and evolution? That’s not a threat to science… that just explains a bit of Gods rules.

The God Delusion is a book for people who dislike religion and know no science.

Dawkins makes no difference between God and Religion.

Oh, religion is not harmful. Most people know evil just by looking at it and that’s a very christian way of looking at things.

Dawkins runs away from good things religion did!

God just helps one love science in another way. Not just as a bunch of non-sensic rules but as the rules of God.

Then he goes on to tell a story… When he was an atheist kid, he looked at the sky and though that the light we were seeing from the stars left them a huge number of years ago. Now, they probably don’t exist but he won’t know… he’ll die long before the light which is now leaving the star, reaches the Earth. Now, as a Christian, he looks at the sky and he sees Gods creation. So, he’s no longer sad like when he was an atheist.

Well, everything ended up, a lot of books were being sold [as a big marketing plan] and they even had the courage to ask for a donation!

And now… comes a few comments on this. First, this all lecture was obviously very well prepared it seemed as if everything he said was to its audience pleasure, the large majority were students and lecturers who were Christians (remember, he was invited by the Christians in Science Society of the University of Southampton). Most have not read The God Delusion, so he managed to say that:

The God Delusion is a book for people who dislike religion and know no science.

and most of the lecture was supposed to diminish Richard Dawkins capabilities by throwing theological arguments, empty of content and full of decieve. I just wonder how can I man spend so much time circulating the globe just to talk bad of another one. Never in Dawkins The God Delusion he was rude as McGrath was to Dawkins in any context or to any author, even McGrath.

Although everyone was quite excited with the presence of such character (McGrath), I find it rather disconforting to think that most of there were there not to learn from McGrath but to throw words of despise against Dawkins. Apart from that, in a Programming context I would say that this lecture is still far from beta and has a lot of bugs which would crash any system (crashed mine…).

Sometimes I even wonder if he read The God Delusion as he should. Dawkins spends the whole first chapter explaining what will the word God mean during the context of the book and setting up the difference between God and Religion. Please, Mr. McGrath (or Reverend, if you wish) read the first chapter.

Again, McGrath says he Science cannot lead to Atheism. Still, again, read the book. I’m quite certain that Dawkins puts it in the following way: “There surely are many scientists which are theists. Many good scientists, even. However, if a scientist is to put is scientist vein in all facts about his life he cannot possibly be a theist. The fact about being a scientist is that you only believe [not just what you can prove] but what you have evidence for. There are near-zero evidence for the existence of God, and a lot more for its non-existence. A scientist would say that even though a certain theory cannot be established for Gods non-existence, that’s surely the way science might take if wishes to pursue further research.”

Science, for obvious reasons, will not answer you what’s the meaning of life. Nor it will tell you what your mum is doing right about now. The fact that science will not answer you this answers doesn’t mean religion can. Moreover, being an atheist, does that mean I will not ever be able to answer them? NO! I can answer them due to what I know, to what I feel, due to my subjective opinions. Each life as a meaning of its own. There’s no [in my opinion] a meaning for Life unless you really want to believe that. I might say the meaning of my life is to be happy, raise wonderful kids and contribute something to science and that my mother is now sleeping but really, this answer depends on the person who is responding to it, no on an absolute answer. So, really, right now I really feel religion feels that gap most people need to be filled because they are suffering, or because they had some problem in their lives, or because they cannot explain something. The problem is that most of us will [no matter how much one knows] known near zero percent of what there is to know. So really, one has a lot of place for God.

Being Dawkins a scientist and by writing a book for the general public, it is obvious that he needed to use an easy to grasp concept for people to understand what he meant to say about virus of the mind. He could not refer to the latest article on evolutionary biology for some weird concept to explain things. Still, he takes a couple of pages what a meme is. His idea is not to establish a scientific ground here, but to give people a way to think about what he is telling us. Please, Mr. McGrath, do not misinterpret Dawkins.

It is quite hard for me to understand what McGrath told about his view of the universe. Does he reeeeeeeeaally think he is learning the rules of God? I also have a giant invisible dinossaur which leaves inside my garage and only talks to me… do you believe that?

One horrible thing you said, Mr McGrath, not about Dawkins, was that when we look at a poor child, or a sick person we feel sorry and pity and when we look to hitler or some other bad guy we feel evil in the person and that’s a Christian way to look at things. But now I ask you? A Christian way? Why not a Muslim way? Why not a Jewish way? Muslim people or jewish people do not recognize evil, do not feel pity? Would you change that sentence if you were invited for a talk by the Muslims in Science Society?

Well, and now Mr McGrath is going to publish Dawkins Delusion… I question myself, why? Do you think it really matters, will you pursue Dawkins for the rest of his life. Since you’re both from the same University I do think that what you’re doing is just a personal vendetta. Have you been bullied by him when you were kids?

November 9, 2006

The God Delusion (by: Richard Dawkins) [Part 3, Final Part]

Posted in Books, Life at 6:06 pm by pmatos

This is the end of my commentary on the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I’ve written a Part 1 and Part 2 in the past.

I’ve finished this book about 2 weeks ago but unfortunately only now have the time to finish the commentary.
I was mainly motivated to write about this right now because at 19.30 today I’ll be hearing a public lecture with the title Dawkins God, by Allister McGrath (named after her book with the same title). I haven’t read this book, still Dawkins refers to it in his book. So initially you might think this book is a Dawkins supporter… Well, it isn’t… She’s anything but supportive and it has nothing to do with The God Delusion which was written after Dawkins God. The former was published this year, 2006, and the latter on 2004.

The end of The God Delusion is extremelly good, like the rest of the book. Unfortunately, however, there’s a subject which misses appropriate comment from the author and although the author touches this subject he is rather vague and fills only a couple of pages. The subject (which is a rather disconcerting subject for me) is death. The question one might pose is: “Shouldn’t we believe in God because he makes us believe that there is life after death and then we won’t live fearing our own death?”

His point of view on the subject is superficial and as a person which usually thinks deeply on the death subject regularly, I’d love to read a more elaborate opinion on this from him.

I haven’t read his other books so probably he has answered be more deeply on his other books but still this is the only thing I can complain about Dawkins and his book. Nothing else. The book is certaintly tailored for a wide non-scientific audience and should be read by everyone, independent of their religious belief.

Thanks Dawkins for your book!

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