Archive for category: Reading

Pavlina’s book review: Personal Development for Smart People

October 24th, 2008 by jose

Summary: I didn’t like the book, and won’t go into detail here; instead I marvel at how many people read, believe and act on things that are completely unsubstantiated by any evidence. But that only shows my naivety: it seems that most of the world outside science -and some inside- works that way.

Who is Steve?

Steve Pavlina is a top-100 blogger and a personal development guru. He has done several impressive things like majoring in Math and CS in three semesters, trying polyphasic sleep for 6 months, and testing several extremely demanding changes on his habits like eating raw food only. 

In my view, the field of personal development feels scam-ridden. It preys on people who may not have the strongest will. So the title "Personal development for smart people" feels tonge-in-cheek (Oxymoron?). I’m sure many readers, with an empirical bias, may be bothered by all the new-agey chat out there that passes for advice (with no solid evidence backing it up). Now, is Steve different? Is this book better? The answers are no, and ‘maybe, I don’t know what else is out there’.

Problems with his method: Who in the academia should be doing Steve’s job?

One thing that bothers me is that Steve’s book uses no references whatsoever. He claims to have read most self-help books, but does not acknowledge any specific ideas from them. If all the ideas in the book are new and his, then I’m very impressed -I wouldn’t know-, but that seems unlikely. Again, I’m sure self-help books are all like that; making reference to other people’s ideas in a way you can track them down, as sensible as it sounds, remains a signature of the academia.


How to read a book

July 2nd, 2008 by james

My typical day can be divided roughly into thirds: part administration, part analysis/thinking, and part reading. And while I like the new ideas that come with reading, it can be awfully tedious at times. Who wants to spend all day plowing through a big stack of papers and books, especially now that it’s summer? So while this title may be a bit jokey, I’m going to share some serious tips for how to speed up your reading of the most time-consuming materials: books.


Here comes a new challenger in the speed reading arena

February 22nd, 2008 by jose

WordFlashReader has several advantages over the previously analyzed rapidReader: it’s open source, and written in perl. So it works under linux and windows at least. wordflashreader also highlights where you are reading, so one of the downsides of RSVP (disorientation) is mostly gone. Still, you lose the formatting when you read HTML or PDF… and the highlighting didn’t work very well for me. The way cursors change speed make it confusing (I’m too used to move around the document with cursor keys). One nifty idea is to go back one sentence with left control key.


As before, of you can test it out and post your thoughts for everyone to see, that’d be great.

Another option we commented before was spreeder.

I’m still looking for the holy Grail that makes my reading more fluid and effective. It looks like this is an interest that I share with many people according to the huge pile of books that amazon lists for ‘speed reading’.

Harvard new policy: make your scholarly articles available free online

February 14th, 2008 by jose

This is big. Harvard University has a new policy: make your scholarly articles available free online.

As Slashdot commenter hawk describes it:

The academic publishing industry is a dinosaur in desperate need of elimination. It charges tens of thousands of dollars per school for journals that would be more useful as web sites–, not and available several months earlier. As it exists, journals are for the benefit of the publishing companies, not the world at large, academia, or the authors. The economic model is that the faculty write, are paid nothing, and the libraries pay huge fees to the publishing houses.
Will the publishers react to open up? I doubt it; they can’t.
The *real* result of this will be top articles going to online journals, which will first rival and then displace the printed journals. This is a good thing for everyone except the publishing houses.

But what’s in it for me, the end user of the paper? First, faster review cycles. Second, my ideas will reach a wider target (those who are not affiliated with a powerful library and cannot access them otherwise). Third, the ideas will get there faster. Forget about the close to a year delay between accepted and printed. Seeing “In press” in the reference list may be a thing of the pass soon. Fourth, if everything is online (imagine a journal article with a ‘comments’ section, open to anyone), then soft peer review is even easier and more transparent.

Nothing of this should be news, most people have their articles online anyway… but it sometimes breaks the agreement you have with the paper journal. Now that a large university makes this practice a policy, we’ll see other universities follow up soon.

Time management ebook from Mark McGuinness

December 12th, 2007 by jose

Mark McGuinness has collected a bunch of his best post into one free ebook. It works well as an overview of what is ‘common practices’ in time management nowadays.

He also posted some more resources here.

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