Category Archives: reading list

A few good reads: tech and policy

Quantified Self

Apple buys Beddit, whose sleep monitoring hardware already has a software integration with the Apple watch.

Ars Technica digs into the current state of the art in sleep tracking.

A Carnegie Melon project produced a prototype sensor that can inform you about devices in the room without connecting directly with them.

23andMe has received FDA authorization to provide genetic health risk reports.

Other tech

Bragi’s latest product, Dash Pro, offers real-time translation through earbuds.  Most importantly for me, they have partnered with Starkey Hearing Technologies to offer to tailor the earbuds to customers’ ears.

Google provides games to help people understand that AI is no longer just academic.


Census Bureau director John H Thompson resigns unexpectedly, while the bureau already faces budget difficulties.  The 2020 Census is already suffering setbacks.  The US Census provides crucial information for government infrastructure planning, as well as being an important public dataset.

A few good reads: discoveries

Inner discoveries

A new study shows that testosterone makes men less likely to question their intuition.  I wonder whether they will follow this up with a study on women.  Are we more, less, or just as susceptible to the influence of testosterone?

Acetaminophen dulls pain and empathy, according to new research.

A new paper tests more than 50 compounds for their ability to “turn off” sperm, preventing fertilization.  This could lead to a more effective form of contraception that bypasses some religious objections.

On a related note, scientists have 3D printed mouse ovaries that actually make babies.

Outer discoveries

They found a new dinosaur with its skin preserved in Montana!  And of course, they named it Ghostbusters style: Zuul crurivastator.

When we found homo naledi a couple years ago, we thought it was a precursor to homo sapiens.  Apparently, we existed simultaneously.

Global warming reaches the Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle.

We’ve found water in the atmosphere of a warm, Neptune-sized planet.

Related aside

An argument for colonizing Titan before Mars.

Reading: Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful To Women?

I strongly recommend this article: Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful To Women?

If you find it too long, here are a few highlights:

  • The percentage of women in tech is falling.
  • “Workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles, and a sense of feeling stalled in one’s career” are the main reasons women leave.
  • “The researchers found that telling participants that their company valued merit-based decisions only increased the likelihood of their giving higher bonuses to the men.” …in an experiment designed with exactly equal male and female employee performance.
  • Unconscious bias training is ineffective.
  • Intel has had substantial success in improving diversity since it linked bonuses to explicit diversity hiring goals.

And as a bonus, yet another reason to hate whiteboard coding: “It is, for example, a hallowed tradition that in job interviews, engineers are expected to stand up and code on whiteboards, a high-pressure situation that works to the disadvantage of those who feel out of place. Indeed, whiteboard sessions are rife with opportunities for biased judgment.” I have always disliked these because the situation is so far removed from how anyone actually performs the work they’re interviewing for (unless they’ll frequently be improvising presentations in front of investors or other audiences that want to judge them instead of collaborate with them). I only use whiteboards for collaborative design work in interviews—just like I would at work.



A few good reads

Startup and career

Thrive15: training, mentoring, and more for aspiring entrepreneurs

Some solid interview advice from a friend of mine

An old but interesting article on password strength models, focused on the zxcvbn metric


Data analytics and visualization

PourOver: a JavaScript library from the New York Times focused on fast filtering and sorting of large collections

Visualizing Health: a scientifically vetted style guide for communicating health data

NewsVis: a directory of news visualizations

Scientific Dataa new open-access, online-only journal for descriptions of scientifically valuable datasets

Visualizing MBTA data, a very in-depth look with some solid visuals

Women in Tech

I’ve come across a lot of articles recently on women in STEM fields.  I thought I would share some of them with you guys, along with some thoughts and observations of my own.


Another article showing the gender gap is smaller than we’re commonly led to believe.  As with all such articles, it only addresses the average salary per gender.  I’d be interested to see more about the standard deviation of salary by gender.  Personally, my performance reviews have always been stellar, yet I have never been paid above the average salary for my position and region.  A huge number of my friends are also high performers in the tech industry.  But the men are paid well above the average salary, and the women…not so.  But all of my data are anecdotal.  I’d be curious to see data on a better sampling.


Advice on what to wear.  I’ve recently become very interested in this issue.  It is unfortunate, but I have noticed that even when I am a known quantity among my coworkers, my knowledge and opinions are treated differently when I dress differently.  Generally:

  • If I dress in a way that makes me look younger, some people tend to forget that I have a decade and a half of experience backing me.
  • If I dress “cute”, a small but significant subset of people will essentially pat me on the head and move on as though I didn’t say anything of value….and then repeat exactly what I said within 5 minutes as though they just came up with it.  I also get inappropriate comments and once a guy who wound up with an obsessional delusion.  Whee.
  • If I dress “sexy” I am viewed as a woman with power, to be heard, but my technical skills are less respected.  And, I get a lot of looks, but fewer inappropriate comments to my face.  Judging by lunchroom chatter I’ve overheard, “sexy” women are comment on behind their backs instead, probably because they’re more intimidating.
  • If I dress in a geeky shirt and casual pants (jeans, corduroy, etc), my technical skills are unquestioned, but I am viewed as a powerless minion.
  • And then we have all my quirky personal preferences and predilections.  The most difficult one for me is finding something stylish and respectable that I can still run around and climb things in….because I will.  It just happens.


One woman’s explanation of why she left STEM.  My favorite part of this piece is not the story itself, but the detailing of what kinds of reactions were unhelpful and what were helpful.  Even if you have your own agenda that’s affected by what this woman does, there are good and bad ways to express that.  As always, the best way is to listen, think, express your understanding, and then express your own feelings, not as though they are a universal truth or a moral obligation, but as an “I” statement.  “I am sad that you wish to leave because I feel that the field is better with you in it, but I understand why you might want to leave.”


Another woman’s perspective on being surrounded by men.  While this perspective is foreign to my personality, I think it’s a very important one that a large number of women in tech experience.  Being different is hard for most people regardless of their gender.  Even when they’re being nice, a group of men may unconsciously view a woman as an outsider and act differently in her company merely because she is female.  They may even consider it a sign of respect, but it may make her uncomfortable all the same.

I admit that I am a weirdo and have a lot more trouble with the opposite problem: being assumed to belong to a group merely because of some superficial characteristic like having the same gender.  I have often shown up at a new tech venue and had women come up to me breaking the ice by pointing out that they are also women.  My inner response the first umpteen times was, “….and that is relevant to me how???”  But I have since come to understand this need that other people have to belong to a group is similar to my desire to connect with individuals, and I try to be less confused and more welcoming, attempting to find something in common that matters to both of us.  And while I’m not a proper extrovert, I make a mental note to try to help her find commonalities with some of the male coworkers/students/conference-goers/whatever.  I haven’t figured out how to fix the overall cultural issues surrounding gender in my field, but I can do my best to help the individuals around me to interact with each other in a less divisive way.

A few good reads

U.S. Citizen

Campaign finance reform bill is a step in the right direction:


Health and Lifestyle

Identical twin doctors pit sugar vs fat to increase our understanding of which is worse Moving?

There’s a service that can help you relocate.

Google is putting together a Fitness API for Android


Women in Tech

What it’s like to be a woman at a Bitcoin meetup.


Cognitive Science

Kickstarter for a biofeedback game to train you to be calm in the face of fear, called Nevermind.



The correct way to do email introductions.

A few good reads

First let’s catch up on some of the great stories other people have been posting while I’ve been AWOL!



If you’re curious whether to join a venture, consider whether the executives have been able to attract their former coworkers.

When should you delegate?  It’s a harder question than you might think.

10 ways to make sure your best people quit.  And some things you can do to retain them.

Tips for organizing your small business.  Most of these apply to independent contractors too.

61% of web traffic is bots…and half of those are scrapers, spammers, and other “bad guys”.



Teaching kids to program before they can read


Information Visualization

Redesigning a visualization to convey the story faster and more clearly

A few good reads

Information Visualization

Stephen Few discusses how to turn a new discipline into a proper science in To Err Is Academic.

Bokeh, a promising Python InfoVis library.

Robert Kosara discusses the difficulty for non-entrenched people interested in visualization to find out what’s currently going on in the field.  He brainstorms a new kind of blog for Visualization research, which could be applied to any research field.



I guess Lamarck wasn’t entirely wrong….



Interesting discussion of lack of women presenting STEM channels.

A discussion of differences in male and female small business owners’ hiring practices.


Data Science

Data scientist gift guide from FlowingData.

Data science surpasses statistician on Google Trends

A few good reads

Quantified Self

I recently signed up with Critter.Co to track some mental/behavioral habit changes.  Liking it so far!



dataset is a new tool for lazy programmers who work with data, in Python.

I can’t help but share this awesome parody, “Up All Night to Get Data”!


Machine learning

This was a neat story.  I hadn’t realized any traffic light infrastructure in the world was capable of the central intercommunication required for this, but it’s an obvious thing to do when the infrastructure can handle it!  Learning to optimize traffic patterns.



You have to scroll down through some detailed explanations to get to rankings of visualization venues.

A template for creating cycle plots in Excel.  I love cycle plots!


Personal Finance

I recently heard about OmniVest.  Sounds intriguing.  Has anyone used it?

A few good reads

I’ve been way behind on my RSS feeds.  Trying to catch up lately.  Here are some recent good reads.



Stephen Few verbosely explains the same issues I’ve been seeing in recent research on chart junk in visualizations.


UI Design:

This is a great site for reminding you of design principles.

As an aside, though, in its own design it misses the excellent idea of “table of contents” or “collapsible sections” for insanely long pages.  I’ve been to a lot of startup sites that subscribe to this absurdly long page design, and they almost always lose my interest before the action item appears.  It’s almost as bad as making me watch a video just to maaaaybe find out whether the product has three features I require.



This explains the concept and importance of price elasticity for pricing your products, how Apple can get away with jaw-dropping prices in some markets, but must rein in the prices just a bit in other markets.  Likewise manufacturers of facial tissue or twist ties must price largely according to competitors’ prices and the fairly minor differentiations in the products.


Quantified Self:

Whitney Erin Boesel led a breakout session with Jakob Eg Larsen at QS Global 2013 on “QS Researchers”, focused on the intersection of academia and Quantified Self.  She posted an excellent report on the discussion, including some possible action points.



A handy overview of how to arrange for a digital executor, potentially in addition to your estate executor.