Thursday, June 18, 2015

Top 100 Science Fiction Novels

It is not exactly "top 100 books", as several entries are a series of books. So despite having read 44 books on this list, it looks like I have barely scratched the surface.

Progress So far: (bold == read)

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien (3 books)
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (4 books)
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card (and Ender's Shadow)
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert (just the 1st Dune)
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin (multiple books)
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov (3 books)
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss ( 2 books )
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny (7 books!)
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien (skipping this, too slow)
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe (3 books)
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

So as you can see, my reading queue is quite full!

Some I plan to skip for various reasons. For instance, I burned out on Stephen King in high school. However, I plan on reading most of the entries in the list.

George R. R. Martin's series is a low priority. I plan to wait until the TV series is done and all the books are written. I've got a few years of reading here, so I can be patient.

I have a number of other recommended science fiction on my reading list as well:

Hugh Cook (,
China Mieville, Lev Grossman, Ian Banks (Player of Games), Verner Vinge (Fire on The Deep), Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis series, Charles Stross Halting State (and others).

A good SciFi book I enjoyed, that wasn't on the top 100 list, is Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Learning to Learn Course Project

I enjoyed my recent Learning to Learn course and wanted to share my class project. The instructions were to create a instructional tool that taught three or more of the concepts covered in the course. Most students created PowerPoint style presentations.

I got a little inspired and created my own Choose Your Own Adventure. I tried to inject a little humor and fun into the learning process.

You can check it out here:

A big thank you to Inkle Studios for providing a fantastic, free, online writing application.

Monday, February 02, 2015

A Mind For Numbers

One of my ongoing personal projects is discovering good techniques and tools for teaching math, science, and a problem-solving mindset to our two elementary school-aged kids. To that end, I recently read Dr. Barbara Oakley's excellent book: "A Mind for Mathematics: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)."
Dr. Oakley's own story is inspiring. She transformed herself from a math-phobe into a professor of engineering. This book is not your usual anecdotal self-help book. While the tone and writing are very casual, the material is completely scientific. All the information is based on the latest brain research, and the book includes a comprehensive bibliography.

I did not need to read the underlying psychology and brain research papers to see the truth of what Dr. Oakley wrote. I found myself reflecting on my own successes and failures in learning. I’ve always considered myself naturally talented at math. I ended up with a BS in Mathematics. However, there were a few mathematical subjects that confounded me, most notably Linear Algebra. In retrospect, I saw that I lost the thread of understanding on Linear Algebra right from the start. After those early frustrations I established a fixed mindset and convinced myself that I just wasn’t any good at “matrix math.” In graduate school I worked very hard to pass a Numerical Methods qualifying exam. Numerical Methods makes extensive use of Linear Algebra. However, I was doomed by my lack of understanding of the underlying theory. As hard as I worked at memorizing and mastering techniques for solving the problems, I was helpless to apply those techniques to new or even slightly different problems. I needed to start from scratch and build up, but by then it was too late. Only now, many years later, can I see my mistakes.

Dr. Oakley’s book inspired me to apply her techniques to learning something new. I'm working on learning a new programming language (Python) and a new subject (Machine Learning). I recently finished Andrew Ng's Machine Learning course on Coursera. Now I’ve decided to master Linear Algebra, which is key to gaining a deeper understanding of Machine Learning (ML).

While waiting for my Linear Algebra course to begin, I enrolled in Dr. Oakley's Coursera course Learning to Learn. The class covers the same material as her book, but takes time to expand many of the concepts. Dr. Oakley’s book should be required reading for anyone with a brain. I plan on having both of my kids read this book some time during middle school. You can find my book review on Good Reads.

Friday, January 02, 2015


I have recently discovered Coursera. They offer hundreds of online courses in a wide range of subjects. Most courses are roughly equivalent to an semester-long undergraduate level course. Some are easier and some are equivalent to graduate-level coursework. 

I got started with Andrew Ng's Machine Learning (ML) course. I have been curious about machine learning, but a little biased against the field based on my limited knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI). My impression (and that of many others) has been that AI has long over-promised and under-delivered. However, recent advances in ML and its use in analyzing big data sets made its potential impossible to ignore.

When I started the course, I did not know that Professor Ng had helped found Coursera. Nor did I realize the extent of his influence in the field of machine learning. Learning these facts gave added weight to his personal anecdotes about applying machine learning techniques. When Prof. Ng includes advice on how to approach ML problems, perk up your ears! 

My enthusiasm almost got the better of me. I started auditing the Control of Mobile Robotics course and was getting ready to try Sports and Building Aerodynamics. Then the homework in the ML course started in earnest. So I used self control and decided to focus on one class a at a time.

The course was a good challenge and I enjoyed it immensely. My programming OCD kicked in and I finishing the course with a 100%. The extra credit programming assignment more than made up for the few points I missed on the quizzes.

I put my Caltrain commute to good use, watching the lectures and working the assignments. Noise cancelling headphones help to make hearing and understanding the lectures easier, by cutting out background noise. I would download that week's lectures to the iPad and work my way through them in 2-3 days of train commuting. 

I'm already onto my next course Learning to Learn taught by Dr Barbara Oakley.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bike to Work Month 2011

May is here again, that means bike to work month and bike to work day, May 12th.

For the last two years I have participated in the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition's Team Bike Challenge, a friendly contest to see what teams and companies can log the most bike commutes. In 2010 I challenged myself to bike to work for every commute and did it. This year I'm planning repeat that, with the added challenge of getting 1000+ ft of climbing each day. On average at least, because some routes don't have any hills. 

Blekko is going to be well represented in the company competition (Blekko Team Standings), with almost 50% of the employees planning to participate. I think we have a good shot at placing in the small company (less than 50 employees) competition.

Last year Blekko was co-winner of Strava's own bike to work challenge taking the distance per member competition (admittedly skewed by only having two team members: Bob and me). The overall winners were our "nemesis" Google's SF2G (San Francisco to Google) club.

The Team Bike Challenge played a big part in converting me from a casual cyclist, who sometimes biked to work, into a die-hard cycle commuter. I avoid driving if at all possible. I have purchased lights for my bike (a big shout out to Light & Motion bike lights, great products) so I can commute in the dark winter months. I upgraded to an Ergon backpack to haul clothes to and from work in comfort. I have been experimenting with various waterproof shoe covers and fenders in an effort to ride even on the wettest of days. Why? because I like it, it's a habit, and I just feel better on the days that I ride. The Team Bike Challenge made this possible because, in the interest of competition, I pushed myself to bike commute more than I might have otherwise. Creating a habit that will last a lifetime.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bike To Work Month

May is Bike to Work month, with May 14th being Bike to Work Day.

The local Bay Area Bicycle Coalition ran a bike to work challenge. Whereby local companies signed up teams of bike commuters, who accumulated points for every day they bike commute in May. I signed up Blekko and drafted 4 other coworkers to complete the team roster.

Blekko did alright in the standings, despite most of the team having a 24+ mile one-way commute! Where we really did well was total miles bike, over 1240, of which 498 were mine. Sadly miles have no impact on final score, or else we would have been 3rd in San Mateo County.

Here are some observations from a month of bike commuting:

  1. Fewer trips by car means fewer visits to the gas station.
  2. I keep leaving the house withoug my car keys, several "doh!" moments this month.
  3. Eating more and sill losing weight is very cool.
  4. Great training for the Death Ride in July.
  5. Redwood Shores has the worst stop light sensors. Almost none detect bikes.
  6. I am super impressed by Krishna, still very new to cycling, who rode to work from the East Bay across the Dumbarton bridge. Dude!
  7. Clearly the way to win the Bike Commute Challenge is to have lots of "Novice" riders (scoring maximum points), have multiple teams (for the company stadings), and bike every day. :)
It has been a great month of biking, and the experience has established the habit of biking to work for the rest of the summer.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Date with Death

In a fit of madness, I've signed up for the 2009 Tour of the California Alpes, AKA the Death Ride. I've also enlisted biking partners Keith and Bob to join me on this mad quest.

The Death Ride is a 129 mile, 15k feet of climbing, monster of a ride. This is as hard, if not harder, than any single Tour de France mountain stage. Total madness.

Registration was a disaster. They opened registration at 10am on Dec 11. At 9:45 the registration site was already returning Java server errors and "too busy" pages. It took 30 minutes of the three of us clicking reload to get though. No Linux browser support apparently.

Today I spent some time doing research on the route. The 2009 route has about 56 miles of climbing, 52 miles of descents, and 19 miles of "flats." I figure if we can average 8mph on the climbs, 18mph on the flats, and 25mph on the descents, and with about 50 minutes of stops that is 11 hours total. Ouch. Those averages are aggressive, but doable. Faster would be better of course, fewer hours in the saddle. The best way to make up time is climb faster. Simple eh? :)

I'm using the Motion Based site to research previous years routes. Good for looking at the ride profile, speed on the climbs and descents.

Needless to say, training is going to be tough. I'll need to loose some weight, work on endurance, and most importantly get my climbing legs. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Oh Deer!

On July 5th I hit a deer, a baby deer to be precise, while out riding in the Los Altos Hills. It would as my (un)luck would have it, happen at the fasted point of my ride. I was traveling at 36mph at the time as the ride data from my Garmin 305 can attest.

Below is the Google street view of the accident scene:

View Larger Map

The deer ran out from behind the tree on the left. I had little time to react, I only managed to swerve left and clip it in the rear. the impact from the handlebars broke my scaphoid bone in my wrist and the subsequent impact with the pavement cracked the radius head in my elbow. I rolled over my left side, over my head, destroying my helmet, and then managed to land on my feet facing up the hill. I managed to run backwards and avoid falling down again. Really wish I have video.

The cast stays on for another 3 weeks, then a removable splint.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Laguna Seca June 4, 2008

I attended another BMWCCA driving school, this time mid-week at Laguna Seca. The A/B group (I got promoted back to the A group, yeah!) was uncrowded and I had many traffic free laps.

Just prior to this event I switched to more narrow tires. From 255s front and 275s rear, to 235 s front and 255s rear. The numbers are the approximate width of the tire in millimeters. That translates to about an 0.8 inches of rubber per corner. I did this because the larger tires were rubbing against the wheel wells and suspension under heavy cornering. While I was quite happy with the setup, the overall stress of monitoring the wheels during events was annoying.

The smaller tires had me running almost 4 seconds slower at Laguna Seca yesterday. Some of that time is was the fact that the tires were not shaved and brand-sticker-new. Turn in was a bit squirmy and slow to take a set. I had to completely rewire my turn-in style. With the fatter, mature RA1s I could do a very aggressive turn in and then gas it through/out of the corner. The new, skinnier RA1s needed a more gradual turn in to take a set, and a more gradual addition of throttle.

As a result of the smaller tires, I found the car responded best to slowly dialing in steering and throttle on the way to the apex, then unwinding the steering slowly on exit. Adding throttle and steering at the same time violates the general rule of never adding throttle (or braking) at the same time as steering input. And if I got the mix wrong the car would understeer, but if I got it right the extra throttle kept the car balanced and turning.

The smaller tires are definitely forcing me to be a better driver. The fatter tires were masking some bad habits, so yesterday was full of learning better and smoother steering.

M Coupe @ Laguna Seca from B Dole on Vimeo.

I saw a couple M Coupes at Laguna Seca: Bill, Julian, and Sweet. Nice meeting you all. Most pledged to attend
Dorkfest this year. Mark you calendar: July 13, 2008. Bryn