The Best Books I Read in Fall 2016

During this past semester, I read more interesting books than I previously had in any similar time period. Below are the absolute best ones. Enjoy!

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Undoubtedly one of the most thought-provoking books that I’ve ever read. Harari argues that the main differentiator between homo sapiens (literally “wise man”) and every other species is that we are able to collectively believe in non-physical ideas. These “myths” like governments, corporations, religions, etc. enabled us to come together and accelerate our own progress.



Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

I don’t think any book has ever made me introspect as much as this one did. In Ryan Holiday’s second philosophical book, he draws the experience of both himself and of people like George Marshall, Katharine Graham, and Bill Belichick to explain that our largest impediment to success is not anything in the outside world, it is our own ego.

See my notes here.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

I don’t read much fiction at all (two this semester, I think), but this one came so highly recommended by so many people, and for good reason. It’s a wonderful reminder that people are the most important things in our lives, not fortune or fame. The impact that it had only could have happened in the unique way that it was told.



Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned by Kenneth Stanley and Joel Lehman

Another incredibly thought provoking book that turns conventional knowledge on it’s head. Stanley starts off by describing a scientific discovery made in artificial intelligence that concludes that perhaps objective-based thinking is not the way to go. He then goes onto explain the ramifications of this discovery on fields ranging from scientific research funding to education to personal development. It’s a bit too long and not terribly well written, but the content is exceptional.

See my notes here.

Models by Mark Manson

This is the first dating advice book I’ve read that didn’t focus on manipulating or tricking women into liking you. Rather, Manson explains that one should focus on creating an attractive lifestyle and then communicate it effectively. Improving my dating life is going to be one of my major themes in 2017 an I’m sure I’ll be referring to this often.

See my notes here.




Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths


Theoretical computer science has been a topic that I’ve actively avoided for many years. Somehow, this book, by telling the stories behind discoveries as well as connecting theoretical topics to practical problems, was able to be a true page-turner. Extremely fun book, even for non-technical people.

How I Work

My friend Aaron made one of these here, emulating Lifehacker’s famous series, and I thought it would be fun for me to do one as well!


Troy NY when school is in, Kent CT, Chicago IL, Toronto or Montreal when it’s not except for summer, when I am in whatever my city my internship is (Pleasanton CA next summer, DC last summer).

Current Gig

Computer Science Junior at RPI, will be interning next summer at Workday in their Data Science Team as a dev.

Current Mobile Device

Samsung Galaxy S7. I have mixed feelings about Android, but depend on having a back button way too much. Will probably get an iPhone next just to see if I can deal with it.

Current Computer

Apple MacBook 12″. Fucking amazing laptop, the only bad thing about it is that there are no drivers for the trackpad or keyboard on Linux. But I’m sure that’ll be resolved within the next year though and then it’ll be absolutely perfect.


See my about page for my background.

How do you organize your work?

I use my own version of the Bullet Journal along with the Productivity Planner to get everything in my life in order. Might try to switch to purely Evernote though in an attempt to carry less things.

What tools do you use for development?

Vim all the way! Plugins I use are NerdTree, CtrlP, Airline, Flake8, YCM, Surround, and Solarized.

Whenever I try to move away from it to get the admittedly awesome features of a full IDE like PyCharm, my productivity takes a huge hit from having to delete jk and :w everywhere and I end up switching back.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

My Kindle Paperwhite, nothing even comes close. I definitely spend more time on it than my phone and am probably more emotionally attached to it than my laptop.

What do you listen to while working?

Drum & Bass, trying to match the energy to my mood. Currently obsessed with these mixes and this album.

What are you currently reading?

As I’m writing this, the books in front of me are Song of the Dodo, G.E.B., Cashvertising, and Secrets of Closing the Sale. See here for more.

How do you recharge?

Cycling, especially mountain biking, but since the whether turned cold, I’ll either lift or play basketball. If I can’t exercise for whatever reason, I’ll go for a meditative walk or a nap.

What’s your sleep routine like? When do you work best?

Over the summer, I slept from 8:30PM to 4:30AM and it was great! Unfortunately, this is not even close to compatible with a college schedule (gym doesn’t open until 7:30AM and most club meetings and sports are at 9PM or later), so I just try to go to sleep as early as I can, which usually ends up being somewhere between 11 and midnight.

I definitely work best around 1-2 hours after I’ve woken up and have had a chance to drink my first cup of coffee. I try to do some deep work for at least 3 hours every day at this time before I have to go to class. I’ll usually eat lunch around 12 and then try to get the rest of my work done. After 4PM classes, I’ll hit the gym, eat dinner and leave the rest of the day for reading, socializing, and random admin work I have left.

Interesting Links: December 2016

Posting these once a week was too often, these will now be posted monthly.


Book Recommendations:


Recently Finished

  • The Charisma Myth
  • The Score Takes Care of Itself
  • 7 Day Startup
  • Will it Fly?
  • New World Ronin

Up Next

  • Pebbles of Perception
  • How to Get Rich
  • Tiny, Beautiful Things
  • The Song of the Dodo
  • Godel, Escher, Bach

Negotiating Internship Salary

Sources: The Charisma Myth and Never Split the Difference

Why to Negotiate

  • You will almost always get more.
  • If you do it nicely, they’ll still let you take the original offer.
  • Good practice for learning negotiation, a critical life skill.

How to Negotiate


Set a clear goal

  • Do your homework:
    • What are they paying other interns?
    • What are comparable companies paying their interns?
    • What are they paying their full times (total comp)?
  • What are the best case scenarios?
    • Not just about hourly salary, think about relocation/starting bonuses
  • What non-cash things can they offer me?
    • Paid vacation days
    • Pick the team you work on
    • Paid/subsidized housing
    • Flexible hours/working from home
    • Anything else you can think of!

Summarize the situation

  • Describe the situation so that they respond with “that’s right.”
  • If they gave you an offer, they already want you!
  • Seller’s market: good CS talent is hard to find
  • But: they want to get the best deal for their company, that’s their entire job.

Prepare labels and accusations

  • List any accusations that they might make in response to your asks
  • List labels with respond with:
    • “It seems like _ is valuable to you.”
    • “It seems like you don’t like _.”
    • “It seems like you value _.”
    • “It seems like _ makes it easier.”
    • “It seems like you’re reluctant to _.

Prepare calibrated questions

  • Want to figure out what is important to them
  •  Examples:
    • “What are we trying to accomplish?”
    • “How is that worthwhile?”
    • “What’s the core issue here?”
    • “How does that affect things?”
    • “What’s the biggest challenge you face?”
    • “How does that fit into what the objective is?”
  • Be ready to respond to these with labels as well


Talk on the phone, not on email

On talking: aim to speak like a late night fm dj

  • Speak slowly
  • Pause
  • Drop intonation at end of sentences
  • Breath from your belly
  • Smile

Show appreciation for what they’ve given you already

Actively listen:

  • Mirroring
  • Minimal encouragers
  • Paraphrasing
  • Emotional labeling

Phrases to use:

  • “I’m sorry…”
  • “This is going to sound harsh…”
  • “What would you like me to do?”
  • “How am I supposed to do that?”
  • “Where did that number come from?”