Newsletter 10

This has been a slow week. The holidays mean spending time with family, and year end means work isn't as balanced as usual. Nevertheless I did end up getting through one book and some quality podcasts and articles. Take some time to sign up for the Harvard Data Science Review. It's free, and the articles are quality.

Have a great week.



More From Less by Andrew McAfee - The message in the book was positive – we have learned how to increase prosperity while using fewer resources. Having said that, as you can clearly see in the top two amazon reviews, the main thesis of the book is incorrect. Still, it is amazing to think of all the items that the smartphone in our pockets have replaced. I wouldn't recommend spending your time on this one.


Some extraordinary episodes from this week:

The Lean Startup and the Long-Term Stock Exchange (with Eric Ries) - Acquired - I liked Eric's book and didn't realize he was the one behind the LTSE.

How Four Drinking Buddies Saved Brazil - Planet Money - It's also interesting to hear the backstory on items that have gone on to affect my day job.

The Indicator by Planet Money spent a whole week on financial bubbles. All of them were interesting!

The Roman Financial Crisis Of A.D. 33

The Great British Bicycle Bubble

The Bubble That Broke Kuwait

The Skyrocketing Cost Of Air Ambulances

Kim Polese: Building the Early Web with Java and Marimba - Starting Greatness

Lessons of Greatness: How You Can Tame the Startup Rollercoaster - Starting Greatness

Communicating data science, from academia to industry - Linear Digressions - A discussion on starting the Harvard Data Science Review.


I've been watching and listening to a lot of Lex Fridman lately. His questions are high quality, and the conversations are thought provoking.

Stalin, Putin, and the Nature of Power - Stephen Kotkin

The Art of Computer Programming - Donald Knuth

Concepts, Analogies and Common Sense - Melanie Mitchell

Supersymmetry and String Theory - Jim Gates

Flying Cars, Autonomous Vehicles, and Education - Sebastian Thrun

Principles - Ray Dalio


Notes on Technical Writing - If there is one article you read this week, make it this one. We all can be better writers.

Beware SAFe (the Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprise), an Unholy Incarnation of Darkness - The title is tongue in cheek, but the content is uncomfortably accurate based on my personal experiences.

Tips I use to avoid burnout - I'm not much for resolutions, but I plan on being more aware of my mental state and burnout.

  • Learn to say “no” more often. Know your limits. It's easy to over-commit
  • Time is your biggest asset. Spend it on what matters most.
  • It's OK to ask for help. This includes seeking collaboration vs. going alone
  • Take short breaks to recharge.

How Focus Became More Valuable Than Intelligence - I've been asked a lot how I consume so much content. How do I find the time? Focus is the answer. Netflix on? I'm probably reading. You have the time, too. You just have to decide what is important to you.

You can be the most intelligent person on earth, if you don’t have the focus which will enable you to use that intelligence, then the potential is gone.

Key practices for achieving large professional goals - The intent of this blog was to develop my own thoughts and explore them in more rigorous detail (and also stop annoying people with links). It's been a valuable exercise that I'd recommend others to consider. It doesn't need to be public, but the act of writing helps clarify your thoughts.

Clear and Present Leadership - Being clear and present seems like such simple concepts, but it's important to keep these concepts top of mind and to revisit them often.

Harvard Data Science Review - The people at Harvard are doing great work. They've recently kicked off the Harvard Data Science Review similar to Harvard Business Review. It's completely free, and all of the articles so far have been high quality. Why Are We Using Black Box Models in AI When We Don’t Need To? A Lesson From An Explainable AI Competition has been my favorite so far; it validates a lot of my own opinions on black box models.

The Central Limit Theorem and its misuse - Every actuary is familiar with the central limit theorem from their exams. Pitfalls and misconceptions can occur when using the CLT with fat-tail distributions.

Need for a Dedicated Coding Language - I completely disagree with this article. The insurance industry and actuaries don't need to develop a dedicated coding language just for them. The actuarial domain isn't unique, and the math isn't difficult. The problem is actuaries inexperienced in programming coding spaghetti. A proprietary or unique language will only lead to further barriers of entry to the profession and an inability to acquire top talent.

Insurers’ Imperative to Modernize - I don't often agree with articles like this. They typically devolve into corporate speak and generic hand waving. However, this quote is exactly the problem with the insurance industry and most large corporations.

Data that isn’t available and actionable slows the pace of business, increases the chance of human error and limits the ability to make data-driven decisions.

Data architecture isn't sexy, but the company that invests heavily in a modern, durable architecture will run circles around their competitors. The McKinsey article mentioned weighs three different options to tackle the challenge.

Writing R in VSCode: Interacting with an R session - I tend to use RStudio for any work I do with R but use VSCode for everything else. It's exciting to see progress in non RStudio environments for R.

The Year in Math and Computer Science - There have been exciting discoveries in all kinds of fields in 2019. My favorite is the rediscovery of a simple formula for describing the relationship between eigenvalues and eigenvectors.

That's it for this week.

Are there any topics or concepts you'd like me to write more about? Send any suggestions to

Thanks everyone who sent me links and recommendations this week. If you stumble across something interesting, send it my way! You can send any recommendations to If you haven't done so yet, subscribe to get all my posts delivered directly to your email.