Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

IR[1] = Robbie

Comprehension Questions

  • Who is Gloria?
  • Who is Robbie?
  • What were Robbie and Gloria playing?
  • What does Robbie like to be told?
  • Who is Mrs. Weston?
  • Who is George Weston?
  • Does Mrs. Weston like Robbie?
  • What was Robbie made for?
  • What is the first law of robotics?
  • Could George Weston hold his ground to keep the robot?
  • What was Robbie replaced with?
  • What happened to Gloria when Robbie wasn’t there?
  • Why does Gloria think they are going to the city?
  • Where did Gloria go in the museum?
  • Who was observing Gloria talk to the robot?
  • What happened to Gloria in the factory?


  • Should robots be banned? If so, under what conditions?
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IR[0] = Introduction

February 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Comprehension Questions

  • Who is Susan Calvin?
  • How old is Susan when she is being interviewed?
  • What job did Susan take after getting her Ph.D.?
  • How old is the reporter doing the interview?
  • Who does the reporter work for?
  • Who was Robbie?


  • Speak to a parent, grandparent regarding the passage of time. Ask them how the passage of time has felt. How quickly does one year, five years, 10 years, 25 years pass by?
  • Dr. Calvin told the reporter that he did not remember a world without robots. You live in a time where you may not remember a time without the internet, with out cell phones and other devices. Ask someone older than you what they did before the internet and cell phones.
  • Do robots pose a danger to human jobs?
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How to Win Friends and Influence People Notes

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

As an engineer I find it relatively easy to absorb large amounts of technical material. Books that would put other people to sleep keep me awake and reveal technical secrets that allow me to craft great systems and work a profitable, satisfying career. But like other engineers, while I find my self doubling up on technical material and glazing over “soft skills”

One of those skills is how to win people to your cause. How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic text by Dale Carnegie that gives a variety of anecdotes and simple advice to improve interpersonal relationships. This posts serves as a condensed collection of some of the points that rang most clear to my own heart and experience.

“If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive”

“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
As a programmer I must at times be maniacally concerned with the correctness of my work. Mistakes large and small can cause software to crash and people to be unhappy with my creation. But this same attention to detail can’t carry over into relationships. As the old cliche goes, one has to “pick your battles”. It is critical to let some things go. We forget that someone was once patient with us and waited and coached us through our mistakes. There was a time in each of our lives where we struggled to speak, write and read. Why should other moments in our life not follow the same pattern?
“I don’t see how I could have done any differently from what I have.”
I have heard variations of this statement time and time again. My first impulse is anger, “How could you not know?” But if we step back for a moment,  we can consider that this very well could be the case. Perhaps the individual really did try their best with the information at hand. With this understanding we can move past the problem and consider the solution. What information can be added to prevent future problems? Problems are obvious. Hang around most young children for an extended period of time. They will eventually call out obvious problems like being bored, tired or hungry. As adults we are often experiencing the same things, we are just not screaming about it while rolling on the floor. Solutions on the other hand are more difficult. A person that can focus on the solution will be a valuable ally. Be that person.
“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity”
This statement perhaps highlights the greatest challenge that engineers face in being effective communicators: People have emotions. Logic is simply not enough to convey the message.
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be under-standing and forgiving.”
To Be Continued….

HGTTG[6] = Chapters 31 – 35

November 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Comprehension Questions

  • Chapter 31

    • What are the names of the mice?
    • What is the structure of the question encoded in?
    • What was outside the door?
  • Chapter 32

    • What question did the mice come up with in place of the real question?
    • Who is after Zaphod?
    • What is the Kill-O-Zap gun?
  • Chapter 33

    • What happened to the police that were shooting at Ford and company?
  • Chapter 34

    • How fast is R17?
    • ho was outside of the police ship?
    • What happened to the police ship?
  • Chapter 35

    • Where is everyone heading?


  • Survival, Inquiry, Sophistication. Does the human experience follow this pattern?

HGTTG[5] = Chapters 26 – 30

November 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Comprehension Questions

  • Chapter 26

    • What do you think the Sens-O-Tape record?
  • Chapter 27

    • What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?
  • Chapter 28
    • What will the replacement computer be?
  • Chapter 29

    • What did Ford, Trillian and Zaphod wake up on?
    • What happened when Ford and Zaphod were kids??
    • Who will see the three when the catalog ended?
  • Chapter 30

    • Who is Arthur sent to see?


  • How is the recording Artur watched like augmented reality?
  • “Once you know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means”. How does understanding the problem help you?
  • Th planet catalog immersed people into the world being advertised. What is the state of virtual reality technology?

HGTTG[4] = Chapters 21 – 25

November 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Comprehension Questions

  • Chapter 21

    • How many suns does Magrathea have?
    • How does Marvin feel about Earth’s beauty?
    • Who did Arthur meet?
  • Chapter 22

    • Is everyone on Magrathea dead?
    • What does Magrathea make?
    • What happens to Marvin?
    • Who is Slartibartfast?
  • Chapter 23

    • What happened to the dolphins?
    • What message did the doplins have for man?
  • Chapter 24

    • How fast was the air car moving?
    • What new personality did the ship take on?
    • What is the hyper space gateway like?
    • Where did Arthur and Slartibartfast travel to?
    • What special planet were the Magratheans making?
    • Who was furious at the Earth’s destruction?
    • Who has been experimenting on the people of earth?
    • How are mice explained?
  • Chapter 25

    • What was the computer like that was built to determine the meaning of the universe?
    • What answer are the programmers asking the computer to determine?
    • Who were the philosophers?
    • What concerns did the philosophers have?
    • What was Deep Thought’s response to their concerns?


  • How is the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy device like Wikipedia?
  • What is the “air car” like?
  • What type of voice interaction do we have with computers today?
  • What is the best (fastest, lowest power, etc.) computer we have today? What about 10 years ago? 20 years ago?
  • A competing super computer was called “Googleplex Star Thinker”, did Google exist when the book was written?

HGTTG[3] = Chapters 16 – 20

November 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Comprehension Questions

  • Chapter 16

    • What planet is the ship orbiting?
    • What did Magratheans manufacture in the past?
    • How is the planet defended?
  • Chapter 17
    • What is the Nutri-Matic
    • What is the recorded message telling the the visitors to do?
    • What were the controls like to manually control the ship?
    • What did Arthur do in response to the pending missile attack?
  • Chapter 18
    • What type of crazy things happened when the improbability drive was turned on again?
    • What happened to the missiles?
  • Chapter 19
    • What escaped from Trillian’s cabin?
    • What new personality did the ship take on?
  • Chapter 20

    • How did the passengers of the Heart of Gold gain access to the inside of the planet?
    • What type of things are in the ship’s medical bay?
    • What happened to Zaphod’s brain?
    • What initials were left for Zaphod to see?
    • What happened when the shutter closed?


  • “The fact may safely be made the subject of suspense since it is of no significance whatsoever” As humans do we sometimes over dramatize things that don’t really matter?
  • Does anything like the Nutri-Matic exist today? What would it take to invest a device as elaborate as described in the book?
  • In the comical fall of the missile turned, whale it is mentioned that the whale was busy naming things. What type of terms have been invented during the 21st century?
  • What role does our subconscious mind play in problem solving? What role do dreams play in the human experience?