Category Archives: Books

14 Free (as in beer) Data Mining Books

I was doing some research on an algorithm this morning and came across a new book that I wasn’t aware of. That prompted me to look for more. The list of what I came up with is below.

Each of these is free-as-in-beer, which means you can download the complete version without expectation for anything in return. I think most of them are available for purchase as well, if you prefer a hard copy. Some of them include code samples in R, Python or MATLAB.

Regardless of your background, skills or goals, there’s something for you in this list. Here they are, in no particular order.

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6am

A few weeks ago I read The Power of Habit┬áby Charles Duhigg. The book is great, Duhigg explains the how habits impact the patterns and choices within our lives, as well as providing several practical examples. I’m a little surprised to say it, but I actually love this book. Duhigg’s writing style is easy to follow, and the stories that he uses to illustrate his points are genuinely entertaining.

I picked this book with the intent of developing a couple of habits. I’d like to be in better shape, and I’m also interested in continual learning. My intent was to read the book then apply it directly to these two areas. Duhigg’s process is very helpful, but it’s different than I expected. He walks through changing habits by identifying a reward that you can begin to crave, and then completing a routine to get the reward. In this way, you can create some powerful patterns in your life.

Duhigg also provides a number of examples of people achieving a wholesale change of their lives through altering a “keystone” habit. In other words, changing one small habit can be relatively easy, and by making this change you can begin more substantive habits. Finding this keystone habit is helpful.

After completing the book I have spent a few weeks thinking through the patterns in my life, what I might like to change, and trying to identify a keystone habit to begin with. Last weekend I made a choice and have been practicing this week. After a lifetime of staying up into the wee hours and sleeping in, I am starting the habit of getting up at 6am each morning.

Last weekend I spent time thinking through my patterns, triggers and how I might change this habit. I wrote out how I’d handle difficult situations (insomnia, traveling or having visitors). I’ve begun setting the timer on our coffee maker each night, and I timed the coffee to be ready exactly one minute after my alarm so that I’d hear the beeps of fresh coffee just after waking up. Finally, Monday morning I began.

I’m proud to report that I woke up at 6am every day this week. In fact, I’m surprised to say this but I find myself so eager to wake up to coffee that several times I have woken at 3:30 or 4:30, the going back to sleep after checking the clock.

I did have trouble going to sleep a couple of nights, but that didn’t affect me waking up. We also happen to be traveling this week, but I haven’t had any trouble following the plan that I laid out.

Here’s the great part, and what I’m discovering is the real reward. Instead of spending my “extra hours” watching TV late at night, I have more energy during my free time so I’m enjoying working on personal projects and reading books. Exercise wasn’t practical this week, but next week I’m going for a run or heading to the gym for a few minutes. In other words, I’m really glad I chose this as a place to start, and so far I’m loving the results.

Today is Saturday and I was awake and out of bed at 6:02. Believe me when I tell you that this is a change for me. Pretty fun new habit, and I hope it leads to others.

The Disciplined Trader

I recently read The Disciplined Trader by Mark Douglas. I’m interested in learning how to trade the market, and this seemed like a good choice. There are many books that point out trading strategies or give tips on how to find winning stocks. Douglas takes a different tack, his goal is to help the trader identify what’s holding him back. I’ll say up front that his writing style is sometimes hard to follow, but don’t let that get in the way of the message. Douglas is an experienced trader with years of practice. There were a number of times that I had to read a paragraph through a few times to understand its meaning, but I generally found the book worth the effort.

Douglas starts by pointing out some things about the market that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, trading in the stock market is not like gambling. With gambling, you place your bet, and if you take no further action you’ve only lost the amount of your bet. With a losing trade in the stock market, unless you’re trading with stops you will lose money until you take further action. To take no further action during a losing trade is to invite further losses. He also points out that the point of trading is to let your winners run and cut your losses. Most traders, believing that the market will come back and “make them right”, let their losers run and cut their winners as soon as they win a few points. I thought that in particular was insightful.

Another concept that I found revealing was that the market moves up and down every day. There are many opportunities for profit on a daily basis. As a trader, you earn from the market exactly what you think you’re worth. If you aren’t earning much, or worse, if you’re losing, then you probably need to spend some time study the market, AND determine what’s going on within you that prevents you from seeing the opportunities. In other words, you have exactly what you want to have. And if you want to change the outcome of your trading, then you need to change something about your trading habits. Introspection will help.

He then moves into explaining his view of psychology, showing his view of how past experiences reinforce some behaviors and discourage others. This is the section where he becomes hard to follow, but its useful for understanding the last section of the book.

Finally, the third section is the smallest, but I thought this was the best of the book. Douglas encourages new traders to begin with a small amount of money, and just expect to lose. Don’t focus on the amount of money in your margin account, focus on learning how to read the market. And document everything. If you win, write why you believe you were right. If you lose, analyze the signals you were looking at and determine if there was something that you overlooked or misinterpreted. Take the mystery out of the market by taking the time to learn.

In just about every endeavor you undertake, you set aside a time to learn. For some reason, when it comes to the stock market, many traders expect to earn money right away and yet become discouraged when they lose money. By taking a disciplined approach and taking the time to actually study the market, they can learn how to read the market and profit from it.

I’m not to the point of trading in the market. Between school and work I have my hands full, so now is not the time for me. But, I did enjoy this book, and I hope to put some of these concepts into practice in the months after my graduation. If you’re also interested in trading in the stock market, I recommend that you read this book.

Book Meme

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
I’ll confess that this question baffles me a little. One of my favorite books of all time is Animal Farm, so I’ll pick that one. I read it in high school and it has stuck with me all this time. “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Oh yeah. When I was in my early 20’s I read mystery novels all the time and was always attracted to the damsel in distress. At the time Dean Koontz was my favorite author. My tastes have changed over time, I don’t get in to his work much anymore.

But most recently, I had a crush on Arwen (LOTR). It happened when she told Aragon that her heart was her own, and she could give it to whom ever she chooses. Wow.

The last book you bought is:
The last book that I bought was a 2005 FAR/AIM (Federal Avaition Regulations and Airman Information Manual). I know, I know, not very exciting. But it means that I’ll be a current pilot soon, and that IS exciting.

I think the proper answer to the question is probably Blue Like Jazz. Donald Miller rocks.

The last book you read:
Uh, Blue Like Jazz. I liked it so much that I couldn’t put it down and I read all the way through it in something like four days. If it makes any difference at all, I also finished Ender’s Game recently.

What are you currently reading?
I’m half way through close to fifteen books (literally) at the moment, but I’ll be kind and skip the textbooks.

  • Search for Significance – I really like this book because McGee stays very close to the message of the gospel. You can have confidence in yourself because God loves you. He then walks you through finding what motivates your choices and actions. Its been so good to look at this stuff.
  • Searching for God Knows What – I really have to be careful about making an icon of Donald Miller. Most of what he writes resonates strongly with me. Its like I already felt most of the stuff that he says, I just never took the time to complete the thought. I’m about half way through this book now, and I really like it. I’m working on a separate post explaining what I like about Miller’s work.
  • Six Pillars of Self-Esteem – it has been particularly good to read this along side Search for Significance. At first I thought the psychobabble wouldn’t be able to help me, becuase I’m interested in finding my identity in Christ. Turns out its really helpful. I’ll paraphrase Branden’s words: “There is no way for our mind to avoid registering the choices we make in the way we operate and no way for our sense of self to remain unaffected. If we are children of God, the question remains, what are we going to do about it? If we betray ourselves and our powers, if we live mindlessly, purposelessly, and without integrity, can we buy our way out, can we acquire self-esteem, by claiming to be God’s relatives?”
  • Thinking Physics – I started reading this one to help with a physics class that I was taking. I have continued to read through it a couple of times now because its just cool to understand the physics behind our world. Plus, Epstein has a very fluid way of explaining complex concepts, so its like you aren’t even learning, you’re just reading about cool stuff. It really is fun to understand the way the world works.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

  • The Bible (New International Version) – can’t live without this one.
  • Ender’s Game – this is one great novel.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia – yeah, I know, this is really seven books. I feel that its okay cheat on this one because they come in a boxed set.
  • Romeo & Juliet – gotta have some Shakespeare, and this is the picture of love.
  • Practicing His Presence – if I’m going to be alone, I don’t want to REALLY be alone. Y,know?

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons), and why?
Um, not all of the people I picked have blogs. I decided that’s okay, I’ll list them anyway.

  • FreedomDefender – because he’s a reader.
  • Dad – because he reads cool stuff.
  • B-Dub – because he has a blog and he reads.

Vocabulary Update

In my reading, I’ve come across some words that I had to look up. I’m including them here for your benefit.

Excoriate:
1 – to wear the skin off of;
2 – to censure scathingly.
Usage: The Democrats have excoriated President Bush.

Manumit:
1 – to release from slavery.
Usage: All plantation owners were required by law to manumit their slaves.

Ossify:
1 – to change into bone (??);
2 – to become hardened or conventional and opposed to change.
Usage: You seem to ignore the tendendy of revolutionary movements to ossify and become established institutions.

Vituperation:
1 – sustained and bitter railing and condemnation.
Usage: The vituperation of Winston Churchill has gone on too long.

Ameliorate:
1 – to make better or more tolerable.
Usage: I wish I could ameliorate your pain.

Somaticize:
I didn’t find a definition for this, but reading from context I think it means to physically repress. As in, when feelings and emotions are repressed, the process begins as psychological and then becomes somaticized. If you know what this means, or find a definition for it, please post it in comments.