Noel Rappin Writes Here

July 28, 2010: Mathematical Navels

Posted on July 28, 2010

Book Status

Beta 5 still in progress. Probably today. No other news to report.

And In Other News, My Navel Is Still There

It’s been a little more than three months since I started doing these more-or-less daily blog posts here, which is far and away the longest I’ve ever sustained daily blogging.

The original idea of this was that it was going to be my daily standup for the Rails Test Prescriptions book, which would force me to do something on the book almost daily since I’d be reporting on it. Given that this was meant to be a stand-up, three months seems like a reasonable amount of time to have an agile retrospective, right? The secondary goal was as a place for potential book readers to go to learn about the book, get a sense of whether I have anything interesting to say, all that standard author stuff.

Retrospect Away

  • It’s been useful to me to have this place to mention book progress, and I do think it’s helped me keep momentum.

  • I started doing the link posts because I erroneously thought that a previous source of link posts had stopped. I like doing it, though I’ve recently been a bit more careful about only putting a link up if I have more than a couple of sentences worth of stuff to say about it. To some extent, this has led to fewer posts, which partially defeats the purpose.

  • I always wish I had more time to spend on these posts.

  • Traffic is still rather low, although it’s growing somewhat slowly. I’m a strikingly bad self-marketer, but there’s probably something I could do to improve traffic. (Better content!)

Kevin Kelly is keeping a list of nominations of the best magazine articles of all time. It’s striking how many David Foster Wallace articles there are – he’s one of my all-time favorite non-fiction writers (ironic, since he’s primarily known for fiction). You can always tell when I’ve been reading Wallace, because the number of footnotes and meta-commentary in my writing goes way up. If you’ve never read Wallace, math fans might like Everything and More, which is a (really) long essay on infinity. It’s digressive, filled with meta-writing about how he’s trying to explain stuff, and I think it’s pretty awesome. Though I note from the Amazon reviews that a lot of people like it less than I do.

While I’m in the neighborhood, I saw a link yesterday to a book called Street Fighting Mathematics, by Sanjoy Mahajan. Haven’t read it yet, but it’s based on an MIT course in quick and rough math problem solving, which sure sounds like it’d be useful.


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