From Alfred Thayer Mahan's 1890 Influence of Sea Power Upon History --
It is not therefore a vain expectation, as many think, to look for useful lessons in the history of sailing-ships as well as in that of galleys. Both have their points of resemblance to the modern ship ; both have also points of essential difference, which make it impossible to cite their experiences or modes of action as tactical precedents to be followed. But a precedent is different from and less valuable than a principle. The former may be originally faulty, or may cease to apply through change of circumstances ; the latter has its root in the essential nature of things, and, however various its application as conditions change, remains a standard to which action must conform to attain success. War has such principles ; their existence is detected by the study of the past, which reveals them in successes and in failures, the same from age to age. Conditions and weapons change ; but to cope with the one or successfully wield the others, respect must be had to these constant teachings of history in the tactics of the battlefield, or in those wider operations of war which are comprised under the name of strategy.
Mahan is encouraging the study of past types of warfare to predict the development of future types of warfare.
He distinguishes between precedent, which is how things have been done in the past, and principles, which "have their root in the essential nature of things... [and thus] remains a standard to which action must conform to attain success."
Considering that we now live in a world with such fast innovation, perhaps looking back to eras when people were figuring out how technology will impact society would be wise. Mahan notes that particular tactics from galley ships and sail ships will not necessarily be valid any more, and points like being upwind from an enemy vessel are not necessarily valid any more. But he says you can deduce principles from those, like the fact that being able to choose whether to give battle or not is most valuable --
The relative positions of two sailing-ships, or fleets, with reference to the direction of the wind involved most important tactical questions, and were perhaps the chief care of the seamen of that age. To a superficial glance it may appear that since this has become a matter of such indifference to the steamer, no analogies to it are to be found in present con- ditions, and the lessons of history in this respect are valueless. A more careful consideration of the distinguishing characteristics of the lee and the weather "gage," directed to their essential features and disregarding secondary details, will show that this is a mistake. The distinguishing feature of the weather-gage was that it conferred the power of giving or refusing battle at will...
An interesting work, overall. It reads a little dry at times and the lessons have to be extracted from it, but it's interesting if you're willing to do that sort of "meta-reading" and constantly ask where you can apply it details.
Think and Grow Rich: A marvelous book, but I was having a hard time finishing it. Then I realized - the last three chapters are pretty much fluff that repeat points already covered. I skimmed the last three chapters... it starts very strong, ends weak, but I'm happy it's finally done.
The Alchemist: What a masterpiece by Paolo Cuehlo. Read it in one day, couldn't put it down. Got me thinking a lot... lots of great quick ways to think, quick heuristics and mantras in there. Really wonderful short little book with some great lessons.
If I Did It: I read OJ Simpson's autobiography on a whim when I saw a copy. It's a weird book. It's about a guy trying to be a decent husband and having his marriage fall apart. Then he kills his wife. Oh, and it's OJ Simpson, and the most famous trial/legal story of the last 20 years. Weird to read the guy's perspective... it's weird in how surreal and normal it is. A famous guy marries a beautiful 18 year old girl but they don't have a really deep or mature connection. She doesn't take well to money and stability, gets unhappy, starts acting kind of crazy in the marriage. OJ acts crazy in response. They divorce. Then he keeps hearing her partying around town and doing drugs, flips out, and kills her. Weird reading it in his own words - I lived in Los Angeles for awhile, and the first part read like a fairly normal L.A. story with a rich, famous guy making a bad choice in a young beautiful woman without much depth or character. Then it gets kind of crazy at the end. It wasn't sad so much as weird. It's sureally normal in parts, and then ends with... well, you know. I wouldn't recommend you go out of your way to read it, but it's interesting for a few hours if you get a chance.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Eliezer Yudkowsky's fanfiction is exceptionally good. If you're a reader of LessWrong at all, you'll love it. If not, you still might like it. He wrote it in "serialized" format where each chapter is a mostly self-contained adventure with plot arc, and then a cohesive whole. It works well, reads well, lots of good insights. He didn't really hit his stride and tone until chapter 15 to 20... if you like Yudkowsky's normal writing, give it until chapter 20. Trust me on this - Eliezer sets up a lot of backstory and forces some humor in the early chapters, and the tone isn't quite smooth... still good, but then wow, it kicks into overdrive around chapter 20 and it's just a page-turning must-read. It's free online at fanfiction.com and you can also find pdf compilations with some googling.
By the title of the post, you might think this about to be some amazingly woven story of how restricting my calories helped me build talent and thus get married. Nope. It's just a post about a few really good books I've read recently.
Good Calories, Bad Calories
Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes is a pro-meat book which covers dietary "history" since the 1950s. What I liked most about it was that it covered three angles simultaneously, the political angle (which, unfortunately, seems to have as much of an impact on our nation's diet as any other angle), the research angle, and the biological angle.