Stephen Puryear’s Resources & Links

There are more and more sources out there, all the time, and their sheer numbers can seem overwhelming now that the Web is here. I have included a mixture of resources that gave me an overview on a topic or a very specific solution. Sometimes that overview was very broad and while I did not include any worthless resources, I have included items that I have never quoted but which furthered my education in an area or strengthened my perspective.

Each cite includes a note about what they are and why I think that they are worth a moment of the time of someone who came here perhaps with a different goal in mind. Where links have not survived, I have included the source document or material. Their order comes strictly from the order in which I grabbed the books from my shelves and then stacked them next to my keyboard.

Relevance Lost H. Thomas Johnson and Robert Kaplan, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1987. The only text book I have kept for the 10 years since I got my MBA. This book discusses the rise and fall of Management Accounting and makes it almost riveting. A very interesting intersection between American history and the development of management accounting. One of the underlying themes is that companies that try to use financial accounting tools for management accounting tasks are headed for trouble whose source they may never even recognize.

Chance and Chaos David Ruelle, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1991. Ruelle is the best writer/working mathematician that I have come across. He has been at the heart of the development of chaos theory. His book would stand on it’s own if it had nothing in it beside this one sentence quote from Henri Poincaré from his book Science and Method(1908): A very small cause, which escapes us, determines a considerable effect, which we cannot ignore, and we then say that this effect is due to chance. Thus Ruelle points us back towards Poincare who was attempting to describe the territory that lies between determined systems and random behavior. Ruelle is downright funny when he describes the politics of getting scientific papers published. I highly recommend this book.

Statistical Rules of Thumb Gerald van Belle, Wiley Series in Probability and Statistics, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 2002. First of all, this is an excellent series, and this book in particular is really helpful in navigating through the many statistical tools which are available. He explains some practical rules and their basis in easy to understand language. Also I am fond of this book because of van Belle’s casual mention of Mahalanobis Distance. I had never heard of it, and learning how to apply it in Excel was a great adventure.

The One Best Way Robert Kanigel, Penguin Putnam, New York, 1997. This is an excellent biography of Frederick Winslow Taylor. I recommend this to anyone who wants to understand more about what works and does not work within the US Quality Engineering movement today.

Practical Optimization Methods With Mathematica © Applications M. Asghar Bhatti, Springer Verlag, New York, 2000. This is for people who have access to the Mathematica application for computation. You will know a lot more about optimization in the mathematical sense instead of the  corporate sense after you read this. Worth the work to wade through it.

The History of Statistics The Measurement of Uncertainty Before 1900 Stephen Stigler, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1986. Stigler is really accessible and light handed. Statistics is counter intuitive, so every advance that we have achieved has been hard earned, but Stigler keeps it interesting.

Statistics On the Table The History of Statistical Concepts and Methods Stephen Stigler, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999. The odd title is taken from a letter from Karl Pearson to the editors of the London Times in 1910. He wrote: I am too familiar with the manner in which actual data are met with the suggestion that other data, if they were collected, might show something else to believe it to have any value as an argument.  Statistics on the table, please, can be my sole reply. The back cover reviews this book as a lively collection of essays (which) examines in witty detail the history of some of the concepts involved in bringing statistical arguments to the table, and some of the pitfalls that have been encountered. I can’t say it better so I will not try.

Wavelets and their Scientific Applications James Walker, CRC, 1999. This is a really practical beginners book if you care to understand wavelet fundamentals and then construct and apply them yourself to your own data. It is well illustrated and easy to understand and use.

Everything and More; A Compact History of Infinity David Foster Wallace, W.W. Norton, New York, 2003. This book is awesome! Wallace entertains while explaining why it took 1800 years to rigorously defeat Zeno’s paradox about the arrow that never makes it to the target. I highly recommend this book.

Condition Monitoring For Marine Refrigeration Plants Hugo Grimmelius, Delft University Press, Delft, The Netherlands, 2005. Marine refrigeration system operators have a couple of disadvantages that compel them to expend extra effort to seek help: they have very minimum staff overseeing complicated systems with very expensive service calls and very expensive downtime! I interpret this thesis topic as an attempt to formally model a refrigeration plant complete with an objective equation. A very difficult problem and a valiant attempt. I did not have the necessary math background to attempt this kind of formal approach so I found another.

The Character of Physical Law Richard Feynman, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1965. Feynman richly deserves his reputation as a teacher. I read this to get another view of the famous “dual slit” experiment. Many experts say that this one experiment contains the essence of the counter-intuitive nature of the quantum world that lives far far below us, and serves as the foundation for all that we try to make sense of up here. God not only plays with dice on a regular basis, but She also appears to have quite the sense of humor. This is a beautiful book.

A History of Mathematics Carl Boyer, John Wiley and Sons, USA, 1968. Foreword by Isaac Asimov, too! If you are not a mathematician, I believe that a history of math is even more important than otherwise. Where do those weird names come from? Regression still gets abused but the chances that you will do it yourself are smaller if you know more about how it came to be. If you must read a history of math why not read the best?

Box On Quality and Discovery George Box, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 2000. George Box is my hero. Without his work at ICI we still might be using Fishers plots at Rothamstead Experimental Station to design industrial experiments. Box was the one that said that industrial processes provide us with plenty of data with which we could optimize them should we choose to do so. Box was another one of those people like Mahalanobis who went to see Fisher. In this case Box married one of Fishers daughters. He also wrote the book on time series data. Read something by him.

Reliability-centered Maintenance John Moubry, Industrial Press, New York, 1997. Moubry helps us take a large step away from calendar based maintenance practice. These still work as long as we really only need to be within an order of magnitude or so of the failure rate of the other units contributing to running the enterprise. However, if airlines hadn’t started moving away from them around 1975, we would all still be white-knuckling around in bi-planes.

Guns,Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond, W.W. Norton, New york, 1999. The perfect antidote to all this niggling statistical whohaw! The sheer drudgery and slogging necessary to throw off, cell by cell, our own brains primary wiring diagram! Sometimes it seems to me that its a triumph that we have formally overcome Zeno’s Paradox ; other times the 1800 years necessary seems a little long. Step back a breathtaking 14,000 years with Dr. Diamond. If this book fails to improve your view of humanity, the cause may be lost. An awesome work, highly recommended!