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General Musing

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Posts Tagged ‘books

Just Finished Reading: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother #books

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I started begging my mother for piano lessons from a very young age, had my mother been a Tiger Mother I would have been a child prodigy. I’d seen Amy Chua in an interview program and had wanted to read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as an instruction manual to raise my child as a music virtuoso. And although the book is not a step-by-step guide to becoming a Tiger Mother I am glad I read it.

The book is an autobiographical view of the way Amy Chua raised her daughters Sophia and Louisa (Lulu) to become straight A students, and focusses mainly on her teaching her children to play the musical instruments of her choice. In the end it devolves into a war of attrition between Amy and Lulu, resulting in a revelation for the Tiger Mother.

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Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

April 27, 2012 at 8:37 am

Posted in algorithm, books, risk

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Just Finished Reading: The House of Silk #sherlock #holmes #books

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Like Anthony Horowitz I’ve always liked Sherlock Holmes, perhaps it is because my mother joked that I was related to the sleuth. Or because I visited 221B Baker Street as a child. In any case I am much enamored with the genius of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and as have been disappointed with many other tributes to the creator. And I was shocked whet James Randi revealed in his book that Doyle was a firm believer in the fairies of Cottingley Glen.

The House of Silk is an enthralling book, filled with the subterfuge which can be expected from a Holmes tale. It combines two overlapping stories and can be placed in the middle of the canonical Holmes series. It touches on subjects which, although they would not be out of place in Victorian Britain, might not be expected in a Holmes story. Standing on its own the novel is good, and seems well researched. As an amateur nitpicker I would have loved to find a inconsistency or glaring error, and didn’t. 🙂

It certainly can be called a good Holmes novel.

Image source: Amazon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

April 20, 2012 at 11:07 am

Posted in books

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Just Finished Reading: Empire – What Ruling the World Did to the British #book

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Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British was the first ebook that I read in its entirety using Cool Reader. I really liked the reader, some of the default tap zone actions were less intuitive than I liked they were very simple to configure.

Cool Reader screenshot

I found Jeremy Paxman an entertaining author, who had apparently researched the book very well. Getting a relatively unbiased view of the impact that the establishment of a British Empire had on the world, which at its hight consisted of 25% of the world’s – I assume – land mass, was extremely informative. Naturally there seems to be some cultural bias, and whether this can be attributed to the author or the lack of source material for the subjugated. After all history is written by the victors. As a nitpicker I could easily criticize certain semantic errors, such as referring to the Union Flag as the Union Jack – the former being the national flag and the later being a naval ensign.

An interesting read.

Image source: Amazon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

March 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

Just Finished Reading: Start With Why #startwithwhy #book

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I was advised to read Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why by a social media guru who practically abandoned his – albeit limited to the Netherlands – stardom to pursue a position in a turning round a company who’s why was determined by governmental decree, and as such was fuzzy for customers and company. And I came to it with many preconceptions of cones and funnels, expecting it to be a Gladwellian book with limited practical application beyond creating awareness – which in some circles is already a Herculean task.

Sinek started by blowing my Anglo-American expectations out of the water by posing a question on the first page of the book. It acts as the first warning in the book to not take things at face value – the What and How – and go straight for the jugular: Inspiring with Why you are doing what you are doing. The nature of the thought is that our experience of the world is created “from the inside-out”[1], understanding that the Golden Circle has Why at the centre and the How and What are just the physical manifestations of Why we do things.

As examples he uses Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, the Wright brothers and a host of others for whom we already know What they did and shows us How they did it by being inspired with a reason – their Why. The stories he tells and the way he tells them influenced me and my story, and my answer to Why.

What’s you Why?

  1. Effortless Evolution – Jamie Smart

Image source: Amazon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

January 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Posted in books, lifehacks

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Just Finished Reading: The Silver Pigs #books

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My father walked into a charity shop in the UK. He wasn’t really looking for something, and went to browse the used books section. Which is were he found The Silver Pigs, by Lindsey Davis. Like me he’s a fan of crime novels and historical novels, so it was little wonder that he gave the book to me after finishing it.

This is the first book in the Falco series, albeit a revised version containing an author’s preface excusing the errors in previous version in particular the corrections which could not be performed due to their impact on the story. Naturally these are easily forgiven as these are not oversights, and are “[…] problems an author can face keeping up-to-date even after publication.” This was most amusing as I quickly spotted a glaring continuity error, alas I am a nitpicker.

The book itself is fun, and the protagonist Marcus Didius Falco wanders as the narrator through the Roman empire filling in the culture, environment and habits of Romans. He travels from Rome to Britannia touching briefly on the provinces which lie in between. As in a good crime novel it contains a victim, a love interest, a distraught client and a slightly less than obvious conclusion. The story’s power lies in the fact that all does not follow the formulaic story line that relies on a deus ex machina to rescue the story in the conclusion of the case.

An enjoyable read.

Image source: Amazon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

September 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Posted in books

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Just Finished Reading: The Quants #books #risk #economy

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I had heard of The Quants and wanted to buy it, after my father and I discussed how it was that all this money disappeared during the credit crisis I thought it might be wise to get an in depth view of the “China syndrome hedge fund catastrophe.” This is more than just a review of the book.

The first thing that I noticed were the multiple references to Ed Thorpe’s “Beat the Dealer”, a book on card counting Black Jack using a Hi-Lo method, and “Liar’s Poker“. Both books are on my bookshelf. Liar’s Poker highlights the years 1985-1987 as a trader at Salomon Brothers. There is some overlap between the characters of the book, such as John Meriwether who famously was challenged to a game of liar’s poker for 1 million dollars and replied: “If we’re going to play for those kind of numbers, I’d rather play for real money. Ten million dollars. No tears.”

The book reminded me of playing the computer game “Capitalism” when I was 16 in which I would game the system by creating a company which produced a little profit and initially plowing that profit into buying companies by hostile takeovers on the mini stock market and then avoid the system creating more AI companies – it had a fixed number of AI companies and mergers would cause new AI companies to be created – by buying a controlling interest in the AI companies and forcing them to turn out high dividends until all the AI companies in the stock market were under my control. And leave the computer AIs to tend to the companies and all their business while the dividends pushed my company’s profit into 12 digits.

The Quants is less of a narrative than Liar’s Poker, much of it is carefully crafted from multiple interviews with most of the players, books, magazines and newspaper articles. The tale of hedge fund managers and traders taking ever increasing risk just to earn the same amount that they did the previous year is and as it notes “Hedge fund managers who’ve seen big losses can be especially dangerous. Investors […] may become demanding and impatient. … [T]here can be a significant incentive to push the limits of the fund’s capacity to generate large gains […] If a big loss is no worse than a small loss or meager gains […] the temptation to jack up the leverage and roll the dice can be powerful.”

Even the glaring warning of Meriwether’s LTCM failure in 1998, like Daedalus’ warning to Icarus, it was ignored by most of the hedge funds. “By 1998, nearly every bond arbitrage desk and fixed-income hedge fund on Wall Street had copied LTCM’s trades.” They were leveraged up to their eyeballs, and while making huge debts of their own they traded with the debts of others, bonds, collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. Some hedge fund had leverages of 30 to 1, which means they borrowed $30 for each dollar they had as an asset. “Coming into 2008, hedge funds were in control of $2 trillion.” And the banks they were borrowing from had leverages of at least 9 to 1, because of fractional-reserve banking, these same banks “… Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Deutsche Bank, […] were rapidly transforming from staid white-shoe bank companies into hot-rod hedge fund vehicles fixated on the fast buck…” These banks had “… trillions more in leverage that juiced their returns like anabolic steroids.”

And it wasn’t just the banks, insurance companies go into the action too. These insurance companies insured the credit default swaps, “[i]f the value of the underlying asset insured by the swaps declined for whatever reason, the protection provider […] would have to put up more collateral, since the risk of default was higher.”

The light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.
Wall Street proverb

“… [T]here were legitimate concerns that as computer-driven trading reached unfathomable speeds, danger lurked. Many of these computer-driven funds were gravitating to a new breed of stock exchange called ‘dark pools’—secretive, computerized trading networks that match buy and sell orders for blocks of stocks in the frictionless ether of cyberspace. … In these invisible electronic pools, vast sums change hands beyond the eyes of regulators. While efforts were afoot to push the murky world of derivatives trading into the light of day, stock trading was sliding rapidly into the shadows.”

Conclusion

“The findings of behavioral finance .. had shown time and again that people don’t always make optimal choices when it comes to money […] [N]euroeconomics, was delving into the hardwiring of the brain to investigate why people often make decisions that aren’t rational […] Evidence was emerging that certain parts of the brain are subject to a ‘money illusion’ that blinds people to the impact of future events, such as the effect of inflation on the present value of cash—or the possibility of a speculative bubble bursting.”

To me it also looks like they were and still are blinded to money. Two great reads for the weekend.

Image source: Amazon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

September 2, 2011 at 11:52 am

Just Finished Reading: Bloody River Blues #books

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Bloody River Blues

Bloody River Blues is a book by Jeffery Deaver which came from a second hand book store with another stack of Deaver books, when I arrived home I realized that I shouldn’t’ve bothered buying it – I already had a copy. When the mood strikes me I will often walk into a second hand book store and buy a stack of books by one known author or a stack of books from many different unknown authors.

John Pellam is an independent location scout who continually finds himself in trouble of some sorts, which is often connected to a woman. This time Pellam is not scouting for locations for an unmade movie, he is wrapping up the scouting for a movie which is being made. After witnessing a shooting he becomes the victim of over zealous police, and FBI. In the Lincoln Rhyme series you read an idealized view of the police, in the location scout series the police are often an incompetent mess or worse.

A good way to pass the time.

Image source: Amazon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

July 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Posted in books

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