Rediscovering books

About a year since, my book reading habits reached an all time low. Vengeance struck and hence three books lie at the bottom of my mind ocean.

  • Sophie’s World – Comes highly recommended. Rediscovered the joy of philosophy and critical thinking. The matrix of books.
  • Motorcycle Diaries – Bit disappointed but well it was fine. Might have to start reading the later literary works of Che. Maybe I’m better off watching the movie.
  • Blink –  Eye-opening take on the inner workings of the gut. Almost done. The anecdotes and the stories are especially entertaining.
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K@W rocks!

Two new articles(both reviews on books) caught my attention in K@W this week. One a book about the myth of Self-Helpish Books and the other on Cash-Curve. Loved the tone of each of them:

The Halo Effect

Halo effect is an effort at debunking the myth of having the guidelines for a great performance/manager. Instead it simply focuses on “Why is it so hard to understand high performance?”. It tackles many delusions:

  • The delusion of correlation and causality
  • The delusion of single explanations
  • The delusion of rigorous research

Havent we heard all this before. The repeated (failed) attempts of GUT. Or trying to arrive at a one size fits all solution. Or the one simple mantra that is the secret of success of a company. The review of the book looks compelling – have to get a reading of the book..

  1. Good strategies involve risk and no strategy is foolproof.
  2. Execution also is uncertain. What works well for one company may not be effective for another company.
  3. Chance plays a greater role in success than managers may want to admit.
  4. Bad outcomes don’t always mean that managers made mistakes. Likewise, favorable outcomes don’t necessarily mean that the managers made brilliant decisions.
  5. Finally, Rosenzweig says that “when the die is cast, the best managers act as if chance is irrelevant. Persistence and tenacity are everything.”

Sort of reinforces my thought, market validates all. Forget the media and get back to work.

Watch the Cash Curve

The cash curve is based on four “S factors”: Startup costs, or the pre-launch investment; Speed, or the time it takes to get the product to market; Scale, or the time it takes for the product to build a critical volume of customers; and Support costs, or the investment that is needed to keep a new product or service up and running after it has been launched. The cash curve plots cash flow over time as the product goes through successive phases of idea generation, commercialization and realization.

Amazing clarity there on the product. Of course the Apple takes the cake here. But just be careful its not the Halo Effect showing its effect 😀

Freakonomics Finally!

Thanks to my school teacher who generously lent me the book from his personal collection, Im now a Freakonomics aware reader 🙂 One word : Awesome.

Some pertinent points that I jotted down

  • “Teach to the test” – basing the lesson plans on questions from past years exams, which isnt considered cheating but violates the spirit of the test. Which brings me to point that most of the engineering student, X class students I know of follow this very same method to prepare for the exams. The lesson plans are however not exactly done based on previous years questions.
  • Economics is a science primarily concerned with incentives: also a science with statistical tools to measure how people respond to those incentives
  • Turning the Klan secrecy against itself, converting precious knowledge into ammunition for mockery…
  • Raw power of information – Stetson Kennedy, …
  • Power is derived in large part from the fact that information is hoarded. This is basically a case of Information Asymmetry at play.
  • Internet has vastly shrunk the gap between the experts and the public. But even in this case the devil is in the details i.e Specifics matter. Every deal can be made to look profitable and information hoarded when the specifics are not dealt with.
  • Absence of Information Induces Fear, the worst of which is the fear of immediate, imminent death. Hence people fear a terrorist attack more than a accident even thought statistically they are more prone to an accident.
  • Bombastic words are used when there are no words worth discussing. Hence we are more dubious about claims about elegant wonderful majestic programs than about 4kb sized program which run in O(n)
  • There are two major types of discrimination : Taste Based & Information based.
  • Dating websites are the most successful subscription based business on the internet
  • People on dating  surfers are very much dubious about the profiles on the sites. Their perceptions are either basically Fabulist, Narcissist, Resitant to the meaning of the “average”, Realist.
  • Regulation of a legal market is bound to fail when a healthy black market exists for the same product
  • If the product is highly potent and addictive (say cocaine), its no wonder hugely profitable markets are created practically overnight
  • The basic reality is that risks that scare people and the risks that kill people are entirely different.

I should say Levitt is just awesome. Many times it has been my doubt that most of the question dealing with human relations, society in general, can be very correctly understood by understanding the underlying economics. And frankly when we see that most of the customs and traditions are in context of the economics.

Like for example, why is it that Hindus cremate while Moslems and Christians bury? Well, Indians are more of a agrarian society and when you bury bodies an amount of cultivable land goes waste; while for nomadic, hilly terrain societies of Christians and Moslems, lands not the premium. Anycase, that was a shameless plug primarily hijacked from my dad.

Anycase, just go out and buy the book and make yourself a favor. And also keep visiting Freakonomics blog.

Latest reads

Life of Pi

At the end of the novel, the novel said me I would belive in god. But for me, at the end, i only believed in human perseverance. Neither could i find any religious touches to it nor any of the other godly moments. It was a survival tale, a tale of grit and determination and how far it can take you. I’ll brand it disturbing.

The monk who sold his Ferrari

Sat. Lied down. Walked around. Stood up. Even a reading desk and my favorite music on my PC. Nothing helped me read the book in hand.However hard i tried, i could never read more than 50 – 60 pages of this book. Im not sure if it was only 60 pages I read.

However effort i put in to complete the book, i couldnt. And im not sure why Robin Sharma’s book made it to the bestseller list…! I tried giving it a second read, but I dont have enough courage to do so. Not even Tommyknockers with its gigantic 1020 pages troubled me as much. Thats a different story ill compile later.

The Alchemist

Not sure again why this made to the best seller list. ‘soul of the world’, ‘omens’, ‘follow your dreams’…neither could i connect to them nor feel it. I mean it was good read, but not something i would brand as a must read.

I found myself as much lost amidst them as im in discussions reg. abstract modern art.