The Anti-Library

Unread books are where the action is.

The trader turned smart thinker Nassim Taleb approvingly calls such a collection an “ANTILIBRARY”; one’s shelves, he argues, should contain “as much of what you do not know” as finances allow. And he says don’t expect the proportion of unread books to fall, either.

The more you read, the more the perimeter of your knowledge increases, and the more you’ll realise what you don’t know.

Back in India when I was living in a capacious apartment all by myself I used to stock my shelves with books both read and unread, the former over time out numbering the latter.  I naively thought that was a good thing. Now in the limited confines of London where real estate (even post Brexit) is not exactly ‘cheap and abundant’, the numbers have switched. Limited space also honed my underdeveloped skill at ditching mediocre books right after reading them into the local charity shop bin. Now only a few books stay. So now the books lining my limited shelf space are either great books I retain and will re-read at some future date or mostly ‘pending to read’ books, all coming together into making the gestalt that is now my antilibrary. Morgan Housel, a great blogger, nailed my sentiment when he recently tweeted ‘90% of books should be half the length they are‘. My reviews of a books are here and here and here.

The Japanese have a cool word for all this : Tsundoku. It is the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. It is also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf. An avid american book collector once said something wise on the subject that resonated with me : “Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity … we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes Comfort, their ready access Reassurance.

Since I was 10 I have always been a dietary and reading omnivore. I will read anything on any subject as long as the book and the subject sound interesting. My wife will vouch that this is my exact approach to food too. Over the last year, using the fabulous algorithm of the  Keepa.com website I have purchased books covering wide and varied subjects and themes that I plan to delve into over 2017-18, in the hope of improving what Taleb aptly labels ‘the perimeter of one’s knowledge‘.

Recently I decided to summarize all the physical books I have on my shelf under conspicuous themes and motifs,  for two reasons, one selfish and one altruistic. Writing about it forces me to rationalize the actual purchases and also altruistically serves as a starter for ten for readers like you looking for some book suggestions  for the upcoming summer.

Welcome to my Tsundoku…

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Well written autobiographies of 5 worthy people. The book ‘TITAN’ I would rank as one of the best 5 books I have read in the last few years, the apotheosis of what a good book ought to be. The middle book (Snowball) I am reading midway and I think it is going to rank up there with the best of them. The bottom two are pending. I would put all 5 in the curriculum if I were the dean of a decent undergrad college.

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As someone who migrated from one country to another (India to UK) I am keen to fill the gap in my knowledge of my adopted country and these 8 books are an attempt at that. 3 of them I finished reading and ALL of the 3 I heartily endorse.

  1. Tudors – cracking good tale
  2. The Angry Island – The best caustic prose I have encountered in the last few years. His asperity towards the unemotive island people is penetratingly hilarious
  3. Longitude – a book so gripping I started at 9 PM and stayed up till 5 AM to finish it

The other 5 are pending a read.

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If someone was looking to move to India and asked me for books to understand the country, I can confidently say the Naipaul Trilogy would get the job done. It is about India as it IS, not as it is ineffectually and prosaically penned about in most books and articles about the country. It was after reading these three books that I understood Naipaul for the genius he is and the real history of my country that is never written about even today. The other 2 are pending a read.

 

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I am a complete sucker for sea faring survival takes and anything old navy related. And these 5 scratch that itch. Two of them (Endurance and In The Hear of the Sea) I read one after another and was blown away by both. Set about 100 years apart, they suck you in and don’t let you go until the end. Last thursday I recommended the book ENDURANCE to my team at work as not just a survival take but also one of the best books on Leadership and Teamwork out there. The other 3 are pending a read.

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These are assorted books on the subject of Metacognition, Heuristics, Forecasting, Thinking and Decision Making,  an effort to polish my own ingenuous executive functions & skills.

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These two books are my attempt to understand Investing from someone OTHER THAN Warren Buffet for a change. The left one I suspect is going to be refreshingly discursive and not stick tightly to dry finance.

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I would rank the decrepit looking The Best and The Brightest as one of my best books from the last decade. Halbertstam is a great writer and the book is just so good wading through the dense fastidious prose it feels akin to reading a John Grisham novel. A great primer on the pitfalls of Groupthink and Pink Flamingoes.

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This grandiloquent tome by Chomsky on the right was an eye opener in the real sense the word is meant. Depressing but oh-so-needed in these times. This too would go on the curriculum of my imaginary college reading list.  The left one is pending.

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Both books I have heard good press about. right one to understand Cancer, something that will kill the majority of us if heart related issues don’t do the morbid job first. And the left book (GENOME) is to understand the new upcoming CRISPR related developments.

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I am a sucker for crisp essays and I am promised by wise people that these two authors are worth the investment.

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These 4 books are an attempt to better understand the events that shaped the superpowers in the first half of the 20th century. Definitely sombre reads I suspect.

 

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These three to understand better the places I hope to visit someday and spend time without just being a tourist in the pejorative term. Africa, America and Europe. All covered here. The Bryson book, while dated, is hilarious and after a visit to a European destination mentioned in it, I always read the chapter on it to get at HIS funny and smart take on the place.

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4 books to better fit into and understand the workplace. Prince and Effective Executive are almost mandatory reading at this juncture. The Peter Principle is wry but sharp. Inside Drucker’s Brain I am still to tackle.

Hope this wets your reading appetite and gets you onto a few of them. I can vouch that most have made it to the shelf only after some solid research and good reviews so the odds are decent that most are worth your precious time. Find a decent perch to park and dive into a few. I recommend outdoors now that summer is here.

Happy Reading!

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How you can tell 100 cool stories at your next party

Two propositions hold true for the majority of people I know if they are ever asked about its application to them  :
1. Reading a book will take up a lot of my spare time
2. I do not have spare time!

Now take a moment to think about how you get most of your daily dose of News about the world around you :
– a quick peek into the website of your preferred publication
– a squint into the false “breaking news” clip as you sip your coffee
– a passing glance at the shallow newspaper in the subway or in the loo
– a distracted browse on your phone during your limited downtime in the day = in the loo?

How many of these insipid vapid squirts registered with you ? How many stories in the last 100 days really stayed with you and that you could effortlessly recount to your friends, in this era of blaring headlines, instant analysis, and perishable sound bites.? I am going to wager the number is a fraction of the total news crisps you munch everyday and equally hazardous to your health.

Most news clips on TV, the newspaper or in the app you read barely skims the news and abjectly fails at educating you on all the many angles and players in a story. You are the guy trying to tell time when all he can see it the Seconds needle. A news clip seen here, a clip read there, in the heat of the news cycle about an issue is like trying to understand the Mona Lisa with your nose 1mm away from it at the bottom corner. To really understand the painting you need to slowly step back and observe it from a decent  distance.

The antidote to all this above litany of complaints : Longform Articles. Longform journalism is a branch of journalism dedicated to longer articles with larger amounts of content. The length of longform articles is between that of a traditional article and that of a periodical. These articles, usually 4000+ words or longer, will nullify most of the above negatives and yet take only a small slice of the time books will ask of you. Many of the boring books I suffered over the years, typically 100,000 words or longer, could have been culled into a crisp punchy Longform article I would have liked versus the book I didn’t.

All this above slowly percolated into my ADHD riddled head over the course of 2015 and so one of my 2016 new year resolutions was that I would read 100 Longform articles in 2016.

A typical book is about 100,000 words long. A typical longform article is about 4000 words. 100 articles X 4000 words = 400,000 words. Which means reading 100 longform articles is akin to reading 4 thick books. But on 100 different topics! This is the kind of range and value that excites me. Additionally I decided I was going to read omnivorously when it came to article sources and topics. Nothing was off limits. I would not stick to one publication, website, theme or subject. And I vowed to diligently keep track of the links to all articles I read so I could share it forward (which I am doing now)

I finished the 100th Article TODAY (22 Sept 2016), about 100 days before the year end deadline, which speaks less about my brittle diligence but volumes about how pleasurable this resolution was (versus staid aims like “Eat less junk food”). Now for your reading pleasure  I have listed below the 100 articles I read along with links to all 100 articles online. Every single one is free and readily available to be enjoyed.

So why really read them at all ? …Because should you dive in, you will emerge more informed, more aware and more interesting at the other end of the reading lake. 100 cool stories at your fingertips. Knowledge compounds and this is a good thick principal to deposit into the mental bank.

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Among the varied stories, you will read how Tiger Woods imploded after his dad died, how a famous US retail chain spectacularly cocked up a store inauguration, how a demure medical nurse became good at robbing banks, how some students in India lose their identity prepping for a brutal test, why does one of the world’s most reviled technologies keep winning, what was it to see Michael Jackson’s iconic first moonwalk onstage, travel to a place no country wants to claim, why Socialism failed, why Cryonics makes sense, understand the life of Muhammad Ali, smell the desperation of US law firms in the age of austerity, investigate who owns London’s most expensive mansion, take a terrifying journey through the World’s Most Dangerous Jungle and see how the new Panama Canal was built.

That above is just a sliver of the full rich tasty cake. I have also added 2 data graphs on the key themes and sources to the Longforms so you can choose more intelligently. I wish you Happy Reading in cozy cafes or deep sofas or comfy loos for the upcoming winter!

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My favorite 10 from an already solid list of 100 good articles are :

THE Last Days Of Target – The untold tale of Target Canada’s difficult birth, tough life and brutal death |Link : http: //www.canadianbusiness.com/the-last-days-of-target-canada/
How Tiger Woods imploded  |Link : http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/15278522/how-tiger-woods-life-unraveled-years-father-earl-woods-death
Twilight of the Petrostate |Link : http://nationalinterest.org/feature/twilight-the-petrostate-16235
Why 57 Young Students Have Taken Their Lives In Kota |Link : http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/06/01/life-and-death-in-kota_n_10232456.html?utm_hp_ref=india
A Terrifying Journey Through the World’s Most Dangerous Jungle: The Darién Gap |Link : http://www.outsideonline.com/2098801/skull-stake-darien-gap
The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic – Walter Pitts rose from the streets to MIT, but couldn’t escape himself |Link : http://nautil.us/issue/21/information/the-man-who-tried-to-redeem-the-world-with-logic
The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá |Link : http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/magazine/the-mixed-up-brothers-of-bogota.html?_r=0#
Construction is turning London into a city of holes |Link :  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/282e51f0-0683-11e6-9b51-0fb5e65703ce.html
The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru : How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age. |Link : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html?_r=0
Free Speech and Islam — In Defense of Sam Harris  |Link : http://quillette.com/2016/04/21/free-speech-and-islam-in-defense-of-sam-harris/

The full list of all 100 Longform articles :

Sourced from Bloomberg || Subject : business || Zenefits Was the Perfect Startup. Then It Self-Disrupted || URL : http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-zenefits/
Sourced from Canadian Business || Subject : business || THE LAST DAYS OF TARGET – The untold tale of Target Canada’s difficult birth, tough life and brutal death || URL : http: //www.canadianbusiness.com/the-last-days-of-target-canada/
Sourced from Financial Times || Subject : business || Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity || URL : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/0ca06172-bfe9-11de-aed2-00144feab49a.html
Sourced from Fortune || Subject : business || The Last Stand of Ken Chenault. Can he win back investors and fix what ails AmEx before his time runs out? || URL : http://fortune.com/ken-chenault-american-express/?xid=soc_socialflow_twitter_FORTUNE
Sourced from Fortune || Subject : business || Silicon Valley’s $585 Billion Problem – Fortune on the Unicorn Bubble  || URL : http://fortune.com/silicon-valley-tech-ipo-market/
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : business || How Should We Read Investor Letters? = Considering the correspondence between C.E.O.s and shareholders as a literary genre. || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/05/jeff-gramms-dear-chairman-boardroom-battles-and-the-rise-of-shareholder-activism
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : business || The Bank Robber : The dodgy computer technician who exposed a Swiss bank’s darkest secrets. || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/30/herve-falcianis-great-swiss-bank-heist?intcid=popular
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : business || Not So Fast – Scientific management started as a way to work. How did it become a way of life? || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/10/12/not-so-fast
Sourced from Newrepublic || Subject : business || The Brutal Ageism of Tech : Years of experience, plenty of talent, completely obsolete
 || URL : https://newrepublic.com/article/117088/silicons-valleys-brutal-ageism
Sourced from Newrepublic || Subject : business || The Last Days of Big Law : The money is drying up—and America’s most storied law firms are terrified || URL : https://newrepublic.com/article/113941/big-law-firms-trouble-when-money-dries
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : business || How Uber conquered London  || URL : https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/27/how-uber-conquered-london
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : business || On Craft BeerMaker, BREWDOG || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/24/the-aggressive-outrageous-infuriating-and-ingenious-rise-of-brewdog
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : business || The Fall of China’s Hedge Fund King Xu Xiang  || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/magazine/the-fall-of-chinas-hedge-fund-king.html?
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : business || How Elizabeth Holmes’s House of Cards Came Tumbling Down – A searing investigation into the once lauded biotech start-up Theranos || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/09/elizabeth-holmes-theranos-exclusive
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : business || The Valeant Meltdown and Wall Street’s Major Drug Problem  || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/06/the-valeant-meltdown-and-wall-streets-major-drug-problem#22
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : business || The Man Who Crashed the World : How an AIG divison lead by Joe Cassano blew it spectacularly || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2009/08/aig200908-2
Sourced from Daedtech || Subject : career || The Beggar CEO and Sucker Culture || URL : http://www.daedtech.com/the-beggar-ceo-and-sucker-culture/
Sourced from Espn || Subject : celebrity || How Tiger Woods imploded  || URL : http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/15278522/how-tiger-woods-life-unraveled-years-father-earl-woods-death
Sourced from GQ || Subject : celebrity || GQ profiles Melania Trump || URL : http://www.gq.com/story/melania-trump-gq-interview
Sourced from GQ || Subject : celebrity || On Stephen Colbert on Making The Late Show His Own || URL : http://www.gq.com/story/stephen-colbert-gq-cover-story
Sourced from bbc || Subject : crime || The rise and fall of the Bombshell Bandit || URL : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32481834
Sourced from Bloomberg || Subject : crime || How the Secret Service busted a counterfeiting ring in NJ || URL : http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-counterfeit-money/
Sourced from California Sunday || Subject : crime || On the 43 murdered students of Mexico || URL : https://stories.californiasunday.com/2015-01-04/mexico-the-disappeared-en/
Sourced from California Sunday || Subject : crime || The Lost Man :The mysterious circumstances of his death in Australia have captivated generations of true-crime fanatics.  || URL : https://stories.californiasunday.com/2015-06-07/somerton-man/
Sourced from California Sunday || Subject : crime || The Murder of Sheena by her mom Indrani  || URL : https://story.californiasunday.com/mumbai-murder-mukerjeas
Sourced from The Telegraph  || Subject : crime || On the HattonGarden heist || URL : http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/Hatton-Garden-is-it-still-possible-to-get-away-with-a-heist/index.html
Sourced from The National Interest || Subject : current affairs || Twilight of the Petrostate || URL : http://nationalinterest.org/feature/twilight-the-petrostate-16235
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : current affairs || On Tunisia and Terrorism  || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/28/tunisia-and-the-fall-after-the-arab-spring
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : current affairs || The Hell After ISIS : Many Sunnis say they have no hope for peace. One family’s story shows why || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/the-hell-after-isis/476391/
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : current affairs || Trident: the British question || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/11/trident-the-british-question
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : current affairs || Behind the Barricades of Turkey’s Hidden War with Kurds || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/magazine/behind-the-barricades-of-turkeys-hidden-war.html?_r=0#
Sourced from Badassoftheweek || Subject : military || Operation Chavin de Huantar : How Peru mounted a daring hostage rescue operation  || URL : http://www.badassoftheweek.com/chavin.html
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : drama || The Hunt for El Chapo : How the world’s most notorious drug lord was captured. || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/05/05/the-hunt-for-el-chapo?intcid=mod-most-popular
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : drama || The Plot to Take Down a Fox News Analyst : For years, Wayne Simmons claimed to be a former C.I.A. operative. Then one ex-spook got suspicious. || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/magazine/the-plot-to-take-down-a-fox-news-analyst.html?_r=0
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : drama || The Battle Over the Sea-Monkey Fortune || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/magazine/the-battle-over-the-sea-monkey-fortune.html?_r=0#
Sourced from Wall Street Journal || Subject : drama || A Stolen Boy, an Angry Loner, an Underground Bunker || URL : http://graphics.wsj.com/hostage/?mod=videorelated
Sourced from Medium || Subject : economics || Machine Money and People Money : A Conversation about Universal Basic Income with John Maynard Keynes and Paul Buchheit || URL : https://medium.com/the-wtf-economy/machine-money-and-people-money-29b497eeb9d0#.s9bmzpopj
Sourced from Oaktree Capital Management   || Subject : economics || On Political Reality : Memo from a seasoned hedge fund manager Howard Marks to clients – why people vote in bad politicians  || URL : https://www.oaktreecapital.com/docs/default-source/memos/political-reality.pdf
Sourced from Oaktree Capital Management   || Subject : economics || On Economic Reality : Memo from a fund manager Howard Marks to clients – why presidential promises will fall flat  || URL : https://www.oaktreecapital.com/docs/default-source/memos/economic-reality.pdf
Sourced from Newrepublic || Subject : education || The Trouble With Harvard : The Ivy League is broken and only standardized tests can fix it By Steven Pinker || URL : https://newrepublic.com/article/119321/harvard-ivy-league-should-judge-students-standardized-tests
Sourced from Atavist || Subject : fiasco || Sunk : How a Chinese billionaire’s dream of making an underwater fantasy blockbuster turned into a legendary movie fiasco. || URL : https://read.atavist.com/sunk
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : military || The Desert One Debacle : How Operation Eagle Claw went sour || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/05/the-desert-one-debacle/304803/?single_page=true
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : fiasco || The New Panama Canal: A Risky Bet : How a $3.1 Billion Expansion Collided With Reality || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/22/world/americas/panama-canal.html?_r=0
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : food || The Sugar Conspiracy || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-robert-lustig-john-yudkin
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : Futurism || Nick Bostrom on Human Extinction || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/were-underestimating-the-risk-of-human-extinction/253821/
Sourced from Medium || Subject : history || History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump || URL : https://medium.com/@theonlytoby/history-tells-us-what-will-happen-next-with-brexit-trump-a3fefd154714#.xwi1279q4
Sourced from Paul Graham Blog || Subject : history || The Refragmentation of Developed world : Forces that shaped the 20th Century || URL : http://www.paulgraham.com/re.html
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : history || What Was the Greatest Era for Innovation? A Brief Guided Tour of USA in 1870,1920,1970 and today || URL : http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/upshot/what-was-the-greatest-era-for-american-innovation-a-brief-guided-tour.html
Sourced from Atlanta Magazine || Subject : human interest story || Refuge: One Syrian family’s immigration to Georgia, USA || URL : http://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-reads/refuge-one-syrian-familys-long-odyssey-to-georgia/
Sourced from Esquire || Subject : human interest story || The Long Haul: One Year of Solitude on America’s Highways || URL : http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a40157/long-haul-year-trucking-america/?mod=e2this
Sourced from GQ || Subject : human interest story || Stud: How to Have 106 Babies (and Counting) || URL : http://www.gq.com/story/how-to-have-babies-sperm-donor-ed-houben
Sourced from GQ || Subject : human interest story || Inside the San Quentin Marathon || URL : http://www.gq.com/story/san-quentin-marathon
Sourced from Huffingtonpost || Subject : human interest story || Why 57 Young Students Have Taken Their Lives In Kota || URL : http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/06/01/life-and-death-in-kota_n_10232456.html?utm_hp_ref=india
Sourced from New York Magazine || Subject : human interest story || Inside Rikers Prison in NYC || URL : http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/06/inside-rikers-island-interviews.html
Sourced from Outside Magazine || Subject : human interest story || A Terrifying Journey Through the World’s Most Dangerous Jungle: The Darién Gap || URL : http://www.outsideonline.com/2098801/skull-stake-darien-gap
Sourced from Outside Magazine || Subject : human interest story || Everest veteran guide Dave Morton on what happens when you try to leave the world’s most lucrative mountain forever || URL : http://www.outsideonline.com/2064481/david-morton-and-ghosts-everest
Sourced from Science Magazine Nautilus  || Subject : human interest story || The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic – Walter Pitts rose from the streets to MIT, but couldn’t escape himself || URL : http://nautil.us/issue/21/information/the-man-who-tried-to-redeem-the-world-with-logic
Sourced from Shtfplan || Subject : human interest story || Surviving in a war zone || URL : http://www.shtfplan.com/emergency-preparedness/a-survival-q-a-living-through-shtf-in-the-middle-of-a-war-zone_10252011
Sourced from Statnews || Subject : human interest story || One man’s desperate quest for a brutal surgery || URL : https://www.statnews.com/2016/03/24/appendix-cancer-treatment/
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : human interest story || My uncle and heroin: ‘What surprises me most – you have no teeth’ || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/10/my-uncle-and-heroin
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : human interest story || Three Generations Under One Roof – A portrait of a NYC based large Chinese Family  || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/nyregion/one-roof-three-generations-portrait-of-a-chinese-american-family.html?_r=2
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : human interest story || The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/magazine/the-mixed-up-brothers-of-bogota.html?_r=0#
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : in depth profile  || The Outsized Life of Muhammad Ali || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-outsized-life-of-muhammad-ali
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : in depth profile  || The Astonishing Rise of Jeremy Corbyn || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/23/the-astonishing-rise-of-jeremy-corbyn?intcid=mod-most-popular
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : in depth profile  || The Machiavelli of Maryland || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/09/edward-luttwak-machiavelli-of-maryland
Sourced from Fool || Subject : interview || An Interview With Dr. Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics By Morgan Housel || URL : http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/06/28/an-interview-with-dr-daniel-kahneman.aspx
Sourced from Fortune || Subject : interview || Fortune interviews Jeff Bezos || URL : http://fortune.com/amazon-jeff-bezos-prime/
Sourced from Reddit || Subject : interview || Reddit AMA with Alice Schroeder, author of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. || URL : https://www.reddit.com/r/investing/comments/2550vq/hi_im_alice_schroeder_author_of_the_snowball?sort=qa
Sourced from Sam Harris Blog || Subject : interview || The Salon Interview of Sam Harris  || URL : https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/sam-harris-the-salon-interview
Sourced from The Great Discontent (Tgd)  || Subject : interview || Seth Godin Interview || URL : http://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/seth-godin
Sourced from The Great Discontent (Tgd)  || Subject : interview || Interview of Merlin Mann, Productivity Guru || URL : http://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/merlin-mann
Sourced from Washington Post || Subject : interview || The WSJ Interview of Tim Cook, CEO of Apple  || URL : http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/business/wp/2016/08/13/2016/08/13/tim-cook-the-interview-running-apple-is-sort-of-a-lonely-job/
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : investigative journalism || House of Secrets – Who owns London’s most expensive mansion?  || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/01/house-of-secrets
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : investigative journalism || How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/donald-trump-atlantic-city.html?_r=0
Sourced from Medium || Subject : lifestyle || On the new “Shut in” Economy  || URL : https://medium.com/matter/the-shut-in-economy-ec3ec1294816#.e9ajuagxn
Sourced from Washington Post || Subject : lifestyle || Day in the life of upper middle class teen : 13, right now : This is what it’s like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longing || URL : http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/wp/2016/05/25/2016/05/25/13-right-now-this-is-what-its-like-to-grow-up-in-the-age-of-likes-lols-and-longing/
Sourced from Financial Times || Subject : london || Construction is turning London into a city of holes || URL :  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/282e51f0-0683-11e6-9b51-0fb5e65703ce.html
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : management  || The Triumph of Email – Why does one of the world’s most reviled technologies keep winning? || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/01/what-comes-after-email/422625/
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : management  || The Management Myth : Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting firm.  || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/06/the-management-myth/304883/
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : media || How technology disrupted the truth – Social media has swallowed the news, ushering in an era when everyone has their own facts.  || URL : https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth
Sourced from Rolling Stone || Subject : music || Inside Michael Jackson’s Iconic First Moonwalk Onstage || URL : http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/inside-michael-jackson-s-iconic-first-moonwalk-onstage-20151005
Sourced from bbc || Subject : mystery || Body on the Moor. Why did this man travel 200 miles to die here? || URL : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-e8c6cbab-da44-4a3c-8f9b-c4fccd53dd24
Sourced from Fivethirtyeight Blog || Subject : politics || The End Of A Republican Party : Racial and cultural resentment have replaced the party’s small government ethos. || URL : http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-end-of-a-republican-party/
Sourced from The Foundation For Economic Education Org || Subject : politics || Why Socialism Failed || URL : https://fee.org/articles/why-socialism-failed/
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : politics || Does the left have a future? || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/06/does-the-left-have-a-future
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : politics || The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru : How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age. || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html?_r=0
Sourced from Extremist  Vector || Subject : psycology || The 5 Basic Laws of Human Stupidity || URL : http://www.extremistvector.com/content/stupid.html
Sourced from Genius || Subject : psycology || The Catastrophe of Success – by Tennessee Williams || URL : http://genius.com/Tennessee-williams-the-catastrophe-of-success-annotated
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : psycology || How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield  || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/05/ptsd-war-home-sebastian-junger
Sourced from Quillette || Subject : religion || Free Speech and Islam — In Defense of Sam Harris  || URL : http://quillette.com/2016/04/21/free-speech-and-islam-in-defense-of-sam-harris/
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : religion || When the King Saved God – Hitchens on The King James Bible  || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2011/05/hitchens-201105?currentPage=all
Sourced from Bloomberg || Subject : scam || The Disastrous $45 Million Fall of a High-End Wine Scammer || URL : https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-premier-cru-john-fox/
Sourced from Bloomberg || Subject : scam || The fake biofuel factory con  || URL : http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-fake-biofuel-factory/
Sourced from Mysterious Universe.Org || Subject : science & tech || On The Amazing Rise and Fall of a Rodent Utopia || URL : http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/03/the-amazing-rise-and-fall-of-a-rodent-utopia/
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : science & tech || The Minecraft Generation : How a clunky Swedish computer game is teaching millions of children to master the digital world. || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/magazine/the-minecraft-generation.html
Sourced from Waitbutwhy Blog || Subject : science & tech || On Why Cryonics Makes Sense || URL : http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/03/cryonics.html
Sourced from Wired || Subject : science & tech || Magic Leap’s mind-bending technology tells us about the future of virtual reality || URL : https://www.wired.com/2016/04/magic-leap-vr/
Sourced from Spiegel.De || Subject : travel || Crowding Out the Locals: Are Weekend Trips Ruining Europe’s Cities? || URL : http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/european-cities-test-measures-to-control-tourist-flows-a-1104903.html
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : travel || Welcome to the land that no country wants || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/03/welcome-to-the-land-that-no-country-wants-bir-tawil
Sourced from Wired || Subject : travel || Welcome to SpacePort! (Wired Writer Michael Hainey visits SPACEPORT in New Mexico and writes up about it) || URL : http://www.wired.com/2016/02/welcome-to-spaceport-america-your-rocket-will-depart-soon-ish/

 

The best Buffet for your money

Mount Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga are the 3 indisputable tallest mountain ranges out there. It is likely on the bucket list of many new and aspiring climbers, working as a backdrop siren call as they hone their skills on lesser mounds.

Book lovers have their own list but this list can never be definitive since there can be no universal consensus on what should go into “the toughest reads out there!” book list. Each person’s list, like the idea of utopia or hell, is personal and unique.

But odds are a 100 book list made by a lot of bibliophiles would likely contain gems like:
    Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

These books are reputed to be very tough slogs and there is no definitive guarantee you will turn the last page and feel glad you dived in. In fact, chances are most of these books will be flung across the room well before the last chapter. A lot of them are wilting in bookshelves around the world waiting for a day when the owner inevitably bundles it into the charity box for donation.

When I purchased ‘Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders‘ on 15 November 2013 (for the pricy sum of £2.07) I was not sure what I was in for. All I knew was that I liked Warren’s way of thinking, his approach to business and investing and I wanted to read more from the man directly, not via a biographer or hired hand. I surely would have done a double take if my future self had told me I would take 865 days to finish this thick fat almost 1000 page book.

 

L2S

‘Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders’ is not a book really but a collection of annual letters written by Warren Buffet, the legendary investor and 2nd richest man on Earth. Each year he writes a letter to his shareholders telling them how well (or poorly) Berkshire Hathaway, the company he runs, did. So technically this books, containing 50 letters, from 1965 to 2015, took 50 years to ‘write’. (Amazon automatically updated the kindle version with the letters of the last 2 years, after I purchased the book in 2013. Go Amazon!).

But then saying this book is a collection of annual letters written by Warren Buffett is akin to saying “History is about some important dates”. ‘Letters to Shareholders’ is soooo much much more than just a collection of letters. Through these 50 letters, Buffet talks about the wider investing and business world and touches on a lot of very interesting subjects, giving the reader a solid grounding on many helpful topics that can stand in as 24 Carat practical life lessons.

The book is especially splendid at educating the reader on 3 topics:

1. Investing: Over 50 letters (sermons?) Buffet elaborates on what being a value investor is all about and how to think like a smart value investor. There are books explicitly dedicated to teaching you investing and they fail at it while this £2 book does in effortlessly. Warren talks at length on how to think about investing and then how to act on that thinking. This alone makes this book worth the time needed to read it. I envy the young reader who finishes it before his 25th birthday. He is guaranteed to have a literally richer life than he would otherwise have had, whatever his starting position was weath-wise. Warren’s 2005 letter has a write up on ‘How to minimize investment returns’. What a tour de force that particular one was. As was the 2013 section ‘Some thoughts on investing’.

2. Business: Berkshire Hathaway buys and oversees a boatload of companies and Buffet wades deep into what specific metrics matter when running and evaluating a firm and which are the dubious ones (it’s EBIDTA). There are many colleges around the world, esp. in third world countries , offering dubious 2 year+ MBA and Business Diplomas that fail to do what this one little book does by itself: Give the reader an unbeatable and thorough education in the basics of thinking like a CEO/Businessman.

3. Understanding the Insurance Industry : Berkshire Hathaway at its core is an Insurance firm and as a Consultant currently embedded at one such firm, I could not have hoped for a more comprehensive overview on how to look into and understand the industry and the myriad operators in it. Insurance plays a crucial part in economies globally and the book gives the reader lessons on how to evaluate the health of the industry and a firm in it. Nothing comes close.

So yes, while it took me the better part of 30 months to finish this book end to end, it was only because one should ingest this book slowly and gradually to let the lessons and Buffet’s wisdom sink in, like sand settling at the bottom of a lake. A beach read this book is most definitely not but you know what this book most definitely is : The best £2 I ever spent.

So go on, jump in and climb this Everest of a book . The view from the top is breathtaking.

My 2015 Movies Watched Review

Back in 2014 I managed to cram in a decent 76 movies into my year.
I told myself at the end of that year I would see MORE in 2015.

I did. I saw 77. 1 more.
Thats right. ONE MORE than 2014.
This is what impartial observers would lament is a case study in “winning in letter but not in spirit

Still…fair is fair. more is more.

Now as a Project Manager in the Consulting Space, taking a ‘situation’ and analyzing the shit out of it is a skill that comes second only to breathing both in ease and frequency from Monday through Friday. (weekends are for movies)
So that what I am going to do below.
Caveat Emptor : I am doing this for one veteran client : Me. But I am uploading this here so you can see it to get one useful thing from the infograph :

A list of the very best 6 movies from this pool. Of which 61 were extremely watchable.

 

Guide to surving the 2015 winter

Here is a good heuristic I picked up here in the south of England:
Summers are for Biking. Winters are for Gaming.

With the weather getting chillier by the passing day, nothing remotely beats sprawling on the sofa and firing up the xbox  with a hot cup of coffee parked next to you.
So far I only played only 2 games this year on my console and recently started on the third. Which promises to be smashingly fun and a massive time suck. Exactly what you need to survive the winter here.

The game that I thoroughly enjoyed playing this year : ASSASSIN’S CREED – BLACK FLAG. What fun playing a pirate!

2396855-ac4blackflag
The game is open world, which means you can roam pretty much wherever you want and totally ignore the linear narrative and plot. Which I did. Did not even bother with finishing the main plot till now and I don’t think I ever will. This is the cool thing with open world games like GTA, Fallout etc. You can totally ignore the main plot of the game and just do your thing. And in Black Flag the “thing” is Piracy! And believe me, hunting ships in the open sea is bloody darn fun. And I went deeeep into looting Spanish and English ships on the Atlantic to capture money and supplies to upgrade my ship (`The Jackdaw’). Gorgeous graphics makes it a quite an experience too. No hyperbole : Watching a massive blue whale suddenly emerge from the water, next to your ship and then do a flip. Memorable. Completely recommend a buy.

Metro Last Light : first person shooter. Meh. Started playing. Not a baaad game per se but nothing that stands out from the million other FPS out there. Gave up about 15% in.
2226861-box_mll

Now gamers around the world right now are very pumped about ‘Fallout 4’. I am staying away from playing it only because my personal gaming philosophy is ‘Wait for the reviews from the first lot of folks who play it’. I am rear echelon infantry in gaming. And that is why the game I am getting into this winter here is a game that won a lot of `GAME OF THE YEAR` awards in 2014. I engaged with it earlier in the year but this RPG has such a high learning curve I gave up about 2% in. Seriously. This is the type of game where the accompanying “slim” strategy guide is 500 pages of arcane details.

The Game in question is  : Dragon Age Inquisition
Dragon_Age_Inquisition_wallpaper
I picked up where I left it and now, about 10% in, I am obsessively hooked. This game is so damn massive, people have played it for 200 hours and still not finished it. That is like playing a game from 9 AM to 5 PM for 25 days straight and still leaving it incomplete. These type of games are like digital heroine and the last 2 times I was this sucked in comprehensively was when I came across Civilization 5 on my PC in 2013 and Final Fantasy XI on the PS2 in 2008.

Like Mass Effect, another brilliant RPG, Dragon Age Inquisition has a in game team you slowly develop over multiple missions and you tend to become very attached a few of them and the more skilled they become, the more ambitious your missions become.

By the time the chilling xmas the newspapers are predicting is here, I am going to go kill some Dragons with my team mates.

Buy this Game, kiss your girlfriend/wife goodbye and rock this Christmas Winter!

Games as a Portal to Deep Learning

Even now in my late 30s I regularly play games on my Xbox and relish it. Most dismiss it as a silly distraction. But Gamers know just how good, immersive and addictive these new age games are. But even fewer realize how educational video games can be.

Yes. EDUCATIONAL. And not in the vague weasel-politician-word sense but in the real sense the word implies.

Allow me this anecdote to elaborate.

2015-08-23 21.01.02

In early 2014 gaming website, Gamespot, released the list of the best XBOX 360 Games reviewed the previous year.

Much to my delight one of the games on that list was part of a series I have thoroughly enjoyed – ASSASSINS CREED. So I promptly purchased the game :

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a historical fiction action-adventure open world stealth video game. Players have praised its massive open world gameplay, numerous side-quests, beautiful graphics and very cool naval combat. The story is set in the early 18th century Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy, and follows notorious pirate Edward Kenway. Unlike previous games, gameplay elements focus more on ship-based exploration in the open world map, while also retaining the series’ third-person land-based exploration, melee combat, and stealth system. The game spans across the Caribbean with the three main cities of Havana, Nassau and Kingston along with numerous islands, sunken ships, and forts. For the first time in the series, naval exploration became a major part of an Assassin’s Creed game, where Edward Kenway captains the Jackdaw, a ship he captures from a Spanish fleet.

I am about 50% into the game and totally absolutely love it. Piracy is so much fun!

There is a sequence about midway into the game story when I found myself swimming to a British ship to kill a bad guy on-board and it was almost sunset in the game. The ship was HUGE and there is a moment, when the light caught the ship as I was swimming to it, capturing it’s full massive frame. For a deliciously brief second or two I understood the shock and awe the new world people must have experienced when they saw these ships off their cost in the 15th century. Like I REALLY got it. It was the most immersive experience I have ever had playing a game and I have been playing them for 15+ years.

Something else I noticed when playing was that the Spanish ships always attacked British ships and vice versa. I got used to seeing these sea battles all the time and remember these are Game A.I controlled which means someone while designing the game programmed this into the game. And I wondered Why…? .

So I looked it up. Turns out in history The Spanish and The British have a LONG history of sparring on the high seas.

Went to GoodReads.com and researched that bit. A book ‘Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy’ has some solid reviews and seemed best poised to answer my question. So I hit the buy button. 56 chapters and 720 pages of naval history awaited me. Niceee! As now I write this blog I just hit chapter 13 : The famous 1588 Battle between the Spanish Armada and British Navy. Its gripping stuff.

The only problem is visualization. The author paints a picture with words of all the ships of the era but it is a bit difficult to visualize correctly. I don’t know the difference between a Caravel, A Galley and a Brig. Makes full immersion difficult. Very luckily, while browsing a BHF charity book-store I stumbled into this Hardcover Gem : ‘Empire of the Seas: How the Navy Forged the Modern World‘ by Brian Lavery. Like a Playboy magazine, I didn’t buy it for the content but for the PICTURES. Gorgeous sketches of naval history from the Medieval ages onwards.

The xbox game also got me interested in SHIP BUILDING as an activity since you find yourself constantly using your loot in the game to buy ship upgrades and I wanted to understand that a bit more. And Discovery Channel came to the rescue. The were selling this DVD documentary on ship building : “The World’s Biggest Ship: Building the Triple-E” – The 2 Disc documentary gives you an idea of how the Danish and South Koreans built the world’s most massive ships. And as luck would have it, an hour away from my flat is the best place in Earth to fully quench my thirst for understanding this naval history : The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and may be the largest museum of its kind in the world. IN THE WORLD! Living in London is coincidentally convenient! I am going there soon, after I finish the book, the game and the documentary.

All this, everything you read above, started from one question in the middle of a game : ‘Why are those two ships in the distance sparring?’

So when someone you know starts really getting into gaming don’t just dismiss it as a silly distraction. It could be a portal to so much more.

2015-08-23 21.01.02

Born Lucky

If you are reading this blog post the odds are you are an adult, well over the age of 16 (at least chronologically).

This means you were likely born somewhere between the 1960s and 1980s. And while reading this very absorbing wikipedia entry I was only NOW stuck by an astoundingly cool fact.

You and I, without effort, just by the accident of birth, have done something that’s rare in human history : When we happily toasted to the new year on 1st Jan 2001, we not only cheerfully crossed over from one century to another (from the 20th to 21st century), we are crossed from one millennia to another (more specifically from the 2nd millennium to the 3rd millennium). This kind of jump is not a boast the majority of humans from the past can make. 1 of 10 centuries in a millennia allows for the opportunity. With the rapid mind boggling way technology and human progress has accelerated in the last few decades, the vinegar in this realization comes from the hard reality that you and I were grew up and were educated in one millennia but work, play and live in a different millennia. So if you ever live to see your great-grand-kids/nieces/nephews you can wheez to them that you have seen and experienced life across centuries and millennia and the next grandfather/grandma who can claim so is 900 odd years away so they better pay attention to the pearls you are dispensing.

Because that statement would be factually a 100% correct.

Is’nt that mind bogglingly cool ?! image