Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: Einstein: His Life and Universe


Einstein: His Life and Universe
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This is possibly one of the longest books I have read but I am eventually finished. I have always enjoyed reading biographies and this one was no different. While this is a merely one account of Professor Albert Einstein I found it very insightful. We as humans have to wonderful ability to romanticise great people and I believe Einstein is no different.

Einstein was a very complex soul and definitely not a model citizen. He was no doubt one of the smartest people of his generation but very little of what he wrote seemed to have ever been proven (well what I can see from the book being a layman). He was theoretical physicist who engaged in many thought experiments but never had the empirical evidence to back it up (other than his bending light theory). He was a celebrity of his time and was not shy of the limelight even though he claimed he shunned it. Having said that, Einstein left his make on history and the world is a better place for having experienced him.

The book was generally well written. My only complaint is the author favoured using many unfamiliar words and I constantly had to make use of the built-in Kindle dictionary. This could be a function of my limited intelligence but I thought there was often a simpler word that could have been used.

Overall, I would recommend this book to learn more about the famous Professor Albert Einstein.



View all my reviews

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at All


Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at All
Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at All by William Knowlton Zinsser

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



This book is built on an interesting concept. The power of writing should be used across multiple disciplines and not just in the English classroom. The book is about writing in plain English and takes aim at those who hide behind jargon and are obsessed with sounding intelligent. The book has two parts. The first deals with writing in general while the second has many examples of writing across different disciplines (from mathematics to arts). I enjoyed the book and recommend it.



View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review: The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich


The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich
The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



A good book but not a great book. Entertaining all the way through. I must admit I had no idea Marc Rich & Co was Glencore, the listed company and in fact had no idea who Marc Rich was before I read this book.

I did feel that while the author kept stating his neutrality, he was rather sympathetic to Marc Rich. Marc Rich is a billionaire and former commodities trader who was hunted by the US law enforcement agencies for a myriad of charges. My own take is that it was a bit of a witch-hunt but I would hardly say that Marc Rich is an upstanding citizen. He traded with many blacklisted countries such as Cuba, Apartheid South Africa and Iran. I believe everything he did was motivated by profit.

I would recommend this book as an entertaining and quick read for anyone interested in the commodities world or would like to read a scandalous story.



View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

[Video] Did Microsoft Get It Right or Wrong?

In 1999, Microsoft published this video about the Smart Home of the Future. In my opinion, things seem to be panning out pretty closely to this video...

 

Review: The Halo Effect: How Managers let Themselves be Deceived


The Halo Effect: How Managers let Themselves be Deceived
The Halo Effect: How Managers let Themselves be Deceived by Phil Rosenzweig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



I will the first to admit I read a lot of business "how to" books, stories about bubbles and crashes etc. This book made me rethink everything I have read in the past and made me realise how I am as guilty as anyone for letting the Halo effect cloud my decision making.

The Halo Effect is essentially about our very human desire to find meaning in everything by ascribing causes to certain outcomes. In other words, we tend to judge our decisions by the outcomes they produce. Unfortunately (or some would counter fortunately), we live in an uncertain complex world where the outcome of most decisions cannot not be predicted.

This resonates with me due to the fact I work as a fund manager. We are judged by the performance of the funds we manage (and more often than not over the short term). Sometimes you follow a sound process and end up with a poor investment result and on other occasions your process is flawed and you end up with a good result (if we honest we should call the outcome luck!). The point is investment professionals should be judged by how they came about a decision rather than merely the outcome. This of course is unrealistic as it completely against the outcomes obsessed nature of humans.

This book is also about thinking in probabilistic terms. We should make decisions based on probabilities. This acknowledges that we will not always get the outcome desired but if we consistently follow probabilities then we should more often than not end up with a satisfactory result.

A great book that I will read over and over again.



View all my reviews