Monthly Archives: December 2004

Books: Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb

This is the last book I read in 2004. This book was long ago recommended to me by Nicolas Boullet and the initial inspiration for me to read it came from an article I read a few years back on Taleb in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell entitled Blowing Up: How Nassim Taleb turned the inevitability of disaster into an investment strategy.

This a book worth reading. The subject is randomness — and it is a book with a lot of statistics but at the same time is somewhat new agey (though I am sure the author had little intention to do that). Taleb goes over some of the classic randomness problems and discusses them with real-world conclusions. He also goes on rants on some of the people (journalists, other traders, even scientists) who do not see randomness.

Taleb discusses the black swan problem. Even if you are a swan connoisseur and you’ve seen 4000 swans in your life and all of them are white, you still cannot be certain that all swans are white. However, you only need to see one black swan to know that not all swans are white. Therefore, information is not all equal.

Taleb believes (and I agree) that much of success is due to luck … a role of the dice. If you have a 50% of randomly beating the market each year (which seems reasonable) then you have a 3.125% chance of beating the market five years in a row (0.5 to the power of 5). That means if 10,000 traders were just rolling dice when picking stocks in 1999 (and most of them are), then we should expect 313 of them to beat the market for the last five years. Of course, if you invested in any of those 313, you only have a 50% chance of beating the market next year.

Summation: Fooled by Randomness is a great book and a fast read. If you can get by the sometimes over-reaching stories of the author, you will learn a lot.

Books: John Adams

Review: John Adams by David McCullough.

One of my favorite all-time books is McCullough’s Truman. And though the Adams book does not rise to the Truman level, it still ranks as an interesting and thoughtful biography with great insights into the revolutionary war and the U.S. constitution (unfortunately, the book is far less detailed once Adams actually becomes veep and president).

Summation: great book to get lost in. put it on your 2005 list.

Books: Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street

trying to quickly review the books i’ve read in 2004 that i haven’t yet included in Summation …

Review: Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street by Michael Lewis

An oldie but goodie. i love michael lewis. book details the rise and fall of Salomon Brothers, the red hot bond market of the 1980s, and the life of a lowly analyst.

summation: quick read (i read it on an intl plane trip) but a goodie

Hunter Walk on Baby Names

My friend Hunter Walk was a recent guest blogger on Google’s Blog. He has some Modern advice for parents-to-be when is come to optimizing baby names for modern parents to be.

To dig into this further, check out the Top Five Male Names for Births in 2003 by state (i’ll give you a hint, “Auren” isn’t one of them). You’ll see a lot of Jacobs — they’re everywhere. and you’ll see some cultural changes (like a lot of Joses in Texas and California).

My Rules for Living

As the new year approaches, I find it is helpful to write down one’s rules for living. I have done this for the last few years and find it is help. Published below are some of my (non-personal) rules.   I would also be very interested in hearing your rules — feel free to email them to me.

– don’t waste your talents. If you are blessed, help others.

– if you are reading this, chances are that your life is better than at least 90% of the people on earth. Always remember that. Use your talents and wealth to make the world better for the other 90%.

– always be adamant about learning. Time is not on your side. Listen to books on tape. Read the paper every day. Incorporate learning into your daily routine

– force yourself to read at least 10 pages of a book every day. A real book (with at least 150 pages) — not a periodical.

– go out of your way to help people. Always be the first to proactively volunteer to drive a friend to the airport or help her move. Always try to connect people to one another if they can mutually benefit.

– don’t complain … ever. Don’t sweat the little things …

– don’t hang out with people that complain

– fire people that complain

– never, ever be unethical. Follow the ten commandments to a tee. In the rare case that you tell a lie, make sure you force yourself to feel bad about it.

– always be on time and respect other people’s time

– always have something to read

– fix little problems right away

– always carry a pen

– "the perfect is the enemy of the good". There are things that need to be done right and there are things you need to do right now.

– "one does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time" – Andre Gide

– "the worst thing you can do for those you love is the things they could do and should do for themselves." – Abraham Lincoln

– "you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take" – Wayne Gretzky