Monthly Archives: January 2007

Book: God Delusion

The God Delusion
By Richard Dawkins

this is a fascinating book by one of my favorite authors. it is also very controversial as the objective of the book is to convince the user that God does not exist and that one should be an atheist.

i found the book interesting and worth reading. and while i still believe in God after finishing the book, I enjoyed reading it nevertheless and encourage others to do so (especially since it is available on Audible).

Dawkins’ goal is to attack God. instead he attacks religion. And while God and religion are very intertwined, they are not the same thing. Dawkins actually talks about many people that believe in religion but not in God. but he fails to mention the millions of people that believe in God but not religion.

summation: this is a very thought provoking book and it will certainly make you think.

social phishing … be very scared

i had lunch with Aaron Emigh today and he reminded me about a fascinating study from the Informatics department at Indiana University (they are doing great work there):

Social Phishing

this is an incredible paper which details a study where they sent a general phishing email to 94 students and 15 of them (or 16%) fell for the attack and entered their login and password in an obviously fake site. 16% is an extremely high number.

but it gets worse.

the research sent the same phishing email to an additional 487 students … but the email had one twist … is was sent from someone they knew (they got the information from mining Facebook). this time 349 people — or a staggering 72% — were victims of the phishing attack.

summation: i highly recommend reading the paper on Social Phishing by Tom Jagatic, Nathaniel Johnson, Markus Jakobsson, and Filippo Menczer … thanks Aaron!

benefits of being a mile wide

Fabrice Grinda pointed me to a great article in FORTUNE:
Cross-train your brain: The pursuit of excellence need not be single-minded. That serious hobby of yours? It can, believe it or not, make you better in everything you do

essentially — there is a huge advantage to being a mile wide (with a few deep sink-holes too). this gives you the opportunity to spot trends and look for patterns. it might also prolong your life.

Thomas Friedman makes this analogy in foreign policy. while there are a great deal of specialists, the generalists like Friedman who know lots (but is not an expect) about lots of countries (and he also understands technology, trends, economies, politics, environment, financial instruments, and more) can build pathways between random pieces of data that others wouldn’t see. Peter Thiel is a good example of a business person who does that.

Fabrice sums up:

To some extent, this is counter-intuitive – you might expect to perform best by putting 100% of our efforts into a single pursuit. However, recent evidence suggests that is not the case. Your behavior shapes your brain and the benefits of practicing one skill are not limited to that skill alone, they can be transferred, and the more things you know something about the more there is to transfer. As Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School says: “If you practice multiple things you actually get better at any one of those things.”

Honesty — being forthright is good for business

I used to clean houses when I was in high school.

In high school, I ran a little company called H+M Services that did household chores. I’d employ my high school friends for many of the jobs (I took a 10% fee of what they made) and I took the really high paying jobs for myself. Those were often the housecleaning and lawn-mowing jobs (they pay really well).

When is was 16, I cleaned one guy’s house in Harrison NY. He had a condo and he was a really nice guy. He bought and sold Hollywood scripts and gave me a lot of business advice. He trusted me … gave me the keys to his home, and would usually leave a $20 tip — big money for a high school student.

One day I was his condo cleaning while I was tossing one of his paperweights in the air and catching it. Then … all of a sudden … I missed the paperweight and it went crashing through the dry-wall. I was shocked. There was a big hole in the wall.

Rather than leaving a note for the owner telling him what I had done (this was before the ubiquity of cell phones and email), I rearranged his furniture to cover up the hole thinking he might not notice. When he called me later that night asking for an explanation, I pretended that I did not see the hole and that it must have already been there. It was a horribly lame lie.

While I did not lose the customer, he never trusted me anymore. And I never got the tip anymore. And I never got the business advice or career help. I devolved to hired help … that was all.

This is one of the many incidents that I regret. If I had to do it all over again, I wish I had left a note, left the money from that job, and proactively calling the homeowner to see if I can help more.

book: The Great Influenza

Amazon_great_influenzaThe Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History
By: John M. Barry

This is a fascinating book (available on Audible — 19 hour audio) about the formation of the U.S. medical community, the founding of Johns Hopkins and Rockefeller Institute, and the struggle and battle against the biggest and fastest murderer is history — the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu.

The book is fascinating … dissecting how bad the medical community was in the late 1800s and how a few people were able to radically transform it in a short time. And it has some parallels to today — could we do better today against a virulent outbreak?

If you can stomach this long book, I highly recommend it. I will be thinking about it for years.