Book of the Week: The Complete Visual Guide to Building a House

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This week I read The Complete Visual Guide to Building a House, because if you have a tear down, you need to build a new house from scratch. It is useful to know what your contractor and subcontractors are doing and what needs to be done. The book is fully illustrated, enabling a person like me easily understand things. The book goes over laying the foundation, framing the floors, walls and ceiling, roofing, windows, drywalling, tiling, flooring, stairs, doors and trim. It doesn’t go over electrical or plumbing, so you’ll have to rely on your subcontractors on that. What I did learn is that there are a lot of places to cut corners. Ideally, you get a pallet of construction grade lumber and sort out the straight pieces from the bent pieces. Use the straight pieces where straightness is important and find some other place to stick the not as straight pieces. If I was lazy, I wouldn’t bother sorting the wood and use whatever was quickly accessible. There are a lot of details to get right. The book provides a good general outline of how things are done, but different regions have different building codes. There are a lot of specific details in each part of the construction process. Don’t expect to take your pickup truck to Home Depot (HD) for materials and amigos and be able to build a house after reading this book.

Book of the Week: Once Upon a Time in Russia

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This week I read Once Upon a Time in Russia by Ben Mezrich, the author of Bringing Down the House. I’m an ant and this book tells you how the world really works. How Russian oligarchs and Putin obtained their wealth and power. What happened in Russia is playing itself out in China, where you have fortunes being made through the privatization of government-owned companies. When you have politics, companies, power and wealth, you will always get corruption. Even in the United States, you have politicians putting their children into power at drug companies to raise the prices and fleece the public. Even throw in a fake MBA degree from a college while you’re at it.

The book is mainly about Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch, who put Yeltsin and Putin in power, but ultimately fell out of favor with Putin. It also details the background of Alexander Litvinenko, who was assassinated by polonium poisoning. Roman Abramovich, Boris’ protege and 137th richest person in the world, represents a contrasting oligarch who was willing to play by Putin’s rules.

When the house tells you that you should cash in your chips and leave, you should do so. Or you’ll leave in a body bag.

 

Book of the Week: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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This week I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by the amazing Marie Kondo. If you watch any videos of Marie, you’ll see why I call her amazing. She’ll change your life for the better. Marie developed her KonMari method after years of running a tidying business. Tidying is not just about making your living space uncluttered, it is about freeing your mind to focus on the things that bring you joy. As I learned in make space, people are heavily influenced by their environment. You must create an environment for people to thrive. This book is more about mindset than technique. You need to change the way your relationship with things, the final state of where you want to people and why you want to be there.

Marie is not alone. Other people have reaped the benefit of tidying. James Altucher got rid of most of his possessions and found that minimalism brought him freedom and joy. A lawyer in Shanghai switched careers to run a tidying business just like Marie.

Tidying

Tidying is composed of two actions: discarding and deciding where to store things. You should not do a little bit of tidying every day. You should allocate time and make this a special event where you set yourself up with the proper habits. When you start tidying you should start by category and not by location. This lets you evaluate everything in that category.

Discarding

People have trouble discarding things that they could still use (functional value), that contain helpful information (informational value), and that have sentimental ties (emotional value). When these things are hard to obtain or replace (rarity), they become even harder to part with.

Tidying begins with discarding. When you discard first, you have less to store. The criteria for keeping something is to ask, “Does this spark joy?”. If it does not, then chuck it. Eventually you’re left with stuff that brings you joy. There is less noise, letting focus on what makes you happy.

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.

There is a proper order to tidying.

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Komono (miscellany)
  • Things with sentimental value.

Clothing can be further sub categorized into

  • Tops (shirts, sweaters, etc.)
  • Bottoms (pants, skirts, etc.)
  • Clothes that should be hung (jackets, coats, suits, etc.)
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Bags (handbags, messenger bags, etc.)
  • Accessories (scarves, belts, hats, etc.)
  • Clothes for specific events (swimsuits, kimonos, uniforms, etc.)
  • Shoes

Folding Clothes

There is a special KonMari method for folding clothes. It is probably better to watch the video of it than have me try to explain it. What you end up with is something that you can stand up vertically that will stand up by itself. The reason to store things vertically is that you don’t bury things underneath and it also takes up space, so you can’t fool yourself by stacking things high. You will notice the accumulation of crap sooner. Actually feeling and touching the clothes while you’re folding also has some spiritual effects.

Your closet should be arranged with clothing length getting shorter, material getting thinner and the clothes getting lighter as you move from left to right.

Books

Books can be divided into four board categories.

  • General (books you read for pleasure)
  • Practical (references, cookbooks, etc.)
  • Visual (photography collections, etc.)
  • Magazines

You should be left with books that bring you joy.

Papers

I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three’s categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.

Like clothing, having them vertical helps too. Bias toward throwing away everything.

Komono (miscellaneous items)

People tend to accumulate more stuff than they want or need. No special storage devices are necessary. As part of tidying, you should eliminate visual information like tags and other things that don’t need to be there. Marie goes into specifics for each of these subcategories in her book.

  1. CDs, DVDs
  2. Skin care products
  3. Makeup
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc.)
  6. Electrical equipment and applicants (digital camera,s electric cords, anything that seems vaguely “electric”)
  7. Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc.)
  8. Household equipment (expendable so like medicine, detergents, tissues,e tic.)
  9. Kitchen goods/food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc.)
  10. Other (spare change, figurines, etc.)

Sentimental items

By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past. If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now. To put things in order means to put your past in order too. It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward.

Don’t store shit at your parent’s home and make it their problem. This is about living in the here and now. What we like doesn’t change over time, but tidying helps us discover it. Discarding things is like a value statement. Only by making decisions do we find out what we truly value.

But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.

Making these decisions helps one decide what you want to do your life.

As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.

I need to put my life in order.

Book of the Week: Prison Ramen

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This week I read Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories Behind Bars, because if I was going to do any recruiting, I would need to know about the most valuable commodity in the prison economy. The ramen recipes provide a backdrop to the prison stories. Prison kind of sucks, but I guess that is the point of it. If you’re not a white male drug taking athlete from Stanford, you could possible end up in jail. There are some stories from celebrities like Danny Trejo and Shia LaBeouf, who talks about his time stealing Pokemon from Kmart. I learned that sugar-filled coffee can help with heroin withdrawal. Although I’d stay away from heroin since there is not much difference between a therapeutic dose and lethal dose. If you want some booze in prison, there’s a pruno recipe too.

Racism

Sometimes, there was even fighting within the races, but it was still about race. For example, you’d have Mexican immigrants fighting in big riots against the Mexican American homeboys.

Prisons are usually broken down along racial and gang affiliations. If you want to survive in prison, you need to be affiliated with a group or just be crazy enough that no one will mess with you.

Mail-Out

An inmate’s associate could send him a cashier’s check or money order from drug sales or some other illegal act and in turn the inmate could send money elsewhere in the form of a clean federal check.

You used to be able to use the prison system to launder money. When you are heavily constrained, you need to be creative to survive and compensate.

Book of the Week: Chaos Monkey

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This week I read Chaos Monkey by Antonio García Martínez. As I read the book, it seemed so candid that it could have only been written by someone with FU money. The book was 500 page long, but it was an enjoyable read as a window into what Silicon Valley is really like. The author dropped out of a PhD in physics at UC Berkeley to work as a quant at Goldman Sachs. Afterwards he moved west to join Adchemy, a tech company. He left Adchemy to start AdGrok through the YCombinator incubator program. AdGrok was acquired by Twitter and Martínez joined Facebook pre-IPO to product manage their ads. Things happen in a flash of the eye.

Startups

At the end of the day. AdGrok was simply a long, stressful job interview for Facebook(and ditto for the boys at Twitter). We all claim we “sold” AdGrok, but in reality, AdGrok was merely leverage to the job offers that actually made us the real financial upside, job offers we would not have been able to score otherwise.

There are two traits of successful startup founders are being obsessively focused and the ability to take endure endless amounts of shit. Startups are hard, but having an excellent network gives you a soft landing. Being successful is just as much as having the network as being able to technically execute.

Silicon Valley Capitalism

Investors are people with more money than time.

Employees are people with more time than money.

Entrepreneurs are simply the seductive go betweens.

Startups are business experiments performed with other people’s money.

Marketing is like sex: only losers pay for it.

Company culture is what goes without saying.

There are no real rules, only laws.

Success forgives all sins.

People who leak to you, leak about you.

Meritocracy is the propaganda we use to bless charade.

Greed and vanity are the twin engines of bourgeois society.

Most managers are incompetent and maintain their jobs via inertia and politics.

Lawsuits are merely expensive feints in a well-scripted conflict narrative between corporate entities.

Capitalism is an immoral face in which every player—investor, employee, entrepreneur, consumer—is complicit.

I don’t like being called a loser, this is what Silicon Valley is.

Book of the Week: The Only Game in Town

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This week I read The Only Game in Town: central banks, instability, and avoiding the next collapse by Mohamed A. El-Erian. This book sort of just went through me without me absorbing anything. It feels like a brain dump by El-Erian. The chapters are really short and it doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know. If you lived in the future and wanted to figure out what happened in the past, this might be an okay starting point, but other books go much deeper into specific subjects. The main issue is that we are going through a period of low growth, which has a lot of societal implications like inequality. If you want to read more about that, I recommend Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. El-Erain keeps referring to a T-intersection, where things will get worst or they will get better. If that is the case, I might as well do a long straddle.

Issues

  1. Repeatedly inadequate and unbalanced economic expansion, reflecting cyclical/secular/structural headwinds, highlights the extend to which many advanced economies still lack proper growth methods.
  2. Unemployment remains too high in far too many advanced countries; and it is getting more deeply embedded in the structure of these economies and, therefore, will become that much harder to solve.
  3. Fueled by an unusual combination of cyclical, secular, and structural factors, the worsening of income and wealth inequality has been so pronounced within countries that it now also undermines opportunities.
  4. The loss of institutional credibility is part of a more generalized erosion of trust in politicians and the “system” as a whole.
  5. National political dysfunction is still a headwind to overcome economic malaise and restoring genuine and durable financial stability.
  6. As national dysfunction undermines global policy coordination, traditional core/periphery relations fail and geopolitical tensions escalate.
  7. With systemic risks migrating from banks to nonbanks, and morphing in the process, regulators are again challenged to get ahead of future problems.
  8. When the market paradigm changes, as it inevitably will, the desire to reposition portfolios will far exceed what the system can accommodate in an orderly fashion.
  9. Yet none of these uncertainties and fluidities seemed to disturb financial markets that, operating with unusually low volatility, went form one record to another. As such, the contrasting gap between financial risk taking (high) and economic risk taking (low) has never been so wide.
  10. All of this adds up to considerable headwinds for the better managed part of national, regional and global systems.

As you can see, there are a lot of issues.

One really interesting thing is that the big companies of the future will come from emerging markets.

Purchase The Only Game in Town on Amazon.com or check it out from your local library.

Book of the Week: How to Win Games and Beat People

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This week I read How to Win Games and Beat People by Tom Whipple, because I am tired of losing. The book is a quick read and goes through many games. It does highlight some of the mathematical results, but being a technical person, I’d rather go further in depth.

And take the General Game Playing course.