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August 11, 2011

The Girl who Kicked Over the Hornet’s Nest-Steig Larson:  Well the series comes to an end in basically the way you expect.  These were entertaining, but I still thought not as good as the hype surrounding them.  I basically come out with Swedes have crazy sexual preferences and computer hackers can do anything they want to do and find anything they want to, which is a little frightening. 

The Black Swan-Nassim Taleb: Great book that relates to almost everything.  Taleb is a financial guy, but he is talking about uncertainty and risk and how we are almost always underestimating that risk.  He points to the Gaussian bell curve as one of the main reasons for this as it does not allow for black swans.  Black swans are events that are 1. Hard to predict  2. Have a large impact  3. Can be explained away after the fact in order to make them appear less random(even though they are extremely random).  So a Gaussian bell curve is good when a black swan is not possible like in a physical characteristics like a person’s height, but when looking at book sales, stock market, income distribution, etc Mandelbrotian fractals should be the base instead of a bell curve.  It sounds more complicated than it is…Taleb does a good job of explaining.

The Lost Symbol-Dan Brown: I’d recommend this over The Millenium series every day.  It is more of a page turner and has such an interesting story.  It’s about Freemasons and Washington DC and fusing science and religion.  One of my favorite things about it is that you don’t know how much is true, so I’ve probably spent two or three hours just researching various things in the book.  Anyway it was very exciting and very good.

Built to Last-Jim Collins: In this book, the authors looked at companies in America and picked the 20 best.  Then they picked 20 good ones to compare and attempted to find things to account for that difference.  What they said made the difference was having a core ideology and values that one stuck with throughout.  To tell the truth I’m a little skeptical, but it was a decent read anyway because it gave some good histories of companies like 3M which started out as a mining company but now has completely changed(but maintained it’s core ideology) and has made such a variety of things including Post it Notes, Scotch Tape, and Air Filters.  

Collapse-Jared Diamond:  It was about why societies sometimes collapsed.  Diamond reasoned it happened primarily through our killing of the environment through deforestation, not using resources correctly, too much population, etc.  He pointed out some early civilizations like the Mayans or the Vikings in Greenland who collapsed because of those reasons and then attempted to switch it to modern times comparing ancient chiefs using too many resources to create the Eastern Island statues to CEO’s being payed outrageous salaries.   While it had interesting points, he tried really hard to reason that we needed government to step in because we didn’t know what we were doing to the environment.  I think if he had stayed away from policy prescriptions he would have done better.  Essentially he was talking about Black Swans, but he didn’t know it and doesn’t know that since it happened that way in the past, it’s more likely to happen in some other way.  I also have come across some information that all is not exactly what he wrote.  I am indebted to this book though as it allowed me to get some needed sleep on the plane.

One Comment leave one →
  1. morning dove permalink
    August 16, 2011 3:40 am

    i love to read, will have to try these out. laura sent me to your blog as i only met her over the weekend. you are a fortunate brother to have such a wonderful sista. and i’m sure she feels the same about you.

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