Saturday, May 9, 2020

Second 10 books I read in 2020

Reading Period: May 9th - June 15th
1. When Genius Failed, by Roger Lowenstein

    This is probably my favorite finance book. Roger chronicles the rise and fall of LTCM, a story with important lessons about risk, leverage, and hubris. The overconfidence displayed by LTCM's partners is honestly astounding, and it is very hard to have any sympathy for any of the parties involved. Two quotes I found particularly insightful:

"No investment can be judged on the basis of half a cycle alone"
"As Keynes noted, one bet soundly considered is preferable to many poorly understood"

    Diversification is not everything. Markets have fatty tails. Overall, a Nobel Prize pales in comparison to proper risk management.

2. Storm Front, by Jim Butcher

    I needed a break from non-fiction, and this was a good escape. I read it in one day, fun fantasy story about a wizard detective who solves crimes. Not the best writing, but accomplishes what it set out to do. Overall a fun and fast read. I read that this series gets better as it goes on, and I might save the next few books for a rainy day.

3. Python Crash Course, by Eric Matthes

    I probably shouldn't have read this book, I'm already pretty familiar with the language already, and it is more for beginners. Still, there were some parts that I found useful, and it would have been very useful to read as a beginner. I didn't delve too much into the side projects at the end, I have done more complicated ones for work. Overall good enough starter book.

4. The C Programming Language, by Kernighan and Ritchie

    I really only read this book because my parents had it laying around. They both programmed in C in the late 1980s. Easy read, less than 200 pages, but I am not familiar with direct memory management so the entire discussion about pointers was lost on me. Also I am not familiar with Unix, so that part was lost on me too. Understanding the rest was pretty easy, the structure is similar to most other languages and it seems clear that Python was heavily influenced by the syntax. This book demystified C, and was worth the short read.

5. Code Complete, by Steve McConnell

    At over 850 pages, this book is very intimidating. However, it was extremely informative, and I now know more about software development than I ever expected to know. I am curious to see how useful this book will be for my current job, and I am guessing that it was mostly benefit me in ways not at all related to programming.

"Nobody is really smart enough to program computers. Fully understanding an average program requires an almost limitless capacity to absorb details and an equal capacity to comprehend them all at the same time. The way you focus your intelligence is more important than how much intelligence you have."

    It is very weird how insightful this book was in every way, but mostly in ways not related to coding. Project management, time management, teamwork, and many other important business skills are emphasized. I'm sure a lot of the technical information was lost on me, but the overall message and emphasis on reducing complexity is now buried in my brain.

6. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien

    This book is really a collection of essays. The problem with books formatted in this way (see Hackers & Painters) is for some reason only around half of the essays are usually good. The first essay is very well written and insightful, while the rest vary wildly in merit. Overall, I wasn't too impressed by the book, it seemed that the narrator's unreliability did not have the desired effect. Also, Tim seemed to be trying too hard to be profound, when other war books more grounded in reality have been much more impactful.

7. Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, by Charles Petzold

    Before I picked this book, I asked myself, "what topic do you know the least amount about?" I decided that I really, fundamentally do not understand how computers work. I doubt many people understand the entire stack of inter-workings, but I decided to learn the basics. The first 100 pages were honestly jaw-dropping. Over the course of the whole book you build an entire computer from scratch, and learn important electrical engineering and mathematical concepts along the way. This book ended up being hard to get through, but it was well worth it.

    This is probably the most informative book I have read in a while. I have newfound respect for the giants on whose shoulders we now stand.

8. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, by Nick Bostrom

    Probably the most interesting book I have ever read, at least in terms of tangible outcomes that will directly impact humans in the centuries to come. Nick is probably the most intelligent writer there is, and an obvious expert in his field. One of the most creative thinkers shares his warnings and potential solutions for near-term groundbreaking technology. It really does not get any better than this. Parts of the book are extremely dry, but if you look past the verbose language and boil the book down to core concepts, this really is one of the most interesting books out there. This very well might be my favorite non-fiction book.

9. Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

    An extremely popular first-hand account of the Holocaust from a survivor, accompanied by the author's conclusions about the true meaning of life. The first part is very informative, and I support at least some of his initial conclusions. I did not like the second half of this book, which is essentially a sales pitch for Viktor's new therapeutic approach called "logotherapy." In my opinion, this discussion detracted from the overall story. Still, I would say this is worth the read, as long as you are prepared for some very heavy, depressing material.

10. Ways of Seeing, by John Berger

   I know essentially nothing about art, despite being to dozens of art museums and working in an office that is also classified as an art gallery (owner of the company I work for loves art). This is one of the most famous books on art, and it was certainly eye-opening in some respects. John shows you how to look at paintings, and he cuts through the unnecessary "mystification" surrounding art pieces in order to show the reader how to decode these pieces by themselves. I still feel way out of my depth, but I understood the key concepts. Overall it was an interesting detour from my regular programming and I am looking forward to learning more.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The 10 Best Films Since 1990

1. A Serious Man
2. Schindler's List
3. Life is Beautiful
4. The Departed
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
6. Whiplash
7. Manchester by the Sea
8. The Florida Project
9. The Social Network
10: City of God

Best Movies of 18 Genres

Action: Mad Max: Fury Road
Adventure: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Animated: Grave of the Fireflies
Comedy: Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Crime: The Departed
Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Drama: 12 Angry Men
Film Noir: The Third Man
Gangster: The Godfather
Horror: Sinister
Musical: La La Land
Mystery: Enemy
Romance: About Time
Science Fiction: Blade Runner 2049
Superhero: Avengers: Infinity War
Thriller: Silence of the Lambs
War: Full Metal Jacket
Western: The Searchers

Best Films Each Year: Since 1990

Year         Movie
1990         Goodfellas
1991         The Silence of the Lambs
1992         Unforgiven
1993         Schindlers List
1994         Pulp Fiction
1995         Casino
1996         Fargo
1997         L.A. Confidential
1998         Life is Beautiful
1999         The Green Mile
2000         Gladiator
2001         A Beautiful Mind
2002         City of God
2003         Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2004         Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2005         Sin City
2006         The Departed
2007         No Country for Old Men
2008         In Brughes
2009         A Serious Man
2010         The Social Network
2011         Moneyball
2012         Life of Pi
2013         Enemy
2014         Whiplash
2015         Mad Max: Fury Road
2016         Manchester by the Sea
2017         Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
2018         A Star is Born
2019         Parasite

The Two Worst Books Ever

At this point in my life, I’ve read 160 books. Here are the worst two:

1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

    Snake oil salesman who wrote a fiction book to profit off the poor. Charged $45,000 for seminars on how to be financially successful. Want to be financially successful? Don’t go to a class that costs $45,000. Robert writes a lot of generic financial advice that is true. The generic advice is all old, albeit useful, news you can get from any other finance book. The novel stuff is bad advice. Like many did before 2008, he believes that real estate values simple cannot go down. Read The Millionaire Next Door, the Automatic Millionaire, and A Random Walk Down Wall Street. You will learn lessons that Robert does not have the humility to teach.

2. The Trial, by Franz Kafka

    Did not think he could top The Metamorphosis in terms of nonsensical garbage. Well guess what, he did. Why is this guy a famous author? Stop using the term “Kafkaesque." Stop talking about this guy, he is the literal worst. Boring, pointless, garbage.

My 10 Favorite Books

1. Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

    Not even close. No book comes even close to this. Yeah I get it, some of you read it in middle school and thought it was just alright. You’re stupid and wrong, this book is amazing. This is one of the few books that I picked up and just could not put down. I think I finished within 12 hours of starting, ending at 4:00 in the morning. Insightful and just downright depressing, this is my favorite book of all time.

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

    This book really got me thinking about relationships on a different level. I’m sure that if I read this book for the first time today, it would not even be on this list. However, I read it when I was much younger, at a time was I was learning about forming relationships and making friends. To this day I still make remembering names a priority, I write down the name of most people I meet as a mnemonic device.

3. A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking

    Tremendously complicated subject matter, but in plain English. A book I read at a young age, that got me initially interested in science and the universe. A very quick read at 212 pages, and you will finish the book feeling much dumber. Yeah you will learn a lot, but it is a in-your-face reminder of how much you don’t know, and how much our entire species does not know.

4. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

    Bias alert, I’m a born runner. I ran my first marathon when I was 13, and I continued running marathons throughout high school and college. Right now, I’m at 5 total, not including the back leg of my 2019 Ironman. Do I agree with the thesis of this book, that the human species owes much of its evolutionary success due to human’s ability to out-endurance prey? Honestly, no. However, the story of the Tarahumara was fascinating to my younger self, and was influential in by running career.

5. Dune, by Frank Herbert

    This is just a fantastic sci fi novel. It’s a shame that every attempt to put this spectacular story on the big screen has fallen flat. If you enjoy worldbuilding, or giant worms, this is the book for you. I’d be hard pressed to find another science fiction book that measures up.

6. The End of Faith, by Sam Harris

    I was born and raised Catholic. I went to mass every Sunday, was a leader in my church’s youth group, and prayed every single night. Then by mid-high school I grew out of it. I decided to read three religious books (Mere Christiantiy, Seven Storey Mountain, The Case for Christ) and three anti-religious books (The End of Faith, The God Delusion, God is Not Great). Of all of those books, this one was the most insightful (with Mere Christianity at #2). In no way, shape, or form is this a perfect book. Still, it was important to my development and helped sharpen my critical thinking skills and led me to question authority.

7. A Random Walk Down Wall Street, by Burton Malkiel

    Almost didn’t read this book. All I can say is thank god I did. During the summer after freshman year of college, I worked for a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. I was extremely unprepared. To my credit, I had not taken a single finance class yet, and really did not know what I was getting into. Before going back the next summer, I decided that I would be as prepared as possible. I read probably every single page on Investopedia, and then one active-management advocate book (One Up on Wall Street) and one passive-management advocate book (this one). This book completely shattered my preconceptions and caused me to pick a different career path.

8. One Up on Wall Street, by Peter Lynch

    The advisor I worked for at Morgan Stanley was extremely smart. He directly managed a ton of money, and he provided great value to his numerous clients. He was probably the most important professional mentor I’ve had in my life. Reading this book essentially set me on this path. I decided I wanted to be a stock picker, and even senior year I was still recruiting for equity research positions. Peter Lynch was a Rockstar, and his advice is genuine and useful.

9. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse

    I wonder if putting this book on the list means that I’m a pseudointellectual. Who cares, it’s a great book that I believe draws profound philosophical conclusions. I do not believe in re-reading books. There are just too many books on my to-read list that I want to get to before I die. Still, I am going to re-read this book multiple times.

10. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
    So entertaining. Just a fun book all around. I'd say this book is on this list mostly because it reignited my interest in reading. Who doesn't love a good adventure?

Friday, May 1, 2020

First 10 books I read in 2020

Reading Period: March 1 - May 8.

1. A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
    This is probably one of the most insightful and interesting books I have ever read. It essentially takes the reader on a tour through the history of the universe. Bill breaks down almost every single branch of science, from cosmology to botany. Essentially, you will learn about geology and plate tectonics in one section, and then learn about evolution in the next. You may be thinking, who cares? I know about evolution, Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species, people were mad that we “came from monkeys,” etc. Well, you know way, way less than Bill does. If learning about the most important discoveries and most influential scientists of essentially every branch of science sounds interesting, this is the book for you. Plus, did you know the guy who named all the plants was obsessed with sex? Only complaint is that it is 544 pages, so not really that short. But c’mon, it’s the history of nearly everything.

2. A Grief Observed, by CS Lewis

    Sad. Like really sad. Great book though, and insightful to see how a thought leader and religious devout deals with extreme grief. Imagine reading Mere Christianity and then this. Would be an interesting juxtaposition.

    “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand” (C.S. Lewis, 36)

3. Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, by Bruce Tate
    So sorry guys, not foreign languages. Programming languages. Ruby, Io, Prolog, Scala, Clojure, Erlang, Haskell. Basically, Bruce said let’s pick seven languages that are all extremely different and represent every type of programming language out there. Ruby is object oriented, Prolog is logic based, and Haskell is rigid functional programming. The basic idea is hey, here’s the basic syntax, advantages/disadvantages, and brief functionality of each. You will not learn a single programming language by reading this book. You will learn something much more important though, perspective. Knowing what tool is best for a problem is likely more useful than knowing how to use just one tool very well.

4. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
     Hell yes, a book under 100 pages. In the top 5 best-selling books of all time, estimated at 200 million copies. A children’s book, make sure you read it with that in mind. Strangely insightful, but some of the translation is awkward. Worth the afternoon read.

5. Excel 2016 Power Programming in VBA by Michael Alexander
    VBA IS NOT DEAD! Just kidding it totally is. The good news is languages never die. Why the hell are there still COBOL programmers? It is quite simple, companies are lazy, inefficient, and afraid a lot of the time. While not supported anymore by Microsoft, VBA will be around for a very, very long time. When I started my job as an analyst, I made a promise to myself to myself to never learn this language. However, pretty much everything my company does is run through VBA in some way or another. I lost the battle, and decided screw it, if I’m going to sell out I might as well sell out all the way. Great book, I learned a lot. I probably only read 400 of the 700 pages, as a lot of the material will only be relevant to pretty hardcore application development. Worth the read if you can stomach it.

6. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
   Imagine reading a 250-page book about the 1893 Chicago fair? Sounds terrible. Imagine reading a 200-page book about some dude in the 1890’s murdering women and children? Sounds terrible. Good news, the combination of the two, a 450 page book with these interweaving plot lines, is actually really good. The second you start getting real fed up with the details of Olmsted’s sicknesses and the excruciating details regarding the building of the fair, Holmes murders someone. And the second you’re fed up with Holmes murdering everyone, you’re grounded by some more excruciating (but very interesting nonetheless) details about Chicago’s grandest accomplishment. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I’m sure many will find it slow paced and boring.

7. Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
  Climbing Everest is very dangerous, who would’ve thought? Imagine making it to the top with your team of six, and only you and one other make it out alive. Crazy story, fast read, and will really solidify your disinterest for risking your life to climb things for bragging rights. Or maybe it’ll make you want to do exactly that. Still haven’t made up my mind on which way I’m leaning.

8. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

    It has been a long time since I read a fantasy novel, and this one didn't disappoint. It was a fun read, short, and had one of those satisfying endings where there are no loose ends. It was certainly a nice break from non-fiction, and I am very motivated to read more of Neil's work.

9. Introduction to Machine Learning with Python, by Andreas Muller

    The first 20% of this books is pretty straightforward and simple. Then it gets real complicated, real quick. Once the charts moved from 2D to 3D I was completely lost. The last ~40% of the book is general pre-processing and data standardization, which is as important as it is boring (very). Overall, I learned a hell of a lot, but this book was not what I was expecting. There is essentially zero theory or explanation of the algorithms. This was disappointing, but at the same time I understand. This books is about getting straight to the code, so that you can instantly start analyzing datasets. If your goal is to right away start working on projects, without getting bogged down in the details, this book is for you.

10. Hackers & Painters, by Paul Graham

   This was not exactly a book, but rather a collection of essays that Paul wrote on his blog over the years. They vary in quality and insight, and it is obvious that this was written in 2004. Paul is a computer whiz, someone who built a successful startup and made a ton of money through developing software. For me, I would say that around half of his essays are worth reading. Hackers and Painters, How to Make Wealth, Mind the Gap, and Beating the Averages are, in my opinion, really quite good. The rest you can probably skip, unless Lisp really excites you.

The 10 Greatest Films of all Time

1.     Citizen Kane: This film has been consistently ranked as the greatest film of all time on many lists, such as the AFI top 100. However, I believe it deserves this place mostly because it had a huge impact on all film going forward. Pretty much the Illmatic of cinema. Not only is the film a masterpiece with great philosophical content, but also its use of deep focusa and a non-linear storyline (novel at the time), make it #1.

2. Schindler’s List: While it is controversial to rank this film this high, I believe that its story is the main reason this film deserves the #2 spot. The documentary value of this film cannot be understated, and it chronicles one of the most important events in human history through the lens of the life of a first and foremost capitalist. The plot may stretch the truth of Schindler’s life, but it certainly displays the horrors that humanity is capable of in a realistic and concise fashion.

3. The Godfather: Simply fantastic cinema, this story of the Corleone family is engaging and intriguing. The complex characters and its portrayal of the American gangster are great, and the acting is phenomenal. Great exploration of true human relationships and interactions.

4. The Third Man: Considered the best mystery film of all time, this piece of British cinema is not surprisingly on this list. The inner struggle between justice for the innocent and turning in a friend played out very well, and the Ferris wheel scene forces the audience to be confronted with a very interesting ethical discussion. Its screenwriting is some of the best, and it is the opposite of cliché.

5. 12 Angry Men: Revolutionary at the time, this courtroom drama is a perfect description of the United States justice system and its flaws. It shows the dark side of humanity as well as why the search for justice must take human bias into account, for it is better to save the innocent than doom the guilty.

6. The Godfather Pt. 2: Undoubtedly the best sequel of all time, this film has the same character complexity and relationship exploration as the first. It lacks the romanticism of the first film, but explores darker concepts. The rise of power of Vito Corleone and its parity with the fall of Michael is great.

7. Casablanca: Probably the most popular romance film of all time, this Hollywood classic lives up to the hype. A revolutionary film like Citizen Kane, simply early cinema at its finest.

8. Vertigo: This film’s complex murder mystery plot and its subsequent exploration of obsession, love, and voyeurism simply makes for a great plot. For someone that hates Hitchcock it pains me to  put this on the list, but it deserves it.

9. Unforgiven: An anti-western that realistically describes life in the American west. Death and evolution are presented in a very interesting fashion. Plus Clint Eastwood is badass.

10. Once Upon a Time in the West: A true Western as well as a Spaghetti Western, and a great embodiment of the genre. There are two or three scenes that really do not hold up well, but for the most part it is very entertaining.