Dependent Origination

Archive for May 2013

imagemagick comes to the rescue!

convert * output.pdf

it is that easy!

First Chinese book I have read for a while (in a year?). I am not sure what I should write down about the book — namely how honest I should be when writing my reviews 🙂 I met the author over a cocktail reception barely two weeks ago. Cocktail reception is a strange place — in the end you always end up talking with people who are at roughly the same social status/career placement as you. So it is no big deal that the author didn’t really pay any attention to me even if I tried a few conversation starters, such as when he mentioned he is starting up on his own inside his old employer and his payouts are based on the successes of his endeavors, I inquired about the general direction of the project but he just ignored me. It was not a good feeling, so maybe that affected my impression about the book?

I read fairly closely for the first ten chapters or so. The author is certainly very knowledgeable about the histories of all these companies — understanding how companies grow into giants and how giants collapse is certainly very useful, say, for investing. It is remarkable that he accumulated this much knowledge and tried to dissect this many companies and made his own conclusion about how technology will evolve and how companies will evolve in the future.

However, it feels too big a topic for the author to tackle. He wrote about at least ten, possibly twenty companies, with their early days, how did they make it, what are their major milestones/contributions, and what were the strategic mistakes or wins. The chapters are not that long — the book not that thick either. So he tried his hand at formulating a theory about technology through examples of 10 – 20 companies in a very short amount of time. His details need to be checked (at least for companies I am more familiar with, such as Apple). But besides that, the oversimplification of what happened and why what happened happened makes the effort of writing a history of prominent Sillicon Valley companies in the hope of understanding the past and predicting the future dubious. It makes you in fact wonder can past successes be repeated at all. So many factors, luck most of all, contributed to a success or failure. With the help of looking back, everything appears to be crystal clear, or so it feels. But is the perception or interpretation of historical events helpful at all? Especially when done in such simplified version? Each of the companies deserves more than a single book dedicated to them (and in fact there are multiple books focused on their past in the market). I feel this book, while it gives a decent introduction to the world of technology companies, is not doing justice to any of them, had the reader had a basic understanding of business and companies under discussion. In fact, in a sense, I feel that reading related questions on Quora can probably help people gain more insight about the past and the why’s.

The book has very good reviews in the Chinese audience but unfortunately I don’t think it is that good for someone who lives and probably on average works for two or even three of the companies in the past ten  or fifteen years. I didn’t find his writing particularly good either — he is certainly clear and logical but I have read better technical or business writings. This concludes the here-after of a less-than-ideal cocktail party meeting 🙂

the_alchemist

It is a short, nice and touching story about a sheperd boy who has the courage to follow his dream. His family wants him to become a priest, but he told his father, who had been scraping by all his adult life, about his dream of traveling around and therefore he wanted to become a shepard. His dad sighed and gave him 2 gold coins he picked up in the fields and meant to leave as inheritance for the boy. The boy started his herd of sheep and wondering the fields of Andalusia. Under a huge sycamore tree in a ruined church somewhere on the plains of Andalusia, he had a recurring dream of a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids for him. He sought out a Gypsy woman for a clue and the woman told him to follow it. A magic king showed up in front of him and told him to follow his dream too. The boy gave one-tenth of his sheep to the magic king as a symbol of courage and bought a ticket to Africa.

The journey followed tested the boy’s determination, smarts and luck a lot. But as they said, the universe will conspire to make it happen if you really want it, even though you don’t seem to understand how the conspiracy is going. Things fell through at first, but later they picked themselves up and you just need to heed the omens. That is all.

Love sometimes appears to hinder our efforts to follow a dream but those who love us will always support us and want us to be happy. Love without ownership, how splendid a phrase and concept! May you have the luck to meet someone who loves you without any intention to control or own you. Had there been such efforts, had there been efforts that are trying to change you into something else, stop a moment and think whether that is love or not and whether you want that love or not.

The theories behind alchemy are complicated and I am not sure that I get it at all. It sounds like Buddhsim’s the One in fact. All religions probably have some concept about the universe and the human kind being one thing and therefore powerful. The difference is whether there is proven record of that happening, I think 🙂

Times like this, I wish I could read in Spanish, to better appreciate the author’s writing and language. He has a talent with words.

the_millionaire_next_door

I read the 1997 version instead of the 2010 version, since the latter was all out in the library. I wonder if the 2010 version would state something different, since the wealth gap has been widening over the last fifteen years or so, which isn’t helping the middle class or the small business owners, as touted here in the 1997 version.

A few facts that might be surprising from the book:

1. 80% of the millionaires in America are first-generation rich. More than 70% (?) of them never received inheritance from their parents or grandparents.

2. More than 50% (or some other number?) of the wealth accumulated by the said first-generation rich would be gone by the third generation. Sounds similar? fu bu guo san dai ah.

Other than that, the book isn’t saying much that an Asian person wouldn’t know about wealth accumulation 🙂 Basically, it is frugality and delayed gratification, which is instilled in most if not every Asian household, I think 🙂 The chapter describing how people go about buying a used car is fairly useful in terms of emulating other people’s negotiation skills. The last chapter on how the wealth-preserving families teaches their children is striking in the sense that some of the first-generation rich parents never realized frugality played such important role in their own wealth accumulation so they never taught their children that. Instead, they wanted their children to be like “the status people” they used to admire: nice cars, nice house, private schools etc. But the tricky thing is even if their children can be high income earners being doctors or lawyers, spending will easily trap them into the high-income-low-net-worth situation, where no one can easily get out of without modifying their consumption life styles. So watch out for that trap. In fact, without careful planning and discipline in executing what you plan, it would be a little hard to achieve even a reasonable goal of saving.

Most of the people interviewed in the book are small business owners and I think the book said all of them invested in stock market. Consider the lucky baby boomers’ time range, it is not hard to understand why they accumulate wealth even if their yearly income isn’t that high at all (a lot of them have been making less than $100k a year in fact). But they are consistent in investing. In fact, the author says in the book that you need to invest 15% of your salary every year. If not counting 401K contributions, I am far behind on that number! Even saving 15% of your salary isn’t that easy, for a single income household! With a second income, that should be a lot easier! Looking lovingly at the days when both of us had income 🙂

Another side effect of reading the book is I realize how many people must be living on money from their parents 🙂 Each year, the parents can give to each child $14000 without tax consequences. Imagine that over the 20 years from birth to college. I have always wondered why some of my younger colleagues could afford houses more expensive than I would feel comfortable with — that must be the reason 🙂 On another note, I went to Rosewood Hotel for a reception after reading the book. All the white, young couples there make me wonder if they can afford the nice hotel, nice clothes, nice strollers because of financial help from their parents 🙂 I am not feeling jealous, in fact I am very proud of the fact that everything I have I made it on my own, at the same time supporting my parents’ household for nearly twenty years. But I have been curious about how some people can live the life they are living, that is all 🙂

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2013.04

Posted on: May 6, 2013

四月过得很快 前面十一天在中国 正好H7N9爆发 鸡鸭都不能吃了 前面几个死亡的病例和生猪都有些关系 再加上黄浦江里的二师兄 所以猪也不能吃了 后来牛也有炭疽病 也不能吃了 (当然星期五以来羊肉也不能吃了 这是后话了)所以出门只能吃鱼啊 虾啊这些东西 还好春天真是一个访问江南的好时节 有很多时令的本地特产 比如蕨根(红色的)小黄瓜 青团子 加上春风拂面杨柳抽枝 如果天是蓝的 那就真的是天上人间的好时光了

从中国回来没有一天半 就病倒了 还好只有低烧 不然真的要去医院请求自我隔离看看是不是禽流感了 但是虽然是低烧 居然花了一个星期才完全好 而且最难的一天居然是第六天 以前都没有过这样的经历 这病好了四月也过了大半了 才终于好好去上班 偏偏单位还发生了好多事情 第一天正经上班领导就找我说我给你补一下这一个月都发生了什么吧 结果两人竟讲了两个多小时 才把事情大概交代清楚 最重要的就是我们team终于要开始有process了 就是project 要有approval的process了 团队的扩大 这一天是肯定要来的 而且随着人员的增加 process肯定基本上只能是越来越多的 team上的那些小孩儿好多都不大高兴 虽然为什么现在要有这个approval的process就是因为其中一些小孩儿没有能力push back产品部门的要求而造成了该做的事情没有做 在产品部门的直接要求下做了一堆bells and whistles 对公司成长 或者页面转化率没有直接的帮助 我很理解他们的不高兴 当年第一个工作时我也是不情不愿的 但是现在的我早已想明白了其不可避免 所以更要参与制定这个process的过程

四月最后一周更是忙了个手忙脚乱 上个星期一 更是当天就上火了 首先台湾的总干事来访问 有很多课程要去 每天都像在赶集 但是卢总讲得非常精彩 尤其是回答问题的部分 逻辑清楚 头脑敏捷 层次由浅入深 不管是佛法对这一生的帮助 还是学佛造成的生活中的困扰应该如何解决 每个人都受益良多 希望这个月能有机会重新听一遍! 另外一件上个星期一从天上掉下来的事情还没有结果 等有结果了再说。

night_circus

这本也是去年看了个开头儿 就时间到了只能还掉 心里一直惦记着 现在有了kindle 自然马上开始借:)哎 前半本儿和后半本儿根本两个水平 前面开篇啊 介绍人物啊 时代背景啊 魔法马戏团啊 仿佛让你觉得这跟harry potter是一个级别的:它要带你进入到魔法世界 讲一个玄幻的爱情故事。从一半儿的地方 就什么都变了 爱情?爱情在哪里?怎么产生的?没看出来 其实就是两个人特别孤独 然后网聊了一下 就爱得难舍难分了 请问这谁相信啊? 魔幻呢 最后我都没太看懂他们是怎么折腾自己的 我觉得从作者到编辑都需要重新补一些物理或者基础科学的课程 这样别人才能看得懂你这个大戏剧高潮是怎么回事儿

后一半还充满了不知所以的人物 看不出来和情节发展的联系 好像就是为了在戏剧高潮的时候出现在这里 所以必须有这么一条线 总之写作技巧不够得很 可惜了开篇的potential and promise

the_hunger_gamescatching_firemockingjay

总结: Hunger Game > Catching Fire >> Mockingjay

细节:

首先这三本都是amazon lending library里面有的哦 第一本特别好看 page turner 我在回国的飞机上面看的 一气儿看了九个小时? 连饭来了 我都是把饭放在小桌子上 然后继续看 看完了才吃饭的说 要是每本书都这么好看 十几个小时的国际旅行会过得很快的!

我这次回国买了一张国航的先到北京后到上海的票 中间过程非常奇怪 北京下了飞机 国航的人带你出关 所以你还是在北京入关的 但是出了关之后马上走一条VIP通道 在一个据说是VIP lounge的地方等两个小时 然后一辆shuttle来接你去上去上海的国内航班 这样的好处是你就不用出国际航站楼在过安检进入国内航站楼了 然后到了上海吧 下飞机的时候 又有人带着你 从国内航站楼走到国际航站楼 因为你要算国际到达 所以要从国际到达拿行李 总之奇怪之极!

我又跑题了 我想说的是 第一本好看啊 结果我坐在没有暖气的VIP lounge里面的时候 思想一直在激烈的斗争 我要不要买一本catching fire然后继续读呢 好想知道下面发生什么了! 斗争了很久 因为斗争完了不久 来接我们的shuttle就来了:)因为kindle一直在说没电了 我才没有买 因为害怕买了就没电了 也得过几天看 但是当时是三月底 过几天四月一号一到 我就可以借了!:)

四月一号到了 我醒来第一件事儿就是借书! 借完就就地看完了 连床都没起:)第二本没有第一本那么痛彻心扉 但是仍然是引人入胜的故事

接下来就是五月一号了 醒来就借书!但是这本太令人失望了 并不是说我认为才子佳人的结局才可以 而是揭露战争对人心灵的伤害不等于天天让女主角藏在衣橱角落或者管道角落里面啊 女主角并不是一个可爱的姑娘 但是她有一种原始的求生的力量 原始的对爱的渴望 所以战争的伤害虽然存在 一个拥有这么原始的力量的人在经历了内心的软弱虚无之后 为什么不可以拥有对未来的希望呢?

第三本的plot也很有问题 后面三分之一我都不知道作者在讲什么 她扔来的大悲剧 我一点感觉都没有 因为既没有铺垫 也没有情节的必然性 完全是为制造悲剧而悲剧 所以看下来对人物的命运没有任何同情或者感同身受之类的感觉 当然我也是一气儿看完的 但是这完全是因为责任感的驱使 我想知道究竟这些人都怎么样了 不管作者写的多没劲

我终于有了一个kindle! 两年前单位圣诞节送过一个kindle fire 但是略显笨重 而且我从来没喜欢过Android这个OS 什么都有点慢 什么都有那么一点点不对劲 所以就把fire卖了 kindle 1出来的时候我就想买 预告出来我就读遍了所有的review 但是当时它有两个问题 一个是PDF文件的显示不够好 另一个是不能借书 不管是从图书馆 还是和另一个kindle 所以虽然好想 但是还是决定在借书的问题解决之前不考虑啦

时间飞速翻过 如今七年过去了 我终于有了一个kindle paperwhite 据说从ereader的角度来说是目前最好的 翻页的时候还是有点慢 touch的时候反应也有点慢 但是据说这是eink目前的最好水平了 总的来说我觉得很好用 一个是轻 拿在手里没份量 因此可以看很久 现在我看到厚一点的书 比如新借回来的far from the tree 简直就是头大了 都不知道怎么拿这么厚这么重的书了 另一个是不伤眼 这一点ipad等电子产品根本没法比了 所以可以看很长时间 iPad看个一个小时就眼睛疼头疼的 睡觉之前看iPad这种发光的 还经常把自己的睡觉schedule打乱第二天要suffer 总之eink没有任何这种问题 第三 资源丰富 据说有人upload了很多英文书 比如说mobileread.com 但是我看并没有什么当代的书 都是版权过期的几十年前的书 所以我还没有发现传说中的免费的大量的现代英文书 但是我发现首先你可以和图书馆借 比如northern California digital library 主要问题是他们只借七天 所以借了就要马上看 但是hold啊排队还挺快的 所以我现在再查书首选就是从这里借到kindle上看了 另外amazon还有lending library 可惜一个月才能借一本 而且只有一部分书可以借 很多自己想看的 尤其是当代的 都没有 所以找书现在多了好几个地方 第四 那个backlight也很好用 完全不用开灯 可以自己藏在黑暗的角落把书看完

总之我很满意 一个多月来已经看了四本了 我觉得今年肯定会因为这个kindle的缘故多看好几本书的 这是拥有一个ereader对一个读书人最大的好处了吧

moneyball

这书很好看 而且其实是讲大数据里面淘金的故事 国内的人这么热衷于讲云计算和大数据 连带着机器学习的人也火了起来 却没有一个人有很具体的例子 他们每个人都应该看看这本书 或者最差的 也应该看看坊间关于Target怎么通过用户的购买历史来预计他们的未来购买以及Target如何在一个爸爸知道之前成功的预计了他的十几岁的女儿的怀孕

闲话不提了 这个故事是说在baseball这个行业里面 没有nba那样的salary cap 所以有钱的队伍就可以拼命砸钱挖走所有的大明星 所谓大明星就是具有现在大家公认的一些能够赢球的特征的人 比如本垒打的能力 那没有钱的队伍只能拥有“二流”球员 那这个game怎么玩儿呢? It turns out that the criteria that most people had about what makes a player valuable were wrong because baseball knowledge was gained and accumulated through scouts, players and managers, mostly human analysis. There are a small set of baseball fans who started to analyze the stats of each game using computers and finds out the result of a game is more likely to be determined by some other stats than the ones used as folklore knowledge of the insiders.

Oakland A’s is the first team that tries to utilize this information asymmetry to win the games despite their meager budget (which is like one-tenth of the Yankee’s for example). And by enlisting the players that wouldn’t pass the old human criteria, but who conforms to what a computer program (in fact, a data mining program) says, they sustained a record of most winning games and made it to the playoff, as the second to last poorest team in the baseball league.

A very inspiring story! I find the details of how they traded people very boring, since I know next to nothing about baseball and therefore cannot follow the trading logic much and therefore cannot appreciate how clever the general manager of Oakland A’s has been in terms of orchestrating such maneuvers. But I find the personal stories behind the managers, the players fascinating — a lot on talent and how talent plays out or how talent doesn’t play out because raw talent sometimes is not enough and you need to be able to manage your raw talent or release it at the time of demand.

A very fun read.


May 2013
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