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Edward A. Thomson (Glasgow, Scotland)
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Hedgehogging
Hedgehogging
by Barton Biggs
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but not essential, 17 May 2014
This review is from: Hedgehogging (Paperback)
Is this book about hedge funds? Sorta. Will it help you to find / analyse / trade in hedge funds of the markets? No, not at all. The author is been in the industry for decades and has been involved in a few hedge fund ventures as well as working at Morgan Stanley.

I have mixed feelings on this book. It isn't terrible but it isn't great. The advice to be gleaned from this book is not hard facts but more about boosting one's soft skills in investing. That in itself is not bad but I don't think there is anything new here (for me), e.g. Ben Graham covered the psychological battles that an investor faces in the Intelligent Investor, as have many others.

The style of the book is that of a memoir, the structure is quite chaotic with no real discernible structure such as chronological nor by theme. It is messy at every level; you could even see it as fractal structure, the sentences are often as mixed up as the overall structure. That's not to say that any part is unclear. Despite what I've just said the book is easy to read in part because the level of detail is fairly simple. There is no explanation of strategies or any real in-depth analysis, but rather a loose compendium of stories.

This is a light and somewhat entertaining read but by no means essential reading. It looks like I'm the first person to review this book since 2009.


The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward
The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward
by Benoit B. Mandelbrot
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4.0 out of 5 stars A primer for fractal analysis of financial markets, 11 May 2014
This book is fascinating and enjoyable. It pushes the reader to consider that most financial models are too simple or otherwise wrong. The writing is casual but the ideas are clear and well illustrated with examples The downside is this book is too short; or perhaps, it is great that the book is short in order to entice people to pick up on these ideas but there really needs to be a sequel with far more detail. Unfortunately, this will not be possible from this late author.

The author outlines the difficulty in defining risk and why it can mean different things to different people. He shows that financial markets are not Gaussian (normally distributed) but there are times when they can be. Sometimes markets trend and this goes against the idea that one day is independent from all others. Eventually he describes his idea of long-term dependence which is why old events can influence today's prices.

Much like Nassim Taleb this author demonstrates that we can be easily "fooled by randomness" and that our eyes are designed to find patterns in noise. The pattern may not be 'real' (no causal relation, e.g. Brownian) but our minds believe it to be real. His points out that markets do have causal reasons for behaving as they do but the underlying myriad reasons are not always obvious or possible to know.

If markets can be persistent and chaotic then we need new tools to study them. The author outlines some possibilities but highlights the fact that the new tools are still underdeveloped and fall short of a yielding a complete explanation. Theory is great but without a practical implementation these ideas will be avoided by the consensus for a while longer.

This book is a great starting point for getting interested in fractals and financial markets although the ideas have wider applications. If this book was longer I'd have given it 5 stars.


Everyday Cryptography: Fundamental Principles and Applications
Everyday Cryptography: Fundamental Principles and Applications
by Keith M. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £29.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Good primer and overview of cryptography, 16 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great Introduction but a lot of material, so it isn't a quick read. The book assumes almost no prior knowledge, as most things are explained from first principles but it always helps to be familiar with the lingo. I read this like a novel, from start to finish. I'm not a cryptography expert nor even studying it at university, I just did this in order to learn (self-teaching).

Fairly light on the mathematics but provides enough of the basics for an elementary understanding. I'm glad that the material covering Certificate Authority functions are not as prominent as in the Cryptography For Dummies book and it is good to see the protocols / algorithms for the main types of encryption too.

All the essential topics are covered and I'd say that the text is clearly written that anyone with a modicum of IT knowledge should be able to follow it. The content is not so esoteric nor complicated but does require some effort to get through it all.

The book starts with a historical overview (as many do) of how cryptography came about and why it is necessary. In section two the author describes cryptographic primitives and builds up the fundamentals of what is needed for a cryptographic tool kit: e.g. hash functions, public key cryptography, modes of operation, a/symmetric encryption, digital signatures and so on. Section three looks at key management while section four looks at applications.


Hedge Fund Market Wizards
Hedge Fund Market Wizards
by Ed Seykota
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating interviews with managers who run quantitative strategies, 16 Mar. 2014
The book is a series of interviews with particular hedge fund managers that have the absolute best track records. Most of whom ran funds with a quantitative or statistical flavour. Schwager knows the subjects well enough to ask the right questions. The interviews seem natural although I suspect there has been a moderate amount of editing to ensure readability.

In short the book is highly readable and shouldn't cause any problems if you already have a fair grounding in the markets. Some of the terminology or concepts will sound esoteric to newcomers but I wouldn't say that the language nor much of the content is particularly abstruse. This book will appeal to those who enjoy reading about markets and/ or hedge funds, particularly those hedge funds that have run "obscure" strategies (this is more advanced than 'simple' equity long / short methods).

Content wise I'd say I learnt a lot about how each of the managers think, so a lot of the content was new to me. There is a lot of ideas to learn here and I now have a lot of extra reading I want to do in order to find out more. I've already started to read up more on interest rates.

My favourites: Colm O'Shea, Ed Thorp, Jamie Mai.


Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.45

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buying this book will encourage you to be long gamma, 11 Nov. 2013
The central idea is that there are things that improve from being harmed. The opposite, fragile, is easy to understand and is one that we are already familiar with. The fragile are things which are analogous to coffee cups on tables, they are prone to be knocked over and cracking. A fragile parcel is one that should be handled with great care, while a robust parcel is one which doesn't care. An antifragile parcel would be one that wants to be abused.

The author also continues the theme that humans often over-plan and under estimate the severity of harm. He illustrates that trying to predict future harm can be very difficult and that the usual methods of error estimation are often of no help. Errors and poor design can be further compounded from large sizes and faster speeds, as well as believing that a system can be completely deterministic and knowable. His solution to all problems is to begin with a smart design which is less prone to fragility and is robust to the errors (but not risk-free).

I've read over many other reviews and note a lot of people had difficulty with understanding the book. I actually found the book to be comprehensible so at first I was surprised; however, I have had the benefit of reading his comments on his Facebook page. He posts frequently and has covered all the book topics at length. When you first encounter the ideas they may not make sense because he often uses phrases which are specific to his experience in finance. Once you are familiar with these concepts then it is fine. I appreciate that statement won't bring any comfort to someone who bought this book and doesn't have this knowledge. Therefore, I'd suggest that people may want to have a read over his Facebook fan page (his previous books help too). If you are unsure about terms such as fat tails, fragility, optionality, left tail, convexity, gamma, then I'd definitely recommend getting familiar with those terms as they appear a lot. Gamma is a somewhat strange quantity so I wouldn't necessarily strive for complete comprehension but rather try to get a minimal understanding of it.

If you are interested in risk, uncertainty and randomness then this book is likely to appeal. If you are from a maths or science background then you should cope without too much strain but it may require some background reading. Stephen Hawking wrote a best seller but I'd wager that most readers didn't fully comprehend it but that doesn't make it any less of a great book.


Stephen Hawking's Universe: The Cosmos Explained
Stephen Hawking's Universe: The Cosmos Explained
by David Filkin
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A simpler brief history of time, 17 Oct. 2013
This book is the easiest one to dive into and finish without any headaches. Better yet, this is actually a simpler version of Hawking's book "A brief history of time". So if you have fancied reading that book but were too afraid then try this one first. The great thing about the book is that it covers the history of the key people in the scientific revolutions that lead to our modern day understanding of the cosmos and it covers the history of the Universe as we know it. The book is also a companion to the TV series although I never saw that. Finally, it is full of colourful pictures and well worth every penny you pay for it.


ICE Free: Electric vehicle technology for builders and converters
ICE Free: Electric vehicle technology for builders and converters
by Mr John Hardy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading for EV builders/ converters, 24 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'd suggest reading the title closely for an idea if what the book is and isn't. It isn't a "how to" guide on conversion but rather it provides technical information that is useful for EV builders and converters. While a lot of this information is freely available online it is handy to have the info in book form too, and I don't think the price of this title is that expensive. Despite being an avid reader of this topic online I'd still say that I learn a lot from the book, especially about the pitfalls of various components. For example, this book firm up my understanding of how battery management systems work and provided some insight on the debate about whether the current systems are effective or not.

Essentially it covers all of the components needed to build/ convert an EV which is great but a subsequent that details the conversion process would be a welcome addition. Example topics are: types of motors (AC/ DC), battery types (eg lead acid and lithium ion), battery management systems, charging/ discharging.

The reason I chose this book over the others is that it seemed to jump into the juicy details without too much of the superfluous background info that other books of a similar nature have. It isn't really necessary to have a detail history of EV, nor is it necessary to have a list of political arguments as to why EVs are so great. It seems a little pointless to have that in such a technical book. Besides anyone that gets this far almost undoubtedly knows it. This is also broadly confirmed by the author's Amazon review of similar books. While I expect the other titles to be good I just wanted to jump into the technical information and arguments which this book seems to do.

There are several citations and links quoted in the book that provide a way of verifying the information too. The quality of this publication is somewhat close to the amateur end of the spectrum, formatting of the text is a little bit strange as it is in columns like a newspaper rather that using the full page width. Some of the diagrams look like they were made in MS paint but they serve the necessary functionality, besides book is littered with pictures and diagrams which I like.

I believe that anyone of a vaguely technical background should have no problem understanding this book. It assumes only modest knowledge of physics (high school level) such as voltage, current, power. All said, a solid effort from the author and worthwhile purchase for anyone that is interested in EV building/conversion.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2013 9:43 PM BST


OCZ AGT3-25SAT3-120G Agility 3 120GB SATA III 2.5 inch SSD
OCZ AGT3-25SAT3-120G Agility 3 120GB SATA III 2.5 inch SSD

5.0 out of 5 stars Great drive that has improved loading times and lag, 23 Feb. 2013
I purchased this drive with the hope that will decrease the horrendous loading times I was having with a game. It is working as expected. It has helped on a number of fronts which is an added bonus too, although unintentional. Loading times have greatly decreased as expected. Naturally I suspect that the game hasn't exactly been written in the best way it could be but the game is now much more playable after upgrading.

Naturally, you have to pay a premium for speed versus storage. If you require faster loading times than an SSD will fix that problem. So far, I am pleased with this drive's performance. No major complaints and not much else I can see. It is worth noting that a cable is not included in the box.

The following is a list of points that you may find useful:

Software/ Drivers
No need to install drivers. No bloatware as SATA 3 is point-to-point like a USB drive. Just have to plug it in and it works.

Connectivity
This drive does not come with a cable so you will need to buy it extra. I had a spare one from my motherboard when I bought this computer 5 years ago. I think it may only be a SATA 2 cable but it works. New motherboards should be SATA 3 and may even have a spare SATA 3 cable. It is worth checking in advance although there is backwards compatibility.

Speed
Fast! Even though I'm only using it as a SATA 2 drive it is still much faster than the old style hard drive. I bought a 3rd generation drive as I intend to upgrade my computer sometime this year. Note that the box says 6Gb/s speed (or similar), this relates to the max data transfer speed between drive and the motherboard but not the read/write speed. Also note that SATA 2 is "only" 3 Gb/s.

Set up
There is minimal set up required. Apart from the physical installation which requires a spare SATA cable and a spare power lead, Window will auto-detect this drive. What you need to do is format it and assign it a drive letter in order to make it work. You can do this by going to (My) Computer > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Storage > Disk management. Right click on the SSD drive. Modern windows uses the NTFS format. You should see that even though the drive is advertised as 120gb it will never quite be exactly 120, my drive is 110.


Tolkien - the Illustrated Encyclopedia
Tolkien - the Illustrated Encyclopedia
by DAVID DAY
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice but not essential, 11 Feb. 2013
This book covers all the characters, places, objects, beasts and tribes of Tolkien's Middle Earth. It combines facts from all the books and is far more readable than The Silmarillion. One question that you might ask if whether there is much of a difference between this book and Day's other book which was published before this one, A Tolkien Bestiary. The encyclopaedia is newer, contains all the information from the Bestiary but also expands upon with many additional pictures. I think there may be some added text but from a quick comparison I didn't notice much difference in that regard.

There are many illustrations in this book, many by Tolkien himself, and I found it particularly nice to see how some of the places and things of Middle Earth look. I don't find that this detracts from the vision that I had in my head as I read the books. This book is all encompassing and covers almost anything you could ask about the Tolkien's universe, it is perhaps a bit scare on the invented languages but otherwise I can't think of any obvious deficiencies.

Among the illustrations are world maps which are always nice for reference and to compare with the maps in the other books. On top of this there are detailed family trees of key families as well as detailed figures of the universe's timeline. I wouldn't say this book is absolutely essential but it is certainly a nice reference to have.


The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting perspective on risk, 10 Feb. 2013
I'm surprised that there are so many negative reviews for this book, I was expecting more positive reviews but they appear to be fairly evenly distributed over the ratings. This main idea in this book is the Black Swan which (as other reviewers point out) are unpredictable but high impact events. There are other related topics which are used mainly as support but are relevant as they illustrate why prediction in general is difficult and why it is difficult to prepare for such events. There are several nods to psychology (mainly Kahneman) as well as to philosophy (often to Russell but others too). There is an enjoyable narrative here which is peppered with many contentious comments that will enrage some and make others scratch their head. It isn't always obvious how much we should take literally and how much we need to simply take the meaning and then think on it ourselves. It is hard to distil difficult topics into a concise text: there will always be something overlooked.

What we have is an interesting narrative (ooh the irony) that depicts the failure of poor/ naive risk management over the last three decades of his professional career. He lambastes the use of Gaussian statistics and points out where such statistics are appropriate (games) and where they are not (real life). If you consider his position of living, nay... surviving, in an industry for 30 years where your view is that of an outsider then I think you should be able to understand the aggressive tone. Given this context you will see why the tone is not aggressive for the sake of being aggressive, unfortunately people who don't understand how far apart Taleb's thinking is from the conventional ways then the style and (perhaps) content will be unfairly dismissed as puerile. In an interview the author states that he has fought against the prevailing value-at-risk models. The structure of the book is fairly light as it wanders from topic to topic, it would be unfair to say incoherent as that isn't the case but rather the book is not highly structured like a textbook but rather like a novel.

There is little offered in the way of protecting oneself against a Black Swan, nor is there a strong explanation of how society can prevent/ resist Black Swans. However, I don't think that is quite the point of the book, the first step is learn how to understand what a Black Swan is then learn how to identify potential sources (hence become Grey Swans). Much of the book is epistemological (concerned with knowledge) rather than practical, it isn't a how-to guide for living.

I also think people that are unfamiliar with the financial lingo or economics terms may struggle to understand the author's use of particular anecdotes and references. Also his political or philosophical preferences won't be to everyone's taste which is another source of disagreement, Taleb states his preference for a society that allows failure, and one where a free market exists. Naturally, there is a lot of criticism of poor prediction at the within government and corporations, the author believes that such errors are compounded by over centralization in the related power structures where a small error can produce a large crack (a fragile entity: this doubtlessly upsets some readers who are keen central planners).

Readers who are not from a maths/ physics background may struggle with the copious use of mathematical terms. The book really isn't dense nor abstruse; I found it highly readable and at no point was I stuck but I'm coming from a maths/physics background, and I can see this being a problem for others. The concept of standard deviation is referred to but only loosely explained. A keen reader while search the internet to figure it out while the lazy or disgruntled (perhaps ideologically opposed to the book's content) will come to Amazon and write a one star review. The author could have made a bigger effort to explain these terms such that the book can have a wider readership.


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