Books

The time-crunched cyclist
The time-crunched cyclist: fit, fast, and powerful in 8 hours a week
Chris Carmichael; VeloPress 2009
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For those of us intellectual athletes (i.e. people who spend more time reading about fitness than actually exercising) this is a great read!  Chris Carmichael’s credentials are top notch.  He trained Lance in his historic 7- Tour de France wins after defeating cancer, he is the creator of the Carmichael Training System, author of several books and videos on the subject, and a constant contributor to one of my favorite magazines, Bicycling.  He now published a new training program for those of us that have a life that requires 6 – 8 hour of exercise a week to be in top shape. 

Chris seems to write for the athletic geek.  He explains the physiology of the training, why it is good, how it works, and how your body will react to it.  He includes several programs for different levels of athletic proficiency so you can feel comfortable at your own pace.  The book is full of tips and details about work outs, food, and how to take advantage of your new gained fitness.

Whether you want to compete in your local criterium, improve your PR in your local loop, impress your friends in your weekend group rides, or finally tackle the century you’ve chickened out of for the past n years, this book is for you.   The workout is not for the faint of heart (and I mean that literally) but it promises good progress without a lot of time.  I will follow one of the plans (Of course I won’t specify which one in particular) and will write about the results.

Enjoy.

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Long Tail, The
Long Tail, The: WHY THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS IS SELLING LESS OF MORE
Chris Anderson; Hyperion 2008
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“Anyone who cares about media – indeed, anyone who cares about our society and where it’s going – must read this book” – Robert Glaser, CEO, RealNetworks. “Anderson’s insights … continue to influence Google’s strategic thinking in a profound way.” – Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google. These are just two of the bragging rights printed in the back of the book. In my opinion – dare I add it in the same paragraph as the prior two – his insights are, well, insightful indeed. Since I joined the blogosphere I have been trying to explain what has been the catalyst for all this seemingly nonsensical blogging and niche media producing. In an eloquent production Anderson managed to put it in very simple yet profound terms.

The Digital revolution has done more to society than making information available within a couple of keystrokes. Democratization of the tools of production (jeez, sounds like x-soviet propaganda poster), Democratization of the tools of distribution (ditto), and swifter connections between supply and demand have dramatically changed what once was a hit driven economy to an economy of lots and lots of niches. I profoundly agree, although I have to say that we still need a lot more work on the “connections between supply and demand”.
Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired magazine and and author of The Long Tail Blog explains in what I believe is some of the best business writing there is, the economic distribution of media production, the head, and the tail. And, as he admits, participates in both taking advantage of the tools and technologies that are available to all of us these days. The insights are extremely good and the analysis even better.
I have to say, though, that the book suffers from repetitiveness surprising for an editor and blogger of his caliber. It made me think that in his effort to produce a hit (which he did) he had to meet a number of pages goal so you get a bank for you buck. What saves the book is Anderson’s mastery of the craft. He is indeed an extremely good writer. Even when I had heard the story of the 4 million songs in Rhapsody maybe for the fourth time half way through the book , he managed to keep me going and I did not skip to the “meat of the chapter” like I sometimes (Ok usually) do with other business books.
Definitely a good read, insightful and highly recommended. I can’t wait to read Free (I did not mean “read for free”, although that wouldn’t be bad either)
Enjoy.

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Jim Cramer's real money
Jim Cramer's real money: sane investing in an insane world
Jim Cramer; Simon & Schuster 2005
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Cramer writes as he speaks: a little too cocky, self confident, straightforward, candid, and with a couple of “insider” jokes that make you think he is the only one that finds them funny. It is a great flight book (that is a book to read on a boring 6 hour flight). That being said, the book is a good collection of sane (yes, I said sane) advice for the novice and no so novice investor. His stock-picking rules are a good organized way to summarize the basics of disciplined investing / trading. I have two pet peeves on his recommendations: the way he defines diversification (which is not exclusive of Mr. Kramer), and the 5 stock limit for part time investors. Let me explain.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t diversify, but diversification is different for each investor. If you call his show to the “am I diversified” segment and tell him: “I own EBAY, GOOG, AAPL, CSCO, and QCOM” i can hear the screams all the way from here: “They are all tech!!, are you crazy????” The firs statement is true, the second … well, I don’t know for sure, but not because you own those stocks. EBAY is really online retail, Google is advertisement; Apple devices; Cisco, infrastructure, and Qualcomm, chips. True, there may be some correlation between them, especially between QCOM and AAPL (iPhone uses silicon chips). But based on fundamentals they really address very different markets and their revenues are not so closely tied. Technically, they might be closer since most investors aren’t tech geeks so they think they are tied together more than they really are. If you work in tech like I do, you can distinguish the differences between these sub-categories and be diversified within a sector. Moreover if you work in tech you have to monitor these companies.

Cramer also suggests to own a minimum of 5 stocks to consider diversified, and he even goes through rules of how to pick the categories of these 5. He also suggests that more than 5 is too many due to the “buy and homework” strategy, arguing that you can’t devote enough time to do homework on more than 5 stocks and still have a day job. My opinion is that like everything else in life it depends. Following on my example above i have to know about the 5 companies I highlighted below for my day job, so I can afford to own stock of more than 5 if I can dedicate my moonlight hours to do “homework” outside of my area of expertise.

One last comment: I think Cramer overlooks one an additional cardinal rule of investing. That is keep a balanced portfolio. Diversification doesn’t mean a lot if you own 5 stocks but 80% of your portfolio is in only one. Index funds, like I explained here, are another fallacy of proper diversification.

Enjoy.

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The Great Crash 1929
The Great Crash 1929
John Kenneth Galbraith; Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin 1997
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The author presents an unexpectedly engaging read of a subject dry as desert.  He narrates a set of historical events that eventually caused the greatest stock market crash in the history of the US.  There are some similarities with the 2008 crash, but it is clearly caused by different root causes, although strikingly similar.  Definitely a recommended read.

It is well documented that the 1929 crash was mainly due to an excess leverage to invest in the stock market. Margin trading was making people money without having any ti invest. Pretty good. But without regulation or insurance like FDIC money just disappeared, evaporated. People panicked to get their deposits from the banks but there wasn’t enough money so the economy tanked and took years to recover. The stock market took 58 years to recover its purchasing parity value; 58 years. Take a look at this post where I explain why.

Enjoy.