lizclimo:

that’s why

lizclimo:

that’s why

6,274 notes

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

I have no idea why I decided to read this book. I think I saw the title ‘Wall Street’ on my Kindle and some memories of High School came back. Nostalgia put me in a curious mood so I gave it a shot.

Michael Lewis details the story of IEX – Investor’s Exchange and its founders’ story. It points the finger at high frequency trading that, he states, pretty much screws investors because of their better or faster access to information. The thing is – I found this to be a lot of just common sense. In fact, I remember in 2007 when I barely had any knowledge of finance, trying to explain the basics of how the stock market worked to a friend that knew even less than me. I explicitly told him that since trading now happens on computers, it really meant that speed plays a larger factor. To me, it just always made sense that a faster computer or connection would be more advantageous and would create asymmetric information and therefore, arbitrage. This was way before I had any inkling of finance. It just seemed to me like basic common sense. Lewis describes all these high frequency trading firms trying to locate themselves closer to the exchanges so that their connections would reach the exchanges faster. He writes as though this was criminal. While I do feel that there is a certain level of shadiness to this, it just never seemed to me like it was such an awesome discovery. When I was reading the book, it felt more like Lewis was explaining back to me my own idea in a more detailed fashion.

I skimmed through a bunch of technical descriptions, especially ones that had a bunch of acronyms. I really enjoyed the simplicity that Michael Lewis used to describe these vastly technical terms. While I still had absolutely no interest in reading those parts, I was still incredibly impressed by his analytical writing ability. He was able to weave a story that was surprisingly interesting to read. My only criticism is the cutting scenes and description of people mid way through the readings. It doesn’t read chronologically so you have to constantly stop your internal timeline to figure out how the sudden description of a particular person and business matches with the timeline.

The public reviews are controversial, with many criticisms of Lewis’ book being bias. He’s rattling cages and upsetting people that are making a lot of money so the backlash is a given. I do feel there is a certain amount of bias in his writing and story so the backlash isn’t meritless. For example, if he is shaming high frequency trading, why doesn’t he include any interviews with an actual high frequency trader? Besides some other points, I thought that Lewis’ book was an entertaining read but I’m not sure it has much impact other than bringing some light reading to a field that is controlled by the nation’s foremost capitalists.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

This book gave me a lot of thinking. Thinking about purpose, thinking about life, thinking about thinking, etc.

I really identified with Hsieh, especially during the beginning of the book, where the entire first half of the book is more or less his biography. I suppose I’m luckier than him, there were more than 10 Asian families in Chinatown. But being a second generation Asian American, there were so many areas during the first few pages of the book that I felt like I was reading about myself. The whole part about Asian parents getting together to compare children and having them play instruments to increase their ego and ‘face’. The indoctrination of getting A’s and only A’s.

That was just part of the Asian culture: The accomplishments of the children were the trophies that many parents defined their own success and status by. We were the ultimate scorecard. There were three categories of accomplishments that mattered to the Asian parents.
Category 1 was academic accomplishments: Getting good grades, any type of award or public recognition, getting good SAT scores, or being part of the school’s math team counted toward this. The most important part of all of this was which college your child ended up attending. Harvard yielded the most prestigious bragging rights.
Category 2 was career accomplishments: Becoming a medical doctor or getting a PhD was seen as the ultimate accomplishment, because in both cases it meant that you could go from being “Mr. Hsieh” to “Dr. Hsieh.”
Category 3 was musical instrument mastery: Almost every Asian child was forced to learn either piano or violin or both, and at each of the gatherings, the children had to perform in front of the group of parents after dinner was over. This was ostensibly to entertain the parents, but really it was a way for parents to compare their kids with each other.

My goodness… SO TRUE. I didn’t get into Harvard despite applying and going to the interview. Granted, I didn’t really try during the interview and the entire application was only done to satisfy my dad, who never made a single academic request or comment during my life up to that time. My mom was the disciplinarian in the family. I remember going to tutoring during the weekends since, well, since I could really remember myself going to school – from nearly fourth grade I think. And Chinese school. I didn’t really learn anything from any of the tutoring places until 7th and 8th Grade when I met Mr.Li, who completely changed my view of learning and work ethic in general. I wrote about my mom trying to push me to be a doctor when I young. Luckily my pediatrician pretty much said not to and completely dissuaded me from going that route. My mom gave up after that but pressed upon getting a higher degree and a job as a shi: accountant會計師 kuaiji-shi,lawyer律師 lu-shi, doctor醫生 yi-sheng/yi-shi. Yeah – none of that worked out after I started entrepreneurship.

I’ve written extensively about college, going to college, etc. I went because my grandpa said he needed to see my diploma before he hit the coffin. CMC isn’t Harvard (although it claims to be the Harvard of the West…) but I passed through high school and a bit of college with the same forms of entrepreneurial adventures as Hsieh. Again, already written extensively on this blog.

I really got into the book when Hsieh talked about building LinkExchange and Zappos. The adventures, the people, the decisions, all the little things and excerpts that he included. It was like reading about my adventures, of course at a much smaller scales, namely much less zeros at the end of my budget. Parts that I absolutely loved were parts that detailed his decision points and crossroads. He wrote about his thought process, his considerations, and everything that weighed on his mind. It gave such a wonderful perspective for me to learn from.

His chapters and sections were progressively named Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Oddly, I think I’ve found my passion, I just need something to apply it to for profits and for purpose. Reading about Hsieh was a lot like reading about myself. He articulated his feelings and thought process so well though. On another note, it’s written entirely by him without a ghost writer. By far, his primary passion- the love of building something and being involved in development, is my passion. Its what I’ve loved to do since the beginning days and its what I’m good at doing. That’s when I get into Flow.

I’ll have to revisit this book again in the future. I’d definitely buy it, but not for his dissertation on company culture and fostering happiness, but his biography. Right now, I just need to take a few weeks to digest it.

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incidentalcomics:

The Writers’ Retreat
For the July 20 NY Times Book Review. Thanks to AD Nicholas Blechman and editor Pamela Paul!

incidentalcomics:

The Writers’ Retreat

For the July 20 NY Times Book Review. Thanks to AD Nicholas Blechman and editor Pamela Paul!

4,279 notes

Photography PRO

I’m really starting to get the hang of the Canon EOS-6D. I’ve posted before about the wondrous, addictive feeling of photography but now, I’m starting to dive deeper into it. While I can’t claim I’ve mastered any specific techniques, I can pretty much take decent photos of indoor objects. I have to start on indoor people photography. Shooting with light that bounces off of skin is a whole other arena for me. I’m getting better at outdoor objects but outdoor daylight and outdoor night photography is next on my list. 

My only gripe is that the camera doesn’t come with the flash-hotshoe so I can’t really spend time to master that. So far most of my info and skill has been coming from BH and her advice, the Intro to Photography Class and a bit of the Strobist. But that last one has been not to useful as of now because I don’t have an external flash, only the one that comes attached tot he camera. Oh Wells - at least its better than simply using my camera phone.

Check out my latest photos shot with the Canon EOS-6D HERE!

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my workhorse…

Temple Chronicles

We had some interesting visitors this past half month. One of the Bros left, a documentarian from Beijing came by and a whole horde of new volunteers came. We’re running out of places to live!

Its odd that one of the Bros who has been around for so long, just left. He was fine the night before when he was talking about the world cup. He just got up and left. I suppose it was hard for him though. He smashed a bowl onto another Bro’s head - needing seven stiches. He was punished by copying scriptures on his knees. I guess he just had enough of it or perhaps he just couldn’t forgive himself. He just disappeared.

A ‘famous’ producer from Beijing came to discuss a series about the temple. He’s old friends with Shifu and was very vocal about how terrible the current documentaries and drama series of ancient China were. It was hilarious because he kept bashing the current series’ were - the historical inaccuracies, the ridiculous love stories, and insertion of various nonexistent characters to support a sub-plot that makes no significance. He had problems with a whole list of series. Most of them had to do with the dynastic court. It was quite hilarious because the minister of Religious Affairs happened to stop by as well. They really wanted to request some money I guess. Who knows what will happen. I’ve noticed that a lot of these officials talk a lot of Hot Air but never end up following up on whatever they talk about.

A group of eight people suddenly arrived within two days, all independent of each other. It seems coincidental right when there were three people who left, then came a whole other group. Its amazing how this temple just finds people when there just goes a bunch. It also need to thank one of them for watching the incense burner for me. There’s something wrong with FHe but I can’t really put my finger on it – he’s proven to be quite a swell guy though. Something in him just isn’t right; I do hope he gets better though.

We had some national-level official come to the temple. It wasn’t much of a big deal, not like the four officials before, but this was an occasion that we used to do a master cleanse of the entire courtyard. I personally felt that it was pointless to do it in prep for one person. One, because it’s just fake. Two, the group here just isn’t clean here to begin with. While cleaning is better than not, everything will slowly revert back to its original state in not too long. The fact that we had to use an entire day’s worth of resources to clean just shows the relative cleanliness and hygiene level of the group.

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(Source: iraffiruse, via creativeroom)

294,787 notes

Before Happiness by Shawn Achor

I loved his TED talk so when I saw his book, I knew it would be a fun read, if not informative. Achor outlines 5 skills that are necessary to become a “Positive Genius”

1. Choose the Most Valuable Reality
2. Mapping Your Success Route
3. Finding Success Accelerants
4. Boosting Your Positive Signal by Eliminating the Negative Noise
5. Transferring Your Positive Reality to Others

A Positive Genius is someone that can knit IQ, EQ, and social intelligence all together. In his first few pages, he emphasizes that testing high in any one of the three is useless because you’re not able to complement your other individual skills. This makes total sense – I’ve met plenty of people that have extrodinarily high IQ but don’t know how to convey their message properly. There are people that empathize very well, but when you try to have a conversation with them about anything else, you hit a brick.

Most of what he writes isn’t very ‘new’. After reading so many similar books, I feel like the authors are either all copying from each other or the fundamentals to living a fulfilling life is all the same. Ironically, most people can’t or simply refuse to accept some of those concepts. Like the first one – choosing the most valuable reality. In other self-help books, getting the reader to realize that a positive reality exists is hard enough. In fact, I think the majority of people that buy these books are people with a negative outlook on life. At least they are making a step to change.

All books of the like emphasize how important it is for you to convince yourself of positivity – you actually have to ‘will’ it into being until your subconscious is wired to believe it. There’s an infinite amount of books that talk about that, from Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill to You are a Badass that I read last year. Live, breathe, and think obsessively until you become synchronized with your goal. The careful part is knowing that “true success emerges from positive realities, not positive delusions.”

I’d be on the second step if I had to pick a place. That’s ‘Mapping your Success Route’

Mapping Paths to Success

  • Identify and set better goals by highlighting markers of meaning in your life and learning to distinguish true areas of meaning from decoys and mental hijackers.
  • Chart more direct routes to your goals by reorienting your mental maps around those markers of meaning.
  • Keep yourself squarely on the path to success by mapping success routes before escape routes.

Currently, most of my meaning markers are based on learning goals. While that’s great because all I have to do is keep up the motivation to learn, its pretty ‘low’ on the totem pole of actual meaning markers that people face in life. Learning goals as meaning markers should be something for an undergraduate, not someone that’s supposed to be in ‘real life’, I feel. I also feel that its contributing to the feeling of quick passing time. The days here seem to be completely spent all of the sudden. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. It probably has to do with the memory markers.

Success Accelerants and Noise Elimination come much easier to me when I have a concrete goal and I’ve successfully convinced myself of it. I find it very easy to drop everything else that I’m doing to finish a task if I feel that it is worth my time. That’s the key – figuring out what is worth my time and what isn’t. Some people say that you won’t know until you actually dive into it and do it. Others say you need a positive attitude in order to make anything worth your time. I don’t know how I feel about that but I do know how to manage my personal motivation and 50% of it comes from listening to good music.

Achor also touches on using stress as a success accelerant or motivational tool. He says that the “belief that your behavior matters…that social support and the ability to view stress as a challenge instead of a threat” can actually help, not harm your body. I’m wondering if there is any kind of scientific or chemistry explanation for this. Meditation goes the opposite route – the willful silencing of the mind instead of turning one thought into another for positivity. This is another point that I’m trying to reconcile. I always knew that stress could help in small doses, after all JKang used to say ‘if you leave it until the last minute, it only takes a minute to finish’. That’s a bit of an extreme, but the animators at South Park take it to heart and its effects are obvious.

I don’t really have much to critique this book. Maybe its because I read it when my mind was focusing on my SEO site. Maybe its because I felt that most of it was reworded material so my mind skimmed through it. Either way, it was a good read and definitely very humorous. Not sure if I’d buy a hard copy of it though…

(Source: herewestand, via parislemon)

1,228 notes

Entrepreneurship Again

Entrepreneurship Again

I really want to start a new venture. I’m not really sure what specifically, only that I enjoy building things and watching it grow from scratch. I know I shouldn’t be distracted by this goal but it’s itching at me,

One of the Bros wanted to sell a custom incense and I got to eavesdrop on his negotiation calls with him and the vendors. My interest immediately peaked and my mind was spinning with all sorts of ideas.

The thoughts to earn an income right now are bothering me. Not only do I want to build and create, I also need a longer term revenue stream so that I can start budgeting and saving. Especially now that I want to buy a tablet to read books so I don’t have to face my hellishly hot computer. It seems SEO is the only viable option for me right now. I may have to reconfigure my schedule to accommodate this.

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Free books: 100 legal sites to download literature   

weed-speed-and-cigarettes:

The Classics

Browse works by Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad and other famous authors here.

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Google Poetry: Google Books has a large selection of poetry, fromThe Canterbury Tales to Beowulf to Walt Whitman.

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Prize-winning books online: Use this directory to connect to full-text copies of Newbery winners, Nobel Prize winners and Pulitzer winners.

(via darylelockhart)

23,236 notes

QuanZhen Zi Lu (全真之路)

China seems to be engaging in very nationalistic policies, like is promoting native religions and expelling foreign ones. You can Google or Baidu about what the CCP is doing with the foreign ones. But the native religions, like Daoism, is getting a lot of affection and attention from the government. Buddhism too but not nearly as much as Daoism, at least from this past year of living here.

QuanZhen Zi Lu, literally translating to the Journey of Complete Reality, is a five part documentary series filmed in 2012 and released in early 2014, documenting the rise of the QuanZhen Daoist Sect. The significance of this documentary is that it was produced and released on government initiative. The CCP generally does not get involved, especially not this deeply, into religious affairs. Some people say that its because 2012 is the 900th Anniversary of QuanZhen Sect’s Patriarch, Wang Chongyang’s return. I’m sure it contributed to the many reasons why this documentary was produced. But being involved in temple affairs and unintentionally eavesdropping on the government officials that come by the temple, I think there are other motives.

The documentary starts with the life of QuanZhen progenitor and Patriach Wang Chongyang, goes through his journey of cultivation, accepting his seven illustrious disciples, and concluding with his arguably most ‘successful’ student’s sect. There are interviews with experts, academics, Daoist Monks, and various other figures that narrate the history of QuanZhen, the impact it had in dynastic China, and how it is relevant for modern day viewers. I think it was a passable documentary but nowhere near the quality of American documentaries.

Living in a Daoist temple, translating its texts, and just being engaged in the topic of Daoism constantly, I probably have a much more critical view on this documentary than most. Not to mention that I am foreign born and raised, not a native Chinese. For one, the documentary was too much narration instead of ‘showing’ the story. The re-enactments were interesting, but the commentary on its history was very sub-par. For example, there are multiple scenes where the ‘expert’ talks about a certain experience that one of the sages had and quotes ancient text written during the dynastic period that described the sages. That’s fine – but you have to give the audience more. You have to explain what it means in modern day terms for the viewers than can’t decipher what that stanzas mean. Simply reciting it while its being shown on the screen is wasting good film time.

Another biased area was its focus on academically historical descriptions. Sure, there were QuanZhen monks that were interviewed and offered their views. But the documentary had a disproportionate amount of extra time allocated for academics. If you are going to market this documentary as a religious-learning journey with historical facts to accompany it, the religious concepts should be the main topic. Instead, this was clearly not the case. Its explanation of text that the sages wrote down was interpreted as people, places and events. But most of the text actually refers to morals, ethics, values, and guidelines for living life. I know because I spent a ton of energy translating some of the text. In fact, if you refer to later commentators in the dynastic period, they decipher the text the same way I do. This is the difference between those practicing in the religion and those reading it from an academic perspective.

Lastly, the series should have used more uniform Mandarin accents. Some of the Daoist Monks come from very local villages with accents that are extremely unique and thick. Its nice that you include them in the documentary next to these academics. But when you cut their narrations back-to-back the transitions between accents is too much for an ABC like me. The subtitles flash through too quickly, especially for deeply religious terms that have multiple meanings in different context. Add some additional notation to describe the characters in the subtitles. Unfortunately, the transitions cut much too quick so the meanings get lost. Either slow down on the subtitles or group the accents better so the viewer has time to adapt to the change.

It’s a good historical overview of the QuanZhen Sect. I wish it had English subtitles so that I could better evaluate its translations. Perhaps that will be my project later this year or the next.

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(Source: caramelfringe, via jkilina)

572,298 notes

Photo-, Typo-, Video- graphy, Writing, Cooking and Creativity

I’m heading into a creative learning phase and I love it. All thanks to BH and her introduction to calligraphy.

The excitement of learning to use the Canon camera was overwhelming and I spent days reading the manual and tinkering with it. The manual itself is 348 pages! Most of it is text too. I also finished out the settings on the Canon EOS 6D. I had to fiddle with it constantly to get the settings right. But when I did, and the photo came out, my goodness was it satisfying. I know that that’s probably the feeling that gets photographers hooked on. Well – I’ sure was. The success and euphoria that I get when a good picture comes out is indescribable.

I’m filming a documentary short clip about BH as a calligraphy master. Unfortunately the quality might not be optimal because Class 4 SD cards don’t let me shoot HD. Its bitrate is too slow, which is a shame. That’s the difference between class 4 and class 6 SD cards. Filming has started though as BH finished the test page for calligraphy so that fun. I’m starting to get the hand of the DSLR. There are so many settings that I feel most people would never use. Multi-function is non-functioning. At least there’s video.

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But since it’s an excuse for me to learn Adobe Premiere Pro and videography, I think it will be okay. I’ve started filming already so I understand the equipment that I’m working with better. There’s still a lot to do though as I have to plan out the ‘story of the documentary. I think it will be about her journey as a calligrapher and a bit of her life philosophy as well as a theoretical introduction to Chinese calligraphy. I’m thinking English and Tradition Chinese character subtitles. We’ll see.

BH did say that my own calligraphy has gotten better despite a few days of not practicing because of an injury. What I should really work on is my Chinese reading. I’ve been here for so long, I feel that I really haven’t pushed myself out of my comfort zone to learn Chinese. Perhaps my goal now is to make sure I can read and understand Chinese by the end of the year. This would pair well with my video project to make subtitles.

I also wanted to make excellent transitions in the video so I’ve started back on typography and I really enjoy it. The only thing is reading it on my extremely hot AMD computer. I have to plan my time better so that I don’t spend more than two hours online and perhaps reduce that time even more when viewing the computer screen. The book, Practical Typography, is excellent – well written, concise, and visually useful. I even tried to follow its guideline as I wrote on my notebook. Since finishing the book, I’ve noticed so many websites with typographical ugliness. I’ve completely immersed myself in it. I guess it has to do with a creative side of me that perhaps thats been suppressed. I’m changing my goals to relearn HTML and CSS to redo my blog layout using the typography guidelines that I have acquired.

My next project is to start cooking because I simply can’t stand the monotony of just cleaning up the tea room. Food here has also gotten a bit unbearable – the same types of dishes over and over again. Soy Sauce potato cube stir fry every day. It’s good to eat simple and to keep to the same flavors but after a while you get sick of the same stuff. I tried making potato Wedges with ketchup. I was able to fry some wedges. The ketchup took the longest to make – much more complicated than the actual frying of the potatoes though. Gosh was it enjoyable to feel and see the instant results from fruits of your labor. I guess that’s the needed balance for short and long term gratification. The next day I made black fungus ginger with walnuts. I originally wanted to make it a cold dish but I didn’t really have time for it. I also soaked way too much black fungus – enough for 8 meals. So that’s what we had for 8 meals. It still tasted great though. Thankfully, the quality of meals here has generally increased, otherwise I planned to make burritos and crepes.

I finally got to play the high octave on the flute. At this rate, I think I’ll be well on my way to finishing two melodies by the end of the year.