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Book Review: Work Less, Live More

Work Less, Live More
by Bob Clyatt

This is a guide to early semi-retirement. Why retire early? Let's make it clear. It wasn't about making a killing in the stock market and then spend the rest of your life fishing. It is about attaining financial security to fund your retirement so that your can spend more time with the family, pursue other field work where your heart is, or simply winding down from the insanity of corporate rat race. It is about pursuing a long, healthy and fulfilling life.

Much of the book cover the financial strategy to build up the nested eggs. The new idea isn't new. Spend less, save more, invest passively in a diversified portfolio and withdraw at a sustainable rate. He make many examples to illustrate his points and also listed numerous resources.

One thing that set this book apart from other investment advices is he has a scope of life time. Most financial news focus on the action to take today. But here money is a mean to achieve financial freedom, not for profit maximization. He also has an interesting take on children's colleague expense. Although it is a large expense, he said, it is finite and can be budgeted. Just think about this, compare life long health care expense, then colleague is really one time expense. This insight can only come from a scope of life time.

While financial issues constitute a large part of the book, you will find inspiration notes throughout. For example, about different ways of giving back, he said,

Even just being a good friend and readily available to your older parents or extended family is a way to give back.

It is very basic but it rings true to me.

For myself retirement is a distant thought. Nevertheless it tells me it is important to have a goal in life. If I plan for it today I might be able to have the freedom to pursue a life that I truly long for.

2006.05.27 [, ] - comments

 

Yelp did it

I've heard about Yelp when they first start around 2 years ago. Social networking sites were the buzz word. They take that and use it for local shops and restaurant recommendation. With much larger competitors I thought they were a long shot.

Recently I look at it again. Sure enough people are drawn to it and leave comment all over. There are many devotees who have written hundreds of reviews on everything. Nearly every business establishment in my neighborhood, no matter how obscure or small, got multiple comments. I have lived in the neighborhood for a long time and walked pass some obscure establishment like American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine countless times. But only through the Yelp comments do I find out what they are doing.

The Map-tastic feature works really well. It merges Google Map and the search result. It allows user to move around on the map and have the search result refreshed. Yelp is where I will go for local search.

2006.05.26 [] - comments

 

National Geographic - Guns, Germs and Steel

Yesterday I have watched the documentary Guns, Germs and Steel based on Jared Diamond's book of the same name. I have not read the book. But with Jared Diamond being the host himself this should be a good representation of his book.

He started off in Papua New Guinea. Stuck by the islanders' deprivation, he tried to explain why do the West prosper and why do other cultures remain impoverished. His theory is that geography (environment), guns, germs and steel (technology) are the major factors that set them apart. The documentary followed the development of civilization from hunter-gatherers to farmers. It brought us back to the fateful battle between Francisco Pizarro and the Inca Empire. Finally it looked at the challenges in Africa, the land where the human race is believed to be originated from.

His book has won a Pulitzer Prize and his theory is called ground breaking. Flattery comments notwithstanding everything he said has been studied in anthropology. While all of them have some degree of truth, there are many other important factors he simply ignored, like culture, politics, religion and non-military technology. Also his emphasis on the environmental factor just sound too deterministic. Interesting this exact critique has voiced in the documentary.

I find two big faults in his thesis. First he like to insert simple answers for big questions. Why do our civilization developed in such way? Answer: geography, guns, germs and steel. But in fact he has only downplayed many other important factors. On the other hand there are plenty of counter examples for everything he has said. For example, which success factor did Mongolian possess when their conquered much of Europe and Asia? What geography advantages does England has that led them to become a global empire? Why does Arab and Chinese, with civilization in the similar stage with European, did not set off to conquer the world? His answer is really a weak answer at best.

Secondly he has a dichotomy view on cultures as winners and losers. Lots of focus are put on warfare and military technologies (i.e. guns, germs and steel) Other world shaping forces such as trading are entirely ignored. I doubt such winner and loser view can explain the complexity of civilization. For example, throughout its history China repeatedly fell to the nomadic invaders from the North. Jared's theory would have concluded the nomads the winner and possess some advantage over the Chinese loser (though non of his 4 factors can really count here). The interesting thing is over time many invaders adopted chinese culture and assimilated into the host country. Winner and loser cannot really describe what has happened.

Just curious. Jared is certainly not the first anthropologist to pose a big theory. What makes his work so popular?

2006.05.25 [] - comments

 

Old Games in Abandonia

Talking about the long tail, I recently have some fun play some old and long discontinued computer games. Abandonia - Home of abandonware DOS games is a site that collects abandoned computer games for free download. Some oldest date back to 1980s. I was never a serious gamers. But like most youth I have spent quite some time on games, first on the Apple II, then on a PC. Some of my favourite are Archon, Karateka, Tetris and Romance of The Three Kingdoms III. The state of art of hardware and graphics are much more advance today than those in the 80s and 90s. But with a bit of little effort you can run the games on your PC and relive the life of your youthhood.

Regarding the legality of offering copyrighted games for download, the site phrase it interestingly.

Since the software is no longer sold or supported, the copyright holders are not directly harmed in any way. This is why abandonware sites are, for the most part, ignored by the law.

2006.05.21 [] - comments

 

The Long Time Tail

I am a little behind in blogging. Last week I have went a few separate but all very interesting events. Last Friday was the Long Now Foundation's seminar The Long Time Tail by Chris Anderson with Will Hearst. Chris has introduced an influential concept of long tail. This time he has extended the concept in the time dimension. The sales of an item would decline over time. Traditionally an item would become unavailable or go out of print because it becomes uneconomical to continues to sell it. But in the world of unlimited virtual inventory with a searchable, discoverable front end, Chris discovered that the demand, though diminished, would extend well into the future. This is the same as the original long tail framework. And it applies very well to the time dimension.

The business implication? A content archive has great and untapped economic value. The implication to the consumers? We will enjoy a much wider selection of quality works. And we will be less subject to marketing hype that tries to push hits to make money in a flash of time.

Chris' presentation was full of studies of different markets. One study of Netflix users says the customers are a lot more satisfy with old movies than new movies. There is a logical explanation for this. Good movies stand the test of time. I for one are very glad to find the old collections available on the market again. For some time old Hong Kong movies have been release in VCD format, a lower quality, lower cost predecessor to DVD. Despite the lack of a searchable online front end and generally available only in a uncategorized, flea market like retail outlets, I still manage to amass a good collection great movies over time. I have fond memory of many old movies I have seen one or two times when they were released years ago. It is great to be able to enjoy them again many years later. The old releases also reportedly turning a good profit. Yet another confirmation that there is a demand of the long tail.

2006.05.19 [, ] - comments

 

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