Reading

If you just happen to read this blog of mine for a bit, you’ll know I like to read. Reading is fun and powerful. I learned English and still do from reading, including vocabulary, grammar, nuances, connotation and just how words can be put together. I am still miserable at it, so that’s why I keep reading.

Also, reading expands my horizon and reminds me of how lucky I am. Non-fiction books such as self-help or just pure business reads are incredibly helpful in becoming a better business person or just a better person. Accounts on life in North Korea, Africa or the gender discrimination in Middle East boost my compassion and appreciation for what I have.

I believe strongly that we all should embrace reading. And to give you some motivation, here is a tweet I thankfully came across this morning

Source: Jelani Cobb

I shared it with a friend and his first response was ‘Damn. No excuse’. Indeed, there isn’t.

Book: Wandering by Hermann Hesse

Wandering by Hermann Hesse is a short yet fantastic read. When life’s uncertainties keep piling up and your mind is exhausted by all the distractions, it is a surreal feeling to read this book and imagine being open up to the nature the way that the author was. His lyrical writing is magnificent.

But I smile, and not only with my mouth. I smile with my soul, with my eyes, with my whole skin, and I offer these countrysides, whose fragrances drift up to me, different senses than those I had before, more delicate, more silent, more finely honed, better practiced, and more grateful. Everything belongs to me more than ever before, it speaks to me more richly and with hundreds of nuances. My yearning no longer paints dreamy colors across the veiled distances, my eyes are satisfied with what exists, because they have learned to see. The world has become lovelier than before.

The world has become lovelier. I am alone, and I don’t suffer from my loneliness. I don’t want life to be anything other than what it is. I am ready to let myself be baked in the sun till I am done. I am eager to ripen. I am ready to die, ready to be born again. The world has become lovelier.

Wandering – Hermann Hesse

Soft rain, summer rain

Whispers from bushes, whispers from trees.

Oh, how lovely and full of blessing

To dream and be satisfied.

———————————

I was so long in the outer brightness,

I am not used to this upheaval:

Being at home in my own soul,

Never to be led elsewhere.

———————————

I want nothing, I long for nothing,

I hum gently the sounds of childhood,

And I reach home astounded

In the warm beauty of dreams.

———————————

Heart, how torn you are,

How blessed to plow down blindly,

To think nothing, to know nothing,

Only to breathe, only to feel.”

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Weekly readings – 2nd March 2019

I spend quite a lot of time on reading or at least as much time as I can possibly afford nowadays. Long posts, interesting news articles, books or tweets. Sometimes, I share with my friends interesting pieces and reciprocally get some in return. I benefit from the exercise a lot. Since I tend to catch up on the reading during the weekends thanks to the requirements of the new job, I decided to run an experiment in which I would collect interesting content I read during a week on every Saturday, if possible. The content may not need to be recent, but it’s interesting in some aspects, at least to me. Plus, the number of links will vary, depending on what I come across every week. Let’s see how it plays out. Here is the first one:

Lyft S-1

Status as a Service (StaaS)

The questions that matter

Rightscale 2019 State of the Cloud report

The value chain constraint

Privacy complaints received by tech giants’ favorite EU watchdog up to more than 2x since GDPR

Public library’s browser extension and e-book borrowing

Reading is awesome, but it can be fairly expensive if you buy every book you want to read. This post is about one trick I found to borrow e-books from the public library in Omaha, Nebraska, saving me a lot of money, while maintaining this rewarding habit. I suspect that the same should be similar to public libraries across the US.

I am a big fan of the public library in Omaha. There are tons of books to borrow for free. The normal process is that you go to the library’s website, log in, type in the book of your choice, place a hold, if the book is available of course, and pick it up later at your chosen branch.

I can’t recall the exact moment, but some time last year, I added their browser extension to Chrome. The extension allows me to see the availability of books right on the website where I am visiting without navigating to the library’s website itself. It’s convenient and in some cases, saved me a few bucks from buying books that otherwise are free to borrow at the library.

How the extension looks on Amazon

On the right hand side of the screenshot is how the extension looks. Immediately, I know that there are 3 available hard-copies of the book at the library and no e-book or audiobook up for grabs at the moment. One click and it takes me to the library’s website.

It’s even more convenient if you can borrow the e-books, especially when the weather outside is nasty. The process is pretty simple. Simply go to the library’s website, look for the book and place a hold on the e-book. A couple of options will appear as follows:

The “read in browser” option is quite self-explanatory. If you pick the “pick a format to download” option, there are usually Kindle or Adobe Epub format. As I own a Kindle, I go with the former. Once the option is picked, the window will appear like this:

Click on “Download Kindle” and you will be redirected to Amazon website:

Click on “Get Library Book”, open your Kindle, turn on Wifi-connection and you’ll get access to the book. To return the borrowed books, it has to be done in Amazon, according to Amazon website:

If you can support authors and pay for every book, by all means. If you read a lot and want to save money, public libraries can be a tremendous help. Don’t feel bad about free reading. Part of our taxes goes to the management and maintenance of public libraries. If you are not able to increase your income to build your net worth, it’s easier to lower expenses. This is one of the tricks I knew to limit the damages to my bank account while still enriching my knowledge and soul.

What should be taught more at schools

After years of being at school, I cannot wait to graduate in a few months’ time. Looking back at my academic career so far, even though schools offer some values, most of the courses can now be learned online provided that one has the will and the discipline to learn. What stands out more to me is what schools don’t teach. Here are some lessons that I feel are missing at schools, but play an important role in one’s life and career

Personal finance

I cannot stress enough how important this is. I have seen and known people get thousands of dollars in student loans for education. Then, get more debt in car loans to buy that new car that will be worth significantly less a few years from now. When a new car arrives in your home, it comes with parking fees, gas expenses and insurance. Consequently, monthly expenses rise and savings become even smaller.

On top of that, some gather whatever savings are left to make a down payment for a house and will still have to make installments on a regular basis. A monthly paycheck, after tax, will be used to pay for critical expenses such as rent, food and gas. What is left is used to pay for interests and some outstanding debt. In the end, there is almost no savings. I once read a report recently that many Americans cannot make a $400 emergency payment. Here is a simple breakdown of monthly income and expenses. It is for illustration purpose only. The relative size of the components is different in reality.

Income and Expenses

I didn’t take into account expenses such as bars, celebrations, birthday gifts, wedding gifts, books, travel, shopping, that broken Macbook charger, that flat tire, that media subscription you appreciate so much and others that add values to our lives.

What if something terrible happens and you are hospitalized? How will you pay for the hefty medical bills? It is impossible to assume that you won’t get sick even once for years. It’s practically unsustainable to cross-finger and hope that no severe accident such as car accidents will not happen ever. One of my classmates was hit in a car accident through no fault of her own simply because a person ran the red lights to make it to a Black Friday sale!

There is no shortage of studies and media coverage on pay day loans – a quick way to get your hands on cash, but at the expense of extremely high interest. Life will quickly become just a constant loop of being stuck to your job and paying off debts. If you don’t like the current job, you won’t be able to change jobs or quit because of the debt burden. You don’t have much margin of error or freedom to enjoy life. The lack of freedom to make choices is highly devastating.

Communication

Too cliché? Nah, it is really relevant based on what I have seen so far. . I have seen a lot of PowerPoint decks made by experienced professionals that are littered with text without visuals. As data is taking the world by storm, the ability to convey insights from data is important as well. How could anyone understand anything from highly complex Excel sheets?

The ability to present and communicate effectively is very crucial in one’s career. However, I think that point is missing at schools.

Writing is thinking

It’s easy to sit down, think of an idea and feel that it’s the best idea that has ever been thought of. Unfortunately, it is not true, most of the time. There are a lot of gaps in our thinking unless we write it down on a Word document or a sheet of paper. When we write, we can think more about the points being made, the gaps in logic, evidence to back the logic up and the way to present it. It’s true that students have to write a lot of papers. They; however, have little idea on WHY they have to write papers except for grades.

Reading

It’s all in the books. I am not in a position to tell what one should read. One should just read to see where it is going and what areas one is interested in. Let’s say if a person reads constantly and improves by 1% every month, starting from a base ability value of 100, here is how the person will grow after a while

Ability value

After 4 years, you’ll grow by more than 50% and become twice as good as when you started after 7 years.

Titles, fame or wealth doesn’t always equal to being right

Being logical and having a good idea are not exclusive to fame, authority, fame or wealth. CEOs make mistakes and are dismissed all the time. Crypto fans would be happy to recall that Jamie Dimon – CEO of JP Morgan – dismissed the value of cryptocurrency at first and made a 180 turn to embrace it. I once heard a classmate publicly claim in class that he regretted not mirroring Warren Buffett’s investments. He is a legendary investor, but he is not immune to mistakes nor he is right all the time.

My point is that it’s important to stay vigilant and look at ideas for their merits, not for the fame, titles or wealth of the person who proposed them.

I believe that graduates would be much better prepared for life and career post education if these lessons were emphasized more at school.