California: A History by Kevin Star

California: A History by Kevin Star is a book which covers the history of California including the discovery and settlement by the Spanish up to the recent governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The book covers the boom of California, how it grew to be one of the largest economies in the world, and several of the problems it may face in dealing with its growth and diversity. My own experience living in San Francisco California contradicts a lot of what this book asserts and I can not completely agree with the general tone or feel of the work.

The book does, however, give a report of how California came to be, and while it may not be very compelling or inspiring, is still worth a read if you care about California.


I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards presents an insight into how google was run as a startup that differs from the monumental "Greatest Hits" Books that represent most of the other google books I have read. The book is still very inspiring and intimate. Facing a mid-life crises, it is great to watch how Doug turns from being a big company guy to a start-up guy, then leaving Google when it became a big company, though he had millions of dollars from stock options to help with a new journey.

Douglas is an English major and his writing is excellent. This is a great book. To get a feel for the content read this interview with him on Amazon.com.


Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin states that the best marketing is built into the product, stimulating word of mouth. While it is a good book, it makes many assertions about effective advertising without the data to back it. In a way, Seth is selling you on his theory. That said, there are many good insights and ideas in this book that might stimulate you to think outside the box when creating or marketing a new product.

The key points from the book are:

  1. Don't be boring
  2. Safe is risky
  3. Design rules now
  4. "Very good" is "bad": ie, The opposite of remarkable is "very good" since "very good" is the expectation.


The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller is a well written book, and Helen Keller is no doubt a literary genius. The book also reveals what the world must be like for the deaf and blind and Helen shows readers a new world of deep sensuality.

I had now the key to all language, and I was eager to learn to use it. Children who hear acquire language without any particular effort; the words that fall from others' lips they catch on the wing, as it were, delightedly, while the little deaf child must trap them by a slow and often painful process. But whatever the process, the result is wonderful. Gradually from naming an object we advance step by step until we have traversed the vast distance between our first stammered syllable and the sweep of thought in a line of Shakespeare.

The book also discusses Helen's disillusionment with University and higher education, as well as the importance of her teacher and friends in her life. The book is a good read, though it does tend to run long at times.


New Miss India by Bharati Mukherjee

New Miss India by Bharati Mukherjee is an inside look at what it must be like to be a village girl in India fleeing arranged marriage in a small Indian town for a call center job in booming Bangalore (the Silicon Valley of India). The story taught me about the struggles on Indian people, and particularly Indian women. It brought to light the lack of social justice, the prevalence of corruption, organized crime, and the abandonment of traditional values in India which have good and bad consequences. I recommend this book for these insights despite the sometimes annoying or predictable scenes Mukherjee uses that are more like scenes from a movie as opposed to creative fiction.


Built to Sell as a Career Path Should be Taught in Schools

You look at a huge corporation and you see a way they could do something better. You spend 1 month to 2 years working to create that solution and then sell it to them, or the corporation that pays the most, for a pretty large sum of money.

This is the build to sell model of business, but why isn't it taught in schools as a career path? Instead, it often feels like everyone is just conditioned to get a job and join the work force. I think the world would be more productive with the build to sell model that can create efficiencies in the corporate world, and more wealth for employees/business people.


In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy

In the Plex by Steven Levy is a great look at the evolution of Google and everything it does to operate and try to retain a start-up culture. The book is entertaining and inspirational. A good read.


Corporate Structures, Taxes, LLCs, and Manifesting Your Dreams

I recently went through a big personal mental battle. It has been one of the most soul searching weeks of recent years and what amazes me is that it has all to do with corporate structure.

At first I chose to be an S-Corp

This gave me a boost of confidence, I was a real company, I was two entities, I could exist legally in different states, I could fly like an eagle, I was a real president...then I realized the tax implications, I had to pay myself, give myself a salary and pay the monthly (and/or quarterly) withholding to the government. All the old tax forms from employment in the U.S. were back, W2s, W4s and so on. This tax structure can be good if you are making major cash because after you pay yourself a reasonable salary the rest of your revenue and profit goes to you as dividend distributions which can save you on employment taxes....around a 10% savings. Even sole proprietors have to pay self employment taxes. But with S-corps and corporations there is also all the licensing. I had to balance out these feelings of the bureaucracy with the feelings of being a real real company. All the documents, having to give myself payroll, give myself retirement benefits, and so on made me feel like I could easily take on employees, offices would be next, and then, oh boy, the big time. The truth is though that you have to really hire an accountant, a lawyer, or some kind of tax accountant lawyer (CFOs I think they are called). In the end, you have to deal with the chains of bureaucracy. Welcome to the corporate life.

Running to an LLC and back to being a Sole (Soul?) Proprietorship

Needless to say, after a week of trying to figure out tax and legal issues I decided to go back to my carefree days as a sole proprietor. There the accounting is much simpler, you get income and it is yours, not another entities. The taxes are straight forward. You are free to explore and go drink coconut water on Koh Chang beach whenever you want. However, so to is gone the feeling of being able to easily get employees and an office and so on.

The Compromise and the Long View

In the end, go with a corporate only when you are planning on getting funding, or employees, or a CFO. When you have the vision (and cash) to really expand, and when you are willing to make the commitment to an office, or offices and have a stable presence in one place or many. Otherwise, stay care free and dream. Give yourself the flexibility to grow a young company, till you are ready.


San Francisco City of The Argonauts

My photos with comments from my time in San Francisco can be viewed here via-facebook. You do not need a facebook account to see the photos.


How I Made $2 Million as a Stock Operator & Created a Hedge Fund by Timothy Sykes

How I Made $2 Million as a Stock Operator & Created a Hedge Fund by Timothy Sykes is an honest story of a talented stock trader who tried to expand his operation by starting a hedge fund. Most people are not sure what a Hedge Fund is, and the main reason is that Hedge Funds are subject to a lot of regulation which prevents discussion of Hedge Funds to anyone but the very wealthy.

As Tim points out, this violates freedom of speech and also stifled his ability to find investors and raise capital as a start-up hedge fund. Tim's story details trades he made, including how he turned ~10K into ~2 million. It is interesting to hear stories where he made or lost 100K on several trades. This story details what would happen if you ever really did make a killing on a series of great trades, and the result is at once surprising and realistic!

This is a recommended book for anyone who is interested in trading or in getting a more honest perspective on the finance industry. As someone who is also in a burgeoning start-up I enjoyed hearing the challenges Tim went through with networking, raising funds, being in a big city, dealing with the loneliness of operating without a team, and also getting lost in the joy of growing an independent project.

Visit Tim's website for more information about him. It seems he has started several websites that help to keep track of different trader's performance, and also provides detailed information to traders.





Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow

-Langston Hughes


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