Sunday, June 26, 2005

My (mini) Library, Part 3

If the books a person read could tell what kind of a person he or she is, then I’m an obsessive – compulsive book buyer who never manages to read the books that I’ve bought. I can’t help it. Just a few Sundays ago, I again bought 2 books, bargain books. “Man or Superman” by George Bernard Shaw and “Consumer Behavior”. I paid 400 pesos for the two books. Nice bargain for books that used to cost thousands. However, I had to slug it out with desperate moms and frenzied teenagers, who are buying books and supplies for school the following Monday. Sometimes, I wonder myself why I buy books and go great lengths in buying books. It is perhaps due to my desire to improve on myself. I know my shortcomings and I know what I lack and I make it up with reading to gain insights and discover techniques to become “better”. Well, that’s for most of my books. Some of my books are purely for my entertainment. Exciting my imagination. Still, other books are there mainly to uplift the level of my intellect and understanding as well as satisfy my curiosity. Business books belong to the self – improvement categories. Let me see aside from general management and marketing books, I also have finance books. These include among others the standard finance textbooks that I used in business school, Foundation of Financial Management, Fundamentals of Corporate Finance, Financial Management in Philippine Setting, and Bond Markets, Analysis and Strategies written by Fabozzi, the so – called “Bible” of bonds trading. I bought the latter because I took a course on bonds trading out of “greed”. I’m always fascinated by easy money were made in the financial markets but it is actually harder than I thought. In relation to that, I’ve bought a book on understanding financial news. I also happen to own two books on Philippine commercial banking. I guess I wanted to own a bank someday, which is why I bought it in the first place. Unfortunately, I haven’t read it. Probably, I would if I’m actually running a bank. I also have business law books in my collection. Labor laws, tax laws and contract laws, I could hardly understand those but they are quite handy when it comes to facing tax and labor cases. Most of the newest books I’d accumulate are the operations management books. Let me see I recently bought two quality management books, the Harvard business book, Managing Value Chain, Transforming the Supply Chain, which is a supply chain management book, the book Mass Customization, a revolutionary manufacturing process that I encountered years ago in business school. The gist of the book is how to employ cost effective mass production techniques in producing one unique product. It was an amazing concept but I haven’t read the details of going about it. There is also Logistic and Retail Management, which talks about leveraging logistics solutions in managing inventories of a retail organization. Last I heard, it was the secret to Wal – Mart’s success. Another book, The Call Center Handbook, a step to step guide to setting – up and operating a call center. Similar to this are the books on restaurant management, tourism management, and designing and maintaining a web site. My older books in this collection included a book on warehousing, product designing, and the standard operation management textbooks. It is not only books that I kept. I also have a large stack of magazines, mostly Newsweek, Time, The Economists, Fortune, Entreprenuer, and last but not the least, FHM! I also read three newspapers a day, BusinessWorld, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and World News (a Chinese newspaper). However, I would admit to having a hard time to read all of it. I also manage to download articles from the internet. At the moment, the collection is about 300Mb. There are mostly history articles and about 5 virtual “books” on history. I had histories of China, Rome, Byzantine, Europe, Egypt, Spain, France, Japan, Bulgaria, and Islam plus royal genealogies. I also downloaded health related articles on cholesterol, food pyramids, exercises, and sleeping disorders (I’m an insomniac). I also have books on certain industry statistics as well as economic statistics for business decision purposes. It may seem funny and overly stupid but I still felt that my library isn’t “complete” yet even though that I have so many books waiting to be open much less read. Well, as I said, I had this urge to learn more and improve myself as well as fascinate my imagination. Base on my current evaluation of myself, I still need to “improve” my understanding of the financial markets, which is why I’m tempted to buy Graham’s book on security analysis, dubbed as the “holy bible” of stock investing. Why, even Warren Buffet studied it. In relation to that, I might pick up a book on Warren Buffet, the world’s greatest stock picker. I’m also on a look out for Isaac Asimov’s classic, the Foundation series. I heard that it is many times intriguing compared to Star Wars. I also wanted to buy a book on classical music since I’m into “understanding” classical music. There is also a business book that I’m hunting for. It is about “influencers”. The idea of the book is that there is a noisy minority in this world that dictates what the majority buys, eats, or thinks and how should businesses recognize and “convince” these “influencers” to patronize them. Sounds pretty interesting but unfortunately, I couldn’t find the book anymore. But that doesn’t worry me much because the books that I really wanted to buy are history books. Any history books and they are available but I couldn’t “afford” them. These books costs at least 2,000 pesos up and I always felt that sum is better invested in business books. Hahhhhhhhh……. If I could have one wish, I would wish that I would have enough money to buy me all the books I want even though I couldn’t read all of them and that I would also built a specially dedicated room, a library to house my collection but for now, my bedroom is my library.

P.S. If you have any books that you want to recommend to me, please email me or if your interested in one of my books, you can ask me about it or if you wanted to know how “good” a book that you’re planning to buy, don’t hesitate email me. I’m more than happy to help out.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Day of Reckoning - Simply Unthinkable!

I got my blood test results today (I've been getting one every year for the last 3 years). The result showed that I'm healthy and a tad better than last year with threats to worry about. Specifically, I made a test on B.U.N. and creatine to check on my kidney function and they are within limits, e.g., my kidney is functioning normally. I test for my blood sugar with True Glucose and this year, it was an improvement compared to last year when my sugar level is near the critical limit. This year, the value is somewhere in the middle. Transaminase tests are also made (SGPT and SGOT) to test my liver function and my internal organ function showed that I don't have a problem at all. My cholesterol level also improved this year as my result veered away from the critical limits however, the result also indicate that my cholesterol level is still at a high level. However, compared to last year where my cholesterol level is near the critical limit, this is actually good. Apparently, my exercise regime is paying off. What is disturbing is that my lipoprotein breakdown or my cholesterol make up (which I didn't made a test for last year) showed that I have a dangerously high level of VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) and a high level of LDL though the latter doesn't exceed the critical limit. What these value suggests are that I have a high level of bad cholesterol in my blood and although my overall cholesterol isn't high, it is nevertheless not a good sign. Probably in consonant to that, my triglyceride level also exceeds the limit. I remember having an ultrasound last year on my liver and the doctor told me that I have fatty livers. In layman's term, I have a very good chance of getting a heart attack somewhere in my middle age, whatever that age is. Damn! I did make some changes in my lifestyle a few years back and it seems that I had to do more changes. I bought a treadmill at home so that I could exercise anytime in the day without the hassles of going several kilometers to a gym. I started drinking tea. I started to eat less (though still debatable on what constitute as less), I started eating greens like salads, I try to control my temper and de-stresss by listening to classical music and by writing blogs. " ). Now, I think I had to become a vegetarian, which I dreaded too much because I'm a meat lover. Aside from that, vegetable didn't taste that good. Its not that I hate vegetable but I hate bland vegetable cooking style. I like to eat vegetable meals from the local vegetarian food store. Unfortunately, the nearest store is in Chinatown. Also, I had to regularized my habit of tea drinking. Not that I'm complaining but sometimes temperatures are so hot here in the tropics that I just want to gulp a liter of ice cold COKE or eat restaurant meals with Coke. I also have to exercise more regularly. Currently, I'm regularly exercising three times a week for an hour each time. Lately though, I admit to being lax due to heavy academic and work loads and there is also the good old laziness to justify skipping exercise. Now, I think I had to make exercise an everyday affair. I also had to de-stress more effectively than before. Maybe meditation and yoga? Nah, I'll probably take up some "patience" building hobbies like calligraphy or painting. Maybe I should write blogs daily, if it could help reduce the stress. Hah! Imagine me, a vegetarian, yoga practitioner. Simply unthinkable. I had a joke once when I was young. I said that I had to enjoy as much as possible eating meat and virtually "pigging" it out on the couch or bed afterwards because there will come a time when I could no longer be able to do so. It seems that day of reckoning is here, now! Sigh....... Well, I could just ignore it, live the way as it is and let the whole thing run its course in due time but can I? It is not that I'm afraid of death and that I will do anything to avoid it. Rather, I'm afraid of living a meaningless life and dying an unmournful death. I need more time to do what I want to do and achieve what I set out to do. And if I had to be a vegetarian, yoga practitioner to gain more time and live past middle age, which in the end could help me achieve what I wanted, well, I will do it. Except, I still can't imagine myself being a vegetarian, yoga practitioner. Simply unthinkable!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

My (mini) Library – Part 2

I had this professor once in macroeconomics who owns this beautiful house inside an exclusive subdivision. And in a corner of his living room is a chair surrounded by two sides with books. The two walls are filled with something like 500 to 1000 books and none of them are textbooks. I was there during our class Christmas party. Now, when I try to remember the event, I can’t help it but laugh at myself. This is because instead of mingling with my classmates or even just simply admiring my professor’s lovely daughter. I was busy reading the autobiography of the legendary Lee Iococa (I know I sounded like a stupid nerd). Not only that, I was also like drooling over at his collection and in fact, I would admit to being envious of his library. Honestly, I would like to have something of a semblance of his library. Maybe I should transform my bedroom into a library and sleep with my books. Anyway, it was here that I met the legendary Lee Iococa. I only manage to read a few pages of his autobiography but it was enough to convince me that he is a great CEO worthy of my adulation. The story of Lee Iococa was about how he manages to turnaround the bankrupt Chrysler in 3 years and transforms it into America’s third largest auto company. So good was that book that I finally bought it early this year during a book sale (I go bargain hunting for good books). My other books on biographies of legendary CEOs included “Jack, Straight From the Gut”, which was easily one of my favorite books and one that I actually finished reading. I consider Jack Welch as my idol. Who could actually beat a guy like Jack? Jack manages to post double - digit growth every year in his stint as the CEO of GE and manages to grow the company from a revenue base of $13 billion to $130 billion in 10 years (?). He also made GE into the world’s most valuable company with market value of over $400 billion. I wish I could do that or better, beat his record. Then there is the book, “Who Say Elephants Can’t Dance”, a Louis Gestner biography on his stint as CEO of IBM. I didn’t finish the book but I read 75% of it. What can I say? Louis knows his industry pretty well. He is also a great turnaround leader and a great change manager who transform the slow foot goliath that is IBM into what it is right now, a menacing behemoth. Well, rounding up my collection of business biographies are books written by Peter Lynch, “One Up on Wall street”, and “Beating the Street”. Peter Lynch is one of the world’s greatest investor, next to Warren Buffet and ranks alongside with George Soros. His books read like an autobiography of his stint as the Managing Director of Fidelity Magellan Investment but it is in reality a very practical investment guide on picking the next hottest stocks in the market. I only manage to read the first half of one of the books and indeed, it did gave me a practical insight on stock picking. Related to business, I also kept a number of economics books in my library. There is nothing much to say about it except that most of them are my textbooks in my economics class in MBA except for one particular book, “The Philippine Economy: Alternative for the 21st Century”. This book is special to me because it was my companion during my brief confinement in the hospital some 2 or 3 years ago during Valentines week. I read the book for 4 days out of the week of my confinement and it was a very insightful book on Philippine economy. A must read for Philippine businessmen. Situated next to my economics books are my statistic textbooks and management science and research textbooks followed by general management books. Ahhhhhh…. General management books, they are comparatively simplistic by my standard now but I used to gobble up books like that in my pre – MBA years. Then there is the accounting textbooks followed by change management books, “Transforming the Organization” and “Harvard Business Review on Change”, both of which I haven’t touched. I also have the book, “In Search of Excellence”, by Tom Peters. An excellent book except that I couldn’t remember much of the detail. Organizational behavior textbooks are also in my collections. I don’t have much to say about those books except that it wasn’t one of my favorite subjects in MBA. I consider my leadership book collections, “Leadership is an Art”, “The Grand Strategist”, and “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” by Maxwell a waste of my money and my bookshelf space. They are the worst book purchases I made. I manage to read those books within two days after purchase and they suck. What makes it worst is that I paid a proportionately huge sum for something not of great value. I learn a valuable lesson from purchasing those books. Don’t buy a book the first time you see it. Instead, let the initial euphoria die down awhile and if possible, read a few pages of the book or get a book review before you actually purchase it. If my leadership books are a disappointment then my marketing books are something I’m really proud of. Aside from the marketing textbook, I had 2 books on branding and brand management, a book on global marketing, a book on export marketing, a series of marketing books written by the marketing guru Josiah Go, a book by Ned Roberto on marketing research, and last but definitely the best book I had on marketing, “Strategic Marketing Segmentation”, by Ned Roberto. The book profiles the typical Filipino consumer based on their income. This is a very informative book and a must read for marketers. I just got to read this book again sometime. I had another disappointing book purchase and that is “Price Wars”. The book is not a bad reading per se but I bought the book in hopes of finding a new way to compete in a price war. However, I should have known better. There is no magical way to come over the top at a price war. You either differentiate and command a better price and thus be immune from price competition or you drastically cut your cost in order to sustain your price offensive. I had known that fact from my studies in MBA yet I still bought the book in hopes of finding a better way. What a shame for me. Compared to my other book collections, my strategy management books are more up to date and they are the focus of my acquisitions for the past 3 years. I had the bibles of Strategic Management, “Competitive Strategy”, and “Competitive Advantage” of Michael Porter. I also own books on the latest “in thing” of strategic management, “ Strategy Maps” and “Balanced Scorecard” by Kaplan and Norton. Superb concept and yet simple, which makes you wonder why one hasn’t think about it before. I read those books and I’m applying it now. I also have another Harvard business review books on advance business strategy. One of the topics expounded in the book is financial engineering and risk management as a tool for strategic management, which is one of the hottest topics in management right now. I also bought the “in” books of the late 80s and early 90s like Michael Hammer’s “Reengineering the Corporation” and “Reengineering Management” and his latest book, “The Agenda”. Another popular book of the 90s is the “Synergy Trap”. The recent addition of the books in this category includes “Customer Oriented Growth” and “ Branded Customer Service”. I bought the latter book because I was curious on how they brand customer service in light of the popularity of business process outsourcing and the dominance of service in major economies. I mean how would one brand a smile, a courteous attitude, an extra effort service and many other little things that are generic and could be easily copied by everyone. How could one corporation own it and make people remember them when they saw somebody smiled at them? Aside from strategy management books, I also have books on family corporations. “Family Corporation in Transition”, written by an AIM faculty, deals with business family issues using Philippine business families as study subjects. Insightful book. Apparently, for family businesses, raising a family and running a business is an inseparable and closely intertwine endeavor, which makes me wonder how am I going to raise my kid so they could run the business after me. That is of course, if I ever got married and have kids. Another related book, “Asian Management System” introduces me to the various business management styles of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese businesses. They are quite the same actually but with subtle differences. I had another book related to that, “Running Board”. It is a book on how to manage boardroom meetings as much as a book on boardroom etiquette. Again, I haven’t read the book. Well, it’s getting really depressing, when I realize that I had so many good books waiting for me to peel through their pages and unravel the mystery behind their cover of the book. Sigh……… (to be continued….)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My (mini) Library – Part 1

I stayed home last Sunday instead going to the weekly food tripping. So, I took the opportunity to “fix” my library. Actually, it is not a library per se but a collection of books that I bought over years since senior high school. Lately, since the formal end of my MBA studies in 2002, I started purchasing books, mostly business books estimated to the tune of more than P50 thousand pesos. And these books are piled up in my table and bedroom floor. Couple of times, my mom wanted me to donate or sell the books but I couldn’t part with my precious and so I decided to drag myself to arrange it. Boy oh boy! What an arduous task it has been. Sorting and arranging the books at the bookshelves, which are located at overhead of my table and consist of 2 levels with 2 smaller side shelves and all the while reminiscing about what the books are about. All in all including my college and MBA thesis papers, my collection amounted to 234 volumes! These don’t include books that are somehow “missing”. I didn’t read all the books in my collection yet and there are some I didn’t even finished reading at all but I did read most of them. Of the total, my and my brother’s engineering books accounted for less than 60 books. The rest are grouped into science fiction, history, general management, marketing, operations management, statistics, accounting, finance, investing, strategic management, philosophy, literature, business biography, organization and leadership, and general interest books. These books are written either in English or in Chinese language. At the top of my book list is the 280 pages business plan that I successfully defended lately followed by my 150 pages college thesis on thermogravimetric analysis of Philippine woods. The thickest book in my collection is none other the 3000 pages (?) of Perry’s Chemical Engineer’s Handbook. Actually, it is too big, too thick, and too heavy for a “hand” book but nevertheless I owed Perry (who ever he is) a great deal since I relied on his handbook heavily during my board examination (in which I manage to place 10th overall). The next thickest books in my collection are the historical annals of both the Eastern and Western Han dynasty. These books are written some 2000 years ago and are considered among the 24 Chinese historical classics. Included among my history book collections is Edward Gibbon’s monumental history classic, “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”. I bought this book during my senior high school years not knowing that it is a classic masterpiece. The book is not a monotonous narrative but rather it is written in prose form akin to a novel, which makes for an interesting read I would say. Also, Last year, I bought a book titled, “War, past, present, and future”, written by Jeremy Black. This book is about the analysis of war in anthropological, socio – cultural, and historical perspective. It is quite an interesting and informative book since it divorces wars from its political dimensions and as well as from the war technology, battle tactics, war strategy, and military leadership. I also own two books on Filipino – Chinese history in my collection list. They are “Chinese in the Philippine Economy” and “Overseas Chinese in ASEAN”. These books deal with Oversea Chinese in Southeast Asia particularly in the late 19th century until before WWII. It is very informative and it offered me an explain on a lot of things in the Filipino Chinese community as well as provided me a framework in analyzing present issues affecting the community and its eventual evolution. Of course, I definitely have a book on the general Chinese history. I bought the book from Hong Kong and it is first published in the early 20th century. Biographic stories of historical figures make up the rest of my history book collection. Compared to the serious analytical nature of my history book collections, my science fiction collections are more inspiring in the sense that it fueled my imagination since my collections are mostly made up of Start Trek novels, particularly the Dominion war series, Kahless, and The Fury series. Who wouldn’t be inspired to take up the challenge of “to boldly go where no man has gone before”? In tandem to the adventurous nature of my science fiction books are my literature collection, which consists of my college English books and the 4 - volume Chinese wuxia novel, “To Laugh at the World”, The 300 Poetries of Tang, and Selected Poetries of Tang and Sung Dynasty though I must admit that I didn’t finish reading the poetries. I also had Homer’s “Iliad” among my collection. I bought the book in senior high after I learned that it was Alexander the Great’s favorite book. The book forms the basis of the recent movie, “Troy” starring Brad Pitt. However, the book or the epic is the over exaggerated version of the movie with gods and mortals as the main characters. The book is generally boring especially in the middle part where Homer introduces in detail the names of the lords of the Mycenaean army and a brief history of each. The part I like most is the last part wherein Hector drove the Mycenaean army from the gates of Troy to the ships and how Patroculous with Achilles blessing, wore the latter’s armor (which is made by the god, Vulcan) and battle Hector, only to be slain later on and how Achilles avenge his friend’s death by killing Hector and drag his corpse around the city for 7 times. The book ends with the ransom of Hector by King Priam of Troy and his funeral. Quite dramatic and interestingly similar to Star Wars III or was it the other way around. My philosophy book collections consist of ethics book, a general introduction to western and oriental philosophies. One of my favorite ethic books is “Bioethics” written by Timbreza. It made me question my own ethical considerations in genetics and bioscience issues like cloning. However, my favorite book in the list is Richard Bach’s “Illusions”. The book is actually a college book report but I liked the book because it expounded the matrix like ideas (mind conquers everything or everything is in the mind, sounds Platonic) way before the Matrix came out. There is however, a book that I couldn’t get myself to finish reading after all these years because of the depth of its thought. Stephen Hawkings’ “A Brief History of Time” is actually an astrophysics book but the philosophy underlying the theory is so huge and rattling that I couldn’t sleep for a week (back in the early 1990’s) trying to comprehend the thoughts he expounded in the first 5 – 10 pages of the book. I’ll probably read it again if I’m mentally prepared for it. Sun Tsu’s Art of Warfare, the original Chinese version head the list of my general interest books. I read the book a couple of times already and I could memorize the first chapter. What can I say? Sun Tsu is a genius even if he lived 2500 years ago. Included in the lists are “The Cultural Traditions of Fookien” (which I haven’t read), which deals about the traditions of the Filipino Chinese native homeland, Fookien. I bought it because I wanted to understand the cultural genesis of my race. Then there is the “Genomics Age”, and “Food for All”, books dealing with the future of genetic manipulation and its effects on both food and human health. Unfortunately, I haven’t removed the wrappers yet. I also happen to buy way back in middle 1990’s, “The Art of Kissing” and the “Sex in a Minute”. Boy! I didn’t know that there are many ways to kiss and that there is in fact a science or an art to it. Wish I could get to try out some of the techniques other than French Kissing. Let me see there is the Lip – O – Suction kiss, the Wet Kiss, the Upside Down Kiss…… I also bought a time management book more than a decade ago but somehow, I can’t manage the time to read it! I also have a stress management manual but I’m either too stress to read it or that I’m not that stress enough to even bother with it. I also have a book on heart attack prevention, which I haven’t read about it and strangely, I couldn’t figure out why I bought it in the first place since I’m not planning to be a doctor and the obvious solution to preventing a heart attack is eat less and work out more. Maybe, I will donate that book later on. Another book in my general interest collections is “Understanding Body Language”. I bought the book because I’m impressed and amazed with my professor’s ability to “know” a person in just 5 minutes of meeting the person. Apparently, he could “read” a person. Well, I could never do what he does but I did learn something from the book. It is about eye contact and how to read a person using his eye movement. According to the book, eyes don’t lie. Eyes move in a certain direction when it is accessing memory or fact or emotion. If a person is telling a supposed fact but his eye is not in the proper direction, chances are the person is lying. Related to this book is another book that I had but that I couldn’t find, the “48 Laws of Power”. The book is quite popular a few years back. In fact, senator Maceda wrote a newspaper column regarding it. I never get to finish that book as I only read up to the third law and I actually forgotten all about it already. I wish I could find the book and read it. Rounding up my general interest books is my tea book, “Healthy Teas”. I bought this book because I’m interested with the therapeutic properties of teas. But to my amazement, I found out there are actually a great many varieties of teas even though I already knew some of it. In addition to that the author even describe the characteristics of each variety in terms of color and taste and he also provided several tea recipes. In my study of tea, I went to the point of actually sampling the teas and try to correlate with what the author says about it. I already tried Chamomile teas from the local coffee shop, the traditional Chrysanthemum teas, the Oolong tea, the Tiequanying tea, the Japanese Hojicha and another Japanese tea. Right now, I’m trying to sample Earl Grey. Hmmm, maybe its about time I visited the local coffee shop for one. (to be continued…)