Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success by Rick Brandon, Marty Seldman (2004)

has a catchy title, but I quickly went through it, as it does not seem to offer much (or maybe the authors live in a different world ...). The basic premise seems to be that you can remain ethical (meaning that you do not hurt others much), and still get business done and move your career. The one chapter I somewhat liked was on Conversational Aikido. Following the advice the authors give in the book about reading other business books, if you have no time to spare, you maybe better off reading this book as summary at Executive Book Summaries.


Double Tap by Steve Martini (2005)

is a murder mystery featuring Paul Madriani and a not very talkative defendant with a seven years gap on his military resume, maybe even suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The name of the book comes from a military shooting tactic of two bullets fired in rapid succession. The victim's company receives significant contract from 3 letter government agencies. Doors are being closed on many things in the name of "national security". The description of court room proceedings is excellent, featuring a midget DA, who yet to lose a capital murder conviction. And the conclusion is very surprising (although one may consider it a bit abrupt).


More Than You Know by Michael J. Mauboussin (2006)

I'm not sure what to make of this book. Although it is a good introduction to some behavioral finance topics, unless you done some other reading, it maybe hard to correlate the behaviour of guppies, zebras, fruit flies, ant and bees with the happenings in the financial markets. The obligatory is also present, together with fat tails and the like. What is missing is how to use the information presented in the book can be used for making money in the market. The book offers 45 pages of references and notes, which can definitely be used by a student of this subject.


Sites discussing/rating medical providers (doctors/dentists)

Many of these sites are anonymous, because many medical providers are actively working on removing bad reviews.


Person-to-person lending

Person-to-person lending (or peer-to-peer finance) provides a way for person-to-person lending of limited funds. The risk is spread by requiring a good number of lenders for each loan. Some of the borrowers cannot go the "traditional" route, as banks will not extend credit to them, some hope to receive a better rate through peer-to-peer finance. Historical references are given to these circles of lending/borrowing in local settings with the participants knowing each other fairly well, although in my mind this is a significant difference as for the impersonal nature of the Internet, where you likely will not have a personal relationship with the other party. The concept is somewhat similar to microlending, which is has more of a charity angle, but offers fairly high repayment rate. The two companies noted are Prosper in the US and Zopa currently in UK, but coming to US. As per Information Week the charge-off rate for Zopa is only 0.05%, which is significantly lower than predicted, and also significantly lower than charge off rate for credit cards. The other interesting number from the article is the average return of 7%, which is below the average return in the stock market, making the concept somewhat less desirable (considering that these are unsecured loans).
There is also Kiva, offering market based lending for small business in the developing world.

Credit reallocation and credit limit increases

When searching and reading Fatwallet Forum, I learned that it is possible to reallocate/move existing credit limits between multiple credit cards from the same credit card company. So if you received a 0% balance transfer offer, it maybe possible to move existing credit limit from another card and receive a higher transfer. When doing this it is important to consider keeping old credit cards (even just with a minimal credit limit) around, as having old credit lines in good standing does help your credit score. As a sidenote, if you have your cards registered on the credit card company's website, it maybe possible to request a credit limit increase just by clicking on the "Limit Increase Request" button, and in some cases no additional information would be requested, and no credit report pulled.
Some other sites of interest are CreditBoards Forum, Credit Talk Forums (for credit related questions), FlyerTalk, Credit Info Center, Debtorboards and Creditcard Perks.


The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle (2005)

From Archie through Altavista (the first Internet search engine, where DEC executives were not wishing to see the light and grab the opportunity), AOL, Yahoo to GoTo.com (Overture) and Google the books offers an overview of development in the search on the Internet, arguing that this is likely just a beginning of a transformation on how we find and access information. Google is the 1000 pound gorilla in this game today, and is being described in somewhat less than ideal light. From the humble beginnings in a dorm room, living off the "free" bandwidth and computer parts of Stanford, through their various corporate actions, which do not seem to correspond to the often repeat "do no evil" slogan. Their stand on issues, like hiring practices, trademarks, advertising practices, privacy issues, dealings with the Chinese government, issues during their IPO and others many times bring them to the questionable side, although usually putting more money in the company's pocket on the way. But I guess repeating the mantra frequently, some could get brainwashed indeed ... Search and internet activity information stored about individuals by these private companies (in addition to the credit and medical information stored by other private companies) and the use of this information by other private companies and the government likely is to be cause for concern.

The American by Andrew Britton (2006)

The basic premise of the book is simple. A psychopath ex-Special Forces operative joins the radical islamists, and becomes their best weapon. It seems a bit too "current" in places. Although the plot sometimes is predictable, it does not become cliche. Reading it will keep you on the edge of whatever furniture you are currently occupying.


Open source password managers

Open source password managers (tested on Windows)

KeePass provides the best functionality of the packages noted. It has a nice looking UI, with ability to export data into txt, html, cvs. It also imports existing password data from other applications. The autofill setup is configurable, although the global auto-type hot-key didn't seem to work in all cases. Users may in particular like the mouse movement entropy based password generation.
Mirek's PINs provides a system wide hotkey to paste userid/password into browsers
based on URLs currently accessed. Special emphasis is given to the ability of setting expiry dates. Data can be saved in cleartext.
PasswordSafe has a long history. It offers various password generation options, the easily readable password generation is a nice touch, although would only be used if your digital backups disappear altogether. It is unclear how it connects to a browser, although there is "autotype" functionality? Data can be saved in cleartext.
Secure Data Manager (SDM) is developed in Java and available with Java WebStart. Provides basic functionality with less integration into Windows.
PasswordMaker offered as an extension for Firefox, IE, and others, also as a standalone version. It generates passwords based on a master password and site URL (and date and username too if needed). The generated passwords are not stored, always generated on the fly. So there is not way to print a list of userids/passwords, which could be considered a security feature. Is is also not clear what is the process of changing existing settings for a particular account, as those are also not stored? The current version also does not a way to keep existing passwords for certain sites.
KED Password Manager written in Python/GTK2, mainly targeting *nix based systems.


Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald (2005)

Welcome to the world of smoke and mirrors! Based on the timeline presented in the book, Enron was cooking the books for longer then a decade, booking future revenues in current year, allowing executives to run money losing projects and receive enormous bonuses at the same time. And all this with very little or no words from their internal and external accountants and auditors. With many executives being visionary, which worked in earlier years moving Enron from a "simple" pipeline company into the political and international scene, the actual function of a corporation, as in making real profit for its shareholders, got lost in the shuffle. The offshore corporations created to hide money losing ledger entries of failing projects was simply a natural outgrowth of these previous practices, and probably most nobody even batted an eye, even if noticing them. Add to this the endless stream of individualistic corporate executives and their power struggles, and you got a page turner on your hand. Too bad that looking back at historical timelines does not help the workers and investors of Enron with their financial and emotional losses.


A Simple Plan by Scott B. Smith (1994)

Lets imagine that you and your friends found lots of stolen money. You know that the robbers and the police will be looking for it. So how far would you go to keep this a secret and protect your interests? not telling anybody is one thing, but would you go as far as to commit murder? Could one action lead to another going down a slippery slope? Good suspense.