Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy by Anna Politkovskaya (2005)

This book is a sad memento to Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in Moscow in 2006. Occasionally paid and in some cases semi-starving military personnel handling atomic warheads, strategic submarines and the like? Army conscripts getting into unfortunate accidents? Corruption at all levels of government and society? Judges bought and still reappointed for further terms? You just watch all these unfold in this book. One of the chapters is a cautionary tale to any investors dabbling in securities investments in "developing" markets, detailing the "redistribution" (or to be more exact stealing) of government wealth into private hands in one of the provinces, and the coldblooded aggression and violence surrounding those events. The whole book paints a really bleak picture of the current political and economical climate of Russia.


The Demise of the Dollar... and Why It's Great For Your Investments by Addison Wiggin (2005)

This short book regurgitates the obvious, starting from the discussion on "fiat" vs. gold backed currency, through the faulty policies of the (banking cartel) Federal Reserve and the trade and budget deficits, showing how the once mighty US dollar is destined to fall. And maybe it is already losing its value faster than it can be seen from the official statistics, as inflation numbers maybe underestimating the real inflation by about 2%. Basic investment options are offered to take advantage of the demise of the dollar, including purchasing foreign currency (likely Euro) or currency options, buying foreign securities, and purchasing gold and gold producers. The problem with this book is the same as with the quoted Prechter's Conquer the Crash, while we can see how this can be applicable and partially unfolding, without exact timing this is no help to investment success. Unless timed perfectly, implementing the suggested strategies would likely be detrimental to your financial health (and this includes buying foreign securities which is the least "speculative" choice), if the dollar happens to strengthen during your holding period.


Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York by Adam Gopnik (2006)

Essays on New York, life and everything. Reflections on small events (the production details of a children's school play) and large events (the 9/11 attacks) take the writer and the reader on journeys of the mind. A pleasure.

Brief encounters with Che Guevara : stories by Fountain, Ben (2006)

A stories (mostly of Americans) set in places (third world hell holes) you likely would not want to be, exposing how humans stay human exhibiting the same old emotions, hunting for a deal, the almighty dollar and women. More the things look different at first glance, more they are the same later ...

Winning Through Intimidation by Robert J. Ringer (1973)

This is a somewhat different book from the later books of Mr. Ringer. Read this as a ready-made recipe on becoming a top-end real estate (or maybe even other kind of) broker. After taking classes at and graduating from the Screw U(niversity), it is established that there are three kinds of business people you interact with, the first is out for your blood and does not hide it, the second is out for your blood and hides it well, and the third says that he is not out for your blood and gets you at the end when lulled into relaxing, but all of them want to pay you zero commissions, and preferably make you do a lot of work for free. Steps to success:
+ Move from being intimidated, to being the intimidator yourself
+ Make sure that you have legal standing, sign contracts establishing relationships early.
+ Be a member of the "union" (as many states require to pay real estate brokers participating in transactions, even if there was no written agreement).
+ Participate in the closing with your own lawyer.
+ And it also helps if you are flying around in your personal LearJet :)
The interesting number from the book, is that the author earned about 3% commissions, which is not near the 6% "customary" at the time.


1776 by David McCullough (2005)

This book recreates the military action in the year of signing the American Declaration of Independence. Cluelessness is rampant with both armies, including the actions of both Washington and Howe, the two military leaders. Both sides are being led from blunder to blunder peppered with lucky breaks sometimes. Although the French help is mentioned many times, but the role of the Hessian (German) mercenaries on the British side I found suprising. Excellent character descriptions on Washington and many of the American officers. Enjoyable.


Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food by Eric Schlosser, Charles Wilson (2006)

The title here says at all. In this (maybe young adult oriented) book, the history of fast food from its humble beginnings by Hamburger Charlie to today's cooperation between Disney and McDonalds (both caterers to mass demands) and their grip on the US school food systems and in particular the bad health effects on the Alaskan Yupiks, unappetizing details provided as to the preparation of various fast (junk?) food including the disturbing details of growing and slaughtering of chickens, cows and pigs (in the best traditions of The Jungle) and the health problems associated with eating fast food regularly. The low paid workforce performing grueling work also inspires little confidence in the quality of service offered. After reading, you will be less eager to stop for your fast food fix, guaranteed. The final advice of the book is: "It is still not to late to walk OUT of the fast food place"


State of Fear by Michael Crichton (2004)

I didn't like the reading of the book (all woman presented had the same "intonations" ...), but the book itself is excellent. Makes you see in a different light "the facts" you are hearing on global warning, climate change and other issues pushed by academics, wealthy fanatics and their well endowed foundations, who all seem to be having an excellent time flying around the world (in many cases in private jets) to visit fundraisers and do their best to infuse fear into the general population of the climate events, while getting their own pictures on the pages of various magazines and earning excellent salaries (in some cases paid for by government funding). Would these people be willing to defend their turf by trying to cause some of these climate events themselves? As per the prologue, by Mr. Crichton's calculations, the people induced component of the global warming is well below 1 °F for the next hundred years, and being dwarfed by the natural cooling and warming cycles of the earth. Recommended.


Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China by by Rachel DeWoskin (2005)

This is a story of Rachel growing up as a person (as some of her friends questioning if this was for the better) and China changing into a capitalistic society. Rachel accidentally ended up finding a job with a foreign company in Beijing, after as per her own admission really no other employers were interested in her (although she did not speak Chinese, which one would have hoped for as she spent her childhood in Asia with her sinologist parents). In addition to being a office worker bee, she also become a fairly well known (at least in China) soap opera star playing the role a foreign "seductress". She also becomes an old hand in the Beijing expatriate community simply based on her long stay in the country, and the book offers observations on Chinese customs and culture, and a reflection on the living style of various members of the society. The book ends on a disturbing note, exposing the hatred for all things foreign, as displayed after the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. One wonders what is the "real" face of China and the Chinese like? ...

The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino (1977)

Can one live in trees whole his life? Meet Cosimo, the hero of this utopian story set in the 18th century, who one day decided to revolt against his family and traditions, and set to live in the trees. (Of course there were trees and forests spreading around at that time, as the book states) He rules his estate, meets Napoleon, corresponds with celebrities, and even has a love affair up in the sky. The book's ending is unusually fitting too. Delightful read for both adults and children.