Book Review: “One Nation” by Ben Caron, MD

Dr. Ben Carson came up with this book hoping to change this great nation for the better. He argued and prodded for the involvement of the citizens to do the best we can to save America’s future from the same fate of the Roman Empire, Great Britain, Egypt and Greece. I took away a few good points:

1. 10% flat tax rate just like Tithe. Dr. Carson is a religious man. He draws on the Bible stories/examples quite a lot. But 10% or some kind of the flat tax seems to make sense without the loopholes. Of course, this means a lot of CPA, accountants and bean counters will be out of their jobs.
2. Forced to read books and write reports since childhood for his illiterate Mom, he acquired great knowledge and wisdom. This is the reason I’m doing this kind of blog.
3. The action steps at the end of each chapter calls the readers to action.
4. Dr. Carson likes to quote proverbs. There got to be some other wise persons than King Solomon.
5. His self-funded health care spending account plan makes sense as it puts the people back in the driver seat. But it’s hard to implement.
6. I agreed with him the politic correctness has gone overboard. But there is fine line between overly political correct and being empathetic toward others.

Short Summary:
1. Saving for the Future: He outlines the reasons to save our nation in the areas of education, moral decline, national debt (Obamacare), lack of compromise, and other illnesses.

PART I Causes of Disunity And Decline

2. Political Correctness: Dr. Carson argues against strict political correctness because it stifle dialogue and restricts our freedom speech, which is fundamental for democracy. “We must learn to engage in civil discussion of our differences without becoming bitter enemies.”

3. Elitism: The elite class makes liberal policy to get the poor subservient to them instead of lifting them out of poverty. This can be solved by education.

4. Ignorance and Forgetfulness: We seem to forget the advises the wise people in the past like Martin Luther King, John Adams and the founding fathers of this country. The history is sometimes revised or selectively ignored to serve a certain purpose. Whether you agree or not, the author suggest we do not forget the past lessons.

5. Bigotry: The author touches on racism, religious bigotry, sexism, ageism, and homophobia. Dr. Carson’s answer is that we “adhere to the creed of ‘one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

6. No Winners in Political Fighting: The two parties are turning into opponents instead of teammates with different approaches to the same goal – “My way or highway” mentality. The favorite tactics are “demonization,” or cite an example and claim “this is what they would do to you,” demagoguery (false statements about their opponents), quoting out of context. His answer is to remove the party label on each candidate and leave it to the votes for decide on the merit of each candidate and debate the issues in a civil manner.

7. Enslaving Our Children – Don’t Sell The Future: He talks about the nation debts and how the young generation should participate more in the political process to change the course.

PART II: Solutions
8. Pushing Back: The author suggest that we push back peacefully and consistently against the “media bullies,” political bullies,” “academic bullies,” “Bullies in Business,” and “Unintentional Bullying.” Stand up to them and know who they really are.

9. Respectful Disagreement: pro-life vs. pro-choice, welfare, doctor vs. patients, the rich vs. the poor. Strategies for cordial disagreement: compromise, focus on the big picture, concur on what’s important to both parties.

10. The Art of Compromise: timing (setting a deadline), start with small issues. Opportunities for compromise are: gay marriage, national debt. Is there too much pride and arrogance?

11. Becoming Informed: Education is the foundation of our government and democracy. Get to know the record of your representatives instead of voting according to party affiliation. Don’t replace your brain with a computer. What an educated citizen knows: history, geography, household economics, finance, state and national representative, nutrition and disease management, traffic rules, math involving percentage, read at 8th-grade level. With education, you won’t be fooled by media. There is a long way to go on this.

12. Wisdom and Knowledge: The difference: knowledge is knowing the facts, wisdom is having the common sense. Have the humility to recognize that one does not know everything. It makes sense to me of the two points of healthcare reform: stop the rapid rise of costs (tort reform), make sure everyone has access to basic health care, restore the doctor-patient relationship and put patients back in charge of their own health. He advocated national health savings account (HSA), which motivates people to shop for the best care.

13. My Brother’s Keeper: This is a chapter discussing welfare, how to fund it in capitalism instead of turning into socialism. He advocates that we roll back welfare and have people (not government) helping people.

PART III: Who We Are
14. Without A Vision: Use the constitution as vision: to protect the rights of the people and not the rights of the government to rule the people. It restrains the natural tendencies of the government to expand (Utopian vision?). He advocates that we have a constitutional convention, revere it and vote for it all over or confirm it again.

15. Role Models: Pick for yourself a good role model (not Miley Cyrus), his Mom, teachers, the inventors, and some contemporary ones.

16. The Origin of Morality: We may not know of the origin of morality but we should know the sense of morality – a strong sense of right and wrong.

17. Take Courage: Ask yourselves the 4 questions: what’s the best/worst thing that happens if I do/don’t do it? This is his last call-to-action: be courageous.

Overall, this is a good book to understand where Dr. Carson stand now he’s running for the Presidency. Would I vote for him? He’s high on my list. At least we know where he stands but I don’t think he can out maneuver the professional politicians.

DIY Codling Moth Traps – How I Made Them

Last year, I made some codling moth traps and I went from almost 90% codling moth infestation the year before to roughly 40% infestation. This year, I’m doing the same thing. In addition, I have sprayed neem oil a couple of times since the end of the last season. I’m hoping for 0% infestation this year. We’ll see.

I have learned from the below youtube videos:

Trap Recipes

Other options:


Book Review: “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build The Future” by Peter Thiel

“Zero to One” is a great book for people who are interested in starting their own company or investors who want to invest on start up company. The author, Peter Thiel, one of the cofounders from Paypal, really know his stuffs or the stuffs that make a successful startup company. Key takeways for me:
1. Your startup needs to have 10x the benefits of the company/industry you’re try to compete with.
2. Don’t disrupt. Find a niche then grow from it, like Amazon’s starting with books then expand to all others.
3. Challenge yourself with this question: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”
4. Startup CEO needs to sets an example of low salary.
5. Finding the “secret” is like asking “What valuable company is nobody building?”
6. Best place to look for secrets is where no one is looking. Once you found the secret, don’t tell, found a company. “A great company is a conspiracy to change the world.”
7. Foundations of a startup: “Thiel’s Law” – “a startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed.” a. Form the founding team – how well they know each other and work together. Sharing a prehistory matters.
8. Having Founder around is important to keep the company going.

A short summary:
1. The challenge of the future: discussion of vertical (doing new things or technology) vs. horizontal (copying things that work). Sets the tone for the book: the questions you must ask and aswer to succeed in the business of doing new things.

2. Party Like It’s 1999: A brief history of dot-com boom/bust and the dogmas of making incremental improvement vs. risk boldness, stay lean and flexible (no plan) vs. a bad plan, improve on the competition vs. no competition, and focus on the product, not sales vs. sales matter as much as product.

3. All Happy Companies Are Different: Ask the question: “What valuable company is nobody building?” “Creating value is not enough — you also need to catpure some of value you create.” E.g., airlines vs. Google. Monopolies lies and competition lies. Creative monopolies are good for society, he argues. “All happy companies are different; each one earns a monopolies by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same; they failed to escape competition.

4. The Ideology of Competition: Marx vs. Shakespearean view of competition: great vs. little differences. Competition is a destructive force. Don’t be obsessed with competition. Focus on building a creative monopoly.

5. Last Mover Advantage: Company’s value is based on the discounted values of future cash flows. Startup value is based on long-term future cash flows while an Old Economy Business is based on present and near term cash flows. Characteristics of Monopolies: Proprietary Technology, Network Effect, Economy of Scale, and Branding. The steps to building a monopoly: start small and monopolize, scale up, don’t disrupt; disruptive companies often pick fight they can’t win. It’s much better to be the last mover – study the end game before everything else.

6. You Are Not A Lottery Ticket:4 quadrants: definite vs. indefinite, and optimistic vs. pessimistic. China is in the definite pessimistic quadrant and US today is in the indefinite optimistic quadrant against Europe’s indefinite pessimistic quadrant. Leave nothing to chances.

7. Follow the Money: Startup companies’ return distribution follows a power law – huge return on a handful of companies. The most important things are singular: one market will probably better than all others.

8. Secrets: Most people act as if there are no more secrets to be found, like the Unabomber. There are easy, hard, and impossible goals or secrets. Are all the “hard” goals achieved and secrets found. About finding the two secret types: of nature, and of people. When thinking about what kind of company to build, ask: What secrets is nature not telling you? What secrets are people not telling you? A great company is a conspiracy to change the world.

9. Foundations: Choosing a co-founder is like getting married. How well they know each other and work together matter. Three concepts: ownership, possession, and control. Conflicts often arise between ownership (founders) and control (board).Small board of 3 is ideal. Everyone involved in the company should be full time: on the bus or off the bus. Low CEO pay sets the standard. Distribute ownership fairly. If you get the founding moment right, you might be able to extend its founding indefinitely.

10. The Mechanics of Mafia: Offer the opportunity to do irreplaceable work on a unique problem alongside great people. From the outside, startups should have their early staff as similar as possible. Every new hire must be equally obsessed with the mission. From the inside, every individual should be sharply distinguished by his/her work. Make each person responsible for one thing. Having the “cult-like” culture is better than the “consultant” culture (the opposite extreme).

11. If You Build It, Will They Come?: The author exalts the importance of sales or “distribution” of the products/services. CLV (customer lifetime value) must be > CAC (Customer acquisition cost). The higher the price of your product, the more you have to spend to make a sale – the more it makes sense to spend it. There is deadzone in between the personal sales and tradition advertising – distribution bottleneck to small-to-medium businesses. Great products without a distribution channel would cause the business to fail. Everybody sells.”Look around. If you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson.”

12. Man and Machine: “The computers are complements for humans, not substitutes. The most valuable businesses of coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than try to make them obsolete.”

13. Seeing Green: The 7 questions that the cleantech fails to answer correctly: 1) Engineering question: can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements? Not 10x better. 2) The Timing: Is now the right time to start your particular business? Entering a slow-moving industry. 3) Monopoly: Are you starting with a big share of a small market? No different than a restaurant in Palo Alto. 4) People: Do you have the right team? Started by non-technical person. 5) Distribution: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver the product? 6) Durability: Will your market position by defensible, 10 and 20 years into the future? Could’ve predicted Chinese businesses entering the market with government subsidy. 7) Secret: Have you identified a unique opportunity that other don’t see?

14. The Founder’s Paradox: It’s “more powerful but at the same time more dangerous for a company to be led by a distinctive individual instead of an interchngeable manager.” The author argued that most founders lie in the two opposite ends of the normal distribution of weak to strong spectrum, like Hughes, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and etc. Great founders bring out the best work from everybody at this company.

15. Conclusion: Thiel doesn’t see the arrival of singularity that would doom the mankind as long as we find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better -to go from 0 to 1. The essential first step is to think for yourself and see our world anew and strange as our ancestors did.

Book Review: “The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company” by Charles G. Koch

This is a short book by Charles Koch, the CEO of Koch Industry (KII) about his management philosophy, Market-based Management (MBM). Having successful led Koch Industry since 1961.

The book started out describing the history of how the Koch Industries started by his dad. He joined the company due to his dad’s poor health.

Then Koch went on to describe his MBM philosophy. You can read all about them in Koch Industries’ website here. The five dimensions are:

Vision: Determining where and how the organization can create the greatest long-term value.

Virtue and Talents: Helping ensure that people with the right values, skills and capabilities are hired, retained and developed.

Knowledge Processes: Creating, acquiring, sharing and applying relevant knowledge, and measuring and tracking profitability.

Decision Rights: Ensuring the right people are in the right roles with the right authority to make decisions and holding them accountable.

Incentives: Rewarding people according to the value they create for the organization.

And the The Guiding Principles are:
Conduct all affairs with integrity, for which courage is the foundation.

Strive for 10,000% compliance with all laws and regulations, which requires 100% of employees fully complying 100% of the time. Stop, think and ask.

Value Creation
Create long-term value by the economic means for customers, the company and society. Apply MBM to achieve superior results by making better decisions, pursuing safety and environmental excellence, eliminating waste, optimizing and innovating.

Principled Entrepreneurship™
Apply the judgment, responsibility, initiative, economic and critical thinking skills, and sense of urgency necessary to generate the greatest contribution, consistent with the company’s risk philosophy.

Customer Focus
Understand and develop relationships with customers to profitably anticipate and satisfy their needs.

Seek and use the best knowledge and proactively share your knowledge while embracing a challenge process. Develop measures that lead to profitable action.

Anticipate and embrace change. Envision what could be, challenge the status quo and drive creative destruction through experimental discovery.

Exemplify humility and intellectual honesty. Constantly seek to understand and constructively deal with reality to create value and achieve personal improvement. Hold yourself and others accountable.

Treat others with honesty, dignity, respect and sensitivity. Appreciate the value of diversity. Encourage and practice teamwork.

Find fulfillment and meaning in your work by fully developing your capabilities to produce results that create the greatest value.

Notable quotes:
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan

I like the fact that book is very concise. When it comes to management philosophy book, the shorter the better. Good learning for the middle and upper managers.

DIY Curb Ramp – How I Made It

Two years ago, I made my first DIY curb ramp. See here. It worked well. Until now, I had that one and another one I made from concrete mix which is really heavy (> 35 lbs). I am tired of lifting it back and forth whenever I need to use it. So I decided to make another wooden one to make a set. In this video, you’ll see entire process of my making it; some portion were sped up 10x to avoid the boredom of repetitions. Hope you enjoy it. It was fun to be doing this in the pleasant weather of 70F under the sun.

Learn by Blogging (and Sharing) – Derek Tsai's Personal Blog