Tag-Archiv: book reviews

Prinzipien der quantitative Entwicklung

[This post is a review of my forthcoming book, “Prinzipien der quantitative Entwicklung,” to be published by John Wiley & Sons in Feb 2010. This review is written by Shayne Fletcher, Executive Director, Nomura, and author ofFinancial Modelling in Python,” and is posted here with the reviewer’s permission.]

In “Prinzipien der quantitative Entwicklung”, Thulasidas has offered a contribution that is somewhat unique in the literature associated with the field of Quantitative Development. In that specialised, narrow domain, technical books abound. Most such titles are concerned with the intricacies of the application of specific programming language to the problems of financial engineering or, expositions of advanced mathematics as used in the pricing models of exotic financial derivative products. Thulasidas however has taken a very different tact. Focusing instead on what he termsthe big picture”, Thulasidas offers us his insights into the role of Quantitative Development in the broader context of a bank’strading platform”. Armed with such insights, he shows us how an understanding of the varied usages of the trading platform can and should be used to influence and shape its design.

In the opening chapters, the book is concerned with defining what is meant by the termtrading platform”. In doing so, Thulasidas necessarily reviews thearchitectureof a bank from the point of view of a Quantitative Developer. Das heißt, he discusses the nature and interactions of the front, middle and back offices of a bank, the different roles that professionals in each of those areas satisfy and how each of their respective needs induce a different set of requirements on the trading platform. Moving on, he reviews the nature of trades, the so-called tradelife cycleand how different views of a trade are required as a function of the life cycle and the business role of the user.

Having established a broad understanding of the requirements for a trading platform, Thulasidas turns his attention to translating those requirements into design decisions for trading platforms. Along the way he considers such aspects of design as choice of programming languages, issues relating to scalability and extensibility, security and auditing, representations for market and trade data and a trading platform’s macro architecture whilst all the way remaining focussed on ensuring that all business needs identified in the earlier chapters are given consideration and catered for.

Going from the general to the specific, Thulasidas in later chapters introduces a flexible derivatives pricing tool (the source code for which accompanies the book). This program in itself will no doubt serve as an excellent starting point for Quantitative Development teams charged with the production of an in-house trading platform. Perhaps of even greater benefit though is Thulasidas’s critique of the pricing tool, das heißt, in his explanation of how the supplied program fails to meet the requirements of a complete trading platform and how the program needs to be extended in order to be considered one. In this way, the line of thought of earlier chapters is reinforced and brought sharply into focus.

Throughout the book, Thulasidas manages to convey his ideas with remarkable eloquence and lucidity. Understanding is enhanced by numerous rich graphics outlining processes and their design (both in the software and work-flow sense). The reader’s attention and interest is never lost and a great deal of entertainment is to be found in the numerous side-bars, die “Big Pictures” (in effect an enjoyable mini-series of magazine style articles in their own right).

As Thulasidas himself notes, the subject matter of his book is broad. Entsprechend, the potential readership of this title is equally broad. Notably, Quantitative Developers at the beginning of their careers stand most to gain from this book. The fact is though that even the most seasoned of banking professionals would profit from its reading. Quantitative Entwickler, Quantitative Analysts, Traders, Risk Managers, IT professionals and their Project Managers, individuals considering switching from academia or other industries to a career in bankingReaders from each and all of these groups will find Thulasidas’s work informative and thought provoking.

Humboldts Geschenk von Saul Bellow

I first found this modern-day classic in my father’s collection some thirty years ago, which meant that he bought it right around the time it was published. Rückblickend auf sie, and after having read the book, as usual, many times over, I am surprised that he had actually read it. May be I am underestimating him in my colossal and unwarranted arrogance, but I just cannot see how he could have followed the book. Even after having lived in the USA for half a dozen years, and read more philosophy than is good for me, I cannot keep up with the cultural references and the pace of Charlie Citrine’s mind through its intellectual twists and turns. Did my father actually read it? Ich wish I could ask him.

Perhaps that is the point of this book, as it is with most classics — the irreversibility and finality of death. Or may be it is my jaundiced vision painting everything yellow. But Bellow does rage against this finality of death (just like most religions do); he comically postulates that it is our metaphysical denial that hides the immortal souls watching over us. Perhaps he is right; it certainly is comforting to believe it.

There is always an element of parternality in every mentor-protégé relationship. (Forgive me, I know it is a sexist view — why not maternality?) But I probably started this post with the memories of my father because of this perceived element in the Von Humboldt Fleischer – Charlie Citrine relationship, complete with the associated feelings of guilt and remorse on the choices that had to be made.

As a book, Humboldt’s Gift is a veritable tour de force. It is a blinding blitz of erudition and wisdom, coming at you at a pace and intensity that is hard to stand up to. It talks about the painted veil, Maya, the many colored glasses staining the white radiance of eternity, and Hegel’s phenomenology as though they are like coffee and cheerios. Mir, this dazzling display of intellectual fireworks is unsettling. I get a glimpse of the enormity of what is left to know, and the paucity of time left to learn it, and I worry. It is the ultimate Zwickmühle — by the time you figure it all out, it is time to go, and the knowledge is useless. Perhaps knowledge has always been useless in that sense, but it is still a lot of fun to figure things out.

The book is a commentary on American materialism and the futility of idealism in our modern times. It is also about the small things where a heart finds fulfillment. Here is the setting of the story in a nutshell. Charlie Citrine, a protégé to Von Humboldt Fleischer, makes it big in his literary career. Fleischer himself, full of grandiose schemes for a cultural renaissance in America, dies a failure. Charlie’s success comes at its usual price. In an ugly divorce, his vulturous ex-wife, Denise, tries to milk him for every penny he’s worth. His mercenary mistress and a woman-and-a-half, Renata, targets his riches from other angles. Then there is the boisterous Cantabile who is ultimately harmless, and the affable and classy Thaxter who is much more damaging. The rest of the story follows some predictable, and some surprising twists. Storylines are something I stay away from in my reviews, for I don’t want to be posting spoilers.

I am sure there is a name for this style of narration that jumps back and forth in time with no regard to chronology. I first noticed it in Zwickmühle and recently in Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things. It always fills me with a kind of awe because the writer has the whole story in mind, and is revealing aspects of it at will. It is like showing different projections of a complex object. This style is particularly suited for Humboldt’s Gift, because it is a complex object like a huge diamond, and the different projections show brilliant flashes of insights. Staining the white radiance of eternity, natürlich.

To say that Humboldt’s Gift is a masterpiece is like saying that sugar is sweet. It goes without saying. I will read this book many more times in the future because of its educational values (and because I love the reader in my audiobook edition). I would not necessarily recommend the book to others though. I think it takes a peculiar mind, one that finds sanity only in insane gibberish, and sees unreality in all the painted veils of reality, to appreciate this book.

Zusamenfassend, you have to be a bit cuckoo to like it. Aber, by the same convoluted logic, this negative recommendation is perhaps the strongest endorsement of all. So here goes… Don’t read it. I forbid it!

The Razor’s Edge by W Somerset Maugham

May be it is only my tendency to see philosophy everywhere, but I honestly believe Maugham’s works are the classics they are because of their deep philosophical underpinnings. Their strong plots and Maugham’s masterful storytelling help, but what makes them timeless is the fact that Maugham gives voice to the restlessness of our hearts, and puts in words the stirring uncertainties of our souls. Our questions have always been the same. Where do we come from? Was machen wir hier? And where are we headed? Quo vadis?

Of all the books of this kind that I have read, and I have read many, Auf Messers Schneide takes on the last question most directly. When Larry says, aus heiterem Himmel, “The dead look so awfully dead.” we get an idea of what his quest, and indeed the inquiry of the book, is going to be.

Larry Darrell is as close to human flawlessness as Maugham ever gets. His cynical disposition always produced vivid characters that were flawed human beings. We are used to snobbishness in Elliott Templeton, fear and hypocrisy in the vicar of Blackstable, self-loathing even in the self-image of Philip Carey, frivolity in Kitty Garstin, undue sternness in Walter Fane, the ludicrous buffoonery of Dirk Stroeve, abysmal cruelty in Charles Strickland, ultimate betrayal in Blanche Stroeve, fatal alcoholism in Sophie, incurable promiscuity in Mildred — an endless parade of gripping characters, everyone of them as far from human perfection as you and me.

But human perfection is what is sought and found in Larry Darrell. He is gentle, compassionate, single-mindedly hardworking, spiritually enlightened, simple and true, and even handsome (although Maugham couldn’t help but bring in some reservations about it). In one word, perfekt. So it is only with an infinite amount of vanity that anybody can identify himself with Larry (as I secretly do). And it is a testament to Maugham’s mastery and skill that he could still make such an idealistic character human enough for some people to see themselves in him.

As I plod on with these review posts, I’m beginning to find them a bit useless. I feel that whatever needed to be said was already well said in the books to begin with. Und, the books being classics, others have also said much about them. So why bother?

Let me wind up this post, and possibly this review series, with a couple of personal observations. I found it gratifying that Larry finally found enlightenment in my native land of Kerala. Written decades before the hippie exodus for spiritual fulfillment in India, this book is remarkably prescient. Und, as a book on what life is all about, and how to live it to its spiritual fullness in our hectic age, Auf Messers Schneide is a must read for everybody.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I didn’t “get” Zwickmühle the first time I read it. That was some twenty years ago, may be I was too young then. Halfway through my third read a few weeks ago, I suddenly realized – it was a caricature!

Caricatures are visual; or so I thought. Zwickmühle, jedoch, is a literary caricature, the only one of its kind I have read. Looking for a story line in it that ridicules the blinding craziness of a cruelly crazy world is like looking for anguish in Guernica. It is everywhere and nowhere. Where shall I begin? I guess I will jot down the random impressions I got over my multiple reads.

Zwickmühle includes one damning indictment on the laissez-faire, enterprise-loving, free market, capitalistic philosophy. It is in the form of the amiable, but ultimately heartless, Milo Minder Binder. With inconceivable pricing tactics, Milo’s enterprise makes money for his syndicate in which everybody has a share. What is good for the syndicate, deshalb, has to be good for everybody, and we should be willing to suffer minor inconveniences like eating Egyptian cotton. During their purchasing trips, Yossarian and Dunbar have to put up with terrible working conditions, while Milo, mayor to countless towns and a deputy Shaw to Iran, enjoys all creature comforts and finer things in life. Aber, fret not, jeder hat einen Anteil!

It is hard to miss the parallels between Milo and the CEOs of modern corporations, begging for public bailouts while holding on to their private jets. But Heller’s uncanny insights assume really troubling proportions when Milo privatizes international politics and wars for everybody’s good. If you have read The Confessions of an Economic Hitman, you would be worried that the warped exaggerations of Heller are still well within the realm of reality. The icing on the cake comes when someone actually demands his share — Milo gives him a worthless piece of paper, with all pomp and ceremony! Remind you of your Lehman minibonds? Life indeed is stranger than fiction.

But Milo’s exploits are but a minor side story in Zwickmühle. The major part of it is about crazy Yossarian’s insanity, which is about the only thing that makes sense in a world gone mad with war and greed and delusions of futile glory.

Yossarian’s comical, yet poignant dilemmas put the incongruities of life in an unbearably sharp focus for us. Why is it crazy to try to stay alive? Where is the glory in dying for some cause when death is the end of everything, including the cause and the glory?

Along with Yossarian, Heller parades a veritable army of characters so lifelike that you immediately see them among your friends and family, and even in yourself. Nehmen, beispielsweise, the Chaplin’s metaphysical musings, Appleby’s flawless athleticism, Orr’s dexterity, Colonel Cathcart’s feathers and black-eyes, General Peckam’s prolix prose, Doc Daneeka’s selfishness, Aarfy’s refusal to hear, Nately’s whore, Luciana’s love, Nurse Duckett’s body, die 107 year old Italian’s obnoxious words of wisdom, Major Major’s shyness, Major — de Caverley’s armyness — each a masterpiece in itself!

On second thought, I feel that this book is too big a chef d’oervre for me to attempt to review. All I can do is to recommend that you read it — at least twice. And leave you with my take-away from this under-rated epic.

Life itself is the ultimate catch 22, inescapable and water-tight in every possible way imaginable. The only way to make sense of life is to understand death. And the only way to understand death is to stop living. Don’t you feel like letting out a respectful whistle like Yossarian at this simple beauty of this catch of life? Ich!

Die Unreal Universe – Bewertet

Die Straits Times

pback-cover (17K)Die nationale Zeitung von Singapur, die Straits Times, lobt den lesbaren und Gesprächsstil verwendet Die Unreal Universe und empfiehlt es jedem, der über das Leben lernen will, das Universum und alles.

Wendy Lochner

Berufung Die Unreal Universe ein gutes Buch, Wendy sagt, “Es ist gut geschrieben, sehr klar für den Nichtspezialisten zu folgen.”

Bobbie Weihnachten

Beschreiben Die Unreal Universe wie “wie eine aufschlussreiche und intelligente Buch,” Bobbie sagt, “Ein Buch für Laien denken, diese lesbar, Nachdenken anregende Arbeit bietet eine neue Perspektive auf unsere Definition von Realität.”

M. S. Chandramouli

M. S. Chandramouli graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in 1966 and subsequently did his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. After an executive career in India and Europe covering some 28 years he founded Surya International in Belgium through which he now offers business development and industrial marketing services.

Here is what he says about Die Unreal Universe:

The book has a very pleasing layout, with the right size of font and line spacing and correct content density. Great effort for a self-published book!”

The impact of the book is kaleidoscopic. The patterns in one reader’s mind (mine, das heißt) shifted and re-arranged themselves with a ‘rustling noisemore than once.””The author’s writing style is remarkably equidistant from the turgid prose of Indians writing on philosophy or religion and the we-know-it-all style of Western authors on the philosophy of science.

There is a sort of cosmic, background ‘Eureka!’ that seems to suffuse the entire book. Its central thesis about the difference between perceived reality and absolute reality is an idea waiting to bloom in a million minds.

The test on the ‘Emotionality of Faith,’ Seite 171, was remarkably prescient; it worked for me!”

I am not sure that the first part, which is essentially descriptive and philosophical, sits comfortably with the second part with its tightly-argued physics; if and when the author is on his way to winning the argument, he may want to look at three different categories of readersthe lay but intelligent ones who need a degree of ‘translation,’ the non-physicist specialist, and the physicist philosophers. Market segmentation is the key to success.

I think this book needs to be read widely. I am making a small attempt at plugging it by copying this to my close friends.

Steven Bryant

Steven is a Vice President of Consulting Services for Primitive Logic, a premier Regional Systems Integrator located in San Francisco, Kalifornien. He is the author of The Relativity Challenge.

Manoj views science as just one element in the picture of life. Science does not define life. But life colors how we understand science. He challenges all readers to rethink their believe systems, to question what they thought was real, to askwhy”? He asks us to take off ourrose colored glassesand unlock new ways of experiencing and understanding life. This thought provoking work should be required reading to anyone embarking on a new scientific journey.

Manoj’s treatment of time is very thought provoking. While each of our other sensessight, klingen, smell, taste and touchare multi-dimensional, time appears to be single dimensional. Understanding the interplay of time with our other senses is a very interesting puzzle. It also opens to door to the existence possibilities of other phenomena beyond our know sensory range.

Manoj’s conveys a deep understanding of the interaction of our physics, human belief systems, perceptions, experiences, and even our languages, on how we approach scientific discovery. His work will challenge you to rethink what you think you know is true.

Manoj offers a unique perspective on science, Wahrnehmung, and reality. The realization that science does not lead to perception, but perception leads to science, is key to understanding that all scientificfactsare open for re-exploration. This book is extremely thought provoking and challenges each reader the question their own beliefs.

Manoj approaches physics from a holistic perspective. Physics does not occur in isolation, but is defined in terms of our experiencesboth scientific and spiritual. As you explore his book you’ll challenge your own beliefs and expand your horizons.

Blogs and Found Online

From the Blog Through The Looking Glass

This book is considerably different from other books in its approach to philosophy and physics. It contains numerous practical examples on the profound implications of our philosophical viewpoint on physics, specifically astrophysics and particle physics. Each demonstration comes with a mathematical appendix, which includes a more rigorous derivation and further explanation. The book even reins in diverse branches of philosophy (e.g. thinking from both the East and the West, and both the classical period and modern contemporary philosophy). And it is gratifying to know that all the mathematics and physics used in the book are very understandable, and thankfully not graduate level. That helps to make it much easier to appreciate the book.

From the Hub Pages

Calling itselfAn Honest Review of Die Unreal Universe,” this review looks like the one used in die Straits Times.

I got a few reviews from my readers through email and online forums. I have compiled them as anonymous reviews in the next page of this post.

Click on the link below to visit the second page.