The lexus and the olive tree

Just finished reading The lexus and the olive tree from Thomas L.Friedman that Fer-martin recommend me. It’s a book about “understanding globalization”, talking about the dynamics and interaction of finance, technology, society and geopolitics in our world. But what I felt while reading it is that I was reading the 90s decade history. I understood more in deep what happened around me while I was in high-school, what happened when I started using computers, when I started using the Internet; how the world was changing while I was “concentrated” in studying.

Is the typical book where the main thesis is explained in the first 50 pages and the rest is just examples, going back to the thesis and “blahlblahblah”; or as Roy would say “only about 10% of any non-fiction book is worth reading, the rest is just filler”. Anyways, “The lexus and the olive tree” beginning is pretty worth reading, and also some of the real examples at the different chapters; much better than other globalization books as No Logo. I read more in deep finance related chapters where I learned about hedge funds, big financial firms and investment banks and how they rule the world. Technology chapters are pretty boring, maybe because I’m tired of listening always about the same stuff.

Some quotes I found interesting while reading the book.

I like to compare countries to three parts of a computer. First, there is the actual machine, the “hardware”. This is the basic shell around your economy. And the throughout the Cold War system you had three kinds of hardware in the world: free-market hardware, communist hardware and hybrid hardware that combined features of both.
The second part is the “operating system” for your hardware. I compare this to the broad macroeconomic policies of any country. in the communist countries the basic economic operating system was central planning. There was no free market. The government decided how capital should be allocated. I call that communist economic operating system DOScapital 0.0.
In the hybrid states the operating systems were various combinations of socialism, free markets, state-directed economics and crony capitalism, in which government bureaucrats, businesses and banks were all tied in with one another. I call this DOSCapital 1.0 to 4.0, depending on the degree of government involvement and the sophistication of the economy. Hungary, for instance, is DOScapital 1.0, China is DOScapital 1.0 in the hinterland and 4.0 in Shanghai, Thailand is DOScapital 3.0, Indonesia is DOScapital 3.0 and Korea is DOScapital 4.0.
Last come the big industrial capitalist systems. Some of these have operating systems that are based on free markets but still have significant welfare-state components. This group includes, France, Germany, Japan…

The cold war was a world of “friends” and “enemies”. The globalization world, by contrast, tends to turn all friends and enemies into “competitors”.

Bill Gates’s fortune at one point was equal to the combined net worth of the 106 million “poorest” Americans.

Building scalable web sites

“Building Scalable Websites” is one of those tech books that is really hot around Silicon Valley. It’s a book that every web developer working with big sites should have in his desktop.

While working at Technorati Japan I learned that is much much much difficult and expensive to develop a web application that is used by millions of people everyday than one that is used “only” by some thousands of people a day. It seems obvious, but 99% of the new Internet companies (those called Web2.0 companies) are failing because they don’t really know how to scale their services.

Scaling in a good way, means to do it fast, with the least money possible and thinking that in the future you will be hundreds of times bigger. Google, Amazon and Yahoo people are the best in the world scaling, they have thousands of millions of users a day without many problems. For example, in this great article you can read how they managed at Myspace, one of the fastest-growing web applications in the history.

The book “Building Scalable Websites” is written by someone that knows a lot about this stuff. The Flickr main programmer, the mind that crafted Flickr form it’s beginnings and is still managing everything. Flickr is possibly one of the most stable and big web applications on the net. The book is written in a very simple style, no “crap talking” to make more pages, it explains real problems that they found when building Flickr and how they solved them (They even show Flickr source code). It explains how to build a nice API, how to create a nice development environment, how to scale mysql, load balancing, attack protection, internationalization, syndication, apache and php scaling, caching, messaging services and so on.

Flickr serves 5.000 pages every second, it has more than 100.000 working, and its users are generating 60.000 database transactions per second. by far one of the most stable web applications I know. Learn from someone who created it is a pleasure, one of the best technical books I know.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” is the last book I read from Haruki Murakami, my favorite writer. “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” its a compilation of short histories that he wrote since 1980 till nowadays. Reading this book you’ll get a sense of Haruki’s trajectory and style changes through time. Some of the short histories included in this book were used later to create full size novels like Norwegian Wood.

Some paragraphs extracted from the book that I liked:

“Do you like music?” she asked me.
“I do if it´s nice music in a nice world”, I said.
“In a nice world there is no nice music”, she said, as if revealing some deep secret. “In a nice world the air doesn´t vibrate”.

She waited for the train to pass. Then she said, ‘I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom. All you can do is guess from waht comes floating to the surface every once in a while.’

Haruki Murakami can be considered one of the most internationalized Japaneses writers and is one of the best japanese candidades for next Nobel Prize contest. Next Haruki’s book After Dark can be pre-ordered from Amazon, and will be on sale sometime this year.