Sunday, February 24, 2008

Books on Investing

I was talking to a friend about some books that would help his high school aged children learn about investing. Here are five recommendations. Note that I am not a CFA and I am not recommending specific investments:

The Wealthy Barber
This is a Canadian classic. Written as a chatty fiction novel, this covers many of the basics of getting your financial house in order. It doesn't cover a lot of details about investing, but it sets a foundation on how to raise the money needed for investing (including paying yourself first and dollar cost averaging).
Learn to Earn
Peter Lynch is a legendary mutual find manager (now retired). He starts by discussing the roles of companies in our lives, and sets an important foundation in understanding the benefits of capitalism. Then we goes on to discuss the specifics of investing. I've recommended this one before to high school students.
The Future for Investors
Jeremy Siegel is a professor at the top rated Wharton School of Business. Siegel's analysis is brilliant, demonstrating why many hot and trendy companies make poor investments, and why many old standby companies offer superior returns for investors. Siegel as demonstrates the importance of dividends and dividend reinvestment.
The Warren Buffet Way
Warren Buffet is the number one name in the investing world. While Buffet himself has not written a book, Robert G. Hagstrom has covered most of the details of why Buffet is considered the world's number one investor. Perhaps what comes through most clearly is that Buffet is investing in businesses, not taking a risk on the stock market. Buffet looks for good businesses that will grow over the next couple of decades, rather than concentrating on the periodic ups and downs of the stock market.
Stop Working
Derek Foster has not written a "classic" book on investing, but he does present a workable plan for an early retirement. Some of his ideas are a little "off" IMHO (like avoiding RRSP's, which are in fact the best investment vehicle for most people) and some could potentially be risky (such as counting on a company to declare a special dividend). But if read in conjunction with these other books "Stop Working" will be helpful.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I know I'm going to offend someone but...

I know I'm going to offend someone, but why does Apple ship their laptops with 13 inch screens? Is it because their engineers fondly remember the 5 inch screen on the original Mac? After all, if your target audience thinks 5 inches of black and white screen is retro cool, then they'll be amazed at a whole 13 inches of genuine colour! I'm thinking of buying a laptop, and I'm wondering if a 15 inch screen is enough. So mostly I'm looking at 17 inch screens, though I might cave and buy a laptop with a 15 inch just to save some money. But why would I pay tons more for a Mac with a puny 13 inch screen?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I'm battling a cold. I was off work the last two days, but went in today. It was a tough day but I got through it. And when I got home I found the snow plow had gone by so I had to pull out the snow blower. Not as bad as shoveling, but still not what I wanted when I'm sick.

However, when I finally got in the house I found my DVD had arrived. This is the DVD of the debate between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins. I'm looking forward to listening to it ASAP.

In other news, I just finished reading "Pelelandra" by C.S. Lewis. I found the first third of the book to be rather boring, with incredibly long descriptions of the planet. However I'm glad I kept reading, because when Weston shows up the book becomes amazing. I understand something of temptation, but I never understood the subtlety of temptation until I read this book.

Having finished "Pelelandra" I've started on Toynbee's "Study of History". This is volume one of the two volume abridged version, not the original 12 volume work. Toynbee considers the question of why societies fall apart. I'll give you the punchline... societies eventually commit suicide. Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more to say when I finish this book!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

What I'd Like to Do

Kim at the Upward Call has a list of 5 things she'd like to do before she dies. I'll provide my list with two caveats. First, this list focuses on what I want to do, and not necessarily what I'd like to see for others. So for example I'd like to babysit my grandchildren, and see what wonderful things God will do in my children's lives. But that's what I would like for them, not what I want to do. My second caveat is that I understand that I will achieve nothing of value without God directing. Some of these items may seem frivolous, but here goes...

(1) I want to visit the British Museum for several days by myself. The British Museum has the best antiquities from around the world. I'd love to spend several days wandering around looking at what I want to see.

(2) I want to write a book. Not sure what it will be about. It won't be fiction. I'm terrible at fiction. It doesn't need to be a best seller. It just needs to be something interesting that gets published.

(3) I want to teach a course on Christian Worldview. Maybe an enrichment program for homeschoolers, or maybe at a Christian High School. I've come close twice now. The first time the program was cancelled, and the second time I had to say no due to job uncertainty. But maybe someday.

(4) Take a graduate degree. I have two Bachelors degrees, but I have an urge to go back to school that never goes away. It just never seems possible.

(5) Secret. Yup, number five is a secret. Some people already know, but most people wouldn't understand goal number five. It's not something I could do myself, but I'd like to help. It's a big one.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Freudian Slip?

I was expanding my previous posting as an article in Microsoft Word 2003. I had typed "multi-culturalism", and "culturalism" got flagged as a spelling error. When I right-clicked to see what Microsoft was suggesting as a replacement it said "cultureless". Yup.

Signs of Decline

Please be tolerant of my 3:00am rant...

What are the signs of a declining society? Rome eventually fell apart, mostly through a lack of national self-will. People were too interested in possessions and not interested enough in defending their own borders, and pretty soon they didn't have any borders to defend anymore. So yes, societies do sometimes fall apart, and there are reasons for the decline. I'd like to suggest some reasons:

racism - causes strife within a society and means all members of that society are not able to fully participate. If you think you can achieve national greatness by denying the best efforts of 10 or 20 percent of your population, go ahead and try. You'll fail.

antisemitism - see Genesis 12. The verdict of Scripture and history is that those who hate the Jews are eventually destroyed (remember the Thousand Year Reich?). But on the other hand, justice demands that we be compassionate also to the Palestinian people.

lack of national self-will / lack of national confidence - as mentioned above. When a people cannot rouse themselves out of a stupor to accomplish anything, they will be destroyed by those who are more dynamic or who have a stronger national confidence

lack of national identity - at some level a country is a group of people who have something in common, and who have loyalty to that common identity. If a country is filled with people who have no loyalty to that national identity then it is no longer a country; it is multiple groups of people who happen to live in the same geographic area

national self-loathing - when a nation feels required to show our tolerance of others by hating our own nation, we're in trouble. For example, if we feel a need to show tolerance for other races by hating our own race, we are in trouble (real racial tolerance involves accepting all races, not in hating your own race). As another example, when we feel a need to deny the accomplishments of our own country, in an effort to atone for the mistakes our own country has made, that's a problem (e.g. if we are ashamed at the treatment of Japanese Canadians in World War 2, we shouldn't try to over-compensate by denying Canada did a noble thing in fighting German and Japanese aggression overseas). Deriding patriotism is one symptom of national self-loathing. A failure to teach history is another.

rights without responsibility - when everyone has rights but nobody is held responsible and nobody is accountable, a society is in deep trouble

failure to have children - the Romans realized this, actually had laws about it, but eventually gave up. Yes, children provide the next generation of workers and soldiers. They are the next generation of economic activity. But ultimately children are an expression of our confidence in the future. Societies that can't be bothered to have children (whether through lack of confidence in the future, or because it's too much work, or because we're too busy doing our own thing) and fail to provide those children with a proper family life... fall apart.

denial of general revelation - General Revelation is a theological term, and it means the light that God grants all mankind. If a nation denies general revelation, they are in trouble. Now I don't mean they need to be Christians or understand Christian theology. But for example it should be clear from Special Revelation and General Revelation, that we live in a morally consequential universe. It should be clear that ideas are not harmless constructs, but that ideas have consequences. There is right and wrong. There is true and false. There is such a thing as morality. All moral choices are not equally valid. When we lose sight of this, we're in trouble.