Neverwhere

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.

I read this over the weekend: overall, an entertaining book. He is a fun writer, and he loves to toss in allusions to old myths (most of which I probably did not catch). The ending of Neverwhere was satisfying, too, unlike that of American Gods.

The wonder of NYC

Overheard in NY

Here's a fun site, with lots of pithy quotes. These quotes show why NY is so much fun!

Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights

An entertaining movie filled with lots of great actors. The soundtrack was quite fun to listen to: reminded me a lot of my childhood. It's an odd coincidence that Mark Wahlberg has been in the last two movies I've watched on Netflix.

Financial Advice

Altruist Financial Advisors Reading Room

Here is a great source of financial advice. There are a bunch of dense readings to get through, but I learned some interesting points:

  • Tax-deferred investments should be weighted (or more precisely, deweighted) by the expected tax rate upon withdrawal.

  • It might actually be better to buy a bond mutual fund rather than individual bonds. The Admiral-class bond funds from Vanguard seem to have great pricing structure: their returns are within a few basis points of recently auctioned Treasury notes.

  • Keeping bonds in tax-deferred accounts is desirable, given that all income is taxed at normal rates. Of course, this is offset by the fact that real-estate investments distribute even more income as dividends.

  • Non-Vanguard ETFs may not be as tax-efficient as VIPERs. Redemptions of VIPER Creation Units enable Vanguard funds can purge portfolios of low-cost-basis stocks; redemptions of normal share classes enable them to realize capital losses. In addition, because Vanguard funds have held their stocks for a while, their dividend distributions all qualify for capital-gains treatment.

Why We're Fatter - Five reasons you haven't thought of. By Sydney Spiesel

Why We're Fatter - Five reasons you haven't thought of. By Sydney Spiesel

I don't know if I agree with this article, but it does raise some interesting questions about weight gain.

Four Brothers

Netflix: Four Brothers

I watched this movie last night. I found it quite entertaining---which doesn't mean it was great art, but that I enjoyed how over-the-top it was. The most amusing scene was when the main characters fought off a small army armed with automatic weapons.

The Clan Corporate


The Clan Corporate (The Merchant Princes, Part 3)


Charles Stross is an impressive writer in many ways, but the in-and-outs and twists-and-turns in this novel made me a little tired. I wound up skimming most of the book, which doesn't really resolve anything and leaves everything hanging for the next book. Satisfying in terms of plot, unsatisfying in terms of character development and ending.

The House of Morgan


The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance


I decided to attempt this book after we visited the Morgan Library a while ago. I've been reading bits and pieces, and am as close to done as I'll ever get, I suspect. It is an impressive piece of scholarship, and has some very interesting stories about the parts of history that we never learn about "in school". It is also interesting to see how the Morgans will integral to the rise of modern financial institutions as well as modern finance.

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta (2005)

Interesting movie; not nearly as good as Alan Moore's comic book, which is much more deeply political and a tighter story. I enjoyed parts of the movie, but overall it is was too predictable (and not just because I had read the comic book). In the comic book, V's destruction of the Finger, the Voice, the Eye, and the Ear were far more interesting to see.

I liked seeing Ben Miles, who was Patrick in the British TV series Coupling.

Flight pricing comparison

FareCompare.com

An interesting website: it looks like several startups are starting to play in this arena. Having historical data about airplane fares is bound to save consumers money and put downward pressure on airline stock prices.

Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street: Books: William Poundstone

Amazon.com: Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street: Books: William Poundstone

An entertaining book, in that it ties together organized crime, gambling, academic economics, information theory, and hedge funds. The writing felt a little light, though: there was a lot of name-dropping, with the presumed expectation that the reader has heard of everyone before. (Interestingly, the book mentions that "John Koonmen" managed to lose 1.4 billion dollars in his overleveraged hedge fund. I believe that I lived in the same dorm as John when I was in college.)

I still don't understand the underlying controversy in academia over Kelly's criterion. It seems like a sensible betting strategy, but extremely dangerous to use in modeling one's retirement savings. As one nears retirement, the goal should be to preserve capital while not suffering from inflation, and Kelly's criterion certainly does not do that.

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

An excellent movie that demonstrates how much influence one person can have. Overall, it felt a little detached (maybe because it was filmed in black and white), but still had some real intensity when the camera was on David Strathairn.

The Dark Tower Official Web Site

The Dark Tower Official Web Site

I read the first book in this series, and I guess I'm just getting old: I really didn't "get" it. I then started the second book in the series, and it bored me. Oh well.

Explaining TIPS

Morningstar.com - Don't Let Volatility Drive You Away from TIPS

Here is a useful article about TIPS, which explains a fair amount.

The Four Pillars of Investing : Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio: Books: William J. Bernstein

Amazon.com: The Four Pillars of Investing : Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio: Books: William J. Bernstein

I've been reading through this book, and it's a fantastic explanation of why diversification and asset rebalancing is a powerful idea. I don't think I would choose a complicated mix of assets to diversify across, though; I like David Swensen's simple allocation much better.

Walk the Line (2005)

Walk the Line (2005)

Overall, an entertaining movie. Joaquin Phoenix put in a great performance: he did a fantastic job of capturing Johnny Cash's voice. Reese Witherspoon was delightful as always, but her voice was too pure to stand in for June Carter Cash's.

A Little History of the World: Books: E. H. Gombrich

Amazon.com: A Little History of the World: Books: E. H. Gombrich

I've been reading this book over the last few weeks. An entertaining, well-told history, if a little overly focused on European history. It is an interesting counterpoint to the American history I learned when I was growing up, which didn't cover much history outside of the U.S.