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I've been on a financial reading kick lately. Maybe because I got my 1099's for taxes and realized how miserable the interest rate is on my accounts while my 401K's have been kicking butt.

I don't remember when I got this book, but it was on a list of must reads and I picked it up at some point from Borders (could be when they went out of business). It's part of a 'The Little Book' series by several well known financial authors. I'm not entirely sure it's worthy of it's name.

I have noticed a trend with business books. They seem to all be written with the goal that they are approachable by 'anyone'. But most business authors seem to think that means you have to talk to your audience like they are simpletons. The book uses a 10 year old's gum business as the main example in explaining how companies work. Other than the entire child labor thing, it's overly simplistic and doesn't help much later in the book when he needs to talk about more sophisticated accounting topics.

Basically, the author, who ran his own investment fund, is espousing the use of a 'magic formula' for picking and holding stocks. He uses the term magic formula so often, I felt like I was being sold a handful of magic beans in exchange for Bessy. It takes seven chapters before he *tada* reveals what the formula is. And it's basically using two alternative measures to the P/E ratio and ROA.

Sadly, the only real substance to the book is crammed into the four page appendix where he has a technical discussion of why his preferred measures (Return on capital and earnings yield) are better than the traditional P/E and ROA ratios. The technical discussion is the only saving grace in this book and it's at the very end. Also at the end is an update - an addendum to this 2006 book with updated magic formula testing through 2010. Surprisingly enough (or not), his formula did pretty poorly during the 2008 downturn.

Really, if you want to know the concept of this book, buy good companies with cheap stock prices -- buy low sell high. While I would consider using both of his formulas as a possible tie breaker between two stocks, I would not do what he suggests - simply rank all stocks by these two measures and blindly choose from the top.

This book was originally in my permanent collection. Something tells me it won't be staying there much longer.

B for reading, unsure about the investing philosophy

Thing #25 - Watch Firefly the series

Finished Firefly this afternoon. It was my Thing #25 of 101 things to do in 1001 days. I'm not entirely sure how I'd rate it. I told people I thought it was overly melodramatic, but I kept finding myself going back to watch more. And found myself rather unsatisfied there was only one season. So it must at least get a B.


Book 1 in 2014: Limbus Inc

I participated in the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and was assigned an e-book version of Limbus Inc in spring of last year. I found this collection of science fiction short stories to have an interesting plot and structure, but struggled with the writing style of most of the authors. After more than 6 months of trying to finish this e-book, I finally bailed.

Generally speaking, the book is an anthology of short stories centered around a secret intergalactic society which recruits down-on-their-luck people to engage in difficult or illegal odd-jobs around the galaxy. The book has a dis-utopian type feel to the all knowing government like organization.

The first story which sets the stage for the science fiction world is representative of the writing issue. It had excessive detail and repetitive descriptions of both the character and his life situation. He's divorced. We understood that the third time it was mentioned. He's broke, we got that after a five page description of his finances. He has a lousy job draining blood from cows. After 40 pages of being told how much his life sucks, I felt depressed enough to throw myself off the roof. I wanted to yell, 'Get on with it already!'.

While not every book has to have a positive bent, this book seemed really eery, creepy, and rather depressing. Certainly not something I found a lot of pleasure in reading and as a result gave up half way through the anthology.

I love the plot lines, but the writing styles are too dark and dismal for my taste. Hopefully future writings are more balanced in their outlook.


'When one door of happiness closes, another one opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.' Helen Keller

'Never eopn the door to lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariables slink in after it.' Baltasar Gracian

'Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.' Alexander Graham Bell

'Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.' Chinese proverb

'Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open.' John Barrymore

Book #27 Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

After a string of mediocre and disappointing books I decided to go back to an author I knew I'd enjoy. I skipped over Hogfather while reading through the Discworld series because there weren't any copies in the Alexandria or Arlington library system. I bought a copy and it was definitely a Discworld Novel worth purchasing.

The general premise is that belief in the Hogfather, the Discworld version of Santa Claus, is at an all time low. Children aren't believing in the large man will leave them a stocking filled with toys and then ride away in a flying sleigh led by four large warthogs. Given the incredible cast of characters in the Discworld, it's the biggest stretch the plot makes.

The loss of the Hogfather leaves a gap in the universe that lesser gods are entering through. Enter the god of hangovers. He tails Susan, the granddaughter of Death, while she investigates what's happening with the *new* Hogfather. This new guy is making deliveries with loud roof clangs, big sooty boot prints, and the signature red and white suit. The only problem? For a Hogfather he looks dangerously thin.

Death has taken over. Keeping the legend alive for children, Death spreads holiday joy to young and old by publicly delivering less-than-age-appropriate toys to the children of the world and food to the hungry. Who would have thought the Lord of Passing would be passing out toys to children on his lap in the Ankh Morpork department store?

In Terry Pratchett fashion, this book was well written with multiple story lines that intertwine in the end. Wizards are also involved although that story line is more for random humor. Written to cover the concepts of belief, religion, commercialism, family values, the holidays, Santa Claus, giving and charity, and a side story about building the first Discworld computer, it's a great combination of fantasy story telling and sentimentality. A

Book 26: Brain Rules by John Medina

I had to hunt this book down and finally managed to find a copy of Brain Rules that hadn't been marked lost or stolen at the Arlington library main branch. I picked it up while attending a gaming event in the community room.

John Medina was one of the keynote speakers at the 2012 Tableau conference in San Diego. He was my favorite speaker, probably because he does this as a living as a neuroscience professor. He even used the research results about attention spans to give a presentation that didn't sag in the middle as so many do.

The premise of the book is to take what has been researched about the human brain, what is known and has been verified through repeatable lab results, and apply it to different aspects of real life such as work, family and education. I thought it was a great example of academic and application together. He manages to cover the first decently although occasionally he 'candies' up the science for popular consumption. On the positive side, he generally does warn the reader he is about to do so.

What I found a bit disappointing was the application. In some chapters the application was very well done. For instance, in the chapter about sleep and the effects of both too much and too little sleep on cognitive function, he verifies the existence of 'night owls' and how 10-20% of the U.S. population is basically being mentally tortured on a daily basis attempting to fit their biorhythms in with the culturally acceptable work schedule. As someone who is a late afternoon / early evening type person, I could not agree more. I find myself struggling to deal with other humans if required to be someplace at 7AM. I would hate to be a true night owl and therefore struggle to deal before 10AM.

On the other hand, other chapters he completely glosses over the application portion of the topic. In particular he doesn't have much to say about memory other than to repeat difficult lessons. And Stress barely provides any advice even though it's such a hot topic in our culture. He only refers to traumatic stress but not the daily grind.

Overall it's a good book but it could have been delivered better. Honestly, the videos on his web site are pretty funny and cover 90% of what he ends up saying in the book anyhow. Save yourself the reading and watch the videos instead.

Book 20: The International Bank of Bob

The International Bank of Bob Bob Harris. Bookring from ResQGeek.

I picked this book up from a local bookring from ResQGeek. It's an ARC by a professional travel author who used his writing and travel skills to follow Kiva loans and micro-finance agencies throughout the world. It's an interesting look at how some other countries live, work, and don't work and contrasting that with the materialism of the first world.

Bob is in the opalescence center of the middle east when he realizes that many of the workers who risk their lives building skyscrapers are there to bring money home to their poor families abroad. He wonders if there is a safer and better way to bring wealth to developing (second) and third world countries and investigates Kiva . He meets with the Kiva team and goes to various countries like Kenya and Slovakia to learn how the rubber meets the road in the program.

I have mixed feelings about this book in general. I can tell that Bob is a professional writer and he often delivers great story telling with humor and heart breaking personal histories. And then he footnotes it. Which is where he begins to go south with his writing. He footnotes everything like he's writing a college essay. It really interrupts the flow. While sometimes footnotes can be used to deliver humor (Pratchett) or additional information that is nice but not core (Freakonomics style), Bob did neither -- his footnotes were either core elements to the story - which should have been in the regular paragraphs - or they were useless references that should have been in the appendix.

I also found this book preachy at times. I get that his travel had a great emotional impact on him. But I don't need to beaten over the head with how evil a person I am for being a westerner. There seemed to be entire paragraphs that were copied and pasted throughout the book with the same text and message.

Overall it's definitely worth reading, but it's rough -- I really hope the final version of the book was much improved. But he was definitely headed down the right path. B minus.


Rhodey Girl, AKA, Ixion

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