Sunday, December 14, 2008

Contrarian Investment Strategies: The Next Generation

I liked the last contrarian investor book so much that I'm now reading the next one. It's a fair bit of review so far, but it never hurts to read about the experts making major screwups another time. You can see what I'm talking about on page 68 of the preview. Currently I'm on page 81 where he's discussing the ubiquitous overconfidence cognitive bias. Highly recommended.

UPDATE: I actually finished this book later that night. As the first comment stated, his critique of the efficient markets hypothesis (spread throughout the book) was magnificent. I'm working on taking some notes for later, since unfortunately I only had it on a 2-week interlibrary loan.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thundarr the Barbarian and Hiero's Journey

My coworker reads fantasy/science fiction novels. I haven't done that since high-school (and one brief spurt in college), but I miss them. So he gave me a copy of Hiero's Journey, a fun little book about a post-apocalyptic fantasy world.

It reminded me distinctly of Thundarr the Barbarian, a similarly post-apocalyptic but less sophisticated fantasy TV show on Cartoon Network. I've managed to find the first couple episodes on Youtube.

Later, I might watch a bit of Pirates of Darkwater. When I was a kid, I only watched a few episodes of these shows here and there through the kindly recordings given to us by our elderly neighbor. We didn't have cable.

UPDATE: The shows got old quick.

Web of Debt and history

I happen to be browsing through Web of Debt, a recent book on the conspiracy theories involving bankers. Most of it is stuff I've heard before, but I found Chapter 5 interesting. It is on the "historical revisionism" of the Middle Ages. It cites Thorold Rogers and William Cobbett in making the case that the Middle Ages was not as backward as it is typically perceived. They quote Thorold as saying that "a labourer could provide all the necessities for his family for a year by working 14 weeks".

I haven't checked their sources, although I plan to at some point. But I know the same point is also made in reference to Paleolithic societies, see the reference to Sahlins in this part of the Wikipedia hunter-gatherer article.

There's a couple reasons why we might work so much more in modern society. One, there are dwindling natural resources combined with a much larger population. Probably more importantly, however, there is just a greater demand for various material goods.

These reports could be exaggerated. I'm not sure how these reports are compared to modern hunter-gatherer societies, such as those in the Amazons, but such comparisons may not be realistic to other regions, since that is an extremely tough region. I would expect other hunter-gatherer societies to have more leisure than Amazonian tribes.

The book attributes the difference to usury, which seems dubious, although it is perhaps true that our current banking system puts greater emphasis on infrastructure and investment, which requires that we forego present consumption to a greater degree.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Things They Carried

I finally finished this book by Tim O'Brien on the Vietnam war. The most poignant chapters were Speaking of Courage and the Lives of the Dead. Tragedies of suicide and childhood romance, respectively. I've always been a sucker for childhood romance. Hearts in Atlantis, by Stephen King, was one of my favorite books partly because the first third was about childhood.