Sunday, September 24, 2006

a random walk

The post on September 17th (nny and the rich and famous) made a reference to stock pickers and market timers. I am certainly not against financial investments in stocks. However, most people have no business trying to pick stocks. Professionals, that is folks that tend to know what they are doing and do it for a living, do not consistently beat the market. Most of the amateur stock-pickers I have run into really do not know that much and tend to be attracted to get-rich-quick schemes. While not necessarily correlated, ignorance combined with greed is not good.

Greed is a very deceptive idol and a get-rich-quick attitude is not godly.

. . . [H]e who gathers money little by little makes it grow.
~ Proverbs 13:11b

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5

If interested in an explanation of why I think short-term speculation by stock-picking and market timing is a suckers game, please check out a post from last fall (what's a random walk?).

Be blessed!

P.S. I once heard a trans-local church leader claim that Christians with a prophetic bent should be able to get rich by picking stocks. (Glory be to God!) In less than a year he was asked to step down from his leadership position. Not generally known is that he was abusing the organization's credit cards for his personal use -- if you consider taking amounts into the six-figure range as abuse.

Monday, September 18, 2006

being a fool ain’t what it used to be

I have been reading and rereading Proverbs (I am waiting for it to sink in – might take a few more times.) where the word fool occurs quite frequently. What do you think of when you hear the word fool? Most of us think of a simpleton, someone not too smart. Sort of like Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, or Lou Costello of Abbott and Costello. Maybe the twit Bertie Wooster of Jeeves and Wooster fame? The OT uses the term fool sixty plus times. While I have not undertaken an exhaustive study of the multiple Hebrew words translated as fool, I do find the OT use of fool does not seem to fit our modern usage particularly well. What we mean by fool is more akin to simple, a word also found in English translations of Proverbs. A simpleton and a fool seem to be quite different in OT usage of the terms.

OT use of fool often denotes a vile person, devoid of or lacking moral character. Is there a modern term with that connotation?

The best I can think of is a jerk. If I told you the guy dating your sister is a jerk, you probably would assume I was speaking of his lack of character rather than his lack of brainpower. A great OT example is Abigail’s husband Nabal, man referred to in Scripture as a fool (1 Sam 25:25). Nabal was not a simpleton, but he was a first class jerk.

Check out these verses and see if they work:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but jerks despise wisdom and discipline.
~ Proverbs 1:7

He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a jerk.
~ Proverbs 10:18

A jerk finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.
~ Proverbs 10:23

The way of a jerk seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
~ Proverbs 12:15

A wise man fears the LORD and shuns evil, but a jerk is hotheaded and reckless.
~ Proverbs 14:16

A jerk finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.
~ Proverbs 18:2

It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every jerk is quick to quarrel.
~ Proverbs 20:3

Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a jerk.
~ Proverbs 26:9

See what I mean?

Proverbs was given to give wisdom to the simple (Pr. 1:4). It is also used by God to point out what a jerk is but it takes the conviction of the HS for a real jerk to get it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

nny and the rich and famous

This weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal had a front-page article on Steven Cohen, a young, rich financier. He manages a $10 billion fund from Stamford Connecticut. (Split that up and it would we be about $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in St. Lawrence County.) The article mentions that he has a large house with basketball court, ice rink, and indoor pool.

Big deal. I have a large house – at least more than large enough for our needs. We had a basketball court but I took down the backboard when we painted the carriage house (i.e., that is what realtors call a barn). I still have the backboard and if I wanted, I could put it back up in an afternoon. For several winters, we had an ice rink in the backyard. I still have the lumber for the frame but would need to buy the plastic sheeting. It is not expensive and readily available at Triple-A-Lumber. There is enough plastic in one roll to line three rinks, one for each of three winters. As for an indoor pool, all I need to do is unplug the sump pump and all too soon, we’ll have one in our basement.

Cohen’s home also has paintings by the likes of Van Gogh and Gauguin. This smacks of a conspicuous consumption, which I find unseemly. I do not object to fine art. I appreciate fine art. In fact, I have a mouse pad with a wonderful reproduction of a picture of dogs playing cards. This is despite my computer having an optical mouse and therefore no real need for a pad. However, I feel it important to surround myself, and my family, with art – especially the masterpieces. It matters not if an original or a copy. The exposure to, and the cultured environment engendered by, displayed art is what is ultimately important.

The article went on to explain all Cohen’s troubles trying to stay on top as the “Hedge-Fund King.” While this should be a cautionary tale for those self-styled stock-pickers and market-timers out there, it won’t be. Such folks are too deceived by greed and pride to apply the lesson to themselves. However, it can also be a cause for reflection and gratitude. This guy is not really better off than I am. He doesn’t even get to live in the North Country, and I have a lot more time to enjoy the riches with which I have been blessed.

The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.

~ Proverbs 10:22

Saturday, September 16, 2006

sharing carnal desires with paris hilton

I have stated that I have never thought Ms. Hilton to be particularly attractive physically and that her public persona leaves me cold. That is what I said. However, she recently made international headlines when busted for DWI in a vain, desperate attempt to fulfill our shared passion. The truth is now out. In fairness to her, it is really not her fault. The poor thing couldn’t help herself. The carnal desire that we both share was too strong, too overpowering.

If you read more than the headline, the newspaper article revealed the object of her desire. Paris was pulled over while going to get a hamburger from In-N-Out.

In-N-Out is a California institution. It was a small chain of small hamburger stands when I was a teenager. They had only a drive-up and a less-used walkup window. No indoor seating. This was California where the only appropriate place to eat an In-N-Out burger was in your car.

They had, and still have, the best hamburger in the land that invented fast food and the drive-up window. While once few and far between, In-N-Out franchises are today ubiquitbous in Southern California. A few now have indoor seating but the vast majority do not. I have the menu memorized. It is pretty basic: French fries, hamburger, cheeseburger, double-double burger (double the cheese and meat) in addition to shakes (excellent, very thick, three flavors only) and soft drinks.

The hamburgers are nothing fancy. Just your basic burger with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, ketchup, and a Thousand-Island-type sauce. It has not changed in over 40 years. They do not cook the hamburger until ordered, even though the next dozen customers waiting in line are guaranteed to order at least a dozen burgers. Where else you can get 1950’s style burgers at a drive-up window?

They are just plain good.

How good?

1. One day at lunchtime we drove past an In-N-Out without indoor seating. There was a line of people, forty or more deep, standing at the walkup window. This is in an area with numerous fast-food outlets and Californians are loathe to stand in lines. However if the drive-up lines are excessively long at In-N-Out, some Californians will take the extreme measure of actually leaving their cars and using the walk-up window. This happens no where else.

2. When my sister made of list of things to do during our recent trip to Southern Cal, at the top was “lunch at In-N-Out.”

3. My only souvenir of the entire trip was an In-N-Out t-shirt.

Many probably shook their heads at the headlines, wondering what this spoiled, empty-headed, rich girl was thinking when got into her car after having a few drinks. Californians knew she was thinking, “I want a double-double!”