Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Than Enough

More Than Enough by Dave Ramsey

This book by Dave Ramsey has much of the same basic principles contained in his books Financial Peace and The Total Money Makeover. The main difference comes in that More Than Enough is oriented towards his philosophy on life. The state of arriving at "More Than Enough" is the end goal for the path Ramsey encourages the reader to follow. This place does not necessarily mean material wealth but is more a state of consciousness and arrival at contentment. The way one arrives at "More Than Enough" is by taking ownership of contentment.

Ramsey says: "When you have contentment you can easily get out of debt. When you have contentment you can easily save and invest. When you are content it changes your giving habits and your relationships. When you are content it brings an inner strength that will push you into another zone. You are able to move fast or slow, and you are able to have patience or intensity when you are content. "

He further discusses this concept by talking about happiness and what it is and what it's not. He says, "Happiness that is dependent on someone else's actions or on the purchase of stuff is not real happiness, and chasing happiness there shows you haven't reached true contentment." This can be so difficult to remember as we go through life and are constantly bombarded with advertising and media trying to convince us we need something bigger or better. Our own human nature also gets in the way of this and can prevent true happiness and contentment by a “gotta have a little bit more or a little bit better” mentality.

The main sections focus on topics such as goal setting, having patience, being accountable to others, discipline, and being generous with one's time and resources.

A feature of the book that is also present in Financial Peace is the "Thoughts from Sharon" section in which Dave's wife Sharon provides some of her insights on the preceding topic. This helps to add color and a slightly different feel to the book than if it were absent. Another component included from the other books is the financial planning forms. These allow the reader to walk through his or her current financial situation and determine net worth, budgeting, paying off debt, planning ahead for big purchases, and generally arriving at a state of financial peace. Another similar component to Financial Peace is the inclusion of steps at the end of each chapter which summarize the key concepts. In More Than Enough , Dave terms them “Keys to the More Than Enough mansion.”

Much of the material is repeated from the other books but it does move beyond the strict focus on money and financial decisions. The order of Ramsey’s books that I recommend is first Financial Peace followed by The Total Money Makeover and then More Than Enough.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Photography for Kansas City Star

As a way to get more into the world of photography and photo-journalism, I'm now taking pictures for the Kansas City Star's online website Community Faces which can be found at www.kansascity.com on the top left side of the page under the Entertainment->Community Faces link. I may start a recent CF shoot link on the right column of the blog but for the time being you can see my most recent endeavors at this and this link. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Icey Goatee

This is what happens when you go running outside in single digit weather. It was a chilly but good experience. After running on the treadmill for a while, getting outside was a welcome experience. From a purely functional standpoint, facial hair, especially in beard or goatee format, provides a nice guard against the biting winter wind. I've thought of going to a cut down format but each time I've recently been outside have reconsidered the benefits of said hirsuteness.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Plugged In

If you're ever interested in getting a good take on what a movie, television show, or piece of music is all about, check out www.PluggedInOnline.com. It is the website companion to the magazine Plugged In, which is published by Focus on the Family.

All too often one hears about this or that great movie or television show only to check it out and find questionable or objectional content. Plugged In provides good reviews of various popular media to give the discerning viewer advance warning. The reviews also provide a good overview of what movies are about and is written from a family oriented perspective. I've found the reviews beneficial in knowing ahead of time what I'm about to let enter my mind. You know the whole garbage in, garbage out thing. I hope this resource helps you too as you decide on entertainment options.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." -Romans 12:2

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hindu Temple

Over the holidays, while visiting my family in Atlanta, we took a field trip to the Hindu temple known as BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in my home town of Lilburn, GA. This was my first experience being inside a Hindu temple and one word I would describe it with is intricate. It is the largest temple of it's kind outside of India according to Wikipedia. At 75 feet tall it also makes the structure the tallest in the city of Lilburn.

When entering, visitors are required to take their shoes off which I assume is out of respect for the place as well as generally a good housekeeping policy. After spending some time looking around I have a vague sense of what the BAPS demonination of Hinduism is about. Basically, a man named Bhagwan Swaminarayan started this denomination during the 1800s. There were several idols inside and figures of previous spiritual leaders known as gurus.

My sense was that it was a good works oriented faith and that you can either be "god" or eventually through reincarnation work your way towards a state of nirvana. While it seemed that those following the principles of the religion would be moral people, there was also a certain sense of emptiness to it from the standpoint that there is no ultimate authority who can give power to overcome sin like Jesus Christ. There also does not appear to be a relational aspect to it but rather one must of his or her own power come to a greater state of being and peace. In my experience the only times I have true peace and fullfillment is when I'm walking daily with Jesus through reading the Bible talking with him through prayer and worship whether that be singing, playing guitar, running, being outdoors or some other form of worship.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Grande Expectations

Grande Expectations by Karen Blumenthal

Have you ever watched a particular stock go up and down in value in the market and had trouble understanding the rational behind why it moved as it did? In Grande Expectations Blumenthal, a former long time writer for the Wall Street Journal, examines the historically "hot" stock of Starbucks. In it, she examines varying players in the buying and selling of a stock and spends time with each of them to understand why they choose to buy, sell, or hold Starbucks stock. The company had their Initial Public Offering of stock in 1992 and since that time has rocketed in growth.

One clever stylistic portion of the book is the text on the first page of each chapter is tapered in the form of a coffee cup. The chapters are divided by months and Blumenthal examines different things which affected the stock price. One example is an examination of how a price increase in coffee or the introduction of seasonal products affect sales and consequently the stock price. The book is not only a chronological account of the stock's price over the year of 2005 but also delves into the roles of analysts, mutual funds, hedge funds, investment clubs, individuals and varying other investors.

She attends the shareholder company meeting, which is put on as an entertaining spectacle and huge pep rally for shareholders. Additionally, she speaks with CEO Howard Shultz and a number of other executives to understand company strategy and why they do what they do. She also talks with local Starbucks owners and learns about the company's purpose in sometimes having multiple stores within close proximity such as directly across the street.

The stock market prices stocks based on expectations and potential for growth. It rewards companies which consistently produce strong growth and punishes companies when numbers slip even slightly from what its high expectations are. This can be seen in high growth companies who report solid earnings and yet the stock price takes a hit. The market has come to expect extraordinary results and prices the stock as such so when results are simply good and not extraordinary the stock price can fall.

It would have been nice to have seen the stock followed during 2006 so more recent history could have been followed but having a record of the stock's actions during 2005 was also educational. At times the technique of using months as chapter breaks did not seem to work from a literary standpoint. To some degree, we revisited the same characters whether individual investors, analysts, or investment clubs but I would like to have maintained the same cast and visited with them more frequently during the year to better grasp their thinking on actions with the stock. At the same time, the book tried to dig down to understand the various elements involved in why a stock price moves. The book felt like a journalistic style of interview, background, and research which provided a good end product but perhaps could have excelled more if it focused either on the story of how the individuals interacted with the stock or more strictly on the various components of why the stock moves.

Regardless of the aforementioned suggestions, the book provides a great historical and relatively current look at what is becoming a classic company recognized worldwide as well as insight into why a stock price moves as it does. Whether you're a coffee lover, stock market buff, or financial nerd, this book provides good reading material and lessons along the way.

If you found this review beneficial, please let Amazon know at this link.

The Pelican Brief

The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

In this early novel by Grisham, he dives into the intrigue and secrets of Washington insiders, the murder of 2 supreme court justices, and the conspiracy behind it. A law student at Tulane University writes a brief nicknamed the Pelican Brief in which she proposes one of the president's financial supporter's link to the murders. This happens to fall into the hands of the FBI then makes its way to the President and CIA. They launch an all out investigation but apparently whomever ordered the original murders doesn't like this and begins knocking off more people. The law student connects with a reporter from the Washington Post and they go on a wild chase to prove the veracity of the brief while running from the killers.

Written in his classic legal thriller style, The Pelican Brief is quality Grisham fiction and will keep you turning the pages to the end.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.
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