Stuff Yaron Finds Interesting

Technology, Politics, Food, Finance, etc.

Planning to Retire – A Financial Autobiography – Step 1 – How Much Is that Housey In the Window?

I love owning a home. And even better, owning a home free and clear by the time we retire will make our retirement less expensive and more secure. But I personally don't see a home as an investment. It's not diversified and if we depend on the ability to cash in on it then we have to give up our freedom to choose where we live. So for now our goal is to own a home free and clear by the time we retire but not to rely on the equity in the home for living expenses during retirement.

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Running a J2SE 1.5/J2SE 5.0/Java 5.0/whatever Program From Command Line Under OS X

The good news is that J2SE 1.5 is available for OS X. Last I checked it was available here. For whatever reason Apple decided to keep the default version of Java on OS X as 1.4.2. So when I try to run Java programs directly from Terminal using "Java -Jar X.Jar" the program will be run under 1.4.2. But the goodies in J2SE 1.5 (like generics and enums and iterators) are just too yummy to give up so all my Java code is in 1.5 which means it won't run on Terminal. To fix this problem I found a script (details available here). Once I downloaded the script and saved it as java_functions_bashrc, I then opened terminal, navigated to the directory with the file and executed "source java_functions_bashrc". This changes the command prompt to indicate that the file is running and I then ran "setJava 1.5". At this point any Jar files I run will be run under J2SE 1.5. I tend now to write little scripts that wrap my Jar files to load up Java 1.5.

Creating Executable Jar Files That Contain Jar Files

Naive Java user that I am when I built a Java program that contains Jar files for Xerces and MySQL and such I assumed that Eclipse would be able to create a Jar file for my program that contains these other Jar files. That part was right, Eclipse can do that, what Eclipse can't do is set up the class paths correctly so my custom generated Jar file can't find the classes it needs. Thankfully, One-Jar came to the rescue.

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Planning To Retire – A Financial Autobiography – Step 1 – Defined Benefit Assets

Defined benefit assets are assets that pay out a fixed sum of money, typically until one dies. There are three traditional types of defined benefit assets – Social Security, Pensions and Fixed Annuities. Both Social Security and pensions are basically a form of insurance, the business model is that lots of people 'pay in' but most people die early enough to use their contributions to pay other people's benefits. Well, that was the theory, and it worked just fine until people did the really inconvenient thing and started living too long. In the case of annuities the business model is built more around offering lower than market returns. In either case Marina and I are assuming we will have no defined benefit assets available to us during retirement.

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Cheney's Lie About 9/11

I am naive. That seems the most reasonable explanation for how it is that I'm actually shocked and sickened that the Vice President of the United States would tell a bald face lie. The Vice President is now trying to justify George Bush's orders allowing the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans without court order by stating that:

"Another vital step the President took in the days following 9/11 was to authorize the National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications. There are no communications more important to the safety of the United States than those related to al Qaeda that have one end in the United States. If we'd been able to do this before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two hijackers who subsequently flew a jet into the Pentagon."

In other words, only if the President had been free to order warrant-less searches before 9/11, as he subsequently ordered after 9/11, we could have captured two of the terrorists.

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Planning To Retire – A Financial Autobiography – Intro – The Times They Are a Changing

I'm good at obsessing. That's why it was so important for me to understand the limits of what I could know about the future. But in the same sense I also need to understand that the specific plans I make today for how to achieve our retirement will, inevitably change. Thankfully, change in the financial world doesn't come all that quickly.

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Planning To Retire – A Financial Autobiography – Intro – Two Words: “Financial Planner”

As I stare at the hundreds of pages of notes, several programs (including a seemingly endless series of discarded macros and source code), numerous spreadsheets, piles of academic articles, endless websites, a shelf full of finance books and of course years of effort, I can't help but think this all would have been a lot simpler if I had just hired a financial planner.

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Padilla is to be transferred to a Civilian Prison

The Supreme Court of the United States in a one page decision has ordered that Jose Padilla be moved from military to civilian custody after the U.S. Government dropped its charges that Padilla was a "dirty bomber", charges the government used to justify holding Padilla without trial in a military prison for three years, even though Padilla is an American citizen arrested on American soil. The government's new charges against Padilla are that he was helping to finance foreign terrorists but this time the charges are filed in a civilian court. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had tried to stop Padilla's transfer to a civilian court in order to force the Supreme Court to review Padilla's appeal against his military custody and so determine if his custody was legal. Although the Supreme Court has now ruled that Padilla be moved to civilian custody the decision did say that the Supreme Court would consider Padilla's original appeal against his military custody "in due course."

Planning To Retire – A Financial Autobiography – Intro – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Finance

As Bernstein explains in [SWN] just about everything I need to know in order to plan for retirement isn't just unknown, it's unknowable. Geometric average stock returns? Distribution pattern for bond returns? Correlations between stocks and bonds? Nobody knows and it looks like no one actually can know. My solution to this conundrum is relatively straightforward: I guess.

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