Heraclitean River

You can never step into the same river twice. . .

A new use of an old obscure word has emerged in recent years.  With leap day approaching, we will undoubtedly hear a number of sources wishing a “Happy Bissextile Day!” for February 29th.

The problem is that the term bissextile day does not refer to February 29th, and it never did.  I assume some folks get this mistaken impression due to old dictionaries that state the definition of bissextile day as something like “the day added to leap years.”  That definition is correct, but the problem is such definitions were written back when educated people would have understood that “the day added to leap years” was February 24th, not February 29th.

“Huh?” you say.  “What do you mean, February 24th is added in leap years?  That makes no sense.”  Well, it doesn’t make sense in modern calendars, but that is in fact when the bissextile day happens in leap years.  Thus, if you want to use that fancy word, don’t use it for the 29th.  Let me explain. continue reading…

Video cameras are everywhere in the modern world.  Security cameras are watching you in many public spaces.  Individuals carry cameras around in their phones.

So when the Supreme Court of the United States (or SCOTUS) takes a stand against them, it can seem weird and out-of-touch with the modern world.  The (quite understandable) reaction from news media and the general public is confusion.  “What do they want to hide?” we ask.

This question makes headlines a few times every year, usually when the news media wants to take advantage of some significant attention SCOTUS is getting to further the media’s agenda.  Please note that the news media is absolutely not a disinterested party here.  Even though we hope that they bring us valuable “news,” the media’s primary goal is to make money and sell ads.  Reading transcripts on air with drawings or even playing the audio recordings SCOTUS makes available of oral arguments is simply not as compelling as video.  It doesn’t draw viewers.  There’s a lot of interest in SCOTUS, and the media knows that video could allow them to increase viewers and thus profits during high-profile cases.

We should therefore take the media’s continual demands with a “grain of salt.”  They’re not just after “transparency” here: they’re after ratings.

But what are the arguments against cameras and video then? continue reading…

Over the past year or so, I’ve explored a number of issues related to mortgage overpayment strategies, particularly issues that should be considered before simply piling excess cash into your mortgage.  Here are links to all the posts in the series, with their topics:

  1. Inflation
  2. Other high-interest debt
  3. Saving for retirement
  4. Emergency funds and insurance
  5. Selling soon
  6. Other investments
  7. When you should pay down your mortgage

This post is part 7 of 7 in a series entitled “When not to pay down your mortgage,” which outlines many scenarios where paying extra on your mortgage isn’t necessarily the best financial strategy.

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This series of posts has attempted to identify reasons why the standard advice that putting extra money into your mortgage may not be the best financial strategy in all circumstances.  Nevertheless, there are also plenty of situations where the standard advice is still relevant.  In this final article, we’ll consider some reasons to pay down your mortgage. continue reading…

This post is part 6 of 7 in a series entitled “When not to pay down your mortgage,” which outlines many scenarios where paying extra on your mortgage isn’t necessarily the best financial strategy.

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In previous installments of this series, we considered your mortgage money as if it were “in a vacuum.”  When inflation or equity payments were considered, we didn’t consider what you might do with your money otherwise.  We just compared the returns on your investment essentially to what you’d have if you just kept the money as cash.

Of course, most people don’t do that.  At a minimum, if you don’t overpay on your mortgage, you might put the money into a money market account or something.  For the past few years, those tend to earn less than 1% interest or so, but that’s still better than 0%.

As mentioned in previous posts, there are some “no-brainer” situations where putting your money elsewhere is a better investment than putting it into your mortgage.  If you have credit card debt or other loans with very high interest rates, definitely pay those off first.  If your employer gives you a “match” for your retirement, be sure to take advantage of that to the greatest degree possible, because getting an immediate 100% or 50% return or whatever is better than any other guaranteed investment out there (including your mortgage).

But let’s say you’re already paid off high-interest loans and credit cards, and you’re getting your employer match.  You have an emergency fund and adequate insurance.  Should you begin pumping money into your mortgage? continue reading…

There seems to be a lot of confusion in the past few days about what exactly will happen if the Boston Marathon suspect isn’t “given his Miranda rights.”  On the one side, you have a lot of liberals and the ACLU claiming that his “rights are being taken away.”  On the other side you have conservatives wanting to treat him as an “enemy combatant” and remove his rights.

Neither of these things have much to do with the “Miranda warning.”  Your rights don’t disappear just because you aren’t read them.  Let me explain. continue reading…

This post is part 5 of 7 in a series entitled “When not to pay down your mortgage,” which outlines many scenarios where paying extra on your mortgage isn’t necessarily the best financial strategy.

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The previous articles in this series have dealt with considerations that should be important to every home buyer: preparing for emergencies, saving responsibly, and making informed decisions about how to prioritize debt payment.

What we haven’t yet considered, though, is the role of real estate as an investment.  For many people, the goal of getting a mortgage is ultimately to own that home.  If that is your goal, this article may not be as relevant to you.  But if you don’t necessarily plan on staying in the same area for the long term, or you plan on upgrading to a larger home at some point, your goal is NOT owning the home you are currently paying a mortgage on.

Instead, you need to consider payments on your mortgage as part of a larger investment strategy. continue reading…

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a doctor named Kermit Gosnell on trial in Philadelphia for murdering seven infants after botched abortions, along with various other crimes.  Aside from the local Philadelphia press and various pro-life blogs, little has been said about this story nationally until a few days ago, despite the fact that the trial has been going on for weeks.  A particularly damning photograph shows an almost empty reserved press section at the trial.

The mainstream press has not reacted well to those asking why the story hasn’t been covered.  As the story spread over Twitter, there have been plenty of voices trying to excuse the situation, strenuously arguing against a “coverup.”   Of course, open letters from conservative sources asking the mainstream media to cover the story went unheeded for almost a week, as stories like the Rutgers basketball fiasco got significant coverage as a literal baby-killer went unnoticed. continue reading…

In common everyday language, the word agnostic has come to mean “I’m not sure about the whole religion thing.”  Many people who don’t really believe in a deity prefer it to the term atheist, which can sound harsh to some.

While agnostic is often used today, it has a precise technical meaning that is somewhat different from the common definition.  It allows a certain kind of distinction to be made about our knowledge and beliefs that are difficult to make with other terms, so it’s useful to review the actual definitions.  Also, as we’ll see, it’s actually possible to be an agnostic atheist or even an agnostic theist. continue reading…

This post is part 4 of 7 in a series entitled “When not to pay down your mortgage,” which outlines many scenarios where paying extra on your mortgage isn’t necessarily the best financial strategy.

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In previous articles, we identified two of the highest priorities in financial planning that should generally be addressed before making extra payments on a mortgage — high-interest debt and employer matches to retirement funds.  There is one further high priority that should take precedence over most other investments: preparing for disaster. continue reading…