Robot Graduates

By |2019-03-29T09:12:09-04:00March 29th, 2019|Global Market Update|

“You want to build robots or sell robots.” Photo: Ann H. Source: Pexels That was the advice I heard for young people a few years ago, and at the time it sounded a lot like the “plastics” comment from at beginning of the 1967 movie “The Graduate,” where a neighbor tells Dustin Hoffman’s character that he has one word of advice, just one word. That word, in the mid-60s, was plastics. There was a great future in plastics. Thousands of jobs and billions in [...]

Fashioning Change

By |2019-03-29T05:58:34-04:00March 29th, 2019|Global Market Update|

“Fashion is made to be unfashionable.” Photo: Rawpixel. Source: Pixabay That’s what fashion designer and business woman Coco Chanel said about the clothing business. She grew up in an impoverished family in a south of France in the late 19th century. Her mother died of tuberculosis when she was 12, and her father placed her in an orphanage, where she learned to sew. After a brief stint as a cabaret performer, she began to design and sell innovative outfits and looks. She’s credited for [...]

On the Beach

By |2019-03-28T05:45:59-04:00March 28th, 2019|Global Market Update|

Have you ever noticed beach grass? Photo: Ellywa. Source: Wikimedia New England beaches have a lot of sand dunes, often covered with beach grass. The plants grow in lines, supported by underground runners that link them to each another. Over time, the grass thickens and the dunes stabilize. This helps prevent erosion. In Europe, people used to use beach grass for fuel, thatch for their roofs, and for animal feed, until they realized that using the up the grass caused the shoreline to shift. [...]

Critical States

By |2019-03-27T05:56:55-04:00March 27th, 2019|Global Market Update|

Is everything about to change? Illustration: Mattieu Marechal. Source: Wikimedia A critical state is a concept from thermodynamics where something is ready for a phase change. Think of water turning to ice. When you look at a body of water that’s close to freezing, it looks just like normal cold water. But microscopically, the water molecules are quite different. When water is close to freezing, it’s filled with tiny ice crystals – crystals so small that the water remains in liquid form. But this [...]

Keep In Touch

By |2019-03-26T05:55:21-04:00March 26th, 2019|Global Market Update|

How big can our social network be? Photo: Pierre Metivier Source: Flikr. CC-BY-2.0 “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That’s they old adage about networking. And with social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it’s never been easier to connect. In just a few clicks we can share pictures, ideas, and gossip with folks from all kinds of backgrounds anywhere in the world. But has this actually increased our ability to connect? An anthropologist in the ‘90s looked at primate brains [...]

Winning by Losing

By |2019-03-22T06:53:12-04:00March 22nd, 2019|Global Market Update|

Everyone’s excited by rags-to-riches stories, like Netflix or Amazon or Apple. But what a competitive market really allows is failure. Photo: Thelesleyshow. Source: Morguefile Long ago, if you couldn’t pay your bills, you went to debtor’s prison where you rotted until you could get someone to bail you out. In ancient Rome, if you pledged yourself as collateral and couldn’t pay your loan, you became your lender’s slave. Colonial Virginia was settled by thousands of indentured servants working off their debts with their labor. [...]

Investment Madness

By |2019-03-21T06:34:51-04:00March 21st, 2019|Global Market Update|

Can investors learn anything from “March Madness”? Photo: Austin Bjornholt. Source: Wikimedia The week, national productivity will hit the skids as millions of folks focus on a bunch of 94’ by 50’ hard courts around the country. What can investors learn from “March Madness,” our annual basketball mania? First, predicting the future is hard. All kinds of variables come into play in college tournaments. No one can predict the upcoming upsets, but we know they’ll happen. That’s part of what makes this so fun. [...]

Humble Origins

By |2019-03-21T05:27:19-04:00March 21st, 2019|Global Market Update|

Can John Templeton still speak to investors? Photo: Walter Mario Stein. Source: Unsplash The Chinese have a saying about humility: the taller bamboo grows, the deeper it bows. I thought about this recently when I read the news of the latest Templeton Prize. John Templeton was a great investor and a pioneer of the mutual fund industry. He grew up on a hardscrabble farm during the Depression in Tennessee and worked his way through college, later attending Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He had [...]

The Long, Long Cycle

By |2019-03-19T10:35:13-04:00March 19th, 2019|Global Market Update|

What are the long-run expectations for growth? Photo: Nicolas Henderson.Source: Flikr. CC-BY-2.0 Just outside of Amarillo, Texas, overlooking the Panhandle plains, stands a pair of trunkless legs, usually covered with graffiti, or with socks spray-painted on them. They aren’t the remains of a school mascot that was vandalized. The legs were built there by a quirky Amarillo businessman, inspired by the 19th-century poem “Ozymandias.” The poem is about a statue standing in the middle of the Egyptian desert, erected by a grand monarch thousands [...]

Big Bad Stories

By |2019-03-18T06:15:17-04:00March 18th, 2019|Global Market Update|

Are some myths dangerous? Paul Bunyan and Babe. Photo: Mike Baker. Source: Wikipedia Growing up, I read about the legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan, and his faithful ox, “Babe.” They did amazing things, like create Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, the St. Lawrence River’s 1,000 islands, and dig Lake Superior as a watering trough. The stories were a benign piece of folklore, a bit of boosterism about Americans settling the frontier in the 19th century. But some stories are dangerous. They shape the way we look at [...]