Dow And Up And Dow Again

I don’t know what’s harder to read about right now:  political news, or the stock market.

dreamstime_xl_29871962-customSince I don’t want to lose any readers, we shan’t be talking about political news.  But checking out what’s been going on in the stock market recently is equally stomach-churning.  October has been one of the worst months in the stock market in a very long time, generating talk that we’re in the midst of a dreaded “correction.”  Even after springing back up by more than 400 points yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is still down almost 6 percent this month, making it the worst month since August 2015.  The news for the S&P 500 has been even worse:  in October its down almost 8 percent, its worst month since May 2010.

And for those of us who aren’t working on Wall Street, the movements of the markets seem random and inexplicable.  Stock are down, then up, then down again — sometimes, all on the same day.  On Monday, the Dow surged upward, then plummeted, and ended up covering more than 900 points in its abrupt mood swing.  You read the reports on the markets that try to make sense of the movements — on Monday, for example, the stated culprit for the downturn was concerns about new trade actions with China, and on other bad days it’s those nefarious “profit takers” — and you really wonder if anybody knows why the markets move as they do.  And this shouldn’t come as a surprise, either:  after all, the markets are the sum of the actions of millions of individual investors, mutual funds, trading bots, institutional investors, portfolio traders, brokerage firms, foreign investors, and countless other actors.  It would be an unusual day, indeed, when all of the disparate participants in the market are motivated by the same news to take the same actions on the same day.

So, what’s a small investor to do?  I think the key is to not overreact, and to realize that investing in the market is supposed to be a long-term thing.  The little guy is never going to have the information the big players do and can’t plausibly time the market or anticipate the abrupt movements.  If you’re in the market long-term, don’t get distracted by the sickening plunges or the big climbs, because you’re really focused on what’s happening over the course of years.  And if you can’t take a long-term view, maybe you shouldn’t be in the markets at all.

Ignoring that stock market app on your phone helps, too.

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Trick Or Treating In The ’60s

We’re getting ready for Beggars’ Night in Columbus, but that’s just part of what has become an increasingly big, and prolonged, celebration of Halloween in America.

In German Village, we’ve already had an adult trick or treat night that gave “grown-ups” a chance to don costumes, act like kids, and go to designated locations where they could have special drinks and eat Halloween food.  If you turn on your TV, you’ll see lots of commercials about preparing special Halloween-themed foods, decorating your house with spiders, fake cobwebs, and other scary stuff, and making or buying elaborate get-ups for your kids.  It all reflects the reality that, every year, Americans spend more and more on Halloween.   

f22c4ef1e347c837bc8f82d4dbf0581aIt was . . . different during the ’60s.  Halloween was almost exclusively a kid’s holiday in those days; I don’t remember adults being very involved or all that interested in participating themselves.   Most of us kids came up with our own costume ideas and made them ourselves, because there weren’t a lot of other options — you could buy a cheap costume from the local store, but it was impossible to see or even breathe in the hard plastic mask with a slit for the mouth and little holes for the eyes that was always of the package, and the flimsy bodysuit part of the costume was ripped to shreds almost immediately unless you stood perfectly still, like the unfortunate kids in the photo above.  After one year where I, too, went as Batman and wandered around with a sweating face, unable to see or make myself heard clearly, I decided that the homemade costume route was definitely the way to go.

I don’t remember much about the costumes I made, except that they were pretty simple.  One year UJ, Cath and I went as three of the four Monkees — I think I was Mickey Dolenz, my favorite Monkee — but our costumes didn’t matter much because it was unseasonably cold for trick or treating that year and Mom made us bundle up to the point you couldn’t see our Monkee outfits, anyway.  One year I was a pirate, one year I donned a jersey and went as a generic “football player,” and another year — I’m embarrassed to admit — I went as a “bum,” putting on some beat-up clothing, a battered hat, and smearing some of Mom’s mascara on my chin to give the appearance of unshaven beard stubble.  The hobo outfit was common in that pre-PC era and was an easy costume to make and blessedly mask-free, but I’m guessing that nobody goes trick or treating as a “bum” these days.

That’s one of the many ways in which Halloween has changed since I was a kid.  One thing that hasn’t changed:  kids still want chocolate to put into their trick or treat sack.  No apples or popcorn balls, please!

Toodaloo, Hue

The Browns fired their head coach Hue Jackson today.  Jackson had an abysmal record as the Browns’ head coach, but he actually lasted for more than two seasons before getting canned. That makes him one of the Browns’ longest-tenured head coaches since their return to the NFL — which is pretty pathetic.

nfl-head-coach-hot-seats-2018-1532975615I watched the Browns game against the Steelers yesterday, and the experience was like getting a tooth drilled without any novocaine while simultaneously receiving a colonoscopy.  The Browns’ defense looks like it belongs in the NFL — or could belong in the NFL, if the offense could actually get a first down or two and let the defense get some rest now and then — but the offense is beyond putrid.  When the Browns offense was on the field it was horribly overmatched, and a lot of the problem seemed to be the product of a bad scheme that allowed Steelers to rush the quarterback unblocked on virtually every snap.  It’s like the Browns weren’t even being coached on the offensive side of the ball.

So so long, Hue, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  I’ve got no high hopes on who the Browns might hire, but the person literally can’t be any worse that Hue Jackson, who won all of three games in two and a half years and “led” the Browns to a winless season last year.  I just hope that the front office finds somebody who actually can coach and figure out how to score touchdowns, like every other NFL team does.

A Defense Of Fingernail Biting

I ran across this piece in the New York Times in defense of biting your fingernails, and I immediately thought of Grandma Webner — perhaps the most resolute opponent of fingernail biting in the history of mankind.  She regularly hectored UJ and me about our nail-biting habits, even to the point of mocking, with a grimace, the hands-in-mouth pose of the hapless nail-biter.

A defense of fingernail biting?  Grandma would scoff at the very notion.

1000-woman-biting-nailsThe Times piece makes a reasonable case, tracing nail-biting back to Cleanthes of Assos, a Stoic philosopher, and deftly addressing the arguments that nail-biting is gross and unhygienic.  And yet, the writer goes too far in justifying the conduct of many of those of us who just can’t resist chewing on our fingertips.  She concludes that “nail-biting pairs best not with tension and anxiety but with the moody, concentric revolutions of meditative thought” and adds:  “The urge itself may be faintly animalistic, but answering it can give rise to the kind of mental wandering that makes us more human. It’s freeing and creative, more about process than results. If the point were only to shorten your fingernails, clippers would do — but clippers are regimented and mechanical, while nail-biting is, literally, a manual art. It’s personal, bespoke, precise: You have to bite just the right nail, just the right amount. The method is traditional, and the materials couldn’t be more locally sourced. It’s the ultimate handicraft.”

Grandma worked hard to get me to stop biting my fingernails, and now Kish is the last line of fingernail defense.  With their aid and counsel, I’ve managed to stop biting my fingernails as a matter of course, and to reduce temptation at an absolute minimum I keep nail clippers at the ready in convenient places so I can always give a tempting nail a quick trim.  But when a key sporting event is on the line, I still feel those fingers reflexively reaching upward and my teeth preparing to render a satisfying snick as they chop through the keratin at a moment of maximum uncertainty.

In my case, at least, fingernail biting is clearly associated with tension and anxiety, not “the moody, concentric revolutions of meditative thought.”  It’s an old childhood habit that emerges anew at times of stress, and when the ballgame is over I still feel a twinge of shame that I’m not more disciplined and, frankly, grown-up about it.

Grandma Webner had a lasting impact.

The Awful Hatred Within

We now have to ask ourselves two more of those questions that can’t ever be adequately answered, not really.  Why would someone arm themselves with an arsenal of weapons and go into a synagogue to murder complete strangers during a bris?   Why would someone conclude that the best course of action under the circumstances was to create crude pipe bombs and send them to political and cultural figures?  Why?  Why?

181027-synagogue-shooting-al-1443_70ba0bef22a8f1ea38102491713be93c-fit-760wIf you read about Robert Bowers, the despicable anti-Semitic murderer who shot up the Tree of Life Congregation in a Pittsburgh suburb, and Cesar Sayoc, the lunatic who allegedly sent bombs to the likes of former President Barack Obama, you quickly realize that they had at least one hugely significant thing in common:  they were haters.  They hated their targets with a terrible, venomous passion, they expressed their hatred on social media and in their interactions with others, and finally they acted on their hatred in the most horrible ways imaginable.

What would it be like to live your life consumed with hatred for some target group, so filled with loathing and anger that you would reach the point where you would act out your hatred on complete strangers?  And more to the point, how many more Robert Bowers and Cesar Sayocs are out there, lurking in the shadows and on the fringes of society, simmering in their hatred and disturbed world views, on the verge of wreaking havoc?  How many more disturbed ranters might be ready to take action?   And, perhaps even more disturbing, how many people noticed the evil directions that Robert Bowers and Cesar Sayoc were taking, could have done something about it, but didn’t?

We all need to stand with the Tree of Life Congregation and the targets of the mad bombing scheme, and also recognize that this kind of ugly, violent hatred can be, and has been, directed at any group that can be defined by religious, political, or personal differences.  But more proactively, we need to keep an eye on those people who appear to be veering off into a place where they might do something so abominable.   We Americans, as a community, need to start doing a better job of watching out for each other and protecting our way of life from the depredations of the lunatic fringes.

Burano

Today we visited Burano one of the islands in the Venetian lagoon – it is considered one of the most colorful communities in the world – by law if you own a house there you must paint it a different color then your neighbors – I love this idea !!!!

The New Words Of 1957

Language is a living thing — ever-changing, morphing and adapting to develop new words to capture and describe new devices, thoughts, and concepts.  Merriam-Webster has come up with a nifty way to illustrate that point.  It’s called the Time Traveler, and it allows you to pick a year and see which new words were first used in print that year.

41hmjsg3yhlSo why not try 1957, the year of my birth and the year of the largest explosion of births in the American Baby Boom?  Just to set the context, it was the second term of the Eisenhower Administration, federal troops were called out to allow nine African-American students to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 and started the Space Race, the last episode of I Love Lucy was broadcast and the first episodes of American Bandstand and Perry Mason aired on black and white TVs with rabbit ear antennas, and artists like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard dominated the popular music charts.

And according to the Merriam-Webster Time Traveler, in 1957 words like bitchin’, chuffed, fantabulous, herky-jerky, hipsterism, lowball, low-rent, magic mushroom, overkill, pothead, rumble strip, scumbag, and Zen-like first appeared in print and made their way into popular lexicon.  “Static cling” was coined — no doubt by a Madison Avenue-type — to describe the annoying condition of clothes that have just come out of the dryer, “gold record” was first used to describe a hit, and somebody thought that “happy camper” was a good way to describe a contented individual.  And more serious words and phrases, like amniocentesis, antiballistic missile, cardiomyopathy, computerize, informed consent, pat down, and transsexual entered the national vocabulary.

Where would we be without words like “low-rent” and “happy camper”?  I’d say that 1957 made our national conversation a little bit richer.