Author Archives: smartpeopleiknow

Why the stock market goes down and why it goes up (and what you should consider)

Stock market gains chart since 2009

Since the start of the great recession in 2009, two things have happened in the stock market:

  • In the short term, events have occurred that correlate with declines in the stock market
  • In the long term, the stock market has steadily improved significantly

This leads me to two conclusions

  • Always take a longer term view of the stock market
  • The things that drive the stock market in the long term are very different than the short term drivers

The second conclusion is something that this piece tries to tackle: Gradual Improvements Go Unnoticed. It is easy to see what drives the stock market down in the short term: it is difficult to ascertain what drives the stock market up in the long term. Gradual improvements could be a contributor. Other things, like the activity of the central bank, affects this. Even how other markets in the world in the world can affect the stock market.

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Why aren’t people responding to your email?!

The New Yorker has the answer: Sorry for the Delayed Response – The New Yorker. (I think it is meant to be humourous, but it’s a little too close to reality to make me wonder. :))

Reboot your fitness routine with these four links

bar-bell dumbbell
If you looking to reboot your fitness routine, these four links could help.

  1. Beginner Body Weight Workout – Build Muscle, Burn Fat | Nerd Fitness
  2. How to Build Your Own Workout Routine | Nerd Fitness
  3. The 14 best beginner’s exercises to do at home – Men’s Health
  4. Total Body Training With Only A Pair Of Dumbbells.

(PHOTO CREDIT: Markus Spiske / raumrot.com via Flickr.com Creative Commons Search)

If Ruth Bader Ginsburg can workout like this, so can you

Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2016 portrait

An interesting article: Ben Schreckinger from Politico Did Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Workout. It Nearly Broke Him. If you want to see what the 80+ year old judge does to keep in shape, or be inspired to keep in shape yourself, I’d recommend reading it.

It can get too easy to forgo exercising when you get older. One reason people stop is because they think they are too old and cannot do it. Or if they do exercise, they will harm themselves.  Her trainer cautions against that, and says:

“Do something. If you’re not doing anything then I advise you do something. It doesn’t matter what you do. You find out what is your niche and do something. Your body is made to move.”

Good advice. Maybe your fitness routine is long walks. Or cycling. Or yoga. Or benchpressing hundreds of pounds. Whatever you do, do something. And read the article. I hope it will  inspire you to get fit. Whatever your age.

(Image linked to on Wikipedia)

Is everything political? What is wrong about thinking that way?

Albert Camus, gagnant de prix Nobel, portrait en buste, posé au bureau, faisant face à gauche, cigarette de tabagisme.jpg

I was thinking this when reading this quote from Orwell: “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” The idea, implied by this quote, is that everything is political. This idea springs like a trap on people who want to escape from politics and focus on other areas of human concern, like arts or sports or science.

Is this trap avoidable? There is an argument, found here, Only a Game: The Activist’s Argument (Everything is Political), that says that saying “everything is political” renders it meaningless. It’s worthwhile reading the piece, but I don’t think the argument that the statement is meaningless holds true.

Instead, I would first accept it and I would expand the notion of “everything is political” to say that

  • everything is political
  • everything is scientific
  • everything is religious
  • everything is philosophical
  • everything is art

For if you can make the case that everything is political, you can also make the case that everything is scientific, religious, and so on. (In fact, you can extend this list to other areas of human thought and human interest.) But how can everything be all of those things at the same time? To see how that can be the case, that I would on refine the statements and replace “everything is” with “everything can be viewed from the lens of”, as in:

  • everything can be viewed from the lens of politics
  • everything can be viewed from the lens of science
  • everything can be viewed from the lens of religion
  • etc.

More than that, everything can be viewed from each of those lens at the same time. For example, if I go see a film about Alan Turing, I can view it from the lens of science and I can view it from the lens of politics or the lens of art. The film has political and artistic and scientific themes and ideas, and anyone watching it can view it from those differing viewpoints. You may not care to do so, but it is possible to do so.

Now take the above list and change it to read this way:

  • everything is only or mainly political
  • everything is only or mainly scientific
  • everything is only or mainly religious
  • everything is only or mainly philosophical
  • everything is only or mainly art

For some political activists, the phrases “everything is political” and “everything is only or mainly political” are practically the same. Likewise for scientists, artists, philosophers, etc. For me, and for many people, I think “everything is only or mainly” is a relatively weak notion. For example, if a crowd is watching a film, they may watch it through any or all of these lens, or none of them. If asked later if the film she made is mainly political, the director may agree that there is a political aspect to it, but the main themes and elements of the film could be religious and aesthetic or scientific. The film may have something to do with politics, but to see it only as or mainly as political is to miss out on the other aspects of the film.

What is true of a film is also true of our lives. Our lives, and the things that matter to us in our lives, can be seen through a political lens, and a religious lens, and many other lens we may pick up. However such lens provided a limited view. It is better to look at our lives and the lives of others as broadly as possible. We will see more that way. We will hopefully understand ourselves better. And we will acquire a view and a wisdom that those stuck to peering only through lens will never achieve.

(Image is not of Orwell but Albert Camus, which I felt to be more appropriate. Photograph by UPI –  image  from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c08028.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/93507512/ and Wikipedia)

Is the FED broken? Some random thoughts.

Is the FED  (Federal Reserve System) broken? If not broken then certainly being strongly tested, as this piece shows to me: The Fed Is Searching for a New Framework. New Minutes Show It Doesn’t Have One Yet. – The New York Times.

Since the start of the Great Recession, the target interest rate has gone from just over 5% to just over 0% and has more or less stayed that way for over half a decade. (See the chart). After a very long pause, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve has begun the process of raising interest rates,  a process that her predecessors have engaged in over recent decades as they put their own distinctive stamp on the economy. (See A History of Fed Leaders and Interest Rates – The New York Times). Some of them, like Paul Volcker, have been hugely successful in shaping the economy. Others, like Alan Greenspan, also have shaped the economy hugely, but I would add, unsuccessfully. So what should the FED do?

Paul Krugman has his take, here. Perhaps an extreme inflation target is the answer, just like Volcker’s extreme interest rates were the answer for their time. However, I don’t think they are symmetrical, and the goals of a higher inflation target would be dampened down by other forces. Furthermore, the FED and most other central banks seem only capable dealing with tamping down inflation and not so capable when dealing with unemployment.

The Chairwoman is signalling she will be raising rates soon. We should see what the effect is, and how the economy and President Trump and Congress responds. If the economy goes into a recession, that would say to me the FED is broken.  If the economy does not go into a recession, I would say this means the FED still has a limited role in managing the economy. Let’s see.

Something beautiful: Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’, Illustrated

Artist Karina Puente is illustrating  Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ and the web site ArchDaily has a sample of some of her work, including the image you see above.

I hadn’t expected to like illustrations of this book. The writing itself is so evocative, I would have thought that illustration would limit it.  I make an exception for these works: they complement rather than reduce the writing.

I’d love to see an edition of Invisible Cities filled with Puente’s illustrations. For now, we can enjoy what we see at Archdaily.com.