Sunday, April 27, 2008

Merger Report

There's a recent merger in my town which might merit attention. The oldest funeral home has merged with a bank. Right now they are in the process of remodeling the funeral home to be the latest in modern suburban banking. The reason this merger is worthy of note is that it may signal the change that everyone has been seeking for a long time: You can take it with you!

Monday, April 14, 2008

How Many Robins?

I have a bird feeder which I fill with the usual wild bird seed mixture. I do confess that I tend to fill it in good weather rather than in the middle of a snowy winter when the birds really need it. Anyway, it is a rite of spring to get some seed mix into the bird feeder and watch for the birds to come back to my yard after the winter. I'm sure that many of you do the same thing. I don't talk to the birds, but sometimes I bet on them. Right now I am ready to bet on the number of robins that will eat at my bird feeder today. My bet is zero. The reason is that robins don't eat grain; they very capably find and eat worms. They are meat eaters. (Just as there were diet differences among the different types of dinosaurs that were ancestors of the birds.) The point of this discussion is not to show what I know about birds but to remind you that in placing any bet or making any decision you will have better chance of success if you bet on something for which you have prior knowledge. It is always better to own stocks of companies for which you know something about their businesses rather than companies that you know by name only. Likewise, you are better off starting up a company in a field in which you have worked or which you have studied rather than a business which sounds interesting but about which you know nothing. Knowledge is power, and that's why you hear the expression, "The smart money is betting on ______."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Figures Can Lie and Liars Can Figure

Every time you read an article about the forever ongoing presidential election campaign you see citations of statistics from the latest polls. Always remember to take these with a bit of scepticism, even when they show the result you prefer. If I were taking a poll of these matters, I could get totally different results from the same group of people if I simply changed the wording of my questions. For instance, "How troubling will Bill Clinton's presence in a new Clinton White House be for Hillary?" will lead to a totally different result from "Does Hillary Clinton have a great advantage because of Bill being with her in a new Clinton White House?" Similarly, "Does Barack Obama's having lived among people of many ethnic and national backgrounds give him an edge in understanding people from other countries?" will yield a different result from "Do you consider Barack Obama's limited experience in international negotiation meetings a liability?" Going to John McCain, you could ask "Do you think that John McCain's willingness to disagree with George Bush about tactics and spending shows that he would be an independent-minded President?" or you could ask "Do you think that John McCain's continued support of the Iraq war shows that his presidency would be more of the Stay the course mentality?"

Always remember to read the questions (if they even show them) when you examine poll results. In addition, you should look at as many polls as possible, and average the results to get more realistic figures.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Playing in the Mud

Once upon a time there were three kids playing in the mud at day camp. While they were having a break for milk and cookies, their counselor, George, asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up. John said, "I want to be just like you, George, and defend little kids from evil gangs." Barack said, "I want to change the world so that everyone will have an equal chance and there will be no acceptance of evil gangs." Hillary said, "I'm just going to keep playing in the mud forever."