THEY GOT IT ALL WRONG

November 15, 2017


We all have heard that necessity is the mother of invention.  There have been wonderful advances in technology since the Industrial Revolution but some inventions haven’t really captured the imagination of many people, including several of the smartest people on the planet.

Consider, for example, this group: Thomas Edison, Lord Kelvin, Steve Ballmer, Robert Metcalfe, and Albert Augustus Pope. Despite backgrounds of amazing achievement and even brilliance, all share the dubious distinction of making some of the worst technological predictions in history and I mean the very worst.

Had they been right, history would be radically different and today, there would be no airplanes, moon landings, home computers, iPhones, or Internet. Fortunately, they were wrong.  And that should tell us something: Even those who shape the future can’t always get a handle on it.

Let’s take a look at several forecasts that were most publically, painfully, incorrect. From Edison to Kelvin to Ballmer, click through for 10 of the worst technological predictions in history.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” William Thomson (often referred to as Lord Kelvin), mathematical physicist and engineer, President, Royal Society, in 1895.

A prolific scientific scholar whose name is commonly associated with the history of math and science, Lord Kelvin was nevertheless skeptical about flight. In retrospect, it is often said that Kelvin was quoted out of context, but his aversion to flying machines was well known. At one point, he is said to have publically declared that he “had not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation.” OK, go tell that to Wilber and Orville.

“Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. No one will use it, ever. Thomas Edison, 1889.

Thomas Edison’s brilliance was unassailable. A prolific inventor, he earned 1,093 patents in areas ranging from electric power to sound recording to motion pictures and light bulbs. But he believed that alternating current (AC) was unworkable and its high voltages were dangerous.As a result, he battled those who supported the technology. His so-called “war of currents” came to an end, however, when AC grabbed a larger market share, and he was forced out of the control of his own company.

 

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1949.

The oft-repeated quotation, which has virtually taken on a life of its own over the years, is actually condensed. The original quote was: “Where a calculator like the ENIAC today is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1.5 tons.” Stated either way, though, the quotation delivers a clear message: Computers are mammoth machines, and always will be. Prior to the emergence of the transistor as a computing tool, no one, including Popular Mechanics, foresaw the incredible miniaturization that was about to begin.

 

“Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

Hollywood film producer Darryl Zanuck earned three Academy Awards for Best Picture, but proved he had little understanding of the tastes of Americans when it came to technology. Television provided an alternative to the big screen and a superior means of influencing public opinion, despite Zanuck’s dire predictions. Moreover, the technology didn’t wither after six months; it blossomed. By the 1950s, many homes had TVs. In 2013, 79% of the world’s households had them.

 

“I predict the Internet will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, in 1995.

An MIT-educated electrical engineer who co-invented Ethernet and founded 3Com, Robert Metcalfe is a holder of the National Medal of Technology, as well as an IEEE Medal of Honor. Still, he apparently was one of many who failed to foresee the unbelievable potential of the Internet. Today, 47% of the 7.3 billion people on the planet use the Internet. Metcalfe is currently a professor of innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise at the University of Texas at Austin.

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” Steve Ballmer, former CEO, Microsoft Corp., in 2007.

Some magna cum laude Harvard math graduate with an estimated $33 billion in personal wealth, Steve Ballmer had an amazing tenure at Microsoft. Under his leadership, Microsoft’s annual revenue surged from $25 billion to $70 billion, and its net income jumped 215%. Still, his insights failed him when it came to the iPhone. Apple sold 6.7 million iPhones in its first five quarters, and by end of fiscal year 2010, its sales had grown to 73.5 million.

 

 

“After the rocket quits our air and starts on its longer journey, its flight would be neither accelerated nor maintained by the explosion of the charges it then might have left.” The New York Times,1920.

The New York Times was sensationally wrong when it assessed the future of rocketry in 1920, but few people of the era were in a position to dispute their declaration. Forty-one years later, astronaut Alan Shepard was the first American to enter space and 49 years later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, laying waste to the idea that rocketry wouldn’t work. When Apollo 11 was on its way to the moon in 1969, the Times finally acknowledged the famous quotation and amended its view on the subject.

“With over 15 types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.” Business Week, August 2, 1968.

Business Week seemed to be on safe ground in 1968, when it predicted that Japanese market share in the auto industry would be miniscule. But the magazine’s editors underestimated the American consumer’s growing distaste for the domestic concept of planned obsolescence. By the 1970s, Americans were flocking to Japanese dealerships, in large part because Japanese manufacturers made inexpensive, reliable cars. That trend has continued over the past 40 years. In 2016, Japanese automakers built more cars in the US than Detroit did.

“You cannot get people to sit over an explosion.” Albert Augustus Pope, founder, Pope Manufacturing, in the early 1900s.

Albert Augustus Pope thought he saw the future when he launched production of electric cars in Hartford, CT, in 1897. Listening to the quiet performance of the electrics, he made his now-famous declaration about the future of the internal combustion engine. Despite his preference for electrics, however, Pope also built gasoline-burning cars, laying the groundwork for future generations of IC engines. In 2010, there were more than one billion vehicles in the world, the majority of which used internal combustion propulsion.

 

 

 

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked to the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor, Prentice Hall Books,1957.

The concept of data processing was a head-scratcher in 1957, especially for the unnamed Prentice Hall editor who uttered the oft-quoted prediction of its demise. The prediction has since been used in countless technical presentations, usually as an example of our inability to see the future. Amazingly, the editor’s forecast has recently begun to look even worse, as Internet of Things users search for ways to process the mountains of data coming from a new breed of connected devices. By 2020, experts predict there will be 30 to 50 billion such connected devices sending their data to computers for processing.

CONCLUSIONS:

Last but not least, Charles Holland Duell in 1898 was appointed as the United States Commissioner of Patents, and held that post until 1901.  In that role, he is famous for purportedly saying “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  Well Charlie, maybe not.

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Portions of this post are taken from the publication “Industry Week”, Bloomberg View, 30 October 2017.

The Bloomberg report begins by stating: “The industrial conglomerate has lost $100 billion in market value this year as investors came to terms with the dawning reality that GE’s businesses don’t generate enough cash to support its rich dividend.”

Do you in your wildest dreams think that Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, would have produced results such as this?  I do NOT think so.  Welch “lived” with the guys on Wall Street.  These pitiful results come to us from Mr. Jeffery Immelt.  It’s also now clear that years of streamlining didn’t go far enough as challenges of dumpster-fire proportions at its power and energy divisions overshadowed what were actually pretty good third-quarter health-care and aviation numbers.  Let me mention right now that I can sound off at the results.  I retired from a GE facility—The Roper Corporation, in 2005.

The new CEO John Flannery’s pledged to divest twenty billion ($20 billion) in assets perhaps is risking another piecemeal breakup but as details leak on the divestitures and other changes Flannery’s contemplating, there’s at least a shot he could be positioning the company for something more drastic.  Now back to Immelt.

Immelt took over the top position at GE in 2001. Early attempts at changing the culture to meet Immelt’s ideas about what the corporate culture should look like were not very successful. It was during the financial crisis that he began to think differently. It seems as if his thinking followed three paths. First, get rid of the financial areas of the company because they were just a diversion to what needed to be done. Second, make GE into a company focused upon industrial goods. And, third, create a company that would tie the industrial goods to information technology so that the physical and the informational would all be of one package. The results of Immelt’s thinking are not impressive and did not position GE for company growth in the twenty-first century.

Any potential downsizing by Flannery will please investors who have viewed the digital foray as an expensive pet project of Immelt’s, but it’s sort of a weird thing to do if you still want to turn GE into a top-ten software company — as is the divestiture of the digital-facing Centricity health-care IT operations that GE is reportedly contemplating.  Perhaps a wholesale breakup of General Electric Co. isn’t such an improbable idea after all.

GE has lost one hundred billion ($100 billion) in market value this year as investors came to terms with the dawning reality that GE’s businesses don’t generate enough cash to support its rich dividend. It’s also now clear that years of streamlining didn’t go far enough as challenges of dumpster fire proportions at its power and energy divisions overshadowed what were actually pretty good third-quarter health-care and aviation numbers.

One argument against a breakup of GE was that it would detract from the breadth of expertise and resources that set the company apart in the push to make industrial machinery of all kinds run more efficiently. But now, GE’s approach to digital appears to be changing. Rather than trying to be everything for everyone, the company is refocusing digital marketing efforts on customers in its core businesses and deepening partnerships with tech giants including Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc. It hasn’t announced any financial backers yet, but that’s a possibility former CEO Jeff Immelt intimated before he departed. GE’s digital spending is a likely target of its cost-cutting push.

This downsizing will please investors who have viewed digital as an expensive pet project of Immelt’s, but it’s sort of a weird thing to do if you still want to turn GE into a top-10 software company — as is the divestiture of the digital-facing Centricity health-care IT operations that GE is reportedly contemplating.

The company is unlikely to abandon digital altogether. Industrial customers have been trained to expect data-enhanced efficiency, and GE has to offer that to be competitive. As Flannery said at GE’s Minds and Machines conference last week, “A company that just builds machines will not survive.” But if all we’re ultimately talking about here is smarter equipment, as opposed to a whole new software ecosystem, GE doesn’t necessarily need a health-care, aviation and power business.

Creating four or five mini-GEs would likely mean tax penalties.  That’s not in and of itself a reason to maintain a portfolio that’s not working. If it was, GE wouldn’t also be contemplating a sale of its transportation division. But one of GE’s flaws in the minds of investors right now is its financial complexity, and there’s something to be said for a complete rethinking of the way it’s put together. For what it’s worth, the average of JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Steve Tusa’s sum-of-the-parts analyses points to a twenty-dollar ($20) valuation — almost in line with GE’s closing price of $20.79 on Friday. Whatever premium the whole company once commanded over the value of its parts has been significantly weakened.

Wall Street is torn on General Electric, the one-time favorite blue chip for long-term investors, which is now facing an identity crisis and possible dividend cut. Major research shops downgraded and upgraded the industrial company following its third-quarter earnings miss this past Friday. The firm’s September quarter profits were hit by restructuring costs and weak performance from its power and oil and gas businesses. It was the company’s first earnings report under CEO John Flannery, who replaced Jeff Immelt in August. Two firms reduced their ratings for General Electric shares due to concerns about dividend cuts at its Nov. 13 analyst meeting. The company has a 4.2 percent dividend yield. General Electric shares declined 6.3 percent Monday to close at $22.32 a share after the reports. The percentage drop is the largest for the stock in six years. Its shares are down twenty-five (25%) percent year to date through Friday versus the S&P 500’s fifteen (15%) percent return.

At the end of the day, it comes down to what kind of company GE wants to be. The financial realities of a breakup might be painful, but so would years’ worth of pain in its power business as weak demand and pricing pressures drive a decline to a new normal of lower profitability. Does it really matter, then, what the growth opportunities are in aviation and health care? As head of M&A at GE, Flannery was at least partly responsible for the Alstom SA acquisition that swelled the size of the now-troubled power unit inside GE. If there really are “no sacred cows,” he has a chance to rewrite that legacy.

CONCLUSIONS:

Times are changing and GE had better change with those times or the company faces significant additional difficulties.  Direction must be left to the board of directors but it’s very obvious that accommodations to suite the present business climate are definitely in order.

HILLBILLY ELEGY

November 9, 2017


Hillbilly Elegy is without a doubt one of the best-written, most important books I have ever read.  A remarkably insightful account of J.D. Vance growing up in a significantly dysfunctional family but only realizing that fact as he became older and compared his family with others.  As you read this book, you realize it is a “major miracle” he escaped the continuing system of mental and physical abuse prevalent with poor, white, Eastern Kentucky “hillbilly” families.  When moving to Ohio, the abuse continued.  Even though financial conditions improved, conditions remained ingrained relative to family behavior.

 I grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember.” That’s how J. D. Vance begins one of the saddest and most fascinating books, “Hillbilly Elegy:  A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Published by Harper, this book has been on the NYT best seller list since its first publication and has rarely dipped below number ten on anyone’s list. Vance was born in Kentucky and raised by his grandparents, as a self-described “hillbilly,” in Middletown, Ohio, home of the once-mighty Armco Steel. His family struggled with poverty and domestic violence, of which he and his sister were victims. His mother was addicted to drugs—first to painkillers, then to heroin. Many of his neighbors were jobless and on welfare. Vance escaped their fate by joining the Marines after high school and serving in Iraq. Afterward, he attended Ohio State and Yale Law School, where he was mentored by Amy Chua, a law professor and tiger mom. He now lives in San Francisco, and works at Mithril Capital Management the investment firm helmed by Peter Thiel. It seems safe to say that Vance, who is now in his early thirties, has seen a wider swath of America than most people.  The life he has lived during his adolescent years is absolutely foreign to the life this writer has lived.  This makes the descriptive information in his book valuable and gives a glimpse into another way of life.

“Hillbilly Elegy” is a regional memoir about Vance’s Scots-Irish family, one of many who have lived and worked in Appalachia for generations. For perhaps a century, Vance explains, the region was on an upward trajectory. Family men worked as sharecroppers, then as coal miners, then as steelworkers; families inched their way toward prosperity, often moving north in pursuit of work.  Vance’s family moved about a hundred miles, from Kentucky to Ohio; like many families, they are “hillbilly transplants.” In mid-century Middletown, where Armco Steel built schools and parks along the Great Miami River, Vance’s grandparents were able to live a middle-class life, driving back to the hollers of Kentucky every weekend to visit relatives and friends. Many families, on a regular basis, sent money back to their relatives in Appalachian Kentucky for aid and support consequently “keeping their boat afloat”.

Middletown’s industrial jobs began to disappear in the seventies and eighties. Today, its main street is full of shuttered storefronts, and is a haven for drug dealers at night. Vance reports that, in 2014, more people died from drug overdoses than from natural causes in Butler County, where Middletown is located. Families are disintegrating: neighbors listen as kitchen-table squabbles escalate and come to blows, and single mothers raise the majority of children (Vance himself had fifteen “stepdads” while growing up). Although many people identify as religious, church attendance is at historic lows. High-school graduation rates are sinking, and few students go on to college. Columbus, Ohio, one of the fastest-growing cities in America, is just ninety minutes’ drive from Middletown, but the distance feels unbridgeable. Vance uses the psychological term “learned helplessness” to describe the resignation of his peers, many of whom have given up on the idea of upward mobility in a region that they see as permanently left behind. Writing in a higher register, he says that there is something “almost spiritual about the cynicism” in his home town.

Mr. Vance mentions Martin Seligman as being one psychologist that aids his efforts in understanding the “mechanics” of his family life. Commonly known as the founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He is also a recognized authority on interventions that prevent depression, and build strengths and well-being.

Learned helplessness, in psychology, a mental state in which an organism forced to bear aversive stimuli, or stimuli that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are “escapable,” presumably because it has learned that it cannot.  This describes the culture that Mr. Vance grew up in and the culture he desperately had tried to escape—helplessness.

Vance makes the proper decision when he enlists in the Marine Corps for four (4) years.  This action took place after high school graduation.  Just graduating from high school is remarkable.  The Marine Corps instilled in Vance a spirit in which just about anything is possible including enrolling and completing study at Ohio State University and then going on to Yale Law School.  He escapes his environment but has difficulty in escaping his lack of understanding of how the world works.  There are several chapters in his book that give a vivid description of those social necessities he lacks. “You can take the boy out of Kentucky but you can’t take Kentucky out of the boy”.  This is one of my favorite quotes from the book and Vance lives that quote but works diligently to make course corrections as he progresses through Yale and beyond.

In my opinion, this is a “must-read” book. As a matter of fact, it should be read more than once to fully understand the details presented.  READ THIS BOOK.

HEAD OF THE HOOCH

November 5, 2017


It’s a wonderful thing when your city offers entertainment and events for citizens and visitors.  Chattanooga, Tennessee is famous for doing just that—things to get people downtown to enjoy all that’s available within a very short walking distance.  One such event is “Head of the Hooch”.  This two-day race is occurring right now, with Sunday being the final day of the race.

HISTORY:

The Head of the Chattahoochee is a rowing regatta held in Chattanooga, TN every year on the first Saturday and Sunday of November.

It is definitely one of the world’s largest rowing regattas, with two thousand (2,000+) boats racing over a two-day period.  More than nine thousand (9,000) seats are rowed.  Twelve hundred (1,200) boats compete on Saturday alone, more in one day than any other regatta. Participants come from over two hundred (200) different organizations. In 2012 alone, the regatta welcomed crews from twenty-seven (27) different states. The Head of the Hooch has seen a growth in entries from other countries also with teams from Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia.

The Head of the Hooch event has been recognized by national magazines as the regatta to attend: the weather is nice; the city is great and the racing has the largest number of entries per event of any major regatta. The regatta is organized and hosted by the Atlanta Rowing Club, Roswell, GA and Lookout Rowing Club, Chattanooga, TN.

The regatta is a head race – competitors row a five thousand (5,000)-meter (3.1 mile) course on the Tennessee River ending at Ross’s Landing Park in Chattanooga. As mentioned earlier, races are typically held the first week in November.    In this form of racing all boats start sequentially by event and race against the clock.  The race course map is given as follows:

The Head of the Hooch, also known as the Head of the Chattahoochee and ‘The Last of the Great Fall Regattas’, was run for the first time in 1982 by the Atlanta Rowing Club.  The first year there were two hundred twenty-five (225) rowers filling one hundred and five (105) boats.  For sixteen (16) years the regatta took place on the Chattahoochee River in the Roswell River Park located in Roswell GA. In 1997 the regatta had outgrown the park.  From 1997-2004 the regatta was held at the 1996 Olympic rowing venue in Gainesville GA.  The course there was located on the upper part of the Chattahoochee River.

In 2005, due to the large increases in entries each year, the regatta moved to the Chattanooga Ross’s Landing Riverfront venue. The venue and city have the capability to accommodate the continuous increase in rowers and spectators each year. Each year since 2005 The Hooch and the City of Chattanooga have welcomed over six thousand (6,0000) rowers and more than fifteen thousand (15,000) spectators.  I just came from the venue and there are thousands of people on the Veteran’s Bridge, the P. R. Olgiati Bridge and stationed along the Riverfront Parkway.

watching the rowers traverse the course in the Tennessee River.

The Hooch is a unique event.  It attracts athletes, family, alumni, local residents and those who travel to attend. It combines a rowing regatta, arts market and the close proximity of the Tennessee Aquarium, the Discovery Museum and Hunter Art Museum all within walking distance of the venue.  Many hotels and restaurants are right in the downtown close to the venue.  In all, a perfect match.

 

As the Hooch moves through its third decade, its director and committee members continue to improve, grow and enhance the regatta that started as a small event on a Saturday many years ago.

In 2015, the Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee estimated the economic impact of the Hooch over five (5) million dollars. That year the Head of the Hooch raced twelve hundred fifty-six (1256) boats (37 events) on Saturday and eight hundred and sixty-two (862) boats (43 events) on Sunday. Almost eighty percent (80%) of the competitors are High School/College crews.

PROCEDURED FOR THE EVENT:

For any event of this magnitude there must be processes and procedures to maintain some semblance of order.  After all, there are winners and others who place and show.  With a multitude of categories, there must be order.  Here is a list of procedures for the participants.


ROWING TO THE START

  • Assemble your crew at least 30 minutes before your race is called.
  • Place your oars near the launch dock scheduled for your race before your race. Please check the race schedule posted at the regatta site on race day to determine which dock your race will launch from. This is typically only an issue in the mornings when both launch and recovery docks will be used for launching.
  • Pay close attention to Control Commission call to launch. Please launch when your race is called to avoid congestion at the docks.
  • Move quickly onto the dock when Dockmaster gives instructions to do so.
  • Move quickly off the dock and immediately row away from the dock so that the Tennessee River current does not push your crew back onto the dock.
  • Row to the start area with purpose. Do not delay. If prompted by Regatta Officials to move along more quickly, please comply. There is no time to wait for crews that are late to the start.
  • Start Marshals will ask you to stay pointed upstream at various stations near the start. These stations are marked by large rectangular green buoys. They are numbered so that you know which station to row to.
  • Plan to be at Buoy #1 not less than 10 minutes or more than 15 minutes before your scheduled race. Crews that arrive too early and impede (block) other crews may be subject to a penalty.
  • As you approach Buoy #1, sort yourselves out in roughly numerical order by bow number. At Buoy #1, you should be within five bow numbers of the bow numbers around you.
  • The marshal will send you in a group of 10 to the next buoy. Row immediately with all rowers on the paddle when instructed and do not wait for exact bow number order.
  • Before you are asked to bring your crew across the river and row to the start, remove warm-up gear so you are ready to race.

GET READY TO START

  • You will be sent across the river in groups of 3 to 5. Do not wait for exact bow number order; begin to row immediately when instructed.
  • Once you have crossed the river, you will be instructed to row toward the start chute in numerical order. Follow the crew in front of you by about 1 length of open water.
  • A marshal will be located about 200 meters before the start to space the crews by about 15 to 20 seconds. Crews must speed up or slow down as instructed by this Marshal. Novice crews should be particularly aware of this.
  • Crews should build to full pressure and race pace as they approach the start line. Do not catch up with or pass another boat in the chute before the start or you will be subject to a penalty.
  • The start line is set so that the start boat is located right at the red steel channel marker. This allows the start chute to be wider and avoids the possibility of hitting the red channel marker.

From the JPEG above, you can see the venue for the “Hooch”.  You are looking at the Chattanooga Riverfront Parkway with the Tennessee River to the left.  Please notice the boats stationed to the right of the digital picture.  You can see the number is significant.

 

Plenty of room for the crews to position their boats waiting to practice and for their event.

One of the best things about attending this event is ample seating to watch the crews and the race itself.

This photo is from the 2016 event. Again, the first week in November.

Not only is this a team sport, but there are contests for individuals competing against each other or against the clock.

I certainly hope you can “carve out some time” next year to join us for this terrific event.  It’s always the first of November.  (By the way, the temperature in Chattanooga right now is 76 degrees with a relative humidity of twenty percent (20%).  Not bad at all.

 

MONEY AND BANK SAFETY

November 1, 2017


Do you ever wonder if the money, hard-earned money, you earn every week or month is safe?

According to the FDIC:  “The basic FDIC coverage is good for up to $250,000 per depositor per bank. If you have more than that in a failed bank, the FDIC might choose to cover your losses, but there is no promise to do so.” Sep 13, 2016

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) preserves and promotes public confidence in the U.S. financial system by insuring deposits in banks and thrift institutions for up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each ownership category by identifying, monitoring and addressing risks to the deposit.  This is the law.  Good to know.

The following list will indicate that our banking system has experienced some “hard times” in the recent past.  Let’s take a look at bank failures in this country and then we will look at the safest countries relative to bank and customer money.

BANK FAILURES:

The following list is taken from the web site: Bankrate.com.

YEAR                      NUMBER OF BANK FAILURES

2016(Estimated)                              1

2015(Estimated)                              8

2014(Estimated)                            18

2013(Estimated)                            14

2012(Estimated)                            51

2011(Official)                                 92

2010(Official)                                157

2019(Official)                                140

As you can see, from 2009 through 2016 there have been four hundred and ninety-one (491) bank failures in this country.

Now, The Survey of Consumer Finances is conducted and published every three years, most recently in 2013. According to the Federal Reserve, “the survey data include information on families’ balance sheets, pensions, income, and demographic characteristics.” Data from previous SCF years show significant changes in checking account balances since 2001. Our analysis of average savings account balances based on the same data can be found as follows:

YEAR     AVERAGE CHECKING BALANCE

2013                       $9,132

2010                       $7,036

2007                       $6,203

2004                       $7,382

2001                       $6,404

As you can see, most people are definitely covered if and when their individual bank fails.  That begs the question:  what are the safest countries in which to deposit money?  Let’s take a look. Some may be very surprising.

SAFEST COUNTRIES IN WHICH TO BANK:

  1. Czech Republic — The Czech banking sector is unusual in that foreign-owned lenders dominate the industry, but consumers don’t seem to mind, ranking them the 14th safest in the world.
  2. Guatemala — The densely populated Central American nation of 15.5 million people has three key players in its banking system — Banco Industrial, Banco G&T Continental, and Banco de Desarrollo Rural. All three are seen as being fairly sound, according to the WEF’s survey.
  3. Luxembourg — It’s no surprise Luxembourg scores highly, as the country is famous for its financial sector. Its Banque et Caisse d’Épargne de l’État is often cited as one of the safest on earth.
  4. Panama — As the country has no central bank, Panamanian lenders are run conservatively, with capital ratios almost twice the required minimum on average. Traditionally seen as a tax haven, the country has made substantial strides to shake off that reputation since the financial crisis.
  5. Sweden — Although Swedish lenders are being squeezed by the Riksbank’s negative interest rate policy, Swedish banks are still among the safest in the world, according to the WEF.
  6. Chile — In July, ratings agency Fitch cut the outlook of the country’s banking system to negative, based on “weakening asset quality and profitability,” but that hasn’t spooked Chileans, according to the WEF.
  7. Singapore — Singapore is renowned as one of the world’s great financial centres, and the soundness of its banking sector reflects that.
  8. Norway — As an oil-reliant economy, Norway has faced serious issues in recent years, and in August, its banking system had its outlook cut to negative by Moody’s. However, the country’s banks remain very sound, the WEF’s survey suggests.
  9. Hong Kong — Another global financial centre, Hong Kong is home to arms of most of the world’s biggest banks, and some of the world’s safest financial institutions.
  10. Australia — A small group of four major banks divide up most of Australia’s banking sector, while foreign banks are tightly regulated, making sure the system is sturdy.
  11. New Zealand — New Zealand’s banking sector is dominated by a group of five financial players. Decent profits and growth without too much competition has seen the sector thrive, although it slips from second last year to fourth in 2016.
  12. Canada — Canadian banks have long been a byword for stability. The country has had only two small regional bank failures in almost 100 years, and had zero failures during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Last year, the country’s banks were seen as the safest on earth, so confidence has clearly slipped a little.
  13. South Africa — South Africa’s so-called ‘Big Four’ — Standard Bank, FirstRand Bank, Nedbank, and Barclays Africa — dominate the country’s consumer sector, and are widely seen to be pretty safe, with only one other nation scoring higher.
  14. Finland — Finland’s banking sector is dominated by co-operative and savings banks, which take little risk. The country’s central bank governor, Erkki Liikanen, below, has led the way on proposals to split investment banking and deposit-taking​ activities at European lenders. Ranked fourth in 2015’s list, Finland’s banks have got even safer this year.

According to the same company that made the list above, the United States ranked number thirty-sixth (36) in depositor safety.

CONCLUSIONS:

I’m definitely not saying run out tomorrow and transfer all of your money to a bank located in one of these countries above but really, can’t we do better as a country?  Can’t the FED just get out of the way?  Regulations and banking philosophy are to blame for the failures given above—not to mention plain OLE GREED.  REMEMBER WELLS-FARGO?

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

October 31, 2017


I certainly hope you are ready for Halloween.  I can promise you NASA and NASA followers are.  Now, when you consider adopting a NASA costume for Halloween you had better be prepared to design and put together your outfit.  There are never any “off-the-shelf” NASA gear, “shovel-ready” for “All-Saints-Day”.  Let’s take a look.

These ladies are trying to show you how important the Rings of Saturn really are.  (Somewhat lame but at least they tried.)

These two kids have the right idea.  I’m assuming we are looking at “rocket man” and his little brother, Mr. Radio Telescope.

This is actually the ISS (International Space Station) crew wishing you a very Happy Halloween.  Everyone, even those out of this world, have the spirit.

Obviously, the Rings of Saturn but not too sure what the flames are supposed to represent.

As Jimmy Durante says: “Everyone has to get into the act.

I love the “little rocket”.

OK, this one really cracks me up.   This kid is really into “Rocket Science” for babies.  Notice the focus and intensity.

Don’t ask—I have no idea.

Just too weird.

The baby is my favorite then this guy.  How much time do you think it took to assemble this get-up?

Notice the flames from the rocket are represented by the young lady’s dress.  Really creative. The little guy is ready for lift off.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our dreams of “going where no man has gone before” still exist with some people. Space is definitely the Final Frontier.  Hope you all have a very HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

 

IROCO RESTURANTE

October 27, 2017


Is there anyone out there who does NOT like to eat?  Anyone who would turn down a wonderful gourmet meal?  OK, I don’t think so.

A few years ago, my wife and I cashed in a few Delta frequent flyer points and flew to Madrid for our anniversary.  Just the two of us!!!!  The city was in the process of making repairs due to an Olympic bid so there was construction on many of the main streets, including the one you see below.   Calle Vasquez was located in Central Madrid and in walking distance from our hotel.  The IROCO Resturante was recommended by the hotel staff as being one destination that would give us a taste of authentic Spanish cuisine.  This turned out to be the case.  (You do NOT eat “American” when you visit Spain.)  As you can see, orange barrels and construction signs on Calle Vasquez marking repairs and construction for the entire length of the street.  That did not stop the determined from making the trip.

The logo for IROCO is given below.  This placard was positioned prominently on both sides of the main entrance.

As we entered the building and what I thought was the main dining hall, I was NOT impressed.  I discovered after a few steps that we were being directed to a marvelous garden adjoining the kitchen. Wonderfully lighted with tables and umbrellas well-positioned throughout the garden.  The digital photograph will indicate the basic layout of the garden.

 

It’s hard to tell which is leafier—the dining room walls covered with botanical prints or the back-garden terrace where tables sit among potted trees and shrubs. Either is a good place to enjoy contemporary Spanish cooking that sometimes roams the globe for ingredients. The delicious plate of paella-style rice with cilantro and crisply fried squid is stained black with huitalacoche (corn smut) to make a lighter and more original version of a Catalan arròs negre, or black rice. Iroco’s slow-roasted, boneless kid glazed with honey and served with a turnip purée makes goat a revelation. Garden service carries a ten percent (10%) surcharge but worth the price.

Even though we ate in the garden, the “cave” was really intriguing.  This was a below-ground annex to the garden with additional tables, a wine cellar and a fully-stocked bar with just about any liquor you would ask for.

As you can see from the digital below, there is seating in the “cave”.  You can enjoy a drink or order from the full menu.  We chose the garden because it was a beautiful clear night with not-to-hot temperature and a very soft breeze blowing.

We went all out on this one including desert and were not in the least disappointed with the offerings or the service.  I can certainly recommend this restaurant to you if and when you are ever in Madrid.  As always, my recommendation does not mean that much so I want to indicate what others are saying about IROCO.

As always, I welcome your comments

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