The Annual Thanksgiving Mudbowl

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mudbowl-1434436-1598x1062Bring an old weathered football up to your nose, close your eyes, and take a good whiff. Can you smell it? Do images of sweaty muddied gruff men, caked with sweat and blood, move in slow motion within your brain? Do your muscles tighten in pleasant anticipation at the thought of the gridiron? If so, then congratulations. You are part of a dying breed, a member of a secret society that long ago closed its doors to new applicants.

Well, not exactly. Those doors  remain open today and they will forever stay open. It’s just that, in an era of prefabricated microwave cooking, no one wants to go through the Continue Reading “The Annual Thanksgiving Mudbowl”

Here’s What I Learned When I was a Professional Political Pollster

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agreement-survey-scale-1-1236335-660x395Imagine being a physics and astronomy major at a school interested in politics and government where the most popular major is political science and economics. It’s tough. You can’t engage in discussions, you can only listen. You know nothing, unless the conversation turns towards nuclear energy policy (which it almost never does) or space exploration (which it doesn’t ever).

That was me heading into the 1980 presidential primary season. I was nothing more than a naïve cheerleader. I wanted to be more, but what? In an ocean of future neo-cons, think tank thinkers, and government policy makers, I was merely a small deserted isle that didn’t even merit a place on the map. I tried and tried to think of a way I could add value, to discover something in one of the classes I took that would generate at least interest, if not respect, among my more politically knowledgeable classmates. About the only unique differentiator I offered was that I had lived in Jack Kemp’s congressional district, but that was just a novelty of coincidence.

Then it struck me. While all these talking heads spent their class time debating the merits Continue Reading “Here’s What I Learned When I was a Professional Political Pollster”

The Soul of the Machine

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blue-computer-1472956The group of more than a dozen met at a row of tables by the windows towards the back of the Pinehurst dining room. It was the early 1990s, and most businesses by then had discovered the most profitable way to increase productivity meant equipping its employees with personal computers. Spreadsheets, word processing, and this new thing called “PowerPoint” became the standard. Employers, though, had one challenge – they were ill-prepared to train their employees. It was one of those “old dog – new tricks” conundrums.

So the HFL Board of Education decided the best way the school district could add value to Continue Reading “The Soul of the Machine”

Are You a Loyalist or A Rebel?

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img_3810On a late Winter morning in 1775, William French woke up for the last time. The lively 22 year old lived in the Town of Bennington, a municipality only five years older than the young adult. Self-named by Benning Wentworth, Governor of New Hampshire, the small hamlet lie on the west side of the Connecticut River, nestled in the broad curve of the oxbowing waterway in the fertile eastern valley beneath the Green Mountains. French walked that afternoon of March 13th along King’s Highway until he reached the farm house of an eccentric old patriot by the name of Capt. Axariah Wright. There he met Daniel Houghton and nearly 100 other men. They were there to tackle a pressing problem.

Continue Reading “Are You a Loyalist or A Rebel?”

Behind the Curtain: How Media Influences You

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beer-behind-the-curtain-1552637-1600x1200Many people know how I make my living. Every day I go to the office, sit behind six flat screens spewing economic and corporate data, and meticulously scan lists upon lists of publicly traded companies in search of winning stocks. On the face of it, you’d think I was a numbers guy. OK, OK, I admit it. I am a numbers guy. But a good numbers guy knows the limits of numbers, and numbers do have limits. The trouble with the stock picking industry is that it believes too much in the numbers. Numbers only tell a (small) part of the story. The bulk of the story is told by behavior – human behavior. That’s what I really do every day. Sure, I look at the numbers, but I’m really looking for clues in behavior. When I started my own firm, people – both professionals and academics – laughed at behavioral finance. Today, everyone is trying to work (the now Nobel prize winning) concept of “behavioral economics” into their marketing spiel. Ironically, even that becomes a factor in the behavioral analysis of stocks, markets, and the broader economy itself.

Perhaps I’ll explain how this works at a future date. For now, I think there’s greater interest (aside from greater timeliness) to explain how the psychology of behavior works in Continue Reading “Behind the Curtain: How Media Influences You”

The Buffalo Bills: The Real “America’s Team”

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buffalo-bills-americas-team-dcp_4495The Buffalo Bills and I have a lot in common. We were both conceived in 1959 and emerged into the world (and the playing field) in July of 1960. That I was born in Buffalo means I was born a Buffalo Bills fan. That doesn’t make me much different from any other red (and white and blue) -blooded Greater Western New Yorker. Of course we cheer our team (and curse it, depending on the effectiveness of the particular play call). Actually, we don’t just cheer our team, we eat and breathe and live and die our team. We are the very definition of “fan” (as in “fanatical”).

How do you know you’re a rabid Bills fan? For one thing, you felt personally attacked and oppressed by the national media during the Bills’ four-year Superbowl run (they, along with the NFL, were out to get us, weren’t they?). But die hard Bills fans don’t limit Continue Reading “The Buffalo Bills: The Real “America’s Team””

What The University of Chicago Can Teach Yale

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nathan_hale_statue_flanked_by_two_soldiers_yale_university_1917They took all incoming freshman on a special tour within a day of our arrival at the campus in New Haven. Those were ancient times, when many (like me) had neither the time nor the treasure to visit colleges prior to matriculation (let alone application). To this day, one fact from that introductory outing stands out in my much more crowded brain – the visit inside and around Connecticut Hall. Completed in 1757, this last remaining survivor of Yale’s “Old Brick Row” served as a dormitory for nearly two centuries. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

But that’s not what I remember.

Here’s what I remember: First, there was some obscure graffiti left on an interior wall. Supposedly more than a century old, I don’t remember what it said. All I remember feeling upon hearing this story is that college students have always been rascals and Yale apparently didn’t mind – and even glorified – these youthful misdemeanors.

The second memory carried far greater weight. Outside of Connecticut Hall stands a Continue Reading “What The University of Chicago Can Teach Yale”

You Can’t Go Home Again… Or Can You?

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20160806_130542“δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.”

Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) said this. He’s also the guy who introduced the term “Logos,” meaning “order” and “knowledge.” It’s more commonly referred to as “logic” and, together with Ethos and Pathos, represents one of the three modes of persuasion identified by Aristotle in Rhetoric (350BC).

Oh, yeah, if you’re like me and can’t read Greek, Heraclitus’s quote translates to: “You could not step twice into the same river.” And therein lies our tale.

Oddly, I found inspiration for this Commentary while researching for my upcoming book Continue Reading “You Can’t Go Home Again… Or Can You?”

Welcome to the Real New Year

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wildflowers-1353003-1919x1278The calendar doesn’t say summer ended during that first week of September, but we all know it did. How many of us squeezed out those last few days, those last few hours, those last few minutes, together with family, friends, or just within our own thoughts. Each year, the long Labor Day weekend becomes a bittersweet reminder of the promises of June, soon to become forever just another memory.

For me it’s the tastes, the smells, and the sounds I remember most. They’re all so interwoven I can no longer distinguish one sense from another. Is it the taste of the aroma from a field full of wildflowers? Is it the smell of those late summer nights, its muggy air thick with the chirps of crickets and twinkling with the flicker of fire flies? Is it the sound of those sumptuous family meals, whether cookouts, roasts, or omnipresent macaroni dishes? It’s all a blur, a collage of happiness, a pleasant memorial to the waning moments of freedom.

What I most forlornly recall, though, are the last visits. For far too many times, the Continue Reading “Welcome to the Real New Year”

To The Final Frontier… and BEYOND!

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Star_Trek_300As a kid, when you visit older cousins you rarely see, you step tentatively. Going through the front door of their house, you step tentatively. Pacing through their immaculate living room, you step tentatively. Finally, when the adults take their leave and you’re left alone with your cousin and he invites you into his play room, you step tentatively.

First of all, he’s older than you. That makes him smarter, which means he can trick you in almost every dimension. Second, he’s Continue Reading “To The Final Frontier… and BEYOND!”