NORTH OF FORTY - An informed consumer

Monday, December 31, 2001

They have ads on television now where the last half of the commercial is devoted to the announcer talking really fast while he or she explains everything that could possibly go wrong with the product.

It's called a disclaimer, and they do it to avoid legal action later. I think it's a good idea, but I'd like to see it on marriage vows.

"I now pronounce you man and wife." (Read this next part really fast.) "Some common side effects include disagreements, hurtful comments, unacceptable tone, bankruptcy and children. The success of this marriage is the sole responsibility of the participants, and there is no warranty, either expressed or implied, by any friends, neighbors or relatives. Before entering into this agreement, it is suggested that you consult with a member of the clergy or a bartender. Prolonged use could lead to old age, if you're lucky. Void where prohibited. You may kiss the bride."


They tell me that diversification is an important part of any stock portfolio. Put some money in butter and some money in guns, as the economics profs would say. Mutual funds were created to satisfy that exact need, but, in the last few years, they've gone and changed the game on us. With the onslaught of all these mergers and acquisitions and hostile takeovers, instead of a large number of moderately sized businesses, we're ending up with a much smaller number of enormous multi-national corporations. Now the guns and butter are all owned by the same guy. The diversification is gone. Mutual funds have been transformed into 33 flavors of vanilla. It used to be a big world with thousands of different businesses. Now it's more like a small town where everybody's related to each other. It might look friendlier in the short term, but the kids can turn out pretty scary.


I've been around long enough to notice that some of these new things they're coming up with aren't new at all. They're just old things with new names. Here's a short sample list so that you'll be able to recognize lack of progress when you see it:


E-mail Telegram

New-car rebate Your change

Virtual reality Dream

Multi-tasking Motherhood

Interfacing with Talking to

Station wagon SUV

Networking Lions' Club

Computer Friend


I was watching some senator giving his retirement speech, and, after every couple of sentences, he would get a standing ovation. This guy is getting a dozen or more of these things, while most people never get a standing ovation in their whole lives. That's wrong. A standing ovation is a wonderful thing. It means that people have so much respect for you they feel compelled to get up off their butts for a few seconds. Standing ovations also give your detractors a chance to leave the room without being noticed, so you end up with a smaller but more supportive crowd. In any case, it's a real confidence booster. Many people who receive standing ovations actually go on to deserve them.

I think we should all be more generous with our standing ovations. If Dad hangs onto his job for another day, hey, everybody on their feet. If the kids came home from school with straight A's, or just came home, well, let's get up and give them a big standing O. Wouldn't that make us all feel better? If we had more standing ovations, we'd have fewer failures and fewer pregnancies. It's just harder to get into trouble when you're standing.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs, whereas a woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't." - Red Green