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Chinese Cultural Center, Oakland.
November 20th, 1999

Because I work for a company that offers a 401k plan I own some stocks. I look at my account every now an then to notice I'm not getting rich. And that's about the extent of my knowledge. In my past I've worked in investment businesses: an investment advisory firm, a leasing company and some companies that invested in real estate. Even the wine company I worked for was an investment company, raising investor money to develop vineyards and make wine. Nothing to do directly with the stock market, but close enough to have friends who managed funds and spoke the lingo.

So lately I've been wondering what the economy will look like over these next ten years. A series of stories in the local paper described how things are going in Silicon Valley: big bucks and a rising market with lots of it accomplished on the fast, loose and illegal. Too much money being made for anyone to blow the whistle, but too much weird behavior not to have consequences. The fan, in other words, is humming and the shit's in a pile, everything else is timing (and a shovel).

I don't think that anything is happening that hasn't happened before. The Internet is a What It Means to Live in Berkeley Parade. revolution. I can see how it's changing the business I'm in and how it will change that business in the near future. These changes are real and they allow us to do better with less effort, better stuff for less money. That's real change and real value. It's just we're in a revolution and revolutions have bumps and I was just wondering what the bumps were going to feel like. Most of the financial pundits you hear on TV say this growth is going to go on forever and people are shaking their heads yes yes yes and that's usually when the bottom drops out. If everybody is saying buy, it usually means sell, and if absolutely everybody is saying buy with Champagne in one hand and stock options in the other, sell right now baby and hope there's a buyer.

Will the world end? I doubt it. I would guess this technology revolution will do more in the next two decades than the last century accomplished in its entirety and this last century was one king hell of a motherfucker. Gene splicing, bit twiddling and the rest are going to make a very different world and do it so quickly that even old farts like me are going to see some part of it. (Comprehension may or may not come later.) And that's good. Terrifying, but good. My only thought in passing is this financial mania. Even I know one or two paper millionaires who were in the right place at the right time, just salaried techies like me who happened to work for companies that took off like rockets. We're seeing some of the ups and they look pretty good, you know, Christmas in July and all that, but what about the downs? What are the downs going to look like? And feel like? And when might they be coming, do you suppose?

There's just way too much money around for anybody to be watching the store. It isn't a maybe, it's What It Means to Live in Berkeley Parade. just part of what big money is about. The politics of big money is to let big money go where it will, taking a percentage and looking the other way, until it slams into a wall. Remember the Savings & Loan scandal? No politician would touch it after it exploded because all of them had been in it up to their pockets. Everybody was making money. Who authorized all those banks to go on a no questions asked loan binge using government guaranteed deposits to back them up? The same people who are overseeing it now. They're changing the securities laws to "bring them forward into the new century" and I think some of that is probably good, but some of that is, well, I don't know. Deadly dull reading, the securities laws. What's happening in between the lines? I suspect if I were more knowledgeable, I might see some of the signs, notice those little iceberg like problems sticking their noses up out of the water, winking merrily as we cruise by, full steam.

This is the Internet Age, right? There must be a site out there somewhere that talks about the history of these revolutions. The consumer industrial age really ramped up after the First World War. Big changes in our financial realities. Something like what we're experiencing now. The farm population drained into the cities and the newly invented assembly lines created cheap cars, washers and radios for everyone. Money for all. Right up til '29. What were the financial markets like in the 1920's? What were people saying? What were the signs? I'm not sure you can easily make a correlation, but I'll bet you'll be able to make one in another ten years. College students will write papers and snigger.

My guess is if a "break" occurred right now it wouldn't last very long. A few years max and then it would regain momentum. Still, a few years without a job is something to think about. The economy may look great in ten years. I think productivity and the ability to produce "stuff" is just beginning to take off. Still, I hear these talking heads on TV, read the occasional story in the newspaper, listen to what they're saying, the tone of what they're saying, their body language and I wonder: How bad is it really going to be? These people are idiots. Nothing unusual about that. Most people are idiots including moi, but the idiots appear to be in charge of most everything at the moment and the consequences of that, at least, are predictable.

The computer failed on the first try, but booted on the second. I was able to scan some pictures. Mr. Wuss is in the bedroom sleeping. I think I'll pay some bills and maybe go see a movie.

The banner photograph was taken at the Oakland Chinese Cultural Center. We were going to lunch (where else?). The other photographs were taken at the What It Means To Live In Berkeley Parade.