Some Common Cents for October 27, 2017

October 27, 2017, by John Norris

Although I don’t consider myself a codger, I have recently found myself saying things like: “when I was a kid” or “I am old enough to remember when.” You know, the sort of stuff that makes you an old-timer whether you care to admit it or not.

This week, I was rooting around in a plastic pumpkin full of candy in our office building looking for something good to eat. Specifically, I was looking for at least one more of the so-called “Fun Size” peanut M&M’s, preferably two or three more. As anyone who eats Halloween candy knows, “Fun Size” is a completely misleading descriptor. A more appropriate one would be “Frustrating Size,” or something along those lines. There isn’t anything “fun” about four or five peanut M&M’s in a bag of the things.

Unfortunately, I was apparently a late arrival to said plastic pumpkin, as there was only one of the little yellow bags of extreme, extra goodness remaining. Oh, I could have any number of Tootsie Rolls, and in any size, I wanted. There was also no shortage of Goetze’s caramel creams in the offing. These things fall in the secret guilty pleasure category, but absolutely only if no one sees you eating them. If someone does, without fail, they will ask: “what in the [world] is the matter with you? Do even know what that white [stuff] is?”

To make a long story somewhat short, I put the one “Fun Size” bag of M&M’s back into the mix, and walked off with two of what they call “Tootsie Roll Snack Bars.” Trust me, those things, require a little more effort to eat than you would think. As for the peanut M&M’s, I would have found only one bag horribly unsatisfying, and incredibly “UnFun.”

You know, I am old enough to remember when the Halloween version of your favorite candy was about a fourth of the normal one. To the best of my knowledge, the candy companies didn’t try to market these reduced portions as “Fun” or anything else. They were what they were: a smaller version, but still recognizable. Today’s “Fun Size” varieties? Puh-lease.

The list goes on and on about how things were different when I was a kid, so different. Take shopping for example. If you wanted something, you had to get in the car and go buy it. What’s more, there was probably a pretty good chance what you thought you wanted and what you ended up getting were different things. After all, you didn’t know all your choices until you got to the store and saw them. Right?

I mean, you couldn’t just Google a wish list and then buy it on Amazon.com. That would have been so much science fiction back in the day.

Speaking of Google (Alphabet) and Amazon, in case you missed it, it would seem both of those two disruptive behemoths had a great 3rd Quarter, and I mean stellar. Microsoft and Intel also announced earnings on Friday, and, boy, as my friends in Acadiana might say: “laissez les bons temps rouler.” Let’s just say the tech sector seemed to catch fire last quarter, at least more fire than some analysts with their somewhat arbitrary estimates thought it would.

What does this mean?

While one massive quarter doesn’t a trend make, I won’t any bones about it: the world is going to use more “technology” moving forward, as opposed to less. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the growth rate in the global consumption of what classifies as “high tech” will be substantially higher than aggregate, global Gross Domestic Product… from this point until something catastrophic happens, like a massive electromagnetic pulse from the sun, or something along those lines.

I will cut to the quick with a very unscientific and decidedly pedestrian: there is a lot of really cool stuff going on right now, that is if you want to find it.

Consider this from an article by Ben Thompson in today’s Boston Globe (Ben Thompson can be reached at moc.e1511203490bolg@1511203490nospm1511203490oht.n1511203490eb1511203490. Follow him on Twitter @Globe_Thompson).

 

A quarter-mile-wide object appears to have entered our solar system, inspiring scientists around the world to turn their telescopes in its direction.

“This is the first time that people have confidence they’re seeing an object that’s from another solar system,” said Matt Holman, director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The “interstellar object,” the first ever observed intruding in the orbits of our planets, was picked up by telescopes earlier this month at the University of Hawaii’s Haleakalā Observatory, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement.

Designated “A/2017 U1” by the Minor Planet Center, the object, which scientists think might be an asteroid, is “moving remarkably fast” through space, NASA said.

…In addition to its interstellar origins, NASA said, the object’s movement is also unique.

A NASA Center for Near-Earth Object Studies team was able to determine that the object came from the direction of the Lyra constellation, traveling “at a brisk clip” of around 15.8 miles per second.

It plunged into the solar system from above the ecliptic — the approximate plane on which planets and asteroids tend to orbit the sun.

After passing near the sun, the object “made a hairpin turn” under the solar system and passed around 15 million miles under Earth’s orbit on Oct. 14. NASA said the object has now “shot back up above” the ecliptic outside the inner solar system and is racing toward the Pegasus constellation at 27 miles per second.”

 

Now, THAT is fun stuff, at least to me. I meant sounds like a pretty strange comet, doesn’t it? However, you won’t easily find that type of story on most “news” sites. To be sure, it is there if you want to find it, but you have to wade through a whole bunch of “clickbait” to do so. While stories like the one above might stimulate the mind, the ones about celebrities and HS football recruits pay the bills.

One technology and scientific sectors/companies, whether publically traded or not, are expanding our knowledge base at a rate not seen since the Renaissance and the overlapping Ming Dynasty, if ever. While I consider myself a pretty bright guy, consider Wikipedia’s partial description of something called Ethereum, which is just one of many stories:

 

“Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform featuring smart contract (scripting) functionality. It provides a decentralized Turing-complete virtual machine, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which can execute scripts using an international network of public nodes. Ethereum also provides a cryptocurrency token called “ether”, which can be transferred between accounts and used to compensate participant nodes for computations performed. “Gas”, an internal transaction pricing mechanism, is used to mitigate spam and allocate resources on the network.”

 

Okay, you got that? It doesn’t matter if you understand it or not, because you WILL be using this type of technology, and already are, without realizing it. YOU don’t have to understand the mechanics, but guys like Vitalik Buterin, Mihai Alisie, Anthony Di Iorio, and Charles Hoskinson do. Who? Yeah, these are the guys who initially started work on Ethereum.

Laughingly, a couple of us were briefly (and I mean briefly) discussing Buterin the other day, and I said the following: “This guy is so freakishly smart, he wouldn’t even be able to carry on a conversation with the likes of us, seriously. Guys like him operate on a whole different level.” Then one of our group brought up Elon Musk, and I think I did a pretty good job summing him up with: “Although Musk is every bit as smart as Buterin, he can still communicate with the rest of us, even if he might find it exhausting. That is why everyone knows who he is and why he is so rich.”

The upshot of all this is I can be an old [fogey] all I want. I can wax nostalgic about this and that until the cows come home. However, when I was a kid, we didn’t have the technology we have today…not even close. The best part? It is expanding at a rapid rate, with no slowdown in sight.

That is why we have been and likely will continue to be overweight the technology sector for a long time. Oh, ‘we’ don’t have to be smart enough to understand the genius behind Google, et al. We just have to be smart enough to realize it, if you catch my drift.

I suppose that is one of the few benefits of getting older, even if “Fun Size” Halloween treats aren’t.