The thing that irritated me out of bed this morning was something that has bothered me for a while. In reporting Wall Street financial numbers, there's no yesterday and no tomorrow. The format is almost always, "The DJIA is up 3 points to 1341 in early trading". It is a rare day when they say "The DJIA is up 3 points to 1141 in early trading, not yet recovering from last weeks 200 point plunge." Nor do they say "The DJIA is up 3 points to 1341, continuing its overall upward trend for the month." Somewhat like Ellen Degeneres's fish in Finding Nemo, every time you turn around it's like "Hey, look what I found! I don't know the Dow from downtown, but 1341 seems like a propitious number. And it's UP!" Even for the brief run through the headline news, would it take so long to add 14 syllables of context?
The reason I don't like this reporting is that it fosters a market timing, day trading mentality. The problem with that mentality is that even people in the business who should know better reward rash, short term corporate behavior over long term business growth, stability, and a return on longer term investments. The majority of CEOs are required first to pander to the stock market, not to make a company strong, safe, and pleasant to work with and for. Even though long term growth is in everyone's best interest, the news tells me the story that grandstanding moves like laying off 10% of a workforce will increase stock value long enough for someone watching from afar to make money, no matter the expense to the fundamentals, employees, and product potential. This mentality says, if it's not in the now, it's not worth doing.
Every so often, someone will buck the trend and come out with something that really advances technology and possibly quality of life. The last company I worked for took about six years to turn my division profitable once they decided to really fund it. Had the company's founder not championed the technology, the Nin.ten.do W.ii controller might not exist today, and your airbag's timing might not be as advanced. The division almost certainly wouldn't have survived without the protection of the parent company and the founder. In the last few years, though, it has become of one of the superstars for getting the company name positive press. It has returned on the investment which was made in spite of Wall Street thinking it was nothing more than a drain on resources.
But what usually makes the news and excites stock trading is big companies laying people off, not investing in potential. I only wish I could better articulate an example that doesn't include the popular "layoff" and provide some specific companies to show what I mean. Because every CEO tells you how the major restructuring will help cure cancer and taste like grape popsicles. Yet I wonder how many people really belive them while watching the news anchors echo the pre-fabbed talking points with a mild smile and no critical analysis whatsoever. This lack of critical analysis and context seems to be endemic to our news these days and is getting worse. And it irritates me every day.
Another thing that continually annoys me is "scientists" assuming that animals, fish, and various other life forms are stupid, emotionless, and incapable. These poseurs do not deserve the honor of being associated with a community based almost solely on careful observation and logical deductive reasoning. The "goldfish brain" reference comes from some "scientists" who, about a decade ago, posited that goldfish brains are so small that they have no short or long memory to speak of. The Mythbusters were able to debunk this in a week. Anyone who has cared for a pet or even observed nature out the back window knows that animals sense and feel, then learn and do new things based on how previous sensations made them feel. Just like us. That's not to say pets they learn what you want them to. But that is not necessarily the failure of the animal.
The only good thing to come from this study, IMHO, is a great pop culture reference that Ani Defranco translated well to song. Upon reflection, I find the first two verses can be substituted for the entirety of this blog entry, and future rant on franchising as well.
- in a coffee shop in a city
which is every coffee shop
in every city
on a day which is every day
i pick up a magazine
which is every magazine
and read a story then forgot it right away
they say goldfish have no memory
i guess their lives are much like mine
the little plastic castle
is a surprise every time
it's hard to say if they are happy
but they don't seem much to mind
Which does make me wonder how you can tell what a goldfish is feeling. Just because I can't correctly interpret fast tail twitching doesn't mean they don't get cranky.