Thursday, October 20, 2016

If UNP Is A Proxy For Health Of US Economy -- Sobering Results -- October 20, 2016

Some might argue that the "strength" of the US railroads is a proxy for the national economy. If so, this is very, very sobering:
UNP plummets; drops almost 7% in trading as it misses estimates. Earned $1.36 vs estimates of $1.39. Profits dropped 13%.  
Unfortunately we can't see as easily what BNSF is doing because it is wholly owned by Berkshire Hathaway and BNSF operating results will be tucked away in the BRK quarterly reports. We do have this data regarding BNSF, for the week ending October 8, 2016:
  • total railcars fell 9.2%, year-over-year
  • even carloads other than coal and coke fell almost 6%
  • coal and coke fell 13.4%; for UNP, the fall in the same category was 9.1%
  • 90% of all BNSF's coal tons originate from the Powder River basin in Wyoming and Montana
  • the fall in BNSF's overall carloads was almost double the overall fall reported by all US railroad companies
BRK-B is flat today, actually green, but gaining only one penny on a $144 share.

Note: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment, financial, travel, job, or relationship decisions based on what you read here. The blog is to assist me in understanding the Bakken and to place it in context with global events and Washington, DC, politics. I often make factual and typographical errors (which are corrected, if found; errors are not done on purpose). If this stuff is important to you, don't rely on the blog; go to the source. The stuff coming out of Washington, DC, is no doubt much more accurate. And there (in DC) they have no hidden agendas.

The Venerable Bede

Several years ago I first heard of the venerable Bede. I picked up a copy of his history of the English church. I have read it at least once. I forgot how many times I have re-read bits and pieces of it. I have forgotten more about Bede than I care to share. I was quite surprised, and then, very, very elated to find several pages on Bede in Michael Pye's The Edge of the World, c. 2015.

No doubt others have figured all this out about Bede, but Pye does an incredible job of telling us what Bede figured out on his own. Bede was writing in the 7th century. In some respects, he was probably as good a scientist as Aristotle, the first scientist.

Bede figured out that the tides were influenced by the moon; to know this, Bede had to "know" that the earth was round (it was not until 1492 or some years after that, that the fact the earth was round was accepted by most -- not all -- some Flatlanders are said to still exist among us).

He also was the first to realize that a better calendar was needed if Christians were going to be able to predict when Easter would fall around the world. To do this, he had to "find names for years in the future, something which neither Germans nor Romans did: they both named years after the king, emperor or consul in power at the time, so that Bede's own monastery was begun in the twenty-ninth year of the reign of King Ecgfrith rather than what we know as 674 CE. He used thought and facts to solve an immediate problem..."
For centuries his work was mined for astronomical information. When it was finally printed and published eight centuries later -- in Basle in 1529 and then in Cologne in 1537 -- it was not out of antiquarian interest. It still had immediate, practical value, despite the need for notes to explain all the difficult bits. 
Indeed, his work has often survived better than his reasons for doing it. We still date events from the 'year of our Lord', Annus Domini, the year of Christ's birth; that was Bede's invention -- part of his solution to the problem of the calendar.

Christianity was only just growing out of its eschatological phase, when the world was expected to end an day, and Bede wanted to rewrite world history and its ages to prove that the world still had a long time to live. He wanted to place himself in time, past and future, and in doing so he built the Western calendar as we know it.
A Note To The Granddaughters

In the above note on Bede, I mentioned Basle (Switzerland) and Cologne. I have fond memories of both cities. Remind me, and I will relate those stories later, but not enough time now. 

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