In the news

A few headlines from news sites captured my attention. These days, I read a few more headlines, because I’m not big on paying more money to get past paywalls. I’m already paying for the Internet service to my home. In addition, I endure all of the pop-up ads that are prevalent on web sites. And I also get news from international sites that aren’t quite as aggressive in getting you to subscribe in order to read a few stories. As a result, there are headlines that capture my attention, but don’t deliver the article when I click on them.

I learned a long time ago that one has to be careful with headlines. Headlines are designed to get you to read the article and they don’t always convey the understanding that reading the article yields. I used to joke that our local newspaper could improve itself by simply requiring the headline writers to read the article about which they were writing the headlines. That was several years ago. These days, I wonder if newspaper sites have any headline writers - or any editors for that matter. They seem to have only graphic designers who arrange the articles and pictures on a web site to attract attention and get people to click on the links. It is a different business than when newspapers had newsboys shouting the headlines on street corners to get people to purchase the paper.

So, without any real knowledge of the substance of the articles, here are some of my reactions to today’s headlines.

Bill and Melinda Gates have announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage. I think that Bill Gates is listed as the fourth wealthiest person in the world. Dividing their assets should keep teams of accountants and lawyers busy for the rest of their lives. If I remember correctly theirs was a workplace romance. Melinda was an employee of Microsoft when she met Bill. The couple has often asked for privacy. There was a rumor that circulated that in order to prevent news photographers from spying on their wedding, they hired every helicopter in the area. While I think they deserve to work out their relationship, the process of continuing to be parents to their three children, and the details of their business without undue advice from others, they pretty much are stuck in the public light.

I’ve never had to hire helicopters or make public statements to maintain my privacy. The news reporters aren’t interested in a story about a person in my wealth bracket. On the other hand, I wouldn’t trade my life’s partner for all of the wealth in the world. We are coming up on our 48th wedding anniversary and so far neither of us has any plans for divorce. We were able to work as professional colleagues for 42 years and it worked out well for us. We haven’t formed a foundation and we haven’t given away billions of dollars, but our ability to give, mostly through the church, has given us joy.

I’m sad for the Gates family because the divorce means that they will have a different experience with grandchildren that we have had. The oldest of their children is 24 and they do not yet have any grandchildren, but one of the deep joys of our lives is being grandparents together. I don’t think couples who divorce get to have the same closeness in sharing the grandparent role. It seems a bit sad that their grandchildren will primarily experience grandparents as separate instead of together.

After years, perhaps even decades, of people speculating about who will run Berkshire Hathaway after Warren Buffett retires, it has been announced that the company’s vice chairman, Greg Abel, will be his successor. Who knows when Buffett will retire. At 90, he seems to not have much interest in retirement. Abel, on the other hand, at age 59 with a base salary in the $16 million per year range, might have had the thought of retirement cross his mind from time to time. I wish them both the best, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Buffett hangs around Berkshire Hathaway long enough for him to need to select another successor after Abel retires.

On the technology front, several computer manufacturers are continuing to experiment with smart fabrics and the possibility of developing even more sophisticated forms of wearable technology. The Washington Post headline suggested that one day people will be able to consult a smart shirt to find out whether or not they have completed their 10,000 steps each day. I don’t think I’ll need one of those smart shirts. I’ve written in my journal several times about my smart watch that understands a workout, but doesn’t understand work. One day it record only three minutes of exercise after I had dug seven post holes. Now, I have discovered that I can get three minutes of exercise from raising my left arm from my waist to shoulder height 100 times. I don’t even have to move my right arm. I discovered the exercise because the device records how many minutes I stand up in each hour. Except that it doesn’t. When I’m in a meeting, I used to stand up to try to gain stand minutes each hour. But just standing doesn’t convince the device that I am standing. I need to walk around, which isn’t always practical in the middle of a meeting. However, I discovered that I can shake my hand or do a few hand lifts, which is pretty easy to do during a Zoom meeting by waving my hand outside of the camera frame. The result is that the watch thinks I’m standing and exercising. Trust me, it takes more calories to dig post holes than wave my hand in the air, but the watch doesn’t know it.

Maybe if I had a smart shirt I could get my exercise by shrugging my shoulders, or by puffing out my chest. For the moment, I don’t seem to need the technology.

And I don’t need to be rich. I had a meaningful career and I got to retire in time to enjoy my grandchildren with my wife. I’ll leave the divorces and worries about successors to others.