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2011: My year in review

2011 was a big year for me filled with events I choose to perceive as miracles that bloomed or exploded at a dazzling pace. Here are a few of the mile marks:

Technology

2011 was the year that I moved to cloud-based technologies. I purchased my first personal computer in 1982, so this coming year will be the 30th in my quest of technologies that improve the quality of life. The move from PC-based to cloud-based technology and the integration of a growing number of Web-based personal technologies with business functions will prove to be a mile mark if not a turning point in the larger picture of life. The convergence of Web-based data, telephone, TV, music, navigation and other communication technology made a major splash in my life. Like any previous technology, I have mixed feelings over this year’s changes.

I explored but found little use for tablet-based machines and electronic readers. I prefer machines with keyboard and camera based input. I reconsidered but ultimately declined to jump onto the Apple bandwagon. Most of the technology I use remains based on MS Windows or Linux.

Environment

2011 is also the year that I concluded that we have entered the 6th age of mass extinction of life on planet earth. While our environmentalist responses and advancing future technologies might slow down the inevitable, there is no stopping the significant series of events that will wipe out life on earth as we know it. This realization was particularly hard for me to accept. Being a lifelong optimist and a child of the Kennedy era space technology race, I fought this sober conclusion with every ounce of intellectual and spiritual energy I could spare. The thought of accepting our society’s inevitable doom caused me internal pain that manifested itself in mental and physical symptoms this year. Eventually I slowly accepted the premise of the majority of earth science writers like Jared Diamond who propose that the best we (as a civilization) can do is to age gracefully. It is not at all clear that we can even accomplish that goal but I am committed to contributing to the best of my ability. Of course I realize that the majority of people have not reached this conclusion – and may never actually reach this conclusion (especially if you happen to be a politician from Texas)– but the underlying facts and data supporting the conclusion are clear beyond a reasonable scientific doubt for anyone who cares to study the topic.

Education

I did more reading this year than any other, including the years of graduate school. I attribute this to efficiencies gained by combining morning walks, coffee and reading. The combination seems to allow me to increase intensity and focus on learning to about 2 hours per day. I also passed the CPA exam (for the 2nd time) by spreading out the study during these morning reading sessions. My vision seems to have taken a hit – perhaps associated with the increased amount of book and screen time. Reading glasses are now a necessary for a growing number of daily activities.

Economics

This was my most successful year as an investor or investment adviser but admittedly by pure luck. I stayed in cash until October _ when the market hit its low point of the year. I bought and stayed invested through year end resulting in an overall gain of about _%. Regrettably, my investable assets are still at minimal levels due to recent life events.

I seriously underestimated the public reaction to health reform law. My business income was down by about 40% overall. About half of that was due to decreased spending by consumers and about half due to decreased spending by health insurance companies. In contrast, the largest market leaders in my industry reported a fall-off of only 20% to 25% (although I’m not convinced they are not sugar-coating their operating results for public reporting purposes).

My predictions about the persistence of long term declines in the real estate proved accurate and actually helped me in an indirect manner. After suffering a more severe drop in net worth due to real estate in 2006-2010 than most Americans, I did better by recognizing and psychologically embracing these losses in 2011 and then launching a multi-faceted rebuilding process. It may take a decade but I will eventually restore the value of my properties. I am working with local and state officials to modify tax, zoning and environmental regulations in response to the changing realities of real estate ownership.

Overall, I believe that I am now well-prepared to help others make financial plans to recover from the painful impact of the recession.

Travel

I had the opportunity to visit Atlantic City, Cape May, Rehoboth Delaware, Chincoteague, Ocean City and Tangier Virginia, and Mexico for recreation and vacation.

I made educational visits to Penn State campus twice as well as University of Delaware, Morgan State University, University of Miami, University of Maryland and University of Virginia. Most of these trips were related to plans to launch an aquaculture operation in New Jersey.

Other

I’ve intentionally skipped some huge life arenas like family, relationships, health, spiritual and community. The omission is not because nothing significant occurred but rather that I simply choose to avoid writing about it here and now.

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