This morning the sky was a perfect medium blue. There were a few almost circular clouds off to the west over the Santa Rosa Mountains. The golf course was its usual emerald undulating seduction. My pool was a hypnotic blue that matched the sky. Small blue gray tiles carried my feet to the water and then dumped me out into its 88-degree welcome.
This is living. I thought as I swam slowly back and forth. This is why we work when we are young. This is why I used to take the 7th Avenue IRT down to the Wall Street Journal to write editorials and columns when I was a lad. The Journal was fine and cozy and I worked under a man named Jack Cooper who was sarcastic as hell but a funny guy. But the train stank of body odor and had no air conditioning and was a horror show.
One day I flew out to Beverly Hills — courtesy of that self same Wall Street Journal — to write about the political content of the TV and movie world. I could scarcely believe my eyes. No subway. No body odors. Instead, palm-lined broad avenues with immense homes. Everyone at the front door of the Beverly Hills Hotel had a Mercedes. At the studios, grown men wore jeans and had TVs running as they worked. Why was I surprised at that? I used to watch TV every day in my office at the EOB when I worked for RN. I guess it was the cars and the palm trees and the seemingly leisurely pace. “The stars and the bars and my Carmen.” Only later did I learn that the water in the ponds at the studios was red not because of rose petals but because sharks feasted on each other nearby in offices with TV’s running.
Well, a lot of time has passed. Now I have one of those houses in Beverly Hills. I have a sunny, bright house with twenty-foot floor to ceiling windows opening on the pool here in Rancho Mirage. I am not bragging about it. I didn’t design it. I didn’t build it. It wasn’t even expensive. I just write a check for it for a while. Soon we will move to Malibu anyway.
But how much money do I have left? More to the point, how many days do I have left? What is the life span of a seemingly healthy but overweight 71-year-old man who swims twice a day in this pool?
How long will the house last? How much tax will I have to pay for 2015? How many bushels of corn will grow in Iowa this year? How many divisions has the Pope? How many votes will Hillary lose when voters realize how much she praised Wall Street at her $625,000 speeches last year or the year before?
Measurement. Is the earth really heating up? Is man changing the climate? New science says definitely not. Plants generate hugely more oxygen and eat up hugely more CO2 as the earth warms, pushing it towards cooling again. That’s the latest science. Charles Krauthammer, as smart a man as there is on this planet, said that calling climate change “settled science” is “idiotic.” Measurement. If climate scientists were not living in an Orwellian Thought Police World, how many would call man-made climate change “settled science”?
Measurement. How many young Americans can read and write? How many can do simple algebra? How long can we last as a superpower with dumbbells as our professors and illiterates crowding our schools and our prisons?
Accountants count. Nothing would work without counting. There are about 1.3 million accountants. It’s a great job. An exacting, tough, precise job. A no room for community organizers here job. But without counting, there is basically no civilization or social organization. Accountants are as basic as blacksmiths or farmers. They are as basic as warriors. They are warriors for progress and knowledge. They are warriors for truth.
I just read Mr. Buffett’s letter to us stockholders of BRK. He’s a wit and astoundingly insightful. But the guts of the letter is accounting, and wow, can he count, especially large sums.
I finished swimming and stopped thinking while I took a shower and went to a meeting. After the meeting I had hot and sour soup on a shopping center plaza as the winds started to howl.
They have been howling ever since. Gusts up to 65 miles per hour. The climatologists are counting. The dogs are hiding under the covers. Time to sleep. How many hours until I have to get up? We are each our own accountants. I am my own keeper. There is no science without measurement.