Between Northwestern undergrad and Michigan Tech grad school, I worked for 2½ years in the Pre-Order Search Section between Order and the Cataloging Dept. at the Northwestern University Library. All three units were in Technical Services and all three were somewhat obsessed with accuracy. All of us had occasion to input data records and we worked hard at not making mistakes. One day someone was at one of the big IBM mainframe terminals and said, "Oops." A person at the next terminal said, "No 'Oops' at the terminal."
Oops, I Did It Again,
(Oh No You Didn't)
In grad school, I was sitting in the office debugging a FORTRAN program on Monday 19 October 1987 when one of the other grad students came in and said the stock market was crashing. At the time it was down nearly 300 points. It went on to drop over 500. I remember thinking that it was my generation's Great Depression being born and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I mean, I was in the middle of graduate school, busy working on my doctorate. I'd defended my MS thesis, but hadn't gotten around to finishing the revisions, so officially I didn't have any graduate degree. If the economy collapsed and the university started laying people off -- there really wasn't any place to go. It would be two years or so before I could take wing and try to go somewhere, assuming there was an economy left at the end of the day. So I shrugged and went back to debugging my program.
Turns out my reaction was common. Unlike 1929, there wasn't the same kind of people dabbling in the stock market in 1987. If the stock market was crashing, most people didn't care. Indeed, the U.S. economy didn't tank and within a year things were back to normal. Or at least normal for 1988.
I don't care,
I don't care,
Thursday the New York Stock Exchange took a nosedive. For a brief amount of time the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down nearly a 1000 points, but that big drop only lasted like 90 seconds. Rumor has it that someone typed a sell order for 16 billion, instead of 16 million -- Citi denies this, but who asked them, hmm? Then automatic sell programs triggered on the big sell order and for a brief moment some stocks hit zero. Some want to blame the initial drop on concern about the Greek Debt. Some figure that some sort of correction was overdue.
The thing that killed me about Thursday was how much this was Not News. Yeah, I heard a bit in passing on NPR's All Things Considered, but if this was The End Of The U.S. Economy, you sure couldn't tell by the news. Indeed, the local TV news was dominated by coverage of the death of legendary Detroit Tiger's announcer Ernie Harwell. Thursday night NBC's Brian Williams was on The Late Show with David Letterman. I was not really paying attention, but they spent most of the time talking about last Saturday's incompetent Times Square car bomber and the unfolding ecological disaster off the coast of Louisiana. But a major stock dive? Just a few minutes right at the end. I expect tomorrow's Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me to be all over the (b)illion versus (m)illion issue, if it makes the show taping in time.
But the stock market wasn't much for news. Americans are weary of the economy -- and if some Wall Street fat cats got skinned on Thursday, then no doubt the sentiment is "good for them." Because the rest of all already had our retirement investments fleeced in 2008. What can they possibly take from us in 2010?
Meanwhile, neither Big Oil or Wall Street seems to get it, regarding why they need to be regulated for the good of everyone.
And I'm free, I'm free fallin',
Everything is less than zero...
Thank God for those financial institutions,
Too big to fail and,
Paying millions in big bonuses,
So they have the best and brightest,
Forever on the payroll.
Oops, I did it again.
(Oh no you didn't.)