Lessons from the eclipse.

Author:Shaw, David
Position:ENDNOTE - Editorial
 
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This summer, my wife and I drove our RV to Hopkinsville, Ky., hoping to experience the total eclipse of the sun. Hopkinsville was going to be right in the middle of the path of totality, and near the longest eclipse duration.

A year in advance, we had booked a hotel room about 50 miles out of town--the only one available at the time. Then we reserved a parking space for the RV near the point of totality. We had our backup plans and, to the best of our ability, had managed our risks.

Sure, eclipses and their paths are completely predictable, centuries in advance. But there were many unpredictables, as well. Would the weather cooperate? According to long-term forecasts, Hopkinsville usually experienced 40-60% cloud cover on the date of the eclipse. And in fact, a short distance away in Nashville, friends of ours experienced those clouds at the moment of totality, blotting out the blotted out sun. Would the RV make the trip in one piece, without our usual stops for some minor or major repair? Other family members experienced aircraft issues and had to skip flying to make a 12-hour drive at the last minute. And would we make it on time? The traffic, both before and after the big event, was miserable, at least in northwestern Kentucky.

As chance would have it, we made it, the sky was clear, and totality was awe-inspiring. (See the photo accompanying this piece, taken by yours truly.)

On the long drive home to Maryland, I had plenty of time to think about predictability, planning, risk management and, frankly, just plain luck. As I write this, the Dow has achieved yet another all-time high, nuclear sabers are being rattled between North Korea and the U.S., the Russia investigation continues, tax reform has been floated and will soon be debated and lobbied for and against, ACA remains in force for now, GDP growth has accelerated and the full effects of the Equifax cyber breach have yet to be seen. Add to this the potential impacts of Brexit and the Catalan separatist debacle, hurricane recovery in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, another mass shooting and whatever else may happen tomorrow.

It's difficult to predict what might happen, especially when read against the background of some things we can predict: stock markets will go through bull and bear markets, business cycles will continue to boom and then bust. Where are we now with those? Who knows for sure?

Risk...

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