Wisdom -- A Primer
The Week in Review -- July 17, 1998
by Jerry Thomas (tmfcheeze@aol.com)

Greetings, Fools.

If you want to make people think you know what you are talking about, it is a very simple matter to do so. All you need is a tidy set of neat, declarative sentences. Make statements that are direct, plain, and authoritative, and express them in deep, resonant tones, preferably from the inside of an Armani suit. It doesn't matter in the slightest whether you have an actual idea in your head when you speak -- the simple fact that you have the poise to state your case with blunt certitude is enough to win the confidence of a great many people. It's better still if you can present your words beneath a prestigious masthead or before the regal lights of a television camera.

Consider this passage:

The market is showing some important indications at this time. My sentiment readings are signaling liquidity redistribution, and if resistance is broken, we'll see some broad volatility in the near term. The situation in Asia is putting pressure on world economies, and the markets will have to digest the current interest rate fluctuations before responding. Expect uncertainty going forward.

Sounds plausible, eh? Thing is, I have no idea what I just said. I just made it up, with no effort to wrap up any real thinking in those words. Fragments of it, perhaps, make sense, but taken as a whole, it's unintelligible. If it seems reasonable, it is only because it sings a reasonable song, even if the lyrics are nonsense.

Call this lesson one in How To Be Wise.

Critical thought and meaningful discourse require an exchange of ideas and a sometimes-messy debate. In Fooldom, we encourage this sort of rabble-rousing fun. Take this week's Dueling Fools spat between Chris Rugaber (TMF RFK) and Louis Corrigan (TMF Seymor), which examines the prospects of Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ). We present this debate not as is customary in the financial press; that is, not as a panel of media pundits speaking ex cathedra with presumed infallibility. No, this is a lively clash of ideas designed to prompt real thought. It demands that readers come to their own conclusions. Even more than that, it encourages them to continue the discussion on their own in our Compaq messagefolder, where they can express their own ideas in a real-time debate that takes place in an endless, round-the-clock conversation. Never mind that Chris and Louis give us a well-done piece examining a key company in an industry that rewards attention -- this is also a fine example of the exciting changes that new technologies are bringing to the way people learn, and grow, and think, and understand.

After all, there are real people out there in cyberspace. Proof of this is readily at hand -- even as I compose these notes, I'm readying myself for a lunch meeting with two Fools I met online. In a matter of hours, a couple of screen names -- "irisand" and "laopera" -- will step from the virtual world behind my monitor screen when we meet at a Korean restaurant on the west side of Los Angeles. For the details on how that developed, I'll leave it to you to explore the last week's postings in the Women &Investing folder on our website. I'm frankly thrilled at the chance to meet these folks in person, and I wonder if we'll be able to resist the urge to type at each other during the meal. "laopera" (aka Joseph Mailander), by the way, wrote this week's outstanding Post ofthe Day , a very erudite examination of the banking industry from someone who works in the business.

This week has us in the heart of earnings season, and Fool coverage of the latest quarterly results is everywhere. Lift an elbow and you're liable to bump into an examination of the latest financial data of some company or another. We have coverage of the conference calls from Andrew Corp . (Nasdaq: ANDW), Pentair (NYSE: PNR), Iomega (NYSE: IOM), and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC). Intel's missed-it-by-that-much earnings announcement was also the focus of Dale Wettlaufer's (TMF Ralegh) pithy examinations in Wednesday's Lunchtime News. Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff) also looked at Intel's earnings, and Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ) to boot, in Wednesdays Drip Portfolio report. Frankly, there's lots more information out there on more companies than I have space to mention... all I can do is encourage the curious to get clicking.

In the space I have left, let me highlight a few of the best bits to appear in Fooldom in the past week. First, Thursday's Evening News gave us a great piece by Alex Schay (TMF Nexus6), who considers the difficulty of evaluating stocks in new industries and the impact that an innovative technology can give to a company that is otherwise hard to size up. Louis Corrigan, in a special feature released on Tuesday, examines some complex new proposals that could reform trading on the Nasdaq exchange. Last, and dearest, please look over the MidyearUpdate on our Fool Charity Fund's Fight Against Hunger, in cooperation with Share Our Strength. There, you'll be able to see how your contributions are making a difference in the lives of people who really need it.

Until next week,
Fool on!


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