GLOBAL PROVINCE - Home - About This Site - Agile Companies - Annual Reports - Best of Class - Best of theTriangle - Big Ideas - Brain Stem - Business Diary - Dunk's Dictums - Global Wit & Worldly Wisdom - Gods, Heroes, & Legends - Infinite Bookstore - Investor Digest - Letters from the Global Province - Other Global Sites - Poetry & BusinessScenes from the Global ProvinceA Stitch in Time - Two Rivers


Return to the Index of Letters from the Global Province

GP10Nov04: Déjà vu All Over Again

Yogi Berra.  Well, we actually stole our title from Yogi Berra, the catching sage who opined that “it’s déjà vu all over again.”  Though he might not be saying this anymore, since the Red Sox broke the curse and finally bumbled their way past the archenemy Yankees to a World Series victory this year, after decades of copious failure.  The victory was all the more sweet because Sox General Manager Theo Epstein’s brainy trades outbatted and outran George Steinbrenner’s moneybucks management, which had previously stolen so many championships.  The actual series against the St. Louis Cardinals was really just an anti-climax.. 

Anyway, this week we revisit and update matters we have discussed many times before on the Global Province.  Maybe there’s nothing really new under the sun, and we are destined to dress up old truths in new clothing. 

Campton Place.  We’ve just been back to Campton Place, a smallish hotel just off Union Square in San Francisco.  If anything, it has become better than before, and its restaurant has risen from a solid B to an exquisite A.  We had previously called it San Francisco’s best breakfast hotel (see Best Class #172), but it’s more than that.  At the moment, the hotel is a very warm retreat from a town than is losing its vitality and decaying because of poor governance and because of mixed performance by its business establishment.  Right now San Francisco has a noisy hotel strike, and the picket lines across Stockton at the Hyatt remind you of why you don’t want to stay at the big chains.  The restaurant has a new cook, one Daniel Humm of Switzerland, if we have got it right, who turns out an elaborate saucy prix fixe that’s worth the overeating.  You might chase your meal with a New Zealand Cloudy Bay (see Blancs from New Zealand) or something light.  Don’t even bother with dessert, since you will be too full. 

The rooms have always been small here, but the amenities and little efforts at service by the backroom staff make up for it.  The robes are in the bathroom, the radio for a change is decent, the health club is not as sterile as those in lesser inns, and the design touches are more subtle than hotel branding geniuses normally allow.  It’s charming in a city that’s losing both its burnish and its sense of humor.   

Toning Up the Brain.  This week Sharon Begley of the Wall Street Journal (November 5, 2004) reveals “Scans of Monks’ Brains Show Meditation Alters Structure, Functioning.”  The esoteric have come up with a fancy term for this—“neuroplasticity.”  The shortest way we can say it is that brain scanning apparently shows that meditation tunes things up and improves brain circuitry.  The monks showed “a dramatic increase in high-frequency brain activity called gamma waves during compassion meditation.”  Buddhists who have meditated a lot—say 10,000 hours—put out a lot more gamma than mere novices.  It has long been clear to us that the brain needs meditation, just as the body needs exercise.  We have commented on the healthful aspects of meditation in “Meditation for Body and Soul” and this week’s update on Brain Stem

Distressed.  Not many doubt that the we are experiencing epidemic rises in both depression and stress throughout the developed world.  That’s sufficient reason for us to get very interested in meditation, since our healthcare systems are generally not funding treatment for this depression and, in any event, we really do not know how to deal with it (see “Anatomy of Melancholy”).  But for a contrarian view about stress, read Dan Seligman’s “New Crisis—Junk Statistics”  (Forbes, October 16, 2004), where this retired Fortune writer assures us that all the talk about mounting stress in the workplace is a myth cooked up by journalists in search of a new cause.  We have put up more about this article on Brain Stem, though we suspect that only Polyanna would deny that the stress explosion is for real. 

Small Country Panacea.  Naturally, as we said last week “In Search of Governing Ideas,” we believe you should escape to small countries, at least to get away from the press of stress, and maybe to pick up some new ideas for all that ails us.  The grass is growing greener over there. When asked why he robbed banks, Willy Sutton is reputed to have said, “Because that’s where the money is.”  First Citigroup and now GE Finance have recognized the same truth: GE’s consumer finance unit is now branching out into Eastern and Central Europe in search of new markets in  places like Croatia and Rumania, which we don’t like to think about.  For more on this, see Agile Companies and “GE Banks on Emerging Markets” in the Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2004. 

PricewaterhouseCoopers (what an awkward name), meanwhile, is sending its partners to poor, emerging nations in order to build their global savvy (see Business Week, September 6, 2004 and Agile Companies).  It used to be that you could send your managers on the fast track to France, the UK, and Japan in order to put some global polish on their shoes.  Now you need to dress them in hiking boots, send them into the outback, and make sure they visit all the small countries at the edges of the map.  In any event, others seem to share our sentiment that thar’s a lot of gold to be had in all those unpronounceable places. 

Herbs for Pleasure and Herbs for Health.  Spices are coming into their own, and we have gotten into the act with our new SpiceLines newsletter.  But we have also said that you may expect to see many more herbal medicines over the next decade (see “Where Angels  Fear to Tread”).  On Agile Companies you should read the “Herbal Medicine Man.”  Bob McGraw of the McGraw-Hill family thinks he will have a $15 million herbal medicine company by the end of this year.  He believes the embryonic Chinese herbal medicine market will grow into a U.S. behemoth of $650 million in the next 10 years. 

That’s some green lettuce!  We used to say, “Go West, Young Man!”  Now we’re headed East—to Chinese owned Campton Place and a quiet stay; towards expanding markets; to learn meditation; or to rejuvenate ourselves with herbs.

Back to Top of Page

Return to the Index of Letters from the Global Province

Home - About This Site - Contact Us

Copyright 2004 GlobalProvince.com