Money

All’s Well that Ends…

“You should be kissed often, and by someone who knows how.” Rhett Butler It seemed that everything had been taken care of at the Zurich Cantonal Bank and that we were home free. But I’d overlooked one crucial item. Previously in this series: Switcheroo!After Dr. Brenner and I had shaken hands with the bank officials and …

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Switcheroo!

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley. Robert Burns We were parked at a service plaza on Route 3, just inside the Zurich cantonal border, and Dr. Brenner had gotten an urgent message to call his office. Now he and I were standing in the parking lot a ways apart from …

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It Takes a Village (To Move All That Gold)

My client, Goldie, had spent many annoying decades conducting gold inventories in remote Swiss villages, and now I’d just been informed that it had been totally unnecessary. Previously in this series: Goldie, Part III“But … but …” I said. The Pictet partner explained that while the army’s original strategy (to pull back into the mountains) …

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Goldie, Part III

No military plan survives the first contact with the enemy. von Moltke the Elder I’m describing how a lawyer conducts a gold inventory, just in case some of my readers might need help with their bullion in the future. Previously in this series: The Routine of Gold After we completed the inventory at the little bank …

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The Routine of Gold

When Goldie asked me to conduct the gold inventory for her, I’d simply assumed that her gold was stored in the vast vault under the Credit Suisse headquarters building on the Bahnhofstrasse in downtown Zurich. After all, she’d been a good customer of the bank for decades. Previously in this series: GoldieI’d planned to walk …

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Financial Literacy: What’s it Worth?

Editor’s note: We asked a group of local financial leaders to weigh in on this question: How important is increasing financial literacy among our society and your potential customer base and what programs do you have to educate citizens in making responsible financial decisions, whether on mortgages, insurance products, loans, investments or savings?   VINCENT …

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Goldie

“The Golden Rule: She who has the gold makes the rules.” The Wizard of Id (paraphrased to modify the gender) Quite some years ago I had a remarkable client I’ll call Goldie. Goldie was then in her late sixties and looked exactly like a lady in her late sixties: gray hair pulled back in a bun, …

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The Origin of the World (and the End of the Tours)

Being the college guide sounds fairly straightforward, but in fact the job was full of pitfalls – landmines in every direction. The first pitfall arose out of the fact that I could never know who was going to be on my tour. It might be sensible people who thought the Orozco murals should be nuked, …

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Touring with the Big Shots

The typical family unit on my tour was a mom, a dad, and a 17-year-old kid who was a prospective student. But one day an unusual unit showed up – a kid and his gorgeous older sister. Well, well, well, I thought. Previously in this series: How Not to be a College Guide The third …

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How Not to Be the College Guide

As a scholarship boy I was expected to get a summer job, save lots of money, and apply it to my tuition for the fall semester. Except nobody was hiring. It was now late in my sophomore year and I scurried over to the Financial Aid office to let them know my summer job prospects …

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And the Winner is…Us (The U.S.)

“There seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere.” — Buzz Lightyear Last week we looked at countries that are likely to suffer the most as America abandons its role as world cop. This week let’s take a look at countries which are likely to fare best. Previously in this series: China’s Future ProblemsBut remember …

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China’s Future Problems

“This is an intergalactic emergency!” Buzz Lightyear I could devote several months of essays to the question of how and why America became so divided and how and why we lost the stomach for maintaining the global paradise we so painfully created and maintained for so long. But what’s the use? It is what it is. …

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Goodbye to All That

“Because of YOU, the future of this entire universe is in jeopardy!”- Buzz Lightyear The period after World War II was essentially a human paradise. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but compared to any other period in human history it was as close to paradise as mortal humans could ever have expected to experience. Naturally, it …

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To Greatness – and Beyond!

“To infinity – and beyond!” – Buzz Lightyear With thanks to Buzz Lightyear, let’s take a look, first, at the astonishing world America created after World War II, and then we’ll watch as that world crumbles and re-forms into the dystopian future we are hurtling toward. Late last year I wrote a series of essays in …

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The Surprising (Sad) Ending

I sometimes write about investment matters or geopolitical issues, but mostly these essays are pieces of fluff designed to entertain or, I hope, amuse my readers. But this series will end on a sad – even a tragic – note. Previously in this series: Favorite Drinks & Pittsburgh LoreThe Rainbow Room I started my company, …

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Favorite Drinks & Pittsburgh Lore

Hot buttered rum Since temperatures are plunging as I write this series, I cheerfully pass on to you The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails (TOCSC) recipe for hot buttered rum: mix one cup of softened, salted butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg. This will keep in the refrigerator for a long time. When your fingers are …

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Tales from the Bunghole (Not What You May Think)

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.” — Benjamin Franklin, supposedly. Except the first recorded use of the word “bacteria” occurred in 1864 and Franklin died in 1790. Previously in this series: Odd but Essential Booze TruthsSingle barrel and small batch Every barrel of whiskey is slightly different …

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Odd but Essential Booze Truths

I had so much fun reading The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails (TOCSC) that I could continue writing about it for months. But don’t worry, I won’t. Previously in this series: Tennessee Whiskey and the Whiskey RebellionThe book isn’t a work of fiction or nonfiction, of course, but a work of reference. In fact, in 2022 it won …

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Tennessee Whiskey and the Whiskey Rebellion

Back in 1981 two songwriters, Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove, were sitting in the Bluebird Café in Nashville drinking a lot of Tennessee whiskey. Dillon told Hargrove he had an idea for a song about the whiskey and so, at four a.m., they headed off to Hargrove’s place and wrote “Tennessee Whiskey,” a terrific song. …

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Rise of the Fern Bar!

When I first reached legal drinking age most bars were designed to be patronized by men – that is, by people who couldn’t care less what the places looked like. As a result, most bars looked and smelled terrible. (But I quickly got used to it.) Previously in this series: The Mysteries of VodkaBut along …

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The Mysteries of Vodka

Vodka “Vodka is unlike other forms of alcohol in that there is no justifiable excuse for drinking it … you might as well inject vodka into your bloodstream.”  Russian writer Viktor Yerofeyev Previously in this series: The Near Classic CocktailsFor much of my drinking life I assumed that vodka-was-vodka, a neutral grain spirit that tasted …

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The Near Classic Cocktails

The CosmopolitanI’m going to be flat-out sexist because it’s true – the Cosmo was a promising new cocktail that was ruined when, in the 1990s, virtually every young woman who ever went near a bar ordered one. No doubt they heard about it from Sex and the City, where, surprise surprise, it was the house drink. …

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