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Inflation is ebbing. In praise of Norway, Airbnbs, technology. and the Mayan Apocalypse.

Eat your heart out:

I’m back from Norway.

It’s the same bear market I left. Today 83% of the stocks on my “Watch List” are down. Four of them — Netflix, Generac, ASML and Nvidia — are down over 4%. That’s ginormous for one day.

There’s nothing strange about this: The Fed wants to bring 8% inflation down to 2%. It does this by raising rates, which selectively depresses industries, like housing and real estate. Which depresses all the industries that serve them.

The major cause of inflation is energy — oil and gas. It seems to be coming down. This is WTI for the last year:

With the drop in oil and the easing up of supply chain issues, inflation is definitely easing. We’ll learn more Friday when PCE numbers are released.

Meantime, sit tight. Bear the pain. Take a trip to Norway. (More about that in a moment.) Here’s Nasdaq for the past year.  Notice the nice bounce it had from the July 1.

I don’t know why the bounce happened nor why today happened. But I have total confidence that U.S. stocks are the place to be long-term. Here’s Nasdaq over the last ten years.

It’s all about improving technology, also called productivity enhancing. Technology is affecting and improving every industry.

I’m  back from a week in Norway with new insights. Travel does that to you. You think your insights are profound. Ha! I have two main insights:

+ Technology is making things better, faster, cheaper. A simple example. I didn’t use cash once in Norway or Sweden. I don’t even know what Norwegian bank notes look like. Bye, bye ATM machines.

+ Technology is making new industries every day. We stayed at Airbnbs. They’re cheaper, better and bigger than pokey hotel rooms. Moreover they have washer/dryers. Airbnb exists because of the Internet. So does Turo, which rents better cars than Avis or Hertz.

Now to important things:

Norway is gorgeous, cheap and friendly. Norway is as close to Heaven as it gets. Norway is rich — from oil, hydro-electric, fishing, agriculture and tourism. Education is free. Health care is free. Potholes have been outlawed. The food is beyond fantastic. I saw more people over six feet than I’ve ever seen — men and women. My favorite dish: Norwegian fish soup:

For my taste Norway is a shopping paradise. Everything is long — longer than what we in the U.S. call “tall.” Everything fits me. I bought sweaters of 100% cotton. You don’t get them any more in the states. Their technology of outdoor clothes is incredible. It rains a lot. Good for testing.

We spent an unbelievably enjoyable day at Oslo’s new $650 million museum and the Nobel Peace Price Center. Norway’s politicians believed they needed a world-class museum to attract tourists. They did good. It’s magnificent. It rivals New York’s Met.

Technology is ubiquitous. The most modest Airbnbs we stayed in had 100 meg Wi-Fi. Farmers have fiber at 500 megs. And the countryside has universal 5G. (Heh, Verizon, what about some modest 3G cell service in New York’s Columbia County?)

We biked in scenic ultra-isolated places, guided by Internet maps and GPS. We made reservations for museums, fjord ferry tours, restaurants, buses and paid for them on our phones. Restaurant billpaying was via a Wi-Fi gadget that printed a receipt at our table. Ten seconds later an email would pop up showing me what Chase charged me for the dinner.

None of this might impress my readers, but it sure impressed me.

I don’t get out much.

Why are American restaurants so backward? Block, (aka Square) are you listening? PayPal? MasterCard? Visa?

The best food in Norway is bread, fish soup, salmon and prawns. Many of the lobsters actually come from Maine. They’re pretty good, too.

The business of energy

Norwegian electricity  is 99% hydroelectric. When Russia invaded Ukraine, the world of energy was turned upside down. Now Norway sells electricity to Germany, Sweden, Denmark and England. There’s huge boom laying electricity cables from Norway to all these other places. It’s international arbitrage. When prices are high, they sell. When prices are low they buy, switching the direction of the electricity flows on the cables.

Norway’s hydro is a battery of sorts. The dams drain when Norway is selling. And fill up when Norway is buying. Norway isn’t building new dams, just upgrading the turbines to produce more electricity more efficiently.

Norway has the biggest oil and gas reserves in the world. They use more technology than you can imagine — including underwater drones to monitor what’s happening with the many wells (and their fish farms). Some of the oil platforms can pick themselves up and propel themselves to another location. These funny shaped ships are used for pulling up the heavy anchors and chains which hold the platforms in place.

The front of the ship has a helicopter landing pad.

In one teeny tiny town called Flam, I found this darling sign in their park:

And here’s the machine.

I checked on Amazon. A mower for my house would cost me about three months of mowing bills. I saw many robots happily mowing all over Norway. Bye, bye the business of lawn mowing.

More Travel tips

+ You don’t need cash in Europe. One cafe/bakery in Norway showed me what Norwegian money looked like. But they didn’t allow me to touch it. It was the first time I’d seen it. There isn’t anything — big or small — you can’t buy with credit card. Bye, Bye ATM machines. Buy buy street performers. Not all.  Some display their Venmo number for tips..

+ Bose noise cancelling earbuds cut airplane noise by 90%. Hence you can sleep. The greatest travel invention ever.

+ KLM is a seriously challenged airline. If it’s not bankrupt, it should be. Its Wi-Fi doesn’t work across the Atlantic — either way. Its “food” gives bad taste a whole new meaning. Its service staff is seriously depressed. and needs therapy. The head cabin attendant, a nice man in a tailored suit, told me “I’ve been writing up the problem with Wi-Fi for years. Nothing gets done.” Sadly KLM shares the transatlantic route with Delta. Sometimes you end up on a KLM plane, sadly. Delta is much better.

+ You can’t check in internationally on Delta or KLM over your computer/iPhone. You need to do at the airport.

+ Having a decent book on your iPhone’s Kindle app will let you avoid watching KLM’s antediluvian movies, like Stargirl, Mom, Call Me Cat, or (God Forbid) The Northman. I don’t make this up. Northman is really, really awful.

+ The Apple Macbook uses the same USB-C plug and power supply as my Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which was a serendipitous discovery.

+ Don’t ever check luggage. Too many delays, cancellations, missed connections, etc. I spent several days in Lands End pajamas. which take up less room than real pants. These days tourists dress so badly, I fit right in. People are traveling Europe with a backpack and soap for washing out their stuff in the sink — unless they’re in an Airbnb with a washer and dryer. Remember to take a handful of these. They’re called Tide Pods.

+ I took a battery large enough to power my laptop, my phone and my apple watch. I never expect an airplane’s power to the seat to work.

+ Some days I biked more than 40 miles. Four things made biking enjoyable: The views, an electric bike, sunscreen and water. Lots of water. If I didn’t drink constantly, I’d cramp. Someone suggested magnesium pills, but the water worked fine, if I drunk a couple of liters a day.

+ Some people biked with one headphone and listened to podcasts they’d downloaded.

+ If you’re traveling with people (e.g. family), it’s a good idea to plan your daily activities long in advance. And get your reservations long in advance. Everything is sold out in tourist season — ferry rides, restaurants, train rides, etc.

+ Label your iPhone and your laptop with your name, address, phone number. When you leave it at Security, they’ll page you before you leave. You’ll feel like an idiot but a happy idiot.

+ Get plenty of exercise and rest in your travels. Watch for uneven cobblestone streets and the last step. I have oodles of pictures of the last step. Some were low. Some were high. Most had no place to hold on, like a railing. Dangerous stuff. Bathrooms are pretty slippery also.

If you want to “do” Norway, Google “Norway in a Nutshell.

Tomorrow I”ll show some more technology in Norway. Wait till you see the door hinges.

Fear of Russia

Norway shares a border with Russia. Everyone is afraid of Russia — in varying degrees. I met an Estonian and a Lithuanian. They’re fearful, despite NATO. Norway caught Russian ships mapping Norway’s oil and gas fields. That freaked them out.

Putin is the richest person in the world. He’s absolute dictator of an increasingly brainwashed nation. I am confident he won’t prevail. But I am fearful for the destruction and deaths he’s causing each day. I am fearful for nice happy countries like Norway.

The absolute best book to read on Putin is: Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West. 

I can’t put it down. Click here.

My absolute favorite travel story

I’ll be back tomorrow. when I’ll explain the Mayan Apocalypse.

Promise. — Harry Newton