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Semi-conductor shortage, third wave, vaccine tourism, lumber prices, Dogecoin, cottage madness, Elon Musk hosting SNL.

These are some things you probably didn’t expect to see in the headlines in 2021. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world and create the conditions for some odd behavior.

On a positive note, optimists now equal pessimist in the US with economic confidence returning to pre-pandemic levels with more than 50% of the population being vaccinated. While optimism feels more subdued here in Canada, vaccination efforts have picked up speed and there is hope for some normality in the second half of the year.

With so much new money in the financial system, we continue to see sky high prices in everything from stocks and real estate to watches and vintage cars. It can’t go on forever, but will likely continue while interest rates remain low and savings rates are high due to a reduction in traditional spending patterns.

We continue to come across thought provoking material and have curated our latest reading list including four books and several articles below.

We also kept the new streaming section which was a popular addition last quarter. This may die down once we can resume normal activities and spend less time in front of our screens. It’s interesting to note that in 2019 the average American (and probably Canadians too) spent around 8 hours a day in front of screens; during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, this has ballooned to over 13 hours a day. Enjoy the improving weather and time outside (away from screens) over the coming months.

Book Recommendations

Click on the title below to be redirected to the book.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old | Unknown Author
Hendrik sets out a mission to give an exposé of a year in the life of his Amsterdam nursing home. This story is charming and inspiring to both older readers and younger folks. It weaves in themes such as friendship, aging, and even romance. It should be noted that this book became an instant phenomenon when published in the Netherlands and interestingly Hendrik Groen is not the author. No one is aware of the author’s identity, which makes it even more intriguing.

Why We Sleep | Matthew Walker
This book was a real eye-opener (or rather, an eye-closer).  Renowned neuroscientist and sleep expert, Matthew Walker, provides a fascinating look into why we sleep, why it’s important, and how all facets of our lives can be improved through a healthy sleep regime.  This book has significantly altered my attitude towards sleep, and it may do the same for you.

The Great Believers | Rebecca Makkai
The story of a group of friends and their journey through the 1980s AIDS crisis in Chicago and its effects on the contemporary lives of survivors. Very well written and a 2019 Pulitzer prize finalist.

The Power of Moments | Dan Heath and Chip Heath
This book is dives into why certain moments and experiences create such an extraordinary impact on our lives. We accept that people can become good friends quickly, but how is that two strangers can meet and after a short period together become best friends? It highlights the power of creating these lasting moments and the benefits of doing so.

Article Recommendations

Click on the title below to see the full content.

BBC: Have we got minimalism all wrong?
Minimalism has been marketed and monetized based simply on reducing possessions, but as the article opines, it’s really about adherence to simple living ideas, accepting change, and a focus on the self and community rather than possessions.

LinkedIn: The Sucker in the SPAC Market and why the Bubble will Pop
You’ve probably seen the headline “[insert questionable company] to go public via SPAC”.  This article does a great job of explaining the mechanics behind a SPAC transaction, where the opportunity for arbitrage lies, why the current promote structure is problematic, and the signs the SPAC market is in bubble territory.

New York Magazine: BidenBucks Is Beeple Is Bitcoin: In a system rigged by the rich, outsiders have to make their own volatility.
New York University Professor Scott Galloway shares his thoughts on global markets, cryptocurrencies, COVID bailouts, NFTs (non-fungible token) and more. Scott believes the trillions in COVID bailouts will ultimately be judged as a crime against the middle class as only 1/3 of bailout dollars have made it to individuals.

New Yorker: Mask Mandates Are Easing, but the Way We Look at Faces Has Changed Forever
We are in the midst of a “Zoom boom” in facelifts prompted by Zoom dysmorphia – people’s obsessions with the imperfections that they’ve noticed onscreen. It’s all lead to new rapid adoption of facial recognition technology.

Atlantic: The Unspoken Wedge Between Parents and Grandparents
Disagreements about how to raise grandchildren is common, with common points of contention around discipline, food, screen time, and bedtime. It’s a sensitive topic with many parents aiming to fix their own parents’ mistakes and many grandparents thinking they have more experience and success in raising children.

Wired: This Researcher Says AI Is Neither Artificial nor Intelligent
Kate Crawford in her new book – Atlas of AI – discusses in this interview how statistical prediction is incredibly useful, but comes with its own logic, its own politics, its own ideologies that people are rarely made aware of.

Harvard Business Review: Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome
This piece highlights how “imposter syndrome” or doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud in a career is often diagnosed to women. The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals, but to fix the environments which foster insidious and complex biases.

Guardian: Global shortage in computer chips ‘reaches crisis point’
“Chips are everything” and the perfect storm of supply and demand factors have caused a major shortage. You’ve likely heard about it, but this article dives into the driving forces.

Globe and Mail: Where did the Gardiner Expressway go? Once a barrier, now exciting things are happening underneath
There are some exciting things going on in and around the Gardiner Expressway (an arterial freeway through downtown Toronto). I am biased here as I was involved (founding board chair) in bringing a quirky park – The Bentway – to fruition under the Gardiner.

Streaming Recommendations

A new addition to the reading list. Click on the titles below to see the streaming options.

Podcasts

The History of English
This is a chronological history of the English language examined through the lens of historical events that shaped the development and spread of the language from the Eurasian steppe to the entire world. For instance, if you’ve ever wondered why “chef” and “chief” are pronounced differently, if you’re confused by English spelling or want to know how we arrived at furlongs and fathoms as units of measurement, and if you’re curious about how the Roman alphabet developed or why we still use the Babylonian base-60 for units of time, this is the podcast for you.

Possibly a little nerdy, but so interesting! Make sure you listen to them in order.

West Cork
In West Cork, it’s simply known as ‘the murder’. In 1996 French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier is found dead near her holiday home. There are no witnesses and no known motive. The police suspect one man in this community, but they can’t make a charge stick and he refuses to leave, living under the glare of suspicion ever since.

On Being
A Peabody Award-winning public radio show and podcast. It’s hosted by Krista Tippett who interviews fascinating people across a rich tapestry of topics including: What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? And who will we be to each other?

Movies

Breaking News in Yuba County
Life in Colour with David Attenborough
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: A Legacy Brought to Screen
My Octopus Teacher
On the Basis of Sex
Seaspiracy
Citizen Kane
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
When Harry Met Sally

TV

Billions
Dead to Me
Formula 1: Drive to Survive
Long Way Up
Long Way Round
Long Way Down
Mad Men
The IT Crowd
The Morning Show
The Wire

As a lifelong learner, I am always interested in reading material that broadens my horizons, challenges my thinking, and provides all-important context for the decisions we make. This is true for the entire Northwood team.

We’d also be interested in hearing what you’ve been reading lately. If you’ve come across any particularly insightful articles, books or shows, please feel free to send them to me at tm@northwoodfamilyoffice.com. Thanks to the many people who have already shared their ideas.

All the best,
Tom

Northwood Family Office

Tom McCullough

Tom McCullough is Chairman and CEO of Northwood Family Office, which looks after the investments and integrated financial affairs of wealthy families with $10 million or more. He teaches ‘The Management of Private Wealth’ in the MBA program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and is also co-author of the books, Family Wealth Management and Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealthy Families Ask.

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