Posted by: CJ | March 22, 2009

Finance & Starbucks

I’m in the midst of reading a melange of books, articles, and blogs on the financial crisis, and wall street more generally. It’s fascinating, but as I’ve been reading I’m reminded of another big adventure I’ve had over the past several years: learning about coffee culture.

You see, being a Midwesterner I am remarkably ignorant about coffee. I’ve generally been taught that good coffee is a bottomless cup of coffee for $1.50 or so. The notion of a Venti White Chocolate Latte with Soy milk and a double shot of espresso for $5 or $6 was not only foreign, but stupid. This made learning about different types of coffee once I was on the coasts very difficult. But it’s very difficult in a specific way. It’s something that I’ve had to remedy over long, yet intermittent, experience. I can’t just learn all about coffee by reading all the relevant wikipedia articles–there’s too much information, it’s too interconnected, and the exact definitions vary from coffeehouse to coffeehouse anyways.

It’s pretty much the same with finance. There’s simply too much terminology, history, and context to understand what the terms mean all at once. The only way to begin to understand is over long periods of vaguely constant exposure. Then I begin to learn the context, the lingo, the subtle differences between almost synonymous words and what word choice says about the speaker. And along with that I begin to grasp the broader concepts, the underlying commonalities and ideas, etc.

Still, an interesting similarity. I suppose it’s similar with many other things, but coffees and finance are going to forever be linked in my mind as simple-ish things that are made immensely complex because of the interrelations and subtle variations. (Not to mention their ability to destroy the world, if you believe the thesis that coffeehouses in Europe caused a number of revolutions.)


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