Category Archives: Current

February 2024

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

February is a fraught month, historically. For Romans, it once did not exist. And then it did, as the last month of the year, with the new year beginning when the crops were first sewn and all eyes looked to the future. Februalia, the festival of purification, was the last chance to put the misdeeds of the past behind us and to be prepared to build a future upon a solid foundation.

It’s also the month in which Augustana launches its Spring semester; as I ponder the snow piles on campus, I could imagine a more Continue reading →

January 1, 2024

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to the January issue of Mutual Fund Observer.

January was named after Janus, the tutelary deity of the year’s first month. As tutelary, he was guardian, patron, and protector. Absent from the Greek pantheon, Janus was the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, and endings. It was the “transitions” part that led Romans to place the two-faced god near entries and passageways, where he oversaw their comings and Continue reading →

December 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to December. Welcome to Winter. It’s my favorite time of the year, despite the post-Covid haze that has enveloped me all week. Augustana is increasingly festive, ringing with the sounds of holiday concerts and celebrations, as well as the definite “click” of another semester coming to its close. My students, with their hummingbird-like metabolisms, are loathe to surrender their shorts and sandals even now.

We annually share the same simple reminder. Winter has always been a dark and drear span. The weather turns against us, and we retreat inward for protection. Gardens lay frozen. Workdays are framed by darkness: dark when we arise, dark when we Continue reading →

October 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Welcome to October, a fierce month!

It’s a month of apple harvests and Atlantic hurricanes (214 of them). Of a temperature roller coaster and of market crashes (1907, 1929, and 1987 – days with the word “Black” attached to their names, stand out). Of bonfires and of Great Fires (Mrs. O’Leary and her cow were framed, I tell ya). Of wars (from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 through the Second World War, October was always seen as your last chance for a quick land grab before wintry weather closed you down for the season) and rumors of wars (the Cuban Missile Crisis which, happily, didn’t trigger a global war in part because of President Kennedy’s familiarity with the political intransigence and misunderstanding that triggered the First World War). Of a thinning wall between the Here and the There and of Continue reading →

September 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to the end of the summer. And to the beginning of … the weakest month of the year for the stock market, with an average monthly loss of about 0.7%. And the threshold of the most volatile month of the year, October, which sees an intramonth movement of 8.3%; that is, since 1928, the record says that your portfolio will bounce 8.3% in October (but only 5.2% in February). My inbox overflows with apocalyptic forecasts and also of celebrations of The New Bull. Recognizing that it’s all bull of a sort, I move on.

Augustana welcomes the largest first-year class in its 163-year history, materially (and disconcertingly) fed by the Augustana Possible scholarships that Continue reading →

August 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Thanks so much for your patience. Chip and I spent a couple of weeks in the Scottish Highlands and Shetland Islands, and we knew in advance that that would slightly delay our August launch. Little did we understand the depth of Scottish generosity, as our hosts shared a case of COVID with us as we left the country. (It felt just like 2021 again!) The illness left us completely drained and endlessly exhausted, respectively. But we’ve now rallied and are delighted to share August with you. Continue reading →

June 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to summer.

Had I mentioned that I have the coolest job in the world? I love a challenge. Augustana offers them to me at the rate of sixty a week, approximately the number of students I work with. They often leave me stunned.

(See how important punctuation is? “They often leave me stunned” and “they often leave me, stunned” are two very different observations. Hmmm … both might be accurate, now that I think of it.)

My college started in 1860 with a very humble mission: it wanted to help the children of immigrants build a good Continue reading →

May 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

A Tale of Two Cities

Nominally Chip and I reside in the Quad Cities, whose t-shirts describe them as “twice as nice as the Twin Cities.” It’s a lovely and surprisingly diverse urban area with about 450,000 people and an agglomeration of two dozen small cities and towns. Half of us reside in Illinois, just south of the Mississippi River, and half in Iowa, on the river’s north bank.

The Mississippi River actually flows from east to west here. Recently, though, it has been flowing east, west, north, south, and, more than occasionally, up. As I write, the Mississippi is cresting at 22′, about five feet above the level at which we declare a major flood. People in Davenport take notice. That’s one Continue reading →

April 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Chip and I celebrated the start of Spring – or at least Augustana’s spring break – with a long sojourn to New Orleans. Our options were either a series of flights totaling about 10 hours or a 14-hour drive. For better and worse, we chose the latter, loaded the car with snacks, books, and music, and headed down the Mississippi from the Quad Cities to the Big Easy. The drive took us through seven states and one swath of utter destruction. The night before our passing, a tornado in Mississippi decapitated a forest adjacent to Interstate 55. Imagine, if you might, hundreds of mature trees either snapped off five feet above the ground or ripped up by their roots. It was spectacular and a sobering reminder of the price we’ll pay for a heating planet.

We ate well – she more Continue reading →

January 1, 2022

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Let’s hope it’s a great one.

If you think I’m a bit late on the former, it’s because you think of Christmas as a day rather than as a season. Not so! In 567, the Council of Tours established that the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany – also sometimes known as “Chip’s son’s birthday” – were to be treated as a single holiday. (Her sister was born on Christmas Day so it makes sense she waited to give David a reason to celebrate the other end of the holiday.) In England, in Continue reading →

October 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to autumn. Or, at least, our current attempt at autumn. Temperatures here in Iowa remain in the 80s and there’s only the barest hint of typical autumnal weather: a bit cooler nights, pumpkins studding the fields, the steady flow of apples out of the orchards, and bits of color emerging on the maples.

And, speaking of pumpkins it’s time to celebrate  … Continue reading →

September 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

It’s fall! We’re back! And we hope you are, too.

Well, it’s “meteorological fall” anyway. “Astronomical fall” (or is it “anatomical fall”? I can’t recall) holds off until September 22. With two classrooms full of students (one studying Propaganda with me, the other Advertising and Consumer Culture), my brain assures Continue reading →

July 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Welcome to July, dear friends.

It’s summertime, an especially blessed and cursed interval for those of us who teach. On the one hand, we’re mostly freed from the day-to-day obligation to be in the classroom. Some of us write, some travel, some joke about “going topless at the beach” which translates to leaving their masks at home, some undertake “such other duties as may from time to time be assigned” by our colleges. On the other hand, we hear the clock ticking. All year long, as we try to face down a stack of 32 variably literate essays at 11 p.m. Sunday night, we think “if I can just make it to summer, I’ll recharge and it’ll be great!” About the first thing we notice when summer does arrive, is that summer is almost Continue reading →

June 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to summer.

On the morning of Sunday, May 23, Dean Wendy Hilton-Morrow sent the following short email from the floor of the convention center in which our commencement was held.

Subject: It’s showtime!

The stage is set.

The players are gathering, nervously, outside. Over the next eight hours we’re going to celebrate Continue reading →

April 1, 2021

By David Snowball

No one knows quite when the April Fool’s (or All Fool’s) tradition arose. The internet is rife with simple, self-assured explanations that are flawed only by the fact that they’re wrong. “Attestations,” that is, contemporary historical recordings referring to the event, are scarce and most of the explanations (“it’s all about the Gregorian calendar in France!”) fail to account for all of the observed behavior.

My preferred speculation: spring,  it felt like a good time to do silly things.

Huge swaths of the Continue reading →

February 1, 2021

By David Snowball

The Delights of January

I’m writing this on the final day of my January (aka J-term) class, Advertising and Consumer Culture. The course, like Propaganda, falls within the purview of my academic specialty, mass persuasion and compliance-gaining. It starts with the deceptively simple query: what might the consequences be of hearing the same message – you should be dissatisfied with your life, you need more! – 100,000 times?

Not to keep you in suspense but “not good.”

I approached the class with a sense of Continue reading →

December 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

The waiting is, mostly, done. The American people have spoken, though I suspect that activists in both major political parties are disappointed and frustrated by what they heard. For better and worse, Republicans did not receive a second term in the White House. For better and worse, Democrats did not enjoy “the blue wave” that they anticipated.

And so we are left where we so often are: in a muddle. The control of the senate, once “the world’s greatest deliberative body” (reputedly President James Buchanan’s judgment), lies in two impending elections in Georgia. Politicians of all stripes woke on the morning of November 4th to ask the all-important question, “how’s our fund-raising for 2022 coming? Are we on track?” At least one candidate is openly mulling the timing of his announcement of his 2024 presidential bid. Miscellaneous state legislators continue to Continue reading →

October 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to autumn. It’s a season of such russet-gold glory that even Albert Camus (remember him from The Stranger and The Plague?) was forced to surrender: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” It’s the time of apples and cinnamon, of drives through the Wisconsin countryside, and of gardens turning slowly to their rest.

Well, short drives through the Wisconsin countryside, anyway. Rather than the leisurely two-day circuit of western Wisconsin’s creameries, breweries (a nod to New Glarus), and orchards, I’ll mask-up and dart north to Gays Mills where I’ll try not to surrender entirely to the call of the orchards. You’d be amazed at the variety of flavors found in apples; there are about 200 varieties grown in the US, with the average grocery store stocking just a half dozen (including that flavorless favorite, Red Delicious). October is the month for Haralson and Continue reading →

August 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Welcome to our annual summer-lite edition of Mutual Fund Observer.

It’s the summer in which things might be … hmmm, a little lighter than usual. It’s normally a time when we quiet down for a month while you folks are off doing sensible and wonderful things, like hanging out at the beach with friends and family. Except, now, well … Continue reading →