The Y generation

Got this in an email today:

The reason people born after 1983 are called generation Y



Top 10 Thinking traps

Took a little break there from blogging as I discovered old haunts and, more preciously, bumped into old friends and connected with family in London.

Here’s an article recommended to me by Stumble Upon. Not sure why the recommendation server decided I needed a tonk in the noggin’ and polish up my thinking hat, but it’s a worthy read nonetheless.

The preamble

Our minds set up many traps for us. Unless we’re aware of them, these traps can seriously hinder our ability to think rationally, leading us to bad reasoning and making stupid decisions. Features of our minds that are meant to help us may, eventually, get us into trouble.

Here are the first 5 of the most harmful of these traps and how to avoid each one of them.

They’ve obviously decided to follow the rich tradition of Wes Craven and leave the second 5 for a part 2. So I give you
Top Ten Thinking Traps Part 1

Housing bust in Manhattan?

Just last week I wrote why I would not buy real estate in Manhattan right now.

Here’s an article by Helen Chernikoff at Reuters that provides another perspective on the housing situation in Manhattan. To be precise, she uses the dreaded b-word.

Is the housing bust about to take Manhattan?
Housing bust in Manhattan?

Poem of the week June 15.

Pablo Neruda, a Nobel Laureate regarded as one the great poets of the century, became a buzzword in the US mainstream (perhaps even globally) after the runaway success of the Italian cinema Il Postino. His poem, called “Poetry”, that was used at the end of the movie “And it was at that age… poetry arrived in search of me” is a wonderful poem. It instantly rang true when I first read it. The vehemence, the clarity on how words just descend into the mind “but from a street I was summoned, from the branches of night, abruptly from the others”. I know this to be true.

So too, his poems in the translated “Twenty poems of love”, are smoldering with emotion, fiery, deeply moving.

But my personal favourite is a poem he wrote on stillness. On being quiet.

Art is the expression of the soul. And occasionally, a great artist touches the divine in all of us through sheer force. In “Keeping Quiet”, Pablo Neruda’s poem compels us to grasp the essence of stillness. In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a line in Chapter 4 that says “The wise one sees the action in inaction (renunciation of activities) and inaction in action”. Neruda evokes, in a different language but equally beautifully, the action inherent in stillness. He even states that it not be confused with “final inactivity”.

For those of us caught up in the manic urgency inherent in modern urban milieus, we need to revisit this poem again and again.

But enough. It is time to count to twelve.

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

-from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

In the original Spanish

A Callarse
Ahora contaremos doce
y nos quedamos todos quietos.
Por una vez sobre la tierra
no hablemos en ningun idioma,
por un segundo detengamonos,
no movamos tanto los brazos.

Seria un minuto fragante,
sin prisa, sin locomotoras,
todos estariamos juntos
en una inquietud instantanea.

Los pescadores del mar frio
no harian danio a las ballenas
y el trabajador de la sal
miraria sus manos rotas.

Los que preparan guerras verdes,
guerras de gas, guerras de fuego,
victorias sin sobrevivientes,
se pondrian un traje puro
y andarian con sus hermanos
por la sombra, sin hacer nada.

No se confunda lo que quiero
con la inaccion definitiva:
la vida es solo lo que se hace,
no quiero nada con la muerte.

Si no pudimos ser unanimes
moviendo tanto nuestras vidas,
tal vez no hacer nada una vez,
tal vez un gran silencio pueda
interrumpir esta tristeza,
este no entendernos jamas
y amenazarnos con la muerte,
tal vez la tierra nos ensenie
cuando todo parece muerto
y luego todo estaba vivo.

Ahora contare hasta doce
y tu te callas y me voy.


Poem of the week June 8 2009

Tumble into Sufi poetry and, sooner or later, you will stumble into Hafiz. It happened to me.

The verses of Rumi and Hafiz, Bulle Shah and Amir Khusrau fill my heart. They rhyme with the devotional poetry of Surdas, Mirabai, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Emerson and Tagore. Sufi poetry greets its fellow theosophies at the intersection of all religions. The heart of all major religions is made up of devotion, faith and surrender to the Divine, and Sufiana pierces that heart with the message of play, love and joy.

In some aspects, Sufism shares common ground with the Advaita philosophy in Hinduism, and most definitely with the writings in the Upanishads that speak of God being none other than oneself. The great sufi saints, from Moinuddin Chishti to Hazrat Babajan, lived in very similiar ways to the great modern Indian saints such as Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Sai Baba.

Here are some of my favourite poems by Hafiz translated by Daniel Ladinsky

The Subject Tonight is Love

The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well,

As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss

Until we all

Buttering the Sky

On my shoes,

Boiling water,
Toasting bread,
Buttering the sky:

That should be enough contact
With God in one day

To make anyone

All the Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

like a welcomed season
onto the meadow and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new watermark on your excitement
and love.

Like a blooming night flower,
bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
and giving
upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
lie beside an equator
in your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
as you mount the hidden tide and travel
back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
are sitting around a fire

While stitching themselves together
into the Great Circle inside of

Real estate – Not a time to buy

I’m told quite often by friends that this is the time to buy real estate in New York. I disagree. The way I see it, next year is a better time to buy.

Why? (and I’m not being poetic)

Robert Shiller, of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, writes a compelling piece on why home prices have still some time to go.

HOME prices in the United States have been falling for nearly three years, and the decline may well continue for some time.

Even the federal government has projected price decreases through 2010. As a baseline, the stress tests recently performed on big banks included a total fall in housing prices of 41 percent from 2006 through 2010. Their “more adverse” forecast projected a drop of 48 percent — suggesting that important housing ratios, like price to rent, and price to construction cost — would fall to their lowest levels in 20 years.

Such long, steady housing price declines seem to defy both common sense and the traditional laws of economics, which assume that people act rationally and that markets are efficient. Why would a sensible person watch the value of his home fall for years, only to sell for a big loss? Why not sell early in the cycle? If people acted as the efficient-market theory says they should, prices would come down right away, not gradually over years, and these cycles would be much shorter.

But something is definitely different about real estate. Long declines do happen with some regularity. And despite the uptick last week in pending home sales and recent improvement in consumer confidence, we still appear to be in a continuing price decline.

There are many historical examples. After the bursting of the Japanese housing bubble in 1991, land prices in Japan’s major cities fell every single year for 15 consecutive years.

In New York, rentals are falling. The fall in rentals is further aggravating the severely imbalanced price-rent ratio, one of the key housing indicators mentioned by Prof Shiller in his article. A fall in rents is generally followed by a fall in rents.

Besides, most of the job losses in New York city were from Q3 2008 to Q2 2009. Severances are only just going to start running out. The impact of the job losses on real estate are going to be felt in the latter half of 2009, preparing the way for a correction of home prices for 2010 and later.

Full link to the Prof Shiller’s article in the New York Times
Why Home Prices May Keep Falling

Poem of the week – June 1

After an ancient poem in last week’s post, it’s time for some poems by a more modern poet. James Fenton is a British poet, born in 1949, studied at Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His use of meter and rhyme is quite unique.

The first poem is simple, stark, and shattering.

Beauty, Danger and Dismay

Beauty, danger and dismay
Met me on the public way.
Whichever I chose, I chose dismay.

– James Fenton (Out of Danger)

The second poem is a more popular poem of his. You can’t ask for a more delicious word play than “I’m in Paris with you”.

In Paris With You

Don’t talk to me of love. I’ve had an earful
And I get tearful when I’ve downed a drink or two.
I’m one of your talking wounded.
I’m a hostage. I’m maroonded.
But I’m in Paris with you.

Yes I’m angry at the way I’ve been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess I’ve been through.
I admit I’m on the rebound
And I don’t care where are we bound.
I’m in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
If we skip the Champs Elysées
And remain here in this sleazy

Old hotel room
Doing this and that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There’s that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I’m in Paris with you.

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris.
I’m in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I’m in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I’m in Paris with… all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I’m in Paris with you.

– James Fenton (Out of Danger)