Thursday, February 28, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I greatly prefer the Chinese commuters' reaction to the giddy, breathless, gasping reactions of middle-class Indians on the launch of Tata's Nano. This was probably more like how the "coolies" are supposed to react - going through the same stages, making the same mistakes, that western consumers have already outgrown, but doing it with great delight, and the delusion of "arriving", while enduring deadlier risks and consequences. Oh, those innocent child-races, they never quite grow up, do they
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Today I had occasion to visit a lawyer's office. The last thing I expected was for it to be a pleasant experience. The office was in a beautiful (and beautifully kept) building that smelt wonderfully of coffee, on an arterial road in Mumbai's Fort district. On the textured white walls were framed paintings and engravings of lawyers, courtrooms, and judges, all very nineteenth-century-British-looking in a grave and quiet way. They fit the context, since it was a British building in the Fort, and the partners all belong to communities that comprised Bombay's genteel elites even during the Raj. The high-ceilinged office reflected the genteelness (is that a word?), and was calming. I saw no art there that I could call modern-looking. But right inside the door was a poem - soothing thoughts that were not at all what I expected to find in a law office. It was Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata":
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The patriarch of Venice, Angelo Cardinal Scola, has urged the city's Catholics to give up bottled water during Lent, and instead to donate the money saved to a water pipeline project in Thailand. He is backed by the mayor, who says he drinks only tap water. Nearly all Italians drink bottled water rather than tap water. The industry is worth an estimated 3.2bn euros (£2.38bn) a year in Italy.
Bottled water harms the environment because of discarded plastic bottles, and also because of greenhouse gas emissions.
Last summer, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg urged his city's residents to drink tap water.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Foreclosure's filthy aftermath
As foreclosures become more frequent, so do the stories of abandoned animals, insect infestations and deplorable living conditions.
Broke homeowners linked to arsons
Authorities in economically stressed cities see an increase in torched houses. Is the nation's mortgage mess transforming more Americans into criminals?
Economy fitful, Americans start to pay as they go
[Elena Gamble, who earns about $2,600 a month as a grievance counselor at a local prison] and her husband — a prison guard who brings home $2,000 a month — are grappling with $10,000 in high-interest debt. They no longer go to the movies or out to eat, except occasionally to McDonald’s. They quit their Internet service. Their car was repossessed. “What we say now is, ‘If we can’t afford it, we can’t buy it,’ ” Ms. Gamble said...
...Fran Barbaro has an M.B.A. and a résumé of computer industry jobs with salaries reaching $150,000 a year. She used to have a stock portfolio worth about $1 million. She hung original art on the walls of her three-bedroom house in Boston. But divorce, illness and motherhood drained her savings. Her home is worth less than she owes, and she owes another $200,000 to credit card companies, banks and tax collectors. Ms. Barbaro, 50, said she knew she was living beyond her means. But her house demanded work. Her two boys needed after-school programs running $25,000 a year. Medical bills multiplied.
“These were simple day-to-day expenses,” she said. “The money was always there.”
Until it wasn’t. Her take-home pay is $5,200 a month, but her debt payments reach $4,400. Ms. Barbaro has rented out her house while negotiating to lower her mortgage. She has moved to an apartment, where her sons sleep in the lone bedroom while she sleeps on a pull-out sofa.(The readers' comments on this story are worth a read too -- NYT asked readers how they were changing their spending habits.)
Add to the above the facts that supermodel Gisele Bundchen will now only be paid in euros, and the Taj Mahal will no longer accept payment in dollars by foreign tourists.
Here's the Motley Fool's observation on the issue. And here's the video clip of Jon's interview: