Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Talk About Evaporation!

In my previous post I was talking about water and evaporation and impermanence and change; one exit script from the fabled land of Shangri La. And at the end I was going to shift from water to oil. I thought it would be a clever transition for the end of the post. But it was not to be since most of what I wrote at the end was lost to the etherspace. Drat.

Then today in the Boston Globe there was another kind of evaporation that hints at a further exit path from Shangri La.

To quote: "Bear Stearns Cos. told clients that a melt-down in the subprime mortgage market has made the assets of two of its flagship hedge funds almost worthless. The assets in one of the funds are essentially worthless, while another is worth 9 percent of its value at the end of April, according to a document obtained by the Associated Press. In March, the High-Grade Structured Credit Enhanced Leveraged fund was worth about $638 million - and now has no value. The larger and less-leveraged High-Grade structured Credit fund lost 91 percent of its value. It was worth about $925 million in March."

Talk about evaporation of (imagined) liquid assets!

To paraphrase Tip O'Neil: "A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."


(For further and more technical / detailed elaborations of this development and implications you can look at recent entries at Sudden Debt and Generational Dynamics.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

I May Not See Everything - But I'm Not Blind

Part 1. (Long, long ago, and then just back a few generations )

Let's suppose that you were born in Shangri La and for your whole life that was all that you had ever known. Let's also say that virtually everyone you know has been swimming in the same wonderful sea of abundance and comfort. Now let's suppose that there are some rumblings which indicate that the world as you know it may not continue in the same way into the forseeable future. How would you deal with those rumblings? Would you amplify them, tune them in better, so you could look at their messages more directly and with greater clarity? Or would you let them remain as static which is an annoyance because it distracts from the comfort of Shangri La?

Given those two conditions you would have every right to expect that the wonderful world you have known would continue that way, since that is the way it has always been. That would be a fairly safe bet. You would hope that there would be minor variations in climate, etc. to help you know that it is not just a dream and to stress you somewhat just keep it interesting. But there would be no need to be concerned because you would have every good reason to believe that the party will just keep going on.

Would you highlight your inklings, even though they initially increase your sense of uncertainty and nibble at the picture of "everything's just fine," or would you send out even more invitations and, as they say: "Party on, Dude!"

Now imagine that in that happy valley where everything is lush green, and the temperature is always manageable, and where there is abundant food and water, and it's not too crowded that there is one pivotal change that happens gradually and progressively over a period of time. And let's say that one thing is a shift downwards in annual rainfall.

I was listening to something on NPR today about how that actually happened to a fun-loving and easy going group of people in Cape Verde, a collection of small islands off the west coast of Africa. For whatever reasons it essentially stopped raining there. And with that one central and pivotal development they simply couldn't grow their own food anymore. Then everything changed. It got to the point where, it was said, people were just passing out in the streets from lack of energy, the energy which comes from food which is based on the planting of seeds and timely application of soil and water and sunshine.

If it were not for aid from the world at large (whoever that was) and the relief from that, the people would have disappeared, from the slowness called starvation. A scary prospect for any individual, or family, or village. But a whole culture?

(It turns out that many of the Cape Verdeans left their land and settled elsewhere. They have kept alive the longing for their land and the spirit of their people and thankfully that lineage will continue in spite of their natural calamity.)

Part 2. (Contemporary Shangri La, and Contemporary Drought in Shangri La)

Here in the NorthEast we have been blessed with more than adequate rainfall for so long that we could almost take it for granted (although recently there has seemed to be more intensifications of downpours followed by dry spells than previously experienced by me in my 65+ years.) Nevertheless we continue to have more than adequate supplies, although we see bans on watering lawns more frequently. Yes, in our own Hundreth Town we live in another Shangri La, . We have been spared the "longing" of the Cape Verdeans; the longing for their way of being and their own abundance from when they had more than enough.

I give thanks regularly for the abundance which we have. But I also recognize the fragility of the whole which goes with it. When I look at the weather maps of our country and look at the rainfall amounts over the past few years in the drought areas of America, I am concerned about what could be.

It's a funny place to be. I know what we have, and what could develop if the having of that which we have come to take for granted were to evaporate before our eyes. Not rapidly, but slowly, much like watching paint dry. And I am reminded of the story of the frog in the pan of water. If the frog is placed in the pot of water and the water becomes suddenly hot, the frog will take appropriate action and jump. However, if the water is gradually heated, the frog gets used to it, and precipitous action is not called for, i.e., it's better to put up with the hot water which is known than to risk a move which will entail moving into the unknown.

Part 3; (What if instead of water, it was oil?)

Damn...this whole part just got lost in etherspace! I'll try to finish it tomorrow. But in the meantime look at a very important essay by Jeffrey Brown at The Oil Drum blog.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Choosing To Be Placid Amidst All The Hustle And Bustle

A little time lapse photography captures it nicely.

Addendum: Appreciative thanks go to Dougald Hine, Proxima, and Steve Williams for their assistance in helping me to embed the video directly into this post.

It turns out to be ultra simple: In the bottom right corner of the original video there is a button for menu. Click that, and then select embed and then select copy to clipboard. Then in the body of your post, in "Edit Html" view, paste the HTML code from the clipboard, and then publish post directly from the Edit Html button on Blogger dashboard...easy peasy.