Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hello 2009

I've forgotten about this blog a bit recently, but reconnecting with an old friend yesterday made me remember that you never know who is reading. I met up with a high school classmate of mine who moved back to Germany after sophomore year, and he mentioned that he's perused my blog once or twice over the years.

So anyway, in honor of that and the new year, I decided to chronicle some of the obscure thoughts and random reflections floating around my head as we journey into 2009. For starters, I don't think I've entered a new year in a world as scary/crazy as today's. A global economy in crisis, heightened tensions in the Middle East and South Asia, rampant corruption as our nation further swamps itself in debt, unemployed friends and family. The list really doesn't end.

And yet, personally, I'm not feeling the same sense of dread that has accompanied my musings the past few months. I can tell my outlook has been buoyed by a myriad of factors - the sounds of the Beatles (Love, their remastered/remixed album has been a recent favorite), the Who, Ratatat, and others (not to mention a rousing car ride rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody this afternoon); the thoughts of Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Black Swan; the return of old friends to the Bay Area for the holidays (and an amazing trip to Miami to see a bunch of family); and, perhaps above all, the best sandwich I've ever had to top off a great New Year's Day brunch (the Chicken Apple with avocado at the Brickhouse in SF at 3rd and Brennan).

Or perhaps, as our new President might say - hope springs eternal.

And that said, I'm still pretty pessimistic in terms of what's going to happen (I guess I'm just more ok with it now - it'll be quite a ride no matter what). Keeping in mind that I'm an idiot and don't know anything (and that, as Taleb says, we suck at this sort of stuff), I'm going to throw a few predictions out there.

I think we're going to see a few "Black Swans" in 2009 - things no one saw coming. Ultimately, who really knows, and it's these events that will likely shape this year the most. But I wouldn't be surprised by a few things. Economically, I think the carnage will continue - unemployment might hit 8% (or even 10%). I could see the Dow dropping below 5,000, and it's possible the currency manipulation that has gone on in Asian countries could produce some negative consequences.

Generally speaking, I wonder if 2009 will be the year we're forced to reap what we sowed with our national debt. For years now, debt growth has outpaced GDP growth - we're not producing more, but we're consuming more. This inherently unsustainable house of cards will come down one of two ways - card by card (preferable) or in one fell swoop. The geopolitical unstability that will result from the latter scares the hell out of me.

Geopolitically, though I definitely share some WW3 fears, I think we'll be ok - Obama should pull us through. What really worries me is that, domestically, Obama won't be the savior we all see him as - or, rather, that external circumstances will cause him to underachieve. Right now, I feel the hope of Obama is holding us together, to some extent. Some people are bound to be underwhelmed by his presidency, but if he loses some critical mass of this support - if enough people lose hope, so to speak - we could be in trouble. I fear there could be a level of the bottom falling out (economically, politically, etc.) that will get really, really ugly.

As for me, the new year comes with renewed optimism on my current venture, Athleague, as well as other things I have brewing. Not sure where the year will take me, but it'll certainly be fun. Haven't thought resolutions through, but this could be a quick list: start taking yoga classes (Stanford, 8am, thursdays, if anyone is interested) and be sure to meditate 4 times a week, stop late night fast food runs (fruit from a grocery store is such a better idea:), and probably a few others (perhaps I'll dedicated a post to resolutions in the coming days).

Most importantly, I'd like to wish you, family, friend, or random denizen of these crazy interwebs, all the best in the new year. Enjoy the highs and learn from the lows, and if things get darker (as they very well may), just breathe. Thanks for reading, and good luck.

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