Many of you have been following this column for a number of years so you guys know that for 10 years I worked for Institutional Real Estate, Inc. and was intimately involved with some of their conferences, particularly the VIP Conference. So with that as a disclaimer, I learned today that there are still some openings for people to sign up to attend that event. I'll be there and for the past two years we, Aviva Investors, have also done a modest sponsorship of the event, namely the chocolates on your pillow. However, all that aside, this event has become a signature event of the institutional real estate world and is organized in the professional style by which has built IREI's reputation, representing the tax-exempt real estate investment world. Suffice it to say that if you are not already planning on attending the VIP Conference, I'd suggest you seriously think about whether, given the very strong turnout of pension funds, endowments and foundations who will be there, it's a meeting that you can't afford to miss. Here's the link for information and registration. I look forward to seeing you there (http://www.irei.com/web/do/pub/seminars/description?id=1549).
Seeing the video of the situation in Haiti-there are no words to describe it. Is there any way to imagine what it's like to be in a natural disaster? It's not like war where people basically expect to die. This is just another day and Wham-O! My only experience with an earthquake was the first year we had moved to Napa, CA. It was 1:37am on the Monday of Labor Day weekend in 2000. We were awakened by the sound and then by the feel of our house moving up and down as if we were riding the waves at a really good surfing beach and a strange blue light. Our first thought was that a truck had hit the house. Then the sounds of some of our stuff breaking and then things falling off the walls and hitting us. When all this stopped we surveyed the damage. Nothing structural. Just some stuff broken but boy did it scare the living daylights out of us. That particular earthquake, at a spot where the seismotologists hadn't previously known there was a fault line, was 5.2 magnitude. The one in Haiti was 7.0. After we cleaned up the broken stuff we started talking about moving back to the east coast. But I guess we just slipped into the same M.O. that we've learned exists out here....we forgot about it. But in Haiti which is being talked about as the second most devastating in history is just something that almost is beyond belief. Estimates as high as 500,000 dead are being mentioned. This would make it a number normally associated with a nuclear attack and would be second only to the one that killed 860,000 people in Shanxi, China in 1556. The most destructive earthquake in modern times also occurred in China, when a quake in Tangshan in 1976 killed almost 270,000. But regardless of the numbers, a natural disaster like this once again has to make us think about how fragile the whole damn thing is. What I still can't grasp is why people are still killing each other instead of celebrating life and finding the joy that we are able to find if we just let ourselves. I know all of our hearts and helping hands go out to the people of Haiti. If this type of thing were done as a reality show, no one, would ever believe it could be true.
Restaurant of the week: SushiSamba, 245 Park Avenue South, New York (212) 475 9377 (http://www.sushisamba.com). Offering the unlikely combination of Japanese/Brazilian but, hey, why not? It's a busy place with an extensive Sake menu (I had the cheapest bottle from Nigata, where I had once visited and it was excellent). It's a little loud for a business dinner but then again shouldn't business be fun?
On the road.....
Jan. 20-21: Des Moines, Iowa
Feb. 9-11: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA to attend IREI's VIP Conference
Feb. 18-19: Chapel Hill, NC to attend and be a judge at the Kenan-Flagler Real Estate Challenge
Mar. 24-25: Boston to attend the PREA Spring Conference
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