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November 30, 2012

FHA condo mixed use mortgages

The trend toward such development has grown in recent years, as younger and older people alike have migrated to urban centers to be close to jobs, cultural amenities and entertainment, said Peter D. Cummings, chairman of Ram, a Florida-based mixed-use developer focused on the Southeast and Michigan.

That "back to the city" movement is now spilling into the suburbs, said John K. McIlwain, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research organization.

"We've learned that this mixing of development makes for a better urban design, so towns and cities are designing codes to encourage it, and the market is showing interest," he said. "We're going to see a lot more mixed use, whether it's in the urban central city or suburban town centers."

The F.H.A.'s mixed-use rules date to its inception and the growth of federal housing initiatives, according to the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism, which promotes pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods. The rules stemmed from fears that one component of a mixed-use development could fail and place strain on others to maintain the property, a concern revived by the housing crash in 2007.

Enacted in September, the rule change opens the door to government-insured mortgages for condos in mixed-use buildings with commercial footprints of up to 35 percent, up from the previous 25 percent limit. Exceptions may be granted for projects in which as much as half of the space is commercial.

November 29, 2012

tumblr is NY

East vs west: tumblr's Karp on why New York is no Silicon Valley.

"The west is about making things scale but not making people's lives better. It is about indexing, but not about creating."

November 26, 2012

Google does (bisexual) /does (gay) not censor autocomplete

Google does/does not censor autocomplete

Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi, a Google spokeswoman, wrote: "The search queries that you see as part of autocomplete are a reflection of the search activity of all Web users."

Search engines have long provided clues to the topics people look up. But now sites like Google and Bing are showing the precise questions that are most frequently asked, giving everyone a chance to peer virtually over one another's shoulders at private curiosities. And they are revealing interesting patterns.

Frequently asked questions include: When will the world end? Is Neil Armstrong Muslim? Was George Washington gay?

The questions come from a feature that Google calls "autocomplete" and Microsoft calls "autosuggest." These anticipate what you are likely to ask based on questions that other people have asked. Simply type a question starting with a word like "is" or "was," and search engines will start filling in the rest.

People who study online behavior also say the autocomplete feature reveals broader patterns, including indications that the questions people ask of search engines often veer into the sensitive and politically incorrect.

Google does/does not censor autocomplete

The proliferation of the Autocomplete function on popular Web sites is a case in point. Nominally, all it does is complete your search query -- on YouTube, on Google, on Amazon -- before you've finished typing, using an algorithm to predict what you're most likely typing. A nifty feature -- but it, too, reinforces primness.

How so? Consider George Carlin's classic comedy routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television." See how many of those words would autocomplete on your favorite Web site. In my case, YouTube would autocomplete none. Amazon almost none (it also hates "penis" and "vagina"). Of Carlin's seven words, Google would autocomplete only "piss."

Until recently, even the word "bisexual" wouldn't autocomplete at Google; it's only this past August that Google, after many complaints, began to autocomplete some, but not all, queries for that term. In 2010, the hacker magazine 2600 published a long blacklist of similar words. While I didn't verify all 400 of them on Google, a few that I did try -- like "swastika" and "Lolita" -- failed to autocomplete. Is Nabokov not trending in Mountain View? Alas, these algorithms are not particularly bright: unable to distinguish between Nabokov's novel and child pornography, they assume you want the latter.

Why won't tech companies let us freely use terms that already enjoy wide circulation and legitimacy? Do they fashion themselves as our new guardians? Are they too greedy to correct their algorithms' mistakes?


Type "why are Americans," and the autocomplete choices include "fat," "stupid" and "patriotic." Substitute "Chinese," and the autocompletes include "skinny," "rude" and "smart." If autocomplete is any indicator, search engine users regularly wonder if Jews are smarter and whether African-Americans are better athletes.

One category of question comes up with puzzling frequency in autocomplete: whether a certain person is gay.

Is Elton John gay? Is Paul Ryan gay? Is Michael Bloomberg gay? The question pops up often, too, when starting searches about George Clooney, the Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the actress Ellen Page, Genghis Khan, several cartoon characters and even the pope.

This line of questioning is so commonplace that a simple query on Google beginning with "is" can result in autocomplete predicting that you are about to ask, Is Frank Ocean gay? Do the same with Bing, Microsoft's search engine, and it often fills out the question, Is Robin Roberts gay? Though these questions do not pop up every time, they do appear with surprising frequency.

Nick In't Ven, senior program manager at Microsoft's Bing search engine, said that the returns reflect the collective curiosities of its users (and that similar results turn up on Google). He could not say how many times people have to type in a question for it to dominate the feature, but said that for popular single terms, like "Facebook," it is well into the millions.

November 25, 2012

A support group for failed therapists?

The first thing Truffo told me when I reached her in her Orange County office was that I shouldn't feel bad about my empty hours; nowadays, she said, even established veterans were struggling. Yes, the economy was bad, but the real issue was that psychotherapy had an image problem.

The one thing I enjoyed most was the wide array of cases I saw, I explained to Roth, and if I specialized, I'd be doing too much of the same thing all day. She suggested that if I wasn't ready to commit to a niche, I could add life-coaching services to appeal to "today's consumer looking for quick solutions rather than long-term insight." When I balked -- I couldn't picture "Lori Gottlieb, life coach" -- she assured me that many therapists who prefer deeper, broader work also offer coaching as an adjunct to their practices.

She told me about a therapist named Sandra Bryson. In 2009, Bryson called for help after her successful Oakland-based practice of 25 years lost patients when she stopped taking insurance. According to Truffo, Bryson shared a problem common to therapists: "a blah-sounding message and no angle." Bryson had always done well as a generalist -- treating anything from depression to grief to marital issues -- but Truffo urged her to find a specialty, one that "captured the zeitgeist but didn't feel played out." Bryson mentioned that she liked helping parents and had an affinity for technology, and voilĂ  -- suddenly she had a brand. Not as a clinician addressing typical parenting issues like boundary-setting, which Truffo called "generic and old-school," but as an expert who helps modern families navigate digital media. She also became a sought-after speaker on so-called hot issues like screen time, cyberbullying and sexting, and Bryson told me her practice, which is based on "mostly deep work," had become "more advice-driven." Now her schedule is full, and her income has increased about 15 percent a year.

"Nobody wants to buy therapy anymore," Truffo told me. "They want to buy a solution to a problem." This is something Truffo discovered in her own former private practice of 18 years, during which she saw a shift from people who were unhappy and wanted to understand themselves better to people who would come in "because they wanted someone else or something else to change," she said. "I'd see fewer and fewer people coming in and saying, 'I want to change.' "

From a branding perspective, the fix was simple. At professional-networking events or in newsletters, her pitch went from "I treat people with depression and anxiety" to "Are you having trouble with the difficult people in your life?" Of course, therapy isn't about changing someone else, but that wasn't the point. If she could get people in treatment and help them feel better, she explained, why did it matter how she spun her pitch? Her goals seemed valid, but the idea of pitches and branding still made me uncomfortable.

call Alison Roth, who started the firm ShrinkWr@p (tag line: "Web sites even Freud would envy"). During my free consultation, I told Roth that I wanted a simple, professional-looking Web site, but she told me that wouldn't be enough. She said the same thing as Truffo: If I wanted clients, then I needed a brand.

I'd recently seen a satirical YouTube video sent around by my colleagues, in which a psychologist urges her mentee to become a life coach instead of going to graduate school. I used to find it funny, but now I saw its truth. Coaching was indeed more profitable (the coaches I knew charged more than most therapists) and less arduous than therapy. The more coaching calls I got, the more I started to worry that I was falling prey to the same consumer-friendly forces -- there are even iPhone apps for depression and anxiety -- that were making coaching such a popular alternative to my own field.

One day right before Christmas, I got a call from a man in his early 30s about coming in for therapy. He explained that he wanted to figure out whether to marry his girlfriend, and he hoped we could "resolve this" quickly because Valentine's Day was coming up and he knew he either had to produce a ring or she'd bail. I explained that I could help him with clarity but couldn't guarantee his timeline. The day before our appointment, he called again and told me he found a relationship coach to help sort things out. She gave him a four-session-package guarantee.

-- Lori Gottlieb is the author, most recently, of ''Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.''

November 23, 2012

Neighborhood map of NY, simplifed


Via RealestatesalesNYC.com

November 22, 2012

Survival rates are higher when measured earlier

Survival rates always go up with early diagnosis: people who get a diagnosis earlier in life will live longer with their diagnosis, even if it doesn't change their time of death by one iota.

-- H. Gilbert Welch, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and an author of "Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health."

Screening proponents have also encouraged the public to believe two things that are patently untrue.

First, that every woman who has a cancer diagnosed by mammography has had her life saved (consider those "Mammograms save lives. I'm the proof" T-shirts for breast cancer survivors). The truth is, those survivors are much more likely to have been victims of overdiagnosis.

Second, that a woman who died from breast cancer "could have been saved" had her cancer been detected early. The truth is, a few breast cancers are destined to kill no matter what we do.

November 18, 2012

Marketing new condos in the best light

THE SQUARE FOOTAGE There are myriad ways to determine the square footage of an apartment. Some developers measure from the exterior walls, which adds unusable space to the figure. Others include outdoor space like a balcony, part of the exterior hallway or storage space -- even if the storage unit is in the basement. "That can add anywhere from 10 to 40 percent to a plan," said Dolly Lenz, a high-end broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman. "It's really problematic." To avoid ending up with a unit smaller than indicated in the marketing materials, make sure you understand exactly how your apartment is measured.

THE FINISHES Many model apartments at preconstruction sales offices have sleek finishes, but some developers may offer substitutes in the end. The words "or equivalent" in the offering plan should be a red flag, said Sofia Song, the vice president for research of Streeteasy. "You go into the sales centers and you're wowed by the finishes," she said, "but instead of the Miele washer-dryer, you might be getting something else."

THE FLOOR PLAN Factor in surrounding apartments. One question to ask, said Ms. Fisher of Corcoran Sunshine, is what is happening with the apartment above you. "If it has a balcony," she pointed out, "that may create a shaded condition for the space that's beneath it." Pay attention to the entire floor, including the number of apartments and the location of the elevator and the trash room. In other words, she said, "are you right next to the garbage chute?"

THE FLOOR NUMBERS Eva Talel, a partner in the real estate group of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, a law firm in Manhattan, said one client who had thought she was buying on the 14th floor was actually on the 12th. When looking at the building plans, she hadn't realized that the first two floors were below grade. In the end she stayed on the 12th, but negotiated a lower price.

CEILING HEIGHT Check this, too. So-called transfer floors tend to have high ceilings with irregularly located ceiling drops, to accommodate mechanical equipment. Be sure to ask whether your unit is on a transfer floor, and if so, where exactly the ceiling drops are going to be.

THE VIEW Know your air rights. Apartments on what are called "lot lines" could lose their view if the neighboring lot was developed. To prevent that from happening and preserve views for their buildings, some developers buy the air rights from surrounding buildings.

That's what Alchemy Properties did at 35 West 15th Street, where it is building a condo atop Xavier High School, which has adjoining property west and north. Most nearby buildings are no higher than six stories at the moment, but buying the surrounding air rights from Xavier will help maintain uninterrupted views from the condo, said Mr. Horn of Alchemy Properties.

November 17, 2012

Middle class stops at $5 million: Investment Management Consultants Association, (IMCA)

notoriously fuzzy with its definitions. One private bank's "high-net-worth" investor is another's "mass affluent" middle class and yet another's "ultra-high-net-worth."

One group is seeking to add a bit of semantic uniformity: the Investment Management Consultants Association, or IMCA, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based nonprofit professional and credentialing organization for investment professionals. The group put out its own recommendations last Thursday based on a survey it took of nearly 400 finance professionals. It has offered the Certified Private Wealth Advisor designation since 2007 and also provides a Certified Investment Management Analyst designation, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

The IMCA wanted to assess whether wealth management was a distinct field unto itself, says Sean Walters, CEO of the association, and decided it mandated its own body of knowledge beyond what had been required as part of the certification process.

The IMCA also defined a high-net-worth client: at least $5 million in net worth. According to the survey, 43% of respondents gave that as a minimum figure.

The number makes sense, says Walters, because many of the discussions surrounding tax strategies and estate planning tend to begin at the $5 million threshold.

WSJ / Julie Steinberg

Wealth management can be practiced by financial planners, accountants, estate-planning attorneys or investment professionals, but the IMCA says it requires more nuanced skills than you might need as an ordinary financial planner, for example. Wealth management should refer specifically to those who cater to the $5 million net worth demographic, according to the group; the knowledge needed consists of 169 topics across four different areas: human dynamics, wealth-management strategies, client specialization and legacy planning.

November 16, 2012

Autistic consultants

The consultant has since been moved to another company, where he has done well at his professional tasks but still misses social cues. In Denmark, there is a tradition of bringing cake to the office on Fridays, and Oblom recently learned from the on-site supervisor that the consultant happily eats cake but has never volunteered to bring one himself. Then there was the time he tasted a co-worker's cake and pronounced it terrible. Oblom told me that he plans to tell the consultant that he has to bring in cake now and then -- and he will do it, Oblom predicts, without understanding the reason -- but he's not going to encourage the consultant to be more polite. The concept of socially mandated dishonesty would mystify him, Oblom said, so the other employees will just have to deal with it.

Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University (and a regular contributor to The Times), published a much-discussed paper last year that addressed the ways that autistic workers are being drawn into the modern economy. The autistic worker, Cowen wrote, has an unusually wide variation in his or her skills, with higher highs and lower lows. Yet today, he argued, it is increasingly a worker's greatest skill, not his average skill level, that matters. As capitalism has grown more adept at disaggregating tasks, workers can focus on what they do best, and managers are challenged to make room for brilliant, if difficult, outliers. This march toward greater specialization, combined with the pressing need for expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, so-called STEM workers, suggests that the prospects for autistic workers will be on the rise in the coming decades. If the market can forgive people's weaknesses, then they will rise to the level of their natural gifts.

"Specialization is partly about making good use of the skills of people who have one type of skill in abundance but not necessarily others," says Daron Acemoglu, an economist at M.I.T. and co-author of "Why Nations Fail." In other words, there is good money to be made doing the work that others do not have the skills for or are simply not interested in.

Stuck in a rut of bad behaviour, await a verbal scolding

You can tell people that they are fat and that they shouldn't eat more French fries, but that doesn't mean they will stop. You can make all sorts of New Year's resolutions, earnestly deciding to behave better, but that doesn't mean you will.

People don't behave badly because they lack information about their shortcomings. They behave badly because they've fallen into patterns of destructive behavior from which they're unable to escape.

Human behavior flows from hidden springs and calls for constant and crafty prodding more than blunt hectoring. The way to get someone out of a negative cascade is not with a ferocious e-mail trying to attack their bad behavior. It's to go on offense and try to maximize some alternative good behavior. There's a trove of research suggesting that it's best to tackle negative behaviors obliquely, by redirecting attention toward different, positive ones.

It's foolish to imperiously withdraw and say, come back to me when you have a plan. It's better to pick one area of life at a time (most people don't have the willpower to change their whole lives all at once) and help a person lay down a pre-emptive set of concrete rules and rewards. Pick out a small goal and lay out measurable steps toward it.

It's foolhardy to try to persuade people to see the profound errors of their ways in the hope that mental change will lead to behavioral change. Instead, try to change superficial behavior first and hope that, if they act differently, they'll eventually think differently. Lure people toward success with the promise of admiration instead of trying to punish failure with criticism. Positive rewards are more powerful.

November 12, 2012

Recent graduates say

Recent graduates say they are equipped to add value to any employer who hires them. An economics graduate from the University of North Carolina told me: "I'm sick of the bashing our generation gets. I had a 3.6 G.P.A. in a demanding major. Everyone in my dorm knew it would be difficult to land a job, so we held study groups where people in different disciplines shared information. We invited alumni to tutor us in skills and office protocol employers value. All I ask is a chance to prove I'm as good as the best of any generation."

It's true that companies are actively seeking petroleum engineers, systems designers, supply-chain analysts and other graduates armed with "hard" skills. But those who majored in English, philosophy, history and other liberal arts subjects are far less likely to be offered an interview, much less a job.

At one time, employers recruited liberal arts graduates whose broad education shaped an inquiring mind and the ability to evaluate conflicting points of view. Their education also brought a freshness of vision that saw alternatives to outdated practices. Graduates entered corporate training programs armed mainly with potential, but soon absorbed business disciplines. Veteran employees seeing that growth didn't laugh when a trainee suggested a different approach to a chronic problem.

Rotating through departments let young people showcase their abilities; the most promising were selected by managers eager to mentor them. Several C.E.O.'s I spoke with, including those most critical of recent graduates, had this type of training. Today, such programs are more likely to recruit those with immediately applicable skills that can be honed on the job. As one hiring manager told me: "We no longer have the luxury to hire bench strength. If an applicant isn't ready to step into an open job we don't hire them."

But I've found many broadly educated employees to be quicker than technical staff members to develop the intuition that's crucial on a work floor where gray -- not black or white -- is the dominant color. Many of the best general managers with whom I work as a consultant entered the workplace with broad educations and not with technical degrees. It was their intuition that helped them ascend -- their ability to suspect a flaw even when data appeared correct, to read the mood of customers and employees, and to sense potential in a product others disdained.

How to Bridge the Hiring Gap
Many C.E.O.'s lament that recent college graduates lack specific, technical skills, but these employers should realize that a broad education has benefits, too.

November 3, 2012

Sandy Superstorm impact maps for NY

Google Crisis Map: google.org/crisismap/2012-sandy-nyc

LIPA: LI Power outage map : www.lipower.org/stormcenter/outagemap.html

November 2, 2012

BREAKING (Cleveland): The Jews are good at disputation

Mandel has also been playing the Israel card in pursuit of the Jewish vote, despite the fact his opponent, the Democrat incumbent Sherrod Brown, co-sponsored the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, legislation that deepens defense cooperation.

Among those troubled by Mandel's campaign is Austin Ratner, a novelist and the son of James Ratner. Mandel is related by marriage to the Ratner family. Austin Ratner wrote a piece this month in the Jewish Daily Forward arguing that family and tribal Jewish loyalty were misplaced in the political sphere, where reason must prevail.

He quoted his aunt, Deborah Ratner, a major Democratic fund-raiser, telling Mandel at a family gathering: "I don't want this to be awkward, but you represent everything I've spent my life working against." He also said some Democrat relatives "have supported Mandel's campaign out of family loyalty" -- a form of loyalty, he suggested, that "leads deeper into the darkness."

The Jews of Cleveland are arguing at high volume. They are good at disputation. In this case the argument could change the course of things far beyond Cleveland.

the Senate candidacy of a conservative Jewish Republican, Josh Mandel.