Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hillary Speech

It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few and for the few, time to reject the idea of an "on your own" society and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity. I prefer a "we're all in it together" society.
-Hillary Clinton

Ahem, no thanks. This "we're all in it together" society sounds very socialist to me. Why do Democrats always want to raise taxes to fund their priorities? If it's so important, why don't they give their personal wealth to those programs? I donate to several charities yet I don't expect the government (i.e., other people) to do the same. Perhaps it's because there's no political gain on personal donations: tax the "rich" few, give to the "poor" masses, get elected from this wealth redistribution scheme. Sigh...

Also, "government of the few"? You mean our current government is not big enough?!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ducks Win Game 1

I wonder if Henry will bring the Stanley Cup to work if the Ducks win the playoffs.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Mmm, meat...

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Cheer Chen (陳綺貞)

While wandering around in Hong Kong, I came across Cheer Chen's concert CD/DVD. Since I have some of her songs on my iPod already, I bought the DVD (HK$128). I ripped some of the tracks and put them up on YouTube.

還是會寂寞 (check out the bald female bass player!)



I'm finally home after the week-long trip to Chengdu. Our flight was delayed so we didn't leave Hong Kong until midnight. The flight is shorter on the way home; it was only about 12+ hours. This time, Leon and I sat in the 2nd to last row in Cathay Pacific's 747-400. Arriving in LAX, they parked the plane at the remote terminals away from the main Bradley terminal. Out of the last four international flights I've been on, three times I've disembarked at the remote terminals. You get off the plane, walk down a long ramp, then get on a shuttle bus for immigrations. However, it was the first time Leon has "experienced" this, even though he's flown >20x in the past several years. It's really embarrassing comparing LAX to some of the airports in Asia.

I think I made the right decision not to transfer to Singapore with Broadcom. It's a great opportunity but after this week, I'm reminded how hot and humid the weather is over there and how much I dislike long flights, especially flying economy class. :)

Some more random pictures:

Hennessey Road in Hong Kong

Lots of 747's at Hong Kong Airport

Lighted sign at the baggage carousal in Chengdu Airport (panda!)

Jardine House in Hong Kong

Friday, May 25, 2007

Chengdu - Day 6

Today is pretty much a travel day. It took me forever to pack my luggage; I should have brought something bigger. We arrived in Hong Kong at around 5pm and took the airport express into town to meet Leon's cousin for dinner. The train was fast and inexpensive; it took exactly 24 minutes to get from the airport to Hong Kong/Central station. We had dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant (Isola) and made it back to the airport by 9:30pm. The final leg of the trip is a 12+ hour flight back to LAX... :(

View of Hong Kong skyline from IFC

More Chengdu Pics

I'm back in Hong Kong. Let see if I can upload some pictures:

The nice unpaved road leading to PMI

Stream at the back of PMI's tract of land

View of Chengdu from my uncle's balcony

A dish we had for dinner; all the green stuff is chopped peppers

Pandas seem to be big in Chengdu... not sure what this one is doing

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chengdu - Day 4/5

The last two days were mostly spent at PMI's office. In order to help with their business plan, I needed to understand the business better so we spent some time with the accountant. From what I saw, the accounting rules are not that different since China follows International GAAP; the only difference is that the government is much more intrusive. It was difficult to communicate since I don't know any accounting/finance terms in Mandarin (I don't even know how to say finance) and English competency is pretty low in Chendgu.

One interesting thing I found out is that companies cannot issue their own invoices. In order to combat corruption, the government prints numbered invoices that companies must use. This way, you can't falsify expenses since all reported expenses requires a corresponding official invoice. This makes it difficult to account for all the "red envelopes" that's part of Chinese business culture. It also requires an army of people to track all this paper but there are a lot of people in China. :)

I also got a tour of the land PMI is buying to build their new factory. It's a little piece of land in the middle of a high tech industrial park. There's even got a nice stream at the back of the property. The area behind the stream is taken up by a Motorola software design center and there is a large Intel packaging plant down the street.

Wednesday evening I met up with my 3rd uncle on my mom's side and his niece. He moved to Chengdu earlier this month from Canada and is planning to stay until November. My parents are coming to Chengdu in October so they will get to meet him. I haven't seen him since I left Canada in 1985 so it's funny that I finally meet him 22 years later in China. We went to dinner at a local restaurant. The food was really good and cheap.

Hmm, I'm having problems uploading photos to Blogspot. Maybe I'm blocked by the Great Firewall of China.

Thursday was pretty uneventful. We met with a local VC where Leon pitched PMI again. I didn't say anything during the meeting but learned how company valuation works in China. Evidently, the Registered Capital (similar to Paid-in Capital) amount is used where we use discount future cash flow to value a company in the US. They found it hard to believe that a company's value is not tied to the current balance sheet.

For lunch we had some noodles at a restaurant across the street from the VC. Each bowl of noodle was only RMB$4-5 but the portion size here is a lot smaller though. For dinner, we met up with a finance manager from one of PMI's vendors. He is from Taiwan but has a MBA from a small school in New Jersey. We wanted to pick his brain about investment and company structure issues in China. The restaurant specialized in local Szechuan cuisine. For RMB$88 per person, we got to sample 20+ dishes. It's also the 4th time I've had watermelon juice with a meal; it seems to be quite popular in Chengdu.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Chengdu - Day 3

Bret (my former manager) just called me to discuss some staffing issues on where to put new incoming MBA hires. He didn't know I was out here in Chengdu so he woke me up at 5:00am local time. I think I'm not adjusting to the time change so it's hard to stay asleep through the night anyhow. Meanwhile, I was having problems staying awake during all the meetings yesterday.

My first full day in Chengdu was pretty much following Leon around on his business meetings. It's interesting watching Leon speak Chinese, especially discussing chemical compounds and technical stuff. Even though Mandarin was my first language, I found it difficult to understand what people were saying. It was even worse when they switched to the local dialect.

Some random intersection in Chengdu

The traffic is crazy, even more than Taipei or Bangkok. People on scooters don't follow traffic lights so you may get run over even crossing on a green light. The taxi drivers are very aggressive and weave in and out of traffic all the time. There were not as many bicycles as I saw in Beijing 10 years ago but definitely a lot more scooters. Cars are still a luxury item but I guess more people are able to afford scooters now.

The perpetual haze never burned off so it was overcast the entire day. Nevertheless, it was still too hot for me. I was also wearing work clothes so it was even worse. It got to about 30 degrees Celsius but it was also pretty humid. All the local people thought it was a nice cool day though.

ZnS-SiO2 targets

In the afternoon, we went to Leon's office/factory. It was a pretty long ride and the road leading the the building was unpaved but our driver was tearing through the potholes in a crappy little minivan.

PMI's high tech manufacturing facilities

We had dinner at a pretty nice Chinese restaurant inside the Holiday Inn. I had to order the kung-pao chicken to taste the "original" version. Dishes started at only $3 and the service was really good; there were 3-4 servers at our table.

Outside the hotel there was some kind of cosmetics brand launch. There was music, drinks, snacks, and three girls playing violin, Vanessa Mae style.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chengdu - Day 2

The rain continued in Hong Kong the next morning so I gave up on going to the peak. Twice I've been in Hong Kong and both times it was raining. Since they were not able to give me late checkout, I left my bags at the hotel and wandered around Hong Kong for a couple of hours. I ended up spending most of my time in a shopping "mall" called Time Square, right outside the Causeway Bay MTR station. I'm not sure why people come to Hong Kong to shop; everything seems to cost the same or more than stuff in the US, especially electronics (although there's a lot more selection). I did buy a CD and a concert DVD; I don't know where to get new C-pop stuff in LA.

I wonder if the roast duck pizza tastes better in Hong Kong

Kylie Minogue on a trolley

The flight to Chengdu was about 2.5 hours. We got in late last night and the whole city smelled like it was on fire. The air was even smoggy inside the airport terminal. Leon thought it was more than just the regular poor air quality; there was probably something special going on. It was a long taxi ride to the hotel but the fare was only RMB$50 or a little over $6. We walked around a bit even though it was already 11pm and the streets were pretty deserted. There were some street vendors selling food (no way!) and pedicabs offering to take us to see pretty girls for $3. It kind of reminds me of Bangkok where they assume every male foreigner out at night is looking for sex.

As usual, my non-smoking room smells like smoke. I'm resigned to the fact that this is the case all over Asia. There's a large window separating the bathroom from the rest of the room. Weird.

The view outside my window is pretty dreary this morning. We're >1,000 miles from the ocean so that's probably the perpetual smog.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chengdu - Day 1

OK, I'm not really in China yet. I have a one day layover in Hong Kong before we head off to Chengdu. I'm staying at a hotel on Hong Kong Island for about $120; they upgraded me to a suite, too bad it's only one day. The flight sucked since it was so long (14.5 hours) and my ecomony seat (Boeing 747) seems more cramped vs. Singapore Airlines (Boeing 777). It's also the longest direct flight I've been on. I can't imagine being on the plane 4 more hours to fly directly from LAX to Singapore.

They're renovating the business class lounges at LAX so we were shuttled to a temp facility. No, I didn't fly business class; Leon has lots of miles so he got me in.

Inside the temp lounge. Not too bad but nothing compared to Singapore Airline's lounge at Changi or Cathay Pacific's at Hong Kong (Noodle Bar!).

The new Hong Kong airport is huge. They let us off at gate 67 which is a 20 minute walk to the main terminal. We actually took a subway to get from one end of the airport to the other.

Arrival hall at Hong Kong airport. There are 13 luggage carousels and our luggage was waiting for us when we cleared customs. I usually have to wait forever for luggage at LAX or even short-flights at SNA.

The shuttle bus from the airport to my hotel was HK$140 and took about 45 minutes since I was the first stop. It was a huge tourist bus but only had about 10 passengers. Metropark Hotel is right next to a MTR station (Tin Hau) but I was too lazy to navigate the subway with my luggage.

Even though I requested a non-smoking room, the room smells anyway. You can't get away from cigarette smoke in Hong Kong.

View of Hong Kong from hotel room

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How many notebook computers do you see?

At a recent work meeting:

I count 10 in the picture. There was another 2 across from me and 3 more to my left. That's 15 computers in one conference room; I don't think there were that many people in the room. I'm guilty though... I brought 2 notebook computers to the meeting: one to show the PPT files and the other to check email/surf the web/etc.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

I saw one today on Irvine Center Drive. As if the Cayenne Turbo wasn't crazy enough, the "S" gives another 50(?) horsepowers. He wasn't going very fast though.

Does the S look "aftermarket"? :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Most Dangerous Vehicles

IIHS report shows the best and worst vehicles in real-world driver safety.
Lowest rates of driver death
(per million registered vehicles)

Chevrolet Astro 7
Infiniti G35 11
BMW 7 Series 11
*Toyota 4Runner* 13
Audi A4/S4 quattro 14
Mercedes Benz E-Class 14
Toyota Highlander 14
Mercedes-Benz M-Class 14
Toyota Sienna 17
Honda Odyssey 17
Lexus ES330 18
Lexus RX330 18
Toyota Sequoia 18
Honda Pilot 19
BMW X5 19

Highest rates of driver death
(per million registered vehicles)

Chevrolet Blazer (2 door, 2WD) 232
Acura RSX 202
*Nissan 350Z* 193
Kia Spectra (hatchback) 191
Pontiac Sunfire 179
Kia Rio 175
Chevrolet Cavalier (2 door) 171
Mitsubishi Eclipse 169
Dodge Neon 161
Pontiac Grand Am (2 door) 160
Chevrolet Cavalier (4 door) 150
Ford Mustang 150

This says that I should drive the 4Runner more often and leave the Z at home (or sell it). :(

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tech firms confronting 'dramatic' rise in power use

Hmm, I should go and delete some Excel files from the server at work.

MarketWatch article.
Indeed, data centers nationwide now consume about 1.2% of all the power used in the U.S., PG&E's Bramfitt said. Northern California centers hog about 400 to 500 megawatts, or about 2.5% of the state's grid -- double the national average.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Boston Pops Fight

Boston Globe article.
One of the two concertgoers at the center of what has become known as "The Brawl at Symphony Hall" said yesterday that he intends to press charges against the man who punched him after being asked several times to stop talking during the Boston Pops' opening night gala.

"People with a temper like that aren't really safe in society," Matthew Ellinger , a 27-year-old graphic designer from Brighton, said yesterday. "If a guy is going to lose his temper at the symphony when somebody asks him to stop talking, that's just not cool. If I were to let that go, I would be doing nobody any service."

I've been to Boston Symphony Hall (once) for a Mozart/flute concert and I think I sat in the same balcony area. I remember somebody "shushing" me too but I didn't feel like starting a fight. :)

Monday, May 7, 2007

China Visa

Well, I booked my hotel for Hong Kong and Leon got reservations for Chengdu which means I'd better get my visa for China. I pre-filled out the form before I brought it to the travel agency but they made me fill out my Chinese name and change place of birth from Taipei (I didn't want to put Taiwan) to China.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, I really don't like TI (Taiwan Independence) people, especially those that say they're Taiwanese and not Chinese. I can understand the Taiwanese part; it's like saying you're American. However, I don't understand the "not Chinese" part. Sorry, you're ethnically Chinese and your ancestors are probably from Fujian or Guangzhou. It's like the American denying their German/Irish/Italian/whatever roots. However, I also really hate how petty the commies are about Taiwan. Taiwan is insignificant in population and geography vs. mainland China yet everyday you hear about some stupid flap about Taiwan/China and the whole one country/two system crap. Why not just have two countries? Maybe they just don't like seeing Chinese people living in a capitalistic democratic society, invalidating their Marxist/Maoist dogma.

Well, my passport has "TAIWAN" as place of birth so we'll see what happens. I remember Shirley had to get a new passport right before she went to China; the Chinese Consulate rejected her visa application because it said "TAIWAN" as place of birth. They want it to say "CHINA" instead... petty.


I just got a VM from the travel agency that I got the tourist visa. Maybe things have changed from 10 years ago...

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Sigh... time to do laundry again. There are not enough washer/dryers in the apartment complex so I usually wait until real late to wash my clothes. Maybe I'll take a nap first.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Cash-for-grades scandal...

This beats MBA students cheating on a test...

SFGate Article
More than 70 current and former students at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill are being investigated for allegedly paying bribes of up to $600 to have their grades raised on official transcripts, officials said Thursday.

College officials believe as many as 400 grades were changed, casting a cloud over the school's transcripts.

About 74 students are believed to have paid student employees to change grades dating back several years, said Charles Gibson, Contra Costa Community College District police chief, at a news conference.

Eleven of the 74 students still attend the college and could face expulsion, while the others have transferred to schools across the country, where they could face disciplinary action, officials said.

Hmm, I'm beginning to think kids today are more stupid than before. In the '80s, we didn't pay people to change our grades, we just hacked into the school system and change it ourselves!


OK, that's not me... it's Ally Sheedy from War Games. Coincidentally, of all the "celebrities" that came to speak at UCLA, the only person I saw was Ally. She was pretty boring.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Immigration Woes

Sigh... so both our analysts in finance received notice that they did not get a H1B visa in the lottery. This means we have to take them off U.S. payroll next month and they have to leave the country.

Yesterday, there were lots of marches and protests about illegal immigration and how we should grant amnesty. I feel very little sympathy for people who chose to ignore the law, whatever their circumstances, and sneak into this country illegally. There are millions of people, me included, who went (or are going) through lots of red tape to immigrate legally.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

MBA Students Caught Cheating

Bloomberg story:
May 1 (Bloomberg) -- The cheating episode at Duke University may cause academics to conclude the post-Enron emphasis on teaching ethics in graduate business schools is a failure.

Thirty-four first-year master's of business administration students at Duke's Fuqua School of Business were disciplined in the program's largest cheating scandal. Nine students face expulsion for collaborating on a take-home test, violating the professor's rules.

Business students are more likely to cut corners than those in any other academic discipline, several studies show. A Rutgers University survey last year found that cheating at business schools is common, even after ethics courses were added following scandals that bankrupted Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc.

"What is taught in a business program sometimes reinforces students' tendencies to be entrepreneurial and results-oriented," said Timothy Dodd, 50, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke, in an interview from Durham, North Carolina. "Those sometimes aren't the people who understand that moral means have to be used to achieve moral ends."

A study released by the center in September and conducted by Rutgers professor Donald McCabe in New Brunswick, New Jersey, showed that students pursuing MBA degrees cheat more than other U.S. graduate students. McCabe found that 56 percent of those in business schools acknowledge violating the rules, compared with 54 percent in engineering, 48 percent in education and 45 percent in law.