Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Since I drove to UCLA and back yesterday, the gas tank in the Z was near empty this morning. In addition, I haven't washed the car in many many months so I went to a gas station with an automated car wash. I ended pumping 15+ gallons of super unleaded and the total came out to over $63. With a 20 gallon tank, a complete fill-up could have cost me >$80.

$8 car wash

2008 Global Energy & Power Forum

I went to a forum at UCLA yesterday. For a cleantech gathering, I ended up driving 100+ miles round-trip in my Z, probably burning 5+ gallons of premium unleaded. Actually, traffic was not too bad on the 405 until I got to Venice Blvd. It took about 90 minutes to drive up but I managed to get home in about 40 minutes.

John Turner from NREL; he probably had the most interesting presentation.

The event was held at the Tom Bradley International Hall and the event coordinator said that over 300 people showed up. There was not really a theme since the speakers talked about their own stuff but most of it was marginally connected to cleantech. The speakers blew through lots of slides in about 90 minutes. They even had people from the Turkish and Kenyan consulate speak. Afterwards, they had a Toyota Prius that had its gasoline engine converted to run on hydrogen. It emits no CO2 and just a bit of NOx but the engine was pretty noisy.

Here's a shot of the audience. I can see myself... checking email on my Treo! :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Portland Zoo

The polar bears were just playing around... no mating involved.

Portland Trip

I went up to Portland to visit my sister's family this past weekend. To conserve my vacation days for China, I took off from work at around 3:30pm to catch a late afternoon flight and returned on the early flight this morning. I got back to the office around 9:45am which is pretty much my normal time. We didn't have anything specific planned for the weekend; I just hung out and relaxed.

OSU Beavers plane... why?!

Addison and her new hat

We went to the Portland zoo Saturday afternoon. The zoo was pretty small compared to the San Diego zoo... no pandas either. There was a petting zoo with some goats and sheep; this one got too close and scared Addison a little bit.

This is the only decent dim sum place in all of Portland. We rushed to get out of the house at 9:30am Sunday morning and arrived at around 10am. This is the line to get in the restaurant as it opened. Crazy. I think we managed to get one of the last open tables. When we left at 11am, there were lots and lots of people waiting for tables. Seems that there may be a market for a second decent dim sum restaurant.

Unfortunately, this is representative of the typical Chinese restaurant (plus lounge!) in Portland. Hung Far Low... since 1928!

Hey, is it nighttime already?

We went for a nice walk in the woods after dinner Sunday. This is literally around the corner from my sister's house. They told me they tried to cut across the woods (to the right) to get to a Starbucks and got totally lost. This is inside the city of Portland.

Waiting to take off in typical Portland weather. I got to the airport at 6:15am for a 7:00am flight. Like at John Wayne Airport, my AAdvantage Platinum card let me cut into the first class line so I got to my gate in ~5 minutes.

I'm Feeling Lucky - Picasa 2

Mount Hood (I think):


After... pretty amazing filter

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Work Elevator

We have two elevators in our 4-story building. For brand new equipment (~12 months), they run pretty slow. Each time I'm in the elevator, I think, "I must be in the slow one again." Just to make sure, I timed both elevators from the time the doors close on the first floor to the time it opens on the 4th floor. After many trials, both elevators are equally slow at 26 seconds.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Skype Bandwidth Limit

It seems that Skype is bandwidth constrained. At the bottom of the Skype application window, it tells you how many people are logged-in. Right now, it shows about 7.9M users. I've noticed that the system is pretty stable up to about 9M users. As the number increases over 10M, the call quality deteriorates significantly; I've seen huge delays, especially video, of up to 3 minutes. During morning hours (Pacific time), sometimes there are ~12.5M users online and Skype is barely operational. Sigh... but at least it's free.

College Tests in China

My friend in Chengdu told me about a test she took in school. Evidently, they pay to take a proficiency test, in this case, a computer literacy test. It's done on a computer and the only result they see is the final score. There's no opportunity to look at questions afterwards to review your answers against the "correct" answers. Predictably, no one passed the test; a passing score is 60/100. However, a lot of people, including my friend, got a score of 59. If they want to pass, they need to pay to take the test again. I'm pretty sure that if I took their English proficiency test, I probably will score a 59 as well.

What an awesome business model!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jimmy Carter is Senile

WSJ Article
"In a democracy, I realize you don't need to talk to the top leader to know how the country feels," he said over the weekend, responding to a question from an Israeli journalist who noted that Mr. Carter had been snubbed by most of Israel's top leadership and reprimanded by its president, Shimon Peres. "When I go to a dictatorship, I only have to talk to one person and that's the dictator, because he speaks for all the people."

Riiight. I'm sure Kim Jong-il speaks for all 23 million North Koreans, especially the million that died of starvation in the 1990s. Instead of talking to the Tibetans or people in Taiwan, Jimmy should just talk to Hu Jintao. Sheesh...

Yet a dictator does not speak for the people. Properly speaking, a dictator speaks for none of the people. A dictator speaks only for himself, while "the people" are transformed, through force and fear, into an abstraction, an instrument, a rhetorical trope. On the contrary, it is only in a democracy where the government can morally and lawfully be said to speak for the people, since it was morally and lawfully chosen by the people to speak for them. Which means that Mr. Carter has matters precisely backwards: It is in democracies such as Israel where the views of the leadership matter most, and in dictatorships such as Syria where they matter least.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Forecast: Big quake likely in California

AP Article
LOS ANGELES - California faces an almost certain risk of being rocked by a strong earthquake by 2037, scientists said Monday in the first statewide temblor forecast.

New calculations reveal there is a 99.7 percent chance a magnitude 6.7 quake or larger will strike in the next 30 years. The odds of such an event are higher in Southern California than Northern California, 97 percent versus 93 percent.

Almost 100% chance there will be a big earthquake within the next 30 years. I've been in SoCal for ~23 years and I've been through at least 3 big ones so I think they're a bit conservative on their forecast. Maybe it's time to move to China!

- 10/1/87 Whittier Narrows, 5.9
- 6/28/91 Sierra Madre, 5.8
- 6/28/92 Landers, 7.3
- 1/17/94 Northridge, 6.7

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kai Tak Airport

I'm so glad that they built a new airport in Hong Kong. I don't think I want to experience a Kai Tak (old Hong Kong Airport) landing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Summer Is Here

Today's high temperature in Costa Mesa is going to be 95ºF or 35ºC. I think I'll turn on the A/C and take a nap.


It was 95ºF again today (Sunday) and it's only the first few weeks of Spring.

Car Soccer

1st half

2nd half

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


The House of Representatives voted today on a bill regarding Tibet:
Calling on the Government of the People's Republic of China to end its crackdown in Tibet and enter into a substantive dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to find a negotiated solution that respects the distinctive language, culture, religious identity, and fundamental freedoms of all Tibetans, and for other purposes.

The vote was 413-1-17. The lone "no" vote was cast by Ron Paul (R-Texas)... and he thought he could be president?!

In other news, the torch relay in San Francisco today was rerouted to avoid protesters and the crowd in general. What's the point of having the relay if no one sees it?

I guess all these people came out for nothing

Tax and Spend

Charlotte Observer Article
Should she become first lady, she said she'd focus on family issues.

"If we don't wake up as a nation with a new kind of leadership...for how we want this country to work, then we won't get universal health care," she said.

"The truth is, in order to get things like universal health care and a revamped education system, then someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more."

- Michelle Obama

What is it with Democrats and income redistribution? I have given up enough of my pie already. The government needs to be more efficient with their existing pie before sucking more tax money out of me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Season one of MacGyver on I used to love watching this show. The plot was kind of predictable but it's always interesting to see what MacGyver could do with a pocketknife, dental floss, chewing gum, and his belt each week.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Naruto Episodes

A friend from church told me yesterday that the storyline for the first Naruto series only goes up to 70-something. Anything after that, all the way to episode 220, are not part of the original manga series. The story actually picks up in the 2nd series, Naruto: Shippūden. No wonder the last 100 episodes I watched seem to jump all over the place plot-wise.

A co-worker gave me a DVD today with episodes 1-13 of Darker than Black... looks pretty interesting.

Olympic Torch Relay



The round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant to highlight China's rising economic and political power. Activists have seized on it as a platform for their causes.

Beijing organizers criticized London's protesters, saying their actions were a "disgusting" form of sabotage by Tibetan separatists.

"The act of defiance from this small group of people is not popular," said Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee. "It will definitely be criticized by people who love peace and adore the Olympic spirit. Their attempt is doomed to failure."

I don't understand how the communists keep saying it's about peace and the Olympic spirit when everyone knows the whole thing is about politics; the torch relay was started in 1936 by the Nazis as part of their self-glorification propaganda campaign. Also, I think the Chinese government has miscalculated the global response to the riots and crackdown in Tibet. It's not just a few "Tibetan separatists" gathered in London and Paris to protest. Maybe China is not used to protests where they can't come in and beat-up or shoot the protesters as they do domestically.

The torch comes to San Francisco on Wednesday. It should be interesting to see what happens in the protest capital of the world.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Final Four

UCLA vs. Memphis game starting now...


UCLA down by 3 at halftime, 38-35


UCLA loses, 78-63 :(

That's 0-3 in the last three years after getting to the Final Four

Friday, April 4, 2008

Marketing 101

Of all the classes I took in business school, I think I did the worst in Marketing. Still, my first reaction when I saw the above ad was, "Wow! That is really stupid!" Absolut vodka is famous for their print ads, and this is part of their "In An Absolut World" campaign.

The ad was produced by a local advertising agency in Mexico. V&S is a large global company with almost US$1.7 billion in sales in 2007 so it's pretty amazing that such an ad was actually produced and published. I can't believe that no one--either in Sweden or in the U.S.--raised a red flag. Illegal immigration is a huge issue here, especially in states bordering Mexico. Fringe groups have pushed for the "return" of land that Mexico lost to the U.S. during the Mexican-American War. The ad shows the border of Mexico before the war.

Anyway, back to marketing. V&S sells a lot of vodka under the Absolut brand, about 11 million 9-liter cases in 2007 (from annual report) or ~US$1 billion. By far the largest market was the U.S. at ~50%. The second largest market is Canada at ~4% and Mexico accounts for ~3%. The whole point of advertising is to gain market share. How much additional revenue did V&S expect to get in Mexico versus potential losses from pissing off customers in the U.S.? Stupid.

V&S published a response on their blog. Judging from the ~500 comments, it's not helping. The government of Sweden just sold V&S to Pernod Ricard for ~$9B, pretty expensive at ~6x 2007 revenues (BRCM market cap is ~3x). It will be interesting to see if anyone (Ms. Eriksson?) loses their job over this fiasco.
In an ABSOLUT World according to Mexico
Posted Friday, April 04, 2008, 5:26:34 PM

The In An Absolut World advertising campaign invites consumers to visualize a world that appeals to them -- one they feel may be more idealized or one that may be a bit "fantastic." As such, the campaign will elicit varying opinions and points of view. We have a variety of executions running in countries worldwide, and each is germane to that country and that population.

This particular ad, which ran in Mexico, was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility. In no way was this meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues. Instead, it hearkens to a time which the population of Mexico may feel was more ideal.

As a global company, we recognize that people in different parts of the world may lend different perspectives or interpret our ads in a different way than was intended in that market. Obviously, this ad was run in Mexico, and not the US -- that ad might have been very different.

By Paula Eriksson, VP Corporate Communications, V&S Absolut Spirits

Heh, the ad may have violated their own responsible marketing guidelines. They didn't think this ad was political?!
V&S marketing activities shall not:
• blah blah blah...
• be used in any political, religious or pornographic context.

Best and Worst Used Cars

Research from Consumer Reports

It appears that American companies still can't make good cars.

Acura Integra
Acura MDX
Acura RL
Acura RSX
Acura TL
Acura TSX
Buick LaCrosse
Honda Accord
Honda Civic
Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda CR-V
Honda Element
Honda Odyssey
Honda Pilot
Honda S2000
Infiniti FX
Infiniti G20
Infiniti G35
Infiniti I30, I35
Infiniti QX4
Lexus ES
Lexus GS (RWD)
Lexus GX
Lexus IS
Lexus LS
Lexus RX
Lexus SC
Lincoln Continental
Lincoln Town Car
Mazda Millenia
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda Protegé
Mitsubishi Endeavor
Mitsubishi Outlander
Nissan Altima
Nissan Maxima
Nissan Murano
Pontiac Vibe
Porsche 911 (except '03)
Scion tC
Scion xB
Subaru Baja
Subaru Forester
Subaru Impreza
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota Avalon
Toyota Camry (except '07 V6)
Toyota Camry Solara
Toyota Celica
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Echo
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Matrix
Toyota Prius
Toyota RAV4
Toyota Sequoia
Toyota Sienna
Toyota Tundra (except '07 V8 4WD)
Volvo S60

Buick Rendezvous (AWD)
Buick Terraza
Chevrolet Astro
Chevrolet Blazer
Chevrolet Colorado (4WD)
Chevrolet S-10 Pickup (4WD)
Chevrolet Uplander
Chevrolet Venture
Chrysler Town & Country (AWD)
Dodge Grand Caravan (AWD)
GMC Canyon (4WD)
GMC Jimmy
GMC S-15 Sonoma (4WD)
GMC Safari
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sedona
Land Rover Discovery, LR3
Lincoln Aviator
Mercedes-Benz SL
Nissan Armada (4WD)
Nissan Titan (4WD)
Oldsmobile Bravada
Oldsmobile Silhouette
Pontiac Aztek
Pontiac G6
Pontiac Montana, Trans Sport, Montana SV6
Saturn Relay
Volkswagen Cabriolet
Volkswagen Jetta Sedan (turbo)
Volkswagen Jetta Sedan (V6)
Volkswagen Touareg

Thursday, April 3, 2008