Friday, October 31, 2008


I think I will need to bring my own food to China from now on.

BBC Article
Chinese melamine scandal widens

The toxic chemical melamine is probably being routinely added to Chinese animal feed, state media has reported.

Correspondents say the unusually frank reports in several news outlets are an admission that contamination could be widespread throughout the food chain.

The melamine scandal began early in September, when at least four Chinese babies were killed by contaminated milk, and thousands more became ill.

Canada Pictures

I'm back home after a 4 day business trip to Toronto. For a city of ~3 million people, there's a lot of traffic. I also found that there are plenty of aggressive drivers, contrary to the image of Canadians being more laid back than Americans. Maybe it's all the new immigrants driving like crazy.

The flight back from YYZ to LAX was delayed by about 30 minutes. It's a new route for AA so the flight was pretty empty; most people had the row to themselves. I used to think the 5 hour flight was long but it's nothing compared to 14+ hour flights to Hong Kong.

Hotel room - the bed was pretty comfortable.

Day 1 of meetings. There was a lot of reading from PowerPoint slides.

The AMD/ATI building in Markham. There are several other buildings next door for the graphics card division of AMD/ATI (which we didn't buy).

View from 9th floor hotel room. OK, I change my mind about working from Canada.

My crappy rental car. It was a Pontiac G5 and I didn't like it. I'll need to make sure I rent/lease a Japanese car when I finally move up to Canada.

It took 5 minutes to brush off the snow and scrape the ice off the windows.

Yes... 0°C in October.

View from the Broadcom DTV building. You can see CN Tower on a clear day. Growing up, I was able to see the CN Tower from by bedroom window in Mississauga.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

US/Canada Hotels

Having traveled in Asia often during the past two years, I noticed that in China and Taiwan, even cheap hotels have free Internet connection and free breakfast. Sure, some of the breakfast buffets are pretty lame but most have porridge and pastries. Even the RMB220 (~US$30) rooms at Jinghu Hotel in Chengdu has hot breakfast, though the rooms themselves are not too great.

I am staying at a Sheraton here in Toronto/Richmond Hill and even though the room costs ~C$200, I had to pay an extra C$8 for a broadband Internet connection in my room. I think I paid a bit extra for a king sized bed and those rooms come with a continental breakfast. I don't think the other rooms include breakfast. In Singapore, I stayed at the Shangri-La hotel which was ~US$270/night, and they charged ~US$10 for the Internet connection; at least the breakfast was good. Maybe they figure if you can afford the $200-$300 room, you can pay some more for breakfast and Internet.


It's not really winter yet but it was 0°C this morning and snowing. I spent 5 minutes brushing snow and scraping ice off the windshield and windows of the rental car. I haven't done that in over 20 years.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

DTV Business Review

The press release went out this morning. The final purchase price was $141.5M.
Broadcom Corporation (Nasdaq: BRCM), a global leader in semiconductors for wired and wireless communications, today announced that it has completed the acquisition of AMD's (NYSE: AMD) digital TV (DTV) business. The acquisition is expected to enable Broadcom to immediately scale its DTV business, and, in conjunction with its existing products, offer a complete product line that covers all segments of the DTV market, ranging from low-end value and mid-range quality to high-end interactive platforms and panel processors.

I'm currently in a business review meeting. All the AMD DTV guys have new Broadcom badges with their first name and location (mostly Markham). Since they're part of Broadcom starting today, AMD cut off their old email access and there's an IT guy running around trying to get everyone up on Broadcom's email server. It does look like all 500+ employees are in our corporate directory already.

It was about 4 degrees C when I walked out of the hotel this morning. It was also windy so I'm sure the wind chill adjusted temperature is much lower. Sigh... :(

Monday, October 27, 2008

Toronto Business Trip

I normally don't do much business travel for Broadcom. In the past (almost) nine years, I've only gone to San Jose, Vancouver, and Singapore for work, and only once per location. However, with our acquisition of AMD's DTV division, I'll be spending a lot of time this winter in Toronto.

I've been offered the opportunity to help integrate the finance team and forecasting process. Initially the VP of Finance asked if I was willing to move here full-time for 12 months. He's originally from Brampton which is the next town/city north of Mississauga (where I grew up), and he knows I'm Canadian. After careful consideration and some advice from our international tax guy, I offered to come up 2-3 weeks per month for 6-8 months. There is a 183-day rule in Canada; if I stay more than 183 days in a 12 month period, then I'm deemed a Canadian resident and my worldwide income is taxable by Canada. Since Canada is a huge welfare state, I need to avoid having the other 50% of my income go to Canadian taxes.

I'm also not sure what I'll be doing here exactly. We are getting two finance people as part of the acquisition so they will be doing all the work. I guess I'm here to grease the wheels and help them do things the Broadcom way (without going to jail... j/k). Since the assignment is short, it's not worth the effort to do a full relocation so I'm keeping my apartment in California which helps with the argument that I'm not a Canadian resident. However, I want to get an apartment here as well instead of living in a hotel room forever so I can leave all my winter clothing here instead of packing/unpacking luggage every month. I'll need to discuss this with our HR rep to see what Broadcom will provide with this near-expat assignment. I had dinner with my parents earlier this evening. They're about an hour away from AMD Markham so it's too far for me to live with them and commute.

Overall, I think this will be a good learning experience even though I will still be responsible for my old job in FP&A. The workload in FP&A is very lumpy; sometimes were really busy, especially right before quarterly earning calls, but other times there's not much to do. My one and only staff will need to self-manage more and I'll probably be a lot busier. The upside is that I get to learn about a new business and how business unit finance works without actually working for a BU.

Coming back is a bit weird though. For the longest time, I thought I was done with Canada. Even though I grew up in Mississauga/Toronto, I've lived in California for the past 23 years and gotten used to its unique culture. In addition, I've traveled a lot to Asia (China/Hong Kong/Taiwan) these past two years so I feel closer to my Chinese roots. Now that I'm looking at spending the next six months here, and reconnected with some high school friends via Facebook, I'm feeling a bit confused about who I am again.

Umbrella Search

I just got back from buying an umbrella. I'm traveling to Toronto tomorrow (Monday) and the weather forecast calls for lots of rain. The only umbrella I have is a huge golf umbrella so I wanted to get a small folding one. At midnight, my only choices were supermarkets and 24 hour drug stores. I found one at CVS after coming up empty at Vons. It's a pretty nice umbrella and it only cost $10; it would cost a lot more if I bought one at the airport.

Gotta get up in 5 hours to drive to LAX... :(

Monday, October 20, 2008

JeepSpeed - Tearing Out the Interior

On Saturday, we met at Randy's parent's house to strip out the interior of our JeepSpeed Cherokee. The plan was to remove everything possible from the interior but keeping the electrical system intact so the truck will still run.

It was a beautiful day for gutting the truck

Before - exterior

Before - interior

Randy's dad helping with the seat belt anchor bolts. They were very difficult to remove. We ended up busting two Torx bits with a compressed air impact wrench.

Working on the front half of the truck

After - interior

Trash pile

Instrument cluster

The truck was originally from Illinois so there is some rust damage on the floorboards. Randy already welded some steel plates over the rusted area.

Randy's dad helping us again. This time he removed the heating (engine coolant) and air conditioning (freon) lines to the ventilation unit so we can remove it from the interior.

Next step is to get someone to install the roll cage, buy a fuel cell, and start working on the suspension upgrades. We also have to remove the windshield. I tried prying the edges with a screwdriver and managed to chip the edge of it. We may end up smashing it... woohoo!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wishful Thinking

Shanghai follows Beijing in putting brakes on traffic

BEIJING (Reuters) - Shanghai is to adopt a watered-down version of the capital's traffic restrictions in a bit to clean the air, clear the roads and save energy, state media said.

Starting next month, vehicles belonging to the government or state-owned enterprises will be banned from the roads on one out of five weekdays in a system based on license plate numbers.

Different from Beijing's curbs, Shanghai's will not apply to private cars even though "Shanghai's private vehicles are encouraged to follow the restrictions," Xinhua news agency quoted an official as saying.

Beijing introduced its restrictions after taking half the city's cars off the roads during the August Olympics, freeing up traffic on its notoriously congested ring roads and clearing the air.

When the new traffic restrictions were introduced in the capital on Monday, up to 800,000 cars were taken off the road but many junctions were still congested at peak hours.

Riiight. Let's see how many people "voluntarily" keep their private vehicles off the streets. Chinese people are notorious for ignoring all traffic related regulations. If you don't enforce rules, no one is going to follow them.


I have been cat-sitting for Shirley for the past three weeks. She just picked up her cat yesterday. I'm normally allergic to cats but for the first week, I was fine. However, starting the second week, I started coughing more from an itchy throat. I didn't know that was also a symptom of allergies. Anyway, it got pretty bad earlier this week; a few people on my floor at work asked if I was the mysterious cougher they keep hearing. I'm still taking Claritin and now that the cat is gone, I'm feeling a bit better. I spent most of last night vacuuming and changing the bed sheet.

She like to lie down on the few tiles that I have in my apartment. Maybe it keeps her cool.

She also likes the bathroom sink. Even though she has a water dish, she likes to drink from running water. However, she will only drink if you cup the water with your hands and this became a daily ritual. Since there are a lot of allergens in cat saliva, this didn't help my allergies.

Hiding under the futon. I was using my dad's Sony DSLR to shoot these pics; this one I took blind since I couldn't look into the eyepiece with the camera on the floor.

Overall, it was a good learning experience taking care of a cat. I'm pretty sure I don't ever want a cat as a pet in the future.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Financial Crisis

Clowns (Jack-in-the-Box)... how appropriate.

Business Ethics 101

AFP Article
Recalled milk sold to students in China: state media

SHANGHAI (AFP) — Dairy products that were recalled in southern China to be tested for the deadly chemical melamine were instead dumped at universities and sold to students at a discount, state media reported Thursday.

The milk products were sold in supermarkets and student dormitories in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, the Xinhua news agency said, citing a local newspaper.

In one university supermarket, bulk boxes of Mengniu milk and Yili yogurt -- both suspected brands -- were sold for less than 20 yuan (2.90 dollars), or about half the original price, the report said.

Sigh... what can you do? I'm pretty sure college students in China know all about the tainted milk scandal yet they still buy and drink it. Maybe I should have sold them my White Rabbit candy at a discount too.

Monday, October 6, 2008

AA Miles and

Hmm, I can get a free ticket from LAX to YYZ for 25k miles in economy or 50k miles in business/first class on the same flight during Thanksgiving. At, the extra 25k miles can get me ~$100 gift certificate at Is sitting in business/first class on a 737 for 10 hours worth $100? Maybe I should save the miles for future free flights to Toronto or the east coast since I won't be accumulating miles for Cathay Pacific flights on my AAdvantage account anymore.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bad Neighbors

Sigh... it's 6am and my a**hole neighbors downstairs are blasting their stereo and smoking. The loud music started as soon as they moved in but the smoking is more recent. Hopefully they're only smoking on the patio so at least I can shut the sliding glass doors. If they're smoking inside and it's seeping through the floor, then there's not much I can do. I'll probably end up buying a Blueair air purifier since there's so much dust in the air but the smoke will cause me to burn through filters faster.

Cough, cough... I feel like I'm back in China. :(

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Off-Road Expo

Randy and I went to the Off-Road Expo earlier today at the Pomona Fairplex. We went to check out some of the vendor exhibits and to see other people's trucks to get ideas on building our JeepSpeed race car. We've scheduled October 18th to strip down our truck so we can send it out to have the roll cage built.

It was a pretty good learning experience for me. I don't know too much about off-road racing so a lot of the technology was new to me. I did see a few shows on HD Theater about the Baja races but they don't go into the truck technology too much. Since we in the JeepSpeed class, the trucks are pretty stock; the most important modification is probably the suspension/shocks.

Booth for King Shock Technology, Inc. They seem to be in a lot of the racing trucks. I also saw Fox which also made the rear shock for my mountain bike.

Competitor truck. It has won a lot of races recently so it's the truck to beat.

An off-road racing truck that is street legal in Arizona. California has pretty strict road rules so almost all racing trucks are not street legal. We filed PNO (Planned Non-Operation) for our Cherokee so we can't legally drive it on the street anymore. Randy just bought a trailer so we can tow the truck around.

A recent model Jeep Grand Cherokee on display.

Another JeepSpeed competitor. The driver rolled his own truck recently. To maintain his points in the race series, he bought this one to keep racing.

Front suspension setup. Our suspension mods will probably look very similar.

Rear suspension. We have to keep the stock suspension geometry which means leaf springs in the back.

Driver seat. The truck owner installed a PVC tube in the back for ice water. He rigged a windshield wiper pump to a switch on the steering wheel. I think we'll stick with a Camelback for now.

Toyota was the primary sponsor of the expo. They set up a dirt driving area in the horse track to demo the FJ Cruiser and some 4x4 trucks. We lined up and got to drive the FJ Cruiser over hills and bumps. Here the truck is up on three wheels over some rough terrain.

The initial hill climb. Since I only have 2WD in my 4Runner, I have not driven it off-road and definitely not steep inclines. It was a bit freaky to drive up the hill without being able to see where you're going. I think the course had +/- 30 degree inclines. We drove at crawling speed around the course; I can't imaging going up that hill at racing speeds.

Overall, it was a pretty productive day for me. Now I have a basic idea of what needs to be done to our truck and what a completed race truck looks like. The only disappointment was the lack of cute car models at the expo; most were blond with fake boobs. I went to a JGTC race a few years ago at California Speedway. The import models and race queens were much better looking. From Randy's previous comments and from my observations today, most of the people involved in off-road racing are white. I hardly saw any ethnic minorities today, both exhibitor and attendee. We'll probably be the only non-white team in JeepSpeed. I need to make sure our team name has the word rice in it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Power Outage

The electricity went out at work about 30 minutes and still has not been restored. Only half the buildings are out; the 4 buildings on the south side of the parking lot still have power. Since the wired network is still operational, I ejected my notebook from the docking station, reconnected the CAT-5 cable, and I'm back to work. The phones are still working too since we have IP phones at work. My UPS didn't work at all; I have two LCD panels plugged in and they went dark as soon as the power died. The UPS beeped for a few minutes but nothing plugged in to it kept working. :(

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cathay Pacific and AAdvantage

The gig is up. I've been sending all the frequent flier miles from my Chengdu trips on Cathay Pacific/Dragonair to my AAdvantage account. That way, I can accrue miles towards oneworld and have AA miles to fly free to Canada. It appears that the new fare structure on Cathay Pacific's website does not allow that anymore except for the most expensive economy tickets (~$3,000). The discounted economy fares (~$1,000) only allows miles to accrue on AsiaMiles. I guess it's time to enroll in Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo club to keep accruing miles for Hong Kong lounge use purposes.

White Rabbit Creamy Candy

Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety is testing food items that come from China for melamine. On Sept 23, they tested a 227g bag of White Rabbit candy and found 4.6ppm of melamine (item 8). Interestingly, the 454g bag tested the next day had 16ppm of melamine. Not sure if the two bag sizes come from different batches or if there's a lot of error in the testing method.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority said that consuming 5ppm should be safe for adults. The bag of candy I bought in China was 227g so from the data above, it's safe (barely) to eat at 4.6ppm! Good thing I didn't start passing the candy out to friends and co-workers before I found out the bad news.