Saturday, June 24, 2006 3.0

Brent turned me onto awhile back when we were cruising around Australia. Since then, i've become an addict. You can see a video preview of the new Digg 3.0 visualization tools here. Its a bit long, but the visualization toolkit and API are just AWESOME. In real time you can track stories other people are digging and watch little icons fall from the top of the screen, mousing over them tells you who dug it, along with a few other features.

Also, if friends want to associate login id's each time anybody does a 'digg' we can see them on the right hand side when logged in. Please send me your digg login id so I can see what you are digging.

I am 'atlake' on


Podcast Recommendations?

I'm looking for a few good podcasts to download. I find the choices overwhelming and would like to start with some recommendations from folks. Any suggestions on things I'd be interested in?


Travels to Hangzhou, 130 Year Record High Temperature, and the Plum Rains

Stacey and I took the train and traveled to Hangzhou for a few days. Day one was for work, but we couldn’t get out on a train the night before so we headed back home on Saturday. I traveled to meet with several game developers at the software parks here in Hangzhou. This meant we had time to check out the West Lake area and a few of the many temples as well as walk the local streets. Being away from Shanghai gave us a chance to see what life is like in other less hectic parts of China. Co-workers refer to this as a ‘little town’, so I’m picturing something like Seaside or Newburgh, 16,000 or so people. Actually, small town in China is around 6 million people. Out near the like there are lots of people but not many cars so its actually quite peaceful, including many pedestrian walkways.

Right now we are at the train station. we got here a bit early because we weren’t sure of traffic. It’s a madhouse. People bustling about, train schedules on LCD displays flashing in multiple colors, vendors of all sorts. Noise reflecting off of all the marble surfaces with nothing to dampen the sounds. There is air conditioning, but only enough to bring the 37 degree Celsius temperature down by a few degrees.

The two temples we saw today were very different. One, Leifing Pagoda was a renovated temple built on top of the ancient temple ruins. at the bottom one could see actual ruins of the 2,000 year old temple. We also visited Baouchu Pagoda. To get there, we walked to, up some MAJOR hills in some major heat. It was much smaller in diameter but taller and made of original materials. it was blocked from traffic so we couldn’t climb up inside of it.

Last Tuesday in Shanghai was a record 37 degrees. it was a 130 year high. this season is called the Plum Rains season for two reasons: plums…and rain! For some reason, we haven’t seen much rain, but we have seen a lot of plums.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Pictures from Shanghai

2 few of these images are from the streets around our hotel. One is a 'sunset through the smog' photo, and another is one of the funny sign translations we've seen around town.

An Economic Observation

at a very early age I learned that things have a price. their price is the cost. one of the very first equations one learns in a capitalistic society, sometime between sucking our thumbs and saying ‘mom’:

cost = money [1]

later, one enters college. there is no money, and for many, no time. the equation becomes more complex, one’s understanding of the universe more evolved. we began to understand that, despite the cost of the burrito in terms of money, it was more than made up in terms of the time it would have taken to go home and heat a .99 pizza. the pizza looked cheaper to equation [1], but to equation [2], was clearly more costly in this time pressured environment. thus, we evolve our understanding:

cost = money + time [2]

this equation persists as our understanding and serves us well for quite some time. However, it is not complete. We again, evolve our equation as our understandig becomes more clear:

true cost = money + time + risk [3]

Assessing each of these terms confounds many a person. many a dollar has been made and lost in the misevaluation of this equation (and a better evaluation by others), and the speculation of the value of each term is what makes a market, essentially different people coming to different conclusions about each of their values. if we can boil our lives down to 10 guiding principles, this captures one of mine, and a bit of an over-obsession with watching its misevaluation. spending an extra 20 minutes online to save an extra 5$ for an airline ticket. driving to the next state (30 minutes) to save .05 on a gallon of gas. clearly in some cases each of these can make sense, but this guiding observation can be used to understand if our thinking has gone awry. Observation [3] is an accurate way to analyze any situation for evaluating an optimal decision. The discussion should focus on each parties assessment of these factors.

If this is obvious, if it is known to everyone else, I wish somebody would have written it on the inside cover of my economics textbook.

Travels to a Caffeinated Shanghai

Odd things happen when you travel. While in Australia, the books I was reading kept bringing it up, whether it was because characters ended up there or the person writing the book wanted to use it as an example of an economy (for example, did you know that the Australian ecosystem can support about 9 million people, and that’s all. Despite a land mass larger than the size of the US it is mostly unusable for agriculture). The population is 18 million, so they got some things to work out.

I was reading a book ‘The Undercover Economist’ by Tim Harford and the author dedicates an entire chapter to China. Since most of what is happening in China is happening on the east coast, and Shanghai has replaced Hong Kong on the east coast as the #1 destination of investment capital, etc., it becomes the focal point of his thesis on China (and soon to likely be the focal point of the entirety of the Asia Pacific Region). I was struck when I read “Now that we have Starbucks in Shanghai…” .So, I was reading his book about all this change happening in the universe, essentially sitting right in the middle of his thesis, I thought he was going to come up and tap me on the shoulder and smile.

But that is not the point of this entry. Instead, it is the description by Douglas Coupland in his new book jPod when the main character ends up in Shanghai, page 260:

“Immigration Procedures were essentially non-existent. Kam had arranged for a driver to pick me up, and we wormed our way through the traffic on a dull grey Asian morning (ed. note: all megalopolis Asian mornings are dull grey, from Thailand to Tokyo), My first impression was that there wasn’t a square inch of land that wasn’t being used to grow defeated-looking crops of spinachy plants. The city was an endless Sim-like blend of shacks, bikes, more bikes, and still more bikes, tour buses, black windowed Mercedes Benzes and gaunt people smoking and standing around in front of concrete apartment buildings, most of which looked like they were built out of grey playing cards and seemed seismically unequipped, dreaming of the day gravity would take them back to Mama. And the air! Okay, imagine that you’ve built a bonfire of telephone poles—the ones dripping with creosote—and throw in a fax machine, a photocopier, some asbestos stacking chairs and a roasting chicken. That pretty much sums up the air quality, though it changes moment to moment depending on where you go. Turn a corner and—thwack!—different items are thrown into the flames: a load of running shoes, four thousand plastic bags, hog carcasses and a Dumpster of barbershop floor sweepings. And it’s thick—a few blocks down the street, buildings vanish like in a fog in a memory impaired videogame from the early 1990’s. And it’s humid, and I hate humidity”

Now, I haven’t decided whether I like the novel or not. I suspect, like most novels, I won’t like it. I won’t like it because I spend reading not to fill the empty space of my life but to actually learn something and I find most novelists intellectually unstimulating. I’d much rather read a book that actually took some thought into weaving the truths of life into, (if you’re name is Kurt Vonnegut you may take a bow). The first half of jPod left me unimpressed but amused at his little video game company escapades of jPod. It reminded me of something an adolescent boy would be slightly impressed with, but since real life is far more interesting than his characters lives its odd to think about why I would want to spend my time reading about them. But then, things started to pick up, observations become clearer and more astute, and I find myself looking forward to reading more.

From a Starbucks somewhere in Shanghai,


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Console Economics Point to Ponder

Has it occured to Sony that I will be able to buy a Nintendo and XBox 360 for the price of their one console? Hmmmm...two consoles, or one decide!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Yawn, yet another trade surplus

Think about this for a minute: I started looking for an explanation for the trade deficit discussion for awhile, like basically why does anybody care about it, isn’t it just a recording of how much money stuff flows in/out of a region? turns out, for the past 400 years, we have run a trade deficit for 350 of them. Why do they report it as if its some kind of anomaly? its actually the common case.

Welcome to Shanghai!

After about 20 hours travel time I arrived at my destination: Shanghai, China. This has to be the most different place I have ever visited, much more extreme in the senses than the recent Australia/new Zealand time. right now I’m looking out the window in my 300 sq. ft. one bedroom apartment across the city. skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. going to work today…skyscrapers skyscrapers skyscrapers. I heard a statement once I attributed to urban legend that says 25% of all construction cranes in the world reside in shanghai. now, I’m sure its mistaken. the number must be higher. this place compares to nothing I’ve seen ever. not Tokyo, not Sydney, not Bangkok. below me are a set of 3 story residences. small places, probably about the same size as my apmt, and I am unsure how many people per household. I’m staying in an area called the French concession, an area of contradiction of massive construction projects resulting in 50 storey skyscrapers and the yet the tiny rowhouses as I look down on the streets below constructed in the 1920s.

So much contradiction. Roads with cars, but they have far more bikes and mopeds on the streets. At night, the lights come on, flashing everywhere. I just don’t know what to make of the chaos. The driving patterns…there are no apparent patterns, just cars and people and bikes and mopeds all coming together managing in most cases to avoid each other in the intersections.

As far as pollution, this is my 4th night here, I haven’t seen the sun or the sky yet, its as if somebody has put a fog dome up that runs 24 hours a day. Just can’t see anything up there. Not clouds, just white/gray color all the time.

Someone asked me how it was….i said I feel like I’m living in the set of Bladerunner. except in this future, somehow Buick has managed to thrive. Somehow, a brand that has nearly died in the US has managed to thrive here in China.