Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's been so coooold here in NY.....

that my pecker fell off...

Yes, it has been that cold. The last week it has felt like 10 degrees F. Normally, it usually only feels cold because of the wind but right now its just cold. Wind or not! Maybe I do need that snookie after all.

I hope everyone stays bundled up. Its brutal outside. On the bright side, its supposed to warm up a bit by the end of the week here in NY.

It is also almost Groundhog's Day in 2 days. Let's see what it has to say... not that it really means anything.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tattoos that big of a deal?

I was going through some photos of Li Na since she did not seem so muscular looking during the Beijing Olympics. I came across this photo where someone had to show that Li Na had a tattoo. Now this is probably the most unflattering photo that they could find with her returning a ball. Couldn't they find another photo to illustrate that she had a tattoo instead of using this one? Yeah, WTF.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lobbyists affecting legislation

Many people have indicated that Obama's speech sounded like a broken record with promises he made during his campaign. I cannot say I would put a lot of blame on him as a lot of the decision making is at the congressional side. With all the lobbyists from the healthcare industry and the banking industry making campaign donations, no wonder it takes forever for any of bills to be passed. The only things that seem to be easy to pass are laws to wiretap terrorists or anything against terrorists. The reason for that is probably because terrorists do not have lobbyists.

If terrorists threw campaign money at these politicians, maybe even those kinds of laws would be difficult to pass. (Note: That was a sarcastic statement.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Machu Picchu flooded

Since most of the attention is on Haiti and rightfully so, considering the number of people the earthquake has effected, I wanted to bring attention about the flooding occurring in Machu Picchu these past couple of days. Having been there and seeing the beauty of the Incan ruins I hope nothing detrimental happens so that people in the future can enjoy the structures built hundreds of years ago.

From CNN: Peruvian officials said they plan to evacuate between 800 and 1,000 more tourists trapped near the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. Heavy rains unleashed mudslides that have cut off roads and blocked a rail line, trapping many in the area.Authorities have estimated that 10,000 people have been affected by the rain and 2,000 homes were ruined in and around Machu Picchu. News reports said at least seven people have died in the region. Trade and Tourism Minister Martin Perez said 595 tourists were evacuated by helicopter Wednesday. He said he hopes to get more out of the area Thursday. See more.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Banks and their responsibilities

Obama indicated that there should be a tax on the banks that benefited from the TARP program after the whole public outcry when it was announced that the employees would be receiving huge bonuses. This might not be a popular post for bankers since a lot of them have indicated that the help was paid back with interest and that they did not need the money in the first place. However, the country could not afford another collapse of another financial institution, especially after the falls of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

Obama in providing this TARP bailout (with minimal interest) to the banks was an attempt to trigger the U.S. economy. He was hoping for the banks to provide loans to smaller businesses and resuscitate the job market, creating a trickle down effect. In turn though, the banks took this money and loaned it to other big businesses who then repaid off their other loans which were at higher interest rate and gave it right back to the banks. The banks earned the difference in interest and not wanting to be restrained by the terms from TARP, paid it back to the government. Consequently, they earned the differences in the interest rates and it was a win-win situation for the banks and the big businesses who are able to show off their pretty financial statements now.

Who are the losers? Everyone else and small businesses who are unable to get any financing. What Obama said during the State of the Union address has some reasoning though and was very direct. Banks should help out the country if they are able to offer big bonuses. Let's hope that the banks do not get creative and start transferring their profits to other countries with lower tax rates in order to make their financial statements prettier. Some may say this looks like communism in the making but maybe in this economic recession, we all need to band together to help each other and improve the state of the country.

State system for sports

I've been watching the Australian Open and for first time since Michael Chang, Asians being very competitive in the sport. Li Na and Zhang Jie from China are both in the semi-finals. These athletes are all products of China's state-sponsored sport system. I have heard from people that China is cheating by basically producing these stars.

The government began to emphasize sport as a form of nationalism; a way for citizens to bring global honor to their country. Thus, it created state-sponsored athletic facilities in which both males and females trained from an early age to become competitive athletes.

After Beijing won the right to host the 2008 Olympics, the country's State General Administration of Sports unveiled a Cabinet-approved policy called "Winning pride at the Olympics." The program built on China's long-standing "Gold-medal strategy" of targeting sports that offer the most Olympic golds because of different weight classes or race lengths such as weight lifting, fencing and canoeing. It didn't matter that most Chinese knew nothing of these sports. The point was to accumulate gold medals. China targeted  women's sports since facilities and resources are usually given to men in other countries. As a result, women's sports, which tend to receive less funding in the West, received a cash infusion. Around the same time, the nation's athletics czars started the "119 project," which aimed for success in the few remaining disciplines in which the country was still weak.

This philosophy of equal access for male and female athletes throughout modern Chinese sport history contrasts with the struggle of American female athletes to receive the same treatment and recognition as their male counterparts. Historically, sport in the U.S. has been seen as an inherently masculine pursuit and consequently women have not been able to participate in sport the same way as men. For example, though women have participated in each Olympiad since 1900, it took decades for American women to be permitted to compete in Olympic sports other than those deemed “socially acceptable” such as archery and tennis. These sports are slowly becoming more acceptable for American women to compete in and unlike China, American women do have the choice of free will to select a sport they enjoy.

It is obvious that China and the United States have vastly different sports systems in place. The Chinese government controls the access to and training of elite athletes throughout the country. The United States, on the other hand, allows athletes to self-select their sport of choice and to fund their own participation. While each country obviously operates a very different sport system, the question that arises for many is whether or not one system is better than the other. Many sensibilities would say that the United States system of free choice is the better of the two. However, the other side could be argued as well. China continues to produce highly competitive athletes and many of these athletes come from impoverished families in distant villages who would probably have lived a struggling life. Instead they have the opportunity to become famous stars and reap the financial benefits of it. Consequently, without knowing where these athletes come from and the conditions they lived in, it is difficult to criticize the Chinese system. I am sure some of the impoverished families in the United States would be grateful that their children be given the same opportunities.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Smaller Appetite, Larger Portions

Since I've come back to the States, I feel my eating appetite has shrunk. I guess I am just used to the food portions in Asia now or the food is just better there. It could be a mix of both I suppose. Restaurant portions are huge in the States compared to Asia, mostly due to the cost of labor and the price of food.

In Asia, food is cheap but so is labor. As a result and incomes are generally lower, so prices are kept lower. In the States, food is cheap but labor is expensive. As a result, restaurant owners in a strategy to get more revenue charge a higher price for the dish but give a generous serving of food to give the illusion to the customer that they are getting a good deal. This could be contributing to the number of heavy set Americans that are around. That and the combination that many suburbs are tied to the car culture and have to drive around everywhere. Even if they decided to walk, the communities are not too friendly to pedestrians since sidewalks do not exist.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Twitter for slackers

We see how technology has changed how people can slack off.
  • Students are now using cellphones and texting/instant messaging each other answers during exams as opposed to writing answers on the bottom of their shoe or copying from the person next to you;
  • Looking up essays/blogs online and using it as a homework assignment instead of threatening to beat up the geek to do your homework;
  • Instant messaging at work to look busy instead of chatting on the phone.
I came across this Dilbert cartoon and found it rather amusing that fully illustrates this.

Don't lick random things

Everyone knows not to lick a metal pole on a cold winter day. Well, if you do not, then do some research before doing so. My friend told me yesterday that he was eating ice cream and saw some on his pants. So he used his finger to wipe it off and licked it off. Turns out it was bird crap..... Gag!

So warning, don't randomly start licking things that are on your or other people's clothes for that matter. It reminded me of the scene in the movie, The Sweetest Thing, when Selma Blair brought a dress with a semen stain on it to the dry cleaners and the person at the dry cleaner was trying to figure out what the stain was in order to better clean it. He ended up licking it. Double gag!!


Usually when I am jetlagged in the States, I wake up at odd hours and once in a while I will flip on the tv and watch those infomercials. I don't know if anyone has ever bought something from them but most of them are scams. They all usually follow this type of format:
  1. Creating a problem that you never knew existed - i.e. Don't you hate it when you're cold and pull a blanket over yourself but wish you still had use of your hands?
  2. Showing you the product and having it solve your problems
  3. Then they offer the product for only a couple of easy payments of a low amount. Along with this they try to convince you to purchase and call them immediately by throwing in something free for the same amount - i.e. 3 easy payments of $19.95 and if you call now, we will also give you xyz for free.
Apparently, this format triggers something in your head called dopamine and causes people to buy on impulse. This dopamine usually goes away after 6-7 minutes so wait before buying on impulse. Also, most of these products do not really work too well so do your research before buying.

I especially like this product on the left, the Snookie. It comes with a free bottle of vodka. So you can snuggle up in your blanket and still be an alcoholic without exposing your arms to the cold winter air. Drink straight out of the bottle!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Freedom of speech

Its great to live in the United States and not worry about being thrown in prison for writing an article saying that Obama sucks. We can offer our opinions without living in fear and hiding like in many communist countries or dictatorships.

I would also like to clarify that living in China is not as bad as people may believe it is. People living their everyday lives will most likely not have their daily routines effected at all. The people go to work or start their own businesses, eat and drink merrily, buy property, rent apartments and so on. Foreigners would most likely only notice that certain popular websites are blocked such as Facebook, Blogspot, Twitter and Youtube are blocked. However, this can easily be bypassed through VPN service.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Too many bags!

I'm not talking about designer bags because I know all you women out there will say that they can never have too many bags. The bags I will speak about are plastic bags from the super markets, book stores, etc. I am sure many of you have over a ton of these bags and cannot seem to reduce them. Mostly these bags are probably used as garbage bags throughout your home.

I believe a couple of months ago, NY tried to pass a law to charge a 5 cent tax on plastic bags. I do not recall seeing anything in the news about this being passed but I think we should all try to do our part and either reuse our bags or use cloth bags when going to the supermarket. This has already been a common practice in the San Francisco Bay Area for a bit where environmentalists are all over the place. Even in Shanghai, they are attempting to become greener and have passed a law that forces supermarkets to charge a fee for plastic bags. It is quite common to see cloth bags being used or given out by clothing stores so that people could reuse them and at the same time help them advertise.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dirty Jobs

I know this video is a bit old but China blocks Youtube so I was unable to see it. Anyway, if you think your job is not a lot of fun. Check out sheep docking with Mike Rowe, especially at 35 seconds. I'm sure you are glad you do not have this job. :)

Wedding season is coming

Some people I know are going through wedding planning again. One of my friends does wedding photography ( and another does wedding invitation designs ( so I thought I'd give them a plug and help them get the word out.

This post is going to be about weddings in China. Basically, weddings in China are just a big dinner. No dance, not much entertainment (cheesy if it is) or anything like that. There is a stage, where the groom and bride stand to get announced, do the normal cake cutting and speeches. However, it is drastically different when it comes to meals. We all know about how Chinese banquets are and the meals are family style. However, one thing I don't get is when you get a slice of the wedding cake, its just one huge slice for the table and everyone just takes their fork and takes some to put on their plate. Now I do not know why sharing other dishes like the fish, vegetable, etc. and eating it family style does not seem gross but sharing a slice of cake does.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Avatar or Pochahantas

As I mentioned before, I saw the Avatar movie. When I saw the movie, I had thoughts of Pochahantas. Some people thought it was similar to the Dances with Wolves story. Both are similar. Below is the Pochahantas storyline except it had been converted to the storyline for Avatar.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Still think people in China are poor?

Most people have the perception that things in China are cheap since the people there are poor. Well that is true for the majority of the land. However, they have the most number of millionaires (in US) in the world and seem to be buying property around the world, similar to when the Japanese started buying up real estate in the 80s.

I saw Avatar in 3D yesterday for $15 a ticket which many would consider to be a steep price already. However, ticket sales in Shanghai for the same show are going for 200 RMB (equivalent to almost $30 USD). In fact, it seems like it is impossible to get tickets as people have been waiting overnight to get tickets. Keep in mind that this is winter and that temperatures were hovering around 20 degrees F. Scalpers have been drooling with some tickets selling for 1000 RMB per ticket (thats almost $150 USD per ticket). Below is a screenshot of with 3 tickets for 3000 RMB.

Here's a video of the line just so that you can get a better idea.

It isn't just these tickets that are more expensive than what they would cost here. Nike sneakers, BMW/Porsche/Mercedes, Tiffany's and anything that is of luxury brand is usually up to two to three times the prices that would be sold if the prices were converted from RMB to USD. For example a Mercedes SLK would cost around $45K USD without any options, but same car would go for approximately $120K USD. No wonder so many people from China want to come to the United States.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Interesting stories from Shanghai

All the action starts when I leave the country. This amusing news occurred somewhere in the vicinity of where I lived. I am not entirely sure where but it was in the same district of Shanghai. This article is not only amusing but so are the comments. Apparently, the man was depressed and jumped out with his lover but survived after landing on "her."

Shanghai Man Lands on Lover, Survives Suicide Jump

Below is another article but I think it is for publicity. There is a video in the link for you to watch. I'll write another post about how high maintenance some Shanghainese women are and their "requirements" for marriage.

Shanghai girl forces boy to buy a car

Wash your hands with toilet water

The US keeps promoting a greener earth to other countries. One of those ways may be to save water. A low-flow toilet kit, or a dual flush toilet are great ways to reduce your water consumption, but here’s another toilet mod that will help you save some water, and give your guests something to talk about. This has been in Japan for quite some time now and even though I find that the Japanese are very wasteful with the amount of packaging it uses, they do find ways to save in other areas.

The toilet lid sink takes water that would normally go straight down into your toilet and first routes it through the sink spout at the top so you can wash your hands after you flush.  That may sound gross, but let me clarify.  When you flush the toilet, the waste goes down the drain and then the clean water from your reservoir tank refills the bowl.  With the sink add-on, the clean water from the reservoir first goes through the sink and then goes down into the bowl.  This extra step won’t reduce the amount of water your toilet is flushing but it will allow you to use that water twice, cutting out the use of your sink all together after taking care of business. I have not seen this in the US yet but with water becoming more scarce, it could be something that we should look into.

Genetically Engineered People?

 Until recently, China had the tallest man, Bao Xishun at 7 ft 9, and the shortest man, He Pingping at 2 ft 5 who was made famous taking a picture with the woman with the longest legs, in the world. The tallest man is now Sultan Kosen standing at 8 ft 1. I sometimes wonder if China does some kind of experiments to create things like that the tallest and shortest.

Look at Yao Ming. There is already a conspiracy theory that Yao Ming was an experiment led by the Chinese government in an attempt to dominate in all the Olympic events. The boy's parents, after all, were retired basketball stars whose marriage the year before Yao was born had made them the tallest couple in China. So imposing was their size that ever since childhood, the two had been known simply as Da Yao and Da Fang—Big Yao and Big Fang. Still, the medical staff surely had never seen a newborn quite like this: the enormous legs, the broad, squarish cranium, the hands and feet so fully formed that they seemed to belong to a three-year-old. At more than 5 kg, he was nearly double the size of the average Chinese newborn. The name his parents gave him, from a Chinese character that unifies the sun and the moon, was Ming, meaning bright.

Rumor has it that this conspiracy started over two generations ago, when Chairman Mao Zedong exhorted his followers to funnel the nation's most genetically gifted youngsters into the emerging communist sports machine. Two generations of Yao Ming's forebears had been singled out by the government for their hulking physiques, and his mother and father had both been drafted into the sports system.Wang Chongguang, a retired Shanghai coach was quoted as saying, "We had been looking forward to the arrival of Yao Ming for three generations."

It would not surprise me if the tallest man on earth would again be someone from China.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You say pot-ae-to I say pot-ah-to

Different parts of the world have different words for the same thing. Just look at the different ways Americans say soda throughout the country: soda, pop, soda pop and my favorite, coke. Yes coke. If you go to some southern states and ask for coke, they will ask you what kind!

One of my former coworkers coworkers who grew up in China was sharing a story with me about this as well. She moved to the States in her early adolescent years before mobile phones, computers and the internet were popular. It was when she went back to China and she explained that she also had a hard time due to the different terminology that either became prevalent after she had left the country or is used with different terms in the U.S. Basically, she wanted to install internet in her apartment and the customer service representative asked her what plan she wanted. However, the word for plan or package in Chinese is 套餐 or tao can. Now this is commonly used in restaurants since 餐 means meal. Together it means combo meal. She was confused and excited at the same time. Confused because she was wondering why an internet plan would give a free meal and excited because she would also get a free meal.

This was later all settled with a lot of explanation but its funny how even knowing the language can sometimes be difficult if they grow up in a different part of the world or region.

Undeveloped Haiti continues to suffer

It is always devastating when such a huge earthquake hits and destroys buildings. However for a country that is underdeveloped and has a lack of infrastructure already, it is even harsher. It seems like the latest estimation is 50,000 dead. Based from the pictures I have seen, the city of Port-au-Price has been almost completely demolished. With no equipment to dig through the rubble, it seems that even more people will die as they are buried awaiting for help and equipment to arrive. Currently, people are using their bare hands to dig through the collapsed buildings.

Aside from the earthquake of 8.0 magnitude, it seems Haiti has not have had any breaks lately. Aside from their political instability, they have had many environmental concerns. Most of their land has gone through soil erosion. Before its independence, Haiti exported more wealth to France than the combined total of France's other overseas dominions. The value of its exports even exceeded that from the North American colonies to England. It is in this past that Haiti's land degradation has its roots. Haiti is located on the western third of the island of Hispaniola. Although 50% of the country's land surface produces agricultural crops, only about 10% is suitable for irrigation and mechanized farming. Much of Haiti's agriculture takes place on steep slopes where, each year, farmers abandon about 15,000 acres of land to erosion. In addition, they were hit with a huge hurricanes in 2004 and 2008 that further stripped 98% of its forest cover due to deforestation and caused flooding throughout the country.

Please help out and donate some money to help the cause. Be careful of any scams as in this world it is unfortunate that people will take advantage of a the sympathy from people. Some of the places to donate are as follows:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google Pulling Out of China?

I realized that so far my posts seem to be anti-america so I wanted to write a post to indicate that its not all bad in the U.S. of A. There are great things such as freedom of speech which still is an issue in certain countries such as China. Upon coming across this article in the NY Times, Google’s Threat Echoed Everywhere, Except China, I applaud that Google is trying to follow the scope of its mission statement: to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Google was heavily criticized for appeasing the Chinese government's demands to filter out any news that may be seen as making China look bad (since the Chinese are very adamant on not losing face) or possibly instigating any revolution. After Google endured a cyber attack in which originated in China and believes that the purpose of the attack was aimed at certain Chinese human rights activists, Google claimed that it may leave China. This includes the Chinese search engine as well. In fact, the news of a potential exit was also hidden to the Chinese people. Hopefully with such a stand in free speech and with no censorship, this will open the eyes of the Chinese government when it loses a huge multinational company and along with that the jobs that many local Chinese citizens benefited from.

Hopefully I will be able to return to China after writing this post. Good thing I am back in the United States now.

Bank CEOs: Sorry for risky behavior, bad decisions

I love how the bank executives on Wall Street are claiming that regret their risky actions and bad decisions that put this country in the bad situation it is in but still defend that they should get their bonuses. It seems like just empty words to me. It is similar to when Bernard Madoff was sent to jail after tricking people out of billions of dollars but stated, "I cannot adequately express how sorry I am, I am here today to accept responsibility for my crimes." I bet he wasn't sorry when he was collecting all that money. I guess these people are only sorry after they get caught and causing the millions of other people much hardship.

Taken from Yahoo News - Sorry for risky behavior
Wall Street executives said Wednesday they underestimated the severity of the 2008 financial crisis and apologized for risky behavior and poor decisions. They also defended their bonus and compensation practices to a skeptical commission investigating what caused the collapse.

Maybe if they were really sorry, they'd give the bonuses to the government as a way of saying thanks for not going out of business like Lehman Brothers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

To be a Landlord or a Tenant

I find it strange that the United States laws protect the financially irresponsible. Look at the housing crisis and all the bailouts that the government is providing. Granted I understand that if they did not do this, the economy would go further into a tailspin but it seems that the financially responsible people get the short end of the stick. While we did not purchase the 2 bedroom apartment because we felt we could not afford it, others purchased homes that were beyond their financial means. Due to the crisis, the government has delayed foreclosures, etc.

I digress though and wanted to write about how the tenants in the United States seem to be able to get away with not paying rent. I have heard many of my friends who have had tenants who refuse to pay the rent for a couple of months. However, the law does not allow them to just get evicted. Instead, it requires that the landlord and the tenant go to court in order to get a date to evict them. Usually, this seems to be the customary practice and even so, the courts usually allow the tenants another 3-5 months to find a place, forcing the landlord to eat the years worth in rent.

China does the opposite in which the landlords get the preferential treatment. In fact, it is customary for them to receive 3 months of rent upfront plus the security deposit. In the event that the tenant is unable to pay, it is just a simple action of calling the police to evict them.

Being a landlord in the U.S., I would have to perform my due diligence on the tenant before renting it out. I am sure most landlords do this but unfortunately there is always the possibility of a tenant not paying and not much protection for the landlord.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ways to Make Money

In the United States now, the biggest fad it seems is to make money from writing blogs. With the economic downturn, I see many links on the internet now that say, "Ways to Make Money" or "How to make money by Blogging." I'm still amazed by the occasional "Rags to Riches" stories that we hear about just from doing simple things on the internet, although the chances of that occurring are pretty slim.

In China where blogs are banned or at least restricted, the biggest fad seems to be selling things on their version of ebay called Taobao. Its become extremely popular that it seems that everyone is doing it. I've had friends quit their jobs just to sell things on Taobao. Other creative ways have been playing video games, especially those role playing games such as World of Warcraft. People would create a character and either develop it to be powerful or obtain weapons in order to sell the character online or sell the weapon. It really has become a phenomenon in China.

With the average income of a Chinese citizen at 3000 to 5000 RMB a month (that is around 450 USD to 700 USD), it seems that just selling things online or playing a game on behalf of someone makes a net income of more than that. Its pretty sad what the average income is there.

Regardless of where you are, the existing regulations and how developed the economy is, there are ways to earn money as long as the time and effort is put into it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Too Fat to Fly

On my flight back to Shanghai to the U.S. , there was an old (it was American Airlines) and "wide" flight attendant. Since she was "wide", she was unable to walk down the aisle of the aircraft without knocking into some of the people who had aisle seats. My attempts to get any kind of rest during the trip was interrupted numerous times from getting hit in the head with a part of her belly.

Normally, I do concur with most of the laws set by the United States to protect workers to prevent workers from being discriminated against during the hiring process. However, when it comes to the hiring of flight attendants, I think the rules should be amended. Since I have been living in Asia for some time, I have seen the flight attendants there. Model-like and thin. It may sound superficial but there is some customer experience that should be taken into account. In addition, I think the airlines should be able to fight some of these laws with the following arguments in hiring the fat flight attendants:
  • Customer Experience: Obese flight attendants ruin the customer experience and may affect their business.
  • Economics and Being Environmental: Overweight flight attendants add additional weight to the aircraft and as a result burn more fuel. I am sure it could be calculated that with the number of miles that these flight attendants fly every year, the amount of fuel that could be saved with a flight attendant of average size.
  • Safety: A fat flight attendant may not be able to exit the aircraft in a timely manner during emergencies or be even pass the physical fitness requirements in such an event.

I hope in the future, we finally start seeing thinner flight attendants. As a bonus, it would be great if they were hot ones too. Just for the passenger experience. Who wouldn't fly an Asian airline over an American airline if possible.