Monday, November 30, 2009

Up the Cyber?

So ya
Thought ya
Might like to go build this code.
To feel the warm thrill of compiling
That space cadet glow.
Tell me is something eluding you, runtime?
Is this not what you expected to see?
If you wanna find out how to use this old code
You'll just have to lick some psychedelic toad!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Maia's Thanksgiving Day poem.

My 9-year-old daughter wrote a poem today:

Hilarious Uppie
Fast moving hands
typing on the laptop keys
My Dad

Monday, November 2, 2009

Geekin' it up on my last day in China

I spent my last full day in China wandering Shanghai with a former rPath coworker, Xiaowen, a Shanghai native who is now back in Shanghai as a Program Manager for Microsoft.

Our first stop? A Shanghai Linux User's Group (LUG) meeting in a restaurant across the street from my hotel! Along with socializing, the meeting consisted of two talks, one on iPhone application development and one on Google's Street View camera technology.

A familiar site at LUG meetings everywhere--geeks with laptops and projectors:

After the LUG meeting, we wandered over to the 1930s-era Shanghai exhibit located under the Urban Planning museum. (At least that's where Xiaowen told me it was--I got lost in the labyrinth!) I learned a little written Chinese from her and was probably overly amused that the symbols for "train" mean, literally, "fire car."

We then headed to the Huangpu River by taxi in order to cross the river by ferry. Interestingly, locals carry pre-loaded fare cards that pay not only subway and bus fares, but also taxi fares! Taxi drivers swipe the card as you leave--very slick! The ferry cost us 7 cents each, and we were surrounded by commuters on motorcycles and scooters. The view from the river at night was stunning:

We wandered around Pudong a bit (I'd already wandered there the day before with some classmates), and then we hopped the subway for her part of town, Xujiahui. It looked like a scene straight out of Blade Runner:

Dinner was at a nearby restaurant in a former convent with a 19th century royal rail car attached to it. We ate in the rail-car dining room (I'm a huge train geek). Soy-marinated duck and fish heads with chiles! Mmmm!

I was briefly concerned about getting back to my hotel--the subway system appeared to need a reboot:

A first sighting for me--a completely empty subway station!

More great lectures in Shanghai

We attended two more outstanding lectures at the CKGSB campus in Shanghai, one by Professor Jeongwen Chiang, "Strategic Marketing in China," and one by Professor Leslie Young, "Modern China's Growth: Comparison and Contrast with the US."

Professor Chiang:

(Unfortunately, I was a dolt and neglected to take a picture of Professor Young.)

Professor Chiang's lecture was fascinating, covering the market impacts of, among other things, demographics in China, economic growth, China's one-child policy, regional economic imbalances, cultural norms and relationships, an emerging consumer middle-class, and product branding. Of particular interest was the dramatic and wide-ranging impact of the one-child policy.

Professor Young's lecture was fascinatingly provocative--possibly the most provocative lecture I have ever attended.

(Where do I even start?!? Perhaps with the fact that he earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Oxford at the age of 20?)

Professor Young's lecture was a very wide-ranging comparison of the Chinese and US economic systems, with emphasis given to recent responses to the economic crisis (including assertions that some aspects of the structure of the Chinese economic system--such as government control over land ownership--gave it an inherent crisis-response advantage over the US), the nature of economic competition between the US and China over recent decades, and the structure of capital creation and government control of "Communist Capital" within the Chinese system.

Professor Young also tossed some bombs into the classroom with statements on touchy topics such as US policy and future competitiveness, religion, and the perceived and relative value of various types of freedoms, pushing most--if not all--members of the class outside their comfort zones.

I'm still astonished at how outspoken some of the professors were in their criticisms of various policies of the Communist government over the past 60 years. To be sitting two blocks from Mao's mausoleum on Tian'anmen Square and hear a professor describe aspects of life under Mao as "miserable for 30 years" was certainly not what I had expected!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Our first stop after arriving in Shanghai was the Yuyuan Garden, a beautiful Ming Dynasty garden now surrounded by urban Shanghai:

A nicely juxtaposed skyline:

What a city! View from the 58th floor of the hotel, Le Royal Meridien:

Our hosts:

We toured General Motor's Shanghai production facility. GM making cars in China? Here's why!

(Apparently, Buicks are considered hot, trendy cars in China.)

At the Shanghai Acrobat show, ERA. They rode eight motorcycles inside this ball!

Closing dinner, atop the Shanghai Art Museum. Our hotel is in the background center:

The day after classes ended, a group of three of us rode the Shanghai Maglev train, the world's fastest scheduled train with a top speed of 268 MPH (431 KM/H). A first-class round trip to and from the airport at that speed cost a bit over $20 (160 Yuan).

The driver:

Top speed!

Kinda looks like a fish, huh?

An ad for a ride at Disney World?

The columns in the airport maglev station are decorated to resemble the coils of electromagnets:

Looking down through the floor of the tallest observation deck in the world, over 1500 feet up the Shanghai World Financial Center:

Beijing was an interesting city, but Shanghai was a *fun* city! (I'm glad we went to Beijing first: had we gone to Shanghai first, Beijing might have seemed a disappointment afterwards.)

One thing I realized as I was about to leave was that I could not recall seeing a single soldier in Shanghai. (We saw quite a few in Beijing, though admittedly some of them appeared to be serving in a ceremonial capacity of one sort or another.)

I also realized, upon leaving, that I rarely heard sirens in China--even the sirens of ambulances! I'm used to hearing sirens frequently--typically several times per day--even in relatively tiny Charlottesville. Seems very odd to hear them less frequently in cities of ~20 million people!

An incredible lecture in Beijing

Our third CKGSB lecture in Beijing was given by Professor Ming Huang, a double Ph.D. (Physics and Finance), and entitled "Financial Markets in China." It was utterly fascinating, and I consider it to have been one of the best lectures--on any subject--I have ever attended.

The lecture (which included extensive amounts of Q&A) covered the structure of the various financial markets in China, the banking system, private equity financing, foreign investment, mergers & acquisitions, the impact of the Chinese government on the markets and economic growth (and vice-versa), the impact of the recent financial crisis, behavioral finance, and the Chinese version of the government-service/private-industry "revolving door."

The range of topics and their content proved to be quite mind-bending at times to someone like me--a person used to western capitalism and with admittedly preconceived notions about Chinese Communism that were based upon "vintage" Soviet and Eastern European Communism.

Judging by discussions with some classmates at lunch, a number of us of us would have loved to sit and listen to Professor Huang speak and answer questions for the rest of the day--we were almost disappointed at the lecture's "short" 3 1/2 hour duration!

Professor Huang:

Prior to Professor Huang's lecture, a small group of us traveled across Beijing to a Cisco office with one of our classmates, a Cisco employee, for a demonstration of Cisco's Telepresence video-conferencing technology. This was seriously cool!

(The fellow in the picture was sitting in a room in Herndon, Virginia.)

The rain showers that fell on us the evening before (at the Great Wall) had cleared the smog from Beijing's air, and the morning commute back across town to attend class was under blue skies and rainbows of a different sort:


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Charlottesville, Virginia, United States