Saturday, January 31, 2009

A bit of sad news...

My baby girl, Kali, died at the age of 17 months. She often (but adorably) lived up to her namesake as a Hindu goddess of war. She was staying at a kennel over CNY as staff went home when she got sick and I was just told she died yesterday. I was pretty fond of her. I enjoyed calling her my baby girl and picking her up because of the obvious level of shock and disgust other staff members had (a cultural thing). Heck, my parents went so far as saying (after I introduced her to my family via email and pictures with the subject line of "my baby girl"), that "you can call her your baby girl but she's not our grand daughter."

Outside of China, innumerable others have enjoyed reminding me that they eat dogs in China - which, actually is true but whenever I would caution people in the office against eating my baby girl they would laugh in horror saying they don't eat dogs like Kali (never denying that they do, in fact, eat dogs). In jest, I would also respond that I liked puppies and that so long as the people at the office kept replacing her, I'd be fine with it. Sadly, I don't think that will be the case and I'm going to miss Kali. I think it's safe to say that our staff will miss her too.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Giggle of the Day

Some things are beyond parody - "we heart France for its glorious living-up-to-stereotypes-ness" (John Band, via ASI):

The latest unemployment figures [in France] could not be released today because statisticians are on strike


So I get this free fit check thing done at the gym figuring I should try to figure out some type of baseline. Before handing me the small printout that says the weight/body fat %, the trainer says to me "please don't take this the wrong way [warning signals start flashing], but you're in excellent shape for your age and ethnicity". I'm turning 31 next week, and given I haven't worked out as diligently recently, I'm guessing this is what they mean when they say 'damning with faint praise'.

Anyway, I'm sort of laying low as I move through the rather gargantuan task of collecting and processing my "stuff", working through David Allen's Getting Things Done, which is an extraordinarily painful (though also therapeutic) task for me as a digital and physical pack rat (though I have gotten better over the years given the traveling). More posting/ranting next week.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Excellent Mad-Letter

There's something quite therapeutic about a good mad letter. Described as "the world's best passenger complaint letter" directed at Virgin Airlines, I think you'll find it amusing (the Telegraph, via Paul Kedrosky).

Monday, January 26, 2009

William Easterly (Development Economist) has started a blog

via Greg Mankiw, "Bill Easterly, one of my favorite development economists, has started a blog": Aid Watch: Just asking that Aid Benefits the Poor.

A former economist for the World Bank, Easterly is the author of two books I would highly recommend: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good and The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics - must reads for anyone who is interested in poverty and economic development.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pretty Funny Recap of Lost

I don't watch the show as I found it to be too bizarre (which is saying a lot considering how much TV I end up absorbing). Paul Kedrosky links to a laugh out loud funny recap (AListofThingsThrownFiveMinutesAgo):

PILOT: So, we have a little time and the auto-pilot’s on. How ‘bout you tell me about the island?

JACK: Well, we lived on the beach, mostly, except for the time we lived in the cave with the skeletons and the time we lived in the secret underground bunker with the lending library and the time we lived in the village built by the scientists that the people who don’t age gassed to death with the help of their leader, my third nemesis, the nebbishy con man with spine cancer, which we took over when the freighter people came to kill everybody. We ate wild boar and fish, and then the supplies stashed in the storeroom of the bunker, and then the scientists who the people who don’t age gassed to death were nice enough to replenish our food by airdrop, but only once, but that was okay, because the people who don’t age had some agriculture that we completely ignored while we stood in front of their refrigerators with the doors open. And I saw my dead dad just hanging around on the island, which I didn’t think too much about because I was preoccupied with the smoke monster and the baby stealing and the mind games with the nebbishy guy and my TOTALLY AWESOME tattoo which got my ass kicked in Thailand and the power struggle with my second nemesis, the formerly paralyzed bald survivalist mystic, who was, frankly, nuts.


It's even funnier than the 8 minute recap that can be found on YouTube. Read the whole thing, especially the punchline.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Networking for Startups - Online and Off

I'll confess I identify with the statement that "starting a business can be a lonely experience. Meeting other entrepreneurs in town or have similar experiences and problems, can be both therapeutic and educational." A decent starting point can be found at the WSJ (I've also added some of the suggested links in the WSJ article into my web services guide for startups).

Before starting a company it's probably useful to consider these things and ensuring you have a reasonable network to fall back on for advice and help. Of course somewhat paradoxically I'm also one of those people who believe that the world is changed by unreasonable and stubborn people.

There are a remarkable few university friends (and no high school ones that I'm aware of) who have chosen to develop their own ventures. In a way, it's disappointing but I'm pretty happy that those who have, are aggressive with outsized ambitions. It's often difficult for others to relate to the highs and lows that you experience as an entrepreneur but I'll also say that it's definitely been worth it.

Attempting GTD for the umpteenth time

I'm coming to recognize a high level of dissatisfaction with myself as I've been far less productive than I know I can/should be. So I'm trying to get through the Getting Things Done process for the umpteenth time. I've listened through the Getting Things Done Fast seminar a few times over the past few years (though it would be more accurate to say that I've listened through the first few chapters a multitude of times and finished it only maybe once as such things go).

By way of introduction, you can find a pretty good balanced overview of the process from Wired. Going through the process you don't really get any of that new agey stuff that Wired talks about though there is a considerable amount of stress reduction as you go through it since I found it really effective at decluttering my mind. The problem is sticking with it, but I think I may have found a solution by working with someone through it if he ever gets to finishing the book himself - hint, hint, hint. A search for GTD will get you far more resources.

Update: A friend emailed me asking if maybe I would be more productive if I stopped spending as much time online. After I had an opportunity to stop hyperventilating after thinking about the possibility, I replied with a fairly adamant "No."

Companies and Sectors that are still Performing

Two lists. The first from Economix - private companies that are still performing well. The Top 3: Farm product raw material wholesalers, cattle ranching and farming, and support activities for mining. The second, from Forbes - what consumers are still buying. The Top 3: Smartphones, Video Games & Consoles and Gym memberships. I'm thinking I find the latter rather than the former list more credible, but for perspective, it's pretty amazing how spending priorities have changed over the years.

Of course, some companies who thought they were recession resistant just aren't (WSJ).

Just Saying...

There continue to be those who toe the line that the United Nations is an essential organization that needs to be reformed. They've been saying that for decades. The latest (JammieWearingFool)?

A high-ranking human rights worker with ties to the United Nations was nabbed at Kennedy Airport Tuesday with kiddie porn in his suitcase, officials said.
This is only the "latest sex scandal to roil the UN" - nevermind the "peacekeepers" who trade food for sexual favors with underage girls. In the meantime, "UN efforts to stem misconduct flounders" (WSJ) and the UN hand picks the chair of the UN Development Program, a multi-billion dollar agency - "wait for it... Iran" (Forbes, h/t Instapundit).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Great Day

I think Americans have a great deal to be proud of today with the swearing in of Barack Obama. While I'm sure I'll end up disagreeing with how he ends up implementing some of the ideas he championed in his inaugural address, it's truly remarkable that a relatively unknown and a black man at that (well, half black anyway), has risen and overcome the political establishment to become the most powerful man in the world. Whether rightly or wrongly, Obama's election is seen as a rebirth and renewal - but that this has happened at all is uniquely American (WSJ):

In "reaffirming the greatness of our nation," Mr. Obama tapped into the deep well of optimism about our country and our future that is, still, characteristically American. And there can be no doubt that the throng who came to see him sworn in, and many millions of others around the U.S., see in Mr. Obama a chance for renewal.
I will note further that while I would not have voted for him (had I been American) based on his policies particularly with regard to Defence during the campaign, I'm more than comforted by his choices for key economic and security posts that recognize the practical realities of a world that remains full of governments hostile to individual liberty and American ideals.

Making Constructive Criticism "Less of a Slap"

From - there's nothing that quite says you care like 'helpful', anonymous criticism:

  • "Washing your hands after using the restroom is a wonderful way to not spread germs."
  • "You seem to have over-applied your make-up today"
  • "A breath mint would be beneficial today."
What does it say about me that my first reaction was that this could be a whole lot of fun? It's applications like this that make me truly happy to be alive.

(h/t PEHub)

Battlestar Galactica + Questionable Ad Placement = Hilarity

BSG spoiler from the latest episode + commercial - requires a bit of a warped sense of humor, but if yours is as warped as mine, it's definitely worth it:

h/t TrendHunter

Monday, January 19, 2009

Back and Catching Up...

I'm back in Canada but I've been digging myself out figuratively and literally (for the moment, I hate snow) for the past week.

There's something terribly discouraging about missing a day or two of Google Reader to find over a thousand unread posts. However, I will say this about my trip, my first real vacation - it was the most enjoyment I've had in a really long time. Conclusion: traveling with crazy people (in all the right ways, of course) makes all the difference. It also seems given some of the difficult decisions that have been made at work, that my life finally feels like it's on track.

I'm sure I'll be posting pics up over the next few days, while also trying to catch up on some of the more interesting 'net finds.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Arrived in Dubai. Youtube is blocked (actually, I've found quite a few sites are blocked including typepad). State censorship is stupid - it's quite true what they say, you don't realize the types of liberties you have until they're taken away. That said, I would have thought that Dubai was more liberal about these things.

Went to that luxury hotel that was designed to look like a sail (Burj Al Arab). Had "tea" for 6.5 hours. Saw David Hasselhoff with some billionaire sheik (though I wonder if he has held on to them billions). It's apparently high season right now and we were told by our server that the hotel should be full right now but the Al Arab apparently is at 82% occupancy and dropping. Have also heard that there are a number of buildings were they have just stopped construction and the economy in Dubai is really hurting (WSJ).

Came back to the hotel, discussed in detail how to save the world. Decided it wouldn't be at the Burj Al Arab. And probably wouldn't involve Hasselhoff.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year's (from Bahrain)

Despite what's been happening in the business (though is there really any truly "convenient" time?), I've spent the last few days in Bahrain on my first vacation. I've sort of crashed an Indian wedding of sorts with a good friend from university and we're spending a few days in Dubai and Amman, Jordan.

A couple pics at the New Year's Eve house party we joined a few hours after landing (I've chosen a blurr pics to protect the "guilty"):

It turns out we were at an illegal houseparty as the King declared that celebrations were off in sympathy with the Palestinian cause. Shortly after these pictures were taken (a little after midnight) a few Arab youths (aka mob) had gathered and thrown stones at the party and we were told by the hosts to quickly get inside from the courtyard in the back and turn off the music and lights. Unfortunately, I confess I didn't get to hear or see much beyond the initial panicked looks and frantic shuffling inside.

A few tidbits I found noteworthy:

  • One of the guests at the wedding had brought Midnight's Children (Amazon) with her from India and was told by the customs officer that she should put it away, and that the author was a "really bad man" and he would shoot him.
  • We travelled to the center of the bridge that connects Saudi Arabia's Damom city with Bahrain. As the father of the bride pointed out, what he finds most amusing is that despite Saudi Arabia's heavy anti-American tendencies (but I thought they were America's friends?), the first thing you notice is what I'd call the beautiful golden arches (I'll post a picture in the next few days)
  • Tawny Port (Wikipedia) is not a light wine.
  • In deference to my parental units, I am avoiding talking about politics for my own good :).
I should also note that given I don't really know how available the Internet will be during my stay here, posting could be quite light. As far as interesting goes, though I've only been here now for two days, this trip has definitely more than lived up to expectations. I hope you all have a fantastic New Year.