Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Weekend!

I have tomorrow off, yaay.

Old Sichuan

Today we went to lunch at a Sichuan place in Framingham, and it was amazing!!!

Head Engineer

Abram Dancy is the head design engineer for Synqor. He has a number of publications about DC-DC converters.

Fast Lane

Today, I put in my Fast Lane transponder and I used the Fast Lane for the first time. It was exhilarating.

Promising the Moon

I think the consensus is that the West expressed too much support for Georgia and Ukraine without having the means or leverage to back it up.

Loose Talk That Lost Georgia

Saturday, August 30, 2008



NPR Junkie

Now I am an NPR junkie. Today, on This American Life, they were talking about a guy who won a truck from the competition where you stand with your hand on it for the longest time. It was soooo hilarious and awesome. There is a documentary about this competition called Hands on a Hard Body.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Nominee

Yesterday, Aug 28, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for President. His speech was good. It was about him, about his values, the platform (!!!) and priorities, and perhaps most importantly, solid arguments for each plank in the platform. It's the 道理, the reasoning. It's so important because it's what can keep people's eye on the ball, instead of getting lost in the bickering.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Energy Platform and Talking Points

The whole point of Obama at the helm is his ability to keep his eye on the prize, and hopefully that's what he will help Democrats do. I hope the speeches at the Convention about the party platform are good. He's definitely at his best when making speeches on the big picture of what our goals should be. Toby had commented on an Energy Speech he made a couple weeks ago. I want to comment on it as well.

People have been saying that if your issue is energy and climate change, you wouldn't know whether to vote for Obama or McCain. This is because McCain lately has been saying that climate change is a problem and so is American dependence on oil. This is a case where there is too much focus on a candidate's opinions and not enough on what he's actually been doing the past 20 years or so about it. So I thought it was really important for Obama to try to talk about McCain's actual record and what kind of solutions he proposes. Obama says,

You won’t hear me say this too often, but I couldn’t agree more with the explanation that Senator McCain offered a few weeks ago. He said, “Our dangerous dependence on foreign oil has been thirty years in the making, and was caused by the failure of politicians in Washington to think long-term about the future of the country.”

What Senator McCain neglected to mention was that during those thirty years, he was in Washington for twenty-six of them. And in all that time, he did little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He voted against increased fuel efficiency standards and opposed legislation that included tax credits for more efficient cars. He voted against renewable sources of energy. Against clean biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. Against an energy bill that – while far from perfect – represented the largest investment in renewable sources of energy in the history of this country. So when Senator McCain talks about the failure of politicians in Washington to do anything about our energy crisis, it’s important to remember that he’s been a part of that failure. Now, after years of inaction, and in the face of public frustration over rising gas prices, the only energy proposal he’s really promoting is more offshore drilling – a position he recently adopted that has become the centerpiece of his plan, and one that will not make a real dent in current gas prices or meet the long-term challenge of energy independence.

Now, I'm sure that Obama is exaggerating or embellishing McCain's record, but I think this is the direction that the discussion should be going. Reporters should be looking into exactly how true are Obama's assertions about McCain.

I am also glad to see a sort of step-by-step breakdown of what it will take to be foreign oil independent. Obama has linked oil independence with economic growth. In terms of economic growth he refers to encouraging entrepreneurship but also creating jobs for blue collar workers. Oftentimes, when Republicans say economic growth and being pro-business, they kind of mean being pro-management while Democrats are pro-union. Obama is talking about the health of the US economy as a whole.

Obama's first step - immediate relief

As President, I will accelerate those efforts to meet our urgent need. With technology we have on the shelf today, we will raise our fuel mileage standards four percent every year. We’ll invest more in the research and development of those plug-in hybrids, specifically focusing on the battery technology. We’ll leverage private sector funding to bring these cars directly to American consumers, and we’ll give consumers a $7,000 tax credit to buy these vehicles. But most importantly, I’ll provide $4 billion in loans and tax credits to American auto plants and manufacturers so that they can re-tool their factories and build these cars. That’s how we’ll not only protect our auto industry and our auto workers, but help them thrive in a 21st century economy.

second step is a big one - investment in alternative energy and new infrastructure
The second step I’ll take is to require that 10% of our energy comes from renewable sources by the end of my first term – more than double what we have now. To meet these goals, we will invest more in the clean technology research and development that’s occurring in labs and research facilities all across the country and right here at MSU, where you’re working with farm owners to develop this state’s wind potential and developing nanotechnology that will make solar cells cheaper.

I’ll also extend the Production Tax Credit for five years to encourage the production of renewable energy like wind power, solar power, and geothermal energy. It was because of this credit that wind power grew 45% last year, the largest growth in history.

We’ll also invest federal resources, including tax incentives and government contracts, into developing next generation biofuels. By 2022, I will make it a goal to have 6 billion gallons of our fuel come from sustainable, affordable biofuels and we’ll make sure that we have the infrastructure to deliver that fuel in place. Here in Michigan, you’re actually a step ahead of the game with your first-ever commercial cellulosic ethanol plant, which will lead the way by turning wood into clean-burning fuel. It’s estimated that each new advanced biofuels plant can add up to 120 jobs, expand a local town’s tax base by $70 million per year, and boost local household income by $6.7 million annually.

In addition, we’ll find safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste. And we’ll invest in the technology that will allow us to use more coal, America’s most abundant energy source, with the goal of creating five “first-of-a-kind” coal-fired demonstration plants with carbon capture and sequestration.

Of course, too often, the problem is that all of this new energy technology never makes it out of the lab and onto the market because there’s too much risk and too much cost involved in starting commercial-scale clean energy businesses. So we will remove some of this cost and this risk by directing billions in loans and capital to entrepreneurs who are willing to create clean energy businesses and clean energy jobs right here in America.

As we develop new sources of energy and electricity, we will also need to modernize our national utility grid so that it’s accommodating to new sources of power, more efficient, and more reliable. That’s an investment that will also create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and one that I will make as President.

third step - energy efficiency
Finally, the third step I will take is to call on businesses, government, and the American people to meet the goal of reducing our demand for electricity 15% by the end of the next decade. This is by far the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to reduce our energy consumption – and it will save us $130 billion on our energy bills.

Since DuPont implemented an energy efficiency program in 1990, the company has significantly reduced its pollution and cut its energy bills by $3 billion. The state of California has implemented such a successful efficiency strategy that while electricity consumption grew 60% in this country over the last three decades, it didn’t grow at all in California.

There is no reason America can’t do the same thing. We will set a goal of making our new buildings 50% more efficient over the next four years. And we’ll follow the lead of California and change the way utilities make money so that their profits aren’t tied to how much energy we use, but how much energy we save.

Farmer's Market

I was reading the Boston Globe the other day, and it had an article about grass-fed beef being sold at a farmer's marker in Davis Square, which is 10 min away from where I live. I've never gone, though.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Performance Reviews

In America, political campaigns emphasize the candidates' positions and opinions. We hear about what they think about abortion, education policy, taxes, and what they promise to do once they get elected. But I think there is not enough focus on what they actually have done, and perhaps even more importantly, what happened while they were in office, and how much were they responsible for the things that happened.

For example, I was trying to figure out what Arnold Schwarzenegger has done as governor, and I thought there would be some kind of list somewhere of his projects. There was some random stuff, but there were much more literature of his opinions. This lack of focus on results makes our political system really inefficient and haphazard. There is not enough accountability for democracy to be effective.

I think it would be great if there was a group who compiled some analysis on what politicians did. There are some groups right now who rate politicians according to how "liberal" or "conservative" they are, but I don't think that's very helpful because it's just a snapshot of their opinions.

political diversions

Monday, August 25, 2008

Democratic National Convention

This week! There better be some damn good speeches.

It'll also be a meeting of the Clintons, Kennedys, and Obamas.

Here's Pelosi's speech.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Look how busy I was in July. I only had 20 posts.

Tropic Thunder

I saw Tropic Thunder last night. It was actually really good!! In fact, you should go see it without watching any trailers or reading any reviews. The first 20 minutes feels a little slow and boring, but it turns out there is a lot of stuff going on that can catch you off guard.

McCain, NeoCons, and Georgia

Toby sent me this article by Pat Buchanan, which is really interesting.

And None Dare Call It Treason

Now I have a better understanding about what is going on with Georgia and where McCain stands. McCain's foreign policy adviser is Randy Scheunemann, who is a neocon. He is a lobbyist who works for Orion Strategies who works for nations like Georgia and Latvia to get them "a NATO war guarantee. Get America committed to fight Russia, if necessary, on behalf of Georgia."

Perhaps people like McCain really believe in supporting Georgia because of its "budding democracy." However, I still wonder how can they miss the irony of supporting Georgia while most of the people in South Ossetia really want to be part of Russia, and when Georgia resorted to using force. At the same time, they like to say they support Free Tibet because of self-determination. To me, there is a clear contradiction, and I feel embarrassed for people when I hear them talk about supporting Georgia in the news.

The neocons got their war with Iraq. They are pushing for war on Iran. And they are now baiting the Russian Bear.

Is this what McCain has on offer? Endless war?

Why would McCain seek foreign policy counsel from the same discredited crowd that has all but destroyed the presidency of George Bush?

Washington Post article about Randy Scheunemann

Omnivore's Dilemma

Pollan basically attributes all of our current eating habits to the government policy to promote a corn surplus. Overproduction causes a decrease in prices that can be paid to farmers for their corn. So, prices continue to drop for bushels of corn, but farmers continue to overproduce because that's the only way they can continue to make a living. They sell their corn to the grain elevator, which ships it to various places, including animal feedlots and industrial processing factories. The grain elevator pays them a certain price per bushel, like $2.50 or so. The price per bushel of corn has been declining in the past decades due to overproduction. To make up for this, the government has a policy that provides a little extra per bushel, like maybe $.40 depending on the market. More subsidy if prices are low, and less if they're higher. But overall, the target price from the government has also been declining. So the only thing farmers can do to stay afloat is to produce more, since the government hasn't provided them with a way of staying alive by producing something else (and decreasing the corn surplus). The corn surplus causes it to be so cheap in America that we can sell it to Mexico and drive subsistence farmers off their land (because they have little to sell when American crops are so cheap) and cause them to starve. Additionally, marketers have learned to sell things in huge portions for just a teeny bit more than a smaller size, so that people will actually eat more than they should (most fast food products are derived from corn, including the animals). Thus, the corn surplus at once causes obesity and malnutrition.

60% of the corn grown in the US is used towards animal feedlots. Cattle were meant to graze on grass, not eat corn. Their stomachs should be neutral pH, as they are meant for grass. Eating corn means a buildup of acid-tolerant bacteria to help break down the corn, so the cows' stomachs become non-neutral, acidic instead. This means when we eat the steaks fed on corn, we are more likely to develop stomach problems because the bacteria from corn-fed cattle can thrive in our acidic stomachs and beat up our own collection of E.Coli. In addition to corn flakes, they feed young steers beef fat from the slaughterhouse as well as chicken meal and bits of other animal matter (increasing beef's content of saturated fat). Cows are... herbivores! They did not evolve to eat animal matter; their bodies can't tolerate it. So they get sick, and so our ingenious pharmaceutical people pump them up with antibiotics and hormones so they can tolerate the feed and survive long enough to get slaughtered. So the water in these areas is contaminated by a number of things: petroleum to run the pesticide spraying trucks for growing shit-tons of corn, synthetic fertilizer, animal waste and gas, pesticides, and hormones and antibiotics. Instead of the animals providing manure as fertilizer to the crops, grass providing feed to the animals (aka an ecological system with no real waste), we just have a bunch of waste products and harmful economic and social impacts. Of course so that large corporations can make lots of $$$ (Cargill and ADM I believe are the two largest in corn processing).

Another percentage of corn is broken down to make all sorts of sweeteners: high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, etc. And Pollan continues to talk about all the horrible things in fast food meals, including petroleum compounds! Anyway, he's gotten me all riled up, but his writing style is humorous and jestful and curious, rather than moralizing or angry. So it's easy to read, as he is professor of journalism. So it would make sense.

Anyway, that's as far as I've gotten.

I Choose You! Pikachu!

Er Biden.

Obama has chosen a running mate! Personally, I didn't care too much who he chose as long as it isn't Hillary Clinton. And I guess Edwards self-destructed.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dead Zones

On NPR they were talking about dead zones, which are patches of ocean that can no longer sustain life because of depleted oxygen levels. Apparently these are growing, and while there are a few fringe people who are really concerned about it, it's hard for me to tell just how serious this really is. I wonder how it's been affecting the world economically and/or socially. It is largely caused by agriculture runoff into the ocean, mainly fertilizer. There is a budding movement for green agriculture, which would help.

Michael Pollan

I started reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, and it's horrific and fascinating. He doesn't make himself sound angry, just thought-provoking and curious. So yeah everyone should read it. Anyway, so our food system's all messed up and irrational and not sustainable or environmentally healthy. I wonder... if people write these books, write these blogs, put on local farmer's markets, eat more organic... How does real change come about? There's this huge hurdle the system has created so that only people with lots of yummy $$$ can get policies written for them. Go into ibanking, make bank, and become an influential donor?

Places to Put Solar Panels

I was listening to NPR the other day, and they were talking about a cruise ship company that will be putting solar panels on their ships. Haha. There are probably lots of other good places to lobby for to put solar panels on. What about on top of our cars and buses?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My New Job

I'm still in training of course, but I will be assisting research on vaults! They are subcellular particles - barrel-shaped proteins consisting of two removable parts (bottom and top half of a barrel). Studies are looking into drug delivery systems and endogenous function. The website is pretty good compared to the average laboratory website (not very informative at all).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dalai Lama's Tibet Demands

In June the Dalai Lama met with Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times to explain his vision of an ideal compromise between China and Tibet: "The main thing is to preserve our culture, to preserve the character of Tibet....That is what is most important, not politics."

Check out the article here: An olive branch from the Dalai Lama.

Jin Canrong, a foreign relations expert at the Beijing Pacific Institute for International Strategy Studies thinktank, wrote a very mainland response back recently, saying that the Dalai Lama using Kristof as a mouthpiece reduces his crediblity and the desires for an "all Tibetans' area" (1/4 of China's landmass including parts of the Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, and Qinghai provinces) are counterproductive and could have implications of a very segregated, closed off territory that might lead to ethnic cleansing of non-Tibetans and lack of open business with the rest of China.

I agree with Jin, the Tibet issue is not a cultural issue but is instead it is a very political one. Politics isn't simple, it's not liberate the Tibetans and then everything will be solved, yet Kristof just reinforces this black and white perception, that the Chinese government is so repressive and unyielding. Let's not forget that even though Tibetans definitely should have more rights and the Chinese government's policies have plenty of room for improvement, China has helped with modernizing and raising the standards in Tibet.

Kristof published his op-ed right before the Olympics started and he hoped that in the spirit of the Games' cross-cultural exchange that China and the Dalai Lama will soon start negotiating and reconciling. I just want to say that in the Olympic Opening Ceremony, Zhang Yingmou had an entire scene of movable type blocks (supported by people) forming different stylizations of 和 "harmony" and also tons of PLA performers forming a dove in order to remind the world that China is not foremost a war monger--not now, not ever--but rather China prefers stability since Confucius.

Russia vs. Georgia

what the hell?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two New, Large Solar Plants for California! Yay

Click for the story

Generating about 800 Megawatts per day, and covering 12.5 square miles in the central valley.

Monday, August 18, 2008

News From Taiwan

The latest of a string of blows to Taiwan's Democratic Party is by far the hardest. Chen Shuibian, the ex-president, has admitted to embezzling money, and he has been subsequently kicked out of his party. Everyone in Taiwan and China is going crazy right now. Everyone in China thinks it's hilarious. Ma Yingjeou recently took office as President so now the KMT control both the Congress and the Presidency. Not surprisingly enough, this news is not making headlines in Western news broadcasts.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I just finished two weeks at my job. I'm in the failure analysis group, which means I debug failed units. It's fun.

Synqor is a power electronics company which makes DC/DC converters. They have a handful of product lines. I've mostly been working with the PowerQor product line, which usually converts higher DC voltage, like 48V to lower voltage like 5V. They come in sizes called half-brick, quarter brick, eigth brick, and 16th brick. They usually can source at least 20 amps, and they are extremely efficient. To put into perspective, your average laptop power supply can source up to maybe 2 amps, and it's the size of one of their half brick ones, which can usually source 50 amps. An efficient desktop computer power supply is 80% efficient. All the PowerQors are at least 90% efficient. Usually they're 95% or even 98% efficient. As a company, they are still privately owned but growing. They are doing well in today's market since highly efficient and cool (temperature) converters are hot now.

Here's a datasheet for a quarter brick 5V 30A converter. I've been looking at a lot of things like this.


OK, now I got DDR, whoo. It is hooked up to my PC, but maybe we'll get a Playstation version, too. Stepmania is an open source DDR. The idea is that I can put songs I like on it and make up my own dance steps, too.


Recently, I got addicted to this Playstation game called Eden.

It's really pretty and simple. And the music is good, too! The physics of it is interesting. You collect pollen to grow plants from these seeds so you can get to other places and explore each level, which is called a garden.

We have a projector in our living room so it's really good with a big screen.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Obama Energy Speech

Great, recent Obama speech on energy. Very Break Through-esque, frames the problem as an opportunity. Very important to get this guy elected.
If I am President, I will immediately direct the full resources of the federal government and the full energy of the private sector to a single, overarching goal – in ten years, we will eliminate the need for oil from the entire Middle East and Venezuela.


First, we will help states like Michigan build the fuel-efficient cars we need, and we will get one million 150 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads within six years.


The second step I’ll take is to require that 10% of our energy comes from renewable sources by the end of my first term – more than double what we have now.


Finally, the third step I will take is to call on businesses, government, and the American people to meet the goal of reducing our demand for electricity 15% by the end of the next decade.


In just ten years, these steps will produce enough renewable energy to replace all the oil we import from the Middle East. Along with the cap-and-trade program I’ve proposed, we will reduce our dangerous carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and slow the warming of our planet. And we will create five million new jobs in the process.
More details and how these goals are achievable in the speech.

Want New Music?

Try Stumble Audio

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympics Opening Ceremony

Quite well done! I was afraid of the tackier spectacles China usually puts on for New Year's Eve and such, but I guess it was expected the Olympics ceremony would have to cater to an international audience. Anyway, my least favorite thing was Lang Lang's outfit and hairdo:

Other than that, it was a good display of Chinese culture and modernization. Woohoo!

cool online chinese-english dictionary has some cool features, like handwriting recognition and stroke order animation. Plus you can save looked-up words as vocab lists.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Belated Oyster Update

This is actually from 6/23/2008

We had :

Malpeque - second best

Fanny Bay - bad

Island Creek - don't really remember

Pemaquid - best, briny

Cotuit - gooey, interesting, ok

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chopin Music

I am making a list of the ones that sound good.

Grande Valse Brilliante E-flat major, Op. 18

"Fantasie" Impromptu, Op. 66

Waltz in D Flat Major

Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2

nocturne no.20 in C-Minor

waltz no. 7 in c-sharp minor Op.64,No.2

Etude op 10-12

Ballade No 1 in G Minor

Maybe I should watch the Pianist. Everyone leaves comments like "this is my favorite song since I watched the Pianist."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Art for Obama and some other people are having an art contest. Five pieces will be displayed at the DNC. Enter! If you have artistic talents. =P