Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Energy Conference

The MIT Energy Club organizes an Energy Conference every spring. Right now, they're taking submissions for panel ideas, proposals for topics and suggested people.

This was the website for this spring's.

The theme this year is Accelerating Change in Global Energy

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shanghai Travel Guide

Top attractions
Mostly so I have a list.

Yu Garden

The Garden offers an atmosphere of peace and beauty amid the clamor of the city, with rocks, trees, and walls curved to resemble dragons, bridges, and pavilions.

The Bund

Shanghai's famous waterfront boulevard is lined with art-deco buildings and souvenir stands. It's great for people-watching, being watched yourself, shopping for increasingly chic clothes, and sampling some of Shanghai's most famous restaurants. It's also where you'll get that postcard view of the futuristic skyline in Pudong.

Shanghai Museum

China's best museum houses an incomparable collection of art and artifacts, including paintings, sculpture, ceramics, calligraphy, furniture, and fantastic bronzes.

Shopping on Nanjing Dong Lu

People come from all over China to shop on what was once China's premier shopping street -- and it sometimes feels as though they're all here at the same time. Although it's still a little tawdry, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, pedestrian-only Nanjing Dong Lu is undergoing a massive face-lift, and trendy designer boutiques are beginning to emerge alongside pre-1960s department stores and old-fashioned silk shops.

Oriental Pearl Tower or Jinmao Tower

Choose between the 1960s Jetsons kitsch of the Pearl Tower or the pagoda-inspired Jin Mao. If you head to the top of either of these two Pudong skyscrapers you'll be in for a bird's-eye view of the city and its surroundings. Try to count the cranes working incessantly on restructuring the city's skyline. Cloud Nine is a bar at the top of the Grand Hyatt in the Jin Mao, so you can sip a cocktail while looking out at the zillions of twinkling lights.

The Former French Concession

Whether you're an architecture fanatic, a photographer, a romantic, or just plain curious, a wander through these streets is always a wonderful way to pass an afternoon. Fuxing Lu is a good long walk and the streets around Sinan Lu and Fuxing Park have some real architectural treats. Take your time and allow for breaks at caf├ęs or in small boutiques.

Dongtai Lu Antiques Market

This is an ideal spot for souvenir shopping, practicing your Chinese bargaining, and observing Shanghai life at its most charming. On any given day, you might be caught up in part of a wedding, see fat-cheeked babies, or watch old men bent over a game of chess.

Xintiandi

Shopping, bars, restaurants, and museums mix together in restored traditional shikumen(stone gate) houses. Xintiandi is a popular location for hanging out and people-watching, and there are a few great boutiques. The small museums have interesting exhibits related to Shanghai's and the Communist Party's history.

"Victory in Iraq"

McCain's world view and Iraq

Obama on Face the Nation

Post debate clarifications.

Much better but still never mentions that trying to isolate enemies actually boosts support for anti-American sentiment.

Design Fall 2008

New York Times' online pamphlet on design. My favorite is Molto Mario's house. Looking at great houses makes me drool.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Da Bate

trsnacript

Obama didn't do his best, and McCain got some zingers.

Here are some arguments Obama should have said. I sent this to the campaign.

(1) In response to McCain's claim that meeting with Iran without preconditions rewards their rogue behavior, Obama should have said that the exact opposite is true. Cutting off diplomatic ties with Iran and North Korea only proves to the people of those nations that the United States really is their enemy. This only strengthens the hard line. Calling them rogue nations, evil, and threatening retaliation helps those leaders make the case that they need more military spending in order to defend themselves.

While the US refused to meet with China after Mao took over, the Chinese leadership AND public viewed the US as an enemy. When Nixon visited, the rhetoric changed almost overnight. Why? It is difficult for their leaders to cast as an enemy someone that they are willing to meet with and have a nice banquet with. The people you are really trying to negotiate with are the people of those nations. By talking to the leaders, you are making clear to the people that there is an alternative. There is also greater chance of clearing up misunderstandings if you talk to them.

(2) Also, while it's important that Obama had the foresight and judgment to oppose the Iraq war in the beginning, McCain has a point that now we need to talk about what to do about Iraq now. In order to talk about that, we have to talk about what exactly is the real end goal. Obama tried to but ultimately failed to directly bring up what exactly does it mean to "win" in Iraq.

McCain kept bringing up the success of the troop surge. Obama conceded that the surge may have helped bring down the violence, but he never challenged how sustainable it was, and what he would do differently. For example, if you have a bunch of crime in your city and you impose martial law and bring in a lot of cops. Yes, crime is going to go down. But how long are those cops going to be there? Are they going to have to stay there forever? How much is that going to cost?

(3) Along these lines, Obama did not point out that all of McCain's solutions to national security problems are military solutions and furthermore, reactions to how to deal with crisis. How does one manage foreign affairs such that it doesn't have to come to a crisis? Obama's greatest strength is having a comprehensive strategy, and at some point he did mention the need for that, but he did not make it clear how this is a contrast from McCain. Obama tried to say that the main thing that would make America safer is to improve America's standing in the world, which is true, and it is his best point that he made during the debate, but he did not quite tie it in as a response to McCain's arguments, and he did not really talk about how he was going to do that.

(4) When it comes to dealing with the economy, all McCain has to say is to cut wasteful spending and corruption. Again, it's about the need for a comprehensive solution. The need to improve education, health care system, fund science and technology, and put in place better regulation. Again, Obama talked about it, but did not effectively tie it in to a criticism of McCain. Also, Obama did not effectively make the case for regulation. What is regulation really about? It's about a legal framework so that people can do business, trust in contracts, and be insulated from others' mistakes. It's like maintaining your car. If you make small investments every so often, in the end it is much less costly than getting stranded on the highway when the engine collapses.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Plan Counter Plan

So how's that bailout going?

Some Republicans have now issued a counterplan. I don't really get it. People suspect that John McCain is behind it, and they are very mad.

Also, will John McCain really come to the debate? Who knows. Certainly his unpredictable behavior does not bode well, I don't think. This erratic behavior is more akin to how leaders of unstable regimes act. In general, it is hard to work with and rely on someone who is simply unpredictable, and I think the case could be made that other nations would not appreciate a more unpredictable America.

Palindromes

In her interview with Couric. Hardy har har.



That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Helping the—it’s got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans and trade—we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as competitive, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today—we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity


If you didn’t quite catch the meaning of the above, don’t bother re-reading it. It doesn’t get any clearer. U.S. News and World Report columnist Robert Schlesinger called the statement a “talking points machine gone out of control.”

“Or magnetic poetry that you have on your fridge – in fact, you can try it at home. String together key words and phrases like “shore up the economy,” “reduce tax rates,” “healthcare reform,” and “trade” and see what kind of Palinisms you can create,” he writes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Partisan Comedy



Oh snap. Palin with Couric in CBS Interview. BWHAHAHA Truth is more hilarious than fiction.

Energy Regatta

Interesting Event at MIT sponsored by a French multinational energy company.

What's strange to me is that in the description of the company it says
Total is a multinational energy company committed to leveraging innovation and initiative to provide a sustainable response to humankind’s energy requirements. The fourth largest publicly-traded integrated oil and gas company and a world-class chemicals manufacturer, Total operates in more than 130 countries and has over 95, 000 employees.


But then in the Friday reception they are going to talk about
Part I - " Oil exploration and production: challenges & innovations" by Dr Annie Audibert-Hayet (Total R&D)
Part II - "FPSO Dalia: how to push the boundaries of deep offshore development ?" by Philippe Reffinato (Total offshore installation manager)


So what are they really about?

MIT Environmental Initiative

Exciting news today!


The MIT Environmental Research Council is being established to support an Institute-wide Environmental Initiative.

...

The MIT Environmental Research Council is charged with the development of a research prospectus by February 15, 2009. The prospectus will be broadly shared with the campus community so as to ensure the engagement of the faculty necessary to make the research prospectus compelling to potential donors, sponsors and other stakeholders. Potential donors expect to see a mobilization that will produce high impact research on an important topic. The charge and the composition of the Council are aimed at framing and advancing the focused research program recommended by the Zuber Committee, and at providing a foundation for the needed resource development.

The Environmental Research Council is charged with consulting and engaging faculty in these areas so that the necessary synergies can be achieved, duplication avoided, and additional environmental goals framed and advanced.


In the same statement, the provost talks about the Education Task Force to make an energy major.

As many of you know, the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) has established a task force to develop energy-related education at MIT (see MITEI's Education Task Force, http://web.mit.edu/mitei/education/taskforce.html). The Task Force is active and has broad engagement with faculty as well as with the leadership of key academic units. They expect to complete a major effort involving new subjects and degree programs this fall, all of which will have strong environmental components. The Environmental Research Council is charged with working with MITEI's leadership and with MITEI's Education Task Force to define and advance the energy and environmental education goals of MIT.

Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

So I basically finished this book, save for maybe one last chapter. But I was too anxious to get to the chapter on the Iraq War. Anyway, essentially, if Bush and Rice weren't so worthless, didn't cave into pro-Israel pressure all the time, and if Rice's trips to the Middle East weren't so futile, perhaps we could have avoided war in Iraq. Post September 11, we fought and won sort of in Afghanistan, although we did not capture bin Laden. Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak pushed for war in Iraq, giving the White House Israeli intelligence saying they found evidence that Hussein was building WMD and that he was supporting terrorist groups. When in fact he was not, and Israeli intelligence was only trying to provoke the US into war with a facade of protecting Israel (even though it does no such thing). And anyway, Israel is making its own WMD.

Anyway. I hope the neocons die. If I had a death note I'd probably kill them. I finished watching Death Note, this anime about a guy that picks up a note. If he writes someone's name in it they'll die of a heart attack in 40 seconds. Then people start to notice that criminals are dying of heart attacks, and the super detective known only as "L" tries to capture the killer. It turns into a psychological game essentially, with L and Kira (the killer's nickname) pretending to be friends, but L trying to get evidence of Kira's killings, and Kira trying to get L's real name so he can kill him. The first half is really good, then the second half isn't as good, but not bad or anything.

You can search Death Note here, like "Death Note 1" etc.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Economic Determinism

There's this post on Breakthrough Gen Blog from June that I found today that is good, although I don't get the title. It's on Marx and why leftists have been so negative lately.

But Marx was different than the later critical theorists because in addition to a critical viewpoint he espoused a modernization theory known as economic determinism. Economic determinism holds that the political, social, and cultural products of a society are products of its economic structure. According to this theory, it is foolish to try to change society through new forms of art or new political alliance, because these are epiphenomenal occurrences, caused at the root by the economic reality underneath them. In its most extreme form, economic determinism posits total determinism: we can do nothing to change the fates of our societies, and, for Marx, their eventual transition for communism.


What is interesting is that my parents (and consensus amongst many mainland Chinese) is that Communism in China failed because Mao tried to skip the natural development of the economy and capitalism to go directly to communism. To them, it proved that Marx was right about economic determinism.

Now, the Breakthrough Institute is promoting again the idea that people are most generous if they are themselves well-off and thus environmentalism needs to work towards improving people's lives. This is also interesting because mainland China right now is probably much more receptive to this idea than the American public. They can immediately and intuitively grasp it whereas it's going to take some time for the American public and especially the traditional environmentalists to come around.

Environmentalism is Still Dead

Teryn Norris of the BreakThrough Institute wrote a post Environmentalism is Still Dead, criticizing environmentalists' stubbornness in opposing Pelosi's energy bill because it included approving limited off-shore drilling. I completely agree with Teryn.

I wrote this comment

Environmentalism is dead. Long live Environmentalism.

It seems to me that we need to figure out a way to distinguish “greens” from pro-sustainability pragmatists who also sometimes call ourselves green. Calling greens “idealists” is too general and to some extent, we are all idealists. Other labels don’t really work, either. But we don’t want the message to be anti-green. Unless we do, and we need to call the new environmentalism something else.

I find that sustainability is more descriptive of the new brand of environmentalism, and it is already becoming the new “it”. But I’m not sure what color it is. Maybe it should be the letter S. The new environmentalist group at MIT is sustainability@MIT, and it is a merger of a few of the old groups. There is also S-labs (sustainability labs), which is a class in the Sloan School of Management at MIT.

It would just be nice for there to be a distinction between the old approach and the new approach. Or else it seems like we are arguing with ourselves.

NPR

NPR.org is not actually that good. But the websites for the individual radio programs on NPR are pretty good. I especially like On Point. Although usually I listen to Morning Edition and All Things Considered. WBUR also has local stuff sometimes that's good. WBUR has Marketplace, which has a pretty nice website, haha, but it's also pretty interesting. I think my favorite part is getting to know all the guests, the who's who of important, smart, and powerful people.

WBUR's schedule

American Bailout Plan

It would only be truly American if the people who made the biggest mistakes to get bailed out, while it's controversial to suggest that they should at least take a pay cut? If you haven't heard, Paulson is requesting $700 billion to bail out whoever they feel like on Wall Street, which is mostly fine since the alternative is probably worse, and the final cost should be much less than $700 billion. Some members of Congress are pushing for a cap on executives' pay so that they can't make millions of dollar while getting bailed out by taxpayers at the same time. I guess once you're rich and powerful enough, you never need to suffer the consequences of your mistakes anymore. Cool.

Related is this story about a conflict of interest regarding the bailout. In fact, Newt Gingrich brings this up during his interview, and for once I agree with him.

Campaign and the Media

This is cool event, but I won't be able to go. Boo.

And I even know who Marc Ambinder is.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Demotion

Goldman and Morgan to be real banks?

whoa

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Presidential Debate

The first one is this upcoming Friday, September 26! Starts at 9pm. It's at the University of Mississippi, and the focus will be on foreign policy. This is supposed to be McCain's strong point.

What I hope is that it becomes clear that McCain is just a military man and as such, most of his solutions are military solutions. His father was an important general during WWII and was a prominent and steadfast supporter of the Vietnam War. He believes in the importance of "winning" a war and does not believe in negotiations since they are inevitably messy. Well, the problem is that with every conflict, solutions are messy. That's what politicians are for.

Another thing is that I hope it becomes clear that if anyone is elitist from an elite background, it is McCain. He was the son of a general who was always meant to become important. His family mingled with the rich and powerful. His status meant that he didn't have to be a good student and he wasn't. Because of his importance, the Vietcong supposedly was extra harsh towards him during his capture. When he returned, he received a hero's welcome, and it was extra poignant because he was his father's son.

SMV

Bass supergroup

i think i like it

Letter to the Editor

The DNC asked for letters to the editor concerning the McCain economy. So I wrote one. I have no idea if it will be published (esp. since I submitted it the day before the market crash); I assume not. But here it is:

As any other American today, I worry about our economy. For almost a decade, the American economy has been treading downhill, with no hint of a better future. And, like most Americans, I have little knowledge in the way of economics. Anyone who doesn't have a full grasp on the American economy must make their choice for president based on both what's been said and done in the past and what's proposed for the future. Senator McCain the maverick has not earned my trust. His economic advisor, Phil Gramm, likened our economic turmoil to mental depression, calling it "a mental recession". Americans deserve better than to be treated as though they weren't working hard enough to produce a more robust economy, as though all their hardships were just a fantastic fable, or a pretense for the government to allow them to be lazy. The McCain campaign continues to pretend that our economy is prosperous and strong. Could he be more blind? The reality is clear: McCain's economic stance is the same as that of President Bush; neither of them knows how to fix this mess. On the brighter side, Obama's Senate record shows he cares about working Americans, and knows how to improve the economy. He has never blamed the Americans for not working hard enough, and instead, continually offers his empathy for their struggles, since he knows the Bush economic policies are doomed to fail. He proposes to pass a middle class tax cut, raise the minimum wage, and offer tax breaks to students struggling to pay for college. What has McCain proposed? Only more of the same. The choice is clear if your concern is the economy: Obama-Biden '08.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Offshore Oil

It seems to be common knowledge among economists/analysts that opening the restricted offshore areas for oil drilling will only reduce the price of gas by a few cents and not for at least 7 years (although this is certainly not common knowledge among the American populace).

Here's a good graph for scale:



This chart is based on estimates from the Energy Information Administration.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

Watch!!

http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/palin-hillary-open/656281/

Steve Hollinger



We went to the Chase Gallery yesterday, which is on Newbury Street. They had an exhibit by Steve Hollinger called "What's Left." It was really great.

Friday, September 12, 2008

john.he.is

haha


Also, Palin got an interview with Gibson, and yes, she is as dumb as I thought, but will the American people catch on how clueless she is? Unclear.

When Gibson asked her what she thought of the Bush Doctrine (about preventative war), she had no idea what he was talking about ("you mean his world view?"). And then her answer was, "we need to do whatever it takes." That definitely does not sound good.

When asked about her views on relations with Russia, she also took a hard line while dodging the question to talk about how energy policy is the same thing as foreign policy, and so she's just going to talk about her energy policy (of drilling?).

Let the games begin.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Large Hadron Collider

Hey, that thing is Geneva is finally done and they ran their first test yesterday/today.

Information Week article

This has been another installment of "I was listening to NPR today..."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McCain's First Wife

I don't remember any stories about her when McCain was running back in in 2000 and don't think I have heard much of anything said about her this election. May not be the most unbiased of articles, but definitely presents a different view than most are used to seeing.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1024927/The-wife-John-McCain-callously-left-behind.html

Education

Obama gave a speech today on education.

The strongest part about it to me is modernizing the education system. For example, there's no reason we can't give weekly report cards so parents can keep better track of how their kids are doing in school. Further, he understands the type of education children need to be effective in the modern world. "Imagine a future... where research isn't done just by taking a book out of the library, but by e-mailing experts in the field; and where teachers are less a source of knowledge than a coach for how best to use it and obtain knowledge." It's hard to imagine Mccain fostering this type of education modernization given that he doesn't know how to use a computer.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Focus

I sent the Obama campaign a comment.

Palin has been a distraction and it will be difficult to respond to her. What Obama and Biden should do from now until the election is stick to the issues, but also aggresively pitch the idea of diplomacy to the American people. The problem is that people like Palin and GWB and to a lesser extent McCain are full of bluster and bombast. They put on a good show, and so while they're not really competent once in office, they are great for campaigns. People love a righteous hero who is a fighter, does not take no for an answer, and tells off the man! Yeah, you go girl. However, while it may feel good to tell someone off, it might not be a great idea if you have to work with them everyday for the next 10-20 years. And anyway, if you tell Putin off, do you really think he will do what you say? You think he will be scared? All bark and no bite, no finesse, no credibility, no nothing. Obama people should consciously and deliberately promote diplomacy and the willingness to negotiate. We should address the idea by name, not just doggedly sticking to the issues and refusing to jab back or else people will just say that they are scared or they admit it, etc. Obama should talk about it as a philosophy of governance. I think it is a major aspect of why Obama won over Clinton ultimately. I think we can make people see that Palin and McCain is not who we want in highest office of the United States.

I think now is a good time for Hillary to get on the campaign trail and perhaps make a speech on gender equality. Now that McCain has picked an incredibly divisive Vice President nominee in an attempt to woo former Clinton supporters, it is a good time for Hillary to make her own stand, and rally for unity. She would be the most convincing person to discredit Sarah Palin, and perhaps Obama and Clinton loyalists would truly make peace with each other. In that sense, this is a great opportunity to rally the Democratic base while have a stark contrast between Obama and McCain

About Sarah Palin

Viral letter about Sarah Palin written by an Alaskan who does not like her. She was on NPR the other day.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Hate Palin

The next few months are going to be so annoying. The Republicans are gender baiting women. If anyone critizes Palin, women will just say that they're sexist, while she goes out and delivers righteous but unfortunately meaningless one-liners against Democrats.

Women complain about how sexist it is to talk about how she was a beauty queen and to scrutinize how she looks, but they are the ones who always comment on how "beautiful" she is. Women are the ones who pay the most attention to how people look and what they're wearing. That is the case in high school, and it's still the case in adulthood. They claim there is a double standard for women and men, but really, how you look is important for any politician. I don't think that's a good thing, but it is what it is. For example, Dennise Kucinich is just too damn short and elflike. Barack Obama is black and looks like a terrorist. We couldn't elect a president anymore if they had polio or were morbidly obese. Women themselves are drawn to Palin because of her looks. If she were a dumpy old hag, they probably would not like her, either.

Women complain about the focus on Palin's family, but Palin is the one who presents herself as a PTA hockey mom with a down syndrome baby. She is marketing herself as an average mom running for Veep, not as a policy wonk, not as some expert on anything in particular, just an average American with a great family. Women should be insisting for her to stick to the issues instead of directing all their criticisms at the "media."

Sure, I like to criticize the media, too, but these days its just become a universal scapegoat. The media just says what people want to hear. That is how the media works in the US. They are only saying what the most people are thinking anyway. If you have beef with the media, your real beef is with the American public. There's really no way around it unless you are going to advocate censorship.

Right now, the Obama campaign is responding by urging Palin and McCain to stick to the issues. They are playing down Palin, which is good for now, but I think ultimately they will have to somehow deal with her because people really love her. Like, they are into her the way they were into GWB. I think Palin is a problem where Hillary Clinton could be a great help. She is the only person who would be able to get women to snap to their senses. Now would be a great time for her to make a speech about gender and sexism. It has to be about not just equal pay and equal opportunities but raising our daughters to be as ambitious and capable as our sons. This could be a great opportunity, actually, for the Obama loyalists and Hillary loyalists to come together again.

What Obama and Biden should do from now until the election is stick to the issues, but also aggresively pitch the idea of diplomacy to the American people. The problem is that people like Palin and GWB and to a lesser extent McCain are full of bluster and bombast. They put on a good show, and so while they're not really competent once in office, they are great for campaigns. People love a righteous hero who is a fighter, does not take no for an answer, and tells off the man! Yeah, you go girl. However, while it may feel good to tell someone off, it might not be a great idea if you have to work with them everyday for the next 10-20 years. And anyway, if you tell Putin off, do you really think he will do what you say? You think he will be scared? All bark and no bite, no finesse, no credibility, no nothing. The Obama people should consciously and deliberately promote diplomacy and the willingness to negotiate. They should address the idea by name, not just doggedly sticking to the issues and refusing to jab back or else people will just say that they are scared or they admit it, etc. They should talk about it as a philosophy of governance. Then, I think they can be very convincing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cravings

I don't miss much from St. Louis, but I do miss toasted ravioli. Link also has a recipe.



I found a place around that has it, though. I will have to try it sometime. Cafe Nicholas

Women in Technology

Toby sent me this article that is really good that talks about Why Women Quit Technology Careers.

Yes, there are issues being a woman in the tech industry, but it's not always the kind of blatant discrimination that you associate with sexism.

It's usually about the lack of colleagues or mentors, and the fact that most everyone is married does make things complicated.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Yang's Shaved Head

and jjhu's, too



I finally scanned some photos of me from back in those wild college days.

Charlene Rug


At a crafts store, they sold a rug-making kit where you use a hooked tool to tie knots with yarn. Their pattern was for a short-haired tabby cat with the same colors as Charlene but it didn't really look like her at all. So I rearranged the colors. Voila!

Building Project


We built these shelves/hooks ensemble for the entrance for shoes and hanging coats. We stained the wood.