Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bilingual Powers

Bilingualism helps people think. Maybe the population self-selects, though.

Monday, May 30, 2011

MIT Macro Panel: Duflo

Esther Duflo, a renowned MIT economics who works on development, also presented at the Macroeconomics Panel. Her main point was that asking big general questions such as "does aid work" is pointless because there is no way to empirically prove one way or another. Instead, she asks "what individual aid programs work?" She mentioned Avinash Dixit, who is another MIT economist who specializes more in econometrics, who seems to have influenced her a great deal. He had coined "MIT style theory" which seems to be modeling by example.

She had an interesting example of mosquito net use in Africa (I think Kenya). The question was whether to give away mosquito nets for free or to charge for them. Many were concerned that because of the "sunk cost fallacy" if people paid for them, they were more likely to use them as intended rather than as fishing nets or other uses. Also, if they got nets for free, they may be less likely to pay for nets in the future. However, the research showed that participation in using nets were much better when they were free, and furthermore that people were more likely to buy them in the future if they got the first one for free.

MIT Macro Panel: Conservatism in the Field

Robert Solow is one of the legends of the field, and he spoke at the Macroeconomics Panel at the MIT 150 Economics Symposium I posted about last week. He talked about the Keynesian foundations that were dominant in 1950-1970. Their development was originally based on observing empirical events. Then, in the 1970's with the oil shocks, macro lost a lot of credibility, and conservative ideology gained a strong foothold in the field. Also, there was a stronger motivation to move away from event-driven analysis and towards theoretical (mathematical) neatness.

It seems that conservatism and theoretical neatness still dominates the field today, although I wonder if the time is ripe for another shift. Even if it is, in practice, it seems that macroeconomists really only have two tools at their disposal, which is setting the interest rate and recommend fiscal policy. Even then, the only one economists have direct control over is setting the interest rate.

It is possible there are other tools that can be developed. There was a discussion on the panel about future research in macroeconomics. Better understanding the components of total factor productivity was one of them. There are two approaches which are to endogenize human capital or technological development (or both). Understanding how to model technological growth would be important for developing responsible environmental economies. However, there are also more direct ways to do that, such as researching the effectiveness of policies that promote environmental technological development.

Financial Innovation

Now I'm watching the Financial Innovation panel from the MIT 150 Economics symposium.


Doctors Lean Left

Since fewer doctors are owning their own practices, they are becoming more interested in patient care than low taxes and malpractice insurance. They are becoming less conservative as a group according to an NYT article.

Friday, May 27, 2011

MIT Macroeconomics Symposium

I'm watching this video from the MIT 150 Economics Symposium back in January about the development of macroeconomics. It helps to watch it several times as I learn more about macroeconomics from reading and talking to friends who are economists. I get a little bit more out of it each time. I'm looking for guidance and inspiration for possible research topics or other projects.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011



Trustmark for Boosting Wind Power

There was an interesting article in Fast Company about Vestas, which is promoting a trustmark, WindMade.

In order for consumers to account for the externalities of business such as environmental damage, more information is needed about products other than just quality and price. That is why certifications such as Energy Star, USDA Organic, and Fair Trade will be increasingly important for helping consumers make decisions about products and business models. How can this be implemented? Third party certification and reviews may become a bigger industry. On the other hand, this might be expensive for the consumer as well as small businesses. It would be an additional barrier to entry for a startup, which is not necessarily something we'd want. It would be desirable to achieve greater transparency without the extra cost.

Bryan Newbold on the Internet

Apparently he is Octopart's first employee!

Adaptation in Chicago

Chicago city planners are already making preparations for a different climate because of global warming.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New CoLab Contest

2011 CoLab contest is on its way. This time people have more time to work on the proposals, which should be nice. Hopefully I'll have time to participate.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Propheting From the Rapture

The world was supposed to have ended yesterday with millions of people disappearing and earthquakes and other calamities for the rest of us.

I mainly am curious about what those believers think now.

The sad part is that many of them drained their savings account purchasing ads for the end of the world, stopped saving for their children's college, quit their jobs, and sold their homes. As per usual, probably the state will have to take care of these people now so the stupidity is actually costly to the rest of us, too.

Obama MidEast Speech

Obama stated explicitly that negotiations between Israel and Palestine should start from the 1967 borders. Now there is a lively discussion in the Jewish American community about it.

Obama speaks at AIPAC

I think this is a positive development. Even though he has not said anything drastically different from what has been implied by many administrations, making this explicit has actually added information. Before, each side believed what they wanted to hear so that they could pretend that they agreed.


Amanda posted this on facebook. It's cool cuz it's neeerrrdy

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Make Gas Cheaper

Obama throws Big Oil a bone. I haven't really looked into the details, but of course I'm skeptical that it will even reduce prices. I am also concerned that reducing gas prices will further delay innovation and investment in clean technologies.

Future Labor Force of America

NYT article about how little college kids study these days. They cite the research of Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks. The NYT article mentions Pell Grants may be partly responsible, but actually their research paper doesn't mention Pell Grants at all. The NYT article also suggests some "easy fixes" although the paper does not explore possible fixes. At any rate, the research is pretty interesting.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


很多人在工作里不会安排出优先顺序。 怪不得很多公司有那么多小老板。

Friday, May 13, 2011

Switching Coasts

I've been on the east coast ever since I moved to Boston in 2003. Right now I'm on the southern east coast, Jupiter, Florida. In the fall, I'm moving to Berkeley to attend the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. I am switching coasts and also switching fields.

We are faced with huge environmental challenges with an ever growing human population. Environmental issues are deeply entwined with economic issues, prices, employment, agriculture, etc. I found that as an engineer I have only limited tools. Plus, many worthwhile projects are only in their incipient stages. Much more cooperation between communities, governments, and businesses is needed for such projects to get financial support, legal support, and popular support to gain more momentum.

I am most interested right now in finance for environmental projects and new business models for an environmentally responsible economy. Are there legislation or standards that can help provide businesses as well as consumers with information or incentives to make better decisions? I am interested in working with Professor Lee Friedman, but I still need to explore other professors, too. I am hoping to go into academia or at least get a PhD in policy or economics. However, I am also interested in consulting, starting businesses, or even working in government. It all depends on what I find my strengths are best suited for and also what I think is most worthwhile.

There are definitely a lot of opportunities in the Bay Area for environmental issues so that's really exciting. The food is also going to be great, especially compared to Florida. You would think that a place that is so close to the food production would have better food. I am going to be living with old friends and living near other old friends. I am hoping to be able to do some urban gardening and get better at biking while I'm there.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chinese Internet

Cool article in The Fast Company magazine

It's fun to read about ambitious people in China. It is also interesting to see how the general public in China has sculpted the web landscape.

(Yes, this magazine was in the Cruftlabs bathroom)


我去年申请了研究生院。 我被UC Berkeley 录取了。我很激动,打算去Berkeley.

translation : I'm going to UC Berkeley! More on this later.

No More Bin Laden

But there are some systemic causes to terrorism that still need to be addressed.

Friedman's most recent op-ed gives some more background about Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Weekend

I visited Boston this weekend for Mother's Day, but actually mainly to move my things from my roommates' apartment to my mom's place. I also saw a lot of friends so it was really nice. I ate dinner at my mom's house Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in order to maximize the intake of good Chinese food. I needed to stock up for Florida.

So my mom complained that American mothers get breakfast in bed but she has to cook so actually every other day is Mother's Day for her. I felt a little bad, but at the same time, I think making food for me is the primary way my mom shows that she cares. On the other hand, maybe that is just because it's the primary way that I can accept affection from my mom. At any rate, I think we all had a good time.

turtles in space!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

hotel yang!

I'm encouraging my friends to visit me while I'm in this nice vacation home in Florida. I have so many towels and bedding. Last weekend, I tried to go to the shuttle launch, but it got delayed again. But it was ok because it lured Jenny Hu to Florida along with other interesting people that I got to meet.

Jenny Hu looking stylish. We even went shopping and she bought a dress! I forgot to take pictures, though. Oh well. I'm sure there will be evidence presently.

A sea turtle in a "hospital tank" at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. It is a turtle rescue center and museum. It has an upbeat atmosphere, but actually many exhibits made me sad, especially as a proponent of environmental sustainability. It made me feel like we still have so much to do. Reducing human impacts on other species and habitats requires so much cooperation from people. Around West Palm Beach, so many condos and strip malls are named Loggerhead this Loggerhead that, and yet they are still endangered. It is frustrating that other people don't seem embarrassed about this or feel the irony. I am going to try to go volunteer sometimes to meet new people and learn more about Florida's environmental management.

Hu is in my living room

Monday, May 2, 2011

picture for jenny hu

This is a painting I did last week. Jenny Hu came to visit, and we went to the beach. We saw manatees! We were actually sitting on the beach at the time.