Saturday, December 7, 2013

Freshman Year

I think I wrote this at the end of freshmen year at MIT in 2004.  It's kind of a love letter to East Campus, the dorm I used to live in.

'sscrazy Even though so many things have changed already, it doesn't feel different.  Instead, it feels natural.  Of course, this whole spiel is only about my own experience.  It is specific to my past, my present, and most importantly, it is specific to myself.  This is just a story.
 During the my last few days in St. Louis, I wrote:
I feel like I'm entering a door that I can't see the other side of.  What do I not know.  I don't know who I'm going to be hanging out w/ and how I'm going to feel about people.  I don't know what my daily/weekly/monthly schedule is going to be like.  I don't know what it's going to look like when I look out the window, or if I'll even have a window.  I don't know how classes will be.  I don't know my competition.  I don't know the system.  Most importantly, I don't know what is going to be most important to me.  I suppose it's kind of the same every year.  I get a new routine.  I get a new strategy for how I'm going to approach my life; how I do work, how/when I play.  So, here's to the rest of my life. 
As time passed, I got to know some things... When I first came to Boston, the first thing was to find a place to live - a home, not just a physical location but also a community.  Over the summer, I chose a dorm notorious for its eccentric inhabitants.  I thought I might relate to the people there.  Now, all I can say is, man, I was so right.  I love the environment that I'm in.  The people on my hall encourage exploration and activity.  They value intellectual integrity and creativity.  There are tools for building things like lofts, tables, and other addendums to your room if you want.  Art is everywhere as people customize their rooms, doors, and hallways.  The kitchen is another great resource.  Along with these material commodities, the most valuable resource is the knowledge and support of the people you live around.  Thus, college is a sanctuary for learning things in a safe and effective way whether it's learning how to bake a pie or how to play hockey with burning tennis balls.  Yeah, I live with a special bunch.  When I tell people from the other side of campus where I live, they nod understandingly with a hint of pity and fear.
Not that the individuals are really all that different from the rest of the MIT community.  In general, we are all bonded by what is best described as "nerd pride."  It's the idea of learning for the sake of being proud of what you know, whether it's mechanical engineering, math, ocean engineering, or electrical engineering.  It's not about the money or making a living; it's not about having power; it's just about being smart and knowing how to do something and being useful.  This point of view does, however, look down on business and certain other less course intensive majors.  This is one of many ways I'm very lucky to be the way I am.  Because I am a nerd, and I came here to do engineering, and I possess that same "nerd pride," I don't have any problems fitting in or being challenged for not being "core" enough.
As I sink into the depths of Tetazoo (hall), East Campus (dorm), MIT, Boston, Massachusetts, My Life, I have become acquainted with not only the people around me, but also the sense of overall community, my values, and the school system.  I am beginning to develop a routine.  It took some time to tweak my daily schedule: work, sleep, class, work, eat, class, eat, work, work, play, sleep.  We even have our own vocabulary for our daily meanderings.  Work is otherwise known as “tooling,” while playing is “punting.”  Between tooling and punting, we do what we can in order to keep doing.

In college, you find out about a lot of inner conflicts.  Many people lose their motivation for doing work.  The new environment disrupts their pretty ideas of how life should be, and they scramble to reestablish their reason to live.  I haven't had too many problems with this, since for whatever reason, these questions are not new to me.  Maybe my world has been shaken before, or maybe I was just more sensitive to the smaller jolts growing up.  I have not even really had to struggle much with loneliness or homesickness.  Even insecurities about academic validation, the assurance that I am smart enough to be here, have mostly evaded me.  For me, the main struggle has been to keep myself sane and functional.  In college, you have to take care of yourself, and people here are often much more demanding of themselves than they should be.  In the doctrine of living life to its fullest, it's easy to lose perspective about your own limitations of how much social interaction you can take.  It can be extremely hard to find alone time or just a place where you can feel completely relaxed.  Having fun is fun, but you're still not relaxed.  It also seems like a lot of people here compulsively do work out of a need to feel productive, myself included.  We don't even know what we’re working for.  We’re all trying to figure out what we want.  

Maybe if we live enough, we will find out. In short:college is great

Interstate Cooperation for Clean Energy

I wrote up a policy  memo for a class last week.  It made me realize how much of a problem coal still is, largely because it is not easy for coal-miners to transition to other jobs.  

California, Arizona, New Jersey are leading the nation in manufacturing and installing solar power.  Arizona alone has over 316 solar companies, supplying a variety of parts for solar installations[i]
The number of solar installations has been growing across the nation, increasing 15% in Q2 of 2013[ii].  States with solar manufacturing are well-positioned to benefit as more states install more solar power.  Those states will have more well-paying jobs and tax revenues as the solar industry grows. 
On the other hand, there are many opponents of solar power.  About 40% of the electricity generated in the United States is from coal.  Coal mining in the US is concentrated in some states, particularly Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.  These and other states such as Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, and Illinois have strong pro-coal lobbies and constituents[iii].
Coal miners and their communities are justifiably concerned about losing their jobs and economic security.  Right now, they support ways to keep coal cheap, which works directly against the interests of the solar industry and Arizona generally.
In order to undercut the support for cheap coal, I recommend that states without coal industries share some of the benefits of their growing solar industries with coal miners.  Continued access to healthcare and education are particularly valuable.  Solar producing states should offer scholarships to family members of coal miners to their state universities.  They could also contribute to a fund to pay for healthcare for families of coal-miners.
Those directly affected by the decline of the coal-producing industry are relatively few, about 20,000 coal-miners in Kentucky, for example[iv].  Providing a safety net for those people would go a long way towards reducing the urgency of keeping coal production going.  This would give coal producing states less opposed to clean tech.  They would also have more resources to develop jobs in other industries rather than coal mining.
Solar producing states should partner with coal producing states to find mutually beneficial solutions to their economic, environmental, and health problems.        

[i] ‘Arizona Solar’, Solar Energy Industries Association [accessed 5 December 2013].
[ii] ‘Solar Industry Data’ [accessed 5 December 2013].
[iii] Kris Maher and Tom McGinty, ‘Coal’s Decline Hits Hardest in the Mines of Kentucky’ [accessed 5 December 2013].
[iv] ‘Mining Employment and Production Trends’, The Impact of Coal on the Kentucky State Budget .

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cal Lecturer's Letter of Encouragement to Students

Alexander Coward teaches a math class for undergraduate students at UC Berkeley.  On its face, his letter encourages students to attend class rather than support the UC workers' strike.  I am pretty sure he meant to encourage students to value their education regardless of whether or not they choose to participate in this particular strike.

I was really moved by many parts of the letter.  Perhaps if I were to make a compressed version of his letter, it would be this.

If I’ve learned one thing about politics since I was your age, it is this: Politics, like most things in life worth thinking about, including mathematics, is very big, very complicated, and very interconnected.
I’ve discovered that there is no unique or obviously best way of setting up society. For every decision and judgement you reach, there are people who benefit and people who lose out.  
Every judgement you make in life is a question of balancing different interests and ideals. are not going to be able to avoid making these kinds of judgments, just as I cannot avoid making a judgment about whether to strike or not. all need to know that there is not some great pool of amazing people in some other place who are going to shape the way our species navigates the coming decades. 
In order for you to navigate the increasing complexity of the 21st century you need a world-class education, and thankfully you have an opportunity to get one. I don’t just mean the education you get in class, but I mean the education you get in everything you do, every book you read, every conversation you have, every thought you think. 
Society is investing in you so that you can help solve the many challenges we are going to face in the coming decades, from profound technological challenges to helping people with the age old search for human happiness and meaning.  
I like that he mentions that being apolitical is basically impossible.  Any system will have winners and losers.  Not having a policy is a policy!

I also found it really touching when he addressed the insecurities of the students.
One of the things you can lose track of when you attend a top tier university like Berkeley is just how exceptional and amazing you really are. 
I’m not just talking about some of you. I’m talking about all of you. It’s a privilege to be your professor. Sadly, however, I know many of you don’t feel that way. The difficulty you all face is that as you look around at all your fellow students, it’s easy to have your eye drawn by people doing better than you. Or rather, I should say people who look like they’re doing better than you. In reality the true extent of how much people are learning can be difficult to measure. Sometimes failures and adversity are better preparations for long term success than effortless progress.
As an undergraduate, you are still trying to figure out how your abilities compare with others'.  Sometimes the professors or graduate students seem so much more polished and accomplished, you feel like you could never be like that.  To you, the professors are like the "adults" in the world who will solve the big complicated problems, which is sort of a secure feeling.

I find it kind of sad to realize now that that's not really the case.  On the one hand it's motivating, but on the other hand, I feel sort of sorry for the world that it is partly up to me to come up with solutions.  I know that nobody will really blame me or anything like that, but I know I'm not always trying my hardest and that I miss opportunities. I didn't cause all the problems so it's not my responsibility in the direct sense.  However, since not having a policy is a policy, perpetuating the current system while being just as qualified as the next person to change it makes me partially responsible.  I feel a desire to compensate those who will inevitably be affected by my and others' inability to do better, but knowing that we can't is kind of sad to me.  I take solace in the fact that we can only move forward and do what we can.  ...And maybe future talented people really will emerge as the adults, and then the rest of us will be off the hook again...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Climate Change Data Management

"To achieve a leadership position in supply chain sustainability, companies should have strong capabilities in data, process and governance" - CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) - the 2013 Supply Chain Report

Yay! I'm into all those things!!  

Monday, November 11, 2013

College Admissions Essay: San Mao Showed Me

This was my MIT admissions essay.  The prompt was something like "tell us about something that inspired you."  I always really liked it although it never occurred to me to share it with anyone before.  I found it again recently at my mom's house.  Although some of the word choices are a bit off, I still really relate to this essay.  

About once a year, I take out my box of children's books and sift through the colorful pages remembering how things used to be.  A couple of years ago, as I was indulging my nostalgia, I remembered how the picture stories made me feel and decided that they had much more literary value than I had previously thought.  One such piece particularly meaningful to me is a Chinese comic book called "San Mao," directly translated as "Three Hairs."

It's a pretty bland comic overall - nothing like the vibrantly colorful Disney cartoons, inviting children into warm and fuzzy worlds of fantasy.  "San Mao" was all black and white and most of the stories were pretty depressing now that I think about it.  The main character is a young orphan, who suffers from such extreme malnutrition that he only has three hairs.  Thus, he is dubbed San Mao, or Three Hairs.

The comic starts out with him gazing dejectedly at a sheep and her lambs in the countryside.  He cried (and I cried) because he was deprived of such an unconditionally caring relationship.  He then finds his way to the bustling streets of Shanghai, one of China's most congested cities, hoping for a life of peace and plenty.  Instead, he finds Shanghai in a state of riot and turmoil with multitudes of people just as pitiful as he.  Disappointments abound, he finds that Shanghai also has multitudes of people living in luxury, possessing only disdain for the surrounding poverty.  It made me feel personally affronted.  I was hurt that people were so inconsiderate and avaricious.  How could anyone sit cozily inside with the space heater eating ice cream, while others froze in the bitter cold of winter?  Couldn't the police see that San Mao was just trying to make a meager living by shoe shining?  So what if it's illegal?  Did they really have to confiscate his chair and box of shoe shining equipment?  

Reading San Mao was definitely not a conventional means for moral training.  Written in 1952, the social afflictions and unrest of Shanghai depicted in the comic can seem anachronistic.  However, the lessons are global and timeless.  I didn't know this at the time, but San Mao showed me at an extremely young age how good and bad can be conditional, and that no one is above this conditional scrutiny, not even a policeman.  Furthermore, since everything is seeped in chagrin and irony, individual blame is almost completely irrelevant.  Subsequently, all that remains is an image of helplessness and a yearning for a better world.  

At one point, as San Mao starts to whet his appetite for idealism by reading a book directly translated as "World Enlightenment," he witnesses a man being robbed.  He becomes so discouraged that he rips the book apart.  In contrast, my early exposure to calamity has helped me overcome this initial sense of disappointment.  I decided that San Mao's tragic kingdom does not have to be so tragic.  San Mao showed me things that I do not like and initiated within me a resolve to work for things that I do like.  

Since then, I found out that San Mao is actually as popular as Mickey Mouse in China.  It was written by an alcoholic communist, who was depressed and cynical about the poverty in Shanghai.  Its popularity is a reflection of the trauma and turmoil of modern Chinese history.  I'm sure the children growing up in China now can't really relate to it as much.  

When I wrote it, I felt I was taking a big risk, especially since by then I already knew it was sort of about communism.  I really did want to get into MIT, but I also felt the need to "test" them I suppose.  I wanted to know that mildly unconventional thoughts would be welcome.  I'm glad I did since it did make the admission feel more legitimate, since they accepted me knowing who I am.

Nowadays I still relate to the essay because it's probably the best description of why I don't really get that depressed about the state of the world no matter how bad things sometimes get.  For example, many people will say how they get discouraged when they read more about global warming and how so little is being done about it.  I mean, I know it's because nobody really wants to put in effort for something that might be a lost cause.  But I'm not concerned about that since it's not like I have something better to do, and seeing immediate results isn't that important to me.  Anyway, global warming and everyone else's lives will move on whether you're depressed about it or not, so you might as well give up feeling hopeless and fulfilling self-fulfilling prophesies.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Romance With Chinese Characteristics

I went to see the Shanghai Ballet at the Zellerbach perform the Butterfly Lovers this weekend, which is the classic Chinese love story originally from the Tang Dynasty.  The girl, Zhu, pretends to be a boy so she can go to school where she falls in love with a boy, Liang.  She is arranged to be married to someone else, though, and then they both die of sadness.  Heaven takes pity on them and turns them into butterflies.  

I've also been watching another Chinese drama, the Legend of Lu Zhen, which is mostly an epic love story.

I'm seeing a lot of common themes in Chinese romances.  One is that the romance often starts when they don't fully know each other's identity.  Usually the poorer one doesn't know the other is rich since it means they really love each other for who they are, not because they are gold or power-digging.  Another is that the romance often takes place over a longer time frame where they are friends first.  Finally, the girl is often smart and capable, and that is actually important to making her attractive to the boy, and vice versa.  

To me, the first two themes are about trust.  Someone who likes you for your personality is less likely to move on to the next pretty face or next richest person.  Someone you know very well for a long time is more likely to be someone you can trust.  I thought that the last theme was a more modern theme to relate to modern Chinese women, but then again, it's also in Butterfly Lovers which is from the 8th century or so.  

Now I realize I've been influenced by Chinese romance themes my whole life.  "Love at first sight" and "happily ever after" princess stories never seemed that romantic to me.  Even though it was exciting that Belle in Disney's Beauty and the Beast liked to read, the Beast didn't really care about that.  And anyway, her favorite book was some other princess story.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Megapretty Insides

this is my latest creation!  it was a drawing that i photoshopped and then had printed out on canvas.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Information Organization

I'm taking a class in the Information School this semester called Information Organization and Retrieval.  It's about the intersection of computer science, library science, business information management, and database management.  It provides a framework that unifies all those seemingly disparate disciplines.  I find it to be extremely relevant right now, especially as I'm implementing a web app myself.  Oroeco has to handle customer data as well as science data.  We also then "create" new data that is tailored for the customer.  Many decisions for how to organize the information are more about what makes sense conceptually than technically.  Professor Robert Glushko argues that computer scientists could learn a lot from library science and vice versa.

This is a link to the syllabus.

Professor Glushko wrote a book The Discipline of Organizing 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Impact Investing and Social Entrepreneurship

Two weeks ago I went to the SOCAP (Social Capital Markets) conference, an annual event hosted by Impact Hub Bay Area, which runs coworking spaces for social entrepreneurs.

The conference was at the Marina, a neighborhood along the northern coast of the peninsula.  There was a really nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the mountains behind it.

The aim of SOCAP is to foster and promote
...a new form of capitalism is arising that recognizes our ability to direct the power and efficiency of market systems toward social impact.
The conference brings together impact investors such as the Omidyar Network and social entrepreneurs such as myself.  Impact investing is on the rise right now as an alternative to traditional philanthropy.  Any arrangement where benefactors expect a less than 100% loss could be considered impact investing.  They might get 50% of the money back or even make a return on the investment.  According to standard economics and finance theory, this is less efficient than traditional investment, which maximizes returns, coupled with traditional philanthropy.  This is because you should be able to get the most returns from traditional investing and thus have more to give out.

Many businesses have some negative externalities, such as making some workers obsolete.  Even if this is "efficient" because overall welfare is increased, some people will be winning a lot while others unequivocally lose.  This could be prevented by having the winners compensate the losers, but in real life, there's no good mechanism for doing this.  One because it's hard to attribute one person's loss with another person's winnings.  But also because the % of winnings people might need to give up may be high and not many people would willingly give up that much.  If the winners are systematically undercompensating losers, things like neighborhood degradation could count as negative externalities.  Traditional investing lead to these kinds of situations, where philanthropy plays the role of redistributing winnings.  Then philanthropy is like the left hand handing out tiny band-aids while the right hand is periodically knocking people over.  Here are some reasons why impact investing might lead to better outcomes, though.

1. It might be better instead to invest in activities that have smaller returns but don't have as many negative externalities or that redistribute winnings systematically as part of the operations of the business.  In fact, economic theory also says that internalizing externalities would be more efficient.  Therefore, the lower returns are only artifacts of different system boundaries and differences in accounting.

2. Projects that rely on traditional philanthropy get good at applying for grants to get more funding rather than getting good at making an impact.  It is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of a project within the context of traditional philanthropy.  It would be better if indicators of project success were generated as a part of the operations of the project.  If a project is able to make back 70% of the original grant, it could be a good indicator that the project is well-managed.  Plus, that money can be reinvested into itself.  The additional philanthropic dollar can be stretched much longer.  

3. Since a dollar can be stretched in impact investing, not as much is needed to make an impact project sustainable.  This means impact investing can be accessible to more people on the benefactor side.  It also opens up a variety of new kinds of financial arrangements, making financing more accessible to more people on the recipient side.

4. Encouraging projects to become financially sustainable also imparts valuable knowledge about management and finance to communities that need to build up human resources.  This is a very big and significant positive externality from impact investing that doesn't show up on the balance sheet.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Early Signs From 2005

American RadioWorks did a series of shows called Reports from a Warming Planet.

The reports are from the work of a class taught by John Harte at ERG and environmental journalist Sandy Tolan.  For most people, these anecdotes are probably much more persuasive than any scientific evidence that global warming is really happening and that it is a problem.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Nuances About Economics

Ronald Coase was a famous economist who died recently.  He came up with the Coase Theorem, which is the concept that initial allocation of an externality or good doesn't matter if there are no transaction costs (a big 'if').  In fact Coase himself acknowledges that in real economic situations, transaction costs are almost never low enough for the initial allocation not to matter.  Nuances in economics are typically lost in politics.  He's frequently cited by the right wing as being against governmental regulation and pro market solutions for environmental problems.  

Severin Borenstein, a professor in the Haas Business School at UC Berkeley sets the record straight.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Chicken!!

Here are some more pictures from Vermont.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Essence of Vermont

Last weekend I visited my friend in Vermont who is getting a masters degree in soil biology!  It was really fun hanging around Burlington.  They have a pedestrian street with some chic stores, farmers market, art market, street performers, and many tourists.

In addition to hanging around Burlington, making dumplings at Lynn's, and playing MarioKart, we went to Shelbourne Farms.  It's a model farm and educational center for sustainable farming practices on a wealthy estate.  They don't produce as much food anymore, but they still make cheese.  We hung around the farm barn where they put out really desensitized animals out for everyone to annoy.  There were sheep, goats, alpacas, a cow, calves, chickens, rabbits, pigs, and donkeys.  We picked up a really chill chicken.  It was sooo cute.

Many people in Vermont seem to be interested and involved with sustainable farming and organic farming.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What I Got From Lean In

I read "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg recently.  It's basically a collection of tips for women who work in male-dominated professions.

I've always been in male dominated fields, and I could really relate to many of the situations she described.  I'm glad that she brought up that in many cases, your own prejudices and insecurities work against you to make the experiences even more negative than they otherwise would have been.  Most of the tips involve shifting your own way of thinking or doing things to compensate for your bad habits.  It was also helpful for me to read these because it also gave me a better understanding of other women.

The most interesting conflict was the one between Success and Likability, which is what Chapter 3 is focused on.  Basically, being nice is necessary for being attractive as a woman in America.  Being attractive is important for self-esteem and feeling like a complete human being.  At work, there will always be someone who will be upset so matter what you do, even is you are just doing your job.  There will always be cases where you are inconveniencing someone, and they may take it personally or simply act like they're taking it personally.  If being agreeable is important than being disliked by even one person can be very disconcerting and uncomfortable.  As a result, many American women do not feel that leadership positions and being ambitious are fun or rewarding.  Sandberg considers this the biggest reason women eventually stop working or don't return to work after having children.  It's just not worth it.

I find this really interesting because I actually don't feel the same need to be likable.  I really think it is because Chinese culture does not emphasize being nice or even liked in order to be attractive.  There is much more of an emphasis on being smart, competent, and hard-working.  Those are the qualities one's self-worth are tied to.  As my friend would say, we feel the need to be a PMOS - productive member of society.  The principle is that if you are helpful you will be liked, but good intentions are useless.  So now that I understand the need to be nice and liked, I can better understand American women.  I can also see why there are many Chinese and Taiwanese-American women in male-dominated fields and moving up corporate ladders right now.  

I wrote up more of my thoughts in a google doc where I listed what I considered to be the main points in each chapter.  I'm planning on using it for a discussion on the book.


Friday, August 16, 2013

NYC Weekend

I visited some friends in NYC this past weekend with Alicia.  It was the first time I really spent any time in Brooklyn, which was pretty nice, actually.  We went to Smorgasbord, which was pretty much hipster food booths.

We also went and got food massages in Chinatown.  We found a place that wasn't sketchy.  The guys giving us massages didn't really speak English, so we also got a bonus Chinese lesson.  They did talk about learning English from TV shows so they knew "Are you kidding me?"

Alicia and I went to the Guggenheim and the Met.  The Guggenheim had a Turrell exhibit, who apparently is kind of a big deal.  He has some interesting work, but most of the exhibit was fairly underwhelming while the descriptions were extremely pretentious.

I like the contemporary art at the Met, though.  This is one by Joan Mitchell.  I guess it's just because I like colors.

I also got some crepe cakes at Lady M Confections.  It is in fact better than a crepe or a cake.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ready to be Mentored

Lately, I've been getting some really helpful advice and connections from persons of authority or just people further along in their careers.  I've come to recognize those people as mentors.  It could just be coincidence or luck.  It has certainly helped that I've gotten better at communicating about ideas.  My definition of a mentor has also evolved to be more inclusive.  This was partly from reading the chapter about mentors "Lean In," by Sheryl Sandberg.  She wrote about shifting the focus to being an interesting person with good ideas rather than having a goal be to get a mentor.  It was also helpful to participate in a discussion about mentors at AdaCamp, which was a conference for women and open technology.  I used to think a mentor would always be someone in some obvious position such as a professor or someone on my own career path.  These days it's never so obvious because everyone is changing careers or has additional interests you might not know about.

There was a more internal change, too.  I feel that I am more open now to accepting advice.  I think I have been waiting this whole time to have more completely formed opinions, perspectives, and ambitions.  I am realizing that in the meantime I may have been avoiding people I thought were potential mentors because I didn't want to be influenced too much.  I also didn't want people to be offended if I didn't take their advice so it was in fact a form of conflict avoidance.

On the whole, I am glad I did that, but I am also excited to be entering a new phase now.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Comedy Gold

Everything I say is within a hamming distance to what I really meant to say.  

also, yeah, I'm behind in updates.  Whatever.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Plant Baby Shower

My air plants are having babies!  sniff* They grow up so fast...

I'm having a party to celebrate.  :)

I made an invite last night.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Social Governance Securities Exchange

My friend and I wrote up a submission to the Industrial Efficiency contest on the Climate CoLab.

We recommended creating a new securities exchange for companies who want to be leaders in corporate social responsibility and investors who are interested in such companies.

Check it out and support our proposal!

I even made a little logo.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pretty Insides

If our insides were pretty, maybe this is what they would look like.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Climate Change Ethics

A common argument for mitigating climate change is that we have a moral imperative to future generations.  Most of us don't think about this moral argument much beyond this general idea.  It turns out that weighing the welfare of future generations is an unavoidable aspect of any policies that have long term impacts.  As a result, ethical and philosophical considerations are important to policy analysis, cost benefit analysis, and other economic analysis of climate change mitigation.  The article below gives an overview of several books about the issue.

So far I read most of Climate Matters by John Broome, a philosopher at Oxford.  It is a pretty easy read and relatively short.  It's really good for a concise presentation of the important ethical considerations for climate policy and the pitfalls of economic analysis and cost-benefit analysis for climate change.

I also read half of Stephen Gardiner's A Perfect Moral Storm.  It is a longer and slightly more academic exposition about ethics and climate change.  It is also very good, though.  Gardiner incorporates more citations of other prominent thinkers and more thoroughly dissects opposing arguments.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Book on Corporate Social Responsibility

I just started reading the Market for Virtue, which is a book on corporate social responsbility (CSR) by David Vogel, a prominent professor at the UC Berkeley business school (Haas).

It basically is an overview of CSR and an analysis of its strengths as well as shortcomings. important shortcoming of CSR is its failure to appreciate the critical role of public policy in promoting more responsible corporate behavior

In contrast, it cites examples of several prominent companies who have supported public policies that would apply to all firms so that the large companies wouldn't be at a competitive disadvantage or always be bearing the brunt of activism.

1. Starbucks supporting national health care
2. Wal-Mart backing raising minimum wage
3. Nike supporting internationally binding labor standards

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Double Sums

I used this identity today.  It was sooo fun.  Now that I know it I can show they're equivalent, but I was kinda sad I couldn't think of it myself.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Oscar the Homeless Grouch

I went to a party themed "Sesame St. Apocalypse" this weekend.  

I went as Oscar after he has to sell the trashcan after running out of money.  

It's probably because there are separate recycling bins for cans and bottles now so Oscar lost a major source of revenue.  Maybe he should get into the e-waste business.  

Also, wearing tights over slippers is fun and make for the perfect muppet feet!  Your feet get sweaty, though.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Frank the Frankentable

I made a table out of some scrap wood from a shelf and an ikea table top that has two heights - coffee table and dinner table height.

I used hinges and then window sash locks.

It was really fun!  Window sash locks aren't the most structurally sound, though.  If we changed heights frequently, they might break.  But oh well, they look cool.

 ratcheting screw drivers are awesome!

so are clamps, magnets, and glue!

it LIVES!!!
as a dinner table

as a coffee table

New Hat

Yeah, I'm finally tired of sun in my eyes + baked forehead.  This way I don't have to wear sunglasses, sunscreen or worry about getting a glasses tan.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Eloquent Thoughts

I'm working on two research papers, both of which have the potential to be very good, and I was just thinking today, "I just need to not procrastinate like crazy so that I get a reasonable product instead of a giant pile of crap."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Main Interests

Today someone asked me what my main focus is for my career, and I momentarily forgot.  It occurred to me I need to have a more rehearsed answer for when people ask me this so here goes.

I have several main interests, and they are:

1.) carbon footprinting of banking and financial sector.
2.) decision making, data management, and information systems,
3.) social entrepreneurship

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Where the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill of 2009 went wrong?

In the first term of the Obama administration, a big healthcare bill was passed while the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, otherwise known as ACES, sputtered out.

I read an article in my Energy Policy class by Theda Skocpol that had an interesting hypothesis about why the climate change bill didn't pass.
Naming the Problem: What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight against Global Warming

According to the article, it's not because there's only enough political capital for one policy (see page 19) nor is it because there was not enough support from the White House (see page 18).  Instead, one major difference between the campaigns for ACES and Obamacare is that the proponents for the climate bill focused more on insider bargaining and media ads while a coalition outside the beltway was formed for healthcare known as HCAN (see pages 42 - 46).  The new coalition engaged interest groups outside of the beltway and influenced law-making.  HCAN formed the bridge between the Democratic DC insiders and the progressives further to the left outside DC ("liberal elite" + "hippies").  In contrast, efforts by cap and trade proponents are characterized by one-way communications from DC to the public (see page 47).

Fava Beans Look So Pretty

Fava beans are in season!  I boiled beets and fava beans in the same water, and it was pretty.

Monday, April 1, 2013


It occurred to me that Michael Cera looks kinda like Chinese comedian Feng Gong.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Survival and a cat dream

For some reason the humans had to run away.  We were on some really large planet/world that was inhabited by other advanced species, though.  I was part of a group of 6 friends.  We went to some place that was like a desert with a lot of rocks.  It was kind of like Arizona. We then found a place that was inhabited by some advanced species/alien race.  We went in a deserted house, and some of the lights turned on but not all of them.  I went into a bathroom that had a shower and had a lot of stainless steel.  You needed special permissions to turn on additional lights or to use the shower.  I tried to turn on the shower anyway, and then alarms went off so we had to run away again back to the desert.  Then we came across some more greenery.  It was an area inhabited by yet another species.  They looked like humans so we realized we could blend in.  We then went to a restaurant/motel, and our server was a woman who was being really friendly and explaining about the relationship between their species and the humans.  The restaurant was a series of wooden booths that had cushioned seating around a large square wooden table.  It was sort of like a covered patio.  After eating, I laid back and fell asleep.  I pooped my pants in my sleep (in my dream not real life) and was trying to figure out how to get up and go to the bathroom inconspicuously.  But then a cat came and walked all over me.  I pet it even though I was still asleep (in my dream).  The cat sat down next to my head and was purring.  It felt so real that I opened my eyes in real life to check if there was a cat, but there wasn't.

I need to draw the different scenes at some point.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Recology Exhibit

The SFO airport has a fun recology exhibit in Terminal 3!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Data Analysis in the Public Sector

NYC mayor's geek squad uses Bayesian statistics for policymaking and enforcing existing policies.  I think it would be the kind of job I might want to do after I graduate, or at least the kind of role I'd like to play.

Actually I'm taking a class right now on Decision Analysis, where the data analysis described in the article is only one step of a decision analysis process.  I think it can provide a lot of good guidance on how to approach problems, although I don't think it has been used very much in the public sector.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Don't Always Get Smashed...

but when I do I drink gin!  (yeah it only takes a shot...but then i can sober up in an hr!)

new fav gin is the Botanivore from St. George's Distillery.  actually my roommate laureli introduced us to St. George's Distillery in Alameda.  we went on a distillery tour, and they had us try this.  it's really really good to drink straight.  my friend says that the Terroir is even better if you like the aromatic botanicals, which i DO.

Party Invite

Alicia and I are throwing a dinner party next Wed, and I just made a little poster for it!  We used to be roommates, and we named it Fly House Fly.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Starting the Air Plant Collection

I first found out about airplants last year, and I thought that they were pretty cool, but I didn't think much of them.  Lately I've been seeing them around a lot, and I'm inspired to get more of them and stuff them into random containers.  It's just nice to have plants around the house, and plants that don't even need dirt seem like they could be easy enough for me...

Portrait of the Air Plant as a Young Plant

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Shoes!!!

From a consignment store near my house.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Yippie Sensibilities

GG Boutique sells fancy plant things.  Before I could figure out what the name was, I called it "the terrarium place."  It's like mid-upscale hippie design, which is like yuppie + hippie = yippie!  Very Berkeley (or maybe NorCal in general).

I got some laminated flower petal earrings there.  They're by this person.

I like 'em.