The coup

I’m not a financial guru nor has this weblog ever had more than a passing interest in finance. The current ‘deprecession’ gives me a giant headache whenever I try to come to terms with what it all means (our lack of knowledge in this very complex subject gives more power to those who have control over the system). I may not agree with their thesis, I think everything is about money, but I do like the following paragraph from Rolling Stone’s ‘The Big Takeover’:

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That’s $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG’s 2008 losses).

Read: The Big Takeover

Casa de socrates redux

While the atmosphere is somewhat unchanged, the music is a bit louder and a bit heavy on the easy listening cover tunes, it’s hard to recommend a restaurant that treats it’s customers with such indifference. I was there yesterday hoping to use one of the comfortable couch and tables to work with a Taipei based artist. Alas they reserved those tables for seemingly mystical customers as the waitresses kept saying ok have a seat and the boss kept coming over and saying no. No one ever came to sit in them.
It more inconvenience than anything else and perhaps not worth mentioning but if I can’t rant about the omnipresent poor customer service in Hsinchu here than where can I.
Previously: Casa de socrates


The film Amadeus dramatizes and romanticizes the divine origins of creative genius. Antonio Salieri, representing the talented hack, is cursed to live in the time of Mozart, the gifted and undisciplined genius who writes as though touched by the hand of God … Of course this is hogwash. There are no ‘natural’ geniuses … No-one worked harder than Mozart. By the time he was twenty-eight years old, his hands were deformed because of all the hours he had spent practicing, performing, and gripping a quill pen to compose…
As Mozart himself wrote to a friend, “People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.”

From Twyla Tharp’s book ‘The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

On reading books

“Some books are to be tasted,” he wrote, “others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books…. ” (Clearly Bacon predicted the rise of the graduate research assistant, trudging through the monographic literature for some great professor’s benefit.) – Francis Bacon

I see in the turning of literal pages — pages bound in literal books — a compelling larger value, and perceive in the move away from the book a move away from a certain kind of cultural understanding, one that I’m not confident that we are replacing, never mind improving upon…. The book is part of a system. And that system stands for the labor and taxonomy of human understanding, and to touch a book is to touch that system, however lightly. – Sven Birkerts

Taken from The Reader, commentary on Amazon’s Kindle 2, by Scott McLemee.

Overnight at Flying Cow Ranch

We spent this past weekend on a quick getaway at Taiwan’s version of the American farm, Flying Cow Ranch. It’s nice to get some exercise, fresh air, and drink some tasty milk. The weekend was timed to coincide with Camren’s 3rd birthday.
While it’s a nice place to visit it starts to loose it’s appeal after you have been there a few times. But it’s close and there are very few places where you can go and experience some wide open fields. The overpriced pony rides and farm animal feeding provide some fun for the kids. It’s also nice to provide Camren and Catriona with some kind of connection with the food they eat and drink.
They used to have some fun classes at night where you could make butter and ice cream but they were replaced on this trip with DIY pizza which was disappointing. I bake with the kids all the time but how many times do you get to make butter?
Food choices were pretty slim this trip – overpriced Taiwanized Italian pasta, hot pot, or fried chicken and french fries. Non of it was very appealing. Breakfast was a slight improvement with boiled eggs, bread, and yogurt. They used to sell nice fresh brewed coffee at the outside concessions but it was replaced with some kind of boiled tofu junk that you see in 7-11. Perhaps there demographic is changing.
My wife has suggested we go back every month but I think a picnic in the hills near our house might be almost as satisfying. We’ll head back next year to milk the cows though.
More photos in my Flickr set.

People connected and communicating more productive

This is related to the work I have been involved with lately. From “The ROI of being social at work” by Matthew Hodgson:

MIT research [1] shows that 40% of creative teams productivity is directly explained by the amount of communication they have with others to discover, gather, and internalise information. In other MIT studies, research shows that employees with the most extensive digital networks are 7% more productive than their colleagues. Furthermore, those with the most cohesive face-to-face networks are 30% more productive.
This reinforces similar research by Aral, Brynjolfsson & Van Alstyne [2] that highlights the importance of these networks because they “strongly influence information diffusion … and access to novel information”. Availability of these networks, their research shows, is a highly significant predictor of worker productivity.
Since information does not diffuse randomly in organisations, but rather reflects the nature and structure of human relationships, providing the right tools that support human social relationships, communication and interaction, will provide a significant ROI to the enterprise.

1. Pentland, A. 2009. How Social Networks Network Best. Harvard Business Review, Feb, p 37.
2. Aral, Brynjolfsson & Van Alstyne. 2007. Productivity Effects of Information Diffusion in Networks.