Friday, October 8, 2010

What's our Game Plan?

When we lived in China, my wife and I were having dinner with a great Chinese friend.  As often happened, conversation turned to the U.S. and its role in the world.  Our Chinese friend grew increasingly upset with what he saw as U.S.-led injustices in the world.  Frustrated with the direction of the conversation (and always careful not to enter too deeply into political discussions in China), my wife finally said, “You’re right.  You know everything about America.  We air our laundry for the world to see.  The problem is, you know nothing about China!”

Pow!  Right in the sore spot. 

Fortunately, the Chinese are gracious people.  We changed the conversation, enjoyed our dinner, and have remained friends to this day.

I occurs to me that we know increasingly little about our own country.  Our Constitutional roots long forgotten, we look to those in Washington to solve every problem.  In the global soccer match with China, we fly from country to country, falling on the tarmac and screaming in an effort to draw a foul that never comes.  To be sure, the world is not fair.  Other countries have not opened their markets to our products to the same degree that we have opened ours.  Yes, the RMB is likely undervalued.  Still, perhaps it’s time that we stop thinking so much about the competition and focus on our own game.

There’s a story to be told in the numbers Wall Street obsesses over – the story of our game strategy.  Before we ship the last engineer to a low-cost country, perhaps we should ask someone to do some analysis.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


My daughter's been running in Vibram 5-Fingers for months, and loves them.  I've been waiting until after a particular race was past to give them a try, and tried for the first time today.  As often as possible, we run on trails, and I'm especially glad we did today, as I'm sure the soft, wet ground was more forgiving on my thinly-covered feet than the asphalt would have been.

As expected, my calves and ankles tired more quickly than normal, and the big toe on my right foot is feeling a bit painful right at the moment.  I'm sure these pains will pass as my feet get stronger.  My initial impression -- I love them!!  I enjoyed the feeling of intimate contact with the ground, the feel of my feet curving to meet the surface.  I also enjoyed the enhanced mental game of carefully watching the ground for things that might hurt -- though I did miss a particularly painful field of newly fallen acorns.

For those of us who find a sense of spirituality, almost moving meditation, in running, these funny looking shoes only enhance the experience.   If you haven't already, give them a try!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Trail Running

Humans were born to run.  That’s what I’ve read.  I’ve always had a bit of trouble truly believing that.  Now I’m not a bad runner.  In fact, I’m pretty quick on the short and middle distances.  Still, it’s painful for me.  I work at it, and it works at me.

I can imagine our ancestors rising over the African plain on thin, spindly legs, hands shielding eyes against the painful glare, watching carefully the movements of antelope that would feed the tribe in the coming days.  I can hear the gentle footfalls and deep, regular breathing as the hunters run, for hours, giving chase to a much quicker animal, that grows ever hotter, until at last it lays down and is caught.  I’ve always imagined that my clan showed up an hour or so later lugging all of the butchering equipment and carried the meat back to camp.

Today, my daughter and I went for a wonderful run on some trails near our house.  The scenery is magical – gentle grassy hills, dark forest, and floating bridges over dark, stale creeks.  The run began for me as always, stiff and painful, but then smoother and faster as my tight muscles relaxed into the moment.

“Look, Tumnus and Mr. Beaver,” my daughter exclaimed, and then dashed on ahead.

I smiled, feeling the joy of physical effort in this playful setting.  Soon, I was lost in my own thoughts.  Putting aside my watch and ongoing calculations of how much distance was left, I relaxed my muscles, let go of my painful knee, and let my breath come as it would – in rhythm with the effort, and in rhythm with the forest around me.    My stride changed, as I imagined my heavy shoes falling away to be replaced by thin leather pads.  My back straightened as I bore the weight of wooden bow and hunting tools.  My breath came quieter and deeper, and I forgot all but the moment, held firmly in this time by the gentle pain in my legs as my spirit communed with those that had run before me.  I think I’m becoming a believer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Better Budget for NY?

I just came across this report, written in January of this year, by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.  It's a very nice piece covering a brief history of how the state ended up in this budgetary mess, and what we'll have to do to get out.  Those in state government will be deeply troubled -- it will require some governing, not just tax increases.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Still No Government in Iraq ran a nice piece over the weekend by veteran Middle East reporter Andrew Lee Butters.  The article describes nicely the maneuvering by Allawi and Maliki to form a majority coalition -- and most importantly, to be named Prime Minister.

It seems that a lack of government is having little effect on Iraq, and many would argue that given the ineffectiveness of the Iraqi government, that no government is actually better.  The longer-term implications of this impasse, however, are most definitely negative.  The Iraqi government is locked in a struggle for legitimacy.  Who can provide for the needs of the people?  Who can provide security?  Is it Al Qaeda?  Iran?  For the future of Iraq and the Middle East, the answer had better be the lawfully elected Government of Iraq.  The longer this stalemate goes on, the less legitimate the government is seen in the eyes of the people, and the greater the opportunity for other players to exert influence on the population.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

China the World's Largest Energy User

China Becomes the World's Largest Energy User

This shouldn't come as a surprise, but it did happen a couple of years earlier than anticipated by most experts.  Reasons include better energy efficiency in the US as well as the fact that the current economic troubles had less of an effect on China.

Now, more than ever, China is competing with the US and the world for access to energy.  Chinese oil companies have become major players in the redevelopment of Iraqi oil fields, and Chinese oil companies dominate the oil industry in areas where the US won't operate, such as Sudan.

Whatever your stand on global warming, oil drilling, and carbon trading, it seems we all have to agree that energy independence, or at least less reliance on foreign energy, is an issue of national security.  Increasing demand and flat or declining supply guarantees not just higher prices ahead, but the real possibility that sufficient supply may not be available at any price.  What do you think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Letchworth State Park

I took the day off today and drove to Letchworth State Park.  It's a beautiful place, with some very nice trails suitable for running or walking.  The views of the river gorge are really refreshing, given the generally flat terrain in this part of the country.

But don't worry about stubbing a toe or anything, the nannies have made sure it's all safe.