Monday, September 29, 2008

Tale of Destroyed Laptop and Financial Bailout!

A week ago, my one-year-old laptop suffered a catastrophic failure. Of course, this happened only a few months out of warranty. Like a responsible person, I did have all of my data backed up, and so was quickly back at work. I didn't realize, however, how disruptive it would be to lose all of my applications for the 7+ days it took to get a new computer online and fully personalized. Imagine, suddenly being without Adobe Acrobat, or without your Outlook add-in that helps you manage projects and action items (GTD for me).

Thanks to the good folks at LyteSpeed Computers, I'm back!! The repair techs at LyteSpeed went out of their way to provide me fantastic customer service. I'm going back to them for all my computing needs, and if you need computer help in Rochester, I recommend you do the same.

On an unrelated but much more important point, there is something I don't understand about the financial bailout. What happens to the money when (if?) the government gets paid back? There is much concern about oversight of the funds when they are given to the good folks on Wall Street, but what about oversight of the funds when they are returned to the folks in Washington? Is it mandatory that any funds returned to Washington as a result of repayment by the Wall St. firms or through sale of the assests are used to pay down the $700B in additional debt we just incurred? More likely, our trusty representatives are already planning constructive ways to spend it. Anyone know?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

China: Cheap No More

I just came across this piece from Fortune Small Business, the online edition. The story is similar to others we've all read recently -- China's costs are rising. For you China veterans, there's nothing in there that will surprise you. Costs are rising due to new employment and environmental laws, coupled with increases in commodity prices and a weak US dollar. The interesting part of the article is that it approaches the issue from the standpoint of small business.

I often read small business journals, as much for inspiration as for actual information, and I'll likely add this site to my list of regular scans. It looks like there's some good stuff here, including several profiles of very small businesses operating internationally.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 -- Always Remember

Where were you on this day seven years ago? I think all Americans can tell you with vivid clarity exactly where they were, and the cascade of emotions they went through as the events unfolded.

I was working at a wonderful R&D company in Hanover, NH. As lab manager, I was making my normal morning rounds, and peered into the electronics lab to see our HVAC contractor standing on a chair adjusting a speaker as the e-techs huddled around. I walked in to see what the fuss was about, and learned of the first attack on the World Trade Center.

I'll admit that things since then have been a mixture of good and bad. Some policies have worked, others haven't, but I believe in America. My family has been in this great country since before the Revolution, and we celebrate generations of veterans, my wife and I included. I know that over time, we'll evaluate our actions (sometimes reluctantly), we'll air our dirty laundry for all the world to see (and criticize), and we'll move forward as the great nation we are.

Don't forget how you felt that day. Always remember!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hong Kong Democracy

I admit, I don't know as much about Hong Kong as I should. I've visited several times, and have been fascinated by the energy and diversity of people. I've wondered how the transition to Chinese control has effected the people, and have had several conversations with Hong Kong residents. I've also talked to several people who relocated to Canada prior to the Chinese takeover. As with all things Chinese, I guess we'll just have to wait and watch as things develop. The world has never seen a development of this magnitude, nor a time in modern history when the existing power structure has shifted so dramatically. In short, it's going to be interesting.

I came across this piece in the WSJ today about democracy in Hong Kong. I hope you find it interesting.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another Quick Note on Fitness

This has nothing to do with China, but I just checked the Crossfit page to get the workout of the day and watch a couple of quick videos. I love this program, and if you really care about fitness, you'll learn to love it as well. Check it out!!

China's Fitness Craze

This AP piece on China's recently-developed fitness craze made me fondly recall the great gyms I worked out at in Ningbo. I work out pretty much daily, and did during the years I lived in China as well. The gyms in Ningbo were really great! They were well equipped, well lit, and for the most part, well staffed. There was a bit of frustration with gym etiquette (ever driven in China?), but in general, the atmosphere was conducive to working out.

There is a scene in many gyms, however, that I believe must be common across China. I'm almost certain that any expat you ask will describe a similar scene, and that is the group of confused, middle-aged Chinese gentlemen huddled in the locker room, wrapped in towels (or not), smoking. I'm sure it's getting better now, but it definitely prevented me from spending much time in the locker room!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin and China

Whichever way you lean politically, I think you have to acknowledge that Sarah Palin gave a fantastic performance yesterday evening. I, personally, am impressed. I know the speech was very conservative, and likely had most liberals knotting their fists and cursing, while most conservatives were yelling like they were at the Super Bowl. Love her or hate her, she definitely did what she needed to. (On another personal note, I'll trade my governor for either Gov. Palin or Hawaii's Linda Lingle.)

I visited the Alaska government web site at to see what I could find about Gov. Palin and China. I found this piece describing the growth of Alaska's exports to China, mostly seafood, minerals, and forest products. In any event, she does have some experience dealing with China, and I look forward to learning more about her position on international trade.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Investing in China

Over the long weekend, I thought about my personal investments, and how to structure my portfolio for the future. Through a stroke of amazing luck (believe me, no skill involved in this one), I was largely in cash in the summer of last year. I essentially sold all at the peak. I've had a good time researching US and some European companies, and getting some great deals on some quality companies that were unfairly caught up in the market turmoil.

As I think about the broad market, however, I just can't get extremely excited. I'm no economist, but it seems to me that there's still lots of bad news out there with respect to the financial sector, there are still many houses on the market, commodity prices are still high. My read -- a long, slow recovery that begins I know not when.

Ah, but the developing world with the blazing growth rates!! How to participate in that?!? I'm troubled by that. I'd like to get more involved with investing in China, India, and maybe some of the oil-producing countries. I'm not sure, however, that tossing money at an index fund that tracks a broad market index is the way to go. I'm not certain that the ShangHai index in general is a great investment right now. Still, there are many quality Chinese companies that I'm sure will be listed over the coming year -- many fantastic investments. The problem is, can you trust Chinese financial data? Even those companies listed on foreign exchanges? Anyone have any ideas here? I'd love to be able to run valuations on Chinese companies the way I do on US companies. Is the data out there?