Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The traffic light analogy

In the city traffic light is a fact of life. People know from their daily experience that regulation of traffic flow is necessary, even if incovenient when you are in a hurry. In the rural area, traffic light is regarded as an undue intrution to personal freedom and judgement of the traffic situation.

This difference in daily experience also explains the different opions about gun control. Rural residents see owning guns as the only guarantee of their own safety and security. Because of its vast space and longer distance, if there is a violent crime it will be over before the police arrive. For the city dwellers, on the other hand, the crowded, diversified, quickly changing environment make shooting back impractical. It will be safer for everyone if no one is allowed to carry guns in the city except for police. As a result support for gun control is strong.

This rural city divide may also to some degree explain difference in political ideology and party affiliation. The rural farm states are conservative because their living space is large and far in between. Naturally they prefer more freedom and less rules. For example, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota are rural and conservative. In population centers like New York City and Los Angels people understand rules are necessary for busy, fast moving city life. As a result their leaning is liberal, which is giving authority to beauracrats, and everybody have to live with building codes, fire codes and so on.

US is a big country that encompass both rural areas and large cities. I think there is always going to be debates about which way is better - more freedom or more rules. I also think this is why a high degree of local autonomy is necessary: some areas need more rules; others more freedom. If possible, both should have their way.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spanner distributed global database

Spanner distributed global database

Spanner is Google's scalable, multi-version, globally-distributed, and synchronously-replicated database. It is the first system to distribute data at global scale and support externally-consistent distributed transactions.

This is one of the most important technologies of the future. Read when I have time.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boston Globe endorse Elizabeth Warren

Boston Globe endorse Elizabeth Warren

 "She’s a relentless striver whose life story represents the best of American upward mobility. As a young mother, she worked her way through community colleges and state universities to become the nation’s top expert on financial consumer protection."

"And after earning an enviable job at Harvard Law School, she pushed her way into the political arena, wrangling with such renowned inside players as Larry Summers and Tim Geithner to achieve her goal of creating a consumer protection bureau. Her crowning achievement, the bureau guards the interests of average citizens contending with credit-card companies, student-loan holders, auto lenders, credit bureaus, and more. Anyone who’s felt powerless to escape a fee that seems unfairly imposed, or to cover an interest rate they didn’t bargain for, owes Warren a debt of gratitude."

"The fact that she didn’t stay on the sidelines, enjoying her teaching gig, attests to her commitment to what she believes in."

What strikes me most, though, is that she was a registered Republican for 10 years. Not a politician back then, she turn to become a Democrat at the age of 45.

A firm believer of "personal freedom, personal responsibility" at young age, she realized through life experience how unfair life can be to some people. Her research into personal bankruptcy statistics changed her view on why people file for bankruptcy. Contrary to popular belief that these are irresponsible, reckless people, they are often victim of life's unpredictable fate - a health problem, a close relatives sudden death, and lost of job at an unfortunate time.

What strikes me, is that at $300,000 annual income, she doesn't need to get in these dirty fight. She can enjoy a good life quietly. But she chose to fight the debt collection industry, made and making more enemies in this huge interest group.

What drives her? According to her own words - Matthew 25:40 - "as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me."

To me, this should have been what Christianity is all about.

Algea oil not yet sustainable

So it is not yet feasible in large scale production.

I think algae oil as energy source and insect worm as protein source are two most promising things for a planet of 9 billion people.

Freedom and Social Justice

Free market (Laises-faire) doesn't mean it is OK to cook the book in the mold of Enron. It doesn't mean it's OK to lie about credit rating. It doesn't mean insider trading is fine. It doesn't mean it is OK to pollute the air, leave factory working conditions in danger of explosion, or ordering unnecessary medical service at public cost in the name of patient center medicine. Above all, free market doesn't mean greed before morality.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Will stocks do well in the coming decade?

US national debt held by the public stands at $11.3 trillion today. To pay down this debt, fiscal austerity - higher taxes and spending cuts - is inevitable. Given this fiscal background - government deleveraging - I think the economy will grow slowly. Stock performance, especially companies that focus on domestic market, are likely to be mediocre. I also think global economic growth will be slow in the coming decade, because of the amount of debt in the US, Japan, and European countires.

Just want to put down a note here to see if I am right in 2022.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Individual and interaction over process and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Iterative, incremental approach - get feedback quickly and respond quickly

Iterations of analyze, design, build, and implement

New product design
Evolving requierement
Experimental approach to solution using new technonoly
Client willing to staff product owner role
Team works best when managing itself

Roles: product owner, scrum master, team member

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Trust but verify

We trusted the auditors, and the demise of Arthur Andersen and Enron proved that trust was misplaced.

We trusted the rating agencies, and the AAA rated CMO suffered a 36% loss.

President Reagan was right - trust but verify.

It is hard to do. Auditors and credit rating agencies are professionals. It takes a lot of data and analysis to reach a correct conclusion. It takes time and effort. So we hired professionals to do the job and trusted their report and judgement. We even have regulations on insurance companies requiring bond portfolio meeting credit quality standard.

So we trusted. And they betrayed.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The human brain

By making our brains more flexible we pay the price of being more susceptible to schizophrenia.