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Archive for February, 2009

Obama-mania in Japan?

After work I stopped in at the local book shop to pick up the March issue of “Listening Chinese” magazine.  In the center of the store there was a huge display with all sorts of books with President Obama on the cover.  Now the Japanese are mostly apolitical, so this struck me as something quite odd.  After all, most Japanese have little interest in politics in their own country, so what gives with the US President?

It turns out that these books are study resources with speeches recorded on CD and then transcribed in English with the Japanese translation on the opposite page.  It struck me a really good idea too.  Unlike Bush Jr. and Clinton, Obama does not have a strong accent and is a very strong orator, making it quite easy to understand.  Apparently these books are popular with businessmen and managerial types.  It is popular to alude to “change” in speeches by managers–it happens in my office too.  I suppose the managers just want to try and get everyone’s spirits up about the economic conundrum we’re all treading through.

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Bask in the glory!

China has been developing its own radio access standard for mobile wireless networks.  The name of the technology is TD-SCDMA, and what it stands for is irrelevant.  I just like the banner ad on the technology forum web page.

I have always been fascinated by the propaganda posters from the early days of the revolutions in the USSR and China, and for some reason the tone of this advert strikes a chord.

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The Death of My Dictionary

Yesterday, after five years of dedicated service to my learning goals, my PDA kicked the bucket.  Just last summer my iBook died from a logic board failure after five years of service.  I suppose five years is the magic number, eh?  While upgrading to a new MacBook was wonderful (so much faster!), I don’t really think I can gain much from a new PDA.

I don’t really use it for note keeping and what not.  Perhaps I might if I purchased one of those foldable, portable keyboards.  I don’t know.  In fact, I mostly used the PDA to run a pen-style input Chinese dictionary that I came to depend on more than I had realized.  When I came across a character I did not know, all I had to do was draw it on the screen the dictionary would recognize it and display the pronunciation and the meaning.  It also had flash card support so I could review vocabulary while I was commuting to work in the train or bus.  The software truly made me more productive in my Chinese studies, and now I feel quite lost without it.  Last night I was working through a story in my Chinese reader and I had to skip over the parts I couldn’t read because I could not look the meanings up on the spot.

So now I’m left with a problem: do I replace the PDA?  PDAs seem to be a dying market.  Palm has end-of-lifed their product and that effectively leaves you with old Palm devices still on the market or Windows Mobile devices.  With palming exiting the market, it means that I can either get a Windows Mobile type PDA for around US$300, or I can get a smart phone.  If I lived in Europe or Greater Asia (ex-Japan, ex-Korea)  I’d go with the smart phone as I could take my phone on any network and just swap out the SIM card when needed.  I could use the phone for years and not have to worry about upgrading to a new phone if I switched providers.  But in Japan and the US, the mobiles seem to be so tied to the carriers, and in the case of the US, a big move could force one to switch to a new provider as the former provider might not even have a network deployed in the new city.

I  guess I will have to decide if it is worth the cost to get a new PDA. My palm device was US $150, and if you spread that out over five years, I paid US $2.50 a month for it.  For the productivity boost in my language studies, it was surely worth the expense.  A new PDA will cost my $300 + $50 for synchronization software, and if it lasts five years it would come out to $5.83 a month, still worth the expense I think.  HOWEVER, Windows Mobile PDAs are complex devices and I seriously doubt one would last five years.  The Palm was so simple, but PDAs these days have WiFi and card readers and what not–the more features, the quicker they break down!

I can’t see myself hauling around a paper dictionary though.  While paper dictionaries are still invaluable, I often do my study during commutes and lunch breaks when I don’t have anything else to do.  The other option is to study at home and use the Internet based dictionaries.  While they are helpful, I hate studying in front of a computer because the Internet is quite distracting!  I can’t imagine being a university student these days with all of the mobile phones and Facebook and Youtube all of that.

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The World Keeps on Spinning

It has been awhile since I have posted anything.  Work has been insane, but then again what is new?  I’ve been getting home around 10 PM most nights, and then I eat a small dinner, put my son in the bath, and before I know it is is 1 AM.  I’m glad I have time to put him in the bath, he always seems happy to soak in the warm water.  One day I’ll teach him the splendidness of hot springs.

So the world has been quite busy recently! (Sorry for the Financial Times links — you have to register to seem them, perhaps the NYTimes ones as well)

This week the Mobile World Congress is going down in Barcelona, Spain.  It is THE EVENT in the wireless telecoms industry, and I’ve been following the daily news all throughout the work day.  Everyone, including myself, is excited about LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks that should start to appear next year.  My company is of course participating– how I wish I could have gone!  Alas, I’m stuck at my desk with just the computer.  I really would have enjoyed walking around the booths and seeing the new technologies as well as meeting other engineers.  I once attended Wireless Japan a few years back, but it is not on the same scale and, as is typical in Japanese business, the event did not leave much room for meeting with other engineers unless you already knew them beforehand.

For those who have followed the news, what do you think of Finance Minister Nakagawa?  For those who didn’t see it, he was sloshed out of his brains at a G7 press conference.  Certainly his job is not easy in the current economic enviornment, but he is an LDP top dog and he ought to know better than sitting down for a press conference in that state.  With LDP gaffes like this happening again and again, if the LDP manages to keep control of the government, then there truly is no hope for the future.  My wife mused on how it was unbelievable that his aides let him appear like that in front of the camera.  Can you imagine the reporters at the press conference?  They must have gone from complete awe, to disbelief, and then to pure joy at the opportunity that landed in front of them.

Next up, China warns us all against protectionism and its “poison”.  I normally don’t take a very negative stance against China, but I like to point it out when I feel that the Chinese government is getting a bit cheeky.  After all, this statement from a country that *finally* opened up some of its radio spectrum for use by non-Chinese mobile network technologies.  And they did it all of this time to protect their own  home-grown wireless technology (TD-SCDMA).  China says the goal is  avoiding to have to pay out all of the patent royalties that foreign companies own on existing UMTS and EV-DO.  Sorry, perhaps this is getting a bit too technical.

That’s not all, the US Navy ponders the goals of the Chinese submarine fleet in the Pacific Rim.  At the same time, the economic downturn is causing Australia to reconsider its relationship with China.  When the times were good and the money was flowing, all were happy.  The Financial Times also has an interesting piece on the “bad banks” in China.

In other news, it looks like more in Taiwan will be kicking the can down the street as GDP continues to implode.  Join the club, my friends on the beautiful island. Even the godly Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TMSC) is being humbled by the times.

Secretary of State Clinton is in Indonesia on her first walkabout in Asia. Let us hope that the Obama administration will embrace Asia rather than moving the continent to the backseat like he-whom-ye-shall-not-speak-of.  Stronger ties with Indonesia will also be a good thing too, though I wonder if the visit was just a PR chance due to Obama’s background.   Seriously though, I hope that the State Dept. and the Obama Administration can create better relations with Indonesia and Malaysia.  Clinton might be the right person for the job too.  I remember back in 2005 being in the Taipei 101 shopping center and there were huge banners for former President Clinton’s book.  I asked my friend about it and he said that Clinton was really popular in Taiwan.  Perhaps the Clintons are well-regarded throughout Asia? Or maybe just Taipei.

Finally, there is a lot going on back home.  The boys in Detroit are back to begging for money from the government again.  I don’t care how much money you give them, they’ll find a way to spend it all without accomplishing a thing.  In Washington Congress and the Executive pontificate their grand bank nationalization strategies for getting us out of this mess, reminding us how not to be like the Japanese and be more like the Nords.  Also, it looks like it is not only Wall Street and Detroit that will be getting government money–now the troubled homeowner will be getting a cut as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I support President Obama and some of his long-term agendas, but I’m just not sure about all of this free money.  I guess we won’t be seeing much money being invested in new technologies, transportation and urban living enviroments that will help reduce the dependency on oil and sprawled out lifestyles.  Perhaps I can get a bailout for a relocation back to the US?  Who would I write to for that…

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I have a dream one day I will be able to go to a  job where the following things are considered normal and sensible.

  • So I need to be working at a work bench.  I need a computer to do my job.  What I need is a notebook computer instead of a stupid budget desktop PC–I hate having to walk across the room every five minutes to to flip a switch.  Damn you forever, Remote Desktop and all of the IT monkeys who champion it as the cost saving solution!  I’d rather just go sit at my workbench and–wait for it–do work at my workbench instead of having to remotely connect from my cubicle.
  • More than one test environment so that when we’re getting ready to ship a product, different teams can perform this amazing concept called “working in parallel.”
  • Being able to know that when I approach my workbench, I’d know if anyone borrowed anything because they’d have sent me an e-mail letting me know that need something, and when I might be able to get it back.  If I had a voice mail-box that would be fine too.  Just let me know before I get ready to start where I left out and find out all of my preparation was for naught.
  • When I’m supposed to build my work on top of someone’s prior work, it would be nice if they made the a list of the things I need to make their crap work.  I grow tired of trying to use their work, only to find it is depending on X, Y and Z, which are dependent on A, B, and C, respectively.

The list is much longer, but I die a little when I start to think about it.

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