Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Future of Hong Kong

Living and working for the past seven months in Hong Kong has been nothing less than dream. Hong Kong is full of all the luxuries of the west, but also has a charm that only the east could provide. I have been treated to fun and exciting things to do on a weekly basis, and although the air pollution is terrible compared to San Diego, it doesn’t hold a candle to the levels in some of the cities in Mainland China.
Yet, things in Hong Kong aren’t all they seem to be. There is an anxiety about the city. The leadership of the CCP in the Mainland has said a number of times that they hope to turn Shanghai into a major financial center by 2020. Obviously this would transfer the center of ‘financial services’ gravity away from Hong Kong, a financial service heavy economy, challenging the city to find new industries to keep it relevant and to maintain its high standard of living. But to be honest, when Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang announced his plan to add new industries to Hong Kong’s repertoire a couple months ago, few seemed to take him serious. Economically speaking, Hong Kong could be looking at a difficult future.
So why am I not scared for Hong Kong?
I regularly read one of Hong Kong’s free newspapers: The Standard. Earlier this week, as I was flipping through the pages on my lunch break, I got to a cluster of articles under the “China” section. The first was an article entitled “Internet fears deepen over ‘white list’ bid”. Apparently Beijing plans to block even more websites from people using websites in the Mainland. They say that this is to block the growing number of porn websites but politically dissenting websites will almost certainly be blocked too.
The next article was about a Father who started a website for parents of children who became ill from drinking tainted milk (tens of thousands of children became sick after executives at a baby formula factory put an industrial chemical into the formula to boost protein levels). The website was designed to provide information and resources to parents. The Father was arrested and jailed for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.
The last article was of a 53-year old man who was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for co-authoring a widely circulated petition that called for political reform (what was this guy thinking?). After a year, he is finally going to trial. European and US diplomats have been barred from attending the trial.
The collection of these three articles was too much for me. I started laughing. If I’m a country, I would be doing my best to make my country as enticing as possible to global talent. Yet it seems like the government is doing everything it can to make the prospect of life in China a nightmare. As a foreigner, I’m giving a lot of thought to if I ever want to work in the mainland. Can I get away with living and officing in Hong Kong, and just visiting the Mainland? Would any foreigner in their right mind ever think of setting up a ‘life’ in this country? Currently facebook is blocked there. When you consider the fact that the language barrier in even the most developed cities is still a very big issue, keeping in touch with friends from home (via facebook) is a very important thing.
The top global talent will continue to flock to Hong Kong. The economic opportunities of China combined with the freedoms and luxuries that only a global city like Hong Kong could provide will ensure this. As long as the leadership in China continue to make stupid moves, no foreigner in their right mind would bother to stick around the Mainland after their fortune has been made.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

..And Close The Loop

Though small, Hong Kong manages to pack in plenty of architectural wonders, tourist attractions, wildlife reserves and lots and lots people. It’s truly amazing how much Hong Kong has to offer in relation to its small size. But all this activity in such a small place has its downside. Waste in the ‘territory’ is becoming an increase problem. There are three landfills, which by the mid 2010’s, each will reach maximum capacity if the current growth rate of waste continues. This will require the HK Government to designate an additional 400 hectares to the development of a landfill, including the cutting down of precious carbon dioxide breathing trees, and adding another location where dangerous chemicals can enter the local habitat or poison the ground water.

Surprisingly, in my research I have found few initiatives in Hong Kong that have attempted to tackle this problem. Poisonous metals and chemicals aside, Hong Kong’s consumption-led life-style produces a staggering amount of solid waste – each year, more than 6 million tones of (municipal) solid waste is generated. Friends of the Earth (FoE), a global environmental advocate with a local branch in Hong Kong has a number of recycling initiatives for: clothing, CDs, electronics, etc; all of which, unfortunately, seem to be lacking critical features for success.

First, they lack the scale needed to engender consistent behavior. It is practically a truism to say behavior is a hard thing to change. If a service is not consistently provide, it will be hard to change peoples’ consumption and waste management behaviors. An example of a successful waste management program is when the government provides multiple bins for recycling different waste products and commits to picking those bins up on a consistent basis, over a long period of time. Unfortunately, FoE does not have the resources to commit to any recycling program of this scale and therefore cannot produce an effective recycling program.

Second, the programs do not attempt to manage or change the values of society. In Hong Kong it is polite not to spit, to give up your seat on the MTR (Subway) to the elderly, to throw rubbish in a bin, to use two hands to exchange name (business) cards and to wear a mask when you are sick. Unfortunately, it is neither polite nor impolite to recycle, reduce or reuse (rrr), it’s just something overly green people choose to do. In order to change behavior (without using economical stimulants. E.g. taxes), initiatives must change the perception of rrr – it must become as acceptable as holding the door for a perfect stranger.

Other programs in Hong Kong, such as the Energywi$e and Wastewi$e labeling schemes, are programs sponsored by the HK Gov that attempt to reward companies with positive publicity for their contribution to environmentally friendly practices. Unfortunately, these programs are also lacking. In order for these labels to be truly successful, consumers must first be aware of it and second value it. Both seem rare among HK consumers.

For my San Diego people, please have a look at http://www.recyclesandiego.org/. Recycle San Diego (RSD) offers a critical amount of services and flexibility for corporate clients and consumers alike to adjust their behaviors over time. RSD also participates in a number of community outreach and educational initiatives, attempting to change the values and priorities of consumers and professionals so that eventually recycling will become common etiquette.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Let's Be Problem Solvers

I sometimes get mad when I receive emails complaining about this or that. Someone isn't happy about Healthcare reform or someone isn't happy about outsourcing work to other countries. It is always the same name calling, bickering and complaining.

Do people simply like complaining? Does it help them deal with the ambiguity of an uncertain future? I have always heard that in a for profit company (arguably the most efficient and productive human organization) constantly pointing out the problems without offering solutions is a sure way to get yourself canned. Your CEOs and Managers don't care if you've identified a problem, they care if you've identified a problem and then SOLVED it. After all, problems without solutions just cause more problems, E.g. time delays, or complete inactivity. (there are always exceptions, some problems should be pointed out even when there is no solution yet)

There are thousands of voices all telling us how much is going wrong, but so few that are telling us how to solve those problems. When did society turn into a bunch of complainers? Has it always been like this? And most importantly, what can we do to reverse the tides of ignorance?

As I have said before, we must first become educated and then we must become the change in which we hope to see in the world.

There are a number of places that great ideas are being spread every day. TED.com offers a number of "ideas worth sharing" on a daily basis. Sharing them is easy. The site offers a number of ways to email or link the videos to friends. This is a video of Bill Gates talking about the work his foundation has been doing on malaria and education. It's really good.


I received this video from csrwire.com. By subsribing to the RSS feed using igoogle (you can do this with a number of programs including facebook and outlook) I don't even have to waste time visiting their website. I simply receive a link to their latest news articles on my google homepage. The video is about how architects at Virgina Tech have created a home that has a very small carbon footprint. The technology is really cool and has the potential to reduce energy consumption considerably. It is a great watch.


Know some other great websites? Please share!

Could you imagine if all of the people arguing about healthcare in the US, on the left and on the right, were actively seeking constructive solutions for the problem? What a different world we would be living in. What a BETTER world we would be living in.

I had planned on solving a problem of my own, but I will save that for my next post :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cultural Differences (humor)

My friend from France, Alexandra, sent me this amazing piece of comedy last night. Being a global business major and all.. this stuff is important to me ;). What do you think, true?






Cultural differences are obvious in this picture.....
(Les différences culturelles sont très apparentes sur cette photo..)

The American is all business, looks ahead, nothing distracts him...
(L'américain est très professionnel, regarde ailleurs, rien ne le perturbe…)

The Canadian, a bit “out there”, worried about his appearance...
(Le canadien est un peu ailleurs, soucieux de son apparence…)


Now.......the French and the Italian....................................?!
(Quant au français et à l'italien…)









Sunday, August 30, 2009

Aim for the Stars

In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.

-HDT

One year is up. That’s right. It has been one year since I set out on my journey to study, work and travel in Asia. One year ago, it didn’t seem overly ambitious—I had traveled, studied, and worked before—what could go wrong? Ha!

Anyone remember the letter I wrote and sent to friends and family before leaving for Asia (if not you can read it on my blog: kevinjamesburns.blogspot.com. It is only post in August of 2008)? The letter describes my big plans for life in Asia over the next year. I clearly stated my plans to study, get an internship, and experience the rich cultures of the Asian Pacific. I wrote and sent the letter to friends and family because I was convinced (and still am) that sharing our adventures in life, exalting and humbling alike, is the best way for us to grow, propelling all of us to explore ourselves and the world around us. How else are we to start off on our own journeys unless that spark is lit for us?

However, it also did something else, something I know others, as well as myself, are scared of. Writing the letter took loosely defined goals, ones that I could mold and change as the world changed, as I changed, and set them in stone. I have always been a big fan of goals, but prior to this letter I had never put myself out on such a limb, so exposed to failure. Up until a couple days ago I thought this was all bad. But after a little contemplation, I realized the good that came out of it. I had given myself a target, something to aim for. Not only did this push me to go further than I would have otherwise, but it also gave me a point of reference, which has allowed me to compare what actually happened with what I had planned.

If I strictly compare my plan to what actually happened, I am a big, giant failure. After studying at HKBU I returned home instead of taking an internship. I also was never able to travel around Asia, and probably won’t be able to because of my current finances. But if I take into account all the crazy things that happened and everything I couldn't have planned for, I think I did pretty well.

After returning home to San Diego after four months of studying in Hong Kong at HKBU, I spent the a couple months fighting with Kaiser Doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with my chest. At the same time, my internship, which I was supposed to start again in February, was postponed, and then postponed again, because of work visa issues. I finally made it back to Hong Kong at the end of May and started my internship shortly after.

Everything has gone very well at my internship. In fact, so well that they offered me a contract position until the end of the year, which I accepted. If everything goes well, it could turn into a full time position. Regardless, I will gain much needed experience and have a chance to network a bit longer in Hong Kong.

Point is, though almost nothing went according to plan, I am still here. I am still throwing mud at the doorstep of China, trying to make something stick. Did I need to write that letter? Did I need to make those big plans? There is really no way of telling. But I do know this: we can’t hit what we don’t aim at. After writing that letter, I took aim at Asia and never looked back. Setback after setback and still I persisted.

So on the 1-year anniversary of my big trip, I wanted to thank all the people who I sent my letter to, all the people who have been following me on my Blog, my family and my friends. In more ways than one, you guys are the contributors and benefactors of my adventures. I look forward to sharing more adventures with you, and hearing more of your adventures, as time goes on. Thanks you for being a part of this epic time in my life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crowded

Global population numbers are on track to reach 7 billion in 2011, just 12 years after reaching 6 billion in 1999. Virtually all of the growth is in developing countries. And the growth of the world’s youth population (ages 15 to 24) is shifting into the poorest of those countries.


Not surprisingly, the great bulk of today’s 1.2 billion youth (nearly 90 percent) are in developing countries. Eight in 10 of those youth live in Africa and Asia and during the next few decades


-CSR Asia

We just added 1 billion people in 12 years. Wow this planet is getting crowded.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Will Americans Believe a Scientist?

The August 24th issue of TIME features a story on the USA’s new Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary, Steven Chu. The article, entitled “The Political Scientist”, profiles the Nobel-winning scientist and gives a thorough description of the uphill battle Mr. Chu has to look forward to concerning his plans to reduce energy consumption and decrease green house gas emissions in an effort to battle climate change.

In the past, the Secretary of Energy has been a “political loyalist”. Nothing makes this more evident than Ronald Reagan’s appointment of a Dentist to the post. Obama’s appointment of a Scientist to the position is a break from the typical political tradition and a sign that the current administration is serious about combating climate change.

But are the American people? Americans ranked global warming last in a national survey of 20 top priorities, in contrast to 94% of Chinese. Many republican leaders flat out deny global warming while on the other side of the aisle, many democrats from coal, oil and farm states are acting against robust energy change.

Steven Chu won his Nobel-prize for his ground breaking results in the laboratory working with super-cooled atoms. He then switched his focus to global warming when he discovered it would emerge as the world’s next great challenge. When asked about the “earth-is-cooling” argument, the DOE Secretary wiped out a chart of the top ten hottest years. All ten of which have been in the past twelve years. He points to the post-1998 blip as the “proof” which most skeptics use to claim the world must be cooling. “You Know, it’s totally irresponsible. You’re not supposed to make up facts!” He said.

Read the article here. It is one of the better articles I have read in the past couple of days. But remember, more important than agreeing on the “why” (whether it be climate change, resource depletion, stimulating the economy), we need to agree on what we plan to do about. The impacts of climate change, a world running out of resources, a rainforest under attack, and an economy in need of a brand-new (green) industry all require the same thing: ACTION.

Further reading at McKinsey & Company

Monday, August 10, 2009

Other Than You, What Goes Into Your Shoes?

Ever wonder what it actually takes to make that T-shirt you’re wearing? Or how about the energy that goes into those shiny new sneakers you just picked up? Probably a lot more than you think! Have you every given thought to how you, as a consumer, or you, as a professional, can reduce the amount of energy required for making these products? Remember, not only does unnecessary energy usage cost you money, but it also sucks for the environment.

The guys over at Pentland (those crazy Brits responsible for brands like Speedo, Red or Dead and Lacoste) gave these questions some considerable thought and came up with a 40 some page brief on the true energy costs of some of our most common apparel purchases. Furthermore, they looked at some of the ways that both manufactures and consumers can reduce the energy usage over the lifetime of the product. Here’s a quick glance at what they came up with.

A product’s energy usage occurs over its entire lifetime. By breaking the products life up into four different stages, Raw Materials, Production, Use and End of Life, we are able to identify where big improvement in energy savings can be made.

Take a disposable camera for example. Not much energy is needed during the production and usage stage. Also, because of the camera’s limited size, the end of life impact (when it gets thrown away) is limited. However, because of the incredibly short life span of the camera, its raw material usage is sky high! An automobile on the other hand will have moderate production and end of life costs, very low resource costs, but giant usage costs because of the fuel needed to keep it running over the car’s lifetime.



Therefore, the easiest and most effective ways to save energy are going to be in the areas where energy usage is the highest. Disposable cameras are going to need to cut back on raw materials and autos are going to have to find ways to cut back at the pump.

When we consider that T-shirt of yours, what stage do you think requires the most energy? Shockingly, it is the use stage. All that washing and drying adds up you know. Your sneakers use a tone of raw materials, require a heavy amounts of energy for production, and because the life span of our shoes is not that long, the end of life cost is quite large. So what to do about it?

Pentland offers energy conservation recommendations for T-shirts, shoes, fleece jackets, flip-flops and swim wear, and not just for the usage stage, but for the entire product life cycle.

Manufacturers of materials for T-shirts are urged to explore alternative materials such as hemp, bamboo or organic cotton (cotton without the use of chemicals or toxins). Consumers of T-shirts are advised to lower the temperature of the wash, avoid using biological powders and hang dry clothing if possible.

To take a look at the whole brief, have a look at the pdf file, which can be downloaded here. If you have any friends that are involved in the manufacturing or production of products, have them take a look at it. Many of the recommended changes are easy and not difficult to implement.

And remember guys; education and knowledge are the catalysts of positive change. If we don’t know something is wrong, or that something can be done a better way, we are in a bad place to fix it. Become informed, become the change you wish to see in the world.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Velcro

Over the past couple of years, my strategy for maximizing great life experiences has been based around frugality. The less money I spend the more places I can go and the less time I have to spend working to get there. It seems to have worked well. I have traveled extensively, studied abroad and enjoyed a great deal of time at home with friends and family, without worrying about how I’m going to pay the bills.

However, I can’t help but contemplate whether or not I have been focusing on the wrong factor. Time, not finances, after all, is the resource we are unlikely to find more of. Frugality is a positive in most situations, but I can think of more than one case when I let it get the best of me. In South America, I missed the Galapagos Islands because I didn’t want to take on a couple hundred dollars of credit card debt. I feel like I need my own Mastercard commercial: missing a once in a lifetime chance to visit the Galapagos Islands because you don't want debt = Retarded.

Mark Goldenson, an Entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, included in his 10 Lessons From a Failed Startup, excessive bargain hunting as one of his big no nos.

4. Set a dollar value on your time. I agree with Paul Graham that good entrepreneurs are relentlessly resourceful, but I have a bad habit of bargain-hunting for sport. I spent three hours negotiating our wireless bill down $100, which was a poor use of time given our funding. The mantra to pinch pennies ignores the value of time.
Time is arguably more valuable than money because you can’t raise more time. Dev suggested pricing our hours. You can divide your available work hours by salary, remaining funding, or total company costs. Ours was around $50/hour. If I was going to spend 5 hours negotiating, I’d have to save at least $250. This value should increase as you gain funding and traction. For anything greater than $500 at any stage, I’d still strive for NPR: Never Pay Retail.


I don’t know if I’ll ever pay retail, but I plan to tone down my frugality. The diminishing return of life on a shoestring is getting pretty small.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Tribute to Milton Friedman

Today, 31 July 2009, marks what would have been the world-renowned economist Milton Friedman’s 97th birthday. The Lion Rock Institute, based here in Hong Kong, put on a cocktail celebration for the late superstar economist, with a panel discussion, a few youtube clips featuring Mr. Friedman’s thoughts on the markets, and an open bar that I made sure to take advantage of.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Many of the principles that Mr. Friedman was an advocate for are apparently being trampled over by President Obama and a seemingly clueless US congress. The panel, which was comprised of well known Hong Kong economists who actually went to school in Chicago and studied under Mr. Friedman, were quick to critique the rational behind President Obama’s stimulus package, pointing to the fact that as the US begins to exit the recession, only the tinniest amount of stimulus money has actually been spent.

One thing Mr. Friedman was not, and it is important to highlight in order to save him from the hands of disenfranchised Americans, was a protectionist. If your business were going under because of outsourcing to India, “you are mistaken” Mr. Friedman would have said. Your business is actually going under because you have failed to innovate—“Tuff luck”. Only by exposing our businesses and industries to increased competition and pressure will we increase the necessity for innovation. Furthermore, it is innovation that is the key to providing the new and higher paying jobs necessary in order to continue raising living standards. An industry protected by government will likely destroy the need for innovation, in turn causing incomes and living standards to stagnate.

Mr. Friedman was very fond of Hong Kong. In the youtube clip below, he points out some of the reasons why Hong Kong has been able to increase it’s living standard so dramatically.



The world is getting crazy. As the US government, the spokesperson for freedom and capitalism around the globe, begins taking over banks and car manufacturers, it is the People’s Republic of China, the last great stronghold of communism that has adopted an increasingly free market economy. One has to wonder what will happen to Friedman’s teaching. In the US, will they be washed away by fiscal irresponsibility and a sense of entitlement? Will they gain further adoption by the hard working, status seeking Chinese? Or will Mr. Friedman’s free market system be blended with some sort of social collectivism, which is beginning to seem necessary in order to combat long-term imperatives such as climate change and resource conservation. Only time will tell.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

McKinsey's Grand Arrival on The Web 2.0 Scene

A couple of weeks ago, a friend introduced me on to McKinsey Quarterly-a business news site which is an offshoot of The McKinsey Consulting firm. I'm very impressed by the depth and breath of reporting. Each email is targeted to what I want to read and though some of the emails are reserved for premium members, the ones that I can read are very interesting and many times include video interviews with global business leaders.

Take this last Email I received. Mckinsey Quarterly did an interview with Jeroen van der Veer, former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, where he spoke about the future of oil and renewable energy. Not only is he a very interesting guy to hear from, but they did a great job targeting my interests, as renewable energy is a topic I'm interested in.

If you would like to view the interview please click here.


What might be the most interesting thing about McKinsey Quarterly is that it represents McKinsey's arrival on the web 2.0 scene. This is further proof that the Internet is completely transforming business, regardless of industry. If a successful business consultancy like McKinsey feels it is necessary to practically give away business insight over the internet, who else is likely to follow? What other industries, which might have been thought of as 'internet proof', will follow suit? Time will tell.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Problem of Prosperity

Though climate change is still a debated topic, most have come to the conclusion that it is real and have resolved that something has to be done. So what to do? Where to start?

It is clear that many developing countries refuse to make the needed changes to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. Until recently, the US was the world leader in green house gas emissions, and yet, refused to join the Kyoto protocol, an international agreement designed to turn back the effects of climate change, most likely because of fears that the economy might be stifled by bulky restrictions on pollution.

Nor can we expert developing countries like India and China to take the lead on reducing greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, raising prosperity in these countries is also accompanied by larger energy consumption. Asking these countries to reduce their production of greenhouse gases is like asking them to abandon their dreams for prosperity. In order to make meaningful changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must make sustainable technologies and lifestyles profitable to individuals, businesses and governments.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an NGO focused on making sustainable living profitable, which, it argues, can only be done when we have effective tools in place to measure the carbon output of private and public sector organizations. In business, what gets measured gets managed. If we hope to manage and thus reduce the effects of greenhouse gases, we must first find a way to measure it.

The CDP is working on this exact problem. The NGO collects emissions data from corporations, institutional investors and purchasing organizations from around the world and is using this data to create a standard to measure future outputs.

Take a look at this presentation by Bill Clinton, who is an avid supporter of the movement. Not only is it a great explanation for the CDP, but he also has some great ideas.

It’s time to mobilize against climate change.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keep It Absurd America

A couple weeks ago I wrote about a friend of a friend's adventures as an counsultant in Vietnam. If you did not have the chance to read it, just after graduating from UC Santa Barbara, this young "consultant" went looking for adventure and entrepreneur opportunities in Vietnam. After eight months of ups and downs, he eventually decided to return to California. He wrote a great synopsis of his experience, highlighting insights about himself, business, and life.

Vietnam Synopsis

After reading it over the first time, one part in particular stood out.
Americans, on the other hand, what a bunch of silly people we are. Every one of my American friends either works for an NGO, doing traffic safety or health communications or protecting the environment, or they're working in finance or economic research, investing money and crunching numbers. We're all either trying to save the world or take it over. We're all writers and we're all photographers too. We all have some big story about what we're doing with our lives and why we're in Hanoi, and we have hundreds of quasi-artsy photos to prove to our friends on facebook how much fun it is. Few of us last even a year out here before we move on to our next big opportunity to be even more special and exciting. We are completely absurd.

I love the fact that unbridled and indulgent optimism is what I, as an American, bring to the table. During my time at HK Baptist University, I had multiple discussions with other exchange students about the presidential election that was coming up. I got an overwhelming feeling that what others have come to expect from Americans is optimism. That tomorrow can be better than yesterday and that changing the world for the better is entirely within an individuals hands.

Yes we are absurd, but in my opinion, our optimism is our best export.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On Working Abroad

One of the benefits of working abroad, as apposed to just traveling abroad or staying at home, is that one begins to gain an international perspective on business. Something like starting a business in Africa or India doesn’t seem like that crazy of an idea anymore. An amazing retrospection, one that I don’t think I would have had if I had stayed in the US.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Futures So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

One of the renewable energy briefs I went to last week showcased some really interesting facts and figures on solar energy in countries like China and America.

Currently, solar energy is not widely used. It accounts for less than one percent of the world's energy usage. Inefficient solar panels and batteries that can't hold a sustainable charge is largely to blame. However, by 2015, solar is projected to overtake oil and other fossil fuels as an affordable energy source due to efficiency improvements and economies of scale. Batteries are also improving at a remarkable rate. In areas such as India and Africa, where electrification rates are low and solar radiation is very high, solar, a "plug and light" option (particularly useful in areas where little infrastructure exists), seems poised to capture the market.

I think it's amazing. The same thing that power's the flora y fauna, the wind and the sea, even you and I, is about to power our civilizations. We live in interesting times my friends, very interesting times.

Take a look at some of the initiatives by country quoted below.


China
Over 60,000 demonstrations in 2008 because of poor Air Quality
-Biggest source of contestation
-18 of 23 most polluted cities in the world are in China

What is China doing now?
-Has introduced solar subsidies – USD 2 per watt
-USD 650 billion spent over the next ten years on renewable and sustainable technology
-Solar power usage should grow from 30 mega watts to 20 giga watts



The US
-Coal represents 52% of electricity grid
-Coal plants inefficient and old (on average, 35 years old)
-Bank’s won’t finance new coal plants.
-28 states don’t have renewable energy portfolio standards
-10% distribution loss because of old grid. That's 10 times the losses of Europe or Japan
-The losses are mainly do to the small energy companies in the energy business and the regulations (Transporting energy across state lines requires a lot of deal making)
-USD 20 Trillion is required in improvements over next 20 years.
-Obama is heavily behind renewable energy


Europe
Europe should remain a leading player in renewable energy.
-Legislature support
-New players are coming into the market,
-Banks are heavily behind RE


Tell your local legislators to pay attention. Higher paying jobs are another benefit to solar energy adoption.

Job creation
-At 300GW by 2030 = 5 million jobs (mostly installers)
-Jobs with higher education requirements means higher pay, thus a higher tax base (important if you want to convince legislators)


In fact, if you're looking for a new career, why not go solar?
http://www.acre-resources.co.uk/
This website is a good place to start looking.

Take a look at the entire PowerPoint presentation at:
http://www.asria.org/events/hongkong/090709_renewable/1247452672

And have a great day : )

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Global Sustainability Jobs

While searching the World Wide Web for interesting CSR charities similar to community business, I came across Acre, a sustainability/CSR recruiting website. The site lists jobs around the world and also lets you upload your CV (resume) to be reviewed and placed with jobs that fit your education and experiences best. I just submitted my CV today. You try!

http://acre-resources.co.uk

Please spread this around if you have some friends who would find it useful.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Love Traffic, But Only When I'm Driving It

Over the past short years, the website has quickly become the central vocal point for any organization. Broadcast, print, interactive (e.g. internet ads) and support advertising now tends to point potential clients to an organisation's website. Once there, potentials are exposed to a limitless amount of information, which because the potential can choose what information they want to see, the information is tailored to the potentials needs.

At Community Business, my internship, I have been trying to think of ways to drive traffic to the website. Community Business, however, as a charity, has no budget for advertising. The only advertising dollars Community Business receives is from donations from corporate member, but this money is limited to specific charitable activities only.

A marketing agency based out of Southern California just sent me an email that highlighted some interesting ways of driving traffic to a website (only the interesting ones s are listed).

Changes to your website:
Use Blogs: purchase industry specific domains, create blogs on each of these websites that point back to the company’s main site. Write smart and interesting blog posts that relate to the target market.

Update content frequently (you would be surprised how many, big and small, companies neglect their website)

Marketing Campaigns:
Email campaigns: be relevant, useful, and pleasing to the eye (they obviously did a great job at this. I had never heard of this company before but I really enjoyed reading the email, it was so relevant)

Podcasts – Video Podcasts: interview managers, leaders, and business coaches discussing topics interesting to the target market (TED.com is a great example of this. These videos must get sent around the world).

Search Engine Optimization: there are ways to make your site more relevant on a google search.

Build linkage: get similar businesses to put your link on their website. (this works extremely well for NGOs)

Social Media:
Assign A Champion: put someone to the task of being the online person, making connections and generating energy around new campaigns. SHARE knowledge frequently to drive potentials who are looking for more details.

The key seems to be transferability. Communication on the Internet can be viral. If communications are relevant and entertaining, and tools to easily share are provided, then communications have the potential to be shared with thousands of viewers in a short period of time. I really like the idea about video pod-casts. The medium is entertaining and easy to share. It also has a better ability to relate with viewers, than say, print.

Other ideas?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Big Trouble in Big China: Irresponsible Business

China is still a long ways away from being an ideal place to set up shop. Irresponsible business practices are still the rule, not the exception, and seem ingrained in societal norms.

STR Responsible Sourcing (RS) is a Supply Chain Management auditor, insuring that manufacturers, distributors and other stakeholders who touch consumer products are operating in an ethical and sustainable manner. After spending some time looking through there annual report, I found very interesting statistics detailing the number, type and location of infringements.

Take a look at the pie graph below. China/Hong Kong represents more than half of the pie, with the next largest offender being South East Asia.


Note: This graph shows the total, not the percentage. The large disparity between China and other regions could be because of the greater amount of manufacturing taking place in China. Another reason could be the amount of business STR has in China compared to the other regions.

Even more shocking is the number of offenses by category. Over 50% of those companies inspected had issues with working hours and minimum wage. Child Labor infringements were found in nearly twenty five percent of inspections.



The report also sheds light on the widespread use of bribery by plant managers. Upon a plant inspection in China, one of the inspectors commented:
It happens so often that it’s become a standard part of my job to decline the offers and explain to the management why bribery is not the solution. What motivates facilities to give out money to auditors? I have the following points of view on why bribery is common in China:
• The facility wants auditors to reduce the number of findings;
• The facility wants auditors to reduce the major findings, this change to a better grade;
• Provide money is considered a normal friendly gesture;
• The facility feels that they are obligated to give money out, since other factories engage in similar practices;
• The facility believes that giving money is the only way to pass a social compliance assessment;
• The facility follows instructions from their vendor.

Another inspector noted that the bribes usually ranged from RMB 500 to 5000. Depending on the person, that amount could be several times his or her monthly wages.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mr. Friedman Turns 93



The 97th birthday of world renowned American economist, Milton Friedman, is coming up and a local Hong Kong Organization is getting together to celebrate him and his contribution to private enterprise. There will be a panel discussion including three professor from around Hong Kong who will speak on his ideas and their relevance to the current economy.



If you recall, Mr. Friedman was a huge advocate for creating shareholder value, stating that this is the only responsibility private enterprise has to society. The title of an article he wrote for the NY Times in 1970 reads “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”. If you would like to read it, please see:

http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

In a free-enterprise, private-property sys­tem, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct re­sponsibility to his employers. That responsi­bility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while con­forming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom. Of course, in some cases his employers may have a different objective. A group of persons might establish a corporation for an eleemosynary purpose–for exam­ple, a hospital or a school. The manager of such a corporation will not have money profit as his objective but the rendering of certain services.

In either case, the key point is that, in his capacity as a corporate executive, the manager is the agent of the individuals who own the corporation or establish the eleemosynary institution, and his primary responsibility is to them [as opposed to Society].


I personally think it is a very convincing read. The only thing I would add is that times have changed. Technology in communications has shrunk the virtual proximity between business and communities. Advancements in science have made it possible to measure the exact effect a business has on the environment and communities. Now, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is needed to increase a business’ profits in order to meet its social responsibilities.

Currently working for an NGO who focus is Corporate Social Responsibility makes this brief particularly interesting. I’m a big fan of understanding all sides of an issue and I have to believe their will be some interesting perspectives on Social Responsibility.

The venue is at a private Portuguese club in central. The same one I went to for the Junto meeting. The brief is not until the end of the month. Can't wait!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Networking: Follow Your Stomach

Between the late nights with friends and early mornings with coworkers, I’m dedicating a large amount of time to finding a permanent, and most importantly, a paid, job. From putting my CV on websites like jobsdb.com, to attending networking meetings, I’m giving it all I got. Last week I went to two CSR/Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI) briefings.

At the first event, put on by CSR-Asia.com, I managed to strike out big time. How did I blow it? A couple things probably went wrong, but if I had to say it was one thing, it was that I came off overly interested. Sounds crazy huh?

Picture a room full of business people, some looking for simple insights into the topic discussion, others looking to expand their network, and still others searching for a new job. Everyone in that room proceeds with caution, not wanting to wind up in a conversation with the guy who has nothing to give and everything to take.

Enter Kevin Burns, who at times can be an extremely interested and curious person, and you have a recipe for disaster. Instead of enticing others to engaging with me, I went into question mode, which in the setting I explained above, probably threw up a number of red flags. I left feeling like I had annoyed half the people I spoke with.

The second event, put on by ASrIA.org, went much better. I practically hung out at the refreshment table the whole time, gobbling up delicious chocolate snacks and casually chatted about anything other than business, allowing them to bring up what I am doing in HK. Apparently when it comes to networking, following your stomach is a decent strategy.

Another “friend of a friend” had an experience similar to mine which I found very interesting and insightful. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara in CA, he went looking for adventure and business opportunities in Vietnam. Good times ensued.

After a while I figured out that sitting next to high powered global executives at business conferences, chatting, trading business cards, and sending follow-up emails is not a particularly effective method of getting a job. No one really gives a damn about you, and usually the important people in a company aren't involved in hiring for entry level positions. Big companies have HR departments and systems in place for finding new employees, they don't just hire random folks because they sat next to the CEO at some conference. I was just a business groupie (lamest vacation ever).

Eventually I found that the key to networking with more senior executive director types was to meet them in a non-business context, like a cultural or charity event. My first consulting contract came as a result of a charity event that I had volunteered to be the photographer for. It was a bike race. I motorbiked out in front of the cyclists, squatted on the ground, and got shots of them rushing past markets and cows and temples. It was a lot of fun. At the after-party I gorged myself on free snacks and idly chatted with whoever was within 5 feet of the food table. Somehow I ended up talking about my experience with business plans, and pretty soon I had a consulting gig helping write the business plan for a health communications NGO that was applying for its next round of funding. I wasn't even wearing my suit.

You can find his entire Vietnam story at
http://docs.google.com/View?id=dfpsd4bf_64fqnjzdcp

On a separate note, last night was beer fest in LKF. Over a lighthearted conversation about global economics with an entrepreneur from Mumbai, I was able to demonstrate enough intelligence for him to propose a business interview. Don’t really know where that’s going to go, but I am hopeful after enough of these encounters, something will stick.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Warren Buffett

I’ve been holding on to this for a while now. A friend of a friend had the chance to go to Omaha, Nebraska and visit with Warren Buffett at his office. The visit was part of his business course and he was joined by a number of students from around the world. There was a short Q&A session and a lunch break were the students were able to get a bit of insight into Mr. Buffet’s character and personality. He wrote down some of the more notable insights and sent the notes to friends and family.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading through Mr. Buffet’s opinions. His thoughts on life are unique and exceptional. Some of his analogies will make you cry laughing and at the same time you can’t help but agree with him. I’m not surprised at all Mr. Buffet has done so well for himself. Enjoy.

*On technology*:

"One of these days I'm going to get a cell phone." [as he fiddles with the
microphone]

*On the crisis on Wall Street*

"Wall Street had to call off the Christmas party this year because they couldn't find 3 wise men… [pauses] They had a hard time finding a virgin too. [everyone laughs] In fact, a very good investment banker I know in New York lost his job recently and went back home to his wife. They started to look for ways to costs. He said to his wife, 'if you can learn how to cook, then we can fire the chef.' His wife said, 'Well, if you can learn how to make love, then we can fire the gardener too.'" [everyone laughs]

*On his investment in Goldman Sachs*

"At the time, the market was on the verge of literally falling apart. Before I made the investment, I had to believe that the government was going to provide support in a big way and understood the gravity of the situation."

*On getting older*

"Recently, I walked over to Charlie Munger and said to him, 'Charlie, I think we should buy Microsoft at $16, do you agree?' I got no response. Later that day, I walked up to Charlie again and said 'Charlie, I really think we should buy Microsoft at $16, do you agree?' Still no response. Finally, at the end of the day, I went up to Charlie and said, 'Hey Charlie, I really think we should buy Microsoft at $16, do you agree???!' Charlie yelled, 'For the third time, yes!'"

*On who he hires to manage his businesses*

"I ask, do they love the business, or the money? I mean, I can do anything I want to do in the world -- that doesn't require athletic ability of course -- so why do I tap dance to work? I want people who will do the same thing for the business even if I own it. I want someone who, if independently wealthy, would work just as hard and get up every morning at 6am to go to work. Three-fourths of my managers are independently wealthy and don't need the money. They do it because the love it."

*On hiring as it relates to marriage*

"A wife is the most important hiring and personnel decision you will make in
your life. To have a successful marriage, you know what is the number one
quality you should look for in a partner? It's not looks. It's not
intellect. It's not even character… [pauses] It's finding someone with
low expectations!" [everyone, including Warren, laughs]

*On firing managers*

"I tend to wait too long and will continue to do so. I would rather do it
later than earlier. I would pay a lot of money to not have those
situations, because I hate them."

*On what is success*

"In Omaha, there was a woman by the name of Belle Eisenberg, who recently
passed away. During the Holocaust, her family was sent to Auschwitz, and
she was the only one to make it out. She told me one day that every time
she meets someone, she asks herself whether that person is the type of
person who would hide her [from the Nazis]. I think, if there are a dozen
or more people who would be willing to hide you, and you them, then I'd say
you've lived a pretty successful life. I know people who are worth
billions, and their own kids wouldn't hide them."

*On investing in gold to hedge against inflation*

"Gold has a mystical quality to it, and it becomes more attractive as paper
money becomes meaningless. But Gold is a terrible investment -- it sits
there, stares back at you, and doesn't produce anything. The idea that
humans mine gold out of the ground in South Africa, transport it all the way
to the U.S. only to lock it back underground in the Federal Reserve… it
seems like there's a better use of people's time. [everyone laughs] The
best inflation hedge is talent and increasing your own skills and
capabilities. Therefore it won't matter if the form of currency is paper,
gold or seashells; you want to be the best at what you do."

*On the U.S. facing increased global competition*

"I love competition. See, the way you get the heavyweight champion of the
world is by finding the best guy and having him knock out people along the
way. Competitiveness is a good thing. We shouldn't stifle it. If horses
could have voted, if there was the Horses Association of America, the
tractor would have never been invented." [everyone laughs]

*On putting your career aspirations on hold and finding a safe job*

"I never believe in putting things on hold. One day a student from Harvard
Business School picked me up from Logan International Airport. During the
car ride, I asked him what he wanted to do, and he said 'I'm thinking about
going into management consulting. It's not what I want to do long term, but
I think it will look good on my resume.' I said to him, 'What? That plan
sounds about as good as saving up sex for old age.' [everyone laughs] We
all know the story about Wilt Chamberlain. On his tombstone it says, 'At
last I sleep alone.' [everyone laughs again] I didn't want to go to
college. I wanted to get where I wanted to go as fast as possible. There
aren't many years in life. If you can, you should do what you want to do as
soon as you can."

*On what a business schools fail to teach effectively*

"Oral and written communication. I was totally afraid of public speaking.
I would puke, hide, whatever it took to avoid it. In fact, I went to
Wharton only after checking the classes just to make sure I wouldn't have to
speak in front of a class. After college, however, I realized I needed to
do something about this fear. So I took a 15 week public speaking class in
downtown Omaha to get over it."

*On Berkshire's investing philosophy*

"You can never have enough reputation. I tell my managers to run the
business in a way as if it were the only asset their family could own for
the next 100 years. There is plenty of money to be made in the center
court; we don't like to play on the front line."

*On how he values businesses*

"I always look at my valuation first before looking at the price. It's like
when I used to bet on horses at the races. I look at their performance, not
their odds. You need to have your own ideas, the ability to think in a closed room. That's the advantage of being in Omaha. On Wall Street, I used to get a lot of stimuli rolling across my desk."

*On increased government spending*

"Government is the only one who can leverage when everyone else is deleveraging. In economics, there is no free lunch. But maybe it's better
to pay later than not have any lunch right now."

*On what he has learned over the years*

"I haven't learned a lot more about investing or making money since I was 25
years old. But I've learned a lot about human behavior. Let's play a game. If you had to pick 1 classmate, and you would earn 10% of what they will earn for the rest of their life, what would go through your mind? Their IQ? Their grades? What school they went to? Who's the best on the dance floor? … [pauses] Or is it who's the most effective human being. Who do people admire and love to work for. Who is able to inspire and willing to give credit to other people for their successes.

* If you had to short 1 classmate 10%, who would that be? What traits turn
you off?

You'll realize that the qualities in the people you want are behavioral, not
born in. You want someone who doesn't keep score, like 'I cleaned your room, now you clean mine.' You want someone who people want to do things for."

*On higher taxes for the rich*

"The top 400 people in the U.S. earned an average AGI of $250 million per year and paid an average of 17.5% in taxes. There are 24 million households in the U.S. that earn less than $21,000 per year. The U.S. tax code has shifted over the past 10 years toward befitting the rich.

With all my money, I could hire 20,000 people to build, dragging huge stone blocks, a tomb for me that would make people forget all about the Egyptians. Or I could pay… hmmm, let's see [calculating numbers in his head]… hmmm, $2 billion a year… 30,000 people to paint my picture every day, so that I could pick the one that looks the best -- the closest one to George Clooney, whom people have said resemble me. [everyone laughs]

The ability to allocate capital was wired into me. But if I had been born a
thousand years ago, I would have been some animal's lunch. I am where I am because of the society around me. To believe that I should not have to pay for my share of the burden of the common costs that created this society is outrageous. Society has a right, an obligation, to get payment from those who are lucky. Society contributes to who you are. The rich should get down on their knees and be thankful for the society they are born into and be willing to pay to keep that society going."

*On politics (FYI, he supported Obama)*

"You should vote based on how you want the world to be. You should vote based on what leader you think will help take it there."

*On life:*

"Imagine that it is 24 hours before you are born. A genie comes to you and
says that you get to design how the world will be before you enter it. You
say, 'That sounds great. But what's the catch?' The genie says, 'There is
only one catch. You will go to that barrel over there filled with 6 billion
tickets. You will pick one ticket at random, and that ticket will define
who you will be in your world. It could say male; it could say female. It
could say you will be born in the U.S.; it could say you will be born in
Bangladesh. It could say black; it could say white. It could say
intelligent; it could say retarded. It could say rich; it could say poor.'

You should design the world in a way that is independent of what ticket you
get.

You got your ticket. If you now had the chance to pick 100 tickets from
that barrel, but you had to give up your current life and to be one of the
hundred picked, would you do it? Chances are, maybe 4 or 5 of the hundred
will say you will be born in the U.S. Maybe one will say you are above
average intelligence. Maybe one will say you have above average income.
Would you play? [pauses] …Of course you wouldn't. You wouldn't play,
which means you are in the top 1% of society. We are so lucky; most people
in the world would give anything to play."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Finding Corporate Social Responsibility Jobs Around the Globe




While searching the World Wide Web for interesting CSR charities similar to community business, I came across Acre, a CSR recruiting website. The site lists jobs around the world and also lets you upload your CV (resume) to be reviewed and placed with jobs that fit your education and experiences best. I just submitted my CV today. You try!

http://acre-resources.co.uk

Please spread this around if you have some friends who would find this useful.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

I’ve been told a million times to brake up large difficult projects into small pieces in order to simplify them. It never really seemed to catch on, however, and I kept practicing the same bad habits. Only until recently, when I read one of my favorite Blogs, written by Ben Casnocha, accomplished author and entrepreneur, did I find something very compelling.


It's the same reason why we'd prefer to read two short books instead of one long book. Total number of pages read might be the same, but we feel more accomplished having completed two whole books.

It's the same reason why breaking tasks into bits (and then checking off each bit on our to-do list) makes us feel more accomplished and energized than leaving one, big task on the to-do list, ever unchecked.

We are completionists by nature.

Sometimes this is a bad thing. Rational decision makers must ignore sunk costs. Abandon that book that stopped being interesting at page 50!


Ben figured this out while cutting his sandwich in half for lunch proving that yes, wisdom really is everywhere.

See the whole post here:
http://ben.casnocha.com/2009/06/cater-to-your-inner-completionist.html

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bill Gates and a Worthy Goal

I wanted to share a video I watched today and really enjoyed. Below, Bill Gates, co founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation presents on two of the initiatives he and his foundation are working on.

I am absolutely inspired by Mr. Gates. While others squabble over petty differences, Mr. Gates and his foundation are tackling the global challenges no one else wants to take on.

I'm in your corner Bill. Keep it up.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Attack of the Other White Meat!!

The response to the growing number of swine flu cases in Hong Kong has been swift and far reaching. Twelve cases of the virus found at a city secondary school prompted the government to close down primary schools across Hong Kong. Individuals suspected of having the infection have been quarantined. One quarantined man even fled from the hospital where he was being held. Apparently not enjoying the hospitality.

It is likely the actual number of swine flu cases is not being accurately reported for fear of persecution. Private schools who inform the government or the media about cases of the infection fear Parents would take their children to other schools.

I was even a case of swine flu discrimination. I had a meeting with my managers from my internship when I first arrived in Hong Kong. However, I wasn’t allowed to go into the office for fear I might infect the entire office.

A friend from rugby, Diego Laje, is a freelance reporter who does a lot of work for CNN Spanish. He recently did an interview with Dr. Malik Peiris, from the University of Hong Kong, highlighting some interesting points surrounding the swine flu hysteria and what happens going forward. Have a look.


http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1631255517?bclid=1631239474&bctid=25150413001

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Juntastic

Busy, busy, busy. After my first week in Hong Kong I thought I would be searching endlessly for things to do. This past week showed me that I’m certainly going to have to search, but not for things to do, rather, time to do it all in.

When I got off work on Tuesdays at around 6pm I headed straight to the west side of the island to play touch rugby with a bunch of my friends, who I met through the couch surfer, Warren. After two to three hours of endless running, I was completely wasted, and barely managed to make it back to my apartment.

Wednesday, after work, I met with my roommate from when I stayed at the HKBU dorms last fall. I was glad to hear he is doing well—he has an internship with a local magazine. Then, twenty minutes after dinner I was meeting with some other HKBU friends at the Happy Valley racetrack for so drinks and cheap entertainment. I actually ended up making money. Not from betting on horses, but managed to get so many free drink tickets that I began selling them. And still, later, I met some friends at Agaves (Mexican food) in Wan Chai before taking a quick taxi home.

Thursday after work I played table tennis with some new friends who I met on asiaxpat.com. Though I only got to play about forty minutes because the venue is quite far from my office, it’s worth it. I really enjoy playing. I’m trying to find a league out here (even though I would get crushed) but haven’t found one just yet.

My German friend Christian, who I also met at HKBU during the fall, arrived to spend the weekend at my place. He is currently doing an internship in Guangzhou (about 200 miles across the border) and needed to leave the country to revalidate his visa. We spent the night in LKF (bar district) hanging out with local friends and my rugby buddies.

Saturday was dedicated to table tennis. After watching some table tennis videos at ittf.com and youtube.com, Chris and I went to the municipal center, which is right next to my apartment. After two hours of play I finally started to get some rhythm back.

Take a look at this youtube video of some top players, Ma Lin from China and Timo Boll from Germany. The video is short, but the match goes all seven rounds and a couple match points in the 7th round. This is the best table tennis gets.



You can also see all the latest tournaments at:
http://www.ittf.com/_front_page/itTV.asp?category=ittv_New

Moving on! I saved the best for last. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Junto, but I’ll give you a short brief regardless. Junto is the name Benjamin Franklin and friends chose for their club, whose goal was, in short, self-improvement. Hundreds of years later, Junto clubs exist around the world, all varying in purpose and format according to the members they incorporate. Through friends I became a member of the Hong Kong chapter (probably one of many).

This Monday was my first meeting with these guys since I’ve been back in Hong Kong. The venue was at an exclusive Portuguese club in Central. Turns out one of the Junto members has Portuguese blood and is a member there. Not only were the service, food and drinks amazing, but also the view from the 26th floor was stunning. I was expecting the prices to be ridiculously high, but because it was a club, drinks were only about four US dollars (top shelf only) and food just a little bit more. It was a taste of luxury I’m not likely to see again for a long time.

Our conversation started on the rise of “grass eating men” in Japan (http://www.slate.com/id/2220535/pagenum/all/) and soon transgressed into a conversation about global economics—the rise of china, and the turbulent future in store for the US (check out my friend Shaun Nath’s blog at http://shaunnath.blog.com/2009/06/30/the-quiet-crises/ He makes a very good point on this exact topic). The conversation was very impressive. I’m really looking forward to the next meeting.

I could barely make it through work Tuesday. When I got home I crashed out on my bed, completely missing rugby. Luckily, I got plenty of sleep this morning. Today is a Holiday in Hong Kong celebrating the 1997 handover of Hong Kong back to the Chinese.

There is so much more to write about, but I’ll leave it at that for now. For all those back in the US, enjoy our Independence Day! Miss you guys! Miss my Euros/Canucks/Asians as well—Hong Kong isn’t the same without you guys!

Best!

Kevin

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A terrible attempt at PC

Just found this in a Hong Kong magazine named Recruit. In an article entitled "Is your English Politically Correct?", I found this absolute gem:

The next time you want to describe someone, think carefully and be creative! People aren't old anymore - they're elderly. Someone short has become vertically challenged. A person once fat is now obese or horizontally gifted.


There's more but the best is above. Must be a British English thing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Two weeks of work

As I mentioned earlier, I work for Community Business (CB), a not-for-profit focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). I couldn’t be more excited about the work I’ve begun. I have been able to work on projects that otherwise I would never get a chance to because of companies small size.

During my first week I spent much of my time helping others with their projects, completing small pieces of projects. I also spent a large portion of time researching past, present and future CB events to get a better feel for what CB does. I was able to sit in on a workshop called CSR In Turbulent Times, with keynote speaker Lord Hastings from KPMG (who by the way is an excellent speaker and quotes periodicals like he is doing an extemporaneous speech [reference from my speech and debate days]), and I sat in on our Community Business Leadership Team meeting which is comprised of senior executives from large large multinational companies such as Allen & Overy, Crown Financial, KPMG, Cisco, British Council, etc. Both were really great experiences.

This week I was able to sit down with my Managing Director and talk with her about projects going forward. After a little bit of conversation, I noticed that she thought I had expected her to propose projects for me. When I told her that I had some ideas of my own, she was a little impressed. I was excited to hear that she liked some of my ideas, including looking at Community Business’ brand, and recommending and redesigning much of their materials.

I had the rest of the week to mess around with some ideas. I went through that scary moment when you just start a project, and you’re a bit clueless where to start, not being able to find a starting point. After calmly looking over the material for a couple minutes, I took to brainstorming and writing down the things that were coming to mind. It was a great feeling watching many of the branding ideas I’ve read about in the past start showing up on my document. I was thinking to myself, wow, not only are these changes helpful and important, but also, I’m thoroughly enjoying this.

When this weekend came around I was absolutely ready for the break. Friday night Myles, Ring, Chun, Sara and I danced the night away at Club #9. The cover was a bit low so the ratio was about 9 guys to 1 girl, but we didn’t care. Still had a great time. Saturday Ring, Sara, Samantha and I all went to Stanley Beach for the afternoon. Afterwards we ate at McDonalds because all the other places in that area were crazy expensive. We ended the night in Lan Kwai Fong. I went home early because I was ridiculously tired from that day’s events. Good times.

Excited about the next couple of weeks. Work is going to be even more fun, and as I reacquaint myself with Hong Kong and its inhabitants, enjoying the city is going to be a lot more fun.

Of course I’ll keep you posted on all of this. I hope to hear from you soon!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mind The Gap

I was in a little bit of a downer mood after visiting with my very last friends at HKBU yesterday. It’s always tough visiting a place were you’ve had so many friend that are not around anymore.

After my short visit, I took a quick bus to the Kowloon Tong MTR station and made my way to the train that would take me home. The lines in front of each door were long and when the doors were about to close, the train was almost completely full. But, as I’ve done many times before, I tried to squeeze myself in. Unfortunately for me the doors closed on my arm, popping my watch right off. Of all the places my watch could have fallen, it made a B line for the gap between the train and the platform. As if it never existed, it was gone.

This is the same watch my Dad gave me which I wore during my travels in Europe and South America. I was hoping to use it for trips in Asia too. Oh my trusted companion, you will be missed!

Unlike my left-hand-man, I was able to make it home in one peace. I’m not in Warren’s Apartment in Sai Won Ho anymore. I’ve sense moved into a nice little apartment in Sheung Wan near Millennium Square. I was just thinking today how great a place it is. First, it’s a serviced apartment, which means a maid comes to clean once a week, free Internet and all the furniture is provided. It’s only two blocks from my work and all the essentials (e.g. dry cleaning/laundry, grocery store, restaurants and food vendors) are within a two-minute walk. The price, considering all the things included, was only about 550 USD. The main reason for the low price is because it’s on the 7th floor with no lift (brutal when you have to carry things up). I had other less expensive options but considering there was no furniture or Internet in the other places, I feel like I made a good decision. I’ll have pictures once I get my white walls covered.

Everything is going pretty well. I’m doing my best to explore my neighborhood. George will be happy to know that I play rugby with Warren and a bunch of guys every Tuesday. Touch of course ;) Finding some table tennis buddies is my next challenge. Work will start on Monday. I know I shouldn’t be nervous, but I always am about these things. Money is same as usual, tight. I’m on the pb&j budget, but am sure to take liberties with friends and new acquaintances.

It’s great to be back in Hong Kong. It’s definitely not the same without the great friends I made during my time at HKBU. It’s actually completely different and it really feels like I’m starting all over out here. Good times!

Anyways, keep in touch guys! Can’t wait to hear from you!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back To The Future

Well, fifteen hours into the future. But most importantly, I’m back.

I arrived in Hong Kong Wednesday evening, incredibly tired, a little nervous, but very excited. Tired because I had attempted an all nighter the day before (bad idea, some of my things didn’t get packed :(. Nervous because there are so many variables I’m unsure of. Excited because of the adventures and opportunities that lay ahead.

From the Hong Kong Airport I took a 50+ minute bus ride to Sai Won Ho, a relatively quiet town on the east side of Hong Kong Island. There I met Warren and his flat mate Chris. I met Warren on CouchSurfing.com. This guy has truly been a saint, taking me in and giving me plenty of time to find a place of my own.

Though I had only slept 4 of the past 72 hours, we decided to visit Lan Kwai Fong (a night club district) later that night. The most amazing thing happened! After walking around for a bit, I saw two of my friends from HKBU, Pierre and Tony, then four more students, then six more. Eventually the street was filled with familiar faces. I had so much fun catching up with my ex-classmates (though I’ll never believe second semester was more fun than the first. Liars!). Most, if not all of the remaining exchange students will have gone home by the end of the weekend. Their stay at the dorms will come to an end on the 30th. I wish they could stay indefinitely, and I’m sure they do too.

The next week or so will be eventful. I’ll have found an apartment (not sure where just yet), started work, and entered into a more normal life as a Hong Konger!

I'm feeling a mess right now. Not only do I miss my friends from home, but now I miss my HKBU friends (Hong Kong just isn't the same without you!)

Take care! Talk to you guys soon!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Success!

Hey Guys,

Long time. Without saying to much about my internship, things are looking up and I'm hopeful that I will be back in Hong Kong in late May.

The real reason why I am making this post is because I wanted to share a clip I found on TED.com. Richard St John shares his 8 secret ways to reach success in a humorous and insightful way. Take a look..

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Staying in San Diego until May

Just received word this morning that my work visa will not be approved for at least another six weeks. That's disheartening news, however there is little that can be done. HK immigration takes longer than even the cynical might have predicted.

I'm now left to make the most out of my time in San Diego. I would love to begin some short term work. If you know anyone who needs some work done around the house, or some furniture moved, or a house sat, or anything at all, I'm your man. (burns777@gmail.com)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Who are the Chinese?

Communists of course!

..But really.. I hope we, as open minded rational beings, would seek to define our friends across the pacific as something more intelligible than a word packed full with rhetorical effects. After all, as Americans are far more than overweight capitalists, so the Chinese are far more than their government might lead us to believe.

Significant in this equation is how important understanding the Chinese now is. Because really, there are many cultures in the world, far more than we have time to understand individually. I’m sure the Ecuadorians and the Costa Ricans have been over looked as well, but lets be honest, how much impact does understanding their culture have on our lives? The Chinese on the other hand are 1.3b strong, with an economy that by 2050, if their growth continues, will be larger than both the US and European economies. Thus, like any other subject in the world, when it’s importance increases, so should we increase our understanding of it.

Rather than attempt the futile process of explaining what might take the length of a book, I can probably do no better than suggest one of the books I have found most helpful to my understanding of the Chinese. Billions: Selling to the New Chinese Consumer, by Tom Doctoroff, has been an insightful read. Though the book is directed at advertisers, the book is predominately anthropology, easy to read and straight to the point. Tom Doctoroff, CEO of JWT (advertising agency) in greater China, also keeps a Blog, which I have also found to be very interesting.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-doctoroff/books-that-reveal-chinas_b_158343.html

From my readings and from my experiences, the Chinese truly are a fascinating and great people, worthy of their five thousand years of history. Eight years of George W couldn’t wash away our peace & love, hippie roots, and nor will Obama and the democrats strip us of that which seems to be essential to us: our capitalism. In similar fashion, we may rest assured, sixty years of oppression has done little to make the Chinese anything less than who they really are: Chinese.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Learning Chinese

During my internship at Gen-Probe over summer 2008, I was taking the train to Sorrento Valley from Carlsbad in San Diego on a daily basis. To fill my time while riding the train, I had downloaded some Spanish Podcasts from Itunes. The lessons worked out great and I was learning a ton.

Fast forward to about two weeks ago. I was looking for a similar Podcast to learn Chinese. While searching through Itunes for a suitable Chinese Podcast, I found some other applications that also looked very interesting. There was this one that worked like little flashcards. The application would show me the character, then when I clicked over the hidden part of screen it would show me the translation, the pronunciation in ‘pinyin’, and would also say the word out loud. I could also choose between traditional Chinese characters, and the simplified characters (Traditional is still used in HK where simplified is used in most of mainland China).

Please understand my excitement for this application. Chinese, not being a phonetic language, requires the student to learn the written and spoken language separately. So the fact that the flash cards tell you how to say the word is so helpful.

Sure there are programs on your computer like Rosetta Stone that have the same capabilities, but how convenient are they? When I’m sitting at my computer I usually have many more things to do than practice my Chinese. But what about when we're waiting for a doctors appointment? Or waiting for friends to meet us for dinner? Or during commercials when we're watching your favorite show?

The biggest problem is, the Chinese flashcard application only works for an Ipod Touch or Iphone. A couple of questions you might have to ask yourself before making the upgrade are these: Does your lifestyle include some waiting time allowing you to pull out your Ipod Touch for 5-10mins at a time? If not, just a regular Ipod that can download the Chinese Podcasts might be a good investment. Otherwise, I can say from experience, the Ipod Touch and the $5 Chinese flashcard application are two great investments.

Hope this doesn't sound to much like a product review. I just really love this new Program!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Work Visa Woes

Hey guys,

With just five days before leaving for Hong Kong, I received an urgent email from my employer in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, they’ve been having trouble with the work visa for a permanent employee and this has led to my work visa being pushed back. Regretfully, I’ve had to delay my return to Hong Kong until early April. Actually, April 1st (No this is not a prank!).

I’m a little bummed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cheers to walking in the dark with your eyes wide open!

“But the common theme is this: Executives cannot function effectively until they understand the context they are operating in.”
-Developing Global Executives, Pg 22

“The basic mental process of developing into a global leader involves getting your mind around the whole world – not just one country.”
Global Explorers, Pg 186

I completely agree. With every new venture I take on, I can almost feel the process as my mind wrestles to grasp the size and complexity of the task at hand. I’m never fully capable until I’ve grasped the parameters of the project, until I can create a mental map of the situation.

So what do I do when I enter a situation that is completely alien to me, with no reference points?

“Just one more step Kevin, one more step,” I would say to myself. From Europe to South American, Budapest to Sucre, one more step got me through more situations than I would like to remember. Like walking in the dark, stumbling, fumbling and bumping around until I hit something solid, taking a mental note of what I’ve found. Depending on the size and intricacies of the room – and don’t forget my own desire to discover – it takes a while to get a handle on the environment.

I think the world’s cultures are similar in this way. My understanding of them will develop as I discover their parameters, as large as they may be. As much experience as I think I’ve had, I still find myself in situations where I’m walking a bit blind, feeling out, step by step, my path forward.

Cheers to walking in the dark with your eyes wide open!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"MYOFASCIAL PAIN SYNDROME” and “COSTOCHONDRITIS”

Exams taken in Hong Kong:
o ECG
o Tredmill exam
o Gastroscopy
o Blood tests
o Antibiotics
o x-rays


Exams taken in San Diego:
o Bone scan of my chest
o More blood tests
o Stool tests
o MRI of my spine
o CT scan of my chest
o Full pulmonary examination
o Barium swallow
o More x-rays

My Primary Doctor, Dr Prior from Kaiser in SD, has diagnosed me with 'MYOFASCIAL PAIN SYNDROME” and “COSTOCHONDRITIS.” I'm not so sure he's right. However, I don't have to many options. I had hoped to have everything figured out by now. With only a week left before returning to Hong Kong, I've run out of time and run out of exams. I'll continue to search for more answers, but I've become reasonably sure I've done my due diligence, it's time to get busy living.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Since when do people turn down free labor?

My Internship Search

My Internship search this past fall semester wasn’t half as peachy as I had hoped. Looking back, it’s easy to find fault in the way I went about my search, but I’m not sure if I would have changed the way I went about it.

After my internship with Gen-Probe over the summer, I realized a good place for me to start my career would be with a marketing agency; as big as possible (global), with a fast paced atmosphere. After receiving some good advise from a friend’s colleague, I began my search on WPP’s website. WPP is a holding company for marketing agencies, many of which are global agencies and have offices in Hong Kong. I created a list and began review each agency as a possible fit.

Turns out that most of these company, which on WPP’s website appear as separate companies, actually occupy the same office space. So when visiting Hill & Knowlton, Young & Rubicam, and Ogilvy, the agencies I was most interested in, I realized their offices incorporated five to six other agencies as well (though their addresses were similar, I didn’t realize they were literately connected). So the number of agencies I could actually apply to was cut dramatically.

After calling, emailing, and visiting numerous times, I was hardly received a phone call back. As I should have known, but over looked, was that agencies as large as the ones I had picked out, all have internship or fellowship programs that make spur of the moment internships highly unlikely. Additionally, obtaining a work visa from the HK immigration office is uncommonly difficult. Companies must show that they have been trying to fill the proposed position with a local employee. To do this, they must provide HK Immigration with months of documentation highlighting advertisements for the position as well as demonstrating how the possible labor that was interviewed was unable to meat the requirements of the position.

Many of the connections I made from the American Chamber of Commerce meetings didn’t go much better. I was so popular during these gatherings (haha)! And yet, after emailing all my new found friends, little came about from the connections. The situation was similar when I visited the ECO EXPO Asia late in October.

In late November, I emailed Patrick, a friend of mine who lives and works in Macau, to ask him if he had any possible connections that might help me find an internship. He responded quickly saying that he would get back to me tomorrow with an answer. Not knowing how well Patrick would do, I then asked all of my teachers in HK whether or not they had any connections that would be interested in an intern. Ms. Fransesco quickly responded to me saying that she was aware of a Non-profit that had an intern finish with them and that they might be in need of another intern. Within the span of a couple short days, I had not only an internship, but two!

Patrick was able to help me find an internship with DHL and Ms. Fransesco helped me find an internship with the Non-Profit called Community Business, who’s focus is corporate social responsibility.

After interviewing at Community Business, I liked the work pace, small business environment and team members I’ll have the chance to work with. Additionally, corporate social responsibility is something I had prior experience with when I worked at Gen-Probe. This might seem surprising, but I found it very enjoyable.

I leave for Hong Kong February 25th. My internship will start on the 16th of March. Community Business’s office is in Shueng Wan (right next to Central on Hong Kong Island. Remember, I stayed in Kowloon when I went to school last fall). I’m searching right now for an apartment to stay. Expensive! But I’m sacrificing size for proximity to my work place.

I can’t wait to get back to Hong Kong!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A failure to communicate

Communication is important. As the world/technology/etc has asked me to work harder, and my aspirations have sent me traveling, lately I’ve found myself in need of better ways to keep in touch with the people I really love to hear from.

Over the past couple months I’ve become increasingly proud of the tools I have employed to keep in contact with friends and family, that now, live around the world. Some might already be aware of many of the tools I use, but if not, I hope you adopt them and put them to use keeping you in contact with the people you love to hear from. Feel free to share some of these ideas with your friends and family. And if you have some that I don’t, please share!!

Google: Though I’m not sure of some of the other Internet search engines (yahoo, MSN), Google is an amazing communication and organizational tool. After making an account, I recommend using any of these free features/tools:

iGoogle: Customize your homepage (see pictures below). Add quotes of the day from Einstein, Ben Franklin, etc. Add a world clock or weather reports for most cities in the world. If you use Google Calendar, you can add an application that lets you quickly add upcoming events and then easily view them. I keep an app from the Student Travel Association that lets me check upcoming flights with their student discounts. Many more Apps!



Even more helpful, I’ve been adding Blogs/RSS feeds from my friends and also from business professionals in my field. With iGoogle, I keep about 20 different Blogs on one page and can easily see whenever one of my Blogs is updated. This has been such a time saver and has allowed me to stay updated with friends/current events/industry news.



Google Notebook: Have you ever wanted to copy and paste information from the Internet to a Word document, but then been disappointed when the information becomes skewed and the formatting is all wrong? Take a look at Google Notebook. I use it for doing research. I can take information from many different locations on the Internet, quickly copy and paste, and have a ‘notebook’ complete with pictures and headings.




Gmail: Use Gmail to bring all your email accounts to one address: your gmail account. If you use Google Documents (another cool online application) or Google Calendar, you can have application boxes put on the left hand side of your inbox. This way you can quickly see new documents that have been edited by friends or coworkers, or see which events are coming up on your calendar.
Create a ‘Task list’ and quickly create new tasks from emails you’ve just received. You have a list of friends (normally on the left side, but I’ve moved mine to the right side) that you can use to instant message. Rather than using folders, Gmail uses Labels, allowing you to ‘label’ an email multiple times, depending on how relevant it is to multiple labels.



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Skype: This really has been around for some time now, but it’s becoming increasingly useful. If you have a microphone, make international phone calls free to others using Skype. Make very inexpensive calls to regular phones or cell phones. If you have a camera attached to your computer, have a face-to-face chat with friends across the globe.



Social networks: Even though I belong to a plethora of social networks, my two favorites are Facebook.com and Couchsurfing.com. Of course Facebook is very common, but it’s common for a reason. In my opinion, what Facebook has done right, setting it apart from other social networks, is making photo and event sharing easy and fun. Get an invitation from a friend informing you of a party later that night, go to the party, and then tomorrow morning take a look at the photos others have posted and tag you in.

Couchsurfing.com (CS) is a social network for travelers, and people interested in traveling. Though I’ve only join recently, I’ve found few social networks to be as positive and as enthusiastic. Some use CS to find a place to stay for a couple of nights when they arrive in a new city. So far, I’ve only used CS to inquire about good neighborhoods to rent in and where to buy cheap furniture (I received about 15 quality responses, not bad).



Blogs: As you know, I keep a Blog (duh! You’re reading it). I’m not sure when I came around to the idea of Blogs being a good idea. I think I saw my life being pulled away from the people whose stories I loved to hear. But now, I think Blogs serve a very important purpose. Though I can’t be where they are, I still want to hear the trials and tribulations that my friends and family are going through. I want to hear them because maybe I can do something about it or know someone who can. Maybe I can help them when they’re in a rough situation. Or maybe I can learn from their successes and failures. I would encourage everyone to start a Blog. If not for you, do it for friends and family who want to hear how your life is going. Help them, help yourself, and inspire each other.

Anyways, I hope you guys can use or add to this list. As life pulls us apart, it’s also giving us tools to hold ourselves together. Use them!