2013 National Holidays

Recently, the Chinese Office of the State Council released the 2013 National Holiday calendar.  China’s National Holidays are significantly different to America’s national holidays in two main aspects.  First, they generally follow the lunar calendar (with the exception of National Day, Labor Day, and Solar New Year), so they change days every year.  Second, is that they not only cover multiple days, but they also have workers work on weekends in some (if not all) circumstances. Continue reading

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Why Nations Fail


March 25th to December 1st – Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson ($19.37 on Amazon)
My Rating: ★★★★★

Yes, I know I’ve posted about two books two days in a row.  The truth is, I actually finished this book a while ago, nearly the same time I finished Smart Trust.  The problem is I don’t remember the exact date, so I just marked them at the beginning of the month.  See a much better review of the book in the New York Times here.

Promoted by some as the “modern Wealth of Nations”, the authors of this book try to explain why some countries in today’s times are poorer than others.  What’s different about this book is that while it’s considered an economic topic, their explanation of why nations fail has nothing to do with numerical analysis.  Instead, they explain that it’s the extractive political institutions, which lead to the extractive economic institutions, which lead countries to “fail”.  Acemoglu and Robinson introduce these terms as well as many others (the virtuous circle of trust, the vicious circle of trust, etc.) in this book.

To be inclusive, economic institutions must feature secure private property, an unbiased system of law, and a provision of public services that provides a level playing field in which people can exchange and contract; it also must permit the entry of new businesses and allow people to choose their careers.

Page 74

The authors in this book start giving examples why current theories do not appropriately explain the huge disparity in economic prosperity between countries.  One of the greatest examples is that of Nogales, a city located on the border of Arizona and Mexico.  The Arizonian side of the city is very prosperous, with everything that comes with a modern society (clean drinking water, education facilities, healthcare, etc.) while on the other hand, the Mexican side seems to lack some of these things.  What can be used to explain these differences, is it geography?  The cities are right beside each other.  Is it culture?  In fact, the two Nogaleses share the same history and background, so it can’t be too deeply embedded in their culture.  It must be something about the two countries that they’re located in.

The authors then use this book to delve deeper into their theory and show other places where this theory can be applied (North/South Korea, South Africa, and Japan just to name a few).  At the end, the authors also explain why the Chinese “bird-cage model”, while it’s working today, is not sustainable and eventually will fail.

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(Finally) Another finished book!

September 16th to December 1st – Smart Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey ($12.99 on Amazon)
My Rating: ★★★★✰

Okay, so now I realize that my original goal of reading 50 books per year isn’t going to work at all.  In fact, if I’m lucky, I might get to finish 5 books before the end of the year.  Oh well.  I selected this book because of a recent seminar featuring Mr. Covey that was hosted by Infinity, a financial services company I worked for during the early part of Autumn 2012.  I wanted to get a head start at what this company was pushing, and I wanted to establish a good, trustworthy business with them, so I read this book to learn how to build trust with my coworkers and my clients.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade . . . not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

Page 149

The author uses the quote above to illustrate an example of declaring intent, one of the five steps of Smart Trust listed below.  I personally enjoy this quote and use it to lead myself into new challenges in life.

Needless to say, I don’t work for this company anymore, so the things in the book may be irrelevant to me now.  However, I still kept reading it because it can still give other useful information in life.  Covey broke down his concept of “Smart Trust” in five steps: Choose to believe in trust, start with self, declare your intent (and assume positive intent in others), do what you say you’re going to do, and lead out in extending trust to others.  To many people, this may seem like common sense, but surprisingly a lot of businesses are failing today due to a lack of trust, especially with a no-trust environment like China.

To illustrate what I mean with a “no-trust environment like China”, take for example the necessary steps just to move my class to a new room.  To make it simpler, I just had the class monitor do all the tasks, since they could do it in Chinese anyways.  I would have to get approval first from their homeroom teacher, then from the appropriate department, then from the management in the new building, and also from the administration of the school.  Each step required a special red stamp to show that yes, we really did go there to get their permission.  This was just in a classroom environment, out in the real world things were very similar, if not worse.  Financial services also tends to be a low-trust environment, so this book would be a good recommendation for anybody deciding to work in that industry, or any industry where they may feel that building trust is key.

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Spring Festival Trip Part III – Mingshui County

As if it wasn’t crazy enough to travel north to a city as far north as Harbin, which has temperatures regularly in the -10s, I took Garth and Ann even further north to a place called Mingshui County, which is in the jurisdiction of Suihua City.  Don’t worry, if you’ve never heard of Mingshui County, you’re not really missing out on much, Wikipedia doesn’t know much either. Continue reading

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Spring Festival Trip Part II – Harbin

After our trip to Beijing, we decided to go visit Harbin, also known as the “Ice City”.  The train itself was godawful, which I’ll explain in the post below, but the time we had in Harbin was amazing.  And fortunately, we had the help of a friend get us through Harbin and onto our next destination, Mingshui County.   Continue reading

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Spring Festival Trip Part I – Beijing

About a week after final exams ended, I took my first train to the capital city of Beijing.  It’s not a city I haven’t been to, but I still wanted to go because it had been a while, and it’s about halfway to where I really wanted to go.  Plus, I was going to pick up my friend Garth, who was flying here to see me and visit the great wall.   Continue reading

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Back online

So, it’s been a little while since I posted.  Part of that is because of the two trips I took during the spring festival, and part of that is because the new semester has started.  But most of it is because my blog was temporarily disabled, because a bot thought my blog was full of advertising links.

Yes, I’ve recently put some links for books up on my Books & Movies page, but they’re not there primarily for advertising.  Rather, they are there so I can show the books I’ve read, keep track of them (myself), and if anyone is interested in buying, they can go through that page to purchase them.  (If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry… there’s only like 2 or 3 books up there so far).

I hope in the future I can provide more details!  Beginning with stories from my travels.  Keep an eye out for those posts!

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