Locusts and Humans

LocustDid you know that before they swarm, and ravenously destroy crops, locusts are grasshoppers?  It is true. Before taking flight en masse to travel to, descend on, and mercilessly consume fields, they are harmless, lonesome grasshoppers munching on tiny and unnoticed bits of vegetation. But as those docile grasshoppers multiply, their density increases. When it gets high enough their personal space overlaps and they occasionally bump into each other.

Well scientists have now shown that it is exactly that contact–jostling in confined areas and bumping into others–that turns a pleasant, calm grasshopper into an asshole of biblical proportions. In this way I think humans and locusts are much alike.

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Cultural Awareness (or: How I Learned to Understand Chinese Traffic)

Americans make jokes about Chinese drivers*.  I never knew if an American joking about a Chinese driver was an astute observer or a racist. It can be tough to tell these things apart with racial, national, or cultural generalizations. But I admit in California I surely saw my saw my share of strange behaviors initiated by Chinese drivers: stopping on highway on-ramps, backing up on the highway to turn off an an exit that was accidentally passed, etc.  As a open-minded Californian I resisted the urge to associate these behaviors with any race or culture.  And then I visited China.

Chinese Traffic JamWhen I moved to Singapore I found myself visiting China for business regularly.  As others that have done the same will testify, the roads there are absolutely fucking insane.  In Shanghai I saw a woman slam on her brakes while in the fast lane of a highway. Her tires locked up, smoke billowing out from under the car, the vehicle leaning forward and sliding slightly on the friction of melted rubber, all so she use an exit she was passing. After stopping she gingerly turned the car 90 degrees to the side and idled across the highway through honking 100 KPH traffic.

Taxi drivers entering roads in China usually do not even look to their sides before doing so.  They act on the faith that another driver that might hit them will raise alarm by honking to call attention to the extreme danger they are about to put themselves in.  God knows what happens when horns fail.

But it was in Singapore that I noticed an even stranger phenomenon.  {Read More}


Goodbye EMC (For Now)

GoodbyeLast week to my colleagues and friends at EMC I announced that I resigned.  I did this after obtaining the counsel of my trusted colleagues, many discussions with friends, and a prodigious amount of soul searching. And not without a little anxiety.  But its now done.

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Singapore Retrospective

I am two days into my new adventure in Hong Kong. I have mixed emotions about this move. Certainly this city has a lot of promise. But I had hit a comfortable spot in Singapore. Great apartment, good work, wonderful girlfriend, so-so social life. Then all of the sudden I am in Hong Kong looking at apartments literally half the size of my Singapore place. And I know no one here. This may be tough.

These initial challenges have given me time to reflect on Singapore and its characteristics, whether charming or annoying. Here is what is top of mind:

  1. The service in Singapore sucks.  I remember my first night in town asking the staff at Fraser Suites what I should do with my toiletries, since there was zero shelf space in the bathroom.  It contained only a shower, a pedestal sink, and a toilet (with a round top).  I rhetorically asked, “should I put my toothbrush on the floor?”  They shrugged and said “yes”.  This I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-your-happiness attitude pervades the Singapore service industry.
  2. The girls in Singapore are beautiful and the weather drives them to dress in ways too provocative to easily describe.  In my last couple weeks I saw one girl wearing a translucent dress and another wearing shorts no thicker than a belt.  Both the bottom and top of her ass were visible.
  3. The legends of Singapore safety are 100% true.  Anywhere on the island at any time of the day you can relax.  Taxi drivers and restaurant staff will never intentionally rip you off.  In fact, they will go to great lengths to return money and goods incorrectly left with them.
  4. Singapore is boring.  People told me that when I arrived but its newness entertained me for about 18 months.  If I did not travel constantly I might have exhausted the scene in half a year.  In 48 hours I have stumbled on more stuff in Hong Kong than in 30 months in Singapore.
  5. I love gum and missed it in Singapore.  I’ve been on a frenzy of gum chewing that will square off my jaw like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s before the new year.
  6. I love the heat and loved Singapore’s weather.  Sure, you cannot walk a block in a suit without sweating through it.  But if you can just come to terms with a sweaty brow then every day of your life you can wear sandals and a t-shirt and feel relaxing warmth that demands the company of a cool beverage.
  7. The Singapore Changi airport is the most efficient, convenient airport in the world.  I have heard Hong Kong’s airport is nice, too.  But it is further from Hong Kong island than Changi is from the CBD.

More to come as I recall it.