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Archive for May, 2007

Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY) is a publicly traded venture capital firm. Normally, I would prefer to invest directly in individual companies, rather than a venture capital firm, but this case is special. From everything I’ve been reading, I’m convinced that nano-technology is on the verge of profitability on many fronts. There are both short term opportunities such as building materials with altered characteristics, and long term opportunities that are currently in the realm of science fiction only.

There are some public companies investing in nano-tech right now, but the problem is they don’t offer a pure play. Sure, part of IBM’s great research team is working in nano-tech, but the company is so large that only a tiny fraction of its earnings are likely to come from nano-tech, even if their research goes well. Of the companies out there that are primarily focused on nano-tech, I haven’t been able to find any that are publicly traded. That’s where Harris & Harris comes in. Being a venture capital firm, they are investing in several of those little “pure” nano-tech companies- over 30 to date.

The Upside

There are exciting things coming out of several of the companies Harris & Harris is investing in. Molecular Imprints is already working with Motorola, Nanosys is working with Intel, and Xradia is designing and manufacturing ultra-high resolution imaging systems. The most exciting company in the Harris & Harris portfolio, though, is D-Wave a Canadian-based start-up that’s building quantum computers. That’s right. Quantum computers. Earlier this year, they provided the first-ever commercial demonstration of adiabatic quantum computing. It employed superconducting magnetic flux qubits, to solve simple sudoku puzzles. It was only a 16-qubit processor, but they plan to have a 512-qubit processor built by early next year, and a 1024-qubit processor before the end of next year. D-Wave believes that as their computers become more powerful, there will be a $9 billion market for its services. Considering the advantages quantum computing has to offer encryption, bio-informatics, and other tasks which would require exponentially more (non-quantum) computing resources as they scale up in size, $9 billion is a figure I have little difficulty believing.

The Risks

I could make a very, very long list. The main risks I see are as follows:

  1. None of the companies in Harris & Harris’s portfolio are profitable yet
  2. There are no guarantees when it comes to theoretical research
  3. Even if the research is fruitful, it may be other companies that benefit

Other Thoughts

The companies in the Harris & Harris portfolio have made a great deal of progress over the last year, but the stock price hasn’t changed much. Also I’ve noticed insider buying recently. That’s always a good thing. I’ve wanted to buy this stock for quite a while, but I just haven’t had the money to do so. Since I sold my Amgen shares that I’ve owned since way back, I was able to make this purchase without taking on more margin debt than I am comfortable with.

I bought 250 shares.


Everything in this entry is true to the best of my knowledge, but I don’t make any guarantees. Don’t make your investment choices based upon mine. Only you can be responsible for your own financial decisions.

My friend Patrick is looking for teachers for a well-paid position in Taizhong right now. Rather than continue posting an entry for each job opening my friends and associates tell me about, I’ve decided to make a page for EFL jobs in Taiwan. It won’t be an open job board, though. I’ll only be posting jobs with people I personally know and can vouch for. You can find Patrick’s classified ad there.

I recently found the following question and answer session between Warren Buffet and a group of MBA students on Kempton’s blog. Obviously, as a value investor, I pay close attention to what the “Oracle of Omaha” has to say. What impressed me most about this video, though, was Buffet’s personal philosophy. He’s the least materialistic billionaire the world has ever seen, and his values show through clearly in this speech. “Do what you love. Have integrity.” That’s his message.

I haven’t written about sooner because I figured it was old news, but at the Beer Factory meet-up, David, Todd, and some other Taiwan bloggers told me they hadn’t heard of I guess the Taiwan websphere and the mainland websphere really are cut off from each other. So, here it is: Tudou is a copy of YouTube done Chinese-style. YouTube has plenty of copyrighted materials, but there’s at least the appearance that they don’t allow them. Tudou, on the other hand has things you’d never see on YouTube- things like all the Star Wars movies streamed back-to-back, Friends episodes, and a ton of other movies and TV programs. It’s amazing. It’s like Tudou has no fear of Hollywood, whatsoever.

Friends on tudouFriends on tudou Hosted on Zooomr

[1] 土豆网 (tu2dou4 wang3) means “Potato net”
[2] You vote up videos by clicking on the orange button with 挖 (wa1), which means “dig”. Remind you of anything?

The topic of promoting tourism seems to come up pretty frequently in the papers. Due to the fact that it’s an island, and that there are much less expensive options nearby, I don’t really think it’s that likely that Taiwan will ever be a top tourist destination for westerners. It already is a top tourist destination for the Japanese, but the vast majority of its tourism promotion is aimed at westerners. Here is a video from Taiwan’s “Touch your heart” campaign:

In contrast, China’s “China Forever” video is very focused on natural scenery, history and culture:

Korea’s new “Dynamic Korea” is pretty impressive all around:

The Japanese “Yokoso!” (welcome) campaign is split into three separate branches.

Beautiful Japan:

Cool Japan:

Delightful Japan:

Of all of the videos, I think the strongest are Delightful Japan and Dynamic Korea. They really got me to thinking about what exactly I would want to experience as a tourist somewhere.

Hat tip to Fili for digging up the first three videos. He’s also written about Israel’s unique tourism campaign.

John’s observations on Malaysia’s “truly Asia” campaign are worth a read, too.

The very first Dr. Seuss book I have my students read is Hop on Pop. It’s easy enough in terms of phonics and vocabulary that my students can handle it pretty easily by the time they finish the first book in the Up and Away series of textbooks. Most of my first and second grade classes reach that point by their fifth week in a six hour a week course.

Many of the words in the book are words commonly taught within the first few units of EFL books, and they are well-supported in with colorful pictures.

Other words in the book are known by very few beginner level students. The pictures still provide quite a bit of support, though.

I only specifically translate a few words into Chinese as we go through the book. It can be done on the fly, but giving the students a hand out, or writing them on the whiteboard before class is usually helpful. Here are the words most of my students tend to need help with:

  • fall / 跌倒
  • all (time period) / 整 ____
  • must not / 一定不要
  • town / 小鎮
  • snack / 小吃
  • bumped / 碰
  • went past / 走過去
  • yelp / 叫
  • hill / 山丘
  • still / 仍然, 還
  • other / 另外一個

This book is especially great for phonics-heavy curriculums, such as mine. It provides quite a bit of practice for short vowel sounds, as well as the -igh- phonics rule. The only minor complaint I have is the crazy picture for “hill” on the page in which Will is still up the hill. It really could confuse students, especially in “English only” classrooms.

Related Post: Dr. Seuss is my Friend.

When I went down to Xindian last month, I picked up a copy of Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Since I was in the middle of The Diamond Age at the time, I didn’t get started until a couple of weeks ago. I read the first chapter pretty quickly, and then kind of got bogged down a bit. After making it a couple of hundred pages in, it really picked up and I finished the whole book last night. There won’t be any big spoilers in this review- it will all either be obvious things, or things that are established in the first few chapters of the book.
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Recently, Lonnie (of OMBW) wrote about a pretty nice web tool that tests to see if a site is blocked in China or not. It’s free, and you can check your site’s accessibility from servers in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. The name of the site is Website Pulse.

It’s been pretty accurate as far as I can tell. I had been getting about 30% of my traffic from China, until the past couple of weeks, during which that percentage fell to about 1%. During this time, the tool has been saying I was blocked. Now, it says I’m no longer blocked, and my traffic logs seem to confirm it.

Why I was blocked briefly, and then unblocked is a mystery.

Tonight, Poagao came over and we worked on the layout for his new web page. It took some time, but I think it looks way cooler than it did before. Now, the monkey statue looks like it means business. It’s a bit hard to describe, so here’s a screen-shot:
He also showed me a photo that drives home all the complaints I’ve been hearing about HDR photography. Not only did it look like it was a painting done by some 18th century Frenchman high on absinthe, but I couldn’t even recognize that it was a shot taken from my own apartment, a view I see every day.
Around ten, we headed over to the Beer Factory and met up with the same group as last time, plus a few others. EmKid made it this time, too. It was another great Friday.

Things have been busy again. I’ve been helping Poagao migrate his site to WordPress. It’s been much more difficult helping him migrate than anybody else I’ve helped. Since Google updated Blogger, all the old migration tools are broken. The fact that Poagao’s Journal is six years old, is a Byzantine mix of modern CSS and bronze-age table-based design, and has well over a thousand entries doesn’t help either. My curriculum work is really what’s been keeping me so busy, though.
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