Twofish's Blog

May 15, 2009

Thoughts on the Universities and the Financial Crisis

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 7:32 am

Speaking of universities.  One thing that shocks me is that universities are now facing their biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression as endowments plummet, and I’m a bit shocked at the lack of leadership and vision that is coming out of the academy.  MIT is facing a $150 million short fall in revenue over the next three years, and all they can do is create committees to study the problem, and no one is even talking about the fact that the drop in revenue may be permanent.

One reason I think that academia is in such sorry state is that anyone with any vision and determination got out of academia.

January 18, 2009

Sleeper agents and real conspiracies

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 9:50 am

Harvard has a huge bank account. Also, it’s possible to monetize the value of the MBA. We let you classes with large subsidies, and then in the process brainwash you so that when you make megabucks, you feel guilty and give us large amounts of cash. Every few months, I can this call from Cambridge, MA, in which some freshman starts a conversation about how my job is going. At this point I get out my credit card, since I know what they are going to ask next (i.e. you do know who gave you the skills for that job.)

This is the basic business model for Harvard and MIT undergraduate programs.

MIT has extra cash come in from technology industrial programs. They also heavily subsidize the classes, so that when you go out in the world, MIT has “sleeper agents” in the major banks, governments, and industries which MIT can then use for its own nefarious purposes. If someone from MIT career services calls me and wants the names and phone numbers of people in my firm that have jobs open and they want to know the secret code words to put on a resume to get them those jobs, my “preprogrammed brainwashing” kicks in, and I tell them.

This business model works, much, much better for the student than those that rely on tuition to fund operations. From the point of MIT, it also works because it requires vast sums of money, lots of branding, and pre-existing social networks, which keeps competitors out. There is no such thing as a “non-profit” university, you just have to understand the business model to make sure it makes sense for you.

September 26, 2007

The Real World 

Exxon-Mobil has record profits, but if Iraq were online, they’d be making even more money. China and India are increasing demand for oil, and the oil companies are making large amounts of money off of this. This puts big oil on the side of China. The whole Chevron-CNOOC thing, that was a bit of hardball.

to guest:

You left off a zero. Cheney’s assets are about $90 million, most of which came from options he had in Halliburton stock. Funny thing. Once he was VP, people wanted him to sell his Halliburton stock, which he did, right before the stock plumetted.

Halliburton made about $13.5 billion of revenue. US$90 million net worth for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company is typical (and I think it’s actually on the small side). One problem with the US system is that because public official salaries are capped, all of the really talented people try to go into business or law, and having talented people go into business rather than government makes things unbalanced. The Goldman-Sachs model, where people make money then run for office, is one way of getting around that problem.

Also, once you make about $3 million/year and have about $10 million net worth, (i.e. managing director level at a bank) money no longer matters. Above that level, it’s not about the money. It’s about the power and the status.

guest: Did you mean like the “sleazy operator” George Schultz, or the “sleazy operator”,turned neocon warmonger, Donald Rumsfield? When Cheney and Rumsfield were unsuccessful with the carrot, they use the stick (“shock and awe” rather than shlock and gnaw). Is this what you mean by sleazy?

Yes exactly. If it was just about money, there are lots of deals that could have been made with Sadaam. Lots of deals *were* made with Sadaam. The whole “oil for food” sham.

Cheney and Rumsfeld went wrong when they stopped being sleazy operators and got convinced by the neo-conservatives that they could build a democracy in Iraq. If it’s about money, you can make a deal. Go to Sadaam, ask him what his price is. $1 billion? $2 billion? $10 billion? $50 billion? $100 billion? Write the check and then have the lawyers and lobbyists make sure it is all legal, and the PR people make sure that the story gets buried in the press.

If they were just in for the money, then they wouldn’t have gotten the US in nearly the amount of trouble that they’ve gotten. The US is going to be dealing with the Iraq mess for *at least* the next decade. Realistically, the next two or three. Everyone with half a brain knows it, but no one is talking loudly because they don’t know what to tell the spin doctors to say.

But I still think that the US has a good economic and political system. The thing I find interesting about ideologues on both the right and the left is that they are interested in “selling democracy” but what they are trying to sell is some system that exists only in their minds, and not some real world system.

The basic reality is that people with money get power, and people with power get money. If you try to build a political or economic system that ignores that fact, you are ignoring basic human desire and emotion, and what you come up with will be a mess. However, you can build a system that acknowledges human desire and still manages to do social good. Arrange things so that the people with money have to spread some of it around to get more money. When people complain about corruption, they usually are just upset that they aren’t getting any of the good stuff. Give it to them.

When I say that I think that there are some parts of the US system that China should adopt, I’m talking about the real world, not some imaginary system. Even with the spin doctors, the lobbyists, the lawyers, the overpaid incompetent CEO’s, there is still a lot of good stuff in the US economic and political system. With all of the damage that Cheney and Bush have done, it’s still recoverable. Not anything like the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution.

September 24, 2007

Notes on academia, power, and influence

Filed under: academia, economics, harvard, iraq, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 5:19 am

Some notes that I made on the admissions system of elite universities

The way that the admission system works is that your kid’s application to Harvard gets placed in one of several queues, based mainly on the part of the country that you apply from. If you have a relative that went to Harvard or if you donate a huge amount of money, then you get put into a special queue, in which you are compete against the other people who have rich and connected parents. Only a small fraction of people who go to Harvard go through that “legacy queue” but the people who get into that queue is even smaller, so your chances of getting in are far higher if you get into that queue. Also, this is only for undergrad admissions, none of the professional schools do this.

And the people designed this system, *did* intentionally set things up to perpetuate their power and status. If it is one constant in history that is that people with power and status do everything that the can to keep their power and status, and this often involves making deals with people who can challenge them. The admissions systems of the elite universities can been seen as a deal between the upper class power elite, and the upper middle class “want to be’s”. The upper class needs to keep the upper middle class happy since the upper middle class has the means and resources to overthrow the upper class if they wanted to. By making most of the positions in Harvard open to the upper middle class, their threat is neutralized.

What makes the system work also is that US has a Federal multi-party system. If you want to be among the people who run the United States, you can get there directly through Harvard (graduate Kennedy School, get a job in a think tank or in a staff position in a federal agency). However, if you don’t make it to Harvard, you can be one of the people that run the state of North Carolina by going to University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (become a local lawyer, or state assemblyman, or state court judge), and if you are hungry, ambitious, and lucky enough, you can get to Washington through the local elites. There is also a Republican establishment and a Democratic establishment, and the two groups really don’t like each other that much.

This makes the dynamics of power in the United States vastly different than in Japan or France which don’t have regional elites.

Yes there is a conspiracy in which people with power seek to keep that power. That’s the way that it’s always been, that’s the way it always will be. From time to time, you need to change who is in power, but don’t expect the new people to ultimately behave much better than the people they replaced.

Now the reason I blog is that I don’t like what goes for “news” and “debate” in the media.  What’s there is just professional wrestling and bread and circuses.  The real stuff happens behind closed doors and in quiet discussions.  I do think it is important to talk about how power and influence work in America, and part of what I’m doing is to make some points about how I see it working.  I think society works better if people have enough information to make good decisions on what role they want to play in society.  As for me, the thing that makes me different is that I don’t really think that America has such a bad system.  OK, there is a power elite that runs the country.  So there’s a power elite in every country that runs the country, and the way that the power elite in the United States behaves and responds to external stimuli isn’t particularly bad.  I’ve seen worse.  I’ve seen a lot worse.

I lot of my views on how society works comes from reading Chomsky and Marxist critical theorists.  And I think they have some very good points about how there is a ruling elite, and how that ruling elite runs America. Where I part ways from the critical theorists, is that I really don’t think that they’ve come up with a better system.  Someone is going to end up in charge, and whenever it’s been Marxists, they result hasn’t been very pleasant……

There is one thing that I should point out.  You will notice that the media has been very quiet about Iraq lately.  It’s because the people that really run the country, they know how bad the situation is, and they really have no clue what to do about it.

September 11, 2007

Charles W Eliot’s Education for Efficiency

Filed under: academia, education, harvard, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 5:24 am

A wonderful book by Charles W Eliot about the purpose of education.  The thing that I find remarkable about Eliot is his vision of Harvard University as a mass institution, whose goal was to play an integral part in the transformation and emergence of a new American superpower in the 19th century.  Something that I’ve noticed in Eliot’s work is the element of New England unitarianism.  Education for him was as for me, a means of saving the souls of people, and there was this idea which is deep within unitarianism that all people can and should be saved.

May 7, 2007

Notes on MIT Economics Talent Forum Conference – May 5

Filed under: china, economics, finance, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 4:07 am

Here is a dump of my notes.  Will add more comments later

China is crucial juncture – from Shanghai

next phase food -> modernization

more open
more reform

two prong
domestic harmonious society

peaceful development
common development

Stable environment for development

China talent is important

Cadres important – talent can play bigger role

Talent is important – competitive in flat world – competition is competition of talent.  Chinese government pays attention to talent.

Two elements

1) more talented people in economic development
2) absorb more talented people from overseas

Contribute to China’s development and seek more opportunities for yourself.


Enwei Xie – Microsoft China

Innovated in China ; Innovated for the world
Server and tools business (China)
Microsoft China R&D Group

Redmond – Server and tools business – $10 billion revenue rapidly growing
Started doing china several years back – moved family a year and a half ago

Globalization is everywhere.

Cauasian in Iowa – 11 year old son is studying Chinese

Mission: To enable people and businesses throughout the world to release their full potential

Level of technology is amazing

Microsoft China R&D early 1990’s – talent pool

Basic research – 20 and 30 years down the road – multimedia, server,
2003 – Development centers
2006 – Formally formed Microsoft China R&D group

China – high-end innovation – take advantage of local knowledge
importance of partnership – technology innovation

Microsoft China in the news

Lenovo – home server – people will have multi-terabytes in their hoe

Amoy – Cell phone / mobile tech

Not China-specific.  These products are global

China is open minded.  No legacy.  Good trial platform

Text to speech
Speech recognition is hard

Research – Microsoft Research Asia
Development – Microsoft Advance Technology Center

Chinese text to speech is listed as one of the top ten favorite local features

Not just technology innovation.  Business model innovation.
Operational innovation.  K-12 schools.  How do we bring technology to
them?  Software + services – China is a testing ground – China does
not have legacy IT.


US-based teams and China-based teams – Management differences

Ten years in Redmond.  Shanghai 85% teams and joint development

Management – Emphasize management on values of company.  No difference where you are at.

Cultural awareness.  The way that you deliver value might be
different.  Open respect.  Contrast Chinese/American.  US is open.
China is extremely respective.  Meetings are boring.  Not right to
challenge in open forum.  But value is the same.  More one and one
dialogue in meetings, more structure in meetings.  Lead controversial

Anchor philosophy around company culture and be aware of regional
culture to match approach.  Distributed development.  What do you do
in a joint development environment.  Lots of rotation programs.
Redmond to Shanghai and vice versa to increase awareness.

Compared to R&D development.  Strengths and weakness of the four areas.

30+ years in making.  Redmond-centric.  China feels more like a start
up.  Redmond more mature company.

Basic research – very good in China – Microsoft research is young – Application/customer focused.

Product development – many differnces – Shanghai challenge – lots of
raw talent – end to end – program managers – customer connection
interactions.  Lacking programing managers and lacking design
capability.  Weaker design capability.  Leadership is interesting.  US
based recruiting team – reaching out to leadership talent.  Newly
development society


Technical innovation – great

Strategic partnership – great – CEO in China.  Corporate VP.  Strong
in local relationship.  Used to run Motorola China.  Great.  Better
than US.

Continuous development.  Continuous maturity.

High demand.


Xie Weihe – VP Qinghua University.

Higher education – Why does China develop so fast these years?  A lot
of factors.  Open policy.  Long term reform in political economy and
total system.  But not in this area.

Talent is one factor to improve development.  Develop very fast in
higher education and basic education.  Also promotes economic

1911 – School
1928 – NTU
1937-1947 – Southwest Associated University

1952 – Became a multi-disciplinary university of technology –
non-technology moved to Beijing

1978 – 2000 back to comprehensive

Management – close relationship to Sloan school

2000+ facultyry

26000+ total students

2000+ international students from 75 countrial

Education concept

Knowledge, Ability, quality

* solid and broad fundamental for future careers
* learning by doing
* dealing with practical
* creatity

Actions in improving education quality

Salvendy -> operational management  (roundtable)

English Summer Camp

Recruiting best teaching staff

* chair professors
* 100 talents recruiting project
* senior visiting scholar program

Motivating potential young talents in our faculties

* awards to junior faculty


Research-oriented teaching system

– Reduce undergraduate credits from 200 to 170 – get students to do what they like
* Early research training – Student Research Training for undergraduates
* Freshman seminar – small size classes for freshmen
* doctoral student’s forum – a lot of international

Tailored programs from students who have specific interests

science class on math-physics
social science

* Second bachelor degree
* subsidiary major


Practical training

* credits for social practice and internship
* initiated challenge cup in 1989
* innovative design competitions participated in all students in China every year
* participate in worked

Student creative work


Internationalize of education

* joint degree programs
* 1500 students/year going abroad
* English summer camp


English Masters Programs (2007-2008) in nine disciplines


Lots of research projects – Interested in numbers

Research fund – 14.9 yi RMB Yuan


Fuel cell city bus
clean combustion in coal
first biochip with electric and magnetic
largest ipv6 in the world
architecture design

reconstruction old city – how to keep old style

dams and reservious
technology transfer – container development


distance education program: aiding the poor

* 113 distance education stations
* trained 300000 local people

volunteer to rural areas in summers

450 volunteers to teach

70-80 American students

2006-2010 Five year plans

1994-2002 adjusting disclipline structure
2003-2011 making breaking throughts in some fields
2012-2020 overall upgrading to world levels

Developing key disciplines

Information science
material science

* Fostering new research areas
* brain and recognition

Research original teaching systems

* Student scale – Qinghua cannot increase. 20 years ago Qinghua was
biggest.  Today Qinghua is 20th place

* Promoting the advantages
* teaching students according to aptitude
* encourage English
* two more

* Uplifting the level of graduate students

* developing international student programs

Talent strategy


Balance between research and teaching

* More attention to teaching

Not to divide the two !!!!  Even at the undergraduate level – emphasis
research oriented teaching.  Offer opportunities for students to do
student research training.  Students apply for student 1500


Peter Wang

To start a sucessful venture

Program or service

How to start a successful venture
– combination
– complement
– compatibility

Good venture – need all four
* product and service
* finance
* marketing
* management execution

Not just three engineers

What type of company?

Inc or LLC

What kind of business.  There is no answer.  You need friendly
pro-business support.  Delaware – very good pro-business and
administrative support in filing.

NJ new stock – five days to get stock
Delaware – one minute – filing is done
close – file – one minute is done

Huge mistake – Delaware company – audit should move overseas.  China
gives good tax incentives, but US doesn’t recognize since there is no

US – sales immediate recognize profit

Move out to overseas – Can’t do this because reason is for tax purpose.

This is why all US-based company for China is based in Cayman.  This
separates tax code.  legal code separate.  mix legal code is a big


Most people want to create wonder product – Very, very rare to create
miracle product

Type of product:

– new venture is vulnerable to high risk product

* Starbucks – successful – traditional – very good management and execution
* Starbucks get people in China to drink coffee

* Tea – one year after starbuck failed

* new product – add very little component to be successful.  Scully
bad.  Jobs back.  Only thing he did was to change color and triple
sales.  Appeals to students and artists.

Ipod is just an MP3 product.  Iphone just put an I in front.

Add a little bit.  Marketing.  Jobs is a marketing guy.

Start on giant shoulders.  Do everything high risk

* Don’t be copycat.  No copycat wins.  Wahaha.  Feichang Cola –
exactly same design five stars.  collapse failed.  What is this?

* Copy McDonald’s and KFC – exactly American Eagle, Texas Fried
Chicken. Overnight foreign once every one disappears. Nancy same
design – three months gone  Don’t copy.  It doesn’t work.

* New concept.  Very few suceess.  The man that said no to bill gates.
Just moved to Redmond, Bill Gates rode bicycle.  Got offer.  Basic
compiler.  Bad.  Lousy salary $20,000 + options.  What is options?

Not going to do it.  Bill Gates is good businessman.  1990 – Bill
Gates lousy window system.  Why?  Timing.  Very good time.  PC
started populating.

* Marines or Army – Marines take beach.  Sooner or later you get

* Cost of waiting.  When you create a new product.  You don’t know
when people will accept.  This will kill you.

City Vehicle – Very successful – Local codes – noise and dust

Seyour Cray – successful developer – never successful – no market –
can’t sell outside the US

Hupao – spring very good mineral water.

Qingdao hu – license – Nongfu sanquan – Water very good marketing

**** How do we enter into market?

Santong – gift

Naobaijing – Manatoni – starch with highly manatoni

HongtaoK – Iron – Geritol – ethics-wise suspect – good business – iron
is undigestible

Marketing – name brand makes a difference

Second brother —–> Xiao lingtong



+ out of packet
+ angel investment
+ friend and family
+ venture captial
+ private equity/ bank loan
+ public listing

+ Dilution and valuation

Take the money and run.  Money today is better than money tomorrow

Don’t get greedy.

Already got money so they survive when they cash.


Don’t be venture if you want to make money.  Risk is too high.  You
need challenge, enjoyment and challenge, and effort.

Hunan Weishi – no just copy – No real time broadcasting.  American

Cell phone
Huge political issues

Implementation and execution – plan and ground work –


Finance and Venture Capital

Charles Wang

Global liquidity flush

* Rising equity markets around the world
* Increasing M&A activities
* Booming Asian economics
* Global economic integration

Asian financial crisis – And now outforming

China has done the worst – Strong economics does not translate into stock

Reversion to mean

Base for other financial activities

Increasing trend in M&A

Surge in volume.  How long it will last?

FDI into China.  $60 billion/year

Increasing Business and Capital market efficient

* Compnaies more focused and more efficient

* Cross-border capital flows make large scale corporate transactions possible

* Increasing global talent pool and management expertise

* Global VC firms tends to have higher risk tolerance and require
lower expected returns: investment portfolio theory

* China local firms – systematic risk higher lower capital base.  But
small is neautiful

Requirement for successful venture capitalists

* science and technology expertise
* knowledge about business operations
* financial resources
* extensive business and social networks – information asymmetry greater


* Be curious
* Be critical
* Be creative
* Be open-minded
* Know how to deal with failures – normal in equity / log normal in VC


Michael Ma

Chinese Reverse Merger Mania – Is there a better way?

Chinese manufacturer do reverse merger into shell corporation.

Reverse mergers have bad reputation associated with pump and dump schemes.

Most Chinese companies linger.

The Real opportunity

Lenovo and Haier figured it is possible to build a real business in

Among the various forms are through acquisation.

Strong sales networks and operations in decline because of high
manufacturing costs.

They are willing to fund acquisitions by Chinese manufacturers.
Software development, automotive components, textiles and plastics to
name a few sectors.  Structure operations through American companies.

BVI Caymans, now Barbodos.  Chinese operations invest a US business.

American firms excels at sales, marketing, management – as well as
investor relations.

Comparative advantage resides mainly in highly efficient and (more and
more) high quality manufactyuring.

Unfortunately, over-competitation in China has led in many cases to
the trap of low margin OEM manufacturing.

Chinese manufacturers can play from their strength and acquire capabilities in the area their greatest weakness by acquiring US companies.

Fastest and most reliable way to develop effective markets in the US
is to buy companies who already established in the US.

Guangxi is important in the United States.

Mason Zhou

Growth capital fund

Private equity fund – investing in non-listed companies

Blackstone, CPG, KKR – Leverage buyout funds.

GP and LP

1% and 99%


20% – 80%

How do you add values?  Operational enhancement.

Who invests in.  Endowments/Foundations.  Yale is investing in PE.

What invest in PE?  S&P 500 – 10% (20 year) and 14%

PE starting from scratch.

Blackstone KKR – $20-$30 billion buyout

Xindi Qui

BTU – A private equity firm in China’s energy industry

BTU Asset portfolio.

Waltham, Dubai, UAE


leverage energy and capital to meeting demand of energy markets

CPC – Power company in Tunisia
TAPCO – Abu Dhubai – largest desalization in the world
MPC – 18 power plants

MPC – 8322 Megawatt from PESG

Capacity increased 78%.  Revnue growth 50%.

Project pipeline – install capacity to 20,000 MW

– per capita 20% of the US, 30% of Japan in 2005

– elasticity/GDP growth in 1

– petrochemical complex

China ethylene

China LLDPE demand and supply

Downstream integration into Asian gas market

LNG regasification and gas distribution


Masthead – Venture capital trends in China

* manufacturing giant
* large market with an exciting pace of growth
* long term


* Engineering theory as opposed to application
* Poor English skills

* Amount and depth of quality management is sorely lacking.  Few good
teams.  Entrepreneurs tend to be technical strong
* Lack of IP protection
* immature economy – inability to invest and divest
* legal enviroment

27 IPO
14 overseas IPO’s

62 M&A 161.2 million
* technology media telecom
* moving to energy/educaqtion

* VC look for team, market, differentiation
* vc target millde class
* In Beijing and Shanghai starting to move to other areas

* Continued improvements in exit. Partnership Enterprise Law of PRC legal
* Shenzhen GEM.

3i – global investor, local partner

technology is a global business
venture capital is a local cottage industry

$2m to $1 billion buyout.

Focused media

FTSE 100 with $11 billion assets
Formed in 1945, invested in $31 billion over 14000 business

Venture capital
Growth capital

15M to 150M in growth capital – professionalize board

Value add.  Global network.  We can get companies to get from one area
to another.

Why 3i is in China.  Based in UK.  China is the fastest growing.

Ambitious, high-calibre management teams to grow their businesses.

Open to co-investing, prefer lead or co-lead involving representation
on the board.


CNOOC – negative case

Areas that would be difficult to acquire

+ Whirlpool

Competition within the market in the United States

+ Huawei entry

Business takes place using hardball lawyers advancing business
interests.  Lawyers not only structuring, but also offensively.  IP
case easy to make politically regardless of merits.

Higher profile – more difficult

Lower profile – relatively straightforward

Sensitive – defense
Less senstive – auto parts

Appliance have good futures

Auto – PR, consumer expectations

Strategic understand markets – good advisors

– Cui

Renewable energy

Better than other development countries – 1.0 elasticity versus 1.5


Evil stories in VC.  Looking for China.  How do get to VC company?
What do you expect from VC.

We are VC.  Certain things they look for.  We have websites.  Through
networks afriends of friends.  We will try to help.  Get in.  Start
talking to people.

Lots of rhetoric.  VC stealing companies.  Some good.  Some bad.  Do
your due dilegience.

I get two questions

1) I want to VC
2) I want to startup

PE is not something you study.  Go out and do it.  People.  People.
People.  Business plan and talk to investors.  Swamped with business
plans is our jobs, and we like it.

Balance between expartiates and local.  Vetcorp.  Find blend is the
best.  Requires a lot of different type of people.  We need to change
people quickly if necessary.  We changed director operations, and we
didn’t need to change them quickly.

Brand management of acquired company.  Not the same in every case.
But see if the target company will help you market your products.  Are
there any companies I’m currently an OEM for.

Importance of working with advisors.  Chinese companies weakness,
reluctance to hire consultants.  Look at how people in field.

If it a sunset industry is this a good strategy.  Lenovo did they pay
too much money.  Important for Chinese to develop their own brand.
Understand value chain and get higher margin from brand management and
strong financing, that Chinese companies have less of.  Hard to teach
elephant to dance.


What do we need to be IBM and google.

Talk part of capital markets.  Next google, In new media, not too much
regulation.  New media.

Regulation, favor you need to Chinese company.

Grow up intelligently.  Pay people at exit markets.  Reverse merger
get too big too fast.

Starting to happen with Lenovo.  Brand management.  Professional
management.  Stubborness.


China Economy and Societal Development

Rose Luwei Luqiu

Shengyao Jiang

Deng Wei

In Chinese

Starbucks and VT killing

Starbucks in Forbidden City

Dannone vs Zong Qinghou

VT killing and China

Chicago Sun-Times thought this was Chinese

* Self-confident or nationalism
* pride or inferiority
* populist nationalism

What are Chinese most concerned?

* Health care
* Housing
* Education
** Environment
** Affordability

Rich and poor

What Chinese need?

Social justice and equality

Media = Watchdog ?

The power of bloggers in China

– One other outlet for people’s responses
– need portal to back you

Jiang Shengyao

Energy and Nuclear Energy program in China

1) Quick view on Energy in China

High energy intensity

1) low high value added products
2) high proporation of industries in high energy
3) efficiency low

energy consumption per capita only half of world average

fast increasin

* car and houosing
* urbanization`
* growth of heavy and chemical industries

increase of oil import

2) Nuclear power strategy

1) Advanced PWR technologies
2) development of generation IV nuclear reactor
3) R7D on fusion

operating 5 plants, 9 units 6.7 gw


10 units with capacity of 9.3 GW

2020 – 4% – 40 GW
2035 – 16%

24 units of 1GMe level to come onlie

R&D of HTR

10 MW HTGCR – 863 (Follow)

HTR-GT 0 Under construction

HTR-10 with Gas Turbine  – 863 (innovate)

HTR-PM – peeble bed

Key experiment: trip of helium circulator

HTR-10GT 2008 operation

HTR-PM – 2012 National key project

Inhrent safety
Economic competition
Standard design and proven technology

Need different kind of energy needed to couple with economic developo

Nuclear energy has to play more improtant role and has bright future

China is making great contribution to the development of advanced
nuclear technology


Way of Urbanization in China – Deng Wei

Everyone needs owns a house.  Everyone rents a house.

House ownership very high. Because transfer of ownership from

Land is not property, but building is property.

House price from low wages


Price of the houses will rise due to urbanization.  Not limit prices.


Media gives people a realistic view of the world, and that will give
turn nationalism to patriotism.


Non-market mechanisms don’t work.  What the government should do is to
sell houses and use income to fund low include.

March 10, 2007

Survivor’s guilt

Filed under: academia, life, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 3:29 pm

Twice in the last two weeks, I’ve talked to people about my ideas for transforming undergraduate physics education, and gotten the reaction that the system was too strong and that things basically wouldn’t change. I’ve been thinking about how to respond to that, and the irony is that those were exactly the same points that I made to Margaret MacVicar in the spring of 1991.

In the spring and fall of 1990, MacVicar and I met a few times. I was the database coordinator of the student Course Evaluation Guide, and I had written a set of database reports that gave the departments and the schools (mainly the School of Engineering) some extremely detailed breakdowns of the questions. MacVicar had become interested in those, and she talked to me about the reports she needed. I remember that she looked at what I could provide, and said that it needed to be expressed in “dean’s language” not “computer programmers language” and had some suggestions about how to organize her report. I also remember at one meeting asking what

She needed those reports because she thought that the departments were understating the actual number of hours that people were spending on science courses and overstating humanities hours. (They were.) And she needed data so that she could use the regional accreditators to force MIT to increase its humanities options. We met a few times, and I remember her asking a series of questions to see if I was interested in money, power, or glory, and when it was obvious that I was interested in glory, she talking about her ideas for a revolution. I thought she was crazy and desperate, but she was the dean, so I kept that to myself. I remember at one point asking her what she thought would happen with the new President, now that Gray was leaving and the new person hadn’t been selected. She seemed very nervous when I asked that question, and gave an answer that didn’t say anything. “Of course, I’ll serve in any role the new president requires of me” was her reply.

I was able to generate the reports that she needed, and I remember a meeting in the Undergraduate Education Office in Building 20, when she was presenting the reports to representatives of the departments. I stood there with the CEG evaluation coordinator, and the audience was quite hostile.

Nothing ever became of this. In March of 1991, I got a letter from Vice-Provost Jay Keyser. which was sent to all of the graduating seniors, asking about any thoughts about my four years at MIT, which coincidentally came in the same pile of mail as my rejection letter from the MIT physics department. Needlessly to say I wasn’t happy, and I sent him an angry, ranting e-mail which I cc’d to MacVicar. The point of the letter was that everyone at MIT had told me to focus at MIT, but I was finding that studying the humanities was putting me at a disadvantage in applying for graduate schools.

As far as MacVicar, I wrote something that made exactly the same points people were making to me. I remember saying something to the effect of “Dean MacVicar is a wonderful person with good ideas, so it is a shame that nothing she has done or is doing will amount to anything substantial because the academic system is too strong. She can try to do whatever she wants to try, but in the end, nothing will change.”

About a week later, I was talking to the UASO contact for the Course Evaluation Guide, and she mentioned that MacVicar had cancer and that it was very bad.


Jay Keyser called me into his office, but it was pretty obvious from the conversation that he was just trying to see if I was about to go crazy or not, and he didn’t seem to take any of the points that I made in the letter seriously. I never interacted with MacVicar afterwards, so I don’t know even if she read the e-mail or what she thought of it.

So I left MIT… Got a nice boring job, and looked forward to a more or less nice boring life.

Then about five years ago, I came within a hair’s breath of dying. I don’t want to talk about exactly want happened. For the purposes of discussion, you can imagine that I was involved in a near fatal car accident. That will explain things like why I’m in constant pain. It won’t explain why MIT was involved or why I make a lot of references to Batman, but something happened. I survived, and survival brings guilt.

Death is easy. Life is difficult. The dead have moved on, leaving the living to try to make sense and bring meaning to something that is senseless and has no meaning.

There is a very strong element of chance of what happens, and asking whether or not one succeeds is ultimately determined by fortune. The important question is not whether one reaches one’s goals, but whether or not by trying, one makes the world a better place than if one had done nothing and if there is any better and easier alternative in doing what one is trying to do.

I think I probably would have felt better had MacVicar said something like this to me.

Looking back, the thing that I find frustrating about the current discussions of the General Institute Requirements at MIT, is that as far as I can see, it is *EXACTLY THE SAME DISCUSSION* that the Institute had in the late 1980’s with the HASS requirements.  The arguments are exactly the same, the political dynamics are exactly the same, and outcome, a political compromise to reflect the differing powers of the departments, is likely to be the same.

There are a few important things that I think I’ve learned

1) Nothing substantive will happen if you rely on internal bureaucratic and political mechanisms to conduct the debate.  In order to get any substantive change, you have to look not at MIT as a closed system, but rather at MIT in a wider social and educational context.  Rather than ask “what is the best educational system that MIT can provide”, I think it would be better to ask the question “what sort of educational and social system do we want to provide for the world” and then ask what MIT’s place in that system should be.

2) Nothing will happen if you require consensus and agreement.  The big problem with using the General Institute Requirements as the forum for discussion of these issues is that people need to agree about things that people basically don’t and can’t agree on.  A better approach would be to look at things where people can get useful things done without having to come to any agreement on what needs to be done.  The paradigm should be to plant seeds, exchange ideas, and define the issues.

3) Power traps you.  It may seem obvious that having a position of authority makes it easier to get stuff done, but that it not necessarily the case.  The trouble with having an academic position is that it limits what you can say and think (ask Larry Summers), and it also makes it difficult to communicate with sources of power.  The thing that I think that Dean MacVicar was realizing was that she needed had lost contacts with the undergraduates, and needed this sort of political base in order to stare down the departments.

4) The “gatekeeper syndrome”.  There is a problem that MacVicar ran into that is curiously the same one that the US Department of State has run into with democracy promotion.  The main contact that the MIT administration had with the undergraduates was through the elected Undergraduate Association.  The problem is that the student leaders in the UA got a lot of their power by controlling access between the undergraduates and the administration, and were very careful about letting people bypass them.  The problem that this led to was that there were not “deep communication links” between the administration and the student body.

One final thing, which is a weak point in bureaucratic institutions….

One of the rules of bureaucracy is that people who feel strongly about a subject should be ignored.  I think this is ultimately a weakness.  Jay Keyser didn’t take anything I said seriously because I was screaming, but the fact that I was screaming meant that it was important enough to me to be thinking about it fifteen years after the fact, and it’s likely that I’ll be concerned about these sorts of issues of the rest of my life, and there is a good chance that I’ll infect someone with my ideas so that things continue after I die.  The thing is that if you spend a long time working on a topic, you start learning things, and trying different approaches.  One of the reasons that I am blogging about this is I learned that if you restrict discussion, you aren’t going to get the social resources to get anything useful done.

I don’t know what will happen, but I think something useful will come out of this.

March 7, 2007

Why you should or should not go to MIT – A note for admitted seniors and their parents

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 8:38 pm

Since admission letters are going out soon, I’ve written something up about the culture of MIT in order to help graduating seniors and their parents make an informed decision about whether or not to accept an admission there. The problem with most college guides is that they really don’t tell you anything substantial about the place, and nothing that could be construed as negative.

The post is in the sidebar.

A little about me.  I graduated with a bachelor of science in physics from MIT in 1991 and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998 so I’ve seen both a small big-name school and a big public university, and have some insights into the strengths and weaknesses of both.  I’ve been on the MIT campus three times in the last year, and so I hope that what I’ve written is reasonably current.  One of the interesting things is how little I’ve changed and how little the campus has changed.

Hope it is useful….

March 5, 2007

Things I’ve learned about curriculum reform since I’ve left MIT

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 5:07 pm

1) The hidden curriculum is not necessarily a bad thing, and is in fact the core of the education.  I remember that during the educational reform discussions at MIT in the 1980’s, the term “hidden curriculum” was used pejoratively.  What I’ve learned since then is that most of the hidden curriculum at MIT is actually pretty good.  The hidden curriculum consists of values, attitudes, and actions, and most of them are consistent with my values.

2) The hidden curriculum is more important than the “overt” curriculum.  The “overt” curriculum listed in the catalog is actually the tip of the iceberg of the “hidden” curriculum, and is almost completely irrelevant.  What is a common situation is that you take a written document like a curriculum or constitution and put it into a different context, and you find that it doesn’t work the same way or may not work at all.  This actually is a good thing for MIT, because the “overt” curriculum is something that is easily copied.  What is hard to copy is the social and cultural infrastructure that underlies the written curriculum.  In fact, “copying” a society or culture is probably the wrong metaphor.  It’s better to think of “growing” or “seeding” a society or culture.

3) The main point of a lecture is not to listen to the lecture.  The model most people have of a lecture is that you go there, you listen to the teacher, and you get enlightened.  This isn’t what is going on at all.  The important thing about a lecture is not that you are listening to the teacher.  That part is almost irrelevant.  The important thing about a lecture is that you are in the same room as other people who are also listening to the teacher.  Once you are in the same room as other like-minded people, social networks start to form, and *those* networks the major teaching and learning takes place.

This model of education explains why things don’t work if you replace a lecturer with a videotape.  The main job of the lecturer is not to lecture but to create a social community.  It also explains how MIT provides a good undergraduate education, despite the fact that formal undergraduate teaching is not a major priority of the institute (let’s be honest, it isn’t), and a lot of the professors are either mediocre or horrible teachers.

4) Consensus is a bad thing.  We want to reform education.  What do we do.  We put together a blue-ribbon committee that issues a report, and declare victory.  That is a bad way of going about it.  The problem with this approach is that people have fundamental disagreements about what it means to have “educational reform” and those fundamental disagreements in some cases are irreconcilable.  What you get when you put together a blue-ribbon committee is a political compromise that in the best case is not harmful, and in the worst case eats up a huge amount of energy and kills any real innovation and creativity.

The problem with consensus is that it uses a design and engineering metaphor for something that should be a nurturing and agricultural metaphor.  Education is not about designing a factory,  it’s about planting seeds.  You plant lots of seeds.  You plant different seeds.  You nurture them carefully and come back in a few years to see how they’ve grown.

The important thing about seeds is that they are easy to plant, and you don’t need a blue-ribbon committee to give you permission to plant them.  Also, once you’ve seen what some tiny seeds can do, you don’t stop thinking about things because they are impractical.

The problem with trying to things with consensus is that consensus prevents you from asking the deep important questions, because people have different views on the deep important questions.  Instead of asking what the requirements should be for the freshman year at MIT, lets ask “why does MIT have a freshman year?”  “what’s a freshman?”

Here we go again – Another wasted effort at curriculum reform at MIT

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 6:10 am

See also

I’m going to put on my angry blogger hat.  It gets attention, and I’m going to say things that need to be said.

In M12 of this months Technology Review, we hear yet once more about MIT trying to reform the freshman year.  I predict that nothing substantial well come from this, and that degree requirements will change slightly to reflect the different political powers of the departments at the Institute.

The problem is that thinking in terms of education as a list of credits and courses which can be only gotten at MIT (or any other institute) almost guarantees that discussions about curriculum will really be discussions about power within the Institute.  This discussion will end up *exactly* the same as every other such discussion that has happened at MIT in the last fifty years, which is that the curriculum will be changed slightly in order to reflect changing power dynamics (management and biology up, physics down).

The way out of this is to realize that the world of learning and scholarship includes more than MIT, and to question the idea that education consists of degrees, courses, and credits.  We need to start by asking how MIT can and should interact with the wider world of academia and scholarship.  How can MIT work with community colleges, state universities, and high schools for mutual benefit.  Lets question the idea of a degree, of the course as the basic unit of instruction, of this silly and stupid idea that one needs to be “admitted” to MIT or any university.  I believe that anyone that wants an MIT education should get one.  Let’s figure out how to make that happen.

The reason for directing the discussion outward rather than inward, it that as long as the discussion gets focused inward, all people will end up doing is discussing internal politics.  By throwing the discussion outward, we begin by asking ourselves what the purpose of an education is, and then we can ask ourselves what is the role of MIT within the educational system, and then we look at the *entire* MIT experience and see how this fits within the entire educational system.  Also by throwing the discussion open, we end up including people that have nothing to do with MIT and are unconnected with institute politics, and hence can provide some outside insight, or say things that would be too radical for an insider to say.

I’m willing to bet that with this discussion, we will find that the question of what department teaches what courses and what the course requirements are will turn out to be irrelevant.   Who *cares* (other than the MIT physics department) whether or not physics is a one or two semester requirement.  Does this matter in the grand scheme of things?  No, and it’s silly to see so much energy wasted on trivia.  The courses at MIT make up only a tiny part of the MIT experience, and you could (and maybe you should) have every course at MIT taught by people outside of the institute, and it wouldn’t change what I think is the core of the MIT undergraduate experience.  Let’s start with the premise that the credit and required course list is largely irrelevant, and see where this gets us.

One final thing.  Right before she passed away, Dean Margaret  MacVicar was starting to realize how it was necessary to push the discussion outward rather than direct it inward.  She was trying to do this by pulling the regional accreditors into the discussion.  Right around the time she passed away, I realized in a rather nasty way how MIT was only a small part of a larger system, and how petty and irrelevant the discussions on the freshmen year of the late-1980’s were.  It would not only a shame if we went through the same round of basically the same discussions, but it also would be self-destructive.

If you look inward, there’s no reason to go through another round of “my department is important enough to be a required course and yours is not”, but if you look outside, it is clear that wasting time with this is damaging.  The world is changing, the internet is becoming more pervasive, we are in the middle of a long war that is going to last the next 100 years, global power is shifting.  If the discussion is focused inward rather than outside, and centered on the trivial rather than the substantive, MIT risks irrelevance.

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