Welcome Home, Chris and Endeavour

After 15 days in space, Endeavour Shuttle will return to earth in one hour – it should land in Florida at 10:48 EDT, or 11:48 PM China time.

Chris sent us (YLF) an email describing his departure preparation back to the Earth when he was in the International Space Station. It is the first email I got from the space – very cool. Obviously that very exciting and interesting email is private communication and should not be published, otherwise, I would be very happy to share what Chris experienced in the space on this blog.

As I wrote in my email back (Chris told me that it is possible for astraunauts to receive emails on space station), to hear from a friend about fact that night/day alternates at 45 minutes circle is much more “real” than reading it from a text book. I have never been so close to the space, and that is one of the inspiration of landing my own outer space exploration facility one day.

Image credit: NASA

Update 10:59, July 31, 2009

I watched it live on NASA TV, and took the following screen shots:

Xu Zhiyong’s Another Journey

At the same time Chris returns home, another YLFer, Xu Zhiyong, was brought away by the police in Beijing in his home. I admire Xu Zhiyong’s idea about Open Constitution Initiative, and his tiredless effort to help those treated unfairly by the government to get justice with his professional legal assistant. Several weeks ago, the organization Zhiyong started 5 years ago was fined by the Tax Administration for more than 1 million RMB, and soon, the OCI was banned by the government, and now Zhiyong himself is brought away by the police, and subject to sentence. Obviously the government is trying to prevent people like him to fight for justice to this country. To me, Zhiyong is actually doing something much more dangerous, and that needs more courage than the space exploration. I will closely monitor what happens to Zhiyong, and provide my help if needed (including update the status of the case on this blog).

Second Child For Some Family

China has implemented the One Child Policy for more than 30 years. I have two brothers, and I am among the last generation to have brothers or sisters in the last 30 years. If the policy were enforced earlier, there would be no “me”. Well. In China, there is always a grace period between announcement of a policy and enforcing it.

Recent years, it changed. I don’t know exact the date, but for certain family, they can have two children. The criteria are, the both parents have to be the only child in their family. Before, there is a several year gap between the two children. I heard the interval requirement has been canceled.

Encourage to Have Second Child in Shanghai

At the same time of population pressure, there are aging pressure. In 2050-2070, there will be so many old people for the society to support, but there are so few work force at that time. To solve this problem, to increase the birth rate is a choice.

Shanghai has been in negative birth rate for many years. Shanghai is among the first to publicly encourage people who are both the only one child in their family to have the second child.

Ban at the Same Time

At the same time, people who are not qualified to have the second child still need to follow the one child policy. Violation will subject to fine of 2 times of annual household income, and other punishment. Interestingly, people who are not party member, or working for the government takes advantage here. For most people like myself, there are just huge amount of fine. For party members, and government staff, they face much more severe punishment than myself. They will lose their job, ruin their future, and more interestingly, hugely impact their manager’s future. If they have the second child, their manager will lose their job, and their manager’s manager will look very bad.

So, on one hand, it is not allowed for anyone else to have the second child, and on the other hand, they encourage others to have second child.

The Conflicting Policy

I can understand how this confusing policy comes. In a big system, it is not easy to coordinate different departments, and people to follow the same guideline. It happens in a small company of just few people, and it happens to a big government like that in China.

I believe eventually, the one child policy will expire, but not soon.

My Conflict with Safe Guards

Recently, I found I often run into conflicts with safeguards – the safeguard at my residential area and the safeguard at the place where I had worked. Actually, this is very similar to the story of the mason in my post The World with Different Rules

The Story of the Safeguard

Many weeks ago, I went to Metro Tower to pickup stuff of Wendy. The safeguard closed the entrance to the load/unload area, and do not allow me to stop before the load area. He even ignored the fact that I just paid 30 RMB for parking at the parking lot, and just wanted to drive into the load/unload area.

I asked “Why as tenant of the building, why we cannot use the load area to pickup personal stuff – pretty heavy box”. This was his answer that drove me crazy:

“This is our company’s place. We do whatever we want. It is none of your business.”

The same situation happens with the property management company. The safeguards there obviously treat their manager’s order higher than any residents, and they think they are policeman, and the residents are people who they manage.

The “real” policemen in China, and government officials hold that kind of stupid attitude, and think they are the ruler, and all others are just fellow common people. I believe that takes longer to change, since it is definitely a political reform, and that cost time. But what surprises me is, in the private property like residential area, and office building, the property management company holds the same view.

Whose Place?

It is obviously not productive when I explain to them how it works – they just don’t listen and laughed at me “Who you think you are?” was the typical answer.

This is how I see it.

Take the residential area as example. The real estate development company pays the government (ridiculously high) price to get 70 years of usage right of the land. The real estate company borrow money to build the house. Then they sell it, and transfer the right of the land to the owners of the house (unlike in most countries, in China, house owners still don’t own the land, they just own the usage right of 70 years, and the land still belongs to the government, but this is irrelevant in this case). The certificate of that right is called “Big Certificate of Property” 大产证. Then each house owner has the certificate for their small unit, called “Small Certificate of Property”.

Simply put, the residents collectively are the owners of the whole area.

The owners hires the management company to manage the property, but all rights, including the car parking lots, and all the money in the bank account for maintaining the property, belong to the house owners. Not the property management company, and of cause not the safeguard.

The funny situation is, very few people really understand it. (Correct me if I am wrong here) I asked many of my friends (who are the house owners) and they cannot tell the whole story. I am not that surprised to see most of safeguards don’t know it.

So, that is the conflict. The safeguard thinks they are the Owner of the Place, and I think I am. When the two owners see each other, conflicts are inevitable.

The Future?

People are talking about political reform. But I am more concerned with the democracy on the residential area level. Before many people understand how private property works, and understand who are the owner, it is hard for people to really understand that the common people are the owners of this country, not someone else.

Back fro OOB in Shengsi

We were in Shengsi for company outing. Just returned. I left few days blank in my blog – pretty rare in the last few years. I will update about the outing soon.

This is also an interesting time slot that caused a lot of mental tension, and thinking power. I said to my partners that I have almost been converted from ENFP to ISTJ in the last few weeks. It seems now I am at least more introverted than before.

We Will Miss the Solar Eclipse

Ops. It seems we are going to miss the longest and the best total solar eclipse in Shanghai. Look at this picture and you will know how lucky we are to be located in Shanghai:

But being in the central location of the Solar eclipse is just the beginning of the story. The reality is, it is cloudy!

Here is the photo I took this morning.

shanghai-solar.eclipse.jpg

It does not likely to be able to directly observe the elicpes. I would only guess that it will be dark outside for some time.

Longest? .The Only…? ..est?

We should be happy to observe the eclipse – the process of being completely dark, but shall we be happier if we know it is the longest in the next few hundred years? It is just like the last day of the 21 centuary – the event by calculation (not the observed event, but just by numbers, like 2001.02.03.04.05…) is not as excited as real event, like launch of a rocket, or born of a baby. That is another example of why gut feeling provide more accurate guidance – you are just not as excited to one event and very excited to another.

Believe Your Gut Feeling

Kai-Fu Lee wrote an article of “Follow your heart” when he left Microsoft and joined Google. I was told the same thing today. To me, that translates to “Believe your gut feeling”.

That is just not Right

Sometimes, we have to admit how weak the rational logic and reasoning are when making complicated decisions. Sometimes, when you have already thought for many times, and have already made a decision, and the decision is well-informed, data-proven, and perfect-logic, you just about to make a decision, but at the last minute, you feel something is not right. It just does not FEEL right. You don’t know why it is that way, but you just have that gut feeling. Can I call it intuition (BTW, I am an Intuition type of person – ENFP)?

Buying a House

It is just like buying a house. Sometimes, when you go to a new house, and you immediately liked it. You just like it so much that you know this is the place you want to live. But, there is a problem – it is too expensive. The other house, according to the influential analysts, has the best ROI, best location, best design, and is very cheap, but you just don’t feel good about it. My own experience told me, follow the gut feeling is the safest way to make these decisions.

Blink

I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell, the author of book Tipping Point, and Blink – the power of thinking without thinking. In his book Blink, he told the story that reflects what I feel.

Blink started with the story of the marble statue which is claimed to be made from the sixth century BC. The price they asked for is $10 million to sell it. The museum did all the possible research on it, and everything from style match, to X-ray detection to calcite exam… Everything they did proved that the marble is truly made many centuries ago in Athens.

However, the problem is, despite of all the hard evidence, people still feel it seems wrong to them. They can not tell what is wrong, but it just seems to be — “fresh”.

The whole book started with this story and explain why the fake statue survived in all rational and modern test, but just cannot fool people’s eyes – even at a blink.

People Recognize Patterns, but Logic and Reasoning is Limited

Blink continued to explore the reason why it happens. There are example like the blue and red card. The simplified version is like this (I just cannot remember the real numbers, and experiment – just made up some illustrative numbers. Refer to Blink if you want to know the real case).

The volunteers were given two piles of cards. Each consists of random blue and red cards. Participants can pick cards from any of the piles randomly. If they get a blue card, they get $100, but if they get a red one, they lose $200. The reality is, there are 30% blue cards on the left pile, and 70% of blue cards on the right pile. Most of people can find out the right pile is the best choice after getting about 30 cards. However, the physical test shows that as early as the first 10 cards, the heart beats will fasten and sweat appears hands when they reach out to the left pile.

The experiment tells people that the brain (or the body if you want to say it that way) already knows the reality, without the brain realize it. It is the sub-conscious, instead of the conscious.

That explains the reason of many “gut feeling”. It is a feeling that you know, but still have a hard time to explain it. Really experienced people can turn the sub-conscious thinking to conscious thinking, but “gut feeling” is always the one you need to consult for really complicated situation, especially when people is involved.

So, from time to time, checking gut feeling is the right thing to do to run a great business, although you should not build the whole business intelligence on the gut feeling of very few people.

P.S. At the same time, Chris has been in the International Space Station for several days, and has just directed the space walk. He is lucky to be the 500th man in outer space! I am looking forward to the same return of Chris, and looking forward to having him join us at YLF in November in Xia’men.

Right Lane – Most Important Road in City

The reason I love business world is, you have to reach a level of excellency in digging into details of all the aspects of your business to really be able to deliver a world class product or services. I tend to practice this skill in worlds other than business. Transportation of large cities is one of the area I spent a lot of time thinking. Here is one of my observation.

Smaller Road Blocks Leads to Better Transportation

I have the gut feeling that the smaller the blocks are, the better the transportation is. Examples are Puxi vs Pudong, or Shanghai vs Beijing. Puxi has much more cars than Pudong, and Beijing has much more big roads than Shanghai, but the Puxi is better in transportation than Pudong, and Shanghai is better than Beijing. Why? When I tried to verify this conclusion and to find the reason, I found some insights. One of them is the importance of right lane.

Right Lane is the Most Important Lane in a City

I thought all lanes are created equal – because they are equal in terms of width. But they are not.

I found this because of the Huashan Road construction. The Huashan Road is the road before my office. It is a main road that goes to Xujiahui on the south. There are 5 lanes at the crossroad with Hongqiao Road. One left lane, one left/forward lane, two forward lanes, and one right lane. The traffic is heavy but for many years, it went on well.

All of a sudden, one day, the whole Huashan Road is blocked. The long queue of cars line from Hong Qiao Road to Guangyuan Road (that is about 1 km long), and extends to Huahai Road (about 1.5 km long). Cars are jammed there, all the day time. From my window, I can see the long line, and hear continous horn from impatient drivers. If you thinking about 2KM queue, and there are 4-5 lanes on the road, you can imagine how many cars are impacted daily. Even buses detoured from this section of road.

What happened? Is there a big change?

Nothing except they closed a right lane at Huahsan Road and Hongqiao Road, and merge it into the straight lane, becaues of the Xujiahui Metro Station construction at Grand Gateway.

Right Lane Multiplied by Time

It is a shocking discovering for me. Before, I thought a right lane = 1/5 of the traffic. It turned out to be the wrong assumption. The key characteristic of right lane is, cars are allowed to turn right ALL the time – at greent light and red light. Cars at forward and left lane have to wait for red light to really “use” the lane to move. What is the percentage of time they can see green light?

At a crossroad of equally important two roads, if there is no seperate left turn light, each side can only use 1/2 of the time. However, that is the whole story. Since the left turn and forward traffic needs to wait for each other, the lane actually is used 1/4 of all the time (assuming left turn and forward are of the same traffic). If there is seperate left turn light, the forward is actually 1/4 of all the time.

Meanwhile, no matter what time it is, the right lane is always available. In a crossroad like Huashan Road and Hong Qiao Road, the utilization of right lane is almost 100% during day time (unlike most other crossroads). The conclusion is, a right lane can archive traffic 4 times as a left or forward lane under full utilization senario.

If the right lane is combined into the forward lane, right lane cars have to wait for the 1/4 of the green light, effectively decreased the output of the road – 3/4 of the traffic capacity is cut.

That is the secret why reducing 1/5 of the lanes causing the capacity to drop to almost half. If you take the capacity of an always green light road to be 1, previously, it was 2 (1 + 1/4 * 4), and now it is 1.25 (1/4 * 5), a 35% decrease.

This translate to the long queue of roads.

Right Lanes and Road Grid

When there are more smaller roads and smaller road grid, the key is, there are much more right lanes than big road system. Like highways, although there are many forward lanes, right lane per km is much less than smaller road system. If it makes sense for expressways to build large road system, it does not apply to cities like Beijng and Shanghai.

With right lanes, the road utilization is increased, because cars can choose to make right turn if they can, and causing less cars on the forward lanes. Meanwhile, right lane cars fills into the empty road when there is red light at the crossing road. In a road grid of many right lanes, the ratio of cars and road area is much higher (higher utlization), and causing a more efficent road system.

P.S. I enjoys learning insights of things like this a lot, just the same way as I run my business. Many people can do the same thing, but only few people really know what they are doing. The excellence of understanding is what I am chasing after.

P.S. 2. It also shows the power of convinience and the meaning of keep doing for a long time. Many things looked alike, if you don’t take the accumulation of time into account, but it is the time factor that makes something so unique. Like business, many companies look alike, but only very few of them can focus on what they determined to focus on, and keep doing it for a long time. That is huge difference.

Xinjiang! Xinjiang!

When the riot (I have to pay specially attention to my wording, although I don’t know what is the best word to describe it) in Xinjiang happened, I was in US. But I don’t think I missed any news than being in China.

Every time, when I don’t write about an important event, it is because I don’t feel I have known enough about the fact. That was the reason Why I Didn’t Cover About Tibet. That is the same reason I kept silence about what is happening in Xinjiang.

I cannot say anything about it, just because I am still not sure what happened there. What I can confirm is, immediately after the event, censorship on Internet reached the highest level, and it seems Internet in Xinjiang is completely shutdown – I cannot visit most of the Xinjiang site I know – like Xinjiang University.

Interestingly, no matter whose fault the event is, the first thing government thinks is to block all possible news channel, and shutdown whatever site they can shutdown, so everyone just use the standard news release.

I read many comments about the event in Google Reader, but it is just comments with the absence of facts.

So, here is what I plan to do. I just bring up this topic, so my readers can start to discuss about it, and giving me some education. Please, facts are welcome!

Channel 9 of Flight Control Center

Maybe the last key reason to keep me fly on United Airlines is the Channel 9 they offer. I believe most of people even don’t know that there is a special channel at every passenger’s seat: the 9th channel. That is the channel the pilot communicate with the control tower. Recently, most of the United Airlines captain don’t bother to turn it on, but they did turn it on the last time at UA857 from San Francisco to Shanghai. Here are some audio I recorded. Click on any of the dark image to play.

Part I near landing Pudong Airport

Interestingly, although I heard it is required to use English to do the communication, most of the conversation in the audio is in Chinese. It is the same situation when we fly near Tokyo Narita Airport. They are using a language I am not very sure whether it is English or Japanese – I just cannot get a single word besides the numbers.

In the audio above, a brief transcript is like this:

“United 857 …. 300″ (the flight I am in)

“FM9142 go down to 12.” – Background information: FM9142 is from Qinhuangdao to Shanghai and will launch at around 12:10 pm that day. I don’t understand what 12 means. I thought it was runway numbered 12, but a quick check reveal that there is no runway 12 at Pudong Airport (there are only 17L/35R, 17R/35L – this should be future, and 16/34). What does it mean?

“247D 2400″ “247D keeps 2400″

“MU2155 turn left, to 070″ my guess is, they want them to turn left and heading to 70 degree?

“MU2155 ..” This is the flight from Yinchuan to Shanghai via Xi’an. They are scheduled to land at 12:15 PM.

“FM92142 down 600″ I guess this means lower down to 600 meter level, and if this is the case, the previous 12 may mean 1200 meter altitude.

Above is just my guess, and I will send this to my United Airlines pilot friend to ask him what this means. I believe he will have the best answer for me.

Below is another piece:

Part II near landing at Pudong Airport

The message in it was:

“MU2155 direction 050″

“FM9142 can turn left direction 210″

“247D turn left direction 350″

“MU2155 down 15″ from what the pilot repeated, I am sure 15 means 1500 meters in altitude.

From the communication above, I have the impression that all the planes are lineup as a big circle surrounding the Pudong Airport, and gradually lower the altitude to land. It turned out that we finally landed at runway 16 – the runway east of the T2, near the sea, from the north to south.

Below is another clip I recorded at the time when we were at range of control center of Japan. Anyone can understand any word from the conversation? I cannot.

Communication near Japan