Saturday, January 30, 2010

So, I bought a Japanese "Monitor"...

My Japanese Lesson
In sixth grade, I remember my best friend and I, we both read and then, watched and re-watched, Rising Sun. We had just hit puberty and well, the movie with Sean Connery was ... But, anyways that's the period in which I grew up. I was raised at a time when the Japanese economy was thought to be a threat and that Japan would one day take over the U.S. economically. Of course, this was before Microsoft turned most Japanese products into commodities, such as televisions. Though, I wonder what happened to Softbank? Did it go the way of Yahoo? On a side note, I remember the last U.S. television manufacturer, Zenith, was bought out by LG or (Lucky) Goldstar as that company was known around that time. You see, this was before what the Economist now calls Japan's two lost decades. Rising Sun is an oft cited example of this.

"Japan’s economy has barely grown in nominal terms after two “lost decades”, and is again suffering from deflation. Where Japan was once bearing down on America, it now feels the hot breath of China on its neck. Remember “Japan as Number One”? These days the country’s chief claim to fame is having a gross government debt burden approaching 200% of GDP" (Economist, "An end to the Japanese lesson").
Well, I recently sold my old 23" 720p Samsung LCD to a friend and went into Fry's Electronics thinking I would buy, well, a little larger Samsung LCD HD monitor. I was thinking 32". However, as I was looking around and checking the specifications, I couldn't help, but notice that well, the Toshiba 42", yes, a Toshiba monitor with much better specifications than Samsung's 40" 6B series was actually cheaper and looked much brighter. Specifications are below. I mean I did read -- somewhere -- that in the winter of 2008 Samsung LCDs made up about a quarter of all LCDs sold in the United States (as compared to, say, 8% or so for Sony). Ironic, if you consider that up until recently Sony's LCDs actually were manufactured by Samsung in South Korea (in Asan, I believe).

Here are the main specifications I compared:






Motion Plus 120Hz™

ClearScan 240




MSRP Price: (I paid roughly half this).



(from Samsung's and Toshiba's respective websites)

Anyways, the connection with this is how I thought it was so crazy that Toshiba had a slightly larger LCD that was technologically superior -- it was newer and larger, yet cheaper. Here was a Japanese company resorting to competing with Samsung by price. Anyways, I did pay a different price for this. I am now deskless as the 42" monitor broke my desk and so I come to the library at school to use the computer. Perhaps, I'll stick with Samsung come four years from now or perhaps even go Taiwanese...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

[DeCal] Spring Semester 2010 - Breaking Down Borders: Korea

UC Berkeley's ASAMST 98/198 Section 9, Spring Semester 2010

Tuesdays, 6pm - 8pm
2 units pass/no pass

Breaking Down Borders: Korea will again be offered this semester. The spring semester DeCal team can be contacted here. I am creating a reader, which at this point may or may not be mandatory, for this class. This will, of course, mark the first time a concrete reader has been made available and with good cause -- having a reader will reduce the burden on students enrolled in the course and student instructors alike of having to try to locate the readings each week. The structure of the class will follow very similarly to the fall syllabus (an updated spring semester syllabus will be put up shortly) except in the way grades will be calculated. However, as a new group of student instructors take the lead and make this course their own the class could take a markedly different path. We all do share the vision of a smaller class size this semester; we opted at this point to limit the class size to 30 students so we wouldn't run into the problem of hindering discussion to the point where I felt it was unreasonable for students to remember sixty-five names or give a presentation in front of sixty pairs of eyes.

Personally, in retrospect, I wished we could have gone more into what North Korea is today at the end of last semester and how they have been acting recently and, fortunately, it seems not much has changed in North Korea since the end of the fall semester (a lot has actually been going on in North Korea in the past decade or so) and in the first class, scheduled for February 9th, I will give a short presentation on what has happened in North Korea in the past year and why we should generally care about what is going on in North Korea.

More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Of Malibu, 2010, and the puzzling dearth of Korean Nobel Laureates

It's 2010 and it's been twenty-two years since the Dodgers won the pennant, one hundred years since Japan annexed Korea (Joseon/Chosun/朝選), and ten years that I've had the right to vote. And, probably a a little more time than that since I've been to the Rose Parade in Pasadena (the Rose Parade's on TV right now). And, on a side note, it's interesting how there are probably as many floats from Chinese companies as there were from Japanese companies back when I went to the Rose Parades. My younger brother graduated from La Canada High School in La Canada-Flintridge, which would make a float for the parade each year. I attended the school for a semester as well and, well, it's a pretty big thing in that city. 

Anyways, I'm spending the first few days of 2010 at a beach house in Malibu with some close friends (No, the house isn't mine. Well, the owner of the house is actually a very, very wealthy friend of my friend's very wealthy mother). And, it is absolutely beautiful here though these pictures don't do it justice. Everyone is taking a stroll here on the beach and I'll join them soon, but I have a few remaining applications I have to or would like to work on. After all, it is 2010 and I don't want to start off the new decade being behind on my work.

But, to be honest, I have no idea if I'm really going to go onto graduate school this coming fall. I look at my grades and test scores and they're not too bad, but if I reflect back on the past ten years, then I start to worry if a school would really want an individual like myself at their graduate school. It seems like that's what's been on my mind every spare moment I have had for the past few months -- I've either been working on the statement of purpose, writing e-mails, or solving problems for an UG Real Analysis course.

However, I have been a volunteer at the English in Action program at the YWCA in Berkeley for the past couple years, where they match me with an individual, almost always Korean, who would like to practice speaking English on a one-on-one basis. Almost all my conversation partners, well those that I have cotninued to meet, up until this point have been usually Korean men around my age that are either doctoral candidates or post doctoral students at UC Berkeley. The interesting thing is every single time I talk to them they say that they can't study or do research in Korea. And, every single time I ask them, "why do you think that?"

And, the two usual answers I get are:
1. Almost all money invested in research is not in pure research, but applied research, where it's more about commercializing discoveries or trying to come up with ways to make money from contributions nationals from other countries have made.

And, probably, the most often heard answer are:
2. Research universities in Korea are very much like the country in which they are located in. Socializing and colloborating in research is done on a very a vertical basis, where it's socially difficult to criticize a senior faculty member.

So, a question naturally arises. South Korea is probably the most overrepresented country in research universities in the United States, but why is there not a single Korean Nobel Laureate? For example:

Worldwide, Seoul National University in Korea not only tops Harvard as the leading incubator of future U.S. economics PhDs but does so by a factor of more than two. During 1997–2002, 6 of the top 10 undergraduate alma maters of new U.S.-trained PhD economists were foreign universities—2 from South Korea and 1 each from China, India, Italy, and Taiwan. On average, 27 bachelor’s graduates of Seoul National Universityearn a PhD in economics from a U.S university each year, along with 7 from Yonsei University and 6 from Korea University, both also located in Seoul. Based on a dropout rate of 18.5 percent after two years of the Seoul National, Yonsei, and Korea University graduates who entered one of 27 American PhD programs in fall 2002 and assuming no further attrition among the group, an average annual graduating PhD class of 40 Seoul National, Yonsei, and Korea University alumni implies that at least 50 of their alumni enter U.S. economics PhD programs each year ("The Undergraduate Origins of PhD Economists" by John J. Siegfried and Wendy A. Stock).
But, at the same time, a Korean hasn't won a single Nobel Prize yet either, so, perhaps, my English Conversation Partners have a point -- though I hear there is a professor at UC Berkeley's Department of Chemistry that has a good chance to change that at some point. And, no, I don't consider former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung to be a legitimate Nobel Laureate. I believe he deserved it, but not for the reasons for which he was awarded for -- giving North Korea half a billion dollars. Anyways...