Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nimby Nimby Nimby

I was going through some of my old papers, and I came accross something that I thought was worth mentioning.

Maple Ridge residents trashed a plan to convert a single family lot to a townhouse complex, citing a number of reasons.  I will respond here to each and every one of them:

1. Concerns about the fact that the area only has one access route, which is a problem in the case of emergencies.
This is easily mitigated.  I imagine the very act of constructing this complex will bring in multiple roads.

2. Concerns about increased traffic on narrow roads.
This is because people doesn't want a wider road to accomodate traffic because they prefer the quiet.  Meaning other people shouldn't move there even though they did the same thing only a few years ago.

3. Lack of transit.
This is due to the lack of population density, which they fight so hard to ensure.

4. Increased street parking.
Only people who live in houses has the right to park on streets, or so they think.

5. Further strain on Yennadon Elementary School.
Enrollment is falling because people are having fewer kids.  This is hogwash.

6. Concerns expressed about the need for better protection of wildlife corridors and preservation of green space.
Green space can be better preserved if people lived closer together.  This is hypocrisy.

7. People arguing their property values will decline.
Boo friggen hoo.

Here are some things people actually wrote in about.
George Popp wrote that "had I any inkling whatsoever that a development of this intensity would rise up in front of me" he wouldn't have bought a house there.
George Popp is anti-development.  He should go live in Africa.
"There is plenty of scope for increased density in the core of Maple Ridge," he said. "Putting high-density housing as proposed here would only create more car intensive commuter traffic on crowded country roads."
So it's okay if other places develop, but damn it if it happens to be near the house he lives in.  Can anyone be more of a NIMBY?
Brook Calhoon wrote that traffic on 236 is a "death trap" and 113 Avenue is also unsafe.
You know what's safe? Having people live closer together and walk rather than drive to where you need to go.  Oh I forgot, Brook Calhoon moved to Maple Ridge so that she can drive around on country roads and it's perfectly safe if she were the only one doing it.

She wrote 51 townhouses "makes us worried what kind of people it will attract."
"Will it be renters who don't care as much about their homes as we all do? Will it bring crime to our neighbourhood?"
No Brook renters do not bring crime.  No one wants to live in a dump whether they rent or own.  There is no reason people can't respect other people's right to live peacefully.

Jason and Carla Banbury argued that the development would be "counterintuitive" to Smart Growth because it would increase the carbon footprint without public transit and it will increase vehicle traffic.
Jason and Carla Banbury should look up what Smart Growth is because their argument is "counterintuitive" to what they're saying.  Having more density actually decreases carbon footprint because infrastructure would be concentrated rather than spread out to service the same amount of people.  Having public transit requires enough people taking them at stops most rider can get to on foot.  This requires more density.  This argument does not make sense.
Christopher Bester argued the townhouse complex would be "aesthetically unbearable" and would negatively impact his property value.
Christopher Bester does not care about the environment as much as his property value.
"With townhouses the amount of renters in the neighbourhood would inevitably increase in which case pride in ownership would inevitably increase in which case pride in ownership would decrease proportionally, crime rates and nuisance complaints would likely increase and traffic congestion would intensify substantially," he said.
Pride in home ownership is overrated.  I wonder how much pride he will have when his property loses value like he said it would.  I live in a townhouse. I have not heard of any crime here in the past 4 years, nor have i raised or received any complaints.  In fact a townhouse may actually increase security since there are more pairs of eyeballs on possible intruders.  Traffic congestion is coming whether you like it or not.  The goal should be to ameliorate it rather than fight it off.  I am fairly certain Christopher Bester is a driver who is part of the traffic congestion he speak of.
Parking on the street would also be "unsightly" and the development would ruin the "unique synergy with nature" because of "overdevelopment." Karlis Kesans wrote that "existing property owners on 133 Avenue will have to look at congested housing across the road."
Karlis Kesans wants to stop people from moving into Maple Ridge, even though she did so herself.  She seems to think it's okay to turn greenspace into single family subdivisions that she currently occupies, but not okay to turn the same greenspace into townhouse lots so we don't have to use up as much greenspace.   The "unique synergy with nature" just means that she wants to waste a large track of land for her viewing pleasures.  With housing prices the way they are townhomes are hardly "overdevelopment."  If anything we need more density to house the population growth.  Again it's okay for her house to be in the scenary but other houses apparently are not.

"This type of development could result in potential rental property in the area which could possibly attract a transient population. Transients do not have the ownership mentality the owner residents have which could result in property neglect. If this ends up being a medium to low rental development unsavory characters could move into the area which could result in escalation of crime in the area," continued the letter.
Karlis clearly believes that she does not deserve to live with "medium to low" rental developments and unsavory characters live only in town homes.  Note that plenty of "unsavory characters" live in houses, in fact, a lot of these "unsavory characters" own multiple homes.  Also it is not uncommon for single family units to rent all or part of the house out.  Lastly neglect has to do with the owner as much as it has to do with the renter.
Lyn Peters said the development in Silver Valley over the last 15 years has been "nothing more than standard urban sprawl, has nothing to do with Smart Growth and has twisted the intentions and plans of all involved."
 She described development as "standard clear cut and blast" and said there are no parks, equestrian, bike or pedestrian routes or "interlinked greenways."
Lyn Peters is right, however this rezoning is a small step in the right direction.
Anita Hoggard said Rock Ridge is "a more upscale area" and the townhouses are not in keeping with that.
"Our decision to move from Port Moody to Maple Ridge was because we absolutely loved the trees, wilderness and the pure peacefulness of Rock Ridge," said Hoggard.
Anita Hoggard think she is better than everyone who does not live in single family homes surrounded with tracks of land.  Townhouses anywhere near her is an affront to her high social status.
Paul Wild wrote that he loves the "beautiful, scenic and environmentally friendly neighbourhood" and he "can't imagine replacing these beautiful trees, graceful deer, and all the bears, coyotes and birds with extra vehicles that will be lining the side of 133 Avenue."

Paul Wild is part of his own problem.  If he truly loves the "beautiful, scenic, and environmentally friendly neighbourhood" so much, he should move away from there.

I hope council approves this.  The Nimbyism of this town is through the roof.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Frugality as Career Aid

While I generally agree with the post below, I have to ask: what if Mozart was better at kickball than composing??

Nevertheless, this makes sense.  If you always have uncommitted cash, you'll always be able to take advantage of opportunities as they come up.

Here's something from the always insightful Brazen Careerist:

I have earned a lot of money in my life. But I have never had an extravagant life. I don’t own a house. I’ve never bought a new car. I’ve never bought a new piece of living room furniture, and I do not own a single piece of real jewelry. What I have spent money on was always intended to help me with my career. That was so I know that I can always earn money doing something I love.
I leased a BMW when it was clear that that mattered when it came to making deals in LA. I hired a stylist when I realized my clothes were holding me back in NYC. In Madison I have tons of household help so my kids don’t have a crazy schedule because of my work schedule.
I am convinced that frugality is a key quality for a successful career.  Here is why frugality helps your career:
1. Spending money is generally a distraction.
We know this. That people use it as therapy. People use it to fill holes they perceive in their lives. But the psychic energy it takes to spend money actually distracts us from what matters to us. Pay Pal reports that people wish their significant other would spend less money on Valentine’s Day. This encapsulates the whole problem to me.
2. Spending money is a vehicle for overcommitting.
The biggest example of this is graduate school.  The people who do best in a bad economy are those who are flexible about the types of jobs they can take and the types of careers they can move into, according to Philip Oreopoulos, professor of economics at University of Toronto. This flexibility is specifically limited if you go to graduate school – you commit two, three, four years to a given career whether or not it’s going to pan out for you in the long run. And you commit to paying back school loans, which means you need to take a job that earns enough to pay those loans.
3. Spending money limits possibilities.
If you invest in an expensive bicycle because you’re going to do triathlons then you limit your ability to take off more time from work to actually train for the triathlon. In most cases, renting a house is better for you than buying one: If you buy a house, you cannot easily downsize, you cannot as easily relocate, and you end up limiting your earning power. (That link is to my brother's blog. This is dinner table conversation in my family.)
4. Entrepreneurship is a safety net if you're frugal in your home life.
Careers today are unstable, and while companies used to provide safety nets for employees, today we have to create our own safety nets. The best way to do that is with entrepreneurship. But starting your own company is nearly impossible if you have high income requirements. Startups don’t provide high incomes at the beginning.
As I write this, I think about my friends who spend a lot more money than I do. I have friends with really nice houses, friends who take super fun vacations, and I have friends who would not be caught dead in the clothes I wear to work (for example, plastic rain boots because I don’t want to pay for snow boots.)
My friends would say there’s a compromise: You don't need to invest everything in your career. You don’t need to give up all the creature comforts of life. You can still have a good situation with both.
Maybe it’s my obsessive nature. I’m willing to make extreme tradeoffs. I wrote earlier about wanting to be an expert. About how it takes a singular, daily focus. And I think I have had that with writing. But in order to do it, I have given up a lot. I’m not sure if that’s right.
Do we hear about Mozart playing kickball? I know, there wasn’t kickball. But if there had been, he wouldn’t have played it. Because you give up stuff.
So I guess what I’m saying is that being an expert in something requires frugality. It’s not just a spending frugality. It’s a focus frugality. It’s the recognition that spending money is actually a distraction from the passion at hand. So the less you spend, the less you’re distracted.

Diamond Parking Inc. Is Not a Person

I am outraged.

I do not believe in the corporate vote.

Why is the least affordable city in the world the same one I want to live in?


Not fair! I want some sprawl!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

There will be a Gen Y pushback

Boomers are joining the labor force, while youth are not.

Calling this generation the Entitlement generation with bloated self-esteem is beyond cruel.  Before the end of this decade I predict a cultural movement coming from my generation, feeling shafted and disillusioned.

Greeks wants German gold, or just a heartfelt thankyou

So, apparently Greeks wants something from the Germans, citing WW2 again.  I think this is a little too embarrassingly much.  Greek cannot scapegoat Germany for its fiscal troubles.  I mean, this is ridiculous; are the greek politicians really that desperate?

Is it time to buy the US treasury?

Bubble bubble?

My bet is on Copper, China, Emerging markets, and Treasuries

The story of China is muddled and not very heartwarming


This is a ridiculously good read.  The world, largely, does not know much about China even after all these years.  This guy put things into much sharper focus, making the story way more nuanced.

I sometimes wonder, is the rising of chinese power a net plus or negative for me?  On the one hand, it allows people like my parents  who claims that their philosophy is really superior than my western-influenced thoughts.  This not surprisingly correspond to an increase in their authority and a decrease in my personal freedom.  On the other hand, China having prestige allows me to simply gain status by affiliation.  I feel that the former is real and immediate and the latter is intangible and far off, I might just favor China NOT gaining prestige.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Apple Name Fail

Someone at Apple's marketing department needs to step up.

Via Failblog:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Keynesian VS Austrian economics in 7 minutes

Somebody has too much time on their hands. The economics profession certainly has gained prominence these past couple of years as people try to understand what is causing all this to happen. I know because I am one of them.

Vancouver housing up or down??

I saw a post on America Canada on the housing values of canada vs the trend in other countries. I also saw the home construction vs prices chart somewhere else(can't remember exactly where at the moment.) The argument is that the canadian housing market is like a tennisball rather than a bubble, whereas it has been whacked by the recession and returning it's original shape based on the fundamentals.

This view makes intuitive sense, and there has been little debate over whether Canada is in a bubble or not. Living near Vancouver I have seen housing values double in the last 10-12 years and prices in Vancouver is now 800K on average with a median household income at about 65K. This seem a bit out of line, since if the median family cannot afford a median house, either the median family has to earn more or the median house has to cost less or a lot of credit needs to be created. Since supply is still tight and credit seems to still be flowing, it's not surprising to see prices making new highs. However, this cannot be sustainable, as the American experience tells us. A credit bubble will eventually need to be deleveraged, and prices of the collateral eventually has to fall.

While I have been saying for years that housing prices will come down, I do not expect it to happen soon. Sentiment is still running high that houses will go up, and these things can go against the fundamentals for a long time. We'll see what happens, but I suspect a lot of people putting money down now will come to regret it later.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This is why I am not going to Graduate School right now

When I was growing up, my parents used to tell me that I needed to get into a good university and a good program that ensures my future earning potential. For the longest time, I let them make my academic decisions and ended up in Electrical Engineering at university.

Looking back, I would say that this particular path is not a bad choice, since I did manage to learn some pretty interesting stuff while I was there, and I could do worse with than an Engineering degree. However, the earning potential never really materialized partly due to my lack of real-world experience combined with the untimely financial crises. I had a couple of contracts and while things are generally okay, I am not where I envisioned myself when I pictured my life post-grad.

If someone had told me that an engineering grad might be unemployed for months on end when I was in school, I would not have believed it. After all, every single professor and other adults keep telling you that there is a global tech shortage, and that engineers are highly sought after. However, I have found this to not be the case.

Right now I work as a contractor for a communications company as a test technician. While I'm thankful for a job and disposable income, I find the job monotonous and intellectually uninspiring. In fact, all my coworkers feel the same and most have left or are trying to leave. This plus the many months I spent unemployed, has led me to review my life decisions and how I got here.

It seems that since I did not understand why I was taking thing courses I was taking in university, or rather, why I wanted to take the engineering classes and the biology/chemistry sidetrack that took me an extra year, I was not a particularly good student. It made sense to me then that my then-girlfriend was more important to me than my grades, and when her brother died I dropped everything to be with her. This predictably had disastrous effects on my grades as I dropped from a B+ to a C average that year. In retrospect, this probably was not the wisest thing to do.

After graduating, my parents pushed and prodded me to go into medicine, or graduate school somewhere, and at first I relented. I took time off to take the MCAT and the GRE and had pretty impressive scores (at least 90% quantile on both) and sent out applications. I discovered, however, that I draw a blank when I had to fill out the questions on what I intend to do there and why I wanted to go to graduate school in the first place. It became pretty clear to me that I was doing it because that was what was expected of me. I was following the path everyone else in my family took. It also seemed pretty suspicious that no one talked about graduate degrees until other people's kids started going to them. I started to understand that, if I had kept going on that path, I would not excel because I wasn't properly motivated. That was definitely not what I envisioned for myself when I pictured how I spend the best years of my life.

I then decided that it was important for me then, to go out, try things and see for myself what I would do with my life. That was when I spent 6 months trying to find a job related to what I was trained in and I discovered that, unlike what I was told in school and by my parents, the market for people with Electrical/electronic degrees is skewed heavily since it was a popular profession, thanks to the tech boom, and many immigrant engineers are vying for the same jobs. I realized then, that it was folly to follow the crowd. If I followed my parents' directions and they got their perspective on what everyone else was doing, I was going to be one of many, and likely out-competed in this increasingly globalized economy. Subsequent relocation of the R&D centre in the first company I worked for to India only reinforced this view.

This left me with the profound question of what to do with my life. I tried to search for the things I want to do: I took up different hobbies, I volunteered, I helped manage a election campaign, I traveled, and I started paying attention to the world around me and learning everything I can that interests me. I also stopped talking about my future with my parents, for they don't understand why I have this dilemma. To be honest, I still do not know the answer to this day. The only thing I know now, is that I do not wish to live for anyone else, and that I will not stop until I find a path in life I can devote to. I know this may sound incredibly selfish, but I believe settling for anything less will do no justice for all the kind people in my life who give me support.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jeff Rubin on Peak Oil

The movie "The End of Suburbia" was the door that opened my intellectual curiosity.  At first I would read nothing besides peak oil related things.  Over time, my interests drifts towards other things.  Some of them are academic while others are entertainment.  I do, however, occasionally go to my roots and spend time updating myself on the peak oil topic, for I believe it is going to affect us in an irreversible way.

The concept of Peak Oil was also a partial driver of my desire to travel now rather than later.  For I believe the age of cheap airline tickets are coming to a close, and the future of travel is one where you stay close to where you live.  Many people, including my family, do not understand this.  They extrapolate past trends and conclude that progress will ensure a steady if slow rise in the standard of living.  This I cannot look at the data and agree with.

Nevertheless, I do not believe we will have a catastrophic discontinuity like some apocalypse theorists suggest.  Major changes occur in much the same way as our recession: over many months or years.  My standard of living has not significantly changed over the past 2 years, though I would be so foolish to say that the financial crises has not affected my life or my future has not been changed.

Here is Jeff Rubin, author of the book "Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller"

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Yesterday at the Roxy I was at first rejected because I was wearing steel-toed boots.  I did not know they don't allow steel toes and I just came from work.  After calling my two white friends already inside they talked the bouncer into getting me in(the power of white girls!)  This leads me to wonder, does the roxy institute some sort of screening rule like that club in knocked up?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

You can be who you choose to be

I’ve given this topic a whole lot of thought throughout my life.  Here’s how I feel about it now.

I came across an old friend of mine.  She has chosen to identify herself with a country that she left when she was 5.  Now, I have no problem with this country per se, it just makes me uneasy when other people identify themselves in ways that emphasizes how they are different, especially if this difference is completely outside of anybody’s control, such as race, height, or nationality.  I believe this because this creates an invisible wall of in-group/out-group mentality in which I am clearly the out-group and makes my dealings with said person that much more difficult.  I know as Canadians we are supposed to be appreciative of each other’s differences, but isn’t Canada about building a common identity?  A common set of values in which all are included regardless of who you are or where you come from.

As an Asian immigrant to an all-white neighbourhood I quickly learned the only way to achieve any sort of social success is to quickly adapting to whatever social behavioural norm expected of all the other kids.  An insistence on one’s uniqueness based on nationality quickly banishes you to the social fringes.  (You’re different?  That’s cool we respect that.  Now go be different in that corner because the rest of us who are the same are gonna go hang out in the other corner, seeya!)  Unfortunately we human beings are herd animals who are comfortable around people who are just like ourselves but ever-so-slightly different.(This is what makes the movie Avatar works, the aliens are just bigger bluer versions of human beings, but that’s a topic for another day.)  The logical conclusion of this would be systematic bias towards everyone who is not of your kin.

I, however, hold that we can be better.  What differentiate us can be our thoughts and beliefs, our temperament and our constitutions or even the gods we choose to worship.  What it should not be are the colors of our skins or the flags we are told to wave.  I know this sound elementary but so many people are unapologetically swayed by superficial and arbitrary markers I find it frustrating to explain that this is the very thing that leads to intolerance and hatred.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am quite proud of my Taiwanese heritage.  I love the country and everything about it, and consider it to be an important part of who I am.  A major difference, however, is that I understand that although all Taiwanese people have something that I also have, I need not hold them above anyone and everyone in the world.  I have come to see that at its core, there is little difference between each and every one of us human beings.  We eat, we laugh, we cry, we make friends and enemies, and we feel pain when we are hurt.  The differences in nationality are artificial, and take second place to the more important things like aspiration, philosophy, way of thinking and degree of maturity.  What differentiates us is not how we look and where we come from, it is how we think.

With that said, I’ve noticed that Turkey, like many other countries in the world, is fiercely nationalistic.  YouTube is banned because someone made a video disrespecting Atutark, founder of the Turkish Republic.  I’d like to raise the general point that patriotism everywhere has been know to be quite destructive, at times inspiring people to wage or go to war.  Yet if nations are going to be the largest effective organizational units humankinds can muster, I wonder if they can function effectively if they do not instil somehow a sense of common purpose.  That is the key difference between a failed state and a state that endures.  I will enlarge the scope here and ask is patriotism a necessary evil?

I have to come clean and say that one of the reasons I wrote this post is because this friend of mine is pretty attractive, and views Turkish people differently from others.  She goes so far as to only date Turkish men, despite their notoriously lacklustre respect for gender equality.  I have also noticed when the two of us travel together in Turkey, people always seem curious because we seem like an unlikely duo, and always seem just a bit relieved from the way they look at me when she explains to them we’re just friends.