Sunday, January 13, 2008

OLPC Suxors

There was a mild pissing contest with a commentator on Saigon Nezumi (a techy, HCMC-world view blog) about the OLPC (apparently calling some professor a pointy headed, ivory tower dwelling nitwit is offensive to a person *other* than said nitwit and his immediate family).

Anyhow, courtesy of Fake Steve Jobs, I read this piece by a UofC law prof - Eric Posner, who was sired by Richard Posner, yeah, that one - poo-poo'ing the OLPC project. And by UofC I mean Chicago, not California.. you know, the good school with the dour, pointy headed folks.

A nice money quote (pun intended):
The profit incentive will encourage entrepreneurs to develop yet cheaper and better laptops.

The latest and greatest tech hit of late 2007 is the new Asus Eee laptop - that thing is like $250-400 USD, depending on the configuration. And it's useable enough that I'm considering picking one up to use as a business PDA - unfortunately I'm concerned that I am not as well versed in computers as I need to be to handle the Eee (it runs an "easy" Linux package).

I believe in community work and non-profits, and am fortunate enough to be able to afford to walk the talk, but it generally makes less sense when non-profits attempt to fill space already occupied by market participants.. maybe that's why I'm not too keen on KOTO.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nice Ta-Ta's

So this is Tata Motor's 1-Lakh car, or roughly $2,500 (but buy soon, before the dollar drops some more!).

It's pretty impressive, imho, and looks a bit like the Japan Domestic Market kei-cars, especially the Mitsubishi i-Car.

A lot of commentators on car blogs, such as Autoblog, are blasting it, but it's because they simply do not get Asia and the emerging market. For $2,500, you're getting a car a bit smaller and with less motive force than a Matiz - and the Daewoo is about $10k ($18k in Vietnam due to taxes).

You're talking about people replacing Yamaha Nuovos, Piaggos, Honda @, and other upmarket motorbikes for something that is safer, more useful in weather, more capacious, still relatively thrifty with fuel (50mpg) *and* has lower emissions. I am pretty darn sure it wouldn't meet US emissions controls, but this thing is designed to reduce emissions if you're trading up from domestically (as in India, or Vietnam, or other emerging markets) available motorbikes.

Tata will be too busy satisfying the local market, but someone should import this thing to Vietnam.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Down Goes the Dollar

For the first time the official exchange rate between the Vietnam Dong (VND) and US Dollar is below 16,000. The official exchange rate was pegged at a lowered 16,107 yesterday, and combined with the recent move to widen the allowable trading band from 0.5% to 0.75%, this meant that local banks are now buying and selling VND at below the psychological barrier of 16k.

With the weakening dollar over the past year, and the concomitant appreciation of virtually all world currencies, including the basket of ASEAN specie, most local market participants have expected the VND appreciation, and apparently in 2008 the Government is starting the process. With all the FDI, some have forecasted VND appreciating to as much as 14k.

It'll be a slight pain for those tourists who'll have to do more complicated math in the coming months.  It'll be more of a pain for those who make money in USD but have the majority of their expenses in VND.    

Monday, January 07, 2008

Susu Fields Forever

Before we got to VN, everyone told us how we'll enjoy the abundance of local fruits and veggies. While there are certain edible flora here that is quite nice, overall I would say the average vegetarian can have a wider, and more fruitful (natch!), experience in the States. Frankly, the median quality of produce here is lacking.

One item that stands out, however, is susu - another name for the familiar chayote of your local ethnic grocery or corner bodega. I've seen chayote in my discount korean hypermarket back in DC (Super H, for whoever is wondering), but we never bought it, cause frankly, we didn't know how to utilize it.

After living in VN for a bit, it's become one of my favorite veggies (alongside the irrepressible rau muong - water spinach - and pumpkin shoots). All stages of a susu plant are eaten here , from the typical avocado-sized gourd/squash stage, to its string bean like stems, to its young leaves, be it deep fried like tempura vegetables or simply stir fried with garlic like other young shoots. Susu, in all its forms, is quite a tasty and healthy treat. It's also a name for a tasty chicken shack in HCMC.

A bit back we visited Tam Dao mountain and discovered the following susu fields that went on forever.

The Belvedere Resort at Tam Dao:

A short hike up the mountain. After a while, 2km seemed pretty long though.
These are the all encompassing susu fields.

The French Hill Station, now part of the susu fields:

The steps of the former French Hill Station:

Treking down the hill; much easier than walking up, obviously.

Resting at the endless pool at the resort. Yeah, we're fat suburbanite Costco shoppers. Except for the fat part.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Vietnam Post (ZIP) Code

So I was signing up to buy something online and needed the local post / postal / zip code in Vietnam. Within the country, the postal system doesn't rely on post codes. But some international shippers require them, so a halfway lengthy google search (i.e. I didn't hit success on the first search term) gave me Hanoi's code, which is 10999. I dunno if this is correct, because I faintly remember that the system went to a six-digit number sometime in mid-2007, but it could just be some incorrect detritus in my mind.

The info was sourced at TNT, a FedEx/DHL/UPS like delivery service.

New Year's Eve Video

New Year's Eve 2008 in HCMC

Some random intersection:

Lights down Le Loi Street:

Saigon Tax Center:

A government building, all lit up:

Saigon Tax Center, part 2:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Christmas in Hanoi, the Video(s)

This is outside Nha Tho Lon (St. Joseph's Cathedral), around 8pm on Christmas Eve.

The entertainment at the Christmas Eve dinner - a dancer at Finnegan's Pub doing his Michael Jackson *and* his Michael Flatley impression: