Archive for the ‘Business/Investing/Wagering’ Category

China’s Ghost Cities

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

A few people have asked me since I’ve been back whether I saw any of China’s “ghost cities” while I was there. I have usually responded that there are indeed droves of empty condos but the existence of multitudes of “ghost cities” sounds to me like an exaggeration.

I came across this 60 Minutes feature ( on this issue, and as it turns out the city (Zhengzhou) Lesley Stahl goes to is the one I lived in during my 1st year in China. She pronounces it incorrectly – it sounds more like “(hard j) Jung Joe”, but regardless I recognize some of the sights.

Anyway, a few quick thoughts:

– When she says “there’s miles…and miles…and miles of empty apartments”, well, many of those buildings are not completely empty. It is certainly true that many are mostly empty – often to an absurd extent – but she makes it seem like they are almost just sitting there not even open for business. Not the case. In most cases these are just recently constructed and a low percentage of the condos have actually been bought, though I’m not saying that’s about to change. But yes admittedly one of those long stretches of mostly empty apartments was very near where I lived, and we (other foreign teachers and I) would joke about the uninhabited “city within the city.”

– I thought it was very misleading around the 8:00 mark to use Shanghai as the base for how many more times purchasing an apartment costs than the average resident’s annual salary. Without even checking the math on this comparison – and certainly buying a condo is way too expensive for a huge segment of the population – this is like discussing how expensive housing is for average Americans and using housing in Manhattan as the comparison. In fact it’s probably even more skewed. Shanghai is universally regarded across China as an amazing city but literally impossible to buy housing in unless you are rich. Suzhou (where I lived my 2nd year in China) is just a 30-minute train ride from Shanghai and is itself one the 50 most populated cities in the world, however housing there is much less expensive. Travel further inland and the prices continue to drop in most locales. Once again though, this is not to say that buying a condo is realistic for all the millions of construction workers, maintenance men, etc.

– I found the empty shopping mall bit amusing (and most likely true in regards to the fake signage). However, malls are everywhere in Chinese cities, and while many of them are seemingly too ornate compared to what I would guess their actual revenue to be, there are customers in most of them. Certainly there are examples of bankrupt malls, but some of the most popular malls are so flooded with customers that it is easy to see why enterprising businessmen would build yet another mall in the hopes that it becomes a new hotspot.

I’ll close with this thought: Construction is omnipresent in Chinese cities. You hear shocking statistics of how many projects are currently underway in various cities and funny trivia such as “there are more cranes in China than in any other country in the world.”

Right now, I would not buy a Chinese condo. (This line of thinking is not without its drawbacks, however, as virtually any Chinese girl’s family views ownership (or plans of ownership) of a condo as priority #1.) I think the prices are bound to drop (in these over-developed areas at least) as the reality continues to set in that the units are not going to be bought any time soon at the advertised prices.

However, consider for a minute what might happen if the government were to lift the one-child policy completely (currently one must pay a hefty fine when in violation of this decree): sure it would take a while for the effects to be realized, but there would be a hell of a lot of new Chinese babies on the way who would need a place to live 25 years down the road. I’d say it is at least plausible that the government is simply preparing for this eventual societal expansion.

I’m not sure what the point of this e-mail is, but if you’ve read this far then I guess it’s too late.

Fifty Hours from Football

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

It is probably unhealthy the degree to which this time of year brings a spring to my step. Nonetheless, we are officially less than fifty hours away from NFL football. And with that reality on tap, I can begin (shamelessly at least) thinking about fantasy and tweaking my roster more than anything else. No wonder I’m broke.

Enough of that self-pity crap and on to my roster. And yes, I said roster. I made a commitment to myself to field only one team this year. While it is certainly enjoyable to stockpile tons of great players across multiple teams, where is the authenticity in that? I’m sure any NFL owner would love to have numerous top-five talents at each position distributed amongst several squads, and then actively pimp the team that finds the most success. But even if this is fantasy, it just doesn’t work that way.

Thus I stuck with my favorite league and said “good-bye” to all the others. I don’t even have any throwaway teams in free public leagues on sites such as F*ck You Manu* is in its fifth year of operation, and all of my rival owners are active in the league as well as personal friends. For the sake of full disclosure, I am both the Commissioner and reigning champion. Based on what I’ve gathered following the draft, though, I wouldn’t call myself the favorite to repeat in 2010, at least not before I pull off a mid-season trade for an upgrade at QB. But I am certainly ready to roll with my guys. You be the judge.


QB: Matt Cassel; Derek Anderson; Jason Campbell; Matt Moore
RB: Arian Foster; Ahmad Bradshaw; Carnell Williams; Leon Washington
WR: Andre Johnson; Calvin Johnson; Brandon Marshall; Marques Colston; Dwayne Bowe; Johnny Knox; Joshua Cribbs
TE: Jermichael Finley; Owen Daniels; Jermaine Gresham
K: David Buehler
DEF/ST: Philadelphia Eagles
DL: Julius Peppers
LB: [yet to be signed]
DB: Bernard Pollard

*Despite the enjoyment our league has provided to all its former and current members, unfortunately its nomenclature has a more troubled history that may only be cured by a Dallas Mavericks NBA Championship. F*ck You Manu was preceded in title by F*ck Tha Birdman (2009), F*ck David West (2008), F*ck Matt Barnes (2007), & F*ck Dwyane Wade (2006) – chilling references to figures who played notable roles in ousting the Mavs from their perennial championship quest.

More about the league:
-We maintain a cap of ten franchises in the league due to the use of two starting quarterbacks per team and the complications presented therein during bye weeks.
-On that note, the starting roster slots are as follows: QB, QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, RB/WR, WR/TE, K, D/ST, DL, LB, DB.
-Scoring settings have been tweaked through the years and we believe they are the best in the business. Here is the rundown:
Offensive Players
Passing Yards 1 point per 30 yards
Passing Touchdowns 6
Interceptions -3
Rushing Yards 1 point per 10 yards
Rushing Touchdowns 6
Reception Yards 1 point per 10 yards
Reception Touchdowns 6
Kickoff and Punt Return Touchdowns 10
2-Point Conversions 2
Fumbles Lost -2
Offensive Fumble Return TD 6
Field Goals 0-19 Yards 3
Field Goals 20-29 Yards 3
Field Goals 30-39 Yards 4
Field Goals 40-49 Yards 5
Field Goals 50+ Yards 10
Point After Attempt Made 1
Point After Attempt Missed -2
Defense+Special Teams Unit
Sack 1.5
Interception 3
Fumble Recovery 3
Defensive Touchdown 6
Safety 4
Block Kick 4
Kickoff and Punt Return Touchdowns 6
Points Allowed 0 points 20
Points Allowed 1-6 points 13
Points Allowed 7-13 points 7
Points Allowed 14-20 points 3
Points Allowed 21-27 points 0
Points Allowed 28-34 points -2
Points Allowed 35+ points -6
Individual Defensive Players
Tackle Solo 1.25
Tackle Assist 0.75
Sack 3
Interception 5
Fumble Force 4
Fumble Recovery 4
Defensive Touchdown 10
Safety 7
Pass Defended 1.75
Block Kick 6

-And finally, what about the moolah? $35 is the entry fee. $250 goes to the victor. $65 for losing in the Super Bowl. And winning the 3rd place consolation game boomerangs your original $35 back to you.

Technical Difficulties

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

I know we promised more regular posts. I assure you that plan has not been scrapped like the Pirates’ 2009 season.

When you’re building a house, the foundation is the boring part that nobody will see but nonetheless is worth the most effort. Same deal with maintaining a website. We’re trying to get a few tweaks done behind the scenes before we really graduate to content.

I can tell you, however, that I am officially dialed in to fantasy football. Depth chart following my first draft:

QB [1]: Warner; Hasselbeck
RB [2]: Slaton; Barber; Benson; FJones
WR [3]: RMoss; Roy E. Williams; Gage
TE [1]: Winslow; VDavis
K [1]: Folk
DEF [1]: DAL

This is subsequent to a draft-day trade of RBush + Braylon for Slaton. So I’ve got one free agent spot (need to find a WR2/3 – I wish FA Miles Austin was good enough to do the trick) to play around with and the team is already Cowboy-heavy. What a beautiful time of year.

e-Garage Sale

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I’m not gonna sit here and tell you it’s gonna get posted this weekend – after all, we’ve got a lot of chillin’ and grillin’ to do over July 4th weekend – but theĀ For Sale page is about to be lit up with a bombardment of items. Within a week, a veritable garage sale of really nice stuff will be up for sale with more to follow in the near future. Be sure to check it out!

We appreciate your patience while we have been getting settled in here at our new digs, and you can also expect the blog to start receiving regular updates from here on out as well. Enjoy!