asia

Self-actualization

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For hundreds of years, Koreans have used a different method to count age than most of the world. […] A person’s Korean age goes up a year on new year’s day, not on his or her birthday. So when a baby is born on Dec. 31, he or she actually turns two the very next day.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

‘Clocks can never be pushed back. It’s all a lie. And now it’s dark.’ —Daylight Saving Time

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A top Chinese military contractor is building a data analytics platform to help authorities identify terrorists before they strike. […]

So far, more data has just meant more noise, security experts say.. […]

Since the Mao era, the government has kept a secret file, called a dang’an, on almost everyone. Dang’an contain school reports, health records, work permits, personality assessments, and other information that might be considered confidential and private in other countries. The contents of the dang’an can determine whether a citizen is eligible for a promotion or can secure a coveted urban residency permit. The government revealed last year that it was also building a nationwide database that would score citizens on their trustworthiness.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

White Sun of the Desert

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…the immaculate ultrawhite behind the French doors of a new GE Café Series refrigerator […] the white hood of a 50th anniversary Ford Mustang GT […] the white used to brighten the pages of new Bibles, the hulls of super yachts, the snowy filling inside Oreo cookies […]

All this whiteness is the product of a compound known as titanium dioxide, or TiO2. A naturally occurring oxide, TiO2 is generally extracted from ilmenite ore and was first used as a pigment in the 19th century. In the 1940s chemists at DuPont refined the process until they hit on what’s widely considered a superior form of “titanium white,” which has been used in cosmetics and plastics and to whiten the chalked lines on tennis courts. DuPont has built its titanium dioxide into a $2.6 billion business, which it spun off as part of chemicals company Chemours, in Wilmington, Del., last fall.

A handful of other companies produce TiO2, including Kronos Worldwide in Dallas and Tronox of Stamford, Conn. Chemours and these others will churn out more than 5 million tons of TiO2 powder in 2016. China also produces large amounts of the pigment, and its industries consume about a quarter of the world’s supply. Most of China’s TiO2 plants, however, use a less efficient and more hazardous process than the one developed at DuPont. Starting in the 1990s, if not earlier, China’s government and Chinese state-run businesses began seeking ways to adopt DuPont’s methods. Only they didn’t approach the company to make a formal deal. According to U.S. law enforcement officials, they set out to rip off DuPont.

“At first, you’re like: Why are they stealing the color white?” says Dean Chappell, acting section chief of counterespionage for the FBI.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

oil on wood { Ellsworth Kelly, White Plaque: Bridge Arch and Reflection, 1951-55 }

For when Eric eats a banana an amazing transformation occurs. Eric is Bananaman.

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Chinese ice cream is different, and those differences reflect a different economic and technological context. American ice cream is mainly sold by grocery stores in large containers to be eaten at home. So the basic assumption is that people have freezers at home in which to store the ice cream. Even when ice cream is sold on-the-go, it is sold out as scoops out of those big containers. But historically in China most people did not have freezers at home, though many more of them do now. Ice cream in China is therefore usually sold by convenience stores or roadside stalls, in small packages to be eaten immediately. So rather than big vats of ice cream, it is mostly individual bars.

These constraints have pushed innovation in Chinese ice cream in different directions. You can get all kinds of amazing wacky ice cream flavors in the US, but they are all delivered in mostly the same form: a tub of ice cream eaten with a spoon. Chinese ice cream innovates on form and texture more than with ingredients, with many bars featuring not just crunchy outer layers of chocolate but interior elements made of various yummy substances.

The structural complexity of some ice-cream bars is so great that it’s common for the package to have a 3-D cutaway diagram to illustrate all the goodies on the inside.

{ Andrew Batson | Continue reading }

A jink a jink a jawbo

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After the near‐collapse of the world’s financial system has shown that we economists really do not know how the world works, I am much too embarrassed to teach economics anymore, which I have done for many years. I will teach Modern Korean Drama instead.

Although I have never been to Korea, I have watched Korean drama on a daily basis for over six years now. Therefore I can justly consider myself an expert in that subject.

{ Uwe E. Reinhardt, Princeton University | PDF | via Chris Blattman }

photo { Ji Yeo | plastic surgery in South Korea }

I never was in love, you know that you were never good enough

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On February 14th, Kakumei-teki himote doumei (革命的非モテ同盟) — literally, “Revolutionary Alliance of Men That Woman Are Not Attracted To”– will gather in Shibuya, an area of Tokyo popular with young couples, to protest Valentine’s Day and its roots in what they call “romantic capitalist oppression.”

The group, known as Kakuhidou for short, was started in 2006, when its founder, Katsuhiro Furusawa, returned home one day after being dumped by his girlfriend and began reading the Communist Manifesto. He quickly came to the realization that being unpopular with girls is a class issue.

{ Spoon & Tamago | Continue reading }

Women tend to prefer men who make them laugh and men tend to prefer women who laugh at their jokes. However, it is unclear how robust this pattern is. Here we report a replication of one of the first studies (Bressler, Martin, and Balshine, 2006) to examine the sex differences in preferences for humor receptivity versus humor production. […]

We found that men viewed humor receptivity as a necessity and humor production as a luxury when they were asked to create an ideal long-term partner. For women, it was just the opposite.

{ Evolutionary Psychology | PDF }

‘Nature even in chaos cannot proceed otherwise than regularly and according to order.’ –Kant

Our team has analyzed 144 of AQI’s and the ISI’s own financial and managerial documents. Captured by coalition and Iraqi forces between 2005 and 2010, these include scans of typed documents, as well as electronic files found on hard drives, USB sticks, and other media. Among them are spreadsheets listing the qualifications and training of hundreds of fighters, details on thousands of individual salary payments, and massive lists of itemized expenditures. […]

The group’s financing tactics, relying on extortion and criminal rackets, put it directly in conflict with local economic elites. […] Moreover, the way it managed human resources and finances—requiring numerous signatures and oversight—reflected high levels of internal mistrust. […]

The negative implication of our findings is that even those vulnerabilities don’t make the group easy to completely eradicate. From 2006 through 2009 the ISI was devastated by US and allied forces, Iraqi security forces, and local Sunni militias; during some months US Special Operations forces alone conducted 10 or more raids per night against the group. It stopped being a strategic threat, but it didn’t disappear. Its organizational structure was robust enough that it could go to ground, survive, and wait for the right circumstances to come roaring back.

{ Boston Globe | Continue reading }

related { One of the Islamic State’s senior commanders reveals exclusive details of the terror group’s origins inside an Iraqi prison – right under the noses of their American jailers. | The Guardian | full story }

‘War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.’ —Thucydides

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On January 2, 1977, the Shah of Iran made a painful admission about his country’s economy. “We’re broke,” he confided bluntly to his closest aide, court minister Asadollah Alam, in a private meeting. Alam predicted still more dangers to come: “We have squandered every cent we had only to find ourselves checkmated by a single move from Saudi Arabia,” he later wrote in a letter to the shah. “[W]e are now in dire financial peril and must tighten our belts if we are to survive.”

The two men were reacting to recent turmoil in the oil markets. A few weeks prior, at an OPEC meeting in Doha, the Saudis had announced they would resist an Iran-led majority vote to increase petroleum prices by 15 percent. (The shah needed the boost to pay for billions in new spending commitments.) King Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud argued that a price hike wasn’t justified when Western economies were still mired in a recession — but he was also eager to place economic constraints on Iran at a time when the shah was ordering nuclear power plants and projecting influence throughout the Middle East. So the Saudis “flooded the markets,” ramping up oil production from 8 million to 11.8 million barrels per day and slashing crude prices. Unable to compete, Iran was quickly driven from the market: The country’s oil production plunged 38 percent in a month. Billions of dollars in anticipated oil revenues vanished, and Iran was forced to abandon its five-year budget estimates.

A damaging ripple effect persisted: Over the summer of 1977, industrial manufacturing in Iran fell by 50 percent. Inflation ran between 30 and 40 percent. The government made deep cuts to domestic spending to balance the books, but austerity only made matters worse when thousands of young, unskilled men lost their jobs. Before long, economic distress had eroded middle-class support for the shah’s monarchy — which collapsed two years later in the Iranian Revolution.

[…]

In November 2006, Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security consultant connected to Prince Turki al-Faisal, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post noting that if “[i]f Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half … it would be devastating to Iran … [and] limit Tehran’s ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.” Two years later, at the height of the global financial crisis, the Saudis acted: They flooded the market, and within six months, oil prices had fallen from their record high of $147 per barrel to just $33. Thus, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began 2009, an election year, struggling with the sudden collapse in government oil revenues and forced to slash popular subsidies and social programs. The election’s contested outcome was accompanied by economic contraction and the worst political violence in Iran since the fall of the shah.

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

image { Evander Batson }

previously { The Conventional Wisdom On Oil Is Always Wrong }

‘Death is the only thing we haven’t succeeded in completely vulgarizing.’ —Aldous Huxley

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Leveraging the insight that periods, while a pain, also bring women together, JWT has created an augmented reality app that combines Chinese consumers’ love of technology, cute characters and selfies into a new branded platform for Sofy sanitary pads.

{ Campaign Asia | Continue reading | Thanks Tim }

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

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Kurtz: [intercepted radio message] I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor

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{ Traditional rug-making techniques meet contemporary political imagery | full story }

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.

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Australia has begun exporting camels to Saudi Arabia.

More than 100 animals are being shipped from the Australian port city of Darwin and are due to arrive in Saudi Arabia in early July [2002].

The vast majority are destined for restaurant tables in a major camel-consuming nation.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photo { Janet Biggs, Point of No Return, 2013 }