Going Green

March 7, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Posted in School, Travel | 1 Comment
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After a crushing red-eye aboard the world’s oldest international airliner, we arrived in Rio de Janeiro somewhere around the crack of dawn today. Point of fact, it may have been pre-crack.

dsc04387Piling onto the bus and cruising through the city to our first destination, the Botanical Gardens, two things struck me. One, you are essentially existing within a green house in this country, the humidity and temperature persisting at a level bordering on insulting, and, more importantly, this fact:

Everything is growing.

In stark contrast to the massively industrialized, pre-fabricated will of a nation that we were presented with upon our arrival in Beijing, here you get the distinct impression that if Brazil turned it’s back for a second, just a single second, nature would win. A resounding victory.

dsc044111There are plants growing from bushes extending from trees. A small army of landscapers busied itself pruning and clipping and sweeping, and it occured to me that the landscapers of North and South America had two different jobs indeed. Whereas one is attempting to cultivate lush gardens and healthy greenery, the other is literally fighting for the very survival of their city.

The orchids, the (giant) trees, the plant life in general – all of it contibuted to dsc04426this sense that you were standing in a very organic city, but it didn’t stop there. Every wall, every tunnel, every available surface was adorned with something I almost feel insulting referring to as grafitti, so instead I will simply call it urban art.

It is amazing.

Almost as if this constant botanical growth and the sweltering heat had dsc04427inspired the very citizens of Rio to go out and pollinate their city in their own distinct way, one is taken aback by the painstaking detail and creative vision found in each of these pieces, rendered so lovingly in places as mundane as the rear wall of the local Shell station.


We finally arrived at our hotel and were sent up to the lounge (on the roof, of course) to fill out our paperwork and have a welcome Mojito. The elevator opened to a rooftop pool in the shadow of a mountain, overlooking Copacabana Beach.


Wow. Hey, UConn.

Nailed it.

It Ends

November 29, 2008 at 5:19 pm | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment
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Like any great story, the ending breaks your heart.

I have had the great fortune to experience this…this trip, this place, these people at this time and place in my life…these three weeks before that seminal date marking the third decade of my time on this planet. It has broken me. It has strengthened me. It has changed my mind while it has also reaffirmed what I am and that which I believe. 

I repeat now what a great man has said once before: people have phenomenal capacity. I have met in this group, this infinitesimally small subset of our vast population, those that have cheated death, those that have mastered the art of business and the art of war, those that have taken the uncertain leap of entrepreneurship, and those that strive to succeed in their chosen fields beyond all expectations and evidence otherwise.

This world and its future are in good hands.

Xie xie.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

November 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment
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Heavy Truck Fail

On our last day in Jinan, we visited a heavy truck assembly factory. This company, responsible for the manufacture of an absurd amount of heavy trucks (read: big) in the world, was a study of manufacturing inefficiency. 

Twelve to fifteen workers in a cell. Ball peen hammers applied to metal assemblies. An utter lack of worker protection or process. Metal on metal, controlled chaos, unfathomable quantities. It was, in a word, China. An obscene amount of labor thrown at any and every problem in an attempt to solve for a variable that remains unknown.

Yesterday and tomorrow meeting in a maelstrom that produces what this country calls today.

Gap Gap Gap Banana Gap

They are all selling the same thing.

I just don’t know how they are producing the revenue required to justify their existence. At any given time, you will walk down a street with shops on either side, abutting and facing, that are selling the same wares are products. How these people make their buying decisions must be haunting the nights of retailers and brand marketers across the world.

The Plane Lands

We arrived in Shanghai late in the evening, or, rather, Shanghai arrived on us. 

The pollution cleared, the sky opened, and the light of the world shone upon us. This city is astonishing.

Gone are the third world streets and the poverty stricken vendors. Absent is the sense of shame and progress presented in the same breath, replaced instead with the sense that these people are, in fact, capable of anything.

We have, I fear, already lost..but seeing what I see tonight, I think that the world may be better for it. It is that amazing.


November 29, 2008 at 8:03 am | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment
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Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

On our second day in Jinan, we visited a Software development park and a solar panel factory. The first was a bit boring – looking at static display boards written entirely in Chinese gets old rather quickly. 

The solar panel factory was interesting, and provided a ray of hope regarding China’s pollution problems. Unfortunately, the “gray matter,” the term that the Chinese use to describe the pollution that settles on everything around here, renders the solar panels ineffective. This is heartbreaking, if you think about it, as the very problem that they are trying to solve is rendering the solution ineffective.

Foreign Exchange

Next up was a visit to Shandong University, UConn’s “sister school” in China. We met with a group of their MBA students to discuss cultural issues and share our experiences. Of interesting note was that each of them had very specific undergraduate degrees. While Americans tend to get degrees in Engineering, English, or other broad topics, they get their degrees in Lighting. Or Air Conditioning. 

There was a bit of a language barrier, so for a few hours we resorted to a crude form of pictionary to communicate. It worked for the most part, and it was amusing to see that regardless of culture, male middle-aged graduate students have essentially four topics of conversation: wives, dogs, sports, and the stock market. That last topic led to a lot of pictures of arrows pointing way down.

One last note: I will never make a disparaging comment about UConn’s facilities again. I’m pretty sure that in America this building would have been condemned.

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