Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving - Give Thanks

Be Thankful and give thanks! That is the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Lily and I are thankful to our Alma mater, we joined the alumni association as life members, and we donate to our school every year. We love to explore our national parks and state parks, and we donate to  national park conversation association and Texas state parks and wildlife fund every year.

This year I went a little bit further.

When we came home from our Yosemite Trip this summer. I saw a company email soliciting volunteers to be featured for 2012 charitable donation campaign "Giving Choice" : "We would like to feature employees at all levels across the company who participate in Giving Choices (either making a pledge or supporting a local fundraiser) by developing posters and flyers that do the following: Identify the employee by name, title, department, show the employee’s photo – not necessarily a professional headshot, but a photo of the employee volunteering or interacting with the charity that he or she supports through Giving Choice Include a sentence from the employee stating “I Give Because…”"

I just had a perfect photo for my causes -  preserve America’s national parks and Texas state parks. In this photo,  I was at Yosemite National Park on top of Sentinel dome. In the background, under my left hand was the Half Dome. I wore a Alaska cap (from Denali National Park), and a Yellowstone T shirt!!

I sent in this photo with my statement "I give because I want to help make sure that our state and national parks are around for many generations to come to enjoy just like I do. For this reason I donate to national parks conservation association and Texas state park and wild life fund."

My submission was chosen as one of the giving choice promotional posters. 

During the month of October, the poster featuring me was posted at the Cafeteria of my company. Hopefully my poster helped to convince a few more fellow co-workers to donate to the charitable causes of their choice. At the end of the October campaign, the 18 x 12 poster was given to me as a souvenir. I posted it by our kitchen at home.

When Justin came home for Thanksgiving, he noticed the poster. Friends joining us for this year's Thanksgiving Dinner also noticed the poster.  They asked what it was for and I was happy to explain and to promote charitable giving! The sphere of influence was a little bit bigger now.

Note: the full photo was posted in the "Half dome" post earlier.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Birthday - by Nicholas

Days have passed since my 11th birthday, although I still feel like I’m only 10 years old. In fact, on my 11th birthday, I had a perfectly normal day. Although people did say happy birthday to me, nothing changed inside of me. Nothing. Nada. Even though most of the world’s secrets remain hidden to me, I’m old enough to realize that change happens gradually. Still, you never know. Perhaps on my 12th birthday I’ll magically become much smarter than I am now. Or maybe it’s that I was learning, gradually getting smarter without realizing it and then something clicked for me and everything fell into place, like a jigsaw puzzle that’s finally been solved.

However my birthday did not go unrecognized. My parents, of course gave me gifts, a video game from my mother; things like that. I deeply appreciated that. Currently I have played for six hours and thirty-nine minutes, six hours and thirty-nine minutes of my life wasted, my mother says. But Pokémon Black 2 is a magnificent game. The need for experience points has gone down ( I think) making it easier to level up Pokémon, the graphics are slightly better; the storyline has become a bit more complex, but on the other hand, it’s more fun too. I had a great time playing with my birthday gift so far, and I’ll try not to lose it like my other Pokémon game, Soul Silver.

Overall, I had a great birthday and hope to continue to have a good life and be happy as much as I can, along with becoming smarter too!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Shark Tank

We started watching the ABC show "Shark Tank" by chance. We have been watching it since, every Friday' night after dinner.

Shark Tank is a reality TV show about selected entrepreneurs of start-up small businesses seeking investment from a panel of investors - or "the Sharks".  In stark contrast to many reality shows which try to lure audiences by sex, violence, rudeness and downright stupidity, this show is a fresh air on the small screen. It draws people by intelligence, business smart and suspense.

Money only 

On last week's show, there was a guy named Michael, who went to college at Princeton, and got a MD from other school,  who invented a new plastic food cover "Plate topper".  His new plastic cover has several advantages over  plastic wrap, and he was seeking $90K investment for a 5% stake of his company.

After his presentation, several investors showed great interests, one investor (Lori) offered $900K for 30% stake of the company, another investor (Daymond)  counter offered $1M for 25% stake of the company!  Michael got really excited, he tried to incite an bidding war among the investors and seeking the highest bid; but when asked about his true valuation of his company from Daymond, he would not give a number initially and eventually he valuated his company at $15M. This and other behaviors eventually led to the two investors rescinded their offers. He got this outcome due to his inexperience and to some extent greed, but at least he knew then what his company was worth from seasoned, serious investors, $3 ~ 4 M.

Desperately wanted to get some investment, he essentially begged investors to reconsider, and in the end Lori's substantially lowered value offer $90K for 8% stake was accepted.

I was surprised that he would take this offer since he knew the trues valuation of his company already. The only conclusion I could make was that  he was greedy, want instant money at almost any cost. The other investors went much further, they said that he was not a person one could do business with.

Two grannies 

If last week's show provided an educational moment from a bad practice about what was wrong, this week's show  about two grandma entrepreneurs"Ice Chips Xyliandy" company  provided another educational moment from an exact opposite practice about what is right.

Briefly, the two grannies have a successful  business on ice chips candy, they wanted to automate their manufacturing process and seeking $250K for 10% stake in their company. During the presentation and negotiation process, they calmly listened to an offer or reject, patiently waited for next tender. In the end they got two offers $250K for 40% stake from Barbara and Mark, and $250K for 25% stake from Daymond.

When asked if they knew which offer they would chose, they glanced at each other and said "we know" - they picked the offer from Barbara and Mark - the lower valuation offer,  because they believed that Barbara and Mark's personalities fitted theirs.

I thought that they made great decision because business is not only about money, it is also a good chunk of one's life, you got to like who you work with. Same applies to ordinary people who work to make a living.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Yosemite: Sightings of Rock climbing and Wildlife

In addition to its strikingly beautiful scenery, there were a couple of other things that made me interested in Yosemite - sightings of rock climbing and wildlife.

Rock Climbing

The cover story of May 2011 issue of National Geographic: "Above Yosemite Like Never Before" introduced me to the extreme sport of "free solo" rock climbing  - climbers use no ropes climbing cliffs. I was in awe to see the picture of a climber scaling a negative angled rock thousands of feet above ground, the picture of another climber on the northwest face of Half dome, again without any gears.The story itself was thrilling to read! The in depth discussion on "El Capitan", a 2916 ft  tall cliff from its foot struck a deep impression on me.

I wished to see El Capitan in person, and to catch a glimpse of fearless free solo climbers on the face of Half dome. When we drove into Yosemite Valley, the El Capitan was easily recognizable.Unfortunately, August, when we visited, was too hot for rock climbing - there were few climbers on the rocks - free solo or not.

The day after we biked in the Yosemite Valley, we went to El Capitan again by shuttle, and we took a good look at it using binoculars and spotted two mountaineers climbing El Capitan on the "Nose".

 Wild Animals

The most talked about animal at Yosemite is black bear. Before checking into our tent cabin, we were warned by the park staffs again and again of not putting food or anything with sweet smell (like shampoo) in the cabin because of black bear. We did not see anything in the valley!!

The commonly seen wildlife are deers and nearly domesticated fat squirrels ; looking and listening carefully we saw acorn wood peckers.

We did see black bears near glacier point when we hiked to Sentinel Doom - we saw a mother bear (brown color) and two cubs (pitch black) walking pretty fast near the trail we were on - I did not get good pictures of them.

On the way back from reflection pond under the half dome, I spotted a bob cat and caught it on camera- it camouflaged so well in the rocks. 

A deer in the Yosemite Valley
Fat Squirrel was favorite subject of Nicholas
Acorn Woodpecker - could be heard or seen

A black bear in motion

A Bob cat