Thursday, May 31, 2007

Achieve by Sitting on Your Ass

From Charlie Munger about Warren Buffett:

"Most of WB's achievement came by sitting on his ass and reading. You'd get fired in corporate America if you did that! The present generation of multi-taskers won't produce people who think as well as WB. Wisdom comes by sitting on your ass."
From this summary of his annual meeting of WESCO Financial.

Donald Trump Sucks

Leaving tomorrow to go see Vanessa in Argentina. Will be back Wednesday.

Just wanted to point out Donald Trump's patented douche-bag phrase, used again on Larry King while pretending that NBC wasn't canceling his show.
But as you know, I'm one of the largest real estate developers in the world.
As you know?! Who says that before bragging about themselves. Please don't be Donald Trump if you're successful one day.

And why the hell do people want to live in one of his buildings, let alone pay a premium? Just weird.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More than 500 Ryan Johnsons on Facebook

My name keeps getting more common (or more keep signing up for Facebook). Last time I checked it was 284.

Anyway the latest instance of this not being cool was when my company background check people called me talking about all the criminal profiles the name pulled up. They didn't think any of them were me, but they just wanted to ask. The worst was one in Yavapai County, Arizona that sexually assaulted someone, then fled.

Sweet. (addendum: this was sarcastic if that wasn't obvious)

Brazil has a "low" level of peace

Here. The US also has a low level of peace. Chile has a "very high" level of peace.

US Consulate Lobby Story

I've been traveling on a way-more-than-full passport for some time. At this point countries have been stamping on top of other stamps and on pages that aren't supposed to get stamps.

So it has been time to get the extra-pages insert. I didn't realize it was an all day event. Besides taking an hour to arrive at the US Consulate (which is like an offshoot of the US Embassy, which is in Brasilia), you have to wait well over an hour in line. Then you have to wait while the officer contacts the embassy and runs your records.

Anyway one interesting bit was I was talking to this guy in the lobby. He clearly had something wrong- either he had some disorder or had something really bad happen to him. Also, when I asked him where he had been in Brazil, he said a small town. I asked where. He said, "I'm bad with names." I dropped it.

But he had no money to go back, and his visa in Brazil ran out. He was there getting the consulate to buy him a ticket home. And then 30 minutes later (he had already been there 2 hours) out they came with a ticket.

I get the feeling that the consulates and embassies say they can't help on anything, but that's just so people don't take advantage of it. Also I know an American that got arrested in a fight 2 years ago and the consulate gave him legal help and such.

Anyway now I have not just pages 1-24 in my passport, but pages A-X. Who knows where I'll be when I fill page X.

Blockbuster on the cheap

I see something new every time I go to the favela. Yesterday it was a DVD stand (selling illegal copies, of course) that was more like a movie theater. He had a decent sized TV for the area, a good sound system, and a spot big enough for kids to gather 'round and watch movies.

He had on an X-Men movie, and there were about 8 kids mesmerized. The only thing cheaper than illegal DVDs is not paying anything to watch illegal DVDs.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Consulting Message Board Interesting Post

The following is a response to a PhD applicant to my future employer who had written a message board post urging recruiters to look beyond school ranking in looking at applicants. I think this is a good wake up call for everyone, including me. The lesson is that rather than complain about reality, you should go make yourself more attractive to whatever that reality is. I can see this applying to many things: girls, finances, laws, education, family, etc.

Anyway the response:


You come across as a stereotypical PhD. Here are some pointers for you:

1. Stop focusing your energy on changing the way consulting firms recruit. Instead, focus your energy on strengthening your resume. Bring out the intangibles that matter so much more than your academics. Once you successfully passed through the interview process and begin your career as a consultant, THEN you can try applying your energy to change the way your firm recruits.

2. What are the intangibles? You seem absolutely clueless. If you believe there is no brain power involved in getting an MBA, then go get one from a top-tier b-school. Then you will have the credibility to say what you just said. I believe a PhD requires no brain power at all. My colleague has a PhD and he never even published a peer-reviewed article. You know the PhDs are known for -- they know everything about nothing.

3. What is consulting? Consulting is not a secret society with the smartest intellectuals in the world. We do not go around to math competitions and extend offers to all the winners. We do not go around to spelling bees and offer winners summer internships. We hire the smartest intellectuals WITH tremendous business acumen and social presence. We could care less if you are the best effing blueberry cupcake maker in the world. We would pause and look at you again if you have helped a cupcake company increase their profits by 27% in one year.

4. What is reality? You are not going to change the system by complaining how the system has screened you out. You went to an institution where consulting firms pass over. If you had really wanted to do consulting, then you would have chosen more appropriately. So, I can tell that you have not been planning on doing consulting. Now, whether you have been successful in science is something for you to decide, but coming here and trying to get firms to change their recruiting process just because a PhD who never intended on doing consulting is now screened out is just amusing.

You are a long way from being polished enough for consulting, even if you pass the initial resume screen, you will certainly be dinged in the interviews. Why? I just do not like you.

Rio rule of the day

After 10 at night, cars are allowed to run red lights. This is because the police don't want people to have to worry about getting carjacked while they wait at a light.

My friends disagree as to whether it is an actual law or whether the police just allow it, but step on any street after 10 and you'll see the practice is widespread.

It's a Small World

Went to a bar in Rio today. Went to get a drink, started a conversation with a group of students that are in Rio for the weekend. They're spending 6 weeks in Curitiba studying urban planning.

I say I'm interested in urban planning, especially transportation, and they point me to a guy studying it at Berkeley (probably the best transportation program in the country). They guy knows the ASU professor that I met with in February, but get this- he worked at Bain and knew Noah Knauf, a friend from elementary school.

And I thought I was just getting a cerveija.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Take Oden first - by a mile

I know I shouldn't just write about basketball, but ESPN.com still shows that there is indecision about who will be the #1 pick, Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Oden is a good center, Durant is a good small forward. This should be an easy choice.

Lets look at the last 15 years. Who has won all the titles? Besides Jordan's Bulls and the loaded Pistons (who still had Ben Wallace), you're looking at Shaq, Hakeem, and Duncan. Title winners usually have dominant centers, and every indication is that Oden is going to be one. In the 2007 NCAA title game, he kicked butt even when guarded by a rotating trio of future NBA big men. That those three are all going to be lottery picks and Oden still kicked their butt shows how good Oden should be.

Durant is going to kick butt too. He's lick Tracy McGrady and Dirk Novitski. But Oden is like David Robinson or Bill Russell. When in doubt, take the center.

Take Oden. By a mile.

Addendum: Maybe it didn't work out so well, but it was still the right pick. You can't predict injuries.

Rio via Snoop Dog

I always loved this video by Snoop Dogg. Besides loving the song, it's set in Rio and shows a bunch of landmarks. But I didn't always know that was Rio. At the end of the video a samba group joins along for the song, and at the very end it says "obrigado brasil". So I spent an hour on Google trying to find the city Obrigado, Brazil. This was before knowing a word of Portuguese. Obrigado, of course, just means thank you.

Now I just realize how dumb that was. And when I look at the video I notice a bunch of details I didn't before living here, like the "1001" bus.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Talk Simply

I stopped actively learning big words after taking the SAT in high school. Not that they weren't important, but just that I didn't feel the need to use them in my everyday writing and talking. I often could use a big word, but choose not to.

One of my new favorite blogs is Brazen Careerist, by Penelope Trunk. Here's a post in which she advocates more simple language in communication.
For example, people who use complicated words are seen as not as smart as people who write with a more basic vocabulary.
I see lots of otherwise smart people slip in big words when really they didn't have to. I don't know if it's that's an insecurity - the need to show others they can and that they're smart, or what. But I wish they'd just talk normally. I can understand it because I did it for a brief while (mostly while studying for the aforementioned SAT junior year of high school). But let's all agree just talk normally. We'll all be better for it.

Housing Going Sideways for some time

This article in the AZ Republic states very bluntly what one economist thinks will happen to the housing market.

"We think real estate prices will move sideways or slightly lower for several years," said Thomas Higgins, of Los Angeles investment firm Payden & Rygel.

In another article, Warren Buffett had a similar stance, in his typical everybody's grandpa language:

But Buffett had a decidedly different view about the housing market. He said too many homes were bought by people carrying mortgages with little or no money down who then hoped to flip them quickly for a profit. "The housing market is sick and it's going to stay sick for a couple of years" he opined.

Again, if you can rent it out for a profit, it's still probably a good idea, but good luck finding those (though it's not impossible).

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Here's a review of the Skywalk, the new attraction at the Grand Canyon where you can walk over the ledge on see-through glass. I think it's funny how in Arizona we have a major tourist attraction yet to us it's no big deal.

We're willing to travel great distances at great costs to see attractions in other countries (and you'll be seeing some very cool pictures from today here and on Vanessa's blog once we get them posted).

I see things like this and I'm like "I could go there in a weekend for $100 total."

Here's to seeing the cool sites in our own backyard.

2nd Homes- Not All They're Cracked up to be

My mom once lamented that we never had any property besides the house we lived in. I'm a big fan of having other properties as income generators. But her idea was always something like a cabin in Prescott. My dad once lamented not owning a condo in Rocky Point.

This article in the NY Times talks about some of the hassles of owning 2nd homes. You end up spending so much time maintaining them that you don't get to enjoy them. Plus you think that entertaining others will be a big side benefit, but that in itself is a chore. Not to mention that you're now wed to one single place for your vacations (at least mentally. Some in the article report feeling guilty if they want to go somewhere else).

I've experienced some people having problems with their second homes. A house in Rocky Point needs water to be refilled, but first you might have to clean the tank. The sea means you have to clean the windows all the time, and you have to clean up sand all over.

Better to, as I've mentioned before, maintain mobility and just go where you want for vacation. If you only take a few vacations a year, you can go on lavish vacations for the same amount you'd spend on vacation homes.

A lesson in probability

Why is everyone so stunned about the NBA draft?

Basically, for those that don't know, what happened is the two teams with the worst record, Memphis and Boston, were the most likely to get the #1 and #2 picks, but in the drawing ended up getting #4 and #5. They are surely depressed, because a #1 or #2 pick would have meant Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, both future stars.

Everyone, including Greg Oden (the likely #1 pick and a sure superstar), seemed surprised.

But why? The draft works like this. The 14 teams that don't make the playoffs all have a shot at one of the first three picks in a random drawing. Each team gets a number of ping pong balls out of 1001 total based on their records. The team with the worst record gets 25% of the balls, the team with the second worst record 20%, and so on until the last team which has only 5 balls. Do the math real quick (I won't bore you) and you realize that even the team with the worst record had less than a 50% chance of getting one of the top 2 picks.

Here's a chart I just found from the Celtics.

So really it shouldn't be much of a surprise at all that some teams jumped into the top three from lower. Sure it was a 1 in 19 shot for the Blazers to get the #1 pick, but take all the longshots together and it's not a surprise.

Then there is discussion about how Memphis and Boston had purposely lost just to get the top picks and how it backfired. Karma and moral discussion aside, this doesn't mean that tanking is not strategically optimal. Just because they didn't get one of the top picks doesn't mean increasing their chances of getting one of those picks wasn't a good idea. Of course they wanted a higher chance of getting one of the top picks. Likewise maybe a team like the Bucks would have gotten a higher top pick had they had the extra 94 balls the worst record would have provided them over the 3rd worst record. It's all a random draw (assuming they don't rig, which the NBA does according to conspiracy theorists). You can't look at it after the fact and say losing was or wasn't a good idea.

People not understanding the basics of probability and statistics is a problem. Not a problem like cancer or poverty, but a problem nonetheless because it casues politicians, the media, voters, businessmen, NGOs, and lots of otherwise smart people to make bad decisions at times.

But congrats to the Blazers and Sonics for the luck of the draw. And karmic curses to the Hawks for getting the #3 pick, assuring the Suns it won't be theirs.

Update: Here's Bill Simmons' long awaited column in response. Funny and witty, as always.
Also, I realize I may have committed my own error- generalization. Surely there are people that weren't surprised.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cool Ways to Save Money

Thanks for the birthday wishes everyone. Here's a cool way to turn a cheap flashlight into one better than a $95 flashlight.

Here's how to make a cheap air conditioner.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dollar lower than R$2

Sweet now everything is even more expensive here. The dollar is officially worth less than 2 Reais. This is about 10% lower than it was only two months ago when I got here. Also this is a full third cheaper than it was when I visited Brazil 2 years ago.

Not good, but this is the price we pay for a big trade deficit. On the other hand, this type of thing is raising American exports.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The need for more air travel in Africa

Here's an interesting plea for more air travel (and Internet connectivity) in Africa.

The first commenter disagrees on the lack of Internet in at least one country.

Judging by my spam folder, Nigeria has plenty of Internet activity.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

The 5-second rule, explored

Dan sent me this NYTimes article about the 5-second rule. This is the urban myth that if you pick something up within 5 seconds after dropping it, it's still safe to eat.

It says the first academic reference to the study was in 2003, but I disagree. Someone at the 2000 (or was it 1999?) Thunderbird High School Science Fair did it. It was a neat little experiment. They dropped things on the floor for varying time intervals and then measured the number of bacteria colonies in a petri dish. They found that regardless you're going to get some bacteria. I knew more details back then, but I basically ignored science once I got through with AP Biology there (the teacher, Gene Mason, retired that year to become a wine expert at AJ's Fine Foods. That should tell you something).

The NYTimes article says that you do get bacteria after 5 seconds, albeit less than after longer, but that regardless you only need a few bacteria to get sick so it's not a good idea. The myth was never really serious science anyway, but rather a witty response to someone's consternation for your eating something that fell on the floor.

My own version of the 5-second rule is that if it's wet or sticky, I don't eat it after dropping it. But if it's dry and clean, I'll go for it.

good Portuguese site

Just found this Portuguese site, which has a decent amount of content well organized. It's a good reminder for me, if nothing else.

Was out from 2 in the afternoon until 3 in the morning today. First went to a birthday party. It started as a family event, but then the college kids stayed until 9, when I left to go watch the Suns game. Then I met up with some Fulbrighters where they ate dinner, then I went to the center of the city for a party that Breno invited me to. The theme was clowns or something and the dress was absolutely ridiculous. Like not even cool. It didn't have the appeal of having girls look cute, and worked horribly with the sweaty environment. Worse, they gave everyone a cup when you walk in to get refilled with drinks. This wasn't even sanitary, and made everyone spill drinks all over the glossy tile floor. Coming down the stairs was like a slip-n-slide.

Anyway I'm about to go to sleep. Happy Mother's Day mom!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Dream Come True

You ever been sitting in crazy busy traffic just depressed and going nowhere. You ever been like, "man, how cool would it be for someone to just get all the cars off the road. I would do anything for that -just to have the road alone".

THIS HAPPENED TO ME TODAY. I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP. So I decided to take the shortcut from my house to downtown to meet a friend and his friends for drinks. I had no idea which bus to take or if there was even a bus. Finally I saw one, so I hopped on. But traffic was crawling. I mean Office Space style, where you see people walking much faster than you're going. This went on for about 45 minutes, which advances us about a mile.

Then out of nowhere 5 police motorcycles started coming through traffic. My first reaction was sweet, now what, just when I thought it couldn't get worse. Then a few minutes later traffic got much quicker. Then I saw that police had blocked three entire lanes that merged with the road we were on to go through a major tunnel. We whizzed by a normally highly congested area. They had also blocked off an onramp at another spot. Amazing. We had avoided major congestion out of nowhere.

Later as two police SUVs passed with the 5 motorcycle cops we surmised that the police really just needed to free other cops, but hey I'll take it any day.

The next time you're stuck in traffic, just think, there's a chance!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Brilliant Business Idea

Buying jets and leasing them.

Also a funny story today. Taught English class again. The homework for students was to bring a picture and write a caption in English. They were only supposed to have a few sentences, but one student brought in a picture of a legalize marijuana rally and wrote like a whole page about it. I just let him go on, and the class thought it was hilarious, but what would a 6th grade teacher do?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Leandrinho

My friend Keren sent me this article about Leandro Barbosa written by his first translator. Barbosa, who is from Brazil, started with the Suns and after a mediocre start is becoming a star.

Note on the name: in Brazil the great players (usually in soccer) get a one word name. This is partly tradition and partly because everyone has like 6 names so this is easier for everyone. Case in point: Julia's full name is Julia Lafayette Stockler Macintyre Fischer Lindares. I live with Julia and her mom Fatima. I'll have a picture up at some point.

Also a note on the spelling. It's pronounced like how Spanish speakers would pronounce Leandriño. They have tildes (~) here, but they only go on vowels, like maçã (apple, also note that ç is the same as s in English). Any time there would be a ñ in Spanish it's nh in Portuguese.
Tildes mean the sound comes through the nose.

Also, I need to post my picture with Barbosa, whom I ran into in the airport in Sao Paolo in 2005 when he was going with the Brazilian national team to the Americas championship.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Cool Discovery of the Week

Just got back from the grocery store to buy shelf-stable milk. I always wondered why there are two of the same grocery store next to each other. I never bothered to ask, and had just assumed that they were moving from one into the other or something.

Today, I asked and it's a cool reason. One is the typical store, and the other is the 24hrs version. The 24hr version is smaller, and has smaller quantities of most items. I looked through the windows of the regular store and they were doing extensive cleaning, organizing, etc.

I like it.
I was going to predict that Paul Wolfowitz will resign tomorrow, but given the typical behavior of those in the Bush administration, I wouldn't be surprised if this dragged out for a bit longer. Still I'm going to go with it and say he does.


Also, here's in interesting article on how important it is to have your name Google well. When there are almost 300 Ryan Johnson's just on Facebook, I sympathize. I've been starting to use the M, as in Ryan M. Johnson, but even then there are others.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What my friends did yesterday

In the US, Dungeons and Dragons is an uber-nerdy game, but apparently not here. My friends all played yesterday from like 4 in the afternoon until 1. All of them have girlfriends, and they don't like it when the girls come.

Yesterday they decided to role-play the middle ages. They told the girls they couldn't come because women couldn't do anything in the middle ages.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Education in Brazil

Had a humbling experience today about my privileged education in the US. I went to the 2Bros office for a teacher's meeting today. Rogerio, who runs the office, is 26 and dreams of going to a US university to get a degree in social work. But he needs to take the SAT. I said I would help him, and so I stayed after the meeting to work with him.

He speaks English, but all he has going for him in high school in a public school in a favela. We started on math, and he told me ahead of time he doesn't know anything. Once we started on the SAT, I saw why. I thought I would download a practice test and have him take it, but just to see where he was at I asked him the first math question. On the SAT, each question is harder than the last. He had no idea how to even approach the first.

Turns out he had never been exposed to algebra, and really didn't know anything other than addition, multiplication, and division. Apparently this is pretty typical for public schools in poor areas. If he's going to get into a US university, he has a lot of work ahead of him.

He asked if I went to a public school or private. I said public, but explained that you can still get a solid education in a public school in the US. Despite public high school and public university, I feel very good about my education, and that point was driven to me in spades today.

Friday, May 04, 2007

One of my pet causes

I love bashing policies, such as the penny, that are highly inefficient and yet have a very simple solution. There is almost no reason to keep the penny, and so we should just stop making them.

Today the issue of pennies became a big deal in New York city, when a Chinese restaurant refused to accept a man's 10 pennies. Bless this restaurant, and notice how the backlash against them became racially motivated.
“And we are in America. This is America. If you want to do business in America, you have to accept all American currency.”
Here is my Daily Wildcat column on pennies. It got a pretty good response.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rocinha

Today was my first class teaching English in Rocinha. Here's the experience in a nutshell

a) it was both harder and easier than I thought. Harder because they are counting on you to provide material for an hour and a half. Easier because the students enjoyed basically anything I did as long as I talked slowly.

b) 6 students that are the "advanced" students. Really this just means they know any at all. They range in age from 23 to 38. The 38 year old guy had obviously been beaten up recently and wore sunglasses to cover up his bruises and stitches.

c) I tried to make it vaguely educational. I asked questions like "how many people are Brazil?" Estimates ranged from 3 million to 200 million. One student was close on all my estimations, but most had no idea. When the girl said 3 million, one laughed and said, "there's 3 million in Copacabana alone."

Next class is Tuesday. There's a teachers meeting Saturday. Trying to think of something cool to do during class on my birthday, 2 weeks from today. Hopefully by then the class is comfortable enough to do extra things. Vanessa will be here so maybe we can do something cool for them together.

I'm doing this volunteering for a foundation called 2bros international, which has an office in Rocinha, the biggest favela in Brazil. I went at the urging of the guy I randomly got in contact with on Craiglist while looking for housing. He put me in touch with a former Fulbrighter who did her entire Fulbright project with the foundation. Now I'll be teaching twice a week for at least 3 months. I think it will be a worthwhile experience.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

No, don't tax tall people

Greg Mankiw proposes a tax on tall people. It's actually more logical than you think, and his arguments make you think about equality and taxes in a new light.

That is where taxing height comes in. Mr. Mankiw and Mr. Weinzierl cite their own and others' research that there is a strong correlation between height and income. By their calculations, a tall person (six feet or higher) earns on average 16% more than a short person (five foot nine or less). They cite two competing explanations: early in life height may confer qualities, such as self-esteem, that lead to greater success in the work force. Alternatively, perhaps height and smarts both result from superior prenatal and early childhood nutrition and care. Either way, the authors argue that according to theory height is a great criterion for income redistribution: tax tall people more and give the money to short people.

The beauty of this, the authors note, is that a tall person isn't going to change his height no matter how much he is taxed, and can't do much to hide his height, either. That makes a height tax highly efficient: it doesn't alter the behavior of the person being taxed.

Considering I'm 5 inches taller than the minimum to be a tall person, I hope this doesn't become reality.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Finally figured out how to call me on Skype!

After failing to figure out how to call myself (or Vanessa) for a long time, today I figured it out.

+552193551463

It costs 21 cents per minute on Skype since it's a cell phone and Brazilian taxes are ridiculous.


frustrations with the language

I'll always remember the day I decided to learn Poruguese. I was at the UN-CEPAL office in Santiago late at night bored. They had a Portuguese dictionary. I read the introduction page and was like, I've never seen or heard Portuguese before but can understand most of this. This is because of how much Spanish and Portuguese have in common. This happens with most combinations of Latin languages, but none more than Spanish-Portuguese (correct me if I'm wrong).

I thought actually learning it would be a breeze. A couple low-level classes at the UA were similarly encouraging. The main 2 verbs are ser and estar. I've heard this before, I thought. Pronunciation was different, but in class seemed manageable. Then I got to Brazil. Now I'm realizing that the pronunciation is much harder than expected even when I knew the pronunciation was hard. My Portuguese teachers in the US had one big difference from typical Brazilians. They were used to Americans and their crappy pronunciation and so recognized mistakes and new what they were saying anyway. Here that isn't the case.

My biggest current frustration is when I pronounce something and the person I'm talking to acts like I'm speaking Greek. Sometimes I'm corrected. The problem is that even when they correct me, I often feel like I had pronounced it just like they were saying. Portuguese has lots of subtleties and intonations that aren't perfectly natural. I'm sure Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Russian and such are much harder. I'm just saying it's a bit unexpected for me right now.

Let me see if I can give some examples of what Portuguese sounds like. First, r's sound like h's. There is no rolling of the r's like in Spanish or anything like that. For you Spanish speakers, correr in Portuguese is pronounced like coger in Spanish. The language also has various noises that come through the nose. Try saying so in English. Now try turning the o into a 5 second hum coming through the nose. Try saying so like that various times. Now try again but cut the hum to just a quick noise. Keep trying that. If you can do that you are getting close to the correct pronunciation of Sao, as in Sao Paolo. It sounds the same as mao (hand), cao (dog), and pao (bread).

Here's another funny example, taken from their pronunciation of the English word rock (rock is pedra in Portuguese, but when you are talking about rock music it's just rock. But guess how it's pronounced? I think you can figure it out, but I'll give you a few clues before I tell you. First, we already learned that you pronounce r's like h's, and that applies here. Also, know that when they adopt English words they often, as in with rock, add a long e at the end when they pronounce it. The last hint is that it is pronounced like another word in English.

Got it? The last clue is that it is a sport. Rock = Hockey.

I'm hoping a couple months from now this will all be second nature, but for now there is the occasional moment of frustration.

Focus on more than cost in buying from abroad

This article from the NYTimes talks about Chinese animal-food manufacturers have long used melamime as a filler. It passes as protein in tests, but has no nutritional value, may harm animals, but costs only 1/5 as much as real protein. With the recent massive pet food recall resulting from the death of pets, people are now paying attention to the issue. But the practice has been wide spread for years. It's another example that cost is not the only factor in deciding where to buy something.