Douglass C. North, Nobel Prize-winning economist, (1920 – 2015)

Wednesday, 25 November, 2015

Douglass C. North, Nobel Prize-winning economist (2011 Nobel video interview), “died Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, at his summer home in Benzonia, Mich. He was 95.” Here is professor North’s obituary from Washington University in St. Louis. News from NYT,, ForbesWashington Post #1 and #2.

Here is professor North’s Nobel bio, lecture, another bio, and I’ve gathered a few interesting videos about and by professor North.

(2012 Jan) An interview with Douglass North

(2010 Jan) Douglas North – Effect of Institutions on Market Performance at FCC

(2008) The Natural State

Bianca Wu – Jazz Cats

Wednesday, 25 November, 2015
胡琳 Bianca Wu quote from RTHK interview

胡琳 Bianca Wu quote from RTHK program: 12音樂門‧逃 – 爵士貓 · 胡琳

By random chance, I came across Jazz singer 胡琳 Bianca Wu (Facebook) in some RTHK promo clips of a program about her. I ended up watching the RTHK 12音樂門‧逃 – 爵士貓 · 胡琳 (full 50+ minutes) last night and really enjoyed it.

Have a listen to some English (e.g. “Fly Me to the Moon“, “Night and Day“), Cantonese, and Mandarin songs and in 胡琳 – 《Bianca Live: with the New York Jazz Cats》

I wrote a more extensively in a Chinese post here.

Collect 170 millions reward points in one credit card purchase

Monday, 23 November, 2015
20151123 CTV News - Billionaire buys $170.4M painting on credit, reaps millions of reward points

Screen capture CTV News – Billionaire buys $170.4M painting on credit, reaps millions of reward points

CTV News reported today (Monday November 23rd) that Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian was the winning bidder for Amedeo Modigliani’s painting “Reclining Nude” at a Christie’s auction this month. He paid $170.4 million. And wait for it, the report stated that “when the sale closes he’ll be putting it on his American Express card.” So “obviously”, buying something that cost $170.4 million on your credit card will get you 170 millions reward points. (More how how Liu plan to use his 170 million points later.)

Art auction purchases and Credit card spending limit

Apparently, Liu had used his AmEx in the past when he won art auctions. According to the same report, he bought a $36 million Ming Dynasty tea cup on his AmEx last year. So his last $36 million purchase was approved, why not $170.4 million?

Readers may ask: What kind of spending limit does Liu have to make auction house purchase of collectible art items that worth $36 million or $170.4 million  on his credit card?! Well, like many AmEx cards, Liu’s AmEx card had “no limit”. Unfortunately (or luckily), for most normal people, that “no limit” AmEx will quickly hit a wall if one try to put a million dollar super fancy car purchase on one’s credit card. Liu has a special AmEx known as the Centurion Card, also known as the AmEx “black card”. The Centurion is an “invitation-only card that is given only to AmEx’s biggest spending clients. The card has no official credit limit — and it earns points, just like most of the cards non-billionaires carry around.

So with 170 million reward points, Liu and his whole family can now, more than likely, fly free in first class on commercial airlines that take points anywhere in the world, for the rest of his life. Of course, one does question how often will billionaires like Liu fly commercial instead of the more exclusive private jets.

One interesting point the reporter pointed out in the article is that Lui probably didn’t use his AmEx for the points as “China allows its citizens to transfer no more than $50,000 out of the country in any year, and using his card could help him get around this limit because he’s just paying back American Express or the bank in China who issues his card.

Even rich Chinese billionaires have their limit!

Peterborough mosque arson/hate crime reactions – Without waiting to be asked

Wednesday, 18 November, 2015
20151118 Community Support for Peterborough's Only Mosque

“Community Support for Peterborough’s Only Mosque” crowdfunding campaign screen capture

It sickens decent Canadians to watch the news of Peterborough mosque arson (a suspected hate crime) and knowing the fire has caused ~$80,000 in estimated smoke damage. Peterborough mayor Daryl Bennett, MP Maryam Monsef and Imam Shazim Khan came together quickly to condemn the attack and the mayor said the attack was “totally out of character”. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also issued a statement in response to multiple recent incidents, “Diversity is Canada’s strength. These vicious and senseless acts of intolerance have no place in our country and run absolutely contrary to Canadian values of pluralism and acceptance.

Sometimes darkness gives people a chance to shine light. A crowdfunding project entitled “Community Support for Peterborough’s Only Mosque” was quick in raising $110,536 (far exceeding the upper estimate of the repair costs) from 2097 contributors in about 2 day all “without waiting to be asked” (to quote the five eloquent words by U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson’s 2011/09/11 tribute (CBC video) at the town of Gander, N.L.).

P.S. For the record, I like to acknowledge Duane Rousselle‘s awesome work by quoting a Nov 15 Huffington Post Canada article,

Duane Rousselle, a Peterborough resident, quickly started a FundRazr page on Sunday to encourage those “of all or no faiths” to help the Muslim community rebuild the mosque.

Donations immediately started flooding in, totalling roughly $6,600 in two hours.

“It is heartwarming, to say the least,” Rousselle wrote on his personal Facebook page, about these initial figures.

Four hours later, the campaign hit the $20,000 mark — and reached over 25 per cent of its total fundraising goal.

On Nov 18, 2015, Duane gave the following public Facebook update plus some feedback to the online fund raising tool Fundrazr.

“The numbers are in:
Total amount raised before fees = $110,536.35
Total combined FundRazr/WePay fees removed = $9,361.47
Total amount remaining after fees = $101,174.88”

P.P.S. In a previous post, I wrote about my tiny volunteering work in “Thanks from Office of Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman – Without waiting to be asked” not to “brag” but simply trying to inspire others to volunteer and to help “without waiting to be asked”. Just like Duane, we can all do what we can, big or small.

Thanks from Office of Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman – Without waiting to be asked

Tuesday, 17 November, 2015
20151113 Thanks from Canada's Veterans Ombudsman

20151113 Thanks from Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman

I am not the type that hang awards or academic credentials on my walls but I feel really thrilled to receive this brief recognition form the Office of Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman (french). So, with permission from the Office, let me share my thank you note with you. My small hope is to inspire more people to try to help veterans by keeping an eye on issues important to them and hold our new Canadian government accountable when necessary “without waiting to be asked” (to quote U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson’s 2011/09/11 tribute (CBC video) at the town of Gander, N.L.).

11/12, 9:56am
Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman
Hello Mr. Lam,

We wanted to sincerely thank you for your time and efforts to share our Facebook pages in hopes of raising awareness of Veterans’ issues. We wholeheartedly agree that it is important for Canadians to know about the issues facing our Veterans, and that they must be honoured and supported for the sacrifices they have made for our country. Your efforts will surely have an impact on the visibility of Veterans’ issues year-round.

For more information on the last five years at the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, under Guy Parent’s mandate, and some of our plans for the way forward, please read our latest report, My Five Years as Veterans Ombudsman: Narrowing the Gap for Veterans and their Families:

Again, we greatly appreciate your efforts on behalf of Veterans and their families!

Best regards,
Communications team
Office of the Veterans Ombudsman


Kempton’s Note: On the 2015 Federal election night, Canadian Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau closed his speech with, “this is Canada, and in Canada better is always possible“. I think we can help make Canada better by helping our veterans or any other issues dear to our hearts (e.g. helping to welcome Syrian refugees in big or small ways we can).

Paris Calgary friends Google Hangout the day after Paris Attacks

Monday, 16 November, 2015
Peace for Paris posted by jean jullien - 20151113

Peace for Paris posted by jean jullien – 20151113

Heart Broken in Paris

My heart broke Friday (Nov 13th, 2015) as I saw the tragedies of Paris attacks unfolded in live (minute by minute) news reports via Guardian. Since then, I’ve been reading/watching news/analysis (ref 1ref 1bref 2ref 4ref 8ref 9), a simple symbol of peace, and also realized other cities had being attacked in recent days (ref 3ref 3b).

On Saturday morning out of the blue, Paris called! More precisely, my super cool Paris friend Laurent (now cool *and* magical, more on this later) pinged me online and we ended up having a wonderful Google Hangout and video chatted for a few lovely minutes. He in Paris, France. Me in Calgary, Canada. The day after horror in Paris.

Paris Calgary Friendship in the age of Google Hangout

To set things up a little. How did a guy from Paris, France and someone from Calgary, Canada become friends? Well, Laurent and I first met in 2011 and then we became good friends over the years thanks to the magic of Google Hangout. (Laurent: fourth icon at the bottom counting from the right in this 2011 screen capture, me: the 6th icon counting from the right).

Over the years, Laurent and I love to talk about good food (Ferran Adrià, elBulli, street food), fashion, and even Christian Louboutin shoes (the designer is his family friend and has promised introduction one day)! So on Saturday morning, in the dark hours of Paris, less than 24 hours after the Paris Attacks, we defiantly talked about food. Yes, we “defiantly” talked about food, good Paris food! Our little #beepyou to the terrorist gunmen. Lives are short and we were determined to live our lives to the fullest without being changed by those #beepers. (note: I am not naive, it is a given that world governments need to come up with effective strategies and appropriate actions needed to be taken carefully in the coming days, weeks, and months without being reactive and doing exactly the things the terrorists expect us to do in fear. Those discussions are for another day.)

Tres Tres Bon on Paris Premiere

But on this Saturday morning, we talked our shared love of Paris food, defiantly! Laurent told me about the Tres Tres Bon” TV show on the “Paris Premiere” TV channel is a French food site (with video), where I can find many less touristy places to hunt for good food in Paris when I visit. (And we talked more than just food since then, see bottom note with links.)

Paris Premiere - French food site

Paris Premiere – French food site

After browsing around Tres Tres Bon, I found a fascinating video about yam’Tcha that put a smile on this native Cantonese speaker’s face immediately as I saw the Chinese connection/inspiration (you see yam’Tcha sounds like Cantonese words for going for Chinese Dim Sum)! Of course, I expected and confirmed from the video that yam’Tcha‘s food come with some French creative twist!

yam'Tcha - screen capture via Paris Premiere

yam’Tcha – screen capture via Paris Premiere

Mending Broken Hearts metaphorically and literally

Yes, my heart is still broken as I watched families of a victim spoke (ref 5 – video)? And I know my heart will keep on breaking as more stories of lives cut short started to be reported in the coming days and weeks. But try we must, to live our lives to the fullest, without fear, and with kindness that we had before this tragedy. If we allow the terrorists to rob our kindness towards Syrian refugees and others refugees in need from around the world, or take away our respect and love of our fellow peaceful Muslim Canadians (or citizens of your countries), then the terrorists would have truly won in creating a hate filled world where we are all closed off, with locked up borders, spying on each others with total mistrust, and unfounded fear of each others. Is this the kind of world we want to leave to our future generations?

Finally, my talk of mending broken hearts is both metaphorical and literal. My friend Laurent actually had a major heart incident in June 2014 and had to be implanted with a total artificial heart (TAH info from US 17 months ago. So Laurent is literally being kept alive by the magic of a cutting-edge TAH as he awaits a new heart. I am not a medical doctor/researcher but here is a medical and technical post about his TAH that we hope may help other people who are waiting for heart transplant.

One of the machines that keeps my friend Laurent alive in Paris. The other machine is a total artificial heart (TAH) implanted inside him. Photo credit: Laurent

Let me quote a Facebook friend’s status from this morning as she concluded with “Paris is alive and well, despite everything.

Walking around Paris is very, very therapeutic for me today and I wish you could be here to experience it as well. It would make you feel better. Kids are playing. The sun is shining. Cafes are full of people having coffee. There’s a million Chinese tourists with selfie sticks. Yes, when you catch the eye of someone, there’s a silent and solemn communication. But being here is SO SO SO much better than what you are seeing on the news. Paris is alive and well, despite everything.

Our broken hearts may seem impossible to heal but Read the rest of this entry »

Mending Broken Paris Hearts – Meet the Man with No Pulse

Monday, 16 November, 2015
Total Artificial Heart (video screen capture sample) Photo credit: SynCardia Systems

Total Artificial Heart (video screen capture sample) Photo credit: SynCardia Systems

I wrote a lengthy post (partly to try to mend our broken Paris hearts metaphorically) after a Google Hangout with my super cool and magical Paris friend Laurent  on the Saturday morning post-Paris Attacks. With Laurent‘s permission and help in providing some photos, this is a medical and technical post about why he is “magical” to me. And how a heart can be “mended” literally.

You see, Laurent had a major heart incident in June 2014 so he had to be implanted with a temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH info from US 17 months ago! He is literally being kept alive by the magic of a cutting edge TAH as he awaits a new heart. (I included the above sample picture. It may not be the exact model inside Laurent but it is a good picture and will give you some idea.) Note that a temporary TAH is approved for “bridge to heart transplantation” and is NOT supposed to be a “destination therapy“.

(Important Disclosure/Warning: I am not a medical doctor or researcher. I do not work for and am not related to SynCardia Systems nor Stanford University. Please always consult your own heart doctors and healthcare professionals for their expert advices. I am not an expert of artificial heart devices, and I don’t even play a doctor like House M.D on TV!)

After you read the above Important Disclosure/Warning, I want to say, as a tech-geek, I really enjoy my chat with Laurent and appreciate the photos and links he provided. Laurent’s and my hope is that this post may be of some use to some people waiting for their heart transplants or in similar predicament. Of course, at the end of the day, all errors and mistakes in this post are mine. And consult your own heart doctors and healthcare professionals for their expert advices!

The following is a picture of Laurent’s SynCardia Systems Companion 2 Hospital Driver (C2 Driver) docked with a companion Caddy (pdf fact sheet and 2013 PR press release).

One of the machines that is keeps my Paris friend Laurent alive.

One of the machines that is keeps my Paris friend Laurent alive. The other is his total artificial heart (TAH). Photo credit: Laurent

The C2 Driver‘s pushes air in and out of the two artificial ventricles of Laurent’s total artificial heart (TAH) implant. A side “benefit” of a total artificial heart is Laurent has no pulse which means a flat electrocardiogram if he does one.

With permission, here is a photo of two tubes going in.

Two tubes connected to the total artificial heart (TAH). Photo credit: Laurent

Two tubes connected to the total artificial heart (TAH). Photo credit: Laurent

And here is a photo of an emergency standby machine, Read the rest of this entry »


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