Sunday, November 20, 2011

Waiting on an airplane!

I'm in the New Orleans Airport, waiting with Donna and Pearl to return to Oklahoma. Our original return flight was canceled (thanks American), and we missed the early morning flight. Now we're booked for the 7 pm flight, with standby for earlier connections. It doesn't look promising that we'll be on them. Remind me NOT to fly American in the future!

We spent the past 4 days here. I attended the National Communication Association's annual Convention. I spent time with them sightseeing when not attending convention events. We've had an enjoyable time in the Big Easy. Among the many experiences I found enjoyable, was to see how many trumpet players there are on the streets of NO! As someone who played for many years, this has inspired me to get my chops back in shape. I could come here and earn my keep. In the day I was better than any of the trumpet players I heard. But it's cool to see that in the home of Louis Armstrong, the trumpet is king!

On a more serious note, I just read an informative and disturbing blog demonstrating wealth distribution in the USA. Policies of the past two decades have recreated conditions of the Gilded Age. Yet unlike the Gilded Age, the wealthy have greater influence on the culture, psychology, and politics of America through their control (direct and indirect) of pervasive media. Most Americans think they live in a middle-class, egalitarian society where social mobility, through hard work and effort, is possible. The reality is that this is becoming more elusive and illusory. We need a Karl Marx like figure (I'm not advocating Marxism) to point out this delusion, wake people up, and bring about change (through peaceful means).

Above is a graphic illustration of the wealth of the 1, 5, 10, 20, and bottom 80% of Americans. The bottom 80% are smaller, on a relative scale, than sugar ants are to humans. I agree with the disturbing critique that American politics has changed from one person, one vote, to one dollar, one vote. In such a world inequality will increase. Here's a link to the article in the Daily Kos where the image is explained

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

To Macau!

It's official. This morning I received the official offer. It was approved by human resources and I received news of the terms that I was negotiating. My reply, with some hesitation, was to accept the offer. Many people have congratulated me, and knowing my interests and strengths, see it as a good move. One person, whom I respect greatly, said that if I turned it down, he believes that in the future I would look back and regret not taking this step. He said that it is more important than any money I could get, and going to Macau will bring me satisfaction and a challenge that is valuable. So while he for personal reasons he does not want me to go, he believes this is the right step. (He didn't say these things to me until after I'd made my decision.)

I've made this decision the very week I've started a new semester. It's a very busy time of new beginnings with teaching and other things. But while I am starting some things, at the same time I have to look ahead to the not very distant future. It will be a great challenge for me to pack up my office and books after 12 years here. This is the challenge of the near term.

The long term challenge will be to quickly adjust to a new city, new university, and new environment. I believe that by going by myself, before my wife and daughter join me, I'll be able to overcome these early challenges, learn the lay of the land, and make the adjustment easier for them. So while it will be hard at first, I see this too as a good thing.

Finally, I think it will be much more interesting to blog while living in Macau. I've looked online and can't find any bloggers, which is quite unlike Taiwan where many people blog. This could be a really interesting, informative, and creative outlet for me and anyone interested in reading my musings.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wondering what to do

While I was in China this past June I went to the University of Macau. It was my third visit as I went there twice in 2008 while living in Taiwan. This time the purpose of my visit was a job interview.

I greatly enjoyed my time there. The facilities at the university were great, the faculty interesting and friendly, and Macau as a place is exciting and invigorating. I received an offer to join their faculty this Monday, and a counter offer from my current position at the University of Oklahoma was made today. I plan to make a final decision on Monday.

We had a family talk and my wife and children all want me to take the offer. While Donna is the only other person to have visited Macau, they have been to Taiwan many times, and both Pearl and Sarah have been to mainland China. To them, China, Taiwan, and Asia in general is a much more interesting place to be. I agree. I fear that it would be difficult on the family. My mother and father do not want me to go. But with the ability to call and Skype on a regular basis, the distance is not as great as it used to be. Also, with the increase in salary I could probably visit them as often, or nearly as often as I do now. The only difference is that I'd be flying instead of driving.

But beyond these issues, what attracts me is something that I thought of this evening while mowing the lawn. When I'm in China/Taiwan, I can be a different person. My ability to speak Chinese fluently and navigate the culture is a skill that I've worked hard to acquire. It's like a muscle that has grown through repeated use and training. When I'm there I can use and develop that muscle. But when I'm here in the US the muscle is used less. It shrinks through lack of use.

So, do I stay or go? Most likely if I take the job I will stay there, or at another institution in Asia until I retire, and perhaps longer. I can certainly come back to the US to visit. But to get a prestigious job and build my career in the US is probably limited if I go. The family would be affected, too. Pearl would go to school there, improve her Chinese, and become a different person, than the "Okie" she proudly claims today. Sarah and Robbie would be affected less. But this would open up opportunities for them to work and study in Asia in the future. Donna thinks that she'll have more opportunities in Macau, and would certainly be closer to her family in Taiwan and able to visit them more often.

As suggested by Doobie Doghouse, click on this theme song by The Clash

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Decline of the US?

On the day after S & P downgrades the US credit rating, in the week after the great "compromise" on US debt, it is hard to have much hope for the United States and its future. Sure, the US has gone through greater difficulties in its past, Civil War, the Great Depression, WWII, but it feels different this time around. The eight years of the Bush Jr. administration were ones of squandered opportunities. Instead of investing in infrastructure, paying down debts, and laying the foundation for the future, very little was done. The country lived off the prosperity and hard work of previous generations. Then everything blew up in 2007 and 2008, due to the greed of the overgrown Financial Industry. (I highly recommend reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis.) The corrections made by the Obama administration, while noble in intent, have not gone far enough. Then the election of 2010, in which a minority of Americans participated, when those opposed to Obama were motivated and his supporters apathetic and discouraged, gave power to a vocal and persistent minority. Obama made a huge mistake in December, 2010, when he agreed to continue the Bush tax cuts, and did not raise the debt ceiling. Now the situation does not look good, and it is hard to see how an election can improve things. The hole is too deep. The foundation lacking.

What is the alternative? Flying back from China this summer I sat next to a young American man returning to see his family in Chicago. (Like me, he graduated from UIUC.) He had been doing business in China for a number of years, then recently decided to move there, to Suzhou. He is learning Chinese. There were many other Americans on the plane that were traveling alone, presumably doing business. Our neighbor's daughter recently got a job in Edmond, not because of her engineering degree, but because of her Chinese ability. Now she's working hard to improve her Chinese.

China has its problems: internet restrictions, political controls, wealth discrepancy--there's also a property bubble. Yet it's been investing heavily in infrastructure the last 20 years, and has a motivated, hard working population. There is a dynamism in China that you don't find in the US. I also believe that the politics will eventually change. The energy of the Chinese people cannot be held back, and there is a momentum that will last another 20 years at least. So many US, European, and Asian companies are investing in China, as they see that's where the growth potential lies. People from all over the world are moving there. (The other "hot" markets today are India, Africa and Brazil. I met a number of African students in China, and see, like others, growing connections between the peoples of Africa and China.) In many ways it is like the US a hundred years ago, when Europeans (and to a lesser extent Asians) were leaving their troubled lands to make it in the US. Is China that place today?

I've posted pictures of my summer travelings in China here:

Summer in China 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Fair Deal

Like many observers of the chaos in Washington DC, I am disheartened, disillusioned, disappointed, and discouraged. Why would people run for elected office if they do not want to build up the country? Instead we are seeing people acting according the maxims spelled out by Jared Diamond in his book, Collapse, who explains why societies choose to fail or survive: individuals act in their own interest, which most often leads to destruction and decline. For instance, if you use trees for fuel, it is in your best interest to cut down the forests and use them, even if it results in the destruction of the forest, because if you don't do it, someone else will. The only way to counter destructive practices for the society as a whole is to have enlightened leadership that can see the big picture and understand how and why it is important to save the forests.

It seems that the American political system, namely the Republican Party, has been overtaken by destructive individualists who want to cut down the whole forest now, believing that if they don't, someone else will. Ultimately this will lead to the collapse, or at the very least decline, of American society.

To counter this we need a means and message for promoting what is best for society as a whole. Looking back in American history, we see leaders who did this. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, had the "square deal" that broke destructive monopolies and degradation of the environment. FDR, a democrat, had the "new deal" that rescued the US from the Great Depression. Even Ronald Reagan, a Republican, when faced with exploding deficits, pushed through tax increases that put the country on the right track. Today we need a "fair deal": end corporate welfare, raise taxes to sustainable and fair levels, protect the social safety net, invest in growth, education, the environment, and the welfare of future generations. We should ask politicians of all parties, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, Greens, etc., to make a "pledge" to support a "fair deal" and move us away from collapse toward success.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Study Abroad

We're recruiting participants for a study of how students on a study abroad program use social media and technology such as Skype, Facebook, QQ, etc. If you are a student on a study abroad program, preparing for such a program, or have completed one within the last five years, please contact me:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snowed In

Today we are experiencing another snow storm, the second in two weeks. Fortunately the amount of snow is not as great as the last storm, and hopefully, the roads will be clear by tomorrow. These days off are making havoc with the schedule.

I've been working on a paper about the Taiwan data collected 2007-08 and have been struck by similarities between so-called minor marriages (sim-pua) of the past and today's "waiji xinniang" or brokered marriages. There are economic and cultural reasons supporting each.