All posts by Richard Brown

Notes from the field: transitioning to the vehicle safety market

5:00am at the Days Inn in Fremont, California. I always get terrible jetlag flying this way over the Pacific no matter how late I stay up on the evening I arrive. At least I’ll only be here a couple of days before flying back to Taiwan for the Lunar New Year holiday.

A couple of intense days, that is, as we finalize our plans for the US market this year. Transitioning to the vehicle safety market promises to be a huge (but fun) challenge. Having the right technologies and products in place is just the first step in a long process of learning about the needs and culture of this new market. Continue reading Notes from the field: transitioning to the vehicle safety market

Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius in danger in the borderlands

Confucius in danger

Book 11 of the Analects highlights two dangerous scrapes that Confucius got himself and his followers into during his period of exile from the state of Lu from 496 BCE to 483 BCE.

In 11.23, Confucius and Yan Hui are reunited in the rough border town of Kuang, where the sage and his band of merry men had been detained by the locals for five days after being mistaken for Yang Huo (楊貨), a notorious outlaw from the state of Lu nicknamed Tiger Yang who had previously ransacked the town. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius in danger in the borderlands

Notes from the field: bustling Taipei street markets

Taipei street markets

There’s been a bustling air pervading Taipei’s street markets this weekend as people flock to get their provisions in preparation for the forthcoming Lunar New Year celebrations. Forget the city’s luxury shopping malls; the streets where the real action is: the cut and thrust of the haggling over prices and the excited voices and smiling faces of vendors and shoppers alike who both think they’ve got the best of the bargaining.

Will people still go out on the streets to shop when they can order everything they could possibly want or need using their smart phones and have it delivered to their doorstep – or perhaps even neatly placed in their refrigerator or closets? A lot of investors and entrepreneurs are betting that this will be the case by pouring billions into last-mile on-demand grocery and meal services. Continue reading Notes from the field: bustling Taipei street markets

Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Ran Qiu

Confucius and Ran Qiu

Even though Confucius is critical of several of his most loyal followers in Book 11, most notably Zilu, he reserves his most virulent scorn for Ran Qiu. In 11.17 he famously rips into him for helping the Lu strongman Ji Kangzi to levy yet more taxes on the common people by loudly declaring: “He’s no longer my follower. You may beat the drum and attack him, my young friends.”

While Confucius is justifiably upset at Ran Qiu for ignoring his advice not to impose any more unnecessary burdens onto the impoverished peasantry, he never uses such violent language towards Zilu and other followers who also helped the corrupt and venal Ji Family enrich themselves at the expense of the downtrodden Lu population. Indeed, even though Confucius often chides Zilu for his indiscretions and impetuousness, he generally adopts a much more indulgent tone towards him than Ran Qiu. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Ran Qiu

Notes from the field: an invigorating hike to clear the mind

invigorating hike

There’s nothing like a long and invigorating hike to clear the mind and take stock of the week. This morning I walked from my usual starting point at the Four Beasts Scenic Area (四獸山市民森林碑) behind the Houshanpi MRT station to the Beixingbao Temple (北星寶宮). From there I took the Xiangshan Circular Trail down to Elephant Mountain and back into the city.

The views of Taipei and the surrounding mountains were spectacular. The temples along the way also provided myriad visual treats. I feel so grateful to live in this wonderful place where the peace and tranquility of nature are less than half-an-hour away. Continue reading Notes from the field: an invigorating hike to clear the mind

Notes from the field: enjoying steaming Beijing lamb hotpot

Beijing lamb hotpot

There’s no better antidote to a cold Beijing winter evening than a steaming spicy lamb hotpot in a raucous and crowded restaurant. Families and colleagues celebrating the impending arrival of the lunar new year weave life and color into the atmosphere, as do a couple of guys loudly toasting each other with glasses of baijiu (white spirit) on the next table.

This is no synthetic “experience” manufactured by some restaurant or retail marketing guru. It’s visceral and spontaneous. Its authenticity is built on time-tested traditions and rituals rather than ephemeral data-generated insights aimed at satisfying the relentless quest for novelty of the influencer crowd. Continue reading Notes from the field: enjoying steaming Beijing lamb hotpot

Notes from the field: blue skies over Beijing

blue skies over beijing

Clear blue skies over Beijing! The weather’s not quite as cold as I’d expected either, though I’m sure that the mercury will begin a rapid descent as evening arrives. My flights haven’t been as stressful as I’d expected either given that the Lunar New Year Holiday is fast approaching. Facial recognition systems at airport security check points dramatically reduce the waiting times for everyone.

China is justifiably proud of the capacity it has built up to handle an estimated 3 billion trips during the holiday period. No other country comes anywhere near matching the scale, efficiency, and convenience of its transportation infrastructure. Its high speed trains, in particular, put the rest of the world to shame. Continue reading Notes from the field: blue skies over Beijing

Notes from the field: Sunday Book Market at Shanghai Confucius Temple

Shanghai Confucius Temple Book Market

There was plenty of action this morning at the weekly Sunday book market held at the Shanghai Confucius Temple. Plenty of blasts from the revolutionary past piled on the vendors’ tables as well. As I browsed through the books, comics, magazines, and other mementos, I felt like I was back in China as a student in the mid-1980s. There’s nothing like a touch of nostalgia to rejuvenate the body and mind.

Although the origins the Shanghai Confucius Temple go as far back as 1294, the complex has been moved to a number of different sites and undergone multiple reconstructions since that time. The current incarnation has a charming southern Chinese architectural style that’s easy on the eye. The graceful curves of its russet halls and pavilions stand in stark contrast to the towering steel and concrete blocks surrounding it. Continue reading Notes from the field: Sunday Book Market at Shanghai Confucius Temple

Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Min Ziqian

Confucius and Min Ziqian

Confucius shows his great admiration of Min Ziqian, one of his lesser known followers, in Book 11 of the Analects. He praises Ziqian to the skies in 11.5 as a “model of filial devotion” because he lives up to the reputation that he built up as a young man when he begged his father not to throw his evil stepmother and stepbrothers out of the house after they had treated abominably.

In 11.14, Confucius goes on to commend Ziqian for his political astuteness when his follower suggests that it would be better if the leadership of the state of Lu repaired the existing structure of the Long Treasury rather than go to the time and expense of demolishing and rebuilding it. In contrast to the voluble Zilu, for example, Ziqian “rarely speaks, but when he does he hits the mark.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Min Ziqian

Notes from the field: heralding the lunar new year at the VIA weiya

VIA company weiya

I never feel that the new year has truly started until we have our company “weiya” (尾牙) to herald the imminent arrival of the Chinese Lunar New Year. It’s always fun to catch up with colleagues from throughout the world that I haven’t seen in a while, not to mention celebrate major career milestones with ones who have completed ten or even twenty years with the company.

We held our Taipei weiya last night. The China grand tour begins on Friday with a banquet in Shenzhen followed by events in Shanghai and Beijing next week. After that I will go on to our office in Fremont for a few days before finally returning to Taiwan for the actual Chinese New Year Holiday, which takes place from January 23 to January 29. By that time, I’m sure that even the loudest firecrackers won’t be able to wake me from my slumber! Continue reading Notes from the field: heralding the lunar new year at the VIA weiya