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Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland

Who is Sunpu-Opto? / 宁波升谱光电半导体有限公司是谁啊?

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Cleveland is my hometown, my destination for law school, and a city in an economic tailspin. Beginning in the 1970’s, the decline of heavy manufacturing, white flight to the suburbs and demographic shifts to the American west and southwest combined to create a perfect storm of urban decay, throwing what was once the country’s third-most important city into third-tier has-been status. The past three decades have been a combination of abortive attempts to arrest the decline and to shift the city’s development in a new direction. As it stands, Cleveland has perhaps 400,000 residents in the borders of the city, a couple million in the ‘greater cleveland’ area, and no particular focus economically now that the LeBron James economic stimulus package has concluded.

Home sweet home.

The latest scheme to be hatched in hopes of bringing some innovation or at least some new jobs to Cleveland is Mayor Frank Jackson’s plan to award a 10-year no-bid contract for LED lighting to the Ningbo Shengpu Lighting Company, known in English as Sunpu-Opto. The reaction of most Clevelanders was predictable: “WHO? Why award an exclusive, no-bid, ten-year contract on a relatively new product to a relatively, no, completely unknown Chinese company, when General Electric has a lighting-focused industrial park with historic ties to the city, which, by the way, employs 1,200 people? You’re selling our city to the Chinese!”

I can understand the anti-China sentiment. This is a city that knows China chiefly as a destination for what may have once been their jobs or the jobs of their family and friends. There is only a small Asian population and I have no idea how active actual ties are between them and China. In the legal community, two of the major downtown law firms are heavily involved in China, and at least one of the smaller firms is as well, but blue-collar workers, which Cleveland has historically been built upon, have little love in their hearts for China, nor for seemingly ‘unfair’ foreign investment schemes that leave American companies out in the cold. Even given all that background, I think attracting foreign investment to Cleveland is an absolute imperative if the city is ever going to experience growth, let alone arrest its slow and steady decline. Cities in transition need shocks to their system.

However, is this move by the mayor and city council (which apparently supports the mayor, who is the former council president) the best way to advertise Cleveland as open for FDI? Jackson has said he’s advancing a new paradigm of city development: If you want Cleveland to make an investment in you, you need to make an investment in Cleveland. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, that’s not a bad idea. But no-bid contracts have a funny way of hurting people’s feelings, and Cleveland has had such a lovely history with hurt feelings and major benefactors packing their bags and leaving: Rockefeller (yes, 30 Rock could have been in Cleveland, but where would Liz Lemon have gone in the ‘Cleveland’ episode? Milwaukee?), Art Modell and the Browns, LeBron (not yet, but…)…do we want to add GE to that list? Is that even a real risk, or is GE just blowing smoke?

I wonder what Dan Gilbert thinks of this. Where will the HQ be located? Is there a master plan, a way to bring more business in, or are we really just grasping at any opportunity that presents itself? I really want to see more foreign business in Cleveland, and I’m not going to shy away from throwing some serious incentives at companies to invest in Cleveland, but how in the world is Sunpu-Opto suddenly the best or even the only option for this sort of agreement? Another company, Fawoo, has indicated it could relocate its US operations from Akron to Cleveland in Sunpu’s place. Cleveland’s government says they looked at Fawoo but weren’t satisfied. Company officials reject Cleveland’s reasons. Who’s telling the truth? Who stands to gain?

Written by Michael

May 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Law School and My Ballistic Impatience

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In personal news, I’ve accepted admission to Case Western Reserve Law School. I have worked in law firms for the past two years and have not been completely turned off of the idea of being a lawyer – in fact, I see some real upsides to practicing law, even if I choose to forsake the world of BigLaw for something that doesn’t pay as much more spiritually fulfilling. Chief among such advantages: a serious enhancement of my ability to be an unbearable smartass and a doubling of the amount of useless trivia stored in my mental memory banks. If life was nothing but an endless policy debate round with lunch breaks for games of Trivial Pursuit, I’d be all set.

One concern I have going into what is sure to be an intense academic experience is the persistent feeling that I’ve become mentally complacent and allowed my wits to dull. I don’t feel slow, but I feel slowed. Too many video games? Too many years juggling multiple languages? Who knows? In any case, I have begun to consider how I might clear my mind out a bit – spring cleaning for the soul, if you will. Ideas so far include more Chinese reading and more blogging, and a moratorium on gaming. I find games are easily the most insidious agent of change in mental function in my life. Not long ago, I read an article that made me wonder just how much a gaming habit can alter one’s thinking. In fact, the more I read, the more I began to worry that my meaningless little hobby was guilty of more than just discouraging me from blogging.

I sleep normal hours; I don’t take drugs. These are two key differences between me and Tom Bissell, the guy who found himself in a sideways spiral of coke-fueled gaming binges. Nor can I relate to the obsession with ‘sandbox’ games like Grand Theft Auto IV that have no particular focus and instead reward the random and pointless acts of – well, whatever. Not just violence. In some games, the reward mechanism is so well honed that doing almost anything gives you a little twinge of happiness. Oh, I blew up a truck? That’s kind of cool. Wait, what’s this I found over here? Does this do anything? No? What about this? And this? Ad infinitum. Literally. Games are now advanced enough that the permutations are far beyond the ability of most players to reach in a reasonable amount of time. More games are published than anyone can hope to play to completion. Sequels are fast-tracked by massive development studios working young programmers in near-constant ‘crunchtime‘ to minimize the distance between A – the moment the first game begins to lose its shine – and B, where a newly revamped, enhanced version of the game is made available to a prepared audience. There is never a lack of games, only a lack of time to play them all.

Bissell writes,

…the pleasures of literary connection seem leftover and familiar. Today the most consistently pleasurable pursuit in my life is playing video games. Unfortunately, the least useful and financially solvent pursuit in my life is also playing video games. For instance, I woke up this morning at 8am fully intending to write this article. Instead, I played Left 4 Dead until 5pm. The rest of the day went up in a blaze of intermittent catnaps. It is now 10pm and I have only just started to work. I know how I will spend the late, frayed moments before I go to sleep tonight, because they are how I spent last night and the night before that: walking the perimeter of my empty bed and carpet-bombing the equally empty bedroom with promises that tomorrow will not be squandered. I will fall asleep in a futureless, strangely peaceful panic, not really knowing what I will do the next morning and having no firm memory of who, or what, I once was.

This is the far extreme of the hardcore gamer’s consciousness. Even sharing a bit of Bissell’s experience with games (“…ocular spasms…fuse-blown reflexes…ballistic impatience to play…”) and reading his descriptions with a knowing dread, I have never managed to play for thirty hours straight, and if I did, I hope I would realize something was wrong. I tend to gravitate towards story-driven games such as RPGs, games that essentially reward a time investment with a story of some sort and possibly some challenging gameplay elements. More recently, I’ve started playing simpler games like tower defense, DOTA, or Settlers of Catan online. With the exception of Catan (where everyone is quite polite), online gaming is a cesspool. I try to ignore the half-literate insults carelessly hurled during such games, but given that I enjoy winning, and cannot always do so, I too become angry and find myself tempted to reply with similar vitriol. Pointless; destructive; stressful. Online hate: a huge emerging market! Perhaps it’s better to have such destructive urges channeled into the relatively harmless world of online gaming, but at what point do we cross over from distracting ourselves temporarily to distracting ourselves permanently?

Most games are about attacking a childlike world with an adult mind.

The adult world is already juvenile enough, I think. Bissell recollects and notes that entire chapters of his life have been devoured (pleasurably) by gaming. I recollect and my strongest memories have little or nothing to do with them. But I find that I cannot, in my wildest dreams, reconcile a gamer’s habit with the world of law school. No longer can I pretend to exist in a childlike world, even in my limited free time. Besides, my brain will soon be occupied juggling the details of the Rule in Shelley’s Case and other crucial issues…alas, gaming, our days are numbered.

The arrival of spring (if you can call the pathetic Beijing weather ‘spring’) usually lifts me a bit, and I am sure that once the hazy mixture of pollution, sand, fog and volcanic ash (maybe?) clears out of the Beijing sky, I’ll be closer to 100%. Of course, if I’m concerned with the weather, why did I decide to go to law school in Cleveland? Ah well. At least there is football to dull the pain.

Written by Michael

April 18, 2010 at 4:31 pm