keeping the economy honest

Category Archives: Living

Race to Nowhere

This documentary points to problems with excessive focus on tests, performance in our school system and reflects the problem I have with the Tiger Mom mentality.  I was in this Race for 13 years (5 years of high school and 8 years of university education).  While I don’t want to sound ungrateful or take my education for granted because it has afforded me a good career, the education system is Extremly Inefficient in my opinion.  What I mean is that the ratio of meaningful benefit or knowledge that you take away vs. the amount of hours you spent “learning” in the system is very poor.  We’ve all had the experience of self directed learning in our regular life, whether it be a hobby or something to fix around the house.  We encounter a problem or want to do something and we go out to find a solution for it and we learn along the way.  It may not be very organized, but every bit of learning was purposeful and useful.  If our higher education system trained our woodworkers, they would probably make them study the histology of all kinds of wood, perhaps memorize the different wood pattern, long before they are allowed to cut any wood.

So I’ve spent 8 years of post secondary training to prepare for my career, you think I would be an expert in what I do. No, school was partly a foundation, partly a piece of paper you need to get into the door, and a good amount of wasted energy in pointless homework and learning … read more


Tiger Mom

I completely understand the Tiger Mom mentality since I’m a product of that environment; a poor immigrant family where you need to work extra hard to succeed.  While I’m glad I went through it and of the career it gave me, I see Tiger Mom as a very pragmatic technique  and it’s only applicable to certain situations.

It’s really a very practical matter about playing this game of ”succeeding in life”.  If you’re born into an economically disadvantaged environment, you have to work harder than other people to make sure you have the best chances of getting into a career path that leads to a better life, and by “better” I only mean good income, ease of life and all the other reasons why a woman might care about her future husband’s career.  A job with investment banking firm on Wall Street would fit that bill.   This may involve going to the right school, participating in a course of “success” associated activities like piano or violin and Tiger moms are effective in directing that.  While you may think it’s a very contrived view on life, I appreciate the motivation of those families.   The parents have a tough life with their disadvantaged  jobs and they want their kids to have a different life and the most predictable way to do that is to get into an attractive profession  like doctors, lawyers and whatever other sweet gig you can think of.

But you’re right, life is about more than that. There’s really no happiness in forcing yourself to do things that you’re not interested in just to play this game.  I thought the whole point of having “success” in life is so your kids can have an enjoyable childhood and do whatever they’re interested in.  This is where I think Amy Chua is wrong.  Her daughters are already getting a head start in life being born into privileged environment.   I have no doubt they shall receive a good education and be afforded all the opportunities to pursue what they’re interested in.  So why coerce them into a perfectionist in things that they hate?  just because it looks good on paper or sounds nice when you talk to other people about your kids? … read more

What percentile are you in?

This chart shows the current income distribution of Americans.  No,  these are not inherited family wealth passed on over many generations or money accumulated over years of smart savings or investment.  These are the income each American family takes in every year based on their jobs.  The poorest 90 percent of Americans make an average of $31,244 a year, while the top 1 percent make over $1.1 million.  So how did we get here? …

Well, for the past 30 years, the income of 99% of the population barely moved, but the top 1% has seen its income nearly quadruple… read more

The Oscars

I watched the Oscars and was disappointed that Sandra Bullock wasn’t nominated for anything.  Then I realized that’s because  she didn’t have to work last year after raking in $56 millions in 2009 for The Proposal and Blind Side.   Anne Heche must be really angry because she just revealed that she regrets turning down Sandra Bullock’s role in Speed. I had to google who Anne Heche is…but she was  just as  big of a star as Sandra Bullock at that time and she is a fine actress too.  Despite the relatively unknown Sandra Bullock, the movie was a hit and catapulted Sandra Bullock instantly to an overpaid star.   I think for Blind Side, they should have gone with Anne Heche to save some money since it was such a good script.

Are you Budget Chic?

Recently, it has been fashion chic to be a smart, budget shopper.  Natalie Portman just wore a $50 H&M Dress to Pre-Oscar Party and Michelle Obama wore a $34.95 H&M dress to the Today Show.  I think they look stunning and call me fashion ignorant, but I can’t tell the difference between those dresses and the pricey designer dresses.  This is basically my point in a previous blog about being Shabby Chic.   There’s beauty in having an intelligent sense of value, where you judge something for what it is and what it offers you, and not duped into overpaying for something that is trendy … ready more

10 reasons why life is a big poker game

  1. Life and poker are not fair.  If life gives you (7,2) , just make the best of it.
  2. You can study poker and life to give yourself better chances, but there’s never guarantee.
  3. Poker and life are about ROI and Risk management.
  4. You try to control as much as you can, but life and poker are both unpredictable and there’re always things beyond your control.
  5. When you take a bad beat, don’t loose your cool, pick the pieces in your life and move on.
  6. read more

Do you know what “Shabby Chic” means?

I don’t think my wife understands the term “Shabby Chic”.  The true spirit of shabby chic is being resourceful, conserving,  use what you have access to make life as comfortable as  you can.  For example, you made a coffee table from some recycled wooden fence.  Things may be a little worn, old, but they’re functional and didn’t cost much.  And if you don’t care about how they look or what other people think, there’s beauty in that lifestyle and confidence and people are starting to appreciate it.  However, it has also been hijacked by some high end designers.  My wife has recently being “Shabby Chic” by buying a pair of Vintage Cotton pillow cases similar to these ones for $75.   Ok, if you actually sewed them from a pair of really old white T-shirts, then it qualifies Shabby Chic for me.    But I guess i was wrong, that would have just been Shabby, it’s the $75 that really made it Chic.

Custom made garbage can for you!

Do you find it frustrating that when you pull the garbage bag out of the can, it’s still half empty?  In my case, the bag is too big for the can.  I’ve been living with the garbage can/bag mismatch problem  for a while.  Back in school, I was too cheap to buy real garbag bags, so I use the grocery store bags which are too small for most cans.  But  it doesn’t stay on the can for very long, especially after you throw some garbage of substance into it, the bag would just fall in the can with the garbage.

Now, my wife buys high quality bags with nice integrated ties.  So I like to get the most use out of them.  I take it out and lean the half empty bag against the can on the outside, so I can put a big more garbage into it before I throw it out.  But my wife doesn’t like a open ended bag slouching against the garbage can.  I agree with her, I almost had a garbage avanlanch a couple of times when it didn’t lean right.  So after throwing out many under-utilized garbag bags out, I finally decided to make my own garbage can out of wood.

I think it looks pretty good.  And for those people like Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, who paid $1,200 for a wastebasket and enjoys my handmade, custom designed and cherry wood waste can, you can contact me for a special discount through this blog.  And for those people who can’t afford my high quality garbage can, they should really sell garbage cans with garbage bags together, so they will match.  Or they should standardize the size, like they do with beds.

HOV lane doesn’t work

HOV is misuse of resources in my opinion. Many times, the HOV lane is empty or sparse, when the other two lanes are congested or much slower.  I understand HOV has a good intention in trying to encourage carpool.  But saving gas is by far the dominating reason for people to carpool.  If two people find it convenient for them to go to work together, then they probably would carpool  to save on gas.  If it’s not convenient,  like one person might not be reliable with time or they don’t want feel obligated to talk to the other person,  then  they probably wouldn’t carpool even if it means spending more on gas.

But no two people who like to enjoy the morning commute alone would carpool because they get to use the HOV lane so they can get to work a little earlier.  So exclusive use of the HOV lane  is not going to push the decision to the other side, when gas saving is not incentive enough.  So in reality, HOV doesn’t reduce the number of cars on the road, it just rearranges them, so a few cars get to go faster who would carpool anyway without HOV, but most cars are forced to go slower with a lower MPG.  That’s worse for the environment.

A $45,000 handbag is silly only if you’re poor.

This fabulous Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork Bag is priced at $45,000.  For $45,000, it doesn’t organize its content automatically or have a GPS tracking system in case it gets stolen, assuming the thief is discerning enough.  You know you want one too.  If you don’t and think it’s frivolous, it’s only because you’re not rich enough.

Ok, I have no problem with people spending their own money anyway they want.  I couldn’t care less if they want to pay $45,000 for the boulder in my backyard.  However, when people have undeserved wealth, they start to spend it frivolously, which I would do too if I was that rich.  But this is bad for the economy, because they support much unproductive economy such as the $45,000 handbag, the $100,000 birthday parties or the $1000 haircuts.  All the resources behind all these outrageous consumption wouldn’t be in it if it weren’t for the demand of the ultra rich.  If there was no ultra-rich, the people would have to inject their manpower, brainpower, and materials into production for the average people whose income is more sane.