Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Hello Blog.

Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual can address higher level needs. Our ability to give attention to creative outlets such as this blog (Self-Actualization) was trumped by the task of addressing logistics of a move to a new home (Safety).

In a nutshell, that is the hurdle to many budget dilemmas - energy to control, especially if your foundation is shifting. When life gets hectic, it is more difficult to tend to the detail of budget on a daily basis (Bob’s preference) vs. blast a flash plan when new needs present and attempt an ‘auto play’ strategy, hoping it is executing well until you can tend to it again(Kristy’s preference).

When your foundation shifts (a move, your health, a new job, a relationship change), there can be so many unknowns that your historic estimates are thrown to the wind and you are overcome with a great sense of uneasiness over the lack of control. Decisions sometimes have to come fast. You may have little control on the options and hope that the contingency fund (and if need be, the emergency fund) covers the unknowns.

It is interesting that no matter your age, your job, your salary; you will find yourself in situations where you are overwhelmed by changes coming fast, where you grasp for control and you will not feel content until the basic security of control is restored.

We look forward to completing the move and gaining back ‘control’.

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Purge: Fine Flick, Dreadful Policy

I watched The Purge today. It is a fine film if you like bloody, violent suspense thrillers. Its main premise, however, is dreadfully flawed. According to the characters and background commentators, the 12-hour purge, during which most criminal laws are suspended*, dramatically improved U.S. economic performance through a combination of aggregate demand stimulus (increased sales of security systems and firearms) and the elimination of the poor who "leach" off society.

The stimulus angle is flawed because it commits the broken window fallacy as explained in Bastiat's essay "What is seen and what is not seen." What is seen in this case are the rising prices of shares in firearms and security system manufacturers as mentioned by a commentator during the credits. What is unseen are all the other goods that went unpurchased due to the essentially forced consumption of the sundry products of mayhem.

Elimination of the poor, while economically beneficial at first blush, would be nothing of the sort. The effect of killing a large number of poor people would be to increase unskilled wages, a boon to the remaining poor but hardly a surefire recipe for a thriving economy. (Think, for example, of the pogroms of the Soviet Union, China during the Great Leap Forward, North Korea today.)

And of course once unleashed legalized murder cannot be limited to just poor people as the movie itself makes abundantly clear. The movie claims that crime is almost eliminated by the purge, except, of course, for the purge itself. The incentive effect of shifting crime to one night is not easy to predict but it is difficult to see how it could be salutary given the salience of this state-sanctioned half day of carnage. People, in other words, would under invest in education and physical capital to the extent that they expected to be killed or maimed during the next or future purge just as surely as they under invest if they expect to be harmed on some random day.

Of course The Purge is just a movie. The producers (I mean this broadly), however, could have produced just as good a gory flick without perpetuating economic fallacies. Only one thing truly improves the economy: people working harder and/or smarter and they do so only when they have the incentive to. That means living in a society with a tolerable administration of justice, as Adam Smith put it, not one that allows everyone but federal elites to be willfully murdered.

*Certain types of weapons and murdering federal officials remain illegal during The Purge.

helmet diving in boracay, an OA account

Warning: OA account

I am a sissy. And there's something about the sea and huge waves that make me think of morbid thoughts. But I survived my first helmet dive! Hooray!

When I first heard of helmet diving, I thought people were brought down into a huge controlled aquarium (think ocean park or ocean adventure) to get up close with various sea creatures. I didn't realize that it actually entailed going down 15 feet below the open sea until our speedboat was almost to the floating barge where the helmet and oxygen tanks were stationed together with the divers. Understandably, I had cold feet. All my bravado and yes-to-adventure attitude were gone with the sea breeze.

We had to go through a brief orientation before the actual experience. We were taught a few sign language to communicate with the divers while under the sea. I tried to memorize only the important ones - 'Up' and 'Not okay!'. The guide also informed us that the helmet is very heavy but it becomes lightweight under the sea. There were divers that will assist us going down into the sea bed and ensure our safety.

Even then I was still having second thoughts if I should try it. It took some convincing and some looking around (and finding kids raring to go down), before I finally yielded. Okay let's do this!

Every step down the ladder, I was fighting hard not go scrambling back up. I was so pre-occupied with my heavy breathing that I barely noticed the pressure in my ears (similar to what we experience while on a plane ride). To ease the ear pressure, we were instructed to swallow, chew and/or pinch our nose and breathe out with the mouth closed (like divers do).

The diver who was guiding me had to peel off my hands from the ladder handle just so I would keep moving down. And finally I hit the sea bed. I was holding on to my helmet for dear life, frightened that somehow I'll lose it and die. Haha!

And then I realized I could breathe, I can stand steadily on my feet and I can see this wonderful ray of light from where the barge is 15 feet above us. Surreal! I began to enjoy myself. We were given bread to feed the fish which were disappointingly not as colorful and varied as we expected. We were trying to reach for them but we couldn't catch them. We were asked to pose for the camera and make some dance moves. Then 20 minutes was up and it was time to go! I was the last one to go down so my underwater experience was shorter for me than the rest of my colleagues.

kapit-kamay, walang iwanan sa ilalim ng dagat

Back up on the barge, I couldn't wipe the silly smile off my face. I made it! Woohoo!

Quick tips and info:

Price - We haggled and paid only P400 per person (group of 10). We were there in May.
Takeaway - Bragging rights and a CD for the photos and video with a printed cover picture. We got the CD the day after the adventure.
Warning - Ear pressure and limited variety of fish and sea creatures