USA: Richer Rich, Poorer Poor

In fact, quantitative economic studies (Beatty, 1996; Cassidy, 1995; Frannk & Cook, 1995; Mishel, 1995) have focused on four variables (many more than four have been proposed, but these four have been the most extensively studied). One proposed factor is technology. For example, the argument is that computers raise the productivity of those who can use them and, thus, cause their wages to rise. In contrast, computers displace the jobs of many unskilled workers (mailroom sorters, bank tellers, etc.), thus putting downward pressure on their wages (Cassidy, 1995). Similarly, a second factor discussed is that the rising immigration of unskilled workers into the United States puts downward pressure on the wages of the lower-paid workers because it creates an oversupply of unskilled labor. A third argument is that globalization increase income disparity because corporations can outsource unskilled and semiskilled (and increasingly skilled) labor to countries with lower wage rates, thus again creating an oversupply of lower-skilled labor (Cassidy, 1995). The fourth factor is the declining power of labor unions and the increasing power of large corporations. The argument here is that, during the 1990s, strikers by labor decreased and strikers by capital (abandoning productive enterprises in one region of the country because the return on capital is higher in another) have increased, thus driving up the value of capital and driving down the value of labor. 
What have economic studies found with respect to these four variables? You guessed it. All four are factors contributing to the rising inequality in our society.

- "How To Think Straight About Psychology", by Keith E. Stanovich

Bird Garden Restaurant (formerly Bird Man Cafe & Restaurant)

I had tried the food at this restaurant previously, together with Ban and his brother, and I vaguely remember that their food was bad enough that we didn't go there again. Recently, however, Ban's brother tried it again after it changed its name and shifted to a nearby (2nd storey, instead of ground floor) location and stated that its beef shabu-shabu ramen (RM 16.90) was good. So I decided to give it another shot.

Bird Garden 2

Bird Garden 3

The best part of this dish was its soup. Ramen soup is usually salty half of the time but this one was not salty and moderately flavourful.

I was quite impressed by the variety of ingredient it had: beef, egg, seaweed, lettuce, mushroom and onion. However, they were all mediocre in taste.

The biggest letdown was the ramen noodle itself: there was this bitter after-taste that reminded me of boric acid that was commonly used in making yellow noodle but it's now prohibited. It's not surprising that this is the deal breaker: I'll never have their ramen again.

Bird Garden 1

Their ice-blended chocolate (RM 7.90) was more watery than the usual ice-blended drink but not as sickly sweet and so that was good. It was also darker.

Ban had smoked duck ramen which he said was ok but he wouldn't want to have it again, especially since the duck ramen served by Sushi Q @Paradigm Mall is much better.

Guess we won't be going back to this restaurant for a third try.

Dry weather and haze

At Ban's place, we have a natural way of knowing when the dry weather or haze gotten really bad: by observing certain insects.

Bad dry weather: when ants drown themselves en masse in our kettle of water.

Bad haze: when at least a dozen of mosquitoes cling to the insect screen, probably desperate to get indoor.

Time are bad.

The aircon dilemma

People may think that I dislike aircon, judging from my fervent use of fans and natural air ventilation. In fact, aside from my concern over global warming, I do prefer aircon set at about 26/27 degree (depending on the machine). It's cool enough so that I don't sweat and yet not so cold that I need to wear jacket (still need long pants or blanket to cover legs).

However, I have to restrict the use of aircon because of my sinus. It causes a gradual build-up of nasal blockage. When I sleep with aircon switched on, I can sleep soundly but will wake up feeling tired, some nasal blockage and obvious dark rings under my eyes. It'll take hours, including an afternoon nap, for me to recover.

During the current heatwave, I have no choice but to use aircon more frequently than usual. A good night sleep definitely trumps the after-effects the next day except when I need to drive in the morning. Gah.

WDJ 1122

WDJ 1122_1

WDJ 1122_2

Sorry for the poor quality of photos. My camphone is poor at taking photos at night.

This lane is supposedly a 2-way lane but it is so narrow that cars will take turn to use this lane, whereby one car will go to one side slightly into one of the 2 connecting lanes to allow the other car to pass through.

However, the driver of this car decided to make life difficult for everyone by parking on this lane. Perhaps he/she is trying to fulfill his/her daily quota of inconsiderate acts.

Spending (other people's) money

The following was something I read on a blog but I forgot which (financial) blog it was. So if anyone knows which blog it is, please let me know. Thank you.

The blog may have even stated that this idea from another source.

Firstly, imagine a John. He generates the money that he spends to benefit himself (i.e. spending your own money for your benefit). Thus this motivates him to maximise the benefits derived from the spending (or saving, investment etc).

Then imagine a second scenario where John's uncle gives him money to spend for John's benefit (i.e. spending other people's money for your benefit). This should still motivates him to maximise the benefits although he may not be as careful with the money since he does not generate it himself.

A third scenario is where John's uncle asks John to spend money for the benefit of the community he lives in (i.e. spending other people's money for the benefit of other people - could be the same group of people). John has even less motivation to maximise the benefits since he does not enjoy the benefits.

It may be a little simplistic but don't you think the third scenario describes a government? The government was "given" (via tax and aid) money to manage for the benefit of the people. Corruption arises when a government illegally switch this to the second scenario i.e. spend the money for the goverment's benefit.

How could we prevent or minimise this? My first thought was to put the money into a trust account and its trustees should be independent of the government. However, what is going to stop the trustees for unnecessarily hindering the government from spending on (morally) legitimate projects? Even trying to ensure the independence of the trustees will probably be difficult in practice.

I haven't given much thought about this. How about you? Any ideas?

Three Little Pigs & The Big Bad Wolf @Tropicana City Mall

I've been quite intrigued by this restaurant for sometime. So one day after gym, Ban and I had lunch there. For me, it was a light lunch.

BBW 1

BBW 2

Oh yes, they cleverly designed the menu such that there appear to be a silhouette of someone taking photos :P

BBW 3

Ever since I heard (and love it!) the song "Escape", I always wanted to try a glass of pina colada. This RM16 drink was too sweet for me and appear to have some liquor although it was listed under mocktail. I felt very lightheaded later and had headache. Needed to take a few hours of nap @@

BBW 4

BBW 5

Finally, after watching so many Western cooking shows, I get to try eggs Benedict (RM19). The egg was delicious! Its white was soft and the runny yolk went well with the rather hard toasted bread. The bacon was crispy. I only wished that they gave more vegetables but I guess that was a little much to ask for since this was probably a breakfast item.

Would I go there again? Maybe but definitely not often. It's expensive and I rather spend on expensive good Japanese sushi :)

Evolution

...if the universe and Earth are only about ten thousand years old, then the modern sciences of cosmology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, paleontology, paleoanthropology, and early human history are all invalid...

- Shermer, M. (1997) Why people believe weird things

"Benefits" of smartphones/tablets

When we were young, my sisters and I feared the visit of our late-grandmother. She didn't like us being noisy but we couldn't help it (hey, we were children!). There was lively discussion/instruction/dispute whenever we play together. There were negotiation, intimidation, use of imagination, cooperation, explanation of rules, amendments etc. A zillion things to say.

I bet she would gladly welcome the advent of smartphones/tablets. Children will just be engrossed in using them. No talking involved. Blissful silence.

It's also beneficial to customers at restaurants too. It's less noisy with fewer people talking. It is not uncommon for a family of four, after having ordered, just be engrossed in playing with those gadgets. Ah, I bet the rest of the customers can eat in peace (or maybe play in peace).

There's less worry about getting in touch with friends. One can just update Facebook and do that even over a meal with other friends. Can instantly know of any news and in fact, there are some who even don't bother to ask for news because, hey, everything is on FB, right? No need to waste breath and suffer dry throat and at the same time can exercise fingers. One day, those fingers can lift dumbbells.

Gone are the troublesome days where one thinks of ways to carry a conversation and to navigate its path of conversation i.e. when to continue talking about the topic, when to deflect, when to change topic.

One can play with the gadgets while waiting for pick-up by friends/family. Continue playing with them in the car, throughout the meal and after drop-off. This then negate the need for conversation or even merely observing the surrounding because, hey, one is busy playing.

Yes, so many "benefits", aren't there?

Arata follow-up

After the inaugural visit, Ban and I have gone there a couple more times. Yes, their udon is still great.

Arata 6

Unfortunately, I didn't snap photos of the food I had.

During the second visit, both Ban and I decided to try their udon with sauce. A first for me. The udon portion, like previously, was quite large for me. The sauce wasn't as oily as some dry noodle out there and it was surprisingly appetising. Yes, Ban and I finished all our food and were thoroughly satisfied except for the eggs. As noted in previous post, it was plain and normal. Considering that it's easy to cook hardboiled eggs, it's probably not worth paying RM2 for an egg although it's cooked such that the yolk is not dry.

On my third visit, I tried yet another dish that I never had before: udon with dipping sauce. I was asked to choose between hot or cold udon. Interesting. I'm partial towards hot and so I chose that. The sauce had slices of pork and tasted differently than the sauce above. It was a little cumbersome trying to dip the udon into the sauce. Otherwise, it was yet another delicious udon dish. This time, I remember not to order the egg.

We will definitely go there again :)