The Price of Gas

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
You know how I know the price of gas is getting out of hand? My boss just recently stopped driving his SUV to work and started driving his wife's sedan instead to save on gas. My boss makes six-figures.

When you have people who make lots of money start worrying about the price of gas, you know the rest of the country has got to be nervous. Most of the stations around here are hitting the $2.90 mark. No doubt about it, it will hit $3.00 by this weekend.

I'm not all that nervous. If it hits $3.00 or even $4.00 so be it. I'll just have to find a way to drive less. Crap, that San Diego drive every other week is going to kill me.

Death of the Union?

Monday, August 29, 2005
Most people know I'm not a big fan of unions. I think unions have their place in certain industries where there is a monopoly by the owners; the sports industry is one of the few examples I can really think of, education is another. But overall, I think unions just don't make a lot of economic sense.

Whenever you deal with a group, you are going to get a wide spectrum of talent. You are going to get high, average, and low performers. Unions ensure a set wage structure with little latitude for performance based differences. That means if you are capable of doing twice the work of someone else, you will still get paid exactly the same. This of course builds in an incentive to do as little as possible, why strain yourself if there is no incentive to? As a diligent and hard worker, I want the ability to negotiate my own wage.

Union membership has been on the decline. In 2004, 12.5% of Americans belonged to a union. An even smaller percentage, 7.9%, if you count those workers in the private sector. The latest strike by a large union is happening now. The mechanics of Northwest have refused to accept a 25% wage cut and have gone on strike. Northwest in turn has hired replacement workers to fill the void. They seem to be doing the job. This past weekend, Northwest flew 98% of its schedule. Many of the Northwest mechanics have expressed surprise that Northwest was able to fly as many flights as they have been able to.

This is the new age of labor economics where companies are playing hardball with their employees. Employees are quickly finding out just how replaceable they are. Look at some of the major strikes in the past few years. The NBA had its players, all millionaires, crawling back in 1999. More recently, the NHL absolutely crushed its union and got major concessions. If you don't care about the problems of millionaires there are the examples of the California Supermarket Strike or the Catepillar strike in 1995. In each case, the owners played hard and refused to back down and each time the "workers" caved in and gave back major concessions.

Almost all employees have an over inflated sense of how important they are to the company's bottom line. However, as several examples have shown (some personal to myself), companies are finding it easier and easier to replace their workers. Is this shift of power toward employers permanent? Given the fluidity of today's workforce, the erosion of loyalty (both by companies and their employees) and the decreasing expectation of lifetime employment, I think labor is in for a tough battle.

Price Caps

Thursday, August 25, 2005
OK, just another reason why government is a bunch of idiots. In Hawaii, they are instituting a cap on the wholesale price of gasoline. This is a horrific idea. Living in California I am accutely aware of the pain that high gas prices can bring but having government place caps on the price of anything is just a bad idea.

Free Markets depend on supply and demand. If prices are not allowed to adjust than there is an imbalance somewhere. My incentive as a supplier is to supply gas at a price P I can make a profit at. When the price of my product reaches a certain level I have an incentive to produce Q amount. If the price goes up I have incentive to produce a little more. As a consumer my incentives are reversed. These two forces almost magically move the price to a point where all the consumers demands are met for a given price point.

Governments mess with incentives at great peril. Seriously, incentives move humans. If you put a price cap on a free market system the effects are quite obvious. The price is lower than what the producer can make a profit at. He has no incentives to produce more. However, since the price is artificially low there will be greater demand for the product. Therefore a shortage will ensure. People who want gas will not be able to get gas. Producers will not produce more gas at a loss so the supply curve can not shift outwards.

Imagine for a second if government, to stem the tide of housing cost, put a cap on the sale price of homes. Now all homes have a maximum price of $100K. Don't you think there would be a huge rush of people wanting to buy homes? Don't you think the people selling their homes would look at that and say, "No way in hell am I selling my $500K home for $100K!" Builders, not able to turn a profit on new homes, refuse to build more and instead concentrate on commercial real estate. Many people want homes but none are for sale. People are unable to relocate for work because they are not willing to sell their homes or can not find any homes to buy. The economy would grind to a halt because there would be an inefficient allocation of resources.

So tell me again, what is good about price caps?

Who do Asian Men Date?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
My girlfriend (who is Asian) and I have taken up a new pastime. Every time we go out we try and notice inter-racial couples. We have noticed a very disturbing fact. There are very few inter-racial couples involving Asian men.

Inevitably when we see an Asian man as part of a couple he is with an Asian woman. We have seen plenty of other mixtures, White Male-Asian Female and Black Male-White Female being some of the more popular combinations. But seriously, of the hundreds of mixed couples we have spotted thus far, maybe only 1 or 2 have involved an Asian Male and something other than an Asian Female.

Now I have dated other races before but of the people I would call my girlfriend, all of them have been Asian (all different types of Asian). This is not some bias on my part (actually my girlfriend tells me I have a thing for white women) but just how the chips have fallen. My girlfriend has never dated an Asian guy until me. Actually, this is the case for most of my ex-girlfriends; I'm the only Asian guy they have dated.

My girlfriend and I have discussed this in length and believe it’s a societal thing. The stereotypes for an Asian male do not bode well for his success in the dating arena. But it begs the question, if Asian men are only dating Asian women, and Asian women are dating a lot of White men (and Black men for that matter) as our un-scientific sample suggest; whom are all these Asian men dating? Are Asian men resigned to a life of celibacy and being single?

Canceling Netflix

Monday, August 22, 2005
I canceled my Netflix subscription. I wasn't really unhappy with their service but I wasn't really pleased either. My main problem is their idea of "unlimited". Basically, Netflix service degrades the more movies you rent. I tried renting at different frequencies and found that "unlimited" ends at about 12 movies a month. After 12 they pretty much start throttling you by giving you much worse service. They "receive" your movies later, they ship out your movies later, and you get less desirable movies from your queue. I don't have a problem if they want to give better service to those who make them more money, but I do have a problem with them not being up front about it.

I pay the same money everyone else does I should get the same service. I am taking advantage of the system they created and advertise yet I'm punished for it? Doesn't make a lot of sense. If you want to provide different service than state that explicitly up front. Don't pretend your service is "unlimited" when it clearly is not.

I still think that 12 movies a month is a pretty good deal for around $20 and Netflix did have many other good qualities. I'm going to try out Blockbuster again for the next few months. I didn't like them last time but supposedly they have better service now. We shall see.

The Bubble Is About to Burst

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
No, not the housing bubble, the Denim bubble. Since everybody gets on me for paying so much for my jeans I figured I would post the link. See, I'm not the only one riding the high-end denim wave.

A Rare and Terrible Disease

Monday, August 15, 2005
I think I have a disease. Most people in America have a problem with spending too much money. They can't seem to save any money and go more into debt every month. They treat credit cards like its free money and buy expensive gadgets as if they were food. For some, it is a serious addiction.

I on the other hand suffer from an even rarer disease; I suffer from the exact opposite problem. I can't seem to force myself to spend any money on things I don't really need but would really enjoy. Case in point, I just received a rather large sum of money from my company since it is "closing" its doors. (I still have a job, don't worry) They paid me out all my vacation (which was at its max), my personal days, and my two weeks of severance. This turns out to be quite a bit of money. What am I going to do with this money? Put it in the bank and find a way to invest it.

I actually have started a program for myself. I have told myself that every month I have to spend a small but significant amount of money on something I would not normally buy myself. This can't be used for things like dining out, clothes, etc.; things I would buy myself anyway. Hopefully, slowly, I can find a way to beat this disease. I started last month and believe it or not I didn't spend the money. It's hard, believe me. This month I forced myself to buy the aforementioned DVD burner. I'll have to beat this thing with Baby steps.

Pork Everywhere

Friday, August 12, 2005
Bush signed into law the Highway Bill. Yet another reason to hate government. The small town of Ketchikan (population 15000) just got a grant from the federal government for $223 million for a bridge that goes nowhere. And that is just one of many cases where government is wasting YOUR money. That's right, you are paying for that bridge.

I hate the idea that to get anything done in this country, you have to grease the wheels and allow the representatives of our country to get pet projects for their districts. Whatever happened to just doing the right thing?

The problem with a large, national government is that everybody's money gets put into one big pot and then it is parceled out with some people having power disproportionate to the constituents they represent. To get a road built in highly populous California for millions of people, you have to give something to the guy who represents 5 people in the state of Alaska. It's just ridiculous.

Imagine a company where IT decisions are made by each department head and resources are allocated by who has more pull. It just so happens that the Sales department in this fictitious company has the most pull. It comes time to buy new computers. The Sales department, being the most persuasive, gets all the new computers assigned to them and their friends in Facilities; nobody in either department really needs it for anything more than surfing the web and playing Free Cell. The guys in the engineering department, who need powerful computers to run CAD software or CPU intensive development environments are now left to choose between the 266 and 333 MHZ Pentium II's that are left. Doesn't sound like a very good plan does it, but in many respects that is how the government is run.

I hate to keep harping on it but we need to reduce the size and scope of the government. When you give these children so much money to play with, they treat it as if it will last forever and they can spend it on whatever they want. Giving them more money doesn't work, it just makes them buy bigger toys.

Strange Definitinon of Soon

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
I ordered a DVD burner from on Sunday. Supposedly the item "usually ships within 24 hours". As of right now it has not shipped. It has been in the "Shipping soon" stage for the last two days. I don't know about the rest of you but 72 hours is not "soon" when it is compared to 24.

I have ordered from Amazon a few times and have been mostly satisfied. I have to say that my patience wears thin with every passing hour.

What's wrong with the Movie Industry?

Monday, August 08, 2005
When I was a kid, we would go to the movies almost every weekend; not so anymore. It has been reported that the Movie industry is in a record slump. Almost every week this year has done worse than the year before.

Is it any wonder? Going to the movies is not what it used to be. If I take me and my date to go to the movies that's $20 just to walk into the door. Normally my girlfriend and I don't get any food but most people probably do and can expect to drop $10 on popcorn, drinks, etc. That's $30 for you and your date to go to the movies. You know what you can do with $30? That's like 4 rounds of minature golf. That's a whole lot of video games and air hockey. That's like 7 movie rentals or 1.5 months of Netflix.

There are just too many alternatives to going to the movies these days. Combine that with the fact that a lot of people have really sweet entertainment setups in their homes and that DVD's hit the shelves faster than they ever have, and well you can see why I only go to the movies when I really want to see something. And I don't want to hear about how Piracy is taking over. You know how long it takes to download a full-length high quality movie? Maybe a few college kids who run their computers all the time and have access to the University's high bandwidth but the average consumer just has a lot of options. Options that usually don't include crying babies and ringing cell phones.

Moving once again

Thursday, August 04, 2005
Due to the downsizing of my company we have found it necessary to shuffle people around and consolidate space. I am now in my new office, my 5th new space in 2.5 years. It is probably the worse space I have had thus far but I'll get use to it and adjust. I have always said I could work so long as they gave me a computer and a patch of space on the floor. I just never thought I would really have to prove it.

Dance Dance Chipmunk

Monday, August 01, 2005

Took this when I went to Disneyland and I thought it was cute. I have to say that the chipmunk wasn't half bad.

The Shoe Horn

It's amazing to me what a difference something so small can make. This weekend I finally found a shoe horn. You would be surprised how hard it is to find one of these things. I ended up finding one at a Nordstrom Rack of all places. I looked at Target, various shoe stores, etc. all with no luck.

Anyway, when I went to put on my shoes today, they went right on. No need to hurt my fingers as I tried to jam my foot into my shoe. I know it seems silly but really, it made my morning.