Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Hometown Blues

Wrapping up preparations for another trip back to the old hometown - Cagayan de Oro. To the land of grinding poverty amidst scattered opulence guarded by very high fences or guarded gates. To the land of heat and humidity even in the wee hours of the morning.

Away from the subdued but orderly living of a northern California city, still blessed with the accoutrements of first-world amenities inspite of a fearsome recession, very high unemployment (all things considered to include those giving up on finding work or are only working part-time by force of circumstances, California is said to register a 20% unemployment rate), unsteady markets, etc.

But it is still the old hometown. Warts and all!

So here I come. To the land of hardy people unfazed by inborn hardships.

Friday, October 09, 2009


Wow! What a blessed life Obama and his young family must be living. And it started all too recently. Inauspiciously starting as a community organizer, then moving forward politically as a state official, then quickly as US senator. And barely warming that seat on his very first term, being thrust into the most powerful office in the world, the US presidency. And now we learn, after even barely warming that newest seat, being crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Unabashed adulation by the rest of the world is almost a given with this much-coveted award already garnered by Obama.

But beyond the largely amorphous desirables of adulation, admiration, and deference, Obama’s life is also financially blessed. Regardless of whether he sits one term or 2 terms as US president, he is made for life, everything already neatly cut out for success. He now is entitled to all the future respect, security, and necessary accoutrements befitting and accorded ex-presidents for life. He will then have ready access to all the lucrative speaking engagements reserved for his acquired stature and equally lucrative however token membership in big corporations eager to acquire more prestige by using his well-known name.

Add to that the US$1.4 million he earns as Nobel Prize winner, and the Nobel medal that’s probably worth its weight in price-soaring gold.

From all observable measures, he has accomplished everything. Not to mention the added bonuses, the two bestsellers he penned before becoming president. No need after the presidency to scurry back to humble beginnings like any southsides of any city like Chicago, or seedy districts like the Tenderloin in San Francisco. Only the best for an ex-president.

So what’s left to accomplish? One could say, sit back and enjoy the manifold perks of the vaunted presidency – the comforts and amenities of the palatial White House, planes and helicopters at your disposal, security escorts wherever you wish to be, a big bully pulpit to address the public and the world should the occasion arise, surrounded by a veritable army of intelligent people ever ready to give erudite counsel on any possible concern, etc.

What a blessed life!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Thrift Vs Spendthrift

The classic dilemma of nature or nurture stares us in the face again with this issue. Is being thrifty or frugal observed and learned from the people around us? Or is it hardwired in our genes? Is it a learned virtue or packed into our heredity luggage from which there is no escape?

NY Magazine does battle with this hefty issue while reviewing a book on the subject.

Examples abound of families where siblings are divided on being thrifty or being spendthrift, despite the parents being themselves frugal and consciously teaching their kids to also be frugal. Thus, situations like those argue well for the claim that frugality or being a spendthrift is in the genes, rather than learned from mentors or parents.

A heretofore unheard-of facet injected to this age-old question is the hypothesis that pain is associated with the purchases of goods (though not true to all). And what determines whether an item will eventually be purchased is the threshold of pain that a purchaser has developed. And I could personally attest to this. It is truly painful to part with money, especially hard-earned money, if the item purchased sits astride between being a want or a need. Add to that the extra concern that the money could be saved for an anticipated future expense that definitely is both crucial and necessary.

But of course not all people feel the pain; others simply not tuned in either to the future or to the many ramifications tied up with a purchase. Or maybe others do not want to be bothered by such details. Others I am familiar with can dismiss any unnecessary or extravagant impulse purchase with the cavalier caveat, not to worry about the future, someone else will take of it, or worse, God will provide.

A blog devoted to issues of money and personal finance has a couple of entries delving on the issue of frugality. In one blog entry, the author solicited information from his readers on the manifold “motivational factors” why frugality is practiced, apart and other than for money considerations or as a money-saving tool.

Since it is quite relevant during these very difficult times to be a prudent spender when money is even scarcer, here is an enumeration of all the possible motivational factors as extracted from the blog entry and from its comment section from readers:

1. Saving Time – like what walking is to driving in certain situations.

2. Attitudes as the Priority – wearing old clothes until they are unwearable because one prefers it or is attached to them. Or because of one’s dislike for shopping.

3. A Question of Preferences – Brownbagging lunch to work to avoid the hassles of buying at work.

4. Lack of Resources – This forces or conditions one to be frugal. Maybe due to meager finances or absence of means like a car to allow for more frequent purchases.

5. Individual Habits or Quirks – Like squeezing the last drop from a toothpaste tube, the last drop from a soda can, or catsup bottle.

6. Environmental Advocacies – Likes being “green”, so no wastage of nature’s resources.

7. For a Healthier Lifestyle – Drinking water instead of soda, using manual tools instead of power tools.

8. Stress Reduction – Buying less equals to less to worry about.

9. A Feeling of Superiority – Over those who waste money?

10. Gaining Control – Doing or making things yourself allows better control over the outcome – food more nutritious, garments fit better, investments earn more.

11. Getting Comfort – A rented DVD played at home rather than going to a movie house allows enjoyment of the comforts of home and control of other factors like sounds, noise, warmth, etc.

12. What about Laziness – Cooking larger volumes or portions at one sitting, to be consumed for say an entire week, or eating at home rather than eating out.

13. Ethics and Spirituality – Aiming for a simple life absent many material trappings.

14. As Creative Challenges – Testing determination and resolve in doing things untried. Or being resourceful with what one already has.

15. Cultural Predispositions – Arguably in certain cultures the frugality trait is inculcated as a necessary virtue for everyday living.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Palin Pens Preprint Bestseller?

Bloggers are abuzz with the news. Sarah Palin has rushed publication of her book to reach the stands before the holidays. It is expected to hit the stores November 17th. Reports trickling in show that advance sales have pushed the soon-to-be book to Number One. I suppose on-line places like Amazon are sourcing these reports. And the very amazing thing is that the initial printing will be at 1.5 million copies. Wow!

Her many detractors in media and politics have to be giddy with puzzlement, agonizing on occasion how a blithering and irrelevant idiot (their words) could command such an audience to listen to her on print. And this time not for free, for now they have to shell out almost $30 if bought from a bookstore, or half of the price if ordered on-line. But that is too kind, maybe they are just livid with rage why some nobody like Palin could weave words together and have people read her. Maybe the purchasers are just naïve, or easily manipulated? Or too ideological? But the title of the book suggests she is not beholden to any side.

One hopes that the book is more than just an autobiographical primer of the life of Palin, rather that it should also expose in good prose who Sarah Palin is and what she truly stands for. And some concrete plans on how this country can be put back on track, if perceived to have been derailed. Yes, it ought to contain honest and earnest accounts on the last contentious presidential campaign amidst the many internal controversies and adverse claims between staff and candidates. I hope she truly goes rogue, and expresses what she truly feels and believes about the many events ushering her abrupt debut to the national stage.

If not all these and more, then what is to differentiate it from the two autobiographies penned by the current WH occupant?

It could be judged as too self-serving, or too arrogantly self-assured, as to be both inspirational and humbling.