26 April 2010

French Cuffs

What are French cuffs? Here is what WiseGeek has to say:
French cuffs refer to cuffs on traditionally a man’s dress shirt that are longer and folded back over the wrist. Instead of being secured by buttons, the cuff is secured by cuff links and lends a dressy look. French cuffs were first developed in the 19th century, and were connected with wealthier folk. Up to that time, most commercially made shirts were sewn in one size only and usually featured a row of buttons, so people could attach the cuff at the appropriate length, and fold back any extra length. The desire to have fancier cufflinks attaching the shirt, and a more fitted shirt led to the French cuffs style, probably first worn only by those who could afford cufflinks.
I purchased two Van Heusen business shirts from Myer, each one for about $50. The problem is that I purchased them and was completely ignorant that I was buying French cuff shirts. This means that I will need to buy cufflinks, which I think is bad because it means I will have to pay even more money and it will make me look, in my opinion, excessively formal, which is something I try to avoid at work.

When I am at work I do not wear a tie or a jacket. I don't wear a tie not only because I am lazy but also because it is uncomfortable on my neck. I sometimes wear a jacket but I tend not to, mainly because it's wearing a jacket makes me feel heavy and less mobile. I wear my jacket only on cold days. Wearing cufflinks without a tie or a jacket I think may go against some law of fashion because you are mixing elements of casualness with elements of formality.

I may have to not wear my French cuff shirts and leave them for some special occasion like a wedding. This is yet another purchasing mistake I have made. I really should be careful about bulk buying lots of the same item (like buying two of the same shirts) because then if I make a mistake I will lose more money. I should also research more before I buy something. If in doubt, don't buy. Transport costs or general search costs are negligible, so take your time and research!

Update: I am thinking of buying some silk knots and wearing these French cuff shirts. The shirts that I currently have are so old. I have seen some people wear cufflinks and they look good.

1080P vs 1080i

I purchased a WD TV HD Media Player (Full HD 1080P) from Dick Smith fro $167. I purchased it instead of the 1080i version, which only cost about $70, so I spent quite a premium for 1080P rather than 1080i. The salesperson at the shop told me that 1080P is a superior product. I purchased the 1080P but now I am starting to wonder whether I made the wrong move. I have read that 1080P is better, but from what I've read on the internet, not many videos use 1080P anyway, so I may have overpaid.

I also feel as if I have been a victim of shifty marketers because the 1080P box was massive while the 1080i box was small. When I opened the 1080P box, the actual machine in there was quite small and most of the box was just air. I feel as if the producers of the product called the 1080P "Full HD" and made the box bigger in order to justify the price premium.

This media player allows me to watch videos on a hard drive on my TV, which is awesome because I don't really like watching videos on my computer and because free-to-air TV has a lot of crap on it, and so it's important to be able to pull up some quality video content when free-to-air fails to deliver. What I find annoying about free-to-air in Australia is that especially on the weekends they show nothing but sport. More variety is needed.

Update: I know I have overpaid for the media player because (see screenshot below) I have been browsing through the internet and found a similar product for $130 instead of $167! The lesson here is that you should do your research before you shop and not purchase based on impulse. It is a good idea to look on the internet first before you head to the mall.

25 April 2010

XP Security Tool 2010 Firewall Alert

I was reading some Survivor news and then all of a sudden a window popped up to tell me that there was a virus on my computer and that I needed to install some program to get rid of it. My BS detector immediately went hot.  I never remembered installing any anti-virus (probably not a good idea) and how come all of a sudden there was all this crap on my computer?

I did a Google search of "XP Security Tool 2010 Firewall Alert" and it confirmed my suspicions that this was scareware!

How to Get Rid of It

Trend Micro Housecall and WinClam did not work for me. I went to XP Security Tool 2010 Analysis and Removal at MalwareHelp.org and followed the instructions. I ran their registry file and then installed MalwareBytes’s Anti-Malware. After this program detected the scareware I removed them, turned System Restore off and then on, and then restarted the computer. The problem seemed to go away.

To prevent future problems, I installed Avast Free Antivirus, which I hope will protect my computer.


It's always a dilemma when you have a rogue security software on your computer because you have to get rid of it with another security software and you never know if the software you use to get rid of the rogue software is not a rogue software itself! It's therefore necessary that you trust someone because trusting no one makes you worse off. It is like the Survivor castaways who do not know who to trust but must trust someone if they want to end up further in the game.

What I found was that there were certain organizations that I do trust, e.g. Google and CNET. Google especially allows me to see what others think about an issue so I can get multiple perspectives.

24 April 2010

Survivor Heroes vs Villains Episode 10 - Going Down in Flames

This blog post contains Survivor spoilers.

This was a great episode of Survivor, but I expected the person who was voted to be voted off because I have actually been exposed to the spoilers. Here is a little tip for any Survivor fans out there. Do not go to Survivor message boards like Survivor Sucks or CBS Survivor Community Forum. This is because there are people there who post spoilers, and unfortunately for me I was exposed to some of these spoilers, so I know who was going to get voted off in episode 10 and I also know who will be in the final three as well as who wins.

When I saw these spoilers, I was skeptical because CBS makes every contestant and staff sign confidentiality agreements to make sure the results do not leak. Any leak may affect the suspense of the show, which may affect how many people eventually watch the show, which can affect profitability. However, it is clear that there must have been a leakage because the spoilers given by this person seem to be coming true. Instead of going to message board to read extra, I recommend that if you want to get extra Survivor material, you go to the following websites:
  • The Tribe: A Survivor Podcast - I makes it a personal rule to listen to this podcast while I am on my exercise bike, and I have found that I have been exercising quite a lot now. The four people who do this podcast are very funny. The only downside of this podcast is when at the end they read out all the emails from listeners. Some of the emails are long and boring.
  • CBS Survivor - I go to CBS's Survivor website to watch the secret scenes after an episode is over. I enjoy the trivia there as well. The sight also allows you to watch the full tribal council. That is, you can hear what each castaway said during voting. The problem is that when they speak they whisper and it's very difficult to hear them. CBS needs to build the voting booth very far away from where the rest of the castaways sit so that the castaways can speak at normal volume without fear of other castaways hearing. The videos on the CBD website are extremely advertising intensive, but that is not too much of a problem because many of the ads are okay in quality.
  • Survivor Central - Entertainment Weekly - A great site for Survivor news. It also contains Jeff Probst's blog.
  • Survivor Heroes vs Villains - Survivor Fever - The site has great content but the downside is the cheap appearance of the site and the excessive ads--including annoying pop-ups!
Comments on Episode 10

In episode 10, the Heroes and Villains merge and become Yin Yang, which is a suitable name. In the previous episode, JT gave Russell the hidden immunity idol (HII) because he assumed that an all-female alliance was going to get rid of him. This was a risky move JT played in order to get Russell on the Heroes' side after the merge to avoid a tie vote. The assumption turned out to be very bad. There was no all-female alliance and JT was fooled into giving away a HII, which means that the Villains have two HIIs while the Heroes have zero, and therefore the Villains have the upper hand.

Post-merge, Russell pretended that he is on their side and they are going to vote for Parvati next. However, Sandra told Rupert all about Russell's lie. Rupert told the rest of the Heroes who then plan to tell Russell that they will be voting for Parvati but instead vote for Jerri instead. The problem was that this plan was leaked to the Villains, not deliberately but because Amanda went to Parvati and told her that she should play her idol, which must have made Parvati think that they were not voting for her. During tribal council, Colby even said that there was a chance that they would not be gunning for Parvati. During tribal council, Parvati gave two HIIs to Jerri and Sandra. If the Heroes had voted for Russell or Parvati, there would have been a draw assuming that Sandra voted with the Villains. The Villains ended up voting out JT.

Parvati had two HIIs. She received one from Russell but she also found another and she did not tell Russell about it, and based on the previews of episode 11, it looks like Russell is not happy with Parvati keeping secrets from him.


Sandra is in an interesting position. She knows that she is on the outs with the Villains, so if she continues with the normal plan of picking off the Heroes one by one then she will be the first one to go after the last Hero leaves. Her best move, in my opinion, is to allign with the Heroes and vote out a Villain next. Of course, if she aligns with the Heroes and the rest of the Villains are voted off one by one, she will be voted out right after as well. I think the best move for her to make is to vote off a Villain, followed by a Hero, followed by a Villain. However, if this plan is too obvious then they all might just vote her off. She needs to be subtle. She should align with the Heroes and vote out Danielle, align with the Villains again and vote off Rupert, then Jerri, then Candice, and then she permanently joins the Villains Russell and Parvati to vote off Amanda and Colby because going into the final three with Russell and Parvati, who are both hated, Russell probably moreso than Parvati.

Hidden Immunity Idols

Many Survivor purists do not like the addition of HIIs into the game. As I recall, the HII was introduced in Survivor Guatemala. In that season you had to play the idol before the votes were cast. However, in Survivor Panama you play the idol after the votes were cast and read out. The HIIs in these seasons were completely boring and useless. After these seasons, they changed the rules so that HIIs had to be played after votes were cast but before the votes were read out, which in my opinion makes the game a lot better. HIDs make the game more interesting because without it the tribe that has fewer numbers post-merge would be picked off one by one, which is quite boring.

Single Challenges or Double Challenges

Traditionally there would be two challenges: a reward challenge and an immunity challenge. In Survivor Heroes vs Villains, there has been a tendency in some seasons to have a combined reward and immunity challenge. Many Survivor purists do not like this but I happen to prefer it. Survivor is a game of politics, so more focus I think should be on the politics and not on the challenges. If we wanted to watch challenges, we can watch shows like Wipeout (an absolutely horrible show, in my opinion). Furthermore, many reward challenges are for trivial and pointless luxuries like fishing gear. Although these tools may be essential for survival, that is not really what I see is the point of Survivor. It is not about survival in the wilderness or outback (we have Man vs Wild for that). As I said, Survivor is not about wilderness survival but political survival. It is not man vs wild but man vs man. Having reward challenges merely distract from the main point of the game. That being said, I do not like it when CBS just hands out heaps of luxuries to the castaways. I want the castaways to suffer and work for the million dollars, so I am all for having combined reward and immunity challenges and making sure the rewards are not too excessive. I absolutely hate it when CBS gives castaways tools to build houses (Survivor Fiji).

Lessons from this Episode

JT said in the interview after the game that he should not have trusted Russell. He also said that he should never trust women. I assume he was referring to Parvati. JT took a risk and it didn't pay off. But he also made a mistake in assuming that there was an all-female alliance and that he could trust Russell, even though other members of the Heroes tribes expressed skepticism. That JT could so easily fall for a scam like this makes me paranoid about whether I can trust anyone in real life. The lesson we can learn from this is that indeed it is dangerous to trust others and it is dangerous to assume. This does not mean that we cannot trust others and that we cannot assume things. We need to assume things because not doing so is too difficult in a world that is so complex. We also cannot distrust everyone because as social creatures there needs to be some people we trust otherwise we become completely isolated, and there are downsides to being isolated. A balance is needed. For example, I trust that my parents care for me and like me, but I am prepared if they are not. A husband should trust that his wife loves him and will be with him forever, but he should also be prepared if the wife betrays him.

JT won Survivor Tocantins but to me it seemed to be an accidental win. In Heroes vs Villains, it seems as if JT was trying to prove himself by playing harder. He made many moves early in the game and came up with the innovating plan to give the HII to Russell.

17 April 2010

Top Five TV Shows April 2010

A friend of mine asked me what my favorite shows on Melbourne TV are at the moment. Here they are.

5. Criminal Minds

A show about the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) of the FBI, which, as the name suggests, deals with the psychology of killers. The shows gives good insight into the behavior of killers, but on the downside some of the behaviors exhibit seem unrealistic to me.

4. Top Gear

A very popular show about cars. I started watching this many years ago when I was shopping for cars and wanted to research potential cars. My research led me to Youtube where I watched some Jeremy Clarkson clips. Top Gear was appealing because it was different, but episodes nowadays seem to follow the same formula, and the friendly bander among the three hosts now seems fake.

3. Mythbusters

A very informative and entertaining show. It teaches very interesting facts. The downside of this show is that the younger ones on the show seem overly enthusiastic about explosions and blood. You'd think that over time they would tire of seeing the same thing over and over again, but they keep on carrying on whenever there is a large explosion or a dummy gets decapitated. It just looks like they are trying to play a character rather than be themselves. Top Gear suffers from the same problem.

2. Man vs Wild

I never tire of seeing Bear Grylls eat animals raw and sometimes still alive. It is so disgusting, but watching such a freak in action with the family tends to bond the family because we share the disgust as a group. Bear seems very knowledgeable about what is edible and what is not. His advice is potentially useful and the show is very entertaining. I also think the show teaches good values about self-reliance, simple living, and perseverance.

1. Survivor Heroes vs Villains

No surprise here. I talk about no other show more than Survivor. I absolutely love Survivor. I have watched every single season so far except maybe four. Survivor I believe clearly demonstrates the advantage that reality show have over scripted shows. The fact that there is no acting but pure and raw emotion allows you to better understand human behavior. Survivor is a small-scale representation of how society works. It demonstrates concepts in politics. It constantly reminds you to always be skeptical because it's so easy to the victim of a lie.

Stressing About Stress

I spoke to a friend about high blood pressure yesterday. About two weeks ago I had blood pressure checks and got systolic blood pressure readings of about 136 mmHg, which is higher than the normal systolic blood pressure reading of 120 mmHg. My friend told me that worrying about hypertension is not a good idea because worrying about hypertension causes you to stress, which increases blood pressure.

This I think is a crazy idea. It is true that stress can increase blood pressure. However, if your fear or stress or hypertension makes you take action to reduce blood pressure (e.g. by reduce sodium in your diet, getting more exercise, and eating more fruit and vegetables) then you have less to worry about in the future. If you let your health get bad then in the future you will have major health problems to worry about, which will be very bad for your stress levels.

Double Dip Recession and the Housing Crisis

The future is very uncertain. I have lately become increasingly worried about the economy, mainly worrying about the possibility of a double dip recession or a house price crash (or both).

I will first talk about the possibility of a double dip recession, which I think may be likely to happen because the miraculous recovery we have seen lately in the world economy may be the product of government stimulus, which involves nothing but the movement of money. Moving money around from the people to the government and then back to the people doesn't actually do anything. If governments around the world go into debt trying to stimulate their economies, these debts will have to be paid back in the future, which means governments will have to increase taxes, which stifles economic growth. (Imagine if income tax increased to 70% to pay for government debt. Would anyone bother working?) There are also worries that the Chinese economy may be overheating. I happen to think that much of Chinese economic growth is real because, based on my understanding, Chinese competitive advantage is in cheap labor, which is a real form of productivity enhancement. If you can halve your labor costs, that makes a real and significant difference to profitability. However, even is China is genuinely growing, perhaps investors have been too enthusiastic, which is why I am worried.

Based on the previous Great Recession and credit crunch, only one or two years ago, stocks are the worst place to invest. Stock markets all over the world went down peak to trough by about 50 per cent on average. The safest place to be was in cash or bonds. Since my portfolio is currently 77 per cent stocks, I think it's time to start buying more bonds!

A credit crunch results in falling asset price values as people with massive debt need to sell off assets to raise cash to pay off their debts. This is why we saw during the Great Recession prices of stocks and property fall and why cash was king. This occurs when private debt is high. But what happens when government debt is high? One worry is that private debt can be absorbed by the government, e.g. with bailouts. Citizens can go into massive debt and a credit crunch hits. Government can respond by stimulating the economy by giving money to people, which helps them pay off their debts. The problem is that government itself goes into debt. One way to fix this is to tax heavily, which retards future economy growth. If you think this is likely, going into cash and bonds is safest. However, some people suggest that government pays of its debts by printing money, which is quite dubious but not entirely unbelieveable. This will reduce the value of cash and bonds, leading to inflation, which increases stock, property, and especially gold prices. In my opinion, the threat of inflation is best countered with hard assets like land, resource stocks, and precious metals. Land and precious metals are very expensive now and perhaps overvalued. Resource stocks are historically cheap but buying resource stocks is not necessarily the same as buying the resource itself. E.g. buying shares in a gold mining company is not the same as buying actualy gold since the value of the gold mining company depends on many factors other than the price of gold. However, this is something I'm willing to risk. I have no physical precious metals or land. Approximately 30 per cent of the ASX200 is made up of resource companies, so investing in Australian shares I hope provides partial protection against the possibility of inflation. If you want to be fully invested in resource stocks, there is a new ETF now listed on the ASX with ticker symbol RSR, which invests in all the resource companies in the ASX200.

Another issue that needs to be addressed are house prices in Australia. House prices here are very expensive. If house prices plunge, many governments may be unwilling to lend to Australians, which can cause the Australian dollar to plunge. This won't necessarily be a problem for Aussie miners like BHP whose products become cheaper for overseas buyers if the Aussie dollar depreciates. Hence I think a good way to hedge against a plunge in Australian house prices is to once again go into resource stocks, so buy RSR! But suppose house prices do not plunge. Suppose they continue to go up or stay where they are for a long time. I think that if this happens then private debt levels will be huge because higher real estate prices mean buyers need to go into massive debt in order to afford their dream homes. More mortgage debt means more profit for the banks. The banks in Australia with the greatest exposure to mortgages are the Commonwealth Bank and Westpac. The big banks are the biggest winners from a property price rise. Many landlords think they are screwing renters because renters are throwing money at them. Landlords are indeed screwing renters but banks are screwing landlords. Unless the landlord buys out the house outright with cash (which is rare) then the landlord will pay a large portion of their rental revenue to the banks. In fact, many landlords love to negatively gear their property, which effectively results in a transfer of money from taxpayers to the big banks. It is highly unfair system with the big banks at the top, but the big banks in Australia are public companies, so anyone can become shareholders. If you think house prices will boom, I think investing directly in the banks or buying a financial-sector ETF like FIN is the way to go. Since the ASX200 is about 40% financials, 30% resources, and 30% other sectors, I happen to think that buying an ETF that invests in the broad Aussie stock market (e.g. STW or VAS) prepares you for both a house price crash and a house price boom. You're covered either way.

To wrap it all up, I am worried about a double dip recession, but because I think the government will try to avoid a double dip recession by artificially creating a boom, it is a good idea to bias your portfolio a little bit towards stocks rather than bonds and cash, and if you are comfortable then adding precious metals is a good idea (ETPMPM on the ASX buys a mixture of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium).

I am not entirely sure where the economy is heading. I recommend that people be skeptical about people who claim to be able to predict the economy. I prefer to think about the possible problems and then work on trying to preserve purchasing power based on possible future problems.

11 April 2010

Survivor Heroes vs Villains Episode 8 - Expectations

This blog post contians Survivor spoilers.

When Russell appeared, I expect him to go early when he faced off with Boston Rob, mainly because the numbers were on Rob's side. It's amazing how Russell used to be outnumbered and now he is the one in control. It was interesting to see him in Survivor Samoa when he lead a small after the merge to take on a larger group and come out on top. I never expected to see Boston Rob go, but he is now gone. After Russell gave up his immunity idol, Jerri seemed to want to align herself with Russell, and Coach seems to be sway with what Jerri wants, so once Coach and Jerri were voting with Russell, Rob was gone. In a way I am happy because I am not a fan of Rob. I really disliked his attitude in Survivor All Stars. His decision to marry in a game I thought was pure cheating. In Survivor you cannot split the winnings, but marriage effectively achieves this so the whole All Stars season was dodgy. Of all the Survivor seasons, I think All Stars would be the worst mainly because of Boston Rob and Amber.

Russell has taken out his biggest rival and now his team of villains seems to be weak. They lose both the reward challenge and the immunity challenge. They seem to be in complete disarray now. The Heroes have been on a losing spree and in the process have culled off many weak players, namely Cerie, Sugar, and James. Tom and Stephanie I believe are strong players but they left because of the communism effect, that is, weak players using their numbers to vote off strong players. I think the communism effect is inevitable in a game like Survivor, but the Heroes did manage to get rid of a lot of weak players, so now they are left with a strong tribe. The Villains on the other hand, have gotten rid of Randy and Sugar, who weak players, but then got rid of Tyson and Boston Rob, who are two strong players. The voting off of strong players in the Villains tribe seems to be the doing of Evil Russell. The Villains still have Sandra and Courtney, who are very weak players. That they were in the immunity challenge made the tribe lose. Russell I believe is a very communistic player in that he gets rid of big threats, i.e. strong players. He gets rid of rivals and then takes control in a dictatorial fashion. His behavior is similar to that of a communist dictator. The problem with communism is that the cruel exploitation of the people usually leads to popular uprising, which often leads to the fall of the communist government. This was Russells undoing in Survivor Samoa. He rose to power and then dominated until the final two. But at the end, the jury revolted and voted against him. If Russell wants to win a season he needs to model his behavior not on communist dictators because history shows that communism is rarely successful.

At tribal council, Coach was voted out. Russell was gunning for him because Sandra managed to get him scared that Coach was after him. Strangely, Russell ended up voting for Courtney, but Danielle, who originally wanted to vote off Courtney, ended up voting for Coach. I had a feeling Coach was going because the show seemed to be suggesting too much that Courtney was leaving. Usually when the show suggests that one person is going to leave, that person is not going to leave.

Coach's departure is a sad one for me because he is definitely an interesting character. His behavior is very unique and he tries to be heroic.

The Stigma of Living with Parents

I was browsing through Yahoo! and stumbled upon something in Yahoo! Answers about a 28-year-old guy who lives with his parents and is annoyed at all the criticism he gets from other people.

The criticism this person gets reminds me of me. I too am a male who lives with my parents and many people criticize me. I remember last week I was talking to a bunch of friends about the Melbourne property market. My friends were all desperate to save up to buy a house. One was renting and the other two were living with their parents as well. Anyway, one of them said, "I plan to live with my parents for about two or three more years so that I can save for a deposit for a home, and then I will buy. Paying rent is a waste because you get no asset at the end. If you get a mortgage you get an asset at the end."

I actually think my friend is wrong because when you rent a house you pay less than if you borrow money to buy a house. If you took an interest-only loan from a bank then the mortgage repayments you make will be approximately equal to rent you would have paid for the house.

I told my friends that I personally do not plan to buy a house because I fear that Melbourne house prices are too expensive. Median house prices in Melbourne are around $500,000 now, so if I get an average house I would need to go into massive debt. The thought of paying off massive debt for the next few decades of my life is not appealing to me. I actually think the best move for me to make is to simply live with my parents and with the money I save I can invest. If I think house prices will continue to go up then I can invest in companies that are likely to profit from rising house prices, e.g. Commonwealth Bank and Stockland.

Even though my friend (let's call him Clive) is actually living with his parents at the moment, he then decided to criticize me. He said, "Oh, so you're just going to leech off your parents! How shameful!"

My response was as follows: "I am not a parasite. Every month I estimate my cost and then pay it to them plus a little extra."

Clive then claimed that I didn't pay enough because I was not paying the "market rate." He believes that if I don't pay the current rental rate, which is about $200 per week, then I am not paying enough. I currently pay around $200 per month, which is about $50 per week. Clive believes that because my parents could get $200 per week from renting out my room to someone else but are instead getting $50 from me, they are making a loss from having me in the house and therefore I am not compensating them enough.

This argument is actually wrong, mainly because Clive did not have enough information. One piece of information Clive didn't know about was that my parents are apprehensive about renting out rooms in their house to strangers (understandably). My brother used to live with the family but now he does not. His bed is empty and my parents have not rented out the room to others. If my parents did rent out my brother's room to others, they could potentially earn $200 per week, but they choose not to, and I think the reason why they choose not to is because it is uncomfortable sharing a family home--a very private and intimate place--with a complete stranger. I have spoken to my parents about moving out and I have told them that if they want me out them I can leave. They have no obligation to keep me if they didn't want to. They encouraged me to live with them for as long as I wanted to, and they cited the monetary benefits of doing so. I also asked my parents if they would rent my room out if I left and they said they would not the reasons I have previously given.

If I leave the family home, my parents get nothing. Their payoff is zero. If I stay in the family home, it is true that I use up electricity, gas, and so forth. However, I transfer cash to my parents every month. If I estimate that my cost in electricity, gas, and so forth is $150 per month then I pay that. Then I pay a little extra, say $20 per month. The net effect is that my living with my parents results in my parents making a profit of $20 per month, which is higher than the zero payoff that they would get if I did not living with them. Hence from cost-benefit analysis it is beneficial for my parents to keep me. My living with my parents benefits not only my parents but also me since I do not pay exhorbitant rental rates nor do I destroy my financial stability by imposing a massive debt burden on my future self. The arrangement is mutually beneficial.

I understand that there is social stigma if a male lives with his parents, but I am willing to face that. The guy at Yahoo! Answers who is in a similar position to me wonders why so many women do not like men who live with their parents. I personally think that a woman has the right to assess a man using whatever criteria she wants. But I think that many of the arguments that many women made on Yahoo! Answers is not quite right. I will address them below.

A female named Laraby9 said the following:
The fact that you don't cook your own food and you don't do your own laundry makes you seem infantile, I don't care how many degrees you have. To most of us, the goal in life is to be independent. When a woman comes across a man who has no desire to be independent or standing on his own two feet, it is a HUGE turnoff, and it makes the man seem weak and unable to cut the umbilical cord. It makes the man seem like he has no interest in being an adult. That is a big turnoff for most girls who are looking for that strong man to help them start and raise a family with. If you are truly proud of the way you are living, then why are you here defending yourself?
I am defending myself on this blog. The issue of living with my parents is one that I have thought about over a long period of time. Am I proud of my decision? The first question to ask is what is pride? Pride is something you feel when you feel that you are important and worthy or respect. This is vague because when I decide to live with my parents I do not aim to respect myself or to make others respect me, nor do I try to somehow try to feel important or make others think that I am important. The decision to live with parents was based on an assessment of cost, benefits, and risks. Writing about my decision on a blog helps me to articulate my thoughts, which allows me to explore it further. Even though I have decided to live with my parents, I cannot be sure that I decision is correct. Based on my analysis so far, living with parents seems to be the best move, but I may be a victim of lack of information or even cognitive biases. By writing about the issue, thinking about it, and talking about it--all with an open mind--I learn about it more, which helps me make better decisions. There is also an altruistic aspect to it as well. By writing about the issue, I inform other people who may be in a similar situation to me. I give them ideas that they can use to make decisions for themselves.

Another argument this female made was that a man who lives with his parents is not independent and therefore cannot survive. His inability to survive is bad because as a female she wants the male to help her survive. If there is one topic that I am passionate about, it is survival. Based on my research, I know that pure independence is difficult, if not impossible for an individual to achieve. To be independent you must live out in the country all by yourself and grow your own food. This is difficult because getting a balanced diet requires you to have Noah's ark on your farm. You'd need to raise cows, chicken, pigs, and fish. You'd need to grow many different types of vegetables and fruits. You'd have to prepare the soil, sow the seeds, water them, and then wait, and you'd have to hope that the weather is good otherwise your food will not grow. It is extremely difficult to be fully independent. That is why humans tend to specialize and trade with others. Instead of trying to grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables in your farm, you can focus on one, say, rice. Then you go to your neighbour and engage in a barter exchange, say, exchange your excess rice for his excess avocados. Through specialization and trade, we make things easier for ourselves. Even if I leave my parents, I will not be fully independent. Even if I cook my own food, I do not grow my own food. I buy basic ingredients from the supermarket. Hence I am dependent on that supermarket. I am dependent on the farmer to grows the basic ingredient. My point is that dependency or interdependency does not necessarily reduce your ability to survive. Rather, interdependency increases your ability to survive by allowing your to exploit the gains of trade to produce greater payoffs for both parties. When you go to work, you are dependent on your employer to pay you a salary and your employer is dependent on you for you services to the organization. There is mutual dependency. My living with my parents is just another form of trade. My parents are dependent on me for my cash (and also my presence, I hope) and I am dependent on them for accomodation. If I were to move out and rent, I would be dependent on the landlord. If I moved out and took out a mortage to buy a house, I would be dependent on the bank for the loan. No matter what I do, I am not fully independent.

Furthermore, the argument here is that a man who lives with his parents cannot survive. This is false, I think. If a man moves out of home and is put into a property market with very high prices, he either pays high rent or goes into immense debt to buy a house. Either way, he loses a lot of money, either in the form of rent or interest. If he loses a lot of money, his ability to be independent and his ability to survive decreases. By living with my parents, I save a lot of money, and the accumulation of saving increases independence.

I will use a numerical example to illustrate my point. Assume that investments produce 5 per cent return. Assume that you only need $5000 per year to cover the cost of food. Assume that by living with parents you are able to save $2000 per month ($24,000 per year). After 4.27 years of living with your parents, you will have $100,000 saved up, which will produce $5000 per year in investment income, which covers your food costs. You are dependent on your parents and your employer for 4.27 years after which you are independent because the most important necessity has been covered. Now assume that rent is $200 per week ($10,400 per year). If you move out, you can save only $13,600 per year rather than $24,000. This means it takes 7.35 years of dependency to your employer for you to be financially independent. Living with your parents allows you to be financially independent faster. Remember that the definition of financial independence is that the cost of necessities is covered by passive investment income.

I know I have gone on about this issue for a long time, but let me also address one more issue. Another friend of mine--let's call him Frank--told me that it is important for me to move out because it is important for me to find a female and start a family. I asked him why this is important and Frank told me that pooling my money with my partner's money means that I need a smaller deposit to buy a house. He also claims that living with a partner allows you to gain economies of scale e.g. with air conditioning bills. That is, per person the power bills are lower if two people live together than if one person lived alone. But just because there can be economies of scale if one person decides to live with two people, it doesn't mean I should leave my parents' house. In fact, living with parents gives even greater economies of scale because even more people live in the same house. The idea that moving out and getting a partner is important because it makes it easier to buy real estate seems to assume that buying real estate is something you must do. It is not. If Frank's argument is that real estate is a necessity because you need shelter from the cold, then living with your parents fixes that problem. If Frank's argument is that real estate is a good investment and you should get into it quickly by investing jointly with a partner, then a better idea is to invest through a property syndicate. Many property development companies have property syndicates that allow you to pool money with other investors to invest in real estate. Better yet, why not just invest in a mutual fund, which also pools money but to a massive extent?

10 April 2010

Health Assessment April 2010

About a week ago I had a health check at work and realized that my blood pressure (136/82 mmHg) was too high (read Fish and Soluble Fiber). I have since committed myself to doing more to lower my blood pressure and eat more good fats.

Today I will update you on my progress. Below are my blood pressure and weight measurements so far.

Below is a chart of my systolic blood pressure over time. Normal systolic blood pressure is 120 mmHg. My blood pressure seems to fluctuate greatly but averages around 140 mmHg. It is difficult to know whether my recent attempts to lower blood pressure has been successful. I will need to collect more data over a longer period of time to know whether this recent decrease in blood pressure is a definite downward trend or whether it is just randomness.
The data below show some health performance indicators (HPIs). E.g. on 2 April 2010 I did 104 minutes of aerobic exercise. There are three different fiber supplements I take: (1) inulin from Metamucil Fibresure, (2) wheat-based fiber called "Benefiber", and (3) fiber in the form of psyllium husks, also from Metamucil. The "Cenovis" column refers to Cenovis Men's Multi Once Daily. FOV refers to "fruits or vegetables" and refers to the number of cups of fruits of vegetables I eat during that day.

Each day, I aim to exercise 30 minutes, have 12.5 grams of psyllium husk fiber, 6.25 grams of Benefiber, 6.25 grams of inulin, 1000 IU of vitamin D, one Cenovis multivitamin capsule, 5 cups of fruit or vegetable, and 1500 mg of omega 3 fish oil. The graph below shows the degree to which I comply with these goals. For example, if I manage to do 30 minutes per day of exercise, then compliance is 100 per cent. If I manage to do 15 minutes per day, that is 50 per cent compliance.

Keeping up with the daily requirement for wheat fiber and fruit and vegetables is difficult. However, I am getting too much fish oil and aerobic exercise, although aerobic exercise compliance is dropping significantly over time, a sign that I have started off enthusiastically but over time my enthusiasm for exercise has waned. I am perfectly compliant with my multivitamin and vitamin D consumption.

Even though I am not having enough fruit or vegetable, I am not too worried because I hope my vitamim supplements make up for it. The fact that I have some fruit and vegetables is better than nothing.

To conclude, it's only been about ten or so days since I started my battle to reduce my blood pressure, so it's still early days. I will have to wait later to see what happens. To keep myself accountable (to myself) I have made it a chore of mine to report on my blog all information about my HPIs, blood pressure, and weight. I believe that full disclosure is good. I am aware that many people like to keep their health private because for them it is a person issue, but whenever I meet people I always tell them about my health because I think the practice of disclosing all your health information keeps yourself accountable. Of course, maybe if I had, e.g. a sexually transmitted infection then I may not be so keen to disclose that. (By the way, I do not have an STI!)

03 April 2010

Bear Grylls Misleading?

Bear Grylls's Man vs Wild is very entertaining. I often talk about it at work but whenever I talk about it there is almost always someone who says something like, "He's there with camera crew! It's not real!" I hate it when people think that just because they are cynical that they are smart. It annoys me. Bear's shows are not supposed to be survival simulations. The show is educational and is meant to educate viewers on survival. Obviously camera crew need to be there if the message is to be transmitted to viewers.

I am interested in the topic of wilderness or outback survival not because I think the end of civilization is near but because living in non-urban areas may be very cheap. Suppose I lose my job and my parents kick me out of the home and I am on the streets. How can I make the emergency money in my bank account last me for the rest of my life? One idea I think about is going to a real estate agent and buying a small plot of land in the country. Preferably I will get a camping permit or a building permit from the council that will allow me to camp there permanently or or at least allow me to build my own cabin there using trees cut from the area. The skills of survival, e.g. knowing how to start a fire using flint and steel, may seem useless if you have matches, but in a situation where you are trying to save money, flint and steel may be cheaper in the long run than matches.

02 April 2010

Fish Oil and Soluble Fiber

I had a free health checkup at work a few days ago (see WorkHealth for more information about this government initiative). My results are as follows:
  • Waist measurement: 83 cm (Normal)
  • Blood pressure: 136/82 mm/Hg (Medium)
  • Total cholesterol: 5.37 mmol/L (Normal)
  • HDL cholesterol: 1.16 mmol/L (Normal)
  • Blood glucose: 5.9 mmol/L (Normal)
The main areas I need to look at are my high blood pressure and the high amount of bad fats in my blood. Even though I am normal, I am at the high end of normal for my blood pressure and cholesterol. My weight is fine. I have a good blood glucose level, which is pretty easy if you just avoid refined sugar.

I have been doing some research on the internet and have found out where I am making mistakes. Firstly, I take fiber supplements but it is fiber supplements that are wheat-derived and is insoluble fiber. I should be having more soluble fiber, e.g. fiber from psyllium husks, which can be found in Metamucil (I currently take Benefiber). I will need to diversify the fiber supplements I have.

Secondly, I have been ignoring my vitamin supplements, which means I am not getting much fish oil. Apparently you need about 1000 to 2000 mg per day, which I am not getting.

I plan to go to the chemist and buy lots of fish oil as well as different types of fiber supplements.