Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Undercover Economist

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford brought a new light to economics - Some referred to as a dismal science. Harford thrashed such notion and brought the power of economics to life.

The 10 chapters in the book were like building blocks carefully laying down the foundation, brick by brick that is needed for the reader to pick up the nuts and bolts of an economist.

1. Who Pays for Your Coffee?: Harford introduced the concepts of scarcity and bargaining power. Premium price that we pay for coffee on our morning commute to work is all about location, location and location. Quality accounts but only for a tiny part.

2. What Supermarkets Don't Want You to Know: Price-targeting is the storyline and it is about your customers more than the goods you sell.

3. Perfect Markets and the ‘World of Truth’: What is a perfect market? While we hold market efficiency in high esteem, there are times we need to sacrifice it for the sake of fairness.

4. Crosstown Traffic: This chapter is about 'externalities' and how we can price them. Putting a dollar value on externalities can help us deal with some of the major blights on our society: pollution, congestion, and fights with neighbours.

5. The Inside Story: What are lemons? Lemons exist due to information asymmetric. George Akerlof's revolutionary 1970 paper reveals how inside information dramatically affects markets and why this means it’s virtually impossible to buy a decent second hand car.

6. Rotten Investments and Rotten Eggs: It is about the assumption made at the onset. If it is wrong, it will affect all the projection downstream.

7. The Men Who Knew the Value of Nothing: A brief look at game theory reveals how auctioning radio spectrum air space is like playing poker.

8. Why Poor Countries Are Poor: A case study on Cameroon pointed to corruption as the chief cause of poor countries remaining poor. Adding to the mix - no law, press or democratic opposition to restrain the actions of powerful people - a vicious cycle continues.

9. Beer, Chips and Globalisation : If you want to be rich, it is a good idea to forge links with the rest of the world. A discussion on globalising trends illustrates how foreign investment is good for economic growth and on what is comparative advantage.

10. How China Grew Rich: This final chapter discussed the rapid growth of China. Possible reasons included the right incentives, education, investment and some luck.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Scenic Switerland, by Aileen

Oh magical mighty mountains
With the sound of music as if they were alive.
They bring us joy as our feet tap along.

Ah amazing awesome alps
With bountiful fresh air for all to breathe
We are in awe of the grandeur of nature

They remind us of our insignificance
They open our hearts
To forgive and rjoice that we are alive!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Science Experiment - Children holding hands

P has another simple science experiment whereby he used a cloth and rubber band to cover up the lid of a half-filled plastic bottle. Then he inverted the plastic bottle and showed me that the water did not drip.

He explained that the water molecules were like children holding hands. On the other hand for the cloth, the spaces between the cloth molecules were tiny. So the children holding hands could not get out of the "doors".

I asked him if water would drip if he were to squeeze or shake the plastic bottle. He nodded his head. I added that it was the same as if we were to give the children holding hands a push, they would be able to get out of the door.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Science Experiment - Cornstarch

This is P's experiment to investigate the "cage" molecule structure of cornstarch.

First picture shows cornstarch powder mixed with water.

Second picture is P's fingers pinching a lump of cornstarch mixture. If you were to do it, the lump felt powdery like cornstarch in solid form.

Third picture shows a lump in solid form.

In terms of the explanation. The cornstarch has a "cage-like" molecule structure. So when one squeezes the cornstarch solution, the water molecules get squeezed in the cage. The resultant molecules line-up is similar to that of solid.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Seven Long Years Ago

Time really flies. It has been seven long years since I packed my bags to a foreign country to start life afresh. It is with much relish that I pack my bags again. This time for a shorter vacation to that land of change.

The stay was short, only a year. Yet the memories were long. Not all were happy but they were all life-changing. I often marvelled in awe of the change in attitude in me - for the better. From one who used to think why I was dealt with a bad hand, I learnt that it was attitude that counted. I used to think that successful ones were lucky. I realised it was how they took on each curve ball that life often threw at us. Perseverance was what I picked up alongside a smile. I would remind myself as what Mother Theresa, once said, God only gave us what we can surmount.

I overcome my fear of public speaking by holding on bull by its horns. I joined a Toastmasters' Club and honed my presentation skills. To improve my writing, I read voraciously and started this blog to share my experiences. My setback in work made me to decide that I needed to work on a secondary source of income. It made me invest my time in such pursue so that I am not held at ransom.

With each door that I open, one door leads to another. I have met many people. Some really successful ones, what struck me was the common thread that binded them - their genuine care for others. I am grateful for their concerns and pray for their well-being.

As I pack my bags to visit the land of change, I muse on the change in me. Life is not easy, I am still learning along the way. But I am grateful for all the obstacles that I have overcome thus far. They make me a better person.