Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Labour Costs in Phoenix

In a couple of weeks I am going to Phoenix for a meeting of one of the companies that I am involved with. The company is based in the SF Bay Area, but most of its employees are now in Phoenix. I asked the kids if they could guess why... A said maybe we needed people who spoke with a "Phoenix accent". I explained that the cost of leaving there is significantly lower than in the Bay Area and that we can hire better people at a lower cost there than here...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

you are screwed vs. I screwed-up

P told A this morning that he was 'screwed'. C told P not to use such foul language and N said that Obama had said that he "screwed up". Well, my first point was that even the smartest and best educated people sometimes lost their temper and used foul language. And, second, that there was a difference between saying that "I screwed up" and that "you are screwed". The latter being more offensive language because it was directed at someone else - while the former was directed at oneself. Not sure if I believe this, though ;-). It does seem like one is given more leeway when being self-critical than when criticizing others. Right?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My priorities are more important than yours...

Short one today: N was counting the minutes until we arrived to school keeping track of how much time he would have to play in the yard before classes started. A said he had a more important reason to arrive early: he needed to prepare his supplies for his first class. So we spoke a bit about how we shouldn't use our personal situations to judge other people's priorities. We each have things that are important for us, and while they might not seem important to others, what matters is how important they are to that individual. Compared to the responsibilities of the president of the United States, most of our priorities might seem meaningless. But they are not. As Einstein would say (or did he?), it is all relative. We should respect WHATEVER it is that is important to others, and not treat our own priorities as more (or less) important.

Friday, February 6, 2009


It is now well understood that our happiness is much more affected by CHANGES to our situation than to the ABSOLUTE level of our well being. To explain this to the kids I used the analogy of how our body senses acceleration, say in a car or plan, but doesn't feel the absolute speed we are traveling at. We feel acceleration from zero to 25 miles per hour, yet we feel nothing if we are steadily traveling at 500 MPH.

In a similar fashion, we are affected by our personal gains and losses, but get used to whatever level becomes steady state - whether for our material well being or even for how many friends we have or how we do at school. P said he constantly gets happines out of his friendship with his best friend. I said that is probably because their relationship is growing and improving. They do new things together. This took the conversation a bit towards those things that give us pleasure, which tend to be the ones that constantly evolve and grow. For example, playing the piano is satisfying as long as one is learning new songs. When they just learn a new song, they get pleasure out of this change (from not knowing it to knowing it). If they played the same song allo the time they would get bored (no acceleration). The same applies to sports, programming, playing with Lego, drawing...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Paying your taxes

I told the kids about the recent incident with former senator Daschle, who Obama had nominated for health secretary. Daschle had failed to report the income that a car and driver represented, and pay the appropriate taxes. He had to withdraw from the nomination for health secretary...

So I reminded the kids of my cardinal rule for judging questionable actions (not that cheating with your taxes is anything but "Black and White"). If you wouldn't want to read about it on the front page of your newspaper, don't do it. Actions that might appear to have small consequences at the time can snowball to have huge (and very nasty consequences). A few days later Michael Phelps got into trouble, and had his Kellogs sponsorship canceled, for smoking marihuana in public...

I also told the kids about the time the IRS audited me. They checked every account and every document for that year. It was painful. Fortunately, I had paid all my taxes in full and they closed the audit without requiring to pay anything extra.