Friday, March 27, 2009

Too much information

P was trying to pick a nerf gun for his birthday. We went to Amazon and checked the reviews. Each time he thought he had found one he wanted, we would discover problems through the reviews. He became really frustrated (althogh eventually found one that looks promising). I am having the same problem trying to decide which kitesurf to purchase: each person that I speak with swears by one brand or model, and tells me about all the problems with all the others. What to do?

No easy answer... One must keep the magnitude of the purchase in perspective, choosing a house or a car is one thing, but one should only do so much research for a $25 toy. Whenever possible, seeing and touching the product directly can make a big difference. I remember when shopping for a sailboat, what really helped was to get on board and go for a sail. P also suggested finding someone you really trust who can give you advice.

OK, now I got to go back to my research on the kite. Will it be the Slingshot, the RRD, the Naish...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Supply & Demand

This morning N saw a poster for an exhibit at the Legion of Honors. The poster featured a Faberge Egg. We spoke about how art collecting could be very cool as it might combine the enjoyment of art (sculpture, paintings) with their appreciation in value. This led to a discussion of how supply and demand determine prices. I was surprised to find out that A already had a firm grasp of the supply and demand concept. I guess it was a relevant conversation for the current times of economic and financial uncertainty...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

avoiding bad moods

I am in a bad mood today. Couple of work related problems that I can't get out of my mind... I asked the kids for advice: what do they do when they want get beyond a bad mood? A gave me great advice: distract yourself with something else. For example, play a computer game... This is definitely the right approach. We can't rationalize ourselves out of bad moods (the rider can't "force" the elephant to change course) but we can certainly get our minds into something else (trick the elephant to do what you want). OK, now which game should I play...?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Do - Committment & Consistency

P asked me why during wedding ceremonies the bride and groom have to say 'I do'. "They obviouly want to get married, or they wouldn't be there!" I found this to be a very astute observation. I explained to him that the point was for them to make a PUBLIC committment, so that when things got tough for them as a couple - as they always do - they would be more likely to stick with the relationship. Psychologists have studied the impact of making public committments, but it is impressive that thousands of years ago societies had already figured it out.

I told the kids how when I was in graduate school and tempted to take a cushy high paying job I told all my classmates that I was going to start a company. Having done so made it much harder for me to do something else... On the flip side, one must be careful not to let public comittments influence us to stick with things we should not. For example, telling all our friends that we'll climb a mountain, then realizing that such a climb would be more dangerous than we thoght, yet doing it anyway because we publicly committed to doing it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Too much complaining

I read this morning about an organization with the goal of reducing the chronic complaining in our society. Members get a rubber wristband that they must change from one arm to the other every time they complain about something. The goal is to go for as many days as possible without moving the band.

I suggested to the kids that we do this as a family: all five of us put on a rubber band and see who has to switch it the fewest number of times in a month.

On the flip side, another organization (or maybe it was the same one) encourages members to acknowlege the good things in their lifes - and do so often. Doesn't need to be anything major. You could be thankful for the weather, having a roof, or even clean air...

The kids were thankful for their nice family, nice house & good friends :-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

the essence of a good vacation

This morning we spoke about the spring break vacation. I told the kids that I had recently figured out what the essence of a good vacation was for me: not having to think about what we are going to do each day. This translates into "activity" vacations in which each day's "plan" is known in advance. Snowboarding, sailing, kitesurfing, hiking, biking... N didn't see the problem with having to decide each day whether we were going to visit this or that atraction. I reminded him that that was probably because he was not the one deciding, planning, buying the tickets, driving, etc.

To my surprise, A said he felt the same as me. P said he likes flat water (to learn to kitesurf), a pool, and friendly people. Oh, and they all agreed that a big breakfast buffet is a must!

Monday, March 2, 2009


The kids were talking about elephants today. I told them about the five blind men describing an elephant based on the part of the elephant's body that they were touching. How there is often at least some amount of truths in each person's story and how one must combine everyone's stories to reach one's own conclusion. I spoke a bit about the need to determine how reliable each person is. For example, if one of the five men was not blind and we knew who he was, we would rely more on his description of the elephant than on the others.