Category Archives: News

Psychology of Gas Prices: When a steal of a deal still leaves you feeling empty…

Gas prices went up. Of course the pending hurricane may have a factor. And the refinery issues. And matters related to supply and demand. But, of course there are other theories. Expressions like “Price gouging” often come up. And then there are many conspiracy theories.

Do you mind if I try my hand at a conspiracy theory? Well, maybe nothing so sophisticated, but at least fly some kites about some wild brainstorms? Like most ponderings that we stretch far, there may not be much accuracy to what I muse, but I’m going to go ahead anyway.

We were warned last night on the news that gas prices would take a significant jump today. People were advised to go fill up their pumps prior to sunrise today, and footage of lineups building at gas stations were evident all over. I was one of those people who filled up last night. The psychology of it all, the resulting feelings I had from filling my tank at a deliberately chosen time, surprised me both last night and well into today.

I was giddy. Yes, that may be the appropriate word to describe my state. Yes, despite, these troubling economic times, I was giddy and rather satisfied with myself for being up with the news and acting upon the information. This morning, while driving to work, and hearing how gas prices were steadily rising, and watching cars line up at stations, I was elated I wasn’t one of them. Indeed, I thought, I got a great deal! What a bargain! Instead of paying close to 1.40/L, I paid 1.23/L just last night.

I’m ashamed. 1.23 is not anywhere near cheap, affordable, nor reasonable, but here I was celebrating that fact. May the ‘powers-to-be/powers-that-are’ take note of this sentiment and use this kind of psychology to manipulate and even ‘gouge’? May marketing and advertising take advantage of this consumer weakness and strategically fluctuate pricing to make us think we’re getting a steal when they are actually stealing from us?

Of course, now I notice my foolishness and I am not giddy, not ecstatic, not thinking that I was one of the lucky ones. But, admittedly, just momentarily, I did feel satisfied with my purchase. So if those forces up high can get many consumers, at one time or another, to just even fleetingly feel a short moment of impulsive satisfaction at believing a high price is actually a bargain, to celebrate even just briefly because they see others being ripped off more, then those forces up there must be mighty rich.

Again, this is more or less a conspiracy theory, so really there is not much actual truth to the reasons suggested for the price increases. But, perhaps it can also be worthwhile as a piece of self-reflection, self-criticism, at myself.

I filled up my tank opportunistically last night, but this morning, today, I still feel like I’m running on empty.

-Patrick Law


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Debating about Debates

Just to continue the election discussion (with ready eye on differences between Canadian and U.S. system) started from a previous post along with links to other related stories and comments, I would like to add some more comments about Elizabeth May (leader of the Green Party) being excluded and then included in the television debate.

In another article from the Globe and Mail, it quotes that “Mr. Layton and Mr. Harper said they objected to her presence because, on occasion, she had expressed support for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. Allowing her into the debate would effectively put two Liberals on the stage, they argued.”

Do their reasons for excluding May, if true, seem a bit absurd and illogical, especially in a democracy? Are we not free, in a democratic country, to express our support for the party and leader we so desire? Are not leaders also free to agree with ideas and members from parties not their own? If there are, in fact, ‘two Liberals on the stage,” then maybe the other leaders should think long and hard about why those ‘liberal’ policies are attracting support and consider counteracting those ideas or buidling upon them and suggesting how their own parties can do a better job.

Indeed, in these build up to elections, so much, too much time is spent on arguing about procedures, how to play the game, rather than the substance of the game itself. It’s no wonder many Americans find our system odd when we have such heated debates on the participation of Elizebeth May, yet just automatically include the Bloc Party (whose only interest is in protecting French rights) as one of the players in every election.

How about in the States? Do these issues arise? Or maybe it’s worse in that only 2 parties are ever really in the debate? Or is actually less about the Party but the Presidential candidates? Other than Nader in the past, does any name even have any recognition beyond the 2 main parties?

Patrick Law


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Elections Are Coming! Both in U.S. and Canada!

If we’re into politics, the upcoming few months should be an exciting time. Even if we’re not, it still should be exciting, at least from the stand point of comparing the differences in scope and approach with regards to the 2 respective countries.

Mr. Manly, in comments at his blog, gave some initial reaction to why Americans do not take much interest in Canadian style of politics.

Also, yesterday, in the Globe and Mail, there was a unique article with the perspective of how the American system is much more democratic than Canada. It gives further info about some of the main differences between the 2 systems. I do agree that in America it seems easier to participate and feel a part of it. Is this true, or more an illusion? Hmmm…..

Suffice to say, we’re going to get a lot of varying opinions from different vantage points, and it’ll be a great time to learn from contrasts and comparisons.


-Patrick Law


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Reacting to News on Dangers of Farmed Fish

Today, in the Globe and Mail Newspaper, there was an article warning about the health concerns of eating farmed fish, more specifically tilapia. The title of the article is: “Farmed tilapia may be no better for you than a doughnut.”

Basically, they found that farmed tilapa contained higher level of omega-6 fatty acids (too much is bad for you), and lower level of omega-3 (which we need more of), than wild fish. Apparently, what is done to the fish in the farm (i.e. feeding the vegetable oil, etc…) is not producing healthy fish and, in turn, is not healthy for people who consume this kind of fish.

You can click here to read the entire original article.

As an Asian Canadian, who has been bred and raised about the benefits of fish, this news knocked me back a bit. 3-4 servings per week of steamed fish has been part of my diet since forever. Automatically, my initial response is what kind of fish am I buying at the supermarket? Even if I get the fish fresh, swimming in a tank, could that be from a farm?

Unfortunately, while the article is informative, it did not give details that most consumers would want: how do we know what we buy is farmed or wild? Will it be obviously on the labels? Are there regulations requiring accurate labeling? I think there should be an attempt by the newspaper (writers) to provide answers to these kind of questions.

I did a quick search on blogs, and web, and didn’t find direct answers immediately. Perhaps I should just go directly to stores and ask, and check the labels?

I did find another blog that provides useful information if living in Japan.

If you know of where to find more information on this topic, please give some suggestions.


Patrick Law


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Cheating On Each Other (With Each Other)

Do you remember the story of a couple who broke up from maybe half a year ago or even longer? (maybe from Bosnia, but I can’t quite remember) Okay, maybe it’s ridiculous of me to ask such a question to strain our memories on something that was far, far away from major news. I couldn’t find reference of the story when doing a database search of newspapers so, after reading this post, if anyone can point me toward a source, I would greatly appreciate it.

What’s the story? I heard it very briefly on the radio while driving home from work. I wanted to say something, I wanted to react, but at that time I did not have a blog, so my hands were tied. I yelled, but nothing happened.

So, my apologies for bringing back old news. For some reason something seemingly so trivial has stuck with me all this time. The story involves a couple – man and wife. Their relationship apparently was not going well, so they started listening to their inner temptations and considering other options. That means being open to meeting other people in secret.

The husband started an affair with a woman over the internet. The wife started an affair with a man over the internet. They both started to learn and get to know their new partners. As the respective online chatting increasingly became more intimate, face-to-face meetings could not be resisted and were eventually inevitable. The husband set up time and location for his appointment. The wife set up time and location for her appointment. When the time for the big meeting arrived, both the husband and wife reacted in total disbelief and shock. The husband saw his wife standing at the prearranged secret location. The wife, of course, saw here husband at her prearranged secret location. They have been, in essence, having an affair with each other all along!

The radio reported that the story ended sadly, with the two of them deciding on divorce after realizing they were cheating on each other. However, if you allow me to be an armchair marriage counselor for a few minutes, can I have a license to interpret the situation more positively and maybe suggest how the marriage can be strengthening rather than breaking apart?

Out of all the possible women to meet online, all over the world, the man ends up getting reacquainted with his wife. Out of all the possible men to meet online, the woman just happens to meet her husband. What are the chances? Instead of focusing on how they cheated on each other, how about looking at it from the point of view that they were cheating with each other? Having unlimited opportunities to meet someone, anyone, they ended up meeting each other again. Can it be like the Cornflakes cereal commercial of appreciating the taste of something familiar for the very first time again?

After all the searching, the testing, the experimenting, the adventures, what they ended looking for was what they already had. If it were me, I couldn’t script a romance better than that.

-Patrick Law


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Why We Want to Eat in Prison (Response to ‘A pasta you can’t refuse’; The Globe and Mail, 23 May 2008, Page A2)

The article (referenced below) talks about a restaurant located inside an Italian prison, where selected inmates cook and serve high-end dishes to the public. The project is for charity purposes and also used to give inmates valuable experience to prepare them for life after prison, as well as to break up the monotony of prison life. The article describes many of the benefits for the inmates and provides some brief reactions from the paying customers.

I would like to consider a little bit more deeply the perspective of the customers. More specifically, I want to explore the thoughts and intentions of the customers who purposely select a prison restaurant for a night out, or even as part of a vacation package. My purpose is not to pour cold water on such an excellent project, and not to put words into others? mouths, but just to admit that there naturally may be other thoughts going on in the public’s mind while they go through this unique experience.

One customer quoted in the article mentioned about the high quality of food. But if it were just for the standard of food, shouldn’t there be many other options available not in the vicinity of a prison? Even for her, there must be ‘unsaid’ reasons besides just the quality of food. What kind of people purposely select this type of destination? Let’s discuss some potential reasons.

Curiosity. Fine dining combined with prisoners providing the service. What does that even look like? It certainly stirs wonder in many people. Will the inmates behave? Will the service be similar to what we would expect in 5-star hotels? From the tone of the article, it seems like the prisoners do reach those lofty standards.

Novelty. It’s definitely an experience that can be retold to friends and family, and have it stand out from what others did on a weekend. Just the statement ‘I went to eat at a prison’ may elicit shock, surprise, and even admiration. And a bite of food certainly has more meaning and possibilities than a bite of food at a regular restaurant. You don’t just eat. It’s not just about taste. There must be more contemplations about who cooked it and what the server did in his life prior to being here. For sure, eyes are much more open in such an environment. I wonder what this does to your taste palates? Does it heighten it even more? Might there even be just a slight tinge of fear as well? Does this enhance the eating experience?

Easy to be pleased and have things exceed your expectations. Is it possible that the customers could be delighted by slightly above average food because it has already exceeded what they would expect in a prison? Would the same food at other ‘regular’ restaurants be judged with more stricter criteria? The word ‘prison’ comes with connotations and images of dirtiness, rough and tough talk and slang, violence. So, when the customer sees none of this in the restaurant, they are already in a pleasant and upbeat mood before the food even arrives. The scenario is set up well for success. I wonder if other businesses can try to adopt some of this in their operations?

Sense of hope. Deep down we really want to believe that it is possible for prisoners to reform themselves in the justice system and improve to the point of being productive members of society again. Coming to the prison to eat and socialize with the prisoners can maybe give validation to that possibility? We see that there is good in all of us? Maybe we see some of ourselves in the prisoners and at one time in our lives we strayed onto a wrong path and were lucky to have another chance and avoid jail. Perhaps by supporting their restaurant is our way of giving them another chance, and to communicate that we support their efforts to change.

For myself, when I first read the article, my initial reaction was to put it on my list of places to visit before I die. Why? Probably because of the combination of reasons hypothesized above. But I do hope, overall, that I’m leaning towards optimistically believing that no matter what the reality is, it feels good to see a place brimming with so much potential. However, at the same time, I worry about being too idealistic when reflecting from a distance. Honestly, when I go, I dont know how I will react when being served by a hand that once took another person’s life away. Should I mind? Should I forgive? Or is this event not a place to be considering these type of issues? I don’t know. All I know is that I must go to find out and it’s an important part of living.

-Patrick Law

The referenced Globe and Mail article is also available at this address:

A pasta you can?t refuse
The Globe and Mail
23 May 2008

In what might be Italy?s most exclusive restaurant, security is understandably tight. That?s because it?s a prison. On reservation, guests are subjected to a background check. They are admitted in groups, their mobile phones and bags confiscated, and…read more…

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