Bruce’s Self Defense Advice

Over the years, people told me they wanted to get into martial arts for self-defense. And there is some good reason to have some basic martial art training, such as learning to not “freak out” when grabbed, controlling your state of flow when your adrenaline is pumping or functioning when you are injured or tired, or the “fog of war”.  And one may never know when someone will just hit you on the head (like this poor minion).  

I respond by telling them you do not do martial arts for self-defense; you do it for self-improvement, conditioning, or other reasons.  Physical self-defense is different from training for martial art.  For example, there are plenty of stories of  “lucky punches,” fights, etc., but it takes dedicated training to be effective in a street situation.  Most people do not want to train to be a fighter, but everyone wants to be safe.  

So, I always tell them a list of things to do.  (DISCLAIMER – this list is not “full proof” and is only offered as advice.)

At home

  • Know your neighbors,
  • Invest in essential home security equipment,
  • Look at your landscaping, etc., as related to lighting, security, etc.,

Away from home

  • Make sure your car works. We have seen enough movies to know how this ends!
  • Walk where it is light,
  • Leave any bar or restaurant before 10 pm,
  • Remember, everything in your wallet is replaceable. EVERYTHING!
  • Notice your surroundings when you enter a room/building, especially exits,
  • Do not get drunk/intoxicated in public; this especially applies when you are on vacation. You do not know the “lay of the land”, and a false sense of security may result in an incident you did not want.

General Skills

  • Have some essential physical/mobility, such as being able to get up from the floor,
  • Be able to run a quarter of a mile – Notice I did not say run fast – just be able to run a quarter of a mile,
  • Be aware of what weapons may be at your disposal beyond a gun or a knife. A pen, newspaper, etc., can be effective in certain situations.

(One aside – Notice, I never tell people to get a firearm.  That is a personal decision.  If one does get a gun, there must be a dedication to learning how to use the weapon effectively, which requires constant training.  This may also require a change in mindset that you are willing to use the weapon when warranted, as there are legal consequences related to the degree of the attack and your response.  There are also legal obligations when one possesses guns in a home.)

I am sure there are many things to add to this list, but the list itself is unimportant.  The focus is on getting people to recognize their role in their safety.  By focusing on awareness and preparation, one will do well in reducing risks to one’s self and property.  However, please do not take my word for it.  This article from Lifehacker begins with the statement, “Prevention Is the Best Self-Defense”.    That author expounds with more tricks and techniques, and one can do a quick search to supplement my list.  But not all self-defense occurs not only in a physical space, as this list from Wagner College discusses, which echoes my thoughts on awareness before physical action is required.

Self-defense begins the moment one becomes prepared in a safe environment.  It does not mean one needs to engage in proving what one knows or does not know unless one chooses to do so.  If you must prove that you have the necessary skills to engage in physical self-defense, join a gym/dojo, etc., or find a friend and start training.  And once you think you have learned something, train it again.  (I can attest to paralysis analysis when one is sparring!).  Knowing martial arts will not make you safer if you do not know how to apply the technique, as Jim Carey demonstrated in this comedy sketch.

So, you are at least starting when you become aware and act in a manner that reinforces your dedication to self-defense.   And that attitude of preparedness can make all the difference.


There is No Free Lunch in Kiev

We have all heard, “There is no such thing as a free lunch”. As economists, we believe every exchange requires the reallocation of resources, even in the case of theft. But how much does war cost?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been raging for almost a month. No one will deny the reality of the destruction, with images from Ukraine blasted across the world. While the world watches, the Ukrainians are mounting a heroic effort. But such losses are not isolated to the battlefront alone in a global economy. The refugee crisis is flooding neighboring countries, putting pressure on their social networks and the associated budgets to service these refugees. There are costs associated with military ordinances, hiring soldiers, moving men and materials into the battlefield, separate from the costs of moving people from the war-torn areas. War is not cheap.

But these are but the short-term costs. Replacing damaged buildings, transportation, and public goods, would take years, and in some places, historical buildings, icons, recorded history, and works of art may be lost forever. (And based on the reports from Syria and Georgia, the Russians are ineffective nation builders.) There will be other costs, especially regarding the people who fled, who suffered from the death of loved ones, or simply the destruction of their way of life. (And living in Louisiana, where people take years to recover from a hurricane, I can only imagine how long it takes to recover from a war.)
Some of the other costs will be the payment for ramped-up military spending. We will see a continued militarized Europe over the next twenty years. The world will also struggle with energy independence, which may push for more internally generated fuels from alternative sources. But in all cases, these investments will take away from other public goods.
While military and humanitarian aid flows to Ukraine, the western response has been to impose sanctions. Despite reported shortages in Russia, I will bear some costs associated with “defending Ukraine”, as I pay more for other goods. But I am lucky when compared to those in developing countries as the threat of food scarcity remains an issue.
But despite the degree of challenge, we can instantaneously follow the war through podcasts, Twitter, and other social platforms. In many ways, the material streaming from Ukraine and concerns over Russian-supported “Big Lie” propaganda made this conflict, at least here in my immediate circle, more engaging. If the Vietnam War was called the “living-room war”, the Ukrainian invasion may become the “app war”.
The Russian Invasion of Ukraine highlights not only the role of interconnected economic networks but also socially connected networks. There are costs spread out across all of these networks, even as the discussion on limiting information, “fake news”, etc., remains a reality.

So, while Russian bear attempts to “consume” Ukraine, we will all pay a portion of President Putin’s enormous lunch tab, both today and into the future.

Flying Books? Celebrating the Love of Reading

I discovered this video several years ago. I fell in love with this story, as reading was a big part of my childhood (especially as there was no internet, books on tape, etc., when I was a kid.) I also enjoyed the Hurricane scenario and the New Orleans vibe in the video.

I find the story bittersweet, as the man lives wholly within his world of books, but he remains content.  (And no, it’s not the Time Enough at Last,the Burgess Meredith Twilight Zone episode, and it ends on a more positive note than Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet“.)

Having an office full of “stuff”, I can attest to the job of reading both new and familiar books.  I am glad that my parents encouraged us (myself, my sister and brother) to read.  A lifetime of pleasure has been my reward.

My First Three Albums

I have always been surrounded by music.  My father had an 8 track tape player in his truck. He would alternate between the radio and a mix of older country, 1950’s rock, and “easy listening”.  (KTDY in New Iberia still played easy listening songs/oldies on the radio, while KSMB was an album oriented rock station.  My dad never listened to KSMB.) 

I received a record player/8track tape player/radio  for either a Christmas or my birthday (when you are born in early January, the dates run together). Although the unit remained in the living room, it was several months before I purchased my first three albums:

At the time,  I had no idea what an album was, but I know I wanted a song off each album: Such as “Moving Out (Anthony’s Song)“, “Point of No Return“, and Come Sailing Away.  (I felt  buying 45’s was a waste of time, as you played one song and then had to do something with the record!)

Each song spoke to me differently at that age.  I loved the car squealing on “moving out” but also the sentimentality of “Just the Way You Are” (although I have no idea what love really meant at the time), the idea of going to the end of the world as an explorer, although over the years, I found only “Come Sail Away” still emotionally resonates with me due to its nostalgic line of “Childhood Friends, and the Dreams We had”.   Maybe that is because I remember talking music to my schoolmates at St. Cecilia in Broussard. 

Music was (and I am sure remains) a hot topic in middle school.  There were a few people who were clearly in the “Kiss” are musical gods camp, and others in the general rock (we all hated disco but listened to KSMB, so we were all rockers!)  And what better time to learn about music, as 1977 remains one of the seminar years in pop music, but you don’t see the transitions when they are gradually unfolding around you!

Over the next ten years, I accumulated a lot of albums, mostly for my own listening pleasure,  although I did DJ parties in high school and college.  Eventually that came to an end, due to marriage and kids, but I count that as a small loss.

I still enjoy listening to albums versus singles.  Although this is mostly on Spotify, the music experience, while still rewarding, does not require getting up to turn the album over! 

And yes, I still play my first three “loves” on a regular basis.




A Brief Thought About How Decarbonization Efforts Must Address the Principal-Agent Problem

There are many entities, in both the public and private sectors, pressing for decarbonization goals to address global warming. However, these groups, pushing for change through the creation and adoption of innovative technologies, operating systems, education, etc., must balance that against the current inertia of other activities. This creates the Principal-Agent Problem, where differences in priorities may influence the development of these technologies and timelines for adoption and deployment.

The principal-agent problem assumes the following: The principal, or the person responsible for paying an agent, will want the agent to achieve a specific goal or outcome at the lowest cost to himself. While working to achieve that goal, the agent may act in a rent-seeking manner that may not be in the principal’s best interest.  For example, the principal pays a sales agent, but the sales agent may seek payment for additional expenses.  Decarbonization goals, while laudable, require firms to examine their operations. However, they have to do so through the following categories:

  • Existing assets/systems that are internal to the agent.  These projects, already constructed, require maintenance, etc., but also budgetary commitments to remain viable.
  • Currently developed projects undertaken by the agent.  These projects may have funding or preengineer work performed, but are actively in development.  These  projects also can tie up short term capital.
  • Planning Process to support the agent’s long-term goals  These are often of a longer term manner, and must operate within the current permitting/regulatory activities.


The role of decarbonization does not necessarily fit into these internal processes, but firms will seek to engage in this effort through the use of their existing organizational structure.
As such, planners who are conformable with the “status quo” may not be willing to learn new tasks to meet decarbonization goals. Construction teams will build to the contract, and in some cases, these plans cannot adopt these innovative technologies. Finally, there remains the ongoing asset management needs to service existing programs.

As new funds and programs are proposed, there could be disincentives between principals and the agents responsible for adopting the innovation.  The question becomes, “can we manage our expectations without pointing the finger at others”?


New Year’s Resolutions – You Can’t Do It Alone

It’s already January 3.

For most people, their resolutions have slipped by the wayside of work, obligations, or simply not wanting the outcome sufficient to invest in that action.  In many ways, we make the same resolutions year after year.  (The following is echoed below.)  I am sure most people have the same goal in 2021, as they did in 2020, etc…

As with most people, I have lot to do in 2022.  The question is not what is the priority, but rather, what will I do with my time.  The following quote from Edger Allen Poe from Zen Pencils serves as a harsh reminder that time wants for no man.

The Guardian listed some ways to improve here.  The focus is on gradual change, etc., but if I really want to change, I must think differently about who I am at my core.  The art of learning to self talk can be important here, asking yourself, “What Would Batman, Jesus, etc., Do” can create some distancing to help me sometimes rethink on the task at hand.

As I sit with the open calendar before me, the answer to what will happen in 2022 will be the same as what happened in previous years.  I will meet with Triumph and Disaster.  The shape of the new year will depend on up my commitment to whittling away at the stone that entraps me.

But this too is limiting.  I can no more carve myself from stone without the assistance from others, and in fact, I can not more be better than what I can be organically if I do not rely on others.  In anticipation of my (our) success(es) at the end of 2022, I want to thank you for your assistance, friendship, and support going forward.

Change: Do I Love It Or List It?

The Canadian Show “Love It or List It” has been very popular in the Lambert household for many years.  The show, which started in 2015, focuses on a couple struggling with what to do concerning their current house, such as “do we invest in the house” or “do we move to another house?”  The Show revolves around the drama of retrofitting/improving a house while at the same time the stress of looking for a new home.

It is common for one partner to be “all in” regarding staying in the current house, despite the costs and struggles, while the other seeks something different.  One partner argues the current home fails to meet their needs regarding family space, amenities,  or a number of different factors.  At this same time, the other spouse argues on the “value” of the house, including the family’s history there, proximity to the community (schools, friends, etc.). While the home improvement/home search plays out, the show’s two hosts (a designer and a real estate agent) engage in friendly banter about their own success in swaying the couple towards loving it or listing it.

After seeing many houses, the couple finally tour their own home, after the renovations are completed. Then they are presented with the appraisal of their own house. They are asked, after reviewing the appraisals, to either “love it (stay) or list it”? Generally, most people choose to “love it”, despite the best efforts of David Visentin, the person helping the couple evaluate new homes, choosing to stay after designer Hilary Farr has completed the renovations. (And I do enjoy David’s occasional glance into the camera, breaking the fourth wall.)

This reason for most couples to “love it” led me to think why so many people choose to stay, when initially, one of the partners found the house inadequate, pushing for a resolution to their “housing situation”.

My thoughts on why most people stay in their home:

  1. The house serves as a link to a broader community. Most of the couples appear to have been in the house for a significant period of time, meaning they have roots to the community. The familiarity of the neighborhood, the location to various social/recreation opportunities, etc., all suggest the couple would have to reconnect to a new community if they moved. There are costs for breaking these social ties. (I am reminded of the following quote from “Field of Dreams“: This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child.)
  2. There are couples who put in the funding for renovations. If they have been paying for the house, the renovations could generate a significant equity. For most people, their home equity can be seen as a “retirement nest egg”.
  3. There maybe the potential for dealing with an angry “Hillary”, who seems upset when someone questions her design efforts, which could create a perception of staying to avoid her displeasure.
  4. The couple, unable to make a decision previous to the arrival of Hillary and David, uses the exercise to determine their housing needs. David questions them concerning their needs/wants, seeking to find the “perfect house”. In many ways, people do not know what they want, but can express what they do not want. Sometimes we need others to help clarify our thoughts.

So, if one was to consider the same process of evaluating any change, one would see that change must be adopted through some matrix of at least one or more things:

  1. trade-off between the known for the unknown,
  2. understanding the value of choices,
  3. seeking the approval of others (either to reinforce identity or avoid conflict), or
  4. learning to communicate one’s wants/needs.

So, the next time you are considering a change, think about what factors are/may influence your decision. The answer may surprise you. (If this is not enough, one could easily add to this list by examining the various cognitive biases listed here. )

What Can Speculative Fiction Teach Us About Scarcity, Resources and Markets

I am a fan of speculative fiction (science fiction) and was surprised to consider how many of these stories contain an economic bent.  There are plenty of stories that include the adoption and use of science, but for many stories, there remains the use of science to advance society and create wealth (To boldly go where no one has gone before?) But why is economics so attuned with science fiction?

Economics is about the allocation of scarce resources.  In many ways, science fiction discusses scarcity, such as the lack of air (Total Recall), Land (Waterworld), Spice (Dune), Food (Soylent Green), or other resources.  In these, and other stories, the characters seek ways to collect, mine, create, or otherwise  acquire something of value.  Often these characters require the engagement with others to assist in the quest, a potential buyer, or some advisory that prevents either the collection or exchange of an item to occur.  (Which is one  of the reasons that markets feature in so many stories, such as from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  This markets provide a place for an exchange to occur, for no one is self-sufficient in an complex world.)  

Which leads to something else that lies at the heart of economics:  markets.  One can define a market as possessing three characteristics (although the Encyclopedia Britannica lists a few other items):

1.  A buyer,

2.  A seller, or

3.  A good or item to exchange between parties.

And one could add are few more caveats:

  • A medium for discussion (how do we discover information about the product and a price?)
  • A way to allocate geography (where is the product?)
  • A scarce resource that people value (is there a way to put a value on this product?)
  • An agreement regarding when the transaction occurs (how will we know when we reached a solution?)
  • Consent for the transaction to occur (are both parties agreeing to the outcome?).

If an exchange is/is not made, all parties agree to an outcome based on the what, the where and the when, that occurred.  As such, one could say the market is closed even if an agreement was not reached. (If one of these assumptions are not meet, while the exchange can occur, one would say that anything short of these tenants would be theft.) 

But even within the market and the assumptions are met, there are several stories that have an economic angle that drives some characters…

1. the potential power between the two parties (monopolies, competition).  The following story discusses how an electronic market is set up to handle resources in the Martian colony  (Escape Pod Martian Chronicles, Part 1 and Part 2).   

2. the potential for external observers to dictate a transaction (regulation),  Again, not all transactions are legal, or can be frowned upon, such as hauling children (Guardians of the Galaxy 2).

3. the presence of alternative goods/choices (opportunity costs), such as managing people as in the “The Evening, the Morning and the Night”.  

4. the timing of the final exchange (time value of money), the Restaurant at the End of Universe where compound interest pays for the final meal.  

5. determining a market price, such as in “Chivalry” by Neil Gaiman, where an elderly woman negotiates the value of the Holy Grail, read by Levar Burton,

6. the process of collecting resources and skills, such as in “The Starsmith”, where one travels across space and relearns how to craft metals.

7. Etc.

Not all science fiction stories have a strong economic tie, such as the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Beginning remains a retelling of the Hero’s Journey or the 1902 Journey to the Moon.  But there is enough stories that have an economic tie that there may always be a market exchange somewhere in the story. (Even Star Wars had a Cantina Bar where the search is on to hire a pilot!)

I am not alone in my assessment, based on the following article from the World Economic Forum.   So the next time you ride a spaceship, travel through time or battle an alien, you may meet rational parties (at least to themselves) seeking resources, living out your first lesson of “Economics 101”.