Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I finally visited to YAKIMIX last week after my brother strongly recommended it. YAKIMIX is an all you can eat buffet type of restaurant offering Japanese sushi and Korean barbeques with some Chinese dishes. It is located along Macapagal highway, right across HK Plaza and near the World Trade Center. Personally, I think the food there is great. It is not your regular fare eat – all – you – can restaurant where the food are so – so and are simply stomach fillers. This place is a cut above the rest though not in the same league as the hotel buffets. It is also a shade more expensive because of that. Anyway, to start, the look of the restaurant is quite modern though not dazzlingly fancy. It is not strip bare either. The place is rather spacious and also well – lighted. Overall, the place exudes a kind of soothing ambiance. In terms of amenities, the parking space is adequate and the sanitation facilities are ok. Now for the food, I started the lunch by making myself a salad at their salad bar. I find their greens quite fresh and crisp, which you don’t see often in other similar buffet restaurant except probably in hotels. The sushi bar is placed right after the salad bar and their offering though plenty are quite the standard fare. You can see something like 15 sushi types being offered. In terms of the freshness of the sashimi both the tuna and the salmon being offered, it is rather fresh though not exactly Tsugi level fresh but still it is better than the other buffet type restaurant wherein the sushi are kind of frozen and “smelly”. One probable reason as to why the sashimis are rather fresh here at YAKIMIX is because the sashimis are laid over a covered “pillow” of crushed ice instead of a simple plate, which somehow “preserved” the freshness of the sashimi and not freezing it outright. The sashimi slices are quite larger here at YAKIMIX compared to similar buffet restaurants. The same goes with the other sushis. Aside from the salads and sushi, there are also Korean appetizers such as Kimchi, though I really won’t even try to touch it with a pole, not because there is anything wrong with their Kimchi but rather I really don’t Kimchi at all but according to my siobe, their Kimchi is less than authentic, i.e., doesn’t taste that good as those from Korea (my siobe loves Kimchi). After the appetizers, you have two choices of soup, both of them are Japanese. Didn’t try them though but again my siobe says its ok. Next to the soups are the cooked dishes, which are predominantly Chinese though at that time, they also served Crispy Pata (the meat only without the bones), Ebi Tempura, Tonkatsu. In fact, they have plenty of offerings to choose, which is somewhere around a dozen more or less. My favorite among the dishes that they offered is the Salt and Pepper Spareribs, though it is not that spicy the way I wanted it but then again it is rather meaty. The Ebi Tempura they’re offering uses less batter and as such though the shrimp fillings aren’t exactly “humongous” (more like small), one can actually taste more of the shrimp than the flour and egg that wrapped it. As for the Tonkatsu, the breadings are thin and the Tonkatsu is quite meaty. Overall, I find the quality of their cooked food rather excellent. Next to the cooked food are the Korean barbeques, raw meats such as beef, pork, lambs (according to my brother but I never had one because they didn’t offer it that day), and raw cuttlefish or squid (thinly sliced). All these barbeques are offered in two varieties. One marinated with black pepper and the other marinated in garlic and bell pepper. Again, there are about a dozen offerings on the buffet table. The raw barbeques are cooked on a cone type frying pan located at the center of your dining table. The slices are quite thin and are thus easily cooked. The barbeques taste great but seemed “few” because of their thin slices. However, by the time I get to it, I was already more than half full so it doesn’t really matter. The sauces by the way that is available for the patron to use is similar to the shabu – shabu sauces, which includes among other, the Sate paste. After the belly busting, full course meal, the dessert came in next. The desserts being offered consists of fruits (3 or 4 kinds), sweets like custards and cakes (around 5 to 6), and the traditional ice cream. It is surprisingly that they didn’t cut back on their dessert offerings unlike some other buffet restaurants. Plus, the ice cream is not the usual “Big Scoop” ice cream. Instead, its Selecta ice cream. Not only that, they also offer popsicles alongside the “traditional” ice cream scoops. Overall, the food offering is quite plenty and I find their taste and quality to be excellent. To be more precise, on a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 the highest, I would place an 8.5 – 9.0 for their food offering. After the meal, came the bill. The price of YALIMIX’s buffet during lunch time on weekdays is P499 + service charge. The price is already inclusive of bottomless drinks. Prices other than the regular lunch is somewhere around P600+, drinks not included (+ P55 for the bottomless drinks). As I said, the price is a shade expensive considering the fact that the average shell – out while dining at a fancy ala – carte restaurant is around P400 including drinks. The other all – you – can – eat buffet restaurant charged around P350 for the food and roughly P400 with drinks during weekdays and on Sundays and holidays and dinner, the latter charged somewhere around P500 with drinks (definitely less than P600). Despite that, I think value – wise, YAKIMIX is a much better deal over the other buffet type restaurants. This is because you shell out a few extra bucks in return for a much excellent quality food fare.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I’ve been reading this book, “Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk” by Peter Bernstein for like 2 months now. The book despite it’s “eye catching” title isn’t about religion or faith but rather is a book on the “history” of the development of risk management. It began with the telling of the invention of mathematics, then shifted to the discovery of probabilities and statistics, then to the conceptualization of the idea of risk, and finally to the modern development of risk management. The process by which Peter Bernstein tells the history of risk management is through the introductions of the key concepts in risk management (such as probability theory, normal distribution, variance etc) by way of meeting the personalities behind the “creation” of such concepts. In this sense, the book feels like an amalgam of biographies of “eccentric” but otherwise pretty interesting mathematicians. Though the book is about mathematics, surprisingly, the book seldom talks about numbers. Instead, the book delves almost exclusively on the theoretical concepts. In fact, the discussions on the theoretical concepts usually turned profoundly philosophical (an example would be the Theory of the Average Man which Francis Galton, one of the mathematicians being mentioned in the book proposes to be the tantamount to the perfect human being, the Theory of the Average Man is ultimately borrowed from the mathematical concept of Regression to the Mean). One of the recurring philosophical “rumblings” that is mentioned in the book is the assumption of Rationality. All of the mathematical concepts and models being discussed in the book are premised on a “rational” decision maker; that an individual would accept the conclusion of a logical analysis in choosing the appropriate course of action in an uncertain situation. The mathematical concepts and models would provide the framework for such logical analysis however, mathematical models aren’t the sole framework for logical analysis; conceptual frameworks are as effective as well. In real life however, such is not the case. Human beings decide or more appropriately, react despite what the logical analysis dictates. A case in point would be the recent financial crisis. The whole idea of Credit Default Swap is the shifting of the burden of default risk to the entity that could and willingly absorb it in return for a commensurate (which is often times lucrative) premium. Yet, even the most “secure” of the creditors (the ones who buys the CDS) eventually got to absorb the losses arising from default which goes against the very grain of CDS (creditors who bought CDS for protection against default losses done so after careful logical analysis, see “The Global Financial Crisis of 2008, dated”). Or in another case after the collapse of global finance, creditors/investors became extremely risk averse that they dumped even the most creditworthy of securities despite what the numbers generated by their analysis are favorably suggesting. So what this say? Are we human beings irrational? Or that our “models” of rationality is irrational in the first place? And this is the gist of the latter chapters of Peter Bernstein’s book, which is irrational? Us human beings or the conceptual models that we create to tell us which is rational? On one hand, human beings are too emotional to be rational. Our emotions tend to “cloud” our objective assessment of the facts of the matter and which is why we make mistakes in the first place. On the other hand, mathematical and conceptual models of analysis and decision – making are overtly “simplistic”, relying on 1 or 2 variables that poorly approximate the complexity of the human behavior. It is also too “static” to adapt to the ever changing human mind. But then again, aren’t human emotions itself a rationale of human rationality? I mean human emotions are built – in, instinctive, reactive mechanism. We react immediately to a stimulus to “preserve” ourselves, to protect ourselves from the perceived harm even without a thorough analysis of the still vague and unfolding situation. We couldn’t simply say, “wait, I haven’t thoroughly analyzed the situation yet and therefore, couldn’t make a decision as what to do, give me more time to finish….” in the face of imminent danger, can we? Of course not! Our emotions, our instinct does the “rational thinking” for us in a split second in such scenarios. It is for this obvious reason that we could conclude that we human beings are very much “rational” and this in turn led us to concede that our current mathematical and conceptual frameworks for decision making are still far from perfect. Now, if human beings are truly rational, why then the idea of rationality exists? If everybody is human and therefore rational, rationality as a concept shouldn’t be around because the mere notion of the existence of rationality implies that it’s anti – thesis, irrationality also exists, which in this case is true. We often label certain individuals or group of individuals as irrational, illogical, crazy, and even insane. But what is rationality anyway? Or better, what is irrationality? Based on dictionary definition, rationality is the quality or state of being agreeable to reason. Irrationality therefore would mean that being disagree to reason. And reason according to dictionary definition is a basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event, etc. So in this sense, the whole idea of rationality is one of conformity; a conformity to reason or logic and irrationality is non – conformity to reason or logic. But what is the basis for reason or logic? Mathematical frameworks? Conceptual frameworks such as those based on faith, belief, traditions, or logical analysis? As mentioned, frameworks both mathematical and conceptual ones are insufficient basis for rationality. Furthermore, who determines that a framework/model for rationality is generally applicable or for that matter, incontestably correct? An authoritative figure? A synod of authoritative figures? Or simply general consensus of acceptance? Is there even a democratic process to determine the general acceptance of such model/framework for rationality? What about those who reject the model/framework for rationality? Are they being “irrational”? Perhaps the more interesting question is, “is a ‘reason’ based on some framework/model applicable to all?” Perhaps in some cases. Or there are as many “reason” as there are people in this world? So, is there such a thing called “rationality”?

P.S. If you ask the same question then welcome to “deconstructionism”.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


0.4%! That’s the growth of the GDP for the 1st quarter of 2009 versus the same quarter last year as reported last Thursday. Seasonally adjusted, that translates to a figure of -2.26%. Wow! Nobody as in nobody got the Philippine GDP prediction right. Most of the economist (including those from the WorldBank and IMF) figured that the Philippines would grow somewhere between 1 – 3%, the government in fact was looking at more than 3% GDP rate (see “CRYSTAL BALLING 2009 – THE SLOWING PHILIPPINE ECONOMY – IS IT LUCKY?” dated December 16,2008) The fact that the GDP rate went below most economists expectation is beside the point. The real issue here is the fact that the GDP number figured closely to zero at 0.4%. Notation-ally speaking, a number close to zero means a stagnant economy however if inflation were to be considered, the economy is in reality contracting and because of that, we are in a RECESSION. Of course, some perennial optimists would argue that we aren’t there yet considering that recession is by definition, two consecutive quarters of negative growth and that the figure isn’t “exactly negative”. In short, if you were to listen to the die – hard optimists, the economy is just “teetering on the brinks” of recession and not yet in recession. Well, not to be a pessimist but we’re already over 2/3 of the 2nd quarter and by all indications, it’s no rosier than the 1st and in fact, it seemed to be pretty much worst. If you were around in the country during the second quarter, it seemed that after the Holy Week vacation, Filipinos suddenly became misers and withheld spending altogether. One of primary reasons is the early opening of school season (school opened on June 1 this year) and “normally”, people saved whatever they can to pay for the tuition fees and everything else needed to breeze through schooling. As such, spending on most “non – essentials” including holiday vacation trips are done way. Talk about the “resiliency” of the Philippines against the Global Financial Crisis. It seemed that we aren’t immune after all. Anyway, the debate as to whether or not we are in a recession is irrelevant at this point. What is more of a pressing concern is that “how long would this situation last?” “Theoretically” speaking, the Philippine economy shouldn’t perform this badly given the fact that 2010 is an election year and that incumbents would “move heaven and earth” to have government spend money on infrastructures in order to court the goodwill of the electorates in hopes that they would get reelected come 2010. But with a government constantly in short of money, a “fiscal stimulus” plan (to stimulate the election hopes of the incumbents and secondly, to steer the economy out of the doldrums) may actually fall short of “stimulating” the economy. It is not that the government didn’t pour money into the “system”. They actually did except that the magnitude isn’t “big” enough to cover the shortfall from “other sources of demand”, namely personal consumption expenditures or consumer spending, which grows only 0.8% in the 1st quarter and private investments of businesses, which actually contracted. In layman’s term, the Filipino consumer stopped spending except for necessities while businesses became cautious in their investments on building up inventory for eventual sale, on new ventures, and on new production capacities. Even so, there seemed to be a great chance that the government would still embark in a “spending spree” just to prop up both the economy and the politicians seeking reelection but whether or not that would make a dent on the economy remains to be seen. On the personal consumption front, consumer spending in the last few years is largely driven by the huge remittances from OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). Aside from that, the “call center boom” has also contributed to the improving purchasing power of the Filipinos. That all changed last year with the weakening of consumer spending, which is attributed to the sudden change of behavior of Filipino consumers from one of conspicuous spending to that of “saving for the rainy days”. And 2009 is no different. This is in spite of the apparent hefty growth in remittances in the 1st quarter of the year. The primary reason I think for the sudden behavioral change is the perception of consumers on the future well – being of the Philippine economy. A cursory look at the Philippine economy would reveal that the country is highly dependent on the American economy. The United States is our largest export market. It is also our largest call center market as well. America also hosts one of the largest OFWs communities and as such send a huge share of our dollar remittances that is propping the Philippine economy. With America in the red, job losses locally and in the US among OFWs are expected and plainly evident and this in turn contributed to the mentality that hard times are ahead of us and thus altered our spending habit. In my opinion, on the short term, the American economy would seem to start to turn the corner but a full recovery would take some time (see “The World Economy, 2010 - , dated May 6,2009). And because of that, it would take some more time after the full American economic recovery before the effects of the American turn around be felt in the country (in terms of exports, call center service demand, and demand for OFWs). There is a lag phase. On the business investment side of the economic demand, according to UP economists, Philippine businesses actually follow a boom – bust cycle of 6 years, which overtly coincides with the political – electoral cycle. The reasoning behind that is that with a change in regime, there follows a “restructuring” of the business “hierarchy” with some businesses being favored over the other while others are being “prosecuted”. Such restructuring opened up business opportunities, which embolden the favored businesses to invest more thus, jumpstarting the “investment boom” at the beginning of each new administration. As times goes by, with political reality settling in and political environment becoming more stable, the new administration’s policy directions would also get clearer, which encourages further investments even among the most skeptical. This “investment boom” would peak somewhere on the 3rd year of the administration continuing to the 4th or maybe even up to the 5th year. By then up to the 6th year, businesses would turn cautious, withholding investments, and adopting a wait and see attitude in order to avoid potential losses in the event of “policy reversals” of the next regime (hence, the oft complaint of businesses about the government’s lack of continuity, transparency, and sustainability of policies). After which, the whole cycle starts again. One way of viewing the current economic situation in the country is that on one hand, the economy is battered by the current Global Financial Crisis and on the other hand, it is also affected by the upcoming political uncertainty brought about by the coming election. Based on this diagnosis, the short term scenario of the economy looked terribly weak and in my opinion, the earliest that the economy would turnaround would be in early 2010 (due mainly to election spending) if not the 4th quarter of 2009 that is assuming the American economy would be on its way to recovery. A definite recovery in my view would begin in mid 2010 right after the election.