Material world

Materialism makes trauma harder to handle
Andy Henion-Michigan State

Materialistic people experience more stress from traumatic events and are more likely to spend compulsively as a result, a new study suggests.

“When the going gets tough, the materialistic go shopping,” says Ayalla Ruvio, assistant professor of marketing in Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business. “And this compulsive and impulsive spending is likely to produce even greater stress and lower well-being. Essentially, materialism appears to make bad events even worse.”

NYTimes: In Indonesia, a Governor at Home on the Streets

In Indonesia, a Governor at Home on the Streets

Rony Zakaria for The International Herald Tribune

Joko Widodo, the governor of Jakarta, made an unannounced visit to the Tanah Abang market in August, where he is a frequent visitor.

Published: September 25, 2013

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Each day, Joko Widodo, the governor of Jakarta, does something practically unheard-of among Indonesia’s political elite: he ventures into the streets to speak with the people who elected him.

Most times, he is mobbed as he wanders through slums, traditional markets and other neighborhoods. Women, and men, try to touch him. Younger people grab his hands and lay them on their foreheads — a sign of respect. Many share their concerns over how their city is working (or not), a practice he encourages.

The people, he jokes, are not so much excited to see him; they are merely “shocked to see an Indonesian leader out of their office.”

“The people say it’s ‘street democracy’ because I go out to them,” said Mr. Joko, 52, whose supporters affectionately call him by his nickname, Jokowi. “I explain my programs. They can also give me ideas about programs.” He also drops in on local government and tax offices to let the city’s notoriously inefficient bureaucrats know he is watching.

That daily routine is one of the main reasons Mr. Joko, a reed-thin former furniture dealer, has almost overnight shot to the top of the polls about possible candidates for next year’s presidential election. In late August, the country’s most influential daily newspaper, Kompas, displayed his photo on its front page three days in a row along with poll resultsshowing him with nearly double the support of the closest challenger, a retired Army general. The poll also found he had swept past the leader of his own party: former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, a famously imperious leader who sometimes referred to her supporters as “little people.”

“He’s the opposite of the leaders we have now. He doesn’t fit the mold at all,” said Bhimanto Suwastoyo, chief editor of the online Jakarta Globe. “The mold is: an Indonesian official does what he wants, has no connection with the people and doesn’t consult — he rules. Jokowi is doing the exact opposite. He’s hands on, he asks the public what they want, he approaches them and he’s seen as actually doing something.”

What Mr. Joko has accomplished in his first year leading the capital is not high-profile. In fact, people give him at least as much credit for what he appears not to have done. In a country rife with corruption, Mr. Joko is widely considered a clean politician who has not used his office to enrich himself, and who is working hard to cut down on corruption within the government.

The issue of official corruption is expected to be a major factor in the election, the third direct presidential election since the country threw off autocratic rule 15 years ago.

The economy has been doing well — it survived the world’s 2008 financial crisis virtually untouched, multinationals have been flocking here and its gross domestic product has expanded at a steady rate of more than 6 percent for the last three years. Still, analysts consistently say Indonesia is being held back from reaching its full potential because of corruption and collusion among government officials, lawmakers and powerful business interests.

The current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, swept into power in 2004 and was re-elected in 2009 on an anticorruption platform, but his governing Democratic Party has been mired in corruption scandals the past two years.

With months to go before the election, anything can happen to derail Mr. Joko’s chances. The retired general who ran second in the Kompas poll, Prabowo Subianto, has a strong following among the poor and has been considered a top contender for the presidency, despite widespread allegations of human rights abuses in East Timor. (Mr. Prabowo and Mr. Joko are members of opposition parties; Mr. Yudhoyono cannot run again because of term limits.)

Since becoming governor last October, Mr. Joko has followed through on his campaign promises, including issuing welfare payments on the equivalent of electronic gift cards that allow people to pay for health care and education supplies directly and ensure government officials do not take a cut off the top. He also instituted an online tax payment system to prevent graft and jump-started long-delayed plans for a mass rapid transit system for the capital.

He has invested the most effort and political capital on two projects in particular. The first was to move street vendors off the roads surrounding Tanah Abang, the largest textiles market in Southeast Asia, who were causing traffic jams throughout Central Jakarta, and give them space inside a nearby building. The second is the relocation of 7,000 poor families squatting around the Pluit Reservoir in North Jakarta into lost-cost public housing so the reservoir can be dredged for the first time in 30 years to help alleviate annual flooding.

These projects might seem obscure given the many pressing problems of a city of 10 million people, but they address the two most important ones for average people: traffic and flooding. To win community support, Mr. Joko visits both areas at least once daily to make sure that city officials are following through on the projects and to assure local residents that he is not really planning to turn the land over to shopping mall developers.

Mr. Joko’s “man of the people” tag is not concocted, analysts say. He is a former carpenter and ran a small furniture export business near Surakarta, a city of 520,000 people also known as Solo, before running for city mayor in 2005.

In 2012 he ran for governor in Jakarta, and his landslide win against the incumbent, Fauzi Bowo, who was backed by most of Mr. Yudhoyono’s governing coalition, was viewed as an emphatic rejection of the political establishment.

Mr. Joko ultimately will not decide whether he will run in the presidential election. Mrs. Megawati firmly controls the party, which decided at a recent congress that she alone would name its presidential nominee. She had been expected to run herself, but analysts say it is increasingly likely she will step aside for Mr. Joko to help her party try to regain the presidency after 10 years.

Party officials say Mrs. Megawati has hinted in recent weeks as much in recent weeks, calling herself at 66 “old” and “a grandmother.” Mrs. Megawati and Mr. Joko have also appeared side by side at party events in recent weeks, prompting even more speculation about his candidacy.

How an Engineer Earned 1.25 Million Air Miles By Buying Pudding

How an Engineer Earned 1.25 Million Air Miles By Buying Pudding

Air Miles are awesome, they can be used to score free flights, hotel
stays and if you’re really lucky, the scorn and hatred of everyone you
come in contact with who has to pay full price when they travel. The
king of all virtually free travelers is one David Phillips, a civil
engineer who teaches at the University of California, Davis.

David came to the attention of the wider media when he managed to
convert about 12,150 cups of Healthy Choice chocolate pudding into
over a million Air Miles. Ever since, David and his entire family have
been travelling the world for next to nothing.

So how did he do it? Well, first we need to explain the kind of man
David Phillips is; he’s the kind of guy who reads every inch of the
small print on things. The kind of guy who learned to count cards just
so he’d never get ripped off in a casino. In fact, Phillips stated
that he could have probably been a pro card player if it wasn’t for
the cigarette smoke. Yes, this guy- according to him- could have been
a millionaire card player, but he enjoyed fresh air more than the
musky stink of success.

His most famous endevour was back in 1999 when he saw that Healthy
Choice was having a promotion on their frozen entrées section. The
offer was as follows: for every 10 bar codes of their product a person
sent in, they’d be awarded 500 Air Miles. However, the company had an
early bird stipulation that people who redeemed the offer within the
first month of the competition would receive double that, meaning a
person could potentially receive 1000 Air Miles for buying just 10 of
their entrées.

Upon catching wind of the deal, David scoured his local supermarkets
to see which, if any products offered the best potential return. After
some legwork, he found what he was looking for- a discount grocery
chain that was selling individual chocolate pudding cups for 25 cents
each. This meant that for a measly $2.50, he could get 1000 Air Miles.

Realising the amazing return he was potentially able to receive, David
set out to hit every store in the chain in one day and buy up every
single Healthy Choice pudding they had.

Now, you’re probably thinking a guy walking into several stores and
asking to purchase all the Healthy Choice pudding they possessed, even
in the back of the store, would arouse suspicion; and if anyone
cottoned on to what he was doing, they’d try to get in on it too,
because, why wouldn’t they? David apparently had the same concern and
while buying the pudding, he told people he was doing it because he
was stocking up for Y2K, which was just around the corner.

All in all, David spent just over $3000 on pudding, which may seem
like a lot, until you realise the total dollar value of the miles he
was set to receive was in excess of $150,000. However, before that, he
actually had to send off all of the bar codes.

According to David, his wife got blisters from peeling off hundreds of
stickers and his kids and co-workers grew physically sick of the sheer
amount of chocolate paste he was forcing on them. Further, it began to
look doubtful they’d be able to peel off all the barcodes in time to
qualify for the early bird part of the promotion.

This is when David had another idea- why did he need to have his wife
and children suffer when he could get others to do the leg work for

David approached the local Salvation Army with an offer; if they gave
him a bunch of volunteers to peel off all the bar codes on his
pudding, he’d donate the pudding to them. But here’s the beautiful
part, doing this counted as a considerable charitable donation, which
let David claim just over $800 back in tax deductions at the end of
they year.

But the benefits of David’s scheme didn’t end there. After sending off
the bar codes and getting back his 1,280,000 miles, (he got a few more
than just from the pudding because he also bought some soup at 90
cents a can before he realised that was the sucker’s method), he now
officially had over a million miles in his frequent flyer accounts,
which automatically gave him lifelong access to something called the
“American Airlines AAdvantage Gold club” giving him and his family a
number of awesome flying related perks for the rest of their lives.

But we haven’t even got to the best part yet. David will likely never
run out of Air Miles because he’s still earning miles at about 5 times
faster than he’s spending them, despite traveling quite often, thanks
to various frequent flyer incentive programs he keeps an eye out for
and exploits just like the pudding scheme. Today, he has over 4
million miles in his various accounts and has flown to over 20
countries and taken numerous vacations in the meantime.

In the end, for a one time cost of a little over $3000 (or a little
over $2200 if you subtract the tax deduction), and a few other similar
deals he’s taken advantage of to bolster his numbers, David never has
to pay for a flight in his life ever again. Genius.