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Evaluating Utility

Jun 29, 2009

Utility: A measure of the relative satisfaction from, or desirability of, consumption of various goods and services.

It was only last week when I was worrying about how to survive the rest of the month with chocolate bars, some biscuits, and vodka. (It’s weird, I know, but those were the only contents of my refrigerator at that time.) But now that I already received the housing subsidy, I don’t know how to spend it.

My colleagues used to tell me that since I am already in Paris, I should go ahead and take a European tour. But the prospect of traveling alone in an unknown place never really did excite me. Especially in a place where you don’t know their language, I might add.

But there are a few things I would like to have. For one, I need a new, more powerful laptop because my current laptop cannot do the things I am planning to do for my research. Also, I am saving for a very big expense once I come home (something that I cannot elaborate at the moment, I might jinx it). And lastly, there is now the possibility of going home this year for vacation. Now that I am recalculating my income and anticipated expenses, I realized that I can’t have everything that I want. I am now at a loss with evaluating the utility of each option.

I once mentioned in a Facebook status that while most girls would shop for clothes or shoes when they are depressed, I chose to buy a 1 TB hard drive. That turned out to be the most practical buy I’ve ever made here, because now I don’t have to sacrifice drive space in the name of research. I am not here to impress anyone anyway, and I don’t usually go out for gimmicks. So as long as the clothes I have still look decent, you won’t catch me upgrading my wardrobe.

Choosing between wardrobe and the hardrive was easy. Choosing among the three options I mentioned before, now that’s the difficult part.

  • New laptop: I suddenly need to have an NVIDIA graphics card to be able to do my research using CUDA. Unfortunately, my laptop merely runs on Intel. I’ve been scouting around for laptops, but they are either too big (not to mention too heavy) or too expensive. Besides, my laptop is only less than a year old, and could do everything else I need for my research except CUDA. So buying a new laptop would mean that I don’t know what I would do with my current one. But on the positive side, I could install Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 once I finish my dissertation.
  • The “big” expense: I am merely a contributor, it is actually a shared expense. But since I am here and my salary is considerably greater when converted to Philippine pesos, I am obliged to give a big share. I can’t elaborate on it yet, so let me just say that it would make my return to the Philippines a lot more exciting.
  • Vacation: Good grief, I miss home. It’s no big secret that I’ve been miserable for the past six and a half months, so a vacation could do me some good. But my adviser made it clear that if I ever plan to go home, I could only go for a couple of weeks. And since most of my friends are in the academe, I really can’t do much with those two weeks.

So, how do you measure the utility of each option? How should I proceed? Any ideas?

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