Friday, June 29, 2018

Honkoji Temple - Charvonne Johnson

Today in Japan I went to Honkoji Temple, I meet a priest who first explained the reason he became a priest. 25 years ago his father passed away leaving him to take care of his mother along with his wife, two sons and daughter, he worked as a business man for 20 years and a High School teacher for 30 years, when his children got married and moved out he then had more free time and he became a priest. The temple is over 100 years old, but got remodeled 10 years ago. There are 75 members that the priest visits at their homes and once a month the members go to the temple and read the book of Buddha, but everyone is welcome to visit the temple. I meditated and bowed towards Buddha. The priest also shared a poem written by a 25 year old woman who committed suicide, after her death one of her teachers found a book of her poems. The temple is made out of real gold and Cherokee wood.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Being Healthy

Whew! Is everyone else as glad to be settled at home as I am? I had an amazing time, but I’m glad to have adjusted back to my normal schedule. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten days since we got back.
One of the most common things I’ve been asked, since getting back, is whether the air was very bad where we were staying. I did not end up having a noticeable issue with the air quality myself (I did get a migraine, but those are common for me when my sleep schedule was disrupted), but it isn’t surprising that there is a substantial air quality issue in China itself. As so much of the population resides in densely packed urban areas and technology and industry have been developing rapidly over a short period of time, air pollution is an unfortunate side effect.
China itself is surprisingly health-conscious. In my reading before we left for the trip, I read some about the societal emphasis on caring for elder’s health, but there wasn’t much information on the societal structure towards health and care across all age groups. Being in China, I noticed many habits that the U.S. could pick up from China to help our own health crisis.
One of these habits is the diet based away from sugar-heavy foods. While our meals were huge while we were there, most of them focused on flavor and texture instead of being sweet or greasy, like many American foods. Furthermore, the U.S. can stand to move away from such meat heavy diets—while the foods that were given to us had a significant amount of meats, I noticed that many other people didn’t rely on meats as their primary source of protein. This is ideal for a country with a large population residing away from livestock areas. As the U.S. is looking at a similar urban movement (albeit significantly more slow-paced), we may need to take cues from other countries about our food consumption.
Another one of these habits is exercise as a form of social engagement (this is a topic I journaled about while on our trip). While America has some ‘social’ exercise or movement groups, like Aquacise and Yoga In The Park, the groups are less engaged towards differing age, gender, and economic demographics. In America, these exercise groups are often seen as a ‘necessary evil’ towards healthy behavior. In China, people who exercise socially seem to genuinely enjoy the behavior. The inclusion of exercise equipment and areas to all seniors without payment helps to both encourage healthy behaviors in the aging population, but also to help negate some of the classist issues that plague U.S. health struggles.
Lastly, the engagement of the aging community is so important, and we only got a glimpse of it. Socially engaging the elderly is shown to lessen depression, physically engaging them can delay osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and heart issues, and mentally engaging them can help to delay dementia and other mental issues. In the visits we took to different historical sites, it was common to see aging people playing games, taking walks, and talking with each other. It was incredible to see people of all ages mingling and helping each other and themselves, and creating these spaces is one area where the U.S. can learn from China.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Price Discrimination in Chinese Markets

Hello Everyone,

I can't believe it's already been a week since we got back from China.  I hope everybody's jet lag is dying down.  I was taking mid-afternoon naps until Saturday.  I am sure everybody remembers the unique experience we all had in the Chinese markets.  It was far different than what we are used to here.  However, the economic principle behind their system of haggling is very common even in the United States.

The principle used in the Chinese markets is price discrimination.  Price discrimination is a method of altering the price to fit a given situation in order to take advantage of optimal demand.  We see it all the time in our everyday life.  Ever been to a matinee movie or go on a student night?  These are forms of price discrimination.  For lower income students, these times are money-savers.  Many students might not even go see a movie if it wasn't for these times.

So a question you may ask is why doesn't everybody take advantage of these times.  For many, the price difference is not substantial enough to give up seeing a Friday or Saturday night movie.  The fact that the price is more during these times is inconsequential to this decision.  These individuals will go see a movie regardless of the price.

Movie theatres have figured out that they can increase the amount of customers they serve by offering this deal.  Furthermore, these money conscious buyers will go during the day and on nights where the theatre is not very busy.  This eliminates the possibility of opportunity costs forming from the discount.  For those that do not know, opportunity cost are the next best alternative in economics.  If the movie theatre was packed with normal patrons on a student night, any normal patrons turned away due to sold out shows is an opportunity cost for the theatre.  However, having student night on slower nights when the shows do not sell out leaves no opportunity cost.  It simply increases sales.

The price given for the matinee or student night is always enough to cover any variable costs.  This allows the tickets sold to contribute towards the fixed cost of the theatre.  In most cases, these prices do not cover all of the fixed costs.  This represents the an economic contribution margin.  The business cannot sell at this price all the time, but it can do it part of the time.

Now back to the Chinese markets, the sellers in these markets price their items high.  From their view, any person that can afford to pay these prices will do so without much effort.  People with lower incomes and budgets are more likely to haggle the price down to meet their income or budget constraints.  (And there is also people like me who just have fun haggling and seeing how low we can get them.)

  • The first goal of the markets is to sell your supply quickly and turn it over.  
  • The second goal is sell for higher prices on average than you could just setting a price with traditional supply and demand curves.

The method the Chinese markets use is the most efficient market other than a purely competitive environment.  Purely competitive markets carry no product differentiations.  Agricultural markets such as grain and produce are good examples of this.  What we saw in the Chinese markets was very close to perfect price discrimination or 1st degree price discrimination.  2nd degree price discrimination refers to selling in bulk or discriminating by quantity bought.  3rd degree price discrimination refers to dividing the market into defined groups, such as seniors, adults, and children with movie tickets.

For more information on price discrimination see: 

Anyways, I hope everyone else found the trip as engaging as I did.  I loved seeing this principle play in this way.  This is probably why I enjoyed haggling so much.  I can't wait for the next trip.

Jason Alpert

Sunday, June 3, 2018

“Somethin' tells me it's all happening at the zoo”

Somethin' tells me it's all happening at the zoo 

I've decided to post a picture of adorable Giant Pandas, because… well, pandas! Too cute! Plus, we're going to see the pandas while we are in Beijing!

According to the Travel China Guide, “Giant Pandas are classified to be an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to the official report based on 1999-2000 census, There are 1,590 that live in the wild in their natural habitats. The number was pessimistically estimated as 1,000 several years ago.”

The Beijing Zoo is one of the few places one can see these amazing creatures. I am sure we will have a wonderful time. 

The World Wildlife Fund has an interesting page on Giant Pandas. A few interesting facts from WWF website:
Pandas live mainly in bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat from 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, a formidable task for which they use their enlarged wrist bones that function as opposable thumbs.

A newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter.

Pandas play a crucial role in the bamboo forests where they roam by spreading seeds and facilitating growth of vegetation.

China’s Yangtze Basin region, which holds the panda’s primary habitat, is the geographic and economic heart of [China]. Roads and railroads are increasingly fragmenting the forest, which isolates panda populations and prevents mating.

Forest destruction also reduces pandas’ access to the bamboo they need to survive. The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, but only around 61% of the country’s panda population is protected by these reserves.

Maybe we can all adopt a panda while we're there!

Paul Simon. “At the Zoo” 1968.  At the Zoo lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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