Monday, May 26, 2008

Oil: The New Luxury Good

With oil at $130+, people are bracing themselves for a rough time for the remainder of the year. With the summer approaching, a large travel season, people will most likely be opting for fun nearer to home. Big box retailers as well as mom and pop shops are already feeling the heat, and its not from the sun. With rising costs of raw materials and less consumer spending, producers are being pinched on both ends. How can you, the consumer, survive with this "new" luxury good on the market?

For one, you can treat it as a luxury good and consume less of it. In tough times, people often reduce or stop altogether their consumption of luxury goods, and with oil at such unconscionable levels, we could almost consider it a luxury good. Although oil or gas demand is relatively inelastic, which means its demand is stable through changes in price, you can make a choice to set your cut-off point. When will you make decisions to use less gas or find alternative ways to get energy? When gas is $4.50/gal, $5, $10? There are numerous ways from simple changes to drastic measures that you can take to lessen consumption.

Another thing we can do is to be aware that we are consumers. The large and mighty corporation, with all their power, to a large degree are swayed and make decisions based on individual consumers as a whole. The price of oil will continue to rise as world demands grows. This will lead companies to finding cheaper methods of doing business. If we realize our power and support companies that comply with our beliefs, we can alter the marketplace from the bottom up. We can support companies that choose to make the hard decisions now, as opposed to later or never. This is our privilege, or some might even say our responsibility, as consumers.

Hard decisions would imply finding viable sources of energy to support their business now. It is something that I feel is inevitable anyhow, so they may as well start ASAP, and we may as well support them. In the short run, they can free themselves from the rise in oil price. In the long run, they will be the companies that win, and in turn so shall we. By supporting these companies I mean purchasing their competitive products. When there is a choice, choose their stuff, as opposed to another brand.

For example, Patagonia is an outdoor performance wear company. They are very conscious about their business practices. They try to keep their production line, as "clean" as possible. They are very concerned with supporting the environment and take many steps to be socially responsible.

To take it even further, support could mean purchasing stock or advocating for the particular company. Innovest is a firm that does market research on companies that are environmentally as well as financially sound.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekend Warrior Football in Taipei

As you may know, I really enjoy playing sports. One of my hobbies is playing football. I played football in high school. While in Taiwan, I play flag football with some friends on the weekends. This video is of a practice that we had about a year ago. In this video I am the quarterback in the yellow shirt. If you want, you can play football with me!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wulai (烏來)

Wulai (烏來)is a great day or weekend trip in Taipei city. Just outside of Xindian, it is a scenic ride through the valleys and hills on the edge of Taipei county. I have been there numerous times, mostly during winter to enjoy the wonderful hot springs they offer.
As you get nearer the the town, the roadside is dotted with hotels offering deals on meals and hot springs. Keep going until you get to the night market-like street. Here you will find many small hotels and vendors. The food here is very good. I especially like the grilled mountain pork skewers. The meat is fresh and delicious.
After you get a bite to eat, you can relax in the hot springs. This is a popular destination for many tourists and locals alike in the cool winter months. These special hot springs are said to have medicinal-like health benefits. If nothing else, you can steep yourself in nice hot relaxing water. You can enjoy the hot soak for as little as 100-200NT for a room with just a tub, or you could spend a little more for complete room. If you are daring, there is an area where the springs are free. It is outdoors along the river and you can find many locals sitting in the baths and drinking tea in the cold fresh air.

This is a trip I highly recommend for anybody visiting Taipei. The views are beautiful. There are many other hot springs scattered throughout the island. All you have to do is ask where they are and somebody will be able to tell you. Have fun!