Jul 28, 2009

190 Becomes 187 Becomes....


So I just returned to the Georgia Council Global Headquarters after taking a little family vacation. While some choose to vacation on Nantucket Island, Cape Cod or in the South of France, The Econblog family and I like to visit the vacation hotspot of Buffalo, NY. The place is so hip now that even Anthony Bourdain (coolest tv personality ever) is hanging out from time to time.

If you are ever in need of Buffalo travel tips just drop me a line. I can tell you where to go for a great slice, what to go see, and I will even let you know about the best place to run while in town. I will also tell you to make sure your car shocks are in good working order as the roads there are crap. Normal freezing temperatures/snow and incredibly heavy snow plows really do a number on most streets and the roads in and around the Queen City are exhibit A.

Which brings me to this informative article from the Minneapolis Fed. Not only are the roads in Buffalo, and hundreds of other U.S. cities, crap, but so is much of the infrastructure all across America. The question has become, how are we going to fix this problem? Anyone have a spare $2.2 trillion?

Your thoughts?

Jul 17, 2009

Blog Stars

None of us should be surprised by this.
How many math, science or language arts teachers in your school have approached you since last October with the "So what is up with the economy" question?

Jul 16, 2009


The amount one man was charged for a slice of pizza and a Coke.

...and no, he wasn't in Zimbabwe!

Jul 12, 2009

Fellowship Reflections

My eleven day journey to Japan came to a conclusion yesterday with a 12+ hour flight back to Atlanta. Now it is time to look back and try to digest everything that I experienced while in Japan. Before I do that I first need to thank everyone who made this trip possible, starting with the Keizai Koho Center in Japan. Everyone at Keizai Koho was incredibly professional, courteous and helpful in making this tour an experience none of us will ever forget.

To Akemi Handa and Tetsu Hasegawa, our hosts and guides, I can only say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your hard work, your patience and your kindness. Both of you are incredible people who went WELL above the call of duty to make our time in Japan absolutely perfect.

Miki and Yoshi Kato, my host family, thank you for opening your home to me. I hope I can return the favor one day, and when I do, I promise that I will make you that turkey dinner you requested.

The Japan-America Society of Japan and Yoshi Domoto, thank you for selecting me to participate in this program and thank you for the Japanese lessons. My time in Japan has really changed all of my perceptions of this incredible country.

My fellow travelers from the United States and Canada, a group of outstanding educators one and all, thank you for being such a great group of people. Getting to know all of you made the trip that much better. I hope to see all of you at NCSS. (...and sorry again about the fire station thing)

Finally, I would like to thank all of the amazing people of Japan I had the honor of meeting during my visit to Tokyo, Kawasaki City and Nikko. I have done a good bit of traveling in my day and I can honestly say I have never experienced such incredible hospitality and kindness. The level of civility in Japan really is a wonder. Imagine a place where everyone respects nature, each other, their elders, history and the rules. That place exists.

That place is Japan.

Jul 10, 2009


Normally I do not get out of bed at 4:10am to do anything. This morning I was willing to make an exception and brother let me tell you it was so worth every single minute of sleep I gave up.

The drill is to get out the door at 4:30am so you can be in line no later than 5:00am. You make your way back to the auction area, being very careful not to get crushed by the trucks, motor bikes, crazy little work trolley things or forklifts, and then you wait.

Around 5:30am the magic happens. A bunch of guys gather round and an auctioneer has at it. Tuna auctioning heaven! Not just any old tuna, I am talking about huge yellowfin. Within minutes the auction is over and then it is on to the next lot of yellowfin. It is just like a "Market in Wheat" but with sharp meat hooks and frozen fish. Buyers and sellers coming together to make trades. Simple as that.

...and as if the auction wasn't amazing enough, on the way out I stopped at a tiny sushi place (seats 9) for the best raw fish I have ever had in my entire life. Ever have raw sea urchin for breakfast? Try it sometime.

If I had to pick one thing, and one thing only, from this trip that I would recommend to anyone visiting Tokyo I would pick the Tsukiji Fish Market. The place will make you glad to be alive.

Jul 9, 2009

2,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

We paid a visit to the Kirin Beer factory today. Brought back many memories of my beer delivering days. Kirin has a little more than 40% of the Japanese beer market so I guess they are doing something right. Evidently Japan has an interesting way of taxing the beer companies. You are taxed according to the amount of malt you use in the brewing process. Use a lot of malt to make your beer, pay high taxes. Use little or no malt to make your beer, pay less. Not surprisingly Kirin is focusing more and more on non-malt beverages.

According to our tour guide Kirin can make about 2,000 cans of beer a minute when they are firing on all cylinders. How long would it take the average person to consume 2,000 cans of beer? Mind boggling.

Jul 8, 2009

Catch of the Day


Cricket Haiku

I ate a cricket.
A tasty breakfast snack treat.
Crunchy, very crunchy.


I have heard of wine tastings, cheese tastings and chocolate tastings but never tofu tastings. Well yesterday morning I found myself at such a thing. While out in Nikko, we visited the Taishi Food company. At Taishi they crank out about 170,000 packs of tofu per day. That may seem like a boat load of tofu but not when you consider how much of the stuff the Japanese consume each day.

We had silk tofu and cotton tofu and sesame tofu and tofu we made ourselves and tofu on a stick and tofu skins (my favorite) and a tofu doughnut and even tofu cheesecake. I kept wondering if you can get a hangover from tofu. The good news is you can't.

Jul 6, 2009

Tokyo Stock Exchange

One of the world's three largest stock markets, the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) is a place where huge sums of money flow in from all corners of the globe each day. Started in 1878, the TSE has evolved to become a major player in the Japanese, and world, economy.

After a tour of the exchange we heard from Kyoji Kimura, who is the head of the promotions department of the TSE. In an effort to promote the TSE, Mr. Kimura and a number of associates are delivering informational workshops to teachers, students and interested citizens who want to learn more about financial education and the workings of the TSE.

In Japan, cash and bank deposits account for 50% of assets as compared to a mere 13% in securities. The TSE believes that the Japanese economy would benefit from increased consumer purchases of securities and to that end the TSE is promoting the stock exchange as a great place to invest.

Jul 5, 2009

Meet the Kato's

I challenge all of you to find a nicer/cooler/greater Japanese family than Miki, Yoshi and Ao Kato of Kawasaki City. You can scour the country from Nagasaki to Sapporo and you will come up empty. This past weekend all of us were sent out to spend the weekend with Japanese families and I am pretty sure I hit the jackpot with my host family. The Kato's could not have been more gracious and welcoming. They put me up, fed me, drove me around and even let me watch the strangest Japanese kid show ever with young Ao.

The most memorable part of the weekend, other than the fact that I was staying with three great people, was our trip to the Kawasaki Daishi Temple. Another one of those "I am so lucky to be in this exact moment right now" moments.

Funny cultural/lack of common language moment of the weekend: at Dinner on Saturday night I mentioned that I like to eat pizza. For breakfast on Sunday morning Miki makes me.......... pizza! I have eaten a lot of pizza in my life but never for breakfast. This definitely opens up a whole new world of opportunities for me.

Now I am off to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Kawasaki-City, 2:12 pm

Putting the "labor" in Land, Labor, Capital and Entrepreneurship.

Jul 3, 2009

Dinner with Tateisi san

Last evening we were honored to have dinner with Mr. Nobuo Tateisi. Mr. Tateisi is the former Chairman and Representative Director of the OMRON Corporation and is currently serving as the Executive Advisor for the OMRON Corporation . He is also one of those people that, after meeting for about two seconds, you realize is just an amazing human being. Intelligent, visionary, funny and incredibly down to earth.

Mr. Tateisi spoke at length about the current state of the Japanese economy, the many economic challenges Japan faces and Japan's role in a globalized world. Not surprisingly Mr. Tatseisi also discussed the declining birth rate/aging population dilemma of Japan. Did you know that there are more than 36,000 Japanese citizens over the age of 100? Did you know that the birth rate in Japan is now only 1.3 children per family?

The other major topic touched on by Mr. Tateisi was Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR, the philosophy that says companies should work for the benefit of society by becoming active members of the global community. Take a minute to read the CSR link and then think about the Bernie Madoff's and corporate executives who make $49 million a year while their company's go broke.

Thank you Tateisi-san for an incredible evening. One that I will never forget.

Oshukan Pride

So how many students do you have in each class? Our colleagues in Japan regularly teach 40 students per class. Learning that bit of information was certainly the biggest surprise at our visit to the Oshukan Secondary Education School this morning. Oshukan School, which has a little more than 1,000 students, was all I thought it would be and more. The students all seemed very involved, on task and genuinely serious about learning. The teachers, all true professionals, were kind enough to let nine Americans and one Canadian into their classrooms in the middle of everything.

The money quote of the day (and the trip so far) came from one 8th grader who said to her teacher, "Can we talk about this with the foreigners in the room?" Classic.

The educational objective of the Oshukan School is "The Quest for Truth" by developing students with high intelligence, world views and strong wills. From what I saw they are doing a great job in meeting this objective. Does it pass the "Would I send my kids to this school" test? With flying colors.

Jul 1, 2009


Not surprisingly, a bit on the salty side.

Tokyo Town

After enduring the most frustrating flight of my entire life I have finally arrived in Tokyo. My original flight, which was supposed to leave on Monday at 2:20pm, got pushed back again and again and again... and finally we left exactly 23 hours late! Very long and miserable story that involved a plane warming oven that did not work, unionized flight attendants, a recent airline merger and a lot of important looking airline officials standing around with walkie-talkies in their hands looking serious yet inept at the same time.

As a result of all of this nonsense, I have missed the entire first day of the Keizai Koho/Japan-America study tour. Crud. On top of that I arrived at the Tokyo Dome Hotel to find that all of my fellow travelers were already at the nearby Tokyo Dome catching a Yomiuri Giants game. Crud again! (Giants lost 2-1 to the Carp)

All of that is in the past now and in a few hours we are off to visit the Toshiba Science Museum and then the Toshiba Recycling Center. After that we are going to hear the Chief Economist of the Dai-Chi Life Research Institute speak about the Japanese Economy. Life is good.

Hello Japan, nice to meet you.


I bet the price of parking in this part of Atlanta just went up.