Alex's Blog

September 6, 2015

Subjects Relating to Spice Trade

Filed under: Asian Studies —— alex.xu @ 9:50 PM

The economy is made up of many different components, yet down to it’s roots, it’s just a large network of suppliers and consumers. The one thing that drives both of these parties is simply supply and demand. Supply and demand is one of the most vital parts of trade and barter, because it purely represents the most basic target of both of these parties, whether they be consumers, middlemen, producers, they are all affected by this. “They (the people of Ta-ts’in which is also called Li-kan) traffic by sea with An-hsi and T’ien-chu, the profit is ten-fold. They are honest in their transactions and there are no double prices. The budget is based on a well-filled treasury.”* How does this take part in spice trade? At the start, spices were highly sought after by Europeans for two main reasons, the taste it offers in cuisine (which conveniently covers up the taste of spoiled meat), and the scarcity of the various spices. This allowed a widespread export of spices to Europe, not to mention an extremely high price range. Later on, spices became more than just a peculiar taste, it was a sign of nobility, or a gift of friendship. Even further down the timeline, the population caught on to the faze and started doing the same, causing another rise in demand and price of spices. Speaking of the rise of price, there is another factor that greatly affects the cost of spices: geography.


One of the major reasons spices were so expensive to begin with was the effort and price and risk taken to ship the products to Europe. Trade happens between two different parties, and trade obviously could not ensue without traders. Other than knowing and understanding the physical location, the real issue is getting there. “… with favorable winds it is possible to cross within three months; but if you meet slow winds, it may also take you two years. It is for this reason that those who go to sea take on board a supply of three years’ provisions. There is something in the sea which is apt to make a man homesick, and several have thus lost their lives. ”** This quote clearly shows the risks and cost required to trade overseas, and of course, there is always the labor costs of experienced sailors, bodyguards, etc. All of these risks and expenses give the suppliers a reasonable excuse to raise the price of their products greatly.



*Chinese official, The Annals of the Eastern Han, Later Han (25 – 220 AD)

Miller, J. Innes. The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire


      **Kan Ying, Chinese ambassador (97 A.D.)

Miller, J. Innes. The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire. p. 134


Logan. 16th Century Elizabethan Travel on Emaze. Digital image. Emaze, 13 May 2015. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.

September 1, 2015


Filed under: Asian Studies —— alex.xu @ 1:19 PM


August 20, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized —— alex.xu @ 1:40 PM

“We do what we must because we can.”

June 3, 2015

Filed under: Humanities —— alex.xu @ 8:24 AM

Below are a series of memes I have created for the book Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, showing a few key scenes throughout the rising action.


Bad Luck Brian:
Bad Luck Brian is one of the most popular memes on the internet, usually depicting someone with unbelievably bad luck. In Sophie’s case, she certainly is very unlucky. When Sophie just enters the bonobo sanctuary, she realizes it is still occupied by it’s original owners. Sophie quickly decides it would be unwise to upset them, and instinctively tries to smile at them, unfortunately, the bonobos did not take the smile as a friendly gesture, instead took the showing of teeth as a threat. This causes the bonobos to feel quite cautious of Sophie, also acting slightly aggressive, what follows is that it takes Sophie quite a while to even gain their trust. This is one of the parts where Sophie’s character develops, as she realizes she is truly away from the safe cities in America and into the wild, with no chance that she will survive unless she starts to learn.


One Does Not Simply
The “One Does Not Simply” meme is from the famous movie series Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In the scene, the Council of Elrond reveals that an evil ring must be destroyed by being thrown into the fires of Mount Doom, a volcano deep in the territory of Mordor. Boromir promptly points out the difficultly of the task by saying, “One does not simply walk into Mordor.” This meme is used to describe tasks that are extremely hard to accomplish, or considered impossible. In the enclosure, Sophie tried to fit in with the bonobos, but indirectly enraged their queen, Anastasia. Sophie and Otto are injured, toyed with, and beaten up various times, also as quoted when Sophie hits realization, that she “had started a war with a queen, and [she] was losing.” (Schrefer 103)


The Most Interesting Man in the World

The Most Interesting Man in the World is an advertising campaign for the Dos Equis brand of beer. The advertisements feature Jonathan Goldsmith as “the world’s most interesting man”. The advertisements first began appearing in the United States in 2006 and have since then become an Internet meme. This internet meme is typically used to describe when someone always takes things to the extreme while accomplishing them (e.g. I don’t always play a game, but when I do, I beat the entire game.). Sophie clearly takes her job and responsibilities to the end, even protecting Otto at the cost of physical harm. This shows that Sophie has grown independent compared to the start, where she started out buying bonobos from animal traffickers, to becoming a responsible caretaker.

June 1, 2015

Welcome to “The Democratic Republic of Congo: Where Even The Bullet Holes Have Bullet Holes.” (Schrefer 1) The exposition of the book Endangered takes place in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. Eliot Schrefer drops off details here and there, creating a dark, torn-apart mood for the readers, making them feel wary and uneasy.

“Concrete can rot… Maybe only people from Congo know that.” (1) Schrefer uses numerous details about the setting to show us the war-torn slums of Kinshasa, where even “roadblocks and barricades are not all that unusual” (2) All of the descriptive sections describing Kinshasa are implying and building up. Congo would have been a vey different place if it were a wealthy, prosperous country, yet this story taking place in Kinshasa sets the mood into a sense of foreboding, primarily affecting and changing the mood of the story.

May 15, 2015

Bon Voyage…

Filed under: Uncategorized —— alex.xu @ 10:13 AM

April 28, 2015

“Two to the power of two hundred and sixty-seven thousand seven hundred and nine to one against.” (Adams 80).

Filed under: Humanities —Tagged , , , , , — alex.xu @ 8:32 AM

Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy introduces a complete new world with many new aspects, but all the evidence points towards one theme: Anything could happen at anytime, life is unpredictable. Just as an example, nobody on Earth it was going to be destroyed until 2 minutes before it happened.

Personally, I think the biggest representational symbol of this theme is the Infinite Improbability Drive, which is a machine that generates energy by purely creating the most unlikely thing to happen at that time, which by complete coincidence, of course, saved Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from their unavoidable demise:” you have been rescued from certain death at an improbability level of two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand to one against – possibly much higher. We are now cruising at a level of two to the power of twenty-five thousand to one against and falling, (Adams 87).” The Infinite Improbability Drive is a symbolic machine that pretty much takes the theme of this book to the next level, it’s sole existence is for generating situations that would almost never happen otherwise.

I think the biggest point we can get out of this theme, is to expect the unexpected, or at least be prepared. Douglas Adams also shows this in his book in a humorous way, about how towels are “about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have…” (28). This is one of the aspects of the story that shows to be prepared. All the previous points, suggest the theme that everything is about as unpredictable as it can get, and being prepared for it (having a towel) is never a bad thing either.

April 17, 2015

“Prepare the Demolition Beam” (Adams, 18)

Filed under: Humanities —Tagged , , , — alex.xu @ 11:24 AM

Everyone’s imagined the end of the world before, a ground-shaking earthquake, a thundering volcano, etc. but no, that was not how it went. In fact, it only took a few seconds. In the book “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, Douglas Adams creates a quite foreboding mood throughout the exposition.

The exposition of the book takes place on our planet, Earth: “Orbiting [the Sun] at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms…” (Adams, 3). I can infer that the time period is around our current time, because there are things like toasters, bulldozers, bypasses, etc. this is suggesting that technology is already advanced to a time that is at least not a few decades away from present.

The mood in the beginning of this story is quite intriguing, guiding the reader to make guesses about the topic in the book, “…the story of [a Thursday]’s extraordinary consequences, and the story of how these consequences are inextricably interwined with this remarkable book begins very simply. It begins with a house.” (5). Contrary to the beginning, the mood quickly develops to become a sense of foreboding when the author included a hint of foreshadowing: “…story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.” (4) and where Adams describes the setting, he uses a bit of humor too, perhaps as his own personal style of writing.

April 7, 2015

Science Polymer Journal # 3

Filed under: Science —— alex.xu @ 6:33 AM

Today was the third day of the polymer project we’ve been working on, we continued to develop on the idea of a smart phone case that could protect a phone. While doing this, we also explored some different types of polymers that could achieve our goal more easily. Some difficulties we are facing, is that our polymer so far, has many flaws, as following. First of all, it is too soft to sufficiently protect a phone, and if we harden it, it will be too difficult to mold. Secondly, our polymer is very hard to mold, as in it is very difficult to make the shape exact while designing the case itself. Some observations we noticed during experimentation is that our polymer has many possibilities, is easily malleable, but this is also a flaw. We also noticed that the polymer is bouncy, which could be a good thing, but if someone drops their phone on the stairs, it might not be. Overall, our product is beginning to take shape, but there are still many improvements to be made.

polymer 2

April 6, 2015

Science Polymer Journal # 2

Filed under: Science —Tagged — alex.xu @ 8:53 PM

Today was the second class of the polymer project; we delved deeper into the specific attributes of different polymers, and began to think about a possible product to present to the “Dream On” group. So far, we haven’t made an exact decision, but we tried experimenting with a type of moldable smartphone case that consists of 5 mL of starch, approximately 15 mL of glue, and 1 gram of guar, and 3 mL of borax solution, just for decorative purposes, we added some food coloring too. This mixture is very gooey, and we decided to dry one and keep the other hydrated.

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