Trying out Abra, a new mobile payment app 1

Trying out Abra, a new mobile payment app
JISHOU, HUNAN — While exploring ways to move my money more easily around, I stumbled across Abra, a mobile phone app that transfers funds using the Bitcoin network. I gave it a try, and I like it. For one thing, it simplifies my transfers from China to the USA. Before Abra, there were several steps to transfer money from my bank in China to my bank in the USA, whether I used PayPal or Bitcoin. Abra reduces that number, and removes some fees in the process. There still remains one major drawback: Abra has no working relationships with banks in China. So, I still need to jump through a few hoops to buy Bitcoin to drop into my Abra wallet, but once it is there, it’s a breeze to send it to my bank account in the States. I’ve done all sorts of stories about moving money across borders, but to review, here are the main steps. For PayPal: Log into my China PayPal account. Send funds from my Chinese bank to my American PayPal account. PayPal charges a 4% foreign exchange fee. Log into my American PayPal account. Transfer funds to my bank account. Not bad, right? Unless you ...

Bitcoiners’ dubious sense of economic history 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Banks are all evil, right? Especially the Federal Reserve Bank, which if you believe Sen. Ron Paul (R-TX), is unconstitutional and shouldn’t even exist. And governments shouldn’t control currency, because … free markets! That’s pretty much the reasoning behind bitcoin and its various clones. Although I have playing with bitcoin and other crypto-currencies for the last month, I don’t totally buy into the philosophy behind their creation. For one thing, bitcoin fans don’t know their economic and political history too well. Here’s a tip, guys. It’s important to get your history straight before you introduce a whole new currency to replace something that’s been used for centuries. Maybe I’ve put the cart before the horse, but only now have I had the time to review the rationale for introducing bitcoin and its offshoots. Quite simply, I am not impressed. The wiki for Devcoin, an offshoot of bitcoin, links to this so-called “History of Money,” which contains this reference to Colonial Scrip (paper money) and Parliament’s regulation of it. In Response the world’s most powerful independent bank [The Bank of England] used its influence on the British parliament to press for the passing of the Currency Act of ...

Wherein I dip my toe into the bitcoin sea 2

Wherein I dip my toe into the bitcoin sea
JISHOU, HUNAN — Bitcoin may be the greatest thing since hard money, or the biggest flop since the 17th century tulip bulb bust, but I wanted to give it a try, just in case I could make some money. Bitcoin is a computer- and Internet-based currency, although some say it’s more a commodity than a kind of money. It’s decentralized, meaning there is no one authority (like a national bank system) controlling it, and it’s virtual, meaning it exists only in digital form. As I write this, 1 Bitcoin (BTC1.0) is worth about US$864, a considerable decline from the week before, when it crossed the $1,000 mark. How do you get bitcoins? There are four ways. Sell something for bitcoins. Trade something for bitcoins. “Mine” bitcoins on a computer. Buy bitcoins with regular, old-fashioned money. A fifth way, stealing bitcoins, is supposed to be nearly impossible, because bitcoin “wallets” and transactions are heavily encrypted. Hence the alternate name for bitcoin and its many cousins: crypto-currencies. Well, I wanted to get ahold of some bitcoins and another crypto-currency, peercoin. This was last week, when both were flying high relative to the dollar. I had nothing to sell or trade. My mid-range ...

My salary in global perspective

My salary in global perspective
JISHOU, HUNAN — No one ever said teachers will be rich, and that’s even more true for a teacher in China. Even more so for we foreign teachers, who get pay one (or 1.5) order of magnitude less than our American counterparts in dollars. But, as you can see from the graphic above, courtesy of the BBC Weekend Magazine, my monthly pay is quite a bit above the Chinese average, but still $422 below the world average. If I include an estimate for my housing and utilities, which the university pays for me, my salary becomes almost three times the Chinese average and within $200 of the world average. But, as you can see from the chart, no matter how you slice it, my salary (without adding in free rent) is about a third of the American average of $3,263. Blindly applying exchange rates doesn’t explain my situation, however. If you’re wondering how 4,400 RMB can be $1,058 when the exchange rate is about 6.35 RMB to the dollar, consider the buying power of 1 RMB (1 yuan) in China. The International Labour Organization calculates the bar chart using the Purchasing Power Parity dollar, a monetary unit adjusted for local ...

Cost-of-living example #1 6

JISHOU, HUNAN — Considering my unimpressive salary (at least in US dollars), it’s really easy for me to live comfortably here. No joke. To put things in context, here are few sample prices for common food items. A (half) loaf of bread: ¥5.00 = 75¢ A 600 ml bottle of Pepsi: 37¢ A package of cookies: 55¢ Six packets of instant coffee: $2.25 (imported from Taiwan) An 18.9 liter (5-gallon) bottle of drinking water, including delivery: 88¢ 1.25 liter (42 fl. oz.) bottle of Tropicana fruit juice: 55¢ A dozen eggs: $1.70 200-g (7-ounce) package of bacon: $1.89 A meal at the university dining hall: 44 to 75¢ A nice lunch at a casual restaurant: $1.50 to $3.00 (per person) (Note: KFC costs about $4 – $5/person) I recently bought a nice black double-breasted fall-weather coat at a local men’s store, where the prices are admittedly on the expensive side. It cost me ¥600, or about $88. In the USA, I’d reckon it would cost at least twice that. The sport shoes I bought a year ago were about $44, and are still in great shape. This week, I bought a friend a pair of knee-length leather boots for $38 ...
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