I’m taking some time off to get better. Keep working toward self-sufficiency, but don’t forget to laugh and wonder and enjoy life, too. I’ll be back as quickly as I can.
I’m taking some time off to get better. Keep working toward self-sufficiency, but don’t forget to laugh and wonder and enjoy life, too. I’ll be back as quickly as I can.
January 24, 2015
Before I start what will be a rather short blog today, I just want to let those of you who have inquired know that I’m feeling better, though not back up to snuff, yet. Thanks for your prayers, healing thoughts, good vibes, friendly incantations and loving concerns. They mean a great deal to me.
Maybe it’s the “We’re really good guys” propaganda from Davos as they lap up ever more of the world’s wealth, the multi-trillion dollar relay race of QE taking place around the world, the unfolding disaster in the oil patch and its knock-on effects, the constant stream of “Russian invasions” in Ukraine (dang, those Russians are busy little beavers), the slowing global economy, the growing potential for blow-back from our machinations and meddling in the Middle East and North Africa, or the impending rigors that climate change will demand of us soon. Certainly it’s the increasing number of warnings from bloggers and news sources I’ve come to trust around the internet. Some of it is plain old gut feeling.
Everything I see and read is saying, “Get ready for round two.” Unless you’re in the top 20% of Americans who are doing pretty well, economically, you probably haven’t fully recovered from round one, back in 2008, which means it will be that much harder this time, recovery will be much slower and much less – if at all.
I’m not trying to “scare” people; (I’ll leave that to Homeland Security and the FBI sting operators.) But when you hear all the happy talk about the economy accompanied by all the “be afraid; the terrorists are coming for us” talk, you know the Gov is trying to distract us from something.
I don’t think things will fall apart tomorrow, or even in the next month – although those black swans do have a way of gliding in for a landing at the most unexpected times. I do think we might be heading into real trouble by the end of the year. That’s not the time to be trying to get ready.
So, what can you do to get ready? John Michael Greer’s Involuntary Poverty is where we all probably should have started a decade or two ago. If you’re late getting started, here’s a good post to start with. http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-camp-amid-ruins.html
For those of you who are already involuntarily poor or on small fixed incomes, you might read through the Doom and the Working Poor series linked at the top of this blog for ideas.
There are many other blogs with ideas and ways to lower your dependence on the infinite growth, consumer driven systems that are failing and simplify your life.
Learn to garden. Grow as much of your own food as you can, even if it’s container gardening on your apartment balcony.
Learn some useful skills that don’t depend on this oil energy dependent economy or look around your community for ways you could make a living from ones you already have.
Get out and stay out of debt.
Learn to “use it up; wear it out; make do or do without.”
Make these changes permanent.
Above all, start now.
I’m sick; it’s not fatal, but I’m more tired than I can remember in my life. So I’m going to the doctor on Tuesday and I’ll see my regular readers here on the blog next Saturday. Have a lovely week.
January 10, 2015
Despite today being sunny and cold, here, with the promise of a warm-up later next week, things are looking pretty cloudy in the oil patch over the unfolding year ahead – and, sadly, what happens in the oil patch doesn’t stay in the oil patch. Here are some articles that point out the many ways that what’s happening with oil could go badly wrong.
http://www.dailyimpact.net/2015/01/09/the-crash-of-2015-day-9/?utm_content=bufferbf710&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer (Very doomy; not for the faint of heart)
And of course, there are other problems leaking over from last year that may have implications for our economy this year, despite all the happy news from the government.
As will our continuing economic warfare with other countries that may yet blow up in our faces. (Think Russia/Ukraine, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and who knows how many other countries in less overt ways.)
As will the softening of the world economy – Europe, China, Japan – not to mention the effects of the strong dollar and the promise of raising interest rates by our Fed on emerging market debt.
The world economy is too intertwined to be otherwise.
So, hopefully, having given those of you who don’t pay much attention to such things enough to get you thinking, here are my basic resolutions for the new year:
(1) Expect the worst; hope for the best
(2) As much as possible, get my ducks in a row
Fortunately, the repairs and other chores on the to-do list from last year have been done. And, in that spirit, here is the beginnings of this years list:
(1) Get that plumbing issue resolved! (This after consulting with two different plumbers, each of which thinks the other is wrong on what the problem is.)
(2) Small health issue which will hopefully be resolved by the end of the month.
(3) Start the transplants for the two gardens over February and March.
(4) Get some hooks and accessories for the newly installed pegboard panels and organize my tools so I can actually find them when I need them.
As for this winter’s activities, the three heads of cabbage growing in the back room appear to be forming heads – unlike last year’s cabbage- and I have had some small salads from the lettuce and spinach, with more to come. Small victories in the ongoing battle to be more self sufficient.
Overall, it seems to me, 2014 was the year of the Empire sawing away at its own nose to spite its face. I fear that 2015 might be the year the nose falls off, so I’m getting as ready as I am able. You might want to do something similar.
Waiting on the resolution to a plumbing problem (thankfully small in the grand scheme of plumbing problems) and cleaning up the (again, small) mess left in its wake. I’ll be back next week.
December 27, 2014
There will be no more life lessons from Little Cat on the blog. Sadly, she passed away on my lap last Sunday morning, while I stroked her fur, talked to her and offered her every enticement I could think of to postpone that last journey. Alas, she could not. A neighbor helped me bury her in the backyard near the garden, under a shrub where she often enjoyed refuge from the summer heat.
She was really my son’s cat, if one can be said to own a cat. He found her in an animal shelter – a one-week-old, six ounce ball of white fluff – almost fifteen years ago. When we bought the house, three years later, she became our cat, even though she lived downstairs with him. And last year, when he moved to California by motorcycle, he left her with me out of respect for her advancing age and she became my cat.
On the whole, it was a mutually beneficial relationship. I provided her with food, shelter and a clean litter box; she helped keep my blood pressure in check by allowing me to stroke her fur and scratch her ears while we watched TV together in the evening and made this large house seem less empty by feigning rapt attention to my one-sided conversations.
Over this last week, though, I was a little surprised at how many accommodations I’d made to this friendship once I no longer had to make them, how routine they had become and how little bother most of them had really been, in the grand scheme of things.
For example, I could leave the library door open, knowing she wouldn’t climb into my favorite, nubby-textured chair to scratch her back by rolling around in it, leaving it covered in a tangled film of long white hairs.
I could walk down the hallway without fear of stepping on her, as she dashed between my feet to see where I was going and whether there might be food involved.
And, I could finally move the big container with my spinach and lettuce to those spots where it would get the most sunlight in my back room garden, rather than a place where she couldn’t jump into it because she was certain I’d given her a box full of dirt – complete with a carpet of grass-like stuff – for her to sleep in.
I also realized, she probably had her own list of accommodations that she’d made over this year. (She did finally eat most of those dreadful cans of cat food I bought, when I couldn’t remember her favorite brand. She did catch several mice that wandered into the back room, last winter, even when I kept snatching them up in a paper towel and rudely tossing them out the back door while she was still playing with them. She did help me cement several good friendships over this last year with her charming ways. And she did accept that, though I was only a poor human and not a superior species such as a cat, I was a worthy friend.)
So I suppose, dear readers, that is Little Cat’s final life lesson for us all – that the larger part of any good friendship is mutual accommodation to our differences, whether you’re a cat or a human.
Happy new year, everyone.
December 20, 2014
So, am I the only person in America that thinks Sony and Seth Rogan kinda, sorta deserved the bitch-slapping they got from North Korea last week? That our much vaunted (and much whined about) Freedom of Speech(TM) is not the same thing as freedom from responsibility for that speech? Or, that a movie about a CIA plot to assassinate the (justifiably) paranoid leader of North Korea just might not have the comedic value Mr. Rogan seems to see in it – especially to that leader?
And frankly, I’m not very impressed with a multibillion-dollar international conglomerate that is apparently too dumb to spend a few million bucks on encryption technology. Welcome to the 21st century, guys.
Or with the threat that North Korea supposedly issued; you know, the one that shut down all the showings of Seth’s movie and took away our right to put out any stupid thing we want and call it free speech?
But, really now, folks, are you telling me, a country that could pull off such a sophisticated hack doesn’t have a single soul that knows English well enough to write a threat that doesn’t sound like the Hollywood version of an Oriental super-villain from a grade-B spy movie? (Or, if I were a little more conspiratorially minded, like some CIA agent’s version of what a North Korean super-villain might sound like?)
It’s not that I approve of hacking other people’s stuff – whether ours or theirs – nor do I imagine that Kim Jong-un is a particularly nice guy. It’s just that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine that the little guy has hundreds of North Korean terrorists lurking outside our movie theaters, armed with explosives, ready to commit hundreds of 9/11 type atrocities on unsuspecting movie goers. (Do you ever think about what an effective trigger that phrase is for rousing slumbering Americans to empty-minded rage?)
Well, I suppose we’re due for a whopping good international “incident” to distract us from the effects of plummeting oil prices that are whipping around the world and that will soon be coming home to roost in our own little oil patch and the banks that finance it. And it might as well be defending our God-given right to be stupid from those vicious North Korean hordes.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone.
December 13, 2014
Lies told often enough do not become truth. Torture is still torture, no matter how many times we call it enhanced interrogation. War is still war, no matter how many times we call it bringing peace. Subjugation is still subjugation, no matter how many times we call it bringing freedom and democracy.
The least dangerous aspect of believing your own lies is that people just quit trusting you; the most dangerous aspect is that real truth has a way of coming out (usually when you’re most vulnerable) and knocking you on your behind.
We may not be quite that vulnerable yet, but we’re well on our way when so many of our governmental, corporate and financial elite believe their own lies – whether it’s that torture is only enhanced interrogation; that war is the only way to peace; that economic subjugation brings freedom and democracy. Or whether it’s that climate change isn’t real and ongoing and if it is, we have time to adapt to, or mitigate its effects through technology; that we can outlast the dangers of falling oil prices on our “100 years of oil and gas” in order to wreak economic havoc on our designated enemies; that our economy is strong enough to sail through a global slowdown with no effect; that our military could win a nuclear war or a third world war; that we are exceptional and indispensable enough to run roughshod over any country that we please without blow-back.
In a Gallop poll, taken early this year, 80% of Americans who were asked how often they trusted the government responded never/almost never. That doesn’t bode well for any country – or for its people – let alone, an empire in decline.
But, what our government has done to the trust of the rest of the world with its reprehensible policies and of the lies about what we do, versus what we say we do, can only increase our vulnerability and hasten our decline as those lies we’ve so pompously declared as truth come back to destroy us.
December 6, 2014
After reading, this week, about how falling oil prices – and, thus, falling gasoline prices – will be such a boon to the global economy (and lord knows it could use a little boon, right now,) I’m trying to decide whether we’re being deliberately lied to or whether all this happy talk is just a form of whistling past the graveyard.
For example, this article from The Economist says¸ “Cheaper oil should act like a shot of adrenalin to global growth. A $40 price cut shifts some $1.3 trillion from producers to consumers. The typical American motorist, who spent $3,000 in 2013 at the pumps, might be $800 a year better off—equivalent to a 2% pay rise. Big importing countries such as the euro area, India, Japan and Turkey are enjoying especially big windfalls. Since this money is likely to be spent rather than stashed in a sovereign-wealth fund, global GDP should rise.” http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21635472-economics-oil-have-changed-some-businesses-will-go-bust-market-will-be
But, as others have pointed out, this isn’t necessarily true. If you have $100 and you spend five dollars less on gas and then, spend that five dollars on food, you haven’t added an extra five dollars to the overall economy. You’ve only shifted that five dollars from the oil (gasoline) part of the economy to the food part of the economy. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/cheap-oils-economic-benefits-may-be-a-big-myth-2014-12-04 The only way to add that five dollars (or that $1.3 trillion) to the overall economy is to turn at least part of it into debt (take out a new loan or open a new credit card). That part of it would count as new money and be counted as global growth. Undoubtedly, some businesses will, but I hope none of us low-wage earners are silly enough to do that. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-05/us-factory-orders-tumble-miss-most-january
The other problem with low oil prices, especially if they continue to drop or the low prices continues for a while, is that we are mostly dependent on expensive-to-produce oil (shale oil, oil sands, deep-water oil) and, while many wells that are currently in production can continue to produce at low prices, future production projects may not. http://gcaptain.com/150-billion-oil-projects-face-axe-2015/ These projects are heavily dependent on debt, especially high yield (junk) bonds for financing, making up almost 20% of the junk bond market. Also, shale oil wells deplete rapidly and new wells must constantly be drilled. If low oil prices cause some of these companies to default on their loans, the loans may dry up. As current production dwindles, loans may dry up for new projects and so will much of the oil supply we count on. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-05/energy-bond-crash-contagion-suggests-oil-will-stay-lower-longer
In addition, we may be overestimating how much shale oil can be produced. This article from Nature is about natural gas, but many who follow oil production carefully feel the same can be said for the oil plays.http://www.nature.com/news/natural-gas-the-fracking-fallacy-1.16430
The other area where we seem to be whistling past the graveyard is in the economic news. All I heard on the network news was how great the jobs report was this week and how the economy is really taking off. Hmmm, maybe we might want to re-examine that. Several news sources say it might not be so great, after all. http://www.nbcnews.com/business/economy/hold-jobs-report-wasnt-so-great-after-all-n262641
So, my advice, for what it’s worth? Enjoy the break from high gasoline prices, but remember, all those silver linings have a cloud attached. Just watch out for all that whistling going on.
November 29, 2014
Thanksgiving was beautiful. The day was cloudless and sunny, with temperatures in the mid forties by afternoon. I went with friends to one of their parents’ home for dinner. The meal was delicious and the visit cordial. Afterward, loaded with leftovers, we stopped to visit a friend who had to work, leaving some of the bounty with her. Then, I went home for a very traditional after dinner nap on the divan – and damn the calories. I suspect I wasn’t the only one.
I cherish such days, such friendships, such experiences, tucking them away with as much care as I do extra canned goods and gardening tools. I’ve done this all my life. They are as important to me as the gardens I plant and as much a preparation against hard times to come as they have been against hard times past.
Though I must admit, I’ve squandered a few with pettiness or anger, walked right by others – distracted – and failed to appreciate some until I’d scrubbed off a little of the grime and realized the value of what I had. And I’m not so vain as to imagine that others haven’t had similar reactions toward me.
Nevertheless, we live in a declining Empire, well on its way to the next downward step in that decline. We can fear all the correct enemies of that empire, hate all the right people, shop ‘til we drop, go in debt up to our eyeballs. None of this will save the Empire. For most of us, life is going to get appreciably more difficult. We’re living at the end of an extraordinary and, frankly, aberrant period of abundant energy and resources – one that we’ve mostly squandered – and are going to have to live with the consequences as they grow scarce.
The government may have promised us something different, but life never has. We can tear ourselves and the world apart with anger and self pity or we can cherish the good days, the good friends, the good experiences, storing them away – food for the heart – with the same care we’d store away food for the body. And we can be thankful.