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helwen: (Tower)
Bad news everywhere these days.... birds and fish and crabs dying in large numbers all over the world, crude oil still messing up LA's marshes, and plenty of other things besides. Then there's the latest, that shooting of several people including a congresswoman (still alive and responsive), but also a number of deaths including, sadly, a 9yo child -- the shooting happened outside a grocery store, so folks from all walks of life were there. No doubt some folks are calling for banning guns or something. Do I think they should be banned? No, I don't, although I don't own any guns myself. Would it really stop crazy people from doing crazy things? Should knives be banned too? How about fertilizer or household cleaners?

Times are tough all over, political parties are polarized, and unfortunately the way a lot of folks deal with these stresses is bad for other folks.

Tolerance and moderation are in short supply. Those of us who can still be so, need to do our best, but be aware that the veneer of civilization is increasingly thin for some of the people we meet as we go about our lives.
helwen: (Tower)
No, not me, I have enough to do here. Just needed to put down a quick opinion on the recent job loss of a friend of mine, who worked at Mercy Hospital. Mercy's being run by the same sort of folks who run corporations, where the way to improve the bottom line is to fire people. So of course they didn't let go any of the upper administration, nor did they let go anyone at low wages, EVEN IF THEY HAVE DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS OR WARNINGS WRITTEN UP IN THEIR RECORDS.

No, they let go of 350 employees, all of whom were people with years of experience and expertise, because it would save them money. Then re-wrote job descriptions for "new" positions. Of course my friend and the others are welcome to apply, having lost any accrued seniority they might have. Plus, the description are written in such a way that you'd have to be an NP or MD to qualify -- no good to these former employees, and really not a great deal for any NP or MD, who'd be working for less than they might like. No respect for their former, current, or potential employees, or for the community they're supposed to be serving.

Hopefully my friend will land a new job soon, but seeing as a lot of companies are stupidly still going by the myth that if you're unemployed there must be something wrong with you... well, I'll keep hoping for her.

And this is how some people end up homeless, folks. Greedy, short-sighted people running business for "profit". Not sure how profitable decision's going to be, down the line; I sure wouldn't want to go there for any medical attention.

The Economy

Jun. 2nd, 2009 11:16 am
helwen: (Default)
Interesting and thoughtful post by Greenpa:
The Problem is: Men. Near the beginning he also refers/links to a recent post by Sharon Astyk on the economy, for those who haven't read that one yet.

Greenpa has an interesting background; well educated, naturally ornery, and has been living a pretty low-impact life for over 30 years. It isn't necessarily the best or only way to live, but for those interested in one way of living, plus his rather different views on how things are going in the world these days, he's worth a look.

This particular post discusses the origins for the terminology "informal" and "formal" economies. I think he's right that "informal economy" is a denigration of what are in fact very necessary things to our lives -- getting food, cleaning, cooking, making clothing (making textiles before that), raising kids (if you or friends or relatives of yours have them), healing people, finding/building shelter, etc. Obviously there are many parts of this that are now also part of the "formal economy" because of trade/selling/buying, but that isn't the focus of the essay.

Greenpa suggests "Primary Economy" instead of "Informal Economy", because in point of fact the above basics were first. "Informal" can imply "unnecessary". That makes the "Formal Economy" the "Secondary Economy" of course. And since it came second, and couldn't exist without the first, I think they work pretty well as terms.

Well, it's a pretty thought-provoking essay, so go check it out (and Sharon's too, if you haven't yet).
helwen: (Default)
I posted a bit on Paulson's bailout plan in September 2008, which a new person responded to this week with the following (he only joined LJ in January, so he's new here):

The current Obama Bailout Plan is on progress but we have to do our share in coping with the economic crisis the country has for years now.

(there's a link to a description of the bailout plan in his post, see above link to get to it in comments)

Here's my response:

We are coping. We're doing the best we can, at least the 'we' here on the farm -- can't speak for the rest of the country. The Bailout Plan has good intentions (and yes, I voted for Obama), but quite frankly I don't think that some of the banks being bailed out should be, especially when they're using the funds in such poor ways. And they complain about all the restrictions, when if they'd only restrained themselves in some ways, they wouldn't have had to deal with it all in the first place. A lot of people in banking and investing behaved for years as if they could do anything and it would be all right and it would make money for everyone, and paid no attention to the realities of limited resources.

The gov't can only get so much money out of taxpayers, with more folks going into the unemployment line (and yes, I know it's slowed down some, but it is still increasing). The alternative is printing up more money, which they have done. Continuously printing out more paper money devalues the money -- this should make sense to anyone. Gold and other metals are valuable in part because of their rarity, not just their physical properties. If we had a lot more gold available, people wouldn't be after it to wear as jewelry to show off as status symbols. It is the same with paper money and bonds and the like -- make some whenever you like and it becomes devalued. Then what happens when someone wants to cash in?

I don't expect miracles overnight. But I also don't think the plan is realistic enough or tough enough.

And quite frankly, the idea that our way of life (not mine personally but the perceived "American" way of life) being non-negotiable is a piece of crap. Obama himself said in his inaugural speech that this didn't need to be defended or changed, that it was fine to want to have everything people were used to having. But it isn't. Not everyone can have a flat screen tv, 2 cars, drive as much as they want, overheat their homes in cold weather and overcool them in hot weather.

We are supposed to be responsible adults, and we are not the only people on the face of the planet. The economy as currently run, with the idea of infinite and ongoing growth, is unworkable and has to change.

I did post an apology to him for coming on quite so strong in response to someone who's new here (which I didn't know until I went to look him up and see if he was someone's friend. No idea how he found me). However I don't apologise for how I feel about the current mess. The government will do whatever it thinks is right, right or not, and we'll do what we have to do to keep going too. My hope however lies not with the "plan", but in my friends and family, my community, and the garden out back.


Dec. 3rd, 2008 11:22 am
helwen: (Tower)
Credit Card Industry Cutting Credit

Possibly as much as $2 trillion U.S. in credit may be cut. Some folks are already experiencing having their limits lowered and/or interest rates raised. I read a month or so ago about one guy who closed his consulting business because they kept lowering his limit so he never had any amount available on his account, which he needed to pay for travel expenses.

And apparently the second most common use for credit cards right now is buying food at McDonald's. Crazy, since with the interest on the card the meal becomes a lot more expensive than it would be with cash.
helwen: (Tower)
30 Nov

Look well to your walls,
Check your stores against the storm,
The world is changing.
This is always a true thing
yet never more true than now.

Today's post has links to articles on overoptimizing and a mysterious and complete lack of acorns and hickory nuts in some areas of the U.S. (yeah, it's serious).

*** Overoptimization

Kurt Cobb's article The Overoptimized Society may be of interest to some.

Over-optimizing is the action of bringing more of an activity under fewer or one umbrella(s) for the sake of efficiency. But when an error is made, the consequences are greater -- see the banking/investment industry for an example. But not the only example:

But overoptimization isn't just limited to the banking industry. In fact, it is everywhere, and it makes for vulnerabilities across multiple fronts that quite often interact with one another. We've built a system too complex for any human to understand. Therefore, when something major goes wrong, no one can be sure how to correct it.

Witness the floundering attempts to revive the comatose credit markets. The seemingly incoherent policy shifts exhibited by U. S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are not so much a result of incompetence as a reaction to the opacity of the global economy and the inability of anyone to grasp its workings or interpret its supposed signals.

As for the vulnerabilities across multiple fronts, one need look no further than the world's ports. The financial crisis has slowed many to a crawl as exporters worry that importers on the other side of the ocean may not be able to pay them. Banks are reluctant to issue letters of credit guaranteeing payments when they can't be sure the bank on the other side of the transaction is sound. This has driven dry cargo rates down 90 percent from their highs this year forcing some shipping companies to simply idle freighters. In addition, several shipping companies are on the verge of bankruptcy. And, that means orders for new ships are plummeting as well driving shipbuilders toward bankruptcy or at least consolidation.

Cobb also discusses overoptimization in agriculture and power. The loss of power in 2003 from Detroit to New York and from the Ohio River to northern Ontario (started by trees falling on power lines and then a cascade of failures through the grid) could have spread to New England except that ISO New England was doing its job and severed our connection to the rest of the national grid in time.

*** A few thoughts

So far in our area things are relatively stable, at least compared to some other parts of the country. My SIL Doris told me last week about prices of gas in October when they were in Indiana for the wedding, and how the prices in Illinois (where one of the families is from) were nearly 50 cents higher per gallon than in Indiana, whose prices were a bit higher than here in MA. Reason for this is partly differences in taxing of gas by state but also where the gas is coming from.

Not all places are affected by the same issues to the same degree, be it jobs, gas, heating, cooling, cost of food, housing, weather, fires, etc. But some problems are becoming more universal over time, and it would seem that our much-vaunted methods for maintaining a global economy may be both a party in causing these problems and also a victim of it.

In the comments to one of Sharon Astyk's posts someone mentioned that they'd thought they were doing all right and then the husband got notice that his job would be gone at end of year. At that the wife said they were among the lucky ones, since some people were terminated that same week that he got notice.


From DC area up into parts of Pennsylvania there are regions with not an acorn or hickory nut to be found. Last year was a mast year in many regions. This year there are reports of starving squirrels and an increase in squirrel roadkill (traveling further and more boldly to find food):

Acorn watchers wonder what happened to crop

Rod Simmons, one of the botanists interviewed for this article, hunted for signs of nuts in his region along with other botanists and haven't been able to find anything. A zero production year is unheard of. Greg Zell, a naturalist, starting searching online and finding discussion of no acorns:

reporting the same thing from as far away as the Midwest up through New England and Nova Scotia. "We live in Glenwood Landing, N.Y., and don't have any acorns this year. Really weird," wrote one. "None in Kansas either! Curiouser and curiouser."

Theories abound but no one really knows why the lack of nut production. Hopefully it's a fluke and next year will be normal. In our area we have plenty of acorns and quite a few black walnuts, so this is one area that has plenty of squirrels and chipmunks. They've been plenty busy though, so we're expecting some heavy winter weather this year.

*** A few more thoughts

Might seem odd, combining these two rather different articles, but the common thread for me is the non-dependability and uncertainty of resources. Although I hope everyone reading this continues to have their needs met in whatever way they are being met, and better besides, it cannot be counted on.

If you can store some goods against the future, now is a good time to do so, especially with all the holiday sales. If you can pay down debts, do so. If you can set some money aside, do so. And if you're doing well enough to donate some food or money to the local food pantry, that would be good too -- they're in more need than ever with our current economy, and we need to keep them going -- day may come when one of us needs them ourselves.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best!
helwen: (MacGyver)
China's economy is suffering from US slowdown, which may make borrowing money for the US just a tad more difficult....
China's economy slowing down

The one plus I saw with China's economy slowing down is that with factories closing down, they're putting less pollution in the air (do a search on 'brown cloud' to see what I'm talking about). Tough times for folks everywhere though.

On the environmental minus side though, with China producing less, they also don't need much in the way of recyclables for making packaging for their products:
Recyclables mounting up

So with the global economic slowdown, recyclables are stacking up all over the U.S, and likely other places too. If folks want to be more environmentally conscious, at least right now just putting things out for recycling is not enough. We're going to have to work harder at not bringing things into the home in the first place, and finding creative uses for some things (like re-using glass jars from food for storing beads, nails, beans, rice, various dry goods). I'm sure there are lots of uses for jars.

On cardboard and newspaper, that might be tougher for some folks. Although I've seen some creative use of carboard for making furniture -- gluing layers of corrugated cardboard together to create "boards" for shelving for instance. Or making stronger boxes for storage than just a single layer of cardboard might be. Or picture and mirror frames...

Since we have a wood stove now, we've decided that making paper bricks might make sense now. Burning straight paper isn't great for stoves, but bricks would be similar to some types of wood, so more efficient for heating. I know, burning things creates CO2 -- that's why we insulate so we don't have to use as much fuel as the average American. And it's still a more renewable and sustainable energy resource than oil. But obviously we'll have to continue to work on minimizing how much potential waste material comes into the house. It's also apparently possible to make paper bricks for building construction; like wood only different, I guess... but we aren't building anything right now, so...

Sustainable Village brick maker
Ubergizmo brick maker

Did some reading up on paper bricks. In the U.S. most newsprint inks are soy-based now, so not burning lots of toxins. To make good bricks the paper needs to be very thoroughly soaked so that it will bind together better, not burn one layer at a time, and be dense enough to be like wood again. They take a long time to dry. Drying on screens is a good idea, for complete air circulation. Not something that can be made and used immediately. But if made properly, they burn well enough.

In the meantime, we just used a lot of crumpled up newspapers to stuff a sitting cushion we got from Your Inner Vagabond 3 years ago (yes, we finally stuffed it this year). Now that we've sat on it a few times, it looks like it could use a few more papers, which we can get from the folks downstairs -- they get newspapers regularly. We only get the local paper (very small, sent to all residents of Ashfield).
helwen: (Tower)
Things are going well here on the farm -- moved a bunch of stuff, got the bugout kits mostly re-packed and sitting pretty in the closet. L folded up the sofa bed -- we've had it out since just before Pennsic :D Did some clean up in the pantry, with more to come no doubt. Have to get to the fingerlings tomorrow. Weather was great today and promises to be nice tomorrow too.

Unfortunately things are not going so well in TX, LA, and other states because of Ike. It's a fact that a lot of people from Texas won't be going home any time soon, and given the photos I've seen of Galveston Island and some other places, possibly never. Certainly many won't be going back to their exact homes at the very least, since those don't exist any longer. I expect a lot of folks will end up being permanently re-located.

Meanwhile, Lehman's isn't being bailed out (which is actually a good thing, although hard on the investors and employees), and the U.S. Fed gov't has said they're done bailing these guys out. Merril Lynch will probably be bought by Bank of America but AIG is teetering as well.... meanwhile, although the stock market dropped 504 points Paulson points out that it could have been much worse (which is true), but that things will work out in the end (possible). But him and Bush commenting that the economy is still fundamentally sound.... um, what? I don't think anyone can claim that until the dust has settled from things like the current housing troubles, among other things, and that isn't likely to settle until next year at the earliest.

What can us regular folks do? Pay down/off debts, buy extra groceries if possible (they're going to go up), live within one's means, spend as little on utilities as possible, walk/bike/bus more, combine errands when driving, save some money aside if possible. But, don't forget to occasionally spend time with friends and/or family -- plenty of fun things one can do that don't require lots of money :)
helwen: (Default)
For those who drive and haven't had time to read about this, it's being guessed that gas prices will go up 15 cents over the weekend, in anticipation of Gustav and what damage the hurricane may do (oil rigs in the Gulf). It's gone up 1 cent since yesterday. Mind you, that would still be lower than it was earlier this summer. And of course if there is serious damage in the gulf and to more of the folks down that way, prices may go higher. Not that I don't think they'll go higher yet in the future, but let's get through the next week or so first....

We went down to Williamsburg this afternoon to make a bank deposit. I was mailing them for a while, but the post office lost a rather large deposit earlier this summer. As long as we can combine that trip with some other errands, I'm okay with driving to the bank. Otherwise, might look into certified mail to compare costs... may come a time when that's cheaper, strange as that might sound.

Harper's Retreat is out of the question for us, at least this year. Farmers market Saturday, work on the sugarhouse and surrounds as prep for Crestfallen, and just too far to travel after going to Pennsic. And I really do want to work on things around here now, rather than the day before the event!

Might go to the Tri-County Fair in Northampton though.... we need to get in a grocery shopping trip that includes Dave's Soda and Pet Food City, which is in the same town. Haven't been to the fair in years so I'm a little curious as to how it's doing. Still, $10 admission per adult... well, I'll see if they have a web site with a schedule of activities. I got to see an oxen draw last weekend, so if we could maybe see a horse draw, and check out the youth exhibits. When I was a kid I used to enter stuff I'd made into the youth exhibits (yes, I still have my ribbons, somewhere...) and at least one year I was one of the participants in a karate demonstration put on by class members from the YMCA.

Looking kind of gloomy outside, better go and bring in the laundry.
helwen: (Default)
Overall, traffic deaths in the U.S. have gone down:

Traffic Deaths Fall as Gas Prices Climb

There's a map of the U.S. as part of the article, so most people can check to see if their state's stats have gone up or down. A few didn't have available data.
helwen: (Tower)
Interesting article on 10-hour, 4-day work week

Colorado's starting to look at switching state employees to 10-hour, 4-day weeks. Utah will be implementing this starting next month (17,000 of their 24,000 employees). The hope is to cut down on fuel people have to use to get to work, cut down on greenhouse gases, reduce wear-and-tear on the highways.

For some departments, it might even save some heating/cooling and electricity, since some offices would probably be closed one day per week. Other departments like DPW would need to have some staff working M-Th and others working Tu-F, or some other combination if they need to have weekend coverage.

One of my brothers-in-law is in the National Guard here in MA and they recently changed from the 4-day week to a 5-day week, and I know he's very glad he has a car that gets fairly good mileage, but many of his co-workers don't, and they're definitely feeling the pain at the pump. I know people should switch to vehicles with better mileage, but not everyone can afford to do things like that, or they need to have the larger vehicle for carting lots of stuff around. A 10-hour, 4-day week could make it easier for employees to get more done around the home too -- all those important improvements like insulating, for instance, or spending more time with family.

I wrote to my governor, state senator and state representative about this today, including the link to the news article. And perhaps if they take it seriously and go for it, Mass. National Guard will re-consider its change to a 5-day week and return to the 4-day week.
helwen: (Tower)
I highly recommend this article on Getting Out of Debt.

It goes through how an example couple got out of debt, and has some suggestions, some of which people may find useful, others they'll no doubt reject. They're just suggestions, and maybe they'll be useful.

L and I have two cards, one of which we'll be getting rid of, and both of which are paid down to 0... I don't like using the bank card for online purchases, so I use a credit card and then send money to the card account as soon as possible -- I don't wait until the bill comes in the mail. I do still have one school loan, but we're working on that, even though the interest on it is very low (2.875%). So far, L's job has been stable and we certainly hope it stays that way, (knock wood!), but there are no guarantees in life, especially these days.

We're also going to work on changing from universal to term, for life insurance, which should help both with monthly expenses and being able to pay off the school loan. It's been a tough row to hoe at times -- harder when we owned a house -- but now it's nice to be able to spend money on stuff instead of on interest. Although, truth to tell, I can't say we _really_ suffered, because we were still going to SCA events and getting gifts for people and stuff like that, but things are a lot more relaxed now :)

Friends, family, a roof over our heads, and food in the pantry. It's all good.
helwen: (Woodsy)
Taking a break, and read Greenpa's latest post:
Media Cahoots

Got the link for this article from his post, about the fallout that's continuing from trouble with mortgages... NY Times article on IndyMAC being seized by government regulators

(NOTE: IndyMAC used to be part of Countrywide, which was bailed out earlier in the year by the Government)

Federal regulators seized IndyMac Bancorp on Friday evening, marking one of the largest bank failures in American history.
Skip to next paragraph

The bank, once part of the Countrywide Financial Corporation, is the first major bank to shut its doors since the mortgage crisis erupted more than a year ago. (IndyMac is not related to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the big mortgage finance companies that alarmed the stock market this week.)

The closure followed a frenzied week during which IndyMac’s executives tried to bolster the ailing bank. IndyMac, based in Pasadena, Calif., stopped making new loans and announced layoffs of more than half of its 7,200 workers. But IndyMac’s customers, afraid their savings might disappear, stampeded tellers and demanded their money.

Most of IndyMac’s deposits are guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which will operate the bank and try to sell it...

Greenpa gets a little cranky at times (and who wouldn't given some of the lovely things life has been tossing our way these days), but I've noticed myself that news items move around pretty quickly on some news sites... And he has lots of experience and knowledge about the environment/enviro sciences, DIY, and off-the-grid living too.


Farmers Market was nice today, met some interesting folks, and may have accidentally persuaded someone to try spinning again -- I had one of my drop spindles with me, getting a bit of work done at the market...

Meanwhile, sun is still shining, people are out baling hay.

Time to run.


Apr. 5th, 2008 08:28 am
helwen: (Default)
On the LOLcat meme I'm Lion Warning Cat. RARR!

On the Deity meme I had some fun playing around with it. Got The Chosen the first time, but got to thinking more about some of the questions, and got God. Then got into discussing some of the questions with [livejournal.com profile] fitzw because they more interesting than usual, and played around with the quiz. Interestingly, I could flip between The Chosen and God with just one question changed.

Gathered from the tanks this morning, bringing in 7-8 barrels of sap. Boiling started 10:15 a.m. and go for a few hours. Once again, folks are welcome to come see it (those who live somewhere near here, obviously). It's a bit on the light side, but we are getting dark.

Birds around here create quite the racket in the morning! All sorts, can't ID all of them. But at the least we have robins, sparrows, barn swallows, partridge, Canadian geese, Redtail and Cooper hawks, chickadees, Blue jays, cardinals, and I _may_ have spotted a few Bluebirds today. Watched a chipmunk running along one of the stonewalls too.

Neither losing nor gaining weight, but seem to be getting in better shape.

Weird and depressing stuff in the news... (weird) Boise, Idaho made top ten list for places with high terrorist threat (yes, the land of potatoes is higher ranked than L.A. or S.F.).

The analysis measured not whether a city would make an attractive target to a terrorist but rather how well it could withstand an attack, Piegorsch said.

"This wasn't a question of what places a terrorist wants," Piegorsch said. "The targetability is not an issue here; it's the vulnerability if they were targeted."

(Mostly depressing, feel free to skip over)
Violence between China and Tibet protesters, Blackwater got their Iraq contract renewed, U.S. employers cut 80,000 jobs in March... another airline closed down, the third in a week's time.

Arkansas is suffering yet more weather disasters (FEMA's had to visit twice in a month), and of course various tornadoes, floods, etc., all over south/southeast of the U.S. A busier hurricane season is predicted for this year too. La Nina is supposed to be active this year, which will apparently bring cooler temps this year (good or bad TBD; it's part of the considerations for number of hurricanes & tropical storms). 4 killed as Haitians riot over soaring food prices.

And, let's see... 52 girls taken from polygamist ranch in Texas, ages 6 months to 17 years. Only 18 have been formally taken into state custody and placement of these girls, who have led insular and sheltered lives until now, will have to be done with care.

... Um, think I'll avoid the news for a little while...

Oh, hey, here's one piece of good news! Rare birds are making a comeback in Cambodia, as hunters become park rangers.

Work to do today, of course. But thinking about taking a walk up Baptist Corner Road, maybe collect some trash and cans.

We may be gathering more sap this afternoon, or maybe tomorrow. Hopefully not tomorrow afternoon. Want to go to fiber textile guild gathering, and hoping L can come too.
helwen: (water drops)
Rice Rustlers in Thailand

Food Riots and Shortages Around the World, Affecting Middle-Class in Some Places, Not Only the Poor

Sharon Astyk wrote on this stuff today, plus a hilarious April 1 post on Buying Green.

Some farmers are looking at
turning more the Midwests' open plains and prairies into cropland -- nevermind that the plains and prairie aren't really suited to growing crops (I hope everyone reading this knows that not all soil is the same, some are richer than others, etc.).

Currently some of the land is used, not for crops but as a buffer between the cropland and environmentally fragile areas, helping to catch/filter the chemical runoff. Hm, combine this with a really good drought and.... anyone heard of the Dust Bowl?

Ah well. Hopefully there will be more rain in the west/south this year, and not just for the grain farmers. All the folks down there could use more water.
helwen: (me1)
Sharon Astyk's post today is basically about how in case the latest government fix doesn't stick, it might be good to look at what life was like say, during the Great Depression (~1929 - WWII). She has links to stories, even some audio accounts, plus some excerpts in her post. Which got me to thinking about my own family...

My father's family ended up having to sell or lose their home (I'm not sure which). I remember my dad saying that his father had to borrow money from him to pay for his mother's funeral... They sometimes stayed with a relative, more often in a boarding house and at least once in one of those work cabins (in Maine/NH area) for poor folks. My father was eventually old enough to join the army and served in occupied Japan, among other places. He sent back money to put his younger sister through school, because by then both parents were dead, and all their relatives were also in pretty dire straits during this time.

My mother's family managed to stay in an apartment. Her father died when she was only a few months old, so her mother had to raise her and her three brothers by herself. As soon as the oldest and next oldest brothers could, they were working after school to contribute. Her mother would also bring home all sorts of piecework -- putting buckles onto belts, shelling shrimp, whatever was available. In poorer times they would sometimes have sugar sandwiches or other similar cheap, unhealthy foods, to help stretch the budget.

My mother had a rounded, heart-shaped face so she didn't "look" thin enough to qualify for the milk program at school. At her tallest, she was 4'11" (now around 4' 7-1/2", because of scoliosis and bone and iron deficiencies).

Her mother came from China and didn't speak much English (her father was out and about in the world, and was bi-lingual -- a very enlightened and enterprising person, I wish I could have met him), so the kids had to help their mother to learn enough English to deal with going to department stores and such.

Of course, things would have been easier for them if her father's brother hadn't taken possession of the family's funds, only doling them out when her mother practically begged for money to help pay the rent, etc. (as a woman from China she didn't know this was wrong, and who in Chinatown would have come to her defense?). They lived in a two-bedroom apartment, with my mother sleeping on the sofa in the livingroom. In the hot summertime, people would sleep out on the fire escapes, as no one could afford fans.

For a little while, my mother's mother was a rice wine bootlegger, but a jealous neighbor ratted her out and she had to stop. When all 4 kids were old enough to work, life was easier of course, although never truly easy. But my mom definitely prided herself on being a hard worker -- when she was a cashier at one of the department stores, she was the fastest one at entering the prices :)

There are many stories of friends and families supporting one another during the Depression, but there are also many stories of abuse of trust and power from those days. My mother did the research as an adult, found the truth about the monies, and united her father's and uncle's families finally, in the 1980s. It wasn't about the money at this point of course, but about honor, face.

Both of my folks worked hard and were able (with help from the army in one case and from an older brother in the other) to go to college, and of course we kids had it a lot better than they did. But we haven't forgotten the stories. How could we? My mother instilled a particular way of thinking about shopping and purchases, of saving and creative work-arounds, such that even though none of us ever became too comfortable with having too much, or having to have the 'best'.

The newest computer in the apartment is 2-3 years old, and was bought by the company Lyle works for... none of the PCs currently in use were bought by us either -- all hand-me-downs, although we have purchased peripherals, upgraded memory, that sort of thing. My printer is probably one of the most expensive things we have in the tech dept, because it's a specialty art printer.

Of course we don't live as poorly as our folks did, but the stories, not just of the things they did to scrape by, but of the fun they had in different, creative ways, are good reminders that despite living in some pretty dark times, life went on. And not only did life go on, but neither of my folks lost their desire to serve and help others in whatever small ways they could.

It may be that the government and businesses and others will all work hard enough at the important things that hard times will not get as bad as they were back when my parents were growing up (yes, real estate sales are slightly up this quarter, but at lowered prices), and I certainly hope that we can work things out so all people who need help can get it, and that any hard times that come won't be long-lived. But I'll be working on saving and putting aside what I can, just in case it's needed -- whether by me or someone else. Because I do worry about a lot of folks I know, who don't have a comfortable buffer between them and any sort of serious emergency -- many folks in western MA have been living with hard times for years now, so we all do what we can to help... it's just that the help we can give isn't as much as is needed sometimes.

Save up, folks. Pay down your debts if you're able. Buy a bit of extra food when you go shopping, if something's on sale. If the economy holds steady, you have some extra food. If it doesn't, you have a small cushion against increasing costs.

Oh, and if you have in mind to order anything that's heavy, I'd advise getting it before June, as shipping costs are likely to go up this summer -- minimum purchase for free shipping has gone up at a couple of online stores I get art and office supplies from, and regular shipping costs have also been going up. Computers, printers, tents, all those great but heavy things...
helwen: (Tower)
Regarding posting the Pew Study link yesterday, I had a couple of folks question the results. They and anyone else is certainly free to do so. I don't necessarily accept them 100% myself, and everyone is wise to do research and not take things at face value. This particular study had to do with governance, administration, planning, maintenance of infrastructure, personnel training, general handling of finances. It does not by any means cover everything about government or other aspects of living in a given state. My mother would never live in NH, and I would never go back to CA (where she lives), although for different reasons.

Please don't assume that because I post something, that I believe everything in the post. Some things I tend to support, other things I think are ridiculous (usually I say so), some things are for humor... Most are just to put the information out there, so take it as you will. All my friends are intelligent folks, who can read and make their own informed decisions.

In New England, we have a joke/story about farmers/New Englanders that goes like this:

A person points at a farmhouse and asks the farmer, "What color is that house?"

Farmer looks at the house and says "It's white, on this side..."

The farmer isn't making an assumption that the house is painted white on sides. Now that may sound silly, but at least around here, if some folks are painting a house or barn themselves, it may take a while to get the job done. And because it might take a few years, they'll sometimes start on the back/less-seen-side of the building, so that when they get to the front, they can have it looking nice and finished 'sooner'. Or they might be trying something out, like William is on one end of the barn, trying to re-create how the barn used to look when he was much younger.

It never pays to assume that someone has a particular belief about something, or that he or she feels a particular way about something, regardless of how circumspectly or how openly he or she is discussing it.

It's the same in historical research or anything else. My mother's research into the Chinese Christian experience has certainly shown that -- European missionaries who gave their Chinese compatriots credit in various projects, which other Europeans conveniently left out of reports, or the Chinese bishop who everyone thought was so great for decades, until my mother dug up the real dirt on the money-grubber, or that fact that just because someone is a Christian, a Pagan, a merchant, a priest, none of those 'facts' tells you whether or not the person is kind to others, generous with time and skills, a hard-worker, etc., or a murderer, liar, thief, etc.

We live in tough times, which will probably get tougher for some folks this year, with the prices of _everything_ going up -- the harp we got last year has gone up by ~$50-60, for instance, along with gas, food, shipping, and more. It's something that some people have seen coming for longer than others, and yet knowing it doesn't make it any happier a thing. Although there are some folks on the web who seem quite gleeful almost about how things are going these days, the truth is that for most of the folks that have been watching things (at least the folks _I_ know), there is no satisfaction in being right. I've read the comments on Sharon Astyk's (Casaubon's Book) journal where she's been accused of being happy about it, and those people obviously haven't read her posts in-depth. She tends to be upbeat because she wants people to keep reading and keep trying to become more capable and do community building. That doesn't mean she's cheering on the end of the world! She has posts where she rants, where she's despondent, etc. also. Never make assumptions.

For those of us who can help others, our local, national, and global economies bear looking at because if we don't then we don't know in what ways we can help. For those of us who can't help others, it bears looking at because we have to figure out the best ways to help ourselves. And for the former folks, the latter is a concern too, because we can't help anyone if we end up out on the street ourselves.

No matter which "side" of the economic equation/house you're on, it's a hard time to be living in.

And that's _one_ assumption I think I can safely make, unfortunately.
helwen: (Default)
News article on what David Walker, Comptroller General of the U.S., has to say about the state of the U.S.: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/80fa0a2c-49ef-11dc-9ffe-0000779fd2ac.html


helwen: (Default)

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