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Posts Tagged ‘Economy’

Our Thanksgiving dinner spread the length of a couple of tables near a stand of moss covered oaks and cypress. The thought of not sitting at a table with china and silverware at first seemed odd, but then I thought back to the first Thanksgiving. Our setting was much more in tune with the Pilgrims and Indians. This arrangement had an unexpected bonus, too, the chance to meet new people.

The camper in the next site saw the bald eagle as I was moving closer to get a photo. When it flew back into the trees he thought he saw where it landed, so we moved farther into the grove as he told me he had never seen a bald eagle in Florida. He was in his thirties, olive skinned, and his dark eyes lit up at such a sighting. Unfortunately we didn’t see the eagle again. The only birds above us were a flock of buzzards. They didn’t mind having their picture taken.

Do you have any idea how much you can learn about a person in a few minutes while you walk back to camp?

“See that small tent?” he said, pointing to a dark green, small pup tent by the larger one. I’m working on a design for a bear proof tent. That one is much stronger than our large, commercial one, but not strong enough.

“My next one will be made from high tensile strength airplane cloth.” This is where he got really excited. “With that cloth you can make a hole only if you really hammer something into it, and then to rip it takes 600 pounds of tensile strength.”

I took it word for it that that was really strong.

I asked what he did when not designing bear-proof tents. He had been a pilot for a cargo company before the economy went down. Now he buys and sells cars. That led to a discussion of the economy and presidents’ effect on it. We were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but discussed the influence of Obama, the Bushes, Clinton and Reagan, agreeing on some points while remaining a chasm apart on others.

As we neared our camps I wondered about his wife, still sitting in her camp chair. Did she have these conversations with him—or with strange men she wandered into the woods with? And was she hot sitting there wrapped from head to foot in a long garment with a scarf around her head? So yes, you can learn a lot in a short walk in a campground, but you can also end up with a lot more questions than answers.

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My lucky charm, the resident black racer, showed up at exactly 2 p.m. yesterday. As you can see from these charts the market immediately started upward. Too bad he crawled away after a while, taking the market along. Yesterday’s dip wasn’t as bad as previous days, though. What will today bring? Where is my lucky charm?

 

Note: I had to remove the chart because I posted a live one, which is totally not relevant. Trust me, it went up at 2 p.m.

birds-pond-snake-041-1

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MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics writer says Social Security checks are going up $63 a month for the typical retiree — the largest increase in more than a quarter century but likely to seem puny to the millions who have been watching in horror as Wall Street lays waste to their retirement nest eggs.

 

He goes on to say the Senior Citizens League said (doesn’t he believe them?) it did a study that indicated people 65 and over have lost 51 percent of their buying power since 2000, with the price of home heating oil and gasoline more than doubling since the beginning of the decade and such food staples as eggs and potatoes showing big increases as well.

 

Well, I guess seniors were the only consumers to face these increases for eggs and potatoes, heating oil and gasoline. How does that work? You’re under 65, you get a discount? Oh, I forgot. You get a discount all over the place if you are AARP age. Don’t forget 10% off Mondays at TJ Maxx, Tuesdays at Marshalls (or vice versa).

 

If Crutsinger has really taken the pulse of seniors, what a bunch of whiny, ungrateful, wrinkled old buzzards there are out there. We are talking 5.8% increase. How many younger workers do you know who got that kind of raise this year? (Excluding CEO’s of failed, bankrupt and bankrupting companies)

 

Yes, those felonious Wall Street crooks laid waste to retirement eggs, including ours, but who are we to expect hard working, young wage-earners to make up the difference? Their 401-K’s got battered, too.

 

So if you are a senior, stop your sissy, pathetic whining and enjoy your 5.8% raise by spending it where young workers who are contributing to the Social Security fund every working day will get a little benefit back. Maybe with the new money circulating around next year a few of their tedious, grinding jobs will be saved. It’s the least you can do.

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All last week as the markets tanked I crowded onto the website of Wall Street Journal like a moth to flame. And today the Dow ends up over 900 points. Is this for real or a euphoric blip? Should I have been selling today when the market didn’t tank after 3 p.m.? Only time will tell.

 

To my credit, I didn’t bite on any of those commercials flashing just below the market report all last week. The Jack Daniels bottle all but danced out of there and poured me a drink. Now that I understood the targeted marketing concept, I watched for someone to sell spots on the ledge of the 14th floor of an office building. A news story  running below was about San Francisco’s plans to install a chain net under its bridge, though its not there yet.  Wink Wink

 

For today, I will settle for pinning the tail back on the financial donkey. Besides I’m out of Jack Daniels.

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Ask yourself one question. Do you want McCain or Obama tinkering under the hood of our economic engine as it is sputtering and choking? All I can say is, either of them better have a darn good set of wrenches. Somebody needs to demand names of prospective staff and cabinet posts — and don’t allow them to get coy. McCain admitted he knows little of economics. I frankly don’t see anything in Obama’s background that gives me hope.  Marry off our country to a rich one or get cash from a nefarious friend don’t seem to be viable answers for the situation we are in. One of those light weights will be keeping your country’s checkbook. I can’t think of anything more important than knowing who will be sitting beside him licking the pencil lead.

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Ellen Goodman’s article (Self-serve and Slave) in the Orlando Sentinel this morning had my head nodding all the way through. She drew the line at a dinner invitation to a restaurant where they hand you a platter of raw foods and a hot pot. She decided if she wanted to cook her own food she would eat at home. Ellen, we are sisters under the skin.

 

Perhaps I carry it too far. It annoys me to choose what goes on my hamburger. It’s a hamburger! Put everything on it like they do in Texas. I understand the concept of personalized sandwiches, but still don’t like to have to decide on each ingredient in a sub sandwich. I have to make those decisions in my kitchen every night.

 

But forgetting about food, Goodman recalls all the jobs we have to do for free now that stores once paid workers to do. We’ve been distracted by jobs sent overseas and don’t see how many jobs have stayed right here—but shifted to us – the ultimate free labor.  Ramming that first nozzle into our gas tank was the “gateway drug to self-help.”  Before we knew it, we were conducting our bank business with an automated phone or the Internet, storing our own medical records, copying and delivering reports, picking up scripts because our doctor stopped calling them in, analyzing our own prescription drug plan needs, weighing and slapping a price tag on produce, even checking out our own goods at Home Depot if we were so sappy, etc. etc.

 

Now I am picturing our parents or grandparents, poor as church mice by our standards, some living through the Depression, yet in many ways they were treated like royalty. Grocers kept a running tab for them, bankers knew and looked out for their finances, mechanics knew their car as well as their own, milk was delivered while they slept, clothes  brought to the fitting  room, doctors came to their home, long-time insurance agents advised on every aspect, and on and on. Sure they had to make many of their clothes, grow and can much of their food, share a family car, but the niggling little “unpaid jobs” that add up to a whopping weight on our shoulders were not present. They used that energy to help neighbors—and got help the same way.

 

You hear so many older people say they never knew they were poor. Maybe it’s because they weren’t. Maybe they were our rich ancestors.

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BeforeAfter

I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves. There are still things to do, like backsplash, new window treatment, etc., but the big job is done. We stuck to local products as much as we could, and of course the labor was local. The biggest chunk of money we put in circulation was for cabinets, and they were made in Ocala, Florida. I’ll update when final touches have been done.

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Gas is almost $4 a gallon and you have no choice but to drive to work or drive on the job. What do you do? Some of you are squeezing mileage with every fuel saving trick in the book, inflating tires fully, coasting when you can, cutting off your engine instead of idling, cleaning your filters, etc. There is nothing you can do about the fact that the ethanol mixture you are forced to burn gives you about one mile less per gallon. You’d done everything you can possibly do. Maybe not. Maybe you need to think outside the gas tank.

 

My son is a roofing contractor, one of the many tradesmen whose job entails a lot of driving between worksites, estimates, getting supplies, and to the office several times a day for paperwork needed in the field. Gas was taking a bigger and bigger bite out of his profit. He planned his trips to reduce mileage, helping some, but not enough. There was nothing more he could do—or was there? Perhaps desperation is the true mother of invention.

 

Just today in one situation Jason saved about $10 in gas—just one situation. This is how. Last week he picked up a used laptop cheap, then a small printer, set the computer up with an Internet card from Sprint, copied office forms into the computer. So today, on the way back from Daytona where he made an estimate, printed and delivered it, he received a call to come by the office. There was a bill that needed delivering today. “Fax it,” he said. The bill was in his computer in minutes. He then printed it right in the truck and made only a slight detour to Apopka to deliver the bill.

 

I tell you this for two reasons. First I’m proud of my son’s creative thinking and second I am imagining how many gallons of oil OPEC would not be selling if only a fraction of tradesmen adopted a similar method. I know off site technology is being used in large companies, police departments, professionals, etc., but think of all the independent business owners you meet on the roads everyday. What if they each could save only three trips per week? How much would demand go down and supply go up? And dare we hope–prices come down? And that is aside from increased productivity.

 

Sure, do what you can to increase fuel efficiency, but don’t stop there. Tap into that great American resource—INGENUITY.

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