A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I know the picture is a little blurry, but it says -29 degrees Farenheit. It's a little cold out tonight in Alaska. If I were in Fairbanks, as my husband and 13 year old son are tonight, I would be even colder... it is -38 there. And it's not even the coldest part of the night yet.
What does this mean for us, who do not have central heating run on natural gas and/or electricity, seeing as how we have neither in our cabin? Lots of wood. We heat with a wood stove, and it has been going literally all day. Normally, I get it going real good before I go to bed, then start it again for a few hours in the morning, but not tonight. Tonight, I must set my alarm to go off every 2 or 3 hours so that I can get up and add wood to the fire.
Last night, it was -10 or -15, and I let the fire die out overnight. When I woke up this morning, it was about 50 degrees in the house. Not cold enough to be dangerous, but chilly enough that I was reluctant to get out from underneath my warm down comforter to start the fire again. But it is much colder tonight, cold enough to require vigilance. So I will be getting up during the night.
It is interesting, living with a heat system that we must constantly regulate. This is the first winter I have not lived in a house that just automatically stayed at the temperature I chose, without me doing anything, or noticing at all for the most part. It means that in very cold weather like this, I am tied to the house. I cannot be gone too long if I don't want to have to start another fire when I return. It is much easier to keep the fire fed than to start a new one.
In addition, I had, without thinking, planned for the entire family to go to Fairbanks these last few days, to visit my oldest daughter. Then I remembered what all of us being gone for 4 days would mean. The house would get cold. I have pets that would not be terribly comfortable if the house got cold, and we certainly have things in the house that should not freeze. So then, a friend volunteered to come over to the house once a day to light a fire, to keep the house at least above freezing. But luckily I looked at the weather reports and realized that it would be getting this cold. One fire a day just would not be enough. So, I stayed.
I am not complaining. I would have liked to have seen Meghan, but it doesn't really bother me to stay home. I am just fascinated by how differently we think about things when we have to directly manage our needs, as opposed to setting the thermostat at 55 and leaving for 4 days, knowing what temperature the house would be on our return.
I wonder how different our society would be if all of us had to have this level of consciousness of all of our daily needs? If all of us had to bake our bread each week and know how much wood had to be hauled in the house each day, and so on. It seems to me that there would be much less importance placed on status and more on practicality. For example, we have about 950 square feet of living space. We would be cutting, chopping, stacking, hauling, and burning much more wood if we had twice the space. While there is a part of me that would love to be living in a fancier house, most of me is glad we built small. Especially when it is cold outside.
Well, I am. After a year of depressing economic, climate, and other news, I am. I was reading The Automatic Earth (http://www.theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/) and in one of the news clippings there is this qote: "We’re in the midst of a downward spiral and the momentum is building." I know this quote is only part of an article about home prices, but I find it accurate, and chilling. This is how I have been feeling watching the news the past several months. Journalists are talking about how things are looking bad for the first part of 2009 then start talking about a turnaround. Frankly, I think we are no where near bottom, and things are not going to magically get better in the next 6 months. The downward trend is still accelerating, in everything but the stock market. If we were going to pull out of this thing by June, we would be starting to see the numbers slowing their descent, but the opposite is happening.
Home prices are still falling by increasing amounts. Lending amounts are still plummeting, which not only affects home sales, but many businesses rely on lines of credit that are rapidly evaporating. Consumer confidence continues to decline. Unemployment claims are higher than ever. Retailers report the worst holiday sales in almost 40 years. Even Toyota isn't selling cars anymore, never mind the big three lumbering dinosaurs in Detroit that can't see their hands right in front of their faces. This is all bad news for our economy. Our stock market has plunged almost 40% in the last year, the worst since the big crash during the Great Depression.
Economists are still calling this a recession, but I am going to go out on a limb and say we are only in the beginning of a long and deep depression. And we can't climb our way out of this one by going to war... we are already in a war and we are wasting trillions of dollars over there, and it is not helping.
Let's talk about oil. Oil prices are incredibly low, when you compare them to where they were this summer. I don't see it shooting right back up there immediately, but I can't see it staying this low indefinitely. Right now, the price for oil is low because of a precipitous drop in demand, due to the high prices and the tightening economic situation. Now, as prices have fell so rapidly, there are reports that out of the vehicles that are being sold right now, a higher percentage of them are SUV's than when gas was expensive. Toyota is reporting a significant drop in sales of their Priuses. And demand for oil is slowly starting to increase again. China is filling their strategic reserves. I have heard that beginning January 1, we will start doing the same again. I support that. It is much smarter to do it now than when it was costing us close to $150 a barrel for the stuff. But this will increase demand, which will in turn increase the price. Economics 101. I learned about how this works when I was 14 and taking my first economics course. So when prices start going back up, it will just crimp consumers, businesses, governments, everyone just a little bit more. One less thing looking positive for a quick economic recovery.
And then there is the long term aspect of the oil situation. I am not an expert, but I have been paying attention. It is my position that we are close to or perhaps even past a world peak in oil production. What does this mean for our economic recovery? It means that the oil we get out of the ground from here on out will be more difficult, and thus more expensive, to produce. We have already gotten the easy, cheap stuff. The places we are finding new oil now are in places like deep water gulf of mexico or terribly harsh conditions like the arctic ocean. And they are mostly smaller deposits. We are unlikely to find another Ghawar or three. And if the oil we can get is more expensive, then the oil producers have little choice but to shut in the wells that are uneconomic to produce at $40 a barrel. Or, the price goes up. There have already been indications that the less economic wells are being closed, and new projects in hard areas are being cancelled. This bodes poorly for medium term oil production, as it takes a long time to get oil from a new discovery.
There are so many things worrying me right now. I could go on with this post for days, it seems. Lending to business is shrinking, retailers are doing poorly. There are going to be fewer things on the shelves. If that means less cheap plastic crap from China, maybe that is a good thing for us, but not for China. They are having severe economic problems as well. But if less things on the shelves means less potatoes, less rice, less of the essentials, we will find ourselves in a crisis in a hurry. Farmers also need lines of credit. What will next year's harvest look like if the farmers can't get the credit to buy seed? Maybe this isn't critical at the moment, but if credit continues to evaporate between now and April, who knows? I surely don't. But I can tell you one thing for certain. I am planting a garden.
Yes, I am scared. I think things are going to get a lot worse. But I am thankful that at least at the moment, my job looks secure. I have a house that I don't owe a lot of money on. I have room for a garden, and a box full of seeds. I have plenty of wood to keep my house warm. I have health insurance, and a relatively healthy family, and a wonderful husband that can fix or build just about anything. I live in an area that gets plenty of rain and snow, so water is thankfully plentiful. And I was able to give my kids what they felt was a good Christmas, at least this year. My personal angst about Christmas has not dampened their pleasure. I have many things that can help see me through hard times, so I feel blessed. I realize that not everyone has those blessings, and my heart goes out to them, as things get harder.
2009 is looking like it will be one wild ride. Fasten your seat belts.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
And as for work? When I say busy, I mean it. 14 hours of overtime this week. Needless to say, I was determined to sleep in this morning, and I did, and totally enjoyed it. What kept me so busy? Well as many of you know, I am an investigator for the local child protection office, and I got assigned a new case with a baby that is a year old and weighs only 10 lbs. So when I saw this tiny baby, my immediate reaction was to tell the mom that we were going to the emergency room, RIGHT NOW. The baby had already been diagnosed with failure to thrive. There are lots of things that can cause a baby to be failure to thrive. If you admit the baby to the hospital, and feed it what it should be getting, and the baby starts gaining weight with no problems, that rules out any organic reason for the failure to thrive. It means that the parents are simply not feeding the baby enough, for whatever reason. So, the baby was admitted to the hospital, and now we just wait and see how she does, and also run some tests, blood work and such, to see if there are any other medical problems. However, from talking to this mom, it is pretty obvious the baby is not getting enough to eat, and not getting the right things.
Why does this happen? There are many reasons. And there are many factors within this family that have led to this. This family is an immigrant family, and there are language barriers. The family clearly has a lack of understanding of how to navigate the system to obtain services for their children. And there are certainly cultural issues at play. This little girl's two year old brother is perfectly healthy, except for a congenital defect that has required several corrective surgeries. Does this family come from a culture that devalues girls? I suspect so. In addition, only dad is working. Mom was fired because she took too much time off for her son's surgeries, so they face a loss of income as well.
All I can do is help mom access services and make sure that she follows up with this baby's medical needs. And if she can't do it, I will have to remove the baby from the home to make sure she gets what she needs to grow properly. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens. But I just feel bad for this mom, because it seems as though all the cards are stacked against her.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I think that is ridiculous. First of all, you have to consider the second amendment to the constitution. As everyone should know, this guarantees the rights of individuals to bear arms. It takes major effort and time to repeal a constitutional amendment, and it would never pass. Secondly, with the recent ruling from the Supreme Court that strongly supports gun rights, he would be fighting an uphill battle to actually create a gun ban that would not be struck down by the Supreme Court. Third, he is a brand new president coming into office already facing many challenges. I really don't think he would want to alienate large numbers of Americans by pushing a gun ban, when he has much bigger fish to fry, such as the economy and health care, that he enjoys huge support for. He will gain political capital by working on those issues, and can only lose it by banning guns.
I don't think we have to worry just yet about losing our guns, but people are sure acting like it. Alaska is already armed to the teeth, but in the last week, gun and sportsmen's shops have all but sold out of guns and ammo.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
We like this siding for several reasons. It is rustic in appearance, in keeping with the character of the entire cabin. It is a local product, made from Alaskan logs that are milled less than 5 miles from my house. And buying it helps a friend.
The last two reasons are especially important from my perspective. It is important to us that we were able to use local products, and we wish it would have been feasible to do this with the entire cabin. If we had wanted a log cabin, we could have done much more of it with local materials, but that wasn't what we wanted, as 8 inch log walls only have a R10 insulation value. With economic problems becoming more severe, and oil depletion quickly becoming a looming issue, it is absolutely vital that local products be used as often as possible, in part to cut down on the distance things are shipped, and in part because I believe it will soon become necessary to rely on local products for many items that will become not worth shipping, so we need those businesses to stay open.
In addition, there is the issue of helping someone I know. Community building is critical with the economic struggles our nation is facing. In times of economic crises, people depend on the people they know for support. Studies have shown that the people that best weathered the Soviet collapse had networks of friends, neighbors, etc outside of the main economic system that they relied upon. If things get worse, and I very much suspect they will, those community ties will become critically important. I buy siding from my friend. Maybe I will give some raspberry jam from next year's harvest to a friend. That friend may drive my kid to school. And so on. And if we all help each other, we will get by much better than each family struggling to do it all. And in the process, develop those social ties that are important on an emotional level as well. That friend that gave you a bushel of potatoes may be the person you call on the phone when your camel's back has been broken by that last straw, maybe something major like a foreclosure, maybe something little like a draining day with quarrelling children, and you just need someone to talk to. And maybe they may turn to you for something big, like space on the floor to sleep if their heat breaks in the middle of winter, or they run out of heating oil, and the barge doesn't come back til spring.
So, yeah, I have siding on my house :)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming … and the canary has died.” - Dr Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
I don't want to repeat the entire article linked above, but some of it, I just have to.
"The Arctic is key to the world’s climate, and Arctic changes have the potential to seriously destabilise the global climate system...The danger is that an ice-free state in the Arctic summer will kick the climate system into run-on warming and create an aberrant new climate state many, many degrees hotter. The Arctic sea-ice is the first domino and it is falling fast. Other dominos will inevitably fall unless we stop emitting greenhouse gases and cool the planet to get the Arctic sea-ice back. " [emphasis added]
So see, big deal, huh? Read on....
"And so the conclusions we reached in November 2007 were:
• Because of the dangerous knock-on effects caused by its loss, the Arctic sea ice must be restored to its normal extent as fast as possible.
• To get the Arctic sea ice back we need to cool the earth by about 0.3ºC. If we don’t, we cannot avoid very dangerous climate impacts. There is no third way. This is the new very inconvenient truth politicians seek to avoid.
• To cool the earth fast enough to get the Arctic sea-ice back quickly, we need to move to zero greenhouse gas emissions as fast as the economy can be restructured, and is environmentally safe to do so, and take about 200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air. We also need to find environmentally-safe mechanisms to actively cool the earth while navigating this transition. [emphasis added]
• Taken together this is a staggering task in terms of the necessary scale and speed of action, but there is simply no alternative if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. "
Catastrophic climate change. We are not talking a little bit warmer. We are talking mass eradication of species, severe desertification of current agricultural land, massive releases of methane from permafrost and arctic seabeds. And to prevent it, we have to not just cut back on greenhouse gasses. We have to stop them. Get to ZERO emissions. Heck, even my woodstove emits greenhouse gasses. The article suggests:
"The climate emergency requires leadership and courage, and an imaginative capacity almost completely lacking in ... politics today. We need to inspire people with the idea of transformative action, the willingness to promote a new vision of the future and make it the number one goal of our society and economy. It requires governments to put much of the enormous wealth generated by our economy into the solving the climate crisis. "
"If politicians cannot lead, then we all must, in building a movement across society that uses the brutal reality of our position to advocate and inspire the nation to take transformative action. We can only play this game once. If we don't do enough, or at sufficient pace, in building a post-carbon economy, the climate system will get away from our capacity to correct it. Trial and error climate policy is not an option. Waiting for the market is not an option. The Arctic is our Pearl Harbor."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
1. Bring the soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to keep them overseas. We can put that money to better use.
2. Repeal TARP, the $700 billion bandaid for the credit crisis. I have a couple of reasons for this. First, I don't think it will work. There is a lot more than $700 billion in bad paper out there, and once we start, where do we end? There was one bank that said it had over $300 billion all by itself. Secondly, the vast majority of citizens are against the plan, and I think we count a lot more than all the Wall Street corporations put together.
3. If a bank lent money it should not have, or an insurance company insured loans they should not have, or an investment firm made bad bets, they need to take their losses. If I were to invest money in the stock market, and lose it, or to lend money to someone and not get it back, there would not be any government agency standing by to hand me my money back. It should not work for them either.
4. Instead of this new economic stimulus package they are talking about, which is just another attempt at a quick fix, a get-rich-quick scheme on a national level, we should be investing that money in a way that will pay off in the future. Think New Deal. Invest in fixing the electrical grid that is old and worn out and in danger of a major collapse. Invest in alternative energy projects that will help reduce our reliance on oil. Get the railroads back in good condition, as shipping freight by rail is much more efficient than by truck. Get the CCC reactivated for these things. Not only will these things help us in the future, but using something like the CCC will create jobs. Unemployment is relatively high right now, and this type of program would help lower it, and thereby put more money in people's pockets. Slower than sending out a check to everyone, but more effective in the long run.
5. Institute a foreclosure moratorium for families who just had their rates readjusted or are newly unemployed. There should be some guidelines about this, so people that just decide to quit paying their mortgages because they are underwater don't get bailed out, and so that people can't just pay nothing and live there for free. Put in place rules for renegotiating their mortgages so that it is a uniform process.
6. Encourage victory gardens and local food production. Food prices are rising, more people are applying for food stamps, food banks are used to capacity and more. The cost of transporting food across the country is astronomical, and wasteful. For things like olive oil, that can only be produced in certain areas, fine. But Alaskans should not be buying potatoes from Idaho.
7. Create MAJOR incentives for increasing energy effciency. Things like carpooling, using public transportation, switching to higher mpg vehicles. We can save energy in other areas besides transportation too. The better insulated a house is, the less energy it takes to keep it warm/cool. Individual families that make plenty of money may not find this important, but as a nation, it is essential that we use less.
8. Create MAJOR incentives for making things here in the US. Almost everything I buy these days says it is made in China, Indonesia, somewhere besides the US. That needs to change.
I am sure I can think of other things, but this, to me, is a good start. I think it would help get us pointed in the right direction, away from the mentality that the only things that keeps the economy going are consumer spending and banks lending to each other.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
I love Alaska.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
BUT DID YOU HEAR THAT???? AN OVEN TO BAKE WITH. I am leaping with joy. I am absolutely, completely ecstatic because I have a real stove. This weekend, I will post pictures on my blog of my beautiful new kitchen.
I have three days off this weekend. I am absolutely thrilled to have all that free time. I don't know what I will do with it all.... oh wait, I will bake bread. I will knit. I will play piano. I will post pictures and erudite soliloquies on my blog. I will spend time with my kids, maybe playing in our snow. I will plant daffodil bulbs and hope they survive the winter. I will.... wait, what happened to all my free time????
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Well, no, I agree the Republicans don't give money to the average Joe. Or the poor Joe, who may be poor because he is lazy, or does drugs, or may be poor because he has limited abilities, or poor health, or something else completely outside of his control. Or poor Joe's kids, who are also poor through no fault of their own. But they sure as hell give it away. Who do they give it away to? Um, let's see.
- Oil companies that make the biggest profits ever seen get huge
- Banks that make stupid lending and investment decisions, lose BILLIONS of dollars, and still pay their worthless CEO's hundreds of millions of dollars per year, get huge
welfarebailout funds (um, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, maybe Lehman Brothers soon).
- The Big Three automakers, who couldn't see high gas prices coming (I could see it coming, and I am not getting paid a gazillion dollars a year to pay attention to what direction the market is going) and now can't get loans at a "reasonable" interest rate, looks like they will be getting more billions of dollars in
welfarelow-interest, guarenteed loans from the government to retool their factories so they can stay in business. Never mind that an individual that made stupid decisions and blew their money can't get a loan at a "reasonable" interest rate either... it's common sense not to lend in that situation, but let's hand out money to the Big 3.
- Airlines, who also didn't see the high gas prices coming, are getting huge
welfaresubsidy payments. They are going bankrupt anyway, one by one.
I could keep going. But individual people, who didn't see high gas prices coming, can't get any increase in the heating assistance program, even though heating costs, especially for those dependent on heating oil or propane have gone up astronomically. Individual people, who didn't see high food prices coming, and whose salaries don't keep up with inflation or the rising cost of medical care, can't get increases in medicaid coverage for their children. Soldiers who risk their lives everyday on the battle field, and too often these days sacrifice everything for their country get paid so poorly that their family back home scrapes by on food stamps.
My mom's beef is that helping these people comes out of her pocket, and that of every American lucky enough, smart enough, ambitious enough, whatever, to make enough money to pay taxes. But how much is bailing out Freddie Mac going to cost her, me, every other taxpayer? A hell of a lot more than funding a program to help people keep their homes warm. How much do we spend every year in subsidies to oil companies that make $40 billion in profits? More than what it would cost to pay a soldier enough to be able to provide for his family, or give him adequate healthcare if he is injured.
I just think that individual people and their families, matter a whole lot more than corporations. And I know that all these industries are important to our economy, but I think that if people have no safety net in hard times, then businesses should not either. It is much more tragic for a child to starve or freeze to death, than for a corporation to fail, no matter how large.
For me, the bottom line is that Republican care about big business, and making money. Democrats care about people. That's why I tend to agree with them on economic issues.
I'll get off my soapbox now.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Thursday, July 31, 2008
James found some beautiful stone tile on sale at Home Depot, and we are in the process of putting a floor in the arctic entry. We have the tile laid, sealed and grouted, but we need to touch up the grout a little bit and reseal it. When it is done, I will post a picture of it. We also looked at cabinets and we think we have some picked out for when PFD's get here.
A friend of a friend gave us some foam blocks about 4 inches thick that we are putting around the bottom of the house to keep the underside of the house warm. It will save us a lot of wood this winter. (this friend also has cashmere goats and gave me a bag of their fur. I am very excited, but I can't bring it in the house til I wash it, cause it smells goaty.) Also, James has the plumbing for water out of the house done, and is working on the plumbing for water coming in to the house.
Ryan has been ordained a deacon, and Becky is getting baptized this Saturday. Like I said, lots going on.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Above the stairwell is the peak of the roof and the last part of wall that we do not have sheetrocked yet. The reason for that is the informal scaffolding above the stairs that will let us finish the peak of the ceiling. Once the peak of the ceiling is mudded, primed and painted, we will take down the scaffolding and finish the wall.
If you were to go around that corner to your right, you would see the window, and then the stairs to the loft. To the right of the stairs, going around the corner again, is the wood stove. You can see my pretty paint even better in this picture.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
We still have to figure out how we are going to put sheetrock on the top 1/3 of the wall, as it is a minimum of 12 feet off the ground. James may be able to borrow some scaffolding from work. We'll do something. I mean, we figured out the rest the house, including placing the roof beam by hand. We can do this too.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Ryan cut away the piece of bottom plate across the doorway (by hand, need I mention?). Steven stood on it to hold it still:
Sunday, March 9, 2008
So, this evening, I see this article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23550921/, saying that gas is expected to rise another 20 to 30 cents next month. Gas right now is about $3.20 for the cheap stuff in Anchorage. If it goes up to $3.50, I figure it would cost us $1000 a month to drive my truck to Anchorage and back every day for work. That's as much as I am paying now for rent.
There are a couple options. If James can find work that does not mean commuting, and only I am commuting, I can either ride with someone else and split the cost of gas, or ride the bus or a rideshare van. The bus would be the least favorable option because it would put me away from home the longest, but it is easiest in terms of startup. I just look up the schedule on the internet, and get on the bus. If we commute together, then we either just pay for the gas in the durango, or buy a cheap car that gets really good gas mileage.
Lots to ponder, before we make the decision.