Friday, April 25, 2008

I'm Ba-a-ack!!

It has been a very mixed three weeks.  The b
est part of it was the week I spent finishing the quilt on the left.  It was a baby shower gift for my nephew's wife who is expecting their second boy in a couple of months and finished just in time for the shower two weeks ago Sunday.  It began as a kit that just didn't go together right.  I hated it from the beginning.  The fabric was flimsy and split at the machine satin stitching with the first washing.  I cut it all apart but just couldn't throw the pieces away.    The little cross-stitched dogs on the right are the figures I sewed on to the quilt at the internal intersections of the sashing.  I think I actually like how it came out.  Kuma seems to approve also.  He is just disappointed that I didn't let him try it out.

But the rest has been hell.  I started a cold on the Tuesday after the shower.  My usual thing that goes from continuous sneezing and stuffy head to scratchy throat to bronchitis.  But then it turned really wicked Saturday with nausea and vomiting.  We bit the bullet and Mom took me to the off hours medical practice nearby.  Thanks to the medication I am well on the road to recovery although I know I will have the cough for another month and will not have much energy for another week or so.  At least I can read, write and do needlework.  Hallelujah!!

Elegantly saying what I have been thinking for a long time.  Sometime last year I read an article about self-storage units which, evidently, had become the fasted growing business in the country.  I has some visual evidence of that.  Each work day I passed a u-store business that had five long buildings.  Last fall it doubled its space.  I remember laughing at the commercial for one nationally franchised outfit that featured a family hemmed in by their 'stuff',' with little room for themselves.  They solved the problem by renting a storage unit and then celebrated by going shopping for more 'stuff.'  Some years ago, I decided that I didn't want any house that had more rooms in it than I used each day: bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, and sewing/computer room.  And I wanted no more stuff than would fit comfortably in that size dwelling.  I am getting there. 

As if we needed another example of the insatiable greed of the corporate world, here it is.  I think our currency still bears the legend "legal tender for all debts public and private" but it seems we are going to be charged for the privilege of inconveniencing corporations by paying our bills in cash.  Of course the crux of the matter is contained in the quote from an ATT spokesman: "It is a way of saving money ... it helps us keep our costs lower," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel. "We want our associates to spend their time helping customers as they are thinking about their wireless plans or looking at phones." They want to sell more plans and phones, not waste their time serving the needs of existing customers.

We have all heard by now that Costco and Sam's Club have restricted customers' purchases of rice.  The story made short appearances on all the news programs yesterday.  No one bothered to explain the particulars behind the story but it sounded ominous given the recent international stories concerning tortilla protests in Mexico, bread riots in Egypt,  demonstrations protesting the price of pasta in Italy, and export restrictions on rice in some south-east Asian countries.  Today, I read on The Wastrel Show that two southern California Wal-Mart and Costco outlets were responding to a run on rice by foreign customers who were shipping it to relatives in countries where rice is in short supply.  I followed her links but couldn't find the connection between foreigners buying large quantities of rice and the restrictions imposed by the two warehouse outlets.  So I went looking.  Several stories noted the doubling of rice prices in the recent past.  Most note that restaurants, particularly Mexican restaurants which are heavy users of rice, are stockpiling against future price increases and that has put a bit of pressure on the supplies at Sam's Club and Costco (and probably other large scale suppliers.)  Here is one with an interesting conclusion.  Business 360 notes that by the time the mainstream media get a story, especially economic stories, the peak has either passed or is about to peak.  "There is a school of thought in financial circles that when the media finally sits up and takes notice, the tide has already turned. This may be true for commodities. After making a record run at $120 a barrel Tuesday, crude oil fell $4 in Thursday’s New York session before finally settling around $116 a barrel. Gold fell to a four-month low. Rice prices stayed close to record levels, but wheat, corn and soybean futures all moved lower.  Global consumers could clearly use some relief from sky high fuel and food costs. But investors who have exposure to the commodity markets might want to take profits and take cover. An oil trader I spoke with in New York warned crude was no longer trading based on the rules of supply and demand. Instead, he said oil had now become a financial tool. Farmers have complained the same is happening in grain markets. Speculators are in the driver’s seat. Up till now they have been buyers. If that changes, the sell-off could be swift and painful."


Anonymous said...

Here's one of many articles regarding illegals/foreigners buying food here in America and then shipping it back to their homelands:

It makes common sense. they ship hordes of our bucks back...why not our food?

MaryContrary said...

Thanks for the citation. I did another quick search and found a couple of others. I am not surprised that people would send 'care' packages to relatives overseas. As we have known they send lots of money also. I am a bit ambivalent with the linkage of 'illegals/foreigners' which blurs a very vital distinction. It indiscriminately lumps together two very separate categories: illegal alliens and foreign residents who are legal. Also I think we should look for perspective. How much of the run on the Costco and Sam's Club stocks was due to businesses trying to buffer themselves against future price increases and people trying to help relatives overseas? The articles, including the nysun, indicate that shipments of food and other goods has been going on as long as shipments of money.