Sunday, November 30, 2008
reading about the Weimar government
and other examples of hyperinflation.
No doubt, the bankers and financiers now in charge of events
are also familiar with these historical events.
A couple of facts came out which strike me as important:
First of all, very very few people in Germany anticipated hyperinflation
and even while it was gathering steam, refused to recognize it or plan for it. Neither inside the government nor out on the street.
The story goes of the upper-middle class german fellow
who started making payments to an annuity for his retirement before the war had a decade or so to go,
but he made every payment religiously.
As time went on, the payments became easier to make and he kept them up.
Finally in about 1922 he made the last payment.
He promptly cashed the annuity and went down to the market
and bought a loaf of bread with it.
Another fact I hadn't known was
that when the german mark completely collapsed
there was an interregnum period.
The bankers and everyone got together and established a new currency
BACKED BY THE MORTGAGES ON REAL PROPERTY that everyone held.
This new currency was stable for years until
Hitler came to power, gew in power, grew in enemies,
and needed to begin putting lead in the gold coins again.
No doubt, Paulson and others are aware of that history.
We are all anticipating hyperinflation and trying to make a profit off of it and that helps to prevent it from happening.
The trouble is, while many say that hyperinflation is caused by huge increases in the money supply AND the velocity of money
(MORE credit. Borrowing one-day loans for high interest.
Buying whatever you can today because the price WILL be higher tomorrow. etc etc)
many others say that hyperinflation is brought on by a lack of public
confidence, for example in a government which is fighting and not winning a major war, etc etc.
NOTHING has been done to stem the outflow of confidence,
in our bankers, financial houses, CEO's, politicians, lawyers, corporations, etc.
GM wants bailout money so that they can buy Chrysler,
continue to stifle competition and insult their customers.
Citi wants bailout money so that they can create more derivatives
to "protect and insure themselves", not to make more loans.
So I see this whole situation as a monumental dilemma,
a historic battle going on within every single participant, large and small,
between driving the US dollar to infinity (hyperinflation)
and driving it to Zero (no one has any anymore).
In the meantime, anyone who produces any goods or services of real value to other people
is still getting screwed.
And I don't see either side gaining any advantage right now.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
1 large butternut squash (2-3 lbs)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teazspoon ground cinammon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
I suppose you could do this with pumpkin instead but
I find butternut squash just a little gentler.
This takes a little bit of time, but its something your family
doesn't get everyday. First, take the squash and cut it into
manageable chunks. Throw away any part of the stem and
use a large spoon to gouge out the seeds and gunk. Boil the
chunks in water in a large saucepan for 20-30 minutes or
until very tender. Drain off the water. Use the same spoon
to remove the skin. Place about half the meat with about
half the condensed milk in a blender and mix until creamy.
Pour that back into the empty saucepan and do the other
half. Then cook over medium heat for 5 or 10 more minutes,
adding the other ingredients.
Serve hot or chilled (maybe a marshmallow or two for garnish)
butternut squash bread (or cake or muffins)
If you get an "Ewe! What is this?????" reaction from your
family to the soup, then try this:
1 cup shortening or vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups butternut squash soup
2 tsp baking soda -- use baking powder instead, it makes it
lighter and fluffier
4 cups white flour
1/4 tspn salt
Mix the shortening, eggs, sugar and soup in a large bowl. Fold
the flour in slowly. Grease two bread pans or muffin pans
and preheat the oven for 350. Mix in the baking pwoder
and work out any lumps with your hands (yes, I know its
messy, and warm, and sticky, and fragrant. Just like
sex ...). Put into the pans and into the oven for half
an hour, then turn the oven up to 375 for about another half an
hour or until it passes the knife test.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
About ten years ago, I made the acquaintance of an
unusual young woman. Anything out of the ordinary gets my
attention quickly and my curiosity usually overcomes my
timidity. So an attractive young woman, shapely figure,
long blond tresses, and a cute smile, taking up her
position at the subway station as the lead coin-collector
and resident homeless person, brought friendship out
from its customary hiding places within my psyche.
We talked about this-and-that, from day to day,
whenever I got tired enough of my daily chair-warming
job and went out for air. She was warm enough but
reticent to talk about how or why she came to such a state.
In my artistic tinkerings I was into casting bodies
in those days. We talked about in general terms her
coming to my house and my paying her some modeling fee.
However, one of my workmates counseled me against taking
any such step. she was deep trouble, he explained,
because she was mixed up with some heavy, and tough,
cocaine aficionados. So I let the conversation drop.
For the next many months I watched, with quiet
horror, a metamorphosis such as one would only see in
a cheap terror flick. Her hair turned to grey, almost
before my eyes. Her cheeks hollowed out and wrinkles
crawled over her face. Those eyes, which had sparkled
with life before, became empty-milky, in deepening
sockets. After awhile, I could not bear to smile, or
even throw coins.
I am as much guilty of using charity as a rationa-
lization for controlling others, as many other people
from my culture who do the same thing. But I could see
that this was a losing struggle, all the way around,
and could cost me dearly were I to get involved, so
I just let things be.
Another few months later, she just disappeared.
though I feared the worst, I did not inquire.
The other evening, leaving my office for the train,
I was lost in the gloom of more losses on the stock
market, job losses, store closings, and the perennial
struggle to get my management to use some common sense
once in awhile. A hand came out to touch me. It was
Mary! She was glad to see me. A bit of color had
returned to her hair and her cheeks were full and plump
again, and she had a new alertness and quiet dignity.
The intervening years had not been gentle, for all her
teeth were gone and the youth drained out of her face.
But I could see that she was happy. Clearly she had
through divine intervention and her own desire for
self-preservation, changed her ways. She introduced
me to her new husband, a young man whose bravery and
strength clearly outclassed his intelligence, but
he seemed honest and sincere. They had a place
together and were making a real life for themselves.
In these threatening times, I was so uplifted
to be reminded that I don't have to save the whole
world by myself, and that americans and people in
general are not quite so stupid and self-destructive
as we like to say they are, and that hope is alive
It was a crystal-clear autumn day. The sun was well up
in the cloudless sky. The air had just a hint of chill,
the cold has yet to come.
I was overcome with the silence. There were no
sound of cars, no jets or helicopters in the air.
There was no birds chirping or playing. There were
no sirens, for once. There were no freight trains,
neither moving or crashing into one another or
warning horns or deep-throated idling diesal.
No crickets. No cicadas. No dogs. No hunters'
guns going off.
The only sound that I could here was the steady
rustling of the dry leaves in the wind, and
the utter loneliness of fear.
Monday, November 3, 2008
country roads that I had not traversed before. The
weather was coolish and spottled. Many of the
autumn colors were past their prime, although
some leaves were still green near the riverbed.
One or two bright red-orange trees still
commanded attention, bringing one to recall
Moses' first experience with the transcendental.
Around a bend my foot moved to the brake
as I saw a couple of large dark animals in
the road up ahead. As I closed in to a stop
I saw much to my surprise that I had come upon
a stately procession of five wild turkeys, calmly
crossing the road, as if there were no such
thing as hunters or thanksgiving dinners.
Tailfeathers furled, they were still immense,
majestic birds. For comparison, ostriches
came to mind before geese. Naturally, I had
left my camera at home and so could not
verify my sighting to anyone else later.
I agree with the minority at the time that
the wild turkey would have been the better choice
for our national bird. But these days, the
dead-fish breath hunter and carrion-eater that
became our choice symbol, seems after all more
But as the birds slipped back into the trees
and dead leaves that provided them more cover,
and I drove on my way, I wondered about such
an anomaly, for I had never seen more than one
at a time in my whole life, and even so only a few
times. Did they augur changes up ahead?
More peaceful times, where people can coexist
more comfortably and securely and walk this
earth with a little less trepidation? Or is
that just a fantasy, a fond wish? Maybe I really
did not see them, after all.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
home. I live in a region with moderately cold
winters and prodigious wood supply which
developers are always struggling to dispose of. I
have back-up electric heat and my monthly bill
sometimes gets as high as $200, although that's
due in part to my wife's fondness for hot showers.
There is an airtight woodstove in the kitchen
and convection heats the whole house. It adds to
ambiance and the kitchen becomes the chief
gathering-place in the winter, where the temperature
in the room is often around 75 or 80.
I cut and split almost all the wood I burn,
myself. While I crosscut with electricity I do
almost all the splitting with an old sledgehammer
that came out of the railroad yard, and a couple of
steel wedges. An average winter sees three or four
cords go through my stove.
There are those who say that I must do it for
therapy. I know that it feels good. I'm pretty
sure that therapy is just an indulgence for people.
I think that's fine, but I do think that they are
likely to get better results if they label it
correctly. At any rate, it does more for me than
alcohol or drugs.
There are probably people who applaud my use of
a renewable energy source. It puts no sulfur,
mercury, or carbon monoxide in the air, after all.
My local jurisdiction still takes issue with the
practice. It does put some soot in the air.
If everyone burned wood the air might get pretty
thick. Or maybe they just don't appreciate that I'm
not paying as high taxes to the fuel vendors.
There are probably others who say that I do it for
my health. Certainly I have never had any serious
illness or broken bones. I admit that I have
occasionally snickered when a young person complains of
miscellaneous obscure and phantom back problems or other
pains. I have heard that vigorous exercise reduces the
risk of cancer. At any rate, I don't have cancer yet,
so maybe its true.
It does seem to me that it must have an impact on
my sex appeal. I am still surprised at how many offers
I get from women, some of them young and very attractive,
more than at any time in my life. I don't think that's
because of the white hairs percolating all over my cranium
these days, or the wrinkles furrowing their way deeper into
my skin as I approach 60. Do they ask me because I am
shorter than they are? I am not sure about that either, do
they think that makes me easier to boss around?
Nope. I just do it for the heat.