Sunday, May 25, 2014

Daily Briefing For Sunday, May 25, 2014

Coming Clean

We're not big Memorial Day travelers/party goers.  For the last few years, I've observed the holiday in the same fashion - cleaning gutters and doing yard work.  Today was no exception.

Running the leaf blower and mower, unclogging gutters and bagging lots of dead leaves and grass really gunked me up today.  The SPF 50 sunscreen and bug spray mixed with my sweat, allowing lots of dirt to stick all over me. By the time I was done for the day, I resembled the Pig Pen character on Peanuts.

Lately, I've been experimenting with low flow showering, as we may very well install low flow shower heads into the house we're planning to build in a couple of years.  I figured my filthy state would be a great test of how well someone can clean up taking a shower under austere conditions.  Afterwards, I'd fill the bath and  soak, just to see just how much dirt I missed from my grid down bathing exercise.

Some observations:
  • First and most importantly, you need to try doing this from time to time.   Growing up out in the country, our "city" water went off on a fairly regular basis, and so we learned to how to bathe using water heated on the stove.  While it was very Appalachia of us to do that, it has served me well since then to know that I can get reasonably clean with just a pot of warm water.

    Austere showering, or even low flow showering, does require a bit of planning.  One of the things I've learned is that the more you can simplify your bathing routine, the better off you are.  To that end, I'm a big believer and hoarder of generic baby shampoo.  I use it not only for its intended purpose, but also as a basic body wash.  It works really well for both purposes and is dirt cheap.  I know many of you plan to make your own soap during an extended crisis.  For me, stocking up on cheap baby shampoo relieves me of the need to play with lye.
  • Scrub.  A lot.  I didn't get as clean as I would have liked during my crisis shower.  I didn't scrub as well as I should have.  Lesson learned.
  • If things get bad, I'm shaving my head.  My hair trapped a fair amount of dead leaves, grass, and other cooties from the clogged gutters.  When I re-rinsed my hair in the tub, it was immediately evident that I missed a lot of debris when I showered.  I'd plan on rinsing a second time, water supplies permitting, if I was that dirty.
  • In an extended water outage, I'd plan on taking a shower in a large dishpan of sorts.  We live in Texas.  We're in a drought.  If things got to the point that we're taking crisis showers, I want to catch the grey water so I can use it for other things, like flushing the toilets.  (If you don't know how to flush a toilet when the water isn't working, you need to learn.  Just pour a bucket of water in the tank and flush.)

Interest Rates and Debt and Stuff

Your Federal Reserve is contemplating how to raise interest rates in an environment where the financial system is awash in cash.  Before we go full-on doomer about this, let's remember that rates are at historic lows and have been for some time.  Rates must go up.  There's no real room for them to go anywhere else.

The question of course is a) how high might they go and b) can the Fed really constrain rates once the velocity of money picks up steam.  I don't know the question to the former, but the specter of the latter gives me cause for concern.

Meanwhile, food prices keep going up.  This is especially true with pork and beef.  Again, without getting full bore doom and gloom on this, a growing population competing for food during a drought will put upward pressure on prices.  This, in turn, will encourage others to invest in beef and pork production to take advantage of the higher prices. 

Finally, The Hill declared today that "Bankers exhale as Tea Party power fizzles."  From the story:

“The fact that [Sen.] Ted Cruz [R-Texas] will not have a whole lot of new allies is very encouraging,” said one senior financial industry executive.
Let that sink in for a moment.  Regardless of what you think about the tea party, the truth is that its fortunes rose from the bailouts of these same big banks.  For many in the political cognoscenti on both sides of the aisle, the tea party represents the unwashed masses of politics who are simply too ignorant to understand that big banks and corporatism are necessary to "get things done" in America.

What might we make of all of this?  The things we've been talking about here and elsewhere - the specter of inflation, the bullish outlook of the ag sector and the false choices presented by the red/blue political paradigm - these issues are still alive and aren't going away any time soon. 

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