Friday, July 18, 2008

Delayed Post #2

Here we are, still trapped in the smoke. Thursday turned out to be even smokier than the day before because the fire fighters had closed the highway right behind us and then had set a large backfire. That smoke began arriving here a few hours after our own arrival. The highway is still closed but we have heard rumors that it will open again today. There is an alternate route for us if Highway 32 remains closed and considering the damage we would see, it might be more pleasant for us to take the other road.

One road or the other, we will be leaving for home today. And with very few photos. We have all remarked about the fact that no one seems inclined to pick up their cameras. With gray as a backdrop, photo inspiration is lacking.

Since I found out that I can arrange the posting hours on my blog to suit my vision of how they should appear, I would bet that I can do the same with the days of the week. I will give it a try.

It’s 5 and time to look outside and see what kind of day we’ll have. It’s already cooler this morning; does that mean that a wind has brought in some cold air and chased out the smoke? OK, there is definitely a cool breeze and a change in the air quality. I can see much further today. With a little more breeze I might be able to see Mt. Lassen again.

And once again, apropos of absolutely nothing at all…I was admiring the new ‘wake board’ that my son-in-law had purchased and my eye was caught by the striking ‘Made in UAE’ logo on the board. Yes, the United Arab Emirates. Who would have thought? What else do they manufacture?

More mental meanderings; I was browsing through an old National Geographic magazine, the one that featured great stories and photos of China. From the cover to the back page, it was all about China. And sure enough, on the very back page, was a Wal*Mart ad. How appropriate.

There was a time when I bought into the idea that manufacturing was not all that important and what was important were the ideas that created ‘innovation’ as a product. Brain power would trump muscle power every time or so I thought. It turns out that I was wrong; what is important is the proper mix of the two; product development and manufacturing. Sure, there are some things that we shouldn’t worry about; plastic cutlery would be an example. Let someone else manufacture that. But there are plenty of other items that we have simply given up on and sent them away to be manufactured. Wake boards? And until we, as consumers, start demanding quality over price, it will remain the same.

If you look at the economies of Japan and Germany, you will see a healthy blend of R&D and manufacturing. No, their economies are not perfect, but they are healthier because of that blending. Irony; both Germany and Japan have some of their cars built here…because it’s cheaper.

I don’t know if we could ever go back to a manufacturing based economy. We would have to abandon the Wal*Mart and Target stores. We would have to look at labels and reject labels from other countries. I don’t think it’s going to happen. Those who wrap themselves in the American flag are usually the first ones in the door at a Wal*Mart sale.

Jeekers! Scary figures. There are 129 million housing units in America and 18.6 million of them are empty. No one home. The home owner vacancy rate has reached its highest level since 1956, the year they began measuring. And in a sign of the times; in Atlanta, some speculators were paying ‘homeless’ folks to stay in the homes to give them a livelier look while they tried to sell the houses. Nothing turns off a prospective buyer like the appearance of a ghost town.

More scary figures; I was reading an article on increasing violence in England and Wales and the included chart showed America tied for second place with the Netherlands (4.2 per 100 population) for attacks or threats. England’s 5.75 kept them safely in first place. But it was the fact that America had no rivals at all in the figures for homicides per 100,000 of population that looks so bad. We were approximately at 5.7 per…the next closest was Finland at 2.8. The lowest figures came from Norway at a little under 1. The safest place (overall) to be? Italy.

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