Report from the OP, January 24, 2023

Whew. It’s been how long since I last reported? Two weeks? And this is the fourth day I’ve worked on this, trying to get it “out the door”. Geeze.

I plead grandchildren. Running a miniature daycare is taking a lot more time than I bargained for. However, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We have them 4 of 5 weekdays. We’re retired, the other set of grandparents aren’t. They get them the one day The Other Grandma has off. She is, God help her, a surgical nurse, and she’s lucky to have the time.

They are growing by leaps and bounds, and last week was a growth spurt for Thing 2. He couldn’t sleep enough and he couldn’t eat enough. He’d wake up screaming hungry, with the pitch going higher and higher from crying to dog whistle, the longer it took to change his diaper before feeding. Daughter thinks he grew about 3″ on Wednesday night. Suddenly his feet reached the bottom of his sleepers, and they didn’t Tuesday night. This week may be Thing 1’s growth spurt. She’s been a little cranky today, and very demanding for her bottle.

But all the time spent on grandchildren means less time for everything else, and unfortunately, there are just as many anything elses that require time as there were before grandbabies. With Mrs. Freeholder’s help, I got some bushes trimmed Saturday before my back gave out. It’s been finicky of late, and I have to baby it. There is some time during naps, and that’s letting me do a few smaller things. However, until they are somewhat older I think we’re going to be chronically behind. It’s kind of like being back at work.

Enough of all that. Time for the news.

I could say that the world situation hasn’t changed much, and that would be true as far as it goes. But that really doesn’t give you the flavor of the thing. Remember the Hemmingway line that I so often quote–“Slowly, then all at once”? I can’t prove it, but it feels like we’re past the halfway point on that continuum and the speed is building up.

The current war in Eastern Europe and the potential but likely forced re-incorporation of East China into West China are two separate but linked items we must watch carefully. All indications are that Russia is prepping for a big push, possibly on two fronts, in Ukraine. While weather conditions are hampering them at the moment (it’s too warm to freeze the omnipresent mud), if a big Russian operation kicks off in ernest the Chinese, given their apparent level of readiness, would be committing martial malpractice if they failed to take advantage of the situation to launch their own attack. With the world’s, and more importantly, the United States’ attention divided, it would be their best bet to reach their strategic goals with the least outside interference. They’d still be risking sanctions, but they’ve been preparing for that for a couple of years, possibly more.

However, there’s one thing that could move us quickly to “all at once”. While everyone concerned believes that Ukraine actually gave up all its nuclear weapons back in the 90s, I’ve long heard the whispered possibility that Taiwan has developed a few–just for emergencies–despite many protestations to the contrary. There is zero hard evidence for this, but those whispers have been around since the early 90s. If they have them and decide to use them, China will retaliate in kind. Xi can’t afford the loss of face he’d suffer among their own people if they didn’t. If this stays between East and West China it will be one thing, but if the US gets sucked in, it could rapidly get out of hand. China at this point has already used nukes, so the damage to them is done. I think they’ll be more likely to use them faster a second time. For our part, the US may be “forced” to to make up for our lack of conventional forces in the region.

I think this scenario is a low-probability threat, but it’s a non-zero threat with some drastic consequences. It’s worth remembering that both of our current large enemies think nuclear war is a winnable proposition and have made preparations to win one. We, on the other hand, have completely dismantled our civil defense infrastructure. Not a good situation. I have plans and some of the material for improvising a fallout shelter if needed, but I’ll have to recognize the need before it becomes critical. I can’t keep 10 tons of sand sitting around. Not a great bet, but it’s all I can do at the moment.

Thinking about this and other things going on, does anyone else have this odd feeling that too many of the things we’re seeing are a plan coming together? Once again, I can prove nothing, but I just have this feeling that none of this is the workings of coincidence. However, we humans are pattern-seeking animals, and we’re apt to see one where there is none.

We are lucky in that, for the most part, the winter both in the US and in Europe has been warmer than predicted. Yes, we’ve had a cold snap and will soon have another, but when I can work outside in January in my shirtsleeves, it’s not a normal winter. For Europe in particular this has been an unanticipated blessing. It’s kept natural gas prices down and supplies up.

We’ve also been fortunate that harvests, for the most part, came in better than predicted. That isn’t going to stop food price inflation, but at least the food will be there if you can pay for it. Can developing countries pay the price, though? Time will tell.

In happy news, New Zealand Dictator in Training Prime Minister Jacinda Ahern bails before she gets the hook. Rumors that New Zealand has ran out of fireworks and booze are unconfirmed at this time. China has given her a fond farewell.

The World Economic Forum met in Davos and as usual, want to convert the world over to an authoritarian’s wet dream. Pay careful attention to what this bunch says, because it becomes government policy in a year.

Pakistan has suffered a national blackout, reasons “unknown”. Everyone is keeping assiduously silent on this one. Soemthing else that I find unusual. Half the world away, UK electric customers are going to be paid not to use electricity. Given the amounts quoted, how high is their average electric bill?

Here in the US, it seems that the latest narrative has to do with *President Biden’s handling of classified materials when he was VP. According to the mainstream media, there’s nothing to see here, nothing at all. Classified files, some of them Top Secret, in a cardboard box in the garage. At least Trump had his in a relatively inaccessible location.

I and many others posit that this is how the Democrats are going to ease him out of office, possibly before the next selection. Joe is more of a liability than they bargained for, and he’s got to go so they can bring in Princess Dufuss, who can’t manage to string together 3 intelligible sentences. Obviously, so won’t be an improvement, just different.

A bit of news that I came across Monday is that the method of calculating inflation is going to be changed again, and again the change will tend to reduce the reported numbers. Well, they lie about everything else. Remember, Shadowstats is your best source for these numbers, even now.

Locally, gas prices have jacked up 20¢/gallon in one day last week, climbing to $3.29/gallon at most stations. Diesel is around $4.57/gallon.

Grocery stores remain relatively well-stocked but the food remains expensive. My last two trips saw the odd empty spots on the shelves, but most things are available, again, if you can pay the price. Fresh vegetables are available and of good quality. Eggs are available, with the lowest prices at the local Aldi–$4.59/dozen. Still cheaper protein than steak.

Help wanted signs are still a decorating trend, although I’ve had several reports that you can apply for all the waitress jobs in town and never get a call back. Supposedly it has something to do with the Wuflu emergency business loans that so many took out.

Auto dealer lots are slowly refilling. Given the number of dealer tags I see there is still some inexplicable demand for new vehicles, but it isn’t enough to keep the lots empty. Available models tend to be top of the line, all available options sort of items. Because, of course, that’s where they make the most money. I’m betting in a few months a lot of those are going to be repos.

Word from Son-In-Law is to expect the price of used cars to drop precipitously over the next few months. Demand for them seems to be dropping. There is also the rumor that Carvana may go bankrupt and have to sell off a lot of their apparently huge inventory.

Starter homes still seem to be selling well, but mid and upper-end properties aren’t. Starter homes under construction are being hustled through the construction process, but duplexes and apartments are pretty much sitting at the dried-in stage.

We’re starting to see some of the toys coming up for sale. RVs are the primary big ticket items at this point. The ones that worry me are smaller things, like 70″ big-screen TVs, year-old computers and similar items. I suspect those are being sold to keep food on the table.

Daughter is looking to make a change in employment. She’s found out that a salary that she could tolerate pre-kids, because she like where she was working, is no longer working for her family. She has several good leads through a national recruiter that all of you probably have heard of, though I’m not naming names. There is one particular job that I hope she can land. The prospects so far look very good.

With that, we’re going to close this one down. If I don’t get this thing out now, it may be yet another day. Out here.

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