Monday, March 03, 2008

Travel Extremes


We arrive back to Michigan late this afternoon. A most interesting trip with amazing luck when it came to the weather.

Every place we went in the north warmed up just as we got there and then got socked with nasty weather right after we left. We're not especially fond of heat and humidity so we welcomed the "cold wave" that hit Florida in the middle of our stay... I had a golf course all to myself because it was so "bitterly cold" at 55° and sunny. Finished 18 holes in 2-1/2 hours... and even got a discount!

Tennessee was sunny and in the 60s for our brief stay there. And today was in the 40s with rain when we returned... nearly all of the snow has been washed away.

While the trip was devoted to visiting relatives scattered around the eastern third of the U.S., it also reacquainted me with how differently we live just a few hundred miles apart.

There were the modest small towns in eastern Pennsylvania with homes going back 200 or more years. There was the wealth of Washington D.C. and northern Virginia and the obvious benefits associated with proximity to the seat of Federal power. There was the overcrowding and unplanned growth of central Florida. And, finally, there was the beauty of the countryside and scraping by in central Tennessee.
We had the opportunity to join our nephews at the archery range as they practiced for some Boy Scout award and then watch them eat all of the profits at an all-you-can eat buffet. We visited the Wilbur Chocolate Company and watched the women dip the pretzels in the dark chocolate [we did purchase some of their dark chocolate treats].

Our oldest son happened to have an engineering conference scheduled in Washington D.C. while we were in the area, so we picked him up at Dulles and let our GPS system [I call it Suzy because of the sultry female voice] guide us to his hotel just past Georgetown.
Suzy did have problems when we missed a veer to the right and she had to "recalculate." She sent us down some dark street that dead ended into a one-way street coming at us... this happened a few times during the trip and one time it thought we were going the wrong way up an interstate and rapidly kept repeating "recalculating" frantically... it was actually a private road alongside the interstate.
We have many relatives living in central Florida, among them both of our mothers. We spent several days touring an "independent living" facility for my mother who will go there when she sells here house. My wife's mother liked it as well, but was not ready to give up her independent "independent living" quite yet.

My older brother and sister along with children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in adjacent properties in rural central Tennessee. The rolling hills still have the tobacco farms [even though Tennessee just banned smoking in all restaurants]. We were also surprised to see vineyards, but the area really is suited to them. There were also wild turkeys... the real kind, not the stuff in the bottle... though Jack Daniels was not far away.
My older brother has severe rheumatoid arthritis which has led to several significant infections and surgeries. I'm going to bet that, like ulcers, some researcher is going to discover that this so-called auto-immune disease is really caused by a very difficult to detect bacteria or virus.
So, the road trip is over and we're back to the land of cool weather and rain. But winter is not done yet with us. It looks as if abnormally cold weather will be back for a week.

Welcome home.


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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)