Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm glad I don't work in retail anymore.

When, as I scarf down take-out General Tso's, I see on the 6:30 news that 160,000 stores will have closed by the end of this year, and another 200,000 by the end of next year, I feel lucky that I no longer work in retail.

Mind you, I miss working in a bookstore. I loved being surrounded by books; and when I left my last retail/bookstore job, it was to work in a library. But this weekend, I got an email from Borders about their Sacramento store going out of business; now, I don't live in Sacramento and the nation-wide email was an accident on the company's part, but I'm not surprised to hear about bookstores--even a chain--closing. Philadelphia's loosing/lost Robin's, and I'll be surprised if that's all.

I think it's seeing bookstores go out of business that gets to me. Books are my passion--they're what I spend most of my waking life pursuing. I love books, both what knowledge or entertainment they contain, and their physical forms--the simple portability of a paperback; the gold runes on my leather-bound copy of The Hobbit; the reprint of Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations for Le Morte d'Arthur I found over in Glastonbury. I even like the idea of e-readers (I say "idea" because I don't actually own one, but wish I did)--the idea that I can (potentially) carry around my library in a little machine is really seductive for me, and it's only the lack of money keeping me from buying it (that, and I hear the Kindle needs a little more work).

Anyway, the economy is bad, and focusing on bookstores seems almost irrelevant. But in Philadelphia we're having trouble keeping the public library branches open though there's hope on that front. Literacy is so important, and books the medium, that--not to be overly dramatic, but--it breaks my heart to see stores closing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

In Other Good News...

I passed my CLEP College Math exam, which means I never have to take a math class again.

I don't hate math--though, it being so pure a science that it's unrelatable to my life (unlike, say, biology), I find it difficult to memorize, and thus learn. And no, math isn't unrelatable or absent from every day, but I still don't understand what a function is, or how to graph the inverse of a something-something. Or what the hell use is the square root of -1, which doesn't actually exist(???). On the other hand, it feels good to do an equation, find the value of x, and find out I got the answer right.

I really believed I was going to fail; I took the practice test last night and failed miserably, and spent the night crying and scared that I'd fail and not be able to get my certification. But it's over, I'm relieved and exhausted, and gonna get a beer.

Oh, Philadelphia, You Still Have My Heart

The Flyers' opener just started; they brought out Sarah Palin for some ceremonial dropping the puck. And the crowd booed. It was so loud, you could hear the music being turned up to drown them out.

"Philly is a Democratic town--what were they thinking?"

To which Den said, "Well, it's the same people who thought they'd throw us roses in Baghdad."

Touché, my hockey-loving, part French Canadian husband, touché.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

OK, I guess ping is working fine; I'm not entirely sure how I'll use it yet, but I like the idea that I don't have to manually crosspost to every networking site, and I'll remember to update at least one of my blogs...

This is a test of the emergency blogcasting system

I'm just testing to see how ping.fm works, whether my blogs are updated.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Life Goes On Without Me

I've been bogged down with school--since February, really. I'd like to post more, but I just don't get the chance.

I watch the news, read blogs, listen to podcasts, and I realize that I really don't know what's going on in the world. The market falls, the market rises, oil rises, oil falls, Yes, we're going to bomb Iran, No, we're diplomats, are you crazy?

Anyone know the number of a good haruspex?

I just found out that my local independent grocery store is going out of business. I'm bummed on several levels--first, it was a great place to get really good beer--microbrews, imports, etc. I'm really gonna miss Middle Ages' Druid Fluid, because the closest place selling it is up past Bethlehem.

But I'm also depressed to see a good, locally-owned, organic-dominant grocery store go out of business. Not enough people went, obviously--it was only just over a year old, meaning it's been in Lansdale about as long as we have. There are lots of places around us going out of business, too--some chains (CompUSA and the Bombay Company left last year, and recently my husband said there were empty stores at the mall), some local. The bowling alley burned down last year, and there's no plans to rebuild. This town--like a lot of SEPA (uh, Southeastern Pennsylvania)--just feels like it's dying a slow death. Which, to be fair, it's been doing since the 1970s, just the time when I was born.

It's weird, to feel like you've been born into a dying land. While other parts of the country improve, grow, etc. (Phoenix, California), the rust belt keeps... well, rusting.

What has this to do with oil? (Or any other potential disasters?) I don't know. Maybe when transportation gets too expensive, the trend will reverse. Maybe the Southwest will be uninhabitable. Maybe we'll get a local grocery store again.

But maybe things will just go on as before, with this area on life support, barely breathing, while everything but the big box stores fail.

I don't know.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

That Grinding Noise You Hear Is My Teeth

Oil closes near $140/bl.

CIBC sees $7/gal. gas by 2010

Worst June for the Dow since 1930:
"One thing is for certain, if crude continues to rally, stocks are dead," said Dale Doelling, chief market technician at Trends In Commodities.

"If stocks have another day like this tomorrow, then the fallout next week could include government intervention in the markets," said Doelling.

It's all getting a bit surreal, isn't it?

Oh, and by the way: Royal Bank of Scotland (which, my dear Philadelphians, owns our very own Citizens Bank) is predicting a market crash.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Offshore Drilling: the Sweatpants of Our Oil Crisis

Watching the US contemplate offshore drilling as a solution to the energy crisis is kind of like switching to sweatpants when we put on weight--yeah, you think you feel better, but if you don't change your eating habits, it won't matter--you'll die from heart disease or diabetes complications.

Actually, it's worse than that--more like a diabetic pigging out on hot fudge sundaes. Because the only way to cope with what's going on is not to drill for more oil in less easy-to-reach spots (and watch the cost of recovering that oil spiral upwards). No--the way to cope is to stop consuming oil in such massive quantities.

Conserving--dieting--is the only way to ease this crisis. Switching from jeans to sweatpants is just giving in.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Line Between Fiction and Reality

A year ago, I took part in an ARG (alternative reality game) called World Without Oil. In it, I and nearly 2000 other people imagined what life would be like if oil suddenly shot up in price--a world where Peak Oil is manifest.

The funny thing? The game starts with oil at $4.12/gal. A year ago, this honestly seemed a little over-the-top; I was paying $2.58 at the Wawa on Dekalb Pike & Welsh Road (if you, reading this, know Montgomery County). But one year, and here we are, where the game began. Of course, they got one thing "wrong", for in the game diesel was $3-something a gallon, and today it's around $5.

I don't claim to know what's going on; but I turn on NPR, turn on CNN, and now they talk about the end of oil--or at the very least, cheap oil.

In the real world, I do live with my husband in Lansdale; I have a marginal garden I'm hoping produces at least one tomato (which would be better than last year). We don't work at home, we still drive the ten miles to Horsham--and for that relatively short distance I'm grateful. It costs four dollars a day to commute, which is still cheaper than the train (and there's no easy way to go those ten miles without a car).

At any rate, a year later and people seem to be waking up to the reality that oil isn't going to be cheap anymore. It's not like the 1990s, when I learned to drive, and I could buy a gallon of gas for 90¢ and spend Friday and Saturday night driving around with my friends and not even think about it.

The world is moving on; some days I wonder what relics we'll leave, what they'll think of us. And if we'll ever see a day when walking on the moon sounds more like a myth than a historical fact.

EDIT:*For some reason, links to my posts are missing from their archive.