Category Archives: gas prices

Monday, August 3, 2009

I respect Gen. Carlson and what he’s done to restore order here in Boston.  It is much better to seeing his…I guess I’d call them militia…out guarding streets that seeing those damned black Humvees we had in town all  Spring.  That said, did we really need this de facto independence?  The legal landscape around here is a fucking mess.  What is going to happen to all the court cases that are ongoing in the federal district courts of Mass and Conn and RI, and Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine?  (answer, the judges are just going to ignore the situation for now and make their rulings)  What about cases in other districts with New England plaintiffs and defendants, or out-of-region parties with cases in New England districts?  (answer, everybody seems to be appealing for now…or just not showing up in court).

OK, I’m a lawyer, so the court cases are what I think of first.  Hell, on a personal level this is good for me.  Someone has to generate all the extra motions ans responses and opinions.  As a former Fed employee used to dealing with slippery-bastard companies spread across hell-and-gone, I have a lot of the case-law for this crap down pat.  Work is good, it keeps my family fed.

But there isn’t good precedent for sections of the country that have rejected central Federal control.  Yes, the South in the Civil War did honor the legal contracts and contract law from the US, but they also passed their own Constitution too.  Not to mention the whole declaring independence thing and the war.

Crap, scaring myself here.  Everything is working well here.  Everyone is happy.  Yes, food and gas are on ration cards.  Yes, we still have troops (the common mix of former vets and former Guardsmen) standing at street corners.

But it’s so much better now than it was in June…right?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We just got back from an extended weekend up in the mountains. It wasn’t that much of a planned affair; we just decided to go when we got our gas ration card for our portion of the Venezuelan bounty sitting in Boston Harbor.

I had forgotten how nice it can be to just get away from people. Up in the far north there isn’t any of the politics that weigh down every conversation and even the air here in the city. That’s not to say that the people up there don’t care, it’s just that it doesn’t really affect them as much. It doesn’t matter what flag is flying on the flagpole…the cows still need to be milked. People in Boston just seem all the more manic after the slower pace in the country.

Anyway, we hauled bunch of our camping stuff up to the cabin along with some preserves, dry goods, and a chunk of Neve’s seed collection. We figure the root cellar up there is a safer and steadier-climate storage space than the chickenwire storage cage in the garage here. Hopefully we’ll be able to make visits up there more often, and not need to draw down on our food stocks here when we do.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I was in one of the office towers in the Financial District this morning to attend a deposition (a lawyer buddy of mine needed to fill out his team so that the other side didn’t have more people in the room than he did). Anyway, the building had an amazing view of the harbor, and smack in the middle of the harbor is this massive ship wallowing in the water with at least three tugboats that I could count and few Coast Guard boats as well. I kept on having my eye wander out to this monstrosity in the harbor while the two primaries argued about settlement terms (yawn).

I called up one of my old EPA contacts (the same one with the information on all the submarine dealings in New London last week) to ask about this thing. The Pilin Leon, named after a Venezuelan beauty queen, is an Ultra-Large Crude Carrier – an industry term for honking-huge oil tankers.  She’s been dispatched by Citgo on the direct orders of Hugo Chavez to help relieve any energy crisis here in Boston and New England.  Since we don’t have much of our own refining capacity, she’s apparently been filled with fuel oil, gasoline, and jet fuel in her various tanks instead of the usual crude.

Boston also doesn’t really have the facilities for off-loading all that oil, so it sounds like Pilin Leon will be sitting in the middle of the harbor with some temporary pipelines running out to her for the duration.  I suppose that is Mr. Chavez’s point in sending the ship here.  It is as blatant and public an insult to the Bushies as he can fashion.

International politics aside, I’ll take whatever help we can get.  There are plenty of things that we don’t produce here in New England and trade with the ‘mainland’ US is pretty sparse right now.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I’ve managed to get in touch with the whole extended family — my side and Paul’s. They are fine, living a little leanly, but okay. My brother’s got a broken arm from a scuffle at the local grocery store. Apparently, even though they all live in the verdant hills of Connecticut, there’s just not as much food to go around.

I suspect that it’s a matter of distribution rather than amounts. Even Cambridge has enough food … for right now. It’s July and the farmers are rolling the stuff in by the truckload. There’s still some fighting — MIT, again, is a flashpoint, I wouldn’t go near the salt-n-pepper bridge for love or money. Not even for lemons.

It’s the little things — like lemons — that are really disconcerting. There’s more food available in markets and whatnot than there’s been in a while. Apparently the pro tem government is helping farmers fill up their tanks and they’ve got somebody organizing caravans to save on gas. (I said it before and I’ll say it again — the Children of Liberty have one ass-kicking Quartermaster.) But there are no imports from outside of the region.

Radio Free Boston — the announcers using their real names now — says it’s not a blockade, just a matter of logistics. The ports and the trains will but up and running soon.

For now, New England is doing pretty good — our farms produce got meat, veggies, fruit, milk, potatoes. But no one is growing wheat or rice in New England. There are no citrus or olive trees in New England. There are no spices in New England. Herbs a plenty but no cinnamon, clove, nutmeg. It’s going to be hard to make apple pie this year.

I seem to be the only one thinking ahead to apple pie season, though. Everyone else is having a party. The soup kitchens have become community kitchens and I spent my day making enormous batches of black bean soup. Vats of it. With fennel and carrot slaw on the side. For the first time in my memory, there are more volunteers than we need. And it’s the most happy I’ve seen anyone in almost a year. There’s singing and dancing in the back, and there are lots of pretty college students waiting the tables. People kiss me on the cheek and tell me to lighten up when I grumble.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m a dour sourpuss. But my people originally came from Russia and there’s one thing any babushka knows, deep in her bones, even in the laughing heart of summer:

Winter is coming.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I was talking about the price of gas and the spiraling food costs over some (herbal) tea with a friend of mine last night and said something to the effect of, “America is getting what we deserve.”

She got kinda pissed at me about that. “No one could have predicted this!”

Au contraire, I replied. It’s been predicted over and over again over the past fifty years. Anyone willing to think a little ahead could have predicted what’s happening right this second. Oil is a finite resource. If you build all your infrastructure around cheap and plentiful oil, eventually you’re going to have problems when oil runs out.

Ergo, anyone building their lives around this fragile system made a stupid choice.

Now, everyone was doing it and it was really hard not to. But it was still a choice. We’ve arrived at the point we’re at through the accumulation of a million-billion-trillion stupid choices by a whole lotta people. Many of those choices made sense — in the short run, for an individual. But as a collective whole, looking at the long term, they were purely stupid.

What’s more — lots and lots of people predicted this.

M. King Hubbert used the “peak oil” theory in 1956 to predict when U.S. oil would peak. Accurately, as it turned out.

Admiral Hyman Rickover warned against dependence on fossil fuels in a speech in 1957.

Certainly Michael Pollan had a good grip on the coming food crisis in Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006). But I know that the theory has been around a lot longer. The amazing and irascible Joel Salatin certain has seen it coming. The folks at Mother Earth News have seen it coming. The foodie folks in Berkley have been talking up the loca-vore stuff for twenty odd years. It was mentioned in West Wing episode for the love of God.

But what really struck me were the parallells between this situation and the political situation. A lot of what the Bushies are doing was utterly predictable. The administration wasn’t even subtle about its steady erosion of our rights. But the hue and cry was desultory at best and nonexistent at worst. Even in Cambridge the “Impeach Bush” signs were mocked a little, even through the PATRIOT act, the FISA thing, the habeus corpus thing, all of the warning signs were there. We just ignored them and bought iPods.

The problem with government for the people is that the people get the government that they deserve. And we deserve this, I think.

Wednesday, June 17, 2008

There’s no sugar to be had in Cambridge or Somerville.

Yesterday, a bunch of the strawberries at my community garden plot came up ripe all at once so I picked and picked and picked. After baking all afternoon in the hot sun, I was in no mood to make jam or even to make dinner so we went out to Chipotle’s and got that rude shock from the National Guard.

This morning, I called a handful of women who are also into canning and also had strawberries — and rhubarb — ripe. We all had enough jars after last summer’s canning madness, but we needed extra sugar and lemons and some pectin. I figured lemons would be hard to come by; it’s a bad time of year for lemons when gas prices and civil unrest are at normal levels.

We met up at Starbucks in Davis and mostly ordered black tea or coffee because the milk-based drinks are so pricey. Then we started down the street to Star to buy sugar.

A female National Guard soldier — slim, petite, black — sauntered up to us and explained, very politely but firmly, that groups of more than three people were not allowed to gather on the street today and that we needed to break it up.

I took a moment to assess my group: slightly overweight 35-year-old mom in sandals and big straw hat, slim 32-year-old mom with flowered dress and similarly floppy straw hat, very tall and very overweight mom with her son’s Elmo sunglasses (she had grabbed the wrong pair that morning and it was really bright!), and finally, slim tan athletic looking twenty-something wearing Birkenstocks. All of us carrying string grocery bags, with streaks of white sunblock still glistening on our bare arms.

Oh yeah, we bad.

Now, i get that they have to enforce the law equally or else it’s a bad law. But what if my friend with the Elmo sunglasses had been out with her husband and her three kids? Or her four sisters? That’s simply ridiculous.

The Guardswoman was very polite and after some discussion we determined that we could simply walk in two pairs ten feet apart. Wow. Clearly the measure improved the safety of everyone in the city.

That wasn’t the scariest part of the day, though.

No, the scariest part of the day was arriving at Star and finding no sugar. I have a diabetic uncle and they did have some of the no-sugar pectin, which can be hard to find, so I bought the whole case. Thank God I did. Because we then walked (two-by-two again) to Pemberton Farms. No sugar. We climbed into Juliet’s car and drove to Market Basket. No sugar. The other Shaw’s up the road: no sugar.

To save gas we all broke out our cell phones and started calling around. The Store 24: no sugar. Costco: no sugar. Foodmaster: no sugar. The Harvest Coop: no sugar. Tader Joe’s on Mass. Ave.: no sugar.

Finally we found sugar at the Trader Joe’s in Burlington. About 15 miles away. That’s a lot of gas but we decided we could manage it.

But I had the sense to pull the car over and ask the nice National Guard (who, again politely, pointed out that the four of us in one car, constituted a violation of the curfew laws) if there were check points leaving the city? He said yes, there were, and the wait was only about 90 minutes to get out.

The four of us decided that we could use the no-sugar pectin for strawberry jam. No one wanted to drive that far and spend that much money on gas just idling.

The sun is about to go down. I’ve got five dozen jars of jam put up — mostly half-pint but a few 4-oz. for gifts. I just finished cleaning up the kitchen and April is tucked into bed. A large truck that Paul calls a “deuce” is creeping down the street very slowly, announcing through a bullhorn that everyone needs to be off the streets by 8:30.

Now I’m going to get to work on another heavy wool quilt. It seems absurd, with the temperatures in the high 80 degrees, but after last winter, I suspect we’re going to need lots of heavy wool quilts come December. In New England, you have to start thinking about winter in the spring.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Written Monday, June 8 at 2:something a.m.:

Turns out that one of the guys who lives at the other end of the condo complex is a MIT geek of old and has a smallish workshop set up in his storage space. He’s managed to rig up a generator that runs on an exercise bike so we have some power, even when the electricity is down. Which is pretty much all the time lately. Some of the women have actually taken to signing up for time on it — they miss the gym, which is closed due to lack of electricity. So there was enough leg power to juice up my laptop battery — I have no idea when the internet will be up long enough to upload this, but I’ve got some time to write, anyway.

Where the hell was I? Usually I just check the old entries on the blog, but … anyway….

I think I’d gotten through telling you about the checkpoints. We drove through the backroads and small towns to get to the cabin. And what we saw was pretty damned scary.

About half of the gas stations were boarded up. Way more than just a few months ago. I remember last year, around Memorial Day, hearing that gas stations were closing down and feeling like it was a spooky moment. Driving through NowhereVille, New England, was much spookier. Of the gas stations that were open, about half had “no gas” signs out front.

There weren’t any lines, though. I didn’t think about that until Paul pointed it out. That was pretty scary, too.

As we got closer to the cabin, towns thinned out and Paul and I had a worried conversation about making sure we had enough gas to get there and back to the next filling station. Turns out that the little town we’re outside of had a working station, so we breathed a sign of relief.

The work had actually gone really well on our little cabin. Apparently the fact that we kept the money coming — and the fact that there wasn’t much other work — really inspired these guys to do a good job. It was livable, believe it or not. I mean, it’s a simple little one-room cabin with a loft, so not complex or anything. If I remember my “Little House on the Prairie,” Ma and Pa Ingalls built one in a week with a hand axe and logs. So our guys with their back hoes, power guns, and tables saws were way ahead of the game.

Sorry, I’m rambling a little. It’s the heat, I think.

The really complicated stuff is yet to come — the turbine and the spring house. There’s a little brook that runs fast and cold down the slope that the house is built into. We’re going to put a turbine in there to generate electricity. We’re also going to build a stone spring house — the cold water running over the stone will keep it cool as a modern refrigerator. Well, according to the book I read, it will. I’m not sure when we’re going to get that done. The blueprints for the turbine caused our foreman to scratch his head, but he says he knows a guy who is good with weird-ass yuppie crap (his words, not mine) and he’ll get it up and running by the end of July. The solar water heater went in while we were up there.

God I hope so.

I haven’t gotten to what actually happened in Boston yet. Personally or on a larger scale. I’m not avoiding it… oh, hell. Yes, I am. It’s ugly and it’s depressing.

A thunderstorm is rolling in — I can feel the breeze and smell the rain in the distance. (We’re all out on the deck, sleeping on mats, to keep cool. April is out like a light but I haven’t been sleeping well.) I’m going to shut down and put up the tarp. I hope that a storm means things cool off. Everywhere.

*****

Okay, it’s now Wednesday and we’ve had power all day! And internet for some of it, too! Now that I’ve finished charging anything that takes a battery, I’m going to post this. I mentioned the gas station thing… I can’t find a link from Memorial Day weekend last year, but here’s a link from the L.A.Times about gas stations closing from the high prices! Doesn’t $4/gallon sound heavenly right now?