Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bit late this morning.

World Financial Crisis

The Oct 6 New Yorker got here yesterday – every single cartoon relates to the mess we’re in. Must be intentional, although it doesn’t seem to be announced. I wish the presidential candidates showed more awareness of what’s going on. Part of what is so scary about all this is the feeling that nobody in the world (except perhaps Mr Paulson) has more than the vaguest idea.

Shandy asks (comment, yesterday) what we’re afraid of. It’s essentially the feeling of unchartedness. Here on my desk beside the computer are bank statements showing a healthy balance. But what if the bank goes down? That would have been unthinkable even a few weeks ago. It isn’t, now. The failure of the Icelandic banks has (to my surprise) involved more than 300,000 British on-line savers, and several local authorities in England who have deposited millions.

Most of them will probably get most of it back from the British government (Iceland being broke) but for the moment it’s out of reach.

That’s what my husband is afraid of, banks failing. We did take some cash out yesterday, and I must be sure to get him to show me where he’s stashed it. The process was easier and far less embarrassing than I expected.

I an more afraid of a general crumbling of society. We’ll all have less money. In our case, I assume our pension is safe. Can anything be assumed? We’ll have less supplementary income-from-savings. My sister and brother-in-law find – and they’re not alone – that there is less in their retirement account than they were expecting. She is a bit worried, I think; Roger, ever sanguine, says that everything’s fine – they’ll just have to die a bit sooner than planned.

Other people have jobs and houses to lose. If things should get bad enough that people are hungry – and nothing can be ruled out, these days – we’d be better off in Kirkmichael, even if we confine the firepower to rabbits.

Robert Peston's blog (another BBC reporter) is consistently good.


I’ve reached (but not finished) row 23 of the 8th repeat: half-way through the 46 rows of the repeat, in a sense. The rows have quite suddenly begun to feel rather long. I must have just short of 350 stitches at the moment – a bagatelle, compared to the border.

I have sort of set myself the goal of finishing the slow movement of the 10th repeat before I stop for Ketki’s sweater. That’s an easy point at which to resume. Even that probably won’t be halfway through the centre, although there are only 13.7 repeats in all. It’s an interesting lesson in geometry – like the old story of the sage who asked the king to put one grain of rice on the first square of a chessboard for him, two on the second, four on the third, and to go on doubling the number on each of the 64 squares.


  1. I was reading somewhere that the amygdala is the seat of fear and anxiety, and activities like knitting distract it and allow us to feel less anxious. Sounds like the Princess is just the ticket!

  2. Anonymous2:08 PM

    It's a very scary time for husband is 63, and will be retiring soon. We are planning to build our retirement home in New Hampshire next spring, and I suddenly find myself worrying about that.... I make myself feel better by reminding myself that any money we put into that local economy is probably a good thing. (We live in the NY City area now, and I don't feel responsible for the local economy here!)

    The good news is that I'll never have to give up my knitting, since the stash will outlive me!

    Barbara M.

  3. Anonymous3:25 PM

    I think people in government are fully aware, they just don't want to create a panic by talking about it. With an election pending, they are less prone to talk. Won't surprise me if on Nov 5th things are suddenly worse. You can read enough in the NYTimes and WSJ, at the least, to see that this is international.

    I just hope I'm not the only one in my circle who can't fully retire. It would be a bummer when everyone else is running together to be stuck at work!

    Gerrie in St Paul

  4. Anonymous4:12 PM

    My college roommate and a dear friend moved to Iceland from Boston for a great tech job. I spoke to her the other day and she said that inflation has gone through the roof- every day their currency becomes more and more worthless and people are totally panicked. She sounds scared. She is of course lucky in a sense, she can come back to the US if things get super bad and as she has no debt, if she has to sleep on her parent's couch for a while, that would be the worst of it-- but what about ordinary people? I'm finishing a Phd and am on the academic job market this year and I am terrified. I'm young and have lost no retirement savings because I have no money anyway, but I owe a gazillion dollars in student loans and all I want is a job but now there is talk that lots of schools will be putting in hiring freezes. So never mind that I have degrees from the finest American universities- I still may end up without a job. So I am scared.

  5. Well, for whatever consolation it's worth, the Dow will have to drop to around 1550 to have dropped proportionally as much as in the Great Depression. If nothing else, it gives us something of a benchmark to watch for.

    I'm kind of glad I've been in Peru this week and not seeing the news all the time.