The Rice Mystery

Here’s a mystery: why is bulk rice still in such short supply?

I could understand pre-packaged rice being in short supply, because of how the shortages have been created: virtually overnight, everyone has stopped eating at restaurants and relied on cooking for themselves. That has caused a sudden, tremendous, and unforeseen increase in the demand for retail food products.

Bulk grains, however, are not really a retail food product. They are a wholesale food product being sold by retail outlets. Bulk foods come in the same large packages that restaurants buy. If anything, there should be sale prices on bulk rice, because distributors should be trying to dispose of a glut of it, as restaurants are no longer purchasing the 50 lb. bags of rice that my local coop uses to fill the bulk bins with.

But no. Most of the rice bins in the bulk section remain empty as of today. It’s very strange.

The USA Drops the Ball, with Enormous Consequences

Insufficient amounts of testing and tracing infrastructure are in place, but it doesn’t matter: reopening is happening.

It also doesn’t matter that some areas are being more cautious than others. Well, it does matter, but not so much as one might wish it did. All a plague needs to keep spreading is for some areas to fester, mostly untreated, so that it can continue to spread and affect all areas.

Here Comes the Second Wave

It’s going to be a doozy. If you look at the curves, overall, they’ve barely flattened. The “low” point from which the resurgence is going to start really isn’t all that low, in other words. Things will reach crisis levels surprisingly soon.

At that point, there will be attempts to slam on the brakes, but it will be largely too late. Momentum will dictate the process.

Goodbye, Economy

The key fallacy of our time is the dichotomy of saving the economy versus saving more lives, because letting the disease rage mostly out of control will destroy the economy. Smarter capitalists like Bill Gates realize this. Even most economists do. Even nominally right-wing economists like those in the employ of the American Enterprise Institute have been making this argument.

One would think such an amazing (and unusual) amount of consensus might attract attention. Apparently not, at least on the political right. This is not a surprise; humans have an amazing ability to rationalize away inconvenient information.

Keep in mind that even if the pandemic stopped getting worse, the economy would probably continue to get worse for some time. Many businesses that are still alive on paper have been fatally wounded economically. As the inevitable happened to them, the economy would almost certainly sink further in the coming months.

Now there is going to be a second, more severe wave of infections added to that whole process. The conclusion seems inescapable.

Hello, Second Great Depression

It is theoretically possible for a massive stimulus program to address this. It was also theoretically possible for better testing and contact-tracing to be in place before the reopenings started. Just like the latter failed to happen, the former will not happen, either.

In order for such measures to be taken (basically, a second New Deal), there must be both the will and the ability. Neither exists. A large and vocal minority, given disproportionate political power by an antiquated system, won’t allow the measures to be put into place.

What measures (too little, too late) can be put into place will be doomed by corruption. Just like Trump cronies soaked up most of the aid in previous packages, they will in any coming packages. Money spent on relief will thus mostly go to waste. The show in Congress over relief measures is therefore mostly a show; the US government is incapable of preventing a depression.

The economy is even more global today than it was in 1929, and in 1929 it was already global enough that Germany was able to drag the rest of the world down for the ride when it entered an economic depression. Moreover, the United States is far more economically prominent today than Germany was then.

It therefore seems inevitable that the severe downturn will be global, a Second Great Depression.

I Think I’m Starting to See a Pattern Hereā€¦

I’m trying to package a Java program I wrote so it makes a nice, professional-looking “clickable” app, complete with a custom icon.

First up was the Mac. The Oracle-furnished packaging tools were buggy and did not exactly work as documented, but I finally managed to make a (crappy) package from them.

Then came Linux. At first I was at a loss as to what to do, then I decided to crib the package bundler that the jEdit build files used. It was a huge struggle, because it was your typical open-source project, almost completely undocumented. Eventually I managed to get it to limp along to completion and make a (nonworking) Debian package.

A day of struggle followed, trying to make the nonworking package work. Eventually I gave up on the bundler and decided to make a Debian package completely from scratch. That was surprisingly easy compared to the crap software I had been fighting with.

Then back to the Mac. Would the bundler that the jEdit team used do any better a job than the stock one shipped with the JDK? No, it would not. So I looked into what made a Mac application bundle tick, and it wasn’t that complex. The biggest hurdles were (a) finding the magic keyword to search on (“bundle” in this case), and creating an Info.plist file (doable once I located the documentation for them).

So I built that one totally from scratch, too. So now I’m two for two at it being less work to “re-invent the wheel” than it is to use an existing, off-the-shelf solution.

Next up: Windows. Just for yucks, I’ll give Launch4j a whirl, though based on my recent experiences, I don’t expect it to work, and I’m not planning on investing much time in trying to make it work, either. Who knows, maybe I’ll get pleasantly surprised. (Then again, probably not.)

Update: Well, I’ll be. Launch4j actually proved to be a time-saver. The most obnoxious thing about it is a bizarre insistence on four-part version numbers, but it turns out that’s a Windows thing (and it is documented), so it’s not the Launch4j team’s fault.