The Unexpected Long Term Effects of a Pandemic

Posted by on Oct 7, 2021 in Design, lasersaur | No Comments

How’s your life going?  Are you where you thought you’d be now if you look back to a couple of months before the 2020 elections?  Or to the early days of 2020 when America First thought China had declared biological war?

It’s made a mess of my sideline business, but I’m recovering and adapting and looking at some new ways to pay the bills.

My life is changing quite a bit as of a few weeks ago.  I’m writing about it today because the last few weeks have been an unpleasant surprise introduction to the pain of passing large gallstones, having one’s gall bladder removed, and the weeks of recovery.  Thank you, Obamacare, I’m not going to lose my house or have to sell off all my possessions to pay for a 5-digit hospital tab.

During my years in infosec our trade often looked at epidemiology.  There are wonderful models on how malware spreads like disease, how we can control it, cultural reactions, administration headaches, financial woes, and even politics.  There’s also a lot of experience with the people who have the money not wanting to “waste” it on security.  I’m old enough to remember AIDS but also old enough to remember how it was blown off by most of America, including POTUS Reagan, and how much that held back diagnosis and treatment.  Not to be all doom-and-gloom, but between POTUS Trump and the right-wing’s denial of science, things are not going as well as they could.

Starting with the lockdowns, the wearing of masks, and finally getting to vaccinations; then breakthrough infections and masks being political agendas, I’ve been laying low.  Selling stuff on my Etsy store, cleaning out a bunch of childhood/teen SF/fantasy stuff that is now worth folding money on eBay.  When you pretend you’re moving you discover that the $50 skateboard you bought in Santa Cruz in the 90s that’s still in shrink wrap?  It’s worth $1300 (a months’ mortgage!) to an eBay collector.

Right before I took ill, my 100W CO2 tube in my laser cutter finally died, it puts out 40W on a good day.  A replacement 100W tube a grand or so, and for $2500 I can get a 250W tube.  Ok, off to Protohaven, I’ll cut my Etsy stuff there, buy a 250W tube, and double down on Etsy sales.

Except I’m out of Baltic Birch.

So are all the dealers and they have been for months and nobody knows when they will get more inventory.  Rental prices for containers — those big semi trailer boxes you see on cargo ships — have gone from $4k to $20k.  The handful of companies making Baltic Birch aren’t even taking orders from the vendors I’ve used for over a decade.

Fine, I’ll get a non-tech job to pay the bills.  I’ve been riding/wrenching motorbikes for 30 years, maybe I can get a job at a dealer.  Those containers not bringing Baltic Birch?  They’re also not bringing chips from China to go to motorcycle factories or service centers at dealers.  People have money to throw at recreational vehicles but you need to have vehicles in inventory to catch that cash.

Time to reorganize my projects:

  • Warifuru – on hold until I can get a replacement tube of at least 100W
  • Toolstands – on hold until there is Baltic Birch
  • Eurorack – large ones are on hold until there is more Baltic Birch, however I have enough remnants to try out some smaller, more portable racks
  • Sensor-box – going back to work on this because I have all the bits I need for prototyping and I am 3d printing the enclosures

Also time to learn some new skills.  I’m looking at things I like doing that have market value as Pittsburgh’s economy explodes.  Working on motorcycles is complicated by my having a bad knee, but what about gunsmithing?  I have a lot of the tools and know the hard skills — running a lathe, tig welding, etc.  A study-at-home class can be completed in a couple of months and have me ready for the Spring thaw and a return to shooting competitions.

We can all do this.  I found inspiration from a crazy hippie doctor who accidentally helped end the smallpox epidemic.

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