Monday, July 20, 2009

Faribault Woolen Mill

Patrick told me a while back that the Faribault Woolen Mill was in trouble. I went on line this morning and discovered the mill has closed. This was a wonderful old mill, established in Faribault, MN in 1865.

Pat and I have four of their jacquard weave blankets with Native American motifs: a bison, a bear, a thunder bird and a moon of falling leaves.

The mill made fine blankets, beginning with the wool. Every step of the manufacture was in house and in Faribault. It provided jobs in a small Minnesota town, and it ran a really neat retail store.

I assume the current economic collapse finished it off, after it survived the economic crises of the late 19th century and the 1930s; though it was probably hurt by overseas competition and places like Walmart.

This got me thinking of Joseph Schumpeter's theory of creative destruction. Here is a Schumpeter quote from Wikipedia:

The opening up of new markets and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as US Steel illustrate the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one ... [The process] must be seen (as a) perennial gale of creative destruction...

What is not mentioned in this quote is the enormous cost of this creative destruction, in which capitalism builds, destroys, rebuilds and destroys again. Is there progress? Maybe, but at what cost? European and Japanese industry were improved by the destruction of old mills in WWII and the need to build new ones after the war. It's rather like deciding you need a new house, so you blow up the old one.

War isn't the only way to get rid of old fixed capital. Another way is the demolition of cities like Detroit and Youngstown and the gutting of the industrial Midwest. Is this really a good use of resources, especially in a world of limited resources?

Can we really afford to rip down working buildings and businesses? Wouldn't it be better to repair and recycle?

I will miss the mill. I wish I had bought more blankets.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Unemployment Again

I got a call from a job I actually wanted: a small nonprofit, good commute, part-time, nice people. The guy said it was really close, but they hired someone with a CPA. This is for a bookkeeping job.

(For those who don't know, there is hierarchy in accounting. Accounting clerks at bottom, then bookkeepers, then accountants, then CPAs.)

Now it's possible the CPA had good reasons for wanted a half-time job that paid less than $20,000 a year. Maybe because there is pro-rated health care.

Still, it strikes me that this says something about our economy. I was over-qualified for the job. The CPA is way over-qualified.

The last two turn-downs I've gotten said I interviewed well, and they enjoyed talking with me. So apparently the problem isn't my interviewing. Maybe my age. Even more likely the economy.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Think Galacticon

I spent last weekend at Think Galacticon in Chicago, a very nice con at Roosevelt University in the Adler-Sullivan Auditorium Building. It is the first time I have attended a con in an architectural masterpiece.

The building is on Michigan Avenue, opposite Lake Michigan, and our hotel was the same. Patrick and I spent Friday going to the Chicago Architecture Foundation and the Art Institute, then Pat wandered around downtown Chicago while I attended the con.

So, blue lake, sailboats, Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, a look at the Impressionists at the Art Institute and a con in an Adler and Sullivan building.

We did not make Taste, but it helped keep our area busy.

The con has a left of center perspective, and there were good panels on race and class. They were not the kind of panels that solve problems, but the kind that enabled me to think about the problems -- see them a bit more clearly.

I will write more, after I have thought more.

Coming back, we drove north along the lake, through one plush neighborhood and suburb after another. Very lovely. Very green. Very like the mansions at the north end of Duluth along Lake Superior, except these went on for miles and miles and miles. Given our society, having this much affluence means there must be far vaster areas of poverty and blight somewhere else.

The catalpa trees were blooming in these lovely neighborhoods. When we got back to the Interstate, chicory was blooming blue along the highway edges; and when we got home, our hoya had put out more flowers.