Tuesday, 6 March 2012

08:44 – This is crunch week for Greece, with Thursday the deadline for the “voluntary” debt-swap, in which it is hoped that private investors will agree to take a so-called voluntary write-down of about 75% in net present value terms. If those private sector investors who hold at least 2/3 of the outstanding debt do not agree to the terms, it’s game over immediately. Greece enters a disorderly default and the whole house of cards collapses. If more than 2/3 agree but not all of them, Greece has announced that it will enforce so-called collective-action clauses, which in effect force the hold-outs to comply against their will. If the CACs are triggered, Greece again defaults, and the whole house of cards collapses.

Germany is convinced, wrongly, that the mechanisms in place will prevent a Greek default from spreading to the rest of the periphery. When Greece defaults, the markets will immediately focus on the remaining weak euro members, starting with Ireland and Portugal and quickly spreading to Spain and Italy and eventually Belgium and France. Once that ball starts rolling down the hill, there’s simply no way to stop it. The other southern-tier euro nations will begin toppling like dominoes. Even if Germany were willing to beggar itself, it couldn’t stop the collapse.

In the Netherlands, politicians are now seriously discussing abandoning the euro and returning to the guilder. You can bet that similar discussions are going on behind the scenes in Germany, Finland, and the other northern-tier nations as well. Short of a miracle of biblical proportions, the euro is toast.

After making up the chemicals for the first batch of 60 biology kits, we’ve started to run short of bottles, particularly the 15 mL ones. I ordered a couple cases of the 15 mL bottles yesterday, this time from a supplier that carries US-made bottles rather than the Chinese-made bottles we had been using. The US bottles are a few cents each more expensive, but they’ll arrive tomorrow. Lead time on the Chinese bottles is 60 to 90 days, which is simply too long a window to allow us to manage inventory efficiently.

Rather than dropper tips and caps for the new bottles, I ordered standard ribbed PE-lined PP screw caps. The dropper tips have only one real advantage, and that’s when a chemical is normally dispensed drop-wise. Otherwise, a standard cap is more convenient. We may end up using a combination of dropper tips and standard caps in later batches of the kits, using the dropper tips for chemicals like pH indicators. Or we may just use standard caps on all of them. Another advantage to using standard caps is that they’re less likely to leak during shipping. We haven’t had a big problem with that, but it has happened a couple of times despite our efforts to secure and seal the caps.