Re: Communal Living For Non-Hippies

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I was mocked and ridiculed for this idea.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:23 AM
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I think this would make more sense for families raising kids than for people not raising kids.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:25 AM
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There's this strange acceptance of the idea that as we move into adulthood, we should radically de-emphasize our community and connectedness in order to purchase a big house near a good school with a large lawn.

A lot of us would be just fine with some alternatives. But there's a real paucity of affordable higher density housing with accessible green space in a lot of American cities.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:27 AM
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The Big Love style living occurs in some developments now - over the weekend I was across the street from an open lawn that was bounded on three sides by the open backyards of about two dozen houses. When we visited growing up, me & my cousins would play football there all the time. The local kids would be fools for not doing likewise.

Ramshackle living is great for 20-somethings, but it's rare to find 5 people compatible for it, and you tend to have a fair amount of turnover. Drama central.


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:30 AM
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1. I would love to share a house with another family, if we could find the right family. Of course, this is like getting married all over again, except with more people.

2. In our recent house search, we found that limiting yourself to neighborhoods with good schools pretty much rules out (1) living in higher density housing (2) living close to public transportation and (3) living in a multicultural environment.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:32 AM
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This already exists and is called coop housing--often a group of freestanding houses plus communal space.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:32 AM
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I would rather live in a co-op than a coop.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:33 AM
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I really like this sort of idea (even in our apartment building, it's really nice having a couple of neighbors who drop their kids off on us or vice versa, or will come over for dinner or feed us on no notice). But it does involve less control over your stuff, and that's hard for people. Even with separate houses sharing a yard, there's still going to be people peeing on your mountain laurel, or something along those lines, and if that will make you crazy, sharing space will make you crazy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:34 AM
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8:

Even with separate houses sharing a yard, there's still going to be people peeing on your mountain laurel, or something along those lines, and if that will make you crazy, sharing space will make you crazy.

If it's crazy to be made crazy by people peeing on my mountain laurel, I don't want to be sane.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:37 AM
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(even in our apartment building, it's really nice having a couple of neighbors who drop their kids off on us or vice versa, or will come over for dinner or feed us on no notice).

It was like this in our previous tiny upstate NY village. We miss it a lot.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:37 AM
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peeing on your mountain laurel

Awesome euphemism.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:38 AM
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There are a lot of suburban condo developments that sort of look like this (e.g. units arranged around a shared swimming pool and "clubhouse"), but they are too hopelessly unhip for lefties to make a big deal about.

Also, if "Big Love" implies polygamy as opposed to just community, then that's probably a bad idea.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:39 AM
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9: That's the thing. In any group of ten adults, there are at least five genuinely objectionable and obtrusive habits that a reasonable person would be bothered by. To make this sort of thing work, you really have to be able to not be bothered by things that you have every right to object to, or the whole thing breaks down.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:41 AM
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The Eco Village in Ithaca has a lot of the elements you are talking about: Individual houses around a communal space that is actually used a lot, shared resources, etc. It really functions as something between a commune and a co-op.

Unfortunately it fails the "for non-hippies" test.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:43 AM
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That link got out of hand.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:44 AM
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It's just a shared backyard, right? Which might be a problem if someone wants to grow heirloom tomatoes right where the kids want to dig for buried treasure, but much less of a problem than, say, trying to get five unrelated adults to agree on the thermostat.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:45 AM
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But it does involve less control over your stuff, and that's hard for people

This is very much socially conditioned, however. In most of the world (non-honkyville) communal living is the norm, and people's sense of boundaries is just very different. If more housing were built like this, people would adapt. Well, maybe: I posted once about how the atomism of American living was pathological and y'all made fun of me.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:47 AM
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Roberta and I nearly bought a house in this community, and it really does look great for kids. However, I'm kinda hermity and solitary and realized that much contact with neighbors would leave me somewhere between cranky and insane.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:49 AM
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17: That's funny, I was thinking of the 'do not touch my towel' attitude as very much the sort of thing that's incompatible with sharing a lawn mower and allowing other people's children to raid your refrigerator. But I agree with you about the atomism of American living.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:49 AM
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17: Isn't the norm mostly 'communal living with people you're related to by blood or marriage and therefore required by God, or nature, to put up with', though?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:50 AM
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I kinda did this on my recent move to Durham. While I was visiting town house-hunting, some friends' neighbor accepted a job elsewhere. I ended up buying her house. My neighbors also work at Duke and frequent the same social events I do, so carpooling and free time work out nicely. We do both have fenced backyards, which is good for us. Well, for them - I don't much care.


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:50 AM
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It may come as no surprise that Portland is already on top of this (the linked article is old; I know of at least one other cohousing community, and there are likely more still).


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:50 AM
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The most successful shared-housing situation I've been in involved actually interviewing people.

In my experience, it's easier to live with like-minded strangers than relatives or like-minded friends; with strangers you can become friends to precisely the degree that seems appropriate, rather than having to build on existing habits.

Of course, again, this requires quite a lot of pickiness in selecting the strangers.

We will be acquiring a housemate in the new year; the interview process, I think, will need to begin in November. Only the best, brightest and tidiest will be allowed near our books and irritating selection of thrift-store decorative items.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:51 AM
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The appeal of such arrangements eludes me.

If I wanted to live like the poor, I would not have burned every bridge that could possibly connect me to the unhappy family, depressed post-industrial New England city and lousy schools of my childhood.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:51 AM
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We looked into this- common yard, common garden, occasional community dinners- but it was actually too expensive. Units are sold as condos and they cost significantly more than equivalent non-co-housing units.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:51 AM
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14: Participants in co-housing can make their own rules. You want to have a no-facial-hair-no-folk-music rule, go right ahead and find a like-minded group. I'm sure there are houses with no-smug-academic rules as well.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:51 AM
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26: That came off a lot snottier than I intended. It's impossible to sound good natured while using the word "smug".


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:54 AM
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Actually, weren't a lot of those fifties/Gans-esque/Levittown developments designed to facilitate this kind of thing? Shared green spaces, club houses, etc? Of course, that was all on the assumption that you'd live way the hell away from the city, and that you'd have a full-time wife to wrangle all the labor and relationships.

See, on reflection that sounds like the worst of both worlds. If I'm going to have people all in my business, I want them to be useful. I don't just want someone snooping around in the garden or half-watching the kids when they're out in the shared yard; I want us to be able to share cooking and cleaning and books and stuff. If I'm going to put up with other people's occasional noisy music and a general lack of privacy, I want actual material benefit therefrom. (And I add that I am usually happy to deal with noise and forced retreats to my room when lucky enough to have a good group living situation.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:55 AM
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So what you're saying, Becks: The Flophouse needs kids?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:56 AM
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I want to be sister-wives with Becks.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:57 AM
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However, I'm kinda hermity and solitary

I'm that way too. I might be able to pull off sharing a green space, but other people's kids need to stay the hell out of my fridge.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:57 AM
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Apo has a point in 18.

Some people I know are just naturally generous and gregarious people [my sister springs to mind] and integrate pretty well into that sort of communal living. Some people don't.

I suspect it's the people as much as the structure of the environment itself that make it work.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:57 AM
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30: Are you proposing to me in tandem, Dave Bee?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:59 AM
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If I'm going to have people all in my business, I want them to be useful. to be able to have sex with them.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:01 AM
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damn, that didn't work at all. Strikeout was supposed to be involved. Ignore, ignore!


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:02 AM
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34: Well, perhaps you could discuss that during your interview process. Heck, perhaps we could discuss that during our impending interview process. What a great suggestion, marcus!


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:05 AM
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There's a green (in the environmental sense) place like this in Da/vis, California. It's kind of hippy, but it's really desirable. It has a nice pool, so you don't have to deal with the public pool. (Sarcasm intended) It's also got a facility for art classes and yoga-type stuff. It's definitely sort of hippy, but in the "We've grown up and sold out" sense. They have some really lovely green space. I don't care for the architecture that much, but by the standards of the town, it's downright lovely.

It's also really quite expensive.

I'm pwned by gswift and SP, but I thought that the point ought to be emphasized.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:09 AM
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perhaps you could discuss that during your interview process

This was actually brought up once when I was interviewing for an apartment spot in Berlin. (Big multigenerational co-op/commune-type apartment buildings aren't unusual there.) In true German style, the guy I was talking to was very upfront about the whole thing. "So, just so you know, at times group sex has broken out among us here in the house. You wouldn't have to take part in anything, but we thought you should know about it ahead of time."


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:11 AM
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37 - Expensive for Davis, or as compared to non-California places?


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:11 AM
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Um, whoops. Google help on 39?


Posted by: ptm | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:12 AM
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Sadly, group sex has never broken out anywhere I've lived. Drunkenness, now, we've had several very serious outbreaks of drunkenness, and one tiny but virulent outbreak of absinthe-drinking. (Mercifully, I escaped that one, but I saw the victims and it changed me for life.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:13 AM
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I live in a Chicago neighborhood of single-family houses close to one another. The closest friends among our neighbors, about four families, are in and out of each others houses, are nearly each other's closest friends collectively, and our children are even closer and have been since they can remember. Ezra's notion is on a continuum with the way I live now.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:14 AM
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Dude, google Davis. It's a wildly common name, both personal and place name. No one's going to find this site from googling 'Davis'. And if they do, what would they find -- some pseudonymous people saying that sold-out hippies live in nice houses there?

Davis davis davis. See, not a problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:14 AM
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30 cross-posted with 29. Like you'd be so lucky, Smasher.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:15 AM
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There's obviously a fundamental difference between collective living in purpose-built housing and collective living in previously-existing spaces. Purpose-built fancy collective spaces sound to me rather like gated communities without the gates.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:15 AM
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Cohousing directory. I like the idea in theory, but the practice would probably drive me batty.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:17 AM
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I could do the co-housing thing with my sisters, as long as they didn't marry anyone obnoxious. (Second clause added upon thinking of my brother-in-law, who is lovely, but whose wife drives shivbunny up the wall.) We'd squabble, but a lot of the unconscious things that drive roommates batty we tend to share.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:21 AM
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46: Figures that all three of the NM ones are in Santa Fe.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:21 AM
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It's just a shared backyard, right? Which might be a problem if someone wants to grow heirloom tomatoes right where the kids want to dig for buried treasure,

I bet that if you got the kids in this sort of situation young enough, they'd be more tractable.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:21 AM
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49: Tractable kids stay out of your tracts. I can see this being hard to manage, if only because it's been surprising to see the differences in parenting styles among my friends.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:24 AM
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I just assume that along with this shared backyard arrangement would be a shared disciplining of the kids arrangement.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:26 AM
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I have this uncontrollable desire to pee on mountain laurel now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:27 AM
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Co-housing seems like one of those ideas that sound fantastic, that could even be fantastic with exactly the right kind of house and housemates, but which in practice will probably suck about 95% of the time.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:29 AM
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I can't copy properly on this new version if IE at the library, but it was expensive for Davis, and Davis is expensive fo rthe central valley.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:29 AM
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The iffy part is not the comingling communitarians of the commune, but the friends and visitors who drop by. That is the real wildcard.


Posted by: swampcracker | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:31 AM
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it's been surprising to see the differences in parenting styles among my friends.

Oh man, that would drive me nuts. A lot of the kids around our neighboorhood are a pain in the ass, and it's because they're apparently being raised like wild animals.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:33 AM
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In my impoverished-farm-village-turning-into-unfashionable-suburb, a church owns and maintains a sizable grassy field that's accessible through backyards from about 20 different houses and one extremely downscale apartment building. All the neighborhood kids hang out there. Some of the dads and granddads hang out at the volunteer firehouse, where they smoke cigars and have long slow conversation that bear many similarities to these comment threads. It's the best of all arrangements: comunal space for kids, no responsibilities for grownups, and an opportunity but no obligation to meet the neighbors.

We also have an actual Big Love style family compound on our block, but sadly without the polygamy: A retiring farmer sold most of his land, but built homes for his two adult sons and their families on lots behind his own house.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:36 AM
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Isn't this basically a version of "having good neighbors"? We used to play on the lawns of everyone on our block; where we lived in Canada, the folks across the street and us would have the kids come in and out; in Seattle, we had a three foot chain link fence that I used to lean over and talk to the neighbor in the apartment next to me all the time (and the folks in that small apartment complex would talk in the back parking area all the time, too).

I was thinking of the 'do not touch my towel' attitude as very much the sort of thing that's incompatible with sharing a lawn mower and allowing other people's children to raid your refrigerator.

Au contraire. I don't rub the lawn mower or the refrigerator contents on my naked wet body after a shower.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:37 AM
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the refrigerator contents on my naked wet body after a shower.

Everything is improved by a fried egg.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:38 AM
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There are a lot of ways to draw the boundaries. Here in America, I'd be cool with a shared backyard and occasional get-togethers, but sharing decisions, or having people root around in my fridge? No friggin way. Mainly it would be nice to have a place for kids to hang out with other kids in an unstructured way. But I don't need to hang out with anyone.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:39 AM
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The low-rises in the Wire- nice big communal courtyard where everyone hangs out.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:41 AM
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I don't rub the lawn mower or the refrigerator contents on my naked wet body after a shower.

That's sad, B. You need to lighten up.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:41 AM
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I just assume that along with this shared backyard arrangement would be a shared disciplining of the kids arrangement.

You'd need that in order for it to work, but there's a pretty strong presumption in favor of not thinking that unrelated people have a right to discipline your child, which would be very hard to overcome.

Even if everyone's kids were reasonably well-behaved, I can see lots of questions about mundane things like bedtimes, priority of schoolwork, whether Twinkies are okay or all snacks must be healthy.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:43 AM
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56: See, if those kids were raiding your fridge, they'd probably pick up some manners from you. Buck's childhood included a mutual agreement between his dad and the father and grandfather of the boy his age who lived next door to pass the two of them back and forth as stoop labor, gardening and yardwork and so on, and everyone yelled at everyone's kids when necessary.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:43 AM
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I think cohousing could be great for the elderly--if the cohousing organization can employ visiting nurses or home aides, it would give elderly members much more control over their lives than they would have in a nursing home or many assisted living places. There are examples of elderly people forming co-ops for this purpose while remaining in their own homes; cohousing might make it more economical. Bonus: A communal effort to keep kids off the lawn is bound ot be more effective than individual shrieking.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:43 AM
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Mainly it would be nice to have a place for kids to hang out with other kids in an unstructured way.

This was my experience growing up, which was 'Cala's dad is too much of a worrywart to be happy with Cala going over to friends' houses, so everyone ends up in the Calabackyard.' It wasn't uncommon to have eleven kids in the backyard during the summer.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:45 AM
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The real enemy of spontaneity and openness is the overscheduling that goes with a 2-responsible earner household. If time to cook decent meals and do basic sanitation and childcare in the home is scarce due to travel and powerpoint, then no hanging out whenever, even if the neighbors are well groomed and their kids dont cuss or bite.

Also, wouldn't all the laydeez gravitate to the irresistible magnetism of the best moustache, or the gentlemen gravitate to the gal most interested in male attention?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:47 AM
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I'm a fan of kids raiding other people's fridges. I used to do it at my best friend's house, and I'm always charmed when people do it here.

there's a pretty strong presumption in favor of not thinking that unrelated people have a right to discipline your child

This is an odd thing; I know it's true, but I think it's mostly about strangers. Every parent I know is cool with other parents scolding their kids for misbehaving and surprisingly chill about the realities that yeah, healthy food yadda yadda but let's not freak out over a kid eating a damn donut.

Which reminds me that I have to bring "snack" for 100 kids again tomorrow because I didn't manage to hold someone else's feet to the fire and get them to sign up. Dammit. Entemann's outlet it is!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:48 AM
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The real enemy of spontaneity and openness is the overscheduling that goes with a 2-responsible earner household.

This is right. Ten years ago when our kids were smaller, we were all less busy. We're still close but this is the biggest culprit.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:49 AM
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68a- See rollover text.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:50 AM
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67: wouldn't all the laydeez gravitate to the irresistible magnetism of the best moustache, or the gentlemen gravitate to the gal most interested in male attention?

This has not been my experience of group housing. Perhaps we were all uniformly repulsive.

Although most everyone managed extra-house hookups, so we can't have been too bad.

Polyamorous group housing sounds like a deliriously bad idea.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:51 AM
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there's a pretty strong presumption in favor of not thinking that unrelated people have a right to discipline your child

I am much more concerned about the parents who will not discipline my kids.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:53 AM
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I posted once about how the atomism of American living was pathological and y'all made fun of me.

And let's continue to make fun! It's not clear to me what advantages come from communal living. Is it chore reduction? Ability to purchase more common space than one would on one's own? More human interaction? All these things seem like they could be gotten more easily through other methods.

Chore reduction you can just buy your way out of. And of course, it's not like chore-sharing agreements usually work smoothly. Even if you can agree what chores need to be done and what counts as 'completed' (often a matter of disagreement within a single family), you have enforcement problems.

Common space seems like a value. But, as marcus notes above, this already exists and is called a condo association. Now I love my condo association, because everyone is so nice and reasonable. But some people tell me that it's hard to get different people to agree on what is appropriate use of common space (swing set vs. slate patio).

Socialization and human interaction are good, fer sure. But what about when you really don't want to deal with other people? Here again, there are substitutes for communal living that offer more flexibility. (having a regular weekly dinner with friends, all those groups Robert Putnam talks about, etc.)

Last, we can just look at revealed preference. No doubt all our choices are socially conditioned. But it is suggestive that people who can afford it do not, generally, have roommates.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:58 AM
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Apostropher, this might help you get over the sad reality of B's lack of wet-body-lawnmower-rubbing.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:58 AM
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Chore reduction you can just buy your way out of.

Assuming a total lack of financial constraints, which is not a uniformly realistic assumption.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:01 AM
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It's not clear to me what advantages come from communal living.

You're too far inside the atom, dude. It's a question of what seems normal: interacting with other humans, or not.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:04 AM
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Polyamorous group housing sounds like a deliriously bad idea.

Brigham Young had a house store where the wives could redeem scrip for goods. No detail on how scrip was issued, though. I was joking about the hookup problem, intending a reference to either trailer parks or reality shows.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:05 AM
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Chore reduction you can just buy your way out of.

Not everyone's rich, Baa.

this already exists and is called a condo association.

Uh huh. Which costs money and has people getting all uptight about swing sets vs. patios.

having a regular weekly dinner with friends

Which if you live in nuclear family type housing means a lot of cooking and cleaning, plus people having to drive over, plus parking issues.

we can just look at revealed preference. . . . it is suggestive that people who can afford it do not, generally, have roommates.

We're not talking about roommates; we're talking about shared public space. "Revealed preference" doesn't mean much when you're dealing with physical barriers and things like the financial interests of developers not to "waste" space on non-salable public areas.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:06 AM
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normal: interacting with other humans, or not

Allowed interactions get a catalog number and can be done online; to friend is a verb now, right?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:07 AM
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I would totally be sister-wives with Bave.

So what you're saying, Becks: The Flophouse needs kids?

Can you imagine what would happen to a kid raised in the Flophouse, between the lead paint, dog hair, and killer squirrels?


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:07 AM
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it is suggestive that people who can afford it do not, generally, have roommates.

I am the exception! Hooray for being a special, unique snowflake!

A condo association isn't the same. No, really. A condo association won't run to the store to get orange juice for me when I'm sick. A condo association will not have an interesting record collection ripe for pillaging, nor will it pillage and admire my collection. A condo association will not share a car and thereby cut down on the PITA aspects of car ownership. The list goes on...I would never have learned the weird tomato egg bean thing that I cook when I feel sick or simply low from a condo association.

Shared housing pushes my boundaries, actually. When I live on my own or with a Signifying Other, I retreat into a tiny, lonely little world of boredom and shopping. There are plenty of annoyances with housemates, but I'm always happier when I have them, and I tend to eat better, get out more, etc. It's like a family, only optional!


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:07 AM
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I love the way baa writes as if the question weren't whether anyone could choose communal living but whether everyone would be required to. What's the name for that move?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:08 AM
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82: Excluded middle?

and 80: This really does sound like a plan.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:10 AM
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Can you imagine what would happen to a kid raised in the Flophouse, between the lead paint, dog hair, and killer squirrels?

Except for the lead paint, sounds pretty ideal, actually.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:10 AM
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Baa makes a good point. I heard on NPR about Elks Lodges growing in membership for the first time in two decades. I'd like to join one of those things when I have a job.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:10 AM
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Also, everyone seems to be focusing on the kids but I think it would be good for the adults, too. It seems like a lot of the people I know have strong social bonds in their 20s when they have roommates and go out but then get married and move to the suburbs and become isolated, caring more about their kids' social networks than their own. Adults need friends and playmates, too.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:11 AM
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Re: disciplining other people's kids when they're all playing in the shared area. I worried about this a bit when I started taking my son (he was 3, so I stayed with him, but the 5-8 year olds were unsupervised). Sometimes kids get into fights where discipline is appropriate, but it's rarely absolutely essential. In that situation I turn to my magazine. There's no percentage in disciplining other people's kids: they don't want it, their parents don't appreciate it, and most importantly it's no fun for me. I have no interest in being the Authority Figure. I have resolved to intervene only if injuries had occurred or appeared likely. Best for all involved.

It looks to me that kids are better behaved when they know there will be no adult intervention.


Posted by: unimaginative* | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:12 AM
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Assuming a total lack of financial constraints, which is not a uniformly realistic assumption.

For sure. Although I wouldn't say it's about a total lack of financial constraints -- the question is the substitution price. And with a communal living approach, you are are also getting problems around coordination, free riders, and enforcement. Where this balances out will depend on the specifics of the case. But it seems pretty unlikely to me that the appeal of chore reduction will drive much expansion of communal living in the US. I think the main appeal will be to just reduce the cost of rent in a desirable location. But that isn't the atomization of American life I wanted to mock ogged about.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:13 AM
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I knew a guy out on Long Island who joined the Moose Lodge for the cheap beer. I now know how to make the "Moose in distress" signal, and summon other loyal Mooses to my aid. (Also, the moment of silence at some point in the evening when all true Moose turn toward the mother lodge in Elkhart, IN.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:13 AM
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89:

He told you that it involved showing your breasts, didnt he?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:14 AM
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Entemann's outlet it is!

You should check for a Nature Valley outlet while you're in the car.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:14 AM
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my new house here in Narnia has a lot of this goodness--our house and a bunch of others all back onto a park with a playground, a coconut grove, and some green space with giant trees. my older daughter (6) can go to the playground by herself and if a friend asks her over she has to check with an adult at home first, but can go. I've been getting the chinese-speaking mom of one of their friends to read me the thoughtful assessment of my 3-yr-olds progress in pre-K (which is written entirely in mandarin, and none of that han yu pin yin that's for sissies). lots of aunties out there to scold the bigger boys when they start bullying people or making trouble. "why you so gangster one, lah!?"


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:14 AM
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88: Yeah, the point is that plenty of people see the social contact inherent in the idea as a net plus rather than a net negative. Seeing an increase in the amount of social contact you have, and a decrease in the cost and difficulty of arranging such contact, as an obvious negative is exactly the attitude Ogged was making fun of.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:17 AM
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it seems pretty unlikely to me that the appeal of chore reduction will drive much expansion of communal living in the US.

Hm. Parent teacher organizations, public parks, public libraries, play spaces in malls, coffeehouses, restaurants, and a host of other places where people get together in order to get something done without having to do all the work themselves, would seem to suggest you are wrong.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:18 AM
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I love the way baa writes as if the question weren't whether anyone could choose communal living but whether everyone would be required to.

I have absolutely no idea how you got that out of what I wrote. Really, I am just questioning whether the purported advantages are so great.

And, frowner and bphd above, pace I don't understand why a condo association isn't *exactly* what is being discussed here. Condo associations according to B "cost money": how more so than communal living? The association determines the fees and duties, just like (one imagines) the communal group would determine the fees and chores. And people in my condo would absolutely run to the store to get orange juice. Indeed, just the other day my neighbor asked me if I wanted anything because they were making a trip. Am I living the commune dream?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:20 AM
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87: That's not about refusing to discipline other people's kids; that's about not micromanaging them. Surely if one kid were genuinely bullying the others and you couldn't locate his or her parent figure, you'd say something.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:20 AM
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When you have kids, you realize just how important it is to have other people around to help. For some people, grandparents help. For other people, friends help.

I do not know how people do it without communal support.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:21 AM
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93 is right. So right, in fact, that I can't tell if baa is playing with us.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:21 AM
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98: It's mysteries like that which make blog commenting the maddening, enchanting experience that it is.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:23 AM
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I knew a guy out on Long Island who joined the Moose Lodge for the cheap beer.

Please, that's the "Loyal Order of Moose".

I used to drive by the one in West Pittston, PA all the time. Never could get over how the main signage was just the acronym "LOOM".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:23 AM
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Parent teacher organizations, public parks, public libraries, play spaces in malls, coffeehouses, restaurants, and a host of other places where people get together in order to get something done without having to do all the work themselves, would seem to suggest you are wrong.

Which are all examples of communal living? Again: the point isn't that cooperation can be dandy. The question is 1) why isn't there more communal living, and 2) whether communal living is a fancy word for "condo association" which already exist in vast numbers. Cambridge MA, is probably 20-30% triple deckers that have converted into condos split 3 ways. Does this count?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:24 AM
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95: Condo associations are formalized and exclusive to people who can afford the cost of admission (buying that condo, paying the condo fees). The fact that your neighbor will pick you up something from the store is more is lovely, but surely not part of the formal condo association rules. If it were, presumably most people would rightly object, which is the point; what's needed isn't rules requiring people to do x or y, but rather a removal of barriers (mostly physical barriers) to simply allowing people to exercise their cooperative instincts. Which includes the tendency to let alone people who indicate that they want to be left alone.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:24 AM
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2) whether communal living is a fancy word for "condo association" which already exist in vast numbers. Cambridge MA, is probably 20-30% triple deckers that have converted into condos split 3 ways. Does this count?

No, those are the same thing as apartments.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:24 AM
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95: Of course a condo association could be this sort of thing -- the legal format doesn't matter much, it's the physical organization of the shared space and the social relations between the tenants that we're talking about. If you're getting the social contact you want out of your condo association, that's great -- people in this thread are talking about whether more than the American norm might be a nice way to live.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:25 AM
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Which are all examples of communal living?

Which are all examples of people trying to overcome the physical barriers that prevent communal living in order to have some of the benefits of same.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:26 AM
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I think, baa, that we're envisioning very different orange juice purchasing situations. I'm thinking about the "ooh, I'm too sick to do more than stagger over to the couch, and then I realize that we have nothing in the house to eat that doesn't require elaborate preparation, that I am too wobbly to go to the store, and that I don't want the various things that can be delivered" situation, where one's housemate matily happens by the couch and offers assistance. I'm thinking, in short, about bonds of shared purpose and affection that are strong enough to make people pro-actively helpful but weak enough that the people involved don't feel entitled to major input in one's employment and romantic choices. Friends, you know. With benefits, but not those benefits.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:29 AM
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97: My brother and I grew up in a single-family house in a neighborhood where most of the yards were unfenced and there were huge open fields near-by. Parents watched out for the kids in their field of vision no matter who they belonged to.

That pretty much also applied to the way my kids grew up tho' the size of their free-range was somewhat smaller. Friendly and helpful neighbors cannot be over-valued IMX.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:36 AM
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So right, in fact, that I can't tell if baa is playing with us.

Seriously? I am at most 10% playing with you, which is kind of a human baseline.

On the "more social interaction is good" issue, Robert Putnam is really the go-to guy on this. The concept being that there has been a general move away from extended social groups. We are increasingly "Bowling Alone" (to quote the title of his book), rather than joining leagues, etc. Communal living maybe fits into this, but if so, it feels like just a part of a larger phenomenon. So, moving beyond my sucks-to-communal living position, we can ask the larger question: why generally are people moving away from "thick" social groups in the US? Here are some thoughts:

1. Empowerment. Introverts have wanted to isolate themselves since time immemorial, and finally are rich enough to do it. Also, technology enables better solo entertainment options.
2. Volatility. People move more and more frequently. Why invest in a community when you may be gone in 2-3 years?
3. Increase in hours worked. People used to have more time to devote to social networks, now they have less. When both members of a couple work, they want to spend any rare time they have together.
4. Family-intensive culture. We have a cultural model focused on a romantic pair-bond, and the raising of children. Jane Austen always talked about marriage in terms of what it did to elevate the community, and the extended family. Now, that's not so much the ideal.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:38 AM
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Whenever I hear the phrase "revealed preference", I reach for my gun.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:41 AM
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You've got a lot of phrases like that, man.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:43 AM
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108: We're moving away from this stuff largely because of #3, though your description of the effects of work is, I think, mistaken; it's not that couples want to spend free time together rather than with friends, it's that one gets home so damn tired that one sits down in front of the tv and that's about it.

What I think people are saying here--certainly I am saying it--is that one of the major reasons people are moving away from what you (presumably following Putnam) call "thick social groups" is the *physical way that housing is constructed*. Houses line up facing one another across a street, so that the neighbors one can see from one's own house are physically separated from you by a potentially dangerous barrier. Houses next to one another have high fences for "privacy", which also cuts off contact with one's neighbors. Living and public spaces are far apart; in my neighborhood, the closest public space is three very long blocks away and is nowhere near any other housing, so it is not used except by people who drive there. All of this stuff makes it physically very difficult to have the kind of casual social interactions--"hey, I'm going to the store, need some juice?"--that help make daily realities like errands pleasant, rather than onerous.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:46 AM
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I'd like to join one of those things when I have a job.

Ned, do you know about the Elks in Braddock? Last spring, a couple dozen hipster-types all joined at once. The old line guys think it's great, and it'll probably save what is a pretty nice building, right across from the Braddock Carnegie Library (the first Carnegie Library in the US). Given the people I know who joined, I doubt that money is much of an object.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:50 AM
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108: This is also a profoundly unconservative comment. Humans have a history tens of thousands of years long of living in 'thick social groups' and only in the last century or so has American-style atomization begun to be possible in the richest areas of the world. Wouldn't a Burkean conservative think that there's likely to have been something valuable about longstanding societal patterns, and believe that thinking about what's lost when we move away from those patterns is an important thing to do?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:52 AM
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I think baa is most worried that they're going to come again to oppress the introverts. I hear you, brother, but it doesn't have to be like that.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:54 AM
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Somewhere, Robert Heinlein is reading this thread and thinking "Vindication!"


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:55 AM
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112, I had no idea. I endorse any fruition-coming of the Braddock mayor's crazy schemes.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:56 AM
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114: Enjoy the reservation, Ogged. They're never going to honor those bogus treaties.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:56 AM
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111:

I agree that architecture can have huge effects on human behavior. But I'm not sure that the only or main explanation for increased isolation (assuming the trend is real) is architecture locking people into a mode of interaction they aren't choosing. I also think you may understate how happy some introverts are to get away from hu-mans. Analogy: spending time with one's family. Not, I am given to understand, so delightful for everyone.

it's not that couples want to spend free time together rather than with friends, it's that one gets home so damn tired that one sits down in front of the tv and that's about it.

Well, put it this way. I think we all have an implicit ranking of who we'd like to spend time with. As our time contracts, we tend to spend less time with the people lower on the list. That's all I meant here.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 10:58 AM
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78

"this already exists and is called a condo association.

Uh huh. Which costs money and has people getting all uptight about swing sets vs. patios."

I am confused by the "costs money". Here (Westchester NY) condos (and also co-ops) primarily serve the lower end of the housing market (they save on land cost). Is that not true elsewhere?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:00 AM
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As our time contracts, we tend to spend less time with the people lower on the list.

No; as our time contracts, we tend to spend more time with the people who are most immediately to hand. E.g., coworkers, spouse, children.

And of course some introverts are quite happy to be left alone. But that doesn't account for--or have anything to do with, really--the difficulties in getting together with friends and acquaintances in most modern American single-family housing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:02 AM
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111

Presumedly housing is constructed that way because that is what the buyers want.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:05 AM
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This is also a profoundly unconservative comment

I think you may be mistaking an observation for an endorsement. I just think it's a fact that thick institutions are declining, and that 1, 2, 3, and 4 are reasons why. How I feel about these trends are a bit more mixed. I certainly wouldn't consider myself a unenthusiastic supporter of the withering away of thick social groups. I am skeptical, however, that communal living is likely to be part of the solution. Although I hear really good things about gated communities...


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:07 AM
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Or because that's what zoning laws mandate and tax laws subsidize. There's a whole lot of people who don't live in dense urban housing not because they don't desire it, but because they can't afford it.

Saying 'whatever is, is good' or at least is what the market demands, is the laziest form of 'thinking like an economist'. And I mean that in the pejorative sense.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:09 AM
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get married and move to the suburbs and become isolated, caring more about their kids' social networks than their own. Adults need friends and playmates, too.

This is so true.

You're too far inside the atom, dude. It's a question of what seems normal: interacting with other humans, or not.

And so is this! Except interacting with other human beings, for all its wonderful elements -- it's sort of the meaning of life -- is inevitably a pain in the ass at times. Especially once you're out of the habit. When I'm around truly communal cultures I realize that I simply could not take the lack of everyday privacy. My American socialization is a bit too deep.

I know this is obvious, but the internet is a scarily perfect device to synthesize the opposing values of isolation and social contact. Your invisible friends can't pee in the mountain laurel, and you can shut them off whenever you damn well please.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:09 AM
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124 was me.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:09 AM
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121

That's probably overly simplistic. Out of all the people I know who've bought houses and discussed it with me (not a huge sample, but quite a few) only one couple actually got what they wanted. And they were a) loaded and b) had something made for them.

Everyone else very conciously settled, one way or another. I suspect this is pretty typical of home buying. People buy what's on offer. What's on offer has a lot of inputs, buyers preferance being only one of them (and not obviously the most effective one, either).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:09 AM
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we tend to spend more time with the people who are most immediately to hand. E.g., coworkers, spouse, child

No doubt that's a factor too. But I think it's a mistake to think it's the only factor. Americans do have some free time. They do spend it with both family and friends. Their choice has some impact on this.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:11 AM
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I am an introvert (don't share my towels, either) and have lived cooperatively for the last 13 years.

We've made it work with kids, no kids, men or women - it's all about the right fit of people, goals and space. Good communication and mutual respect is necessary, too, obviously.


Posted by: tantalus | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:12 AM
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Saying 'whatever is, is good' or at least is what the market demands, is the laziest form of 'thinking like an economist'. And I mean that in the pejorative sense.

This is a very good point, abstracted from any particular comments. I'm pretty sure "Thinking like a lazy economist" is one way to do significantly worse than chance.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:14 AM
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Comments on the topic are all over the place - ranging from mere traditional-neighborhoodiness to actual semi-shared yards to condos and true co-housing. Which I think is emblematic of the broad range of preferred living arrangements that we've lost.

But - and it pains me to say this - the fault is not [all] in the physical disposition of 21st century housing, but in ourselves. Too fearful of unsupervised play, too enamored of air conditioning and TV. Americans have always relocated about as often as we do now, so that's irrelevant. I agree that introverts are doing better under the current system, but I actually don't think there's enough of them to make the definitive difference.

A good friend of mine lives in a crappy new suburban development. But there's lots of back yard decks, not too many fences, and plenty of kids in similar age groups. But he tells me that there's not the sort of movable feast that people here have been rhapsodizing - instead, the kids will gather at one house, and stay there. It may still be useful for the parent who's off the hook for that afternoon, but it's pretty far from anything truly "communal." And I think it has hugely to do with the culture of parental fear that keeps kids from walking to school.

A colleague of my wife's once said boys are easier, because you just let them out in the morning and they play outside all day (wife said, "Like cats?" and he agreed). But I think that idea has largely passed, and with it the idea of communal parenting (not sure of the chicken or egg, but I think that parents feel like only they are in charge, and so only they mete out punishment).

We practically live on our front porch in the summer (old urban neighborhood, quiet-ish street), and so we know all the neighbors. But almost no one else does. They're all inside with their AC and their TV. And so it's only a partial community - most of the members are withholding themselves.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:19 AM
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When I'm around truly communal cultures I realize that I simply could not take the lack of everyday privacy. My American socialization is a bit too deep.

This is true. What one wants is neighbors who one knows and likes well enough not to care if they see you in your pajamas at noon.

127: Sure. My objection is to your repeatedly citing "choice" as though all things were equal; they're not. I don't get together with my friend Claire other than for kid/school related things because her work schedule and Mr. B.'s work schedule make that very difficult, and because the two of us would have to go to a third place which would cost money in order to spend time together (she lives with her ailing father and has a series of caregivers; I would like to spend time with her without PK around). I don't get together with my next-door neighbors, who I like, as often as I would like to because the fence between our yards is too high to see over, though I can hear them talking in theirs, and because--although I like them a great deal--the social convention is that inviting someone into your house requires a familiarity that we don't quite have yet. And that we can't manage to get to because I don't talk to them enough.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:22 AM
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123

"Or because that's what zoning laws mandate and tax laws subsidize. There's a whole lot of people who don't live in dense urban housing not because they don't desire it, but because they can't afford it."

High density housing is generally cheaper than low density housing so if it is still unaffordable it must be in a very desirable location.

It is true that zoning laws sometimes increase costs by mandating low density.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:03 PM
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your repeatedly citing "choice" as though all things were equal

Boy, I hope I haven't been doing this! I thought I even threw a (sincere!) qualifier with the "no doubt all our choices are socially constructed" line in the very first comment. I do not deny that the American style of living, circa 2007, makes certain types of human interaction harder to have. I am legitimately undecided on how I feel, net-net, about this. What I am skeptical, about, however, is that communal living is likely to play a large role in shifting the balance back towards those 'thick interactions' because a) communal living has costs along other dimensions, b) where communal living appears to exist now in some form, it doesn't seem to be having these effects.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:04 PM
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133 = me


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:04 PM
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High density housing is generally cheaper than low density housing

Not around these here parts. Aren't you losing track of the fact that the high density housing is what makes the location desirable? I'm not living in Manhattan because of the oyster reefs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:06 PM
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126

Of course most people have a cost constraint. Still I think if new houses are being constructed with some feature (like more bathrooms) it is because that is how the average buyer wants to spend his limited funds.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:06 PM
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What I am skeptical, about, however, is that communal living is likely to play a large role in shifting the balance back towards those 'thick interactions' because a) communal living has costs along other dimensions, b) where communal living appears to exist now in some form, it doesn't seem to be having these effects.

This is all reasonable -- I think the reaction is got is explained by the fact that it's a shift of topic. The post was 'doesn't this sound like a nice way to live', not 'this is the wave of the future that will change everything'. Your reaction came off as more 'No, it wouldn't be nice' rather than what you meant, 'I don't see it taking off as a social movement.' On the latter, I'm right with you -- I doubt a substantial percentage of the population is likely to be in communal living arrangements any time soon.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:09 PM
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135

"High density housing is generally cheaper than low density housing

Not around these here parts. Aren't you losing track of the fact that the high density housing is what makes the location desirable? I'm not living in Manhattan because of the oyster reefs."

This is just backwards. Manhattan is high density because its desirability makes land in Manhattan very expensive.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:10 PM
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This is also a profoundly unconservative comment. Humans have a history tens of thousands of years long of living in 'thick social groups' and only in the last century or so has American-style atomization begun to be possible in the richest areas of the world. Wouldn't a Burkean conservative think that there's likely to have been something valuable about longstanding societal patterns, and believe that thinking about what's lost when we move away from those patterns is an important thing to do?

The easy Burkean move would be to argue that atomization has always been the ideal , but that it's only recently that people have been able to afford it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:12 PM
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So, what do you think makes it desirable? I'd probably have a shorter commute from a cheaper house with a backyard in Jersey.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:12 PM
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Don't get me wrong. I also think it wouldn't be nice!


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:13 PM
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Yeah, but as long as you're talking about personal tastes rather than expounding on what's normatively the good life, not wanting to live in a communal situation is perfectly unobjectionable. You probably wouldn't take out the trash anyway.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:15 PM
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The easy Burkean move would be to argue that atomization has always been the ideal , but that it's only recently that people have been able to afford it.

That's a good one. We should start a casuistry firm.

In reality though, I think there's lots to be said for thick institutions as against atomization, but little to be said for remedying atomization via roommates. If your roommates are people you would independently want to spend lots of time with, that's another matter. Advances in Roomba technology is only going to make the chore-sharing aspect of the deal less relevant.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:18 PM
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I'm an introvert and I think such so-called thick social environments are desirable. Baa, I refute you thus!

Also, on the way home form the train station I pass an Odd Fellows building and reflect that they have one of the best names of all those groups.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:21 PM
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You probably wouldn't take out the trash anyway.

Paying a neighborhood kid to do this is a great way to increase thick social interactions.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:24 PM
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I used to go by an Odd Fellows lodge on the way to my high school.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:25 PM
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I'm an introvert and I think such so-called thick social environments are desirable.

I see what's desirable about them, but when we were looking at Eno Commons, we went to one of the community meetings and that was when I realized that giving up an evening to do a bunch of tedious participatory democracy decisionmaking would really be a drag. Especially given that 3/4 of the agenda items are the kind of things about which my only opinion would be, "Whatever the rest of you want is fine by me."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:30 PM
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We should start a casuistry firm.

Aphorism, get yer aphorisms here!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:32 PM
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147: In an ideal neighborhood, one would share lawnmowers and eschew "community meetings" and most things would work in the "whatever you guys want is fine by me" way.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:35 PM
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Well, and the people who like community meetings would show up and decide stuff if anything needed to be decided. But everyone else would skip it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:38 PM
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149: In an ideal neighborhood, ponies would mow the lawns and people would send their magical leprechauns to represent them at the meetings.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:38 PM
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Goats mow lawns better than ponies. And then the leprechauns can make goat cheese.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:39 PM
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would send their magical leprechauns to represent them at the meetings.

If my magical leprechaun is at the meeting, who's giving me a foot-rub?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:39 PM
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Plus, goat meat is teh yum.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:41 PM
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their magical leprechauns to represent them at the meetings

Their unionized magical leprechauns, I trust. This is after all essentially a hippie Hogwarts we're describing.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:42 PM
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Plus, goat meat is teh yum.

So is superannuated leprechaun-meat, I hear. See! This all boils down to terroir!


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:43 PM
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Y'all are right. Goats would totally pwn ponies for ideal neighborhoods.

153: Your children. Or the neighbor kids, if they're done rummaging through your refrigerator.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:44 PM
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Magical leprechauns aren't one's employees.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:44 PM
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goat meat is teh yum

Halal slaughter requires that the blade be free of even the minutest imperfection, and that your robe be sparkling white. What with the unreal density of suburban deer, I really want to buy a spear and lurk by the trash cans, as venison is even better. Bow and arrow are forbidden in the backyard, and the chainsaw is too noisy.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:45 PM
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Anyway, aren't leprechauns notoriously unreliable? They'd probably make all sorts of sensible plans at the meeting, and then the minutes would turn to dry leaves when the morning sun hit them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:45 PM
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Magical leprechauns aren't one's employees

True, I don't pay mine. They're really more like slaves.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:46 PM
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160: No one reads the minutes anyway. Best that they're biodegradable.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:52 PM
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Magical leprechauns aren't one's employees.

They're really more like apprentices. Which is awesome, because you can make them do all the grading.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 12:58 PM
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You know what's the craziest thing? I'm actually getting some work done this afternoon. I am my own magical leprechaun! Let's hope the HTML doesn't melt away when the light hits it...of course, I work in a windowless room anyway, which might be ideal for fairy gold and so on.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 1:01 PM
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I hate that none of my magical leprechauns crap pot. I used to have with that did but, ironically, he got killed by a dog.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 1:02 PM
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because you can make them do all the grading.

"Ungraded by human hands."

max
['Hrmm. No.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 1:07 PM
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140

"So, what do you think makes it desirable? I'd probably have a shorter commute from a cheaper house with a backyard in Jersey."

Proximity to jobs mostly. As it is lots of people commute long distances to work in the city. Presumedly they don't enjoy commuting and would prefer to live closer if they could afford it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 1:33 PM
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The second of the two sentences you quoted apparently conveyed nothing to you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 1:37 PM
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168

I don't think you are typical. Most commuters live outside the city and work in the city not the reverse.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 1:53 PM
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Most commuters in the New York metropolitan area have longer commutes, in time if not distance, than they would if they lived in a different and less dense region. And yet they still come here. The oyster reefs? Or the type of community only possible in a densely populated urban environment.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 1:57 PM
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What with the unreal density of suburban deer, I really want to buy a spear and lurk by the trash cans, as venison is even better.

What with the unreal density of suburban deer, spears are useless, their points shattering on the rocklike hide.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:01 PM
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In less-dense neighborhoods heroin is not available right on your doorstep 24-7. You have to drive to a goddamn parking lot somewhere.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:16 PM
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There are cohousing developments about a quarter mile from me in two directions. They're both in high demand, have waiting lists to get in, and are expensive. So at least here, "revealed preferences" says that there's pent-up demand for that kind of living.

I know of three or four groups who are trying to set up more, and are often moving farther outside of the city than they'd like - the inner core is just too expensive/already built to get the land, and the next layer of towns out have zoning rules that prohibit the kind of density they'd like (even though what they're doing is really just a form of cluster zoning). So they end up in the relative boondocks, getting their local community but not being as able to interact with a larger community.

Personally, I think it would be great. College co-op living is perhaps a bit denser than I'd want to return to, but the five years I spent in a 6-person house were great, and I miss the level of socializing that happened there, now that I've been living with just my SO for a while. It's harder to get out of the house without some chaos in the air, and neither of us are very good instigators.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:17 PM
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I lived in a women's coop during college with approx. 25 housemates. It was a great option for me bc I liked the interaction and relationships, but it wasn't an overwhelming amount of people like in the dorm I lived in for a month until there was an opening in the coop. Responsibilities were clearly spelled out and, though problems occurred, nothing major. I was also very fortunate wrt roommates; we got along very well.

Our neighborhood had a group of about five households that were very close. Lots of spontaneity (sp?) and fun. But they all moved away bc (a) the school system was unimpressive and their kids were at the age to enter school and/or (b) they wanted more house and yard. We see them, but not nearly as much, and we still miss them and that whole dynamic.


Posted by: Annie | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:27 PM
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Actually, baa's slight misdirect about triple-deckers is (one) ideal for this kind of living for 20-somethings - not roommates, because you've each got your own floor, but a shared building and yard; always someone to hang out with, easy to share transport, etc.

Let's face it, we're really talking about Friends.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:29 PM
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I like the idea of more communal living, but just encouraging development of more dense housing--condos and apartments and row houses and small SFRs on small lots--would do more for community-building than trying to reconstitute Brook Farm.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:30 PM
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There aren't oyster reefs off Manhattan anymore, are there?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:31 PM
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We wished our best friends would buy a house on our street for some version of this ideal, but his father lives on the next block, and he's a drop-in kind of guy. So instead they live one town over a 15+ minute, traffic-ey drive. Total drag.

For years I've had a dream/plan for a communal country property - 5 or so families pitching in to buy 30+ acres, cheap. Build on a portion of it, including a pond, and steward the rest back to wilderness (with some eventual timber income). Haven't been able to get a committed group together. But someday....


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:33 PM
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178.2: Sounds nice, except that everything that isn't part of your commune is back in town.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:37 PM
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back in town.

Well, we're within biking distance of the nearest town/crossroads. That's the hope, anyway.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:40 PM
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I love the idea of singles living in communal spaces, but the living with several couples and singles would make me want to hang myself. The one thing worse than a bunch of single people with various ideas about how one cleans up or manages communal spaces is having couples snipe at other couples. I've seen it happen in multi-family brownstone situations, and it's ugly. It's not just "Person X leaves crap in the hallway and we should talk to them about it"; it's "That family leaves crap in the hallway. And they don't give enough notice about using the backyard. And their kid is a terror. And they cook ill-smelling food." Families gang up on other families much worse than singles do.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:42 PM
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177: Nah, that was kind of the point I was making -- that any 'desirability' of NYC as a living environment was a feature of its dense urban nature rather than of the the mostly obliterated natural environment.

181: I know what you mean, but I don't think it's inevitable -- it's a feature of families resenting being in tight quarters rather than the house with lawn in the suburbs that is their due. Couples seeking out that sort of arrangement could probably do fine with it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:47 PM
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181: Isn't that just part of the general category "people who treat other people like shit"? There's a lot of that around, but there's also a lot of genuine neighborliness.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:51 PM
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180: I lived in the country as a kid, moved to town in middle school, but always thought of myself as a country boy at heart and idealized the sort of arrangement you're talking about. The last few years it's slowly become apparent to me that I actually like more urban living and probably wouldn't be as happy in the country as I'd like to think I would. But your part of the country sounds like it might offer more opportunity for that sort of thing than the ones I know best.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:55 PM
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it's a feature of families resenting.

I don't know that the object of resentment is especially important.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 2:59 PM
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I should be clear that my little hippie commune dream is a second home situation. We're not leaving our urban porch for good.

At one point a friend told us of a couple they know who were interested in moving out to the country. In some ways it would be optimal to have them in the group - they get more land than they could otherwise afford, we get permanent residents for security and maintenance (and tending the goats!). But I strongly suspect that that's a recipe for disaster, where you get 4 families with one set of priorities and 1 with a very different set. "You didn't notice the broken window all winter?" "You people never take care of anything when you're up here."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:10 PM
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186.1: Ah.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:14 PM
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186: Buck desperately wants to do something of the sort -- if you find yourself setting up a commune in eastern Penn., give us a call.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:15 PM
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188: Alas, a prerequisite is that it be 2 hrs max from Pittsburgh - ideally within 1.5, so an out-and-back trip isn't exhausting.

E. PA is some gorgeous country. When you get much north of 80, still pretty cheap. FWIW.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:33 PM
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Buck's parents are in NY, not too far from Elmira, so we drive through there fairly often. There's been a lot of picking up those books of real estate ads and coveting. I'm not opposed (on a weekends and holidays basis), but I don't see it happening any time soon -- we can't really afford a second house and I don't have enough weekends off to make it worthwhile.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:36 PM
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E. PA is some gorgeous country. When you get much north of 80, still pretty cheap. FWIW.

Not quite Elgin, but it has its charms.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:43 PM
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Ah, close to Elmira you want? Even better!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:44 PM
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There aren't oyster reefs off Manhattan anymore, are there?

According to the Kurlansky book there are, and they've been replanting more. (At least in the bay, close enough to Manhattan. Don't know about LB's neighborhood.) It's just that they're riddled with cholera and chemical toxins.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:44 PM
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Yeah, isn't the point of restoring oyster reefs not so much the hope of getting oysters out of them, but that they filter the water for other marine organisms?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:49 PM
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marine organisms

Or, as a hapless student teacher once called them for an entire class period when I was in seventh grade, "marine orgasms."


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:51 PM
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No oyster reefs in Galeton. Just trout fishing.

I think there's a lot of grouse in that area, though.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:51 PM
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Any coots?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:52 PM
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192 is mind-boggling.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:52 PM
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Probably. There seems to be a dammed lake there. There are coots on the lake I'm familiar with, about 100 miles east of there.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:54 PM
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NPH, be careful about spending $35,000 on a 3-bedroom house without seeing a picture of it first.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:55 PM
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Also, OT: do I really need the gun control argument that's breaking out on a professional listserv I subscribe to? No, I do not.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:55 PM
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200: Not to worry. I have some familiarity with the sorts of places that have mind-bogglingly cheap housing.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 3:56 PM
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Cue urban planning nerdiness: One of my favorite suburban communities happens to be Radburn in North Jersey. It was designed to deemphasize the car and have the backs of the houses face the street. The fronts open onto communal parks, all of which were designed to allow residents to walk to schools and shopping. Naturally it failed miserably (thanks Great Depression!), but it still partially exists.

And now back to lurking...


Posted by: Gump | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 4:11 PM
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Actually, Gump, I cited Radburn and the Shining Success of the APA, Chatham Village, on the original Ezra thread.

198 is funny to me, because those prices struck me as a bit high.

This is what I'm talking about. Less than 7 miles from an absurdly charming county seat.

Actually, that's a pretty good one. I should make some calls.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 4:53 PM
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Sure, if you're looking for land, not a house.

I see several $50,000 houses on that farmland site in Meadville, which is not exactly the middle of nowhere. There's a college there?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:02 PM
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? s/b !


Posted by: Cryptic NEd | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:02 PM
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Eastern PA is absolutely gorgeous; my parents live by Easton. It's apparently becoming more and more popular with the NYC set, to the point that my father spends a fair bit of his time making life difficult on developers, so maybe you should get while the getting is good.

I also am not entirely convinced that the density of housing and the cost of housing are as directly related as you're saying; at least out here there's a perception that a large part of the reason San Francisco is as desirable as it is is due to the comparatively low density in close proximity to a lot of high-paying jobs. I think SF may not be in socal equilibrium though, with the cost of living continually increasing. It may end up like Venice or Aspen or something.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:03 PM
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Isn't the comparatively low density of SF still pretty high? Even one-family houses, if you put them on small lots, pack a lot of people into a square mile, and my mental image of SF is a lot of multifamily houses or small apartment buildings.

It's going to be an imperfect, unsimple relationship -- there's the beauty of the housing stock to consider, relationship between population and carrying-capacity of services, and so on. But broadly, high density areas are expensive and desirable -- really poor people end up living in the sticks.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:08 PM
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Eastern PA is absolutely gorgeous; my parents live by Easton. It's apparently becoming more and more popular with the NYC set, to the point that my father spends a fair bit of his time making life difficult on developers, so maybe you should get while the getting is good.

I once spent a couple days in Stroudsburg, where the local economy seems to consist primarily of selling land to New Yorkers. Really nice town, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:13 PM
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Sure, if you're looking for land, not a house.

He's an architect.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:13 PM
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And they hate houses.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:14 PM
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Houses that are designed by other people, at least.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:16 PM
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204: If I'm getting anything like the right flavor from what I'm seeing on those sites, it looks like my house transplanted there would be worth less than 10% of what the assessor's office currently thinks it's worth here. Even in my parents' town in the PNW, the economy of which is based on a dying timber industry, dying farms, Indian gambling, and methamphetamine, values would be double to triple those.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:16 PM
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my mental image of SF is a lot of multifamily houses or small apartment buildings

Depends on where you are. The areas tourists go, yeah, your image is accurate. But there are huge swaths of The City that are single-family houses, albeit single-family houses packed in as tightly as they can be.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:16 PM
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Here's a good one.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:19 PM
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170

"Most commuters in the New York metropolitan area have longer commutes, in time if not distance, than they would if they lived in a different and less dense region. And yet they still come here. The oyster reefs? Or the type of community only possible in a densely populated urban environment."

People move to cities for the jobs. If the jobs go away (as in Detroit) the city dies.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:21 PM
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I think the underlying question is why the jobs are in NYC in the first place.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:23 PM
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What SF looks like.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:23 PM
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And the jobs have absolutely nothing to do with having a vast shitload of people with a variety of specialized educations and skills living and working in close proximity to each other?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:24 PM
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216: But the jobs are there because that's where the people are. If people didn't want to live in New York, Wall Street could move out to Nebraska someplace and the people the financial industry wanted to hire would follow it. It's a matter of feedback -- people want to live there because there are jobs, but the jobs are there because living in NY is desirable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:24 PM
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I once spent a couple days in Stroudsburg, where the local economy seems to consist primarily of selling land to New Yorkers. Really nice town, though.

This is true. East Stroundsburg also has a one-screen theater that shows independent movies at least 1/5 of the time. But when you're talking about Easton and Stroudsburg you're talking about places that literally border New Jersey. Only the very eastern edge of Pennsylvania is becoming colonized by New York. And who knows how long that will last? James Howard Kunstler, if you're lurking, let us know.

If I'm getting anything like the right flavor from what I'm seeing on those sites, it looks like my house transplanted there would be worth less than 10% of what the assessor's office currently thinks it's worth here. Even in my parents' town in the PNW, the economy of which is based on a dying timber industry, dying farms, Indian gambling, and methamphetamine, values would be double to triple those.

Transplanted where? Galeton? Brookville? Meadville?

Also, it may be possible that the only houses listed on those sites are houses with something seriously wrong with them. Try looking in your area to see if houses are listed for similar prices to yours.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:25 PM
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packed in as tightly as they can be

This is still, in the broader scheme of things, pretty dense. That zip code site was hitting zips in Queens that are like that as in the top population densities nationwide; if you pack in smallish houses on minimal lots, you get a lot of people in a small space. I think someone calling SF 'comparatively low density' is comparing it only to the densest couple of percent of the country -- it's still way on the dense end of the spectrum.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:25 PM
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You're dense!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:28 PM
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Try looking in your area to see if houses are listed for similar prices to yours.

The ones in Albuquerque seem to be typical.

Weirdly, the house in 215 is the only listing for Farmington, which is not an impoverished area.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:28 PM
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Not Prince Hamlet,

Sounds like my parents' town in the PNW. I declare a trend.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:30 PM
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Meanwhile, I'm not sure what's going on here.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:30 PM
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Maybe it's haunted.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:32 PM
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Typo?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:39 PM
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220: Plus, it's not as though one's options are work in NYC or be unemployed in Detroit.

Easton's getting more and more popular. With luck, the boom will revitalize Bethlehem (just West of Easton) a town that really could use it, and I'd laugh if the sprawl made it out as far as Hazleton (unlikely geographically), because then they could bitch about illegals and New Yorkers.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:40 PM
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Try looking in your area to see if houses are listed for similar prices to yours.

Funny! There are tear-downs in my neighborhood on the market for more than double what we paid for our house (small, flimsy, but perfectly livable) eight years ago. I have no idea how people pay what housing costs here.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:40 PM
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I saw a story on some TV newsmagazine show a couple years ago about people commuting to NYC from Allentown.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:41 PM
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Wasn't there a story not long ago about people commuting from (basically) Yosemite to S.F.?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:43 PM
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Of course, if the housing market continues to decline those stories may become less common.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:45 PM
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Bethlehem is awesome - I hope that they're able to retain some of the look of the old steel mills while turning them into high-end condos or whatever it is they're going to do. And that somehow the plans to build a casino get derailed.

As for SF's density, there's a pretty steady drumbeat in at least one of the local alt-weeklies decrying proposed new large apartment or condo buildings as "Manhattanizing" and something that must be stopped at almost any cost. Which is what I was referring to.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:49 PM
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Reminder:

Unfogged meetup this weekend:

Wine & Garlic Festival just south of Charlottesville.

Stanley and I will be there doing are darnest to avoid each other. Others are welcome.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 5:50 PM
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226-228:

That zip code is a poor, inner city one (although not an especially dangerous one). That's not a typo.

Plus, I think I see a huge hole in the roof.

That said, it's driving me nuts that I can't figure out where that house is. I've spent a lot of time in 15219. In fact, the part I'm least familiar with is the nicest part, so that house may be a pretty great deal (and a 15 minute walk from UPitt's campus).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 6:37 PM
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Oh, and agreed that Bethlehem is awesome. Old, bad GF was from there, and I spent a lot of time there. NYCers were moving there by '97. There's still a lot of very nice neighborhoods, cheap, although my understanding was that the NYCers were moving to subdivisions.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 6:38 PM
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I'm surprised that no-one has yet mentioned London garden squares, which have been around for a couple of centuries. Like many nice ideas, though, this idea starts to accrue complications after a while.


Posted by: cdm | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 6:41 PM
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$60k, 6 years ago, 1/4 mile or less from Whole Foods. It might be worth $100k+ now. Not a bad neighborhood, although poorly-reputed.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 6:43 PM
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Nice.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 6:49 PM
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240: Thanks. And it's only gotten nicer - most rooms finished, new wainscoting here and there. Kitchen and dining room await massive overhauls.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 6:51 PM
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I know 15219 is the Hill District zip code, but I didn't think there was anywhere in the Hill District where houses were as not-crammed-together as that photo makes it look.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 6:57 PM
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217

"I think the underlying question is why the jobs are in NYC in the first place."

Geography. NYC is an ocean port and the Hudson gives easy access to the interior.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:40 PM
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I know the one thing vital for a cutting edge law firm is easy access to the docks.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:44 PM
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LB won't be around to respond for a while. She needs to get a big-ass brief on the next barge to Albany.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:44 PM
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Shit.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:44 PM
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Historically he's right, of course, but the result of that prime location was the development of a major port which became a center for trade and commerce and over time grew so big and wealthy that it became a desirable location for its size and wealth alone. And since it's an island with limited space for development, that meant density.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:48 PM
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This thing is, indeed, a big ass-brief.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:50 PM
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247: Oh, Shearer's perfectly right that the harbor and the Hudson are historically why New York is where it is, but at this point its convenience for shipping by water is a very small part of why it continues to be a desirable location to live.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:52 PM
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220

"216: But the jobs are there because that's where the people are. If people didn't want to live in New York, Wall Street could move out to Nebraska someplace and the people the financial industry wanted to hire would follow it. It's a matter of feedback -- people want to live there because there are jobs, but the jobs are there because living in NY is desirable."

My claim is that living in NYC is desirable because of the jobs not because people like living in an anthill. Given equivalent economic opportunties people prefer less density. NYC survives because the economic advantages for business are so great that they can pay enough to attract people despite the crowding.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:52 PM
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Dude, you're arguing with someone who chooses to live in New York even though more attractive (to her) job opportunities are readily available in less-dense locations.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 7:56 PM
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Living in New York City is desirable because the density of population and concentration of wealth provides opportunities -- cultural, economic, social, entrepreneurial -- which can't be found anywhere else. It's reductive to think of it as a purely economic phenomenon.

""I have a love for this country. Two thousand years ago, we would all have wanted to live in Rome. Not in the hills, but in Rome and now, this is Rome. This is where the action is.
- John Lennon
Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:00 PM
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Dude, you're arguing with someone who chooses to live in New York even though more attractive (to her) job opportunities are readily available in less-dense locations.

Yeah, you could cash out, buy that $35,000 house in Lawrenceville, PA, and be the new dean of the Mansfield University School of Mostly Agricultural Law.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:00 PM
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You want to tell me what the economic advantages are for the financial industry being located in NY other than the density and richness of the population? Money doesn't travel by containership.

And this: My claim is that living in NYC is desirable because of the jobs not because people like living in an anthill.

Is nonsense. People don't come to NYC because they've got a job here and can't find one someplace they really want to live. They come here because they want to live here and find work so they can stay. Not everyone wants to live in a dense urban setting, but enough do that the demand for housing in NYC is consistently crazy.

I'm not telling you that you have to find apartment living attractive, but the blanket claims that no one does, when people come from all over the country and half kill themselves to be able to live here, annoy the crap out of me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:01 PM
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253: I was actually thinking more of all the federal lawyering jobs in DC, but yeah, cows.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:08 PM
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254: beat him with Death and Life of Great American Cities, LB. That'll show 'im!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:09 PM
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I'm not telling you that you have to find apartment living attractive, but the blanket claims that no one does, when people come from all over the country and half kill themselves to be able to live here, annoy the crap out of me.

Wait, people actually want to live in places like New York and L.A.? As any good wingnut can tell you, those millions of people were clearly dragged there against their will.

These discussions always remind me of the way wingers talk about health care and western Europe, like those countries are all Second World at best.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:20 PM
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242: As I say, it's bugging me that I can't figure out where that house is, but my guess is Sugar Top, the eastern, stable end of the Hill, above Schenley Farms. I'm 95% certain there's nowhere else in 15219 it could be (conceivably there's a block near Duquesne where it's hiding, but I doubt it).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:31 PM
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These discussions always remind me of the way wingers talk about health care and western Europe, like those countries are all Second World at best.

Exactly.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:32 PM
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Both LB and Shearer are right (weird as that seems). It's a big virtuous circle -- the economic advantages lead businesses to locate there, which leads ambitious go-getters to flock there, which creates a particular sort of culture, which then brings more people in pursuit of that culture, who are also ambitious and talented, which attracts (or creates) business, etc. The density is part of the buzz. It's not just that it's dense, it's the kind of people you're packed in with.

I personally don't much like Manhattan. But I'm not very ambitious, and don't like too much density and noise.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:34 PM
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It's not just that it's dense, it's the kind of people you're packed in with.

You need a shitload of random people to have a decent chance of ending up with enough of the right ones to make it work. Also to sell you your groceries, maintain your streets, etc.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:42 PM
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254

"You want to tell me what the economic advantages are for the financial industry being located in NY other than the density and richness of the population? Money doesn't travel by containership.

Once an industry achieves a critical mass in a certain area like finance in NYC or electronics in Silicon valley many network economies and economies of scale kick in. Lots of small local suppliers spring up to serve the industry. Potential customers expect you to be located there. It is easier to assemble partnerships and consortiums. Physical infrastructure is built to serve the industry. And it is true that a pool of experienced employees develops.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:46 PM
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Easton, PA is a desirable location for so many reasons.

- Crayola factory
- Abandoned silk mills
- Birthplace of Larry Holmes and the XKCD guy
- Weyerbacher, PA's best microbrewery
- A bar called "Drinky Drinkerson's"


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:50 PM
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251

"Dude, you're arguing with someone who chooses to live in New York even though more attractive (to her) job opportunities are readily available in less-dense locations. "

Is that so? I know she is constantly complaining that she hates her job but can't afford to quit. I didn't realize that refusal to relocate was part of the problem.

I am also under the impression that she grew up in NYC. I think most people relocating (particularly large distances) do so for employment reasons. That is why I (and most of my coworkers) ended up in Westchester.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:57 PM
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The theory outlined in 262 is due to Paul Krugman.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 8:57 PM
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265 - Not really. Paul Krugman to some extent. But mainly a of other people.


Posted by: cdm | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:21 PM
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+lot

Amazing how I can make an error like that in a one line post, even after previewing.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 9:22 PM
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LB is doing a fine job of responding to Shearer on her own, but I want to back her up on a couple of things.

Given equivalent economic opportunties people prefer less density.

Nonsense. Some people do, some don't. One of the things I miss most about D.C. is the density. I grew up in the suburbs and then realized as an adult that I'm a city person. I know lots of people who feel the same way about density. (Cf. Jane Jacobs and many other great lovers of cities.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:04 PM
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if new houses are being constructed with some feature (like more bathrooms) that is how the average buyer wants to spend . . . limited funds

As noted, this is thinking like an economist, and it's a deeply fucked up way of viewing the world.

'If people buy clothes made in sweatshops because they're cheap, that must be what they want.'

Not. Because people don't have perfect information, don't have time, energy, or resources to evaluate all their options, and often don't feel that their choices really matter.

But if you sold 2 shirts side-by-side at Wal-Mart, each with an explanation of the real conditions under which it was made, a hell of a lot of 'average' people would pay 15% more for the one not made by 10-year-olds for a buck a day.

I realize I'm wandering somewhat off-topic here, but the whole 'it exists so that must be the way people want it' argument is bullshit.

I'm going to end up buying a house in a neighborhood I'm not crazy about because I want to be within walking distance of my nieces and nephew, not because I want a ranch house with a lawn.

Shorter: Pretty much all the stuff that LB & bitch said.

(Also, I bought my first house *despite* its having 4(!) bathrooms. Who the hell wants to clean 4 bathrooms?)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:25 PM
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the whole 'it exists so that must be the way people want it' argument is bullshit.

A much better argument: it exists, so it deserves to die.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:27 PM
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Or: it exists, so I would like a soft-boiled egg.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:28 PM
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Topped with a fried egg.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:39 PM
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Eggs three ways.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:42 PM
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(Also, I bought my first house *despite* its having 4(!) bathrooms. Who the hell wants to clean 4 bathrooms?)

Heh. Our house has way more bedrooms than we need. Pretty much everything in Utah has a full basement, so the houses are larger than they appear. The basement's finished in ours, which means we have three bedrooms on the main floor, and three more downstairs. Nice when a bunch of family comes in during the holidays and such.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 9-07 11:57 PM
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I don't believe this has received the attention it deserves:

263: A bar called "Drinky Drinkerson's"

Awesome!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:28 AM
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"Revealed preference" arguments seem especially inappropriate WRT the housing market in light of its recent distortion and collapse and the contributing finance shenanigans.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:59 AM
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NYC survives because the economic advantages for business are so great that they can pay enough to attract people despite the crowding.

The phrase you're looking for is agglomeration effects.

but the whole 'it exists so that must be the way people want it' argument is bullshit.

A product exists because some people want it. That doesn't get you to 'everyone wants it', or 'this is the perfect product'. It doesn't even get you to 'this is everyone's first choice product'. So like, yeah!

Some people do, some don't.

That cuts both ways; not everyone wants to live in New York and not everyone wants to live in Podunk, BFE. When this discussion comes up, the typical implicit tack taken is 'everyone should live like me!' The other problem is that you can only really have one New York. (Well, we have three New Yorks actually: Chicago, LA and NYC. But obviously LA and Chicago aren't up to New York spec.)

max
['Blah. Too early.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:03 AM
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262 is not false, but the economic effects discussed aren't separate from the housing density of the city. The fact of that density is what drives all the secondary effects Shearer was talking about.

It is probably true that most people aren't attracted to density for density's sake -- put a thirty story apartment tower in the middle of a cornfield, and most people would rather spread out into single family houses, if you hold all other things equal. But plenty of people are strongly attracted to the types of communities that density makes economically and socially possible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:12 AM
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LB, you're not normal. Normal people live in Elgin, North Dakota. Don't be defensive. We accept you for what you are, but you know, you and those other ten million are just weird.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:33 AM
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I love cities, and given a choice, I'm pretty sure I'd want to live in a fairly high density area. The best places I've lived in my life were tenement flats in Glasgow. There are nice things about houses -- noise isolation, mostly -- but living in areas with a high population density also means living in areas with good pubs, restaurants, cinemas, music venues, etc. That's worth a lot.

I could also be persuaded to live in a house in a country village on the outskirts of a town, but suburban semi-detached is more or less my idea of misery.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:52 AM
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Did this whole thread really run with no mention of co-housing? It's a reasonable intermediate solution to a grown-up group house. When we looked into it, however, we decided we'd rather handpick our crazy commune partners and buy up a cul-de-sac than join some pre-existing craziness. Of course, we did no such thing.


Posted by: cw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:13 AM
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273: Rooster oil?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:27 AM
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281: Nay, it did not.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:28 AM
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282: What's worse than a squeaky rooster?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:29 AM
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I change my rooster's oil every 3,000 miles.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:39 AM
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Drinky Drinkerson's got a half-million dollar Small Business Loan. Hmph.

"Rooster oil" is a euphemism. Yuk.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:42 AM
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Nonsense. Some people do, some don't. One of the things I miss most about D.C. is the density. I grew up in the suburbs and then realized as an adult that I'm a city person. I know lots of people who feel the same way about density.

Agreed. A lot of people also have not had the opportunity to fully try both types of living.

I spent most of my childhood with a fair amount of land around my house. I spent most of my adult life in houses on at least two acres in areas where everyone else has two to twenty acres around their houses. I loved it.

But, for the last 3 1/2 years, we have lived in the city. I didnt think I would love it, but I do. We love seeing our neighbors. We love walking to dinner and other places.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:45 AM
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We love walking to dinner and other places.

I don't think this point can be emphasized enough. The point/advantage of density is not, primarily, to eliminate green space and add people. It's to create a place where most of what you need is within walking distance, and the rest is accessible without a car trip (buses, trains, bikes).

Any suburban subdivision can, potentially, get you neighbors to chat with and even leave your kids with. What they cannot do, by definition, is to give you commercial options within walking distance. And one of the isolating things about modern life is the car. When I was rhapsodizing about my neighborhood earlier, I almost added a comment about how the neighbors we don't see much are the ones who have garages out back and drive a lot. Others - even ones who don't hang out on their porches - we at least see as they walk to the store, or to the superb bar/restaurant around the corner.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:28 AM
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What's worse than a squeaky rooster?

A little red rooster to lazy to crow for day.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:31 AM
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JRoth:

You make a good point about garages. We love our garage. But, we miss out of the street interactions with our neighbors because of it.

that said, I wouldnt give the garage up for the world.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:31 AM
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Walking -- and it totally confuses me to say this -- is underrated, at least in this country. I love walking places. Any way I can arrange to be walking distance to work or school, I'll do it. Biking is pretty good, too, except for the disgusting sweatiness aspect.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:33 AM
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New York is not up to Chicago spec.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:33 AM
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I also love walking places, and walk to campus in all kinds of weather. If only more people felt the same, the sidewalks would be much clearer when I do it in the winter. I do wish our garage were available for use as a garage (our landlord uses it as a work shed, instead), because it would be so very much more pleasant to have the car protected from the elements.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:36 AM
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Oops. 293 was me.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:36 AM
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I want redfoxtailshrub to be in my communal living. (Or, at least, her food.)


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:41 AM
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I totally don't understand where all of these people in the car-centric parts of America (okay, most of it) do their drinking. Being within walking distance, or maybe walking+transit distance, of a watering hole is a non-negotiable requirement of my living place. I'm afraid the answer is "even more drunk driving than you thought".


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:44 AM
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I'm afraid the answer is "even more drunk driving than you thought".

You have to get your car home from the bar somehow. My solution is to drink at home. Saves money, too.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:46 AM
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This week I have utterly failed to provide delicious food for anyone, I have to confess. Usually I spend a chunk of time on the weekend doing meal planning and cooking ahead. However, this time I promised a friend that I would bake a cake, with certain specifications, for her birthday party on Sunday. I like cooking much better than baking. The weather was horribly, unseasonably hot all weekend, and the project thwarted me in various ways, requiring do-overs of various parts, and as a result I did no meal planning (and thus a very meager grocery shopping run) and no cooking ahead. So far we've had takeout, leftovers from the party that my friend sent home with us, and scrambled eggs made by Snark. Not such a great household contributer this week, me.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:46 AM
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I'm afraid the answer is "even more drunk driving than you thought".

The terse explanation is zoning. The biddies who formed the temperance union in the 20s will only allow bars over there. There has been a thoughtful analysis written, Drinking-Driving and the symbolic order.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:47 AM
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"even more drunk driving than you thought"

Indeed, this very much puzzled me before I moved to LA, then I realized "oh, everyone just drives drunk. Well, that's one solution."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:49 AM
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The solution here for a lot of people is drunken biking. Which seems safer, but you can obviously still hurt someone and/or yourself, and I've heard tell of drunken-biking DUIs.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:56 AM
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http://www.drunkcyclist.com/wordpress/


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:57 AM
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301: I have heard tell of those, too. Of course I've also done plenty of drunken biking in my time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:57 AM
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I'll bring the food to DC Unfogged if someone else buys redfox and snark the tickets to come.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:59 AM
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You are sweet, will. The problem is not paying for the tickets (or even finding a place to stay; we have a million friends in DC we could crash with, some of whom we could even drag to the party as they know the Flophouse gang through DCist), it's that rfts is going to be in Chicago for MLA. UnfoggeDC will have to happen again and again until we attend, like in the episode of the New Twilight Zone where the guy was sentenced to eternity in a Chinese restaurant. Or Sisyphus, you know.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:08 AM
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"You're dead!"


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:10 AM
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So...how well would redfoxtailshrub's food do if she fed-exed it to DC Unfogged?

Or is snark the secret chef and redfox steals all the glory?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:12 AM
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Doesn't mean you can't attend, snark.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:14 AM
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I've been looking forward to meeting redfox in Chicago then. Two parties—would there were more!— should defuse some of the sense of being left out for the many who can't go to the big one, as if it were the only place to be.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:22 AM
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