Re: The finer things

1

Freedom.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:57 AM
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Oh christ, here we go.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:59 AM
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Broadband, maybe cable (for the clarity more than the channels).


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:02 AM
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Being able to buy mushrooms and berries.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:02 AM
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I'd be fine with roommates. Actually, it still feels kind of weird living on my own, and I tend to prefer it when I have friends crashing here or moving in for a summer to work in town.

Living paycheck to paycheck would be unduly harsh, but I think the main thing I would miss about a much cheaper lifestyle would be the big windows in my apartment. I need natural light, and something resembling a view also does wonders for my mood.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:03 AM
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Dining out. Having to prepare every goddamn meal myself would drive me nuts.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:03 AM
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High speed internet.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:04 AM
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Air conditioning my room down to 64.

the modern megamart variety of foods including ethnic stuff.

cool clothes.

good headphones.

drugs.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:04 AM
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Sheesh. I don't think I know anyone who doesn't live paycheck to paycheck. In the sense that I don't think anyone I know my age has enough money just sitting in the bank to get through several months without income.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:05 AM
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Being able to buy mushrooms and berries.

If you're not even able to forage for yourself, you'll never be the queen of a post-apocalyptic agrarian utopia.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:05 AM
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Daily orchids.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:06 AM
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My laptop.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:07 AM
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9: The transition is pretty fine. Like, a bad thing happens, and I can address the problem by writing a check, instead of by sobbing quietly in the dark. Sweet sweetness.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:07 AM
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I found the inclusion of a car on that list hideously depressing.

I've got in-building, although not in-domicile, laundry, and it's not a hardship, although the building is such that you don't need to focus on your laundry so as not to leave it alone downstairs -- someone dumps it in one of the baskets, and it can sit until you come for it.

Come to think of it, don't all of Baa's examples reflect a certain (very conventional, nothing particular against Baa) misanthropy? All of his essential luxuries are ways to reduce contact with other people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:07 AM
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I found the inclusion of a car on that list hideously depressing.

Why?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:08 AM
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It's funny. I've never in my life been meaningfully stuck for money (aside from the week I got stuck in Fiji with twenty bucks. People are really good about buying you meals if you say you're a Peace Corps volunteer.) I expect I'd hate giving that up, but I don't know because I've never been there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:10 AM
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9: I think there are two significant jumps. One occurs when you have enough money sitting around to live several months on. This gives you a lot of freedom. But an earlier one occurs when you have a bit of money sitting around, so that if the transmission drops out of your car one day you can get it fixed and keep commuting to work, or whatever other minor crisis you want to use as an example.

I'd call living paycheck to paycheck the level below this. Just keeping your head above water. Where you can technically afford everything you need each month, but you can't say buy a new pair of jeans without budgeting for it over a few months. When the aforementioned transmission falls out of your car you don't have the ready cash for the tow truck, let alone a transmission.

While having 6 months living expenses sitting around is nice, I think it's the first change that is crucial to reducing stress about expenses.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:11 AM
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yeah, like a month ago my car got towed because i forgot to put the new parking lot sticker on the windsheild. i had to walk around for a few hours (in freezing rain) getting together enough cash (yeah, the fucking tow lot only took cash) to bail out my car. I iminge a few years from now such things won't happen.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:11 AM
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Having no money and no prospects for acquiring money is one of the most shitty things ever. I'm generally a pretty cheerful person, not prone to be maudlin, but the times when I've been seriously, seriously broke, I'll literally just lay in bed all day feeling sorry for myself.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:12 AM
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15: Because not being able to live without a car is what drives so much that's environmentally and socially fucked up about the US. If living a car-based lifestyle is essential to a lot of people's identities, rather than being an unimportant luxury, (and I think it is -- baa's perfectly ordinary here) we're just so screwed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:12 AM
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Internet plus a first-rate library.

Teeth are less important than you think, once you quit dating.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:12 AM
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LB. It really isn't any fun at all.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:12 AM
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17: Oh, yeah. I've not had six months expenses sitting around plenty of times. But I've never been in circumstances where I was likely to run into immediate, reasonable expenses I couldn't meet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:13 AM
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Like, a bad thing happens, and I can address the problem by writing a check

But the more stuff you accumulate (car, hot-water heater, etc.) the more income you need to have this level of comfort. You're going along fine, you think you've got some money in the bank, then something breaks.

And things break, that you wouldn't think would break! Like, you know, doors on your house, for Chrissake.

I think my list of necessaries got a lot longer when I began to reckon with kids. Me, I could live pretty monkishly by myself. But with family, it's a whole different story. You want to provide them comforts, security, all kinds of things.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:13 AM
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The laundry thing is so true. I hate having to do the coin-op thing in New York. The Flophouse is kind of that terrible in-between: we have a washer and dryer but it takes 5 hours to do a load of laundry because something's wrong with the washer. So you can do laundry at home but with none of the convenience.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:14 AM
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Come to think of it, don't all of Baa's examples reflect a certain (very conventional, nothing particular against Baa) misanthropy?

Why do you have to be so negative? Maybe baa wants his contacts with people to be full, rich contacts, and not the sort of routinized transactions you prefer? Baa has a poetic soul.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:14 AM
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I've been poor pretty much always. There's been maybe 4 or 5 years years since I was 16 when I've not been near breadline.

Right now I earn enough to be comfortable, and have paid off a significant percentage of my student debt, can take the occasional holiday, and so on, so nothing to complain about. But I don't think I've ever had enough money just sitting in the bank that I could miss a couple of paychecks [assuming we are talking monthly paychecks].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:15 AM
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Aside --- I picked the car example because it is a central problem for a lot of people in the US. In other places, the obvious answer to that one is don't bother with the car. There's always something similar though. An error you made on your taxes, a hospital bill, unexpected trip to see an ailing parent, whatever.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:15 AM
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The Flophouse is kind of that terrible in-between: we have a washer and dryer but it takes 5 hours to do a load of laundry because something's wrong with the washer.

Okay, dudes? There's what, five of you, mostly employed? You can buy a washer. Maybe you can work it out with the landlord to take it off the rent, maybe not, but suffering with a broken washer when you don't need to is silly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:16 AM
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Being able to buy mushrooms and berries.

I recently moved to DC from NorCal, and yes, you miss California produce a lot. In the rest of the country they make stuff that looks like produce, but doesn't really taste like it.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:17 AM
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re: 28

Yeah, your example is a good one. I've passed that first threshold. There's enough money for emergency bills -- dental bills, minor car repairs, etc.

But, at least here, monthly outgoing -- rent, bills, etc -- are pretty fucking huge. As I said, few people I know are in a position to cover that for more than a month or two without pay coming in.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:17 AM
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something's wrong with the washer.

They have repair services now. They'll come to your house and everything.


Posted by: P.G. Delightful | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:18 AM
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I don't agree.

If living a car-based lifestyle is essential to a lot of people's identities, rather than being an unimportant luxury,

I think most of us don't fall into either of these categories. I'd be happy to use public transportation if it existed. My car is totally essential to my life, but not to my identity.

Because not being able to live without a car is what drives so much that's environmentally and socially fucked up about the US.

I don't agree with this, either. I think deliberate sabotaging of alternate fuels, etc, and protecting those invested in oil is what's wrecking the environment. Since the geological landscape of the US is what it is, not being able to live without a car is not itself a sin. (She said defensively.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:18 AM
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Cars are luxury items. In-home laundry is civilization-defining.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:19 AM
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civilization-defining

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned toilet paper.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:20 AM
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Cars are luxury items.

EVERYONE QUIT HASSLING ME!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:20 AM
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Yeah though the having more than zero dollars at any given time thing is kind of awesome. Not having food blows.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:21 AM
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re: 37

Thanks to fucked up university funding, I spent years genuinely worrying about how I will afford to eat* -- it fucking sucks.

* I imagine that's pretty common among students.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:22 AM
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Since the geological landscape of the US is what it is, not being able to live without a car is not itself a sin.

This is mostly bullshit (he says, having manged 10 years without one but given that up in this city that is wedded to the idea of cars so strongly it's hardly really a city). We choose to build in such a way as to make cars nearly mandatory. This isn't imposed by geography. We build with the assumption of a car.

What you say about embedded interests is true, but there is also no inherent reason for a lot of what have become necessary daily car trips. Cars are awfully convenient in a country as big as this, but we've made them central in a way that is not at all necessary.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:24 AM
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33: Argh. I hate this conversation, because while I'm sure I'm right, it's very difficult not to sound like an asshole about it. To make it clear that I'm not being holier than thou: (1) I totally get that I live in one of the few places where living without a car is easy and practical, and (2) we own a car anyway, and it's convenient.

But the fact that even thinking about structuring your life so you don't need a car is weird, to an American (to quote baa, kidding on the square: From this stems an instinctive suspicion of environmentalists: Enemies of the automobile are enemies of humanity.) makes living in sprawl seem free. The additional environmental and social costs of living in a way that involves a whole lot of driving are hard to see, once the car-lifestyle is the norm.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:24 AM
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Because not being able to live without a car is what drives so much that's environmentally and socially fucked up about the US.

I agree with this -- including of course the urban planning or lack thereof that makes it nearly impossible to live without a car in most parts of the country.

I rediscover this every time I leave New York. A month ago I was down in central Florida for a space shuttle launch that didn't happen (long story) and was horrified as I realized how completely fucked you'd be without a car there. Millions of people (I'm guessing) live in the area, but they live in all these little spread-out towns, with hardly any buses connecting it all. I've been without a car for most of my life, living in cities where I could more-or-less make that work, but I can't imagine scraping by without one for even a couple of days in most of the country.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:25 AM
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35: I've really wondered about that. Even someone like Swift is unclear about how your average chamber-pot using 18thC type stayed clean enough not to stink too much. Did people have shitty rags around? Leaves? What?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:26 AM
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We should ask Kunstler: will we still be able to wipe our asses after Peak Oil hits?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:27 AM
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And Soup's right. It's nothing at all to do with the geology of the US, it's all about patterns of development.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:27 AM
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how your average chamber-pot using 18thC type stayed clean enough not to stink too much

I'm going with, they didn't.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:27 AM
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I think that LB and heebie are talking about different aspects, and they are both correct.

There are plenty of places in the US where not having a car is really impractical. You can do it, but only by completely restructuring your life around not having a car, which sucks to do voluntarily. So as a local decision, it becomes `essential'. However, LB is quite right that this is largely a global choice, and that is symptomatic of a large number of problems.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:28 AM
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46: Exactly. What I find depressing about baa's post is his (perfectly conventional) emotional attachment to the car, which makes it really hard to re-examine the incredibly destructive global choices.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:30 AM
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This American thing about not having access to your own washing machine is so weird. It's officially a deprivation indicator over here.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:32 AM
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It might be fun to live with people--in a big enough house--but living alone would be the hardest thing for me to give up. After that, the in-house laundry, then the luxury of a regular work schedule and weekends off. I've never owned a car, so I don't know what it would be like to lose one.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:33 AM
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That is depressing, LB. Having crawled my way up to the vaunted position of yuppie scum, I can assuage guilt by buying a hybrid or whatever, but that only barely addresses the larger problem.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:33 AM
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Argh. I hate this conversation, because while I'm sure I'm right, it's very difficult not to sound like an asshole about it.

No, I'm mostly kidding too. Designing a community where everyone needs a car a horrible sin on the group-planning level, but it's fairly essential and not-sinnish as an individual, if you're plopped down in the middle of these situations. (I drive sinfully far to play soccer though. Please don't take that away from me.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:33 AM
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It's only in apartment buildings, and largely because washing machines are flood-prone, so landlords want them in the basement, not in individual units. Everyone in an apartment in London has their own washing machine?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:34 AM
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48: Not only that, but over there you'd have to look pretty hard to find one of these stupid top-loaders, iirc.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:35 AM
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What I find a little odd about this conversation is the distance between my mental model of what I could be reasonably content with, and what I actually have. One rationilization I make is that I live with my SO, and I'm not willing to try and drag her into my idea of a minimalist lifestyle. Occasionally I fantasize about what I would do if I were really by myself - would I bother to buy a real bed? Curtains? TV? Good cheese?


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:35 AM
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while I'm sure I'm right, it's very difficult not to sound like an asshole

This sentence is hilarious. What's at issue, exactly, in the car conversation? I've lost track of the disagreement.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:35 AM
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52: It probably correlates a bit to the car thing, too. Doing a family-sized load at a commercial laundry is a whole different world of hassle if public transportation is involved.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:36 AM
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re: 52

Pretty much, yeah. I've never lived in a block of flats where there was a communal laundry.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:37 AM
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I would be hard-pressed to give up on a real bed. Boy hasthat changed my perspective.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:37 AM
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52 to 48.

51: Yeah. It's just all the unexamined attachment to low-density housing and everything it implies that depresses me. Apartment, or other high density urban, living isn't a hardship! Plenty of people like it fine! The fact that it seems weird to most Americans isn't due to an informed weighing of the options, but to lack of familiarity.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:37 AM
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I don't think the problem is actually with our washer. The problem is that it takes forever to fill up. DC has really hard water and I think the pipe that leads to the washer is so full of mineral deposits that only a trickle is making its way through. I suspect that's a much harder problem to fix, which is why I've never called in a plumber.

Anyone know about how hard it is to unclog pipes clogged by hard water deposits?


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:39 AM
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what I would do if I were really by myself - would I bother to buy a real bed?

I slept on the carpet for most of the two years before dating Jammies. I'd gotten rid of my bed, and I had a mat available, but I generally didn't use it.

Eventually my hips started to ache, because there was cement below the thin carpet. But I really like the "grab a blanket and pillow anywhere" approach to nitey-nite.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:40 AM
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A hot shower every morning. Everything else is optional.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:41 AM
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59

What depresses me most about this is the time-scales involved, and the implications. Living in most of the US is pretty much predicated on cheap oil, for a number of reasons. No thought has been given to what happens if this isn't the case, I presume on the assumption that if need be, cheap oil can be bullied.

But we're talking about new housing developments with what, 50-100year expected service? Designed in such a way that changing these problems is very, very difficult? So if the crunch really comes, there is literally nothing that can be done in a cost effective way. What fun.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:41 AM
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True love.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:41 AM
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I've never had a washing machine in an apartment here, but I have one in my apartment in Berlin, which is otherwise much more sparsely outfitted. But one simply has one-- in the kitchen or in the bathroom, not in its own laundry room. You almost never see a drier there, though.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:41 AM
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if you eat a healthy diet your logs will slide out without making a mess. usually.

that said, i forgot to mention wet wipes for my ass.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:42 AM
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But an earlier one occurs when you have a bit of money sitting around, so that if the transmission drops out of your car one day you can get it fixed

I've made the transition to that state relatively recently (before that I had enough money to do almost everything I wanted, but it took attention to budgeting). Partially because the transition is fresh in my mind, my list is long.

In order of most painful to give up, to less painful to give up.

Not Having Roommates

Buying expensive ingredients to cook with without worrying about the cost (also known as, "I'm not going to go broke buying the $3/lb pasta or rice.")

Being able to eat out at moderately priced restaurantes as much as I want, and not feeling like movie or theater tickets are an expense I need to keep track of.

Being able to afford to go to a doctor if there's something I'm actually worried about.

Being able to afford taking my bike to the shop for regular performance tuning.

**

Broadband + netflix

Being able to afford a steady stream of small purchases (CDs, etc) without too much thought.

Being able to take on larger projects, rather than just having a series of single purchases that each use up my discretionary spending budget for a few months. This last year, for example, I've been upgrading my stereo, and it's nice to know that I can do everything that I want rather than buying new speakers, for example, and waiting a couple years to change anything else.

Everything after ** are things I would be willing to give up without too much worry, if there was a good reason.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:42 AM
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Heebie:

were you sleeping under a roof?

For me, the answer is mainly the luxury of being able to spend time with my kids.

Nothing else really matters if I have to work 24/7 to put food on the table.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:43 AM
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60: just drop a few M80s in there and stand back.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:43 AM
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the only thing that really sucks about dense urban living is carting your groceries from the store to your house.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:43 AM
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60: Call a plumber, man, that's what they do. You think everyone in DC is suffering? If not, it's fixable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:44 AM
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My wife.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:44 AM
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72: I can't give up your wife either.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:44 AM
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65: Yeah, you don't see driers so much in the bits of europe I'm familiar with. But mostly the washers are a) front loading b) higher efficiency and c) spin off a lot better than typical north american ones. So people have little drying racks in with the hot water heater for socks etc. and often bigger racks somewhere, but typically after spinning off clothes just need a little air.

I suspect this pattern has a significant effect on typical clothing lifetime EU vs. USA (dryers are really terrible on clothes).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:45 AM
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Yeah. It's just all the unexamined attachment to low-density housing and everything it implies that depresses me. Apartment, or other high density urban, living isn't a hardship! Plenty of people like it fine!

This is not a logical consequence. But emotionally I can't separate high-density situations from everything being expensive. (True, some country costs, like environmental impact, are artificially surpressed.) But my lifestyle is so dang cheap, and I'm always kind of paralyzed by sticker-shock in big cities.

(And that tired old line that my brother trots out, "New York can be cheap if you know where to look!" C'mere, I'll show you cheap.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:45 AM
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NcProsecutor has seen the child support guidelines.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:46 AM
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were you sleeping under a roof?

Are you asking if I slept at a topless bar?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:46 AM
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60: Replace the pipe, Becks.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:47 AM
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Are you asking if I slept at a topless bar?

You know that I love you. But, no offense, I've seen you. I don't need to ask that question.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:48 AM
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For me being able to get by without a car is a sort of luxury that I'm loathe to give up (I like walking, I hate driving, I feel neutral about taking buses). But an upcoming move will force me to start driving again at least semi-regularly. This was almost enough to make me take an inferior job offer just to be able to live in a walkable city.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:50 AM
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Yuppie shoes. New glasses when I don't, strictly speaking, need them. Good parmesan. The annual fee to use the university library (assuming that in this new, terrible future I wouldn't work at the university.)

It's funny--most of the luxuries I couldn't live without I own already and they are unlikely to wear out. I really couldn't do without my two nice heavy pans and my two good knives, for example.

Actually, one of my biggest financial fears is that I will someday need to buy a car. I would have to live in penury--insurance and car payment and repairs and gas would eat up probably a third of my income. Living in a city where I don't need a car is maybe my biggest luxury.

My own room is my second biggest. I'd rather wear cheap shoes than share a room.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:51 AM
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I love that at almost the same exact time, on different threads, I called will "old" and he called me "flat".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:51 AM
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81 pwnd by 80. So sad to think that I am not unique.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:52 AM
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But we're talking about new housing developments with what, 50-100year expected service? Designed in such a way that changing these problems is very, very difficult? So if the crunch really comes, there is literally nothing that can be done in a cost effective way. What fun.

The truth is that a lot of suburban housing being built now will be pretty decrepit in ~50 years, but the infrastructure will persist - it would be borderline insane to abandon in-ground utility feeds.

That said, I was thinking about the whole subprime crisis and the overbuilt exurbs, and the scandalous notion of just abandoning those houses. Because, you know, there are no abandoned houses in American cities. The Federal gov't just swooped right in and dropped cash to ensure that that wouldn't ever happen.

Maybe cities like mine should offer a program: mail your old house keys to your lender, and we'll give you one of our extra houses.* It'd be a lot better for everyone but the foolish lenders.

* I know this wouldn't actually work.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:53 AM
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I love that at almost the same exact time, on different threads, I called will "old" and he called me "flat".

I think everyone knows which commenters are the elementary students at heart.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:53 AM
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But my lifestyle is so dang cheap, and I'm always kind of paralyzed by sticker-shock in big cities.

Cars are expensive. A lifestyle where you don't have the potential of needing a couple hundred dollars with no warning so you can get to work the next day has a lot to be said for it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:54 AM
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86: Oh yeah? I carpool! Zing!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:57 AM
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But emotionally I can't separate high-density situations from everything being expensive.

Come to Pittsburgh, heeb. Housing is cheap, and everything else is normal.

Ironically, now that my wife and I both work from home, a car is more of a necessity. Busing around town is more of a drag when it's not part of a commute.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:58 AM
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So, if your car breaks down, getting it fixed isn't an emergency? Then you're not living a car-dependent lifestyle.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:59 AM
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I think that I'm going to mail our little Texan auto industry apologist a nice ripe carp unless she quits playing soccer.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:00 AM
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90: What if she promises to drive an insight to those games?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:03 AM
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Anyone know about how hard it is to unclog pipes clogged by hard water deposits?

Not that hard. Turns out that was the problem with my awful, awful shower situation. A couple of hours of activity by the building handyguys, who aren't even professional plumbers, and my life is amazing in the morning.

Call a plumber. If you haven't tried to get your landlord to do it, try that first.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:03 AM
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I'd say the things I would have the hardest time giving up are living alone, having money in the bank (in soup biscuit's first rather than second sense), and eating out. It's only possible for me to live a lifestyle like this on my meager income because I live in a place with a very low cost of living, so I'm reluctant to move. Living without a car would be nice too, and I live in a part of town where I could actually do it (and did for a couple of months) but it would be a pain to go anywhere else without one. So I have one, but I kind of hate it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:03 AM
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I think Atrios draws a crucial distinction on the cars issue: it's the need for a 1:1 car:driver ratio that's pernicious. Even anti-auto LB has a family car - but just the one. I would imagine she wouldn't take a second one if it were given to her free (I wouldn't, and we live in a less car-free place).

When I was single, I liked having a car because A) I really enjoy driving and B) I enjoyed the road-trippy freedom. For most of college I had neither car nor car-having friends, and I never minded - except when I had to Greyhound home. Grim. But anyway, adding an adult to my household hasn't added any appreciable car-demand.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:03 AM
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But I really like the "grab a blanket and pillow anywhere" approach to nitey-nite.

I used to too, when I was younger. But I did find that guests seldom appreciated this approach.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:03 AM
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re: 92

Our outside drain blocked. The landlord was taking ages to get a plumber out so I did it myself. I would NOT do it again. I have a pretty high disgusting-ness threshold, but that was right on the edge.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:05 AM
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94: Really, we have one because there's no mass-transit way to get to my inlaws, and if we're going to visit them X times a year, owning a cheap car is cheaper than renting. And once we have one, we use it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:06 AM
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94: Yeah, I'd love to have a workable car-share thingy around. Cars are such a pain in the ass.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:06 AM
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As for the car-dependent lifestyle, it's definitely the result of policy choices rather than geographical factors. Europe's roughly the same size as the US, but it's much easier to get around there without a car because of the extensive rail network and much denser cities. The US used to be like that too, but then the choice was made to heavily subsidize highway construction and let the railroads wither away, and here we are. Ryan Avent is good on this subject.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:06 AM
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I used to be stuck on the hedonic treadmill, but then I discovered that the hedonic elliptical trainer was a lot easier on my knees.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:07 AM
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I lived without a car for decades in Portland. It was possible most because I wasn't out and about a lot. Portland public transportation is pretty good, but even so it's often very inconvenient, and you could hardly get out of town. I ended up thinking that a mix of walking, public transportation, taxis, and carshare would have been ideal.

My biggest problem would be "If you drink, don't drive". A lot of the things I missed by staying home were parties, but I couldn't drive home from them anyway.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:08 AM
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90: What if she promises to drive an insight to those games?

True story: I came really, really close to buying an insight. At the last second I got cold feet because EVERY GODDAMN VEHICLE on the highway is a giant pick-up truck or SUV, and I couldn't shake visions of getting smeared against the highway divider.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:08 AM
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Only about 10-20% of the U.S. lives in the far-flung places where a car would be necessary no matter what.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:09 AM
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My biggest problem would be "If you drink, don't drive".

This is one of the things I hate most about living in places where you need a car.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:09 AM
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I'm willing to grant Heebie a motorized unicycle.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:09 AM
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99: I could see passenger rail working as well as in Europe east of the Mississippi, and along the west coast, but do you think it's feasible in the plains and mountain states? I don't think there's anywhere in Europe that's that sparsely populated.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:10 AM
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Only about 10-20% of the U.S. lives in the far-flung places where a car would be necessary no matter what.

I presume you're not talking about the exurbs of large cities.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:10 AM
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For the record, San Marcos is actually very walkable from where I live.

(Unfortunately, neither Jammies nor I work in San Marcos. And San Marcos also doesn't have adult soccer leagues. I swear to god I feel guilty and am saving up for a hybrid.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:11 AM
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If everyone not actually engaged in farming moved into dense towns and cities, they wouldn't be sparsely populated in the relevant sense, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:11 AM
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Only about 10-20% of the U.S. lives in the far-flung places where a car would be necessary no matter what.

People who have to commute to and from cities not included?

Those people should be car-pooling, I agree.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:11 AM
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I could see passenger rail working as well as in Europe east of the Mississippi, and along the west coast, but do you think it's feasible in the plains and mountain states?

Worked in the nineteenth century. It wouldn't be the only means of transportation, of course (towns distant from the railroad would still need to be accessed by car), but even in the sparsely populated states most of the population is concentrated in fairly small areas.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:12 AM
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I'm willing to grant Heebie a motorized unicycle.

I do not want to be a unitard.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:12 AM
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Those people should be car-pooling, I agree.

And living in walkable suburban towns centered on railroad stations.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:12 AM
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I suspect this pattern has a significant effect on typical clothing lifetime EU vs. USA (dryers are really terrible on clothes).

That's probably true, though when I've been in Germany for a long stretch of time, I go to a laundromat every once in awhile to dry my clothes back into shape.

Also, water in Berlin is much harder than any I'm used to in the U.S. Black clothes take on a dullness after awhile that is sorta gross.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:12 AM
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I am having a hard time thinking of anything. My car broke my first year of grad school, and I couldn't afford to replace it. I have a car now because shivbunny came with one, but if that fucker broke, I'm not sure I'd want to replace it, even though not having a car means a much lower standard of living for me.

My parents have in-house laundry, I don't. Not really a big deal to go to the local laundromat, though I've heard that's not a sentiment that survives the onset of kids.

Budgetwise, getting married pretty much torched my finances (not the wedding, the setting-up-life together bit) and that was and is agonizing.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:13 AM
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By "no matter what" I mean "if cities were designed differently". I.E., the thinly-settled areas. Someone argued that the scope of American geography was the reason we need cars, but most people don't live in the country or the desert.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:14 AM
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Worked in the nineteenth century.

I see shortfalls of extending this argument.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:14 AM
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Wait, can't we all ride our sugar-plum ponies to work?


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:14 AM
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Car-pooling is pain in the ass if you have any kind of life outside of work or any kind of job that might require you to work late unpredictably.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:15 AM
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True story: I came really, really close to buying an insight. At the last second I got cold feet because EVERY GODDAMN VEHICLE on the highway is a giant pick-up truck or SUV, and I couldn't shake visions of getting smeared against the highway divider.

That's part of why I didn't buy one, too. There are normal sized hybrids though. Not that hybrids solve all ill, but it's a nod to the right direction, I guess.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:16 AM
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I see shortfalls of extending this argument.

True enough, but when we're talking about railroads it's pretty good.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:16 AM
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109, 111: Fair enough. I've been surprised by how even little Swiss mountain villages are railroad-accessible, so I guess it could be made to work.

Probably my mental image of western states is shaped too much by the truly outrageous. When I think about houses I've seen on large isolated lots, where they feel a need to maintain a luxuriant lawn despite water shortages, I get so angry that I forget such people are relatively rare.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:16 AM
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You know what would make sense? Nationalized car insurance, paid for in some kind of sliding-scale/progressive taxation way. To insure a car in my mediocre neighborhood as a then-thirty-year-old woman who had never had a car accident or a speeding ticket...well, the best deal I could get was $180/month. That's huge. I'm sure that most of the genuinely poor people in my neighborhood--the ones who buy crappy $800 beaters and drive them as long as they run--drive around all uninsured because they can't afford it.

Meaningful social change would be better than car insurance, of course.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:17 AM
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I have a car now because shivbunny came with one

I now have you married to a Ken doll in my head. ("Comes with convertible, swim trunks, and three disco outfits!")


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:17 AM
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Far-flung: around here people will routinely drive 50 miles one-way to a social gathering, and this probably wouldn't be possible with any kind of public transportation (not enough demand), and without doing that your social life will be very narrow.

I've read stories about the old west and great plains a century ago which made it clear that a lot of people lived in incredible, crushing isolation -- when a monthly afternoon at the coutny seat was their whole social life.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:18 AM
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Probably my mental image of western states is shaped too much by the truly outrageous. When I think about houses I've seen on large isolated lots, where they feel a need to maintain a luxuriant lawn despite water shortages, I get so angry that I forget such people are relatively rare.

Yeah, even in western states most people live in or near the one or two main cities, which are often quite dense, actually. The truly rural areas have very few people, and they're not the reason for car-centric development nationwide.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:19 AM
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124: I was thinking of it more as an eBay purchase + USED MINIVAN MUST SEE!!!!, but Ken works.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:20 AM
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120: I don't recall the details offhand, but you have to be careful about which hybrids you're talking about. Some of them have been engineered to put most of the efficiency gains into improved acceleration, with the upshot that despite being hybrids they're not helping much with greenhouse emissions per mile. My impression was that this is true more often for the larger hybrids, but I don't have time to Google the details right now.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:20 AM
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123: Yeah, car insurance is a big problem. Cars are really just very expensive, and in places where poor people need them they run into all sorts of problems. We see this a lot with our clients.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:21 AM
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Also, not having a car would mean being able to avoid the DMV.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:22 AM
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Aren't there ways of fortifying your hybrid with positive armor so that any SUV that touches it gets a big hole blown in it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:22 AM
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?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:22 AM
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Health insurance is by far the biggest I can think of. I had none until I got student coverage when I went off to college. What an incredible difference it makes to be able to go to a doctor and not worried about saving every possible penny.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:24 AM
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I really have my heart set on these futuristic next-generations gets 60 miles off elecrtricity before tapping its gas engine type hybrids. Then I want solar panels to charge it up at home.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:24 AM
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I've read stories about the old west and great plains a century ago which made it clear that a lot of people lived in incredible, crushing isolation -- when a monthly afternoon at the coutny seat was their whole social life.

Yeah, back then isolation was truly isolating.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:25 AM
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133: God, not having say "do we really need that test?" or "can you take a check?" or "maybe that tumor can stay in" is so nice. I refuse to consider that a luxury on principle.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:26 AM
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134: Solar panels are not practical on unicycles.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:27 AM
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Oooh yeah. Health insurance! I breathed a whole lot easier when I finally had health insurance. I wouldn't want to go back to being a little bit scared about that all the time.

Being able to host people or take them out to dinner would also be hard to give up.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:27 AM
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120: There are different trade-offs, true. But the mileage of a prius isn't much lower than an insight, and that's going from a small 2-door to a medium sized 4-door with lots of interior space. Prius will get real-world mileage of around 50mpg, while you might, maybe see 5 more on the (tiny) insight. Of course if you drive either of those with a heavy foot, you'll lose on mileage, because they've been designed to actually have decent acceleration (for marketing reasons, I suspect)

Hybrid SUVs are a different story. Also things like hybrid honda civic ... more of a assisted gas design than the other way round. Still not bad mileage, but they lose a fair bit of space on an already small body.

Now toyota offers a hybrid engine option on its camry with no other changes, but I don't know what sort of mileage it's getting.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:28 AM
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134: People have done electric-only conversions on prius/insight and home chargers already, i think.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:29 AM
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In case you were wondering, divorce is not good for the environment. Lots of driving to exchange the kids.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:31 AM
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141: I met a girl once who literally could not enter a McDonalds without getting stessed and nauseous. Here parents had split and lived in different towns a couple hours drive apart in a sparsely populated area. The closest thing to `half way' was a roadside McDonalds. So every week they met there, exchanged the kid, and fought about stuff.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:33 AM
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141: Only in our country. To encourage housing density and continued carpooling we need a system where divorce does not make people move away from each other.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:34 AM
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It's really that much of a concern to be driving a small car? I've decided for a long time that once I get my license, I'll buy the smallest car I can find. Possibly a Mini, if they create a more gas-efficient version, but otherwise probably something as close to a SmartCar as possible.

My ideal car would have enough room for myself, a passenger and groceries/major electronics/very small furniture while being light enough that parallel parking involves dropping it into place with a handcart.

But a lot of this is because I will always live places where parking is super-scarce, and my unmitigated hatred of bigger vehicles makes me more than willing to say "fuck you, at least you'll be put in jail for manslaughter if your unnecessary monster takes out my car".


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:36 AM
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142 - The year before my parents divorced, one of the default dinners became my father stopping at the Thai place to pick up pad thai. I still hate it. Everyone always wants to order it though. I politely say nothing and don't eat it.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:38 AM
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144 gets it right. The relative size of the cars in an accident is likely to have fuck-all to do with the severity of injuries, even disregarding the increased likelihood of ginormous cars getting into one-car rollover disasters. It's a phobia, people.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:38 AM
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Aren't there ways of fortifying your hybrid with positive armor so that any SUV that touches it gets a big hole blown in it

Not exactly, but $5/gal gas will have a similar effect.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:38 AM
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In case you were wondering, divorce is not good for the environment.

A rare admission from [W]ill!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:39 AM
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Will has paid me off, by the way. I'm now encouraging everyone to get married. The no-relationship message proved hard to monetize.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:41 AM
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What's "positive armor"?

I imagine a car surrounded with spar torpedoes.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:41 AM
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I used to be very happy with my small car, but with two kids we're going to need more space. I'm just pissed there aren't more fuel-efficient large vehicles, but we'll do the best we can. I refuse to buy an SUV. We're probably stuck with a minivan.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:42 AM
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I love having a car. I live in LA, but counter to prevailing assumptions, a car isn't really a necessity -- there's a subway and the buses. A lot of my friends don't have cars, and they get around fine. If my car broke down, it wouldn't be an emergency, exactly -- the last time my car got stolen I took the metro to work for a while.

But man, it sucks not having a car. For one thing, you can never get out of the city. I live within a walk of Griffith Park, which is vast and lovely, except for the burny bits, and a couple of other sketchy urban park-like places, but to live in LA and not have ready access to the mountains and the beaches is to totally miss the point.

(I do some post hoc rationalizing about it -- my car is not a hybrid, but it's small and fuel efficient, and I live in a neighborhood where I can walk to most of my social and personal appointments.)


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:42 AM
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It's really that much of a concern to be driving a small car?

In Texas? Maybe not a rational concern, but it really is true that almost every car on the road there is gigantic.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:42 AM
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The no-relationship message proved hard to monetize.

It's more profitable if you phrase it as part of a larger message that entails following other lifestyle revamps, joining a commune and worshiping one particular bearded man en masse.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:43 AM
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The closest thing to `half way' was a roadside McDonalds.

This reminds me of a sad story: I spent a summer working with this closeted-to-himself guy who belonged to some whack, homophobic, Xtian "religion." Anyway, he hitched along on a trip I was making and met up with his alleged girlfriend at the McDonald's in Carlisle PA. I have never seen a less heartfelt hug between SOs who had been apart for a month. Grim.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:43 AM
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John, you need to turn the no-relationship message into a self-help book. Of course it's hard to monetize when you just spout it out for free.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:44 AM
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We're probably stuck with a minivan.

FWIW, we're pretty happy with our Passat wagon. We don't actually have a second kid yet, but I don't foresee any problem with the transition. It even drives OK (albeit at the expense of mileage).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:45 AM
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I used to be very happy with my small car, but with two kids we're going to need more space

We have a 2003 Prius (the smaller, previous-generation model), and with our two kids it's been perfectly adequate.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:45 AM
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I met a girl once who literally could not enter a McDonalds without getting stessed and nauseous.

I will accept bribes from people who care about the future health of America to include visitation exchanges at McDonalds in all of my Orders.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:46 AM
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"I have a solution to all the world's problems. Just buy my book.

"OK, one hint: it will resolve all your relationship issues...."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:46 AM
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I just discovered that there exists a stickshift civic Hybrid. I'm seriously looking at my finances at the moment.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:48 AM
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We have a 2003 Prius (the smaller, previous-generation model), and with our two kids it's been perfectly adequate.

Good for you. We had thought that our then-newish Jetta would be fine until the first child grew legs, but the huge infant seat barely fit in the back (wife & I are both tall). That, plus dog, necessitated wagon.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:49 AM
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Actually 144/146 aren't quite right. Although that wouldn't keep me from buying an insight (the lack of cargo space did though).

There are a few overall problems. One thing is that although with unibody crumple design impact issues are mitigated, raw mass does matter. Another is that if you really are surrounded by oversize SUVs, their inability to see you well is a problem. The worst though, is the issue of bumpers relative to your small car. A lot of (SUV particularly) bumpers these days are overheight, and so if you have a particularly low sports car or insight (less and issue for the squared off mini or whatever) you are at much higher risk of someone literally going over you. Or you under them, which puts the bumper through your front windshield if you have any real momentum when you do it.

Overall, it's not a huge additional risk factor, but it is there.

Of course, the rollover capabilities of some SUVs are a much higher risk, but that's a differnt problem.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:49 AM
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We have a 2003 Prius (the smaller, previous-generation model), and with our two kids it's been perfectly adequate.

The newer ones are pretty seriously roomy. Because of the raised profile, with the back seats down you can load a lot in there.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:50 AM
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Hmm. Maybe we don't need a minivan after all. My wife seems convinced we do. I don't really know--I'm not often in the thing. I was sort of under the impression they were designed to seat 4.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:50 AM
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We are smaller, more efficient people, JRoth. There should be a tax on the tall.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:51 AM
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Overheight bumpers should be illegal. I can't figure out why they're not.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:52 AM
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In all the above, I should note that a prius really isn't a small car. It's a largish 4=door that seats 4-5 adults comfortably, at least in the current body shape which is a bit bigger than the one Jesus describes.

The insight, though, is tiny and the hybrid civics are, well, civics.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:54 AM
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I bought my two-seater car (1989 Honda CRX) from a couple I knew who were having their first kid, and upgrading to a 4-door Civic. That made sense to me. My SO bought her car - a 4-door Civic - from a woman having her second kid. As someone whose 4-person family had sedans and the occasional station wagon, that didn't make sense to me.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:55 AM
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There are a few overall problems.

I mean, yes, some of those are pretty legitimite issues, especially the visability issue given how competely unaware most people are. But when it comes to collective action problems where I hate all the defectors (SUV owners in this case), I'm more than willing to take the temporarily weak position rather than succumb to the destructive dominant strategy. Because seriously, fuck gigantic SUVs and trucks.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:56 AM
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167: Yeah, I really don't understand that. If (most) SUVs were actually designed as off road vehicles, it would make sense. But they aren't (most of them are fairly lousy at it, for that matter), and they aren't used that way. Keeping the bumpers down where a standard midsizes are might look a bit silly but it would save a bunch of lives and make absolutely no difference whatsoever to 99% of all SUV owners, or more.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:56 AM
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The other thing about the original post topic is that I'm not convinced about the hedonic treadmill. I understand the idea and have probably experienced it, but it has been three years since I was poor and I still get a thrill out of buying expensive cheese. I haven't completely acclimated or lost my gratitude for small luxuries in three years.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:58 AM
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170: Sure. I don't mean you should buy an SUV. On the other hand, even if it were only psychological (and it isn't) I can see heebie, say, looking at an insight and thinking `not around here'. Have you seen one of these? They are really tiny.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:58 AM
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162 reminded me what the problem is--our infant seat barely fits in the back in the middle, in between the two front seats. To put it behind one of the front seats, the seat has to be moved so far up that no one could sit there. And we can't fit the infant seat in the middle and a toddler seat on the side of it.

But maybe we just need a bigger car, not necessarily a minivan.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:59 AM
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If (most) SUVs were actually designed as off road vehicles, it would make sense. But they aren't (most of them are fairly lousy at it, for that matter), and they aren't used that way.

This is very true, which is why the whole SUV thing is so ridiculous.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:01 PM
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174: I think you can find several 4-doors that will easily accomidate the infant seats. Even one of those hybrids, if that suits.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:01 PM
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Note to suburbia: You are not really that outdoorsy.

I hate our minivan. It was purchased for $100 from a cousin, then loaded full of stuff and driven 3000 miles, and it's been serviceable, but it's a gashogging boat of a car.

Plus, I've been driving hand-me-down soccer-mom-mobiles since I was sixteen. The world owes me a cute fuel-efficient car.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:03 PM
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175: It all got started because of emission control avoidance. To bring this full circle, or something.

Essentially, current SUVs are (inferior) minivans with much better marketing.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:03 PM
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Yup. "Light Trucks" are not subject to the same emissions standards. SUVs count as light trucks.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:07 PM
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144 - Po-Mo - why not an actual Smart Car? We have one (for C's commute) and it's great. I have fitted me, my dad, and a trolley load of shopping in it. I've taken my eldest camping in it, and C and I only didn't take it when we went camping alone because we couldn't really fit the bodyboards in it. Very cheap to run.

Our other car's a Mazda Bongo, which has lots of seats, but I always want more ... Costs a fortune in diesel, which gives me a constant guilt trip, but very cheap to insure (about £30/month).


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:07 PM
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A good library, or enough money to buy books. Austin's library system is lame, so I've been buying books for the first time in my life. I don't know what to do with books after finishing them. It doesn't seem worth the effort to sell them, but I'm rapidly running out of space.

Good health; good enough to bike everywhere, or a car. Austin is (barely!) small enough that I don't feel like I really need a car.


Posted by: halax | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:09 PM
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Austin is (barely!) small enough that I don't feel like I really need a car.

Houston, on the other hand....


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:10 PM
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Often, even if you and your spouse are mutually unappealing at the beginning, as time goes on you fall deeply in love. The traits of the spouse that had seemed intolerable come to be unproblematic, or even adorable. Your lifelong doubts about marriage as such come to seem foolish. And after seventy years of married bliss


etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:11 PM
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I've never owned a car.

(I once worked for a company where I qualified for a company car, but they'd also give you a few hundred extra a month in your paycheque instead of a company car, and I figured that if I had the finances to get a taxi whenever I needed one, I didn't care about not having a car. I was right.)

Things I would miss, should civilisation collapse.

1. My several thousand books that I have been collecting since I was 5.
2. My cats, who would undoubtedly leave me in a hot minute if I stopped providing them with cat food and central heating.
3. A washing-machine. Everyone else has said why already.
4. Toilet paper and a flush toilet. I do not enjoy digging holes to poo into.
5. Fresh fruit midwinter.
6. My laptop.
7. The Internet.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:14 PM
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Ooh. Good quality cheese. I would rather eat no cheese than eat bad cheese.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:23 PM
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Manufactured everyday goods: toothpaste, a toothbrush, toilet paper, soap. These are stupid little things I would be absolutely incapable of replacing on my own. Well, with enough books I might be able to manage soap.

In terms of what I more commonly or consciously think of as luxuries: high-speed internet. Videogames as a slightly more active alternative to TV. Raul, the pool boy of exquisite moral and physical flexibility. You know, the usuals.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:27 PM
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A prius can comfortably sit 4 adults. Sitting in the middle seat is a bit awkward.

Brock--You do not need a minivan; you need a station wagon. Consider a Subaru, a Volvo or an Audi. The Subaru is obviously your best value, and it comes with all wheel drive which is much safer than 4WD.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:29 PM
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Well, with enough books I might be able to manage soap.

Sounds scratchy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:29 PM
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Would probably work for toilet paper, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:31 PM
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Consider a Subaru, a Volvo or an Audi.

This is all wrong. The ones you want to consider are the BMW M5 and the Mercedes E63 AMG.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:35 PM
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184.5: Fresh fruit midwinter.

Yes, this almost makes the whole mad enterprise worthwhile all by itself.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:38 PM
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My list is almost inverted from Baa's.

1. I find it almost impossible to live alone. The one year of my life I tried it was miserable. Baa seems to say that a spouse doesn't count as a roommate. (What about kids) but I'm not seeing the difference. Marriages have all the problems of roommates just as an appetizer for even bigger problems.

More importantly, both family and roommates provide the same basic level benefit: they keep me from getting sucked up inside my own head and going crazy. Routine reminders of other people's existence is a necessary condition for sanity.

2. Although right now I need a car to manage the job and living situation I have, I hate it, and would much rather not have a car. But then again, I am an environmentalist, and therefore the enemy of humanity.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:39 PM
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161: We like our stick shift Civic hybrid. I believe Swampcracker said he owned one and liked it, too.

The Prius is bigger and gets better millage though. The engine is based on a better design philosophy. I think the marked has settled on the Prius as the better car.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:43 PM
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192.a That and lots of sex. Of course, roomates can work out this way too.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:43 PM
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I find it almost impossible to live alone. The one year of my life I tried it was miserable. Baa seems to say that a spouse doesn't count as a roommate. (What about kids) but I'm not seeing the difference.

Perhaps the idea is that the sex compensates for the inherent problems with living with someone.

I know a lot of people are like this (my dad was, for instance), but I still have a hard time envisioning what it's like to prefer to live with other people. I hated having roommates in college.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:45 PM
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193: Right; the thing about the civics (but not the insight) is that it really is a electric assist to an otherwise fairly bog standard ICE system. The prius is the other way round, with a CVT (continuosly variable transmission) which really is a better design if what you are trying to do is reclaim power and drop mileage.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:46 PM
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Just a note to the Honda Civic enthusiasts of yesterday, the new ones are not your father's Civic. The current models are bigger than the mid-90s Accords.

These guys all run upscale over time. I have had Subarus since 1978, but I think this one is my last. A bunch of extra BS and yet the fundamental quality declined.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:47 PM
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When you have small kids, the whole "lots of sex" part of marriage goes away. It still seems better than living alone, though.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:47 PM
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198: I hear that's true. Doesn't seem like a good trade to me, honesly.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:48 PM
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197: true, but if I recall correctly for the hybrid civic, they ate passenger or storage room (both?) to wedge the batteries in. Comes from not designing as a hybrid from scratch.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:49 PM
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But stick-shifts are fun.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:51 PM
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198: YMMV.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:51 PM
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195: It's just different when it's a spouse as opposed to someone who has their own bedroom and space. E.g., I've found I can't think of the living room as a common area like I did with roommates. It's all our space, with all the good and bad that implies.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:52 PM
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So if I'm shacking up and not getting lots of sex, am I missing out, or just properly calibrating my expectations for marriage/kids?


Posted by: Martin Van Buren | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:52 PM
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My 2003 hybrid Civic has more passenger and cargo room than my 1982 civic had. At least, if I am remembering the older car right.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:52 PM
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202: Show off.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:53 PM
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204: Jammies?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:54 PM
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202: Didn't you say that both your kids were sleeping through the night in their own room by 18 months?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:55 PM
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Would probably work for toilet paper

While this is more attention-grabbing than the usual "will work for food," it is probably less effective as a means of securing employment.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:56 PM
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209: I don't know, toilet paper's pretty cheap. And you can always get food from dumpsters.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 12:57 PM
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Yeah, it's all about the sleepy children. Without that, life would be difficult.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:00 PM
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Will no one speak for roommates? I'm always surprised that living alone is seen as indispensable by so many people. At the beginning of my "gap year" between college and grad school, I decided it was time to be a grown up and live by myself. So I rented a 1 bedroom of a size and with a view that I thought to be quite impressive for a man of my station and meager income.

At the end of that year, I had to find temporary housing for a month (the nice place would only renew me for another year) and did so in a tiny room in a dumpy 60s townhouse on Dorchester, in which 4 strangers lived. I was not looking forward to this, but after a couple weeks there I let my guard down and realized it was a lot of fun to be in a house with these "random" people. I realized I was much happier in those crappy accommodations with people than I ever was in the nicer place, where I would sit alone surfing the net in front of the TV most nights.

Since then, I've been a fan of roommates, although it's a moot point since living alone on a student stipend in SF is generally tricky.

On preview: I see RHC has spoken for roommates.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:01 PM
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So if I'm shacking up and not getting lots of sex, am I missing out,...

Some might say more missing the point


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:01 PM
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Without that, life would be difficult.

Or at least it might involve more stress about what stories the kids are telling in daycare/school.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:03 PM
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I don't know what to do with books after finishing them. It doesn't seem worth the effort to sell them

Austin's library system is lame

I think you've answered your own question there, halax. Libraries are happy to take donated books, to add to the collection or to sell.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:03 PM
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I've had good and bad roommate situations. The good ones were good in that they helped supply me with a social life that I don't seem to be able to acquire on my own. The bad ones didn't do that, and didn't leave me with any privacy, either.

It does seem like actually living alone would be a worthwhile thing to try at some point.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:07 PM
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I read an interesting paper yesterday, perhaps via sausegly, that's linked here, talking about city configuration and who ends up living where. It's worth a read.

That said, cars these days are really safe, and I say this as someone who has been on the wrong side of a small car/tractor trailer accident and a couple car/motorcycle accidents. As long as you don't drive drunk or at 100 mph, I think the odds fade more or less into the background noise.

If you're really that concerned, the few hundred bucks it takes to go to one of the skip barber style driving schools probably gives another big increment in relative safety by making it much more likely to avoid an accident in the first place.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:08 PM
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I think that I like living alone better than roommates. But when I check my mood, it is consistently much better when I'm living with people.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:12 PM
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I think that the Civic Hybrid takes the space out of the trunk, because the interior feels capacious. The rear, in particular, with no tunnel whatsoever (I guess because it's brake-by-wire?) feels like the inside of a panel van.

Someone upthread mentioned Audi wagons - just a note: Audi and VW sort of leapfrog each other in sizing, so the A4 is between the Jetta and Passat, and the A6 is a bit bigger than the Passat. The Passat comes with (essentially) Quattro as a virtually-standard "option" (couldn't get mine without, in fact), and is foolproof in the snow. I don't know if the A4 is quite big enough; as I said, the Passat certainly is. Oh, and the new Passats come with a self-draining slot in the door for your umbrella. Clever Germans!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:14 PM
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I think that I like living alone better than roommates. But when I check my mood, it is consistently much better when I'm living with people.

Bingo. That's exactly how it is with me.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:15 PM
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Ooh! I forgot my luxury -- paying for movers. I decided about 5 years ago that I no longer move my own stuff. It's so worth the money to me.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:17 PM
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I think that I like living alone better than roommates. But when I check my mood, it is consistently much better when I'm living with people.

I have this to an extreme degree, except it's consistently much more variable, rather than better per se. And variable can be pretty extreme, which means that my life is much more interesting (in the makes for better stories sense). When I'm living with someone(s) I get pretty boring, but basically good natured.

I guess it all comes down to a combination of cabin fever being able to talk myself into crazy stuff when nobody is modulating it.

Or maybe I'm just getting old


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:21 PM
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RE: Roommates and spouses.

In all but a shitty relationship, you have so much more lattitude for dealing with the inevitable issues of cohabitation than you do with a roommate. Obviously, basic compatibility issues come in (cleaning, hours, ambient noise/lighting), but ceteris paribus, I think it's a lot easier/more effective to say "Honey, you know I love you, but if you don't do the dishes, I'll put a dirty skillet through your skull," than to say, "Bob, you're really not doing all the chores we set out in the Compact."

I never wanted a roommate, but I love living with my wife. Even living with the Bad Old GF was OK, fighting aside. When not in a relationship, I have enjoyed solo living a lot. But I'm more that kind of person. I also like being able to be outgoing on my own terms - doing something without the obligatory "hey, wanna join me?" But I never lived alone for long post-college, when socializing was the default, so who knows?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:22 PM
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Ooh! I forgot my luxury -- paying for movers. I decided about 5 years ago that I no longer move my own stuff. It's so worth the money to me.

My response to self-moving is simply a vow to die in this house. You'll get my housekey out of my cold, dead hands.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:23 PM
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It is sort of frustrating when the preferences you believe you have don't match the evidence of your daily life. Then you have to make rules to go by and follow them by willpower.

"I am happier when I live with people.
"Riding my bike will make me happy even on a cold night."
"I do not want bangs."

It'd be easier if I were right about myself in the first place.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:27 PM
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As far as pure luxury items go, my laptop, my camera. Broadband is non-optional for me, considering what I do for a living. Air conditioning - my first year in NYC without it was miserable.

My cat.


Posted by: fishbane | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:30 PM
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I think that I like living alone better than roommates. But when I check my mood, it is consistently much better when I'm living with people.

God, someday maybe I'll actually find out: I have, to my everlasting chagrin, never lived alone (excepting a couple of 1-3 month housesitting gigs). It's always been a long-term boyfriend, or roommates, with whom I do reasonably well, but I'm going through something lately with my current roommate whereby I can't stand it when he's in my space, i.e. at home at all. This doesn't bode well.

And yet, and yet. I can't afford to live alone right now, though I could have over the past few years. Dummy: financial opportunity wasted.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:32 PM
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I am an environmentalist, and therefore the enemy of humanity.

I knew it. Seriously though, I have always found that cars provoke an animus that is both excessive and under-motivated.

I don't need a car, and could live my life contentedly without one. Nonetheless, cars are a great, transformative technology. There's just no way that transport that goes point to point and which you control doesn't dominate transport which goes node to node on a schedule you don't control. It may be that for high-volume routes cars get priced out. But on an absolute basis, cars are just obviously better (and will be better still when they are all clean-burning hybrids).

There's a limited and reasonable case against cars: pollution, cost, accident, etc. I am more-or-less on board with externality claims, and if people want to tax gas to the roof, mazel tov. The anti-automobile animus, however, predates global warming concerns. Opposition to cars often partakes of a species of opposition to the modern world, or a displaced religious asceticism of "small-is-beautiful-we should-all-be-consuming-less" variety.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:33 PM
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225: I'm not sure that I'm happier, exactly, when I live with people. I'm probably a better person though. And I'm definitely easier to deal with.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:33 PM
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It'd be easier if I were right about myselfeverything in the first place.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:35 PM
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Well, sure, once you point out that the animus against cars is unjustified by the actual externalities they cause, and actually derives from irrational hatred of progress and modernity, then my reaction does sound silly. Thanks for pointing that out, chief!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:37 PM
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Once again it's on! baa, tha mothafukkin psycho...


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:38 PM
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Cars necessitate broad swaths of pavement.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:38 PM
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228: I think you find some of that, but also perhaps that resistance to cars from non-environmental concerns could just be the obvious focal point for resistance to the broken parts of modern development patterns, etc. This isn't opposition to the modern world at all --- it's resistance to being asked to settle for a crappier version of it when you believe you can see (rightly or wrongly) a much better one not far away.

Like you, I recognize the technological upside of them; I think I have a pretty realistic grasp on what can be changed and what can't. I do think a number of major policy directions on development and transportation infrastructure have been foolish and shortsighted. That's not the same as `burn all cars'


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:39 PM
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Baa buys his cars via usury.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:39 PM
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The anti-automobile animus, however, predates global warming concerns. Opposition to cars often partakes of a species of opposition to the modern world, or a displaced religious asceticism of "small-is-beautiful-we should-all-be-consuming-less" variety.

While there are varying degrees of the two you mention (probably more of the latter than of the former - I really don't think that "opposition to the modern world" is very common, except among the small-minded, who are usually OK with cars), you're missing a big one: cars wreck community. In the direct sense that car-driven development over the past 60 years has damaged countless once-thriving cities and towns, and in the indirect sense that places designed to accommodate cars well do not accommodate humans and their communal relationships well. I'd call that a pretty good motivation to feel distaste for cars.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:40 PM
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128: You know what the best form of transportation that goes point to point and is totally under your control is? Legs.

My favorite way to reduce dependence on cars is to increase walkability. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could be against that.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:40 PM
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234, cont. I stated that a bit weakly. I think you can probably dig up people who meet (roughly) your description, but very, very few of them. Most of the anti-car animus is both tempered by realistic constraints and well justified by actual problems.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:41 PM
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I'd like to think of 236 not as pwned by 234, but as foreshadowed.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:41 PM
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Nonetheless, cars are a great, transformative technology.

No disagreement there. The problem is that they are simply that they are simply too cheap relative to their external costs, and path dependence being what it is, there is no good way to rectify that disjunction without seriously undesirable distributional consequences.

I don't hate cars, but I hate that the alternative of living car free is effectively unavailable to so many people, or available only at the price of an unacceptable sacrifice of quality of life.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:42 PM
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237: And bikeability.

One of the real travesties of budget squeezing large infrastructure developments in a lot of metro areas is how it actually makes walk/bikability of an area much worse than it started off at --- which was pretty poor in the first place. It all becomes self reinforcing.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:43 PM
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Baa buys his cars via usury.

An excellent point, articulately put.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:44 PM
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I am more-or-less on board with externality claims, and if people want to tax gas to the roof, mazel tov.

Fossil fuel depletion and carbon pollution are, alas, not the only relevant externalities, so you don't solve all the problems with cars by taxing gasoline (look at Europe), though it would be a good start.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:45 PM
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When you say transformative, I wonder what you consider the before and after states.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:46 PM
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I'll freely admit to hating cars long before the evidence on global warming was clear cut, in fact, hating them before the issue was even on the radar screen. Destruction of wild habitat and urban communities was basically enough for me. But the clincher was actually war. I became vocally anti-car during the first gulf war. We needed to go to war to support car culture. Fuck that.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:46 PM
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243: That, and putting a large share of interstate maintenance onto the trucking industry where it belongs would be a good start. But as you say, gas tax isn't nearly everything.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:47 PM
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I'll go with neighborhood design as the source of my car-hating. Maybe this is because I was a teenager in the suburbs, though. "Yeah, sure, I'll walk over...see you in an hour!"


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:50 PM
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We needed to go to war to support car culture.

Now, now. One country invaded a neighboring country. As you know, strict US policy requires that we invade in turn. This protocol has never, AFAIK, been broken.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:53 PM
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A rough breakdown on the costs of a car-based society.

1. Environmental Costs
A. Global climate change
B. Local air pollution.
C. dependence on a non renewable resource
D. Habitat destruction caused by bad use of space

2. Social Costs
A. The flight of wealth from cities and the loss of urban tax base
B. The increase in crime that comes from concentration of poverty.
C. The breakdown of informal social ties that come from people meeting on the street.
D. War for oil.

3. Psychological costs.
A. Increased commuting time breaks family ties.
B. Increased personal stress. Most time spent in cars is spent in traffic, which has measurable negative impacts on health.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:53 PM
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Obviously, there are lots of convenient things about automobiles, but Americans are far too dependent on them due to a number of silly policy choices. For one thing, drivers do not bear, for the most part, the costs of congestion and pollution that they impose on others. For another, highway infrastructure receives around 40 times the government funding of transit or rail.

This funding disparity is going to end up biting us in the ass, because increased energy costs will be more painful if substitutes for energy-intensive activities aren't available. If oil prices double and you live near a train station, then you just start taking the train--you don't care if oil prices quintuple. If you've got no good substitute for driving, then when prices increase, you grin and bear it--you can't adjust your behavior to minimize the pain.

And American settlement patterns have very little to do with geography.

Also, cars may be safer than ever, but 40,000 Americans still die each year in auto accidents. And I couldn't live without toothpaste.


Posted by: ryan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:54 PM
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Why do you hate the modern world, helpy-chalk?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:54 PM
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Maybe this is because I was a teenager in the suburbs, though.

My best friend in HS lived on the opposite end of town, beyond a mish-mash of NJ state highways. A few times we'd bike to meet up, which was harrowing for one or the other of us. People who say city riding is scary have no idea....


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:55 PM
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Feinstein on the floor now defending the FISA immunity provision.

If you want to weigh in with your Senator on FISA, now is the time to do it. Vote is tomorrow. Dodd and I think Feingold are saying they will filibuster, getting supporters is critical.

Obama and Clinton are saying they will support the filibuster, but you can bet they won't go back to DC and do it themselves.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:55 PM
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Ooh, I forgot accidents. I can make my "C" individual health costs, and include accidents there.

Congestion pricing is going to be more important for solving this problem than gas taxes.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:56 PM
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Is this is the thread to fantasize about Feinstein getting hit by a truck?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:56 PM
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With absolutely no rancor towards anyone who disagrees, I think I'm basically with baa on this one. I love cars. Cars are fun. Cars are sexy. Cars are a tremendous tool of personal freedom. I doubt there is any public transit or shared car or rental solution that would please me in the way it pleases me to have a car in the driveway ready to go at a moment's notice. Cars fulfill too many of the needs and desires of the individuals who own them for those individuals to take collective action against cars in general.

I don't dispute that there are terrible problems with a car culture but our society is not going to abandon that model. Cars will become more efficient, less polluting, safer, all those things, but very few places are ever going to rip up the roads and sew hugs in their place.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:57 PM
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251: now baa has succeeded in trolling me, I guess it will be hard to convince you that I like the modern world. But I do. I'm a progressive in the very deep sense that I think most things have been getting better, for the most part, over the course of human history and will continue to do so.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:59 PM
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253: On hold with Schumer now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:59 PM
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257: Fascist.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:02 PM
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And he's supporting the filibuster. Go Chuck! (In this limited, specific, regard.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:02 PM
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256: Sure they're convenient and fun. But a society that assumes universal car ownership is going to be, for all the reasons listed above, really fucked up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:03 PM
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Manlypants, that's all well and good, so long as you're paying an appropriate amount to have that car at the ready.


Posted by: ryan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:03 PM
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I'm with the anti-car people. Accepting the modern world should mean things like accepting antibiotics, vaccination, electricity, and other good things. Not with being uncritically attached to every convenient fun that's been successfully marketed to you.

I am not at all opposed to the use of internal-combustion trucks, tractors, emergency vehicles, etc. Fine modern things. I'm not opposed to people in the empty western spaces driving from town to town. It's just the way that cities and SMAs are deliberately laid out to make cares a necessity for survival that oppose, and in general I think that the automobile-dependent lifestyle tends toward the stupid. (Not you, pro-car people here! You're heroic anomalies out on the long fat tail.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:09 PM
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Spinal muscular atrophy?
Southern medical association?
Singapore-MIT alliance?

Steel manufacturers association!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:15 PM
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264: I do believe that is how Em Johnerson refers to MSAs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:18 PM
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Multiple savings accounts?
Mutilated streaking albinos?

(oh Metropolitan statistical areas)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:21 PM
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Jeez! I wasn't even trying to troll. Some time I should try to rile you guys up.

Rob Helpy-chalk's 249 is really helpful, because it identifies what is at issue. I am on board with environmental damage as an externality, although there's probably different values being ascribed to that damage, both absolutely and relative to the baseline damage of running an industrial economy on fossil fuels.

The externalities alleged in R H-C's 2 and 3, however, I think are (basically) vastly overstated. I don't think cars caused more crime by increasing poverty. I don't think cars cause bowling alone. I don't think cars caused the 1st Gulf war. I don't even think cars can be primarily blamed for increased commute time (and here's some evidence). Thus, I found LB "what drives so much that's environmentally and socially fucked up about the US" so surprising. Socially? Really?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:25 PM
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I didn't know what MSA's were either. But now I do!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:25 PM
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As I recall from high school, "SMA" means either "Sexiest Man Alive" or "Stupidest Man Alive".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:26 PM
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Cars increase teenage promiscuity.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:27 PM
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249: re:the psychological effects, I'm not sure those are general or I'm misunderstanding. or I'm using personal experience inappropriately. But, I commute daily via train into cambridge and my commute via commuter rail is easily 45 minutes longer each way than the corresponding car trip would be. And that's before adding in the time lost waiting at the train station. and the traffic stress seems an even swap with the mass of humanity stresses. I wouldn't have to listen to idiotic cell phone conversations in my car, for instance.


Additionally, is it possible/practical (in a perfectly frictionless spherical world) to have commuter rail and commute from one nonhub city to another? I can commute from providence to boston or from worcestershire to boston but not from worcestershire to providence.


Posted by: brian ledford | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:32 PM
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267: I would guess you can source the vast majority of LB's sentiment to 249.1(d).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:33 PM
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Cars caused heavy metal and hard rock. Enough said.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:33 PM
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I don't think cars cause bowling alone.

But you like some solitude, IIRC, and are therefore aberrant. I'm not sure we can trust your intuitions in this area.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:34 PM
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cars caused the 1st gulf war

Of course not. The
US just cares about invasions that violate territorial integrity
. The census link omits reference to MSAs
that limit sprawl. Portland is one of these.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:35 PM
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Don't drink and park, accidents cause people.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:37 PM
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Sure, New York has long commute times. The city also manages to fit 9 million people into 300 square miles. Compare that to Houston or Dallas or Phoenix, all auto-centric cities, where far fewer people reside in a far larger area, and yet commute times remain high. In terms of the efficiency of people moving, New York kicks everyone else's ass.

It's also worth noting that the average New Yorker's transportation emissions are less than a third of the national average.


Posted by: ryan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:39 PM
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I sure feel sexy and powerful when i am waiting sitting in my car at the light to pull out of the strip mall parking lot.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:39 PM
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277: If we're asking people to trade long, inconvenient commutes for less emissions, though, we're going to have a hard sell.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:41 PM
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How many cars were there in late 1960s birmingham working class youth culture? I could be wrong but i am not sure i buy the cars->heavy metal argument.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:41 PM
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In terms of the efficiency of people moving, New York kicks everyone else's ass.

Why is this relevant? I care about commute time, efficiency of concentration. If the claim is that sprawl is essentially bad, that's another thing. But while increased physical footprint of urban areas has some deleterious effects, I doubt the magnitude of effect is that great.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:43 PM
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271:

I don't know of data that compares cars and public transportation while controlling for time of commute.

I do know that time spent commuting by car looks like a causal factor in many health problems, including high blood pressure and anxiety disorders. This holds true even for people who say they enjoy driving. What was most noticeable is that you cannot acclimate to it. Bus drivers have three times the high blood pressure levels of control groups.

Also, the arrival of the car-society at least correlates with the increase in commute times. So even if commuting by train causes health problems, the increase in commuting time in general can be bringing us all down.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:43 PM
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I don't like how cars make places ugly. Wide streets are ugly. Having a row of cars between the sidewalk and the street is ugly. Having garages in the front of houses is ugly. Parking lots are ugly. Those are the fault of bad design + cars, but it is nevertheless a vast dose of ugliness everyday. I think that hurts us.

(It is most noticeable by contrast, when you go to places that aren't ugly and realize how nice that it.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:43 PM
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I was watching traffic the other day in charming Elyria OH, and marveling at how the cars were individually beautiful and collectively ugly. It struck me as emblematic of the whole problem.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:45 PM
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280: Contrarians will always be with us, arguing their cockamamie theories until the end of time.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:46 PM
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Hell, paved concrete streets are ugly, and this from a girl who looooooves her some infrastructure.

(Cobbled streets, masonry street - not ugly.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:46 PM
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Cars increase teenage promiscuity.

OK, I'll grant that they have some redeeming qualities.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:48 PM
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The uglyness and lack of any space which isn't private/commercial. Exurbs have strip malls and office parks and subdivisions. You drive between them all. There are vast stretches of grass that noone ever walks on or even really looks at. The buying, working and sleeping are all divided up and efficiencyized after a fashion and the whole thing doesn't have the least bit of humanity.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:49 PM
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FISA fillibuster. Where's the relevant info so that I can sound with it when I call Kerry and Kennedy?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:50 PM
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281: Density is important. Imagine Houston with its current settlement pattern, but with 9 million people in the city proper, and 20 million in the metropolitan area. Could it support the economic activity that New York does? Absolutely not; it would grind to a halt. New York thrives because it is able to bring so many people together so effectively. This is why companies are willing to pay exorbitant salaries and rents in the city; the productivity advantages of being in New York outweigh the costs.


Posted by: ryan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:52 PM
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I'm with Megan on the aesthetics of cars and parking lots. They're ugly. Again I'm not a (complete) automobile -panglossian. I just think they aren't high on the list of causes of american social problems. Someone else probably has the math on this, but it wouldn't surprise me if personal cars represented a minority of greenhouse gas emissions.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:54 PM
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I don't like how cars make places ugly. Wide streets are ugly. Having a row of cars between the sidewalk and the street is ugly. Having garages in the front of houses is ugly. Parking lots are ugly.

Correct. Visit Europe and see how beautiful medieval, pre-car cities are.

Sometimes I like to just stand at a corner, look around, and sum up how much of the space I see is configured completely to accomodate cars and not humans. Typically in America the majority of space and construction is about servicing the car and is actively hostile to both the human aesthetic sense and ease of motion for the human body.

A good way to address the ugliness of cars would be to try to move toward more or less car-free central cities. You could use cars to get around on ring roads, park, and then walk or take public transit in a central city area.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:54 PM
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I don't like how cars make places ugly. Wide streets are ugly. Having a row of cars between the sidewalk and the street is ugly. Having garages in the front of houses is ugly. Parking lots are ugly.

Correct. Visit Europe and see how beautiful medieval, pre-car cities are.

Sometimes I like to just stand at a corner, look around, and sum up how much of the space I see is configured completely to accomodate cars and not humans. Typically in America the majority of space and construction is about servicing the car and is actively hostile to both the human aesthetic sense and ease of motion for the human body.

A good way to address the ugliness of cars would be to try to move toward more or less car-free central cities. You could use cars to get around on ring roads, park, and then walk or take public transit in a central city area.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:55 PM
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261: 256: Sure they're convenient and fun. But a society that assumes universal car ownership is going to be, for all the reasons listed above, really fucked up.

Tell that to the bosses who freak out about telecommuting. For sure I don't need to be physically present to do my job. TBH, I'd probably be more productive if I didn't have the current distractions around me.

However, they're apparently afraid I might be smiling. Or something. It's that old biblical Egyptian Overseer syndrome, I guess.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:55 PM
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Sorry for the double post.

it wouldn't surprise me if personal cars represented a minority of greenhouse gas emissions.

I think it's about a third, but more like half in California.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:56 PM
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i'm not sold on the idea that spread-out exurb-design city doesn't work economically. Its not hard to ship the guns and butter around, and the workers can move to whatever office park they need to be in.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:57 PM
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FISA Amendment Act of 2007.

ACLU link

Asking for a written statement on your Sen's position re: filibuster is supposed to be an effective way to record your call.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 2:57 PM
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it wouldn't surprise me if personal cars represented a minority of greenhouse gas emissions.

Wow. It is almost like you don't click through to dry technical hourlong powerpoint presentations on climate change when I link to them.

Your loss, dude. In CA, personal vehicles account for about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. At minute 25.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:08 PM
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Its not hard to ship the guns and butter around, and the workers can move to whatever office park they need to be in.

True enough, but it only works economically as long as transportation costs (in this context mainly oil prices) stay low.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:08 PM
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In CA, personal vehicles account for about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Which is of course a minority, but an awfully big one.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:09 PM
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Cars account for a much greater percentage of greenhouse gas emissions than any other single source, is another way to think about it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:12 PM
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TBH, I'd probably be more productive if I didn't have the current distractions around me.

You would. Instead of outsourcing it's reservation agents, Jet Blue uses at home workers in Utah, many of whom are moms. They use software that track their activities. It's a little more expensive than overseas outsourcing, but customer satisfaction is much higher.

I don't understand why more businesses don't work a little harder to make telecommuting work. The benefits seem significant.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:14 PM
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Thanks, lw. Kennedy's office was kind of lame and pointed me to the website, refused to mail me something, in fact. I'm going to call Kerry now.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:14 PM
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There are an awful lot of people living in greater new york. I'm not sure it would be harder to ship thing from jersey to long island if nyc was just a big freeway.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:15 PM
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I'm not sure it would be harder to ship thing from jersey to long island if nyc was just a big freeway.

I'm sure it wouldn't be, since in either case you would go by sea. But I don't see the relevance of this.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:17 PM
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You'd have to pry my cold dead fingers from the wheel. I like driving, I like having a car, and I use it for any number of things that even the best developed public transportation system wouldn't do well.

I think that 'if every place was like New York' argument is kind of funny, as if NY is the way it is for any reason other than geography. As if NY got the way it is, or Houston, as some kind of intentional act.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:17 PM
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306:

Everyone notice how the older generation doesn't care about the environment?

Those Westerners just see the environment as a resource for them to use up.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:20 PM
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306: well, but there are obvious and dramatic differences in cities that primarily developed before and after the onset of the automobile, and the cities that primarily developed before the automobile generally have advantages in public transportation, density, accessibility of services, and pollution level.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:20 PM
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I think that 'if every place was like New York' argument is kind of funny, as if NY is the way it is for any reason other than geography. As if NY got the way it is, or Houston, as some kind of intentional act.

How did Chicago get to be the way it is?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:20 PM
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If someone hired my to pry things from people's cold dead hands, I'd take that job in the snap of a finger. I bet they have a lot of cool jimmies and shims to make the prying quicker and more efficient.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:22 PM
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I'd take that job in the snap of a finger

I'm sure that would be part of it, yes. Not very flexible, those cold dead hands.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:23 PM
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Chicago is what NY would look like if it wasn't on islands and a peninsula.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:27 PM
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312: Indeed it is, but why? And why isn't Houston like that?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:28 PM
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In CA, personal vehicles account for about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.

And nationally?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:28 PM
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309: bold rebellion against geography.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:29 PM
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Because Texans suck.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:30 PM
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And why isn't Houston like that?

Because Houston wasn't developed until after airconditioning, which means cars were already a way of life.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:30 PM
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As if NY got the way it is, or Houston, as some kind of intentional act.

Sure, Houston developed spontaneously in some sense, but largely as the result of human policy decisions. If Houston is like a cancer (and all decent people agree that it is), it is like a lung cancer caused by years of smoking.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:31 PM
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Because Texans suck.

And that's not an intentional act?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:32 PM
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I have never really looked at the economics of any of this stuff, but I really wish we would spend more of our transportation dollars on public transportation instead of roads.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:32 PM
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(Darn it. Hit send before I finished)

And more money on urban planning so people lived closer to where they worked, ate, and played.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:33 PM
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Nápi is right. Subconsciously we're all pining for the wide-open spaces of the veldt. There's no use fighting it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:33 PM
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I have never really looked at the economics of any of this stuff

If you ever want to, Ryan's blog is a good place to start.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:33 PM
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Air conditioning desrves more love in this thread, especially for those living in the south. Talk about acclamation. If you've never had it you hardly miss it, and you can get used to living without it, but Jesus Christ will doing so ever make you sad. I'm currently without AC for the first time in a few years and, even though I'm in Boston where it truly is a pure luxury, there are still a few weeks every summer when I would prefer to be dead.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:35 PM
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312, I think that 309's point is that Chicago is a lot more like NYC than it is like Houston.

I'll admit that I'm a bit resentful that baa conceded that 249 was useful, but not my 236. Especially since he seems blind to the community-destroying points I was making.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:35 PM
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Er, "points about community-destruction."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:35 PM
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But Chicago was built by people who made corruption of democracy an art form. They reversed a river to avoid contact with their own filth. Any "policy" decisions were a consequence of how to profit fastest. I think it's a consequence of a street plan that didn't allow much city parking in place by 1920, to make more specific what others have said.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:35 PM
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who is Ryan and where is the blog?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:35 PM
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I'm Ryan. Come to meeeeee.


Posted by: Ryan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:36 PM
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It would be sort of fun coming home and telling the wife about the various things I'd pried out of the cold dead hands of various people.

Maybe in the evenings I'd script a comedy series about that line of work. With cold dead celebrities you'd have to mask their identities carefully for legal reasons, but not so carefully that people couldn't guess.

I wouldn't pull any buttplugs out of any cold dead butts though. I'd have a contract worker come in to do that whenever necessary.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:36 PM
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The policy decisions, and, more important, the policy omissions that lead to a Houston are so diffuse that it's really pointless to talk about urban planning as playing any meaningful role. It's here now, and I'm not sure any planning you can do is anything more than lipstick on a pig.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:37 PM
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Ryan is the guy who posted comment 250 in this thread. His blog is linked to his name there.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:38 PM
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I'm Ryan. Come to meeeeee.

Dude looks like a lady. Wait, lady is the wrong word....


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:39 PM
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BTW, in Megan's list of car-spawned ugliness in 283, one of those things is not like the others. Cars parked between the sidewalk and the street are an important part of making cars and people get along better. I certainly agree that it's less attractive than car-freeness, but the other items on that list are all part of car über alles environmental design.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:40 PM
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250 looks about right to me.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:40 PM
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But Chicago was built by people who made corruption of democracy an art form.

And Houston wasn't?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:40 PM
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82 to 333. will, you are really cruising for a bruising.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:41 PM
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The policy decisions, and, more important, the policy omissions that lead to a Houston are so diffuse that it's really pointless to talk about urban planning as playing any meaningful role.

That's ridiculous. Houston basically wasn't planned at all; are you saying that it wouldn't have turned out any different if it had been?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:42 PM
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will, you are really cruising for a bruising.

I will watch out for flying soccers balls when I leave work.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:42 PM
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324 - Nope, I don't like air conditioning in the least, and it is often above 105F around here. Going from air conditioning to the heat gives me a headache.

Yeah, yeah, dry heat. I know this is a personal preference that goes along with a preference for heat over cold, but I will take no part in any additional love for air conditioning.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:42 PM
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It's here now, and I'm not sure any planning you can do is anything more than lipstick on a pig.

I find this hard to believe. Couldnt you still plan on where you locate important things? Allowing inner cities to decay only assists sprawl.

Richmond is a mostly horrible example, but more and more people are moving back to the city and closer to work.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:44 PM
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No. I'm saying that it wasn't, couldn't have been for various cultural and economic reasons, and can't be meaningfully fixed.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:45 PM
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Dude looks like a lady. Wait, lady is the wrong word....

Will, you can't keep going on and on about how heebie is flat.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:45 PM
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258: I e-mailed and referenced to something he said in his Muskasey defense e-mail about how Muskasey investigating warantless surveillance showed the rightness of his (Schumer's) decision, but I'm pleased to here he's supporting the filibuster. Has he gone on record with that?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:46 PM
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341 -- Will are people moving to Richmond because of planning? Or is it a thousand individual decisions? Assuming some planning is going on, which is tail and which is dog?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:47 PM
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Actions. I focus on actions. She is all woman.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:47 PM
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I didn't mind Samoa without airconditioning at all (although it's not that hot, I don't think. Maybe between 80-90, but humid?) but the architecture/fashion/lifestyle were pretty optimized for the climate. Except for the @#&*@#!!! traditional women's dress, which sucked (tight straight wraparound skirt to the ankles, under a narrow knee-length tunic, traditionally made out of non-breathing polyester), but people didn't wear it much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:47 PM
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Has he gone on record with that?

Is having an aide tell me going on record? She was unequivocal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:48 PM
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346 to 345. Stop digging, will!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:50 PM
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Napi:

It is a bunch of different decisions, including decisions related to schools, police, tax credits. If you make suburban developers actually carry the load for the impact of developments (roads, schools, etc), you can impact where development takes place and how it takes place.

If you provide incentives for old malls to fail and new malls to go up, you change where people shop.

Certainly it is herding cats, but you can have an influence. Surely, you do not dispute that?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:51 PM
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This is going to sound metaphysical and shit, but not planning is a policy choice. Not exactly a form of planning, but a chosen way to make a city happen. "Let's just let property owners do whatever they feel like and build roads. etc., as or contributors tell us they're needed". Not on the list of city planning methods taught in schools, but still one of them.

Subject to correction if that isn't how Houston happened.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:51 PM
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It's here now, and I'm not sure any planning you can do is anything more than lipstick on a pig.

I find this hard to believe. Couldnt you still plan on where you locate important things? Allowing inner cities to decay only assists sprawl.

My friend in urban planning grad school says that with forecasted population increases, half the buildings that will exist in 2050 have not yet been built. I don't know his source or how much I believe that, but if it is true, there is still a huge role for planning.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:51 PM
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334

As anyone who has ever tried to ride a bike in a city knows, cars parked on the street have a tendency to suddenly open their doors while I'm riding by and send me to the hospital.

Also, since the vast majority of drivers don't realize I'm riding 3 ft. into the lane to stay out of the 'door zone,' some percentage of them assumes I'm trying to play chicken with my 20 lbs of steel against their ton or so.


Posted by: ixnaythemetier | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:53 PM
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327: Of Chicago's 30 miles of lakefront, some 25 miles is parkland. There's one private building east of Lake Shore Drive and that is only east of it because they moved the Drive. Of course, what you say nearly entirely correct, but they did manage to pass a law protecting the lakefront from development in something like the 1840s and have been shockingly successful at adhering to it.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:54 PM
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No. I'm saying that it wasn't, couldn't have been for various cultural and economic reasons, and can't be meaningfully fixed.

That's a little more reasonable, but only a little. Counterfactuals are hard to deal with, of course, but in terms of options now it all depends on what you mean by "fixed" (and "meaningfully"). Obviously no amount of planning now is going to turn Houston into New York, but there are plenty of things that can be done to shift contemporary American land use patterns in a less car-centric direction. Expanded public transportation in cities that have it, introducing it to cities that don't (even Houston has a light rail system now), reconfiguring federal transportation funding to reduce the massive highway subsidies, that sort of thing. "Make everywhere like New York" is a strawman; New York is unique among American cities, and no one's trying to change that. "Make more places like Boston or Philadelphia" is a more reasonable and achievable goal. And no one's going to take away your precious car.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:54 PM
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Can we agree that the tax incentives for people to buy large SUVs were stupid??


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:56 PM
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350 -- Will, I don't dispute the some level of planning can make some differences locally. I do not agree that the extent of that difference is ever going to be sufficient to convert Houston into NYC. Lamenting the lack of planning that prevents other places from being like NYC is what I'm responding to.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:56 PM
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A lot of the things people like about Portland, Oregon are the result of more than 30 years of planning, starting when the city was well over 100 years old.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:59 PM
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351 is correct, is how Houston happened (more or less), and is also how much recent suburban and exurban development happens now (more or less).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:59 PM
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Teo, I don't think you and I are in disagreement about anything here. I don't think very much can be done to change Houston -- double rail usage, and what's the impact on car usage?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 3:59 PM
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Teo, I don't think you and I are in disagreement about anything here. I don't think very much can be done to change Houston -- double rail usage, and what's the impact on car usage?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:00 PM
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357:
Ok, we are mostly on the same page.

I believe I heard a radio piece that Paris is having to build up as it becomes more crowded, much to the dismay of the skyline advocates.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:00 PM
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Texas, Atlanta, etc. is ridiculous. It's like no one could take a gander out towards L.A. and figure out that freeways can't do it all.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:02 PM
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I agree completely that at the detail level cities are best treated as evolved objects shaped by individual choices rather than as human-designed . However, what is the shape of Houston that develops in a society where for instance the cost of fuel is 3x-5x as a result of societal choices to cover externalities.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:02 PM
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I agree that 351 describes how Houston and a great many other places happened, and I'm saying that it's cultural.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:02 PM
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Teo, I don't think you and I are in disagreement about anything here.

Probably not, but frankly you're being a prick about it.

I don't think very much can be done to change Houston -- double rail usage, and what's the impact on car usage?

Not much in relative terms, most likely, but given how much driving goes on in Houston the absolute effect is still likely to be significant.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:02 PM
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353: True, parallel-parked cars are troublesome for cyclists. But they're also really, really good for pedestrians, as well as for ped-friendly shopping districts (in the US).

352: the trueness of that claim is itself heavily dependent on planning decisions. Allegheny County has probably 50k empty/soon-to-be-empty buildings. One set of planning decisions will result in those buildings being reused, with a correlated reduction of 50k new buildings. Another set of decisions will result in those buildings decaying, and their replacements being exurban. Yet another set of decisions could result in them being replaced, in place, with new buildings - but probably at a lower density.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:02 PM
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360: Sure, but isn't Houston about as bad as it gets? You can improve a lot by planning -- saying that you can't fix the very worst cases in a short timeframe is absolutely true, but not all that useful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:02 PM
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There's also a huge feedback mechanism at work: once a city's not walkable, people need their cars, so they need space for their cars, so the city's less walkable, etc. etc. etc. Yes, at this point, you can't make Houston like Philly, Boston or Chicago w/o knocking much of it down. But there ARE relevant policy choices, their self-perpetuating nature makes it even more important to make sure you're NOT putting your thumb on the scales in favor of autos, we have placed our thumb on that side of the scale for a while, and to pretend that all of this is purely organic & inevitable is bullsh*t.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:03 PM
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I think that we should give Heebie, Jammies, and the others fair warning before we nuke Texas.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:03 PM
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I'll admit that I'm a bit resentful that baa conceded that 249 was useful, but not my 236. Especially since he seems blind to the community-destroying points I was making.

Sorry JRoth. When in doubt, assume simple incompetence on my part. I was skimming through the thread and the numbered list stood out.

1. Now
2. People
3. May
4. Read
5. This


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:05 PM
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So is 370 the warning, or do they get another, more proximate one?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:05 PM
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I agree that 351 describes how Houston and a great many other places happened, and I'm saying that it's cultural.

What's the culture in question, though?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:06 PM
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Oh Christ, now baa wants Unfogged comments to look like Powerpoint.

PS - No actual need to apologize. I was being a bit petulant.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:06 PM
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What's the culture in question, though?

Assholes in cowboy hats.

I'm sorry, was that intolerant?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:07 PM
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"Remediation and harm reduction" would probably be the key words for city planning in Houston.

In other news, I have met the man who did the urban planning for Mecca: No/had To/ulan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:07 PM
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372: sit by your phones.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:08 PM
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376: First, create a vibrant, vital city center by locating a sacred meteor to organize your downtown around...


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:08 PM
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Actually, my dad spent his career in the oil industry, and the rule of thumb was that meetings/groups/companies that had more Texans were more likely to be assholish. When the explicitly racist tapes of Texaco execs came out 15 or so years ago, he wasn't the least bit surprised.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:08 PM
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Socially? Really?

Absolutely. The living in a suburban bubble without knowing anyone/commuting to work/driving for everything lifestyle is dysfunctional in many ways, socially being one of them.


I don't think anyone is going to seriously argue that we can get rid of cars as a central part of US life, or even that we should. Or that everywhere can look like NY. It can't.

So everyone can have a car. or two. or whatever.
However: Assuming everyone will have a care is stupid. Predicating everything on the existence of cheap oil is stupid. Building sprawl out of vast swaths of single-use buildings (all suburban homes, or all retail, or all whatever) is a bad idea, it's turned out. This wasn't clear when we started, but it's clear now. Building in such a way that other transportations are made much more difficult than they have to be is a bad idea.

All of these things can be greatly improved without getting rid of cars, or even reducing their role much in most peoples lives. At the very least, the worst aspects of sprawl can be reduced, redirected, improved. There's no reason to think they can't.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:10 PM
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Way back to 228:
It may be that for high-volume routes cars get priced out.

Pretty much. Were I in charge of planning, I'd be trying to look at things 50 years down the road, when what is an hour outside the city is now four, and how good a rail system looks then, and do things [waves hands] now to make that transition more likely.

Sitting in traffic makes me want to burn shit down. And that's Pittsburgh traffic, which is not bad compared to most places (on the assumption you grew up there and know where you're going.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:10 PM
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but frankly you're being a prick about it

Cites?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:11 PM
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A friend of mine who had lived in Texas concluded that the combination of wheat-growing and oil makes people into assholes. His other examples were Alberta and Saudi Arabia.

How much wheat do Saudi Arabia and Texas grow? He seemed confident of his theory, but I'm not sure about that part.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:11 PM
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Cites?

Mainly 331 and 342, and to a lesser extent 357.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:13 PM
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Cannot confirm or deny theory about wheatgrowing. I am now intrigued by the thought of matching crop types to personality.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:14 PM
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How much wheat do Saudi Arabia and Texas grow?

Not much. I'm a bit dubious of this theory.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:14 PM
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As I always do in these conversations, I look at Iraq war expenditures, and dream instead of hundreds of billions of dollars spent building wind farms and solar farms out in the West to power the country.

Also, a president smart enough to seize the moment after 9/11 to proclaim that you can't hijack a train and steer it into a building, and funding a proper national high speed rail system.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:14 PM
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382: not a cite but the "the whole country just HAS to look like Houston & Palm Beach because Americans are such rugged freedom loving individualists" argument annoys the crap out of me. You sound like Mickey Kaus on this thread.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:14 PM
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Alberta only looks like Texas if you haven't been to Alberta or Texas. Anecdatum: shivbunny is from Alberta, works in the oil industry, and Texans driving him up the fucking wall.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:15 PM
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Here is an interesting very short article on some aspects of development in Houston, which does not have a formal Zoning code.

As a former resident with a hate/hate/hate/love/hate relationship with Houston, I think Dallas is worse.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:16 PM
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I question Cala's neutrality about Alberta. The rest of Canada says different.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:18 PM
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I don't think very much can be done to change Houston -- double rail usage, and what's the impact on car usage?

I'm not sure, actually. Houston has some interesting problems, mostly because of the lack of zoning (i.e. no planning to speak of) and funnily enough because land is too cheap. But this could work for it.

However, the new light rail initiative is going through even more ambitiously than was planned, and one thing houston does have is a hell of a lot of people. There is probably enough density along the new routes to make that all fly.

The way the inner loop is now, there's actually very little standing in the way of folding some/much of the outward sprawl into increased density. There's vacants all over midtown, and cheap dirt to build on. If you get a bit more density you could build up a few walkable neighborhoods (basically, there is only one, or two, and they are kind of weak). Theres issues with this; some of it would involve pretty serious gentrification for one. But on the other hand I know lots of people would love to live inside the loop if they could trade off commute time and have a service density etc. to support it. If all they get is slightly higher housing prices (it's cheap everywhere though, relatively speaking) and still have to drive for everything, no sale.

Probably wishful thinking, but it's pretty clear what could be done. You aren't going to get these guys to start urban planning here. But $5 or $8/gal gas might just do it zoning or no zoning.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:20 PM
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388 ctd: Or possibly Gregg Easterbrook. One of them used to annoy me like crazy with their writing on sprawl--can't remember which though.


Posted by: Katherne | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:20 PM
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Cala, Alberta looks a bit like Texas. Meaning Albertans are a bit like Texans. And I've lived both places.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:21 PM
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Katherine, yeah it's a pretty stupid argument that has popped its head up all over.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:23 PM
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U.S. wheat production by county (2006).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:23 PM
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Is there a blogger macro for the "cars make things ugly" comment? I swear I've read it a million times before.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:23 PM
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Saudi wheat production. I'm not sure how to convert between bushels and tons, but this doesn't sound like a whole lot.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:25 PM
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Its not just a choice between carless cities and "build everything on freeway exits" exurb model. A couple acres is this status symbol for lots of people, just like a car, and they even spend all their saturdays wokring on it. wtf???!?


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:25 PM
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Flippanter --- maybe just simultaneous invention because it's tends to be true.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:25 PM
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399: Don't get me started on Lawns, the Green Cancer that Blights our Nation. You want open space, go hike around a prairie.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:27 PM
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399: This is the annoying thing about the city planning conversations. If you bring up any of the many issues with exurb growth and sprawl, it seems like there is always someone who reads that as `all cars must be burned and their twisted remains used to line the new LRT paradise' nonsense.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:27 PM
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Can we get comity on the following points:

1. Houston is ugly and unsustainable.
2. It got that way because they didn't believe in planning.
3. (1) and (2) indicates that at least some planning is worthwhile.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:27 PM
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Saudi Arabia ranks 32nd globally in wheat production, between Bulgaria and Chile.

Alberta's main agricultural products are wheat and rape. It's a leading Canadian wheat producer, and Canada is one of the world leaders, especially per capita.

France and Germany are important wheat producers, with amazingly high per acre yields. Subsidies, I suppose.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:28 PM
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Looks like a bushel of wheat is 60 lbs. Hang on while I do some calculating.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:28 PM
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397 - Dude, I felt all original and shit.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:29 PM
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||

It's a pity that this thread is the only one going, and it's still on topic, because I'd like to poll you all about your favorite British short stories, and I don't want to ask for a full Ask the Mineshaft post, because it's for a teaching demonstration I have to do for an upcoming campus visit, and I'd rather it was buried. Please have a topic-wandering thread soon!

|>


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:29 PM
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403: COmity!

Of course, all lawns are not equal LB. Particularly lawns grown in near desert conditions.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:29 PM
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If Houston had a "this many people must take up at least this many square feet" rule until the late 1990s, I'm not sure I even buy that it was unplanned.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:29 PM
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401 - You need a break during your filibuster, you can hand that off to me while you get some rest.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:30 PM
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404: Hence `canola'


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:30 PM
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Link


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:30 PM
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The paper I linked to above goes into some interesting and detailed analysis about the interaction between land costs, commute times and costs, and their effects.

A lot of it was non-obvious, like the original public transit in NY, London, and Paris being used by rich people who wanted to move to the suburbs, or like the areas in the suburbs that get public transit extended to becoming poorer rather than richer. I couldn't follow the math, but some of you might be able to.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:31 PM
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Okay, unless I calculated wrong it looks like Saudi wheat production in 2000 was about 59.5 million bushels. Not a whole lot compared to, say, Alberta.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:32 PM
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493:
1. Only marginally more so than any other recent Sun Belt city. (And it has some great individual architecture, which just gets overwhelmed by, well ... the rest.) I mean Atlanta? Charlotte? the California Central Valley cities 9if they were bigger?
2. Only to a small degree.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:32 PM
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391: The rest of Canada says different in a context where being conservative means you're not kissing ass to a bunch of fundamentalists and that you probably like your universal health care and think that invading Iraq is not good.

394: If by a bit, you mean, just a bit, I'll concede that having spent time in, but not lived in both, they are flat in some areas and have a lot of rednecks. But the "Albertans are just like Texans and they'd lurrrve to become the 51st state and give us all their oil" is a meme that needs to die.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:33 PM
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I didn't and wouldn't say that the country has to look like Houston. Houston does, though, and it got that way for reasons. Can it be marginally improved? No doubt. Can planning mitigate some of nthe impact of further sprawl, surely on the way in Houston? Surely. Can it become the kind of place where people wouldn't want to have cars? I'd be shocked if you could get the people living there now to go in for that kind of density.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:33 PM
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1. Houston is ugly and unsustainable.

well shitspread cities are intolerable and lots of people are tolerating them and don't really think there is any alternative. Im not sure the odds are good for things to change any time soon.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:34 PM
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414: But almost as much as Japan, Ireland, and Finland all put together.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:34 PM
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Also: "The fuck? Dry counties?"


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:35 PM
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You'd basically have to make living in suburbs and exurbs prohibitively expensive, and I can't see people actually going for that. Advocate it, though, and watch people flock to the banner.

(This, by the way, is the first remotely 'prickish' remark of the thread.)


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:35 PM
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403: My vote is that city planners are teh hott. I put my wedding ring where my urban policies are, baby.

Actually, the second-hottest woman I ever dated has also turned out to be a city planner, near Hilton Head.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:35 PM
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Houston could be improved by nuclear remediation, with the innocent being allowed to leaved the city first.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:35 PM
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Can it become the kind of place where people wouldn't want to have cars? I'd be shocked if you could get the people living there now to go in for that kind of density.

Which is why it's a good thing that no one is trying to do that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:36 PM
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"Hilton head"? Is that some kind of smutty celebrity joke?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:37 PM
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417: Nobody even said the goal was not to have cars did they? If they did, that's certainly not what I was talking about.

The goals include wanting to be less reliant on them, and to not base planning/development on bad assumptions about them (because we get into trouble when they're wrong).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:37 PM
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This, by the way, is the first remotely 'prickish' remark of the thread.

I don't think you get to decide on that. Anyway, that comment doesn't seem particularly prickish, and it's accurate to boot.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:37 PM
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The "unsustainable" part of "ugly and unsustainable" will do a lot to reduce the popularity of this kind of development. The crackup starts as prices for oil, water, and electricity all rise. Houston won't be the first. I'm betting on phoenix. Any place named in 415 has rough economic times ahead.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:38 PM
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Does everyone see now why I'm hesitant to become an urban planner?

On the other hand, 422 is encouraging.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:38 PM
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421: It already is very expensive. A large amount of the expense has been externalized though.

Even if you're going to have exurbs though, they could be done a lot better than we currently do them.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:38 PM
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They might not want to get rid of their cars, but if a commute is 1 hour via a car and 25 minutes via rail, the rail starts to look more attractive.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:39 PM
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New Caledonia produced the least wheat of anyone, and no oil. They must be nice people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:39 PM
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More on topic: I've become used to walking to work. I really hope wherever the job market dumps me, it dumps me somewhere I don't have to commute in every day.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:40 PM
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Namibia's per-acre what production leads the world.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:40 PM
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Also, it's not like Houston is some aberration or pinnacle of this mess. Atlanta, Pheonix, Rochester, Dallas/FtW, huge chunks of southern CA. ditto for Florida. It's not a short list.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:40 PM
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Houston won't be the first. I'm betting on phoenix. Any place named in 415 has rough economic times ahead.

If the drought in the southeast continues, I'd bet on Atlanta or Charlotte before Phoenix. At least people in Phoenix are already aware that water supply is an issue. (They go ahead and waste water anyway, of course.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:40 PM
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431: And if your car is costing $10k/yr to run instead of $3k-$5k, you might think twice about 2nd cars. Or look at efficient alternatives, at least.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:42 PM
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Also, development in Phoenix is actually pretty dense, and would probably have an easier time dealing with prohibitive oil prices than the southeastern cities.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:43 PM
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hmm, i'm misremembering Phoenix then; never lived there.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:44 PM
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440

433: I did pretty well in my four jobs post-grad school. This is the first one where I can't walk to work at all. University towns often have close in housing. Actually the main reason we lost out this time was that we were also looking at schools for the kids when we were picking out the house.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:44 PM
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441

A friend from Atlanta says the hysteria over Atlanta's water drives her crazy because the drought is an aberration and that she's had so many conversations about how it's naturally very dry, like Phoenix. It's not that she doesn't recognize that there's a problem, but her sense of it is, paying attention to local politics, that it's a much more fixable problem than some of the West has.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:46 PM
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hmm, i'm misremembering Phoenix then; never lived there.

Oh, it's sprawling for sure. You couldn't get by without a car now. But the houses are close together (because of water issues), so each subdivision is pretty dense and theoretically walkable, it's just that there's nothing there except houses. It'd be pretty easy (in theory) to put in some light rail stations or something and cut back on driving a lot.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:48 PM
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440: Cycling distance would be okay, too. It wouldn't be a bigger factor than GIMMEJOB, but I could see it being a tiebreaker in that fantasy world where I get more than one offer.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:49 PM
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With Phoenix, though, don't you have to consider the economic and the ecological together? They are drawing heavily on their resource base, and most of the economy seems based on getting other people to move there. The housing market collapse should be hitting them hard, no?

(I have to get to class, I am not googling this information)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:51 PM
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My recollection was that people only went out after dusk in Phoenix.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:51 PM
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I question Cala's neutrality about Alberta. The rest of Canada says different.

Alberta:Canada::Texas: USA really doesn't mean Alberta is a hellhole.

Does everyone see now why I'm hesitant to become an urban planner?

If you're finding Napi's perfectly mainstream comments on this thread prickish, yes.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:53 PM
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Like redfoxtail, I'm longing for an off-topic open thread, so that I can bitch. It sucks that breaking the back of my anxiety just leaves me depressed. Also, I am never going to get a job, and I'm not even trying to be an academic.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:53 PM
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With Phoenix, though, don't you have to consider the economic and the ecological together? They are drawing heavily on their resource base, and most of the economy seems based on getting other people to move there. The housing market collapse should be hitting them hard, no?

For sure. It's still a very problematic place.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:54 PM
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If you're finding Napi's perfectly mainstream comments on this thread prickish, yes.

The fact that Napi's prickish comments are perfectly mainstream is, indeed, what worries me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:55 PM
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I declare this thread an off-topic open-comment thread. Mostly about Namibian wheat production, however.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:56 PM
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When Ogged was here, we had no shortage of threads where no one was interested in discussing the nominal topic....


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:56 PM
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Oh dear, let's take a break from this. The words mainstream and prickish are showing up too much.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:57 PM
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Ogged, pbuh.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:57 PM
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Awww, BG.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:57 PM
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450: Plenty of information here.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:58 PM
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Thanks, Cala.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:58 PM
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I finally mailed the Apple CDs to you today. They should be there Friday or Saturday. (Sorry for being a flake and not getting them in the mail sooner.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:59 PM
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I actually think I solved my short-story problem, but I am all for free form anxiety venting.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:59 PM
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This paper actually looks pretty relevant to the thread.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 4:59 PM
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I can not take the job I was offered as an assistant, because it would require far too much handholding. The bookkeeper person is there one day a week, but she said that the boss guy was a wealthy man who had no idea how much things cost. It had not, until I brought it up, occurred to him that I might prefer to get my health insurance through my employer rather than simply pay for it myself. I had to explain that there were significant tax advantages.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:01 PM
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Many thanks for that too. I didn't want to e-mail you about it again.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:01 PM
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Yeah, sorry. It was one miscommunication over who was supposed to get it in the mail, followed by a few days of walking out the door without the envelope and remembering after the post office closed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:04 PM
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Oh, BG, how frustrating!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:05 PM
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Depressed is when my mind isn't working well enough to follow the substantive comments on an unfogged thread, and I despair of concentrating enough to get anything useful or significant done with my life, and yet I hate to whien and be a downer around other people. Fuckity, fuck. (Now I feel slightly better.)


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:05 PM
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But the houses are close together (because of water issues), so each subdivision is pretty dense and theoretically walkable, it's just that there's nothing there except houses. It'd be pretty easy (in theory) to put in some light rail stations or something and cut back on driving a lot.

We're in the early stages of another go at rail transit here, working with a development pattern similar to what you're describing, and I thought pretty much the same thing until I started looking at the proposed route maps. Even with small lots and plenty of attached dwellings, most of the people in our local Commute Hell will be far enough from the rail line that they'll have to drive or take the bus to a rail station (on hugely overstressed arterials), spend 30-45 minutes on the train, and, in many cases, get on another bus on the town end to get to work. That's going to be a hard sell. Living 10-20 miles from work in a fairly densely populated area is going to be a difficult thing to manage even with rail.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:06 PM
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He id want me to help him write an op-ed, and he had grandiose ideas about creating some sort of new cultural ambassador-ship position if teh Democrats ever get in power.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:06 PM
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I wonder about the breakpoints that are going to drive people into cities. If they're in an exurb, how much will gas have to go up, plus the cost of air conditioning, plus new fees for firefighting, plus the cost of re-landscaping, and other small nagging costs. How long will people string that out to keep single family houses and when will dense cities look attractive to them. There must be numbers for this.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:08 PM
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BTW, semi-on-topic, but not what's been discussed lately:

I believe in a fundamental sort of hedonic treadmill - I think that 2 people experiencing similar things will maintain consistent happiness levels relative to each other - but I have also experienced, in my life long periods of more and less happiness. It's most clearly tied to relationship happiness (sorry, John), but occasional material acquisitions will have long-term pleasing effects, ones that don't seem to confirm the treadmill thesis (e.g., if my car gives me detectable extra happiness for 3 years, I think that's plenty, even if Year 4 has me back to the original level).

Thought of that hours ago, just wanted to mention it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:09 PM
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NPH, I think the race between telecommuting and huge transportation infrastructure investment will ultimately be won by the former. Not before plenty of real money is spent on some more infrastructure.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:09 PM
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Ugh, how frustrating, BG. What an elementary thing to have to explain. Of course, if you took the job, you could write a tell-all novelization and then be on TV promoting your book.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:10 PM
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I sort of misled him by telling him that there's a penalty of $300 per employee for not offering any plan in MA, but that really only applies if you've got more than 10 employees. Still, it would be easy enough to set up a plan. He, I think, is eligible for Medicare, but he lost his social security card. He hasn't dealt with that yet, because he'd have to do it himself, and the wait takes a very long time. He's quite nice in a lot of ways, but clueless.

Candidate views

Clintons: White trash. Well, he is; she was a Republican
Edwards: Shallow and smarmy
Obama: That's who I'd be supporting, though I haven't given him any money yet.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:13 PM
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Megan, I think it depends on the Exurb. I'd guess that there are plenty of people living in Pittsburg and Antioch who might be persuaded to come in closer, if the economics (and schools) could work. People who've moved there in the last 5 years or so, not long time residents.

I'm not sure you'd have the same luck with Santa Rosa which, to my tastes, has more going on in the surrounding countryside.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:14 PM
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Im sorry things are not going well, BG.

Meanwhile, the students in my evening class are quiet as the dead, so I gave them a small group exercise, and now they are sitting in small groups not talking to each other.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:20 PM
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469: I think the race between telecommuting and huge transportation infrastructure investment will ultimately be won by the former

As an example, when I lived in Houston over 20 years ago there was a lot of discussion about light/heavy rail (shows you how fast these things have moved.) It almost would have worked for me. I lived in a walkable neighborhood (my wife walked/biked to her job ... very atypical) near one of the routes (along a freeway), and my workplace was quite close to the same route about 12 miles away. However, between the proposed station and my work was a massive spawlish six-lane suburban road intersecting with the usual Houston freeway flanked by two service roads and no sidewalks anywhere. The spread of workplaces throughout the sprawl is/was a huge problem in addition to the housing. (I think I have seen the statistic that more people in the US commute from a suburb to a suburb now than suburb to central city.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:22 PM
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467: what we need is more young gay professional couples.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:22 PM
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Tweety--what we need is a Boston meetup.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:23 PM
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469: Maybe, but there are still a lot of jobs that have to be done in person (especially here, with lots of low-end service industry stuff), and we're fundamentally social enough creatures that I can't imagine face-to-face meetings going away even in lots of cases where it seems like they ought to be dispensable. But even telecommuting once or twice a week would make a huge difference.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:25 PM
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465: Yeah, getting support for the necessary density of rail lines would require gas prices to go up enough that driving really starts to look like a problem, so I don't see any of this happening in the immediate future.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:27 PM
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The spread of workplaces throughout the sprawl is/was a huge problem in addition to the housing. (I think I have seen the statistic that more people in the US commute from a suburb to a suburb now than suburb to central city.)

This is huge, especially when combined with two-earner households and job mobility. Even if you live close to your workplace, you may not be close to your spouse's, and yours may change in a year or two.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:29 PM
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Clintons: White trash. Well, he is; she was a Republican
Edwards: Shallow and smarmy
Obama: That's who I'd be supporting, though I haven't given him any money yet.

Were you applying for a job in my office, BG?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:35 PM
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Were you applying for a job in my office, BG?

That's the kind of comment that convinces mcmanus that Obama is the tool of teh kapitalist oppressor. Thanks, baa.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:38 PM
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Oh, baa, you made me laugh. This guy actually dreams of a job in a Democratic administration. It's the weird, unorthodox one that I can't possibly take.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:39 PM
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require gas prices to go up enough that driving really starts to look like a problem

Depends on how close people are to the margin, and I honestly can't tell. I know that every day I read the news about water, I must see three or four articles with someone saying "our water bill will double, and we can't afford an extra $100/month", or "another $50 per month for a sewer hook-up? We don't have that." I'm not reading the energy news, so I don't read the quotes about gas prices and heating prices and air conditioning prices. Then there're new service fees and insurance going up. Cost of transported food is up. Are new taxes coming, to cover the state deficit?

For my type, there's slack that can cover this stuff. But I don't have a handle on when people will look at their 70 mile commutes and new sewer bills and ARM about to reset and just give up on individual home ownership. 'Unsustainable' is going to be a long hard grind for those families.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:44 PM
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I am having some non-academic job related anxiety. Applied for an internship on a whim with some consulting firm. Now I have an interview. Crap! I don't know anything about business. I have to do case studies! About burger joints merging with donut sellers!! Whose bright idea was it to send in a resume anyway?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:44 PM
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Where's dsquared? He should have something testy to say about how interns in consulting firms are all useless idiots anyway, so you shouldn't worry about not knowing anything. I'd say the same, but I haven't got the first hand knowledge.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:46 PM
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I know, but the other useless idiots at least have degrees in economics and probably don't have the tendency to want to solve problems by starting with first principles and annoying everyone around them.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:49 PM
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I know the question about counting how many phonebooths there are in New York City, but I can't quite get my head around a burger joint merging with a donut place.

I knew a German grad student in philosophy (Ancient) who did a summer internship for Mc/Kin/sey in Berlin circa 96. Then his advisor went to Cam/ridge (she's since back), so I think he decided to stick with the consulting for a whiel. He was very German and a bit awkward. I couldn't imagine him doing business development.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:50 PM
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488

Cala, didn't you do this for a living already?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:50 PM
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I'll try to grab KR from the Super thread.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:51 PM
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484- They have your resume, right? So they must like your background.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:52 PM
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About burger joints merging with donut sellers!!

Come to think of it, ages ago I was working for the international avatar of a very big fast food chain, and the clients wandered through the work room and noticed that we were feeding off giant boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts, causing them to ask "Hey, we're thinking about buying them. Are the donuts good?" All the lawyers said yes, while wiping jelly swinishly off their chins, but I thought it was a hell of a way to do market research.

And the deal never actually happened.

(To the confused: Yes, this story had no point at all. Don't worry, you didn't miss anything.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:52 PM
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488: Lower-level consulting and I was 22 and too dumb to know I didn't know crap and young enough to get away with it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:53 PM
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counting how many phonebooths there are in New York City

Hah! I know this: it's a trick question. None, because they've all been replaced by public phones with those little things that just hide your head and shoulders.

No one would hire me as a consultant, would they.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:54 PM
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Applied for an internship on a whim with some consulting firm.

This is a *great* idea, and I say this as a philosopher-turned-consultant-turned-mysterious occupation X. 1) You'll be great. 2) Information is your friend. If you want to email me at my bandarlog email to reveal the firm, I can probably get some inside dirt on the hiring desiderata. Also, thevault.com, while not to be taken as the gospel, is a good place to get a brief sense of the consulting industry.

that convinces mcmanus that Obama is the tool of teh kapitalist oppressor

My wife has a line: "I think this phenomenon is caused by the presence of atmospheric oxygen." Just kidding Bob!

This guy actually dreams of a job in a Democratic administration

That's me too. I could set back the cause of universal pre-school 100 years!


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:54 PM
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too dumb to know I didn't know crap and young enough to get away with it

Available evidence suggests that this period goes on for much longer than you might think.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:54 PM
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pay phones, LB. Same damn thing. And no, you wouldn't get hired as a consultant, and it's a goo dthing too.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:55 PM
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496: Nobody loves a smartass.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:55 PM
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(Me, that is, being the smartass. On reflection, 497 was ambiguous.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:57 PM
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No, I mean, consultants can be kind of cookie-cutterish and boring. All's I'm sayin is that you're not boring.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:57 PM
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Kobe loves a smartass.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:58 PM
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Oh, I forgot about the vault. I used to post there back in 2001.

The firm's website is very helpful, but I would be a lot more comfortable if I could teach them the ontological argument instead of talk about situations where I demonstrated the ability to communicate challenging material.

They're going to ask me to do math in my head. IN MY HEAD! I must be an affirmative action humanities interview.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 5:59 PM
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This is part of my ongoing plan to have somewhere to go when all I get offered are adjunct positions, so I can buy their universities and make the administrators dance in my personal circus.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:01 PM
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Math is easy. Just reduce every number to first principles.

(1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
+1)*(1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1)/(1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+
1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
+1+1+1)


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:02 PM
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KR is a consultant too Cala.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:02 PM
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Yeah, what's the plan? Intern while you dissertate and do the academic job-search, or what?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:02 PM
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the administrators dance in my personal circus.

"You'll be the lion tamer. Did I tell you the chair is made of sausages?"


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:03 PM
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LB--there's always the basic one: get some more income.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:03 PM
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I've noted before that I get unsolicited resumes all the time. Here's a first: a job inquiry from a parent.

I am the father of a first year student at [fine out-of-town law school]. I have heard the most wonderful things about your firm and would like to encourage my daughter to apply for a position.

This may be an unusual request but I was hoping to surprise her with one of your baseball hats with the firm logo. Is there any possibility that you could have one sent to me? I would be happy to pay for any costs involved.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:04 PM
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505: Definitive answer here.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:05 PM
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476: ayuh. Deep Ellum super Tuesday? I'm sure we could get them to put some results on.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:06 PM
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508: Make a cafe-press store and direct him to it. Make sure it contains nothing but thongs and baby bibs.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:06 PM
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It's not exactly a job request; think of it as free advertising for your firm. Why do you, individually (as opposed to HR), get these unsolicited resumes?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:06 PM
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505: Get enough done on the dissertation to ignore it for a couple months, intern, then figure out what I'm doing from there, which will probably include the academic job search because I've come too far not to give it a run, and also, I'm awesome and people should hire me. But! they might not.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:07 PM
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510: I've never been; I should try it. I can e-mail some of the usual suspects. I owe arthegall his laptop back, so I should be e-mailing him anyway.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:08 PM
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About burger joints merging with donut sellers!!

No, but a burger chain is introducing a donut burger on its menu. You'll have to do a market study on that.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:10 PM
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513: Sounds like a plan. That Philosophy Job Market blog freaks me all the way out -- it just sounds like a godawful position to be in. Having an alternative to counting on the insanity of academia has got to be the way to go.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:11 PM
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Cala, you could teach them the ontological argument and then tell them what you did. Tada!


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:13 PM
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Napi, that sounds so much like the dad trying to micromanage his daughter's career that I'd be tempted to tell him that the number one reason they reject bright young law recruits is due to parental interference.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:15 PM
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512 -- Hiring associates is one of my responsibilities. I actually have a couple of openings right now, but they're not entry level. We don't take on summer associates in this office, and so the multiple daily resumes from law students (and, now, their parents) are a waste of their time and mine.

I'm not sure a baseball hat from the firm that wouldn't give his daughter a job is the best advertising.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:15 PM
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Cala, have you considered a career in banking law?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:16 PM
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520: Law school's easy -- you could do it on your head. Of course, the weeping co-workers in your office, after their self-esteem and will to live have been destroyed, gets old after a bit. (Admittedly, that doesn't happen all that often. But it's depressing as anything when it does.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:18 PM
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I have not considered a career in banking law. That would probably mean I'd need a law degree.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:19 PM
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Hey, speak for yourself! It's flavored rum and gumdrops and rainbows chez Napi.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:20 PM
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523 --> 521!


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:22 PM
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The problem with law school is that it's more school, and that I think I have a deep-seated allergy to actually paying for schooling. Also, it would sort of mean admitting that I'd wasted my twenties in a PhD program since I could have gotten into law school as an undergrad, and I'm not really ready to admit that yet.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:23 PM
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Your firm almost certainly involves more fluffy puppies and sunshine than this place. It's weird telling someone "If it's that bad, you have to quit. Nothing's worth being this unhappy over. There are other jobs in the world, you'll manage. Take a leave of absence if you can, or just quit, spend some money on a couple of days at a spa, and you'll figure something out."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:24 PM
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527

You could send the girl a bottle of firm-labeled flavored rum.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:24 PM
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Cala: Time spent doing philosophy is never wasted. If you or I never publish another word or teach another class, it was still worthwhile.

(Just like Unfogged!)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:34 PM
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The Although the number of phones in the city is shrinking -- there are now about 22,700 -- , 80 percent of the decline has been from phones alongside buildings, rather than at the curb, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. Those are the phones that do not permit advertising.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:37 PM
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525: oh god don't go to law school

just don't

seriously


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:44 PM
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Please please please do not make any big life decisions because of the Philosophy Job Market Blog. It's sometimes funny, it's good for some venting, but it is not an accurate picture of what's going on. It's the sort of misery poker that thrives on the internet and it shouldn't be taken too seriously.

When I was finishing up I fell into the 'bitter academics' corner of the blogosphere and it did me no good whatsoever.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:47 PM
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And my weeping coworker has now firmly decided to ask for a transfer to the London office, or to quit if no such transfer is forthcoming. Yay!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:47 PM
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I think I'll do a post on this tomorrow, actually. The happy news: life as an assistant professor is about three times harder than life as a graduate student.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 6:50 PM
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Cala, e-mail me at knecht_ruprecht [funny at sign]yahoodotcom


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:04 PM
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I was kidding, of course.

Not that Cala wouldn't be a first rate lawyer.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:05 PM
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531: Don't worry, I'm not making decisions based on that, because I recognize mass hysteria when I see it. I'm making decisions out of my wholly rational fear of failure. And mostly to see if I can.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:08 PM
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Hey, don't let encouraging remarks made to individuals about the academic job market cloud the overall fact that an injustice is being done. The market is unfair, and the unfairness is driven predominately by the dependency of departments on adjuncts for teaching while simultaneously overproducing Ph.D.s


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:21 PM
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526: I've had that conversation, from both sides. Multiple times, actually.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:22 PM
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It's disturbing. I've had the "You should think about switching jobs, once you have a new one lined up" conversation, but this evening was my first contact with "You need to get out of here now, and plan later. No one can live like this."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:27 PM
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I think I'll do a post on this tomorrow, actually. The happy news: life as an assistant professor is about three times harder than life as a graduate student.

Oh joy, that certainly does sound like just the thing to cheer me and stave off the bitter-academics pitfall.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:31 PM
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Allowing inner cities to decay only assists sprawl.

When Americans get tired of a neighborhood they just *leave it* and move further out into the suburbs. It drove me crazy to watch inner-ring suburbs in Cleveland disintegrate while the McMansions went up in the cornfields. Of course, part of that is the urban crime thing, but still.



Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:32 PM
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going back to the prehistory of the thread:
138: Oooh yeah. Health insurance! I breathed a whole lot easier when I finally had health insurance. I wouldn't want to go back to being a little bit scared about that all the time.

May you always be a member of a young and healthy pool. A few decades ago, being self-employed, I bought a major medical policy from Blue Cross. They stopped selling that policy to new subscribers sometime since and closed the pool. So everyone in the pool is older and sicker and, like me, probably ineligible for the new low-cost pools. The upshot is that I got an obscene letter from BC last week which said, in part: "Your new monthly premium is $547.52" That's for one person with nothing really bad in my health history, $1,000 deductible, 80/20 copay up to some number I've forgotten.

[presidential because I really don't want anything about my health history on the intertubes] You may now resume your regularly scheduled topic.


Posted by: Deadpresident | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:36 PM
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Also, I sort of understand peoples' attraction to the suburbs. They're private consumption heaven. Bring the SUV to the box store, load up the food, the flat screen, and the video games, bring it home to the 3000 square foot palace, enjoy it all in comfort and privacy. It's amazing how cheap that kind of luxury can be in the U.S. if you're willing to live far out in the burbs.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:40 PM
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Please please please do not make any big life decisions because of the Philosophy Job Market Blog.

This is no doubt true. On the other hand (sorry, Labs), it's really not a bad idea to at least think about the possibility of another life.

I left the academy, and there's no way to say whether it was the right decision, but I can't tell you how many fellow grad students a few years later were desperate at the idea that they didn't know where to begin looking elsewhere, and said with painful mixtures of disdain and envy that my having looked around in advance probably hadn't been a bad idea.

Just saying. No, Cala shouldn't quit by any means.

And sorry, nobody wants to hear that kind of thing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:44 PM
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539: At least every time I've had that conversation, the person needing to quit has had relatively few fixed expenses and no family to support. (And at least once, the job market was so good there was no reason to worry about where the next job would come from.)

The good news is, once you get out of that situation you really do start to feel better almost immediately.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:47 PM
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I like our small space and I like being within a couple of miles of most of the places I need to go regularly. I can't comprehend what makes a newer, larger place worth enduring all that time in traffic. With current trends in housing prices and interest rates I've started keeping an eye open for a chance to upgrade away from the disadvantages of our current place, but I'm really torn as to whether a condo or a somewhat larger house makes more sense.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:50 PM
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The good news is, once you get out of that situation you really do start to feel better almost immediately.

My private practice years were a whole lot more pleasant than LB's or her colleague's, but that work messed with my head in surprisingly persistent ways. There was a period of euphoria for a few months after I first got out, followed by a period of being somewhere between blah and depressed because I still get up every morning and go practice law all day. A year later, it's finally sinking in that yes, I can be productive, effective, and valued in this job without trying to make it an all-consuming thing and that I maybe am somewhere near a balance that works for me. I've known that intellectually from the start, but my gut is finally catching up with my brain and dialing back the mood swings.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:57 PM
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I think the race between telecommuting and huge transportation infrastructure investment will ultimately be won by the former.

Only after there's full-time, full-size two-way holographic conferencing so the suits can put "you" in a cube and also see if you're wearing jeans or not.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:04 PM
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I'm bummed that I missed this whole thread. I have spent 2/3 of my life on mass transit, and I mean that mostly literally.

One thing that people aren't mentioning is that it's really, really hard to use public transportation when you have small children. Particularly if you have more than one, and particularly if you live in a climate with actual seasons.

Another issue is how thoroughly mass transit is perceived as lower-class in most of this country.* We absolutely behave as though Margaret Thatcher was right ("A man who after the age of 26 finds himself on a bus can count himself a failure"). It's perceived that way in part because it is disproportionately used by poor folks, of course. And because of that, it's a much less pleasant way to travel than it could be.

For one thing, riders are thus a constituency with less power to force the transit authorities to provide proper customer service (lightning, cleanliness, safety). For another, it decreases the social pressure to behave "well." The poorer the neighborhood, the more outright verbal abuse, harassment, and physical intimidation I see on the train (bus, trolley). Some days it's just intolerable, and most of it isn't happening to me.

None of which is a reason to support sprawl or to nod blindly to the "Americans must have their cars" argument, of course. I agree with all of the sensible folks upthread.

*New Yorkers, I'm not talking to you.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:14 PM
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Another issue is how thoroughly mass transit is perceived as lower-class in most of this country

The last bus I was on had a dog turd on the floor near the front. Not a huge thing, but it was disconcerting that it didn't seem to be a problem that needed to be attended to.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:28 PM
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549 is why I maintain that your own two legs are the best form of public transportation, and the rest of the infrastructure should be built around them.

Witt: do you have spawn? Are you speaking from experience here?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:30 PM
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We absolutely behave as though Margaret Thatcher was right ("A man who after the age of 26 finds himself on a bus can count himself a failure").

Or as Homer Simpson more succinctly put it, "Public transportation is for losers."

Portland has one of the best transportation systems in the country, if not the best, and I find that that attitude is less prevalent here, though it does vary by neighborhood.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:38 PM
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FWIW, my wife commuted via bus +/-3 days a week with my daughter from when she was 6 weeks until she was 3.75 y.o., in a temperate climate. Not ideal, but not that bad, either. A bazillion times better than paying for parking downtown.

We always have to explain to our dog that he's not allowed on the bus, to his great disappointment. I don't know what we'll tell him if we move to NPH's town.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:40 PM
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553: Actually, that was in San Diego.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:43 PM
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do you have spawn? Are you speaking from experience here?

No, and yes.

Hilzoy describes the issues well here (scroll to where she starts speaking in her own voice, with "Speaking as someone who has shopped via the bus").


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:44 PM
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I maintain that your own two legs are the best form of public transportation, and the rest of the infrastructure should be built around them.

The high here today was -2 F. I think I will stick with my car.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:44 PM
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549, 552: Apparently this varies widely by city, with a significant/massive race component. The bus is never chichi (?), but in some cities it's OK, and in others anathema. According to a friend who lived in Cleveland for a few years, white Clevelanders would no more ride the bus than walk through a shitty neighborhood at night; even the rail transit was viewed as declasse. Here in Pittsburgh - no bastion of racial harmony - there's an all-white rail line (which goes more or less from downtown to Cala's hometown) and a bus system that's pretty widely used by white and black (but nonetheless declasse, of course).

Meanwhile, my dog's innards sound like R2D2 right now. He seems unfazed by it; should I be alarmed?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:45 PM
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I don't wanna hear any whining about the bus, either. I've been a bus rider my whole life -- including every time I've been to LA, plus a year and a half in Omaha, where the bus system is really shitty -- and it's never done me any harm. I like the bus. You get to observe a great deal more than anyone riding in a car ever does. And don't get me started on sprawl and suburbanization.

Anyhow, the real reason I'm commenting is that I FINALLY GAVE NOTICE AT MY HORRID JOB!!! Yay! Now I just have to figure out some other way to make money that is not worse. But first, a little vacation. I felt bad, 'cause my supe' seemed a little mopey after he read my letter of resignation, but then, what the hell did they expect when the passed me over for a promotion, lied to me about it, and then gave me a slap-in-the-face, sub-inflation raise? Hmm? Anyway, I'm not in business for my health. Or, in 4 weeks, for any other reason! Hurrah!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:48 PM
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"Speaking as someone who has shopped via the bus"

I've heard poverty defined as "taking the bus to buy milk." When my wife lived solo and carless, she would occasionally bum rides to buy heavy items - and she lived ~2 blocks from a decent grocery store. I won't drive just for such a trip, but I will put off buying laundry detergent until I'm already driving past the grocery (which is ~3 blocks away).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:50 PM
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Another issue is how thoroughly mass transit is perceived as lower-class in most of this country.

So true. RI's public transit system sucks, but one thing that might start to make it better is that, starting last fall, a university ID gets on onto a RIPTA bus free. The demographic ridership of, say, the 42 inbound changed significantly when that happened, as every other person boarding the bus now seems to be either a Brown student or employee.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:51 PM
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Huzzah, MN! New recessions are the best time for finding new employment! Also, I hope, for struggling solo practitioners!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:52 PM
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I like Portland's mass transit, what I've used of it.

Yes, it's somewhat variable by city, but [and] I think that too is a function of purposeful decisions and non-decisions in planning. I have a tolerance for being the minority (ethnicity, gender, profession) on the bus that most of the people I know who look like me don't have.

So it becomes a self-reinforcing thing. White businesspeople don't take the subway, ergo, subway becomes mostly black and Asian. Subway is full of non-white, youngish, poorer/working-class people, business people decide they can afford to take a cab. Etc.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:55 PM
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552: "losers" s/b "jerks and lesbians"


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:55 PM
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In re: the coming recession, this is all part of a generalized downshifting in my life, so I'm hoping that I can find at least a little bit of work for my daily crust, but I'm not planning on making anything near what I make now. Scary, but also exciting.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:56 PM
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563: Wait a sec, that sounds like a reference to an unauthorized analogy between buses and fixies.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 8:59 PM
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So it becomes a self-reinforcing thing. White businesspeople don't take the subway, ergo, subway becomes mostly black and Asian. Subway is full of non-white, youngish, poorer/working-class people, business people decide they can afford to take a cab. Etc.

Not to defend this mindset - indeed, one benefit to my daughter being a busrider since before she can remember is that she'll never have it - but I will say that the occasional flareups of racial tensions on mass transit suck unbelievably. Everyone's stuck in the same little room on wheels, and suddenly a dozen people are all het up on someone who may or may not have even said/done anything the least bit wrong. If not for my principles of urban planning and urban tolerance (as in, tolerating whatever BS is part of living urbanly), I probably wouldn't return to the site of such an incident.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:02 PM
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Yay, minneapolitan! I was already feeling warm and fuzzy toward your state for other reason (just reconnected with an activist acquaintance there who is doing awesome work) and now I am happy for your good news too.

a university ID gets on onto a RIPTA bus free.

Oh heavens, this is too funny. I've ridden mass transit in Washington, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Seattle...the list goes on. But the funniest was being in western Mass. and riding the buses that are free because of the universities there. Holy smokes. Like no other bus-riding demographic I've ever been around. Very entertaining, if homogenous.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:08 PM
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the occasional flareups of racial tensions on mass transit

Like this.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:08 PM
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Very entertaining, if homogenous.

The current situation in Providence, anyway, isn't homogenous, which I suppose counts as a plus. It's a beautiful rainbow of diversity these days.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:14 PM
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If not for my principles of urban planning and urban tolerance (as in, tolerating whatever BS is part of living urbanly), I probably wouldn't return to the site of such an incident.

I'm impressed that you're parenting as you are. I haven't dealt with that level of racial flare-up. But the sexual stuff is sufficiently lousy that I would think very long and very hard before routinely bringing a young child with me on public transportation.

m. leblanc's posts over the last few months have made me think about how to deal with some of it. The worst I've seen lately was an apparently drunk older black man screaming at two young Asian women. The entire rest of the subway station (about a dozen of us) looked away and did nothing. By myself, there are things I can and sometimes do do in that situation. But I'm not sure I'd want to expose a young child to that level of reality on a regular basis. It's hard enough to deal with when you're 16, or 20. Why start having to absorb and react to it when you're 5?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:16 PM
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(eb, can you summarize the link?)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:17 PM
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566: Wow, I've taken the bus at least 2000 times around here, and seen one such incident, in which the participants were clearly both insane. I guess it depends on...which line?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:21 PM
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(not without spoiling it - your really need to watch it to the end)


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:21 PM
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i live ~5 blocks from the grocery store. occasionally i'll walk if i have time and its a nice day and i'm just buying vegetables and tin foil. But carrying a gallon or two of milk or a rack of beer is ridiculous.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:33 PM
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Everyone's stuck in the same little room on wheels, and suddenly a dozen people are all het up on someone who may or may not have even said/done anything the least bit wrong.

One of my regular commutes in Tokyo was on one of the rush-hour trains into which passengers had to be pushed by station attendants so the doors would close. In an American city, I think that would end badly.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:36 PM
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572: EBA, which probably has a higher level of latent tension because it includes both fancy lawyers (it is - literally - the fastest way downtown from one of the fanciest neighborhoods in town) and oppressed service workers.

That said, I'm not sure I've seen much of the kind of stuff discussed in 570. Probably because we do most of our busing at rush hour, not drunk hour (my wife does 99% of the busing, due to my work locations - I bused when I was downtown, but that was only 8 months). The most disturbing thing is actually all the bad parenting on the bus, including parents threatening to punch toddlers and a parent threatening (yes, threatening) to read to her child.

OK, bedtime.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:36 PM
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Anyone know about how hard it is to unclog pipes clogged by hard water deposits?

Wrong site. Try Unclogged.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:39 PM
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Hisssssssssssssssssssss


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:44 PM
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not drunk hour

Ha! That reminds me: the last trains of the night were always pretty packed, and sometimes, just when you were thinking there was no space left, a drunken salaryman would puke on the floor, and all those people would compress themselves into about half the space quite nicely.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:47 PM
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I usually take one of the last couple of buses home, and there's usually about five people on it, who never move or say a word. If I actually go home earlier than 10 PM it seems bizarre to have actual groups of people.

On a related note, it's been about 6 months since I was made aware of the ever-present milieu of street harassment in which women find themselves, and I have had my eyes open for it, with a total of one potential such incident. One day I guess I'll keep the hours that crowds do.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:50 PM
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In less than 2 months I've seen two near-fights on the subway. Both involved 2 (or more - it wasn't quite clear, what with some people trying to separate them) women; both were somewhere between 59th St. Columbus Circle and 145th St (D, morning commute; A evening commute).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 9:54 PM
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Actually, I think both incidents were just below 59th St.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:00 PM
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the combination of wheat-growing and oil makes people into assholes.

Wind power and flaxseeds make good neighbors.

BTW, these crop maps are fascinating. The alfalfa hay one breaks down almost perfectly into states with no alfalfa and states where every county has alfalfa.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:09 PM
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Starting Monday I'll be taking public transit or biking exclusively- our car will sit in the driveway 5 out of 7 days each week. The wife has to drive to work in Dorchester Wed. and Sat., speaking of poor areas being badly served by public transit.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:09 PM
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583:The alfalfa hay one breaks down almost perfectly into states with no alfalfa and states where every county has alfalfa.

That's because it is for "selected states" per the title. So states with just a few counties are not shown, so not quite as abrupt as it seems.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:18 PM
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585: None of the other maps are as abrupt, though. I guess that one just has a lack of data in some states.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:20 PM
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557: I love the T and would park there and ride downtown whenever I knew I wouldn't need the car midday. It's even better now. If they expanded that all over Pittsburgh we'd actually have a nice little LRT system going. I sometimes took the bus to the T but it only ran once an hour out that way, and I would be the only person on the bus.

My sister's at college in the city and is managing to get competent at the bus lines, though I did get a couple of panicked text messages from her the first couple weeks. (Why me? Because I as the eldest know everything.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:25 PM
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Thanks for finding these Ned. Tthis link has an even longer list of maps from USDA. One of the most interesting is average age of principal farm operator - it is 55 years old nationally. There is a swath on the Great Plains where over 35% of operators are over 65.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:38 PM
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teo found the maps.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:42 PM
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What happened to all the sheep?!?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 10:52 PM
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Mmmm, tasty lamb.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:01 PM
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590: I suspect the price of wool plummeted, but I can't find anything on the USDA site about it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:17 PM
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The pork industry seems to be intensely concentrated in Iowa, North Carolina and the Oklahoma panhandle.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:19 PM
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Fescue seed is almost all grown in Oregon and Missouri.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 11:31 PM
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If Hilda Thatcher, ever vile and unoriginal, did trot out that line on failure and public transport, she was paraphrasing Loelia, Duchess of Westminster "Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life", but then Loelia, also vile, and in this case probably unoriginal, is supposed to have pinched the phrase from Brian Howard. Do carry on.


Posted by: TehMeh | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 1:59 AM
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Just a quick note on bus incidents: Last month I was riding the 21 down Lake St. on a weekend afternoon. This is probably one of the most obviously underserved routes/constituencies, mainly due to the fact that all the working-class people who put in 50 or 60 hours a week washing dishes, cooking and cleaning office buildings have just a few hours to do their marketing (often with children in tow) on the weekend, and many of them don't have cars. So: crowded!
Anyhow, my stop is coming up, and it happens that one of a few empty seats is the one next to me. A bunch of people get on at the stop before mine, and so I figure I'll scoot out of my seat and go stand in the backdoor well for the next block, so that another person can sit down. Of course, my plans gang agley and by the time I've gathered my stuff and scooted over to the aisle seat, the first of the new passengers are already upon me. So a working-class African-American woman about my age sees me scooting and assumes immediately that I'm staking out space so that no one will sit next to me. She complains to the world, I manage to get up, her companion points out that I was really just moving out of people's way, she apologizes, I apologize, and then, to save face, she explains the whole situation a couple of times for the benefit of anyone who missed it.
Obviously, I was somewhat embarrassed, as I'm sure she was, but see, that's all it takes is people giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and being polite, and most incidents can be defused quickly and without recourse to any truly hurt feelings or yelling. Even in racially-marked situations. Even on a crowded bus at the end of the day when people are tired and irritable.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01-24-08 5:09 AM
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