Monday, January 29, 2007

This weekend, Mara introduced Christie and I to Going Bonkers, an indoor playground and arcade here in Columbia. It didn't take long to find the company that made their indoor play thingy, and I'm pretty impressed.
Yeah, I know, environmental devastation, blah, blah, blah, scouring the Earth, yadda, yadda. But this is awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Andrew Sullivan is promoting a gas tax. I felt compelled to tell him why it's a bad idea:

"Raise the price and people change their habits" may well be the essence of capitalism, but it ignores the situation most of America is in. I live in a small city in the midwest, and there's not a lot of room for me to change my behavior as far as gas comsumption goes. When I bought my last car, I actually looked at the Prius, but there was an 18 month wait to get one, and I need a car right away, as my last one was destroyed in an unfortunate demonstration of the laws of physics involving a sheet of ice and a phone pole. Besides, I ran the numbers, and given the price difference, gas would have to get up to about $3.50 a gallon for it to actually save me money.

I could bike or walk to work, I suppose. Except for in the winter, when I'd be courting frostbite and hypothermia, or in the summer when I'd be courting heatstroke. But, yea, there are about 3 months out of the year when it's gorgeous, and I could do it, except for the long sections of my commute where there's no sidewalk.

I could do mass transit. The bus stop is only about 3/4 of a mile from my house, after all. It would take about 40 minutes to get to work that way (as opposed to 8 minutes if I drive myself), and I'd have to leave about 2 hours earlier than I do now because of the bus schedule (and that's when the buses run on time), then rush to get from my desk to the bus stop across the street by 5:05, when the bus comes, or wait till the next one comes at 7:00.

The sad thing is, I'm on the upper side of middle class, living fairly close to the city center in a town that prides itself on being as ped-friendly and green as it can manage. Most of the people around here live in small towns (or out in the country) at least ten miles away, because they can get so much more house for the money out there. They drive whatever car they can afford, and they only replace it when it wears out. A lot of them need 4-wheel drive so they can still get to work when the weather sucks (as it often does), and they've already seen the resale value of their car drop drastically after the last time gas prices went up. Since they had to borrow money to buy the truck in the first place, a lot of them are upside down in their cars, so there's no way they can sell them (to who?) and buy something more efficient.

Increasing gas prices (for whatever reason, through whatever mechanism) for these people mean fewer trips out of town to visit family or friends, and more careful planning so that they run all their errands at once. That's it. That's as much change as they can afford, and it adds up to a measly 5% or so reduction in consumption, while the extra cost of gas takes $40 or $50 bucks a month out of their already tight budget.

Why? Why put the hurt on so many people instead of just changing the CAFE standards for cars, which would not only cut consumption, but result in US-made cars that could be sold overseas, where the mileage standards are much higher? That seems like quite a sacrifice purely for the sake of ideological purity.

And, yes, most of us out here in the hinterlands have lifestyles that overuse our natural resources. But changing that is going to take time, and can't be done purely on an individual level, driven by market forces. It will require infrastructure changes that will need to come from government and industry.

Errata: I misremembered Kevin Drum's post on this when I pulled that 5% number out of my ass. Actually, when gas prices were at their peak, gas consumption dropped by 0.4%.
Darren Barefoot's got a post up on a friend who's been shot at three times, which sort of freaked Darren out. I know the feeling.

I lived my life up to age 22 thinking that living life fully meant not getting shot at. Then one night, I was closing out the DuKum with Kyle and Carl (yeah, it was a weeknight; what's your point?), and somehow the topic rolled around to "times I've been shot at". Carl had been shot at twice, Kyle once. All three were great stories. I had nothing. Even the random guy at the next table had at least one story about getting shot at. I felt like such a city boy.

I walked home from the bar, wallowing in my non-manliness. "How was the bar?" asked the woman I was then living with.

"Good, I guess, but it was kind of weird."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. It turned out I was the only one at the table that had never been shot at. I kind of felt like less of a man."

"Huh." She looked thoughtful.

"What?"

"Well, now that I think of it, I've been shot at, too."

"Dammit!"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My wife, my family, and the cutting-edge team of medical professionals required to keep me (mostly) functioning on a day-to-day basis would like to take this opportunity to thank the CW for showing a new episode of Veronica Mars instead of the State of the Union Address. Otherwise, I might have had to read a book or something. Shudder.
Kevin Drum's got some tax wonkery up that, among other things, proposes eliminating the income tax for corporations. Hey, how about we switch business to a consumption tax, while keeping the income tax for individuals?

I haven't actually thought through the implications of this idea at all, so please don't think I'm advocating it, unless you think it's genius, in which case I'll take all the credit. Rather, I'm deferring the "thinking it through" part to you, the web. Mostly because I'm lazy.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sorry for the extended radio silence. Combined with the nasty ice storms across the midwest, I could see how that might worry some folks. But we're fine, we're warm, and our power didn't even flicker. But I did get this nasty head cold that left my head too full of snot to even consider anything that could really pass for thinking. And no thinking equals no writing. Usually, anyway.

I'm not all the way better, but I am better enough to say hey. Unfortunately, I don't have much else to say, and there is much to catch up with elsewhere in my life. Hope you're doing well and keeping warm.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Fix your laptop - With Fire!
Ian Frazier's How to Operate the Shower Curtain

"We are happy to have you as our guest. There are many choices you could have made, but you are here, and we appreciate that. Operating the shower curtain is kind of tricky. Nobody is denying that. If you do not wish to deal with it, or if you would rather skip the whole subject for reasons you do not care to reveal, we accept your decision. You did not ask to be born. There is no need ever to touch the shower curtain again. If you would like to receive assistance, pound on the door, weep inconsolably, and someone will be along."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I haven't been blogging about politics because I haven't seen the point. But what does it say about our media that they're reacting to the proposed sending of more troops to Iraq as anything other than an insane idea? According to the latest polls I've seen, more people believe in a flat Earth than believe it's a good idea to send more troops to Iraq, and yet the TV pundits scratch their chins and say, "Hey, it might work!"

Oh, and it bears repeating that "Send more troops" is not a plan. It's might be an important step in support of a plan, but it's not, in and of itself, a plan. A plan has a clearly stated goal and metrics so you can know whether or not you're achieving that goal.