Intended Consequences

Monday, February 09, 2009

Bad News for People Who Love Good News

So you bought a nice affordable house in the suburbs further from the city? Unfortunately your monthly costs are probably still more than people that live closer. So says the Urban Land Institute here. Sorry for the disappointment. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

i made bread

my wife has the camera, so i have no way to prove it, but i made bread. 

full disclosure: a friend of ours mixed up all the dry ingredients and gave me directions for the rest of the stuff, but i mixed it together and baked it. it tasted good. take that!

Thursday, October 09, 2008


(the rules of the internet say "give credit where credit is due": this picture is from this website)

I will admit it, this essay is a bit alarmist and paranoid but I love alarmist paranoia. I love post-Apocalypse fiction, so why wouldn't I absolutely adore post-Apocalypse non-fiction!? This was a suggested read from an ACTUAL librarian. I believe this is from a speech by James Kunstler given in 2005. Kunstler gives us an idea of what the United States of America will look like when (there is no "if" in his scenario) we run out of oil. He talks about the end of corporations and cities, the revitalization of small communities, living locally, and relying on ourselves when the central government is no longer able to exist in its current powerful state. Per usual, I recommend reading the entire piece here it really is a fantastic read in every sense of the word.

Here is a sample :

"Downscaling America doesn't mean we become a lesser people. It means that the scale at which we conduct the work of American daily life will have to be adjusted to fit the requirements of a post-globalist, post-cheap-oil age.

We are going to have to live a lot more locally and a lot more intensively on that local level. Industrial agriculture, as represented by the Archer Daniels Midland / soda pop and cheez doodle model of doing things, will not survive the end of the cheap oil economy. The implication of this is enormous. Successful human ecologies in the near future will have to be supported by intensively farmed agricultural hinterlands. Places that can't do this will fail. Say goodbye to Phoenix and Las Vegas.

I'm not optimistic about most of our big cities. They are going to have to contract severely. They achieved their current scale during the most exuberant years of the cheap oil fiesta, and they will have enormous problems remaining viable afterward.  Any mega-structure, whether it is a skyscraper or a landscraper - buildings that depend on huge amounts of natural gas and electricity - may not be usable a decade or two in the future.

What goes for the scale of places will be equally true for the scale of social organization. All large-scale enterprises, including many types of corporations and governments will function very poorly in the post-cheap oil world. Do not make assumptions based on things like national chain retail continuing to exist as it has."

Friday, October 03, 2008

rebooting democracy - "Professional Politicians Beware!"

As I continue to read "rebooting america: Ideas for Redesigning American Democracy for the Internet Age" I keep finding even more interesting ideas. The next one comes from the essay "Professional Politicans Beware!" by Aaron Swartz

This essay presents the idea of participatory politics or ParPolity. Aaron's idea is that we should have nested councils at each level of government and each council should have about 50 members. So you would get together with 50 of your neighbors and talk about the issues. Then you would elect one representative to go to the next level where that person would meet with 50 other neighborhood representatives and so on. I love the idea of direct, face-to-face interaction with policy makers. 

Here's how Aaron describes it:

"So, to begin with, let us imagine a council of you and your 40 closest neighbors—perhaps the other people in your apartment building or on your block. You get together every so often to discuss the issues that concern you and your neighborhood. And you may vote to set policy for the area which the council covers.

But your council has another function: it selects one of its own to send as a representative to the next council up. There the process repeats itself: the representative from your block and its 40 closest neighbors meet every so often to discuss the political issues that concern the area. And, of course, your representative reports back to the group, gets your recommendations on difficult questions, and takes suggestions for issues to raise at the next area council meeting.

By the power of exponents, just five levels of councils, each consisting of only fifty people, is enough to cover over three hundred million people. But—and this is the truly clever bit—at the area council the whole process repeats itself. Just as each block council nominates a representative to the area council, each area council nominates a representative to the city council, and each city council to the state council, each state council to the national council, and so on.

Shalom discusses a number of further details—provisions for voting, recalls, and delegation—but it’s the idea of nesting that’s key. Under such a system, there are only four representatives who stand between you and the people setting national policy, each of whom is forced to account to their constituents in regular, small face-to-face meetings. Politicians in such a system could not be elected through empty appeals to mass emotions. Instead, they would have to sit down, face-to-face, with a council of their peers and persuade them that they are best suited to represent their interests and positions."