In a post from earlier this year, The Domestication of City Dwellers, Heather Heying expresses many of my doubts about the crazy new "15-minute cities" concept, along with some I hadn't thought of.

Fifteen minute cities are intended to reduce sprawl and traffic, facilitate social interactions with your neighbors, and give you your time back. If it took fifteen minutes or less to get to all the places that you need and want to go, imagine how much more possibility there could be in life.

You might well wonder how such remarkable results will be achieved. The answer is: through restricting automobile travel between neighborhoods, fining people who break the new travel restrictions, and keeping a tech-eye wide open, with surveillance cameras everywhere.

Apparently, say the promoters of fifteen minute cities, we need to promote access over mobility. In their world, the definitions are these: “Mobility is how far you can go in a given amount of time. Accessibility is how much you can get to in that time.” The same post further argues that “Mobility - speed - is merely a means to an end. The purpose of mobility is to get somewhere, to points B, C, D, and E, wherever they may be. It’s the 'getting somewhere' — the access to services and jobs — that matters.”

This is not just confusing, it’s a bait-and-switch. Speed is not the same thing as mobility. Being able to “get somewhere” is mobility. Mobility means freedom to move. This freedom has been undermined for the last three years, in many countries, under the guise of protecting public health.

Fifteen-minute cities would further restrict your freedom to move. Your ability to get anywhere will be restricted under the pretense of making it easier and faster to get everywhere that you really need or want to go.

Dr. Heying goes on to explain several of the problems with this reasoning, and the whole article is worth reading. Including the footnotes. But a few of her points immediately jumped out at me.

First of all, who decides what exactly it is that comprises "everywhere that I really need or want to go"? One dentist is just as good as any another, right? Once upon a time, one church (Catholic) was all that any town needed; who really needs churches of different Christian denominations, not to mention mosques and Hindu temples?

If there's a public school within 15 minutes of my house, certainly I don't need to send my kids to a private school that may be located outside my neighborhood? In fact, this 15-minute city idea has a strong odor of our American public school system—in which children must attend the nearest school, and parental choice in education is strongly opposed—writ large.

And how will these convenient services for "everything we need and want" be set up? Who gets to open a grocery store in which neighborhood? What if no one wants to open a store there? Will some neighborhoods have only government-run facilities? Will we have mega-stores with every variety of foodstuffs instead of family-run ethnic markets? Or maybe no stores at all, just Amazon Prime? Do we really want thousands of tiny libraries, art museums, and concert venues, each offering a tiny fraction of what is now available? Or will we be told that we should get all our culture and information online?

And worst of all: Granted, it would be wonderful if all our loved ones lived within 15 minutes of our homes. Imagine having all our friends so close, and grandchildren just down the street! But how will that be accomplished? Our friends and family are spread all over the globe. Of course I'd like them to be closer—but not at the cost of imprisoning them! Even if they were all forced to move into the same 15-minute neighborhood, how long could such a situation be sustainable? Population control on a massive and tyrannical scale?

Besides, anyone who has grown up in a small town knows not only how wonderful they are, but also how insular, parochial, and restrictive they can be. If our COVID lockdowns produced a massive increase in suicide and other mental health problems, just wait till we've lived in 15-minute cities for a generation.

And if in that one generation people have come to believe that living under such tyranny is normal and good—the only word for that is tragedy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 29, 2023 at 3:28 am | Edit
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I couldn't resist that subject title, because it certainly grabbed my attention as the lead-in to an excerpt from a conversation between Mary Harrington and Bret Weinstein. As I've often said before, the whole conversation (1.5 hours) is worthwhile.

In this one, you can see chapter divisions if you hover your mouse over the progress bar. (approximate starting times in parentheses)

  • Feminism against progress - history (2:45)
  • Disagreement over progress and liberation (9:00)
  • Digital and sexual revolution (25:50)
  • Sexual marketplace (43:10)
  • Traditional gender roles and hypernovelty (50:10)
  • Internet and silos (57:20)
  • Libertarian approach to sex industry (1:00:00)
  • Sex is not recreational (1:09:00)
  • The patriarchy (1:17:00)
  • Porn and sexual violence (1:26:45)

If I were to recommend an excerpt, I'd go from Libertarian approach to sex industry through the end.

Just two quotes for this; it's far to annoying to extract them from the audio.

At one time, children would have played a sport, and they would have been very passionate about it, and what has happened is that has been transmuted into an act of consumerism, where what you do is you support a team, or you are very avid about a particular sport that you watch on your television, and so instead of playing baseball you are consuming baseball...."

That doesn't seem related to the rest of the discussion, but they go on to tie it in with sex. I picked this one to quote because it makes an important, more general point about participation versus consumerism, and I immediately added music to the list. As one church musician told me, "In worship, of course I want the music to be excellent. But I'd rather have a little old lady plunking out notes on an out-of-tune piano than sing hymns with a professional sound track."

And here's the rest of the vegan bacon comment. Agree or disagree with the statement, you have to admit it's an unforgettable image.

Contraceptive sex is like vegan bacon; it's kind of the same, but is it any wonder that people are adding a lot of hot sauce? Because the flavor just isn't quite there.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 26, 2023 at 2:01 am | Edit
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A lot has changed in 35 years, and not all for the better.

Looking through some old journal entries, I read about a time when our five-year-old daughter spiked a fever at night.

She ran a fever last night. I don't know how high, but she was delirious [her not-uncommon response to fevers]. If it weren't so serious, it would be entertaining, listening to her describe the things she sees. Normally I would wait a few days to see what would happen, but things are so busy that I took her to the doctor, since if she were going to need an antibiotic, I wanted it started right away. But: "It's a virus, $32 please."

She can go back to school tomorrow. "Why not?" they said. "That's where she got it in the first place."

Can you imagine that scenario taking place today? Yet that's the way life was, and I think those were saner times.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 22, 2023 at 3:44 am | Edit
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I liked Bed, Bath and Beyond. The prices were usually a little higher than elsewhere, but there was always a good coupon available that more than made up for it. Hands down my favorite part of their service was the warranty policy that gave me a brand-new toaster oven every time mine wore out, which happened at least twice over the years. There was no nonsense of a one- or two-year warranty, or even five.  If it failed, they cheerfullly handed over a brand-new replacement. You can bet I preferred to buy my small appliances there, even though I never actually had occasion to replace any but the toaster ovens.

All that to say, I'm really sorry to see Bed, Bath and Beyond go.

You wouldn't believe from the size of my stack of BB&B coupons that I actually have thrown many away. But the local stores always honored them even if they were many years past their printed expiration date, so it seemed prudent to have a good stack on hand.

Now I guess I can finally recycle them all—a small bright spot in the gloom.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 19, 2023 at 4:30 am | Edit
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In times of crisis, traditional rules of procedural fairness can be modified. 

So said Gerard Kennedy, Canadian law professor and politician, on the freezing of protesters' bank accounts. (You can read his testimony here.)

The best and truest rejoinder to that I've heard came, I think, from David Freiheit (also a Canadian lawyer):

In times of crisis, traditional rules of fairness need to be fortified, not modified.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 15, 2023 at 8:38 am | Edit
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The 20th anniversary DarkHorse Podcast is full of apparently random interesting topics. If you have the time for the whole hour and 40 minute show, you can skip to about minute 11:30 to get past the ads. There is discussion of sea star wasting disease, then a very long section on telomeres and how both the New York Times (no surprise) and the New England Journal of Medicine (more concerning) recently managed to ignore critical information that was known 20 years ago.

I enjoyed those parts, but if you just start at 1:13:00 you'll get 26 minutes of really good stuff, I think. From finding truth in the words of people with whom you have serious disagreements, to the complex problem of moving forward without losing the good of what you've left behind, to why dishwashers that use less water might poison the environment by forcing the use of more and stronger detergents.

My favorite part, however, and the part I think some of our family members will appreciate, is the discussion of Elimination Communication at about 1:28:10, and the idea of the new mother's "babymoon" period just before that. (They don't use either of those terms, however.) Not that our famly will find anything new there—and it's been known for years among the homeschool/home birth/breastfeeding/raw milk/organic food/homesteading/etc. crowd. What's so interesting to me is that it shows up in this podcast, totally unexpectedly. In their naïveté about the subject, Bret and Heather get some things wrong (as their listeners were quick to point out) but they get a lot right, too, and at least they are aware of it, which most people are not.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 12, 2023 at 6:49 am | Edit
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Over the years, Porter has ordered all sorts of movies from Netflix (the old-fashioned, DVD-in-the-mail way), and every once in a while one will catch my attention, too. I wasn't planning to watch Bridge of Spies, but I wandered into the room at the wrong time, and was soon hooked. Probably because it's based on true events, maybe because it stars Tom Hanks. Anyway, it's a worthwhile movie. Here's one of the trailers (under two minutes).

What has stayed with me clearest and longest from the movie is a single quote. Actually, it's one quote but used multiple times. You can see three in this 2.5-minute video.

"Would it help?" We find ourselves asking each other that question a lot these days, when we all have so many things to worry about. It makes us smile, and maybe let go of a little anxiety.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 9, 2023 at 9:05 pm | Edit
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 The Queen's Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler (47North, 2016)
 The Thief's Daughter by Jeff Wheeler (47North, 2016)

 The King's Traitor by Jeff Wheeler (47North, 2016)

Jeff Wheeler is a prolific author with enough books to keep me going for a very long time. Due to the length of my current reading list, it will be a while before I get to any of his other fantasy worlds—unless our grandchildren start reading them. But these three were a delight. I'm very grateful to the friend who recommended Jeff Wheeler to me. Here's what she wrote about his books:

As for Fantasy, Jeff Wheeler is at the top of my search list. Though I am long past the age of the readers his books are aimed at, I thoroughly enjoy the worlds he has created, borrowing liberally from the Arthurian Legend, Shakespeare, and the Bible! Sometimes his allusions are obvious; others, I have a belated OMG moment when I realize a certain character is actually a well-known figure from our own legends of the past. I should add that through thick and thin Wheeler emphasizes the honorable behavior of his young protagonists, including chastity.

You certainly don't need to catch all his allusions (or even any of them) to enjoy the books, but they are delightful, like finding hidden Mickeys at Disney World, or Easter eggs in a computer game.

The Queen's Poisoner, the first in the Kingfountain series, was a true joy to read, probably because the protagonist is young. The second, The Thief's Daughter, was not so hard to put down because the character has grown enough to make romance—one of my least favorite genres—a significant element, but there was enough action to get me through it. Plus, the romantic element has an interesting twist. And in the final book, The King's Traitor, you get all three: interesting children, romance with surprises (but not too much), and satisfying action.

All in a world where good is good, evil is evil, and both degradation and redemption are real.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 8, 2023 at 5:22 am | Edit
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Oh, Facebook, when am I going to totally give up on you?

It's the people who keep me going there, albeit in a much-reduced state. People for whom Facebook is the best way to keep in touch. They're worth it.

Then again, maybe I stay there for the amusement, too.

First, Facebook took down my 9/11 tribute post on the grounds that my image of Osama bin Laden violated their community standards. Now, I've done it again.

They didn't actually remove my comment (at least not yet), but they did give me this warning:

(I made the comment to the post of a friend, a very knowledgeable gun-collector, in which he expressed his annoyance at TV shows and movies that "portray firearms with unlimited capacity and no reloads.")

So tell me, Facebook—where in my comment is anything resembling "hate speech"? Do you think it's hateful to call Americans ignorant? Or to imply that Hollywood takes liberties with the truth?

That was my ironic laugh for the day. Good night all. Sweet dreams.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 5, 2023 at 8:59 pm | Edit
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It was a beautiful launch last night, just after sunset. I only recorded a small part, first because I wanted to enjoy it unhindered, and second because the flight path made it appear to turn downward, thus taking it behind the trees. Porter, using a monocular, could see the engine array instead of just a bright light.

We miss far more launches than I document. When we remember, we set an alarm, because it's too easy to be distracted, even if we're home to step out the front door and watch. The great news is that these days we don't have to wait several months for another chance!

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 1, 2023 at 10:09 am | Edit
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