New and Old #137
Friday roundup and commentary
This article is interesting, but from my conservative-ish urbanist perspective, a little contradictory. One moment, Grescoe says this:
In North America, we spent much of the twentieth century ripping apart the traditional city. Partly to blame was the modernist ideology that called for the separation of functions…Partly to blame were government policies that undermined urban neighborhoods...Mostly to blame, though, was the private automobile—a machine that ingeniously appeals to the atomistic desire for autonomy, while having the effect of an atom bomb on the fabric of traditional communities.
Then a bit later he writes:
There were, and are, many good things to be said about urbanization. The process is actually putting a brake on population growth; urbanites tend to have fewer children than rural dwellers (much of this comes from the fact that women have greater access to education in cities, and educated women have fewer kids).
Cities are good because they depress birth rates? That’s exactly the right-wing allegation I argue against all the time! I’m always arguing that cities are and should be good for families, and that one of the points of urbanism is to make it easier to have and raise a family. I argue with the conservatives who think, at best, that cities aren’t for families, and at worst that they’re some kind of plot against traditionalism. The folks who take a picture of a lovely old city and then write accusatorily, “But they don’t have any kids.”
But in any case, Grescoe is expressing some reticence over the term “urbanist.” So what’s his actual argument?
He writes about how cities may not actually be inherently “green” and then recounts:
I started to get out of town, and talk to the people who provide the food that keeps city-dwellers alive: farmers, food producers, livestock-keepers, orchardists, pastoralists. And believe me, the world looks a lot different when it’s viewed from their eyes.
I think he’s getting at the idea that we need to restore the relationship between real cities and real countrysides. It’s kind of odd to read that point made from an ideological perspective which I think I disagree with!
This is a little bit outside my wheelhouse. It sure makes me happy I found my wife (and she found me) in our 20s. There are a lot of things that are rough out there, and dating is surely one of them. Sussman acknowledges, though grudgingly, the overwhelming sociological evidence that in the aggregate, marriage leads to, or at least is associated with, all sorts of gains. The rub is that someone can’t just get married in the way they can just get a job.
I found this interesting, because it hints at something subtle. Something that presents itself as “feminist” is actually the result of a failure of good manhood, which is often coded as a conservative concern.
Marriage proponents often contrast the stable relationship patterns of the college educated with the instability of the less educated, but a bachelor’s degree is hardly a guarantee of a ring. The Yale anthropologist Marcia Inhorn’s recent book “Motherhood on Ice: The Mating Gap and Why Women Freeze Their Eggs,” argues that educated women freeze their eggs because they’re unable to find a suitable male partner: She points to a large gap between the number of college-educated women and college-educated men during their reproductive years — on the order of several million.
I’m looking for a new laptop, finally jumping from an eight-year-old laptop with 8GB of RAM to a new one with at least 16. Apparently—I don’t know, because I’m a PC guy—Apple is still selling laptops with only 8GB of RAM, claiming that their new line of processors are so good and fast that you don’t need RAM anymore. Hmm. Koebler’s experience is that this simply isn’t true. Use enough programs and keep enough tabs open, and you’ll reach the limits of 8GB pretty easily.
On the other hand, software bloat seems like a real thing. As hardware capacity increases, so do the hardware demands of software. And so you have browsers and word processors that kind of do the same things they did 20 years ago, but which demand a lot more performance capacity. Why, exactly, should Google Chrome or Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Excel need more power now than before? Why is my eight-year-old laptop sluggish even with no programs running and one or two Chrome tabs open? How quickly will standard programs figure out how to use up 32 or 64 gigs of RAM?
It’s interesting how this sort of parallels “induced demand,” the almost universally observed phenomenon whereby expanded highway capacity leads to increases in traffic. It’s sort of like there’s something in our wiring—our software, so to speak—that doesn’t like to leave spare capacity alone and unused.
The fourth item in today’s roundup is a fascinating 2003 Saturn commercial which, for some reason, underscores the sheer volume of urban space which cars take up. I’m surprised a car company made it. Watch it here.
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