April 16, 2008

youtube jukebox j

Enjoy this great old-school Stereolab song, brought to you by my new pandora station, How it feels to go away, the title of which is totally unrelated to a certain family member's recent international travel plans. I can't promise that my station will bring you only greatness (it did give me Feeder recently), but I rarely have to give it the thumbs down these days. More recommended if the clouds are experiencing a late winter hangover than if the sun's shining in summer early.

Stereolab, Super-Electric

April 8, 2008

This is a long drive for someone with nothing to think about

Something that fascinates me is the willingness of people to endure long commutes in exchange for things like large lots and extra bedrooms. But usually long commute means "an hour and half" each way; in a New Yorker article from a year or so ago, Nick Paumgarten explores the notion of commuting, beginning with the lifestyles of the truly hardy commuters:

"Last year, Midas, the muffler company, in honor of its fiftieth anniversary, gave an award for America’s longest commute to an engineer at Cisco Systems, in California, who travels three hundred and seventy-two miles—seven hours—a day, from the Sierra foothills to San Jose and back. “It’s actually exhilarating,” the man said of his morning drive. “When I get in, I’m pumped up, ready to go.”"

Evidence suggests, though, that said engineer is a bit atypical:

"Commuting makes people unhappy, or so many studies have shown. Recently, the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and the economist Alan Krueger asked nine hundred working women in Texas to rate their daily activities, according to how much they enjoyed them. Commuting came in last. (Sex came in first.) The source of the unhappiness is not so much the commute itself as what it deprives you of. When you are commuting by car, you are not hanging out with the kids, sleeping with your spouse (or anyone else), playing soccer, watching soccer, coaching soccer, arguing about politics, praying in a church, or drinking in a bar. In short, you are not spending time with other people. The two hours or more of leisure time granted by the introduction, in the early twentieth century, of the eight-hour workday are now passed in solitude. You have cup holders for company.

“I was shocked to find how robust a predictor of social isolation commuting is,” Robert Putnam, a Harvard political scientist, told me. (Putnam wrote the best-seller “Bowling Alone,” about the disintegration of American civic life.) “There’s a simple rule of thumb: Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten per cent fewer social connections. Commuting is connected to social isolation, which causes unhappiness.”"

This brings up the commuting paradox:

"Most people travel long distances with the idea that they'll accept the burden for something better, be it a house, salary, or school. They presume the trade-off is worth the agony. But studies show that commuters are on average much less satisfied with their lives than noncommuters. A commuter who travels one hour, one way, would have to make 40% more than his current salary to be as fully satisfied with his life as a noncommuter, say economists Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer of the University of Zurich's Institute for Empirical Research in Economics. People usually overestimate the value of the things they'll obtain by commuting -- more money, more material goods, more prestige -- and underestimate the benefit of what they are losing: social connections, hobbies, and health. "Commuting is a stress that doesn't pay off," says Stutzer."

I can only speak for myself, but I'm quite satisfied with my (pedestrian) commute. If I ever get a bicycle with working brakes and non-eroded gears again, I'll be even more satisfied, as that thirty-minute walk translates to a nice, brief ten-minute bike ride.

[bonus: Sun Kil Moon's cover of Modest Mouse's Dramamine, off of This is a long drive for someone with nothing to think about]

April 4, 2008

It is truly disturbing that this man is the owner of a major news network

Clifford brings up an important point. If the salamanders don't get us, we'll eat each other in thirty to forty years.