April 1st, 2010

smaller negotiations are easier to complete

We have some cliches along these lines: too many cooks spoil the soup. A friend of mine works at a library in New Hampshire (not the town I used to live in) which recently completed construction on a new building. The architect(s) they worked with usually work with government agencies, but after this experience, said at least privately that they weren't looking to do any more work on public libraries and I can't blame them. Everyone has an opinion about what libraries are for, and there are a lot of everyones, especially compared to the amount of money involved.

I noted yesterday that I suspected the offshore drilling announcement to run parallel to the giveaway to big pharma very early on in the health insurance reform debate. Before things really got rolling, there was always some chance that we might reform, say, the drug industry, or how doctors are compensated, or who makes decisions about how treatment proceeds or whatever. In the end, it all came down to access and affordability and it wasn't about health care, it was about health insurance, with a few other odds and ends thrown in that one _hopes_ will have a longer term effect but are kind of a long shot. The drug companies did not get regulated, notably -- and they mostly stayed out of the messy politics along the way.

Getting Shell and the other oil companies out of the energy debate seems like a way to simplify things. I just recently realized, in reading this non-Nate post over at 538:

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/04/drill-barry-drill.html

"A few weeks ago, I announced loan guarantees to break ground on America’s first new nuclear facility in three decades, a project that will create thousands of jobs." (That would be quoting Obama from the offshore drilling announcement and the larger context of dealing with energy/climate issues.)

that the nuclear industry probably quietly exited the room while health care was squeaking over the bar.

With oil companies and GE out of the room (oh, fine, and Exelon and a bunch of other people, too, I'm sure), who has the big target painted on their back a la health insurance companies? Transport and coal. And I think transport is mostly in the clear: GM is already on life support, most of the other automakers already have some sort of hybrid and/or EV plan and apparently the DOT has been forcing anyone who wants money for transportation to include provision for modes-other-than-private-cars for everything they fund, like sidewalks, bike and bus lanes, etc.

Which leaves coal.

Coal = health insurance. We all hate it. We all rely on it. There's no obvious way to get rid of it. Clean(er) coal = affordability and access. And progressives are going to come out the other side of this negotiation feeling really creeped out by how there was never any serious attempt to eliminate fossil fuels at all.

I have a lot of respect for this president. I do. But I can't help but think it's a little audacious to call this hope. But it is _not_ shifting right, as some commentators might have you believe. Our hopes and dreams were much more ambitious than this, but reality on the ground is way, way worse.

There's an analogy here that involves vaporware, but I'll be damned if I can come up with a pithy summation.

New Toy: Xootr

Not too long ago, T. got out his Kettler scooter and started trying to ride it around the driveway. Shortly after that, we were going around the loop and to and from Julie's Place with him on it, and me trying to figure out which was less uncomfortable: riding the bike or walk/running. I figured if he was committed to playing with the scooter on a regular basis, I should just get my own.

I looked at the Razors, but the deck on them is skinny and the wheels are small and the weight limit on a lot of them is awful low. A very brief amount of looking around found me this:

http://www.xootr.com/kick-scooter_mg.html

That seemed inordinately cool (altho possibly hugely dorky), so I ordered one. It arrived a couple of days ago in the middle of the rain, so today was the first day I tried riding it. I saw R. riding it around the driveway and he suggested I give it a try. I put a jacket and shoes on A., handed her to him, and gave it a whirl. Never having ridden a push scooter before, it took a few minutes to figure out which foot I wanted on the deck and which foot I wanted to push with, and several more minutes to get the hang of the brakes. T. impatiently hung out on the sidewalk, but I was in no hurry to do the loop with him at dusk. However, once I realized he hadn't had dinner as far as we could tell, I offered Julie's Place and off we went on our scooters. Without our helmets. Or a light. Oops.

The Xootr is light and folds up, so I didn't have any trouble bringing it into the restaurant with me and tucking it under the table; I did not want it stolen the first day I rode it. We parked T.'s outside on the general principle that not that many people are going to steal a pre-K kids toy, and besides, Amazon Prime means a new one can land on our doorstep in a two days. The Xootr is indeed a more compatible ride for accompanying a small child on a scooter, but stopping abruptly when the kid crossed my path unexpectedly was a little exciting.

I'm still trying to get any sense of just how bad the dork factor is here, but it sure is a lot of fun, and it is absolutely lazy transport compared to walking.

ETA: This is an awesomely accurate review, especially the remark about "ankle spanker", and the description of which muscles get the surprise workout (after all, a kick scooter is fundamentally a one-legged squat workout disguised as transport).

http://www.thewsreviews.com/2008/10/xootr-mg-kick-scooter-six-months-five.html

It looks like there is some consensus that riding one of these is about half the effort of walking.