What’s the best money you’ve ever spent?

A Facebook friend posted the following:

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent? (Money you think was particularly well spent, that is.)

This generated over 200 responses. Sample of those related to children:

No question, the extremely high price tag of buying our eggs, creating embryos and having women carry them to term for us. Worth every penny though. Nothing better in the world than children!

[bunch saying “private school”]

The Paperwork and admin fees of adoption

IVF [my jet-owning physician friends will be happy to read this!]

Car potty with three kids under 7. Best $20 spent.

[inspiration for the not-yet-parents] The Lice lady who came to our house and spent 5 hours on O’s head when he was little!

Divergence of responses from those with female versus male first names:

  • My divorce
  • yes, amen, my divorce also.
  • God bless the broken road
  • on my very worst day I can always say, “well, at least I’m divorced!”
  • [male] Getting a vasectomy.
  • [male] The prenuptial agreement for my first marriage. [but he did it again? note that a prenup wouldn’t have cut down on any of the litigation depicted in the movie Marriage Story; see also Massachusetts Prenuptial Agreements for why these have no effect on the most common and intensive family court lawsuits]

The original poster’s friends are nearly all righteous denouncers of Donald Trump and the Hate for which He stands, yet only one person out of 200 said anything about charity:

  • change I gave to a homeless man

Responses such as “Private Disney World Guide” and other personal luxuries were common, on the other hand.

Readers: What would you say to this question?

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A philosophy of travel

Destination Earth: A New Philosophy of Travel by a World-Traveler, by Nicos Hadjicostis, describes what the author learned during a 6.5-year trip around the world.

As you might expect from selection bias (he traveled for 6.5 years while others did not), he’s an enthusiast:

The Chinese proverb “It is better to travel 10,000 miles than read 10,000 books” is more pertinent than ever. For the experiences gained by travel are pulsating and permeated by the breath of human experience and interaction. Book knowledge helps us obtain a basic understanding of subjects and categorize them; it moves in one dimension. Travel is multidimensional: It connects the various branches of human knowledge that are held isolated in unconnected mental compartments; it gives flesh and bones to the world’s nations; it introduces us to new sounds and smells and an infinite variety of circumstances. Travel is not only the Ultimate University but also the only one that is alive!

He points out that Hainan Airlines’s $650 round-trip fare from Boston to Shanghai is an example of what is new for the human race:

This is the first time in the history of humanity that millions of people have the ability and means to travel around the world. What was once the privilege of historians like Herodotus, emperors like Hadrian, royal emissaries like Zhang Qian, intrepid explorers like James Cook, or simply the aristocratic few is now within the reach of the middle class.

Let me put in a plug for the smartphone too! It has its pluses and minuses when at home or at work, convenient, but also a distraction and an isolation device (since we don’t talk to people in public places as much). But for the traveler, the smartphone lightens our luggage by 20 lbs. or more (leave out the books) and enables facts and history to be looked up whenever curiosity motivates us. I would read a sign in an ancient garden in China, for example, and then learn more about something described on the sign via my phone and the $10/day in Verizon roaming fees.

Why not put on the VR goggles and travel from the air-conditioned comfort of one’s living room?

There is a widespread belief among people who do not travel that it is not necessary to actually visit other countries because one can get a good sense of them by watching travel programs, leafing through magazines, or reading travel-inspired books. A new species of “armchair-travelers” who sit in front of their television sets watching travel documentaries has emerged in the last decades. This suggests that it is possible to travel without departing from one’s home! The underlying presupposition is that travel is seeing places, and that instead of actually going to places one may bring them into one’s living room. This mistaken view has to be firmly debunked. The relationship between taking a cruise along the Li River in China and experiencing the otherworldly landscape of the Guilin karsts enveloping the boat – full of fellow Chinese travelers – and the watching of a film about Guilin is akin to the relationship between seeing a photo of a person you love and having the actual person next to you. The visual portrayal of a place, whether it be a photo or a movie, as well as any verbal description of it, are incommensurable with the immersive living experience. There is no comparison between Guilin-the-photo and Guilin-the-place-and-experience. Another analogy is comparing the photo of a French cheese platter with eating the real cheeses. One is dead, the other alive. The real cheeses have a wealth of smells, textures, and tastes; the photo is a mere representation. Often, modern man lives in his mind and forgets that Guilin is a real place situated in a three-dimensional universe with a sky above it, a real river running through it, and surrounding rice fields with farmers tending them. No digital reproduction or literary description, however good or poetic, can replace the feeling of a breeze on one’s face or the little droplets from the river’s spray. At best, any description is a pointer to what one may experience if one gets off the couch and sets out to discover the actual place.

He divides up travel into four possible categories. A “one-dimensional” trip is taking an organized tour or flying out to see a new city’s main sights. A “two-dimensional” trip seems to be the same thing, more or less, but a bit longer, e.g., two weeks on a fixed itinerary. Real travel begins with three-dimensional trips of at least three weeks and without prearranging hotels beyond the first few nights. The ultimate:

The four-dimensional journey is much longer in duration and usually involves more than one country. This is travel with infinite degrees of freedom. It opens up a whole new universe of sights, sounds, smells, but also new ways of seeing the world and of understanding mankind in general and oneself in particular.

Examples of total travel are a nine-month journey around Latin America or a six-month journey in West Africa, where one will basically be on one’s own and discover his way around as he moves.

Traveling around the world is a special case of four-dimensional travel. It is the most ambitious and all-encompassing type of travel and belongs to a category of its own. The whole of life becomes the field of exploration of the world-traveler.

Who among us can take off months or years to do this, though? Plainly the young can do it, backpacking among cheap hostels. The author says that this is suboptimal because (a) the traveler lacks sufficient life experience, and (b) going cheap means the traveler misses out on a lot of the social environments of each country. He suggests that a person should be at least 35 years old to fully appreciate a round-the-world four-dimensional journey.

What about those of us who have to love Royal Caribbean and its organized shore excursions (thanks, Mom!)?

Yet, out of fear of the unknown, a large part of the world’s population never travels. At its heart is the fear that one’s needs will not be taken care of, that one will wander alone and helpless in the world. That is why the majority of those who travel choose to do so in a manner that allows them to feel as though they have never left their comfort zones. The majority of travelers who choose to join group tours do so not just to save money but also to feel safe and secure and to have the certainty that nothing will go wrong. Behind modern mass tourism lies an unexpressed fear of the unknown. A second fear is that of not being in control. The modern travel agency or tour operator solves both: It makes the unknown seem known by showing photos of the places to be visited, and it deals with the fear of the traveler not being in control by offering its own control over the way one will travel – it provides fixed itineraries and detailed schedules. The traveler therefore buys the illusion of both security and control over his journey by relinquishing his freedom. However, by doing so, he paradoxically turns the journey into something that is beyond his control, since everything has already been planned by others.

After talking down the organized tour, a few pages later the author describes his experience as an independent traveler:

I had already been cheated many times across the whole spectrum of my dealings with the Vietnamese. Taxi drivers, hotel managers, and fruit sellers were overcharging me at every possible opportunity. Being an experienced traveler, I was amazed at how I was being exploited like a novice every time I slightly dropped my guard. All the daily little robberies, exploitations, and occasional bullying by the Vietnamese are effective because the majority of tourists allow it. Visitors come to Vietnam to have a good time, and they don’t want to constantly argue about the price of everything.

Maybe there is some value in letting the tour operator do all of the commercial negotiation in advance!

He discovers that what’s off the beaten path is sometimes beating

To take another example, on the way to explore the Hamar tribe in Ethiopia’s South Omo Valley, we may come upon a market at which locals invite us to witness the young men’s rite of passage featuring ritual whipping, by which young men prove their manly abilities and are permitted to claim a wife and start a family. We end up in the forest witnessing a few handsome teenagers whipping female family members on their backs until they bleed. It is easy to rush into premature conclusions and think that this behavior is the product of a violent male-dominated society. Yet if we defer judgment and are attentive, we will observe that the women are actually willing participants and persistently demand that they be whipped! Rather than judging, we may seek to better understand the situation by unabashedly asking the locals to enlighten us, and by reading about the custom later. As it turns out, the custom serves a deeper purpose: that of strengthening familial bonds and of initiating young men and women into adulthood.

He learns that, even in countries not run by Donald Trump, citizens believe their own country to be “great”:

… many people in many different countries think that they live in the best country in the world. It was always enlightening to hear the rational arguments these people invented in order to support their already-formed ideas and prejudices. It never crosses their minds that they have been brainwashed by family or school into thinking that their country is the best. Nor do they consider that because they grew up adapting to the environmental and cultural specifics of their own country, they ended up turning these into the weights and measures of evaluating all other cultures. Nor does it occur to them that they came to love those specific elements in their culture that they themselves had acquired, and thus their love for their own culture is in great part another expression of self-love! … If you don’t believe me that your country is neither the most beautiful nor the best in the world, then visit France. And if you are French, stay put!

What about loneliness? The author adopts an attitude that the traveler is not alone because “He is almost always surrounded by people, be they locals, other travelers, or passersby.” and that it is possible to communicate with these people primarily nonverbally. He suggests getting into a mindset in which it doesn’t matter that specific people aren’t there and not trying to photograph and share the experience with the folks back home.

The people you love are not a fixed, unalterable set! We would dare say, they should not be a fixed set. Friendships are created through a conscious mutual effort that involves openness to the unknown person and a movement towards him. There was a moment in time when each of your current friends was not a friend. At some point, even your spouse was as unknown to you as every person you meet in your travels. Every friend you have ever had was as much a stranger to you as this old Papuan man you have just met, who sleeps in a thatched hut with his pig. Yet if you would start talking to him with openness and an earnest desire to come to know him, you would soon discover that not only is he an extraordinary person but that, in spite of your age difference, your different cultures and upbringing, you could become friends. Before you know it, you would realize that you have made a new friend, Papete. You would know that you will remain in the heart of one another for the rest of your lives, even if you never meet again.

One does not have to agree with the author to

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When cars drive themselves, luxury will be cars that don’t drive themselves and a track on which to relive the 20th century?

It would be fun to own a new mid-engine Corvette, but for the fact that the average daytime speed on Boston-area highways is now down around 25 mph. A 1957 Fiat 500 with 13 hp offers ample performance for commuting.

Aside from the chronic traffic jams of a country of 330 million trying to use roads built for 150 million, what is the point of a high-performance car when human drivers may soon be outlawed on public roads? Six young people died in “school shootings” in 2019 (NYT; but one seems to have been more of a personal dispute that ended up being fatally settled on school grounds) and that is enough carnage to prompt roughly half of Americans to demand that the government take away their Second Amendment rights. The carnage due to human drivers is roughly 8,000X worse: about 40,000 people killed per year here in the U.S. Especially given that it is not a Constitutionally-protected right, do we really want to take the risk of 17-year-olds in 6,000 lb. SUVs?

Taking a rare break from its all-impeachment-all-the-time format, the NYT gives us a story about residential clubs built around a race track: “Country Clubs Where Drives Can Hit 150 M.P.H.” Get up in the morning, zip around the track in the Corvette, then let the robot take you to work.

Some excerpts:

But the Concours Club and its ilk do not come cheap, with six-figure initiation fees and five-figure dues that make private golf clubs look reasonably priced.

The idea for Concours was born of escaping the winter up north. “Five years ago, I’m sitting down in Miami in our condo in South Beach and there’s every kind of car outside,” said Neil Gehani, a real estate investor and the club’s founder. “I thought, there has to be a club down here.”

After a call to his club outside Chicago, the Autobahn Country Club, where he raced Ferraris and got hooked on country club racing, he found there wasn’t one in South Florida. “I was told the land was too expensive,” he said. “That wasn’t acceptable to me. I wanted to be in Miami and I needed a private auto country club.”

The club, which is within Miami’s Opa Locka private airport, 14 miles west of Miami Beach, has cost $70 million to build so far. Mr. Gehani said 40 founding members were invited to join, paying a one-time $350,000 initiation fee with no annual dues. The club just released 100 additional spots, with an initiation fee of $150,000 and annual dues of $35,000. It plans to limit those memberships to 200.

Other tracks helped inspire the Miami club. The Thermal Club, outside Palm Springs, Calif., has four tracks over 450 acres, two restaurants and a BMW performance driving school. The club has 48 bungalows for overnight stays, as well as 268 home sites overlooking the racetracks. The initiation is $85,000, with monthly dues of $1,200.

Members at the Thermal Club are obligated to buy a lot and build a house within five years, said Tim Rogers, the club’s founder. The lots cost from $750,000 to $900,000, with the finished 8,000-square-foot homes running about $3 million.

Good fodder for politicians stirring up envy with talk of inequality?

(Fake News alert: the Opa Locka airport is, in fact, publicly owned (by Miami-Dade County) and “open to the public” (airnav), not “private” as the NYT says. Google Maps shows a track under construction next to KOPF, but not obviously “within” (usually tough given that the FAA can be strict about non-aviation uses of airport facilities; this might be county-owned land that was outside the airport fence? Google Maps shows a public street separating the track from the airport proper).)

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Self-made rich bastards: don’t leave all your money to charity

One self-made moderately rich friend (lawyer/entrepreneur) related that he’d told his daughters that their expenses would be paid through college, but after that they were on their own. He and his (nurse) wife would be spending all of the money that they’d earned on luxury consumption, extra leisure time, etc. They expected their daughters to achieve comparable levels of success to what the parents had achieved.

Another self-made rich guy (specialist physician/health care business executive that the plaintiffs of Massachusetts neglected to mine out) said that he was going to leave all of his money to a charitable foundation that he’d set up and was passionate about. “My daughter is 28, lives in an apartment with her boyfriend, and says that she doesn’t want to have children or own a house or car.”

To the doctor, I wrote the following:

Pew talks about the trend toward later births, but constant total fertility (i.e., American women have the same number of kids as before, but later in their lives). If your daughter does have kids, she will need an inheritance!

Due to population growth, it costs a minimum of $1 million to live in a decent neighborhood anywhere in the U.S. and surely this price will rise as the population trends toward 400 million (via immigration, if not high fertility). Young people today are extremely unlikely to have the kind of success that you and I had. I was Class of ’82 at MIT. 50% of applicants got in. When I was growing up, any dentist who worked full time could afford a house on the beach near a big city (e.g., Cape Cod if he or she lived in MA). Now the lot alone would be $3 million. Hardly anyone in crowded societies, e.g., Europe or China, can afford a comfortable lifestyle without a big input from parents.

See this nytimes article. Young folks today are living in what were garages to hold the cars of people our age.

His response:

I was also admitted to MIT in 1980 and it didn’t seem that difficult to get in. I bought my first house in 1984 and always had career possibilities that exceeded the cost of living. It’s definitely a different world.

Readers: What do you think? Is it reasonable to tell children “You have to make it on your own because I did”? A friend who is active in the MIT alumni organization told me that he learned that the current average applicant to MIT is as qualified as the average admitted student for his class (1999). If not, how much money should one leave a child in order to put them in the same relative position in U.S. society that those of us born in the 1960s have enjoyed?

(Separately, if you do leave children money, make sure that it is in a discretionary trust that is difficult for a child support or alimony predator to attack. Otherwise, there is at least a 50 percent chance that the money put aside for your children will end up in the hands of a plaintiff stranger.)

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Quality of Life in Denver

JetBlue was honoring Justin Trudeau on the way out (September) …

Nobody who arrives at the Denver Airport in the late evening is going to get claustrophobia:

My experience at the Maven at Dairy Block Hotel proves that nobody older than 40 should attempt to stay at a hip hotel. Although it was Sunday and Monday night when I stayed, there was already a lot of noise from the outdoor dining tables in the alley underneath the room. Airstream and pinball in the lobby:

I did appreciate the room numbers done in nails. Instead of a vat of coffee in the lobby from which you pour yourself as many cups as you want (Hampton Inn-style), you take a coupon for a precious single cup of single vintage drip coffee served by a tattooed and pierced cashier at the artisanal coffee shop within the building:

There is an upscale food court attached to the hotel. If nothing else, it proves an example of the critical difference between possessive and contraction.

We were working near Union Station:

This area certainly won’t win prizes for affordability. We didn’t see a sandwich for less than $13. A haircut from a barber shop, with tip, was $40. The first native-born Uber driver that I met was during the departure ride to the airport (20-minute traffic jam delay at 8 pm). He said “I’ve lived here my whole life, but I can’t afford it anymore. It is like San Francisco. I think I’ll have to move.” Certainly he can be replaced. The sandwich shops were staffed mostly by non-English-speaking immigrants who were receiving instruction in such basic tasks as ladling soup into disposable bowls.

Dinner was a $70 plate of tacos at Tamayo:

After we managed to eat most of these, our local friend gave us a tour of the 16th Street Mall. She knew many of the homeless people we encountered, whose environment was punctuated by video signboards advertising Patagonia, purveyor of $200 down vests. Instead of the garments, however, Patagonia was advertising its brand with a message about climate change:

The good news is that nobody over age 30 is “facing extinction,” according to Patagonia.

(Wouldn’t the actual “climate deniers” be Patagonia customers themselves? Suppose that someone bought a vest for 30 at Costco or $40 at Uniqlo instead of paying $200 for a Patagonia vest. He/she/ze would then have $160-170 left over with which to plant trees ($1/tree in bulk?) to reduce global warming. What is better evidence of climate denial than conspicuous consumption of luxury goods such as Patagonia clothing?)

The Denver Art Museum is mostly closed for a massive renovation. But there is still some great stuff on display. Kids were better dressed in the old days:

I love Nam June Paik’s work, but how can it be maintained? Who has a stock of late 20th century Trinitron tubes?

I thought it would kill on Facebook to write “A big space needs a lot of rooftop A/C.” over a picture of these Donald Judd sculptures.

How wrong I was!

A professional fundraiser was outside seeking donations for bringing more migrants to the U.S. I gave him my standard offer of paying for transportation and food if he wanted to house a migrant in his own apartment. This was refused: “That’s not how we work.”

Inside the museum, an Erika Harrsch installation/video promoting migration:

Watch this video for the words/lyrics (“alien” features prominently).

More exciting for the kids: a 1970 hall of mirrors by Lucas Samaras. The renovated museum will be open in 2022, just in time for Shanghai to have built another Manhattan full of office space.

What do people read in Denver? I visited the Tattered Cover, an old-school downtown bookstore, to find out. “For the sisters, misters, and binary resisters”:

(Will the Mueller Report have to be shredded now that Trump is being impeached from his position as Fuhrer due to Ukraine, not Russia? Or will people still pay to read this in hardcopy? And I would hope that the one thing anyone can learn during National Hispanic Heritage Month is that nobody could ever have too many tamales!)

Denver got quite a bit younger and hipper as I made my way back to the airport. The airport is ready for the Elizabeth Warren presidency. JetBlue, regrettable, is showing movies by a convicted (in New Yorker magazine and on Facebook) rapist. To deceive the woke/outraged into watching Annie Hall, the airline tags it as dating to 2007 (Wikipedia says 1977).

Due to the easy flight connections to Asia and the appeal to the young workers that employers seek, I cling to my belief that Denver was the best choice for Amazon HQ2. At the same time, it seems that any more business growth will be very tough indeed on the lower skill members of the community.

My favorite pictures from the trip are of an app-linked electric scooter tossed into the garbage in front of a micro-brewery. I posted this to Facebook with “Public service announcement: eating avocado toast and steering don’t mix.”

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Another reason to abandon the suburbs in favor of the city?

If you’ve been on the fence regarding whether to give up the car-dependent lifestyle and move back to the city… “Lyme Disease Cases Are Exploding. And It’s Only Going to Get Worse.”:

Since 1992, the Cary Institute [Millbrook, NY] has been compiling a record of tick ecology that they believe to be the longest continuous study of this kind in the U.S. and possibly the world. … The process for counting ticks not affixed to hosts is called a drag — the researchers pull a one-square-meter sheet of fabric along the ground for 30 meters then tally the number of ticks affixed to it. Oggenfuss holds the Cary Institute record for ticks collected in a single drag: 1,700. As horrifying as that haul was — and it would, by extrapolation, put the tick population on the Cary Institute’s 2,000-acre campus at 2 billion — Oggenfuss is quick to note it was exceptional, and tick density is irregular. Her more conservative calculations of average tick populations, based on drags done during the same time of year (August, the larval peak), are only reassuring by comparison: upward of 20,000 ticks per acre, more than 100,000 on the Henry Control grid, and more than 40 million on the Cary Institute grounds.

Here’s the bottom line for American humans: “It’s estimated that 300,000 people contract Lyme every year in the U.S., with victims found not just in traditionally tick-heavy areas like upstate New York and Maine, but also in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.”

We dug our own Lyme-infested graves by burning fossil fuels:

Human-driven climate change is making tick season longer and tick country larger. As winters get warmer and shorter, ticks become dormant later in the year (if at all should it fail to fall below freezing) and active earlier.

But the disease started in Connecticut, which is much cooler than the southern U.S. Climate change is so powerful that it is spreading ticks and Lyme disease both north and south:

When Aucott joined Johns Hopkins in 1996, Lyme disease had been a mounting concern for a number of years, but conventional wisdom held that the illness would not spread south of the Potomac River. However, he soon began seeing case referrals from first northern then southern Virginia. Lyme is now endemic in North Carolina and has moved westward to Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.

How about escaping both state income tax and Lyme disease by moving to Las Vegas (check Nevada family law first; the state takes a completely different approach to custody and child support compared to the typical winner-take-all U.S. state)?

That very scenario is playing out on the U.S.-Mexico border in Mexicali, where a particular clade of brown dog tick has caused a massive outbreak of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be fatal in up to 30% of cases and causes more deaths than any other tick-borne disease in North America. … While ticks need moisture to survive, the common brown dog tick requires far less than most. This particular clade takes that to the extreme, suggesting its spread could be hastened by climate change. “This tick needs it hot and it needs it dry. This tick is rooting for global warming and drought,” Foley says. As places like California and Arizona become hotter and drier, the tick’s reach will expand, she says. To compound matters, research has shown that the hotter the temperature, the more aggressive this tick becomes. “You can actually do experiments and bring the temperature up and increase the bite rate of that tick,” Foley says.

How about simply live in the city? It would be tough to get bitten by a tick in Midtown Manhattan.

Related:

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Who will be the Marie Kondo for gun enthusiasts?

“ATF seizes more than 1,000 firearms at Los Angeles mansion” (The Hill):

Girard Damien Saenz, 56, was arrested and is expected to be charged with possessing, selling and manufacturing assault weapons, according to the LAPD.

Helicopter footage showed agents organizing the cache of more than 1,000 firearms removed from the home, laid out along the driveway.

Officials told ABC 7 out of Los Angeles that the weapons were found cluttered all around the home.

(emphasis added)

For those who love guns, perhaps there could be a Kondo-style business in which each of the 1,000 guns is handled and the owner asks “Does this semi-automatic rifle spark joy?”

Related:

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American creativity

“How Luxury Developers Use a Loophole to Build Soaring Towers for the Ultrarich in N.Y.” (nytimes):

Some of the tallest residential buildings in the world soar above Central Park, including 432 Park Avenue, which rises 1,400 feet and features an array of penthouses and apartments for the ultrarich.

But 432 Park also has an increasingly common feature in these new towers: swaths of unoccupied space. About a quarter of its 88 floors will have no homes because they are filled with structural and mechanical equipment.

Many of these towers stay vacant most of the year, so their owners are not subject to local and state income taxes because they are not city residents.

This ties in nicely with “Why America’s New Apartment Buildings All Look the Same” (Bloomberg):

Los Angeles architect Tim Smith was sitting on a Hawaiian beach, reading through the latest building code, as one does, when he noticed that it classified wood treated with fire retardant as noncombustible. That made wood eligible, he realized, for a building category—originally known as “ordinary masonry construction” but long since amended to require only that outer walls be made entirely of noncombustible material—that allowed for five stories with sprinklers.

By putting five wood stories over a one-story concrete podium and covering more of the one-acre lot than a high-rise could fill, Smith figured out how to get the 100 apartments at 60 percent to 70 percent of the cost.

the buildings have proved highly flammable before the sprinklers and walls go in. Dozens of major fires have broken out at mid-rise construction sites over the past five years. Of the 13 U.S. blazes that resulted in damages of $20 million or more in 2017, according to the National Fire Protection Association, six were at wood-frame apartment buildings under construction.

These are definitely some of our smartest citizens!

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Asian-style guest linen rental for Asian-style U.S. cities?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, says not to store guest linens because they take up a lot of space relative to their infrequent use and they’ll smell like mildew after months in storage. Just rent them when guests show up, says Kondo, implying that the typical Japanese reader would find a convenient rental option nearby.

Via the magic of population growth and increased concentration of American economic activity in a handful of places, we’re building Asian-style cities (in terms of population density, if not infrastructure quality). An increasing percentage of Americans going forward will be living in minimum-size apartments.

Is there a business opportunity here? Offer a roll-out mattress and fresh linens for rent. Base the rentals at laundries that have the in-house capability to wash everything. Put a national brand name on it so that consumers know what quality to expect.

Readers: What do you think of this idea? It is apparently a sustainable business in Japan.

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Order of tidying up from Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, suggests a tidying-up order.

The Preface, typically used by authors and publishers to motivate readers to invest time in the rest of the book, seems to suggest starting by cutting back on the number of adults in the space:

Here are just a few of the testimonials I receive on a daily basis from former clients… “Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce. Now I feel much happier.”

After that, the high-level sequence is 

  1. Discard
  2. Organize (find a place for each thing that managed to justify its continued existence)

With the Discard phase, use the following sequence:

  1. clothes
  2. books
  3. papers
  4. misc. items (komono)
  5. sentimental items

Komono may be tidied in the following subsequence:

  1. CDs, DVDs(!)
  2. Skincare products
  3. Make-up (nearly all of her clients are women)
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables
  6. Electrical equipment and appliances
  7. Household equipment (stationery, sewing)

A key to the discard phase is to put everything on the floor (this method is for people with young backs!). Kondo says that only by holding the thing can one know whether it sparks joy. This may seem absurd for books, but Kondo insists.

In the organization phase, one key is to keep similar items together so that it is easy to put things back. Kondo points out that people are a lot more motivated when they need to use something so it isn’t necessary to make retrieval super easy. Another one of Kondo’s idea is to try to use what she calls “vertical storage” (arranging things like books on a shelf).

One non-obvious idea is to try to cover up or remove extraneous text, e.g., on storage drawers, boxes, bottles of detergent, etc. Her point is that a space, even if wonderfully organized, can be “noisy” with all of the irrelevant text. (Keep the Poison Hotline number handy, though, in case you get those de-labeled bottles mixed up!)

Kondo is dismissive of the value of specialized storage gear and of the very idea of being a “storage expert.” Better to discard a lot of unneeded stuff and then use a few shoeboxes as dividers within larger spaces. So you’d think that The Container Store would try to discourage folks from reading her book. Au contraire! The company is brave enough to confront the tidying expert head-on in “A MESSAGE ON DECLUTTERING & SPARKING JOY Marie Kondo and The Container Store” (from the wife of a co-founder who is now a senior executive):

I was intrigued by the similarities to our own philosophies until I got to the part where I learned that she felt it was a bad idea to shop in stores like ours! To buy organizational products is frivolous. … I finally read the book on a plane to New York this spring. I loved it!

When we opened our store in 1978, we offered multifunctional utilitarian products that were essentially “repurposed”, much like the items Marie Kondo might use. Dairy Crates, Wire Leaf Burners, Barrels, Wooden Boxes, Dishwashing Pans, Restaurant Bus Tubs, Mailboxes, Industrial Parts Bins…all very simple concepts inspiring creative ideas and solutions for our customers.

Today, The Container Store’s offerings are more specific in use, not as esoteric, but the fundamental values of our concept still exist in the product selection. We look for multifunctional items that are versatile enough to last and be repurposed for a lifetime of use. They are beautiful and functional. They enhance our lives and make us better. They help to fulfill our Promise of an Organized Life.

This letter is one of the things that I love about the Internet. It is easy to find multiple perspectives on the same topic. (And, since Trump is not involved on either side of this debate, we need not label one side evil and the other virtuous!)

More: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

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