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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If Marie Kondo goes missing…

… the first place to search would be Issaquah, Washington (Costco headquarters), under the cui bono theory.

One of Kondo’s theories is that people who live in untidy environments (i.e., all of us who haven’t been her clients) buy more stuff partly because they don’t realize how much stuff they already have.

She is negative on the idea of stockpiling in Costco-style quantities, pointing out that you’re not running a retail store so it doesn’t matter if you run out.

Kondo never suggests a time period as a way of setting household stock levels. A Costco pallet of paper towels, for example, isn’t a crazy purchase because it may be used up within a month (a friend likes to use an image of an entire roll of paper towels used in a single kitchen clean-up by an au pair to illustrate what happens when people are insulated from pricing, as in health care consumption, for example). On the other hand, in the Amazon Prime age can it make sense to buy a pack of 8 toothbrushes? Or a 16-count Gillette Fusion razor cartridge pack (Dorco might be better!)?

In an American suburban home with basement and garage, why wouldn’t it be reasonable to keep two months of non-perishable consumables somewhere in the house?

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

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Marie Kondo ignores the Digital Age

Friends in Manhattan had two(!) copies of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, in their apartment and gave me one.

Kondo herself says that one of the best things to do with a gift is throw it out:

The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not ‘things’ but a means for conveying someone’s feelings. … Just thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it. … When you throw it away, you do so for the sake of the giver too.

I love almost everything Japanese (except dessert!) so I read the book (big print, double-spaced, so it takes only about one hour for a first read-through).

One thing that jumped out at me is that the book, first published in 2010, barely mentions the Digital Age in which we live. She talks about tidying up CDs, but does not note that 500 at a time can be ripped to a thumb drive. She talks about discarding some papers, keeping other critical ones, and putting receipts in a special place in her house. Why not scan? Is it because that just turns household clutter into C: drive clutter? Or because Marie Kondo hasn’t done any work with scanner?

Maybe she ignores the digital because Kondo is so in love with the physical. For someone who motivates people to throw out what must be millions of lbs. of usable stuff annually, she is herself far more devoted to stuff that the average person:

I began to treat my belongings as if they were alive when I was a high school student. … I can think of no greater happiness in life than to be surrounded only by the things I love. … All you need to do is get rid of anything that doesn’t touch your heart like this. There is no simpler way to contentment.

When you treat your belongings well, they will always respond in kind. For this reason, I take time to ask myself occasionally whether the storage space I’ve set aside for them will make them happy. Storage, after all, is the sacred act of choosing a home for my belongings.

[Your typical Cessna or Cirrus is probably pretty miserable, then, in its aging prefab T-hangar or merely tied down on the ramp!]

When she comes home she talks to the house, says “Thank you very much of your hard work,” to her shoes, “Good job!” to her jacket and dress, and tells her (emptied) handbag “You did well. Have a good rest.”

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

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Harvard graduate discovers that the suburbs are packed with narrow-minded white heterosexuals

The old white guy who led the First Parish church in our suburban town, a union of Congregational and Unitarian, retired. The Millionaires for Obama on the church hiring committee found Manish Mishra-Marzetti, a young Indian-American (Indian from India, not Indian like Elizabeth Warren) to become the new minister (in 2015). He, his husband, and their two adopted kids (characterized as “African American” in the video link below) moved into our midst.

On paper, at least, this guy is exactly the kind of person that the residents say that they want to assist and/or get to know better. He’s the child of immigrants. His skin is nearly as dark as a Virginia Democrat headed out for a party. He identifies as LGBTQIA. He organized trips to our southern border to assist migrants. He sermonized against the evils of Trump and Trump supporters.

In a YouTube talk, he tells the story of playground interactions with the soccer moms. Spoiler alert: He bailed out on our boring suburb and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This can’t be because he didn’t want to pay the 30-percent property tax increase (we are demonstrating our commitment to environmentalism by bulldozing a 140,000-square-foot school, having trailers trucked in to house students for three years, and constructing an identical-sized school on the same spot (full story); at $110 million and considered per-town-resident-student, this will be the most expensive school ever built in the United States). As pastor, he received free housing from the church and I don’t think that the church-owned house was subject to property taxation.

Watch the video (start at 8:30 if you’re pressed for time) and see what the Harvard Divinity School graduate learned!

The video made the rounds on our town’s mailing list. Some excerpts from the Millionaires Who Hate Trump (formerly the Millionaires for Obama):

Where is the outrage? The outrage each and every one of us should feel that we are the cause of this man and his family moving half way across the country so they could feel welcome!

Being black in America is dangerous, especially these days. Being a woman in America is dangerous as well. Being a Muslim is dangerous. Being any person of color… Being poor and homeless is dangerous as well – and there are homeless in the suburbs, even [Happy Valley].

When we were in our adoption classes years ago, one lesson I heard there and have learned over and over again is that if our children say they are being discriminated against, we had best believe them. For those of us that are members of the dominant society, it is not possible to fully recognize all the nuances of racism.

It’s unfortunate that the First Parish could be blamed for Manish’s
unhappiness, because they extended an invitation to him and his
non-traditional family, which other organizations might have denied. [i.e., because it was two daddies and two adopted children, this guy should have been grateful for the job because the rest of the country is even more hostile to gay multi-racial families? Where is the evidence that other Americans are yet more racist?]

it’s awesome how open and welcoming Ann Arbor has been, guess I need to check my own prejudgment of the general Midwest! [the minister’s new job, mentioned favorably in the video, is in Ann Arbor; folks here know so much about the rest of the U.S. that they assume Ann Arbor is solid MAGA land! (the square around Ann Arbor voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016)]

He talks about his children which is a difficult issue for a male parent. [What better way to show one’s lack of prejudice than to assert that men are inferior at handling the challenge of talking about children?]

The perceived’symbolic moat around our Town should be a wake-up call that I hope our Town leaders will address. Perhaps the [Board of Selects] might consider forming a Task Force on Ethnic and Gender Diversity and Inclusion in [Happy Valley]. The enormous amount of money we are spending on a school building will not make a “school” unless we teach the values of embracing differences to both parents and children in school and outside in “playgroups”.

As a person of color [who let her in?!?], I am quite tired of “seeing the intent” of my fellow citizens, and having to assume the best of them every time I’m asked where I’m from (or even “where my people are from” if I don’t play along nicely. Even in the [Happy Valley] post office I was asked if I was from Outer Mongolia. Hey, I’m from New Jersey.) I’ve spent a lifetime of assuming the best of people when they make me feel like “other.” Maybe it’s time for the majority to take a deeper look at their own biases and presumptions. Please don’t whitesplain Manish.

Do you know how many times I’ve been asked where I’m from? Exactly zero. Because I’m white. It’s not difficult to understand how a question like that, given our society’s history, could bother a person of color who not only has to field the question frequently but recognizes that the question often comes with undertones of “do you belong here?” [You belong if you want to spend $250,000 per town-resident student on a renovated school!]

I cannot convey enough how valuable this book has been for me. Everyone can get something from it. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo [I don’t think it addresses how whites should deal with the fact that average white IQ and income is lower than average Asian-American IQ and income]

Speaking as a woman who was an international athlete in the 70’s and who suffered greatly from the negative assumptions then prevailing about physically strong women and the privileges available to male athletes which were denied to women, I can attest that although times have changed for the better, I still see anti-female intent in events where others don’t necessarily see it. The Kavanaugh interviews were a good example.

[From a guy with an Indian-sounding name] Most (All!) immigrants are vulnerable. On some difficult circumstances they had to leave their native country. They are looking for support and help. [Maybe the U.S. could set up a program where an immigrant who wants support and help could get free housing, food, health insurance, and smarthphone from the government? To be funded by taxes on the native-born…] Hence an immigrant can feel intimidated by seemingly unfriendly questions. … The color of skin adds another layer of sensitivity. Here it is a function of profiling the person as less intelligent or of lower character. I observe this as a cultural issue in the US because of the history. Because of my own skin tone, i have faced such individuals.

On Sunday afternoon, over a hundred people gathered [at the church] for a facilitated workshop and discussion of our reactions to the video. … The First Parish, founded in the New England tradition of individual thought and conscience, is a democracy. [I wonder how long a member would last after expressing the individual thought that Donald Trump would make a better president than Hillary Clinton!] Many people who thought they had gone out of their way to welcome Manish and his family to the church and to [Happy Valley] are disappointed by their failure to make that welcome fully understood. [The white say-gooder (few actually take action and rise to the level of “do-gooder”) is doomed to be misunderstood] We do need to take a careful look at who we are and who we appear to be when we deal with newcomers and people who feel like outsiders. [i.e., the problem is mostly the appearance of white narrow-mindedness]

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Summer weddings should be in waterslide parks

Thus far this summer I’ve endured two weddings.  One was at a golf course by the sea and the other in a fancy hotel in Harvard Square.  Both seem like cruel wastes of a day.  It is so painful to sit indoors and look out the window and think “we could be out there moving around, having fun, enjoying the warm weather.”  The feeling is especially acute if one has driven a long distance to attend the wedding.


Imagine instead a wedding held at a waterslide park.  The ceremony would be at the top of one of the big waterslides and people would leave the aisles by jumping into the tubes.  Instead of warmed-over surf and turf guests could wander around getting freshly grilled hot dogs from the usual theme park vendors.  Rather than having to buy expensive and ugly bridesmaid dresses the guests need only show up in a swimsuit.  Most important everyone would remember that they left the house and had a lot of fun.


Most weddings seem to cost at least $200 per guest and therefore the cost of renting out a smaller and/or older theme park should not be prohibitive.

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