Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I'm getting some new neighbors, apparently. I'm very happy about it. I know, you wouldn't think I'd be happy about anything that involves being near people, and, being a suburbanite, I am morally obligated to fight against any use of other people's land, but there's a special situation here. You see, it's a cemetery that's moving in. Nice, quiet neighbors, apparently far enough into the woods that I won't even know that they're there. I probably won't even hear the lawnmowers, which is key, given that I need to sleep during the day. Ahh, lawnmowers. Do you know why so many people in the suburbs hire others to mow their lawns? It isn't because the job is physically difficult, hot, noisy, dirty, time-consuming, or a reliable source of vibration/ repetitive motion injury. No, the reason to hire others is more sinister. When a suburbanite is faced with the oblivion of the spinning blades, the temptation is nearly unbearable. As the machine chews up the grass, the grasshoppers, the frogs and snakes, and anyone else in its path, and as you follow it around in empty circles symbolizing the pointlessness of commuting and earning money for taxes and mortgage interest, you start to think, "why is being behind the lawnmower better than being in front?" But I digress.
So the cemetery is moving in. Cool. Interestingly, the way things are going, the deceased are going to have to be dropped into their graves by helicopters, because they're having a teensy weensy little bit of trouble placing a driveway. They bought a bunch of land including the lot next door, but apparently there was a puddle on it once, and there are mosquitos so the place is obviously a habitat for critically endangered species, so the town's Konservation Komission shut 'em down. The komission demanded that they switch their driveway to what they had planned for the service/construction road, which connected from a quiet suburban street. Well, the quiet suburban street-dwellers just about shat themselves when they caught wind of that plan, and wrote many an angry letter to the local newspaper about how those bastard cemetery people bait-and-switched them, and how having two funeral processions each month go down their street is an unbearable burden, and the usual crap about "property values" (yeah, I think having the bank that foreclosed half the houses on the block go bankrupt is the more serious threat to property values at the moment) blah blah blah.
So I went to a Konservation Komission meeting last week, because the next plan is to get an easement on my property to share the driveway that already goes through my land to the neighbor's house in back, in exchange for paving their driveway and mine, and putting up and maintaining a nice fence, and some landscaping and whatnot. I went to the meeting to give the thumbs-up, but it turns out my input was not requested. Instead, the KonKom listened to the proposal, and a couple of others that involved various ways to minimize wetland impact while still not generating an angry mob of pitchfork-and-torch wielding suburbanites, and the komittee's responses were 1) We don't care about the townies, use the plan we gave you, after all it's not us that everyone's angry at. 2) Why don't you buy the land from the guy who refused to sell you land before? Why don't you ask him to give you the land instead of selling it to you? 3) Why can't you go through the other cemetery, which already refused your access and started this whole mess in the first place? Yeah, I don't think the KonKom is listening. Actually, by watching them during the meeting, I know they aren't listening. Even when representatives of the angry mob openly threatened a legal battle with the town, they weren't listening. At least the mob figured out who the real enemy was.
So as I sat there watching this heated battle over the entrance to a cemetery, it occurred to me, "How can I, or any of us, make such a fuss about the entrance to a cemetery? This is the suburbs, my whole life is the entrance to a cemetery!" Then the meeting suddenly ended so everyone could get home in time for Dancing with the Fake Stars, and I went to work, in a hospital, at night. Talk about the entrance to a cemetery.
So you can see why I would be happy to have neighbors who keep their NIMBY to themselves. Of course, it means I will be first to die when the zombie apocalypse comes, but you have to take the bad with the good.
Your Humblest and Most Devoted Servant,
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Parking problem solved, Part Two
Well, continuing along the general theme of making myself the king of everything by virtue of my own write-in campaign for all unopposed offices listed during the last election, and realizing that the Bleeding Artery Tunnel Project will have diminishing returns over time, I have designed a followup program, which I would gladly administer for a well-deserved $2 million per year. Here's the idea:
I was inspired by the "quarters only" parking meters that I've seen around. Now, I have not gone on a rant about the de-currencization of the penny on this blog, but maybe someday I will waste some of your valuable time with my theory that pennies are a deliberate attempt by the mining industry to keep the marked value of copper high by artificially inflating demand, taking tons of the stuff for use in what is basically single-use money which counts as cash when someone gives it to you, but which no one else seems obligated to accept. RRGH! Never mind, I just did it. Anyway, it started with toll booths, vending machines, and parking meters going "no pennies" on us, and has become "quarters only," with the excuse that the machines get full sometimes. OK, then, we are now to blame for the fact that parking meters are a lousy revenue generator, and can't come anywhere near paying for the union city employee salary of the person who has to empty all those meters (and deal with the weather and the abuse and so on). I am inclined to believe that a parking ticket is a much better revenue generator. Certainly, a $15 ticket is a better deal for the city than $4 in coins for the same 2 hours of parking.
So, naturally, more restrictive coin acceptance makes sense, and parking tickets make sense, and your ultimate goal is to make parking in Cambridge and Boston illegal anywhere at any time for any purpose (I mentioned that that was the ultimate goal, right? No? It is.), so there is basically one strategy, with two methods of carrying it out. I would use one, then the other, to string people along as far as possible. First, change all the meters to accept "75-cent pieces only." I am assuming that there is no such coin, but the US mint has surprised me with a modern half dollar and a few different modern dollar coins (not a quarter, be careful!). The confusion would be priceless. Parking ticket revenue would soar, especially after I jacked up the "expired meter" rate (obviously). Well, eventually the uproar would die, even though you would never see a news story about it because the news folks couldn't park the satellite van to have the reporter stand pointlessly in front of something and/or pester the passersby. The next thing to do, then, would be to switch from US currency to tokens. Now, initially this seems like a step backwards, because the program will be destroyed by the costs associated with generating and selling the tokens, but my response is this: screw the tokens. I'm not going to have any. The meters will say "tokens only," and my website will have a link to a page about where and how to buy tokens, but that page will be inactive ("have you spelled the link correctly? have you hit refresh? maybe you should try again later, or have the windows paper-clip guy "help" you...). No tokens, no costs, simple. On the other hand, for maximum confusion, I could have a limited edition of, say, 250 tokens made. If the ceramic content is high enough, they would break over time. I could sell them on Ebay at a tremendous markup. Hey, it may not be world domination, but it's domination of all the streets for at least 8 feet out from the curb, and that's not bad at all.
After this, I just have to find a way to eliminate parking on private property, like store parking lots and people's driveways...
PS: I know that the debate over how much of our country should be devoted to parking, how it effects our driving habits and costs, and how people like me are ruining the world, is a serious debate. I don't care, don't bother commenting.
Your Humblest and Most Devoted Servant,
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Parking problem solved, Part One
There is no parking in Cambridge, MA, let alone Boston. I am considered a lucky guy, to have a paid parking spot at my workplace on the far distant outskirts of Cambridge. There were no cars when Boston and Cambridge were invented, so neither city is quite sure what to do with them. If you showed up with a few hundred barrels of rum, or a ship full of shoe buckles, salt cod, corsets, and latin Bibles, all would be well (though the Bibles would have to bear a Stamp Act stamp, or they'd tell on you to King George IV so fast your head would spin). So yeah, driving is an adventure. As the local legend goes, the roads around here weren't so much planned as just thrown on down wherever the cows had stomped a path. F.L. Olmstead designed all the famous parks, and hopefully got paid well for all his fine work, but the roads? Mooooo. Yankee #$% ingenuity at its fertilizery fintest. Can you smell it? If you've ever driven in Boston or Cambridge, you'll agree.
So how do you solve a parking problem? Think about it rationally. A parking problem is a mismatch of spaces and cars. "Too few spaces" has always been the cry, but perhaps... perhaps... what if, instead of trying to cram a few more spaces into the city, or introducing the Kar Krusher (TM) Parking Multiplier:
What if we cut down on the number of cars? Now, I'm not some bleeding-heart, Tax'n'spend, Godless Punk Liberal (living in Massachusetts though I do) who thinks people should be coerced into using *Gasp* public transportation, or unicycles, or teleportation, or whatever the $%^ it is that they're always blabbering on about, because that has been failing to work since approximately 1965, and it's time to put that argument to rest. No, my idea was way better. I say "was" because it is, alas, too late. My idea, the most inspired urban traffic and parking solution since the hitching post, was:
The Bleeding Artery Tunnel Project
You see, I came to the Boston Metropolitan Area far into the Big Dig, and I realized right off that it was a corpse waiting to bloat. The Central Artery Tunnel project was designed with a certain volume of traffic in mind, and, of course, that volume was considered a quaint little throwback by the time the first shovelful of dirt was symbolically turned by a bunch of bigwigs with golden fake shovels. What was needed was a relatively small alteration to the plan. You see, the central artery is just a fancy name for a big underground highway. Nice, in theory, with green space above it and so on, but no way to increase capacity, and if there's an accident in there, you're hosed. Interestingly enough, though, the giant highway passes within a few hundred yards of Boston Harbor. Hmmm, you say. As did I. So here's the idea:
Just a quick 90 degree turn to the East, and so many problems solved. If you kept it really quiet, and almost nobody knew that the new highway actually led out to a Wile E. Coyote-style drop into the harbor, then you could have a big opening-day spectacle of tens of thousands of drivers sacrificing themselves and their cars to the Mighty Atlantic, Poseidon be praised, and after that.... More parking spaces, less traffic, less demand for apartments and therefore lower rents... paradise. Even if everyone figured it out by the next day and the Bleeding Artery Tunnel never ditched anyone but hopeless tourists again, the purpose would be served. Of couse I, with my legendarily bad sense of direction, would be dead a week later, knowing full well how the Bleeding Artery Tunnel Project was designed, but thinking that I was on the Alewife Brook Parkway or something. Still, to have Saved Boston, it would all be worth it.
Next time, a more political solution.
Your Humblest and most Devoted Servant,
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Unlike most blogwallahs, I actually went out to vote today (don't worry, I had my laptop securely stuffed into my underpants, I would never be without it). While I was there, in my exciting, powder-keg suburban precinct, I conducted my own Exit Poll, all the while ducking the Long Arm of the Law, who were all uptight about minimum distances from the polling place, and wearing pants in public, and the use of an 8-inch chef's knife (Go Henkels! Woo hoo!) as a truth-inducing device, and a bunch of other crap they probably made up on the spot. In any case, here are some results:
Among people wearing aluminum foil deflector beanies, "Leave me alone" narrowly beat out "Get the F--- away from me" by a margin of 43% to 41%.
Among nursing home residents brought in to give the folks at the mall a break, Lyndon Johnson led a wide field with 21%, with "That damned machine wouldn't give me a soda," "Vote for Miss Rhinegold," and "WHAT?" all making good showings.
Among those who feel passionately in favor of Question 2, nearly 2% actually left their homes, found their polling places, and managed to remember why they had gone there long enough to vote yes on... can I have some of your cheetos? Hey, look, the leaves are falling. Each leaf is an entirely separate entity from every other, even though we think of them as one...
Mushroom Pizza beat cheeze pizza 3 slices to one.
I, myself, received several write-in votes for state offices, in races in which commie types thought they were running unopposed. Viva la revolucion!
Have a happy election day. Now go watch a DVD and just find out who won in the morning, without all the nonsense.
Your Humblest and Most Devoted Servant,