Inside Tom's Head - March 2021

19 Apr 2021

I don’t really have a whole lot to say about March, as it’s all getting a bit blurry. I spent a lot of it focused on my new bike (more about that in a future post), and the rest has faded on account of me writing this halfway through April. This is the second update in a row that has been a bit late. I’m optimistic that things will improve, though, since I just set up linux (Gallium) on the old chromebook that I keep at work, which should make it easier for me to stay up to date on stuff.

Without further ado, here’s the rest of my monthly update:

New stuff elsewhere

  • I don’t follow the WNBA, but when I see it in the news, it’s usually because they are doing something progressive, in this case because a player is now a part owner of a team after its racist owner was ousted.
  • Charlie stross on how we are currently building our own demon haunted world.
  • UBI is definitely worth a shot. I’m excited to see how it does with a large-scale implementation, but for now stuff like what they are doing in Stockton is very promising.
  • Why crime isn’t the question and Police aren’t the answer. A bit at the end, “if police were not willing to enforce wealth hoarding, people who own things could not maintain their claims to land”, doesn’t sit quite right with me. Although a justice system is definitely necessary for wealth inequality like we see in the US, I’m not sure how to disentangle that from basic property rights. Ultimately, although I believe that regulation can curb the worst excesses, inequality is a fundamental feature of capitalism, so we’re probably stuck with it until we move on to the next system (which I hope is better).
  • An argument to end the gas tax based on it being racist and regressive. I’m conflicted about this one. I am opposed to regressive taxation in general, but on the other hand I want a planet to live on, so . . . However, if we could remove it and replace it with a carbon tax that wasn’t used to fund highway construction, I think that I could get behind it. On the other hand, removing the revenue from gas tax might be a good way to reduce highway spending. I guess where I’m going to land on this one is that the gas tax should either be increased or removed, but that the current setup is bad.
  • I had no idea that bumblebees had been commercialized, or that they were causing problems for agriculture
  • I’m glad to see that the younger generation are just as excited about high-speed rail as I am.
  • We should cover California’s aqueducts with solar panels. I have to wonder if we couldn’t do something similar in the PNW, where warming streams are causing problems for salmon. It would be awesome if we could cool them down while also providing green electricity.
  • If you talk to any urban planning wonk for long enough, they will eventually get to the topic of parking requirements for new developments. I haven’t really heard a good argument against getting rid of minimum parking requirements, but it’s exciting to see what happens when a city actually implements it. The effects are more nuanced than some would guess, but promising nonetheless.
  • Yes, Other Countries Do Housing Better, Case 1: Japan. There’s some interesting stuff in here.pparently housing prices have remained stable since 2000, which sounds amazing in comparison to the constantly rising prices in many places of the US. The article doesn’t really address how a centralized zoning regime could be problematic, but then again I have a hard time picturing it being worse than the overt racism that has permeated US zoning policy. Another issue is that, as the article points out, houses are demolished much sooner in Japan than in the US. I have to wonder about the ecological cost of rebuilding, but on the other hand if you are rebuilding to efficient modern standards, the energy savings might well be more than enough to offset the rebuilding costs.
  • I like a lot of things about Japan, but it is important to remember that they (like any culture) have issues too, in this case, their response to a nuclear reactor meltdown.
  • Now I feel old. We love our dining room table, but apparently that isn’t cool any more.
  • Vice has a really interesting writeup of how food delivery has enabled virtual brands. One thing that I’m surprised they didn’t cover is health inspections. If a restaurant gets a bad score on their health inspection and I choose not to eat there, I don’t want to order from a “different restaurant” only to have the food coming out of that same gross kitchen.
  • Apparently, there are at least $600,000,000,000 in unpaid environmental damages from fossil fuels annually. This is one of my main issues with allowing externalities of this sort. If we want individuals to make better decisions, we should give them better information. In the case of fossil fuels, including cleanup and mitigation in the price would be a good start.
  • Although it is tempting to think that some big project will solve our problems, this is often not the case, since large projects have a tendency to get delayed, scaled down, or aborted mid-process. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t push for them (we’ll never get high-speed rail incrementally, for example), but there is so much that we can do with tiny changes, small improvements, and lots of little bets.


  • March was a slow month for reading, but I did finally get to Gideon the Ninth, which was a breath of fresh air. I had some issues with it (I’m generally against empire), but had so much fun that I barely noticed the things I didn’t like. As of this writing, I’m reading the sequel, and will probably write more about it next month.
  • We finally got around to watching A Cat in Paris, which had a couple of blemishes but which was really fun overall. We watched it on Kanopy, which is the video streaming service that our local library uses (and yours might, too).