Inside Tom's Head - March 2022

17 Apr 2022

How’d it go?

If you’re wondering why this is so late, I have two words for you: Triangle Strategy. It takes a lot of cues from my favorite game of all time, Final Fantasy Tactics. I’m not sure yet how I feel about it in comparison, but it has definitely been eating up a lot of my free time, which has led me to put off getting this post written up.

March was a good month, overall. I took a day off to ride my bike around the logging roads north of Montesano, and while I can’t recommend that route (it was advertised as 100% gravel but had a couple miles on a high volume rural road without a shoulder which isn’t fun in the best of circumstances) I did have a good time. I’m going to be riding the Cascadia Super Gravel 30 mile course in a little over a week here, which I’m both excited about and dreading a little since it looks to be a more challenging ride than the one linked above which was already really challenging for me. However, after my ride last month I discovered that my rear hub was having some serious issues and it appears that servicing it resulted in a 5-20% efficiency gain. Anyway, I’m not approaching it competitively, so I’ll plan on starting as early as possible and taking my time. Anyway, since I’m now talking about the future, now is probably a good time to get to the links. So without further ado:

  • I’m feeling a bit torn on gas prices. On the one hand, lots of working class people are stuck living in places that are completely car dependent, with no viable alternative (to far to walk, too dangerous to bike, non-existent or insufficient public transit). On the other hand, transportation is the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions here in Washington state. I guess the sad thing is that I doubt many people are looking at the current situation and thinking, “Gee, dependence on fossil fuels sure does make us vulnerable, what can we do to make things better the next time gas prices spike?” Even something as simple as relaxing the zoning codes so that corner groceries are legal and people can meet some of their needs without a car would be a boon.
  • Your Local Epidemiologist had a good write-up on the subject of risk, which humans are notoriously bad at. As with everything on that newsletter, it’s worth a read. On the subject, it reminded me of the post about “microcovids” on Interconnected as a way of accounting for risk.
  • Not quite sure how I managed to make it so deep into the urban planning rabbit hole without hearing about land tax, but it’s a fascinating idea that would probably be a net positive.
  • Apparently, if we were willing to sacrifice some profit, we could increase lumber yields from working forests by extending the rotation time from ~40 to ~80 years. This seems to me to be one of those policies that could be a win for both industry and the planet, and would probably be a good target for subsidies.
  • I really like Erik Twice’s take on strategy in games, namely that games are more fun when people are playing well but less fun when people are playing only to win. His most recent article on the topic is worth a read.
  • Paradoxically, telecommuting can actually increase mileage. I’m not going to argue too much about the underlying logic (though it makes some assumptions about people’s behavior that I’m not convinced of), but it is an example of how in need of fixing the suburban development pattern is. If someone needs to drive to get to work, I get it, but once you remove that, if you find that you have built a place where you need to drive to fulfill all of your other needs, that’s a problem. Of course, geometry hates this idea, since suburbs are so low density that they often struggle to meet the minimum requirements for even a small grocery (I have seen 1,000 households within 1/2 mile listed as a rule of thumb). Then again, with an uptake in e-bikes, maybe you could get away with a bigger radius. Realistically, the way to do this will probably be to relax zoning regulations in such a way that you can have microbusinesses that don’t require the same level of density, for example someone growing microgreens in a shed in their yard and selling them from a cooler in their driveway (we have something similar to this on our street and it’s really cool).
  • Looking at universal voting as a way to improve democracy in the United States. I agree with some things in this article, but as we have seen with masks, mandates and laws have their limits, if you want to change behavior you need to convince people. I think that things like Ranked Choice Voting (leading to campaigns that are less toxic), universal vote by mail (making it easier), and outreach would have a more positive impact on our political system.
  • I had heard about murder rates going up in the last couple of years. What I hadn’t heard is that there is a stronger correlation between murder and red states than between murder and blue cities. I’m not arguing for a causal relationship here, but it would be nice if media would accurately describe the situation.
  • Another Your Local Epidemiologist post (they’re really good, okay?), this time about how we should really be investing in better ventilation and filtration for buildings. Heck, this was true even before the pandemic given that it looks like better filtration improves for schools improves test scores and, you know, wildfire smoke.
  • An interesting idea about using inexpensive laser pointers to blind Russian pilots in the Ukraine. No idea of how feasible or practical this is (probably less effective than Cringely suggests), but low-tech resistance to an occupying force is worth thinking about.
  • The issue with meat is mostly due to its scale (if the average American ate meat once a week, our agricultural system would look very different), so I’m always glad to see stuff like regenerative grazing.


  • Inside Man, by KJ Parker, was okay, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as Prosper’s Demon.
  • I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but it was a blast. I’m kind of sad that they didn’t continue with the all-woman crew from the last movie, and it sounds like future installments might center around the original crew, which makes me a bit sad because this one was so fun.
  • Isolate, by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. was my favorite book of his yet, which is saying something. It definitely has the same dry, economics and politics heavy style that isn’t going to work for everyone, but I’m loving the setting and seeing realistic-feeling labor relations in a gaslamp fantasy setting.
  • We watched No Time To Die and . . . meh. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m not the target audience for the bloodless violence of the James Bond franchise, or if doomsday plots just don’t seem very relevant while in the middle of a pandemic and staring down the barrel of climate change. If you want a villain for Bond to fight, what about the oligarchs that are dead set on maintaining the status quo, even if the cost is that it renders our planet uninhabitable? Of course, those are the people that Bond effectively works for, so I could see that as being a tough sell.
  • The Harder They Fall, by contrast was visceral and fun. It was a film about consequences, and it never pretended that committing violence was something that you could just walk away from and forget. It also had a sense of humor (“It was a white town.”), and I’m glad to see a wild west not wholly overrun by white guys. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t hew a little closer to the history it was based on, but I don’t begrudge the filmmakers the choices they made.
  • I’m a sucker for Ryan Reynolds films and time travel stories, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I loved The Adam Project.
  • I didn’t love Turning Red and think that it had some flaws, but I really appreciate what they were trying to do and enjoyed it. The people getting worked up over the idea that, checks notes, awkward teenage girls exist, are being ridiculous if you ask me.
  • I finally finished Triumph of Injustice, and it was well worth the read. It isn’t a stretch to say that it changed the way I look at taxation, and I think that the authors’ goal of discussing such a fraught subject in a rational way was excellent. I’m looking forward to digging in to the tax policy modeling tool that they built.
  • My 2022 playlist on Apple Music.
  • My board game plays for 2022.