You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for May, 2005.

A little tall for an egg

May 16th, 2005

I’m not sure how long this has been around, but it seems timely. Store Wars is the very best Star Wars spoof I’ve ever seen. I can’t decide what my favorite part is — chewbroccoli, the thai-fighters, or the egg storm troopers. Go watch it!

Rethinking

May 10th, 2005

Thanks to A (who pointed me to a free bus in my area) and B (who reminded me that I can get heavily subsidized bus tickets from my work), I’ve reworked my calculation of how much gas would have to cost to make me ride the bus.

It turns out that it is actually cheaper, right now, for my husband and I to take the bus to and from work. It costs us $1.92 in gas to drive the 23.2 mile round trip. It would cost us just $0.66 in bus fare.

There are other savings associated with taking the bus that I haven’t tried to estimate. Clearly if we put less mileage on the car, maintenance costs would decline. Also, on our drive home in the evening, we often decide to eat out on the way home — if we took the bus home, we couldn’t do that, and I think we’d be less likely to go out once we were at home.

The bus we would be taking to the metro station (where I currently drop my husband off every day) would take the exact same route, with no stops, that we drive. He would continue on metro, and I would take a second bus that’s pretty quick, but is a bit slower than driving from the metro station to my work. Also, using the car means we have to leave and arrive at home together everyday — this causes me problems when I have a meeting in the evening (which happens about 5 times a month). The bus would allow us to decouple our schedules so that I could get home a bit earlier on those days.

I figure that in order to make taking the bus worthwhile, we would have to take it at least 8-10 times per month (there are scheduling issues that would probably prevent us from taking it every day). Less than that and it would just be a hassle. It’s at 8-10 trips per month that we save enough in dollars and mileage to make the bus worth considering.

I’m not sold on this plan yet — I am American after all, and I like having the flexibility my car provides (although as I mentioned above, taking the bus might actually increase our flexibility). There would clearly be both financial and other advantages to taking the bus — I think we’re going to try it and see how it works.

Synergy

May 9th, 2005

I take the bus to work about once per quarter. Usually I commute with my husband, or if he is traveling and has the car, I catch a ride with a friend. But every now and then I take the bus. I whiled away the time on today’s ride calculating how high the price of gas would have to climb before I would choose to take the bus to work every day. I figured the price of gas would have to be about $4 per gallon before it would make economic sense for me to bus to work rather than drive (given that I already have the sunk cost of owning a car).

A little later, I read this:

Gas prices can only go up. Oil production is at or near peak capacity. The U.S. must compete for oil with China, the fastest-growing colossus in history. But the U.S. also must borrow $2 billion a day to remain solvent, nearly half of that from China and her neighbors, while they supply most of our manufacturing (”Benson’s Economic and Market Trends,” quoted in Asia Times Online)

Oh my

May 9th, 2005

It has been brought to my attention that someone did tell me that JenB was blogging again, and that I didn’t pay attention.

Whoops.

I take back all my glares. In fact, to make up for all the wrongful glaring, I’ll sit here for a while and glare at myself.

Machine love

May 9th, 2005

I’m in love with my lawnmower. I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s true. After we closed on our townhouse we rushed over to put our key in our lock and stand in our livingroom and look in our backyard — where we found our lawnmower.

It’s a manual reel mower, more commonly known as a “push” mower, made by Great States. It’s not in the best of shape — the foam insulation wrapped around the bar you push on has cracks in it, some of the screws on the reel part are a bit rusty, and the blade could use a sharpening. But it works.

I oiled all the moving parts and lowered the blade to its lowest setting. The first time I mowed the lawn was very difficult because I let it get too long — it was really hard to push the mower through the tall grass. We’ve done it once every week since then though, and it’s a snap. It takes about 30 minutes to do both the front and the back, and the only hard part is walking the mower around the townhouses (ours is not an end unit) to the front, and then back to put it away.

I don’t have to worry about it starting, there’s no gas to buy or oil to change, it doesn’t smell, and I don’t have to worry about cutting my foot off. It’s quiet, efficient and easy to use. It makes a neat little whirring sound when I push it. It’s a simple piece of technology that preforms its job perfectly. And it was free.

I really can’t say enough about how much I like my lawnmower.

What?

May 6th, 2005

Why didn’t anyone tell me that JenB was writing at Divinest Sense again? And since January?! I feel like a jerk for not keeping up. And I’m glaring at all you people that didn’t tell me.

Happy Birthday Karl!

May 5th, 2005

Today is the 187th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. No one had a greater impact on the world politics of the 19th and 20th centuries than Marx. Marx’s name brings up all sorts of crazy images — of breadlines, shortages, dictatorships, socialized medicine, jungle warfare, motorcycle trips, revolutions, and so on. But few of these images have any real connection to Marx’s writings or political beliefs. His writings are perhaps more relevant today than they ever have been. His birthday might be a good day to read (or re-read) some of his writings. Take off your blinders — do not assume that you already know what communism, socialism, and similar political philosopies are. Read.

The Communist Mannifesto, by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. This is my favorite paragraph in this short work:

The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes, directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, by Karl Marx. It is helpful to have some rudimentary understanding of the French Second Republic before reading The Eighteenth Brumaire. It is difficult, but rewarding reading. This is Marx’s most thoughtful, profound and scientific work. Here are a few tidbits:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.

All revolutions perfected this machine [the French state] instead of smashing it. The parties that contended in turn for domination regarded the possession of this huge state edifice as the principal spoils of the victor.

Why not?

May 4th, 2005

Last month, a 16-year-old boy went on a killing spree on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. The national media covered the immeadiate story about Jeff Weise and the lives he ended. The Minneapolis City Pages has an article about The Real Red Lake that delves into BOTH culture and economics of the Red Lake Indian Reservation AND the way the national media covered the story. It’s long, but it’s worth reading the whole thing. A few snipets:

Weise did not merely kill himself or a single peer. That would not have been exceptional at Red Lake; most likely it would not have even made the news outside of northern Minnesota. But Weise engaged in a particular type of violence that has long been the near-exclusive province of suburban and rural white boys. What was the public to conclude? The suggestion of some stories–never directly stated–was that the horror visited on Red Lake was a consequence of the reservation’s social ills. Yet such a conclusion contradicted the competing and dominant strain of the coverage–the contention that school shootings are bolts of lightning. You can’t predict when or where they will strike. For affected communities, such a view offers a measure of comfort. It doesn’t assign blame, not on schools, parents, political leaders or, most significantly, not on the wounded community itself.

The article examines the history of Red Lake, the bias of the media, and the tragedy of the shootings in detail. It’s a sadly fascinating portrait of a society at a nexus of social disorganization, political ignorance, and poverty.

One tidbit the article mentions only briefly is that some of these problems the reservation is seeing have been caused by welfare reform — as tribe members living off the reservation reach the time limits imposed by the 1996 welfare reform law, they are moving back to the reservation in search of family support, jobs and a place to live. This tiny detail suggests the heart of the problem at Red Lake and similar places — the US is shuffling off responsibility for our weakest citizens onto other jurisdictions, such as states, counties, cities and apparently reservations. Simply moving problems from one administrative unit to another does not make them go away — it just hides them for politically expedient ends.

The story of Red Lake is important for its own sake — we owe more to Native Americans than they are currently getting. But it also has a lot to tell us about our own communities.