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Monday Notebook

The Tragedy of the (Parking) Commons: Nearly everyone I know drives. That means everyone I know parks. I’ll only speak for my own experience, though: The most detestable part of driving is getting stuck in traffic; the second worst, which is almost the same as the first, is parking in a busy commercial district. I love seeing drivers circling blocks or parking lots looking for a choice space: I call that “the great lazy American pastime”; though often enough, even in a place as self-consciously environmentally correct as Berkeley, any space is a choice space.

What’s the cumulative effect of our need to park right now, right next to wherever impulse or necessity have driven us? A piece in Salon this morning, “We paved paradise,” reviews the impacts and possible solutions. One tidbit:

“… [T]here are few frustrations like driving around looking for a parking space, which has its own environmental impacts. [A researcher] studied a 15-block district in Los Angeles and found that drivers spent an average of 3.3 minutes looking for parking, driving about half a mile each. Over the course of a year, Shoup calculated the cruising in that small area would amount to 950,000 excess miles traveled, equal to 38 trips around the earth, wasting about 47,000 gallons of gas, and producing 730 tons of carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming.”

Massive Final Half-Off Double-Points Blow-Out Sale of the Century: I bought something from Performance Bicycle Stores (performancebike.com) at some point, and boy, they sure won’t let me forget it. Here’s how one of my email in-boxes looks this morning:

Performance100107

That’s 11 sale emails in eight days. Another word for it is spam, and you wonder whether the deals they’re offering outweigh the irritation engendered by the swarm of offers. I rarely open the emails; the main reason is that I’d like to support my local bike shops instead of spending my money with a chain. Performance did open a shop here in the last couple years, though, and I’ll admit I go in there to buy the bike drink mix that I use; the prices charged elsewhere are simply too much of a gouge.

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Filed under Berkeley, Current Affairs

When It Was Fun to Fly

Salon’s weekly “Ask the Pilot” column recalls the days when lots of people actually looked forward to getting on an airliner (me–I still like flying, even though the whole experience around it has become creepy and unpleasant):

“… [T]ry to imagine the following: You wake up early for the 45-minute subway ride to Logan International Airport in Boston. The shuttle bus brings you to Terminal C, where you stand in line to be frisked and X-rayed before reaching an overcrowded departure lounge. Half an hour later your flight pushes back, languishes in a taxiway queue for several minutes, then finally takes off. So far this is nothing exceptional, but here’s the twist: The plane’s scheduled destination is, well, Boston. The jet never climbs to more than 10,000 feet. It makes a lazy circuit above the North Shore coastline, swings eastward toward Cape Cod, then circles west in the direction of Logan. Fifteen minutes later, the landing gear clunks into place, and just like that you’re back where you started. You disembark, with smiles and handshakes all around, head for the shuttle bus, and take the subway home again.”

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Filed under History, Travel

’24’: Bumblefest Nears Climax

MK emails a link to a very serious piece of prose on Salon that tries to answer the not-very-tough question: “How real is ’24’?” It’s an over-serious piece that seemingly misses what’s in plain sight: That ’24’ is a prime-time soap with high-explosive props and a main character with major anger-management issues. The writer refers to the show’s Counterterrorism Unit (CTU) and its “ridiculously capable agents.” No! Most of the agents, walk-on types who never get names, are on screen only to provide targets for terrorists. Faithful viewers know they can count on CTU (and everyone else in the U.S. government) to make the wrong choice every time: “Lunch break or try to figure out where that nuclear warhead is?” “Lunch — I could use a bellyful of Wendy’s chili right about now.”

The lone exception is the anger-management-problem guy, Jack Bauer, who has a faultless ability to overcome the bumblers and see through all terrorist machinations. He even died and came back to life one season in his quest to see the bad guys get theirs. But what can one man do against all those evil-doers? Plenty. But Jack’s personal life is much more difficult. As his Cubs-fan sidekick, Tony Almeida, said last night of Jack and his current love interest: “Funny … Yesterday Jack and Audrey were talking about their future together. Now he’s responsible for her husband’s death, and he might have to torture her brother.”

This season’s ending in the next week or two. Last night’s episode ended with a nuclear-armed cruise missile headed for some big city from Iowa. It’s been in the air for more than an hour, so I think Chicago is safe. The rest of the country — watch out.

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Filed under Television