Moontower #29


What do windmills and highrises have in common? I’ll wait.

True, they are both tall. What else?

What are things I don’t want in my backyard, Alex.

Ding, ding. That’s the money answer.

Nimby. The proof that you were called on a bluff.

You want clean energy and you want lower rents. But the moment you become a homeowner you change teams. You are now balls long a housing crisis. Your outward embrace of high-density housing is like a private unicorn stock. It sounds great but nobody really knows what your untested sentiment is worth. The moment Avalon buys a plot of land in your town, your virtuous stance has to go public and it gets immediately “marked-to-market”. If you don’t want that building in your lovely, bucolic town, then you can write that stance down to zero. Abstract ideals, that was a cute ride you took us on but its time to step aside. Concrete self-interest is gonna drive, we’ve got places to be.

That was a morality warmup.

Going from renter to homeowner is one thing. Now try urban DINKs to parents. The Atlantic’s George Packer is an esteemed journalist, part of the white privileged class. His children were guinea pigs in a prisoner’s dilemma where democracy and meritocracy are on trial. But he at least had a choice. For those less fortunate, there is no shelter from the prevailing winds of current school politics. His story will make you wonder what you will do when the culture war comes to your kids. When your egalitarian values go on trial.

The article is controversial if not poignant. You should read the whole thing because the dilemmas live in the details. At his family’s supper table. At the school board meetings. In the “N-word” passes, and the bathroom crisis. The details are what our kids have to deal with day-to-day while their parents battle over idealogy.

The article is here.

I said you should read the whole thing. Some of you won’t. So I refactored it’s 10,000 words into 1,000 words. You can find that version here.

I ain’t your mama, but just know that I can tell which one you read 🙂

Climb Higher

The culture war stuff is complicated. You’d need to be willfully ignorant to be wholly unconflicted. As I wrestle with it, I try to salvage something small that is purely positive even if it is not comprehensive. Sort of a let’s not make coherent an enemy of the good idea. Just a takeaway that can be used as a north star in day to day life.

As a broad rule, many macro things break down when you get to the micro. Crowds don’t act like individuals. If we all eat fish than nobody will have fish. So in the aggregate, we may accept that talent is evenly distributed while the opportunity is not. But trying to democratize that opportunity in the macro, is not an excuse to tell an individual child to “check his privilege” in the micro.To highlight this difference consider this example from HotelConcierge:

Intentionally misgendering someone is an aggressive act. This is true even if transgenderism is attention whoring or special snowflakism or whatever—misgendering violates the Zeroth Commandment of “Thou shalt call others by their chosen name.” You can argue that misgendering is justified, that it’s impractical to cater to every pronoun, that you shouldn’t encourage a society-wide “mental illness”—we can duke that out elsewhere—but don’t pretend it isn’t an act of aggression.

Contrast with [outrage over] posting offensive memes in a private group chat. [That] is not an act of aggression. It may suggest poor character, it certainly suggests weak judgment…, but don’t pretend the dichotomy is between victim and victimizer when there was no victim.

Discussions of political correctness go nowhere because one team is hurt by the first example and retaliates with the second, the other is hurt by the second and retaliates with the first.

When you tell that child to “check your privilige” you are calling that child by their parent’s name, not their own. You are violating the Zeroth Commandment. What about telling the parent to check their privilege? If you trace that logic up it starts to feel like you are peeling a hundred nested bananas. There might be some flesh somewhere in there but I’m not sure the fruit justifies what it took to get there.

I don’t know how to reconcile many of the tradeoffs we face, but I try to do at least one thing faithfully — adhere to the Zeroth Commandment. Every individual gets a little barrier of their own making. They can’t extend it to others. They can’t force everyone to honor it. But they can ask. And I can try. And in the order of operations, it’s called Zeroth for a reason.

Last Call

  • If you know what somebody is going to say, do you interrupt them? Do you wait for them to finish? This model exposes how people communicate and the frustrations that silently occur when you conversate with a different style communicator. It doesn’t discuss this in the article but I suddenly realized how when one style talks with another style and they are different genders how we can end up with ‘mansplaining’. Lightbulb article for me. Check it out.
  • In the future, you might see NBA free throws worth 2 or 3 points! Read what the G-League is doing here.
  • Kialo is a cool site for exploring many debates in the public discourse. Should everyone be vegan? DC vs Marvel? The debate about NFL players kneeling? Imagine a battle in which every point and counterpoint needs to be supported down to the sub-arguments. It’s like comments sections went to grad school.
  • Are male pop singers singing at higher pitches these days? You’ll need audio to follow along.

From my actual life 

This has been an awful jetlag week. I’m definitely not a road warrior, major props to all of you who travel a ton for work. I barely slept this week, but I think I fixed the problem Friday nite. I drank about 400mL of sake after dinner and fired up the recently released Gears of War 5 on Xbox One. It’s a gory shooter that we play cooperatively. Definitely not one to play in front of kids. A few college friends and I have played every release of Gears of War online together over more than a decade. Stefan also polished a bottle of sake while we were in the trenches too. I appreciate the camraderie on that. I don’t play shooters in which you kill other humans (as opposed to monsters or aliens). I have never had a problem playing games like Halo or GOW, but Call of Duty stressed me out to the point where I would get headaches playing. I think it was the realism.

If you are in the Bay Area or NYC and want to get into sake, you are in luck. The 2 best sake shops, according to a sake guide in Kyoto, are in Manhattan (Sakaya) and SF (True Sake) respectively.

If you are interested in traveling to Kyoto, here’s my recap.

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