Weekend Assorted Links

1. The future of bicycle racing is a group road/gravel ride with music at the start?

2. Minneapolis just banned drive throughs. Last sentence is perplexing.

3. A tiny house in every backyard.

4A. Trump’s America. The shining city on a hill is an ugly pile of ruble.

4B. U.S. Significantly Weakens Endangered Species Act.

“. . . the revised rules appear very likely to clear the way for new mining, oil and gas drilling, and development in areas where protected species live.”

5. Are You Rich? Where Does Your Net Worth Rank in America?

“Why are the wealthy so much wealthier than everyone else? One reason is that the rich tend to store their wealth in businesses and stocks, and those in the middle class store theirs in housing. The top 10 percent of the wealthiest households own nearly 90 percent of the stocks in America, while those in the bottom 90 percent own a little more than half of all the real estate in America.

So you can think of wealth inequality as a race between the stock market and the housing market. . . . In periods when home prices are rising, wealth inequality tends to shrink as the wealth in the middle class grows. But during periods when the stock market outperforms real estate, wealth inequality tends to increase.

Another reason is that income inequality feeds wealth inequality. . . . Even if the rich and the poor had the same proportion of stocks and bonds, and saved at the same rate, the rich would simply put away more money.”

6. Are you sure lap swimming is safer than open water swimming?

7. The long wait for season three of Netflix’s The Crown is almost over. The Crown’s production quality boggles the mind. Like watching one movie after another. So good, it’s turned this anti-monarchist into a huge fan. And we’re getting Olivia Colman to boot. Forget football this Thanksgiving.

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Friday Assorted Links

1. I had no clue that different types of tea are best prepared with slightly different water temperatures until reading this. Now life feels a lot more complicated.

2. Everything you wanted to know about ESPN’s finances but were afraid to ask.

3. Why some young adults leave home and others don’t.

4. Everyone’s wondering. Can Canadians get high on their own marijuana supply?

“You can’t force the plants to grow faster.”

5. Speaking of Canada, a few bees were found at an Ontario home.

“Everyone got stung at one point. They were not very happy. They followed us out to our trucks, and I guess they kind of waited.”

6. Reports of globalization’s demise are greatly exaggerated as evidenced by the All NBA Rookie Team.

7. Appears as if the Cle Elum, Washington school district reads the humble blog.

“The kids you see here flourish with hands-on learning.”

Which kids don’t?

8. I can’t even muster up the energy to register for our local sprint triathlon; meanwhile an older acquaintance of mine is competing in this new, kinda tough triathlon on July 15th.

 

The Problem with the Simple Living Movement

The high priests and priestesses of minimalism don’t know it, but they have a problem. They’re seriously disliked by the majority of people who are struggling to get by. Ordinary people deeply resent the “voluntary” nature of most high-profile minimalists who write about the joys of downsizing on their numerous blogs, or for the New York Times, or Sunset Magazine.

Take for example how Graham Hill starts his New York Times essay titled “Living With Less. A Lot Less.” 

I LIVE in a 420-square-foot studio. I sleep in a bed that folds down from the wall. I have six dress shirts. I have 10 shallow bowls that I use for salads and main dishes. When people come over for dinner, I pull out my extendable dining room table. I don’t have a single CD or DVD and I have 10 percent of the books I once did.

I have come a long way from the life I had in the late ’90s, when, flush with cash from an Internet start-up sale, I had a giant house crammed with stuff — electronics and cars and appliances and gadgets.

Somehow this stuff ended up running my life, or a lot of it; the things I consumed ended up consuming me. My circumstances are unusual (not everyone gets an Internet windfall before turning 30), but my relationship with material things isn’t.

Half way into Hill’s story, I started to guess at the vibe of the 329 comments already posted. As David Brooks can confirm, New York Times readers are an unhappy bunch. Hill probably wanted praise, but I’ve seen this car crash enough times to know how it transpires. A lot of readers tore into him. Like Michelle from Chicago:

There is a big difference between choosing minimalism and minimalism being a harsh aspect of daily life. At any moment, Mr. Hill could choose to buy more things. If one of his 6 dress shirts rips, he can simply buy a new one. It’s a far cry from a minimum wage worker who has this lifestyle by default, because there isn’t money to rent a larger apartment or money to replace a torn shirt.

The sad fact of the matter is the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” is so great the “have nots” are unable to give any credit to the “haves” for living below their considerable means. I believe Hill and others like him deserve credit for their thoughtful and principled simplicity, but it’s naive for him, for me, for anyone to expect those trying to live month-to-month to cheer well-to-do minimalists for critiquing conspicuous consumption.

I was mindful of this dynamic when commenting on a blog recently. I was responding to a post about the recent highs in the stock market. I wrote that many people are starting to invest in stocks which means it might be a good time to take some profits. And then consciously added, “for those fortunate enough to have them.” If I hadn’t added that phrase, my comment would’ve prompted other replies of the “who has profits these days” variety.

Where does this leave Hill, myself, and many other minimalists who recommend voluntary simplicity? Can it be done without offending? Probably not. Which makes me think maybe we should stop writing about it altogether. Maybe we should just live it and wait to see if anyone asks, “What gives? Why do you live the way you do? Why such a small apartment? Why so few possessions? Why don’t you ever check bags when flying?”

Someone now leave the obvious comment. Nevermind, I’ll do it myself. “What the hell Ron, why do you assume people can afford to fly?”