Revenge of the Suburbs

From Ian Bogost at The Atlantic:

But after the anxious spring of 2020, these defects seem like new luxuries. There was always comfort to be found in a big house on a plot of land that’s your own. The relief is even more soothing with a pandemic bearing down on you. And as the novel coronavirus graduates from acute terror to long-term malaise, urbanites are trapped in small apartments with little or no outdoor space, reliant on mass transit that now seems less like a public service and more like a rolling petri dish.
The pandemic will improve suburban life, perhaps in lasting ways. Take the automobile commute: The exodus from the office has dramatically decreased traffic and pollution, a trend that will continue in some form if even a fraction of the people who abandoned their commutes continue to work from home. Dunham-Jones, who is also my colleague in Georgia Tech’s college of design, thinks that even a modest rise in telecommuting could also increase the appeal of local walking and bike trips. Families have two cars, but nowhere to go. They are rediscovering the pleasures of pedestrianism.
[…]
Multigenerational households represent a modest increase in density, and they can make quarantine more tolerable on top of it. The summer is upon us, but camps are largely closed and ordinary family activities have been substantially disrupted. The spring lockdowns also proved that working from home while facilitating children’s remote schoolwork is extremely challenging. Intergenerational households offer more hands and eyes to watch the kids or manage mealtimes made incompatible by overlapping schedules. Schools have always been a huge driver of residential real-estate sales, and even a modest increase in online learning could shock the market. Economic pressure may encourage consolidation of some families into bigger but more populous single-family homes, while decoupling home values from school districts even somewhat could make them more affordable.

Living in the suburbs is a mixed bag as it’s always been – you trade things like culture, collectivism, walkability and energy efficiency for a longer commute, more space (but more isolation) and (often) better schools. However, I’m hopeful that this pandemic has shown us there’s possibility to find a middle ground now that more folks are working from their homes and helping educate from the comfort of our house. If we’re lucky, residents in suburban areas will look to invest more in their local communities and build them into places that might make those longer commutes less necessary. If we can move to a world where remote work is accessible for more folks, suburban and exurban communities can be more sustainable.

I try to remind myself daily how lucky we are to have a setup like we do – we have an office that I can work remotely out of, (mostly) uninterrupted during the day. Our kids can complete their schoolwork in the basement. We have a fenced in back yard that the kids can play in as well. So generally speaking the quarantine has been “easier” for our family than the average apartment dweller.

Welcome to the 21st Century

From Tim O’Reilly:

Our failure to make deep, systemic changes after the financial collapse of 2009, and our choice instead to spend the last decade cutting taxes and spending profusely to prop up financial markets while ignoring deep, underlying problems has only made responding to the current crisis that much more difficult. Our failure to build back creatively and productively from the global financial crisis is necessary context for the challenge to do so now.

I enjoyed this article so much. O’Reilly talks a lot about how the future won’t be be just like the past, and we should be thinking about what changes this new world we’ve living in will require of us so that we don’t just revert back to our old habits. What will be gone or changed forever? Travel, large-scale events, privacy, health care and work-from-home are all certain to be transformed. But how? And what new things will emerge?

My fear is that this article assumes we’ll handle the Covid crisis and learn from that experience. Instead, it’s looking more and more like a preview of how America and much of the western world might handle coming climate crises. We won’t – can’t? – work collectively on big problems as a nation any more and that’s a huge danger to both our political system and our planet. But it’s not all doom and gloom. I am hopeful that changes to attitudes and tools for working remotely will create a more equitable job market. That will in turn allow communities across the nation to be destinations for remote workers.

For us to emerge as strongly as possible from Covid and not be left behind by the rest of the world as they recover, we’ll need to see more planning and strategic thinking from our local and national leaders, however. Businesses are doing their part, but our nation is rudderless.

Tweaking my Daily Routine

Working from home for me has been an interesting test of some of my beliefs about how I like to get things done, how much of an introvert I am (very much), and what an optimal schedule stripped of things like a commute, errands and activities might look like. Obviously this won’t be “normal” forever, […]

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The Deathly Tragedy of American Exceptionalism

From Robert Reich:

With 4.25 percent of the world population, America has the tragic distinction of accounting for about 30 percent of pandemic deaths so far.

Some folks have tried to downplay the extremely high death count numbers in the US by looking at infection rate per 1000 – which does show that some countries like Spain are seeing more infections than we are. However, our death numbers are staggering. I think some of that is attributable to a poor testing strategy – you can have “invisible” infections but it’s much harder to hide deaths. There’s probably some blame to go around for our healthcare system as well, that puts poor folks at a disadvantage relative to those with money.

Our inept leaders and broken unemployment system have handicapped our recovery as well.

We saw some good news last week, relatively speaking, with 2.5 million jobs added but I fear the road to recovery is going to be bumpy.

A detailed timeline of all the ways Trump failed to respond to the coronavirus

From Cameron Peters at Vox:

In fact, there are many reasons the US death toll is so high, including a national response plagued by delays at the federal level, wishful thinking by President Trump, the sidelining of experts, a pointed White House campaign to place the blame for the Trump administration’s shortcomings on others, and time wasted chasing down false hopes based on poor science.

[…]

Throughout the pandemic, however, much of the Trump administration’s spin — regarding Trump’s own response, China’s role, and more — has been misleading, if not outright untrue. Here’s what Trump and the federal government have — and have not — done to respond to the virus.

A sobering blow-by-blow breakdown of the Trump administration’s failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic. No rational person can blame any leader for allowing the disease to land on their shores – this is a truly global outbreak. However, the absolute lack of action, leadership, planning and coordination once we started to understand what was happening is inexcusable.

On a related note, I think this sort of breakdown is a helpful way to put Trump administration’s incompetence into context. I don’t know about you but at a certain point all of the scandal and drama of the past 3.5 years becomes a bit of a blur at some point.

WWDC20 still lacks a schedule

With WWDC 2020 just 2 weeks away, I was kind of surprised to check out the developer site today to see the same announcement landing page that we saw a month or so ago. I’m still very curious to see what this year’s virtual conference looks like as I could imagine a hybrid model being […]

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100,000

From BBC News:

No country has had more deaths, more infections. Anywhere else, so far, is not even close.

Heartbreaking, embarrassing and infuriating. We deserve better.

Square announces permanent work-from-home policy

From The Verge:

“We want employees to be able to work where they feel most creative and productive,” a company spokesperson told The Verge. “Moving forward, Squares will be able to work from home permanently, even once offices begin to reopen. Over the past several weeks, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes for people to effectively perform roles outside of an office, and we will continue to learn as we go.”

Another one.

More and more tech companies seem to be moving in this direction. Very interested to see what it means for commercial real estate, tech company salaries and the future of Silicon Valley as the “hub” for a lot of these companies.

How the Novel Coronavirus is Speeding the Scooter Apocalypse

From The Verge:

There are some early signs that shared mobility could survive the crisis, even come out looking better than before; one of those “it’s always darkest before dawn” kind of things. But before that happens, the scooter industry as a whole will need to shrink, as it already was doing before COVID-19. And a lot of people will probably lose their jobs.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I would walk past a local MARTA train station after work every day and it looked like the rapture happened without me. Scooters were flung about in every which way, and it made walking down the sidewalk a real pain. Every time I needed to use a scooter, it seemed like I never had the correct app and couldn’t find a scooter for the one that I already had credit with. First world problem to be sure, but it rarely left me feeling positively about the experience.

You never like to cheer for the downfall of any company, but I’m not all that upset to see this industry shrinking. Ideally there’s only one or two of these companies that work with local public transportation to fill the gaps in their service, rather than the streets being a wasteland littered with a dozen different scooter brands at any given time. Consolidation could be a good thing, with more predictable service and fewer apps to navigate.

Direct Support & Subscription Fatigue

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been listening to even more podcasts than ever that I’m mostly tooling around the house and doing yard work with all of this spare time. As a result, seeing some of the shows and sites I love start to feel the pinch of reduced ad spending have sparked me to […]

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