The Engineer’s Perspective

by Milo

Yeah, it’s just another article, but it’s a great one. And it touches on a lot of recurring TB themes–personality type differences, allocation of government resources, the vast differences between our perceptions of risk and reality, emotion vs. facts, feeling vs. thinking, and, of course, cars.

I love the joke about the golfers. I feel like some form of that conversation has happened on the blog hundreds of times.

The Engineer’s Lament

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153 thoughts on “The Engineer’s Perspective

  1. The conversation about the blind firefighters is hilarious.

    I was sent a survey about my new car. Most of the questions were about the sales person or the finance process.

    There was one box to leave comments for the engineers about the design.

    This is my first German car, and all of my prior cars were Japanese. I’ve been driving the Acura this week, and I really appreciate how much simpler it is to operate the car. The BMW is more fun to drive, but I did take them up on their offer if a free tank of gas for an additional thirty minutes of training with a genius. I needed help with the setup of entertainment and phones.

  2. Lauren, my new car (Audi A3) has a wireless network in the car and integration with your phone. It was integrated with my old phone, but then I got a new one. The punch line is that I don’t want to take it back to the dealer to set these things up, lest they disrupt my stealth use of the XM radio (free trial that was never disconnected). I need to sit for a while with the manual and drink in hand, as Rhett suggested. :)

  3. Great article. Years ago a friend of mine worked in an office that received complaints of airbag failures. He said that the amount of complaints was ridiculous. A small amount of them appeared to be legit concerns, but most were just “noise”. Something along the lines of, I was hit from behind and the driver’s air bag didn’t deploy. I don’t know if they’ve since changed the mechanics, but back then, the front end of the car had to hit something with enough force to deploy the bag. Being rear-ended had no effect. But everyone is looking to sue for damages, and the amount of complaints makes it hard to determine if there is an actual defect..

  4. Good article. My Acura MDX had the same problem as the GM cars – would suddenly cut off while you were driving with no warning, and wouldn’t turn back on again for 30 -60 minutes. Unfortunately, we had it for 13 months when the problem started, or else it would have been covered under our state’s lemon laws. It was in and out of the Acura shop for a few months, and their response was much like the Toyota engineers – we can’t find a problem, so you must be doing something wrong. We made a report to NTSB and called a lawyer, but we were really stuck because it was a lease (never again will I lease!!). Luckily it was a short lease as it was intended to be an interim car anyway, and with a few months left on it we just turned it in early and walked away from it.

  5. One of my cars would occasionally turn off while I was driving. I separated my two “smart keys” from two different vehicles, and the problem went away. I think it occasionally got confused by which key signal it should be paying attention to.

  6. I agree that different professions are trained to think differently. Though not an engineer, my thinking is closer along those lines, but I have learned the hard way that you have to integrate the empathy and care noted in the firefighter story to be successful.

  7. I got a sense of status quo bias on the part of Mr. Gioia. At his time at Ford a Pinto or LTD might leave the factory with a defect rate of 1500 per 100 cars. So, the average car left the plant with 15 things broken. Now, you might ask, how was that tolerated? Well, 1500 was the industry average, we are on target, what’s the problem?

    Then the Japanese came along and applied what Edward Deming taught them. What was his brilliant insight? Maybe you should get that number down to 14 then 13. If someone notices a problem they should be able to stop the line and fix the problem – don’t keep churning out broken cars until Bob from maintenance can come over and fix the source of the problem.

    In the book Lexus: The Relentless Pursuit the author talks about the panic at Mercedes when Toyota introduced Lexus. At the time, Mercedes vehicles left the end of the production line with a similar number of problems as US cars. But, (and this is partly why they were so expensive back then) Mercedes employed literally thousands of people to meticulously inspect and fix each car after it left the factory. What was Lexus doing that allowed them to build a vehicle as good or better for thousands less than Mercedes – they built it right the first time. Apparently, that idea was a revelation.

  8. I drove a 1974 Pinto late 1976-early 1986. No extraordinary issues. But, then again, I was not rear ended.

    L – can’t be that hard. DW had to re-synch her phone shortly after we got her Q7 and tech is not her forte!

  9. Rhett – I agree for general quality issues, but–and this is something angry customers frequently confuse–a recall is for a safety issue only. That’s what Gioria would be analyzing. I was surprised by the numbers, too, because just from what I had heard, I had the impression that the Pinto was particularly dangerous. It was probably not much worse than the VW Rabbit I was bouncing around in a few years later.

    Interesting about Lexus; I should read that.

  10. “they built it right the first time.”

    The same principle was at play re Xerox and “Japan Inc” / HP. And it’s all documented in a book called something like Xerox: Fumbling the Future. Essentially, Xerox had this great service force that fixed your copier, and later large printer, whenever it broke, as long as you had a service plan (you could go time + materials, but a contract was a better financial deal). Their machines had a high failure rate based on failures per million copies or whatever compared to the Japanese copiers and HP printers, compounded by the fact that the competition’s machines were less expensive. Xerox could have built them right the first time so as to reduce a large % of the failures, but the fear was that would make the sales price too high to compete and then they’d also have to fire/lay off a huge chunk of their service force.
    Finally, they caught on and got with the quality program (beginning in about 1983) but by then the damage was done and they had lost what had essentially been monopoly pricing power for the ~20-25 years before that.

  11. Interesting. I am not an engineer but I do sometimes get in trouble for thinking along those lines. Not really at work, I’ve trained myself to at least appear empathetic, but I am really not in the right line of work for my personality.

  12. Even if you are hit from behind, wouldn’t it help to have the front airbags deploy so you don’t go face first into the steering wheel?

  13. No one will be surprised that I loved the article. I’ve always thought this way, even before I was an engineer. Farmers think this way or they go out of business. Politics has become much more data driven, but the data is all around what people think of an issue/how to frame an opponent to look bad, not how to fix the problem. (Why aren’t both parties in an uproar over the poor service LfB’s mom is receiving from Social Security?)

    I’m not interested in cars (Mr WCE wanted a particular minivan, and my response was that one minivan looked about like another to me) but I do interact with mothers worried about infant safety and organic vegetables. I usually refrain from commenting, except once when I pointed out on Facebook that the risks of giving an infant unpasteurized cow’s milk dramatically exceeded the benefits. Probably lots of people unfriended me over that one. I am sad that dropside cribs are no longer available. And it is in no way clear to me that car seats self-destruct 5 years after date of manufacture.

    I can comment on Oregon’s police/traffice enforcement situation. We’re the only state west of the Mississippi that still has a 55 mph limit on 2 lane highways. I’ve told you already about my trip west from Ontario on Highway 20, the major highway, where I drove 12 min until I saw a car coming from the opposite direction and 50 minutes until I saw a car going in the same direction. I will admit that I was driving over 55 mph, closer to the speed the highway was designed for. The people in Portland have the bulk of the votes, but they don’t think about how the speed law works in the rest of the state. Basically, everyone ignores it. And the counties with minimal law enforcement are mostly counties where everyone is dirt-poor because no replacement jobs came after the timber jobs left. Now, the major cash crop in the national forest is marijuana, which has its own set of challenges.

    Most of you with interest in washing machines remember my complaint about the emphasis on water/electricity consumption vs. reliability in federal appliance standards. You need an awesome bearing to spin a load of laundry horizontally at 1000 RPM and awesome bearings aren’t cheap. The metals needed to manufacture them are expensive and the process of obtaining them isn’t particularly environmentally friendly. None of this is considered in federal appliance standards.

    I sent this article to my Dad, who is in the hospital with my Mom. The mindset that empathy is more important/should be more valued than analysis is a primary cause of our medical costs. In Europe, people are more willing to accept that some treatment is too expensive so people will die a bit sooner. In the US, we aren’t there yet, though the outlook has changed a LOT since 2005, when my daughter with the lethal abnormality was born and people who knew about it were shocked that I didn’t want to do everything possible. As a woman and an engineer, my specialist found me interesting (and remembered me with Baby WCE 10 years later) because for decision making, my medical/legal analysis overrode my emotions about delivering a baby that died at birth. Apparently that’s very rare.

  14. “so you don’t go face first into the steering wheel?”

    If you’re hit from behind, you’re going to be pushed backward into your seat. That’s why headrests are so important. It’s funny how quickly these standards have changed for all passengers. Even my 2004 Acura has no headrest in the rear center seat position. And if you see any cars around from the early to mid-90’s, you might not see any headrests in the back seat at all, which looks so strange now.

    Now it seems that they’re making it harder to not use the headrests. For example, in the third row of our minivan, where the headrests are normally stowed downward for visibility, they will uncomfortably dig into your back if you don’t raise them into position before sitting there.

    And I’m enough of a dork that it drives me CRAZY how on TV shows and movie scenes inside cars, they often have removed the headrests for clearer camera shots.

  15. WCE – I am sorry for your loss. Even if it was 10 years ago. We went through something similar, longer ago than that.

  16. “I am sad that dropside cribs are no longer available.”

    You can have ours pretty soon, before baby WCE is sitting up on her own.

  17. And I’m enough of a dork that it drives me CRAZY how on TV shows and movie scenes inside cars, they often have removed the headrests for clearer camera shots.

    DRIVES ME CRAZY!!!

    An episode of The Goldbergs was ruined when, in the parking lot of the school, was a 1994-1998 model year SAAB 900 and a 94-98 Honda Accord.

  18. Thanks, Milo. I wished you lived closer when I heard you were cleaning out all your Medela stuff. Mr. WCE wears Milo-special khaki pants.

    The other day’s comments about self-confidence in high school were puzzling to me. I remember other people worrying about their appearance in order to be attractive to high school guys. I thought to myself, “Why would I bother with hair and make-up to be attractive to high school guys? They’re stupid and immature.” I either had self-confidence or was/am socially unaware, a precursor to an engineering major.

  19. Milo,

    Have you also noticed when you watch TV shows or movies from the 70s the cervical collar was a common plot or comedy element of the story? Apparently, everyone was walking around with them back then. I can only imagine it was because of seats like this:

  20. WCE – I don’t know if I should point this out, but I switched over a few years ago almost entirely to J.Crew (outlet). They have a fit that is mostly flattering, but also keeps me on my toes in terms of limiting what I eat. If I fall too far off the wagon, their jeans, and even their shirts, will let me know in short order.

    Rhett – Maybe. And that was probably considered an acceptable front-middle seat, also, using the armrest as a seatback. There was a third seatbelt for just such an arrangement on even as late as our ’93 Taurus.

    I noticed recently looking into a work truck that even a new F-350 crew cab had three specific seats in the back row, and three full-height headrests.

  21. “I can only imagine it was because of seats like this:”

    And lack of anti-lock brakes.

  22. L – Yep. That would be a good thing to buy used, if I had something really heavy to tow. I was traveling a couple weeks ago and got into a long conversation with a union type guy who was browsing CL for a used F-350. I asked him what he was towing that required a one-ton pickup, and he said “all sorts of things.” One of them was a big travel trailer that they used for camping, but also for his wife, an itinerant ironworker who likes going on the road for various contract gigs and will set up residence for a couple weeks at a time at whatever campground she can find nearest to the job site.

    I told him about a nurse we know who, just to explore the country while she’s young and unencumbered, is in some program where you can jump from hospitals, and he mentioned that his wife is a nurse, but right now she enjoys ironworking and is earning similar pay doing it.

  23. Milo,

    A 1976 Chevy Chevelle would stop from 60 in 170 feet. Today a Chevy Malibu stops from 60 in 115 feet. At 209″ long that’s 3.1 car lengths difference in stopping performance.

  24. Rhett- That’s on dry pavement. The other benefit of ABS is that you’re more likely to be able to steer onto the shoulder during a panic stop.

  25. L – This one’s near you and is a diesel. Then I saw “rebuilt transmission” and thought “Oh, that’s kind of disappointing.” But he’s also advertising a snowplow attachment, and I figured, well, that explains the failed transmission.

    (D – R – D – R – D – R – D -R. )

    http://boston.craigslist.org/sob/cto/5013420537.html

  26. Milo, for a moment I thought that you’d met the real-life version of the central couple in this series: http://www.amazon.com/Donna-Andrews/e/B001H6O002/ . But then I remembered that the fictional character’s husband is an actor so unless the union you’re referring to is the Screen Actor’s Guild, probably not.

  27. On topic, law can require both understanding the engineer perspective (or other specialized view of information) and translating it into more personal/emotional terms so that it can be understood by and persuasive to non-engineers. You want to be comfortable moving between abstract reasoning and personal appeals. Not saying that all lawyers are capable of this — there are some surprisingly dumb people who manage to pass the bar — but the effective ones are. It’s also a profession where you need to be able to turn on and off the ability to nit-pick with the best of them. And of course when negotiating or litigating keep your eyes open for opportunity, weaknesses of others, that sort of thing. It doesn’t necessarily make for the nicest personality.

  28. WCE – your comment “The mindset that empathy is more important/should be more valued than analysis is a primary cause of our medical costs.” is also relevant to the discussion of gay marriage that was touched on briefly another day.

    Milo- a friend did that traveling nurse program right after she had bought a home. She rented the house out, and by the time she decided to quit traveling around and find local work, she had been able to pay the house off. Sounds like a pretty good deal.

  29. So, my 10 year old would like to build a backyard foundry based on a video. I’m torn between “that *would* be cool” and “I can foresee several problems, starting with the neighbors.”

    Maybe I should make it a grade-based thing, get all As and you can build a backyard foundry.

    At least this is more practical than his plans to raise pigs or quail.

  30. “If you’re hit from behind, you’re going to be pushed backward into your seat. That’s why headrests are so important.”

    Well, your seat actually gets pushed forward into you. Then it pushes you forward, so if you’re the driver, you could still have your face slammed into the steering wheel. So it makes a certain amount of sense for the airbag to deploy, but only if it can be made to deploy with less force than in a head-on collision.

    I remember back when airbags were still pretty new. There were fatalities caused by airbags, because the standards at the time required them to keep a large person without seat belts from hitting the steering wheel in a head-on collision. Low-speed crashes were triggering the airbags, which deployed with such force that they often caused injury, and sometimes serious injury or death.

    Since then, technology has advanced. I believe most, if not all, cars will now sense the weight of the front seat passengers and adjust the airbag force accordingly. I would also hope that the standards prioritize protection of those who care enough about their safety to wear seat belts above those who don’t.

  31. Back OT, keep in mind the engineer jokes are mostly for the benefit of engineers. A lot of non-engineers don’t get the humor, e.g., in the joke in the article, many don’t get that the joke is on the priest and the doctor.

    I take it as a very positive sign that my kids get engineer jokes.

  32. Milo, as a political conservative with MMM tendencies, I found the nail salon article interesting. I go to quite a bit of effort to comply with the law (understanding quarterly reporting when hiring a babysitter, for example) and to hire a housekeeper who reports her earnings and pays taxes. I can understand ignoring worker exploitation for something you really need (childcare so you can work to pay your own rent, for example) but don’t understand why people ignore worker exploitation for a manicure.

    One of my concerns about organic food is the much higher level of labor involved and adequate pay for the workers- conventional agriculture is exploitative enough.

    I also find it puzzling why there is so much debate over laws about minimum wage, immigration, etc. but so little enforcement of existing laws.

  33. Milo – No one who has her nails done, pays the ludicrously small bill, and thinks about the cost per service of rent supplies utilities and equipment, plus profit to the owners, can find any room in that for wages. I have always assumed that at least half of the strip mall and storefront salons are money laundering operations so profit is irrelevant. For the profit making businesses, the money goes not to a nominal shop owner, but to the supply and equipment houses and to tiered LLCs that own lots of shops. I always pay the set price, and then give a separate high tip in cash into the hand of the operator. The shop I patronize has been there a long time and I see the same employees every time, so I hope they actually get to keep the tips. In Boston area, it is almost entirely a Vietnamese business, so the ethnic stratification described in the New York article does not usually occur.

  34. @Finn – You forgot to mention that to an engineer, the “glass half empty]full” one is a descriptor, not a joke. And you beat me to the airbag comment — was going to say the same thing.

    @Rhett — yeah, the neck collars were a real thing back then. I am sure it was because of the pitiful headrests — my mom was in one for months after being rear-ended at a stoplight when I was a kid.

  35. I haven’t had time to read the whole article, but enjoyed the first bit. I love engineer jokes! Here’s a good one for this group:

    An engineer dies and goes to hell. After a while, the engineer gets dissatisfied with the level of comfort there and starts designing and building improvements. After a while, hell has air conditioning, flushing toilets, water fountains and escalators – making the engineer a pretty popular guy.

    One day God phones Satan up and asks with a sneer: “Hey buddy, how’s it goin down there?”

    Satan snickered back, “Things are going great actually. We’ve got air conditioning, flush toilets, escalators and the works. Hell, there’s no telling what this engineer guy is gonna come up with next.”

    God replies, “What? You’ve got an engineer? That’s a mistake – he should never have been sent there; send him back up.”

    To which Satan replied, “No way dude. I like having an engineer on staff, I’m keepin him.”

    God retorted, “Send him up here or I’ll sue.”

    Satan laughs loudly and answers, “Yeah, right. And just where are you gonna find a lawyer?”

  36. @Nails — ITA with Meme. We have a half-dozen nail shops that are within about 2 blocks on our main drag; I couldn’t believe it when I let my daughter have a birthday party there, with full mani-pedis for her and a couple of friends, and the total price came out to $35 per person. I seriously thought it was a typo, that they had forgotten to add in the pedicures or something. So I do the same thing Meme does and tip $10 on a $30-35 bill — at least I know the girl is making more than minimum wage for that hour, and it’s still a way better deal for me than the fancy spas that charge $125 for the same thing.

  37. Here’s a lawyer joke that is actually funny to lawyers, and similar to the engineer one in that it highlights a distinctive way of looking at the world.

  38. WCE – Back on TOS, I recall a humorous discussion of a possible marketing opportunity to set up a totebag convenience/hypocrisy offset exchange, (much like carbon offsets, a concept I would love the engineers to explain to me – how does my cash purchase erase the deleterious effects of a luxury eco vacation jet flight) – you could take occasional advantage of the services of undocumented organic produce pickers, nail techs, nannies, gardeners in exchange for hours at the food bank or contributions to refugee relief.

  39. “Well, your seat actually gets pushed forward into you. Then it pushes you forward, so if you’re the driver, you could still have your face slammed into the steering wheel.”

    Except that if you want to get technical about it, the steering wheel is also being pushed forward at roughly the same speed. Well, actually pulled forward.

  40. I am glad the NYT is writing this series because this is definitely a problem in NYC metro. I do see that these workers are being exploited and some of the places smell toxic. These cheap salons are filled with unlicensed workers and I don’t even know if they have a green cards.

    My husband thinks I am nuts because I go out of my way to visit the same manicurist as often as possible. I’ve known her for over 20 years. I have to pay a lot more than the prices in the article because she works for a salon, and they receive real wages and pay taxes. The women that work there have licenses, and they are legal. A manicure or pedicure is 2 -3 times the price in the article because of the salaries and taxes that are paid to these women. It is a very different experience, but you get what you pay for. I have brought many of my friends and relatives here over the years. They love the experience, but they don’t want to give up the cheap manicures and pedicures. They always go back to the strip mall places.

    My DD goes for the occasional manicure with her friends and we have several of these strip mall places in our town. I see the workers come in vans in the mornings. In the place that she goes with her friends, there is discrimination between the Spanish and Korean workers. The women that are not Korean are required to wear a different colored smock/jacket. I hate these places because it smells bad, and I don’t think it is 100% clean. I always over tip and I hand the cash to the person that helped her. I really hope they get to keep the tip.

  41. how does my cash purchase erase the deleterious effects of a luxury eco vacation jet flight)

    If they use the money to preserve rain forest that would otherwise be burned and turned into marginally productive pasture land?

  42. Finn, are you happy that your kids like engineer jokes because they understand the engineer’s perspective, or because your kids are socially aware enough to get why they’re funny?

  43. I try and go to reasonably clean places that seem to have good sanitary practices (and are often more expensive)–I’m to scared of infection to go to the ultra cheap places. I try and paint my own nails most of the time.

  44. LfB, I love your joke. I think you and HM have both touched on how law combines the analytical with the human perspective. I loved that about high school debate- I’ve never found anything I liked as much as competing with other nerdy people in that way.

  45. “If they use the money to preserve rain forest that would otherwise be burned and turned into marginally productive pasture land?”

    To the extent that one would wish to minimize the concentration of atmospheric CO2, it is probably not an even tradeoff between maintaining X pounds of it temporarily sequestered in wood, on the Earth’s surface, and extracting X pounds of it from underground in the form of fossil fuels.

    You may as well say “I’m going to take this trans-Pacific flight to Bora Bora, but I’ll hold my breath for just a little bit longer each time I inhale, so I’ll keep more CO2 inside my lungs for just a little longer.

  46. temporarily sequestered in wood,

    Temporary? The mass of biological material on a given acre of rain Forrest has likely been stable for thousands of years. If you burn that mass, the carbon will be released into the atmosphere. If you leave it alone the carbon will remain locked up.

  47. “The mass of biological material on a given acre of rain Forrest has likely been stable for thousands of years.”

    And how does thousands of years compare, proportionally, to the amount of time that carbon has spent in the oil underground? That’s why I said you may as well just hold your breath a little longer.

    And either way, higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2 is coming from burning fossil fuels, most likely. You don’t get to turn back that clock with trees. You can pat yourself on the back for keeping a tree around, or planting a tree, but it’s all part of the above-the-surface system. By taking the flight to Europe, you’re taking carbon from deep in the ground and adding it to the system above the ground of trees/people/atmosphere. You’re not actually putting any carbon back into the subterranean system, and that’s where the offsets fall short, even assuming that the offsets actually do what they claim, which is also doubtful.

  48. “Finn, are you happy that your kids like engineer jokes because they understand the engineer’s perspective, or because your kids are socially aware enough to get why they’re funny?”

    Both.

    A lot of engineer jokes also require a certain level of understanding of basic science and/or math, which put them out of reach of some people.

    E.g., this isn’t a joke, but one of DS’ favorite shirts has the design on the left in the second photo: http://www.mommybytes.com/2009/12/psf-mit-shirts.html.

  49. Finn – BIL has that i vs. pi, “Get real!” “Be rational!” t-shirt. But he was a Biology undergrad.

  50. Milo,

    No one is saying the offsets are better than not taking the flight at all. However, paying to preserving rain forest acreage mitigates at least some of the damage.

  51. “However, paying to preserving rain forest acreage mitigates at least some of the damage.”

    No it doesn’t, because it’s apples and oranges. The problem is carbon that was underground that is no longer underground. Offsets do not put any carbon back underground. That’s primarily why they’re useless.

    My guess is that, eventually, if we really need to, we’ll figure out a cost-effective way to get carbon either back underground, or in some sort of algae or rock to the bottom of the ocean.

  52. The problem is carbon that was underground that is no longer underground.

    The problem is the concentration of atmospheric CO2. The level would be higher without the offset. Which is the point of the offset.

  53. we’ll figure out a cost-effective way to get carbon either back underground

    Or, go with a tried and true technology with which you are intimately familiar.

  54. I was looking for a favorite science joke and found it on this site:
    http://mrsimonporter.wikispaces.com/Science+jokes

    The one I was specifically looking for is below, but several others were also good.

    An electron is driving down a motorway, and a policeman pulls him over. The policeman says: “Sir, do you realise you were travelling at 130km per hour?” The electron goes: “Oh great, now I’m lost.”

  55. “The level would be higher without the offset.”

    I see what you’re saying, but for how long? And I’ve read that the offsets are gimmicks, anyway, that they don’t actually save anything. And to what extent is the higher CO2 contributing to denser foliage where it is allowed to grow?

    Nuclear is good; I’m pretty familiar with it and I’m a big supporter. It’s still more expensive than gas, especially for new generation (i.e. if you include the cost of building new plants). But at least a couple utilities, like Southern Co., have decided to keep pushing forward, and are trying to minimize the overall costs through scale–the plants they’re building are HUGE. I think it also helps to be in a regulated market in which you can pass off capital improvement costs to the customers, and demand your due profit on the top.

    It will be nice when Harry Reid retires. Hopefully his successor isn’t as successful convincing Obama to block progress on Yucca Mountain.

  56. I don’t get manicures or pedicures. If I want to paint them I’ll do it myself, although I find that painting my nails gives them a yellowish tint such that I’m better off leaving them unpainted if I’m not planning to keep them painted all the time.

  57. “Except that if you want to get technical about it, the steering wheel is also being pushed forward at roughly the same speed. Well, actually pulled forward.”

    Except that the whole car is usually rapidly decelerating to zero, and the parts that are attached are decelerating at the same rate as the car as a whole, whereas the parts that are not attached are decelerating much more slowly. Ergo, seat pushes into driver, head snaps back, driver continues to move forward, face meets steering wheel. You can see a little bit of that around the 40-45 second mark here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItfdObXoIcs — I was surprised to see the seat go so far back, which would definitely help absorb some of the force of impact and reduce the amount of “push” transferred to the driver.

  58. @HM — I do it more for the scrubbing and massaging and such — running and winter both tend to pound my feet. Plus, you know, I’d pay money just to sit in that heated massage chair for an hour.

  59. “I was surprised to see the seat go so far back, which would definitely help absorb some of the force of impact and reduce the amount of “push” transferred to the driver.”

    I think what happens next is that the seat acts like a spring, and transfers some of the energy it absorbed, by deforming and moving back, to the driver, propelling the driver toward the steering wheel at a higher speed than the car’s speed. However, the delta in speed may not be enough to warrant air bag deployment.

  60. ” I’d pay money just to sit in that heated massage chair for an hour.”

    Why not just get one for your home? Ours isn’t directly heated, but the massage action involves enough friction to get pretty warm.

  61. “Ours isn’t directly heated, but the massage action involves enough friction to get pretty warm.”

    Let’s keep it clean, folks.

  62. Did you see this article about nail salons?

    http://www.npr.org/2012/06/14/154852394/with-polish-vietnamese-immigrant-community-thrives

    It explains why all the nail salons in CA and a big majority in CO are Vietnamese owned-staffed. I go to a salon with a Vietnamese staff. I tip big and in cash. They seem pretty cheerful, and chat a lot with each other, but that’s probably a stupid observation, akin to “look at the darkies singing in the fields, they’re so happy”.

  63. @Finn — Sigh. Have had that discussion with DH. Has not gone well. ;-( He, the owner of the World’s Ugliest Beige Lay-Z-Boy when we married, complains that they are too big and fugly. Plus they’re like $3-5K, so it’s hard for me to spring for that (I wouldn’t even spring for the sofa that cost $5K, and it was the most comfortable one I’d ever sat in). Especially since DD is already doing her best to take over my comfy chair, which would only be worse if there were heat and massage involved — and we don’t need more things to fight about. :-)

  64. “”carbon offsets, a concept I would love the engineers to explain to me – how does my cash purchase erase the deleterious effects of a luxury eco vacation jet flight”

    It’s an economic concept, not really an engineering one.

    Carbon offsets basically try to create a financial market for ways to reduce or sequester carbon emissions. Buyers would typically be entities mandated to reduce carbon emissions, e.g., smokestack industries, who could achieve mandated reductions by paying someone else to provide a similar amount of reduction, a transaction which would only make sense if the entity providing the reduction can do it for less than it would cost the buying entity.

  65. Speaking of springs, here’s a Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of a 1950s educational short about how terrible the world would be without springs.

  66. LfB, we paid about $600 for ours, from Costco.

    It is quite popular whenever we have friends and/or family over.

    Another option, for about $80 to $200, is a massager that can be installed on an existing chair.

  67. @Finn — I actually picked up a massager from Kohl’s. Alas, it works on things like my office chair, where I sit upright, but not so much on my big comfy chair, where I slouch massively. But it looks like I need to take another look at Costco — that’s way, way better than I had seen. Thanks.

  68. Regarding MST3K – a few Saturdays ago there was a marathon of them on some random station. DH and I stayed up late watching what had to be one of the dumbest b movies ever made, but oh man was it funny.

  69. Finn, I like that article- I’m only half-joking when I say the solution to inequality is downward mobility by the children of Totebaggers.

    What I like best is that it acknowledges the role of religious practice in stable, low socioeconomic status families. (and I can’t say it matters which religion you practice, based on data) When I look at the difference between my family and families at church with much lower incomes, the differences between us, roughly in order of importance, are
    1) medical insurance/savings for OOP expenses (but they would just default on medical bills with high OOP- they wouldn’t go without important care)
    2) house size/property taxes and elementary school zone
    3) number of vehicles and their age/reliability (they typically have one minivan that has issues a few times/year)

    I know my family is near the bottom of per capita income on this blog, and I’m curious what those of you with higher incomes see as the important differences between us.

    The main advantage our lower income friends have over us is local extended family- they know their grandparents and cousins, and family members help each other out with childcare/house/yard projects.

  70. Finn,

    ‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’

    That’s totally wrong. The twin and adoption studies all show it’s almost entirely genetic.

  71. Lots of utopian societies have tried to remove the family from the equation in order to equalize…something. If you read Golda Meir’s autobiography (which I think I’ve recommended before, because she was an interesting person and a good writer, though her one-paragraph dismissal of any Palestinian claim to Israel-Palestine might not stand up to scrutiny), she talks about the very early kibbutz life where the kids were raised communally. It was one of the main reasons her husband insisted on leaving the kibbutz before they had children (her husband comes off as being a very sensible fellow overall.) She also notes that the second generation of kibbutzim changed the rules and that the first generation of kids raised communally really hated it and refused to do it their own kids. But it is a recurring theme in political theory.

    I could rattle on at length about part 3 of Rawls’s A Theory of Justice and the feminist critiques of same, but I have to have a glass of wine and fold the laundry. Here, read this extensive summary and respond, but do not fill more than two blue books.

  72. I know my family is near the bottom of per capita income on this blog, and I’m curious what those of you with higher incomes see as the important differences between us.

    Why do you think there are any?

  73. WCE – I don’t think we make all that much more than you, so you likely weren’t thinking of me with your question. We give less to the church, and we waste the difference on a lot of convenience dining out when you are cooking frugal meals at home, using a rotisserie chicken six different ways. We spend less on childcare because we’re scofflaws who pay off the books, and DW bills a lot more hours than we pay a sitter for, which is only realistic if you WAH.

    We were just lucky to have a few opportunities early on to get well-capitalized, with no college costs and our wedding paid for by my in-laws. Then we got lucky on real estate, both getting in and out, renting, then back in the market (not perfect timing, but good enough that if I were running a real estate investment fund, I’d be a top manager in Money Magazine). And no medical issues, and no breaks in dual employment.

  74. I assume if people think social inequality is worth mitigating, there must be some advantage to being part of the top 1% (or 5% or whatever).

  75. So here’s an interesting family drama. I’ve mentioned that DH has two sisters. Let’s call the oldest one Carrie and the middle one Sally. DH is the youngest. Carrie and DH are educated and high-achieving and obsessively responsible. Carrie has no children and DH has one. Sally has five children, one of whom is deceased, and his death was in part related to the chaotic disaster that was his childhood. Sally has five grandchildren at last count, three of them the children of the deceased son.

    So my MIL and FIL are finalizing their will and estate plans. They have decided to put Sally’s share of the money in trust in order to prevent her from giving all her money to her incredibly irresponsible, screwed-up remaining children. Apparently she gives them whatever they ask for. (The oldest is 37, the youngest 16.) She agreed to this (!!), but requested that Carrie not be the trustee, because Carrie can be pretty judgmental about Sally (though Carrie has also done a tremendous amount of heavy lifting in trying to work with all of Sally’s kids over the years and keep them all from prison/the morgue.) So DH will probably be the trustee and will have to decide when to dole out money to his various fuck-up nieces and nephews.

    Question 1: Don’t you find this bizarre? A 57-year-old woman agreeing that she can’t say no to her kids and she needs one of her siblings to protect her from herself?

    Question 2: There is no question 2. It’s really all question 1. I’d have shot my parents in cold blood if they’d proposed something like that for me and my sister, but then my sister and I are both obsessively responsible.

  76. WCE, your assumption at 6:30 is incorrect. That’s not a difference worth mitigating. The differences that are important are:

    1. Food security. I want all kids to not spend a second worrying that they won’t have anything to eat over the weekend when school lunches are unavailable.

    2. Access to decent public schools. Your income is plenty high enough that you can move to a better school district if you choose to do so.

    3. Access to the knowledge of what options are truly live options for employment. It never occurred to me that I could be an investment banker. But I’m probably bright enough (investment bankers may now snicker) and if I’d understood the social rules and how the hierarchy works, I’m plenty scheming enough to hustle it. But it certainly occurred to me that I could be an engineer or professor or some other UMC professional, because those people were all around me. But that’s a difference that I don’t really know how to mitigate.

  77. Finn, I read the article.

    Only a man could believe that the biological relationship is mostly a social and cultural construct. If he tried nine months of pregnancy, 30 hours of labor, and a year of nursing on demand, perhaps that would disabuse him of that notion.

    Good grief.

    I agree that a stable and loving family is an advantage. So are good health, intelligence, athletic ability, good looks, extroversion…none of which would be wiped out by making children wards of the state or outlawing private school.

    This is why I stayed far away from the philosophy department.

  78. “I know my family is near the bottom of per capita income on this blog, and I’m curious what those of you with higher incomes see as the important differences between us.”

    1. I believe you live in one of the lowest COL areas relative to others here.

    2. You have more kids than most others here.

    3.. I’m going to guess that you are better at calculus than most of us.

    Probably the biggest difference I see, relative to others here, is that you don’t live near many (if any) totebaggy peers. So, much more than the rest of us here, you rely on this blog for your totebagginess fixes.

  79. This is why I stayed far away from the philosophy department.

    But Mama, that’s where the fun is.

  80. WCE,

    As you’ve mentioned, you’re a glass half empty kinda gal. I think that’s a big part of it.

  81. RMS, any thought on the part of your DH to suggesting his parents name someone outside of the family as the trustee? E.g., a trust company?

  82. Rocky, that is nuts!

    WCE, if it was possible to compare apples to apples, I don’t think you would be in as low an income bracket as you are think you are compared to many of us. The cost of living is just so much higher for those of us in NYC, Boston, Hawaii, CA, Seattle etc, compared to your current home.

  83. “2. Access to decent public schools. Your income is plenty high enough that you can move to a better school district if you choose to do so.”

    There was an interesting, if snickering commentary on the Hillary Campaign Rollout video about the plucky single mother who was packing the boxes to prepare to “move [her] daughter to a better school district.”

    Is that really something for a politician to celebrate as the ideal? We’ll work together and strive to have a country where those who have the resources and wherewithal can move their kids to a better school district? How about a woman rolling up her sleeves saying “I’m going to start a volunteer reading program at my daughter’s [current] school.”?

  84. Yeah, I probably wasn’t clear — I meant that ideally, the public schools would all be of acceptable quality, not that everyone should have to move. I was more responding to WCE’s question about “what’s the difference b/w my pathetic $200K per year annual existence and everyone else’s $600K annual existence?”

  85. “As you’ve mentioned, you’re a glass half empty kinda gal. I think that’s a big part of it.”

    Hey, just a moment. Back to the OT article, it suggests that WCE is actually a “glass larger than it needs to be for that volume of liquid” type of gal.

  86. WCE, I was playing around with a COL comparison tool on best places dot net to deal with a relative who is always making snide remarks about how “rich” we are, even though per capita his family has more income and is in a much cheaper part of the country.

    If you make $500k in Larchmont, NY, it is the equivalent of $140k in Toledo, so maybe the same is true in your neck of the woods.

  87. My (first marriage) in laws redid their will when they moved back to the US after 30 years abroad. Needless to say, they did not want their son the extreme convert to take his share of the estate and promptly give it away, putting their assets to a use they did not agree with, and as a corollary rendering him destitute in old age and a financial burden on his children. So they went to my finance DD, who was less than 30 at the time, and asked her if she would be trustee for her father’s share. She said absolutely not – it would be inappropriate. I have no idea what they did, probably divided his share up to leave some to him and some directly to the grandchildren.

  88. Sky,

    The comparison isn’t Larchmont/Toledo it’s Larchmont/Ottowa Hills.

  89. Cost of living in my county is one of the highest in Oregon and comparable to Seattle. In my opinion, our family is in the “sweet spot” of income combined with minimal commute, natural beauty, etc. But we have no clubs, no restaurants and medical specialists/zoo/museums are 50-80 miles away.

    I’m definitely glass half full about where I live.

    The families I’m thinking of homeschool their 4-6 children and Dad can get to work by biking/walking/catching a ride, so periodic vehicle issues are just a nuisance.

  90. Finn, my DH did discuss having a professional trustee, but he knows enough about how the system works to know that difficult judgment calls are not best left to bank trustees. Should they authorize Sally to give 22-year-old Madison $40K for a luxury van to live in at Burning Man? That’s probably better left to DH to decide.

  91. WCE – the only difference I see in general outlook (as opposed to the many important details of life) between you and the other totebaggers is that you assume that you have to figure out the least harmful bargain basement means of getting your children a university education (and this may apply in other areas as well). That illustrates the glass larger than it needs to be to a T. Rather than painting you as pessimistic about your ability to satisfy the water glass or iced tea glass thirst with only a juice glass worth of college costs you can cover, it seems more that you have decided that a juice glass provides sufficient drinking water to slake the thirst so let’s not even consider whether to see whether it is possible to fill up a larger glass with water from multiple sources.

  92. RMS, good luck to DH.

    My great-grandparents tried to solve this by locking the money up in trust until my grandparents died, when they hoped their grandchildren (my parents’ generation) would be old enough to have some sense.

    My grandparents lived until their late 90s, and in the 50 years the money was locked in the trust, most was lost to poor investments and bank fees.

    When my parents’ generation finally inherited what was left, the foolish ones were in their 60s.

    They ran out and bought the luxury minivan and drove off to Burning Man, leaving their own children and grandchildren in the squalid poverty that had become their lot.

    Perhaps a mix of annuities payable on inheritance and trust principal locked away until Sally’s death would still be better than your DH assessing every request, though.

  93. Sky, that’s an interesting thought. At the moment, we’re all kind of pretending that MIL and FIL will never actually die. And Sally had, uh, rheumatic fever? or something as a kid, so she has a flaky heart, and she’s abused every drug out there, and now she’s at least 50 lbs overweight, so it’s entirely possible she’ll pre-decease MIL and FIL. Oh, and she smokes and drinks to excess. So we’ll all probably put off dealing with her children and money for several years and presumably the kids will inherit and spend it all on idiocy and then whine to Cassie and DH for more money and get smacked down. At least that’s my current theory.

  94. (I wouldn’t even spring for the sofa that cost $5K, and it was the most comfortable one I’d ever sat in).
    we did. a very good use of $5k. Unanimous family opinion.

  95. RMS – definitely a non family trustee is THE BEST way to go in this situation. If you make sis #1 the trustee, that is a big burden on her that she shouldn’t have to carry, and all the nieces and nephews may bother her incessantly depending on how resentful they are.

  96. Also, not necessarily a bank…a good individual trustee (ahem) can do this kind of thing too. Periodic distributions or income only distributions might be something to think about.

  97. “Only a man could believe that the biological relationship is mostly a social and cultural construct. If he tried nine months of pregnancy, 30 hours of labor, and a year of nursing on demand, perhaps that would disabuse him of that notion.” Hear hear.

    @WCE: I am stymied by your question, and laughing because only you would ask it. I don’t really see any income-based “differences” — I guess maybe the way to say it is that I see more variabilities across the various personalities and beliefs and careers and families than I do based on income. The differences are around the edges, in the trappings. I mean, most of us here either are or have been in a pretty similar place to where you are now. I suspect most of the financial differences are due to age (those of us who are older have had more time to accumulate assets), differences in # of kids (you have twice as many as me!), and whether to SAH vs. stay on the job. But all of that is basically just variations on the same theme.

    Oh, and ITA with Meme’s assessment. But I also view that as part of your personality/engineer brain — my sense is that even if your family brought in 5x the salary, you would still be doing the exact same pragmatic analysis, just with a larger glass. :-)

  98. @Fred: alas, no fancy sofa for me until I am confident the children will not destroy it. :-)

    I was also laughing at someone’s earlier comment about a person being that way “before he was an engineer.” Because based on DH and DS, “engineer” is a genetic trait that just happens to have a job named after it.

  99. Lol, Rhett. Maybe we should all chip in and donate sweaters, gloves, and hats to HM and Finn for those frigid February mornings.

  100. Lemon,

    Seriously, according to Wikipedia once or twice a year it plunges into the mid to upper 50s! I think we all remember where we were on that fateful day in January 1969 when temps in Honolulu plumeted to a bone shattering 52.

  101. I have a pair of gloves and a ski hat, along with a couple of ski jackets, at my desk right now. While our AC is being upgraded, the temperature controls aren’t working, so the compressors are just running at a constant %age of capacity, and some areas are very warm, and others, like mine, are freezing.

    But this year has been pretty cold. There were quite a few mornings when the temperatures at or near sea level have been down into the 50s, and much colder than that at higher elevations.

  102. ” every son of two engineers I know is an engineer”

    DS’ chemistry class last summer self-polled themselves about career plans. The one kid who plans to be an engineer is, you guessed it, the kid of two engineers.

    BTW, beside the wannabe engineer, two kids were undecided. The rest all plan to be MDs, with many already having picked their specialties, as well as where they want to go do med school and do their residencies.

  103. And as we’ve discussed in the past, female engineers seem to have a high propensity for marrying male engineers. Of course, that’s quite logical, given that male engineers do tend to be excellent marriage material.

    WCE, what have your observations been of daughters of two engineers?

    BTW, DW has pointed out to me many times that a high %age of the female MDs we know are married to male MDs.

  104. Daughters of engineers I can think of: a few married young after community college then had kids, community college culinary school, biochemistry, pharmacist, nurse, French major, accountant, art history/sociology major followed by marketing job at local cable company, PhD chemist, physics grad student…

    Most of the children of engineer couples aren’t old enough to have careers yet- a few are majoring in engineering in college but most are choosing healthcare (doctors of some stripe, physical therapist, nurse)

    If I had it to do over, I’d definitely consider something in healthcare. Engineering has too much expectation of someone else carrying the load at home- Mr WCE has to go to Europe for a month this summer, and other guys in his group are having to be gone longer- his group is all men. When Mooshi talks about software engineering, the lack of realistic project planning is depressingly familiar. My gynecologist observed that since he went to medical school, enough women have become MD’s to change how the system works (shared call, etc.)

    In old school fields (we have a nuclear startup locally), the availability expectation hasn’t changed but the startup is having difficulties recruiting nuclear engineers from elsewhere, due to difficulties with spouse employment, so maybe the future will be different. The startup is run by middle aged men with SAH/nearly SAH wives, though, so I’m not holding my breath.

  105. “I was also laughing at someone’s earlier comment about a person being that way “before he was an engineer.” Because based on DH and DS, “engineer” is a genetic trait that just happens to have a job named after it.”
    That is emerging in my family too. It is full of practical no nonsense people.

    LfB – I was thinking of your DD’s Math test and how she did not see that all the information was available to solve the problem. I recall having similar issues and I was not a Math natural but it is something that can be taught with practice. I had a tutor in the 8th, 9th and 10th grades – though he was strict, his fees were high and he demanded that you practice Math – it was worth it. No more deer in the headlights kid but someone who is not daunted by any Math she hasn’t seen before and will take a step by step approach (helps me even today – colleagues will be reluctant to take on projects involving Math they haven’t used but I’ll read books, watch outside videos and able to understand the method).

  106. Finn – there was a FB shared article a couple weeks ago about careers with highest and lowest divorce rates. It did nothing to acknowledge correlation, but engineers (I think nuclear engineers, specifically) had the lowest divorce rates. Bartenders were at the other end of the scale.

    Stanley always loved engineers for their ability to accumulate a high proportion of wealth as a function of their decent, if unspectacular incomes. He always seemed to imply that it was all based on personal thrift and virtue and optimizing mentality, and while I definitely think much of it has to do with being more likely to see spending decisions as just another problem with a numerically optimal solution in terms of lifecycle costs and benefits, I would also have suggested to him that they can be helped along the way by factors like a faster, earlier climb to that decent salary, and job opportunities spread out in plenty of moderate or low-COL areas. The early income thing is key–if you’re going to be a saver, in addition to compounding effects, you’re much better off, under a progressive tax structure, to have your income distributed as evenly as possible throughout your working years.

  107. Milo – this article is right up WCE’s alley of interest. At first glance, it’s all about pointing out how Republicans can not legitimately get on any high horse regarding social dysfunction. (And I love anyone who uses Merle Haggard lyrics as a basis for his hypothesis.)

    But if you step back to see the big picture, what’s remarkable about this column is the author’s unquestioned acknowledgement that the problem is, indeed, rooted in out-of-wedlock births, and really to the extent that they result in absent fathers (I.e., I’m sure it’s unfair and inaccurate to cast a divorce of two devoted parents into the same category). But for the Left to acknowledge that fact, without even apologizing for doing so, seems like a pretty big shift from the people who were outraged over the Murphy Brown comments.

    The fact is that the poor and working classes of both races were not well equipped to adjust to changes in behavior driven by the sexual revolution and the second demographic transition – a collection of forces that are inexorably changing the family, marriage patterns and child rearing worldwide

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/06/opinion/sex-drugs-and-poverty-in-red-and-blue-america.html?_r=1

  108. “until I am confident the children will not destroy it. :-)”

    Well, it’s leather, which makes for pretty easy cleanup, though surprisingly few spills have happened since we got it ~5 yrs ago when the youngest was 10. And I guess durable enough for our family.

    Downside: it has deep pockets/crevices where e.g. granola/candy bar wrappers somehow accumulate. Some paper plates, a small amount of change, popcorn, too, based on the recent “dig-out”. The two at home blamed the one who is away, but we’re not buying it.

  109. On the other hand, Milo, the most popular comment on the article points out that people respond to economic incentives, and when there are no middle-class jobs available, it makes sense not to get married, because two can’t live more cheaply than one. It’s not just because girls can’t keep their legs crossed anymore. There are structural reasons why marriage isn’t optimal.

  110. and when there are no middle-class jobs available

    Assumes facts not in evidence.

    “it makes sense not to get married, because two can’t live more cheaply than one”

    Two can always live more cheaply than one; it’s even more important if you’re poor.

    “It’s not just because girls can’t keep their legs crossed anymore.”

    I blame absent fathers more than mothers.

  111. RMS: my DH is developing a little crush on you. He’s always wanted a woman who wants to talk about Rawls and his theories…

  112. “Two can always live more cheaply than one”

    I assume, sir, you mean on average. There will be a greater absolute $$ outlay for 2 people than one.

    Certain fixed or highly fixed costs (rent/mortgage/taxes, utilities) help this. Food costs, maybe, if it means buying 1/2 gallons of milk vs quarts, so the unit cost is lower, but some things (meat, fresh fruit/veggies, clothes, transportation sans carpool) don’t necessarily work that way.

  113. per-capita, Finn.

    Actually, Rocky, I agree with you that it’s partly about people responding to economic incentives. (That was Allboys’ favorite saying, you might recall).

    But it’s the opposite. It’s not that there are no middle-class jobs. The problem is that we simply have too much latent prosperity. Back in the ’30’s and earlier, some economists and sociologists were eagerly predicting that by now, with continued gains in economic productivity, we would all be working 10 hours a week and use the rest of the time for Totebaggy pursuits like reading and singing and hiking. The fault with this assumption is that it assumed ambition was evenly distributed. We have people on this board who could retire like MMM, but will work another 30 years. And then we have the people like Sally, and Mooshi’s neighbor’s grown kids, and the folks in AL I emailed you about last night, and my tree guy’s son living in his late grandmother’s house refusing to work or ever see his DD, and MBT’s cousin who can’t be bothered to mow the lawn. In previous generations, it’s not like there were a bunch of comfy middle class jobs out there, but against the prospect of watching their children actually go hungry, they were motivated to work doing something. Now there are other options to meet the basic needs. There are food stamps, a grandmother’s paid-off house, someone’s disability check to piggy back off of. The r, and you can fill in the gaps, if necessary, with some on-and-off work here and there. Rudimentary basics like food and shelter have never been cheaper, and for many, that’s enough. But it doesn’t make for good parenting or family structure, and that’s what brings us to the article. It’s not there are no jobs; the problem is that there is not enough need for income.

  114. But Murphy Brown is just a red herring. Her kid will be fine, dad or no dad. As will my former colleague’s child who was conceived with the assistance of a sperm donor. I am not so sure it is the absense or presence of a father that matters. It is the absense or presence of at least one involved and stable parent. Many people are just ill-equipped to be parents (both of their own doing and through no fault of their own). I don’t think encouraging them to stick around really does anything.

  115. Cat – rich people have more resources and are better equipped to be single parents. It’s not as good as two parents, but the kids will be OK.

    For many different reasons, this doesn’t translate well to those further down the spectrum. Fathers offer more marginal value the lower you go.

  116. Milo – totally agree. With the assumption that the father in question is at least not much worse than average. The problem is that there are a lot of men who make crappy dads. And you can’t force someone to want to be a good dad.

  117. Cat – but going back to my new hypothesis, One way to force someone to be a better dad, and a better example, is economic necessity that motivates him to go to work so that his kids don’t actually go hungry before his eyes. On the other hand, if his work really is not needed, his preference for leisure can win out.

  118. I don’t think most men who are in that group would stick around to see if the kids starve.

    I would rather throw lots of condoms and mirenas and abortions at people. And then give lots of assistance to those who actually want to stick around.

  119. LfB – a car and learning to drive is also key to the salon workers. They are not stuck waiting for the van to get them to their jobs and drive to better paying jobs than the nail salons.
    A comment on the salon article – the nail shops around here are Vietnamese. The women who work there seem settled into the community with their families and seem to be paid fairly.
    There is one woman who owns two nail salons and she is very much a hands on owner with the same staff and regular customers. She has put her kids through one of the best schools in the area – a small business success story.

  120. More assistance that supplements earned income. Encourage them to stick around that way; don’t just throw money at them that makes their contributions irrelevant.

    People acknowledge this when it comes to poor starving Africans, that too many shoe donations puts the shoemaker out of work. We should apply the same logic here.

  121. Special for Rhett:

    NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Here’s what Jim Cramer had to say about some of the stocks during the Mad Money Lightning Round Thursday evening: Transocean (RIG): “The deepwater market has not come back at all. Sell, sell, sell.”

  122. LfB, thanks for that article! A Yaris in every driveway!

  123. I think that would be the ideal. But for kids who have parents who don’t respond to incentives like we would expect, I still would want pretty developed welfare program for them. But that is what makes me a liberal. I am totally cool with funding those who are deemed undeserving or lazy.

  124. “But that is what makes me a liberal. I am totally cool with funding those who are deemed undeserving or lazy.”

    What makes me a conservative is not that I’m afraid a fixed number of undeserving people may benefit, but that the more financial incentives you provide toward certain choices, the more people you’ll get choosing the very thing you’re trying to eliminate.

  125. Transocean (RIG): “The deepwater market has not come back at all. Sell, sell, sell.”

    The key of course is to buy when everyone else is selling and sell when everyone else is buying.

  126. the more people you’ll get choosing the very thing you’re trying to eliminate.

    What are we trying to eliminate? People with zero (or less) marginal productivity not working?

  127. There have always been men who don’t really care if their kids starve or not – a minority, but sadly, a significant minority. You can find many stories of men who up and leave their families in history, in our history, and in the histories of most places. My DH’s own grandfather abandoned a wife and kids in Poland to come to America, where he started a whole new family and never sent a dime to the old one.

    To me, the thing that has changed is that for most of history, surviving kids were an economic asset. I think fathers often had incentive to support their kids until they became an asset. That is not the case any more. So, less of an incentive.

    I know this sounds coldhearted, but I think there is something to it. It is often said in international charity circles that it is better to channel aid money to women because they will spend it on their kids, whereas the men will spend it on themselves.

  128. “I want all kids to not spend a second worrying that they won’t have anything to eat over the weekend when school lunches are unavailable.”

    Tangent off this comment: Apparently others have had the same idea I did, and a bunch of school districts are offering free lunches to everyone, not just kids who qualify based on income level. According to an article I recently read, a problem has surfaced: %age of kids on free/reduced cost lunch has been used as the primary proxy for overall SES of school populations, and going to 100% free lunches has eliminated the collection of income data. Some areas (IIRC, NY state) have stopped, or decided not to implement, 100% free lunches because of this.

  129. “job opportunities spread out in plenty of moderate or low-COL areas.”

    I think that depends on what type of engineering. In certain fields, the jobs are concentrated in pretty high COL areas. WCE considers her area relatively high COL, but compared to other locations where similar jobs exist, I’m guessing COL of her area is quite low.

  130. “The fact is that the poor and working classes of both races were not well equipped to adjust to changes ”

    I haven’t read the article yet, but what jumps out at me from this quote is, both races? That implies two races; which two? What about those of mixed race?

  131. Finn, I think our COL index is around 110.

    The trade-off to living in a low or moderate cost of living area is usually the schools/peer group for your kids. I moved from a county with a below-average level of college educated adults and a 10% annual teen pregnancy rate when I was in high school (and the teen pregnancy peaked nationally) to a county whose economy is dominated by a land grant university.

    Many educated professionals don’t want to live/raise their kids in less educated areas. I can get a dentist appointment immediately, any time I need one. My parents have to wait months if they have to reschedule a cleaning. I think it’s because dentists don’t want to live where my parents live.

  132. The twins returned from a birthday party for a girl in their class who likes fairies. As a favor, they received a tiny container of pixie dust. One twin to the other: “She SAYS it’s pixie dust, but she’s trying to trick us. It’s really glitter.”

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