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Traffic Calming [Sep. 27th, 2006|11:36 pm]
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Today I attended a meeting of the transportation committee of my neighborhood association. We had a guest speaker from an adjacent association who described some changes they are trying to push through.

Problem: After the last highway improvements, traffic backs up so far on the access road to the freeway that people don't want to wait until they get to the light, so they turn earlier into the neighborhood. Seriously, one resident has had four separate incidents of cars crashing into the yard or even the actual house.

Plan A: Block access to the neighborhood. This plan was worked on and revised and perfected for four years until suddenly the city decided on a new policy never to pay for blocking roads.

Plan B: Add another lane that goes under the bridge instead of through the light for those who want to get on the freeway. Of course this probably won't get approved because it will mean too many entrance ramps in too short a space, which is why the old entrance ramp got yanked out in the first place.

Still, I said I liked the second plan better and explained my philosophy: if you don't anger the drivers on the main roadways, you don't have to calm them in the neighborhoods. Yep, this group is a big fan of "traffic calming" designs, which are just the kinds of designs that anger me such as road humps, traffic circles (especially the ones with big, beautiful trees replacing visibility), and closing down road entrances. I didn't explain my philosophy that if you want a safe place for your children to play, you should build sidewalks and parks, not road humps. Nor did I explain that you should prosecute people who drive into houses rather than punish everyone. But they did let me vent, and I did like all the current ideas under discussion.

The other idea was to do to 51st what they're also proposing for Cameron: Turn a four-lane road into a two-lane road plus a center turn lane plus bike lanes plus places for buses to pull off to pick up passengers. I think I like that idea.

I went to this meeting because it seems wrong to complain about traffic without doing anything about it. I left the meeting feeling that it's not worth it to me to bang my head against this issue for years and years, all perhaps for naught. There might be better ways to spend my time, like finding a place on the other side of the freeway, with less stupid design. Of course my own neighborhood used to have, well, very poor design, but less stupid than what it has now.

No-sugar update - I did fine again today. I felt a hint of headache, but it ran away on its own. No sign of any other withdrawal symptoms. I am running out of pretzels and was quite tempted to have a sugary snack bar, but I didn't. I also resisted melty, delicious dark chocolate that was stored too long in "the warm place" on top of the fridge. It's much easier to resist things when I know it's only temporary.

I did feel a little depressed at times, but that's because I insisted on reading a book titled Simple Things Won't Save the Earth. The author feels we need to reduce our population, reduce our use of resources, and use technology to fix as much as we can. If you read this book, you can get more details of course, and also learn an astounding amount about rubber. Sadly, producing rubber is not environmentally good the ways it's currently done, nor do people want to work at the associated tree-tapping jobs, and synthetic rubber is still not as good and it requires large amounts of petroleum products.

I also went to a brown-bag meeting on chemicals in the home and how to make your house less poisonous. I thought it was going to be about using vinegar and baking soda for cleaning and oxygen bleaches for bleaching, and they did mention that. They also gave us a list of additives used in creamy, gooey things like shampoo, conditioner, and hand lotion to retard the growth of bacteria and give the item a longer shelf life, but which turn out to also not be so great for us larger life forms.

Also they went on about plastics. Yes, I did get the memo a while back, but do you know what my reaction was? My reaction was that I was sick of everything turning out to be poisonous, therefore, everything can't really be poisonous, therefore I'm not going to worry about plastic. I had the exact reaction that so frustrated the author of the book I mentioned above: that even when we know there's a problem, we pretend it isn't really a problem. Sickening. Americans are especially good at this head-in-the-sand way of life, and then we get all shocked that someone would want to run gas-filled airplanes into heavily-populated and -symbolic buildings of ours.

The reality is that we hear about many fewer things than are really problems, and so whenever we do hear something, it should have all that much more impact.

But back to there relatively minor of slow self-poisoning. You are supposed to carry your drinks in aluminum or steel or glass bottles instead of plastic (even neoprene) ones. What should I carry my sandwich in? A wasteful succession of pieces of tin foil or wax paper? What about my yogurt? It's hard to think that every time I buy something and half the time I use something I am damaging myself or the earth. I just have to settle for doing less damage than I would do if I didn't know.

In case you're wondering, other suggestions from the class include using nylon or natural shower curtain liners instead of cheapo plastic ones, leaving the house for at least two weeks after installing new carpeting while the bulk of the poisons outgas, deterring ants with paprika or chili powder rather than ant poisons, replacing gooey things containing known toxins with safer versions or doing without, avoiding scented items except for "essential oils," and never burning candles. (But I like smelly vanilla candles, especially in that spot next to the mirror in the bathroom during parties because the light switch is hard to find.)

From: (Anonymous)
2006-09-28 02:53 pm (UTC)

Urban legend


As I understand it, the fears around using plastics for food is an urban legend and scientific review of DEHA, etc., has shown that the levels of the chemicals that might be consumed after the plastics touch food are well under the threshhold of toxic effect. There's a lot of faith-based propoganda that "all chemicals are poisons!" and so forth being spread, but the scientific evidence shows otherwise.

Head-in-the-sandism is a bad thing (and not in any way that I can see at all a particularly American problem), but we have to make as sure as we can that we are reacting to legitimate fears and dangers. "Freak out now and ask questions later" is not necessarily a better approach to take, given that freaking out carries its own costs.

My belief is that rather than hearing about "many fewer things than are really problems," we tend to have the opposite signal-to-noise problem.

I didn't quite follow your comment regarding 9/11. It's true that the average American was "shocked" by this event and had previously very little clue as to who Osama bin Laden even was (except for those who remembered the embassy bombings, the Cole, etc). But the average American doesn't know a lot of stuff, often out of rational ignorance. (To the average American, being up to speed on Al-Qaeda on Sept 10, 2001, would be of jack-all use.) He was certainly on the US government's radar screen, however.
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-09-28 03:19 pm (UTC)

Re: Urban legend


Plastics are our friends! There is some good information at Snopes, here: http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/cookplastic.asp

As far as I know, the only potential health danger from plastics, and it's a small one, is heating non-microwave-safe plastics in the microwave with food. It's difficult to find microwave-safe plastic plates (I used to have some, but could never replenish the stockpile, so I got rid of them). So don't microwave saran wrap types of things unless the box says they are microwave-safe. Still, I think the risk of these things is very low.
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[User Picture]From: livingdeb
2006-10-05 03:56 am (UTC)

Re: Urban legend

Thanks you guys for the updates. It's good to know.

Sally, the 9/11 reference was just about how people are surprised that our foreign policy Superman complex might not sit well with everyone rather than about how people are suprised that a specific person has specific plans in place.
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