Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Something to offer besides waiting to die' or 'why do I live in Bloomington?'

Yesterday on Twitter, @drewmckinney, aka the guy who wrote that cool DrivingBuddy iPhone app, wrote:
He linked to, a handy site where you can find out for example if you are making $50,000 a year in Bloomington IN, how much would you need to make in San Francisco to get by at the same level in terms of housing and so forth? The answer to this question is: $117,735.

These numbers always have to be taken with a grain of salt, and ex-NYC resident @lmcalpin called bullshit on them:
my apt in bklyn wasn't much more $$ than apts downtown here
anyway i've heard people say before that cost of living makes working here attractive compared to either coast
and i think its a bullshit argument and wishful thinking
Fair enough. At this point we turn to blog posts and articles on whether the fact that it's cheap to live in the Midwest is a draw for businesses and talent. The first one was brought to our attention via @benfulton, and was written by Morton Marcus, a retired economics professor whose column appears in Bloomington's Herald-Times sometimes. I like Marcus' work as he seems to me to be non-partisan, in sharp contrast to the regurgitated Cato Institute dreck people from the Indiana Policy Institute serve up in the H-T Op-Ed.

Marcus' article in the Indiana Economic Digest, 'If the brain drain remains open, what's left?' has this to say about the 'It's cheaper to live in the midwest, come work here!' argument:
Housing is cheaper in Indiana because fewer people want to live here and the value of the goods and services we make is lower than in the Golden State. Lower valued outputs lead to lower wages which lead to lower housing prices.
It’s easy to say the problem is a failure of business investment. We could not admit that the failure is a stodgy environment, communities with hardened intellectual arteries, and businesses that feel at home in such places.

Yes, the issue could be the brain morbidity of business and civic management rather than a need for more business tax incentives.
This discussion reminded me of a blog post by Max Beatty summing up September's 'The Combine' Conference in Bloomington. This was a conference in the tradition of SXSW and other tech gatherings organized by tech professionals in Bloomington, including the people from Humanetrix and SproutBox. Max's post is mostly positive, but this excerpt stung, I have to admit:
Then came the first discussion panel titled “More Than Corn.” The panel of Midwest executives did not deliver. I thought they would be up there boasting about how great it is to be part of tech companies in the Midwest and the opportunities that lie ahead. Instead, they never offered any valid arguments beyond the cost of living being lower and being a great place to raise a family. Working for less and settling down is something very few of my friends under 30 are interested in. By the end of it, I was reaffirmed with my decision to leave Indiana. Indiana’s brain drain won’t stop until there’s something to stick around for besides growing old.
I first read this a few months ago, shortly after the conference, and my initial reaction was to be like Ice-T in the middle of a Twitter beef and invite the author to eat a hot bowl of something. I showed restraint, which is good.

After thinking about this again as a result of the Twitter exchange, I believe there were probably two problems there. First, perhaps having the panel was ineffective for this guy because the panel was showing and not telling, in the parlance of writing classes and lyrics by Canadian Rock Gods Rush. The fact that people in Bloomington put together The Combine, SproutBox, Ignite! Bloomington, and (here comes the plug) Bloominglabs shows cool tech things can and do happen in Bloomington. Having a panel where people talk about things like houses being cheaper is more talk, less rock.

I have been thinking about it some more, and the reasons I like and live in Bloomington have very little to do with the cost of living. We had a house on a lake in Martinsville, IN that cost less than our current place, but I was happy to trade that for living in Bloomington. As I think about it some more, I love Bloomington because it's different from the surrounding area. A lot of people refer to it as an 'oasis', and though I don't use that cliche a lot, I have to admit my reasons for sticking around and loving the place have a lot more to do with Bloomington than the Midwest. Morton Marcus nailed it when he referred to 'communities with hardened intellectual arteries'.

So in the end, I think @lmcalpin and the man Morton Marcus are right. The cost-of-living difference, while really nice, is not enough in itself to draw people here. Further, I don't feel compelled to defend 'the Midwest', and I think cities are more important than states (and definitely regions) when one's deciding where to live.

'Cities' by The Talking Heads

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Thankful

...I've been removed from all the 'Obama iz a seekrit Muslim' mass e-mail lists of relatives and colleagues

...I don't have to fly this Thanksgiving weekend and endure 'gate rape' of myself, my wife and my daughter daughter is so cute and funny dog is both affectionate and ridiculous wife is beautiful, supportive, and funny

...the people I spend the majority of my time with at work are cool

...I seem to have managed to change my running form so I can run w/ less pain

...BloomingLabs continues to be a source of fun and mental stimulation, and I've met cool people there

...I don't live in or commute to Indianapolis

...I have a life where my shitty PowerPoint skillz aren't a problem

...I've given up any pretense of knowing anythin about sports. This gets me out of a lot of really tedious conversations

...I left the 'dream team' cafeteria McLaughlin group to hash things out themselves, and go running at lunch instead daughter abruptly left the 'princess phase' when she turned 7 daughter has awesome Mario Kart skillz wife would never contemplate making a pumple cake or a turducken, except as a joke

...that 'Delocated' show

...I am 90% of the way to not using the word 'issue' instead of 'problem', god I hate when people do that

...that for that brief window in time Mountain Dew Throwback was available to tickle my innards, although 'tickle yore innards' is funnier, but there's not really a funny mispelling of 'my'

...I have more books than I'll ever be able to read

...I have more music than I'll ever be able to listen to

...I internalized Fugazi's 'you are not what you own' message, so I don't have to listen to Fugazi anymore because their mission was accomplished 'douchedar' seems to work pretty well

...Tom Scharpling came back from his hiatus

...Tom Scharpling has retired 'Do It!' as a show opener

...Superchunk released a really great album this year (not grateful they didn't make it here on their tour)

...I live in a country where I'm free to choose which burrito place I go to for lunch

...I won't see commercials on TV featuring smarmy white douchebags wanting me to vote for them for at least a year

...I got a $26 check as my '5 years of service' award

...I managed to put together this list without every item being '...I don't'

...'Comedy Death Ray' will continue to produce new episodes for the forseeable future

...I can stay up as late as I want, because I am a grown-ass man

...even though I can eat whatever I want because I'm a grown-ass man, but have the sense to not eat crap food all the time because I'm a grown-ass man, I still say fuck it and eat chicken wings sometimes because dammit they are delicious

...I live in a universe where people can get book deals based on Tweets

...none of our favorite 80s and 90s celebrities will ever have to get real jobs thanks to reality television and VH-1's 'Wasn't that Awesome?' shows.

...I am mostly resisting the new trend of ending every snippet of e-communication with an exclamation point!

...we don't have flying cars, because after you flew the car once or twice, you'd probably get over the novelty and just leave it in your garage from then on.

...Eddie Pepitone exists (and has a Twitter account)


Monday, November 22, 2010

Neologism Squatting: these words/phrases are mine

Oraclown: clowns who use Oracle. Also, consultants from Oracle.

I Googled this one, and I got a lot of results for a fish called an 'Ora Clown' (MySQL has the porpoise, now Oracle can have the Oraclown). I couldn't find anybody referring to Oracle-ites as Oraclowns, though. Surely somebody has thought of or used this?

Scooby Dieu: the dog god of France. This one is nonsense, but it makes a nice username perhaps. I couldn't find this on the Google, either.

Abbot and Skastello meet Skankenstein: the hacky 'ska band names are funny' joke to end all hacky 'ska band names are funny' jokes. I actually really wish a ska band would take this. There have been longer and more cumbersome band names: '...and you will know us by the Trail of Dead' and 'Scandal Featuring Patty Smythe' come immediately to mind.

That's it for now!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

'___ is like Jazz' No, it's not.

I recall reading one of those 'change or be killed' stories about a guy who got fired from his job (I believe it was a journalism type job). He asked his employer 'Why are you firing me? Aren't I doing a good job? I'm producing a lot!'. His employer answered 'You are great at what you do. The thing is, what you do is like Classical Music, and we need Jazz. We need somebody who can do Jazz.'

Myself, I have this undercurrent of fear of being told '...what you do is like Classical Music, but around here we're more about the Artificial Fart Under The Arm'.