Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

An egg takes three minutes, except here

[Note: I live in New Mexico, elev 5000 feet. You need to know that to get this observation.]

I have heard people say that a soft boiled egg takes three minutes, except at high elevation. These people were at high elevation. Do people at sea level say an egg takes six minutes, except at low elevation? No, because our point of reference is low elevation. Why is our point of reference somewhere else? Why can’t we just say an egg takes six minutes, period? People who have lived here all their lives do things that fail to make sense here, because they make sense somewhere else. They use a clothes dryer for 40 minutes when clothes would dry in 40 minutes anyway without a dryer. They have coloring books with deer and snowmen and talk a great deal about snow in December in school, even on warm days. They build wide open concrete spaces that might be appropriate for London.

Then there is the opposite: the chile and adobe look – trying to define “here” as something unique, something different from the point of reference, which is retained all the while. Long discussions of how hot and what color the chile was, associating a bank with peppers to make it look like the economy is local, making something look adobe without the thermal mass that originally made the material useful. All the hype about what is or was regional gives away the fact that the point of reference is somewhere else.

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“Never enough” syndrome

I have noticed that Americans don’t know “enough” when they see it. For example, how good should the roads be? I was recently in a meeting where Albuquerque’s roads were said to be rated at mostly “fair” or “poor”. It seems that no matter how good the roads are, we’ll invent a rating system that will label them all fair to poor and give people something to complain about.

In medicine, no expenditure is considered too much, and every illness is considered a good candidate for more research and better treatment; yet at the same time there is consenus that the costs are too high. How much treatment is enough?

Education also suffers from the “never enough” syndrome. In another meeting, someone recently proposed that it be an official city goal that 100% of high school students should graduate and pursue a college education of some type. My question is why is education so inefficient that it takes fifteen years to teach someone what they need to enter the work force? And how could this person not see that some people are more academically inclined than others? The quest for academic equality just brings down the standards and makes people have to spend more years learning the same stuff. Taking “never enough” to the extreme, no matter when you stop going to school, it is considered “dropping out”.

Yet another example is the amount of personal space people want to have. Only the constraints of affordability keep people from living in ever-larger spaces. Public parks also suffer from never-ending size requirements. Most of them are empty most of the time, but we keep wanting more.

And finally, “funding.” People like to say things like “in this era of limited resources…” (as opposed to eras where they had unlimited resources!?) It is commonly said that (for all X) there is not enough funding for X. Why even bother to say this?

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