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June 11, 2016

Thread below the Gardening Thread: Infrastructure [KT]

Infrastructure and Entropy


What do you do when your home's sewer line collapses?

I have been thinking about entropy lately. Apparently, the laws of thermodynamics have been revised to suggest that order can appear from disorder but I am not seeing it, personally. I have recently had to deal with several examples of the ways disorder appears in a home without some regular maintenance. Or even WITH some regular maintenance. A friend of ours had a sewer line collapse just before a disabling injury that led to additional deterioration around the house.

And of course we have all seen how infrastructure falls apart when government does not live up to its commitments to maintain and improve it. Opportunities for disorder increase with each beautiful plan for new infrastructure. Efforts to maintain order may be effective for a time. But not forever. Eventually, someone comes along with a great idea for new infrastructure. Usually as the old infrastructure is allowed to fall apart.



Detroit Library, 2011

Maet pulled some interesting quotes from a piece on city planners' obsession with downtowns this week. Authoritarianism? Well, yes.

But for pure ego gratification via grand plans, the regional prize around here goes to California's Train of Fraught, with construction stupidly planned to start out here in farm country rather than in an urban corridor. Wouldn't want news reports of city folk opposing construction at this time. Leave the protests to those country yokels until the train becomes inevitable. "Where will that money come from? The state still doesn’t know."

This is one project where disintegration has preceded construction. And yet we are to trust that a "regime" will come forward to fund it. Can you guess who will be stuck with the bill from the logo above? Our friends at The Guardian are ready to educate us on the latest in Regime Theory in Infrastructure Development. Sounds kinda creepy to me.

Political power and the power of free enterprise run in parallel tracks. Political science offers up a concept called "regime theory," which takes as given a set of government institutions subject to some degree of popular control, coupled with an economy guided mainly by privately controlled investments. A regime is a set of arrangements by which this division is bridged.

As far as I have been able to surmise, political power and the power of free enterprise would have been put into the hands of college students and recent liberal arts graduates by President Bernie Sanders. All of them would have been wearing the same government-approved brand of deodorant, and they would be especially intent on creating jobs by dismantling any non-green infrastructure. But I have been pretty confused by presidential politics lately, so it is possible that a Sanders government would not have looked exactly like this. Heh.

Not sure I trust the Feds to mess too much with infrastructure right now. I remember Alexis de Toqueville's hope that participation in local government and in "voluntary associations" could help Americans resist the "servile temptation" to turn to the soft despotism of government for help. According to his thinking, one reason these voluntary activities helped people resist soft despotism was that people became more competent and learned to work together. This lessened inquietude (uneasiness, anxiety) which is natural in an uncertain, free society. Of course, inquietude is now pretty widespread in Venezuela, where people DID look to government to keep them feeling secure.

Helping people fix infrastructure without government intervention

My recent experiences with local government have been mixed. I have been much happier with voluntary cooperative actions to help get our friends' house in shape for his return. A local plumber, a good guy, fixed the sewer, but this is a big, continuing financial hit for our friend. The men who volunteered for other necessary work around his house, sometimes contributing considerable money as well, are all competent, both professionally and in the community.

I did not inherit my Mom's mechanical aptitude (or even my Dad's), so I am impressed to see a group of men who all know how to use a chain saw, or at least how to conduct themselves around one. And they can figure out how to complete other tasks together, too. These are the kinds of guys who show up in our little town when someone needs help. These particular men are in their 50s and 60s. Their wives are similarly competent and involved, though not necessarily with chainsaws and refuse trailers. The same is true for some of their children. Others are more typical millennials.

I would love to read your accounts of people working together on challenges like this without any input from government. Because, the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. Any successes working with local government?

Preventing summer surprises from your own infrastructure

Seeing problems in another home made me more aware of the potential for problems in my own home. I may be a klutz, but I can change the filter on the central air conditioning system, and I actually remembered to do it this week. You might think about helping an older relative or neighbor do what needs to be done to keep air flowing through an AC or cooler system, before it breaks down. It's the season. Maybe you could take a millennial with you, just for the experience.

I also moved the refrigerator away from the wall to thoroughly clean the condenser coils in preparation for a long, hot summer. Things can sure get nasty-looking under a refrigerator that draws air underneath it , especially when the dogs are shedding.

Any other tips for preventive maintenance at home as really hot weather approaches? If anybody has a personally-approved method for quickly removing soap scum and hard water deposits from tile, please let me know. Thanks.

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