Monkey-brained Musings

Saturday, August 27, 2005
Keep Austin Weird 5K

Are we sure that this wasn’t the Hotter Than Hell? It was 103 degrees at the 5 p.m. start. Then we were kept waiting 20 minutes while they cleared the roads. Standing on Riverside with all of those folks was like being in a sauna. I did alright, though, coming in at 38:16:50 and 43d for my age group. I ran most of the way. But after a water stop on South 1st, during mile 2, it was about three blocks before I got into a run. Still, I did make it in ahead of the group dressed as the General Lee.


Camp Casey

Cindy Sheehan has returned to Camp Casey outside of Bush's Crawford ranchette and filed a very moving post:

The most emotional thing for me though was walking through the main tent and seeing the huge painting on canvas of Casey. Many things hit me all at once: That this huge movement began because of Casey's sacrifice; thousands, if not millions of people know about Casey and how he lived his life and the wrongful way in which he was killed; but the thing that hit me the hardest was how much I miss him. I miss him more everyday. It seems the void in my life grows as time goes on and I realize I am never going to see him again or hear his voice. In addition to all this, the portrait is so beautiful and moving and it captures Casey's spirit so well. I sobbed and sobbed. I was surrounded by photographers, I looked around until I finally found a friendly face, then the news people crushed in on me and I couldn't breathe. I didn't mean to have such a dramatic re-entrance to Camp Casey, but the huge portrait of Casey really surprised me.

This amazing historical event is happening just up the road from us. The friends that have been there have returned with moving stories of the camp and the people that are there. My wife is out of town; otherwise, we would be up there this weekend. We'll make the trip next weekend. Meanwhile, this Sunday is a national day of prayer.


Play Styles

A gaming meme.

You scored as Storyteller. You're more inclined toward the role playing side of the equation and less interested in numbers or experience points. You're quick to compromise if you can help move the story forward, and get bored when the game slows down for a long planning session. You want to play out a story that moves like it's orchestrated by a skilled novelist or film director.







Power Gamer


Method Actor




Casual Gamer


Law's Game Style
created with

From Ian


Thursday, August 18, 2005
What to do about Iraq

I rarely agree with Christopher Hitchens' positions on Iraq, however his recent column raised several good points and ideas. In deciding what we are going to do today about Iraq, it doesn't matter that Bush lied to get us there, it doesn't matter that the administration was in too big of a rush to line up an effective coalition, it doesn't matter that Rummy downscaled the forces to prove a political point, it doesn't matter that there have been countless missteps and missed opportunities since the invasion. What matters today is that we are there and the country is in chaos.

Hitchens raising the issue, though, of why we, particularly people on the left, aren't doing more to further stability in Iraq. Why aren't feminists doing more to support Iraqi women in their quest for civil rights and their struggle against fundamentalists? Why aren't environmentalists supporting restoration of the marshes of the lower Tigris and Euphrates and the endangered culture of the Marsh Arabs? Why have no cities reached out to Baghdad or Basra as sister cities?


Intelligent Falling

Building on the success of their campaign for Intelligent Design, Evangelicals are now tackling the issue of Intelligent Falling

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity?which is taught to our children as a law?is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

. . .

The ECFR, in conjunction with the Christian Coalition and other Christian conservative action groups, is calling for public-school curriculums to give equal time to the Intelligent Falling theory. They insist they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue "so they can make an informed decision."

So sayeth The Onion.


Sorting Hat

I'm clearing out and posting a number of items that I have been preping but haven't had the time to post.

Let's start with a little quiz meme.

You scored 24% Slytherin, 28% Ravenclaw, 60% Gryffindor, and 20% Hufflepuff!
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart.

Gryffindors are known for their courage, audacity, and devotion to what is good and honest.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

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You scored higher than 53% on Slytherin

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You scored higher than 63% on Ravenclaw

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You scored higher than 73% on Gryffindor

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You scored higher than 10% on Hufflepuff
Link: The Sorting Hat Test written by leeannslytherin on OkCupid Free Online Dating


Monday, August 01, 2005
Housing Prices and Land Use Costs

An article in Slate asks whether housing costs are being inflated by excessive land use controls. As evidence, the article cites the divergence between the theoretical market value of a new house based on the the price of land plus construction costs plus a reasonable profit for the developer from the asking price or actual sale price. One study (pdf) found that 71 percent of the units for sale in Austin in 1999 were valued at more than 140 percent of the construction costs only. For other Texas cities the findings were Dallas, 47 percent; El Paso, 28 percent; Houston, 27 percent; and San Antonio, 26 percent.

There are, however, some problems with this study. First, the numbers are from the height of the tech boom, and are now quite dated. Second, there seems to be an implied assumption that land values should be approximately 40 percent of construction costs. It is not apparent where that assumption comes from or how it might actually relate to the divergence in land values between the cities studied, such as San Francisco and El Paso. Accepting for the moment that 40 percent is a valid assumption, then we may also assume that a local market is in balance, and reasonably priced, if less than 50 percent of the houses are sold at less than 140 percent of construction costs.

On that basis, the housing in Texas cities, other than Austin, appears to be reasonably priced, if not a bargin. Actually, more than half of the houses were valued above 140 percent of construction costs in only in only 17 out of the 40 cities studied (42.5 percent). Not surprisingly, the worst offenders were in California: San Francisco, 96 percent; Anaheim, 93 percent; San Diego, 93 percent; and Los Angeles, 89 percent. However, it has long been recognized that the regulatory culprit most responsible for skewing California housing prices has been Proposition 13, the property tax limitation measure. Under Prop 13, local governments have had every incenitive to zone for commercial and industrial properties and have had little incentive to encourage housing construction due to the high demand housing places on governmental services.

All of this is relevant to Austin due to the impending bond election. Citizens and the city council have asked that the bond committee consider proposals to address affordability, and its fellow traveler gentrification. Two proposals have attracted the most discussion. One would involve the sale of bonds for an affordable housing trust fund. The other would seek to reduce the impact of regulatory costs and delays on housing construction.

Housing costs are greatly influenced by supply and demand. Housing costs are greatest in the Central City were demand is highest and the supply is limited. Costs are generally lowest in the suburban and rural areas of Bastrop, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties where the supply of new construction is greater and the demand is limited. One of the surest ways to promote affordable housing is by promoting construction, keeping supply in line with demand. One of the reasons that Austin has become less affordable is because of the low rate of new construction that took place in the late 80s and early 90s during the bust. While newly constructed units, such as lofts Downtown, are typically priced above the average price of existing homes, units constructed today provide a supply of housing that will support a more affordable housing market in the future.

As a final note of caution, the studies upon which the Slate article was based were published by the Libertarian Cato institute, which generally sees regulations as the source of all evils.


The scattered musings of Jeb Boyt, Austin Texas. A collection of the random bits that scamper through my monkey brain. This blog is my personal record. The opinions expressed here are my own and are in no way associated with any employer, board, commission, organization, or other entity that I may be affiliated with. So there.

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