Wednesday assorted links


#3" Let them eat cake.

Sounds like a good comment for 4., too.

I learned everything I needed to know about Mx. Vollmer when the article said she drove a Prius. I never met a Prius owner who wasn't a crazy who thought she was saving the world by telling other people what to do.

I've met more than one who is just in it for fuel economy/total cost of ownership. I was skeptical that the payback would be there, but I think batteries are lasting, the resale value holds up, and gas prices were pretty high since they were introduced.

+1 for the Prius c which is reasonably priced as well, factoring in the premium for hybrids.

I know some aren't; if you only care about driving as a way to get from A to B, and are sensitive to fuel prices, a Prius is a fine enough car; they're reasonably roomy and well built.

They're absolutely also owned by preachy, posturing jerks, of course - the percentage was far higher when they first came out.

Now they're so commonplace (and hybrids in general so widely available) that they have little to no posturing value.

Now the posturing types are going to buy a Leaf.

#4 was interesting. The lawyer who wanted to slow down development should have gotten her neighbors to rally around her. As a slumlord I've been stymied from building by such "associations". But a 'lone wolf' approach as what she did does not work that well. Res judicata I think it's called: once one judge rules against you, the rest pile on. The initial condition sets the stage for subsequent convictions. That's why those guys in solitary confinement for 40 years in Louisiana get railroaded, since the initial judgement went against them. That's why you need a citizen's alliance so it's harder to rule against 40 people than one. Speaking against my own interest, since I like to see higher density since it makes my property values go up.

Complete gibberish

The problem with "getting your neighbors to rally around you" is that your neighbors are the ones developing, in Chevy Chase, not Wicked Outsiders.

She sued her neighbors over their plan to enlarge their own home.

How do you convince your neighbors to not do what they want because you like smaller houses and hate change?

You don't.

@Sigivald - there are areas in Northern VA where the neighbors are not in favor of McMansions on teardown properties and fight back. But the tide is against such people, agreed. Most people like McMansions since they are in gentrified neighborhoods where a bigger house will raise the value of their home (and they have to pay more property tax).

I live in one of those neighborhoods and I don't really want every house to be a McMansion. But people should be able to do what they want...

But by golly, they feel good about themselves in their piety - and that's all that matters.

Very much a neighbor from hell

meh - this was supposed to be in reply to Robert - #userfail

#4: ‘I’m not going to be bullied around by the rich people!.....some babble on values and rights.......then bullies the construction contractor that is probably the only poor in this comedy.

I believe "X" so I'm not like the rich.......this way of thinking is really amusing but all the people I know that say it are under 30 years old.

if you think a construction contractor taking jobs in chevy chase isn't rich too, you're fooling yourself. however, he's obviously the only decent person in the piece.

Oh, the contractor is laughing all the way to the bank.

If I understand her biography, she grew up in Chevy Chase and returned there at age fifty to live with her nonagenarian father after practicing law in California for 25 years. She appears to be a childless spinster and without siblings, so anything her mother and father managed to accumulate is likely hers.

She inherited the house from her father. That's a pricy bit of real estate, but that neighborhood was (once upon a time) a redoubt of people enjoying a moderate prosperity and not much more. My debt-laden grandparents moved there in 1938. And it was an agreeable but still normal-range suburban neighborhood when I was a kid. Her father was federal civil service and would have retired around about 1970. I suspect he was well taken care for, with a generous pension and no mortgage. I really doubt she has a treasure chest of liquid assets. The house is her asset.

As for the lawsuits, dollars to doughnuts they were filed pro se.


The people next door to her I cannot figure out. Why make a seven-figure investment in a piece of property in one of the toniest parts of metropolitan Washington, tear it down, and then rebuild larger when your household (by all appearances) consists of a married couple and no one else? (The real estate in those parts was built during the Depression and has quite a lot of character). Why, when you need to commute from place to place in an urban area, drop whatever gross sum a Benz retails for nowadays instead of a Subaru for half the price? Then again, I'm not the sort of person who could ever garner the income necessary to do these things...

What is in her 401k, and what color are her eyes?

Cannot tell. Her campaign photos are in black & white

Apparently, she was a specialist in legal aid work. Doubt a whole lot socked away.

Because the house isn't what makes the property valuable. Hell, the house I own in a slummy part of Oakland would still be worth more than half what it is now if I tore it down. A nice part of metro DC? A smallish 70-year-old house in unknown condition is probably 20% of the value of the property.

A speculation:

I doubt it's "I believe X". I think the house and the neighborhood is where she grew up. She was born in 1948. In 1948, that neighborhood was prosperous but affordable for not only professional-managerial types but some common-and-garden middle class as well. People who fit both descriptions did not have the advantage over the rest of the population they now do. Nowadays, people like her parents could not afford a piece of property there. People like her parents would be in a two-bedroom condominium in some other suburb. She believes viscerally she's not rich because the setting is baseline for her and cash-flush interlopers are coming in and mucking up her landscape.

This is exactly right. You see these kind of people in Silicon Valley, or saw them, since they've pretty much all been cleared out by now.

#2 about that water computer sounded kinda silly. Does this gadget have any real point? Let him come back when that thing can do a division that my pocket calculator can.

The purpose of droplet movers is not computation, it's lab-on-a-chip type applications such as synthesis of DNA and proteins -- sort of a 3D printer for molecules. It's possible they will be able to do separations, so they might be useful for analytical work too. There's a lot of problems to be solved before we get there, though. (I think the problem of satellite droplets may be a killer.)

If we get there, it could be a revolution in biochemistry and medicine. You might have a device the size of a pack of cigarettes and costing less than $100 that can take the tiniest droplet of your blood and tell you what toxins you've been recently exposed to, what allergens and viruses your immune system is primed for, the composition of your circulating lipoprotein particles and what that means for your cardiovascular risk, etc. etc. You might use it every day to test the meat and vegetables you buy -- it could distinguish the organic from those made with pesticides and hormones.

It could also make stuff, but that probably would not be a consumer item because it would not be able to make large quantity. If you let it crank away for a few weeks, it might be able to make one dose of LSD but only because LSD is effective at fractional milligram doses. You won't make cannabinoids or cocaine with this machine.

Let them advertise it for what it is. A microfluidic device. There's tons of those in research labs already. Some in actual real world applications too.

But don't sell a microfluidic device as a "water operated computer" just to make the media notice.

I wonder how many local governments a British vendor has to deal with. That's a whole different world than government in the US, particularly north of the Mason-Dixon line. I also wonder how fast the codes go obsolete--I believe the economics statisticians have had problems in the US with categorizing activity.

#1 Is the point on large bubbles is when the economy is in a bubble it feels like "This time is different" and the economy is building a new model. And isn't the basics of Keynes's quote "The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent" So China is building a new and successful capitalist model and it is easy for the country to slip into a bubble.

And isn't the big change here that the average Chinese citizen can invest in the stock market and not just get stuck putting money in the bank. And this happened in the US in 1920s and with the internet accounts with much lower fees in the late 1990s. So is China in a bubble? Yes When will it burst? Nobody is quite sure.

#4) This is why it is crucial to go and talk to your potential future neighbors before you buy some land with big plans to McMansion it. The new family would probably go back and not move into that space if they had the choice now.

The new family would probably go back and not move into that space if they had the choice now.

If you believe that, you would be quickly disabused of it after living in the DC area for a bit.

Also reminded me of this:

"Innocence is ever simple and credulous. Conscious of no design itself, it suspects none in others."

William Wirt, Argument in the Trial of Aaron Burr

I do live in the DC area. I'm not saying people aren't clawing each other's eyes out for housing glory here. I just mean that the new tenants probably would have been willing to fork over $100k more and do their little project up the street instead if they had known their neighbor was going to be such a kook.

The DC area doesn't produce steel, plant and reap extensive fields of grain or mine salt. Its raison d'etre is influence peddling and bureaucratic obfuscation, all completely subsidized by the innocents in the fifty real states, incomes are virtually guaranteed for life. Makes purchase of real estate and its improvement easy.

There is a substantial tech industry in NoVA

These kinds of vexatious litigants are an absolute terror to deal with. It's the combination of unshakable faith in their own inherent rectitude, and the fact that they have nothing to lose. They can make your lives hell, and if you try to return the favor you'll find they just don't care.

Although I did laugh at the thought of a 70 year old lady scrawling "no justice no peace" in wet concrete, like she's Cesar Chavez, or eight years old, or some mix of both.

Cesar [Chavez] did great things for farmworkers, but his downfall was that he could never accept criticism of any kind; even constructive criticism from his friends. Unfortunately, I think this tends to happen with most leaders, when they achieve a certain amount of power.”

Did you see this statment she made, quoted in the comments at The Wasington Post.

#4: the tagline at the bottom:
Terrence McCoy covers poverty, inequality and social justice. He also writes about solutions to social problems.

#4 - Good luck with your defamation lawsuit Mr. McCoy.

I don't know the solution, but it's lousy to have a house three times the size of those in the neighborhood go up next door with a 4 story wall near the property line. This particular one is not as bad as a few in the neighborhood. Simple zoning restrictions like setbacks just encourage big cube shaped houses to fit in as much house as possible and don't really solve the problem.

I'd guess the infill housing is a symptom, not a cause, of rising land values.

I’d guess the infill housing is a symptom, not a cause, of rising land values.


The way the rich do it in London is to build - or perhaps I should say excavate - huge multi-storey basements. That has the added joy for the neighbours that if the excavators muck it up, the neighbours' houses might tumble down.

Saw a documentary on this. Very interesting. It seems the neighbors of these basement buildouts put up with quite a lot of inconvenience.

#4 Vollmer and the Schwartzes all seem to be retired, and the marginal value of each additional increment of time devoted to the dispute seems to be relatively low, even if the value of total time devoted to the dispute so far is fairly high. On the other hand, Vollmer is trying to defend her one-and-only house and living environment, and the Schwartzes are doing the same. So this looks like a Nash solution.

Is a Coasean deal possible? Previously, Vollmer had unrealistic beliefs about what she could accomplish through the courts, but at this point she' lost multiple law suits and as a no-contact order on her. The Schwartzes were underestimating Vollmer's stubbornness, but they now seem to be aware that she's going to try to stop anything they do. Both sides now have realistic estimates of their expected costs and expected outcomes. Would Vollmer accept a deal in which the Schwartzes donated a sum equal to their expected legal costs to, say, purchase anti-malarial mosquito netting in Africa?

Vollmer's retired. Unless I misunderstood the comments of the husband, the Schwartzes are not. Vollmer's pride is so invested in her posture I doubt she could be bought off except to avert the loss of the house. The Schwartzes may be more tractable, but keep in mind these are people willful enough to tear down a house salable for seven figures and build something larger. I wonder if it's like the film The Sixth Sense. Vollmer and the Schwrtzes think they're alive, but they're actually dead and each is the other's trial in purgatory.

#3 is a bit of a non-story. It's just a list of standard EU procurement codes. It doesn't mean that it's UK specific or that your local council is buying machine guns.

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