There are three types of problems. A simple problem, such as following a recipe, might require some knowledge or mastery of certain techniques, but generally carries with it a high assurance of success. Complicated problems, like sending a rocket into space, while not being as easy to master, can still be broken down into many simple problems. Once one addresses issues of coordination and scale, they, too, are likely to succeed upon repetition. In contrast, complex problems, such as raising a child, depend on multiple interconnected relationships, making each instance unique. Losing weight, it would appear, is a complex problem. While there are certain immutable principles, such as calories in < calories out, what works for some may not work for others. Having said that, now that I’ve figured out what works for me, I’d like to share it with the world in case anyone happens to be in a similar predicament.
I didn’t start bike commuting purely for fitness and weight loss purposes, but it was certainly a very big plus. As I wrote in my previous post, the 100+ mile per week commute from Riverdale helped me lose weight pretty much no matter what I was eating, but just a few months after moving to the city (and after a very harsh winter that didn’t allow for much riding) my cycling mileage shrank dramatically and I regained all that weight. I had resolved to get back on the path to good health and fitness.
About a year ago I wrote about how cycling to work every day from Riverdale helped me lose about 12 lbs and achieve much better overall fitness. Back then and over the ensuing summer, I averaged over 100 miles per week cycling. With a minimum round-trip length of 22 miles (and occasionally taking longer routes of over 20 miles one-way) plus frequent weekend riding, I was burning calories and shedding pounds with ease. No matter what I ate, it seemed, I was still burning far more than I was consuming. But at the end of that summer, when we moved to the City, …
I just listened to a fascinating (as always) Freakonomics podcast about a concept developed by Economics Professor Daniel Klein called Rinkonomics. On an ice skating rink, a few simple rules (everyone skating in the same general direction, no cell phones allowed, etc.) suffice to keep everyone relatively happy and safe. Given the lack of central control and direction, someone unfamiliar with a rink might think that collisions would be extremely common. In fact, as I can attest from recent experience, collisions are very rare and the most common type of injury is self-inflicted and involves only one skater.
Klein goes on to make the case for the rink as an analogy for economic life in general, and against central planning. However, I was most struck by the following quote explaining why the rink functions as it does:
An important quality of collision is mutuality. If I collide with you, then you collide with me. And if I don’t collide with you, you don’t collide with me. In promoting my interest in avoiding collision with you, I also promote your interest in avoiding collision with me.
Therein lies the key to understanding, and potentially solving, one of the biggest public health crises (and undoubtedly the biggest public health crisis facing children) of our era.
This is my fourth post in my series on city living. For earlier posts see
A word of warning: I have a lot of weakly related ideas floating in my head these days, and today’s post is more my way of sorting through it than an attempt to convey any particular message.
Staying in the city after starting a family and raising kids may be increasingly popular, but there’s still a fair number of people who end up leaving for the suburbs. Since my wife and I have actually lived in multiple suburban communities, and visited or explored several more, we are often asked what each of them are like. However, looking back at the people we met in the suburbs and comparing them to the people we’ve recently met in the City, I now realize that this information about individual suburbs is far less useful than most people imagine.
Last week I described how the series of street fairs in our neighborhood got me thinking about the under-allocation of space to pedestrians and the need for more places for kids to go out and play. Late last week I brought the car home from its increasingly long-term parking spot at work in order to facilitate some weekend travels and shopping. The hours I spent circling the neighborhood searching for free parking have given me plenty of time to contemplate alternatives to the horrendous state of parking in Manhattan.
Another Sunday, another street fair. This past Sunday’s street fair on 100th St between Broadway and West End was not quite as extensive as last week’s, which closed down half of Broadway for 10 blocks. Nevertheless, it had the obligatory bouncy castle, which of course meant we had to stop while my daughter played.
Walking about in the middle of a car-free street for the second week in a row got me thinking about street allocation space in New York City more generally.