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Cities and Friction

I like and spend time in several cities which are very different from each other. Las Vegas, Hilo (Hawaii), Budapest, rural Halifax (our island), and Tokyo. On paper it would be hard to draw many links between those cities, which of course led me to think about why I liked all of them so much.

What I realized is that each of those cities has extremely low friction.

San Francisco is a very high friction city. Everything is expensive there, so unless you are wealthy, eating out for meals feels a little bit stressful. Is it really worth $25 for a non-Chipotle dinner? Getting places is stressful because you have to take ubers to most places and they are expensive and exposed to traffic. The homeless problem has grown so out of control that you are almost certain to be confronted with feces and heroin needles during your visit.

New York is also very high friction. The subway is swelteringly hot during the summer and has none of the efficiency or thoughtfulness of systems in other cities like Tokyo. Real estate is expensive, so your living situation is likely to have a bit of friction. Like San Francisco, everything is expensive. Getting to the airport can take a couple hours or $80, depending on whether you take the train or uber.

First Temptation

On SEBASTIAN MARSHALL

The coefficient of friction is a number that describes the friction between two objects. A combination like rubber on concrete would have a really high coefficient of friction, whereas a greased baby on a slip-n-slide would have a really low coefficient of friction.

There's more to it, though-- every pair of objects has two coefficients of friction, one for static friction, whch applies when the objects are at rest, and one for kinetic friction which applies when objects are in motion. The kinetic coefficient is always lower, which is why something can be stuck on an incline, but as soon as you give it a tiny push, it slides easily. We have mental coefficients of friction, too, and they react the same way.

Preparing for my trip to China last fall, I knew that my laptop battery wouldn't last for the entire length of the flight. Rather than being a champion and just read, I decded to download the first season of Breaking Bad to watch on my phone. Being the paragon of discipline that I am, I figured I'd watch the first half of the season on the flight over (after exhausting my computer battery with work, of course), and then watch the second half on the way back.

So I got on my flight to China and worked until my battery was dead. That was easy, because working on my laptop is what I do. I read for an hour or so on my Kindle and then decided to check out Breaking Bad. As everyone said-- it was great. I watched it for the rest of the flight.

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