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Black Rock Lake

2001-04-03 15:17:41+00 by ebradway 39 comments

While at the hair salon today, I picked up an old copy of Car & Driver (being a new Porsche driver, I've developed a more than passing interest in cars) and flipped open to an early test drive of a 2001 Porsche 911. I was startled to learn they were test driving on the Playa - the same Playa that Burning Man puts so much effort into preserving, Car & Driver magazine was encouraging drivers to push their cars to the limits. Could you imagine what the Playa would be like if every muscle car owner from LA got out there over a weekend?

[ related topics: Burning Man ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:26+00 by: Dan Lyke

Ya mean besides "littered with Porsche parts"?

I've done a bit of moderate speed driving on the playa (cutting out on to the playa is faster than taking the road from the 80 acres to the '98 and '99 sites), and although it's amazingly flat for the most part, there are occasional ruts and dunes, Hitting these at 60 miles an hour in a car with cushy suspension hurts. Hitting one at 120 in a car with tight suspension could involve sliding to rest on the remaining bits of the chassis.

I'm also told that people who try to duplicate the Nissan Maxima commercials often end up finding a soft spot, digging in, and flipping.

This probably accounts for many of the old cars that the Burning Man long-timers report hauling off the playa.

But the playa's also somewhat self-limiting in that cars kick up huge[Wiki] dust clouds, more than a few of 'em on a given stretch and there's really not enough room to stretch out for safe visibility.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:26+00 by: andrew cooke

Hmmmm. Worried about the environment? This would be the be same environment you use public transport to help preserve? Ah. A car owner. But your car is very clean and fuel efficient? Ah. An old Porshe....

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:26+00 by: Dan Lyke

To jump to Eric's defense here: "The environment" is just a tad too all encompassing to make snide comments like that.

Obviously, if you're worried about your impact on the environment the most final action you can take is to kill yourself, and to take as many other humans with you as possible when you go.

But I'm less worried about "the environment" than I am worried about my[Wiki] environment. And my environment is much more affected by the impacts of people en-masse than my impact.

Car-wise? I'm not convinced that public transportation as implemented in the United States is any lower impact than cars. Certainly it's not any cheaper, even without the massive tax subsidies bus rides out where I live seem to cost about the same per passenger mile as operating a car ($.35-$.65/mile). That's one indication of resources used. And aside from CO2, there are quite a few indications that the emissions of a diesel engine as implemented on most buses is an order of magnitude more harmful than a modern car with a working catalytic converter (although admittedly a bus is probably better than the oil-burning Honda Civic you see most "environmentalists" driving).

If we got everyone in buses we'd see a lower environmental impact from the roads, but any asphalt laid down is nasty shit, if we're serious, buses can only be an interim step to light rail.

The disadvantage of more buses is that we'd have the ability for a higher population density. Time after time we've seen that increasing the ability to move people doesn't move people any faster, it allows people to inhabit a wider area. That's the last thing this environment needs, what with the earth about 3 orders of magnitude overpopulated, and I happen to know that Eric's taken the same step I have in that direction.

Yes, evidence seems to suggest that we collectively need to reduce CO2 emissions and set up more greenery to help convert that back to oxygen, but frankly I'm going to be dead before CO2 starts making more of an impact than litter, dust and agricultural chemicals already do.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:26+00 by: ebradway

In my own defense, I bought my Porsche after selling my minivan to my brother in plans of moving to Boston and depending solely on public transportation. In Boston that is a viable option. In Chattanooga it is not. A couple days after I sold my van to my brother, the .COM I work for turned around significantly, making the move to Boston less desirable. I ended up stubling across a really well maintained 1986 Porsche 911. Granted, it actually gets worse gas mileage than my van did or a comparable new car. But my lifestyle has never been automotive-centric and the Porsche has been a real change for me in that I now drive a car that is more than a means of transporation. But I just signed a lease on an apartment that is walking distance to work - so I only have to drive when I want to.

And yes, I took the same steps as Dan (voluntary sterilaization) to reduce my contribution to overpopulation. I believe I could conceivably drive a car that got less than 1MPG and pumped pure arsenic into the atmosphere and still have less of an impact on the environment than I would introducing another American consumer into the world.

If you bother to do the math, make sure you factor the generational effect - that is if I'm a breeder, I'll likely have two children. My two children will also likely have two children in my lifetime. Those four grandchildren will likely give birth to two children each in my lifetime. That is a net of 14 new American consumers - which you could approximate as being equal to 7 additional American consumers during my lifespan. So by neutering myself (actually, I'm sexually functional - I just shoot blanks) I can conscienciously consume the equivalent of 8 American consumers - and that is a real feat - even for a Yuppie like me!

#Comment made: 2001-04-03 21:39:07+00 by: Pete [edit history]

I really hope you don't believe that. Two parents with two children only increase world population by the margin that the children's lifespan exceeds the parents'.

Equally true is that eight great-grandchildren are the product of eight great-grandparents (barring some rural areas and the occasional royal family).

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:26+00 by: Mars Saxman

I don't really see what the problem is. The playa is big, flat, dry, and (mostly) hard packed. You kick up some fine-grained dust which gets up in the air and stays there, but you don't leave much of a trail behind. Even a heavy pickup with mud tires wouldn't leave much of a mark, and a light sports car wearing street tires certainly isn't going to hurt anything.

The only reason the Burning Man folks have to worry about preserving the playa is that there are tens of thousands of them living there for a week. It's a completely different sort of impact.

Flooring it on the playa is fun no matter what you're driving.


#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:26+00 by: ebradway

Okay then. Let's see if we can do the math:

Let's create a constant, call it $, that is equivalent to the average resource consumption of one American for one year.

We will, for convenience sake, assume that I get married again and remain married (to the same person) for the rest of my life. We will use the notion of 'marriage' here, again, to simplify the problem. That other person, like myself, has no previous biological offspring.

In the first case we will assume that both myself and my spouse live to be 100 years old. Given advances in modern medicine and the fact that I am generally concious of my health - I exercise regularly, don't smoke, and eat a diet rich in vegetables and soy proteins but low in fat and cholesterol (well, that throws me out of the 'average American' mold). I have a family history of heart disease but no history of cancer. I would likely marry as spouse with similar habits and taste and of a similar age - which we will round down to 30 years - again for simplicity. That means the two of us will each consume 70$ for a total of 140$ during our lifespan.

Assume we have two children at age 30. To make the math simple we will assume twins in each case (I know it's a statistical stretch, but twins do run in my family and this math could get alot worse if we don't do this). These two children will consume another 70$ each, for a grand total of 280$ for the family during my lifespan.

So, we now assume that our kids, being statistical abhorrations like their parents, each marry at age 30 and have twins at age 30. This gives us four grandchildren who will live 40 years during my lifespan. That's another 160$ for the family and a total of 440$ as the results of my semen.

If we made it this far, we may as well assume that each of my four grandchildren marry at age 30 and have twins the same year creating another eight (8) statistical abhorrations who will live only a total of 10 years during my lifespan. That gives my family another 80$ and a grand total of 520$ .

Ipso facto, by squirting my semen inside an appropriately 'ripe' member of the opposite sex, I will have created a drain on the environment equivalent to that of 520 average Americans per year. Assuming that I am sharing that drain with a compatible female somewhere, I can conscientiously use the natural resources equivalent to the average annual consumption of 260 Americans in one year. Averaged over my lifespan of 70 years, I get to use 3.7143X the resources of the average American because I had myself fixed. Since I try to recycle, buy vegetables from roadside stands, live very close to where I work and generally attempt to conserve natural resources, I feel I'm perfectly within rights to drive a Porsche 911.

Getting back to the original point of the post, I would not, under any circumstances, drive my Porsche 911 on the Playa in the Black Rock desert. Besides, I can go MUCH faster on the country roads in Tennessee, especially the long, straight, barren stretches of state highways through the abondoned coke mines.

BTW, I do have a family history of VERY large numbers of offspring. My father was one of six children. His mother was one of ten children as well as half-sister to another 17. Ironically, that's the Luthern side of the family tree. On the Catholic side, my Mother only has one sister.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:26+00 by: sethg

I'm reminded of when ArsDigita announced that if an employee referred ten other people to work there, the company would give the employee a Ferrari.

My first reaction was: "What sane resident of Boston[Wiki] would want to own a Ferrari[Wiki], even if they get it for free? The theft insurance would bleed you dry and it's not like Boston has roads worth showing off a sports car on. A free one-bedroom condo -- now there's[Wiki] a perk that's appropriate for this city, and it costs about as much as a Ferrari...."

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:26+00 by: shmuel

Oh, but Eric, the point you're missing is that your math is complete only if everybody above you in your family tree has already croaked. Otherwise, you've gotta start with the cost of your parents on up, with the cost of the hypothetical kids being offset as the earlier generations drop off.

#Comment made: 2001-04-04 00:58:51+00 by: Pete [edit history]

What's really going is that Eric has singlehandedly doomed mankind because in 33 generations his negative impact on population will have wiped out 8.5 billion people, more than than the Earth's current human population. Oh, the humanity!

Eric, you missed the other point of my post, namely that your contribution to each successive generation is halved, until, approaching zero, you just don't matter.

And now that I think about it, two-child families may contribute even less to population growth than I original posited, as people have been reproducing later and later in life, meaning less overlap, with overlap being the only source of population growth related to two-child couples. The medtech that allows longer lives also allows couples to put off child bearing longer and longer.

If you want a zoomy car, knock yourself out. I know for a fact that my 11-year-old car does 120 on level ground. But this "I'm entitled because I naturally selected myself out" excuse is not convincing.

Enjoy your indulgence instead of trying to pretend that it's not one.

#Comment made: 2001-04-04 04:11:13+00 by: topspin [edit history]

I don't wanna get in on the "Eric bashing," for several reasons:
We just shared dinner, a few beers, foosball, and conversation
I helped him get the Porsche
I drive a heavily fuel deficient Blazer
I think anyone who uses computer equipment and lives in our overpackaged, disposable society is going to have a tough time calling themselves "environmentally friendly."

The question is NOT whether the Porsche is causing less impact on the world than producing children; the question is what kind of high-speed, curve hugging driving would you like to enjoy??? And can you do both at the same time?

I'll begin that research when Eric loans me the car and introduces me to his newslady cousin.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:27+00 by: andrew cooke

AFAIK (anyone got a source?) owning a car and flying on aircraft are the two biggest no-nos for individuals damaging the environment, so it wasn't just a cheap shot (I live in a city and choose jobs near where I can work to avoid having to drive (I'm not making this up! - but I may be a bit extreme)).

OTOH, I like the idea of exchanging children for the right to drive sports cars. Maybe we could even convert them into an environmentally friendly fuel... ;-)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:27+00 by: Pete

So if I want a computerized flying car I have to power it with pediatric distalate? :)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:27+00 by: ghasty

I'm still more concerned with the fact that Eric called it a " hair salon" and they had a copy of Car & Driver in the first place. How'd the perm turn out, Eric...?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:27+00 by: Larry Burton

Hmm, I drive a full size pick-up, I have two kids, several computers and I fly airplanes. I guess I'm the environmental anti-christ.

Oh, I also wondered about that "hair salon" reference.

Know what the difference is between a hair salon and a barber shop? About $10.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:27+00 by: ebradway

Pete: On the math, I divided the final sum by two - assuming that my spouse would be responsible for half the final $. As far as diminished contribution goes, unless I get my vasectomy reversed and find some suitable mate, those 14 offspring over three generations will never exist. So I calculated my contribution as absolute - either I have kids/contribute to over-population or I don't. On the car, it's not a new Porsche. It's an '86 Carrera with 170K miles on it - and I've had it over 130mph on straight, flat, paved roads. And the only reason I'd give it up is if I needed another bimbo box to drive kids around in (NOT!).

Gary & Larry: Yes, it's a hair salon. My hair dresser used to work at Cheveux - the fancy place on the corner of Market and Frazier - but now works at Nico's - the place next door to what used to be the Brass Register. She was my neighbor at my old house and doesn't charge much more than I'd pay for a barber. Plus, I'm single and openly accept input from women on how to improve my appearance. So I go to her and let her do what she wants ;)

#Comment made: 2001-04-04 15:03:12+00 by: Pete [edit history]

"...those 14 offspring over three generations will never exist." I don't think that's necessarily true. The children will be different, but to assume that the people your descendants would have mated with would never find other mates is quite the long shot.

Allegedly my car will do 129, but I haven't had the opportunity to wind it all the way up yet (though I wonder about the wisdom of trying as it crosses 150k miles). Is your 911 a straight 911 or a 911 turbo?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:27+00 by: ebradway

Ummm... How can my descendants exist in ANY form if I don't get my vasectomy reversed and impregnate someone?

The owner's manual (with the pictures of the feather-cut blonde) for my '86 Carrera states that the car's top end in 148MPH - and that's the straight Carrera 3.2l engine. The turbo tops out at about 156MPH. Of course I don't think a turbo would have made it to 170K miles without a couple rebuilds.

One of the things that has impressed me about this car is that it's 15 years old with 170K miles on it and feels tighter than any new car I've ever driven. My ex-wife drives a Mazda 626 with a 5-speed V6 (the only close to comparable car I've been in since I bought the Porsche) with less than 80K miles on it and it rides sloppy, accelerates like a slug on ice, and burns more oil that my 911. Among Porsche enthusiasts, the 3.2l Carrera engine used from '84 to mid-'89 was the best engine Porsche ever made. They are know for going 300K without a rebuild - even when driven hard. Porsche also started integrating alot more advanced suspension technology in '84. In late '89, they started making the 964 cars with a 3.6l engine, eliminated the classic Targa top, and started softening the suspension for a comfier ride (at the cost of handling).

Of course, in 2000 they completely redesigned the body (first time since begining of the 911 in 1963) and switched to a water-cooled engine. They also introduced the Boxster and priced the 911 out of reach of most mortals.

#Comment made: 2001-04-04 15:44:38+00 by: Pete [edit history]

They won't be your descendants, but it could work out that every person your two direct children mated with (and so on) find other mates, so you can't accurately extrapolate beyond your direct children, and maybe not even that far since disinterest/inability to reproduce could mean that you end up with a different mate. You just can't say "My decision will reduce world population by X people," if for no other reason than that not impregnating some leaves the door open for someone else to do it. (please don't interpret any of this as an attack on the character of whoever you are or are not invlolved with, I'm just dealing with biology here.)

My financial outlook just improved dramatically, and I've started looking at zoomier cars, not enough to put in reach the twelve cylinder Ferrari 360 Modena I saw and was shown at the supermarket recently (they're usually either 8 or 10 cyl., I forget), but some of the stuff I'm looking at is governed (electronically) to 155, which I think I could live with. :)

Oh, and coming from a Ford, I was astounded that my older and higher milage BMW just plain never consumes any oil. I thought I was reading the dipstick wrong and refused to believe it!

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:27+00 by: Barbara Bradway

Maybe I should have considered Eric's environmentally friendly sterilization too.Eric's mom

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: andrew cooke

calculate your damage

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: ebradway

Pete: It's a much farther stretch to assign responsiblity to me for someone else impregnating a woman I did not impregnate. But my claim of not contributing to over-population by voluntary sterilization IS as valid as claiming that I do not contribute pollution as a result of using public transportation. My claim, which Dan supported me on, is that contributing to over-population is a greater 'sin' than contributing to pollution from driving a Porsche. Of course the original idea behind the thread was that driving on the Playa is bad whether you do it in a Porsche or you do it in a solar-powered vehicle.

As far as the Ferrari goes, the few people I've known who have owned a Ferrari have VERY close relationships with their mechanics. Most Ferraris require constant tuning and maintenance. The 911 was built for everyday driving - albeit very enjoyable everyday driving. The BMW is similar - they make excellent cars for everyday driving and are wonderfully reliable but it's also possible to take it out on a track and have some fun.

Mom: Just think of the mountains of Xmas wrapping paper you won't have to clean up and recycle because you won't have any grandchildren to buy presents for!

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: Dan Lyke

Andrew: Reducing environmental impacts to carbon emissions gives "environmentalists" a bad name. If you don't understand why, that's way[Wiki] too big a rant to post here.

I'm actually not as concerned about driving on the playa, that's how the local ranchers and such get places fast. The impact comes from hordes of visitors for which there isn't some sort of organization in place to help mitigate the effects of their visit. Imagine, if you will, 25,000 LA sports car drivers on the Playa throwing their Bud cans out the window (except that these are LA sports car drivers, so it's going to be Chianti bottles). Unless the Car & Driver folks are willing to spend weeks scouring the playa to pick up said bottles it's going to be a bad scene.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: Mars Saxman

Dan: you convince 25,000 sports car enthusiasts to show up in Gerlach, and figure out a way where more than a handful of them can do more than sit around and watch said handful kick up dust, and I will worship you as the God of Logistics.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: Pete

Well, Eric, then it's a good thing that I never assigned responsibility to you for anyone elses children. I denied you credit for not fathering them. The two are very different. If you require a detailed explanation of how and why, I'll provide it, despite the fact that nearly all the entertainment value has been sucked out of this thread.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: ebradway

Sorry you are no longer entertained. I do think it's interesting that this is one of the longest threads in Fluttrby history...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: TC

I know is sucks to be wrong Pete. I've been there before but other people find it very entertaining. For the record Eric this is the longest thread on Flutterby. Do you have any other things about your life we can pick on?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: ghasty

"My hair dresser"...now, let's feed on that one...

Hmmmm, and it is a purple car, too....

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: Dan Lyke

Ya sure it's purple and not lavender?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: Pete

I am wrong at least my share of the time, but I'm not wrong on this. I've held back because Eric hasn't asked for the gory details, and, as I indicated, I won't proceed along that path unless he asks for it.

Is it always your style to pipe up when you think the action's over, Todd?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:28+00 by: ebradway

Since I chimed in with a psuedo-mathematical proof, lemme see your Pete!

As far as the hair-dresser goes, Gary, that was hit on by Larry about ten comments ago - and I explained it as my going to a female to adjust my appearance to make me more attractive to other females.

The color: Porsche calls it Metallic Garnet Red. I call it Burgundy. What color is your Volvo wagon Gary? Or didn't you just trade it on a minivan?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:29+00 by: ghasty

Doh!!!!! Dammit...chicks still dig me in my Volvo Wagon!!!!!!!

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:29+00 by: ghasty

And Actually, Eric, I'm the one who started questioning the places you get yar mullet-do from....Larry just "me too'd" it....hrrrpppfffmmmttttt

#Comment made: 2001-04-06 14:41:48+00 by: Pete [edit history]

First off, this is going to be starkly biological and deals with humans as animals, so don't get wrapped up in feelings about the value of your own versus someone elses offspring.

If Eric occupies the attention of a fertile female who we can guarrantee otherwise would have produced two offspring, then because of his action (occupying the attention of a fertile female who have otherwise reproduced) he can share in the credit (shared because we'll assume Eric is a good guy and their relationship is mutually agreed upon) for suppressing that women's reproduction. That is the full extent of credit that he can be given because reproductive capacity in humans is gated by the number of fertile females and the length of gestation. If his partner wouldn't have reproduced anyway, then Eric was not a factor and gets no credit. If Eric stays single (fails to occupy the attention of a fertile female inclined to reproduce), then he gets no credit because he hasn't impacted the gating factors in human reproduction (One of the reasons that men traditionally fight wars is that it's a hell of a lot easier to ramp up your population again if you lose 2/3 of your men than if you lose 2/3 of your women. Grim but true.)

So if Eric meets all of these conditions, he may be entitled to claim half credit for the two offspring he has previously discussed, or credit for a reduction of one.

Extrapolations beyond his immediate hypothetical offspring are invalid because we cannot anticipate the behavior of these potential people, nor even what sex they would have been. If Eric's offspring had been two males who each met the above conditions then the "credits" would be:

2 offspring from two parents: Eric +1

Each of them "blocks" as above: 2 x (-2 offspring/2 parents)= -2

halve the child impact assignable to Eric (he was one of 2 parents): -2/2= -1

(+1) + (-1) = population contribution of 0

(the really weird thing about this is that if Eric fathered all boys and each of them "blocked" as described, then Eric's eventual population contribution is static no matter how many boys he fathers)

Other possibilities are girls who choose not to reproduce, or any sex of child that does choose to reproduce.

This is a giant mess that is useless for predicting the future. That's the point: Eric's impact on population beyond his direct potential offspring is far too noisy to meaningfully predict. And, as I've previously laid out, even in that scope he can only claim credit if he prevents a fertile female personally inclined to reproduce from doing so.

As far as assigning responsibility versus giving credit, I am never assigning responsibility for others actions, I am limiting credit to those actions of Eric's that directly impact the gating factors of human reproduction. In fact I am specifically arguing against assigning responsibility for others' actions because how completely the noise factor of human behavior destroys the possibility of saying "this happened because of Eric's decision two generations ago" even if you are limiting your considerations to those gating factors of human reproduction.

I'm sure that this post is not as clear as it could be as I can't give it too much time right now. Sorry.

And, uh, I'm not so sure I want to show you my Pete.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:32+00 by: Larry Burton

In as much as political parties take credit for anything good that happens, whether or not they had any actual bearing on it, I'm willing to allow Eric credit for not contributing to any more people polution by having himself cut. You figured that it would take at least a two-thirds reduction in the population of fertile males for there to actually be a loss of reproductive power in a population. I think that in our society, with at least the idea of monogamy having some hold over our sexuality, the number may be more like one-fifth. That being the case he gets some credit regardless of whether or not his female partner might have otherwise reproduced.

How much of his constant "$" he gets credit for to drive his porsche with a clear conscious is beyond my ability to calculate.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:32+00 by: Pete

I'm posting just to say that I cleaned up the presentation of the "math" section in my big post (Dan's code seems unfriendly to single hard returns), so it may be more readable now.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:32+00 by: Dan Lyke

Pete: Yeah, I need to sit down and quantify the differences between how Netscape, Opera and IE[Wiki] deal with hard returns. Opera[Wiki] and IE[Wiki] do some unexpected weirdnesses with returns versus linefeeds.

Oh, and Todd very often deliberately fans the flames when things die down.

And finally, dang it, y'all are going to make me split long response threads into pages, aren't you?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:34+00 by: ebradway

Sorry it took me so long to get back over here and read Pete's coutner-argument. It's quite good - and makes a strong argument for not undergoing voluntary sterlization if you are male - have women do it instead.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:34+00 by: Mars Saxman

Who says you can't both do it, ebradway? I'd say "peace of mind" is the primary benefit of sterilisation, and that holds no matter how the population math works out.

Vasectomy is straightforward and simple, as surgeries go. It's hard to think of anything that poses a "strong argument" against it. The fact that vasectomy is simpler, shorter, less invasive, and less prone to complication than tubal ligation makes the "have women do it instead" suggestion ethically troublesome.