The Pox That Is Multi-Level Marketing

Several years ago, I attended a job fair at Daytona State College that included “career opportunities” like Primerica and Vector Marketing (Cutco). The fact that Daytona State College would allow these fraudsters at their job fair reflects very poorly on the college. These shysters will invite you to an “interview” that is actually a sales pitch to you and dozens of other schmucks. Unlike a real job, to get started on your path to allegedly massive $$$ in these companies, you must make many “investments,” such as buying training materials and inventory, at inflated prices. To be fair to the fraudsters, the individuals who even attend such “interviews” are proven schmucks, because they failed to do any due diligence (e.g., a simple Google search of the company, you MORONS).

While multi-level marketing companies prey on weaknesses and insecurities, it is unfair to absolve participants of blame for their behaviors. Unlike religions, it’s quite rare for parents to coerce their children into participating in MLM companies. Participants enter of their own free will. There are few excuses for falling for MLM scams. I have very little respect for individuals who impose these scams on others through psychological tricks such as reciprocity bias and the foot-in-the-door technique. Unfortunately, because MLMs push participants (schmucks) to recruit more schmucks, this means I have very little respect for the vast majority of MLM participants.

I do a lot of commuting between Daytona Beach and University of Central Florida, listening to many audio books and podcasts during my travels. On an episode of the Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency from June 2015, Jordan Harbinger from the Art of Charm proposes the idea of a “Mark Johnson,” often seen at conferences and networking events. Mark Johnson is a fictitious character who pitches his business or services to strangers in an annoying way. He interrupts, derails conversations, forces his business card on you, and offers nothing of substance or value. This is apropos to how MLM participants market to family, friends, and acquaintances.

In America, MLM companies are so pervasive that you undoubtedly have friends or acquaintances who are involved with them. The ones I recall personally encountering are Herbalife, ACN (as endorsed by bankruptcy aficionado Donald J. Trump), and LegalShield. Typically, these salespeople abuse friendships by extolling the value of their MLM cult, perhaps convincing you to attend recruitment events and ultimately pay an exorbitant startup fee. The underlying “businesses” behind these MLM companies are blatantly frivolous and overpriced. In fact, these companies can only achieve profitability through an MLM pyramid scheme through which countless schmucks do nothing but waste time and lose money. Like the Ministry of Love from Nineteen Eighty-Four, MLM founders often cite a desire to “share” and “give back” in their “selfless” decision to found an MLM.

Of course, the schmucks yearn to move up in the pyramid, and the only way to do this is to recruit “downstream” schmucks who become even bigger schmucks by recruiting more and more levels of downstream schmucks who all funnel profits to the upstream members. Therefore, MLM Kool-Aid drinkers will always relentlessly corrupt any friendships they have for the purpose of trying to recruit a downstream supernode. Their friendship is as genuine as a prostitute’s “hello.” They dream of the six-figure incomes and island vacations that their MLM cult leaders mendaciously extoll, and the only way to get there is recruiting supernodes—workhorse schmucks who convince many others to join through good looks and/or sociopathic sales skills, thereby funneling profits to the supernode recruiter and funding six-figure incomes that require only four-hour workweeks, merely by virtue of temporal precedence. (My use of nodes and supernodes in this context is largely original.)

Your friends who participate in MLM schemes are vultures, much like the speculators who circled Washington in 1790, successfully lobbying the federal government for “assumption” of state debts while buying up these junk bonds at pennies on the dollar, only to have them repaid by the federal government at 100% of face value. The underlying motives for MLM participants are no different from speculators, lobbyists, ambulance-chasing lawyers, and anyone else weak or twisted enough to endorse a get-rich-quick scheme.

It is not uncommon to hear an MLM cult member brag about their massive income. If you look closer, you’ll probably see their house is being foreclosed on and their electricity is being cut off. Unless they are part of the 1% at the top of the pyramid, their claims are bold-faced lies. How does it feel to be friends with a scrupleless liar?

Multi-level marketing is a pox. Do not forgive friends for trying to ram Herbalife down your throat, anymore than you would forgive them for slashing your tires or poisoning your water supply. Slam the door in their face as they deserve. Hopefully, someday, they will wake up, but that’s not your problem, and trying to convince them is a fool’s errand.

Why Forgiveness is for Wimps

It is quite difficult to “forgive” those who wrong us when the offenders believe they are right and you are the one who should be seeking forgiveness. Often, telling someone “I forgive you” will be taken as an insult, similar to how Christians insultingly offer to pray for alleged sinners.

Forgiveness is often parroted not as the road to being a metaphorical doormat, but as something that relieves you of emotional stress. This is senseless. Consider how this would work in the business world. Would it relieve a business of stress to delete all Accounts Receivable from their QuickBooks database? Would a chain of stores operate more smoothly if they “forgave” thieving employees rather than firing and prosecuting them? Hell no.

Typical definitions of forgiveness easily resemble enabling behaviors; for example: forgiving a cheating partner in a closed relationship, only to have that partner go on to cheat again. Forgiveness cheerleaders ameliorate this deficiency by advocating coupling forgiveness with cutting ties. Why not just cut ties without forgiving? Maintaining a “shit list” is a widely used practice in business, perhaps because it works. Amazon, Groupon, Chase Bank, Staples, eBay, and PayPal don’t go in for any of this “forgiveness” baloney. They cut ties and maintain massive, comprehensive blacklists of customers to make sure their enemies, short of obtaining new identities, are excluded for life.

For corporations, there is no crippling emotional cost associated with customer blacklists. Why can’t we apply the same strategy to our personal relationships? If a friend backstabs you, don’t forgive and forget. Employ sanctions. If possible, remove this person and his or her associates from your circle. Quite often, even a repent backstabber is not worth trusting. It would be far easier and less costly to find someone new. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Employers know this, which is why a criminal record can remain the scarlet letter it is. As long as there are plenty of qualified job-seekers without criminal records, why take a chance “forgiving” a convict?

Here is some classic forgiveness drivel from 2011, by Judith Orloff, M.D., writing for Psychology Today:

What I’m suggesting is a version of “turn the other check” yet still doing everything to preserve what’s important to you. The hard part, though, is watching someone “get away with something” when there’s nothing you can do about it. Yes, your wife left you for the yoga instructor. Yes, your colleague sold you out. With situations like this in my life, I take solace in the notion of karma, that sooner or later, what goes around comes around. Also know that the best revenge is your success, happiness, and the triumph of not giving vindictive people any dominion over your peace of mind.

Here, we see another example that Psychology Today is in the same class as Cosmopolitan and Gawker. Orloff, and alleged M.D., appeals to karma to provide justice. Forgiveness does not and cannot provide justice. There is no evidence that “what goes around comes around” is a legitimate belief. Yes, criminals tend to continue committing crimes, increasing their chances of eventually facing punishment. However, much of what forgiveness advocates urge us to forgive is relational aggression. Failure to keep one’s word. Spreading lies and rumors. These actions may not be isolated incidents—if someone has wronged you, they have probably wronged many others and will continue to do so without repercussions, unless someone takes a stand, refusing to forgive. Depending on the situation, institutional channels may be used against the wrongdoer, perhaps getting the person fired even for unrelated but nefarious doings. When dealing with businesses, complaining to attorneys general, complaining to Better Business Bureaus, and publicizing transgressions on personal blogs and consumer websites is a great approach.

Of course, one should deploy time and energy pragmatically, for the greatest benefit. Some transgressions are not worth the effort of retaliation. However, maintaining and referring to an Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet may ensure these transgressions are not forgiven or forgotten. If you are unable to maintain a shit list without sacrificing your “peace of mind,” you probably have bigger psychological problems to deal with! In fact, a shit list can give you the peace of mind that you won’t accidentally do business with someone who wronged you before. Apps such as Google Docs or Evernote can help you take this shit list with you on your phone, wherever you go.

The idea that the best revenge is living a successful, happy life is a half-truth at best. In truth, the best revenge is living a successful, happy life while destroying your opposition with a minimum of effort. If obliteration is too costly, responsibly using legitimate channels to rebuke and hamper your enemies is a close second.

Reflections on Completing My Master’s Degree

Richard Thripp's M.A. Degree

I am still mentally adjusting to the fact that I’ve completed my Master’s degree and am about to start my doctoral studies. It’s been nearly two months since I completed my coursework. I haven’t read a journal article since, and while I’ve been doing academic work, it’s on a volunteer basis without a semblance of deadlines.

My Capstone projects for my degree were creating a financial literacy course and writing a paper about the course. In late March 2016, my professor looked at my course and was so impressed that she said I didn’t have to do anything else. The course was two-thirds done, and remains in that state as of June 2016. Though I enjoyed working on the course, my motivation has evaporated without the extrinsic drive to complete my degree. I have literally done nothing on the course since late March, and haven’t thought much about financial literacy since completing my paper in mid-April. This is a topic I love. This does not bode well for any topics I am lukewarm about!

The Applied Learning and Instruction Master of Arts at University of Central Florida is a great program. Drs. Hoffman and Gill, the two UCF professors who co-founded the program and instruct the core courses, pushed me to be critical, to examine scholarly sources and use them to support my arguments, to think big yet be meticulous, and to read thousands of pages of journal articles that I never would have been motivated to read on my own. It would be tenuous to say that reading journal articles has become an ingrained habit, being that I can go for months over summer break without thoroughly reading one, but it’s certainly a skill I have acquired and perfected, that will remain valuable during my career in academia and perhaps even outside academia should I “defect.”

What follows may incur rebukes or criticism should any of my colleagues read it. Fortunately, my blog’s audience is so small that I can pretty much write whatever I want without anyone noticing.

Some misgivings about the program I have completed: Basically, any applicant with a Bachelor’s degree and a pulse is admitted. That is not to say that the program is not rigorous, nor that all applicants persevere. Of course, space fills up and applicants in June or July might not get admitted for the fall semester. ALIMA is a rare program because not only does it not require the GRE, but no references nor letters of recommendation. It is not wise for me (or anyone associated with the program) to parrot this about. To be honest, not having to approach professors for another round of recommendation letters, after my unsuccessful psychology applications, was a selling point. I would definitely say that ALIMA is a hidden gem, belied by its lack of exclusivity.

The Education Ph.D. program at UCF which I am about to enter naturally has higher entry requirements and a lower admission rate. I have been criticized by classmates and colleagues for only applying to one Ph.D. program, forgoing more prestigious programs. It is simply not an acceptable answer, among American academic culture, to attend a graduate program close to home so I can keep living with my parents. To be honest, I thought even applying to this program was a long shot—I have no publications, no conference presentations, and little extra-curricular activity to speak of besides Toastmasters. Recall that two years ago, I was turned down for UCF’s Clinical Psychology M.A.; Applied Learning and Instruction was my second choice and gained preeminence since I was not enthusiastic about trying to become a social studies schoolteacher. I really do not think I am cut out to be the LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) that UCF’s Clinical Psychology M.A. program prepares you for; being rejected was a blessing in disguise, particularly since I enjoy education and education psychology research greatly. Another perk is the difference in credit hours—33 versus 61! While in a job interview for a financial aid specialist position at Stetson University in June 2014, I pitched working for Stetson full time while pursuing my M.A. in the evenings, I certainly did not have knowledge or experience with financial aid work and am pretty sure my interviewers thought I was wasting their time. Therefore I pursued my M.A. full-time.

ALIMA is only 33 credit hours, but several core courses are only offered once every two years, due to the lack of dedicated faculty for the program. Additionally, students are required to begin work on their Capstone projects or thesis after completing all coursework, meaning the program could take up to three years! I had originally anticipated this, planning to graduate in spring 2017 and take additional psychology electives with the aim of eventually completing 18 credit hours of graduate psychology courses to be qualified as an instructor. However, I was one of two students who petitioned and were offered to complete Capstone projects along with the required course, Seminar II in Applied Learning and Instruction, in spring 2016. This was a ton of work—in addition to my financial literacy work, I completed a massive literature review on mindsets, a conference proposal (it was accepted—I will be going to the Association of Teacher Educators’ conference in Louisville, KY to present on mindsets on Sunday, 2016-07-31), and a take-home, comprehensive exam which took me well over 30 hours to complete, since I had to go back through two years of courses to enter past references into EndNote X7 and review and apply them to a motivational case study. At the same time during this semester, I was preparing for two interviews for UCF’s Education Ph.D. program, and possibly a third, which never happened since they accepted me without scheduling it.

The combination of Seminar II and Capstone projects often ends in disaster for ALIMA students. In fact, I am told no future students will be allowed to take on this dangerous combination. In my case, being unemployed and without children, it was tenable. However, I am atypical—most ALIMA students are older with families and full-time work. Delaying my Capstone projects until fall 2016 would have set me back an entire year on my doctoral studies—my program and most Ph.D. programs only take applications for fall semesters. Of course, I am quite pleased with myself now, but there were plenty of days in March 2016 where I suffered anxiety, dread, and little sleep. Generally, I put way too much effort into my coursework—far more than what others do and far more than what is technically required to succeed. This, combined with subpar time management, is why I struggle to meet deadlines despite plenty of free time, while the other student who took this combination in the same semester succeeded even though she has kids and a full-time job. If I were her, I would not have done well.

Of course, being accepted to UCF’s Education Ph.D. program on 2016-02-15 was a powerful motivator. I was elated and stunned to receive an admissions offer with both a 20-hour per week job and a fellowship. Unlike my M.A., which I had to pay for completely out-of-pocket, I will be paid, and quite handsomely so, for my Ph.D. work and studies. Of course, all of this was contingent on me completing my M.A., which I did, and now I am here.

I am eternally proud of my GRE scores from 2013-10-07: 160 Verbal (84th percentile), 164 Quantitative (89th percentile), and 4.5 Analytical Writing (78th percentile). In fact, being able to re-use them for my Education Ph.D. application was a bigger motivator than it should have been for me to pursue my Ph.D. now, rather than after several years working in the mythical “real world.” (Previously, I had used my GRE scores for unsuccessful applications to UCF’s M.A. Clinical Psychology and UC Berkeley’s Ph.D. Clinical Psychology programs; GRE scores expire after 5 years.) Of course, applying to only two psychology programs and to only one education doctoral program is just a manifestation of my half-assed approach to life. Any normal, forward-minded, sane person should be applying to 6–10 graduate programs.

I am actually pretty happy that I have three hours of mandatory meetings at UCF on my 25th birthday on Wednesday, August 17, 2016. These meetings are to orient me for my track (Instructional Technology track in the Education Ph.D. program) and for being a Graduate Assistant. Turning 25 is such a big milestone. I like having it entangled with beginning my doctoral studies. I didn’t even have a birthday party last year, so missing out on one this year is no big deal (and a party could always be postponed to Saturday).

A grand irony is that I am studying education coming from a home-schooled background. To be technically accurate, I attended private schools in Florida—Gold Medal Honors Academy for high school (now defunct due to Lily T. Schwarz’s untimely passing), but completed all my studies at home, with my textbooks being approved by Mrs. Schwarz. Had I been legally home-schooled, I would have needed a 30 on the ACT college entrance exam instead of 28 to receive the highest Florida BrightFutures scholarship, the Florida Academic Scholars Award. On my first and only attempt at age 14 on 2005-12-10, I scored 28 (92nd percentile), with a rather weak 23 in math and 25 in science compensated for by an ungodly 34 in reading (99th percentile) and a more modest 28 in English. The irony of the State of Florida requiring so much less of public- or private-schooled students, at least as of 2007, remains palpable. (Yes, I graduated high school at 15 and started community college at 16.)

The education I have pursued in my post-Associate post-secondary studies is mockingly referred to as the incestuous academic path. I have a B.S. in Psychology (May 2014), an M.A. in Applied Learning and Instruction (May 2016), and anticipate a Ph.D. in Education (August 2019), all from the same institution: University of Central Florida. To be fair, all three programs have entirely different faculty. In fact, I completed my B.S. online and at the Daytona Beach regional campus—I did not even start attending the main Orlando campus until starting my M.A. in August 2014. I don’t see this as an issue, and am in fact proud to be a 7-year knight. The coup de grâce, of course, would be to become an adjunct instructor or assistant professor at UCF after graduating, but in lieu of the half-assed approach, I will probably conduct a national job search, or at least a regional job search that avoids really cold parts of the United States.

While I look forward with some consternation to beginning UCF’s Ph.D. Education, Instructional Technology track, and my Graduate Assistantship, on Monday, 2016-08-22, overall I am optimistic and excited. While plagued by office politics, inequities, posturing, and pandering to grant money, at its core, academics at least publicly aspire to the search for truth, accuracy, and social justice. It would be foolish to say academia is pure, but it is certainly less tainted than other career paths, and can afford one a rare combination of meaning, security, and autonomy. Moreover, studying education as an academic is a meta-field—that is, it involves investigating and questioning the underlying assumptions about what we are doing as educators. Tantalizingly, the implications are broad and all-encompassing—occupational training, user-interface design, community nursing, and outreach programs are just a few of the divergent areas that educational theories and principles can be applied to.

Me at the UCF fountain, 2016-05-16

I remain,
Richard Thripp, MA, ACB, ALB
Doctor of Philosophy, Education, Univ. of Central Fla., August 2019 (in progress)
Master of Arts, Applied Learning & Instruction, Univ. of Central Fla., May 2016
Bachelor of Science, Psychology, Univ. of Central Fla., May 2014
Associate of Arts with Honors, Daytona State College, May 2011, Phi Theta Kappa
Graduate Assistant, University of Central Florida, 2016–2017
Recipient of the Graduate Dean’s Fellowship, Univ. of Central Fla., 2016–2017
Recipient of the Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholars Award, 2007–2014
Recipient of the Dana Rodman Tiffany Scholarship, Daytona State College, 2011
Recipient of the James Fentress Scholarship, Daytona State College, 2007–2008
Toastmasters Advanced Communicator Bronze Award, May 23, 2016
Toastmasters Advanced Leader Bronze Award, February 10, 2016
Toastmasters Competent Leader Award, February 2, 2016
Toastmasters Competent Communicator Award, July 29, 2015
Toastmasters Triple Crown Award, 2015–2016
Toastmasters League of Volunteers Award, 2015–2016
Toastmasters Club Ambassador Award, 2015–2016
President of Port Orange Toastmasters, 2015–2016
Vice President Membership of Port Orange Toastmasters, April 22–June 30, 2016
Writer of the Toastmasters District 84, Area 74 Newsletter, January–June 2016

Statement on Orlando Nightclub Shooting, 6/12/2016

In the Orlando nightclub mass shooting on 6/12/2016, it is puzzling that the police handled an alleged “hostage situation” by waiting outside for 3 hours while 50 people were murdered and 53 more were injured. Surely the police should have heard the shots and screams and intervened earlier? I cannot fathom what sort of “hostage situation” would be handled by allowing the alleged lone gunman to injure or kill half of the approximately 200 people in the nightclub, over a period of 3 hours (2:02–5:00 a.m.).

Source: ORLANDO SENTINEL: Orlando nightclub gunman called 911 before attack, pledged allegiance to Islamic State [local mirror]

Thoughts on Traffic Flow, Traffic Lights, and More

Because I am eternally lazy, like most of my essays, I will not include any photos or diagrams here. While I do not plagiarize, when writing essays unrelated to my formal education, I enjoy making theoretical or logical arguments that do not require citations.

I always find it annoying to be stopped needlessly at red lights when there are no cars coming. We have an intersection in Daytona Beach, Nova Rd. and 3rd St., where, at night, like clockwork, the traffic light for the superior road turns red every few seconds, even when there are no cars coming. I suppose there are no car sensors for 3rd Street which is the reason for the needless cycling, but it is such a waste of time, fuel, and brake pads.

Superior and Inferior Roads

Civil engineers probably have their own jargon, but I would define superior roads as getting the majority of travel time (green light time) at an intersection and inferior roads as getting the minority. While roads are sometimes equally matched, in most cases, one is clearly superior. Typically, the superior road gets more traffic. Ironically, the inferior road often may have more travel lanes—for example, in Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach, FL, West Granada Blvd. (SR-40) and International Speedway Blvd. (US-92) are clearly superior in their intersections with Nova Rd. (SR-5A), but both have only six–seven lanes at these intersections versus eight lanes for Nova Rd. (lane counts include turn lanes). While it is plainly obvious that a road will be superior at some intersections and inferior at others, it is perhaps less obvious that a road’s status may vary at different points or even at the same point at different times of the day or year.

Clues to the superiority of a road can often (but not always) be inferred by number of lanes and signals. In Daytona Beach, Dunn Ave.’s superiority to White St. and LPGA Blvd.’s superiority to Derbyshire Rd. are supported by the presence of protected right turns (arrows) while left turns on the inferior road are not offered protected turns. At stop signs where cross traffic does not stop, the road with stop signs is the de facto inferior road.

Red Arrows and Rubato

In most U.S. states, it is illegal to turn left on a red arrow, even when obviously safe to do so. This results in a lot of wasted time, not just for drivers turning left, but also for drivers going straight who are forced to stop so the left-turning drivers can receive a protected turn. In the Ormond and Daytona Beach areas, many left arrows were recently replaced with new signals that show a flashing yellow arrow at most times, allowing drivers more autonomy at these intersections. Of course, such arrows could be configured to offer a protected turn if a driver has been waiting a long time, and to show a solid red arrow during rush hour to discourage dangerous maneuvers.

Rubato is a musical term that means “the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace,” according to the top definition provided via Google Search. I think this is an apt term for referring to the practice of turning left on a late-yellow or red arrow. This practice definitely varies in different cultures and regions. For example, when visiting Los Angeles, I was alarmed to see drivers violating my right-of-way, continuing to turn left long after my light had turned green, particularly since this is a rare sight in Central Florida. Similarly, I think it’s rude when drivers without right-of-way make any maneuvers that require me to brake, even though other cultures may have an entirely different perspective on it.

While drivers practicing rubato may be delaying thru traffic for a couple seconds, they may also be providing a service by preventing left-turn lanes from becoming overfilled, which is a common phenomenon along Alafaya Trail near my university (University of Central Florida). Clearly, they are also self-motivated by saving a non-trivial amount of time—perhaps as much as two minutes, depending on the intersection.

All-Red Time

It would be unwise to go further without discussing all-red time, also known as clearing time. This is the time during which all directions of traffic at an intersection have a red light. Two seconds is the typical time in Central Florida. I was surprised to see zero all-red time in the East Bay area of California. Traffic is much denser there, putting time at a premium. In Daytona Beach, arrows often stay green even several seconds after all cars have turned left, followed by more seconds of yellow and two seconds all-red time. In the Bay Area, the arrow often turns yellow just a couple seconds after turning green, which is a more efficient use of time. (Note: Another possibility is that the East Bay area traffic signaling systems are antiquated and an all-red time simply cannot be set.)

Of course, all-red time has an interactive relationship with what is culturally acceptable when driving. With two seconds of all-red time, one can “run” a red light without cross traffic even noticing. While long all-red periods are inefficient, they may also be a function of state law—for example, in Florida, a driver who has cleared the crosswalk before a traffic light turns red has not committed an infraction, whereas in Oregon, any driver who could have stopped at a yellow light but failed to do so has committed an infraction. Obviously, Florida must be much more lenient with all-red time due to state laws.

Why “Running” Red Lights Does Not Typically Cause Accidents

The idea that “running” a red light can cause an accident is often a misnomer. What really causes accidents is plowing through a red light that has been red for a long time, due to failing to notice the traffic light itself. Especially in areas with two-second all-red times, most traffic in other directions is going to be stopped for 3–5 seconds after the light turns red for the red-light-runner. One possible exception is left-turning drivers who hang out in the middle of the intersection, expecting to turn left on late-yellow or red after oncoming traffic has halted. However, such drivers might be at fault for failing to yield or other infractions. My point here is that “running” a red light may be less dangerous than commonly perceived (though still illegal).

Aggressive Driving

On the Interstate highways (freeways) in Central Florida, it is alarming how aggressive many drivers are. At speeds over 80 miles per hour, they often succeed at squeezing between the nose of your car and the bumper of the car in front of you, despite having very little clearance, and often without even signaling. This usually helps them get a few seconds ahead, which is clearly, in their minds, worth endangering the lives of all the surrounding drivers and passengers. I have convex “spot” mirrors affixed to my left and right mirrors, which I check religiously since they reveal blind spots. Most other drivers do not think these mirrors are helpful and would prefer checking their rear-view mirror or looking over their shoulder, which is very stupid in my opinion.

Tailgating is also very common, which is the dangerous practice of following very closely to the car in front of you. I am not sure whether drivers do this out of deliberate intimidation, or as a habit to avoid other drivers inserting themselves in between. No matter what speed you go, there is always someone to tailgate you.

Toll Roads, Social Justice

Toll roads are simply a fact of life in the Orlando, FL area, due to I-4’s lack of capacity and widespread congestion. There are times of the day where it can be a lot faster to drive 10 miles extra on toll roads than to take a direct route on non-tolled roads. The I-4 Ultimate project, expected to be completed in the early 2020s, includes surge-priced toll lanes intended to keep traffic flowing at 50 miles per hour, which may cost over $10.00 for a one-way trip at peak times. From a social justice perspective, this is arguably similar to a caste system, and is certainly regressive. No consideration is given for the driver’s ability to pay—rich people should arguably have to pay more than poor people, but are charged the same rate. Though everyone has 24 hours in a day, the rich are further advantaged over the poor by being able to pay a sum inconsequential to them to avoid the crowded peasant lanes, while the peasants might literally have to give up several meals to avoid 30 minutes of heavy traffic. Is this just? Not by a long shot.

Social justice can also be applied to civil engineering, pedestrians, and cyclists. Pedestrians and cyclists get the short shrift in Central Florida—drivers assert their dominance (in contradiction to the law) and “might is right” prevails. In contrast, San Francisco cyclists often have dedicated lanes and traffic signals, and may even outnumber motorists. As for civil engineering, getting drivers from point A to point B is often prioritized far too highly (the American love of Interstate motorways is a testament to this). For example, in constructing the recently-completed overpass for US 17–92 over SR 436 in Casselberry, FL, the cost of destroying local businesses (paying owners to buy land and bulldoze them) was $60 million! This far exceeded the cost of $21 million to build the overpass (including special, pricey palm trees). Why is it such a high priority of the State to save commuters, who may contribute nothing to the local economy, a few minutes of time, at such massive social, economic, and cultural cost?

Cultural Expectations of Car Ownership

Being that I mostly make friends with women, I often hear them complain about potential suitors not owning a car. Sometimes, the word “loser” is often thrown in for good measure. These kind of opinions perpetuate the problems we have with too many cars. The infrastructure costs alone are staggering. Currently, billions of dollars of road projects are underway in Orlando, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, and across the country, just to provide capacity for the individuals who were derided as “losers” until they acquired a car. Not owning a car can be a legitimate choice. Just because car ownership was a marker of adulthood for past generations does not mean this expectation is virtuous or informed. Anyone who calls you a “loser” for not owning a car is not worth your time.

That’s all for now. I find the above topics very interesting, and current traffic flow theory does a surprisingly poor job of addressing them. I may eventually write about other topics such as speed limits, texting and driving, and carbon emissions.

Writing on education, psychology, and philosophy