Jeremy Hiebert

Monday, July 31, 2006

Really Real Estate

Do you rent or own your home? We rented for years and loved the freedom of it, but when rents way outstripped the costs of buying a few years ago, we bought a place. Paying the bank didn't feel much different than paying the old landlord, but our housings costs did go up; requiring more work and other kinds of belt-tightening decisions that sit right in the middle of this lifestylism exploration.

It feels like we're experimenting with a bit of lifestylism ourselves this week, putting our townhouse in Summerland, BC up for sale. I suppose by Vancouver (or other big-city) standards, the price would probably seem very affordable, but real estate has boomed here the last two years (without wages going up) and we're "getting out" of the market with only minor trepidation. We can't afford to buy anything else (since this is just about as cheap a home as anyone could buy in our area), so we're planning to rent for a while and figure out our options.

Since housing costs make up such a high proportion (and rising) of our incomes, these kinds of decisions weigh heavily, and they're part of the complex stew of options surrounding how we really want to live. We're opting for the relative security of paying off debts, upgrading our dying car, and the potential freedom to travel or live somewhere new for a while: perhaps this heavenly spot in PEI or something more adventurous like helping out at an orphanage in Ecuador for a few months (run by family friends we've supported for years and would love to see in person).

We feel like we're running counter to the American Dream right now, and it's quite liberating. Anyway, if you or someone you know is looking for a move to (or investment property in) British Columbia's sunny Okanagan, in a quiet lakeside town surrounded by mountains, head on over to http://summerlandtownhouse.com and we'll get things hooked up.

Brazen Careerist

Via Proactive Living (which I caught up on this morning -- Doug's been blogging up an excellent storm over there) comes a link to Brazen Careerist. I hadn't ever seen this one before, but at first skim, it's fantastic -- great tone and interesting career advice. I'll be following it from now on.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Work and Chores

CBC says that Gender gaps remain over work time, chore time, bouncing off a new report from a new StatsCan report on work:
"Dual-earner couples who worked long days doing their job plus housework and who had dependent children at home were less satisfied with their work-life balance. They also felt more time-stressed, particularly women.

However, despite these stage-of-life pressures, the majority of dual-earner husbands and wives felt satisfied with their life as a whole, the study found.

Women generally tend to feel more time-stressed than men, regardless of length of workday or presence of children. For example, among couples with the longest workday and children at home, two-thirds of the women felt time-stressed compared with one-half of men."

Dandelife

Dandelife is a neat tool for creating personal histories, complete with a really nice timeline view and connections to other people's stories. Check out a profile for a taste.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Purpose Gift Passion

How to Save the World had a great post about choosing your entrepreneurial path earlier in the month -- the graphic alone is worth the trip over to check it out.

Positive Futurist

The Roaring Zeros must have seemed bizarrely optimistic when it was published in 1999, at the height of the Y2K scare. Optimistic futurism seems almost out of style, but super-lifestylist Kevin Kelly's predictions of a hyper-prosperous North America for decades makes for a great read:
"Fast-forward to 2020. After two decades of ultraprosperity, the average American household's income is $150,000, but milk still costs only about $2.50 a gallon. Web-enabled TVs are free if you commit to watching them, but camping permits for Yellowstone cost $1,000. Almost everyone working has signed up for a job that does not exist (at the moment); most workers have more than one business card, more than one source of income. Hard-hat workers are paid as much as Web designers, and plumbers charge more for house calls than doctors. For the educated, the income gap narrows. Indeed, labor is in such short supply that corporations 'hire' high school grads, and then pay for their four-year college educations before they begin work."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Paradox of Choice

I linked to some stuff about the Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz last year, but didn't really follow it up. Now I'm studying it for my thesis and finding all kinds of fascinating ideas around the concept. The New Yorker review and an interview with the author are a good place to start, and his earlier paper introduces many of the main ideas in the book -- Self-Determination: The Tyranny of Freedom (pdf). One of the main studies supporting his ideas is outlined here -- When Choice is Demotivating, by Sheena S. Iyengar, who has done amazing research in this area.

Why does this matter? At the root of this lifestylism project is my belief that we don't tend to make lifestyle decisions that reflect our core values. Anything that helps us understand that process is a step toward developing better ways to make those choices.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Commuters spending more time in transit

Canadians spend an average of 63 minutes a day commuting, and that number has increased since 1992. Increased, during a time of rising gas prices, improving environmental awareness and continued urbanization. Ugh.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Market Segmentation Research

The smart folks at Claritas let me know that they've updated their lifestyle segments (clusters) site. It's just way too much fun to see which segment you might fit into and see how it connects you to similar people elsewhere. If you live in the U.S., you can punch in your zip code to see how your neighborhood is classified.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Does Fatherhood Make You Happy?

Although this article by Daniel Gilbert coincided with Father's Day, the insights can certainly be applied to moms as well. It's short and oh-so-smart. Are parents lying when they say their kids are their greatest source of happiness?
"Psychologists have measured how people feel as they go about their daily activities, and have found that people are less happy when they are interacting with their children than when they are eating, exercising, shopping or watching television. Indeed, an act of parenting makes most people about as happy as an act of housework. Economists have modeled the impact of many variables on people's overall happiness and have consistently found that children have only a small impact. A small negative impact."
He offers some fascinating reasons why we love our kids so much despite the lack of evidence that they make us happy -- read it to find out what they are.

I liked this article so much that I went into a web of stuff by the author. I was most interested in his talk on Affective Forecasting, which is basically studying how people predict they will react to future events (both negative and positive). A flavour:
"What's interesting to me is that while money is weakly and complexly correlated with happiness, and social relationships are strongly and simply correlated with happiness, most of us spend most of our time trying to be happy by pursuing wealth. Why?"

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kunstler Blogs

I didn't know that James Howard Kunstler had a blog. It's got his usual cantankerous tone (and a language warning), covering all kinds of big issues. His books about urban planning rocked my world -- it's a huge area of concern when you're thinking about aligning your lifestyle with your values and finding that the housing options available (and semi-affordable) tend to be mostly so undesireable:
"A substantial amount of total house sales are made up of new suburban McHouses built in places at the furthest extreme distance from employment centers -- because that's where the remaining cheap land is after sixty-odd years of suburban development. How many prospective house-buyers will close on those things with gasoline over $3 a gallon? Probably fewer than are required to sell them all."
Thanks to Tom Hoffman for the pointer.