Home Search: Finding Common Ground Between Urban & Rural

20170225_142413February has not quite come to a close and yet 2017 has already been interesting and exciting for the Golbabai family. Over the past few months, Paula and I have spent considerable time working on out next project – finding a house here in College Station. Not just any house, mind you, but the right place for us to raise our kids and put down roots. This search was especially difficult for the two of us because of our seemingly divergent tastes. As a new urbanist and city planner, I advocate for density, connectivity and walkability. Paula, on the other hand, regularly re-reads the Little House on the Prairie series, loves wide open spaces and has been researching the maintenance of backyard chickens.  Continue reading

Double Sided: Our Planned Obsolescence Economy

20161210_1433221If you have had the pleasure of recently shopping for a mattress you don’t need me to tell you how overwhelming the experience is. Mattresses are difficult to test sufficiently prior to purchase and all the guarantees and warranties are confusing. But it is the shear number of options that is staggering. Do you want firm or plush? Foam or coil? Organic? Low chemical content? Well it is what is missing in this world of choices that hints at a disturbing truth embedded in our economic system. I’m excited to share with you today a post that has been percolating in the back of my brain for a few years now; a story that I simply walked into when I innocently walked into a mattress store. Continue reading

The Walkability of Rural Places

20161016_112808Three hundred and sixty four days a year I am a proud New Urbanist and apostle of the Strong Towns movement. I love talking about the value of mixed-use, traditional neighborhoods. When friends are over for dinner, I often find myself taking my copy of Suburban Nation off the shelf much like an evangelist spreading the gospel. Yet despite all of this, despite knowing better, there is one day, the three hundred and sixty fifth day of the year that I can’t help but feel guilty that my kids don’t live in a suburban subdivision.  That day is Halloween. Continue reading

The Birth of the Modern Shark Tank Economy

imagePaula and I are both readers. Except in the case of a movie night or some other exceptions the TV doesn’t get a lot of play time in the Golbabai house. One of those exceptions however is our favorite Friday night tradition: putting the kids to bed and watching Shark Tank over a bowl of ice cream. As an economics blogger, I find the show fascinating because in just a few short minutes it is a perfect microcosm of how our modern economy thinks and rewards. Continue reading

More Than Employees: What Killed Our Local Economic Independence?

P1000702Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been following with a kind of morbid fascination our American presidential race. Of particular interest to me is not so much where our two parties disagree, however, but where they in fact agree. Both parties openly acknowledge that the economy is not working as it should for everyone, and both parties have the same prescription: jobs – i.e. better employment options.  On the surface, this sounds great for those of us trying to climb our own respective career ladders or for those trying to get on a career ladder in the first place. And this of course must be a winning theme, because it seems to be the primary domestic issue in every presidential election I can remember. But honestly, this mindset just doesn’t sit right with me, and not just because of the influences of Wendell Berry and Planet Money, but because of our past. Looking back at American history, the concept of economic success as our ability to be employed by others is a fairly recent phenomenon. We were once a nation of small business owners, each of us creating a unique American Dream of our own with self-employment as the cornerstone. Today we’re a nation of employees looking for jobs that provide upward mobility. So what happened? Continue reading

The Local and the Global: Lessons from Detroit

imageIn The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle articulates three types of friendship: friendship based on utility, friendship based on pleasure, and perfect friendship based on goodness. When it comes to the relationship between multi-national corporations and local places within the context of the global economy, I cannot help but think Aristotle’s description of friendship based on utility hits it on the head. Continue reading

Treasuring Places of Character

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One of my greatest joys over the last two plus years has been watching my son grow up. On the cusp of moving from toddler to little boy, I increasingly see the all-important role Paula and I have in shaping his character (enter, “timeout”). But environment has an impact too, and one of the best places for him to exercise his character is on the playground. Here, there are opportunities to take on new challenges such as scaling the ladder and trying out the big slide, to utilize his creativity in the sandbox, to learn how to interact with both the bigger and smaller kids alike. But as we explore playgrounds around Austin, we notice they’re not all equal. Continue reading

Local Land Ownership and the American Dream

imageThree years ago Paula and I became first time homeowners and landlords when we purchased our central Austin duplex. Despite all the paperwork (I never knew I could sign my name so many times), it was all pretty thrilling. But looking back at it now, I can see more clearly than ever that this process, more than anything else we have done so far, helped us better secure our financial footing by giving us the ability to make payments as if we were renting, but build equity in the process. And of course, it gave us a sense of ownership and control over our own little piece of the American Dream. Continue reading

Our Repair Economy: Are Low Prices the Enemy of Sustainability?

imageI was preparing for work one morning when disaster struck; my trusty beard trimmer wasn’t trimming. There was plenty of strange whirring but absolutely no movement of the blades. I spent a few minutes tinkering with it but to no avail. At this point, what are my options? It seemed to me that the problem was fixable. I have a two-year-old son who is fascinated with shaving; maybe he got a hold of it and dropped it, knocking something loose. If I couldn’t fix it myself, could a repair shop handle it? What would they charge me? How would that compare with the cost of a brand new beard trimmer? But maybe the biggest question was this: do repair shops for small electronics even exist any more? Continue reading

Building a Local Economy: Where to Start?

P1000350Quite a lot has happened in the Golbabai house since I lased posted. After months of studying, I passed my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification exam so I can now write this blog as a certified planner! A few days later, Paula and I welcomed the newest addition to our family, our beautiful baby daughter. Both Mom and baby are doing well and we’re all adjusting to this new reality of life as a family of four!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been really struck by my two children. Looking at our newborn daughter, I’m amazed at just how completely dependent we are on others when we come into the world. Continue reading