the anthony dobranski blog


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My hero Grover Norquist

The cost of the new extension of Metro mass transit trains out to Dulles Airport has ballooned and will continue to do so. A well-designed bus system would be as efficient but cost vastly less.

Buses are cheaper than trains, with volume sources for parts and no need for expensive rails. With dedicated lanes, a bus line would never have traffic jams. As in rail stations one could pay on entering the station not the vehicle. Buses could be triple length, like the segmented tractor-trailers that use Western highways, and so much cheaper that we would have many of them. One even has a choice of fuels, from gasoline to natural gas to electric batteries, and improvements can be incorporated quickly, unlike hard-to-adapt custom trains.

Twenty years ago I read an article in Scientific American about Curitiba, Brazil, a city in need of mass transit but with no money for rail. They designed a bus system for city streets, like a trolley car system but with no tracks or overhead power cables. If they could do that twenty years ago we could easily create a nice cheap bus system.

We Americans are too fat’n’happy to be satisfied with such a solution even as we rail against our wasteful national habits. I don’t mean to be a scold though since I was too fat’n’happy to raise the issue.

What if I had become a crank and sent photocopies of the article to every politician in the Metropolitan Area for the last twenty years? Might have come to nothing, at the expense of a little time and a little ego, but might have saved me more money in taxes in the long-run. I’ll never know but I should have tried.

In this spirit that I offer a tribute to Grover Norquist. Norquist is the head of Americans for Tax Reform, which has committed most of the right-wing leadership of the United States to a brutally simple pledge never to raise taxes, ever.

Though he attacks the slightest deviation from his orthodoxy, in interview Norquist is patient and tolerant, unconcerned with petty issues like comfort or dignity. I have seen him face down extraordinary mockery from liberal television satirists without raising his voice or losing his smile. His eyes are on his prize with a focus we would laud if it aimed at world peace or animal cruelty. He is the Dalai Lama of lower taxes.

I say with all sincerity, I hope to be the Grover Norquist of my own life. I hope that I can stare down all the no voices with such unflappability that I will make yes of them.


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Interleaving

In a marathon session a week ago I interleaved the chapters of the manuscript. As I posted earlier it was Kathryn Johnson’s idea. Until now the points of view alternated in long chapters of 8,000-10,000 words. By alternating individual scenes from these chapters I now change viewpoints every thousand words or so. A few chapters resisted interleaving but most folded into each other neatly. I am excited to try a new structure this late in the process.

The work of interleaving was programmatic: copy and paste, merge scenes for pacing. My weird obsessive ordering with numbers for each part helped hugely. The work had its own rhythm, in great part repetitive, so there was a benefit to sticking with it all afternoon. Still I am surprised. Clearly its structure was compatible, without my ever once making it so. I had been noodling with it for several days and here it just came together.

One help was to realize I didn’t need to renumber the chapters. Modern editing tools map heading lines but keeping the chapter number is extra information that people can use. There is even a hypertext element. My wife suggested having two different tables of contents, one where the reader follows the alternating scenes, the other where the reader alternates large chapters.