A new website seeks to document and shame the Central Asian nation's appalling car parking habits.
Я паркуюсь как осел
Unfortunately, there is no World Bank or International Monetary Fund study on comparative parking practices across nations, no ranking of the world's countries by the politeness and orderliness of their drivers' habits. But, if there were, you might expect Kazakhstan to rank near the bottom, based on the popular Kazakh website, "I Parked Like an Ass."
The story of "I Parked Like an Ass," known in the original Russian as "Я паркуюсь как осел", begins with a disgruntled driver in the city of Almaty named Roman Slegin. Radio Free Europe reports that Slegin started his website so that regular Kazakhs could publicly document, and thus shame, the atrocious parking habits that he says are common in his country. Users are encouraged to photograph any bad parking they happen upon and then upload their shots to the site.
Slegin's site, which has three staffers, has become so popular that Almaty police have offered to verify the photos and "bring charges against persistent offenders," according to Radio Free Europe, which also notes there are similar citizen-meter-maid sites in the U.S., Lebanon, and the U.K.
None of them comes close to the sheer insanity of Kazakhstan's parking habits, as documented. The people in these photos park like they're fleeing the zombie apocalypse. Putting your front wheel a few feet deep on the sidewalk -- or your entire car, for that matter -- seems widespread. So does parking, perpendicular to traffic, in the middle of an active lane. The people who make it into an actual space seem to consider three the magic number.
Here is just a sample of the 1,500-plus photos on the site (my very favorite, of a stretch hummer parked across traffic, is at the bottom), and below that some thoughts on why it would be so.
If you're still with me, you're probably wondering, as I am, what could make people think it's OK to park like this, and with such apparent frequency. Of course, individual photos are just anecdotes, not evidence of a trend. Still, there are over 1,500 of these shots, which is a lot for a nation of an estimated 2.7 million passenger cars (16.5 million people with a passenger car ownership rate of 0.167 per capita). And Clegin's site seems to have taken off in part because of how outraged many Kazakhs are by their compatriots' parking habits. So, with the big caveat that this is just anecdata and not a hard fact, what might explain it?
A few recent trends that have changed Kazakhstan as a whole -- rapid development from a poor country to middle-income, newfound global integration that's brought better access to cars, and urbanization -- could all conceivably contribute to the odd parking habits. The country, once a rural Soviet backwater, has become a bit of an economic success story. The skyrocketing GDP and fast-developing economy have led many Kazakhs out of the vast and sparsely populated countryside -- where parking anywhere and any way you please would be less deleterious to traffic -- and into the rapidly growing cities.
Put another way, there are a lot of cars and city-dwellers in a society that didn't have many of either only a generation ago, meaning that the idea of city parking itself is kind of new, and the practices that we consider normal might not have had an opportunity to develop.
There's another potential factor: oil and gas wealth. Last year, we looked at the notoriously dangerous roads of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where oil subsidies (1) make it easier for people to buy cars; (2) imbue that car with less perceived value, because its owner didn't have to spend as much of their own money on it; (3) can sometimes give people what one Emirates resident called an "above-the-law attitude." This last point refers to a complicated effect of what scholars call a "rentier state," or a country that sells innate resources such as oil and then gives some profits directly to citizens, sometimes warping those citizens' perceptions of the state's basic responsibilities in a way that can denigrate respect for rule-of-law. Kazakhstan has plenty of oil and gas, the profits of which go to, among other things, the fancy German luxury cars you see parked across Almaty sidewalks above.
Whatever the reason, however it came to pass, parking like a barbarian raider appears to be somewhat more accepted in Kazakhstan than in other places. Roman Slegin and the people who use his site appear to be trying to change those norms. If Almaty and other Kazakh cities continue growing, it will be in everyone's interests that they succeed.
For some, abandoning expensive urban centers would be a huge financial relief.
Neal Gabler has been a formative writer for me: His Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity was one of the books that led me to think about leaving scholarship behind and write nonfiction instead, and Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination was the first book I reviewed as a freelance writer. To me, he exemplifies the best mix of intensive archival research and narrative kick.
So reading his recent essay, "The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans," was a gut punch: First, I learned about a role model of mine whose talent, in my opinion, should preclude him from financial woes. And, then, I was socked by narcissistic outrage: I, too, struggle with money! I, too, am a failing middle-class American! I, too, am a writer of nonfiction who should be better compensated!
Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.
Since 2013,the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
It’s a paradox: Shouldn’t the most accomplished be well equipped to make choices that maximize life satisfaction?
There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.
But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.
That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
The team, which had 5,000-to-1 odds of winning the English Premier League, has pulled off the biggest upset in sports history.
Much to everyone’s disbelief, the Leicester City soccer club was crowned the champion of the English Premier League Monday.
The team’s chances last summer were small, to say the least. Back then, William Hill, a British betting group, put the odds of the Foxes of Leicester City, a fledgling team based two hours north of London, of winning at 5,000-to-1. Essentially, the team had a .0002 percent chance of being the best team in the league of 20. Except for the 25 people who bet a combined total of just $243 on the team through William Hill, no one expected this from Leicester City.
Here’s some perspective: William Hill once put the odds of Elvis being found alive and well at 2,000-to-1 and an acknowledgment by the U.S. government that the first moon landing was faked at 500-to-1.
Three Atlantic staffers discuss “Home,” the second episode of the sixth season.
Every week for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Christopher Orr, Spencer Kornhaber, and Lenika Cruz will be discussing new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners are being made available to critics in advance this year, we'll be posting our thoughts in installments.
The newly discovered worlds are now the most promising targets in the search for life among the stars—and the race to take a closer look at them has begun.
The robot telescope settles on its target, a star that sits closer than all but a tiny fraction of the tens of billions of stellar systems that make up the Milky Way. Its mirror grabs light for 55 seconds, again and again. The robot telescope—called TRAPPIST—will observe the star for 245 hours across sixty-two nights, making 12,295 measurements. Eleven times, it will see the star dim, ever so slightly. This dip in luminosity, called a transit, has a straightforward astronomical explanation: It’s a planet passing in front of the star, blocking just a bit of its light. In this case, the transits tell us that 3 planets orbit the star.
“So what?” you might think.
Astronomers have been spotting planets around distant stars for years now, using the transit method, among others. Not a month goes by without a headline, touting the discovery of new “exoplanets.” But these planets are different, and not only because they’re near. Like the Earth these planets could potentially permit liquid water to persist on their surfaces—which is thought to be a key pre-condition for the emergence of life. Today, when their discovery is published in Nature, they will instantly become the most promising planets yet found in the search for life among the stars.
Don’t expect Hillary Clinton to stay above the fray in the general election—her campaign plans “sustained and brutal attacks” on Donald Trump.
As they look ahead to the general election, some commentators envision a campaign in which Donald Trump attacks viciously and Hillary Clinton makes a virtue of her refusal to stoop to his level. “I think Trump’s method will be to turn on the insult comedy against Hillary Clinton,” declared GOP consultant Mike Murphy earlier this week. “Her big judo move is playing the victim.” Vox’s Ezra Klein speculated earlier this year that “Trump sets up Clinton for a much softer and unifying message than she’d be able to get away with against a candidate like [Marco] Rubio.”
I doubt it will play out that way. Rope-a-dope isn’t Clinton’s style. When facing political threats, her pattern has been to strike first—and with great force.
The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.
Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.