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I usually complain about healthcare, so let me report a positive experience with the system. It’s rather an unlikely one, considering it inv0lves a New Year’s Eve visit to the ER at a hospital in West Philadephia with a crying toddler. But there you have it.

We were staying with my aunt, who lives near Broad Street in South Philly. Around 6:30pm, I was swinging our younger son, Jack (19 mos. old), by his arms when I heard a pop, kind of like the crack your knuckles make but with more bass. I put him down and he started to cry. I picked him up and eventually figured out his left arm was the source of his pain. Any poke or movement made him cry more. He was just letting it hang. I feared I had dislocated his shoulder.

So off we went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, which is near Franklin Field. I pulled up to the ER and dropped off Jack and my wife. By the time I parked the car and made it back — I took no more than 10 minutes — they were already in triage.

The nurse finished taking his blood pressure — and making him cry more by sealing him in one of those hospital ID wristbands — and told us to wait. Which we did for about 5 minutes. At which point, a nurse came out to bring us back to an exam room.

The docs came and then within 30 minutes, Jack’s arm was back to normal. A simple snap back into place was all it took. Within five seconds he was using his arm as if nothing at all had happened. Turns out he had nursemaid’s elbow, a fairly common thing in toddlers.

We were back at my Aunt’s house within 90 minutes of leaving. Let’s hope the bill is as pleasant as the visit. The doctors said there’s usually a several-hours wait in the ER. So, if you must take your child to a hospital, do it on New Year’s Eve.

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It looks like poor Harrisburg, Pa. is a major contributor to climate change, according to this Brookings Institution report. Each of us belches more than three tons of carbon a year. It’s true that, per the report’s findings, we live in big houses powered by coal and drive a lot. But I’m a bit skeptical, since those are only part of what it means to be an American these days. And I wanted to deal with the report since, earlier, I decided big cities are like big coal plants — relics of a centralized, industrial past.

Brookings says people in big cities emit less carbon than us non-urbanites, at least some of us anyway. However, I’m guessing that people in places like Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles (all cities with relatively small per capita carbon footprints according to Brookings) wear clothes and eat food. And I’m guessing that only some of the food is grown in their own kitchens and that only some of the clothes are made at dining-room tables.

Even food at a city farmer’s market has to get to its destination somehow, and I don’t think Ford is making any hybrid box trucks.

Stuff doesn’t come from nowhere. It takes factories and planes and ships and trucks to produce and deliver this stuff, all of which produces carbon. I wonder what the carbon footprint is of the average sushi restaurant in midtown Manhattan or the average department store in Los Angeles.

It’s this kind of analysis that’s missing from the Brookings report. And as long as it’s missing, we can’t hope to get a realistic grasp on climate change that empowers people instead of alienating them.

This is exactly the sort of thing suburban visitors need to see when they step out of their car in a downtown area struggling to return to life:

This particular ad — spotted May 10 — came from downtown York, catty-corner from the Central Market. I had to laugh. Fear of crime, justified or not, seems to be one of the biggest obstacles to bringing people into the city. What better way to erase people’s fears than to remind them that people they see on the street could be carrying both guns AND drugs?

I love going into the city, but I don’t like explaining pictures of three-foot tall guns to my children.

On another note, I think York County commissioner and anti-crime crusader Steve Chronister could take a few notes from this article about fighting urban violence. It might work better than ads.

So I was in New York City last Saturday — and not to see the Pope, though he apparently had the same plans. What struck me driving in was the enormous effort it must take to send food, water and other essentials and non-essentials into the metropolis — not to mention the energy that goes into heating and cooling all those ginormous buildings.

Don’t smaller, distributed cities like York and Lancaster, Gettysburg and Chambersburg make more sense? A big city is sort of like a big coal-burning power plant, a relic of the industrial age that will have to change if we truly care about the environment.

Yet, people in big cities think of themselves as somehow more eco-conscious than us provincials. Sure, they don’t drive. But how do they think all those organic soaps get into the stores they can walk to? Yes, our small towns have problems with sprawl and traffic. But it seems like they’d be easier to address.

What also struck me was the way people sat on the grass in the small slice of Central Park (the lower west corner) where my son and I ran around for an hour. No “group” was bigger than three people, and they were all magically about 15 feet apart. The distance couldn’t have been more regular if they’d all been out there with measuring tape before they set down their blankets.

Another observation: I get the sense (rightly or wrongly) that urbanites see themselves as less conformist, more individualistic than suburban or rural people. Yet, when you think about it, what’s so against-the-grain about choosing to live in the same place as 8 million other people? That seems like a pretty big herd.

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