City Car

It is not unusual to use Google to figure out what car to buy.  But I'll bet "what is the shortest car that has a third row of seats" is not a common search.  Yet that was what drove (no pun intended) our recent purchase of the Mazda 5.  Asher's arrival rendered our 2006 Chevy Aveo obsolete, and while we were newly in need of that third row of seating we dreaded the endless circling that would be required to find a parking spot near our house that was big enough to fit a minivan.

Hence, Google.  And, hence, the Mazda 5.  Our Aveo was super stubby, able to fit just about any parking gap on the street.  And yet, unbelievably, the Mazda 5 is only 14 inches longer than that. 

Sure, it's a squeeze for us inside, which will only worsen as the kids get older and bigger.  And we haven't yet piled everyone in the car and a bunch of luggage.  So it's not without its downsides.

But it's a nice car, and a nice-looking car.  Aaron and Jada like being in the very back and having more room than when they were crammed into the Aveo.  And Amy and I like looking back and seeing our little baby Asher snug in his seat.

And most of all we like seeing spots on our block that we used to be able to squeeze our old Aveo into and be able to squeeze our new 5 into.  It may seem a strange way to pick a car, but maybe you can relate if you live in a city too. 


Converting to Digital

I am a long-time hold-out for physical books over e-books.  I say all the same things old book lovers say, that there's something comforting about holding something in your hand, turning the pages, even smelling the smell of old paper.  But it turns out that cost was my main concern, and once that was negated and even flipped, I converted to e-books instantly.

Let me explain.  I am very thrifty.  I feed my reading fix by buying dirt cheap used books, both at shops and in person.  E-books, while convenient, cost money.  End of discussion.

Except that my dear friend who I caught up with last weekend reminded me that e-books don't have to cost money, because they can be "borrowed" from the Free Library.  I gasped aloud when he shared this blazing insight with me.  And, once we hung up, I made a beeline to my computer and confirmed that this is true.  Within minutes, I had bookmarked a couple of dozen titles and downloaded my first e-book, "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg.

And, within hours, I had completed reading my first e-book.

It helped that the book is really good and really interesting.  (This is a post for another time.)  But, while I probably prefer turning pages and viewing letters on paper, reading on my phone was actually not bad.  Plus, it is obviously more portable.  And did I mention that this is all free with a library card?

Obviously, this changes the whole equation for me now.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm well on my way to finishing my second e-book, "One Summer: America, 1927," by Bill Bryson.


Our New Personal Connection

I'm reposting my guest post at HapaMama which was first posted there two weeks ago.


America still has a long way to go when it comes to matters of race, gender, and sexual orientation. But we have come a long way too, and in a remarkably short amount of time. I am barely 40 but still plenty old enough to remember (and, I must admit, participate in) some awful stereotyping of people. We’ve made some incredible progress. I think it’s because we have more regular contact now with people different from us. Where once we huddled with others like us and let our biases harden, now we have normal discourse with a wide range of people at work, at church, and in the neighborhood. Those seemingly innocent human interactions not only break down walls between us but also enable us to empathize with those different from us. Not only do we not think ill or make fun of others anymore, but when we hear of racism or sexism or homophobia we become angry and protective. It’s because those being hurt are no longer some vague concept of “them” but rather a very real “us”: our own friends and loved ones, with whom we have a personal connection and with whom we hurt when they are aggrieved.

My wife and I are in an interracial marriage: she is white, I am Asian. We live in a progressive and diverse urban neighborhood in a big East Coast city, exposing us and our children to a wide range of people from all walks of life. We adopted our first two kids from Asia: Jada from China in 2005 and Aaron from Taiwan in 2007. We talk about race freely and often, as befits its importance in their understanding of themselves and of the country they live in. They have friends of all races and ethnicities, and have traveled around our city enough to see how race, ethnicity, income, and power intersect in this country. My wife and I are grateful that they have had these early exposures, and we pray they will carry these experiences into an adulthood that is marked by respect for all and a desire to participate in the progress we are seeing in our nation.

Recently, we added a third child to our family. Asher is our first domestic adoption and our first newborn. He is also our first African-American child. He is an absolute angel, and in this adoption journey my wife and I have been buoyed up by the prayers, encouragements, and kind words sent to us by so many friends and family members. All of us are aware of the tragedies and complexities that make up the current experience of so many black men in this country. But adopting Asher into our family has, for my wife and me, lent these tragedies and complexities a new relevance. We now process news stories as not just journalism or statistics or social commentary but also with our new personal connection. Maybe our friends and family members will grow along with us too. With these greater human ties, may there be greater compassion and greater connection and, ultimately, greater healing.


Lazy Linking, 148th in an Occasional Series

What I liked lately on the Internets:

148.1 A nice piece deconstructing the cost of making 1 Apple Watch bit.ly/1bSfv6F @hushev

148.2 Think ag can never be mechanized so at least humans will always have those jobs?  Think again on.wsj.com/1zRoiMd @wsj

148.3 Why don't the poor attend arts events? If it's because of TV, is that good or bad? bit.ly/1IhbSWj @createquity

148.4 A cautionary tale about econ dev that chases promised job creation bit.ly/1RRmZrT @margrev

148.5 Why do bike share users skew white and rich? bit.ly/1Fe5ECZ @voxdotcom


Quantitative Tools is On Again

Later this morning will be the opening session of my Quantitative Tools for Consulting class at Penn.  That's right, three and a half hours of Saturday morning discussion on analytics all summer long - sign me up for that! 

Indeed, I am looking forward to meeting the bright young women and men who have done just that.  If you want to follow us on social media, I've included the links for the course's presence below.





Recommended Reads, 20th in a Quarterly Series

http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/237x/26/2c/3d/262c3d200c1cf34cc31171f6d6154783.jpg Stuff I've read lately that I'd recommend:

His Excellency: George Washington (Ellis).  A nice one-volume primer on America's first great man.

The War of the Sexes: How Conflict and Cooperation Have Shaped Men and Women from Prehistory to the Present (Seabright).  What biological differences between men and women have meant for how men and women interact.

The Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki).  All of us are smarter than any of us.

Transition Game: How Hoosiers Went Hip-Hop (Wertheim).  From Hickory High to AAU.


What Am I Working On

As has become my custom every three months, here's what I'm working on now at work. I won't repeat anything from last time that I happen to still be working on, and for confidentiality's sake I have to blur some of the details for some of these studies.

* What do new billboards contribute to a local economy

* How does a fast-growing public university create positive impacts for its host municipalities

* What is a tax-free zone worth to office tenants on a per square foot basis

* How can a city reorganize its various departments to more effectively combat urban blight