4.24.2017

Lazy Linking, 185th in an Occasional Series


Stuff I liked lately on the Internets:

185.1 What’s the impact on traffic when a major highway closes? Smaller than you think bit.ly/2o6h5Mg @citylab
 
185.2 Irony: at big schls you can seek out ppl like you; at small schls you end up w/more diverse friends bit.ly/2ockiaF @SagePubIndia

185.3 Seattle breaks the strangehold unelected community assns have on nhd real estate devt bit.ly/2pjh5qL @ericacbarnett ‏

185.4 Let’s get rid of prison bc there are economically superior alternatives bit.ly/2oH63xi @ssrn

185.5 Philly's newest museum tells the unvarnished story of the American Revolution bit.ly/2ouEdlU @billy_penn

4.22.2017

Too Short for a Blog Post, Too Long for a Tweet LXX

Here's an excerpt from a book I recently read, "The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia," by Mike Dash:



Though useful, insofar as they did dirty jobs that earlier immigrants now thought of as beneath them, Italians from the southern provinces were regarded with hostility by many New Yorkers. Their dark complexions, lack of English, and devotion to an alien food were all regarded as distasteful. They were much more volatile than northern Europeans, it was commonly supposed, and prone to deadly knife fights and vendettas. Worse, only a minority embraced American institutions with the fervor expected of immigrants. Few Italians mixed with men of other nationalities, and well under half actually applied for U.S. citizenship. For many Sicilians and Neapolitans, the United States was a place to work hard, spend little, and save ferociously; many planned to return home with their savings. These were habits many Americans regarded as ungrateful and insulting.


Opinion hardened further at about the time the Terranova family first came to Manhattan. There was concern at the number of anarchists and socialists pouring into the country to preach revolution. There was concern at the number of criminals. Nineteen Italians in every twenty of those passing through Ellis Island were found to be carrying weapons, either knives or revolvers, and there was nothing in American law to stop them from taking this arsenal into the city. The Sicilian police were said to be issuing passports to known murderers in order to get them out of the country—a calumny, it transpired, but there were still real reasons to take such problems seriously. So many Italians were passing through Ellis Island every day that it was not possible to check their statements properly. But when the 1,400 passengers on board the SS Belgravia were subjected to a spot investigation, one in six was found to have given false information. “Statistics prove,” the Herald trumpeted in one alarmist feature article, “that the scum of Southern Europe is dumped on the nation’s door in rapacious, conscienceless, lawbreaking hordes.”

4.19.2017

17 Years of "For Better and for Worse"

Seventeen years ago late last week Amy and I said "I do" to a shared journey of "for better and for worse."  Of course, late last week was also one of those "worse" moments, in that we went from waiting to board a plane to meet our baby girl to finding out that the adoption might be off, a verdict that was finally made official earlier this week.  Amy and I are still grieving, and it hurts all over.  Sometimes my heart aches so much and I am so out of breath that all I can do is hold my chest.  Other times my legs turn to mush and I feel like someone has punched me in the stomach.  And Amy feels even worse.

We will continue to go through the mourning process, and in fact it is probably going to take some time.  Indeed, it is a loss we will probably go to our graves feeling.

But to heck if I'm going to miss the chance to take a moment to celebrate our marriage and my wife in the midst of all of this.  One of the things I love about Amy is that she is not afraid to love big, even at great cost to herself.  She is on one level a very conservative person: she dresses modestly, is quiet and shy, and does not do crazy things for fun.  But on another level she is fearless about risking it all in the name of love, even making room for three (and, we continue to hope, someday four) children despite the possibility each time that her hopes will be dashed and her dreams crushed.  She puts her heart on the line, exposing herself to the potential for ruinous and devastating loss, and as we are finding out this month those losses are not theoretical but real and painful.  But for her, love makes it worth it.  For that I am grateful, and for that I say happy anniversary to my beb.

4.13.2017

Recommended Reads, 26th in a Quarterly Series

Stuff I'd recommend from my past three months' reading consumption:



* Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (Grant).  Loved the vocab it gave me, in terms of givers and takers and matchers.

* Between the World and Me (Coates).  Must-read for parents of black kids.

* Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (Johnson).  One of my favorite authors, and this book doesn't disappoint.

* In Other Words (Lahiri).  Stumbling as I am through learning Mandarin, I found this beautiful and poetic.

* Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (Eagleman).  The brain is so interesting and we have so much more to learn about it.


* The Road to Character (Brooks).  Character still matters, and David Brooks says why and how.



 

4.11.2017

Too Short for a Blog Post, Too Long for a Tweet LXIX

Here is an excerpt from a book I am reading, "The Gospel According to Jesus," by John MacArthur:



Contrast their reaction with that of the Pharisees, described in Luke 15:2: “Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble,’ saying, ‘This man receives sinners.’  In essence, that is precisely what the Samaritan woman told the men of Sychar: “He is the Messiah, but He receives sinners!”  What was repugnant to the scribes and Pharisees was good news to these Samaritans, because they were willing to admit they were sinners.

4.07.2017

Preservation Achievement Awards


As a new board member of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, this is my first time to hit you all up for tickets and sponsorship for our annual fundraiser, the Preservation Achievement Awards.  In addition to it being a really good networking opportunity, it is inspiring to learn about and celebrate good preservation work throuhere to join me as an event attendee and/or to join my firm as an event sponsor.  
ghout the region.  It just reminds you of how many historic treasures are in our midst, and how many thoughtful design professionals, developers, and community advocates there are in our region who are making sure that these treasures are, well, treasured.  Click

4.05.2017

What Would Jesus Do with Women?



It is a sign of my ignorance that I found myself surprised at the furor over Vice President Pence’s adherence to what has become known as “the Billy Graham rule,” in which a male public figure chooses to opt out of any one-on-one private meeting with a woman besides his own wife.  Of course, I understand the sentiment behind the rule, which is to avoid either the possibility or accusation of impropriety.  But after digesting the coverage, I also see how such a practice could be seen as both diminishing women as solely objects of temptation as well as excluding them from access that is afforded to their male peers. 

As to whether it is a good practice or not, and whether or not rendering that judgment is left to a person’s comfort level or has consequences beyond each individual situation, I will leave that for other commentators.  It does make me think, though, that if we were to ask what may seem an obvious question, “what would Jesus do,” we may arrive at a very non-obvious answer.

Religious respectability, sexual temptation, and rumors existed back in Jesus’ day, of course.  And, even if His true identity remained elusive to the vast majority of those who interacted with Him, surely it can be said that during his brief ministry on earth Jesus was very much a public figure. 

Many of his modern-day followers may blanch at this, but there was a lot of whispering and murmuring about Jesus’ conduct with women.  Society back then was even more sexually segregated, with contact between men and women strictly regulated by contemporary mores.  And yet, in spite of this, or perhaps more correctly because of this, Jesus was mindful to have (and the gospel authors were careful to record) many interactions with women, some of which were outright scandalous.

I am sure there are other examples, but two come to my mind right now.  One is His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Her reputation precedes her enough in the town that she knows that it is easier for her to go for water at an off-peak time to avoid interactions (and judgmental stares) from others.  And yet Jesus not only orchestrates an encounter with her but engages with her, asking her for water, offering Himself to her as Living Water, and drawing out her past and present sexual discretions.  Can you imagine a popular pastor intentionally not only going to a place where women of ill repute frequent but having a cozy conversation with one of them? 

The other is even more shocking, which is when a sinful woman made her way into the home of a respected religious leader’s house when Jesus was there, and not only so but fell at His feet out of shame and then washed those feet with her tears and her long flowing hair.  The juxtaposition of the two characters in this real-life parable could not be more stark: the respected religious male host acting according to societal norms, versus the disreputable and scandalous female intruder throwing all caution to the wind and engaging in an intimate and borderline erotic act with Jesus.  Again, imagine this scene played out in modern days, and try not to blush.  And yet it is the female guest and not the male host who Jesus affirms at the end. 

I do not begrudge Billy Graham for his rule, or Mike Pence and others for following it.  But if we were to hold ourselves and our male public figures to the standard of “what would Jesus do,” you might be surprised and shocked.  For the One we purport to worship and follow had interactions with women that caused much whispering and pointing.  Those interactions were ultimately transformative for those women, and continue to be instructive for us.  So what shall we do?