Huang Family Newsletter, July 2015

Asher turned 3 months and is now sleeping through the night.  He smiles easily and can do swings and rompers.  The rest of us absolutely adore and dote on him. 

Amy starts work next month but will always have special memories of her work leave and one-on-one time with Asher.  Lee is finishing up his grad-level class and is juggling lots of projects at work.

Jada was away for three weeks and Aaron for two weeks at various sleepaway camps.  Jada will have two more weeks of sleepaway camp next month while Aaron will be going to drama camp downtown. 


How Not to Solve Cities' Housing Affordability Problem

Stockholm Letter IMAGE 1Growing economic inequality is a flashpoint issue in America's cities, and housing affordability is a big component of that.  I can't say I know the best way forward, but I can say that placing artificial constraints on rent levels and on housing supply is not it and in fact is terribly counter-productive.  Here's an article about why rent control in Seattle would result in incredibly long waits, and here's an article about how rabid anti-development sentiment created San Francisco's affordability crisis.

Capitalism isn't the solution to all of life's problems, and it's not without its downsides.  But there is much to be gained in giving room for builders and landlords to respond to market demand.  And there is much that is lost when that market demand signal is preempted by government regulation and public opposition.


Room to Disagree

http://www.niemanlab.org/images/argument_cc-300x223.pngDoes anyone remember instant messaging?  I remember instituting it in my office in the late 1990’s as a way to encourage quick interactions and rapid iterations on work topics.  Of course, I know that many of my co-workers also used it for personal correspondence and related distractions.  But, I took the good with the bad, since I trusted my people to be productive and since the work uses of IM made us so productive.  As I described it to my team back then, imagine that everyone you know is in a room together, so you have instant access to the collective knowledge of your entire network.  That’s a powerful way to do your job.

For many of us, Facebook has become that “everyone you know is in a room together” platform, and not just for work stuff.  It’s the place where we share kid milestones, vacation photos, funny videos, and social/political rants.  How incredibly enriching it is to be able to share and be shared with, across many miles and years.

The tone of such sharing tends to be light and easy when you’re talking about cute baby pics, gorgeous images of nature or dessert, and laugh-out-loud video snippets.  Even more serious content like social or political commentary is usually consumed without incident.  But of course even among our social networks we can have differences of opinion, and some can be quite stark.  Any number of social, political, ethical, and religious issues can contain a wide range of perspectives, even those that are vehemently and diametrically opposite. 

It is a healthy thing to believe something so strongly that the opposing opinion enrages us.  It is important to stand for things, which means to disagree and to even at times be disagreeable.  And, it isn’t just “I don’t care what you believe, just that you believe in something,” because it is likely that in life there are in fact some absolutes, and time will tell that there are some things that are absolutely right or absolutely wrong so shame on us if we are for that which is right and we do not repudiate that which is wrong.

However.  How many times have you read (or perhaps yourself said) something to the effect of “If you say anything in support of X, I will block you immediately.”  The drawing of the bright red line is intended to send a clear message: I am on this side of this issue, and if you are on the other side I no longer want to have contact with you.

I concede that an opposing opinion on some issues may be so enraging that you need to just wall yourself off from interacting with that opinion.  People do what they have to do to stay sane, and I respect that.  But I lament the walling off of differing perspectives.  This isn’t just a matter of America being more polarized, although I do think that is true and I think that what we expose ourselves to and avoid contributes to that.  This is also a matter of being enriched by exploring topics and positions more thoroughly.

Life isn’t about winning arguments as much as it is about having beliefs.  And when you wall yourself off from anyone who doesn’t share your beliefs, you can get lazy about those beliefs.  Worse, you can grow cold to others who don’t share those beliefs, with whom you have less and less contact and thus for whom you have less and less ability to empathize.  Conversely, keeping communication lines open with others, even those who espouse beliefs you find abhorrent, gives you a fuller sense of all of the ways an issue can be viewed. 

Perhaps it is my personality temperament that allows me this level of detachment, of not taking things personally or letting vile viewpoints irk me: it is said that INTJ’s view the world from a distance, as a thought experiment less so than something that is directly experienced and consumed.  But perhaps this desire for openness is borne of something that is universally good, which is that exposure to a diversity of perspectives makes life richer and makes you more tolerant and sympathetic.  Think about that the next time you threaten to pull the plug on any social media contact who dares take a position opposite yours.  

Facebook is our big room that contains everyone we know.  I hope your room has room for lots of love, lots of laughter, and even lots of vehement disagreement. 


Now Hiring: Marketing Assistant

Econsult SolutionsMy firm has an opening for Marketing Assistant, which is an entry-level position that will support our Director of Business Development.  This person will come in at a really exciting time for the firm, as we are growing as well as laying the foundation for even more growth in the future.  Please go here and scroll down to the bottom.


How to Grow Entrepreneurs

We celebrate entrepreneurship in this country and endow it with an almost mystical aura:  the entrepreneur fearlessly scrapes and crawls her way to meteoric success and we applaud her crafty hustle and work ethic. 

To be sure, America is the best place for that exact success story to happen.  But, more often than not, entrepreneurship is just as much a product of privilege as of sheer hard work.  Or so goes this piece in Quartz: "Entrepreneurs Don’t Have a Special Gene for Risk - They Come from Families with Money." 

It's not to say entrepreneurs shouldn't be feted.  It still takes courage and moxie to launch out on your own, knowing that you are putting yourself at risk for failing badly.  But it is a far easier and more common first bold step to take when you have a good social and financial support network to fall back on if you don't succeed.

As a parent and as a celebrator of entrepreneurship, my takeaway is to help cultivate in my kids three things: (1) a willingness to try and even to fail, (2) an appreciation of the privilege that they come from that they have people and resources in their corner so they can swing big, and (3) a desire to use that leg up in part to help others who don't have such luxuries. 


The Cost of Auto-Dependent Growth

http://cdn.phillymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ben-franklin-bridge-traffic-jeff-fusco-940.jpgThere's been a lot of hand-wringing here in the region about how hard it is to commute to suburban jobs.  Both the Philly Inquirer and Philly Mag have recently lamented the dearth of good public transit options outside of Philadelphia and the eye-watering cost of fixing that.

There are pros and cons to density, as any city-dweller will be able to easy pop off the good and bad of living in an urban environment.  But there are pros and cons to low-density places as well, and mobility is one of those double-edged aspects of suburban living.  On the one hand, driving is extremely convenient: you control where you leave from and when, and have maximum flexibility as to how to go and where to end up.  On the other hand, any place that is automobile-oriented is going to be faced with high traffic, few non-auto options, a terrifying pedestrian experience, inefficient land usage, or all of the above.

Furthermore, the high cost of layering transit on top of such places is actually under-stated.  When a place is organized around the car, getting from home to office is only half the battle.  How do you get to meetings, go out to lunch, or run errands on the way in or out.  So you need to layer additional infrastructure (pedestrian-protecting walkways, bike share, shuttle service) on top.

More and more millennials are choosing urban workplaces, and as a result city commercial real estate is perking up relative to suburban options.  So maybe this problem of getting out to suburban workplaces will abate on its own.  But if it doesn't, consider it part of the hidden cost of an auto-dependent growth pattern whose price tag is now coming due.


Saints and Sinners

First, Atticus Finch.  Now, Bill Cosby.  One is white and the other black, one a celebrated fictional character and the other a feted living legend.  Many are reeling over these two long-sainted heroes exposed as abhorrently flawed.  The shock and dissonance is worse than over, say, Steve Jobs or Bill Clinton, both of whom are brilliant and both of whom possessed undesirable traits.  It is because Finch and Cosby represented something and then ended up being the opposite all along.  We are appalled by both the bad behavior and the hypocrisy.

We desperately want to be able to characterize people as either saints or sinners.  We have a hard time holding together two thoughts about someone: that we admire them and we are disgusted by them.  And then we are torn because we don't know what our final assessment is on the person.  Do the good deeds outweigh the bad?  Do the bad deeds nullify the good?  

The Christian worldview tells us we are both saints and sinners.  We are both admirable and reprehensible.  Our relationship with God secures our sainthood, to His credit.  And it extinguishes our sinfulness, also to His credit.  This is of great comfort as we find discomfort about how to reconcile great good and great bad within the same person, whether a literary figure, a celebrity, or ourselves.