Future Tense

https://img-ssl.tedcdn.com/r/images.ted.com/images/ted/56319_480x360.jpg?ll=1&quality=89&w=800http://cdn01.dailycaller.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Thomas-Sowell-e1336651594849.jpgIt was by coincidence - or was it? - that I read Thomas Sowell's "The Vision of the Anointed" and Virginia Postrel's "The Future and Its Enemies" back to back this month.  Sowell and Postrel are two of the nation's most prominent conservative/libertarian thought leaders, so reading them consecutively made for a nice continuity.  Both railed against people who claim to offer solutions when really there are only trade-offs (Sowell's point) and against people who either oppose progress or think they can control it (Postrel's point).

If you'll allow me a quick explanation of these two points for further context.  Sowell is saying that when it comes to government "solutions," their adherents fail to understand or articulate that those efforts come with direct costs and opportunity costs: subsidizing one thing makes everything else more expensive, while regulating something creates unintended consequences that may end up blunting or even reversing the very thing the regulation is trying to safeguard.  Postrel is saying that mankind is ever striving forward, and it is impossible and destructive to either push back against the future or to try to dictate from the present exactly what the future is going to look like.

I found myself nodding vigorously to both authors.  I am an unabashed capitalist and optimist.  I desire for people to be free to innovate, I want a thousand flowers to bloom, and I think everyone is better off as a result.  Perhaps we are nostalgic for the simplicity, purity, and kindness of past times, but would we really want to go back to a time when it took months to get to Europe, when millions suffered from polio and died from rubella, or when we all had to literally break our backs in the fields and factories just to eke out a subsistent existence? 

However.  I am not ignorant of the dark side of progress, nor naive to its impacts on individuals, communities, and societies.  I celebrate the constant churn of capitalism, but I am aware that it destroys and disrupts along the way, and I understand that the fundamental shifts that result create new winners and new losers.

Again, I would not want it any other way.  We used to be an agricultural economy, and now we don't employ nearly as many people in agriculture because we innovated our way to greater efficiency, greater productivity, and greater abundance.  We used to be an industrial economy, and and now we don't employ nearly as many people in industry because we innovated our way to greater efficiency, greater productivity, and greater abundance.  Innovation chews up jobs, companies,and even entire industries, but spits out far greater gains to our economy, our quality of life, and our ability to flourish even more.

Nevertheless, it matters how we respond to this incessant and punishing cycle.  It matters how those increases in wealth, happiness, and potential are shared.  And so I stand with any who are bullish on the future and on the ability of mankind to do incredible and marvelous things if only such ingenuity is encouraged and fed.  And I also stand with any who are thoughtful about what we ought to do to, without squelching our innate drive to innovate, make sure that the fruits of those efforts are enjoyed by all and not just a few. 


2015 Predictions Guaranteed or Your Money Back

http://nofrakkingconsensus.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/zero_visibility500.jpgPredictions from a year ago:

1. "Barack Obama just never gets it going: Obamacare gets whittled away, another lofty campaign theme gives way to sloppy mismanagement, and foreign policy initiatives languish as a result of a loss of trustworthiness."  To what extent this occurred is obviously open to partisan interpretation.  But I think we can all agree it's been a bumpy year for President Obama.  

2. "23andme wins its battle against the FDA, and by the end of the year 'spit kits' go for $9.99."  Alas, the FDA has proven a formidable foe for 23andme.  But spit kits under $10 are surely on their way. 

3. "Despite having legions of haters, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus still top the charts.  Has to do with the fact that they actually have talent in spades." Actually, was it me or did we actually hear hardly anything about Biebs or MiCy this year?  

4. "LeBron stays in South Beach.  So does Chris Bosh.  No one else in the Miami Heat’s main rotation does." Oops, LeBron actually went home and everyone else stayed.  

 Well, that was fun...and wildly off.  Here go four more for '15:

1.Drones the size of tarantulas debut in emergency rescue simulations.  I.e. everything in Minority Report is eventually coming true.

2. Seemingly unstoppable public momentum concerning policies about marijuana use, police cameras, and net neutrality hit a brick wall.
3. Nine more Fortune 500 CEOs announce they are gay.  

4. The NFL has seen child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, murder, bounties, prostitutes, steroids, dogfighting, sexting, drugs, and did I miss anything?  Well, this coming year will bring a high-profile coach throwing games to pay back a gambling debt.


Lazy Linking, 142nd in an Occasional Series

http://www.southerneye.co.zw/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/PSY-gangnam-style-.jpgStuff I liked lately on the Internets:

142.1 The dark side of being an entrepreneur bit.ly/1cWZTtC @inc

142.2 The economics of marrying, you vs. your parents vs. your kids bit.ly/11U8JZu @thinkprogress

142.3 A much-needed adopted person's perspective on adoption bit.ly/1GkPNT4 @ctmagazine

142.4 In the category of "duh": high heels influence male behavior apne.ws/12lmwZk @ap

142.5 The math behind why "Gangnam Style" broke YouTube's view counter econ.st/1A1hXPc @economist


2014 Books

Here are my ratings for the 50 books I read in 2014.  In case you've forgotten, the scale goes like this: 1 - pass, 2 - some good some bad, 3 - recommended, 4 - can't stop raving about it, 5 - fundamentally changed my life.

Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics (Ormerod) 3

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (Ronson) 2

Awkward Family Photos (Bender/Chernack) 2

The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life ( Blastland/Dilnot) 3

The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life (Seabright) 4

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos (Sobel) 2

The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese Americans (Ngai) 2

The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women (Badinter) 2

Here’s Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion through the Astonishing World of Math (Bellos) 3

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University (Roose) 4

Um..: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean (Erard) 3

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Chua) 3

Parentonomics: An Economist Dad Looks at Parenting (Gans) 2

In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing (May) 2

The End of Food (Roberts) 4

The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years (Shah) 3

Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Lutz) 3

Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It (Royte) 3

Doomsday Preppers Complete Survival Manual: Expert Tips for Surviving Calamity, Catastrophe, and the End of the World (Sweeney) 2

Mathletics: A Scientist Explains 100 Amazing Things About the World of Sports (Barrow) 4

Toxic Truth: A Scientist, a Doctor, and the Battle over Lead (Denworth) 3

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich (Ferriss) 3

Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life (Johnson) 2

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process (Beavan) 4

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World Paperback (Johnson) 4

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure (Enzensberger) 3

The Plundered Planet: Why We Must--and How We Can--Manage Nature for Global Prosperity (Collier) 4

US Army Fitness Training Handbook 3

Your Teacher Said What?!: Trying to Raise a Fifth Grade Capitalist in Obama's America (Kernan) 3

Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game (Thorn) 4

Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream (Bissinger) 4

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Goodwin) 4

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (Lewis) 2

My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry That Led to the Assassination of Abrahan Lincoln (Titone) 4

Can You Pass These Tests: The Toughest Tests You’ll Never Have to Take But Always Wanted to Try (Bragdon) 2

Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States (Aron) 3

Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (Sachs) 3

Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? (And Other Unsolved Economic Mysteries) (Bernstein) 2

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food (Lee) 4

Body Brokers: Inside America's Underground Trade in Human Remains (Cheney) 2

Hints on Child Training (Trumbull) 2

The City After The Automobile: Past, Present, And Future (Safdie) 2

Beethoven: The Universal Composer (Morris) 3

Spark: How Creativity Works (Burstein) 2

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home (Ariely) 2

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window to Human Nature (Pinker) 3

The Language of Pain: Finding Words, Compassion, and Relief (Biro) 2

Plastic: A Toxic Love Story (Freinkel) 3

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance (Kotler) 3

Race in American Sports: Essays (Conyers) 2


I Resolve

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-VOdSBseHqsw/UtA_bPKHmEI/AAAAAAAAK7U/NG4kGjkMcSU/s1600/IMG_20130706_205712_edited-1.jpgSince 2011, I’ve posted my New Year’s resolutions at the end of each year. It’s a good way to do a year-end check-up and see how I did and what I need to recommit to into the New Year. So without further ado:

1. Body - run 500 miles, swim 30 miles, 150 upper body workouts, 150 lower body workouts.
It’s been over three years of Y membership and I’m loving it. (As is Amy, who takes advantage of all the free classes, whereas I just swim and use the weights.) My tallies for 1/1/14-12/1/14: ran 494 mi, swam 34 mi, did 119 upper body workouts, did 117 lower body workouts. Grade: B.

2. Civic – join one or two more boards.
Boards are a great way to give back, network, spend time with great people, and get on the inside on some really interesting things. So I’ve gone all out here, and am now up to 8 (!): American Communities Trust, Asian American Chamber of Commerce, Community Design Collaborative, Fels Alumni Leadership Council, PHL Diversity, Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, Spruce Hill Community Association, and Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. Grade: B.

3. Friends and family – shrink the time between contacts (varies by person).
Way too busy means not nearly enough random calls just to say hi and catch up. But I pick my spots and social media helps. Grade: C.

4. House – 2-3 more projects.
Paid someone to paint our first and second floors, upgraded the furniture in our foyer and in our second floor hallway, on our way to turning over our bedroom. Hey, after 14+ years, this house is starting to feel a little like home. Grade: B.

5. Kids – 1 on 1 times each month.
Our bedtime routine is less frequent and shorter, but we still do lots of things together. And, once a month, they know they get some one-on-one time with me, and that’s been a fun way to connect. Grade: B.

6. Marriage – at least one date night per month.
We didn’t do a date a month, but we actually had a couple of no-kids weekend getaways, so I’d say we’re doing pretty good here. Grade: B.

7. Mind – read 50 books.
I’ll post my 50 books (with ratings) tomorrow. Even with a much busier schedule – nay, especially because of a busy schedule – I was able to keep my nose between the pages a fair amount this year. Grade: B.

8. Self – three hours per week of uninterrupted me time, three personal day getaways.
Way too busy, between working on work, working on networking, and taking care of house and family. Didn’t carve out nearly enough time for myself. Three personal days I actually did, but three hours a week of uninterrupted me time was seldom to be found. Grade: C.

9. Spiritual – 100 Bible memory verses, one extra hour per week of praying.
Steadier in prayer but lacking in duration and quality. The memory verses aren’t getting easier. My walk is weaker but my understanding of God’s goodness is deeper. Grade: C.

10. Work – ten quality reports.

We did some good stuff in 2014. Topics covered included blight, casinos, community development corporations, downtown revitalization, new resident attraction, real estate development, technology transfer, tourism, universities, waterfront developments. Geographies included Philly, Philly burbs, New Jersey, New York, DC, Houston, Wilmington, Indiana, Kansas, and Arkansas. Grade: B.


Lazy Linking, 141st in an Occasional Series

Amazon Elements diapers and baby wipes
Stuff I liked lately on the Internets:

141.1 The case against more police cameras is extensive bv.ms/1wH0Rbr @bv

141.2 Penn chaplain's heartfelt musings on Ferguson et al huff.to/1A2lahd @huffpo

141.3 Amazon's own diaper line = now it's competing against its own merchants on.recode.net/120lh1H @recode

141.4 If demography is destiny, is the US in trouble? nyti.ms/1vxFRSP @nytimes

141.5 Musings of a funeral director bit.ly/1vzZEAK @medium


Oh the Humanity

http://www.acclaimimages.com/_gallery/_free_images/0420-1010-1615-0910_hands_together_as_a_symbol_of_teamwork_o.jpgThere has been a lot of stuff lately.  Race, gender, violence, tragedy, accusations, outcry.  It is natural to want to despair, to get defensive, to avoid, to confront, to rage, to wonder.  I have felt all of those things.

Most of all I have felt small.  I am probably part of the problem.  And there is very little I feel I can contribute to the solution in any meaningful way, given how entrenched and engrained are our ills.  That is terribly frustrating.     

I have decided - more like, committed - to responding to all of this by practicing more kindness to others.  This may seem obvious, but it is not natural for me.  I am not normally a nice person.  And, lately, I have become a very busy and driven person.  I am also very introverted.  So random human interactions I often treat as necessary evils to be gotten through as quickly and cleanly as possible.

Again, it is not natural for me to do any other way.  But I am trying really hard to slow down and have real, genuine, warm human contact.  Smiles, jokes, compliments, questions that earnestly desire to hear real answers - these are all things that make for pleasant human interaction, and that leave all parties feeling happier and more interconnected. 

In my life, I have the privilege of intersecting with a lot of different kinds of people.  They span the range of humankind in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, age, and socio-economic status.  And the more authentic moments I have with everyone, maybe a little bit of humanity is restored each time, maybe a little bridge is built, maybe a little bit of cynicism is worn away. 

I'm no dummy.  I realize that pervasive and entrenched social ills won't get wished away just from acting nice.  But this is my small way of reclaiming human connection.  I am not a revolutionary or a rabble-rouser.  I'm not likely going to march or demonstrate or protest.  But, somehow, being nice to others feels a little subversive.  It makes me feel good.  And it reminds me that we are all human, we are all connected, and we all benefit when we treat each other with a little kindness.

Words matter.  When we are demeaned/marginalized/devalued and we speak up, that is good, because we must convey that to be treated as such is inhumane.  When we are not demeaned/marginalized/devalued but we speak up on behalf of those who are, that too is good, because it demonstrates that we are not hiding in our privileged place, but rather are voicing our disapproval of the sin and our solidarity with those sinned against.

So, yes, words matter.  But actions matter, too.  Some will act by marching, demonstrating, protesting.  I salute that as a powerful expression of solidarity, to walk and mourn and rage together as the aggrieved or as the brother and sister of the aggrieved.  My choice of action, my form of solidarity, is a steady, steely commitment to genuine, warm, and respectful interactions with my fellow humans.  It may seem small, but to me it is hard work and it has meaningful impact.