2.28.2008

U CITY ON THE MAP

A nice blurb on University City in none other than National Geographic Traveler, one of the leading travel magazines in the world. Who woulda thunk that our neighborhood would be piped up as a place to visit? A nice little homage to the former American Bandstand studio, which is of course the current home of The Enterprise Center, where I was employed for ten years.

(I couldn't quite figure out how to get this to be readable, so you'll just have to click on it to make it bigger.)

NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, BUT . . .

My guy has officially dropped out of a race he was never officially in. More straight talk on his way out: "I'm Not Running for President, But . . . "

Disenfranchised

Earlier this week, a teen was shot by a grown man over a snowball fight.  Mayor Nutter may proclaim that it's "a new day," but for too many Philadelphians, it's the same old story.  Tooling around the city, I see evidence of the deep disenfranchisement that too many people feel.  Quite frankly, the reason why others vandalize and I don't is because I have a loving family, a warm home, and a steady job. 

Not to excuse stupid, destructive, and violent behavior.  But I am convinced that if we can do better in creating opportunities for more people, we will dramatically lower the number of negative things that happen in the city. 

It sounds simultaneously obvious and impossible, but hear me out.  While it may seem obvious, it is not always reflected in our attitudes, as too often we throw up our hands at the depravity of humanity rather than figuring out what we can do to contribute to an economy that creates jobs and opportunities for all.  And while it may seem impossible, it needn't be, not with so many good things happening in the city that we can build from, like great universities and hospitals, a burgeoning convention and tourism business, and wonderful cultural resources.

In short, there's no reason people should have to graffiti walls or kill one another over a snowball fight.  Sadly, for too many Philadelphians, there remain plenty of reasons.

2.26.2008

Homeless in New York

A nice three-day series on urban homelessness in the Inky had culminated in an extended look at what Bloomy and others are doing in New York: "New York Takes an Aggressive Approach." The article rightly points out that causes and solutions are complex. I applaud those people and entities that are doing what they can for this population and for the cities that house them. Let's hope for even more smart and good-hearted laborers in this direction.

2.25.2008

State of the Planet

I've heard of "State of the City" and "State of the State" speeches, and of course there is our annual "State of the Union." But this is as big as it gets for us humans: "The State of the Planet." Hosted by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, this year's gathering will be next month and I'm currently on the wait list to go. (Registration is free, but there's no space.) Jeffrey Sachs and Kofi Annan are among the speakers lined up to talk about poverty, sustainability, and war. The Economist is hosting a special evening debate session with the delicious teaser proposition: "The United States will solve the climate change problem." Here's hoping that if I can't get in or otherwise free up my schedule to get out there, that they'll do the environmentally friendly think and stream the thing online.

Time Management Tips

My friend keeps trying to goad me into writing a book about time management.  I protest that I barely have enough content for one post, let alone a full-length book.  Plus, I firmly believe that what works for me is almost certainly not going to work for someone else; you have to find a system that's right for you.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of serving the general public, here are five things that can help you make the most of your time:

1.  Take care of yourself first.  It may sound selfish, but it's the only way I've found I can be out there for others throughout the day, is to do the things I need to do for myself to feel happy and healthy.  For me, that means three things: 1) praying to God and reading the Bible, 2) exercise, and 3) quiet, uninterrupted time to read, organize my schedule, and otherwise get myself in a right mind for the day ahead.  These three things take anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours each day, and my kids are usually up by 6ish, so I shoot to be up by 4 every morning.  It may seem insanely early, but it's what I need to do to be at my best for the rest of the day.  Which leads to . . .

2.  Go to bed early.  Ben Franklin had it right here.  I try to avoid TV, computer, and stress after 8 pm.  For the last few months, my daughter hasn't gotten the memo, so I've been wound up more often than I've been able to wind down.  But I don't need to make it worse by poking around the Internet or tackling strenuous household tasks right before bedtime, so some of this actually is within my control.  On that note . . .

3.  Cut out the unnecessary stuff.  There's a whole slew of things I was into barely five years ago - TV, movies, music - that are almost completely gone from my life.  And I haven't really missed them.  Even sports has been winnowed down to five or six minutes of web surfing a day, or fast forwarding through two football games in less than an hour while I'm on the treadmill Monday morning.  Of course, kids are the main reason for needing to excise all of this entertainment time out of my weekly schedule.  Speaking of which . . .

4.  Bring the kids along.  My friends know that when they see me, my kids are part of the package.  Staying in touch with people is very, very important to me; and thanks to memberships to the zoo and aquarium (which, by the way, are very affordable, when you consider how often we go), I can give my wife some alone time, catch up with friends, and let my kids get some run-around time all at once.

5. Say no.  Of course, even better than efficiently getting 73 things done every week is figuring out that you don't have to do all 73 things.  Easier said than done, and probably the thing I'm worst at out of these five tips.  But I'm getting better at turning things down, and learning life goes on without me, and enjoying the extra time that's freed up as a result.

2.22.2008

A VERY FELSONIAN CITY BUDGET

If you get a chance, take a look at "A Citizen's Guide to Mayor Nutter's FY2009 Budget." It's a nice description of what's in the budget, and how that budget reflects the new mayor's policy priorities. Since this is his first go-round, you can't blame the guy for wanting to be very transparent and very explanatory.

But I also see the fingerprints of some of my classmates from Fels in this document. I know at least two who are very close to the mayor and/or the budget process, and I'm sure there are others. The evidence is in the heavy emphasis on performance measurement, a Felsonian hallmark. It's nice to have a mayor whose desire for accountability and results has opened the door for my fellow alum to play a role in shaping city policy. Kudos to him and kudos to them, and kudos to the Fels Institute for playing its part in shaping future city leaders.
Bloomberg @ Penn

I nearly keeled over in my seat when I read this: "Michael Bloomberg to Speak at Penn Commencement." Now that's a graduation speaker! You'll almost certainly find me in the sea of proud Penn parents that day, doting not over my son or daughter but over my favorite 2008 non-candidate.
THE HIDDEN COST OF MOVING AROUND

Al Hsu over at The Suburban Christian gave a very nice and thoughtful response to part of my post from earlier this week, which I'll link to here: "Suburban/Urban Musings: Transience and "Relo" Culture". Al's right, by the way: when it comes to how long your neighbors are around, there's probably just as much urban stability as instability, and just as much suburban instability as stability. In fact, while five of the six units to my left and right (both sides of us are row houses cut into three units each) are constantly turning over, the sixth is a multi-generational family that's been there for decades. And there are certainly just as many ways I can be a better neighbor to the people who are here for a spell as the people who have been here awhile.

What I did want to pick up on from Al's post was this notion of transience. As a cold-blooded capitalist pig, I'm a big believer in the free markets and the notion of individualism, or "free agent nation," as one writer put it. However, in making the decision to relocate, one must consider the sometimes hidden costs of moving. And while it is true we are just as likely to err on the other side - valuing our existing community to the point that we are paralyzed from obeying God, stepping out into new spaces, and trusting Him to provide for us there - we often underestimate the importance of relationships and the cost of having to rebuild anew over and over again. Even worse, in our quest for a better life somewhere, we impose a cost on our family members that is in some cases steeper than the one we pay.

Again, please don't misconstrue this as an indictment of people who move. God certainly has a track record of orchestrating large movements of people for His glory, and inertia can be just as much of a sin as serial relocation. And just as we can equally be faithful in serving the transient and the old-timer, we can equally be faithful in moving around or staying put. Sometimes the cost of discipleship is turning down an opportunity in order to stay put, and sometimes the cost of discipleship is saying goodbye to cherished relationships.

But it is a point worth making: when we move, we uproot relationships we have formed, and that is a cost that ought not be underestimated. And, as Al rightly points out, when new neighbors move in, having recently paid that cost, they are in a unique moment to be served by us. Would that, whether we live in the city or the suburbs, we be good neighbors at that moment.

2.20.2008

Being a Good Neighbor in the City Versus in the Suburbs

You may know from my links on the left side of this page that I'm quite fond of Al Hsu's "The Suburban Christian." Earlier this week, I emailed him to ask if we might help each other and hopefully sharpen one another by bantering publicly on topics of mutual interest that intersect our respective perspectives.  Happily, Al agreed this would be fun.  So here's the first installment, which I will update with Al's response with his permission.  The first chunk below is an excerpt from my initial message to him suggesting the idea, and the second chunk is the first question I wanted us to broach.  (By the way, there's no reason this needs to just be a two-way conversation; if others have anything else to add, either anonymously or not, please chime in with your comments.)



***



I know you have many life responsibilities and writing assignments, but I was wondering if it might be fun and useful for you for us to carry on some sort of ongoing public exchange on our respective blogs.  You may or may not know that I periodically post to my blog, called Musings of an Urban Christian.  (I give you some link love there - you're my link for "Spirituality"!)  Since I blog for personal exploration first and public edification second, I thought batting ideas back and forth with you on various issues of interest might be of use to me in both regards.  Perhaps such an ongoing conversation will be useful for you and your audience as well.  

Feel free to ignore or decline this admittedly unusual request; no hard feelings either way.  But if you are interested, let me know how (mechanically) we could do this, and what topics of mutual interest might be fun to probe into together.  Off the top of my head, I'd be curious to explore Asian-Americans engaging in their cities vs. in their suburbs (where they are usually in the minority in both places), city-suburb social/political/economic collaborations, and what it looks like to practice Christian community in the city vs. in the suburbs, among other topics.  

If it makes any difference to you, and in the interest of full disclosure, my own contribution to this ongoing conversation (and to my blog in general) may be sparse at times, due to work and family and life commitments, which I'm sure you wholeheartedly understand; and yet I share that to say there should be no pressure here in terms of expectations of quick turnarounds on responses and what not.  Call it one more source of blog-worthy ideas, as needed.



***



What does it look like to be a good neighbor in the city vs. the suburbs?

If I could over-generalize, there are four main differences between the make-up of our cities versus our suburbs, which impact what it looks like to be a good neighbor:

* First, cities experience more residential turnover than suburbs.  Where I live, you have a lot of people getting through their graduate studies, or immigrants making an initial stop in familiar enclaves before they branch out, or yuppies making the most of urban life before they have kids.  So there's a constant moving in and out, which means more opportunities to help people (move in, move out, answer questions about the neighborhood) but less oomph to really build lasting relationships.  Versus suburban neighborhoods tend to be more stable, where you can really get to know your neighbor over time.

* Second, cities are more socio-economically diverse than suburbs.  Zoning tends to allow for more mixing of uses and densities, so you can have in the same neighborhood some high-end single-family homes and some low-end multi-tenant apartments.  So again, such mixing makes for some interesting interactions but raises the level of difficulty in building meaningful relationships up and down social classes.  Suburbs, on the other hand, tend to practice some level of exclusionary zoning, whereby minimum lot sizes and other mechanisms ensure relative homogeneity of income and wealth.  That homogeneity makes for easier on-ramps in terms of friendships and interactions.  

* Third, cities tend to be more pedestrian and transit oriented, while suburbs tend to be more auto oriented.  The density of people and activity in cities necessitates transit resources to move everything around, and makes more possible trips conducted by foot or bike.  As a result, formal and informal meet-ups become more likely, and the very young and very old are more able to get around.  Suburbs are more spread out, and cars are needed for almost every kind of trip, so meet-ups must be scheduled, there is very little chance of accidentally bumping into someone along the way, and those who cannot drive themselves and instead must be driven may become less mobile if drivers aren't available.  

* Fourth, cities deal in public space while suburbs deal in private space.  The density of cities means people trade having larger personal space for having easier access to shared space: the corner coffee shop instead of one's own living room, or the playground down the street instead of one's own backyard.  This may make hospitality harder but also leads to more mixing rather than isolation.  Suburbanites have traded longer commutes for more personal space, and can use that space for personal enjoyment as well as for hospitable outreach, but at the loss of engaging with other residents in common areas.

Where you live is, in this country and in other parts of the free world, a matter of personal preference.  It is, however, interesting to consider the national policy mechanisms that are currently in place to (either intentionally or unintentionally) subsidize cities over suburbs, or suburbs over cities.  Cities, on the one hand, are beneficiaries of direct urban renewal investments, as well as of more indirect reallocations of funds such as those that go to universities, research facilities, and cultural institutions, which are primarily in urban areas.  Suburbs, on the other hand, have been made possible by heavy federal subsidy of highway development, and the mortgage deduction on our income taxes essentially lowers the cost of housing for those of us who make enough money to itemize, effectively giving a break to richer suburbanites to own bigger homes without a similar break for poorer urbanites who might not itemize and/or be homeowners.  

It is also interesting to consider the effects of these differences on our desire as Christians to be good neighbors and congregants.  Urbanites like me struggle to engage meaningfully with our neighbors, since we are never sure just how long they'll be our neighbors; even if we know they're staying put, we may struggle to really connect with them if they are very different from us in terms of socio-economic status and life perspective.  Suburbanites have told me they struggle to engage meaningfully with their fellow congregants, with whom they may share interactions on Sunday morning but then don't or can't see any other time of the week; they also lament the relative homogeneity of their relationship circles, and wonder where they can interact with people different from them in ways that stretch and challenge them.  

These are, to be sure, gross over-generalizations, but hopefully with at least a grain of reality to them.  Regardless of the location and its characteristics, we are under one God, who asks of us the same thing: that we worship Him alone, love those around us, and seek justice and healing in our relationships and systems.  Whether we are urban Christians or suburban Christians, would that we be those kinds of Christians, to the glory of God.

2.19.2008

CAN ANOTHER COMPANY BE MORE INNOVATIVE THAN GOOGLE

This month's Fast Company features snippets from fifteen Googlers about why it's so great to work for the most innovative company in the world: "The Faces and Voices of Google". It's a potent combination: give really talented people vast resources and an ambitious mission, and fun and innovation usually result.

My first thought was that while I would love the work atmosphere at Google, I probably couldn't hack it there, even if I had the talent. My station in life simply does not allow the level of devotion of time and energy that is expected there.

But my second thought was that even for many people like me who balance work with many other important responsibilities, there is a company that we can and do give 100 percent to, and whose characteristics ought to be the same as Google's, and thus our output and enjoyment on par. And that is the work of us Christians to represent Jesus in this world, to make known His name throughout all the earth, to advance His kingdom and its life-giving characteristics to the hurt and dying.

We too are talented people, our talent having been doled out by a creative God. We too have vast resources, since God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. And we too have an ambitious mission, to see His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it already is in heaven.

And regardless of whether we are single or married, with or without kids, with or without crippling ailments, unemployed or over-employed, we are to be fully engaged in the business of God's work. And so ought not the same fun and innovation burst forth from us, as it does at Google?

Or (hang on with me here on this analogy) have we become the type of "company" that doesn't demand like Google demands, in the realm of time and energy and desire and output? Have we become like the kinds of places where you work 9 to 5, do what you can to get by, and otherwise go home to other causes and pursuits?

Google is a difference-maker because it has infused its work culture with the expectation that talent plus resources plus mission equals fun and innovation. It has rejected the notion that we work to live, and seeks (sometimes more admirably than others) to redeem work in pursuit of lofty goals and dramatic change.

When the world is taking note of the same sort of enthusiasm and impact by the followers of Jesus, then I'll know we are truly representing His name and His purposes on this side of glory. Until then, we will have to settle for learning from companies like Google what we ourselves ought to be the gold standard of, which is how to make a truly fun and innovative company.

2.18.2008

THREE “I’S” BLIND

I usually roll my eyes concerning talks or articles that are organized as “the three E’s” or “the four F’s.” But this one - ”After the Stimulus” - caught my eye and left me nodding my head in agreement. Whether you talk about your region or the nation as a whole, innovation, intellect, and infrastructure are certainly three necessary building blocks to success.

You might think that while infrastructure is primarily a resource allocation issue, innovation and intellect are no respecters of color, creed, or socio-economic status. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, as we do a pretty good job in this country of systematically excluding people from the conversation, losing out on their creativity and their contribution as a result.

Thus, it is incumbent on those of who are in the right networks to do our best to extend those networks out to those whose innovation and intellect merit their inclusion but who are not yet in because of perennial under-representations based on color, creed, or socio-economic status. After all, the intellectual creativity and social insight that ignites innovation, which in turn ignites our economies, is blind to such distinctions. As is the God who created and distributed such creativity and insight in the first place.
THANKFUL FOR TOILETS

Last year, we had a leak in our second floor bathroom, which necessitated clearing it out and disassembling the sink and toilet just to diagnose where the leak was. Needless to say, the bathroom was out of commission for a few days. Fortunately, our last tenant had moved out, so we had access to our third floor apartment bathroom. So from a bathroom standpoint, it was a minor inconvenience, especially compared to situations friends of mine have had, where having only one bathroom meant that when it went down, they had to make nice with their neighbors just to use the toilet.

It may seem completely unfathomable to us in this country, but for 2.6 BILLION people in the world, there is no such thing as a conveniently available toilet to use. This is according to a surprisingly engrossing (if not somewhat gross) report I read this weekend, "The State of the World's Toilets 2007" (warning: large pdf file).

Of course, it's not the porcelain appliance that is so sacred, it's the sanitation it represents. In fact, the first page of the report quotes none other than Mahatma Gandhi, who says that "sanitation is more important than independence."

The report nicely plays out the consequences of this lack of sanitation that results from a lack of working toilets. No toilets at school mean kids, especially girls, are kept home. Women risk bodily harm to avoid relieving themselves during the day, and violent attack if they do go at night. Waste material ends up in the same areas people bathe and drink. Quality and quantity of life deteriorate significantly.

Who knew the lowly toilet could be such a politically, economically, and societally important resource to ensure equal access to? So the next time you're, um, doing your business, give thanks for your access, and pray for the political will and the financial resources to ensure access to more of those 2.6 billion people who don't share your access.

2.17.2008

Bigger World, Bigger God

In the past couple of years, I've had the fortune of having some very significant conversations with two good Christian friends of mine who have each suffered great personal losses in their lives.  Whether me being available to them was helpful to them or not, I do not know; but I do know that they imparted a great weight of wisdom on me in their words.  As each in their own way put it, prior to their tragedies, their world view wasn't big enough to include a good God with such a grave loss.  Their loss, accompanied by time and friends and healing, impelled that world view outward until they were able to reconcile the goodness of God with the terribleness of their loss.  And while they still felt that loss, they also felt a great sense of gain, a gain in the bigness of their world and of their God.

While my losses do not begin to rival my  two friends', I've had my share of bumps and bruises.  Plus, I am aging in every way: I am past my prime physically, I don't bounce back as easily from a late night, and I literally have forgotten more than I can remember. 

And with that comes a fork in the road for the person of faith.  We can chalk our earlier, hot years to youthful exuberance and naive idealism, and settle in for a more wisened but really just lukewarm walk with God.  We can try to keep the fire stoked, but really just act as though we are 25 and not 35, in ways that deny the unique things God has for us through the weaknesses and perspectives of our older selves. 

Or we can, by God's grace, age well.  Whether the slow numbing of growing old or the sharp pangs of the sorts of tragedies faced by my two friends, things happen which must necessarily be reconciled with our former understanding of God and His world.  To age well is to be humble enough to give room to grow our perspective of Him, to not jam God into our box but rather let Him reshape the boundaries of that box. 

When I'm 45, my back and knees will hurt even more than they do now, I'll have even less free time and money, and less years on this earth to finish all I want to do.  And, if I age well, I'll be wiser and calmer, and yet no less vigorous, no less allocated, towards God's ways.  I pray so. 
MORE DOUGH FOR ROADS AND TRANSIT

For work last year, I ran some numbers on the gap between what our region is forecasted to bring in for transportation over the next 25 years and what it really needs. To summarize, the answer is - a lot. And though I tend to be a fiscal conservative, I believe in the economic and political case for increased transportation infrastructure funding, especially on the public transit side.

So I was heartened to learn of this coalition of three politicians I'm fond of - Bloomy, Ahnold, and Fast Eddie - to lobby for more federal spending on infrastructure: "Bloomberg, Schwarzenegger and Rendell Announce Funding Coalition." (See also on Bloomy's website: "Mayor Bloomberg Joins Governors Rendell And Schwarzenegger To Create "Building America's Future" - A Non-Partisan Coalition For Federal Infrastructure Investment.")

Thankfully, the focus of the rhetoric isn't posturing about Katrina or the Minneapolis bridge collapse, but rather the aim to increase American competitiveness in an increasingly global economy. Being a transit lover, I would also add the moral, environmental, and societal imperative we have to figure out how to move millions and millions of people without having to fire up 4000-pound, pollution-belching steel boxes for every single trip.

2.16.2008

More Musings, More Urban Christians

As the name of my blog suggests, I identify myself as urban and Christian.  And "Musings" is a carefully chosen word in the title, as well, since I tend to be more of a thinker, having graduated from an Ivy League school. 

Earlier this week, I was mentally combing my circle of contacts for other urban Christian musers.  And I was alarmed to conclude (at least at first blush; I'll have to pore through my contact lists on Facebook and LinkedIn to verify this) that a very small proportion of people I know are fellow urban Christian musers like me. 

Now don't get me wrong: not everyone has to be an urban Christian muser.  God certainly uses non-urbanites and non-musers in His Kingdom; for that matter, He tends to use a lot of non-Christians, as well (see below).

Still, it saddens me that I don't know more urban Christian musers.  I know a lot of Christian musers, but who don't live in cities,  I even know some who do live in cities, but don't necessarily identify themselves with urban people and urban issues. 

Even worse, in one sense (although absolutely a good thing in another sense), I know a lot of urban musers who aren't actively Christian, aren't all Christian, or are even hostile to the Christian faith; and yet, lacking the foundation of relationship with God the Father and the teachings of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, they are more engaged in the sort of urban issues that the Bible talks a whole lot about and instructs the believer to be about. 

There are many indications of a life seized by God for His purposes.  Church attendance and outwardly pious behavior are but two, and fairly shallow ones at that.  I would consider that we Christians would also experience and exhibit a peace, a purity, and a purpose that the world does not know.  I would think that we all, wherever we happen to live, work, and worship, would be mindful of our neighbors, and of our social, political, and economic connections with them.  And I would hope that some among us would be called to be those kind of neighbors in urban settings, rubbing elbows with urban people and giving thought to urban issues.

My hope and prayer is that my early sweep of my mental address book is incorrect, and/or that I don't know enough about the people I know, and/or I don't know enough people.  Either way, I pray as Jesus taught His disciples to pray: "The harvest is plentiful; pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers." 



2.15.2008

SAFE SEX, DANGEROUS MESSAGE

For an evangelical Christian, I consider myself fairly socially moderate. But even I had to blush a little when I heard about New York City's "Get Some" campaign to hand out its branded condoms on Valentine's Day. As a local Catholic leader put it, "The idea of 'get some' is a morally irresponsible sound bite. "We're worried about trans fats, we're worried about second-hand smoke, and yet when it comes to sexually transmitted disease, we can't bring ourselves to tell people it's time to practice restraint."

Yes, safe sex is an important public policy issue; and yes, provocative advertising is effective; and no, I'm not going to say abstinence-only campaigns should be the sole message on this issue. But, clever marketing aside, this is a dangerous message to broadcast and a dangerous way to broadcast it.

2.08.2008

WE HATE L.A.

Another reason to despise the City of Angels: Governing Magazine's blog compared Chicago's bike-friendliness (the mayor is considering fines for cars that encroach upon bike space) with LA's bike-unfriendliness (some bike advocates were recently nearly run over by a car, and they were the ones that got the tickets): "Bipolar Bicycle Laws." When will the public leadership in LA realize that the region is hemmed in by ocean and mountains, so the only way to contain and move a lot of people is to be friendly to non-car forms of transportation?

2.06.2008

GO GREEN FOR LENT

I didn't grow up in the church, so there's no built-up habit in me to give up something for Lent. I certainly don't begrudge others of this practice, and would even like to see more of us practice temporary abstinence of otherwise neutral things - at all times of the year, not just Lent - in the spirit of drawing nearer to God. So no, there's nothing in particular I'll be giving up for the next forty days.

But something I'd like to be mindful to minimize indefinitely is my carbon footprint. And in fact, Governing Magazine's blog links to the Church of England's call to go green this Lent season: "Lent Goes Green?" Using less plastic bags and insulating better around the house are certainly habits I'd want more people of all faiths to get behind; I'd also add leaving the car at home and doing more errands on foot.

After all, the post ends noting that climate change has become a huge issue at the local government level and wonders if churches will also take up the mantle from a spiritual standpoint. Would that we did just that.

2.05.2008

A GAS TAX PLAN I CAN SUPPORT

If you live in New Hampshire, you need to vote for this guy, not just because of his position on energy but also because of his willingness to do the politically unpopular but environmentally necessary thing. Note that part of the gas tax would get rebated back to working families; my approach would be to give rebates to all wage earners (i.e. the gas tax partially substitutes for the income tax) but to redistribute in a way that working families get more, proportionate to their income. As profiled on Greg Mankiw's blog.
SOW THE SEED WIDELY

During this past weekend's sermon, the preacher lamented a well-respected high school ministry's recent approach to target the gospel to the most popular people in schools under the assumption that if the jock and cheerleader became Christians, so would everyone. I couldn't help but make a mental connection to a recent Fast Company article that suggested an alternative to Gladwell's argument in The Tipping Point that the way to propagate an idea is to get the trend-setters to buy into it: "Is the Tipping Point Toast?"

Duncan Watts, whose book Six Degrees I read a few years back, suggests that there's no such thing as trend-setters, but that ideas and movements catch fire seemingly at random. Run a social network simulation a thousand times, and you'll get a different group of trend-carriers each time.

And so it is with the gospel. The goal of evangelism, as Guy Kawasaki points out in a secular sense but which is true in the strictest Biblical sense, is to sow the seed widely, and give God room to let grow what He wills to let grow. It may seem random to us, but there is a master plan - and a Master Planner - behind it all.