Missing Middle Housing

So this two-story garden apartment scenario I’m going to talk about for a few minutes… it’s part of an idea from the last few years called “missing middle”. If we think of housing on a spectrum, from detached single family housing you see in cities everywhere to mid-rise housing, like four to six stories you might see in the central area. You’ve also got duplexes triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, townhomes, a whole array of things that have been common historically in cities everywhere, but aren’t really provided for in very many locations in modern zoning.

That’s from a presentation Michael Anderson gave in Tualatin earlier this month. The idea of “missing middle” housing wasn’t new to me, but the term itself was. It’s such a clear summation of many issues facing urban development. Another good read on a similar subject is Strong Towns’ article on developers and luxury housing. It’s all relevant here in Portland where by at least one measure rents are finally down 3% year-over-year.

The System Made Me Do It

The problem, at every level of the equation, is the temptation to excuse poor human-to-human experiences on some ‘thing’ that we call ‘the system’ that is patently beyond any single individual’s control. If it is ‘the system’ that makes you maltreat people, you have caught a tiny glimpse, according to Arendt, of how totalitarianism gets away with evil.

That’s from a recent post by James Shelley. He connects a health care conference anecdote to Hannah Arendt’s philosophy and critique of totalitarianism. Worth keeping in mind as we go through life’s daily interactions.

Practical Liberal Arts

‘Work’ is not something that is ‘out there’ in the ‘real world’ waiting for you, while you’re ‘in here’ for the next four years ‘doing college.’
Clayton Spencer – President, Bates College

One thing I found while attending Whitman was that courses stayed toward the theoretical. Practical skills and experiences weren’t usually the focus. Bates, a small liberal arts college in Maine, has a different approach. During their five-week short term they offer a variety of courses focused on the practical.

Quartz details what this effort looks like, along with what other colleges are attempting. What stands out to me about Bates’ approach is how they’re addressing practical courses, internship opportunities, and purposeful work all at once. It’s great to see that sort of holistic approach.

A Pompeiian Horse

Even after 100+ years of excavation there are still original finds happening at Pompeii. Earlier this year archaeologists uncovered fully intact horse remains, a first for the site. Beyond the find itself the manner in which archaeologists found the horse is clever. They basically took advantage of tunnels looters had dug to accomplish two things:

Using a laser scan mapping of 200 feet of tunnels, archaeologists excavated areas encroached upon by looters to aid in the investigation while simultaneously preserving remains harmed or endangered by the looting activity.

Rural Kansas, commodity agriculture

Corie Brown, writing for The New Food Economy, details how commodity agriculture and its broken promises have impacted rural Kansas. The photography, data, and narrative throughout are fantastic.

Reading it you learn about towns like Downs, which has seen its population drop by over 30 percent since 1980. It’s that kind of absence that contributes to 57 percent of the state’s land having less than 10 people per square mile. There are some stories of hope, though. Fascinating read.

ebook Sales Data

It’s not uncommon to read articles over the past couple of years praising the return of printed book sales (and the decline of digital). Here’s just one example from last March in the Guardian.

There’s a problem with that argument, though. And last week Quartz detailed the problem: sales data doesn’t take into account digital-only books self-published through Amazon. And by all estimations that’s quite a few sales to be excluding.

Part of the problem here is that when it comes to digital, things begin and end with Amazon. And they’re quite conservative about releasing any detailed sales numbers.

No Filter

In this case, I feel voters would be better served to see exactly what was asked and exactly how I answered without going through the filter of a predetermined narrative.
Jane Kim

Political campaigns sometimes dump opposition research into the hands of journalists. Many times those journalists ask questions of the opponent. But sometimes those questions are biased, misleading, and argumentative.

When it’s 2018 and a news organization asks biased questions of a savvy candidate such as Jane Kim, it’s the news organization itself that ends up exposed. In a blog post titled No Filter she goes one-by-one through each question the San Francisco Chronicle asked her. Such a fantastic example of sources going direct.

The problem with voting

Nadia Eghbal outlines many of the problems in voting-based governance models. She then covers a few ideas for shifting from a competitive mindset to a more cooperative governance structure.

I appreciate posts like this which work toward first principles. It’s also so helpful to remember that many models and institutions we take for granted, or presume to be a requirement, are relatively recent inventions.

Hat tip to Daniel for the link.

A little less luck

Sean Blanda from Growth Lab interviews Shane Parrish, founder of the Farnam Street blog. Farnam Street is one of my favorite blogs on the web. Over the course of the interview Sean and Shane cover business models, events, social pressure, and audiences.

Part of what stood out in the interview was Shane’s framing of what to focus on:

I want to spend time doing things that are first order negative and second order positive because I know that not a lot of people are willing to do that.

Shane discusses this as a competitive advantage. Focusing on things that are difficult in the short-term makes your work less subject to copying. Fewer people will push through that initial difficulty to attain results.

Small-Town American Dreams

The New Yorker dives deep into a rural community in Iowa. Orange City is a town of less than six thousand people. And its isolation from any river, railway, or four-lane highway led to quirks in development.

The article’s worth reading for its look at American politics (of whites living in their childhood hometown, 60% voted for Trump) as well as quirks of small towns (the college in Orange City greatly helps the town retain young adults). It closes with a more optimistic picture of the future than you might expect reading through the first half of the piece.