Friday, December 23, 2011

Who owns vacant properties in Baltimore?

I received many ideas for my free software project and ultimately settled on one suggested by Kate Bladow: a tool to help identify potential slumlords in Baltimore. It's specifically designed to help Baltimore Slumlord Watch investigations, though that anonymous blogger has nothing to do with this tool (he or she has to do complete investigations of each property before writing a post). This is more like an experiment to use all available data to identify people and companies who may own a large number of vacant properties.

The tool combines data from three sources:
  1. State of Maryland Real Property database: to get a complete list of every property in Baltimore, identified by a block and lot number (this database, unlike #2, allows wildcard searching, which is how we get the complete list). Includes a truncated field listing the owner name.
  2. Baltimore City Real Property database: to find the complete owner name and mailing address.
  3. Baltimore's Vacant Lots and Vacant Buildings open data sets. The anonymous slumlord watch blogger says that these are not very accurate or up-to-date, but hopefully they are good enough for us to identify who the main offenders are.
I applied a few cleanups and transformations to make the data more useful, and used the excellent Google Refine tool to try and reduce the noise I found in the Owner Name column. Many entities were listed under a variety of spellings, punctuations, and abbreviations, which Google Refine helped me combine. Thanks to Mark Headd for recommending Google Refine to me.

Below you will find a few lists of the top property owners in Baltimore gleaned from these tools.

Important Caveats
  1. Some properties are owned by companies using a series of one-up numbered company names (like "N# Inc." or "NB1 Business Trust", "NB2 Business Trust", etc.  I used Google Refine's clustering feature to combine similar names on the assumption that these are probably controlled by the same people. In the cases where I did this kind of grouping, I used sentence case instead of upper case or I replaced digits with the # sign.
  2. Many properties are owned by a uniquely-named LLC (like "1 E. Montgomery LLC"). One person or company could own a significant share of the vacant properties in Baltimore via shell corporations like this. One potential way to get around this is to look up the incorporation paperwork for each company (also available as a scrapeable database), but I'm assuming if you're smart enough to use shell corporations you're probably using a different company to be a registered agent. So this technique would probably only help us identify the main registered agents for the vacant property owners in Baltimore.
  3. I haven't done a great deal of authenticating or verifying. All I'm trying to do is make this data more discoverable/explorable. Obviously you should do your own homework before acting on any of this information.
  4. I was really surprised to see how much property is controlled by the city. Even if the absolute numbers below are inaccurate the relative amount is pretty amazing. I'd like to see the city take some bold leadership on doing something with all of those buildings and lots. How about a revival of the dollar home program?
  5. I only focused on properties listed as non-owner occupied by the State of Maryland.
  6. The Slumlord Watch blogger says that the city's vacant building data is inaccurate and not up-to-date, so there may be false positives and negatives in the list.
Largest Vacant Property Owners in Baltimore, Grouped by Name
Owner#  Vacants
Baltimore City1407
UP# BUSINESS TRUST38
SS# BUSINESS TRUST25
JAMES E. CANN24
NB# Business Trust24
State of Maryland19
2008 DRR-ETS, LLC18
BALTIMORE RETURN FUND, LLC18
EAST BALTIMORE DEVELOPMENT LLC18
COMPOUND YIELD PLAY, LLC17
CE REALTY, LLC. & EPHRAIM WEINGARTEN16
KONA PROPERTIES, LLC16
CE REALTY, LLC15
J.A.M. numbered corporations15
BALTIMORE PREFERRED PROPERTIES LLC14
DRUID HEIGHTS COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION14
HOLABIRD INVESTMENTS, LLC14
NEW HORIZON DEVELOPMENT, LLC14
DOMINION PROPERTIES LLC13
COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS, LLC12
M&S JOINT VENTURE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION12
MAHS-BE HOLDINGS, LLC12
BALDWIN TRUSTEE, LEROY11
HARRISON DEVELOPMENT, LLC11
HUD11
CHESAPEAKE HABITAT FOR HUMANITY INC10
KGB numbered corporations10
University of Maryland10
L.A.M.B., INC.9
REBUILD AMERICA, INC9
CARTER, NATHAN8
EQUITY TRUST COMPANY8
KREISLER, SANFORD8
LAMB, DERRICK8
N-#, INC.8
OAKMONT DESIGN LLC8
SANDTOWN HABITAT FOR HUMANITY8
DOMINION RENTALS, LLC7
GREEN, CARL7
HARBOUR PORTFOLIO7
LEO, CAROLINE G.7
N10 BUSINESS TRUST7
NEIGHBORHOOD PROPERTIES-4, INC7
SAUNDERS TERRAINE7
EAST BALTIMORE DEVELOPMENT, INC6
APP CONSULTING GROUP, LLC6
DJ LAND CO, LLC & WODA GROUP LLC6
EMERALD BAY DEVELOPMENT GROUP & ONE, INC.6
FIRST NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, LLC6
JOHNSON, MARTIN6

You can also download the entire list of non-owner-occupied vacant building owners in Baltimore.

Largest Vacant Lot Owners in Baltimore, Grouped by Name
Baltimore City2926
B&D PHASE III, LLC64
METRO II OLDHAM, LLC & SUNNYS ASSOCIATES, LLC42
CAMDEN ASSOCIATES, LLC.40
HARBORVIEW LIMITED PARTNERSHIP NO. #35
State of Maryland32
LOWMAN ST.,LLC31
Oblate Sisters of Providence27
BG&E23
COMPANY, LLC & FEDERAL HILL HOLDING & SCC CANYON II, LLC23
ATLAS MD I SPE, LLC & BB&T BANK (CREO), ATTN: T. GEORG19
J & J PARTNERSHIP, INC.19
Baptist Church18
SANDTOWN HABITAT FOR HUMANITY18
NANTICOKE INVESTMENT CO., LLC17
L.A.M.B., INC.15
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC. & TAX DEPARTMENT13
DRUID HEIGHTS COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION13
SINGER PARK & PLAY, INCORPORATED13
STATION PLACE LLC13
TRIMARK MANAGEMENT13
ASSOCIATION, INC & MCHENRY POINTE HOMEOWNERS12
Benedictine Society of Baltimore12
CHESAPEAKE HABITAT FOR HUMANITY & INC12
JUBB JR, WALTER H & JUBB, EDWARD H12
CASTLEWOOD COMMUNITIES, LLC11
MOUNT SINAI BAPTIST CHURCH & OF BALTIMORE CITY11
MARYLAND JOCKEY CL10
CONVENTION AND AUXILIARIES & OF BALTIMORE, INC. & UNITED BAPTIST MISSIONARY9
DUNN, GREG9
RIVERSIDE WORK FORCE LLC9
BALTIMORE URBAN LEAGUE, & INC.,THE8
C&P TELEPHONE COMP8
CORPORATE SECRETARY, AMTRAK & NATIONAL RAILROAD & PASSENGER CORPORATION8
DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION & DRUID HEIGHTS COMMUNITY & JACQUELYN D CORNISH8
FRP HOLLANDER 95, LLC8
HOLABIRD PARK APTS. INC8
MUELLER HOMES, INC.8
NEWSTAR DEVELOPMENT AT CANTON & PEAKS, LLC8
SCARFIELD SR, FRANK D8
THE KCR DEVELOPMENT GROUP & SPICER'S RUN HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATION
BALTIMORE SCRAP CORP.7
BRIGHTON DEVELOPMENT GROUP & LLC7
CHURCH, THE & VESTRY OF MOUNT CALVARY7
FLAG HOUSE RENTAL I, L.P. & METRO PLAZA II7
FOWLKES, ROBIN7
PARADIGM BUILDERS, LLC & RICHARD MIRSKY - OFFIT KURMAN7
URBAN HEALTH INSTITUTE OF & WASHINGTON, THE7
CANN JAMES E6
CHURCH OF THE REDEEMED OF THE & LORD, INC, THE6

You can also download the entire list of non-owner-occupied vacant lot owners in Baltimore.

The Raw Data
All data used to create the above table can be downloaded from Github, including the raw CSV data.

The Code

It's creative-commons licensed and posted on Github. It's pretty raw and unfactored. I ran it all from irb. It needs to be converted into a Rake task or other command-line friendly, totally-automated package.

Next Steps
  • We could get this up and running on ScraperWiki to have the data constantly updated.
  • We could run an Amazon Mechanical Turk project to create an up-to-the-minute database of vacant houses in Baltimore, using Google Street View. We could just ask each worker to use street view to make an estimate of whether the house was vacant or not. I'm sure there would be some inaccuracy but the data ought to be good enough to help further investigations.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The only social media advice you need

I keep thinking about How To Be Interesting, a 2006 blog post I read a few months ago. Russell Davies captured the essence of my social media strategy, what social media means to me, and why it's been so successful for me and others. If anyone ever asks me for advice in this arena, I am going to quote Davies:
...the core skill of any future creative business person will be 'being interesting'. People will employ and want to work with (and want to be with) interesting people.
Social media is a big deal because it helps you do the two things Davies recommends to cultivate that skill of "being interesting":

The way to be interesting is to be interested. You’ve got to find what’s interesting in everything, you’ve got to be good at noticing things, you’ve got to be good at listening. If you find people (and things) interesting, they’ll find you interesting. 
Interesting people are good at sharing. You can’t be interested in someone who won’t tell you anything. Being good at sharing is not the same as talking and talking and talking. It means you share your ideas, you let people play with them and you’re good at talking about them without having to talk about yourself.
It's not rocket science: social media helps you find more interesting things (such as when I found this article via Hacker News) and share them (like I'm doing with this post).

Monday, December 12, 2011

What is the tech community and who belongs to it?

We had some breaking news in Baltimore's tech scene last week: Sharon Webb was replaced as the head of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council (GBTC) by Jason Hardebeck. Sharon was a friend of mine, and I really bought into her plan to reinvigorate the council and make it more relevant to tech companies. As part of that effort she and GBTC board president Jason Pappas recruited me to be the Entrepreneur-in-Residence. To be clear, I'm not speaking for the GBTC in this post.

The news brought out an extraordinary amount of confusion, hurt feelings, and acrimony, expressed in social media channels. Neal Shaffer nailed it when he tweeted: "It occurs to me that the GBTC convo isn't really about GBTC at all. It's about a community with momentum coming to a crossroads."

That crossroads involves a few questions I hope to address here:

  1. What is the Baltimore tech community and who is part of it?
  2. Do we need to a group like the GBTC to further develop the tech sector in Baltimore?
  3. Are Baltimore tech events infected with an unseemly degree of enthusiasm for startups at the expense of other kinds of companies?
WHAT IS THE BALTIMORE TECH COMMUNITY AND WHO IS PART OF IT?

I want apologize to Elizabeth Eadie and everyone else I offended with a comment I made in the heat of the moment during an online chat (you can read about it here) in which I implied that service businesses are not as valuable to the economy as other kinds of businesses. That was a dumb thing to say. When this chat was taking place we were under the misapprehension that the new GBTC leadership was steering away from supporting entrepreneurs and startups in favor of more established, dues-paying large companies, which fortunately turned out to be completely untrue. I was venting my frustration that the startup sector, which I think is very undeveloped, seemed to be getting short shrift. I was actually responding to the disdain for startups I perceived in Elizabeth's earlier post on this subject, a disdain I often hear from independent technologists around Baltimore. 

Now that I've had a few days to cool down, here's how I really feel: everyone who makes technology of any kind in Baltimore is a member of the tech community. Too often we unconsciously emphasize "software companies" or "startup companies" when speaking of the "tech community", but that might be because software people and startup people are  better organized or more vocal than other technologists around town; I'm really not sure who our counterparts in the biotech world are, for example, not because they aren't valued members of the local technology scene but simply because (as far as I know) there's no one blogging about Baltimore biotech, and there aren't that many public biotech booster events.

I also think that the tech community includes companies that make heavy use of technology. Sharon Webb introduced me to a great example of this kind of company on the cutting edge of maritime logistics technology: Vane Brothers. I'd love to go to a meetup where they show off the cool stuff they are doing to disrupt the shipping industry!

DO WE NEED A GROUP LIKE THE GBTC TO DEVELOP THE TECH SECTOR?

The GBTC lost a lot of relevance in the past few years, and their board members know it. Some in the Baltimore Tech Facebook group and in other forums question the very existence of the GBTC, and they are right to do so: the GBTC has some impressive resources including a budget; a small full-time staff; and a large and well-connected board of directors. Have we as a society made a good investment of that social and financial capital?

I think Tom Loveland explained it best on Facebook:
"...sometimes you need an association. Like to fight a tech tax. Or to make sure DBED supports IT and startups instead of just bio and big business. (All that invisible stuff you never see.) And that City Hall remembers us, too. (In her State of the City address last year our Mayor announced I think only one bit of new spending, and it went to the ETC.) And though dozens of smaller events and get-togethers, ad hoc to organized, are fantastic, occasionally it's a very good thing to hold a giant celebration of our community. And to be all it can, a community needs to leverage its old farts and winners, those with wisdom and/or connections, who can assist the next generation. Often it's the association staff who sees a need and knows who can help and can make the connection. The up-and-comers in the throes probably don't know who to ask, and often don't even know to ask, or that awesome help is available."
So, just because GBTC has lost its edge doesn't mean that we should get rid of trade associations altogether. I have personally benefitted from GBTC as a connecting, community-building organization the whole time I've lived here: GBTC was the first sponsor of my first tech event in Baltimore and also played an instrumental role in making the first Baltimore Hackathon so successful. I met a key mentor at a GBTC Face2Face dinner, and I always make many new connections at TechNite events.

ARE BALTIMORE TECH EVENTS INFECTED WITH AN UNSEEMLY DEGREE OF ENTHUSIASM FOR STARTUPS AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHER KINDS OF COMPANIES?

Elizabeth wrote "...I find the tech-start-up-entrepreneur-scene to be toxic and exhausting." She feels put off by the fact that "Too many people in the tech scene are trying to make a bazillion dollars overnight." Elsewhere on Elizabeth's blog Jason Rhodes echoes the sentiment when he says he "...never felt quite at home in the start-up focused Bmore tech scene. Like a lot of the people, but it seems to be focused heavily on things I’m less interested in as far as starting my own company, etc."

I have a mixed reaction to this. First of all, I now have two small kids and so I don't go to many tech events any more. Enough comments like these appeared enough on Twitter and Facebook to make me believe it must have become a common experience, which sucks.

Yet in my opinion, the primary and perhaps the only problem that our tech community suffers is a shortage of startups! Who are all of these "start-up focused" people trying to make "a bazillion dollars"? What companies have they started? There's a pretty small handful of startup companies around here, and all of the entrepreneurs I know trying to get a startup going are not the sort of craven, venal people that Elizabeth and her colleagues hold in contempt. In fact they are some of the most generous, open-minded people around, and they are motivated by a desire to change the world and make something really cool, while incidentally making money. Purely greedy assholes don't really want to live in Baltimore and we're better off for it!

Maybe it has to do with differing ideas of what a startup is. Startups are considered to be glamorous, shiny things in tech culture, and people who aren't doing them might feel jealous of the attention that startups get - especially when you read about a startup company raising tons of money or press coverage on the basis of zero revenue. If I was the owner of a small, profitable tech company in Baltimore, I'm sure I'd feel the same way! Instead of using superficialities to define what a startup is, I propose we stick to Eric Ries' excellent definition: "A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty."

So if you're in a company and experiencing extreme uncertainty (not knowing who your customers are, exactly what problems you're going to solve, and whether you can make money solving them), congratulations, you're in a startup. It would be very wrong to say you're somehow better as a person or that your pursuit is more noble than someone else who is not experiencing that uncertainty, but it's also very wrong to dismiss such companies the way some people in the Baltimore tech scene have been doing. It's wrong to say we shouldn't be bending over backwards to help people who are considering making the leap of faith required to do a startup.

Why is it wrong? Because with this risk comes the potential for great reward, both for the entrepreneur and for the entire city. Startups can become large, wealth-creating entities in a way that few other kinds of businesses can. Startups make their founders and early employees rich, and those people can then turn around and reinvest in the city as philanthropists, entrepreneurs, or angel investors. We are missing this "virtuous cycle" in Baltimore (but keep your eye on Greg Cangialosi who is starting a new revolution of the cycle). The only way to get it moving is to get more people doing startups. I don't apologize for encouraging people to consider startups because I find it a rewarding lifestyle, quite apart from the potential to make lots of money (which is nice also!), and because a crop of awesome startups would become a rising tide lifting all of our boats. I want small web businesses in Baltimore to have more local clients with deep pockets! Baltimore with a few more companies like LivingSocial or Zappos or Millenial Media or Advertising.com or BillMeLater would be an incredible place to live no matter what your occupation!

I take this charge fairly personally since I don't think anyone is waving the flag for startups in Baltimore harder than I am. If I'm doing something that makes you feel excluded or unwanted please let me know and I will fix it. I'm wondering if there's maybe a small crop of "wantrepreneurs" who make a lot of noise about startups but who aren't "for real"; please don't count them as emblematic of startup life in Baltimore or emblematic for how I feel.

IN CONCLUSION

I've written a lot about Baltimore's potential to become more of a prominent technology hub than it already is. It would be crazy to diminish any part of it; we need everyone here being productive doing what they love and not wasting time squabbling like we've been doing. Like Tom Loveland, I see an important role for a trade group like the GBTC, and that's why I volunteer there. I liked Sharon Webb and was sad to see her go but I'm willing to give Jason Hardebeck the benefit of the doubt. Ever forward!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Writing a short horror story with Amazon Mechanical Turk

I've been wanting to experiment with Amazon Mechanical Turk ("Artificial Artificial Intelligence") and recently came up with an idea for a fun project from my days as an improv theater teacher and actor. There's an exercise improvisors use, and sometimes perform before an audience, called "word at a time story" where each actor takes a turn advancing a story with one word. If you commit fully to it with no self-censoring, you can often get a pretty coherent story.

After reading Solving Instagram’s Unshredder with Mechanical Turk and $0.50 I wondered if I could ask mechanical turk workers to write a story using one sentence at a time. I setup a manual Human Intelligence Task (HIT) for workers to write the first sentence of a story, just to get a feeling for how the system worked. I got 20 opening lines, paying about $0.20 each. I rejected three of the responses for not being complete sentences or for being plagiarized. I threw away three others for being overly creepy, leaving 14 interesting openers:
  • Jim approached the open door cautiously, unsure of the source of noise he had heard just moments prior.
  • It was midnight, she was driving back home after a long day at work still thinking of the stranger that had spoken to her in the street.
  • Yesterday was the best day of my whole life.
  • Today would be the third day Sarah and her younger brother had been on the road alone after running away from the orphanage.
  • Once upon a time, lived a little elf named snowball, who worked for Santa at the North Pole.
  • Hurriedly, she pushed the email icon on her phone to read the message from Sandy, the drug counselor.
  • There was something off about the way he watched her, his eyes never broke away - even after she had crossed the street.
  • "Well, everything went better than expected", Andy thought as he left the building with the business card still in his hand.
  • A lump rose in Andy's throat and he brushed away tears as he reread the chilling message taped to his dorm room door.
  • There was a funny little house in the town, that had stood vacant for many years.
  • It was a dark rainy night in November as Marcus felt a cold wind blow down Hanging Dog Creek.
  • It was the height of summer, it was warm and sunny and beautiful outside but Cooper didn't feel in any way excited as he sat at his kitchen table, sipping his by now luke warm morning coffee, trying to make sense of what had happened the night before.
  • I was a big, fast, tailback with a nasty streak and a taste for blood.
  • The old woman turned and smiled.
I chose "lump rose in Andy's throat" for the rest of the experiment because I thought it would be good to start with a strong genre. I then wrote a script based on sample code I found in the ruby-aws gem. The script posts one HIT to Amazon displaying the story so far and asking the worker to add one sentence. Here's what each HIT looked like on the worker side:


I reviewed each sentence before creating a new HIT to make sure bad results didn't corrupt the story. Usually you would just upload a whole batch of HITs to be worked on in parallel; if you need to do serial processing with Mechanical Turk my code may help you.

I didn't need to reject any sentences, and in the spirit of the original improv exercise I did no editing. The workers were also in charge of starting new paragraphs. Below is what they came up with. I cut off the story arbitrarily as it seemed we were descending into minutiae and, hey, this was costing me money ($0.10 per sentence).
A lump rose in Andy's throat and he brushed away tears as he reread the chilling message taped to his dorm room door. This can't be happening he thought, How could someone do this to me? Andy carefully took the note off of the door, and entered his room. He sat at the edge of his bed, thoughts racing through his head as he stared at the paper in his hand. He tore it furiously. 
His girlfriend left him. She was never happy in the relationship and decided against continuing it. He was at a loss at what to think or say or do.  She was his first girlfriend, his first love. Andy decided to talk to his girlfriend and see if there was anything that could be done to save their relationship. He ran as fast as he could, almost tripping down the stairs, as he held back tears, to her dorm room three flights below his. When he got there, he stopped for a while and took a deep breath. He entered without knocking the door. Something was amiss - his girlfriend's dorm room looked like it had been ransacked, and she was nowhere to be found. As he backed slowly out of the room, he bumped into his girlfriends roommate Ella, who shoved him and said stearnly "Why are you in here?  Don't you know, Alexis broke up with you!" Andy looked at her with empty eyes, pushed her aside and run away. He was starting to suspect that someone had kidnapped his girlfriend and left him a fake break-up note so that he would stay away and not become suspicious - and maybe her friend Ella knew something. He had to go back. But before that he needed to take a closer look at the note to make sure that it was not Ella's handwriting. He entered his room and took carefully the pieces of the note from the floor. He put them together. He was really confused, it was her handwriting. He felt so devastated that he couldn't even cry. 
A sense of calm came over Andy as he reached for the phone to call the police. "Someone is bleeding to death in the basement" he stated. "Are they still conscious?" Asked the officer. "Barely so.", he replied, "Her breathing is faltering." "What is your address?" the voice asked, calm and collected. Andy, aware of the address belonging to a large dormitory, calmly stated the address, spelling out the street name with perfect enunciation. He was completely numb, unaware of the true circumstances that laid before him. He had finally done it.
Other notes:
  • Some of the workers wrote two sentences instead of the required one.
  • ProPublica has a wonderful guide explaining more practical uses for Mechanical Turk as a way to help their reporting. 
  • I'd like to thank Mechanical Turk workers A13KRCVFOPZ3UX, A141RVMIW610GL, A14543PX95IM4I, A14IQ4GLNWNPOJ, A17PLH2GYHRALL, A1801RSQIIDWHW, A19OCN9KO1NWNL, A1A76U56BNERB9, A1NHNUBZEN1EN8, A1SAOAUD2D8OKR, A1SFABJ4NX5DFY, A1WFA8NWU6RVQ9, A25L94D9I3GJFQ, A26L91YL0GDGD8, A28G4QO0DRY8OZ, A2DTTNGUXTEGHQ, A2EG6T3WW37TGV, A2SEG0I7JX3WJ5, A2SOI6L2A4F34D, A2T4CZ6TC2SY5R, A2VXI416SODAQC, A30EBLWYETOTFG, A3B86TCZRF9AOI, A3D1BHGFDBSSC1, A3FS6G1PEDN3GH, A3HMBHM8HJLKRD, A3IBW6XVOXK3P6, A3NUWV8UAHEDQ1, A3OWHW7XYQU52K, A6SYXKX5P76DL, AB217P6RM0JX4, ACS62XDG6GAV4, AFEWKFA1I80PP, AHFTRTLN0R79E, and AUTSDI5IHO8XN for their help in this project!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Are we all riding a hedonic treadmill?

I heard about the concept of the "hedonic treadmill" a few years ago and find myself frequently using it as a metaphor in conversation, but never being able to explain it adequately. I just read a good explanation in the excellent book NutureShock:

Back in 1971, two scholars…described the human condition as a "hedonic treadmill". Essentially, we have to keep working hard just to stay in the same relative place in society. Even when our situation improves, the sense of achievement is only temporary, because our hedonistic desires and expectations rise at the same rate as our circumstances. Brickman and Campbell noted that lottery winners are not any happier, long-term, than non-winners, and paraplegics are not less happy than those us with all our limbs. They argued that this plight was inescapable, due to our neural wiring. Our brains are designed to notice novel stimuli, and tune out everyday, predictable stimuli. What we really notice, and are affected by, are relative and recent changes. As soon as those become static, we return to a baseline level of well-being.
That we are so adaptive can be a good thing. When life falls apart, we'll soon get used to it - such changes in circumstance don't have to become incapacitating. But when our lives are blessed, and things are going well, there seems something morally decrepit in how we so easily overlook how good we have it.
The authors go on to point out subsequent research which has revealed flaws and subtleties in this theory, so I wouldn't think of this as established science: it's more like an interesting way to think about what really makes you fundamentally happy vs. what is mere novelty. For guidance on that front I recommend Man's Search for Meaning.