Your government (not) at work

Reduce MY energy

governmentYour government (not) at work are a few stories that engaged my interest:

There was a terrible report about a young driver who killed seven motorcyclists in a New Hampshire crash this spring. In light of that, Massachusetts suspended more than 500 drivers licenses.

“The [Massachusetts] Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to act on information sent from other states that called for the suspension of some drivers’ licenses… The dismal driving history of the man charged with [the horrific accident] — coupled with bureaucratic failures in Massachusetts that allowed him to keep his license — highlight weaknesses in the state and federal systems designed to keep unsafe drivers off the road.

“The case of 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy has exposed a patchwork system of oversight that’s reliant on the actions of individual states, many of which use a slow-moving, paper-driven communication network.”


There were primaries in New York State in late June, and I noted these results in a town in Albany County.
KNOX COUNCILMAN (VOTE FOR) 2
(WITH 3 OF 3 EDs COUNTED)
Earl H. Barcomb . . . . . . . . 179 34.82
Dennis P. Barber . . . . . . . . 178 34.63
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 157 30.54
Of course, the two candidates won. But if the write-in count had exceeded 178 votes, the Board of Elections would have had to start differentiating WHO got those write-ins.


Last month, I got this message at work: “This is a reminder to turn your lights off today as a participant in this year’s ‘2019 Daylight Hour’, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm. Daylight Hour is an effort to raise awareness of energy savings and the impact humans can have on saving energy. This message is to encourage all SUNY System Administration, SUCF, and RF employees to join this effort by shutting off all unnecessary lights from noon to 1 pm today.

“Many of our campuses have already signed up for this event. Plaza Operations will be lowering corridor and lobby lighting during this time period. We ask that all participants turn off their work space and office lighting where possible. Behavioral impact can be much greater than most people recognize. This event will help illustrate the impact our decisions have on our overall energy costs.”

I dutifully complied. I couldn’t get much done at work that hour because I couldn’t really read my keyboard. The dimmed lighting also made me sleepy. I wrote to a colleague: “Reduce energy AND kill productivity!”

Nearly a parliamentary system

Massachusetts, generally a Democratic state in recent decades, nevertheless has had a tradition of electing moderate Republicans.

It’s Election Day in the US. At last. Thank whatever deity you believe in! The only people who will be upset about this are the local television stations, who have been raking it in with all the political advertisements. I’ve discovered that a lot of people don’t understand why the candidates often say at the end of the ads, “I’m Joe Blow, and I approve this message.” It’s because there are ads out there, sponsored by the political parties, or political action committees, supposedly (snicker) independent of the (chortle) political candidates.

As is my tradition, I will be voting as soon as the polls open, at 6 a.m. It’s not just that I am anxious to vote or want to get it over with. It’s that, if I cast my ballot early enough, they won’t call me to make sure I get out there. Better get my wife to vote before work, too. I’m voting for an annoyingly large number of incumbents, which is NOT my tradition, historically.

It’s occurred to me that the US has, almost, become a de facto parliamentary system. Someone like Arlen Specter, who died last month, was a fairly moderate-to-conservative Republican from Pennsylvania, who annoyed members of both parties with his actions on the Senate Judiciary Committee, blocking the nomination of Robert Bork, but allowing for the ascent of Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court, brutalizing Thomas accuser Anita Hill in the process. When he became a Democrat in 2009, he hadn’t moved to the left; his former party had lurched to the right. I might have voted for him.

If I were living in Massachusetts, and Elizabeth Warren (D) weren’t running, I might have considered selecting Scott Brown for US Senate. As Republicans go these days, he’s relatively moderate. But then again, his re-election would have implications on party control of the Senate, so maybe not. In the olden days, even 20 years ago, bipartisanship and “working across the aisle” weren’t seen as traitorous behaviors.

Massachusetts, generally a Democratic state in recent decades, nevertheless has had a tradition of electing moderate Republicans. Edward Brooke was the first black member of the US Senate since the Reconstruction period after the US Civil War, serving from 1967 to 1979. And moderate Mitt Romney was governor from 2003 to 2007. Whatever happened to THAT guy, anyway?

I heard that 80% of the people voting for Obama or Romney this year will vote for the Senate candidate of the same party. And it’s 90% in House races. We’ve returned to straight-party voting in the US, which I understand, but don’t see as a necessarily good thing.

Here are my predictions: Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., we STILL won’t know who the winner is; might be days. Or weeks. Ultimately, Obama wins, with less than 50% of the popular vote, and the Republicans spend the next four years bemoaning that fact.

M is for M states

Ole Miss went feminist to become a Ms. Also, ms is the abbreviation for manuscripts.

In the United States, there are eight states that begin with the letter M, tied with the letter N. But N has the advantage of descriptive adjectives New (Hampshire, Jersey, Mexico, York) and North (Carolina and Dakota); only Nebraska and Nevada are one-word states.

In 1963, ZIP Codes were introduced, although many large cities were divided into zones 20 years earlier. At the same time, the Post Office introduced two-letter abbreviations for the states, to accommodate space for the ZIP Codes.

The ones for the letter M tell stories about the states:

MA – Massachusetts. The mother of the country. Where the Pilgrims landed – on Plymouth Rock, and where the American Revolution was fomented, at the Boston massacre, then the tea party, and finally with the battles of Lexington and Concord. The second and sixth Presidents, both named Adams, were born there.

MD – Maryland. Home of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, plus other facilities with doctors.

ME – Maine. Rugged individuals, who wear clothing from L.L. Bean of Freeport, founded 100 years ago by Leon Leonwood Bean. It was part of Massachusetts until it became a state as a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, when it was admitted as a free state, as Missouri joined as a slave state.

MI – Michigan. A state which suffered greatly during the recent recession (oh, mi), but which appears to be coming back strong, with improved auto sales leading the way (oh, mi!)

MN – Minnesota. M and N are adjacent letters, nearly twins in the cursive. Likewise, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are related, yet quite separate cities.

MO – Missouri. The big mo, or momentum towards the Pacific Ocean, Missouri was the starting point of the Pony Express and is considered the Gateway to the west; thus the arch. It’s also the home of the defending World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, who, after their 130th game of the 2011 season on August 24, were 10 1/2 games behind the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves, with only 32 games remaining. They went 23-9 to finish 90-72, a game ahead of Atlanta’s 89-73, the largest comeback in history after 130 games.

MS – Mississippi. Ole Miss went feminist to become a Ms. Also, ms is the abbreviation for manuscripts, and there is a strong tradition of Mississippi writers, including John Grisham, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and many more.

MT – Montana. Of course, mt is the abbreviation for a mountain, and the Big Sky State is in the Rocky Mountains.

OBVIOUSLY, the Post Office was thinking about these things when they assigned the two-letter state designations almost a half-century ago.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

MOVIES-The King’s Speech; The Fighter; The Social Network

I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg’s less than stellar image in this movie had anything to do with the real Mark donating a ton of money to the schools in Newark, NJ?

I had seen a paltry number of 2010 films. Once the nomination period – SAG/Golden Globes/Academy Awards – starts, I tend to at least try to see a lot more of the movies that a) are still available in theaters and b) reviewed well. I’ve discovered in recent years, though, that a third criterion has crept into the movies, ones that c) won’t totally creep me out. For instance, despite the PG-13 rating, the True Grit remake reportedly contains surprisingly bloody bits of action and violence.


Whereas, The King’s Speech, which I saw with my wife on December 30 at the Spectrum Theatre for our monthly date, is rated R, but it is almost certainly based entirely on language, specifically the repeated use of the F-word, and other salty talk. But it is done in the context of the future King George VI of Britain dealing with his speaking issues, and not gratuitous. Considering that the storyline is both quite straightforward, and the context historically familiar – Mrs. Wallis Simpson is a pivotal character – it was amazingly affecting, in no small part due to great use of music. And funny; I’m talking LOL, in an intelligent manner. Colin Firth might receive another Oscar nomination, after last year’s A Simple Man. But I’d wager that Geoffrey Rush, who I first could identify in 1995’s Shine, will get a Best Supporting Actor nod.


Maybe the beginning of The Fighter, which I saw New Year’s Eve at the local Madison Theater (rated R for language throughout, drug content, sexuality, and some boxing violence) was really good; maybe. I found this dysfunctional family surrounding/suffocating boxer Micky Ward really irritating, especially the Greek chorus of sisters who must have been rejects from The Real Housewives of Lowell, Massachusetts. He also has a manipulative, guilt-tripping mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), and a “Glory Days” older brother/ex-boxer with a drug problem Dicky (Christian Bale), balanced only slightly by people such as girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams). But there was a particular point – Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” was playing, when the movie finally took off for me. I see why Leo, nominated a couple of years ago for Frozen River, and Bale is getting Oscar buzz.


Finally, finishing my trifecta, back to the Spectrum on New Years Day for The Social Network (rated PG-13). I thought I was the last person in the country to see this in the theater, but the packed, albeit small screening room belied that. Of the three, this one is the most…cinematic, makes the most use of the fact that’s it a movie, with various locales. Still, I really enjoyed the framing story of a deposition, from which the narrative flowed. Did Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) rip off the twins (played primarily by Armie Hammer) and his former partner Eduardo (Andrew Garfield)? I think possibly not, and absolutely, respectively. But it’s great storytelling by Aaron Sorkin that was most impressive. And a great last song! I wonder if Zuckerberg’s less-than-stellar image in this movie had anything to do with the real Mark donating a ton of money to the schools in Newark, NJ? That fact, the movie, and Facebook’s 500,000,000 member got Zuckerberg TIME Person of the Year honors for 2010.

So, I go to three movies in three days, all starting with the article The, and I hit on three stories all based, more or less, on actual events, in 1930s England, 1980s Massachusetts, and 2000s Massachusetts, watched, totally coincidentally, in chronological order. I suppose The King’s Speech was my favorite – STILL have that Beethoven piece stuck in my head – but they all were worthwhile.