Archive for the ‘Massachusetts’ Category

Freedom of Peek

March 5th, 2014

With mixed thoughts, I see that MA’s high court ruled today that perverts on the subway can legally take upskirt pix. (The news broke on Universal Hub, here. The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision is here.  )

Of course, doing so is intrusive, tacky, and and, well, sort of, some kind of assault.

Sure, you can state the all too obvious — women ought to wear underwear, whether they do or not, they should keep their legs together if they wear a skirt or dress. Most do. Too many don’t. I don’t want to see flashes or swathes of underpants of women or men.

Yet, what is it that seems to excite so many? Why are there websites devoted to upskirt images? Why would anyone watch a Victoria’s Secret Fashion show? Why is lingerie the, if you pardon, butt of so many comedy routines? Why do women as well as men fixate on bras and panties?

Truth be told, I remember in early puberty being turned on by men’s magazines in barber shops and plain old catalogs showing women déshabillé. That was the euphemism for in your underwear. Back then, a movie was really risqué if an actress appeared in underwear, without the dress covering the clothing that in fact covered their prurient parts.

Even today, there cultures and subcultures titillated not by the actual body parts, rather the garments that hide them. For example, Japanese press and literature frequently alludes to men’s fascination with and hope for glimpses of underpants.

As I began dating, I quickly learned to favor and choose the real over the fantasy. Is that all this fetish is about?

Even if the crotch clickers with cellphones don’t grow up and out of their fixation, even it the SJC says that’s legal, you’d hope that the targeted women and the other passengers would at least call them out.  That might stop them…unless they are into public humiliation.

Tales of the Sisters Grimké

March 10th, 2013

tea

 

I sat on it for a day. Yep, there was still stinky, strained stuff at the women’s tea in glorious downtown Hyde Park yesterday.

Almost entirely good stuff abounded. Angela Menino stood up and in for her hubby, that Tom guy.  The third annual presentation of the local version of women on the year presentations (a.k.a. “Women Amongst Us”) included pots of flowers and standing O’s. Petite tea sandwiches — curried chopped chicken, cucumber, and turkey/cheese — kept the early 20th Century flavor. Three City Councilors, Consalvo, Arroyo and Pressley, showed. The upstairs at Annabelle’s was ladies who lunch, but with tea instead of martinis.

I was one of perhaps six men in a room of roughly 100 women, and come to think of it all women waitrons. I enjoyed it mostly and intend to use my bar of suffragist soap they set at each place.

The unnecessary undercurrent of male bashing was a tad surprising, Women’s History Month or not.

Two authors were there to flog their books and comment on former Hyde Park residents, the Grimké sisters, Angelina and Sarah. One, Angelina biographer Louise Knight, had trouble with men, particularly her subject’s husband. The other, poet Amy Benson Brown, corrected Knight’s male bashing without making a deal out of doing so.

The living accomplished local women included:

  • Martha McDonough — among many other civic leadership feats was cleaning up the Neponset last year.
  • Tonya Grimes — whose volunteerism has long included Civil War reenactor and active member of the Colored Ladies Christian Relief Society.
  • Sharon Grimberg — WGBH executive producer, whose series include the PBS American Experience shows, such as the recent The Abolitionists.

The deceased accomplished were the sisters Grimké. While raised as privileged daughters of a South Carolina planter, replete with slaves everywhere, they turned. They were appalled by slavery and came to Yankeeland, where they devoted themselves to abolition and later to women’s rights, particularly suffrage.

I was pleasantly surprised when I researched our newest neighborhood four years ago to discover the Weld/Grimké history. Hyde Park seems fairly apolitically suburban. The legacy of the first black U.S. soldiers, abolitionists, suffrage fighters and more was a delight. I touched on the Fairmount Hill links several times, including here and here.

exhouse

This will be a more Angelina year than most, both down here and downtown. On Monday, Oct. 7th, a celebration of Angelina’s speech will be at the John Hancock Hall, with a performance of part of her speech, Gloria Steinem reading her 1970 Equal Rights Amendment testimony to the U.S. Senate, and more. The event is in the works and will get publicity.

The spot near where she lived in the house her husband, ardent abolitionist Rev. Theodore Weld, bought for them will get a plaque this spring, Hyde Park Main Streets Executive Director Patrice Gattozzi told me. I hope she does follow up on my offers to work on this.

At the least, she should know that the house is gone. Where they lived at 212 Fairmount Avenue had a facing home, but the entrance was a carriage drive on then Pond (now Highland). We bought the 1876 map that hangs in our living room. A snatch of it here shows the old digs between Fairmount and Warren.

Rightfully the luncheon and particularly speaker Knight spoke of Angelina’s courage, conviction and accomplishment. Particularly, she was likely the first non-monarch female to address a legislative body anywhere. She spoke three times in a few days on abolition to the Massachusetts legislature. This was a time when women were forbidden or actively discouraged from speaking at all in public, and certainly not before “promiscuous audiences” as groups of mixed genders were known. She lacked neither clarity of vision nor courage.

There came the rub for me.

Knight published two works on Jane Addams and just finished a dual bio on the sisters Grimké. However, if the luncheon lecture is any indication, she can’t seem to get over the partnership between Angelina and her husband. As she spoke of Angelina, she repeatedly mentioned a letter or other contact with “her fiance Theodore.” Knight never once mentioned his name or honorific. She never said he was a renowned abolitionist (often referred to by historians of the period as “the lion of abolition”). She never spoke of how the pair complemented each other’s politics and worked together, first fighting slavery, then on to women’s rights. You’d think Rev. Weld was a groupie for this outspoken woman instead of an equal. Knight said that “her fiance” told Angelina not to speak of women’s rights at all.

I sat next to my wife, who also knows the Grimké and Weld story. I said that was a really sexist and dishonest lecture. She was a bit flippant (maybe it was the Earl Grey talking), Oh, it is women’s history month, and the other 11 months are for men.  That doesn’t cut it with me anymore than the YWCA (it is the Young Women’s Christian Association. snicker) excluding boys and men from everything while the YMCA went inclusive, becoming the family organization and having a much greater impact on the nation.

Fortunately the next author and poet was more historically accurate and not male exclusionary. Amy Benson Brown did not say, “Let me correct Ms. Knight,” but she did do that. She called Weld by his full name. She noted the partnership that led to marriage, as well as the then shocking ceremony where Weld refused to claim dominion over her and she did not say she would obey him. He was after all a Unitarian and proto-feminist. He did once before they married ask her to soft-pedal the dual message of women’s rights until the abolition of slavery was settled. He had devoted decades to abolishing slavery, knew how successful she had been in the effort, and did not want her to become ineffective with a double whammy…yet. Later, they became a powerful team fighting for suffrage and leading the first-in-the-nation protest where Hyde Park women (and their men) marched to the town hall to cast ballots that they knew would not be counted, but that had strong symbolism.

They were a team from their engagement through marriage. Better stuff than lies-of-omission history about a brave woman all alone, I say.

I grew up with a divorced mom raising two of us. Neither denigrating women nor bashing males was acceptable. That should be the order of things. I can pose my typical Unitarian and progressive self-examination. Am I clean enough to comment? I think so.

Sarah was somewhat important, particularly as the much decade-plus older sister of Angelina, who led the way in thought. Of the 14 Grimké siblings, 11 of whom survived to adulthood, the pair of sisters had the intellectual clarity and morality to fight slavery, leave their comfortable surroundings, and change a nation. Angelina was the front, the orator, and the one who partnered with a like-minded reformer/radical. What a pair! Yet, let’s not lessen Weld’s tremendous influence and dedication. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was just a man, but pretty clearly his wife’s equal.

 

Warren’s Roxbury Show and Tell

January 6th, 2013

Not exactly an Andrew Jackson moment, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ceremonial ceremony had little pomp, no fluff and lots of celebrity pols. The conceit was that while she had already legally taken the oath, a show version in Boston would reinforce her populist cred. It worked.

The drama on stage was largely unspoken. Senior Senator for the moment John Kerry towered politically as well as physically. The always funny and nearly as candid as Barney Frank Sheriff Andrea Cabral (check her wonderful lacy black fan she kept flapping) started with the virtual certainty that Kerry will become Secretary of State. Kerry himself said that should that happen, Warren will be the Junior Senator for about three legislative days, as opposed to his 26 years behind Ted Kennedy.

What didn’t happen was anyone overtly pitching for either the resulting interim Senate spot or for the permanent spot to be decided in a special election, likely in June. The tension was there though, with so many possibles within a few yards of each other and sometimes in adjacent seats on stage.

Frank already made his lust known on the Morning Joe Show. He said he told Gov. Deval Patrick he would like the appointment. In his usual straight ahead style, he said, “I’m not going to be coy. It’s not something I’ve ever been good at. I’ve told the governor that I would now like frankly to do that because I would like to be a part of that. It’s only a three-month period; I wouldn’t want to do anything more. I don’t want to run again…Coach, put me in!” With all the looming fiscal conflicts and crises to resolve in Congress, Frank figures he decades of expertise there make him the right temp for the job.

While I saw the two huddling to one side of the stage before showtime, no one could hear, there were no bear hugs following, and Patrick has never indicated approval of the plug-in. MA political gossips instead latched onto yesterday morning’s tweet from Patrick’s campaign demigod, Doug Rubin. While Rubin noted later he was typing only for himself, he did tweet, “I respect Cong. Frank and what he has accomplished, but there are better options for MA Senate interim appointment.”

Rubin is always smart and often right. I lean with Frank on this one. The interim Senate seat is a specialized one for the fiscal expertise and negotiating skills it will require. Frank knows the devil out of the money and tax aspects, as well as the reality of Congressional dealings.

Likewise, no one spoke to the special election. At hand were Rep. Ed Markey, who not only announced first, but quickly got oral support from several MA pols. Most significantly was Kerry.

Yet Congressmen Mike Capuano and Steve Lynch are likely to make plays. Also MA Sen. Ben Dowling was there and could well go for the special election. They milled around the stage, shook hands, hugged the women pols, and tried not to look too eager or needy. As an interesting sidelight, when the college president was calling out the officials there, Capuano was the only Congressman who got big cheers and applause. He truly is the working voters’ champion that ex-Sen. Scott Brown pretended to be. That plays well, at least in the Boston area.

Not surprisingly, over at the Herald, in several posts related to the ceremony, the negativity was predictable. The commenters large dislike liberals, disrespect women, and detest progressives. The usual clowns who ride the fantasy pony of Warren gaining some advantage after the fact from her slight Native American heritage, continued to rant about certain debt and death of honesty via her. A few did manage to note that yesterday’s show swearing in was apt for someone they continue to define as a fake Indian. A lefty woman will never, ever suit them.They become pebbles washed up on the banks as the river flows on.

My mini-rant is one of amusement rather than disdain. Warren believes she is a true egalitarian. Certainly her writings and public service indicate that. Yet the upper distant half of the auditorium of perhaps 1000 seats was for us plebes. Thus, the shots that follow are from over 100 feet away and not all that clear.

Lower seats were for pols not important enough to be on stage, yet more important an ordinary voters. There were press rows, chosen campaign workers and such. No guards kept hoi polloi away, but there was a decided caste system in play. Again, her heart and head are aware, but this was no Andrew Jackson, let-the-rabble-in moment.

No one seemed to notice or mind. In fact, at the following reception in the student cafeteria, hundreds dutifully lined up in airline-ticket-style rows to get pix taken with her, her husband and Justice Kagan. People wanted to be part of their populist Senator’s day.

browniepledge The cute quotient came via the Cohasset Girl Scout, including the short end. They led the pledge of allegiance. Towering pols behind them, Steve Murphy and Andrea Cabral had to nudge the girls off stage as they became stunned by the clapping, cheering audience.
MA Treasurer/Receiver General and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, The latter, publicly at least, gave his Senatorial ambitions a rest for the afternoon. grossmanmarkety
bumpcoakley MA Auditor Suzanne Bump and AG Martha Coakley also got spots on stage and were very busy before showtime. Neither allegedly wants to pending open Senate seat.
On the other hand, whatever Bump had to say to Boston City Council President Steve Murphy kept his constantly amused. murphybump
cabralfan My nominee for best accessory of the day was Sheriff Andrea Cabral’s lacy black fan. She gave it a real workout.
Gov. Patrick stifled himself. Warren praised him and his wife for their support and advice. He said nothing to us about the coming interim or replacement Senate spots. devalmic
kerrymic Kerry managed to speak of his near certain move to Secretary of State in theoretical terms. He did seem elated at the idea though.
Warren as always had the crowd with her populist messages, such as everyone paying fair taxes and government cuts starting, not with Social Security, but with big agriculture and big oil.

She concluded by saying she hoped to be able to live to up Ted Kennedy’s legacy. “As I take this oath of office, I make this sacred promise to each and everyone of you that’s here today witnessing, I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as your Senator, I am grateful for your hard work and support, I am deeply touched by the faith and trust you have put in me, and I pledge today that I will  never, never stop fighting for you.”

warrengesture

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once.

 

Pols With Blinders

July 13th, 2012

Candidate Deval Patrick suddenly made blogging significant in Massachusetts six years ago. Sure, he treated us new-media sorts like press/broadcast, but it was two way. He estimated smartly and rightly that what came to be called netroots could swing elections as surely as any ethnic group. It worked for him.

Two years later, it worked for his good buddy, a certain Barack Obama. Each guy ended up with adoring, earned support from bloggers and other new media types. Of course, we grubby bloggers were not alone in our support. Yet, the rising internet-related folk, largely teens and 20 somethings did make the difference in Obama’s victory. While other candidates seemed to snort at Patrick and Obama courting the young and the idealists, hey, it worked for them.

Gone.

At yesterday’s annual Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s ascendancy-to-office street party, I mourned the demise of visionary pols, replaced by academicians and biz sorts. Simultaneously, my Left Ahead co-host Ryan Adams has likewise drawn attention to the dwindling number of political bloggers, particularly locally. This whimpering little trend dovetails precisely with politicians’ indifference. Finally and obviously, following the Citizens United rape of the campaign system, candidates understandably look to bucks, bucks and bucks, and away from the direct and online interpersonal reactions that determined the results in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

I have a double fret for the 2012 election. First, I fear that the young voters are not sufficiently engaged to vote and to get others to do so. Second and more pervasively, I fear that voters weary of woes, recession, and fears of the future would vote the fantasy, that is, they’d go for a Reagan or Bush the Lesser jive about guns-and- butter or roe insanely trick-down economics. Regardless of decades of continual winger failures in economics and public policy, the siren call of the myth lives in the simple minded.

On the positive side for us lefty sorts, the Republican Party in general and Mitt Romney in particular are doing their worst to alienate voter groups. Any woman, African American, Latino or poor person would be an absolute fool to vote for Romney. Yet even with the evidence, we know that 40% or more will vote the fantasy way.

With November only a season away, I wonder about the strategies of the big shots, like Presidential and Senatorial candidates. They aren’t going for the netroots. In fact, all the candidates are viewing blogs, podcast shows and such as tertiary or lower addenda to their campaigns. They aren’t seeking out the influential and/or smart bloggers and other analysts.

Does this mean that the four years of bloggy influence has come and gone? Alternately, does this mean that the current crop of would-be office holders are not savvy enough?

To Ryan’s musing, there are fewer local blogs. Many of my old chums no longer publish the electrons.

As one illustration, I had an amusing set of interactions with US Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren and her handler yesterday on Chesterfield Street at Menino’s party. I wore my HICKS FOR ELIZABETH button. Warren saw it and said twice she love it, adding once again how great my yellow glasses frames are. In contrast, her handler did her best in the scrum to keep me away from the candidate.

Warren and I both worked the crowds from different angles. I chatted up political chums, such as Menino, MA Treasurer Steve Grossman and City Councilor Felix Arroyo, and other podcast guests. Relentlessly on her own, Warren worked the hamburger and ice-cream scoffing folk of voting age all around the booths.

As our loops intersected a few times, at one point, I handed Warren my HICKS button.

I tend to think of her as relatively straightforward and courageous. Yet, under the admonition of her handler, she got gutless. I asked the handler whether Warren still intended to go on a BlueMassGroup show; she said yes. I said that Left Ahead was still waiting for another visit, to which she said it wouldn’t happen. That kind of gun-shy behavior is nto suited to the valorous.

In fact, when I handed Warren my button, she said again that she loved it, but suggested I give it to her later and looked at the glowering eyes of her handler.

We can put it down to pragmatism or cowardice for the button and the Left Ahead re-visit. We must put down the cluelessness about new media to a simple lack of vision. The current candidates somehow missed Patrick and Obama’s lessons, relying instead on the dull and improbable ads and even newspapers.

I guess we can’t expect every election cycle to be filled with insight and wisdom.

More IT-Gone-Wacky Tales from FAST LANE

March 8th, 2012

Apparently there’s no pleasing me. A couple of years ago, I noted the incompetence of IT for the transponder program here in MA. Not only could they not suck money in real time or close to it to keep the $20 deposit flush for long trips, but if you called in to support, you have to give up your password over the phone to talk with a rep.

That’s right, your only security for an account that had access to your bank or credit card funds had to be spoken in the most insecure possible way, just to ask a question of support. Some support.

Well, that was true again and still last month. We replaced a vehicle and the stick ‘um stripes for the Velcro retainer did not hold on the new windshield. It seems they are designed this way and the FAQ on the MA DOT site says call in to get new strips.

Of course, I couldn’t even ask for that or explain at all why I was calling without spitting out my “secure” password. Not only that, but there is a separate PIN the agency assigns transponder users that you have to reveal. To see that, you need to log in with your account number and password, highlight the field at top and read that to the rep. Only then can you say you need to 2-inch strips to hold the box in place.

Honest to Ada Lovelace, computers were never designed to remove all mental processing capability from humans. We do that to ourselves and each other.

After eight minutes to inane bureaucracy, my silly rep was satisfied I was the person I represented myself to be and that I deserved the two strips. They arrived about four days later in a #10 envelope. Control freak I am, I thought and told the woman in support that this function should be automated and a menu choice from your account. Of course, that would be less for support to support.

Today’s episode was getting my monthly email of the FAST LANE statement. That includes a link to the DOT site. It has brought up the log-in screen and retrieved my account number and password from a cookie. Good enough.

Not today though. Instead, I got a screen worthy of the Bastard Operator from Hell. Not only could I not do as I had for years, but the stored data was gone. I had to track down my seven-digit account number (which serves as user name), and then bow to the new FAST LANE password schema.

So the old four-character (a.k.a. mnemonic) PW was not good enough. There was no advising about the level. I had to do what the screen said or forever be locked out of my account info. Instead, it meant contriving a new PW that was eight or more characters, and included “at least one of each”:

  • Upper-case letters
  • Lower-case letters
  • Numbers
  • Special characters (the punctuation and symbols on the keyboard)

Something you can remember? Forget it!

A tricky non-word or meaningful-to-you number with a funky symbol somewhere? Forget it!

The new PW had to meet five BOFH rules. So there.

Plus, there’s a note at the bottom of the PW hazing screen that you still need to have access to the DOT-assigned PIN as well to get any help from alleged support.

These IT satraps do have real power in their tiny provinces, power they abuse. The only question is are they ignorant of how much trouble they’ll cause in aggregate by their bureaucratic inconvenience or are they being malicious, as in “Let’s make ‘em dance.”?

MA Election-Day Tricks

February 16th, 2012

Getting my warden training for working the polls in Boston for the March 6th primary, I’m glad the turnout will likely we wee. I normally hope and advocate for lots of voters, even though it’s more work for elections folk. This time though, oddments are going to force explanations to voters and poll workers alike.

Worst, consider that voters have a single shot at requesting a ballot. A majority are unenrolled. In these party-based primaries, that means each one will have to choose a single ballot from, this time, Democrat, Republican or Green-Rainbow. What could be so simple, eh?

There shall be gnashing of teeth and mutterings of offense. Consider:

  • Unenrolled voters typically proclaim they are independent. Not only is there no such designation in MA, but not belonging to any party does not give them the right to a single ballot of all the candidates of all parties on it. Year after year, primary after primary, people don’t understand that and get pretty belligerent.
  • Everybody gets one ballot for just one of the parties. If you are registered in one of the three this time, you must take the ballot for that party. Yesterday was the last day to change party affiliation or switch to unenrolled. No one in elections, at the poll or City Hall or the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office, can let you change on election day. Live it or live with it
  • At the check-in table, poll workers use the voter list book, which has the party affiliation. They will mark in the book for each unenrolled voter which ballot was requested.
  • We have to mark this choice in red ink. Once you choose, that’s that. Even seconds later, you can’t get a different party ballot. Live it or live with it.
  • Choosing a party ballot for a primary does not, does not, does not change your party registration if you are unenrolled. Downtown at Elections, worker bees go through the check-in/check-out books and record party votes for data gathering. Unenrolled voters don’t have to do anything to retain their status for future elections of any type. Only if they want to register with a party do they fill in a new voter registration form to do this. We will explain this hundreds of times on March 6th and each future primary election. Older voters remember many years ago when you would have to re-register as unenrolled after a primary.
  • Yes, the letter for the Green-Rainbow party is J. Sure, D is Democrat and R Republican, but G had already been reserved for the Green Party USA, and remains so even when they are not on the ballot. J was the next free acceptable letter.

Another oddment that voters don’t know yet is that the September primary election will almost certainly not be on the logical second Tuesday. Because Labor Day is the previous week and many travel before or even during that time, the second Tuesday is the normal one. However, this year, it would be 9/11, a date fraught with history and emotion.

We heard yesterday that Secretary William Galvin thinks voting on that anniversary would be inappropriate. Our trainer disagrees. He believes the patriotism roused on that day would inspire better turnout. He, however, was resigned.

We Don’t Have the Same: Cycling Edition

October 31st, 2011

bikepieces“It’s not fair!” (Add foot stomping.)

Just the latest sensible, cycling-related bill to go to the MA legislature is certain to piss the puerile in the public and body. It highlights the fundamental and extremely strong hostility that delays any transportation laws related to two wheels.

This one is a simple amplification of existing law. Rep. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont) proposes codifying crosswalk regulations to make it plain that mowing down a cyclist in one should carry the same penalties as failing to yield to a pedestrian in one. That would be H408, An Act providing for the safety of bicyclists traveling on bicycle paths.

As has happened to me numerous times, far too many motorists see a cyclist on a bike path heading to a crosswalk that continues the path and lose it. They drive at the cyclist, blow their horns, fail to stop back of the crosswalk or stop in it to prepare for their turn (another moving violation), and curse at the cyclist screaming they and their car/SUV/truck have right of way. They don’t, they shouldn’t, they need to be aware of it, and the law should make it plain that threatening a cyclist with maiming or death like that comes with a $200 fine, a moving violation, and an insurance surcharge.

The bill is presently in Joint Committee on the Judiciary hands. It may never come out and may require repeated introduction. Having been through the hearing process, testifying on a bike-related bill, I’ve seen and heard expressions of that underlying issue.

Too many motorists, including those in the General Court jealously guard what they think are inalienable rights to road fairness…as they define it. Unless they also bike, they are almost certain to go all childish if they think anyone, particularly pedestrians or cyclists is getting some privilege denied to them.

That attitude reminds me of my lads when they were in nursery school. Early on, a key academic and social lesson is fairness. The little kids get so excited when they can recognize and exclaim when, “We have the same!”

Unfortunately, MassBike put all its marbles in the bag marked Same Roads. Same Rules. On the face of it, equating cyclists and drivers should greatly benefit bikers.

The central idea is that cyclists obey lights, signs and regulations, and that drivers treat bicycles as the law defines them, other vehicles on the road. Of course, in practice far too many drivers want and demand the first but not the second.

To see the ensuing hate fest and understand the raw emotion that leads so many drivers to buzz, scream at or otherwise threaten cyclists, visit any online site that has a cycling-related article or post. The vitriol and absurd generalization goes far beyond irrationality and into mania. Despite buckets of statistics proving otherwise, a shocking number of drivers hold that cyclists (and their weaker demon siblings pedestrians) are the causes of injury, collisions and deaths on our roads. It is, they hold, the 25-pound, non-motorized bike that is the danger, not the ton and one half metal shell.

Real differences

I’ll have to do a few more posts on this, particularly pointing out flaws in the same-roads/rules shtick. There are many times and conditions calling for different rules. In fact, the future needs to incorporate different laws and rules in many cases, as bike-oriented countries and cities in Asia and Europe do. They are not as unobservant as we seem to be.

For a teaser, most non-cycling drivers don’t notice or think that bicycles fall over at a stop unless the cyclist puts a foot down or does some skillful tracks moves. Yet, bikes have very little inertia to overcome as they leave a stop. Cyclists can’t safely ride on shoulders or even narrow bike lanes when those are full of sand or gravel or glass shards.

Each of those factors has implications that literal minded, it’s-unfair drivers may find troubling, things that don’t fit in we-have-the-same molds. A bike leaving a stop for example, can freak out drivers. They should be able to move in coordination with a cyclist on the right, but often veer either way and seem to panic. We need instead to head to either having a bike box at the front of the intersection behind the stop sign or to let cyclists leave ahead of the drivers, maybe on a red after stopping. That lets the driver overtake the cyclist and feel in control — safe for everybody.

Likewise, for the shoulder/path rubble. Drivers are often angry if cyclists are in “their” road. When cyclists cannot ride to the right of the main travel lane safely, they may and should take as much of a travel lane as they need. A duty of drivers is to watch the road ahead for unsafe conditions. It doesn’t take a lot of sense and smarts to see the glass or sand to the right of the fog line.

There are many situations and physical differences that put the lie to the same-road/rules platitudes. Unfortunately, that program gets invoked whenever a sensible bill or enforcement call arises.

Facts are, for safety of everyone, we have to make it plain where there are differences. Many nations have done this, but we are still in the beginning of it. Short- and mid-term the burden will fall to a few savvy, safety-minded legislators and to the various cyclists and their groups. We can’t count on drivers to become observant suddenly, but we can inform them repeatedly of the physical realities and distinctions.

“We have the same!,” works when you’re four. As you age, you need to know more and be more discerning.

What a Drying Shame

June 13th, 2011

todry

In this era of home-owners associations and other not-in-your-own-backyard types, it has come to this. A MA legislator sponsored a bill to ensure people can dry their laundry on clotheslines.

Third-term Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) filed S01014. That would let common areas in condos have their own rules, but forbid cities and towns from banning, clotheslines and racks and or other solar clothes-drying device on private property.

For us boomers and older, the responses are 1) of course, and 2) wow, it has come to this?  Moreover, when we are all allegedly savvy to energy waste, using sun and wind instead of gas and electricity to try laundry is obvious…to most.

While privileged types like the Herald’s Michele McPhee write, “And we don’t want to look at them,” to me, clotheslines are about as organic and honest as you get. Growing up with them, I only had one problem and in my teens. My grandmother dried trousers of all types, including my blue jeans, on frames, one per leg. That put a firm crease front and back. Oh no!

I’d wash and dry my own. She never understood that, but unlike her daughter, my mother, she also ironed all underpants and even permanent press sheets. Mable was a laundry factory herself.

Another childhood clothesline memory involved a neighbor older than my grandmother. When I was 8, we moved to Danville, Virginia, next to Mrs. Kidd, whose property abutted that of the YWCA. There, hanging clothes scandalized her, and she complained to little effect to the Y.

Even though the side porches of the Y were visible only to Mrs. Kidd and not from the street, she told us all how dreadful and shameful it was that the young women would “display their unmentionables for everyone to see.”

The Widow Kidd was not concerned with property values or class issues. She simply found underwear visible in public, even without a body, lewd.

Put me in Downing’s camp. Forbidding visible clotheslines seems like requiring people to hide their grocery shopping and banning eating at backyard or deck tables. People cook and eat. People dress in and wash…and dry…their clothes.

There can be a soothing beauty in billowing clothes on a line. Plus, a sun dried towel feels ever so much better.

Cross-post: This seems both political and personal. I’ll put in also on Marry in Massachusetts.

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Don’t Call Us, Juror

March 31st, 2011

grandj

Serve. Don’t serve. Serve. Don’t Serve.

Until yesterday, I didn’t know there was a tap to turn on and off jury service in this fabled commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In terms of being jerked around by a bureaucracy, my recent experience is likely not in the top 10,000 instances. Yet knowing there is a preprinted postal card anticipating goofing on jurors is disquieting.

I was summoned for grand juror service then abruptly unsummoned or desummoned or whatever. The summons arrived in late January and the forget-it card this week.

It’s kind of a big deal, at least in time commitment. It is for three months, not three days. Grand jurors sit in a box with 22 other citizens and have to call each day for 90 days to see whether they have service the next day.

I’m not at all sure the gossip compensation is adequate. You can’t talk about cases with anyone or even be around anyone who mentions them until things are totally resolved. Even then, you can’t discuss the details or deliberations without explicit personal permission from the judge. Harrumph.

Anyway, I’m not much for whining, but this gives me a reason. I didn’t fall in the list of exemptions. I am not old enough (70) or young enough (17). I’m not sick or disabled. I can speak English. I live in the country and won’t be away for a  year or more. I am a U.S. citizen. I don’t have a recent felony conviction. I’m not the primary care giver for anyone. They even waited a couple of weeks after the three-year period from my last jury service.

So, I steeled myself and OK’ed the gig. Then I did the details. It’s nothing like preparing to die, but there are those tedious tasks. I rescheduled a doctor’s appointment. I coordinated with other Left Ahead podcasters to cover for me and to begin moving the Tuesday 2:30 PM shows to different times (no small thing with guests and co-hosts). I did not apply for two possible contract writing positions which would start right before or right after the beginning of service. There was more; being an adult and parent is plugged in here and there and oh, over here too.

Then Monday, the form card from the Office of the Jury Commissioner read:

NOTICE OF CANCELLATION OF JUROR SERVICE

Since you were summoned, the needs of the court have changed and YOU ARE NOW NO LONGER REQUIRED TO APPEAR FOR JUROR SERVICE AS SCHEDULED. OUR SERVICE UNDER THIS SUMMONS HAS BEEN CANCELED.

This does not disqualify you from juror service for the next three years. If you are randomly selected again in future years, you must serve. Jurors who report to a courthouse as directed, ready willing and able to serve, are statutorily disqualified from further juror service in the Commonwealth for three years. This disqualification does not apply to you because you were not requried to appear for juror service.

Thank you for our understanding and willingness to participate. We hope your inconvenience was minimal.

In the greater drama of governmental incompetence and poor planning, this doesn’t really register. (I did, however, want to edit the card, including inserting the missing ready, willing comma.)

The randomly selected phrase also struck me. Every three years without fail I get a summons. I’m on a list and there’s nothing random about the timing.

From my previous experiences, I surmise that whatever big case was on tap for my grand-jury-that-wasn’t got a plea deal. Many of my regularly jury summons dribble off that way, with us attending, being seated, waiting in a room, and hearing that the judge worked magic on the defense attorney to extract a bargain.

In this case, I suppose they should have cut the deal long before a week prior to the jury seating. Brinkmanship must be mandatory in the judicial game.

I was dreading and looking forward to service. The gross and detailed inconvenience of it all is absurd. On the other hand, seeing the actual workings of the secret process of deciding whether the prosecutor has the goods to justify a trial is intriguing.

I may never know and that’s OK by me.

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Sledding toward Boston

February 26th, 2011

Yesterday was our first overtly dangerous trip on NY’s Taconic Parkway. From my teens, I have tooled up and down between NJ or NYC and more recently from Boston to and from New England and Canada. It’s always slower than an Interstate, rife with rolling hills, low traffic, scenic and free. Friday though, it was a setting worthy of a 50′s movie, wherein the hero and heroine confront nature and out-of-control situations.

Thursday, we were on 90 West from Boston and up to Amherst, then back to 90 and down 50 miles on the Taconic. Headed to Poke (Poughkeepsie), we passed the real points of interest on the Western pike — the Ty-D-Bowl blue ice formations on the road cuts, colored by minerals in the rock. Then just over into NY, we turned South on the Taconic.

As though they were declaring truth in advertising, several deer families were by the watch-for-deer signs, only 10 or 20 feet off the road. The occasional still-golden willows were undulating delights. Locals have direct access to the road, giving us amusement at some of the green signs — BULLS HEAD ROAD, NINE PARTNERS ROAD, NEXT ROAD, and RIGOR ROAD. The parkway’s visual surprises more than paid us back for dropping into the 50MPH world.

Overnight though, the rain came quick and stayed hard. It shifted into sleet, teasing us with a half hour of snow, but returning to freezing rain. The tour guide at the CIA repeated, “Watch your step!,” “Hold the rail!,” and “It’s slippery here.” By the time we headed back on 44 from Poke toward the Taconic, we were in driver-training horror.

We saw a heavy panel truck that had simply skidded off 44 into two feet of roadside snow and ice head first. A trooper was headed — slowly, cautiously, with lights — to the rescue as we passed.

I drove down, the longer day given the side trip, but dry and safe. My wife insisted on sharing the duties and taking the wheel back. Haar.

The Taconic was slippery at best. We saw a Suburu that waddled all over a lane, while going maybe 15MPH. We passed several guard rails with obvious impacts in the packed snow. Clearly at each indent, a driver had lost control but was able to back out and proceed.

The parkway was iced over with that sleet and 30 seemed the maximum safe speed.

Then coming down those formerly pleasant rolling hills, our van seemed to hydroplane on the ice. She shifted into a numbered gear on the automatic and slowed.

Not everyone was so cautious and at several points we saw the effects. At one, a Suburu SUV had taken off nearly half a Toyota’s rear bumper. The car had its hazards on and took the right lane, immobilized with hanging parts, while the SUV had pulled off ahead. At another point, three cars had collided. It seemed no one was injured, but the local firefighters used flares and were stopping cars to insist they drive at 5MPH maximum. The three cars with their drivers and passengers were all stuck, two embedded into guard-rails on the left and one off its wheel on top of a snow/ice mount on the right shoulder.

Occasionally, some fool would tool by at 60MPH, sliding past the rest of us. We could see their vehicles wobbling and fishtailing. We did not see them in piles farther ahead, so they either managed the trip or disappeared off the road entirely.

At the top of the Taconic is Route 90, which becomes the Mass Pike a short distance East. It was plowed and fairly passable, except for occasional patches of 100 yards or so. In MA, the sleet became rain, which in contrast to the previous 90 minutes seemed very safe indeed, messy and requiring wipers and regular washer squirts, but 65MPH worked.

We didn’t see any deer on the way back. They surely had more sense than the drivers and waited out the storm.