Category Archives: people

Christmas Festival of Lights

As a city dweller, I really haven’t been seeing much in the way of Christmas lights over the last few years. Tonight, on a bus through the suburbs, I was really surprised by the complexity of many of the displays decorating what I think are moderate-cost homes. When a good percentage of houses have lights on a particular street, the scene really looks festive, but I mean more in a “fiesta!” kind of way rather than a “holiday spirit” kind of way. It really looks like people should be dancing in the street and perhaps throwing beads.

Why I Love Massachusetts

Massachusetts issues a certificate to attorneys when they are admitted to the Massachusetts bar. It’s something like a diploma, and thus contains antiquated language. My college diploma (from California) has some old language such as, “rights thereto pertaining,” but that’s nothing compared to my law school diploma which is entirely in Latin. The translation is ridiculously over the top. They retro-translated modern words (“Boston” becomes “Bostoniensis”) the way a high school Spanish tries to change one’s name to its Spanish equivalent. (I went to Spain, and my name didn’t miraculously change to “Andres”.)
I haven�t yet seen the Massachusetts bar certificate, but I do know from the bar letter that Massachusetts attorneys have a choice as to whether they want the phrase �in the year of our Lord� to appear on the certificate. I think it�s great that people have this choice here, and I wonder whether a red state like Texas offers this option.

Election Maps Should be the Shape of Ohio and Florida

Earlier today I wrote that the people who chose not to vote this year could easily have swayed the election (as is always the case). I used popular vote numbers because they’re easier to find, and I think the point could still be made by looking at them even though we all know that the election was really decided by a couple states: Florida and Ohio.
I watched the television election coverage for hours on Tuesday night, flipping between the major networks while trying to avoid commercials and pointless banter about states that were clearly pre-decided. In general, I was disappointed with the coverage. The reporters were all informed enough to know that the election would be decided by the swing states, yet they focused on total electoral votes as they came in.
An election is not a sporting event. Dan Rather was talking about Bush’s momentum and how it would be hard for Kerry to catch up – but at that point the only swing state to report was Pennsylvania – and Penn went to Kerry. There’s no such thing as momentum if you’re just counting votes.
The close states are necessarily the last to be called, and I think the news networks did a bad job by focusing on the obvious rather than the decisive. A map of the precincts of Ohio and Florida would have showed the viewers the much more about the state of the race than a map of the whole country and a giant bar graph of electoral-votes-so-far.

Non-Voters Could Have Decided All

George W. Bush will be the president for another four years. I’m disappointed by this, but I’m not going to be making any arguments here on the subject. It’s not worth the time. The voters have spoken.
The people of the United States have not spoken, but it’s too late. I’m amazed at the level of apathy in this country. I know that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to vote, but I’m surprised that the media focuses their turnout analysis on the turnout relative to other elections rather than the turnout relative to the set possible maximums (0% to 100% of those eligible to vote). Most of the news networks will show you a pie chart like this:
Election 2004 Voter Graph
I think a complete pie would include all eligible voters:
Election 2004 Eligible Voter Graph
Viewed this way, it’s easy to see that the people have not, in fact, spoken. The non-voters could have changed all the results.
Sources: I got the voter numbers from CNN, which are not yet complete but close enough to make my point. I got the eligible voter figure (186 Million) from this 2003 article on FindLaw. I had a hard time finding that number included in any election coverage.

When Local is National

John Kerry voted this morning at the State House on Beacon Hill. I didn’t have such luxurious voting accommodations this morning at the LBJ apartment complex in Cambridge, but it was adequate. I love the local aspect of all of this – the fact that history can be changed by a residential apartment complex. I wanted to post a picture of the line but I accidentally deleted it.

Dead Letter Office Collects Mis-addressed Bush Emails

What we need now is a good email scandal to complement the Ashlee Simpson lip-sync bust. Misdirected emails are more common than lip-sync busts because the elements are easier to satisfy: (1) an incriminating or embarrassing email, (2) accidentally sent to exactly the person or group of people that the sender would most want to avoid showing the message. The Dead Letter Office at (anti-Bush site) receives several of these each day. Another .com .org fiasco.

Red Sox Region

It’s Red Sox nation here in the, um, city known as Boston – in the region known as New England. The local news tonight is invoking death star imagery in their report from New York. “Some fans have gone behind enemy lines to the evil empire tonight – watching the game in New York.” I suppose it is the Empire State, but evil is going a little far.
I’m not a baseball fan, but as a Boston resident (okay Cambridge) I’m well aware of the fact that the Red Sox haven’t won a world series since 1918. Many folks attribute this to the curse of The Bambino. There’s a sign on Storrow Drive that is supposed to say “Reverse Curve” but that someone has modified to read “Reverse the Curse”. Last year they put up a new sign, but it didn’t take long for someone to make the change. The modified version of the sign nicely draws one’s attention away from an otherwise confusing question: what the hell is a reverse curve?
In effort to reverse the curse, there is a project underway to find and restore an upright piano at the bottom of a pond. Tonight’s local news mentioned another effort to reverse the curse by demolishing the house of Babe Ruth’s ex-wife. In actuality, they’re demolishing the house to build condos, but Red Sox fans are happy.

Debate Resources on the Internets

The New York Times website has a video stream of last night’s debate. This was quite helpful in ensuring that politics don’t conflict with valuable Friday night drinking time. Just think of how far our society has progressed thanks to the internets. The internets have helped bring an important part of the democratic process to those with busy schedules.
There’s already plenty of commentary on the presidential debates elsewhere, so I won’t waste any more of your time on the subject. I am glad, though, that President Bush recognizes the existence of the internets and the rumors thereon.

Phishing for Identity

phishingI’m amazed at just how low internet con men have sunk. This morning’s phishing email informs me that, because identity theft is such a problem, Citibank needs to confirm my account details. They’re actually integrating the public’s awareness of identity theft into the scam!
These email scams are called “phishing” because of their similarity to the process of catching fish (luring the victim in with bait that looks like the real thing). It’s spelled phishing because the scam artists do this while listening to the jamming rock sounds of Phish. At some point along the line, someone decided it would be cool to call the outcome of these scams “identity theft”. This term really doesn’t make any sense. I would have called the crime “credit card theft” or “theft of financial details” or even “theft”. In any case, I’ve never met anyone that had had his identity stolen.
Regardless of terminology, I can see why phishing is such a problem. It’s like dressing up like a cop, asking to enter someone’s apartment, and then stealing the valuables. The only defense is to be extremely cautious about giving out financial details.

From New York to West Virginia

I spent the last couple days on a vacation to New York City and rural Virginia / West Virginia. These are two of the most strikingly dissimilar places in the US. In Manhattan, I spent the evening drinking beer amidst hipster celebrities on the lower east side. In Virginia, I took a rafting trip down the Shenandoah and into the Potomac at Harpers Ferry, I went to the swap meet, and I went to Wal-Mart.
In New York, there are Banana Republic ads that say “Vote Bush Out”. In West Virginia, there are confederate flag stalls on the side of the road, and there was a man wearing a “Kerry lied… and good men died” shirt.
There’s something amazing about witnessing all this in just two days, without getting on a plane. Thanks to Mike, Rebecca, Jason, and Megan for the hospitality.