Archive for September, 2006

22
Sep
06

Protected: MBA Students Celebrate Their Lead in Cheating Among Graduate Students

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22
Sep
06

Protected: Wah….

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22
Sep
06

Dr. Torez

Ok, clearly I’m the only Grey’s fan acknowledging George’s luvah, Dr. Torez.  (Kali??? I missed tonight’s debut, but called my stepmom at 8:15 to ensure she could tape it for me.)  4 of my top 20 search strings for this blog have “dr. torez” in them. Does no one else find this big girl loving the little dude endearing? Story of my life until I went out with 6 ft 2? 3? Keith and realized there was no going back to the 5’8’s of the world.  Go Dr. Torez!  Overpower George with your love and devotion!

21
Sep
06

Protected: Almost Glamorous

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21
Sep
06

Showdown

Never a dull moment up here in MA! (Actually, I know many people who might describe Boston and the state as exactly that.  Screw them, g-d d*mn Yankees fans.)   

In contrast to yesterday’s Globe’s analysis of the gubernatorial candidates’s differences, the M.A.S. noted, as NPR endlessly replayed Deval Patrick’s and Kerry Healey’s primary victory speeches last night, “ew, they both sound like weenies.” And while I couldn’t agree more with the M.A.S.’s impression, I’m pretty excited to watch this white woman and black man duke it out for the job.  Not least because either victor satisfies the equity concerns I noted here on tuesday.  More importantly, this state, despite its liberal bent, has never elected a black man or woman for governor.  In fact, Patrick would be only the second black governor in the country, ever, if he were to win.

Embarrassingly, his candidacy resurrected media coverage of our legacy as a racially intolerant place, as print outlets enthusiastically picked up the A.P.’s story on racially violent busing and desegregation 30 years ago.  From attacking black students to voting for a black governor.  Sigh.  Do we get any bonus points for legalizing gay marriage in the interim? 

Perhaps gossipmongers will be distracted from our shameful past if they turn to the state senate race in our 2nd district.  Dianne Wilkerson, a 7-term state senator and African-American woman (and, may I add, our only black senator), has a legacy of success on Beacon Hill, yet a questionable ethical reputation and an accompanying history of fines and reprimands.  She’s nothing if not sloppy in managing her personal and professional affairs, it seems, including failing to get enough names on her petition to get her back on the primary ballot this fall.  D’oh!  So the 2nd district (a really interesting mix of neighborhoods, demographically: <(Part of Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Chinatown, South End, Fenway, Mission Hill, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, part of Dorchester, and part of Mattapan) opened up with FOUR write-in candidates this fall (they call this a sticker campaign – the candidates mail you stickers that you attach to the ballot – who knew!).  And now Wilkerson is locked in a recount against Sonia Chang-Diaz, her primary competitor for the Democratic ticket that she now leads by only 141 votes.  Chang-Diaz’s mother is white, her father is Costa Rican with Chinese ancestry, and he was also the first Latin American astronaut in the U.S. (according to her bio).  The other candidates against these two progressive women were a dude from JP and another Diaz, this one the daughter of Trinidadian immigrants.

So here we go, Teddy K. sitting comfortably at the top of the state’s political food chain, and all this demographic churn taking place around him.  It’s totally thrilling, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Tuesday’s primary had the highest voter turnout in 16 years.  This link talks about the demographic change underway in this minority-majority city, and shows how previously “written-off” areas like Dorchester and Roxbury had significantly higher turnout than the old powerhouse centers of South Boston and West Roxbury.  (I’ll skip past the fact that my ‘hood, Allston-Brighton, bounded as it is by BU and BC, and swarming with co-eds as a result, had the lowest turnout.  Sounds like they could use a little Deis political activism around here.)  Our City Council make-up epitomizes this change beautifully – a couple of the old-school dudes still riding along – black and white, representing Southie/W. Roxbury v. Dorchester/Mattapan, now sitting beside our first Jewish councillor in 55 years, Mike Ross; our first Asian City Councillor, Korean-American Sam Yoon; and our first Latino Councillor, Felix Arroyo.  In the next round of elections, we need to increase the number of women beyond ONE.

For all the sh*t he gets for being so happily local and unintelligible, Menino in his generally uncontested four terms has been a strong neighborhood mayor, doing a much better job at equalizing recognition and service delivery to the 16 neighborhoods of the city.  Nonetheless, and perhaps in some ways aided by our emphasis on neighborhoods, our city remains woefully racially segregated.  For those of us who criss-cross these geographic boundaries regularly, we see vibrant community life beyond the shrinking but still dominant Irish neighborhoods.  Indeed, between 1990 and 2000, residents of West Indian descent knocked those of English descent out of the #3 slot in the census category on ancestries in Boston.  And West Indians and Sub-Saharan Africans were the only two groups in the top 10 that grew over the last 10 years.  (The Irish population shrank by 27%, though it remains the largest population at almost 100,000 of the ~650k residents in the city.)

The next seven weeks should prove endlessly entertaining and instructive for those of us who consider politics one of our favorite spectator sports.  My friend La Tonya and I yesterday talked about when our white neighbors or relatives (mine, not hers) want to know why we’d even go to these ‘hoods, only 2 miles but a cultural world away still in this relatively parochial city.  For me, having your roots inextricably intertwined in your studies of urban communities goes a long way towards opening your mind; having your mother spend most of her life working in urban, public hospitals, and parade a rich mix of friends and experiences through your life helps too.  If you’ve ever had your mom pierce your ears at 6 with the tools she had as a pediatric nurse in Newark, or take you to see the AIDS quilt in the 6th grade, you too might have a world view that extended beyond your surburban front porch. 

And 25 years later, I feel naked without earrings on.

19
Sep
06

Conflict

It’s primary day.  Vote Aqui!  I remember the signs from NYC, when I used to vote at the Wagner school on East 76th Street.  I hung one of those signs in my kitchen for years, next to my world map showing proportions of women in government around the globe.  Go Scandinavia!

Now I sit here in my kitchen, conflicted over what I expect is my next move at the Alexander Hamilton school on Strathmore Road.  I will not be voting for Deval Patrick, the Black Bootstraps Progressive, but for Chris Gabrieli, the Venture Capitalist with detailed plans and 5 kids (do people have such big families anymore, other than the Orthodox Jews scattered throughout my ‘hood?).  I admit it, though woefully, I am enticed by Gabrieli’s thought-through plans and his cheezy use of the word “Results.”  (Although I am anti-gaming in all its forms; thanks mom!)  There is no doubt fond memories of Mayor Bloomberg color my orientation towards the business man-turned-politician. 

Not that Deval doesn’t have plenty o’private sector experience.  At this point, most candidates have done their time, in order to make their millions, which is a baseline for being able to run for any position, it seems.  (Wesley: what are our fundraising strategies???)  And in theory, Deval says all the right things, hits on all the right issues.  But he’s so…vague….how will these ideas work?  How will we pay for them?  Who will benefit beyond the nebulous interest groups (e.g., the disabled) he mentions?  While I might want to spar with Gabrieli over gaming or reducing taxes, it’s clear he’s been making plans, and I am certainly charmed by his emphasis on turning declining cities (“Forgotten,” we called them in a department speaker series my first year) into regional hubs, urban anchors.  It’s nice to see someone thinking about Springfield, Lawrence, New Bedford, etc. 

Deval tells the right story – from inner-city poverty to corporate executive, given a scholarship to boarding school that set him on this course.  Settling in his adopted state and moving his entire family here.  The first to go to college, etc.  It’s the story I’ll probably tell when the time comes.  But…based on how I’ve heard him speak so far, he’s also my worst nightmare of what I might become – whiny, defensive, the smart kid you want to rough up at recess because he’s prone to being smug in the classroom and quick to squeal on the rule breakers.  This is perhaps grossly unfair – I’ve heard coverage of the man probably 3 times.  But so far, he sets me on edge.  Reminds me of the community I orbit in, over in the Tower on the Other Side of the Charles (OSC?), and brings me back around to my on-going conflict of pursuing intellect and equity without completely losing touch with the rest of the world.  Just the fact that he conjures up a familiar notion of us v. them makes me uneasy. 

Not that I relate to your average politician; they are overwhelming rich, male, highly educated and out of touch.  But something about this guy really alienates me; I sense that if we were in the classroom together, I’d want to punch him in the nose.  This is in part because my conflict between reconciling my place among the intelligentsia with my urban, working-class roots is at an all time high, based largely on listening to an abstract discussion of my relatives and history in an MIT classroom for the last week.  I hope I can tell a success story someday like Deval’s – goodness, I’m on my way, I still marvel over this whole MIT development!  But if so, may I stay rooted and keep my head out of my ass.  I will never have the charming “C student” appeal of Dubya, but perhaps my consistent poor conduct marks will endear me to others who also spent half their educational life in the back of the classroom, or just off school grounds entirely. 

It’s a shame; I’m a big proponent of supporting women and minority candidates – there are not enough of us in leadership roles, and research shows that our biggest barriers to entry are at the “hiring” phase and in early stages of promotion.  This is why so much political action around increasing our representation focuses on increasing our ranks at the local level.   As we advance through private and public systems, possibilities of advancement become more equitable.  It’s getting our foot in the door that’s the hardest part. 

When I am a particularly uninformed voter, I will vote by gender and/or race, sometimes across party lines.   But I’m growing out of that practice, for better and worse.  So here I go, casting my vote for another white man.  My choice for Lt. Governor is Deb Goldberg, the Brookline Jew whose family founded Stop & Shop.  The Ladies, the ladies!  I’m down as an honorary MOT (thanks Deis!), though dismayed at yet another gazillionaire telling me how my society and economy will work for me.  I wonder, how will I downplay my wealth once I make my millions from captivating the blogosphere?

 

18
Sep
06

T-icked off

A lame title to capture the following rant about the T, I know…stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

You leave your house at 9 a.m. to get the bus to the train to school for your 10 a.m. class.  School is 5 miles from your house.  The bus to train route is ~45 minutes door to door, assuming everything arrives on time.

The last part, that’s the punch line.  This being Boston – which, according to my co-TA Rachel, is a legend among transit scholars for its abysmal performance in managing and delivering public transportation services – the bus was late.  This being Boston, the bus was not 5 minutes late, but 35. 
Where I wait, you can see down Chestnut Hill Av to watch the bus approach.  Or not, as the case may be.  The infuriating bit – beyond waiting in the blazing sun or 10 degree weather, depending on the season – is that the bus originates 3 stops down from here, just on the other side of Cleveland Circle.  So for those of us who can’t figure out how this f***ing system works, you’re left standing there, sweating or shivering but certainly cursing, envisioning the bus just sitting on the other side of the Circle, with the driver hanging in Dunkin Donuts with the other T employees who loiter there daily (2 of the Green line routes end right in the area, and there is a train yard behind Dunkins).  You’d never stop to think it’s crashed somewhere along its excessively long route originating on the Brighton/Brookline border, traveling through Cambridge to the Somerville/Charlestown border, unable to come back and pick you up.      Nah, you know the driver is just chillin, with a whole lot of illin, down in Cleveland Circle with the rest of the T flunkies.

My grandfather – my dad’s dad – used to work on the trolleys (the Green line trains), driving them from time to time and fixing them out in Brighton’s train yards near my house.  My dad would play baseball out in the parks around there, and his dad could come and watch these games.  That’s a nice memory, and one I loved hearing from my dad while we drove around my new neighborhood in June 2005, running errands and getting me settled.  The elderly man in my building who used to sit in the lobby every morning from 10 to noon told me I would love it here, with the trolley outside and Dunkin Donuts down the street.  Indeed, I looked for a place on public transportation, hoping to be car free for as long as possible.  I have 3 train lines and multiple bus routes near my condo.  But I’ve learned the hard way that if the bus is not on time, it’s not coming any time soon.  Another form of “road rage” to get (re-)acquainted with as I returned to the ancestral land where I first learned the rules of the road. 

I drive to school most mornings now, a 30 minute commute door to door, including the long walk from the parking lot to my office.  I miss having the time to read on the bus or train, but I can’t take the homicidal feeling I get from waiting like this, or from the daily uncertainty of knowing when the next time the bus will veer completely off course and take a half hour to show up.  By the time I got to school this morning, I wanted to rip out the seats in the Chem E’s fancy auditorium style lecture hall where class meets; my desire to “act out” as my mother the mental health practitioner describes it, was overwhelming.  I could stand to be more patient, but for anyone who finds themselves at the whimsies of a poorly run public (or quasi-public, in the case of Amtrak, don’t get me started!) transit system, there’s few more effective ways to remind you of your lowly place in society than to have your mode of transit be late, absent or just not get you to where you need to be.  For such a little city, the average ride sure seems to take 45 minutes between any 2 points.  Unsurprisingly, I am not the only ticked off Masshole. 

FYI, I arrived at school at 10:20.  5 miles in 80 minutes.  I could have walked.