Thursday, January 17, 2013

 

Friday Fragments


The kids (and TW) had a snow day earlier this week, so she took them sledding.  At one point, when she was standing on a sled, the sled went one way and she went another, with her knee sort of splitting the difference.

Yesterday was devoted to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy, and to avoiding stairs as much as possible.  

She’ll be okay -- it’s a bad sprain -- but there’s nothing like an abrupt loss of ability to shine a new light on a house’s layout.  As a shift of perspective, there’s value in it.  Of course, I say that as the one who isn’t in pain...

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The academic Twitterverse has been all about Moody’s “downgrade” of higher education.  There’s no shortage of snark -- this is the same Moody’s that applied AAA ratings to CDO’s that represented little more than nonsense on stilts -- but it’s hard to take issue with some of the underlying reasoning.  

As perverse as it may sound, though, the report actually gave me hope.  The report is a warning shot, and the danger of which we’re being warned is both real and severe.  In other words, it’s at least possible that the report will contribute to a badly-needed sense of urgency to make some fundamental changes.

There’s no shortage of clues that the current path is unsustainable.  Just this week, a small, tuition-driven private college in Minnesota -- the College of Visual Arts -- announced that it will close at the end of this semester.  The University of Phoenix is reducing campuses and staff.  Discount rates at many small privates are getting to the point where further tuition increases are simply futile.  The decades-long trend of adjunctification is nothing if not an effective admission that the underlying economic model is straining. Better to connect the dots now than to wait for the next round of casualties.

I just hope that in connecting those dots, we don’t forget to consider health care costs.  

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Okay, Netflix, you win.  I wrote off Netflix about six months ago, and really hadn’t missed it since.  But then it offered Freaks and Geeks on streaming.

TW and I were among the six or seven Americans who caught the show on its first run.  Most people who remember it at all -- the few, the proud -- remember it as the breakthrough moment for Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and James Franco.  But has there ever been a more fully realized young female character on television than Linda Cardellini’s Lindsay Weir?

Watching it now, the show holds up remarkably well.  I’m even more sympathetic to Lindsay’s Dad than I was the first time -- age has a way of sneaking up on you -- and the ambivalence of the characters still rings true.  Lindsay Weir is an utterly believable character: she’s exasperated by her parents, but she still loves them and doesn’t want to disappoint them.  She likes the bad boys, but not too bad, and she knows when they’re bluffing.  She’s both a quasi-burnout and a mathlete.  

After that show, I expected Linda Cardellini to be the breakout star.  She pops up in things from time to time, but she’s nowhere near the level of her male costars.  Watching the show now, I still think she should have been the breakout star.  

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Governor Patrick revealed his budget proposals for next year earlier this week.  I’ll set aside the higher education part for now and focus on the part I consider the single best idea to come from the state in years: a passenger rail line running from Springfield to Boston, via Worcester.

For folks who don’t know Massachusetts well, Springfield is about 90 miles due west of Boston, with Worcester in between.  They are the three largest cities in the state.  Right now, if you wanted to take a train from Springfield to Boston, you’d have to go down to New Haven, Connecticut, and switch.  That’s roughly the equivalent of flying from New York to Chicago via Atlanta.  It’s silly.

A direct line has all manner of virtues, not the least of which is avoiding gridlock on the Mass Pike into Boston.  (The last couple of times I’ve driven it, the last five miles took almost as long as the first 85.)  If they’re really smart, they’ll have it terminate someplace where you could catch the T.  (That’s how New Jersey Transit handles going into New York City; you can switch to almost anything in Penn Station.)  Add a stop at Logan, and something close to Fenway, and you have a winner.  

Based on what I saw in Jersey, too, a rail line should have highly salutary effects on the economies of the places it stops.  This is no small thing.

An economic development idea that benefits the entire state, gets cars off the road, and makes it easier to get around?  Yes, please.

Comments:
Hope TW gets better soon!

Just received the book from Amazon today. Congratulations! Of course, it's easier in some sense to buy a book than to read it, but I'm sure I'll read it soon.

I've been to Springfield and lived in Cambridge for grad school, but I never did go from Cambridge to Springfield. But I assume that there would be a stop in Framingham. That might be quite useful for the tech industry, which has not insignificant presence there---problem is that tech workers don't necessarily like to live there.


 
The Northeast Corridor and the Inland Route both call at Back Bay station, with transfers to the Orange and Green rapid transit lines, and the Red Line is at South Station Under. The commuter trains (currently no further west than Worcester) call at Framingham, and there is a halt for Fenway Park on that line. The Blue Line for the airport requires a change of trains at one of the downtown stations. But there's only one airport, unlike Greater Chicago, with rapid transit to two airports, commuter rail to a third, and Amtrak to a fourth.
 
This would be the same Moody's that downgraded my government's credit rating because of an increase in medical benefits to children — said downgrade costing more (in increased bond interest) than the benefit we supposedly couldn't afford? We can afford to pay bankers, but not look after kids?

Yeah, no shortage of snark indeed.
 
My wife insisted we watch the entire run of Freaks and Geeks on DVD a few years ago, and I loved it.

A couple of months ago (and three kids later), we found it streaming on Netflix and watched the whole thing again. I'm *still* recovering from the shock of how much more I can identify with Lindsay's dad this time.
 
I think you'll have to up the total who watched Freeks and Geeks to more than 6 or 7 as I was devoted to it during the original run. Along with you and TW, that makes 3 - I bet we could even get up to 7 among your readers alone - :). And you all in Springfield will have to wait in line - we've been waiting for rail service down here on the SouthCoast for decades.

Kidding aside, I enormously enjoyed Gov. Patrick's state of the state and the proposals it contained. I am especially proud that he noted we need to have a conversation about taxes - if we want the services that he has proposed (and public opinion polls generally indicate we do), then we need to talk about how to pay for them - without screaming and name-calling. Let's have a real conversation about what we really want - good services or lower taxes. Because we can't have our cake and eat it too.
 
"Let's have a real conversation about what we really want - good services or lower taxes."

Good services, lower taxes, higher economic growth, or lower unemployment are the more complete range choices. Massachusetts stopped being Taxachusetts some years ago, and the benefit has been prosperity. CT and RI have taken the higher tax route, and their economies have stagnated badly. CT had its biggest tax increase in its history a couple years back, but failed to cut spending, so the deficit only grew.

You can't take economic growth for granted, much as politicians like to.


 
Best wishes to TW for a speedy recovery.

Train service from Boston to Springfield does exist now, it is merely rare and slow. The one westbound train each day is listed as taking a little more than 2 hours from Boston South Station, which has a Silver Line connection to Logan Airport and the newer convention center. Eastbound has a long time on the schedule to provide slack for late trains from Chicago.

Eastbound was on time on Saturday; it seems that westbound was also, since it was early at stations further along.

I don't know why the ride is so long. The same distance on the Northeast Corridor is a lot faster. It probably depends on who owns the tracks (freight vs passenger).

I also don't know why this route option doesn't come up by default. My first search showed the same routing via New Haven.
 
"Massachusetts stopped being Taxachusetts some years ago, and the benefit has been prosperity."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_tax_levels_in_the_United_States

Massachusetts: 11
Connecticut: 19
Rhode Island: 45

The thing that one must always, always, always remember when talking to a conservative that every single fact cited under every circumstances is false.

 
http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm

22 Massachusetts 6.7%
42 Connecticut 8.6%
50 Rhode Island 10.2%

Of course, since every time an American gets a job a conservative angel loses their wings, Dantes could just be arguing for his preferred outcomes.

 
Oh hell, let's just finish the job:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_income

States ranked by median household income (per-capita isn't great because of inequality issues):

4 Connecticut
5 Massachusetts
17 Rhode Island


So, depending on how you look at it, Massachusetts and Connecticut have similar policies, but MA taxes more and has better outcomes. Rhode Island taxes much less and has worse outcomes on every level.


 
Punditus: You do realize you forgot to divide by population, right? (Well, not "you" but "whoever created the table on Wikipedia". But still.)

Also, citing Rhode Island having the highest unemployment rate to rebut the argument of "Rhode Island has a higher unemployment rate" is not all that effective.
 
Aw, crap, I thought the table was sorted by the per-capita line, not the "total" line.

In that case, the data are merely incoherent, rather than outright the opposite of Dantes's point.

Thank you for pointing out the error.
 
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