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...


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.  


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.  


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.