Today it will be easy to clean a closet

Predictably, the BOTEC team took it hard. In our Slack feed, I posted the final stanza of a favorite poem by Emily Dickinson:

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

I don’t deal well with feelings. In the wake of tragedy, I ramp up activity, particularly things that will leave me with a sense of accomplishment. With due respect to the psychologists (Hi, Keith!) who will doubtless disagree, I do not find that talking helps. Maybe later, but probably not. I clean out closets, basements, pantries, when bad things happen. I remove dust from the top of each book with the little vacuum cleaner attachment. Yes, it gives me distance from the bad thing, but there is a pragmatic reason, too. Today you will not dither about discarding shoes that were expensive but hurt your feet. Today you will see clearly that you do not need a hedge trimmer since you hacked down the hedges after Martha Coakley’s loss to Charlie Baker. And exercise. I’m headed to the pool, now.

Drink cheap beer, at home

I love that Harold and others are addressing the gulf between people who understand money management and the rest of us. A lot has been written about why people don’t do smart things to save for retirement, but I haven’t seen anyone point out the following: all discussions of money management come with two features (a) words we don’t understand and (b) warnings about “experts” who will cheat the unsuspecting in the name of advice.  That’s a nice recipe for inaction. Can we do better? Continue reading “Drink cheap beer, at home”

Call Western Union!

Yesterday the Massachusetts Legislature took a long-overdue vote, repealing a 27-year-old law that mandated drivers’ license suspension for drug offenses even when there was no connection to operation of a car. That era was full of legislation and policies motivated by the notion that we must “send a message” about drugs. If my memory is accurate (and give me a break, I was finishing law school and wondering how I was going to pass the bar when my friends and I could not sit through more than about an hour of the preparation classes before making a jailbreak and sprinting to Chinatown to drown our frustration in cheap food and alcohol) the old guard in government was up in arms about disdain for the drug laws, but they had to move away from using the criminal justice system to deal with possession of small amounts. Even the most conservative politicians had kids whose futures were jeopardized by a drug possession charge. Continue reading “Call Western Union!”

A single candle

Keith pointed out the continuing bad news on the opiate front. At this point I think we’re all clear on what happened; doctors were persuaded that they were cruelly failing to treat pain with drugs that the pharmaceutical industry assured us were safe, many became addicted to their own prescriptions and many others were introduced to opiate euphoria via diverted prescription medication. Heroin prices dropped and to someone already addicted to pills, crossing that bridge to heroin is a foregone conclusion. So now we have to approach it like an epidemic, which means treating the existing addicts and extinguishing new cases.  It’s complicated, a “hot mess” as the kids say. But there is one thing that each and every one of us can do, right now. If you don’t have any dangerous prescription medication in your house, good for you, but chances are you’ll need a few Vicodin at some point. So get one of these. If you can use a screwdriver, you’ll be able to install it yourself. A staggering number of heroin addicts got started with prescription opiates swiped from someone’s medicine cabinet. Smart doctors now tell patients to treat their addictive medication like cash; it should never be kept in a bathroom medicine cabinet since people go there alone and lock the door. Legislators and doctors will have to do most of the heavy lifting to solve the greater problem, but this is one thing we should all do, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that an innocuous-looking orange bottle should be afforded the same precautions we would take with a toxic herbicide.

CAN WE DO BETTER THAN EVICTION? A Swift-Certain-Fair Approach to Nonpayment of Public Housing Rent

About a year ago I was in the Brookline District Court when I watched a family lose everything.  At least I think that’s what happened; I suppose there might have been a fairy godmother lurking in the wings, but I doubt it. (Why is there never a fairy godmother around when you really need one?)

Brookline is a high-income town adjacent to Boston, with great public transportation, hardly any crime and a public school system so good that the town has employees dedicated to ferreting out residency fraud.  Continue reading “CAN WE DO BETTER THAN EVICTION? A Swift-Certain-Fair Approach to Nonpayment of Public Housing Rent”

Doot, doot, doot, lookin’ out my front door


The view from Cambridge, MA. Complete travel ban. No cars, MBTA shut down. Cormet and I think it’s great. Last night the corner grocery looked like a going-out-of-business sale. Neighbors were happily trading items (“Wait, you have kids! You need the last rotisserie chicken!”). My friend Bill, learning to bake bread, came to my door with a hot baguette wrapped in a tea towel.

Later today my neighbors and I will descend on the street with the snowblower and lots of shovels. I have snow pants, so I’m hoping the kids across the street aren’t too jaded to help me build a snowman.

Turning the clock back

No, I’m not referring to daylight savings time. The Supreme Court apparently thinks that making it hard for Texans to vote is a good thing. Catapult me back to 1964.
I guess we have to join Texas in that era. Bring back the Freedom Rides. I would hope that if we baby boomers got the ball (and buses) rolling, some of the Facebook generation might join us. Perhaps my youthful colleague Steve Davenport (who commented eloquently on Keith’s recent essay about Facebook narcissism) could be our liaison to the under-thirties. At my age, the prospect of a long bus ride does not thrill me, (please let there be adequate restroom breaks) but if a couple of my boomer pals from the RBC are in, I’ll ride to Texas to assist with voter registration. It’s just so confusing! Didn’t we do this already?

Swallow that coffee before reading further.

An enterprising Harvard University student found an outlet for that creative energy that comes from intense focus on a teeny subject, a phenomenon well familiar to anyone who made it through graduate school. She started a website, which seems to be mostly Twitter fodder, called LOL My Thesis. Authors sum it up in one (two, max) pithy sentences. I cannot choose a favorite. If I had done this for my law school paper, I think it would have been: “When a homeless woman called the ACLU after the DSS took her kid away, it did not end well for anyone except me, since I really needed a topic.”

But reading these, I conclude that scientists have the comedic edge. Ready? Swallow first! Continue reading “Swallow that coffee before reading further.”