Monday, March 20, 2006

City of Brotherly Love and meeting up with the family

In Philadelphia, I started out by going with a friend to Smokey Joe's tavern, where apparently everybody at Penn goes every Tuesday night. The next day, I slept in and then just went around different places in the city. It occurred to me that one of the great virtues of being laid out in the 18th century is that it is built very much on a human scale, walkable completely within an hour or so. I marked it out on a map later, and I think I walked close to 8 miles that day. It was lots of fun, but I was ready to sit down after that, which I did, at possibly the most stereotypical Italian restaurant in the city of Philadelphia.

The next day, I did a bit of touring of the National Constitution Center and then took Amtrak down to Wilmington, whence I met my aunt for a dinner with her and a bunch of family members in suburban Aston. After a fun few hours, I was back on the train to Center City.

My last day in Philadelphia, I started out walking about the Old City, trying to see more of the "Greatest Hits" from HART 360. Around lunchtime, I met my brother and we went on the tour of Philadelphia City Hall, which was a visit to a most beautiful Beaux Arts building, led by quite a character of a tour guide. After we took the elevator up to the tower, we went over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where we not only saw a bunch of famous art, but also caught a jazz ensemble for their weekly Jazz Night. So that was cool.
Then it was off to Hyde Park, the home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. I suppose it's their job there to make it as interesting and moving as possible, and the good old National Park Service, once again, meets and exceeds my expectations.

And then it was Amtrak from New Haven...

... to Boston. And back to Houston.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bridge over the River Cam

I've had a great time here in Cambridge, visiting my friend Jake Bryant at Harvard. I got in late Friday night/Saturday morning, and went to a seminar/forum put on by the Law School Saturday morning, then walked around for a while, before biking into downtown Boston for a few hours. I got a bit lost on the way back, but the recreational paths on either side of the Charles are just phenomenally wonderful. I had in my mind that it's great to be a walking city, but nothing actually compares with being in it, or walking around it, especially just coming off two months in Houston. And it was a ton of fun to see so many of the buildings that had been referenced in my American Architecture class live and in person.

Sunday, I heard the silver-tongued Peter Gomes preach at the Harvard Memorial Church, and went back into town again, following the Freedom Trail around the old core of Boston. On the way back to Harvard, I swung by Trinity Church, the paradigmatic Henry Hobson Richardson Romanesque church.

Going to classes with Jake Monday and walking around Cambridge all day, I was really astonished at the callous near-hostility that pedestrians have for traffic signals. I thought I was as brazen a jaywalker as any, but apparently not. And Tuesday, I braved the Chinatown bus down to Philadelphia, which was a lot less of an adventure than I had feared it would be. (Though to be sure, this was not exactly your standard intercity operation: it was cash only, no questions asked, no ID required, no reserved seating and the few terse announcements that were made both at check-in and during the trip were in heavily-accented English.) But it got me from Boston to Philadelphia for $25, and in just under 6 hours.


Monday, March 13, 2006

All the news that was fit to print 2 weeks ago

Back on Feb. 21, John Tierney had an article entitled "Let Your People Stay" in which he extols the virtues of Milwaukee's school voucher program. He seems to harbor quite a bit of antipathy towards Wisconsin Democrats, as he expresses in quotes such as
"... Milwaukee's voucher program has been so successful over the past 15 years that it's won a wide array of converts -- except among the Democrats terrified of teachers' unions."
Well, this had me so angry that I dashed off a letter to the editor of the New York Times which I wrote probably in about 10 minutes and emailed in at 2:49 a.m. the next day. I got the usual "Thank you for your letter; We regret that because of the volume of letters received, we are not able to respond to all submissions, other than by this automated reply."

But then two days later, I was a bit surprised to see another email come through, and was astonished when it included an edited version of my letter for my review before publication. So it was published the next day, Saturday, Feb. 25.

So yay! Here it is.
To the Editor:
John Tierney does note that Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin has a philosophical basis for opposing vouchers, but he characterizes most opponents of vouchers as Democrats beholden to the teachers' unions.
I and many others oppose vouchers not because of our concern for the 15 percent of the Milwaukee students who are lucky enough to get them, but because of our concern for the 85 percent who don't.
When money is siphoned off into the private schools, what happens to the children whose parents don't know or care enough to take advantage of the voucher system?
The only real option is to make all schools better, not stopgap measures like vouchers. Ian Everhart
Houston, Feb. 22, 2006