The Most Important Single You’ll Ever Watch

There are a lot of reasons to be cynical these days.  If there weren’t, the Cheers theme song wouldn’t have so explicitly said so.  But for those of us without a Sam and Diane, it’s been a rough few weeks.  The world seems to be going out of its way to make everything complicated and mean-spirited.  I usually like to present the world with solutions to problems, but before diving into solving international policy, I think that sometimes it’s worth it to step back and pause and be inspired.  For inspiration I’ll often turn to art, be it writing or film or photography or comedy; sometimes I’ll turn to actions that people are taking in their communities to spark new ideas; sometimes I turn to sports.  The role of sports in society is a discussion for another time, but especially in the last few weeks the question of what we can and should glean from athletes has been put in front of us.  Many want to look at the negatives that we can learn from sports stars.  Instead of going that route, I wanted to share a story that you may not have seen.

The story of Guilder Rodriguez.

So I love baseball, as displayed here and here, and I can promise you, you’ve never heard of Guilder Rodriguez.  I hadn’t before this week either.  That’s because Guilder Rodriguez has been in the minor leagues his whole career.  A minor leaguer named Guilder Rodriguez is restoring my faith, and I’ll tell you why.

Guilder Rodriguez has spent the last 13 years in the minor leagues.  You don’t need to know anything about baseball or the MLB to know that 13 years is a long time to be doing anything. This week he was called up to the big leagues at age 31 and got his first career hit.  The hit was a weak blooper over the short stop’s head, driving in the go ahead run in a game between two teams both way out of contention for a playoff spot this late in the season.

For 13 years, Guilder spent his career in the minor leagues.  That’s 13 years of someone telling him he wasn’t good enough to cut it that he put up with. 13 years of working to achieve making it to the major league level and failing. 13 years of finding it in himself somehow to not give up and believe in himself.  13 offseasons when he had to consider doing another line of work and deciding he needed to keep playing baseball.  13 years of work, dedication, passion for a game that he clearly wasn’t cut out for professionally.  Baseball is a game about love.  It’s a game about respect and loyalty.  It’s a game that rewards those who are selfless.  Sometimes it just takes longer for others.

Guilder finally got his chance and he made it a memorable one. He was called up to play a few games as the season winds down for the Rangers. He was 0 for 3 his first game. Then 0 for 1 in 3 more games he played. Then, this week, it finally happened. He got his first career hit. It was when the game was tied 3-3, and it even drove in the winner run for the game. It wasn’t a home run, or even a particularly strongly hit ball, but it was an RBI single and he was on the record now for having a career major league hit in the MLB.

His family was in the crowd, his Dad cried when he got the hit. He had played with the pitcher in the minors before. Everyone in the stadium got up and cheered for him. Sure, the game had no consequence in terms of the overall standings for either team. Sure, he’s probably not going to now start a career as a major leaguer, and will likely be back down in the minor leagues next year. But this week Guilder Rodriguez did something he worked his entire life to do and he finally did it.  Something no one thought he would do for 13 years.  I think that’s really quite something.

So when you’re feeling in a downward spiral or like the world is crashing around you, and if you don’t have Sam to sling you a drink, just think about how happy Guilder Rodriguez is right now. I know it’s helped me this week.

Here’s the hit:

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Vote Shaming

I am by no means a math person.  But here are some numbers for you to consider:

There are 18 million people who live in New York State.  There are 11.8 million registered voters.  Of those, 5.8 million are registered Democrats.  Of those, 531,000 voted in last week’s Democratic Primary for Governor.  Just about 10% of the registered voters came out to vote for our next Governor.  For comparison 606,000 voted in the Democratic Primary for New York City’s Mayor’s race last year.

330,000 voted for Governor Cuomo.  That’s just over the number of people who live in Toledo, Ohio.  Unlike in 2010, when there was a vaguely serious challenge to Cuomo, this year Cuomo should win pretty easily, which isn’t a surprise since most Democratic primaries in New York City ultimately decide the victor.   330,000 just decided the next Governor for the state of New York.  That’s roughly 1.5% of the total population.

That’s ridiculous.  That’s absurd.  That’s wrong.  That’s also the way it is, and the way it’s going to be.  It’s hard enough to get people to care about politics, let alone vote, let alone vote twice, let alone vote the first week they’re getting back from vacation, let alone sign a petition for someone to get on the ballot immediately after school ends and you go on that vacation.  Giving people free stickers might not be enough.  I personally think there should be fresh baked cookies available for those who vote, but that’s just me.  This also, again, isn’t new.  But I want to resurrect an idea from 2010 that I think came and went without anyone really paying enough attention.

Citizen’s Union, a non partisan good government group here in New York City proposed a “Top Two” system for primaries, which I think went unnoticed when they first proposed it in 2010.  The report – seen here – talks about a system where the Primary would be open to everyone to vote in, regardless of party affiliation.  The top two vote getters would then move on to the General election.  How much fun would that be?  Get all the parties together on one ballot for the Primary and actually let everyone vote for who should be in the general election.  Then you couldn’t use the “I’m registered Independent/Green/unaffiliated” excuse (cough Rachel cough).  Then everyone could vote, which to me at least, is the true point of a primary – to open the field, to allow new candidates to enter the sphere, to broaden the scope of representatives – and then let the victors battle it out.

On a broader, more intellectual scale, I am not opposed to a party system.  I think having parties are good.  I think that a division between thoughts and beliefs is a good thing, as long as it allows us to debate the issues and improve our quality of life.  But the current system we have here in New York isn’t fair, it isn’t objective.  The truth is that locally, New York City doesn’t have Republican representatives save for a few, so the Democratic primary winner essentially coasts into their seat.  Now, if you win, then you win.  If people voted for you, you should be their representative.  But we shouldn’t be looking at limiting the pool of participants in the electoral process, and that’s what the current Primary system does.

Four years ago we had a very intriguing Governor’s race for the General election.  If you forgot about Jimmy McMillan and Charles Barron, and the former Madame who was running, we had 7 different party affiliates debating, if you wanna call it that, while Andrew Cuomo coasted into an easy win.  7 candidates debating is fine, it’s good, it’s entertaining, but it’s also a mockery of the party system.  Imagine a system where those 7 all debated for the Primary, and THEN the top two debated for the General, and ultimately, for the seat.  Involvement in the system should happen SOONER rather than LATER in the process.

Citizen’s Union’s idea is a great one, but I think got lost within this enormous report they wrote, which outlines 50 new ideas to broaden participation in New York City elections.  The report is fantastic and I’m not going to recap all 50 ideas, but I think that this one in particular will continue to get buried because of how influential parties are on legislation.  Opening up the primary would be a big hit to the Democratic Party, since it would mean any random party affiliate, and potentially turn us into a system more complicated than Italy, thus spreading out the funding for everyone a little thinner.  But if we’re going to be serious about getting people more involved, about getting all 11.8 million registered voters involved and not just the 5.8 million registered Democrats, we need to think about doing something different.

There seems to be a lot of different kinds of shaming we like to do now.  We get on our high horses and shame anyone who doesn’t eat locally produced hand crafted whatever, Bill Burr likes to fat shame people.  I’ve been on my high horse about going to vote and participate in the process for a while now, but I think I’d like to start vote-shaming people for not voting.  I’m all for positively reinforcing people for voting by giving them a sticker, but if you catch me throwing a tomato at you for not voting, deal with it.  Register.  Go vote.  Get a sticker.  Maybe if you show me that sticker I’ll give you a freshly baked cookie.

Big Picture

As I prepare to defend my Thesis tomorrow morning, I have been looking over some of the papers I’ve written over the last 3 years.  I wanted to get a sense of what I’ve been reading and writing about, so I decided to take every paper I wrote for my Master’s degree, every note, every memo, every research paper, every discussion paper, every literary review, and put them into 1 document.

It turned into a roughly 480 page (around 121,000 word) document.  So roughly 100 pages per year of graduate school.  Then I wanted to get a good visual of what I’ve been working on, so I put it into a word cloud generator.

Here’s what International Communication and Accessibility looks like visually:

World Cloud 2And another way:

Word Cloud 1

And one more if you prefer things vertically:

Word-Cloud-3

There it all is.

A couple things that jump out at me:

It is incredibly reassuring to see that the most commonly used words that I’ve typed over the last three years were “government”, “community” and “people.”  The core of my Thesis is exploring ways to better connect those three groups, be it over issues like land tenure – which I wrote about extensively – and on both the local and global level, which both seemed to have been used around the same amount.  I also explored a lot about systems and process, which when combined with the government and community, allows an easier grasp over what I was really looking at this whole time.

A couple things I wouldn’t have guessed:

– I wrote about sugar more than I would’ve assumed.  I think in discussing Mintz’s “Sweetness and Power”, but still.
– I wrote about my actual Thesis, HeartGov, less than I would’ve guessed.
– I use a lot of P words (politics, power, process, people, projects, public), but not much about potholes.

There it is.  There I am.  And here we go.