My endorsements for 2012

Okay, I think these are my choices for Election Day. There's still a month and a half, so I'm malleable enough to change my mind if anyone has any compelling counter-arguments. I'd love to hear from you. Go to the link below to find your
local races in Massachusetts. That link provides information only on the local offices, so I embellished the list by adding the presidential race and the ballot initiatives.

2012 Voter Guide
MyBallot, created September 22, 2012
US President
✓ Barack Obama (Dem), President (He has earned my vote through his accomplishments, his calm cool leadership, and his reasonable demeanor. Often he appears to be the only adult in Washington DC. I'm excited to see what can be accomplished in a second term. That said, going at least as far back 2008, he's echoed John F. Kennedy's call to action wherein the former president asked us to ask what we can do for our country. Barack Obama's accomplishments will not happen in a vacuum, but will require the American people's help and good faith).
W. Mitt Romney (GOP), Governor/Executive (I think the biggest problem with Mitt Romney is not his ideology or his wealth, it's his dishonesty and cowardice. He has repeatedly been presented with situations that would allow him to demonstrate how he would act as president and he has failed every time. Whether it's condemning reprehensible remarks of his presumed surrogates, remaining opaque and evasive about his own policies, insulting to foreign leaders, condescending to those going through troubled times, and socially awkward and tone-deaf, Mr. Romney has utterly failed to comfort me in his abilities to lead our nation through tough times.)
Jill Stein (Green), Physician (While I agree with Ms. Stein on some issues ideologically, as unfair as it is, third-party candidates have to be exemplary transformative politicians in order to justify a vote. They are necessarily leaders of a movement in the same way Barack Obama was in 2008. They need to be at least as strong in terms of organization and oratory as he was then.)
Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Governor (See above.)
I may be open in the future to voting third-party, or for a split-ticket like Americans Elect advocates.

US Senator
Scott P. Brown (GOP), US senator (Scott Brown is a likeable person and I could even see myself voting for him at some point, but not now and not in a tight Senate like this.)
✓ Elizabeth A. Warren (Dem), Law professor

US Representative - Seventh District
✓ Michael E. Capuano (Dem), Member of Congress

Governor's Councilor - Third District
The Massachusetts Governor's Council, also known as the Executive Council, is composed of eight individuals elected from districts every two years, and the lieutenant governor who serves ex officio. The council meets weekly to vote on gubernatorial appointments such as judges, clerk-magistrates, public administrators, notaries, justices of the peace, and members of various boards. It also reviews warrants for the state treasury, pardons, and commutations.
Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney (Dem), Governor's councilor (Made a compelling, passionate case, but not as strong as Charles N. Shapiro's case)
Harry S. Margolis (Dem), Attorney (Not very passionate or specific)
✓ Charles N. Shapiro (Dem), Local business owner / former teacher

State Senator - Second Suffolk & Middlesex District
Steven W. Aylward (GOP), Manager, information systems
✓ William N. Brownsberger (Dem), State senator (Reading the position statements was good. I like that he'll consider a congestion tax to alleviate MBTA debt)

State Representative - Eighteenth Suffolk District
✓ Michael J. Moran (Dem)

Clerk of Supreme Judicial Court - Suffolk County
✓ Maura Doyle (Dem)

Clerk of Superior Court (Civil Business) - Suffolk County
✓ Michael L. Dash (Dem), Lawyer (there wasn't any information on Mr. Donovan, even a google search turned up little. It suggests a lack of seriousness in the campaign)
Michael Joseph Donovan (Dem)

Clerk of Superior Court (Criminal Business) - Suffolk County
This was a tough one, but there was a news article link on the guide that suggested to me that Hennigan would be better.
Robert J. Dello Russo Sr. (Dem), Former assistant clerk of court
✓ Maura A. Hennigan (Dem), Clerk of Suffolk Superior Court, Criminal Division

Register of Deeds - Suffolk District
✓ Mickey Roache (Dem), Register of Deeds - Suffolk District

Register of Probate - Suffolk County
Patricia Patty Campatelli (Dem), Statewide program supervisor, Office of Community Corrections
✓ Salvatore LaMattina (Dem), Boston city councilor (Was specific and built a case for his election)

Question 1: Availability of Motor Vehicle Repair Information
YES (We're moving toward a more transparent society, and that shift is for the better. Car information should be provided to car owners and repair shops to empower them to make their own decisions about where to get their cars repaired and how to repair them.)

Question 2: Prescribing Medication to End Life
YES (As with living wills, it's important for people to make their own decisions regarding the quality of life. I've read some of the details of the law and while I know that the six-month provision is fairly arbitrary, as such diagnoses aren't very reliable, I think there's plenty of wiggle room in the law for this to be implemented very effectively, and I expect it to be so.)

Question 3: Medical Use of Marijuana
YES (Having lived in California I lived in a world proposed by this initiative. It was not some chaotic hellhole. I advocate this initiative not out of some endorsement for a recreational marijuana use lifestyle, but because of the benefits it may provide for those in pain. I also advocate it to make its distribution safer, and the product more pure than it would be out on the street.)

For coverage of other races and candidates, visit:

MBTA Fare Proposal

Okay, I went to the BPL for the MBTA meeting on the fare proposal. It was rowdier than the JP one, so much so the mayor had to keep the chanters in line. I spoke 25th and proposed a couple of ideas. Because my speech had actual content in it a BU student interviewed me after.  So this is what I wrote to the MBTA:

Subject Heading: Here are a couple of ideas

To whom it may concern:

Tonight I (Eric Cheung) spoke at the meeting at the Boston Public Library.  I wanted to take what I learned from the meeting at Jamaica Plain and try to extrapolate solutions for the deficit problem.  I learned that a gas tax would be considered an unfair consumer tax to those who don't bother with the Greater Boston area.  I learned that the disabled, senior citizens, students, and those in low-income housing are disproportionately affected by these changes.  And I grew frustrated that the bulk of this debt is derived from the cost overruns of the Big Dig.  So I proposed the following, with major input from my girlfriend Mary Beth LaRivee, as a way to target revenue-increases in a more egalitarian way that doesn't burden people who don't travel to Boston, nor crippled those who can't afford such drastic changes to their daily lives:

The MBTA and this debt should be audited to strengthen enforcement and streamline current policies.  The people responsible for the cost overruns of the Big Dig will never truly be held accountable, but they should have funded an expansion of services with fines against them.

Or maybe target those that would benefit without placing the fiscal burden of that benefit on those that would be crippled by the MBTA's current proposals.  Tax businesses that reside in the MBTA service area at tiered percentages based on annual profits.  Their help funding the MBTA would actually increase their business by building on record ridership. 

Another option could be a London-style congestion tax on cars visiting the city to encourage the use of public transportation over driving on Interstate 93 and the labyrinthine tunnels and lanes that make up the Big Dig.

Maybe these ideas won't work in full, but maybe they can get the conversation started.  Maybe they can inspire different ideas, while articulating the need to avoid targeting the weakest.  I hope there's something here you can use.

Before I went to the meeting in Jamaica Plain two weeks ago I was skeptical that a solution without service cuts and fare hikes was possible.  Now I don't see how these proposals alone could work.

Thank you,

Eric Cheung & Mary Beth LaRivee

I'm pretty happy

* I work at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

* I volunteer at WGBH as a tour guide and occasional on-air reader.

* I volunteer at Learning Ally, recording textbooks for the blind.

* I write scripts and voice act as a regular on an online animated fan series called Star Trek: Mariner.

* I've had lots of wonderful adventures in stand-up, and doing extra work in movies, and traveling, and auditioning for a series regular role on a network TV show.

But most of all I get to spend time with people I love in my family and with MB and her family..

Star Trek: Mariner - Shakedown

I haven't posted this here since I don't use LJ very much any more, but a few weeks ago a fan-made animated Star Trek series premiered.  I play regular character Lieutenant Commander Sirol, Chief of Security.  He's the Andorian.  I also wrote a lot of the dialogue for this episode, especially the scene at the beginning and the scene where Gage pulls Admiral Bryant into the ready room.

You can watch it here.

Enjoy and share it with whomever.

"The only place where we don't [problem solve] is here or on cable TV"

This article combined with this one suggests insanity on both sides. The left can't really expect to get better results by ousting Obama, if anything they'd only net a GOP victory in 2012, and further stubborn gridlock. The Republicans must also realize that being so transparent about their obstructionist and cynically political agenda won't win them any friends from independents and the center.

Whether you agree with President Obama's stance on the issues or policies he's made, for the first time in my lifetime certainly, we have a president who is not only pretty clean, he's sane, adult, and has maturely courted ideas and suggestions from all sides as a constant matter of course over the past two years.

That alone should encourage Congress, on both sides, not to set their eyes on some other candidate in 2012, but to play the hand they've been dealt and open meaningful negotiations towards a fiscally responsible way to streamline government and make it, and the people, work for each other.

Three books about one thing

Since moving to Brighton in September, my commute has changed drastically.  I live on the B-Line and work in Downtown Crossing.  Therefore,  my ride into the city is one long straight shot.  This has also drastically changed my reading habits.  Before I would take a bus to Davis and grab a Metro before catching the train.  Riding a speedy Red Line train to Park Street, I only had time for the quick paper.  But now, I have forty minutes on one vehicle.  So now, having moved and placed my books on a shelf, I can tilt one back, stuff it in my bag and ride through pages on my ride to work.

Having started right away, I've read three books so far, and am reading a forth--when I'm not reading news on my phone.  They were: Chinese in America: A Narrative History, Eating Animals, Obamanomics: How Bottom-Up Economic Prosperity Will Replace Trickle-Down Economics, and currently Future Shock.

What struck me with all three of these books (more on the fourth later), was that, despite their ostensibly disparate topics, they're all books about capitalism and its relationship with cynicism.  By this I mean not just the cynicism of the corporations or governments in power, but the cynicism of the presumed powerless.  They're are so presumed, again not just by the powerful, but by much more damagingly, by themselves.  These books attempt to rectify that by shedding light on they ways the public can affect social change in large and small ways.  These books mean to empower the reader.

Let me get more specific.

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My third trip to Washington DC

    “I can’t control what people think this was.  I can only tell you my intentions.   This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear.  They are and we do.  But we live now in hard times, not end times.  And we can have animus and not be enemies.

    But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.  The country’s 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder.  The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.  

    If we amplify everything we hear nothing.  There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned.  You must have the resume.  Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more.  The press is our immune system.  If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema.  

    And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good.  Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false.  It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin and one eyeball.  

    So, why would we work together?  Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster?  If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable.  Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?  We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day!  

    The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV.  But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV.  Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.  Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives.  Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do itimpossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.  

    Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are.  These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high.  He’s going to work.  There’s another cara woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now.  There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah.  There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah.  Another car’s a Latino carpenter.  Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman.  Atheist obstetrician.  Mormon Jay-Z fan.  But this is us.  Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.  

    And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river.  Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences.  And they do it.  Concession by conscession.  You go.  Then I’ll go.  You go. Then I’ll go.  You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car?  Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.  

    And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.  

    Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness.  And sometimes the light at the  of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey.  But we do it anyway, together.  

    If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me.  Your presence was what I wanted.  

    Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.  Thank you."

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Canederli or Klöße (Guest Blogger: Eric Cheung)

Cross-posted to Mary Beth's Feast

Mary Beth and I had bought some Trader Joe's Organic Soft Multi Grain Bread last week and both loaves crumbled like cheap stucco.  We couldn't use the bread for toast, we couldn't use the bread for sandwiches, so I suggested using it for a recipe for Italian bread ball soup my mom taught me called Canederli.

I'm a new vegetarian (since January 7th 2010, so it doesn't count as a resolution), so I had extra incentive in attempting to adapt it to a meat-free soup.  The recipe calls for kielbasa and bacon, so I knew that if I didn't find some kind of replacement for the chunky saltiness then it would definitely be missing something.  Inspiration came from another item in our trip to Trader Joe's: smoked Gouda.

As I got to work Mary Beth came in and suggested that these could work as meatless balls for spaghetti, so I took half-a-dozen of them and fried, then baked them to be dipped in some sauce as a snack/experiment.

My recipe for both is as follows (measured for 1 1/2 loaves):

1 1/2 (36 oz.) loaves of old dry hard bread (cut into cubes)
1 heaping cup of Romano cheese
1/4 cup of cilantro
6 large eggs
1 cup of milk
1 cup of smoked Gouda (also cubed)
1/2 cup diced onion
olive oil
4 quarts of broth
flour and bread crumbs (as needed)

Sauté the diced onion in a small sauce pan, coated on the inside with olive oil, and set aside to cool (though not in the ingredients list, I often sauté my onions with roasted red pepper flakes, garlic, curry powder and/or ginger).  Pour bread, Romano Cheese, cilantro, smoked Gouda, eggs, and milk into a very large dry bowl.  Knead ingredients, along with cooled onions until evenly mixed.

Pour the broth into a large pot and set it to boil, staying mindful of it as you do the following:

Liberally flour a cutting board, or other dry surface, and dust the excess from your hands into the bowl.  Roll the mix into large meatball sized balls and roll the balls in the flour.  For each ball roll them gently from hand to hand until they have a nice, thin, and even coating of flour.  Set these balls aside on the on-deck circle next to the pot of boiling broth.  As the broth boils gently place each ball into the pot.  It will sink to the bottom.  Take as much time as needed; you'll keep the soup boiling for thirty minutes after the bread balls rise to the top of the broth.

For meatless balls: make the bread balls smaller, fry them in olive oil turning them frequently, and, if necessary, bake them at 300° for twenty minutes.

A few observations

1. For the past several weeks I've been sick.  It's the same thing about once every winter (especially this dry one): a sore throat for a few days then a few weeks of phlegm.  I'm on the waning stage of phlegm, but I think there's something going on that I don't recall happening before.  In order to rid my throat of the phlegm I've been trying to cough, but I keep just missing the target phlegm and it's just air that ends up hurting the passageway.  In effect it's like trying to blow out candles on a birthday cake when the cake is sitting on a chair on the other side of the table.

2. It's been exactly three weeks since the last time I've eaten meat.  For years I've seen others example and wanted to become a vegetarian.  I don't know if this will take, but I realize that most of my diet is basically vegetarian anyway.  The only exception is really when I eat out.  So it's more slices of cheese pizza for me.

3. Having watched a few episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon I've realized that the show would be slightly more enjoyable if it were on Nickelodeon in the early 90's, preferably as part of the SNICK lineup.

4. According to the Phoenix of the three movies profiled, the Disney movie is actually the least racist.  Given their description of The Blind Side, that's less surprising than I thought it would be.

5. I was encouraged by last night's State of the Union address and Republican response.  Both in the number of bipartisan ovations and the content of the response, it's clear to me that both sides of the aisle have more in common than not, in a good way.  I think if they realize it then they can maybe actually get things done.