christmas 2008

April Fool's gone horribly right

I had no intention of going all-in on first of April pranking, but I accidentally pulled one off last night. I was writing a routine e-mail to one of my friends, responding to a message I'd gotten on Friday. I tacked the following paragraph onto the end of that e-mail:
I'd also like to pass along that over the course of the day, I've spoken to each of the previous great loves of your life, both those you dated and those you didn't. Every one of them would like to call you to apologize profusely for all the pain they caused you. And it you have any doubt about their sincerity, check the calendar.
This was primarily intended as a laugh line. The distress wasn't supposed to go any longer than half a minute. I figured that it wouldn't be taken seriously -- is it really reasonable to think I'd even be able to track all those ex-girlfriends down, much less get them all to agree to call my friend? And would I really give his number out without his permission, to those who didn't already have it? But even if that was believed, that's why I added in that last clause about checking the calendar.

The prank intended to last thirty seconds actually induced ninety minutes of turmoil. Not until my friend left work did he see the date and realize what was up. When he e-mailed me this morning to let me know that I'd "gotten" him, I had to apologize to him for putting through that. He said it was better than Google Nose and YouTube shutting down. Maybe so, but I'd still put it far below YouTube's mass Rickroll from five years ago.
christmas 2008

S. Sandberg: "Lean in." -- M. Carberry: "Lien GONE!"

This post has nothing to do with anything the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook has said recently, or in her book, regarding women in the workplace or anything else. It's all about my car. The last two words of that sentence take on new meaning, because as of the middle of last week, it's officially my car. As in, Ford Credit no longer owns any piece of it. The thirty-sixth and final payment went through, and I own my Focus free and clear. Besides the feeling of satisfaction at completing this, I'm happy to have my monthly expenses drop by over $450 per month.

I've been anticipating this for some time now. But even had I not been, I would have been reminded at the start of this month when I unexpectedly got a paper statement from Ford Credit.

After thirty-four months of nothing but solicitations from Ford Credit in the mail, I got that about three weeks ago. (I got a paper statement for my first payment, after which I set up automatic withdrawal.) I wonder if there is some requirement that a paper statement be sent when an account has only one payment remaining, possibly because the payment amount went up by a few cents. Otherwise, why would they send me a statement -- with a tear-off stub as the bottom third -- when they know the account is on auto-payment? I am absolutely certain they know the account is on auto-payment, because they printed, in capital letters in red, "DO NOT MAIL IN A PAYMENT" and just below that, "Your account is on automatic withdrawal..." And of course, there's also the matter of putting a large enticement to finance another vehicle on the right side. I don't blame them for doing this, because it's probably standard, but as I've written before, if there was truly fine market segmentation, they'd know that barring an unforeseen catastrophe, I don't intend to re-enter the vehicle market for at least five years, and probably for at least seven.

Today, I got the letter from Ford Credit saying the lien is satisfied, and was subjected to another example of how the government gets you coming, going, and coming again. The lien release is electronically transferred to the New York State DMV, but that doesn't automatically trigger the issue of a new "clean" title. To make that happen, I had to mail the old title, the lien release letter, and a check for twenty dollars to DMV. I don't think that's an absolute requirement, but I did so anyway, because as a general matter, it's best to keep the document up to date. Especially when it involves exchanging a title that says "LIENS" for one that decisively states I own the car.
christmas 2008

Googly-oogly

I returned home from a fun night out nearly two weeks ago to a Google Reader page that showed a sad alert message -- telling me that Reader would be retired on July 1. NOOOOO! I love Reader, as it puts personal blogs and stories from favorite sites and authors in a convenient place and format. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this; my inclination is to wait and see what happens with Feeddler, the iOS Reader client I use on my iPhone and iPad. In fact, it seems that a plan for a post-Reader Feeddler is in the works. I have nothing but praise for Feeddler's user interface, so I'm inclined to stick with it after Reader goes by the wayside. Of note today: an article at All Things D hinting that Google can't afford (from a liability standpoint) to have Reader off all by itself, without a dedicated team behind it -- you know, one that includes lawyers.

As an alternative, I can actually now just open everything I might want to read in tabs on my browser. My Twitter feed alerted me to the OneTab extension for Chrome, which, with a single mouse click, turns all your open tabs into a single tab with a list of links. OneTab touts the memory reduction in the browser; while this is a positive effect, I'm not experiencing it fully because tabs that are "pinned" in Chrome are unaffected. However, from a usability standpoint, this isn't a bug, it's a feature -- the whole point of pinned tabs is they're the ones that remain open under all conditions, so I can use OneTab without having to worry about re-opening each pinned tab individually.

Also via Twitter: Ars Technica reports that Google is retiring site blocking in its search functionality. The only way to not "welcome back the content farms," as AT puts it, is to install a Chrome extension, which is of no help to anyone who doesn't use Chrome. I've never blocked sites from Google search, so this doesn't affect me personally, but it caught my attention because Libby's tweet called it another step in "[t]he great Google Web Enclosening." I regard enclosure of the Internet, regardless of who is doing it, as a negative; so much of the utility provided by it derives from the Internet's lack of barriers and its ability to circumvent those that are erected.
christmas 2008

Good news on multiple legal fronts

Three, to be specific.
  • A federal judge in California has flatly declared that National Security Letters are unconstitutional. NSLs are some of the worst developments of the post-9/11 national security apparatus, as they allow the FBI to access records essentially on their own say-so. Not only that, they come with a buit-in prior restraint -- a recipient is prohibited from disclosing publicly even the existence of the letter. This promises to be the first step in a long fight between the Justice Departmenton one side, as they are certain to appeal today's ruling, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and this particular NSL recipient on the other. All the best of luck to the challengers - they'll need it, because the government doesn't like taking no for an answer when it comes to the scope of its power.

  • On the other side of the country, the D. C. Circuit ruled that the CIA, helmed by newly confirmed director John Brennan (aka Drone Master B), must make certain disclosures about its uses of unmanned aerial vehicles. This comes on the heels of last week's highly public thirteen hour real-deal filibuster by Senator Rand Paul. He's on the right side of this issue. The issues here are much the same as with the NSLs I described above -- excessive secrecy and too much power in hands that are not held nearly accountable enough. Secret law and extrajudicial killings, which under many other scenarios are termed "assassinations," are antithetical to American ideals. If the appeal holds up, it'll be interesting to see just what are the legal bases for operations like that ones that took out American born Anwar al-Awlaki and his sixteen year old son two weeks apart. That said, even if those memos do come out, I'd think they'll be heavily redacted. After all, national security is at stake -- because the government says so! For a deeper (and longer) look into the drone issue (and the security state in general), I can't recommend The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald highly enough.

  • After getting its rear end handed to it last month, the U.S. Attorney in Boston will not appeal its loss in the matter in U.S. v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, MA. Yes, that's the name of the case -- a piece of property is the defendant. This was a civil asset forfeiture matter, where something is charged with a crime, which allows property so be seized without ever having to prove it was involved in a crime, or its owners even had criminal intent. The only way you could ever make an attempt to justify something like this is if you gave the cases really cool names. Something like The People of the State of New York v. 83 Kilos of Uncut Colombian Cocaine, And We Mean The Really Good Stuff. Here's the release from the Institute for Justice, which defended Russ Caswell, who owns the motel on the property. I wonder what motivated the government not to pursue the appeal. Was the evidence so clear and convincing that the decision couldn't possibly be reversed? Or did Carmen Ortiz decide that, after practically hounding Aaron Swartz to suicide, she'd ruined enough lives for at least the first quarter of 2013?
christmas 2008

Legalized breaking and entering

For nearly two years, ever since the unfortunate events in Atlantic City at the 2011 ECAC Championship weekend, I've had only a single copy of each of the keys to my lockbox and storage unit. Since losing either of those single copies would be a huge problem, I kept them in the car and separated from my car key, since I access the storage unit far more often. Early last week, I had a need to get into the lockbox, thus necessitating a cold trip out to the car. I deduced that if I had two copies of each key, as I probably should, I wouldn't need to make such a trip, nor should I continue to allow a situation where a single mistake could cause a big headache. So last Wednesday, I had duplicates of each key made. At that time, I didn't think to test the new key to my storage unit; I'd just get to it the next time I needed to get in there.

That next time was Saturday afternoon. The key entered the lock but didn't turn. At first, I just figured the key was bad, and that as soon as I got my hands on the other one (the one I'd had prior to making the copy), I'd be fine. I went home, got that key, put it in the lock... and it didn't turn either. Public Storage of Northport, we have a problem. I've gone from having one good key, to thinking I had two, to actually having none.

I went to the office and explained the situation to the guy there. He said that for security reasons, they didn't keep spare keys. He also told me that I could have a locksmith come out, but he would charge an arm and a leg, and so my best bet would be to get some bolt cutters and cut the lock off, after which I could purchase a new lock right there at the office. That night at dinner, I filled my parents in, and Dad said he could get bolt cutters at work.

This morning, he brought them home. As soon as he handed them to me, it was off to the storage complex. I tried each key once more for good measure. I triple checked the number to the right of the door to make sure I was attacking the correct lock. And then I went to work. It was not easy. After about half an hour, this is all I was able to accomplish:

I couldn't get the bolt cutters anywhere near the actual bolt. At this point, I thought it might be a better idea to peel back the metal on the top in order to expose more of the bolt. For this, I needed pliers. Though completely unrelated, I also needed lunch. I returned home and obtained both of those things. I then drove back to the storage place and started going to town on the lock again. At a certain point, I realized that peeling back the metal was not a precursor to cutting the bolt. It was the main step in getting the lock off. There was no way I was getting the bolt between the maws of the bolt cutters. I'd instead have to literally rip the case open. It took me another hour after I got back up there, but I got this done. I used the pliers a little bit, but mostly I was using the bolt cutters essentially as a pair of super pliers. This was a bit dicey, as I had to make sure I didn't damage the latch assembly or dislodge it from the door. Here's what the old lock looked like at the end:

Once I'd gotten the lock off and gotten inside my unit, I went down to the office again, bought a new lock, and put in on. So now I've got a brand new lock with two working keys, eight days after I expected to.

(Addendum, 8:45 am, 3/15) I should add that the most likely cause for the keys no longer working in the lock is damage during the duplication process. I'm guessing that when the first key went into the machine, a little bit of metal may have been taken off, rendering that key unusable, and it was then copied.
christmas 2008

Enough parental concern, or too much?

Via Gawker -- A young couple goes to Peru for several months, and after a while, they stop posting on Facebook and stop withdrawing money from their bank accounts. The mother of the guy engages the Peruvian government to find her son, and she doesn't accept rumors of their being sighted, leading to a hydroplane being sent to find and film the couple.

I think both the mother and the couple are at fault to some degree. One would think that Garrett Hand would know the temperament of his mother, and would be able to anticipate this type of a response. It seems that much of this could have been averted with a simple call, e-mail, or Facebook post saying that they'd be off the grid for X number of days, and not to expect any updates. That being so, Hand did inform his mother that there would be periods when he'd be out of range. And the whole "PROOF OF LIFE" thing seems to me a bit overblown. Some of the comments on the article were funny, especially those urging Jamie Neal to break up with Hand to avoid having to deal with his mother.

This came to my attention by way of Amy Alkon, who titled it "Why You Shouldn't Friend Your Mom On Facebook." I am, in that sense, fortunate that such a quandary would never present itself to me in this form. My mom can barely check e-mail and play solitaire, and my dad considers his computer illiteracy a point of pride. I don't think either of them would have any use for social media. And as for calling and/or emailing, I've never considered my parents to be the "helicopter" type, so I don't think they'd get too worried if I didn't. (I had a habit of going long stretches without communicating when I was at Cornell, but that was upstate New York, not South America.)
christmas 2008

job update 2/25

Last Thursday, I posted on Facebook that I had three interesting job processes going. All of them have since turned in one way or another.

Half an hour after I made the post, I heard back from a recruiter who'd contacted me after seeing my resume on Monster. She said that the medical device company I'd interviewed with by phone two days before had someone else they wished to pursue. Whomp whomp.

On Friday morning, I drove out to Hauppauge for what I thought would be an interview with a life insurance company. It was actually a presentation. I'd already been skeptical about this one, since they didn't seem to have their stuff entirely together. This meeting was initially scheduled for nine days prior, but I didn't make it to that one because they sent me to the wrong address. The office moved over Presidents' Day weekend, and the e-mail I received directed me to the new office, which was then occupied only by a few construction workers. The presentation ended with a questionnaire. I got a call from them late on Friday, but was away from my phone. I called the number they'd left, and was greeted with "you've reached the old recruiting line of [company]. Please call [new number, from which their call had come]." Um, what? You tell me to call a number and it's the wrong one? I then called the other number and got no answer. At this point, it's just as well, because I'm not inclined to pursue that process any further. I remembered the brief time I spent as a prospective knife salesman in 2002 after responding to one of those generic "student summer work" postings I'd seen. I don't feel like I'm a natural salesman, and while I was heartened to hear that most of this company's agents had backgrounds in other fields, I don't think it's for me. My response on the questionnaire of "yes" to the question of whether I was interested was motivated by the feeling that I'm not in a position to turn anybody down. Upon further review, I'm not sure that's true; if I think I'm not a good fit for an organization or vice versa, then it's up to me to stop here and not waste any more of their time.

I had a phone interview this afternoon, and while I think it went okay, I wouldn't be surprised if that employer decided to pursue other candidates. I spent some time familiarizing myself with one of the job's primary areas of responsibility, and I was barely asked anything about that; the questions were instead of a much more general nature. The biggest stumbling block was when I was asked how much of a background I'd had in a particular area, and I was forced to admit that there wasn't much outside my classroom experience. After the interview, I realized that a better answer would have been to point to my GPA and Navy experience to show that I can pick up new concepts easily and that I'm trainable. It's too bad, because this is one job that I would be very excited about (due especially to its location).

There are still a couple of other applications out there, including one for a civilian position at the prototype nuclear plant outside of Saratoga Springs where I did my training in 2005. I do at least feel better that there are things happening (even if they're not all positive things), as opposed to the long stretches of waiting that characterized my applications to various civilian nuclear power plants last year.
christmas 2008

Some interesting Friday evening links

Here's a long post about the agreed but not yet finalized merger between Penguin and Random House. I had several varied thoughts about this on Wednesday. One of them, in reference to "loss-leader" pricing, was about a sentence I recalled reading in the Cato Handbook for Policymakers that any pricing can be an antitrust violation -- it's predatory if it's too low, it's collusion if it's equal to competitors, and it's gouging if it's too high. (Previous link is to the relevant chapter of the Handbook.) I recalled the last major antitrust case, the Microsoft litigation, and the fact that Internet Explorer's market share has been steadily declining. To what extent did the litigation of the late 1990's and early 2000's contribute to that phenomenon? I have a general skepticism of antitrust law; as with many other areas of regulation, I think it can too easily be manipulated by the interested parties to achieve their desired ends. As for the ability of Amazon to influence regulatory proceedings, the prospect of a tacit understanding between that firm and the government is a foul one indeed, as all crony capitalism is. It would seem to indicate that Amazon might not have the heavy hand of the Department of Justice brought upon it if Jaclyn's worst case scenario eventuates (which is a rather large "if"). That leads me to wonder how much lobbying Amazon does and how much money they spend on it. From one perspective -- one that I happen to share -- those funds could be seen as tribute money. While I know that some might recoil at the comparison of public servant bureaucrats to the Barbary pirates of the early 19th century, I think there's more than a kernel of similarity. Finally, the case of Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca serves as an example of "where there's a will, there's a way" with respect to book selling.

Also, two posts from Megan McArdle are worth looking at. The first, from Wednesday, is about a so-called educational ratchet effect, wherein more and more jobs require a bachelor's degree. She cites, from a New York Times story, one law firm that has adopted a policy of requiring a degree of every one of its employees. I read this and think of my brother, who never entertained any thought of going to a four-year school, and how this kind of effect could impact him. A follow-up posted yesterday compares this closing off of avenues to imperial China. This post resonated with my own situation a bit more, for two reasons, both found in these two paragraphs:


And yet, this is apparently considerably more experience than many of my fellow journalists have, especially the younger ones. The road to a job as a public intellectual now increasingly runs through a few elite schools, often followed by a series of very-low-paid internships that have to be subsidized by well-heeled parents, or at least a free bedroom in a major city. The fact that I have a somewhat meandering work and school history, and didn't become a journalist until I was thirty, gives me some insight (she said, modestly) that is hard to get if you're on a laser-focused track that shoots you out of third grade and straight towards a career where you write and think for a living. Almost none of the kids I meet in Washington these days even had boring menial high school jobs working in a drugstore or waiting tables; they were doing "enriching" internships or academic programs. And thus the separation of the mandarin class grows ever more complete.

I'm hinting at the final problem, which is that this ostensibly meritocratic system increasingly selects from those with enough wealth and connections to first, understand the system, and second, prepare the right credentials to enter it--as I believe it also did in Imperial China.


Like Megan, I have a somewhat meandering work history, one that includes some of those menial jobs (video store clerk in high school, campus bookstore clerk, call center and other random tasking at a laboratory) in addition to the six years I spent in the Navy and getting my BS at 30. And my background most certainly does not include the wealth and connections of which McArdle speaks.

I recall Mary Schmich's famous 1997 commencement speech at Northwestern, which really entered pop culture when Baz Luhrmann turned it into a catchy song two years later. In particular, the line about not worrying if you don't know what you want to do with your life at 22. Is there more cause to worry a decade and a half later? The "laser-focused track" of which McArdle writes leads me to wonder if that's the case, and whether or not it's a good thing. I tend to believe it's not.
christmas 2008

Job updates.

I last wrote about the ongoing and slow-going job search two months ago, in the aftermath of an interview in southern Maryland. Since then, I'm in roughly the same place, but dealing with an entirely different set of people -- and happy to be doing so.

At the Maryland interview at Calvert Cliffs, I was told that they'd have a decision shortly after Thanksgiving. They didn't. I e-mailed them on December 3 about expense reimbursement, and they said they'd have their decisions make that week. By the evening of December 7, I had heard nothing but silence, and it was one of those moments that really tested the resolve of my diet. I was seriously considering picking up a six or twelve pack of beer from the supermarket and just binging out. I opted instead for a couple of scoops of ice cream, which were sufficient to settle me down.

Also on December 3, I heard back from Nine Mile Point near Oswego, New York, wanting to schedule an interview. Nine Mile Point and Calvert Cliffs are both operated by Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, and I felt it necessary to have the hiring managers at both plants know that I was simultaneously engaged with them both. I was asked whether I preferred upstate New York or Maryland; I opted for the former, having previously lived there. At this point, the communication between the plants, and between each plant and me, got very disjointed. I assumed they were on the same page, which wasn't the case at all. On the 13th, I contacted Calvert Cliffs to attempt to move things forward, and after a couple of fits and starts, I was given an okay to interview at Nine Mile Point. When I was asked for my preference, I figured -- correctly, as it turned out -- that I was being asked to pick which applicant pool I wished to remain in. By picking Lake Ontario over the Chesapeake Bay, I was ending my candidacy at Calvert Cliffs, though I thought my interview there had gone better than some of the others.

Finally, on December 19, I drove up to Oswego, and interviewed at Nine Mile Point the next day. It was a short interview, and not much different from any of the others I'd had to that point. I was told that they expected to have decisions made by January 2. When the day after New Year's came and went without any notice, I started to become concerned. On one hand, they were clear about that date. On the other, they had not said that they wouldn't contact me in the event they weren't making me an offer. And since Calvert Cliffs had remained silent while they still were deliberating, I didn't know what to make of the lack of a response from upstate. I didn't want to communicate that I was expecting them to pick up the pace, but by January 8, I'd reasoned that it had gone on long enough. I checked in with Nine Mile Point (piggybacked with checking up on the expense reimbursement from that interview), and an hour later, they said they hadn't selected me. Oh, well. At least, thanks to having driven to both those interviews and the distance involved, I turned a bit of a profit on each.

But wait, there's more! The Friday before New Year's, the phone lit up with a number in the 623 area code. That's Phoenix, and it probably meant Palo Verde. That's the largest nuclear power plant in the United States, and the only one that doesn't sit adjacent to a natural body of water. I'd submitted my résumé months ago for a posting clearly marked "future opportunity." Apparently, the start of 2013 was the future. I spent most of last week out there; flew out Tuesday, back Friday, and spent Wednesday and Thursday in various interviews. That was the first sign that this would be different than the other places I'd visited; by contrast, I spent less than two hours at Nine Mile Point. I met with several different operations personnel, one of the heads of operations training, and finally with the site vice president on Thursday afternoon. I was impressed with the way things were done out there; the interviewers were very candid about past deficiencies (one said that many years ago, they'd gotten so good at operating the plant that they were reading their own press clippings, and thus had gotten complacent). Another thing they were very open about was ensuring not only that I'm the right fit for them, but that Palo Verde and the Valley of the Sun are right for me. I knew I had to be especially concerned about this, as I'd never visited the Phoenix area before. Nothing about my experience out there dissuaded me from thinking I'd enjoy making it my new home. The only big concern I had (and still have) is my ability to adapt to the heat. Had I visited in July, I would have had the chance to evaluate that firsthand. But not only was I out there in the middle of January, they had just come out of an especially cold stretch. On Tuesday night, the driver of the rental car shuttle at Sky Harbor International Airport got on the intercom and greeted us with the words "welcome to Alaska." It was 47 degrees at the time. I had to wear my jacket as I left the hotel for the plant on both mornings. When all is said and done, I think I can adapt to the different weather. Hydration and sunscreen will be hard to forget in that climate.

There's one other job offer I've put in for. After getting the rejection notice for Nine Mile Point, I looked at what positions Cornell had available, just on a whim. And as chance would have it, there was one that fit fairly well with me right on the first page of listings. It's for a "Repository Administrator/Project Associate" with the University Library, overseeing arXiv.org and assisting with Project Euclid. Going completely outside the realm of nuclear power necessitated writing a cover letter for the first time. I tried to convey the strengths I brought to the position as best I could, even though some of my knowledge base isn't an exact match with the specifications. I also played up how awesome it would be to have the opportunity to move back to Ithaca. Whether it's this, Palo Verde, or something else entirely, I'm due for a positive break -- but I fully realize that's no guarantee one will come.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

christmas 2008

Miss America 2013. No, this isn't a joke post.

On Saturday night, playoff football was in full swing. Packers vs. 49ers, too -- a good game, at least in the first half. But shortly after nine, it was relegated to the iPad, in favor of the Miss America pageant. I know that by admitting this, I am putting at heavy risk any tattered shreds of my man card that may still be in my possession.

I actually watched this thing into the late nineties, back when it was held in mid-September. Also, back when it mattered a bit more. (Seinfeld built an entire episode -- a season premiere, no less -- around the pageant. Rhode Island is NEVER in contention!) Also, when it was held in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. What a fall for that building. You go from hosting one of the major cultural events of the year (in the middle of the last century) to the soon to be former home of the ECAC Hockey tournament! That aside, Miss America conjures up a cornucopia of references. Most recently, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo; those of my age and older might recall the name JonBenet Ramsey; and some might be familiar with a certain Miss Vermont*.

My interest in this year's telecast (now from Las Vegas) stems from something that came across my radar last summer. Namely, that Miss Maryland is a Cornell senior. The IvyGate post poked fun at her for her letter of resignation from her sorority's executive board. I'll grant that the letter has more than a tinge of a Ron Burgundy-esque "I'm very important... I have many leather bound books, and my apartment is filled with rich mahogany" quality to it. But Joanna Guy handled her decision extremely well; she realized she couldn't reconcile her duties to Cornell's Alpha Phi and the Miss America Organization, she didn't seek an exception to her chapter's rules, and she came to a conclusion and informed her sisters in a timely fashion. And on Saturday night, she represented both the Old Line State and the Big Red in an outstanding manner, reaching the top ten and crushing a number from Les Misérables.

Apart from the Cornell connection, I was of course rooting for the home front. The various Miss New York winners hadn't done so well when I was growing up, so I was a bit surprised to see this year's representative go through to the semifinals -- and then place first in both "lifestyle and fitness" (read: swimsuit) and evening wear. (After each round, the results were shared with the television audience, but not anyone in the auditorium.) She did nothing to lose that lead with her tap dance to James Brown's "Get Up Off of That Thing," and didn't lose composure and trip over her words in the question response (as Miss Iowa did). The final two were her and Miss South Carolina. Chris Harrison said that the first runner-up takes over if the winner must abdicate. I don't know if that line is standard; I thought it was obvious foreshadowing, since the last Miss America from New York did just that. (Wonder what ever happened to her?)

And indeed, after 29 years, the Empire State once again reigns over Boardwalk Hall PH Live. I happened to leave ABC on, and as you might imagine, Eyewitness News worked the story into their broadcast. It was only then that I learned that she's originally from Alabama. This raises the question of whether she's a true New Yorker. To that question, I respond... SO WHAT? For generations, people of all stripes have made their way to what Donald Sutherland called "the place where excuses are weak as opinions are strong." Carpetbagging is a rich part of our state's history, including Robert F. Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. Mallory Hagan is a great addition to that tradition, and she'll make a great Miss America -- for all 365 days of her tenure.

* Here's the original version of Tucker's story. It's not the full retelling; that's only in his most recent book, Hilarity Ensues.