80 Wyoming Free Breakfast

Wildflowers-MooseCreek-6.28.15

Two wrinkled strangers

We trade motel pleasantries

They are old soulmates.


I drove, in summer of 2015, from Jackson, Wyoming to the Hill Country west of Austin, Texas.  I left Jackson one late afternoon.  I had three companions that day: a badly written spy-novel audiobook, a beautifully desolate high-desert landscape, and a warm sunset on my right shoulder.  I progressed as far south as Evanston, WY, near the Utah border.  There I spent the night in a Super 8.  Free HBO, complimentary breakfast.  It doesn’t matter how warm the milk, cold the coffee, stale the Frosted Flakes, dubious the waffle batter: free motel breakfast is winning the lottery.

Next morning I sipped concentrate orange juice near the buffet.  The day began clear and cool and bright.  I studied a map, hunting for a hiking trailhead in the nearby Wasatch Mountains.  The sun quickly warmed the Super 8 lobby.  An elderly couple entered, sat down to their free breakfast.  I like to think that they were retirees from Nebraska, westward bound to visit their newborn granddaughter in Boise.

Their wore warm, sincere good-morning smiles.  The husband poured two cups of steaming coffee.  I wondered if he’d find it as watered-down as I did, then I wondered if he wondered if I was a snob, sulking over my styrofoam cup while longing for a latte.  He sat down to the newspaper.  The man’s wife arranged breakfast for two at the buffet.  He served the coffee, and she the food.  This was the morning ritual, and it did not change just because the place had.

I split the next five minutes focusing on my map and their meal.  As couples do in quiet moments, they conversed but barely spoke.  A nod, a grateful smile, pointing to a newspaper article, raised eyebrows in recognition.

I was moved.  I wanted so much to celebrate their casual grace, their collective dignity.  But the moment’s beauty was of course its quiet.  I rose from my table and left a moment later.  We exchanged glances and farewell nods.  He looked sad, the young man alone with his map.

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Big Law Gets Bigger: “Record Year” in Law Firm Mergers

From the Philly Inquirer’s always-worth-reading legal industry reporter, Chris Mondics, “A record year for law firms’ M&A activity”:

Law firm mergers and acquisitions reached a record number last year as firms sought to overcome static growth in corporate legal spending by grabbing market share.

Nationwide, there were 91 such mergers, three more than in 2014, according to Newtown Square-based legal consultant firm Altman Weil.

“Law firm mergers and acquisitions are a primary strategy to acquire new business in a market where demand is flat or constrained,” said Altman Weil principal Ward Bower. “The record number of deals in 2015 is a reflection of the intense competition among law firms for new work, and we expect the market to remain hot in 2016.”

EDIT: oh, for the geeks, here’s Altman Weil’s “Merger Line” webpage which tracks and reports on law firm mergers.

Involuntarily Committing New York’s Homeless to Shelter in Cold Weather?

500px-I_Love_New_York.svgWorth reading this well-reported NYT article, “[Gov.] Cuomo Orders that Homeless be Taken to Shelter in Freezing Weather”  in full b/c the governor’s office is still refining its position on what it’s doing and how it will do it.  Short version: an executive order signed yesterday and to take effect tomorrow will, according to the  NYT:

require…local governments to remove homeless people [and place them in shelter] by force, if necessary, once the temperature drops to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below. The governor’s order says that to protect public safety, “the state can take appropriate steps, including involuntary placement.”

As for politics, this raises questions of friction between Gov. Cuomo and NYC Mayor de Blasio, who has made reducing homelessness a priority but has nevertheless confronted stubbornly high homelessness rates during his administration.

The more interesting question concerns policy: what power does government have to involuntarily detain homeless people when the former is ostensibly acting the latter’s and the general public’s best interest?  New York’s Mental Hygiene Law offers some guidance.  More from the NYT:

Zachary W. Carter, Mr. de Blasio’s corporation counsel, said in an internal city document that there were three ways to remove people from the street: voluntary entrance into shelter; arrest if a crime was being committed; and involuntary transfer for psychiatric evaluation or treatment if they posed a danger to themselves or others.

“Factors that do not support involuntary treatment include homelessness or mental illness alone; idiosyncratic behavior; conclusory assertions that person poses danger; mere fact that person would benefit from treatment,” the document said.

Obviously different jurisdictions (state and local) throughout the country maintain divergent policies on homelessness generally.  Letting alone the well-being of homeless people, some municipalities have taken steps that, advocates for the homeless say, effectively criminalize the condition of being homeless.  I’m specifically interested, however, in the question of governments taking action that is grounded, at least nominally, in caring for the homeless in such instances as cold weather emergencies.  Initially I don’t see much online about this but will look a little more.

Incidentally, the Coalition for the Homeless maintains stats on the number of homeless who are in NYC’s shelter system (roughly 60,000).  Governor Cuomo’s chief counsel said there are more than 4000 people living out of shelter and on the streets.

“Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness” 2016 Edition

LSSUlogoI look forward to this annual offering from Lake Superior State University.  From LSSU’s media release: “The tradition created by the late W. T. Rabe, former public relations director at Lake Superior State University, is now in its fifth decade. Compilers hope this year’s list will be so popular that it will break the Internet.  ‘Overused words and phrases are ‘problematic’ for thousands of Queen’s English ‘stakeholders,’” said an LSSU spokesperson while ‘vaping’ an e-cigarette during a ‘presser.’  Once something is banished, there’s no ‘walking it back;’ that’s our ‘secret sauce,’ and there’s no ‘price point’ for that’.”

Here’s the 2016 list, including such insults the English language as, “stakeholder” (I’ve used it), “vape” (“vaping” has always struck me as a 1990s trend that was 20 years late in the arriving; it’s easy for me to envision flannel-clad folk vaping at Internet Cafes with that Marcy Playground song on in the background), and “price point” (this one’s been wearing out it’s welcome for at least 5 years; happy to see it go).

Change: Census Data Show Diversifying U.S. Population

From PR Newswire:CensusBureauLogo

“Millennials, or America’s youth born between 1982 and 2000, now number 83.1 million and represent more than one quarter of the nation’s population. Their size exceeds that of the 75.4 million baby boomers, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today. Overall, millennials are more diverse than the generations that preceded them, with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group (that is, a group other than non-Hispanic, single-race white).

Even more diverse than millennials are the youngest Americans: those younger than 5 years old. In 2014, this group became majority-minority for the first time, with 50.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group.

Reflecting these younger age groups, the population as a whole has become more racially and ethnically diverse in just the last decade, with the percentage minority climbing from 32.9 percent in 2004 to 37.9 percent in 2014.

Five states or equivalents were majority-minority: Hawaii (77.0 percent), the District of Columbia (64.2 percent), California (61.5 percent), New Mexico (61.1 percent) and Texas (56.5 percent).