Sunday, July 15, 2018

Beach Reads IV: Archimedes Principle

Archimedes Principle by Jack English

Not many writers can create an engrossing thriller out of a story about an insurance company but Mr. English manages to do it well.  He throws in some science and law as well, just for fun, and a lot of auditing, which is much more suspenseful than you might think.  (Legal) pharmaceuticals also play a role.  The main action takes place in South Jersey and Philadelphia, and a further excursion out west to a mine.  There is also a cross-country road trip.  So, there is local interest and some semi-exotic locales for color.

The characters are realistic enough to be believable and fanciful enough to pull off the story.  The interactions among them keep the plot moving.  The villains are villain-y enough but not too villain-y, just the right amount of villainy.    Mr. English also strikes the right tone with his female characters – they are complex, realistic people without wearing an obvious “I’m a strong female character!” sign.  I would enjoy sitting down and talking with them and they are multi-dimensional enough to have a real conversation with.  The main character is saddled with the name Buckley Mills Forrester but still manages to keep the book on track.  While none of the characters is a detective by occupation it is something of a mystery story,

I like the action scenes too.  Unlike a lot of thrillers this one doesn’t have a lot of unnecessary violence.  If you read a story like this in the newspaper you would think it was fascinating, but still believable.  The book likewise keeps the reader’s attention and things like accounting and auditing rules, usually relegating to comic relief and parody, move the plot along.

I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this book but I did, and may read some of Mr. English’s other works as well.  This book, like most of his others, is only available as a Kindle title, not as a physical book, but reading it on my phone on the train was easy to do.

Beach Reads III: West Winging It

Like Alyssa Mastromonaco’s book, this is a White House memoir from a young staffer in the Obama administration and is clearly intended for a young audience.  Cunnane worked in the Obama press office from 2010 to 2016.  He writes about his experiences there, for example, his role in having Obama on an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  If you have seen that video reading the planning that went into it, and the behind the scenes comments are really interesting.  His stories about learning the ropes in the various offices he worked in, and how communications staff interacted with the press are equally interesting.  Cunnane was also a writer on the television show “Designated Survivor,” which I watched regularly.

This is not so much a policy memoir as a look inside the often frantic, always in motion world inside the White House, and a good view of the current (or recent past) interplay between the press office and the press.  The balancing act of staying on good terms with the press and maintaining boundaries is tricky, indeed.  His descriptions of the physical layout of the office were also very illuminating.  Bo Obama (the former president’s photogenic dog) makes a cameo and office design plays an important role in it.  Some of the names of Cunnane’s colleagues are recognizable, others not so much (especially the ones whose last names are not provided).  We often see the big moments of a presidency on tv but seldom have a chance to see how those moments came together.  There are always many people in offices or open floor seating who put heart and soul into making those big moments happen.  It is refreshing to read about that aspect of politics and public service.

There are a few jarring notes, which are perhaps a result of generational changes in humor.  On page 185 he writes about Obama relaxing on overnight flights on Air Force One, wearing “Athletic zip-up sweatshirt (okay), unusually tight sweatpants (not okay), and, of course, sandals with white socks (really not okay).”  With all of Pete Souza’s photos of Obama I’m not sure we need that word picture.  I do not know if a comment on p. 119 is youthful humor or a reference to a MeToo moment; he writes about the difference between flying with the press on Air Force One and flying with the overflow press on a charter.  “My biggest worry on those [charter] flights was the hands-y middle-aged stewardesses who were a tad too attentive.”  The idea that a young staffer cannot fly on a press plane from one event to another without being molested is distressing indeed.

At some point in the future someone could read all of the Obama staffer books and put together, like a jigsaw puzzle, a rough image of how all the people and offices intersected and get several different views of the same event or strategy.  Anyone wishing to do that should hang on to a copy of this book as I’m sure it will be a linchpin in any such effort.  

Cunnane is from a political family and his mother currently holds elective office in Pennsylvania.  He discusses his family interest in politics and it is clear he grew up in a very loving and supportive household.  This is an interesting book for anyone in politics but especially for those interested in political communications.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Beach Reads II: Why They Stay

If you plan on watching A Very English Scandal this summer and are wondering who Jeremy Thorpe is and why you should care, a chapter in this book will provide an outline of the story.  That is one of the nine scandals outlined in this book.  I’m about halfway through and, having read a fair amount about some of the cases in this book, the ones I am familiar with are represented well, even if briefly.  Entire books have been written about some, if not all, of the examples presented, but looking at them in a group allows for some comparison.  She has devised a White Queen scale and compares each spouse in the book a rating based on the scale.  I think this will confuse some readers, especially if they have no idea who Elizabeth Woodville was.  On the other hand, if, like me, you know very well who Elizabeth Woodville was, it is equally perplexing.   The widow Grey (nee Woodville) managed to do quite well by her family after her marriage (I had Richard III’s picture in my locker in high school and have never been a particularly big fan of Liz, or, for that matter, her husband.  Those Woodvilles, ugh.)

Back to Michaud’s book, it is an excellent introduction to a number of political sex scandals and the spouses that stayed.  While most of the couples are American there are chapters that take place in other countries, such as the UK and Israel.

Beach Reads I: The Blackbird Sisters

This mystery series features three sisters from the Main Line with colonial ancestors.  The family wealth has been frittered away and they have all taken different paths toward adjusting to working (or not) for a living.  One has inherited the family farm in Bucks County and writes the society column for a local newspaper.  All of which is to say that there is a lot of local flavor in these books, as well as murder, fashion, siblings, and assorted other goings on.  The author, Nancy Martin, lives in Pittsburgh.  I haven’t read all the books in this series yet but what I have read is well-done and interesting 

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Community Theatre Week

Who knew?!  It's Community Theatre Week in Pennsylvania this week.  State Rep. Perry Warren (D-31, Bucks) was the lead sponsor of a resolution (HR 916) to recognize June 3-9, 2018 as Community Theatre Week. Today Warren introduced and reconized representatives from the Newtown Arts Company and ActorsNET in Morrisville.

Two quotes that accompanies the press release:

“Community theatre organizations bring the arts to life for audiences of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds,” said Warren, D-Bucks. “The passionate individuals who make up these organizations introduce us to new worlds and help us understand the human experience.”

“We appreciate the efforts of everyone, from the actors on stage to the behind-the-scenes crew, who put together community programs that educate and enrich our lives. I’m pleased to be able to shine a spotlight on their work,” Warren said.
There were several other Philly area representatives among the bipartisan group of co-sponsors, among them:  Murt, Daley, DiGirolomo, and Raab.

I agree with the House on this -- community theatre groups are an important part of our social fabric.  A vital artistic ecosystem has a lot of levels.  I went to see "Three Tall Woman" in New York last weekend, but I also go to see plays at People's Light, the Arden, local productions, and high school performances.  It is a wonderful way to support the efforts of our friends and neighbors to tell our cultural stories.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Philly's First Real Estate Week

from the inbox:

Philadelphia based company, Better Than Success, kicks-off Philly Real Estate Week (PREW), a citywide, week-long celebration honoring real estate planning, development, investing and wealth building throughout the City of Philadelphia. Beginning Monday, June 4th, the week will be filled with dozens of educational, entertaining, celebratory and networking events, seminars, panel discussions, boot camps, real estate tours, and more. For more information on PREW, please visit or follow us on Instagram @PhillyRealEstateWeek

WHEN:                 Monday, June 4 – Friday, June 8

WHERE:               Monday- Urban Planning Day
11:30AM - 1PM (International House, 3717 Chestnut St, Philadelphia)
The Plan for Philadelphia Presented by the Philadelphia Planning Committee
5:30PM - 8PM (Golf and Social, 1080 N. Delaware Ave, Philadelphia)                                      
Opening Celebration (The Geography of Beer)

Tuesday- Home Ownership Day
12PM - 2PM (Chamber of Commerce in the Bellevue, 200 S Broad Street #700)
5 Steps to Buying Your Dream Home in Philly (Panel Discussion)
7PM - 9PM (IBX Live, 1919 Market Street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia)
Homebuyer Informational Bazaar

Wednesday- Beginners Residential & Commercial Investing Day
12PM - 2PM (City Hall, Conversation Hall)
Women in Real Estate Panel & Speed Dating Networking Event
6:00PM - 8:00PM (Better Than Success Studios, 2930 Jasper St #103, Philadelphia)
Real Estate Mastermind Feat. Ken Weinstein

Thursday- Advanced Residential & Commercial Investing Day
12PM - 2PM (City Hall, Mayor’s Reception)
The Legalities of Real Estate: Learn to use the law to help build your real estate portfolio
6PM - 9PM (Independence Seaport Museum, 211 South Christopher Columbus)
Philly Wealth Builders Summit (Networking & Happy Hour)

Friday- Real Estate Sales Strategy Day
9AM - 4PM (International House, 3717 Chestnut St, Philadelphia)
2nd Annual Wholesalers & Realtors Bootcamp

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New PA-04 District Draws Good Candidates (Goodman and Daley)

The ink is barely dry on the new PA Congressional district map and the newly drawn PA-04, most of Montgomery County and a small piece of Berks County, is drawing good Democratic candidates.  Unless Congressman Brendan Boyle (representing the current 13th district, part of Philadelphia and part of Montco) decides to run in the 4th, this new district wouldn't have an incumbent. 

Two people have announced their candidacies:

Shira Goodman (, currently the executive director of CeaseFirePA.  Here is a short bio from her press release:

Shira Goodman is a life-long resident of Montgomery County, growing up in Abington and graduating from Abington High School. After attending college at the University of Michigan and law school at Yale, Shira returned to Montgomery County and is now raising her sons with her husband Alan Woronoff. Their eldest, Jason, is a senior at Upper Dublin High School and Brandon is a freshman. Alan is a radiologist working at Abington Hospital, Jefferson Health System. The Goodman family have been longtime members of Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, and Shira's family is now also actively involved with Temple Sinai in Dresher. Shira is currently the Executive Director of CeaseFirePA, Pennsylvania's largest gun violence prevention organization. 

Mary Jo Daley,  currently serving as a PA State Representative.  Her state rep campaign site is  Here is a short bio from her press release:

Rep. Mary Jo Daley was first elected to represent Montgomery County’s 148th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2012. She was first elected to the Narberth Borough Council in 1992 where she went on to serve 10 years as council president. She lives with her husband Bob Winkelman in Narberth and her daughter, stepdaughter and grandchildren live across southeastern Pennsylvania.
It is likely that other Democrats will also file as candidates, and since the county has also been represented by Republicans, perhaps there will be a real race, with good candidates on both sides. 

Let the games begin!

Monday, February 19, 2018

J R Rowan in 184th State House Race

from the inbox:

South Philly native Jonathan “JR” Rowan today announced his candidacy for the 184th state house district following the retirement of Representative Bill Keller.

“Representative Keller has been a reliable advocate for South Philadelphia neighborhoods for 25 years,” said Rowan. “Our communities would not have grown and thrived without his leadership in Harrisburg and I thank Representative Keller for his public service.”

JR is a lifelong resident of South Philadelphia and has served our community for 20 years in the district offices of two state senators. He has also been involved locally as a coach at EOM Athletic Association, youth sports organizer, board member of Victims Witness Services of South Philadelphia, honorary board member of the South Philadelphia Civic Association, and Democratic Executive Committee Representative.

“South Philly needs a fighter with deep ties to the community to fill this seat and hit the ground running,” Rowan continued. “I understand our neighborhoods, and I have decades of experience working to deliver services for South Philly students, working families, and seniors.”

Rowan will have more details on his campaign and platform in the coming weeks, along with a more formal press event to discuss his candidacy.

Leon Angelichio Runs in 53 State House Race

from the inbox:

Leon Angelichio, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania State Representative in the 53rd Legislative District, is inspired by the energy and support he is already seeing among his family, friends, and supporters. “People are fired up this year – I’ve never seen anything like it. We already have more volunteers than we had 2 years ago, and we have several upcoming fundraisers and meet-and-greets. I look forward to meeting many new people in the district!”

Angelichio is running on a platform that includes responsible, sustainable budgeting, as well as supporting education as the foundation of our future workforce, allowing women to make their own health care choices, and protecting the environment. “Did you know that only half of our fishing streams are actually fishable? That’s shameful, and it’s one of the many things I want to address in Harrisburg.”

Leon is proud to be a blue-collar candidate. “I’m one of the guys who take showers after work, not before work. I believe people are looking for someone who understands what it’s like to work hard, get your hands dirty, and make an honest living.” He has been an HVAC Licensed Master Technician for 24 years and an owner of Angie Mechanical for 8 years.

Angelichio is currently serving his second term on Lansdale Borough Council and is a member of the Administration & Finance Committee and the Public Works Committee. He is active in the Democratic Party, and is married with 2 children.

Refer to the campaign website at for additional information. The 53rd Legislative District includes Lansdale Borough, Hatfield Township and Borough, Franconia Township, Souderton Borough, Telford Borough (Montgomery County portion only), and Salford Township.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Book Review: Mayor, by Michael Nutter

Book Review:  Mayor:  The Best Job in Politics, by Michael A. Nutter.  (Philadelphia, PA:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018)

This is a really nice book.  It’s easy to read and interesting enough to keep the reader’s attention.  Nutter’s personality, wonky and sincere, comes through.  He dedicates the book to “the incredible citizens of Philadelphia who cared about me and gave me a chance to lead our great city, …” and his teachers, his council staff, and mayoral administration.

Like most autobiographies he starts off with his childhood.  He gives a quick overview of Philadelphia culture, the middle class city neighborhood he grew up in, and the importance of which city high school you attend.  He had intended to be a doctor but changed course after not doing well in Chemistry 101.  And, yes, he discusses his work as a DJ, which actually allowed him to meet a lot of politically connected people.  He talks frankly about his growing interest in politics and his introduction to running for office (and losing) and working within the system as it is.  His description of Philadelphia political players and the campaigns he worked on (John C Anderson), and other political influences (Marian Tasco and Bill Gray) is interesting and informative.  Patience is a virtue when in office and Nutter discusses the issues he was concerned about as a city councilman, and the years it could take to pass legislation, as well as the relationships needed to get the requisite votes.  Nutter can get way out into the weeds in these sections but it is still interesting.

From there he writes about his city council and mayoral campaigns (with a bow to the commercial with his daughter).  The second part of the books is devoted to his years as mayor.  In the introduction he describes being mayor as lonely, but also as a position that allows you to “accomplish tangible things” (kindle loc 90).  In a discussion of politics he says:  “My attitude was that if you do your job, more times than not, you’ll get reelected.  But if you get to the point where you think your job is keeping your job, rather than thinking your job is to do your job, then that’s a sad place to be.” (p. 44)

One of my favorite quotes on campaigning is “When you watch a campaign, it is a window into the soul of how that candidate will govern.” (p. 61).  He governed with similar values.  He writes of having the Chief Integrity Officer’s office right next to his (p. 78)

The recession overshadowed his term as mayor.  He writes often about trying to be as transparent as possible with the people of Philadelphia.  Many of the things he wanted to do were sacrificed just to keep the city afloat.  However, he notes “we were one of the only big cities in American to have our bond rating upgraded” (p. 105) during difficult fiscal times.

He discusses not only his successes but his failures (the idea to close libraries, for example) and how proud he was to have been sued by the NRA.  He writes about spending time with the families of fallen police officers, and his speech chiding parents who don’t take care of their children.  He writes about snowstorms and earthquakes, the Occupy movement, helping people keep their homes when their neighborhoods gentrified, and the potential sale of PGW.

So there are lengthy discussions of policy, a little gossip about John Street, and a great overview of how the city works (or doesn’t).

I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.