You must change your life fourteen times

Archaic Torsos by David Shapiro

You must change your life fourteen times.
Change your way of living like writing.
You must change your method and your mind. You
Have to transform life fourteen times. Change life.
It has become necessary to change your life.
And now you’d better change it: you, yourself.
It’s up to you to exchange your life. Change, change!
Alter your life, patch and re-shape your life.
“A change came o’er the spirit of your change.”
You might shuffle the cards spin wheels change wheels.
You must convert resolve revolutionize your dissolves.
You might change life itself. And you might change.
You must change. You must not outlive your life.


That was one of my favorite and best-remembered of the poems I read in college, and very appropriate for the college life period. It came back to me while I was at Thomas and made me feel brave about teaching unfamiliar courses; I posted it on my bulletin board to similarly inspire passing students. (I’m willing to take the “under” on whether anyone actually noticed it. Professors’ bulletin boards are one of those places where inspiring messages go to die.)

Eventually, however, the power of the poem seems to have inspired me to think about different ways to apply my interests and talents. Readers of this blog will be aware of how much I enjoy using public data to examine state-level policy and politics. I was lucky enough to be offered a position with the Sunlight Foundation helping states and municipalities better connect with their constituents through providing online access to public data.

As a researcher, I learned first-hand how convoluted it can be to gain access to certain kinds of government information which is supposed to be public. I’m now going to be working to help make that data more accessible for all of us. Making public information truly public will let us leverage the power of our collective distributed intelligence, allowing more people to provide data-informed perspectives on policy.

For example, changes to the sales tax in Maine are pretty controversial. To know how I should feel about it, it would be really good to know how the change in sales tax is likely to affect different communities with different aggregate purchasing behavior. In Maine, I was able to find the person who had access to the state’s data about sales tax collection through a series of phone calls and emails (thanks again, Jerry!), but that was due to my specific knowledge of our state government structure and possibly partially to my credibility as a Thomas professor. Who I am should not determine whether I have access to information that all of us own.

Speaking of data and policy, it was bittersweet to see the coverage of my recent Maine Policy Review article on municipal budget changes in the wake of state funding cuts. (OK – very little bitter – almost all sweet! Just sad that I wasn’t home to buy the papers in person.) The piece was cut down into an opinion article for the Bangor Daily Herald on Saturday – with a healthy and almost shockingly ad-hominem free discussion in the comment section, which was a nice parting gift – and got a nice shout-out from the Portland Press Herald. The MMA fiscal survey for 2012 has just been made available, so I’m going to try to provide a brief update to my MPR analysis when I get a chance.

Until then, I’ll continue to provide periodic postings here. Stay warm, everyone!

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