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Williams has a festive banner for today! I have never seen this before. Of course Google has been doing it for years. I find it a nice touch.



Please Podcast

Could someone please tape these lectures by Math Professor Edward Burger? Why wouldn’t the College want to make this wonderful event available to all of us who live far away from the Purple Bubble? I realize that the Office of Public Affairs may be too technologically backward to put this up as a podcast without any help, but surely someone (faculty or student) in the Math Department would be willing to lend a hand. Innumerate alumni of all ages are crying out for math instruction!


Yankee Hat

The Yankees have a new manager. But we Ephs need a picture like this one to fully celebrate.


Hat tip to Mike Hackett ’04.


College Council Minutes

Thanks to College Council Secretary Remington Shepard ’08 for sending us the minutes from the last three CC meetings (10/17, 10/24, and 10/28) . Good stuff! The more that CC describes what it is doing to the larger community, especially alumni and faculty, the more power over events it will have. Although I hope that, at some point, CC will start posting all the minutes on its website, this is a good start. Thanks again to Remington.

Comments on the substance of the problem that CC faces (mainly a new Dean without, it appears, good instincts about the Williams community) and its proposed actions are welcome.


Future switch


It is a little strange to think that in a few years, the one on the left will be gone and the one on the right will be brick.


Cluster Cup Photo Contest

Although I am still awaiting the Cluster Cup debate competition, this should be even more popular.

Passion, hobby or future profession… the Inter-neighborhood Competition Committee invites you to participate in the Cluster Cup Photo Contest, celebrating “community” in its many forms.

I would have reprinted the 30 (!) lines worth of rules, but, since this is doomed to failure, what’s the point. Comments:

1) Any notion of Neighborhood identity is hopeless at a place like Williams, with our dispersed housing, first year separation, exodus of juniors doing something else (JA or aboard) and seniors living elsewhere (off-campus and co-ops). Without Neighborhood identity, neighborhood competition is moronic. This will never, ever work.

2) Don’t believe me? Time will tell. Don’t forget that I was the one that mocked — Was it just two years ago? — the silly idea of Neighborhood “historians,” students who were:

to build house identity and cluster unity. The Historian would take notes at Board meetings, maintain house archives, display house memorabilia and take photographs at and keep written records of house events.

How did that work out?

3) What is the over/under on number of submissions? I would guess 10 photos and 5 competitors. But I bet that most of those Ephs are members of a Neighborhood Board.

4) I last ranted on this topic four weeks ago. Since then, there have been several (?) Cluster Cup competitions. So, how have they gone? How many people have participated? Who is winning?

5) The point here is not simply that this is stupid and hopeless. The point is that the College is devoting resources to something stupid and hopeless, resources that could be used more productively elsewhere.

Schadenfreude is my most guilty pleasure.


Show me the money!

Running for office is very expensive. The Virginia Politics Blog on reports on some of the information on candidate fundraising and expenditures in the upcoming Virginia elections. The raw numbers can be found on this very helpful website. The numbers in Chap’s race are incredible. From October 1 through October 24, Chap raised almost $324,000 (much of it coming from the Democratic Party of Virginia and Governor Kaine’s PAC, Moving Virginia Forward.) Chap also spent almost $300,000 during that 3 week period. Chap’s numbers, however, are dwarfed by Devolites Davis. She raised almost $400,000 from October 1-24, including almost $300,000 from her husband, Congressman Tom Davis. During that period, she spent almost $800,000! For one state senate seat! Philosophically, I’m opposed to spending limits in politics, but this is certainly an eye opener.


EphCOI: Finance

After a few years of gestation, it is time to get serious about EphCOIs, my idea for an Eph Community of Interest, a place where Williams folks interested in a specific topic can gather (virtually) for news and conversation. We will start with EphCOI:Finance, if only because this is the community that I best understand and can most easily rally. Aaron Schwartz ’09, one of my summer associates, will be joining EphBlog as an author. He, along with other authors, will be posting things that are finance-related even if there is not a specific Eph connection. Almost all of the content of these entries will be below the break so that readers without an interest in finance will not need to read them. They will be categorized as EphCOI:Finance posts.

In an ideal world, we would organize EphBlog so that there were different “views” for different readers. That is, someone who wanted to see only the Finance posts or none of the Finance posts would be able to do so. Alas, that technology isn’t available. But our move to WordPress is coming up so perhaps in time.

Join us for this experiment. Comments welcome.


Sawyer Lawn


The skyline in this area is dominated by a large crane, which was probably instrumental in raising the large steel beams that you see on the right of the picture.


More Ephs

An anonymous reader points to this post from Andrew Goldston’s ’09.

Finally, we heard from Morgan, who reported on some ideas the Trustees had been kicking around at their meeting on Mountain Day. Apparently they were discussing removing loans from FinAid packages (thumbs up!), concerns about changing admissions standards, and the possibility of making the student body quite a bit larger.

The reader comments:

I’m wondering how the Trustees propose to change “admissions standards,” and also whether increasing the size of the student body would allow for what Morty expressed in an interview with The Record earlier this school year: an Eph student body in the
not-too-distant future comprised of 50% (or more) non-white undergrads. (I suppose then, with more students, Williams could still support all its varsity sports teams — and at the same time? — promote its commitment to “diversity.”)

What do you think?

1) Williams will stop using loans for the same reason that it admitted women: all its competitors are doing (did) the same and Williams can either follow suit or lose lots of desirable applicants. The merits of the issues are besides the point. Andrew is exactly correct when he notes:

We mostly talked about the loans. There was some discussion of small loans being (a) good for your credit rating and (b) a way to get people to “take ownership” of their education. Eh, I don’t know. It’s four years of your life. If you don’t take ownership of that, what difference does some debt somewhere in the hazy future make?

More realistically, the fact is that while our FinAid calculus (that is, the “need” calculations) is about the same as comparable schools like Amherst, if we meet that need with grants and some loans and Amherst meets it with grants and, uhh, grants, then Amherst has an edge on us in attracting comparable FinAid eligible students who don’t have a peculiar reason to go to Williams over another similar school. Gotta stay competitive.

That, and who wants to graduate with debt?

By the way, I am no expert on FICO scores, but I doubt that having college loans does anything meaningful to help out a graduates borrowing power.

2) When will Williams stop using loans? I think soon, perhaps even before the 2008-2009 school year. Sorry, Morty, but a bazaar is what you are stuck in.

3) Has anyone heard talk of expanding the student body? I hate that idea. If you want a big school, go to Penn State. Williams would not be Williams with 3,000 students. I assume that there were be widespread discussion before anything like this were ever implemented. If anything, I would like to decrease the size of the College, make it a little more intimate, improve the student:faculty ratio, guarantee every student a single and so on.

4) I do not know what a change in “admissions standards” would mean. Perhaps Andrew can clarify?

5) Who cares whether Williams is 10% Ephs of color or 30% or 50%? Not me! We are all Purple first. Let in the best applicants, with whatever coloration the good Lord blessed them with. By the way, one way that we might get to “50%” is widespread genetic testing. You read it at EphBlog first. Another way is via more outlandish claims of Hispanicism. It seems like 20% of the students in my children’s classes will be checking that box even though they are mostly as white as the driven snow. Had a grandfather who lived in Portugal for a few years? Great! You’re Hispanic.

6) The big issue with admissions is international students. Is that what “admissions standards” refers to? The class of 2011 is 8% international, I think, up from its usual quote — Whoops! I mean goal — of 6%. The key issue for Williams admissions over the next decade is where that number goes. I, for one, would like to see 10% starting with the class of 2012 and then, assuming that the world doesn’t end, 15%-20% with the class of 2016.

The mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world, not the best college in America.


Mental Threshold

Did you know that His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah II was an Eph? Now, you do. Reza Pahlavi ’83 is the son of the former Shah of Iran. Recent speech here.

Prior to concluding my remarks, let me say a few words about dialogue and engagement with the clerical regime. While such an approach is, as I just said, being advocated by a main current of opinion, there is another extreme who argue for the military option in the shape of military strikes, even all-out war. I have time and again expressed my firm opposition to any military solution. Moreover, the current talk of war could alienate public opinion inside my country and even unite it behind a much despised regime. Iranians in their great majority have friendly feelings towards the United States and the West. Therefore, it is important that they should not be let down.

There is no doubt that dialogue must be privileged in all circumstances. But those who confuse the process with purpose and view negotiations as a panacea are in for disappointment. Henry Kissinger once rightly pointed out that “diplomacy never operates in a vacuum;” it succeeds when the parties arrive at a frame of mind or at a realization that the risks involved in non-negotiation outweigh benefits of preserving one’s original position. The process of give-and-take that results from negotiation is incidental to that paramount realization.

Have the ruling mullahs reached that mental threshold? The answer in my judgment is negative, although a resolute global strategy – short of resort to military action – could transform the current mindset. A few years ago we saw such a transformation in the attitude of Colonel Muamar Qaddafi in Libya.

I suspect that Pahlavi is not the only Eph opposed to military action against Iran. But I don’t think that it was a only a “resolute global strategy” that caused Qaddafi to give up his nuclear ambitions . . .


A top Eph team you may not have heard of….

I didn’t get any pics at WUFO’s Purple Valley Invitational a few weeks ago, but most of these characters were there, playing in the Kraftee events.
The lovely and talented Wufettes were there as well. CIMG0285.JPG
Both of these pics are from the UF national championship at Ohio State last spring–Williams got there by defeating Dartmouth in the regionals. No one who has ever seen them ever forgets those wacky Williams cheerleaders. They are very, very funny.
Addendum: That’s UF as in Ultimate Frisbee, not Ultimate Fighting.


Where to go? How about joining our armed forces?

How many people missed this news?

Williams is an interesting place, where student athletes excel. I know David flogs hard and fast for the Corps, which is great. Given the level of talent and athleticism at Williams, perhaps some more of you may be interested in something like this?

Something to think about…. other Ephs have, why not you?


Where To Go?

Did anyone attend this event?

The War in Iraq : Where to Go From Here

There will be protests against the war in major cities this Saturday. But what do we protest now? What should we ask of our leaders? Prof. MacDonald will lead a discussion on the choices we have to make. Come, learn and take a stand.
from Zoe A Fonseca, Student

Professor McDonald is a straight-shooter, so I would have expected this event to be a lot more ideological diverse than, say, this one.



This 400+ page pdf is probably (?) not worth reading in full, but page 189 does feature an overview of the SMALL program.

The SMALL program seeks to introduce undergraduates to the excitement
and challenge of doing original research in mathematics. Too often, we have seen talented students lose interest in mathematics because they perceive it as a lifeless subject within which one simply studies the work of long-dead mathematicians. In SMALL, they get to work on current projects under the direction of faculty who are themselves actively engaged in cutting edge research. They see the vitality of mathematics and their own potential for making a contribution. They understand the ultimate goal of learning, namely to utilize that learning in order to make their own advances and further the pursuit of knowledge. Although SMALL began as a program for Williams students, outside students have come to play an ever larger and more important role. Since its founding in 1988, the program has guided over 300 students in mathematics research. SMALL alumni have gone on to earn Ph.D.s in mathematics and related fields, and to other activities such as teaching mathematics in high school. (SMALL is an acronym from the names of the founding faculty, Silva, Morgan, Adams, Lenhart, Levine.) Over 60 research articles coming out of SMALL have been published or been accepted for publication in mathematics journals. More than 25 SMALL alumni have earned Ph.D.s in mathematics or mathematics related fields, and many are on the mathematics regular faculty at colleges and universities, while many others are in postdoctoral or visiting positions.

Still other alumni are on university faculties other than mathematics. Of the 80 SMALL participants in the five years 1999 – 2003 more than 50 are enrolled or have completed Ph.D. programs in mathematics or related fields. SMALL has also contributed to the increasing interest in mathematics among our students at Williams, so that currently we have 50 senior mathematics majors, about 10% of our senior class.

Great stuff. It is too bad that every department at Williams does not have a similar program. Kudos to the professors who started this and have done so much with it.


Break out the DNA kits…

Well, well, well, who’d have thought that USN&WR writers are such avid readers of The Williams Record that they found the now-famous “poo” editorial all by themselves. And how interesting that over at College Confidential, the Williams section—which had gone into near-hibernation after the admissions letters went out—now has a thriving thread on this issue (ca. 2000 visits at last count) and is being flogged onward by the Disgruntled Williams Alumni Association and their various and sundry sock-puppets. Their glee is so evident that I wonder if we couldn’t solve the bio-cleanup problem by simply getting those two posted from the campus, or at least from the stairwells and bathrooms. Just kidding.

But seriously, folks, regardless of whether or not this problem is unique to Williams (I don’t think it is—I also don’t think that the possibility that the perps are outsiders has been given enough consideration–as one CC poster noted, at least several of the incidents occurred over the Purple Valley UF tournament weekend), the fact is, that as we know in politics, you have to respond to all smears (sorry.) So, I propose that the college employ modern science and get to the bottom of this (sorry).

I know that civil libertarians will consider this a violation of privacy or a big brother intrusion, but even if students themselves don’t volunteer for exculpatory testing, at least an analysis of the piles of DNA evidence would answer a few questions, not the least of which in importance is “how many different people are engaged in this?” As it is currently being reported in TWR, USN&WR, and CC, it is made to sound as if Williams students are a bunch of sphincterless Rhesus monkeys, when we may well be talking about one or two or three students–or even non-students–who have serious alcohol/drug/mental problems.

So, I present the following article for your consideration:

Until recently, DNA evidence was used almost solely to investigate violent offenses such as murders or rapes — CSI kinds of stuff. The Department of Justice hopes to expand that focus. As part of a five-year, $1 billion White House initiative, the department has launched an 18-month program in five major cities to get cops to apply CSI-style DNA-analysis techniques to routine crimes.

Law enforcement officials described some of the results at the annual National Institute of Justice conference here Monday.

“We weren’t using biological evidence on property crimes,” says Detective Philip Stanford of the Denver Police Department, one of the departments that received a grant under the program last October. When they started, they noticed results immediately, apprehending a husband-and-wife team of suspected serial burglars. The smoking gun in the case turned out to be a cigarette butt; one of the thieves had left it at the scene with his saliva on it.

And it’s not just cigarettes that burglary detectives are on the lookout for now. Anything, it turns out, can be evidence in a property crime: a mucus-covered tissue, an empty Coke can, a leftover sandwich, even a puddle of vomit. The strangest evidence Stanford has collected was a ball of wax he dislodged from the earpiece of a two-way radio.

In Denver and the other areas participating in the program — Los Angeles; Phoenix; Topeka, Kansas; and Orange County, California — the main challenge has been getting police to rethink the way they look at crime scenes, interrogate suspects and gather evidence.

“Before it was drugs, guns and clothing,” Stanford says of the evidence cops used to haul back to the station. “Now you’ve got guys walking in here with … half-eaten pizza.”[…]

Around 800 police in Denver had to be trained in new methods of evidence gathering, according to Stanford. Cops learned to pull on their latex gloves and look everywhere for clues. In the garbage. In the fridge. Maybe even, alas, in the toilet. Police in other cities have done the same.

“The devil is in the details,” says Kathy Browning, a social-science analyst at the National Institute of Justice, or NIJ, the research-and-development branch of the Justice Department that oversees the DNA program and hands out grants. “This isn’t just about more lab technicians. This a new way of thinking about crimes.”



Quantitative Measures

It is impossible to understand the current state of administration attempts to shape student life at Williams without studying its history. Are Baxter Fellows any better than House Coordinators? Are Neighborhoods improving student life at Williams? Did anyone predict that we might have problems with poo? Yes! Jonathan Landsman ’05 did last spring.

It was a prediction of the planners of anchor housing (see end) that the new system would reduce house damages, due to an increased sense of “house ownership”. I predict the opposite trend, especially in houses with historically low damage levels, such as Currier and Fitch. House damage is one of the few quantitative, public measures on which we will be able to assess, over the years, whether Neighborhoods has done good or harm.

Italics in the original. Score one for the comment section on EphBlog! Perhaps the Record could ask Professor Will Dudley ’89 why the Neighborhoods aren’t working out so well. The central problem with the entire process has always been the College’s refusal to collect and disseminate data to the entire community. House damages are just the latest example. Jonathan’s entire comment is below.

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Hotness = ?

Wendy Shalit ’97 on why Hotness Does Not = Happiness.

In reviewing some magazines directed at tween girls for Girls Gone Mild, I was pretty shocked at the way 8-year-old girls were being explicitly told to look “hot” (by, for instance, the publisher of Bratz magazine). Obviously, if girls are focused on pleasing boys and men before they even develop sexual feelings, it’s going to feel foreign to them to develop their own goals and dreams.

Speaking as the father of an 8 year-old girl, I despise the Bratz.


Do It In The Cold

Is it a sign of immaturity or youngness at heart that I laughed out lout at this WSO thread?


Alotta ’12

Is Kristin Alotta the first confirmed member of the class of 2012?

The last time Kristin Alotta played in this match, she wasn’t even in high school.

Yesterday, she was a senior with her college plans decided.

After a four-year wait, West Islip’s Alotta returned to the Suffolk girls singles tennis final. This time, she left as champion.

The win capped one of the best weeks of her life. Last Monday, she committed to Williams College, where she will play tennis.

“It’s been an incredible week. I’m thrilled to be going there. So many people my age are scrambling so it’s nice to have it out of the way,” she said. “And then winning this on top of that is amazing.”

Indeed. Has anyone else “committed” to Williams? Details, please. For high school seniors in the non-star-athlete category, early decision applications are due on November 10th. Good luck with your essays. Previous discussion here. The subject of that post is, indeed, now on the varsity soccer team as a first year.

Welcome to Kristin Alotta ’12, the newest member of the Williams community.


Wind Turbine at Jiminy Peak

Just curious if anyone else noticed it. I saw it coming in two weeks ago, couldn’t figure out what it was, but on the way out it was unmistakable. I have no brief for it or against it, but it was a real surprise, and I wondered if anyone else had noticed it.


Public Information?

Chap’s race took a small turn towards the bizarre today and yesterday when a JMDD mailing which included Chap’s home address and telephone number circled in red may have inspired some threatening calls to his house. For a largely liberal view on what happened see here and here, the conservative version is at the first link above.

Chap has just held a news conference and issued a statement deploring the mailer. Some of his supporters are debating whether this was JMDD’s “Macaca” moment or her “Dukakis-in-the-tank” moment. I think its more likely to be a molehill than a mountain, but you never know.

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Category: Friday WSO threads that Dean Merrill would prefer not to see.

Question: What is this one, Alex?



A question from College Confidential.

I’m a freshman at Williams and really like my entry as a whole, but I can only see myself being good friends with one or two of them. I know people in other entries who are already really tight with their suitemates or entrymates, and my JAs said that their best friends now were all in their entry freshman year. Do most people stay really close to their entrymates all four years and not really make other friends? I’m afraid that I won’t have a close group of friends because everyone else will have just their entry friends after spending most of the year together.

Interesting discussion with lots of good advice follows. Regular readers will know what occurred to me: Great topic for a senior thesis! What is the friendship network among Williams students? How does it form and change over time?


Here To Help

Think that EphBlog is never helpful to the Williams Administration? Think again! Andrew Goldston ’09 reports that at the College Council meeting about poo fighting Dean Merrill said (paraphrased):

I’m not a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. I’m not shutting down alcohol on campus. What I am doing is reviewing, where are the super big problem points, particularly in the excessive drinking culture at Williams.

In ’04-’05 we had the Alcohol Task Force, they made an interesting report, but I left it had home. That report should be visible, available.

You think? Was it just two years ago next week that I effusively praised the College for making the Report publicly available?

Congratulations to Williams, and the people who run it, for being so open in discussions of the issue of alcohol on campus. The full report is here. Below the break is the e-mail that Dean Roseman recently sent to the “Williams Community”.

The topic of alcohol (much less drugs) is an interesting one. Perhaps the report is worth reading. But, for a process-obsessed curmudgeon like me, the most important thing is that Williams has published it conclusions and the underlying data for all to see. Openness is the sine qua non of a scholarly community. Kudos all around.

Link doesn’t work? Me either! As is so often the case, I was too quick in my praise of College officials. They removed the report the next day.

Thought that my praise of the College’s openness with regard to the Alcohol Report was premature? You were right! Director of Public Affairs Jim Kolesar ’74 writes:

We made a technical mistake in posting the alcohol web site. The data is intended to inform college discussion. The intent was for it not to be available to the public since we’re not aware of sufficiently comparable data from other schools. The mistake was that the site was posted originally in a way that made it open to all. That’s now been corrected. We intend to make it available to alumni and parents. That correction will take a day or two. When it’s ready, we’ll notify all alumni and parents for whom we have e-mail addresses.

Pathetic. As Jim notes, the site is no longer available.

1) File this under the category of no praise goes rewarded. When will the College learn that, 95% of the time, honesty is the best policy? I find it impossible to believe that any potential applicants would choose, say, Amherst over Williams because of what they read in the Report if Amherst refuses to publish similar data. High school seniors are not that stupid!

2) It would be reasonable for the College to sanitize the Report a bit, prior to publication. Reasonable people might suggest that the raw comments should be summarized and not included. But to hide the entire report from the world over concerns about the lack of “sufficiently comparable data from other schools” is borderline dishonesty. Will tour guides be instructed not to mention the Report? Will applicants who request a copy be denied one?

3) Still want to read a copy of the Report? Well, EphBlog is here to help! Now, the relationship between EphBlog and the College is a tricky one. We are not out to embarrass the Williams; we want more people to apply and more of those accepted to enroll. But, as Dean Fix reminds us, “intellectual honesty is the highest value at Williams.” So, while I have never abused my alumni login privileges by accessing a private document and then making it public, I am happy enough to facilitate such abuse by others. So, where is the student brave enough to post the Report (or at least the highlights an summary) to her own blog?

And, mirable dictu, a responsible Eph did make the report public here because “information wants to be free.” Indeed. Comments:

1) The Report is now “visible” and “available,” just as Dean Merrill requested. No need to thank me!

2) There is some other information that wants to be free. For example, why can’t those of us off-campus look at the Williams Diversity Databook (link won’t work if you are not on campus) portion of the Self Study for Accreditation? Some future Dean may want that to be “visible” too. Let’s help her out!

3) The other major report that should be public is from the Diversity Initiatives. Who will make that information free? Future Deans will thank you! (Note that our CGCL two years ago covered this report in detail.)

4) Unless someone either objects or has a better idea, this year’s CGCL will cover the Alcohol Report and the Self Study for Accreditation Report. Contain your excitement!


Photo ID, #98

What special room is inside this attractive stone corner?




Never heard this story before.

In 1936, the year of Roosevelt’s re-election and Jesse Owens’ triumph in the Berlin Olympics, a brilliant, eccentric Williams College student named Lewis Jack Somers, Jr. killed one classmate, wounded another, and killed himself with a pair of mail order pistols.

The story made the front page of the New York Times (pdf) on May 20, 1936.

Meriden, Conn., Freshman Ends Own Life After Shooting Down Chicago Youth.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 19. — In what was described by authorities as a fit of derangement caused by overstudy, Lewis Jack Somers Jr., 19-year-old freshman at Williams College, shot and killed a classmate tonight, wounded another and then committed suicide.

I suspect that “overstudy” was not the real cause of this tragedy. Has there been a murder at Williams since? Recall the sad case of Mt. Greylock senior Cynthia Krizack. Perhaps this helps put recent events in perspective . . .


Divide By 10

Aidan points to this Greg Mankiw post.

Consider a person who

A. takes an important truth developed by others,
B. exaggerates it for dramatic effect,
C. as a result, draws public attention to this important truth, and
D. also brings acclaim to himself as a profound, far-sighted, truth-telling guru.

Who do I have in mind?

Maybe you think it’s Al Gore, and if so, you are correct. But I also have in mind the supply-side economists of the 1980s. The more I think about it, the more similar Al Gore and the supply-siders appear.

Herb Stein once said, “There is nothing wrong with supply-side economics that division by ten wouldn’t fix.” I thought of this quotation when I saw Al Gore’s movie. The more I think about it, the more I realize how parallel these two efforts of public education, or perhaps political propaganda, really are.

Herb Stein was class of 1935.


Deaf Ears

The Record provides a serviceable update on Poo Fighters. Some excerpts and comments below. (By the way, the two other nominations for naming this scandal are The Mad Crapper and The Phantom Shitter. Cast your vote in the comments!)

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Traffic aid


This mirror is apparently necessary for the safety of those driving at the corner of the construction near Dodd. Left turn only: only towards Mission; no driving towards Dodd! It does seem a bit out of place.

P.S. This is the second time a photo has doubled as a self-portrait, the first time being here.


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