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    Letters to the editor

    Globe Magazine readers respond to recent stories, offering thoughts on redistricting and how to write a foolproof college application essay.

    What good news?

    In the January 15 cover story, Scott Helman’s “The Voters Won,” the Globe Magazine proclaimed that “there is still hope for Beacon Hill.” I totally disagree. The only thing that the recent redrawing of the state’s districts proves is that, with the spotlight still shining on the Legislature, the members acted “fairly” and thereby avoided a repeat of the actions that brought down a previous House speaker, Tom Finneran. Big deal! The speaker and Senate president not only make committee assignments, they also appoint each chairman. And those positions carry extra pay, power, and prestige. Where you sit, or even stand, in each chamber rests on the whims of these two. As long as Massachusetts has both a speaker and a Senate president who have obscene and dictatorial powers, there is really no hope for Beacon Hill.

    Bob McLellan / Plymouth

    Helman’s judgment that the new legislative districts are “fair” seems to be based solely on the fact that the number of “majority-minority” districts has increased from 10 to 20. The use of this criterion orients the redistricting process away from what it should be, indeed what all political decisions should be, which is colorblind. The means to achieve this goal are readily available and are, in fact, referenced in the article, when Helman writes about computer software used to draw maps. Districts can be drawn this way and evaluated by two purely numerical criteria:  the minimum value of the sum of the perimeter distances of the districts and the minimum value of the population differences among districts. Using these “colorblind” criteria will assure that the districts are as compact and contiguous as possible and as close as possible to containing the same number of persons. This would not only provide equitable districts but would also show the rest of the country that the very state that gave the term “gerrymandering” to the political lexicon can also lead the way in eliminating the process forever.

    John G. Northgraves / Millis


    Helman’s article about gerrymandering was informative and enjoyable.

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    In my opinion, the quote by state Representative Michael Moran about how “communicating with everybody at all levels” should be standard spoke volumes about what is lacking these days in legislatures including our own: too little communication among lawmakers, especially across party lines. I would like to get rid of “the aisle” and force our legislators to sit in alphabetical order beside one another in session. Then maybe – just maybe – they might each discover that it is possible to openly share ideas and work together.

    Allan Schubert / Mattapoisett

    Notes on a wedding

    I would like to throw some light on UK wedding practices that may explain the experience of K.M. from Birkenhead, England (Miss Conduct, January 8). I’m from Ireland, and we have similar practices. A UK wedding comprises the following: the ceremony, the reception, and the “afters.” The ceremony is obvious, but you should note that bridesmaids are not expected to shell out for their dresses. That is the responsibility of the bride, who is also expected to give the bridesmaids a gift for participation in the event. Hence, there are fewer bridesmaids at the ceremonies. Ditto for groomsmen. The reception is the dinner portion; usually a sit-down meal is served and speeches follow dinner. This is for family and close friends. As for the “afters,” this is for less-close friends and work friends, more distant relatives that are within driving distance, and the neighbors. This is the true party portion of the day. It is not an insult to be invited to the after party. If K.M. and her boyfriend were dating for less than six months, I would expect her to be invited to the afters only. With UK weddings starting between 2 and 4 p.m. and going to 1 a.m. or later, there is the flexibility to accommodate more friends and relatives. The addition of the afters crowd brings a shot of fun just as the wedding could be flagging.

    Eileen Kelly / North Andover

    Snark, regifted


    I am a curvy girl and have, like Anonymous from Medford (Miss Conduct, January 8), also suffered through being the recipient of “gifts” in the form of gift cards to places I clearly wouldn’t use, wrapped in ribbons of snark. One year when I received a gift card with a note that took obvious potshots at my height, weight, and shape, I decided I’d had enough. At the next holiday, I re-wrapped the gift card with a note that said, “You gave me a gift from this place and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to return the gesture.” I deliberately left her note inside the original folder. When she opened it, she took enormous offense at “my” comment and, in a righteous bluster, shared it with the handful of people in attendance. I, of course, expressed great concern that I might have offended her and peered over her shoulder to check the notation. In a great show of flustered embarrassment, I confessed to all that I had mixed up the card I had purchased for her and the one she had purchased for me the previous year. I no longer receive gifts that are poorly cloaked jabs. If anything, she now pays close attention to things I mention that are of interest to me and makes valiant, and often successful, attempts to gift me with things that I do enjoy.

    Brenda Crenshaw / Framingham

    Editorial judgments

    As an essayist and college essay writing coach, I believe Ian Mark both hits and misses the mark in his piece about the challenges of the college application essay (Perspective, January 8). Exactly 500 words to make his case? Miss. No admissions officer is counting words. Write “unique” in buzzword bingo at a college meeting? Miss. Unique doesn’t say anything. Instead, provide specifics about yourself and the college to show, not tell, what draws you as an applicant. You can’t brag, but you also can’t be too humble in your essay? That’s a hit, but Mark misses the “how” of selling yourself: Tell your story, rich with detail and insight, so your reader discovers your qualities. But then again, Mark actually hits his mark overall. In this essay, he indeed tells his story, thereby earning a spot in a top-rate magazine column. Undoubtedly he’ll earn a spot in one of his top-choice colleges, too.

    Ellen Freeman Roth / Weston

    I would suggest that Ian Mark submit his Perspective piece as a college essay.

    J. Brian Butler / Newburyport




    BorisBadenov wrote: Spare us all the congratulatory rhetoric. When this legislature does something sensible, it gets “Man Bites Dog!” headlines because it’s so counter-cultural.

    MikeArnold wrote: Since when did widespread and lifelong corruption all of a sudden reflect an EVOLUTION. It ain’t new, it just, until the voters say ENOUGH, is a way of life here in this formerly once proud and great city and state.

    COMMENTS Write to or The Boston Globe Magazine/Letters, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. Letters are subject to editing.