Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My rant for the day: print news has nothing to do with investigative reporting

Back in March, 24/7WallSt.com made a lot of news when it published an article describing the financial woes of the print news industry. The article said, "the newspaper industry has entered a new period of decline." This news caught many Boomers by surprise and in the weeks / months that followed there were discussions if city dailies should be provided non-profit status to save these institutions. In Boston this article proved to be fairly prophetic. Over the past several months local news has been obsessed by the trials and tribulations of the Boston Globe, and despite a temporary stay of execution due to some significant cost-cutting measures, one must realize that print dailies are not likely to be with us much longer. For the record, after watching what passes for local and national news on the televisions major networks, I can honestly say that I hope it is not long before ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC all recognize that they no longer provide news to the public either and re-name their nightly "news" broadcasts into paparazzi news... yet I digress.

For my grandparents the thought that major cities might be without a daily newspaper would seem unbelievable, but in the last 20+ years technology (and the internet in particular) have become part of nearly everyone's life in the United States. The concern that investigative journalism will cease if city newspapers close is a ridiculous conclusion. To paraphrase Alicia Silverstone in the 90s movie, Clueless, "As if!" Investigative journalism can flourish without the need to purchase ink by the gallon. As I just ranted above, newspapers and network news broadcasts hardly reserve any space at all in their papers or minutes on the air to share "news". Rather, both are filled with feel-good local stories, traffic accidents, sports updates, weather and other inane stories that you would be hard pressed to categorize as thoughtful reporting. This morning I stumbled upon a Boston-based online reporting organization called, GlobalPost.com.

According to GlobalPost.com's website, their mission is "to redefine international news for the digital age." I've taken a quick look at the website and it is impressive. I'm sure there are hundreds of other competent sites that offer similar services (perhaps with slightly different focuses - i.e. domestic news, policy-specific biases, regional focus, etc...) So the next time you hear people bemoaning the closing of a newspaper tell them to get their news sources from online. It is more affordable, more environmentally friendly and provides you with more options. It is true that if you read your news online you can not spread open the paper, and annoying inserts won't drop from the screen, nor will you be forced to wash your hands because they are dark with ink smudges, and discarded newspapers will not be carelessly thrown on the street, but somehow I think that investigative reporting will still survive - so let's not pretend it will some how go away. If one wants to make an argument for propping up city dailies let's get real about the reasoning. However, I'm not one for preserving institutions that were unable to change and keep up with the times (yes that philosophy also extends to other industries as well i.e. automotive, banking, etc). If the Boston Globe, NY Times and other print newspapers can not adapt - then it is time to say "Good bye".

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wimbledon 2009

Its proof of how busy I've been with my work that I've yet to mention the Wimbledon Tournament on my blog, but I can assure you that I'm obsessing over the fact that I've missed all of Wimbledon thus far... I was bummed to hear that Nadal had to pull out of this year's tournament and would not be able to defend his title.

With Nadal out, this is Federer's tournament to win. Last month, when Federer won the French Open he was able to secure a career grand slam and tied Pete Sampras record of 14 majors. A win at this year's Wimbledon would give him 15 career major titles.

On the women's side, I'll definitely be cheering for my favorite Williams sister, Venus. I love her game and her game loves grass courts. A win this year would give her 5 Wimbledon titles.

Friday, June 26, 2009

An evening at Fenway Park

On Saturday, June 20th I was invited to the Red Sox - Braves game at Fenway Park. As you can see from the picture above, I had great seats just 6 rows back from the field. Josh Becket was on fire serving up 7 strike outs. He proved to be too much for the former Red Sox pitcher (now an Atlanta Brave) Derek Lowe. The Sox triumphed 3-0.

The forecast had been rain (big surprise), but it turned out to be a beautiful night to be at Fenway Park. I hope to be able to get such great tickets again before long. Special thanks to my friend Martha for inviting me to the game and for taking these great pictures.

Flashback Friday: Letters to Cleo

The following clip dates back to 1993 just prior to the band's successful debut album, Aurora Gory Alice, was released. Letters to Cleo was a local Boston band that I first got turned on to by my close friend, Tom. Most people remember their smash hit "Here and Now", which was featured as the theme song for Melrose Place.

Kay and her husband lived in the Fenway and I often saw her working out at the Gold's Gym on Lansdowne Street. I was so bummed when I heard they broke up. Listen to this acoustic version of their song, Wasted. Kay has a beautiful voice.

If you would like to know what Kay is up to these days, she maintains a blog which you can read here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Australia or bust...

My workload these past few weeks has prevented me from writing in my blog, but the lack of entries in no way represents a lack of activity. Now that more time is starting to become available, I'll have more opportunity to write my thoughts and share what I've been up to.

Earlier this month Sergio and I booked a three week trip to Australia. This will be my first trip to Oz and Sergio's second. We decided to cash in all our frequent flyer miles and were able to score two business class seats. We don't really have any plans as yet. All I know for certain is in mid-November we leave through Los Angeles for Sydney and we return to chilly Boston in early December.

As a self-proclaimed travel nut, this is a trip I've thought of many times before but been unable to do. In 2004, we tried to go to Sydney but ultimately ended up in Phuket, Thailand (that is another long story not worth getting into now). The trip to Thailand was amazing and one I'm glad I took, but I'm more excited about this pending trip to Australia and will no doubt write more about it as we figure out the details.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June's weather sucks

Summer in Boston this year (so far) has really been a bust. At last count there have only been 3-days that did not rain in the city in the month of June and temperatures have hovered 10+ degrees below normal making the month absolutely horrible. Sadly summer seems to be the briefest of the four seasons and with the month of June literally a wash, I can only hope for a long, long dry and warm spell in the weeks that follow.

With June nearly over and tomorrow the only day in the forecast showing sunny skies all I can say is buh-bye to this dreary month. Fortunately, I've been absorbed with work so the weather has not proven to be much of a distraction, but here is to hoping all that changes in July.

I never thought I would be suffering from GetMeTheHellOutOfHere Syndrome in the month of June.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flashback Friday: Before the Big Dig

Before the Ted Williams and Tip O'Neill Tunnels and before the beautiful Zakim bridge there was a green monster more commonly referred to as Boston's Central Artery or elevated expressway that sprawled 1.5 miles and dissected the city cutting off entire neighborhoods from each other.

The pictures above are courtesy of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority website. They show the central artery when it first opened in the mid 1950s and handled 75,000 vehicles per day and then again what the overly congested expresssway looked like 30 years later in the mid-1980s when more than 190,000 cars travelled this stretch every day.

I've included a second set of photographs (courtesy of Tufts University's Urban and Environmental Planning Policy website) that show how the city made a strategic (and I think excellent) decision to replace the elevated expressway with a beautiful garden now known as the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The park is still coming into its own but is a huge improvement and a welcome addition.

Marketing triumph

Recently I wrote about how busy work has been and while it looks as if it will be a very busy summer, sometimes the work I do can be very gratifying. A good example of that is this morning's release of my firm's annual report.  This usually gets quite a bit of attention, but the timing of this report really could not have been better planned considering all the attention on this subject in Washington, D.C. Last week saw Senator Kennedy's "Affordable Health Choices Act", issued to members of Congress and this week President Obama indicated that it was precisely because of increasing costs that meaningful reform must happen now.

All day long one of the top news story on MSNBC has been our report. For a marketing guy like myself, this is pretty cool to see.  I know...I'm a markting-nerd; refrain from commenting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Boston Pride 2009

Earlier in the week I posted some photographs from one of my favorite Boston Pride events, Pridelights. This past week has not been the best weather and so Pridelights was held in doors for the first time in my memory. However, it was still great fun.

On Friday, Rocca (the South End Italian restaurant on Harrison Ave.) had a party and opened their patio and bar to celebrate Pride. I'm not sure if it was an 'official' event, but I would guess that the 400 - 500 guys who showed up to enjoy cocktails, music and conversation on Rocca's spectacular patio did not care. I left at nearly 2:00am and the place remained packed (sorry no photos to share).

But it was the block party that was really the place to be. I know some would say that Roxy on Saturday was better (and I am partial to the guest DJ The Roxy had) but I'd still take the block party over everything else. The photograph atop this entry is one of many I snapped that afternoon. I have no idea how many people came, but as you can see from the photograph, it draws a significant crowd.

Later that evening, the city was still thumping to a gay disco beat and every bar was packed to the point of overflowing, which led me and many others to wonder - why can't this happen more often? I would love to suggest to the Boston Pride Committee to host a monthly block party similar to what they do for Pride in June, July and August. It would be wonderful to have that sense of community more than one week every year.

Below is a picture of Club Cafe around the midnight hour. The crowd was friendly and definitely enjoying themselves. I blame my time at Club Cafe for contributing to my groggy nature on Sunday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Coppa - new South End restaurant

Back in April I mentioned buzz about the fate of the space occupied by a restaurant that had recently closed in my entry, South End rumor new owners have bought space formerly known as Dish.

On Friday, June 12 - Boston Restaurant Talk - wrote that Chef Ken Oringer, probably best known for his signature BackBay restaurant, Clio, will open his 6th restaurant in the city and his 2nd in the South End in the space once occupied by The Dish. According to the Boston Restaurant Blog, the restaurant will be called Coppa and is expected to open in August. The restaurant will feature a wine bar and serve small dishes that feature locally grown ingredients.

The Dish was a casual and friendly restaurant with a patio that seated more than the restaurant could hold inside. I hope Ken can take this tiny footprint of a restaurant and turn it into a viable business that stays connected to the neighborhood. He's shown he knows how to do this. After all his first restaurant in the South End, Toro, is only a bit larger than Coppa.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Busy, busy, busy...

Although I enjoy both my job and my co-workers, I've been buried with work since recovering from my bout of meningitis. This is partly due to the fact that I had to play a bit of catch-up after missing a week of work, but this is also driven by several projects I am managing, which require my constant attention.
Later this month we are coordinating a fascinating one-day event in Washington, D.C. that will bring together healthcare leaders from around the country to discuss how the industry can better leverage healthcare data to improve quality and patient care. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration made a significant investment to drive greater adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Many organizations already have adopted an electronic platform to capture and analyze their data but this initiative will (hopefully) significantly move those that have yet to implement such IT projects. This program in D.C. is truly visionary and one of the reasons I really like my work. Leveraging secondary health data is not likely to make anyone money anytime soon, but by thinking about this strategically today - steps can be taken for leading institutions to position themselves in the market.

I'm also fixated on two web-based projects that will dominate most of my summer. No doubt I'll be obsessing about hitting deadlines and answering a multitude of questions from all the stakeholders this project will impact. I think I was asked to lead these web-based projects because of my previous experience spearheading similar (albeit smaller) projects, and because the rest of my team had little desire. These are both fairly high-profile so I'll keep my fingers crossed. If everything goes according to plan both of these web projects will be completed in September.

I've never worked at a company that has so many large-scale projects occuring at the same time. It really can leave my head spinning at times, but for the most part it is something I genuinely enjoy. I've been more challenged in the past 18months (since joining the firm) than I have been in the previous seven or eight years of my career.

Flashback Friday: Industry leaders

Considering all the news about firms entering bankruptcy, has given me pause to think of Boston based employers that once upon a time dominated this area, much the way firms like Fidelity Investments, Raytheon, Staples, and EMC do today. Growing up in the Boston area in the 1980s, everyone knew someone who worked at Polaroid, Digital or Wang.

Polaroid, although still technically around, is merely a shadow of itself and no longer associated with Boston the way it once was. Both Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and Wang Laboratories have been gone for decades - and the collapses of both these giants was traumatic, leaving tens of thousands of people in the area unemployed.

The graveyard of Boston businesses of past is both long and filled with recognizable names. Bank of Boston and BayBank as well as Lotus all come to mind for me. Which firms that once were considered the darlings of Wall Street, employed tens of thousands and called Boston home do you recall?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Each year on the Tuesday before the Boston Pride Parade an event called Pridelights occurs. It has always been a personal favorite, but this year due to bad weather it had to move in doors to Club Cafe. I had low expectations going into the program, but now that I've returned with a bit of a buzz from my two gin and tonics all I can say that the AIDS Action Committee's event was a total success and more fun than I had bargained for.

It is hard to say how many people came to the program but Club Cafe was overrun. Here are a few photos from the evening's celebration.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lock'em up

Slate.com has an interesting article by Dahlia Lithwick that addresses the current US prison problem. In February 2008, I wrote about the fact that for the first time in U.S. history, more than 1 in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison in my entry, Tarnishing the American dream. The Slate.com article,"Cage Match: Guantanamo is the least of America's prison problems", points out that with 5% of the world's population, the U.S. houses nearly 25% of the world's prisoners.

Sen. James Webb, D-Va is currently trying to address meaningful prison reform, and I give this new Senator credit because while there are plenty of reasons this should be done it is unlikely he will earn the support of the American electorate. Probably the only time most people give any thought to our prison system is if / when the subject of housing them in or near their communities is discussed. However, with an incarceration rate nearly 5 times the world average, and local, state, and federal spending on corrections reaching nearly $70 billion per year, something clearly has to be done.

I'll end with a quote from Senator Webb in the Slate.com article because I think its brevity and point is difficult to dispute,""Either we're the most evil people on earth, or we're doing something wrong." For the record, I don't think the U.S. is even remotely evil so clearly we must be doing something wrong. We have both moral and financial incentives to think this through more carefully. I hope Sen. Webb can pursuade the U.S. Congress to consider the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Flashback Friday: Boston's Gay Nightlife

Boston's gay nightlife has certainly had its share of changes and with the advent of sites like Manhunt you will often hear older gay men bemoan the loss of many gay bars in the city. I concur that Boston's nightlife can often leave a lot to be desired, but a new chapter is being written here in Boston and most likely in other cities around the country as being gay becomes less a stigma and accepted by the mainstream.

Every other Friday night, ROCCA (a popular South End restaurant with one of the nicest patios in the neighborhood) hosts gay parties. For those who like to get their dance on - the bar Roxy goes gay every Saturday. Additionally, it is hard to step into most bars in the South End and BackBay without seeing several other gay and lesbian groups enjoying cocktails. It is true that the subterfuge is gone and certainly many bars have closed their doors, but the GLBT nightlife in Boston is not dead - far from it. It has just changed to keep up with the times.

The photograph to the left is an old adverstisement that I believe dates back to the 1950s or 1960s 1980s. I'm not sure if Herbie's Ramrod is somehow related to the present day, Ramrod (in the photo on the right). However, the Tom of Finland-like images seem eerily familiar to Boston's current bar's image.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Boston's AIDS Walk this Sunday

Take a moment and watch this kitschy clip from the AIDS Action Committee Development team. The AIDS Walk is this Sunday, June 7th. Won't you consider to be a part of this day? Participating increases the number of walkers which in turn raises awareness.

The Walk is the AAC's largest single fundraiser and in addition to providing headlines it also serves to remind us that there still is no cure for HIV. The money raised from the AIDS walk is considered 'unrestricted' which is exceptionally important to social service organization like the AAC, because often they have to do work that is not easy to get funding for and can only be funded through unrestricted dollars.

If you don't have plans this Sunday, come down to the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. Join me and 15,000 others - just by showing up you are making a statement and more importantly you are helping to make a difference. Write a check to the AIDS Action Committee (any amount is welcome), put on your sneakers and come down. It is an easy and fun walk that starts at 10:00am.

I'll be walking with Sergio. You can also send him a donation by linking here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Granite State says "I do" to Gay Marriage

New Hampshire has become the sixth state to legalize same sex marriage and now leaves lonely Rhode Island as the only state in New England where same sex marriage is not legal. Earlier this afternoon the modified bill passed both the State Senate and House and is expected to be signed by Governor Lynch later today. You can read more in today's Boston Globe, online at Boston.com.

Sorry for the cheesy graphic but I'm completely inept at graphic design.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Diamond and Ferguson to join the Pops on the 4th

The Boston Globe has posted on Boston.com that Neil Diamond will be accompanying Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pop's at this year's free 4th of July concert on the Esplanade.

According to The Boston Globe, the Liberty Mutual press release also said,"The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, which draws approximately 500,000 concert goers annually, will be hosted again by Craig Ferguson of CBS's 'The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson."

I can already hear the crowd singing along to Diamond's hit, "Sweet Caroline" and everyone laughing to Ferguson's off-beat and witty remarks.

Sunday, May 31st

Although I was still convalescing and did not step outside yesterday, I could see that the weather was absolutely beautiful. However, early in the evening there was a brief shower and after the rain subsided the sun broke through the clouds again. Looking out my window, I could clearly see a large rainbow just off the horizon. I wish this picture could do the rainbow justice but it seems to lack the ethereal glow and brilliance of color that was present. The rainbow lasted for nearly a half hour and was a beautiful cap to what appeared to be a gorgeous day.