Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Now that's a rock

Okay ladies, try not to salivate too much, but Petra Diamonds Ltd. in Johannesburg, South Africa says a diamond the size of a chicken egg was found today.  I'm not much for diamonds or jewelry in general but even this gave me pause to look at in wonder.  The Associated Press is saying that the diamond may be among the world's top 20 high-quality gems.  Johan Dippenaar, the company's chief executive said in a statement Tuesday that the 507.55-carat gem was of "exceptional color and clarity."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flexing Boston's economic muscle

U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis ranks Boston as the 9th-largest economy in U.S.  It is a testament to what a highly skilled workforce resides here to have so much economic clout.  Boston is tiny when viewed by population - ranking 24th largest.  No surprise, New York City rules followed by 2 Los Angeles, 3 Chicago, 4 Houston and 5 Washington D.C.  This maps to how cities rank by population with the exception of Washington DC, but considering D.C. is the seat of government, the high ranking is no surprise. 

The article ranking Boston's economy in the top 10 was in the Boston Business Journal, and it relates to some good news I read about the local economy in today's issue of The Boston Globe, Massachusetts set to recover sooner than the US.  Globe reporter, Robert Gavin, points to the steady reduction in job losses 3.5% in MA as compared to a 5% loss nationally and a much better housing market.  Previous downturns - most recently in 2001, Massachusetts was impacted far more dramatically losing three times as many jobs as the national average and suffering a prolonged recession followed by an anemic recovery as compared to other regions.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ryan White funding in jeopardy

Please call your legislator....The AIDS Action Council, the national HIV/AIDS advocacy group, has re-issued its Ryan White Care Act funding alert. Ryan White programs provides essential medical and support services to hundreds of thousands of individuals each year. Current funding is set to expire later this week on, Wednesday, September 30th.

Lawmakers in Washington are scheduled to address Ryan White funding this week. Please  Contact your legislators now to express your support for continued funding to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

Sydney - Cairns - Melbourne - Yarra Valley

I first wrote about my trip to Australia back in late June in my entry, Australia or bust...  Back then I had not really given much thought to where I wanted to visit and what I wanted to do.  Sergio had been to Australia years before and knew he wanted to go back to the Great Barrier Reef so Sydney and the GBR were already presumed to be part of this trip.  However, after a handful of conversations last week we booked our flights inside Australia.  We've booked ourselves on Virgin Blue and will fly from Sydney to Cairns to Melbourne back to Sydney again. 

We plan to enjoy our first weekend in Sydney (we arrive on Friday, November 20) then leave for Cairns on Tuesday, November 24th. We're planning to spend a couple of days there relaxing beachside and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.  Later that week on Friday, November 27th we fly down to Melbourne. Our current plan is to spend the weekend in the city before packing up and heading to wine country - Yarra Valley.  I don't know much about the area, but if it is anything like Napa and Sonoma, I know we'll really enjoy ourselves.  We will end our trip back where we started by spending the last 5 nights in Sydney.  We've yet to book any hotels and I'm still a bit overwhelmed with trying to learn more about Yarra Valley (not to mention the logistics of how we get from Melbourne to wine country), but as work subsides we'll start to figure out all the details.  I can't help but get excited about the thought of the trip now that we are a mere 8-weeks away from heading to Australia.  The thought of not being anywhere near work and completely disengaged for 3-weeks seems impossible right now, but I'm sure I'll adjust to life away from the office like a fish to water.

Pam Ann Live in Boston, 10/10/09

Last night I purchased tickets to see Pam Ann who opens her new world tour here in Boston at the Colonial Theatre on Saturday, October 10th.  For those unfamiliar, Pam Ann is the alter ego of Australian comedian Caroline Reid who's fictional character is a pun on the now defunct Pan Am Airlines. Her website claims Pam Ann to be "the funniest and busiest air hostess."   If you like what you see below and think you would enjoy seeing Pam Ann on her 'lay over' in Boston, you can purchase tickets by going to her tour website, Pam Ann Live.

The video clip for "Pam Ann - Global Alliance" showcases many of her fictional characters which all play off of humurous stereotypes.  Many of these characters are woven into her one-woman show. I've listed each character below the video in their order of appearance.

Pam Ann Global Alliance

Pam Ann
Unnamed Indian Woman - Air India
Valerie - American Airlines
Mona - British Airways (shown repeatedly)
Heidi - Scandinavian Airlines System
Lilly - Singapore Airlines
Vespa - Alitalia (shown repeatedly)
Donna - EasyJet
Unnamed Arabic Woman - Emirates Airline
Chantal Jemeladonne - Air France
Marcia - Unspecified African airline
Conchita Rosa María González Gómez - Iberia Airlines (shown repeatedly)
Helga - Lufthansa
Gloria - Qantas
Vanity - Virgin Atlantic Airways

Boston jazz festival concludes today

Today is the final day of the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival, which culminates in a day of free performances outside in the South End. The outdoor stages have been set up along Columbus Avenue in the South End between Burke Street and Mass. Ave. and since the weather today is spectacular, I hope you'll swing by not only to support the local arts scene, but to enjoy some great music.  Today's free outdoor festival starts at 12:00pm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sam Tsui strikes again - Michael Jackson medley

Thanks to Wicked Gay Blog (WGB) for sharing this latest video of Sam Tsui.  I first wrote about Sam earlier this month in my entry, Don't Stop Believing.  Check out this MJ medley - it is my favorite video on YouTube at the moment.

New hope: Vaccine might prevent HIV

When I think of the millions who died from HIV / AIDS in the 1980s because homosexuality and sex in general were considered taboo and discussing 'safe sex' and distributing condoms was deemed controversial - my blood absolutely boils. So many people have died, so many families have suffered, and so many children have been orphaned because of a fear to talk about AIDS. I really can not think of another illness or disease that has so isolated people. Sadly the stigma remains and AIDS still kills. An astounding 7,500 people contract AIDS every day (that's more than 2.65 million annually).

However, a study in Thailand might be able to shed some light on finding a cure for AIDS. This study (published today) was found to cut the risk of infection by 31 percent.  In 9-weeks it will be December 1st, World AIDS Day.  How wonderful would it be to really  believe that a vaccine to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is in sight?

You can read the report by linking to MSNBC here.
Additionally, you can support a local AIDS Service Organization (ASO) by volunteering or donating.  I've included the link to my favorite, ASO, The AIDS Action Committee of MA.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cameron Diaz filming in South End

I feel like a complete idiot! Just yesterday I was commenting to friends about a woman who's trailer for, Wichita, is directly across from my apartment.  I thought she looked familiar but could not quite place her.  After reading LoadedGun Boston, I realized that woman in the yellow dress is Cameron Diaz. 

Cameron seems to be quite chatty - people are constantly visiting her trailer and she is in and out many times through out the day.  I'm really digging the distraction and want to thank my partner in crime (a.k.a. Sergio) for snapping this video (see below) from his Sony camera earlier this morning.  The 30-second clip shows Tom Cruise grabbing Cameron and shoving her into a car.

According to Loaded Gun Boston, "production is hashing out an elaborate crash scene where a commercial 727 airliner skids into a Cumberland Farms cornfield near Curve Street in Bridgewater. Scheduled to shoot Thursday, Sept. 24 and Friday, Sept. 25, the scene depicts the aftermath of a plane crash in a fictional Indiana locale." 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tom Cruise filming Wichita in Boston

Over the weekend notices were plastered through out the neighborhood that filming for Tom Cruise's movie, Wichita, would be taking place. There has been a lot of filming in Massachusetts and Boston in particular since Gov. Patrick signed a bill last year that gave the industry a bunch of tax breaks. I first wrote about this back in my February post, Lights, Camera, Action.

Over the past year, Ben Affleck, Mel Gibson and Kate Hudson have all been filming on the streets surrounding my apartment. However, usually the filming crews are scattered through out the neighborhood or they just have a small crew on site to film a few scenes. However, that all changed today when I opened my curtains this morning and saw ta temporary trailer park outside my window.

Today, everytime I walked by my window it seemed as if Tom Cruise, or his wife, Katie, and daughter, Suri, were walking around the make-shift film site. I am not a very good photographer so I apologize for the blurry images, but I still thought it was pretty cool to play "paparazzi".  I've included a few photographs of the Cruise family in their makeshift home for the week while they film outside my apartment. (If you click on the pictures they will enlarge.)

It has been really interesting watching everything take place today and I've enjoyed snapping my camera.  Here are few shots of them at the GasLight.  Apparently they are trying to make it quite bright in the restaurant, while they film there scenes.  I wish I was more of a movie buff so I could remember when this comes out to go see how they transformed GasLight Brasserie. If I get a chance tomorrow, I'll snap a few more photos.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Open Studios this weekend in the South End

This weekend was Open Studios. This event happens twice a year (once in May and September) and draws more than 250 local artists (many of whom live here in the South End).  Thanks in part to the gorgeous weather, it appears as if the artists may have profited handsomely.  The streets in the South End and specifically SoWa had heavy foot traffic all day long on Saturday and Sunday, and I saw many people carring objects d'art with them as they were leaving the neighborhood.

Many of the artists who show during the Open Studios live in the South End and welcome you into their studios (which sometimes double as their homes).  While I have a few personal favorites, I'm always impressed by the number of participating artists who make their living from their craft and the variety of mediums artists use to express their creativity. 

If you did not get a chance to come into town to walk the streets, talk to the artists and enjoy the beautiful weather, I'm sorry for you because it really was a wonderful way to spend time. I wish I'd thought to write about this event earlier in the week and had the forethought to bring my camera when I walked around the neighborhood earlier today. 

View of SoWa Open Market and Antique Market during Open Studios

Success... BosGuy feed will now update on your blog lists

Since I started writing my blog, I've developed online relationships with a handful of other bloggers - some local and some from other parts of the country / world.  And just as I follow several blogs (you can check'em out if you scroll down and look in my right margin), several people have listed my entries in their 'blog roll'. Earlier this month, I wrote about how my feed was no longer updating in my entry, Why is my blog broken?  Well, I'm pleased to share with everyone who has been kind enough to add my blog to their blog roll that the situation has been reconciled and everything appears to be updating just dandy now.  Aside from providing some eye-candy, I thought this photo appropriate because I feel as if I've just flexed my proverbial tech-muscle in solving this issue.  If you are having the same problem - shoot me an e-mail and I'll be happy to share with you what I did to solve the problem.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Devil's Dictionary -- Financial Edition

One year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Matthew Rose wrote on WSJ.com an updated version of The Devil's Dictionary. He correctly points out that as the financial crisis morphed into a 24/7 frenzy for media, new words started to enter into American's every day conversations.  While the article is too long for me to share in total, here are some of my favorite new words or meanings.

BAILOUT, n. First known use: Noah. Novel regressive taxation scheme whereby vast sums of capital are transferred from those citizens who didn't participate in the illusory Bacchanalia of the housing bubble to those who did and weren't clever enough to get out in time.

DEFICIT, n. For the party in power, at worst a minor irritant and at best a precondition for economic growth. For the minority, the gravest threat to the stability of the Republic.

STIMULUS, n. An indeterminate sum of taxpayer money used to generate violent debate. Previously known as "government spending."

TARP, n. acronym. 1. A synthetic device designed to cover up an unsightly mess, or to protect perishable goods (firewood, banks) from the ravages of the elements, typically costing somewhere between $12.99 and $700 billion. 2. Prime example of how governments use otherwise anodyne acronyms, abbreviations and sports metaphors to disguise matters of controversy. See also TALF, TLGP, TURF, FHFA, BACKSTOP, WRAP, OFHEO and SPECTRE.

Work, work, work...

This past week has been a blur.  I knew that the pace in the office would pick up and I'm proud that I've been able to keep up.  Since my co-workers have come back from vacation and returned to the office on Tuesday, September 8th - work has been very busy.

I'm not much for people who constantly talk about how busy they are so I rarely address my work in this blog unless it pertains to something I am doing which I find cool or interesting and want to share.  However, the past two weeks (and this last week in particular) have really kicked my butt. Groceries, laundry, returning calls, checking e-mails and yes, blogging have all fallen by the wayside.

The break-neck pace will not cease for another couple of weeks when a report I'm helping launch, a webcast series I am pulling together and a handful of other very interesting projects I've been asked to help lead all get off the ground. I have no regrets about my involvement and like each project. It is the convergence of multiple deadlines that provide me (and my team) little wiggle room and has kept me up late working and wondering, "are there are enough hours in the day?" 

Oddly, last year around this time I was logging some pretty crazy work hours as I scheduled and led meetings across the U.S. for a project called "From Proposals to Policy".  I've only been with my employer for 18 months so perhaps I should just plan for every fall to be a bit chaotic.  Even though the work is gratifying and I like my team, I'm looking forward to returning to a more sane work schedule.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sweet seats at Fenway

Friday's Red Sox game against Tampa Bay was cancelled and rescheduled for today because of all the rain.  Through a strange twist of fate, I gave my two tickets away because the friend I was bringing to the game came into even better seats than I had purchased. 

My only regret about going to today's game was that I did not have the foresight to bring along my camera.  Seated 3 rows back from the Red Sox batting circle we were no more than 10' from the players as they warmed-up and chatted with each other.  The fact that the weather was gorgeous, Clay Buchholz pitched a fantastic game, and the Red Sox went on to win made it even better.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flashback Friday: September 11, 2001

Not all flashbacks are pleasant, but I would be remiss not to mention how September 11, 2001 impacted the more than 170 families in Massachusetts who lost loved ones.  I recall that back on September 9, 2001 I had said good night to my good friend Graham (pictured above) who was leaving for L.A. in two days. We were to connect the following weekend. 

Realizing the personal nature of the tragedy on the afternoon of September 11th as friends called me to find out if Graham had made his flight is etched in my memory, and I imagine will stay with me for the rest of my life.  Taken too soon and still missed today, my flashback is in memory of all those people who lost someone they loved on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 but for me mostly about my friend Graham Berkeley.  Listed below is a quick video of Boston's humble but very serene memorial to that tragedy. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't stop believing

Check out Sam Tsui. Not only does he have a really great voice, but he's quite creative cloning himself to sing lead and back up in this self-made video. I wonder if he puts a gold star after his name like Rachel Barry from Glee.

Bye bye banQ -- hello Ginger Park

photograph by: John Horner
The blog, Boston Restaurant Talk posted a write up from The Boston Globe mentioning that banQ, an upscale Asian-influenced restaurant on Washington Street in the South End, is going to be renamed, Ginger Park.
The Globe's article mentions that Ginger Park will be a reasonably-priced restaurant featuring Asian food (with an emphasis on Chinese cuisine).  I wonder what "reasonably-priced" means?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hitting the gym

I have not commented on on my gym routine since mid-July when I wrote about how I finally felt back in form after recovering from a bout of meningitis.  Rather than revisit that uncomfortable time, you can read more about my most recent episode of contracting meningitis (yes, I said "most recent") and my sincere appreciation for percoset in my entry, Thank goodness for percoset.

I've relied heavily on my training sessions with Stu at the BSC-South End to keep me focussed. Much to my dismay (if I'm really being honest here) I've only gone to the gym when I've had an appointment with Stu.  It is for that reason I re-signed for 20 more sessions with Stu just a week ago.  I realized that without him there to push me I would likely fall into my routine of sorry-ass excuses for not going to the gym. 

Tonight I had my second session from the 20-pack and he really pushed me hard.  Today was all about the back and abdominals.  I can't begin to tell you how envious I am of those who have abdominal definition.  I started working out with Stu so I could gain better tummy definition and to essentially bulk up to avoid potential injury in my back. So despite the fact that he kicked my you know what today - I eagerly crunched, lifted and gasped my way through the entire workout.  

I suppose my gym routines are meant to both mitigate all the french fries which I seem to willingly say yes to at restaurants when the waiter asks, "fries or salad?"  As well as an attempt to show how much I truly do value my health.  I make so many decisions each day, which in hindsight probably are not in the best interest of my personal health so these sessions with Stu are really meant to help me make up for some of my transgressions (like my love for ice cream).

I do hope to get better about going to the gym and made a very serious promise to myself as I gasped my way through today's workout that I would definitely, certainly, absolutely, positively get myself to the gym for a killer workout at least one more time this week. Please send me your positive thoughts and wish me luck, because I know what my calendar looks like this week and how weak I am when it comes to self-discipline.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Social media: LinkedIn

There is a lot of talk about social media in business today and even more confusion about how to leverage some of the more talked about / successful sites.  I'm not an expert on all forms of social media, but I do particularly like two: LinkedIn and Twitter.

Social media is defined by wikipedia as media that can be disseminated through social interaction, that is highly accessible and has scalable publishing techniques. Social media are distinct from more traditional media (e.g. newspapers, television, and film) and is relatively inexpensive and accessible.  It is precisely this accessibility that makes social media both great and a great pain.  For that reason I wanted to share today's article by Scott Kirsner in The Boston Globe entitled, "Make better introductions". This article focuses on the benefits of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is often considered a networking website designed solely for career advancement.  While the site is an excellent tool to leverage and meet people if you are searching for work, it is so much more.  As with so many social media tools - sometimes the full potential is either not fully realized at first or is perceived "too much work".  In both cases these assumptions are incorrect. I won't write endlessly about ways one can leverage LinkedIn since the Sunday article does a good job.  However, I will list the ten recommendations - check out the article here for more detail.
  1. Spell your name wrong.
  2. Get recommended.
  3. Take advantage of the toolbars.
  4. Write a compelling headline.
  5. List everything.
  6. LinkedIn can replace business cards.
  7. Automated searches.
  8. Stealthy vs. public prowling.
  9. LinkedIn isn’t Facebook.
  10. Build your network now.
I'll also add a few of my thoughts / recommendations, which I've found provide nearly instant responses and results; they include:

Use the Question & Answer feature.  Asking the right kind of questions can result in possible leads for your firm and answering questions can lead to increasing your profile online by making you an expert in certain categories.
Don't accept connections of people you don't know.  The purpose of this site is to connect so it might seem counterintuitive, but if I'm connected to someone I don't know what does that say about the stregnth of my network?  While I might not regularly stay in contact with everyone, if I were to reach out to someone in my network they should know who I am.  Sometimes the "Facebook-affect" takes place on LinkedIn (a desire to increase contacts no matter how tenuous or estranged they might seem).  Recruiters often have these profiles and it suits their needs as they can reach out to a large pool of candidates but that is not why I'm on LinkedIn, and I don't view someone's worth by the number of connections they have - neither should you.

Lastly, visit this site regularly.  LinkedIn is constantly adding new tools that help connect people.  Even if this site does not have obvious benefits - realize this is a lost opportunity for you to connect and strengthen your existing contacts.  Your professional brand is yours to promote or let languish - nobody is ever going to give you a performance review on how you market yourself, but free opportunities that have real value are rare in business.

Later this month I'll write about another social media site I love - Twitter.  Until then you can reach out to me at www.linkedin.com/in/bostonmarketingguy.

Weekend in New Hampshire

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Parent's Lake House
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I spent part of the Labor Day weekend up in New Hampshire at my parent's new house on Lake Winnipesaukee.  The weather was beautiful and the new home a tranquil location even with my newborn niece, Abby, and two nephews, Jack (5) and Austin (3). 

The only real drawback to the place is that it takes 2 - 2.5 hours and while the destination is worth the drive, it is hardly pretty getting there.  Construction on the house only just finished so next summer it will be interesting to see just how often we make it up to spend time outside of Boston and with family for quick get aways out of the city.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Flashback Friday: Boston South Station

Boston's South Station is located at the edge of the financial district (also straddling the leather district, chinatown and fort point channel) on Atlantic Avenue and Summer Street in Dewey Square.  In addition to servicing buses and the local subway (MBTA system), regional bus and train service leaves from this busy station 24/7.  I regularly hop on the Acela for business trips to NYC and always enjoy walking through this beautiful building which has been renovated many, many times (most recently in 2001 and 2005) without compromising its architectural charm.

The train station first opened at the start of 1899 and the exterior still looks much as it did back at the end of the 19th century.

Boston South Station through the years:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cardinal O'Malley did right by attending senator Kennedy's funeral mass

Today, I was stopped nearly dead in my tracks when I read the headline, O’Malley defends role at Kennedy rites.  For those not in the know, O'Malley is the Cardinal of Boston and he attended the funeral mass for the late Sen. Kennedy mostly as an observer, leaving the ritual service to priests who had a closer, more personal relationship with Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family.

The "beef" which some of the more conservative constituents of the Catholic faith stems around Kennedy's unwaivering support for abortion rights. While I understand the strong feelings many Catholics have regarding this issue, I was stunned because in nearly every other important teaching of the Catholic church Senator Kennedy was a stalwart supporter...
- Opposition to the death penalty
- Support for social programs that provide food, aide and training for the poor, sick and mentally ill
- Early and ardent supporter of civil rights

It never ceases to amaze me that if a person has spent a life time of service supporting and championing causes (often unpopular) such as opposing the death penalty or creating social welfare programs as Kennedy did - the fact that he also supported abortion nullifies his good works.  The hypocrisy of many if not most of these conservative Catholics is that they too pick and choose where their personal faith leads them astray from church teaching.  How many of these conservative Catholics support or have been quiet in their defense of the death penalty? How many were opposed and worked to close down Guantanamo for human rights violations?  The Catholic church is equally committed to those causes and as such these individuals should then by their own measure be denied communion as they clamoured for Kennedy and others who supported abortion rights.  Regardless, even if these critics have lived an exemplary life and not waivered in their support for these and other programs which the church supports - perhaps they have lost their ability to realize the greatest teaching of all - love & forgiveness. 

Faith is a prickly subject because it often comes from a perspective of moral superiority, which leaves me cold and continues to distance me from the church I once held so dearly and found much comfort in attending.  I was pleased that Cardinal O'Malley did not remain silent and used his blog to chastise those critical of his decision even if I no longer consider myself a practicising Catholic.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fox TV replayed the pilot episode of glee which initially aired in mid May.  I have high hopes for this new program. For those who appreciate music and dancing as well as a bit of wit and juvenile drama, this will be the show of choice.  Fox will be airing episodes on Wednesdays at 9pm.  Check out the clip below for a sample of what you can expect.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why is my blog broken?

Despite the fact that I'm not necessarily new to blogging, I still struggle to effectively leverage all the bells / whistles that blogger provides.  It is no less infuriating knowing that this is about as easy a GUI as exists and  technical neophytes (c'est moi) are "supposedly" able to use these tools without issue.

My biggest frustration right now is that I've noticed the blogs which do post my entries in their "Blog List" seem to all have this entry (see poor John Rogers' ugly mug to the left).  I'm flattered and appreciate that people do this, but sadly that post is quite old, dating back to January of this year.  It's painful to admit ones limitations and post them front and center but after several failed attempts to fix this problem I feel like I'm left with one of two choices: 1) Rip my computer from the wall while incoherently screaming profanities and throw it out my window 2) Ask for help.  Ignoring how cathartic option one might be and focussing on potential harm that would come to innocent pedestrians some 4 stories below my apartment, I've opted for the second choice.  Any techies out there willing to be my blogger-sherpa? I would just like to caution that I need you to use small words and make no assumptions. My technical knowledge is about as deep as the kiddie-pool.  If not, I might have to reconsider option one. Note to little sister and brother -- I'm serious when I tell you that you need to re-double your efforts to meet and fall madly in love with someone who works in I.T.

Worst date ever

Last week I included a vlog about dating etiquette because the person so succinctly (and with humor I might add) described his personal frustrations with dating.  At one point in the commentary he references a bad date and so I've inserted the "bad date" here for any to watch.  I would however, recommend that if you have not seen the first clip to scroll down 3 entries or link here to watch it.