Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

Tomorrow I am off to Ogunquit, ME to celebrate halloween with friends.  It will be a fun evening for sure and probably our last visit there for awhile. Normally I spend the evening with Sergio, walking around the neighborhood watching the hoardes of children in an assortment of costumes and photographing some of the more creative Jack O'Lanterns. You can see some of the best pumpkin carvings from last year by linking here.

The weather forecast is for the highs in the low 70s in Boston but I'm sure it will get cooler at night and Ogunquit is certain to be a tad chillier than Boston. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hotel rooms for Sydney booked

Tonight we booked our hotel room when we arrive in Sydney, Australia next month.  We first arrive in Sydney on Friday, November 20th and spend a quick two nights at the Marriott-Sydney before we dash off to the Great Barrier Reef (Cairns) on Sunday, November 22nd.  After nearly a week and a half of travelling through eastern Australia, we return to Sydney for our last 7 days. After reviewing what my Amex Rewards points could get us, we decided to book a room at the Swissotel-Sydney.

This large hotel in the center of town provides us with a central location and appears (in pictures anyway) to be very comfortable.  Travelling some place you've never been before can be quite a gamble and for that reason I did not want to book a boutique hotel or stand alone property that we have no way to judge until we arrive. 

Fortunately, TripAdvisor rates both hotels quite favorably so we are keeping our fingers crossed and finally starting to get excited about heading to Australia as the trip becomes more of a step is booking our hotels for the Great Barrier Reef and Melbourne.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weekend in Austin

I got back from Austin late on Sunday night and had a great time visiting friends that moved there from San Francisco a couple of years ago. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful so we were able to spend nearly all our time outside; relaxing on our friend's beautiful back deck; walking through the city; and dining alfresco. 

Boston has many excellent restaurants but very few of those make what I would consider even okay Mexican cuisine so we really made the most of our time in Austin eating Mexican almost exclusively.  One exception to that was our dinner on Friday night at Vespaio Ristorante on S. Congress (SoCo). This was a cute Italian restaurant in what appeared to be a section of town in transition.  There were several other intersting restaurants along S. Congress and I look forward to returning to this neighborhood on future visits.

However, in my opinion my best meal was on Saturday night in North Austin at Fonda San Miguel. The restaurant claims to provide "distinctive Mexican cuisine" and I have to agree.  I can still taste the delicious relleno de picadillo which was stuffed with shredded pork, almonds and raisins. The jitomate sauce was a delicious compliment and if you happen to find yourself at this restaurant - it would be the plate I would recommend.

I've also included photos from our recent trip since images always do a better job telling a story.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Austin Texas - Oct 2009
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Funny photo of the day

A good example of The Law of Unintended Consequences.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tweet tweet

Do you tweet or rather are you on twitter? You can read my most recent tweets in the right margin of this blog. However, I also have two twitter accounts you can follow. - Provides individual updates about my life and things that have caught my attention. - I'm a marketing professional by day and this account points to interesting B2B marketing trends I find online with a heavy emphasis on healthcare and technology.

If you tweet too - feel free to share your twitter acount in the commnets section and let me know what you like to tweet about.

Boston Book Festival this Saturday

Looking for something to do but low on cash?  Check out the Boston Book Festival this Saturday in Copley Square.  The festival is drawing together an ecclectic group ranging from Alicia Silverstone to Ken Burns to Curious George.  In addition to the more than 90 authors and presenters who are participating, there will be more than 40 outdoor exhibitors, children's activities, and book signings.  I'm excited to head to Austin this weekend, but I would have loved to attend the Boston Book Festival -so check it out if you are in town.

The Boston Book Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Boston Public Library, Old South Church, Trinity Church, and outdoors in Copley Square. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public.  You can find out more by visiting the festival's website,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interactive: Gay marriage chronology

I stumbled across this while reading WGB. Originally posted in the LA Times it is part of a larger article that outlines what formal protections and bans regarding same-sex marriage are in place in each state.  No surprise with this graphic with the exception of the tiny oasis of green in the middle of the country.  How IA became one of the first 5 states in the country to legalize gay marriage still has me scratching my head. The deep green hues in the northeast are hardly surprising nor is the deep red that dominates the south and much of the midwest.  The only real surprise is that the west coast is not more green.  It seems the west coast is following rather than setting this progressive trend.  I'm sure that over time, these red states will turn a softer shade of green and states like CA, OR, and WA will become a deep green that resembles what you see in virtually all of New England.  If you would like to check out the full article link to the Los Angeles Times.

Euro Breaks $1.50

The U.S. dollar continues to weaken.  According to an article in today's NY Times, the dollar has lost 15% of its value over the past 7 months.  The devaluing of the dollar hurts - esp. since I enjoy travelling internationally.  I suppose for the U.S. economy this is a good thing because it will make our products more competitive on the world market but in less than a month I'm planning a trip to Australia and the weaker currency is a major bummer for me.

Heading to Austin, TX

On Friday, I'm leaving to visit a very good friend who I've known since grade school.  A couple years back he had a beautiful wedding out in Healdsburg, CA and shortly after he and his wife moved to Austin, TX.  I've never heard anything unkind said about this big town.  I have no expectations and do not know what they have planned for our first trip to their home.  We arrive on Friday (late morning) and leave for home on Sunday evening so it will be a quick trip but I think we'll probably be heading down again as they seem to have settled into Austin and since Jet Blue now flies non-stop from Boston it is fairly easy to get there.

Hollywood back in the n'hood

Tom Cruise flick, "Wichita", continues to film in the neighborhood and the parking lot across the street from my condo is filled with trailers again (although Tom's super-deluxe black trailer bus is noticably absent).  Should I happen to see the movie star or Cameron Diaz - the leading lady - I'll be sure to comment or post a tweet on my twitter account,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Do you deserve your high school diploma?

It has been about a month since I posted my last quiz so I figured I would share my results from this quiz which asks the question, "Do you deserve your high school diploma?" I scored an embarassingly low 68%, although the auto response which tabulated my final grade indicated that I did "pretty good".  Maybe this will be graded on a curve.  Give the 2-minute online quiz a shot if you like and let me know how you did.

You paid attention during 68% of high school!
68-84% Pretty good, you know that there are libraries and newspapers, and you remember what you've read. You were a child that wasn't left behind!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Take More Quizzes

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekend on Cape Cod

My cousin Ben is marrying his long-time girlfriend (Megan) this weekend at Ocean's Edge in Brewster, MA on Cape Cod.  The location is spectacular and I'm looking forward to the reception later tonight. 

The grounds are really beautiful - so it is a shame the weather is not cooperating because I would have loved to walk alongside the ocean.   The back (or front of the resort as you drive in) is dominated by the main house (see below).

I really love coming to the Cape off season. Spending the weekend with my mother's side of the family is sure to provide hours of laughs and good conversations.  That was definitely the case last night when I crawled into bed around midnight.  My throat was sore and my sides cramped from laughing so hard.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Street art

Today's Boston Globe has an article entitled, "Painting outside the box". The article is about a city program that commissions street art. According to the article, two dozen local artists have been brought in by the Boston Arts Commission as part of its PaintBox program, which is being modeled after similar efforts in Cambridge and Somerville. The program started slowly last year with only 13 boxes painted, but it has quickly expanded to more than 40.  I'm a huge fan of public art and hope it continues. 

A utility box has been decorated in my neighborhood on the corner of Dartmouth and Tremont Street. Click on the picture to make it larger and find out more about the artist by visiting their website.

The South End - a long-time enclave for many local artists - has recently seen more public art and sometimes residents get up in arms about such public displays.  With very few exceptions, I am generally very excited and like to see such creative expressions.  Earlier this year when the Shepard Fairey exhibit opened at the I.C.A., there was a lot of anger directed at Fairey because of some of his public works which the city labelled as 'vandalism'.  I believe that he actually had to appear in court and was formally charged for some of his work, which I think was a shame because I love seeing his murals.  There remain at least 3 or 4 murals in my neighborhood and I would love to see more.  The image below is in the South End on Shawmut Street.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bill Brake

My immediate and extended family are probably closer than most.  I have close relationships with several of my 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins.  On Friday (October 9th), my cousin Bill - whom I fondly referred to as "Uncle" mostly because of the age difference lost his battle with cancer.  Bill was an imposing figure who I loved to visit in Silversprings, MD when I was a kid.  He and his wife (my mother's cousin), had 5-children and when they were younger they lived in such far away places as England and Brazil. My heart aches for his children and I wanted to share a photograph to remember Bill by on my blog.  His oldest son, Greg sent this photo along just prior to Bill's passing.  He was greatly loved so he will be greatly missed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weekend of GLBT activism in D.C.

Gay activists of all varieties have camped themselves in Washington, D.C. this weekend.  For sure, some will attend both the  National March for Equality and the HRC Annual National Dinner, but for many this is a divided camp with a common purpose - advancement of GLBT issues and rights.  And tensions between these two camps - the first predominantly local and grass roots organizations which run the gamut from the radical Left to Log Cabin Republicans; the second mostly wealthy gay and lesbian supporters of the Democratic National Party - is getting more rancorous.

A direct result of this increasing friction can be seen on the web as this debate within the GLBT community spills over into mainstream (albeit liberal) media. Just this week (to name a few) there is the featured article in The Daily Beast, "Can Obama Make Peace with Gays"; the lead story on The Huffington Post, "Gay Rights Speech: What Should Obama Say Tonight"; and Andrew Sullivan's scathing review in The Atlantic, "The Battered Wife Syndrome of the HRC".  All are causing a lot of chatter on the internet and really only represent the tip of the iceberg of what is currently online. 

Like the various groups referenced in the articles above, I have conflicting feelings and vacillate between pleasure to have Obama in office, because I truly believe he wishes me no ill will (I honestly did not feel that way about the former President) and disapointment that more has not been done either through supporting legislation or executive order.  However, I do remind myself that although Obama is fairly liberal, he is socially moderate/conservative with regards to GLBT issues.  He has never said anything that made me hold out hope that he would dash D.O.M.A. or lead the charge with any significant legislation.

That being said, I can also understand why many have been frustrated by what is perceived as reticence or lack of initiative.  The GLBT voting block has grown in significance in the Democratic Party.  Numbers in several politically important states are up and more importantly money donated has increased notably. If this voting bloc feels that they are not being heard by a Democratic candidate, that man/woman will see a drop in donations, volunteers and votes.  Whatever the rift, I hope this mends because the option of having another Christian Conservative in office honestly sends shivers down my spine.

Oktoberfest in Harvard Square this Sunday

The 30th Annual Oktoberfest festival is tomorrow (10/11)  in Harvard Square. This year's festivities will include six stages of live entertainment, 50+ food vendors, and 200+ vendors at the outdoor market. Be sure not to miss the annual ceremonial keg tapping & toast at Grendel’s Den.  For more information about the one-day festival which shuts down nearly all the streets in and around Harvard Square link here.

For Harvard Square enthusiasts, I also found this online calendar, which lists all the official activities and events that will happen in the square.  If you will be around next weekend (10/17-18) keep in mind the world's largest regatta - The Head of the Charles - will occur.  This year, more than 7,500 athletes and 300,000 spectators are expected to crowd the river banks and Harvard Square.  For more information about The Regatta, link here.

Haiku time

Recently I posted one of my favorite poems from Frost entitled "Nothing gold can stay" and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a comment from Todd X who lives in San Francisco.  I follow Todd's blog Iced Tea & Sarcasm but I did not realize he maintained an additional blog called Just 17 Syllables.

Todd's insightful comments about "Nothing gold can stay" leads me to believe that he is quite an enthusiast for this particular form of expression too.  His second blog is a nod to a form of poetry originally from Japan, called a haiku.  This form of poetry is distinguished by the fact that it consists of 17 syllables written in three lines: 5 syllables; 7 syllables; 5 syllables. 

Back in August I first mentioned what a haiku is in my entry, Bathroom poet, because I noticed a particularly humorous (if not often recited) haiku above a urinal at the Beehive (a local restaurant and lounge). Todd X has some slightly more creative expressions check them out if you too enjoy a good haiku.  The poems range from political statements like, "Proposition 8" & "Hillary" to the more humorous, "Spam squared" and he even has a few about San Francisco like, "Foggy morning". However, I think my personal favorite is the untitled haiku, which I've included below.

My ambivalence
trumps your suffering because
I care less than you.
Source /Author: Just 17 Syllables / Todd X

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I just caught the end of the gay romantic comedy, Trick. I really loved this movie when it came out in the late 90s. Tori Spelling did a bang-up job as a horrible actress (or was that type-casting?) And the two leads were both handsome and adorable. I had forgotten about the film and the catchy showtune "Into You" until I stumbled upon it on Logo tonight. My favorite scene remains the pep-talk that Ms Coco Peru gives in the bathroom - I still stifle a laugh when I think about her diatribe.

Do you recall this movie? Probably not, unless you are gay. Here's a clip of the trailer, which I found on YouTube (thank goodness for YT).

New England best at providing healthcare South ranked the worst

The Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard ranks the states which provide the best healthcare to their residents.  The non-partisan study analyzes access, quality, costs and health outcomes and is a a follow up to the well respected 2007 report. The best state overall was Vermont. 

The Green Mountain state was cited for its model "Blue Print" program. Launched by Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, it covers everything from teaching children healthy eating to helping seniors stay in their homes rather than going to costly nursing homes.  For me this is proof positive that at least some Republicans actually have ideas to contribute to health reform - a pity that Republicans from the north east are shunned by the national party.

According to The Commonwealth Fund scorecard, the remaining New England States were ranked as follows, #5 NH & ME, #7 MA, #8 CT, and #11 RI. The south which is far more rural and poor scored the worst.  Rounding out the bottom was Mississippi, but not far behind were the following states: LA, AR, OK, TX, FL, and AL. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nothing gold can stay

Autumn in New England is a beautiful place to be and it is that time of year again so I thought I would share this poem from Robert Frost - one of my personal favorites.

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Okay, okay I know that nobody has sympathy for someone lucky enough to be able to take time off from work and travel all the way to the other side of the world, but I could not help but laugh out loud when I read this AP headline in the news today. 

In little more than 6-weeks I will be hopping on a plane to visit Australia for the first time in my life. I'm extremely excited but also nervous that the long trip will put a significant dent in my savings. So I had to laugh in spite of myself when I read this article which points out that in today's trading the Australian dollar has surged and is now trading nearly even with the U.S. dollar.  This is the highest it has traded against the dollar since August 2008.  Oy-vey...  Let's hope the dollar shows some cojones and can rally a bit too - it would be a shame to travel all the way to Australia only to stay in out of the way hostels.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Attention theater queens

I last saw AvenueQ in Boston at the Opera House in March of 2008. Sadly, I won't be able to see the show this time around since I'll be out of town, but I would strongly encourage you to consider purchasing tickets to see this Tony Award winning musical, which I can only describe as Seasame Street meets NYC. 

The story line is very entertaining, the music catchy (i.e. "The internet is for porn") and the storyline compelling. Earlier this year AvenueQ ended its amazing run on Broadway so this is the first time the show is coming to Boston since the lights have dimmed in NYC.  Here is a clip from one of the songs, "If you were gay", which is more entertaining to watch in person, but still worth watching.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tom Cruise back in South End

It is a very, very rainy Saturday here in Boston and I'm preparing to leave to spend the night up at the family lake house. However, this morning when I looked out my bedroom window, the parking lot across the street was again awash with movie trailers for the filming of Wichita - the Tom Cruise / Cameron Diaz film. Earlier this month I wrote about this in my entries, Tom Cruise filming Wichita in Boston, and Cameron Diaz filming in the South End.

No time to snap any pictures this morning (plus the weather is crap so there is not much to see) so I've included a grainy pic or two below from when they were filming across the street in September.

Friday, October 2, 2009

MA universal health coverage (in brief)

Today at work, I was asked to provide some background for the 2006 Massachusetts state law, Chapter 58: An Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care. After the fact, I thought I'd post a portion of my communication on my blog.

Background on the MA Universal Healthcare Bill
Massachusetts' Universal Healthcare bill was signed into law in 2006 and MA remains the only state which provides health insurance coverage to all it's residents. When MA drafted this legislation they did it with the state's insurers sitting around the table as a stake holder so unlike the public option which you hear so much about in D.C., Massachusetts created a Public/Private option blend. The result has been fairly positive for the state's health insurers who have bucked a national trend by adding members; something unheard of nationally.

Why universal care works
The MA universal healthcare bill contained both a corporate and individual mandate. This has forced businesses to provide health insurance and encouraged residents to buy insurance or face fines. Nearly all but the state's smallest companies must offer health insurance that meets 'minimal creditable coverage', or they are forced to pay a fee based on the number of uninsured employees as well as any costs incurred by the State if their employees use free care (go to a clinic or ER). Residents also shoulder responsibility and have an individual mandate requiring they have insurance. 

Even though there was a lot of negative press about these mandates infringing on individual liberties and making the state 'unfriendly' to business, it did not prevent the MA from keeping this in the bill and it is in my opinion one of the reasons MA achieved universal coverage so quickly. The state made a strong case by saying that since every resident at some point uses the healthcare system, everyone should be expected to have some form of health coverage.

So what's the problem and what is/are the solution(s)?
Despite a significant downturn in the economy, universal healthcare remains popular in MA. An article published last month in The Boston Globe points out that residents still support the bill which brought universal care to MA by a 2-to-1 ratio (State's Health System Popular). However, the program does have many detractors and there are many problems; cost control and access to primary care physicians being the top two probably.

The state made news back in July when it announced that they would scrap the current "fee-for-service"; a system in which insurers pay doctors and hospitals a negotiated fee for individual procedures or visits (NE Journal of Medicine Article). A state commission has recommended that within the next 5 years the state move to have a yearly fee for each patient. In theory, this will eliminate any financial incentive to overtreat patients and encourage greater efficiencies. Additional monies could be earned through pay-for-performance initiatives.

Now that coverage is avavailable through private employer-based insurance and the state run "Commonwealth Connector" the next step is tackling the jams in the system to ensure better access and  decreasing medical cost trends.  Ideas like ending fee-for-service and implementing pay-for-performance models are innovative approaches that have yet to be tested so it can not be said if they will fail or succeed and the law of unintended consequences can never be discounted, but I am pleased that the state continues to take this issue seriously and errs on the side of innovation and action.