Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 Political Prediction

You heard it here first, the biggest political story of 2008 will be the independent presidential candidacy of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Back in Boston

Well, "Jason Bourne on a Budget" is done, and I am back in Boston in my apartment, finishing up last-minute Christmas shopping. We're already talking about a sequel, perhaps to Italy in 2008 (another country that does figure into Bourne... in fact, the first place he landed in "The Bourne Identity").

I will get pictures up soon.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Final "Jason Bourne on a Budget" Chapter

MUNICH-- After one final night in Munich (spent at Hofbrauhaus, of course), Scott and I are up early for a mid-day flight back to the United States.

We see that the snow has stopped, for now, on the U.S. east coast, so it looks as though we've picked a good window to return home. After the few very light flakes we saw when we first arrived, we have not seen any snow at all here.

We've begun to put together lists that rank the three cities we visited over the past week on various categories. Here's a sampling:

Best Christmas Village
1) Munich
2) Zurich
3) Prague

1) Prague
2) Zurich
3) Munich

Most Likely to Spend a Comfortable Day or Two
1) Zurich
2) Munich
3) Prague

The trip was clearly a success, and now it's time to go home and do what all Americans do: Have a vacation from a vacation to get some rest.

We've met a wide variety of people on this trip. A Nebraska college student who has been backpacking around the world. A French chemist who received his Ph.d. in Chemistry in the UK and is hosting his parents for Christmas in Munich. A Swiss psychologist on the train to Munich, and her German boyfriend who offered us Swiss cookies. A Canadian photographer and his wife spending eight days in Prague.

We learned a lot about them and about how they view America. We think that Americans geography in many ways hurts the American perspective. We're so isolated. In Europe its a short train ride, and suddenly its Crowns instead of Euros, cobblestone streets everywhere instead of pavement, and bars that are open until 5 a.m. instead of 1 a.m.

For the next trip here, I am bringing my skis!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

There's No Place Like Home (in Munich)

MUNICH-- We did not even need a map to get from the train station to the hotel. We're resting here before our final dinner in Munich, likely back in town near Marienplatz.

On the train from Zurich to Munich, we sat next to a young couple (lady from Switzerland and gentleman from near Munich). We engaged in what will certainly be the most significant political conversation of this trip. We emphasized that not many people in the U.S. are currently happy with President Bush's performance. The couple was generally very interested in what the possibilities are of the U.S. next President changing the course in Iraq.

As a whole, they do not see much hope for Americans to change course, primarily because we are too wrapped up in putting America first and not cooperating. It was a fascinating conversation.

Anyway, I will post more later.
Go For Zurich Departure

ZURICH-- We're checking out of our hotel this morning for an early afternoon train to where Jason Bourne on a budget began: Munich.

Last night we walked through Niedendorf, a young hip part of Zurich. Niedendorf satisfies the two requirements of a hip area: greasy late-night food and lots of Starbucks (remember we came up with that theory back in Munich).

We met a bartender who herself has seen the Bourne movies. She says she could not tell, initially, that the Bourne Identity was not filmed in Zurich, even though the movie took place in the city. The movie does have blue tram cars that are a signature here; we've seen them all over the place.

In any event, I will post more about Zurich when we get to Munich tonight.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Arrival in Zurich

ZURICH-- We arrived in Zurich this morning, and are just now getting into our room at the hotel here. It's about 1 p.m. local time on Wednesday-- about 7 a.m in Boston.

The train ride was uneventful, though I must say the Prague train station is pretty confusing if you can't read English. Only after two trips to the International help desk was I confident that we were ok. The problem was the train number on my ticket registered for a train going to Salzburg, even though the car we ultimately went to was marked for Zurich. Our train traveled southwest out of Prague, crossing the border into Austria. We then traveled west to Salzburg, where we met with a train coming out of Vienna.

Luckily for us, we were in a car that could sleep six, but no one else showed up. We had the entire car to ourselves, and therefore conveniently moved to the bottom bunk on each side.

Anyway, we must go back and chat about Prague for a bit. It's a beautiful city-- the most beautiful city I have ever been too. We remarked so many times that you just can't take enough pictures, and you really have to go to understand. On the second morning in Prague, we went to the Castle on a large bluff overlooking downtown Prague, and invested in a tour that was well worth the price.

Prague depends quite a bit on tourism. Apparently a lot of Brits come here for bachelor parties. For that reason, many of the shops are cheesy in their attempt to appeal to visitors, everyone can speak English and pretty much everything is written or translated in English, and you have to be careful not to get ripped off. Case in point, on our first day, we went to a place called Cafe Grand Praha, right in Old Town Square and next to the Astronomical clock. We ended up spending a fortune.

Unfortunately, the tourists put a pall on the feel of the place. In Munich, there were tourists, but you never got the sense that the locals catered to those from out of town-- or perhaps better put, they took care of us, but you never got the sense it was out of desperation. In Prague, you can tell that the tourists are very important to the economy.

Anyway, on our one night in Prague, we went to a place on Wenceslas Square called "The Beer Factory" (see what I mean about the cheese? The name was even in English!) and met a local bartender Kate (her nickname for Americans). She directed us to an area off the beaten path, where we had dinner (at about 15-percent of what we paid at the Cafe Grand Praha).

On the morning of our departure for Zurich, we went to the Castle (as noted earlier) and then walked past the American Embassy.

Some random facts about Prague:

-- Everyone speaks English (at least everyone we, as tourists, ran into), and in general, the English is better than in Munich. Pretty much everyone learns English by interacting with tourists (I took an informal poll. A few learned in high school when they traveled to the U.S.). Everyone we spoke to on the tourist path had been to the U.S., which means either everyone goes to the U.S., or we were speaking to some fairly privileged kids.

-- They have Budweiser beer in Prague. No kidding. Apparently Anheiser-Bush got the name Budweiser from the beer in the Czech Republic. Like in America, Budweiser's parent in Prague is equally watered down and cheap. You have to work to find it though. We found it at a very local pub off the tourist march that was occupied by what looked to be local college students listening to techno music.

-- The smog in Prague is really, really bad, which is ironic, give how pretty the city is. It was tough to take a picture of the city from the Castle vista because of the smog.

-- While in Munich girls can't stay away from Schmuck (German for Jewelry), in Prague if you want perfume, you gotta go to the "Rossman" (name of a Prague chain of perfume stores).

Here in Zurich, I finished off my Christmas list this morning and bought myself a Swiss watch. Scott noted a preliminary summary of the three cities: Prague (prettiest), Munich (most fun), Zurich (best for shopping). Then again, we still have to go out in Zurich tonight.

Funny story about the train ride. We were woken up about 10:30 to get our passports stamped on the way out of the Czech Republic. About five minutes later a new border guard knocked on our door (from the country we were entering). Having no idea what the route was to Zurich, I quipped: "What country are we entering now?" The guard, after giving me an incredulous look, responded: "Austria." His intonation showed he was disappointed I had no clue where I was.

Scott is out cold. Time for me to take a nap. We're headed to old town Zurich tonight.

P.S. No snow on the ground in any of the cities we've been to. Can't wait to get back to Boston : )

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Report from Tourist-Land

PRAGUE-- Just a quick post, as Scott and I need to get moving today. We're taking a train tonight to Zurich.

Prague is a beautiful city-- the prettiest I have been to in Europe. It is overrun by tourists and clearly dependent on them for a large part of its economy. For that reason, everyone here speaks English. Our bartender in one establishment, Kate, tells us she learned English at a bar serving tourists.

We managed to see the building in Prague where they filmed the bank scene in The Bourne Identity. Even though the movie takes place in Zurich at the beginning of the plot, the bank scene there was shot here.

More later. For now, breakfast and then a full day of touring before our night train. I should post next from Zurich.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Closing Munich Chapter 1

PRAGUE -- It's shortly after midnight Monday morning here in Prague, and we've arrived safely in the capital city of the Czech Republic. It was kind of cool to cross the border. A Czech border guard walked through each compartment in our train, followed closely by a German police officer. In succession, they each stamped our passports-- The Czech officer welcomed us in, and then the German police officer stamped us out of Germany. The stamps are pretty cool-- The German one has a little picture of a train on it.

Scott and I manged to stay out of trouble leaving Munich. At the train station, we traded forty of our remaining Euros for 800 Crowns, which are the currency here in Prague. We are officially carrying three different types of currency! Of course, we had no idea what a Crown was when we got to the train station, though we did know the money in Prague was different than in Germany. Upon arriving in the center of Prague, we bought a Coke Lite to get change for the metro.

Can't really give you an early read on Prague, except to say the metro is very clean. While on the train, Scott and I mapped our plan for day 1 here tomorrow, which will include visiting the Castle across the river and walking on the Charles bridge over the river Vltava.

Before leaving Munich on Sunday, we had breakfast at the Weisses Brauhaus (boiled white sausages) downtown, and we took a trip out to see the Olympic village, which is north of the city center. Scott and I got into an argument on whether space needles, such as the one in Munich, are becoming "more common." (Scott says they are. He has stood next to the one in Toronto, seen pics of the one in Seattle and thinks there's at least one somewhere in Asia. In fact, there's even one in Prague. Still, despite all the evidence, Ross believes space needles are not, in fact, becoming more common. What we have here is a difference of opinion). If you have thoughts, leave a comment to this post, and we know you have thoughts. We did take some pictures from the restaurant in the needle (though it was cloudy), and we did see the Olympic village where the tragic events in 1972 took place.

We were sad to leave Munich; it's a special city that was good to us. But we know we will be back there for one more night later this week.

Speaking of Munich, a couple of additional random facts:

-- You can't pry a woman from her Schmuck in Munich. ("Schmuck" is the word for jewelry, so we think, given where it appears in stores there).

-- Ashton Kutcher has apparently set up a phone company in Munich. T-Mobile in German is "T-Punkt." All kidding aside, we did have to use a T-Punkt phone at the Munich train station to call ahead and make sure we had guaranteed late arrival here in Prague. Once again, everyone speaks English...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Somber Day

MUNICH -- One of the great things about this trip is Scott and I are kind of just making our itinerary up as we go along. While on the plane, we noticed that there is a town within range of the Munich subway called Dachau, and upon further review, we discovered it is the same, infamous Dachau-- where one finds the Dachau concentration camp (called "Gedenkstatte"). We went there on Saturday (I am writing this on Sunday morning, which has dawned sunny-- our second straight day of good weather).

The subway system here is fantastic. It's similar to what I saw in Berlin when I was there in 2000. S-Bahn trains cover a large area outside of Munich, including to the airport; whereas U-Bahn trains cover more ground within Munich itself. To get to Dachau, we took an S-Bahn train.

While the system is great, it's not exactly a simple task for an American to buy a train ticket. Each station has ticket machines, but everything is in German (there's a way to push a button on the machine that looks like a flag to change the language, but I haven't been able to get it to work). So basically picture us taking at least five extra minutes for each subway ride spent in front of this ticket machine, trying to figure out how to make it work. When it finally did, we would raise our hands in triumph. Which is all the more ironic since they don't even check the tickets when you get into the station or on the train-- not once has anyone even asked for our ticket.

As you could probably imagine, Dachau is a pretty terrible place. It's not where one would go to laugh. Hidden behind a relatively new housing complex, and accessible via a discreet path, the Bavarian state has preserved as much as it can from the World War II days. Two of the more than 30 original bunkers where prisoners lived have been reconstructed, and there is a very nice museum and gift shop (as soon as you can find the entrance). Scott and I took a two hour tour that was fantastic. It included a trip to the incinerator and gas chamber. In a bit of dark irony, the gas chamber at Dachau was never used, for once it was completed late in the war, the Nazi's found they no longer had enough coal to burn the bodies once they were dead -- the Allies had bombed the large German coal mines by that point.

We tried to figure out why our tour guide did what she did. She was a volunteer, has been doing tours for eight years, and has a full time job as a marketing researcher. Her English is very good. We decided she must have had a relative who was either an inmate at Dachau or a member for the SS (Secret Police) that inflicted the terror on Dachau's subjects. By the way, two random facts: Dachau is pronounced without the "c," and we actually saw "Dachau II," since it was the second camp built there-- the first was torn down in 1937.

The trip to Dachau sandwiched two excursions into Munich's city center, which is less than a mile from our hotel. In the morning, after breakfast, we went downtown to Marienplatz, the city square where there is currently a large Christmas Market, and we climbed the tower of the Glockenspiel, which is in the middle of the "New Town Hall" in Marienplatz, to take pictures of the view. We could not see the Alps, but at least it was sunny on Saturday and we could see the famous Munich view of the Olympic park (we're going there today, Sunday).

After Dachau, we went back to Marienplatz to have dinner at the Ratskeller restaurant. Then we took the U-bahn out to a neighborhood called Schwabing, north of the city center, to visit a couple of bars. Schwabing is a young and hip section of town. We could tell this because there are a lot of places to buy pizza and greasy food late at night, and there were a bunch of Starbucks and a chain of coffee shops called "San Francisco Coffee Company." (Wonder if San Francisco knows they're here?)

Which brings us to day two of our random observation section:

1) Munich is a very friendly town. Scott and I like it a lot. It's far friendlier that what I remember about Berlin, which is good since I was judging all of Germany based on that trip, which brings up a very important point:

2) We have yet to see a single German flag flying here. We're in the state of Bavaria (Munich is its capital city). Bavaria is known as a friendly, good natured area. Well, Munich sees itself more as Bavaria than as Germany. Pops, the elderly man we met at the beer hall the first night, says Berlin is not in Bavaria and so Berlin is not as nice. In any event, the Bavarian flag is a white and blue checkerboard. We've seen that a few places, however, it's not plastered everywhere. More importantly, not one German flag.

3) Everyone here speaks English. I mean everyone. We crashed a fortieth birthday party at a small Schwabing bar, and even though everyone was speaking in German, they had a "Happy Birthday" sign in English hanging in the main room.

By the way, the woman who turned forty was at the wall in 1989 when it came down. They showed a photo of her on top of it as part of this projected slide-show roast at the party. It was a very powerful picture, though few in the room reacted. We think that maybe going to the wall in 1989 was common for people in there 20s. Kind of like the protests in the U.S. during Vietnam.

By virtue of where we were sitting, we were in pretty much all of the key photos taken at the birthday party. Which means when they show them at this woman's fiftieth birthday party, everyone is going to wonder who the h*** we are.

Today, Sunday, we leave Munich to travel to Prague. I should be able to get online at the hotel there.

Editor's Note: The photos on these posts are taken from other websites (Scott showed me how to do it). They are not taken by me. I forgot the cable to connect my camera to the computer. Real photos I have taken will have to wait...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jason Bourne Meets the Hofbrauhaus

MUNICH -- Scott and I accomplished our first objective last night, which was to stay awake.

We did it by making a trip to the world famous Hofbrauhaus, which is basically a very big beer hall. Literally the place is one large room with long tables. We had some beer with a U.K. couple named Frank and Karen (or Katie... something with a K). They live in northern England. After moving to a different table because the first was reserved, we sat with a very nice older American gentleman who we nicknamed "Pops," along with two native Germans.

If you hadn't guessed it, in Munich you can basically sit at a table with anyone you want. It's weird, but kind of cool. You just go up to a table with an open seat and say "FRY?" (Which means "free")... And you sit your butt down. A native Munich woman we met earlier yesterday told us that the natives are proud of this. In America, it wouldn't go very well.

Which leads me to a round of useless, random observations:

-- They have a lot of bikes here. I mean a ton. They have special bike lanes and you'd better not walk in them for fear of death. We saw bike racks with literally fifty or a hundred bikes.

-- Everyone here speaks English. Lucky for us, since the only words we know are "Beer" and the aforementioned "Fry"... And as you can see, good luck on my actually spelling those words the right way in German.

-- They sell alcohol on the street. It's this hot wine called Gluwein (pronounced Gloo-- VINE). It's pretty potent stuff. And they sell it right on the street. If you pay extra, they let you keep the coffee cup mug used to serve it. So there's a bunch of people walking around with these random mugs (well, those are probably all tourists). This was when we walked down the Neuhasser street market.

-- They really like pretzels here. They sell them in every restaurant. And I guess it's a nice gesture to buy a "round" of pretzels for your table at a beer hall. Someone did that last night for us. Scott made the comment that you could take a Munich native to Fenway, give them a soft pretzel and a serving from the Sausage Guy, and they would be in heaven. Wouldn't even have to go in the ballpark.

Anyway, we also saw the Christmas market here, which was nice. We met this very nice family where the husband is from the U.S. and the wife is from Munich, so they have an apartment in Munich and a home in the U.S. They directed us to a nice restaurant where we had our first taste of local fare-- sausages, sauerkraut and pretzels. In the restaurant, we overheard another family speaking Spanish. The daughter spoke German. Here I am thinking--- "I can't even speak English good."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jason Bourne on a Budget is a go

Scott and I have touched down in Munich. It's about zero Celsius here, and there is a very light snow falling. We found our hotel pretty well.

The trip here was fairly uneventful. Scott and I spent the day Thursday in Philadelphia in the rain. Shortly after arriving, I realized I have forgotten the cable to connect my camera to the computer, so pics will have to wait for my return.

During the day, the weather situation the northeast collapsed. I read email after email of colleagues attempting to leave work, but only finding they could creep a few meters before having to turn around and come back to the office. Meanwhile, Scott and I had our picture taken with the Liberty Bell.

We set two early rules for the trip:
-- Whenever we put our name down for a table, we will use the name "Bourne."
-- We are going to take a picture of every type of beer we consume (two so far at the Philly airport).

We managed to get some sleep on the plane, which was rather bumpy and left Philadelphia about an hour late (typical, so says Scott).

We're soon to leave the hotel to find lunch... It's six hours ahead here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Youth and the Media

I just came home from a panel discussion organized by MassINC called: "Plugged In, Tuned Out: Young Adults and the Media."

Panelists, including Adam Gaffin (who I finally got to meet) of UniversalHub, discussed why young adults are turned off by the newsmedia. A couple of interesting take-aways:

-- As noted by Bianca Vazquez Toness, a panelist from WBUR, maybe young voters don't pay attention to the media because the media don't report on what young voters care about. She just wrapped up a story for WBUR on what young voters do care about. The answers? The draft and the environment. Not necessarily surprising. When was the last time the New York Times wrote a front page story on the stances Presidential candidates have on the draft?

-- The previously mentioned Gaffin did a great job summarizing the role of bloggers in today's media environment. He noted how bloggers are ideal for giving first-hand accounts of breaking news events; he noted the plant explosion last year north of Boston in Danvers. But to actually explain why the explosion happened, we need the Boston Globe and the professional news journalists.

As a whole, the panel focused far too much on the topic for a general audience, rather than for the young-adult age group advertised. Case in point: "The Daily Show" came up once, and that was by a questioner.

As a result of the panel, I plan to follow Dan Kennedy's blog. He was a panelist.
Of the coverage today of the recent National Intelligence report that discusses how Iran is not building a nuclear bomb, I find this excerpt very interesting from today's New York Times:
Intelligence officials had said just weeks ago they were ending the practice of declassifying parts of intelligence estimates, citing concerns that analysts might alter their judgments if they knew the reports would be widely publicized.
But in a statement on Monday, Donald M. Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, said that since the new estimate was at odds with the 2005 assessment — and thus at odds with public statements by top officials about Iran — “we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available.”

Simply put, they didn't want to publish the report, but they had to because the administration was inaccurately portraying Iran. Which makes me wonder, don't the people who write the National Intelligence reports talk to the administration peeps discussing policy? In fact, don't they work for the same administration? Aren't we all on the same team.

The New York Times gets it. They carefully noted the timing of when the researchers were filing the report versus what President Bush and V.P. Cheney were saying publicly.

NOTE: Excerpt from New York Times, December 4, 2007. "U.S. Finding Says Iran Halted Nuclear Arms Efforts in 2003," Page A1.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back row (LtoR): Mr. & Mrs. Tinder, Mrs. & Mr. Levanto
Front row (L to R): Akemi and me
November 25, 2007
Morgantown, W.V.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Interesting story my brother Mark just emailed me. It's sad that we all begin Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving now...

I decided on Saturday night that I wanted to get my kids Nintendo Wii for Christmas. We went everywhere and nobody had them in stock, but Toys R Us was getting a shipment so they told me to come back at 9:00 on Sunday. I show up at 8:45 (Yes, I skipped church) to a line of 75-100 people at the door and a store manager announcing to the crowd "No pushing, no shoving, and remember that if you don't have a ticket, you don't get a Wii." I've never seen anything like it. Needless to say, about two hours later I walked out with one of the last Wiis they had. They sold out of 100 of them in about two hours (Of course, the tickets were gone in about five minutes). The funniest part of it was this: I was in line behind this incredibly obnoxious woman and I noticed that the line next to us was moving faster and was shorter -- so I gave up my spot and went to the end of the other line (there were only two lines). As it turns out, the faster line was being serviced by two registers, so it was moving twice as fast. I get to the front (about five people ahead of the woman) and she gets mad and leaves her line and cuts in front of me. Everyone in my line freaks out (except me -- I figured if she wanted it that bad she could have it, plus with two registers I was next either way), but the woman refused to move. It was only when the two cashiers informed her that they would refuse to serve her that she returned to her original spot. Unbelievable.
I am going to see Mark this Thursday at Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My thoughts from the democratic debate that happened this past Thursday.

1) I don't agree with Senator Clinton that the recent "increase" in support from the Iranian Guard is hurting Iraq. The key here is the word increase. In all my reading I am not sure if Iran's support is recent. Iran has always had influence in Iraq-- even when Saddam Hussein was in power.

2) I agree with John Edwards stance on torture, racial profiling, and the Patriot Act that he layed out to the gentleman in the audience who noted he was racially profiled all the time.

3) It is so clear that Joe Biden is your candidate if foreign policy is the biggest issue for you; Hillary Clinton is if healthcare is the biggest issue.

4) How many times do we have to be told in each debate that Senator Chris Dodd speaks Spanish? This time, he proved it to us.

5) I do agree that the honor-system-timelimit does not work.

As for me, I went into the debate leaning toward Edwards and come out leaning toward Edwards.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Upcoming Travel

Here's a review of some upcoming travel for me.

Wednesday, November 21 - Friday morning, November 23
Franklin, Conn.

Friday, November 23 - Sunday, November 25
Morgantown, W.V.
UCONN v. WVU in football

Thursday evening, December 13 - Friday, December 21
Munich, Germany
Prague, Czech Republic
Zurich, Switzerland
"Jason Bourne on a Budget" with Scott Lauber

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Scott and I are slowly planning our trip to Europe in December. Jason Bourne on a Budget, as we are calling it.

We land in Munich on December 14 and stay for two days. Then we take a train to Prague for two days. The only remaining question is where do we go after Prague. Scott is in Boston this weekend staying with me, and it would appear we are leaning toward Zurich. The other options are Berlin and Vienna.

We leave Munich on December 21 to fly back to the United States.
I Blame the Boston Globe for Voter Apathy

Idealistically, the media serves as the town crier. The person who stands in the middle of the town square and tells the community what it needs to hear. Certainly the media also tells an audience what they want to hear; but clearly human beings do not often want to hear what they need to hear.

It is not surprising to me that turn out for the recent Boston City election was low. If you had lived in Boston in the weeks leading up to the election, you never would have known there was one. The Boston Globe did not cover the election. Globe columnist Adrian Walker wrote a column on election day that noted how dead the election season was.

He concludes:
People just don't pay enough attention to the City Council to feel invested in who serves on it.

That's too bad, because on a range of issues, from neighborhood violence to property taxes, the council holds the most significant platform, other than the mayor's. The council has a limited ability to act, but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter. Nine nervous candidates are waiting to see if voters today reach the same conclusion.

To be frank, these two paragraphs infuriate me. That a Globe columnist says it's disappointing the public does not pay enough attention to the City Council should be reflection of the Globe's coverage. Looking at Mr. Walker's own columns is telling. I do not see one column about the City Council election in his recent archive, which goes back to early October-- a month to the election. I did see one column about the Boston Red Sox, which is interesting given that Mr. Walker is not a sports columnist. I understand certainly the Red Sox have a cultural impact far beyond just the Sports page, but his Red Sox column was published one week to the election. One week later, Mr. Walker is criticising his readers for not caring to vote.

How is anyone to pay attention to the City Council race when the Boston Globe doesn't bother to cover it?

I was in London when my neighborhood organized a candidates' forum, sponsored by several neighborhood groups. Almost all of the Boston City Council candidates were there (including the top five vote-getters in the election who battled for the four at-large seats), and between 70 and 100 residents attended. The Globe did not cover it. It's a good thing that I had already done a lot of research on the race before the forum took place. I was not here for it, and there's no way I would have read about it in my local city newspaper. (Props to the Beacon Hill Times and Back Bay Courant for covering it, though).

Adam Gaffin at the Universal Hub hosted a blog string on this topic, and the discussion is pretty good. Apparently, Globe City Editor Brian McGrory finds the City Council boring. Well, Mr. McGrory, why should we be surprised, then, that the voters do not go to the polls? Adam Gaffin also dissects the Globe's online coverage during election night in a previous post. Long story short, if you wanted to know who won the City Council elections in Boston on election night, one would not have found them on

To be sure, the City Council election is not as important as many other elections. People generally don't want to care about it. But they need to know about the races, the key issues, and the positions of each of the candidates. And the responsibility of giving people what they need to know rests on the media.

Where were the profiles of the candidates? The in-depth profiles of each and what issues they stand on? The coverage of the debates?

The election is past us now, and despite the fact not many went to the polls, the results are very important. Matt O'Mally, a former city council candidate, breaks down some of the numbers on his blog. What's great about numbers in a low-turnout election is that you know the voters who actually voted are the types who will vote in *every* election. If you want to earn "the base," you have to understand them.
For those following from afar, John Connolly did in fact win a seat on the Boston City Council this week.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Endorsement: John Connolly

I figured I would take a litte more space to explain why I am voting for John Connolly. I met John two years ago when he first ran for the at-large City Council seat. I was actually volunteering for Mayor Menino at the time, holding a sign for him outside a Mayoral debate at WGBH. John Connolly was there shaking hands. I remember being overwhelmed by his energy.

At the election a few weeks later, he got my vote, along with Patricia White and Michael Flaherty. I was shocked he did not win, simply because I saw, first-hand, how hard he was campaigning.

Connolly has not lost a step in the two years since that election. He wants to make a difference, and frankly, I think it's time for a little change on the City Council (even with Sam Yoon a relative newcomer). But his energy is not why I am voting for him. There are two reasons why.

First, John understands that there are a lot of people like me who want to live in Boston for the long term but are freaked out by the cost of owning a home here. That's not even mentioning the cost of raising a child here. Since I first moved here in 1994 to go to BU, it was pretty much taken for granted that you have fun in your 20's in the city, and then get married and move to the suburbs. Now that I have lived here for a bit, and want to stay, I cannot simply accept that reality.

Second (and this point isn't often made, but it's important), John Connolly understands the limitations of the City Council. Let's face it-- The City Council cannot do much. But there are certain areas where the Council can have an impact. Connolly is smart about the change he wants to make; his platform is not overly ambitious, but it's laser-like in its focus. I like that.

No question that John Connolly really wants this. I received two separate auto calls from him tonight... In the first, he simply restates his credentials. In the second, he seeks to deflect the criticism related to mailer-gate.

Speaking of mailer-gate, here's my two cents on that. For those of you not in Boston, Connolly sent two separate mailers attacking a City Councilor, Stephen Murphy, this weekend. The problem is, he didn't say the mailers came from him. I will stop there. The tactic was wrong. While it will not cost Connolly my vote, it was wrong. I can't believe he expected that no one would find out. I am in complete disbelief.

That being said, Connolly deserves a shot. And while I could vote for three other candidates to fill the at-large City Council seats, Connolly will get my only vote.

Friday, November 02, 2007


On Tuesday, November 6, I will be voting for the following candidates:

Michael P. Ross
Boston City Council District Seat
District 8

John Connolly
Boston City Council
At Large

I live in the City of Boston, Ward 5, Precinct 4.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Parliament. (I am wearing the white hat.)
October 30, 2007

St. Paul's Cathedral
As seen from the British Airways London Eye
October 30, 2007
I was in London earlier this week. A couple of observations.

-- British people are very friendly. I spoke to a young couple on the British Air flight to London. They were both 24 and had just visited, among other places, Mystic, during a "holiday" in New England. We're now Facebook friends. I met a couple a few hours after landing at a small breakfast spot. The woman had never seen American money. On the way home, I met a married couple traveling to Connecticut to attend a funeral. The gentleman was thrilled the onboard meal was sausage and mash. It was very cute.

-- Everyone asked what I thought of President Bush, and all were amazed when I said most of the U.S. (including me) was not happy with him. They were equally amazed he was leader of the free world.

-- Why do they not have cream with coffee in Britain? It's all milk. Weird.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Death sucks.

John R. Levanto
July 12, 1922 - October 20, 2007
NORWICH - John R. Levanto, 85, husband of Rita (Shalkowski) Levanto of 112 Ox Hill Rd., Norwich, died Saturday evening at Norwichtown Rehabilitation Center. Born in Norwich on July 12, 1922, he was the son of the late Charles and Lucy (Tedeschi) Levanto. He graduated in the Class of 1940 from N.F.A., and had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II being honorably discharged with the rank of Aviation Radio Man. Prior to his retirement he was the owner of Levanto Insurance and Real Estate Agency in Norwich. He was a past president of the Insurance Underwriters Assoc.; assistant tax assessor in Norwich; a life member of the Norwich Lodge of Elks; a member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Italian Heritage Society. On April 15, 1944 at St. Joseph Church in Norwich, he was united in marriage to Rita (Shalkowski) Levanto who survives along with their two sons and daughters in law, David M. and Bonnie Levanto of Franklin, and Charles F. and Reggie Levanto of Lisbon. Also surviving are four grandchildren, Mark, Scott, Ross and Brett Levanto; four great grandchildren; a sister Albina Antoch of Pawcatuck, and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by three sisters, Madeline Maruzo, Frances Macaione and Veronica Seaberg. Visitation 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Labenski Funeral Home, 107 Boswell Ave., Norwich, where the Funeral will assemble on Wednesday at 8 a.m. and proceed to a Mass of Christian Burial at the Cathedral of St. Patrick at 9 a.m. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to St. Patrick School, 211 Broadway, Norwich CT 06360.
Published in the Norwich Bulletin on 10/22/2007.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Reaching the summit on a perfect fall day. From left to right: Me, Jen, Naki and Nikko.
October 13, 2007
Jaffrey, N.H.

Friday, October 12, 2007

My thumb feels good enough that I am taking myself off the PUP list... I expect to be back on the field Sunday playing football. Tomorrow I am hiking Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Yankees play Cleveland tonight, down 2-1 in their ALDS series. Some observations:

-- I am not sure why they chose to start Chien-Ming Wang in game 1. Andy Pettitte has pitched better all year. Then again, if your team is not going to give you any run support, it doesn't matter.

-- The Cleveland Indians look like a better team this series. I had the same thought about Anaheim when they took a season series against the Yankees in August.

-- Joe Torre is going to resign at the end of this year, so the threat from THE BOSS about firing him really doesn't matter. Is it possible at their lunch meeting two weeks ago, Torre told THE BOSS to make the threat to pump up the boyz? Certainly there was no contract talk at that lunch, and at that point, the Yankees were about to make the playoffs, the result of Torre managing one of the best single season turnarounds ever.

In any event, Blake is coming over for our normal Monday Night Football evening, but I have informed him that the Yanks-Indians get top billing tonight (Tough for him since the Cowboys are playing).

In other news, late last week, Scott Lauber and I booked flights to Munich for a vacation in December we are calling "Jason Bourne on a budget." Essentially, we plan to fly in and out of Munich and for a week just aimlessly wander around some European cities, much in the same way Bourne does in his movies. Except were not traveling in a Mini and we can't really beat anyone up...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Brighton Center, Boston
October 3, 2007

I have been spending a lot of time lately at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton, Mass. Long story short: I broke my thumb playing flag football two Sundays ago. After putting off going to the hospital for a week, I finally resigned to x-rays, which revealed a partial fracture of my left thumb.

I took the picture above from the back of the hospital's cafeteria, after seeing my hand specialist and on the way to my regular doctor. Not a bad view. Certainly the best view of Brighton I have seen. Who would have thought one could find a very neat view of a Boston neighborhood from a hospital cafeteria. It's too bad that everyone eating had their backs turned to the window.
So I guess this means I am on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Though I think I should be back on the field in a week or two. Just in time for the flag football playoffs.

I do like my hospital. Despite the fact it is a 20-minute drive from my apartment, which is across the street from another hospital (Mass General), I like St. Elizabeth's because it is small (relatively speaking). In passing through the emergency room for X-rays, and then the hand specialist, everyone knew my primary care doctor. That's kind of cool.

Yanks v. Cleveland, tomorrow night!
Erin Boyd, Jon Surmacz, Me, Paul McNeeley
@ Nathan and Cristin's Wedding
September 21, 2007
Nathan and Cristin Wenig
September 21, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007

Well, my prediction for this season was wrong. The Yanks are in the playoffs. Maybe the players saw my blog post from August and took it as a rallying cry?

The Yanks fans I know in Boston are planning parties to watch the divisional games at secure locations.

Congrats to the Phillies for making it yesterday and making Scott Lauber's job very fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fall is the season for 5K runs. The weather is nice... not too hot... and very amateur runners like me can hit the roads to raise money for causes.

Yesterday, I ran the first of two 5K courses over which I will be sweating this season. The Mission Hill Road Race, which starts and finishes at Kevin Fitzgerald park in Boston, is a fun community oriented run. The course is not easy, though. True to its namesake, the Mission*Hill* Road Race has no less than three hills, and two steep downhills. Clearly, what I enjoy about the run is the strong community feel.

At the event were City Councilor Mike Ross and City Council President Maureen Feeney, Councilor Michael Flaherty, and State Rep Jeffrey Sanchez. Also in attendance John Connolly, who is running for City Council and has my support : )

I was pretty happy with my time. It's a full two minutes better than when I finished two years ago. Though I did tell Councilor Ross I would beat him and came up short.

Next up for me is the Welles Crowther 5K, the Red Bandanna Run, which is held at Boston College. It benefits the trust created by friends of 9/11 hero Welles Crowther, who was tragically killed in the twin towers but only after saving many. (According to those he saved, Welles wore a Red Bandana while ushering those to safetly.) The run is scheduled for October 20.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I am supporting John Connolly for Boston City Council.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Some random notes:

** I was in D.C. on Tuesday for work and managed to squeeze in an hour to see Amanda over lunch. Actually she squeezed in thirty minutes to see me. It's amazing how things get busy right after Labor Day. I had one meeting in the morning and then had a few hours before my return flight to Boston. It was the second time I had seen Amanda this year. She looked great!

** This past Sunday I went to see Jimmy Buffett at Gillette stadium. Random question: How many times do you have to see someone before you are considered a "groupie." I have seen Buffett three times now-- all three up here in Boston. I think I am right on the cusp of being considered a "groupie." Now, for Bon Jovi, there's no question. I have seen him like six times.

** At the invite of one of my clients, I signed up for Facebook a week ago. What's interested is Facebook is starting to get a lot of attention in my industry as a way to connect executives and even reporters. Reporters like it because to pitch on Facebook, you have to pitch in public. The funny part is Facebook was originally set up for college kids, so some of the features are still geared toward that audience. For example, when you become "friends" with someone, it asks you how you know your friend. One of the options is "We hooked up." 'nuff said.

I am off to a wedding today in New Hampshire as Amy Mok's escort. Annmarie and Peter are also going, and I should have pics this week to post.

Finally, a hearty welcome to everyone who moved into Boston and Beacon Hill last week. The City did a superb job throwing away trash put on the streets near my apartment fairly quickly after the trash was put out. And when you're moving in a neighborhood as small as this one, the debris is inevitable.

Friday, August 31, 2007

My nephew Frank is featured in today's New London (Conn.) Day. It's a feature story on the sights off of Conn. Route 169, which is a state highway that starts in Norwich. You can also see my brother Mark (Frank's dad) in the picture.

Kristie Butts, Lisbon, owner, cuts the hair of Frank Levanto, 2, Lisbon, as he sits on his dad's (Mark) lap. Kristie has been cutting Frank's hair since his first haircut. The entire family comes in to get haircuts about every four weeks. Hair Salon, Taftville.... (Adena Stevens/staff photographer) from New London Day, August 31, 2007. "Busy Days in the Quiet Corner"

Here's the link to the full story in the paper:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yanks are hosting Boston this week. I watched game one of the series last night. While it was on ESPN2, that feed was blacked out in Boston, so I had to watch it on NESNHD. Since I have been watching the Yanks all year on the MLB package, it's interesting to listen to to the Boston announcers comment on the Yanks-- often making wrong assertions.

Classic one from last night: Joba Chamberlain came in for one inning of relief in the 8th. It's pretty well known in New York that they are grooming Joba to be a starter next year. The Boston announcers kept speculating he might replace Mo-Mo Rivera as the closer. This is a nice analysis, except it's wrong. But I know that since I have been following the bombers all year.

I was at the Cape this past weekend with Jen and Nikko and Jen's family at their house in West Yarmouth. Add Seagull Beach on Cape Cod to my list of beaches I have visited. I got to meet Rich, the Pancake Man!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Point O' Woods Beach, South Lyme, Conn., August 9, 2007
I wrote an entry about the recent NY Times article on Silicon Valley executives who think they aren't rich enough. Here's an interesting online disucssion about the article.

I fall into the camp of seeing the article as being rather accurate. I don't think that necessarily makes the subjects in the article pathetic as much victims of the society we live in, and the extreme those societal pressures present themselves as in Silicon Valley.

A while back I spoke to a business partner in the Valley who asked me what car I drove. At the time, I drove a 1997 Saturn SL. He told me how in the Valley he had to drive an expensive car. He very much sounded like a victim... which I think he was.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It bothers me that many analysts are blaming borrowers for the recent stock market "correction." I am not a stock market analyst, but my limited understanding of the situation goes something like this:

-- Too many people took out risky mortgages to buy real estate.

-- They can't make their payments,

-- Their mortgages are going into foreclosure,

-- Everyone who has invested in the market is hurting because of it.

Many infer that if the risky mortgages were not taken out in the first place, we wouldn't be in this mess. The reality is much more complicated. As a reasonably intelligent person, I cannot begin to explain how confused I am when I think about buying a house. I rent now, and one day I do hope to own. But the process is rather daunting.

Facing incredible pressure to buy, I can easily see that many would sign up for mortgages simply because "it's the thing to do." And I am not talking about risky mortgages... I am simply talking about mortgages that were probably too rich for the buyer. A few years back, it was so easy to get money, and much more than one probably could afford, that everyone "was doing it." To quote Mr. Greenspan from a different context, the whole process is suffering from "irrational exuberance."

I am not an economist, but I wouldn't be surprised if things got worse before they got better. Debt is en vogue. Just look at how much the United States is borrowing. And sooner or later, it's going to catch up to all of us.

For now, I am keeping all my cash. In fact, I might buy gold.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I decided to stop subscribing to Money Magazine. A year ago I signed up, hoping the magazine would help me better invest for retirement. After trying to read it, but realizing it best suits someone who has already invested a lot and seen good returns, I decided to stop.

I now subscribe to the Washington Post National Weekly Edition. It's a political must-read, though I am concerned, given I also read Newsweek, that I might not have enough diversity in my news magazines. We shall see.
My friends who came to Conn. for a weekend picnic last week note that my family produces a limitless number of useless facts.
  • Did you know that when a fire creates smoke, the smoke signifies incomplete combustion?
  • Or that the dog toys that place treats inside balls resulted from dogs chewing on engine mounts?
I can keep going, but you get the point. Such points, which randomly come up at parties and during beach weekends, demonstrate why Seinfeld was so successful. Random.

Annmarie and Amy, with me, at the beach house (August 4, 2007).

Jen, Kim and Nikko (August 4, 2007).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

It was Tuesday morning that my computer just wouldn't turn on. The second full day of my vacation, and I woke up early to write a document for work. My work lap top decided it was time to take a break. Luckily. I took it as a sign as well, and didn't attempt to fix the issue until today. I am back in Boston. It's Saturday and nice outside. I have a day and a half to get ready for the work week.

I hope my doctor doesn't read this blog ... ever. Much more to come about the week, but suffice it to say I had a lot of meat (the picture above is the grill on Sunday at lunch time). Brett and I did make fish, too. In fact, Thursday night we grilled fresh swordfish, asparagus and potatoes. But fish on the grill doesn't make for as impressive a picture.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I am on vacation in Old Lyme, Conn. this week.

Luckily, you can get the New York Times here. Good story yesterday on the front page about working-class multi-millionaires. I had friends to the cottage (Nikko and Mike, Jen, Elizabeth, Blake, and Kim), and Brett is here, and we all got a kick out of the quote under the picture that was printed with the story. "A few million doesn't go as far as it used to." I really cannot comment on this quote from my own personal experience, but it does really hit on many key points.

First, I kind of feel bad for the people in the story. They are obviously very driven, but the reason they are driven is kind of interesting. They believe they don't deserve the money-- that it kind of fell in their laps because of the Internet boom. They think if they don't work hard, they could lose it all. And then where would they be? The answer, of course, is where they started: very smart, with a good career and in some cases, a good family. Yet this doesn't seem to be enough. One quote from one of the subjects that is also a nice summary:

"“Here, the top 1 percent chases the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent chases the top one-one-hundredth of 1 percent,” he said.

“You try not to get caught up in it,” he added, “but it’s hard not to.”

In Australia, I have heard, people are content just being where they are. Is it ok to just make a couple hundred thousand dollars a year? In the U.S., of course not. In Australia.... sure.

NOTE: Article excerpt from New York Times, "In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don't Feel Rich," by Gary Rivlin, August 5, 2007.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mark it down: During the first week of the season, I told Blake (my old roommate) that the Yankees wouldn't even make the playoffs. He was citing some computer model that predicted the Yanks would win more than 100 games. I knew better.

I think there are two things wrong with my beloved Yankees. First, there is no chemistry. Second, it seems like the team is not playing with any passion. They just seem to be going through the motions. Maybe things will change, but for now, my prediction stands.


Since the Yanks are eight games out and there are no other sporting events to watch, I have started following "The Bronx is Burning." I think it should be required viewing for any Yankees fan.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today, The New York Times published a letter to the editor I authored. I am going to republish the letter here and break down my thinking. Before I do, however, I will give you the full story.

As noted in this blog, the Times wrote an editorial observer column a few weeks back that criticized its own reporting on Iraq. The Times admitted it was not appropriately defining the distinction between Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Al Qaeda in Pakistan. [This blog is quickly turning into my observations regarding that distinction, by the way.] The summary by Clark Hoyt that prefaces my letter today does an excellent job of summarizing the Times introspection:

The battle over the nature of the war in Iraq is heating up.
The New York Times and other news media have become more aggressive in questioning President Bush’s rationale for continuing the war, and particularly his argument that it is primarily a battle against Al Qaeda.
On Friday, July 13, Michael R. Gordon and Jim Rutenberg reported on the front page of The Times that Bush’s “references to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship” with Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, which according to a new National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.) has found safe haven in Pakistan.
That intelligence report, released on July 17, concluded that the United States faces a heightened threat of terrorist attacks because Al Qaeda has been able to regroup in the lawless, semiautonomous provinces along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The report said that Al Qaeda would seek to take advantage of the “contacts and capabilities” of its ally in Iraq, which sprang up after the U.S. invasion in 2003. Intelligence officials briefing reporters about the report said that group is led by foreigners.
President Bush isn’t backing down from equating the two Al Qaedas and declaring them the main enemy in Iraq. In a speech Tuesday to a military audience in Charleston, S.C., he said the Iraqi group is a “full member” of bin Laden’s terrorist network and takes its cues from it.
The Times said the president used what aides described as newly declassified intelligence to make his case. “But the White House and intelligence officials declined to provide any detail on the intelligence reports Mr. Bush cited, including their titles, dates and origins,” the newspaper said.
It quoted Edward M. Gistaro, a principal author of the July 17 N.I.E., as saying that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is “focused on the conflict in Iraq at this time.”

Now here is what I wrote and what the Times published today, with commentary from me:

I admit I was confused by the classification of “Al Qaeda” as one of the groups involved in the fighting in Iraq. It is reassuring that The Times is going to be less “sloppy” in its reporting from now on.
As to the larger thesis of the complicated nature of the battles in Iraq, I find that the Times is presenting the Iraq situation in clearer terms than might be the reality. In reading coverage on July 9, for example, I saw mention of only two of the insurgent groups involved in the fighting (Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia being the primary one), when in reality there likely were many others.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love the New York Times. I read it every day, and would subscribe to it if a subscription actually saved me money off the newsstand price (for home delivery in Boston, it does not). At the same time, I think reporters and politicians are trying to make the Iraq war understandable. In the process, they are simplifying the war too much. "The insurgency," it would appear, is not defined by one, two or even a dozen different groups of insurgents. In fact, the very nature of the groups is amorphous. The Times has taken a great step in deciphering the President's insistence on a connection between Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al Qaeda in Pakistan, but it has not gone far enough to adequately explain the unexplainable war that has taken hold in Iraq. Now back to my letter, picking up where I left off:

But as a whole, I applaud the Times coverage of the fighting. For example, in the July 8 Week in Review was an informative article that traced the roots of a recent decline in violence in Ramadi. It was not clear whether the decline was the result of the recent increase in American troops, or merely that Sunni groups there are fed up with the fighting. This is an interesting contrast to Senator John McCain, who insisted on July 10 that the drop in violence in that region is directly related to the Bush administration’s surge.
In my discussions with the letters editor at the Times, I noted how many others besides Senator McCain have now advocated that the drop in violence in Ramadi is a result of the surge. In fact, Senator McCain is not even the strongest proponent of that message. But at the time I wrote the letter, Senator McCain was the one advocate I saw.

Also, there is an assortment of views on how the Sunni groups in Ramadi have decided to stop the violence. Some are saying that they have reached agreements with U.S. troops there, while other say they are just "fed up," and it would have happened whether U.S. troops are there or not.

ROSS LEVANTO Waltham, Mass., July 10, 2007

By the way, it's woth noting that the New York Times has an editor whose sole job is to compile letters sent to the Editorial Observer column. She called me this past Thursday, told me the letter was going to run, and even sent me the letter as it would appear. She confirmed the dateline of Waltham-- asking me where I was when I wrote the letter, and not where I live. That's pretty darn thorough....

Note: Excertpts are taken from New York Times, "Other Voices: Al Qaeda and the Enemies in Iraq," by Clark Hoyt. July 29, 2007.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

One would think to rely on the White House to deliver the interpretation of a National Intelligence Estimate, such as the one issued a few weeks back. Given the agenda of our current President, that's probably not a good idea.

For that reason, to find the best interpretation, I looked overseas.

The International Herald Tribune has a great summary, published on July 22. The story focuses on Pakistan, and how the NIE notes that Al Qaeda has "reconstituted" itself there. Why is this important? The Bush Administration claims that the NIE justifies the war in Iraq, because the estimate discusses how Al Qaeda in Pakistan is benefiting from Al Qaeda in Iraq for recruiting purposes. However, this fact should be overshadowed by the fact Al Qaeda is in Pakistan, and the Al Qaeda in Pakistan is the group that attacked the U.S. on 9/11. Here's a telling excerpt from the International Herald Tribune story:

"The western mountains of Pakistan have been the hatching grounds for some of Al Qaeda's deadliest plots. Besides the London transportation attacks in July 2005, the thwarted plot to blow up multiple trans-Atlantic commercial jets last August is thought by British and U.S. officials to have been planned by Qaeda operatives in the tribal areas."

If the western mountains of Pakistan are responsible for deadly plots, why is the Bush Administration pressing that the NIE justifies a near laser-like focus on Iraq as the front-line of the war on terror?
I went to Connecticut today to visit with some of my high-school classmates. My freind Kate Canada made the trip up from Baltimore with her husband Chris and their daughter Lily. Alison Jones, her husband Howie and their daughter Elizabeth offered to host Kate for brunch. Subsequently, they invited Jason Joly, his wife Natasha and their son Aaron-- they live in Hoboken, New Jersey. Lastly, Alison invited Connie Curtis (I need to check with Alison on Connie's married name), her son Curtis and daughter Grace.

Basically, the brunch included a lot of kids, thier parents, and me. It was nice to see everyone, especially since I had not visited with Jason and Alison since last July.

From left to right: Jason (Aaron on his lap), Alison (Elizabeth on her lap), Kate (with Lily), and Connie (with Grace). For those reading this that do not know, the four parents in this picture went to high school in the same class with me at Norwich Free Academy. Despite the fact we graduated 13 years ago (sigh), we all manage to see each other once a year or so.

[pause] It seems weird to use the word "parents" in the previous paragraph. Doesn't everyone look great? Thanks to Alison for hosting and inviting me-- even though I did not pass the "with baby" requirement.

One week to my vacation. I will be at the cottage in South Lyme from August 4 until August 11.

Monday, July 23, 2007

On the Esplanade, Boston, July 3, 2007.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wedding season!!!

I had the privilege of attending three weddings in June. First, I officiated the ceremony of Tom and Victoria Hopcroft in Winchester, Mass.

Second, I attended Chris and Tracy's wedding in Watertown, Mass. (Tracy and I below.)

Finally, I went to San Diego for the wedding of one of Kim's cousins.
I have started listening to a few different podcasts that keep me up to speed on politics. One is the Slate daily podcast, which includes a weekly "gabfest" each Friday-- a nice run down of the big stories of the week. John Dickerson, Emily Plotz and Emily Bazelon are a nice trio. Second is the NPR story of the day, which is one insightful story from the various NPR news shows.

However, by far the most interesting podcast of late has been from ABC News, and Jake Tapper. I was not familiar with Jake and his work before I signed up for the podcast, but I find him very insightful and thorough-- much like my favorite Tim Russert.

A week ago, Jake invited a conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt to his show. The discussion is an insightful and provacative case study into the current conservative criticisms of the media. Mr. Hewitt used an artful socratic method to turn the interview on Jake and claim that he was a member of the liberal media elite. He believes strongly that the media are liberals at heart and therefore, whether they want to or not, tend to report with a liberal bias. He believes this is why people are no longer looking to the mass media for their news.

Hewitt delivers his oversimplifications with authority-- No doubt this is how he performs his talk show on the radio. After listening to the podcast a few times, here's my take:

There's no doubt we all have biases, and the media have their biases as well. We must give reporters the benefit of the doubt when they say they are trying to be objective, but at the same time, we have to assume that reporters have a point-of-view. We cannot rely on one reporter-- or even a couple of reporters-- to give us an accurate picture of what's happening. We should rely on a variety of sources.

My mom is a good example. She is a loyal listener of Rush Limbaugh, except she is an independent who voted Democratic in the recent election. By listeining to Rush, she can see through a lot of his arguments.

By the same token, getting reports from a variety of sources is hard. Case in point: me. I read the New York Times, watch the Today Show, rely on MSNBC pretty regularly, enjoy Tim Russert, and also download the podcasts noted above. By definition, my news tilts slightly left. I really should try to read something conservative for balance, but unfortunately, it doesn't interest me... Perhaps I should start listening to Mr. Hughes' show? : )

Here's me with my new nephew David... Scott and Gina's son. This is at their house in North Stonington, Conn.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I am planning a vacation in early August and will be at the beach cottage in Old Lyme, Conn. I am there from Saturday, August 4 at 11 a.m. or so until Saturday August 11 about the same time.

If you would like to join me, you are more than welcome. Just drop me a line (

I am also planning a Fall vacation, most likely to Europe. And the day after Thanksgiving, I am taking a road trip with the 'rents to West Virginia to watch WVU play UCONN at Mountaineer Field.


Monday, July 16, 2007

For those who are avid readers of the New York Times, it has been a very interesting week. Read on...

I have been amazed by some of the spin coming from the White House lately-- most alarmingly, the insistence that the insurgents American troops are fighting in Iraq are part of the same group as the terrorists that attacked the U.S. on 9/11.

The NYTimes last Sunday admitted in an editorial that the paper had been "sloppy" in investigating the connection between Iraqi insurgents and Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, and said it would be much more careful by not accepting White House spin at face value...

On Thursday, the paper ran this story:

Basically, the story noted that Al Qaeda in Iraq was not formed until after the U.S. invaded Iraq and also quoted many analysts who say that the White House's personification of Al Qaeda as being our number one opponent in Iraq is an over-simplification of the situation.

No wonder that a large percentage of Americans still think Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were linked.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I went to D.C. in January 2007 to visit with some friends. Special thanks to my friend Akemi for hosting me on Friday night, and to Amanda (seen in the far left in this photo) for hosting me Saturday and Sunday.

From left to right: Amanda and her boyfriend Brian, me, Brett, his old roomie Jeremy, and Brett's wife Holly.

We're having an afternoon cocktail in Georgetown at the restaurant Jeremy works at.

This is so there is a nice picture of Nikko and I on this blog. If you see this one, you can ignore the other picture of Nikko I posted earlier.

Lauren, Scott and I in New York City. Celebrating our 30th birthdays on October 21, 2006. Ian would know the exact date we met, but I can say it was sometime in the late Summer of 1994.

Dean Brent Baker had a word of caution when I graduated from BU in 1997. After enduring hours sitting outside in the heat of Nickerson Field, I joined fellow College of Communication graduates on Magazine Beach to receive my diploma. The Dean gave the final word. It was somber.

He told us that with our degrees we had accepted a responsibility. The communications tactics we could now attain provided us with significant power: the power to change human opinion, inspire the masses. Rally for a cause. By receiving that power, he told us we had a responsibility to use it wisely.

I think about that speech every time I think of Karl Rove. He has mastered the art of confusing the public through consistent messages. While I can even give him the benefit of the doubt and say he never lies, I can tell you that by presenting a message as fact, when it is actually an opinion or a theory, you can convince the public that theory or opinion is the reality. Especially if you treat the message as propaganda, and repeat it often. This in my opinion is the main tactic Rove has used over and over again, and quite effectively.

I had lunch with Ted, Au, Alexa and Chris yesterday and got to see Jaeger Furst again. Between their baby, my new nephew David, Alison Maurice's newborn, and Jason Joly's son born a few days ago... the baby bug has caught.
The picture Blake's official photographer could not have gotten. His wedding day, October 2006. Scott (his best man) and I do one final check to see if we should evacuate him to Montreal. We got the thumbs up. Blake's married.