Monday, August 31, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy at Peace in Mission Hill

Ted Kennedy's funeral this past weekend was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston.

Mission Hill is not exactly the Hyannis of Boston. There are certainly far more esteemed locations throughout the city. Don't get my wrong, I love Mission Hill and almost bought a place there last year (and still hope to live there some day). It is a close-nit and diverse neighborhood. It includes families, young professionals, college students attending Northeastern, medical interns that work at nearby hospitals... even a politician or two.

Mission Hill residents don't claim to be particularly distinguished, and don't want to be.

In all respects, it would not be the location one would expect for a visit by all the living Presidents save one and numerous other elected officials. But it was a perfectly fitting spot to pay final respects to this particular Senator.

As we review the Senator's accomplishments in the immediate hours after his death, what is repeated so often is how "Teddy" devoted his life to those most often forgotten. Not just the sick and poor. But also the parents who need extended leave from work to take care of a relative and worry they will get fired in the process. The mentally ill who are often treated more like outcasts and less like those that can be cured. Young children born to working families who benefit from the early tutelage provided by Head Start. The millions and millions of individuals who do not have adequate healthcare, even though they are citizens of the richest country on the planet.

We've heard the stories of these people Kennedy touched. They talk about receiving calls from him after losing relatives, how he simply would say, "This is Teddy." They talk about the graciously kind individual that Senator Kennedy was. They talk about how they called his office, even if they lived in Kansas or Texas, simply because he was the only Senator they knew.

I only learned after his passing that Senator Kennedy went to the Basilica on several occasions to prey. He was there when his daughter was battling lung cancer. I read this week that it was one of his first stops after receiving his brain tumor diagnosis last summer.

It should not be a surprise to anyone that he felt comfortable there. The Mission Church, as it's called by the locals, is surrounded by the types of people Senator Kennedy sought to help each and every day.

I have taken a bit of time during the past few days to reflect on my own personal connection to Senator Kennedy. I met him a few times. I slapped him high-five when he spoke at a rally in 2006. I developed a deep respect for him over the past nine years, as my politics shifted during the Bush II years. I admired his determination for public service, which we need now in a time when our public servants are often derided. While not a perfect person, Senator Kennedy was perfect in that he stood for the very best of government. He believed the government could and should do good.

This past Saturday, Senator Kennedy's funeral took place in a Catholic church within an exceptionally catholic section of Boston. To me, there was no better place for that service to be.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Trials of Being a Runner's Fan

For the past few years, I have thoroughly enjoyed following around my good friend Annmarie as she has achieved numerous athletic milestones.

She has completed seven Boston Marathons, the BayState Marathon in Lowell and the New York City Marathon (I have been to six of the nine). Last fall, I saw her complete the Panama City Ironman, and this past weekend, I witnessed her finish at the Timberman Triathlon at Ellacoya State Park in New Hampshire.

Somehow, after she finishes, she always has way more energy than I do.

Annmarie Connors finishes the Timberman Triathlon.
Gilford, N.H.
August 23, 2009

You see, being a running spectator is hard work.

There are the countless hours scanning the crowd, looking for the white visor, the long hair, or the baby blue wicker shirt.

There are the intense moments getting the camera ready, aiming and capturing the moment.

There's the quick communication with the athlete. "It's really hot," was one refrain from her this past Sunday.

There's the jockeying for a good position among other faithful followers of their own athletes.

And there's the intense calculations to estimate when she would pass a certain point on the course.

At the end of the day, though, the effort is worth it, especially when Annmarie and her teammates cross the finish without injury.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mayor Menino Visits Beacon Hill

Mayor Menino addresses seniors at 74 Joy.
Beacon Hill, Boston
August 18, 2009

One of the biggest criticisms I hear about the Mayor as I walk around Beacon Hill is pretty basic. They say the Mayor doesn't come here often. While the Mayor has had his hand in a number of successful projects that have helped the neighborhood-- such as a unique partnership between the Beacon Hill Civic Association and the Parks Department to maintain trees-- some lament that he doesn't spend much time here.

Well, he was here last night. The Hill House community group hosted a seniors' dinner, and the Mayor and Mrs. Menino stopped by to say hello. He stayed for an hour, and he spoke to each attendee personally. He even posed for a group photo with the young volunteers who ran the dinner.

The Mayor warned attendees about some telephone scams related to the ongoing national debate about healthcare. He said that seniors might get calls from people who try to take advantage of them, and he said his office is always available to help cut through the confusion.

To me, seeing the Mayor standing in the same room where I have participated in dozens of community meetings was kind of neat.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

When My Air Conditioner is on, it's Hot

It's gotta be pretty hot for me to turn on my air conditioner. It's something I learned from my dad, who is also a parsimonious air condition user. Most of our cars growing up did not have the a/c.

My logic, which I admit is masochistic, comes from temperature patterns during the evening. The hottest part of the evening is, logically, at the beginning, which just happens to be the time we all go to bed. At that point, the air conditioners in downtown Boston are humming.

During the night, as the air cools, the fan in my bedroom begins to circulate comfortable air. And the air conditioners continue to hum.

In the morning, when I wake up, I often have a sheet or thin blanket on me. The day has begun, and the air is at its coolest. And still the air conditioners hum.

I would bet that the temperature in my room those mornings is cooler than in the air-conditioned rooms. People seem to forget that the air conditioner controls the temperature inside regardless of the temperature outside.

I do admit, however, that sometimes in the summer, the air conditioner works well. When it's oppressively sticky, and when the temperature is warm enough during consecutive days that not enough cooling happens overnight, and the exposed bricks inside my living room stay warm. This generally happens during a heat wave.

We're starting our first official heat wave of the summer in Boston, and my air conditioner went on this morning at 10:36 a.m. for the first time this year. The thermometer inside was 84 degrees.

But the a/c is only on in my bedroom. My dad would be proud of that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back to the Present

A week ago, I went into black hole. On the eve of a work trip to Texas, I decided to download a few movies to my new iPhone to keep me occupied during the long flights. When I connected the phone to iTunes, it asked if I wanted to upgrade the iPhone software to a new version-- 3.0.1. I have only had the phone a month. It was 11 p.m. the night before an 8 a.m. flight to Austin, and I started the upgrade. Big mistake.

The fun began in the middle of the upgrade, about 20 minutes later, when my computer crashed. When it rebooted, it asked to restore the iPhone. That took a ridiculous amount of time, and I restarted the machine again, only to find out that I suddenly had no Internet access.

Now seven hours to my flight, my iPhone crippled and without Internet access in my apartment, I went to bed deflated. I flipped the SIM card back to my old Nokia phone and abandoned iPhone as I left for Austin.

A week later, I am happy to say I am out of the black hole, and that's thanks to great support from Comcast and the Apple Store. You don't hear about good support often, so I figured it was worth outlining here.

When I returned from Texas late Wednesday, I went online and scheduled time at the Apple Store in Cambridge, Mass. at the Genius Bar, which is a cool name for the support desk. I spent an hour at the Genius Bar Thursday night, and a capable technical brought my iPhone back to life.

On Friday morning at work, I posted a Tweet indicating that my iPhone was back, and Comcast Internet was the next issue. A quick back and forth with Comcast support on Twitter, and I decided to recycle the power on the modem.

Now that the dust has settled, it's clear that something must have happened Saturday night to the modem, which proceeded to fry the wireless router in my apartment. Recycling the power on the modem worked, and today I purchased a new wireless router. As of now, everything seems to be working.

For whatever reason, someone didn't want me to bring my iPhone to Texas. And they went to great lengths to stop me from trying, killing my wireless router on the same night my iPhone crashed.

Thanks to both Apple and Comcast support, I am back!

A Roving Standout for Mayor Menino

You can tell it's campaign season because of the signs. Temporary advertisements for the Mayoral candidates in Boston are popping up everywhere, and as part of my volunteer role for Mayor Menino's campaign, we are organizing standouts, which is basically where you gather a bunch of people in one location and hold signs so everyone can see.

Today, a few volunteers and I had to deliver larger signs (4 by 8's, in campaign-speak) to a location in Back Bay. We decided to have a "roving" standout, where we would carry the signs to their destination, and cheer on the Mayor along the way. It was quite a spectacle, primarily because the signs were... ahem... pretty big.

Parading Down Charles Street, Beacon Hill
August 15, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Red Sox Fans Need to Relax

As a Yankees fan my entire life, this past weekend was a good one to start watching baseball again. I had taken some time off mid-season, given other priorities I had in my life.

Well, the Yankees swept the Red Sox in a four-game set in New York City. Meanwhile, one of the most loved Red Sox players, David Ortiz, held a press conference to address the swarming story stories about his being on "the list" of players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs back in 2003.

Today, it would seem, Red Sox Nation is limping. The emails I have seen put it in pretty dire straits. It's over, they proclaim. The worst Red Sox weekend ever. Woe is me!

The Red Sox might be down, but they are not out. This is the same team that beat my beloved Yankees eight consecutive times before the start of the recent series. The Yankees were 0-8 against the Red Sox this year. Boston needs a mere single win among the six games remaining between the teams to win the season series.

Moreover, the Red Sox have a great record and are tied for the American League Wild Card. And this follows losing six straight games. There's still a lot of baseball to play, folks.

Finally, this Yankees fan believes David Ortiz. He admitted her was careless, but after seeing him at the press conference, I have to admit I do see his side of the story. And I kind of felt sorry for the predicament he's been under for the past several days.

So there you have it. A Yankees fan telling Red Sox faithful it "ain't all that bad." After all, you guys have won two World Championships this century. Or do you just enjoy being miserable?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Why the Seatbelt Sign Matters

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people disregard the fasten seat belt sign while in flight. Often while in the air on a a business trip, passengers flirt with the authority of the sign. Even though the ominous light is illuminated, someone a few rows up from me will get up, enter the aisle, and proceed to conduct a stretching routine.

Two in-flight incidents this week show how the seat belt sign means you should have your seat belt sign on. In both cases, a Continental flight from South America to Houston, and a domestic Northwest Airlines flight, passengers got hurt when the planes that carried them hit violent turbulence.

The injured passengers were not wearing their seat belts, even though the fasten seat belt sign was on.

It's also worth noting that based on what I read, the planes involved in the flights were not damaged.

Lesson learned: The seat belt sign does not mean "put the seat belt on when convenient."