Friday, December 24, 2010

Random Rome Fun Facts

Back in the U.S. after a quick jaunt through Italy, first to Rome and then Florence. Here are some random observations.

-- "Hunter" is in syndication in Rome. Yes, I mean the old cop show that I watched in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But when I watched the show then, it was *already* in syndication. Now it's moved to Italy? It was on each morning at 8:45 a.m. on the infamous channel 5. I wonder if Fred Dreyer (who plays Hunter on the show) got to approve the voice that serves as his Italian dub? I wonder if he even knows the show is on each day?

-- I really think that Rome is so old that its history conflicts with itself. I mean, take the Pantheon. The building was finished sometime after 100 AD (as in the second century). It was built to be a temple to all the Roman gods, but somehow it has turned into a Catholic church.

-- The city is very old. It's hard to keep perspective on how old certain things really are. I mean, someone tells you the Colosseum was in use for four hundred years, and you think, "That's all?" Today we gripe when a stadium is a couple decades old.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

When in Rome...

Scott and I had been told many times before taking our trip to Rome that it was all about the food.

We are currently at the Marriott Hotel in Rome, starting off a week-long trip that will take us to Italy's capital city as well as Florence.

It really is all about the food. In fact, when you plan your day here, you can't help but plan it around your meals. Today, we are having lunch at a pizza place outside the Vatican that comes highly recommended by my friend Kim. Dinner will likely be back near the Pantheon, where we ate last night. In between those two meals? Well, there is the tour of the Vatican and a trip to the Vatican Museum. But that's just to kill time before we eat again.

Yesterday we expected rain, and luckily the heavy stuff held off for most of the day, until we reached the Trevi Fountain, when the heavens unleashed not only rain, but a nice little thunderstorm in the middle December.



The word for the trip is "expeditious." Our US Air pilot included it in various comments more than a couple times during the long flight from Philiadelphia. The ironic part being that the flight really wasn't very expeditious. We were delayed leaving Boston because of low clouds in Philadelphia. We were delayed on the ground in Phili for a variety of reasons. First, our pilot showed up very late. Second, we were held in line for de-icing (a light dusting of snow gave the plane a confectioners' sugar appearance). Third, there was something about one of the booms on one of the de-icing trucks. Fourth, well I don't remember. I just know that each delay was to take "a couple of minutes," according to Captain Expeditious, but wound up taking so much longer.

We did finally arrive, and day one took us to lunch at a nice Italian cafe near our hotel, dinner near the Pantheon, coffee in Eustachio Plaza, Gelato near Trevi Fountain, and a late-night drink at Harry's Bar. In between... well, we saw the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain.

Harry's Bar, by the way, had a piano player and piano singer. Scott and I coundn't figure out if she was an ex-Pat or a native Italian, since she sang in both English and Italian. She was quite talented, though.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Nude Photo or Grope?

Last week I got on an airplane for the first time since early October. I do travel quite a bit, but a flight to visit my brother Brett and his wife on turkey day was my first time dealing with new, strict airport security measures.

I thought I was going to have a choice when entering the security line. Option one would be the nude photo-- passing through a body scanner. Option two, if I declined the nude photo, would be to subject myself to a fairly aggressive "pat down."

To my disappointment, most people are not given the choice. The majority of travelers simply go through the metal detector that's always been at the airport. The choice of the nude photo or grope is given only to a select group of travelers identified for additional screening.

By the time I got to the airport, I wanted the additional screening. I had spent the previous week trying to decide if I wanted the nude photo or the grope. Luckily, I was selected.

I decided to go for the nude photo. Except I neglected to take my wallet out of my back pocket. I guess this is a no-no, for the TSA officer soon told me he "had to inspect the area...," meaning the area where my wallet was. Next thing I knew, the agent had his hand on my rear.

So for all my fretting about the nude photo or grope, I ultimately got both. Not a bad Thanksgiving surprise.

P.S. I am traveling again this afternoon. We shall see.

What 2 Watch 4 Today

-- UCONN football plays for a BCS bowl berth tonight in South Florida (ESPN2). If UCONN wins, they are likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl.

-- My high school, NFA, competes in the CIAC Class LL football semifinals this afternoon.

-- For my part, I will be driving a van around my neighborhood all day, delivering garlands as my neighbors decorate Beacon Hill!

Stay warm everyone!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Thanksgiving Dinner

Arlington, Va.
November 25, 2010

Homemade Bread, White Meat Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Bacon Wrapped Corn, Dark Meat Turkey, Dressing, Green Beans, Corn Chowder.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I am Thankful for Penicillin

I have a middle ear infection. I get one every few years, and I have been getting them since I was a kid. I can pretty much diagnose myself.

When I get one, I typically go to my ear, nose and throat specialist, and he prescribes me Amoxicillin, which is a type of Penicillin.

When I had a similar infection a few years back, I asked the doctor treating me what would have happened to me had Penicillin not existed.

"Oh that's easy," he said. "You would have died a long time ago."

I guess many others would have as well.

This week, I am definitely thankful for Penicillin.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Please Vote


Above is one piece of literature my neighbors and I distributed this past weekend to residents of Back Bay and Beacon Hill in Boston.

If you can't see it, it's a picture of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Christine O'Donnell. The text under the pictures reads: "These politicians are voting on Tuesday. They would like you to stay home. We can't afford for that to happen."

Please get out and exercise your right to vote this Tuesday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Endorsement: Governor Deval Patrick

Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) and Me
Invesco Field, Denver, Colo.
August 28, 2008

There is a clear choice in this year's Massachusetts Gubernatorial race. One candidate thinks the electorate is angry, and that the solution to all of our problems is to put the state government on notice. He promises to cut state jobs, a lot of them, in the thinking that a more streamlined bureaucracy will promote job growth. He promises to bring corporate board room precision to his job to reign in spending, whatever the consequences.

The other candidate, who happens to be the current Governor, Deval Patrick, doesn't think the voters are angry as much as they are perplexed and worried-- perhaps even scared. The sluggish U.S. economy over the past few years has us all anxious. We aren't so eager to go to Beacon Hill with pitch forks and torches as much as we want a state government that's part of the solution. We want a governor who understands. Deval Patrick is that governor.

To be fair, I have long had concerns that Governor Patrick does not focus enough on the future. He talks of his accomplishments during his first term. Looking at them on paper, I can see why. He has implemented quite a bit of reform. He took on big pensions. He worked with my State Representative, Marty Walz, and others to pass a new education bill. He's a huge champion of Cape Wind, which is a project that for far too long has been subject to NIMBY politics.

Unfortunately, the current mood of the electorate is not interested in what the Governor has done as much as in what he will do. And there is one issue that matters most (CNN caught onto this in the waning weeks of the 2008 Presidential campaign when they literally made it "Issue No. 1"). And that issue is jobs and the economy.

After volunteering for the Governor for the summer, I am convinced that he understands his constituents better than his opponents. On the stump with President Obama last weekend, he put it bluntly: "I am not satisfied." You are right, Governor. We are not satisfied, either. And it's because we are all worried about what's next.

At work each day, I stave off thoughts of the dreaded "double-dip" recession, wary that sometimes we get ourselves in these mental cycles that turn economic possibilities into economic certainties.

I definitely think the Governor could be doing more to help bolster the markets that I work in each and every day. I don't think he pays enough attention to the technology industries beyond clean tech. His administration has been suspiciously absent from the table at discussions organized by the Mass Technology Leadership Council; it's members have pledged to create a significant number of jobs in the near term.

But by the same token, my concerns cannot and do not outweigh what the Governor has done and what he pledges to do. And I cannot overshadow what his policies have accomplished for Massachusetts. An economy that is coming out of the recession faster than other states, according to job growth figures. An education system that was recently labeled the best in the country, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), SAT and ACT exams. An administration that believes in generational responsibility, especially with regard to the environment.

I also applaud the fact that Governor Deval Patrick has not "cut and run" like his predecessors. He has not used his current office as a stepping stone to something else. He is committed to finishing what he started. There's no question that his policies have seen success, and there's no question that his general belief in how government can work with private industry to grow our economy is the prescription we must continue to fill.

Finally, I cannot write about the Governor without also saying how much I am a fan of the Lt. Governor, Tim Murray. He is the perfect complement to Deval Patrick. Tim Murray used to be the Mayor of Worcester, and he carries himself like someone who will talk about cleaning the streets and then roll up his sleeves and literally clean the streets. I like that.

I am voting for Governor Deval Patrick and Lt. Governor Tim Murray on November 2. And I encourage you to do the same, because despite their accomplishments, they know we are not satisfied. And they aren't, either.

Charlie Baker: Too Tall to Govern

A Boston Globe profile on Mass. Republican Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker provides the perfect example of why he is just too tall:
"Baker’s 6-foot 6-inch frame makes him visible in any crowd, a definite plus. But his height can lend an awkward feel to his attempts at bonhomie — the big, arcing high-fives that sometimes miss their targets, the deep knee bends to fist-bump with silver-haired ladies, the emphatic punches at the air."

---From The Boston Globe, October 20, 2010; "For Baker, Relaxing Can Work," by By David Filipov.


How can we elect someone who can't even high-five his constituents?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chuck Norris

Taftville village within Norwich, Connecticut
October 17, 2010

Chuck Norris is running to be probate judge in the part of Connecticut I grew up in. I would vote for Chuck Norris.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Charlie Baker is Too Tall to Be Governor

I am voting for Deval Patrick to be re-elected Governor of Massachusetts. I think he has the best plan to continue to grow the Mass. economy (even though we disagree on casinos). I like his talk of generational responsibility. I also like that he wants to stay in his office and finish what he started.

I also think that Charlie Baker is too tall. Governor Patrick's Republican opponent is a nice guy, and I met him in East Boston this past Spring. But I think his height kind of freaks me out. I know it's not a rational reason, but it's a better reason than what I have heard from some people.

AP photo ahead of a recent debate. Charlie Baker (far left) towers above the rest. Gov. Patrick is second from right.

Where Obama Messed Up

President Obama had a choice in late January. Scott Brown had just defeated Martha Coakley to win a Senate seat from Massachusetts. It was clear to those who helped with the campaign that the overriding issue was healthcare. At the time, separate versions of healthcare reform had passed the House and Senate, and a soon to be convened conference committee would rectify the two versions into one. The Brown victory put that process in jeopardy. Brown became the crucial 41st Republican vote in the Senate; the Republicans could filibuster any action on the Senate floor and as long as they remained united, there was nothing the Democrats could do.

I support the President, and I supported healthcare reform (even though it didn't include a public option), and I voted for Martha Coakley. But the decision the President made in the days following Scott Brown's victory created the current political environment, where the President's party is poised to lose majorities in the House and potentially the Senate.

So what was President Obama's choice? He could have pulled a "Bill Clinton." In the days following the Brown victory, he could have declared the healthcare bill dead. He could have said he heard the will of the voters, and would instead focus all the energy within his administration's domestic policy agenda on creating jobs and making the economy better.

Even today, the economy kind of freaks people out. The recession officially ended in June 2009, but even since then, people have been skittish about the recovery. That's what voters cared about in January, and it's what they care about now.

The President instead decided the time was then to pass healthcare, even with Scott Brown a U.S. Senator. It was a bold move. The American people were confused by the healthcare bill. People I know who spoke to a lot of voters ahead of the Brown/Coakley vote concur that even in Massachusetts, voters didn't want the bill to become law and wanted Brown to win to stop that from happening.

In January, the President had already lost the messaging war regarding the bill, and he had lost it badly. The electorate thought the bill was a huge government takeover of healthcare, a government intrusion into personal decisions about health, and a costly, risky bureaucratic mess that was irresponsible given the shaky nature of the economy. None of this was true, but it didn't matter. The fact a large percentage of the electorate believed those reasons was enough. [Side note: How the President lost the messaging war in the months leading up to the Brown election would make for an excellent PR thesis topic.]

President Obama was able to get the healthcare bill passed, despite the Scott Brown victory. In the process, he angered quite a few voters, including those who previously weren't upset at him, simply because he ignored the mandate of the Brown victory; he didn't accept the Senate victory as a reason to stop the push on healthcare reform. For that reason, anything the President has done over the past eight months has been interpreted through that mindset. Everything he has done to help create jobs has been overshadowed by his insistence on healthcare reform.

The unfortunate part of the entire situation is the President has done quite a bit to help the economy. Efforts that Republicans have spun as bad have worked. But those programs are lost in the rhetoric.

If I were to give the President some advice, I would tell him one thing he probably already knows. That being that his decision on healthcare (while I applaud) has created the current volatile political environment and threatens the Democratic majorities.

I would then tell him one thing he probably doesn't know, and that's to simplify and focus his message. The American people are scared to death about the economy. That came through in January with the Scott Brown victory. For that reason, starting right now, the administration should not tout any of its previous accomplishments. It should focus on what it's going to do to help the economy. Every day and every minute. Nothing else matters.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Cheap Early Morning Entertainment

I went to both Red Sox/Yankees games yesterday at Fenway Park. The first was a regularly scheduled 4:10 p.m. game that was broadcast on Fox. The second started at something like 9:30 p.m.-- a game rescheduled from the night before due to rain. The strange schedule put Kim and I-- who attended the late game-- on the street at 1:30 a.m. when the nightcap finally ended.

The streets of Kenmore Square at 1:30 a.m. are quite lively. The T is pretty much closed, even though many fellow fans tried to get into the Kenmore station (signs inside Fenway advertised that extra trains would stop running at 1 a.m., before the close game ended).

First, we saw a gaggle of three young women alternatively shouting that the "Yankees s**k" and the "Red Sox s**k." Apparently they couldn't make up their mind, or they were confused by the fact that the two teams split the double header. Or maybe they just think all baseball teams s**k?

Second, we saw a separate group of women sprinting down the street in a vain effort to hail a cab. They would run ahead of us to a corner, try to flag down random cars (whether cabs or not), let Kim and I pass them, and then sprint ahead of us again, screaming, "NO ONE WILL STOP FOR USSSSSSSS!"

Third, we saw a strange display at the bus stop at the corner of Mass. Ave and Commonwealth. A group of young women were trying desperately to hold each other up. One woman was on the ground in front of the bus stop, pretty much asleep, while still smoking a cigarette. To be fair, Kim and I stopped and asked if they needed help or medical assistance. The response: "Not yet." A rather weird interchange ensued.

Finally, we saw one of those stretched hummer limos parked on Beacon Street, with a gentleman standing in the sunroof screaming "Let's gooooooo!" The driver was outside the limo, and another guy was banging on the door of a Beacon Street residence until some other man answered the door. A pretty loud argument followed. What I could surmise was the person living in the residence owed money to help pay the fare for the limo. At least that's my totally unconfirmed guess.

At that point, Kim and I found a cab of our own (at about Beacon and Fairfield, so you know how far we had to walk from Kenmore).

P.S. Very shocking to see how many revelers, especially young women, don't heed the call of the weatherman and wear appropriate clothing. It was cold out there. Yes, I am officially old.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's Time To Take Some Responsibility, Vol. 1

Governor Deval Patrick talked about generational responsibility when he addressed delegates at the June state Democratic convention in Worcester. I like the term. As a citizen, I feel responsibility to those who will come after me. It runs counter-intuitive to many, though, who want it all and don't want to spend anything for it. I am going to start looking to my elected officials to support initiatives that do not pass on ridiculous burdens to anyone who might still be here when I am long gone. I don't see this as a Democratic or Republican concept. It's a question of being, honestly, a responsible adult.

1. It's time to reduce our national debt.

Vice President Dick Cheney told journalist Bob Woodward a few years back that "deficits don't matter." Now, I am not an economist, and I have not taken a math course since high school, but even I can see that our current way of operating the national budget is not sustainable. We can't keep spending way more than the revenue we bring in. The dollar can't hold up forever.

Reducing the debt means raising taxes and reducing spending. It means reforming large entitlement programs that themselves will become insolvent in only a couple years. It means potentially having less government-funded benefit in the future if the benefit is smarter. The benefits themselves are very important and serve their purpose, but we just can't afford them anymore.

Reducing the debt means making tough decisions about government-funded jobs that, frankly, are waste. At the same time, if the government pulls away funding for certain programs that will generate jobs-- such as the second engine research for the new joint strike fighter, which is up for debate right now in Congress-- the government must invest in programs that over time allow the displaced workers to find new jobs.

The tough decisions mean that politicians have to get rid of the rhetoric when they talk about government waste. Some government programs are wasteful and are pork spending, however other programs that seem specious are actually very important. Republicans have had a field day pointing out what they think are random programs funded by the stimulus bill passed last year. It turns out, if you get beyond the rhetoric, that those funded programs have meaning. Let's get rid of the sound bytes and really discuss waste.

Reducing the debt means talking about raising taxes, and removing the stigma that everyone places on those discussions. Based on our current debt, it's clear the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans were not smart. And no one in Washington has a good solution for keeping the tax cuts and reducing the debt.

2. It's time help our environment.

I read closely all of the debate about the health care reform bill. However, I was disappointed that the ultimate political fallout from the bill meant that proposed climate change legislation was shelved. To me, the climate bill was more important than the health care bill.

Our use of natural resources is not sustainable. We are dependent on oil from the Middle East, which makes discussions about renewable energy discussions about national security.

It's time to increase dramatically our investment in clean technology. It's time to support projects that would lead to long term national security and economic benefits, even if there are short-term costs.

It's time to end the debate over whether global warming is happening. It is, and now it's time to change our habits and make the changes to stop the damage.

3. It's time to address runaway industries.

President Eisenhower talked about the military industrial complex in his farewell address. He cautioned that the industries supporting the military were self propagating. For reasons probably not as sinister as Oliver Stone would like, the military was growing, if for no other reason because of a combination of psychological (fear) and economic concerns.

The military industrial complex certainly exists today, and for the same reasons Eisenhower probably fretted over, no one speaks of cutting the defense budget.

At the same time, there are other runaway industries in the U.S. that are now large enough that they impact in some detrimental ways how we work, live and think as Americans. Take higher education. All smart kids want to go to very expensive colleges and universities. There is no lack of interest in attending, and so the universities can continue to raise their prices. The U.S. government subsidizes higher education with inexpensive loans and grants.

The runaway growth of higher ed flies in the face of two facts that are just not part of American culture. First is that you don't have to go to an expensive or elite college or university to succeed in life. You certainly don't need to go to one of those institutions to live a happy life (which for many would be a definition of success, I would imagine). Second is the fact that many professions, even advanced ones, do not necessarily require a college degree---certainly they require a lot of advanced training, but going to college is probably not necessary.

Certainly many of my arguments are open to debate, and I welcome them. But the bottom line is I just got a note from my alma mater, Boston University, noting how interest from high school grads is way up. BU costs something like 50K a year now, and the fact that demand is up, even in the midst of the current economic malaise, tells me something is fishy.

-----

I note the three challenges above as they are all directly impacted by the many levels of government. These challenges are a tapestry of smaller discussions and debates. They require discussions about the conventional wisdom our society puts forth. These challenges are not easy.

However, I am putting my elected officials on notice. I want to hear more talk of sustainable policies. I want you to start caring about who comes next, and our responsibility to our children. That might mean unpopular ideas, less sound bytes and difficult discussions. But if you are not expecting them as an elected official you should not have run for office in the first place.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Happy First Birthday, Peter Levanto!

Flanked by his big brother David on his right, and good friend Chase on left, and in the arms of his mom, Gina, Peter Levanto prepares to blow out the candle on his first birthday cake.
North Stonington, Conn.
September 18, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Annmarie Connors is an Ironman, again


Some people know a person who has completed an Ironman, the special triathalon that covers 140.6 miles in the water, on the bike and via a marathon. Well, I know someone who has done two. Last weekend, I traveled to Madison, Wisc. to watch good friend Annmarie Connors finish the Ford Ironman Wisconsin. It's a race that is pretty tiring to watch, too, given it starts at dawn and finishes well after dark. Congrats, Annmarie! Also congrats to Annmarie's entire team, Dreamfar (which is based in Boston). Matt, Phil, Kaitlin, Jean... You all did it! And Boston is proud of you!


Dreamfar Ironman team (and fans): (L to R) Me, Kim, Annmarie, Jean, Jamie, Kaitlin, Joe. At the start of the Ford Ironman Wisconsin.
Madison, Wisc.
September 12, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

Life is About Taking The Sack

If I had to write a book, I would write the book "Life is About Taking the Sack."

The sack is a curious play. For those out there who are not in tune with football, it's when the defense catches up to the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. A sack is often dramatic, because the defensive linemen who tackle the quarterback are much larger than the quarterback. Sometimes, the QB gets hurt.

It's certainly bad for the offense, and good for the defense. The quarterback gets hit, sometimes hurt, and the offense loses yards. The defense gains "momentum." The offense needs to gain more yardage to keep a drive alive and keep the ball.

However, taking the sack during a game is sometimes a good idea. If a play breaks down, it's sometimes better for the QB to take the sack. He can protect himself from injury. He can protect the football and at the very least, make sure his team keeps the ball.

Sometimes in life, you have to take the sack. Because life ain't fair. Sometimes the dice come up as a seven. Some days are worse than others.

And in those cases where somehow life isn't fair to you, sometimes it's better to just let your frustrations go. It's better to not lash back out at the person who you think wronged you. In these cases, that would make the situation worse.

A few years back, I told everyone I knew that my favorite name was "Grace." And it's because I don't think people show enough grace. Grace means forgiveness. It means not blaming others, even if they are at fault. It means taking the sack to keep the football.

Make no mistake about it, taking the sack hurts on the way down. You can protect yourself, but you still might get bruised. But I have never seen a QB take a sack and then not get up again.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Endorsement: Sonia Chang-Diaz

With the State House in the background, the hosts of a recent meet and greet for State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz gather around the candidate. From left to right: Myrialis Moran-Nieves, Dave Greenwold, Kim Jennings, Khadijah Britton, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, me, Pat McDonough and Pat Amend.
On a Beacon Hill rooftop
August 26, 2010

It's hard to be an elected official right now. It's especially hard to be a first-term elected official. I kind of get the feeling when State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz took office less than two years ago, she realized she didn't have time to rest on her laurels. It's been a whirlwind several months, during which time my State Senator has not stood still. Just this summer she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Gov. Deval Patrick when he signed into law CORI reform, something desperately needed. CORI is a process by which information about arrests is kept available to potential employees; the reform bill shortened the time such information is kept.

There's so much more for the young Chang-Diaz to do, and she has the same energy level as when I first met her back in 2008. I am voting to send her back for (at least) two more years, most immediately in the Mass. State Primary on September 14.

What I have learned while Sonia has been in the Senate is that while her district is the most diverse in the state, its residents really do share a lot of similar priorities and concerns. We all want better schools. We all want safe streets. We all want an economic environment where everyone who wants a job can find one. We all want to raise families in the city.

A former schoolteacher, Sen. Chang-Diaz shares these priorities. She has ideas for improving public schools throughout Massachusetts, and in Boston specifically. She is focused on the root causes of youth violence in the city. On a much more tactical level, Sonia is against casinos in Massachusetts, because she knows they draw revenue disproportionately from the poor and do not spur economic activity outside of the casino walls.

Beyond her stances on issues, Chang-Diaz represents a new type of elected official in Boston. She has the courage and integrity to say what she believes and stand by her beliefs, even if this "say it like it is" approach doesn't make everyone happy. I think we need to see a lot more outward courage in our elected officials, especially when the cause is right. For Sonia, her causes are ones I agree with. And I like that she will be on Beacon Hill fighting for them on my behalf.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's the Problem? Look in the Mirror

There is a strong anti-incumbent mood in American politics right now. I think the problem is the American voter today is a dangerous combination of selfish, stubborn and short-sighted.

We want it all, but we don't want to do anything for it.

The government is too big and wastes too much money, yet we complain when the government doesn't have the resources to get things done.

We don't want our taxes to go up... ever. But if anyone thinks about taking away social security, we let them have it.

We want better paying jobs, but we're not willing to learn the skills to deserve them.

We care about the environment, as long as doing so doesn't cost anything.

We don't like to admit we're wrong.

When someone says something we like, we believe it even when it's not true.

Then again, we don't question what we hear anyway. Nearly one in five Americans say President Obama is a Muslim; a majority of those people say the media told them so. [President Obama is not a Muslim; he's a Christian.]

We like things presented in black and white; we don't make the effort to understand the colors in-between. One is either with us or against us; you are either right or wrong.

We care about here and now and here and now only. We are completely neglecting long-term challenges; we are passing a debt written, environmentally filthy society on to those that will follow us.

With this type of mindset, it's no wonder politicians can't do anything right. It's no wonder it's so easy to pick on anyone who's driving an agenda.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Half Marathon Takes A Long Time

Next month I am traveling to Madison, Wisconsin to watch my friend Annmarie compete in her second Ironman, the Ford Ironman Wisconsin. I have watched Annmarie quite a bit over the years as she's marked pretty amazing athletic achievements. I have spotted her within the thousands that run in the Boston Marathon. I drove from Atlanta to Panama City a few years back to see her complete the Ironman there.

Watching someone in an event like an Ironman or a marathon takes a long time. It takes patience, careful planning, and a little bit of luck. Along with Annmarie's roommate Kim, we have it down to a science. In Panama City, Kim and I went for two swims (one in the ocean, one in the hotel pool), had lunch, watched an entire college football game, and took at least one nap---all while Annmarie was completing just the bike portion of the Ironman.

Earlier this year, I was the one watched during a long race. It wasn't an Ironman, but I did complete the Run to Remember half-marathon in late May. Annmarie, Kim and my parents came out to watch.

Even a half-marathon can take a long time, especially if you are a spectator. My parents decided, for the sport of it, to take photos of everything they did while I was running. Here's my favorite:


Mom and Dad Levanto Finishing Breakfast
Paramount on Charles Street, Beacon Hill, Boston
May 30, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two Weeks, Two Candidate Meet and Greets

I am joining a few of my neighbors in hosting two separate candidate meet and greets over the next week. What's really neat about these events is that, while they are fundraisers, a donation is not required to attend. So they end up being a great way for the candidates to meet new people.

First, this Tuesday, Mac D'Alessandro, candidate for Congress, is on Beacon Hill. Below is the official invite. The event is on Tuesday, August 17, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the home of Hilary and Rajan Nanda, 25 Garden Street, on Beacon Hill.


Second, State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, who is running for re-election, is attending a rooftop Beacon Hill event on Thursday, August 26. From 7 to 9 p.m., the event as on the roof of 21 Beacon Street (right next to the State House). Below is the official invite for that event.


Monday, August 02, 2010

The End of Movie Convenience

Mike's Movies, my local movie rental shop, is closing at the end of August.

I am a bit of a serendipitous movie renter. There are times I am sitting on my couch on a lazy weekend afternoon and I decide to rent a movie I enjoyed when I was a kid. Just for kicks. I mean, there are times when you just want to watch "Sixteen Candles," and that time doesn't happen enough to warrant buying the movie. I own "Bourne Identity," for example, but not "Sixteen Candles."

It would seem that my habits in movie rentals are a bit arcane, or at least not common. Because local movie rental houses are going out of business. With Mike's Movies leaving, there is no other movie rental shop in my neighborhood or anywhere nearby.

Reluctantly, I signed up for Netflix and am in the middle of the free trial. I like the concept, and so far, the service has been easy to use. I am in the middle of season 4 of "The Wire," for example. I send back in a DVD, and in a few days I have a new one with four new episodes to watch.

Netflix does not have a good solution to my serendipitous movie watching tendencies. You can watch certain selections from Netflix online, and I can connect my computer to my HD TV. But many of the movies I want to see quickly, like "21," are not available online. I have to add them to my queue and wait.

I think I will stick with Netflix. But the days of randomly watching "Sixteen Candles"? Well, it looks like they are over.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

While Casinos Distracted Us All

The debate over casinos in Massachusetts, which came to a climax overnight, has distracted Bay State lawmakers from economic programs that could be creating jobs in the state.


Thursday's New York Times profiled programs in place in several states that take advantage of money provided in the federal stimulus bill to subsidize jobs for small businesses. The article talks about a few scenarios, particularly in Illinois, where small businesses have been able to fill openings they otherwise would have left alone, were it not for the jobs programs. As a result, those companies were able to grow and, in turn, potentially hire additional workers.



It's frustrating that Massachusetts was not one of the states listed as having such a small business program. I would gander that legislators on Beacon Hill have been so distracted by casinos that they have not had a chance to think about other programs that would help the economy in the Commonwealth. The casino debate has sucked the oxygen out of the larger discussion of how to create jobs here; ironically casinos themselves suck the economic oxygen out of the towns around them (something I outlined in a previous blog entry).



I am sure there are many other initiatives that, like the small business jobs subsidy programs, would help tremendously. My friend Tom Hopcroft leads the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, which supports the many technology-centered markets in the state. Earlier this year, at the group's annual meeting, the membership pledged to work toward creating a significant number of new jobs. Speakers discussed how to make it happen. It was very informative, however it was too bad that no elected officials were present.



Proponents of the casinos argue they will create jobs, and there is no dispute there. They also lash out at their opposition, saying lawmakers (including the Governor) who do not support casinos or the most recent casino proposals are voting against the jobs those casinos would create. The deeper truth is that there's no telling how many jobs could have already been created had the legislature focused on other programs---seeing success in other states---that can create jobs. Those programs were lost at the craps table.



P.S. The New York Times article is just one of many stories I have read recently that shows how the federal stimulus bill passed early last year has helped the economy in measurable ways. It's too bad many have already made up their minds that the bill was a failure.



P.P.S. Very pleased that my State Senator, Sonia Chang-Diaz, and my State Representative, Marty Walz, both voted against the casino bill.



Editor's Note: Referenced story is: "The New New Deal: Public Money for Private Jobs," New York Times, July 29, 2010.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What I Read on Vacation

In a process similar to the NCAA bracket, I narrowed down a pile of books and picked a few to take with me on vacation. Curiously enough, of the seven books I took with me on vacation, none of them was fiction. I ended up reading four from start to finish, kicking off the week by reading the last few chapters of a fifth. Here's what I read in chronological order:

"The Big Short," by Michael Lewis. I had hoped to finish this one on the trip that preceded by vacation, but that didn't happen. So I read the final eighty pages or so the first night I arrived at the beach cottage in Connecticut. I like the way Michael Lewis writes, and it's not simply because he's married to Tabitha Soren, or because I had the chance to meet him (following an industry event when he was promoting an earlier book, "The New New Thing.") Lewis translates very complicated topics and presents them in a way that makes you wonder why you had problems understanding them in the first place. His break down of the financial crash in 2008 is top-notch.

"The Last Lecture," by Randy Pausch. At times a tear-jerker, I brought this book since it's been on my reading list forever. It's tough to argue with a man who passed after suffering from cancer, but there are some things Pausch believed that I disagree with. He argues that life is black and white; not sure how that's even close to the case. Still, his verdict in the final chapter is right on: If you live your life the right way, good karma will take care of the rest. Your dreams will come to you. Randy's kids should be very proud of their dad.

"Bicycle Diaries," by David Byrne. Yes, you read the author's name right-- It's David Byrne from The Talking Heads. I saw him in concert in Boston in 2001. Byrne chronicles his many trekks, on his bike, through cities around the globe. Like Byrne, I am a city person (I think, anyway), and his extolls on the benefits of cities strike home to me. The first section of the book, which follows Byrne through several second-tier U.S. cities, is a must read. One also must love how he speaks in striking and disparaging terms about his hometown of Baltimore. This was the book, above all the others, that I was definitely looking forward to read on vacation.

"The Five People You Meet in Heaven," by Mitch Albom. I wasn't expecting this book to be fiction, given Albom's first book. However, this was a surprisingly touching read. We are all connected on this planet. Not sure if anyone reading this has seen "The Sliding Doors," but the interconnectedness of who we meet and see each and every day can have significant consequences. And many the afterlife is when we actually figure that out.

"Bringing Down the House," by Ben Mezrich. This book had been on my reading list since I went to Las Vegas something like five years ago. The pages are even starting to yellow. The only problem with this book is it will give you the consistent urge to drop everything and go to a casino. I resisted the temptation, even though the two Connecticut casinos were mere minutes away from where I was staying.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Crazy Weekend Ahead?

Point O' Woods Beach
South Lyme, Conn.
July 22, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Baseball is a Radio (Beach) Game

At the Cottage
Point O' Woods, South Lyme, Conn.
July 21, 2010

Pull up a beer, and it's like you are at the ballpark. I am listening to the Yankees play the Angels this afternoon while on vacation in South Lyme, Conn. I bought a cheap Radio Shack radio a few years back, and I use it to listen to games while I am on the beach (or sitting, as the case may be, at the table in the back yard of the cottage).

Baseball is a game that is paced for the radio. When I watch baseball on TV, I typically have a few things going on at once. I am paying bills. I am catching up on correspondence. The game is in the background. With a 162-game season, how could one possibly pay attention to each and every pitch?

Baseball is really the only game I can listen to on the radio. For that reason, it's tailor-made for the beach. You can hop in the water in-between innings.

For the record, the Yankees are beating up on the Angels right now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Connecticut Beach 2010

Point O' Woods
South Lyme, Conn.
July 20, 2010

I am back on the Connecticut shore this week for vacation, staying at the Levanto family compound. Ok, it's not really a compound, but it's a nice cottage that I co-own with my brothers and my parents.

Connecticut doesn't have a public shoreline, like California and some other states. And there are not many public beaches in the Nutmeg State, either, so I was fortunate that my grandfather owned a cottage at Point O' Woods, a private beach in South Lyme. I have been coming here since I was born.

Now, I am old enough, I guess, to have some "when-I-was-a-kid-and-walked-uphill-both-ways-to-school" types of stories, and they are popping out while I have been here. The biggest one, as an example, involves bicycles.

When I was a kid, I rode my bike all over Point O' Woods, which is a collection of cottages on private land. The rules were simple: As long as I did not go under the railroad tracks that marked the main entrance to the private beach, I was fine. I was not alone; dozens of kids like me rode around in their bikes, exploring the tapestry of roads and pathways.

This week, I have not seen many bikes at all. There are many golf carts, however. The kids don't ride their bikes, because they hop in their golf carts and ride everywhere. It makes me sick.

Then again, I am on vacation, and it is nice to be here. Back in my home state, where I can watch the Yankees in HD as part of regular cable. By the way, a random fun fact: Three years ago, when I was on vacation at the beach in Conn., Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th career homerun. This week, while I am here, he might very well hit is 600th.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Quest For The Perfect Beach Chair

Two years ago, I had the perfect beach chair. It sat low to the sand and was rugged enough to handle a 210+ pound man. It provided full support for my back and my butt without any support bars pressing my contour in uncomfortable ways. It was easy to carry. Its colors were attractive to the eye.

Someone stole my chair two years ago at the end of the summer, for when I returned to my family's beach cottage in Connecticut, it was gone.

Since then, I have been on the quest for the perfect beach chair. It some ways, the quest has reminded me of a great West Wing Episode featuring the quest for the perfect turkey carving knife. The President (played by Martin Sheen) sends his personal aide Charlie out on a mission to find a carving knife appropriate for Thanksgiving dinner. Charlie tries time and time again but cannot find a knife to the President's liking. As the episode is nearing its conclusion, Charlie finally brings a knife to the President that is acceptable. As a reward, the President givens Charlie a knife from the family heirloom, which just happens to have been first created by Paul Revere.

Well, my beach chair hunt was equally as time consuming. Last year, I went to Walmart and purchased a chair that is acceptable, though not early perfect. It has trouble keeping a specific reclining angle-- the handle often slips and causes my back to jerk back. There is a support bar under my derriere that is rather uncomfortable depending on my seating angle. While I used the chair all last summer, it was not satisfying.

After coming up empty this year at Walmart, I went to Target. I purchased a nice beach chair that is also not the perfect chair. It's a RIO Beach SC68OC 2010 model, nicknamed the "Genuine Beach Bum(TM) Beach Chair." There's a lot to like about the chair. It's got a beer bottle holder. It also has a head rest, which is quite comfortable. However, the chair sits high off the sand and is rather difficult to carry. It's also a bright reddish-orange color. I bought the chair for 50 bucks.

Despite a few trips to other stores, no luck on finding a better chair, so this weekend I took my RIO to Cape Cod and it performed well under the elements of Red River Beach in Harwich.

Then this morning, on the way to the Pancake Man, the magic happened. I spotted my old chair sitting at a beach supply store. It's a beach mania sand chair in rainbow colors.

The perfect beach chair? In my apartment in Boston.
July 11, 2010

It's as close to the perfect beach chair as I can find. The only problem is the chair doesn't support my head when I sit in it. However, it was so close to perfect I bought the chair they had on display at the store, called Pizazz on Long Pond Drive in South Yarmouth. I paid 42 bucks for it.

By the way, it turns out the beach chair industry is quite a beast. There are different types of beach chairs and many different models. It would seem the perfect beach chair means different things to different people.

Happiness Is...

...copious amounts of Beacon Hill parking in the summer. My car is visible in the distance below, with numerous spots behind it on Chestnut Street. This much parking on one Beacon Hill street happens once a decade, and it happened on Friday.

Chestnut Street, Beacon Hill
Boston
July 9, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ross's Traveling Pet Peeves

I am in San Francisco for the fourth time this year. After a nice amount of airplane travel to finish off the first half of 2010, I wanted to outline what are clearly big annoyances for me when it comes to flying. These have nothing to do with the airlines. They have to do with my fellow passengers.

1) A carry-on item should be small. I typically check my bag, and I walk onto the plane with my computer bag, which is big enough to carry toiletries, books and all my work materials. I slip the carry on under the seat in front of me. I take up zero overhead space. So it's pretty annoying to see people coming on board the plane with suitcases that are bigger than the one I checked. And to those people who have the large carry-ons, if you see people like me, who take up no overhead space, you should say "thank you."

2) You don't have to queue up to get on the plane as soon as boarding starts. Generally speaking, what happens is the gate agent announces that they are boarding zone one, and all passengers get up and line up next to the gate. While they are not boarding out of turn, they are blocking everyone else from getting to the gate to get on the plane, and it's impossible to know if the person standing next to the gate is trying to board or not. A simple suggestion: Don't even get up to get on the plane until your zone is called. Don't worry, the plane won't leave without you.

3) I share this one with my brother Brett: The fasten seatbelt sign means get your butt in the seat and fasten your seatbelt. It doesn't mean this is a great time for me to get up, stretch, chat with my co-worker, or leisurely make the walk back to the bathroom.

4) Don't recline your seat unless you absolutely have to. On my flight west last night, the gentleman in front of me decided he wanted to recline his seat, even though he spent the entire flight reading or watching the in-flight movie. Which meant I could barely look at my computer screen, given the angle his seat pushed back in front of my face. Remember, an airplane is shared space. (I, for one, never recline my seat.)

That's it for now. Enjoy your flight; make sure your tray table is up!

P.S. Very sad to hear that American Airlines is stopping direct service to San Francisco from Boston as of November of this year. A flight attendant told us that last night.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quick Check on The Lowly Red Sox

As my plane from Chicago was set to take off for Boston this past Sunday, a fellow passenger two seats over from me quipped, "It's good the Celtics are winning, since the Red Sox are horrible this year."

It makes me laugh out loud. The Red Sox are the lowly Red Sox. So, I figured I would take a look at where the Red Sox stand.

As of today, the Boston Red Sox are 38-28, ten games above .500. They have the fifth best record in the Major Leagues (there are 30 teams, overall). They would lead three other Major League divisions if they were not in the American League East.

If that means the Red Sox are "horrible," then I think New England fans need to take a breath. Or at the very least they need to talk to fans of the 18-47 Baltimore Orioles.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Speical Event: A Celtics Championship?

Brookline Avenue, near Fenway
Boston
June 15, 2010

The Boston Police are getting ready in the event the Celtics pull it off, with "No Stopping" signs out on Brookline Avenue near Fenway. I guess they figure they don't want cars on the street so revelers won't be tempted to flip them over?

Monday, June 14, 2010

I Am The Reason The Celtics Will Win Or Lose

I have a confession to make. I think I am the reason the Bruins lost their playoff series against Philadelphia. During the pivotal Game 7, I was sitting at the Red Hat bar on Bowdoin Street. The Bruins scored to go up 3-0. I turned to my friend and said, "This is going to be a rout!" She said, "If we lose, now I know who to blame."

We all know what happened next. The Bruins gave up four goals to lose 4-3. My friend has never let me forget it.

Well, I don't want history to repeat itself, and somehow I feel tied to the Celtics fate. Here's why:

The Boston Celtics are 3-0 in The Finals when their games take place while I am in an airplane. That's right, each of the Celtics three victories in the current championship series has taken place while I have been either in the air, on the tarmac, or at the gate. The Celtics are 0-2 in games that I am able to watch, start to finish, from some permanent location.

I don't consider myself a superstitious person, but the facts are the facts. And given how the Bruins fared, I admit I am a bit concerned. I don't have any travel planned for this coming week. Game 6 is tomorrow night. If this series is forced to a Game 7, I might have to book a trip somewhere, anywhere, to be in a plane for Game 7. And I will be soliciting donations for the cause.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Observations From the Road

Colorado River from near the Hoover Dam
Arizona/Nevada Border
June 11, 2010

Those of you who have been following me on Twitter know that I have been on the road this week. I flew to New Orleans on Sunday for work to attend Microsoft TechEd, the annual conference for users and developers of Microsoft software. Thursday, I continued west to Las Vegas to meet up with my brother Brett and his wife Holly. We're celebrating the end of Holly's service time with the U.S. Navy.

In the past week, I have been to two conferences, of sorts. I mentioned TechEd, and last Saturday, I attended the Mass. State Democratic Convention in Worcester, Mass., where I spent time with other Democrats.

A few observations, as I sit this Saturday morning in my Vdara hotel room in Vegas:

First, I have decided that going to conferences is fun. Generally speaking, the people there are passionate about a specific topic, and they enjoy hanging out with other people who share their passion.

Second, the city of New Orleans can't catch a break. There was this weird stench in the air during this week's trip. I am not sure if it was because of the stagnant muggy air, or perhaps the oil in the water in the nearby, but it smelled kind of like B.O. everywhere.

I ran into a couple of people directly involved in the oil cleanup efforts while I was in the airport getting ready to leave. Two guys had left the boat drilling the second relief well that aims to ultimately pour cement into the current leaking well. They said things were going well and sounded confident. One other man had just quit his job cleaning up oil on the shoreline. He didn't sound as confident, noting he needed his lawyer to force his employer to let him leave.

Third, hotel room coffee (you know, the coffee they let you brew yourself in your room) isn't bad, but it's better if they give you real creamers and not the powdered kind. I drank a lot of hotel room coffee this week.

Finally, the Boston Celtics are now 0-2 in The Finals in games that I watch from start to finish. They are 2-0 in games that take place while I am in flight. The good news for Boston fans? I am in the air flying back home tomorrow night, when the Lakers and Celtics play game 5.

I will be watching the England/U.S. soccer match today from poolside at the hotel. Go USA!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Democratic State Convention Redux


With Josh Dawson, my district's teller, at the lead (third from right), the various whips and asst. tellers and delegates listen to the roll call.
Worcester
June 5, 2010


Yesterday, I attended the Democratic State Convention in Worcester, and it was an honor to represent my fellow democrats living in Boston's 2nd Suffolk Senatorial District and Boston's Ward 5.

A few observations:

-- Governor Deval Patrick noted how he wants to "finish what we started." In general, I think the Governor needs to be careful about touting his accomplishments too much, given the high level of anxiety across the state about the current economy. The average voter could very easily say, "What does he have to gloat about; I am very worried about my job and my family." Which is why other themes within the speech resonated with me, including his discussion of ways he will continue to stimulate the economy, and the fact that he will "not rest" until every person who wants a job has one. I also liked his discussion of "generational responsibility," but that will be the topic of a separate post on this blog.

-- In my opinion, Mike Lake stole the show. The candidate for auditor had an impressive campaign organization on the floor, with whips for every voting location and numerous signs, t-shirts and even hats (Can I have one, please?). His speech was the best I have heard him give, and he was passionate. He also stressed his independence, which is key in this anti-incumbent year. Many no doubt came into the convention wondering if Mike would get the 15-percent needed to be on the primary ballot in September. He walked away with 24 or 25 percent---far more than what was needed---and impressed many delegates and potential donors in the process. (Admittedly, I am biased, as Mike is a friend, and I support him enthusiastically.)

-- Democracy in action is refreshing to see. So many people worked hard yesterday, on a hot Saturday in early June, to move democracy forward. There were the candidates, their campaigns and their volunteers. There were the staff members of the Democratic party and the party's volunteers. There were the representatives of the various causes that packed the expo hall adjacent to the DCU Center to give out literature and talk to delegates. There were the tellers, whips and many others supporting the individual delegations. It was truly organized chaos (emphasis on organized).

-- In the end, the voters get to decide. All the candidates who spoke yesterday made the primary ballot, which means all Democrats in Massachusetts will ultimately decide who will be the party's candidates in the November elections. I think this is great. The Democratic party has set a low threshold at the convention for candidates to make the ballot (15-percent of delegates' votes). As Boston City Councilor and State Treasurer candidate Steve Murphy put it yesterday, the party believes that all competent and worthy candidates should be considered for elections. The primary season has begun, and the three candidates for auditor and two for treasurer now face the full body of Democrats in the state, as it should be.

-- Finally, it was great to see Mac D'Alessandro, who's challenging Steven Lynch in the Democratic primary to be my congressman. As I have written here before, I am not very happy with Rep. Lynch; it's good he has strong competition.

Special thanks to Rep. Marty Walz for inviting me to the SEIU breakfast Saturday morning for the much needed coffee!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Endorsement: Steve Grossman for State Treasurer

As part of my day job, I represent several technology companies in Massachusetts. It's very fulfilling work, because I get to help very smart people who have come up with innovative ways to use technology to solve common problems facing businesses around the world.

Several weeks ago, I attended the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, a group that represents industries I care about deeply in New England. The group pledged at the meeting to help the industry come together and create thousands of jobs over the next several months by remaining committed to innovation. I thought it was a shame I didn't recognize any state officials at the meeting.

When I spoke to Steve Grossman just week or so ago, he told me he has plans to use the office he seeks-- the State Treasurer's office-- to affect the technology industry and to help it grow again. He wants to use the powers of the office to put in place positive changes across numerous areas of the economy. He even offered to meet with representatives from the industry groups that represent the tech industry.

That's the type of thinking that we need from our elected officials to help us fully recover from the economic malaise. And it's why I plan to cast my delegate vote at the Democratic State Convention this Saturday for Steve Grossman to be Massachusetts' next Treasurer.

I have already voted for Mr. Grossman once; he got my vote at the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee meeting in May, when he picked up the group's endorsement. His presentation to the group that night was impressive; there's little doubt to me that he has the passion, the energy, and the will to make tough choices for Massachusetts in the Treasurer's office.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Endorsement: Mike Lake for State Auditor

Mike Lake addresses supporters at his campaign kick-off.
Boston
April 28, 2010

Today I start a series of posts that outline how I plan to cast my delegate votes next week at the State Democratic Convention in Worcester.

If you sense a theme across my choices, you will see it is one of activism. I was surprised to learn that each of the statewide offices in Massachusetts can have an active role influencing issues that matter to me, including healthcare and investments in the private sector technology economy (which is the sector I work in).

The State Auditor's job is to make things run more efficiently, saving money and cutting waste. And Mike Lake is the right person for that job. I worked along side him in 2008 as a part of now State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz's field operation. She was a grassroots candidate, and grassroots candidates need organization, which Mike Lake helped provide. As one of the downtown Boston field coordinators with Mike, I marveled at home he kept the ship moving even in the middle of the madness of election day.

Mike is a scary smart person. He has something like four or five or six degrees; I lost count. He also worked in an operations position within the Clinton Administration at a very young age. His academic accomplishments should not overshadow the fact that Mike is, fundamentally, a people person. He's been working very hard to meet as many people as possible during this campaign.

And when he speaks to people, what comes across is that Mike has three or four ideas about how, from the first day as State Auditor, he will make a difference. Cutting waste and saving taxpayers money. He wants to engage the public to make citizens aware of how the Auditor's office can help.

Mike will bring 21st-century efficiencies to an office that has not had a new leader in a long time. Just by listening to him for a few seconds, one gets a sense of the passion he has for his potential role. Mike is certainly not the typical politician. His speech is one of action, not of past laurels.




He might not be the most well known candidate, and given the long-term political connections of his opponents, that's not a surprise. But Mike is competent, bright, and deserves the chance to be evaluated by all Democrats in Massachusetts via a primary. I look forward to voting for him at the convention to give him that chance.

Are The Red Sox Even Playing?

Congrats to the Boston Celtics, who last night won the NBA Eastern Conference Championship and have advanced to NBA Finals for the second time in three years. The C's were not supposed to get this far. In fact, they weren't even supposed to get close.

It's great the NBA Finals will come back to Boston. Two years ago, the NBA did a great job bringing the basketball theme to the Rose Kennedy Greenway by the Garden. They erected a huge replica of the NBA logo and, of course, a giant basketball. It was neat.

And every local fan I talk to is happy the Celtics can distract them from the lowly Red Sox. In fact, I am not even sure why the Red Sox are trying. So far as I can tell, their fans have given up. A few weeks back, I was able to get reasonably priced, good seats to a Red Sox-Yankees game the day before the game. There is surprisingly less pink in the Fenway Park stands of late.

Except for one problem. The Red Sox are not playing that badly. At four games above .500, the Red Sox would actually be in first place of their division if they made their home out west. (Texas, the current leader of the American League West, is a game behind the Sox in the standings).

I hear that David Ortiz is horrible. Except when I look at the stats, he's doing much better now (or perhaps fans just have a ridiculously inflated sense of how he should be doing). He's batting .265 for the year (including his admittedly very slow start). Not great, but certainly not as bad as people claim. He's tied for the team lead with 10 home runs (More HRs, by the way, than the Yankees A-Rod).

The problem is the Red Sox are in a very tough division. Of the nine teams across the Majors that have a better record than Boston's sluggers, three of them are in the same division (Tampa Bay, my New York Yankees and Toronto). But that doesn't mean Boston stinks.

So while the Celtics continue their march toward a Championship, the Red Sox are quietly gaining momentum. Of course, not if you ask a Red Sox fan. To them, the season might as well be over.

And by the way, I am a Yankees fan. How about that?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Congratulations Mercedes and Jason!

Mercedes Fereck and Jason Carrasco introduced as husband and wife.
Hyatt Regency Boston
May 15, 2010

Neighborhood Bars

A week ago, I had the honor of witnessing the marriage vows of Mercedes Fereck and Jason Carrasco. Following the ceremony, I had some time to kill. A few of Mercedes' family's friends from Maryland and Scranton, Penn. wanted to go visit the bar that inspired Cheers on Beacon Street. I decided to escort them there. One of the guests asked me, "Well since you live nearby, when we enter Cheers, will everyone know your name?"

He thought the answer was yes. As anyone who lives in Boston knows, the answer is definitely "No." The Hampshire House on Beacon Street is primarily a tourist destination (even though its owner is a very, very good neighbor). But when one thinks of Boston, they think of Cheers, and they think of the neighborhood bar. And Boston certainly has them.

I love neighborhood bars. I love going to the counter and simply ordering "a beer." [Side note, why can't one just go to a bar and get served when simply ordering "a beer"? They do it in the movies all the time, but when I try, the bartenders get rather agitated.]

A neighborhood bar should not be part of a chain. It should be friendly and be staffed by people that live at least nearby, if not in the same neighborhood. It's owners should be concerned about the quality of life on the streets around the establishment. The beer should always be cold.

The neighborhood bar on Beacon Hill that I like the best is "The Hill Tavern" on Cambridge Street. I went there first when I didn't even live in Boston. On New Year's Eve, 1998, a group of high school friends and I traversed into the city from Arlington, and we landed at The Hill.

The Hill is friendly, has a nice menu, and it offers outdoor seating. I often go there after community meetings.

However, my favorite neighborhood bar in Boston is "The Mission" over on Mission Hill (in Roxbury Crossing). I am not sure why I like the bar so much; maybe it's because there is always a good deal of activity there by people who actually live in Mission Hill.

Of course, I have not been to too many neighborhood bars in Boston, and I am always open to visiting new ones. So if you see some guy who says simply "I will have a beer" at a watering hole near you, it's probably me.

Side note: A friend told me last night that if you step up to the bar in Pennsylvania and order "a lager," you get a Yuengling. I guess that's getting close to my ideal.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boston Ward 5 Endorsements

It was a long night for Boston's Ward 5 Democratic Committee this past Tuesday, but in the end, the group handed out endorsements, just days ahead of the Democratic Convention in Worcester.

Following a candidates forum for those running for statewide offices, the Committee endorsed the following candidates:

Governor-- Deval Patrick (By Acclamation)
Lt. Governor-- Tim Murray (By Acclamation)
Attorney General-- Martha Coakley (By Acclamation)
Secretary of State-- Bill Galvin (By Acclamation)
Treasurer-- Steve Grossman

Steve Grossman received 19 votes from the committee, versus nine for his opponent, Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy. All 19 of those votes were needed for the endorsement, as a 2/3 vote of members eligible and present is necessary.

No endorsement was made in the race for State Auditor. Mike Lake and Suzanne Bump both received 12 votes. Guy Glodis did not attend the forum ahead of the meeting, and he was not nominated as part of the endorsement proceedings.

By the way, Lt. Governor Tim Murray addressed the forum during the night, and he was fantastic. Too bad I didn't wear by Tim Murray t-shirt!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day Fun Fact

Mother's Day is a huge day for restaurants. My mom told me this morning it's actually the biggest day of the year for eateries. And the reason is pretty simple. Most guys don't cook; so they take their moms to brunch. Meanwhile, for Father's Day, typically families eat in. Fittingly, I discussed this with my mom over brunch this morning.

Happy Mother's Day, mom!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Scary Scott Brown: Episode 1

I did not vote for Senator Scott Brown, but I respect that he is the current junior Senator from Massachusetts, and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. At first, I was ok with some of the moves he made. He voted to pass the jobs bill, proposed by the President and other Democrats, shortly after he took office. Better yet, he was authoritative about his vote, which he delivered early in that roll call.

But this week I saw a very scary side of Scott Brown. His latest proposal would allow the United States to strip citizenship from anyone, without a hearing, if it is believed that person is a terrorist or is aiding terrorists. It is one of the most ridiculous, anti-American proposals I have ever heard of. To put it in perspective, as "The Massachusetts Liberal" points out, even Glen Beck says the proposed law is unconstitutional.

Citizenship is a cherished right, and certainly it comes with responsibilities. However, there is a constitutionally outlined process that allows the U.S. government to strip someone of its citizenship. It's called treason, and it's punishable by death. However, in the spirit of our democracy, treason must be tried in federal court. The law proposed by Brown and his equally delusional counterpart, Sen. Joe Lieberman, would allow the government to strip citizenship without trial-- without a hearing, even.

Jim Braude provided a simple example of the law's ludicrous nature during yesterday's "Jim and Margery" Show on 96.9 WTKK-FM. As he put it, certainly in the past many Irish Boston residents supported the efforts of some of the groups in Northern Ireland who were pushing for independence from the U.K. By certain definitions, those groups were terrorist organizations, meaning under the law proposed by Scary Scott, contributors to the groups could be stripped of their U.S. citizenship.

What bothers me even more is that I think, deep down inside, both Sens. Brown and Lieberman know their law doesn't have a chance to pass Constitutional muster. They made the proposal for two reasons. First, they can tell their constituents they mean business. A caller to "Jim and Margery" yesterday said, "It's about time we grew some balls." Those callers are, of course, Scary Scott's base, and they can cry liberal foul when the law is challenged by the lefties.

Second, and this scares me the most, by proposing the law, Scary Scott can "compromise" by "settling" with a second proposal that is perhaps not nearly as aggressive--but still strips Americans of there liberties. The second proposal would be like a much more powerful Patriot Act. It may or may not pass the Constitutional test, but that doesn't matter to the New England Senators. At that point, they would have tried not once, but twice, to pass a law that "simply cracks down on those citizens whose actions would indicate they don't want their citizenship anyway."

Scary, scary stuff, people.


Sunday, May 02, 2010

Aquapocalypse

From the door of the White Hen Pantry on Cambridge Street.
Boston
May 2, 2010

The cliche that you don't realize how important something is until you don't have it rings true time and time again.

Yesterday in Boston, residents were suddenly told mid-day that the water coming out of their taps was no longer safe to drink. The main aqueduct bringing drinking water to Boston from the west sprang a significant leak, cutting off supply to the city and several other towns in eastern Massachusetts.

The impact is being felt in ways one would not imagine. No one is selling coffee today; apparently every store has coffee makers with hard-wired water supplies. Last night, the bartender at the Aquitaine in the South End juggled a pitcher of water as she meticulously washed her tools; she could not use the sink or the spritzer that serves soft drinks. I boiled water late last night; I could not brush my teeth without a water source.

Certainly things could be a lot worse, especially if public officials and City employees were not as responsive as they were, distributing information about the water issue (even if they did use memos, like the one above, with rather interesting spellings). Boston Transportation Department vehicles drove the streets last night using loudspeakers to inform residents.

It's when things like this happen that I wonder what it would be like if other things I took for granted just suddenly weren't available. Certainly there are the staples of living; water being one of them. But what about other more modern amenities that are pretty important? I always think first about cell phones. What would life be like without a cell phone? It's the subject of another much longer post.