Saturday, May 21, 2011

Red Sox Fans Are Friendly

Charles Street, Beacon Hill
May 21, 2011

Maybe it's because they are from the National League. Or because Red Sox fans know the pain of not winning a World Series for a ridiculously long time. Or maybe it's just because they are not the Yankees. But Cubs fans are welcome this weekend.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

BHCA Election a Distraction

Recently I have joined a couple of my neighbors, including Pat McDonough and Pat Amend, to canvass Beacon Hill for nomination signatures. It's that time of year again, as candidates for municipal offices are asking voters to put them on the ballot, through signatures. We were asking residents on behalf of City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and John Connolly, who are both running for re-election.

I like doing things like this because by talking to my neighbors, it provides quite a bit of insight into what they care about.

Except this year, the issues are being overriden by something else, and that's unfortunate. All attention right now is on the upcoming Beacon Hill Civic Association election, taking place at Monday's association annual meeting.

For those who are not close to what's happening on Beacon Hill right now, we're in the middle of a campaign season. Tomorrow night, at the civic association's annual meeting, members will elect officers and board members for the new term. In most cases, this happens with little fanfare. The new board members and officers are consulted in advance to preserve continuity for the organization. It's not the most democratic process, but it works. And the association, which is private and able to determine its own methods for elections (following bylaws, of course), is stronger because of it.

This year, Steve Young was nominated to be the new president of the association by what you could call the normal process. Rob Whitney, who like Steve is a current board member, followed a process prescribed in the association's by-laws to challenge Young. So now tomorrow's civic association annual meeting will feature an election for president. Either Young or Whitney will be picked.

In my recent conversations with neighbors, the board election is all anyone wants to talk about. They are not interested in trash or recycling or neighborhood schools. They are fascinated by the election not for the issues involved, but for the personalities of the candidates.

I like Steve and Rob very much, and I have had the privilege of serving with them on the civic association board for many years. I believe either could lead the organization and further its cause on behalf of the group's members. However, and I mean this with all due respect, I am not sure if I see a different course for the group, regardless of which one is elected.

One thing I have learned through my service on the board (which comes to an end at the annual meeting) is that organizations such as the civic association are directed by the members. The causes the board pressed most significantly over my eight years of tenure were the ones that neighbors cared about and advocated for strongly. The specific opinions or agendas of the board officers had little to do with it.

The ongoing campaign in the neighborhood has done little to advance discussion about neighborhood issues. Instead, the debate has come down to a gossipy discussion of personalities. Tomorrow's vote will not be an election so much as a popularity contest. And that's sad.

As it turns out, I cannot attend the meeting. I am flying to Atlanta this afternoon for four days of work meetings at a tech conference there. I do hope the proceedings at the meeting do not get out of hand. (The meeting is at 6 p.m. 5/16 at the Union Club on Park Street.)

Credit Where Credit is Due, President Bush

It's nearly impossible for me to think of one policy issue where I agreed with President Bush while he was in office. I remember watching one of his State of the Union addresses a few years after 9/11. There was nothing--absolutely nothing-- that he said that I agreed with.

But I never questioned President Bush's patriotism. I always believed strongly he did what he did because he thought it was right for the country.

This past week saw the conclusion of one of the largest and most sophisticated manhunts in the history of the world. It used intelligence across three different administrations, though mostly from the past two. While the United States' locating Osama Bin Laden within Pakistan should not be seen in any way as vindication of the harsh intelligence practices preferred by the Bush administration (indeed there are reports that most of the investigation relied on non-harsh practices), there is no doubt what happened a week ago is a victory for Presidents Bush and Obama.

To be sure, I agree it's more a victory for President Obama than Bush. Afterall, it was President Obama that called the strike. It was President Obama who was in the situation room watching the events unfold. It was President Obama who took responsibility should the circumstances have turned out that Bin Laden wasn't actually there.

But President Bush has right to feel a sense of victory as well. And on that point I identify the two classiest acts of the past few weeks. First, was when President Obama phoned President Bush to tell the predecessor that the military had gotten Osama. The second was when President Bush declined the invitation to visit Ground Zero this past week.

President Bush has been noticeably silent in the aftermath of the raid. It reminds me of the day President Obama took office. There was a moment just before now-citizen Bush hopped on the marine helicopter. He gave President Obama a pat on the back and said good luck. To me, it looked incredibly genuine. Despite their differences, both Bush and Obama wanted what was best for the country.

As much as I applaud President Obama, I applaud President Bush. For being a patriot. As for former Vice President Dick Cheney, well that's another matter.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Too Many Gosh Darn Channels

1000 Channels But Nothing to Watch
My Apartment, Boston
May 1, 2011

Comcast made an offer I couldn't refuse. For the same monthly fee, I get HBO, Starz, Encore, Cinemax and Showtime. I get the expanded sports package, which includes Red Zone HD (the NFL Network's channel that follows every red zone offensive set during the season). I got updated, faster Internet, home phone service, and a new cable box. What more could one want, right?

Well, it turns out I think I would rather want less. I officially have too many channels, and two many choices. In addition to cable, on the shelf there's the small Apple TV black box, which allows me to to stream Netflix in HD. And then there's XFINITY OnDemand. I also sign up each year for the MLB INDemand baseball package so I can watch my beloved Yankees, and as a result, I can watch any live MLB baseball game. Finally, gathering dust is my DVD player and my, ahem, VCR.

I have gone past TV programming saturation. And it affects my psyche. When I sit on my couch, I quickly scan the dozen or so movie channels and typically settle on a recent release I haven't seen. Yesterday it was "Valentine's Day." But no less than five minutes later, I am again scanning my options. Who knows, I might me missing a new episode of "True Life" on MTV. I end up with the new "Karate Kid." Five minutes later, I am catching up on the last episode of "Friday Night Lights." Then I am waiting for "Dear John" to start on HBO at 3:30. And what time do the Celtics play again?

Viewing "pleasure" for me is a constant state of panic, freaked I might be missing something better a mere click away. And one other thing--I find I keep my TV on all the time. Even when I leave the apartment to run an errand. I guess I figure if I am not around to watch, I still want to get my money's worth.

Life was so much easier when I just had basic cable. Saturday afternoon was spent watching an 80's movie on TNT. Or maybe the news.

Life was also easier before I had Apple TV (which is awesome, by the way). Back then I couldn't on a whim decide to watch the entire second season of "Lost" while eating sausage pizza on my couch.

But I can't go back now. If I revert back to no movie channels, I will still scroll through them on screen. The neurosis will remain, combined with envy of not having every channel at my disposal. I guess that's the reason Comcast offered me the deal I couldn't refuse. They got me. Now pardon me while I change the channel.