Podcasts of the Week Ending December 9th


99% Invisible :: The Nut Behind the Wheel

A history of how the auto industry and road engineers avoided including safety measures in their designs in their cars and highways leading to countless deaths, and how they blamed everything on the driver.  Yes this should make you think of firearms manufacturers.

Fresh Air :: The Golden Age of Comics

An interview with Cullen Murphy who took over writing “Prince Valiant” from his father in the 1980s.  Murphy remembers how special the full-color Sunday comics section was for children, and the community of comic artists in Fairfield County, CT.  Not mentioned in the interview, Murphy and I went to the same high school, albeit he attended well before I did.

Hidden Brain :: What Can A Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are?

Hidden Brain examines personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs.  Scientific or a glorified form of astrology?  Worse still, how employers are misusing these tests in personnel decisions.

Fresh Air :: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Daniel Ellsberg discusses “The Pentagon Papers” and top secret plans for nuclear war that he discovered as a national security analyst in the 1960s but was not able to reveal to the public at the time.  A chilling look into the United States’ militaristic past and present.

Hub History :: Boston and Halifax, a lasting bond

One hundred years ago, a collision in Halifax Harbor caused a munitions ship to explode, devastating the city and causing thousands of deaths and injuries.  Boston responded by sending a train with medical personnel and supplies to help the survivors.  To this day, Nova Scotia continues to thank Boston by providing a Christmas tree every year.

60 Second Science :: Yeti Claims Don’t Bear Up

Science disappoints us again by showing that evidence of the Yeti is genetically just a bear.  Well, not “just,” because bears are important to, and these studies tell us more about them.

The Bernie Sanders Show :: Our Budget Priorities with Elizabeth Warren

Two of our few remaining sensible Senators discuss important things that make sense.

Decode DC :: The Changing Race of Immigration in America

A history of immigration to America focusing on who was allowed to “become American” and who was excluded, and the government’s role in all of this.

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Podcasts of the Week Ending November 18


Radiolab :: Match Made in Marrow

A story about how faith and science are in conflict, but how people who disagree can come together in dialogue (and still disagree).

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Disney Parks

An overlooked aspect of the Disney theme park experience: sound design.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: Hoodies Up

Trayvon Martin was murdered during a broadcast of the NBA All-Star Game.  Five weeks later, his hometown team the Miami Heat posed for a photo with their hoodies up.  This is the story of that photo and the rebirth of athlete activism.

WBUR News :: An ‘Underground World’: This Urban Tent Community Is Dangerous For Heroin Users

A scene from the opiod crisis with a visit to a hidden tent community in the Boston region.

Fresh Air :: Priest Responds To Gang Members’ ‘Lethal Absence Of Hope’ With Jobs, And Love

An interview with Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries and how to care for children in gangs.  You can also read my review of his book Tattoos on the Heart.

Photopost: New England Aquarium


My daughter and I took advantage of the chilly holiday Friday to visit the New England Aquarium.  The Giant Ocean Tank is always awe-inspiring and we got to see divers film the animals up close and listen to them answer questions.  We also spent considerable time at the shark & ray touch pool, the tidepool touch tank, and with the penguins.  As a novice photographer, I found that adjusting for white balance and shutter speed in the Aquarium was challenging, so there’s not so many great photographs, but still a record of our fun visit.

Related post: Photopost: Whale Watch

Photoposts: Autumnal Sundries


I got a new smartphone recently. Unlike the previous one which would notify me repeatedly that the memory was full if I took more than one photo, this one actually has space to save pictures. So here are some recent smartphone photos.

Also, although it’s about 10 years after it was cool, but I recently set up an Instagram account should you be interested in more photographs.

Book Review: Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan


Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
TitleSaints for All Occasions
Narrator Susan Denaker
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2017
Previously read by same author: Maine 
Summary/Review:

The Irish-American family novel has a lot of familiar tropes – resentments, feuding, alcoholism, unexpected pregnancy, Catholicism, generation gaps, poverty to prosperity, et al.  Sullivan (no known relation to yours truly) employs them all, but her great gift in writing is characterization.  The novel is set over a few days in 2009 after the death of the eldest child in the Rafferty family, the 50-year-old bar owner Patrick, in a drunk driving crash.  The family comes together for the wake and funeral with the unexpected arrival of an elderly nun unknown to the children of the family.  In-between descriptions of the few days leading up to the funeral the novel flashes back to fill in the family history, starting with the sisters Nora and Theresa leaving their Irish village to emigrate to Boston, and how Nora takes the conventional course of marrying and raising four children, first in Dorchester, and later in Hull, Massachusetts, while Theresa becomes a cloistered nun. It also explains the falling out to the two sisters and why the children grew up unaware of Theresa’s existence.  Nora and Theresa alternate as point of view characters with wonderful insight into their complex characters.  The reader also gets to learn of the each of the surviving children, John the overachiever who found unexpected success as a political adviser to Republicans in deep blue Massachusetts (including a thinly-veiled Mitt Romney character), Bridget who is never quite sure that Nora has accepted her as lesbian but wishes to inform her mother of her and partner’s plan to have a baby, and Brian, the youngest who has moved back in with his mother and seems directionless after his baseball career flamed out in the minor leagues.  It’s a touching and heartbreaking novel, and not quite all that you’d expect.

Favorite Passages:

“She had long known that in this family, the truth got revealed belatedly, accidentally, drunkenly, or not at all. But still, she felt hurt.”

Recommended booksCharming Billy by Alice McDermott, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, and The Gathering by Anne Enright
Rating:

Vote November 7th: Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston


Hello Boston residents!  There is a municipal election next Tuesday, November 7th.  Please commit yourself to voting on Tuesday and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to vote as well.  You can find your polling location online at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx.  You will be voting for Mayor of Boston and City Council.

Learn more about the candidates and their issues:

I’d like to encourage you to vote for Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston.  Tito is a lifelong resident of Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood and since 2011 he has served on the City Council as the representative of District 7 (all of Roxbury, parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway neighborhoods).  I’ve come to know him in recent years primarily through being active with Boston Public School parents and students to defend against three consecutive years of severe budget cuts from the Walsh administration and the threats of corporate education reform organizations, and advance a just and equitable model of public education.  As Chair of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Education, Tito frequently meets and works with parents and students of Boston Public Schools.  He recognizes the good work that BPS teachers and students are already doing, at a time when it is fashionable to attack public education as failing.  He understands that schools will get better only if every school and every student receive equitable resources and we address problems due to poverty, inequality, and physical and mental health.

As you might imagine, education is one of the key issues on Tito’s platform.  But he is also very concerned with housing.  If you’ve tried to rent or buy a home in Boston in the past couple of decades you know it’s an extremely competitive housing market where an increasing demand for a static supply of housing stock has forced rents and mortgages through the roof.  Members of Boston’s working and middle classes are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to live in the city.  And when new housing is built, developers inevitably target it to high-end buyers.  Tito is committed to making housing economically viable for all by increasing the number of truly affordable housing units.

Of course it’s easy to make promise that look great on a webpage, but there’s something about Tito that sets him apart from other candidates: he is truly a representative of the people who listens to them and works to resolve their problems.  A couple of years ago, Boston was selected as a candidate to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.  I had mixed feelings on the issue myself.  On the one hand I enjoy the Olympics and it would be a treat to have it in our great city, but on the other hand I know that the cost of the Olympics can be economically devastating to the host city.  Although the supporters of the bid promised that no public funding would be used for the Olympics, many citizens were concerned about the lack of transparency around the contents of the actual bid documents.  Tito was initially supportive of Boston 2024 but listened to the growing concern of his constituents and filed a subpoena forcing the Boston 2024 organizers to release the full, unredacted bid.  As feared, the bid put Boston on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, and that was before any inevitable cost overruns.  This is just one instance of Tito listening to his constituents, acting on their concerns, and working toward greater transparency and equity in Boston government.

Ok, so you may be saying to yourself, why change horses midstream?  Isn’t Marty Walsh nationally recognized as a progressive leader?  Doesn’t Walsh have box full of prominent endorsements?  How is Tito any different?

If that’s the case, here are five reasons why you should not vote for Marty Walsh:

  • Walsh has repeatedly put Boston on the hook for the costs of big monied interests coming to Boston, from the Olympics to Indycar, and General Electric to Amazon.  While bringing these megaevents and corporations to Boston may not be bad in themselves,Walsh’s complete lack of transparency in all of these negotiations is bad for the city, especially when Walsh doesn’t even read the fine print of what he’s committing the city to.
  • Walsh’s vision for Boston is one based on prioritizing single-occupancy motor vehicles, an autopian view that we have at least 70 years of evidence won’t work.  Walsh has openly stated that he’s a “car guy” and declared that pedestrians and bicyclists are responsible for their own deaths, “You have to understand, cars are going to hit you.”  He recently minimized problems with the MBTA that features daily delays and overcrowding on crumbling infrastructure, showing how out of touch he is with the average Boston commuter.  Walsh’s pro-car stance and indifference to public transit, bikes, and pedestrians doesn’t even take into the account the effects of climate change on a coastal city like Boston if we keep pumping pollutants into the air.
  • In one of the most heartbreaking incidents in Walsh’s term, he closed the city’s largest homeless shelter on Long Island in October 2014, just months before one of the most severe winters in recent memory.  Walsh was given the option of ferry service to Long Island to replace the unsafe bridge, but instead the homeless (many of them suffering from addiction) were distributed through the city.  Not coincidentally, the homeless encampment at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard (a.k.a. Methadone Mile) has swelled in recent years.  The Walsh administration only attempts to address this is to put up a tent across the street to hide the homeless and addicted from view.  Meanwhile, a farm on Long Island once used by homeless Bostonians to raise food for themselves was given over by the city to a for-profit fast food chain.
  • Mayor Walsh has slashed the budget for Boston Public Schools every year since he came into office forcing schools to cut teachers, nurses, librarians, and important programs to make up the gaps.  The most recent budget cut support for students with autism by 21%.  Walsh is a major supporter, an effort to funnel public education money to privately run schools that have none of the accountability of public schools and frequently work to break teachers unions, ignoring the expertise of teachers and principals to follow untested education innovations proposed by corporate backers.  Walsh has introduced the Boston Compact, a dark-money funded effort to force all students enrolling in BPS to have to accept assignment at any school, whether a public school or private charter.  BPS students twice staged walkouts in protest of the Walsh administration’s education policy, but Walsh insulted these students and refused to meet with them to discuss their concerns.
  • For the predominately white, college-educated, professional class the Walsh years are boom times in Boston.  But Boston also has growing levels of inequality that place it among the worst cities for equality in the nation.  A recent report card on the Walsh administration from the NAACP gives the Walsh administration a D for equity, access, and opportunity.  In 2015, Walsh fired a City Hall employee who participated in a Black Lives Matter protest on her own time, yet did not fire a racist Boston police officer who posted a video stating the “Black people have met their match” and continues to let this officer to patrol in communities of color.  Rising rents and housing costs are forcing mass displacement of Boston’s working class and middle class communities, particularly the Black and Latin communities of the city.

The Walsh administration has failed again and again on these issues that are important to me: economic growth, transportation, public safety, homelessness and addiction, education, and rising inequality.  I guarantee you that Tito Jackson has solutions to try to address all of these problems, but most importantly he will listen to the people of Boston – all of the people of Boston – when he does so.  We need to move past the king mayor who haughtily dismisses the citizens of Boston while working with monied interests from outside the city, and elect the mayor of the people.  I believe Tito Jackson will best represent the people of Boston.

 

Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston


If you’re reading this and live in the city of Boston, I implore you to vote in the City of Boston Preliminary Election on September 26th, 2017.  Preliminary elections are notorious for low turnout meaning a handful of people get to decide who will represent our city, and they usually don’t reflect the full range of ideology within the city.  There are four candidates running for mayor of Boston, and the two who receive the most votes will advance to the general election in November.  If you live in Districts 1, 2, 7, & 9, you will also have a preliminary election for City Council, again with the top two vote recipients advancing to November’s general election.  Please commit yourself to voting on Tuesday and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to vote as well.  You can find your polling location online at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx.

Okay, if I’ve convinced you to vote, you may be wondering who you should vote for.  I’d like to encourage you to vote for Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston.  Tito is a lifelong resident of Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood and since 2011 he has served on the City Council as the representative of District 7 (all of Roxbury, parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway neighborhoods).  I’ve come to know him in recent years primarily through being active with Boston Public School parents and students to defend against three consecutive years of severe budget cuts from the Walsh administration and the threats of corporate education reform organizations, and advance a just and equitable model of public education.  As Chair of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Education, Tito frequently meets and works with parents and students of Boston Public Schools.  He recognizes the good work that BPS teachers and students are already doing, at a time when it is fashionable to attack public education as failing.  He understands that schools will get better only if every school and every student receive equitable resources and we address problems due to poverty, inequality, and physical and mental health.

As you might imagine, education is one of the key issues on Tito’s platform.  But he is also very concerned with housing.  If you’ve tried to rent or buy a home in Boston in the past couple of decades you know it’s an extremely competitive housing market where an increasing demand for a static supply of housing stock has forced rents and mortgages through the roof.  Members of Boston’s working and middle classes are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to live in the city.  And when new housing is built, developers inevitably target it to high-end buyers.  Tito is committed to making housing economically viable for all by increasing the number of truly affordable housing units.

Of course it’s easy to make promise that look great on a webpage, but there’s something about Tito that sets him apart from other candidates: he is truly a representative of the people who listens to them and works to resolve their problems.  A couple of years ago, Boston was selected as a candidate to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.  I had mixed feelings on the issue myself.  On the one hand I enjoy the Olympics and it would be a treat to have it in our great city, but on the other hand I know that the cost of the Olympics can be economically devastating to the host city.  Although the supporters of the bid promised that no public funding would be used for the Olympics, many citizens were concerned about the lack of transparency around the contents of the actual bid documents.  Tito was initially supportive of Boston 2024 but listened to the growing concern of his constituents and filed a subpoena forcing the Boston 2024 organizers to release the full, unredacted bid.  As feared, the bid put Boston on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, and that was before any inevitable cost overruns.  This is just one instance of Tito listening to his constituents, acting on their concerns, and working toward greater transparency and equity in Boston government.

If you’re still not convinced to vote for Tito, perhaps you just really like Marty Walsh and see no reason to change mayors, I’m going to ask you to still go ahead and vote for Tito Jackson in the preliminary election on Tuesday.  I honestly think that Marty Walsh will be a better mayor if he faces a strong challenge from Tito, and has to defend his past decisions and plans for the future, and learns to be a better leader by listening to what Tito and his supporters have to say.  If after six weeks of intense campaigning and debates, you’re still not convinced that Tito would make a better mayor, go ahead and vote for Walsh in November.  But I think the more that people get to see and hear Tito Jackson and how he is speaking for the everyday people of Boston, the more you’re going to want to vote for him.

Podcasts of the Week: August 26-September 8


This (two) weeks in podcasts.

All Songs Considered: All Songs +1: The Weird World Of ‘Feature’ Credits

Ever wondered what has lead to the great increase in songs with a “feat.” artist in the title over the past couple of decades? Or why the featured artists appears in the song title rather than the performer? Or what the difference between “feat.” and “with” or even “x” and “vs” all means?  Apparently, it’s all about metadata.

HUB History: Perambulating the Bounds

Local law requires Boston City Councilors or their designees to walk the boundaries of the city every five years, a practice that was often a boozy ceremony in the past, but has been ignored since the 1980s.  If the city is looking for citizens to take up perambulating the bounds again, I put my foot forward.

99% Invisible: The Age of the Algorithm

How algorithms, purportedly designed to replace subjective judgments with objective measurements, have been used as a cover for discrimination and  marketed for purposes they’re not designed for.

Have You HeardEducation Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

The history of the most misguided myth about education, that it will resolve poverty with no other interventions required, and how it has set up schools to fail.

Finally, there are two podcasts that actually replayed episodes made by another podcast this week:

Code Switch: An Advertising Revolution: “Black People Are Not Dark-Skinned White People”  originally from Planet Money

An interesting story of the first African-American advertisement executive who showed how supposed free market capitalists were losing out on money due to white supremacy.

99% Invisible: Notes on an Imagined Plaque originally from The Memory Place

Nate Dimeo’s thoughts on what should be placed on a plaque on a Memphis statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest to mark the reasons why the statue exists.

Book Review: Holy Spokes : The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels by Laura Everett


AuthorLaura Everett
TitleHoly Spokes : The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels
Publication Info: Grand Rapids : Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017.
Summary/Review:

Rev. Laura is someone I know, mostly from Twitter, but occasionally at church or out biking the streets of Boston.  This is a book about bicycling and as it’s set in Boston, it’s very familiar to me, especially the growing community of bike users that has become more active in the past decade, as well as the more somber remembrances of people who have been killed riding their bikes in recent years.  Everett writes about the spirituality of bicycling, beginning with her own conversion to commuting by bike.  Her ministry to the city grows as she travels the streets of the most vulnerable communities, seeing them up close without the windshield view.  And biking also gives an understanding of vulnerability to the rider as bicyclists are generally maligned community, their bodies always at risk, and any protections gained despite fighting tooth and nail are generally still insufficient.  It’s a beautiful book that touches on many things, cities and bikes, faith and justice.  I highly recommend it.

Recommended books:

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist by Pete Jordan, and Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes
Rating: *****

Book Review: Boston’s South End by Russ Lopez


AuthorRuss Lopez
TitleBoston’s South End, The Clash of Ideas in a Historic Neighborhood
Publication Info: Boston, MA : Shawmut Peninsula Press, [2015]
Summary/Review:

I read this book while researching for a walking tour of the SoWa District.  While only a portion of the book was relevant to my research, I found the entire book an engaging and comprehensive history of the Boston neighborhood.  It’s particularly revealing if you know today’s South End – a prosperous, upscale urban area – and compare it to the near past when it was a home to working class people of color and considered for complete demolition under urban renewal.  Lopez is good at telling a bottom-up story using quotes and stories to tell the life of ordinary South Enders.

Rating: ****

Boston By Foot Tour – South of Washington (SoWa) – Aug. 27 at 2 pm


Do you know anything about the SoWa district in Boston’s South End?  I didn’t, so I participated in researching and writing a new Tour of the Month for Boston By Foot and will be one of the guides as the tour goes out this Sunday, August 27 at 2 pm from the Broadway MBTA station on the Red Line.

While South of Washington moniker goes back to the late 1990s, the area has a rich history of transportation, industry, immigrant and working class residences, urban renewal, and its latest reincarnation as an arts district.  Come join me on Sunday to learn more about this fascinating Boston enclave.

Tickets are $15/person and can be purchased online or in person before the tour begins on Sunday.

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 21st


Time to turn on, tune in, and ‘cast out!

Fresh Air How Black Leaders Unwittingly Contributed To The Era Of Mass Incarceration

James Forman Jr. discusses his new book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime And Punishment In Black America”.

Best of the LeftStopping and building at the same time (Progressive Movement)

Different approaches to resisting the Trump administration and rebuilding the Democratic Party as a progressive force for good.

Verity! –  There’s Nothing “Only” About Being a Doctor

Verity is a podcast in which six smart women discuss Doctor Who and the only Doctor Who podcast I listen to so I have to share it this week in which the first woman Doctor is announced.

Finally, for Boston voters, check out WBUR Radio Boston’s mayor forums with Tito Jackson and Marty Walsh.

Photopost: Charles River City Splash


Yesterday I participated in the Charles River Conservancy’s annual City Splash event at the Arthur Fiedler Pier just off the Esplanade.  Jumping into Charles River may seem frightening to some, after all this is the river that inspired the song “Dirty Water.”  But this event is partly to show that decades of work and investment into cleaning the river making it one of the cleanest urban rivers in America.  I can’t tell you how exhilarating is is to drop into the river’s cool waters after a long day of work and float while looking up at the Back Bay skyline.  This was my second City Splash, and I hope to do it again, maybe even more than once a year.  The Charles River Conservancy is working to make Charles River swimming a permanent summer feature by building a swim park adjacent to North Point Park.  This wouldn’t be the first time as the North End Beach allowed residents of local tenements a place to bathe over 100 years ago (although there was probably less concern for water quality back then).

Photopost: Castle Island


I’ve lived in Boston for nearly 19 years and yesterday I finally made it to Castle Island in South Boston.  We joined a group of families of my son’s baseball buddies and picked up lunch at the famous Sullivan’s (no known relation).  Along with picnicking in a cool, shady spot, there were games of bocce and pickle, and a stroll along the promenade.  Here are some photographs of the stunning views on a glorious day.  I shan’t wait 19 years to return.

 

Photopost: Up on the Roof


On Independence Day we went to the members’ party on the roof of the Museum of Science parking garage to watch the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. The fireworks were actually a bit obstructed (damn you Royal Sonesta hotel!) but there were beautiful views of the surrounding cityscape as the sun set on the 4th of July.

Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon 2017 #BAT2017


Once again I enjoyed riding the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon with my kids, Kay and Peter. We rode the family-friendly 10 mile route through Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Brookline.  It felt like the hills were steeper this year, but more likely I’m out of practice, and I borrowed a trailer to carry Kay so that was some extra weight.

Riders, volunteers, and sponsors raised $176,253 for all the good things Bikes Not Bombs does in Boston and international programs in  Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.  You can still contribute by sponsoring us!

 

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Previous Bike-A-Thon’s: 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part nine: Matisse, McCloskey, & Botticelli


On my latest visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I visited three special exhibitions of art by three very different artists: Henri Matisse, Robert McCloskey, and Sandro Botticelli.

The Matisse exhibit paired many objects from his studio featured in his art with the art that captured the moods, shapes, and colors of those objects.  The McCloskey exhibit is small but features delightful studies and sketched of illustrations for books such as Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, and Burt Dow: Deep Water Man. The Botticelli exhibit brings together many works of art rarely seen outside of Europe while in charming parochial way also celebrating “Boston Botticelli” by bringing in works from the MFA, Gardner Museum, and Harvard Art Museums.  The exhibit also includes works by Filippo Lippi (Botticelli’s teacher) and Filippino Lippi (Filippo’s son and Botticelli’s student).

Here are some of my favorite works.

Previous visits:

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: W is for Water #atozchallenge


I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge through all of April 2017. Every day (except Sundays), I will be posting a new, original photograph (or photographs) related to the letter of the alphabet.

“W” is for “Water.”

 

The Charles River has appeared in several of my A to Z photographs, so today it plays center stage.