Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them #TopTenTuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is“Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them.”

 

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh – taught me to be spiritual in the moment, event when washing the dishes, by imagining your washing Buddha or the baby Jesus

My Life With the Saints by James Martin – inspired me to spend a year posting about my own favorite saints

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift – walked along the Hudson to find the lighthouse in person and read the book aloud to my son and various children who gathered around

Sleep Thieves by Stanley Coren – made me realize the pernicious evil of Daylight Saving Time

Asphalt Nation by Jane Holtz Kay – made me an activist against prioritizing automobile use and car culture

Book Lust by Nancy Pearl – this book reccomends books to read and read a lot of the books reccomended

Celebrating Marriage Preparing the Wedding Liturgy by P. Covino – at our wedding, my soon-to-be wife and I greeted guests at the door to the church based on a historic tradition mentioned in this book

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp – I learned how to soothe a baby through swaddling and bouncing.  I got pretty good.  Then the babies grew up.

Amusing the Million by John F. Kasson – made me want to travel in time to visit Coney Island at its historic peak and fueled an obsession with Brooklyn I had for several years in the early 1990s. Although I’ve never lived in Brooklyn, I’m the ultimate hipster, because I wanted to move to Brooklyn before it was cool.

Snowshoeing Through Sewers by Michael Aaron Rockland – one of the urban explorations in this book is walking the full-length of Broadway on Manhattan from Marble Hill to Bowling Green.  I followed in Rockland’s footsteps.  A few years later I created my own long urban walk on Washington Street in Boston.

 

 

 

 

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Favorite Songs of 2016 … so far


Wednesdays are now my music blogging day.  While I’ve enjoyed writing my Music Discoveries series, I’ve found it hard to find the time to give a fair listen to all of a bands album in just one week.  So, starting in July, I’m going to post music discoveries on the first and third Wednesdays (and on the fifth Wednesday if there are that many Wednesdays in a month).  On the second Wednesday, I’m going to extend my music criticism writing to reviewing a recently released album, called simply enough Album of the Month, similar to Song of the Week.  The fourth Wednesday will be a music wildcard, probably a list, much like I’m posting today!

And today’s list simply shares some of my favorite songs released so far in 2016.  I usually wait until the end of the year, but it’s been a great six months of music already.

 

“Atomic Number” by case/lang/veirs

“Changes” by Charles Bradley

“Freedom” by Beyoncé

“Hold Up” by Beyoncé

Can’t find anything to embed for these two tracks, but seriously, if you don’t have Lemonade already, get it now!

“The Hood Ain’t the Same” by Draze

“The Ism” by Digitalism

“Kinsumba” by Konono N°1

“Mighty (feat. JFTH)” by Caravan Palace

“Papa Loko (Se Van)” by Ram

youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYAh2CGKepk

“Quiet” by Erik Blood

“Sangria” by Céu

youtube=http://youtu.be/lccHvxSun3w

“Transe Animal” by Prana Vibes

“Wave of History” by Downtown Boys

“The Werewolf” by Paul Simon

What are your favorite songs of the year so far?

Webcomics


If you’re my age or older, you’ll remember the anticipation of getting the Sunday newspaper, fighting with your sibling for first dibs, and the joy of laying out the full-color comics section (a.k.a – the Funny Pages) and reading your favorite comics.  I feel that I grew up in the last golden age of newspaper comics with The Far Side, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbes all making  their debuts in the 1980s.  Older comics like Peanuts, For Better or Worse, and Doonesbury were also still fun to read.

Newspapers have gone into a steady decline and newspaper comics have gone down with them.  Of course, there are still newspaper comics and I read the Comics Curmudgeon daily to see them lovingly lampooned by Josh Fruhlinger.  I think even today newspaper comics could be brilliant but publishers these days have focused on keeping the limited space for comics occupied by legacy comics of deceased cartoonists that have long past their freshness date. Large format comics with artistry and provocative topics might even draw some readers back to newspaper, but we won’t ever know in this extremely risk averse climate.

And so today I turn to the internet for my comic joy.  A number of comic artists have been brilliantly innovative in the web format and I’ve listed below the comics I read regularly.  They can also get to be very specific to certain topics, as you’ll note I have multiple comics about biking and libraries.  My list is arranged in reverse alphabetical order.

Yehuda Moon and Kickstand Cyclery – Set in a fictional Cleveland-area bike shop, this comic focus on the joys and challenges of the American bicyclist

Wondermark – This comic repurposes 19th-century illustrations to create quirky commentaries on popular culture and bad puns. I’ve been accused of writing for Watermark, so close is creator David Malki’s sense of humor to my own.

XKCD – The stick figure comic features clever jokes about science, math and computing as well as some creative large format works that use web technologies to their full advantage. The strip can be arcane so it’s handy to check out Explain XKCD when you just don’t get it.

Unshelved – Set in a public library, this comic has jokes that library and information professionals appreciate, but it’s broad enough to be appreciated by a general audience.

Shelf Check – Another library comic, which may be a bit more inside jokey, but also addresses issues of representation and equality in libraries.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – Another comic that usually has some science or philosophy underlying the joke although it has no set theme and focuses on lots of different issues.

Medium Large – A joke-a-day comic with a few recurring characters that focuses on pop culture arcana. Creator Francesco Marciuliano also writes for the newspaper comic Sally Forth (and mocks in Medium Large).

Lunarbaboon – The comic depicts a fathers view on parenting and children. Another comic that seems to have been drawn from the thoughts within my mind.

Leftycartoons – Infrequently published satirical comics about politics from a left-wing perspective.

Jen Sorensen – Another editorial comic with a slightly less left-wing perspective than Leftycartoons.

Hark! A Vagrant – Oddball humor inspired by historical events and literature. I previously wrote a review of a volume collecting these comics.

Dustinland – An autobiographical weekly comic that’s basically whatever is on the mind of artist Dustin Glick each week. When I first started reading this years ago, it was about dating, dead-end jobs, and social lives of young adults. These days it alternates between comics about raising a young child and political commentary.

Dinosaur Comics – This is the opposite of artistically adventurous as every single comic is the same six panels repeated, but with different text every time. And yet it somehow stays fresh seeing a new joke in the same formula over and over.

Derangement and Description – Can’t have library comics without an archives comic too. The jokes here are brilliant but probably aren’t going to be understood outside of the field.

Bikeyface – A Boston bike commuter’s commentary on why she bikes and all the problems of a city hostile to biking.

What webcomics do you read?

 

2015 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

Here is my 20th annual list.

  • 1) January-February – Boston Blizzards – It’s hard to believe that sometime in late January 2015 I was wondering if the kids were going to get any snow days because winter had been so mild.  Then we were hit by blizzard after blizzard accumulating ludicrous amounts of snow on the way to a record 110.6 inches, including 94.4 inches in just 30 days from January 24- February 22, 2015.  It was crazy, it was annoying, but it was also fun, and we all survived with a little gallows humor.

  • 2) February – Snowshoeing – I went snowshoeing for the first (and second) time at the Boston Nature Center and found it a really enjoyable way to enjoy nature in the snow. I’m going to have to get my own snowshoes and plan some longer outings in the future.

 

  • 3) March onwards – Daddy Brew Club – My friend Mike got a homebrew kit and has had me and other beer-loving fathers over on several occasions to brew, bottle, and sample beer.  The social aspect is the key part of the activity although occasionally the beer also tastes good.

  • 4) March 19-21 – MARAC/NEA meeting – The New England Archivists meeting is always fun and this one was extra special as our Mid Atlantic regional colleagues joined us for a joint meeting in snowy Boston.  There was a pub quiz and guided walking tours of Boston led by yours truly in my Boston By Foot hat (followed by beers with my fellow archivists).
  • 5) April-October (but especially the last three months) – The New York Mets pennant-winning season – Since my children were born my time to follow sports evaporated and in recent years as my son has become a baseball fan I spent more time following the Red Sox, but this season I made a concerted effort to return to following the day-in/day-out exploits of my first favorite team, the Mets.  And boy did I chose a good season to do so, as the Mets started off hot with an 11-game win streak, regressed to the mean for a while, and then after gaining new players at the trade deadline and star players returning from injury they caught fire in August and September to win the division.  The exciting season continued in the playoffs against the Dodgers and Cubs, but sadly the good run came to an end against the Royals in the World Series.  But, oh, what a run!

  • 6) April-December – Museum of Fine Arts membership – Got a membership for the first time in years and spent several days visiting and closely studying the art in this terrific museum (1, 2, 3, 4, & 5).
  • 7) April 23-26 – Trip to New York City – Peter, my mother, and I went to New York, visiting the American Museum of Natural History, Coney Island, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Bronx Zoo.
  • 8) April onwards – bicycle speaker – I got a speaker that sits on the handlebars of my bike and thus I can listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks as I commute to work.  Such a small thing makes such a fun improvement to the daily grind.
  • 9) May 17 – Greenway Art & carousel – A gorgeous Sunday afternoon admiring “As If It Were Already Here” suspended over the Rose Kennedy Greenway, followed by a few spins on the carousel.
  • 10) May-October – Casey Overpass Demolition – Each day another piece of the elevated highway in Forest Hills was removed opening up new spaces and vistas.  A fascinating process.
  • 11) June 6-July 5 – Women’s World Cup – Another exciting tournament with many great games.  Our United States team started off shaky but got better as the tournament went along, with dramatic wins against Germany in the semifinal and Japan in the final.  Whether watching with our friends on Cape Cod or with crowds at Boston City Hall, we believed that we would win!

  • 12) June 7 – Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon – Pedaled this terrific charity ride with both of my children for the first time.
  • 13) June 13 – PawSox Game – The whole family took in this game with our church group meaning that there were lots of friends in the stands.  As an added bonus, it was Star Wars night *AND* fireworks night.

  • 14) June 28-July 1 – Cape Cod – With our friends the Rosenblatt Rossos we stayed at a rental house in Eastham, swimming in the Bay and the Ocean, roasting marshmallows and creating arts & crafts, and watching the Womens World Cup.
  • 15) July 11 – Green River Festival – A fun festival with music and balloons, but even better, a time to play with extended family.
  • 16) July 31-August 2 – Camping in Maine – Took that kids for their first camping trip at Recompence Shore at Wolfe’s Neck Farm.  Hiking, biking, a farm visit, fresh veggies, and Portland Sea Dogs baseball were all involved.
  • 17) August 31-September 4 – Daddy Day Camp – A week with no school and no camp, so I took the kids on a whale watch, on a Duck Tour and Skywalk, on the Freedom Trail, and to the Barnyard at Retreat Farm.
  • 18) October 10 – Connors Farm – pumpkin picking, a corn maze, and all manner of autumnal pleasantries.
  • 19) October 18 – Boston By Foot Dark Side tour – I lead a special tour for a church group and invited along some dear friends not in the church and had my son take a tour with me for the first time.  A special afternoon of for this tour guide.

  • 20) December 27-30 – Myrtle Beach – a holiday visit with grandparents, uncle, aunt, and cousin at a South Carolina resort town. We saw a pirate show and lots of gators, played minigolf and much, much more.

Previously:

2014 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.  I usually try to post this list close to December 31st, but late is better than never.

My 2014 list is a typical hodge-podge of activity.  Some of the events have links to when I wrote about them at the time.  Others I wrote a little bit more about in this post.

January – Furnace – Our furnace overheated and died during our holiday travels last year, and so we had a cold New Years at home, even with new space heaters bought for the occasion.  We got a new furnace installed, and it cost lots and lots and lots of money, but it works very well.  Definitely not a good thing, but certainly memorable, and it all worked out in the end.

January – Ice Skating – Peter took an ice skating class and I went ice skating for the first time in years.  My skates don’t fit anymore – ouch.  But we had fun.  Here’s my first ever animated GIF of Peter skating:

Through the year – Education activism – This year I learned a lot about the crises affecting public education, and joined other parents, students, and teachers to advocate for positive change.  There’s a lot more I could do and should do, but I educated myself on the issues, wrote some blog posts, attended a school committee meeting, and a rally on the steps of the State House.  And there were some positive results, including the defeat of a charter school expansion bill in the Massachusetts’ Senate.

February 1st – Wayne Potash concert – As aging folkies, it was a pleasure to take the kids to our old haunt of Club Passim for this special concert.

March 22nd-24th – New England Archivists Spring Meeting – My only business trip of the year took me to the lovely town of Portsmouth, NH.  Highlights of the conference include a keynote speech by punk rocker Ian MacKaye about his Fugazi Live Series archives and participating in a NEA Jeopardy! tournament (my team won!).

Pondering a Jeopardy! answer.

April 21st – Patriots Day – We took back the finish line on a beautiful spring day, with my whole family cheering on the runners in the Boston Marathon.

April to September – Red Sox season – The 2014 season was not as good as the 2013 season for the Red Sox, but we had fun attending several games, including a few with tickets given by friends who have much better seats than we usually get.  Since Peter is a member of Kid Nation, we can enter the ballpark early to watch batting practice from the Green Monster, and at one game Yankees pitcher Shane Green threw a ball to Peter. We saw rookies Alex Hassan and Garin Cecchini get their first major league hits.  And we sat behind home plate at McCoy Stadium and watching future Red Sox clobber their opponents.  We rode our bikes to Fenway and used the new bike parking.  But probably the coolest thing is when Susan and Peter got to help with the banner for the 2004 World Series Champions reunion in May.  You can see them below the 4 in the photo below.


April 22nd-25th – Spring Break in Virginia – Peter & I visited my mother in Virginia and spent time exploring Colonial Williamsburg and playing at Go Karts Plus.

June 15 – Father’s Day – Tradition dictates that Father’s Day is celebrated with brunch and a nature walk.  This year we dined at Nancy’s Airfield Cafe in Stow and then explored the swamps and caves at Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.

June 12th – July 13 – World Cup – I loved getting sucked into the quadrennial event, and following the ups and downs of the US Men’s National Team.  Particularly fun was attending public viewing parties in Watertown (see the celebration of Clint Dempsey’s goal against Portugal below) and at Boston City Hall.  Then I spent the entire final making bad puns on Facebook.

June 21st – BTU School Summer Blastoff – Ostensibly a fundraiser for our son’s school, but moreso this was an opportunity to get out of the house and dance the night away with Susan.

July 20th & 27th – Cambridge Common walking tour – For the third time, I had the privilege of researching, writing, and leading a walking tour for Boston By Foot.  This time we explored the endlessly fascinating history of Cambridge Common and it’s environs.  The official tour had a good turnout despite a downpour.  If you missed it, we’ll be running it again on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 2 pm.


August 17 – Crane Beach – All summer long my daughter Kay asked to go to the beach.  Finally, as summer was drawing to a close we made a day-long outing to Crane Beach in Ipswich.  It may have been the best day in Kay’s young life.  We’ll have to return to her happy place more often next summer.


August 30 – September 2 – Great Wolf Lodge – We met up with Susan’s parents at Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania for four days of swimming, sliding, playing, and eating.  It was cheezy fun.


September 20th – Baseball Clinic – My son loves baseball and so there was no doubt that he would enjoy a free baseball clinic for children  hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Jim Rice Field in Roxbury.  Former major league ballplayers instructed the children. They practiced throwing with Rich Rodriguez and Joe Johnson, outfield drills with Billy Sample, baserunning with Al Severinsen, and infield drills with John Tudor (seen handing a ball to my son below).


September 27th – Rockin’ With Raptors – The annual festival at the Boston Nature Center, the Mass Audubon nature center closest to our house, was a blast. There was barbecue and cake, birdhouse building, face painting, music, live animal demonstrations and many other activities.  And of course, the stars of the show were the birds of prey.  Peter was particularly devoted to asking the volunteer lots of questions about the raptors.


October 11th to 13th – Cooperstown – We went away for Columbus Day Weekend to Cooperstown, NY, staying at the lovely Lake House Hotel and visiting the Farmers Museum during the annual Tractor Fest, the Cullen Pumpkin Farm, and National Baseball Hall of Fame.


October 20th to 27th – Jury duty – I served on a challenging criminal trial with contentious deliberations.  And I was appointed foreperson.  It was a stressful week, but hopefully we made the right decision.
November 23rd – Kay leads church in dancing – One day at the beginning of church service at Hope Central in JP, my daughter went up in front and started dancing in circles.  Then the pastor joined in.  Then several people throughout the congregation started dancing in circles as well.  It was a special moment.

November and December – Nana’s visits – My mother came to visit twice late in the year spending lots of quality time with the grandchildren.  Nana and Peter played chess, we visited the zoo, we saw “Peter & the Wolf” at Symphony Hall in November, and celebrated Christmas together in December.


November 29th – New England Revolution Eastern Conference Championship – Peter and I jumped on the bandwagon as the New England Revolution made their way through the MLS postseason.  We joined 10s of thousands of fans in Foxboro as the team won the Eastern Conference against the New York Red Bulls.  The next week we saw the sad MLS Cup Final loss against the LA Galaxy on tv.

 

Previously:

2014 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2013.  For previous years see 2013201220112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In no particular order:

And the complete list of books read in 2014 (books published in 2014 are in bold).

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

2013 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

My 2013 list is a typical hodge-podge of activity.  Some of the events have links to when I wrote about them at the time.  Others I wrote a little bit more about in this post.

20 January – A Winter Day Out in Providence  – My wife left for a business trip, and I took the kids out for a successful outing to Rhode Island which included playing at the Providence Children’s Museum, a Providence Bruins‘ game (complete with thunderstix), & Harry’s Bar & Burger for dinner and ice cream sandwiches.

8-11 February – Blizzard of ’13 – also known as Winter Storm Nemo, dumped 25 inches of snow on our hometown making much delight for the children and cooperative snow removal ventures with the neighbors.  The photo below is from our outing to Centre Street in Jamaica Plain to pick up beer & cheese.

28 February – Beck Song Reader Concert – I was part of a 50-voice choir bringing Beck’s songs of sheet music to life.  You can see me singing out from the back row in the photo below. 

Spring & Summer – Peter learns to bike – My son learned to ride a pedal bike.  Now we need to work on braking.

15 April – Boston Marathon bombing – My kids and I were at a playground far from the Marathon route when it happened, and even if we’d gone to watch we’d have been far from the finish line, but it was still shocking to hear of the deaths and injuries.  Especially considering that Patriots Day is a civic holiday that is perhaps the day on the calendar when Boston is at its most joyous, communal, and supportive.  That spirit shined through with the many people – professionals and amateurs – who rushed in to help the wounded.  I was touched by the outpouring of support for Boston, and if anything good has come out of this it is that they typically self-deprecating Bostonians are far more positive and  confident these days.  A few days later, we had the weird shelter-in-place alert, but still spirits were kept up as we shared news and jokes through social media.  Not something I’d want to live through again, but I’m grateful for all the people who chose to help and that the casualties were not as bad as they could’ve been.

language matters


27 April – Regan Youth League Baseball Parade and Teeball – My baseball-obsessed son started playing teeball and we marched through the streets of Jamaica Plain, even stopping to sing.

May & October – Kindergarten Arboretum Field Trips – I stepped into a new role in fatherhood as I served as a chaperon on two school outings to Arnold Arboretum.  I particularly like the spring trip when the kids got to see a snapping turtle up close and personal. 

May to Present – Hope Central Church – We were in search of a new church closer to home and found a new spiritual home at Hope Central.

2 June – Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon – This time my daughter was my co-pilot on this great fundraising ride through the city.

12 June –  US Open Cup game – Professional men’s soccer comes to Boston for one night only and it was great.

16 June – Father’s Day Outing to Wachusett Meadow – Two years in a row makes it a tradition, no?

28-30 June – Family Gathering in New Jersey – Susan’s family gathered in New Jersey to celebrate her Aunt Thelma and cousin Glen.  Peter enjoyed playing sports and video games with his many boy cousins.

14 July – Circle the City on the Avenue of the Arts – Huntington Avenue became a pedestrian haven for just one day.  I lead a walking tour.   Peter played lots of soccer.

12 August – Georges Island – Vintage Baseball – On a beautiful summer day, we sailed to the Harbor Islands and traveled back in time to the dead ball era.

20-25 August – Family Camp at Purity Springs – We spent a week at the Purity Springs Family Camp in New Hampshire with some of the friendliest people ever, our days packed with activities like lake swimming (and jumping), archery, paddle boarding, pooh sticks, canoeing, knee boarding, s’mores making, cookouts, and hiking.

2-8 September – New York City trip – Another great trip to the City with Peter and his Nana.

14 October – Tufts Health Plan 10K – Our friend Sharon coaxed Susan into participating in this run.  I enjoyed watching with the other spouses and children.  And Susan did great finishing all 10 of the Ks.  We are all so proud of her.

30 October – Red Sox Win the World Series – A great season, especially when viewed through the eyes of a five-year-old.

10 November – Claire & John’s wedding – Our dear friend Claire, godmother to our children, married a charming gent and we had a blast.  The kids played their part in the wedding ceremony and then at the reception we played, and hugged, and danced, and toasted the newlyweds.

“Cheers!”

25-31 December – Christmas Travel – We’ve just returned from our annual holiday swing through North Carolina and Virginia.  This year was extra special as the kids got to see all of their grandparents, all of their aunts and uncles, and most importantly, play with all of their cousins.

Goodbye 2013, you will be missed.  Hello 2014, can’t wait to see what you have to offer.

Previously:

2013 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2013.  For previous years see 201220112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In no particular order:

And the complete list of books read in 2013 (books published in 2013 are in bold). And yes, I do intend to catch up on my book reviews as soon as I can:

January

  • Band of Demonby Rob Blackwell – ***1/2
  • The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (A) – *1/2
  • Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku (A) – **

February

  • Walkable City by Jeff Speck – ****
  • A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage (A) – ***
  • Take Five: Poems in 5/4 Time by Tad Richards – ***
  • The Price of Inequality by Joseph E. Stiglitz (A) – ***

March

April

  • Doctor Who: The Forgotten by Tony Lee – **
  • We3 by Grant Morrison – *
  • Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy (A) – ***
  • Transatlantic by Colum McCann – ****
  • Laika by Nick Abadzis – ****
  • Back to Our Future by David Sirotta – ***1.2
  • Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield (A) – ****

May

  • A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (A) – **
  • Through Time by Andrew Cartmel – ***
  • The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping – **1/2

June

  • Cape Cod by Henry David Thoureau – ***1/2
  • Star Trek the next generation / Doctor Who. Assimilation² written by Scott & David Tipton with Tony Lee ; art by J.K. Woodward v1 – ***
  • Atlantic by Simon Winchester (A) – **
  • Who Could That Be At This Hour? by Lemony Snicket – ***
  • Doctor Who : the writer’s tale by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook – **
July
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – ****1/2
  • My Song by Harry Belafonte (A) – ***1/2
  • Because I Said So by Ken Jennings – **1/2

August

September

October

November

December

What did you read in 2013, and what did you love?  Let me know in the comments.

2012 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

  • Sing Positive, JP – a year long highlight as my son Peter & I sang and formed community with other JP residents of all ages.  We performed concerts in May (part 1, 2, & 3) and December with special appearances at Wake Up the Earth and the Lantern Parade.
  • Discovery Museums – my mother visited in February and we took Peter to the Discovery Museums in Acton where Peter explored the small but creatively-designed rooms of the childrens museum and woodworking in the workshop at the science museum.  We returned to this new favorite place several more times over the course of the year.
  • Breaking the ice on Jamaica Pond –  After brunch at The Haven, Peter and friend Jordan strolled around the pond on a chilly day and cracked ice and chucked rocks.
  • Wilson Mountain hike – We got an explored nature with a spring hike to the top of Dedham’s Wilson Mountain which included “rocky fun time” clambering up the boulders along the trail.
  • Red Sox games – This wasn’t a great season for the Old Town Team, but Peter & I enjoyed a four-game Sox Pax where we sat in the bleachers for a (a very hot) Patriots Day, Memorial Day, a Wednesday in June, and a Monday in August.  The Sox won three of the games and Peter got to run the bases with the other kids at the final game.
  • Mets game –  My other favorite team also played poorly this season but I did make it to join friends for the Banner Day game,  one of the 20 wins for Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, and wept after Johan Santana threw the Mets’ first no-hitter on June 1st.
  • Kay’s Baptism – Family descended on Boston in late April for our baby girl’s baptism including all the grandparents and her namesake Aunt Kay.
  • Fathers Day at Wachusset Meadows – I was a very lucky Dad who got to snuggle with his kids, have a delicious lunch, walk through the beautiful Wachusset Meadows, and then stop at a roadside ice cream parlor.
  • Tall ships in Boston – Another exciting outing with the kids, visiting tall ships at the Charlestown Navy Yard.
  • Day Trip to Lowell – We made a mid-July outing to historic Lowell taking a journey by boat along the canals and river and then catching a Lowell Spinners baseball game.
  • Summer Olympics in London – I was really inspired by the crazy but beautiful opening ceremonies and enjoyed watching various events with Peter on my computer who then went on to reenact the games with his preschool classmates.
  • Summer Arts Weekend and Esplanade Playspace – Peter, Kay & I enjoyed a performance by Dan Zanes & Friends, watched some Irish step dancers, and then played on the new playground along the Charles River.
  • Circle the City – The Greenway and several streets in Downtown Boston were closed to auto traffic so we enjoyed strolling, biking, playing and dancing in the street.  They should really do this every Sunday.
  • Farewell to Child Care – Peter said goodbye to his friends and teachers at Soldiers Field Park Child Care at a bittersweet goodbye circle.  It was time for him to move on, but sad for all of us to leave many good people behind.
  • South End Tour of the Month – I served as one of the guides for another magnificent Boston By Foot neighborhood tour that attracted 125 people on a Sunday in late August.
  • Canobie Lake and White Mountains – We enjoyed a great family vacation to New Hampshire featuring a visit to a charming amusement park, climbing up the Flume Gorge, visiting the longest candy counter in Littleton, and soaring up Cannon Mountain on the aerial tram.
  • Kindergarten – Peter started attending K1 at our local Boston Public elementary school and instantly having a great time making friends and learning new things.  As a family we’ve enjoyed playdates and picnics and making the school part of our everyday life.
  • Weekend in Washington – Peter & I flew to our nation’s capital for the Columbus Day weekend staying with our friends the Rossos and visiting museums and the National Zoo.
  • Hurricane Sandy – We were fortunate that in Boston, the hurricane just meant staying cooped inside for a day with only downed sticks and leaves (and a billboard near Forest Hills station) knocked over, but this storm hit close to home with the extensive damage to New York City (where my family is from and many friends and family still live) as well as New Jersey and Connecticut (two states where I used to live).
  • Peter’s Birthday Party – Peter turned 5 with a cast of thousands joining him at the YMCA for games, a moonbounce, and baseball-shaped cupcakes.

Previously:

2012 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2012 (books published this year are bolded in the complete list below).  For previous years see 20112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In no particular order:

And now the complete list.  Not a great year for reading as I didn’t maintain much focus on reading and less so on reviewing books.

Books Read in 2012

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

  • The Sandman. [Volume 3], Dream Country by Nei Gaiman
  • The Sandman. [Volume 4], Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman
  • The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde
  • Spook  by Mary Roach (A)
  • The Walking Dead 3 by Robert Kirkman
  • The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
  • Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog (A)
  • The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde
  • The Walking Dead 4 by Robert Kirkman
  • The Sandman. [Volume 5], A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

November

  • The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon
  • Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel
  • The Walking Dead 5 by Robert Kirkman
  • The Walking Dead 6 by Robert Kirkman
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders by Larry Millet

December

  • Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (A)
  • The Walking Dead. Volume 15, We find ourselves by Robert Kirkman
  • The Walking Dead. Volume 16, A Larger World by Robert Kirkman
  • The Magic Maker by Susan Cooper (A)
  • The Walking Dead. Volume 17: Something to Fear by Robert Kirkman
  • The Thoreau You Don’t Know by Robert Sullivan
  • The Submission by Amy Waldman

Pitchfork People’s List


Pitchfork is running a poll called the People’s List where anyone can login and vote for at least 20 and as many as 100 of their favorite albums from 1996-2011.  I made my list mostly based upon albums from my own 2009 ranking of my 100 favorite albums of all time.  Numbers 1-52 retain the ranking from the earlier list while the additional albums are inserted more haphazardly.

I’m actually surprised at how many albums I had to fill in manually.  It makes me feel like a hipster to have musical tastes that are too obscure for Pitchfork.  Or maybe I’m too bland.   To be honest I’m no longer all to content with my ranking from three years ago.  I also feel like there are a lot of good albums out there that I haven’t listened to yet.

So take a moment to go Pitchfork Media and make your own People’s List.  Then come back here and post your list in the comments and let me know a few albums I really need to hear.

2011 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

The most memorable event this year by far is the birth of my baby girl and second child Kay on November 19th.  Everything else pales in comparison.  Here’s a photo of Kay with my son Peter.  The rest of the list follows in chronological order.

  • Snow -We had an interesting winter with several heavy snowstorms in a short period of time.  I even got to go up on the roof of our house to shovel some off.  The snow was fun, especially seeing it through the eyes of a three year old, but it got very tiresome when it wouldn’t melt away.
  • Salem – a fun day trip North of Boston by train featuring the Peabody Essex Museum and candy!
  • Boston Breakers Game / Red Sox Game – I took Peter to a Breakers’ soccer game and was surprised that he was actively engaged in the game.  So by his request I took him to Fenway for his first Sox game as well.  Looking forward to more sporting events in 2012.
  • JP Children’s Soccer – Peter started playing children’s soccer in the Spring.  It looked like so much fun that I pushed my personal comfort boundaries and signed up to coach in the Fall.   I was surprisingly successful coaching 3-4 year olds to at the very least get some experience with the ball at their feet.  Of course, the players’ favorite game was Chase the Coach.
  • Drawing Class – I took a drawing class at the Eliot School in JP, hoping to learn perspective and found I could draw a pretty good tea pot.
  • Wake Up the Earth – One of JP’s great annual events.  Peter & I dropped by to watch the parade after soccer practice and ended up participating in the procession by bike.
  • Bike Rides – Peter & I participated in three organized biking events: JP Spring Roll, Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon, & Hub On Wheels. All were fun, but the BNB event was the most memorable for taking us through parts of Boston I’d never seen and for the vibrant post-ride festival.
  • New York in June – Peter & I spent 72 hours together in the city that never sleeps visiting the Central Park Zoo, the Staten Island Ferry, Citi Field for a Mets game, the Intrepid Museum, the High Line, and lots of playgrounds.
  • Visit to Harvard Depository – kind of geeky, but I enjoyed a special tour of Harvard Library’s offsite book and records storage warehouse and wanted to take home a Raymond order picker of my very own.
  • Wicwas Lake Lodge – Our magnanimous friend Craig invited us to spend a long weekend at a lake house in New Hampshire with another family.  There was much running and giggling and splashing in the lake.  The kids had fun too.
  • Visit from a friend – Our friend Sara and her family passed throw town and spent the night on a sultry evening.  Peter and her daughter broke the ice with stomp rockets and then jumped on the bed together.  It was a good sign that Peter was ready for a sibling.
  • Two Parties in One Day – In the morning we went to a third birthday party featuring a performance by Wayne Potash.  In the afternoon, our downstairs neighbors hosted a bbq in our backyard.  Nice to have a party so close and not have to set up.
  • Davis Square Tours – This walking tour had to contend first with Hurricane Irene and then with the street bands of HONK! Fest, but it turned to be one of the best tours I’ve ever lead in an exciting neighborhood.  This Boston By Foot will return on July 29, 2012.
  • Trapp Family Lodge – The hills were alive with the sounds of Peter as Susan’s parents treated us to a long weekend at this rustic mountain retreat in Vermont.
  • Old Sturbridge Village – Peter kept asking about life in the “olden days” so I did what any history geek would do: I took him to a living history museum.  And he loved it.
  • Occupy Movement – This is an odd choice as I never spent a night in a camp but was inspired by the people who did and tried to share the best articles, stories, and opinions on my Delicious, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds.  More thoughts on Occupy here
  • High School Reunion – In 1991 I graduated from a small Catholic high school in Connecticut, the last class to graduate before the school closed.  20 years later we got back together with spouses and children for a play date, a dinner, and a tour of the old school (now an elementary school).  It turned out better than I imagined, and I had positive thoughts going in.
  • Promotion to Processing Archivist – In November, I started a new position at my library adding archival processing responsibilities to some of my earlier duties and moving from assistant to professional.  Oddly, this is the type of job I thought I’d like when I started library school, but I took an interesting, circuitous route to get there.
  • Holiday Week – The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is always eventful and we took advantage of visiting the Museum of Science, Boston Common, The Children’s Museum, The New England Aquarium, The Christmas Revels, The Larz Anderson Auto Museum and Park, and Edaville USA.

Previously:

2011 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2011.  For previous years see 2010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In no particular order:

Every Book I Read in 2011

Books published in 2011 in bold. (A) is for audiobook.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October
November

December

2010 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2010.  For previous years see 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

  1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  2. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  3. A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin
  4. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  5. Netherland by Joseph O’Brien
  6. Coop : a year of poultry, pigs, and parenting by Michael Perry
  7. A City So Grand by Steven Puleo
  8. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
  9. Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg (A)
  10. From the Pews in Back: Young Women and Catholicism by Kate Dugan and Jennifer Owens

Every Book I Read in 2010

Books published in 2010 in bold. (A) is for audiobook.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

12 Books in 12 Months Challenge


I discovered a book reading challenge via Gypsy Librarian about reading 12 books from one’s own collection within the next twelve months.  Since I almost always read books from the library and procrastinate reading the books I own (no deadline, I suppose), I figured this would be worth trying.

Here are the rules:

  • Pick 12 titles from your To Read Pile.  These should be titles you currently own in whatever format you prefer.
  • Acquisition of other formats or translations is permitted.  So, if you have a paperback but want to read on your Kindle, you can get a Kindle copy.  If you have a library copy but want to buy your own, that’s kosher.  Heck, if you own a copy and want to check another out from the library, I’m not gonna stop you.
  • Post your list in your public space of choice by September 1, 2010.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your list.
  • Read all 12 titles between now and September 5, 2011.  Might as well tack on an extra long weekend at the end for cramming.
  • When you finish a title on your list, post about it in your public space of choice.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your review.
  • Once a month, I’ll post a round-up of the reviews posted from that month so that we all know what everyone else has read.

I missed the deadline, but I think I can still swing it.

Here is my list:

  • Mapping Boston by Alex Krieger
  • The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
  • Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
  • Freddy the Pilot by Walter R. Brooks
  • Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton
  • The Fifties by David Halberstam
  • Catwatching by Desmond Morris
  • Truman by David McCullough
  • Light in August by William Faulkner
  • It Happened in Boston by Russell H. Greenan
  • The Name Above the Title by Frank Capra
  • Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs by Kathleen M. Brown

2009 Year in Review: Movies


Listed below are all the movies I’ve watched in the past year.  Just like 2007 & 2008, I’ve rated all the movies on a five star scale. Five stars is an all-time classic, three stars is the baseline for an enjoyable film end-to-end, one star is a bad movie with perhaps one good sequence or performance. A film with no stars has no redeeming characteristics at all.

2009 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2009.  For previous years see 2008, 2007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing. I’ve also posted Book Lists ’10 which contains my reading lists for the coming year.

  1. An African in Greenland by Tété -Michel Kpmoassie
  2. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
  3. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  4. Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Stephen Waldman
  5. How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll by Elijah Wald
  6. Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden
  7. Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt
  8. Ulysses by James Joyce
  9. A Voyage Long & Strange by Tony Horwitz
  10. The Day Wall Street Exploded by Beverly  Gage

Below is the list of all the books I’ve read in the past year.  Books actually published in 2009 are in bold.

Books Read in 2009

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time 10-1


Yikes! I’ve reached the top ten.  It should be noted that I actually considered 12 albums as being good enough to be number one, but only one could qualify.  Or you could look at as a 12-way tie.

Previously:

10. Hush by Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin (1992)

A world famous concert cellist and an innovative a capella vocalist  (who has done a lot more than “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”) collaborate on a children’s album and its brilliant.  There are a number of interpretations of classical pieces but my favorites are McFerrin originals such as “Stars,” “Grace,” and “Coyote.”

9. Belafonte at Carnegie Hall by Harry Belafonte (1959)

I was born to late to see Belafonte perform at his prime, but this recording captures his amazing voice and showmanship.  The show has three parts featuring Black American music, the Caribbean,  and folk songs from around the world with such highlights as “Jamaica Farewell,” “Shenandoah,” and “Matilda.”

8. Doolittle by Pixies (1989)

This album has kept me up all night and probably damaged my ear drums as I listened to it repeatedly with my headphones on many occasions over the years. I think it was a hand-me-down from my sister who didn’t like it. Highlights include “Debaser,” “Wave of Mutilation,” “Hey,” and “Gouge Away.”

7. If I Should Fall From the Grace of God by The Pogues (1988)

This was always one of the first albums I’d upgrade to new formats, mainly because I’d worn out tape and CD copies from repeat listenings.  Shane and the gang do their punky Celtic best on songs like “Fairytale of New York,” “Turkish Song of the Damned,” “Thousands Are Sailing,” and “Medley.”

6. Flood by They Might Be Giants (1990)

I think I’ve tried to explain the genius, artistry and symbolism of songs by TMBG to people who think they’re just funny ditties.  See what you think when listening to tracks like “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” “Birdhouse in Your Soul,” “Road Movie To Berlin,” “Particle Man,” and “Your Racist Friend.”

5. Sacrebleu by Dimitri From Paris (1996)

A French house DJ mixes in all sorts of loungey music and soundtracks for a really cool effect.  Try out “Sacre Francais,” “Reveries,” “Une Very Stylish Fille,” and “Un World Mysteriouse” for starters.

4. BullsEye by The Kevin Hanson Trio (2001)

Saw Hanson solo at Club Passim and was impressed by his guitar virtuosity.  Got the album and was impressed by the imaginative lyrics and music of songs like “I Wish,” “Just Because,” and “Circus.”

3. Cry Cry Cry by Cry Cry Cry (1998)

Contemporary folk singer/performers Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, and Lucy Kaplansky collaborate on covers of songs by other contemporary artists such as”By Way of Sorrow,” “Cold Missouri Waters,” and “Shades of Gray.” Funny that none of their solo work made my list, but together they’re three times as good.

2. Rum, Sodomy and The Lash by  The Pogues (1985)

Pogues’ fans argue about which album is there best and I believe its this very raw, very powerful, and very good collection. It feature Cait O’Riordan’s only lead vocal performance on (ironically) “I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday,” a beautifully haunting song. “Sally MacLennane,” and “A Pair of Brown Eyes” are a couple of other Pogues standards on this all around excellent album.

1.  Tanglewood Tree by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer

The folk duo’s masterpiece includes  the brilliant lyrics and music of Dave Carter with Grammer on vocals and fiddle on songs such as “Tanglewood Tree,” “The Mountain,” and “Cowboy Singer.”  Ten years have gone by and I’m still wowed by this album.

Next week:  Some honorable mentions that did not crack the Top 100 although many were deserving.

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time 20-11


Previously:

20. Graceland by Paul Simon (1986)

Simon’s solo masterpiece is great for integrating “world music” and some of the most well-thought-out lyrics ever written.  Highlights include “Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes,” “Homeless,” “I Know What I Know,” and the title track.

19. Singalong by Pete Seeger (1980)

Pete Seeger and thousands of voices in Cambridge’s Sanders Theater sing the great folk songs of a generation.  Seeger is not really about recordings, but I find this recorded Pete at his best virtually bringing you the concert experience.  Favorites include “If I Had A Hammer,” “The Water is Wide,”  “Old Devil Time,” and many more.

18. London Calling by The Clash (1979)

This may be the first time that Pete Seeger and The Clash appear in a list next to one another, but they share a certain passion and do-it-yourself ethic, so why not.  I’m not the first one to extol the greatness of London Calling so I’ll just tell you my favorite songs are “Lost in the Supermarket,” “Rudie Can’t Fail,” “Guns of Brixton,” “The Right Profile,” the title song and the rest of the whole album.

17. I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One by Yo La Tengo (1997)

I resisted putting every single album by Yo La Tengo in this list, but if you don’t have any albums by this band please get this one.  You may also enjoy “Moby Octopad” (and its Mets’ references), “Sugarcube,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Shadows,” “Autumn Sweater,” and the rest.

16. So by Peter Gabriel (1986)

There are probably diehard Gabriel fans who roll their eyes at this pick but I say that any album with experimental sounds and clever lyrics that can still be a huge hit is worth remembering.  I like all the songs that got played all the time on the radio, and the one from that movie, and then there’s “This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds).”

15. Revolver by The Beatles (1966)

This is my favorite Beatles album and I’m never sure why.  Lots of studio experimentation pays off (not to mention drug experimentation), I guess.  Favorite songs include “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

14. Intersections by DJ Maus (2000)

DJ Maus is a drum & bass DJ we once danced to long ago in Montreal and this is one of her albums I picked up and have been entranced by ever since. Favorite tracks: “Plug,” “Phoneheads,” and “Amon Tobin.”

13. Ten Thousand Mornings by Peter Mulvey (2002)

This is the first and only album on this list that I was present for its recording, albeit briefly and accidentally.  Many musicians in Boston hone their skills by playing in the subways and Mulvey paid tribute to this by recording the entire album in Davis Sq station in Somerville.  It’s a great mix of cover songs, collaborations with other folkies, and roaring trains in the background.  Highlights include “Oliver’s Army,” “Comes Love” (with Erin McKeown), “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” (w/ Sean Staples), “The Ocean,” and “Two Janes.”

12. Lincoln by They Might Be Giants (1988)

The Brooklyn-based band pays tribute to their Massachusetts’ home town in the title.  More importantly upon hearing “Ana Ng” I was inspired to actually turn the radio dial and check out that modern rock station.  Other favorites from this album include “Kiss Me, Son of God,” “Cowtown,” and “Purple Toupee.”

11. Citizens Band by The Operators (2002)

Here’s yet another band of people I sort-of-know that broke up…wait a minute, they’ve reunited!  Anyhow, some great punk rock from Somerville.  Great tracks include “The Old Man Doesn’t Like It,” “Parasite Rex,” “Bottle,” and “Rock City.”

The top ten is next week.  I think my writing is getting crappier as the albums get better.