Archive for May, 2011

Let’s Play Bigot-or-Jerk

May 31st, 2011

White folk don’t necessarily get a lot of it, but snotty attitude sucks. Sometimes it’s hard to impossible to know if it some racism, sexism, or no -ism at all, just bad upbringing.

treedigSeveral black and Latino friends, coworkers and relatives have told me that they save scolding and offense for the obvious cases.

I got two tastes on Townsend in Dot Monday. One was clear, insensate racism (yet without seeming malice) and the second ambiguous. Such examples are rarely amusing. Those that have been funny are like many years ago when I ran the black weekly newspaper in the capital of South Carolina, Columbia. At press conferences, interviews or a media lunch at the governor’s mansion, I took puerile pleasures as the otherwise white media and pols were introduced to me as editor-in-chief of the Palmetto Post. They were open mouthed and a few told me later they had expected an elderly black man instead of a young white guy with long blond hair. That racism was a decided advantage, which I used to get interviews and steer topics to those relevant to my readers.

Back to Boston Latin Academy, I took my youngest son and his girlfriend, both students at BLA, along with the college-attending sister of the girlfriend to plant an orchard of fruit trees, joining another dozen students. The apple, peach and pear trees (and one English walnut) will be a lab or grafting and other botanical study. They’re now on the whole Townsend and Warren corner, dramatically beautifying the entire inverted L of grass and weed.


I had drunk many mugs of coffee early that morning and was glad (relieved?) to see two Port-o-lets on the school’s adjacent park. I figured I’d need those as the hours advanced.

To the obvious though…there was a photographer, a middle-aged woman, shooting the youth at work. She dutifully took down names and phone numbers and snapped away. My son’s girlfriend and her sister are African American and he is white. While he says he and his get occasional mild grief for being a mixed-race couple, that has never been a serious problem.

I had to admire his girlfriend’s grace at the photographer’s unnecessarily verbal clumsiness though. She smiled and said nothing as the camerawoman circled around and around iterating the same lame point. With Monica and her sister, she said repeatedly how wonderful it was that black people looked so young. She had a friend (how nice it must be to have friendship with someone of a different race!) who was the same age but looked 10 years younger. She went on and on, oblivious to the stupidity of it all and likely thinking she was being nice and complimentary.

At dinner that evening, we all had our chuckles over the stereotyping coarseness. Monica was still cool about it, but remained in disbelief at the 1950s talk.

To the morning’s labors, after 90 minutes or so of digging, planting and such, I was ready for a toilet visit. I trotted the long block and put my hand on one of the doors. A hostile came from a 20-something woman nearby, commanding me to stop. She was black and it was hard to tell from what she said how much was bad anti-golden-rule manners and whether racism was a factor.

She very nastily yelled that this would be a private function and I had no business using the Port-o-let, which was not “for people off the street.” I allowed as how adding a cup of liquid was not consequential and mentioned that I was doing my civic good deed with the tree planting. She yelled at me again.

Then a man, also black, maybe mid-40s, strode over. He said loudly, “Mister, it’s $5 to use the toilet.” Immediately he let out a rich laugh and showed a big smile. He said of course I was welcome to use it.

I thanked him and shook his hand. I have no idea if he was related to the hostile woman. Regardless, he was a good, if you pardon, Christian example of civil behavior.

I can’t know whether that young woman hates white people, didn’t like me without knowing me, or was just a mine-is-mine-and-not-yours type.

But About Butts

May 29th, 2011

Catalyzed by comments on another Boston fire caused by thoughtless cigarette-butt disposal, there’s some dudgeon expressed at Universal Hub. As in what’s-wrong-with-the-people, the questions seem disingenuous or not too thoughty themselves.

Having been a smoker for years, albeit decades ago, I suggest it is another case of the preponderance of the small, as the I Ching has it. Like erosion, little forces combine into big effects.

smoldering cigarette ashGranted, I smoked in a time and place when cigarettes were about $2.50 a carton of 200 tubes of nicotine-delivery systems. The consequence of an individual butt seemed even less than here and now, with a single pack of 20 costing upwards of $8. Yet, the individual cigarette, even at 30¢ or 40¢, is just a relatively low-cost piece of waste.

Once you have received your drug and emotional solace, that’s just trash.

As my earlier post notes, I took likely irrational and mildly delusional pride in smoking non-filter Camels. I stripped them so that I did not leave rubble that someone eventually had to pick up. I also was never a clod who tossed pack wrapping to the street, new or completed.

Yet, driving my convertible Fiat Spyder around the Low Country, I felt the urge to flick a finished butt left or right. If I used the ashtray, I’d be the guy having to clean up after myself. It must have been cultural and familial. My grandfather smoked (really chewed and repeatedly relit) 5¢ cigars and my mother smoked Viceroy cigs. Both cleaned the automotive and inside ashtrays regularly and always put them into the trash. So, I did too.

Even today, I see smokers leaving a convenience store peeling off the pack wrapping and taking out the foil insert, only to let both fall to the sidewalk immediately. I suspect these are the same schmucks who, if they go to the gym and I smell smokers at the Y as they pass, who leave their locker doors open, toss their Y towels on the benches or floors, and don’t return dumbbells to the racks. Dumbbells, indeed, making others clean up after them, as their mommies may always have at home.

Sometimes I play the scold to littering smokers or weight slugs. It’s good I’m big. They usually begrudgingly do my bidding, but I have no fantasy that their behavior will change.

A single cig butt becomes an immediate inconvenience to a smoker upon the last puff. Away all pests!

Like the current fad for mindful eating, we could use some mindful smoking. Somehow that doesn’t seem to carry the cache of quasi-religious communion with food as process and product.

Yet most Saturdays I think of the butt flingers as I go to Haymarket. On Union Street, the bar underlings invariably are sweeping, spraying or hand picking the hundreds upon hundreds (think each 100 cigarettes as starting at $35) out of the quaint and cutesy red bricks on that stretch of the Freedom Trail.

The battle for freedom to smoke cigarettes whenever and wherever has long been lost. After all, that’s how so many butts end up on those bricks. We can’t reasonably expect mindfulness and consideration from folk with several beers or Margaritas in them. Certainly, the commonweal or respect for restaurant service personnel aren’t their driving forces.

What’s a single butt? The answer at its extreme may be a fire-gutted building or pier. More likely, it’s just another wee expression of self-centered behavior.

Of all the gin joints

May 28th, 2011

I declared this a gin-and-tonic afternoon — the first of A.D. 2011 here.

At 3:18, it was time and temperature appropriate. I had flogged myself through many morning chores and had worked for several hours, joined in the last one by son #3, in hand scrubbing the filthy plastic deck railing around a two-level deck that seemed to expand unrelentingly. The now white again boundary required muscles big and small, brushes, net balls, cloths, chemicals, and both still and hose nozzle water from belly button to shoe sole level.

The bright sun, breeze-less surroundings, and non-stop detailed work kicked it over to a summer drink afternon. Around here, we make a bottle of gin last a very long time. I think that about once every two years, we order a martini in a bar…just to do that like the 40s movie actors did. Otherwise, on hot, still days, we may draw on our British genetics to slice a lime and carry on.

So, admiring the suburban grandeur before me of re-whitened pickets, I sit with iPad and my first G&T of the season.

How many of us pseudo-philosophers aphorize to the effect of simple pleasures are best? Who cares. I’m posting and going back to revel in a wedge of squeezed lime, some quinine water and a shot of gin. It’s hot and I’ll hold that I earned it.

Drinking Free on Two Wheels

May 27th, 2011


Bike and drink free?

That was my patio pal’s ratiocination yesterday. As a Williams grad, not entirely moronic and early into his ale, he had some basis.

We got into gas prices when I said I did not do an Abe Simpson with my sons about prices in the old days — waaaaay back to times and places where gas from the pump and cigarettes from a machine were each a quarter a gallon or pack respectively. (Insert line about tying an onion to your belt here.)

There we were on Canal Street fenced into the Beer Works. He had taken commuter rail from Winchester to North Station and I had biked in from Hyde Park.

He said he really didn’t consider gasoline as a separate cost until it hit $3 a gallon. Previously it was just an incremental cost of living, going to the store and such. As a frugal New Englander, he phrased the change in coupon terms. It is now a consideration about whether to drive to redeem a coupon. Setting aside any time spent or lost opportunity costs for capital, just the additional outlay of a gallon or even two of gas now weighed into a decision on whether to drive to save a buck or two or more.

To me and my nearby locked up wheels, he added that I drank free, at least the first pint, by biking in. I didn’t pay the gas to and from, or droning about the blocks to find parking. I didn’t pay for meters. I could easily save $6 or more.

If I had taken the T, there would have been bus and subway fares, plus considerable time. It takes me longer to drive and park, or to use a combination of walking and the T to get to the North Station area than to bike. Plus on a bike, I get the puerile thrill of keeping up with or passing traffic into town.

So, yeah, I guess I can think of biking downtown or to Harvard or Davis Squares as getting a free brew. Let’s forget that drinking an ale at home…or not drinking at all…would be much more frugal. Yet, those would lack the entertainment value of fellowship.

Calorically too, biking far more than burns off a pint or two, which driving or the T does not. In that sense, the drinks are free and, pardon the pun, not on me.

That’s not to say every bike ride earns a beer. Then again, there may be some link to the number of cycling jerseys with brewing themes, like here and here and here.


Old Giant of Woodbourne Passes

May 26th, 2011


Recently visiting our old Woodbourne neighborhood in Jamaica Plain, we did not see the huge Norway maple that dominated the sidewalk and our former front lawn. It fell to an edict from Boston’s single tree warden. A huge stump remains.

While some New Englanders call this species a trash tree, we loved this one specifically and the family in general. I am wont to call sugar maples premature defoliators. They drop their intense leaves quickly and remain bare half a year. The Norway versions though keep their vast manes of yellow for many times longer, giving a sunshine thrill for months.

maplechilisThis particular tree has its moments. I wrote of it here. My wife published a paean in Yankee magazine. Our artist friend Savannah created stencils of its leaves and duplicated its glories on the dining room walls of the former house. The amusing joy there, of course, was when the colors turned, a trompe l’oiel appeared with replicating leaves in and out the front windows.

While we can’t compare a tree, even a majestic one, to a human. Yet, I’m sorry to know our old companion of our 21 years in that house has gone to the great wood chipper.

It gave us many beautiful views and considerable shade. We planted and tended to flowers around it in the tree zone I custom built to accommodate its protruding roots. My sons used one side of it to support a makeshift snow slide during some of our blizzards. Many songbirds made homes in its branches and a hole high above the streets.

Yes, yes, it was Heraclitus who postulated (in Greek, Πάντα ῥεῖ) that all is in flux, some two and one-half thousand years ago. While that is true enough, I mourn even a living but not sentient being literally cut down. Alas, poor maple, I knew it.

Tags: ,

When OBs Pop the Cork

May 24th, 2011

iEye“You must have been a forceps delivery.”

I lost track of how many times I’ve heard that as a statement or question. Opthomologists, optomatrists and even opticians revel in the geometry of my funky left eye. They enjoy its relative rarity. I am less thrilled.

As a boomer, I am one of many, many babies forcibly twisted in utero or extracted with the help of what are basically pliers or kind of metallic salad tongs. Corneal and choroidal (the eye’s thick membrane) iatrogenic anomalies are apparently quite common. They are common enough that eye pros can figure out the offense that led to the visual problems.

OBs grabbing a fetus’ head either blind when it is still inside mom or impatiently when the head is fully or partially out goofed up who knows how many times. Eye-related ruptures and deformities are less obvious and less severe than other blunders in the delivery room, but often last a lifetime.

My left eye, for example, is tri-toric on the surface. That is, it has a double wave. In turn, if you pardon, glasses can’t really correct the vision because the lens scatters the light wildly. Before my eyes hardened in presbyopia in my 40s and when I still could wear contact lenses, I got better correction. The hard contact lenses could for a more natural curve and correct better. The left lens was a work of true craftsmanship to fit the cornea. I would insert it and see and feel it shift as it rolled around into a meshing position.

That little daily thrill was decidedly not worth the bad vision.

My sight is correctable enough for daily purposes, such as keeping a driver’s license. I was cut off from many options. I liked the idea of being a pilot very much, but did not begin to qualify. More immediate was my effort to make sure I (with my very low draft lottery number) did not play bullet tag in Vietnam. I applied to the Naval Academy, got to the interview and physical, and had plans for college financing as well as service without wounds or death. The left eye queered it. My superior grades and SATs earned me a waiver, but not enough to overcome an eye that would never be 20/20 correctable.

Old Marble Mouth

The head of my HS math department was sympathetic and a bit outraged for me…and himself. John Boyer was a brilliant mathematician, who taught our smart-kids’ classes of calculus, trig and such. For one indication of personal ability, he solved an insoluble problem a student brought in from the MIT magazine. He glanced at it, said it should have a solution and went to work. The huge classroom had chalkboards on three of its four walls. He covered nearly all of that and arrived at the answer. The student mailed (pre-email after all) it to MIT, which acknowledged the solution and thanked them.

Old Marble Mouth, as he was called behind his back for his indistinct speech (I mumbled and understood him, so many times other students would ask, “What did he say?” or “What’s the assignment?”) met his own vision wall. In the Korean Police Action War era, he had been a military mathematician. He was very patriotic and loved helping his nation doing his forte. The service told him to get lost and that they would never promote him, exclusively because his vision did not meet officer spec, even with glasses.

Of course, I identified with the absurdity of a desk-bound number guy being held to field and battle standards. The military reasoning was what we see in political bifurcations today. Rules are rules to a chunk of us. Mr. Boyer said he kept hearing how sorry they were, but the rules said an officer had to be physically capable of leading troops in battle even if the closest he got to firing a rifle was a wielding pencil. Rules are rules. The country lost the career-long services of a great math guy.

Mechanical Blunders

To the forceps, the expedience of OBs seems to have resulted in many thousands, maybe millions of damaged adults. A search in a library or online provides myriad examples and discussions. The problem was well well known in the early 20th century, for one example. Vision-specific blunders are in medical texts, as here.

The theory and technique of safe forceps use seems complex but straightforward enough. All these require are patient, flawless and attentive practice. ’nuff said.

I got it double — OB and Army. There were a lot of us born when Johnny came marching home from WWII. The birth factories were military style fast and efficient. Plus, I was born in Ft. Sill Station Hospital, with the overlay of those rules are rules types, which figures in my name and I’ll explain below.

OBs have long had the deserved reputation of doing what they think and feel makes life easy for them. The babies and moms often suffered. Way back, there was the not washing hands thing that killed who knows how many of both. Even today, many hospital births are with the mother strapped and in stirrups…and heavily anesthetized. Let’s be plain. That’s for the doctor’s convenience foremost.

The fetus manipulating and plucking forceps have a similar mystique. The snappy patter is that the tongs approach is essential in fetal distress and the hardest deliveries.  In reality, it was a common expedience and in many places still is. Plunging forceps literally blindly and doing a best guess grab to rotate the head or pull out the fetus is very risky and has very frequent bad effects. Beyond the vision, there’s crippling, and brain, limb and spine damage.

This is the same profession that brought us faddish gall bladder removals for no reason in my grandparents’ time, unnecessary and routine moneymakers like tonsillectomies, and in the delivery room, unjustified episiotomies and cesareans. It always allegedly was essential for the health of the patients, but literature says otherwise.

Rules Are Rules

In a similar less dramatic way, I think back to my recent broken leg with the surgery to ream the length of my tibia to insert a metal rod. In hospital, the nurses started immediately with morphine and brought around the extras including laxatives and prescription strength anti-acid/reflux meds. I was doped up and in agony, but I had to get some justifications.

Rules are rules appeared again. I had to stay ahead of the pain, as all the nurses said repeatedly. So it was lots of narcotics. I was certain to get constipation and ruinous stomach upsets from the drugs and being in bed. These tablets and capsules were standard. So take them.

I didn’t. I argued successfully with numerous nurses and a couple of doctors. I took about a third of the narcotic dose — with repeated verbal battles throughtout every day — and refused the laxative and reflux meds. I had no symptoms and no history to justify the latter two. For drugs, my ideas and practices are an occasional aspirin, mugs of coffee and a goblet of wine. I had no need for the GI meds during or after the hospital stay. Yet, I could see the nurses not wanting to deal with a constipated or gut-pained patient. So, unnecessary drugs were the prophylactics.

For the narcotic, I left with a bottle and a prescription for three more refills. I am very wary of narcotics and will put more pain on my scale than risk of dependence. I did not finish the bottle and did not refill the prescription. The pain was indeed intense, rather exquisite in its power. I did take some relief, but was off the drug long before the docs and nurses would have me doped up. Their argument that somehow gutting it out would prolong the recovery made and makes no sense, and was not at all what happened.

My wife insists I’m an outlier. I am in fact very sensitive to pain. It’s just that I compartmentalize the physical and emotional aspects as much as possible. Yet I know many nice and bright people who take strong meds at the hint or anticipation of even the most transient pain. It’s a judgment call.

Name That Baby!

Back in Ft. Sill, I got another permanent birth residual — my name. The rules-are-rules Army nurses insisted that my mother name me immediately. That’s the military way or was then.

She was small and even emerging, I came with a big head, shoulders and chest. She said that was the catalyst for the OB saying he’d use forceps. That came with a burst of gas, which was also the norm. She had arrived (by foot) at the base hospital fully dilated and had no anesthesia until then. There wasn’t time.

With a new son plucked from her and groggy from the drugs, she says two nurses were there with the birth certificate, demanding an instant naming event. I got drugged tags for life.

To her credit, she never told me what the alternatives were. She did not yet know the gender of child number two but had noodled options for both with her husband. Yet in her drugged state, she could not produce them. Thus, she went with what did come to mind. I got my father’s last name as mine. I got his middle name (the vanilla Robert) as my middle. My first name, Michael, was my mother’s maiden name. It may be worth noting that I was named after both parents in that she was spirited enough to play tackle football with her brother and his friend into her college days. While she was also a campus beauty queen as well as scholar, her toughness earned her the nickname among all her peers of Mike, from her last name.

There are times I’ve wanted a less common first name. I don’t even look up when someone calls “Mike!” There are far too many of us and I’ve been burned too often as another Mike responds correctly. It is what I call the YAM situation for Yet Another Mike.

I’ve gotten used to the name even though I could change that in court. For the eye, there’s really nothing useful. I’m not a candidate for surgery short of corneal transplant, which is damned risky for a (low-level) functioning eye.

Many people have far more to carp about than a terrible eye.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherbirthforcespvisionmilitarydoctorsnursesdrugs

Hidden and Shadowy Boston Court Treasure

May 22nd, 2011

A chum led us to adumbral art treasures yesterday after we all toured the Gorey show at the Athenæum. That’s a tight little $5 exhibit worth the gawking (runs through June 4th).

The follow-up was like the secret clubhouse version nearby in the courthouse in Pemberton Square/Government Center, a.k.a. the John Adams Courthouse. It’s the theater of operations for the Supreme Judicial Court, the Social Law Library and the Appeals Court. To the point on an artsy afternoon, it got a rehab in 2005 and houses remarkable sculpture and architecture.

We got in on the weekend, on the coattails of an electronic pass and a key from a librarian. We can all tour it for free though. It is open from 8:30 AM to 5 PM weekdays. There’s also an uninspiring virtual tour, perhaps best illustrating why you should go and see for yourself. It’s dark inside and the sculpture is better in eyes that have adjusted than with ordinary cameras. I stick a couple of pix here and the next time I visit, I’ll bring something with more powerful flash.

As seems the wont in the neighborhood, the rehab was controversial. After all, this cheek to jowl with the much maligned Boston City Hall, an immigrant’s amble from the razed West End and closer to the bulldozer sanitized Scollay Square.

morafortitudeSo, when the $40 million rehab cost over three times that, it seemed like the normal way of Boston redevelopment. The Globe piece on its celebratory reopening on April Fool’s Day 2001 (pay or have subscriber access) seemed more pleased with the results than the journey to them.

moraguiltAmong those attending or speaking were Sen. Ted Kennedy, Mayor Thomas Menino, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, SJC Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, and really best of all, historian and author David McCullough. He defended the expenses as overdue honor to Adams. He said, “There’s no memorial to John Adams in our nation’s capital, no portrait on money, no postage stamp. But now we have this courthouse, and were he here today and maybe he is he would be as thrilled and gratified as any mortal could be.”

Regardless, you can help justify the cost by visiting and marveling at the ornate arched ceiling and particularly the allegorical statuary of Domingo Mora. So-so snaps of two of his larger-than-human tropes are here, Guilt (right) and Fortitude. The hall has a large grouping of the figures you appropriately must gaze up to see.

Had he not lived what should be every parent’s dream — children who are more accomplished, successful and famous than himself — this Mora would be the family pride. After moving to U.S. via Uruguay from his native Barcelona, he was a busy guy. His works range across America, including numerous pieces here. He was an architect as well as sculptor for the Emmanuel Church and the BPL features his statuary as well as nearly three dozen window spandrels.

In the visit down to Pemberton Square, revel in his hall of allegories and ideals.

Rapture Time Already?

May 21st, 2011

I honestly had forgotten my childhood brush with the heaven bound. We have the current Rapture ranter, a depressed woman who smothers her six-year-old and wants to die so the two of them will be together, and who knows how many terrorists who believe that their religion will guarantee them eternal bliss for dying while blowing others to pieces.

If you were inclined to ecstatic paradise and personal identity after death stuff, the believers acting out in front of you should give pause.

Nevertheless, back when I was maybe 8 or 9, our family got a personal taste in Danville, Virginia. Our weekly cleaning lady showed up at our mother’s office to take her to heaven with her.

Our divorced mom, Wanda, worked long and hard running the Red Cross chapter as well as raising two kids solo. While it bothered her not to also handle all the cleaning even with the meager help of her elementary-school children, she accepted that she needed someone a couple of afternoons a week to take care of laundry and such. Lena was that person.

A young, married woman with two children of her own, she was a cheerful presence. She had a family support system in town to help her with her kids and worked for several folk to supplement her husband’s income. We got along well.

One afternoon though, Wanda returned home distressed, which was unusual for someone so together. She told us how Lena had died.

I don’t have time today

She was at her desk, managing away, when Lena appeared. The normally calm Lena was instead both agitated and smiling. She announced that it was time to go to heaven. She said that of all the people she knew Wanda was the one deserving of joining her.

My mother said she explained that she had a lot of work to do and wanted to take care of her children. She really did not have time and was not in a position to go to heaven that afternoon.

She said that Lena accepted that and calmly left the office. Lena then went a few blocks away, waited for the bus, and threw herself directly in front of it. She died on the spot.

We were also Christians in our apartment. We had the behaviors as well as, attending both Sunday School and church ever week, taking communion, believing  in personal salvation through Jesus, and planning on heaven (eventually). I also had read the whole KJV Bible and had favorite parts.

Yet, even as young kids, my sister and I did not go for suicide. Wanda had made us far too pragmatic and fix-it for that already.

Of course, in retrospect, I figure Lena had been mentally unstable for quite awhile and had had a break, a psychotic episode. We didn’t know those terms yet, didn’t know depressed or bipolar people yet, and no one in our family was a fundamentalist religious sort of any flavor.

I recall though asking about Lena’s husband and kids. Why didn’t she want them to go with her if she figured she was heading heavenward that day? As it turned out, her husband wondered too. He threatened Wanda and us with death for somehow in his mind causing his wife to kill herself.

He got over that with some discussion with the police. I got over my puerile religion as well a few years later.

Yet, our very human, often emotional needs seem to drive us at the oddest times and with the great power of a surging, swollen river. I like to think I am immune to such relentless forces. I can’t be positive, but I’m not buying into rapture today.

Every Tom, Steve and Mike

May 16th, 2011


“Aw, he’s full of beans,” our mild-mouthed Mayor Tom Menino said this morning of Boston City Council President Steve Murphy. It wasn’t politics in the cold and misty air though.

I arrived for the coffee and doughnuts with the Mayor this morning in our shared neighborhood of Hyde Park. It’s a bit early to pressure him for comments on the big pending battle for at-large Councilors, but we could talk bikes. That’s where he seemed willing to take it to Murphy.

For a long time, Menino was known as a bike/cyclist hater. His transformation has been complete to bike champion and cyclist himself. Lately, a couple of leg injuries have kept him off the road in what used to be his daily ride around HP’s Readville.

More recently though at the announcement of pending bike sharing (maybe starting as early as July) here, he greeted the supportive crowd at the City Hall plaza announcement as fellow cyclists. He rued his injuries/recovery period. He pledged to be on the first bike out of the chute when the program starts. He also committed the trio he called the three Italians, including U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano, who was there, and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who was not.


(Menino appears in his cycling togs left and Capuano was at the announcement with Boston’s cycling czarina Nicole Freedman.)

When I asked the Mayor if he was back on the bike, he said he was, sort of. He’s riding his stationary version inside getting his legs in shape. He was walking steadily this morning when he arrived at the Iacono Playground a couple of blocks from his house.

I told him that Murphy and I lived two blocks apart on the other side of Hyde Park. The Council President has told me that if I could get the Mayor to cycle from home to City Hall, he’d ride with us. That led immediately to the allegation of legume fullness.

I had to laugh because that was on par with my mother’s swearing. If someone was an absolute jerk to her, she might express her frustration and anger by saying, “What a pill.” When she was at her limit with someone’s behavior, she’d spit out her worst — “For crying out loud in a bucket!”

Menino said he’d never seen Murphy on a bike and doubted that he really owned one. He added, “He’d have a heart attack.”

I’ll take that as a challenge to pass along to the Council President. We may yet get another trio, this one of aging men, biking downtown.

Tags: harrumphharrumphercyclingMeninoMurphyHyde Park

Big Brother or Little Secretary?

May 16th, 2011

vereyezonI had to replace a cell phone recently and can’t figure out whether a Verizon feature is a blessing, threat or both. The backup assistant knew and repopulated my address book.

Honestly, I’m tech savvy and the alpha geek for friends. I just hadn’t thought about where the names and phone numbers actually store. I assumed that as the entry is local on the handset and that it displays messages like Contact Saved without indicating that it transmits the data that everything was in local memory.

I sort of dreaded reconstructing my contacts, which I had not duplicated on one of my computers. The last time I reconstructed a list, I was switching carriers and found it inconvenient. It meant opening the dead phone and individually duplicating the contact info. That did give me the incentive to change my speed-dial order and such. Yet, it was the tedious, error-prone clerical work that we have come to resent with current technologies. Like so many of amid electronic tools and gadgets, I want convenience…but on my terms.

So this morning when I set up the replacement phone, I noticed a mention in the activation guide (all of two, half-filled 5.5×8.5 pages per language) of the contact transfer function. Sure enough, with a few key stabs and maybe 20 seconds download, I got the contact-transfer app. A similar easy and fast process brought over the entire old address book. I scanned that it is a mirror, as promised.

So now I know that what I put in phone memory is also in Verizon’s corporate realm. I don’t know whether they can, would or do access it, or a paranoid’s delight, share it was Homeland Security or who knows what dark forces. Why should I have ever thought otherwise? Is there something in those multi-page agreements and privacy notices that would have let me know?

Honestly and perhaps too trustingly, I didn’t care this morning. They did the work for me and that seems a decent trade-off. Maybe I’ll reconsider, but meanwhile my new sneaky digital assistant was OK.