End of Summer

Soaked and SquaredWhat marks the end of summer? Labor Day? That’s the day on which the US seems to switch off summer. The autumnal equinox? That has much to recommend it, including the loveliness of the term autumnal equinox.

But it seems to me that summer ended yesterday: Monday September 14, the day on which Maddie (and other Boston Public Schools kindergarten kids) started the new school year. That’s about halfway between 2009’s Labor Day and equinox.

We had a lot of fun this summer, much of it watery. Here are Maddie and Max enjoying the wet playground at the Soule Recreation Center. (The Soule is in Brookline, on Hammond Street, just south of route 9.)

And now, on with autumn, Boston’s best season. Yes, I do still call it autumn rather than fall, even after all these years in New England. Anyway, autumn 2009 will probably be our last season in Boston…

Six Hours in the Rain in Line…

West Roxbury's Hottest Ticket?… in West Roxbury, no less. The Community Center was the place to be. It was due to open at 9, and I’m told the line started forming at 2:30. Now, the Center is pretty cool, with its own Facebook page and all, but what made people wait for over six hours in the rain?

It was enrollment for courses. I arrived at the official opening time of 9am, hoping to be able to get my kids into a swimming class. It was convieniently timed and very reasonably priced. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only person who thought that. Someone I know emerged from the center just after I arrived: she’d arrived at 3:30, and hadn’t been first in line. She wanted to make sure her kids got into their swim classes, since there are only 5 kids per class.

At that point, I called back to base and we decided that it would be silly to wait in a long line, with a significant chance that the kids swim classes would be full by the time I got to the front of it. I went back at 11 to find the place almost empty, save for a few people and some signs showing which classes were full. Swim classes were at the top of the list.

There are many consoling thoughts. I didn’t spend the rainy night in line, or waste much time in line at all. There are other swim classes in the area. I like some of the photos I got, such as the one of the chairs of the determined (see above), the one of the wet spot on the wall that looks like a dog (see Flickr), and the one of the sign that told me I could have purchased a ticket in a “jump the line” raffle for $10 (not posted).

New England Aquarium Media

We recently received the summer edition of blue, the magazine that the New England Aquarium sends to its members once a quarter. It includes an “on the web” sidebar, which draws attention to the aquarium’s blogs.

The above echoes my recent post about Zoo New England and social media. But where ZNE’s dead trees provided directions to multiple social media sites, NEAQ’s emphasized its blogs. NEAQ does use other sites; for example, I’ve just become a fan of NEAQ on Facebook.

There’s a lot to like about the NEAQ blogs:

  • There are multiple blogs, such as: Giant Ocean Tank Divers; Marine Mammal Trainers; and Bahamas Expedition.
  • For each blog there’s a clear subject, and a set of individual bloggers who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about that subject. For example, the Tank Divers blog has a list of regulars, each with a profile. It also includes contributions from others; in fact, the above photo is from a post by an intern, Linda (the ray is anonymous).
  • It seems that NEAQ regards its blogs as an important part of its website. At the risk of being a greedy advocate for social media, I’d like to see the blogs become more prominent, and I’d like to see a link to Facebook and to other social media channels on the blogs, etc. page.
  • I’ll summarize by saying that NEAQ uses blogs well to provide frequent updates from expert individuals. I emphasize that last word because, although organizations can enable and encourage blogging, good blogging comes from people who know and care about what they’re writing about.

Zoo New England in Media Old and New

Lion in WinterZoo New England is the private, non-profit organization that operates Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts. We have a family membership: a good deal, since we probably average a visit a month to the FPZ, which is only about 20 minutes drive from our house.

I’ve intended for a while to do a series on the use of social media by some of the Boston museums and similar. As well as ZNE, this might include MFA, NEAQ, Childrens Museum, etc. Zoos in particular seem to be good candidates for blogging, with posts about animals, events, staff, etc. But I never saw a link to a blog, or other form of social media, from the ZNE web site.

ZNE has been in media old and new of late, following a remark that state funding cuts might mean that end for the zoos and for some of the animals. The Globe article might count as both old and new media, since its online and is followed by reader comments. Universal Adam documented some of the Gorilla marketing backlash from Boston area bloggers.

Then, in today’s snail mail, we received ZNE’s membership newsletter. In the middle of this old media, there’s a little panel: Join us online! It details four new media destinations:

  • The ZNE blog, which is hosted by WordPress. It stated in January of this year. The content is along the lines I’d expect, although I’d like to see more of it. I’d also like to see more systematic use of categories, and use of tags.
  • Twitter.
  • Facebook, where the FPZ and the Stone Zoo have separate accounts.
  • A ZNE Flickr group. I’ve just become the 9th member, and have added some photos, including the lion in winter shot included in this post.

My reactions to ZNE’s social media efforts so far include:

  • Better late than never.
  • Zoo New England doesn’t have name recognition, and is unlikely to develop it. I approve of having a separate Facebook identity for each zoo, since people are far more likely to recognize, search for, and feel affiliated with FPZ (or the Stone Zoo) than with ZNE.
  • That said, I’m not against the idea of a single blog for ZNE. But I’d have a separate category for each zoo, so that someone looking for stuff on FPZ can more easily find it.
  • ZNE’s main web sites should have prominent links to its social media sites.
  • ZNE should get word out to bloggers (and other social media content creators) about its social media activities. Then it will get more links, more prominence in search results, etc. Of course, this post is in part an attempt to help with this effort of getting the link out.

Baseball, After 20 Years in Boston

Wakefield PitchesI came to the USA in 1989, expecting to stay for 3 years and then return to Europe. For the next three years, I lived in Cambridge, and came to like baseball, and especially the Boston Red Sox.

The first game I went to at Fenway was a pitching duel between Clemens, then of the Sox, and Saberhagen, then of the KC Royals. It was on April 18, 1991. I know because I just found the box score. The names (e.g., Boggs, Burks, Greenwell, Reardon) show how long ago that was.

Another indicator of how long ago that was: Tim Wakefield wasn’t with the Sox. I saw the most recent of his many Sox starts on Friday. It was a lot of fun, even though the Sox lost. They did so in extra innings, so it’s just as well the game was briskly played. Wakefield works quickly, even though his pitches don’t move quickly. His fastball is 70-something mph. That’s quite a contrast, though, with his trademark 60-something knuckleball. It’s also a contrast with every other pitcher we saw. The Sox relievers, and the Mariners pitchers, threw hard, with changeups going over 90.

It wasn’t Wake’s best start, and can’t have improved his chances of making the All-Star roster. But make it he did: Tim Wakefield is an American League All-Star. He’s the pitcher in the picture. I think that the hitter is Griffey.

Digging the Castle Island Beach

Beach Building BeginsWednesday was Bunker Hill Day, and so Boston Public Schools were closed. A bunch of us went to Castle Island in South Boston.

Some of the kids decided to build a seawater “bath.” Maddie (my 5yo daughter) was one of the kids on the project from start to finish. The photo shows the start. The finish would have come more quickly were it not for the following cycle:

  1. Let’s make a river from the sea to the bath.
  2. But water flows downhill [i.e. from bath to sea, rather than vice versa].
  3. Build a damn [to stop the water flowing out of the bath and into the sea].
  4. Once the damn was established, it was back to step 1.

I’m glad that real construction projects in Boston are better-managed…

Celebrating the Local

Belated BirthdayWest Roxbury is local to us, although we actually live in Roslindale. Maddie takes classes at the Center for Asian Martial Arts in West Roxbury (it moved from Roslindale at the start of this year). She had her 5th birthday party at the center on Saturday. It went very well, mainly thanks to the instructors who made the party fun for the crowd of kids (mostly girls of 5 or 6).

Another local business that contributed to the success of the party is the Sugar Bakery. They did the usual excellent job with the cake.

Sunday saw my first visit to Seek Books (previously). I liked this recently-opened second-hand science fiction bookstore very much. It packs a lot of inventory into a smallish store, managing to be cozy rather than cramped. I bought an as-new paperback of Sabriel for $4.

Then it was off to Macy’s to pick up some wine. There were a couple of wines out for tasting. I particularly liked the “El Miracle,” a blend of Tempranillo and Shiraz.

We visited a bunch of other local businesses over the weekend, but as far as the specifics go, I’ll leave it at wine, cake, books, and martial arts.

Back in Boston

Wake Up the Earth is a festival that happens every year near Stony Brook T stop in Jamaica Plain. We went this year. We parked on Center Street, did a little shopping, watched the parade (which I think wends its way all the way down to Stony Brook), had lunch, then wended our own way to Stony Brook via a playground.

The photo shows some of the taller paraders. I also took photos of some musical paraders, including Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band. Lunch at Bukhara went very well, thanks to the buffet, the friendly staff, and the fact that our kids were pretty good. By that I mean that, considering they are 5 and 2, their eating to trouble ration was pleasingly high.

The festival itself was very crowded, but fun. The following day, my wife Judy had to go to a different Stony Brook (on Long Island, New York) for work. The kids and I met some friends at the Children’s Museum. It was not at all crowded, perhaps because of swine flu concerns. I imaged parents keeping their kids away from such public places, and taking them on a nice long “safe” drive in cars…

The big local news story concerns the Globe, but that deserves a post of its own…

Hard Times at Boston Globe

The photo may look as though it’s left over from coverage of Salem at Halloween, but it’s actually scarier than that. It’s New York Times Co. chief executive Janet L. Robinson. Here’s a quote from the Globe article featuring the photo.

Company officials… singled out “significant losses at the New England Media Group” as a major factor in the Times Co.’s weak performance in three months ending March 31… While every segment of the company’s business was battered by the steep advertising decline in the first quarter, the New England group, dominated by the Globe, turned in the weakest performance. Advertising revenue tumbled 31.6 percent for the New England group.

That makes it sound as though the Globe is dragging down a media firm that would otherwise be buoyant. But the graphic that accompanies the corresponding article in the Herald gives more detail. The 31.6% decline is $55.7M. For NYTCo as a whole, the decline is $334.7M, or 27%.

Other numbers also point to the Globe being about a sixth of NYTCo, and doing slightly, but not massively, worse than the rest of the company. No wonder Universal Adam put it thusly: New Yorkers blame Boston for their problems.