Monday, April 27, 2009

Charles River Cleanup Soundslide

This is the soundslide from my Charles River Cleanup project:

Charles River Cleanup 2009

Web site created as a final project in Multimedia Journalism: Charles River Cleanup 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wrapping Up

I am having a lot of fun at the marathon but most of the people left here are waiting for specific friends and family. One of the reasons I like Boston so much is traditions like this marathon. It's wonderful to see a whole city get so excited about such a positive experience for so many people. This spot in particular, close to the end but not at the finish line was still packed with people who didn't know anyone in the race but just wanted to cheer the runners on. That's nice, I like that. "I've been doing this every year for over a decade," Greg, a fan sitting in a lawn chair with a large sign spelling out "Finish Strong," in his arms tells me. "This is Boston at it's best." I have to agree with the sentiment. And having the day off from class is a nice bonus too, even for us students who didn't start drinking at nine in the morning.

Finish Line

It's all over bar the shouting in many ways. While still crowded, there are signs people are beginning to leave. "It's fun but people are going to run by for a long time and I already saw my friend go by just now," James, a man carrying a fast asleep little boy informs me. Coming upon another group of college students who also appear to be heading out, I ask them what they will do with the rest of their day off. "Party," three of them say in unison. As crazy as the day was, the night will be comparable to St. Patrick's Day or Halloween. "Only without wearing green or skimpy costumes," Denise, one of the girls, tells me. She wears a bright blue shirt and running pants with "Adam," the name of her boyfriend who just finished the race, written on her forearm in blue paint, and an expression devoid of irony.


In terms of the race, I just found out all the big finishes are done. All the people running by me now do so in large groups. It's more of a large continuous stream now. While of course it's amazing the speed with which the winners completed the marathon. I personally admire this group because while they may not be moving as quickly they are traveling longer in terms of time spent between start and finish. Since apparently none of them are listening to music (except for the band playing marching tunes on the platform nearby) they basically have nothing to do for hours but listen to people yelling at them while their knees and lungs join in louder with every mile. Hours and hours of that and they keep going. No wonder people cheer them on.

Any excuse

Not far from Julia and Jason my nose informs me of a new scent, out of place amid the scene of fit and in shape people, beer. Following my nose I now see a small cluster of college-age boys and girls, and it's not Gatorade in those plastic cups. I went up to them and asked what their story is. One of the girls, Linda said that she is a senior at Boston College and it is a tradition to get up early and drink all day on the day of the marathon. This is my first time in Boston for the marathon so I had not heard of this and ask her to elaborate. "It's a big party day, like St. Patrick's Day," she tells me. Her friend Jake offered me a cup but I decline since I'm working, not to mention 1 pm is a littler early for alcohol for me.

Continuing Along

As I walk further along Coolidge Corner, I can see people all along the windows of some of the apartment buildings looking down at the race and cheering from their privileged vantage point. Personally I'd rather be down here, it's much more fun," says Julia, one of the bystanders, when I ask her opinion of those high up viewers. "They're probably more comfortable though," says her husband Jason. I have to agree with his wife, it's much more fun this close.


As impressive as the runners are it's the peripherals that make this day more than just a bunch of people running really far. Like the guy selling hamburgers with the red sox game playing. Or the live band playing upbeat melodies. It's a big event.


Running in a hopping way. One man uses artificial legs to spring forward. It's amazing to see the mix of technology and human will putting him ever closer to the finish line.

Police forerunners

So many police. Again the concentration is impressive.


Men and women both now start to pass. Concentrating hard, each footfall makes young woman wince. After 24 miles, a cramp is probably not unexpected. "Almost there," you can hear her think.

First women

The first female runners come by the Corner, moving strong at a steady pace to riotous cheering. Some are barely sweating even after 24 miles. Simply astounding.

First of the men

Preceded by sirens and explosions of cheering the first male runner goes by dozens of yards ahead of the nearest competition. "Mo way they catch up," Mike says. "It is too big a lead."

More cowbell

Several children wave cowbells as their version of applause. Combined with dogs barking and more traditional clapping it's amazing the racers can concentrate. Expecting first runners soon.

Interesting sights

Waiting for the first runners to come, I am struck by the preponderance of ambulances. Of course marathon running is not easy and it is possible to hurt yourself doing it. It would be sad to get this close though and have it happen.

Coffee for the fans

The Starbucks at Coolidge Corner is rarely empty, but today the line stretches out the door for more than just the morning rush. Caffeine is fueling much of the excitement of people watching to judge from the line, as well as the steaming cups held in hands up and down the course here. "I've been traveling down the course to cheer on my friend Dan," says Laura. "This helps keep my energy up." The baristas are starting to look like they are the ones running a marathon. Their crowd doesn't cheer though, just orders another espresso shot.

By the way

The abbreviated nature of these posts is because I am writing them from my iPod and cannot thus type as quickly or as well as I am capable of on a computer. Bear with me.

"so pumped"

"I can't wait till my sister gets here." shouts one young woman to her friend through the roar of the group pressed against the yellow rope. One wheelchair racer stands out even as he blurs by. His locomotion comes from hand pedals not unlike a bike rather than more traditional pushing. All of the wheelchair racers use tri wheeled machines that look like speed condensed to solid form

First thoughts

The wind is brisk and people huddle in blankets but still they cheer as the first wheelchair marathoners speed by. Pushing madly they race through the roped off streets.

Live Marathon

Today I will be live blogging the Boston Marathon. Enjoy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Winter Ends at Sunset

Boston Common as the ice melts

Monday, February 16, 2009

Scientific Life Lessons

Yesterday I returned from Chicago and the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. There was a lot to learn from the over 10,000 scientists, students, press, and interested observers, including Al Gore and other Nobel Prize winners. Here are a few lessons I took from my attendance of some of the scientific symposia, as well as from general observation.

  • Kissing may help the immune system as well as provide a whole host of other benefits for people wanting to be closer to each other, not just romantically, but among family members and friends.
  • As a pick-up line, offering to boost the immune system of someone is less-than effective.
  • Al Gore is charismatic, passionate, and exciting to listen to. If only it had been obvious eight years ago.
  • Reporting science is complex and can be difficult to convey to the public. Scientists are often their own worst advocates, with an unfortunate habit of making even stories like The Creation of Artificial Life seem boring and dull.
  • Scientific understanding grows both more quickly and more slowly than might be expected, with some huge leaps rapidly proven and accepted while other, superficially small changes in paradigm facing enormous opposition.
  • The most important lesson is also the most basic: Science is interesting, science is important, and scientific meetings provide stunning glimpses into a universe as compelling as any political race, sports contest or economic issue.
Now if you'll excuse me, my immune system needs a boost.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Six Words to Describe Your Love

"Engagement ring paid for grad school." "My mom had beer flavored nipples." These were some of the stories of the crowd sitting in the warm, paper-smelling basement of Brookline Booksmith Tuesday evening when they were asked to tell about love and heartache in their lives in only six words. The exercise in brevity was part of a talk given by Smith magazine editors Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser as they travel around the country promoting their new book "Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak."
The history of the six-word story is distinguished. After being challenged to tell a six-word story, Ernest Hemingway replied, "For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.." Smith and Fershleiser collected memoirs of that length for their first book, “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure," and after noticing the commonality of love in the submissions, decided to create the new book with just that theme.
After braving a frosty Boston winter to reach the bookstore, it was fun to hear both the love stories themselves, and the stories behind the stories. Smith told the group about how people usually assumed his story "Our prison visits were surprisingly romantic," was about a conjugal visit while he was in jail. Quite the opposite, as there is no such thing as conjugal visits. "These are little facts you pick up when your fiancée is in federal prison," he commented.
When it was my turn and Fershleiser held the microphone to my lips, I was still unprepared, but my subconcious crystallized what suddenly seemed a perfect comment on my entire romantic past. "She only loved me from afar," I said. There was a sympathetic murmur from the rest of the crowd but I was too busy wondering how on Earth I had come up with that to take much notice. Regaining my composure, I noted that others seemed to find satisfaction with their own six-word stories. There is something viscerally pleasing about condensing what might be months or years of emotional turmoil into barely enough verbiage to fill three seconds.
Smith and Fershleiserhave taken their ideas on six-word memoirs to many locales, including a lot of classrooms. In a second-grade classroom is actually where some of the best stories were created Smith said. One or two were the kind that just arrest the brain with their power. He told of one young student coming up to tell him and the rest of the class her story and how she looked in his eyes and said," Nine years stacked within my soul."