Saturday, December 22, 2007

First Day of Winter on the Geochron

It's the first day of winter today, although the two feet of snow out my window tells me that winter is in full swing already. Hey, at least the days will start to get longer soon. Time to check in on the Geochron. Sun has set here but most of South America is still in daylight. Sixteen hours ahead, the sun is up in most of Australia as well. Compare this to the summer solstice on the Geocrhon. Pretty much reversed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rose Kennedy Greenway--North End and Wharf Sections

What better time than during the middle of yet another snowstorm to talk about summer in the city? Well, the snow and cold undoubtedly have some people looking forward to warmer weather, even though Christmas is still a week away.

The Big Dig has been covered ad nauseum for the past couple of decades, but the opening of some sections of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, one of the big payoffs from the Big Dig, received comparatively little fanfare. Perhaps the poor timing of opening these sections, after summer was over, had something to do with it.

In early November, new sections in the Wharf and North End sections were formally inaugurated. These sections of the Greenway contain much more open space than the Chinatown section, which opened in September. The green lawns of these sections are certainly what you envision when you hear the word "Greenway."

The parcels in the Wharf District near the Aquarium are dominated by large, sleek metallic towers. Other than that, these sections are pretty nondescript. The towers frame the space, but I'm not sure how much else they add. There is plenty of green grass on these parcels to spread out on, but you'll have to bring your own blanket or chair. (Or if you want to head over there today, a shovel, too.)

The newly opened sections in the North End District are far more inviting and should ultimately prove to be the most popular spots in the entire Greenway, in part because it links the Faneuil Hall area with Hanover Street and the North End. There is still plenty of green grass and open space in these North End parcels, but there are also benches and ornamental plantings. A large pergola along the North End side of the Surface Artery covers tables, chairs, and benches (looking to be clad in gold). Right now, the pergola is bare, but eventually vines will climb up the trellis and cover over the space. There are fountains along side the pergola that will likely be filled with frolicking children in the warm weather. This is going to be a prime spot at the lunch hour. I can picture a lot of gelatos being eaten here in the summer.

The southeastern corner of the North End parcel at the end of Salem Street includes a map of colonial Boston inlaid in the sidewalk. The map shows the outline of the city in both 1775 and 2005. You can see how just how much of present-day Boston was created by filling in the harbor and the Charles River. Throughout the lawn on this section of the park is a narrow granite line that delineates where the old Mill Pond bulkhead used to be.

Along the southern edge of this North End parcel is a monument recognizing the history of the North End. The monument takes the form of a timeline stretching from one end of the parcel to the other. It contains dates marking the waves of immigrants who came to the North End, starting from Native Americans to English colonists to the Irish to the Italians, along with quotes from North End residents over the years describing their lives in this section of the city.
After all this shoveling, I'm looking forward to relaxing in one of the Greenway's chairs and enjoying a nice gelato.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Barack in Boston

One of the great things for political junkies living around Boston is it's easy to take a drive up to New Hampshire and see the presidential candidates in person. (Although we also have to cope with the incessant barrage of political commercials.) Or even better, the candidates swing by Boston on their way to the Granite State.

Tonight, Barack Obama was in Boston (back to the city where his political star was launched during the '04 Convention) for a rally at the Park Plaza Castle, the old Armory, on Columbus Avenue. Barack flew straight into town from a stop in Iowa, boosted by some strong poll numbers. The doors opened at 6 and by that point the line to get in snaked a couple of city blocks. Estimating crowds has never been one of my strong suits, but I'd guess there were well over 1,000 people at the rally.

Looking at Obama's calendar, there are no scheduled appearances in New Hampshire tomorrow, so I'm not quite sure if his swing through Boston was just to show up at this rally. Strategically, it was sure to garner some more volunteers to head to New Hampshire in the coming weeks, but I'm not sure it was a huge money-maker, considering how flush the campaigns are with cash. It cost a $23 contribution to get in, so it wasn't a high-priced affair at all. As I said, I'm not good at counting heads (apparently there were about 2,100 people, told you I'm no good at it), but it's not going to be massive haul of cash.

Considering the time of day and the candidate's schedule, it was pretty good that the rally got started around 7:15. Obama spoke for about 25 minutes, and I was pretty impressed. He came out of the box pretty quickly going after Bush and Cheney and the "era of Scooter Libby justice, Brownie incompetence, and Karl Rove politics." Following that red meat, Obama then laid out the case for change against candidates too close to special interests and politicians who follow the polls rather than principles, a not-too-veiled criticism at a certain rival for the nomination. He closed by laying out the reasons why he is running and why he is in the agent for change and the candidate who can help repair America's image around the world.

For a guy who impresses on television for his intellect, elegant style, and calm demeanor, he's also very effective at getting a crowd charged up. During his speech, Obama said he was running because of what Martin Luther King called "the fierce urgency of now." I think it's a perfect sentiment to invoke as to why a first-term Senator is running and it's one to which the crowd certainly responded.