Monthly Archives: August 2009

A Spontaneous Trip and a Fitting Tribute

I don’t have a story about lining the route of the funeral procession, either at the Sagamore Bridge or the State House. I don’t have a story about waiting hours in line past midnight at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for a chance to see Sen. Ted Kennedy‘s casket and pay my respects. Heck, I even flaked on watching the funeral on television.

I do, however, have a story about going to the JFK Museum with my mom nearly seven hours before Teddy would arrive, more or less on a lark, just to see what was going on.

I was with my mom yesterday to help her out with a couple of errands. But with those more or less done by 9:30, and six hours left on my Zipcar, I suggested zipping up I-93 to go to the museum. We got there around 10AM, walking past a growing collection of TV trucks, reporters, and cameramen, and went first to the pavilion. There were remembrance books to sign and photos of the senator set up. From the pavilion, you have an incredible view of the Boston skyline and the harbor. You are surrounded by informational placards about the Library’s “Profiles in Courage” series, inspired by JFK’s book about eight senators who defied political convention and comfort to take a stand on an issue.

My mom and I both signed the book. I considered taking a photo of what I wrote, but I thought that would be tacky. I’m pretty sure I wrote something along the lines of, “Thank you for all that you were, and all you expected us to become.”

I had never been to the museum before, and I thought the exhibits were great. They do a great job of immersing you in the JFK experience. But as we toured the exhibits, I initially thought it was unfortunate that we had to go to his brother’s museum to honor Ted Kennedy, that there was no place of his own where everyone could congregate. As I thought about it more, though, I realized this was as much his place as it was JFK’s. Ted Kennedy poured a lot of himself into creating this monument to his brother and all that he stood for. While only a small section toward the end is set aside with memorabilia relating specifically to Teddy, as opposed to the entire recreated office for RFK, that section is sure to expand. I suppose some could make the argument for the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which Ted Kennedy helped usher into reality out of the mire of the Big Dig project, or the family compound in Hyannis Port — or, perhaps, simply anywhere in Massachusetts would do, since his impact over the years was so broad.

My mom was torn on whether she would have rather been there to see Kennedy lying in state, or if it was better to come when we did and not see the casket. In the end, I just think it’s glad we did something at all — and that we did it together. My politics are rooted in the values she brought me up with, and going to the JFK Museum with her the day after the death of a Massachusetts liberal icon was simply the most perfect thing we could have hoped to do. The arrangements were serendipitous, but quite fitting.

On our way out of the museum, we ran into a woman who asked if the line was very long. We told her no, there weren’t a ton of people there yet, but the crowds were growing. She was stopping by on the way to Rhode Island to visit her own sick father. Kennedy’s death had obviously touched her.

“You can’t replace him,” she said, “but it tells us we have to step up and try harder.”

In the vein of what I wrote in the remembrance book, I couldn’t help but agree.

Postscript: Friday night, I had a dream. I often don’t remember the full context of my dreams, only (if I’m lucky) scenes and snippets. So the snippet I remember from Friday night’s dream is walking at night with Ted Kennedy, from Faneuil Hall to the North End. We were walking side by side in quiet. The streets were rain-slicked and the air was cool. He wore a dark coat and hat. A sense of finality permeated the scene.

And that was it.

(My photos from our visit are on Flickr.}

Goodbye, Teddy

I woke up early this morning, just before dawn, and went into my office. As my laptop flickered back to life, all I saw was a photo of Ted Kennedy from the 1980 Democratic National Convention and the name, in large type, “Edward M. Kennedy.” I heaved a deep sigh. The inevitable had come to pass.

Yes, it was inevitable that Kennedy was near the end of his life; there is only so much modern medical science can do against a malignant brain tumor. What I didn’t expect, though, was the sense of loss I felt as I sat down and began to scan the headlines about his death, at the age of 77.

I am a liberal, as my mother raised me to be (though not quite as vehement), but I’ve never felt a special kinship to the Kennedys. I never got wrapped up in the cult of personality surrounding Camelot and the family’s storied, tragic history. I’ve followed them, sure, as a subject of American history and as a proud resident of their home state. But I cannot count myself as a devotee.

Nor can I count myself as one of the many people across the state and the country who have been personally aided by Senator Kennedy. There are many stories about ordinary people calling the senator’s office for help cutting through red tape when dealing with the death of a loved one in the armed services, wading through immigration paperwork or needing funding for a worthy initiative. And he and his staff helped them.

While I value the voice Kennedy has provided on Capitol Hill, particularly on issues of great interest to me like health care and education, I think that the reason I felt so sad upon hearing of his death was because the man who did these little things that were actually tremendous things, for people just like you and me, was gone. Now, where will they turn?

Knowing Kennedy was there — and that he did these things — was a great comfort to me, to a degree which I did not appreciate until his light was suddenly snuffed. He was like a security blanket: if things ever get bad, you can call Uncle Teddy. Maybe that is the best kind of political representation — one you can feel, but do not acutely need.

Kennedy’s death leaves us at a loss in many respects. Massachusetts’ junior senator John Kerry is famously incapable of the warmth and accessibility Kennedy wielded with ease, and his legislative prowess is even harder to measure. (If anything, Kennedy was good at forging other people’s perceptions of himself.) How will Kerry pick up the heavy baton Kennedy leaves behind?

Also, in his last days, Kennedy — knowing the end was nearer than any of us cared to admit — pressed for the state legislature to repeal a law passed in 2004 that mandates a special election, rather than a gubernatorial appointee, to determine succession in the case of a political vacancy. Needless to say, I don’t look forward to the political feeding frenzy that will grip the commonwealth for the next few months.

Kennedy’s death comes at an interesting time, and not just because of the ongoing debates over health care reform — Kennedy’s signature issue — or even the proximity of Kennedy’s death to that of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. But Kennedy’s death also comes in late August, the waning days of summer. By virtue of their association with the Cape, the Kennedys are in a sense synonymous with summer — so many photographs exist of touch football games on the Hyannis Port compound, regattas, shoreline strolls and other such moments. Maybe Kennedy wanted to go during this golden time — the water is still warm, the leaves have not yet turned, the sun is still relatively long in the sky. We all know he loved sailing, and today looks like mighty fine sailing weather.

You know what’s funny? In thinking about and referring to Kennedy, I’ve often called him Teddy. Where this came from, I don’t know. A popular affectation picked up from fawning media coverage? My own inclination to call people by nicknames? I don’t know. It just always seemed right. Even though he was larger than life in many respects, he always felt real, accessible and present. Familiar. But now, he’s gone.

So, rest in peace, Teddy. In death, you can finally rejoin your brothers and all the others you have lost over the years.

But the dream, Senator, the dream will never die.

A Geek, A Girl, But Not a Geeky Girl

Now and then, particularly on Twitter, I’ll see mentions of various “girl geek power!” initiatives, such as events like the Boston Girl Geek Dinner. My interest will be mildly piqued — I mean, if I see two terms that define me lumped together, I should get excited and feel a connection, right? But while those visual cues will usually get me to click, or maybe just think about clicking, I never follow through by reading or attending or doing whatever it is I should by all rights feel obliged to do. And lately I’ve been wondering why. Then, I realized: I’m a geek, and I’m a girl, but I don’t really think of myself as a geeky girl.

My Mom Won’t Forgive Me For This Post

My mom is a feminist — like, we’re talking  a women’s studies minor, bookshelves of feminist literature and longtime readership of “Ms.” magazine. I never got that interested in such things, at either an activist or academic level. To tell you the truth, as I proceeded along my life and career in web publishing/online news, I never much considered or encountered a glass ceiling. I never felt like I was at a disadvantage in my field or personal interactions because of my gender. In my first job, my manager was female, and I had multiple female colleagues. When I left for a new workplace, I found myself surrounded by women. Professionally, I’ve never had the impetus or need to identify as a feminist.

So, it could just be that I fell into a situation where I am not competing against men, thus it’s never been something I’ve personally had to deal with. But when I was at Podcamp Boston a few weeks ago, I suddenly had no choice but to think about it. A spontaneous afternoon session evolved about about empowering women to succeed in the social media realm. It took place out on the lawn in front of the campus center at UMass Boston, and it drew quite a crowd — and a range of opinions. I did not attend, though it was fairly easy to keep track from Twitter backchannel chatter during and immediately after the event, as well as the follow-up blog posts after the fact. Why didn’t I attend? First of all, like I said above, I typically don’t feel drawn to such causes or events. Second of all, it was a beautiful afternoon on Dorchester Bay, and I was laying out on a bench enjoying the weather.

While many participants came away from the event feeling empowered and heard, I found myself more intrigued by the detracting views.

On Self-Defeat

One of the best conversations I had at Podcamp Boston lasted about five minutes and took place mostly in an elevator. I encountered Diane Williams just after the session on the lawn, and I asked if she had attended.  She  gave me a weary look and we talked about the woe-is-me-ism that pervaded the session, the self-fulfilling prophecy of disenfranchisement, how in social media, of all fields, these arguments don’t hold water very well.

Liz, with whom I co-organized an ad-hoc lunch session for folks in higher ed and nonprofits, wrote an interesting post detailing how she felt looked down upon because she self-identifies as a mommyblogger. From her perspective, this spoke to a self-defeating tendency amongst women in the technology/web fields:

Ladies, we are our own worst enemies. It isnt the men, or the technology industry or circumstances. Its us. We are clique-y, bitchy and territorial and thats what stops us from moving forward and up, from being invited to be speakers and presenters in places, specifically the more industry driven conferences, where we dont already have a personal contact (or have already made a significant impact). We dont put ego aside and give a stranger advice and help. We dont try to eliminate stereotypes and prejudice, but instead we enforce them. We dont really listen, we only experience the surface. Noone wants The Drama.

We are stepping on our own feet. It really has to stop. But it wont, and thats the biggest shame of all.

Does Not Compute

I guess I just don’t understand reactions like Sarah Wurrey‘s, who was angered by Christopher Penn saying that all women had to do was “be awesome.”

I’m sorry, I was unaware that we weren’t already awesome. I can name at least 100 awesome women right now. Why is it the responsibility for changing the state of affairs all on us?

Um. I really don’t think he was saying you weren’t awesome now. But there’s a difference between being awesome in a closet and feeling comfortable and confident enough to wield that awesomeness. And really, in the realm of social media, I don’t think there’s a patriarchy waiting to beat you down. The “responsibility for changing the state of affairs” is on ALL of us, irregardless of gender. It’s called the democratization of media.

Sarah states, “Are there not currently TONS of women in social media who are incredibly smart, incredibly accomplished, and incredibly under-represented everywhere–from the stage at SxSW to the Power 150?” Sure. But I’ve yet to see any conclusive evidence that that underrepresentation comes from some collective oppression. When Sarah says, “We’re saying that women who are already equally deserving of these chances, women who ARE ‘awesome,’ have been overlooked. And we’re asking that it be corrected,” all I can say is, most conferences I’ve attended in this space accept session proposals, and many are co-organized by women. Again, no evidence of collective oppression. Please prove this to me. (Also, don’t complain about people like Chris Penn saying “provocative” things like “It doesn’t matter what’s between your legs” when apparently the session was conceived with a name that can’t be printed in a family newspaper.)

Gina Minks also recapped the session, describing how women approach the issue from an emotionally charged vantage point while men approach it from a more neutral perspective — one that may lend itself to apparently dismissive comments like “just be awesome.” I agree with Gina when she says that women should strive to move to neutral — which is where I guess I am — but I am not sure that I see the need to “get guys to understand they play a huge role in this.” What is that role? If we’re the ones with the “problem” of perception, what is it they need to do? (Though, as a sidenote, some of the “guys” are stepping up as a result of this discussion.)

Against Arguing For Your Limitations

Cynthia Barnes had a good takeaway from the discussion, I feel:

we concluded that we need to change, one person at a time, and that its up to all of us to help each other. Encourage each other to get out there and share what we have. We need to mentor our fellow women, to make each other the best that we can be. As individuals, we should recognize the skills we have, be confident in them and start promoting ourselves – and support the others around us who are doing it.

This, to me, is concrete, achievable and doesn’t point fingers without just cause. I agree that more women should be out there talking about this stuff — a diversity of perspectives is always good — and if there is a disadvantage, real or perceived, collective will is a good way to conquer any shortcoming.

I was glad to see Chris Penn himself weigh in with a post after Podcamp, and I have to say, I believe he is spot on. He doesn’t mince words, sure, but if we’re going to squeal like there’s a mouse in the room at someone’s blunt (but inoffensive) speech, maybe we deserve the place we perceive ourselves to occupy. Anyhow, Penn cuts right to it, quoting Richard Bach: “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” Seriously. If you’re going to complain about underrepresentation in engineering, I’ll listen. But social media? The argument doesn’t hold as much water.

All of the tools and technology are available to everyone. You have complete and total equality in terms of tools and raw opportunity to make your own game. How you use those tools, what results you create are only limited by your talents and your self imposed limitations.

Rakiesha Chase’s post really nailed it for me, though:

It’s like there are some women that are trapped in their vaginas and can’t look beyond being a woman to being…a person. If I defined myself by my gender, or my race, and then lived my life looking through glasses that only showed things related to those things, then I wouldn’t see much of life…

I made a comment in my PodCamp post that “self-hate isn’t sexy”. Basically, I feel that by considering some aspect of who you are a hindrance to progress, you are committing self-hate, and really, that’s #notagoodlook.

Maybe that’s it. In this context, I don’t see myself as a woman; just a person. I feel I’ve been lucky enough to always be treated like a person, and not a woman (by which I mean, coming in feeling defensive with a chip on my shoulder, like I have something to prove). I mean, I always feel like I have something to prove — but to myself.

Whither Moi?

Another thing that irks me is that I don’t fit the definiton of “girl” that a lot of these movements trumpet. On the “About” page for Boston Girl Geeks, it says, “Look, we’re girls. We’re social. We can like motherboards and MAC.” OK, I barely know what MAC is. I’ve been a tomboy for as long as I’ve had ovaries. The thought of going someplace like Ulta or wearing non-sensible shoes makes me want to die. So where do I go for dinner? Thanks, Boston Girl Geeks, for being so inclusive. Talk about a self-defeating movement.

I suppose we all pick our battles, and mine is simply not to wave the feminist flag. Maybe it’s because of this wearying woe-is-me-ism. If you start your fight from a prone position, aren’t you setting yourself up to fail? I do believe there is something to the tactic of winning by simply acting like a winner, by being confident in your own abilities and executing.

I don’t want to be a part of a movement that focuses on a perceived disadvantage. I’d rather focus, as Chris Penn suggested, on being awesome — on continuing to be awesome, and finding ways to become even more awesome. And gender, for me, is not relevant to that goal.

As Diane said, is part of the problem assuming you are in a deferential position, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of needing to prove and assert yourself, or feeling disinclined to speak up because other voices in the room are louder?

What if you just walk into the room like you own it? Imagine what you could do.

Opening Your Life’s Owner’s Manual

A short while ago, I realized that the easiest way to understand a flaw you see in someone else is to look for it in yourself. More often than not, you’ll find you possess some iteration of that flaw. You are humbled to both look upon your flawed acquaintance with more understanding and to try to correct the flaw in yourself as best you can. It is a very worthwhile exercise, if not difficult. After all, self-examination is not easy for anyone.

Remember this. We’ll come back to it.

I have a bad habit of getting too invested in other people’s lives. It is usually out of a mix of concern, intrigue and fascination, but I tend to get overly caught up. One thing that usually bothers me is when people I know — typically people who have tremendous capacity and potential, people who I usually want to spend a lot of time with because I find them to be unique and fun — act as their own worst enemy, bemoaning their place in life without acknowledging that they, and they alone, possess the capability to make a change. It’s a lot easier, and perhaps more comforting, to believe that “things will happen,” that the answers will reveal themselves, that all things come to those who wait. In truth, however, the fact is that if you build it, they will come.

To take a close look at your own life and the choices you are making (yes, very “Man in the Mirror” way to phrase it, I know) requires you to realize that you own your own life. This is hard, and scary. This requires accepting that while fate does not have anything to do with it, serendipity does. You understand that you control the direction your life goes, while understanding that factors you cannot control may come to bear and affect that direction. This means that you accept full responsibility and hold yourself 100 percent accountable for all decisions you make — or don’t make.

When I was at Podcamp Boston this past weekend, I was surrounded with people who at some point — or maybe they have done this since birth — decided to own their own lives and devote them to exploring the ever-evolving online space, and the ways people use it to communicate and connect. Sure, some of these folks have had cults of personality form around them, but as I’ve gotten exposed to more of these people, I find them to be on the whole pretty authentic, genuinely friendly and excited people who are evangelizing something they feel passionate about but also know how to listen. (Social media is all about listening, after all.) It was pretty inspiring. I guess in HR speak, they call those types of people “self-starters.”

The real key, though, is to be a self-sustainer. Starting is easy. It’s keeping it up that’s hard.

Now, back to what I said at the beginning of this post. It’s easy for me to look at the people in my life who I feel are not living up to their potential, who are sitting back and avoiding making the tough decisions that might make them happier, more fulfilled individuals.

What’s hard is for me to see that I am doing the same thing right now. In my life, I have many things I want to do, and I have the ability to do them. But I hold myself back — with fear, doubt, confusion, helplessness. The four horsemen of my own apocalypse, if I let them run wild.

It’s time to own up to the difficult truth: I own my own life, and it’s time to start acting like it.

The other key to being a self-starter and a self-sustainer, the thing people sometimes forget, is that the self in those terms is only a part of it.  We don’t get anywhere in life without the love and support of our friends, family and creative collaborators. There is strength in numbers, and the bigger your network, the more likely you will be to reduce the roar of those four horsemen to a whinny. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, or realize a task is more than you can handle. But, better to ask than to not.

The key to all of this, of course, is your own determination to own your own life, to start something and keep it going. And more often than not, you have to fake it to make it. Owning your own life sometimes means just acting like you own your own life even when you’re not quite ready to believe you do. That’s okay. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck, right? You may think so, but right now, that duck thinks it’s an aardvark. In time, though, with enough quacking, it will embrace its inner duck.

That said… quack, quack.

Can the MBTA Avert #mbtafail?

I love the MBTA.

Wait, no, let me start over.

I love public transit. I love living in a city that is so conducive to public transit — compact, diverse, populous. I love the big pile of bus schedules I carry in my bag, because while I can look up transit schedules via my Blackberry, it’s so much more fun to thumb through my big stack, pull out the schedule in question and study it, like a navigator charting my course. I love people-watching. I appreciate (though I may not always love) the inherent serendipity. Ages ago, I actually started a Facebook fan page for the MBTA.

I am also lucky. I love public transit, but I don’t necessarily need it. I live close to work, friends, grocery stores and Zipcars. If the bus drivers went on strike for a week, I would get by.

It is not me that I am worried about.

The MBTA is in crisis. It seems like the powers that be will whine and moan about how the MBTA’s real crisis is its budget shortfall, but the real crisis does not belong to the state. It belongs to the ridership, who consistently get a raw deal from the folks at the top — fare hikes and service cuts are always the first solution trumpeted whenever the going gets tough at the MBTA.

Sure, Gov. Deval Patrick is making noise about a top to bottom review of management at the MBTA, but I have my doubts about whether or not that really means anything. In the wake of the messy exit of Dan Grabauskas (who is still making noise himself), how can I help but think that this call is simply in response to the need to put a positive spin on the latest T drama? Why is such a review only a bright idea now, amid texting drivers (and the debatable response thereto), fatal accidents, chronic power issues and “signal delays,” embezzling employees, Charlie Card machines that inconsistently accept debit cards and other issues large and small, not the least of which is a $160 million FY10 budget shortfall and $2.2 billion in long-term debt? (Note: Nearly one-tenth of this year’s shortfall is the amount the T has lost each year to fare evaders. Charlie Cards help curb fare evaders, but it’s still a huge problem on the commuter rail.) Why has the MBTA always been allowed to procrastinate facing up to its big, hairy problems, and why has the rider always been the fall guy? Why will this time be any different?

In my mind, public transit is like a utility, like water or electricity. It is not an option; it is a requirement, an obligation of the municipal authority to provide to its population.

In turn, that is why I am not worried about me. I am worried about the folks I used to ride the first 89 bus of the day with to Sullivan Station, who were heading to less glamorous jobs than mine at the Boston Globe. I am worried about the hordes of people I see crowding at Sullivan around 9 or 10PM for a 104 or 109 bus back to Everett. I am worried about the domino effect of lack of evening commuter rail service on sporting and entertainment events in the city, both on the promoters and the individuals who will be unable to come in from out of town to attend. I am worried about kids who attend school across town and may either have to leave early and miss out on after-school activities or stay late, and maybe alone, until the next bus or a ride comes. I am worried about the environment, as commuters may hop back in their cars if inconvenienced by slashed schedules. I am worried that fare hikes or service cuts will not have any demonstrable benefit to the ridership and that even with the earnings/savings they would bring, the financial problems will not be allayed due to incompetence, mismanagement or all of the above.

As I was discussing some of these possibilities with a co-worker on Monday, the concern I’ve carried around since service cuts were first breached a few months ago began to heighten. Yes, I believe public transit should be provided to citizens just like any other utility. Which is why fare hikes without a plan for how they would be used to reduce debt AND improve service — and service cuts especially — would be a major disservice to the people of eastern Massachusetts. I understand that the agency has a tremendous amount of debt that hamstrings some of what they can do, but I’ve seen businesses manage debt in creative ways. I have to think it’s possible here. It can’t be an excuse anymore. I think the state needs to find a way to support public transit that treats it like a utility — after all, you wouldn’t limit the hours per day someone had access to hot water or electricity. If we’re serious about supporting the needs and aspirations of an urban population, and about shifting to a green way of life, we have to fundamentally change the way we look at public transit.

The MBTA is currently holding public workshops and hearings on the proposed fare and service changes, and I was fascinated on Monday by the Universal Hub live-tweeting of the first of these meetings. Will what gets said in these forums be heard? It’s hard to tell. But it’s important to keep talking. And you’ve got to hope that someone is listening — really listening. Because the real solution can’t be found in the rider’s pocket. That idea can’t cut it anymore.

We’ve Got Movie Sign!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fortunate to see  a bunch of movies that I had been particularly wanting to see. It’s not always easy to find the time to go to the movies — particularly in the summer, when for me, the outdoors beckon. But somehow, I’ve seen four in the past two weeks, partaking in a few of my favorite moviegoing pastimes along the way.

Moon – A couple of Saturdays ago, after a walk with friends, I decided to see this at the Somerville Theatre. Just $7, and with my Brown School Discount Card, I was able to snag a free small popcorn. Score.

The premise is, in the not-so-distant future, a lunar miner is nearing the end of a three-year solo contract when strange things begin happening. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, the miner in question, and he is always a treat. The movie provoked some good thoughts both about accepting the reality with which you are presented, and subsequently subverting that reality. Kevin Spacey was a fun turn as Gerty, the deadpan robot who knows more than we think but is ultimately charged with helping Sam. There are a few troubling implausibilities or unlikelihoods in some of the bigger-picture elements of the plot (specifically, the corporate actions and motivations at play), but if you focus on it as a study of one man’s reaction to uniquely challenging circumstances, it’s a compelling hour and a half.

(500) Days of Summer – My husband and I ventured downtown for what we hoped would be a 2-for-1 double feature. Yes, I confess, we are occasional theatre hoppers. (The key is to hit the matinees — less staffing — and, in the case of the big downtown multiplex, don’t see one of the big new releases that will isolate you in one of the two large downstairs theatres and dash your hopping hopes.) We are also unabashed food and drink smugglers (though Rick did get some soft pretzels between “(500) Days” and our second feature). Now you know.

So, “(500) Days.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a hopeless romantic and Zooey Deschanel is a cynic about love, and the film recounts their year-plus relationship. You are warned at the beginning that it is not a love story, but rather a story about love. Still, you can’t help but get hooked on the two of them, rooting for them to make it work. What happens is not entirely unpredictable or even that special, but the way the movie is told — jumping back and forth between various calendar pages of their relationship and inserting whimsical devices such as dance numbers and animation — enhances the story without diluting it under a deluge of pointless effects. You also get a feel for these characters as people, not as caricatures. (Except for Tom’s brief period of unhygenic despair during a break in their relationship — it reminded me painfully of a similar period for Owen Wilson’s character in “Wedding Crashers,” and it seemed wholly unbelievable.) Overall, though, a very fun film.

The Hangover – Yes, this is the one we snuck into, and I am sort of glad we did not pay to see this. While I had been intrigued by the hype about this sleeper hit depicting the misadventures of a group of guys hitting Vegas for a bachelor party, after a while it began to feel like a pile-on. The movie had its moments, and I really enjoyed Zach Galifanakis as the tagalong misfit brother-in-law, but movies like this upset the balance of empathy and patience I bring to any movie or TV show. After a while, on behalf of the characters, I can only take so much violence and failure, and only so much time waiting for the plot to unfold. I like things to progress and evolve, not just see more crazy things happen one after the other. The end of the movie, actually, was refreshing enough to almost redeem the preceding hour and a half of aimless capers. Almost. Not sad I saw it, but sure glad I didn’t pay much — or anything, really.

Adam – I’ve always been a fan of seeing movies by myself, and over the past year, the Kendall Square Cinema has become a top solo moviegoing destination for me. Not only because they play great indie flicks, but because its slightly out-of-the-way location draws me out of the Davis Square circuit, for which I am grateful.

When I saw the preview for “Adam” before another movie at the Kendall a month or so ago, I immediately knew I wanted to see it. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn it came out this past weekend. In “Adam,” the title character is a charming, handsome young man who happens to have Asperger’s. Shortly after the death of his father, who helped him negotiate a very overwhelming world, he strikes up a relationship with a woman who lives in his building. The film follows their process of trying to better understand each other — and their own messed-up lives.

Maybe I was just in an emotional mood when I saw it, but this movie really touched me. I thought it was exceptionally well-acted — the main characters’ emotions and motivations were believable and accessible. I couldn’t help but draw parallels to “Say Anything,” and even “(500) Days of Summer,” in a good way. If you’re looking for a compelling, affecting, cute film that is more a story about love than it is a love story — I highly recommend “Adam.”

Next on my list is “Paper Heart,” the faux-documentary with Michael Cera and Charlene Yi, which will either be awesome or awful. We shall see. Soon, I shall again be Kendall-bound.

As an aside… why on earth doesn’t iMDB have a good mobile version of its website, or perhaps an app? I can’t count how many times I have been out with friends and someone asks, “Who was in that movie…” or “What’s the movie that so-and-so was in…” A quality mobile version of iMDB is a highly-desired accessory to any group activity. A couple of people have independently released apps or web front-ends, but nothing has been officially released by iMDB. A grave oversight, if you ask me.

A Journey to Lexington Center

When an open Saturday with (relatively) low humidity and clear skies presented itself, I knew how I was going to spend my afternoon. I needed to finish what I started three weeks previously and bike all the way to Lexington Center.

So, I headed out from Winter Hill, stopping in Davis Square for a bottle of water and a smoothie at the Blue Shirt Cafe (the Peanut Butter Delight, to which I am addicted). I headed out, again making some stops along the way, including at my revered Spy Pond. When I zipped past my previous farthest point on the bike path, I cheered. I knew I was just 1.25 miles away from Lexington Center.

Now, I had heard that Lexington Center was really cool and had lots of good restaurants, but I didn’t know what exactly to expect. What I found was a thriving and busy little square that reminded me of a more spread out Coolidge Corner, with a hint of Arlington Center. Everyone was out since it was a gorgeous day.

My co-worker had recommended a sushi restaurant, and in wandering down Mass. Ave in search of it, I stumbled across the Battle Green, which sported several monuments and remembrances to the opening battle of the Revolutionary War. Yep, “The Shot Heard Round The World.” Even though I knew that Lexington is where that all happened, I guess I didn’t expect that the battle site would be that close to where I was.

I found myself held rapt by history. Even though it was history with which I was intimately familiar, it was humbling to stroll the (oddly empty) green and see the various monuments to the battle and the Minutemen who lost their lives, and for whom the bike path I rode is named. I noted with interest that a flag pole had been designated the official memorial to the Battle of Lexington, and I was awed by the memorial erected in 1799 to the Minutemen from Lexington who died in that opening battle. (“The Die was cast!!” the memorial excitedly declares in recapping the events of that April morning in 1775.) I also enjoyed learning about Prince Estabrook, the slave who was the first black soldier of the American Revolution.

As I strolled the Battle Green, I felt like I was out of town on vacation, and I was delighted to be a tourist agog in my own state. For me, the visit gave Patriot’s Day — which rolls around every April with an implicit joke that we need a day off to watch the Boston Marathon and see an early morning Sox game — a bit more heft and importance. It was not lost on me that I had come there from Winter Hill, which was a stop on Paul Revere’s ride to Lexington. The thought of retracing, however loosely, that bit of history pleased me.

After I finishing touring the Battle Green, I did indeed find that sushi restaurant, where I scarfed down a couple of delicious sushi rolls. I then headed back out on the path, pausing once more by Arlington’s Great Meadow. My next goal for the bike path is to bring a friend and wear appropriate clothes and bug spray for exploring some of the walking trails that jut off the path in the area of the meadow. Or perhaps I will make it a goal to reach the end of the bike path in Bedford. It’s just over three miles from Lexington Center, and I know I can do it, though I’ve heard that as a locale it is not that interesting, aside from the feeling of triumph at having completed the path. (I think I’ll spare myself the off-road informal extensions of the path past Bedford.)

For now, though, I am basking in my latest accomplishment, and appreciating the unexpected history lesson I received as a reward.

(Full photo set on Flickr)