Wordcamp Boston

Today I’m geeking out with my fellow WordPress fans here at Wordcamp Boston, host by Microsoft’s NERD Center (New England Research and Development) on the MIT campus. Now that I’ve moved my blog to WordPress and have used it for several other projects, I’m glad to have a chance to get more acquainted with this great open source community.

Here’s the view of Boston and the Charles River from our 14th floor room:

iPhone App for Municipal Complaints

The city has released an iPhone app that enables residents to report problems as they encounter them on the ground:

“The Citizens Connect iPhone App that provides a lightweight interface into the City of Boston’s Constituent Relationship Management System (CRM). The intention is to help constituents easily report a variety of different service requests including

  • Removing Graffiti
  • Filling Potholes
  • Fixing Traffic lights”

http://www.cityofboston.gov/mis/apps/iphone.asp

All you have to do is take a picture, describe the issues, and send it off and the city will have a geocoded record of your request.

On a recommendation from neighbors, I went out this morning and reported the sidewalk that connects our neighborhood to Forest Hills cemetery, which is basically just gravel and garbage at this point. It’s so bad that people with strollers usually have to walk in the road.

This clearly won’t be enough in itself to get this problem fixed, but it sends a signal to residents that the City is trying to listen and is willing to invest in tools that make it easier to voice our concerns.

Boston Globe:  Municipal complaint? There’s an app for that

First Hand: Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection

This weekend we attended the opening of the First Hand exhibit, a remarkable collection of Civil War Era sketches never seen by the public before. This exhibit is special for me because I’ve been managing the website development for both the Becker Collection and the First Hand exhibit site over that last three years.

Though I’ve been looking at the digital versions of these pieces for quite some time, I was a revelation to see the physical items in person.

firsthandimage

If you live in the Boston area, it would be well worth your while to stop by to check it out (and please get in touch with me if you do–I’ll try to meet up with you).

McMullen Museum of Art
Boston College. Chestnut Hill, MA
September 5-December 13, 2009

If you aren’t in the area, at least check out the web versions of the drawings: Becker Collection and First Hand

More on the exhibit: “Picturing America: How artists reported the news—or tried to—in the years before photography

Jumping the Tracks

Tonight my neighbor Andrew emailed me a last-minute invitation to see a screening of the documentary “The Greening of Southie” (http://www.greeningofsouthie.com/), and since I didn’t have any firm plans, I decided to go.

By the end of the evening, I had:

  • Riden my bike to Coolidge Corner after work
  • Eaten Pizza at Upper Crust
  • Browsed for half hour at the Brookline Booksmith
  • Watched a great documentary that telled a story about green building in Boston
  • Listened to a stimulating Q&A with the filmmaker and the director of Nexus
  • Run into two other friends, Saundra and Rhonda.
  • Biked home on a mild summer evening.

These are a few of my favorite things, and I seems right to acknowledge how many of them fell together in one ordinary Monday evening.

I’ve been noticing how often I get myself into mental ruts where I cycle through the same negative thoughts, looping through my familiar anxieties, self-criticisms, pessimism, and so forth, until it’s hard to remember exactly on which track my passions and beliefs really lie.

But tonight I jumped the rails a while and when I got on my bike to ride home, I was flush with clarity. Biking became an idea I was glad to think over and over again from Brookline to JP. Without the distractions of shifting, my single gear bike gave me a one-track mind freed up to peddle outside my customary routes.

It won’t be long before I find myself riding the old rails again, but I figure the more times I stop to pay attention to nights like these, the better I’ll get at derailing.

Correspondences

The Transcendentalists were fond of looking for “correspondences” between the external world and the inner world, between say the weather and one’s emotions. As I sit working on the last revisions to my dissertation (I have the week off), such connections seem pretty clear. It’s a cold, rainy march day, drab above and below. The snow has melted but nothing has sprouted to give the landscape much sign of life.

Likewise, the PhD program has hung over my life like a long winter. I have survived, even thrived at times, but in generally it often feels like life has been stunted by this extended season.

From my window I look at the purple three-flat across the street with the porch that was left half finished in the fall, as if they just decided let it dangle until spring. In our yard, sections of the fence stand in disrepair, or don’t stand at all, because we didn’t get them fixed in the fall as we hoped. These remind me of all the unfinished business I’ve accumulated over the years, all the things that I’ve been putting off “until the dissertation is done.”

After four days of stewing in my own words, I’m craving a taste of someone elses’s for a change. It’s hard to cook up a fresh thought when you have to keep thawing out and reheating material that was first collected many years ago.

But I can see the end now, and I’m trying to enjoy the unique moment that I find myself in. I don’t have to shower or leave the house or socialize. I don’t have to care about anything else or wonder what its all about. All that’s in lock-down now, and all that exists is the job of finishing this thing. It’s a luxury, and I’m thankful to have the space to see it through.

This afternoon I’m glad for the correspondence between my inner state and the external world, because it means that spring will be cued to arrive at just the right time to greet the conclusion of the dissertation and my graduation. It’s hard to imagine what this next phase in my life will be like, but I’m sure it will feel a lot like spring for a while.