2008 Boston Yellow Pages: 1451 pages
2009 Boston Yellow Pages: 1075 pages

December 31, 2008 December 31, 2008 observations by Scott 3 Comments

May you all have a very merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008 December 25, 2008 friends by Scott No Comments

Christmas means traveling with two bags. I arrived at the airport for my first experience in this checked-baggage-not-included world. To my surprise, they have not installed cash registers at the ticket counter! So how does a guy who uses a credit card only for large purchases check luggage on Delta Air Lines? Follow these easy steps:

  1. Identify yourself to an automated kiosk.
  2. When prompted for number of bags to check, touch “1”.
  3. The next screen asks you to swipe your credit card now to be charged $15. You never said you wanted to pay by credit card, so touch “cancel.”
  4. When prompted for number of bags to check, touch “1” again.
  5. When asked again to swipe your credit card, call for human assistance. Ask where the cash option is.
  6. Human will advise that the only way out is to choose “0” bags (an option now helpfully labeled “Free!”).
  7. Approach counter with bag to check. Identify yourself to counter agent.
  8. Agent will scan boarding pass 3–5 times before declaring it unusual that the computer will not permit her to check your bag. Wait for a supervisor to reach the same conclusion before asking, “Is it because I declared zero bags at the kiosk?”
  9. Agent will accompany you back to the kiosk to modify your check-in.
  10. Agent will advise you to again select “1” bag, but this time to answer “yes” when it asks whether the luggage contains sporting goods, live animals, dry ice or firearms, even if it does not. “I realize there’s no way you would have known that,” she will add.
  11. A helpful pop-up screen will now advise you to see an agent at the counter.
  12. Return to counter with the agent. Produce $20 bill.
  13. Agent says she will be right back and carries the money to the back room.
  14. Smile helpfully at the people behind you in line.
  15. Agent returns in 5–7 minutes, having completed the necessary paperwork to make $5 in change, and you are on your way. What could be easier?

December 24, 2008 December 24, 2008 travel by Scott No Comments

I knew something was amiss when I awoke to find that the breeze from my slightly open window was uncomfortably cold. The heat stopped working overnight. Having made a special effort to be up early to run errands, I was furious to discover that the hot water was also out. There are two things in this world which, if missed, will make me instantly irritable: meals and showers. I ate breakfast.

I started calling the landlord. The boiler in my building dates back to approximately the time of James Watt, so one or two major mechanical failures per year is customary. The system closely resembles Frankenstein’s laboratory. Wires, bare and cloth-insulated, twist and turn like vines along walls. The windows of gauges and sight glasses are mottled by the accumulated crust of decades. Obsolete parts are bypassed but left in place. Unable to troubleshoot it myself, I call hourly for status updates. I found it curious that it was taking hours to dispatch a repairman. What could possibly be wrong this time?

The answer became clear after lunch when the “repairman” finally showed up, not with a toolbox but with a tanker truck. Who lets their tank of heating oil run dry!?!

December 21, 2008 December 21, 2008 rants by Scott 1 Comment

As I biked past my neighborhood Subway restaurant last night I spotted what has become a strangely common sight in downtown Boston: a battery of lights set up on the sidewalk, blasting at the front window. A handful of grip trucks and a makeup trailer were parked outside.

Scrims and flags and lighting stands blocked my view of what was going on inside—needless to say they were closed for business—but rumor has it that if I had stuck around a little longer, I would have seen Michael Phelps shooting a Super Bowl commercial.

December 16, 2008 December 16, 2008 observations by Scott 1 Comment

This week the governor of New York proposes an “obesity tax” on soft drinks. Good for him! Financial incentives for good behavior work, and I’m sure the state can use the extra revenue.

Unfortunately it seems like Gov. Paterson intends to draw a line between diet and non-diet drinks, choosing to tax only non-diet sodas. Making such a distinction seems to convey the message that diet sodas are somehow healthier than their non-diet counterparts. A government endorsement of artificial sweeteners like aspartame (Nutrasweet) is inappropriate without scientific consensus. And as of this writing, the science is inconclusive.

Most people would agree that soda is unhealthy, so why not tax all soda?

December 15, 2008 December 15, 2008 in-the-news by Scott No Comments

Quoth the New York Times: “And yet, Mr. Blagojevich, 52, rarely turns up for work at his official state office in Chicago, former employees say, is unapologetically late to almost everything, and can treat employees with disdain, cursing and erupting in fury for failings as mundane as neglecting to have at hand at all times his preferred black Paul Mitchell hairbrush. He calls the brush ‘the football,’ an allusion to the ‘nuclear football,’ or the bomb codes never to be out of reach of a president.”

So, Illinois: you voted for this guy?

December 14, 2008 December 14, 2008 in-the-news by Scott 3 Comments

I proudly subscribe to LensWork, the only photography magazine focused entirely on photographs (as opposed to cameras). The editor, Brooks Jensen, has a keen eye, tremendous experience, and never takes sides on pointless issues. For the longest time, the magazine was adamant that their special edition reprints were real photographic prints, not lithographs, and certainly not inkjet prints.

So it is troubling to this young luddite, so fond of making his own B&W prints in the darkroom, to read the results of Mr. Jensen’s tests with the latest crop of fancy inkjet printers and coated inkjet photo paper: “They are every bit as good as the gelatin silver paper I printed on for years. In fact, the Dmax black densities are even greater than I was able to reproduce in the darkroom with selenium-toned prints! The surface textures are lovely… The ‘feel’ of them is just wonderful.”

There you have it. In the short time since I took up photography, I have watched digital technologies equal or surpass silver at a number of metrics. First in resolution. Then at noise. Then dynamic range. And now falls the print. The significance is less about analog vs. digital than about what makes a “fine art” print so desirable. A gelatin silver print hanging in an art museum was almost certainly exposed from an original, one-of-a-kind negative in the artist’s darkroom, burned and dodged with light shaped by the artist’s own hands. Now black-and-white photography enters an era in which machine reproductions are equal to or better than what we currently call the “real thing.”

How will we value art when time-consuming and expensive originals become indistinguishable from copies? Will we need dealers? Will we need museums? The music industry is already asking similar questions, but at least they will always have the live performance.

December 7, 2008 December 7, 2008 observations by Scott 1 Comment