Andrew Combs’ Rainy Day Song

I discovered Andrew Combs about a year and a half ago when he opened for Shovels and Rope at the Sinclair in Cambridge. He’s got a really nice country/folk/americana thing going on, and if you like that sort of sound, I recommend checking out his album Worried Man on Spotify, and his earlier EP Tennessee Time.

I recently saw him a second time at Atwood’s Tavern in Cambridge, and he opened the set with a folk song off his upcoming second album which brought the noisy bar room to silence. I just found a recording of it, and thought I’d share. Doesn’t quite compare to how it sounded live, but beautiful nonetheless:

UberBoat Boston

This could be interesting. Starting this week, Uber began offering boat rides around Boston Harbor for $10/person:

“June 4 through June 15, you can use the Uber app to request a water taxi, powered byBoston Harbor Cruises. Make waves as you ride to your favorite Seaport restaurant. Sail over to the ICA for First Friday. Add a splash of fun to your morning commute – or even a quick cruise to or from Logan. Catching a flight has never been so easy!”

It actually seems like a reasonable deal to the airport from the Seaport, especially during rush hour. Or potentially as a quick way to get to Charlestown. Here’s a list of the pickup docks and destinations.


Joie de Vivre (JDV) in Businesweek

Max Jahn, what a guy. I used to be a part of the JDV club during my last year at Sloan, which mostly meant that I spent time with some great people and organized group homebrewing sessions. A nice shout out in Businessweek:

“In January 2011, 20 students at MIT Sloan School of Management traveled to Austria to learn about chocolate-making, the waltz, and proper etiquette for greeting a dance partner in the grand tradition of the Viennese ball. (The gentleman bows his head to the lady’s outstretched hand, but stops short of planting his lips.) Those aren’t skills most MBAs have on the top of their to-learn lists. Then again, Sloan’s Joie de Vivre club, which organized the trip, isn’t your typical student organization.

Max Jahn, a former Merrill Lynch (BAC) banker, started Joie de Vivre in 2010 after attending a classical music concert with fellow Sloan students during his second semester at the school….“I was listening to this beautiful music and I thought, I have classmates that are gifted in so many fields,” he says. “But when I meet them in a data models class or at a recruiting event, I don’t ever hear about their amazing talents.” 

The idea for the club, often called JDV to spare Sloan’s quants from attempting French accents, was to give students an opportunity to share extracurricular passions and interests. The group’s first meeting included a viola performance, a chocolate tasting, and a lecture on rare orchids given by a Sloan student who had cataloged the flowers for the Mexican government prior to entering business school. Other activities included a talent show and the trip to Jahn’s hometown of Vienna.”

Good times. More here.

Southie Development Time Lapse

I have three good friends who all live in this building, a few blocks up the street from my place. A year ago it was in pretty rough shape, likely abandoned and condemned. This time lapse below, covering the gutting and development of the building, is pretty great. Especially since my friends get to have a professional video of their homes being built.

It seems like every fifth lot in the neighborhood is undergoing something similar.

The History of Rainfall in Massachusetts

I’ve been learning a bit about data visualization tools lately, and last night I decided to go digging through Massachusetts government websites to see if there was any interesting data I could plot. I didn’t expect to spend my night learning about the history of rainfall in the state, but the Massachusetts precipitation database turned about to be a great resource. Below is what I came up with in half an hour or so.

On the map, each color represents a water basin — essentially where the water for the town or city comes from. The size of the circle represents the total rainfall in the area in a given year. You can toggle between years on the right. In any given year, I charted the monthly rainfall by region below the map. And finally, at the very bottom is a chart of overall annual rainfall in the state by year from 1902-2011. Click any year on the bottom chart, and the top two will update as well. To clear that selection, click anywhere else in the chart. For any meteorologists visiting my site for the first time, welcome! And anyone who knows of other public datasets that would lend themselves nicely to visualizations, feel free to leave a note in the comments.

Andrew Combs

Last weekend I went to see Shovels & Rope at the Sinclair in Cambridge. A few things to quickly note.

1. I can’t really describe Shovels & Rope well, but if you haven’t heard of them, check them out. A recent NYT article actually gets it pretty close: “They like to say they are “making as much noise as they can” with two old guitars, a kick drum, snare, harmonica, tambourine and occasional keyboard. I dare to match them with the couple that set the standard for country duets, Johnny Cash and June Carter. Both couples share Southern roots and that music-from-the-back porch country sound.” They were great live too, although they didn’t quite meet my (very high) expectations.

2. I liked the Sinclair a lot. It’s a new music venue right behind Harvard Square. They seem to have a good line-up of artists coming through, the sound is great, and the layout’s well-done. A nice addition to Cambridge.

3. The opening artist, Andrew Combs, completely blew me away. And I almost skipped his set. He’s a Tennessee-based guitar player and singer, and performed an acoustic set with just a pedal steel player backing him up. Reminded me a bit of Ryan Adams, but he’s definitely got his own thing going on. Here are a clip I shot.  The quality’s not great, and it doesn’t do his set justice, but it’s something:

Thanks to Ed and Cress for the tickets.

Where’s Foodies? On Fire, Apparently.

Or at least it was last Tuesday. As I previously mentioned in this post, I’ve been excited for Foodie’s to open a grocery store in Southie — around the corner from my apartment — for some time. As much as I love my neighborhood, we don’t really have any options for groceries, short of going to Stop & Shop on the east side or into the city. And there’s nowhere to get prepared food either. There’s been talk of the store opening going as far back as 2010, but starting this past spring, we began to see real progress, as contractors started renovating the long-vacant Chocolate and Nuts Factory on Broadway.

I’d heard lots of rumors that they were very close to opening, but the rumors never materialized. Here’s a sample of some Foodies-related nets publish over the past couple years:

“Foodies will be South Boston’s first big gourmet market, and the Globe story includes, perhaps, the best indicator of the extent of Southie’s gentrification we’ve ever read: “Jeff Cram, 34, who moved to nearby A Street last year, said he was pleased about the new store. He said he and his wife, who is expecting a baby, sometimes have to go as far as the Whole Foods stores near Beacon Hill or in Cambridge to get groceries.” Foodies Southie will open next spring” – Grub Street, May 10, 2012

“Get ready, South Boston: family-owned Foodie’s Market is poised to open a new store in our neighborhood sometime this summer. This is big news – indeed, it is GREAT news – for all who appreciate food of the highest quality and outstanding customer service” – Living in South Boston, June 7, 2012

“I’ve been meaning to post this update for several weeks as many readers are interested in what’s going on with Foodie’s South Boston.  This exclusive information comes direct from the owner.  As many of you know, there have been delays at the site.  The owner said it was due to construction and design issues, as well as some problems in the basement.  The good news is they’ll be opening in September 2012” – The Terrier Group, June 25, 2012

“Most notably, for all your grocery needs, Foodie’s Market will be opening in South Boston this month” – Boston Hospitality Industry, October 4, 2012

“Foodies South Boston ‘weeks away from opening‘” – West Broadway Neighborhood Association, October 19, 2012

“Coming to South Boston the last week of November 2012” – Foodies Website, November 6, 2012

While the dates kept getting pushed back, I could see the storefront coming along, and was optimistic that the store really would open this year. And then yesterday, I see this:

“A two-alarm fire has pushed back the opening of the much-anticipated West Broadway grocery store Foodies, according to a representative for the company.The store, which was built on the former site of the American Nut & Chocolate Company, was originally slated to open the week after Thanksgiving, but that has been pushed back to mid-December” –, November 16, 2012

Thankfully nobody was hurt and it sounds like insurance will cover all of the damage. But wow — what terrible luck. Hopefully they’ll do better in 2013. Given their past forecast reliability, I’m not too bullish on a December opening, although I’d love to be wrong.

Thoughts on Flying a Plane

Last weekend I was fortunate to have the opportunity to fly a plane for the first time. My girlfriend Laura purchased a lesson for my birthday, which turned out to be an amazing gift. It’s something I’ve loosely thought about trying for some time, but I probably wouldn’t have pulled the trigger without a push. It always seemed like an expensive and difficult thing to do. Having now been through the experience, that’s certainly not the case.

The lesson was purchased through a school at Minute Man airfield on Living Social. The deal included an hour of on-the-ground instruction, followed by an hour of flying.  Leading up to it, I was fairly certain that the hour of instruction would be very detailed, and I’d subsequently have a very limited role in actually flying the airplane. I assumed there’d be lots of rules about what I was and wasn’t allowed to do as someone with absolutely no prior flying experience. I turned out to be wrong.

We showed up at the airfield and the instructor brought us over to a computer to show us how to check the weather forecast and flight conditions. We chatted for 20 minutes or so about weather patterns, then he handed us each a headset and we went out to one of his Cessna 172’s, which are apparently the most common training planes.

He explained to us that flying a small plane is surprisingly similar to driving a car. Unlike commercial aircraft, you don’t need to register flights or ask permission to take off or land. You simply get in the plane, announce yourself on the open radio channel, and then fly wherever you feel like going. Most small airfields don’t have control towers, and you can use them as you please.

My instructor told me that he often goes to the Cape or the Vineyard for lunch, to Tennessee to visit family, and he recently went to Montreal for a night. And it’s all surprisingly inexpensive. For example, from Minute Man in Stow, MA, it would be about $35-45 to fly to the Cape or the Vineyard. And it only costs $40/month to store the plane at the airfield.

I was instructed to climb into the pilot’s seat, and the instructor took the copilot spot to my right. Laura took the backseat. We taxied to runway three, announced our intent to take off — apparently anyone planning to land at the same time would have let us know their intention and asked us to wait — and then switched up the engine power to take off. Within a minute we were flying over Stow, a few hundred feet off the ground.

The views at such a low elevation were spectacular. In a larger aircraft, you have a very short window at low elevations, as the planes generally ascend quickly. In the Cessna, I could make out the details of cars and rooftops, and even see people on the ground. But we were just high enough to see far into the distance — I could see Boston in surprising detail on the horizon. It was a great perspective.

Within a few minutes the instructor gave me complete control, which caught me off guard, as I still hadn’t learned the first thing about flying. I took the yoke, and it turned out to be surprisingly intuitive. Turns are straightforward enough, not unlike driving a car or boat, and adjusting the pitch felt fairly natural as well. We ascended to 5,500 feet and then adjusted the power to level off. I flew over Fitchburg, then went towards Worcester. I also got comfortable using the GPS to track nearby aircraft, first on the screen, then by making a visual sighting to ensure we were a safe distance away.

The instructor also turned the engine power off at one point, showing us how the plane could glide for quite some time without power. He told us that an important practice safety drill is to kill the power, pick an emergency landing site, such as a field or parking lot, glide towards the site, and then boost the power just before a landing would be necessary. I think I’m still a few lessons away from trying that.

After about a half hour we began the descent, and the instructor took control to land. We radioed our intent to land on runway three, and circled around the airport as we descended. Within minutes we were back on the ground.

I must say I’m intrigued, and definitely eager to fly again. While this first lesson was fairly affordable, it’s a financial commitment to rack up the 50 hours of flying time required to get a license. But this lesson did count towards that goal, so I’ve got 0.6 hours under my belt. Thanks again Laura.