Massport Doesn’t Want Me Taking Pictures of the Snow [UPDATED]

The offending picture.

Today, I was asked to leave a public park by a Massport policeman for taking pictures of the snow.

I was walking in the Bremen Street Park for about a half an hour this morning, taking some pictures of last night’s snowfall. As I was about to take a simple picture of the shadow of a railing on the snow, I heard someone yell something at me. Turning around, I saw a Massport policeman calling to me from the window of a small official building in the park, but I couldn’t hear him at first (I was standing next to an unoccupied — but running — Massport police vehicle). As I walked toward him, I could hear him say “The park is closed.”

Now, this particular park is right down the street from my apartment, so I happen to know that they do a very good job of letting you know when the park is closed. There are big metal gates that get locked and bright yellow chains that are hung across any walkways they don’t want you using. Today, the gates were open and the chains were down, so I said to the officer “It’s closed? Even though the gates are open and the chains aren’t up?”

He said something like “Yes, the maintenance people must not have closed things back up after clearing the snow — I’ll go close them now,” then told me I had to leave the park.

I didn’t know the exact legal status of this park (is it public land? does it belong to the port authority, or do they just patrol it?), so I left. But as I did, I couldn’t help but notice all of the other people walking in the park, or the children playing in the snow, or the sign that gave the park’s winter hours, and said nothing about it being closed in bad weather.

The building the policeman was in, to the left of Mr. McKay.

In fact, even if the park was closed, the section where I was standing when I was asked to leave is almost always open — it’s right in the middle of the path people use to walk to the MBTA station that’s only accessible via the park.

And, hours later, the gates to the park are still open, the yellow chains are nowhere to be seen, and people are still walking in the park, undisturbed.

The only reason I can think of that I would be asked to leave is that I had a camera, and police often single out people with cameras. The MBTA police have done it to me, military police have done it to me, federal police have done it to me, and none of them have ever been in the right.

So, Massport: was the park closed, or was your employee inappropriately harassing a photographer? Maybe I’ll go take a walk in the park to think about it.

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Massport’s Director of Media Relations. He called to apologize about the incident, said he’d look into it, and told me he would give the police officer a “good long talk” if the park wasn’t actually closed. He also promised to follow up once he does some investigating, so I’ll report back when he does.

Digital Photography Workshops on April 10th

I’ve been asked many many times to do a workshop on photography, so I’ve finally set something up. On April 10th, I’ll be holding two workshops at the Cultural Exchange Center at 80 Border Street in the East Boston neighborhood. Here are the descriptions:

Digital Photography Basics Workshop

Want to learn how to use your camera to its full potential? Need a new camera (or even a first camera) and don’t know what to get? Spend two and a half hours learning the basics of digital photography from photographer and experienced technology educator Adam Weiss.

Adam will teach you how a digital camera works, what makes one camera better than another, and how your camera’s features can help you take better pictures — or when they can get in the way. Learn how to use your camera’s modes, when to turn the flash off, and how to overcome its limitations in tricky situations. Once you understand your camera, you’ll learn how to take more interesting photos with tips professionals use to take beautiful pictures.

Bring your camera to try things out as you learn (not required), and be prepared to ask lots of questions. This workshop will be highly interactive, with plenty of time for discussion.

Saturday, April 10 from 10:00-12:30, including a 15 min. break. Workshop followed by informal question time until 1:00 pm.

Cost is $35 per person. Limit 20 participants.

Sign up for Digital Photography Basics Workshop

Taking Better Pictures Hands-on Workshop

Do you want to take your photography to the next level? Wish you could get feedback on your photos to improve more quickly? Bring your camera to a hands-on workshop that will get you outside taking pictures and teach you how to improve your shots.

Photographer and experienced technology educator Adam Weiss will provide a brief overview of camera functions and photo composition tips, then you’ll move outside to practice for an hour before heading back inside to review actual photos taken during the workshop. By discussing photos taken by your fellow participants, you’ll learn how to improve composition and choose better camera settings — as well as seeing how others like to photograph the world.

The outdoor section of the workshop will give you the opportunity to experiment while getting help and guidance from the instructor (if you want it). A few volunteer participants will then have the opportunity to have their photos critiqued by Adam and the rest of the class, giving everyone ideas for how to make their shots better.

Saturday, April 10 from 2:00-5:00, including 1 hour of picture-taking time (weather permitting). Bring your camera’s USB cable if it is a non-standard type.Cost is $35 per person. Limit 15 participants.

Sign up for Taking Better Pictures Hands-on Workshop

Attend Both Workshops for Just $50 (Use the second option when signing up for the second workshop)

Robo-Call Reminding Me to Vote TOMORROW

IMG_0319I received a voicemail at 2:23 PM today (November 3, 2009 — election day) encouraging me to vote for Tom Menino for mayor of Boston. Not unusual on election day, right?

Right, except that it asked me to vote tomorrow, not today.

I don’t know if this is a case of computer/operator error or a legitimate case of electoral fraud through misinformation, but I was asked to record and share it by a number of people on Twitter, so here it is.

Because it was left today, I could not figure out how to get the voicemail system to say the actual date it was left. If I wait, I can get a properly timestamped version, but that will take a few days. In the meantime, I’ve included a screenshot of my iPhone voicemail screen taken at 2:41 today. I don’t think iPhone screenshots have EXIF data, but it’s the best I can do.

Did anyone else receive one of these calls?

For the record, I didn’t campaign for or support either mayoral candidate this year, so this isn’t an attack on anyone. I just found it curious and thought it was worth sharing.

Click the play button below to play the message.

Boston’s Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants

My food allergies mean that I love finding good vegan treats. I wrote up this list for use elsewhere, but I thought it would be worth sharing here:

Boston is the college town to end all college towns, with a liberal, green reputation to boot. So why is it so hard to get a salad without meat in it at most restaurants? Here are eight restaurants where vegetarians (and even vegans, in most cases) won’t have to ask “Is there anything I want on this menu?”

TJ Scallywaggles Vegan House of Pizza and Subs

TJ’s is the only all-vegan, collectively owned pizza shop in the world — at least according to their own website. They serve standard pizza-place “comfort food,” but without real meat or cheese (the substitutes are surprisingly good, even to a meat-eater). It is a small place, so plan on take-out or waiting for a booth. The pizzas are on the small side, but are priced low.

As you might expect from an anti-capitalist, collectively owned and run eatery, the service and delivery speed are entirely dependent upon who is at the counter when you order. The food, however, is always good. If you want to sample a bit of everything, they have all-you-can-eat nights twice a month.

487 Cambridge St.
Allston, MA


Located right next to TJ Scallywaggles, Grasshopper makes this corner of Allston a veggie destination. Serving Vegan Asian fare with a big menu and good food, Grasshopper is a great place to go if TJ’s is full (and vice versa). Meat-substitutes are big here, and some are good enough to fool an omnivore — if not a meat connoisseur.

The Boston Vegetarian Society holds their monthly meetings at Grasshopper, with an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s a great way to sample the cuisine, and you usually get an interesting talk from a prominent vegetarian to go with your meal.

1 North Beacon St.
Allston, MA

My Thai Cafe

This all-vegan Thai restaurant took over the location of now-closed Budhha’s Delight vegan Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. With an extensive menu of all of the standard Thai dishes prepared with high-quality meat substitutes, there’s a chance you might not notice you are at a vegetarian establishment.

My Thai has ample space and is rarely full. Prices are low, and the portions are large. Be sure to try the bubble tea or thecoconut milk and fruit smoothies and sample the excellent cakes for dessert — they are delivered fresh from the Cafe Indigo vegan bakery in New Hampshire.

3 Beach Street, 2nd floor (at corner of Washington St.)

Veggie Planet

This basement eatery is vegetarian, but not vegan. Most dishes have cheese, and their excellent Sunday brunch serves eggs (or tofu scramble, of course). For lunch and dinner, vegan pizza options are available, but you should generally expect more “real” than “fake” if you order a pie. As a result, this pizza-and-brunch joint is a great place for vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters to dine together — as long as the carnivores can do without pepperoni for the evening.

In addition to serving vegetarian food, Veggie Planet boasts that they support local farmers, try to use organic ingredients, and get their dough from a nonprofit bakery that doubles as a homeless service provider. It’s good food, and part of your bill will go to organizations working for social and environmental change.

Located at Club Passim
47 Palmer Street
Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA


Grezzo is a gourmet vegan, raw food oasis in the meat-and-cheese-centric Italian North End. Prices are high and portions can be small, but it is a great place to take a vegan out to celebrate something special. Grezzo (which means “raw” in Italian) has an always-changing menu that is all-organic. This place is a surprise option to pull out next time somone asks “Do you want to go to dinner in the North End?”

69 Prince Street
North End

Wheeler’s Ice Cream Bar

Wheeler’s Black Label Vegan Ice Cream is available in dozens of flavors. This cafe also serves excellent sandwiches and salads, and actually uses their chalkboard menu for its real purpose: changing their offerings almost daily.

Located right next to the Symphony T stop, Wheelers is a perfect place to get a snack before or after a performance or a night on the town. Beware, though: their sign frequently says “Call For Hours.”

334B Massachusetts Ave
Back Bay

Boston Buddhist Tea House

Part of the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center, this tea house and cafe is open most afternoons for chai, dim sum, and a pre-set lunch plate of soup, rice, vegetables, and tofu. Almost everything is vegan, though some of the drinks use milk.

While you are there, explore the books and other resources on Buddhism. Even with busy Massachusetts Avenue outside the window, it is a relaxing place for a break, some amazing fruit tea, and a snack.

950 Massachusetts Ave.
Central Square
Cambridge, MA
(617) 547-6670

Boston Events: June

I made this list for something else, and thought I might as well share it here…

June brings dragon boats, dance parties, and mountains of ice cream to Boston. Before we begin, the always-important Red Sox schedule can be seen here.

  • Tuesday, June 2
    Folk Dancing by the Fountain
    in Copley Square
    This free weekly mass folk dancing lesson has been a summer tradition since 1971. Dances are held on the plaza in front of Trinity Church, and often have live music for accompaniment.
    Details: 7:30 – 10 p.m. Call 781-662-7476 to confirm in case of bad weather.
  • Thursday, June 4
    Early Explorers
    at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary
    Get the kids excited about summer with a morning of exploring, stories, and games. In a program designed to teach kids ages 3-6 the basic concepts of the natural world, Mass Audubon will open your child’s eyes to our environment.
    Details: 10 a.m. 500 Walk Hill Street in Mattapan. Pre-registration is required ($6 for a parent/child pair)
  • “Not Your Average Date Night” Movies on the South Garden at The Shops at Prudential Center
    Enjoy a movie with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or a group of friends on the lawn at the Pru. Grab some dinner at the mall, then come for pre-movie activities and a free show.
    Details: 7:30 p.m. 800 Boylston St. Pre-movie fun starts at 6.
  • Friday, June 5
    Benny Goodman Birthday Celebration
    with the Boston Pops
    The Boston Pops pays tribute to “The King of Swing” for his 100th birthday. Enjoy an evening of his hits, from “Don’t be that Way” to “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
    Details: 8:00 p.m. Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue. Tickets start at $20.

  • Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7
    Boston Dragon Boat Festival
    on the Charles River
    North America’s longest-running Dragon Boat Festival celebrates 30 years on Boston, bringing almost 2300 years of tradition alive. See races, martial arts demonstrations, and musical performances to the Charles River, and sample some amazing Asian food.
    Details: All day. Banks of the Charles River. Free.
  • Sunday, June 7
    AIDS Walk Boston
    , starting at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade
    Boston was the site of the first ever AIDS Walk, and walks in this city have raised more the $32 million since 1986. Join more than 15,000 members of the community in the walk, or just stop by to enjoy the festivities and show your support.
    Details: 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • Monday, June 8
    Boston Red Sox Pitching in for Kids Poker Benefit
    at Faneuil Hall Marketplace
    Watch your favorite Red Sox players play poker at a gala to benefit New England’s youth. Pitcher Tim Wakefield, team captain Jason Varitek, and other Sox players will be there, along with gourmet food, dancing, and a charity auction.
    Details: 6 – 10 p.m. Ned Devine’s and the Upper Rotunda at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Call 617-367-3322 for ticket information.
  • Tuesday-Thurday, June 9-11
    Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl
    on City Hall Plaza
    What better way to spend a sunny June afternoon that at the nation’s largest all-you-can-eat ice cream festival? For just 8 bucks, eat as much Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin-Robins, Breyers, Brigham’s, Spasso Sorbet and Gelato, Edy’s Grand Ice Cream, Garelick Farms, Gifford’s, Häagen-Dazs and HP Hood as you can. Tickets support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
    Details: Noon – 8 p.m. all days. $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 3-9, and free for children under 3.

    Red Sox vs. Yankees at Fenway Park
    Time to get your blood pressure checked: the Bronx Bombers are in town for three days! So, either weasel your tickets however you can, line up at the bar extra early, or avoid Kenmore Square at all costs. Your choice.
    All games start at 7:10 PM

  • Saturday, June 13
    Gay Pride Parade and Festival
    from the South End to City Hall Plaza
    Pride Week runs from the 5th to the 14th, but the main event is today. The parade starts at the intersection of Tremont and Clarendon, and ends at City Hall. With more than 10,000 colorful marchers and 500,000 spectators expected, it’s sure to be a good time.
    Details: Noon – 3 p.m. Parade starts at the intersection of Tremont and Clarendon, and ends at City Hall. Free.

    Cambridge River Festival on the Banks of the Charles
    Now in its 30th year, the River Festival features jazz, latin, and world music, along with dance, art activities, and tons of good food.
    Details: Noon-6 pm. Memorial Drive between JFK Street and Wester Ave. Free.

  • Thursday, June 18, 2009
    Gardner After Hours: Mezze
    at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum
    Mingle in the galleries, drink under the stars, and dance to live music as Isabella lets down her hair ever third Thursday of the month. These sell out quickly, and the line can go WAY out the door. So plan ahead, and get there early!
    Details: 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. 280 The Fenway. Tickets are $12 General Public, $10 Seniors, $5 Students.

    Taste of Cambridge at the Charles Hotel
    Sample the melting pot of foods that is Cambridge. From Japanese to Brazilian to Ethiopian, you can eat almost anything in this city. This event is all about sampling that variety, and all proceeds are donated to charity.
    Details: 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge. Tickets are $75.

  • Friday, June 19
    He Who Burns
    at the BU Dance Center
    The ANIKAI Dance Company presents the US premiere of this work, exploring Islam, Hunduism, and Sufism. After Boston, it’s on its way to the Kennedy Center!
    Details: 8 p.m. 915 Commonwealth Ave. Tickets are $25.
  • Saturday, June 20
    Life is Good Festival
    on Boston Common
    One of Boston Common’s biggest charity parties returns, with seed-spitting contests, tug-o’-war, and classic backyard food. The festival benefits project Joy, and is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

    Capitol Steps Live at the Majestic Theatre
    You’d be surprised at how smart, funny, and musical a group of singing Capitol Hill staffers can be. As they say in the show, if there’s a scandal in Washington, come to the Capitol Steps to find out exactly what rhymes with it.
    Details: 8:30 p.m. 219 Tremont St. Tickets start at $35.

  • Sunday, June 21
    Free Community Day
    at the Museum of Fine Arts
    They may be renovating and building all over the place, but the MFA is still a great place to spend an afternoon. With free general admission to the museum today, you can enjoy the art and feel sophisticated while saving the $17 ticket price.
    Details: 10 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. 465 Huntington Avenue. Free.

    Let’s Dance with the Boston Pops
    The Pops roll out their dance floor and play everything from swing to ’80s music. If you’ve ever wanted to go disco dancing at Symphony Hall, here’s your chance!
    Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave
    Details: 8:00 p.m. Tickets start at $20.

  • Friday, June 26
    City of Cambridge Dance Party at Cambridge City Hall
    The Mayor’s office shuts down Mass Ave and brings out the DJs for a night of free dancing in the street. After dark, expect a spectacular light show, and hundreds of dancers.
    Details: 7 – 10 p.m. In front of Cambridge City Hall, 795 Mass. Ave. Free.
  • Saturday, June 27, 2009
    at the Museum of Science
    Watch as over 200 high school students compete in an all-day design challenge, working to create a wind-powered machine. The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation will be there, offering hands-on learning activities for young children.
    Details: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 1 Science Park. Included with Museum Admission.
  • Sunday, June 28
    Puerto Rican Parade
    in Dorchester
    Come out to Dorchester for an afternoon of celebration and music. The parade will march from Egleston Square to Franklin Park. For more information, call the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism & Special Events at 617-635-3911.
    Details: 1 p.m. Egleston Sq. to Franklin Park. Free.