Category Archives: reviews

Last week was busy but fun

Quick recap of last week, which ended up being slightly busier than planned, and as usual, made awesome with stellar company.

Went to the new Belly wine bar / gastropub in Kendall Square on Monday with a friend. We’re both foodies and she’s also industry, so we showed up early a day after they opened, chatted a bunch with the staff, and had a great time. I love their idea, want less Beaujolais on the menu, and wish they took reservations.

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Belly before the crowds.

The charcuterie and cheese options at Belly were very good.

After that I met another friend for dinner at Vejigantes, the Puerto Rican place in the South End. There too the food was delicious, and the Coronamea was a fun drink combining a margarita with a Corona. I didn’t drink too much, since I had a 5:30am wakeup the next morning to run the stairs at Harvard Stadium.

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A Corona – Margarita combination…

The November Project is one of my new favorite things in Boston. I actually joined before my trip, but it’s become a regular thing now for me, and the group has grown a lot too. It’s free, open to the public, friendly, welcoming, and has many fun folks. Three workouts a week at 6:30am, rain or shine, all weather, all seasons, and they’re each hard. I don’t do the Monday morning one, but Wednesdays at Harvard Stadium and Fridays at Summit Ave are a ton of fun.

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I started and finished before the main group, which you can see above.

Last Wednesday I set a new personal best for the “full tour,” i.e. once around the entire Harvard Stadium, which always feels great. It’s a brutal workout, maybe the hardest one I do all week. It has not been getting much easier. I wonder how many people will drop as the weather turns wintery.

On Thursday after some morning business, I joined a friend down in Newport, Rhode Island, for an afternoon of polo. I had never seen it in person, and it was interesting, entertaining, and fun. I forgot that each player has multiple horses, or ponies as they’re called, leading to a whole bunch of horses being around waiting for their turn to play.

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Gaucha, a friendly well-trained horse.

While I can’t ride well and can’t play polo well at all, this was still a fun experience, especially observing my friend play. Unfortunately I had to leave early-ish to drive back to Boston, missing the post-match BBQ.

I had dinner that night with another good friend and business colleague at Myers & Chang in the South End. I hadn’t been in a while but remembered how much I liked the braised pork belly buns. Having just been to Hong Kong (more on that in an upcoming #rtw2012 post), I wanted to compare — and these stacked up very well.

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The next morning, Friday, brought another 5:30am wakeup for the November Project. This time we ran up and down Summit Ave, one of the steepest streets / hills in the Boston area. Years ago I had a tough time walking up this hill, and for a long time I couldn’t run up it. On Friday I helped pace a bunch of people on it, which felt great. Progress is being made…

Brogan’s pic, not mine, from the hill on Friday morning.

That evening the big event was Paul Oakenfold at Royale, but we grabbed some tequila and dinner at Tico first. I love their crispy pork bellies — so good! And a nice selection of tequila as well.

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Oakenfold was excellent. He’s become a bit more mainstream, a bit more Guetta-ish in style over the years, but his technical skills and track selection, as well as crowd reading and reactions, remain top-notch. Without much advanced planning, I’ve now seen him, Paul van Dyk, Tiesto, Armin van Buurden, and John Digweed live this year, plus a handful of other notable DJs. It’s been a great year in that regard.

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After Royale closed out, we stopped by Rise, the private after-hours club, for a bit of harder trance. That was fun, as always. (And as usual, I didn’t take pictures inside of rise.)

The next day, a Saturday, I went for a short run that turned into a 10K, and then a 5K row in the Charles river, taking advantage of the beautiful weather. Unfortunately I only did this on 2.5 hours of sleep, so it was more of a challenge than usual, but perhaps a good simulation for Ironman conditions.

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Another gorgeous September day on the Esplanade.

After that I met a couple of my best friends for lunch at Xinh Xinh, the lovely authentic little Vietnamese place in Chinatown. I had some excellent pho-type noodles, #33 on their menu, a seafood special stew noodle thing.

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From there I met up with another crew for the Michigan football game, at Sweet Caroline’s near Fenway Park. I didn’t realize this was the “home bar” of all Boston-area (or even wider…) Michigan alumni and fans. It’s official, with banners and people dressed up and everything. I caught a good video of some cheering after a touchdown, and enjoyed the game atmosphere, even though I have no particular connection to Michigan.

After the game we went down Boylston Street to Sweet Cheeks, as I was craving BBQ. Like any good Jew, I got pork ribs, pork bellies, and pulled pork. We also shared some awesome biscuits. One member of our party, the guy who had the best role in this week’s HubSpot “Gangnam Style” video, is from the southern US, and he testified as to the quality of the food at Sweet Cheeks.

Saturday night needs to stay off this blog, I think 😉 At least for now.

But then Sunday was also great, as I went with a friend to the Patriots home opening game. We had solid seats down near the field, and it was a beautiful day. Unfortunately the Pats lost in an upset 😦 They deserved to lose, and I hope they learn some lessons, improve fast, and win the rest of their games. This week at Baltimore will be tough.

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Whew, it was a busy week. I did get about 45 hours of work in, too, including a bunch of open-source contributions. Sunday night I slept for about 11 hours straight 🙂

The two best movies I saw this summer: Pelada and Running the Sahara

I saw two great movies this summer, both of which inspired me in a number of ways. They are both documentary films, i.e. real, not fake stories.

Running the Sahara” chronicles the journey of three men who are trying to run across the Sahara desert. This had never been done before. There are a lot of interesting complexities to the effort, including physical, mental, political, and more. They have to run the equivalent of two marathons per day, in the desert, for more than 100 days straight. It’s impressive stuff.

Pelada” is also a documentary. It’s a story about a guy and a girl from North Carolina, recent colleage graduates, who love football (soccer). They go around the world for a year playing in interesting pickup games, video-taping the whole thing. This is a fascinating movie, and it’s more insightful / touching than I expected. There are fantastic personalities involved, places, and backgrounds.

Both of these are highly recommended. They are about a lot more than running or football, so you will enjoy them even if you don’t run nor play.

Recent fav music

The past couple of months, partially thanks to a new friend, I’ve been listening a little less to my usual techno + trance work (although I didn’t fully stop ;)), and a little more to some alt + indie work.  It’s been fun.

I wanted to share some of my favorites from recent months, if only for my own amusing recollection years from now.  This is not a complete list, just the top few from my Spotify and iTunes play counts, unsorted. 
A number of these have been getting airplay on stations like WFNX, too, which is my standard radio channel around town.  And you can catch at least two of these groups in the upcoming “Seaport Six” day-long concert, which should be awesome.  I had tickets but had to give them away since I’ll be out of the country.  (More on that in an upcoming blog post.)
The Silversun Pickups: Panic Switch, Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings), and more.  I wish they’d tour more on the east coast.  Listen to the chorus lyrics on Panic Switch…
Young the Giant: My Body, Cough Syrup, and more.  Their whole recent album is good.

Of Monsters and Men: Little Talks, their only track I really like so far, but a good one.  Also, the first MySpace link on this blog in years.

Metric‘s Help I’m Alive is fun.  I hope they follow it up with more goodness.

Walk the Moon: Anna Sun is awesome, other songs OK.  Would love to see them live.

Grouplove: Tongue Tied rocks, and the rest of the recent album is pretty good too.  They had a show with Young the Giant (above) together in Boston a couple of months ago, which I’m sorry to have missed.

The Bombay Bicycle Club is a fun London-based group, and I like their track Shuffle among others.  I saw them live with a friend here in town back in March.  Apparently they’re doing well, playing ever-bigger venues and touring a ton.  I saw them at The Middle East (downstairs), but their next Boston show, in July, is at Royale.  And they’re playing Webster Hall in NYC right after that.

Placebo‘s The Bitter End is not new, just a ton of fun.

Same for The Killers‘ track from years ago, Somebody Told Me.  Apparently my iTunes has been playing it more recently.  Maybe because of Tommy Marth‘s suicide? 😦

Childish Gambino has some amazing lyrics, e.g. on Hold You Down and Heartbeat.  I really wanted to see his Boston show in June, got tickets, but I will be out of the country (still, same as Seaport Six above).  Enjoy the show, Mike — take some pics!

Rubblebucket is one of those bands that is way better in person than recorded.  They bring a ton of energy to their show.  I saw it with a friend a few days ago at the Paradise here in Boston, a nice small venue.  Their track Bikes is my favorite.

Two Door Cinema Club‘s What You Know is fun.  They too are in the Seaport Six above.

The Best Coast has a number of fun tracks, and they’ll be in Boston in July.  My favorite of theirs so far is The Only Place, which I was humming to myself, apparently sometimes loudly, while running a 5K last week.

The WombatsJump Into The Fog is also not new, but it’s been playing more recently.  Another UK alt group on my list, huh?

Finally, since I have to run, a cute song from Frank Turner, I Still Believe.

A long list, and that’s just ~1 genre of music 🙂  Hopefully others will find it useful, but I know I’ll find it amusing years down the road.

From the Rubblebucket concert at Paradise, May 2012.
  

2012 HubSpot ski trip

This past weekend about 25 HubSpotters and their significant others went on a ski trip to Killington, VT. I organized this trip with help from my colleague Sam S, and it was a blast.

The main ingredient for a ski trip is, naturally, snow.  This winter has been atypical in Boston and New England, with very little (practically zero) snow on the ground.  But we got super-lucky this weekend, with a major storm hitting Killington the day we drove up.

All told, there were 15 inches of fresh fluffy white powder on the mountain for us to ride, and we took advantage, hitting the lifts near opening time each day.  On Saturday it was still snowing and windy much of the day, presenting some visibility challenges, but Sunday was one of the most glorious ski days I’ve ever seen, all sunny and blue skies.

Two other key ski trip ingredients are the lodging and apres ski scene.  Again, both of those worked out really well.

We stayed at a rental house off the main access road, about 3 minutes (literally) driving from the base lodges.  It was a big house, sleeping all of us, and it has its own outdoor hot tub, indoor sauna, pool table, foosball table, many recliners and couches, and more.  It was fairly clean and in good working order, so that was good.

Besides the house options for apres ski, some of us also went out to local bars both nights.  I like Killington’s apres scene, which is one of the reasons we went there, and again we were not disappointed.  The Pickle Barrel always provides good entertainment, and if you have some food at JAX next door beforehand, they’ll give you a card that gets you into the Pickle without cover.

Finally, and perhaps most important, is the company.  We had a great crew, and everyone got along well.  Some people were beginners just learning how to ride, whereas others were college ski racers or just generally advanced daredevils.  We rode in small groups and individually, but everyone had a good time.

Also, this was my first trip ever with my new GoPro Hero2 camera.  I mounted it on my helmet and shot a couple of videos.  They are fairly long, slow, and boring, as you may have already seen above.  I should edit them down to the interesting scenes.  I also rode really slowly because I wasn’t sure how well the image stabilization works, but it seems pretty awesome.

All-in-all, a great trip that I would be happy to do again.

Inner Tube Water Polo first impressions

This past Thursday night I played in my first-ever game of Inner Tube Water Polo (ITWP).  The game was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to resume playing the rest of the season once I get back from my trip this week.

Instead of wasting time and words trying to explain the game, watch this YouTube video:

It’s more athletic and demanding than I imagined.  You’ll notice most of the players are not exactly obese folks trying to escape the exercise of pure water polo.  (Granted, real water polo is far more strenuous and demanding, and also harsher / tougher, than this.)

The game was a blast.  It was more challenging than I expected in many ways, starting with getting in the tube itself.  It’s hard to keep your balance while moving fast, while holding a ball, and while people try to get that ball out of your hands.

I also didn’t read all the rules closely in advance, and it turns out there are some nice twists, at least in our league.  The league is organized by Social Boston Sports and takes place (this season anyways) on Thursday evenings at the Boston Athletic Club.

The location itself is a bit of challenge, in that it’s buried far off the road in the Fort Point Channel area of South Boston.  It’s a sketchy area between warehouses and other commercial buildings, especially at night when it’s dark.

But the club is clean, well-organized, has great facilities (pools, hot tubs, sauna, tennis courts, etc.), and has a bar with good food and drinks on site!  The bar is a natural gathering point after the games, where my whole team got to know each other better.  We also hung out with members of the opposite team, which was nice.

Most of my team are rookies like me.  Our captain and one other player have played ITWP a bit in the past, but for the rest of us, yesterday was the first time.  We got crushed, naturally, but had a blast the whole time.  I’m sure we’ll get better as the season goes on.  By the end of the match I was actually able to stay in my tube most of the time and move around more easily, so that’s progress.

Sum of first impressions: this is an awesome fun team sport.  I look forward to future matches and seasons.

Movie review: Limitless

Recently I saw the movie Limitless, a recent sci-fi action story about a man who goes from an unmotivated writer to a hyper-intelligent successful analyst and trader, thanks to some new drug.

It’s a pretty trodden path in terms of stories, and the latest incarnation was OK.  Not amazing, not totally a waste of time, just OK.

The movie did remind me of a similar story, one of my favorite stories from middle school: Flowers for Algernon.  This story dates back to the 1960s, and it has a similar theme.

I think the reason this story keeps getting re-made into other stories and movies is that the basic idea is so alluring: imagine you could take a drug to make you that much smarter, without side effects.  The world would be a better place, right?  😉

Unfortunately so far there’s no such drug without disastrous side effects… As far as we know…

Movie review: New Year’s Eve

This past weekend I saw the movie New Year’s Eve.  I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, even though it’s not an original idea (see Love Actually, Valentine’s Day, and more…)

The cast is great, and the setting (New Year’s Eve in Times Square in New York City) is fun as well.  It’s not the best plot or movie of all time, but it’s fun to watch.  It’s particularly fun for me since that’s where I’m going to be in ~2 weeks myself, in person 😉  Look for me in the bright red mountaineering parka…

Movie review: Tower Heist

I expected Tower Heist to be mediocre, just a way to mindlessly laugh at some stupid jokes.  And it provided that, but it ended up being smarter, funnier, and trickier than expected.  At points, it seemed like a parody of the Ocean trilogy (which I love), but done in a self-deprecating manner.

Either way, there were a large number of super funny moments and scenes.  Better than expected.

Movie review: Hanna

I love assassin-oriented movies, so I rented “Hanna” on my Apple TV the other day.  It was a pretty fun movie, though certainly not in the realm of the Jason Bourne films.

Hanna, the protagonist, is a young girl trained to be an assassin by her dad, a former secret agent, it appears.  They are up against some high-ranking government official who wanted to be Hanna’s mom, or wanted to have her own kids but couldn’t, or both.  It’s not really clear.

The movie has some nice action, and overall it’s a fun little action flick, but nothing to write home about.  A good film to watch while it’s snowing outside.