Forecast: January 2010

| Boston Magazine |


The annual Boston Wine Expo kicks off at the World Trade Center, featuring the ever-popular wine-for-amateurs keynote by renowned grapes guru Kevin Zraly. More than 450 wineries will also be on hand, pouring close to 2,000 different wines. Local aficionados shouldn’t get too attached to their drinks, though: A repeal of the state’s ban on direct-to-consumer shipping from out-of-state vintners is still locked up on appeal, with a decision not expected until next month at the earliest.


1/1 The last county sheriff’s departments come under state control. Bummer for Nantucket’s Richard Bretschneider: Slated to get a $26,000 raise, he’ll now see a $26,000 pay cut.

For decades people have gazed longingly upon the field at Fenway and imagined doing something historic there. Chances are, none were thinking the same thing as Dan Craig.  As the NHL’s facilities operations manager, Craig is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on the care and maintenance of ice. He’s also the guy charged with readying the ballyard for its hockey debut when the Bruins face the Philadelphia Flyers today.

"This is obviously an amazing ballpark," Craig said while on the job at Fenway last month. "Just being in here gives me chills." Pun or not, chills are exactly what Craig needs, and in advance of the New Year’s Day game, he monitors the thermometer and the weather forecast like a meteorological zealot. The weeklong process of building the actual rink was completed in mid-December, and since then Craig has kept the ice in shape with help from a 300-ton mobile refrigeration unit that the NHL trucked in 
from Toronto.

After the nationally televised NHL game, the Fenway ice will see a little college action, too: It hosts a double-header on 1/8 that will pit the women’s team from Northeastern against New Hampshire’s before the men’s teams from BC and BU face off.


With the state’s ban on dog racing taking effect today, you might think it means curtains for the tracks at Taunton and Revere. Not so: Generous lawmakers gave them six-month extensions on their licenses to broadcast races from other states. Now the question is whether that’s long enough for track owners to finally persuade Beacon Hill to allow slots there—a debate that’s expected to resume quickly.


Today Sarah Iselin, formerly Governor Patrick’s head of healthcare finance and policy, becomes president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, a move that comes with a $143,000 raise. She’s not the only staffer enjoying more-lucrative opportunities: Last fall Leslie Kirwan parlayed her job as secretary of administration and finance into a deanship at Harvard. Even those reportedly shown the door have done well, as Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Patrick’s old chief of staff, proved when she got a nearly $200,000 pay boost upon reclaiming her job as CEO of the Home for Little Wanderers (whose name sounds pretty apt for the gov’s administration, too).

1/5  Bet on BC tonight: The Eagles take on the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which is coming off a three-year, 51-game losing streak.  

1/12  Bucking the dying-media trend, online news outfit GlobalPost celebrates its first birthday with a projected $1 million profit.

1/15  Zoo New England files a financial plan with the governor today, the first step toward weaning itself off state funding.

A few unsolicited tips for the Globe‘s new publisher

Ah, January. Perfect time to start a terrifyingly tough new job. And few in town have tougher gigs than Chris Mayer, who takes over as Globe publisher this month. Mayer—formerly the paper’s circulation and operations honcho—faces big obstacles in shoring up the struggling broadsheet. Not surprisingly, plenty of people have an opinion on what he should do first.

"Chris needs to be obsessed with younger, up-and-coming leaders—and he needs to convince them that reading the paper is critical to their success." —Paul Grogan, Boston Foundation president and CEO

"Addressing the game-changing impact of the Internet has to be the top priority." —Steve Pagliuca, Bain Capital managing director and recent would-be Globe owner

"The most important thing Chris Mayer could do is really be a presence in the community. The Globe‘s image took such a beating because they had nobody in management who had built any goodwill with the community and could stand up and say, ‘We’re the Globe; here’s what we stand for; here’s what we’re doing.’" —Dan Kennedy, media blogger and Northeastern University assistant professor

Illustration by Antony Hare

1/17 Dr. do-everything grows public practice

Feeling overworked? Don’t bother complaining to Dr. Atul Gawande, the celebrated surgeon with a seemingly impossible collection of job titles: Harvard professor, staff member at Brigham and Women’s and Dana-Farber, staff writer for the New Yorker, and bestselling author. It’s that last one that accounts for his appearance today at the American Library Association conference at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, where he’ll speak about ways to improve healthcare.

You’ll also begin seeing his new book, The Checklist Manifesto, pretty much everywhere this month. In it, Gawande makes the case for the otherwise uncelebrated "checklist," a tool that can save lives (and might also help us understand how this guy gets everything done).

Even more impressive than Gawande’s output is his growing influence. Last summer, his widely talked-about New Yorker article shrewdly examining medical costs became required reading for Obama aides as the president pondered his reform agenda. Gawande will no doubt surface more and more as a provider of perspective—and a model of efficiency—in the weeks ahead.


Attorney General Martha Coakley is staring down more than Representative Scott Brown in today’s special U.S. Senate election—she’s also up against history. On the line is a chance to become the Bay State’s first female senator and to join Niki Tsongas as just the second woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress in the past 26 years.


With Filene’s Basement shuttering stores, we’ve been given new reason to wonder how long the retailer’s annual Running of the Brides might continue. For ladies not interested in choosing a wardrobe in a hurricane, there’s today’s Baystate Bridal Show, a massive showcase of everything from cakes to bands. Sure, the event offers less tradition, but also less chance of getting trampled to death while preparing for your big day.

Mass. Appeal  
The coolest local gizmos being unveiled this month  
The Consumer Electronics Show, which opens in Las Vegas on 1/7, is the world’s grandest tech showcase—think of it as the geek world’s Olympics. Naturally, plenty of Boston-area technology firms are debuting potentially revolutionary products. Here are a few of our favorite homegrown gadgets:

Armada Chip by E-Ink:  Technology from Cambridge-based E-Ink powers the Kindle and just about every other e-reader on the market. Now the company is introducing a microchip that conserves power, works faster, and costs less—and will likely turn that Kindle you got for Christmas into an Edsel in no time. (Sorry.)

Home Internet Device by Tap ‘n Tap: The touchscreen tablets (pictured above) from this Cambridge outfit are sleek, always-on computers that make surfing the Web or checking e-mail from the couch much easier than lugging a laptop or squinting into a smartphone.

KOR-fx by Immerz: While it may sound like an ab workout, the KOR-fx (invented in—you guessed it—Cambridge) is a device that allows video gamers and movie fans to actually feel the action by sending vibrations through their chest cavity. If your kid didn’t already love his Xbox, look out.


Are they done or aren’t they? The question that’s haunted Aerosmith fans for months might come into focus today, as frontman Steven Tyler plays a fundraising gig in Concord, New Hampshire.

If Tyler is plotting a solo career, as he’s hinted, this show could provide a glimpse of what that might look like. At the very least, it’ll provide a glimpse of Tyler, who’s been all but MIA since an impromptu stage dive in August cut short Aerosmith’s world tour. Tyler busted his shoulder in the tumble, and reportedly has broken off contact with his bandmates in the months since. When he told a reporter he was planning to take some time to concentrate on "Brand Tyler," it touched off a wave of chatter that the band was through.

n November, a Tyler appearance meant to dispel breakup rumors only added to the mystery. During a solo show by guitarist Joe Perry, Tyler came onstage to perform "Walk This Way"—and promptly vanished afterward. Perry told Rolling Stone he hasn’t heard from Tyler since. Meanwhile, the band has admitted it’s searching for a new lead singer, even as it’s due to celebrate its 40th anniversary later this year.

1/27  It’s the 10th anniversary of Bill Belichick’s debut. He started his first press conference with a joke. And hasn’t smiled since.


Famed BSO conductor James Levine returns to lead the orchestra, which he first conducted in 1972 at age 28. Out since September while recovering from back surgery, the 66-year-old maestro has suffered a tough stretch of physical setbacks over the past few years—including rotator cuff and kidney surgeries—leaving some fretful symphony-goers to suggest a successor be prepped in case Levine needs another extended break before his contract expires in 2012.


Forget Florida and southern California—when it comes to the event known as the Super Bowl of Birding, the ideal venue is coastal Massachusetts. This annual contest, put on by Mass Audubon, will feature teams competing to spy scores of birds. It’s also a great day for first-timers to get help spotting eagles, owls, and vacationing Arctic-based birds.

1/31  Waiting lists for Boston public schools expire today. Hey, your kid didn’t want that goofy Boston Latin jacket anyway.

Beantown Bacchanalia
Dissecting our uneasy relationship with the Greeks

Thanks to a Greek-life resurgence at Northeastern, newcomer Kappa Kappa Gamma—the school’s second sorority debut in three years—begins a search for 94 sisters this month. But a note of caution, ladies: Bay Staters have furrowed their brow at your kind for years. 
January 1963: Williams College decides to do away with its 129-year-old fraternity program, announcing that it’s fed up with "humiliations of the caste system."

November 1985: The state legislature criminalizes fraternity and sorority hazing following the alcohol-related death of a student at Springfield’s American International College (he had been made to split nine gallons of wine with five other fraternity pledges).

July 1987: UMass-Lowell revokes Greek charters after a pledge overheats and goes into a coma as a result of being confined to a sleeping bag next to a number of space heaters.

October 2005: A Northeastern fraternity is suspended after cops bust up an epic 24-keg party at a Brookline frat house.

Illustration by Betsy Halsey

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