Riding the Boston Marathon Midnight Bike Ride

While marathon runners were sleeping in anticipation of the race on Patriots Day, I joined hundreds of cyclists to bike the 26.2 miles in the middle of the night. The Midnight Marathon Bike Ride was back for its seventh year in a row. Short of actually running, I thought it was a great way to honor the marathon tradition.

The roads were still open to vehicular traffic, but only a few cars passed me on the road. The midnight ride is not a race. Although more pacelines went past me than cars. My pace was on the leisurely side. The road were mostly recovered from the winter stress and were spruced up for the marathon’s start several hours later.

The ride actually starts in South Station, where you could load your bike into a truck, while you jumped on the commuter rail to re-join your bike at midnight. I convinced Mrs. Doug to drive me and two fellow riders out to Southborough instead.

start of the midnight ride

There were dozens and dozens of riders at the train station who had also been dropped off.  That’s lots of riders with an assortment of lights, bikes, skill levels and motivations.

It was cold. We were dressed to ride, not stand around in the cold. So we jumped on our saddles and rode off just before midnight and before the train arrived. As we left the the parking a lot, a half-dozen moving trucks full of the train riders’ bikes pulled into the parking lot.

midnight marathon route

It was a few miles from the train station to the Marathon’s starting line in Hopkinton. A few miles that went mostly uphill, with a nasty half-mile stretch in excess of a 5% grade. It’s a tough enough hill that there is a plan B route that goes around the hill.

At the start line we found several hundred cyclists already in place waiting for midnight or the train riders to come. We kept pedaling.

And pedaling and pedaling.

It was a continuous stream of bikes from start to finish.

Marathon security was nice enough to leave the finish line open for us to take pictures.

end of the marathon ride

Boston Common Coffee Company hosted a charity pancake breakfast after the ride. Pancakes taste great after 30 miles in the saddle.

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Newtonville Books 2015 Reading Challenge

Or: Something Fun to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Newtonville Books published a 2015 Reading Challenge. I read and I’m usually up for a challenge. So here is my current tally.

Item Book Read
A book that became a movie:
A book with non-human characters:
A book with a one word title:
A book of short stories:
A book from a small press:
A book based on a true story
A book more than 100 years old:
A book based entirely on its cover:
A book you’ve pretended to read:
A book you can finish in a day:
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:
A book in translation:
A graphic novel:
A book you own but have never read:
A book by an author with your initials:
A play:
A banned book:
A book you previously started but never finished:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book:
A book by a Nobel Prize-winner:
A book that takes place in the area where you grew up:
A book by an author you’ve never heard of:
A book written by an author under 30:
A book written by an author over 70:
A book of poetry:
A young adult book:
A book set in the future or in a different world:
Ancillary Justice
by Ann Leckie.
Set in an alien world where spaceships are run by artificial intelligence.
January 2, 2015
A book your mom or dad loves/loved:
A Newtonville Books staff pick:
A signed book:
A bestseller:
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
‘The Girl on the Train’ is a runaway hit in USA Today
A book with an animal on the cover:
A library book:
I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes
Borrowed from the Newton Free Library on Jan 10, 2015.
January 29, 2015
A book with a color in the title:
A book you then discuss in a bookclub:
A book that came out the year you were born:
A book with magic: The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)
The Magicians
by Lev Grossman
A Harry Potter knock-off
March 3, 2015
A book by an author that lives in Boston:
A book set in a different country:

Visit www.newtonvillebooks.com for a blank copy of the list.

Hand in your completed (just do your best!) copy between Dec 1st and Dec 10th, 2015 to be entered into a raffle for a $100 gift certificate.

My 2014 Year in Books

As you can see below, it was a big list of books for me in 2014. My goal was to read one book a week. I smashed through that goal and ended up with 75 books read for the year. There were a few great ones, most were good, but there were a few duds.

Best Book I read this year

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It’s hard to describe what you should expect about this novel. The writing is great and the story links between people around the time a global pandemic disrupts society. The main protagonists are a Hollywood actor performing in a Toronto play and a traveling band of Shakespearean actors and musicians performing at human settlement along he shores of Lake Michigan.

GoodReads versus LibraryThing

I’m still tracking my books in two parallel systems. Library Thing has a superior platform for cataloging books. GoodReads has a better platform for interacting with other readers, sharing reviews, and sharing booklists. That’s the way I use them.

Now I’m looking for reading suggestions for 2015. Do you have recommendations?

Have you joined GoodReads?

The full list:

The Children of Men Year Zero: A History of 1945Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend Soon I Will Be InvincibleValley of Bones (Jimmy Paz, #2)A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&AIngenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive AmericaThe Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an EconomyDefending JacobTour de France 100Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy EverInflux
Sycamore Row (Jake Brigance, #2)The Escape (Snowpiercer, #1)My Dog: The Paradox: A Lovable Discourse about Man's Best FriendThe Book ThiefDetroit: An American AutopsyDoctor Sleep (The Shining #2)Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)Long KnivesMagic for BeginnersThe Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)Snowpiercer, Vol. 2: The Explorers (Snowpiercer, #2)Best Practices under the FCPA and Bribery ActBomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous WeaponHolesI, ZombieThe MartianThe Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War Part 1Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main StreetThe Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the WorldThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoBorder Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren't Making Us SaferDragon's Triangle (The Shipwreck Adventures #2)Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh ShermanEnder's GameA Time to Attack: The Looming Iranian Nuclear ThreatWe Were LiarsCity of StairsI Am LegendBusted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly LoveThe Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War Part 2Flash Boys: A Wall Street RevoltCaliforniaCapital in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Massive, Vol. 1: Black PacificAccidents in North American Mountaineering 2014: Know the Ropes: Snow ClimbingThe Handmaid's TaleGaza: A HistoryAnthem's FallHouse of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening AgainPredator: The Secret Origins of the Drone RevolutionAttachmentsTimebound (The Chronos Files, #1)Little BrotherThe Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of HijackingI Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital WeaponThe Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless MapsKilling Floor (Jack Reacher, #1)Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the DarknessWar of the Whales: A True StoryDoing ComplianceDie Trying (Jack Reacher, #2)Stories of Your Life and OthersAll You Need Is KillThe SonKidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-DeceptionDead World ResurrectionMy Sister's GraveStation ElevenThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin OlympicsOn Such a Full SeaTripwire (Jack Reacher, #3)Book de Tour: Art of the 101st Tour de France

Sliding Down the Sudbury River

We picked a beautiful summer day to start our exploration of the Sudbury River.

I’ve driven over parts of the river a few times. You have also if you’ve every driven on Route 2 by Emerson Hospital. That’s where the Sudbury River passes under that highway.

We started the day in Lincoln, near the Concord border on route 117. There is a parking area east of Lee’s Bridge and the Sudbury River. The river is easy to see from the bridge, but the parking area is a bit harder. It looks like it’s in the Mount Misery woods.


From the parking area, there is short haul down to a bay on the river. That bay is a hundred yard long slot that leads out into the Sudbury River itself.

The Boy once again was paddling on his own. We rented a Wilderness Pungo 140 from Charles River Canoe & Kayak. We taped up his thumbs to prevent the blisters he got last time.


Shortly, we paddled into Fairhaven Bay where the river widens. According to Thoreau’s journal, he accidentally set fire to the woods around Fairhaven Bay in 1844. Far across the bay is a beautiful stone boathouse.

Fairhaven Bay

As you turn the corner out of the bay and head downstream on the river, you will definitely see a huge modern house perched uphill above the left-hand bank. I believe Hassan Ahmed bought the estate in 2009 after leaving Sonus Networks.

The Sudbury River is slow and flat through this section. It would be easy to paddle round trip. With Natascha along, we were able to shuttle cars and only paddle a downstream trip.


<insert obligatory waterfowl picture.>


The most unusual sight on the river was this pontoon boat.


It was a lunch cruise on the Concord River. Martha’s Catering & Concord River Cruises runs the operation out of the South Bridge Boat House.  This is a good spot to rent a canoe or kayak if you want to explore he nearby sections of the Concord, Assabet, or Subbury Rivers.

There were several casual fishermen along the river. Based on the sign below, I hope they were just doing a catch & release.


At the end of the paddle, we came to Egg Rock, where the Assabet River merges with the Sudbury River to form the Concord River.


From the merge it was just a short distance to the Old Calf Pasture landing spot on Lowell Road in Concord. This paddling trip was a little bit over five miles.

subdury river 1

Canoodling on the Concord River

We put back in the Concord River where we had last left. “We” this time also included Natascha.

DSC_0096She took the little yellow kayak, I took The Girl in the big red kayak, and The Boy took a rental to paddle by himself.


The weight balance is far off in the red kayak with me in the back and The Girl in the front. DSC_0077

The Concord River continues it slow flow through Billerica towards Lowell. The day was partly cloudy with almost no wind. The river was glass smooth at times.


Of course there were plenty of birds to see. <Insert obligatory picture of waterfowl.>DSC_0088

What we did not expect to see was a killer frog.


I had read that bullfrogs were carnivorous, but I had never seen one eating a mouse before. Until now.

The end point was the Faulkner Mill in North Billerica.


Dams at this location can be traced back to the late 1600s, at first to control flooding and grind corn.


This is also a waypoint for the Middlesex Canal which flowed from Lowell to Charlestown. The mill pond helped feed the canal.

Casting Along the Concord River

The Boy and The Girl ready for paddling

The Concord River forms from the merger of the Assabet River and Sudbury River. The two upstream rivers flow into each other at Egg Rock which is just upstream from the boat launch at Lowell Road.

This is a large boat launch area with room to pull the truck down to the water and drop the big red kayak in the water. We were there on a pleasant, sunny Saturday afternoon. There was a stream of cars pulling in and out unloading canoes and kayaks into the river.

The Boy brought his new fishing rod, hoping to get a fish bite. He wanted to work on his casting skills.

The highlight of the trip is passing under the Old North Bridge. (Actually, it’s a replica of the original bridge.) You get a great view of the bridge and the minuteman statute from the river.

Old North Bridge from the Concord River

This was the spot where the “shot heard round the world” was fired. The minuteman were on one side of the bridge and the British regulars were on the other side.

Most of the right bank of the Concord River is protected land: the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge along the Concord River
Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge along the Concord River

With all of that protected land, there is some great birdwatching. We saw five herons perched along the riverbanks and felled trees in the river. Unlike the Charles River herons, the Concord River herons were nonplussed by the approaching kayak.

Bird Watching on the Concord River
Bird Watching on the Concord River

The Concord River is wide and flat during most of this stretch. It’s wide enough and deep enough for motorboats. There was a jetski buzzing around us. He was a thoughtful rider and slowed to a crawl leaving no wake to upset the kayak.

Broad expanse of the Concord River
Broad expanse of the Concord River

This is supposed to be a great stretch of the river for fishing. We saw several tricked out fishing boats with serious fishermen aboard. Sadly, our fishing was unproductive. I did see a big fish jump out of the water, but that was the closest we got to a fish.

The takeout is at Bartlett’s Landing. There is parking lot for a handful of cars. The landing is a sandy beach just after passing an island in the river. There are several private sandy beaches upstream from the landing.
Bartlett's Landing on the Concord River

The Route:

concord river
July 26, 2014

Tour de Newton

Tour de Newton

It was a glorious early summer day. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. I was wrapped in a bright orange shirt for my ride in the Tour de Newton.

The Tour de Newton is a casual ride though all 13 villages of Newton. It’s a shotgun start, so the ride starts simultaneously in all 13 villages. It ends up being about 20 miles and takes about 3 to 4 hours. You earn a pin at each village stop.

I signed up late so the only village still open for riders was Chestnut Hill. That meant I had to add on five miles at the beginning (and end) to get to the Boston College start.

John led the group out at a leisurely pace, while Lucia swept up the back of our pack of 25 riders. We were across the age spectrum, with a half dozen teenage boys exercising their freedom of adventure, a few under-ten, and pack of those comfortably in their middle age, like me.

From Chestnut Hill we coasted down Comm Ave and Centre Street to the Jackson Homestead for our first stop at Newton Corner. The downhill was a great way to start. But it also meant we would have to get back uphill at the end. Then on through the rest of Newton.


The Newton police set up cones for our left-hand turn through Newton Corner. They also set up cones on Washington Street to set up a bike travel lane as we pedaled over I-95 and blocked off-ramp traffic for us.

There was only one driver who acted like a jerk to our pack. He thought we were too much of an inconvenience and couldn’t wait the extra two minutes for us get through Auburndale. At least he was well-behaved enough to not actually hit any of the cyclists. He just made it more treacherous for us.

The Tour was extremely well-organized and well-supported. I’ll need to remember to sign up earlier next year.

Ghost: The Paradox

ghost my dog the paradox

Matthew Inman, author or The Oatmeal, wrote a tribute to his dog, Rambo. My Dog: The Paradox

It’s a meditation on the reckless, impulsive, and completely lovable mortality of man’s best friend.  It’s funny and touching.

That’s Ghost, my paradox. A 150 pound beast who is afraid of pugs and cats. He fell asleep while guarding the house from people walking past our house.


Influx by Daniel Suarez

influx by daniel suarez

Imagine that there is a sinister Bureau of Technology Control that has been suppressing technology advances. Nuclear fusion? Perfected in 1985. Cancer? Cure discovered in 1998. “Immortal DNA strand segregation”? Accomplished in 1986. Control gravity? Now (at least in Influx by Daniel Suarez).

The Bureau kidnaps the revolutionary scientists that have developed these breakthrough technologies and is withholding their discoveries. The Influx hero has developed a “gravity mirror” that controls gravity. The Bureau deems it disruptive and kidnaps him.

I had very high hopes for Influx. The Wall Street Journal thought that Influx could be Suarez’s “breakout book and propel him into the void left by the deaths of Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton”.

It’s good. I ripped through it quickly, wanting to see where the story went. But setting the bar as high as Clancy or Crichton is too high.

I mostly got hung up on the futuristic technology. It was too advanced. I bought the gravity mirror. But I couldn’t put my belief in a fusion reactor the size of a softball. That ultimately distracted me from the rest of the story.



Lance Armstrong was one of the best cyclists in last 20 years. But his wins were built on a foundation of illegal doping and performance enhancing drugs. It’s not about the bike; It’s all about the needle.

I first came to road cycling during the rise of Mr. Armstrong. His story as a cancer-survivor coming back to win the biggest race in the world was an inspiration. But, it was all built on lies. The United States Anti-Doping Agency has stripped him of all of his cycling wins since his recovery from cancer.

Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell write a devastating tale of Mr. Armstrong’s rise and meteoric crash. Wheelmen is very well-written and well-researched. We only saw Lance on his bike. The book takes us through what was happening on the team bus and hotel.

I remember watching his epic battles with Ullrich, Mayo, Beloki, and himself. Lance answered all the challenges during his seven Tour de France wins in a row. His team was stacked with great riders: Hincapie, Hamilton, Landis, Eki, Heras, Leipheimer, and many others. The team was run by a Bruyneel, a master tactician. Those great riders and those tactics were reliant on a widespread campaign of illegal doping.

It’s clear that most of the top cyclists during the Armstrong era were also doping. There are no Tour de France winners during those years because the men next to Armstrong on the podium most years have also been implicated in doping. It begs the question of whether Armstrong was the best cyclist or merely the best doper. Or perhaps a combination of the two.

I was sadly disappointed when the charges came out against Armstrong. Given that he had faced death, I did not think he would risk his health by doing.

“Armstrong said he wouldn’t be stupid enough to take drugs after cancer. ‘I’ve been on my deathbed,’ he said.”

I was wrong; He was lying.

The doping was not the worst part. It was that Lance Armstrong had viciously attacked anyone who tried to tell about his doping. He wrecked the careers of people merely trying to tell the truth and clean up cycling.

Wheelmen is great book to read if you have an interest in cycling or Lance Armstrong.

The Searchers

the Searchers

John Wayne is at his most “John Wayne-ish” in this classic western from John Ford. Wayne plays a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years in western Texas chasing the Comanches who abducted his niece. He rides on his quest with his adoptive nephew.

This is a great movie to add to your Netflix queue.

The film’s scenery is stark, desolate, and beautiful. The sandstone buttes of Monument Valley puncture the horizon in every exterior shot.

In 2008, the American Film Institute named The Searchers as the greatest Western of all time. AFI also rated it 96 in the top 100 movies of all time and rose to 84 in the 2007 edition of the list.

Curling in the Park

curling and compliance

The Olympics are over, but your dream of being a curling champion may not be. I took part in a curling mini-league many years ago. The closest analogy is a combination of bowling and shuffleboard, but much, much harder. The stones are heavy, the ice is slippery, and the playing surface is very long.

Modern curling has precisely measured indoor ice sheets, timing clocks, Teflon-soled shoes, and high-tech brooms. But like hockey, it started as a pond sport in its early days.

Above is a photograph of outdoor curling in Central Park in New York City. I love this picture, so I thought I would share it. More 1890s curling photos.

Captain Phillips


I barely made it through the first ten minutes of Captain Phillips. Tom Hanks was trying to use a thick Boston accent. It was distractingly horrible. Thankfully, he lets the accent become more subtle and disappear.

This movie made me think of Argo. Both are based on true stories and you most likely know how it turns out. Nevertheless, I still got tense wondering how both movies were going to turn out.

Captain Phillips is piloting his container ship off the Horn of Africa when it is attacked by pirates. Bad things happen.

I would rate this “#1 in your Netflix Queue.”

There is a fair amount of violence and blood so it’s not a good choice for kids.

Building Up The LEGO Movie


At first blush you might write-off this movie as a puffy piece of drivel trying to push you to buy more of a kid’s toy. Or you might discard it as a failed adaptation of a toy to a movie (I’m looking at you Battleship.)

Ignore those thoughts. It’s a delightful movie that will be enjoyed by you and your kids.

I won’t talk much about the plot, because it might wreck your experience.

Apparently LEGO was able to leverage their licensing for models to appearances in the movie. You have the DC Comics represented by Batman, the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. If you like G.O.B from Arrested Development, you’ll love Will Arnett at Batman. You also have a brief appearance of Star Wars characters, including Anthony Daniels the voice of C-3PO.

I would give this my highest rating of getting a babysitter to see it in the theater. This is a rare movie that your kids will enjoy as much as you, so need need for the sitter.


Year Zero

It was December and I needed a “Y” book to finish off my A-to-Z reading challenge. I had my eye on Year Zero by Ian Baruma. But I couldn’t get my hands on a copy and the year was coming to a close. I didn’t want to fall short by one book/letter. I noticed a different Year Zero by Jeff Long. I had read one of his novels many years ago and remembered enjoying it. But I didn’t end up enjoying this book, and a friend on Goodreads recommended a different Year Zero by Rob Reid. So I read that also. Then the first Year Zero came in from the library, so I read it.

That’s the tale of why I read three books called Year Zero in a month.

Year Zero by Ian Baruma explores the history of 1945. The book covers a huge spectrum of topics, from the revenge on Germans to the re-education of Japanese students under General MacArthur. 1945, was start of a new world. Germany had been defeated. Japan had been defeated. The colonies in Africa and especially Asia saw that their European overlords were capable of defeat.

The problem was that the book tackled too much. That leaves vignettes of the problems faced in 1945 and what happened as a result. It lacks a narrative because the book stays focused on 1945 and does not trace the problems forward.

Year Zero by Jeff Long is a tale of an apocalyptic disease triggered by the opening of an ancient Christian artifact. The novel held promise of exploring themes of Christianity, the collapse of civilization, revenge, and redemption. But it fell well short of saying anything meaningful or interesting.

Year Zero by Rob Reid is a fun sci-fi farce, with aliens and lawyers. The universe has fallen in love with Earth’s music, but illegally pirated all of it. Then trouble and misadventures follow.