Wifredo Lam: The Beautiful Dreamer

For the summer 2014 issue of Boston College magazine, I previewed the Wifredo Lam exhibit, which opened this past fall at the McMullen Art Museum. 

beautiful-dreamer1Wifredo Lam was an artist of the world. He was born in Cuba to parents of Chinese, Spanish, and African descent, and he studied his craft in Spain, France, Italy, Cuba, and Haiti. His 1943 masterpiece-on-paper The Jungle (roughly eight by seven and a half feet) has occasionally hung in the entryway of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and, now quite fragile, remains in the museum’s permanent collection, together with 24 other Lam works. The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns five Lams, the Guggenheim four. But despite (some might say because of) Lam’s international range, the artist’s talent has often been overlooked.

[Read the full text here]


Ovuline, fertility, and how Big Data can now knock you up

When I first started thinking about writing about ovulation-tracking apps, I was fascinated by the fact that Big Data could have a role in something as important as fertility. But as I started talking to users, it quickly became apparent that a first-person account was the best approach, in part because I was so curious about the outcomes. As it turns out, these tracking apps work — my husband and I are expecting a baby this summer — and I’m told I’m not alone. Several readers of this story have reached out to tell me the app worked for them as well. Congrats all. 

I’paris-wallacem sitting on the 1 bus, cruising down Mass. Ave. toward MIT’s campus. The tech types around me are all staring at their phones, and so am I—but my interactions with my device are more personal than most. As I have every morning this week, I open the Ovia Fertility app and plug in some info about my weight, mood, and diet. But the app wants to know more. “What’s up, down there?” it chirps, inquiring about my monthly visit from Aunt Flo. I duck, trying to shield my phone’s screen from the gaze of my fellow passengers as I give the all clear.

This all started a few weeks earlier. My husband and I were discussing the possibility of trying for a kid, so I did what any type-A modern woman in America does: I downloaded an app. I’d already grown accustomed to tracking my diet and exercise on my phone, so it felt like a smart idea to have an app keep tabs on my ovulation window, too. Which is how I’ve come to this: typing intimate physical info into my phone on the bus

Life tracking is big business, especially for women. In July, TechCrunch reported that women’s health apps raised more than $102 million in venture funding over the past year, more than all other health-focused apps combined. Period-, fertility-, and pregnancy-tracking apps are among the most popular, a telling trend that’s tied to rising interest in the quantified self. Based on government pregnancy statistics, Ovuline’s team estimates that at any given time, roughly two to three million women in America are trying to conceive. Today, about half of them are doing so with the help of a mobile app, and that number is growing. There’s also the blunt fact that anything pertaining to pregnancy is a gold mine for investors: Women who are tracking their fertility will soon make dozens of decisions about pregnancy- and baby-related purchases that add up to billions of dollars a year.

[Read full article here]

The Making of Clover’s McTopia

fea_clover1-2 (1)

It started with my husband’s obsession with a food truck. Back in 2011, he was eating breakfast and lunch almost daily from a truck that was parked out on Boston’s City Hall Plaza, and raving to me about the sandwiches he’d now become addicted to. That was my first introduction to Clover Food Lab and Ayr Muir, and sure enough, I became a fan of his meals shortly after trying them myself. The bigger story of Muir and his plans for the vegetarian (shhh) fast food chain became clear to me after I began spending time with him. Within minutes of our first meeting, he revealed that it wasn’t in the fast food business just to help people eat healthier (though that is indeed part of his plan). No, he told me that he aims to make Clover bigger than McDonald’s, and in so doing, he fully intends to save the planet. That’s only the beginning, and it’s the story I tell in this month’s issue of Boston Magazine.


Portugal Makes the Cover of National Geographic Traveler

National Geographic Traveler - Portugal

My road trip story on Lisbon and Portugal’s unexplored southwest coast is now on the cover of the August/September issue of National Geographic Traveler. Color me thrilled. Click through to read the story in its entirety.

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The Power of “The Power of Ideas”

POI April, June, July 2014As I worked to compile the list of thought leaders for May’s Power of Ideas issue of Boston Magazine, my editors and I quickly realized that the scope of Boston’s talent couldn’t really be contained to one magazine a year. So we decided to expand upon the concept. Within the past few months, we’ve launched a monthly page devoted to some of the city’s most ambitious thinkers whose ideas are shaping different corners of the city (or beyond the city, as the case may be). It’s been a tremendous opportunity to sit down with each of them and witness their passion. From left to right:

Gerald Chertavian is the CEO and founder of Year Up, which steers low-income youth into high-paying technology jobs in an effort to bridge the opportunity divide.

Nurys Camargo is the founder of the Chica Project, a volunteer-based organization that seeks to develop a pipeline of mentors to empower Massachusetts’ next generation of Latina leaders.

And Gilad Rosenzweig is launching Smarter in the City—the country’s first inner-city high-tech startup accelerator program—this month in Dudley Square.

In addition to the monthly magazine feature, we’ve also launched a series of “Power of Ideas” salons that will examine Boston from various angles. Our first, “Food for Thought,” launched late last month, and we’ll be planning more through the end of the year. Stay tuned…


The Power of Ideas



I edited Boston Magazine’s annual power list this year, which we dubbed “The Power of Ideas.” The May cover package is our most ambitious ever, with 75 names culled from across the city. Here’s the gist:

“Ideas have long been Boston’s most powerful export—our thought leaders are driving new developments in everything from technology to energy, culture to politics, education to healthcare. Most recently, a new generation of leaders has begun to collaborate with these innovators to address challenges in the public arena as well. To celebrate this unprecedented convergence of minds, we shine a light on Boston’s new power class: the visionaries, idealists, and thinkers among us whose insights are transforming the way we live, work, learn, and play—not only here in Boston, but around the world.”

Ad Venture

In the Winter issue of Boston College Magazine, I profiled the three founders of Jebbit, an internet startup that’s hoping to rethink the way we interact with ads online. Here’s the gist:


Tom Coburn is charming, and if he had gone through with his education plan—a biology major, graduation in 2013, followed by medical school—he surely would have developed a lovely bedside manner as a practicing physician someday. But today the redheaded 22-year-old Hopkinton, Massachusetts, native is one of Boston’s youngest CEOs, and on this autumn morning he’s targeting that charm instead at the construction workers building the brand new office space for his online startup, Jebbit, in the Landmark building near Fenway Park. Riding the elevator in the building’s historic tower, he chats easily with the hard-hat-wearing worker three times his age. The elevator doors glide open to reveal stunning floor-to-ceiling windows . . . and one of Jebbit’s programmers dangling like an orangutan, by one arm then the other, from the steel girders on the ceiling. The programmer grins goofily down at his colleagues slouched on a gray sectional sofa below him, their baseball caps turned backward and laptops on their laps. Coburn shrugs and smiles as he continues with the tour.


The construction worker chuckles and turns to Coburn: “I’ve been here a week and I still have no idea what it is that you guys do.”

“We’re in online advertising,” Coburn replies.

That’s certainly one way to describe it. Coburn’s company, Jebbit, is attempting to completely rethink the way we interact with ads online, and since sharing a first-place finish in the undergraduate Boston College Venture Competition (BCVC) in 2011, it’s gotten some significant traction. The past few years have been a bit of a blur for Coburn and his cohorts: They’ve been accepted to two of the country’s most competitive startup accelerators, raised $1.8 million in funding, found partners in brands such as Coca-Cola, Bose, and Ralph Lauren, and been named to the Boston Globe‘s “25 Under 25? hot list. Jebbit today has 13 employees, 10 of whom are under the age of 22 (and nine of whom occupy the same Cleveland Circle house). Last year, Coburn and two cofounders—chief technology officer Chase McAleese (also a member of the Class of 2013) and COO Jonathan Lacoste ’15—left Boston College before they could graduate to pursue Jebbit full-time.

Find the rest of the piece here.


I had a lovely time chatting with Maura Johnston and the BC community during the first ever Boston College Google+ Hangout earlier this week. Maura and I answered questions about social media’s impact on journalism and reporting in the digital age.

Taming the Beast Within



How do you solve a problem like pedophila? It’s a disorder without a cure–and one that, quite frankly, few people ever want to think about. But for my latest piece in Boston Magazine, I interviewed people who work with this population and are using medical interventions to help control their patients’ unwanted and inappropriate sexual desires. The method of choice is the drug Lupron, a injection that’s been dubbed “chemical castration,” and helps lower the sex drive and unwanted urges in patients. The problem, of course, is that it’s not widely used, and public support for the treatment is practically non-existent. I explore the ethical land mines that doctors who treat these patients face on a regular basis, and what it could mean for the public if we decide to treat these men with these drugs.

Losing Aaron



Three years ago this month, the internet activist Aaron Swartz was arrested for downloading JSTOR files from MIT’s campus. A year ago, he took his own life.

When he died, the world lost a brilliant young man. Aaron’s father lost a son. In this month’s issue of Boston Magazine, I tell Bob Swartz’s story.

[Losing Aaron]

Photo by Mark Fleming