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Return of the Hacker

Started: 2007-05-21 20:43:37

Submitted: 2007-05-21 22:22:43

Visibility: World-readable

Over a year ago, when Bethany was accepted at MIT's Sloan School of Business on the same day I got an offer at Solekai, I knew I would have to find some handy opportunity to fly to Boston and hang out in Cambridge and see the city again. By the time I got around to figuring out when would be a good time, the best weekend happened to overlap Willy's planned sabbatical quarter, which featured his visiting Washington, DC; New York City; and Boston.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

I cashed in most of my comp time from the year and flew out Thursday afternoon. I left the office shortly after a popular biweekly conference call and ended up parking in the Mount Elbert shuttle parking lot, somewhere between DIA and Kansas. (I made sure to mark the point I parked on my GPS receiver so I can find it again.)

The flight was over-booked, so when I checked in online twenty-four hours prior to departure, there were no remaining reclining window seats on the A319, so I opted for an aisle seat so I could at least stretch out into the aisle. This proved to be comfortable, but most of the windows were closed for the flight, and I couldn't see anything, which I think is the best part of flying. (Almost as good as actually getting to my destination.)

The in-flight movie was Catch and Release, which I know about mostly from listening to the Boulder Daily Camera fawning over it because it was set in Boulder and featured several days of actual movie star Jennifer Garner filming in Boulder in 2005. I decided that Ms. Garner should play Bethany in the movie version of Bethany's life. (I didn't actually watch the movie, but I occasionally looked up from Doctor Who to attempt to recognize Boulder landmarks. The public spaces in Boulder were obviously shot in Boulder, but the mountains were obviously shot outside Vancouver.)

I landed in Boston a few minutes late at 2145 EDT and took the Silver Line bus rapid transit line to South Station, which gave me the opportunity to compare and contrast the service provided to normal bus service and actual fixed-infrastructure rail service. SL1 runs on regular roads around the airport terminals through the Ted Williams Tunnel to mainland Boston, then wanders around on surface streets before entering an underground busway, which is set up sort of like a subway station but with a road in the middle instead of a pair of tracks.

At South Station I transferred to the Red Line and headed across the Longfellow Bridge into Cambridge. I met Bethany and Willy at Kendal/MIT and we walked along the north edge of campus to Bethany's apartment. I met her two roommates, both first-year Sloan students. Bethany eventually went to bed. Willy and I hung out in the kitchen (the living room light was out) talking about New York and other interesting things we had seen until finally going to bed 0130 EDT. Willy took the couchlet; I slept on a sleeping bag on the floor.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Friday dawned rainy. (The forecast didn't have anything good to say for most of the weekend.) Bethany had some grading to do and a finance class review, so (once we drug ourselves out of bed) Willy and I walked down Mass Ave and caught the Red Line from Central Square to Harvard. (I took to pronouncing the school with a fake Boston accent.) We found our way across campus to the Peabody Museum of Ethnology and Archeology, which contained artifacts from the Lewis and Clark expedition, native American cultures, casts of Mayan carvings, and random artifacts from Pacific islands. I contemplated what an ethnological museum of modern North America would look like. Among other things, it would have to include an under-documented display case filled with dozens of wireless phones of all shapes, sizes, and colors. ("We are not yet sure what the significance of the decorative text printed on these communication devices. They may have signaled religious affiliations. Further research is necessary to determine whether the followers of Sprint, Cingular, Verizon, and other gods considered themselves at odds with other communication sects.")

Willy and I headed into the adjacent Harvard Museum of Natural Science, which contained a fascinating collection of minerals and an aggregate dodo skeleton. Bethany called as we were wrapping up our tour of the museum, close to closing time at 1700; we rendezvoused in Harvard Square and walked to a fantastic Thai restaurant, 9 Tastes (50 JFK Street). While waiting for our food, Bethany and I convinced Willy to call my former meta-boss at my former employer, where Willy hopes to get an internship this summer. The food was fantastic; the green curry was the best I've ever had.

After our early supper, Bethany took us to a tea shop serving fresh tea (classic and herb) in an environment like a coffee shop. I had a great oolong tea, although I left the loose-leaf tea in a bit too long.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Saturday's forecast promised almost as much rain as Friday, which didn't seem like a good thing. Bethany took us south on Mass Ave, across the Harvard Bridge (where we found the Smoot marks in the rain) to the church she attends in the Back Bay. I think it was the first time I've gone to church since last July. We ate potluck and headed across the Back Bay Fens to the Museum of Fine Art, where Bethany suggested we visit the gift shop and look at consumer-grade reproductions of the art contained in the museum, since actually visiting the museum would be rather expensive. This seemed like it would be a good idea, but they didn't want to let us in the gift shop with the shopping bag Willy was carrying (which contained the remains of the brownies Bethany brought to potluck), and the coat check line was epic (since it also served as the pay-for-parking line for those who were too lazy to use the self-serve credit card kiosks), so we abandoned the idea.

We headed inbound along the Green Line, walked around Mother Church, and wandered through the Prudential Center and the system of interlocking malls to the Boston Public Library. It tended to drizzle most of the time, somewhere between a heavy mist and actual rain. The library, which proclaims itself as America's oldest public library, was a fascinating old building. Willy spent fifteen minutes in one under-lit, mostly-empty room trying to figure out the meaning of the paintings on the walls and finally figured out that it was the story of Sir Galahad the Chaste finding the Holy Grail.

We found a Borders across the street from the library (and the towering John Hancock building) with an embedded Seattle's Best Coffee and headed in to escape the rain and for a snack. The coffee shop was packed; we had to camp out on a bench among the books themselves, which worked fairly well. Our sprawling conversation ended up on religion. I finally admitted that I'm basically agnostic. (That is, I don't believe in god, but I don't not believe in god.) I'm also dubious about the paradox of organized religion: to have any sort of fellowship one typically has to come up with a set of things to believe in, but once that set is established, it quickly becomes a dogma whose existence slows or stalls the development of the group's beliefs. Religions tend to grow in revolutions, not evolutions.

With that heavy topic out of the way, we headed back out into the undefined precipitation and walked through the Public Gardens and Boston Commons. We headed back to Bethany's apartment (taking both the Green Line and Red Line) and stopped by Blockbuster in Cambridge's Central Square to rent Catch and Release. I pretended to not watch the movie, which was easier when I figured out how to get connected as a visitor to MIT's wireless network, which let me reconnect with the world (and Kiesa) and do a bit of research for our sightseeing activities for the following day.