hacker emblem
Search | Tags | Photos | Flights | Gas Mileage | Log in

Return of the Hacker (part two)

Started: 2007-05-23 15:16:51

Submitted: 2007-05-23 16:58:46

Visibility: World-readable

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Bethany had a strategy final to study for, so Willy and I headed to the MIT Museum, a few blocks from Bethany's apartment on Mass Ave. Since it was the third Sunday of the month, the museum was free. I visited the museum in September 2005 on my second employer-sponsored trip to Boston, but I did enjoy the opportunity to visit it again and get more out of the exhibits, including noticing that one of the AI exhibits used the same series CPU32 microprocessor (that's based on the m68k, for readers who don't follow those things) that my new favorite cable set-top box uses. There was one new sculpture in the moving sculpture gallery, which was just as bizarrely fascinating as my last visit. The "life at MIT" exhibit included a t-shirt from "Ethnographic Museum of Irrelevant Races", which Willy and I found especially amusing given our recent visit to Harvard's Peabody Museum of Ethnography and Archeology. (The Internet later revealed that it was a drama presentation that featured living specimens from "irrelevant races" in display cases.)

We spent the rest of the afternoon helping Bethany move much of her stuff down two floors to a friend's SUV, who carried it off their summer storage unit somewhere in the greater Boston area. For the first time since Thursday night, it stopped raining to give us a chance to carry Bethany's stuff outside without getting it wet. While Bethany was off loading her storage unit, we actually saw direct sunlight on the opposite side of the courtyard. When Bethany returned after her second storage unit load, I convinced her to take us around campus to see the buildings. Willy photographed the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel. A block later, Bethany told Willy to look right as we entered a courtyard in front of the Stata Center to the left. Willy looked right and saw only a nondescript academic building; by the time he figured it out and looked left, he saw the entire south face of the Stata Center in its postmodern mirrored glory. We photographed each other and continued past the Sloan School of Management where Bethany has most of her classes to the Charles River, where Bethany took sailing classes at the MIT sailing pavilion. We headed west, along the river, and photographed the Great Dome and walked down the Infinite Corridor to Mass Ave, where we visited the chapel and raided the student center for boxes Bethany could use to pack.

I happened to have The Good Shepherd with me from Netflix, which Willy was interested in seeing and Bethany wouldn't mind seeing again. Once I figured out where the play button was on the remote, presumably owned by one of Bethany's roommates, covered in Chinese characters (it only now occurred to me to wonder why it was playing region one DVDs), we watched the movie. It was an interesting look at the beginning of the CIA, although the storytelling seemed unnecessarily jumbled by cutting back and forth between World War II and its immediate aftermath and the botched Bay of Pigs invasion. Bethany fell asleep during the last half hour, prompting one of her roommates to (silently) mock her.

Monday, 21 May 2007

On the morning of my last day in Cambridge, Bethany went to her strategy final, leaving Willy and I to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen. (Bethany doesn't have a dishwasher, so I filled up the sink and washed the dishes and Willy rinsed and stacked the dishes on the drying rack. We joked that one of Bethany's roommates would see the cleaned dishes and attribute it to the gnomes that she apparently expects to do her packing. We countered that we were dish-washing elves, thank you very much, and we were in fact union elves so we couldn't very well do the work of union gnomes. We also expressed disgust that Bethany had done the work of union goblins in laying waste to her room while packing.) I consulted the Internet for tourism advice, taking advantage of the visitor wireless access in the dorm (which gave me a publicly-routable IP address; since MIT has an entire class A net block, I suppose that makes sense).

Willy and I walked to Central Station in the sun on the Red Line and headed inbound to Park Street Station, where we hit the Freedom Trail and started with a tour of the New State House. (This is the "New" state house because it was built shortly after independence to serve as a shiny new building in a shiny new republic.) Willy and I remembered to leave our weapons of minor destruction behind so we didn't have any trouble passing through security; I left mine at home so I could fly with only carry-on baggage. We joined a guided tour, which happened to contain a school group from Lawrence. We saw the House and Senate chambers, complete with the carved fishes of some indeterminate symbolism, and waved at the new governor, Deval Patrick, as he exited his office and hopped onto the elevator.

After the New State House, we headed along the Freedom Trail, seeing most of the exciting historic buildings and sites, including Boston's three oldest graveyards, the Old North Church ("one if by land, two if by sea"), a fascinating late Art Deco courthouse (somewhat out of place among the historic old buildings and mostly nondescript new buildings in Boston), and the wonderful concrete City Hall which Willy hated. We hurried through the second half of the walk to make sure we had time to visit the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the US Navy (where "commissioned" means "sails around Boston Harbor for the Fourth of July"), but I apparently didn't get the memo that she was closed on Mondays. There was a collection of Navy officers in dress uniform hanging around the pier in front of the ship, apparently waiting for some sort of ceremony. Willy and I visited the USS Constitution museum and finally figured out why the US Marine Corps sings about the "shores of Tripoli", where the USS Constitution and other Navy frigates fought the Barbary Pirates to protect American merchant shipping. (This was a naval campaign Honor Harrington would have felt at home in.)

We headed back across the Charles River to North Station, where we caught the Green Line to Park Street Station, and transferred to the Red Line to Central Square. Back at Bethany's apartment, I had just enough time to eat a main meal and pack before heading back to Central Station. This time I joined rush hour traffic getting off at South Station and took the Silver Line to Logan International Airport. Waiting for the subway and the bus were maddening, since I was cutting into the buffer I needed to make it through security and to my gate. (At Bethany's recommendation, I left her apartment at 1700 EDT, two hours before my plane was scheduled to leave at 1900 EDT.) I ended up at the airport with plenty of time to spare; in fact, when I reached my gate the aircraft was only then pulling up to the Jetway, already several minutes late. I made it onto the 757-200 for the just-over-an-hour flight to Washington Dulles. We stayed inland for the flight; at 2016 EDT I looked out the window on my row (I had a middle seat) and saw a set of active cooling towers next to a set of inactive cooling towers on an island along the side of a river. I presumed it was a nuclear power plant and visualized our approximate position between Boston and Washington Dulles and wondered if it was Three Mile Island. I jotted down the time but didn't want to write anything obviously suspicious like "nuclear power plant, 2016 EDT", so I just wrote the time. (The next day, I checked my flight's track log to figure out where I was at 2016 EDT and decided I did in fact see Three Mile Island.)

We landed at Dulles and I grabbed a latte at Starbucks while walking to my gate. This was my first time since returning from Boston in October 2005 to take a non-direct flight, and the first time I've changed planes in Dulles. (I flew into Dulles in 1993, direct from Stapleton.) I called Kiesa from my outgoing gate and eventually joined the crowd boarding the plane. We ended up leaving half an hour or forty-five minutes late, but we didn't have as much of a headwind as the schedulers expected, and the captain was able to fly at full speed, so we spent half an hour less in the air than scheduled. I finished reading Kings of Infinite Space, which is an amusing horror-paranormal-office novel (sort of Office Space meets Dawn of the Dead), wrote a changelog documenting the first three days of my Boston mini-vacation, looked out the window every once and a while to see yet another unnamed city go by, watched an episode of The Simpsons on Illyria, and watched most of an episode of The Office on the overhead video monitors. (Like my outbound flight, they showed Catch and Release earlier in the flight.) It was a little bumpy descending into Denver, but we made it onto the ground intact. I took the shuttle to Mount Elbert middle-of-nowhere shuttle parking, found Motoko, drove home, and finally crashed into bed at 0100 Tuesday morning, MDT.