September 2018
S M T W T F S
« Aug    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Archives

  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006

Categories

  • Film
  • Journals & Blogs
  • Places
  • Reviews

Beach Vacation

We’re back from a 2-week vacation to Massachusetts – which I think is the longest vacation I’ve taken since our Hawaii trip in 2011. We had originally planned this trip as part of Debbi’s sabbatical, but then she changed jobs so it became its own thing. Moreover, I haven’t taken much vacation time in the past year because of a big push at work, so I was due. (The last time I went a year taking so little vacation was 2005, but both times were for good causes. This coming year I’ll take more time off, if only otherwise I’d hit our vacation cap!)

Anyway, this trip was our annual visit to see our families – well partly, but I’ll get to that shortly. We took the red-eye flight from San Jose, landing in Boston the morning of Saturday June 24, picking up our rental car and driving to my Dad’s house. Red-eye flights are getting harder to weather so I don’t know how much longer we’ll keep doing them; at least I’ve learned to sleep on planes a bit, but Debbi hasn’t.

We had breakfast with Dad, took a late-morning nap, and then had lunch. Otherwise we just hung out for part of the day before driving down to Debbi’s family’s place where we had dinner and hung out some more. All three of the teenaged niephews [sic] hung out too, which shocked all (well some) of the adults. Sunday, we… well, again I’ll get to that in a moment. And then we drove back to my Dad’s and had dinner at the Regal Beagle. We got caught in a rainstorm on the way home and spent some quality time hanging out in the Arcade Building, checking out some of its corners that we’d never had reason to visit. (It’s not that interesting, but the century-old decor is unusual today.)

Inside the Brookline Arcade Building
The interior of the Brookline Arcade Building

Monday we drove up north to visit Nancy, a high school friend of Debbi’s, and her husband Dan (and their cat, who I followed around until I convinced her to let me pet her). I didn’t really know Nancy in high school, but I knew who she was – which frankly was about how well I knew Debbi in high school! Afterwards Debbi drove back to her family and I spent a few days with Dad.

Dad and I made some of the usual rounds, including visiting my Mom’s grave at Mount Auburn Cemetery, and going out to Waban where I grew up, having lunch at Barry’s Deli, which is very nearly the last thing left from my childhood town that hasn’t changed much. I’ve written before about Mom’s house being replaced with a much larger home, and now the large house on the corner – on a huge lot, and which I understand had been built around 1890 – has been torn down and replaced with two large houses. What will the neighborhood look like in another 40 years, I wonder?

I wanted to wander in to the Waban Library Center, but they weren’t yet open. However, walking up I remembered that one of the attorneys who had probated her estate had bought a memorial brick there, so I found it and took a picture. There are actually two bricks, and I don’t remember who bought the other one. (I might have a note of it somewhere, or it may remain a mystery.)

Memorial bricks at the Waban Library Center

The other place we went was That’s Entertainment, which is a huge comics, game and hobby store in Worcester. I remember why I only go every few years, because it takes over an hour to drive there! This trip was well worth it, though, because I managed to find all but 4 issues of two different runs of comics I’d been looking for. As with most series I’m currently collecting, they’re both not valuable and not in demand, so hardly anyone stocks them. I also managed to stump several employees with a question, which went down the line of four employees before someone knew the answer. (The answer, alas, was that they didn’t have any old issues of Dragon magazine in stock.)

We had originally planned to go to the Museum of Science on Thursday, but the weather dissuaded us. Instead Debbi drove up and had lunch with us, and she and I took the train into the city to have lunch at Faneuil Hall and look around. It was a little soggy, but not too bad. I bet parking and crowds at the museum would have been bad, though.


For the second half of our vacation: Well, a couple of years ago we bought a beach house on the south shore on Humarock. It was a keep-it-in-the-family purchase, and it’s mostly my in-laws who use it, but we arranged this trip so we could spend a chunk of time there, including the July 4 holiday.

The house had sustained some damage from the strong winter storms earlier this year. It sounds like these storms were the strongest in a generation, if not more, and we saw pictures of many houses hit much harder than ours. We ended up with some roof leaks, and some damaged furniture, but not much more than that. In particular it sounds like we avoided any serious mold issues. We hired a great contractor who put on a new roof, aired out the attic, repaired some damaged walls and ceilings, and discovered that the bedrooms have hardwood floors under their ancient 70s-era carpets. Even better, almost all of the work was done by the time we arrived.

So the first Sunday we went with the in-laws to check things out, and move some of the furniture back into place, as well as figure out what projects we wanted to do while there. We met with the contractor to go over some things, and also bought a new grill as the old one was getting pretty rusty. Then on Wednesday Debbi and Shawn (the brother-in-law) picked up some furniture at IKEA.

Friday we arrived to find a worker replacing one of the windows, so we left him to do his work and went out to get lunch and pick up stuff at Target.  Many of the furnishings were still jammed into the undamaged bedrooms, and we weren’t sure whether some things – like curtains – survived or had been kept, so we bought more than we needed to.  When we got back, we moved the bed back to the master bedroom and moved around some other things, and found that several items did in fact survive, so we were able to return some stuff later! Then in the evening I drove into Boston to meet my old friend Bruce, whom I haven’t seen in about three years.  We had dinner at Maggiano’s, and caught up with the latest developments.

Saturday the in-laws arrived with the IKEA furniture and Shawn, Debbi and I spent most of the afternoon putting it together in fairly hot and humid weather (alas, the house does not have A/C), with the World Cup games on in the background.  The in-laws are big soccer fans and were following them closely.  I’m not much of a soccer fan, but it’s an interesting break from baseball.  While people didn’t stay overnight with us, we did grill dinner together, and then they headed home and came back the next day for a much lazier day.

Monday Debbi and I drove into downtown Scituate for lunch and to walk around the harbor area.  We also drove over to Old Scituate Light, which is in a surprisingly built-up area, but is worth the visit nonetheless, for the view if nothing else.  Supposedly the battle which resulted in the line “Don’t give up the ship!” occurred near there as well.  We also made another run to Target, where I embarked on a small project to replace many light bulbs in the house with LED bulbs, since the heat from the incandescent bulbs was pretty nasty in hot weather.

Old Scituate Light
Old Scituate Light

In our driving around we also worked our way through the first (and so far only) season of a conspiracy-fiction podcast called Rabbits, which we both enjoyed quite a bit.  I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately and need to do an entry or three about them soon.

And indeed Tuesday was probably the worst day for heat and humidity that we had, and we spent most of the day lying around the house like slugs.  We did make a run to the grocery store, where the A/C tempted us to wander the aisles for longer than we would have otherwise.  Thankfully, it cooled off late in the afternoon when the fam arrived, and we were able to hang out on the beach after sunset and watch the fireworks.

But wait! you say, Tuesday was July 3!  Yep, Humarock has a long-standing tradition of fireworks on July 3 rather than July 4.  Up and down the beach – several miles of visibility in each direction – people were shooting off fireworks, probably thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars worth.  All perfectly illegal, I’m sure.  But it sure was a great display.  There were also a couple of people launching fire lanterns which would drive over the ocean and into the clouds.

Wednesday July 4 was another great day weather-wise, and we spent much of the day on the beach. Around the time the fam was heading home, Nancy and Dan showed up for a few hours, to hang out and grill dinner.  They headed out a little before sunset, and I spent an hour meeting one of my last goals, walking up to the end of the sandbar peninsula on which our house sits. I had to book it back before it got pitch black, but despite the rush it was a nice hike with some great views.

Fourth Cliff just after sunsetThe ocean side of Fourth Cliff just after sunset
(click for larger image)

We’d planned on Thursday to hang out around the house until late in the afternoon and then head back to Dad’s, but it turned out to be another humid stinker, so we actually called it a trip around noon, had lunch on the way out, and then drove around for a bit before heading back.  It was sad to go – other than the weather – but we had a good time, and a good mix of Getting Stuff Done and Enjoying Ourselves.  Unfortunately at Dad’s we went back to the Beagle for dinner, but their A/C was out so it was kind of a downer of a meal.  (Not as much of a downer as it was for the wait staff, I’m sure.)

Finally, Friday it was a rainy day and we mostly hung around at Dad’s until it was time to drive to the airport and catch our plane.  It didn’t rain enough to delay our flight, so we got home more-or-less on time, said hi to the cats, and collapsed into bed.  Then we had the weekend to recover and get ready for a new work-week.I think this was the longest vacation I’d taken

All-in-all a great trip, though as usual we were ready to come home to our own bed and our cats by the end of it.  But we’ll be back.  Because ocean.

Boston in September

I’m back from a week-plus vacation to Boston to visit my parents. Debbi of course also came to visit her sisters, so we didn’t see a lot of each other, since our families live about 40 miles apart. Our strange family vacations. 🙂

We took the JetBlue red-eye the night of Thursday the 16th. Several people asked me if we had any trouble landing, because I guess there was a big rainstorm that night, but when we landed (around 5:15 am) I looked outside and just noticed it had been raining. The trip otherwise was perfectly smooth. Debbi’s sister picked us up and we drove down to spend part of Friday with them. I didn’t sleep on the plane, so I sacked out on the couch even before all of Deb’s niephews (2 girls and 1 boy) had headed off to school. Then I had lunch with Debbi and her sisters, and they drove me up to my Mom’s house.

I saw them once more, on Sunday, when one of the girls had a soccer game near my Mom’s house, so I drove over to say hi and hang out. And then I drove Debbi up on Monday to spend the night with us and have dinner, since my Dad picked up some lobsters from Legal Sea Foods for the three of them. (I don’t eat seafood, so I picked up some ribs from Whole Foods. But the verdict on the lobsters was that they were excellent.)

I visited with two friends – my friend Bruce, whom I know from my old APAhacking days, and my friend Charley, whom I know from high school. Charley asked how long it’s been since we’d seen each other, and I said, “Well, last time I saw you you still had long hair…” He said that meant it had probably been a decade or more, which sounds about right. We’d basically lost touch until I came across his web site. We had lunch in Harvard Square and caught up on various things. Bruce and I, as usual, had dinner in Boston’s North End followed by coffee and dessert at Cafe Vittoria, which is an excellent place to hang out and chat, even if we did have to watch the Red Sox get thumped by the Orioles on the big screen. (At least we got to mock them along the way.)

I spent much of the week hanging out at my Mom’s house, with occasional runs to Dunkin Donuts. She volunteers at the new Waban Library Center, in the building where the Waban branch of the Newton Free Library used to be. It’s a beautiful building, built between the two World Wars, and I went up and took some photos, and reminisced about going there as a kid. (Their Facebook page has photos from 1930 as well as from the modern era.)

I went in to visit Dad and have dinner with him twice, and he also joined me for my usual trip out to That’s Entertainment in Worcester, where I picked up some comic books and Magic cards.

The weather was up-and-down: Rainy and cold when we arrived, then cool, and then hot-and-humid! And then alternating cool with hot-and-humid for the last few days. I used almost all the clothes I brought, including my jacket and sweatshirt. I guess we left just before the rains returned. Though the area already looks like it’s perpetually raining leaves, since fall arrived during our visit.

Our flight home was uneventful, other than an hour’s delay taking off (half of which we made up in the air) – far better than last year’s debacle of a return trip!

All-in-all it was a very lazy vacation, and it flew by awfully quickly. Fortunately Debbi and I are also taking Monday off to catch up on things and recover from the plane flight home (it’s over an hour longer to fly west than east between Boston and San Jose). And the kitties are delighted to see us, of course, after 9 days of 3 different pet sitters! (Though I guess Blackjack did his best to charm everyone.)

Driving in Boston

Driving around Greater Boston is a much bigger pain in the ass than driving around California, for a bunch of reasons:

  • The streets are generally narrower, since many of the roads predate automobiles.
  • People park on the streets, even though they’re generally narrower, making the streets functionally even narrower. Many streets allow parking even though they don’t have a dedicated parking lane.
  • People get out of cars and just amble across the street without looking, usually without caring whether they’re jaywalking.
  • Pedestrians suddenly appear from behind parked cars, waiting for a space to jaywalk across the road.
  • Turn lanes usually aren’t marked until you’re actually in the lane, whereas most turn lanes in California are marked ahead of time, or at least on signs attached to traffic signals so you can see them from a distance. Consequently you often find yourself in the wrong lane because there was no way to tell you were heading into a turn lane until it’s too late.
  • Drivers give you approximately 1/5 of a second to go after a green light before honking at you. Personally this motivates me to drive slowly.

My strategy for driving in Boston is just to be patient and not let other drivers (or pedestrians) get to me. If they’re impatient, well, that’s their problem.

The only bright spot, really, is that Massachusetts has been on a long-term campaign to make drivers aware that they must stop for a pedestrians in crosswalks, and most drivers obey this law. This makes it a little easier to be a pedestrian than in years past.

I’m still not sure why they haven’t just added more lanes to Route 128 yet, though. They’ve been doing construction on it seemingly in perpetuity, so you’d like they could make the most obvious improvement to it.

Rainy Vacation, And That’s Okay

Debbi and I rounded up June with a trip back to Massachusetts to visit our families, for the first time in a year and a half, flying out the night of June 19. Debbi jokes that we go on these vacations but hardly see each other, since our families live 30 miles apart. The vacation itself was quite good, although slightly marred by the trip back.

The weather was, objectively, so-so: Cloudy and drizzly (if not rainy) most of the week. This was fine with me, though, since I didn’t have anywhere I needed to go, and when I wanted to go out, it wasn’t nasty enough to be a real problem. It was definitely better than hot-and-humid, which is a risk in Boston during the summer!

I was able to do the shopping I wanted (including visits to That’s Entertainment and Pandemonium), plus having dinner with my friend Bruce. I also read a book and a half, and was pleased to find that my Mom’s (relatively) new Internet connection has built-in wi-fi, which meant I could browse the Web and get my e-mail on my laptop rather than using her computer.

My first outing was to go down to visit Debbi’s family on Tuesday the 23rd. I think Debbi was happy to have someone else to chase around her nieces and nephews, who are 10, 8 and 5. The 10-year-old is getting quite fast, and chasing them around the house I was only able to catch her because she had to stop to keep from running into her siblings! The 8-year-old likes to play chase-and-catch games, and she way underestimated how far I can leap in a single step, surprising the heck out of her. We also reduced Debbi to hysterical laughter during dinner when I told the kids we should settle down because their mom was getting that look, to which the 8-year-old said, “You know the look?” Debbi almost spit out her dinner.

Thursday Dad and I drove down to Cape Cod for a day-trip around the peninsula. We chose the right day, as it was sunny and warm for the whole day, probably the one day it was while we were there. We had lunch at Cooke’s in Orleans, stopped in Wellfleet and then went up to Provincetown for some fried dough and to look into the stores. There’s a nifty game store there now, Puzzle Me This, which would be worth a trip every visit if I were still going to the Cape regularly. After that we stopped in Chatham to see the ocean, and then had dinner in Orleans again, this time at the Saltwater Grille.

We vacationed on the Cape every year while I was growing up, and my parents still go there each year, so the Cape holds a lot of memories for me. Orleans, where we stayed, is so different from the olden days: Most of the stores I remember no longer exist, and parts of town are considerably built up. Cooke’s is really the main holdout – it’s been there forever, and is just as good as it’s ever been. I remember finding some great used comics and books at stores around the Cape which either no longer exist, or are shadows of their former selves. And also a terrific kite store in Provincetown, which weirdly carried a few games like Star Fleet Battles. And biking on the excellent Cape Cod Rail Trail.

Dad said that Cape Cod feels like a second home to him. Even years after I last stayed there, it does to me too, despite all the changes. I should see if I can take a vacation there again some year.

Sunday night Debbi and I double-dated with her sister and brother-in-law, as we did a few years ago, having dinner in the North End, followed by coffee and dessert. They’re fun people to have a night out with, and we all had a great time. (With three kids I’m sure they enjoy getting a night out once in a while, too.) Debbi came back to spend an evening at my Mom’s afterwards, letting her sleep in on Monday.

This would have been a great end to the vacation, except for the flight home: Due to weather on the east coast plus a systems glitch at the airport, our flight back was delayed, delayed, delayed, until we would have missed our connection. So we switched to a different flight, and it was delayed, delayed, delayed, until it finally took off after we’d been at the airport for nine and a half hours. This one was a direct flight, but it landed in Oakland rather than San Francisco, and since it got in after 1 am, it was too late for anyone to pick us up (although Subrata did try, but it was too late even for him). So we took a cab to get Debbi’s car, and finally got home around 2:45 am. We were both exhausted and cranky by the time we got to bed. It was one of the worst travel experiences I’ve ever had.

Despite that, it was overall a very nice vacation. We get back there a little less often over time, but we always enjoy it when we do.

Good Time to be a Boston Sports Fan

Last November I had dinner with my friend Bruce, and he told me that he’d bought a 5-game package of Celtics tickets. He said his friends asked him, “What the heck did you go and do that for?” The Celtics have been a mediocre team for a long time, and didn’t seem to have prospects of getting much better anytime soon.

By the time I saw Bruce, the Celtics had already completed the trade for Kevin Garnett, and Bruce said his friends then were saying, “You know, if you don’t think you’re going to use all those tickets, I could take some of them off your hands…” Bruce assured them that he’d be just fine with them.

Seven months later, the Celtics are NBA champs, ending a 22-year drought. I know Bruce got to at least one playoff game, and that he’s a happy guy, a true Boston sports fan. No doubt my friend Rob is a happy camper, too.

I’m not a basketball fan, but when we saw the Celtics were up 30 points (!!) in the third quarter, we ended up watching most of the rest of the game. Even if it’s not your sport, you don’t often get a chance to see a team from your city win a championship.

Well, unless it’s the 21st century and you’re from Boston. With 6 titles among the 4 major sports in this century, it’s a good time to be a Boston sports fan.

Now it’s time for the Bruins to represent, right?

MBTA System Maps

At Felicitas Publica, some articles about changes to the MBTA subway system in Boston over the last 40 years:

The New England Transportation Site has some historical system maps, as well. And the Wikipedia entry on the T looks jam-packed with information as well.

The Images of America series of books (which I enjoy a lot) has a couple of volumes on urban rail lines in Boston: Boston in Motion (I think I might own this one), Trolleys Under the Hub and Boston’s Blue Line.