Archive for the ‘Maps’ Category

Wednesday Night Dinner Goes to NYC

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Thanks to Amber, my Wednesday Night Dinner (WND) group got 8 tickets to the Daily Show on November 15th of this year. They sold out instantly to our group of friends, but I managed to snag one for my favorite blogger turned acquittance and fellow Daily Show fanatic, Jodi(econgirl). We also saved on to exchange for housing with our former WND friend Eric. We made a 5 day weekend out of it, since our tickets were for a Tuesday, and now I have finally finished a map detailing the whole trip:

View WND NYC in a larger map

And all the pictures that are included in the map, so you don’t have to go finishing if you just want to see them.

2011 Boston Marathon

Monday, April 18th, 2011

This year, I finally used the Boston Marathon as more than a thinly vialed excuse for my employer to give me a day off of work in April! And really, that isn’t so much an action on my part; this year I biked the entire Boston Marathon route. On Marathon Monday no less, albeit, at midnight. My room mate Ben and I managed to goad each other into doing it without so much as return trip from work (11 mile) warm up. I am so sore, but it was a good introduction to exercise season and a little awesome. We were joined by my friends Jed and Ed, a handful of their friends and ~240 others on a trip organized by Boston The Societies of Spontaneity.

Ben and I did give our bikes a test ride earlier in the day. Ben discovered that this bike had only one working gear because the chain wouldn’t transition between sprockets in either the front or the back. I discovered the cause of the known slow leak in my front tire when I put it up to 100psi and it became a much less slow leak. I was able to replace my tube with one my room mate Andreas had around, and Ben was able to borrow a working bike from his Dad. We also managed to cobble together a headlight and taillight for both of us. My bike has a pedal powered light, but I knew I would be in no shape to pedal up heartbreak hill while also lighting the way. Thanks to Andreas, I didn’t have to; he donated a used taillight and brand new headlight to me!

Ben and I set off at 8:30pm to Harvard Square and then took the T to South Station where we meet up with the group at took the 11pm commuter rail to the Southborough stop, which is 3.1 miles from the start of the Marathon. We did spend a whole lot of time at South Station; we arrived there at 9 (as directed) but that was a crazy early direction. The train was to board at 10:15, a special early boarding to accommodate all of us with our bikes, but it didn’t board till 10:40; still it left on time. It took the train an hour+ to get out there because, as the last train of the night, it must make every stop. Strangely when at Southborough the train stopped twice, once for “normal” passengers, and once for the bikes, despite that the platform was plenty long enough. I passed the time playing Spot It (a card game) and Androminion (Dominion for Andrioid).

The first 3.1 miles consisted of a dreadful uphill, followed by a nice downhill, then an even more dreadful uphill. The road was alight with blinking taillights for more than a mile as the hill separated the serious riders from us, but there was mostly a continuous group. Since the second of these hills was not on the route itself, and everyone was waiting at the starting line, I conserved my energy and walked up most of it. I was glad to be set for a net downhill the rest of the way.

On Monday April 18th at 12:47:27am 2011 Ben tweeted that we’d started the Marathon. Then we ended up near the back of the pack because he had to put his phone away. The Marathon starts with a huge downhill. The roads were not closed, but the range of speeds and the need for space was so great that the bikes took up all of both lanes of the road. Luckily the roads were pretty deserted at midnight so that was not a problem. On the downhill Ben and I caught up to Jed and his group, whom had already lost our friend Ed in the crowd. Through this period we were in a group that had fallen behind by maybe .1 miles, but consisted of at least 30+ people; to the point where the direction of travel lane was usually full. We stuck with Jed past Tony’s house, which is 3.5 miles into the Marathon route. Tony is an occasional Wednesday Night Dinner friend, who attends all of the white water rafting and camping trips I write about and lives in the Suburbs.

At the 4 mile mark, my pedals locked up and I had to stop. Ben stopped with me, but Jed continued on. My chain had jumped off the back cassette, from the smallest sprocket to the axle. This was a quick fix to make, but I did have to turn the bike upside down, and we ended up well behind. From this point on we were never in a group of more than 10 riders. We really pushed to catch up, but it was futile. We stopped trying when we caught up to Ed before the 6.5 mile mark. While not pushing ourselves, we eventually pulled away from him before the 8.5 mile mark. We stopped for a water break at about the 9.5 mile mark. At this point Ed passed us without knowing; there was not a lot of light.

We were mostly alone through Natick, but caught up with a girl wearing red and biking alone with a radio blaring about the 12.5 mile mark. As you can see from the above chart, this period contains a sustained, but not very steep up hill. This took a lot out of me, maybe I was not in the proper gear, but Ben pulled away from me for a significant period of time, but never out of site, maybe 50 yards at most. For the rest of the race this was the case, Ben would always pull ahead of me on the uphills, and I would eventually catch him on the way down because I was on a much faster road bike and he was on a mountain bike.

Also about the 12.5 mile mark, what sounded like 15 trucks blew past us. In fact it was a commuter rail train blew past us heading back into Boston. She swore her friend, who had stopped back some ways must be on that train. The girl’s friend, however, managed to catch back up with us by the time we got to Wellesley Square. She had stopped for a smoke. It was at this point, the half way point (13.3 miles) that we realized we were not in very good shape. We lost the girls, but we pushed on until the 15.5 mile marker, at which point we took advantage one of the many porta-pottys that were setup as the primary means of marking the route for us. The secondary means were no parking signs, and the tertiary means was street cleaners or evidence of them.

Shortly after that break we crossed route 128 at the 16.5 mile marker. Then came our first real turn at 17.5 miles onto Commonwealth Ave, and as you can see in the elevation chart, a precursor to heartbreak hill (mile 20-21). We saw some other bikers on the hill and soon as we turned the corner, but they were much further away than appeared because the hill really hit us hard. We did make it up that one by pushing hard, but the downhill was not nearly enough to recuperate. About 1/3 of the way up hearbreak hill, at 19 miles in we caught up with Ed, who was walking his bike up the sidewalk. I craned my neck out and said “Ed?” to which he responded, “yes… do you guys have any power bars? I’m just out of energy.” Ben gave him a power bar and we took a much needed power/granola bar break.

After the restbiet, the hill was much more forgiving, and Ed got back on his bike with us. Sadly, Ed and I didn’t make it up the rest of the hill on our bikes. We gave in at 19.7 miles and walked .3 miles until we meet up with Ben, who had made it all the way to the 20 mile marker. To be sure, there were not any actual mile markers on the route. I am spotting all of these markers from memory with the aid of Google Maps. We had no real sense of how far we had gone. This was not the top of the hill, but from here we biked the rest of the way.

Cresting the hill at 21 miles I saw an immense Gothic church, which Ben informed me was Boston College. I’d never actually been to BC before, but I knew that meant we were close. From here on in landmarks occurred quite quickly and egged us on:

  • 21.5 miles: First sighting of a Green B Line T Stop.
  • 22.5 miles: Cleveland Circle, the C line, and Beacon St
  • 23.2 miles: Washington Sqaure and excellent, but close bar, the Publik House
  • 24.0 miles: Coolidge Corner, the first place on the route I would say that I frequent.
  • 25.0 miles: The Mass. Turnpike bridge, first sighting of the Citgo Sign and Fenway Park.
  • 25.5 miles: Kenmore Square!
  • 25.7 miles: Mass. Ave!
  • 26.0 miles: Final turn on to Boylston St.!!
  • 26.2 miles: Finish line!!!

I crossed the line first in our group of three, having pulled away at the last turn and pushed into my highest gear, which I had only used during the previous but failed push to catch up to Jed. I remember crossing just after 3am, something like 3:05 or so. I know we were well finished by Monday April 18th at 03:17:30am 2011when Ben tweeted that we were with the Boston Marathon! So by the official tweeted times we took 2:26 hours to finish the route on our bikes, which is an average speed of 10.7 mph. I know that when I ride home from work, which include no significant hills I usually hit between 11 and 12 miles per hour, so this is about what I expected the rate to be given the hills and the endurance issue. But like I said, I think the end time is ~10 minutes late, so its more like 2:16 and 11.5 mph, which is surprisingly better than expected. Of course, a non-official world record time of ~2:02 was set today on the same course, with the same tailwind by a non-bike-aided individual. It doesn’t feel that great to be slower on a bike than someone running, but it is still the most significant athletic accomplishment I’ve made since I stopped running cross country in high school (where my longest run was ~8 miles).

Those of you who checked my twitter feed know I took at spill at Cleveland Circle. I fell when my front tire got locked into a trolley rail in the road between the B and C lines in the middle of the intersection. It would have been a really bad place to crash at rush hour. I was simply not paying attention to the hazard and attempted to cross the rail at a ~15deg (very shallow angle) and as such, I was thrown off to the left side. I landed mostly on my left hip, at least that is the only thing that still hurts. I manage a skin deep scrape on my left fore arm just above my elbow and a deeper scrape below my left knee. I was, of course, wearing a helmet, but my head did not hit the ground at all. I immediately yelled that I was ok, got up, and picked up the bike, which was also in good shape. I walked my way over to an Island in the intersection and checked my scrapes for severity. Finding them to not be too bad, I continued on.

Of course, Copley square is 4.4 miles from my house, and it is ~3:30am by the time we were ready to leave Copley, so the T is not running. We have bikes too, so cab’s are out of the question. This ride, most of which I have done with some regularity was hard. For one, it was into the wind. We had befitted the whole ride from a strong tail wind, and now we had to fight it across the Harvard Bridge. By central square I was seriously considering either taking a break in the CVS (the only thing open) or locking my bike up and taking a cab home, but we didn’t. Near Harvard we almost ran over a drunk guy. Pushing up the ever so slight hill from Harvard, I eventually just had to take a break .2 miles from my house, but I finished strong once on my street. We arrived home to find Andreas taking a slight catnap from packing for his return to Canada. I had some water, Pineapple slices, Resse’s easter eggs, cuscus, and managed to crawl up the stairs and into bed by 4:30am.

Halloween 2010: Google Maps

Friday, November 19th, 2010

For two weeks prior to Halloween 2010, I slaved over this Home Depot painters jumpsuit, hand tracing and painting a map of Boston and Cambridge on to it, using the Google Map’s color scheme. On the front, North is to the left. The arms connect as though I am standing like a cross. The arms wrap on the inseam, as do the legs. The body wraps over the shoulders, and has disconnects under the arms (when the arms are down) and across the but where Boston Harbor ends. The coast line on the bottom of the harbor is that of East Boston, South Boston, and the Ted Williams Tunnel, which connects them, but the map on the land mass is wrapped around from the front of the legs.

I estimate that I spent about 44 hours on the project over the course of two weeks in late December. This includes two days that I took off from my job to work on the costume (as well as other things like doctors appointments). About 12 hours of that was tracing Google Maps onto the jumpsuit by using a projector and a pencil. Then I bought a bunch of fabric paint in white, black, apple green, blue, yellow, and red. I later went back and bought much more white, as well as some orange. The colors are brighter than Google Map’s colors. Primarily this is because I could not buy enough of the white fabric paint I was using to make the colors pale enough to match exactly. The brighter colors also make it more exciting to look at I think, so its a win.

Labeled Version

I did not win any costume contests, mostly because the only one I managed to enter was a club that I should have known was lying about having one. I tried to enter a couple others, but I was too late or it was for kids. I spent most of Halloween itself out and about in the city. Walking from the South End (not labeled, hardly on the map at all) to the Prudential Center to Boston Common. On the way I got lots of questions, a bunch of smiles, and a couple thumbs up. I also gave directions to two couples. One pair of women needed directions, and had an android phone, but couldn’t figure out how to have it direct them. The other was a young asian couple, who asked me how to get to the Prudential Center, when they were about 1.5 blocks from the Prudential Center. It is of course, a huge tall building, with the word “Prudential” written on the top. I’m pretty sure the woman there just wanted to ask me for directions, she also gave me a hug. The T-shirt and food vendors outside Park Street Station were the most impressed of all the people I encountered.

Penobscot River Rafting

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Hurricane Earl, if you want to call it that (it was pretty week) hit Boston Friday night, and hit up at the rafting site from 7am to 10am Saturday. I managed to convince everyone to stay home Friday night and drive up Saturday. The rain was all over by the time we got up there. We did talk to some boy scouts who in addition to to crowding the hot tub, had rafted on Saturday, during the storm. They all said it was very wet but they still had fun. I was glad to have no rain on our trip, but it was cloudier, windier, and cooler than I expected, so I was not quite dressed appropriately, and got very cold when the wind and clouds combined. There are some stories about the rapids on the map.

View Penobscot Rafting Trip in a larger map

I also want to tell a brief story about the baby squirrel pictured below. He was tiny and cute and very energetic. He visited us on Sunday at sunset for the first time. He did quite a bit of hiding from me while I was trying to capture his picture. Eventually he scampered off with a bit of wood that he perhaps confused for food. Anyways, when I woke up in the morning at 7am I noticed that our basket of dry food had been left out and not placed in a car. Then I noticed that said basket was rustling, and shortly after that the head of this small squirrel was visible. He exited the basket with what was left of a packet of Hershey’s milk chocolate following a night of smore making. I ran up to him and he ran away, leaving the chocolate on the ground beneath the picnic table. I picked up the chocolate, put it on the table and walked away for a few minutes. When I came back the chocolate was gone without a trace. I sincerely hope that chocolate does not harm small squirrels.


Saturday, August 21st, 2010

In June of 2010 my friend Sarah and I took a trip to India (and Amsterdam — see a future post) for my room mate Sriram’s wedding. We went a week early and did some sight seeing in Delhi and Agra in the North before heading to Hyderabad in the south for the wedding.

View India Trip in a larger map

For best viewing, use the in a larger map link. Or, see all the pictures included in the gallery below. Hover text provides captions in the gallery, or click through to cycle one per page.

Ice Cream Marathon

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

On Saturday August 14, 2010 the long planned Wednesday Night Dinner Ice Cream Marathon occurred from 1pm until 7:30pm. We followed and approximately 7 mile route from Boston’s North End to Harvard Square in Cambridge following this route:

View Ice Cream Marathon in a larger map

We stopped at each place marked in green. We skipped over duplicate stores, chains, and stores we didn’t know existed. We carried score cards. Here is the digital representation of mine:

Location Time Flavor Size Score (1-10)
1. Gelateria 1:20pm Hazelnut / Vanilla Small 5 / 8
2. Sprinkles 2:00pm Butter Pecan Child 7
3. Emack
& Bolio’s
2:45pm Cake Batter1 One Scoop 3
4. Picco’s 3:25pm Cinnamon2 One Size 93
5. Bon Bon 4:25pm Pineapple Sorbet One Size 2
6. J. P. Licks 4:55pm Cake Batter Not Available4 0
7. Toscanini’s 5:55pm Cake Batter Kiddie 9
8. Christina’s 6:30pm Corn5 Small 4
9. Lizzy’s 7:30pm Vanilla Cookie Dough Kiddie 6

1Like most flavors at Emack and Bolio’s this cake batter is infused with chocolate. This is not an acceptable thing to do and still call it cake batter, but that is what they do.
2Also bread and water were provided at no cost at Picco’s.
3The flavor of the Cinnamon (and they Honey flavor that I tired) were so intense as to deserve top honors. However, we were unable to finish these flavors due to their intensity.
4J. P. Licks has suddenly, and without warning discontinued the cake batter flavor at all of their locations. This is not acceptable as it was the best cake batter flavor available in the city and my favorite ice cream overall. Until such a time as cake batter is returned to the menu I am forced to boycott J. P. Licks. I did get in line and ask for cake batter, only to be told they they don’t have it, to which I responded, “Ah, never mind then.”
5Bacon flavor was also available and I tried a spoonful of it. Someone got bacon flavor and was unable to finish the salty delicious treat. I had tired corn flavor earlier in the week and thought it quite good, but I was unable to finish my small size of it either.

The clear winner was Picco’s. Picco’s is a sit down pizza restaurant that also hand makes ice cream for their desert menu. They were great sports and sat a table for 13 who intended only to have ice cream. They also provided bread and water at no charge, which was most appreciated. Surprisingly appreciated was the bread! The flavors at Picco’s are intense, rich, and wonderful. I could taste the gainyness of the cinnamon in my ice cream! Everyone agreed this was the best place.

Clear runner up in my book Toscanini’s. Toscanini’s, since inciting me into their store for the first time in years with their ROFLCon inspired “Internet” Flavor (vanilla + grape nerds) has become my favorite ice cream parlor. The fact that J. P. Licks has recently committed seppuku has only help them reach the top. Other excellent recent flavors include Fig Newton, Ginger, and the best remaining cake batter flavor in town! Enough said!

First Flight of the Season

Monday, April 6th, 2009

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On Sunday, I skipped out on doing my taxes for an hour or so and took my kite to a nearby park for its first flight of the 2009 season. The wind was good, but the space at the park is rather confined by trees. I actually had a run in with one of them, luckily, the kite was very low to the ground so I could pull it down without reaching. The are some less treed areas of the park, but they don’t get nearly as much wind as the ‘V’ shaped, treed area at the top of the hill. It was very calming and relaxing following my somewhat stressful Saturday.

Biking to Get Somewhere

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Last Wednesday I took my bike out for it’s first real trip. One where biking was being used a transportation, not a Sunday morning jaunt. It felt good, until I got home and my legs were like mush. The stops on the trip are Wednesday night dinner at Midwest Grill in Inman Square and then Government Center. The ride to Inman wasn’t too bad, which is good because its hard to get to Inman any other way, but next time I need to go to government center I’m just going to lock up the bike and hop the T both ways. Here’s the map of my travels that night:

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Dinner at the Midwest Grill was expensive. It was $31 after tax and tip, which is the most I’ve ever paid for a Wednesday Night Dinner. We do try to keep things on the inexpensive side. The Midwest Grill does not offer midwest type food, but rather is apparently a Brazilian BBQ type place. Brazillian BBQ is similar to Mongolian in that there is only one thing on the menu and it is all you can eat. The difference is that instead of concocting bowls of yummy goodness, you load up a plate with sides. Once you’ve got your plate you sit down and waiters come around to your table with various types of meat on two foot long skewers. They cut you off a piece and you enjoy while waiting for the next waiter to come by with something else. It was an interesting experience. I would go back, if there was any chance in hell that I’d ever be able to eat enough that my $31 would seem like a good deal. Of course, I paid $35 for dinner on Friday, and ate less, so I don’t know why I feel like I got such a bad deal, but I do. Part of that may have been the service. We had a table of six men, but on every single item a nearby table of 4 with two women got first dibs and larger better cuts, we always got seconds. It seemed unfair, but there was little we seemed to be able to do about it.

Google Maps Walking Directions

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Maybe this is old news, but I just noticed today that google maps now has walking directions! They did not import properly into the embeddable frame though, but heres a screen shot and a link.

It knows that you can walk through Boston Common, and it knows where the paths are so you don’t just cut across the grass like a hillbilly. It also takes the esplanade and some of the paths near MIT. It did not, however, take the bike path near my house, there’s no faint line for it either, so that does make some sense. They do warn that it is in beta and that one should “use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas.”

Walk After the Rain

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

After the thunderstorm today I took a walk. It was nice and cool, and wet out and the whole thing was rather enjoyable. As per usual, the Google map:

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