Archive for July, 2008

On Principle

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

I have an amusing anecdote from last Friday to share with you all today. Pre-play-on-the-common I was at target attempting to acquire on of those blue tarp things that you place on the ground to prevent your blanket from getting wet. Alas, I was unable to find any there – blast you target: you and the $5 gift card to you that I’ve been carrying around for more than a year now have failed me again.

On the way back to my car I was met with a question from a man in a red Ford Taurus. “Are you leaving?,” he asked. Now, that’s not too uncommon a thing to hear in a Boston area parking lot, but the parking lot of the Target in East Somerville is not as packed as say, the Shaw’s parking lot in Porter Square; there were plenty of empty spots. But I had just walked out of the store and so there weren’t any open near me, near the store’s door. I figured maybe he needed a good spot cause he had to load something heavy. But then, my spot wasn’t such a good spot; I was just walking past the good spots to get to my normal spot.

I responded, “Yes, but there are…” plenty of spots. I mumbled the second half. I continued walking, without looking back. When I arrive at my car and turned I noticed that the man had put the car in reverse and followed me down the row. He was now blocking me in, I suppose, although; that was not a concern I noticed at the time. He asked, “Can you do me a favor?” Still thinking he wanted my spot I replied, “um, what?” It would, of course, have been rather unorthodox to need a favor for a spot as mediocre as mine in face of such an abundance of open spaces, but that’s what I was going with.

He explained, “I’m $7 short on gas money to get back to New Hampshire. My son was supposed to meet me here…” he trialled off. I am not a generous one; I rarely if ever offer handouts to beggars. But this was a good scam, if it was a scam; I felt bad. However, my rules did not betray me, despite having at least $48 in cash in my pocket I responded, “Sorry, I don’t have any cash on me.” With this the man, in his car, drove away.

It did not hit me until the exchange was over, the irony involved. Here was a man, in a car, driving around a parking lot, using gasoline, which he supposedly needed all (and more) of to get back to New Hampshire. I wonder if he included in his seven dollar estimate the cost of the gas he was burning while trying to come up with the money? If he turned his car off and parked it and then begged, could he move from $7 to $6, maybe? After realizing his wasteful ways, I no longer felt bad about lying to the man. I was in the right to deny his request on principle alone.

Sitting here now I wonder how the conversation would have gone had I actually denied him on principle. Would I have asked to see his figures, or espoused that he could make it home on $4 worth of gas if he drove 55 mph instead of 70 mph? It certainly would have taken more time, and I was in a hurry. I still had to go over to Home Depot to pick up a tarp before heading home and on to the show. Let this be a lesson to you all, if you’re short on gas money, don’t be a dumbass!

What Have I Been Doing?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Well, on the Saturday after seeing The Dark Knight on my birthday I was invited to go to an all night beach party in Newburyport honoring the full moon with a fire. It was a blast. I met a bunch of new people and got to know a few kids I met on the 4th of July a bit better. One of them even managed to remember my name from then, which made me feel bad that I didn’t remember his. The weather was cloudy so there wasn’t a great view of the moon, but there were professionally done fireworks from a nearby by that we could see. As the night wore on batches of fog rolled in and out as the wind shifted. The wind off the water was quite cold, for about a minute once we could see our breath, but the wind off the land was comfortable. At one point the fog was so tick that you couldn’t see more than 15 feet it seemed. I arrived back home at around 5:30 am, by which time dawn had begun.

Lets see, what else… On Thursday of last week I went to that awards dinner for work, dateless. I wanted to take pictures of the supposedly lovely estate at which it was held, but it was raining quite a lot, as it had a tendency to do last week in Boston, so I just gave up on the idea that I’d get any nice looking pictures. The rain also turned what I was hoping would be an exploration of the land into a social event requiring copious amounts of small talk and pretending to like beer. The food, however, was quite good, so no complaints there.

On Friday of last week I went to see the Free Shakespeare on the Common production of As You Like It. I didn’t know anything about it going in, luckily they summarized the play in the program, which made it easier to follow along. It was really enjoyable, and seemed well done; the music was especially well suited. There were two lights operators, who climbed the towers to man the lights for the show. I really liked the whole idea of having them climb the towers, It seemed like they had really good seats as well (being so high), I wanted to be them. I was surprised to learn that the quote from Civilization 4 for when you discover drama, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,” is from this play. I must say that the quote is much more enlightened sounding without the rest of the monologue that follows. The play was preceded by a picnic dinner; it was a date actually, but that’s you get to hear about it.

The Dark Knight

Monday, July 21st, 2008

The Dark NightI saw The Dark Knight on Friday, as part of my birthday celebration, with a group of 16 friends. First and foremost it was a fun time, despite that the group broke up into 3 parts to find seats. I was not disappointed by the movie, but I do have some criticisms, some of which I already aired on Chris’ blog. There are some spoilers below.

My first criticism is that they tried to do too much with one movie. They should have saved Two-Face’s demise for the next film. It was not required to drive home the idea that Batman is a figure that can, and must afford to be hated by the people he serves. That point was beaten into our heads one two many times at the end of the film. I also thought that Two-Face detracted from The Joker. The inclusion of Two-Face cause the plot to contort in unnatural ways, much like what happened in Spiderman 3. Of course, the comparison to that pile of trash stops there; the performances in The Dark Knight are a world apart from Spiderman.

Clearly Heath Ledger’s performance of the Joker ends the Best Actor Oscar race for this year. I’m also willing to give them the actress swap that they pulled with Rachel because of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s stand up job at filling Katie Holmes’ shoes. Her refusal to come back for the second movie is a black mark against Holmes in my book; previously beloved from her Dawson’s Creek days and the string of bad movies that followed. Christopher Nolan has also earned a bit of a scuff on his record with this movie.

The scuff has to do with consistency of setting of the movie. I feel that one of the problems besetting the the original series of Batman movies was an inconsistent feel of the setting. It seemed, in Batman Begins, that they were starting over on this as well. The big feature from this new setting was the monorails centered on Wayne Tower. There are many shots showing what looks like Wayne Tower from Batman Begins, which is in fact, the Chicago Board of Trade Building. But there are not any monorails. This is a huge let down for me, because this story takes place in the same city as the last one plot wise, but it does not setting wise. This is compounded by a shot (that I can’t find a screen capture of) of a Wayne Tower that looks different (sort of black and stocky) like this building. I don’t have a problem mixing and matching buildings from various cities, Gotham is a huge city, so there is certainly room for all of sorts of buildings strewn about it, but to forgo the monorails, which were too big to be removed by any reasonable civic authority.

A Place to Go Back To

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

This week’s Wednesday Night Dinner definitely qualifies as a place to go back to. In the ~9 months I’ve been in the group I’ve accumulated a long list of places that I have been, but a very short list of places worth going back to. It’s not that we go to bad places, but many of them are not stand out performers. They are the kind of places were it was an interesting and worthwhile trip the first time, when it was a new experience, but without the newness it doesn’t quite make the cut.

This place, which supposedly lacks the concept of a name, but in fact is just named “No Name” is worth going back to. It is everything a little seafood place on a pier should be, loud, busy, unfinished, and packed with Japanese tourists eating lobster. It’s clearly no secret hole in the wall place, but that’s ok. They have a picture of Colonel Sanders chowing down on some fish, which is a nice ironic touch. There are also great big posters of the Boston skyline and the pier, which I enjoy. I had broiled shrimp in a butter sauce with rice; it was very good, if not quite filling enough. I would warn visitors away from the bland, uninspired Seafood Chowder, it wasn’t worth it. If you plan to come visit me be warned I’ll probably drag you to this place.

New, Must Have Appliance

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

I get letters, although some of them are junk, some of them I need opened.

This was on digg, but seems worth sharing.

The Game is Up: Americans Loose

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

No, were not trying to play soccer, we’re trying to live normal lives without having our rights infringed, but we can’t, not anymore. The not-at-all a compromise FISA amendment passed the senate today by 69-28. Many thanks to the 28 senators who voted no, including:

  • Hilary Clinton (D-NY)
  • Chris Dodd (D-CT)
  • Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
  • Russ Feingold (D-WI)
  • Joe Biden (D-DE)
  • and one of my senators, whom I did write too on the issue, John Kerry (D-MA)

Of course, senator Ted Kendey, the only currently sitting senator whom I’ve personally voted for did not vote due to his medical problems. And of course, no thanks at all to Obama for throwing all 22,893 of his most loyal supporters under the bus. I am jaded enough to believe that if Senator Clinton was the party nominee she and Obama would be on opposites sides of this issue than they are with this vote. As of yesterday, “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, [had] not made up her mind on the controversial measure.” It’s almost as if she is trying to say I told you so, but had she actually told me so, as Obama did, then things might have been different. Of course, being lied to never leaves a good taste in one’s mouth. I’m now quite glad I never ponied up cash for the Obama campaign, I certainly would want my money back if I had, and I certainly won’t contribute now.

My Second Geohash

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Today, July 7th, 2008 the geohash was in Concord, MA. The actual spot was less than 10 miles from work, so I figured I would leave early and check it out. On the way there I rolled my car past 9900 miles. I’ll hit 10,000 this week, probably on the way to Wed. Night Dinner, which is way out in the boonies this week, but offers the chance at real Texas barbque. See the link for more story and more pictures. Here’s a map:

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Fourth of July 2008

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

I had a rather unplanned Fourth of July, but all in all it went pretty well [map]. I woke up and saw that my friend Sparky’s away messages was a map to where he and some of the other xkcd Cambervile Meetup Thread forum users were going to spend the day. After having lunch I gave him a call and got invited to come down. I’d also been invited by Erik to watch the fireworks from his roof deck at the foot of Beacon Hill, so a plan to do both quickly emerged.

The xkcd fourm users had a nice spot staked out in the median of memorial drive. I arrive around 3pm and found them just wrapping up a game of some sort. They had plenty of games including Scrabble, Boggle, Flux and Carcassone. Being as bad a speller and I am I played a lot of the latter two, and none of the former two. I generally dislike flux, as there is essentially no strategy when it is not your turn. On the first game I lucked into the take another turn card on my second turn and managed to use scramble keepers to end up with two keeps for which I had a goal.I felt kind of bad for ending it so quickly with newbies playing, but I guess you have to learn that can happen sometime. I won another game of flux, I think we played 5 games, but all of them were short. In one game one of my opponents got the The Rocket and Chocolate, which should totally be a goal. I’m thinking it’s like a chocolate easter bunny but sold in a NASA gift shop.

Around 7:30 I made my way over to Erik’s roof deck. He had some other friends of his, mostly from community boating, over. We took dinner up to the deck and were surprised to find that we were the first people up there. Usually the roof deck is packed with various friends of everyone who lives in the building, but at this point there was no one else up there. Later on there was a small group of kids my age as well, and during the show there were one or two other tenants up there, but it was by no means crowded at any time. To avoid walking up and down the stairs to let people in, Erik devised a plan by which he would throw the keys, attached to bright yellow string, down from the roof.

The Fireworks

The fireworks were perhaps the least impressive I have ever seen. This was because there was not any wind to be found in the area. The smoke just sat heavy right over the barge eventually obscuring the entire show. Now, as an auditory experience it was still exciting. Someone described the show as more of a “Oooooh” show and less of an “Awwwwe” show, emphasizing the lack of pretty things to awe over. I took the T home after the crowds dissipated, after learning my lesson last year. All in all it was a much better day that it could have been.

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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Sorento’s Italian

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

For dinner last night we went to Sorento’s Italian Gourmet near Fenway Park. I’d been wanting to go here ever since my college robotics team ended up not going to it for a team dinner when they were here. It took so long mostly because we had to wait for a week when the Red Sox were out of town, or going down that way would have been a real pain in the neck. The wait was worth it, in my opinion; I also heard good things from some of my table neighbors. I initially felt badly because of the three or four restaurants on the block Sorento’s was the least crowded, by a lot; the other places were packed, we couldn’t get in with 13 if we tried, and Sorento’s had two people in it other than us. I’ve now decided that it must just be somewhat more expensive than the other places which consisted of Mexican and Thai food because we enjoyed it.

There were 13 people at dinner, which I don’t think is Wednesday Night Dinner record, but it’s up there. I got the Shrimp Parmesan, which none of us had ever heard of before. There was a debate over exactly what the dish would entail. Lots of little shrimp mixed around and covered with cheese, or larger fried shrimp in cheese, or some kind of shrimp patty in cheese… we were pretty much only sure that there would be shrimp and cheese. It ended up being large non-fired shrimp with cheese in the sauce. There was a little too much cheese, which made it heavy, but it was good. There were also good reviews of the pizza. I don’t think anyone tried the Persian kabobs that were on the menu. In other food related events at dinner, Krishna managed to get an air bubble trapped under his the lemon in his water. My only complaint is that it took roughly 40 minutes in an otherwise mostly empty restaurant to prepare our meals. Granted 13 is a large group and they did manage to bring them out pretty much all at once, but we wanted to make a 9:10 showing of Wall-E, that we missed.