I went to Boston at the beginning of September to visit my friend Scott
Here he is in front of his new car. He's so happy. He's a car nut so any free moment he has he's working on his car. I think part of it is having gone without for the last year and a half in Japan.
This is his office building. It's in downtown Boston just a few blocks from some of the main areas of the city. They are on the top floor and that floor is split in half. The front half is actually their landlord's house so to go in and out of the office they actually have to walk through somebody else's residence. It was really hot and muggy the first couple of days I was there.
Boston is an old city for America. Much old than LA. Actually that's not true. I believe the oldest structures in America are the missions in California. They pre−date any buildings on the East coast by several hundred years.
But, LA is mostly a new city. Boston on the other hand has many many old buildings. It's also a very modern city. It's very interesting to see the contrasts between new and old buildings.
Boston is also a surprisingly clean city. At least compared to say Philadelphia or Baltimore it seemed very clean. It took two very big walks around Boston. Boston the city doesn't seem that big to me. I could walk from on side to the other in probably less than 2 hours. By that I mean the downtown area.
I saw lots of cool architecture.
I find architecture very interesting and often inspiring so it was neat to see so many different types of buildings in Boston.
There was a large old church near what is called Prudential Center which is a large mall. In front of the church was a small park with a few fountains and a small farmer's market on one side.
I saw some children playing in the fountain.
I also saw these. East coast tomatoes. When I lived in Baltimore this is about as good as I ever saw a tomato. Here in California we have gorgeous tomatoes.
I had to point this out. Fleet appears to be the largest bank in Boston as there are Fleet signs everywhere marking ATM machines and things like that. I believe Fleet even owns a stadium or theatre or something like that called the Fleet Center. The problem is on the west coast at least there is only one thing called Fleet that I know of and that is a brand of enemas you can buy at any grocery store so every time I saw one of these signs I was remind of that brand of enemas.
There is a "freedom trail" that you can follow for a self tour of some of the historic sites in Boston. I followed it a little bit and came across a few things. This is the "oldest tavern" in the United States according to this plaque. It's called "The Bell's Journey". I read in some trivia book that the reason old taverns, especially in England for example have names like. "The Hog and Cow" or the "Pigs Head". That's because back when those taverns started quite a few people could not read so it was much easier for them to remember a simple sign that showed a pig's head for example.
This is the Paul Revere House. This is where Paul Revere lived when he went on that famous ride to announce that "The British are coming! The British are coming!".
Just down the street is the Old North Churchwhere were hung the lanterns announcing "One if by land, Two if by sea"
Boston does have a subway system called the "T". One thing that was interesting is that there is a driver on each car. It almost seemed like somebody had taken buses and turned them into a train but still had the bus driver in each bus instead of one for the whole train.
Boston also has alot of tunnels. I guess tunnels stick out for me because here in LA we have very few and we have no long ones. This tunnel goes from downtown Boston, under the harbor and comes up by the airport. It seems like it must be at least a mile long if not two.
Speaking of tunnels Boston has one of the biggest tunnel projects ever undertaken going on downtown. It's called the Big Dig and it's got Boston all torn up. Boston is an old city and that makes it hard, with all the buildings pre−dating cars, to deal with all the traffic of the current times. 38 onramps and other freeways empty into the downtown freeway and get squeezed down to just 6 lanes. Boston has traffic 8 to 9 hours a day. The Big Dig is supposed to fix that but it's years behind schedule and billions over budget. On top of that with the Big Dig having the city all torn up traffic is even worse. To give you an example, Scott tried to pick me up probably less than a 30 minute walk away from his office. A 30 minute walk can generally be done in a car in 5 minutes. It took him over an hour to get to me and then back to the office because of the Big Dig.
Boston is on the coast and so there is are lots of waterfront areas. I was also surprised at all the lakes and ponds more inland. Coming in on the plane I saw so many I couldn't have counted them all.
Here is the 180 degree view from the parking lot of the Boston Museum of Science. My friend Scott who lives in Boston doesn't get out much so he didn't really know where to take me to show off Boston. It was raining that morning and his friend Ed suggested the science museum. It was actually pretty cool.
Here is, I believe, the worlds largest Van de Graaff generator built by Van de Graaff himself. Those posts are about 35 feet tall up to the tops which you can't see in this picture. That thing in the center is a cage that the operator gets inside. The thing shoots lighting 5 or 6 feet. They have a 25 minute demonstration several times a day. The most interesting part for me was to see "St Elmo's Fire" I never knew what that was though I had heard the term only because of a hit pop song in the mid 80s. When there is alot of electricity in the air, almost enough to cause lighting but not enough to actually make the spark leap, something that is nearer to the electricity can get an aura or glow with blue light. They demonstrated this by putting up a kite near the generator and you could see a blue glow around the edges. The operator explained that old sailors would see the masts and sails on their sailing ships glow like this which they took to be a sign from St Elmo who I understand is the saint for sailors. What it really meant was that their ship was likely to be struck by lightning at any second.
Also my friend Scott worked on an exhibit there called the Virtual Fish Tank. It's really cool. It's an exhibit with like 18 large flat screen displays simulating a giant aquarium. All of the fish are run by computer in 3D an swim around. For each type of fish in the tank there is a touch screen kiosk where people can adjust the behavior of those type of fish. For example for the sharks you can adjust whether they swim in groups or separately, whether they swim in the same general direction, how fast they swim and also how hungry they are. It was really cool.
Something else that is at the Science center is a very large mural made out of polarized materials. Looking at it with just your eyes it looks mostly off white as you can see at the top of the picture above but hanging from the ceiling a few feet in front of the mural are a bunch of polarizing lenses. As you walk around the image appears through the lenses. Really cool.
This is where I stayed. This is Ed's house who is Scott's friend and also his boss. Ed lives in Newton which is a suburb of Boston only a few minutes outside Boston.
This is Scott, Ukla, Ed and Taiko. Before Scott returned to America from Japan, Ed came over to visit. There Ed was introduced to Taiko and I guess it was love at first site. At the time of this picture she had just arrived from Japan. I think she expects to be in Boston for at least 6 months and who knows, maybe more. Scott met Taiko when she was going to Brown University in Rhode Island.
This is Ukla, Ed's New England Bull Dog. I didn't get any really good pictures because here he looks so angry but he never looked angry in person. He is so funny because his legs are so short he has such a hard time doing many things. And he has such a wide mouth he makes very unique expressions compared to other dogs.
One day Scott took me over to the Harvard area. This is the town directly across the street from Harvard. It seemed like a nice enough place but like most shopping areas it America (and all over the world) it's getting filled up by large corporations (ie, The Gap, Starbucks, Foot Locker etc.) That's fine I guess but it makes going somewhere much less interesting because I can see those stores at home.
Yes Boston has it's traffic. This is the traffic on the way to Brown University.
Scott works (volunteers?) at the Virtual Reality (VR) Lab at Brown University. Here there is a setup where their is a VR helmet with stereoscopic vision connected to a computer to show you a 3D environment. The helmet can tell which way you are looking and there are sensors on the ceiling that can track your motion so as you walk around the room so the computer can tell where you are and walk you around the environment. The coolest thing I saw was a demo of a small canyon with some very small bridges crossing it. It was a very simple demo but the interesting part was that if you blocked out all of your view so that you couldn't see any of the room you are actually standing in but just the view in the helmet, when you got near the canyon you'd be afraid you might fall in. Maybe afraid is too strong a word but I found myself trying to keep my balance and wave my arms to prevent myself from falling in even though I knew I'm was not actually at a canyon but standing in this room. On the other hand if I could see any part of the room then the illusion was broken.
Yes, I'm a nerd I suppose. Here's one of the coolest things I saw the whole time. This is the Apple Cinema Display. I WANT ONE I WANT ONE I WANT ONE!!! It's a 22 inch LCD display 1600x1024. Very very very cool. I'm not sure if it can be plugged into a PC though and it's $4000.