Some random notes from our recent trip to Boston and its environs:

  • T tokens are no more. Which made me a little sad, but I was very happy that, when arriving Tuesday evening for a trip where we’d be leaving the next Tuesday morning and would spend three days outside of Boston, there was a week pass available that was a good value. And I now know that kids under 12 can ride for free, but didn’t know that when buying the passes…
  • I was surprised that we got a good rate at the Park Plaza for a couple of days – is it normally affordable, or did we get lucky with a Tuesday/Wednesday request? Good location (though it took us a little while to find it, because we were confused by the construction at the Arlington T stop), and I could live without free internet access for two days. And an Amino set-top box on the TV – just like being at work!
  • Hampton Inn has decent internet access at no extra charge. Though I was pretty annoyed at the fake nameserver at the Norwood one that sticks in an ad page if an address doesn’t resolve. Especially the one evening when, for whatever reason, a fair number of lookups were timing out, poisoning any future requests to those domains for the next 15 minutes or so. Not good if you’re reading blogs and can’t get to any more…
  • I was impressed how we could get from downtown Boston to a turnpike entrance three short blocks away to out of town almost immediately. Especially since it doesn’t feel like there’s a turnpike cutting through downtown Boston, though I realize that I have walked on bridges over it several times.
  • Sturbridge Village turned out to be a really good choice for a place to spend much of a day. Enough stuff to keep us interested, very low key, we got to see 1820’s welding technology in practice, Miranda liked it too.
  • The suburbs that aren’t in the inner ring seem to kind of suck, at least near the arteries. I was not pleased with being stuck traveling at 5 miles an hour on 128 at 5pm, and route 1 in Norwood was not a place where I’d want to spend much time, if largely for aesthetic reasons.
  • Got to see a couple more retirement communities. I’m glad these things are around. (Though I’m sure there are bad ones out there, too.)
  • Didn’t get to see almost any friends or old haunts: we were too busy doing other stuff. Which is fine, actually: almost all of my Boston-area friends have moved away. I wish I’d had another day to just putter around places, but I can live with that.
  • The MGA is still active. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it on a Tuesday or a Friday, so I didn’t get to see any of my old friends from the club, but you can get together a few people to play go on a Sunday at the Diesel Cafe. Which apparently opened about a year after I left the area; it’s a long narrow space (running all the way through the building from one street to the next), with good food and pleasant decor.
  • That day, about 75 percent of the people in the cafe were using laptops, and about 20 percent of the people were reading the latest Harry Potter. (Which had come out the day before.)
  • I enjoyed meeting blog reader Chris Ball in person (and other MGA members and Chris’s wife Madeleine), and we had a couple of exciting games – we turn out to be quite close in strength, conveniently! And I got to see the OLPC laptop in person, too.
  • Harvard Square is doing okay; a few stores I like closed, one out-of-place building has appeared, but no wholesale destruction. Wordsworth’s has closed (though their children’s book store still exists, didn’t go in to see what it’s like these days); Harvard Book Store is still open. (I also didn’t go into the Coop to see what it’s like these days.) I’d be willing to believe that the square is declining, but I’d also be willing to believe that it’s at a steady state.
  • And Schoenhof’s is still open. I broke my rule and bought several books that I don’t plan to read immediately, that indeed it’s not completely clear that I’ll ever read. But I was just so happy that the store is there! One book on learning kanji that I actually have started, a general Japanese grammar, and small individual books on verbs, particles, and connections (“Making your Japanese Flow”.)
  • Grammar and verbs are pretty basic concepts, but I like the ideas of books on particles and connections. I was going to say that those seemed like “only for Japanese” sorts of things, but of course there’s The Greek Particles.
  • We went to a couple of old favorite restaurants. The food at Chez Henri is still good, but the waitress we had drove me crazy. When I go out to eat, I do so for exactly two reasons: the food and the company of people I’m eating with. The waitress apparently thought that I had several other goals for the evening, prioritizing (among other things) her comedy routine above, say, getting us dessert menus. I am pleased to say, however, that the Elephant Walk still has both excellent food and excellent service. (Though it’s not that much better the food we make at home from their cookbook.)

Not sure when we’ll visit again, but I’m glad that we’ve managed to make it back every four years or so.

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