Blog: 2002-05

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Cambridge has at least a couple sidewalk tree stumps that have been treated creatively, like this tree chair in Harvard Square (edits: rotated, shrunk).

Billings & Stover, the est'd 1854 apothecary-cum-sodafountain in Harvard Square closed at the end of February. But it was only in the last few days that they tore off the front (edits: shrunk). Glad I got a few frappes there last summer.

Epitah from Sapanta, Romania (grave marker detail); cause of death unspecified:

One more thing I loved very much,
To sit at a table in a bar
Next to someone else's wife.

Update of Sample Junkbuster Blockfile.

When walking shortly after dawn in Harvard Square this morning, I tried Halley's suggestion of using my tripod as a boom to snap the sidewalk art from 9-10 feet straight up (edits: shrunk).

The JFK memorial fountain (edits: shrunk) was actually working this morning, pardon the poorly-composed snapshot, but in need of cleaning and some repair. The fountain pool has a thick layer of soil covering most of the white bricks, some lettering inlays have broken out and spoil the water flow along the sides, and two of the access covers along the edges need reseating or replacement. The fountain really doesn't seem to be taken that seriously. For the majority of the year, it isn't working, and is mainly an eyesore used as a skateboard ramp by adolescents (til the bicycle cops ride up and scare the kids away for a while). I just sent a letter about this to the MDC.

Around a year ago, I was sitting laptopping from a stone bench in front of the dry JFK fountain, when a woman who I guessed was a visiting academic from Europe walked up. Looking at some notes or guidebook, she asked where the "John F. Kennedy memorial" was. I hesitated and pointed at the inactive fountain, which was bordering on being an eyesore, and said I thought the fountain was it, though it wasn't working at the moment. She appeared upset, and I tried to explain that it's quite nice "normally," with the water shimmering down the sides. She appeared further upset, as if she thought I were lying to her about the fountain being the memorial, or she was shocked we'd let a JFK memorial languish in such a unbecoming state. She walked off without saying anything more.

My neighborhood in Cambridge has street signs to a ridiculous extent — a quick survey indicates one sign pole for every one to three houses. An unofficially augmented one (edits: shrunk).


Around 1am this morning, after a rain, noticed the sidewalk art from 25 May was finished (edits: shrunk).

Dreary today, so here's some Central Square color from the 19th (edits: scaled, rotated).

Some Web browser was hitting /favicon.ico on one of my servers twice for every request, even though it was getting 404 every time. After a suggestion by sjm on how to fight this annoying Microsoft kludge, I added a mod_rewrite rule:

RewriteRule /favicon.ico [L,R=301]

Robert Campbell, "After the Big Dig, the big question: Where's the vision?," Boston Globe. Basically a teaser for the Thursday town meeting.

This morning, just after sunrise, snapped a few photos while walking back from Harvard Square: sidewalk art, sidewalk turtle, this is not an urban combat zone.

Official Web browser of Canada? Someone needs to tell Canada about the W3C and the concept of open standards. Also tell Canada that one of the key developers of the standards-compliant Mozilla browser is one of their own guys (work that national-pride angle).

BuyItNow'd an allegedly-working Laserwriter 360 with toner cartridge on Ebay for $20 plus undetermined S&H. After a couple painful apartment-moves, and after ditching most of my belongings a couple years ago, I'm loath to acquire more cruft, but I do need to laser-print some documents in the near future.

Self-service laser printing at the Kinko's in Harvard Square is available in an emergency, but a little steep: 49 cents per page of B&W, plus pro-rated $12 per hour of computer rental to actually send your document to the printer. The computers are upstairs; get a password from the person at the counter downstairs.

RHF: Renewable vs. non-renewable resources

NYT obituary for Stephen Jay Gould:

He once wrote, "I love the wry motto of the Paleontological Society (meant both literally and figuratively, for hammers are the main tool of our trade): Frango ut patefaciam — I break in order to reveal."

Photo from the edge of the Charles River tonight (edits: shrunk).

Chris Hedges, "A Gaza Diary: Scenes from the Palestinian uprising," Harper's. ad in the back of the Brown University alumni-coddling magazine. While their ad people are to be commended for properly ranking Brown first among universities, they should be aware that snooty eugenics talk doesn't go over well at PC Brown. Home page:

WELCOME TO GOOD GENES, INC., THE INTRODUCTION SERVICE FOR THE IVY LEAGUE, ET AL. Good Genes is an exclusive introduction network. We provide opportunities for single graduates and faculty of specific universities and colleges to meet well-educated members of the opposite sex. Good Genes requires proof of status as a graduate or faculty member from all applicants before joining. We also discreetly verify the status. This means that you can feel more comfortable choosing the companion that's right for you.

The same alumni magazine issue includes a drawing of an I.M. Pei design for a Brown building that was rejected in the late '60s. I noticed a striking resemblance to a design of his that was built on the MIT campus in the early to mid '70s. I've mailed a person who's been studying the architectural history of the Brown campus, for more information.

Survey article in the Economist, 16-May, "Is greed good?":

"The chairman of your [board's] compensation committee should be richer than you and older than you," one of America's most admired bosses advised a private gathering of 50 chief executives in New York last November. "That way, he won't get jealous when you make your fortune. In fact, he should be someone who loves to see other people get rich. Under no circumstances should he be from the public sector, or a professor." Another boss provoked groans when he confessed: "I once made the mistake of giving the job to a distinguished academic."

Local Walgreen's is selling 'vanilla'-scented votive candles, five for a dollar (edits: shrunk). Next time I try to photograph a candle with dripping wax, I'll use the S10's fast-exposure mode.

Heavy rain from late last night til about noon. Perfect weather for paper-writing.

Fools rush in where heroes fear to tread. But if the goal is just and achievable, then who is the hero, and who is the fool?

Sane, sensible summer subletter found. Learned: the difficulty increases exponentially with every added party who has to agree.

Yesterday early evening, I walked out of the grocery, looked up, and snapshotted today's cloud wallpaper (edits: shrunk). Closeups of materials like concrete, brick, etc. also make good wallpaper. Composition for wallpaper photos is very different than for most other photos, as the majority of a wallpaper image is usually obscured by various overlapping windows.

Associated Press, "Germany Guarantees Animal Rights":

Germany has become the first European Union country to guarantee animal rights in its constitution — a move that could curtail animal experimentation by the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries. After debating the issue for a decade, lawmakers in Germany's lower house of parliament voted 543-19 on Friday to add the phrase "and animals" to a clause obliging the state to respect and protect the dignity of humans. Fifteen lawmakers abstained.

A German colleague just informed me that the AP article misrepresents the story. He suggests this BBC article, "Germany to grant animal rights," for better English-language coverage.

In the repository of crap that is Slashdot, a gem.

Mycoprotein—It's What's For Dinner

Q: Why did the Pope cross the road?
A: The Pope is infallible!!! Do not question his actions!!!

On the way to the river tonight, snapped the Curious George building (edits: shrunk, rotated). People who've never been to Cambridge will note the law offices of Dewey, Cheetham & Howe.

Got through the winter without a cold, perhaps thanks in part to real or imagined benefits of the vitamin C and multivitamin supplements mentioned on 03-Jan. Yay. Knock on wood.

Am crunching on bureaucracy right now (with roommate-hunting and other non-deferrable tasks as concurrent activities). Hopefully, will soon be back to doing useful things.

Gareth Cook article in today's Boston Globe, "At MIT, they can put words in our mouths."

If we tolerate the Atlantic's conservative slant, interview with Samantha Power, "Never Again Again," is interesting. And this of course we see everywhere:

What surprised me was the extent to which officials involved in shaping policy could define their responses as moral — that they could feel they were doing something that was humanitarian, that was moral, that was in the long-term interests not just of American security and American wealth but of their own values. The sophistication of those denial mechanisms was striking to me.

Central Square has four or five Indian restaurants within a few blocks of each other. For occasional impulse takeout, though, I duck into the back entrance of Shalimar Foods & Spices grocery, where there's a deli-style counter with some the usual entrees and sides, and quite a few desserts.

Original NYT review of Star Wars: A New Hope:

The thin one, who looks like a sort of brass woodman, talks in the polished phrases of a valet ("I'm adroit but I'm not very knowledgeable"), while the squat one, shaped like a portable washing machine, who is the one with the knowledge, simply squeaks and blinks his lights.

Thomas L. Friedman op-ed piece: "Global Village Idiocy."

Starting to resume following news. Had stopped around the time G.W. Bush was 'elected.'

Jane's—It's Not Just For Firepower Anymore

MIT gets all obsessive-compulsive about numbering everything (edits: shrunk, rotated).

SUV Shrine Excavated. A recent snapshot from walkable Newbury Street in Boston of a row of three SUVs outnumbering a bicycle, with license plate left unedited for obvious reasons (edits: shrunk, cropped, faces blurred, brightness).

Update of Sample Junkbuster Blockfile.

Related to the SUV talk earlier this morning, just spotted this bumper sticker (edits: cropped).

New Scientist, 08-May-2002 article, "Hidden cameras to monitor aircraft passengers":

Airbus, the European jet manufacturer, is planning to build concealed cameras into the light fittings above the seats in its aircraft. The idea is to let the crew monitor passengers and spot hijackers before they strike. The cameras also work in the dark. [...] Airbus, working with American aerospace technology company Goodrich, thinks the best strategy is to let passengers know that everyone is being watched by hidden cameras.

Went back to Long Wharf this morning, to invest an NB-5H charge in photographing sunrise. I liked yesterday's sunrise a lot better, but here are so-so shots from Long Wharf and from further along the harbor, close to the cruise ships (edits: shrunk). That first photo is a random shot that I took but didn't try to fix because I thought it was too dorky, but in hindsight, I see how I could've made it better and possibly a good shot. I started to photograph the cruise ships, but the battery gave up while taking the first shot. Fortunately, an online friend is going to try to dig up and sell me some old NB-5H batteries from when he had a Canon A50.

The Cat is visiting Boston, May 17-19. This baby does the Yarmouth run in 2.75 parsecs.

NYT article by Dennis Overbye, "New Details Emerge From the Einstein Files."

Got exactly one photo of sunrise at Long Wharf (edits: shrunk) this morning before the S10's battery died. Time to buy a backup battery. Oh, as the tourist looks down the dock, strategically positioned directly in front of them is a garish bright yellow illuminated vending machine for Kodak disposable cameras. Everything else is pristine. Thanks for spoiling the Kodak Moment, Kodak!

A spontaneous photo up a Boston side-street last Saturday at about midnight (edits: shrunk, minor color level adjust, removed license plate numbers for privacy).

On 16 April, I photographed the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge from the Cambridge side construction site. At 3:30am this morning, I went looking for dawn shots from the Boston side. Around an hour later, found this parking lot. The best access I could find on this first trip was at ground level near the bridge base and ventilation building. As the sky became navy just before 5am, I picked an approximate composition and concentrated on capturing the various luminescent blues of the bridge. The closest color-wise turned out looking unnaturally blue and overexposed, with some magenta color artifacts that I don't think were in the scene, but here's the crude framing (the cables and insides of the arches should be much more blue). Giving up on color just before leaving that site, I switched to B&W and tried to capture some of the crowded jumble of things. At 5:15am, as camera battery died, took a quick snapshot of a different perspective on the bridge. Took several non-bridge photos this morning, but posting four ho-hum photos in one day is already pushing the limits of decorum, so the others will have to wait for some other slow day.

Cambridge and Boston are actually pleasant in early weekend mornings, especially due to auto traffic being light and not many people out. When I moved here five years ago, I felt there was a good chance I'd want to stay permanently, but I think that less likely now. Reasonably nice houses in pleasant locations in Cambridge start at around a million dollars. The number of cars, the way they're driven, and the infrastructure to support them is ridiculous—especially when you consider that Cambridge provides both housing and jobs, and everything can be within walking distance or a quick T ride away. I'm not overly thrilled with a lot of the people either. There are many generally good people, but the Boston area has more than its share of arrogance, greed, and manipulation. And then you have poor people who resent the wealthy jerks they see around them. You get varying proportions of that everywhere, but I like to think there are places with more attractive proportions. At some point, I may need to have the means to investigate better places without risking getting trapped anywhere. Staying in Cambridge at least long enough to finish my PhD, in any case.

First two paragraphs of a 2-May AP article by Nicole Winfield, as published on, "Vatican reaffirms need for penance, but says some habitual sinners cannot be absolved":

VATICAN CITY — Amid the intensifying American clerical abuse scandal, the Vatican on Thursday stressed the need for Catholics to confess their sins—but said some "habitual" sinners could never be forgiven.

The Vatican didn't identify who these sinners were, but theological experts said Pope John Paul II was referring to homosexuals and divorced Catholics who remarry. The pope said last week priests implicated in the sex abuse scandal can be forgiven.

Speaking of Boston and Catholics, today's RHF provides some comic relief.

They came in the rain, for the tree.

The finishing touch on the absurdity surrounding the official Prayer For America is that Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilve is explicitly claiming copyright on the prayer.

A light/dark scene that I snapshotted a couple weeks ago (photo shrunk).

Earlier to... 2002-04

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