I went to see Oliver Sacks talk about his new book Musicophilia at the Cambridge Forum on Monday night, in Harvard Square. He described one very interesting phenomenon that I’ve never heard of before… that colorblind people with synesthesia can sometimes have associations that result in the perception of colors they have never seen in the real world. These colors are called “martian colors”.
(Much more info in this great blog post.)
Last night’s catered Media Lab sponsor dinner was at the Museum of Science. I can’t tell you how funny it is to be playing with an exhibit, pressing buttons to adjust the speed of an animated school of fish, and have someone step up to you with a tray of treats and say, “Spanakopita bite?”
My favorite part of that exhibit is the Hyperboloid of Revolution. It’s beautiful and elegantly simple. (short video — 6.5 MB)
The sign says:
HYPERBOLOID OF REVOLUTION
It is an interesting fact that a moving straight line can describe the exact shape of a surface with compound curvature.
This model is a demonstration of a line sweeping out the surface of a hyperboloid. The curved slot is a profile of the surface, called a hyperbola.
I got really lucky today at the MIT Sailing Pavilion. I had gone back to brush up on the skills I’d learned last Sunday, and when I was all done practicing by myself (having narrowly escaped both capsizing on the first turn, and concussion to my head on a jibe), I ran into one of my instructors, who offered to take me out one-on-one, and teach me how to sail upwind.
With some forceful commands and good patience, Bashar taught me how to do these things on my own:
- Hiking — leaning way out on the boat towards the wind, to counterbalance the sail being pushed strongly in the opposite direction. It’s FUN. The boat heels so much that I could swear we were (intentionally) inches from capsizing. The photo below (by flickr user good_day) shows what it looks like to hike out.
- Running — sailing directly (or almost directly) downwind. This felt very relaxing and peaceful, but I am told to watch out for the unexpected jibe.
- Close-hauled — trying to sail as directly upwind as you can, by pulling the sail in close and zig-zagging, tacking at ~ 90° angles.
I had tons of fun and even got to sit in the boat while we raced with the Advanced Racing class. My thighs and back are killing me, though, and I might not be able to walk tomorrow. :-D
I went to “Sailing Bootcamp” yesterday at the MIT Sailing Pavilion along the Charles River. I learned about wind, water, boats, and most importantly, what it feels like to pull on a sail and turn a rudder on a Tech Dinghy. My partner and I magically avoided capsizing, and only collided five times with other dinghies in the crowded class. (“Dinghy”!)
We had an easterly breeze on the Charles yesterday, which seemed to pick up and die down very suddenly. I’d never had reason to notice how dramatic those changes can be around here, and I’m excited about the challenge it poses for some future sailing.
Here’s my excitable and entertaining instructor, Henry, giving a high-tech demo of wind interacting with a sailboat:
Nick is a guy who was playing at places like this almost before he set foot in them as an audience member. He plays electric viola, along with five other band members who play all manner of things (including, from their myspace page, trumpet and “thundertube wizardry”). To give you an idea of what they sound like… from their homepage: “On Fire has been listening to: Starflyer 59, Arcade Fire, Pelican, Low, Unwound, GusGus, Blonde Redhead and more.” They sounded great.
It was good to finally see the inside of T.T. the Bear’s, which I must have walked past 50 times in the last few months. It’s just the perfect size, like a large living room, with pool room and bar attached. Noisy and cozy.
And my big question: Where did the name come from?
You may have seen a show at T.T. the Bear’s, but do you know the story of Tough Teddy? He was the beloved pet teddy bear hamster of owners Bonney Bouley and Miles Cares, who opened their Cambridge club in 1985 and found themselves needing a name — and fast.
“I hate telling this story,” said longtime booking agent Randi Millman. “I swear I should make up a story about the name, but there’s the truth as I’ve heard it. God help us.”
Sharon took me to my new favorite breakfast place in the Boston area on Sunday. We’d been on a (geographically-)challenging mountain bike ride all afternoon, and we were hungry.
I’d suggested earlier in the week that some “breakfast/brunchy food at a local place” would be good, hoping she’d suggest something, and sure enough, in the long list of hand-written directions was “Neighborhood Restaurant”.
I knew the place was good when we parked across the street and were immediately able to sit outside on the patio, which is covered with grape-bearing grapevines, decorated with almost gaudy lawn animals, and a Betty Boop. I recognized the plate on a nearby table as the exact same $1 rainbow plate I have from Shaw’s, and none of the other plates around matched it or any other. Down a steep, brightly-colored staircase, through a truly bustling, Hispanic-sounding kitchen (“Is that Spanish?” It was probably Portuguese.), is the bathroom, which had been both carefully painted with pixies and had the “EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS!! AND YOU SHOULD TOO!!” hand-painted directly on the wall in front of the toilet, probably in red paint on a pink background.
#100 on the menu was the first I read: (in loopy handwriting) “Belgian waffle, topped with blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, and our homemade whipped cream, with two eggs, ham, and homefries, oj + coffee.” With a side of fruit or cream of wheat. $10.99
So of course that’s what I got, even though I tried to remember the next 7 things I read, for next time.
I didn’t have a camera with me, and that’s probably best, since I’d make myself way too hungry if I saw what I ate again. But! Just to convey the true quantity of food that I got, I have diagrammed it out in OmniGraffle (wow, what a nice program):
The cream of wheat has cinnamon sprinkled on top, and is as good as the place is famous for. The place doesn’t skimp on anything. The ham was juicy, the eggs and potatoes were tasty, the fruit was fresh and plentiful, and the cream was real. Definitely can’t wait to go back.
A micro sundae is a mini-scoop of any flavor ice cream you like, squished into an espresso cup (or a Dixie cup, if it’s To Go), then covered with hot fudge, then real, sweetened whipped cream (the beige, clumpy kind).
I had mine with cookies and cream ice cream.
I think I’d prefer a micro sundae from Tosci’s to a Serendipity Golden Opulence Sundae any day.
Yesterday was my first relaxing day in a long time (I’ve been finishing up my semester). It started off with one of the best meals I’ve ever had, in Boston’s North End. My friend John has been telling me all year about a pastry shop there that has biscotti that “could possibly rival your mom’s.” He’s wrong, but! I love pastries, and there was no way I was going to let him move away without first going to Modern Pastry together.
Around noon, we took the T up to the Government Center stop on the Green Line, and wandered up to Hanover Street (check out those nice 3-D buildings on Google Maps). Wandering around, I finally felt I was in a part of Boston with some real personality… people sitting at tables along the streets muttering in Bostonese, big trucks parked in very narrow roads with people busily unloading food-related items, cops on horseback…
I could go on but I’m just going to cut to the chase and talk about the food. We just wandered into a restaurant that looked nice and cozy, called Trattoria il Panino. When the waitress told me the special was a risotto with artichoke hearts, truffles, and buffalo mozzarella, there really was no way I was not going to order it. Here it is:
Amazingly delicious. Just thinking about it now makes my leg twitch. So creamy, the artichokes were cooked perfectly, and the flavor of the truffles and the crunch of the onions… omfg. I think that perhaps they have some very handsome children in the back, crying three tears into every serving. And, only $15! (“Maybe I really could eat this every single day.”)
On an infinitely less important note, John got a crab with linguini in it, and extra utensils:
Dessert was, as promised, at Modern Pastry. I asked what was the most popular dessert, and the girl immediately said “cannoli”. So I got a chocolate-dipped one with sugar on top. It was tasty, and my fingers smelled awesome all day after that.
I went to my first urban crag last weekend: Quincy Quarries. It’s a filled-in old quarry with mostly top-rope climbs, covered in graffiti, and just a minute or two’s walk from the road. You can even take the T there.
- Ropes can get staticky! My fingers were getting shocked consistently as I fed rope while belaying. Weird stuff.
- I got to re-learn rappelling. The more I practice, the less scared I hope to be.
- Aww yeah, the familiar site of blood smears on the rock..
Apparently I missed another “nor’easter” last weekend while I was off in sunny, life-warming California. I thought a nor’easter was just a storm in the northeastern US. The trusty Wikipedia tells me not only what a nor’easter is, but also has a whole page devoted to the storm Boston just had.
A nor’easter … is a macro-scale storm whose winds come from the northeast, especially in the coastal areas of the Northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada. More specifically, it describes a low pressure area whose center of rotation is just off the coast and whose leading winds in the left forward quadrant rotate onto land from the northeast. The precipitation pattern is similar to other extratropical storms. They also can cause coastal flooding, coastal erosion and gale force winds.
I missed the last listed nor’easter (November 2006) while I was in St. Louis. And last month, while I was in Seattle, I missed another storm. Is coincidence??