SCAish Thanksgiving

2018-Nov-22, Thursday 21:44
mindstalk: (Default)
In Boston I used to go to vegetarian Thanksgivings organized by the acetarium crowd. That seems to have faded, but last year there was a filk Thanksgiving. Or maybe just a filk meeting near Thanksgiving with appropriate food, I forget. This year, my early attendance of SCA dance practice without being in SCA paid off again, as I went to something held by someone I know there. Twas fun. So much food, though with like 16 people the turkey got demolished and I didn't get as much dark meat as I wanted. (I could have taken a whole drumstick, as the last person served, but I didn't feel up to it.)

So many desserts, multiple kinds of pecan pie, super sweet brittle... "maple pie" which was like pie crust with maple goop in it.

I've never had a Thanksgiving side dish in my repertoire, and being in a new Airbnb place isn't good for being comfortable cooking, so I brought a couple packages of nice sausage. They didn't evaporate but did mostly go away, so that works.

So cold. My outfit apparently isn't proof against -10 C and wind. But soon it should be up to 10 C.

On the way home I missed Downtown Crossing due to re-reading Celebrimbor+Annatar fanfic. I found the Park to Downtown corridor hinted at on maps so I didn't have to go outside. It's kind of neat: the walls and pillars are painted orange and green, such that you mostly see orange if you're facing the Orange Line, and ditto for the Green. There's also a bit of Red on the Orange end which is weird -- Red actually is at both stations. And a wee bit of blue, for no good reason; maybe someone ran out of paint.

Back at home, I am sadly reminded that I can walk more quietly in boots than some adults do barefoot.

travels

2018-Oct-14, Sunday 19:55
mindstalk: (Default)
In Malden. Not too exciting. Yesterday I saw a "Mountain Park" on the map, right behind my house. It's a decent size but doesn't seem to have trails, just one driveway up to the peak. That was surprisingly busy at dusk: some public library reading even, and amateur astronomers setting up. I thought about staying but had Urgent Shopping Plans.

Which were to go to the nearest Trader Joe's, in Assembly Square. That's part sad imitation of a real city, right by the T stop, and part giant parking lot and mall. TJ is beyond the parking lot, and despite all the space it had, somehow felt anemic. Still, I got stuff, especially cheaper nuts and cheeses and frozen shrimp. Which I cooked today, my fanciest thing since going nomadic.

My 'roommates' still haven't figured out how to turn off the shower without the water running, after two weeks. Nor how to get out without dumping water on the floor, or the poor mat on the floor.

I've had five hosts so far and not one has provided a washcloth.

TJ has started selling nuts in re-sealable bags. Yay!

The Orange Line seems less reliable than I recall from last year; there seem to be a lot of unexpected waits at stations.

market stereotypes

2018-Aug-09, Thursday 11:18
mindstalk: (12KMap)
Dewey Plaza, by South Station, has a farmer's market on Tuesday and Thursday. It's supposed to open at 11:30. But today I noticed that one stall was already doing business at 10:45, and swarming with little old Chinese ladies. Chinatown is a block away. I found myself amused but unsurprised. I imagine many were out for a second run, having already done the daily vegetable shopping at the local C-Mart, which is great for a dozen varieties of bok choy you've never heard of, or cheap scallions (note to self, need scallions), but not so much for varieties of lettuce or tomatoes. I'm not sure they even have lettuce
mindstalk: (food)
When I have dim sum at Hei La Moon, I tend to get 4-6 plates and take leftovers. Or just eat them all if I have four, which tends to leave me stuffed. Today I had 6 plates, or 21 pieces; I carefully stopped at 10. That was around noon, and I haven't been very hungry since, though I did add a banana and plum when I got to work, and some late snacks before leaving.

$30 for the six plates, so $15 per meal; expensive for an eating out lunch but not hugely so, and both tasty and something I'll never make on my own.
mindstalk: (food)
Followup to https://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/492576.html

I've actually been back a couple times, but Friday was most recent. Had Szechuan pork, medium spice. Paid $2 for a tiny bowl of rice. >_< The pork itself was good, and a good spice level, and the bowl was large, if largely liquid -- was almost like spicy pork soup. I ate all the rice but took a lot of the bowl home; I just had 1/3 of it over pasta...

Astro Boy and Sakura were no longer among the posters, though there was less Mao too. I think there was a One Piece poster? I forget.

New Golden Gate

2018-Apr-11, Wednesday 14:54
mindstalk: (food)
Tried another Chinatown restaurant, this one advertising $4.95 lunch specials. I knew the odds were poor. Mostly Caucasian customers and my food coming with only a fork didn't improve them. I had shrimp with vegetables with pork fried rice, chose hot and sour soup, and added $1 for 2 "Peking ravioli". The latter were decently tasty, the rest bland. OTOH, free tea!

There were Chinese people visiting, and Chinese-language posters on the wall, so maybe there's a division between "food for residents" and "food for Caucasian lunchtime crowd". I don't think I'll repeat.

Hot Eastern

2018-Apr-02, Monday 21:37
mindstalk: (food)
I wandered into Chinatown for dinner, and decided to be adventurous and try a basement restaurant under Avana Sushi. At first I noticed $20 special entrees, then some more like $12 ones. Then a menu of cheap BBQ or something like hot pot, mala tang. I ended up getting beef mala bang, a spicy soup with lots of 'exotic' vegetables -- lotus root and some sort of fungus and whatnot. It was pretty tasty. Medium spice had me blowing my nose a lot but not in sense-obliterating pain. Would return. Also there's an $8.50 lunch -- though there's a $5 lunch nearby. :O

The alcove to the bathrooms had a lot of poster art. Mostly obviously Chinese -- martial arts movie, something looking Maoist, others. But also one of Astro Boy, and another of Card Captor Sakura. Nice to see Sakura in a random place, and it sure did feel random.

I wondered about the owners. 'mala tang' and 'mala bang' sound like Indonesian names to me. I saw 'Shohoku', likely Japanese, on something. Also saw a poster of German beers.

There were also multiple frog-based dishes. I was not feeling that adventurous.
mindstalk: (Witch)
I got off at Haymarket, to check out the North End branch of the BPL. Headed the wrong way by accident, turned back, had some older Asian lady thrusting something at me. Plastic badge of well wishes or something. I tried to give it back, she refused, then asked for a donation... yeah, right.

Made it to the library, through cozy North End streets (why can't we build more like that? Stupid car culture). The library is small but architecturally neat, with a big skylight over a stone plaza, and a couple big plants. Probably a neat place to hang out in the winter.

But I have quirky beliefs, like the book shelves should be labeled by subject, and there should be a poster showing patrons what the call numbers mean. There were some subject signs but desultory and incomplete; I had to ask where the (tiny) science section was, then still hunt to find it. No label present once I did.

BPL uses Library of Congress, BTW, vs. the Dewey of the Minuteman libraries.

birthday stuff

2017-May-09, Tuesday 21:30
mindstalk: (riboku)
I haven't been good at making birthday plans since moving to Boston, but today was good. I went in to work late, expxloring Malden center instead; the library had been described as distinctive, and it does have an older building, though Cambridge main it's a Franken-building. Unlike Cambridge, you can't even go into the older part right now. I took a picture, but the margin of this post is too small to contain it[1]. I also discovered that Malden and Chelsea are affiliated with BPL, not Minuteman. Checked out a book on Angkor and one on Armenian history, I keep running into Armenians.

Some cheap restaurants present but I didn't feel hungry until right after I'd decided to set out for the station. >.< Like the rest of the Orange line, all the interesting stuff is like 10 minutes from the station.

I found another bug at work, not in my code[2]. This is good insofar as we improve the product and I get a reputation as a magical bug finder.

As it happens, in honor of the release, boss was taking us out to a fancy dinner, so I got a big thing without actually mentioning my birthday. $55 New York strip au poivre medium rare, quite good. Some other food too but it's a steakhouse, steak's where it's at. That's about as much as I've ever paid for an entire meal, back when I was working in SF and getting dragged off to some fancy places rarely. Usually $20 is my cap. But hey, wasn't paying!

Couple of Facebook people went above and beyond and sent cute and/or appropriate pictures with their greetings, and J texted me in lieu of calling, which was good because this wasn't a day for calls.

Oh right, a cute thing at work! I was wearing a Kyuubey shirt I got at Anime Boston this year, the first anime T-shirt I've bought. A guy complimented me on it, then I noticed he was wearing a FMA hoodie -- the complex circle on the front looked suspicious, but the squiggle on the back really gave it away. Demographic note: big black guy.

[1] Or I'm too lazy for my picture transfer workflow.

[2] So far I've barely written any code, apart from a logging module and a Frankenscript, it's been all learning tools and code and testing. And honestly I'd like to keep it that way, until I can read 13,000 lines of code and sort through testing them properly. brrr Python. My ideal gift right now would be a compiler.

MBTA passes math

2017-Apr-30, Sunday 08:11
mindstalk: (Default)
Say you're a regular commuter, taking transit at least twice a workday. 10 trips, which would cost $22.50 if you're using a CharlieCard. A 7 day pass is $21.25, so it totally makes sense to buy one, then ride the T whenever you want. Even if you somehow had a 4 day workweek, having a couple more trips would be likely.

Four 7 day passes would be $85; a monthly pass is $84.50. So that makes sense too. Or does it? Say you have three weeks of vacation, and leave town for them; maybe you'd save money by just cycling 7 day passes, and skipping the weeks you're gone.

I approached the math from a couple different angles, but this presentation seems best: a month pass costs about the same as 4 weeks, so 12 monthly passes covers the year for the cost of 48 weekly passes. Even if you skip 3 weeks, you'd still have to buy 49 passes... plus covering that extra day (or two, if leap) in the year. So go monthly!

Though, having been using 7 day passes, I noticed that they actually shuffle forward. If I buy one on Monday morning, the next Monday I can leave a bit earlier and still use it, buying (or activating) my next pass Monday evening. And so on. The effect is that you end up covering 30 days for the cost of 4 passes, as each one picks up an extra "half-day" commute. And if you shuffled into buying a pass on a weekend, well, maybe you could skip travel that day and save an extra day.

Of course, there's a week's worth of 31 day months, so there's that -- you're not quite getting a month's worth for 4 passes.

It's nice doing estimations in my head, but at some point you have to turn to a calculator for precision. A year's worth of monthly passes is $1014. If you cover 30 days with 4 weekly passes, that's $85 per 'month', and $1020 to cover 360 days, with 5 more days to finagle. OTOH, if you can skip 3 weeks, you'd spend just $956.14 in a year, saving $57.75. Or $42.57, if you threw in 5/7 of another pass for the extra days.

Of course, that assumes you can maintain the shuffle. Weekends offer skipping a day, but a regular weekend thing might pin you down. Say I activate a pass at 8pm Sunday to go to Grendel's; the next week I might leave earlier, but I'd still have to activate a new one at 11:30 to get home. The week after that I could leave Grendel's a bit earlier, activating the next pass on Monday morning... okay, it still works, though Sunday feels a bit sticky due to the short 'commute'.

Of course, the monthly pass means not having to buy stuff every week, nor worry once a week about the timing of when you do things. OTOH, saving $40 to 60... well, it's not a ton, but it's not trivial either; 40/1014 is 4%.

Extra thought: if you really use the weekends on your one-week vacations, you could save another 2 days each, or 6 days total, in effect skipping another week.

As for me, if I had today off I'd probably just go monthly. Annoyingly, I probably have 4 or 5 trips to make today. Cash today and monthly tomorrow, or weekly today?

***

Meanwhile, the $12 daily pass is hard to justify unless you run around a lot. Even for a tourist spending $2.75 per trip via CharlieTicket, it costs more than 4 trips -- though if you're doing train/bus transfers that becomes a lot easier to justify, since the Tickets don't give a free transfer. But even then you'd d need bus/train, bus/train, and one more trip. For a Card user you'd need to make 6 independent trips to make a day pass economical. Most likely use case would be having to make multiple quick trips along a train line.

On recent bouncing

2017-Apr-29, Saturday 21:48
mindstalk: (Homura)
Twice cast out, shy of permanence, I roam the 'hoods of Boston.

Hilton was horrible to a friend. Her compensation? Three nights downtown for me.

Oak Grove home, great view.
Reason? Same as price: a steep slope
And slippery icy death.

Oak Grove, land of giant parks.
Malden Center, land of small shops.
Which is more alive?

Life in Orient Heights:
East Boston famed for plane noise
Home eerily quiet

In Cambridge, geese walk the River
In Revere, planes fill the skies

"No one takes the Blue Line", say Cantabrigians
Just poorer and browner people
Who enjoy working trains.

Blue Line stations clean, bright, spacious
Are they a real subway?
Red Line gut says no.

From a plain dark box, with two forks and no can opener,
To a home full of rugs, plants, and Buddhas.

If you meet Buddha by the catbox
Try not to piss on him.

Springtime paradox:
Plants have sex by wind pollen,
I hide indoors.

Jamaica Plain green and quiet,
Land of vegans, queers, Dominicans.
Co-worker fears crime: "Please don't die!"

One hostess: absent, unmet.
One hostess: garrulous and gift-giving
One hostess: fleeing to China.

Orange Line, Blue Line, Orange Line
Not a Trader Joe's for miles.
Just great Mexican food.

life stuff

2017-Apr-23, Sunday 16:57
mindstalk: (Default)
I'm still nomadic in housing. Since leaving a friend's free basement, I've stayed in a downtown hotel, near Oak Grove (tip: prefer Malden Center), a Cambridge co-op, Orient Heights (a bit too quiet), and now in JP. I sample a range of housing as well as neighborhoods, from "motels have more character" to "totally decorated in plants and Buddha statues". In May I'll be by Malden for a month; be nice to stay somewhere long enough to make it worth buying olive oil.

Job progresses. Friday not so much: I put in some USB sticks, wanting to extract my VM image. Two of these I know worked in this laptop before. But one never became visible, the other had most of its structure missing. I tried rebooting... and the Windows laptop refused to reboot. "Required device not available". My co-workers had never seen that before, though some people on the Internet had. Unclear why it happened. My boss had been diligent in saving and labeling stuff, and was able to launch a repair process, though I had to make a trip to Braintree. (Too suburban for me.)

I can say proudly that the only thing at risk was a tool to work with; I've been good at ending the workday with no information uniquely on my laptop.

Entertainment: slowly re-reading Hodgell. Wikipedia pages on Catullus and Ovid, and linked pages on various forms of rhetoric. Watching episodes of Ghost Stories (the black comedy anime dub) with people.
mindstalk: (food)
(I'm not trying to 'win' Iron Blogger, I'm just having lots of thoughts.)

I'm still bugged by the expenditures. You can live on like $5-6/day, surely I shouldn't be spending more than that per person for one meal? I spent $40 hoping for six people, that's nearly $7/person. In hindsight, given 4 people and what was consumed, I could have skipped the cashews, chips and salsa, less popular sausage, and one bag of pita, bringing cost down to $24, or $6/person, and we've probably have scoured everything clean except the chicken, due to lack of enough carnivores.

But, I guess it depends on what you get: eating frugally means stuff like pasta and rice and beans, or bread and peanut butter. Cheese, (good) crackers, and tomatoes are comparatively expensive: e.g. the crackers were about $5/lb. They're nutrient dense, being dry and fatty, but still twice the $/calorie of even overpriced whole wheat pasta. The tomatoes were $6, or $4/lb, which might be expensive even for tomatoes -- it's been a while since I bought any other kinds -- though as we ate nearly all, I have no regrets.

So basically, yes you can feed people cheaply if you prepare normal staple-based meals, but if you go for savory finger food, it'll be more expensive. Which is fine, it's just good to know and set my expectations accordingly. We probably still came in under restaurant cost, and finger food has advantages in prep (good for me as host) and not tying people to a table and large plate (good for guest circulation and freedom, though that's more relevant for larger parties.)

(Conversely it may be easier to overeat with finger food, if you just keep eating until it's gone or you feel dangerously stuffed.)

(I have a dim possible memory of realizing my old parties were more expensive than I expected, too.)

party retrospective

2016-Dec-10, Saturday 21:39
mindstalk: (squeee)
Back in SF and Bloomington, I was decent at throwing game-and-talk parties, with a good layout of hors d'oeuvre. Here in Boston, I fell out. Partly because the direction of my social life didn't lead to making close friends in the way I was used to, partly because my stuff spread out so that I didn't feel happy about having people over much. A couple years ago I got my living room clear enough for short term house guests, and then to have W over for dinner and anime, but I still didn't try anything party like. More recently I turned my second bedroom back into such instead of a storage room, which came at the expense of my living room, such that I didn't even have W over this summer.

But there's this Iron Blogger thing, and our last two or three parties were at Sacco's Flatbread, which is loud, and eating out eats into our budget quickly. We were debating what to do for tonight's party, and I decided damn it, I was going to get things into shape, so we could save money and have a quiet environment.

And I did! Not even by punting stuff problems too much: some stuff went into empty boxes in a perfectly sensible way, though I do have one box newly labeled "junk to sort through later". I could have deployed all nine of my chairs in the living room, though as it happened I only needed four. At this point I could have house guests in *both* rooms.

Of course, if I don't get a local job soon, this will have been a last hurrah for the place, but still, cool.

It's also an object lesson in the negative value of having too much stuff; I'd have been happier with more parties or tete a'tetes and less stuff I barely touch.

As mentioned, I've got a distinct style; I've never cooked much for more than 2-3 people (including me.) Instead, lots of snacks, leaning toward the savory; any cooking is more like "boil dumplings" or "fry some sausage to cut up". It generally works well.

Tonight required some adaptation: I was hoping for two vegans (got one), two vegetarians (check), and one other omnivore (who forgot we were happening), so I aimed for a pretty vegan spread, plus one wedge of camembert, and some drumsticks I fried for the two meat eaters. Most of the food got eaten, which means I'm pretty stuffed -- probably bought too much for six people, and four people put a big dent in it, so... I dunno about the vegan sausages, that's not something I'm used to. I boiled one per the package, which led to it falling apart, but people ate almost all of it anyway; I microwaved the other, which mostly remained, though the vegan took the leftovers home. First choice would have been grilling, but my cast iron was busy with chicken, and I didn't feel like wrangling with my older pans.

Some years ago I'd discovered Mary's Gone Crackers for a party, as a wheat-free cracker for my wheat-free friend lyceum. They're actually really good in their own right, though pricey.

There's some selfishness mixed into my consideration: I aim for things that I'd be happy to have as leftovers. As a corollary I tend to be weak on drinks.

Introducing people to foods I've found is also fun. The 1.5 pound box of "Wild Wonders" tomatoes was almost completely finished. This is something Star Market has been carrying for a while: they're cherry-tomato sized (more or less) but heirloom in variety; the label just says "greenhouse grown cultivar tomatoes" but they're a lot tastier than a lot of greenhouse tomatoes are.

Setting up is pretty easy, at least when not doing a year's worth of de-cluttering in a couple hours. Afterwards... I could almost be tempted to use my dishwasher for the first time since the landlord installed it. Almost, but not quiet. Probably don't even have the right soap. And four people's worth of small plates isn't that much.

As for the party aims: success! We could all understand each other without fighting a loud restaurant's worth of noise. And I spent $40, which feels like a lot for 5 people (RSVPed) considering groceries) but probably still less than what four people would spend in a restaurant. Our budget was $60, so...

I dunno about vegan protein next time, if there is one. My first plan had been various flavored compressed tofus from Trader Joe's, which I know from experience are pretty tasty, but I balked at the price/lb. Though I guess they're about the same as the cashews. I guess at least one of the 'sausages' was mostly devoured, even if I feared otherwise.

We ate 90% of a 10 oz bag of pita. Yes, I weighed the remainder, and it's 1 oz. Also I cut the pita into 24 pieces and 2 are left. Though the other bag isn't quite 10oz, so the weights are a bit weird.

Oh right, one new thing! Usually I don't worry about healthy veggies for these things. Maybe baby carrots and cherry tomatoes, maybe occasionally a store tray of crudités. But this time I microwaved a pound of frozen broccoli, and added oil salt and pepper. I'm not going to try weight the wet remainder, but I'm sure we ate more than half. That's neat.

Tangentially, I don't know why both sets of parents I've seen close up try to get their kids to eat unadorned steamed broccoli to earn their desserts. It's much tastier with a bit of seasoning.

Tonight's crackers were TJ's Some Enchanted Cracker, tasty in its own right if totally different from Mary's Gone Crackers, and significantly cheaper. Also, totally consumed, along with the camembert.

The hummus isn't gone but greatly diminished (and it wasn't even the really good TJ hummus, which wasn't on the shelves); the chips vanished faster than the salsa. This is something I'd observed at ohanami parties: if I brought hummus it would get inhaled, while salsa would sit around, especially the hotter varieties. Some of the chips tonight were used for hummus, at least before that reminded me I'd been warming up pita wedges in the microwave but forgotten them.

Actually, yeah, I should make a distinct list of what hit and didn't:

+: pita and hummus (but maybe less pita... though if we'd had the fifth person we could have opened the second bag), runny cheese and good crackers, good cherry tomatoes, well-prepared broccoli, the dark vegan "Italian sausage" from TJ.
-: hot salsa, cashews (hard to judge, but I think I may have eaten most of what did get eaten, which wasn't a lot), the lighter colored sausage.

Plus there's various other things I could have tried. Dumplings, bread+oil, bread+butter, veggies and yogurt+dill dip (TJ European yogurt would work great for that), bread and salsa "bruschetta", frozen samosas (experimental), seasoned chickpeas (though not a finger food), chips and queso (not classy, but hey, not unpopular... dunno about this crowd, though), dates, or any other form of dessert.

I'd thought about just salt-and-peppered hard boiled eggs, but the TJ pre-boiled eggs felt too expensive, and I didn't want to peel a whole bunch myself, it's pretty hit or miss whether they peel easily.

One drawback of the evening: everyone coughed a lot when they came in, and I'd been coughing before then, though it faded. I suspect it was smoke from the fried chicken. But it wasn't that smoky: I really suspect cayenne powder on a high dry heat (I put some in the pan to get the underside of the chicken, but didn't bother adding oil.) Accidental chemical warfare...

LA in Boston?

2016-Jul-04, Monday 13:50
mindstalk: (angry sky)
Much of this year's spring was in fact springlike, cool and cloudy, reminding me of San Francisco. It was a bit weird, but I was happy.

Recently it has been hot and humid. Today it is hot and dry -- 30 C, 42% humidity, 12 C dew point. It feels a bit like LA. Going for a run had my lungs feeling odd... maybe like LA? And there's an odd slightly burned smell to the air, maybe ozone? Though wunderground says the air quality is good. Fire hazard warning, maybe it's just smoke I'm smelling. Which would also be like LA, much of the time... I haven't heard of any ongoing fires, but an auto shop had "heavy" fire last night.

Also, it's bright. Even when in full building shadow, looking out kind of hurt my eyes, and the shadows themselves don't look that dark. I was reminded of "LA light", a result I think of natural and manmade smog diffusing light around. Granted, I haven't been paying that much attention to noon[1] sun and shadows, so I'm not sure what's normal. But it felt different.

[1] 1:30 actually, but that's 12:30 solar time thanks to DST. So pretty close to zenith.

Peking ravioli

2016-Mar-25, Friday 19:00
mindstalk: (food)
I was so confused when I first saw these here. (At Mary Chung, in fact.) I correctly guessed what they must be, from the name and the lack of anything else called potstickers.

Unrelatedly, I think I only ever heard 'potstickers' after going to college. Growing up, our 'Chinese' food was mostly Mongolian House in Uptown, and we'd order what I remember phonetically as "kwah teh", or maybe "gwa teh". (Also, princess prawns, which I've never seen since. :( )

Unrelatedly, my parents insisted on referring to the nearby high school, Von Steuben, as "Fon Stoyben", not "Von Stewben".

Article

Wednesday adventure

2015-Nov-05, Thursday 21:28
mindstalk: (escher)
Dim sum!
Then Orange Line to the new Assembly Square station. It still looks underdeveloped, big empty lot by the station, though some transit-oriented development a block away, and work on a 12 story high rise. Nice river walk. Lots of swans on the river, and some I'd guess mated pairs of ducks. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/albums/72157660118092399

Then, Orange Line to Ruggles, walk through Northeastern to the MFA. New special exhibit is "Class Distinctions in Dutch Paintings", which I found fairly interesting. Some photos, followed by a Native American gallery. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/sets/72157660869739711/with/22185384753/
The exhibit story had a lot of books on American class issues, plus some Dutch books: Nickel and Dimed, and
dead end gene pool
class matters
the other America, Harrington
the American way of poverty, abramsky
low life, luc sante
oh the glory of it all
how the other half lives, Jacob riis
gospel of wealth, Carnegie
multatuli, Max havelaar
the nobleman, Isabelle de Charriere
in the city of bikes

Weirdness: today I posted a crappy kitchen photo of a friend, just for my own visual memory since she's gone away, and got a "Great capture!" comment from some stranger on flickr.
mindstalk: (Default)
I've never been much of a long distance biker; the fast majority of my rides are 10-20 minutes probalby 13-20. Shorter than that and I walk, longer than that and I don't bother. There've been the rare 'expeditions' into Altadena, or the SF Zoo, or further and further up the Minuteman bike trail, all the way to Bedford once -- 19 km each way. But mostly I'm a utility biker on a cheap mountain bike.

Well, motivated by various desires for more exercise and sunlight and such, I headed out for Bedford again. Leaving at 9:30! it wasn't too warm, 25 C. Still, I packed *two* liter bottles of water, as well as my spritzer.

Nothing too exciting at first, just biking and timing (25 minutes from Alewife to the Arlington TJ, Google says 23 minutes and 6.1 km, so I was doing 14.6 kph or 9 mph.) I noticed lots of side paths into nature preserves, as well as Spy Pond of course, and an art museum in Arlington; plenty of stuff to explore, if I wished. But I wished to go to Bedford and back.

One thing I noted: past Lexingont, some other bikers greeted me randomly, and I started doing the same myself to oncoming people. It sounds silly, but the smiles and acknowledgments with total strangers felt good.

So, I get there. The building at the trail end is only open weekends, but there's water fountain, and an older biker I asked showed me public bathrooms around the corner. So there's some utilities. Not much else -- like the much closer end of the Belmont bike path, you're dumped out into nother but busy streets.

But here's where my day got interesting. I asked another woman (whom I though was east Indian), whether the trail truly ended. Yes -- but there are dirt paths you can take to Concord and toward Walden and such. Interesting, I filed it away for later. I got to pay her back by pointing out the water fountain and bathrooms.

Then she asked if I wanted to follow her and her male companion to Concord. "Sure," I said, with the privilege of not even have to think about my safety. And I did. Down Loomis, and then left onto some path.

Good thing: on my own, I doubt I'd have had the courage to brave a narrow dirt path, unmarked, especially with T-Mobile's habit of dropping signal when I need it, not that Google knows about this route. We pretty much went in a straight line, so I could probably duplicate the route. The path itself is through some nature preserve, I later learned. Also... well, I'm glad I'm on a cheap and heavy bike; some small rocks in the path were surprisingly bumpy, and there were some dust pits near the end that made me worry about traction.

A friend IDs it as the Reformatory Branch Path. Yep. Huh, Google does know about it.

"This is Concord," she said. They split off, I found myself at Concord Road, eyeing some giant preserve across it, along with a hidden trail extension. Go bacK? Go on to Walden or the interesting parts of Concord, as she suggested? (I'd found that those were way south of where I was -- 20-24 minutes by Google time.) I figured I'd try for Walden, and noted it'd be faster to go to the train station than to bike back. Granted it's mostly downhill from Bedford.

She'd mentioned pastures; I saw farms. Like the Frank Scimone farm, with a giant sunflower, fields of corn or such, a decrepit greenhouse, and a flowers and produce stand, also looking somewhat decrepit. I bought a peach and a tomato; the peach was decent, haven't had the tomato yet. Some other produce was falling apart and covered in flies, though.

Down Concord, which turns into Bedford Street, then left onto Old Bedford Road, where out of nowhere a giant tree branch fell down with a dry creaking sound. And by 'branch' I meanmore like 1/3 of the trunk -- one of those trees that forks low down, and one of the tines just fell over. I gave that tree a wide berth.

More farms and other stuff to explore, if you wanted to roam old Concord, and a road I thought was rather faster than she'd led me to believe. 35 mph limit, which means even faster cars. I sidewalked most of it, but couldn't always.

I had another first, though: while I've used Google Maps a lot, I've never used the car GPS-style navigation voice. Figured it might serve me here, even speaking up from my pocket, and it kind of did.

Crossing Concord Turnpike was a pain, and the cars are REALLY FAST as you stand in the middle waiting for the next walk sign... though I didn't know the half of it.

Finally, Walden Pond! Looked on the left for bike parking, saw a replica of Thoreau's house, went down the hill to the right and found racks right by the pond. Sweet! And more water fountains!

OTOH I was totally unprepared for a beach, and I was running out of energy to go hiking around. By my stopwatch I'd been in motion for about two hours from home, not counting the various pauses. Remember that I usually don't do more than 20 minutes. And the temperature was up to 32 C -- not bad in the shade and with the wind of a bike, more oppressive standing still.

Chatted a bit with a ranger about trails, and how they should put up signs saying "bike parking and no trash cans down here".

And so I headed to downtown Concord, which is when it got unpleasant. Naturally I crossed Walden road to head back the way I'd come. But see, there's no real bike paths as such here, just a white line marking off the edge of the road. Coming, I could often pretend that was a bike lane, if narrow. Going... it was really narrow. I ended up walking to the intersection of Walden and the Turnpike.

Which is when I found no crosswalks. There's only one crosswalk, on the Pond side. I had no legal way of escaping my corner. I did, of course, but eww.

Then Walden continued to have a missing path problem for a bit: I continued to salmon even after that changed, since I was supposed to turn left onto Thoreau. Which also isn't bike friendly, until a sidewalk crops up on the other side.

Finally, the train station. I thought of exploring Concord before the next train, but was really beat. Hoooome.

Another first: I'd never taken my bike on commuter rail before. Turns out a 40 lb bike up rather steep and narrow steps is hard. I backed off to let the other passengers on, and finally wrestled it up. Then I folded up the basket, thinking that might make it easier to get off. Turns out, at Porter Square they let us off at a DIFFERENT door, so we had to dash our bikes down the aisle. Good thing I'd closed my basket, I'm not sure it would have fit.

'We', I said? The Indian couple who led me to Concord in the first place were also taking that train back, to Porter Square, even...

So, in the end, I probably biked as much as I would have simply coming back from Bedford. Maybe pedaled more, rather than coasting. But I got to see a lot more!

Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/sets/72157656754439411
mindstalk: (CrashMouse)
So, we seem to be sharing LA's "reverse spring" or whatever. It's gotten way cooler, down to like 9 C. Same cool period as started Sunday. I'm not complaining, 9 sure beats 29. But it's weird. June!

My cooking with fresh garlic has always been curbed by the process of peeling the cloves. Squeeze or mash, get the skin off with some effort, get your fingers sticky... well, I recently saw a trick, which actually works pretty well. Drop a whole head into a Mason jar, and shake for like 20 seconds. The head breaks up, and the skin starts to come off the cloves. I've been doing it in stages: shake till the head breaks up, dump out and remove the loose 'paper', dump back in and shake, dump out and remove the naked cloves and 'paper', shake the remainder... I find that they don't *all* turn naked, but a lot of those that don't turn out to be pretty loose, so you can do the final removal easily. Helps if the part where they were all connected is removed, I think.

It's easy enough that after adding the last remaining cloves to my rice, and breaking up a new head, I decided to fry and add all those cloves, and break up *another* new head to keep in the fridge. On that last one, a few small cloves needed old-fashioned peeling, but that's like 2 out of 15. Also small enough that they could have been thrown away with little loss.

I've been cooking more with Indian spices. Cumin, cardamon, ginger, large quantities. For the rice, I tried frying powder in butter and oil, vs. just dumping it into the rice-and-water. I still don't know what I'm doing, but it does make black beans more interesting.

Alert alert

2015-May-31, Sunday 18:11
mindstalk: (Homura)
I've gotten emergency alerts on my phone before, but always at home. Today I'd met Erik-from-Australia at Charlie's Kitchen, and at some point my phone started buzzing. I quickly shushed it, thus discovering that alerts aren't like text messages, you can't find them again after dismissing them, but I did catch "flash flood". What really struck me was that lots of other phones were doing the same thing, a rather surreal experience. Erik says the TV dipped in volume for a few seconds too, though from my own memory I couldn't tell you that there was a TV to have a volume. His phone did not go off, leaving him going "what? what?"; it did report a couple of alerts later, that mine didn't. Neither of us have a Boston area code, though I do have a local billing address; I also have Android vs. his iPhone, which is my leading hypothesis for the different alert behavior. A carrier difference could apply as well.

I fear no flooding personally. But I met him dressed for 24 C, and it's dropped to 12. Even I find more layers desirable when it's 12 and rainy and *windy*.

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