Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas Revels in Harvard Square

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Wednesday, 18-Dec-13

Terese gave me a call a few weeks back, asking if I was interested in seeing a musical in Harvard Square about the Christmas Story of, or more accurately the Christmas traditions of, the Spanish countryside.

Well I have a rule about concerts and shows – Yes. If I’m free, I’ll do my best to make it no matter what, and this case actually sounded pretty awesome. See, we’d be meeting up in Harvard Square early evening, and then hunting down some kind of dinner after the show.

Sounds like an adventure, so I am 100% in!”

We met up in Harvard Square around 7:00, and walked over to wait in the lobby for a bit, since the doors opened at 7:30. Then we sat; Terese had gotten amazing seats – right on the upper balcony, directly against the edge, so we could lean onto the banisters and get a perfect view. And then the show began!

  • It was actually a sort of retelling of Don Quixote… sort of. At no point did they directly reference the play, but the main character was “everyman”, an iterant knight followed by his squire, a man named “Sancho”. They were also accompanied by “Esperanza”, a barmaid who “Everyman” was convinced was an angel. Seeing the similarities?
  • The music was traditional Christmas tunes… but not American or English – definitely Spanish. I enjoyed it a lot, especially since they threw some ancient rituals in as well, such as the dance of the stags; a traditional Iberian hunting dance.
  • There was also a bit of audience participation, a-la Rocky Horror. Though this was a bit tamer; instead of shooting squirt guns into the audience, we sang along, danced, and cheered in time with the cast. It was fun; though a bit confusing at times.

But it was definitely awesome, and I enjoyed everything about the play. I wish I had known a bit more about the participation parts, so that I could have danced along a bit more, but that’s for next year I guess.

The show got out a lot later than we expected though, and I learned something about Harvard Square; things close. At like 10:00.

So when you get out of a show at 10:45, and get to where you wanted to have dinner at 11:05? Yeah… you’re gonna have a bad time.

Or at least you’re going to have to walk around a bit until you find somewhere open. Which we did, and Terese and I finished up the adventure, with a pot roast and a hamburger respectively.

Biking in the arctic

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Work week – 09-Dec-13 through 13-Dec-13

Ok, I know it’s not actually the Arctic here in Cambridge.  But recently the temperatures have been making it seem like it is.

Monday started out with 18 Deg.F (-7.5 Deg.C), and I biked into work.

Tuesday was a bit warmer, though there were some nice flurries of snow going on as I rode the 6.5 miles.  No, I’m not going to translate that into Km.  Look it up yourself!

Wednesday I drove – I try to make sure that I drive at least one day a week, or more often two days, so that my car isn’t left alone too long… I don’t like the idea of it always being in the same parking spot.  People staring, starting to notice that it might not be missed for a day or so if it just… disappeared.  No stealing my car!

Thursday though.  Thursday, the temperatures in Cambridge his 15 Deg.F (-9.5 Deg.C).  Waltham (where I work) was right around the same, maybe a degree or two warmer.  I still biked.

Friday was almost the same as Thursday, though Cambridge was 18 and Waltham was 15 this time.

Thursday set a new record for me, and Friday came damn close to my previous record: a day last winter, when I had gotten a text from Marla after biking in, simply saying, “wait, did you bike?  It was 17 degrees out this morning!  Congrats!”  So now the temperature to beat is 15.  I think I can do it.

 

How can I bike when it’s that cold out?  Layering.

Feet: heavy smartwool socks, and hiking boots.  I’ve loosened up my bike pedals so that the heaftier boots fit into the straps.

Legs: Underarmor thermal layer, hiking pants, rain pants.

Torso: Tee-Shirt and my fancy new jacket (see previous post about still overheating)

Hands: thin insulating gloves, and heavy ski gloves on top.

Head: fleece Balaclava, with a helmet on top.  Safety goggles that I totally didn’t commandeer from work over the eyes.

And do I enjoy it?

No.

No, I don’t enjoy it – I love it.  I love every second of it.  The freezing wind on my cheeks, that first breath of snowy air as I step out of my door…  It’s excellent, and a truly amazing way to start out the day.  Even if I stay indoors for the whole work day, I just feel accomplished when I ride in.

 

The other question that I get asked a lot is what kind of bike I ride in the winter.  People ask about special snow tires, mountain bikes, and unique brakes that they see on sale.

Honestly – I just ride my normal street bike.

I’ve tried a mountain bike, with the heavy knobby tires and the thick brakes, but I don’t find it to be any better except on ice, and arguably much worse in the snow.

You see, the knobs just get covered in snow when there’s powder, and they just float over the slush, hydroplaning you directly into painsville.  My thin street tires, however, cut right through the snow and slush, and have never floated on me.  Too much weight on the thin strip, I guess.

Ice is another matter, but most of the roads I take are salted – and even on ice, good balance and a steady hand usually win the day, even without studs or fat tires.

So there you have it – bike in the winter, because it’s awesome.  Layer to stay warm, and ride a street bike because I said so.

We are the Lords of Dogtown! At least for one day…

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Saturday, 07-Dec-13

I’ve wanted to go hiking for a while… so I chatted with Daniel and Terese, we looked at a few places, and settled in on staying close to home – There was a lot of random stuff to get done this weekend, so the Loj or CT was out of the picture.  Instead, we aimed for Gloucester, a small park on the remains of a small colonial village called Dogtown.  It had been abandoned due to the poor soil and rocky land after the war of 1812, though a philanthropist had commissioned a team of stonecutters to carve large phrases into a series of boulders along some of the trails.  These were intended to be inspirational to the homeless that had a tendency to hang around the abandoned town… whether it worked or not is debatable, though the fact remains that there isn’t anyone (that we saw) living there now…

  • Wake up when Terese’s outside.  Run in a bathrobe to let her in before Ringo freaks out.  I do not succeed… though everything works out without much difficulty.
  • Pack up lunch and gear and everything, choose a restaurant that we’ll meet Daniel at, and head to Gloucester… in the Mustang, with the top down, of course.  I mean… it’s only BARELY below freezing out, why would I keep the top up?  Don’t be silly.
  • We meet Daniel, and have breakfast at a small diner called Georges.  It’s pretty well recommended online, and I love the feel of it.  Definitely a small-town diner in a small town.  We’re not in Gloucester proper yet, by a long shot, so it’s still nice and quiet.
  • I have far too many breakfast.  I tried the “Deans Special”, which is almost a challenge for the Diner.  It’s four pancakes, four eggs, five bacon, and Hash Browns.  I expected small pancakes… but nope.  These cover a full-size American plate.  They are massive – as of writing this a week afterward, I still have some leftovers in my fridge.  It’s nuts.
  • After paying and packing up the leftovers, we head into Dogtown.  Top down again, of course.
    • hiking and exploring happens – the terrain is beautiful, very New England.  Small trees, scrub brush, and a ton of low stone walls crisscrossing the landscape.  The trails are quite well marked though, which is really nice, and the weather is perfect for hiking.
    • The goal here today was to do some hiking, but also to climb a bit.  Daniel had his Crash Pad, so we kept a lookout for any boulders that could be climbed.
    • As we loop around the trails and pass a pond / lake (that would be AMAZING for Kayaking, btw) we do a short bit of climbing and a bit of photography fun.
    • On the map, there’s a large note talking about a communications tower – we finally find it, and use it to figure out exactly where we are.  We’re not exactly where we intended to be, but thankfully this turnaround brought us to a far end of the park – giving us a very nice walk back toward the cars that would bring us past nearly all of the carved boulders.
    • Find our first engraving, then do some bouldering on a large house-sized boulder.  It’s ok climbing, but nothing particularly interesting.  Cold, but acceptably so.  We play a bit, then get a move on toward the next few targets…
    • Start chasing engravings!  There are 24 of them in total, though only 18 or so are on the main trail.  Most are short, some even a single word.  Though there is one boulder that we found that had “When work stops, values decrease” written on it.  Yeah… these engravings definitely are aiming a message… of Capitalism!
    • We find a boulder with “Spiritual Power” carved on it, and do a large bit of climbing.  This is by far the best climbing of the day – the carved boulder is huge, with a large crack splitting it in half.  Not so large that you can fit a full fist into it, but enough for some very fun hand-jams.  Daniel and I climb the crack, and I actually make an ascent using nothing but the engraving.
    • Starting to get dark, so move it on and head back to the cars right-off.
  • We make the hike back out, relaxing and chatting as we go.  As per the usual, we get back to the cars right as the sun sets behind the trees.
  • Head home, and make a dinner of a ton of random little things… apples and cheese, shrimp, peaches, mead, etc…  It’s good, and kind of nice to have a gnoshing dinner, instead of a single large course.
  • Terese and I watch Gladiator, before crashing for the night after a very successfully adventurous day.

Link to a really good guide for Dogtown:

http://www.thedacrons.com/eric/dogtown/visiting_dogtown_gloucester.php