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SIMEX and Boston

I went to Massachusetts last week. I flew in on Friday, the 22nd, and worked in Devens until Thursday the 28th. Devens was a bona fide US Army installation until about 15 or 20 years ago, when the Feds decided that they needed a quick buck. So, they sold off the land to a bunch of corporate office park developers who are better at building parking lots than they are at making buildings, and most of Fort Devens became just Devens. Fort Devens still exists, but it's a tiny fraction of what it once was. tiny as it is, that's where I was working. On a small fenced military installation about ten miles down MA-2 from Leominster.

The actual exercise didn't happen until Tuesday and Wednesday, the 26th and 27th, respectively. So we spent the abundant time beforehand setting up a bunch of computers, trying local hamburgers, and training soldiers on how to use the software that is used during the exercises we run. Everything went without any problems, and by Wednesday afternoon we were done. My partner Paul took the rental back to New Hampshire and few out the next morning, as he's not much of a fan of extended travel.

So, alone the next morning, I took a cab into Ayer, MA, to catch the 11:43am train into Boston. The driver pointed out various landmarks of the Devens that once was, and that no longer is. It appears that its transformation from Army base to ugly suburban office park was so gradual that nobody even noticed. The train was three minutes late, but I was in no hurry. I rolled into town in comfort, with an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia ending right as the train pulled into Porter Square.

I surfaced at Porter Square, and started walking north along Hancock out of Cambridge, and into Somerville. I was staying with Tobias and Tessa that night at their place on the other side of the bikepath. I arrived at their doorstep at about 12:45pm, and saw Tessa striding up the street minutes later. She let me in, offered me food, and made me feel at home. I was anxious to go out and get into the area, so I declined the food and legged it to Davis Square. I found a burrito place called Annie's Taqueria, and enjoyed sitting still with hot food. All week in Devens I had never spent a great deal of time outside, and even doubted my decision to pack gloves, a scarf, and a hat. How foolish it would have been not to, because Boston was cold!

I settled into a stool at the Burren, an Irish bar I remember visiting with Carl some years ago. I began my day. By the time the day ended, there were four reunions, two restaurants, five bars, one dinner, and eleven beers. Needless to say, I woke up on Friday feeling less than amazing. I took deep breaths for hours to avoid getting sick. I breathed so heavily that I made myself dizzy, and dried out my mouth and throat. Eventually I got up and moving. I packed up my stuff, rolled away the air mattress, wrote a thank-you note to Tobias and Tessa, and made my shivering way to Kenmore Square.

I checked in at the Hotel Buckminster, right on the corner of Beacon and Brookline, overlooking the square and Fenway Park. The view from the fifth-floor room was spectacular. I napped the rest of the day and afternoon, until Jenny's flight arrived late that night. We met at South Station after the worthless "Silver Line" bus took 45 minutes to go a mile and a half. We went back to the hotel and found that all the restaurants were closed, so we asked the front desk what places delivered this late, and he said, "Domino's" without hesitation, and with a straight face. Famished, we made the call. We waited for two hours, and they never came. We cursed them and went to bed just shy of 3am.

We still got up before 9am, as we were on vacation, and had a lot we wanted to do and see. We were going to take the train downtown, but instead opted to walk, as it was sunny out, though it was still well below freezing. Jenny's eyes popper out of her head when she saw an H&M store, and we went inside. She kept apologizing, but I assured her that I was expecting H&M insanity, and I patiently wait for her to burn out, getting myself a little something in the meantime.

After that we continued our walk down Newbury Street, until we reached the Public Garden, and walked around on the ice for a while. Lots of sickeningly cute pictures were taken, and fun was had. Jenny bruised her thigh, having lost her footing several times on the non-liquid ice. We pushed on, crossing Boston Common, and officially entered downtown at Park Street. We wandered through non-straight streets until we emerged at Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. We walked from there to the waterfront, and grabbed some seafood lunch at the Chart House, located in an old building right on the harbor.

We took a water taxi to Charlestown, and had a drink or two at the Tavern-on-the-Water before we called a cab and got moving again. We met Carl and his girlfriend Jenn for dinner at Artu, a great Italian place in the North End, and followed that with chocolate-covered cannoli and tiramisu at Cafe Vittoria nearby. They walked with us back to the T, and rode with us to Kenmore, as it was on their way anyway. Jenny and I spent the rest of the evening together, and slept happily that night.

We got up earlyish, but wound up basking around until checkout time. We took the T west until we jumped off at some random stop for lunch. We adjourned at that point to grab our stuff at the hotel, and took the T over to the Institute of Contemporary Art, in South Boston. We passed our last hour there, before hastening to the airport and heading home. We had a great time and a great trip. Jenny was a little disappointed at its brevity, but it was great for me, as I was on the road for a total of ten days, and was very ready to come home.

We'll work out a trip that both of us will appreciate equally. Maybe I'll write a webapp to decide.

3:05 PM, Feb 2, 2010

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Spluschnik VII

This most recent installment of Splutschnik has taken it from being unequivocally my favorite thing to do in Kansas City, to the point where I'm not sure if I want to do it again. I definitely had fun, as did the group that actually did show up for it, but there were a lot of disappointments.

First, almost fifty people committed to attending on facebook, and another perhaps thirty people responded, "maybe." Now, I understand that these numbers never reflect the actual numbers, but the turnout was truly disappointing by comparison. Lots of people contacted me directly, talking about how excited they were, and how much fun it was going to be. When the day of the event came, most of these people didn't show. Not even a word.

There was a misunderstanding that led one team to go to Westport for the bulk of their bars, and I suppose I'm to blame for not taking them aside and saying that Splutschnik is supposed to be a downtown-only event. But even so, I wasn't upset about it. Unfortunately, others took what they perceived to be my lead, and proceeded to berate the wayward team, to no benefit but the satisfaction of their own sense of self-righteousness. This caused these people, good friends of mine, to leave in a huff, and without a word. I didn't find out about this until today, and I feel terrible about it.

It just puts the whole thing in a bad light and the comraderie that the event is supposed to foster was just spoiled by it. It's put a bad taste in my mouth about what I had previously considered one of the best ideas I ever had. I hate the idea of canceling the next installment of Splutschnik, but that's how I'm feeling at the moment. Maybe I just need some time to think about it.

1:48 PM, Feb 8, 2010

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