February 22, 2006

Bulk view

‘tinerant Tuesday

I firmly believe that the best way to get to know a city is to wander
around. With that in mind, I strolled around downtown Boston, picking
up a pocket-sized fold-out map and various brochures from the Visitor
Information Center and a bottle of Noodler’s Ink from a wonderful
little pen shop on Bromfield. I also took the opportunity to pass by
the Free Software Foundation. RMS was out, but I met John Sullivan and
gave him a hug for working on Planner. (I’d forgotten to bake
gluten-free cookies for him. Oops.) I also walked around the park,
wandered over to the public library, and bought a pattern and some
cloth from Walmart.

Boston is pretty, with plenty of trees and beautiful brick buildings
lining narrow, winding roads. It is thus all too easy to get lost in,
not because the streets are difficult to locate on a map (they’re
clearly labelled) but because wandering around without any particular
aim is so pleasant. =)

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Boston Science Museum

I cannot resist science museums. I am endlessly amused by models and
hands-on experiments. As a reward for good behavior or just for fun,
my father and I would take the motorcycle to a dusty building that
contained much-loved exhibits: an echoing shell that stretched between
floors, a wooden catenary arch, a rotating platform for demonstrating
the gyroscopic properties of a bicycle wheel… I had fun
rediscovering everything, running my fingers over the impossible
figure of the Penrose triangle and boggling again at how visual
illusions tricked me into seeing things even though I knew what’s
going on.

The Boston Science Museum is, of course, far more advanced than the
underfunded science center of my youth. This one had augmented reality
displays, lightning shows, and liquid nitrogen demos. The Star Wars
exhibit was fascinating, drawing plenty of connections between the
fantasies of the screen and the realities of current technology.
Scattered throughout the exhibit were hands-on engineering challenges:
build a magnetic levitation train from LEGO(tm), plan a Tatooine base,
experiment with robots’ facial expressions… It was fun to see adults
eyeing the interactive areas, probably also wishing that the kids
would hurry up and put the pieces back already!

It was a lot of fun, and I wish that I had more energy today. I had to
miss the MIT museum and a few other museums because of cramps, but
that’s okay. Maybe I can take the second circus. =)

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