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Online Learning

Education is everything: learn, know, understand, so easy now with online learning. We live in a wonderful time where we can get classes about anything and everything online, and usually for free. Like with exercise – challenging yourself mentally keeps your brain bright and active throughout your life, and the challenge is the thing according to this NYTimes article about superaging.

“no pain no gain”

I plan to keep a list of the online classes that I’ve taken and recommend here in this post, as well as the classes I am currently taking. The classes are at different levels, different colleges, different websites, etc.


The current favorite:

UQx: Think101x The Science of Everyday Thinking • This is a unique widely seen free MOOC from the University of Queensland Australia via objectively looking at how we as humans think… about everything. Assumptions, bias, proof, sources, intuition, insight… fantastic. So successful they put together a podcast in 2016 to cover many of the topics from the class.

Helpful for indy designers and crafters:

Bookkeeping for Crafters with Lauren Venell • A pragmatic guided tour through business accounting for people setting out on their own craft business for $79. There are a lot of good classes over at, many of which they run for free if you catch them streaming on their “onair” page.


For Knitters:

Lace Shawl Design • This class by Miriam Felton gave me traction when it came to creating my very first design, the Hoo*Bert Shawl.


Graphic design basics:

Adobe Illustrator: Mastering the Fundamentals • There are always new techniques and tricks, this free class at is worth the two hours of time to absorb illustrator basics.

In my queue right now:

Become a Game Developer/Designer : Complete Master Series • Getting my feet wet in game development and this one looks worth the time. This is another udemy offering, $10 at the time I signed up with a New Year’s deal good til January 10, 2017. $200 normally.

Game Theory • Free without a certificate at, taught by professors at Stanford University and The University of British Columbia. A topic always intriguing to me, but I’ve never spent the time to wrap my head around it.

Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization • A series of reasonably priced classes in game design at from CalArts.

The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours • From Harvard for free.

Learn drums • I know I said education is everything, I lied. Education and music is everything. Figuring this one will challenge my musical abilities in ways I hadn’t imagined.


NOTE: Coursera, Edx, and Udemy all have apps so you can keep up with your classes on the go.


Wait a minute, hold up… I almost forgot to list

PODCASTS to feed your brain.

C-SPAN History lecture videos • Learn about history so we don’t repeat it.

The History of Rome Podcast • no new episodes, but there is a reason Mike Duncan started with this podcast and ended up taking people on history tours all over the Roman Empire.



Observatory Nights at the The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) • I attend in person usually, but they have them all at Youtube. The best in astronomy information. Here is their Night Sky Report.


Let me know what you take, how you like the classes. And please help me encourage people to catch the online learning bug.


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Patriot’s Day, why I love it here.

After this most difficult winter, we Bostonians have Patriot’s Day. Since mid-April is when we can finally step outside without suffering, here it comes, the celebration of Massachusetts’ contribution to the creation of the United States of America. So glad they waited to start the revolution ’til the weather got good.

You can’t swing a dead cat around these parts without hitting a Revolutionary War Reenactor.

Battle at the Tower #patriotsday #minutemen #regulars #video

A video posted by spatialh (@spatialh) on


But I have to say, my favorite thing about all these re-enactors is when you see people in historical clothing mixing in with modern-times. For example, my boyfriend has a photo of a minuteman carrying a leaf-blower, which he really needs to have online somehere.

Or like Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow.


Here I have this sneak-over-the-shoulder #selfie thing: Minutemen, in line for a port-a-potty.


Priceless. There should be a name for this mash-up of modern and 18th century, a hashtag, something.


so anyways

I had driven by Munroe Tavern, where the British set up their field hospital after that first night of the Revolutionary War, a hundred times. This time we finally stopped in. Here are some iPhone photos that I took. (Aram’s awesome photos  are here.)


Red coats getting ready for the battle re-enactment at Tower Park



After the war President George Washington visited the Munroe family for tea, to thank them for all their troubles during this battle. The family saved everything he touched. He sat in that bigger chair in the middle, and the cup he used is in a display case nearby. Gotta love the love people had for the pertinence of these items.



I would be remiss if I didn’t post a photo of the flax spinning wheel. Making linen from flax was important in the avoidance of buying British cotton goods in the 18th century.



Inside the Munroe Tavern.



And here are the lobster-backs getting ready for their part of the re-enactment on the front lawn of the tavern. This Tower Park battle today (Saturday) actually took place after the famous battle of Lexington Green (Monday), they just do it on this Saturday beforehand to get everything done in the weekend.



So much fun nerdy stuff going on around here right now. Can’t miss it if you try, get out there and see some of it.

Thanks for reading and Nerd On – H

P.S. And if all this isn’t marvelous enough: we finish on Monday with the The Boston Marathon.




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What is the sound of two multiverses clapping?

Had my eye on the World Science Festival for a few years now. 2013 was the year the forces of the cosmos aligned and I was able to go. Fortunately I didn’t have to twist my BF’s arm to take the trip to NYC for this event, as he is a big nerd too.

We attended 4 events, had to get tickets ahead of time because things seemed to be selling out (yay, science!). Signed up for Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics – Thursday 5/30/2013 8pm, Infinity – Friday 5/31/2013 8pm, Destiny and DNA – Saturday 6/1/2013 3pm, and Multiverse: One Universe or Many? – Saturday 6/1/2013 8pm

The whole thing, ‘cept for the big broadway performance from Brian Greene, was down at NYU, near Washington Square Park.

Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics – Thursday 5/30/2013 8pm

I don’t have any photos of this event as I followed instructions and didn’t take any inside the theater, tho if you search instagram and flickr you can find plenty of other people’s photos of the show. 🙂

Going in I was expecting the typical panel discussion, even though we were in a swanky legit Broadway theater. Turns out it was Brian Greene doing rehearsed stage schtick about Quantum Mechanics, spooky action, quantum entanglements, etc, with 3 other actors and a nice multimedia show projected behind him. My nerdly self was thrilled. Through this show they got complex ideas across as well as taught a bit of the history of how physicists like Einstein and his contemporaries worked through these game changing ideas. Here’s an overview video from the WSF.


next we attended:

Infinity – Friday 5/31/2013 8pm

The theater waiting for “Infinity” to begin.

How do I say this? Truthfully, “Infinity” my least favorite talk. The description for this one said “Does infinity exist? Can it be found in the physical world? What types of infinity are there?“. Really the group ended up speaking about the last question: “What types of infinity are there?” One guy was working on infinity past the highest number you can count to, another guy was working on the infinity that exists between numbers 3 and 4, i.e. 3.11111111111, 3.1415927, 3.99999999998, etc. Interesting to think about, in and of itself, but I felt like the group of guys was arguing a point without having that point defined, and so no one came to any conclusion. The whole discussion was nebulous, and I felt like I was watching a pissing contest where no one knew what they were aiming for.

I, an aetheist, found myself agreeing most often with the person representing philosophy and religion, Philip Clayton. He cut to the heart of the matter a couple of times, finding a point to the discussion where the others were often speaking about their own research as an answer to a question that wasn’t explicitly asked.

Have a look at the video, jump around to listen to bits and pieces to get the complete gist of the talk.


then it was:

Destiny and DNA – Saturday 6/1/2013 3pm

If you watch one video from this post, watch this one, as it will give you information that will help you understand things happening in medicine right now, and more widely so in the next few years.


The premise of this talk was that, before recently, scientists believed that we inherit our DNA cleanly when we are conceived. Turns out this is not the case, we instead inherit our DNA with our specific markers already turned on and off depending on the lives our parents and grandparents lived. Different genes and traits are favored by the software that runs on the hardware of our DNA.

There was a NOVA on this topic, btw, which, of course, explained the topic beautifully.

Things like a predisposition to be overweight, or to be stressed, or to be super fit, or the ability to live to the age of 100, are influenced by things including the nutrition and stress levels of parents. The speakers were always very careful in how they spoke, because they realized there can be implications if, say, someone decided to go out and sue their own mother for being stressed and therefore causing them to be unhealthy.

All of the members of the panel had their own interesting research to share, as well as ideas on more research that could be done.

And then, members of the audience asked the best questions, my favorite being about culture and such influencing the health profiles of entire populations.

Seriously, this is the video to watch.


and lastly,

Multiverse: One Universe or Many? – Saturday 6/1/2013 8pm

oop, look, here’s Brian Greene again introducing the discussion.

Brian Greene introduces the talk about the Multiverse

This talk was very good, basically because of this guy, John Hockenberry.

John Hockenberry moderated the Multiverse discussion

John Hockenberry (great name!) kept everyone grounded and added just the right amount of snark to keep the tone of the discussion in the realm of accessibility by the audience.

The discussion was between Andreas Albrecht, Alan Guth (MIT!), Andrei Linde, and Neil Turok. Each working on different theories on the origins of our universe including the possibility of other multiverses, the “uni” goes away when we open up to the possibility of having more than one. Three of the four were working with the theory of the existence of multiverses, and one, Linde, landed on the side of ‘nope, just the one’.

My favorite part of the talk (besides Hockenberry carrying us nicely through the discussion) was towards the end when Turok opened up the possibility that there’s not one, nor many, but TWO multiverses that exist in tandem, constantly influencing each other. Guth laughed at Turok’s video, calling it two universes clapping, and dismissed the theory outright… ‘cuz what is science but the proving and disproving of theories with experiments and calculations… or just outright mockery. The moment was funny because it was fun seeing the scientists “throw down” over REALLY abStRacT concepts. My own opinion would be to give the two multiverses clapping theory a chance, yeesh.

Here’s the video, I think I need to see it again, if only to enjoy the moderator’s commentary, and perhaps some of the science here will make some more sense.

Oh, and check this out, people getting the physicists’ autographs.

Physicist signing autographs

Good times, to summarize: go to this event. The World Science Festival is a wonderfully unique experience connecting brainiacs with the curious public.

Nerd on!

– H

Click here for all my flickr photos of the trip.

P.S. & as a post script let me point out the three places I got tasty gluten free food at while we were down there. Nizza, just west of Times Square in Hell’s Kitchen, had great dinner and brunch, completely gluten free savvy, reasonably priced, and delicious. Bareburger, near NYU, served just what you’re looking for when you order a hamburger. And Pie by the Pound, for GF pizza downtown, yum.

Yes, I let my BF have some of my root beer float at Bareburger.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012

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NYC for The World Science Festival

I got to go! The World Science Festival is usually on the same weekend as the Squam Art Workshops, so I hadn’t been able to make it in the past. My life is normally about Nerd Fun without enough art and creativity so I will always pick SAW over the WSF if lucky enough to have the choice. Here’s my photos of the trip, I’ll do another post with details on the WSF events that we attended. Took AMTRAK, pretty relaxing so long as the train stays on the rails. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 Shot and edited with my iPhone5, fun shots of Queens on the way into town. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 We showed up in NYC for the first weekend of the invasion of Citibike. We hemmed and hawed about using the bikes to get around the city all weekend. We are accustomed to seeing this sorta thing in Boston already, and thought it might be fun. We walked around Midtown and Times Square, visited the International Center for Photography (does no one take museum worthy photographs when they’re happy? whole? away from warzones? not bleeding? just gimme just one happy picture??), visited a friend who works in the city… all while thinking about going in for Citibikes. The ICP is near the lovely Bryant Park where we saw four fellas playing Pétanque (kinda like Bocce) AND, there was a girl, maybe 10 years old, doing tumbling runs on the grass, cartwheels, back-flips, all sorts of gymnastic awesomeness… didn’t take a picture, since it was a girl and this IS the internet, I mean, duh. But, wow, she was fantastic. Still tho, Citibike? do we or don’t we? After pricing bike helmets knowing we each had helmets at home that we didn’t pack to take with us, we decided to get a two day pass for a hop-on-hop-off tour instead… more photo opportunities, more witty tour guide commentary, and more cool air (it was in the 90s and humid). coming and going, my vertical panorama Times Square from the bus The Empire State Building from the bus City shots … from the bus New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 Eataly. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 Marrimekko over Madison Sq, yeah, from the bus. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 city street panorama New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 We hopped off the bus at Battery Park with the intent of going directly to the Skyscraper Museum. Now, Aram and I are pretty lucky in the stuff we happen upon. And by lucky, perhaps I mean intrigued by a lot of what we find, where maybe other people don’t give a damn. So then we found this: New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 The National Museum of the American Indian, which is an offshoot of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington that we didn’t get to see when we were there last…in we went. So worth it.

Not to mention the building itself, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, is lovely to visit.

New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 We were down that way with the intent of going to the Skyscraper museum to see the exhibit on the Woolworth Building… saw this shot on the way over from the museum. And inside World Trade Center area … the Freedom Tower is almost complete. New York City for the World Science Festival 2012 The memorial is such a beautiful design

New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
Thanks to the people that put the memorial together with such grace.

After the WSF talk that night we checked out this insideout project in Times Square.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012

Showed up for its last night, right before midnight. Stationed ourselves on the red TKTS stairs and watched the crown for a reaction.[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]People kinda didn’t notice.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
[★]New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
And so we watched the Statue of Liberty shake down tourists for $5


Did I mention how Times Square is perfect for these vertical panoramas?

photoMore night shots.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012Spiderman telling a Danish woman that he couldn’t really hang upside down from the post.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012Yes, that’s Batman with Chewy and C-3PO.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012

Saturday was back on the hop-on-hop-off Greyline tour to Brooklyn.[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
The Woolworth Building.New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Ad for the Fung Wah bus (it’s shut down now, no?)
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012Over the Manhattan Bridge
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Everyone takin’ pictures
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Entrance to the Manhattan Bridge in black and white.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Uh, Brooklyn tour-guide dude, keep your head down.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Going to Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge on the top level of a double decker bus is no problem. Coming back there’s no apparent railing, cable, fence, gate, protection of any sort that I could tell to keep tourists from plummeting from great heights into the East River. I spent the trip back over the bridge petrified, but trying to recall seeing any news stories about tourists getting dumped into the river… couldn’t think of anything… so I just focused on Manhattan Island and the guy in front of me… who also schooched his way towards the center aisle after he looked over the edge.
Glad I got a lot of shots on the way out of Manhattan ‘cuz I didn’t get any on the way back in, even if only for the fear of loosing grip of my smartphone.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
[★]Loved this building, btw. Reminds me of waveforms.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Yeah, this is the last shot I took of the bridge before my fear of heights took over.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]And the bus touches down from bridge flying in China town… I coulda kissed the ground, but for my fear of roaches, the smell of urine, and city grime.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
And here’s a few more shots from around NYU and Washington Square while we were coming and going from the WSF events.[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★][★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Detail on the “bow” of the Flat Iron building.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]BF through the glass of the same structure.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012[★]Just out of Eataly, holding onto my gluten free biscotti (with chicken in it), the light on the Flat Iron building was great.
New York City for the World Science Festival 2012
The last thing we did was see Alan Cumming in MacBeth… he played all the parts in the play by himself, including the three witches, and it is a travesty that he wasn’t even nominated for a Tony. He was crazy awesome (literally).
Most of the rest of the time was at the WSF lectures, which will be a separate post.
’til the next adventure…


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Nerd Fun and Tea 101

Wednesday, 27 May 2009 15:17

as posted on

Nerd Fun and Tea 101

May 26, 2009

Back in March, Boston blogger-at-large Heather showed us all that was happening in the Beantown nerd scene. Now she’s back with a report on enjoying a cuppa in the land of the Boston Tea Party.

By Heather Classen

Since the last time I checked in with Nerdabout my meetup group, Nerd Fun Boston, has been nerding all about Beantown. The Cambridge Science Festival brought us countless events, Galileo’s 400th anniversary brought us more, and there’s the regular local events like Maple Sugaring, WGBH talks, the Museum of Science, and all that MIT and Harvard have to offer the community. All quintessential nerd fun.

A couple Saturdays ago we did something a bit different. Assistant organizer, Amy, brought us to afternoon tea at the Park Plaza hotel where tea sommelier Cynthia Gold hosted a tea tasting, teaching us all about the world of fine tea. Instead of ordering off of the tea menu Cynthia brought us five different teas along with scones and tea sandwiches and a tea infused port … so good. The first tea was “Steep Towards a Cure”, a lovely mix of white tea, green tea, and cherry blossoms, mixed especially to support breast cancer research, this is the only of the teas we had that were for sale, and $5 of the $15.50 price is donated to Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Research. She explained how she plans a mix of tea, looking for a dominant flavor, and then complimentary flavors. Then the mix needs to sit for 3 to 7 days for the flavors to blend, but not longer so the tea remains fresh. This particular mix was inspired by the anti-oxidant qualities of the ingredients.

Next up was the World Tea Expo award winning St James Ceylon tea, my favorite, followed by Aria Estate Darjeeling, followed again by an 18 year old Chinese Pu-erh from Yunnan province, ending with a Bohean tea from Anwi province in China.

Cynthia explained the tea harvesting process, and how the fine tea is hand picked to get the best leaves. We learned that the same estates that produce the mass market machine harvested tea also produce this fine handpicked tea. And, that over the next twenty years the world of fine tea will most likely become very expensive as fewer and fewer people are interested in doing the skilled harvesting work. The estates had set up a system where they provided education for the children of the tea pickers, and subsequently with education the children rarely want to follow their parents into the family business.

We also learned about the origin of black tea. White and green tea sent in ships from South Asia to Europe would go bad by the time it arrived in port. The estates learned to dry and ferment the tea before packing it onto the ships bound for England, and even now black tea is still the most widely used in England and the United States.

The Bohean tea that she served with dessert is the same type of high end tea that was thrown into Boston Harborin 1773. The fermentation on this and the Pu-erh tea were definitely noticable. An aquired taste, but fantastic to try.We asked if tea were grown in the U.S., and she mentioned American Classic that was grown in South Carolina, as well as some tea being grown in Hawaii that seemed promising. Tea needs varied climate with dry and wet cycles, good draining and high elevation that steep hills provide, Cynthia explained.

Thanks, Cynthia!

Check the Boston Park Plaza web site to see when they have the next Tea 101.

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Battlestar Galactica Fleet Power Battle

So nerdy, I must sign up. The BSG fans at ravelry are running a knitting game on ravelry.

They’re running the game on points, items started, finished, and photos uploaded. I haven’t had a ton of time to knit lately, but how can I resist? Call sign? Wildstar


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Nerdabout Story

from the Nerdabout website:

Boston Nerds Sound Off!

March 02, 2009

Heather Classen recently wrote us about the geek scene in Boston, and we agreed that the world needed to hear more. So voila! Please welcome our Boston Correspondent Heather Classen.

What’s going on in your city? Write us here and be featured on our site.

Hearing about NerdAbout via a Facebook link, I saw that Nerdabout covers Austin TX, Portland OR, and NYC … no Boston. what up? Boston is the central nerd hatchery as far as I’m concerned… the nerd “Hub”, if you will. You can’t close your eyes and toss your iPhone without hitting another adventurous knowledge loving brainiac… and here’s how I know.

Looking to meet new people during the summer of 2007 I started wading into the Meetup waters, going to lunches, walks, and whatnot. Met great people and had a nice time, but the existing meetup groups weren’t doing the sorts of events I wanted to. There was a Michael Palin book signing in Harvard Square that I wanted to go to and I couldn’t get any of my regular crew to come along. So I took a chance, opened up Nerd Fun Boston, and posted it. No one came. It was just me and my red meetup sign. But, figuring there weren’t many people signed up in my group by the time I ran my first event I gave it another shot. Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has an open house night each month, lecture, telescopes, so I posted it. And they came. There’s been no turning back.

As I write this there’s 1429 membersin my group.My premise for Nerd Fun was to gather life-long learners together. I ran a bunch of events, and then with the help of superstar assistant organizers (i.e. T.J.) the group gathered steam, and people. Each event we attended recruited more and more members. We even started recruiting people who run the events that we attend. NerdFun Boston is a fantastic group of people from all walks of life. Younger people, older people, single, married, straight, gay, local, visiting, foreign, history geeks, science geeks, astronomy geeks, art geeks, geek geeks, everyone. It’s fantastic.

Things that surprised me about the group:

1. history nerds.
I had no idea there were so many history nerds, I thought everyone would be all about semiconductors and bio-pharm in line with Boston’s biggest industries. Our most prolific organizer, T.J. , started attending Boston By Foot Walking Tours and like the pied piper of nerds, T.J. collected a gaggle of history geeks, including the Boston by Foot tourguides themselves. But, I realized, it’s inevitable in a city with Boston’s past that curious people are going to want to spend time learning the history that’s all around us here. Automatic.

2. transient nerds.
We’re getting lots of members who are here in Boston/Cambridge temporarily, for school and work. It’s perfect for them to attach onto a good group of active curious people and see and learn what there is to be seen here. Scientists and lawyers from Europe as visiting Harvard and MIT students, business travellers from Montreal in town for the weekend, students testing the grad school waters before they commit, again, I’m always surprised by who finds us.

3. my nerds are hooking up.
(Myself included.) Having this completely low pressure way of meeting other local brainiacs has really made dating easy. It’s like being back in college without all the classwork and tuition. Many of us are working stiffs that, until now, hadn’t had that “birds of a feather” feeling of community since our university days.

Photo of EventsOur Events:
My favorite recurring event is the monthly Smithsonian Observatory Public Viewing Night, which involves an always interesting lecture followed by stargazing through the telescopes on their Cambridge rooftop. The CfA also has the occassional movie night (i.e. Destination Moon—see below.)

Photo of EventsPhoto by Aram Comjean

We attend talks and exhibits at the Harvard Museum of Natural History , the Museum of Science , the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Northeastern University Marine Science Center, the Boston Public Library ,MIT Museum, Boston Duck Tours, movies like Coolidge Corner’s Science on Screen series, John Quincy Adams home, cemetery tours, Paul Revere House, the Old South Meeting House and other Freedom Trail locales. The Longfellow House, Lexington and Concord’s historical sites, Science in the News Seminar Series from Harvard’s Medical School . yada yada yada. The list of events is endless. And our memberlist grows constantly as word gets out.

I’m thrilled at the direction this meetup group has taken, I had no idea that there would be so many really great, funny, intelligent, kind, good hearted, fun, adcventurous people out there looking to do the same sorts of nerd-tastic events that I like doing.

But, then again, this is Boston.

If you’d like to join, please connect with us at meetup alliance to collect similar groups across the US, please join the fun.

—Heather Classen