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Nerd Fun Boston

After hosting and attending 346 meetups since 2007* the time has come to step down from running Nerd Fun Boston

I started the Nerd Fun Boston Meetup in 2007 because couldn’t get my “normal” friends to go to the local events that I wanted to go to, so I figured I’d collect fellow nerds from the internet to go with me.  The first event that I hosted was a Michael Palin book signing, and no one showed – it was just me and my meetup sign. I went in to the venue alone and had a great time creating the lifelong memory of making Michael Palin laugh.

My second event was also a treat because people actually showed up! (See photo of boyfriend below, I met him that night. 🙂 )  The Harvard – Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics was having their monthly public observatory night, and never having been I figured I’d collect some random nerds and go check it out. If you’ve never been I highly recommend going. Their monthly public lecture and telescope evenings are consistently the most popular Nerd Fun Boston events I’ve run.

And so it began… 11 years of connecting people to educational and otherwise nerdy events around town. It’s 2018 now and I can easily say that the Nerd Fun crowd has become my community. My world expanded by making new friends, meeting their friends, and then bringing them along for more fun. We’ve all learned new things, met new people, and relaxed knowing that this crowd is completely ok with you giving a damn about 18th century history, or natural science, or the Kepler mission, or the latest medical advances, etc.

The time has come for me to pass the reins to someone new. Times have changed, but the need for people to connect in real life is now more important than ever. So I hope others will pick up where I left off and continue to connect, educate, and entertain.

I do suspect that in the future I may be up for running the occasional event as there’s always something intriguing going on in Greater Boston. But personally committing to hosting at least two events per month is finally wearing on me as I begin focusing on new things.

I’ll finish below with some ideas and tips for running this or any Meetup group. But here is the most important thing that I learned from founding and running Nerd Fun Boston: the most rewarding experiences are the things that take the most courage to do.

Be well, stay curious, and Nerd On, <3

Heather

* ~ 2.6 meetups/month !?!

Things I know from running Nerd Fun

  • Nerd Fun Boston has the nicest, most intelligent, most authentic people anywhere. As a group our members see the term “nerd” and ignore the associated social stigma, “meh, who cares”. Instead they’d rather connect with people who are also intrigued with the world. They all get it, our conversations are rarely small talk. The name of the group, coined by my friend, Susan, self selects really great folk. I’ve seen other people roll their eyes and back away when I tell them that this here group of people is a Meetup group called Nerd Fun. They don’t want the association, and they physically step back. Self selecting. It’s awesome really.
  • Protect the email list. It’s a large group, nearly 15,000 people, and everyone who knows the first thing about “promoting an online bizness” finds the largest Meetup groups to spam the organizers to get their products and services in front of many people for free. I’m not gonna lie, I enjoy saying “no” to these people. I truly think people will leave the group en masse if the email list gets spammed. Protect it, for it is sacred.
  • Being an organizer is the best way to meet new people. The people that take that bit of courage, step up and rally other people to attend a lecture, tour, walk, or event enjoy themselves while being themselves and always end up with a crew of new friends. I’ve seen this over and over.
  • Keep politics out of the group. No political events. Nope. None. It’s everywhere else, that’s not what we are here for.
  • Run events that you’d be going to anyways. If no one shows up you won’t be disappointed. My first event going to see Michael Palin is an example, I would have gone anyways, and had a great time regardless.
  • Find events everywhere. Surf the calendar pages of the local colleges that we’re lucky to have here in Boston. Check out the calendars of the local museums. The walking tours at Boston by Foot, Historic Bostons, and the National Parks are spectacular. Fred Hapgood emails a weekly list of lectures around town and has a great list of sources at his website. People that run events love having interested people in attendance, don’t be afraid to reach out and tell them you’ve got a group showing up.
  • The organizer has to attend. Don’t leave people high and dry. It’s a responsibility. It’s worth it. But it’s a responsibility.
  • People are not good at RSVPing reliably.  People always have a hard time committing to attending. We had a forum post about it with a good discussion of why people RSVP yes and then don’t show up. It comes down to people “wanting to have gone” to an event but not having the will to show up. I mean, we have some shy people, I get it. Also I am aware some people may show up and then not feel strongly about connecting to say “hi” to the group. I’m convinced there’s nothing you can do about how members RSVP, so I tried not to let inconsistent attendance bother me. When in doubt, expect 12 people will attend. It’s usually 12 that attend anyways, no matter how many people say they’re going.
  • Meetup.com is changing. Social media has so overtaken our discourse in the past ten years that people are reacting to sites like Meetup differently. Also, since WeWork bought Meetup they have taken on the “upsell” business model. They took advertising space away unless you upgrade. They mismanaged turnover, the site is a hybrid bug-fest now. The old stuff is there, the new stuff is pinned on over it, the app tries to hang on to the pertinent info, email goes out unreliably… it goes on. In short: Meetup in 2018 is not as fun as it was in 2007. When I bring people on a walking tour and get people talking it’s still the best. But lectures and bar talks are chaos, connecting with people at such events nowadays can be difficult. I don’t know the answer here, other than wait and see how Meetup.com adapts.
  • Courage = Rewards. To reiterate, personally, the things that I have done that have required the most courage have turned out to be the most rewarding. Starting and running this group took a bit of gumption, I had more than a bit of doubt as to whether it was worth the trouble. Ultimately, there is no question that my life is worlds better than it would have been had I not started the group. No question.
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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 edx.org 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 http://think101.org 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 Creativelive.com, 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 udemy.com 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 coursera.com, 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 coursera.com 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.

 

Livestreams

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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Squam Art Workshops – Spring 2015

I never wrote a blog post about the Squam Art Workshops before, though I’ve been attending since 2011. I suppose I never knew how to put it all into words: meeting great people, taking intriguing classes, dodging “woo”, and, well, the food.

So, how about some photos…

View this post on Instagram

#squamartworkshops #latergram

A post shared by Heather Classen (@spatialh) on

 

This was on the way to the dining hall, though not done by @supgup and @sierca as I wrote on my original caption.

 

Working at home later.

 

I also took Gudrun Johnston‘s Short Row class, which was really helpful – I really had no idea there were 4 different ways to do short-rows, and that the one way I knew – turns out I was doing it wrong. I took no photos in this class, as it was a knitting circle, basically. Her designs are beautiful, she had a container full of them where she showed us where she used short rows. Such an inspiration.

But, then, it ends. We say goodbye to everyone at breakfast and we go.

So to console myself on the way home there was a stop at Mr Mac‘s, which really needs to be a national chain.

 

But, I mean, this.

 

thank you, Squammies, for being awesome,

H

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Hoo*bert

My mother told me that when I was a little kid, like 3 or 4 years old, my grandmother crocheted a hat for me.

This is a photo of my grandmother and me, maybe a bit before the incident, I don’t have a photo with the hat.

my grandmother and I

 

While looking through a magazine she saw a little kid wearing a granny square hat, so she made me one. She knit three granny squares, connected them in a row, added ties, and gave me the hat. The thing is, my mother says I wouldn’t wear the hat because my grandmother wasn’t finished with it yet. Evidently I recognized that there needed to be a forth square in the back, stitched to the first three to make a hat shape. My grandmother didn’t realize this, she just knew she had to crochet the ones she saw, she wasn’t thinking about the structure in the back. So, the poor woman went off and made the forth granny square, added it to the back of the hat, and then I wore it. I remember the hat, I remember I liked wearing it. I do not remember sending my granmother back to finish it.

Little kids are cute as a life saving device, I suspect.

This is the grandmother who taught me how to knit, btw. She taught me when I was about 5, having me knit a purple headband (it was the 70s) – 7 stitches across. It bored the bejeezus out of me, so much so that I never finished it. I’d pick it up every few years, having to add a few more rows since my head was bigger (figuratively and physically) every time.

It took until a Boston Ski and Sports Club trip to Italy in 2004 to get me into knitting. I understood it differently at that point. Instead of a headband shaped hole in space, it was the process of knitting that made the hobby interesting. Maybe by then I had lived a life of deadlines at my day job, and sitting down to quiet time to work with beautiful yarn was a reward in itself. (Italy had some gorgeous yarn.)

Since 2004 I have been knitting. And while spending my days working on a team designing computer chips, I would doodle knitwear designs and patterns in my notebook.

About three years ago I had an idea for a shawl design that I couldn’t believe no one had come up with before. The universe needed this, so I have been trying to make it happen ever since.

The idea? Police boxes in a tiled rhombus pattern (I, also, had to look up the name even though I’ve seen a tiled rhombus pattern a thousand times.)

photo and work done by Christina Creevy

I tried and tried to make this concept a reality when I was working, I just couldn’t get it done.

Fortunately, I lost my job last September.

Seriously, I had been planning, nesting, saving, and preparing for a lay off in my office since we were bought by the last company. So when the day came, I was the happiest person in the room. As I walked out I realized other people weren’t happy – at all, so I told them “Don’t worry, I’ll be sad later.” They laughed. They were happy for a minute, anyways; laughing at or with me? I wasn’t sure.

Turns out I lied. It didn’t happen, I wasn’t sad.

I was thrilled. I could finally get this idea on a .pdf and up on Ravelry.

I thrashed around a little bit. I was always driven by adrenalin at the day job, and now I was living with no time restrictions, no place restrictions. Possibility was my restriction. The hardest thing, I found, about leaving corporate America was time management and direction.

Three things helped me get this pattern done.

1. A craftsy class from Miriam Felton.

2. A time tracking tool for my smart phone to make sure I was managing my time wisely.

3. Kate Atherley’s ebook, Pattern Writing for Knit Designers

And, well, here it is. Published.

Hoo*bert, the shawl. Photo by Aram Comjean.

My mother told me the story about the hat when she knew I was publishing my pattern. I think she is proud of me for finally getting these ideas out there in the world now.

I do wish my grandmother knew.

-H

P.S. Special thanks to my test knitters, Christina and Wendy, for invaluable feedback.

P.P.S. I think everyone else on my chip design team got jobs, and I hope everyone is happy in their new situations.

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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.

SH218_05_godsword

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

MunroeTavernSelfie

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

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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.

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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.

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Inside the Munroe Tavern.

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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.

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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.

MarathonMile18

<3

 

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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.

Epigenetics.

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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Boston

I always loved my city for its characters.

Now I love it for its character.

I feel like all these people around me are cousins now (they may well be, Catholics and all)

The way the officials were talking, the things they were saying. Being steely. All familiar and awesome. “I could cry, but I don’t want to give that IDioT the satisfaction of seeing me do so…”

It’s comforting how trauma and adversity bring people closer together. And the closeness will last our lifetimes. Everyone will have a “remember when” story, with a quiet sense of support underneath.

I didn’t know any of the victims or their families, but full respect and thoughts are with their families and how sad they must be.

I don’t know how this story was told to the rest of the country, but I really feel like this city is all one family getting each other through. I hope that is portrayed as well.

H

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Nerd Fun and Tea 101

Wednesday, 27 May 2009 15:17

as posted on Nerdabout.com

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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“Crap, I Got Governor”

Here’s the basic problem with politics: anyone that actually wants to be a politician is exactly the kind of person you do not want in charge … of anything. Simply put, wanting to be a politician should disqualify you from being one.
From both sides of the fence, liberals and conservatives, who would want to go through all the baloney a person has to go through to get themselves elected? Clearly a person would have to be mental … or a narcissist, as evident in 95% of our political offices.
So here’s my solution: we get people for political office the same way we get people for jury duty.
For each office we get a random sample of the electorate, maybe twenty or forty people, send them summons for the office they qualify for, and they have to report for candidacy. It will hark back to the days when holding a public office was considered a civic duty, and not power trip it has become. Yeah, some people would try to get out of it, but there would definitely be some worthy players who never would have gotten the chance otherwise.
The media would love it, “Summons Day” would be like a carnival for them, running all over the voting districts trying to have the first interviews with the people selected to show up for duty. The voters would be able to vote from a complete cross section of society, for better or worse. We’d have debates between opinionated old women and their frat boy opponents. The people in charge would be as diverse as the constituents. And I’m talking about every office, from mayor, to state representatives, senators, even the president – ten randoms from every state, we could find a good candidate out of that pool of 500. Could it really be any worse than what we have now? Every term we would have a fresh new batch of public servants ruling out cronyism. And most importantly, people would be interested in politics, because it might actually effect them personally.
Imagine that one day, heading out to your mailbox, finding the red, white, and blue computer printed summons, opening it up…
“Crap, I got governor”.
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Ireland trip with photos

Ireland – June 2003

This first photo is from Glendalough, so green I had to put it first.

I arrived in Dublin at 11PM June 5, I tried a day flight over to see if it’d help with jet lag, it did. So there was no showing up at 5AM and not being able to check into the hotel ’til noon. I just showed up at night and slept immediately, it worked well. Friday I walked around the city, taking it easy. For night time I had tickets for the Abbey Theatre’s production of the Plough & the Stars (why do they name everything in Ireland after bars in Boston?). Here’s a picture of the Abbey Theatre.The play was great, as expected. On my first nightly walk up O’Connell Street to return to my hotel I caught this shot below of Parnell Square. My hotel is the building with the facade outlined in white lights. I’d been told to stay on my guard on O’Connell Street at night, and I ended up walking up it every night about the same time. No troubles at all. I found it worse during the day when the sidewalks were mobbed with people walking every which way, bumping into each other. I discovered that Dubliners walk like Bostonians drive.

On Saturday and Sunday, 10 to 4, I took a playwriting class at the Irish Writer’s Centre next to the Dublin Writer’s Museum (and a ballroom dancing place which I didn’t visit). Our class had lunch in the museum cafe on Saturday. I didn’t get to visit the museum proper until the 12th, on the morning of the day I left. It was well worth a visit to learn about all the great storyteller/writers that came out of Ireland.
This is the room where I had my class. I didn’t have the guts to ask my classmates for a photograph, but now I wish I had. I have this picture of a lonely room while we took a noontime tea break. The folks in class were great people, each one of them has at least a couple great plays in them. I hope we keep in touch. The teacher was fabulous, Tee O’Neill, an Australian playwright relocated to Dublin. She was very inspirational in getting each of us to figure out how we work best, and then standing by it. I found some of the information very similar to screenwriting, and some to be quite different. I took a lot of notes, and came up with an idea for a play… the trick, as always, is showing up to do the work.
Saturday night after class I had dinner at Eliza Blue, and then meandered all over Temple Bar. I came across this great Spanish guitar player/singer and watched him for a while. He took his guitar case away to stop collecting money because he said it was his last show before he went home, so he was playing for Dublin that night. He said that a lot of Spanish students go to Dublin these days to learn English, and I certainly saw lots of Spanish folks during my week there.The baby got a coin for being such a good dancer.
Sunday night after class I went on the “Literary Pub Crawl” as recommended by my cab driver coming in from the airport. It was a lot of fun. Two actors took all of us to four different pubs of literary significance, stopping in between to tell stories by and about all the Dublin writers: Becket, Wilde, Joyce, Behan, etc. They gave us quiz questions as the night progressed and at the end of the night gave away a t-shirt and two lil bottles of Jameson to three lucky quiz winners. Well, I didn’t get in any of the answers from the questions they gave us, but at the end they asked a dark horse question: Which US rock star is buried near Oscar Wilde in Paris? I offerred up ‘Jim Morrison’ and won myself a little bottle of Jameson ‘body lotion’. I can’t imagine this sort of thing ever happening in the states, I mean, the giving away of hard liquor on a tour, at least without a lawyer being involved. Pretty fun. Ask me about the Welsh’s guy and his identical twin brother story, and also about “eight plain clothes nuns”, can’t post ’em on the web.
These are pictures of our two tour guides.And the photo below is one of the pubs on the tour. There was a nice traditional band just starting up when we got there.

On Monday I headed for the coast.

This is the day it rained.

This is Bray, south of Dublin. The hill off in the distance at the right is Howth, north of the city. I bought a day ticket for the D.A.R.T. for 6 euros and rode the train from end to end. The rain on Monday was fine, it reminded me of home, funny enough. Every other day had plenty of sun, I heard later that it rained like crazy back in Boston while I was gone. Strange thing to go to Ireland to get good weather, but that’s what happened.

Took a nice walk along the beach here. Since it was a Monday and raining it was all but deserted. This place must get hopping on weekends in nice weather. I grabbed lunch and tea at the Heather House, walked into downtown away from the ocean, and then jumped on the train to go all the way to the other end on the north side, to Howth.
Boy was I cold by the time I got to Howth. I ducked into a shop and had tea and a scone to recharge for more walking. There’s a nice cliff walk around the point in this photo on the right if I had four more hours, plenty of sunshine, and better shoes.I met two young German women on the literary pub crawl, and then ran into them on Monday night at the Abbey Theatre. They said that they did the Howth walk that morning, said it was nice. I guess I’ll have to go back.
This and the next few photographs are of the St. Mary’s Abbey at Howth, the tourbook says “once a medieval seat of learning famed throughout Europe, now little more than a roofless 16th century shell”. The grounds have an ‘active’ cemetery, with quite a few recent burials. The flowers all over kept me snapping pictures.

Monday night I zipped over to the Abbey Theatre again to see if there were any tickets available downstairs at the Peacock Theater. Doldrum Bay was on, and yes there were tickets left. So I got to see another play while I was in town.

Tuesday was my birthday and I started out by taking a “Historical Walking Tour” recommended by the literary tour people. A history graduate student from Trinity brought us around and explained quite a bit about the history of the country. I met a New York student on her way home from studying abroad in Paris. She was bumming around Europe for two weeks before she had to go back to the States. After the tour we had lunch together, and then went our separate ways.
Then I ran around Dublin shopping. And then at night I had nice pizza at the Mona Lisa restaurant. I was supposed to be meeting bookcrossing people there, but I didn’t spot them. I ended up leaving a bookcrossing book on the hotel bookshelf. I was so wiped out from all the walking that I just made watching tv in the hotel room a cultural event for the evening after dinner. I wanted to rest up for the tour I signed up for on Wednesday.

The tour was a bus ride from the Gresham Hotel, near mine. It took us in a 30 person bus down through County Wicklow. We stopped at Dalkey, and the Avoca weavers, and then headed into Glendalough. This is a monastery established by St. Kevin in the 6th century. This cemetery also has recent burials for the families that inherited the plots.
Does this tour guide look like he’s related to Cap, or what?

The tour guide sent all 30 of us on a walk in the woods, twenty minutes to the upper lake. He ran back to the tour bus to meet us up at the lake after our walk.

Look at these green woods. I couldn’t get enough of them.
Between this forest, the coach house for the horses in Enniskerry, and Baggot House in Dublin I felt like I was in Middle Earth.

This is the view as we approached the Upper Lake at Glendalough. I saw our tour bus on that road on the right in the distance.
The Upper Lake at Glendalough. As we arrived at this beach our tour guide, Kevin, handed each of us a plastic shot glass. When we all gathered around he pulled a full size bottle of Jameson out of his pocket. We couldn’t leave the beach until we killed the bottle. Luckily there was thirty of us, and he didn’t drink any himself since he was driving. When I finished my first shot Cap’s clone was right there to refill, and I couldn’t refuse.He drove us to lunch right afterwards, good planning. I had some great Irish stew in a pub with another woman who was a solo traveler. She was from Singapore and has travelled all over the world.

I found travelling alone to be a lot of fun. I noticed that the people that travelled in pairs on the tours I took didn’t seem to meet as many people and weren’t as outgoing. I met so many great people on this trip.

Here’s a panorama shot of the Guiness Lake. They call it that because of the natural color of the water. The Guinness family owns the land at the bottom and that light strip of sand on the right was imported from Florida. It really makes the lake look like a giant glass of Guinness.

This shot out the front window of the hills around the Guinness Lake shows the view from my seat on the bus. Thirty people on this bus and I have to ride shot gun in the jump seat next to the driver. It was a great view out the front, though. This driver, as well as my cab drivers, asked if I was Irish, they always seem proud of the folks with the Irish heritage coming back to see the old country. Their manner of speaking, and sense of humor really reminds me of home.

After this tour on Wednesday night I got a fancy sandwich at the bar in the Gresham Hotel. Then I walked over to Trinity to meet my new playwriting friend who invited me to sit in on her informal summer writing class at a pub away from the city center. Again, I met great people, and got to get the writing group vibe in Dublin.

My flight out of Dublin was at 3:45 PM on Thursday, so I had time to get to do a few more things that morning. I went to the Writer’s Museum right after breakfast since it’s situated right near my hotel. Then I jumped on the Dublin City Tour bus. The one I took in 97 when I was in Dublin with the guys was much funnier, but this one took us up to Phoenix Park which I hadn’t seen before. The Guinness Brewery had a new sky high restaurant which I didn’t get to see. Again, I’ll have to go back some day.

Above are a photo of the James Joyce statue and the Olympia Theatre. When I got home I looked up the nickname of this Joyce statue, figuring there must be one, it’s “The Prick with the Stick” or “The Prat in the Hat”, cracks me up. Also, the Floozie in the Jacuzzi statue was removed from O’Connell Street and a giant spire was in it’s place (what’s the spire’s nickname?!). I guess Dubliners weren’t too fond of the Floozie, I thought she was cool. The tour guides said she’s in a basement somewhere now and will probably end up in St. Steven’s Green.
The Olympia Theatre is where Smoothie took us to see the Concert for Maureen in 97 with all the great female musicians, I really wanted to get a photo of it.

Here’s a shot upstream from the O’Connell bridge on one of my walks back to the hotel.
What a fun trip, I hope I get back there again someday.

thanks,

Heather

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