Monthly Archives: August 2013

You’re 30 minutes from home. The kids are hungry. It’s starting to rain. Are you prepared for anything?


One of the biggest differences between urban and suburban/rural life is that suburban life is completely dependent upon a car – even more so when children are involved.  I always thought of my car as just a means of transporting people and the types of large items I couldn’t carry easily.

But now I have no car.

Wendy has a car for her commute to work outside of town, but we rarely use it in town.  If we’re going to school, to the bank, to a restaurant, to the park, etc., we usually either walk or take public transit.  It’s just too much of a pain and too expensive to drive and find parking for most things.  Since I gave up my car, I’ve found that I used it as a mobile storage unit as much as for getting myself and my things places.  Suburban cars are trash cans, medicine cabinets, junk drawers, and closets. Continue reading You’re 30 minutes from home. The kids are hungry. It’s starting to rain. Are you prepared for anything?


Liberty in Balance (+ a tangent about the remarkable story of the old Filene’s, Daniel Burnham, & the Millennium Tower!)

Liberty in Balance
Liberty in Balance: Down with oppressive parking restrictions of any kind!

I saw this at Downtown Crossing amidst the construction going on in the old Burnham building (Filene’s). I guess sometimes, when you’ve got a whole bunch of people living together, compromises must be made…

Anyway, more background on the construction: The Burnham (Filene’s) Building was designed by Daniel Burnham for Filene’s Department Store.  Burnham is the same guy that designed New York’s famous Flatiron building (near which uncouth men used to station themselves in order to watch ladies skirts lifting in the wind that whipped around it, a la Marilyn Monroe).  I haven’t read anything about impolite breezes caused by Burnham’s Boston work, but that is to be expected since Boston is a more genteel city than New York.

Source: Sgeulachdan http://www.flickr.com/photos/shywriter55/161651827 6 June 2006
Source: Sgeulachdan http://www.flickr.com/photos/shywriter55/161651827
6 June 2006

The Filene’s opened in 1913 to enormous crowds, but the building was actually built throughout 1911 and was completed in 1912, the same year that Burnham died.  Some might say Boston finished him off, but I prefer to think that once he’d designed a building in Boston he was able to look back at his life’s work with satisfaction and depart in peace.

Next to the currently-renovating old Burnham building, construction on the new Millennium Tower is slated to break ground on September 17, 2013.  Millennium Tower is going to be the tallest residential building in the city at 625 feet.  The builders, Millennium Partners, claim that it will be the 4th tallest building in Boston!  However, I’ve seen other sources say that it will supplant the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston as the city’s 3rd tallest.

 

“Life Force” by David Bakalar

"Life Force" beside the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
“Life Force II” beside the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

This piece is called “Life Force II” by David Bakalar.  It was made in 1989 and it sits outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.  David Bakalar himself is a pretty interesting guy.  His permanent outdoor sculptures are in cities around the country.  His background is in physics; he earned a B.S. and an M.S. in physics from Harvard in the late 40’s and a Sc. D. in physical metallurgy from M.I.T. in 1951.  After he completed his education, he ran a tech company (Transitron Electronic) making transistors for over 30 years.  Alas, Transitron folded in 1986, when it was unable to keep up with the advances in semiconductor technology which, for a transistor company, wasn’t cool.

Life Force 2

 

Bakalar actually has 7 sculptures titled with some version of “life force” scattered around the country at various universities and institutions.  It makes some sense that he would find the theme so alluring given that the artist spent a life and career on the cutting edge of innovation only to be undone by a new innovation in the field.

Bakalar didn’t begin his career as a sculptor until after Transitron folded.  I guess running a tech company requires a bit of one’s attention.  Either way, I like this sculpture.  So here’s a toast to maintaining a vibrant life force by allowing each end to prompt a new and beautiful beginning.Life Force 3

 

Finding Nature in the City with Your Kids

Hall's Pond Sanctuary - on the Green Line
Hall’s Pond Sanctuary – on the Green Line

My daughter has always needed nature.  She’s enjoyed hikes and bug hunts since she could walk.  One of her biggest concerns when we first discussed moving to Boston was losing her access to it.  Fortunately, the natural world isn’t easily put off – at most, it can be organized into gardens or hidden in plain sight. Continue reading Finding Nature in the City with Your Kids

Robot mystery solved: Art – much cooler than impending robotic warfare

The mystery of the squashed robots has been solved!  Previously, here and here, I wondered what was up with robots that I’d found squashed in the intersections of Boston.

Boston's Squashed Robot: Memorial, Warning, Failed Invasion?
The first Squashed Robot in a crosswalk on Atlantic Ave. (Bonus: my shoe!)

Continue reading Robot mystery solved: Art – much cooler than impending robotic warfare

Seriously. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on with the robots.

This picture seems like a threat against the arms of all robotkind.
This picture seems like a threat against the arms of all robotkind.

In Brighton, outside a liquor store on N. Beacon St., this painting of a disarmed robot stands as either a threat to any robots who would take up arms against their human overlords or a call to arms by an underground robotic uprising guerilla group.  Previously, I had posited that a squashed robot in a crosswalk on Atlantic Avenue might be a failed alien invasion, but I think this eliminates that possibility. Continue reading Seriously. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on with the robots.

Family Identity – Making It Real

Once we’d identified the values that we hope will define us as a family and crafted them into a statement, we still needed to make it into a physical thing to serve as a permanent reminder.

Step 1: Pick a size/shape for it. I used to dabble in woodworking and had some cool pieces of lumber that I’d bought 10 years ago, but I had never figured out what I wanted to do with them.  We decided to use an enormous plank of mahogany.  You may not have an enormous plank of mahogany.  Don’t panic.  There’s a good chance you can get one if you’re willing to find a lumber yard in your area (I just googled “lumber yard boston” to check and I found one in nearby Watertown, MA that sells a decent variety of nice wood).  You could also go to a craft store and get prepared wood blanks with routed edges.  These can be as big as a piece of framed art – they’re generally sold for woodburning (the art – not the heating source).

The mahogany plank I had was rough cut, so I used a hand sander to smooth it down.  The kids got to help a bit with that (until it got boring).

Sanding down the plank
Sanding down the plank

Continue reading Family Identity – Making It Real