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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boston, MA

We drove to Boston on Sunday. It was a long drive, but I was glad to have such an astute navigator as my wife (with the aid of Samantha, the TomTom). The drive was pretty much a straight shot down, just stopping long enough for lunch and to trade in some clothes M had purchased in Florida.

Boston has been cold and wet. Not maybe as cold as SJ frequently is, but the wetness makes it feel that much colder. It has rained pretty much since we arrived until now, and doesn't look to cease before we drive away in about 5 hours.

We are staying at the Liberty Hotel, which is inbetween the West End and Beacon Hill areas of the city. It was, up until the '90s a prison. Now it is trying to be an up-scale hotel in the area. And by upscale I primarily mean that it has all the prices of a ritzy place and little of the true amenities.

Our windows, for example, are not double-paned or sound proof, so the traffic on the massive "circle" outside, plus the external subway across the street, and the emergency traffic to the main hospital that shares the block (we can see it out our window) is very noisy. I'm talking turn up the volume pretty loud on the TV in the room annoying, not hard to get asleep annoying. At night, when the city in general shuts down, the noise is even worse, especially the ambulances and trains. And we are on the eleventh floor; I can only imagine how bad it is for those on lower floors.

Another example would be the amenities. The bed is uncomfortable, the room doesn't have enough drawers to unpack into, there aren't enough cubbies and hooks for towels (plus the towels themselves are the cheapes Motel 6 type of towels), and the shower door leaks in one area because they didn't finish adding water sealers to that edge of the glass.

There are two saving graces to the hotel: the people who work here and its location. Each person we have had cause to speak with has been open, helpful, and it has truly seemed like it was their pleasure to serve us. The hotel has the red line subway entrance literally across the street, and if you are a bit more mobile than I am when it comes to walking, the Commons, Government Center, Financial District, Freedom Trail, Black Heritage Trail, Chinatown, and Museum of Science are easily accessible from this location. We can see the Charles River from our hotel room window.

The problem with this is that, with the arthritis in my feet, I'm just not made for much walking. The subway was quite helpful to allow us to go visit the Aquarium and Faneuil Hall/Market yesterday, although it took M and me a bit to figure out how to do that (she picked it up much faster than I did).

The Aquarium was nice, but having frequented the Long Beach, been to the Monterey, and enjoyed the Baltimore Aquariums, this one fell short. First off, no otters. That is an entire grade reduction there. While the penguins were a treat for M, I just don't have warm and fuzzies for the creatures. The tank with the huge sea turtle, nurse shark, and stingrays was nice, and many of the exhibits were interesting. The seals outside were big and playful and almost made up for the lack of otters, but it was still cold and rainy and we couldn't stay out there long.

I managed to slog my way to the Museum of Science today (1/2 mile each way through pouring cold rain... should have taken a damn taxi and stayed dry). It was good, and a ton of very educational exhibits and displays. I managed to arrive just as three to four different schools worth of children were arriving, however. So I had to fight my way salmon-like against the currents of junior high and younger children running and screaming everywhere. I'm sure my nephew Jack would love the place though.

So, today is check out day. I have to take our luggage down at 3 pm and check us out, then wait for two hours while M finishes up her meetings. Then it is a drive up to NH to our hotel there, dinner with ASA people, and then a tour of the ASA headquarters tomorrow. After that, it is drive to shopping, drive to more shopping, and drive to some more shopping, stop in Calais for mail, border crossing, and home. Looking forward to home at this point.

All in all, Boston would be a great place for us to visit on vacation, where we could take some days together to visit the many museums, trails, and other places worth seeing. Two days (and only really half of one day with my wife) to visit isn't nearly enough time. We'll add it to the places to return to list.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some Thoughts

1. I don't get the current attitude in education reform where they are firing tenured teachers (and, in one case, an entire district worth of teachers) for student's bad test scores. I wish we could use the same philosophy in government or the business worlds: I didn't succeed, therefore it is my manager/VP/CEO's fault, and he/she should be fired. Let's try going back to a) allowing students to fail and b) making it the children's fault when they don't succeed, unless you have proof that a teacher is not doing his/her job or is actively working against a student's success.

Damn near every teacher I know tries hard to educate, spends much of their own money, spends many extra hours grading and tutoring, and will bend over backward to help their students. They get paid shit wages for doing one of the most important jobs in any nation.

Too many students I know or have seen do not want to be educated, want to have good grades handed to them for little to no work, think adequate quality should be graded like excellent quality, and have parents who will believe their lies and try to force the teacher through browbeating and threats of lawsuits and false accusations to give their children the grades they "deserve" (which is ironic, because nearly every time the student IS getting the grade he/she deserves).

2. Last decade, the Republicans created the term "nuclear option" to refer to their desire to eliminate the filibuster in Congress. The Republicans have been responsible for 14 of the last 19 uses of reconciliation. In this decade, the Republicans are changing the use of the term "nuclear option" to refer instead to reconciliation and are claiming it is this evil thing that Democrats want to use to subvert the American people. And the filibuster is now the Republicans best friend and an often-used tactic now that they no longer have control of Congress.

How is it that the majority of Americans in general, and Republicans in particular, are not calling the representatives on these lies? Why was the filibuster something to be done away with and was a nuisance to politics when they had control of Congress, but now that they do not have control, it is their God-given right and they are using it more than at any other time in the history of the government? How is it they have used reconciliation to get a vast majority of big projects pushed through (including, ironically, at least two large health care related bills (ever hear of COBRA? Passed by Republicans using reconciliation)), but now that the shoe is on the other foot and the Dems want to use it to do the exact same thing, the Repubs think it is EVIL?

3. What is up with so many people being at the car wash at 11 am on a Thursday? Isn't it still a work day for most people??

4. I'm thinking the worst of winter is over this year. After the hellacious one last year, that is kind of nice. We have two ranks plus nearly half a rank of wood left as of today. Last winter, we were worried about running out of wood and only had about half a rank left when we stopped having fires. Will make next season's expenditure less, for sure.

5. Looking forward to my first trip to Boston later this month. Only a few days, but since I've never been, it should be fun.