Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries Tagged as 'Cambridge'

Home for Christmas

December 21st, 2007 · 3 Comments

Home for Christmas

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Oh how beautiful it was to be home in Boston, as we stood in the cold waiting for a late taxi, under big flakes of snow slowly falling down through the night air.

We got home late December 20, after many delays caused by the third day of Boston snowfall this week.

And today is the shortest day of the year. I plan to enjoy some of these long winter nights sleeping off my jetlag.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Wide wonderful world

Our friend Sidney Coleman has left the planet

November 20th, 2007 · 18 Comments

It happened on Sunday, November 18, peacefully, without pain, after long illness.

To several generations of physicists, Sidney was guru, clown-prince, and zen-master. Sidney was the centerpiece of a thousand stories from the time that he was just a loud-mouthed brilliant fifteen year-old aka Squidney rampaging into Chicago’s sci-fi fan community.

There’s a lot more to say but I’m too sad to say it right now. We loved you, Sidney.

As for how Sidney would like to be remembered–this photo by Lubos Motl is simply perfect:


Tags: Cambridge · Science

And then a big voice thundered, “Let there be Red Sox”…

October 25th, 2007 · 1 Comment

We walked home yesterday…

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Go Red Sox tonight, because (according to the Boston Globe, a totally non-partisan source of news) the Heavens have SPOKEN:

“Comet Holmes, which has been orbiting quietly since its discovery in 1892, has undergone a million-fold brightness increase on October 24 — and is now visible to the naked eye (though difficult from under the lights of Fenway),” [MIT Professor of Planetary Science Richard P.] Binzel said…

Can the Red Sox’ fortunes be predicted by celestial events? Some fans may recall the lunar eclipse of Oct. 27, 2004 — the night Boston won its first World Series in 86 years. For Game 2 tonight, there may be another sign in the sky.

“There will be a full moon (but no lunar eclipse as in 2004) for tonight’s World Series game,” Binzel said.

Go, Red Sox!!! Let me add to Professor Binzel’s suggestions, and just as scientifically, that the pictured red sky in Sweden just a few days ago probably also should serve to predict your next victory!

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Science · Wide wonderful world

Missing the Igs

October 5th, 2007 · 1 Comment

2007 Ig Nobel prize trophy with plastic chicken and egg

The Boston Globe didn’t miss last night’s show but I did–this year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony over at Harvard. I helped write the slide show, even from here in Sweden, but I didn’t get to stand in the thrilling darkness of Sanders Theatre, as I did last year, clicking my handiwork on and trying not to get too distracted.

The Tech went to the Igs, but I could not. I missed the bottomless bowl of soup, the sword-swallowing doctors, the crowd chanting “Eat it!” at hesitant laureates whose Toscanini ice cream had been flavored with vanillin synthesized from cow dung.

I missed the celebration of the “Gay Bomb.”

The list of 2007 winners is already online at the Ig Nobel website, whose servers are already under heavy demand. So it’s probably a good thing the webcast will be online just a bit later.

If you’re in the Cambridge area, one big and free Ig event is still to come. On Saturday (1 p.m.) at MIT in 10-250 (that’s inside the Infinite Corridor, but still quite easy to find) will be the Ig Informal Lectures. Don’t be late, even that great big room fills up pretty fast.

And Toscanini’s is giving free samples of its new “Yum-A-Moto Vanilla Twist” ice cream today (Friday) at 899 Main St.

I missed the show this year, but next year I surely will not!

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · funny · geeky · Science · Travel

U Haul Hell Saturday (August 25, 2007)

August 27th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Waiting for a mechanic

Originally uploaded by as_much

“Do not rent from U Haul,” the young policeman told me. “They are a bad company. Believe me, you do not want to rent from them again.”

One dirty un-airconditioned 14-foot van (we had reserved a 17-foot van but they didn’t have one) was waiting for me at 282 Lynnway in Lynn, MA, 20 miles from my house. This was the truck that U Haul had “reserved” for us, taking a credit card number hostage after we reserved a truck online. As the contract made clear, they expected our bill to reflect not only the truck’s rental fee but a mileage charge for 40 miles round-trip just to get the truck to the stuff we hoped to move.

The truck had only 1/4 tank of gas in it. It clanked and clattered as I drove it away. It groaned and grumbled whenever I pushed the speed up beyond 30 mph.

It totally quit when I got just 4 miles from the place where I rented it, blocking a lane of traffic on Revere’s busy VFW Parkway. I was able to pull about 6 inches of the truck’s nose into a store’s driveway before it stopped moving entirely. I will leave you to imagine the comments of other drivers, having to maneuver around my dead truck in traffic already bumper-to-bumper on a 94 degree hot and humid Saturday.

I called 911 to ask for help getting the road clear. They said they would send me a tow truck. I then called the U Haul “emergency service” number and spent 10 fruitless minutes listening to recorded messages, asking me to procure a pencil and paper and be ready with the name of a nearby cross-street in case they ever decided to answer.

The policeman came first, with a tow truck too small for my 14 foot van. We waited some more in the heat, and a second van came. The second tow truck towed my van to Action Towing in Revere, MA. The people who work for Action Towing are great–thanks so much, Bill and others, for all your kindness. They also got me a taxi back to the U Haul office in Lynn (which did not want the truck returned to them–that’s why it was towed to Revere, MA to await a visit of somebody from “the 800 number.)

While I was enjoying the kindness of strangers in Revere and Lynn, Frank easily found a U Haul truck in Cambridge, MA–something that corporate U Haul neglected to mention when kidnapping our credit card number to “reserve” a truck that promised them 40 extra miles of mileage charge. I got back to the Lynnway, explained the situation to U Haul folks there, and drove my car home again to help with the very last of the moving.

By 8 p.m. Saturday, we had returned the 14-foot Cambridge van to the U Haul office on Main St. where we got it. By 9:30 a.m. Sunday, we started getting text messages from U Haul that their Cambridge truck had not yet been returned. Phone calls and email to U Haul about this went unanswered. Finally I drove my car down to the Cambridge office, waited in line to speak to an agent, and was reassured that the email was “just a formality” reflecting the fact that the Cambridge office had been a bit slow checking in all the vehicles returned that morning. Estimate of my time wasted on this “formality”? At least two hours.

The rest of Sunday we had a vacation from U Haul. This morning (Monday), we started getting text messages that their truck from Lynnway had not yet been returned. I called the 781 phone number from the text message–“Just a formality” they assured me. Then I got more text messages asking me to call them “urgently” about the missing Lynn truck. I called them back–still “just a formality” but maybe I should now call their 800 number. I called their 800 number and had a long (and recorded) conversation with somebody there,. I explained that they were now the third office of U Haul to get the information that their non-functioning truck was waiting at Action Towing in Revere, because somebody else at their 800 number had told Action Towing that they couldn’t pick the truck up themselves until Monday.

After 10 minutes on the phone with the 800 number, they suggested I should now call folks in Lynn and re-give them all the information that I had given them in person on Saturday when I returned there by taxi to get my car. I explained that the people in Lynn had told me that the truck was no longer any business of theirs and I needed to talk to the 800 number–to the very people who now were asking me to call the people in Lynn.

That was this morning. At 1 p.m. and then again at 5 p.m. I got more text messages from U Haul asking me what I’d done with the truck I rented in Lynn, asking me to call the 781 number. I called the 781 number again–“Just a formality” they said, so I shouldn’t worry.

I’m so glad to hear that I shouldn’t worry, aren’t you?

“U Haul?” said the young policeman. “Don’t ever rent from them. Believe me, I see a lot of things in this job. You do not ever want to rent a truck from U Haul.”

The good-old U Haul that helped us move stuff for 20+ years has been replaced by some corporate monster that I’ll never deal with again.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Editorial · Good versus Evil · Wide wonderful world

Air conditioning, 1959: The bang-windows moment

July 12th, 2007 · Comments Off on Air conditioning, 1959: The bang-windows moment

Air conditioning, 1959

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

I grew up in a (New England) world with no air conditioning. I’m not sure how grownups who spent days in offices managed on really hot days–but little kids with backyard sprinklers did just fine.

Keeping our house cool inside needed different tactics.

First, our windows were opened up wide every bedtime, on the theory outdoors would get cooler before we woke up.

Second, once sunrise arrived, grownups stayed alert for the absolute instant when air outside the house got hotter than the air inside. Bang, bang, bang, those windows got shut again!

This morning in Cambridge, MA, I’m sorry to say, that slam-windows moment came at 8:30 a.m. But at least so far I don’t need the whir of my room air-conditioner, thanks to old New England tactics from long ago.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Sister Age · Wide wonderful world

Clam chowder (aka chowda) fest this weekend!

June 28th, 2007 · Comments Off on Clam chowder (aka chowda) fest this weekend!

Boston Clam Chowder

Originally uploaded by japan-vincent

On July 1, 2007, 11,000 enthusiastic chowderheads will pay $10 a pop to sample contestants for New England’s signature dish–that hot, milky, salty, potato-ful, tomato-free, and clammy paradise known as New England clam chowder.

That and more will be going on in celebration of Fourth of July over at the big Boston Harborfest event.

I am delighted to learn that one earlier chowderfest winner is named Devine! Clam chowder recipes have gone through a big shift in the fifty-plus years I’ve been enjoying them–most notably starting in ’70s California when chefs began to add more and more thickening to the earlier just-milk-with-clam-juice-and-a-wee-tad-of-bacon broth.

My unprejudiced blogger verdict is that the clam chowders served at Legal Seafood and Jasper’s Summer Shack are way over-rated. The most delicious clam chowder in Boston, better than either of those and also much less expensive, is served at the little fast food outlets called Boston Chowda. There’s one inside “the Garage” at Harvard Square, another at Fanueil Hall.

If you go to Jasper’s or Legal, get just about anything except the clam chowder–and the chowder’s not bad, it’s just less good than Chowda’s. Both have great lobster rolls, and Jasper’s has awesome Rhode Island calamari.

One more local Boston-Cambridge-seafood-touristy note about Legal Seafood–their chain is so popular that most locations have people waiting for tables as soon as it’s mealtime. The Legal Seafood in Harvard Square (on the plaza with the Charles Hotel) is a welcome exception to this annoying rule–you can almost always get seated right away.

Hmmm, for some reason, I’m starting to feel very hungry!

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Travel · Wide wonderful world