This feed contains pages in the "cambridge" category.

I've been engaging in an experiment in shoelessness since about the beginning of September. My impetus for this was a variety of small things that built up over time:

  • Over the summer, I ran a couple miles around three times per week, and found it pretty ridiculous that even with this moderate amount of running my right knee would ache afterwards.
  • Friends of mine have been experimenting with thin-soled shoes such as Five Fingers since last winter or so.
  • This book.
  • Articles like this one, and this site among other places on the Internet.

In the end I became pretty convinced that not wearing shoes if you don't have to is just plain superior to wearing them, so I decided to give it a try.

At first I felt somewhat self-conscious going barefoot, as it's not exactly the norm around town. But after a few weeks it just felt natural. People notice, but not all that many actually say anything about it. And now walking brings the added variety of sun-warmed tile floors and dew-damp grass. Even gravel is just another interesting texture. Sharp objects have been a mythical problem that I just haven't encountered. You gain a sort of sixth-sense for not stepping on things you shouldn't step on while paying a minimum of attention.

Right now I generally cycle to campus every day in a pair of old beat-up Crocs and then leave them clipped to my bike with my helmet. Metal petals are pretty sharp on bare feet; I've been meaning to see if some modifications will make the pedals more bare foot friendly but just haven't gotten around to it yet. Plastic pedals tend to be okay, if not the most comfortable things in the world. Cycling with sandals also means that I have backup in the rare case of some belligerant shop owner (though I haven't actually ever been asked to leave a store).

For running, I settled on wearing some FiveFingers KSOs. I tried going actually barefoot a couple times, but found running on city surfaces, even by the Charles River, to be extremely abrasive. Perhaps I am just not hardcore enough! The FiveFingers were a bit uncomfortable at first--my smallest toes tended to hurt while wearing them, and the tip of my second-longest left toe got a minor blister the first time I wore them. After wearing them four or five times, though, those problems went away and I'm pretty pleased with them overall. Running is fun again, and I no longer fear that every time I go out I'm harming my knees.

In the beginning, I tried really hard to have a proper barefoot gait, without a hard heel landing. For a while this meant I was actually trying to land on the ball of my foot, which I don't think was the right thing. What feels right and comfortable for me now is a nearly flat-footed landing with a soft heel strike that rolls into the rest of the stride. But I don't really think about it at all; I just move forward and it works itself out.

The next challenge will be figuring out the best way to tackle getting around when it gets cold out. But I'll burn that bridge when what I'm doing now gets uncomfortable.

Posted Wed 15 Oct 2008 10:11:00 PM UTC Tags: tags/cambridge

There's a black moose filled with stars on a purple fence on Brookline street, but I'm only going slow enough to notice it when I'm going out of town. Waving goodbye.

Posted Sat 11 Oct 2008 01:33:00 AM UTC Tags: tags/cambridge

I live in a cooperative living group, and during the fall semester a person who we'd invited to live with us who is a dwarf and relies on a scooter for most of his transportation decided he'd like to move in. Unfortunately, while he can get out of his scooter and come inside by himself, we had no stepless entrances such that he could bring his scooter inside to protect it from the angry Cambridge winter. Mmm, frozen batteries.

So, we're a coop and we maintain the house ourselves--so we decided to build one, of course. A ramp up to the back porch! Nevermind the fact that we need to sink four-foot foundation holes in the ground in January.

We got started right away at the beginning of IAP, while people were still trickling back into town from all over the country.

First we surveyed out where the posts should be sunk:

Then it was time for excavating the holes where concrete would eventually be poured. This involved a power auger of DOOM:

It's advertised as a 2-man tool. Two 200-pound construction workers, that is. We had to put four people on it plus one person with a shovel clearing dirt to make it manageable, and even then it was a pain. There's a delicate rhythm you have to get into to avoid getting the bit stuck--DOWN. UP. CLEAR. And inevitably there are rocks and roots that have to be dealt with.

We lucked out with a fairly warm weekend to do the digging on, but on the first day we still had to deal with a couple inches of frozen ground:

There was also some fun stuff involving having to clear away our (frozen) mulch containers and use a concrete cutter on a weird old concrete pathway that used to run through the same area:

Next we mixed and poured concrete:

And placed hardware in the concrete to hold the posts:


Eventually it became functional, woo:

And done! (except for metal handrail):

This all took place over the course of about three weeks. And now our scooter-bound housemate can bring his wheels inside! The house still isn't totally accessible to wheelchairs/scooters, but at least the first floor is. It really brings me pride to see things like this go from start to finish here. We can do it! This guy who is moving in has really influenced my life--he's really good at making people feel comfortable talking to him, and for me it's gone from "wow this is awkward, I have no idea what to say" to "talking to a person with different physical abilities and characteristics seems normal". And that's made me a better person.

Posted Tue 29 Jan 2008 09:53:00 PM UTC Tags: tags/cambridge

The Real Cambridge is quite a lot different from the US Cambridge. There are vast stretches of green grass everywhere. People drive little brightly-coloured Volkswagons on the wrong side of the street, and in some places one can be walking down the middle of the street and not realize that vehicle traffic can go there too until a car creeps up behind you, trying to get through. Everywhere that's not explicitly marked "no cycles" (the colleges, historic important buildings, etc.) features dozens of locked up, often step over-framed commuter bikes, decorated with panniers and front baskets.

I still find it vaguely nerve-wracking being in a British vehicle, since I'm always expecting cars traveling in the opposite direction to come wheeling towards me. But I have yet to step off the curb and almost get hit by a double-decker bus because I looked in the wrong direction before starting across.

The Cam River is frankly quite puny. Walking alongside it you can witness such events as crew boats nearly crashing into tour boats, and apparently a sort of crew racing called "knocking" is often used because of the river's narrowness. It's also not very deep, as can be proven by the periodic punt hires along its shores. And here punting is not to procrastinate (very much an MIT-ism) but to propel a punt , which is a flat-bottomed boat with square ends, by pushing a pole against the bottom of the river.

It's difficult to go six hours without being offered a cup of tea, especially if one is visiting many different people. And I have no idea how people can manage to get drunk off of beer, because a pint is quite enough to fill my stomach and leave no room left for more. So much liquid! And the prices of everything here are just about the same as in the US--except in pounds sterling, not dollars. Which means things really cost twice as much. But since the only things I really need to buy are food, drink, and miscellaneous (like anti-death-by-hay-fever-histamine), things will work out alright.

Things have been awesome so far, and the local free software-Debian-Ubuntu-GNOME crowd has made me feel right at home. Maybe someday I will actually swap Cambridges for a while. I've gotten to see a bit of Cambridge University here too. Since Hanna's (really awesome) dad is a fellow of King's College, we got to go in and look around even though it's exam season and the general public isn't allowed in -- there's always a person in funny academic robes standing at the gate and shooing away tourists. Right through the gates there is a large, pristine mowed lawn. It's in such a condition because no one is allowed to walk on it -- unless they're a fellow of the college. Flaunt that. Her dad also supervises the Cambridge end of CME, so we crashed an end-of-the-year garden party for that this past afternoon.

And Saturday it's off to Scotland, which should be just as awesome! And with more people and more Debian! I'm excited.

Posted Wed 13 Jun 2007 08:40:16 PM UTC Tags: tags/cambridge

Made it to the "real" Cambridge in one piece. I'm currently in Dafydd Harries and Matthew Garrett's living room.

Last night when we were all sitting around hacking and drinking tea, there were four X-series Thinkpads and four people at the table. Clearly these must be smart people.

Posted Tue 12 Jun 2007 04:02:36 AM UTC Tags: tags/cambridge

Sailboats on the Charles River

Posted Fri 03 Nov 2006 07:22:33 PM UTC Tags: tags/cambridge

So I went from this:

Suburban Upstate New York

To this:

Urban Cambridge Massachusetts

It's not called the Halfway House for nothing.

The Halfway House

It's been just a couple days over two weeks, and I'm doing awesome. Loving every minute, or close to it. I love the freedom of being out on my own, love having my own schedule, love dealing with getting my own food, even don't mind doing my own laundry. Not to say I don't love my friends and family too. But still.

Unpacking was fun. Apparently the person I'm subletting from played a tap-dancing stormtrooper in a student-written Star Wars musical. And there were... fun things left in the closet. And I couldn't resist, if just a little.


It was beautiful for the first couple days of being down here, but lately it's been not as good - muggy, hazy, too hot, etc. Though today was better than the last couple. Here's Boston from Cambridge, two weeks ago:

A Beautiful Day in Cambridge

My house isn't air-conditioned, but the Media Lab is -- so it works out okay since I spend the middle part of my day there anyhow. I've been thinking about getting a window AC unit, but the trouble with relying solely on bike, public transport, and foot to get around is that it's a pain in the ass to move around large objects.

I love the Debian scene down here too. There are some great people, and since the rest of my college class doesn't arrive until August, I've mostly been hanging out with them. There's this bizarre feeling of connection with other Debian people. Not to mention I'd already met some of them when I was down in April.

Last Friday I went out and biked around Boston with Boston's Critical Mass. It was pretty exhilarating and fun. (This is before; I didn't really feel like biking and taking pictures at the same time.)

Before Critical Mass Boston

And afterward there was an Acetarium sushi party which involved meeting Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier, who writes for Newsforge/

Yesterday I went out to visit the Boston Harbor Islands with Mako and Mika (nobody else showed up -- too early or something).

Mika, Mako, and Me in Boston Harbor

They were pretty damn nice, if I don't say so myself. The weather held up as decent, and although the ferry out from Boston costs money, the inter-island shuttle is free for moochers who want to cruise from island to island around the harbor. The islands weren't even that crowded, which was surprising considering their proximity to Boston and abundance of pretty nice beaches.

Of course, come August it will probably become impossible for me to hang out with Debian people 5/7 days a week. So, gotta stock up... y'know, before they kick me out and stop feeding me awesome vegetarian food...

Posted Wed 05 Jul 2006 11:38:26 PM UTC Tags: tags/cambridge

Kryptonite bike lock

Now that's a bike lock and a half. <ticks off on checklist>

Posted Sun 21 May 2006 11:03:08 AM UTC Tags: tags/cambridge