Final days

Yesterday, Sunday, was brunch day at Chatauqua, or however it’s spelled. My brother and I drove there and did some walking and eating. The food was excellent, though not cheap, and the scenery was great. That evening we went to Jeff’s friends’ house for Game Night, a weekly event consisting of card and board games, dinner included (pizza).

Today we went to see Batman Begins. The movie was only playing in Denver, and the theater that was showing it turned out to be showing it in IMAX. We went to Costco for lunch and also bought discount movie tickets ($7 each). We arrived a little bit late at the theater and there were no previews, so I missed the beginning, but I was floored by the quality of the movie. Its only real flaw is how much better it is than subsequent Batman movies: it’s incongruous. Those seemed like comic-book adaptations; this one is a real epic. I have only one complaint, with the final inevitable “but I cannot love you” speech, which really doesn’t make sense to me as written.

I’ve set my alarm for 5:30 AM, so it’s definitely bedtime. Good night.

Heights

Yesterday I met Robin, my brother’s girlfriend. She’s awesome, particularly because her primary marketable ability is making stuff happen. She is so good at making stuff happen that people fly her all around the country to make stuff happen for them. Especially in hospitals.

Once we’d picked up Robin in Jeff’s Jeep we started out toward Garden of the Gods and Pike’s Peak. Garden of the Gods is basically just a bunch of enormous vertical rocks sticking out of the ground. It’s pretty spectacular and, since the sedimentary layers are almost exactly vertical, geologically bizarre. I had visited three years ago with my MIT pre-orientation program, but I’ve forgotten all the cool geological explanations they gave, and there was none at the park, so I was forced to simply take take the rocks at face value.

Pike’s Peak was perhaps an hour’s drive away, and to get in we had to pay $40 to bring the car into the park. From there it was a ~38 mile drive to the top. The drive is quite steep, with the last 19 miles covering about a vertical mile. That’s steep enough that we spent most of our time in first gear. The road up has no guardrails, and presents some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. Just as we approached the top the first gear began to act up, and the engine stalled. We managed to make it up, but starting the engine was not easy.

The top of Pike’s Peak is over 14,000 feet above sea level, and contains about half as much oxygen as sea-level air, so I was surprised that I didn’t feel more out of breath. We wandered around the paths at the peak, looking down over the plains miles below, watching lightning storms and rainbows. As a test, and on an errand, I ran to and from the car, and felt mild headache and slow recovery, but nothing extreme. It was only as we descended that my head began to hurt. It grew worse as we descended, probably from a combination of altitude sickness and dehydration (water evaporates faster at lower air pressure), so that I was feeling pretty ill by the time we got home. I couldn’t get to sleep, because my head hurt whenever I lied down. I eventually gave up, went upstairs, and ate three slices of my mother’s delicious banana bread with peanut butter. As I hadn’t eaten since 2 PM, this was very satisfying, and my headache went away. I have gotten low-blood-sugar headaches before, which makes me wonder if that was not also a contributing factor.

I woke up this morning with a twinge of headache left, but nothing to stop me from joining my family for a trip to Chautaqua, a place that still confuses me. It appears to be public land, named after a native-american-inspired movement from upstate New York, on which there is a restaurant that is famous and popular for its brunch. There are also a number of homes that can be leased by private individuals, though I don’t know who owns them. The park is contiguous with more public “open space”, on which there are several hiking trails. Since the Jeep was broken (we’d driven home in second gear), we arrived in Jeff’s 1988 Porsche 911.

After placing a reservation at the restaurant, the three of us started off on the Flatiron trail, so named because of three huge sheer cliff faces so flat that they resembled clothing irons. We had 45 minutes before our name would be called, but neither Jeff nor Mom seemed to want to turn around, and we ended taking an hour and 45 minutes in total. We placed a new reservation, and shortly afterward discovered that brunch is only served on Sundays anyway. In the end, we cancelled our reservation and made lunch at home.

My mother is flying out tomorrow morning, but I am staying until Tuesday.

Mountained!

This morning was lazy, and then Jeff’s new computer parts came and we spent a few hours assembling it (we’re not done). In the afternoon we finally worked up the motivation to go do something and drove off to Rocky Mountain National Park, or something like that. We couldn’t find the pass to get into the pay-access area of the park, and ended up hiking a trail called the Twin Sisters. It was a lovely ~5-mile hike, in total. We spent the entire hike talking non-stop, mostly me and Jeff on the way up, and Mom on the way down. It was a fun family event. My feet kinda hurt now, but not much.

Happenings

A great deal has happened since my last post, but a few technical difficulties have made it somewhat harder for me to write about them until now.

On Saturday morning I was picked up by my uncle Bob, whose family was going to drive past my house on the way to visit their relatives. I had a fun car ride, entertaining my 6-year-old cousin for the three hours between Boston and Westport. Once I got home we left almost immediately for the boat, where we had an enjoyable sail with some family friends. That evening we went out for dinner in celebration of my friend Paul’s birthday, which had actually been eight days prior.

Sunday and Monday were largely spent arranging the details of a visit to my brother in Colorado, which remained in limbo due to scheduling problems until 15 minutes before departure. As soon as the airline bureaucracy managed to get us our tickets we sprinted through security and onto the plane, only to be delayed for three hours on the tarmac due to weather conditions. Luckily, we were rescheduled onto a new connecting flight and were able to contact my brother, so there were no further complications.

Yesterday we had lunch with friends of Jeff and visited the Celestial Seasonings tea factory. It was kind of unremarkable, except for the incredibly animated and super-cheerful tour guide. I cannot imagine how anyone manages to put on such a happybouncy face for 40 hours a week all summer. Naturally, my mother bought an enormous quantity of bargain-bin tea.

Location

So, I was being slightly disingenuous/misinformed when I said that I would be living at Student House this year. I couldn’t say that officially until I got, and accepted, a bid, and I could get a bid until I’d gone out with them on a rush event.

The rush event they created for myself and a few other rushees was a trip, Wednesday night, to a nearby restaurant called “Noodle St”. Noodle St is a mostly-asian noodle restaurant, with a menu based on mix-and-match combination of many types of noodles, sauces, meats, and toppings. There must be several thousand combinations. I had something vaguely resembling ramen noodles soaked in tomato sauce with beef and vegetables, and fried ice cream for dessert. It was all very tasty.

Yesterday I got a bid, so I can now officially say that I will be living at Student House.

Still no news from the car people. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected any, seeing as I only ordered it three weeks ago, but it feels like longer than that.

PB

Someone stole my peanut butter. This angers me. It’s not like they took some peanut butter from my jar without asking; no, someone removed my jar of peanut butter from the fridge and it is now gone.

The problem is not collectivism or individualism. The problem when you’re trying to do one and everyone else tries to do the other to you instead.

Mobility

So, my bicycle is broken. As I was rolling it back from the shop, where they guessed that the rear axle was broken, it seized so completely that I half-dragged it home. I’m within easy walking distance of work, but lacking a bicycle does put a damper on my plans to go to the MIT gym more frequently to use the rowing machines.

Instead, last night I went out for a run on the 3 mile loop that goes by AEPi. It’s the same loop that I have to run about once a week for crew during the fall, but this time I was running at night. The air had cooled off to a bearable temperature, and the haze above the city glowed with light from Fenway park. It was beautiful.

Dead HD

I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this, but in May my external HD began to fail. It lost an entire directory’s worth of data, and the disk-recovery tool would crash when I tried to run it. The problem may have been caused by a power outage while writing to the disk; I can’t say for sure.

Well, I just managed to make the recovery tool stop crashing, and it appears to have cleared the contents of the drive. That’s not a big deal, since I was mostly using that drive as a backup in case my main one failed, but I did lose some things. Most of my creative output from the first year-and-a-half of college was on there. It wasn’t important stuff, but it did have some nostalgia value.

Changes

So, I’m not going to be living at the grad dorm, Ashdown.

The other place I was seriously considering living is Student House, an Independent Living Group in Boston amidst the fraternities and BU dorms. I’ve lived at a few other student brownstones before, and visited a whole lot of them, and I consistently got the impression that they were once beautiful but have essentially been wrecked. When I walked into Student House last night my first impression was “so this is what they’re supposed to look like!”.

Student House is beautiful inside, probably because, as far as anyone can remember, it was never a fraternity. There are friezes on at least one wall and mock frosted skylights. There are detailed columns everywhere. The people are friendly and actually interested in academics. There is space to study, relax, eat, and play. The students keep the house up themselves, and cook together six nights a week.

So I’m going to be living at Student House.

No title necessary

My bicycle started breaking on Sunday, probably due to the fact that I’d ridden it about 17 miles on Saturday. I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with it, so I’ve been getting everywhere I needed to go for the past few days by walking or running. I finally got around to taking a look at it tonight, and I think it’s going to take a lot more than grease to fix. There’s something pretty bent-looking in the rear axle assembly. I may give in and have my parents bring up my good bicycle, even though that one is much more likely to be stolen.

Last night I graded papers for RSI, which was a nice way of getting in touch with a bunch of old friends. I wish I could’ve stayed ’til the end, when everyone gets to argue, but I had to leave early to wake up for work. I got to spend some more time on the scanner today, just messing around, and it sounds like I’ll be scanning volunteers in relatively short order, which is to say in the next few months. So work was fun. Then this evening I played ultimate frisbee with a bunch of the fraternity guys out on the esplanade, next to the Charles River. I mostly lost, but it was good fun anyway.

I’ve just been given a very interesting offer by the housing department: I can live on campus in a grad dorm, Ashdown. Ashdown is possibly the oldest building on the MIT campus, and almost certainly the most beautiful. It’s a grad dorm, which means it’s a lot quieter than most undergrad dorms, but also much more beautiful. It’s all doubles. It’s on the corner of Memorial Drive and Mass. Ave., which makes it as close as possible to just about everything. The only question is: would I rather live in a quiet but clean, beautiful, convenient building, or would I rather live a mile or more away in an old run-down house run by kids who make noise all night. I have a week to decide, but I think I may be able to answer sooner than that…