Marathon Monday

I was biking to work when I realized that I had no plan for crossing the marathon route. My bicycle commute crosses Beacon St. halfway between Coolidge Corner and Kenmore Square, right across the annual marathon path. I remembered living in Kenmore Square in college, watching the marathoners run through from behind metal barricades and wonder how one could ever get across.

At Beacon St. this morning there were pedestrians set up next to the track, but no runners in sight. I crossed without dismounting, and the police didn’t give me a second glance. I must have been just early enough.

On the way home there was no sign of it at all.


I went to the BarCamp unconference today. It was pretty fun, mostly because of the chance to meet in person people to whom I’ve been talking for a while online. Like at any good BarCamp, there were amateurish presentations, discussions about world peace, a bit of hacking here and there, and hatching of grand plans for imagined tech startups.

Business Cards

For the first time in my life, I have my own business cards! I ordered them from the Harvard Printing Office, who turn out to be great people, even if they have an awful website. I picked them up this morning at the labyrinthine warehouse, 219 Western Ave.

They came out exactly the way I wanted, and I got 300 for just $25. Just for fun, the guy who makes them threw in a custom-printed pad of business-card size Harvard stationery, with the university shield.

Thanks Mom!

Conference up

My participation in scientific conferences seems to be a very gradual ramp-up. First in January there was a pseudo-conference with mostly working sessions and very little in the way of presenting finished results. Then in March I presented a poster at the Biophysics recruiting weekend, which had an informal poster session just to show the prospective students what sort of stuff we do.

Yesterday I presented my poster at the Ultrasonics Industry Association Conference, which was a real conference in a hotel, but small (maybe 80 people?) and as much about industrial uses of ultrasound as medical applications. The poster presentation was just a half-day affair.

My first full-scale conference is coming up real soon though. ISMRM, in two weeks, typically has about 5000 attendees.


This evening the Sugar Labs Oversight Board held an open dinner-meeting in Cambridge. After dinner, we went back to 1CC for some more civilized discussion in a quieter venue.

It was supposed to be a contentious meeting, something about trademark policies, but we quickly found a rough consensus, which I’m sure someone will document somewhere. No decisions were made, except about beer.

It was a pleasantly direct and calm event. There were very few of the endless circles to which I’ve become accustomed at these sorts of meetings.

Concert report

Last night’s concert came out pretty well. Success, I think, would be an appropriate term. I was responsible for borrowing and wiring up the sound equipment, which more or less worked. We were decently amplified for the space, and the mic feed was at least theoretically recorded. Unfortunately, due to an unfortunate bit of structural aerodynamics, our background microphone pair, virtually in the middle of the room, turned out to be directly in the path of a ventilation stream. This produced a constant whoosh and occasional rumble in the recording. It probably would have sounded better if we’d had some fuzzy clown-nose things to cover them.

Vacuum Fried

Imagine the taste of a slice of fried plantain, the sweet kind, maybe even garnished with a brown sugar syrup. Now imagine the texture of a potato chip, the perfect crunch, and then the chew. What if you could have them both together.

You can.

This week I bought a bag of Trader Joe’s Vacuum-Fried Banana Chips. Vacuum-Fried. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds space age. The packaging, a uniform packet of mysterious plastimetal, only confirms it’s 21st century (22nd century? 25th century? Buck Rogers?) origins. The nutrition label confirms their reduced fat claims, and the ingredients are two: Bananas and Palm Oil.

I eat a lot of bananas as is, so I don’t need them in crispy vacuum-fried form, but were I an astronaut this would surely be my preferred preserved fruit.

VoiceLab Concerts

VoiceLab has two concerts this semester. The first is this Saturday, April 10th at 7 PM in Lehman Hall at Harvard. This is our “medium size” concert, with about 12 songs. Some of those songs are still … under development.

The second concert is on Saturday, May 8th. This is our “full size” concert. I’m expecting 17 songs, including one of my own arrangement. I will also have just stepped off the plane from Stockholm, and so may be in a bit of an odd state.

If you can’t come to either of those, or want a smaller taste of VoiceLab, we’ll also be singing at Harvard ArtsFirst (a performance art festival) on Saturday, May 1st. This should be a very small performance, maybe 5 songs.

Forest Hills

I know I’m a bit out of order, but …
The weather Saturday was as gorgeous as expected. Seven of us took advantage of it, in the form of an afternoon picnic. We first biked to the Harvard Arboretum, south of the city. The top of Peter’s Hill there has a very nice view of miles of treetops out to the skyline.

From Peter’s Hill we continued onward to our true destination: Forest Hills Cemetery. Forest Hills is designed to be both a burying place and a public park. Bicycles and picnickers are welcome. We set up shop by a stone outcropping, next to a gothic mausoleum from 1848, and ate lunch well into the late afternoon.


Last night a friend held a seder, and it might just have been the best I’ve ever attended. The crowd was maybe one third Jews, and also majority vegetarian. The seder plate held a Paschal Yam. We used The Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah, which I give high marks. The text is thoughtful, with appropriate poems interspersed, and a mix of influences from many cultures. Most of the prayers have been reworded to say “adonai eloheinu ruach ha-olam”: “lord our God, life-spirit of the world”, which I find quite tasteful.

The readers had a tendency to replace “slave” in the text with “wage slave”, to reflect a belief that both the biblical text and archaeology indicate something more complex than simple enslavement of the Jews in Egypt. (This became increasingly unnecessary as the text moved to address the ambiguity explicitly.)

It was a great crowd, with at least the eldest three of the Four Children well-represented. Particularly wise were our leader, who plowed through the Hebrew with ease, and one guest who arrived with a well-tuned guitar. We sang and ate past the night and into the morning.