One of the classic lines from Total Recall occurred in the beginning of the movie, when Arnold’s brainwashed character, Doug Quaid, receives a message from himself, “Get your ass to Mars… get your ass to Mars… get your…” It wasn’t quite the same as I boarded the plane to Boston this week, but I was thinking to myself, “Get your ass to Boston… get your ass to Boston.” Thursday was spent flying across the country, Friday working, and Saturday exploring a familiar university and a big city.
Flying to Boston
My flight to Boston from San Jose was early in the morning; I left the office around 11:30 pm and had decided to go all the way without sleep till my plane flight. I loaded up on Mountain Dew, the drink of programmer’s worldwide, and headed up to the City, where I spent a few hours at Eric’s place checking out camera equipment. I saw the video that he took in the Castro on Halloween; that sure looked like fun, and I’m going to have to come up with a killer costume next year to bring to that event.
There was only one person sitting with me in the aisle seat, meaning the middle seat was empty; that’s always a good thing, since airplane seats, if you’re not sitting in business or first class, tend to be cramped and uncomfortable. The story behind this guy was more interesting. Before the flight, he was speaking to someone on his cellphone and ended his conversation with, “Je t’aime.” Later, I noticed that he had a book on learning French. Turns out his new wife was French and he was endeavoring to pick it up. I told him that I spoke French as well and offered to help him practice, but he really didn’t reply to me. About a third of the way through the flight, the guys picks up his book, tape player, and headset and walks to the back of the plane! Guess he didn’t want to practice with me! He returned near the end of the flight, pulled out his Palm IIIxe and tried to connect to the Internet using those airplane telephones on the back of the seats. It didn’t work, and as he stuffed his Palm back into its carrying case, he muttered a quiet curse to himself.
I took the pictures to the right with my D30 through the double-walled windows of the airplane. With a little color correction and contrast adjustment, the images turned out pretty well. I gave a call to my co-worker, Jon, who had taken the flight to Boston from San Francisco.
Starbucks and Dinner
After arriving at the hotel and unpacking, Jon and I decided to head on over to Starbucks while we waited for Jon’s friend, Sean, to give us a call. Over the past few years, Starbucks has quietly invaded the public consciousness, much like McDonalds and Nike. Now, everyone knows about Starbucks, and everywhere you turn, that logo is right in front of your face.
Sean met up with us shortly after we got back to the hotel from Starbucks. We took a walk along the waterfront and ate at a seafood restaurant near Kendall Station. When I saw people smoking in the restaurant, I knew that I wasn’t in California anymore; the food, drink, and conversation was good, as we talked shop about handheld computers and business school.
After Work: Dancing
Friday morning through early evening was filled with work. When night rolled around, I decided to check out the Boston clubbing scene. My friend Clara and co-worker Dave suggested that I go to Pravda 116, located on 116 Boylston Street in Boston. I had only brought one pair of pants with me, a linen and cotton combination, which I knew that it wouldn’t last through the evening and still be comfortable the next day. So, I went over to the mall next door and purchased a pair of khaki flat front pants from Structure, one of my favorite stores to shop in.
Tu parles Français?
I got into a cab from the hotel and started to make my way across the river to 116 Boylston. The radio crackled this conversation in a language which sounded like and didn’t sound like French. I was almost convinced that it was some strange version of Portuguese until I heard an unmistakably French phrase French; I leaned forward and asked the cab driver, “Tu parles Français?” He said that he did indeed, and we ended up having a nice conversation in French; turns out we were listening to Creole French, which became more intelligible as the drive went on! As I got out of the cab, we said our goodbyes in French and like that, both of us disappeared back into the night, he to the next customer and me to the clubs.
Tripping and Dancing
I arrived at Pravda shortly before 10:00 pm. The bouncer at the door, John, was new to the area himself, so he couldn’t recommend any other clubs to go to later that evening. I walked around the block to check out other interesting places before heading back into Pravda. The dance floor was fairly spacious, yet at this early in the evening, no one was dancing to the rhythm of the quiet music. I headed over to the bar and ordered for myself a midori sour and a glass of water. They didn’t have a blender, so I had to settle for the drink on the rocks. I walked back to the dance floor with the intention of sitting down in one of the comfy sofas. I didn’t notice there was a step separating the dance floor from the sofa as I approached the table and sofa to sit down. Oops! Smack! I tripped completely onto my face, knocking the table over, with the drinks flying onto the sofa and onto the ground. There was one group of people sitting across from me who, if they saw it, must have started laughing uncontrollably! Embarrassed myself, but trying to laugh it off, I went back to the bartender, Sean, who chuckled after hearing my story and poured me another glass. When I returned, I went to the other side of the dance floor and made sure to step over the step before sitting down. When a group of four arrived at the site of my clumsiness, they noticed the wet sofa but sat down there nevertheless.
You have to be able to laugh at yourself when things like this happens. Brush yourself off and move on; sure it was embarassing, but, in the long run, who’s going to remember the event but you? That’s also my mindset when I get onto the dance floor — enjoy yourself in the moment. Throughout the evening, I danced and danced and danced, be it in Pravda or Envy, another club nearby. There were a few women that I danced with, but no one really caught my interest or could keep up with my frenetic pace. There were two exceptions, however. There was this one African American guy at Envy who was dancing up a storm; at one point, he came up to me and said that I had good beat, to which I replied that, no, he was “da man.” There was also this young lady at Envy who had game that night too; flexibility is key in dancing, and she had it in spades. It’s always great to see people having a good time on the dance floor, instead of being silent participants along the wall. But hey, if that’s what you like, more power to you!
I left the club scene a little early Friday evening, since I wanted to get an early start on my upcoming photo shoot day on Saturday. I took another cab ride back to the hotel and quickly collapsed in bed.
Harvard University and Boston
I woke up in the morning, around 7:45 am, and promptly went back to sleep until 9:00 am or so. There’s something about sleeping in on the weekends which is so very delicious. After getting dressed and packing up my backpack full of my clothes and equipment, I headed down to the Kendall T Station. Using the subway system brought back fond memories of my time in Paris. My agenda for the day was to explore and investigate the Harvard campus, and to visit some places that I had been before in the past.
Au Bon Pain
Once I arrived at Harvard Square, I decided to get breakfast at the favorite tourist, student, and local trap, Au Bon Pain. They didn’t have blueberry scones, and they initially made me a frozen mocha blast instead of a hot mocha with whipped cream. Once I got my order settled, I sat down outside, next to a row of tables inscribed with chess boards. There, as I ate my cinnamon scone and sipped my mocha, I watched scores of people playing chess with one another.
At one point, a guy walked up to the “Russian Chess Expert” and started playing chess. He had on a LavaStorm hat. Curiously enough, on my last trip to Boston, I met another LavaStorm employee there. This new person did indeed work for LavaStorm, but he didn’t know the guy I met a few weeks prior.
I took a number of photos sitting in my metal chair at Au Bon Pain. I’m really starting to like taking pictures of everyday, normal life. With the D30, there are a lot of creative things that I can do that I couldn’t do previously with the S100 or ePhoto 1680.
I remember as a junior in high school going to the East Coast and marveling at the universities such as Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. Now this is what college always looks like in my mind, ivy-covered buildings, cobblestone roads, and four seasons. When I went to Stanford, college didn’t seem anything like I expected it to be. I wonder what it would have been like had I gone back East to University. I won’t know what the undergraduate experience is like, but there’s always graduate school!
I made sure to stop by Dunster House, where I spent a short week during the summer of 1996 with my friend Edwin, who was studying at Harvard for the summer then. I also stopped by Quincy House, where a relative of mine once lived in many years ago. It still looks the same as I remember; guess Harvard doesn’t have as extensive a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) as Stanford does. You know what they say about Harvard, that it’s the Stanford of the East, right?!?
I went along to the Charles River, where I saw this beautiful young lady painting the bridge joining Boston and Cambridge. She was a graduate student in architecture at Harvard, and her painting was remarkably well-done. And, if you look carefully in the picture of her below, you’ll notice she has a cup of Starbucks’ coffee! I also did some comparison shots of the Charles River and bridge using the D30 and the S100. The result is not suprising, the D30 blows the S100 away in all facets except for ease of portability. I saw one Asian tourist in Boston Saturday using an S100. In fact, there were many camera-toting people this fine day, and I wonder how many of them were tourists to Boston and how many were locals.
Museum of Natual History
I spent a little over an hour in the Harvard Museum of Natural History, where I saw wonderful exhibits of butterflies, dinosaur bones, and glass flowers, which so incredibly life-like that I was wondering to myself, “Wow, those look remarkably realistic. How did they preserve the colors of these flowers?!?” The museum also had an exhibit of masks from South American societies
I thought to myself in the museum that it would be killer to make a traditional South American masked costume and wear it to Halloween next year; it would be a distinct departure from my previous costumes, but man, what a great costume that would be! Mark it down, I think I know what I’ll be next year!
Parks, Police, Politics
Stanford as a University can be a bit isolating for a student without a car. A Harvard student, on the other hand, has its own college town in Cambridge and a big city just a T stop away in Boston. I wouldn’t quite qualify Palo Alto as a big city nor a college town. As a result, the cultural diversity and array of possible photographic subjects is much higher and abundant at Harvard.
I caught a shot of a little police bust in a plot of grass near Harvard Square, with another opportunistic photographer getting into the action. Alice’s restaurant might be the the only place to park your Harley Davidson with people who can appreciate them in Woodside, but feel free to do it anywhere in Harvard. I’ve noticed that many digital photography review web sites use motorcyles as a way to highlight a digital camera’s resolution, so I had to get a shot of my own in this photojournal when I saw the bike. Further south in Boston, there’s a large public park next to the appropriately named Park T Station. I saw the young and old enjoying the beautiful, Fall atmosphere and weather. There were a few Ralph Nader supporters who never get tired of a little photo opportunity.
All in all, Cambridge and Boston seem like a fun place to live and work. Like I said earlier, I wonder what it would have been like to have gone here as an undergraduate. If I ever tired of the Stanford community, there’s the large student population from Boston University, Boston College, and MIT next door. The weather is a definite minus compared to California and I never really like the big cities except for Paris. I always keep an open mind on mind things, so you never know where I’ll end up living in next!
You like cuisine?
On my way to the airport, we had to get off the metro to take a free shuttle, since they were doing repairs to one of the T Stations. When I was on the bus, I overheard an interesting conversation happening behind me. This guy was talking to this woman sitting next to him. She didn’t speak much English and the guy was obviously trying to hit on her. Midway through the bus ride, I picked up on the fact that the woman was French (or at least spoke French); the guy was struggling to communicate with her, trying to find out her name (his was Jerry), whether she liked to cook, and what her phone number was. I really want to turn around and ask the lady in French if she knew this guy and if he was bothering her. But, I kept silent and just listened to the conversation.
The plane ride back to the Bay Area was in the dark of night. There was a bit of turbulence in the middle of the flight, and I wondered to myself if the pilots are actually in control of the airplane when turbulence is about, or if they simply let the plane fly by itself. I knew that the only person who could answer that question were the pilots themselves, so I made a mental note to corner one of them in the future to ask.
I didn’t have anyone sitting in my aisle, so I monopolized it all to myself. I whipped out my sketchbook, took residence in the middle seat, and proceed to draw a picture, that, looking back on it, reminds me of the blonde-haired graduate student who was painting the bridge along the Charles River. She also looked similar to the lady sitting directly across from me.
On the bus ride back to the parking lot, I sat next to the pilots of our flight! I spoke at length with Glen about our flight, autopilots, and how he got into flying. Up until 12 years ago, he was a grocery store manager! At that point in his life, he decided to make a changed, and took the steps necessary to become a pilot; that’s a beautiful story, and it demonstrates a lot of courage on the part of Glen. Wow, very inspiring!
The quality of the pictures from the D30 are spectacular, delivering film-like quality with nearly every shot. To understand this on your own, check out the original shot of Harvard from the D30 (1.5 MB) and the original from the S100 (600K). Even though the S100 used the Large/Fine mode (instead of Large/SuperFine), you can tell that it can’t hold a candle to the D30. That being said, my skills as a photographer are definitely not on par with the camera that I’m using… at least not yet. I’ve got to reduce that camera shake, better understand how shutter speed, aperture, and focal length all work together, and learn more about framing and available light before I can call myself an amateur photographer. Right now, I’m still suffering with withdrawal symptoms of being a point-and-shoot photographer!
I have noticed that it’s much more difficult to take portrait shots of myself with the D30 than with my previous cameras, the Agfa ePhoto 1680 and the S100. The Agfa had by far the most useful ergonomics, since one is able to swivel the LCD displaying the view from the camera towards oneself during picture taking. The S100 didn’t have that feature but the small lens and aperture made it easy to position yourself in front of the camera for easy focusing. The D30, on the other hand, is more difficult as you have to focus on what you’re going to shoot before initiating the timer. It’s difficult to focus on yourself when you’re behind the camera! I guess I’m going to have to go on my adventures with more people in the future, or get familiar with asking people (who are probably only used to point-and-shoots themselves) to take my picture.