2008 Jul 17 | Boston, Cambridge

New York City prohibits turning on red lights unless a sign says you can do one, which is utterly annoying, so it was nice to be somewhere that has the normal rule again.

Since I was out walking all day long and it's so hot and humid on the east coast, I was drinking Gatorade constantly. The street vendors sold it for $3 a bottle, but if you were smart you could by it for about a tenth of that price in a Wal-Mart or something.

The major problem for me with staying at hostels on this trip is finding all day and overnight parking that's not prohibitively expensive. In Boston I got a great tip from a website: rather than pay to park in a garage or lot, I parked at an MBTA station (MBTA is Boston's subway/rail system). None of the stations downtown had parking and even many with parking didn't allow overnight, but a few did. Of course, those were the ones that were the farthest out, but it was only $4 to park all day and night, which was amazingly cheap. I just had to take the rail in to Boston and then back out when I left.

The Boston Hostelling International had a nice bonus: a free breakfast.

It also had these little barriers to prevent people from rolling out of the top bunk. A nice idea, but in reality, they were actually a problem. I kept using them to pull myself up into the bed, but they were so flimsy that when I tried to put my weight on them I'd tip over. We all eventually just threw them in a corner to get them out of the way.

This was in the ghetto. I doubt the "per Massachusettes state law" is there for health concerns. Nothing like free unlimited refills if the employees don't notice you or are too busy to stop you.

Boston Common is one of the oldest public parks in the US. Lots of people sitting around, playing frisbee, or even putting on little performances.

The Massachusetts State House.

The Boston Athenaeum, a private library that's pretty hard to become a member of. The tour guide said one book in there bound with human skin.

Granary Burying Ground, which is different from a cemetery because burying grounds aren't blessed.

Our tour guide was a history major and a ton of fun. He had a Lewis Black approach to story-telling: lots of angry yelling. Basically, everything we learned in history class was a sugar-coated lie. For example, he'd ask someone in our group about something, and when s/he gave the standard answer, the guide would yell, "No!" and tell us the dirty truth.

For example, Paul Revere is well-known from the poem. However, the reality was that he didn't do it alone, he was captured by the British, and then he told them everything about what they were doing.

Another was John Hancock, who was a wealthy "businessman," which meant slave trader. He was also a smuggler, which was a large reason he supported the American Revolution: he was trying to avoid paying British taxes.

A different tour you could take were the Duckboat tours. They're told to quack at other tour groups, but apparently they didn't to ours because our guide is known for telling people to shout back, "Bang, bang!"

Ruth's Chris Steak House seems pretty out of place; it's set up between the Old City Hall and an old church.

This guy sells nuts, and our tour guide incorporates him into the tour by having him talk about the buildings around him. He was really smart in where he set up, which was right on the Freedom Trail. If I were the tour guide, I'd create a deal with him: I bring all these people to your cart, and you give me a free drink each time.

The Freedom Trail is this red line in the sidewalk that you can follow to see all the historic sites in downtown Boston.

Quincy Market, an outdoor area with lots of shops.

Paul Revere's house.

An obviously-good restaurant nearby. Unfortunately, most places with that many awards are pretty expensive, too, although every once in a while you'll find one with really cheap and good food.

The Frog Pond, a big shallow lake for kids to run around in.

A deeper lake that has swans and boats.

Ugh, I hate Apple. My phone had 3G two years before this. Almost every Apple product has many alternatives that can do even more for a cheaper price. Plus, most Apple products take power away from the user in some way, which is just annoying. Advertising meets conspicious consumption.

Some photoshoot. Pretty women in revealing clothing is basically all it takes to get any man's attention.

I went to the Skywalk, which is the high building with a view of the city in Boston, but found this sign instead of a nice view.

I was just walking on the sidewalk when a bottle fell about a foot away from me. I don't think anybody threw it, but you never know. One foot away from having to go to the hospital for head lacerations.

Parts of the MIT campus walking across the bridge to Cambridge.

The thrift shops in cities with universities always have much better books.

The MIT museum was really neat. This exhibit explains how one type of optical illusion works.

There was also a section on robotics.

And my favorite, a few rooms with holograms.

Close to MIT is Harvard. Massachusetts Hall is one of the two oldest academic buildings in the US.

The science building, which doesn't match the historic red brick of every other building on campus.

Harvard even requested that the firehouse next to campus be made in the same style as most of the campus buildings.

Someone had fun with the letters.

A hall honoring veterans of the Civil War.

The statue of John Harvard, one of the most photographed statues in the US. Interestingly, it's not even John Harvard; they didn't have any remaining pictures of him when the statue was made.

The museum of scientific instruments had some neat displays.

Glass Flowers in the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

There were lots and lots of stuffed animals.

A sperm whale skeleton.

Some interesting fish.

A gigantic turtle shell and a coelacanth.

A really big amethyst crystal.

I was in a convenience store and noticed a box of Sixlets hidden under a box of Dots! I was tempted to buy the entire lot as I'm convinced they're no longer manufactured or sold anywhere.

In the northeast, instead of simple rest stops with bathrooms and vending machines on the interstate, they have stops with a gas station and a couple of fast food restaurants. I noticed that the gas is about 10 cents more expensive here, though, so I'd fill up at some random exit instead. They also had separate stops just for sleeping, which was nice because they had no lights and less traffic going through.

A house all alone up on a hill surrounded by trees.

Driving in the early morning or late evening can be pretty.