pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
Because every visit to Massachusetts should include a trip to the MoS!

Museum of Science exhibit halls (Boston MA, 11:51am).  Finally, we’re doing something during this trip that Kid #2 can actually enjoy!  $92 for a family of four.  The overly-geeky ticket machine announced that it would be printing five tickets, but one of them was just a ticket-shaped receipt.  Oddly enough, I can’t find that receipt now, just my own ticket-stub.
      Kid #1 spent much of her time at the museum off with some online friends she had never met before but who live in this area.  We were supposed to meet up with them near the giant T. Rex statue, but the statue has been replaced with a less-imposing one that shows a more realistic stance for the animal.  Later, I found that the old statue (which Wifey and I remember from when we were kids) had been moved outside to the station where you can take an amphibious bus tour of Boston.  Even later, I learned that Hammacher Schlemmer is selling a T. Rex model that has been cleverly designed so you can pose it either way (“15' tall as if surveying the landscape or 12' tall as if lunging for prey”).
      I did not speak directly to Kid #1’s friends.  The two things they have in common with her are ⑴ nonstandard sexuality and ⑵ fondness for Star Trek.  As the friends were preparing to leave the museum, I asked Kid #1 whether she had told them about Star Trek Continues.  She had not, so she then launched into a description of the video that her uncle had found, which they thought was interesting.  So we were all united by the love of geeky old TV shows!
      My kids remember from previous trips the exhibit where you pedal a bicycle to energize a lightbulb — and a skeleton on another bicycle keeps pace with you.  That exhibit is gone now.  Instead, they now have wristbands where you can try out various health exhibits and then go to their website to see how you did.  I did not like that you are forbidden to do the same exhibit more than once on the same wristband, although I can imagine crowd-control reasons why they wanted it to work that way.  But the website’s behaviour is less excusable: you have to clear cookies in order to enter a different wristband ID number.  You know, there’s such a thing as “trying too hard” to remember something the user once typed in!  And there is no reason not to display the ID number that goes with the data you are currently showing.  Anyway, to see my results, go to and type in my ID number 01564722.
      The 500 kilovolt Tesla coils and the 5 megavolt Van de Graaf generator are still just as sparky and noisy as ever!  I am not sure whether they taught the Tesla coils some new songs to sing since last time.
      For me, the worst exhibit was the live talk about Love Canal, which contained politically-correct lies designed to make Americans feel better about their country than it deserves.  First off, the Superfund was not a “law passed by the EPA” because the EPA does not pass laws.  Only Congress can do that, and the Constitution prohibits them from delegating that responsibility although they are constantly trying to.  Second, the point of Superfund is not to “make those responsible pay for the cleanup”.  Just the opposite, in fact: Superfund is a way of getting these things cleaned up *without* making those responsible pay for it, because otherwise nothing would ever happen except motion practice for lawyers.  But the museum didn’t want to tell the kids that (perhaps in fear of losing some of their funding), so a science museum lied to children about the politics behind the science.  This sort of thing used to happen all the time in the Soviet Union, and apparently still happens today in North Korea.  I remember a time when the USA was better than that.

Museum of Science cafeteria “Wolfgang Puck catering” (3:20pm).  $27.55 for crappy museum food.  Chef Puck should be ashamed to have his name on this restaurant.  I mean, it’s actually pretty good food for a museum cafeteria, and maybe the entrées are well-made on Donors’ Nights, but you can’t turn hamburgers and French fries into gourmet cuisine by slapping some famous chef’s name on your fast-food stand.

Museum of Science gift shop.  $7.42 for a “Boston” fridge magnet and also some rocks for Kid #2’s collection.

Museum of Science parking garage (5:23pm).  $17.75 for six hours’ rent of a parking space.  Not bad for Boston!

Outback Steakhouse (Bellingham MA, 8:55pm).  $79.28 for dinner.

Market Basket (Bellingham MA).  $50 for a Christmas gift-card for BIL #3 and his family.

pyesetz: (Default)

So, I drove the family to Massachusetts and back.  And I said I would write a post about it.  But all I have is this pile of three dozen receipts.  How am I supposed to weave them into a story?  I guess I’ll start with a dedication:

This road trip was funded by a grant from the estate of BIL #1, who died last year of alcoholism after being thrown out of the Army for refusing yet another tour of duty in Iraq.  I consider him to be a war casualty.

Day 0: Preparation

Buy gas: It is 1:45 PM on September the 26th.  The big trip begins tomorrow.  I am at the recently-opened gas station down the street from my house, filling up my tank.  I buy 67⅔ litres of gasoline for $81 (that's about $4.80/gallon for Americans).  I am thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t buy so much gas, since it’s cheaper across the border in New York, but I don’t want to deal with the stations near the border — last time I had trouble with a gas pump that wouldn’t accept my American credit card because my address doesn’t have a zipcode.
      This gas station has a large sign that says “Mac’s” with an owl logo.  The pumps have logos for Shell Oil.  The receipt says it’s from Shell Canada.  Nowhere to be seen is the name ”Alimentation Couche-Tard”, which I think is the shadowy megacorp that actually owns this store.  They are apparently not very nice and perhaps the #OccupyMontreal people should keep them in mind.  Still, they were willing to spend lots of money to build this station in my little town, so I guess they have some redeeming social value, unlike the banks who refuse to open any branches here.
      The receipt also includes a store number, a gas pump serial number, a transaction number, a credit card approval number, a sales tax ID number, zzzzzzzz...  You know what?  I don’t give a shit about this crap!  Let’s jump forward to the middle of the story, because that’s just the kind of left-handed doggie that I am.

Day 5: Aquarium

October 1st is one of two days of our trip that were set aside for visiting museums, on the grounds that BIL #1 would have wanted us to have some fun with his money.

Drive to Boston: We are on our way to the New England Aquarium.  I paid some tolls on the Mass. Turnpike to get here, but didn’t get any receipts so fuck it.  I haven’t been to this aquarium in many years.  As we get closer to it, I vaguely remember that it has some sort of parking problem.  I pass by one garage that seems quite far away from the destination, but advertises $18 for aquarium parking.  I keep going in hopes that maybe something more convenient will show up.

Parking: We arrive at Central Wharf, which is a mob scene with wall-to-wall tourists.  Eventually, at 1 PM, we complete the maze of one-way streets to arrive at the parking garage that is adjacent to the aquarium.  The charge is $35.  Ah, now I remember!  The aquarium and the garage next door are enemies; it is the $18 garage that is friends with the aquarium (get your parking stub stamped for a discount).  The aquarium hates the $35 garage because it causes people to feel cheated before they even get in the door, which reduces the take from their gift shop, etc.  This has been allowed to go on for many years, so I presume the City of Boston is raking some off the top from the garage.  Mustn’t miss an opportunity to scalp the out-of-towners!  The whole thing stinks of corruption, which overpowers the slightly-fishy odour of the wharf.  As we exit from the garage, we are accosted by barkers trying to sell us overpriced tours on harbour boats.  For a moment I feel like I’m back in Mexico.  But we must soldier on because that’s what BIL #1 would have wanted.

Waiting in line: It is Saturday at a museum.  The line to get in is very long.  I generally avoid lines, figuring that anything *that* popular is probably overhyped.  But “visiting the aquarium” is our scheduled activity for the day, so we enter the line.  I feel like a sitting duck with a neon sign over my head saying, ”Attention all pickpockets!  The tourists are ⇒HERE⇐ and they can’t leave this line.”  But our time spent in line is uneventful.

* * * * *

I later learned that #OccupyBoston was holding a demonstration at South Station, about a mile away, but there was no evidence of any disturbance at Central Wharf.  I wish the occupiers well, but the situation is similar to the end of apartheid in South Africa: it is very, very difficult for the oppressors to climb off their pedestals, having told each other all their lives that they *must* remain on the pedestals because otherwise surely the unwashed masses will tear them limb from limb!  Well, no, actually the masses just want this horrid financial game to be over.  It is only after food becomes unaffordable that the violence will start.  There is still time for the top 0.01% of the ultrarich to do the right thing, but very little evidence so far that they can find it in their hearts to do so.

There is some confusion among the occupiers about who their enemies are.  While “the 1%” is a catchy phrase, most of the top 1% hates the ultrarich as much as the bottom 99% do.  Once all the wealth has been sucked out of the 99%, the vacuum will then be turned upon the 1% and probably many of them know that.  The real enemies are people whose names you have never heard of, who have fudged the public records so their loot appears to be spread out among a horde of fake nominees, because they believe that if their lives ever became public knowledge then of course they would be put to death immediately.  You might as well call them ”the Voldemorts”.

Of course, it is presumptuous of me to be speaking on behalf of the 1%.  I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor have I ever wanted to be, a member of that class.  At the peak of my career as a software engineer, my income was barely into the top 20% for Americans; it is much lower now.  I have always refused offers of promotion into management.  I have never kissed anyone’s ass (no, it’s not just a figure of speech) and I don’t intend to start now.  I have gotten into stock trading, not because it’s a popular pastime among my rich friends, but because my health is poor and it is one of the few jobs that truly doesn’t need anything more than a brain, a computer, some seed capital, and a whole lotta nerve.

The stock market is broken.  It has become a casino where the world’s wealth is gambled away.  It should be restored to its proper function.  But in the meantime, if you’re not playing, you’re losing.  The world’s corporations are taking the money from your pocket and putting it on the stock market.  If you want it back, that’s where you have to go.  To win, all one has to do is be smarter than the average bankster, which seems like it shouldn’t be that hard.  But the banksters have had many years to hone their game, while I am a newbie.

Many people have written their versions of ”What #OccupyWallStreet’s demands should be”.  Here is one from Shah Gilani, who is a member of the 1% and has been neck-deep in Wall Street for 30 years.  The language is a little stilted, and some of his demands are perhaps too lenient, but he seems to be roughly on the same page as the protesters outside his offices.  That’s a refrain I’ve heard from many sources: most of the people who work on Wall Street agree with the protesters, not with their own overlords.  They hate how corrupt their jobs have become.

* * * * *

Aquarium entrance: At 1:40 PM we finally got to the front of the line.  In the meantime, the rear of the line had become maybe 20% longer.  I pity the fool who joins it now!  Admission is only $91.80 for a family of four.  As soon as we get in, we immediately find ourselves at a penguin feeding show.  I really dislike the crowd-control language that the emcee is using, so I wait on the nearby benches until the show is over.

Lunch: At 2:20 PM we head to the cafeteria.  I get a salad.  Later I get the runs; hey Toto, maybe we really are back in Mexico?  The kids get chicken fingers and French fries, which are heavily coated with some bright orange powder of indeterminate origin and purpose (I suppose it *might* be food).  Only $31.51! McDonald’s would have been healthier and tastier.

Aquarium exhibits:  I liked the deep-sea tank, because it was a fake diorama.  They can’t actually replicate deep-sea conditions in an aquarium tank and it is very hard (or impossible) to capture deep-sea creatures alive and put them in tanks.  You can’t even taxidermy them because their bodies explode when you bring them to the surface.

Aquarium gift shop: The receipt says we bought a T-shirt for $25, but I don’t remember that because I waited outside.

LongHorn Steakhouse: In Franklin MA, just down the street a ways from our hotel.  We had stayed at this hotel in the past and thought this restaurant was worth revisiting.  Just over $100 for a family dinner with tax and tip.  I think the food was not as good as I remembered.  Perhaps the restaurant has had a change in management?  Wikipedia says the LongHorn chain was bought by the Olive Garden/Red Lobster people back in 2007.  Ah well; something’s gotta give in a “down” economy.  Receipt is dated 7:21 PM.

Stop & Shop supermarket: In same shopping plaza with LongHorn.  Just popping in for a few items while we’re here.  $22.35, 7:43 PM.

Buy more gas: Actually, this was 11 AM.  I am mentioning it out of order BECAUSE I CAN!  And because I wanted to start with the driving-to-Boston scene. Only $3.39⁹/gallon! Filled the tank with 17½ gallons.  Sunoco station in Franklin MA.

Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, Walpole MA.  Wifey bought $45.62 worth of sewing supplies.  We could probably obtain them in Canada, but Jo-Ann’s has a nice selection and we remember them fondly from our old life in New Jersey.  The receipt says we completed this purchase at 12:03PM, while the receipt from the $35 garage (27 miles away in Boston) says we entered there at precisely noon.  I think the garage is lying its head off.
      The Walpole Mall is just sad.  Around half the stores are out of business.

pyesetz: (Default)

Penzey’s Spice Shop in Arlington.  $100 for a year’s supply of spices.  (Actually a bit more, since our kitchen still has a few bits of spice left over from our last visit in 2008.)  The total bill was higher than Wifey had originally planned to spend.  When she showed me the receipt, I exclaimed “Only 59¢ sales tax?  I guess we’re not in Canada!”  The store clerk was apologetic and explained that only the empty glass spice jars were taxable.  Obviously, I enjoy pretending to be rich and not having to care about the bill.  And really, $100 isn’t going to make a lot of difference when paying down my $100,000+ mortgage.

Science museum.  Perhaps I’m partial for having grown up in the area, but I think the Boston Museum of Science is the standard by which all other science museums should be measured.  Lots of buttons and levers and clanging balls and sizzling 700,000-volt lightning generators!  The only problem with it is that it is located in Boston.  There was some construction going on at the entrance to its parking garage, so we pulled forward to ask the cop if things were okay.  He said they were, but then we had to go around the block to get back to the entrance.  But you can’t “go around the block” in Boston because the streets are not parallel, so we ended up driving out to Cambridge and then back into Boston, passing by both the hotel where the Company 𝔾 conference was being held and the Boston Public Library, where I had spent a lot of time back in high school because it was more easily accesssible by mass transit than the library for my own city of Newton.

The subway entrance next to the library has been closed for years.  Apparently the infinitesimal risk of terrorist attack is far more important than the convenience of library patrons.  When I was in high school, my Russian teacher liked to say that the goal of American libraries was to distribute information *to* the public, while the goal of Soviet libraries was to protect information *from* the public.  But I guess we’re not that different after all.

pyesetz: (arctic-fox)

DAY FOUR: The conference.  I’ve mentioned previously that Company 𝔾 is involved with conferences.  There’s one in the spring and one in the fall, never in the same city twice.  This year the spring conference was in Boston, which just happens to be the city name printed on my birth certificate.  Wifey had been agitating to do another Mass. Trip this year, so we timed it to coincide with the conference.

I have years of experience driving around in Boston, which doesn’t mean that I like it.  My Google directions told me to get off the Mass. Pike at Copley Square and immediately turn onto Huntington Ave., but I couldn’t do that.  When I got off the Pike, I was on Stuart St., which abuts Huntington but is one-way in a different direction.  So I had to go around in circles trying to get to where Huntington and Stuart meet.  When I eventually found the hotel where the conference was, it turned out that I had driven past it during a previous circle but hadn’t detected any of the signs (side-street name, hotel name, etc.) that would have clued me in.

It was nice entering the hotel, seeing that every conference room door had a sign with Company 𝔾’s name and the conference session numbers and titles that I had been manipulating with my software.  Yes, these conferences actually do exist in meatspace!  And people pay serious money to attend them.

I proceeded to the registration desk.  There I shook paws with “Mr. Bear”, for only the second time in the four years I have been working this job.  He introduced me to another fellow, whom I will be calling “Mr. Green” for reasons best left unsaid in a public post.  Officially, “Mr. Green” does not work for Company 𝔾, but for a separate company that I suppose I'll call “ℐ” in this journal.  The conferences are a joint production of 𝔾 and ℐ.  They’ve been doing this together for years.

I told “Mr. Green” that I had come all this way just to see him, which is actually sort of true in a way.  He was taken aback, but immediately asked me if my company could write some software for him.  I stammered for a moment, then said that I would have to hire some more staff but it should be possible to work something out.  His website software is crap and I think the organization as a whole would benefit if he could get some better people to work on it, but “Mr. Green” is computer-phobic and his current website represents his best effort to hire and manage software developers.

“Mr. Bear” went off to attend a session.  Eventually “Mr. Green” went off to some meeting or other.  So I was standing there at the registration desk, trying to decide what to do next.  Neither Bear nor Green had seemed particularly interested in introducing me to the attendee customers, probably because I was a little scruffy inside my clothes.  I don’t need a fursuit to be “furry”!  Eventually I decided to declare my mission a success and go home.  It was less than an hour of business meeting for a week of driving.  Doesn’t seem worth it, somehow.  It’s too bad that I can’t just fly to these meetings, but airplane travel has joined drug use as part of the US War Against Our Own Citizens and I do not enter warzones if I can help it.  Long-distance train travel is uncomfortable.  I wonder if I could go by boat?  It would probably cost a lot and take a long time, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if someone else were piloting the boat.  And it would need a satellite link for Internet access.  Perhaps I should look into that…

Returning to my hotel room in Billerica, I wrote a business email to “Mr. Green”, summarizing the points discussed in our meeting.  He replied later that day.  His reply is still sitting in my inbox.  I suppose I should do something with it; he is the easiest “second customer” that my business could ever get.  But I don’t want more customers!  I want to continue doing as little as I’m doing now and just get paid a whole lot more for it!  But I suppose I owe it to Canada (which has been very nice to me) to grow my business so it can employ Canadians and pay taxes.  [ profile] shiver_raccoon says he might be able to rustle up some more “on-the-spectrum” folks who can appreciate the charms of this kind of virtual job.  But it takes months to develop a new subcontractor!  Maybe I should just go back to bed.

No, I wanted to talk to “Mr. Green” because I was sick of dealing with the garbage data that his website sends to mine.  I wanted him to fix his end.  He is (apparently) willing to pay me to do that for him.  There is Engineering Work To Be Done.  This isn’t the work that I had planned to do after moving to Canada, but it has fallen into my lap.

pyesetz: (Default)

Thursday, August 7th

Got out of bed, got started on getting rid of those US Savings Bonds.  Went to the Federal Reserve’s website: you can’t sell back treasury bonds direct to the treasury!  Googled for banks near Franklin MA.  Bank of America sounds good.  Called them up to ask how to get rid of large quantities of bonds when I don’t have an account at any bank in the commonwealth.  They said I could just open an account with the bonds as the initial deposit.  Well, it’s a plan, anyway.

[Aside: 25 years ago, when I was still working at Company ℳ (my original job title was “baby-sitter”; final job title “senior systems programmer”), the Bank of America was one of the customers for our securities-DBMS product.  The joke around the office then was that Bank of America was one of our smallest customers, followed by Bank of New England and then Bank of New York.  The customer’s actual size was inversely proportional to the geographic area they claimed to serve!  Bank of New England later became BayBank, which bought up many area banks including the Newton-Waltham Bank where I had a "youth account".  BayBank merged with the Bank of Boston and then with Fleet Bank (two more of our customers).  It was later assimilated by the Bank of America (= "the Borg").  Meanwhile, the Bank of New York (which was America’s first bank, founded by Alexander Hamilton) got heavily into money-laundering and was bought out by Mellon.  Bank of America was originally the North Carolina National Bank and is now the largest bank in the country.  Resistance is futile!  All this bank-merger activity is indicative (despite what this guy says) of robber-baron capitalism which does not serve the public interest.  Oh noes!  I’ve linked to a Communist Party website—the McCarthyites will get me!]

So we drove back to that same plaza with the Longhorn Steakhouse.  At Bank of America we were told that there were only two employees, “Beth” and “Seth”, who could open the accounts for us, but they were both busy.  So we waited.  Wifey and the kidlets went back to Bath & Body Works for more vanilla stench-emitters.  Still no Beth or Seth by the time they returned, so we waited some more.  After half an hour, we celebrated American capitalism by rejecting BofA for poor service and going over to Strata Bank at the other end of the plaza.  The bank manager there immediately led us into her office and formulated an action plan: we would cash ¼ of the bonds at Strata today, ¼ of the bonds at BofA today (avoiding the need to open an account there), then do the same thing again tomorrow for the other ½ of the bonds.

Both banks had little signs showing today’s date to help you fill out your forms.  Both banks showed yesterday’s date on their signs.  As far as I know, this is always wrong: bank dates must be either today or the next business day.  Being surrounded by signs that were lying about the date seemed to bother Kid #1 rather a lot, so I told her about my experience as a baby-sitter for one of the founders of Company ℳ.  In his house was a clock that chimed the hours.  It always displayed the wrong time, so I fixed it whenever I went over there.  Later it was always stopped, so I wound it during my visits.  Eventually I found out that the founder and his wife hated the noise that the clock made—the wife was starting to think that a ghost was winding it up just to annoy her!

After converting the bonds to cash (non-customers can’t get bank cheques!), we went to Stop & Shop for yet more food, then to the sign “Franklin: Home of the Nation's First Public Library” to take pictures of Kid #1 holding a copy of Superior Saturday.  She was supposed to be wearing her banned-books bracelet but it had been forgotten at the hotel room this morning.  Finally we got to leave that plaza!

Then we drove to Arlington MA.  Have I mentioned how sick I was getting of all this driving?  Oh yeah, it was supposed to be mentioned in the entry for August 6th that I skipped.  Anyway, our computer-generated route had us driving by the synogogue in Lexington where I had chanted my Bar Mitzvah, so I got off the highway and went to look at my childhood house nearby.  It’s still about the same, except that it now has pink vinyl siding and the shrubs I remember have been restored (the next owners after my family had yanked them out).  We also drove by my elementary school, which looks awful due to extensive grass infiltration of the asphalt ball courts, but apparently there are plans afoot to remodel the place.

In Arlington we visited Penzey’s Spice Shop, because they don’t deliver to Canada at a reasonable price.  Wifey spent $65 on a year’s supply of spices, plus $5 for an ounce (that's a lot!) of dried chives for my aunt.  Penzey’s has a “kids’ drawing area” where both of my kidlets drew OPEN signs and then taped them to the window.  Sometimes "they're all together ooky", if you catch my drift.

Then we drove to my aunt’s house in Brookline.  It was the usual chit-chat.  My aunt used to travel a lot during her retirement, but recently she (like [ profile] ozarque) has decided not to fly anymore.  Apparently the problem is that she is a little old lady in a wheelchair, which is exactly the demographic that the TSA goons like to pick on.  (I wouldn’t doubt that many of those creeps had tried the duct-tape-on-a-cat experiment when they were kids.)  There was a bit of a disagreement over dinner, which had been scheduled to be home-delivered Chinese.  Usually we buy dinner at her house and she buys for us when she flies to Philadelphia for a conference.  But we don’t live near Philadelphia anymore.  And we’re a little tight on funds right now.  So my aunt bought the dinner.

Brookline is no longer the sleepy bedroom community for Boston that my aunt grew up in.  The city has swallowed it now.  After the USSR broke up, Brookline became a Mecca for successful Jewish immigrants from Russia and Israel, who continue to speak their native languages on its streets.  After visiting my aunt, we went to a local Stop & Shop (which was originally a Jewish-owned supermarket chain).  We bought traditional Kosher foods like pigs-in-a-blanket, crumbled Communion wafers, and some delicious US patent #3,108,882 which didn’t exist yet when I was born.  Also purchased was some APS film and 3 more items for the Iraq care package.

Finally got back to our hotel room at 10 PM.

[Meanwhile, back in Canada, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro took $122.71 out of my chequing account today to pay for the electricity used by our now-unoccupied house.  I still don’t understand what the business situation was that induced Wilmot Hydro—and not the electric companies of the other six Waterloo County townships?—to merge with Kitchener, whose laconic corporate history page is just the history of Kitchener (née “Berlin”) with nothing about Wilmot.]

pyesetz: (Default)
He died.  But before that, in 2003, he predicted the future of the United States:
The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in Americans' lives.  It will be an ever greater and greater overlay on the American system.  And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way.  My long experience with human nature - I'm 80 years old now - suggests that it is possible that fascism, not democracy, is the natural state.

In other news, the Supreme Court of New Jersey (a 'blue state') recently ruled that it is "objectively reasonable" for a police officer to cause you permanent injury during a traffic stop while forcibly removing blood from your body for a test to confirm suspected drunkenness.

In Washington DC, they've noticed that ⅓ of people who contest parking tickets are successful.  In a reasonable country, that would be cause for re-examination of the ticketing process in order to reduce ticketing of people who will later be judged as innocent.  In the USA, the response is to prohibit people from contesting parking tickets.  You see, the problem with contested parking tickets is that they amount to an untenable claim that an authority figure (the cop) might possibly have been wrong.  And since tickets do not carry the threat of jail time (unless you don't pay them), there is no constitutional right to a speedy and fair trial.  Or perhaps I should say that there *had been* no constitutional right, back when the USA had a Constitution that was actually enforced by those sworn to uphold it.

In Massachusetts (where they pride themselves on being so left-wing, they actually voted against Nixon's reëlection), the City of Boston also has effectively banned the contesting of parking tickets, by imposing a non-refundable fee which is higher than the fine being contested.  Once you have been (perhaps randomly) selected for a ticket, you must pay—if you're not actually guilty, well, you *should have beeen* to avoid embarrassing the police officer.  Plus the income from the tickets is good money for the cities.
pyesetz: (Default)
My father is dead.  My mother has "moderate" Alzheimer's (she can't remember what happened five minutes ago, but for now she can still recognize her grandchildren).  Today I got slippers (that I had helped kid #1 pick out) and a homemade card (kid #2's handwriting is now sort of readable).  Wifey spent six hours making a barbecued brisket, which was quite tasty.

By the time I finally got my sister to tell me when she was moving our mother to Israel, the Event was only a week away.  Here is a trip report:

Friday (June 9th)

Road trip!  See map.  Got started late—didn't leave the house until after 5 PM.

Took about three hours to get out of New Jersey because I missed the I-80⇔Garden State Parkway interchange in Saddle Brook, then had to drive back and forth for a while until I could find it again.

Around midnight I spent half an hour in a traffic jam near Auburn MA.  When I finally got to the accident scene, I saw a Peter Pan bus being raised onto a gigantic flatbed truck.  I used to take Peter Pan buses all the time between my parents' house and UMass.  This one looked like it had had an engine fire.  Didn't see any passengers.

Got to the hotel in Burlington MA around 1:30.  Thankfully the front desk is staffed 24/7 and my room was guaranteed by credit-card.  This hotel has fridges, microwaves, diswashers, and stovetops in the rooms.


Drove to my mother's assisted-living home in Winchester MA.  I had not seen her for a year.  Her condition has definitely worsened.  Recently her doctor changed his diagnosis from "mild" Alzheimer's to "moderate" and prescribed Aricept.  It's either not working or not working very well.  She asked the same questions every five minutes, forgetting the previous answers.  It reminded me of just before my brother died from brain cancer, about ten years after he was given a month to live due to lymphoma.

Went to Penzey's, a spice store from which Wifey had ordered online a few times.  They have paper and crayons for the offspring while the mothers shop, so kid #1 drew a picture of a spice rack.  I told her she should tack it up over the rack that it pictured, but she followed directions and put her drawing on the "customer art" wall.  For each spice there was a sample jar next to the sealed packets, so kid #2 went around the store, opening sample jars and sniffing.  After a few of these he decided that he didn't really like how any of them smelled, so he drew a picture.

Around 2:30 AM my wife and I heard something that sounded like a faraway fire alarm.  I got up and went to the hotel room door—the sound in the hallway had a definite "fire alarm" quality to it.  I turned on some lights and was about to begin to prepare when the fire alarm in our room started up.  It was REALLY LOUD.  I told the kids to get dressed.  We went and sat in our car because it was a bit cold late this June night in Eastern Mass.  The Fire Dept. sent a truck over.  They turned off the alarm.  A fellow guest told me that he had heard that some other guest had had a kitchen-stove fire and that was what had set everything off.  We went back to bed around 3:30.


Visit with my brother-in-law and his wife and kids in Attleboro MA.  Nothing goes wrong.  His dog runs in front of a car but is uninjured.

Visit with mother and sister.  Mother has learned many locutions for dealing with her lack of memory, from "I don't recall" to "you never told me" when talking about things that happened five minutes ago.  We take an electric can opener and electric pencil sharpener that would otherwise be donated to charity (Mother won't need them in Israel).


The assisted-living home is having a going-away party for Mother at 3 PM, so we aim to get there at that time.  As we leave the hotel the car is hesitating a bit.  I haven't put any gas in it since we left New Jersey, but the gas gauge says it still has over a quarter tank.  Eventually, after we hit a rather large pothole, the car starts hesitating rather badly, then a whole lot more, then it conks out.  We are stranded in Woburn MA (which is pronounced "woo-burn").  I use Wifey's cell phone to call my sister and tell her that things are not going as planned.  Around the next bend in the road is a service station, and across from it is a plaza with a Whole Foods store, so the wife and kids go to the store to get some snacks and hang out.  20 minutes later the tow truck arrives and drags my car around the bend to the service station.  I've been having déjà vu (for this episode), so I tell the mechanic it's probably the fuel pump.  He checks out the pump—it's putting out a fine mist of gas mixed with a lot of air.  He puts some gas into the tank and the car starts up!  Clearly the gas gauge is lying.  The Chrysler Voyager uses an expensive combined gas pump/fuel gauge unit.  Once again I have a mechanic tell me not to replace it, but just live with it, so I start using the trip odometer to keep track of how much gas I probably have left.  But anyway I don't have to get a rental car and it cost me only $30 for analysis and $50 for towing.  I could have just bought a portable gas tank for much less, but I really wanted to catch that fuel pump acting up.  Oh well, not today.

I retrieve the family and drive around one more bend in the road, to arrive at my mother's place.  The going-away party is gone.  I finally manage to get my sister to tell me when the plane is leaving.  It's tomorrow at 3 PM.  We take a floor lamp and a small electric vacuum cleaner that had had "charity" tags attached to them by my sister (to prevent the movers from packing them tomorrow).  The kids and I give my mother our final hugs.  We will probably never see her again.


Visit to Boston Museum of Science.  We receive reciprocal-membership privileges since we have a family membership at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Visit to my father's sister in Brookline MA.  She is the only aunt I've ever had.  All my great-aunts are gone.  My aunt is wheelchair-bound now, but still lives alone in a co-op unit she inherited from her parents.


Check out of hotel.  Drive to Springfield MA to visit the Springfield Museums.  Once again we receive free admission as reciprocal members.  It's four museums in one!  I sort of wanted to see the art museum part, since this is the only case I know of where my science-museum card will admit me to an art museum, but it is so late when we arrive that we get only halfway through the science part before they close for the day.  But we just *had* to do the science part, because it has buttons and levers and dinosaurs and things to amuse kids.  Maybe we'll come back someday to look at the rest of it.

The rest of the trip home is uneventful.


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