Post-Fellowship Potpourri

Not all of my fellowship experiences merited a post, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of mentioning. As I start preparing to move back to the D.C. area, I’ve been thinking about some of the things in Cambridge I’ll miss and some of the small moments I won’t soon forget. Here’s an incomplete collection: Continue reading

Fellowship Leftovers

I’m a list maker. I make lists in notebooks, as text files, on the Notes app, on the backs of envelopes. Most of the lists are tasks. Trash, laundry, ironing, thank you notes, buy present for niece.

Some are for the store. Yeast, milk, juice, apples, oranges, curly pasta. I have lists of movies to see (Pirates of Somalia, Novine, Coco), books (The Welt, How the Hippies Saved Physics, Tribalism, Don Quixote), places to go (Walden Pond, Mt. Washington, Alaska), and names of cats, should I ever get another cat (Pitney Bowes, The Honorable Fluffy McFluffyface, Doug).

Another list I’ve been keeping is “fellowship stuff to blog about,” which still has a few outstanding items. (Incidentally, blogging about the fellowship has also been item on my task list. It’s like list Inception.)

So without further ado, here is a list-eliminating roundup of some of the outings I’ve had and have been meaning to write about, but haven’t done until now.

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Great Blue Hill Observatory

One of the classes I occasionally sat in on this spring was the D-Lab course on Weather, Climate Change and Health. In the class, students worked on projects that could contribute to solving problems at the nexus of, well, weather, climate change and health. Throughout the semester, students took field trips, including building solar trailers to help Puerto Ricans still without power following Hurricane Maria. One of the field trips was an early March sojourn to the Great Blue Hill Observatory.

Located in Milton, about 10 miles south of Boston and not far from Quincy and Braintree, home to former president John Adams, Great Blue Hill is known as “Massachusett” by native Americans. It gained its English name when settlers saw the 635-foot-high granite hill’s blue cast as they approached by ship. Continue reading

Surfing Through the Seafood Expo

When I was at USA Today, a colleague and I had an idea for a series of multimedia stories: “Tales from the Trade Show.” The idea was that there is a conference or expo or trade show for just about everything. Turns out Vice did it — or at least, two episodes. There’s PackExpo for those who are looking for the latest in packaging equipment. There’s the Adult Entertainment Expo. Do not expect that link to be safe for work. And, of course, Vent Haven, the world’s largest convention for ventriloquists. I’m guessing they don’t have a high demand for guest passes.

In Boston, one of the biggest conventions of the year come in March with the Seafood Expo of North America. This I had to see. Continue reading

On a Fission and Fusion Mission

Most of MIT’s buildings are known not by name or by address, but by number. Building 10 is the iconic dome with the large grass courtyard stretching to the Charles river. Building 54 is the 295-foot tall, I.M. Pei-designed concrete block that looms over campus and from which pumpkins are dropped at Halloween. Building NW12 is the nuclear fission reactor.

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Starry Nights

A favorite daydream of mine is to imagine historical figures in the present day. I suspect the shock they’d experience would come in three forms. The most obvious would be the change in technology. Imagine the shock of a helicopter or the magic of air conditioning. Smart phones combine so many technologies that I’m not sure someone from even 200 years ago could comprehend them. Continue reading

Spring Flings

At the end of an earth science lecture last year, an undergraduate student leaned over and started asking me about my fellowship. She was curious how it was a middle-aged guy came to be in her science class. The more I told her, the more questions she had.

So you can take any classes you want?

Pretty much, I answered. So long as the professor approves. Of course, some courses aren’t appropriate — like labs where there is limited space.

And you don’t have to do any of the work?

I couldn’t tell if her question harbored jealousy or concern. Either way, that’s mostly right, I told her. Oh, I do the readings (usually), but not the problem sets or the papers or tests. Except in some rare cases.

And they pay you?

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