Sunday, September 25, 2011

BEE #4: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA)

Saturday, Sept. 24th was Smithsonian magazine's Museum Day.  Museums across the country offered two free admissions per household if you simply registered in advance and printed off your voucher.  I looked into it and found that of the participating museums in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) was on the list!  I registered and received two free tickets, one for me and one for my roommate (a $40 value for free!).

On Saturday we headed for the museum by T (the public transit system).  The museum is located off of the Green E line, so we had to transfer to get there.  Unfortunately, the station that looked like it should connect us to the correct line on the maps did not allow you to pass from the inbound to the outbound platform, which is what we needed.  So instead we ended up going up to street level and walking a couple of blocks to the next station, where we made the transfer successfully.  Turns out this was an added bonus!  We got to see another part of the city (a portion of Back Bay) that we will return to for a future adventure...

We arrived at the museum, turned in our vouchers for tickets and entered.  The MFA offers free coat-check, so we were able to get rid of our jackets before setting off to view some art.
Me in front of one of the entrances to the MFA
The MFA is BIG.  Granted my roommate and I are both "sign-readers" it takes us a little longer than most people to get through an area.  However, we probably only got through about a fourth of the museum in a 4-5 hour visit!  I will just have to come back in the future, but for now I'll share what I saw in my first visit.  On this trip we saw the exhibits on jewelry and musical instruments, the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, and a special exhibit of five works by Monet.

Both the jewelry and the musical instruments are housed in two small exhibits near the Huntington entrance to the museum.  The jewelry exhibit contains everything from a jewelry set that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln to a box decorated in exquisite amber cameos to a set of pieces that included taxidermy hummingbirds in their design!  Many of the pieces were either very beautiful or rather unusual and were well worth the time we spent looking at them.  The old musical instruments exhibit included a couple of pieces that stood out to me among a lot of less interesting but historically relevant instruments.  My favorite in the room was the rotating glass bowl instrument that Benjamin Franklin designed to reduce the effort necessary to produce the sound made by rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a goblet.  The intricately decorated grand piano and inlaid guitar were also some of my other favorites in the exhibit.

We then headed to the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.  This wing of the museum is new and just opened in about the last month.  It provides a home for more modern pieces of art that range from statues to neon signs to the odd and slightly weird.
"All Art has been contemporary"
The neon sign on the wall says "All art has been contemporary," which makes a good point.  I think highlights of the wing included a work made out of bottle caps and aluminum bottle labels that resembled a topographic map, a twisted hand-carved clay sculpture, a lattice-work basket made of Pyrex rods, and a piece supposed to resemble an ice flow.  For the ice flow piece the artist had traveled to the Arctic and recorded the sounds of bubbles and water moving under the ice.  She then made it into low frequency vibrations, so that when you sat on the ice flow mold, you could feel and experience being on an ice sheet!  (If you noticed...a couple of the pieces I just mentioned could be linked to

We got lunch at the cafeteria in the museum and ate it in an outdoor courtyard.  Then after lunch we finished the contemporary wing, walked around to explore the layout of the rest of the museum.  Here is my favorite staircase we discovered in our wanderings.
Staircase in MFA, lined with vases
Finally, we visited a special exhibit that was in its last two days at the MFA.  The special exhibit displayed five works by Monet and five by Lichtenstein all inspired by the Rouen Cathedral.  Monet painted the cathedral from five varying perspectives with different lighting.  Lichtenstein then drew inspiration from Monet's five paintings about seventy-five years later and created images of dots silk-screened over a base color to echo the outlines of the cathedral recorded by Monet.  The contrast between the classic works by Monet gathered from museums around the world (all together in one place!!) and the more modern works by Lichtenstein was very interesting and it was fun to see how the same subject could lead to very different pieces of work!

There is still a lot left to explore.  Besides our wandering to get the layout of the museum, we did not get a chance to explore the Art of the Americas, the European Art, the Ancient Art or the Asian Art wings.  I guess there is always next time! :-)

After we finished at the museum, we took a detour on our way home for a repeat trip to Haymarket (BEE #1).  Nothing beats four nectarines or a bag of lemons for a buck!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

BEE #2&3: Fenway Perspectives

More of the quintessential landmarks in Boston are Fenway Park and The Green Monster.  I knew that I wanted to visit Fenway at some point in my five year stay in Boston and that my brothers have big dreams of coming to visit me so they can visit Fenway...but I didn't exactly expect to be attending not one, but TWO Red Sox games in my second full week at school!  With two games under my belt, I have now experienced Fenway from different perspectives...and I think I might need a Red Sox hat for Christmas if game attendance is going to continue in the future!

Game #1:
Field view from outfield bleachers
My first trip to Fenway involved four tickets that one of my fellow grad. students had to the Wed. Sept. 14th game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  The plan was for myself, my adviser, the new lab manager, and one of my adviser's other students to attend the game after work on Wednesday.  Of course, what they thought was a night game turned out to be a day game!  After much discussion, we decided that playing hooky (shhhh don't tell!) was acceptable to attend the Sox long as we all went back to work after the game and made up for the time missed by working in the evening!  We had seats in the outfield bleachers and it's from there that I got my first look at the Green Monster.

The Green Monster from the outfield bleachers
For those of you unfamiliar with baseball and Fenway Park, the Green Monster is the tall, green wall in left field.  When Fenway was built, the city road on the other side of the wall prevented them from building out, so instead they just built up!  The wall also houses the scoreboard, which is changed manually from inside as well as updates on other games happening around the country, which are manually changed by a worker who exits the wall through a door onto the field between innings.

In my first game I saw my first major league home run, ate an Italian sausage with onions and peppers (which I'm told is a staple), and began to learn the names of some of the Red Sox players.  Unfortunately...I didn't get to experience my first Red Sox win- they lost 4-5.  (Just to set the record straight- we did go back to work afterwards and I spent my evening training in the mineral separation lab..yay!)

Game #2:
My second Red Sox game came on Sat. Sept. 17.  Since I am in a new city, making friends and finding people to connect with has been a priority.  Therefore, I decided to attend an event for BU's Graduate Christian Fellowship group which meant...Red Sox Game #2!

Instead of having tickets already in hand, this time I experienced the "Game Day" ticket sales process.  We met up as a group at BU around one then walked over to Fenway, where we joined a long line of people hoping to purchase tickets for the 4:00PM game.  The Red Sox games have sold out for the last couple of years, so you have to get there early for any hope of getting a seat!  We waited in line for a couple hours talking and getting to know one another until they opened the ticket sales window.  When we got up to the front our choices were $90 seats or $20 standing room only tickets...we're poor grad. I'm pretty sure you can guess what we went with!  After we got our tickets we went straight into the stadium and sat down for a while in someone else's seats to rest up for potentially standing through the game!  This gave me a new perspective on the stadium that I'm sure I could never otherwise afford (note the padded seats...).
View from the padded seats in left field
Once the people came to claim their seats, we got bounced and stood in designated standing room for a while, until we eventually got to sit in different unoccupied seats.  Turns out we landed in a season ticket holder area, where people had chosen not to use their seats that day.  This gave me yet another view of the field, which frankly was my favorite because it provided a good view of the players up to bat:
View from left field bleachers
We had a lot of fun teaching the international students who were with us how the game of baseball works.  We also participated in the time-honored traditions of the seventh inning stretch and the eighth inning singing of Sweet Caroline (which evidently no one really knows the origin of).  A good time was had by all, even down to the Cracker Jacks!

The one downside is that I still haven't seen the Red Sox win!  They lost to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday 3-4 in a bit of a nail-biter.  I guess there's always next time....

My office + Bonus City Picture #2

When I was an undergraduate, all of the geology majors had a drawer in the main room that we hung out in, learned in, did labs in, sometimes slept in, and often ate in.  Now that I am a graduate student, I have moved up in the world and I get my very own desk!

When I arrived at BU, I was assigned a desk in one of the smaller grad. offices adjacent to the graduate student lounge and shared by four or five other grad. students.  However, offices at BU are seniority that assignment didn't last very long before I was displaced by one of the more senior students.  Now I have a desk in a cubicle in the biggest grad office, which houses the desks of ten geology grad. students.  Honestly, I was a little bummed at first to be moving down the hall and away from some of my adviser's older students, but then I realized that my new office is much quieter- so I'm pretty happy with the change.  It's nice to have a work place that I can decorate with my own stuff!  (For any of the Olivet people reading this...if you look hard enough you just might recognize a rhinestone stapler or creepies from Jamie or my graduation gift!)

My cubicle in the grad. office!
Bonus City Life #2:
Like I said before, walking down the streets of Boston you never know exactly what you are going to see if you are observant.  On Friday I was walking home from school since it was a gorgeous day, and I spotted this across the street:

Food truck!
At home this past summer I watched a LOT of shows on the Food Network.  One of those shows was the Great Food Truck Race...and this truck (known as Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese) was one of the trucks competing!  I decided that since it was dinner time I might as well add to my list of adventures and make my first food truck memory at a truck featured on the Food Network.  I ordered the "Green Muenster"- a muenster grilled cheese with bacon  and guacamole.  It was delicious!  As I waited for my order I also got a sample of the special of the day, which is perhaps the most odd grilled cheese I have ever eaten.  It was a local cheese with almonds, chocolate covered bacon, and mango.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Boston Exploration Excursion (BEE) #1: Haymarket

This is the first post of what I hope will be an ongoing, intermittent series.  While I'm here in Boston for a while (probably five years!) I am hoping to have opportunities to explore some of the local sights, culture, restaurants, etc.  BEE posts will give you the opportunity to explore Boston with me from afar!

BEE#1:  Haymarket, Quincy Market, and Boston Harbor

My roommate, one of her friends who came into the city for a visit, and I decided to check out the discount produce market known as Haymarket, which takes place on Fridays and Saturdays year round.  According to a local tourism website about Haymarket, people have gathered here since about 1830 to buy and sell produce!  It resembles a farmer's market with tents and handcarts full of produce and lots of people jostling around to purchase fruits and vegetables.  
Haymarket Produce Stands

Vendor at Haymarket
However, there is one big difference.  The produce for sale is stock cleared out of warehouse stores across the river to make room for new shipments, so it is ripe and needs to be used or frozen quickly but is also sold at incredible prices.  As we walked around we saw everything from garlic to oranges, onions to cantaloupe, carrots to mangoes, and much much more.  To give you an idea of the prices, I got two pounds of white mushrooms for $3 and three small plastic containers of red raspberries for a total of $2.  My roommate got 8 pluots for a buck or two and a large eggplant for $1.  You have to do a bit of picking to avoid overripe produce...but it's well worth it!  We're going to have fresh mushroom pizza tonight, and I froze half a quart of red raspberries.  Another cool thing was one of the vendors let us try an Asian fruit called longan.  It has a tough covering, but once you peel off the covering it looks like the inside of a grape with a pit!  We all thought it was pretty good.

After we were done at the market, we walked over to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, which are nearby.  This is one area where I will return to explore more later, but this time we stuck with Quincy Market.  Quincy Market opened in 1826 and more information about it's history and the surrounding area is available here.  
View outside Quincy Market (The crowd is watching a street performer.)
Quincy Market is a long building with two wings lined with food vendors selling basically every type of cuisine imaginable.  For dinner, I ate veggie Mac n' Cheese from one of the vendors.  It had onions, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes and was delicious!  The center of the building is two levels filled with public seating.  We sat upstairs to eat and enjoyed people watching as well.

Inside Quincy Market, looking down from upstairs seating area
Boston Marina
 Finally before heading back to our apartment via the T (public transit system), we walked out to see the water.  I have never lived near the ocean, so being within an hour of a beach and the ocean is superbly exciting!  We walked through Christopher Columbus Park where an arts festival was going on to a marina on Boston Harbor.  The view was beautiful, and you could also see planes coming in over the water to land at Logan International Airport across the harbor.  Here is a look at the view:

Boston Harbor (plus large plane landing at Boston Logan!)
More adventures to come in the future!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Week One. Done.

I have now officially completed my first full week as a graduate student at BU.  If I had to use a phrase to describe the week I would have to go with "settling in."

Orientation was actually prior to the start of the week on the afternoon of Sept. 2, as mentioned in my last post.  The department's orientation followed the basically universal pattern of orientation = food + information overload + new names to learn.  We were fed pizza and discussed everything from where our mailboxes are located to course specific degree requirements for getting a PhD to the forms and oral exams I can "look forward to" in the future (QUALS...ewww).  After the group orientation meeting, each new incoming student had an "entrance interview."  We met with the department's graduate program coordinator, our adviser, and at least one additional faculty member to discuss any coursework deficiencies from our previous education, to clarify any additional degree requirements to be added on an individual basis, and to plan out the courses we would take this semester.  I would say mine went pretty smoothly- no course deficiencies or added degree requirements and a consensus on the courses that I should take now and recommendations for future semesters.

Classes started on Tuesday, Sept. 6.  I am taking two classes this semester- the graduate section of Geochemistry and a Quantitative Modeling Methods course, which is one of two courses required for all Geology grad. students.  I also have to begin learning all of the required lab skills associated with column chemistry, working in a clean lab, sample preparation, and TIMS operation (future blog topics!).  I have been told it will be a good two to three years before I am truly self-sufficient in the lab and understand the intricacies of the process.  That's pretty intimidating!  Especially when you also consider that one of my main research goals is to develop an entirely new method that no one can teach me..because it doesn't exist yet!

This week mainly consisted of starting observations of others running the TIMS, beginning classes, safety training, getting an office (another future blog topic), meeting LOTS of new people, asking lots of questions, and trying to figure out what in the world I am supposed to be doing while surrounded by a crowd of busy grad. students who all seem to know what's going on.

Bonus City Life #1:
You never know exactly what you're gonna see when living in the city.  This is what happens when smoke is pouring out of the top floor of a building along Comm Ave!
Fire engines with ladders up blocking Comm. Ave.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Behind the Apartment's Door

In Boston, most leases start on September 1st.  Since a large percentage of the city is populated by undergraduate or graduate students, a good portion of the city ends up moving at the same time.  Boston quickly becomes a maze of U-Hauls and trailers at the beginning of September.  I joined the chaos, arriving to move in on September 1st knowing I had a roommate I had never met in person and an apartment I had never seen.  I have one roommate and live in a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment with sky high rent in the city.

I met up with my roommate in person for the first time as we picked up our keys and headed back to unlock the door to our apartment for my first look.  I got there first, unlocked the two deadbolts, and opened the door to absolute WRECK.

What we found on the other side of the apartment door is not the sight that you hope for when you see the place you are going to live for the first time.  There were piles of trash, four abandoned bed frames spread throughout the apartment, the shelves from the fridge were in the bathroom, there was a hole in the wall, the air conditioner didn't work, the refrigerator didn't work (though the freezer did), the floors were marked, stained, and filthy, the toilet was stained brown..and on and on and on.  In fact, it appeared like three people had moved out and one person hadn't even bothered- leaving behind everything from clothing to a nicely made bed.

We called the rental company immediately, asking what was going on.  They looked into it and eventually let us know that they hadn't realized it but they were still missing a set of keys for our apartment, so they would delay us being able to take occupancy for 24 hours while they addressed the problem, changed locks, etc.  Thank goodness my parents were staying at a bed and breakfast where I could stay as well and that the movers weren't scheduled to arrive with my stuff until the next day!  We had to leave not knowing what it would look like the next day when I would need to move in.

The next day we went to the store and stocked up on even more cleaning supplies than we had originally brought with us.  I had to go to orientation for my PhD program (more about that) so my parents met up with my roommate and her parents to go see the unknown.  After orientation I came back to maintenance people, my roommate and parents geared up in gloves scrubbing everything, and a whole bunch of boxes!  It was already a marked improvement!

Now, less than a week after we originally moved in I can say that all the boxes are unpacked and we are settled in what has FINALLY become a livable apartment.  Here are some before and after pictures to give you an idea! (Although frankly the pictures don't do justice to the original filth because you can't see the grime and holes, etc.)

Living Room:


 My Bedroom:

 I am going to avoid moving next year if at all possible!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Moving into the Bay State

The big move has come and gone.  I guess I can now officially call my blog GeoKate in the Bay State..since I'm finally here!

Moving in turned out to be a bigger adventure than I had anticipated.  We drove from Indiana to Massachusetts over two days, just missing hurricane Irene by a couple days.  As Irene went through New England ahead of us, the thruway in New York was flooded and closed with no available detour, since most of the local roads were also flooded.  Luckily, a detour opened the day we left and the thruway itself opened in the middle of the night before we reached the flooded area so we made it through without incident.

Of course, riding across five states was the easy part.  Actually getting settled into my new apartment was a little more challenging......