Thursday, July 27, 2017

Food on Our June 2017 Trip

On our trip to Boston, we had some great food on the road and in Boston.

In my brother's town, we ate ate Hot Rods BBQ which had really yummy barbeque and tasty local beers.

The next day, we stopped for lunch in South Britain, Connecticut, hoping to find a British-like pub. We found Maggie McFly's, which isn't quite a British pub but is delightful nonetheless.

Maggie McFly's

I had a local brew from Two Roads Brewery. No Limits Hefeweizen is a classic Bavarian wheat beer and tasted very good.

The beer

Since it was Sunday, they had a brunch menu available. I decided to mix my German beer with some Mexican food and had the breakfast burrito. It was packed out with cheese, onions, peppers, sausage, and bacon, with a side of home fries and the usual sour cream, salsa, and guacamole on the other side. 

Breakfast burrito, maybe not so well paired with a beer but that's the way it went down

We also had an order of pretzels which were fabulous--warm and soft and buttery.

In Boston, the first night we ate at Parish Cafe (recommended by our DK tourism book), known for highly individualized sandwiches made by two brothers. I had the Mexican Meatball, which had the right amount of spiciness and a fun mix of greens for the "salad topping" which I usually abhor on burgers. Cole slaw and potato salad rounded out the plate. I had a summer ale which was a little too IPA for my tastes.

Mexican Meatball at...

...Parish Cafe

One night at the hotel I worked on the blog at the bar and sampled some local brews. Jack's Abby Smoke & Dagger Black Lager is refreshingly different from a usual lager, with a dark and smokey flavor that I enjoyed. The brewery is in Framingham, Massachusetts, so it is fairly local.

Allagash White Belgian Style is brewed in Portland, Maine, so it's less local. The beer is a wheat beer with spices and it isn't as pleasant as other Belgian and Belgian-style beers that I've had. Something about the spice combination isn't satisfying to me. Oh well.

Only this picture came out, alas

Just off Harvard Square is Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers, a Harvard landmark according to our travel guide and their very own sign.

A simple sign for an unassuming (sort of) place

The menu is full of comically-named burgers, some more funny and/or more appropriate than others. 

A sample of the menu

An eclectic interior too!

I had the John "Solly" Solomon burger because it had pineapple on it. The burger was delicious and the onion rings were light and tasty.

Teriyaki and pineapple! With onion rings!

For dinner that night, we went to a nearby restaurant, Basta Pasta, which is highly rated by locals. I had the stuffed eggplant on homemade pasta which was scrumptious and perhaps a bit too much for one meal. The kids got individual pizzas which were so big that we brought a whole pizza back to the hotel. It was dinner the next night!

Stuffed eggplant

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Book Review: Spill Zone by S. Westerfeld et al.

Spill Zone written by Scott Westerfeld, art by Alex Puvilland, colors by Hilary Sycamore

Addison is an adventurous photographer who lives outside Poughkeepsie, New York. Po-town, as it's referred to in the book, had a major and unexplainable event a few years back rendering it into a wasteland. It's a cross between Chernobyl and Cthulhu, with weird and unnatural creatures inhabiting it. The black market for pictures from inside the Spill Zone, as it is also called, is profitable, so Addison keeps going back. She has to support her little sister, who barely escaped the Spill Zone back in the day. Their parents did not escape. One of Addison's worries is that she'll run into her parents or what's left of them at some point. But still she goes in.

If that wasn't odd enough, another spill zone opened up in North Korea on the same night. The North Koreans are interested in finding out more about the American counterpart and have sent someone to find out more. The situation is slow to develop, leaving fodder for future issues. I found the story intriguing enough. With the odd plot twists and an engaging central character, I am interested in reading more. The sequel doesn't come out until July 2018, but their web site says it will start serializing in October 2017. I better mark my calendar!


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Random Bits of Boston

One of our hotel shuttle's drop off points was by the Boston Public Library, which is an impressive edifice if nothing else. We did go in change a diaper. We actually didn't see any books, which my older son remarked upon. The book are well protected.

Boston Public Library

Front doors

 Flanking the front doors are two statues. On the left is one memorializing scientists; on the right is another for artists.

Lady Science?

Lady Art?

Across the street is Copley Square, which features a farmers' market several times a week (or so the shuttle driver told me). 

Copley Square with market

Copley Square also has a fun sculpture of the tortoise and the hare. My children were happy to pose. Getting a photo where they were all looking in the same direction was a bit of a challenge.

No wonder the tortoise is slow--two riders!

A sassy hare!

The plaza is named after John Singleton Copley, a portrait painter from the late 1700s and early 1800s. He lived in both London and Boston.

John Singleton Copley

The plaza has a church, Trinity Church, that reminded us of many of the churches in Europe--it was undergoing a face lift! We have almost fond memories of scaffolding-covered cathedrals in Germany, Spain, and Belgium.

Trinity Church, Copley Square

The chapter house, also getting some work done

We rode the subway in Boston. I was with the children and must have looked particularly beleaguered since one of the transit workers offered my children an activity book each. They also each received a set of crayons for the activity book!

MBTA activity book

Unfortunately, the toddler developed a habit of pooping on mass transit, requiring some waits for a diaper change (like our one trip inside the public library) or, in one case, a stairwell change with the older kids standing guard!

Near Boston Common is Arlington Street Church, which was charming enough for a photo.

Arlington Street Church

Our toddler was manic about pushing the buttons for our hotel elevator and swiping the card key for our hotel room door. One day, my daughter did it instead of him which turned into the classic meltdown--he was so mad he couldn't even stand.

Or he was appreciating the fireworks carpet in the hotel hallway

We did a very quick visit to MIT for the kooky-looking buildings.

King Kong might have given it a punch

Inside are fun scientific gizmos and displays, as well as tributes to some of the greats.

Digi-Comp II

Greats of horror classics

More greats of horror classics

Outside are some fun house-style mirrors that the children loved. And more kooky architecture.

Bricks made of mirrors?

More fun shapes

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston

The Cathedral Church of St. Paul is the main church for the Episcopal diocese of Massachusetts. The church was originally built from 1819 to 1820 as the first truly American Episcopal Church in Boston. It is modeled after a Greek temple and is an early Greek Revival church in America. The blend of British and American is found in the very stones--some from St. Paul's in London, some from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. It has undergone many renovations.

Cathedral Church of St. Paul

One notable renovation is the nautilus over the columns. Originally, the architects had planned a scene of St. Paul preaching to King Agrippa. The nautilus was installed in 2013 as a symbol of universal invitation and welcome. The building now hosts a Muslim community on Fridays in addition to Episcopal services on Sunday.

They also have this medallion in the sidewalk out front

The interior is light and open. The day we visited, a group was warming up for their concert at 1 p.m. The musician were gathering in the church (it was about 11:45) and setting up.


The choir loft

A small side chapel is kept for quiet prayer. We tried to be as quiet and prayerful as we could.

Prayer chapel

The church is a bit spartan with decorations. They have a nice ebony Madonna and Child and a few icon-style paintings.

Madonna and child

Jesus calls some disciples

Overall, I found it a bit underwhelming.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie Review: Lion (2016)

Lion (2016) directed by Garth Davis

Five year old Saroo lives in a small Indian village with his mom, big brother, and sister. He wants to go with his big brother on a job in a neighboring town. The older brother at first resists but gives in. They arrive late at night and the older brother tells the sleepy Saroo to wait on a bench while he checks on the job. Saroo didn't pay enough attention. When he finally wakes up in the middle of the night, he gets on a nearby train to look for his brother. The train (a decommissioned passenger train) departs for a multi-day trip to Calcutta. Saroo is trapped until the end of the line. In Calcutta, he lives as a street child for a while then is sent to an orphanage. He's adopted by parents in Tasmania, who give him love and a good life. As an adult, Saroo eventually realizes he wants to find his lost family and begins a desperate attempt using Google Earth, made more difficult by not telling his adoptive parents (who he assumes will be hurt by his quest) and refusing help from his girlfriend.

The movie is heart-rending and difficult to watch in several parts, especially the treatment of street children in Calcutta. But it is also uplifting in many ways. The cast does a great job communicating so much emotion and so many ideas without a lot of melodramatic speeches or pandering to the audience. It's just an honest and powerful story.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book Review: Rise of the Dungeon Master by D. Kushner et al.

Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D written by David Kushner and illustrated by Koren Shadmi

Dungeons and Dragons is, alongside with The Lord of the Rings, one of the seminal works in the fantasy genre, giving the genre both popularity and eventually respectability in the later half of the twentieth century. The game system's story is told along with the life of Gary Gygax, one of the creators of D&D. He had his gaming start playing war games. He played various games and even started a convention in his home town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He had the idea for a medieval-era game where some of the miniatures represented an individual hero who would take multiple hits to be eliminated. The game slowly morphed as he collaborated with Dave Arneson into a role playing adventure game. Getting the game published was so challenging that they formed their own company, TSR, to release the game. Dungeons and Dragons became an underground hit, eventually hitting the mainstream, though not always for the best reasons. James Egbert's disappearance and eventual suicide was blamed on the game even though Egbert had plenty of emotional issues that were more significant contributors to his choice. The book continues through to the deaths of Arneson (who had become estranged from Gygax and D&D) and Gygax.

The book is told as if the reader is playing a role playing game. Various chapters are seen from the perspectives of Gygax, Arneson, William Dear (the private investigator in the Egbert case), and others. The style is fun and engaging. The art is fairly standard comic book art and works well to tell the story.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Boston Common and Public Garden Part II

A continuation of yesterpost...

We admired more of the garden before discovering the statue of Edward Everett Hale, another Unitarian minister and the grand-nephew of Nathan Hale, colonial spy executed during the American Revolution.

More gardens

Edward Everett Hale

We then crossed Charles Street and headed into Boston Common, which has a lot more open green space. One big event held here was the first Mass offered by Pope Saint John Paul II in America on October 1, 1979.

Entering the Common

Memorial to Papal Mass

We saw a statue in the distance that interested me, but something much closer caught the attention of the children.

Statue on a hill

Carousel nearby!

We took a ride on the carousel which provided a fun break from the sunshine.

My daughter on a zebra

My son looks back

The field is also famous (or at least it has a memorial) for the Oneida Football Club of Boston, the first such club in the United States that went undefeated from 1862 to 1865.

Oneida Football Club memorial

Nearby a relief commemorates the founding of Boston in 1630.

Boston founding!

We finally made it up the hill to discover the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, erected in 1877 featuring prominent Bostonian military men from the American Civil War era.

The base of the statue

The memorial from the back

The memorial from the front

Front base

By the memorial is a sea mine like the ones used in World War I to blockade the North Sea. Such a memorial struck us as odd--it commemorates the mine layers and sweepers from World War I.

Mine Memorial

We stopped for a quick snack at one of the many carts in the park and then discovered Brewer Fountain, a piece from the 1876 Paris Expo.

Brewers Fountain

Sculpture detail

The north end of the Common has the best feature, at least according to my children--the Tadpole Playground!

Entrance to Tadpole Playground

As the name implies, there is plenty of water available for splashing and getting wet. If we had known, we might have dressed more appropriately. The kids had fun anyway.

Inside the playground

Climbing up

Sliding down

Not so far down

Tough rings

Froggy waters!

We had lunch and then headed back to the hotel for a fine siesta.