May 2015, Cambridge


sticker, east cambridge   (sonya kovacic)

sticker, east cambridge  (sonya kovacic)

I have seen these stickers around the city for some time now. Turns out, the stickers are part of a global public art movement that started in Chicago.

"It began simply with 100 stickers in 2002 in Chicago, and has since evolved into block-long murals, public installations, and exhibitions at cultural institutions involving thousands of artists."

Not to be confused with this Boston based sticker.

Boston, you are beautiful!

April 2015, Cambridge


making curry, cambridge culinary instittute   (sonya kovacic)

making curry, cambridge culinary instittute (sonya kovacic)

Julia Child, the famous American chef known for bringing French food to American audiences, lived in Cambridge from 1961-2001. It is in her kitchen in Cambridge that her popular WGBH show, The French Chef, was filmed. Child donated her kitchen to the Smithsonian when she moved.

Take a look at Julia Child's "little house in Cambridge."

In 2012, Julia Child would have been 100 years old. WGBH celebrated her birthday

April 2015, Cambridge


running alongside the army a few days after the marathon bombing, 2013   (sonya kovacic)

running alongside the army a few days after the marathon bombing, 2013 (sonya kovacic)

In 1967, 19 year old student Kathrine Swtizer was the first woman to register for the Boston Marathon. She registered under the name K.V. Switzer to disguise that she was a woman. When race director Jock Semple saw her running with a number, he tried  to push her out of the race. Switzer continued and finished in 4 hours and 20 minutes.

Katherine Switzer wasn't the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon. That honor goes to Roberta Gibb who ran it in 1966 without a number. Gibb wrote an application to "the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). The Boston Marathon was the only marathon I had ever heard of. Will Cloney, the race director, wrote back a letter that said that women were not physiologically capable of running 26 miles and furthermore, under the rules that governed international sports, they were not allowed to run." She ran anyways and finished in 3 hours and 21 minutes, ahead of two-thirds of the runners.

Women were officially allowed to enter the Boston Marathon in 1972.

Caroline Rotich from Kenya won the 2015 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:24:55.

Take a look at this 1966 headline about Roberta Gibb.

Watch this 3 minute pbs video about Kathrine Switzer.  

Cambridge, March 2015


obama on his way for a slice of pizza  (sonya kovacic)

obama on his way for a slice of pizza (sonya kovacic)

President Obama's motorcade passed through Main Street in Cambridge today on its way to a DNC fundraiser at the restaurant, Area 4.

Learn more about the beast, or the presidential limousine.

The Allston Brighton Historical Society has a a photo collection of Market Street. Included in that collection is a 1962 photo of President John F. Kennedy's motorcade passing through Market Street.

Cambridge, March 2015


neena's lighting, harvard square  (sonya kovacic)

neena's lighting, harvard square (sonya kovacic)

A notable change in Boston this week has been the change of time.

In the United States, according to Wikipedia, daylight savings time came about as a way of saving money on fuel during WWI and WWII. However there were no federal rules about following DLS which created inconsistencies as states decided if they would follow DLS or not. Because of that, in the 1960's the transportation industry pushed for federal regulation and the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was enacted to establish standard time within the established time zones.  It's actually the Department of Transportation (DOT) that enforces the law.

Since 1966 there have been variations of the Act and presently, Arizona and Hawaii are the only two states that don't follow daylight savings time.

Light plays an important role in clocks, both internal and external. One solution for reinstating the circadian rhythm is by camping.

More light is a good thing, or is it? There are more heart attacks following the change of time in the Spring than the Fall.

March 2015, Cambridge

infinite jest

outside hayden library  (sonya kovacic)

outside hayden library (sonya kovacic)

David Foster Wallace was a novelist, essayist, college professor, and literary cult figure who committed suicide in 2008. Wallace is best known for his 1079 page book, Infinite Jest, published in 1996. Sven Birkerts from the Atlantic Monthly called it a "multi-layered postmodern saga of damnation and salvation."  Other critics call it a modern day version of James Joyce's Ulysses. Although the setting takes place in the future, many of the references are from Boston

There is an interactive atlas that maps places in Boston referenced in Infinite Jest, including the Hayden Library.

WBUR's Radio Open Source takes a look at a rare 1996 interview with Foster Wallace and explores his use of Boston as a setting.

This BDC wire article analyzes the Radio Open Source interview.

Cambridge, February 2015


loose change  (sonya kovacic)

loose change (sonya kovacic)

Today is President's Day. Four United States Presidents were politically affiliated with Massachusetts.

John Adams- 2nd President (1797–1801).
John Quincy Adams- 6th President (1825 to 1829). Son of John Adams. 
Calvin Coolidge- 
30th President (1923–1929). Born in Vermont but was politically affiliated with Massachusetts. Once the Governor of Massachusetts.
John F. Kennedy- 35th President (1961-1963 when assassinated).

In Quincy you can visit the Adams National Historical Park

Adams National Historical Park is the story of “heroes, statesman, philosophers … and learned women” whose ideas and actions helped to transform thirteen disparate colonies into one united nation

Cambridge, February 2015

traffic circle

trouble ahead  (sonya kovacic)

trouble ahead (sonya kovacic)

"Why does every Bostonian that has to drive through this traffic circle, er, rotary, have to completely lose their minds?  I don't get it, its really not that hard. Tom, 80% is very generous....

I have the misfortune of having to drive around this crappy traffic control device every day on my way home from work. I routinely deal with people who travel on the innermost lane of the circle who decide at the last moment "OH! I want to go over the bridge!". Often I have an idiot in front of me too scared to enter the circle.  (Its 5:15!  There is going to be traffic!  You have to pick a moment and go for it!) Most people don't realize that its two lanes going into and over the bridge.  Then of course there are the people who get in the left lane to go over the bridge and who intend on making the right onto Comm Ave.  Plan people...plan. "

-Yelp review for the BU bridge rotary

In Massachusetts, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles Driver's Manual: in a traffic circle, traffic runs counter-clockwise. Always yield the right-of-way to vehicles already in the rotary (unless told differently by signs or police officers) and to pedestrians. Use your turn signals in the same way as any other intersection. Travel through the rotary and, when you are ready to exit, use your right turn signal. Don't stop in the rotary

It could be worse.

The colloquial word for a traffic circle in Massachusetts is a rotary. However rotaries differ from what is known as a roundabout.

Traffic circles are supposed to increase safety by eliminating common crashes that occur with traditional intersections. In a traffic circle, because cars are going slower and in the same direction, crashes don't happen as much. And although unfathomable to imagine sometimes, they are supposed to ease traffic.

Cambridge, February 2015

playing cards

installation  (sonya kovacic)

installation (sonya kovacic)

In 1962, MIT Professor Edward O. Thorp wrote a book called "Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One." The book explained how to win at blackjack using the mathematical theory of probability.

While trying to to figure out if he could apply principles of probability to beat roulette as well, Thorp (along with fellow MIT Professor, Claude Shannon) was said to have created the first wearable computer.

Read more about the first wearable computer.

There is a card game that originated in France called Boston. It may take awhile to understand how to play it.

Cambridge, Winter, culture, February 2015


monday before juno  (sonya kovacic)

monday before juno (sonya kovacic)

HUNTER'S ONLY PUN. The celebrated John Hunter is said to have made but one pun in his life, and that was when lecturing in the Windmill Street School of Medicine. In demonstrating the jaw-bone, he observed that this bone was known to abound in proportion to the want of brains. Some students were talking instead of attending to  the lecture, upon which Hunter explained:
    "Gentlemen, let us have more intellect and less jaw."

Front page of the Boston Evening Transcript, February 4, 1854.

Take a look at the rest of the February 4, 1854 edition of the Boston Evening Transcript.

The Boston Herald likes using puns.

Cambridge, January 2014, Housing


good old days  (sonya kovacic)

good old days (sonya kovacic)

Boston's median rent is the third most expensive in the country, only behind New York City and San Francisco. In 2013 the average rent was $1,772. 

The latest Greater Boston Housing Report Card from 2013, analyzes the Greater Boston housing and rental market. Here are some of their findings:

Rent keeps increasing:

Between 2009 and mid-2013, the average asking rent in Greater Boston increased by 9.1 percent while the average effective rent rose by 10 .8 percent, reflecting fewer discounts.

Supply is low:

With the rental vacancy rate in the region now at 3 .7 percent, rents are expected to continue to rise. Our own statistical analysis indicates that when the rental vacancy rate has fallen below
 5.5 percent, landlords are able to extract higher rents. Facing little inventory, renters are forced to compete for a limited number of available units. Low vacancy rates are good for landlords but anathema for renters

Rent is taking up more of household incomes: 
Homeownership costs are rising faster than homeowners’ incomes. As a result, the housing cost burden for the typical family in Greater Boston has reached an all-time high with more than half of all renter households spending more than 30 percent of their gross incomes on rent. Those paying 50 percent or more of their gross income on rent—now surpasses one-fourth (26 .4 percent) of all renter households in the region, up from 18 .4 percent in 2000. 

To sum it up: wages are stagnant, rent is increasing, and there is not enough housing. Policy now and in the future will need to address these issues.

Kendall Square/MIT is the most expensive zip code in Greater Boston.

It's tough to be a renter in Boston.

Cambridge, Technology, January 2014

mugar omni theater

omni film reel, science museum (sonya kovacic)

omni film reel, science museum (sonya kovacic)

The Mugar Omni theater, located in the Science Museum since 1987, is a 5 story dome shaped IMAX theater called an Omnimax. It is the only Omnimax in New England and one of only sixty in the world.

The seats recline about thirty degrees, and because the screen fills a viewer's field of vision (including periphery vision) viewers get the feeling of immersion and motion. The Omni theater also has surround sound (who put the bomp in the bomp? Shabomp, shabomp).

*The 70mm Omnimax film reel is around 3 miles long, weighs 200 pounds, and needs to be configured manually. 

This is pure nostalgia for anyone who remembers the "New England Introduction" that played before each Omni theater film. Sadly the theater doesn't use this introduction anymore.

The Omni theater only plays educational films. If you want to see a film this week, there are films about the Mayans, the Galapagos Islands, and pandas.

Technology, Cambridge, January 2014


muddy charles pub wall of fame (sonya kovacic)

muddy charles pub wall of fame (sonya kovacic)

Although NASA's Mission Control Center did not end up  in Kendall Square38 NASA Astronauts graduated from MIT. That's more than any other non-military academic institution. The most notable alum, Buzz Aldrin, was the second person to walk on the moon after Neil Armstrong in July 1969.

Take a look at an iconic photo of Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

In October 2014, MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics held a centennialsymposium.

Cambridge, economics, January 2014


oregon trail

oregon trail

In 1791, Massachusetts Bank financed the first American voyage to Argentina by ship. With time, Buenos Aires and Boston became trade partners, trading goods like wool and leather and in 1917, Bank of Boston (after merging with Massachusetts Bank in 1903) opened its first branch in Buenos Aires.

The 20th century saw Bank of Boston become one the largest foreign banks in some parts of Latin America and its impressive neo-colonial Banco de Boston building in Buenos Aires, constructed in 1924, became a well known landmark (if also a target for protests).

In 2001, it was a site of massive protests in Argentina when the country defaulted on their international loans, and the government froze savings accounts. The building has since become ICBC Argentina, a Chinese bank, signaling China's influence in Latin America, as well as an end of an era for Boston banks in Latin America.

Take a look at some old and new photos of the Banco de Boston building in Buenos Aires.

*you can play the oregon trail here.

Cambridge, January 2014


baked beans in star market (sonya kovacic)

baked beans in star market (sonya kovacic)

Molasses has had an interesting role in Boston history since the colonial days when colonists put molasses in their baked beans and inspired what we now call Boston Baked Beans.

In fact, according to the Boston Tea Party Museum, "John Hancock, made his fortune smuggling molasses on his ship called “Liberty”, the fortune which was later used to support the cause of American independence." Another use of molasses was in rum distillation, which was popular at the time in Boston.
Molasses was also responsible for one of the strangest man made disasters in Boston history, when in January 1919, a tank full of 2.3 million gallons of molasses from the Purity Distilling company collapsed in the North End. It resulted in a 15 foot tsunami (more devastating than a typical tsunami) going 35 miles per hour that destroyed buildings, swept people away, and eventually trapped people in a gelatinous state. 21 people died, and more than 150 were injured. 

There is a distillery in Roxbury (Boston's first craft distillery) that along with other spirits, offers a rum named the Boston rum. They also offer tours.  

Cambridge, December 2014

christmas tree

coworker's holiday cookies (sonya kovacic)

coworker's holiday cookies (sonya kovacic)

Boston has received a Christmas tree from Halifax, Nova Scotia every year since 1971, as a thank you for assisting Halifax after the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

According to the official Nova Scotia website, on December 6th, 1917, the Norwegian supply ship Imo collided with the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc, causing the largest man-made explosion the world had ever seen. Close to 2,000 people were killed, hundreds wounded, 1,600 homes were destroyed. The city of Boston dispatched a relief train that night to assist survivors and helped with the rebuilding process. 

The following year, in 1918, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to Boston to thank them for their kindness, and the gift was revived in 1971.

This year's Christmas tree is a 43 foot, 55-year-old, white spruce from John MacPherson and Ethel Ann's backyard in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The tree actually has a twitter handle.  

To learn more about the Halifax Explosion, go here. 

Cambridge, Industry, December 2014

greeting cards

at the mall (sonya kovacic)

at the mall (sonya kovacic)

"He came to America when popular taste for art was low but hunger for color was high."
"When he left it, popular taste for art was high and hunger for color everywhere was satisfied."

-From two Louis Prang chromolithographic plates.

Louis Prang was a Prussian born printer who emigrated to Boston in 1850 and is known as the creator of the American Christmas card. He ran a successful printing company called Louis Prang and Company where he specialized in chromolithographic prints. Lithography is the art of printing from lithographic limestone using oil and water and chromolithography involves creating a single lithographic plate for each color used for a print.

Among their prints, Louis Prang and Company created color printed copies of famous paintings, business cards, advertisements, and in 1875, created the first Christmas card. 

Americans buy 6.5 billion greeting cards a year. The Boston Globe Magazine breaks it down. 

You can also check out a Louis Prang Christmas card from 1876. 

Cambridge, December 2014, Art


alchemist sculpture, MIT (sonya kovacic)

alchemist sculpture, MIT (sonya kovacic)

The Alchemist sculpture on MIT's campus is a painted stainless steel sculpture that "consists of mathematical symbols in the shape of a human form." In 2010, an anonymous alumnus commissioned the work from Catalan sculptor, Jaume Plensa, for MIT's 150th anniversary. The alumnus was supposedly so moved by the celebration that he donated the sculpture to MIT for their permanent collection.

The MIT Gallery of Hacks is an online gallery dedicated to MIT's IHTFP (Interesting Hacks to Fascinate People). In 2013, after the last episode of Breaking Bad, hackers transformed the Alchemist into Walter White. 

The Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont, has created the most "elusive beer in the world."