A frosty morning… oh, and THANKSGIVING FIRST

It was startling to be driving in to work this morning and noticing the frost all around, and even ice on the puddles. Ah, winter, are you truly here already? At least it makes for a beautiful sunrise over the fields by Soldier’s Field Road (albeit brief as you drive by).

It’s also startling to realize just how early Thanksgiving seems to be coming this year: in just one short week Americans will be getting ready for the big treks to (or from) family. I think part of it was all the activity around ApacheCon – along with doing my usual conference planner work, I was also pretty busy with some ASF organization work. (OK, pretty busy is quite an understatement.)

In any case, I’m glad that at least one store (Macy’s, I think) is explicitly holding off on the rest of the “holiday season” until after Thanksgiving. Reminder: there’s only a few more days to get on the “THANKSGIVING FIRST” bandwagon to decry the many establishments who put up Christmas decorations far too early in the season. I remember seeing some tree decorations displayed next to the Halloween candy recently… and also made the mistake a few weeks ago of walking into the Cambridgeside Galleria, which is all done up in it’s Christmas finery. I love the winter holiday season too, but I have the sense when I’m celebrating it early to do it privately.

Thank you, US Taxpayers!

Thank you all for the sacrifice and work put into the Recovery Act. I’m very thankful for the millions of dollars that taxpayers across the USA are (or will be) paying to help improve the infrastructure, and especially the roads, here in eastern Massachusetts. Our commonwealth government is putting the money to work right now resurfacing plenty of roadways and repairing some of our elderly bridges – and they even have a nifty map showing you where your money is going.

I now can thank you every day, since there are some key stretches of Rt. 2 and a handful of roads in Belmont that had been pretty bad, which are now beautifully smooth and bump-free thanks to these extra-special Recovery projects. Although, I’m not sure if I should thank you, the taxpayers, or if I should really be thanking your children for their future contributions. I’d better thank some other of our descendants now too, I suppose, just to be sure it’s covered – thanks!

A big shout out to the town of Belmont, which just this week took the Recovery money to heart. I’ve been enjoying the super-smooth new curve of Blanchad Road, even with it’s new traffic calming devices. (Make that Blanchard – but one of the construction signs used to say “BLANCHAD RD UNDER CONSTRUCTION” for so long I kind of got used to it.) And parts of Park Ave and a few stretches near down town are much much better than they’ve been for years.

No, what I really have to hand it to Belmont is for going all out – right down to the dirt. Yes, about half of my drive through Belmont on the way home tonight was on dirt roads. All the way dirt – nice and dusty, with plenty of leftover gravel to jump up at the windshield, and big ruts to make for an interesting ride. I’ll be sure to remember to avoid driving in Belmont for the next week or so until they can bring some major routes back up to paved status. 8-(

Somerville Ave, gateway to the underworld

Or that’s what it looks like, given the array of 20-plus earthmoving machines scattered along just the third of it’s length that I carefully traversed yesterday in it’s unending dig of construction.

For those of you not fortunate enough to live near The Hub, Somerville Ave is a stoplight strewn, respectably sized street running along the southeast corner of Somerville. It’s a not terribly distinguished stretch of various commercial enterprises going from Porter Square in Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville. It’s not even terribly central to Somerville as a city; either Broadway, Highland Ave, or ironically enough Medford St (which does go to Medford) are much more obviously the major avenues in Somerville.

And it’s been under construction for years.

Seriously, though: how long has it been? 2 years certainly, has it been 3? And I’m not talking small bits: large sections have been torn up and partly rebuilt regularly, and every other month one stretch or another seems to be shut down with a detour around it. And we’re not talking a Big Dig or a highway or bridges or anything: this is just a plain old city surface street. Why do they need to dig up sections repeatedly? I know modern utility infrastructure, especially when done right, is a complex undertaking: still, it feels like the doctor who forgot to count how many sponges they used in an operation.

Ah – I see. It was supposed to have begun in May 2007, or so the very nicely done Somerville city website claims. I would have sworn there was major construction there earlier, maybe when I was in college, and wasn’t it under construction in high school too? It sure feels like forever. And no, I have little right to complain: I don’t live in Somerville, although I do commute there from time to time.

But I hear you ask, dear reader: why the gateway to the underworld? Why that phrase, why not some clever twist on it’s gateway status to Union Square, or Portage Square instead? Why not just the more plain spoken “What the heck is up with Somerville Ave?”

  • They’re digging pretty deep. Who knows what they’ll find: Massachuset artifacts, alewife fossils, or tidbits of drumlin artifacts? Seriously: one of the half-dug up streets has a solid 8-10 inch differential between the two halves. That’s after they’ve done the temporary repaving.
  • If it weren’t for the fact that it’s A) a government agency, and 2) a significant utility and roadway improvement project, then I’d have to believe that someone made a deal with the underworld to string out a project this long.
  • It makes for a good post title.

In any case, one of the best things that can be said for the construction is that it can’t make Union Square traffic any more confusing. Just slower.

My Mid Summery-Day Commute

A few observations driving to work mid-day the day before Patriot’s Day (actual).

  • How long does it take to build an Appleton? Seriously: just how long has there been a long row of contractor’s trucks parked atop the peak of Appleton St., on the Boston side? At least 2 years. They coulda built a whole new section of Tory Row by now, and it’s hard enough to drive up that street after shopping at the Fancy Stores for nibbles on my way into work.
  • Who’s getting buried today? Not to begrudge the funeral procession on Mt. Auburn their due respect at all, but I waited for a detail cop (actually doing useful traffic direction work – imagine that!) to wave me on as no less than 4 cycles and one police car (Cambridge, I think) escorted a hearse, limo, and count them: about 3 funeral-marked cars. Musta been someone important.
  • The tourists were out, at least a few. Sadly, there were no where near enough Bostonians jogging Memorial as I would have expected at 12:15p! That’s good, because a pair of construction workers were eating lunch on the bikepath across from Mahoneys, excuse me, across from yet another Harvard building.
  • I did not specifically see people smiling, but then again I was driving to work. I also did not appear to be stuck behind any of the gross of MA licensed drivers who are reportedly 100 years of age or older, nor did I see any buses on fire, Fung Wah or otherwise.
  • I did not eat any Solyent Green. Although I have seen an unusual number of references to it, without having seen the meme until I Googled it just now. Are people worried they’ll be eating a touch of the great Charlton Heston (R.I.P) in their Wheaties this week?
  • I also did not see any electric longboards chugging uphill on Appleton St., either, although this link is worth a read. Although I suppose the Tories discourage that kind of behavior in their neighborhood.

Who’s all going to what Patriot’s Day celebrations? I salute all the reenactors who help bring this important holiday to life, especially the early risers and them’s that celebrate it on the day, as opposed to just doing it right before the Marathon.

BMW for sale; E36 wanted

For the non-BMW cognoscenti, yes, that means I’m selling my beloved BMW, and I want to buy a new (used) BMW of the same model. While it may seem silly to buy the same kind of car that you already have – presuming yours is in good shape, which it is – I really want to get an E36 in really good shape before they all start rusting or get too beat up on the track.

(Waves at all my new Universal Hub readers!)