A Geek’s Tour of Boston & Cambridge

************NEED TO FIND THE PHOTOS FOR THIS POST**************

On my recent trip to Boston I had a day all to myself thanks to my lovely wife being stuck in a conference (which was the catalyst for the trip in the first place).  I took the opportunity to do a bit of a Geek’s Tour of the area, some of which I’ve already blogged about.

The day started off in the hotel room poaching free wi-fi off a local hospital.  It’s damn decent of them to offer a wi-fi hotspot free to patients and their families (and geeks who are willing to sit at an odd angle near the hotel window).  I was completing a draft of an email that I was planning to send to the mayors of Burnaby and Vancouver [on the topic of municipally supported wi-fi](/2008/05/12/emailing-the-mayors-from-bostons-free-wi-fi/).  The email got written up, I checked the twitter feeds (fired off a tweet or two I think) and then headed to my first destination.

I hopped on the “T” as they call it in Boston and took the Green line all into the heart of the city and Government Center.  This is the central government complex and one end of the area served by [Boston’s open wi-fi pilot](http://www.bostonfreewifi.org/index.html) that they’re conducting with ISP Galaxy Internet.  I headed across the street to the Faneuil marketplace and parked myself on a bench.  I wasn’t gonna hang around very long because it was bloody cold and windy, but I stuck it out long enough to fire off the email and quickly blog the experience.  As much as I was enjoying the free signal and 5-bar signal strength (over 90%) it was time for me to g as there were three more stops on this tour and it was already approaching 11:00am.

I re-boarded the “T” and headed out towards Cambridge.  My first stop was the MIT museum.  I got off the train and walked through the streets of Cambridge past several campus buildings.  The architecture on some was quite unique, and there were a great deal fewer old buildings in and around the area.  Much of it appeared to be mid-20th century construction or newer.  The walk from the “T” station to the museum was longer than I had anticipated but provided me a look at a side of Cambridge I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to see.

When I arrived at the museum the first thing that struck me was the austere, spartan look of the main floor.  It was very functionally laid out, with lots of “white space”.  The most interesting exhibit on the main floor was that of the [CityCar](http://cities.media.mit.edu/projects/citycar.html).  This is a project being proposed by MIT professors and graduate students to create a pool of electrically powered cars for use in urban settings, much the same way bicycle pools exist in major European cities today.

On the upper floor was an extensive robotics exhibit and though much of the material was dated (mid-late 1990s) it gave great insight into the directions of artificial intelligence research and robotics.  I got a chance to see the original [“Kismet” robot](http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/humanoid-robotics-group/kismet/kismet.html) which was neat after having seen so many Discovery channel programs about it.  There was also some DNA and genetics research on display, and through I read and was able to understand the words, much of the significance escaped me this time around.

After MIT’s museum, I re-boarded the “T” and headed for Harvard Square.  Once I arrived, the only thing I could contemplate was lunch, it was nearly 2:00pm after all,  On the recommendation of [Miss604](http://miss604.com/) via the Twtittersphere I was able to find a great place for a pint and a quick meal.  I stopped in at John Harvard’s Brew House.  The atmosphere was a bit dead in the lull between lunchtime and happy hour, but I was able to get my geek on by getting some writing done on the [Technological Dependence](/2008/05/15/technological-dependence/) post, and it was in fact my lack of a paper map and an attempt to Google-search my way to directions (instead of asking for directions or a map) which inspired that post.  (Sidenote: I did eventually FAIL with the digital maps and find my way to one of the paper variety.)  The food was pretty good.  I followed the aforementioned recommendation and tried out the Meatloaf (in sandwich form at lunchtime) and with it a pint of the Sam Adams Nut-brown ale (they were out of the porter).  I don’t know if there’s enough for a [Ho Yummy.com](http://hoyummy.com/) review but it was certainly a decent pub lunch.

After lunch was the final stop for the afternoon, a trip to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and the Peabody Museum.  This was geekery of a different kind.  I’ve always been a fan of history, and this gave me a chance to explore some great exhibits on geology, archaeology and to a lesser degree, palaeontology.  There wasn’t a whole lot to differentiate this museum from other similar ones I’ve visited in the past.  In fact it was relatively small when compared to the [Field museum in Chicago](http://fieldmuseum.org/) or even the [Royal BC Museum in Victoria](http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/MainSite/default.aspx); however for a school museum it was very well maintained and they allowed flash photography.

All in all it was a very enjoyable day. If you’re ever in Boston, take a day trip out to Cambridge and check out the sights.  They’re wonderful cities, full of history, and a great place for a little geeky adventure.