Sunday, December 23, 2007

Snow, snow, snow

This car is parked in front of our apartment. Turns out there's been more snow this month than all of last season. The Massachusetts highway department has already spent its entire winter $24 million sand and salt budget.

Friday, December 21, 2007

You better watch out...

Jazz hands on the way - check out our dance moves. To understand why we're dancing, see weather conditions below (please note the "Feels Like" temp).

Current conditions for where we are:

Weather for where we'll be for the next week!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Fellows

This picture was taken early on. I'll let Keith name everyone.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Technical difficulties

Miles made a few signs to ensure the message was clear to everyone.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

You know the old "walked a mile to school in the snow" bit?

Guess what Miles and I did today? Actually I walked a mile in the snow to get him and then we walked a mile in the snow to get back home. We almost always walk home, there's just been much more snow lately!

BTW: Happy Birthday, Mom! Hope you got the flowers.

Hanukkah is over...

...but I just realized I forgot to post an action shot of the new menorah Karen gave us.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Q&A with Miles and Kari

Miles e-mailed my friend Kari, who works in Shanghai, the following question:
Hi Kari,

This is Miles. My friends at school said sticking up your pinky is a swear in China. Is that true? Thank you.

Sincerely, Miles

This was Kari's thoughtful response:
Hi Miles :)

That was a really good question. And in fact, I had to do a little digging to find out. Sticking your pinky up means you are referring to something that is "small". So most of my Chinese friends and co-workers have told me that it would depend on how you meant it to mean something bad or not. Does that make sense? I am sure you could think of some normal ways to use a pinky to indicate small and some mean ways ... probably the nice/normal ways are the best :)


Friday, December 7, 2007

Gnome for the holidays

I was shopping on Newbury Street in Boston and saw this sassy gnome staring out at me. He was in a shop full of gnomes, fairies and other mythical creatures.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Remembering the last drops of fall color on the Mohawk trail

Yikes, it's December, our second snow has arrived and I'm just getting around to posting about our Veteran's day travels. For the long weekend, we went on a mini-tour of the Western Mass/Berkshires. In summer or prime leaf-viewing season, this area would be packed. But, with the arrival of the chilly pre-snow air and with most, though not all, of the fall color gone, it's very quiet.

Day one - Hadley & Amherst: After a very late start, we drove to Hadley where we had short, but very enjoyable visit with Jill Kaufman, her husband Av, and their two girls. Jill is a friend of Keith's from public radio, turns out Av is also a public radio reporter. They live in a sweet old farmhouse in Hadley. Av has lived in New England most of his life and has an incredible wealth of information about this region housed in his head. They are such smart, funny, and warm people -- we'll have to head back for another visit. Hopefully we'll get to see their pond and the local snapping turtles that live there.

Day two - Roadside Stops and North Adams
- Shelburne Falls: Artist community sort of like Mount Vernon, but more authentic somehow. Glacial Potholes. Delicious warm Apple Puff, tea, and coffee at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roaster. If you go there, don't waste time with cold apple puff...get it warmed.

- Mohwak trail gift shop: When you travel with Miles gift shops are a part of the equation.

North Adams : Visit Mass MoCA. The museum is housed in an immense old factory with lots of wide open spaces perfect for displaying large scale artworks.

I was excited to find a Strandbeest by Theo Jansen. Keith and I had previously seen his work online where you can see it in motion. The pieces depend upon wind for mobility, so at MassMoCA it lies there like a mysterious and beautiful washed up alien life-form.

Also was really intrigued by the work of Heeseop Yoon. She creates very large installations using black tape, vellum, and pencil. I haven't found a photograph that captures the gesture and depth that she is able to create with these simple materials. It's sort of like she combines sumi, mural art, and fine sketching.

There was a large Spencer Finch exhibit, that, with a few wonderful exceptions didn't work for me. Much of the exhibit was focused on accuracy of color and color of light(he uses a colorimeter to ensure this) ...and being somewhat colorblind, it was lost on me.

We spent the night in lovely Porches Inn. Miles and Keith enjoyed many rounds of their "swedish treatment" (where they swim in the heated outdoor pool then dash through the cold mountain air for a dip in the hot tub and then pool....then hot tub). The town was so shuttered up that only two restaurants in town were open. Fortunately for us, one was the excellent Gramercy Bistro.

Day three: Visit Williamstown (home of lovely Williams college), drive through Bershires, visit to Hancock Shaker Village.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Making stuff at the Fab Lab

About a month ago my classmate Alec Resnick told me about the MIT Center for Bits & Atoms (CBA) Fab Lab he works at in Back Bay. Yesterday we finally got to visit and we are hooked. You are looking at Miles' first creation.

He created it in a drawing program in Open Office and then "printed" it on a machine that used a laser to cut his design out of 1/4" thick plastic. Miles chose to use this thick white plastic from a wide selection of materials; he could just as easily have used some other material like wood, mirror or another color of plastic. There were a few little issues, but it turned out great for a first project. In addition to the ability to just make stuff, the atmosphere in the lab is really congenial and communal.

But the goal of the Fab Lab is much greater than to just let people like us make cool stuff, their goal is to bridge the fabrication divide. The fab lab concept and outreach is one of the most exciting things I've been exposed to at MIT, if you have a chance, watch this brief talk that Neil Gershenfeld, CBA Director, gave at TED about a year ago. When I viewed it, it took my breath away.

Fab labs have been opened in rural India, northern Norway, Ghana, Boston, South Africa, and Costa Rica. On the FabLabs site they list examples of what's happening at these labs:

  • Fab Lab partners are working on creating mesh wireless, ad hoc networks in the Lyngen Alps of Norway to allow shepherds to keep track of their flocks from afar, and to allow fishermen to keep track of their boats at sea.

  • At the Ghana Fab Lab, situated at the Takoradi Technical Institute, students are working on low-cost designs for mobile refrigeration and TV antennas.

  • In Pabal, India Fab Lab users are making replacement gears for out-of-date copying machines, reliable tools for testing milk content and for diagnostics on
    human blood.

  • At the Costa Rica Fab Lab young people are learning basic electronics and fabrication - by making functional objects with an array of sensors and actuators.

  • In Boston Fab Lab users make jewelry, toys and crafts using recycled materials from the community. The projects are picked by the community based on urgency of needs and/or group interests.

All the labs have the same equipment and capabilities so it is possible to share digital designs and fabricated solutions between labs, Forming a network of intellectual property and idea exchange.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving in New York

Several months ago Keith's brother Jeff suggested a Seinfeld Thanksgiving meet-up in NY. So on Wednesday afternoon, we packed up the van and headed for NYC with a million or so of our neighbors. Our hotel was located on the upper west side, just a few blocks from the Macy's Parade Balloon Inflation and the Parade route. Someone told us that you can view the inflation the night before the parade and avoid some of the insane crowds of the parade.

Below is a picture of the scene. Note to self: when someone imparts information like this, be sure to run a battery of tests to determine if their idea of a lite crowd matches yours.

Even though it was crowded, we were able to get a close look

Thanksgiving morning, we watched the parade from w-a-a-a-y back, but it was still exciting to be there in person. Lots of people bring ladders to sit on. It was a gorgeous sunny day and unseasonably warm at around 65 degrees! I couldn't hear any details about this silver bunny, but he looked cool.

Other highlights: Thanksgiving dinner with no dishes to clean and lots of time to catch up with everyone, Walk through Chinatown, Museum of Natural History, Shopping in Soho (Miles' faves were KidRobot and Evolution), a beautiful night-time driving tour of the city courtesy of Dianna (and Deb), H&H Bagels, Zabars, a meal at Artie's...

It was a fantastic time and we hope to be heading back soon.

Update: Forgot to mention my one celebrity sighting. I'm pretty sure I saw John Mayer at the Soho Starbucks on Saturday. I didn't mention it to anyone because noone I was with would have cared.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I must be reading the Indexed blog too much, because this is the first thing that ran through my head after an unpleasant encounter on the way home from my class the other night.

Well, it was the first thing after the shrieking and scurrying away into darkness.

Friday, November 16, 2007

We just refer to him as "the award-winning Keith Seinfeld"

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has just named their 2007 Science Journalism Award winners and Keith was the winner in the radio category for his "Electric Brain" series. I know I may be partial, but that series was really one of the most memorable things I ever heard on public radio.

About the awards (from their site):
Independent panels of science journalists chose the winners of the awards, which honor excellence in science reporting for print, radio, television and online categories. The awards, established in 1945, also include a prize for coverage of science news for children that is open to journalists worldwide...
Here is their blurb about Keith's series (from their site):
In a thematic series, Seinfeld of KPLU-FM in Seattle/Tacoma described the electrical properties of the human brain and how scientists are finding new ways to use those properties to treat diseases and injuries.

The judges were impressed by his clear, concise language and great use of sound in telling about important research in neuroscience. "While a drill whines in the background, cutting a hole in the top of a patient's skull, Keith Seinfeld carries his listeners into the story," said Jeff Nesmith, a Washington-based science writer for Cox Newspapers. "This kind of radio journalism seizes a listener's attention while it delivers an understandable account of complicated science."

David Baron, global development editor for Public Radio International's "The World" program, praised the "vividness of the writing, the clarity of the scientific explanations, the superb use of sound, the dramatic storytelling." He said Seinfeld's work "hangs together beautifully as a series, with each story building upon those that came before. Well conceived and brilliantly executed, 'The Electric Brain' is radio science journalism of the highest order."
The awards announcement is an interesting read because all of the journalism awarded is quite compelling.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Meet Ly, Fy, and Ry -- the Vimobot Revolution

Some facts about this trio (created by Miles):
  • Ly has an orange eye and controls electricity. He is is 2,000/1,000,000th of a second older than Ry.
  • Fy has a blue eye and controls heat. He is 2,000/1,000,000th of a second older than Ly.
  • Ry has a green eye and controls water. He is the youngest.
  • Their favorite food is raspberries. (note from Beth: I must talk with them about their diet, raspberries are very expensive this time of year!)
  • They live with Miles.
  • The reason behind their revolution is complicated. I'll update with more details as they become available.

Last week we bought these design-it-yourself Vimobots on clearance at Urban Outfitters($1.99). Miles went right to work with the Sharpies to create these cute little fellers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

After an improbable 5+ weeks standing... finally fell.

Miles decided to make a tall tower. We tried to tell him this design wasn't very stable. He proved us wrong. It was actually a demolition project that brought the structure down. During a playdate, giant plush microbes were strategically propelled at the tower until it finally fell.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Best nightmare ever

Tonight Miles described what he called his best nightmare ever.

"I dreamed I was being chased by a giant chocolate bar. The chocolate bar caught me and ate me up. Then I ate my way back out."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A new obsession

I have to say I like this one MUCH more than Harry Potter. We bought a copy of this book today at ICA.

If you crossed a comic book with a kid-oriented version of Make magazine or maybe Bill Nye the Science Guy, you would have HowToons.

I'd seen the site before, but somehow wasn't aware of the book. Miles loves it and is already working his way through the various experiments/projects, the first of which was one-handed rubber-band shooting.

Sunday at the ICA

After a torrential downpour kept us home most of yesterday, we were anxious to get out of the house today. We treked over to the ICA in Boston and took in a few exhibitions. The art was great, but so are the uninterrupted water views through the immense glass walls, in some places it feels as though you are dangling over the water.

The National Design Triennial (organized by the Cooper-Hewitt) was a mix of stuff we've all seen (e.g.,Boeing 787) and more obscure work. I was most captured by the inkjet printed textiles of Hitoshi Ujiie. You have to see it in person to see the tremendous delicacy of the lines.

We also enjoyed the Louise Bourgeois exhibit, but it left me wanting more. She is 95 and still making art -- what a force! There's a good piece about her in the Guardian UK.

There was also some fantastic work in their regular gallery. I was really taken with a suspended sculture by Cornelia Parker entitled "Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson)".

This image doesn't really convey the power of the piece. The suspended black material is charred wood, the remains from the alleged arson of a workshop.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Nothing like talking to an old friend

Miles favorite part of today was talking with Sam on the phone and sharing key Pokemon strategies. Thanks to Julie for letting them have such extensive time on the phone.

Autumn Leaves

Friday after school we had found impressive stash of leaves just outside the MIT MediaLab. We had a fun time piling 'em up and running/jumping around in 'em.

Friday, November 2, 2007

This is what we would be doing if we were in Seattle...

Rosa's newest production is Bertolt Brecht's "Galileo". It has been a VERY ambitious undertaking as you can tell by viewing the trailer.

Rosa somehow always seems to make great choices and has a gift for making even the most esoteric material fresh and accessible. Way to go Rosa! Wish we could be there, it looks amazing!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Q&A with Miles

Me: When we move back to Seattle, what do you think you will miss most about Cambridge or Boston?
M: My friends and having fun with them.
Me: Anything else?
M: The low sales tax.

While not the answer I anticipated, I guess it's nice to see that buying power is at least second to friendship.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Here's an interactive card we made using Scratch

Help Miles catch the pumpkins to play you a Halloween tune. When he catches candy corn, the instrument changes.

- Use the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard to move Miles around.
- To set it back to the beginning, click on the green flag in the gray bar.
- To stop click on the red stop sign next to the green flag

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ahhh....the west coast

Last weekend we went to Cardiff-by-the-Sea for Linda aand Rudolf's wedding. We also squeezed in some time at Legoland and at the beach.

We really loved being on the west coast again. You know California drivers aren't really so bad. And everyone was so friendly. Miles spent much of the weekend trying to convince us to drive to Seattle to visit friends.

UPDATE: I realize that I forgot to mention our very fun visit to the Museum of Making is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. The museum has a ton of instruments on display, including the larget ukele collection you might ever see and walks you through various eras in music starting with Sousa (did that his dad added the USA to the family name "So" when he immigrated to the US?) Anyway the best part is that at the end there is a room filled with musical instruments that you can play. Among the instruments we played a theremin(so cool!), DJ turntable/mixer system, electric cello, drumset, violin, and so on. We easily spent more than an hour in that room alone.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The tenth month has a different name in Boston

Saw this very tall bike on the way to class today. Seems like it might be hard to find just the right spot to park and lock it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Keith visits the Media Lab

As one of the Knight program’s twice-weekly seminars, we had a fun tour of a program at MIT called the Media Lab. It’s kind of a misleading name, since most of the research underway there has very little connection with what you might think of as media. Instead, it’s all about the intersection of technology and humans. Our group met with four of the researchers there (out of 25 on the faculty).

One interesting project is by Deb Roy, who has been recording every second of his baby’s life. Actually, the baby is now almost 2-1/2, and the recording phase is winding down. He’s hoping to to shed light on childhood language acquisition. His specialty is interactive robots, and he wired his suburban hosue with a ceiling camera in every room. They can be switched off, but he basically has recorded nearly every moment of family life with his son over the past couple years. There’s a whole room at MIT holding the computers that have all that data. His wife is a speech pathologist, so it’s a team effort. In the meantime, he’s developing creative computer techniques to sort and analyze massive amounts of video and audio. The project is titled, "The Human Speechome."

The whole Media Lab is self-consciously promoting itself as “creative,” which is annoying at first, and using the image to solicit corporate contributions. But after talking to the people there, it really does feel like an incredibly creative place, where people are living up to their principles, to work collaboratively across fields and define problems in new ways.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Walking on Water

Visited Fort Point Open Studios today and saw some interesting (and some not so interesting) work. The bubbles above are part of an installation in Fort Point Channel for the Open Studios. The artist's name is Lisa Greenfield.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Head of the Charles & Heads at City Hall

Spent much of the day hanging out with a 3/4 of a really nice family we've met here. Hmmm...didn't mean for that to sound as though only 3/4 of the family is nice...all of them are nice, but only three of them were with us today.

Anyway, we watched a bit of the Head of the Charles regatta...

...and then went over to the Boston City Hall where thousands of jack o'lanterns lined a tall scaffold and the steps outside the City Hall.

Friday, October 19, 2007

That's the number of times this month that I've been hit by a bicyclist while walking. Month as in October...not the past 30 days.

Oktoberfest in Harvard Square

Been meaning to post these for awhile. A couple weekends ago, we went to Oktoberfest in Harvard Square. There was a raucous honkband parade. I guess the real honkband action was the previous night in Davis Square. Anyway, it was quite fun. Camera ran out of memory, so there was much more that we couldn't photograph.

More of our pictures here. More Honk!band images here.
Here's a video that shows a lot of the stuff we couldn't capture

I had no idea it was a movement before this. Here's more about some of the Honkbands we saw and the roots of Honk!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Gullibles

Miles and his friends at school have made up a series of characters called "The Gullibles". The Gullibles include Gullible Donut (seen above), Gullible Muffin, Gullible Scone, Gullible Grappling Hook, Gullible Martian, and Gullible White Blood Cell. More characters are being added all the time.

This week's Gullible's segment: "Gullible Donut & His Hatred of Stairs" (as dictated by Miles)

Gullible Donut (aka GD) hates climbing stairs, so he removed the stairs in the Gullibles house. This meant everyone was using the banisters, but GD hates banisters,too. So, he placed a trampoline outside his second floor bedroom window and placed a cannon behind it. Every morning when GD wants to go downstairs, he jumps out his bedroom window, bounces off the trampoline and lands on the ground.

When GD wanted to go back to his room, he climbed into the cannon and pushed a button to shoot himself through his bedroom window and into his bed. Some of the other Gullibles decided to move the cannon closer, which caused him to fly over his bed and smack into the wall.

GD is not the sharpest knife in the drawer (he hates when we say that because he has a fear of knives...look at the shape of his head and you'll see why), so when he went back and adjusted the cannon, he moved it a little too far. The next attempt to get back upstairs, he smacked into the side of the house, slid down the wall, and landed flat on his face with great force on the trampoline. Of course, he started to bounce. He bounced up onto the roof and down the chimney. It just so happened to be Christmas eve so all the other Gullibles thought it was Santa and came down to greet him. Instead they found GD sitting in the fireplace looking in their stockings and removing the things he liked.

Moral of the story: Never move a cannon...and don't remove stairs without a smart plan to replace them.

More bad Boeing news

I just read that the Boeing surplus store is closing on Dec. 21. Well before we can get back for one last visit, no less! One more cool old Seattle (actually Kent) institution gone for good.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Young Paparazzo

Lately Miles has been a bit of a camera hog, endlessly snapping shots. His favorite subjects are architecture (there are loads shots of buildings and bridges on our hard-drive) and portaits. With Miles behind the camera, NO one gets to look good -- this is even true of his self-portraits. He shoves the camera in your face and makes you look like a troll.

Whale Watching

We went to Gloucester on Sunday and had a great time on a whale-watching boat. Well, I did...when I wasn't feeling queasy. The boat rocked quite a lot when we sat to watch whales. Here's a bit that Keith caught on the camera...a hard thing to do when the boat is rocking. We saw about 5 Humpback whales, two (a mother named Tulip and her calf) swam up close and then under the boat. We also saw a few Minke whales.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More details on Keith's classes

Since several friends have asked what I ended up studying, here's a list of the actual classes.

I've been doing the textbook reading for the first two of these, while the rest are more like lecture series for me (and I do read bits and pieces of the readings for them, if it looks interesting):

- Intro to Biology (MIT)
- Intro to Neuroscience (MIT)
- Neurobiology (Harvard Med School) ... this conflicts with MIT Biology, so I'm attending about half the lectures (it's 3 hours every Mon, Wed, Fri), and it's been great for deepening what I'm getting from the Neuroscience class
- Human Physiology (Harvard)
- Madness and Medicine (Harvard) ...It's a history of the psychiatric profession and of asylums
- Paleobiology ... Ecology and Evolution (Harvard ) (this is mostly about the fossil record)

I guess you could say I'm studying biology and neurobiology, and learning about the rest. I'm happy to say that the classes are comlementing each other ... with the vocabulary I build in one class helping me understand the next.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I'm learning SO much science ...

I can't believe how much science I've learned in just 5-6 weeks. If I had to leave now, it already would be an incredibly productive year.

I'm attending six classes, but not all of them full-time. And I'm doing the readings for two or three of them. Of course, I have no tests or papers or grades, so it's low stress. My focus is on the fundamentals of life itself, and the brain specifically. So, I have two biology classes, two introductory neuroscience classes, a history of psychiatry class called Madness and Medicine, and a class that focuses on fossils and how changing ecosystems have affected evolution.

Plus, we have our own series of twice-weekly seminars, organized by the Knight program director, and that’s been outstanding. (Here’s the agenda, if you’re interested

I’m just about at the point where I can have a conversation with a scientist and understand all the vocabulary!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Space 1957

When we were crusing through the infintite corridor on the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik (Oct. 4, 1957), Miles and I saw the scale model hanging with beeping emanating from it. Miles loudly exclaimed, "Wow, that is THE largest foil ball I've ever seen." After I explained the significance, his reaction was, "That was the first launch into space? That just looks like a plain old satellite. I'd love to just throw it or scrunch it up. When do you think they'll take it down?" Well, at least the foil ball aspect impressed him.