Tag Archive for 'GPS'

My very first race

I ran my very first official race last weekend, the 11th Annual Trinity River Levee Run. Inspired by my 57-year old uncle who ran in the 2014 Chicago marathon, I accepted his challenging invitation to run in a race too. So, I started training for this Trinity race. Although I have been running since February 2014, I started training more seriously than ever as soon as I got home from Chicago in 2014.

Using a Polar heart rate monitor, Runkeeper for tracking my progress, and Gipis for a suggested training plan, and later Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art for instilling self-motivation, I got to where I ran in this first race. The race was purely against me. I didn’t compare myself with other runners. I knew I wasn’t as serious about running as the serious runners are. I just wanted to see if I could make myself go out and run systematically and perhaps improve my pace. I think one thing the made the idea of running long distance seem possible to me was when my uncle explained the paradox that in order to learn to run far and fast, one must run slowly with a slow heart rate of no more then 150 beats per minute (bpm). This seemed very attainable because I knew that I could maintain such a pace for a long time, even if I were dragging myself at first through the distance.

I am proud to say that since I got on the Gipis plan in November, I did not miss a single planned session except for a couple of weeks in early January when I was horribly ill with a cold, and then the very last session before the race because I feared heart problems after the previous session where likely due to lack of sleep, I think I overstressed my heart to where it fluttered longer than it ever had, not that it flutters often, to where it caused me to cough for a good 10 seconds. Other than that, not even snow precipitating stopped me.

selfie after a run when it was snowing

After a run when it was snowing

The night before the race, I attended a gong meditation session. If I had gone to sleep right after it, I probably would have slept enough, but I stayed up latter than I had planned. There also was a late e-mail stating that the course got altered due to impassable conditions caused by the recent wet and icy weather on the original route, so the race was fewer than 10 kilometers.

By morning, I was still sleepy but when the alarm clock went off at 6:30, I did not hesitate to get up as I told myself, “I trained too hard to show up late for this.” I had a good breakfast of my usual daily Lukasz Goulash, a cereal of Barbara’s Shredded Wheat, Fiber One, some Flax Seed mix from Sam’s, honey, over a generous amount of blueberries, and milk. I put the running bib on my shirt, packed a change of clothes in case I wanted to stay longer at the festival surrounding the run, strapped on my heart rate monitor. I couldn’t find the gloves I wanted to wear during the race protect my hands from the cold 0° C weather, so I got my nicer leather gloves instead and went out the door about 20 minutes later than I had planned, which was still over 40 minutes before the starting time, which was not a problem because I lived about 15 minutes from the starting line.

The drive to the race was a little discouraging because my GPS kept directing me to go over the Margaret Hunt bridge that was closed off for the race, so that made me loop around a few blocks a couple of times before I finally got myself on the street I needed to be. I should have paid closer attention to the driving directions provided in the e-mail from the race organizers. At this point, parking was very full, and I had to park about half a mile away from the starting line. It was 7:50 by the time I left my car to head towards the starting line. I wasn’t completely certain where I was supposed to be, so I ran in the general direction of the starting line. It was cold, so I thought it would be a nice warm-up to jog; however, probably due to my stress due to cutting so close to the start time, my heart rate was already around 170 bpm, so that was disheartening.

Once I got to the starting area, I saw a lot of runners not even close to the starting line. I recalled that there was a sprint across the 400m bridge that was to occur prior to the race, so I was under the impression that was the first event, which it probably was, except it happened at 7:45, not 8:00, like I misunderstood. I also didn’t quite understand whether the 5k race was to start at the same starting line as the 10k race for which I signed up, so I stood back from the starting line.

The fire department was to have a fire truck sound its siren instead of a starting gun, but the truck was not ready and there was no siren sound at the start of the race, and meanwhile, I am still about 50m away from the starting line. All of sudden, I heard the announcer say something like, “…you don’t just get up in the one day and run six miles. You train for this,” which is when I figured out the 10k already started. So, I ran up to the starting line and just ran through it while I started recording with my heart rate monitor and set my phone to start recording Runkeeper data. To my disappointment, my heart rate was already over 165, sometimes around 172, which I worried was way too high to finish the race. Fortunately, the race started on a downhill slope. I wasn’t sure what to make of the entire crowd far ahead of me, so I just focused on my pace because as it turned out, the crowd meant nothing since each person is measured individually based on personal start time.

I didn’t socialize with anyone during the race, though it seemed like almost everyone around me was socializing. After the first kilometer, I had to pee. I hoped there would be porta-potties on the route, but there weren’t any. Some well trained runners passed me who I overheard talking to other runners that they had started late due to a late arrival, so apparently, it’s not a huge deal to start late.

The morning was beautiful, with the sun shining through haze over the water grassy river banks, and the air was brisk. I felt a little cold at the start, but I was warm by the third kilometer. By the fourth kilometer, I took my gloves off and held them in my hand. There were race marshals directing traffic for folks who ran the 10k to separate them from the 5k runners on the same path, so one had to pay attention to instructions while running.

The altered part of the route was on a service road that was rather scenically boring, running along a levee with no view of the river and some unattractive houses flanking the other side. I ended up running very near a lady who must have been in her seventies who ran at my pace. Or, maybe I should say, “I ran at her pace,” since she’s been alive longer than me. I wanted to tell her “good job,” but I chose to stick to my code of silence during this race. I could tell she was in a little bit of pain as she had a hobble and hunched. I kept checking my heart rate as I ran beside her, and my rate was too high to accelerate my pace, so I paced myself with this lady for probably three kilometers. Eventually, she slowed down or traffic on the trail just kind of forced me to navigate with acceleration, so I left her behind and didn’t see her again. I hope she did well because I was proud of her.

As I ran past near the starting line and vendors, there were finished runners standing on the route obstructing the running path, which I thought was both, highly inconsiderate and poorly organized to allow that to happen. There still were no bathrooms that I noticed, so I kept going; however, in actually I had run past them at that moment.

I had put my gloves in my pocket, and eventually one fell out of my pocket without me noticing. As I ran past a trash can after I had noticed I was missing a glove, I threw away the other glove. I liked those gloves, but I urged myself into detaching from this material item, the glove, whose weight was only going to slow me down henceforth and obviously had very little value without its mate. I needed a good excuse to get new leather gloves because these caused a rash on my hands to break out a little bit from some dander to which I am allergic to in these gloves that were getting old. This was the best excuse to get rid of them that I could think of.

By the eighth kilometer, the traffic was very sparse. I stopped a couple of times to stretch briefly and retie my shoes. After the last turn which put us onto the dramatic crossing of the Margaret Hunt Bridge, I started to feel my achievement. My heart rate was over 180 by this time since I just completed climbing and onramp. There were several families walking five or seven people wide obstructing passage as they were part of the simultaneous charity walk. I did my best to navigate around them but loosing some time.

At one point, I stopped feeling my body. It felt like I was running on a cloud without any pain. I checked my heart rate monitor to see if that affected anything, but it did not. I simply could not feel pain or fatigue, but my body was clearly working very hard. After about 30 second of this sensation, I felt my body again.

I took in a little bit of the beautiful architecture as I ran under the suspension structure of the bridge since I felt I deserved to take in the moment. I thought through my achievement: I made it this far by myself. No one told me to run. No one would get upset if I didn’t run or missed a training session. No one was there to hold my car keys or ID. There weren’t any self-organized cheering sections for anyone really, not like what I saw in Chicago, mile after mile of people cheering on strangers as they looked for their loved ones. At that time I didn’t know how many cumulative miles I had run since February 2014 or October 2014 as I don’t think about things like that, but I knew I had run further than I had ever run in my life before.

Then, with fewer than 200 meters remaining, I dashed sprinting for the finish line. My heart rate monitor displayed “out of zone” as I maxed out at 198 bpm. Crossing the line was very anti-climactic. Folks there were there for other people. There were no race organizers to tell me where to go after that. There was no place to sit that I could find. I finally found some water and free bananas. I used the bathroom, and then listened to the band play Beatles songs, which made me think of how I play those songs in a band back in Tulsa. They sounded slightly better than we do, so that means for professionals at a major city event, they sounded like the Beatle songs were too difficult for them.

According to my Runkeeper data, I had run 9.16km at 1:10:20 with an average HR of 170. I achieved three new records: Distance, Duration, and Calories Burned.

I stuck around the festival in case I saw someone I knew for the ‘yoga on bridge thing’ that was to happen later, or just to see who I would run into. I didn’t meet anybody. Only the RFID readers at the starting and finish lines knew that it and my bib with its RFID chip and I had crossed the starting and finish lines. I walked back to my car with soreness starting to settle in my tendons around my knee caps. There was a Saturday flea market near where I parked, so someone followed me to my car in her car to take my spot. Then, I drove home to rest, showered, and then I went to my favorite Sound Meditation class at noon, after which I went to see the new film Chappie in IMAX.

Later I checked online for my official time, which was 01:09:54 for a 9km.

screenshot of official results

Official results

Those 9 or 10 kilometers to the race were actually part of a long road for me to get there. They really were just the final stretch, less than 1%, of a much larger undertaking. To get to the finish line with these stats, including the race, I have ran 210 miles or 338 km since I started using Runkeeper in April 2014, not including hikes or walking. Since my pivotal trip to Chicago for the marathon, I have run 116 miles or 187 km. In 2015 alone, I have run 55 miles or 88 km. All these numbers mean is that it has been a long road.

This experience has taught me that I can do great things on my own.

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The Job Interview which landed my job

It was sometime around the last week of February 2012. My recruiter gives me a call about “putting me forward”, or to request permission to submit my resume to Project Management Office at Tenet. I hesitated because I thought that I could ideally hit the ground running at a new job, and the job description sounded intimidating to me considering the high profiles with whom I would supposedly be dealing. It turned out I don’t deal with that many high profile people, but they are always close by. I gave the go ahead to submit my resume. I got a call back a few days later that I am invited to an interview.

During this while, I have been working with my friend Frank Wantland to help him set up his website Compete for People where he offers great personal career building and coaching. I highly recommend him. So, I shared with him the news that I got my job interview, so he actually offered to give me a mock interview, which is why I can recommend him. I think the preparation with him really helped because the interview was nothing like what anyone imagined it would be.

I left for Dallas after work on March 6, 2012. It was a very windy day. It was so windy that there were power outages throughout the city. One outage was at work, where for whatever reason, the backup generators failed to supply backup power, and I became stuck in parking garage at work because the simply boom barriers operated only on electricity and would not let the cars through. I had to wait in a growing line of cars. Fortunately, it was not rush hour yet. There was a doctor in a Corvette who really wanted to leave, so I helped hold up the boom barrier as much as we could given that there was some play in the mechanism, and his low Corvette managed to drive under undamaged. The rest of us had to wait for a maintenance personnel literally to dissemble the boom with a socket wrench.

Once I made it home, I think I actually had one more work call, and then I hit the road. I stopped by my favorite gas station fill up for the trek, but the pumps were not working. So, I drove across the street to another station where the pumps could take my card. By that time, the wind was so bad that I had difficulty operating my trunk lid to do some final checks before I got on the high way. If I believed in divine intervention, I would have surely thought that all signs were pointing for me not to go. Later it would turn out that at best, these were proverbial signs of the storm yet to come once I got the job.

I arrived safely in Dallas a little later than I wanted to. I took some wrong turns as I was trying to avoid constructions, which of course is not marked on my GPS. My plan was to drive down High way 75 through downtown and back up through I-35, but being from the small town of Tulsa, seeing all of these tall buildings down the 75 corridor, I thought I already was downtown; mind you it was nigh time by now. So, I took Loop 12 to shoot across to I-35. It ended up taking about the same of time that the original plan would have.

My interview was at noon, so I took my time to relax in the morning. Did some yoga stretches, got dressed, ate, and drove downtown. Parked my car in an open lot outside of the Fountain Building, and it started raining, and parking cost $5, which is quite a bit for a Tulsan who virtually never pays for parking.

The Fountain Building is beautiful, so I immediately saw myself working there thinking how awesome it would be to work in such an awesome skyscraper. I met my recruiter in the lobby who gave introduced himself and then walked me up to the corporate lobby, which to me looked like something out of a movie when the protagonist steps into the big-bad pharmaceutical corporate lobby. The view was spectacular where I could see a little the DART tram below and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in the distance.

My boss to be was running late but came and got me and took me to another floor to a small conference room for an interview. My other boss to be was on the phone. Wearing my new suite and not being used to wearing suites, I got hot, so I mentioned that I felt warm. The response was to take off my jacket, and this was in a somewhat condescending tone as if I should know when it is appropriate to remove my jacket.

The interview basically consisted of me answering to one request: “Tell me what you have done.” I was already thrown off because I was really only equipped to respond to a different open-ended request of “Tell me about yourself”, to which I prepared a 2 minute summary of my life that lead to project management. Immediately looking back after the meeting, I should have answered it like a politician answer questions by answering question he wished he was asked, not exactly what he actually was asked. This started becoming evident to me once I realized that there were no more questions. I essentially had to fill up the entire hour of just talking about myself. Fortunately, I was warned about this, otherwise, like any normal person, I would have been sweating thinking something is going terribly wrong.

They were impressed that I drove this far for the interview, and I made it clear that I would move for this position. So, at the beginning of the interview they asked whether I was prepared to enter the consulting industry considering that I would be leaving full-time employment to take this. I answered in my typically cautious manner, “I believe so,” to which they replied, “That is not a very confident answer.” So, I corrected myself with, “Yes, I am prepared.”

I talked about my knowledge of Cerner, BMDI and Code Upgrade projects I did with them that spanned several facilities in our (St. John’s) health system, yet they still held the position that I worked for a small organization, and that I may not be able to handle a large organization. I explained the health system has over a thousand beds, but that is just one blip on the radar for an organization that has over fifty hospitals across three time zones and is Cerner’s number one client.

Considering I could appreciate from the roots up what an EMR implementation is like for a hospital, I knew there has to be a catch as to how they can manage so many implementations at once without even knowing the application. This position turned out to be very high level.

I had a few questions for them, but I think one thing that I speculate solidified my entrance was when I stated, quoting Jacque Fresco and his Venus Project , that I believed one should arrive at decisions rather than make decisions. I could see that impressed at least one of them, which was later validated as they impressed upon me that they do “fact-based reporting” where if something is not documented, we do not treat it like fact.

I felt I exhausted my material for after 40 minutes, but they said they allocated a full hour for me, so they will give me a full hour. I just had to start improvising.

After the interview, I felt like it did not go well at all and could not pinpoint why, of course. I drove home later that evening feeling a bit exhausted but happy for the memories and experience.

I am writing this 8 months after the fact, and I many times looked back on this very pivotal moment whether I missed any red flags regarding their personalities. I think I only chose to ignore those as my desire to move on in my career was very strong.

Day Four: Departure for Home

I woke up at 4:50, and was out of the shower by 5:15, and started packing furiously. Chris and Adam checked on our status at 5:30 to ensure that we weren’t oversleeping. I checked in on our animals before I packed away our netbook, but no one was in the frame. Unfortunately, due to my hiatus from traveling, my packing skills allowed me to finish packing at 6:12. Chris’s mother was up and made us little sandwiches for the road made from the deli cuts and cheese cubes from last night’s platter. We had to be really quiet because everyone else was asleep. We said our good-byes to whoever was up and loaded into the rented van.

Departing Nahant for Boston Logan

Ajith, Myriam, Adam, Gabby, Chris, Monica and I loaded into the van, and pulled away from the house at 6:18. This time, we did not take any wrong turns, and we remembered the correct exits. This was a big deal because the exit for the airport is in a tunnel, where we have no GPS satellite signal. We pulled up at the airport at 6:39. We said our good-byes to Myriam, Ajith, and Chris and walked to the check-in counter with Adam and Gabby.

I scheduled my itinerary to match Adam’s as much as possible so that we could car pool together. Furthermore, I had the option of leaving BOS exactly at the same time as Adam with a longer layover in DFW or leave later and a shorter layover in DFW where in both cases we would have to wait for exactly the same flight to TUL. Since there was no one with whom to visit in DFW, I opted to depart BOS later, at 9:25 instead of 8:00, which was also Adam’s departure time. On top of all of this good scheduling, the flights chosen were the cheapest in the entire list from which I had to choose.

This was my first time check-in at a kiosk without any employee’s assistance. At first, we were confused that we were not sitting together, but as it turned out, we were incorrectly looking at the table displayed on the screen. We checked our one bag, and then we wondered what next because there was no one to take our checked luggage from us. Our luggage just continued to stand next to us while watching other luggage travel on the conveyor belt. Meanwhile, one of the employees at the counter but further down about 10 meters away, pushed the emergency stop to stop conveyor belt because the luggage on the belt caused a small traffic jam resulting in no luggage going into their little tunnel. Someone came to clean that up and restarted the belt. Then, that employee started handing out the printed stickers for the checked luggage. Finally our luggage was taken away, and we walked away to wait for Adam and Gabby. Adam and Gabby had a few issues at the check-in counter because of how long Gabby’s name was, so it took them much longer to finish checking in than it did for Monica and me.

Adam and Gabby traveled smartly because they only had one carry-on item now, Gabby’s purse. Everything else fit into their larger and nicer than ours luggage piece. On the other hand, Monica and I each had a backpack. We also had a purse, a netbook, a camera, and other stuff. I got confused at the security checkpoint and had to use more bins than I should have, so they actually ran out of bins. This caused me to hold up the line until more bins were brought to me. Finally, we caught up with Adam and Gabby on the other side.

Visiting with Adam and Gabby at BOS

We walked to their gate, which conveniently had a Starbucks where Gabby ordered a coffee. No one else ordered anything. We did not actually sit at their gate, but we sat a gate or two away. We sat there talking about many different things, but talked mostly about differences between old generations and young generations of Polish culture, and generally how negative the old generation is.

Completely contrary to my action a few days ago, Adam and Gabby waited until the very last second to board their plane. The gate actually paged their names over the PA system before they start running toward their gate waving tickets. It was sad to see them go.

Monica and I had over an hour to kill, so we walked to the gift shop to acquire a little bit of Boston memorabilia—a refrigerator magnet and a coffee mug. Then, we walked over to our gate just to verify what was displayed on its screen showed that the flight was on time. We then walked over the to the food court, which is when I realized that this terminal is very small but very nice. We found a remote corner overlooking the planes. We ate the sandwiches that Chris’s mother prepared, as well as a few other snacks we gathered. Monica purchased an orange juice from McDonald’s. In the mean time, I tried to get on the free Wi-Fi network that was advertised around the airport. I had to click through a portal and agree to some things first before anything would start working. I checked on the animals, and none of them were in view. But I was happy to see that our apartment unit was still intact.

We then gathered our stuff and walked over to the gate to see the flight boarding. We were in board group 3, but the screen only displayed up to groups 1 and 2. We thought that we had to wait, so we got out of line and waited. Then we heard them call group 4. A little disappointed, we got back in line. I guess the monitor doesn’t get updated that close to departure.

Flight BOS to DFW

Flight left on time, 9:25. I caught up on my writing in my little memo pad notebook, which I used to write notes for these blog entries. The row was three seats across, and Monica and I had the window and middle seat. It seemed like half the plane used the bathroom, so a strategy was required on when to get up to get in line. We did not want to bother the lady on the outside of our row if we were to stand in line for so long that the fasten-seat-belt sign might have possibly turned on, requiring us to return to our seat. After careful execution, my strategy worked. We were in the DFW terminal by 12:41.
Google Map flight path BOS to DFW

Layover at DFW

We took the Skylink tram again from tour arrival gate C24 to our departure gate A39. I notified our friends via text message in Tulsa that our flight to Tulsa was on time. We shortly waited for our flight, sitting one gate away where I exchanged a few text messages with Adam who was in Miami airport (MIA) by then.

Flight DFW to TUL

The 13:30 flight to Tulsa was a little bit memorable because the 757 was old and had old CRT monitors hanging over every few row from the top of the cabin. The landing was terrible, about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the worst. At least we landed in one piece.
Google Map of flight path DFW to TUL
Because we were one probably one of the first passengers to check in on our BOS flight, our luggage was one of the last to appear at the baggage claim in Tulsa. We could see through the window our friend waiting for us by his car outside.

Finally, after reacquiring our luggage, we got them loaded into the car, and our friend took us home quite quickly. We must think alike because he chose exactly the same route home that I would have taken.

Arriving at Dwelling

We made it home to great our hungry animals who were a little more excited to eat than to see us, but we could tell that they were happy to see us. We found nice notes left by our animal caretaker. It was a very fun trip, but we were happy to be home. After all, I ran out of clean clothes.

Day Three, part 1: Commencement and Boston

The morning of Julia’s graduation consisted of getting up, getting dressed, and going. Commencement started at 10:00. We pulled away from the house at 8:20. The ride to the commencement was interesting because two generations were in one van, and the foreign older generation was not used to A/C in the car, while the younger generation would not dare to ride with it. (Most socialized American men know that humid air, regardless of temperature, will make hair go flat. Women whose hair falls flat are unhappy. Unhappy women make men unhappy.)

Driving to the commencement we took one exit that we should not have. Ironically, it was the same exit where Julia changed lanes across three lanes to take this exit yesterday. GPS in a city like Boston sometimes does not work well because Boston has so many intersections very close to one another that the instructions by faster than the computer in the GPS can draw the next turn on the screen. Ajith and I opted for the optimistic conclusion that this slightly longer route had less traffic.

As we pulled up the Agganis Arena where the commencement was held, we dropped off Julia’s parents just in time. We then pulled around the arena to find some parking. We followed the first parking sign just to scope out the price. We parked both vans and walked back to the front outside of the arena where most of the parents were still standing who were absolutely amazed that we managed to get there so quickly. These thoughts were in contrast to last night’s parking that was one and half miles away for double the price.

Julia’s Graduation

We found a section with enough seats to accommodate our large party and that was straight across the stage on the other side of the court. Most of the students were seated by the time we sat down. The student speaker was quite generically bland and stated the typical “I recall this funny event freshman year. And, ‘Yay! We made it.’”

Apparently Berklee hands out honorary doctorate degrees with every graduation, which makes for some interesting acceptance speeches. Kenny Garrett who was receiving an honorary degree was also the keynote speaker. Garrett had a long speech and was similar to many others graduation speeches I’ve heard before short of all the legendary jazz name dropping he did. He started out with the cliché, “I’ve lied awake for a week thinking what I will tell you right now.” I don’ care; just say what you have to say. He did finish with a very interesting story of when he was with Miles Davis in the hospital when Davis was dying, and Davis told him, “play like a beginner.” This meant to always play with the curiosity of a child who is always exploring with great enthusiasm.

Next was the most memorable speech that I’ve probably ever heard in my life. When Mavis Staples accepted her honorary degree, she spoke with the kind of sincerity that gives me a new perspective on humanity every time I see or hear it such sincerity. Firstly, the MC introduced her with words, “Although Mavis did not study music, music has studied Mavis.” At 71 years of age, she said to the crowd, “I finally made it to college.” She spoke shortly and simply, but she uttered more wisdom in those five sentences than all of the other speakers combined. To have grown up black in Mississippi when she did and to continue to possess such positivity is strength much greater than I’ll probably ever possess. She spoke of how she never dreamed of standing where she did that day when her father first taught her to sing while she sat on her living room floor in Mississippi. She ended her speech by quoting the student speaker who ended her speech with a Garth Brooks song The River, “keep sailing ‘till the river runs dry.”

When Julia crossed the stage, she raised both hands in the air when her name was called. She did not return to her seat, and instead came to meet us and took pictures with us. Later, she returned to the floor to throw her cap into the air with her classmates, which apparently was quite an attraction for her visiting parents. I guess graduates don’t throw up caps at graduation.

Exploring Boston

We left the graduation about 11:40. The younger generation, minus Julia, went to explore Boston while everyone else went home to get ready for the dinner celebration at the house. We decided to drive to Quincy Market. One of the things I noticed was just how immaculate the asphalt pavement looked throughout downtown. Not only did the district with Berklee College have incredibly nice pavement, but so did downtown, as well as, everywhere else we traveled in the city of Boston. This is a stark contrast with Tulsa.

Quincy Market

We parked at 60 State ParkingParking icon for Google Maps, and then stopped by a Starbuckscoffee house icon for Google Maps on the way to the historic market where Gabby purchased the girls some cake balls that were on a stick looking like lollipops. Some ordered coffee. We then walked over to the market, but along the way, there was a horse drawn carriage pulled over on the side of the street. The horse had a stuffed purple teddy bear mounted on it.

We turned the corner, and there was Quincy Market. We were hungry so we walked into Faneuil Hall Marketplace and were presented with a tremendous selection of food vendors.
Quincy Market looking north
Quincy Market

Inside of Quincy Market
Inside of Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Everyone got some food. Most got seafood because Boston is famous for its seafood. Monica got lobster bisque served in a piece of bread whose inside was cut out to make it look like a bowl. Disappointed that there wasn’t any fresh lobster available, I just got a Teriyaki Salmon from one of the only Asian vendors there. Ironically, I stood in line longer than anyone else, so it must have been popular among the locals. Others got fried fish and chips.

We gathered and sat on the steps in front of Faneuil Hall to eat our food. The place was very crowded and there were no available tables. I was the last to arrive with my food, and as I was about half way finished eating, it began to rain. We quickly finished our food, and walked into an Urban Outfitter around the corner but still in the market square. Monica found a bargain for rubber rain boots. After the shoppers in our group checked out, we then left for Boston Beer Company. On the way out of downtown, we saw this guy:
man in 17th century suit and tricorne hat
17th century man in downtown Boston

The Boston Beer Company: home of Sam Adams beer

The Boston Beer Company makes some of my favorite beer, Samuel Adams. I’ve never been to a brewery, so this was exciting for me. We arrived to the brewery at 14:57 following my GPS. I thought that perhaps we were arriving through a back-road because we were going through an old neighborhood with very narrow streets. All of a sudden, there were the gates to the brewery. I felt like we were parking by the loading the docks. We walked from the van to where the “tour” signs directed us. They checked our IDs and stamped our hands with ink that did not wash off until long after we made it back home to Tulsa.

Tours were set up into groups. Each group received a label for a bottle, and everyone with the same label went through a tour together. The waiting area had plenty of awards and memorabilia displayed. When our tour began, I had a difficult time hearing the tour guide who suggested that we donate to charity for this free tour. One-hundred percent of proceeds go to charity. I thought I was supposed to return my label, so I put the bottle label into the collection box despite one of the tour guides yelling at me to not do it. Oh well, nothing happened.

The tour began with education of the main ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. They passed around cups of barley, some plain, some roasted, some malted; and they passed around hops. Most of the barley is imported from Germany, and it is very expensive to ship it so that it stays fresh. They explained that the water also plays a key role, so they filter it very well starting with Boston tap water. I finally know what “hoppy” smells like.

hops in handHops

It was amazing to see how humble the operation appears considering how much beer they ship, which is 1% of all beer in America. Nevertheless, the entire operation was impressive. Finally, at the end of the tour we walked into the tasting room where we tasted three different beers: Boston Lager, Summer Ale, and Red Brick, the Red Brick being only available within Boston metro. The Summer Ale is one of my favorites, but it was too cold outside that day to really get the full effect. The whole tour and tasting took an hour. We stopped by the gift shop and purchased a Sam Adams koozie, bottle opener, and pint glass. All of us got to keep the 7 ounce tasting glasses.

Sam Adams beer in tasting glass
Tasting glass filled with Sam Adams

We drove out of the brewery at 16:34. The tour provides visitors with exit instructions on how to get back to the city, and these instructions matched up exactly with my GPS instructions. Going home this time we did not miss the proper exit in the tunnel. I cycled through the turns ahead on the GPS unit, so we were ready to lose the satellite signal when in the tunnel.

On the way back to the house from Boston Beer Company, the parents asked us to stop by a few stores to pick up champagne, wine, and vegetable and fruit platters. The detour took us through a more detailed exploration of Revere, through which we’ve driven each time we drove between Boston and Nahant. We stopped by a Super Stop & Shop at 17:06 and purchased water, vegetable and fruit platters. We inquired employees about the nearest liquor store, but the best instructions we received was that there was one near Revere city hall, which was easy to find in the Point of Interests database in the GPS unit. This caused us to backtrack a little bit, but we didn’t even notice. We passed the city hall and could not see any liquor store, so we kept driving. We stopped by a place called L & D Discount Liquor at 17:35, and were on our way home by 17:43.

Gabby used her smart phone to also identify a way home, and it took us on a route different than my GPS, but we followed the GPS anyway. We were home by 18:02 where we found Bisha hiding in a bush attempting to ambush us on the driveway for fun. We took pictures of each other, and then Bisha jumped onto the back bumper and rode on the outside of the van to the house. We drove as slowly as possible because the outside of the van was wet and we did not want him to fall off and hurt himself.

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Check back for Google Earth tour of the day

Day Two, part 2: Julia and the Commencement Concert

Julia’s arrival to the Nahant house and riding to Graduation Concert in Boston

Julia arrived at the house at 16:35. Obviously, there were very warm welcomes and congratulations. The itinerary was now set: Attend the graduation concert at 19:30. We ate food before because we were planning to stay out after the concert.

As traveling in large groups can be, and as planning styles go with a laid back family like this one, a series of unexpected events unfolded. We drove a caravan of three vehicles from the house to Boston: Julia’s car, a rented Van, and Chris’s family van from Canada. Julia rode with her parents in her car, and she led the way. The younger generation rode in the rent van and followed Julia. The rest of the parents rode in the Canadian van.

Right out of the proverbial gate, Julia rushed down the driveway and down the road to where we lost visual contact in a matter of minutes. There was no sign of her slowing down, so we guessed there was no consideration of what was happening in her rearview mirror. I took a photo of her car and license plate just to be funny. We tried to keep up with her in the rented van. Between the choice of keeping the parents in our rear view mirror and keeping up with Julia, we opted to keep up with Julia. Technology is awesome because Gabby looked up the address of the music school, I typed it into my GPS, and we now had a back-up for directions in case we lost Julia completely. Julia not only drove exceptionally fast, but she also weaved through traffic like if she was trying to lose us on purpose. Adam texted her to slow down and stay in one lane. She responded, “I can’t help it.” I later got on the phone to ask her verbally if she could please stay in one lane unless to prepare for an exit, but as it turned out, part of the problem was that Julia herself was not certain about the directions. To add to the confusion, there was an identical car to Julia’s that pulled up next to her, and we got confused which car was the correct one to follow. The Majority of our passengers believed it was one car, and the rest thought it was the other car. I looked through camera’s saved photos, found the photo of her car, zoomed in on the license plate, and correctly identified the proper car to follow, which was good because by that time the consensus was that the wrong car was the correct one. It turned out to be a very crazy ride to the end, but we made it in one piece and hoped that things would be calmer for the remainder of the evening.

There was a baseball game going on the same night, so there was a lot of traffic in downtown Boston. Finding acceptable parking was tough. large sign for sport event parking for $40
not acceptable parking

Following Julia, we drove past the Berklee College of Music. We parked in a hotel’s parkade next to the school. As we disembarked the van, we thought the craziness was all behind us. The parents parked near us. We walked to the school while trying to debrief each other on what just happened on the road. Julia was not with us because she forgot tickets to the concert at home. We walked up to something called the Berklee Performance Centerperforming arts icon for Google Maps.

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We must have been early because it was dark inside. Then we got a call from Julia that the concert had been “moved” to a major arena a mile and half away, which we were all sure could be booked for any event only one day prior to the event, sarcastically speaking. We decided to trek on foot to see more of the city and because public transit would have been almost equally as fast. I entered the new addressed into my GPS and lead the way.

Berklee College of Music building on Boylston St and Mass Ave

We walked towards Commonwealth Avenue and walked up that street (path marked blue). The architecture amazed me, and the cleanliness of the roads and how good the pavement was also amazed me. It seemed that all of these dwellings on this street were dormitories for the music school. A little further up the street, all of these very institutional looking buildings were actually schools at Boston University. I have never seen a campus that looked like a collection of office buildings. Many of us planned to wear comfortable shoes, but one of the mothers did not, so she got a bad blister about half a mile away from our destination, which is also where we met up with Julia and her parents. We were devastated to learn that Julia’s mother lost of camera in the taxi because its case came undone from its strap. At this moment, the younger generation decided it was definitely time for a bathroom breaktoilets icon for Google Maps, so we walked into one of the nearest institutions, which belonged to Boston University. The old style bathrooms impressed Adam and reminded me of communist build bathrooms in Poland, except with new toilets and cleaner. We continued walking to the arena red dot icon for Google Maps to arrive about 30 minutes after the show started, so approximately 20:00. The camera never resurfaced for the rest of the trip.

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The Graduation Concert

The Commencement Concert for the Berklee College of Music was a large production something just short of a headlining national tour. My music school at the University of Miami did not even have a special commencement concert, not to mention a massive production like this merely for recognition of graduating students. The show started with Latin Jazz with Chucho Valdés on the piano whose playing absolutely blew my hair back. During one song, he played an interpretation of a Chopin Polonaise. Another solo was a cadenza that was extremely virtuosic in technique and equally amazing from a music theory aspect, which included some crazy chromatics, Prokofiev- and Rachmaninoff-like runs, which displayed not only an underlying understanding of the compositional elements found in the song, but also that Valdes had the instrument at his command. After the show I learned that the bass player, a student, continued playing through this cadenza and Valdes had to signal him to stop playing. The kid got scolded by faculty because he did not pay attention to what the soloist was doing, and so was unable to accompany him tastefully.

commencement concert stage lit up viewed from our seats
The Commencement Concert

digitally zoomed into stage viewing Chucho Valdes from our seats
Chucho Valdés at the piano

We had a difficult time determining just how many musicians were professionals and how many were students, but as it turns out, the majority of the performers were students. It is always impressive to see anyone play Latin Jazz with such grace and control, especially students. It makes me imagine just how much hard work those kids already put into their instruments to obtain that level of mastery. I consider Latin Jazz to be very difficult to play—perhaps that is part of the appeal to these performers.

Another very memorable performance was by Julia Easterlin who performed a capella with a loop machine (whose specific model I have yet to determine).

Kenny Garrett and Michael McDonald were other guest performers. We left the concert before McDonald took the stage because the show became more and more poppy, which was bland. Jazz is difficult to listen as it is, so once pop music came on, we got bored.

After the Show: Mavs game

Our new primary objective was to find a bar that was playing the Mavericks vs. Lakers game, which gave me an appreciation of how much Ajith loves Basketball. To emphasize Ajith’s love, this was not even a season game; it was an off season play off to determine which team will seed into the play offs. I guess Ajith is a Mavericks fan :). Most places were playing a different game in which locals had more stake for the teams involved, but the Mavs game was playing on TVs in a Qdoba, next door to the arena, where we got burritos and nachos at 21:57 and watched the game. (I will now pay attention to Mav scores.)

I felt lousy because the sun beat me down on the rocks today during which time I did not wear a hat nor did I wear sun lotion. I tried to relax to let the headache fold away. By the end of the second quarter of the game, the parents joined us. Adam and Chris ran the mile and half to get the vans. We loaded up the vans with everyone around the corner from Qdoba’s and depended on my GPS to take us home. Julia and her parents went to eat with her boyfriend and his parents who came to visit from Brazil. The two sets of parents have never met before this evening, so we did not see them until much later.

We almost made it home in time to catch the end of the game, but the path home took us underground where we lost satellite signal and took a wrong turn.
view from passenger seat driving through Boston tunnel
Driving through Big Dig tunnel

The GPS recalculated a new route, which really would not have been bad at all, but the on ramp which it suggested was closed for construction, so we had to drive through downtown again. Gabby read off the score in real-time on her smart phone. By 23:12, 16 miles from the house, the batteries in the GPS died, but fortunately, the road was familiar enough at that point that we made it home without issues. The game was over right as we pulled into the drive way.

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Most of the people stayed up late and had great conversations, as were reported to me the following morning, but Monica and I went to sleep soon after we arrived back at the house. Of course, I checked on our animals before we went to sleep. Unfortunately, they were out of the frame, but the e-mails with captures of the day’s motion showed that they were alright.