MIT Museum

Though I don’t go the extra mile with wrapping paper, I do try to celebrate the birthdays of those in my nearest vicinity (aka spouse-level) with a little something special.  That’s why, after a stellar brunch at Sportello (soft scrambled eggs with duck hash and roasted root vegetables for him, poached eggs with collard greens over truffled sourdough toast for me), the Mr. and I headed to the MIT Museum. A few weeks before, a Groupon special advertised two tickets for the usual price of one, and in a moment of “maybe just by standing there we’ll sop up all the extra brainpower mucking up MIT’s campus,” I bought them.  It didn’t hurt that there’s a special robot exhibit going on right now.  We do so love our robots.

Turns out we didn’t even have to hand over our tickets, due to a program about the “design, development and impact of Project Whirlwind” starting right as we arrived.  Free admittance! We sat in the audience for part of it, slack-jawed at the sheer genius of the two speakers, Jay Forrester and Robert Everett, both in their 90s, who candidly discussed how they created the first digital computer to operate in real time. These guys are serious brains.

Afterward, we headed up (and down, and up and down and up) the musical steps to the exhibits. That’s the cool thing about this museum – you go from total huh?-moment immersion in concepts far beyond your intellectual capacity right to giggling at the amusing products of the artistic geniuses.

I won’t go deep into what you’ll find in there, but there’s something for everyone. Feats of science, art, engineering, chemistry, architecture, even a reconstructed smashed piano that MIT students shoved off a dormitory roof (they do this nearly every year. Why? To commemorate the deadline for dropping classes during the spring term). If you find yourself tiring of one topic, just step three feet to your right and continue with the next.

The robot exhibit is really something to behold. Walking, talking, emoting – it’s amazing the projections scientists have for Artificial Intelligence. One of the better interactive pieces is simply a magnetic board with markers and paper – visitors write and draw pictures depicting their hopes and ideas for robotic uses.  As you can imagine, this invites low-brow humor, but also more profound and sweet concepts from kids.

Even without free entry or a Groupon deal, this place is worth a visit.  I’m convinced we came out at least 0.0827% smarter than we went in.  And in my book, that’s cause for celebration.

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Happy Birthday, or, Good Things Come In Ugly Packages

What do you get when you mix a deeply embedded streak of laziness with a dash of wrapping paper abhorrence and a pinch of frugality?

I suppose that combination could produce any number of results, but believe me when I say that one of them is this:

What you see above is an earth-conscious reuse of material with a rustic-chic embellishment, resulting in a manly presentation for the Mr.’s birthday gift.  In other words, I wrapped his present in the crumpled brown paper it was shipped in and then tied the whole lumpy mess up with a measure of kitchen twine usually reserved for looping around chicken legs. Happy Birthday, Love of My Life!!!

Here’s my issue with wrapping paper. You buy a 17 foot tall tube of the stuff which goes out of its way to launch itself at you every time you go in the closet for the boots or umbrellas.  You spend 20 minutes wrangling it around some unshapely object, unless you’re one of those people who gives hardback books (in which case, you are way smarter than me).  One side does the envelope-fold thing neatly, the other stone cold refuses so you hack it with scissors and then it’s too short so you’re forced to cut an extra teeny square to tape over the gap.  Then the whole wrap job gets ripped open, often within 10 minutes of being crafted.  Follow this with one of life’s biggest dilemmas – throw away the shreds, laden with a measure of guilt in direct proportion to the amount of space in a landfill that the discarded wrapping paper will create, or gingerly fold the remains and put them in a drawer, knowing in the cockles of your heart that you’ll never reuse them?

Alright, maybe not one of life’s biggest, or even smallest, dilemmas, but I really wanted to use the word “cockles” in an unexpected context.

I actually do like wrapping paper, but I can’t be bothered to pay for it, and I don’t have the foresight to buy it after the holidays when it’s 50% off and use it the next year. Plus, as evidenced above, I’m a really bad wrapper.