Monday, May 30, 2011

Want to get lost in Boston?

Then perhaps hop on the T.

Do you want to go to Fenway? (Green Line D branch)
Don't accidentally go to Fenwood Road (Green Line E branch).

If you're visiting Harvard (Red line), then you probably don't want to get off at Harvard Avenue (Green line B branch).

If you're going to Longwood Medical Area (Green Line E branch) on the east side of the Muddy River, I'd recommend not taking a D branch train to Longwood Avenue.

If you're heading to Central on the Red Line, watch out for Central Avenue on the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line.

Don't confuse Kenmore (Green line) with Kendall / MIT (Red Line) or Kent Street (C branch).

St. Pauls Street pops up on two different Green Line branches - B and C!

You can hop the D branch to Newton Highlands or Newton Centre... but make sure you don't want to be on a commuter train to Newtonville or West Newton... or a Silver Line bus to Newton Street.

Massachusetts Avenue is a long road... and the Orange Line and Silver Line don't stop at the same place on it....

Make sure to differentiate between Chestnut Hill Avenue (B branch) and Chestnut Hlll (D branch).

If you're looking for Riverway on the E branch, then you definitely do not want a D branch tram heading to Riverside.

There's Washington Street (B branch) and Washington Square (C branch), and there's Wood Island (Blue Line) and Woodland (D branch).

But the biggest mistake of all: if you're at South Station and looking for a Silver Line bus to Worcester Square, then it would be a very, very bad idea to board a train to Worcester.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

MBTA Silver Line map - Inkscape

This is the result of about six hours of work in Inkscape. I had to learn arc drawing, grouping, polygons, and more to create it... but it's done, it's perfect, and it's uploaded to Commons. I even managed to get the text to upload correctly on the first try.

It's a schematic map of the Silver Line rapid bus service run by the MBTA in Boston. The official maps aren't great, and I wanted a clear map to illustrate the Wikipedia article.

(Click to go to the file page)

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I took a screenshot of Google Maps, imported into Inkscape. Traced the rail line with Bezier curves, then added Underground-style markers for the stations. Rectangle for the scale, text labels for scale and stations, and then a title. Mess around in the XML documentation to remove a couple problematic empty textboxes... and here we have a brand-new shiny vector graphic of the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line.

(This is a PNG version so I can use it on Blogger; click on the image to go to the original infinitely-scalable vector version.)

Something from Nothing

I usually tend to get a lot of decent pictures. Some luck, some skill, and some fancy work in Picasa.

But sometimes, I get pictures like this: almost completely featureless:

But then, I can still play with them. Increase fill light, auto-contrast, then deepen shadows, and you get this:

It's an Amtrak station sign in Providence, RI. Not great quality, but decent. You can even make out the bricks on the wall.

More T Pictures

All are from my March 23rd trip. Click on the link to go to the Commons file description page.

Ongoing construction at Science Park (which is now temporarily closed for rebuilding). Note the fancy old black wrought-iron catenary wire hangers:

A station sign at Wellington. This platform is intended to serve the express track (barely visible in the bottom-left corner) which has never been used. The commuter track is in the background.

Two abandoned RDCs (Rail Diesel Cars) sitting on a dead track in Boston Engine Terminal. These served with the Boston & Maine and the MBTA, and are visible from the Orange Line between Sullivan Square and Community College.

Three shots at Community College.


And its namesake behind it:

And three shots at South Station, taken from my outbound Amtrak train. Here's a couple of bilevel coach cars; based on my analysis it's the P527 5:35 local to Worcester.

Here's a train entering the station; I believe it to be #918, the 5:00 inbound from Stoughton, with the end of P527 behind it.

And their two locomotives:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What would Connecticut look like with Route 11?

Like this:

View Route Eleven in a larger map

I included exit ramps for exit 4 (half completed to Route 82), exit 2 (to Route 161, presumably), and to I-95. (No ramps from 11 to 395 will be made). I don't know where exit 3 will go.

Launch Report #44: CATO 173

(Yikes, almost six months since I last flew a rocket..)

I finally got out to a CATO launch on Saturday. I had math team practice beforehand (the depths of my nerdery are astounding, neh?) so I only had time to fly three rockets. Still, lots of fun.

First was the first flight of the MLAS. It's still not quite finished - needs some fillets and some paint - but enough so to fly. I put it up on a C6-3, and thanks to the extra nose weight I added it flew perfectly straight. One parachute got a bit melted, but there was no damage.

Second was the Multi-Goon on three B6-4s. Somehow, it didn't work right. I think that one igniter got pulled out slightly while I was wiring up the cluster, and it ignited late, causing the rocket to spin in midair immediately after leaving the launch rod.

Third was by Fliskits L-13 on a D13-4W White Lightning reload. The 18mm reloads have a lot of punch, and this one was no exception. Unfortunately, the L-13 wasn't quite stable. Just off the launch rod, it took a 90-degree left turn and heading for the northern horizon at about 30 feet altitude. Fortunately, it's a light and draggy rocket, so after the motor burned out it floated pretty gently back to earth. No causalities, and the only damage was a small scale detail (replaceable) which got knocked off by the launch rod.

Interestingly, these three flights now put me at a recorded total of just over 3,000 Newton-seconds of impulse burned.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

And more T.F. Green station pictures

Previous installment

Here's few more shots I just uploaded, looking in and at the massive quarter-mile skyway which now connects the station to the airport:

All images should link to the file information pages. Here is the category of all T.F. Green station pictures.

Ruggles pictures

I've finally finished uploading all my Ruggles pictures from my February trip to Wikimedia Commons. Here they are.

Artwork inside the overhead walkway:

Snow-covered commuter rail platform (part of the platform was cleared off)

Looking at the platform from under the overpass:

A station sign; color has been saturated a tad:

Looking over to the Orange Line platform:

An inbound Orange Line train:

Heading away:

And an outbound train:

Finally, after 15 minutes of waiting, a commuter rail train arrived, #1608 inbound from Needham. Here's the cab car leading the train:

And a surprise! New locomotive, Motive Power MPI36 #11, pushing the train. I was one of the first to get a picture:

A few minutes later came #1809 outbound to Providence. Here's a shot of passengers boarding:

I'm too lazy to link to all of them individually, so here is the link to the category on Commons, which has my images plus a few others.

Monday, May 16, 2011

College Mail

Unsolicited mail from universities I did not look at: 24 lbs 6 ounces

Mail from universities I had some interest in: 2 lbs, 2 ounces

Mail from universities I applied to but am not attending: 8 lbs 8 ounces

Amount of college mail going in the recycle bin: 35 pounds

(Total mail and received-during-visit stuff from BU: 2.1 pounds)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I like this kid.

Chris Whitehead goes to school near Cambridge, England. He's not a terribly rebellious boy, but he's decided to take a stand. His (apparently public) school's dress code does not allow shorts, even during the hot months of spring and summer. And of course they're not allowed to wear jeans - they must wear "plain black tailored trousers or knee-length skirts without slits". And fitted trousers happen to be about the most miserable thing possible to wear when it's about 70 degrees out. You sweat, they stick, they ride up, and it's just plain uncomfortable - and hard to concentrate.

So, he and other students are justifiably angry over the capricious policy. But young Mr. Whitehead doesn't want to actually break the rules - being uncomfortable is one thing, but getting in trouble is another. So he looks for a loophole, and he finds it. The section of the dress code about trousers and skirts does not specify gender, because that would be discriminatory. But girls can, by society's arbitrary rules change into leg-baring skirts, while boys cannot.

Well, forget those unwritten rules, because Chris Whitehead is wearing a skirt. Knee-length black skirt, borrowed from his sister. He's a bit more comfortable, and the administration is taking notice (hopefully) that students are dissatisfied.

The astute reader will notice I did not mention his age. He's in Year Eight - twelve years old. That's roughly eighth grade here in the US, and it happens to be middle school. Middle schoolers are sadists. A large number are bullies, including those that are well-adjusted before and after. Any boy showing signs of being gay/bisexual or effeminate, or otherwise not conforming to the heterosexual hyper-masculine paradigm is a ripe target. This is a brave young man.

Chris Whitehead is standing up to authority, and he's doing so in an excellent way. I am very pleased also to see that his parents are publicly in support of his decision - and so are many of his peers.

Small MLAS update

I haven't had a lot of time to make progress on the MLAS lately, but I've gotten a bit done.

After it getting soaked, the nose cone shoulder didn't fit quite right - no matter how I sanded it, it wouldn't slide smoothly. So I took it apart a bit, cut a slit in the cardboard shoulder, and glued it back together, so it's about 1mm smaller in diameter.

That millimeter looks to be just enough. I hope to have the whole thing ready for painting (again...) in a few days, for a flight at CATO on the 21st.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Physics Exam... sorta.

So, yesterday, just after noon, I'm sitting down to take my physics exams. I fill out the forms, open the shrink-wrapped test, and... the fire alarm goes off.

Everyone heads outside. A few minutes later, a fire truck shows up; over the next 20 minutes it is followed by six more from two different towns. Turns out, two gas detectors went off in the old steam tunnels under the school. They had to go in with oxygen gear and such to make sure it was safe.

We were outside for over an hour; fortunately it was sunny and warm, and everyone stayed pretty calm and behaved.

Long story short, I missed the Mechanics section of the exam and will be retaking it on the 20th. I did take the Electricity and Magnetism section since we were back inside by 2:00; I feel that I did fairly well.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Physics Exams Tomorrow

I take both parts of the AP Physics C Exam - Mechanics, and Electricity & Magnetism - tomorrow afternoon. I'm pretty freaked out. It's very hard material, and I didn't learn all of it in class - especially the calculus sections, which I had to teach completely to myself.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blank mind

A thought experiment: What if you took an infant human and put them in a completely blank room? Say their basic needs are taken care of (perhaps while they sleep), and they have no human contact, no indication that there's any world outside this room.

Assume they have some sort of observable device with which to communicate, say a highly intuitive touchscreen drawing program.

Will they develop intelligence? Will they develop a counting system, or a way to communicate with themselves - a language, if you will?

If you have a group of them, will they begin to communicate? Can a group of humans, starting from nothing, pass down information?

It's an experiment that is too cruel to imagine, and would outlast the researcher who started it. But what about when human brains can be accurately modeled by computer? Sentencing a computer program to a blank room is no torture, and with a sufficiently fast computer the timescale can be greatly accelerated.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Open in New Tab

If, like me, you have a mouse with a clickable scroll wheel, you've probably clicked it. If you're on a web page, or in a Word document, or Excel, it gives you little arrow keys that let you scroll the page just by moving your mouse.

But if you wheel-click on a link? Opens it in a new tab. Spectacularly useful for someone like me. I'm a compulsive massively-multitabbed browser.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ruggles pictures

I'm slowly starting to upload my backlog of MBTA images - about 50 images at the moment - to Wikimedia Commons. Here's two shots of Ruggles station from February 12th that I just uploaded.

Looking northeast onto the tracks, from the pedestrian part of the bus overpass:

And an oblique shot inside the station, including a commuter map showing the Wildcat Branch (which connects the Haverhill and Lowell lines):

(click on images to go to the Wikimedia Commons filepage and to enlarge.)