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Semiformalishmaybe

Of Cambridge, Visitation, and Occupation

Wrapping up a visit to Greater Cambridge right now (of which I recognise Boston as a suburb :P); in South Station waiting for the overnight MegaBus to take me home to PHL.

I just left the OccupyBoston site. Impressions and happenings:


OccupyBoston is my favourite Occupy so far. Some of it reflects on Greater Cambridge as a whole; the people are significantly "less street" and more intellectual. In their Occupy they discuss issues, very specific proposals, and a good number of them seem very well informed; in PHL, I am not super likely to be able to discuss the big picture except with the rare person. In NYC, I was most able to get the information I needed for my own analyses (some people had their own analyses, but they wern't at the level I needed to be useful). Here, I was able to ask people for their analysis, and evaluate it as a fully valid (and often reasonably deep) coverage of the issues. Not everyone's at that level, but many were; this is a place of educated people with well-developed, nuanced positions.

I showed up at the Occupy around 16:00, and after wandering around a bit, eventually was tempted by the vegetarian rice and beans that were being served. I then washed dishes for about an hour (every so often some other working group rounds up volunteers for something), got into a few conversations, and in what felt like no time at all, the traditional 19:00 General Assembly meeting started (all 3 occupy sites I've seen do it at that time). Their facilitation committee is understaffed, so the meeting ran a bit long; they have a more elaborate set of hand gestures than NYC (which in turn has more than PHL), but their process is also a bit different (amendments to proposals are not voted on; the original proposer simply decides whether and how to accept them into the proposal). There's also mandatory time for breakout discussions after each proposal. I think the length of time it takes to get through proposals is an issue for them; tonight's GA had a lengthy proposal to allow some proposals to be designated as priority and handled first (I offered an amendment that would limit the number of priority proposals to 2 at any GA, in order to keep room for more spontaneous proposals; it was accepted). I saved some things to bring back to PHL for our occupy there, and chatted a bit with some facilitation committee members before the cold got to me and I came here to wait for the bus. (My sleeves are not entirely dry from the dishwashing yet, and I really do not handle cold well to begin with; only the nuclear furnace heat of my laptop is letting my hands stop shaking enough to type)


The rest of the trip was pretty neat; visited with my sister Andrea and her husband Peter, caught up with some people I used to know back in Columbus, and found a few more nice places in the area. Still feeling a bit off/injured from whatever I did to my head. Job interview results feel medium; the task is interesting and challenging, but I am not sure I'm still capable of some of the things in the job. It sure is fun to think about though.

I'm still not sure about NYC versus Cambridge; I realise that my heart was more set on NYC, but MIT would be a great place to work (TED too). Some of that is this idea that NYC is *the big city* and a place that would help toughen me up in some way, but part of it is also awe/love at the size and services of the place and variety in what's offered. The city is a bit less cool than it once was, but it's still a frickin' awesome place to be. That said, if I can't get a good neuroscience or ideas-place/university job there, there's no point in just moving there because I like the city. At the same time, the 1.5 years I'd commit to the MIT-CSAIL job is still a diversion from my preferred path of grad school next fall, but then, so was TED.

Still kicking myself for not getting *some* degree while at CMU; I'd like to be able to think of it as my alma mater (rather than a place I worked, and rather than OSU, which I can barely remember, and it's also weird to use rather in two or three rather different ways inside a parenthetical here). Oh well.

I rather admire this guy for being able to talk so openly to the general public about depression. I'm generally pretty open with my life, but whenever I talk about depression it's mostly an extended analysis of the why, and mostly limited to a small set of people who (for entirely intuitional reasons) I feel comfortable sharing that stuff with online, none of them actually being people who I saw very regularly IRL. Looking directly at how it feels is not something I think I've shared much, partly because it's an intense enough thing that (like strong migraines) unlike bridging perspective-gaps (which I think can be done with a philosophically trained mind), I don't think it's very doable to share the experience with others (unless they have at least a subset of the components of it separately). Or, at least it's very hard. His experiences are not exactly like mine, and he seems to have a strong notion of him that's apart from his depressed self; for me, I have cognitive and physical depression as sparate things (right now for me, the physical is mostly in remission and the cognitive is missing most of its components) that interplay, but I recognise all of that as separate parts of me, with little fragmentation of will (it all moves together). There may be a state of mind there, but it's one of many states of mind in my life, not an alien thing, like hunger or deep hack mode or the urge to exercise.

As Boston South is an Amtrak station and I'm to be delivered to 30th Street Station (also Amtrak), but by MegaBus, I felt the need to look up the prices. Megabus charged me $22 for a 6 hour trip (worked out to be about 5.5 hours on the way here). On Amtrak, I would have two options: a newer train that takes 5 hours for a fee of $150, or an older train that takes 5h50 for a fee of $60. I am trying to understand this. I suspect the following are in play:
*Amtrak needs to maintain its tracks using its own funds, while Megabus's use of highways are supported by the general tax burden. Turnpikes recoup some of these funds but are only in play for part of the journey
*Amtrak, as a state corporation, needs to follow government rules for handling of its employees (retirement, civil service exams to qualify, heathcare, etc) - I am not actually sure about this
*We're on the side of poor economies of scale for investment in train technology inflating costs for train maintenance
*Amtrak, as a state corporation, is required to provide some services at equal prices across its network that might amount to it providing it at a loss in some areas - I am not sure about this, but I know that it is an obligation of the post office and has been required of utilities
*Amtrak has the cost of stations to factor in
*Amtrak has amenities that Megabus does not

I am generally curious how the cost difference breaks down.

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