i chatted with alex this morning, who gave me his eyewitness account of what was happening in tokyo in the aftermath of the sendai earthquake. he was curious to know how the recent disaster was being reported in the rest of the world. he didn't notice any damage in the city but he did see some businessmen in dirty suits finally walking back home. at the supermarket the employees were reorganizing their merchandise, putting the glass items on the bottom shelves so they'd be less likely to shatter during any subsequent aftershocks. the shelves were emptied of drinks, ramen, and mysteriously toilet paper. i asked if he saw people wearing construction helmets to protect them from falling debris. he said no, but under every desk at his office is an emergency kit that does include a hard hat and a mylar blanket. there is also a supply closet stocked with bottled water.

just like the last time we went out (on a tour of boston), my roommate victor seems incapable of leaving on time. we agreed to go at 11:00 but he asked if we could depart a half hour later so he could skype with some people back home.

i decided to take the number 1 dudley bus out of harvard square to the museum of fine arts (MFA). we'd get off at symphony station. even though there was a bit of walking along the northeastern university campus, it seemed less circuitous than taking the subway. we both had problems in getting the charlie card machines to accept our credit cards. i finally got mine to work, but victor ended up feeding $20 in cash.

along the way, watching all the snowpiles reduced to nothingness, victor asked if i thought it'd snow again. it was such a conventional question but surprisingly not one i considered until now. the season average says the last snowfall usually falls around mid-march. my own historical memory recalls the april fool's blizzard a decade and a half ago. on the other hand long range forecast shows temperature in the 50's all next week. living in new england, i've learned not to ask these questions because there's no real definite answer. but in my opinion, i told him chances are it probably wouldn't snow again. i don't know if he was happy or disappointed. maybe he wanted to experience a big snowstorm. i think he was happy knowing it'd get warmer.

speaking of warmth, the thermometer today read 50's but there was a strong wind that dropped down the temperature. we ended up arriving at our destination no quicker than if we'd taken the subway instead due to some traffic on the boston side of mass ave.

the two free tickets were from victor's friends who visited the museum last weekend. as a scheme to justify the higher entrance fee ($20 per person), each museum ticket now includes a second "free" admission. since the friends weren't interested in going again, they gave victor the tickets. we figured we could just walk in but the guard told us we had to get in line and exchange these old tickets for new ones. the snaking line was about a dozen people long but we had little choice. after 10 minutes of having to suffer through museum ticketing bureaucracy we finally got in. i took a map and noticed they no longer carry alternate language versions.

because victor wasn't taking photos, i hardly took any myself. having seen some of the great european museums, i felt he might find our humble boston museum to be insignificant by comparison, but he was impressed with its comprehensiveness, with artworks that span not only europe and america, but also africa, oceania, and asia, not to mention some modern artworks.

i think one of the things he was most impressed with was the 1757 painting by italian gioanni paolo pannini, the paintings within a painting. having been to rome, he testified to the accuracy of the roman landmarks featured in the various miniature depictions.

after wandering the labyrinth of the old museum, we set out to find the new american wing. for some reason it was particularly difficult to get to and we ended up looking at our map a few times before we finally found it. the contemporary design is quite impressive but i question the economics of having such a large open space in the newly-built indoor courtyard. with room in the city already at a premium, i hesitate to even calculate how much that square footage would cost on the open real estate market.

having said all that, i like the new american wing. so apparently did a lot of other people, because it was the most crowded part of the whole museum. it actually makes a lot of sense to having such an expansive american wing, as most tourists who visit boston come here for our share of early american history.

the "federal" room with its portraits of famous revolutionary heroes was one of my personal favorites. the many portraits of george washington coincided with my ongoing reading of his biography. it felt like seeing an old friend.

we left about 3:30 (having arrived at 12:30). 3 hours spent in the museum wasn't bad, but we completely forgot to see the mesoamerican floor of the american wing (in the basement). i definitely want to come back by myself to take more photos and to take a look at everything more thoroughly and at my own pace. hopping on the subway, i could feel my back aching. the driver opened all the doors for some reason and we got onboard from a middle section so we didn't pay.

from porter square we stopped off at boca grande to get some early dinner of burritos before going home. victor asked if it'd be okay if he didn't eat with me because he needed to skype with his family back at home. he ended up doing that for the rest of the night and i didn't see him again until just before he went to bed. i was watching the band of brothers marathon and he watched some with me before finally deciding to go to sleep.