i went down to back bay today for a meeting regarding a possible project. i'd never been up in the prudential building before and couldn't find the entrance to the tower. the prudential mall was crowded with people, a triple combination of lunchgoers, holiday shoppers, and convention attendants. i asked two motorcycle cops outside for directions, but finally had to sheepishly call the client and ask for help. what i didn't realize was the meeting seemed more like an interview than just an informal sitdown to find out more about the project. i sat with three different people, before i led myself back downstairs.

at one point i was asked if i'd be willing to consider a full-time position if one was available. i said yes, but now that i think about it, maybe i'd be happier doing just contract work. the problems with working for yourself are no benefits (you take care of your own health and dental insurance, and no 401k for your retirement) and the constant search for the next project. the advantage? that freelancing freedom. it's liberating to set my own schedule, work whenever i feel like it, no commuting. i'm probably getting a little ahead of myself. my life course right now is on freelance mode, and unless something more permanent comes up, that's what i'll be doing for the near future.

i walked to chinatown, where my hunger for smelly tofu was finally satisfied by ordering a plate for takeout. everytime i come to south station there's something different. today was a new entrance way down to the subway platforms. a section of the wall had been removed, revealing a tiled sign that read, "station under", hinting to an earlier time when south station was called something other than "south station". when i got back home, i ate my tofu, washing everything down with a cold can of root beer, a most satisfying late lunch.

in the evening julie and i went to a science lecture at the harvard natural history museum. we had tried going to one a month ago but i got the days mixed up; today was a more successful outing:

"The Past, Present, and Future of Human Nature."
Harvard Scientists lecture by Steven Pinker.

There is widespread concern that biotechnology will soon change human nature. However, Dr. Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, asserts that we are unlikely to see human genetic enhancement in our lifetimes, nor is human nature likely to be changed by brain-enhancing drugs or human-machine interfaces. Dr. Pinker will discuss the realistic assessments of the prospects of radical human enhancement that speak against the current enthusiasm for restricting beneficial research on the basis of dystopian fantasies.

once again, a capacity crowd. this particular lecture was shorter and not as technical. nevertheless, there's something about being in a dimly-lit lecture hall surrounded by smarties that makes me very drowsy (harkens back to my college days). pinker has a dry sense of humor, an intellectual with a deadpan delivery for witticism. after his talk, he took questions from the audience. i realize now that there's a tradition of trying to stump the guest speaker with a question, the intelligentsia's version of mortal combat. pinker was on top of his game however, and managed to answer everything that was thrown at him, successfully depending his own position, while at the same time rebuking any challengers in such a way that the audience would turn their heads to gawk at the shame face from the uninformed victim. there seemed to be a vocal contingency of people who believe human nature lies in something more metaphysical like the mind or even the soul, but pinker attributes human nature to something more physiological, with a basis in scientific tangibility like brain activities and gene expressions. in any case, if you're ever feeling dumb and need a dose of the smarts, go to one of these lectures and rub brains with the big boys.

julie and i went to harvard square to grab some takeout, some gyros from my new favorite greek place. we brought them back to my place to eat. julie then became preoccupied with looking for condos online, and we tried to figure out how much she'd have to pay per month. the numbers that we got using our own simple calculations was nothing compared to the numbers from the mortgage calculators. i checked my own mortgage payment stubs and realized for the first time that the amount i was paying seemed unusually high for the amount borrowed. we tried looking up this information online, thinking maybe it has something to do with amortization, whatever the hell that is. i even called my mother, who told me that's just the way it is, you always pay more than what you think you owe (including interest), and in many cases, a lot more, like the interest paid comes out to more than the principal. can anyone explain to us how mortgages are calculated? it's like a banking conspiracy, with secret handshakes and lodges for members only.