my elderly backyard neighbor kate called me this morning around 8:20 to let me know the pruning guy we got to come and take a lot at our troubled elm tree was running 15 minutes late. i really could care less, and if it was up to me i wouldn't even be a part of all this since the elm tree doesn't affect me at all. but steve thought it was a good idea if we pitched in, despite the fact that he wasn't even here for the tree appointment.

so at 9:15 i met kate outside my house. i couldn't help but notice the special ice grip attachment kate had at the bottom of her cane. franz came out soon afterwards carrying his newborn daughter, an obvious ploy at an easy out in case the meeting dragged on too long. renee was the last to join our group. she played the friendly "i'm really sick of all these tree meetings," but she was the one started this whole mess in the first place when she got all litigious on franz and was trying to force him to pay for the pruning all on his own. i kept my distance, her false affability wouldn't work on me.

when the tree guy arrived, it basically gave renee a sounding board to express her grave concerns over the tree, that it was deathly ill of dutch elm disease, that her backyard was covered with dead leaves, that the tree could topple at any moment. i think franz and i were in the same boat, that we'd rather be elsewhere. he finally ducked out around 10:00, something about a phone call, and i took the opportunity to leave as well, something about needing to be somewhere.

so that was how my saturday started. i actually did have to be somewhere, trying to get to belmont early enough so i could have some eastern sun to take a few photos of the payson park reservoir gate house (more on that later). i pumped up the tires on my bike and oiled the chains (the bike was all covered in salt, it was the least i could do to prevent rust) before finally taking off.

i was going to walk up to the reservoir from my parents' place, which would've taken me about 10 minutes, but i decided to take the car instead, which would save me some time (i was also kind of exhausted speed biking the 3 miles from cambridge).

the payson park reservoir has an interesting history. it's actually owned by the neighboring town of cambridge. cambridge has its own reservoir in fresh pond; the payson park property is actually the "water tower" that gets pumped with reservoir water to supply adequate pressure. locally, the place is just known as "the reservoir" (i didn't even know it had an official name), and as a kid growing up in belmont it was known for 2 things: as a place to go sledding (even though the hill isn't particularly steep and ends at a busy intersection) and a place for deulistic afterschool fights. now i've never personally seen a fight at the reservoir before, but understood that "meet me at the reservoir" was kid code for pugilism.

after all these years, the reservoir has renewed my interest because of an very interesting feature: a romanesque style gate house. after seeing it recently, i knew i had to come back and get some photos.

one mystery that was quickly solved from the date on the arched doorway was the year the gate house was built: 1896. that was a time when a lot of romanesque structures were being built. but who built this gate house? could it have been someone famous perhaps? in the 1898 cambridge annual report for the water board, there is mention of a june 13, 1896 contract with the norcross brothers to build the gate house. can we also they also designed it? a search for the norcross brothers didn't find anything further.

in the same report, there are some interesting comments about the gate house and the reservoir:

"An ornamental and substantial brick and stone gate house has been erected during the year on the easterly side of the reservoir. From the top of the house a magnificent view of Cambridge and the surrounding country can be enjoyed, and this will doubtless soon become a popular resort. Few of our citizens are aware of the natural beauties of the Payson Park Reservoir site. There is no pleasanter drive in the vicinity of Boston than in this direction and around our Fresh Pond park system. The latter has become a very popular route for bicyclists."

it seems like maybe at one time the gate house was open to the public and one could climb to the top for a scenic vista? although i'm not sure how that'd work, given that the gate house as it exists now is only a single story. but just standing in front of the gate house facing east, one can see fresh pond, cambridge, and the boston skyline (although some houses are in the way, which probably weren't there when the reservoir was built). i also find it interesting the mention of bicyclists around fresh pond. apparently in 1896 bicycles were all the rage. also:

"The new gate house is a conspicuous object and the reservoir must prove a very attractive resort in the future, as the view from the gate house tower is unexcelled by any in the vicinity of Boston...The water in the reservoir, when full, stands on a level with the belfry of Memorial Hall tower - 178-1/2 feet above city base."

once again, there's mention of view from the gate house tower. i did some more digging in the archives and found an grainy photo of the reservoir. sure enough, the gate house looks different, and it seems early on there actually was an observational tower. i don't know how accurate the reservoir height is. wikipedia claims the 1907 published height for harvard's memorial hall is 190 feet. maybe the 2 are measured from different base heights.

when i got back home i had some snow peapod noodles for lunch. originally i thought the first football game of the day was at 1:00 but turns out it wasn't until 4:30. instead i watched a downloaded screener of zero dark thirty with my parents. my father was also playing around with this new chinese broadcast internet streaming HD set-top box he got for my grand uncle. unfortunately it's more complicated than he anticipated so he might just keep it for himself.

i can't remember how it started, but after dinner my father and i were working on retrofitting the LED upgrade bulb (terralux TLE-6EXB) i got for his pseudo-maglite flashlight. earlier in the week my father got a nite ize LRB-07-PR1W LED upgrade bulb ($7.50) from harbor freight tools. it fit in the flashlight perfectly, but the light wouldn't go on. since it wasn't the batteries, it had to be the bulb, so a few days later he went back to exchange it. that one didn't work, and neither did another one, so he ended up just returning it. but i read it might have something to do with the polarity, but that's a weird thing to have to consider when the bulb should just simply work without resorting to tricks like loading in the batteries backwards.

anyway, we finally figured out how to completely disassemble the flashlight head, including snipping off one of the wires (to be replaced in the future with a longer wire). the problem was the TLE-6EXB has an 8mm diameter while the metal housing has an inner diameter of 7mm. my father figured he could sand it down by hand with a small piece of sandpaper, but i said he could just use his dremel tool with a sandpaper attachment (which he had). so moments later he was filling down the inner wall of the housing, to the point where the bulb finally fit. we decided to continue this project another day though, since the next step requires some messy soldering.