ARLINGTON, BERKELEY, CLARENDON. Should I ever have occasion to write a manual for operating and signalling a model railroad, I might use Boston's "alphabet streets" as hypothetical station names for the dispatching examples. Quick quiz: "Number 2 has right over Number 1 Gloucester to Exeter." What's wrong?

The economics convention has concluded and I am safely home. Like King, it strikes me that the bargaining balance will favor the buyers this year, particularly for entry-level positions. (We, too, chatted with people that are likely to find work elsewhere. With the internet and Google Scholar, our chances of locating their research in the working paper or pre-publication stage is a lot easier than in the days when we had to maintain reciprocal working paper exchanges. There are a few people whose work I am going to follow up on from the office.) Unlike Phil, I am not dismayed that next year's convention will be in Chicago. (The timing, early in January, is inconvenient but understandable. Something like half the working economists live in the Northeast Corridor. At one time, there was a referendum in the American Economic Association to hold every other convention either in New York or somewhere in the Northeast Corridor, meaning Boston, New York, Philadelphia, the District, or possibly Baltimore. The actual scheduling of conventions is a bit more geographically dispersed than that.)

I did have a bit of an opportunity to explore Boston before the heavy interviewing began. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority still operates the funkiest heavy-rail transit system in the world. (Moscow's is most elegant, New York's most muscular, and Chicago's most authentic.) The Authority has recently introduced farecards, which it calls "Charlie cards," to remember the legendary song, made famous by the Kingston Trio, about the man who didn't have the nickel to pay on departing outside the single fare area. (As recently as 1988, the left-side loading trackless trolleys that looped through Harvard Square were pay-to-exit outbound, pay-to-enter inbound with direct access to the paid-fare area of the Harvard heavy rail station.) I was able to sample all four heavy rail lines, and grabbed a late lunch in the South Station food court. Boston's commuter rail operation is a bit less intense than Chicago's. I'm not sure that food court, or the practice of posting different tracks for some of the suburban trains each day in the English fashion, would last long with the thundering herds of Burlington commuters headed to Clarendon Hills or Downer's Grove.

The alphabet streets are a bit of urban-grid logic amid the cattle-trail randomness of Boston's streets. As I understand it, they are built on reclaimed land where the Boston Neck was filled in. The area is easily walkable, with lots of historic churches and other sites worth a longer look. I was able to check for some records at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and stroll from my hotel to the original Cheers, properly the Bull and Finch (a play on the Capitol architect?) pub. There was a Patriots game on television, and, with the interviewing done, the Guinness tasted good with a cheeseburger and chowder.

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