Thursday, November 27, 2014

Who is the Secretary?

I work for the Office of the Secretary.  That's what it's called.  OST, for short.  The other day, THE Secretary sent an email.  It was a Happy Thanksgiving message and was very kind considering that I realized that it was from a Very Important Person.  

I kind of wished that there had been a name at the bottom of the email though because I wasn't entirely sure who THE Secretary was.  I mean, his name.  

I know he's THE secretary of Transportation.

His name is Anthony Foxx, in case you were wondering.  (I looked it up)  

This is his picture.  

Source: Wikipedia

Fun fact: He is the former mayor of Charlotte.  

The more you know...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tuesday in Photos

Charlestown Navy Yard (as seen from the bridge)

Charlestown Navy Yard - the day was as gorgeous as this picture make it look  

USS Constitution 

Cannon on the USS Constitution 

USS Constitution

USS Cassin Young - WWII battleship

USS Cassin Young was hit twice by kamikaze pilots 

This sign made me smile.  Do we really expect it to work another 80 years? 

Buy Safety Shoes - because even dogs shouldn't suffer

The dry dock at the Navy Yard - future home of the Constitution.  

I stopped to take a picture for Isa because it showed Daejeon

And saw a few official looking Korean men in suits.  I ended up attending a Korean war memorial service.  I was the only person in attendance not formally invited to the event.  

The ropewalk - I spent a bit of time looking for this. I really like ropewalks.  I want them to turn it into a ropemaking museum.  

Commandant's house - well, it originally was.  Not sure what it is now.  

The walls of the Navy Yard are beautiful and apparently quite famous - there was a plaque honoring its designer.  

Bunker Hill memorial. 

The view from the top - Breathtaking in more ways than just one.  (It was 294 steps to the top)

Bunker hill, trying to capture feeling of the redoubt

This man whose name I don't remember was the one who inspired the sleep deprived and sore patriots from giving up. He stood on top of the redoubt during the charges and was the man who uttered the famous "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes."  He died during the third charge.   

A walk through Paul Revere Park - they put up the names of men who had served in various wars from the North End.  Despite it's size, Boston feels small and intimate to me.  I love it.  

In Which I Spent Veteran's Day Remembering

On Tuesday, Veteran's Day, I did a lot of things that would help me remember the people who served for our country.  I went to the USS Constitution (War of 1812), I visited the USS Cassis Young (World War II), I visited a Korean war memorial and incidentally found myself in attendance at a memorial service, I even walked half of the Freedom Trail (Revolutionary War) and saw a memorial dedicated to those soldiers who lost their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  I will show pictures from those things in another post.

I want to focus this post on the site that helped bring the other sites into context and left what I hope is a permanent impression.  That site is Bunker Hill.

Perhaps it is no surprise to any of you if I were to tell you that I am a pacifist by nature.  I don't like war.  I ache when I think about the families on both sides that give up their loved ones and the men and women who give their service and time and even lives.  I long have felt that the politics of war are beyond the lay person's experience and motivation for fighting.  Was the Civil War about slavery?  Yes, ultimately, it came down to an issue about social and economic factors that centered around slavery.  But do I think that an 18 year old farmboy off to fight for his side did so because of his ideologies about slavery?  Some did, even many perhaps.  But I often think that the things those boys and men thought about on the front lines were their loved ones and the hope that fighting these battles and defending their side would protect those they were closest to.  This thinking could clearly be wrong - I'm no history expert.  Suffice it to say that while I think war can be necessary and I'm grateful to live in a country that values the freedoms of its citizens to choose for themselves their course for their life, I often wonder, was this the only way?

While at Bunker Hill, as I wandered the grounds and read that the colonists stayed up all night digging a redoubt on the hill and then fought all the next day, I couldn't help but imagine what that must of been like.  The western world's most powerful army was descending on Charlestown with their thousands.  If such a force were to come down upon me in my homeland, I'm sure I'd be besides them, digging for my life and for my family.  I'd be digging even when the exhaustion set in and my arms burned and my eyes stung and my back was thrown out.  I'd dig and dig and dig, wishing that the digging would make the fear lessen, would help ensure victory and with victory, safety.

Mesmerized, my eyes scanned that hill, wishing that I could see what that had really been like.  Instead, I could only read the accounts of it.  The untrained colonists panicked when the first casualty was a beheading by cannonball.  The Americans bravely fought off the British for two attacks but succumbed on the third from lack of ammunition, exhaustion and no bayonets.  The Americans in their very hasty retreat made a point to gather and carry with them all of their wounded.  The British lamented their losses.  It was a hill "too dearly bought" by the blood of 1000 British soldiers.

It was a decisive battle, pivotal in unifying the patriot cause.  Over a hundred years after this battle, women raised money to put up a monument to honor the men who defended and died here.  By this time, no one who had personally witnessed the battle was alive.  The people raising the funds and gathered for the dedication had heard about that battle perhaps through word of mouth, stories that passed down through generations.  These were their children's children wishing to pass on the stories and the memories to future generations.  Climbing that monument is not easy; I imagined the women in their skirts and petticoats climbing and climbing in the heat of the summer.  Climbing until they reached the top, where they paused and looked out on Boston, on the shores of the Mystic River and on the shores of the Charles.  Climbing back down, on now shaky legs, I put my head down.  War is hard for me.  But truly, truly I am grateful.  Grateful for those who have served, who, even if they knew little about the ideologies, thought their loved ones worth giving their lives for.  Grateful for those who knew much about the ideologies and felt that giving their lives was worth it to secure a life for their loved ones that they felt would benefit them.  Bunker Hill put everything else I saw on Tuesday into this perspective.

So, thank you, all of you who fought in wars and combats.  I am grateful for your service and your sacrifice.

Friday, November 14, 2014

When Even Going 500 mph Doesn't Make You Prompt

At 7:30 am this morning, I arrived at work and left promptly at 8 go on a field trip.

We left the building and rushed over to a bridge - don't ask me for its name - where we saw a line of people already lining up and looking down along the river bank, another hundred people scattered along the walkway.  People, rushing off to work, started asking questions.  What's the big event?

A flyby, we told them, of five F-15s.  In ten minutes!  Except it wasn't 10 minutes.  It was more like 45.  We waited and waited and waited.  While we waited, we talked airplanes and aviation.  We talked about the beautiful weather and jumped every time the subway train passed, thinking we had missed the big event.

We got antsy but the signs were pointing to good things.  The helicopters stopped moving around.  The boats stayed out of the waters.  The planes at Logan airport weren't putting any new planes into the sky.  And then, just when I thought it wasn't worth the wait, they showed up.  Flying by slowly.  We all stopped and looked up, including the traffic.

It was great but slightly disappointing.  "Where were the afterburners?" My coworker teased, but in that way where you really meant what you said.  As if they sensed our slight sadness, they flew by again, this time faster, with more thunder echoing off the buildings.

We cheered.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Harold Has Some Competition

I'm trying to investigate Boston with as much zeal as I wandered aimlessly around Sendai two years ago.  I confess, the cold makes that difficult.  But in our lesson yesterday we learned that Joseph Fielding Smith said that, "People die in bed.  And so does ambition."  I thought of how lovely my warm bed is and knew those words were meant for me.  This, then, is my wake up call (pun intended).  Off to explore, rain or shine!

Today's adventure was the Boston Public Library.  I can't get my library card there until I have some sort of proof of residency, which means I have to wait until my first pay stub.  This saddens me to no end but I thought the adventure would be worth the look-see anyway.  It was!

Note: This is a very brief preview.  I didn't have a lot of time to spend - only about an hour.  I anticipate many more trips in the future.

It was everything a library should be and more!  The first half of my trip, I wandered around the galleries with the murals and shadowboxes and marionette display.  It was a strange kind of museum as I wandered along with several other visitors, in complete silence (it was a library, after all), taking pictures.

After the inspiring quick jaunt around the artwork, I searched next in earnest for the books.  I looked for those authors that I can't find in a lot of libraries and found them!  Higashino, Miyabe, Kearsley.  And three shelves full of books in Chinese and a shelf full of books in Japanese.  The nonfiction section was extensive.  A kind of panic set over me when I realized that my time was so limited and there was so much reading to do!

A shadowbox showing a cute couple in the rain. 

The third floor.  Don't you just want to curl up with a book?  Or dream the hours away?  

In the courtyard.  Sorry, it's dark.  But so beautiful, right? 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Of a Saturday

This is what my Saturday would look like on facebook:
Mount Auburn Cemetery is gorgeous in the fall. - with roommate #nofilter

This is what my Saturday would look like on Twitter:
Boston Trivia Night.  Team 6.  I'm so glad the Boston natives decided to sit at my table.  #winning

Doesn't my Saturday look wonderful?  It was, really.  But also misleading.  It only accounts for about 3 hours of the day.  It doesn't include the six hours I spent cleaning and winterizing my apartment or the three hours it took to run errands.  Or even the fact that I woke up at 5:30 am (which is earlier than I get up during the week) and therefore was exhausted and asleep by 10 pm.

And that's what a blog is for - to dispel any misconceptions you might have about the grandeur of my life.  :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's Official?

I wasn't just nervous; I was terrified.  A million 'what-if's ran through my mind as the plane lifted off the ground as my stomach turned somersaults.  The ground was falling beneath us as I tried to even my breathing and focus my eyes on the airplane wing.  "During take-off, the wing lengthens to create a larger pressure differential to create more lift.  Once we are in level flight, the wings will contract to their normal length."  Aerospace engineering; I can do this, right?

Today, one of the more senior engineers in my group came out to greet me, "I've been hearing rumors about you."  I looked at him nervously, my mind racing about the stories I've been telling people since I got here, nervous little factoids that probably reveal too much.  "Rumors?  What kind of rumors?"  He smiles, to encourage me.  "Well, not rumors, I guess, so much as the fact that there are other people here talking about you.  Someone from another technical group asked me, 'You guys are hiring rocket scientists now?'"  Another engineer called me a rocket scientist.  Does that make me one?  I blurted out, "I wish."  

There is an airplane taking off from the airport that we can see from our office window everyday at noon, headed to Japan.  I asked my coworker who pointed it out, "How do you know?"  He responded, somewhat sheepishly, "I know my airplanes.  The only airline that utilizes that type of airplane is JAL.  I'm a nerd, I know."  I tell him I like that nerdiness; I wish I knew my planes.  "But you know space," he adds.  I'm not sure that I do but I'd like to.  I like watching that plane though.  It makes my world feel a little smaller.  

My roommates are wonderful and from the moment I've moved in, life with them feels like summer camp.  I never attended overnight summer camp but this is what I imagine it's like.  We talk about boys and laugh about life.  When I asked them if we could make s'mores, they both looked ready to oblige.  

The commute is short in the morning and long in the evenings.  It feels surreal.  This is my life?  Surely, I'm just subbing in for someone right now, a warm body to take up space like a placeholder.  I try to tell myself, "This is your life now."  But it still feels unreal.