Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's Kinda Spring (I Guess)

Spring came in a strange way this year.  First, we had a very mild winter, a welcomed change after last year's record snowfall totals.  Then, we had some mild weather in early March, only to get cooler by the end of the month.

April started off with promise, but within the first week we had a snowfall.  Anything that was blossoming got confused.  The forsythia was starting to come out when the snows and frozen weather stunted their blossoming.  After a few weeks of stunted growth, the yellow flowers withered and died off.  Same with the magnolias.  Normally, by mid-April, much of Back Bay Boston would be splendid with the soft pink and white flowers.

Now we are seeing the full blossoming of spring, but the weather is still cooler than it should be.  But the tulips have been out.  The dogwoods and other flowering  trees are beginning to bloom.  All the trees are leafing out, too.  It's Kinda Spring, I guess.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Signs of Springs

After a very mild winter, mid-March is showing the signs of spring.  In the litter of fall and the barren soil, the first shy sings of spring emerge.  Little by little they rise up and turn their faces to the sun.   A warm day in our fair city, and these are a few examples of signs emerging.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Still don't believe in New Year's Eve!

Yep, I'm still not a believer in New Year's Eve!  As I was telling a colleague in the office, it all has to do with when I learned enough astronomy to know a year is not 365 days long!  It's 365.24 days (approximately), so this New Year's Eve at midnight is not exactly 1 year since last New Year's Eve at midnight 

The whole New Year's Eve midnight thing is just a hoax!

But, if you enjoy the evening anyway, have a good one!

(For more of my ramblings on this topic, see my post from 2009.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance

This Sunday (Nov. 22, 2015) in Boston is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember the many people in Boston, around the US and around the world killed only because they happen to be transgender, and someone deeply hated them for that fact.

I live a rather protected, straight, middle class life and no body harasses me or shows overt hatred (that I know of).  I simply can't image what it would be like to be so hated that someone would want to go as far as kill me.

Still, I think it's good - it's necessary - to take time to remember those who have been the victims of such hatred, that their lives cut short continue to value, and that each of them was a person of great and unique dignity.

Today, we see much of the western world focused on terrorism, and that hatred that kills so randomly.  This is indeed a great evil in the world.  But not the only evil.  The evil that implants hatred in the hearts of those who would kill (or even bully) people because they happen to be transgender, or gay, or black, or Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim, or any category of persons - this is also a great evil.

Our world is filled with the evil of hatred.  But we must not be defeated.  We must remember those who have died, uphold their dignity, and live in the belief that the light we can share can overcome the darkness of this evil manifest in hatred that would go as far as the murder of innocents.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Spring at Mt. Auburn

Often I've taken a late fall stroll through the beautiful landscapes of the Mt. Auburn Cemetery, here in my home town of Cambridge.  Usually I do it around November 2nd, which is known as El Día de los Muertos or All Souls' Day. This is a time to remember the departed, and think of the transience of our brief lifetime.  In the Northern Hemisphere, we have the juxtaposition of this day of remembrance in the very season where we experience the colors of death in fall foliage.

But, this year I was thinking, what would it be like to take a spring stroll.  What would the contrast of rebirth, as seen in the flowering and budding of trees and shrubs, feel like in the context of a sacred grounds consecrated to the eternal rest of those who have passed on before us?

Spring includes the celebration of Easter, the resurrection from the dead of the Son of God, and the hope for eternal life.  "If we shared in Jesus' death by being baptized, we will be raised to life with him," so it is said in Romans 6.

What is this eternal life?  When does it begin?  Is it like this life?  These are questions that people have asked for centuries, but we still lack certain answers. My pastor has suggested that eternal life is something that has already been going on, even before we were born, and will continue after we die.  Our life in this world is but one chapter in it all.

When I was young, I remember thinking about this idea of eternal life, as something after the death of our body.  What would it be like to go on and on and on and on without end?  Day after day after day after day?  I couldn't fathom it.  But nor could I fathom it just suddenly stopping and then there would be nothing more.  In those days I felt that eternal life was obvious.  We could never just stop being.

As I got older, I've gone through stages of new, more complicated thoughts and, with them, doubts.  Also as I get older, I have started to get the sense of being "tired" a lot of the time, which has led me to think that, maybe at a time to come, I'll feel that I am ready for a long rest, much like we feel tired and go to bed.  Is it possible that life ending is like falling asleep a final time and then that's "a wrap?"

But much as spring is a sign that life is reborn after the winter of dormancy, the idea of life after death is persistently present in both religious teachings and philosophies around the world from ancient times to the present.   Rebirth in the spring inevitably comes about each year, no matter what we do.  So is this something about the nature of life itself that it is self-rejuvenating?  Is rebirth inherently part of the fabric of life?  Is all this an indication that life is, in some way, eternal, that death is not the end?

For now, I'm don't know for sure.  But, then again, spring is the season of hope - hope in rebirth and life itself, a life that is renewed and renewed and renewed, and therefore never ends.

I ended up with a bunch of good photos, some of which are included in a blog post in my photography blog, Urban Vistas.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Train Trip Along the Frosty Coast

This has been a brutal winter up here in the Boston area. (Come to think of it, it's all been in February!) Well, in the midst of snow on snow on snow on snow, I traveled to Philly an a frosty day. You know it's been cold when the salt water of the bays and estuaries freezes.

Getting around Boston had become tough, with the transit system we call the T essentially having a melt-down:  shut down for days and limited services when it was up and running.  But fortunately, Amtrak was still running, so I got to Philly and back with some reasonable days.

I always take a seat on the left side, so I can see the coastline:  the beaches and saltmarshes and estuaries that stretch from Rhode Island through the meadowlands of Jersey.  

Even the sky was frosty on the 18th of February, rendering the photos in a natural sepia tone.  Despite the cold and snow all around, there was special beauty in frozen waterscapes that passed by my window.

Since many of these vistas are far from urban, I'm sharing them here (instead of my photo blog, Urban Vistas).

A weak sun shines over a sepia landscape of bare trees and frozen waters.
Open waters near Mystic, CT
Riverfront walkway next to the tracks at New London, CT
Reconstruction the Boardwalk at Niantic, CT
Frozen estuaries near Guilford, CT

Another frozen stream approaching Branford, CT

Crossing the Hutichenson River, entering the Bronx
Steam clouds rise from power plants in Queens, seen from crossing the viaduct to the Hell Gate Bridge
Frozen  Jersey meadowlands with the Pulaski Skyway in the background

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Mayor for the People

This weekend, Boston is remembering the passing of its longest serving mayor, Thomas Menino. He served for over 20 years, from 1993 to 2014.  He started out in local politics as a City Councilor.  When Major Ray Flynn was offered the post of Ambassador to the Vatican, Tom Menino became Acting Mayor.  Beginning in 1993, he won and unprecedented five elections for mayor.

He was always a low-key guy. It was never "all about him" but more all about the city. He knew it well, the neighborhoods, the people, the diversity.  

When he saw a need, he did something.  He saw young people with nothing to do during the summer.  So, he started a camp for any kid from the city, for the affordable price of $5/week.  When the Morning Star Baptist congregation in Mattapan could not get a loan to build a new church, he stepped in and talked a bank into making the loan.  On Sundays, parishioners triple-park along Blue Hill Avenue to attend the largest church on what some call the "Avenue of God" for its numerous places of worship, small and large.

He also presided over a time of great investment and development in the city.  Here, he did wield the power to be the deciding vote to approve or deny a project.  The city continued to flourish.

While development continued downtown, the demographics of the neighborhoods were changing.  For the first time, the Boston became a majority minority city.  But, he was a major for all the people.  What was most telling was the outpouring of praise for their former major from leaders of the minority communities.  On Thursday Nov. 30th, after the mayor's passing hit the news, the evening service at Morning Star Baptist Church became a memorial service for the major. He truly served all the people.

He was not always the smoothest public speaker.  Nicknamed "Mumbles," sometimes you weren't quite 100% sure what he just said, I recall hearing him speak at the funeral of the late Mayor Kevin White, and having to listen very carefully!

His heart was always with Boston. After the marathon bombing, he left his hospital bed to speak to the city, to give all strength and hope. 

But, all in all, I think his legacy will be that of a mayor of the whole city.  He was a good and faithful public servant. Unfortunately, he had so little time to enjoy life after office. May he rest in peace.

Friday, September 26, 2014


The classiest and hardest playing Yankee is hanging up his cleats.  In his last at-bat at the Stadium ("Yankee Stadium" is redundant), he did what Jeter always seemed to do:  come through in the clutch.  In this case, he got the game-winning hit.

Before I continue, I have to say I've never been a Yankee fan.  Born in New York City, I leaned to hate the Bronx Bums at young age.  Despite my mom being a Bronx-born Yankee fan, my uncle "brainwashed" his daughter and I to be Mets fans, taking us to see the 120-game loosing 1962 team in the Polo Grounds.  Of course, they lost.

But even a 120-game loosing team that wasn't the Yankees was a good thing, so we routed for them year after loosing year.  Later I would move to Boston, where Red Sox fans shared the true hatred of the Yankees that I learned.  While I wanted the Mets in '86 to win in 7 (and they did, following Mookie Wilson's most famous at-bat), I eventually transitioned to being a Sox fan.

I still feel the classic Sox-Yanks rivalry was at its peak in the 2003 and 2004 season.  Both teams had great lineups where anyone from leadoff to 9th could take it out of the park.  Add some great pitching on either side, and there were many memorable games.

What I remember from the 2003 playoffs is the game where Pedro maybe stayed on the mound too long.  Late in the game, with the Sox ahead by a run or two, I recall Jeter coming up to bat.  No one on base.  But there was that gleam in his eye.  The gleam of hope.  The gleam that says "I think I can do something here."

Problem was, we know Jeter was a clutch hitter.  He didn't hit for batting average.  He didn't hit to win the game in one swing (although he could at times).  He just tried to do something.  Something to shift the balance of the game, to shift the momentum just enough.  Just enough to give the pitcher a little something else to think about.  Just enough so he might loose a bit of focus so that he might give the next batter something to hit.  Before you knew it, a run or two would score, and you lead was gone.

He had that inside-out swing the could just barely lift the ball just over the head of the shortstop or second baseman and then drop dead in the outfield just enough so that now you have Jeter on 1st, no one out, and that gleam is still in his eye.

In the 7th game of the 2003 playoffs, Jeter is up in the 8th with the Sox up 5-2.  Mr. Clutch got a double.  It was a 3-run inning and the game went into extra innings.  And you guessed it, the Yanks won.  Jeter and the gleam in his eye shifted the momentum.  And that's all it took.

Although I can never admit liking Jeter, I can say that I respect him.  For his class, for the effort he always showed.  For being more about the clutch hit than average or other stats.

Jeter was our opponent.  But we have learned to respect him for his integrity.  May he enjoy his retirement.