After Reading “The Choirmaster’s Burial”

2014/07/30

This poem is from the later phase of my writing religious poetry, when I started trying to construct a somewhat consistent theology that I called Logotheism. I never fully developed the idea, but I produced a number of poems of varying quality on the topic, of which I think this one is the best. That it is also the shortest is possibly unsurprising: I think that a lot of my poetry-writing technique was (and perhaps still is) having particular phrases coming to my mind and trying to write a poem around them. This tends to result in a lot of rather awkward stanzas, so trimming a poem down to a short section based on an image or line works better.

One thing that confuses me about the date when I wrote this is that I am not at all sure when I first read Thomas Hardy’s “The Choirmaster’s Burial”, though I know that I’ve been quite fond of it for some time, and I think I was aware of it by freshman year at Caltech. I suspect I must’ve read it in high school, because this poem seems to fit most well into the pattern of religious poetry that I wrote at that time. In any case, it is one of my favorite poems, as shown by the fact that I’ve apparently posted the text of it to this blog twice without realizing that I was repeating myself.

The thing we do in life, the only thing we do,
is carve ourselves in ether, make our gods our own;
and when we die our ether lives—at least we hope.

For if our gods die with us, if they share our graves,
the world and all within it—cannot know us long;
and if the world forgets we were—what hope have we?

The Belmont Stakes in the Eastgate Penthouse

2014/07/28
A panorama of the view from the Eastgate Penthouse.

A panorama of the view from the Eastgate Penthouse.

On 7 June, the Pilot reserved the penthouse lounge in Eastgate, the grad dorm she lives in, for a party to watch the Belmont Stakes just in case California Chrome won the Triple Crown. It was a bit surprising to see how many MIT people are apparently obsessed with horse racing. Since the race was only a couple of minutes long, though, it didn’t occupy us for much of the evening and we mostly spent the time talking about (or in my case, listening to) old MIT hacking stories. It was neat to get to hear about MIT hacking history, and the evening convinced me that I should start to post the old Caltech Tunnel Stories here before I completely forget them all.

The other interesting thing about the evening, though, was the view. Eastgate is a twenty-something-story tall grad dorm right along the Charles River. Its penthouse lounge has a really good view of Boston and the Charles basin. Unsurprisingly, between this and its location right on campus (unlike the other grad dorms) in Kendall Square, MIT wants to discontinue its use as a grad dorm and turn it into market-rate apartments that they can make huge profits off of. In the meantime, though, I took advantage of the opportunity to take a bunch of photos.

To an Alien God on a Dead World

2014/07/26

I think this poem was written someone as a sibling to “To a Forgotten God”, but slightly later than it. I’m not really sure of the details, though: I mostly recall having been rather disappointed in it, and am surprised to find it’s a bit better than I remembered.

The glint I see in thy obsidian eyes,
Should make me think that thou art closest kin.
A sister to beloved Athena?  Yes!
I think perhaps I know thee very well.

I see it now: thy stance was meant to guard,
To save this city from all forms of harm.
I know thou fought against Poseidon here,
I should now look to find thy olive tree.

And yet as I—in wonder—gaze on thee,
I cannot think that thou art wise and brave.
For though I wish to think I know thee true,
I cannot read thy face, for thou hast none.

And now, in better light I see your shape,
A monstrous being, lacking human form.
And though all shapes—I know—may house a mind,
My mind cannot grant yours divinity.

Yet while I cannot grant you godhood now,
To see you gives me fear that conquers me:
For if your carvers see the Parthenon
When we are dead, will they Athena meet?

In long-dead tounges your makers spoke to you,
In unknown languages were said your prayers,
And I—a human foreign to your world,
Can ask no aid, can give no prayer to you.

Early June Walks

2014/07/24

After largely failing to get outside in May, I managed to go on a number of walks with friends in early June, just as the weather started getting a bit unpleasantly hot during the day. (I do seem to be quite good at having bad timing.) The photos in this post actually come from three separate walks during the first two weekends of June. First, the Folksinger showed me a trail along the Little River in Alewife Brook Reservation, which I hadn’t really realized existed. While I’m not entirely sure I could find it again on my own, it is a pretty cool hiking trail through a very green area. Next, the Economist was in town for a weekend and some of his friends and I went on a walk with him from Inman Square to MIT through some bits of East Cambridge I hadn’t passed through before. Then, quite accidentally, the Medieval Grad Student, the Puppet Master, and I ended up wandering through a street festival in Central Square called the Cambridge Riverfest.

West Coast Travel Plans

2014/07/23

Since I’m leaving town in a little over a week, I thought that perhaps I should post my West Coast travel schedule so that people can let me know if they’d like to meet up with me.

 

  • Evening of Friday, 1 August through evening of Monday, 4 August: San Francisco, California
  • Day trip on Monday, 4 August: San Jose, California / Palo Alto, California
  • Evening of Tuesday, 5 August through afternoon of Wednesday, 6 August: Santa Barbara, California
  • Evening of Wednesday, 6 August through morning of Friday, 8 August: Pasadena, California
  • Afternoon and evening of Friday, 8 August: Los Angeles, California / Santa Monica, California
  • Afternoon of Saturday, 9 August: Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Morning of Sunday, 10 August through afternoon of Monday, 11 August: Seattle, Washington
  • Day trip on Sunday, 10 August: Vashon, Washington
  • Morning of Tuesday, 12 August through morning of Wednesday, 13 August: Portland, Oregon
  • Morning of Thursday, 14 August through afternoon of Thursday, 14 August: Sacramento, California
  • Evening of Thursday, 14 August through evening of Sunday, 17 August: Berkeley California
  • Day trip on Friday, 15 August: San Jose, California / Palo Alto California

To a Forgotten God

2014/07/22

I don’t have particularly good records of when I wrote the poems I wrote in high school, but I suspect that this one was written after I finished the poetry unit of my tenth grade English class, since I doubt I would’ve considered submitting it for an assignment. In any case, it certainly had been written by the end of eleventh grade, because I showed it to my AP English Language teacher and she liked it and convinced me to read American Gods as a result. I believe it was the first or close to the first in a series of religious (and largely anti-Christian) poems that I wrote later in high school.

What does it mean to you now:
that once altars of gold were made
     in your name?
that once kings bowed down to statues
     in your name?
that once whole legions sacrificed
     in your name?
that once great empires were conquered
     in your name?

For surely empires crumble—--and surely empires fall,
And every statue tumbles—--though once they stood so tall:
     Since our lives our short, our memories poor,
     Deeds of any sort, soon are ancient lore.
But we are not content to—--leave our grand dreams to die,
We shape our best dreams into—--our gods who cannot die:
     Yet die our dreams must, gods preserve them not,
     Statues turn to dust—--but our gods cannot.

What do you dream of now:
now that your altars are pillaged
     while another reigns?
now that your statues are crumbled
     while another reigns?
now that your rites are forgotten
     while another reigns?
now that your laws are abandoned
     while another reigns?

What haunts the old temples now—--does grey-eyed Athena,
Whose praise our gods disallow—--still guard the Parthenon?
     What does she dream of, in her fallen home,
     Her once-sacred tree, in the Grecian loam?
What are the dreams of the gods—--who we made and forgot,
What does Zeus think as he nods—--does he angrily plot?
   Does Olympus now—--ring with vengeful calls,
   Do they wonder how, when our heaven falls?

Carthusian Easter and Other Paping

2014/07/20

This being a visit by the Papist, it should hardly be surprising that there was a bit of Paping. In accordance with the traditions of the Free Alley of Tesseract and the Two-Five Free Alley, we had a pierogi-making party with the Tall Geologist on Sunday and declared it to be an Easter. Since the Papist brought a DVD of a movie about Cathusian monks, we declared it to be “Carthusian Easter”.

Before the Easter, though, the Papist took a bus to the Boston Cathedral to attend a Ethiopian Rite Catholic service, the first Eastern Rite service she’d been able to attend.

She had actually planned on attending Mass on every day of the trip, but due to insufficient time, the only other Mass was on Saturday, before the dim sum mob. We headed to Harvard Square and she was quite impressed by the scale of St. Paul’s church there.

Morning Launch

2014/07/18

While most of my space poems were quite long and consisted of rambling series of four-line stanzas, this one, which I’d completely forgotten until I decided to look through my high school poetry again recently, is quite different. Its four interlocking stanzas of three lines each form a fairly compact and, I think, pretty piece of imagery. I’m actually fairly impressed to realize that I wrote this at the same time as some of the other things I came up with about space travel.

The ship stands tall against the tow’r:
and flame and thunder sing their song
as dawn brings red to wild skies.

The ship stands tall against the tow’r:
a promise in the morning air
that without wings we still can fly.

The dawn of flame and dawn of sun:
both sing of grand and long-dreamt dreams
that without wings we still can fly.

The dawn of flame and dawn of sun:
both call us to the future come
as dawn brings red to wild skies.

Boston Rapid Transit Proposal, Phase 2

2014/07/16

Once the improvements made to Boston’s transit in my previous post are completed, there are additional changes to be made.

  • The Pink Line trunk is to be converted from light rail to rapid transit (it will have been built with this in mind).  The portals will be sealed and the south end will continue along Mass Ave. and Columbia Rd. to JFK/UMass, where it will connect to the Braintree branch of the Red Line. At the north end, it will be connected to the Red Line tracks under Central, then continue under River St. and North Beacon St. to Watertown and along the Watertown Branch Railroad right-of-way to Waltham.
  • The Red Line trunk is to be extended north from Arlington Center along the Minuteman Bikeway right-of-way with stops at Forest St., Bow St., Lexington Common, Bedford St., and Bedford Depot.
  • A connector will be deep-bored under Central Square to connect the Main Street and Western Avenue subways without a track crossing with the Mass Ave subway.
  • The Orange Line trunk is to be extended north from Oak Grove to Reading along the commuter rail right-of-way.  The express third track along the northern Orange Line will be brought into use and continued along this extension.
  • At Tufts Medical Center, a new branch of the Orange Line will extend under Washington St. to Dudley Square.  It will then continue along Warren St. to Geneva Avenue and a connection with the Fairmount Branch at Four Corners.
  • The old rail right-of-way from Needham Heights to Elliot on the Riverside Line will be reactivated.
  • A connection between the Fitchburg and Worcester lines over the Charles River in Waltham will be built.
  • The Green Line Extension will be extended out to Mishawum, to replace Purple Line service that will have to be discontinued because of trunk capacity limitations.
  • Light rail tracks along Cambridge St. in Allston will continue along Washington St. to Oak Square, Brighton.

These changes will allow the following service patterns:

  • Red Line
    • 1 — Waltham to Ashmont via Waltham Branch, current downtown Red Line and current Ashmont Branch
      • Mattapan High-Speed Line is signed as an extension of the 1, but officially is the M.
  • Pink Line

    • 2 — Bedford Depot to Braintree via Minuteman Bikeway, Mass Ave, and the current Braintree Branch.
  • Orange Line
    • 3 — Forest Hills to Reading along current Orange Line and commuter rail right-of-way.
    • 4 — Four Corners/Geneva to Reading along Washington St. and the current Orange Line and commuter rail right-of-way.
  • Blue Line
    • 5 — Charles/MGH to Wonderland
  • Purple Line (all routes listed in South Station to North Station direction)
    • 6 — Readville to Natick (via Fairmount Line, Trunk, Grand Junction, Worcester Line)
    • 7 — Natick to Beverly (via Riverside Line, Trunk, Newburyport/Rockport Line)
    • 8 — Riverside to Silver Hill (via Needham Heights Line, NEC, Trunk, Fitchburg Line)
    • The 6 and 7 will have service every 7-1/2 minutes, the 8 every 15 minutes, to give three-minute headways on the trunk.
  • Brown Line
    • 9– Concord to Hersey (via the Fitchburg Line to Brandeis, the Riverside line to Eliot, and the Needham Heights line to Hersey)
  • Green Line
    • A — Watertown to Park St. (via N. Beacon St., Brighton Ave., and the current B branch)
    • B — Boston College to Park St. (via current B branch)
    • C — Cleveland Circle to Park St. (via current C branch)
    • All trains will short-turn at Park, as the northern section of the current Green Line tunnel will be taken over by the Cyan Line.
  • Cyan Line
    • E — Forest Hills to Harvard Square (via the discontinued Arborway line, the current E branch, the Trunk, and Cambridge Street)
    • F — Pleasure Bay to Mishawum (via Broadway in South Boston, Washington St., the Pleasant Street Incline, the Trunk, and the Green Line Extension)
    • G — Mattapan to Porter Square (via Blue Hill Ave., Warren St., Washington St., the Pleasant Street Incline, the Trunk, and the Green Line Extension Union Square Branch continued along the Fitchburg Line)
    • Cyan Line trains could short turn at Government Center, but not Park.
  • Dark Yellow Line

    • Z — Assembly Square to Oak Square in Brighton (via McGrath Hwy., Washington St., Prospect St., Western Ave, Cambridge St., and Washington St.
  • Silver Line
    • I — South Station to Logan Airport Terminals (via Trunk and current SL1)
    • J — South Station to Broadway in South Boston (via Trunk and discontinued SL3)
    • K — South Station to Chelsea (via Trunk, Ted Williams Tunnel, Coughlin Bypass Road, Chelsea St., and Grand Junction right-of-way)
  • Gold Line
    • P – Arlington Center to Waverly (via Trunk, Mt. Auburn St., Belmont St., and Trapello Rd.)
    • Q – Arlington Center to Waltham (via Trunk, Mt. Auburn St., and Main St.)
    • R – Arlington Center to Dudley Square (via Mass Ave., Trunk, North Harvard St., Cambridge St., Harvard St., Boylston St., Huntington Ave., Tremont St., and Malcom X Blvd.)

Boston Rapid Transit Proposal, Minor Adjustments

2014/07/16

After some discussion with people about the transit proposals I posted this morning, I have a few minor changes to make.

The system I’m proposing involves four types of service.  Each type of service will have one or multiple trunk lines, each color coded, while numbers and letters will be used to indicate individual routes.

  • Heavy Rail Metro: fully grade separated, high platforms, not connected to main line rail network
    • Red Line: The Red Line trunk consists of the current Red Line from Alewife to Andrew Square, plus an addition in the Middleman Bikeway right-of-way to Arlington Center with a stop at Lake St.
    • Orange Line: The Orange Line trunk consists of the current Orange Line
    • Blue Line: The Blue Line trunk runs from Charles-MGH under Cambridge Street to Bowdoin, and then along the current Blue Line.
  • Heavy Rail EMUs: mostly grade separated, variable platforms, uses main line rail network, absolute signal priority
    • Purple Line: The Purple Line trunk runs through a North Station-South Station connector tunnel underneath the Big Dig.  I’m assuming that such a tunnel would be quadruple-tracked, with two tracks for Amtrak and commuter rail and two tracks for the Purple Line EMUs.
  • Light Rail: grade-separated and median-running components; minimal street-running
    • Green Line: The Green Line trunk runs through the current Green Line from Tremont St. at Boylston St. to Lechmere.
    • Pink Line: The Pink Line trunk runs through a tunnel under Mass Ave. from Sidney St. in Cambridge to Washington St. in Boston, and in a median right-of-way through Central Square from Prospect St. to Sidney St. in Cambridge.
  • Bus Rapid Transit: grade-separated and median-running components; minimal street-running; busways may be used by non-BRT buses; all lines are electrified
    • Silver Line: The Silver Line trunk runs through the current Silver Line tunnel from South Station to Silver Line Way.
    • Gold Line: The Gold Line trunk runs through the Harvard Bus Tunnel and in a median right-of-way along Mass Ave. to Arlington Center.

All of these trunk lines, except the Orange and Blue lines, will support multiple services:

  • Red Line
    • 1 — Arlington Center to Ashmont via Trunk and current Ashmont Branch
      • Mattapan High-Speed Line is signed as an extension of the 1, but officially is the M.
    • 2 — Arlington Center to Braintree via Trunk and current Braintree Branch
    • Maximum headways would be 3 minutes on the shared trunk and 6 minutes on the branches and the M.
  • Orange Line
    • 3 — Forest Hills to Oak Grove
    • Maximum headways would be 5 minutes.
  • Blue Line
    • 4 — Charles/MGH to Wonderland
    • Maximum headways would be 5 minutes.
  • Purple Line (all routes listed in South Station to North Station direction)
    • 5 — Natick to Beverly (via Worcester Line, Trunk, Newburyport/Rockport Line)
    • 6 — Riverside to Mishawum (via current Green Line D branch, Worcester Line, Trunk, Lowell Line)
    • 7 — Riverside to Brandeis (via current Green Line D branch, Worcester Line, Trunk, Fitchburg Line)
    • 8 — Needham Heights to Natick (via Needham Heights Line, NEC, Trunk, Grand Junction, Worcester Line)
    • 9 — Readville to Riverside (via Fairmount Line, Trunk, Grand Junction, Worcester Line)
    • Most of the Purple Line services use extant track and will serve extant commuter line and D branch stations.  However, this proposal also involves double-tracking the Grand Junction from the Fitchburg Line to the Worcester Line with stops at Somerville Ave., Cambridge St., Broadway, Mass Ave., and Waverly St./Cambridgeport.  A new station on the Worcester Line will also be built at Cambridge St., Allston.
    • The trunk will have a maximum headway of 3 minutes, giving each of the services a 15-minute headway.  Two services will serve the D branch (6 and 7), the Grand Junction (8 and 9), and the Worcester line to Natick and Wellesley (5 and 8), so these will each have headways of 7-1/2 minutes.
  • Green Line
    • A — Watertown to Park St. (via N. Beacon St., Brighton Ave., and the current B branch)
    • B — Boston College to Park St. (via current B branch)
    • C — Cleveland Circle to Park St. (via current C branch)
    • E — Forest Hills to Harvard Square (via the discontinued Arborway line, the current E branch, the Trunk, and Cambridge Street)
    • F — Dudley Square to West Medford (via Washington St., the Pleasant Street Incline, the Trunk, and the Green Line Extension)
    • G — Pleasure Bay to Porter Square (via Broadway in South Boston, Washington St., the Pleasant Street Incline, the Trunk, and the Green Line Extension Union Square Branch continued along the Fitchburg Line)
    • The trunk will have a maximum headway of 2 minutes.  In order to increase the frequency of the branches, the quadruple-tracking between Boylston and Park is used, with the Pleasant Street Incline tracks and one Back Bay line continuing north of Park and the other three Back Bay lines turning back there.  This creates an effective headway of 1 minute between Boylston and Park.  The A, C, E, and G branches will have 8-minute headways, while the B and F branches will run at double frequency with 4-minute headways.  Much of the B will have reduced headway since it shares track with the A from Packard’s Corner to the Trunk.
  • Pink Line
    • X — Assembly Square to Pleasure Bay (via McGrath Hwy., Washington St., Prospect St., Trunk, Mass Ave., Southampton St., Dorchester St., and Broadway in South Boston)
    • Y — Harvard Square to Mattapan (via Mass Ave., Trunk, Washington St., Warren St., and Blue Hill Ave.)
    • Z — Watertown to Dudley Square (via the A, Cambridge St, River St./Western Ave., the Trunk, and Washington St.)
    • The trunk will have a maximum headway of 2 minutes, with a 6-minute headway on each branch.  The part of the Z between Watertown Square and Cambridge St. will have 4-minute headways because it shares track with the A.  The same is true of the part of the X along Broadway in South Boston, as it shares track with the G.
  • Silver Line
    • I — South Station to Logan Airport Terminals (via Trunk and current SL1)
    • J — South Station to Broadway in South Boston (via Trunk and discontinued SL3)
    • K — South Station to Chelsea (via Trunk, Ted Williams Tunnel, Coughlin Bypass Road, Chelsea St., and Grand Junction right-of-way)
    • The trunk will have a maximum headway of 2 minutes, with a 6-minute headway on each branch.
  • Gold Line
    • P – Arlington Center to Waverly (via Trunk, Mt. Auburn St., Belmont St., and Trapello Rd.)
    • Q – Arlington Center to Waltham (via Trunk, Mt. Auburn St., and Main St.)
    • R – Arlington Center to Dudley Square (via Mass Ave., Trunk, North Harvard St., Cambridge St., Harvard St., Boylston St., Huntington Ave., Tremont St., and Malcom X Blvd.)
    • The trunk will have a maximum headway of 4 minutes, with a 12-minute headway on each branch.  This may be reduced if ridership warrants it.

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