Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

MassachusettSeconds

Always a good decision

Always a good decision

Once again, my job required me to travel to the Boston / Woburn area. However, before I get to that, I need to explain some of the troubles of this trip. First of all, I recently received my government travel charge card, which is what I need to make reimbursements an easier process. When I booked my trip to Boston, I didn’t have my card, but before I went, I did. This required me to go back into the travel system and change some things. One of the things I wanted to change was to get rid of the rental car that I had reserved. There was no point that all of us should drive a car while in town. Secondly, I wanted to change my departure time for coming back to Huntsville. As it stood, I was going to leave Boston late in the day and get back to Huntsville later. This is where my problems started. The time was around 1pm on the Friday before my trip was supposed to start.

Beautiful night for a game

Beautiful night for a game

I easily canceled the rental car and proceeded on to the return flight. It was easy enough to change to an earlier flight, but something strange had happened in the process: my flight to Boston had disappeared. “OK,” I thought, “I’ll just go and re-book that flight.” This was easier thought than done. Before I knew it, I was frantically trying to get any flights to or from Boston. I had inadvertently canceled both of my flights for the trip to Boston. Panicked, I headed over to the cubicle of the administrative assistant that helped us with our travel. There were a few of my coworkers hanging around her cubicle trying to get some reimbursements for the California trip. When I walked up, she was on the phone and looked up and said, “Yeah, he’s right here,” at which point she asked, “Did you just cancel both your flights?” To which I replied, “Accidentally.” Fortunately, through her help and patience, I got my flights re-booked and was ready to go to Boston. I even managed to get the earlier flight I wanted, so in the end it all worked out to my advantage.

Yeah, we were -that- close

Yeah, we were -that- close

Another early morning got me out to Boston, where my group of co-workers and my mentor did a lot of walking around Boston to see the sights. I took in another Red Sox game while I was there. $10 less for the ticket this time, and it was a much better spot. Last time I was there, I was in one of the original seats of Fenway, and was behind a pole that blocked my view of second base. This time I was a mere 3 rows from the field, which is the closest I’ve ever sat to the field at a professional baseball game, in a much newer, plastic seat. Quite the exciting game this time, but apparently if you’re as bad as the Orioles, then it’s bound to happen. I saw four home runs over the Green Monster, which brings my total up to six. There were a few more home runs during the game, one of which came somewhat close to where we were sitting. So yeah, some good times. I guess I should watch more Red Sox games, as every time I do, they seem to win (even so far back as the 2007 World Series, even though I was rooting for the Rockies at the time).

Oldest in the country! And boy does it show.

Oldest in the country! And boy does it show.

The main reason that we were all in the Boston area this time was for a radar course from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratories. Overall, it was an average course, which had a lot of information we had all already heard, but it also had some really interesting components to it. One of the aspects of the course that I enjoyed was the field trip to the Haystack Observatory. While we were there, we got to see one enormous radar dish that was soon to be upgraded to a much more accurate. That was definitely an impressive dish to see. Another aspect of the course that I’m sure we all enjoyed was the War Game. Our group split into two teams and we got the opportunity to look at simulated radar data to take out a threat launched against the United States. My team happened to win, which was neat (and we each got trophies), although both teams did well. So, with the inclusion of some of the technical data that we learned, the course definitely had its moments.

Best way to use a hotel sink

Best way to use a hotel sink

Spent some more time in Boston on another evening, where I got to try a cannoli from Modern Pastry, so as to compare it to the cannoli that I had from Mike’s during the previous trip. I have to say that Mike’s is better. I had tried to set up a meeting with one of my friends who happens to be up in the Boston area (a different friend from the couple that I met last time I was there), but it just didn’t work out this time. I guess I don’t want everyone to think that I really do know everyone everywhere I go, but it’s nice to try. We all finished off the evening by drinking some Samuel Adams in one of the hotel rooms. All I can say about that event was that necessity is the mother of invention.

Flying back to Huntsville on September 11th was kind of interesting, because security didn’t really seem that much different from the last time I was in Boston. In fact, I didn’t realize that it was actually September 11th until we got to the airport and there was a security checkpoint on the road. At any rate, the week started out with my first Labor Day off in about five years’ time and ended with an evening back in Huntsville preparing for the next trip that was to come.

It was easier to just paint it on the ground

It was easier to just paint it on the ground

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BostoNeophyte

Having lived in Colorado all my life, I never really visited much of the rest of the country. Of course, this is a blatant lie, but that’s only because I’ve been to most of the country to see geographical features, not to visit cities. As a result, I felt like I hadn’t really seen some parts of the country, like (for instance) the Northeast. It was made pretty clear before I even took my job at MDA that there would be quite a bit of travel involved with my job. I understood this, but I don’t think I grasped what traveling for work would be like.

First of all, when I traveled with my family, we always drove everywhere and we also paid for everything. Not so with the government. Perhaps the best part about traveling for my job is that I (technically) didn’t have to pay a dime. Oh sure, there were expenses that I had to cover (and once I get my Government Travel Charge Card, I’ll just put everything on that), but the government will reimburse me those expenses, since it was a trip for business. Things like airplane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars (which apparently I can do through the government insurance, despite not being 25) and my three squares a day are covered and paid for.

When I think back, I did a lot of things in my five years of college, but traveling wasn’t one of them. In fact, I hadn’t flown since my High School Senior trip to San Francisco more than five years ago. It was kind of fun to get in the air again, now that I’ve had some formal engineering training. I kept thinking about all the science that goes into flying. Yeah, I know, I’m a nerd. Anyways, despite the planes (there was a connecting flight from DC to Boston) being bigger than the normal commuter planes, I finally got the idea of commuter planes since my trip would be a grand total of three days.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up to Monday morning. My mentor told me a few days ago that I might possibly be going on a business trip with him up to Woburn, Massachusetts. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Woburn is a northern suburb of Boston. Since I’m relatively new to the whole system, getting my travel expenses approved proved to be a daunting and stressing task. First of all, the whole system for dealing with travel was down and malfunctioning. Also, I didn’t have my Travel Charge Card yet, so that made things a little more interesting, but not impossible. Still, we worked through it on Tuesday and I was cleared for take off on Wednesday.

I was very fortunate to have this be my first business trip experience, because my mentor made it much more bearable than if I were to have done it by myself. Early Wednesday morning, I drove over to his house and parked my car. The idea of these three days was to essentially be his shadow. I was so new to this whole process that I felt like this was the best way to immerse myself in it. Also, he went to college in the Boston area, so he knew the town and what to see and do. Anyways, we drove to the Huntsville airport and got on a plane to Washington DC. From DC we then connected up to Boston through the Logan airport.

Since I was my mentor’s shadow for this whole process, he got a rental car and I was just along for the ride. And what a ride that was. Coming from a more passive driving atmosphere like Colorado or Alabama can be quite a shock when you first experience Boston driving. Essentially the rule of the road there is: “You use it or you lose it”. If you want to get in a lane of traffic, you have to force your way into it. Anyways, we walked around Boston for a bit before heading to our hotel. In that time of walking around, I got to see the church that was the signal for Paul Revere to sound the alarm. We also drove by the monument for Bunker Hill. I kind of enjoyed being in a city that has a lot of history in it. I’m usually used to the history of cities being like, “Some mining happened here, then it stopped and the town stuck around”.  I also got to experience Boston’s “Little Italy”. We drove to the hotel, which was the Woburn Hilton where we checked into our rooms. I know that it seems like I cry a lot, but I just feel so blessed in these situations. When on business travel, you don’t have to bunk up with anyone. I ended up having a single, king-sized room all to myself . . . at a Hilton . . . for free.

I settled in and then went downstairs to meet my mentor for the evening’s activities. What were these activities, you ask? Why it was a few beers at the Cask’n Flagon followed by a Boston Red Sox game. It was an exciting game, and the seats were all right (despite having a large pole block my view of second base). Still, I got to see two home runs over the green monster and I had the chance to eat a Fenway Frank. All in all, a great evening. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s just a bit older than I am, but I sometimes feel like my mentor is the big brother I never had. I also got to experience the oldest subway in the world, which sure looked like it. However, the ticket machine gives change in dollar coins, so I got a Thomas Jefferson dollar coin out of it.

Anyways, after a full night, it was now time to get down to business. It was almost as if they had no idea we were coming. This was interesting, but mainly time wasting while people ran around to get us set to actually go to the meetings we needed to. Thursday involved a meeting at MIT’s Lincoln Labs and a meeting at Raytheon. Needless to say, I can’t say what we talked about other than the fact that all the really cool stuff is technical and classified. Lunch that day happened to be a Chipotle that we found on the way from MIT:LL to Raytheon. That meal was slightly nostalgic for me, considering that the nearest Chipotle in Huntsville is in Birmingham.

That evening, I got a chance to meet up with some High School friends of mine. They’re both moving to the Boston area for graduate school (one of them has a full ride scholarship to go to Harvard). Actually, this couple got married this summer right after graduation, and I happened to be the best man for the wedding. Anyways, they were in town getting settled before flying back to Colorado to pack up the rest of their stuff. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant that was near my hotel. It was nice to catch up with some old friends after a month of life on my own down in Huntsville. I’ll be back in the area in September, so I might catch up with them again at that time (or anyone else that I know who’s in Boston).

The next day I woke up and utilized the hotel’s fitness center for an hour long treadmill walk. It kind of felt good to get back into some sort of exercise. With our plane leaving in the afternoon, I had plenty of time to do such an activity, as well as sleep in. It was a beautiful day to fly and I enjoyed looking down on the East Coast. I realized that I really enjoy looking at clouds from above. They really do look like a blanket covering the land. Also, they look just like cotton, and that makes me smile for some reason. Got back into Huntsville without much hassle, but it was already pretty late in the day.

One of my mementos from the trip was a postcard from Boston, which I have decided to put on that large blank wall in my apartment. For each new place I travel to for work, I will pick up a postcard and put it in a relative geographic reference to that first one. I figure that it’s a neat idea, and I can’t wait to get the next postcard, because business travel is perhaps the best travel that I’ve done.