Week 8: An Unbearable Lightness of Being

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Sunday, July 20, 2014


Caleb L. Heath

This has been a big week for me personally. After years of training, and months of back-breaking, nerve-wracking searching, I have a teaching job. I am the newest math teacher at Van Buren High School in Van Buren Arkansas. It's a picturesque little town that hugs the Arkansas River and sits near the Oklahoma state line.

The school is good. The administration wants it to be excellent, so they are seeking to innovate and make use of the most modern educational methods. The work is close to friends and family, as well as my mentors and colleagues in Fayetteville. I plan to stay well involved with UAteach and the University of Arkansas. A first year teacher needs support, and so does a young teaching program. I'm looking forward to furthering our reputation.

I got the news Tuesday, which was a fantastic day all around. Fred Dylla threw us a cool shindig in the College Park Aviation Museum. This is an excellent place to have a party. From the small, second story overlook where we had our gathering, you can view the century's worth of history on display.

The museum celebrates the adjacent airport: the oldest continuously operating airport in the world. The first pilots of the US Army Signal Corp learned to fly there. Countless innovations in airplane design and air travel itself (navigation, safety, armaments) were developed and tested there. Families would dress up and bring a picnic basket to the airport to enjoy the frequent demonstrations and air shows.

The little airport has unfortunately languished over the years. The events of 9/11 almost killed its capacity to operate; security clamped down tight due to its proximity to Washington DC. However, it's still holding on. We did our part by renting out the venue.

It was very good barbecue by the way. Taken in the company of our friends and mentors. Simply fantastic experience.

I can't believe this is almost all over. Our increasingly busy schedule only accelerates the perception that time is racing by.

Case-in-point, our Thursday tour of NASA Goddard, which was also conducted in the midst of a science jamboree. It was a like a combination of a carnival and a poster session. Tours of super-computing clusters, flight calculation centers, broadcast studios, animation labs. Presentations and booths from dozens of projects.

I get that NASA is big. They do more than launch shuttles and satellites. Still, I was a amazed by the sheer number of different divisions and projects. And I'm sure that not everyone bothered to show-up at the jamboree. The scale of these national laboratories and organizations is a vast and beautiful thing.

Thursday was also Ashley's birthday. We chipped in for a bottle of bourbon, serenaded her with "Happy Birthday" (with Nick providing accompaniment on his mandolin), then walked to the Georgetown waterfront and got ice cream. Good times.

This morning the bassoonists I'd met busking outside the Foggy Bottom Metro last year were back. I can tell it's going to be a good weekend.

Caleb L. Heath