Sunday, May 22, 2016

Ellen Ochoa: Still Leading The Way

Like many who grew up in the 1960s, I'm a huge space nerd and as a by-product also a big sci-fi fan.
I'll shell out for just about any sci-fi movie. Watching The Martian last fall, which BTW was fantastic (but as great as the movie was, of course the book by Andy Weir was even better), and more recently a re-run of Gravity on TV (great special effects; sappy internal conflict aka pity party), I was reminded of why we don't send stupid people into space. NASA's astronaut training program is highly selective and highly rigorous, as well it should be.

I had the privilege of writing a children's biography of one of these space geniuses several years ago. Ellen Ochoa was the first female Hispanic astronaut in space. I felt some kinship with her when I discovered
  • we share a birth year
  • we're also both female, natch
  • we love to read
  • we had a hard time deciding on a major in college
and that's where our paths digress. Dr. Ochoa finally settled on physics for her bachelor's. Let's just say, I didn't. She got that 'Dr.' in front of her name studying electrical engineering at Stanford. She has some patents in optics. And of course there's the whole astronaut thing.

Although she was a bright kid, Ochoa never considered becoming an astronaut because there was no such thing as a female astronaut. Imagine that! Oh, the irony of growing up in the 1960s. But when she was in grad school at Stanford, guess what happened? Or should I say, guess WHO? Yep, Sally Ride broke the glass ceiling in space in 1983, and Ellen started getting ideas. It took her a couple of tries and a year of training, but she made history as part of space shuttle Discovery's crew in April 1993. She was also a crew member for the first time the space shuttle docked with the International Space Station in 1999. Ochoa completed a total of four space flights and has logged more than a thousand hours in space.

Her last space flight was in 2002, but Ochoa was hardly put out to pasture. She continued a career at NASA. Dr. Ochoa is currently the director of the Johnson Space Center (second woman director; first Hispanic director). Something tells me if she ever found herself in a pickle like Sandra Bullock's character in Gravity, there would have been a lot less pity party, and a lot more git 'er done.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Texas + Norway = A Love Connection

Texas and Norway: A Love Connection
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Liebster Award

Apparently the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge is doing what it is designed to do: help bloggers by encouraging them to develop good work habits, and getting lots of blogs seen by new eyeballs. I'm thrilled the owner of one pair of these new eyeballs, Laura Roberts, has been so kind to nominate me for a Liebster Award. Laura is a writer who is participating in challenges like a madwoman - in addition to the blog challenge, she's also doing the 365K challenge by 10 Minute Novelists and the A Story A Day in May challenge. Lawd.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

2016 A to Z Blog Challenge: 7 Lessons Learned

If you know people who seem unusually giddy with the advent of May, they probably just completed the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge in April. Like many marathon-ish activities, as they say in Texas: "it's like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer - it feels so good when it stops".

This is my first A to Z Challenge, but not my first blog challenge. I did one a few Januaries ago. But I think I was doing that one wrong - this one seemed like way more work. In the interest of working smarter, not harder, next time, here are a few things I learned.

Friday, April 29, 2016

From Zero To Hero

As a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, I was once watching them play the Detroit Lions. A win meant advancement to the playoffs. A loss meant the end of the season. It was a sloppy mess of a game for Da Boys. In the closing minutes, the Cowboys were ahead 24-20, but the Lions were driving. Defender DeMarcus Lawrence recovered a fumble.

If he had simply fallen on the ball, end of game - the Cowboys would have taken possession, taken a few knees to run out the clock, and headed to the post season. But Lawrence didn't fall on the ball. In his excitement, he tried to run the ball into the end zone a mere 20 yards away and seal the deal with six more points. Unfortunately, he was stripped of the ball and the Lions recovered.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Your Mark: The History of Monogrammy

Cyrillic monogrammy of the letter Y
circa 1902
Branding is all the rage now. Business owners from solopreneurs to megacorporations are encouraged to come up with a visual symbol to represent ourselves to the world.

The concept of branding may seem like a recent development, but it's hardly new. Literal branding of livestock (as well as human property, unfortunately) has been practiced for thousands of years. It was a simple and effective way of denoting ownership and discouraging theft. (Best not to ask how the brandee felt about it.) The subset of branding known as monogramming, or combining letters to form a new symbol, also is nothing new. Ancient coins were marked in this way to denote place of origin. Artists also found it a handy shorthand in signing their work.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Female Executions: XX marks the spot

While browsing the news one day when we still lived in Minnesota,  I read about a woman called Ann Bilansky. Ann has the dubious distinction of being the first white person and first (and last) woman executed after Minnesota became a state. She was hanged in 1860 after being convicted of the poisoning death of her husband.

This news nugget made me wonder about other women who have been executed for their crimes. There aren't that many, thank goodness! But there are more than fifty that have met that fate from colonial days to the present. A small percentage compared to five figures' worth of men executed, but still, fifty is a lot.

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