Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Birthday

There are many things I have been wanting to share with you, yet I have been woefully neglecting my blog. Since today is my birthday, I will not dwell on this regret.

First and foremost, I thank all of you who have sent me birthday wishes. Thus far I have gotten birthday greetings from 4 continents and more countries than I care to try and count. Thanks to my sweet hubby who got me some awesome gifts.

Next, I would like to share my new favorite band, Cr├╝xshadows, specifically the song Birthday. This is a fantastic song that is both celebratory and challenging. This is my favorite type of song, I find them empowering. An excerpt from the lyrics is below (I highly recommends following this link to read all of the lyrics):

"And tell me what really matters
Is it the money and the fame?
Or how many people might eventually know your name?
But maybe you touch one life
And the world becomes a better place to be
Maybe you give their dreams another day
Another chance to be free"

Today is my birthday, and I am constantly trying to figure out who I want to be. Regardless of whether or not it is your birthday, look at your life. Make the world a better place. You have the ability. You have the strength.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Going, Going, Gone...

Sorry for the lack of updates recently, but things have been crazy with work and getting back into the swing of being back from ISU. Speaking of ISU, I wanted to inform you of the coolest auction I have ever seen. Going on for the next few days is the e-bay auction. The contents of the auction range from a authentic, actual size Sputnick model to books from Robert Heinlein's personal library. The proceeds from the auction go to support the ISU Scholarship Fund. As a recipeient of an ISU scholarship, I can attest to the high value of this cause.

The auction can be found at:

For all of you interested in ISU, the application for the 2008 ISU programs is now available at

Finally, in the spirit of Halloween, my favorite artist, Lisa Snellings-Clark, is having her Halloween auction. Check out the spooky fun on e-bay HERE.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Back in the USA

A quick update. ISU is over. I am back in the USA, currently hanging out with the awesome 2007 Ames NASA Academy on base at NASA Ames Research Center. I get back to Maryland Tuesday morning and leave Wednesday for Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia.

ISU was amazing. One of the most fantastic experiences of my life.

ISU is never truly over. The network of people and dear, dear friends will continue forever. Yet, I feel a great loss. There was so much more I wanted to do while in Beijing, surrounded by those people.

Yet, time does not wait for us to be ready. You have to experience as much as you can while you can. Try not to hesitate. Speak up. Ask the questions. Experience Life.

I'm still working on this.

Specifically to those from ISU SSP 2007. We are now bound by a common experience. I will hold you in my heart forever. If you ever need anything, contact me. Even if it is just someone to listen. If humanly possible, will be there.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Team Project Help Request

The next phase of ISU focuses on the team project. The team project I am working on is relating to creating a combination of a lunar archive and earth based repositories containing of information that would be useful for society in the event of worldwide disaster. We have named our project Phoenix.

Can you help me by providing references (Historical, Science Fiction, etc) where archives have been used? We already know about "A Canticle for Lebowitz" and "Earth Abides."

Also, if you know of any appropriate quotes, regarding survival, phoenixes, etc,?

If you have any ideas, please post your response in the comments.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

ISU Individual Project

Going to be a long night finishing my ISU Individual Project for the Space and Society Department. Did I mention that I am writing the outline for a role playing game? Likely No. No time now. That will have to be a story for later.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mission Report

3....2...1... Mission Report.... Just a brief note from to let you know I am still alive. Who would have thought that after my exam the workload would have dramatically increased. I'll be back as soon with many stories to tell.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

ISU v/s China

I am conflicted about what to tell you. I don't have a ton of time to blog, but I am going to try and get better about doing so. The conflict comes from whether to talk about what is going on at ISU, or what I am seeing and doing in China. Of course, I want to tell you everything, but I can only type so fast. You don't want to read a novel every day.

On one hand, the ISU schedule and curriculum is online, but that doesn't give you a good impression of what our daily life is like. On the other hand, China is a fascinating place, and I would like to share my stories. Likely you will get a mix of both.

Tomorrow we go to see the Great Wall of China. We are going to Badalin, which I hear is one of the more rebuilt and tourist oriented areas. (I would rather
go to a more rustic location on the wall. Perhaps I will arrange a trip later in the summer.)

What will tomorrow hold for you? What will you make of it? Anything you want.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Where Am I?

So, where on Earth am I? By now you should know that I am in Beijing, China, but Beijing is a really big place. In homage to my recent remote sensing class, I have created this Google Map for you. You can either follow the link or search for ISU SSP 2007-BUAA. This map shows some of the key locations Beihang University (BUAA) where we have class, eat, sleep, etc. From there you can zoom out and explore the rest of Beijing. Without too much trouble, you should be able to find:

1. Tienanmen Square
2. The Forbidden City
3. The Summer Palace
4. The Olympic Park
5. The Airport

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Updates... Sort of

Wow, Week two is over. I had planned to spend a large part of today updating the site, perhaps posting pictures.... but I got a headache... a big one. It not only kept me from going shopping, but also kept me off the computer. Instead of going into a lot of details, I will instead give you some thoughts from when I first left the US and arrived in Beijing.  With the internet issues and my schedule, I haven't had time to post them before now. This covers the flight and my arrival in Beijing.

Flying to  Beijing

If you are reading this, I must have arrived in Beijing, buty this entry, I am typing from the flight from Washington D. C. Dulles to Beijing. Much to my surprise, I was upgraded to business class which makes a huge difference.  The seats recline almost horizontal, I have a cool personal video display which I can control, and the food is pretty good.

The video display has a map that shows me where we are, the route, and some relevant statistics. It is hard to believe, but it has been 9 hours, 52 minutes since departure.  Only 3 hours until arrival. Currently we are flying over Russia, but getting close to the border with Mongolia.

After leaving Dulles, I quickly fell asleep. I woke up long enough to eat, but for most of the first 6 hours of the flight, I was asleep.  I woke up long enough to note that we flew due North, and at one point were very close to the North Pole.

Leaving was hard. I have been so busy over the past six months, I haven't had the time to really do the things that would allow me to get excited about this trip. (For example, reading my books about China, planing places to tour, etc) Within a day or so (perhaps hours) I will be excited and ready to embrace this experience. Right now, I am still well aware of what I am leaving behind.

Evening in Beijing

It is now 11:00 PM in Beijing, China. I haven't yet got internet access in my room, but I wanted to type something up anyway.

Wow. I wish that I could have just recorded everything I saw and heard to play back. My broad opinion is as follows, it is not as foreign as I had expected. It is not just the prevalence of English or Western stores, it is also the big city attitude, the clothes, the attitudes of the people. I definitely feel as if I am in a foreign city, but it doesn't seem as foreign as I expected. Perhaps being in Dublin so recently has something to do with it.

Thankfully I got some sleep on the plane, so I wasn't completely sleep deprived, but I wasn't at my best either. Arriving in China posed no real problems. There are three steps: Quarantine (to look at and see if you said you were healthy), Immigration (Where they look at your passport and visa), and customs, (where you declare anything you are bringing into the country.)

From there, it took a bit of wandering to find the ISU folks. Having a bit of time before the bus arrived, I went to get a drink and perhaps some food (even though I wasn't hungry), My options were Starbucks and KFC Express.  I settled for water and an egg sandwich from Starbucks. I only ate about 1/3 of the sandwich.

From there began the ISU experience. Meeting fellow classmates. I was really impressed with those with enough excitement and energy to run around introducing themselves to everyone. I talked to whomever I was near, but I didn't have the energy to implement a broader effort.

RavenCon Update!

OK, so I finished this on the flight to Beijing. There is no really appropriate time to post it since it is so long overdue. Now is as good of a time as any.

Wow, was RavenCon really that long ago? I have been dreadfully remiss in posting about this great convention. It is kind of funny that it takes flying to China for me to finally get this post completed.

The whole experience started on Thursday. I was already taking Friday off work, and I had class on Thursday evening so didn't gel  on the road to Richmond until very late. The drive was pretty uneventful, until I got to the Richmond airport. I drove around for 20 minutes trying to find the hotel. Once I found the hotel, I discovered that I hadn't extended the reservation to include Thursday night. (D'Oh) Did I mention that this was after 1:00 AM and I needed to meet folks at 8:00 AM? Of course, it turned out to not be a big deal. The very kind hotel staff just extended the stay.

In the week prior to the convention, I had been pooling a variety of sources for cool handouts. My efforts were rewarded with about 6 boxes of handouts for the high school and the convention. After checking into the hotel, I had to spend the next couple hours sorting out materials for the students and teachers of Monacan High School.

Friday was a day of highs and lows. The next morning I met Tee Morris, Peter Prellwitz , Rich White and many others. (Sorry to everyone I didn't mention.) With my several boxes of hand outs, Peter Prellwitz and I drove separately in my car. On the way to the high school, we were separated from the main car. Thank goodness that I had printed supplementary directions and that I had Peter with me to navigate. Despite being hungry and lost in Richmond, Virginia we managed to make it to Monacan High School on time.

As I posted earlier, I had a great time speaking to an astronomy class about the James Webb Space Telescope and working in the space industry.

After the high school event, we returned to the convention. My plan was to update my blog and take a nap. The blog update happened, but l the nap did not. While updating my blog, I turned on the television as I usually do. That eliminated the possibility of a nap. For the next few hours I was glued to the television watching the drama unfold at JPL. I posted a bit about this as it was happening, and I don't want to go into a major tangent here.

Remaining sleep deprived, I finished working on my two presentations for RavenCon. I decided that I should re-join the convention. I walked down to the dealers room and talked to a lot of great people. Two months after the convention, I can't remember everyone I met. Everyone humored me in my sleep deprived, depressed state.

I did meet the Geeklabel Podcast crew who I have been listening to for awhile. Not only to these guys do a funny, geeky podcast, they make awesome, custom, geek T-shirts at www,

The other major event from Friday evening was dinner. Tired, I wandered into the hotel restaurant expecting to eat alone. While there, I ran into my good friend Tee Morris. Joining his group of 2, the prospects for an interesting dinner improved. We were only a group of three for a short time as we kept accumulating new people, including the author guest of honor, Robert J. Sawyer.

Bob Sawyer is a great person. He is very social and approachable. He made a point to make sure that people were not eating alone. I shouldn't have been surprised that such a cool dinner event could occur at a con, especially a small convention like Ravencon. Yet, as I went to dinner, I had no idea that it was going to be such an interesting evening. Eventually I had to excuse myself for exhaustion, but it was a wonderful time.

Saturday was a pretty standard Convention day. John and I both had presentations that day. My presentation came first discussing private versus governmental space flight.  I had a LOT of help with this presentation from Will Pomerantz. The talk went well, but not as well as I would like. The talk went a lot better once I stopped the presentation and opened it up for questions and discussions.

John's talk on the "Once and Flu-ture Pandemic" went very well. The room was packed and he gave an excellent presentation.

There was also the issue of the many boxes of hand out materials that I brought down to the convention. I had excellent materials of Hubble provided by the Space Telescope Science Institute, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) materials provided by the project office at NASA Goddard, and a few things from NASA Public affairs. Stocking the handout table turned out to be a bit of a logistical challenge. Overall, I ended up with some extra (which was distributed at Balticon 41) but I don't think that anyone who wanted something went without.

Outside the presentations, we did a lot of socializing, such as more chatting with the Geeklabel Crew. We also attended several of the other panels, specifically the podcasting panels. I think we may have gotten a bit of sleep, but not much.

Sunday was a half convention day. I gave my second presentation . This one went a little better than the first. It mostly covered  my project, JWST, but I also made a point to cover other things going on within NASA. For this talk the room was packed.

RavenCon was a great time. I hope to be invited back next year, and regardless, I plan to visit Monacan High School again. As I am finishing this write up on a plane to China for the International Space University, if I do get invited back, who knows what the presentation topic will be. I expect to have lots of ideas.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Updates Pending

Unlike my continual promises for a RavenCon update, you can expect a more detailed update from me soon. ISU is one of those strange places where time dilates and contracts at the same time. It is really hard to believe that I have only been here for 5 days, yet I know that the summer is going to fly by. Things are already beginning to fill the hours. On top of all of the hectic (and fantastic) ISU activities, we also are surrounded by Beijing. There is so much to see, so much to do. There is not enough time.

I came here alone, not having met any of the students in advance. While that is a bit intimidating, everyone is friendly and you never feel alone. I am rather glad that I came alone. (Or perhaps with one other person I already knew.) If I already knew a lot of people, I may have felt more comfortable socializing with that group than meeting the other students.

The weather here is VERY HOT, VERY HUMID, and VERY POLLUTED. There is a lot of walking and you definitely feel like you need a shower at the end of every day.

On a more logistical note, I can't access my blog directly from China. All of my updates are going to be coming through e-mail, so please excuse any typos. I think that I will be able to upload pictures, but not until I get internet access in my room. 

I miss everyone back home, but I am having a great time here with all of my new friends. Please leave me a comment and let me know that you are there.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


I am here in Beijing China at my computer orientation. Things are going well. More when I have time... and an internet connection.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mostly Packed

It is 4:45 AM on Friday, June 22. I board the plane for Beijing in less than 8 hours. Most everything is packed. I still need to shuffle things in and out of my carry-ons, but the checked bags are done. I can't find some of the books on China that I am looking for. (They are, of course, the ones I bought first and have had more time to be misplaced.) I still need to write some work e-mail. I still need to do some household financial maintenance. I really wish that had time to sleep.

Some of my fantastic friends made me an audio send-off that I now have on 3 different digital devices. It was so sweet and funny. Of course, I cried when I listened to it. Heck, I cry when I think about it. I am truly honored to know such wonderful people. Thank you. I will miss you all.

It is 4:45 PM on Friday, June 22 in Beijing China. A new world awaits me with another turn of the globe.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lists upon Lists

T-1.5 days

My plane leaves at 12:20 PM on Friday, June 22. I have so many to-do lists that soon I will need a list to keep track of all of my to-do lists. I hope to get at least 75% of it all done.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Panic Sets In

T-4 days until I leave for ISU in Beijing, China and it seems like the world is conspiring against me getting ready to leave. Over the weekend I traveled to Phoenix to visit friends and attend the Wingin' It Pool Party. The flights to and from this event have been close to the worst ever. When first arriving at the Dublin Airport Friday morning, I found the flight delayed over 2 hours. This delay immediately destroyed the entire day's flight plans.

The complicating factor was that I had two separate flight plans, one with airline A, the other with airline Z. Due to the delays, airline A redirected me to Phoenix. The problem was, they never told airline B. I spent hours, on little sleep, arguing with both airlines about why I have two reservations to Phoenix. The overriding fear being that they would cancel my return flight if the situation was not cleared up. Eventually, I made it to Phoenix, ensured that I had a return flight home, and was refunded several hundred dollars in the process. John met me in Phoenix Overall, it was a long day, for me, a 32 hour day.

The party was fun. We had a good time socializing with the podcasting crew in Phoenix.

All was going well until the flight home. We flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles and then planned to take the red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Baltimore. Once the plane landed at LAX, we sat on the tarmac for 30-45 minutes. This delay caused us to miss our flight. Thinking I was confirmed on a flight to Dulles, the customer service agent sent John on a flight to Chicago and then on to BWI.

Unfortunately, I wasn't confirmed on the Dulles flight. We ran over to the gate, put me on the plane, only to find that the open seat they wanted to put me in, belonged to a man in the bathroom. They had to bring back the jet way to get me off the plane.

At this point, the next flight wasn't until the following morning, meaning... no work on Monday and one more lost day preparing for ISU and China.

I spent the night in a crappy hotel (for free) and took the morning flight to BWI. Unfortunately, due to time zone issues, that means I didn't get home until after 5:30 PM.

Should I start counting the time to ISU by hours? Perhaps so.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


My computer power problem was solved Monday night by the friendly hotel staff. They have loaned me a power adaptor that will work with my laptop. While I haven't made a huge blog post, I did get most of my pictures from Howth dumped to Flickr. No titles, tags, or descriptions... but they are there. Hopefully more later today.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Greetings from Ireland

IMG_1929, originally uploaded by Sci-Fi Laura.

I am in Ireland! As you can see in the picture above, I am having a great time thus far. For the next 3 1/2 days, I will be in work meetings, so I won't get to do as much touring.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize that my power adapter didn't have a grounding plug, so I won't be able to re-charge my laptop. So, unless I can find another way to recharge, you will only be seeing limited updates and photos. (This problem needs to be fixed before China)

Never fear, I will be taking many photos for upload when I return. See you soon.

Friday, June 8, 2007

3... 2... 1...

Hooray! Space Shuttle Atlantis launched today!!! Unfortunately, I was running errands relating to my trip to Ireland tomorrow and I missed the WHOLE THING. :_(

Hello to the NASA Academy folks who made it down to the launch. I can't wait to hear the stories, see the pictures, and watch the video.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Flights Booked

I just booked my flights to China. Because I waited so late, my options were more limited than I would have liked. I had to cut out my pre-ISU trip to Ames Research Center. I did add in a post-ISU trip to Ames instead. On the positive side, the change gives me a couple more days at home to get everything together before I fly to Beijing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

So Tired

One of the last things I need right now is to be sick. I have some sort of virus that is making me so very tired. I don't have time to be sick. Unfortunately, I don't have much choice in the matter.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Chinese Visa

It is odd to have a bit of down time. Currently I am sitting in the Visa Office for the Embassy of the People's Republic of China. I would take pictures, but the office isn't that interesting.

It is fascinating. On the television they are showing a Chinese variety show with 6-year old kids performing hip hop songs and a few little girls performing traditional dances. (Hip hop re-mix of The Sound of Music?)

It is actually sinking in that this trip is going to happen. I have been so busy recently that I might as well be in denial.

There is such a cross section of people here. I keep wondering why l they are all traveling. I wonder if and will be my classmates. As I wait for my number to be called (177), I am making up stories as to why people are here. (The couple with the baby are taking him to China to meet his grandparents, aunts, and uncles for the first time. The woman in the dress and sneakers is going to meet the man she met online. Little does she know but he is the uncle of the aforementioned baby.) No one seems excited to be here, but a lot of people seem confused by the variety show. The Chinese more amused than confused.

Instead of making up stories, I think I will work on this massive backlog of posts I owe you. (Especially since I can't do any paid work here.)

~~~~ Time Passes ~~~~

Well, I got some blog work done, but not as much as I would like. I really need to get a keyboard for my Palm Pilot.

I HAVE MY VISA. They will now let me in the country. Now a lot of other logistics, shopping, and stuff. One step forward, many to go.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

So much to say...

I have so much to tell you. It has been a wild week full of fantastic experiences.... But it is late, and I need to sleep now. I'll be back soon.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

On the Road

On my way to Covington, KY to visit my Dad for a VERY short visit. Since I had to be at work all day on Friday for a requirements review, and the traffic around her being the way it is... I am went to bed early, got up early, and am hoping there won't be any random 3:00 AM traffic jams.

I hope to get my RavenCon recap posted this weekend as well.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

It's OVER!

Thanks for all your support everyone. The exam went OK, not a slam dunk, but not bad. I took the whole time. There were 4 questions, some taking a page and a half to answer, one taking only half a page.

All of my coursework for my Masters Degree in Technical Management is done!

I faxed in my application for graduation today. Technically it was due in January, but I was in a very different place in January, so I didn't apply back then. I am not going through the graduation ceremony, and I may not officially graduate until the summer.

While that made sure I answered all the questions fully, it kept me from joining some friends for dinner. John is stuck at Journal Club, so I am on my own for the evening. I do have plenty of stuff to do, packing for my trip to the Cincinnati area this weekend.

Final Final Exam (for my Masters in Technical Management)

My Final Final Exam for my Masters in Technical Management is today at 4:30 PM (Thursday, May 3). Wish me luck

At some level, I have already "checked out." I should be worried, but I'm not. I probably will be as it gets closer to the time of the exam. i.e. when I am supposed to be working. I am still studying some, but as it is a discussion on how you as a manager would react in 4 different scenarios, there isn't a lot of studying I can do. I think I am going to go to bed, and review the material again between work and the exam.

I'll let you know how I do after the exam. Next, I need to apply for graduation, which should have been done 5 months ago, but things were different then. All of my coursework will be done, but I may not technically graduate until the summer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

May Day

Today was beautiful, it is nice to see the onset of Spring. Happy May Day.

Sorry for no updates, but I have been working some long hours and I have my last final exam on Thursday. Soon it will be over!

For anyone who is interested, I now have a Facebook profile. Facebook is a social networking web site. It seems pretty popular as I set up the account about 24 hours ago and I already have about 70 legitimate friends. 30 of my fellow 2007 ISU SSP Classmates are networked there.

My friend Ronnie, has started a new blog to share his share his fiction. Please check out O'Toole's Pub.

More Soon.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Queen to visit NASA Goddard

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh will visit the Goddard Space Flight Center on Tuesday, May 8. Security will be high, and I am not sure if I will get a chance to get to see the Queen and Duke, but I hope to get the chance. It is not often that the opportunity comes up, especially in the course of your normal job.

The guys over at (ding) mentioned me on the RavenCon episode of their podcast. Very cool. In case you were wondering, I do find them cool, but sometimes they fixate a little tooooooooo much on things they shouldn't. (Vicar, I am talking to you.) I had a good time talking to them at the con though and look forward to seeing them again at DragonCon. They promised to link to my blog, so THANKS!

Still planning on doing some more RavenCon follow-up. Only 4 days until the end of the semester, so one thing will be over soon. On the other hand, there are a lot of things waiting to fill the time I have been spending on school.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Earth-Like Planet Found

Wow. I am too tired to really read this story yet... but Wow. With this new discovery, I have no doubt that we are not alone in the universe. Some days, I am really glad to be living in this time, in this place, so that I can be here to experience these things.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Quick Update, More Soon

I owe you all many many posts. Most predominantly a blow-by-blow follow up of the AWESOME time we had at RavenCon 2007. If you missed it, pleas consider coming to Balitcon 41. It is a bigger convention, lots to do, and it should be a blast.

As for the updates... I have a Final Exam to finish tonight... Homework due on Thursday, and then an in-class final a week from Thursday. I hope to do some more extensive updates over the weekend. I really want to get into the habit of updating this blog several times a week, or even every day as appropriate.

To keep you amused for a little while, I added a "Laura's Life" Calendar to the right hand side of the page. It is deceptively empty. Don't be surprised to see more and more stuff showing up there soon. I am only planning on putting up larger events like trips, etc. But not meetings and other more mundane stuff. You don't want to know how long I have to sit in meetings tomorrow, believe me.

Before I go, if you are in the Metro DC area, I am setting aside May 12 as Game Night at Savage Mill. It may be one of the last times I can go to Game Night before ISU, so I would like to get as many people to come as possible.

Friday, April 20, 2007

More Sad News

There was more workplace violence today, this time affecting NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center. The news sources are now reporting that one hostage and the gunman are deceased, another hostage is relatively unharmed. The details of this are completely unknown, as this has just happened. I am deeply saddened and worried for my friends at the center.

Update: I didn't know the 3 people directly affected by this event.

Monacan High School

RavenCon 2007 is getting underway and I am already tired. I am about to take a bit of a nap before working on my talk for tomorrow. Mostly that has to do with only getting four hours of sleep last night. The drive down after work, school, dinner, and packing got me to the hotel around 1:00 AM. Once I got everything to the hotel room, I spent an hour and a half sorting through all of the promotional material I brought with me. (6+ boxes worth)

Earlier today I spoke to an astronomy class at Monacan High School. It was so much fun. The students really seemed to enjoy the talk. We discussed careers in space, the James Webb Space Telescope, Private Space Travel and student internships.

They really enjoyed the freebies that I brought. The biggest hit were the temporary Hubble image tattoos. Several girls ran off and put them on right away. The tattoos came in three different styles, and at least one girl put on on each cheek and the other on her forehead.

Welcome to any of you who are reading this after meeting me. I hope you will keep reading and perhaps post a comment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

RavenCon this Weekend

Only 2 days until RavenCon this weekend. I would be excited if I weren't so frazzled. I will be speaking at Monacan High School on Friday. My schedule for the weekend is:

Striking A Balance 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM Saturday
- Government versus Private Exploration of Space

Space News 12:01 PM - 12:50 PM Sunday
- Some cool things going on with NASA and beyond

Koffee Klatch 1:00 PM - 1:50 PM Sunday

Beyond this weekend, I am terrified at the following statistics. So much to do. So little time.

37 days to Balticon
52 days until I leave for Dublin, Ireland
66 days until I ARRIVE in Beijing, China

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tradegy at Virgina Tech

Please keep the Virginia Tech students, faculty, and administration in your thoughts and prayers. Virgina Tech is a high quality engineering school, and I know several graduates. Today's events have affected me greatly.

We have seen far too many of these instances in recent years. This is, of course, the worst. Unfortunately, unless my memory fails me, it is not the first of 2007. I think there have been at least two workplace shootings thus far in the last 4 months. (The press is focusing on school shootings, not workplace or school shootings. I see no real difference.)

Thank God these incidents were not as common when I was in school. I knew some kids who were in the right category for this kind of action. One even resembled a Columbine shooter. So, when yet another shooting happens it hits me hard. Were these kids evil, No. They were kids who were troubled, awkward, and didn't know how to cope.

In the wake of this horrible, horrible incident the press and the public mob will vilify the shooter. He is culpable for his actions, and should be held accountable. At this time, we do not know his motives, but I suspect he is only a symptom. In the coming days, there will be a move to create stricter gun control. This is like taking Aspirin for a Migraine. We need to treat the disease.

Our society is broken. We stress each other and ourselves to the breaking point. We don't take enough vacation. At times, talking to a co-worker can be like walking a mine field. We do not form communities. We don't take the time. Our social skills are falling apart and we no longer remember how to take care of ourselves or others.

I am as guilty as anyone of these things. I have lived in the Washington D.C. area for almost 9 years, and I have never felt part of a physical community. Only in the past couple of years have I begun to realize that I am a part of a several broader communities, brought together by common interests, if not by physical proximity.

Beyond our stress load, is our treatment or each other. We are not civil to each other. Civility does not mean agreeing with everything a person says, or even being politically correct. Civility means being polite. Civility means holding the door for someone. Say "Thank You" to the person sweeping the floor. Civility means not cutting someone off in traffic just to get there 10 seconds earlier. It means listening when someone is talking, even if you don't agree.

Will this solve all of our problems? Probably not. It is a step in the right direction. Instead of venting your frustration and anger at today's events, step back and use that energy to make the life of those around you just a little bit better. A simple "Thank You" to the cashier or the security guard or your co-worker can make a world of difference.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Yuri's Night

Today is the day mankind first broke free of Earth's gravity. Celebrate with the rest of the World: Yuri's Night 2007!

For the first time in several years, I will miss the party. I'll be in class tonight. But I will definitely lift a glass to Yuri Gagarin and our ongoing advance into the unknown. Ad Astra.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Summer Fun

Just to prove that I am insane here is my planned schedule between now and September:

April 20-22 RavenCon, Richmond, VA, USA
May 14-15ish Work trip to Houston, TX, USA
May 25-28 Balticon, Baltimore, MD, USA
June 1-3 Book Expo America, New York, NY, USA - Unlikely but the door was opened
June 9-15 Work Trip to Dublin, Ireland
June 15-17 Wingin' It Pool Party trip, Phoenix, AZ, USA - Probably
June 20-21 Visit to Ames Research Center - Probably
June 22- Aug 25 International Space University Summer Session Program in Beijing, China
Aug 30 - Sept 4 Dragon*Con, Atlanta, GA, USA

That is all that is firmly on the schedule for now.... looking at some other things past September. ;)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Joe and Captain America

Thanks to Cheyenne whose work can be found at

Rest in Peace Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy, originally uploaded by Sci-Fi Laura.

Joe Murphy, friend, podcaster, and awesome human being passed away today. I will have more thoughts, probably in a day or two. Please pray for his family and friends.

Several of his friends have created a Joe Murphy Memorial Fund to specifically research leiomyosarcoma. We lost Joe 4 months from diagnosis. This cancer is nasty, and this fund will hopefully help stop it. Please consider donating.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Joe Murphy

I am not keyed into the details, but it sounds like Joe Murphy, podcaster, friend, and cool human being, is not doing well. Which, is of course an understatement.

Cancer is horrible. I have been listening to Joe for over a year as part of the Slice Of SciFi and Wingin'It Podcasts. I met Joe last year at Dragon*Con. He was a great guy to talk to and to play games with. (Even if it was only Killer Bunnies) At that time, none of us knew Joe was sick.

Not much later, Joe found out he had cancer, a very bad inoperable cancer. On a positive note, Joe is surrounded by a world of support, literally. Listeners and friends from around the world have been sending Joe whatever support they can: thoughts, prayers, money, food, visits, a home, a family and more.

This touches on something that I have been thinking about with regards to podcasting. These thoughts are still forming, and I can't do them justice just yet. But, here are is a hint. I feel that, despite its infancy, podcasting has a chance to change the world beyond the internet alone. There is something about the human voice that makes us feel closer than reading words on a computer screen. With the freedom of creation and the intimacy of experience, worldwide communities are building up around podcasts. The thing is that the relationship is not one-sided. There are many ways to make the experience interactive.

What does this mean? It means that the world is a smaller place. It means that close friendships will be made around the world. It means that the mental health of an individual will be improved by someone they have never met. It means that the world is rooting for Joe Murphy.

Please consider him in your thoughts and prayers. If you can, donate some money. You can find the link in the upper right of the page you will find a PayPal link for the Joe Fund.

We love you Joe.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day. There are many things I would love to write about (and do), but instead, I will be writing about Organizational Management, Change Management and Managing Innovation all weekend. My hope is to be all caught up after this weekend. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day

March 14... 3/14 Get it? I'm a geek and numbers can be fun. I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Happy Pluto Planet Day

Despite the rulings of the International Astronomical Union, the New Mexico State Legislature has declared today, March 13, as Pluto Planet Day!

Support your marginalized planets today!

New Mexico has a lot of ties to astronomy and aerospace, so there is a history as to why they have taken this move. You can read more details here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

RIP Sweet Bumpy

We lost our original goldfish, Bumpy, today. We had him for three years now, and he was at least 4 years old. This picture (taken with my cell-phone) is a couple of years old, taken before he developed a tumor on his dorsal fin. He was also a bit dim-witted, even for a goldfish. He once got himself stuck in his castle such that we had to replace it with something else. Rest in Peace Bumpy

Saturday, March 10, 2007


We saw the movie 300 Friday night, and WOW, that was an amazing movie. This is a really odd thing for me to say since this movie is full of blood, violence, war... things I am usually not fans of in movies. (Although the blood was more like comic book blood than movie blood.) Just so you are aware, there is also sex and nudity.

Yet, this movie is a beautiful piece of art. I haven't read the original comic book, but it seems to me that they kept the comic book in mind as they crafted the movie. Not only the comic, but ancient art as well. Many times during the movie I felt as if I was looking at a piece of Spartan pottery brought to life. The actors were excellent, and well formed for their parts. For both the ladies and the gentlemen, but especially the ladies, there is a lot of eye-candy in this movie.

The Spartans view of war was like an art... almost a religion. This is how it was portrayed in the movie. This was not a movie about brutal, chaotic fighting. The battle scenes were like dances. The hand to hand military tactics were intelligent and fantastic to watch. Beyond the battles, there are a lot of deeper themes in this movie, themes of freedom. Freedom from oppression and freedom from mysticism. If you won't be put off by the violence, go and see this movie. I plan on seeing it again in the theaters.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Man vs. Child

A Big Goodbye from Serena
Originally uploaded by TeeMonster.

My good friend Tee Morris, science fiction / fantasy author, podcaster and hitchhiker to Dragon*Con, got together with fellow podcaster Paul Fisher to create this FANTASTIC video, Man vs. Child. This mockumentary shows us the plight of fathers left at home with small children. Following the style of the Discovery Channel's Man vs. Wild we see what happens to Tee when Natalie leaves him at home, alone, with Serena. Please follow this link to see what happens.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

RavenCon Schedule

Once again this year John and I will be a science panelists at RavenCon. From April 20-22, 2007 we will be in Richmond Virginia having a blast.

I am doing two panels and a Koffe Klatch. I'll be on my own for the two panels, but John and I will be doing the Koffe Klatch together.... kind of a sit around and chat with the science panelists thing. John has one panel.

Here is our schedules:

Laura Burns
Striking A Balance 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM Saturday
- Government versus Private Exploration of Space

Space News 12:01 PM - 12:50 PM Sunday
- Some cool things going on with NASA and beyond

John Cmar
The Once and Flu-ture 2:00 PM - 2:50 PM Saturday
- Something about whether or not we will have a Flu Pandemic

Koffee Klatch 1:00 PM - 1:50 PM Sunday


Poppet and Pins 2
Originally uploaded by Sci-Fi Laura.

BaltiCon is going to be crazy. So many people I know and love are going to be there, some coming from as far away as Arizona and California. Most recently, I just found out from Lisa Snellings-Clark's blog that she will be coming back again this year. I love Lisa's work and am very very excited. Of course, a small part of that is the sleep deprivation.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


If you know me, you know that I often have a procrastination and perfectionist problem. Those two factors are frequently related. Acknowledging that, I have never felt this way before. I enjoy all of the classes I am currently taking, but I am seriously considering dropping one of them.

I have a mid-term tomorrow. I have a pile of back assignments. The classes are great. The work is not hard. I just have no motivation to complete the work. Throughout all of the highs and lows of my life, I have never felt so much like quitting. This is odd timing as I am excited about many other things. This is probably coursework burnout.

I think one factor is the number of assignments they give us in this class. It is almost 2 assignments a week. For every reading assignment, there is an associated essay. While it is important to make sure that we understand the readings, this is a graduate class. They shouldn't have to force us to prove it.

Sorry this posting is a bit mundane. I do have much more exciting things going on, but this is what is weighing on me at the moment.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Going to CHINA!

I just got the e-mail, I have officially been accepted to the ISU Summer Session Program. This summer the program will be held in Beijing, China from June 23 to August 24. The program is expensive, and I am a bit confused about the financial situation, but I think that is manageable. More details as I get them in coming days and weeks. Next step, secure a visa for the trip.


This is one of the main reasons why I started this blog. I am hoping that I will have enough internet access in China to regularly update this and Flickr about my adventures and experiences in China.

Next step... do I get to go to Ireland too?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Down and Out in California

Greetings from California.

I am out here for business, but I have lots of friends out on this coast. Unfortunately, I am holed up in my hotel room trying to get things done. I have work, homework, and NASA Academy work, all which needs to be done ASAP.

I am here until Wednesday night, at which point I am taking the red-eye back to the East Coast to participate in an all-day NASA Academy meeting.

I can't wait until things slow down, so I can breathe and have some fun and relax.

On the 24 February, we have made a commitment to go to our favorite game store, the Family Game Store in Savage Mill, Savage, MD. They have open gaming every Saturday night. Everyone is welcome, drop me a line if you can come, the more the merrier. If you can't... play a game in our honor.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Classic John
Originally uploaded by Sci-Fi Laura.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. This is a picture of my Valentine.... see there are even hearts over his head.

Unfortunately, due to the weather, he is stuck out of town and I am here at home. There is ice everywhere. That is fine, because every day is Valentine's with my sweetie.

This really helps me though. I think I can get all my homework done today and make some progress on the NASA Academy work. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Poppet and Pins 1

Poppet and Pins 1
Originally uploaded by Sci-Fi Laura.

Life is full of beautiful colorful things, but far too often, they have sharp pointy undersides. If you are not careful, you can find yourself surrounded by color and pain.

This is a picture I took with a poppet. Poppets are created by Lisa Snellings-Clark. Lisa creates them, and then they wander off to explore the world and the universe. They tend to look at things in a slightly different way.


I've made some progress, but I wasn't able to extinguish that darn torch. I hope I don't go up in flames by the end of the week!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Captured in Stone

Cherub Fountain, originally uploaded by Sci-Fi Laura.

To cheer myself up a bit, I decided to share one of my favorite photos. I find this photo beautiful and spooky all at the same time. I can't decide if the look is one of innocence, questioning, or knowing. The broken neck and weathered face implies worldly experience in one so small.

The picture may be cropped a bit in your viewer, click on it to see the larger version.

Form damaging Function damaging Form

I have been working very hard on juggling quite a few flaming torches recently. I am planning on extinguishing one this weekend, but instead of working on that, I spend the whole day (at least 8 hours) working on something else.

Sorry for the vague description, but those who know, know what I am talking about. Those who don't, the concept is more important than the details.

Time sensitive thing B has become excessively complicated in the last week. It is politically charged and sucking my time away. The problem is that a couple days ago, the process to do B was changed, with out any consultation with the group who will implement B.

The change itself has its positives and negatives. I don't like it, but I don't completely disagree with it. The biggest problem is that the motivation behind the change is being perceived as a lack of trust in the volunteers who do B. The problem is exacerbated by the very short notice and lack of regard for the reaction of aforementioned volunteers.

Because I believe that B is needed, I agreed to help with the notification and convincing of the volunteers. Before I could do that, my words were vetted past several committees (once without my knowledge, agreement or participation) to the point that I questioned signing my name to the final e-mail. I did anyway.

Now, I am questioning if I should have stayed involved. I am stuck defending a decision I don't believe in and words I didn't write. Worst for me, I think that this might have damaged my reputation with this group. At this point, there isn't really a way for me to back out, at least not one that I am comfortable with.

In the last week so many things have been temporarily dropped so I could help out this one group. It is a problem.

Tomorrow... Rather, the rest of today... thing B is definitely going on the back burner. I must finish thing A before Monday.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

My MOM has a Blog

I will forgo the personal update, since it is just about how crazy things are right now. Instead, I will point you to the new Blog in the verse, the one created by my Mom.

Kudos to my Mom for her blog, but I have to say I was speechless when I first saw the e-mail. I mean, she is my Mom. She is not tech-phobic, but no expert either. She is not the standard demographic. Way cool to go outside the box, Mom.

So, where is this blog? Right there -> Babka Liz's Blog

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Quick Update

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I have been a bit flooded recently. The NASA Academy selection process is well underway, and I am busy coordinating over 50 people across the country along with several other time sensitive projects.

The news on my friend Joe isn't great. Please send him your prayers and good thoughts. He has a very difficult fight ahead of him.

As may be evidenced by the fact that I am talking about my workload, my health has been improving. With the new medicine, my coughing is much better... but it got worse before it got better. Very early Saturday morning I almost ended up in the hospital. We avoided the trip when I finally drifted off to sleep after coughing for about 4 hours incessantly. With all that coughing, I now have a pulled muscles in my sides.

Last night I was having a bit of trouble sleeping so I finished "The Bonesetter's Daughter" by Amy Tan. I really liked it. In some ways, it was two different stories, but weaved together well.

This weekend will be spent getting caught up on all the homework that has been languishing since I have been sick.

Stay warm, and if you are somewhere where there is snow... throw a snowball at someone you love.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Today is a rough day.

This morning, my Uncle Edward passed away peacefully. He is now with his dear wife Marge. Rest in Peace Uncle Edward. My deepest sympathies go out to the whole Knasel clan both in the US and England (where he lived).

Currently, my friend Joe Murphy is going into surgery to remove a large malignant tumor from his abdomen. Updates on Joe's progress can be found at the Wingin' It site.

On a personal note, the coughing is really bad and the cold weather is making it worse. My sides hurt. The chest X-Ray came out clear. The doctors now think it may be related to asthma exacerbated by the recent bronchitis (or pneumonia) from earlier in the month... so I get some new meds.


I finished the biography of Mao yesterday. The audiobook is around 30 hours long and is the most disturbing book I have ever read. Currently I am finishing up "The Bonesetter's Daughter" by Amy Tan when I can't sleep. After I finish that, I will be reading mostly school books for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I am tired of being sick. I am tired of having weird symptoms. I want to be healthy again. More doctors should help with the migraines, and that is being planned, but why can't I shake this current illness?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Driving me crazy

What drives me crazy?

Many of those things I can't talk about here. The major difference between a blog and a journal/diary is that everything here is public. For some things I can bare my soul, but for others, I just can't. No complaining about work. No complaining about people. No venting.

There are some general things that I can talk about.

Today's topic is information. I get instantly peeved if I suspect people are withholding, restricting, or preventing my access to information. Other times I get frustrated by my inability to ingest the information fast enough. Information is potential. Information is power. Information is what allows us to evolve. If others are trying to keep me from access to information, they are trying to hold me back. I don't like it

Logically, I know that I can't know everything. I know that usually my lack of knowledge is my own fault, or an oversight, or some other non malicious reason... but I still get peeved.

There are lots of things that I can complain about, but I am beginning to discover that this may be one of the core things that affects my behavior. I don't know how to control it, but the first step is to acknowledge the problem.

I am Laura. I want to understand everything.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hack, Hack, Hack

Still coughing, over and over and over. Last night I finished my "I am exhausted but I can't sleep so I will read this book for a bit." It was Storm Front by Jim Butcher. The first Harry Dresden book. I liked it a lot.

Tonight I am up late working on some NASA Academy work that needs to get done. It drives me crazy, but I am often most alert between 11:00 PM and 2:00 AM. It is obnoxious when you want to have anything approaching a "normal job" or a "normal life". It also doesn't work well when your husband wakes up at 6:00 AM.

Oddly enough... I am starting to feel worse... so I am going to bed.

Monday, January 15, 2007

15 days of 2007

Well, this has been some year thus far. We are now 15 days into the year, and I have been sick for every single one. No real end in sight thus far. More when I get my feet back under me.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Migraines Suck

I have the worst migraine I have had in months, so this will be short. Thinking back, I have had this one for two days now, it just exploded today.

Last night, before the headache got bad, I finished the 4 Obsessions book. What am I reading now? Nothing because I have a stupid migraine.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Book Things

The weekend was reasonably productive, but not in all the ways I would like. I am still recovering from the Bronchitis. In an effort to start putting the house in a bit of order, I am starting to box up the books. As I put the books into boxes, I am logging them in LibraryThing. Over the weekend I added 673 books, and have barely scratched the surface. Most of the books in the library now are paperbacks, manga, and role playing books. My rough prediction is that there will be >6000 books before I am finished.... I need more boxes.... a lot of boxes. And before you ask, they will be coming out of the boxes once we start to get the house more organized.

You can track the progress of the library at:

To control my OCD, I am limiting myself to only adding books on the weekend... otherwise I am not going to get the other stuff done.

Beyond this new project, on top of Flickr, and taking pictures, and coughing, and everything I get obsessed about... I need to finish my homework from last semester. I was unable to complete my work due to health problems. I have 5 assignments to complete. That is my focus this week.

Last night, in a little bit of insomnia... and a lot of book addiction... I finished "The Looking Glass Wars" by Frank Beddor in the early hours of the morning. That is the second time this book has kept me up late. It is also interesting to note, I read it in 2 "sittings".

It was a good book, very well written, but the ending was too much a set up for the other books in the trilogy. Now I have to wait about a year for more. :(

In the spirit of working towards getting my homework completed, and getting in the mindset for next semester, I am now reading:
"The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable" by Patrick Lencioni

It is a short book, so I should be finished soon.

In the column to the right, I am tracking the books I have finished reading in 2007. We'll see how long it gets before 2008. Question for you, should I track audio books?

Friday, January 5, 2007


Not much really to report today. We are still both sick. I keep coughing and coughing and coughing. John still doesn't feel well and had a bad asthma attack this morning. As a result I worked from home today. This evening we are having a nice lazy evening in front of the television.

I have been busy uploading my photos from my 2004 trip to England and Scotland to Flickr. I took a lot of photos. I am not sure if I surpassed Mom's film record from our trip in the 80's... but I may be close. The trip was great, especially the time I spent with Rich and Su. I should have scheduled more time with them.

Next June, there is going to be a project meeting in Dublin. It will be hard deciding to spend time in Ireland or jump over and see the family in England. John has never been to Europe, so We need to take a trip as well.

The rough outline of the trip was:

Bus trip to: Stonehenge, Bath
Rivendell (Rich & Su's)
Train to: Edinburgh
Bus to: Stirling and a ride on a Loch (a.k.a. lake)

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Back to the World

I made it back to work today. When you get sick, or go on vacation, or you move, or really anything that keeps you out of touch, you expect the world to pause and wait for you to return. I am often struck by the realization that time doesn't work the way my brain thinks it should. I get lost in my own little world of cats, television, space, and books, only to look up and discover that days, moths, and years have gone by and people have changed. Things have happened and I am out of touch. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever catch up. There are some worlds where I wonder if I would be welcomed back if I tried.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Coughs, Aches, and Headaches

There are so many things I should be doing. (I won't go into the details since that will just make me even more stressed.) Instead, John and I are just sitting on the couch sick. John even had to take the day off to get some sleep

We believe that we did track down the source of the illness. During the Holiday break, we took a walk through the Ozarks. On the hike back up the hill, we both pushed it a bit too much and had asthma problems. Promptly after this, we went to Chuck E. Cheese for Mike's Birthday party. Ah, the wretched hive of germs and viruses. I started coughing that evening, but it took us a few days to realize what had happened.

I hope to make it back to work tomorrow. So much to do, so little time.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Write Your Story

So why a blog? Beyond keeping in touch with people, I view blogging as a journal that I am likely to keep. I have started many diaries over the years, but always set them down after a time. I think that blogging will be more to my taste since it is automatically shared with the world. My thoughts, opinions, actions are there for comment and discussion. I am an imperfect person. (aka human) I will make mistakes, but I hope that everyone will keep me on track.

So often history is defined by the journals and diaries of average people. Everyone has a story. I hope this will be the start of writing my own story, and sharing it with you.

Starting out Sick

Well, I am starting out 2007 with Bronchitis. I am staying home today to get some rest.

There are some benefits. One of which is spending some "quality time" with my kittens, who definitely missed me over Christmas Vacation. All 5 have been to visit me today.

It has also given me time to upload some of my holiday photos to Flickr. You can find those at

More soon!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy 2007

Welcome to 2007!

2006 was an interesting year. I learned a lot of things about myself in 2006, and one of those things is that I need a better way to share my experiences with my family and friends. This year, I plan on using this Blog to share my adventures.

2007 has the potential to be much more interesting. I look forward to sharing those adventures with you.

My favorite wish for New Years and every day:
"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't to forget make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." ~ Neil Gaiman

Here are a few things about myself, and more will follow.

Currently Reading:
The Looking Glass Wars

Currently Listening:
Mao: The Unknown Story

Cats: Phobos, Deimos, Cassini, Pandora, Oberon