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.