Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008


I have a lot running through my mind these days. Thoughts of the present. Thoughts of the future. Thoughts of the past. I have not done all of the thinking that I need to, but I am beginning to realize a few things.

People seem to like me. This first thing is difficult for me to understand. I can accept it as I have repeated tangible evidence to that effect. This evidence still does not help me understand it.

There is a large gap in the way others see me and the way I see myself. It is strange how our capacity for self esteem is set in our elementary school years, and is difficult to change. Yet, life holds so much for us past that early time.

In the TV show Cold Case, there is one episode ("The Sleepover") about a young girl in middle school who doesn't fit in. She is the victim. At one point in the episode, the girl talks about how great life will be in just a few years. How popular they will be in college. How the "in crowd" won't matter much longer. Later the killer breaks down and confesses that she just didn't understand that you can survive those rough childhood years.

Cold Case is interesting in that in many of the episodes it shows people who strayed from the status quo. They did, or wanted to do, or planned to do, something special. Dare to be different. Take a man's job. Stand up for what is right. Work for change. In the show, these people suffer. They are killed. Yet, I don't find this depressing. The show does a good job of portraying the desperation of those who want things to "stay the same" while still celebrating the lives cut short. And, of course, they always catch the killer.

So where do I stand... and is that where I want to stand.

Everyone has to answer that question for themselves. There are little things and big things and nothings that all are part of the thought process.

To myself, I stand in a whirl-wind of un-realized potential and self doubt. I stand in fear, not of change, but of embarassment. Oh, and I have pittifully low self-esteem.

Everyone knows that I am shy, yet most people don't realize I am an extrovert. That is not a contradiction. The shyness comes from the fear. But what is there to fear? So people laugh, so you get reprimanded, so what. As Seth Godin says in the book Tribes, they don't literally burn people at the stake anymore in most of the world.

Despite all the self doubt, I know I have potential. I seem to attract people. I know my skills. The question I need to answer for myself is whether or not I am putting them to use appropriately. As I said, I have a lot of thinking to do.

I am not saying all of this to fish for comments or to get attention. (I am tempted to turn comments off on this post.) I am saying it, well to say it. And perhaps my words could help one other person to not fear. To step with me outside that warm comfortable zone to see what is waiting for us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
Always remember, you have within you
the strength, the patience, and the passion
to reach for the stars to change the world.”
~ Harriet Tubman

Today is my birthday. Despite the migraine problems I have been having recently, I have been smiling all day. I have gotten Birthday Wishes from all over the world and the internet via social media. Twitter, Facebook, Skype, e-Mail and the comments on my blog have been busy with messages for me. I am very touched and feeling very loved.

Above is this year's Birthday Quote. I have a shirt with it on the back. Whenever I am down I look at this quote and try to remember. I am a strong believer that one person can change the World. I hope that my existence on this planet will make it a better place. Every day, no matter how I feel, I hope to keep trying to make the World nicer for at least one person.

Here is to one more circuit of our star and the celebration of life. Cheers.

"One man can make a difference and every man should try."
~Either John F. Kennedy or Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Day

Yesterday I voted. Last night I stayed up late to watch the results. While I was annoyed by the coverage, I was happy at the outcome.

Today is a new day in the United States. I am encouraged and excited for the future of this country. It is good to feel, at least for a short time, proud of the elected leader of my country. While I don't agree with all of Obama's ideals and policies, I do feel that he is a better choice for this country at this time.

Time will tell, and I am sure that there will be disappointments and there is a big mess to clean up. I hope he is up for the challenge. I hope the space program stabilizes and gets a strong direction. I hope the new First Lady keeps the National Book Festival going. I hope the kids enjoy their new puppy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Birthday NASA!

On 1 October 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) came into existence.  The creation NASA moved the exploration of space from the responsibility of the military, to the responsibility of civilians.  If this had never happened, the world would be a much different place. It changed the mindset of space exploration.  It became a place where anyone could dream of living and working in a place without borders.  Space became part our everyday lives, often in ways we never expected.  Civil space enables the revolution in private space that we are witnessing now.  Space is gradually becoming accessible to the every-human, fulfilling dreams held in our hearts since we first saw the stars.

Happy Birthday NASA.  You have inspired the dreams of generations.  You have your faults, but despite what anyone says... NASA, you have changed the world.  A toast to you and the next 50, 100, and 150 years and the further exploration of the unknown.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tropical Storms

2008 is an auspicious year... it is the year of Tropical Storm Laura. Laura has formed in the Atlantic and is making her way towards Ireland and Great Britain. It is not clear yet whether or not Laura will become a hurricane, but she is dangerous. Europe beware.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I am currently in beautiful England for some JWST work, but while I am away, the event of the year is happening at NASA GSFC. If you are free this weekend... yes, Saturday, September 13... you can visit NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for Launchfest!

It is rare that Goddard opens its gates to the general public. There will be booths about our projects, including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as well as entertainment, food, and lots of fun. You know that if I was in the country, I would so be there.

Below is the flier from NASA. Consider working it into your plans for the weekend and showing our interest for the exploration of the universe.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dragon*Con 2008 Schedule

Tomorrow we leave for Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia. This year my lovely husband and I will be guests. I am on the Space track while Cmar is on the Science track. We make a brief showing on the Podcasting track as well. My official schedule is below. Now off to packing....

International Space University & Project Phoenix: A Lunar Biological & Social Archive
Description: Phoenix: A Lunar Biological and Social Archive was a team projects from the International Space University (ISU) Space Studies Program 2007. This talk introduces ISU and discusses archiving human knowledge on the moon in case of catastrophe on Earth.

Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: Forsythe

Making Space Relevant
Description: Is going back to the Moon passe? Why aren't people as engaged in space exploration as they used to be? Could it be that space exploration is considered irrelevant? Join us to discuss how space exploration can be & is still relevant.
Time: Sat 11:30 am Location: Forsythe

Aliens You Will Meet Puppet Show, Live!
Description: It will be made of felt, fur, and awesome. (Obviously, not the description stolen from the program.)
Time: Saturday, 5:30pm, Rockdale (Hilton)

Stellar Women: Looking Up and Speaking Out
Description: Our esteemed panel of women are not only involved in space and astronomy, but also community outreach and education. Come and pick their brains about their experiences and plans for the future.
Time: Sun 10:00 am Location: Forsythe

The First Light Machine: James Webb Space Telescope
Description: Defined as one of the world's 9 largest science projects by the Discovery Channel, the James Webb Space Telescope is a 6.5 meter telescope set to launch in 2013. Hear an overview of the project and the current status from a project engineer.

Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Forsythe

Space Flight: Robots vs Humans
Description: How should we explore the universe? Send humans with all their fralities and tons of extra oxygen, food, water, etc.? Or should we stick to robots who are cheaper, faster, and if they die the world doesn't violently object? Come join this lively debate and put forth your own views.

Time: Sun 05:30 pm Location: Forsythe

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Deadline Extended

The deadline to send your name to the Moon aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been extended to July 25. Don't miss your chance and sign up here: http://www.nasa.gov/lro

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

If you act quickly...

There are lots of great opportunities for you to be directly involved in space.

I have been meaning to post this for awhile, so sorry for the delay. If you act before June 27 you can send your name to the Moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team has thus collected over a million names so far. Make sure yours gets included.

Washington D.C. holds the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall. Usually, they choose one Country, one City, and one cultural region. This year, instead of a cultural region, they chose to honor NASA. So if you happen to be in Washington D.C. between June 25-29 or July 2-6 you can help celebrate 50 years of space exploration in the U.S.A.

If you are really ambitious, the application deadline for the next NASA Astronaut Class is July 1. I am not applying at this time, but you can put your name in the mix here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke died today at the age of 90. As a science fiction fan, an ISU graduate, and a human being, I note his passing as a loss to the planet. May he rest in peace.

Soffen Fund

The NASA Academy Alumni Association is going through a fundraising drive for the Dr. Gerald A. Soffen Memorial Fund for the Advancement of Space Science Education. The various NASA Academy classes are competing to see which group will donate more money to the fund. I have made my donation, but there is no real hope of my NASA Academy class (MSFC 1996) gathering the most money.

In lieu of "winning" I thought I would help spread the word about the Soffen Fund and its mission. From the website:
"Throughout his life, Gerald Soffen dedicated himself to fostering the growth of young space scientists and engineers. The Dr. Gerald A. Soffen Memorial Fund for the Advancement of Space Science Education was established to continue Jerry's commitment to the future of space by supporting motivated students in the fields of space science and engineering.

Since the fall of 2002, the Soffen Fund has provided students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in space-related sciences and engineering with Travel Grants. The Travel Grants enable awardees to attend a professional conference at which they present their research.

Over the next several years, the Fund intends to offer its first set of $25,000 Astrobiology Graduate Fellowships."
If you wish to support this worthy cause, tax-deductable donations can be made at the donation site.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day

Happy March 14! In the USA this is written as 3/14, thus Pi. Perhaps I can have some Pie for desert tonight. I am altering the time of the post so it appears that the post was posted on: 3/14 1:59 to add more significant digits.

It strikes me that in other countries where they write the date before the month (14/3), there is no such thing as a Pi day, as there is never a 14th month. Hmmmm.

Enjoy some mathematics and deserts today!

Also, Happy Birthday Mary Ann!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Stop Spying on Me

I haven't put a lot on this blog about political issues. You can probably figure out some of those issues if you have been following the news items that I have shared through Google Reader. The protection of the freedoms granted to us in this country is very important to me. These freedoms are being eroded away, not by the terrorists, but by those who "claim" to have our best interests at heart.

Currently the US government is asking cell phone companies to tap the calls of its users. This is illegal. Now the government wants to cover up this transgression by granting immunity to those telecommunications companies who cooperated with the government. This is wrong. Our elected officials have a responsibility to uphold the laws of our country, not bypass them. The PFAW - The People for the American Way and the EFF - Electronic Frontiers Foundation have created a petition. Please consider signing it.

Please, Sign the Petition.

Happy Leap Day

If I wasn't home sick, I would want to celebrate this day. An extra 24 hours of life this year - ENJOY THEM. Check out this awesome Leap Year Card by Roy Dotty. If you are curious as to why we have this extra day this year, Phil Plait has a detailed explanation.

I'm feeling a lot better, Thanks

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am Third Wave

You have heard me rave about the novel Playing for Keeps in an earlier blog post. It is time for the truth to come out. I am Third Wave. Look below to find out my secret superhero identity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I am sick, I have been for at least a week. I think I have a mild flu... and I even got a flu shot. As John talked about on the news, there is a flu strain that wasn't covered by the vaccine. This makes me unhappy. I'll try and post all about the cool things I have been up to when I get better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eclipsed Birthday

Just a quick note to wish my Dad a Happy Birthday! I'll never tell how old you are.

And a reminder to everyone else that the there will be a total lunar Eclipse visible from Europe and North America tonight. For details on viewing in your area, check Space Weather.

The picture above is from a trip to Colorado (not the X-Prize Cup in New Mexico as I originally thought). Those pictures haven't made it to Flickr yet, but some others have. Check them out here.

Happy Observing

Sunday, February 10, 2008

China Road

I really don’t want to turn this blog into a series of reviews, but I must comment on the book, China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford.

Rob Gifford is a correspondent for NPR who had been living in China for 20 years. Before leaving this post and becoming NPR’s London correspondent, Gifford decided to travel China’s Route 312 across the country. For those of us in the US, this is the equivalent of driving Route 66 or I-70 from east to west.

This book is so many things. It is a travel log of his experiences along the road. It is a glimpse into the every day lives of people across the country. It ties the past to the present and provides context for the situation in which China currently finds itself. It is a long last look at a complex country where Gifford made his home, before he moves on.

My 9 weeks in China were nothing compared to Gifford’s experiences. I was a student in an international program with people, not just from China, but from all over the world. Gifford spent 20 years there as a journalist. I can’t speak the language. Gifford can, and used that ability to interact with people, and ask deep questions. I barely left Beijing. Gifford traveled Route 312. Despite these differences, I feel I understand a lot of what Gifford discusses in this book.

Before I went to China, I tried to educate myself a bit on the country. I watched some specials, I read some books. While I was there, I kept my eyes open. I made sure I talked to our Chinese classmates, whom it was my honor to meet. I was also in the “Space and Society” department, which exposed me to more of Chinese culture than I may have seen otherwise. My conclusion leaving China was that it was a much more complex place than many of us in the “West” are led to believe.

In China Road, Gifford paints this picture of the complex place that is modern China. Along his journey he talk to whomever he can from Amway salesmen to the ethnic peoples of the Gobi desert to a woman who enforces China’s One Child policy.

In addition to the book itself, there is a series of audio journals that aired on NPR’s morning edition. In these segments you not only hear the author’s own voice, but the voices of those he interviews.

If you are curious about China, are considering traveling there, or have ever gone there, I highly recommend the NPR morning Edition Segments and this fantastic book (in either audio or print form). You may wish to stop by Rob Gifford’s web site.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Black Holes and Balance Beams

Despite my excitement about all that is going on right now, there are unfortunate consequences. The biggest casualty of my constant desire to put my fingers in every possible pie is e-mail. My e-mail boxes just keep getting bigger and bigger. This disease affects no only my personal e-mail (>800 unread messages that span the years since I created the e-mail address) but also my work e-mail. Often, people will think that I am ignoring them, or perhaps that I don't care, but no... the e-mail has just vanished into the black hole that is my inbox. I feel I don't have the time to respond appropriately, so the message sits and waits. I am hoping that sometime soon I will learn how to stop time, or at least slow it down to get caught up... but the reality is that if I learned how to do that, I would just try to do even more things creating some sort of infinite loop.

The other consequence is that some weeks everything hits at once. This week and next are such weeks. I have worked long hours almost every day this week trying to finish up a document before I go out of town. Am I required to... No... but I am a perfectionist and I want to produce a good product, so I work to get the best possible product out before I go to a space conference next week. But wait! If I am working late, that means I am not evaluating applications, reading e-mail relating to aforementioned space conference, doing laundry, paying the bills, getting my hair cut, or any of the other myriad of things that I have to do before I leave on Monday. It all makes me tired.

Really, I am not complaining. I know it sounds like I am, but I'm not. I broadcast this out to the universe so you can all understand a bit more about me, and the things I do to myself. One day, I am going to learn how to balance time, work, play, etc... but I wouldn't place any bets on when. Until then, off I go to fight another day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

State of the Blog

Those very attentive souls will have noticed some changes to the bar on the right hand side of the blog. I have had some complaints about how the calendar appeared on the blog and that it was difficult to see the events. Thus, I have just made a link to another web site that just shows the calendar.

Beyond that, there is a new bar that shows some news items that I have found interesting. The most recent items that I share in Google Reader will show up in that bar. Items may range from the most recent space news, to art sales, to whatever.

Finally, I am once again keeping a list of books I have finished either reading or listening to in 2008. You can keep track of my progress throughout the year. Last year I fell off from updating the list, I hope to do better this year. Currently I am in the middle of reading the following books (yes all at the same time), so PLEASE, no spoilers:
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (started in 2007)
  • The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
  • The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanly Robinson (started in 2007)
  • The China Road by Rob Gifford (audio)
And probably some others that I have forgotten and will have to start over.

Two Thousand and Eight

It is now February, and 2008 is 1/12 over. Thus far, 2008 has remained a pretty sedate year with no travel outside the greater Washington D.C. and greater Baltimore Area. This will change very soon.

I have never been surfing, yet I have seen it in movies. You paddle out into deep water and wait for the wave. Soon, the wave comes and there is a heady rush of surfing that wave, trying to balance all of the complex variables, and suddenly you have either reached the shore or fallen in the water. The first 5 weeks of 2008 were like paddling out into that rough water, getting ready to surf those waves. Pretty soon, those waves are going to crest. Whether I want to or not, I am going to be swept towards the shore. Before I know it, 2008 will be 2009.

So what is in store for 2008? Of course I can't predict anything, I can make a forecast. (Just don't ask me to give you a percent accuracy.)
  • 3 trips to Europe (at a minimum)
  • Several trips around the US (at least 7 states + DC)
  • Speaking at 2-3 science fiction conventions (2 confirmed)
  • Attending space conventions
  • Taekwondo (if I can find a place that will work with aforementioned travel)
  • Interesting developments at work
  • Lots of both animated and boring talk about the next president of the USA
I have been looking forward to 2008 more than any year in recent memory. While I am sure things will get overwhelming soon, it is going to be interesting and fun. Part of why I started this blog, was as a commitment to myself to live life to the fullest. Take the experiences life gives you and make the best of them. Here is to 2008, may the Earth be a better place at the end than the beginning, and may I have some role in making it so.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Playing for Keeps

I finished a fantastic novel this past week, "Playing for Keeps" by Mur Lafferty. This novel speaks to anyone who ever dreamed of being a superhero.... and what that may actually have meant. The book focuses around Keepsie Branson and her friends who have superpowers, yet were turned down by the superhero academy. As one might expect, their little band of Third Wavers get caught in the middle of a big huge battle between the heroes and the villains. Even if you have never dreamed of becoming a superhero (and who hasn't) you will probably relate (as I did) to the feeling of believing you are special, then being told you are not.

I read the book in print form. The book is well written reads quickly. There were times when I had to force myself to put the book down. Mur is releasing the book as a podcast both here and here as well as a downloadable pdf. The novel even has its own theme song. (I haven't been able to listen to the podcast due to issues with syncing my iPod since I got back from China, but I have been assured it is fantastic) Please check it out and tell a friend... or a stranger.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


So, there have been a lot of reviews and opinions being posted out there on the webs regarding the movie Cloverfield. Since I saw it last weekend, and added my voice to a podcast review posted on the ADDcast, I shall also include a review here. I will warn you that the ADDcast review is full of spoilers. My comments here attempt to be spoiler-free.

I liked the movie.

That said, there are some disclaimers. The movie did make me nauseous with the perpetual shaky-cam. At one point I was afraid the movie was going to give me a migraine. Because of this, there were many points when I had to close my eyes or look away from the movie screen. Thus, my recommendation is to either sit in the back of the theater, or wait for the DVD to watch it on the small screen.

The small screen provides additional benefit, there are lots of small details that are easy to miss because there is so much going on and in many parts, the action moves too fast. If you wait for the DVD, you can pause and re-wind.

Beyond that, this is a different breed of monster movie. There is a monster in the movie, but that is not what the movie is about. It is about how humans, relationships, and how people react in the face of disaster. Some of the characters are a bit annoying at times, but that is the way of the world. The movie, in my un-informed opinion, does a decent job of showing how different people’s coping with a situation beyond comprehension.

This movie is not designed to be grand cinema. (But the way the flashbacks are worked in is brilliant!) That is not the point. Not everything they do makes complete sense, but humans do illogical things that seem to make sense at the time. The audience doesn’t get all the answers, and some of the answers can only be found if you pay very close attention. (I missed them.)

To summarize, I look forward to watching the movie again, probably more than once... but only on the small screen. Of my friends, the reaction is mixed - some love it, some hate it. My humble opinion is positive, but with a sea-sickness warning.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Post Talk Wrap-up

My ISU SSP 2007 presentation is complete. The results will forever be found at this url. Perhaps someday the video will be included in the lunar archive. I think it went pretty well, I've been getting a lot of praise, but of course, I felt that I could have, "um" done better.

Thanks to everyone who sent me well wishes, good thoughts, and vibes. My sweet husband even left work to come see it live. Thanks to all who watched the live webcast or have already seen the archive. Science fiction and horror writer Matt Wallace, posted a very cool blog post about the talk.

Coincidentally the ISU president, Mike Simpson, was in the area for a meeting. So, after my talk, I had the great pleasure of spending the evening with fellow ISU alumni. Overall, it was a good day, although my feet hurt by the time I got home.

Please watch my presentation, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments field of this post.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Upcoming ISU Presentation

I've been nervous about publicizing this, but I don't think I can avoid it any longer. On Tuesday, January 15, I will be giving a presentation at STScI in the Bahcall Auditorium. The talk is International Space University, Beijing 2007: Explanation, Experiences, and Project Phoenix. The talk should run about 1 1/2 hours with time at the end for questions. Everything will be web-cast and available online after the talk.

I hope you enjoy the talk. Let me know what you think.

Here are the summary details

International Space University, Beijing 2007: Explanation, Experiences, and Project Phoenix.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
2:00 PM ET

Bahcall Auditorium
Space Telescope Science Institute
3700 San Martin Drive
Baltimore, MD 21218

STScI Talks Web Site
Webcasting of STScI Talks

During the summer of 2007, Laura spent her summer at the International Space University Summer Session Program in Beijing, China. In this seminar Laura will discuss the origins of ISU, why it was held in China, her team project, and her experiences with the culture. Her team project, “Project Phoenix: Lunar Biological and Social Archive”, addresses the idea of having a backup repository of human knowledge stored on the moon.