Saturday, December 31, 2011

My first Con

During the holiday season, I am re-posting an article from my previous blog.  This post was originally published in August 2010.  However, Brian and I still did not attend GenCon in 2011.

Having geeky family and geeky friends in Indiana, I am all too aware that I missed GenCon this year. Unfortunately, the combination of finances from visiting my Mom and losing income in her final months, and the family schedule, made a trip to Indianapolis in early August unworkable this year. I hope to make it back next year.

Friday, December 30, 2011


I've been seeing several articles in my TwitterStream about changing from promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to promoting STEAM, with an A for Arts.  Here is a synopsis from the Rhode Island School of Design and the National Science Foundation.

I have several reasons for supporting this transition, for encouraging the Arts with STEM.  For just one example, I was one of the AIAA judges for the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race last spring.  We awarded the Best Design prize to an RISD team.  They had one SWEET rover, functional and beautiful at the same time.

But for me, support of the arts is much more personal.  The arts changed my life.  I could even go so far as to say that the arts saved my life.  This is me, at age 18.  The gentleman I'm with?  We've been married for 14 years.

I made him promise, while we were courting, that we would never give up music again.  I'm not sure how well I would say we kept that promise, we have had phases where we didn't play or sing, but we are both back in music again now, and loving every minute of it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Glee, Television, and the A in STEAM

Two years ago in December, my son and I made an emergency "plane, bus, and automobile" trip north to visit my mother after another hospitalization in her battle with cancer.  To get out of town, my brother Sguth gave us a ride to the station.  He had a CD playing, and after a short listen I commented "That's not Journey."

"No, it's Glee."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

9 reasons to join a Professional Organization

During the holiday season, I am re-posting an article from my previous blog.

Today I want to bring my blog back to STEM. Specifically, engineering professional organizations.

Why join a professional organization?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More on choosing a major

A few months ago, I wrote a little bit about What to Study, but I want to come back to that topic for a bit.  In my plan of study for my first high school, I had intended to take a keyboarding class in my Junior year.  As I recall, that was a recent change, the course used to be just Typing.  When we moved to Indiana, and I found myself at the local public school for my Junior year, the closest they had to Keyboarding was a Computer Skills course.  So I took the Computer Skills course, and to this day I am glad that I did

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Early Religious Education

My son started "Sunday school" this year, as a Preschooler.  Our UU church here is small, so the 2- and 3-year-olds play in the nursery with the babies.  But as a 4-year-old, he can join the first class.  It's really making me think about my experiences in Religious Education (RE), and the years I spent as an RE teacher.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Anniversaries this month

I have a list of topics that I want to write about, as the time seems appropriate.  This weekend doesn't quite feel right for it.  Last week and this next week are some important anniversaries.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A bright spot in a dark night

Last post, I wrote a little bit about spending my junior year of high school in a new school, hundreds of miles away from my friends.  That was the first time in a decade that I wasn't taking any sort of music class at school.  But when I said I made the mistake of giving up music, that wasn't completely accurate.  I made the mistake of stopping playing in the band, and otherwise not studying music in school.

What I did do, was sing with the choir at church.  It was all right.  Much of the repertoire was in Latin.  I remember a woman joining us, she seemed embarrassed when they asked what part she sang -- her answer was "Bass."

And then there was another woman, who sometimes in the winter months came to practice wearing a sweatshirt that said NASA.  I commented on it one evening.  Some time later, she brought in 2-3 large photo-prints of the space shuttle, the launchpad at night, a day launch, and perhaps a third.  And she gave them to me.  That one little gift, meant a lot to me.  It gave me hope again.

The very few people who read our teenage work of fan-fiction will be surprised to know, her name was Mrs. Charon.  My jaw about hit the floor, we had named a planet "Charon" in the story written before I moved.

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Anti-bullying

October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.  I know the month is almost over, but I couldn't let it pass without writing about this.  I wrote a few posts on my old blog last year, as we were dealing with bullying at my son's preschool.  Can you believe it?  Bullying a 3-year-old?  I still can't.  Fortunately, the preschool recognized the problem, and worked to stop it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Some thoughts on choosing a college.

Over the summer I began a series of posts about getting to college.  I wrote about planning your high school classes, thoughts on choosing a major, and college entrance exams.  Today I want to write about choosing a college or university to attend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Update and Music

I am still around, and still planning to update this blog.  In the time since I last posted, we've had two birthday parties, two birthdays, two week-long colds, and have begun our fall routines.  Somebody in the family has something going on every weeknight.  With this busy schedule, I haven't been getting online very much at home.  Instead, I've been burying myself in good novels, and we've caught up on the past two seasons of Glee.

I have begun the comparison between 1632 and Island In the Sea of Time, as promised some time ago, however the post is running very long and requires more editing.  At the least, I may split the post into two or three.  So I'll spare you that rambling until I'm satisfied that it makes good sense.

In my particular brand of Geek Feminism, I'm a fan of science fiction and/or fantasy novels written by women.  Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Jennifer Roberson, A.C. Crispin, Diane Duane, Tara K. Harper, Jane Yolen, Tamora Pierce... just to name a few.

Not that I like everything they write.   But generally.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

College entrance exams

Following up on my previous post about high school classes to prepare for college, here is some information about pre-college testing.  There are two different standardized tests that colleges use as part of their admissions decisions.  Fifteen years ago, some colleges and universities preferred the SATs, others preferred the ACTs, and some took either and/or both.  Apparently that has changed now.  At my first high school, enough students went to either school that we were encouraged to take both.  Here's what I know about these tests.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What should I study?

My aunt asked a question on Facebook that deserved a longer answer:
We recently had churh camp and while i was there talking to some of the kids,they had no idea what they would like to do in the future to support themselves. I mentioned that you were in the buusiness that had to do with the space station. Wow did their ears perk up.They had never even thought about it. They asked me to ask you what classes should they be taking in school to help them to get into this profession, or if you could recomend a link on the computer they could check it out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What if you don't make it?

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

I've been writing about the shuttle's impact on my life, about my journey to becoming an engineer, and about planning my studies.  Alas, I've gotten hung up on trying to write more about my adolescence, and specifically the parts related to space.  Does *anyone* ever have an easy adolescence?  I don't think I've heard of anyone who did.  But most of that isn't relevant.

One part, is.  See, all the time when I was trying to plan for my future, trying to build a secondary education on the primary foundation, the one question my Dad kept asking, over and over again, was "What if you don't make it?  What if you never become an astronaut?"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Proper Prior Planning

 Before I present Part 3 of my shuttle memories, I wanted to go back a bit.  Part 1 and part 2 were posted previously, and in part 2 I discussed some of my middle school / junior high school experiences.  I think it's important to mention that during those years, my school was already preparing me for high school and college to come.

Along the way, I also learned what high school courses I would need to prepare for an engineering major.  Basically, 4+ years of math, 4+ years of science, meet the State requirements for graduation (4 years of English, 2+ years of foreign language...).

I think it might have been my high school, in a pre-enrollment presentation, that talked about Nebraska's Academic Honors diploma.

So by the time I started my Freshman year of high school, I had a pretty good plan of study already worked out.  I adjusted it some, as time went on.  Worked band in, as I got back into music.  Considered doing chorus for a year.  Thought about starting a second foreign language.

This kind of planning proved *critical* when we moved, and moved again.  Indiana's state requirements were a little bit different from Nebraska's, but not in the basics: Math, Science, English, foreign language.

Proper prior planning also came in another area.  I think I mentioned that I started babysitting about the time I was 12.  Before I started babysitting as a business, working for other families, I took at least two different babysitting courses (IIRC, one by 4-H and the other from the American Red Cross), and Infant/Child CPR.

My first CPR class, they pointed out that simply by taking the class, we were making a decision to help people.

Now, I haven't *stayed* certified the entire 20-mumble years since that time.  Sometimes I was, sometimes the cert lapsed and I didn't take another course for a while.  But for a layperson, a non-medical professional, I still try to stay alert to medical news in the mainstream media.  And when my workplace asked for volunteers to maintain first aid & CPR training, I stepped forward.

Knowing what to do makes a huge difference.  Training helps get through the initial "freeze" and "panic" phases, and move on to "think this through" and "useful action."

So when the tornado sirens went off while I was babysitting, I got the kids in the basement. Found, plugged in, and turned on a radio down there.  By the time the parents called, I was looking for their candles & a flashlight.

Twenty-mumble years later... When my son got sick last weekend, I mostly knew what to do.  There's about two things that, with hindsight, I probably could have done differently and "better," but for the most part that training / instinct was right on.  We got to the ER in a timely manner, everything worked out fine.  (He is well now.)

My CPR / First Aid certifications have expired again.  It's time to look for another course.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm still here!

I'm still here!  I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while.  We've been traveling, and my son got sick.

Here's a teaser of a post in work:  Comparing S.M. Stirling's "Island in the Sea of Time" series with Eric Flint's "1632" series.  Both deal with time travel, but in different ways.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Space & Shuttle Memories, pt 2

Continuing the making of a woman engineer. (Part 1 is here)

In fifth grade, our teacher & student teacher started out a series on the planets, by having us create a model rocket out of things like oatmeal boxes and construction paper.  My "rocket" became my new teddy bear.

My sixth grade teacher incorporated a number of 4-H activities into our curriculum, including the Blue Sky Below My Feet series.

I know these latest two seem too tiny to mention.  But for the teachers out there: these little, little things made a HUGE difference.  They helped keep me motivatedreminded me of why I was studying hard, kept me going.  There were dark nights, many dark nights, along this path.  But I'm trying to stick to the highlights as much as I can, here.  The space program has been a bright spot for most of my life.  (Challenger and Columbia are truly unavoidable lows in this saga.)

Mind the (human spaceflight) gap

So, the Shuttle retirement means that there will be a gap in U.S. human spaceflight capability.

It's happened before. I was born in a gap. A 7-year gap, when the U.S. didn't launch any people at all.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Space & Shuttle Memories, pt 1

How to summarize 30 years of memories?

My father joined the Air Force when I was too small to remember.  For his first assignment, we were stationed at Scott AFB, IL.  The story as I remembered it through my schooldays was that when I was 4 years old, the space shuttle came for an air show.  I think I remember my dad taking us to watch the airplane land with the orbiter piggy-back.  I clearly remember going to the air show that year, walking around the tarmac.  Many of the big aircraft, we were allowed to walk through.  The shuttle was roped off to a wide distance.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Follow Friday: Spaceflight Now

If you aren't on right now, I suggest you get there soonest.  Their Mission Status Center has the latest news on the final Space Shuttle launch, which as of this writing is targeted for 11:26 a.m. EDT on Friday, July 8, 2011.  (That should be today, if this posts as scheduled.)  If you have the right software, the Mission Status Center will include an audio/video feed.  I usually leave that on mute until the end of the hold.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shuttle Retirement

USA Today posted a very good summary article on the Space Shuttle program and its wrap-up, that lines up with many of my thoughts on the subject.  (Unfortunately, the URL seems to have some very frustrating timeout features that make it difficult to read the entire article.  I had to click on "Share this" in order to keep the story up long enough to read.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Follow Friday: Kid's Gardening

The National Gardening Association has an associated website, KidsGardening,with articles for parents and schools. You can sign up for a monthly e-newsletter on the website. In June, the newsletter included their Parents Primer for getting started. This is an excellent resource for parents to continue their garden learning. It also has information for schools to set up a school or classroom garden.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On being a working parent.

At some point in this blog I like to talk about what it means to be a working parent. When we were expecting, my husband got into the Expectant Father series. I read them too, and was struck by how, with a stay-at-home-dad, I (Mom) felt the same pressures to work longer, earn more, make sure my family was taken care of.

I've always been career-oriented, and having a child hasn't changed that, much. I have to say that one of my biggest hopes, as a busy working parent, is to be like Charlie Brown's dad in this Father's Day strip.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interlude: Resources for talking with small children about death

I spent the last weekend traveling to visit family, and attend an aunt's funeral.

Every family experiences a different pace of life and death. My side of the family was very fortunate, from what I can tell. Mamaw passed away in 1982, the first person that I truly mourned. Everyone else that I knew reasonably well, lived through the 1980's and 1990's. A few great-uncles passed on, but I only remember one or two visits with them.

Such a spate of "good luck" can't last forever. My son has attended three relatives' funerals already in his short life. He was not quite 2 when my grandmother passed away, and I don't think he knew her all that well. She tended to sleep a lot when we visited. A few months later my mom passed away. I think he's beginning to understand that loss. Today I'm going to mention some of the resources I've used to talk with my son about loss.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Engineers Wanted to transport clean water.

Continuing the theme of talking about the Engineering Grand Challenges, today I'd like to talk about water.

Another of the Engineering Grand Challenges is to provide access to clean water. It helps to begin with discussing the water cycle. Here's a little song about it:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Creating the Future

Working as an engineer, I find old and new technologies juxtaposed on a regular basis. As an engineer concerned about our future, I think sometimes we look for the latest, greatest, highest technology solution, when sometimes low-tech will do the job.

Here are three four posts that mesh with some of what I've been thinking regarding wealth.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Multiple worlds - Electricity

One of my friends from Houston earned his M.S. in Future Studies while I was doing my M.A. One of the points he regularly made was that the future is multiple. One of the ways that the future is multiple, is that old, traditional, ways of life tend to continue along with the new.

Monday, June 6, 2011

STEM Outreach

One of the things that's important to me is engineering outreach. I've even created a Page for my blog listing engineering outreach events that I'm aware of. A few of them are events that I competed in during my education. Several more are events that I have volunteered at.

Earlier this spring, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a Symposium honoring the 40th Anniversary of the Lunar Rover, as part of the Great Moonbuggy Race. The high school and college students asked the panelists a great many questions about their experiences on the moon and with the rover.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Engineering and Compost

Just in case anyone reading my previous blog post Got worms? wonders what composting and gardening has to do with engineering, here's the deal.

The National Academy of Engineering has developed a list of 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century.

One of the challenges on the National Academy of Engineering's list, is Manage the Nitrogen Cycle.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Got worms?

Last week, I posted about the different kinds of wealth there are in the world, and about how self-sufficiency can be a kind of wealth.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


If you have an hour available, I highly recommend the full video posted above linked. Professor Nancy Hopkins of MIT gives the keynote speech at a conference on The Status of Women in Science and Engineering at MIT. The transcript is also available from the website.

At 19 minutes into the speech, she mentions "I fled from feminists. I just wanted to be seen as a scientist."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I've been reading S.M. Stirling's Change series lately, which begins with the book:

The premise is that in 1998, something happens around the world which eliminates all of Earth's high technology, particularly electronics and explosives.  It's alternate "history," with both utopian and distopian elements.

But reading the series has had me thinking about wealth.

See, in the Dying Time that followed the Change, very few people in the cities survived.  All our stockbrokers in New York?  Turned cannibal and/or died.  Wealth did not necessarily mean survival.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Preschool Games

 I've been reading this book again:

One of the things I like about it is that it talks about child development, and about what skills the different games and activities we do as parents can help develop.  The book divides games into four large categories: Cognitive, Motor, Social, and Language.  Each large category has about 3 smaller categories, and each smaller category has 12 games.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ad Astra

I caught Gene Roddenberry's vision almost independently, when I was very young.  But as a student in Nebraska, I felt very alone.  Criticized for liking "boy things," there were very few who encouraged me to pursue engineering or my interest in space.

My senior year of high school, in the school library, I found a copy of a magazine, titled "Ad Astra," meaning "to the stars."  I loved the phrase, and used it as the tag line for my essay when I applied to Notre Dame.  They must have liked it too... but I didn't go there.