Monday, May 31, 2010

Welcome Home Layla!

About a month ago, the Dude noticed an ad online for a 15 month old Lab/shepherd mix who needed a good home. We gamely resisted for a few weeks and then the ad disappeared, so we assumed she'd been adopted. When the ad popped up again last week, we couldn't resist any longer and asked for pictures. 4 days later, Layla came home with us.

Who could resist this goofy face?

Layla is only 15 months old but she is a big girl weighing 80 pounds! The Dude summed up her personality perfectly as "that girl who is 6 feet tall in eighth grade." She hasn't quite grown into her body yet so she can be a little ungainly at times, but she and Max are having lots of fun running around! She came home Saturday morning, which worked out well because it gave us three full days at home for her to learn our routines and for us to adjust to being a two dog family.

Layla is a sweet girl who tries to lick your face when you pet her. Her hobbies include swimming in the kiddie pool, eating ice cubes, fighting with Max for toys, and sleeping. This dovetails in well with Max's hobbies, which include thinking about getting into the kiddie pool, eating ice cubes, fighting with Layla for toys, and sleeping.

We're so glad to have you here Layla! I hope all of you enjoyed your holiday weekend as much as we did!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Successful Failure

As the future of NASA is being molded, a lot of buzzwords are being thrown around. Game-changing. Bold. Innovative. One word that you probably aren't hearing with regard to NASA's future endeavors is "failure." And that can be a problem.

From the work I've done with NASA in the past few years, I have learned that we have an extremely risk-averse culture. I'm sure some of you are thinking "Well, isn't that a good thing? We don't want to repeat Challenger or Columbia." And that's true. Ignoring risks is dangerous. But in order to do great things, we have to be willing to evaluate risks and accept some of them. We aren't doing that right now and I worry that we aren't going to get where we want to go until we stop seeing risk as a red light and start seeing it as an opportunity for improvement, consideration, and evaluation.

Wayne Hale wrote an excellent blog post today explaining how failures can lead to exactly the kind of leaps for mankind NASA wants to be known for. I encourage everyone (NASA dorks and non-NASA dorks alike) to check it out. I especially liked his closing line:

Try something. Be bold, revolutionary, even game changing. Just don’t be surprised if you have to pick yourself up off the ground and dust off your pants from time to time. It’s the American way.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sloths in Motion

I have talked a lot about sloths on here but other than Sid in Ice Age, I haven't had much footage to share. That has all changed thanks to the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica. I particularly enjoyed the romantic Lady and Tramp spaghetti scene with two sloths and a green bean.

Meet the sloths from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wow. Just Wow.

I'm busy this week working on the current shuttle mission, for which I'm the lead in my group. It's without a doubt my favorite part of my job so it is bittersweet since this will be my last shuttle flight as a lead. It's easy to get bogged down in the day to day details and forget that the work I do is just plain cool.

Photos like this, though, remind me how amazing it is.

Yes, that is the International Space Station and space shuttle Atlantis passing in front of the sun. Incredible!

Friday, May 14, 2010

An Eloquent Letter

I am struggling to find the words to frame this letter. Nothing I can say will add to its eloquence. From a mother of a gay son, to the town newspaper.

Sunday, April 30, 2000
For the Valley News (White River Junction, VT)

Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.

I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.

He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.

You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.

At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.

If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."

You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.

How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage.

You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?"

Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?

(Source: via BoingBoing)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Odds and Ends

I keep thinking of things to write but not actually writing them, so I am just going to do a brain dump and start clean.

Thing 1:
13 Things that saved Apollo 13
I admit I haven't read this entire series yet but it's been really interesting so far. Amazing how much of it still applies to missions today.

Thing 2:

(no, not that Thing 1 and Thing 2)

I loved this video that Becca passed along. If only my childhood toys had included "barrier breaking feminist vision"!

Thing 3:
Right now I'm reading Sarah Vowell's latest book, The Wordy Shipmates. This woman cracks me up. Daily Show viewers and NPR listeners may recognize her as the nerdy snarky girl with the twangy voice (yeah, I know that's not too specific). When I read her writing, I can hear her speaking in my head and I know we'd have a great time hanging out together. It got me thinking about my ultimate ladies only dinner party. Only fabulous women would be invited, women who can hold their own talking about anything and still crack me up. They are all brilliant, fearless, and unafraid to speak their minds. Although I could go totally historical, there are too many options, so I narrowed it down to the past 100 years and came up with this list (in no particular order):
Sarah Vowell, author
Molly Ivins, journalist and author
Tina Fey, actress/comedienne
Frances Perkins, first female Cabinet member (loved this book about her)
Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady
Katharine Hepburn, actress
Julia Child, chef
Lillian Moller Gilbreth, industrial engineer (and mother of the Cheaper by the Dozen family)

Assuming my imaginary dinner table seats 12, that leaves me three more spots. Who else should I invite? (Note: Oprah will not be invited)

Thing 4:
When I write off the top of my head, I use an abundance of parentheses (do you mind??)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

Ok, so I admit that this might not be the most apt metaphor; I used my own alternate suggestion as the title of this post. That said, I absolutely agree that cutting library hours, staffing, and entire branches during a recession is a terrible idea. Libraries do a lot more than provide free novels to entertain us. They offer job search resources to those who can't afford it elsewhere. They offer training classes to give people critical skills. They serve as community centers and hubs for information. When resources are scarce, as they are now, it's important to carefully weigh decisions about what gets cut and what gets funded. Libraries might seem like an easy choice to cut but when you think about their true impact on the community, there's more than meets the eye. No matter what decisions your community, state, or country is faced with, take a moment to think through what we really lose when programs are cut.