Women in Science, continued

Most exciting book I’ve read this year: WOMEN IN SCIENCE – 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, by Rachel Ignotofsky.

Here’s a sample — not that you can read the text, but to show the fun illustrations. This page spread is for RITA LEVI-MONTALCINI, Italian neurologist and senator.

The biographies are detailed enough to whet your appetite; the side bars give you a glimpse into these amazing lives. Montalcini, for example, in spite of being treated badly by the Italian government during WWII, persevered in her lab work and won a Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. She worked until her death at 103 years old.

I Love STEM

Emmy Noether (1882-1935)  German mathematician known for her landmark contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics.

Bear with me. Only two more Thursdays after this one, in Women’s History Month.

Today, I’m going to resurrect an anti Women’s History blog, or at least an anti Women in STEM blog, featuring the otherwise wonderful Angelina Jolie.

The movie was a long time ago — “Salt,” 2010. I’d like to think this scene would have a different ending today. Here it is:

A great action scene: Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is on the run from the bad guys. She’s crawling along the side of a building, several stories up, holding on for dear life. In her backpack is an adorable little dog. She slips, she recovers, she enters a window and crashes into a room where a little girl is doing her homework. She asks the little girl to take care of her dog.

What a heroine! The little girl is in awe of this wonder woman. Salt has only a few moments to spare for the child, who tells Salt that she’s having trouble with her math homework. The little girl looks at Salt adoringly, waiting for a word. We know she’ll remember the next words for the rest of her life. What an  opportunity for Salt.

What message does Salt leave the little girl with? I held my own breath, waiting.

“I hate math,” Salt says.

What? Not “Let me show you. Math is fun.” or “Do your math and you’ll be like me when you grow up.” Not cool, apparently.

It’s not just Angelina. How many times have you heard the same thing — “I hate math” or “I hate physics” from the mouths of movie and TV stars?  Did every screenwriter in Hollywood flunk algebra? Is this the revenge of the C student as many physicists cried out when the Superconducting Supercollider was scrapped by Congress?

Maybe we need an I Love STEM postcard campaign.

Women in Space

While we’re focusing on women’s history—

Valentina in 2004. She was 25 at the time of her flight.

Earlier this week we celebrated the birthday (March 6, 1937) of Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who was the first woman to travel into space. (What you missed it?)

Valentina was launched in Vostok 6 on June, 16, 1963. After 48 orbits and 71 hours, she returned to earth, having spent more time in space than all U.S. astronauts combined to that date. She was honored with the title Hero of the Soviet Union. She went into space two decades before America’s first woman astronaut, Sally Ride. She earned a doctorate in engineering and continues to work for world peace.

Once you are at this faraway distance, you realize the significance of what it is that unites us. Let us work together to overcome our differences. – Valentina Tereshkova

Here’s a list of other women in space, and a tour of a space ship.


Women’s History Month

President Jimmy Carter initiated March as Women’s History Month by designating one week, the week of March 2-8, 1880 as Women’s History Week.

Here are some inspiring images from the Library of Congress:

America’s first Suffragette parade, marching up Broadway to Union Square, New York, February 1905.


Women marching with a banner “National Woman Suffrage” at the Woman Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., March 3, 1913.


Photo of Solita Solana, leader of a parade on Beacon Street in Boston, 2015.


Ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote.

Irritating Reads

What good is a rant if you can’t reuse it?

Here’s my latest, on The LadyKillers blog a couple of weeks ago.

One of my biggest pet peeves in crime fiction is HEAD-HOPPING. You know what I mean – the practice of switching point of view within a scene.

I spend a good deal of time discussing POV with my writing students, and invariably one will point out a best-selling author who does this willy nilly (at random, every which way, here and there, all over the place, in no apparent order).

After I ungrit my teeth, I try to explain. And I try to find good articles on the topic. Here are a couple of favorites.

http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2014/04/30/head-hopping-fiction-writing/

http://theeditorsblog.net/2011/09/10/head-hopping-gives-readers-whiplash/

https://ellenbrockediting.com/2013/11/26/the-difference-between-omniscient-pov-and-head-hopping/

Head-hopping is common and acceptable in the romance genre:

As Billy Bob and Sally Jo danced, he felt he was in heaven and she couldn’t wait for the last chord.

But in a romance, it’s the relationship that’s the main character, the romance matters more than either Billy Bob or Sally Jo.

Head-hopping in a mystery, however, is detrimental to the story. The best-selling author (I’ll call her P. L.) who invaded my class most recently at least plays “fair,” in that she gets into the head of every principal character except one—the killer’s, of course. So, after four or five head-hopping chapters, you can identify the killer.  He’s the one whose thoughts you’re not privy to. Booo.

Another best-selling author (I’ll call him S. J.) cheats! You get into the head of every character, including the killer, but while you’re in the killer’s head, he “acts” as innocent as all the others, wondering what the killer’s motive was, how the killer managed to escape, and so on.

Both the cheating and the non-cheating versions are IRRITATING. (Yes, I’m shouting.)

Now—your turn!

Does head-hopping bother you? What does?

CryptoWeek

A clue to the cryptoquote

In keeping with my proclamation of February as mathematics and puzzle month, here’s a cryptoquote for your solving pleasure.

As usual, there’s a prize for the first 3 correct answers emailed to camille@minichino.com

AHUDMVUAVA BIDPF PQJLV BJUMC CIDPV VTUMCA; DMCUMDDIA BJ VTDF.

– EPFDA FUHTDMDI

The Best Team Wins–Again?

It has been said that I can turn anything into a reason to celebrate. Even Super Bowl. Even though I know only the first thing about football: you have to make touchdowns and they’re 6 points at a crack, kind of like a super home run.

Every year we invite “Mary and John Smith” to watch with my husband (The Cable Guy), shifting recliners around to accommodate the three, each with his or her own TV tray. They bring snacks; we provide dinner. While they watch the game, I hide in my office.

And every year, I join the group for the last minutes of the game, so I’ll know when to take the roast out of the oven. During those last minutes, they try to teach me what a conversion is and how a tie is broken in overtime.

This year was special, apparently—the first overtime (that’s extra innings) and a big comeback by the Patriots. Mary, John, and the Cable Guy had been rooting for Atlanta. I wondered why.

“How come you’re rooting for Atlanta?” I asked. “Do you know someone from there?”

John answered first. “Because the Patriots always win.”

The others agreed:

“This would be the fifth year in a row for the Pats.” Mary held up her hand, 5 fingers splayed, as if to show how that would be a travesty of the sport.

“Someone else needs to win for a change,” John added.

And so on.

Now, for years I’ve been hearing about how sports are so fair and apolitical. There are rules, and there’s performance. That’s all it’s about. You know, “may the best team win.”

So what’s wrong with one team winning 5 in a row? Or 20 in a row, if they’re the best? No one claims they’re cheating, not following the rules, so why shouldn’t the best be rewarded?

The same argument—they’ve won too often—was used in the past with respect to the New York Yankees. Too many pennants. They always win.

My opinion? (You knew it was coming): it’s another way to devalue excellence, experience, performance. Another example of the “Good job” syndrome, where there are no real standards, and someone gets an award simply for showing up, or because his feelings might be hurt, or because it’s his turn.

When did it become boring to reward excellence?

I’ll resist making the application to politics.

Oops, I guess I couldn’t resist.

Brainteaser Day

Here’s a second chance to win a copy of one of the Professor Sophie Knowles mysteries. You may remember that Sophie, who teaches math at a small New England college, loves to solve puzzles and to create them.

Try this one:

A woman is stuck on an island. The island is surrounded by man-eating sharks and a single bridge is the only option to return to the mainland. Halfway across the bridge there’s a guard. The guard won’t let anyone from the mainland to the island, or anyone from the island to the mainland. If the guard catches someone, he sends him or her back. All day and night the guard sleeps for 30 seconds and then is awake for 5 minutes. It takes 1 minute to cross the bridge.

The woman thinks of a way to get across. How does she cross the bridge without getting caught?

The first three to email me with the/a correct answer will get a copy of a Sophie book.

Democracy in action

This week, it’s hard to write about anything other than my participation in one of the marches last Saturday, January 21,2017.

Friend and fellow author Ann Parker and I took ourselves to New York City to join the Women’s March. We’ll never have an exact number of marchers, but I’m going with the 400,000 suggested by Mayor Di Blasio’s office.

It’s not my first rodeo <grin> (remember the 60s?), but I’ll never forget the experience of having so many people—men, women, and children—united, smiling at strangers, proudly waving hand-made posters, pressing together in solidarity, with no reported “incidents”.

For those who might wonder “why” these marches all over the world, this video offers one of the best explanations of the NYC march.

And this is my offer of proof that I was there!

The most important part of the day, next to the sheer numbers, was visiting the “activist room” at the HQ hotel — tables of people/info on various political groups with a specific cause to learn about or join. The idea is that the incredible events on Saturday should be followed by constant and consistent action, even if it’s only an email, a petition signed, or a phone call to a local rep, on a regular basis.

Doesn’t this seem like a good idea, no matter which side you’re on?

Take one! Almost as good as being there.

As a bonus for handing out buttons for 3 hours, I got to take a bag home. Want one? Comment here and let me know if you want large (~2″ diam) or small (~3/4″ diam) or a couple of each. As long as supply lasts!

Can You Go Home Again?

Never waste a good rant, I say, so I’m reposting this blog from LadyKillers.

Question: Can you go home again?

Answer: Certainly! The GPS in my car has a menu item: GO HOME.

But that’s probably not in the spirit of the question the LadyKillers asked.

So, I’ll go back to Western Civ, that all-purpose liberal arts course, for a pithy answer. Here’s Heraclitus, one of my favorite pre-Socratics:

No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

That could be the end of it, except for the strange coincidence that an old friend recently posted a video of my hometown, “So Good (The Boston Song)” a “pop anthem” kickstarter project c. 2011.

A nice beat, but to listen to it, you’d think Boston was famous for pro sports and nothing else.

No mention of its Revolutionary War history, the Freedom Trail, neighborhoods like the North End and Southie (remember “Mystic River”?). And no mention of Boston as a center of learning, with 35 colleges and universities, not even including Harvard, MIT, and others across the Charles River in Cambridge. Boston has more than 150,000 students, more than the population of Berkeley, California.

What about the Boston Pops, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, the world-class aquarium.

All of this, and Boston is first known for the Bruins and Fenway Park?

Leave it to me, huh, to go from a Greek philosopher to an anti-sports rant in less than 300 words.