Category : Personal

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.

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.

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!

Christmas all year

The Ed Sullivan Theater on 7th in NYC and on my bathroom counter

I’m probably the most impatient person you’ll ever meet, or whose blog you’ll ever read. So, there’s no way I could wait 364 days every year for the next Christmas. Instead, I have favorite Christmas items that I keep in view all year round.

Miniature houses (of course). Why wrap them, put them away, and then unwrap them again, when Christmas will be back before you know it? This one acts as a night light in a bathroom (above).

Rockettes dance while I cook.

The Rockettes! Couldn’t do without them all year. They dance in my window box every day, behind a small Rockefeller Center tree.

Presents. Christmas shop all year. What else is that guest room dresser for?

Donations. A favorite tradition is donating a dollhouse to a holiday raffle at a local school. All year I put aside items that will end up in the house.

Ornaments. Many of my ornaments have a permanent place. Here’s a photo of a tractor ornament that hangs in my office, sent by a friend who lived in Iowa at the time.

Do you have any Christmas items that are a part of your year-round decor or do you make a clean sweep of all the red and green when December 26 dawns?

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Written

A while ago, the LadyKillers topic was “The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Written.”

Finally, an easy topic. Though there were a few contenders, this “limerick” from the last century has my top vote. I wrote it in the ’80s, and—wonder of wonders—SOLD it to a magazine for $25.

(OK, it’s an Underwood, but have you ever tried to write rhymes with underwood?)

Driving Miss Royal

There once was a writer named Royal.

To her keys and her carriage so loyal.

She knew how to white-out,

Typed books with the light out,

She really was quite a smart goyal.

Our Royal could type like a racer;

No one in sight could out pace her.

She typed with great speed

And never did need

Even a tiny eraser.

But poor Royal was out making copies

When they came with the wires and floppies.

A computer they brought her

And said that she ought-er

Start learning or go and plant poppies.

So Royal met up with a cursor

And her life just got worser and worser.

In spite of her wiles

She lost all her files

And spoke in words terser and terser.

Our writer friend couldn’t believe

That software could novels retrieve.

Her disks she would whack

With alas and alack

And for her lost typewriter grieve.

For many ’tis ever so tiring

To figure out manuals and wiring.

But our Royal’s a leader,

A mystery reader,

In days she was back in there firing.

Now Royal performs any feat

With options, escape, and delete.

She does her off-loading

With no more foreboding

And menus for her are a treat.

And now for the rest of the news:

Royal is off on a cruise.

From her PC
She gets efficiency.

There’s gold in them there CPU’s!

©Camille Minichino 1989 (Yes, I actually thought I needed to protect this!)

Giving Thinks

A redo of last year’s message, in case you missed it.

Last year around this time I visited a big box store to pick up a few things for our Thanksgiving table — here’s what I found among the paper plates and napkins:

Once my fellow shopper and I stopped laughing at the typo, we realized it wasn’t so inappropriate after all.

Yes, it’s important that we all stop to GIVE THANKS on this one special day each year. But it’s also important to GIVE THINKS, every day, to think about things and give others a reason to think.*

*In case you’re wondering if this is a deliberate play on words on the part of the manufacturer: Not. The label on the package identifies them as GIVE THANKS napkins and suggests they can also be used as GUEST GOWELS.

Wishing you a Happy Thinksgiving!

Vote!

A bipartisan set of quotes about voting , TUESDAY NOVEMBER 8.

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”  – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“It’s not the voting that’s the democracy; it’s the counting.” - Tom Stoppard

“Our political leaders will know our priorities only if we tell them, again and again, and if those priorities begin to show up in the polls.”  - Peggy Noonan

An eloquent quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

And finally, for a laugh:

“Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence than ours.”  – Grover Cleveland

Xtreme Halloween

The Real Me is always happy to welcome author and educator, JO MELE. This time she’s sharing a great Halloween story. The piece first appeared in Reminisce Magazine.

Halloween Trick or Treating

by Jo Mele

The Real Joey

My little brother Joey is the most determined; some call it stubborn, person I know. Joey loved Halloween and couldn’t wait to get home, sort his candy into piles, and eat all his favorites first.

When he was eight he had to miss trick or treating because he had a high fever. My mother’s decision to keep him in nearly drove Joey crazy. The pleading went on for hours until he gave my mother a headache and was sent to his room in tears.

I went around the neighborhood with two bags asking for a treat for my brother who was home sick. The neighbors were sorry to hear he was missing his favorite Holiday and were very generous to his sack. He didn’t even feel well enough to do his sorting and eating routine until the following weekend.

The next year Joey had two costumes ready, the pirate from last year and the new cowboy costume complete with boots and pearl handled Lone Ranger six-shooters he got for his birthday. He was counting the days to trick or treating. Unfortunately, he came down with the flu and couldn’t even stand. My mother did not allow him to go out into the frigid New York air.

I went around the neighborhood with his sack and mine and everyone said “Not again.” They poured goodies and change into his bag, and said he could buy what he liked when he felt better. He made two dollars but wasn’t happy.

When October came around again Joey was ready. He was ten years old, full of energy, had three unused costumes waiting to be worn. He was determined and on a mission. My parents had already decided they’d let him go trick or treating – no matter what. Halloween fell on a Saturday that year so Joey could rest before his long-awaited adventure and stay out late since it wasn’t a school night. It was a beautiful warm fall day and after whining “Can’t I start yet,” for the hundredth time, my mother gave in.

He was the first kid out and the last one home. When his trick-or-treat bag got heavy he came home, changed his costume and got another bag. He started over again, and again, determined to make up for lost time. He had the Halloween of his life.

When Joey finally dragged in saw his three bags full of goodies waiting for the sorting, he hugged them and burst into tears of joy. He’d won his battle with Halloween.

I admired his determination. He never gave up and wouldn’t settle for one round of trick-or-treating when he deserved three. I’m sure I would’ve quit after the first. Joey was no quitter, he needed to even the score, two traits he would carry with him for the rest of his life.