Women of History: Sally Ride

When I was 8 years old, the film Apollo 13 came out.  I was immediately fascinated with the space program and its history.  My main focus was on the programs prior to the space shuttle so I never looked into the history of the space shuttle outside of general missions before recently.  However, one of my personal ‘heroes’ was Sally Ride, and I decided for this week to feature the first american woman in space.

Sally Kristen Ride was born on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents, while not scientists themselves, promoted her interest in exploring. When she was 12, she was able to see the first female cosmonaut in space, Valentina Tereshkova, take her turn.  It would be 1982 before another woman would enter space.

After graduating from a private high school she attended on tennis scholarship, she attended Swarthmore College.  Eventually she would transfer to Stanford University, where she would earn her bachelor degree in both english and Physics.  She continued her education in physics, eventually gaining her PhD in Physics in 1978.  Her main focus was lasers and astrophysics.

While finishing her doctorate, she answered an advertisement seeking applicants for NASA.  She was chosen to join in 1978, and would continue to be a part of NASA’s team for the next several decades. Her class of astronauts were the first to include women, and she was one of six. She didn’t immediately get on a shuttle.  Her first positions were as a communicator between the ground and the capsule for the second and third space shuttle flights (Columbia STS-2 and STS-3) in the early eighties.  She was also on the team to develop some of the technology that would be installed in later Shuttles, such as the Canada-Arm robotic arm.

In 1982, the USSR launched another woman into space, this time Svetlana Savitskaya.   It would be the following year that Sally got to be the first American woman to reach earth orbit.  Her first mission was the Challenger STS-7 mission.

Like every other astronaut she prepared for her mission, and did press conferences.Prior to the launch in June,  Sally did a press run.  People were fascinated with how a woman would deal with the rigors of space travel – although several questions were sexist in nature.  She was asked about her reproductive cycle, and if she cried if things went wrong. People at NASA wondered if she needed a 100 tampons on her trip.

On June 18, 1983, the Challenger launched and was in orbit for nearly seven days (returning to earth on June 24th).  Sally was on board with four other crew members, all but one rookies, and together they launched several satellites, and conducted experiments.  It also allowed her to use the arm she helped design. Overall it was a successful mission.

A year later, in 1984, Sally traveled into space again on the Challenger STS-41-G.  This mission lasted for nearly 9 days.  It was also a mission with several firsts.  It was the first time two women had served on the same mission (Sally and Kathryn Sullivan), and it also contained two foreign astronauts.  It was also a crew of seven, the most crew members that the shuttle had held to that point.  An IMAX camera was used to film the flight, and the footage was later used in the film ‘The Dream is Alive’.

Sally’s third mission was scheduled for the summer of 1986, but was cancelled when tragedy struck in January.  On January 28, 1986 the Challenger was launched, but never made it to orbit.  the ship exploded in mid-flight, leading to the deaths of all on board.  For the next two years, missions were scrubbed and a in-depth investigation took place to prevent it from happening again.  Sally was assigned to one of the teams investigating the operations.

After the end of the investigation, Sally was put in charge of putting together an Office of Exploration in DC and making plans for the future of NASA after such a tragedy.  This would be her last assignment for NASA, choosing to go into education afterwards.  However, it was not her last involvement with the agency.

In 1987 she started to work at Stanford as part of the Center for International Security and Arms control, and two years later she became a professor of physics at the University of California in San Diego.  She also became involved with NASA’s outreach programs to educate students and promote science and exploration. This would become a focus of Sally’s public life in the 90s and 2000s.

In 1985, she became involved with the love of her life, Tam O’Shaughnessy.  They had been long time friends, and their romantic relationship was kept private from the general public who didn’t know until after Sally’s death 27 years later.  Sally had been married once before, to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley, but that had ended in divorce in 1987.

Their relationship was also a professional one.  Sally and Tam wrote several children’s science books over the years, and founded the Sally Ride Science organization in 2001 which promoted education and women in STEM occupations.  After Sally’s death, Tam would continue to run the organization.  The organization also ran the Sally Ride Science Festival, an event to promote science.

Sally would also be the president of Space.Com (One of the sources below)

Sally would once again be asked to be part of the investigation of a tragedy, this time the disintegration of the Columbia spacecraft in February 1, 2003.  She was the only person to have served on both investigations.

Sally was private about her personal life, including when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early 2011.  On July 23, 2012 she died in her home in California.

After her death, she received several honors for her space travel and promotion of education and science.  President Barack Obama presented her posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, and during that same year she was honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  She received the highest honor given by the Space Foundation with General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award.

Perhaps Sally’s most important legacy is the one she has as woman.  Girls, like myself, grew up knowing they could make in space and in the science fields.  She promoted women in the STEM fields, and the education of children in space related sciences.  She also became posthumously a hero for the LGBTIA community.

In May 2018, the US Postal Service will be releasing a stamp in her honor.  This June will be the 35th Anniversary of her first mission into space.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Sally Ride
Wikipedia: STS-7
Wikipedia: STS-41-G /STS-17
Wikipedia: STS-61-M
Space.Com: Sally Ride
Sally Ride Science @ UC San Diago
NASA Biography: Sally K. Ride
A Brief History of menstruating in space
US Post Office Sally Ride Stamp

 

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Camp Nano Update

Author’s Note:  This was written on time, but then not posted till 2 days after it was supposed to be, so the dates are off in this.  

This post was a bit late in being posted.  I usually try and post around noon ET/EST but it doesn’t always work that way.  Part of it will be explained later in this post.

Today is the 18th, which means we are a bit past the halfway mark for April’s Camp Nano event.  For those of you just turning in, Camp Nano is a twice a year event in which writers gather to attempt to reach writing goals.  Its a spin off of the larger event, NanoWrimo that is held every November.  Unlike the Full Nano, Camp Nano is more personizable.  You can choose your word count, make cabins withyour friends who are also partispating and in general just have a good time.  Nano is a bit more focused, though just as fun.

This year, my goal was to write 30,000 words.  Not that hard for me usually, but it seems that life has other plans.  This month I have been continuously sick with a cold-slash-sinus infection which not only makes me an unhappy camper, it also makes my ability to write go down.  I just don’t feel like doing much of anything other then lay down and watch a show where people screw up cakes.  Most of my writing this month has been posts for this blog, and an email to my mother.

I’m still endeavouring to met my goal. I have a few days off in a row in the near future where I plan on resting (to get better) and writing (to get ot my goal).  Hopefully at the end of the month I can tell you I actually made it.  I’m probably about 15,000 words behind at this point, but I shall conquer the writer’s block!

I do think however that my goal of finishing two of my long-awaiting to be finished stories will not happen.  I’m almost finished with them, so hopefully within the next month I will finish.  I just don’t think it will happen this month at the rate I am going.  However, I will be finishing the pre-planned posts for this month.  Including Friday’s Women of History post, this time featuring astronaut Sally K. Ride, and Monday’s post which will be a list of writing resources.  If you have any favorites of your own, feel free to tell me.  I always welcome new suggestions to try out.

Hope your month is going well for you, and that this spring-in-winter’s-clothing ends soon so the germs will lay off.

Fandom Writing: The Importance of Trigger Warnings

WARNING:  This post mentions several triggering subjects in the course of covering Trigger Warnings.  

There has always been a debate on the use of trigger warnings..  Triggers are words and or images that can trigger adverse reactions in people who have suffered trauma or have various anxiety disorders. It also extends to things that people know, without having the anxiety, that they don’t care to see/here because its just not something they want to digest/handle.  People over the years have developed the idea of ‘Trigger Warnings’ to help people who have issues with these things avoid them, or at least be prepared to handle them if they still continue on.

Trigger warnings are important.  The debate on trigger warnings is that some people believe they are over used, and warning about things a person should be able to handle.  Others believe that not using it is showing a lack of compassion against those who have problems with triggers.  I am in the middle on this argument.  I believe common sense warnings about possible triggers is important and should be done.  However, if someone doesn’t write a trigger for something its not right to say they are not compassionate.  Perhaps it something they are unaware of being a trigger.

The common sense triggers are often built into archives.  Violence, character death, etc.  And it is already common to put tags to express when a fic has sexual content.  Its important to put these messages because not everyone is okay with everything.  Even if its not a trigger, some people simply don’t want to read smut, or want fluff only and no violence.  They might not want to read something descriptive in gore, or deals with a particular event or activity that makes them uncomfortable.

One of the generic ones is gore.  Some people don’t like the sight of blood or any other bodily fluid.  Sometimes its because an particular event, and sometimes it is just something the person knows they don’t like to see.  I used to have trouble remembering to tag these on posts because I wouldn’t think something was gorey, but then I would get messages asking for the tag.

If you are writing something that includes a sensitive topic, its a good idea to tag it, or make a warning in your chapter notes.  While you might not have a problem with it, or feel its important to your story, some people may just need to avoid that for their own personal reasons.   I have known people who refuse to tag stuff like this because they feel it gives the story away, but it would make it so much easier for people to avoid situations where they might be triggered.  It’s a courtesy to your readers. At the vary least it allows those who are picky about what they read the time to decide if your story will be one they choose.  It will also help those who have severe reactions to certain triggers to avoid them.

I think the fact that I have an anxiety disorder myself I understand the trigger system.  I am not triggered by anything written, but I can sympathise with those who are.  Sometimes surprise is not a good thing. So just take a few moments when you post your stories to think if there is anything worth tagging, anything that might trigger anxiety in people.  Things you should tag include sexual violence (including dubious consent), fertility issues (like miscarriage and stillbirth), detailed violence and torture.  Respect requests for added tags as well.

 

Bookit Review: Love Bites

Title: Love Bites
Bookit #10
Author: Skye Turner & Amanda Lanclos
Release Date:  November 11 2017
Medium: Kindle E-book  (Kindle Unlimited)

When I spotted this book on the ‘You May Like’ list, I thought it sounded cute and decided to read it.  It sat in the not-read pile for awhile but I finally got down to reading it this month…and I was disappointed.

The book description warns you that it is a book for adult readers.  Normally this doesn’t bother me as I am an of age reader.  However, by the end of the book it was too much.  The book was almost all sex scenes, with very little plot.  What little plot there was wasn’t very good and the whole book comes out as a shallow story.  While I don’t mind the occasional love scene, I prefer it to compliment the story, not be the entire story.

The story at first seemed to have some merit, but it soon stopped being a story.  It jumps time with no warning, and most of the non-sex scenes are just a few paragraphs leading to a new sex scene.  And I didn’t think they were written all that well.

I don’t know if it was perhaps the 1st person narration (Done with two characters alternating) or the fact that it just seemed rushed and nothing holding it together.  Either way, this book gets a strong C-.  I feel it could do alot better if they had added more to the plot so it didn’t seem like out of nowhere at the end, and developed the characters a little more so I actually cared about what was going on.

I may give the authors another chance individually, but I don’t see myself continuing this series when they do continue it. The other reviewers on Goodreads apparently disagree with me, so perhaps it was just me.

Ship & Let Ship

This post is actually linked to my last writing post.  The villainization of characters is a common trait among ship wars, and that is a part of today’s post.

Fandom in general is a fun, happy place for people to join together and enjoy something.  Be it a sport, a book, a movie or a TV show. If it’s a collection of fans of something, its a fandom.

However, particularly in the fictional work driven fandoms (Tv, books, movies etc) there is a dark element that pops up from time to time.  It’s called a Ship War. A ship, for those who are wondering, is a term for a pairing you prefer to see in a relationship. Most people have ships and have no problems letting others have their own ships.  Some, however, do seem to have a problem and make fandom less friendly, less happy and less enjoyable.

My first experience with a ship war was in the Doctor Who fandom.  I was late to the game, having watched but not been sucked in till I rewatched season 1 of the second series (or Nine’s tenure if you prefer) after catching an episode of Torchwood and Season 2 of Doctor Who.  I found myself really enjoying it, and immediately started shipping Rose/Doctor. I found that the Doctor Who fandom is thriving and has many little niches and sub fandoms. There was a lot out there, from fanfic, to fan made videos, and academic meta.  You can find a lot.

But one day, while surfing through various social media and fanfic sites, I started noticing something.  A strange undercurrent in the fandom. It turned out there was a division in shippers who prefered Rose and those who prefered Martha, his next companion, as a romantic interest.  I personally love Martha, though I found her season a little hard to watch. I found fanfics where either Martha was downgraded to a women who clung and became obsessed with the Doctor, totally ignoring the kickass character you saw on-screen or Rose likewise turned into a caricature of her characterization.  It just depended on what the author/video editor decided was the ship of choice. People took it further than that, and it made me back off for a while and want to rant about the fandom.

Sherlock, a television series based on Sherlock Holmes, was another fandom I saw this in.  However this fandom war made me completely drop the fandom. It made me uncomfortable enough that I have yet to go back and watch the show after season 2.  In particular one following of a ship decided to not only be horrible to other fans, they were horrible to actors whose character had, in their point of view, got in the way of their ship.

More recently I have come across a shipper war in The 100 fandom.  I came into the show, enjoying it. I liked the show, liked the books.  I was (and still am) a Bellarke (Bellamy & Clarke) shipper. I could argue why I felt they were the endgame couple.  On the screen, Clarke and Bellamy both had various other love interests. In particular, Clarke fell in love with Lexa, a character I didn’t care  for that much due to some writing issues. However I saw shippers on both side go to extremes to fight each other on it. Bellarke fans would exaggerate Lexa’s bad qualities, and Clexa shippers would state that Bellarke shippers were homophobic (whether they are or not as individuals can be debated.  It’s a poor generalization of a ship following however). They threw petty insults towards each other, but not in a fun “we all love each other anyway” sort of way. To the point I avoid the main 100 threads and tags because I’m always finding something happening.  And I’m not alone. I have heard stories from various fandoms where someone choose to leave or just stick to very specific tags because of overall tension due to a ship war.

There is a difference between good-hearted debate between shippers and shipper wars.  I have had conversations with my friends who have had different ships. For example, one of my best friends and I often disagree on shipping Jack & Gwen in Torchwood.  It’s good-natured debate. I have several friends who ultimately hate Trip/T’Pol from Star Trek: Enterprise. Yet when I write it/talk about it, they shrug and it’s the same when they talk about their prefered ship (Trip & Hoshi is a popular one).  The point is – we ship and let ship. We have our ships, our OTPS, our crackships and our “they are cute, so maybe” ships. They aren’t always the same. But we enjoy the same fandom, enjoy our friendships and our mutual love for whatever it is we are fanning.   We don’t go warring against each other over a disagreement with a ship. We don’t attack the actors who are just doing their job for getting in the way. We don’t let our shipping take over our lives, and our fandom enjoyment.

If you do not like a ship, do not read it.  Don’t write it. Treat your fellow fandomers with respect, and let others ship what they want to ship.  Yelling at them won’t change their mind, abusing them certainly won’t, and abusing characters in your writing will just make people avoid it.  It can also make people just peeking into the fandom run away from it.

If you don’t like a type of ship (be it slash, femslash, or het) don’t click on fics that use it.  Don’t target authors who write a ship you hate and give them bad reviews. I actually had this happen to me as a writer.  I saw a review, and got excited that someone had taken the time to leave one. When I opened the review up, I found a rant on how my couple was disgusting and how I should be ashamed to ship them. I was bewildered, and I know of others who have gotten similar reviews.  Once a friend and I decided to do a fic exchange. I wrote (well, am writing as I never finished it….meep!) a Jack/Ianto fic while she wrote a Jack/Gwen fic. She got a review that called her a homophobe for writing a bisexual character with a woman. Beyond the fact that it wasn’t even changing the sexuality of the character, it was confusing as to why this person took the time to seek out a Jack/Gwen fic and berate someone.  

So in the end, enjoy your ships and let other people enjoy their own.  Fandom is supposed to be fun, not somewhere someone is made to feel uncomfortable, or berated.

 

Women of History: Saruhashi Katsuko

This week we travel to modern Japan.  Katsuko Saruhashi was a Japanese geochemist and became known for creating the tools to test for Co2 levels in water.  This lead to the discovery of radioactive fallout in the waters around Japan after the 1954 Bikini Atoll nuclear tests.

Katsuko was born on March 22, 1920 in Tokyo, Japan.  As a child she became interested in the dynamics of rain and water, and it would be an interest that would drive her career.  There is not much available from online sources about her childhood, but her career has a lot more out there.

She graduated with a degree in chemistry from the Imperial Women’s College of Science, which would later become Toho University.  She started a career in research at the Meteorological Research Institute.  It had a geochemical laboratory, which she would become the executive director of eventually.

While she started her research, she also continued her studies.  She graduated with a doctorate in 1957 from the University of Tokyo. She made history for the university becoming the first women to graduate with a Doctorate in Chemistry.

Her main study was the carbon dioxide levels in seawater. It was a relatively new area of study, and she was forced to improvise in her methods.  She developed methodologies and tools to be used with the study. Eventually she discovered that sea water has 60% more carbon dioxide then the air above it and gives off twice as much as it absorbs.  Her paper, published in 1955, would serve as the basis of oceanography study for three decades when it came to carbonic acid measurements, and aided to the developing understanding of climate change and global warming.

She became involved in another ocean related study in the late 1950s, when the Japanese government asked the laboratory to conduct tests on the radioactivity of the water surrounding the Bikini Atoll testing site.

In March of 1954, the United States completed “Operation Castle” which was a series of high-yield nuclear tests to develop aircraft viable nuclear weapons.  The sites for this operation were held across several Islands in Marsha Islands, particularly Bikini Atoll where there were 3 test sites. Atolls were islands made from volcanic rock receding leaving a coral reef remains, surrounding a lagoon.  They often appear as small circles of land around a center water area.  Several of reefs above ground become small islands to make up the atoll.

One test, known as Castle Bravo, detonated twice its predicted yields, and ended up contamination several nearby islands, as well as US Soldiers stationed in the area and a Japanese fishing boat known as the Daigo Fukuryu Maru.  One person died as a direct result of the test, but many continued to have health problems.  This brought the test to the Japanese government’s attention.

The tests and research the lab did proved that the fall out of radioactive activity did not simply affect the immediate area of the incident.  The fall out could travel via the ocean and air.   It was the first study of its kind.  They continued to watch the waters till into the 1970s, finding that the radioactive particles from Bikini Atoll had reached the other side of the Pacific Ocean.  This test and those that followed helped the push for a Test Ban Treaty, limiting the fall out of radioactive bomb testing.

However, her results weren’t always trusted.  Several times the fact that she was female, and because she was not an American, her studies were questioned.  However she succeeded to prove her scientific discoveries again and again, earning her the respect she was already due.

In 1979, Katusko was named the executive director of the Geochemical Laboratory.  She continued to investigate water chemistry, focusing on acid rain and its effects.

Over her years as a scientist, she won many awards. She was able to establish the Society of Japanese Women Scientists (1958) to promote women in the sciences.  After her retirement in 1980, she took a gift of 5 million yen and used it to establish an organization looking for the future of women scientists.  It was called the Association for the Bright Future of Women Scientists. In 1981, she established an award in her own name known as the Saruhashi Prize, which was given to a female scientist whose studies are in the natural sciences who has been a good role model for younger women scientists. 37 women have received the award since its inception.  In the further reading section, I’ve included a link to a page on Wikipedia that lists the recipients.  Several have their own pages and it’s a good start to researching women in science in Japan.

Saruhashi Katusko died on September 29, 2007.  Her image appeared this year as a Google Doodle on what would have been her 98th birthday.  She left behind a legacy of science, and of determination to see that other women could achieve the success that she found.

A quote I have found in various sources seems to show her view:

“There are many women who have the ability to become great scientists. I would like to see the day when women can contribute to science & technology on an equal footing with men.”

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Saruhashi Katsuko

Newsweek: Who was Katsuko Saruhashi?

Wikipedia: Operation Castle

Wikipedia: Bikini Atoll

Wikipedia: Sarahashi Prize

Japanese Femist Debates: A Life Story of Sarauhashi Katsuko – Sumiko Hatakeyama

A to Z of Women in Science in Math – Lisa Yount

 

(writer’s note:  I found that there was a lack of variety of sources for this particular feature with the time I had for researching.  I, like always, suggest doing some research on your own on the women you find interesting.  )