Today is the 30th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12 noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.

[Copied over from Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mabfan/posts/10101583702080131 ]

Okay folks. This is about to get somewhat personal, but I feel I owe it to Robin Williams to note this.

I saw Dead Poets Society when it first came out, when I was still in college. At the time, I knew that part of my eventual career path would take me into teaching. I had had many teachers I loved (and yes, I was very lucky for it) and I did what I could to learn from them how to be a teacher.

But I also studied the character of John Keating, the teacher that Williams played in Dead Poets Society. And I tell all my former students now: I tried to model a lot of how I interacted with you guys on him. It's a lot harder to do it with Physics and Mathematics than with Poetry, but I tried to show you how much a part of the world those things were too. I tried to share my passion for Science with you, so that even if you didn't like Science, you could appreciate the passion. So that you could go out and find that passion of your own.
I also tried to show you all what the world was like. That it's filled with glory, and wonder, and hope, and dreams, along with all the gloom that comes along with being human.

Most of all, though, I tried to let you know that you all mattered.

One of my most precious possessions is a letter from one of my former students, who apparently felt suicidal at times in high school. She was one of many students I engaged with as a teacher, and I had no idea -- absolutely none -- what she was going through at the time. Some students you can tell are dealing with a tough time and you do what you can to help them through it. But others appear happy and cheerful, and you have no idea what's bubbling under inside. I'm privileged to have learned years later from a few of those students how much I helped them without even realizing it.

And as for the letter I mentioned... It's a letter in which this former student of mine basically told me that I kept her from killing herself in high school. I was gobsmacked when I received it some time after she had graduated. Not to make this about me, but in a way it was validation of everything I had been trying to accomplish. I made many sacrifices in my life during the time I was teaching, but apparently I had managed to save a life, without even realizing it. It meant that I mattered too.

And you matter too, folks. You all do. That was the message that Williams's character was trying to get across in Dead Poets Society, and that was the message I was trying to get across to you. And when I see one of you post about an achievement in your life, or when I think of those of you who came to help me out when my kids were born, I feel like I succeeded in some small way.

Robin Williams mattered too. I'd like to think that he knows that again.

And I thank you all. Let us take his legacy, our legacy, and make the best of ourselves that we can.

[Tom Schulman's words, spoken by Robin Williams as John Keating: "They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary."]
Our latest The Brookline Parent column, Rights and Wrongs, is a little…political. I tackle the question of what the McCullen v. Coakley decision means to me, and to Brookline.
Today is the anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.
Meanwhile, over on Facebook, I posted the following:


I have a slightly more prosaic question about the Rolling Stone cover.

From what I understand, the photograph of the bomber running on the cover of Rolling Stone is a selfie, meaning that the bomber took the photo himself, of himself. According to US copyright law, the photographer generally owns the copyright to any photograph he or she takes (unless a previous arrangement is made). Doesn't that mean that the bomber owns the copyright on this photo? If so, what legal right does Rolling Stone have to publish the photo on their cover?

Is it some sort of fair use? Are they simply violating the bomber's copyright? Are they (and I would hate to think this is the case) paying the bomber a standard licensing fee for the photo?

Does anyone know?

(Please keep comments on this topic only.)


It's led to a lot of interesting discussion. Here's a link for anyone interested in reading the thread:

Facebook Thread: Copyright and that Rolling Stone Cover
More pictures of the memorial. Someone moved it to the side, and many more items and messages have been left. Scroll over each photo for the title.

Memorial 2013-04-18


Messages to Boston


More Messages to Boston


Memorial Again


Messages and a Medal


Messages, Again


Even More Messages


Hands of Hope


I'm So Sorry This Happened


People Photographing Memorial


A Moment of Contemplation


News Cameras


An Empty Boylston Street


Look Down Boylston Street


News Trucks

For those who want to know or need to know, I am checking in. I am fine. I was not at the office today, so I am nowhere near the explosions. We are home safe, reporting in at 3:10 pm EDT. — with [personal profile] gnomi.
In the wake of last week's news out of Newtown, CT, [livejournal.com profile] gnomi and I use this week's The Brookline Parent column at Brookline Patch to write an open letter to our daughters.

Click to read Dear Muffin and Squeaker.
In the year 2000, I wrote a scene for the story "Kaddish for the Last Survivor," in which the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor gets a tattoo on her arm to honor her grandfather. The story, which appeared in the November 2000 Analog, was nominated for the Hugo and the Nebula and is probably my best-known story.

Just last week, the New York Times ran an article about people doing this for real.

I've posted my thoughts on this at the Apex blog today.
On September 29, 1988, over two years after the United States manned space program had been grounded due to the Challenger tragedy, mission STS-26 launched into space. The space shuttle Discovery, now retired, took our hopes and dreams back into space with it.

A few weeks later (I forget the exact date although I suppose I could look it up somewhere), I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Sally Ride, America’s first woman astronaut who went into space. Dr. Ride had been scheduled to give a talk at Radcliffe, and as the talk was open to everyone, including Harvard students, I made a point of attending. I was a sophomore Physics major, and also a space enthusiast, even if I had been born too late to appreciate the Apollo program and the Moon landings. Like many of my generation, the shuttle program was ours, and we followed it with the fervor a previous generation had followed Mercury and Gemini.

The auditorium was filled, of course, but not overflowing, and I was surprised that an astronaut of her stature had not brought out even more people. As it was, Dr. Ride was there to speak about the role of and opportunities for women in science, and her visit had been advertised mostly by posters in the Yard. It’s possible that some who might have attended just didn’t know, or weren’t interested in the topic. It’s too bad for them, for they missed an amazing and enthusiastic talk.

The first thing I remember about seeing Sally Ride was how incredibly, well, slight and tiny she was. Her presence had loomed large when the media reported on her. I recall that she was featured on the cover of People magazine, with huge 1980s-style hair, and I guess in my mind she was this towering figure. I was shocked to discover that she was so much smaller than I, given how insignificant I felt in her presence. But she more than made up for it with her eyes. One look into her eyes and you could tell this was an astronaut with the sharpest mind in the program.

Ride began her talk by apologizing, but given recent events she was less interested in sticking to the topic advertised and more interested in discussing the space program. And she did, using the launch of Discovery as a springboard to explain how important a manned space program was for the country and the human race in general.

There was a Q&A session at the end of the talk, and somehow I gathered up the courage to approach the microphone and ask her a question. I even recall my question, one quite fitting for the science fiction geek that I am. I asked Ride why NASA hadn’t chosen to refurbish Enterprise instead of spending the money to build a brand new shuttle; wouldn’t it have been cheaper? Ride gently explained to me that the Enterprise was actually little better than a balsa wood model and it would have taken even more money to make it ready for space.

After the talk ended, Dr. Ride said she would stick around for more questions, and I was one of a group that gathered closer for more conversation. Now comes the part I’ve always been proud of. Among the group of us was this guy, much larger than either Dr. Ride or myself, who kept trying to get her attention by calling her “Sally.” This annoyed me on her behalf. Perhaps he felt a certain familiarity with her because he felt he knew her from the media, but I thought it was disrespectful. This was a woman who had earned a Ph.D. from studying astrophysics and lasers; she deserved to be addressed properly. I spoke over this man, called her “Dr. Ride,” and I was pleased when he followed my lead and began calling her Dr. Ride as well. When that happened, she flashed me a quick smile, and I like to think I did a tiny bit that day to promote the cause of women in science.

I never met Dr. Ride again, but I continued to draw inspiration from her life story. I’ll be sure to share it with my daughters when they are old enough. I might not be a woman, but Dr. Ride was just as much as role model for me.

May she soar in peace.
Squeaker has recently started to tell us that there are snakes in her crib when she wants to be taken out. Her imagination reminded me of my own at her age, as I too remember being afraid of things that weren't really there.

Unfortunately, as the parent now and not the child, I find that there are some real fears out there, not as benign as imaginary snakes in a crib.

In my The Brookline Parent column at Brookline Patch this week, I discuss some of these things that happened last week and last month, and how they've affected me.

If that's too heavy for you, there's a cute picture of Squeaker and Muffin with a funny caption.

So, go read Snakes in a Crib for the picture and the great quote from [livejournal.com profile] osewalrus, if nothing else.

Earthquake

Aug. 23rd, 2011 02:33 pm
Felt it in Boston. I've been updating on Facebook and Twitter (@mabfan) and checking in with people. Short version: Nomi and I both felt it in our downtown offices, but the kids at home apparently slept through it.
Banner headlines fascinate me.

Part of it is because my father was a newspaperman, and so I'm interested in journalism in general. But even beyond that, a banner headline implies history-making news. After all, the choice of publishing a headline that fills all the columns on the top of the newspaper implies that this story is much more important than the usual story.

Banner headlines illustrate the fact that deciding what is significant while you are living through it is a fallible human decision. An editorial board has to make the decision that this particular news story is really that important, and if history judges otherwise, the editors might end up appearing a little foolish or short-sighted. Of course, by then, people will probably have forgotten.

(The Onion played up this human element to banner headlines quite well in their book "Our Dumb History." For the onset of World War II, the banner headline is in a huge font that reads "WA-" with a note that the headline is continued on an inside page.)

As it is, the main paper I read is the New York Times, and so it's their banner headlines that I "collect," for lack of a better term. The Times is a pretty good paper for banner headlines, as they are more conservative when it comes to running banner headlines than many other papers. Although they started publishing in 1851, they didn't run their first banner headline until April 16, 1912, for the sinking of the Titanic:

TITANIC SINKS FOUR HOURS AFTER HITTING ICEBERG;
866 RESCUED BY CARPATHIA, PROBABLY 1250 PERISH;
ISMAY SAFE, MRS. ASTOR MAYBE, NOTED NAMES MISSING

(Note the use of all-caps, as opposed to capital letters only at the beginning of words. That's another decision editors have to make when it comes to banner headlines.)

This past week has been a good one for "collectors," as we just came off a streak of banner headlines. From January 29 through February 3, for six days straight, the New York Times ran daily banner headlines about the crisis in Egypt. That streak ended today, although they did run a five-column, two-line headline about the ongoing crisis. Part of me was hoping for more, but in a way, the fewer banner headlines, the better.

If you missed them, here they are:

1/29/11:
Mubarak Orders Crackdown, With Revolt Sweeping Egypt

1/30/11:
Egyptians Defiant as Military Does Little to Quash Protests

1/31/11:
In Egypt, Opposition Unifies Around Government Critic

2/1/11:
Mubarak's Grip Is Shaken as Millions Are Called to Protest

2/2/11:
MUBARAK WON'T RUN AGAIN, BUT STAYS;
OBAMA URGES A FASTER SHIFT OF POWER

2/3/11:
MUBARAK'S BACKERS STORM PROTESTORS
AS U.S. CONDEMNS EGYPT'S VIOLENT TURN

My understanding is that a streak of banner headlines is not uncommon during times of war, although I don't know what the New York Times overall record is. I do know that I lived through their record for peacetime banner headlines, which took place in November 2000. For twenty days in a row they ran banner headlines about the presidential election (which, you may recall, dragged on due to the balloting problems in Florida). Their last banner headline for the election was published on November 27, 2000, while the recount was still dragging on:

BUSH IS DECLARED WINNER IN FLORIDA,
BUT GORE VOWS TO CONTEST RESULTS

(The previous record was seventeen days in a row, from September to October 1919, when many unrelated events happened close together, including a steel strike, race riots, and a World Series.)

I worry about the fate of the banner headline. If newspapers eventually become completely digital, how will editors decide what "today's" headline is? With headlines changing by the minute, will there be a way to measure a streak of daily banner headlines? If not, the world of journalism will be poorer for it.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.
On a personal note, I've got a lot to do this week, so expect me to be scarce.

On a broader note, however, I didn't want the tragedy in Tucson to recede another day into the past without saying something about it. The problem is, most of what I would say has already been said by others, and I'm not sure I have anything significant to add. Save for this one piece of irony.

I am glad to know of Christina Taylor Green, but I wish I had not come to know of her until years later, when she (presumably) would have run for office.

I hugged Muffin and Squeaker extra long tonight.
I may have more to say about Salinger later, but I am amused to note that the NY Times web obituary of Salinger currently includes this line:

"Quote TK from Salinger’s agent about surviving manuscripts, if any, and plans for them."
Today is the 24th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.
I subscribe to breaking news updates from a local television station on my iPhone, and on Tuesday afternoon I received two updates within the space of a few hours that made me wonder exactly what defines a breaking news item. Which of these is important enough to warrant sending a message out to subscribers?

The first breaking news update was that Conan O'Brien was refusing to do The Tonight Show at 12:05 following Jay Leno.

The second breaking news update was that a 7.3 magnitude earthquake had hit Haiti.

The second one kind of puts the first one in perspective, doesn't it?

To Conan's credit, even in his own public letter bemoaning the unfairness of his situation, he acknowledges how lucky he really is to be in his position. As many of my friends might say, Conan is dealing with a first-world problem, and nothing made that clearer than the sudden third-world problem the citizens of Haiti found themselves facing.

I help organize a weekly political discussion lunch at work on Wednesdays, and people who gathered were interested in discussion both Leno/Conan and Haiti. There was some feeling that the Leno/Conan story was much more trivial, and a few people seemed almost embarrassed that they wanted to discuss it.


And yet...

The world doesn't stop for disasters, either private ones or public ones. When my father died, I kept thinking that the world had stopped, and why didn't everyone else see that? When 9/11 happened, the world seemed to stop, but in truth, other aspects of life moved forward (such as the postal increase that was announced on that day). And sometimes the scope of a tragedy is so huge that we need the release of trivial matters to help us to cope.

Anyway, that's a thought for the day.
Nomi and I get both the New York Times and the Boston Globe delivered every day except Sunday, and given the lateness of the news reports about Senator Kennedy last night, I wasn't expecting either paper to have the story of his passing.

Indeed, the New York Times had nothing about Kennedy. But the Globe managed to put the news on their front page, with a large banner headline. Via Universal Hub I found the article Globe Stops the Press for Kennedy Death at the Editor and Publisher magazine website. Apparently the first two editions of the paper had already been printed when editor Martin Baron was woken with the news, and he gave that famous clichéd order to stop the presses so they could include the obituary, which presumably was already set to go.

Nice work, Mr. Baron, and kudos to the night crew.

I'm a little less impressed with the Times, but not for the reason you might think. I find it perfectly understandable that they wouldn't have the news in the hard copy today, and I think it's fine that they're running it on the front page of their website. However, they're also running a link to the article from their "Today's Paper" webpage. Given the fluid nature of the web, I rely on that page to be something of a "snapshot" of the actual hard copy for the day. I think of it as an unchanging daily archive of the articles that the Times ran in that day's paper. So I'm disappointed that they would place a link to the article about Kennedy on that page under the heading THE FRONT PAGE, as if it actually appeared in today's paper. I've written to the Public Editor to express my disappointment.
The kids had us up feeding them at 2:30 this morning and by chance I turned on my iPhone, only to discover that Ted Kennedy, one of my senators, had died early this morning.

I never met Kennedy although I saw him from afar once at a rally. But Nomi told me a story once about how responsive Kennedy was to his constituents. If I recall the story correctly, Nomi's mother was working with a group fighting to get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, and Kennedy spent an hour with them in his office, listening to their concerns.

It is hard to believe he is gone. Someone will succeed him, but no one can replace him.

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