Saturday, July 16, 2005

Bitter, much?

I bet this woman is a regular ball of fun at the faculty Christmas party.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Halfway between Merritt Island and the Cape, I noticed a snarl of traffic heading towards the mainland.

“See,” I said to the students in my car. “This is what you’re avoiding by attending the launch with a real live certified space expert. These idiots don’t know that they can see from the beach just as well from the parks on the mainland. I’m on top of everything concerning this mission. You’re in very good hands here.

My cell phone rang. It was one of my students.

“Hi, are you back in Daytona yet?”


“Yeah, I was going to drive myself, and then I heard about the scrub. So when did you turn around?”

As pilots and future scientists eager to see NASA’s return to flight, the students were disappointed about the not-launch, so I turned down the radio and talked to them about the importance of safety and systems checks, which totally didn’t work, so I bought them ice cream.

We were close enough to the Cape that it would have been idiocy of epic proportions to not at least look at the beach. Also it was either sit by the water or sit in traffic with the competent people who had already headed back, so we parked at an access ramp next to my old apartment, which for once wasn’t surrounded by crime scene tape. In of lieu of a shuttle liftoff, the students took to launching one another, standing waist-deep in the water and taking turns flinging their classmates into the air; and then, because they are all about getting their professor first fired and then sued, they rapidly became bored with this and began attempting turn a complete somersault before hitting the water. I was stunned that the ever lauded engineer-athlete didn’t have an easier time of this.

It was a postcard-y day, perfect weather to fly. They marveled over a beach unsullied by minivans, beer cans, and NASCAR tires occasionally bouncing overhead, and on our way home they contributed mightily to the aviation industry by contesting whose cell phone offered the most annoying ring tones. I would not have scrubbed it for the world.

Competent Official College Professor UPDATE: “Take a right here,” one of my students told me as we came upon the driveway to the student village. I turned, and there was maybe ninety seconds of silence before someone said “Um, you’re going the opposite direction of the dorms.”

the clock is not operating at:

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Good Luck to the Truck

Hey kids! Discovery is a happy shuttle.

I am a happy blonde. I have some fantastic nausea going on that I have not experienced in over two years. It is launch day.

In four years, I have bounced Cape to Orlando to Daytona Beach; space education to tech writing to kinda-space education again. Because combining monomethyl hydrazine with nitrogen tetroxide has a very great deal to do with producing a good paragraph, today’s class is turned over to exactly the type of presentation I used to give in the very shadow of the shuttle. Also, since I enjoy highly uncomfortable two-hour car rides as much as the next person, some of my students will accompany me to the launch today. It is always nice to fulfill the original reason for a 969.27 mile move.(I bought this poster at the employee gift shop in the headquarters of Kennedy Space Center in 2001, never dreaming that I'd live in all three cities pictured here. If you look very closely, you can see me careening about State Route 528, screaming at toll booth attendants.)

Space education is a use-it-or-lose it affair; facts I used to spit out sitting bolt upright out of a dead sleep are now located in the neurons storing such information as who played second base for the Reds in 1984 and the lyrics to “Baby Got Back.” This has resulted in a great many frantic emails to Nick the NASA Poobah for review purposes (“Um. What do they call the thing on the launchpad between the ground and the big grey tower again? You know? That thing?”)

Most missions do not begin on the original launch date. Chances are we will return to Daytona Beach with full rolls of film. I do not care. It is launch day again.

Thinking of you today, Columbia, at

Monday, July 11, 2005


Oh, and if you haven't noticed, I now have the ability to post images. Lookit!




awesome! at:

Sunday, July 10, 2005


I do believe I have found the world’s worst place to pick up men: A women’s high school reunion.

I determined this a couple weeks ago, at the Mother of Mercy Class of 1995 Holy Crap at The Next One We’ll All Be Over Thirty reunion. I was home a grand total of 48 hours, a highly enjoyable 32 of which were passed in the same pair of underwear. Shut up, Delta.

The only clothes I have at home are a Notre Dame parka which I have owned since the beginning of time and a pair oven mitts featuring the General Lee. My mother, dispatched from the Department of Totally Sounds Like a Good Idea at the Time, had a suggestion.

“I still have your uniform jumper.”

Well, yes, the jumper. My class retired the navy blue jumper; the four hundred year old woman at the uniform shop who sewed the zippers in the side retired. (You now officially know every single thing you need to understand about how change is effected on Cincinnati’s West Side.) The classes to follow were outfitted in plaid skirts from the Miss Catholic Dowdy collection. I put together an entire Tribute to the Jumper for our yearbook, text, pictures, and all; it freaking near killed me, and I saved the last uniform I wore as a loving reminder to get a life.

I dug the thing out and held it up against me. When I graduated, I weighed 120 and change. And now I…don’t, so much. I had a decision: I could attend the reunion wearing the clothes on my back—a pair of Umbros and a tshirt reading “Happiness Is Shouting Bingo”—or risk lifelong depression.

Aaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnd.... it totally fit. Or--okay--basically fit. A bit. In a way. It wasn’t until I was driving around Mt. Adams looking for a parking space that I realized that the very greatest part of this plan was walking two blocks from my car to the front door of the bar, in front of people.

You go to your high school reunion for pretty much the sole reason of ascertaining how fugly your classmates have become since graduation day, which was a total disappointment as far as I was concerned, because everybody looked gorgeous, even the ones who were already fugly in high school. Only I had changed, having somehow found a way to become yet paler after three years of residency in Florida.

Roles were maintained. The class presidents planned the reunion, having set plans in motion as they threw away the empty cups from the last one. The slackers didn’t show. The sluts wore skirts the size of an electron and said things like “So I’ve been living with this guy for about a year now. No ring yet, I have no idea why.”

My chief entertainment for the evening consisted of watching people’s faces when I told them that I was a college professor. Polite interest dissolved to shock, which dissolved to horror, which dissolved to what could only be interpreted as a complete loss of confidence in American higher education, which dissolved back to polite interest. Then they would say things like, “Soooooooooo, what else have you been up to?” which pretty much translated to “The last time we spoke, you manless freak, you were slinging Sprite at the Valentines’ Day Dance concession stand.”

Some of these conversations went more smoothly than others.

…so after I graduated with the two majors and the minor I went to graduate school, because I wanted teaching as an option, even though I knew I’d feel politically alienated in the university system, and then I moved to Florida and worked for NASA, which was great, you know, even though the subcontractor was an utter nightmare, and after that I did tech writing in Orlando, but you know how the corporate world is, just intolerable, entirely too structured and stifling, and now I’m a professor at an aeronautical university, and I just love it, although I’m not tenure track, and you know how the pay and benefits are for adjuncts because there’s starting to be a glut of MFA’s out there. I’ll have to pick up some stupid job like textbook editing to make ends meet next summer. So! What’s going on with your career?


I have known a few of them since we were six. On their nametags they had written “Heather”, “Barbara”, and “Janey”, but I saw “Changed My Name to ‘Pathetic-O’,” “Shoved Bryan Connely Down the Steps”, and “Would Not Sit Next to Me On the Bus During the Field Trip to the Natural History Museum.”

“Ohhhhhhhhh, it’s so good to seeeeeee youuuuuuuuu! So happy your life is going well!” they screeched, pulling me to their chests, and I stared at the wall behind them, wondering where this strange person was twenty years ago.

I think grade school is the leading cause of adult suicide. “Remember when Miss Krummen called him ‘Alien’?” one said of a grade school classmate who was recently jailed.

The Miss Krummen phase of our lives took place seventeen years ago. I could win a Pulitzer, and one of these people would issue a press release along the lines of “The person picked last most often for various gym class teams won some stupid award today. She’s acting all hot now.”

Not that I can blame them, really:

FORMER CLASSMATE: Oh man, I remember how obsessed you were with Star Wars.

ME: Yeah… heh. Pretty lame.

FORMER CLASSMATE: So, have you been published lately?

ME: Um.

I got spirit yes I do I got spirit how bout you at:

(This is Bridget, Queen of the Christmas Ball. She became a newscaster and now works for a massive labor organization. The main social contributions person to her right, Queen of the Concession Stand, pretty much consist of yelling at the students in the back row that she doesn't care if they are hung over, pay attention, because someday a big scary person is going to force you into a dark alley, hold a gun to your head, and demand that you reconcile subject-verb agreement.)

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