Lessons from two American Giants

Rev James Lawson and Rev William Barber
In less than one week, I’ve had the opportunity to go and see and hear from two giants who play tremendous roles creating change in American life. Two organizers who’ve made major things happen in American Civil Life:

Rev. James Lawson (co founder of SNCC and organizer of the Nashville Lunch Counter sit ins, & so much more) at his 4th Saturdays of the Month Nonviolence Workshop in Los Angeles (on January 28; next one Feb 25th 9a-noon.) and Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, who spoke October 1 at Occidental College.

Here are 5 things they said in common.


    Not as they are portrayed/watered down in media (movies, news stories, etc.), but what really happened.

    • Lawson: Gandhi’s 50 years of experience of nonviolence is ignored in the west. Tremendous body of work there to learn from.
    • Lawson and Barber: Study the civil rights movements. The events were not spontaneous. The events and movements involved many more people, many smaller groups of people than are portrayed in the easy newsy narratives about “what happened.”
    Lots of work in the movements took place before the acts that were visible to the public. Lots of organizing, lots of meetings and talking and listening, lots of planning, lots of investigation and analysis.

    • Lawson: a year’s preparation before the Nashville lunch counter sit ins began. Same with bus boycott. The target emerged from stories of what people were experiencing (see point 5 for more)
    • Barber: the Moral Monday movement has been visible in the news for the last 3 years, but there’s been 7 years of work taking place behind the scenes before that.
  3. FIND OUT WHAT THE PRESSING ISSUES ARE. Go local. Go to everyone, no matter where you are on the “divide.”
    • Lawson: Montgomery Bus boycott: Black women described being harassed by bus drivers.Nashville lunch counter: Black women doing shopping spoke of having no place to rest in midst of the shopping day. The actions emerged from the very specific experiences of people, gathered together, talking about what their particular problems were.
    • Barber: The Fusion movement began in NC from listening to different groups of people discuss their problems and frustrations. As each group outlined the conditions, and then it came to what is the cause, they all found themselves with a common cause: The NC state legislative body.
  4. THE WORK IS STRATEGIC. Study the powers that be, study your own side to see where you can work to best advantage. Plan your actions in that light.
    • Lawson: Lunch counter sit ins and downtown shopping district. Led to a boycott of the stores in the Nashville downtown area. The whites wouldn’t go shop there because the confrontations (which they termed “violent” and “riots”) made the place too dangerous, and the black communities withdrew their shopping support from there. Then, as the movement grew, boycotts of Woolworth went national, northern communities picketed and boycotted in support of the corporate chain and its behavior in Nashville and other places in the South.

      also: the work is disciplined. Think in terms of team sports. Everyone doing their part. Do NOT think of activism work as Do Your Own Thing. Game psychology: If something happens on the field that makes you mad, okay then… but don’t let your anger stop you from playing your best game.

    • Barber: Rosa Parks chose the day she sat down on that bus. The day was selected so that preachers in black churches would not get scared and back down. Choose a Monday, and you give preachers too much time to get scared and back down. So she and the others chose Thursday, so momentum would be maximized as Thursday led into the weekend, and to church attendance on Sunday. Building momentum on your own side.

      Barber, also: By the time they were doing their Moral Monday actions in public in the last 3 years, they dominated the news. What happens on Monday. Then who got arrested, hold press conference when they were released. Hold press conferences of people who were choosing to do an action that would result in their arrest. They chose their days to dominate the news cycle.Figure out how to do work to disrupt DJT’s narrative. Be shrewd.

  5. The LANGUAGE you use.
    The movements use moral language, choosing their own language, not the language of their opponents.

    • Barber: don’t limit yourself by using words like left or right (when things are happening that are just plain wrong!) or conservative or liberal. Don’t emphasize freedom in the constitution when the preamble talks about establishing justice, promoting general welfare and common defense… once those things are all in place, you have conditions that enable a free people. Also, from religious standpoint, look at how much more the bible speaks of poverty, of the immigrant and the stranger among you and the call for how to treat them.
    • Lawson: On Saturday, talking about how amazingly impressive the outpouring of previous Saturday’s marches across the nation. Largest ever. So impressive. And yet (he returned to the topic of the march after talking about the work of Gandhi) a movement that has, as its symbol, a pink pussy hat a symbol of the resistance is adopting the language of the enemy. The language of transformation has to be a different language. Any analysis of what’s taking place that excludes racism, sexism, violence, and plantation capitalism will not address the root problems. You cannot dismantle one with out dismantling the others. Do not adopt Trump’s language.Lawson continued, reflecting on the women’s march and issues. The issue is not abortion It is not reproductive rights. It IS breaking the back of historical oppression of women. It is anything that treats women as other than fully human person with full agency. The work around restricting abortion is a continuation of a society and structural practice where men batter women. The oppression of women is the first oppression from which all other oppressions have been derived.

(Over the days since Saturday’s workshop with Lawson, I’ve been toying with this question as a way to reframe all the women’s issues, “Are women full and complete human beings?” If the answer is “Yes, but” then the answer, really, is NO. So far, it seems to me it helps to dig down to a deeper, more transcendent level.)

. . . . . .

There were more specifics from each (you can watch the video of Barber from Oct 1, link below, ’twas so good), and Lawson went over Gandhi’s 4 steps of a movement and also the 5 levels at which nonviolence is applied (nonviolence, or: love in action or soul force) — each level is a laboratory for love in action:
[1] self, [2] family+intimates, [3] organizations and neighborhoods to which you belong, ie, your daily life and work, [4] organized effort to do a campaign in a city/community, i.e., union, congregation, social group, and [5] where campaigns come together, regional or national movement.

. . . . .

Video of Rev. Barber’s talk at Occidental College (video will start when he starts speaking at 35 mins into evening program)

Another video! On this page, watch the video of Rev. Lawson speaking at a book launch event last April. It’s 1.5 hr video of an entire program. Oof! For shorter attention spans, I made a time stamp of topics in that video. It’s easy to sit through a 1.5 hour program when you’re there, harder to do so online because short attention span. Rev. Lawson begins speaking at 20:20. The Q&A that follows is excellent.  Detailed timestamps of video here.

Order the Rev. Lawson book Nonviolence and Social Movements: The Teachings of Rev. James M. Lawson Jr.  from UCLA Labor Center (only place it’s available).

Order Rev. Dr. William Barber’s book, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear (Amazon)

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control, at KPCC last night

Eric Schlosser signs my copy of his book, Command and Control

Eric Schlosser signs my copy of Command and Control

I went to the Crawford Family Forum at KPCC last night to see a conversation between Eric Schlosser and former NPR reporter Mike Shuster in conversation.

The topic was the safety of controlling nuclear weapons. Always, conversations like these are unsettling. Humans are the ones in “control” of an unforgiving and unwieldy force. Schlosser’s new book,Command and Control, centers around one accident in 1980 at a Titan Missile silo, and explores all manner of accidents and near-accidents involving nuclear weapons.

I live-tweeted throughout the discussion, and my compilation of tweets is here in Storify form.

But — long story short: When Schlosser went to the nuclear weapons labs (Los Alamos, Sandia, Lawrence Livermore) to talk about his book, he got pushback for inaccuracies. As in, you have errors of omission. There are more near-misses that are not covered in your book.

And this: The author got his information through many many FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. He said he could make out some of the censored material by comparing documents. He had two copies of the same document, each with blacked out portions made by different censors. He was able to find out what was censored. Was it information pertaining to the safety of the nation? Safeguarding some nuclear secret? No, the censorship was there to protect the nuclear security bureaucracy from embarrassment.

Endeavour at Dryden/Edwards

500 feet from the centerline of the runway at Edwards Air Force Base. That’s where I was for a landing and a takeoff.

Endeavour landing series, Edwards AFB

Endeavour lands at Edwards AFB September 20. I was 500 feet from runway center line. (click to embiggen)

Endeavour takes off for her final flight

Endeavour takes off the Edwards Air Force Base runway for her final flight. Click to embiggen

The event: Penultimate stop of Endeavour at Dryden Edwards Thursday before the last California-wide trip and the last flight of any Space Shuttle before the final final final landing at LAX on Friday.

Endeavour (OV105 — Orbital Vehicle 105) wasn’t flying under her own power, she was affixed on top of a modified 747, also known as the SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft). I was part of a select group of people at a “NASA Social” aka NASA Social Media event. Some 2000 of us applied to take part, and 40 were randomly selected to take part.

I am back and culling through my photos to post here. In the meantime, check out my Twitter Media stream. (keep clicking right).

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Later… (September 27) a huge foto essay
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In which I write an account of what it was like to attend the NASA Social at Dryden Flight Research Center on the grounds of Edwards Air Force Base.

L to R: Susan Kitchens, Steffie Hardy, Kaci Pilcher Heins, Cindy Chin, Keira Reilly

(Click to embiggen any of the images in this post)

How was I lucky enough to attend this marvelous event? It was a combination of my initiative and randomness.

I’ve been following word of NASA Tweetups — now called NASA Social on the Twitter. (I attended the first one evar, at JPL. From there it spread to NASA HQ and all the other NASA centers). I saw word that there was an upcoming NASA Social event at Dryden Edwards, a 2 day event scheduled for Wednesday Sept 19 and the morning of Thursday Sept 20. The application process is straightforward: They open registration during a limited time window of a few days. Requirements: have a social media account presence on Twitter (check!) or Facebook or Google+, or even one of those old skool things called blogs. Oh, and pay your own way there, buy your own meals. Edwards is close to where I am, so the pay-your-own-way terms weren’t onerous, so let’s go!

NASA got some 2000 registrations. They culled those to make sure each one was legit (checked profiles for recent activity), was checked for degree of profanity (F*ck Yeah! I guess they want to keep their NASA Socials from being from being filled with expletive deleteds.) Then, once they’d done their initial cull, they put them all in a kitty and randomly drew out 40 people. (I got these “howdja make the arrangements?” deets from John Yembrick, the man behind the @NASA twitter account and also the NASA Social (@NASASocial) honcho.) Why does NASA do it? It spread from an event at JPL to NASA-wide because fewer press members were attending and covering shuttle launches, so they invited social media to take advantage of our gotta communicate, gotta tweet! habits. After launches, it was NASA Social for any significant NASA milestone event. Like Endeavour travelling west to its final home.

Hooray: I was chosen!

Endeavour+SCA on Final Approach

Endeavour+SCA on Final Approach

The full post, with tons and tons of photos, is below the fold… Continue reading “Endeavour at Dryden/Edwards”

Good Mars Curiosity websites I’m encountering

I’ll keep adding to this list as I come across good sites and good web reads.

The MSL Chronicles Pretty excellent.

The creative and business lessons of the Mars rovers

The Martian Chronicles Blog of ChemCam science team member Ryan Anderson.

The movie they showed at this morning’s news briefing intercut the scene in the Control Room at JPL with animated images of what the rover was doing at the minutes. Love this.

Links added Tuesday, Aug 7:

Small businesses that made Mars Curiosity possible

Latest Mars Images: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/
Movies/Animations: Video Archive

Mars Curiosity MSL What’s new page go here for the latest from the press briefings.

(MSL = Mars Science Laboratory, the name of the mission before the rover was named Curiosity. #MSL is a good hashtag to look for the latest ion twitter)

How NASA battle-tested its Mars Rover live stream
(I gotta jump on twitter and ask MarsCuriosity if there are any estimates for total number of ppl watching the livestreams — both from Ustream and NASA-TV online and from those able to get satellite/cable coverage)

Curiosity Landing Event


Two hours to cruise stage separation, and Doc M and I are here at the Curiosity Landing Event at Pasadena City College in Pasadena.

Lotta Mars Science Laboratory shirts (yes, we are wearing them), and OMG this is for reals jitters. Happily there is bandwidth, so this blog post will get updated as we go.

8:30. Speeches. Hooptedoodle. All Curiosity staff asked to stand. Applause.


Look! Saturn is at the Olympics!

8:45 mission overview. For the purposes of tonight’s entry descent and landing EDL, there are three different spacecraft vehicles… The cruise module, the descent module, and the rover. They each will play separate roles during the next couple hours. Currently, Cruise Stage is driving. Then there’ll be separation, when the descent stage takes over. Toward end of descent, the rover will be lowered on a bridle and set down on the planet’s surface.

EDL times for tonight. 10:14 is when cruise stage separates. 7 minutes do terror begins at 10:24pm tonight

9:00 pm NASA TV. Yay. Show time!!!!

9:10 Getting ready to cut off transmission to Curiosity; she’ll be going on her own. Good luck peanuts being eaten very soon.


9:20 lotsa backgrounder info on NASA TV. I’m not blogging it. But if you go to YouTube and look up the mars in a minute vids from jplnews you’ll see what we are seeing.

Also, check out Emily Lakdawalla’s blog for more info. I’ll be posting selective info and fotos from this event here at Pasadena City College.

9:50 pm Vehicle has changed into mode where it’s doing stuff… No going back.

9:58 Adam Seltzner, EDLlead, just thanked Cruise for a wonderful journey. People are eating the traditional good luck peanuts. These are the Dare Mighty Things peanuts.

People, this is time…

The auditorium here at PCC….


10:08 The Mars Odyssey orbiter is reorienting itself so that it can relay signals from curiosity to us through to the end of landing.

10:13 odyssey made its turn. We have signal allllllllll the way down.

I may or may not blog the next bits. Sorry. Gonna do a little 1960s style be here now stuff. Go check out Emily Lakdawalla’s at planetary society blog if you want more reliable and obsessive compulsive blogging.

10:15 Cruise Stage Separation!!!!!!!!

10:17 Vehicle has ejected its masses that make it possible for it to steer. Mars is causing Curiosity to speed up….

WE ARE DOWN’!!!!!!!!!!!!

Elation here. It could not have gone better

Images will be visible here. But NASA servers are slammed. http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/

Pictures show that we have safely landed and are the right distance from the ground.


Mars landing tonight


At a party last night for members of JPL’s radar department (my boyfriend Doc M works there), we compared notes, gossiped, discussed nerves and contingency plans (heard a bit of scuttlebutt about what procedures are in place in case of failure — these people are prepared), heard about last minute changes sent to spacecraft, ate and drank, looked at Saturn and Mars through the telescope (that was my contribution), and had a dessert of Gale Crater cake and Mars bars.

Here is a leftover Mars bar that I will take with me to one of the two off-lab Mars Curiosity landing events in Pasadena. (These are for JPL Curiosity staff and families) Also in Pasadena today/tonight is the Planetary Society’s Planetfest event, at Pasadena Civic Center. Have no idea if it is already sold out. I went to their events for Spirit’s landing, and for the Mars Phoenix landing. If I wasn’t going to an event for JPL/curiosity staff, that’s where I’d be.

Have no idea if I’ll be doing any live-blogging/tweeting tonight. It depends on wifi availability at the Pasadena City College venue, and the whim of the moment. But this post from my iPad is a test of posting and uploading photos. It makes it a leetle more likely I will be blogging, if I’m not totally undone by damnyouautocorrect. ; )

Watch it live in the nasajpl ustream


More kewl links:
Preview 20 minutes of Norman Seeff’s upcoming documentary about the idea behind Mars Exploration Rovers — Spirit and Opportunity — intercut with Spirit’s landing. It brought back so much.

Venus Transit!!!!!

This Venus Transit story begins with Christmas, I suppose. I was presented with a huuuuuge box — actually a few huge boxes. I had NO idea what was inside them; they intimidated the hell out of me.

It was a telescope. Wow! A total surprise.

There’ve been some great nights viewing this year. And, for the annular eclipse (and the sun filter), an amazing day viewing. With the sun filter and a new attachment (camera adapter!), we were set for a view of Venus as she crossed in front of the sun.

Transit of Venus Telescope image, seen with eclipse glasses

Transit of Venus (Telescope), viewed with eclipse glasses

Transit of Venus composite set

Composite set of images of Venus as she traveled across the sun

What was it like? Well, besides 20 images of the sun and Venus, and people gasping at the sun — I didn’t think that you could see Venus with the eclipse glasses, but you could! What was it like?

A group of people, happy amazement, a nice day, a fresh breeze, a telescope and that dot. That amazing tiny dot. That we could see. With our own eyes (in the glasses, that is). We were at Peck Road Water Conservation Park, and we beckoned people over to see the sight.

“Wow!” “Crazy!” “That’s Venus?”

A few kids were really interested. I told them about this weekend’s open house at JPL. Handed out some NASA Venus Transit postcards (thank you, Jane Houston Jones!) and NASA stickers. One kid came back with a pen and asked us to write the name of the place where the open house is this weekend, so he and his family could look it up and go there. That was the best.

Diana and Karen gasp at Venus Transit while all look on

Gasping at Venus Transit while the others look on

Looking through the telescope:

Watching Venus and the sun through the telescope

Watching Venus and the sun through the telescope

Is what you see through the telescope exactly like those pictures above?

Not quite.

Here’s a view of Venus Transit through the eyepiece, taken by my iPad’s camera. Notice that the position of Venus is flipped. The mirrors reflect the image 90° into the eyepiece. The image in the eyepiece is reversed.

To attach the camera to the telescope, the line of sight goes straight back from the opening to the camera lens. The camera sees the image “right” — just like the eye sees it through the glasses, only much, much better.

iPad view through telescope eyepiece

iPad view through telescope eyepiece (image reversed in eyepiece)

Thru telescope or eclipse glasses, a sight

Thru telescope or eclipse glasses, a sight

(I may show some behind-the-scenes how we figured it all out, the making of — oh, and some of the photos of seeing the annular eclipse from a coupla weeks ago, too! — but I’d better post while I am ahead so you can see a portion of the beauty and wonder we saw today. or, um, yesterday.)

viewing Venus transit through camera

viewing Venus transit through camera

Chris Guillebeau at Vroman’s for The $100 Startup

Chris Guillebeau talks about The $100 Startup

Chris Guillebeau at Vroman's in Pasadena, talking about his book, The $100 Startup

Last week, I went to see Chris Guillebeau (author of the site The Art of Non-Conformity) at Vroman’s for his book tour for his just-released The $100 Startup (Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future). Great crowd there, nice conversations with people.

Here are photos and a Pencast of his talk and Q & A.

Below: a Livescribe Pencast. Allow a moment to let the Livescribe Pencast fill in. (Underlying tech is Flash-based, so sorry to iOS visitors).

Chris Guillebeau at Vromans, signing The $100 Startup -1 Chris Guillebeau at Vromans, signing The $100 Startup -2


Chris Guillebeau at Vromans, signing The $100 Startup -3

Yep. Product links are affiliate links. Help a blogger out!

How to view Sunday’s Annular Eclipse

Path of the Annular Eclipse in Western United States

Path of the Annular Eclipse in Western United States

This Sunday, May 20, there’s an annular eclipse — a ring-around-the-moon not-quite-a-total eclipse.

I’m traveling to an area where it’s as total as possible this weekend (the SW corner of Utah), but here’s instructions for how when to view it where you are. The Exploratorium has a how to view it post.

The Goddard Space Flight Center has a javascript-run page that will help you see LOCAL time and place info. Follow these instructions:

You need to know three things:

  • your lat-long coordinates
  • your elevation (altitude) in meters
  • what time zone you’re in

Convert Street Address (Location) to Lat-LongGeocoder.us will convert a street address into lat-long info.

For an example, I’ve put in the address of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and gotten the lat-long coordinates. I looked up the elevation for the city that JPL is located, and decided to average the high and low elevations to 500 m.

Geocoder info for JPL

Then, on the JavaScript page, I clicked the link for North America, Central America and the Carribbean.

In the first section, I entered those JPL coordinates as follows:

Entering JPL's coordinates

Entering JPL's coordinates

JPL is in the Pacific time zone which is GMT -8, but since it is daylight savings time I changed it to -7. The little pop ups in the JavaScript page want you to express the time zone as east or west so I put 7 W.

Here is the result after clicking the 20th century button

JPL Eclipse details

JPL Eclipse details

Compare that to the result for Cedar City, Utah, which does have annularity to the eclipse. (The eclipse is listed as A — annular, and there are additional details for times of entering annularity)

Eclipse details for Cedar City, Utah

Eclipse details for Cedar City, Utah

The key to the table says that for the eclipse magnitude it’s a fraction of the sun’s diameter that’s obscured by the moon. For annular eclipses the magnitude is less than 1.0

I learned from the Planetary Society’s night guide for Summer 2012 that it’s possible to get Eclipse viewing glasses, and so I made a trip out to the store in the San Fernando Valley where they sell them. Here’s my stash for the Family Eclipse Viewing partipants. Oh, and I got a special filter to use on the telescope.

Eclipse Viewing Glasses

Eclipse Viewing Glasses

IMPORTANT! If you do not have this special optical filters that make it safe to look at the sun, use the pinhole camera method of viewing as described in the Exploratorium article.

Last, but not least, it’s important that you have an unobscured view of the sun. There was a lovely annular eclipse in the early 1990s, and I didn’t see it, even though I was in the right place. A group of us stood at the top of Mount Wilson and cursed the clouds.

The outlook for our viewing location looks perfect. Sunny, no cloud cover.

Weather Forecast for Cedar City, UT

Weather Forecast for Cedar City, UT

What’s the first letter of the Pirate Alphabet? Arrrrr!

Early January was Talk Like A Pirate Day. I went out on a gun-battle cruise on one of two sailing craft — The Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington. Lady Washington was the boat used in Pirates of the Carribbean movies. We went aboard and “sailed” out to sea to have a gun battle a little ways off the the Newport Jetty.

We sailed from the Port of Newport, my hometown. Please enjoy some photos of our trek.

So we begin. There are two boats on the dock, tied side-by-side. Passengers of the Lady Washington (that’s the one in Pirates, people) board first, then Lady Washington casts off. Then we who are on the Hawaiian Chieftain board, receive a safety briefing, and we cast off.

Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington, docked before battleship cruise

Embarking on the Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington

Pirate Skull and Crossbones

Kitchens family shirt front

Part of our Pirate-appropriate clothing. This is the Kitchens family traditional tee shirt.

Floggings Will Continue until Morale Improves

Kitchens family shirt back

Notice the spiritually uplifting statement on the back of the shirt: “Floggings will continue until morale improves.” And did I tell you that my mother made a special request for these tee shirts to be made for the entire family? Now I have.

Once we got underway, the crew began to climb into the rigging to get the sails ready for, you know, real sailing.

Climbing up to the rigging

Climbing up to the rigging

What’s it like up there (as seen from below)?

Crew above in Hawaiian Chieftain's rigging

The crew above in the rigging of the Hawaiian Chieftain.

I suppose that, given the number of crew it takes to prepare the sails for hoisting, I could come up with a new kind of light bulb joke.

How Many Crew Members Does It Take to Hoist Sails?

How Many Crew Members Does It Take to Hoist Sails?

But I don’t know what the punch line would be.

Anyway, sailing a square rigger is a kind of manual labor. Very manual, with many hands on deck.

One crew member works in the rigging

One crew member works in the rigging

Here’s the gunnery officer. Once we were out in the ocean, he took charge of the middle deck and the loud booming pyrotechnics.

The gunnery officer

The gunnery officer. The fellow in charge of firing off the cannons

We’re heading down the harbor, under power of the “Iron spinnaker” (a very anachronistic sail that really should not be a source of power if you’re going to be a purist about period means of travel. Cant’ figure out what an iron spinnaker is? Here’s a hint: You could, I suppose, call it a diesel spinnaker.)

Captain at the helm of the Hawaiian Chieftain

Heading down the harbor, the captain at the helm

Off the port side as we head to the Newport Harbor Jetty is Pirate’s Cove. I pointed it out “Pirate’s Cove, Arrr!” — and quickly concluded that I was the only local around. The crew had no idea there was a Pirate’s Cove. Nor most of the passengers, too.

Pirate's Cove

Pirate's Cove

More photos below the fold
Continue reading “What’s the first letter of the Pirate Alphabet? Arrrrr!”