Should auld acquaintance be forgot

New Year’s Eve, 2019. I started this blog (then a Manila site) in the waning days of 1999. Twenty Years Ago. pause, a moment of silence for the passage of time. Twenty. Years. It has lain fallow for some time, but the domain name and year come into alignment.

I was contacted out of the blue by someone who asked if I wrote the KPT Bryce Book (published 1995). Yes. The person told me a story of finding the book and reading its dedication, to Jeffry Michael, and then finding this blog post in which I remembered him. The story of Jeffry Michael’s life touched the life of my correspondent; there were things held in common.

And here I am, on New Year’s Eve experiencing Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?. This IS Auld Lang Syne, Doc M said to me. And, it’s been a while since I thought of my friend (it’s been 25 years since Jeffry Michael’s death.)

“May his memory be a blessing” is a saying I’ve grown familiar with as friends post the news of a death, and this is a common response of condolence. Today, on New Year’s Eve, his memory is a blessing.

I find, on this the last day of 2019, I don’t think in those terms (sorry year-end roundups. Do not want). I think in fuzzier terms, both what I gotta do right now, and thanks to this correspondence, in generations. Generations do not begin or end cleanly like the gong of midnight from one day to the next, that’s also one year to the next. I find myself thinking of eras that began mid-decade, and end at some other time, to be revisited again and find a deeper significance with the overlaying of events.

May you find blessings in the memories of those who’ve passed. May you remember auld acquaintances, and bring them to mind.

Hello, World (2018 edition)

Should I delete my Facebook? (there is probably a direct relationship between the time spent on FB and the scant number of entries posted here) #deleteFacebook

The tentacles of Mark Zuckerberg’s FB go deep: groups I’m a part of, people I know only through there, Pages I administer. If I end up doing the deed, I might as well document the steps here. We’ll see.

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.

  1. STUDY THE MOVEMENTS THAT HAVE GONE ON BEFORE.

    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.”
  2. THE WORK BEGINS IN PRIVATE PLACES, UNDER THE RADAR.
    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)