Lens-Artists Challenge #36 – Around the Neighborhood

In university, I spent a semester studying abroad in Spain.  I fell in love with the university town of Salamanca, with its history, culture, and of course nightlife.

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I stayed with a host mother in an apartment just a few minutes’ walk from the Plaza Mayor.  I walked with one of my other friends to our classes every day and came to love our little neighborhood.  There was a tobacconist shop, some bars, a salsa dance club, a butcher’s, and many other little shops.  In the winter, vendors sold roasted chestnuts on the street corners.

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The local plaza was under construction while I was there; they made a lot of progress over a few months.

You can find more neighborhoods at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

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My 7th Blogiversary

Happy birthday to Jedi by Knight!  Seven years ago today I began this crazy blog journey.  It’s had its ups and downs and changes, and I was worried I would have to give up blogging entirely when I became a mom.  But it seems this is not the end of my journey here!

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Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

Although last year brought the end of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenges, I was happy to join the Lens-Artists Photo Challenges last fall, sharing some of my photos of Europe every week.  And I’ve continued to do the monthly Star Wars coloring book posts with Kiri for our Fan Art Fridays.

Over seven years, I’ve had about 68,000 views and 3,000 comments on my blog, as well as gaining about 900 followers. Recently, I got a huge spike in views when someone went through all my Fan Art Friday posts, so thank you whoever you are!  I also really enjoy when someone reads all my KOTOR II playthrough posts; that’s like the highest complement in my mind!

Thank you all so much for reading all this time.  Here’s to many more years of nerdy blogging!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #35: Architecture

After some close-ups of architecture last week, let’s take a step back.

The cathedral in Palma de Mallorca, called La Seu there, is a classic example of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture.  It was begun in 1229 and completed in 1601.  The interior shows the expected grand nave, pointed arches, and rose window…with a few surprises.

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Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí helped redesign some of the interior in the early 20th century.  Over the altar is a canopy reminiscent of the one at Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

You can find more architecture at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

Fan Art Friday: The Phantom Menace

Welcome back to our Star Wars coloring book club, where Kiri at Star Wars Anonymous and I color the same image every month to compare and contrast.

I kind of enjoyed this one, mostly because I was able to do it almost entirely while my kid was napping.

This mandala has The Phantom Menace written all over it.  Amidala’s headdress, the Trade Federation’s droid control ship, and the dueling lightsabers all reminded me of the first prequel movie.  Although the lightsabers are generic, because it reminded me of Duel of the Fates, I colored one green for Qui-Gon and one red for Darth Maul.

Check out Kiri’s version with some lovely colors (and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s lightsabers) here.

Next month we’ll do the slightly obscure Ephant Mon (near the back of the book).

Black History Month: Hidden Figures

When the movie Hidden Figures came out in 2017, I made sure to go see it in theaters.  Not only did it sound interesting, I wanted Hollywood to know that a movie about black female scientists had a paying audience.

Like most people, I had no idea of the story of the “colored computers,” women whose work helped the U.S. get into space.  Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Goble Johnson, and Mary Jackson spent years doing mathematical calculations that were critical our efforts in World War II, the Korean War, and the space race against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

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Mary, Katherine, and Dorothy as portrayed in the movie

If you want to dig a little deeper into their story, you can check out the book that the movie was based on.  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly came out in 2016 and tells the story of the computers in greater detail.

The book follows several generations of computers, starting with Dorothy Vaughan who joined during the expansion of aeronautics research at NACA (the precursor of NASA) during WWII.  With so many men off at war, the need for mathematicians meant that many women, even black women, were hired into the workforce at Langley.  And even after the war, the need to maintain the superiority of our air forces during conflicts like the Korean War meant that other women like Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson came to join Dorothy.  Eventually, the importance of the space race meant the creation of NASA and starting space research basically from scratch, bringing in even more talent such as Christine Mann Darden.

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Hidden Figures was Shetterly’s first book, and that shows a bit in the way parts get bogged down in the overwhelming amount of detail.  (It took me a while to read this one.)  According to the Kindle version, the Notes and Bibliography take up 20% of the book.

But at the same time, that detail allows a full picture of what life was like during these times, particularly for these women and their families.  As someone who was born in the 80s, this book provides valuable context for not only the civil rights movement and major historical events, but also scenes of daily life during these times.

The movie is an excellent adaptation, streamlining all the detail into a smooth narrative.  Of course, that means it is not always perfectly factual; the timeline of these women’s careers is greatly compressed, for example.  There is also a Young Readers version of the book that I understand is more readable as it is for children.

As a scientist, there were a couple of notes from the book that I found interesting.  First, most of these women were originally teachers, one of the most stable, respected professions for smart black women at the time.  Yet these were women that could (and in some cases, did) have received advanced degrees in mathematics and engineering.  Imagine today if the same people who are NASA scientists were instead high school teachers!

Second, the structure of scientific research that Shetterly describes at NASA is very similar to science today.  She describes teams led by engineers (who today would be called Principal Investigators or PIs) with support staff such as the computers (today’s laboratory technicians, including myself).  The engineers would draft research reports or memos that would be picked apart by a committee before being finalized; this is much like the peer review process today governing how scientists publish papers in journals after being critiqued by external reviewers.

As a lab tech, I appreciated that this book focused on how the contributions of the computers to NASA’s research were just as important as those of the engineers.  However, the fact remains that many of the computers should have been engineers to begin with, being just as intelligent and capable as their supervisors, and many fought their whole careers to advance and be accepted as such.

It has been wonderful to see these women get the recognition they deserve.  Katherine Johnson now has two NASA facilities named after her, and she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.  Not only are the “hidden figures” an important part of black history and an important part of U.S. history, they also helped to pave the way for women like me in science.  Even if I never knew it until recently.

Check out my review of the Hidden Figures movie here.