I am all the things the elevator statement says, and if anyone wants to know more about any of it – from what it was like to work at NASA to what papers came out of the research I participated in, or what fiction I’ve published, or watch a video-poem I collaborated on, or… – it’s all in the links above. This section is for story, some random moments along the arc:
– Kuala Lumpur in the ‘70’s, a sleepy small town where everything worked a certain way and everybody knew everybody else — a stranger stopped me on a main shopping street once when I was about fifteen, and said, “Aren’t you so-and-so’s granddaughter?” and I was, it was plain from the nose on my face, my grandfather’s legacy, and everything else was as plain and as fixed as the nose on anybody’s face.
– Bennington College, arrived at through the impulse to swim downstream to the sea. I had a world map on my wall, one purchased in Malaysia in which the continental masses of Europe, Africa and Asian were central and dominant; on this map, a red dot placed by me, in irritation, over Kuala Lumpur, and a thick arrow pointing to it labeled, “Right here.”
– The university of Maryland at College Park, to study physics because reality in my family was subject to change without notice. We had plenty of rules, but few of them were of the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and water flows downhill variety. I hoped to master the laws of the universe, or at least achieve détente with it. A bureaucratic accident landed me in the Applied Math department, where I neglected to pay attention to the question, “Applied to what?” and seduced myself into exploring a specialty that qualified me to design torpedoes or military aircraft.
– To avoid the karma of lending my mind, such as it was, to the design of killing machines, I wound up at NASA. There’s a romance and adventure to working at NASA. That’s in the NASA link above – this is about the absurdity of daily life there. National Aeronautics & Space Administration, or, as it was affectionately known within, National Association for Stupid Acronyms. There was a big black book of acronyms, about 3 inches thick if I remember rightly. Hazing for newbies included conversations with lots and lots and lots of acronyms in the air. I personally worked on AVHRR, FIRE, and ISCCP as a wholly insignificant drone for the better part of two years: only female in the room, youngest on the science staff, and only person on the science staff with a masters and not a PhD. Interesting times.
– What I did, mostly, was build synthetic clouds in computer simulations. What I learned was never to wear anything floral – unless it was ethnic, which, with the international composition of the staff, was okay and not considered girlie (being girlie was assumed to be equivalent to being brainless, and treated accordingly). I also learned that some senior male scientists could hear me when I spoke, and others, apparently, were deaf in my frequency range.
– And I learned some life sustaining lessons in patience, discipline, clarity and methodology of thinking, and found, over time, some very good friends. This mostly after I left Earth for Mars, moving across the base from the Lab for Atmospheres to the Lab for Extraterrestrial Physics, a 10 min walk between planets, to work on the Mars Observer that was lost, and then on the Mars Global Surveyor. I was a B-level tech, speaking enough math and enough geek to wear many hats fairly adequately though none with great flair. But I was very fortunate to work, both formally on my team and otherwise, with some very smart people who were generous with their wisdom. And so I learned a few things.
– And then fast-forwarding: a sadly clueless effort to begin a dotcom and a marriage at the same time, my father’s death, 9/11, an uneasy consciousness of protecting my 401K while avoiding the rigors and risks of writing — and here we are. I am still writing: immigration, family, identity, culture, race, place…
More to come in the blog section – posts from elsewhere and elsewhen being transferred now.