PurpleStride Chicago April 24, 2013Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Science.
Today, we are participating in Chapman University’s Literary Pub(lishing) Crawl. If you’re in the area, we encourage you to join us for panels with writers, editors, and agents and a book signing featuring former head of Disneyland Jack Lindquist and journalist David Henley.
On Saturday, we’ll be walking for the second time in PurpleStride Chicago. Last spring, Anna’s Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the annual PurpleStride walk was scheduled on Mary Lee’s birthday so we walked while she was in the hospital. Mary Lee died in December, so we’re walking in her honor on her birthday weekend this year.
Our team is Mary Lee’s Merry Ladies, though, of course, we welcome men on the team as well. We have 14 people signed up to walk, an even bigger team than last year. We welcome donations toward the team or any individual team member. The money goes to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or PanCan, to support patient advocacy and research.
When we wrote about last year’s PurpleStride, we gave an overview of pancreatic cancer, and mentioned several people who’ve died from this disease: Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, and Randy Pausch of The Last Lecture. Since then, Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died from pancreatic cancer last July, having survived 17 months after diagnosis.
The statistics are terrible, with most of those diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer—three out of every four, or four out of every five, depending on the source—dying before one year is up. The five-year survival rate is just 6%, perhaps as low as 4%. Even if it’s caught in its earliest stage, the five-year survival rate is only 14%. Though not as common as many other cancers and more common after the age of 55 and in men, pancreatic cancer is on the increase. (See more at SEER.) Currently the fourth leading cause of cancer death, it’s expected to eclipse all other cancers except lung cancer by 2030. But pancreatic cancer receives less funding from the National Cancer Institute than the other four leading causes of cancer death. (See more at PanCan.)
The most surprising research revealed in the last year was done by a high-school student in Maryland. According to PanCan, Jack Andraka’s “project involves a dipstick technology, whereby a small piece of paper is coated with antibodies that recognize proteins that circulate in the blood or urine of patients with pancreatic cancer, but not individuals without the disease. This technology is much quicker and less expensive than standard laboratory tests.” This preliminary research is especially promising because 80% of patients are diagnosed after the cancer has metastasized. If a simple test could detect the disease earlier, when a small tumor could be surgically removed, survival rates could creep up. Andraka is racking up the awards for his idea and working with companies to test it and make it available to the public.
Meanwhile, scientist Alec Kimmelman is investigating how pancreatic cancer cells work, as it’s important to know exactly how they function differently from normal cells in order to destroy them without harming healthy cells. By looking at cell metabolism, Kimmelman discovered, for instance, that pancreatic cancer cells process sugar differently. More recently, in an article in Nature, Kimmelman and his team revealed, “that pancreatic cancer cells break down glutamine in a manner that is unique from normal cells. Furthermore, the study shows that pancreatic cancer cells are quite dependent on glutamine as a source of energy.” Now, research is needed to figure out how to inhibit—in the body, not just in the lab—the ability of the cancer cells to break down glutamine, so that the cancer cells die or are left more vulnerable to existing treatments.
The weather in Chicago for last year’s PurpleStride was drizzly and cold, and it looks as if it will be much the same this year. Mostly, we hope it dries up after this past week of terrible flooding in Illinois. It’d be great if it were a bit warmer on Saturday, too.
It Takes a Village To Build a Blog June 27, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Space Exploration, Writing.
Tags: Apollo, Art & Science, Museums & Archives, Serendipity, Space Shuttle, SpaceX
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Two years ago this coming Sunday, we launched Lofty Ambitions blog. This piece marks our 276th post. At this second anniversary of our work together as bloggers, we can’t help but reflect that it’s not just about us, that one thing led to another, and that Lofty Ambitions has become more than the sum of its parts.
Two years ago, not many people knew we were interested in the space program and thinking about trying to attend a space shuttle launch. But word traveled quickly, and now family, friends, and strangers refer to us as space nerds. Last fall, when we were checking in for Homecoming at Knox College, a woman behind us said something like, Look, it’s the space nerds. Although we had never met this woman before in person, she had contacted us by email during one of our trips to Space Coast for a shuttle launch. While we were momentarily taken aback by the sudden collapsing of our online world with our physical world, we were happy to be recognized for what we were trying to build and discuss. And she went so far as to suggest that her husband—a scientist, museum curator, and fellow traveler to the Space Coast—might want to write a guest blog. We can’t wait to see it (nudge, nudge).
Occasionally, in extremely thoughtful gestures, these people who’ve discerned our lofty interests give us gifts accordingly. These objects have become part of the blog and our way of thinking about who we are in the world. Even before we began this blogging adventure, our friends Lisa and Jim gave us a beautiful wooden aircraft propeller, a wedding gift and a symbol of our departure for California. Since then, Anna’s mother has passed along a wooden model of the space shuttle that she picked up at an auction. Doug’s boss brought us a rubber bathtub-worthy version of the shuttle that he picked up at an aviation museum. Most recently, Doug’s mom sent us Astro-Barbie and a Lego model of the space shuttle to build, two gifts we wrote about HERE.
Gifts work two ways, of course. One of the objects we purchased during a visit to Kennedy Space Center was a mission patch for STS-107, the last mission of the orbiter Columbia. We gave this memento to Marilyn Harran, the Director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman University, the university where we work. That patch, really just a little something we picked up and thought she might appreciated personally, is now on display as part of a tribute to Ilan Ramon, one of the astronauts who perished in the Columbia accident.
We gave the patch to Marilyn because she recognized us as space nerds early on. In fact, she invited us to a screening of An Article of Hope hosted by the Rodgers Center, and one of the producers of that film about Ilan Ramon and the Columbia accident became our first guest blogger (read his post HERE). Astronaut Mike Massimino participated via Skype in the discussion after the film showed, and we interviewed Massimino months later (see that video HERE), when he and we were at Kennedy Space Center to watch a launch. Even more recently, Marilyn invited us to the naming celebration for the Ilan Ramon Day School, where we saw Ramon’s wife speak and met astronaut-turned-SpaceX-manager Garrett Reisman (read about that HERE).
Other mission patches from the mother of Sally Ride, the nation’s first woman in space, were donated to the Leatherby Libraries by a library board member, in large part because Doug has made it known we’re interested in space exploration and the shuttle program. Doug has also worked with NASA to add several original models of satellites and a thermal tile from a shuttle orbiter to the library’s archives (read more HERE and HERE).
The most extensive collection of shuttle-related materials in the archives is the Roger and Roberta Boisjoly NASA Challenger Disaster Collection. The collection consists of boxes of documents, photos, and pieces of o-rings that Roger donated to Chapman University as a result of his long-time friendship with our colleague Mark Maier, who studies workplace ethics. Recently, Doug has worked with archivist Rand Boyd to develop a lecture and traveling exhibit, which made its debut at the Columbia Memorial Space Center earlier this month (an event that deserves its own post in the weeks to come). Roger, who died early this year, wrote a guest post for us HERE.
The objects—the propeller, the toys, the patches—represent the people and events who have shaped, cheered on, and contributed to the blog. The people, events, and objects, along with our writing here, have become a self-reinforcing process. We rack up this dynamic to serendipity, knowing full well that these happy collisions aren’t really accidental. Shared intellectual space, whether physical (Doug works across the hall from Marilyn) or virtual, creates the opportunity for these interactions. Because the blog keeps us attuned to all things space, science, and writing, we notice and can take advantage of these interactions because they’re especially meaningful to us.
We know we’re not alone in this project we call Lofty Ambitions. One of the most wonderful examples of the village that builds this blog is the email we received from a father whose son was doing a history project about space exploration and the Cold War. The boy and his research partner wanted to talk with an Apollo astronaut because such a primary source would distinguish their project in the state competition. We pointed the father to a few contacts, with little expectation that he’d get through. Alan Bean, Apollo 16 veteran and now a painter, responded to the man’s email almost immediately and set up a ten-minute phone conversation with the fifth-grade historian. Inspired by that success, the man tracked down a couple of other astronauts. The boy and his research partner became champions in California’s National History Day state competition.
Lofty Ambitions is more than the sum of its parts. It’s more than what you see on the blog each week. The reach and rewards of our work are greater than the number of hits, re-posts, or tweets. As we mark our two years of traveling and writing together, we thank our readers for becoming part of the village that builds a blog.
Lofty Ambitions at The Huffington Post June 2, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Space Exploration, Writing.
Tags: Space Shuttle, SpaceX
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Yep, that’s right. We’re blogging at The Huffington Post, too.
Our co-written posts there are, of course, about the same sorts of things we discuss here. But the content is different, and we take a slightly different approach there. And if you read the comment threads over at HuffPost, you’ll see a lot of strong opinions about space exploration, the role of NASA, the future of SpaceX, and much more. We’d like our regular Lofty Ambitions readers to get involved in that HuffPost conversation too.
Here are the links to our pieces published at The Huffington Post thus far:
SpaceX: Giving Berth, Hatching, Making a Splash (June 1, 2012)
SpaceX: Future or Failure? (May 22, 2012)
In addition, Anna is posting at HuffPost on her own and also with a group of fellow creative writing teachers. Here are the links for those pieces:
The Itsy-Bitsy Book Club (May 17, 2012)
Setting the Record Straight on Creative Writing (April 12, 2012)
What Is Creative Writing Anyway? (February 27, 2012)
Creative Writing Can Be Taught (February 4, 2012)
Lofty Ambitions Blog Trailer March 16, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Writing.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
This week, we played with our iMovie software and came up with this blog trailer for Lofty Ambitions. For this piece, we decided to focus on following the end of the space shuttle program and, in particular, the last flight ever, that of Atlantis last July. If you want to know more about our adventures represented in this video, check out our series “Last Chance to See.”
Lofty Ambitions at AWP February 29, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Collaboration, Guest Blogs, Information, Writing.
Tags: Books, Nuclear Weapons, Radioactivity
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We’re really excited that both of us are presenting at The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference this year and that our presentations are directly related to what we do at Lofty Ambitions.
CLICK TO READ LOFTY POSTS HIGHLIGHTING AWP PRESENTERS:
Doug will talk about archives and the use of letters in fiction and creative nonfiction on a panel called “Purloining the Letter” on Thursday, March 1, at 10:30a.m. in the Lake Ontario Room of the Chicago Hilton. Our recent visit to the CalTech archives is also related his talk; read that post HERE.
Anna is the organizer for a panel called “Fallout & Facts: Creative Nonfiction in the Nuclear Age,” which will be held on Friday, March 2, at 1:30p.m. in Continental B at the Chicago Hilton. It’s a great topic for this year in the Windy City because it’s the 70th anniversary of the first controlled nuclear reaction, which Enrico Fermi set off at the University of Chicago.
AWP actually begins today with set-up for the bookfair. For the first time, Chapman University, Tabula Poetica, and the Fowles Center for Creative Writing have a table at the AWP Bookfair—D-21. So Anna will be setting up posters and book displays this afternoon. You can find the list of the booksignings at the table on the Tabula Poetica homepage—click HERE.
We also want to give a nod to Tiffany Monroe, an MFA student at Chapman University, who is presenting on a panel called “MFA Students Speak Up” on Friday, March 2, at 9:00a.m. Tiffany will also help us with the bookfair table.
If you’re in Chicago this coming weekend, you can meet Chapman University authors in person on Saturday, when the bookfair is open to the public. Stop by Table D-21 any time 9a.m.-3p.m. that day. Look for the Lofty duo around town!
Dark Ambitions January 18, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information.
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On Wednesday, we usually have a new post. In fact, we’ve never missed a regular Wednesday post in 565 days. This week, we had something planned about failure as part of the process in some big accomplishments. Instead, we’re participating in the blackout to oppose SOPA and support a free and open Internet.
We want to make it clear that our decision is not a stance in support of Internet piracy nor is it a statement against the rights of content creators like ourselves. Lofty Ambitions blog abides by copyright law. All our posts are original work by the two of us or by the guest bloggers invited to submit their original work. We retain the rights to what we write, and a guest blogger reacquires all rights to his or her work once we post it so that he or she can, say, include that write-up in a future book (with, we hope, acknowledgement). In addition, the images we use are either photographs we’ve taken, images in the public domain (thank you, NASA), or photos we’ve been granted permission to use. We conducted and filmed our video interviews. On a couple of occasions, mostly in the spirit of fun, we have re-posted videos from YouTube as WordPress.com allows.
We’ll be back. For now, we go black.
Guest Blog: A Year-End Round-Up December 5, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Guest Blogs, Information.
Tags: Art & Science, Books
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Lofty Ambitions has been posting pieces by guest bloggers for more than a year now. We’ve been grateful to be able to share a wide range of voices, ideas, and topics with our readers, all the while remaining focused on the blog’s main interests of aviation and space exploration, science of the twentieth century and beyond, and writing as a couple.
With the holidays coming up and the calendar year’s end nearing, we decided to use this December guest blog spot to point out some of our guests’ books, just in case you have some holiday shopping to do or need a reading treat for yourself. We also have some non-book suggestions too!
To see all guest blog posts, click on the menu tab for “guest blogs.”
RECENT AND FORTHCOMING BOOKS BY OUR LOFTY CONTRIBUTORS:
The Boiling Season by Christopher Hebert, a novel due out in March
Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters, a memoir about growing up nuclear
Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl by Sandra Beasley, a memoir about allergies that is a Goodreads nomination for Best Food & Cooking
Celluloid Strangers by Eric Wasserman, a novel set in post-WWII Los Angeles
The Time It Takes to Fall by Margaret Lazarus Dean, a novel set on the Space Coast
Friendly Fallout 1953 by Ann Ronald, nuclear short stories
The Resurrection Trade by Leslie Adrienne Miller, a poetry collection (Y is forthcoming)
the weight of dew by Daniela Elza, a poetry collection due out in April
Truth, Lies and O-Rings by Allan J. McDonald, nonfiction about Challenger
Challenger Revealed by Richard C. Cook, nonfiction
The Berlin Candy Bomber by Gail Halvorson, nonfiction
AC/DC’s Highway to Hell by Joe Bonomo, nonfiction
OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO CHECK OUT:
The film Welcome to Shirley, based on Kelly McMasters’s memoir, made it into Sundance Film Festival this year. Watch the trailer HERE.
Lylie Fisher is showing some of her artwork in the exhibit The Space Between at the American Center for Physics gallery in College Park, Maryland, through May 4, 2012.
The Roger and Roberta Boisjoly Challenger Disaster Collection is housed at Chapman University. You can access the finding aid HERE, but there’s a lot more materials to come as they get sorted and catalogued from the many boxes from Roger’s garage.
WE ALSO RECOMMEND the work of our new colleague Tom Zoellner. He joined Chapman University’s faculty this fall, and we’d already read his book Uranium, for which he made an appearance on The Daily Show. Tom’s new book, A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us about the Grand Canyon State and Life in America, is due out later this month and is available for pre-order at Powell’s HERE.
Tom and Anna will appear together on the panel “Fallout & Facts: Creative Nonfiction in the Nuclear Age” at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference on March 2, 2012, in Chicago. Both Tom and Anna will sign books on March 3 at the conference bookfair (Table D-21), which is open to the public that Saturday. Other “Fallout & Facts” panelists include Kristen Iversen, M .G. Lord, and Jeff Porter—all of whom have books available or forthcoming soon that are of interest to us here at Lofty Ambitions.
Last Chance to See (Appendix/TOC) July 29, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Guest Blogs, Information, Space Exploration, Video Interviews.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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On Wednesday, we concluded our series “Last Chance to See.” Here is a Table of Contents of sorts, with links and brief descriptions, for this series. Most posts include several of our own photographs; we have noted posts that include video and/or more than the usual number of photos. We’ve also listed our July guest bloggers at the bottom because they, too, fit the topic and themes of “Last Chance to See.”
Part 3: Arrival at Kennedy Space Center
Part 4: Visit to the launch pad (photos of Atlantis)
Part 5: Pre-launch activities (photos of astronaut walkout)
Part 6: LAUNCH PHOTOS
Part 7: LAUNCH VIDEO
Part 9: Journey of the last shuttle solid rocket booster (lots of photos)
Part 11: Space shuttle poetry
Part 12: Mission time & music
Part 13: STS-135 media coverage (lots of links to Lofty elsewhere)
Part 14: The future & SpaceX
Part 15: STS-135 crew (lots of photos)
Part 18: Shuttle as concept
Part 19: Conclusion: nature & technology meet
Guest Blogger: Omar Izquierdo: End of Shuttle
Happy Anniversary! July 1, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Collaboration, Information, Writing.
One year ago today, we launched Lofty Ambitions (click HERE for our launch post). We chose our three-pronged focus carefully: science of the twentieth century and beyond, aviation and spaceflight, and writing as a couple. Those topics drew from our deep, shared interests but gave us plenty of room to maneuver. As you can tell from the Lofty Topics in our sidebar, we gravitated, over the past year, especially to the space shuttle and various things nuclear, in large part because world events pointed us to these two topics that were already of interest. Had the space shuttle program not been set to end in 2011, we would have launched this blog anyway. But if we hadn’t launched this blog, we aren’t sure we would have gone to such lengths to see a space shuttle launch. We’re all in now and packing our bags for the last launch, scheduled for July 8.
When we began this endeavor (or do we spell it Endeavour now) a year ago, we committed to writing a post together for each Wednesday. We are proud to report that we have not missed a single week, though there was one Wednesday when the post went up with just two minutes to spare (already almost 3a.m. on the East Coast) and needed some immediate editing. The length of a blog post is manageable (in fact, some weeks, it’s so manageable that we run longer than we expected), and it forces us to shape our ideas. Having a weekly deadline makes us think about what we know that’s worthy of several hundred words and how to balance planning, drafting, and revising. There’s a certain buzz one gets with a tight deadline. Like having your cake and eating it too, we are always meeting a deadline only to face a deadline.
Collaborating has not always been easy, but it continues to be rewarding week to week. At first, we always sat down to brainstorm and draft together, often mapping out a couple of week’s worth of ideas and drafting sentence by sentence together the piece we needed to post pronto. While we still enjoy doing that, schedules and other constraints have forced us to come up with a variety of ways to collaborate. Sometimes, Doug will draft the entire post, and Anna will rework it. Other times, Anna will draft the post, leaving Doug to fill in gaps noted in all-caps or to stylize rather dry paragraphs. We’ve developed a good sense of the voice we’ve created together. Occasionally, a reader who knows us may be able to point a particular sentence that was surely written by one or the other us, but sometimes we laugh that Anna wrote a Doug sentence or vice versa. We have never posted work that we have not both had a hand in creating.
Well, that’s not exactly true. We added guest posts on every first and third Monday, beginning with Chris Cowen, a film producer, on September 27 of last year. (Click HERE for our first guest post.) The variety of our guest list surprises even us: artists, poets, scientists, pilots, and an eighth-grader. On Independence Day, we will post a piece by our twenty-first guest blogger (twenty dates, but we had two guest bloggers on January 17 to commemorate the impending anniversary of the Challenger accident), novelist Margaret Lazarus Dean. We hope to meet Margaret later in the week because she’s a space nerd too and will be at the Space Coast for the last shuttle launch. In a recent email, Margaret said that if we gathered all of the people together for a party who were interested in literature and space exploration, that we probably wouldn’t need a very large room. But, it sure would be a great party. We couldn’t agree more.
A couple of months ago, we began running, on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, the video interviews we’ve accumulated. We started with Mike Coats, astronaut and Director of Johnson Space Center, who grew up in Riverside, California, and reprimands Anna for not having yet visited Disneyland. (Click HERE for out first video interview.) We have a bunch more videos, including the charming Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke, whose eyes light up when he talks about flying.
So you can count on something new at Lofty Ambitions every Wednesday and most Mondays, and sometimes we have extras. In fact, “On Today’s Date: August 29 & 30” continues to attract hits most days; we’re not sure why that little gem has staying power.
Today’s post is number 138. For the arithmetically inclined, that means we’re getting something Lofty to you every 2.65 days. The hits the blog has had in the first six months of this year is more than double the last six months of last year (its first six months). April was the blog’s busiest month; we wrote in earnest and in depth about nuclear energy and started our series “A Launch to Remember” (the CONCLUSION includes links to the whole series, and there’s a post-series photo post.) We consider several of that month’s pieces some of our best work together; by then, our voice had come into its own, and we stretched ourselves. May 16 was our busiest single day; no wonder, as that day featured our brief, shaky, but hard-earned video of Endeavour’s launch and the guest post by aviation museum curator Stewart Bailey. The light-traffic day of the week is usually Saturday, so if you’re surfing the Internet on the weekend, give us a click.
We’re looking forward to our second year here at Lofty Ambitions. We don’t know exactly what we’ll cover over the next year, but we’re giddy about next week’s trip and the new series it will generate. We leave for Florida on Wednesday evening and don’t expect a chance for shut-eye until Friday night. That is, if Atlantis lifts off on time. Keep checking back.
Interview: Mike Coats May 23, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Science, Space Exploration, Video Interviews.
Tags: Math, Space Shuttle
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This video launches our NEW INTERVIEW FEATURE, which will appear every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month. To mark the end of the space shuttle program this year, we’ll begin with a series of interviews we’ve done with astronauts in that program. We have a lot more in store, including interviews with Apollo astronauts Charlie Duke and Walt Cunningham as well as with the first nurse to the astronauts.
Don’t worry! We’re keeping our established format as well. Our guest blog feature continues on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month, and we post a regular piece every Wednesday. We include extra posts now and then too.
Today, we begin our interview feature with Michael Coats. We interviewed the Director of Johnson Space Center when we were at Kennedy Space Center for what turned out to be space shuttle Discovery’s not-launch last year. Astronaut Mike Coats flew on Discovery three times. He also grew up in Southern California so you can hear him reprimand Anna for not yet having visited the happiest place on earth.