Tag Archives: Jess3

Space Taxi

I took a taxi this morning to my meeting with Jess3‘s Adam Zuckerman and Ben Slavin in their new DC offices. The taxi driver and I started chatting.

What a delightful little man.

Nigeria Yoruba DrummersI learned he came to DC from his home in Nigeria. He speaks two languages: English and Yoruba, a dialect from his home state. We talked about Africa, a topic near and dear my heart with my daughter Steph living there. I learned that Nigeria is a former British Colony. Each of the states has a different dialect.

He completed his graduate studies in Electrical Engineering at Loyola University in Maryland. When he found out he couldn’t work here in the field without an American citizenship, he applied for citizenship. Now, he’s a proud U.S. citizen.

I asked why he was driving a cab. He has a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering, for heavens sake.

He quit applying for jobs. The process was so painful for him, it made him cry. He told me even NASA turned him down!

As he pulled up to the Jess3 address, I encouraged him to try again. He balked. No way. He said he was done. Finished. He didn’t want to cry anymore. I suggested he try USAjobs.gov, where he can sign up for job categories and agencies and receive email alerts when jobs open up. Nope. He wouldn’t hear of it. He never wants to cry again. The pain was too great.  His wife has a good job in the government, so he can be happy for her. She’s a citizen now too.

I got out of the cab. My parting shot: “If you don’t keep trying, you let them steal your dream.” Unthinkable!
I've got a dream tweetI let the taxi driver in on a secret: being at work sometimes makes me cry. The job hunting process is merely good preparation for when he gets hired. He laughed, and drove off.

You’re probably wondering point of this story. Here’s the deal: I’ve been feeling pretty discouraged about my life now that I’m back from South Africa. I’ve had trouble finding value pushing paper and fighting bureaucratic fires at work (not that I ever did, come to think of it). The 15-minute conversation today with a Nigerian-born-American-citizen-Masters-level-Electrical-Engineer taxi driver showed me that I can make a difference here, as well as in Africa. A simple conversation. A simple encouragement. A refusal to let dream snatchers succeed.

Life is about dreaming big dreams, having the guts to make them come true, and refusing to accept defeat. And that’s what we do at NASA. We make the impossible possible.

Thank you taxi driver from Nigeria. I hope to see you working at NASA someday soon. Or, maybe you’ll bypass NASA altogether and drive your taxi to space. Hey, it could happen.

Space Taxi

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Filed under Africa, federal government, NASA

Flying South for Winter

The temperature dropped to the mid 20′s here in the DC region today, with the wind chill factor registering in the teens. Brrrr. Biting cold. The heater in my house rarely gets over 64 degrees on cold days like this. As I pack for a Summer Christmas in South Africa with daughter Steph, I find the irony amusing.

Giraffes from Mike Boon's South African Game Reserve

Giraffes from Mike Boon's South African Game Reserve.

Note: For those who don’t know, my daughter Steph works with the Bethany House counseling school children who are victims of trauma. The stories the children tell her keep Steph awake at night. Part of our journey to South Africa is to encourage and uplift her, so that she can pour out her heart to the children who are hurting — damaged by unspeakable abuse and heart-breaking life experiences.

Here is a excerpt from Steph’s blog

Steph talks about her journey in her Blog

Now, let’s talk about our airline-imposed travel constraints:

Jet Blue allows one bag for the DC to NYC leg of the trip. South African Airways allows two.

Here’s what I need to take with me:

  • Steph’s summer clothes (she didn’t have room to take down with her in July  which is winter in South Africa),
  • gifts and goodies for the children of Bethany House,
  • Steph’s Birthday gifts (she turns 25 next week),
  • Christmas gifts for both daughters, and …last but not least…
  • my clothes.

Basically, I’m faced with an over-constrained equation. The only way to make this work –remove variables. Meaning, my clothes!

I spent yesterday trying on summer clothes in an EXTREMELY chilly house in my effort to edit down to the bare essentials for three weeks in Africa.

This little packing exercise got me thinking.

  • What about our space pioneers who pack for six month on Space Station — especially if travel means tucking three humans into a Russian Soyuz spacecraft? What do you take? What do you leave behind on Earth?
  • What was it like for early American pioneers leaving behind family treasures to load up a westward-bound covered wagon for the nine-month journey across mountain passes to uncertainty on the other side?
  • What about families who left Europe to start a new future across the ocean in the Americas?
  • What about refugees who flee violence or poverty or drought in countries around the world today?

The shacktowns in and around Johannesburg are filled with families who left everything behind to build a better life in South Africa. Take Portia, for instance….

We met Portia outside Johannesburg.

We met Portia outside Johannesburg.

My buddy Mike Boon introduced us to Portia last time we visited South Africa. Portia lives in a one room tin shack outside Johannesburg. She welcomed us into her home. No electricity. No plumbing. No running water. (The orange containers in the doorway are for transporting water, which she has to do every day.)

Squatter's Village outside Johannesburg

The shack village where Portia lives.

Yes, I’m spoiled. We live in a land of excess. I’m ashamed to admit my struggle over what NOT to take with me for a three-week trip.

Perhaps I should take a cue from the birds who fly south for the winter: Take nothing, find food and necessities along the way.

Matthew 6:26 comes to mind:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Last word: After hearing my tale of woe today, Adam and Ben of Jess3 called Jet Blue and discovered I can take an extra bag for only $30. I know. I know. I could have checked myself. Somehow that never made it to my to-do list. Now, I get to decide if it’s worth it to repack and add back my “excess” things.

So, do I fly south like a bird, or like an American?

At least I have a choice.

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Filed under Africa, Bethany House Trust, poverty

Warning: I Tweet Alot!

During Space Shuttle missions or special events, I tweet alot.  I admit it. It’s true. Folks tease me about filling their pages with space tweets. I love sharing photos and inside scoop. Isn’t that what it’s all about? It’s just so much fun, I can’t stop myself.

I’ve said it before, I’m TWaddicted.

We have two tweetups in two weeks during the upcoming STS-132 mission. We’re hosting space tweeps down at the Kennedy Space Center for a tweetup at the press site on Thursday and Friday. Hopefully Space Shuttle Atlantis will lift off at 2:20 p.m. Friday as scheduled for picture-perfect end to the tweetup. So far, we have a 70% chance of good weather.

If you’re in the Kennedy Space Center area on Friday, please huff ‘n puff the clouds away!

STS-132 Mission Poster

STS-132 Mission Poster

The following week, we have a Johnson Space Center mission tweetup on Wednesday, May 19. This will be my first Houston tweetup. I was in Italy during the STS-130 tweetup. I saw enthusiastic tweets from those who attended, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Sadly, none of the STS-132 flyboys signed on to tweet about the mission. Each astronaut is given the choice:

To Tweet or Not to Tweet. That is the question…

STS-132 astronauts

STS-132 astronauts

They all declined the offer. (Can you imagine passing up the opportunity to tweet? Heresy, I say!)

Consolation: we still have Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi tweeting away from Space Station. He’ll tweet about the launch and docking and mission highlights. He posts the most amazing pics, like this one of “Planet Bahamas.”

Planet Bahamas by @Astro_Soichi

Great scoop for you! We have a new feature to offer this mission : BuzzRoom, a social media aggregator page to collect all the tweets, flickr images, video and more for the tweetups. I’ll post the link once it’s live. SOOO excited. Jess3 built it for us. Folks can be part of the tweetup conversation directly from the BuzzRoom webpage. You’re going to LOVE it!

So, for those of you following me on Twitter, brace yourselves.

So much to tweet. So little time.

ST-132 tweetSTS-132 tweetSTS-132 tweetsTS-132 tweet

BTW: Thanks to Brazil’s Manoel Balem for inspiring this post. He sent me this DM (direct message) after I uploaded a dozen or so STS-132 crew photos on Twitpic:

STS-132 twitter message

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Filed under NASA, social media, space, tweet-up

Work Space: Is Yours Out of This World?

Quick Post. I’m on my way to a creative writing course for a few days. I wanted to share these thoughts before I go.

I attended a Google DC Talk yesterday with Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson on his new book, “FREE, the Future of a Radical Price.” (Thanks Jesse Thomas of Jess3 for the invite!)

Google DC is located north of the White House, not far from the new DC Convention Center, only a short distance from NASA Headquarters. Though Google DC is close by, it felt light years away in culture.

The offices are open and colorful with fun, funky furniture. I felt at home right away.

Side note: You should see my house. My home office is painted lime green. Yes, I know. You’ve raised your eyebrows at that. But really. If you stepped inside, you’d feel hopeful, energetic, renewed. Color makes a HUGE difference — at least in my life.

So my quick thought before I head out the door.

I’ve wanted for years to RE-decorate some NASA “creative spaces” at Headquarters with fun, colorful, spacey decor since WAY back in the 90′s when our new Deputy-to-be Lori Garver was running Policy and Plans. At the time, I proposed we re-model our Concourse break room after the Motley Fool model — the first business I’d seen at the time decorated with LOADS of color, as well as ping pong and pinball machines for stress release and team building. I was told we couldn’t because we only lease the building. Bummer.

But I haven’t given up the idea. I’ve simply changed my focus.

We have deadzone hallways in the center of the building on every floor (already equipped with sink, refrigerator, soda machine) that could be creative spaces. All we need to add are funky chairs, PAINT, and a self-serve coffee bar.

A place where employees could chat over ideas, unwind, recharge, and build community.

I met this week with Loraine Bjorendahl, Events Coordinator at Origo, to discuss an upcoming project (really aMAZingly cool project that you’ll go CRAZY about) that we’re planning. She mentioned the Swedish tradition of “Fika,” or coffee break, which is a time where they break the day, gather together, and share thoughts. She described Fika as a time of relaxed reflection where the best ideas flow.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:

Create “Fika Space” at NASA, a space where we can gather together to “share ideas” in a caffeine-charged color-soaked funky-chair inspired environment.

What say you? Are you with me? Arm yourselves with paint brushes. CHARGE!!!

:-D

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Filed under NASA, space