Thursday, April 14, 2016

Not Less

Earlier this week ESA put a lander on an asteroid. Something that is truly phenomenal and amazing and a step forward for space engineering. Maybe it wasn’t quite the moon landing in terms of coverage, but it certainly seemed like a lot of people were tuned into this event.

An ESA engineer giving an interview wore an unfortunate shirt that offended and alienated many women. The engineer has thus apologized, and I believe him. I believe him that he didn’t think when he put on that shirt in the morning. Odin knows as an engineer I’ve seen my colleagues–male and female and myself included–make some questionable fashion choices. 

People have asked my opinion of this occurrence, which is only natural I suppose considering I’m a female engineer in the space industry. Satellites are my business. 

But asking me to talk about a shirt is short sighted. This isn’t about one poor fashion choice. No, this is about being a female in a male dominated world. This is about the system and how it works. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. 

Hi, my name is Mandy, and I’m an aerospace engineer.

I wanted to be an engineer my entire life, but not just any engineer. I wanted to be Geordi La Forge. I wanted his job. I wanted to be the chief engineer of the Enterprise. Everyone else’s jobs…they were alright, but he was the guy who made the Enterprise sail through the stars! He was the one who  made the magic happen. Without him, none of the adventures would be able to happen. And I wanted that to be me. 

And because my parents raised me to believe I could be whoever I wanted to be no matter what, I didn’t think it was odd that my greatest hero in life was a blind black man. There was no one else in the universe I would have rather been. 

My other hero when I was a kid was my brother. He was four years older than me, and I wanted to do everything he did. I played the sports he did, the extra curricular activities he liked, and I would’ve joined boy scouts if they would’ve let me. 

Odin-help-me, I wanted to be him so bad. 

Looking back on life, it’s very clear to me that I just wanted to be a boy. It’s hard to explain this without getting into weird gray areas. I am not trans. I have never been trans. I identify as female even if I don’t identify as feminine.  But there are so many times in my life where I think, “God, my life would be so much easier if I was just a guy.”

But why did–do–I often feel that I would like to be a guy? That my life would be easier or somehow more normal if I was a guy? That I would be more successful or better if I was a guy?

And there it is.

To be a guy is to be better.

To be a guy is to make history. To be a guy is to be on the forefront of science. To be a guy is to affect change in the world. To be a guy is to go on adventures. 

I wanted to be Geordi. I wanted to be von Braun. I wanted to be Feynman. I wanted to BE SOMEBODY.

This probably explains why when I discovered Marie Curie in the fifth grade, I read the biography written by her daughter five times that year. 

I wanted, needed to believe that there was a place for me in science. That I could be her. That I could be the hero of my own story.

And it’s not like my parents ever told me girls couldn’t do things. My parents constantly told me I could be just as good as the boys. That I could excel at science and math. But while my parents told me one thing society told me another. 

Society told me MEN saved the world. Not women.

I wanted to be Peter Pevensie. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. I wanted to be Ender Wiggin. I wanted to be Harry Potter. I wanted to be Rand al'Thor. I wanted to be the person who saved the universe.
And I had every quality the hero of an adventure had except the most important.

I wasn’t male.

And worse, since I wasn’t particularly feminine, I couldn’t even aspire to be the love interest who got to go on adventures with the male lead. 

I was nothing.

At some point in my life I decided that I didn’t care that I wasn’t a guy. I was going on the adventure and I was going to make my career and life choices as if I was a guy, even though I wasn’t. 

And nothing was going to dissuade me from that. Not my math teacher telling me I would never make it in a career that required math. Not other college-aged engineers ragging on female engineers for having “TBS” (Tech Bitch Syndrome). Not the horrible male-to-female ratios at school (9-1) or work (20-1 and 50-7 at my two jobs).  Not the insensitive middle aged prick who ragged on me for an entire summer because I was female and Polish and unmarried and any number of things he could harass me for. Not the inappropriate jokes about women, the insinuations that I was incompetent, or less of an engineer, or less of a girl, or just less. 

I’m an engineer. I have two degrees. I have worked for NASA and now work in a job in satellites that I love. There are six satellites currently in space that I have worked on. I am awesome.

Would one silly insensitive stupid ESA shirt have deterred me from my path as a kid? No. But the thing is, it’s not just one shirt.

It’s one of the many many things girls are inundated with that tells us we are not welcome in STEM. We are decorations for a shirt. Not scientists. 

Because we are less.

And no girl should have to feel that she is less. That she is somehow lacking because of the sex she was born with and the gender she has chosen. 

If you are reading this, you are not less. I don’t care who you are. Female or male, cis or trans, bi gay or straight, poor or rich, I don’t care.

You. Are. Not. Less.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Wait For It

This was originally posted on my tumblr, the-feels-assassin, on November 25, 2015.

So I’ve been thinking about Aaron Burr recently, you know, like you do.

Note: this post is based on the musical Hamilton and it’s events, not the true historical events which do differ from the musical.

In Hamilton, Burr’s philosophy is to “wait for it.” Particularly he says,
I am the one thing in life I can control
I am inimitable
I am an original
I’m not falling behind or lying in wait
I’m not standing still
I’m lying in wait
Burr’s philosophy is good things come to those who wait. If you are patient, if you study the flow around you, if you pay your dues, you will be rewarded and get what you want.

Hamilton’s philosophy is of course the opposite. You should seize what you want, otherwise you will get nothing.

These differences in philosophy obviously come from their differences in upbringing. Burr came from a wealthy family and Hamilton came from nobody. Hamilton had to seize the things he wanted because otherwise he had nothing. But like Burr says,
[Hamilton] has something to prove
He has nothing to lose 
Especially before Eliza in his life, Hamilton literally has nothing to lose. He doesn’t even have a good name. Unlike Burr, who is protecting his family legacy, left to him at too young an age after his death’s parents.

I say all this to posit that, there is nothing wrong with Burr’s philosophy.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with “waiting for it” and taking opportunities as they come instead of going out of your way to seize opportunities. Both philosophies obviously have their pros and cons. But in Aaron Burr’s case, what is the risk of him not taking Hamilton’s philosophy?
Before the Election of 1800, when Burr tells Hamilton he’s taking a page from his book what exactly is wrong with Burr’s life?


He was actually a successful lawyer, one that Hamilton said was a better lawyer than him. 

He had a wife he loved and a daughter he adored. (His wife died, but this was not due to Burr’s philosophy.)

He wanted to become a congressman and he did. 

Success after success.

If there was a flaw in Burr’s philosophy it’s that he didn’t always take the opportunities given to him. A “wait for it” philosophy doesn’t mean passing on opportunities that are presented to you, but Burr made that mistake when Hamilton approached him about helping with the Federalist papers and Burr refused. If Burr had taken the opportunity that presented itself to him, it would have opened him to even more opportunities after the Constitution passed.

So what was Aaron Burr’s fatal mistake that led to the unraveling of his life? I would argue it’s not his “Wait for It” philosophy but rather his decision to take Hamilton’s philosophy as his own.

Hamilton’s philosophy led to Aaron Burr campaigning for the Election of 1800, putting him on Jefferson’s bad side. If Aaron Burr had simply thrown his lot in with Jefferson he could have been vice president easily!  Aaron Burr was NOT Jefferson’s opponent in the race, John Adams was. Burr and Jefferson could have worked together to secure the presidency. (Which is actually more closely to how it worked in the real historical election.) As vice president, Burr would still be in “the room where it happens” which was what he ultimately desired, not the presidency.

Also Aaron Burr’s calling out Hamilton to a duel is far more reminiscent of Hamilton’s philosophy than Burr’s own. After all, it was Burr who said in the first act that duels were stupid and immature. Challenging someone to a duel is a Hamilton-ism.

If Aaron Burr had just continued to live his life as himself instead of trying to emulate Hamilton’s path to success, he could have had his cake and eaten it to. Instead he made an enemy of Jefferson and killed Hamilton, thus ruining not just his career but his life.

If Burr had just stuck to his guns and waited for it, trusted in his own philosophy and his own success, he could have been successful. But in comparing himself to Hamilton, Burr found his own successful life to be a failure. He adopted a philosophy that wasn’t his own to try to remedy this, and fell prey to the risks in Hamilton’s more aggressive philosophy. (Which is the further out of your range you try to jump up, the farther you have to fall down.)

tl;dr: If Burr had just “waited for it” he would have been in “the room where it happens.”

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why Clint Barton & Natasha Romanoff Are Soulmates

This was originally posted on my tumblr, the-feels-assassin, on February 22, 2015. When this post was written, Age of Ultron had not yet come out. That said, the existence of Laura Barton doesn't change anything I have to say here. :)

ourheartsrace asked: can you or someone you know explain me why are Clint and Natasha soulmates? i've seen on Tumblr many people saying this. but i'm not really familiar with the comics. i'm currently reading captain america vol 5 so i don't know much about comic Clint but Bucky seems more - at least so far - like a soulmate to Nat for me because of their backstory

Oh, my friend, you have come to the right place.

First, let me be clear that my ship to end all ships is Clint Barton/Phil Coulson, and that my number one Natasha Romanoff ship is Natasha Romanoff/Bucky Barnes. Despite these ships Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff will always be soulmates to me. Why? Why are these two dorks soulmates? 

Black Widow #6 (2014)
*brushes off old comic books and lots of feels*

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Disney Cruise Review

Disney Wonder.jpg
Disney Wonder

For our honeymoon this past December, we went on a Disney Cruise. Now I had never been on a cruise before but when it came to pick a honeymoon this just seemed the best option. I was really hesitant, which is why we picked a Disney cruise. As a former Disney employee, I trust that Disney is going to take care of it's guests, whereas I don't necessarily trust say Carnival. From my experience, Disney is going to do everything in their power to make my honeymoon freaking magical, and boy, they certainly did.

We got married in Galveston, TX and therefore, we wanted a cruise that departed from there. This led us to the Disney Wonder and it's Bahamas cruise. It was a seven night cruise, so pretty long especially for a first cruise. And it was Christmas themed, which was AWESOME. I don't know if you've ever been to a Disney park at Christmas, but they tend to go all out. And the cruise ship was no exception. 

The Christmas tree in the lobby!
So what made the Disney cruise so awesome? I'm going to highlight five specific points, because I don't want to write up a long rambly post. 

5. Kids? What Kids?

The first question I get from everyone is always, "You went on a Disney Cruise? But you don't have kids! Surely the kids got annoying!?!?!" And honestly, on the Disney Cruise, as a person without kids, I barely noticed there were kids. Disney had several places on the boat that were specifically for 18+ only. There was an entire pool that only adults could be in, and kids weren't even allowed to sit around it. 

One of the clubs
There were "clubs" on the boats, some which were for families and some which were for adults only. And I feel like I say "adults only" and people assume everyone in that area is sloshed or something, but that is not the case. Most of the adults only area were filled with adults who just needed a break form the kiddo chaos! During the day the "adult club" would have trivia competitions and other games, where only adults could compete with adults (so no kids crying because they lost)! 

For people who had kids, it seemed like there was basically day care for kids of different ages. You could check your kid in and leave them from morning til dinner and hang out in the adult areas free of kids! Which I'm sure a lot of them enjoyed. And for my husband and me it was nice not to have to deal with the crying and screaming that comes with little kids running around everywhere!

4. Castaway Cay

Look how clear the water is!
Basically Disney owns it's own island in the Bahamas called "Castaway Cay" and I cannot express to you how truly beautiful this island was. And related to the last point, there was an entire beach on this island that was for adults only. It was as far away as it could be from the parts of the beach where kids were and only accessible by tram, so kids couldn't "mistakenly" show up. 

The beach was so peaceful and quiet, as most of the adults chose past times like we did--which was reading on the beach with our feet in the water, or on one of the many hammocks. The water was ridiculously clear and even though it was the middle of December it was definitely warm enough to swim in.

For people with kids, the kid-friendly sections of the beach were also amazing. There were water slides and beach toys you could check out (or maybe rent, not sure since we didn't get one). And it seemed like everyone was having a blast!

Kid Beach Area with Water Slide!
3. The Live Shows

Pirate Party!
A staple of Disney is live shows. If you go to the parks, they have live shows based on movies like the Lion King and Finding Nemo, but also live shows that are completely original like Fantasmic. The cruise was no different. There was a live show almost every night, like hour-long Broadway musical style shows. While they were all fantastic, the Toy Story show was AMAZING. It was a musical with all original songs. (And the young woman playing Sid was COMPLETELY AMAZING. She stole the show, it was fantastic.)

They also had shows on the deck starring everyone's favorite Mouse and his friends. From a Welcome Aboard party to a Pirate Party, there was plenty of Micky and Crew to keep kids and me happy. 

2. The Service

I can't talk about Disney without talking about the amazing service, and the service on the cruise was EXCEPTIONAL. I'm going to cheat a little though and break it up into two categories: "The Wait Staff" and "The Room Staff."

A. The Wait Staff

Disney Cruises have this thing they call "rotational dining." Basically they have three different restaurants on the ship, and they want to make sure you experience all of them. However, they also want you to have an exceptional experience of having a waiter and staff who know you, so even though you change restaurants, your wait staff moves restaurants with you. So we had the same server, assistant server, and head server every night. 

Our Table!
Our staff was amazing. They quickly learned our quirks and preferences, like how my husband tended to prefer vegetarian options for dinner (though he's not a vegetarian, our dinner time was just really late and he didn't want a lot of meat before bed), or like how I want a Coke every night and it should be refilled any time it seems empty.  And the one time I ordered a meal I didn't like, they instantly had another option there for me to try.

And OMG the food. I can't even begin to express how good the food was. We got an appetizer, meal, and dessert every night and on the nights where nothing on the desert list was appetizing they would bring me ice cream instead. 

But really it was the staff and how they learned about you that really just made the whole thing awesome.

B. The Room Staff

If you've ever heard anything about Disney Cruises it's probably their towel creations they leave in rooms, and I have to say. Those towel creations are AMAZING. 

Our room host was a magician with towels. He was also really nice and kept our room ship-shape despite the fact that I just tend to leave my crap everywhere. But what in particular made this make the list was this little tidbit of a story. I'm gonna quote my husband here (from what he wrote in our scrapbook):
I came back to the room to lay down after a dinner in 8 - 10 ft seas and saw a 'man' reading in bed. "Oh excuse me, sir," I told the man shaped pillow. "I must be in the wrong room!" Did I mention I was sea-sick?
The room host used my hat and my husband's glasses to create this, and it was amazing and hilarious. 
The Mysterious "Man" in Our Room

Our cruise conflicted with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in the sense that we were coming back on Dec. 18 and wouldn't be able to see it until Dec. 19. I'm the type of person who likes to see movies on the Thursday they came out and waiting til the 19th, while a sacrifice I was willing to make, was still a sacrifice. 

Turned out, it was a sacrifice I didn't have to make.

You see Disney owns Star Wars now. Which means, we got Star Wars on it's opening night. We saw it at 6:00 pm December 17th. 

They teased it all week but wouldn't confirm it. The cruise director kept saying things like "The Force is strong on this cruise." However, they were showing Return of the Jedi all week so he could have just meant that. But the day before, they announced that we were actually going to get to see TFA. Everyone got tickets that corresponded to their normal "live show" time. There was a 2D and a 3D theater. We saw it in 2D, since we were already a little sea sick to begin with. And if we had wanted to see it again, there was a midnight and 3 am showing we could have gone to. (We didn't. We went to sleep. Plus we still had our tickets for the 19th for a second viewing.)

This absolutely made the cruise. It took something already awesome and made it better, basically letting me have my cake and eat it too!

In Summary:

The Disney Cruise was awesome. I highly recommend it. It's worth the price. It makes the time on the ship an absolute pleasure, and Disney also arranges some awesome shore activities, which I didn't even go into here but trust me were awesome. So if you're thinking about a cruise and can spring for the price, I highly recommend a Disney cruise for your next vacation. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

I'm back!

Couples Cosplay! Agent Coulson and Captain America!
My dear, loyal readers, after over a year and a half hiatus from this blog I am back!

Why gone so long? Well a combination of factors related to work and some extracurricular church type activities but mostly because...well, I met a boy.

In July 2014 I started dating a guy and well what do you know? Now we're married!

We've been married for almost four months now, and life is starting to settle down again! Instead of spending all my spare time driving between his house and mine, or packing/unpacking my things as we move houses, or just setting up house and trying to figure out how to live with another human being again, I can actually spend my spare time doing the things I used to do! Like social media! And blogging!!!

So I'm back!

Now I know with the exception of one summer where I actually blogged every other day, my blogging has been pretty sporadic. So I'm not going to make any grand promises of some sort of rigorous schedule. However, I'm going to try to post every Tuesday and Thursday. (Try being the key word.) For the next few weeks, the Thursday posts are going to be a little "throwback Thursday." But instead of throwing back to posts on this blog, I'm going to be posting some things I posted on my tumblr during the hiatus. 

Why the re-post? Well it's really difficult to find things on tumblr, and these are posts I would like to have chronicled on this blog for easier access. The majority of them are going to be character meta type posts--you know, lengthy discussions on fictional characters. I've got at least a month's worth of these type posts lined up. 

On the original side, I hope to at least once a month talk about the comics I'm reading--what's currently on my pull list, what I'm adding, and what I'm taking off. I also want to do occasional highlights of specific comics, like say a whole article on why the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is in fact unbeatable and awesome and you should be reading it.

And of course there will be a lot of random posts about everything that strikes my fancy! I'm currently watching all of the X-Files for the first-ish time. I'm SUPER PUMPED for Civil War and will undoubtedly have a lot of feels about it. It's almost summer, which means it's almost time for DragonCon cosplay prep! And heck, there are even some crazy home improvement projects were doing that I will undoubtedly report here, because that's the kind of person I am. 

So yeah, the long and the short of it is I'm back!!!!! I'm looking forward to blogging again. I've missed this. And I'm happy to be back. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Content Coming Soon

New posts coming soon! Starting with a post on why the heck have I been gone for so long in the first place?

Might also be changing some of the formatting and other things, so don't be surprised if things start looking a little different.