A Breath Of Fresh Air!!!

Tonight I wanted … nay, I needed … to write about something other than … well, you-know-who.  So I spent some three hours searching for a story that had nothing to do with U.S. politics.  You wouldn’t believe how hard that was!!!  Even the European news sites had all you-know-who … every single bloomin’ story!  But I knew I had found my story when I saw this picture …Milner-1This woman’s office is the first I have seen that looks worse than my own!  The woman is one Dr. Brenda Milner, a professor of psychology in the department of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal, best known for discovering the seat of memory in the brain, the foundational finding of cognitive neuroscience. Now, if I knew what all that meant …

Milner-3Dr. Milner is 98 years old and still going strong!  Dr. Milner continues working, because she sees no reason not to. Neither McGill nor the affiliated Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital has asked her to step aside. “People think because I’m 98 years old I must be emerita,” she said. “Well, not at all. I’m still nosy, you know, curious.” 

In 2014 she won three prominent achievement awards, which came with money for research. She has a project: a continuing study to investigate how the healthy brain’s intellectual left hemisphere coordinates with its more aesthetic right one in thinking and memory. (Perhaps I should travel up to Montreal, because I am fairly certain that my left and right hemispheres do not coordinate with one another at all!!!)

She has made some concessions to her age … she only goes into the office about three days a week now.  “And I have some rules,” she added. “I will take on postdoctoral students, but not graduate students. Graduate students need to know you’ll be around for five years or so, and well” — she chuckled, looking up at the ceiling — “well, it’s very difficult if they have to switch to someone else, you know.”

Dr. Milner changed the course of brain science for good as a newly minted Ph.D. in the 1950s by identifying the specific brain organ that is crucial to memory formation. I will leave out the technical detail, as I do not understand it myself, but for any interested, this New York Times article gives more detail about her work and is quite fascinating.

Milner-2Dr. Milner was born in Manchester, England, and was homeschooled until age 8 by her father, a music critic and piano teacher. By the time she was 6-years-old, she was fluent in German as well as English.  She fell in love with mathematics and science and earned a scholarship to Cambridge University.  She has over 20 honorary degrees and many distinguished awards, far too numerous to list here.

Though she does not drive, Dr. Milner did once pass her driving test …

The driving instructor wiped his brow with a handkerchief, and not just because of the heat. His student — a grown woman, squinting over the dashboard — was ramming the curb in an effort to parallel park.

“We reached an agreement, right then and there: He let me pass the test, and I promised never to drive,” Brenda Milner said, smiling to herself at the decades-old memory. “You see, my spatial skills aren’t so good. That’s primarily a right-brain function.” – New York Times, 15 May 2017

Fortunately, she doesn’t need to drive to work.  “I live very close; it’s a 10-minute walk up the hill, so it gives me a good reason to come in regularly.”

I admire this woman very much!  She is dedicated and has a sense of humour, and most important, she isn’t letting age slow her down, but just keeps on giving of her time and talents.  I am 23 years younger than she, and I suspect her energy levels far exceed my own.  I am so glad I stumbled across Dr. Milner tonight!

On this sad day

As frequently happens, I am a day behind (I took a 4-day hiatus and am still playing catch-up), but my blogger-friend Carolyn Dennis-Willingham who writes as CD-W, Author Flawed to Perfection, wrote this post two days ago, a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Yesterday, April 4th, was the anniversary of King’s assassination, a sad memory for those of us who remember King. Throughout the history of this nation, there has never been another who did as much for Civil Rights as Dr. King, nor has there been another who was able to speak as eloquently to make his point. Dr. King was an activist, yes, but he believed in change through non-violent means. Please take a moment to read this brief tribute to a great man whose life ended far too soon. Thank you, Carolyn, for this post and for permission to re-blog!

CD-W, Author Flawed to Perfection

mkjrmkiiyogionswing-3--e48ff2230ba13227855225db6fedcd58769f70da-s900-c85.jpgcredit

Yesterday, April 3rd, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last sermons in Memphis.

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

On this day, April 4th, he was assassinated.

God Bless You, Dr. King.

fb2c17c4b32a3bc890ec2d4d42df31bb.jpgcredit

View original post

A Special Tribute To Three Brave Men

“If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.” – Gus Grissom

“A good man’s life is never quite ended; something of it always remains to touch and illuminate other lives.” – Edward Higgins White

“Probably the greatest thing a man can say to himself, or have as his philosophy when he has to tackle a tough job, or make a big decision, is the first eight words of the Scout Oath: On my honor, I will do my best…” – Roger B. Chaffee

 

Fifty years ago today, tragedy struck on launch pad 34 at Cape Kennedy during a preflight, launch-rehearsal test for what would later be designated Apollo I. The mission was to be the first manned flight of Apollo, and was scheduled to launch Feb. 21, 1967. Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives when a fire swept through the command module and they were unable to escape.  The fire and the deaths of the three astronauts put the entire lunar landing program on hold.

Today, 50 years and many NASA missions later, the world still remembers the courage of these three men.

apollo-grissomLt. Col. Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom had been part of the U.S. manned space program since it began in 1959, having been selected as one of NASA’s Original Seven Mercury Astronauts. His second space flight on Gemini III earned him the distinction of being the first man to fly in space twice. His hard work, drive, persistence and skills as a top notch test pilot and engineer had landed him the title of commander for the first Apollo flight. Grissom served in both WWII and Korea, where he completed one hundred combat missions with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. Gus was never comfortable speaking with the press. In fact, he went to great lengths to avoid them whenever possible. On one occasion, he went so far as to disguise himself in a floppy straw hat and dark glasses in order to slip by reporters. Some members of the press crew responded by tagging him with the titles “Gloomy Gus” and “The Great Stone Face”.

Grissom joined NASA in 1959, after almost being disqualified because of his allergies.  His response when he learned of this was that his allergies would not be a problem because “there won’t be any ragweed pollen in space”. Grissom was very much a family man, a private man, and when he died he left behind a wife, Betty, and two sons, Scott and Mark.

apollo-whiteLt. Col. Edward H. White was born to fly.  His father was a career Air Force officer who began his career by flying U.S. Army balloons and ended it with the rank of Major General.  White’s first experience at the controls of an aircraft came when he was twelve and his father allowed him to take the controls of an old T-6 … after that, nothing else would do. After graduating from West Point, White followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the U.S. Air Force, and was stationed in Germany.

In 1957, after reading an article about the role of future astronauts, White knew where he wanted to go, and the desire to become an astronaut determined the paths he would follow.  Though he was not one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, White did pilot flights for weightlessness training for John Glenn and Deke Slayton, as well as the chimps that were sent up prior to the astronauts.  In 1962, NASA once again begin recruiting for their upcoming Gemini program, and in September of that year, Edward White finally realized his dream of becoming an astronaut. On June 3rd, 1965, White became the first American to walk in space.  On re-entering the spacecraft after his walk, he said “I’m coming back in… and it’s the saddest moment of my life.”  When White died on this day in 1967, he left behind his wife, Patricia, a son, Edward, and a daughter, Bonnie.

apollo-chaffee.jpgRoger B. Chaffee was the youngest and newest of the three astronauts, having only been in the program for a year. Chaffee began his flight career as a barnstorming pilot. In 1954 Chaffee’s career as a pilot was almost ended by a failed eye test, a requirement for the Naval ROTC flight training  program in which he was enrolled, but was given a second chance that he passed. Joining the U.S. Navy in 1957, Chaffee became one of the youngest pilots to fly A3D twin-engine jet photo reconnaissance planes.  In the early 1960s during the Cold War, and particularly the Cuban Missile Crisis, Chaffee flew more than 80 missions over Cuba. In 1963 he was one of 14 new astronauts chosen for work on Project Gemini.

Chaffee had an artistic streak, designing his own home and doing all his own home improvements.  He even did all his own landscaping. When his wife once asked him to build a tiny water fountain in the backyard, she wound up with a carefully engineered waterfall crafted from tons of gravel and hours of backbreaking work. The cascading waterfall was complimented by the lighting Roger had installed around their pool. Additionally, he wired their stereo system so that music could be heard in any room of the house.  Chaffee left behind his wife Martha, and two children, Sheryl and Steven.

The tragedy delayed the manned space program, but it would eventually proceed with the Apollo program, and later the Space Shuttle Program and the International Space Station (ISS).  Three courageous men gave their lives in the interest of science, in the interest of space exploration, 50 years ago today, and we remember and honour them.  Thank you.

Links for additional information:

NASA Tribute

Apollo 1 – The Fire

Summary of Events

Bio – Grissom

Bio – White

Bio – Chaffee

 

apollo-cmapollo-6apollo-4

apollo-3

 

A Final Thanks To A Classy First Lady

michelle-7

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have less than two weeks left before they return to their private lives.  They have both brought a level of dignity to the White House that has not been seen for many decades, and theirs is the first administration in a long time with not so much as a breath of scandal.  No affairs, no accusations of wrongdoing, no errant children, just respect and dignity.  Yesterday, Ms. Obama gave her final speech as First Lady, speaking at an event honouring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year, and as always, it was filled with encouragement and hope.  I share part of that speech here:

“And as I end my time in the White House, I can think of no better message to send our young people in my last official remarks as First Lady. So for all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth.

If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about.

If you are a person of faith, know that religious diversity is a great American tradition, too. In fact, that’s why people first came to this country — to worship freely. And whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh — these religions are teaching our young people about justice, and compassion, and honesty. So I want our young people to continue to learn and practice those values with pride. You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are. So the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story — because you do. And you have a right to be exactly who you are. But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Right now, you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation. You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.

And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.

That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers — all of us need to be providing for our young people. Because that is what moves this country forward every single day — our hope for the future and the hard work that hope inspires.

So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.

And that is true I know for every person who are here — is here today, and for educators and advocates all across this nation who get up every day and work their hearts out to lift up our young people. And I am so grateful to all of you for your passion and your dedication and all the hard work on behalf of our next generation. And I can think of no better way to end my time as First Lady than celebrating with all of you.

So I want to close today by simply saying thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our kids and for our country. Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud.” 

I have said it before, and I shall say it this one last time.  First Lady Michelle Obama deserves a standing ovation from us all, for she has brought values, hope, humour, compassion, dignity and grace back to the White House.  I, for one, shall miss her.  Thank you, Ms. Obama, for all you have given us.

Full transcript of her speech and video, courtesy of Time Magazine

michelle-4michelle-6

 

 

michelle-5

 

In Memoriam: Remembering Those Who Transitioned In 2016

I recently stumbled upon a blog titled ‘Thought Provoking Perspectives’. I have only read a few posts by this writer, John T. Wills, but I like what I see. Today I am sharing, with permission, his post providing a very comprehensive list of those public figures, politicians, musicians, actors, etc., who died during 2016. I have seen many such lists in the past week or two, but this one is the most comprehensive I have seen. Some I had forgotten, and some I don’t recall hearing about. The list is long, and that is to be expected, as the ‘baby boomer’ generation is aging. Some I had barely heard of … others, like Elie Wiesel, Shimon Peres and John Glenn were bigger-than-life figures to me. Please take a moment to read Mr. Wills’ post – I bet there are some you weren’t aware of! Thank you, Mr. Wills, for this post and for your permission to share it.

Thought Provoking Perspectives

thLooking back at the year that was and remembering the long list of people that were famous, known nationally, and recognized; 2016 saw the deaths of an unusually long list of political titans and sports icons, famous musicians and Hollywood greats. There was the boxer nicknamed The Greatest, the musician known as Prince, the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

– Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxing champion who transformed himself into a global hero, died June 3 at 74. Ali, who fought a high-profile battle with Parkinson’s disease, died of septic shock.

– George Michael musician, front man for the group Wham.

– Natalie Cole, musician, daughter of the great Nat King Cole.

– Maurice White, songwriter, producer and founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire.

– The death of Fidel Castro, the cigar-chomping despot who ruled Communist Cuba for nearly half a century, sent shock waves around the world. Castro died Nov…

View original post 1,015 more words

One Of The Last Of His Kind: John Glenn, (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016)

“I’m not interested in my legacy, I’m more interested in living.”

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self-interest.”

“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind — every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.”

– JOHN HERSCHEL GLENN, JR.

I think it is possible that John Glenn was among the most highly regarded and respected men of our time.  So many people have expressed sadness at his passing, and I have yet to read a single, critical word, though in his political career there were surely many who disagreed with his views.

john-glenn-2

Friendship 7 capsule

My first memory of John Glenn happened when I was in fifth grade.  The year was 1962, and Mr. Glenn was about to lift off for his orbit around the earth.  Though science has never been either my strong suit or my passion, I have always been enthralled by space exploration, ever since watching that lift-off.  Two years later, my father spent an evening in a hotel bar with the original seven Mercury astronauts, including Glenn, and received autographed pictures from each.  I think that may have been the highlight of his life, as he mentioned it often and those pictures always had a place of honour in his office!

john-glenn-6

John Glenn rides in ticker-tape parade with President John F. Kennedy

john-glenn-7

John Glenn’s first ticker-tape parade – 1962

John Glenn is best known for being the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth, but Glenn crammed more into 95 years of life than any other 10 men combined.  I will keep the detail short, as you can find that anywhere on the internet, but a few of his accomplishments must be noted here.  He was a Marine pilot during World War II, flying some 59 missions in the South Pacific, where one of his wingmen was baseball legend Ted Williams.  He then served in the Korean war, he was recruited by NASA, who selected him to become one of the Mercury 7 astronauts, despite the fact that he was almost over the maximum age limit of 40.  In 1962, he flew the now historic flight of Mercury-Atlas 6, orbiting the earth three times before safely splashing down in the Atlantic despite problems with a heat shield that had come loose.

john-glenn-5

Splashdown!  The green dye helps find the capsule from the air

Glenn did not return to space during the rest of the Mercury project, and left Nasa in 1964.  Some have speculated that President Kennedy quietly ordered NASA to ground Glenn, as he was seen as a national hero and it would demoralize the nation were he to be injured or killed in the still-developing space program.  Glenn retired in 1964 in hopes of running for a seat as the U.S. Senator from Ohio, but it would be ten years, 1974, before he achieved that goal.

john-glenn-joe-biden-1981

John Glenn with a young Joe Biden – 1981

In 1965, Glenn entered the world of business, accepting an executive position with Royal Crown (RC) Cola, where he served as Vice-President, then President until 1970 when he made another Senate bid but lost.  He maintained close ties with the Kennedy family and was with Robert (Bobby) Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1968.  Finally in 1974 he won a seat to the United States Senate where he served until January, 1999 after electing not to run for a fifth term.

john-glenn-8

John Glenn ‘suiting up’ for his final NASA mission at age 77 – 1998

In the late 1990s, NASA planned a mission that would test the effects of space travel on the elderly, and Glenn, then age 77, was chosen for the mission.  He flew a 9-day mission aboard space shuttle Discovery, and was welcomed home with his 2nd ticker-tape parade!

In 2014, Glenn had successful open-heart surgery, and at the end of November 2016, he was hospitalized at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, where he died on December 8th.

john-glenn-9

John Glenn receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama – 2012

John Glenn received numerous awards and honours during his lifetime, including:

  • Congressional Gold Medal for Distinguished Astronauts along with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – November 2011
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House – May 2012
  • Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) John Glenn, a U.S. Navy ship named after Glenn – February 2014
  • John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University, named after him – April 2015
  • John Glenn Columbus International Airport, renamed for Glenn – June 2016

My brief tribute does not nearly capture the many ventures Mr. Glenn embarked upon, nor could it ever, but what impresses me the most is the indomitable spirit and the humanity of the man.  Tom Brokaw, who was friends with Glenn, said of Glenn, “Throughout his life, it was never about him.  He was so modest.” (Link to this video and others at end of post).

My hat is off to former astronaut, senator, and most of all honourable man, John H. Glenn, Jr. They just don’t make them like him anymore. As fellow-astronaut Scott Carpenter said to you back in 1962, I say again with a tear in my eye:  “Godspeed”.

john-glenn-3

A few links:

Video of Tom Brokaw interview on the Today Show, discussing John Glenn

Video of Glenn talking about training on the Gimbal Rig

Link to NASA John Glenn/Friendship 7 website (includes video of actual Gimbal Rig)