Shuttle, Houston: My Life in the Center Seat of Mission Control

Description

A compelling look inside the Space Shuttle missions that helped lay the groundwork for the Space Age, Shuttle, Houston explores the determined personalities, technological miracles, and eleventh-hour saves that have given us human spaceflight.

Relaying stories of missions (and their grueling training) in vivid detail, Paul Dye, NASA’s longest-serving Flight Director, examines the split-second decisions that the directors and astronauts were forced to make in a field where mistakes are unthinkable, and where errors led to the loss of national resources—and more importantly one’s crew. Dye’s stories from the heart of Mission Control explain the mysteries of flying the Shuttle—from the powerful fiery ascent to the majesty of on-orbit operations to the high-speed and critical re-entry and landing of a hundred-ton glider.

The Space Shuttles flew 135 missions. Astronauts conducted space walks, captured satellites, and docked with the Mir Space Station, bringing space into our everyday life, from GPS to satellite TV. Shuttle, Houston puts readers in his own seat at Mission Control, the hub that made humanity’s leap into a new frontier possible.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Personally, I found the first chapter most interesting, as he described technical details of many of the major systems of the Shuttle.

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A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters

by Amy and Dave Freeman

Description

Cover of A Year in the Wilderness: Bearing Witness in the Boundary Waters

Since its establishment as a federally protected wilderness in 1964, the Boundary Waters has become one of our nation’s most valuable—and most frequently visited—natural treasures. When Amy and Dave Freeman learned of toxic mining proposed within this area’s watershed, they decided to take action—by spending a year in the wilderness, and sharing their experience through video, photos, and blogs with an audience of hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens. This book tells the deeper story of their adventure in northern Minnesota: of loons whistling under a moonrise, of ice booming as it forms and cracks, of a moose and her calf swimming across a misty lake.

With the magic—and urgent message—that has rallied an international audience to the campaign to save the Boundary Waters, A Year in the Wilderness is a rousing cry of witness activism, and a stunning tribute to this singularly beautiful region.

My Thoughts

We purchased this book at Lake Superior Trading Post during a camping trip earlier this year.

The authors spent a year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness documenting their experiences with hundreds of photographs, some video, and a few podcast episodes. The book contains dozens of the beautiful full-color photographs.

They camped at approximately 120 different sites, explored 500 lakes, rivers and streams, and traveled more than 2,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe and dog team.

They had a fairly large volunteer support team who brought in food and supplies, and they had a satellite phone to post updates, but otherwise they were cut off from civilization for a year.

They muse on the importance of solitude and retreat from the noise of daily life, and come to appreciate the beauties of the area more than ever.

We’ve been to the edge of the Boundary Waters but it’ll likely be a few years before we can really visit, and thanks to this book, I cannot wait.

This was my favorite book of the entire year.

Resources

Visit https://www.savetheboundarywaters.org/wildernessyear for more information.

Here’s a short video produced by some friends of the Freemans:

Bear Witness: A Year in the Wilderness

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Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter is a fascinating look at what happens to people’s stuff when they no longer want or need it.

The first couple of chapters discuss people decluttering on their own or disposing of a deceased family member’s belongings, often by bringing in a service to go through the stuff and determine what can be sold or donated and what should simply be thrown away.

The second part of the book goes into the global economy of second-hand stuff. For example, all the Goodwill stores in one county take unsold clothing to a Goodwill “warehouse” where clothing is sold for a dollar or two per bag; people purchase truckloads of clothing, drive over the border, and resell it at enough of a profit to make a living.

Highlights

Between 1967 and 2017, the money that Americans spent annually on stuff—from sofas to cell phones—increased almost twentyfold.

Location 51

Garage sales aren’t where it’s at anymore. Half the stuff doesn’t sell because the prices are too high. Everyone thinks they’re on Antiques Roadshow.

Location 836

In the United States (and in Europe), most secondhand goods are donated rather than sold. As a result, most people lack a financial incentive to take care of their things. So instead of seeing the end of an object’s life as an opportunity to extract some last value from it (as people do with their cars), Americans view that object in philanthropic terms. It’ll help the poor; it’ll benefit the environment. For better or worse, both those reasons have proved to be little incentive to take care of stuff.

Location 1076

None of the cut-up fragments of sweatshirt through which Wilson is rummaging were used in India. Rather, they were likely made in South Asia, exported to the United States, and worn until they were donated to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or some other thrift-based exporter. When they didn’t sell there, they were exported again, to Kandla most likely (or perhaps Mississauga, en route to Kandla), cut up, and exported again—this time to Star Wipers in Newark, Ohio. Each step of that journey makes perfect economic sense, even if the totality of it sounds ridiculous.

Location 2755

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American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

American Kingpin

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road is an account of how Ross Ulbricht built the Silk Road, a marketplace for illegal drugs (the book several times compares it to “Amazon for drugs”).

It traces the history of how he built the site, and how individuals from several branches of law enforcement collaborated (or competed…) to stop him.

I thought the technical explanations were very good: accurate so a geek like me didn’t get annoyed or frustrated about incorrect descriptions, and short enough to be relevant and informative to others.

Overall I highly recommend it.

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The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by James W. Pennebaker

Description

The Secret Life of Pronouns

We spend our lives communicating. In the last fifty years, we’ve zoomed through radically different forms of communication, from typewriters to tablet computers, text messages to tweets. We generate more and more words with each passing day. Hiding in that deluge of language are amazing insights into who we are, how we think, and what we feel.

In The Secret Life of Pronouns, social psychologist and language expert James W. Pennebaker uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics-in essence, counting the frequency of words we use-to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence. Our most forgettable words, such as pronouns and prepositions, can be the most revealing: their patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints. 

Using innovative analytic techniques, Pennebaker X-rays everything from Craigslist advertisements to the Federalist Papers-or your own writing, in quizzes you can take yourself-to yield unexpected insights. Who would have predicted that the high school student who uses too many verbs in her college admissions essay is likely to make lower grades in college? Or that a world leader’s use of pronouns could reliably presage whether he led his country into war? You’ll learn why it’s bad when politicians use “we” instead of “I,” what Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common, and how Ebenezer Scrooge’s syntax hints at his self-deception and repressed emotion. Barack Obama, Sylvia Plath, and King Lear are among the figures who make cameo appearances in this sprightly, surprising tour of what our words are saying-whether we mean them to or not.

My Thoughts

I thought this was a mildly interesting book explaining how people’s use of language reveals a lot about their personality and mental condition.

For instance, when speaking to a superior, people tend to use more personal pronouns, but when speaking to a person under their authority, they tend to use far fewer pronouns. This is an unconscious behavior that happens even within minutes of meeting a stranger.

However, the book didn’t seem especially practical. Many times the author reiterated that we don’t pick up on differences in pronoun usage and must rely on word-counting software to analyze text and find patterns. Because word usage is a symptom, not the cause of our behavior, changing our speech patterns won’t have much effect. Rather, it opens a window into what’s going on internally in a person’s thoughts and emotions.