Ladies I Love: R is for Rachel Carson – Scientist, Conservationist and Writer

USFWS Employee PhotoToday’s A to Z Challenge post is brought to you by the letter R.  R stands for Rachel Carson, one of the Ladies I Love in the field of science.  If you don’t know who Rachel Carson was, as a female biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I am very proud to be able to tell you a little bit about her.

Rachel Carson lived between 1907 and 1964.  She was fascinated by nature during her younger years, and went on to obtain her master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932.  Soon after, she got a job with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (which would later become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) where she was one of only TWO professional women working for the organization and earned under $40 PER WEEK when she started.  She did a lot of writing for radio broadcasting at that time, primarily focusing on the ocean in an effort to inform the public about the treasures that marine systems contain and the services that they provide.  She moved up in the Bureau/Service and wrote several books about oceans, which hit the top of best seller lists everywhere.

Click to enlarge!

Click to enlarge!

It was in the mid-1940’s when she learned about DDT.  I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but throughout the next couple of decades, Rachel Carson did a lot of research regarding the effects of DDT on the environment, specifically about bioaccumulation in the food web. In 1962, Rachel Carson published her book “Silent Spring”, which detailed the harmful effects of pesticides and predicted that if our irresponsible use of them continued, we would start killing off species, let alone jeopardize human health.  For example, one of the effects of DDT and bioaccumulation resulted in the inability of some bird species (primarily predatory birds) to successfully reproduce because DDT weakened egg shells, resulting in eggs being crushed in the nest.  Several species (e.g., peregrine falcon, pelican) were put on the Endangered Species list because of this!

Part of a 1947 ad in Time Magazine.

Part of a 1947 ad in Time Magazine.

There was, however, a lot of money in the pesticide industry and tremendously fierce opposition to her work, which publicized the negative effects of DDT on animals and the environment.  If you simply google DDT and look through the videos that come up, you can find old footage of people being happily sprayed by CLOUDS of DDT!  Rachel Carson actually received death threats and harassment because of her work and the questions it raised about the pesticide industry.  In fact, Rachel Carson’s research and work gave rise to the modern grassroots environmental movement that has inspired generations to protect the world around us, AND resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.  After her death (due to illnesses contracted during her treatment for breast cancer), President Carter awarded Rachel Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously for her landmark work, and in 1969, the Coastal Main National Wildlife Refuge was changed to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

Rachel Carson by Alfred Eisenstaedt, Time & Life Pictures, Getty Images

What an amazing woman and inspiration to younger generations of scientists!  Few scientists can claim the magnitude of influence that she had in any field, and in particular, conservation of our natural resources.  Take a look at this short video about Rachel Carson and her life’s work; there is a ton of information online as well, if you are interested in learning more (just follow any of the links I’ve provided above to start).

Additionally, just this past March (Women’s History Month), the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, honored Rachel Carson with this video.

Ladies I Love: Q is for the Mad Queens of Wonderland

Red Queen - Header

Welcome to another Ladies I Love edition of the A to Z Challenge!  Today’s letter is Q, for QUEEN.  Specifically, I’ll be introducing you to four queens from Lewis Carroll‘s books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass“.  I’m a huge fan of these two books and have several editions of them at home – I even memorized “The Jabberwocky” in seventh grade and can still recite it!  And did you ever notice that Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land are actually Queendoms?  It’s the queens who rule these lands, and even though the kings are there, they’re pretty wimpy and submissive to the queens, who are able to rule with gusto.  If you are interested in Alice’s Wonderland adventures, there’s a great wiki that you should visit – you can find it here.  But let’s get on with the business at hand!

Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts playing croquet

First, there’s only one queen in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and I’ll bet you can guess who that is – that’s right, the Queen of Hearts!  But don’t get confused – she is also sometimes mistakenly referred to as “The Red Queen”, whom I will introduce in a moment.  The Queen of Hearts is actually one of a pack of cards who enjoys playing croquet (using hedgehogs for balls and flamingos for mallets), and of course, handing out death sentences like they are going out of style by yelling “off with her head!” should anyone look crosswise at her.  Fortunately, the king is there to discreetly pardon most of the convicted, but if it’s all the same, I wouldn’t want to get on the Queen of Heart’s bad side!

After Alice leaves Wonderland, she enters Looking-Glass Land and there encounters two more queens of a different sort as they are chess pieces and not anything like the sociopathic Queen of Hearts.  First she meets the White Queen, directly upon entering Looking-Glass Land, but the queen doesn’t really interact with her until further in the game of chess that Alice finds herself playing.  She takes her place in the game as a white pawn and has to get to the 9th square to become a queen herself.  When she gets to the fifth square, she meets the White Queen again, who then gives Alice some great advice:

When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” — The White Queen, Through the Looking-Glass

The White Queen is a bit mysterious, and fades in and out of the story, transforming into a knitting sheep and into one of Alice’s white cats.  The Red Queen, on the other hand, is a bit more proactive with Alice in getting her to the 9th square.  The Red Queen is my favorite of the queens we find in Alice’s story.  While bossy, the Red Queen can get things done.  She urges Alice to move quickly and save time where possible.  She states:

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” — The Red Queen, Through the Looking Glass

Red Queen - Running

The Red Queen drags Alice across the chess board (illustration by John Tenniel).

I can so relate to this statement – sometimes life feels like this, right?  In fact, there’s something called The Red Queen Hypothesis in the field of biology that describes how evolution works:  “For an evolutionary system, continuing development is needed just in order to maintain its fitness relative to the systems it is co-evolving with” — Leigh Van Valen (1973).  This means that evolution is just a big game of “Keeping Up with the Jones'” – if you have a competitor or a predator, as a species, you need to evolve to find ways of surviving the challenges of the competitor or predator.  However, those competitors and predators must also evolve too, to keep up with you!  But I digress…

In the end, Alice does get to the 9th square to become a queen in her own right.  The White Queen meanders off and disappears, but the Red Queen continues to cause trouble for Alice, who decides to shake some sense into the Red Queen.  The Red Queen then transforms into Alice’s black kitten and Alice wakes from her dream…having defeated the Red Queen (and King) and won her game of chess.

Three Queens

The three queens of Looking-Glass Land: the White Queen, Alice, and the Red Queen (Illustration by John Tenniel).

To be honest, the Queens are not my favorite characters in Alice’s adventures – I rather enjoy the Cheshire Cat (no surprise there, right?) and the Mad Hatter.  But they are both male, and well, I needed to write about Ladies for this Challenge.  But the queens are no less fascinating than any of other Lewis Carroll’s inventions!  Who is your favorite character in these stories, or do you have another fairy tale that you connect with?

Ladies I Love: M is for Marjane Satrapi, Graphic Novelist and Film Producer from Iran

I can’t believe I’m already writing my “M” post for the A to Z Challenge!  I’ve got another cartoonist (I think this is the last one) for today’s Lady I Love: Marjane Satrapi.  I chose Marjane Satrapi for today for two very interesting reasons:  first, she grew up in Iran under the Muslim fundamentalists who took power after the Iranian Revolution; and second, she’s an outspoken woman who lived to tell about it.

Marjane Satrapi header

Marjane Satrapi was born in Iran in 1969 and lived in a middle-class family with highly educated parents in Tehran until 1983.  During her childhood, she was rambunctious, strong-willed and outspoken, and her family feared that her behavior (and mouth) would get her into serious trouble with the authorities, who had strict behavioral codes for women.  So, her family arranged to have her study in Vienna for high school.  She returned to Tehran after a near-deadly bout of pneumonia and stayed there for several years, but now lives in Paris with her husband.

Satrapi’s childhood and teenage years are detailed in her autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis 1 and 2.  I loved them because she grew up in an entirely different world than I did (geographically, at least, which was fascinating in and of itself), but for all those differences, I could see ways in which she was no different from many of us growing up: questions, conceptions of right and wrong, repression (in her case the government, in my case, parents), and general teenage angst.  Half a world away, and it was like I knew her!

Marjane Satrapi - Michael Jackson

In 2007, Persepolis was made into a feature film and debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.  In 2008, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making Marjane Satrapi the first woman nominated for the category.  In 2011, her graphic novel “Chicken with Plums” was made into a live action movie as well.  There are several interviews with Marjane Satrapi about her work, but I found this one and this one to be very interesting – if you have the time, check them out.  And, below I’ve included the trailers for both Persepolis and Chicken with Plums.  Perhaps you will put them on your “to watch” list!

Ladies I Love: E is for Éowyn, Badass Shieldmaiden in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I thought finding a Lady I Love for the letter E was going to be a tough one in the A to Z Challenge, but if you haven’t figured it out by now, I do have a bit of a geeky side to me which means literary resources abound.  And today that will manifest itself in the form of crushing on one of my favorite fictional characters, Éowyn from the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I read the trilogy many years ago, and my all-time favorite scene by far is from Return of the King, when Éowyn is fighting the Witch King during the Battle of Pelennor Fields.  Although Éowyn was a trained shieldmaiden of Rohan, her uncle, King Theoden, ordered her to stay behind with the women and children to guide their people while the men went to their almost certain doom to fight against the tides of Sauron.  She said, “screw that” and disobeyed him, dressing and acting as a man to sneak her way into the battle.  In the book, she meets the Witch King (the head of the ghost kings with the Nazgul) on the battlefield just as he has injured Theoden.  The Witch King is all, “No living man may hinder me!” because there’s a prophecy that states that the Witch King could not be felled by the hands of a man.  But Éowyn takes off her helmet and reveals herself, saying:

But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.

And the dumb-ass Witch King attacks her, but surprise!  Éowyn ends up kicking his ass and killing him.  Well, Theoden still dies, but it is a fantastic scene.  The movie plays it down a little bit, but it’s still a highlight for me.  To get the full impact, you really should read the book, but here’s a clip for you to enjoy in the meantime!

Ladies I Love: B is for Lynda Barry (who gave me permission to doodle during meetings at work)

Lynda Barry and Marci

Me and Lynda at San Diego Comic-Con in 2008!

Up next in the A to Z Challenge is the letter B! And since my theme is Ladies I Love, I will tell you about one of my all-time favorite artists, Lynda Barry.  I read her first book, Girls and Boys (1981), before I was ten years old and it left an immediate impression on me.  I had never read comic strips quite like hers – funky people, honest stories, smart humor and a fearlessness and vulnerability that I had never seen anywhere else.  While my earlier exposure to Lynda Barry’s work came in the form of comics and drawings, Lynda has diversified her art and interests as her career progresses.  She wrote a couple of novels (Cruddy is one of my favorite works of hers), and more recently, a pair of drawing and writing books called “Picture This” and “What It Is“.  Her research asks “what is an image?” and examines the connection between drawing and writing with brain function and the resulting physiological responses of doing art.  She has done a number of interviews (a couple of good ones are here and here) describing this line of research.  Currently, Lynda teaches classes about drawing and writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; you can follow along with her lessons through her tumblr (which I am obsessed with).

Lynda Barry

Two panels of a comic by Lynda Barry. Child-like and often semi-autobiographical, Lynda tells stories from all of our youth experiences.

I love Lynda Barry.  She has been a creative influence on me since I was a young kid.  I tried to emulate her spirit in my own cartoons.  I met her at Comic-Con.  I’ve bought a couple of her paintings.  I WISH I could take one of her courses.  But because I am not a total stalker, I will, for now, have to settle for taking some of her advice about doodling to a practical level.  Doodling, according to Lynda, can increase concentration and rescue us from tedium.  This advice has resulted in, for you, a small collection of some of my favorite doodles that I’ve done during meetings at work.  You can click on the images to make them bigger, and for a short description of the meetings during which they were yaawwwwnnn…oops…I mean drawn.

There is a kind of monkeying around with our hands that changes our sense of time in a tiny way that can make a big difference. Like doodling in the margins during a very boring meeting. It can make time feel like less of a cheese grater and more like sandpaper. That’s a small but critical difference. People employ doodling all the time, even those who are certain they never draw will make a complicated pattern of marks with their thumbnail on a Styrofoam cup when someone very boring is speaking at length. Nearly everyone does this.  — Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry-inspired work doodles drawn by me:

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Game of Thrones is Ruining My Life!!!

I’m soooooo happy that I’m on book 5 of the Game of Thrones series.  Why?  Because book 6 hasn’t been published yet.  Which means I can get my freakin’ life back.  Because ever since Kellie convinced me that I needed to read the Game of Thrones series, all of my free time has been held hostage by my NEED, my THIRST, my OBSESSION to read these books.  Let’s see how my life has suffered, shall we?

1.  BOOK CLUB.  Ok, each month I’m supposed to read a book for book club.  I’ve been pretty good about finishing books…until a few months ago.  Each GoT book is between 800 and 1200 pages, which means that I have trouble reading GoT AND a book club book.  Guess which one wins???

2.  BRAINY GIRLS.  Poor Brainy Girls.  I haven’t had time to put the archive for the last issue together, nor write almost anything for this issue. Which SUCKS, because the theme for this issue is insects, which is awesome, and I’m running out of time to adequately cover the subject.  Can I just finish this last GoT book already so that I can get back to doing quality Brainy Girls work, please???

3.  ROLLER DERBY.  Ok, not really.  I’ve been able to stay pretty much on top of practices and events.  Chris and I even went to the Rose City Rollers Hometown Championships a couple of weeks ago at the Rose Garden.  It was awesome!!!  HOWEVER, I did volunteer to set up and maintain the Storm City Roller Girls website (what was I thinking???) and that has fallen a little behind, too.


Guns N Rollers battle it out with the High Rollers for 1st place!

4.  DIGITAL MEMOIRS (aka scrapbooking).  My 2012 book is almost finished except for the covers and title page.  I put in sooooo many hours working on that book and I just have to cross the finish line…however, finding out where Arya Stark is in Braavos is apparently more important than finalizing the record I have for everything I did in 2012.

 

5.  OUR YARD.  I will not post pictures.  We have a guy who mows our lawn, but I’ve been meaning to get out there with the weed whacker for WEEKS.  There are weeds in our back yard that are 6 feet tall.  We have not planted our garden (except for the weeds).  Shameful.

6.  MY SLEEP.  I’ve been sleeping HORRIBLY lately, and I suspect it is because I stay up late reading GoT.  I wake up and think about GoT in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep.  It’s starting to catch up with me.

7.  HUMAN INTERACTION.  I’ve become a recluse.  My only social outlet is now online, and I’m behind at that (see above).

So, THANK YOU, George R.R. Martin, for hijacking my life.  I’ve watched seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon and am waiting for season 3 to come out.

Oh, crap – are you kidding me???  I can’t wait to be done with your epic stories and find out how this all ends.  I can’t wait to resume life as a regular human…that is, until book 6 is released…

That’s how I roll

Now that my average bowling score is firmly in the three-digit range (101, baby!), I decided to move up in the world of bowling balls. While I heart my leopard-spotted plastic ball, it’s just too light and it pretty much just bounces off the pins, especially if the pins give my ball the evil eye. The result: those dumb pins just keep standing there. My aim has really improved (I think), and I even scored a 156 a couple of weeks ago – my new high score! So, to teach those pins a lesson, I’m bringing in the big guns with a fancy new bowling ball. All hail the Pearl Panther! This orb is a swirl of pink and black pearlized ferociousness, and features a silver-glittered panther and a buzz saw blade on its surface (I don’t know why the buzz saw blade is there, because the manufacturer is Lane 1, but the buzz saw blade looks extra badass so I’m fine with it). It’s a reactive ball, weighted to hook nicely and hit the pocket just right, giving the pins no chance but to bow down to the ball’s master. And that would be me.

I will let you know what happens. I’m going to practice with my new ball on Saturday and we’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, since Tyleen posted about the books she’s reading, I thought I’d pass along my recent reading spree – the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. WOW!!! I read all three (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay) in quick time. They are about a post-apocalyptic society (in what was formerly North America) and the social rules that society imposes to keep order and maintain power. Very violent but captivating. I can’t wait to see the movie, which comes out in March. So, now I’m going to read Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. A true story – Hedy Lamarr was a burlesque dancer in the 1920’s who invented much of the digital wireless foundation for technology we have today, such as cell phones. Pasties and weapons deals and crazy inventions…this should be a good one.