First Female NFL Referee

Shannon Eastin will make history at the Green Bay Packers vs. San Diego Chargers game Thursday by becoming the first woman to officiate an NFL game.

In her book Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women, Nora Ephron wrote about the first lady umpire in baseball, Bernice Gera.

Somewhere in the back of Bernice Gera’s closet, along with her face mask and chest protector and simple spiked shoes, is a plain blue man’s suit hanging in a plastic bag. The suit cost $29 off the rack, plus a few dollars for shortening the sleeves and pants legs, but if you ask Bernice Gera a question about that suit—where she bought it, for example, or whether she ever takes it out and looks it over—her eyes widen and then blink, hard, and she explains, very slowly so that you will not fail to understand, that she prefers not to think about the suit, or the shoes, or the shirt and tie she wore with it one summer night last year, when she umpired what was her first and last professional baseball game, a seven-inning event in Geneva, New York, in the New York–Pennsylvania Class A League.

It took four years for Bernice Gera to walk onto that ball field, four years of legal battles for the right to stand in the shadow of an “Enjoy Silver Floss Sauerkraut” sign while the crowd cheered and young girls waved sheets reading “Right On, Bernice!” and the manager of the Geneva Phillies welcomed her to the game. “On behalf of professional baseball,” he said, “we say good luck and God bless you in your chosen profession.” And the band played and the spotlights shone and all three networks recorded the event. Bernice Gera had become the first woman in the 133-year history of the sport to umpire a professional baseball game.

I should say, at this point, that I am utterly baffled as to why any woman would want to get into professional baseball, much less work as an umpire in it. Once I read an article in Fact magazine that claimed that men who were umpires secretly wanted to be mother figures; that level of idiotic analysis is, as far as I am concerned, about what the game and the profession deserve. But beyond that, I cannot understand any woman’s wanting to be the first woman to do anything. I read about those who do—there is one in today’s newspaper, a woman who is suing the State of Colorado for the right to work on a team digging a tunnel through the Rocky Mountains—and after I get through puzzling at the strange desires people have, awe sets in. I think of the ridicule and abuse that woman will undergo, of the loneliness she will suffer if she gets the job, of the role she will assume as a freak, of the smarmy and inevitable questions that will be raised about her heterosexuality, of the derision and smug satisfaction that will follow if she makes a mistake, or breaks down under pressure, or quits. It is a devastating burden and I could not take it, could not be a pioneer, a Symbol of Something Greater. Once I was the first woman to deposit $500 in a bank that was giving out toasters that day, and I found even that an uncomfortable responsibility.

The point of all this, though, is Bernice Gera, and the point of Bernice Gera is that Bernice Gera failed to play out the role. In her first game, she made a mistake. And broke down under pressure. And couldn’t take it. And quit. Which was not the way it was supposed to happen: instead, she was supposed to have been tougher and stronger and better than any umpire in baseball and end up a grim stone bust in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. Bernice Gera turned out to be only human, after all, which is not a luxury pioneers are allowed. (January, 1973)

Best wishes to Shannon Eastin. Pioneers do gut-wrenching work that is important. I hope she knows that she’s allowed to be human, too.

Curiosity on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover landed safely on Mars today at 1:17 am EDT, after a 352 million-mile journey. The $2.5 billion mission will help to determine whether Mars has an environment that can support life.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a picture of Curiosity on its way down. Discover Magazine states, ”The simple and sheer amazingness of this picture cannot be overstated. Here we have a picture taken by a camera on board a space probe that’s been orbiting Mars for six years, reset and re-aimed by programmers hundreds of millions of kilometers away using math and science pioneered centuries ago, so that it could catch the fleeting view of another machine we humans flung across space, traveling hundreds of million of kilometers to another world at mind-bending speeds, only to gently – and perfectly – touch down on the surface mere minutes later.”

A crowd of about 1,000 people gathered in Times Square to watch the landing.

Colleagues celebrate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Scientists have been working on this project for ten years.

Here is a great video simulation, explaining the challenges of Curiosity’s “Seven Minutes of Terror”.

(top photo from Discover Magazine, middle photo from NBC, bottom photo from The Washington Post)

Ode to Houston

I took the kids to the Houston Children’s Museum today, which is beyond fabulous. They had a ball. Our outing made me consider that Houston is actually a pretty great city. Whether we end up staying or leaving (our house has not yet sold), a tribute to the nation’s fourth largest city:

The museums are not just for the kids–the entire Museum District is incredible.

Of course, there is NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

My friend had a bridal shower at Brennan’s last weekend–stunning.

Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (my favorite movie in college) was filmed at all of these cool Houston locations.

The Shell Eco-Marathon.

“H-Town 20″ (Houston’s Very Best Songs Ever).

Design Sponge has a much more comprehensive Houston City Guide, which makes me want to explore!

What are your favorite things in Houston?

Penelope Pilot

I am so excited! I just ordered a copy of Penelope Pilot, a children’s book by Lynda Meeks. And I ordered one for my local public library.

Girls With Wings is donating the cost of shipping to public libraries. They are passionate about spreading their message that girls need “flight plans not fairy tales.” (You can order one for your library, too.)

Here is a blog post that Lynda wrote about creating the Penelope book.

The ‘Women Fly’ Project

I love these t-shirts from Women Fly.

Even their logo is awesome:

The Star: A look to the sky for inspiration & creativity.
The Moon: Our femininity.
The Crown: A reminder that we are queens of our own destiny.
The Spiral: The energy to nurture our dreams.

The Women Fly Project aims to “honor great pilots and other extraordinary women. “We are dedicated to creating and sharing messages infused with passion, intelligence and humor. It is our hope that this work will spark conversation, create interaction and ignite change. We look to the future, inspired by the pioneers of our past, and know the only limits we may encounter are those we impose upon ourselves. Through these stories of courage and determination, we explore themes central to the human spirit and encourage all people to live life to the fullest.”

2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony

I love the Olympics. Who doesn’t, really? So much passion, determination, camaraderie, competition, pride . . .

Saudi Arabia brought women to the Olympic games for the first time ever, which has been a topic of heated debate.

I got a kick out of these particularly British moments in the opening ceremony. (I lived in London for a summer during college, and adore anything British :)

Sheep. Of course.

Voldemort vs. Mary Poppins. (My money is on Mary Poppins. What about you?)

Sir Paul McCartney performs. There’s just something about his music. (Here is a classic.)

Of course, the athletes deserve the real attention. I’ve been staying up late every night watching with bated breath.

(photos from USA Today)

Inside-Out Your Mind

Today I started reading Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. I have only read the first chapter, but am fascinated by the concept of the book. It is all about the creative process: how inspiration occurs, both in the brain and in societies.

On a related note, this NPR article by Robert Krulwich is inspiring. Here’s an excerpt:

Look what Kent Rogowski did. He took a bunch of stuffed animals, kids’ playthings, unstitched them, removed their insides, and turned them inside out.

I had never imagined, never even conjured, what a stuffed doll would look like inside out. And now that I see them, I’m thinking two things: that they are gross, slightly unsettling, and for the next month or two, anytime I see a teddy bear or a cuddly baby toy I’m going to imagine their insides — something I have never, ever done.

What’s more, something hidden has been revealed; my sense of possibility has just expanded. Kent Rogowski’s art is an exercise in opening the mind by turning expectations inside out.

He goes on to talk about how streets in Japan don’t have names (instead, the blocks are numbered); how doctors in China only get paid when you are healthy (why would they make money when they are failing at their job?); how the Wright Brothers used bicycle technology to make airplanes.

The point here is to use this exercise to free your mind, to notice the things that over the years you have stopped noticing, or never noticed. The effect can be very liberating and can lead you…well, it can lead you anywhere.

(photos by Kent Rogowski)

Women Soar, You Soar

High school girls (grades 9-12) can take advantage of a fabulous opportunity in Oshkosh at Women Soar You Soar. This program “strives to engage, inspire, and educate young women to pursue their dreams in aviation and beyond.”

In addition to this four-day adventure, there are also several aviation scholarships and a scholarship to attend Space Camp that are available to young women through EAA AirVenture.

(photo from Women Soar You Soar)