Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sydney Turns One

It was just about love at first sight when my daughter, Elizabeth met Marshall.  She was really nervous when she met his daughters.  She told him if his kids didn’t like her, it was over—she wouldn’t come between them.  Elizabeth’s a sweetie and she didn’t have to worry.  The girls liked her instantly, and they practically adopted my granddaughter, Crystal as a kid sister, offering to take her shopping that week.

Sydney with Grandma Elizabeth

I didn’t see them very many more times before the one of his girls announced she was expecting.  She and the baby live with Elizabeth and Marshall, and Sydney Jean is the apple of everyone’s eye.  She turned one on December sixth, and we had a party for her at Buffalo Wild Wings.  They have a party room, and we pretty well filled it.

Sydney and Aunt Crystal

Sydney walked at ten months.  She says “mama” and “ba ba” while waving.  I’m allergic to metal, so I wear my watch on a fiber thread around my neck.  Sydney likes to play with it and everything goes in her mouth, so I put it inside my shirt when I pick her up.  She opens my shirt and digs it out.  Already!  She is so smart!  Yes—she has me wrapped around her pudgy little baby finger.  I just love it when she sees me and gives me her silly, scrunchy nose smile and toddles over with her hands up—even if I know she’s really after my watch.  Oh, I get a kiss out of heror at least onto her.  She does have a baby’s attention span, after all.  It is a delight to watch her play and learn.

Singing Happy Birthday

I never expected to have the next generation in my life so soon, but woo hoo!  I'm young enough to enjoy every minute I get to spend with our bright, beautiful, one year-old Sydney Jean.  Happy Birthday!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Tribute to the Women Who Served in World War II

Every year on the Thursday before Veterans’ Day, the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, IL (next to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center) holds a luncheon for Women Veterans.  Each year, the luncheon has a theme and some sort of entertainment.  This year, they decided to honor the ladies who served in World War II.

Although women have followed the troops assisting them and often fighting alongside them since the beginning of time, the United States military did not officially include women until World War II, when the Army formed the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.  Before the war ended, they dropped word “Auxiliary,” and it became the WACs, the Women’s Army Corps.  WACs mostly served in the Continental United States, or CONUS in military terms.  They were also allowed to go to the then-territories of Alaska and Hawaii.  A very few followed the men overseas to areas that had been secured if they had special skills—such as speaking more than one language.

The Nurse Corps was separate from the WACs and WAVEs in that they were allowed to serve in field hospitals.  By law, they were supposed to remain at least four miles behind the front, but there were nurses who got caught up in the Bataan Death March and held as prisoners of war in the Philippines, so I suspect at times the front caught up with them.

The Navy created the Women’s Auxiliary Volunteer Emergency Service.  At least that’s what they told me we were when I enlisted in 1971.  The ladies from the Pritzker Library in Chicago yesterday said we were “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.”  Either way, the WAVES no longer exist.  The girls are just sailors now.  Their casual uniforms are the same as the guys’.  I’m not sure how many jobs were open to women during World War II.  There were sixteen jobs open to us when I was in.  It’s wide open now.  I’m sure they were allowed to be Corpswaves (medics) which I was, and Yeomen (clerical staff).  I believe they were allowed to be radio operators as well.  Again, they were confined to CONUS, Alsaska and Hawaii.  When I enlisted, there were overseas hospitals open to us, as well.  Having had a cousin who was a Lutheran missionary in Japan, I was tempted by the Navy hospital in Yokusuka, but I met my ex-husband at the Chicago USO before I enlisted and we got engaged while I was in Hospital Corpschool at Great Lakes, IL, so I opted for the Navy hospital in Oakland, California, which was close to his duty station.

The Coast Guard also first admitted women during World War II.  They were called SPARS.  The Coast Guard motto is “Semper Paratus,” Latin for “Always Ready,” and that’s where the name comes from.  Again, the ladies were kept Stateside and in Alaska and Hawaii.

We did not have an Air Force during World War II.  The Air Force was still part of the Army.  We did, however, have about three hundred women called WASPS flying planes.  They ferried planes from the factory to various bases, towed targets for anti-aircraft practice, often landing with bullet holes in their own aircraft, and even flew as test pilots.  Thirty-eight of these brave ladies gave their lives for our country, but not all of their deaths were accidents.  Some of their planes were sabotaged—presumably by men who did not think women should be flying these missions and freeing them for overseas duty.  There were incidents of people putting sugar in the ladies’ gas tanks and cutting their rudder lines.  To add insult to injury, Congress declared these women were not veterans.  It took until 1979 for these ladies’ service to be acknowledged and then Congress voted to only give them death benefits.  They still do not have the full veteran’s benefits they so richly deserve.

We’d best not forget the Women Marines.  They opted not to take on a nickname, but the men gave them one and it’s not very flattering.  The men call them BAMs—Broad-Assed Marines.  While I was still a USO volunteer, I made the mistake of calling a Woman Marine that and fortunately, she set me straight without violence.  I thought that was what they were called like WACs or WAVES or WAFS.  I’m grateful she recognized my naiveté.  Those ladies have gone through the same boot camp as the men—complete with weapons and hand-to-hand combat training from day one.

They also recognized the efforts of USO and Red Cross volunteers as well as women who worked in defense factories.  Ladies who worked for three months with absolutely no tardiness or absences (often working six days a week), earned the name WOWS.  They received a hat with a scarf and a pin.  Most of them worked until their husbands came home from the war, or until the factories closed—whichever came first.  And very few made as much money as the men they replaced or the few men with whom they worked.  Equal pay for equal work was unheard of then.

Those of us who have served in the military or even those of us who have careers today, owe much of our success to those ladies who left their homes to enlist, volunteer, or work in the wartime factories and pave the way for us eighty years ago.  I sat at a table with four of these remarkable ladies, and it was an honor to listen to their stories, as they reminisced.

If you’re interested in more information about women in the military through the years, you can check out the Women’s Military Memorial in Washington, DC, or the Pritzker Library Special Collection in Chicago, IL.  If you served in the military, you can contribute your own story to the collections in the Library of Congress, at the Women’s Memorial, and if you’re in the Chicago area, at the Pritzker Library.

On this Veteran's Day, I would like to thank everyone who has served in the military, especially my fellow women vets, and most especially the ladies of World War II.

*The ladies in this photo each signed a media release from the VA.  Photo taken by RIW, 11-08-2012.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Movie Review: “Flight”

From what I know about aeronautics, this movie requires a slight suspense of disbelief, but boy—if you can get past the thought of a pilot being able to do a barrel-roll in an airliner that wasn’t built for that type of maneuver, you will enjoy this movie.  Certainly Denzel Washington deserves another Oscar.

Captain William “Whip” Whitaker is a seriously messed up man.  A former Navy Top Gun, he reports for duty still drunk and high on cocaine from a night of debauchery.  He adds double vodka to his orange juice in-flight, yet he saves the lives of all but six of the 102 passengers and five crew members aboard his aircraft.  Ten other pilots worked the problem in simulators after the accident, and every one of them crashed, killing everyone on board.  The man is a hero with a damning toxicology report taken the night of the accident.

Was he responsible for those deaths?  Or was it a mechanical failure?  They took off in a bad thunderstorm with horrible turbulence.  Could lightening have struck something in the tail?  It was pouring when he did his pre-flight external check of the airplane.  Did he miss something vital?  That was the question I kept asking myself throughout the movie as Whip struggled with his disease—refusing to admit he had a problem, refusing all offers of help, burning all his bridges, insisting no one else could have saved the lives of those people and it didn’t matter whether or not he was under the influence when he flew that plane.  They gave him a defective aircraft and he landed it with most of the passengers and crew alive.  Why did people keep telling him he had to stay sober?  Why weren’t people congratulating him?  Why’d they keep harping about the booze and the drugs?  Couldn’t they see he was okay?  What did they mean, he could go to prison for manslaughter for killing six people?  What about the other hundred people he saved?

This movie kept me on the edge of my seat, and I couldn’t decide whether I liked or hated Whip.  He wasn’t a mean drunk, at least not most of the time.  He “maintained” pretty well.  He had reached the point in his alcoholism where he needed a minimum amount of booze in his system to look normal and function at all.  He was a very complex man and while you hated what he’d done, you still kind of found yourself pulling for him.  While you didn’t really want to see him go to prison, you weren’t sure you wanted to board a plane he was piloting, either.  Or did you?  Ten other pilots would have crashed, killing everyone else on board.  Who else could have saved those people’s lives?  Drunk or sober—he had a point.  “Nobody could have landed that plane but me."

But did he miss something during pre-flight?  Would the plane have crashed at all if he’d been sober?  Would he have found the defect before they took off and asked for a different aircraft?  Or did lightening strike something at the beginning of the flight that worked its way loose and finally came off when they started their descent?  Or was there something wrong in a place he wouldn’t have been able to see during pre-flight?  Those questions floated through my brain throughout the movie.  You'll have to see the movie to find out.  I'm not telling.

This is one really great movie!

Directed by:  Robert Zemeckis
Written by:  John Gatins

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Six Sentences from Rock Bound

A dictator has taken over the United States.  When citizens protest the downfall of the Constitution at the Mall in Washington, DC, US troops open fire on them.  Some of the survivors are going to the Moon as slave labor for the Freezeland Mining Corporation, which is, of course, owned by Tad Freezeland, the dictator.

Six Sentences:

August, 2051
Federal Corrections Center—Petersburg, VA
The prisoners who passed their physicals were fitted for pressure suits, which were issued by the Freezeland Mining Corp. Jake Johnsrud and the Johnson twins were amazed the FMC was spending so much money to outfit its miners—until they were each handed a chit to sign. The cost of the p-suits had been calculated in pounds of ore. The FMC would support them and their fellow inmates until their indentures were paid, but they would be accumulating a debt in cubic yards of ore for every day the FMC had to house and feed them.
In fact, the chits were backdated to the date of their arrests. Their indentures would grow daily, unless they managed to wrest enough ore from the rock not only to pay their original indentures, but also to pay for their equipment, room, and board. … It finally occurred to Jake he was facing a life sentence, rather than the ten years to which he had agreed.


The future is a dangerous place for dreamers and idealists.

When a dictator takes over the United States, Annie Peterson attends a protest in Washington, DC, with her husband Paul. US troops fire into the crowd killing him, and Jake Johnsrud, a virtual stranger, risks his life to save hers. They are among the survivors who are sentenced to slavery on the Moon for their “crimes”—Jake as a miner; Annie as a sex slave.

Jake fights increasing feelings of anger and jealousy as Annie struggles to perform her job, while she resists her increasing attraction to him. Along with their fellow inmates, they fight to survive on the lunar "rock" that is their prison.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Admission--Six Sentences from Rock Crazy

Abandoned, pregnant, and bi-polar, Katie McGowan’s going crazy on that God-forsaken rock, the Moon!

Mommy, don’t kill me!  Don’t kill me!
“I won’t kill you.  I just want the pain to end.  I just wanna kill me!”
Don’t kill me, Mommy!
“Daddy’ll take care of you.  He’ll save you.”
Mommy, don’t kill me.  I’m here, Mommy!  Don’t hurt me!
“Be good for Daddy.  Tell him—Tell him I love him.”

Severely bi-polar, Katie is hallucinating and arguing with her unborn child about committing suicide.


Katie McGowan is bi-polar, and she’s run the gamut of medications.  Everyone is telling her she should go to the Moon and have microchip surgery, but she’s afraid she’ll become an automaton.  In a last-ditch, tough love effort to force her to get the chip, her husband, Scott takes her to the Moon and divorces her when she decks him. Then she discovers she’s pregnant.  She can’t have the surgery or take her meds until after the baby’s born.

Scott is elated when he hears he’s going to be a father and naturally assumes Katie will take him back.  He always intended to take her back as soon she had the surgery.  He has no clue how badly he hurt her, how thoroughly he’s broken her trust—or that he may not get her back at all.

Length:  129 Pages
Price:  $5.50

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicon 7 -- The World Science Fiction Convention

In April, I wrote about my experience attending the RT convention as a fan, where I felt like cattle being shuffled from one line to the next.  Over Labor Day, I attended Chicon 7, the World Science Fiction Convention.  This is the convention at which the Hugo Award ceremonies are held.  They’re the highest honors in science fiction, given to the best in literature, drama and fandom (i.e., fan-fic, fanzines, etc.).  There were over five thousand people there, and yes—in some instances there were lines—for food, guest of honor panels and autographs, and of course the masquerade (which anyone could enter) and the Hugos.  However, no one had to stand in line to get a number to stand in line for an autograph.

Some of the ribbons I ordered
I was on staff for this convention.  I did clerical work for the Executive Committee before the convention which got my registration cut in half.  In fact, I put in enough hours even before the con that I learned at the con, my registration will be refunded.  I also earned a lanyard and a water bottle.  At sci-fi conventions, people wear ribbons that attach to their name badges to identify their jobs and then there are ribbons they can pick up along the way at parties and such.  In addition to the administrative work I did for the Executive Committee, I was also the Ribbon Wrangler.  It was my job to order the official convention ribbons for the Executive Committee, Division Heads, Area Heads, Staff, Hugo Award Nominees, Past Hugo Award Winners, Guests of Honor, Program Participants, Speaker Liaisons, etc.  There was a “field trip” to the Adler Planetarium here in Chicago so we ordered a couple thousand ribbons that said, “My God, It’s Full of Stars,” and one of our guests of honor was Sy Liebergott, the Apollo Program EECOM.  He was the man who told the astronauts on Apollo 13 to “Stir the cryo tanks.”  Those tanks blew up and it took a lot of savvy and hard work to bring them home safely.  Sy was played in the movie by Clint Howard, Ron Howard’s brother.  We ordered a couple thousand ribbons for him that said, “Failure is not an option.”  I had him sign mine, and I got to schmooz with him a bit.

Me with Sy Liebergott, Apollo EECOM
I figured I’d get there the day before the con, hand out my ribbons, and be free to enjoy the con.  It wasn’t that simple.  Since each staff member got a lanyard and a water bottle, they decided each staff member should come in and get his/her ribbon and gifts individually and that I needed to check their name off on a master list.  Needless to say, there were glitches.  I had to ask people who were not on the list to get their department heads to give them a note or come in with them to verify they really were staff.  In some instances their names were supposed to be on the list but somehow were omitted.  In some instances they were people who were drafted at the con.  One young man put in a few hours slicing vegetables in the staff/participants lounge and they were calling him “staff” so he thought that qualified him.  At that point, I didn’t know you needed to put in twenty-five hours to qualify for a staff ribbon, and I had difficulty explaining why a few hours cutting veggies didn’t earn him a ribbon and a water bottle.

Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Bailey (RMN)*, Astronaut Story Musgrave, & Me.

I ended up sitting in the office Wednesday (pre-con), Thursday, and Friday.  I did get to the Planetarium Thursday night, but I missed a few panels I had planned to attend.  Ah, well—I really did earn that refund.  On the other hand, when I went down to the Exhibits Room, half the people I met in the office were people whose photos were on the wall as having made major contributions to fandom by organizing major conventions, publishing sci-fi magazines, or editing fanzines over the years.  I also met some of the Hugo nominees and they combined the staff lounge with the green room so I still got to eat and relax with the authors and panelists.  I met Gene Wolfe, passed Alan Dean Foster, and said hi to both Mike Resnick and Eric Flint, both of whom I’ve met at other cons.  I stood in line (not too long) to get Dr. Story Musgrave’s autograph.  He was one of the builders of the Hubble telescope and he was also one of the first people to go up and repair it.  He replaced one of the mirrors on it.  He was on an episode of NOVA on PBS, advising the second team that went up to work on it.

The Adler Planetarium
Even though my job bled farther into the convention than I expected it to, I really enjoyed being in the middle of everything.  Yes, I would do it again if I had the chance.  I greatly prefer being part of the con than being shuffled around like so much cattle, not that I ever felt that way when I was out and about enjoying the con as just another fan.  Oh, and the green room wasn’t the only place that had food.  The con suite was kept stocked with cold cuts, salad fixings, fruit, and munchies pretty much 24/hours/day.  They even had vegetarian and gluten-free choices.  Maybe I would have had a much different experience at the RT if I had paid the $500 to attend the full con, but I’m not so sure.  Would they have fed me as well?  Somehow, I doubt it.  And I noticed that even the people who paid $500 had to stand in line to get a number to stand in line that day.  They just got to stand in line first.

I’m not saying I’ll never attend another romance convention.  I’m saving up for Lori Foster’s next Spring.  I understand it’s smaller, but there are still great opportunities for networking, and it sounds as though it will be more like a sci-fi con and less like a cattle call.  I’ll let you know.  ;-D

*RMN—The Royal Manticoran Navy, based on the Honor Harrington series by David Weber.  (No relation.)  Honor is a starship captain at the beginning of the series.  She eventually becomes an Admiral in two navies and a member of royalty on two planets.  Her fan club is organized as the military in the books.  I’m a member, and Tim is the Commanding Officer of HMS Galahad, a destroyer.  I am the ship’s Chief Bosun’s Mate, but we have too many members for a destroyer and will soon be splitting the chapter.  When that happens, I will be promoted to Lt. Cmdr. so that I can take command of the Gallahad. Friday night at the con, we had dinner with the man who will be my executive officer once Tim's new ship is commissioned and the Galahad passes to me.  Membership is free.  All you have to do is read the books and go to the website.  If you live in the northern suburbs of Chicago, you might even end up aboard Gallahad!

"Into Peril We Ride" the HMS Gallahad Crest