Philae and the Rosetta Mission

Since I’m a baseball fan, I’m used to hearing the adage about how hard it is, actually, for a moving ball and a moving cylinder to make contact.  From a physics’ point of view, that is.  We should be surprised that it happens at all, let alone well enough to produce, say, a grand slam.

Europe’s Rosetta Mission, however, managed something a million times more precise and precarious this week, when they maneuvered a spaceship–Philae–to land on a moving comet, 317 million miles from Earth.


According to the New York Times, there were a few glitches, but the mission is considered a success. I, too, would be hugging my colleagues if I managed to be part of this team!  What a phenomenal feat!

Success! The Rosette Mission Team.

While I’m not sure I’d ever be brave enough to travel off-planet and to new locations in space, I’m more than intrigued and fascinated.  I hope that I live to see the day when we make First Contact, or manage to establish living quarters on another planet.  Like the Golden Age science-fiction writers, I’m antsy to explore new worlds, even if I would do so vicariously though the pages of periodicals.

And who knows…maybe I would have the guts to go myself.  As long as there were coffee, I suppose…

Coffee, Nectar of the Gods


Chang, Kenneth.  “Landing on a Comet, a European Space Agency Mission Aims to Unlock the Mysteries of Earth.” The New York Times 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. 

This blog originally published as a sample for students on my school blog.



Things I Love

My dear friend, Beth, just blogged about things she loves, and I thought it was a great idea for me on this long, Education Minnesota (State Teachers’ Convention) weekend as I’m home recharging my batteries and trying to get caught up in grading and homework.

Things I Love

Early October days when one can walk down the city street on mountains of fallen yellow and red leaves; the curbs are covered, and the overarching trees are dancing like preschoolers in their first brightly-colored tutus.

Teenagers. Seriously.  I like the geekiness, the awkwardness, the enthusiasm, the hesitancy, the bravado, the thoughtfulness.  They crack me up and they challenge me, and every time I get to interact positively with one I get to revise a bit of my own truly awkward, truly horrible, truly painful youth.

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Coffee. Dark, black, and preferably from a French press so it’s foamy on top and leaves a residue.  I like Turkish coffee, too, for this very reason…with its cardamom.  I like the smell of coffee, the color of coffee, the taste of coffee, and the effects of coffee.  I love the atmosphere of coffee; the intelligent conversation, the mismatched furniture of a coffee shop, the many types of non-mainstream music that goes with coffee. I’ve rid myself of every other addiction, I believe…but this one?  I drink far, far less than I used to–I usually try to limit myself to one cup per day, often two, rarely more than that–but oh, how I love it.

Fires. In fireplaces or in pits outside…not housefires (although still fascinating to watch if one could erase the trauma and emotional despair).  Wood fires.  Not just the aroma and warmth, which most people do, but the time-weaving effect of them.  Everything slows down, lives get dissected at a leisurely pace between passing around the poking stick, histories evolve on wisps of smoke. The moments between the crackling of the twigs hold everything possible, all soothing.  I’m a person who rarely, if ever, truly relaxes, but in front of a good wood fire, I usually get close.

Me at Stonehenge, 1996

Traveling.  Anywhere, usually, although I gravitate toward places with major history and/or natural beauty (which for me is topography, trees, and water). I love, LOVE how the air feels…changed…in different places.  Not the smell (although that’s there, too) but just the molecules themselves; the interaction between the air and my skin, my eyes.  The excitement of seeing new things, or seeing old things that I’ve been reading about my entire life.  Of touching places that thousands of others have touched over the centuries.  Of following a new road just to see where it goes.  Of looking at the homes of others far different from myself, and those quite similar to myself. Of hearing other languages spoken around me.  But again…that air.  Nothing like it.

Animals.  This is a hard one because this also means that anything that deals with pain of animals, cruelty or accident, is difficult (or impossible) for me to bear. I can handle the abuse of animals far, far less than I can that of most humans, for the simple fact that animals (and small children) will not understand that it’s not their fault.  I can’t get past that.  I’m crying now just thinking of it.  But I love watching different animals, I love eyes and gaits, and I love the wondrous variety.  And, of course, I love my kitties, especially a cute husband and a bunch of cute kitties, all finding room in our big bed with a pile of mismatched blankets and more pillows than creatures, every which way, spending a lazy afternoon in bad weather.

Flannel.  I like the blue-collar, working-man connotations of it.  I like the feel of it, especially old, worn flannel, against my skin.  I like the patterns of it, especially plaid.  I like the usefulness and the strength of it.  I like the associations of coziness and winter and love and comfort that come with every yard of it.  I even love old-fashioned, granny flannel nightgowns, and I don’t care who thinks that’s weird.


Snow Days.  Even more now that I’m a teacher than when I was a student, if that’s possible.  Especially when we get the call before I’ve showered, and I can curl up on the sofa in front of the picture window, coffee beside me and an afghan around me (in my flannel jammies), and a good mystery book in my hand, to watch the sun come up in the periwinkle blue world that is an early-morning snowstorm in Minnesota.  That periwinkle color is my favorite color in the world, and it’s hard to find anywhere but in the sky on a morning such as this.  I love the quiet of a snowfall (not blizzards, mind you, which aren’t quiet), and the whole feeling of stocking up at the store in case it’s going to be a few days, and of making neat edges with the snowblower down the sidewalk, and how everything looks better covered in fresh snow…even Marshall looks pretty, and that’s hard to do.

Teaching.  I came to it late in life–I started teaching at age 35–but it was worth the wait.  I love lesson-planning; the fact that anything I hear on the radio, anything I see as I go through my day, anything in print I stumble on, likely becomes possible lesson material and I tend to look at it in just that way.  I love the smell of floor wax.  I love the anticipation of a new year.  I love the performance aspect, the theatre of it.  I love the give-and-take aspect of class.  I love, LOVE when I can make a class laugh, or they make me totally lose it and laugh.  I love the kids, the books, the possibilities. I can’t imagine doing anything else, ever.

My friend Beth also wrote that she loves “containing multitudes” in the Whitman manner, and I have to agree with that.  I love that I can be a frumpy, middle-aged schoolteacher but also love some rather shocking music.  I love that I can dress in tie-dye but yet listen to hiphop.  I love that I can play Frank Sinatra back-to-back with Steely Dan and Green Day.  I love that I read Whitman and Gaiman, Chaucer and Anne Tyler.  I love that I can use some lingo of my parents from the 1920s as well as understand much of the current teenager slang. I love that I’m not easily pegged, and that those I gravitate toward are always full of surprises.  That we’re all jigsaw puzzles–the hard kind–and we take lifetimes to solve.

That, perhaps, we’ve not solvable, but that doesn’t keep any of us from attempting it.