Barbara Gittings, one of the founders of the gay & lesbian civil rights movement, died Sunday at age 75. In the 1950s she helped found the Daughters of Bilitis, one of the first organizations in the world for lesbian rights.
The picture at left shows Barbara picketing Independence Hall in Philly in 1965 (4 years before the Stonewall riots pushed gay liberation into the national queer consciousness.) Also picketing was Frank Kameny, an astronomer turned gay rights advocate.
Everyone in that photo risked their jobs and safety to fight for dignity and an end to discrimination.
A short obit.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
When I gave public tours at the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico, the tourists were amazed that anybody could get telescope time, for free, if their proposal was strong enough.
Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, and the VLA work the same way -- annually, astronomers send their best ideas on how to use each scope. Then, a jury of their peers called a "telescope allocation committee" or TAC, votes on the strongest proposals. For Hubble, about 5 proposals are rejected for every one that's accepted; for Spitzer (in part because the spacecraft is more efficient), the ratio is more like 3.5:1.
It's easy to bitch about TACs-- proposals are read hurridly, reviewers can play evil politics -- but it's hard to imagine a better method.
NASA proposals are high-stakes because the TAC awards not just telescope time, but moolah to analyze the data. Hundreds of astronomers, especially students and post-docs, are supported by Hubble alone. Thus, astronomers may apply for telescopes not because they want the time, but because they need the money.
The Hubble proposal deadline was 2 Fridays ago; the Spitzer deadline was last Friday. Thus, astronomers worldwide have been nursing proposal hangovers, and are now recovering and trying to remember what they were working on before they started writing proposals.
The public has an idea that astronomers live on mountains and look at the stars; really, we spend months per year begging for time and money, months more reducing and analyzing data, and a few weeks per year at telescopes, gathering photons. Less romantic, perhaps, but that's the real story. Any questions?
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Jan 27, anti-war protest, downtown LA: Finished the march, milling at the rally. Ready to go home, but disoriented. So, holding my double-sided sign: ("Another dyke against the war" / "C'mon, people, USE LESS OIL"), I walk up to a cop guarding the federal building:
"Scuze me, which way to Union Station?"
"Follow that street, it turns right into Union Station".
As I walk away, it hits me: I have just marched up the LAPD (the LAPD!!) at a protest rally and asked for directions. Because in my head, the police are here to serve. The police don't put 50 rounds in people like me when they reach for a wallet. I am such a white girl.
Last night it happened again. I needed walk off some insensitive comments from a tipsy friend. So the wif and I are walking through the quiet sidewalks of our neighborhood (me in a black biker jacket, the wif in a sweater), I'm ranting a bit, the wif's sympathetic. Headlights, we look up -- police cruiser. Passes right by, doesn't even slow down. Did they see we were women, or was it enough that we were white?
Friday, February 2, 2007
- to Angry Black Bitch for summing it up: "A bitch would like to extend a special thank you to Senator Joe Biden... who was kind enough to remind everyone why Black History matters."
- and to Al Chutzpah Sharpton: when Joe called to apologize, "Mr. Sharpton started off the conversation reassuring Mr. Biden about his hygienic practices. 'I told him I take a bath every day,' Mr. Sharpton said." (NY Times).