December 14th, 2019

  • blinger

Book 28 - 2017

Book 28: Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike Massimino – 317 pages

Description from
Mike Massimino's compelling memoir takes us on a brilliant journey where the nerdiest science meets the most thrilling adventure to reveal what 'the right stuff' truly is. Many children dream of becoming an astronaut when they grow up, but when NASA rejected him, he kept on trying. Even being told his poor eyesigh would mean he could never make it didn't stop him; he simply trained his eyes to be better. Finally, at the third time of asking, NASA accepted him.
So began Massimino's 18-year career as an astronaut, and the extraordinary lengths he went to to get accepted was only the beginning. In this awe-inspiring memoir, he reveals the hard work, camaraderie and sheer guts involved in the life of an astronaut; he vividly describes what it is like to strap yourself into the Space Shuttle and blast off into space, or the sensation of walking in space, as he did when he embarked on an emergency repair of the Hubble telescope. He also talks movingly about the Columbia tragedy, and how it felt to step into the Space Shuttle again in the aftermath of that disaster.
Massimino was inspired by the film The Right Stuff, and this book is not only a tribute to those fellow astronauts he worked with, but also a stunning example of someone who had exactly those attributes himself.

I love all things space, having grown up on Star Trek. While doing my Masters degree in International Relations, I rekindled this fascination in light of the ongoing development of human space flight. Accordingly, I started picking up more and more space related books. This one is the memoir of American astronaut Mike Massimino, famous as much for being an astronaut as he is for his random appearances on sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (where he plays, you guessed it, an astronaut!). Massimino is a good storyteller, evidence by the fact that he now does a lot of work for N.A.S.A in public relations. In this memoir, he not only covers how he became an astronaut and his time in space (he did a lot of work on Hubble helping ensure it could keep on taking photos; he also famously had to manhandle a piece of damaged equipment on a space walk while trying to fix the famous telescope), but his time afterwards, working with the Big Bang Theory and in representing N.A.S.A to the media and the community. Massimino comes across as a nice, kind gentle giant of a guy, and its good to know that people such as him are out there, not only helping unlock the mysteries of the universe, but encouraging the next generation to get interested in space. The first of many astronaut memoirs I intend to read while preparing to write my thesis on space politics.

28 / 50 books. 56% done!

11484 / 15000 pages. 77% done!

Currently reading:
- For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today
by Jedediah Purdy – 214 pages
- The Lexus and the Olive Tree
by Thomas Friedman – 378 pages
- Twelve Sharp
by Janet Evanovich – 413 pages

And coming up:
- The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
- The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
- The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood – 324 pages

Book #60: Dear Ijeaweale by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Number of pages: 61

This book is written in the form of a letter from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to a friend about how to raise her daughter as a feminist.

I really enjoy her writing, and this made some good points. Although the fact that gender stereotypes are enforced to children at an early age, which is mentioned here, has been known for a while, she came up with a lot of things I'd never thought of, like her idea that married couples should both choose a completely new family name rather than taking the husbands. She also mentions that feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive, when defending the rights of daughters to wear make up if they choose to.

I like the way that she kept her dialogue completely balanced, but acknowledging that not all women are feminists. The best example she gave was a video where a woman was applauding her husband for doing the cooking; the idea was that he did not need this just for doing a stereotypically female job.

I really need to read more of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's books; maybe Purple Hibiscus.

Next book: Afoot in England (W.H. Hudson)


Four months ago, I professed to be less than impressed with Yale's Daniel Markovits, who apparently clawed his way to the top of the status hierarchy only to complain about the struggles to get there.  I've subsequently acquired and read his The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite.  I don't have much reason to change my impressions (based, as they were, on a shorter article) but will use Book Review No. 12 partially as social science and partially as reminiscence.

Mr Markovits divides his argument into three parts: Meritocracy and its Discontents, where he focuses on the striving and the positional jockeying, rather than the failures of the Best and the Brightest; How Meritocracy Works, where, again, he does more to lament the culture of overwork than to consider the possibility that the worst people are thus incentivized to get on top, and a concluding The New Aristocracy, suggesting that the ways of getting on top rely more on heredity than on effort.
Collapse )I haven't been swayed from where I stood in August.
Inasmuch as we are all underemployed relative to our great-grandparents, whether those great-grandparents were dirt farmers, robber barons, riverboat gamblers, or the Duke of Braunschweig, in the scheme of things those higher stress levels among upscale yuppie spawn is likely to be self-correcting.
That self-correction, though, will be messy. But that's for another day.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)