Losing Friends

Cancer sucks. It has little regard for the feelings of its victims or the people whose friends depart this life due to its pernicious effects. Yesterday I lost my friend Debbie, who was as good a person and as good a friend as anyone I’ve ever met on this earth.

Debbie and I got acquainted thanks to my request for someone to handle public relations for a space conference I was running ten years ago. She wasn’t a full-time PR pro, but she was an organized and enthusiastic space supporter. She also had a hilarious sense of humor and an extrovert’s joyful willingness to get introverts to talk. Debbie designated herself “Media Queen” and several of the ladies on the team soon picked up on their own “royal” titles, forming a “Tiara Coalition,” each sovereign of her own domain (track chair, signage, etc.). Her chipper demeanor in a stressful environment kept many of us calmer and looser than we otherwise might have felt because she was always there to jolly us along. The picture above is typical Debbie and how I remember her best: crazy happy and waving enthusiastically for the camera. That picture always makes me smile.

My friend also hosted me in her home when I went up to Washington, DC, to play go-fer and convention manager for the Science Cheerleaders every other year from 2010 to 2018. Later, she became my tax advisor/preparer as I transitioned to the freelancing life. Debbie’s professional skills were akin to her getting-introverts-to-talk talent, as she helped small businesses organize and run their business. It was a truly remarkable set of skills to have, and she applied them to organizations as diverse as a publishing company, a couple of non-profit space advocacy conferences, and a small space avionics firm.

But mostly I’ll just miss my friend and the great conversations we had. She was a counselor who seemed to understand the introverted geek male better than he understood himself, and her fun-loving, welcoming ways caused those geek males to trust her. She made conversations so fun, you sort of forgot that she was dispensing wise advice along the way. Beyond space and geeky males, she had a love of her two adult-age kids, elephant statues, crafting, board games, Cafe Berlin (a German restaurant within easy walking distance of her place near Capitol Hill), and fine whiskeys (as well as whiskys).

As the pandemic hit–I might have the timing wrong–Debbie moved out of DC to be closer to her family in Delaware. Then I learned she’d gotten ovarian cancer and was undergoing some pretty harsh medical treatments to get rid of the stuff. I think I spoke to her once in 2020 and now I regret not trying more often. I know I sent her a card or two to cheer her up during her treatment and looked forward (at some point) to seeing her again once she’d recovered. That didn’t happen, though, and now a lot of people beyond selfish little me are minus a joyful, vivacious presence in our lives. It sucks, and I will miss my friend a great deal.

Is that a tornado siren?
Is that a tornado siren? Debbie making last-minute announcements at ISDC 2011 as my ears pick up the sound of a tornado warning. We had multiple tornado scares that year, but Debbie stayed chipper and on task.

Debbie and me at Humans to Mars Conference
Debbie and me at one of the Humans to Mars conferences. She was just fun to be around.

Forced in on Myself

I’m not expecting any great “transformation” or personal insights during this period of enforced isolation. They could happen, mind you, but I’m not expecting or forcing any. What follows are my thoughts about the state of my soul before and during this shared crisis called pandemic. Continue reading “Forced in on Myself”

Working on My Inside by Working on My Outside

When I get into a funk, which has been the case  off and on lately, I’ll often spend a great deal of time in analysis mode: figuring out what’s going wrong, trying to identify ways to fix it, and setting myself (theoretically) on a path toward healthy thinking. Here’s the thing: despite 30+ years of journaling and time with and without therapists, I’m remarkably bad at fixing myself. However, one thing I am good at doing is setting external goals and then achieving them. This is what I’m preparing to do with my 2020. Continue reading “Working on My Inside by Working on My Outside”

Impressions from AIAA Space 2018, Part 3

This is my third of three summaries of what I observed at the AIAA Space 2018 Forum (the other posts can be found here and here). This isn’t necessarily the last posting on this conference…I might write later about my overall impressions of the space business in a separate entry in a week or two. However, these entries are long enough (this entry runs over 3,300 words, my apologies), so let’s get to it. Continue reading “Impressions from AIAA Space 2018, Part 3”

Impressions from AIAA Space 2018, Part 1

It’s been around 10 years since I last attended a conference for the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the professional association for aerospace engineers. I attended the AIAA Space 2018 Forum this week, and it felt like a different experience from when I was a NASA contractor 2006-2012. I also wasn’t attending as a reporter or for a job, just Bart Leahy, AIAA Member and interested space geek. Part of that could be my age, part of it was a reflection of what’s happening in the space business now. Exciting times to be in the business or just observing it as an interested member of the public. What follows are some of my notes from the various sessions for your reference. Continue reading “Impressions from AIAA Space 2018, Part 1”

Reflections on Jerry Pournelle

I saw in the midst of all the hurricane-related news this morning that science fiction author, technologist, and political advocate Jerry Pournelle has passed away. I am saddened by this, though not greatly surprised, as Dr. Pournelle has been in ill health for a while now. Still, he shaped a great deal of my thinking and post-formal education, and so I’d like to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on the man. Continue reading “Reflections on Jerry Pournelle”