Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thoughts on Neil Armstrong

"Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance." - Will Durant

Alternate Title: In Which You Realize Just How Massively Nerdy My Childhood Was

I do not remember a time before I knew Neil Armstrong's name. My dad's first memory is watching the moon landing with his siblings, and many of my early ones are him teaching me things about outer space--important events, the order of the planets, classifications of stars, etc.

Some kids idolize sports stars (my nine year old neighbor loves Tom Brady), some historical figures, and some actors. For a long time, however, the name that was always spoken with a whisper of awe was that of an astronaut. An example of someone who did something great/brave/courageous? Neil Armstrong. The answer in our own personal variation of 20 Questions? Neil Armstrong. Occasionally, even bedtime stories were replaced by Neil Armstrong (instead of the usual fare of Doctor Who/Lord of the Rings/let's-teach-the-girls-about-natural-selection-via-dragons-and-bunny-rabbits. Yeah, I had an interesting childhood).

I realized today, though, that I never actually knew all that much about the man himself. And he knew that would happen--that all people would ever remember would be his one giant leap for mankind--and I'm sure he was, for the most part, fine with it.

I mean, I'd be okay with it if all I was known for was doing something that freaking cool.

But I feel a little bit guilty, and then I feel even more guilty for not caring at all up until this point--what is it about the death of a complete stranger that makes us suddenly care about all of the little details you never bothered to know beforehand?

Even though I haven't ended up wanting to work for NASA or anything (although it's been my dream more than once over the years), the man has had a very subtle but very profound impact on my life. Where would my dad be, had he not been so inspired by a fuzzy image on his black and white TV in the tiny little town of Tonowanda, NY? Would he have wanted to be an engineer? Would I have even been born? Would he have ever bothered teaching me all of those little facts about space before I even hit kindergarten? I don't know.

It's so weird, how random people can have the biggest effects on your life without them ever knowing.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who went on to work in aeronautics because of Neil Armstrong. I am not one of those people, nor do I expect I will be, but that doesn't mean his existence and his life hasn't shaped my life, too.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

What I've Been Doing With My Time

"Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Back in May, I was asked to be on the board for the independent theatre company two of my friends were starting. The first show would be Romeo and Juliet, and they wanted me to stage manage. I said yes. There was a little bit of a rocky start, but we got things rolling and everything was fine.

Back in July, I was asked to take up a part in Romeo and Juliet. Someone had dropped out, and they needed me. I said yes. There was that day it was pouring down rain and the only cast member present, the director, and I paced around on top of tables shouting monologues at each other. There was that week when I threw up on two days, and felt sick for all five.

There was that week when I was out of town and the rest of the cast had the police called on them due to a prop gun someone thought was real.
There was that night when I was rehearsing in full costume in front of my house very late in the evening and had the police called on me.

There was that week of panic when we unexpectedly didn't know if we even had a performance space.

There was that week when everything came together and we put on a freaking fantastic show.

And now the best three months of my life so far are over--I start school in a week, and I won't get to hang out in 100+ degree heat for 3-4 hours every day anymore (tragic, isn't it?). As our director said right before I walked on stage, tonight was the last night we'll ever do Romeo and Juliet together. I'm going to miss it.

And then, after a couple weeks' break, we'll be throwing ourselves right back into the fray of our next production, and I'll start wondering why I thought it would be a good idea to pile on yet another activity.

I'm so excited.

(Oh, hi college applications...I didn't see you there. No, I haven't been ignoring you. What? No, not at all...)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Birth Order Book, by Kevin Leman

"I don't read self-help books. On any given day my self seems to need so much help that 200 pages of cheerful advice and end-of-chapter exercises miss the core of my dilemma. The real question keeping me up at night is this: What the hell is a self anyway? How did I get one and why is it so damn desperate for help?" - Adam Frank

Naturally, that is how I start a post about the self-help book I just finished.

Leman claims that birth order has a significant impact on how you turn out as a person--to the point that he gets scared if he's on a plane and the pilot isn't a functional firstborn or only child. This book outlines the typical characteristics of each birth order, how to deal with it yourself, how to deal with it in others, and how to take it into account when parenting.

With the exception of one of my sisters, his predictions fit my entire family almost perfectly. It's kind of freaky (in that halfway through the chapter on firstborns I was shouting "THESE ARE MY PEOPLE." And that's only a little bit of an exaggeration).

All of the psychology and analysis is interspersed with stories about his clients, and his own family. He's a likable enough person, and it's always amusing to be reading along and find something that describes someone you know to the letter.

The whole book is fascinating (to anyone who has siblings, anyway), and I'd recommend it to anyone who has an interest in that sort of thing. My mom picked it up a couple days ago and decided that all five of us were going to read it, so we'll see what happens after I'm not the only one in the house with this Deep and Perceptive Knowledge about the Mysterious Secrets of Birth Order.