debbie millman

Tuesday, October 31, 2006



GREENBELT, Maryland (CNN) -- The shuttle Discovery will pay the Hubble Space Telescope a final servicing call in 2008, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced Tuesday.

The new plan reverses a decision made by former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe in the wake of the Columbia disaster that such a mission would be too risky to attempt.

"We are going to add a shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope to the shuttle's manifest, to be flown before it retires," Griffin told employees at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, where Hubble operations are based. He received a standing ovation.

Discovery will be commanded by veteran astronaut Scott Altman. His crew will include pilot Greg Johnson, robotic arm operator Megan McAurthur, and space walkers John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Andrew Fuestel and Michael Good.

The final Hubble mission, scheduled for May 2008, will install two new instruments, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3.

The astronauts also will service Hubble's gyroscopes, which keep the telescope stable for high-precision pointing.

Astronomical workhorse

The first orbiting telescope ever deployed, Hubble was launched in 1990 with much fanfare. It was initially regarded as a scientific flop, however, when operators discovered that a flaw in the telescope's main mirror resulted in blurry images.

NASA flew a shuttle mission in 2003 in which astronauts conducted a series of spacewalks to repair the optical unit.

Since then, Hubble has proven itself a workhorse, churning out one stunning view of the universe after another.

NASA conducted additional servicing and upgrade missions in 1997, 1999 and 2002.

Hubble's future was cast into doubt, however, on February 1, 2003, when the shuttle Columbia incinerated over Texas on landing approach to the Kennedy Space Center.

An exhaustive inquiry by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board eventually concluded that a 1.6-pound piece of insulating foam broke loose from Columbia's external tank during launch, cracking a hole in the heat shield covering the leading edge of the left wing. When Columbia re-entered the atmosphere to land, searing hot gases seeped into the breach.

All seven astronauts aboard died as the spacecraft burst into flame and broke apart.

As part of its final report, the investigation board issued a series of recommendations to NASA that the space agency would need to implement before shuttle flights could resume. Among them, the investigation board said that NASA should develop methods to inspect the shuttle in orbit for damage to the heat shield, and to repair damage should any be found.

As it has played out, NASA has had good success conducting inspections, but repair capability has proven much harder. While engineers have developed some techniques to repair small scratches, NASA still has no way to repair sizable damage to the heat shield.

NASA returned the shuttle fleet to service in July 2004, and has since flown only two more shuttle missions. All three of those shuttles docked with the international space station, as will all future shuttle missions except the Hubble servicing mission.

'Safe haven'

That is significant because a key component of NASA's flight rationale has been that if inspections turned up significant damage to the heat shield, the astronauts could always take refuge, or "safe haven," aboard the space station and wait as long as three months for a rescue mission.

In January 2004, O'Keefe canceled a scheduled Hubble servicing mission because the shuttle would not be going to the station, and a "safe haven" would not be an option.

However, in the three post-Columbia shuttle flights, NASA engineers and managers have noted that modifications made to the external tank to prevent potentially damaging pieces of foam from flying off during launch have been largely successful.

They say they are confident in their heat shield inspection methods, and in the ability to repair small areas of damage. In the end, the decision came down to a risk-versus-benefit analysis, with Griffin making the final call.

"I would not sign up to something that could not succeed, and succeed safely," Griffin said Tuesday. "The safety of this crew on this mission will be as much as we can possibly do."

The servicing mission will be designated STS-125. NASA could move that launch date up if Hubble were to experience mechanical difficulties in the interim.

Should it be needed to fly a rescue mission, a back-up shuttle will be nearly fully prepped for flight prior to Discovery's launch, and sitting on the other launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.

Since Columbia, NASA has budgeted about three months as the time needed to mount a rescue mission, but for this mission the turnaround will have to be far tighter.

Discovery's astronauts will carry with them enough food, provisions and supplies to stay in space 25 days if necessary.

They also would need to take extra lithium hydroxide canisters, which hook up to the shuttle's air circulation system and filter out carbon dioxide from the air.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

An Assessment: 45 Things I am Grateful For

Half of 90. This is what Simon told me I was today. Needless to say, it softened the blow.

In preparation for this occasion, I have been mentally compiling a list of 45 things I am thankful for. They are people, places, things, ideas...whatever. They are things that inspire me, things that make me smile, things I enjoy, and the very special things that I love. In NO particular order:

1) my furry family: rothko, duff, scruffy and lucy
2) my human family: dad, george, josh and jake
3) my inner circle: sueb, milligan, kat, jan, pam and megan
4) the vits and the kingsleys
5) maria and miss clara, without whom i couldn't live my life as i know it
6) my friends at sterling, especially simon and simon, lisa and gregory, ellie and m
7) my new girls: marian, joyce, emily, cher and babs
8) kayla
9) billy newton john and those crazy kids at national
10) erica, aj, uncle lew, mike, ilene, maya and all the feinmans
11) speaking up
12) sva
13) the esb
14) iced grande skim lattes at buckets of stars
15) big mac meals at mickey's
16) steve heller and mister glaser
17) jfiii
18) alexandra
19) lee lee and lou lou
20) sandra kiersky
21) manhattan: the movie and the place
22) vezzanello, italy
23) amy, steve, bill, lisa, darralyn, pamela, amanda, christine and isaac: my amazing clients and friends
24) print magazine
25) the caption contest in new yorker magazine
26) scrabble
27) menthols
28) good lighters
29) the number 29
30) um, the internet, blogging, email and ebay
31) my bed, especially when it is made with nice linens
32) three very special men: mister edelstein and mister trelin, and j. vipper
33) my garden and the occasional peony
34) dominique browning's editorials in House & Garden magazine
35) luke and smalls
36) voice america, design matters and the kind and generous people who listen to the show
37) snowglobes
38) my childhood library
39) diet dr. pepper
40) english cucumbers
41) the paintings of mark rothko
42) the world that was jean michel basquiat
43) charles olsen's poetry
44) joni mitchell
45) from one man, the world: edwin rivera

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Last Night

In 1964 British designer Ken Garland and twenty-one of his design colleagues wrote a manifesto called First Things First. The manifesto boldly encouraged designers to reconsider their opportunities outside the noise and “high-pitched scream of consumer selling” in favor of applying their talents to promote education, culture and a greater awareness of the world. The manifesto was not intended to advocate the abolition of contemporary design; instead it was a call for the re-evaluation of our profession’s priorities. Rather than apply our skills to selling dog biscuits, French fries, detergents, hair gel, credit cards, sneakers, light beer and heavy-duty recreational vehicles, the manifesto advocated injecting passion and truth into design work.

The only issue I had with the First Things First Manifesto, and its subsequent sequel in 2000 was this: there will always be a need to design dog biscuits and hair gel and heavy duty recreational vehicles. No single gesture can be excluded from our obligation as designers. Dog biscuits and ballot forms and annual reports and propaganda posters all need to be approached with this same passion.

Every gesture we make now is cinematic because it gets swept up in to a swift sequence of gestures that precede and follow it. I believe that the condition of design has become the condition of our culture, and every design we create provides us with an opportunity to inspire. If we do not adhere to this, we segregate our power to communicate what is truly going on in our culture. This evening, I ask you to look around. We are the composers, the arbiters, the instigators and the designers of our culture. We have this marvelous opportunity every day.

Tonight we are honoring two organizations deeply committed to the condition of design in our culture with the AIGA Corporate Leadership Award. This award was established in 1980 to recognize the role of perceptive and forward-thinking organizations that have been instrumental in the advancement of design by applying the highest standards of design, as a matter of policy.

The recipients of this award demonstrate respect for the millions whose lives they touch, a rare commitment to consistency and quality, and a model for the successful interaction between aesthetics and pragmatics. This year, five design leaders worked rigorously to determine two organizations that most fulfilled this criteria. The nominating committee for the Corporate Leadership award was comprised of Lisa Francella from Pepsi, Chris Hacker from Johnson & Johnson, Pamela DeCesare of BrandMuse, Cheryl Swanson of Toniq and Pamela Parisi from Gillette/Procter & Gamble. They jointly picked two outstanding companies to receive this award this evening: The Target Corporation and MTV Networks.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Beck's Back

Beck is back with a brand new album (with the coolest cover ever) and a fab new video to boot. According to my favorite new website Very Short List:

"One of the main reasons to get excited about a new Beck CD (whether you’re into Beck’s music or not) is that great new music videos usually follow. Case in point: the Michel Gondry video for “Cellphone’s Dead,” the first single from Beck’s The Information.

Beck, of course, has functioned over the last decade-plus as a sort of Medici for the video arts, having given free reign to visionary directors such as Spike Jonze, Garth Jennings, Michael Palmieri, and, most notably, Gondry. In “Cellphone’s Dead” (watch it via the link below), Gondry has created a claustrophobic, black-and-white noir urban dreamscape in which everything — the doors, the furniture, the skyline outside, and even Beck himself — briefly morphs into lumbering, seemingly benign robotic creatures.

In a way, it encapsulates everything we liked about Gondry’s latest feature, The Science of Sleep, minus that movie’s excessive, drawn-out self-indulgence. A three-and-a-half minute romp, now and then, in Gondryland — a bizarro realm of childlike wonder combined with acid-trip intensity — is just what we need to refresh our faith in the music video as an art form."

Rock on.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Poetry Tuesday: Tania Rochelle

Dreaming of Grandma
by Tania Rochelle

I offer her a turn
on my broken pogo stick,

put bees in the postal box
she checks for spies,

and switch off Mr. Rogers
so she has no one to talk to.

Even better, I turn her into a four-year old,

send her down to the basement
with teenaged Dennis

while I fry potatoes for dinner.

He shows her the meat-locker
full of blood and muscle
he'll shut her up in if she tattles.

Later, we have hamburgers,
and then I braid her hair just like mine.

Reprinted with permission from the author from the book, Karoake Funeral, Snake Nation Press, Valdosta, Georgia.

Tania Rochelle was born in 1963 and raised in Powder Springs, Georgia, which was back then a treacherously small town. She received a BA in English from the University of Georgia and graduated from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, in Swannanoa, North Carolina. She teaches creative writing at Porfolio Center in Atlanta.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Drive Until You Lose The Road

Friday, October 20, 2006

Two Versions of 48

Favorite line: "This is what I do to sell records, I hope you motherfuckers appreciate it."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Happy National Design Week

A tribute to all people who design. A beautiful film highlighting the importance of design and aesthetics in every day items, in honor of National Design Week. Running time: 28:07

"Everyone is a designer."
--Hillman Curtis

Monday, October 16, 2006

Shock and Awe

Megan, one of my oldest and dearest friends, sent me a link to the following article by NY Times Columnist Bob Herbert. In it, he points out that in the recent shootings in schools, both in the Amish schoolhouse and the public school in Colorado, only girls were killed. A colleague of Megans's wrote this: "Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids upon the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews...There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for what it really was: a hate crime."

Thank you, Mr. Herbert, for pointing out the "devastating continuum of misogyny."

* * *

October 16, 2006
New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist


“Who needs a brain when you have these?” — message on an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt for young women

In the recent shootings at an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania and a large public high school in Colorado, the killers went out of their way to separate the girls from the boys, and then deliberately attacked only the girls.

Ten girls were shot and five killed at the Amish school. One girl was killed and a number of others were molested in the Colorado attack.

In the widespread coverage that followed these crimes, very little was made of the fact that only girls were targeted. Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews.

There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for what it really was: a hate crime.

None of that occurred because these were just girls, and we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected. Stories about the rape, murder and mutilation of women and girls are staples of the news, as familiar to us as weather forecasts. The startling aspect of the Pennsylvania attack was that this terrible thing happened at a school in Amish country, not that it happened to girls.

The disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock. Guys at sporting events and other public venues have shown no qualms about raising an insistent chant to nearby women to show their breasts. An ad for a major long-distance telephone carrier shows three apparently naked women holding a billing statement from a competitor. The text asks, “When was the last time you got screwed?”

An ad for Clinique moisturizing lotion shows a woman’s face with the lotion spattered across it to simulate the climactic shot of a porn video.

We have a problem. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed on women every day, and there is no escaping the fact that in the most sensational stories, large segments of the population are titillated by that violence. We’ve been watching the sexualized image of the murdered 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey for 10 years. JonBenet is dead. Her mother is dead. And we’re still watching the video of this poor child prancing in lipstick and high heels.

What have we learned since then? That there’s big money to be made from thongs, spandex tops and sexy makeovers for little girls. In a misogynistic culture, it’s never too early to drill into the minds of girls that what really matters is their appearance and their ability to please men sexually.

A girl or woman is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so in the U.S. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count. We’re all implicated in this carnage because the relentless violence against women and girls is linked at its core to the wider society’s casual willingness to dehumanize women and girls, to see them first and foremost as sexual vessels — objects — and never, ever as the equals of men.

“Once you dehumanize somebody, everything is possible,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women’s advocacy group Equality Now.

That was never clearer than in some of the extreme forms of pornography that have spread like nuclear waste across mainstream America. Forget the embarrassed, inhibited raincoat crowd of the old days. Now Mr. Solid Citizen can come home, log on to this $7 billion mega-industry and get his kicks watching real women being beaten and sexually assaulted on Web sites with names like “Ravished Bride” and “Rough Sex — Where Whores Get Owned.”

Then, of course, there’s gangsta rap, and the video games where the players themselves get to maul and molest women, the rise of pimp culture (the Academy Award-winning song this year was “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”), and on and on.

You’re deluded if you think this is all about fun and games. It’s all part of a devastating continuum of misogyny that at its farthest extreme touches down in places like the one-room Amish schoolhouse in normally quiet Nickel Mines, Pa.

Hubble and Sloan: The Most Important Images Ever Taken

Special thanks to Andrew Heller for the heads up. Literally.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bound By Our Own Brains

Richard Dawkins on TEDTalks

Richard Dawkins is Oxford University's "Professor for the Public Understanding of Science." Author of the landmark 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, he's a brilliant (and trenchant) evangelist for Darwin's ideas. In this talk, titled, "Queerer Than We Suppose: The strangeness of science," he suggests that the true nature of the universe eludes us, because the human mind evolved to understand the "middle-sized" world we can observe. (Recorded July 2005 in Oxford, UK. Duration: 22:42)


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Levi’s, MTV and YouTube: A Continuum of Community

Reprinted from my post today on Speak Up

Back in April of this year, YouTube announced it had reached a milestone: viewers were watching more than 100 million videos per day on the site. Then, in July, Yahoo News reported that the “big four” television networks suffered the lowest weekly ratings ever. And on Monday afternoon, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Since its inception, YouTube has stated that it was more important for the company to build a community than to make a lot of money. And that is precisely the reason the sale of YouTube made its founders billionaires.

According to Rev2, three former PayPal employees, who, witnessing the boom of online grassroots video, realized the need for a service that made the process of uploading, watching and sharing videos hassle-free, founded YouTube. They registered the domain on February 15th, 2005 and developed the site over the following months from a garage in Menlo Park. In May 2005 they launched in a public beta, and in November, YouTube made its debut with $3.5 million of funding from Sequoia Capital.

Perhaps the popularity of YouTube lies in its self-explanatory name: proposing a convergence of “You” and “Television,” manifesting an online world as a vast community. But this is not the first online space manufactured as a community. MySpace, a site that started out as a "place for friends" has grown into the definitive social-networking phenomenon. The site hosts tens of millions of pages, with new users signing up every day in the hundreds of thousands. In October of last year, an industry poll claimed that MySpace had 12 billion unique page views, twice that of Google's 6.6 billion. No wonder Rupert Murdoch bought the brand for $650 million in cash. Even ebay founder Pierre Omidyar said he started eBay with its unique structure because “I believe in community, and bringing back community, because we’ve lost it a little bit in the modern world.”

At one time, the word community signified a kind of neighborhood, wherein those that inhabited this specific locality shared more than just a zip code. They had a series of commonalities that often included demographics, psychographics, cultural interests and physical companionship. It seems odd to refer to a website that virtually hosts millions of strangers a “community,” but frankly, there is no other description that fits this phenomenon more appropriately. What is not odd is the popularity of these “communities” and why humans need these communities in their lives so desperately.

Despite the striking dominance of the modern brain, civilized men and women are driven by the functions of our primitive brain, especially to tribalism and the need to be close to one another. In fact, human beings are very much like dogs in this manner: we are pack animals that thrive on companionship. From a scientific perspective, the need for our brains to connect with others comes from what is now considered “attachment theory” — a theory, or a group of theories, about the tendency to seek closeness to another person, to feel secure when that person is present, and to feel anxious when that person is absent. The origin of attachment theory can be traced to the publication of two 1958 papers: John Bowlby's "The Nature of the Child's Tie to his Mother," in which precursory concepts of "attachment" were introduced, and Harry Harlow's "The Nature of Love," which was based on the results of experiments which showed that infant monkeys preferred emotional attachment over food. When babies have no "relationship" they fail to thrive, in fact, they often die. And the worst punishment we can inflict on a person is to keep them in solitary confinement.

This need for human attachment comes from the limbic part of the brain, which seats all of our emotions and our basic needs. Interestingly, the word limbic derives it’s name from the Latin word for 'ring’ or ‘circle.” Further, mammals are "open" systems. We cannot exist without referencing other people. When in the company of family members, lovers and friends, our limbic brains resonate with theirs. This communication stabilizes us, and improves emotional well-being and health. It seems that the limbic brain needs to be in active relationship with others to be happy. Humans, quite simply, are deeply social creatures.

Yet, according to American Demographics , during the 1990s the number of people who live alone increased by 4.6 million to reach 27 million — a 21 percent increase. One-person households have had far higher growth rates and are now more numerous than married couples with kids. At least 1 in every 3 new households created during the 1990s was a single person. As a result, they are now 26 percent of U.S. households — more than 1 in every 4 — up from less than 1 in every 10 — in 1950. Further, according to the U.S. census, one third of all school age children in the United States are, for some part of the week, latch key kids—that is, they go home to an empty house or apartment. The total number may be between five and seven million children between five and 13 years old. Marian Wright Edelman, the director of the Children's Defense Fund , thinks it's close to 16 million children. The Census Bureau found that 15% were home alone before school, 76% after school and 9% at night. Presumably, the 9% have parents who work night shifts. One-half of all children in the country age 12 to 14 are home alone an average of seven hours a week.

While people might be able to intellectually rationalize this behavior as necessary, our limbic brains have not yet become adept at accepting this. Because we humans are also quite clever, we find alternative communities wherever and whenever we can. Thus, the popularity of brands and websites providing community, companionship, a sense of belonging and like-minded mutuality.

However, while these sites may involve and leverage innovative technologies, YouTube and MySpace are not fundamentally unique in catering to the basic human need to connect. Humans have been responding to brands like this for years. In the 1950s community was created via Avon, Mary Kay and Tupperware parties, in the 1960s by participating in the Volkswagen movement, in the 1970s by dressing in Levi’s attire. In the 1980s, community became more culturally and linguistically savvy via participation in the MTV and Nike tribes, and in the 1990s it became more experiential via a Starbucks or eBay encounter. Now, in the beginning of the 21st century, you can acquire the traits of community by joining the MySpace and YouTube tribes. What these brands and communities have in common is not their business models or their return on investment prospects for shareholders, or even their level of success in the marketplace. What these communities share is this: they have provided what families and neighborhoods and loved ones once could but no longer do: camaraderie, connectivity, a sense of belonging, all the while allowing participants to be seen and heard and to feel important. Perhaps most profoundly, in a world of rampant insecurity, participation in these sites provides tangible proof of one’s own existence.

This is both a great success and a tragic failure. Our culture is now more technologically connected than it has ever been before, with more dialogue and exchange and communication. It’s just a shame that when visiting the vast community of YouTube, we are connecting with people we will likely never meet, in a place that doesn’t really exist, and in a community that will likely never know your name. At least your real one.

Tonight: Goosebumps

Peace and quiet and open air...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Poetry Tuesday: Grand Master Flash's "The Message"

Inspired by Michael's post on Design Observer...

Friday, October 06, 2006


You found me like this.
I was bawdy, then blustery.
You did that thing with your eyebrows,
and I thought, I thought:
If he loves me, I will continue to live.

You looked at my hands.
You noticed my fingers and I clenched my fists fast,
drew them behind my back.
No one, no one can look like they remembered
where they left something on me.

I have behaved badly for so long I barely consider the alternatives.
I see you watching me, seeking a way in.
A hole to pry, a string to unravel, a way to gather some momentum.
But I am clever. I move the holes around,
unsure where they will go or what will open next.

But I expect you to stay here. To stay poised.
To be ready for a moment when I might tire
of the work it takes to keep moving.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Trying To See The Big Picture

Amazingly beautiful pictures of the universe taken by the Hubble telescope. You might want to turn the accompanying music down or off while you are watching this short video.

One More Review of Designism

Written for Print Magazine online, it can be found here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Glenn Gould: An Excerpt from 'The Idea of North'

Poetry Tuesday: Spiral Jetty, 1970

Mark Foley, Hypocrite

Congress sees through party-colored glasses


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 1998

"WASHINGTON -- For more than a week, members of Congress said they would avoid partisan politics when they got Kenneth Starr's report on President Clinton. But when they finally saw it Friday, they split along party lines.

Republicans were aghast at Clinton's behavior, with many saying it showed he had lied and abused his power.

"It's vile," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach. "It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."

Democrats said they, too, were troubled by the explicit details about Clinton's sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky. But several Democrats said there was nothing in the report to justify impeachment."
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