Zócalo Is Up In the Air

Essays On Female Pilots, Female Rocket Scientists, and Male and Female Dinosaur Birds

Women Rule the Skies. In the wake of the July 6 crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, the face of Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), flooded our TV screens. Women are often the face of commercial aviation safety, but rarely are they flying the planes. Liza Mundy of the New America Foundation muses on why.


The Wounds Left By Surveillance. Lutheran pastor and underground environmental activist Ralf-Uwe Beck survived the surveillance and dictatorship of East Germany. The Secret Police monitored his every movement, intercepted his letters, and tried to destroy his marriage. Two decades later, there has still been no German accounting. Even in a free society, the wounds left by surveillance can linger for decades.


The Mysteries of a Rocket Mom, Parasites, and Human Intelligence. The actor Yul Brynner sued Trader Vic’s at the Plaza Hotel after contracting trichinosis there in 1973. He won a settlement of $125,000—and it’s possible the parasite slowed down the growth of the lung cancer that killed him 12 years later. Read more about parasites, rocket fuel, and human intelligence in this week’s The-Six-Point Inspection.


Inventing the Mouse Was the Least of It. Doug Engelbart, the man who invented the computer mouse, died earlier this month. And while he was celebrated for his many technological achievements, his true message remains misunderstood. Eugene Eric Kim, Engelbart’s friend and mentee, writes the Engelbart, believed that “tools could help us get collectively smarter, but they would not magically do the work for us… Improving at improvement takes work. There are no shortcuts.”


Ditch the Coast and Move Inland. Forget everything you’ve heard—you won’t find the California dream in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Joe Mathews urges Californians to move inland—particularly the Central Valley and the Inland Empire—where the jobs are plentiful and the housing is cheap.


The Dinosaurs in My Yard. The Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops bit the dust, but their cousins we call birds survived. So that magpie snacking on your bird feeder is actually a dinosaur. Science writer Brian Switek writes about the dinosaurs in his yard: “They connect the world I know to a prehistoric past I’ll never get to see …”.


Next week …


Robert Kaiser on his fraught love affair with Congress …


Brian K. Barber on what’s happening in Egypt …


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