Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mongolia 2017 - Day 1. Heading for Mongolia via Hong Kong

This is the log of the trip around the world I undertook in Summer 2017. This time the plan is to go from east to west from San Francisco to Mongolia to Ethiopia to Ghana to France to Italy to Mexico and finally back home in a little over 75 days.

All trips must start at the beginning, and this started a few days before departure with me making a long list of all the things that need to be accomplished before I could take off: Notify credit card companies, buy a new cat feeder, pay bills, pack, and the like. Wouldn’t do to forget an important thing along the way, would it?

Finally at about 8 pm Faby and I took off for Pleasanton, where she dropped me off to take the metro to San Francisco airport. I got there with plenty of time to board my 1:15 am flight to Hong Kong. I had purchased the tickets months in advance and had forgotten the name of the airline, so I was pleasantly surprised when I “discovered” it was Singapore Airlines, which is one of my favorites in terms of comfort, quality of food, and service. This is very important when you have a 13 hour flight ahead of you. I had been running myself ragged trying to get ready for the trip, so I had promised myself I was going to sleep for most of the way, but my resolve faltered when I found out that I had more than 600 movies at my fingertips! I ended seeing only one, Hidden Figures, before I felt asleep, but it was a great movie that I can thoroughly recommend. It tells the little known story of the effort to put an astronaut in orbit in the late 50’s, just as the Russians were scoring one first after the other with the launch of Sputnik and the successful orbit around the Earth of Yuri Gagarin. The predecessor of NASA was frantically trying to catch up at their facility in Langley, Virginia, but they just didn’t have the computational power or engineering knowledge to do the task. The solution to the first problem was to recruit a large group of female mathematicians to do the necessary computations needed by the engineers. This being segregated Virginia in the 50’s, all the engineers were white males, and the human “computers” were segregated into white female computers and black female computers. The movie tells the story of three of these black females, who by being clever and progressive break the glass ceiling of segregation to become firsts in their field: the first black female engineer, the first black female lead mathematician, and the first black female supervisor of the first IBM computer center in NASA. It is a fabulous true story!

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