Kickass Women

History is filled with women doing all kinds of kickass stuff.

Smart Girls

Watch these girls... they're going places!


Need a dose of inspiration? Here you go.

SRPS Entertainment

Some of my entertainment recommendations with awesome female characters and stars.

She's Crafty!

Some of the awesome items made by kickass women!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Louise Pearce - medical trailblazer

A medical pathologist, Louise Pearce (March 5, 1885 – August 10, 1959) was the first female scientists hired at the Rockefeller Institute, where she studied treatments for African sleeping sickness. She traveled to the Belgian Congo in 1920 to carry out trials of the drug she helped develop, which had an impressive 80% cure rate. Her research involved studying disease in rabbit colonies over several generations, where she was able to isolate diseases to study their transmission and immunology.

Education was important in her family. When she was still quite small, her family moved from Winchester, Massachusetts, to southern California. When it was time for her to attend school, she studied at the Girls Collegiate School in Los Angeles, where she took classes in a wide range of academic studies. In 1907, she graduated from Stanford University with a degree in physiology and histology, the study of microscopic anatomy of plant cells and tissues. She continued her studies at Boston University and earned her MD from Johns Hopkins, where she graduated third in her class.

Her attention to detail and dedication to her research made her an ideal pathologist, and in 1913 she was hired as a researcher at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. She was the first woman hired there, and she remained there for her entire career. It was here where she began her important research on treatment for sleeping sickness, an epidemic that was devastating entire regions across Africa.

After performing numerous animal trials her team found that the drug tryparsamide was quite successful in treating the disease in rabbits, the closest animal model to the human course of the disease. They published their results in 1919. In 1920, she traveled to the Belgian Congo, at considerable risk to herself, in order to carry out human trials to determine the drug's safety, effectiveness, and appropriate dosage. At the time, the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was a colony of Belgium, and was controlled through state violence against the native populations who were often conscripted into working to help deplete the natural resources. At the time of her arrival, post-World War I, efforts were underway to improve the country's economic infrastructure to support private companies. The horrific brutality of the Belgium regime of Leopold II is well documented now, but it is unclear if Louise Pearce was aware of it before she agreed to travel, or what her motivations were aside from a humanitarian need.

Working closely with a local hospital and laboratory, her research met with immediate success. For a disease that was nearly always fatal, she was able to cure more than 80% of infected patients, even those with late-stage illness. For her life-saving research, she was awarded the Order of the Crown of Belgium, and elected as a member of the Belgian Society of Tropical Medicine.

After returning to the states, she then turned her attention to the treatment of syphilis, using the same drug. Because the two diseased operated in similar ways in humans, she suspected it would be an effective treatment for syphilis of the brain and spinal cord, as well as the chronic form of the disease. It was, and tryparsamide became the standard treatment until the discovery of penicillin in 1950.

Much of her research was performed on rabbits, and it was during this time that she discovered a malignant epithelial tumor that was then transferred to several other rabbits, each showing a variation in malignancy. She began to study these differences in an effort to understand its transmission, growth and remission. This tumor, referred to as the Brown-Pearce tumor, became the standard test material in cancer research. And she spent much of the rest of her career studying the relationship between the basic health of an organism and its probability of developing disease. Her research focused on rabbit subjects, and during her many trials she was able to isolate the rabbit pox virus and study its transmission and immune reactions.

But she did not spend all of her time working in the lab. She was a member of Heterodoxy, a feminist debating group in Greenwich Village. She taught at several prestigious institutions, including Peiping Union Medical College in China, and sat on the board more than 15 medical associations, including the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she also served as president from 1946 to 1952.

She spend the latter part of her life living on a farm in New Jersey with two other women, author I. A. R. Wylie, and public health physician Sara Josephine Baker, who is most well known for having tracked down Mary Mallon (aka "Typhoid Mary), the first person identified as an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever. There is some speculation that they were probably romantically involved, perhaps in a polyamorous relationship, but there is no definitive documentation. Wylie and Pearce are buried next to each other at the farm's little cemetery, though, which supports the idea that they were more than simply platonic friends.

Louise Pearce lived her life on her own terms. She was fortunate to have been able to pursue her education at a time when college education for young women was still quite rare. She was both a groundbreaking medical researcher and trailblazer for other women in medical science, dedicated to improving the lives of her patients and opening new doors to women in all fields.

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For more information:

The Rockefeller University: "Louise Pearce – An Extraordinary Woman of Medicine"

AAUW: "AAUW Member Saves Lives: Dr. Louise Pearce"

Al Jazeera: "Unsung Hero: Louise Pearce"

Monday, February 26, 2018

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell - science star

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (born 15 July 1943) is an astrophysicist with a long and prolific career, who is best known for her discovery of the first radio pulsars in 1967. She served as president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 2002 to 2004, and president of the Institute of Physics from 2008 to 2010. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in 2007 she promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Growing up, her father was an architect who worked on the Armagh Planetarium. When she was still quite young, she discovered his astronomy books, which she enjoyed immensely. As a student at the Preparatory Department of Lurgan College, she had to fight to be allowed to take classes in science. The school's policy was changed after several parents complained. Unfortunately, when she was ready to move to secondary school she failed the eleven-plus exam, and was instead sent to study at a Quaker boarding school.

This was a good move, giving her the preparation she needed for her college studies. Still interested in astronomy, she attended the University of Glasgow, where she earned a BS in physics in 1965, and then went on to the University of Cambridge, where she studied quasars with Antony Hewish. It was here where she helped construct the radio telescope that she used to discover the first radio pulsar.

In July 1967, she was recording signals received by the radio telescope when she noticed a little bit of "scruff" in the data. They were looking for more quasars, analyzing data from scanning the sky once every four days. All the data was printed on a kind of chart-reporter -- a device with three pens that tracks input, similar to a seismograph, only in this case tracking radio waves rather than seismic waves. After seeing this "scruff" on her reports enough, she could tell it wasn't from human-made radio transmissions, and it wasn't from a quasar. But what was it?

She set up some new recordings to try to figure out its source, but it wasn't until November that she was able to get a clear chart showing a series of pulses, exactly 11/3 seconds apart. When she showed her data to Antony Hewish, he was skeptical, but agreed to visit the observatory with her to check it out. When it was clear that it wasn't something coming from the earth (not radar bouncing off the moon, satellites in orbit, or other bits of human-made interference) they started to wonder if it was some kind of transmission from an alien world, hence her readings were dubbed "Little Green Man 1" or LGM-1..

My eureka moment was in the dead of night, the early hours of the morning, on a cold, cold night, and my feet were so cold,
they were aching. But when the result poured out of the charts,
you just forget all that. You realize instantly how significant
this is—what it is you’ve really landed on—and it’s great!

It wasn't until she was analyzing data from a completely different part of the sky and found a similar bit of "scruff" at the same frequency that she began to suspect it was something else entirely. It was unlikely that the first reading was from aliens, and even more unlikely that there was a second set of aliens transmitting at the same frequency from somewhere else in the universe.

More analysis, and more "scruff," and now there were four different sources. By now they had a term, "pulsar" -- so named because it was a rapidly rotating neutron star that emitted regular pulses -- which they used in a paper in January of 1968. When the news about LGM-1 hit the press, she and the rest of the team were inundated with interview requests from all sides. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the majority of the questions she fielded were along the lines of "How many boyfriends do you have," and whether she was "taller than or not quite as tall as Princess Margaret?" When the excitement died down, she handed off the research to other students while she wrapped up her thesis. She graduated with her PhD in 1969, got married and moved from radio astronomy to gamma-ray astronomy, glad to be able to do some "reliable and solid, undramatic science."

And she has. She worked at the University of Southampton from 1968 to 1973, the University College London from 1974 to 1982, and the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh from 1982 to 1991. In addition to her duties on campus, she also worked as a tutor, consultant, examiner, and lecturer for the Open University -- a public distance learning and research university -- from 1973 to 1987, and served as Professor of Physics from 1991 to 2001. She was a visiting professor in Princeton University and Dean of Science in the University of Bath from 2001 to 2004, and is currently Visiting Professor of Astrophysics in the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Mansfield College. In February 2018 she was appointed Chancellor of the University of Dundee.

She served as president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 2002 to 2004, and president of the Institute of Physics from 2008 to 2010. When asked about not being included in the Nobel Prize, she laughs it off good-naturedly, saying, "You can actually do extremely well out of not getting a Nobel prize, and I have had so many prizes, and so many honours, and so many awards, that actually, I think I've had far more fun than if I'd got a Nobel Prize - which is a bit flash in the pan: You get it, you have a fun week, and it's all over, and nobody gives you anything else after that, cos they feel they can't match it."

She's done alright. She's received a dozen or so awards, was the first woman to serve as president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in 1999 she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and then promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2007.

For more reading:

You can read her article about the discovery of pulsars, "Little Green Men, White Dwarfs or Pulsars?"

The Herald article "Face to Face: science star who went under the radar of Nobel Prize judges"

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Joyita Mondal - trans trailblazer

In July 2017, Joyita Mondal was appointed as a judge on a Lok Adalat (a type of civil court) in West Bengal, India, making her the first transgender person to serve in such a role in that country. This comes after years of hard work fighting for the rights of the LGBT community, as well as for the rights of other marginalized communities -- the elderly, the disabled, and anyone else facing discrimination.

She didn't set out to become an activist. When she left home, she was simply trying to escape the oppressive environment of her small Hindu community, where she faced bullying by her peers and had few opportunities to live life on her own terms. She dropped out of school and moved to Islampur, a small city in the Uttar Dinajpur region, where, although she was able to find some work as a dancer in wedding ceremonies, she still had trouble finding a safe place to live and was often forced to beg for money to survive.

But she began to meet other transpeople, and after talking to them she founded her activist organization, 'Dinajpur Notun Alo Society' (Notun Alo means "new light") to help address some of their needs. "I started counseling sessions in hopes of reducing stigma by inviting relatives and family members of transgender persons. We showed films on the problems faced by the community. Further, sensitization of teachers and students in government and private schools and colleges started, and street plays at bus stands and other popular spaces were performed." She also began taking correspondence classes, and eventually earned a degree in law.

Her organization began looking for ways to assist other marginalized groups, and extend their outreach efforts beyond LGBT issues. "When I came to Islampur around nine years ago, my job was restricted to working for the rights and development of the transgender and LGBT community. But as I slowly progressed and got in touch with district administration officials, I felt the urge to work for all people and not just [the trans] community."

They began by addressing the needs of sex workers in local brothels, helping them register to vote and obtain identity cards, as well as locating services to help them with food and lodging. Then they began talking with the elderly members of their community. "We visited every house in the area for six months and shortlisted around 200 needy elderly people. We have submitted a proposal to the government for the construction of shelter home for elderly people."

Her work caught the attention of Judge Subroto Pole who appointed her as a Lok Adalat judge last year. Through her dedication to improving the lives of others, she has also made a huge change in her own life. "It gives me great satisfaction to know I have broken gender stereotypes. It is also gratifying to see those who once taunted me about my gender, stand before me with folded hands waiting for a judgment on their case."

For more reading:

Women's eNews "Meet the First Transgender Judge in India"

She The People "Meet Joyita Mondal, India’s First Transgender Lok Adalat Judge"

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Katharine "Kay" Way - nuclear scientist

Katharine "Kay" Way (February 20, 1902 – December 9, 1995) was one of the leading female physicists on the Manhattan Project, she did much of her work at the Metallurgical Laboratory (Met Lab) in Chicago analyzing neutron flux data as they attempted to create a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. She is best known for the development of the Way-Wigner formula which calculates the beta decay rates of fission products. As a physicist, she spent much of her career working on the Nuclear Data Project, created to standardize the organization and sharing of nuclear data, and which grew out of her work in Chicago where she was collecting and analyzing enormous amounts of data. It was a suggestion she made that sparked the creation of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee in 1943.

Her childhood was interrupted by the death of her mother when she was 12. When her father remarried, her new step-mother was an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor), and you can imagine how this career woman influenced Kay's ideas of the possibilities for her own future. In 1920 she began studying at Vassar College, but she had to leave after two years because of illness (likely tuberculosis). After a lengthy recovery, she enrolled in Barnard College, but had to go slowly. She eventually began taking classes at Columbia University where she met Edward Kasner, a renown mathematician. Her fascination with mathematics led her to the study of physics, and she eventually graduated with her bachelor's in 1932.

She earned her Ph.D. in physics at the University of North Carolina, where she focused her attention on nuclear physics -- the field she would dedicate her life to. Thinking she'd find a career as a professor teaching classes and working in the lab, she accepted a position at the University of Tennessee in 1939. But once it became clear the US was headed to war, she looked for ways to become involved. When she heard about the work being done with the Manhattan Project out of Chicago (the same project Leona Woods was involved in), she called her old UNC professor and convinced him to hire her. She performed critical analysis of the deluge of data coming in from early nuclear reactor designs, to help determine whether it would be possible to create a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Her calculations were used to build Chicago Pile-1, the first nuclear reactor ever built. It set the foundation for the work of other scientists at Los Alamos building the first atomic bomb.

When many of the nuclear scientists involved in the Met Lab project realized the implications of their work being used to build atomic weapons, they took an important, but ultimately unsuccessful stand by signing the Szilard Petition of July 17, 1945, which was sent to President Truman and the Secretary of War, calling for them to reconsider the use of the atomic bomb against the people of Japan. As a response to the bombings, in 1946 many of these same scientists wrote important essays highlighting their concerns about nuclear weapons, which were gathered in a book she co-edited, One World or None: A Report to the Public on the Full Meaning of the Atomic Bomb.

Her activism wasn't limited to anti-nuclear writings. She was a strong advocate for bringing the work of these important scientists to universities in the Southeast, likely influenced by her time teaching at the University of Tennessee before the war. In 1943, as a direct response to a comment she made about ensuring students and faculty at these institutions had access to the researching being done at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Because of her suggestion, the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (ORINS), now known as Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), opened up research opportunities and has been a major influence on the development of science and technology in the Southeast.

After the war, she took a position at the National Bureau of Standards (where Chien-Shiung Wu and Charlotte Moore Sitterly, two other important women in physics were also working in their respective fields). By 1953, there was a massive amount of data about nuclear physics being recorded, but it was nearly impossible for scientists to tap into what they needed. During her years of analyzing large amounts of raw information while working in Chicago, she had come up with methods for collating and sorting incoming data in order to find what she needed. From this, she created the Nuclear Data Project (NDP) in 1953 as a way to organize and share this information in sheets and tables making it easy to cross reference, setting the standard for how data is gathered, evaluated and presented in the field of nuclear physics.

For more reading:

"Historically Speaking: Katherine Way and her influence on Oak Ridge"

Atomic Heritage Foundation biography: "Katharine Way"

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Betty Before X

Betty Before X
by Ilyasah Shabazz, with‎ Renée Watson

I was so intrigued by what I'd heard about this book that I was the first person to get on the pre-release waitlist for it from my library. I don't know as much about the life and work of Betty Shabazz as I'd like, but recently I saw Betty & Coretta, the Lifetime dramatization of the friendship between two extraordinary women, Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dr. Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X, in the years after both are widowed by their husbands' assassinations.

In that film, I learned about Betty Shabazz's remarkable life after Malcolm X, where she returned to college and earned her master's in Health Administration and doctorate in Education before taking a position at Medgar Evers College alongside other remarkable black women, teaching young, working class black women. True to her beliefs, she wanted to make sure she had the maximum impact on the lives of black women.

You know I enjoy learning about and celebrating the amazing work being done by women throughout history and around the world. But I'm also infinitely curious about the forces in their lives that led them to that work. So when I saw that her daughter Ilyasah Shabazz had written a book about her life as a girl growing up in Detroit in the 1940s, I knew I needed to read it.

Betty Before X (library) tells the story of young Betty Dean Sanders in the years between her birth in 1934 and the age of 14. It follows her as she moves from living in a loving home in Pinehurst, Georgia, with her Aunt Fannie Mae, to trying to find a place for herself in Detroit with her abusive mother and her new step-father and her step-brothers and half-sisters, to finally being taken in by Lorenzo and Helen Malloy, members of her family's church. All the while, she is a keen observer of the injustices she witnesses, big and small.

One of her first memories is of discovering a lynched couple while returning home from the store with her Aunt Fannie Mae. The description of how young Betty (four or five at the time) was shocked by her Aunt's fear and later comforted by her responses to her questions about it sets the tone for the entire book.

In Detroit, while dealing with the verbal and emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse from her mother, Betty is also dealing with her growing awareness of the discrimination and oppression around her. We see how her future beliefs are shaped by these crises as well as the response from the adults in her life. Mrs. Malloy, the woman who eventually takes her in, was a founding member of the Housewives League of Detroit, a group of Black women who organized efforts to boycott stores that refused to hire black employees, and support black-owned businesses. This early introduction to civil rights work has a profound effect on Betty, and we can clearly see how important a role it was in her adult life.

Betty Before X earns the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval for its honest look at the life of a young African American girl growing up during the racially strained years of the 1930s and 40s, and how the civil rights leader she became later in life was forged by her experiences. It doesn't pull any punches. Broken into short chapters, each encompassing a particular event or learning experience from Betty's life, it is an excellent choice for middle grade readers. Taken from family memories, Ilyasah Shabazz, with help from Renée Watson (who wrote another SRPS favorite, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills) gives us a gift as she tells the story of her mother's early life. Betty lived through troubling times, and Ilyasah Shabazz deftly interprets her experiences for the kids of today in language they can relate to while remaining true to the hardship of her story.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Kickstart This: The Hidden Halls of Hazakor

An image featuring a dark skinned woman with a sword in the center (human fighter), with a blue-haired olive skinned woman in armor carrying a shield to her left (dwarf cleric), a light skinned woman wearing a head scarf and carrying a torch to her right (elf wizard) and another light skinned woman suspended from the ceiling with fabric (halfling thief).
Things are definitely changing the tabletop RPG world, and it's very exciting! Recently, a lot of my gamer friends have sent me a link for The Hidden Halls of Hazakor with excited comments about the kickass female characters on the cover. On the cover, y'all. And lots of text-based squeeing.

Obviously I dropped everything to check it out, and I have to say I'm super intrigued. And I'm not a tabletop RPGer. At least, not yet. If anything would turn me into one, it would be the idea of rolling through a dungeon with these gals! Just look at them -- confident, strong, fierce!

I chatted with author Scott Fitzgerald Gray and illustrator Jackie Musto about this amazing project and the importance of representation and accessibility in gaming, for folks from all backgrounds and all ages.

SRPS: First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself? What's your background? What inspires you?

SFG: I'm an extremely middle-aged Canadian geek who's lucky enough to make a living through writing, editing, and tabletop RPG design. The latter part of my job has involved a lot of work for Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast over the last fourteen years. I fell in love with fantasy and speculative fiction at an early age, then discovered roleplaying games in high school. Over the long, complicated process that got me into writing and storytelling as first a screenwriter, then a novelist, RPGs (and D&D in particular) were an essential anchor for my creativity and an amazing source of inspiration. I still draw a lot of inspiration from my own gaming, and from being part of the community built around the shared storytelling that's at the heart of what RPGs do.

SRPS: What is The Hidden Halls of Hazakor?

SFG: This book is an adventure for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons that I've wanted to publish for a while now. It started out as a piece I wrote for the RPG club I ran at my daughters' middle school some years ago, as a kind of "learn by doing" adventure for young Dungeon Masters. Though I wasn't as young as a lot of first-time D&D players when I first picked up the game, I still remember the process of sitting down in the DM’s chair for the first time and how daunting it was for me. The adventure kind of grew out of my own memory of the things I wish I'd known when I ran my first dungeon crawls, combined with some first-hand observation of the things that the young players I was working with found the most challenging to deal with.

SRPS: What inspired you to create an RPG book?

SFG: I've written and edited a lot of D&D adventures over the years, and have published some of my own. But this one always had its own odd place off to the side of other things I've worked on. The kids who ran and played the original version of the adventure really enjoyed it, and I've thought more than once about putting it out just as a free text-only book (which it was in its original RPG-club form). But at the same time, I understood that a full version with awesome artwork would potentially be an even better tool for young, first-time Dungeon Masters, so it always stayed a kind of back-burner project. Then a few years ago, I discovered Jackie's steampunk webcomic Lady Skylark and really fell in love with her art. When I first talked to her about the possibility of working on the adventure, her enthusiasm was the metaphorical kick in the ass I needed to finally figure out how I wanted to do it.

Four female characters, human fighter, elf wizard, dwarf cleric and halfling thief.

SRPS: I see a lot of people raving about the artwork (myself included!), and especially the fact that it shows amazing, powerful female characters of different ethnicities. Was that a conscious decision on your part?

JM: It is really important to me that we represent the world around us and all the different types of people in it. I can remember growing up and finding it difficult to see representations of women in the industries that I liked that weren't just the same stereotype over and over — so I hope I can help a kid or teen see something of themselves in this genre and think they belong there. Lucky for me, Scott and I see eye-to-eye on this — in fact when he sent me the pitch he made that point super clear and I remember shouting "Yes! I have to do this project!" For me, this project marries all the things I love to draw — cool fantasy settings, rad ladies doing stunts — and it being for a roleplaying game just brings it all home. Roleplaying was my introduction to art as a career as well as a creative force. When I got started it was with an awesome group of folks who encouraged me to play whatever type of character I wanted to, and we crafted these amazing worlds together. It all gelled into a career path when I would draw their characters -- and I guess I've never stopped! My hope is that young folks can look at this game and imagine their characters and be inspired to create themselves.

SFG: The issue of inclusivity in gaming (including tabletop RPGs) has been getting a lot of attention over the last few years — which is to say, it's finally been getting the attention it's long deserved. I'm just about the whitest guy you're ever going to meet, but I've still always been conscious of — and frustrated over — how limiting the traditional Eurocentric/pseudomedieval approach to fantasy has been and continues to be. Fantasy in general and RPGs in particular are built on the foundation of imagination, and it should take very little of that to imagine a fantasy RPG world that reflects the broadest possible range of people who might want to spend time there.

A large green ogre surrounded by the fighter and cleric
SRPS: Who is your target audience? It's a starter RPG, so does that mean it introduces basic RPG concepts and helps with setting up a new group from scratch?

SFG: The book is just an adventure, so although it provides a lot of advice and tips on how to be a good Dungeon Master and handle some of the situations that can arise at the gaming table, players and would-be DMs need to have the D&D rulebooks as a starting point. Those books definitely address the concepts of what it means to play an RPG and how things work around the game table, and they remain an essential resource even for experienced players. But for me, there can never be enough good starter adventures to go with those books — and the idea of a starter adventure written not just for beginning Dungeon Masters but for young Dungeon Masters has always been something I've wanted to play around with.

SRPS: What about experienced RPGers? Is The Hidden Halls of Hazakor going to be too simplistic for them?

SFG: In terms of the writing style, experienced players will undoubtedly find the adventure giving them tips and advice that they already know. But the adventure itself should appeal to players of any age. There are lots of straightforward encounters, as is true of any adventure for 1st-level characters. But there are also plenty of devious surprises, and a number of sections where more experienced DMs will be able to go nuts with the environment and the intelligent monstrous NPCs to put their own stamp on things. Ultimately, a published adventure is always meant to be reworked and changed up by an experienced DM as they make it part of their own campaign. And The Hidden Halls of Hazakor has just as much raw material for that as any adventure.

SRPS: What else can tabletop gamers expect from The Hidden Halls of Hazakor?

SFG: The adventure holds a fair bit of humor, which I've always found is a good way to keep the interest of younger players (both working with middle-school-age kids in the RPG club, and introducing my own daughters to D&D when they were young). Jackie's amazing art is going to be taking a big role in bringing some of that humor to life. The writing is also intentionally straightforward and explanatory, with the intent of being something that a young, first-time DM can easily process. But aside from that, the adventure is just a straight-up, old-fashioned dungeon crawl, very much in the vein of some of the classic D&D starter adventures. Though its presentation is straightforward, the adventure isn't dumbed down in any way, and I hope it's ultimately something that gamers of all ages can have fun with.

SRPS: It all sounds super fun. Where else can folks find both of you online?

JM: My comics are Kay and P, and The Adventures of Lady Skylark, and I'm on TwitterInstagram, and Tumblr.

SFG: I can be found online at my website InsaneAngel, on Facebook, and Twitter.

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You may also be interested in:

Gamer Girl - Damsel
OK, so Damsel's got a kickass female protagonist fighting vampire hordes with awesome weapons and saving the world from evil? Yes, please! I managed to strike up a conversation with Megan Summers, the producer of Damsel. She shared with me a bit about herself as a female game developer and her work.
Read this: Damsel to the Rescue
It's got a smart, witty and brave damsel who would rather be tending her garden and perfecting her plant magic than off rescuing some silly prince. Yes, you read that correctly. Our heroine Terrilyn lives in a somewhat gender-flipped magical world where girls are expected to learn how to fight in order to rescue whatever prince has gotten himself kidnapped by some scheming Dark Lord.
Read This: Young Guinevere
Young Guinevere earned the Self-Rescuing Princess Society seal of approval for telling the story of this confident and courageous girl whose story is too often left out of the Camelot tales, or who is only remembered for her later story of betrayal and loss. Here we see her as a fresh-faced, daring young woman who knows her own capabilities and is willing to risk her own life to save others.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mary Leakey - ground-breaking paleoathropologist

"Basically, I have been compelled by curiosity." Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey (February 6, 1913 – December 9, 1996) was a prominent paleoanthropologist, whose discoveries of important skulls and other fossils, including stone tools and even footprints, of ancient human predecessors and other primates, brought international attention to the scientific search for humanity's origins.

Her interest in ancient peoples was first sparked on a family vacation to France in 1925. French archaeologist Elie Peyrony was excavating a cave there, and 12-year-old Mary was invited visit the site. She was allowed to take home some artifacts that had been discovered there -- scrapers, blades, and points -- and she used them to create her first system of classification.
"For me it was the sheer instinctive joy of collecting, or indeed one could say treasure hunting: it seemed that this whole area abounded in objects of beauty and great intrinsic interest that could be taken from the ground."
Her father took her to visit other caves, where they could view some of the prehistoric cave paintings, further inspiring her curiosity in ancient peoples and their artwork. Tragically, her father died while she was still quite young, but she found other mentors who encouraged her to learn more about anthropology and archeology.

Her interests in art and archeology continued to grow, but her predisposition to learning on her own -- even when it meant blowing up a school science lab, twice, -- as well as her general disinterest in studying for exams meant her school performance precluded attending college in the traditional manner. Instead, she attended lectures in archeology, prehistory and geology as a non-student, and even worked at the London Museum, where she was invited to participate in summer excavations throughout Europe.

Louis Leakey who hired her to illustrate his book Adam's Ancestors, and the two hit it off both professionally and romantically. They traveled the world working on research projects as long as their donated funds would allow. Eventually, they attracted the attention of the National Geographic Society, who gave them enough money to focus their attention on research full time.

Louis and Mary published most of their findings as a team, although professionally he received credit for many of her contributions. After his death in 1972, Mary continued to work solo, earning a reputation as a preeminent paleoanthropologist in her own stead.

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Michelle Simmons - 2018 Australian of the Year

"I found that the more difficult the challenges I took on, the more rewarding it was and I thought 'wow this is a phenomenal world to be in.'" Michelle Simmons, 2018 Australian of the Year
Last month physicist Michelle Simmons was named the 2018 Australian of the Year for her ground-breaking work in Quantum mechanics -- a booming field for scientific research in Australia at the moment. Determined to specialize in atomic electronics and quantum computing -- basically, using the properties of atoms to create extremely small devices that can crunch enormous amounts of data much faster than traditional computers -- she moved from her home in Britain to Australia in 1999.

"It made me think 'wow he didn't really expect me to be able to do this' and that really got me thinking 'there must be other things that people don't expect of me, let me find out what they are.'"
She got her start in math and science as a young girl. A unexpected win over her father at a game of chess, sparked an interest in determining other areas where she might be able to surprise those who may underestimate her. That desire to push the boundaries of her own knowledge drove her to seek out other challenges, eventually leading her the cutting edge of science -- quantum physics.

In the two decades since she arrived in Australia as a brash young post-doc -- so sure of her future success, she only purchased a one-way ticket -- she has pushed the research on quantum computing forward by leaps and bounds. In addition to her teaching and research duties as Scientia Professor of Quantum Physics at the University of New South Wales, she has been named Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow and ARC Federation Fellow twice, and was a founding member and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology. And she is the editor-in-chief of npj Quantum Information -- a scientific journal focused on the field of quantum information science.
"The best part about my work is the amazing variety and the constant challenge. There is always more to learn and I constantly look forwards to those moments when I have a little extra time to read and think."
Her research group was the first to develop a working single-atom transistor as well as the thinnest wires made from silicon.

The Australian of the Year award is one given each year to an Australian citizen who has been deemed to be a national role model across a wide variety of industries. Michelle Simmons is the 13th woman to earn the title of Australian of the Year.

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