The Job Problem
Online readers comment on "Intelligent Life," by Chasen Marshall, October 7:
I commend you, April: I hope life shows you that you made the right decision. I do wonder if there would have been a way for you to stay in your position and educate those around you. It is difficult, I know. The ignorance is monumental. May you have all that you ever wanted with your integrity in hand.
No sympathy: Her career fell apart because she quit her job (despite having nothing to do with animal testing), and she has since rejected other job opportunities. She doesn't want a career — she'd rather feel sorry for her family, herself and a few monkeys. Also, the caption "She clearly didn't look the aerospace engineer part" is a stereotype. Yes, a majority of aerospace engineers probably are white males, but there are enough exceptions to make your stereotype unnecessary.
You are a true hero! Thank you, April, for taking a stand against cruel and unnecessary animal research.
Speaking up encouraged: I spent nine years at NASA, with the last few years in ISS safety. The Challenger and Columbia accidents created a culture of speaking up about concerns, because in both cases, engineers were aware of problems but silenced by their superiors. They actually pressured us to act exactly how April acted.
NASA was created as a defense institution, but changed its focus to research after the Cold War. I suspect this testing has nothing to do with research and more to do with military testing. I have no proof of this. It's just a suspicion based on my experience there.
Mistakes were made: April Evans may have shown integrity in resigning, but she also made a lot of mistakes. First of all, why did she expect Michael Suffredini to comment on the monkey radiation project when she ambushed him? It wasn't his project, not even his department, and it was very unlikely that he would have known enough to pass an informed judgment on the matter at the meeting.
Second, why did she think that this was a matter for the NASA complaints procedure? Surely, decisions about policy direction and projects are not subject to the same complaints procedures as harassment, discrimination or promotion problems. If they were, it would be a recipe for chaos.
I suspect that April's behavior caused a lot of embarrassment to her colleagues. She may have had legitimate concerns, but her way of making them heard was all wrong. And NASA wanted to keep her on. She certainly can't accuse them of driving her out.
On the other hand, NASA needs to explain why this project is necessary now, and why it has been designed as it has. I'm no fan of PETA, and I am very much aware of the vital role animal (including monkey) research has played and continues to play in advancing medicine, but this project makes no sense to me. How can exposure to one dose equate to months of lower (if fluctuating) levels of radiation? They need to explain that or rethink the whole thing.
Take responsibility: I find it interesting that NASA told the Press to get in touch with McLean or Brookhaven about the experiments, and those two institutions said to get in touch with NASA. Is anyone taking responsibility? I commend April Evans for speaking out against these completely unethical and unscientific experiments.
Full support: April was so brave to stand up and speak out against these useless, inhumane experiments in front of all of her colleagues. I hope she knows how many people support her decision.
Getting to the Greek
Online readers respond to "Has the Greek Festival Jumped the Shark?" by Katharine Shilcutt, October 11:
Opa! This is the Greek Festival. Love it or leave it!
Not worth the hassle: Our family was going to go after attending the art festival on Saturday. We drove past around 5 p.m. and saw people packed from one fence line to the other like sardines. It was a little scary-looking. We found no parking for miles around and decided it wasn't worth the hassle to go this year.
Advance ticket sales and a limit on the number of people allowed in at any one time might help the situation. Yes, this will be more work for the volunteers, but it will help ensure a good time is had by all. This is not much different from what bars and restaurants have to do in order to be in compliance with fire code.
The other Greek festival, at St. Basil's on Eldridge near Briar Forest, is a lot less crowded. It happens in May.
As for me, I'm going to figure out how to make my own souvlaki, stock up on some Kourtakis and have my own little backyard festival.
Still a fan: I started going when I was three years old (thirty-something years ago), and I've gone every year I've lived in Houston. I also live in Montrose, on the other side of Westheimer, so walking half a mile to the festival was well worth the effort if it meant we didn't have to fight parking.
Thursday night did seem a little more crowded than usual, but it only took maybe 15 minutes to get through the prepared plate line, 15 for souvlaki and a minimal wait for wine. And we were able to find a table that fit six of us fairly easily. The longest line was the loukoumades line, at half an hour, and I just don't see any way that they can speed up the donut-making process. All in all, we had a very good time on Thursday, meeting up with four separate groups of friends, drinking a few bottles of wine and enjoying the wonderful weather.
On Saturday, we noticed that people were parking all the way past Mandell for the festival, and the few times we passed by, it did seem rather full. It didn't, though, seem as crowded as it did in the days before they bought the parking lot they currently use for the bulk of the food. Back then, it seemed like we waited in line for hours. I remember barely being able to walk through the crowds when I was a kid.
I think the shuttle buses are a good idea, but their routes should be better advertised. I also think that encouraging people to go on Thursday or Friday would probably help spread out the crowd to a more manageable size. And I think that there's room for expansion to the south. There's a football/soccer field right at Yoakum and Alabama.
No, thanks: I went Sunday as soon as the festival opened. We still had to wait in line for about 45 minutes. They had run out of the "dinner plates" on Saturday night and substituted a rather bland chicken meal. Almost all of the food was gone except gyros and shish kebabs, and those lines were more than an hour long. I won't be back.
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The 2010 Best of Houston® edition incorrectly stated the name of the owner/operator/chef of Gatlin's BBQ, Greg Gatlin.
The Houston Press regrets the error.