Not the usual guest speaker

When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers gave me a very special treat. When the Virginia Education Association had its annual convention in Richmond, all the teachers at my school went to the meeting and the students got the day off. I don’t know what went on during the day, but they had special guest speakers during the evening — during the year in question, the guest speaker was Werner von Braun. My teacher knew that I was a space buff, and she invited me to come along and hear Dr. von Braun. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember being thrilled to have been able to hear him.

Today was also a very special treat. Bruce Melnick, Boeing’s VP for Florida Operations, gave a colloquium at the Almaden Research Auditorium, titled “What it’s like to fly in space”. Before joining Boeing, Melnick was an astronaut, and flew two Shuttle missions, STS-41 and STS-49. He shared some photos he’d taken on the messions (mostly STS-49), and just talked with us about what it’s like to fly in space.

Most of the time, when I go to a presentation at IBM, there’s a constant background noise — the pitter-patter of little fingers on Thinkpad keyboards. Not today. He held the audience’s attention, well past the time we were supposed to break. I wish I’d taken notes — but I was too wrapped up in the pictures and the talk.

It was one of the best hours I’ve ever spent at IBM.