My good friend Tom pointed me to a USA Today article entitled For NASA, 'The Right Stuff' takes on a softer tone. Boy, did it get me excited. The essence of the article explained that "steely-eyed test pilots" are no longer the desirable astronaut candidate. Instead, NASA is "looking for those who can play well with others in the close quarters of the International Space Station." Sign me up.
The author goes on to explain many of the characteristics a future astronaut might require: some diplomacy, a handle on Russian, a scientific mindset, and familiarity in a machine shop. Well, I like to think that I possess all of those skills, save the Russian part. So, I've decided to learn Russian.
Things are going quite well. I started just the other night after visiting the library for a beginner's course on CD. I can now say, among other things, "I understand Russian well." It remains to be seen how long it will be before that particular sentence is useful to me.