Wednesday, January 30, 2013

YouTube, Some Days I Love You.

The one major downside to finally having a decent, stable internet connection is that I find myself wasting way, way more time on YouTube than I used to. On the upside, though, that means I sometimes stumble across things like this awesome fan-made Doctor Who "50th anniversary trailer." It's like the pure distilled essence of 50 years of Who, concentrated down to seven minutes:

Didn't They Used To Use Fake Versions Of These Things?

Today's moment of utter surreality: watching TV and having my local tv channel break in with a special report, only to experience a brief moment of complete disorientation as I remember that I'm actually watching a DVD.

Man, Breaking Bad really messes with my head.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sorry, Commenters, It's Back To Proving Your Humanity, I'm Afraid.

Well, that lasted, what, five days? But the spammers have found me, and I'm now getting multiple spam blog comments per hour, some of which Blogger's spam filter catches and some of which it doesn't, but all of which I have to check on. Needless to say, this has crossed the annoyance threshold very quickly, so the CAPTCHA is back on. My apologies for those who have trouble with it. Of course, family and friends can always e-mail me if they have something they want to say but can't or don't want to post here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Life Is Hard When You're A Crazy Cat Lady.

Today's fun activity: taking the cats to the vet! Aargh. Vir now weighs 29 pounds, which is just freaking ridiculous. No doubt part of the problem is that while I was away on vacation he had the opportunity to eat too much and to steal Nova's regular cat food on top of his diet stuff. Which means that, much as the possibility pains me, I think next time I leave -- which will be in June -- I'm going to have to board him as well as Happiness. Except that he's at high risk for a condition whose name I forget, but which basically amounts to: "cat gets stressed and stops eating for a day or two, cat's body freaks out about the lack of food, and cat's liver goes into lethal shutdown." So I'll actually have to put him in the kennel a couple of days early and check with them to make sure he's eating before I leave. Joy. Oh, and I also need to bring him back in for a glucose test, but I have to do that sometime when he hasn't been eating. Hopefully, he still doesn't have diabetes.

Happiness' blood thyroid levels were great, which should be awesome news, except that they tested it when she was about due for her daily pill but hadn't had it yet, and under those circumstances they'd have expected it to be higher. The vet is a bit confused by that. And worried, because her heart rate is very high, which is a symptom. Although her weight is holding steady, which is good. Basically, who the hell knows? The vet is going to cogitate on it some more and get back to me.

Nova, meanwhile, needs a dental cleaning and might or might not have a bit of a gum infection. But at least he's the right weight.

And while the cats are getting all this awesome medical care, here I am putting off going to the eye doctor because I don't want to spend money on new glasses. Sigh.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

And Two More Pics, Just For The Hell Of It.

It occurs to me that none of my pictures have any people in them, so here's a couple of pics from my dad in which I actually make an appearance.

Although I may regret showing you this one:

Well, after all that serious space stuff, I guess we needed some goofy space stuff, right? Right? The kid, by the way, is my step... nephew? That sounds kind of funny, but I think it's right.

And here I am feeding a giraffe at the zoo:

Giraffes, it turns out, have very long prehensile tongues. And they like fruit.

Florida Pics, Pt. 2

More pictures from Kennedy!

Here's a sign proving I really was in the place where all this historic space stuff happened:

And a marker commemorating the Mercury program, and the "Mercury Seven," America's first group of astronauts:

This next photo is one of the two launch pads that were used for the space shuttle. It's sitting idle now, alas, but hopefully it will see action again one day in the not-too-distant future.

Kennedy still maintains two active launch pads. If I recall correctly, this one here is used for Delta IV rockets, while the other launches the still-popular Atlas:

And, much as I hate to end on a downer, this is the site where the Apollo 1 test pad fire happened, killing astronauts Grissom, Chaffee, and White, and setting the moon program back significantly before it had even gotten off the ground:

The pad was, of course, never used again:

I'm not sure why that "abandon in place" is so haunting, somehow, but it is.

And, oh, what the heck. Let's not end on the downer note. This picture was nothing to do with Kennedy, and will probably mean nothing to most of you, but for my former Philly-area peeps... Did you know Florida now has Wawa?!

Truly, I was stunned!

There may still be more pictures to come, as my dad also gave me copies of a whole lot of photos that he and my stepmother took, and I haven't even had the chance to look through them yet. But when I have, I'll very likely share some here, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Florida Pics, Pt. 1

I took quite a few pictures at Kennedy, so I'll break them up into a couple of posts so as not to overwhelm you all. Here's the first batch!

This is the Vehicle Assembly Building, which is exactly what it sounds like: the building where space vehicles are assembled and readied for launching. It is impossible, looking at this picture, to get a sense of just how big this building is. Hell, it's difficult to really process that even when you're right next to it. So I'll just say that you can see this thing from miles and miles away, and even then, it still looks big.

Here's some shots of the inside of an old control bunker:

Look at all that wonderful old-fashioned technology! Actually, those old reel-to-reel tape recorders -- or at least, ones somewhat similar to those -- are very familiar to me, as we were still using them at NRAO much more recently than you might expect.

And here's the place where I went all, "SQUEEEE!":

That's a replica of Alan Shepard's Mercury-Redstone, on the actual spot where he launched on his historic flight as the first American in space.

More to come later!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Home, Florida, Blog

I have made it home in one piece! The house did not fall down, and the cats are alive, so that's all good. (Well, two thirds of the cats are verifiably alive. I have to go and pick Happiness up at the kennel soon. But I'm pretty sure if she weren't still alive, they would have called me.)

Despite a good night's sleep in my own bed, I am still tired from traveling, not to mention backed up on all those things that inevitably seem to pile up when you're away, so here's just a few additional comments on my trip:

  • Florida does have quite a lot of wildlife, even if you're not traipsing through the swamp. I saw several alligators, and caught a brief glimpse of a manatee. (I was able to get a better look at some later in an aquarium.) Also lots and lots of birds, including ibis and ospreys. And a giant eagles' nest on the grounds of Kennedy Space Center.

  • When the temperature drops below 70 degrees, people start complaining that they're cold. Even people who used to live in New Jersey. This amuses me immensely.

  • I was able to correct a 31-year-old disappointment this weekend! My family went to Disney World when I was ten -- my only previous visit to Florida -- but Epcot was still under construction at the time, so I missed out on it. Of course, geeky little kid that I was, I thought Epcot sounded like the best part of the park, and felt rather cheated. Well, it may have taken me three decades, but I finally made it! Needless to say, I probably would have enjoyed it more when I was ten, but it made me happy, regardless.

    And I know I promised pictures. They will come later. I haven't even had the chance to sort through them yet.

    On a different note: My dad complained that he can't ever seem to be able to prove to Blogger that he's human, so for the moment, I've disabled the CAPTCHA for comments here. Since Blogger now has some spam filtering, leaving it off might just be tolerable, but if things get too bad, I reserve the right to reactivate it. So enjoy it while you can, commenters!
  • Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    Space Geek Does Florida

    Greetings once again from sunny Florida! I still cannot get over how beautiful the weather is. While most of you in the northern hemisphere are various shades of freezing, I am experiencing weather that is perfect for walking along the beach eating ice cream cones, and have been taking advantage of it to do exactly that.

    Or at least, that's the sort of thing I've been doing when I'm not busy getting my space geek on. Which I have been doing a lot. We spent the better part of two days at Kennedy Space Center, and if you ever have a chance to go, I recommend it. On Monday, we went to the visitor's center and did the free bus tour. The highlight for me was the museum in which they have an entire Saturn V rocket. This is the machine that launched the manned flights to the moon, and it is staggeringly, impressively huge. I swear, being in the same room with that thing may be as close as I come to a spiritual experience. They also have a lot of other exhibits and interesting stuff there, including regular talks by astronauts. The day we were there, the featured speaker was Jerry Carr, commander of one of the Skylab crews. Which pleased me, because Skylab is an interesting piece of US Space history, but it's one that's too often entirely forgotten (or if it's remembered at all, it's only for scattering bits of debris across Australia when the station re-entered the atmosphere and burned up at the end of its life).

    And then today, a friend of my dad's who works up there gave us a tour. We drove around to see various launchpads, both currently active and historical. At one point we drove directly underneath the pad where the space shuttle used to launch. And I got to stand on the exact spot where Alan Shepard took off on his first flight, a fact about which I can communicate only by lapsing into incoherent fangirl mode, so: SQUUUUUUUUEEEEEE! *ahem* They have a full-sized replica of his Mercury-Redstone rocket there now, which was pretty spiffy. (At some point there will be pictures of this sort of thing, but not until I get home and get them off my camera.) We also visited the site of the Apollo 1 fire, which was more sobering, but, wow, of all the places I never imagined I'd be standing...

    So, yes, Space Geek Girl was very satisfied. The only thing I regret is that I was here a few months too early to see the shuttle Atlantis in its new home. The orbiter is here, but it's not yet ready to meet its adoring public, as they're still getting it set up and getting the building that houses it finished. Of course, it would have been even nicer to be here to watch one of them launch. Ah, well. Eventually, there will spaceships taking off in New Mexico...

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Greetings From FL!

    Greetings from Florida's Space Coast! Which is, of course, the awesomest part of Florida. The weather, as predicted, is beautiful. Even the humidity, at this point, seems like more of an interesting novelty to me than an annoyance, although I may have changed my mind about that by the end of the week.

    I actually brought my laptop traveling with me this time, so you might see a few more updates from me, although the folks seem to be planning to keep me pretty busy.

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    I Am Outta Here!

    I'm leaving tomorrow for a week in Florida visiting my dad. The forecast high tomorrow here is 36 degrees Fahrenheit. There, it's 79. Yeah, I think I picked a good time of year to go...

    Tuesday, January 08, 2013

    Currently, in 2013

    Current clothes: Tan jeans. A blue sweatshirt with a white collar and pictures of playful cats on it that my grandmother gave me for Christmas. White socks. Black belt. Brown leather boots.

    Current mood: Man, I don't even know. Things that are trying to bring me up and things that are trying to bring me down seem to be duking it out in my brain, leaving me in a rather unstable neutral state.

    Current music: I seem to recall the iPod playing a lot of goofy novelty tunes when I had it on random shuffle while doing laundry yesterday.

    Current annoyance: There are many, but to choose just one: I am so ready for winter to be over now. Right after I made that post last month about how unseasonably warm it was, it immediately stopped being unseasonably warm, because, of course, the entire climate of the Earth exists only to inject irony into my life. And I am very tired of darkness and cold.

    Current thing: Trying to read all of those books I got last year. Or at least some of those books I got last year.

    Current desktop picture: This rather nice wallpaper featuring Rumplestiltskin from Once Upon a Time, as he is my new current favorite character. (I seem to go through them quickly these days.) I'm really amazed how much I ended up enjoying that show, after all the mixed feelings I had about it at the start.

    Current book: I've just started And Another Thing..., Eoin Colfer's continuation of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. I am extremely dubious about about this idea, especially as I was unimpressed with what I'd read of Colfer's previously, but I'm also curious about where he'll go with it.

    Current song in head: There doesn't seem to be anything at the moment, surprisingly enough.

    Current DVD in player: Disc 3 of season 6 of Third Rock from the Sun. Which, on average, seems less funny than previous seasons, although it has its moments. And in the machine in front of the treadmill is disc 2 of season 3 of The Muppet Show. Which is even crazier than previous seasons. Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Muppets? I love the Muppets. Or at least their classic stuff like this.

    Current refreshment: Lemon-mint tea.

    Current worry: After a longish period in which the cracks in my house seemed mostly not to be getting much worse, or at least to be getting worse very slowly, the last few months have seen some very noticeable worsening, leading me into all kinds of (probably not terribly plausible) worries about my house falling down, and (rather more plausible) worries about the possibility of more cracked pipes. For several years, I was able to comfort myself with the knowledge that if and when I finally needed to do some foundation repairs, I had enough money saved up to pay for it. So, of course, it had to wait until I don't to start making with the serious subsidence again. Sigh. Oh, well. For the moment it's still standing, at least.

    Current thought: I also have lots of other worries. Bah. Well, I'm heading off on vacation next week -- I'm going to Florida to visit my dad -- and maybe that will take my mind off of some of it. As long as my house doesn't fall down while I'm gone.

    Tuesday, January 01, 2013

    2012: The Year In Books

    As is traditional, a look back at my reading for 2012.

    I'm not going to say how many books I acquired in 2012. I did a quick calculation, and the number I got was shocking even to me. Suffice it to say that I fell off the wagon, big-time, thanks to a shopping spree at Powell's, several library sales (including the deadly "bag of books for five bucks" one), and the should-have-been-predictable fact that deciding I'd wait until the new year to reinstate the book-buying quota resulted in out-of-control book-addict me desperately trying to acquire as many books as possible before the end of the year. Oy.

    But never mind that. Let's talk about books read. I finished 145 of them this year, including a couple of re-reads. You can see the list here, with the re-reads, a couple of Harry Potter books, at the top. That's fewer than in the last couple of years, and a surprisingly large number of them, at least towards the beginning of the year, were compilations of bite-sized knowledge read in small chunks while I was sitting in quarantine with the kitten.

    Here's the traditional list of Best Books I Read This Year, based on the ratings I gave them when I finished them:


    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
    My Antonia by Willa Cather
    Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
    This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
    Matched by Allie Condie
    Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer
    Doc by Mary Doria Russell
    The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse by Javier Grillo-Marxuach
    Planetary Vol. 4: Spacetime Archaeology by Warren Ellis
    Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
    Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks by Joe Hill
    The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales


    Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins
    The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World by Michelle Goldberg
    Uncompromised: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of an Arab American Patriot in the CIA by Nada Prouty
    Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
    Lethal Warriors: When the New Band of Brothers Came Home by David Phillipps

    There's probably some interesting pattern there, but I don't think I'm going to try to analyze it.

    Happy New Year!

    Happy New Year!

    2012 is an interesting year to look back on, for me:

    I finally got little Newt all healthy and got her settled in Oregon with my sister, and for once I am not starting the year with another kitten on my hands. Hooray for feral spaying!

    After years of putting it all off, I bought a new car, a new TV, and a better internet connection. Which has also meant buying myself some new debt, but I am very, very happy with all of them.

    Much less happy-making was the triple-whammy bout of illness I had around September/October, but, looking on the bright side, if the worst health problem you have in any given year is a month or so of respiratory infections, you're really not doing too badly.

    I remember making some kind of resolution at the beginning of the year. Something about eating healthier and buying fewer books. I vaguely remember typing the phrase "continence is my watchword." Um... yeah. Both my weight and my pile of unread books are higher now than they've ever been, because I went absolutely nuts with the book-buying, and I seem have been living mostly on doughnuts and cheeseburgers. I really do hope to do better this year, but I will make no resolutions and employ no stupid catchphrases. I'll just actually, you know, try to do better.

    Anyway. New cars and kittens and stacks of books and bronchitis aside, I think I've actually had a much more sedate year than just about anybody I know. For so much of the world, 2012 seems to have been just insane, sometimes in pretty horrible ways. So for all the rest of you out there, my wish for you is that if 2013 is interesting for you, it is not in the Chinese curse sense, and that when you come to look back on it at the start of 2014, you feel satisfied and happy.