Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lost In Space

So, I went out to see Gravity tonight. Having now experienced both, I can tell you that it looks fantastic if the theater's 3D projector is functioning correctly, and utterly terrible if it's not. Fortunately, they did get it fixed, and it turns out to be a pretty impressive and exciting movie when you can actually see it properly. I did notice an instance or two of iffy physics -- The Bad Astronomy blog has a nice breakdown of what's accurate and what's not, if you're interested -- but for once I honestly didn't mind.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gimme Some Money

So, in the latest installment of "Why does the entire universe keep trying to get me to dig myself deeper into a financial hole?", it turns out the organization I work for is transferring us all over ASAP to a new health insurance plan. Which not only appears to be ridiculously complicated -- I've been staring at the explanations they've got up on the web for some time now and am still not sure how the whole thing works or exactly what it requires me to do -- but also features hefty deductibles and an out-of-pocket maximum that's fully double the one on the existing plan. (Which amount, as things stand right now, could wipe out my savings quite handily in one worst-case-scenario year.) At least the premiums are lower, and you can put the difference in an account towards your expenses... or something. But I'm pretty sure I'm going to come out the financial loser on this one, not to mention the fact that having to do complicated financial planning always makes me kind of flaily.

And all this, of course, just as I'm hitting a point -- hello, middle age! -- where I'm already starting to feel the pinch of increasing medical expenses for increasing medical needs. Not to mention that my struggles to save more money and/or pay off my credit care debt continue to be in vain, as every time I start making some headway, I'm hit with, say, the urgent necessity to make my house stop leaking, or a $500 vet bill for a fruitless attempt to save a dying cat.

Mind you, I'm well aware that I'm still much better off than a lot of people. But it doesn't stop me from just wishing I could catch a break for once.

Friday, October 25, 2013

But If Anybody Asks Me Whether I Screamed, I Will Deny It.

As has become an annual tradition, I am going to miss the Halloween party my friends are throwing this weekend, this time because I have to work. (Last year, I put in for the day off so I could be sure to make it... and then I got sick and couldn't go, anyway. If I believed in such things, I'd say that something up there simply does not want me to attend any Halloween parties. Possibly because it recognizes my sad lack of costuming skills.)

I did get out to do some fun, seasonally-appropriate stuff last night, though: first the Rifftrax presentation of the original Night of the Living Dead, which was entertaining, and then a haunted house attraction, which turned out to be way more fun, and a lot scarier, than such things seem like they ought to be. I also discovered that, unathletic as I am, I can run when there is an evil clown with a chainsaw chasing me through a parking lot, so that's good to know.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Goodbye, Happiness

I have fewer cats now, and I am sad.

I had thought I'd write this whole eulogy or something, but, really, I don't feel up to it. I'll just say, she was a good kitty, and I'll miss her.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Poor, Poor Kitty

Happiness update: I called the vet this morning when I got home from work, and she said that Happiness did seem a little better, that she'd been eating and urinating, and was behaving "more like a cat." Unfortunately, when they ran her bloodwork again later in the day, the results were actually a little worse. And now she's started to go back downhill again. I just went in to see her and she did not look good. Although at least she seems to be able to sleep, which is no doubt the best thing for her right now. They're going to keep her on fluids for another day. It might help. But let's just say I'm not necessarily expecting much.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Well, I'm Excited!

New trailer for the Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary special!

(Although I can't help thinking that it's kind of cute how he's still claiming to be just over 900 years old.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Poor Kitty

My elderly cat Happiness is not doing well. She vomited a few times over the past few days, which isn't all that unusual, but she seemed to be eating even less than usual, and the last time she threw up, it was just thin, watery yellow liquid. So I was worried about her, wondering whether I should take her to the vet. And then when I got home from work this morning, she just didn't seem right. Lethargic and weak, and just not behaving like herself. She purred when I petted her, and even that sounded wrong, somehow. So I took her in to the vet.

Apparently, her kidneys were failing. Not good. They have her on fluids now, and are going to keep her through the weekend. I went in to see her this afternoon, and she did look a little better. They also said she had eaten some, which is encouraging. Mostly, though, she seemed very quiet, like she just didn't want to do anything but rest. They've got her on a nice, cozy cat bed with a hot water bottle, so at least she's resting comfortably.

The prognosis is, well, uncertain. The vet says she has sometimes seen cats bounce back from this sort of thing after being treated with fluids, and be pretty much okay for years. But Happiness is old and frail, and already has a thyroid condition, so... Well, we'll see what happens. Poor kitty.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back in Business!

Sometimes the wheels of bureaucracy grind faster than expected! Looks like we're going to be back up and running tomorrow! If I were one for looking on the dark side, I might say, "Sure, just in time for me to be working 12-hour night shifts." But I'm just hoping we can get things back to normal ASAP.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

About Goddamn Time

Halle-freaking-lujah! Congress finally pulled its head just far enough out of its ass for just long enough to end this stupid shutdown! Although it's going to take at least through Monday for us to get our funding sorted out and get back up and running, so they haven't completely finished wasting our time just yet.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Helpless In The Face Of My Book Addiction

So, the one (admittedly extremely trivial) silver lining to this whole stupid shutdown thing is that, while I'm required to be at work but forbidden from doing much in the way of actual working, I'm getting a lot of reading done. I've been consistently finishing a book a day, which would be good news for the state of my To-Read Pile, if only the local library hadn't just gone and held another book sale, thus wiping out all my progress and then some. Well, I suppose at least I can take comfort in the fact that, no matter how long this goes on, I'm never going to run out of stuff to read.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


It has now, in fact, been officially confirmed that missing Doctor Who episodes have been found! And, OK, it was nine episodes in Nigeria, not a hundred episodes in Ethiopia, but that's still really darned cool! How amazing is it that people are still randomly stumbling across these things, all these decades later?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Isn't It Just Like The Doctor To Randomly Show Up Decades Later Like This?

Well, here's some good news, at least for those of us who care about such things: it looks like missing Doctor Who episodes have been found! I'd been hearing this rumor for a few days, but such rumors crop up so often that I've taken to pretty much dismissing them. This story is on the BBC News website, though, so there seems to be something legit here. It's still just an announcement that there's going to be an announcement, though, carefully worded to make no concrete claims and containing no actual info about what or how many or where. Other sites have been saying it's fully one hundred episodes, recovered in (of all places) Ethiopia. But we'll see. Even if it's a lot less than that, what a great 50th Anniversary present for fans of the show!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Stressed-Out October Currentlies

Current clothes: Blue jeans. My "let's say you've gone back in time" t-shirt, with instructions on how to invent stuff if you get trapped in the past. White socks. No shoes at the moment, although I ought to put some slippers on, because my feet are cold.

Current mood: Surprisingly calm and collected, interspersed with moments when I honestly feel like I'm about to have a panic attack.

Current music: Nothing, really.

Current annoyance: I... Yeah, I just want to respond to this by quoting Marvin: "Life. Don't talk to me about life."

Current thing: Telling myself not to click on, and then clicking on it anyway, and then wishing I hadn't.

Current desktop picture: Still the same super-sekrit Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal wallpaper as last month.

Current book: I just finished Thorns by Robert Silverberg, which was an odd little novel. Next up is Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, about which I have heard good things.

Current song in head: Nothing. There is no singing in my head at the moment.

Current refreshment: A can of root beer and some salad. It's the remains of my lunch.

Current DVD in player: I just finished season six of The Big Bang Theory. I have some issues with that show. Some rather big issues, really. But it makes me laugh a lot, so I mostly manage to forgive it.

Current worry: Current circumstances have stirred up all my old worries about the future. Not that they needed much stirring, admittedly. I just can't help fretting about what I will do when I lose my job. Because the way things have been going, it probably is "when" and not "if." Someday, the funding is going to go away for good. And, seriously, what do I do then? I desperately, desperately do not want to leave Socorro, but unless a VLA operator job opens up or something, what work will there be for me here? Will there even be any decent work for me anywhere, given my super-specialized skill set and my one-line resume? Contemplating the possibilities honestly terrifies me. Talking about going back in time... I keep thinking that I want to go back and lambast my teenage self for her choice of college major. I should have studied computer programming. I had real talent for that, once upon a time, and good programmers are always in demand. How much work is there for someone with a bachelor's in astrophysics?

Current thought: Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Everything in my life that I've ever spent too much time panicking about has always come out OK in the end.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Well, It's Nice To Be Missed. But It Sucks To Be Gone.

The shutdown of NRAO seems to be getting noticed, at least by the science press. Here's a blog post from The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla with links to some articles.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Shutdown Update

So, it has been deemed that I am, in fact, essential personnel, and I will be working my full shifts through the shutdown. Our all-important daily observations for the US Naval Observatory will, counting the stuff that needs to be done before and after, take up maybe a couple of hours a night (which will probably mostly be on my shift). Otherwise, we are required to be there solely in case something happens that threatens the safety of one of our antennas, or that will render us unable to run those observations. We are not permitted to do any other work, and the machines that would allow us to do what is normally the other half of our job will be shut down.

It's a good thing I've still got six hundred unread books sitting around, that's all I can say.

We should be getting paid for this once there's actual money to pay us with, and I've still got a paycheck coming for the last two weeks I worked, plus enough money in my savings account to cushion me if there's a delay, so hopefully I won't have much financial hardship from this, although my heart goes out to those out there who will. But it's still all just really, really sad.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Farce Continues

Well, apparently whatever hopes we had to eke out operations another week or so into the shutdown have fallen through, and, as of five o'clock tomorrow, the observatory I work for is officially closed. Millions of dollars of beautiful, powerful scientific instruments that your tax dollars paid for will be sitting idle indefinitely, while hundreds of skilled and dedicated people sit at home twiddling their thumbs instead of doing science. For absolutely no good reason. Go, America.

Exactly what this means for me, though, is still very much up in the air. It seems I am considered essential personnel, at least to some extent. There's a nightly observation we do for the US Navy that absolutely must run, come hell, high water, or government collapse. Depending on exactly when that's scheduled, it could mean a couple of hours of work a night for me, at least for next week. But it's also possible our presence might be deemed necessary for the safety and security of the building, in which case I could be doing my regular shifts, albeit with a highly reduced workload. But that has yet to be decided, so, for now, I'm just waiting for somebody to tell me when and whether to come in on Monday. And then I guess I wait to see when I get paid.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Scenes From The Shutdown

Just got off the phone with my mother. She works stocking products on shelves at military commissaries, and as of today, almost all of them are shut down. Until this thing gets resolved, all the groceries in those stores are just going to sit there, slowly rotting. Even if the government is back in business by the end of the week, that's going to be a lot of expired dairy products going directly into the dumpster, with either the government or the food companies swallowing the losses.

Somehow, all that needlessly wasted milk, sitting there on the shelves of a dark, locked-up store slowly going sour strikes me as an apt symbol for this whole disgraceful thing.