nanila: (me: walk softly and carry big stick)
( Jun. 13th, 2017 02:01 pm)
I had wanted to post this yesterday, as it was the 50th anniversary, but ran out of time. So, a day late, but no less important: Here is my very personal celebration of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, handed down on 12 June 1967, that legalised interracial marriage in the USA.

Without it, my parents might have been jailed or permanently separated. Without it, I might not exist. I am grateful that what was just and correct prevailed in the face of popular opinion.

SCAN0174
[Image of my dad, baby!me and my mom, with one of my aunties in the pool at a Honolulu hotel. Photo taken by my maternal grandfather.]

+1 )
As many of you know, I work on the Cassini mission as an operations engineer and have done for over a decade.

Tomorrow is the spacecraft’s final close flyby (T126) of Saturn’s moon Titan.

Just to put this into perspective for you, this may be the last time in decades that we get anywhere near Titan. There are no missions to Saturn or its most interesting* moons, Titan and Enceladus, currently funded or being built. That means there’s a minimum of ten years before a new mission could be launched. Given that the transit time to Saturn is, at a minimum, seven years and on average more like ten, that’s two decades until we can repeat Cassini’s observations.

Cassini’s impending demise makes me sad, of course, but what bothers me even more is the lack of continuity in our exploration of our solar system.

You can read the details of tomorrow’s Cassini’s observations on the NASA-JPL press release here. It includes an animation of the flyby over the surface, from the perspective of the spacecraft.

* “most interesting” being ever so slightly subjective, of course
I am so very behind on posting new entries right now. Life is happening too fast and work deadlines have suddenly appeared and are making alarming whooshing sounds.

However, I wanted to note that this week, I have passed a new milestone in political activism: I have become a candidate for the local council elections in the UK. I only did it because the organiser of my local party was very persistent, and I do not expect to win or even come second, as I won't be doing any campaigning. But it was still a big deal for me to put myself out there, to fill out the paperwork and get the necessary constituent signatures (TBF, aforementioned local party doyenne got most of the signatures), even if it's just to be a paper candidate. So. Er. Go me?
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
( Mar. 6th, 2017 10:22 pm)
FinalPDTdesigns_S101_800
[Deliberately low-resolution screenshot of my desktop with the short form of one of the design runs.]

Today I submitted, for my line manager's scrutiny, the final set of pointing designs that I will ever do for the Cassini spacecraft. These commands will execute in late August/early September.

Pointing design has been one of my favourite instrument operations tasks for ten years. I am quite sad that it's leaving my repertoire.

(I would be going off to have a whisky now, but since the toddler came home today after four explody nappies due to a gastrointestinal bug that's doing the rounds at nursery, I will instead be trying to get some other work done as he's banned from the nursery for 48 hours. And thus is melancholy tempered by necessity.)
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
( Feb. 15th, 2017 05:19 pm)
Today is Very Important Day. Today is Bloke's Birthday. And hence, there has been BAKING. Behold!

Star cookies (from the dough reserved at the weekend)
IMG_8757

That most American of treats, pecan pie (with toasted almonds, because I didn't have enough pecans, ho hum)
Pies, we made PIES!

And choccy biccies. Huzzah!
Choccy biccies
The weekend started off well, with skipping Parkrun because everyone wanted a lie-in followed by preparation for Humuhumu's first ever sleepover. Her friend Dimples* and brother Dribbly* came for an afternoon playdate, followed by pizza for dinner and strawberry jelly for pudding. Dribbly went home with their parents. Humuhumu and Dimples watched Frozen together whilst dressed as Rapunzel and Elsa respectively. I was astonished to discover that Humuhumu, who watched with an almost ferocious concentration and entirely ignored Dimples' running commentary, has almost the whole film memorised. Not just the songs but the dialogue as well. The viewing was followed by a colouring session in the Elsa colouring book. Humuhumu strenuously objected to my idea that we should disassemble the colouring book so they could work simultaneously and instead they patiently took turns for half an hour until we declared it to be bedtime and they curled up together in the spare room bed.

I read a number of stories, but Dimples was way too excited for sleep. She routinely stays awake longer than Humuhumu, who is firmly attached to an 11-hour snooze every night. We heard quiet talking and sneaking into Humuhumu's room to fetch cuddly toys. After putting my foot down for the last time at 9:30 PM, I waited in our bedroom until the whispering died off. They were sound asleep within ten minutes.

Both girls were up by 7:15 the next morning. Dimples was a font of chat as she ate her crumpet with Nutella, whilst Humuhumu looked pale and distant, though happy. Dimples' mum came to pick her up with many thanks, and then we got ready for gymnastics.

It was badge week at gymnastics and Humuhumu earned her first Fundamental Movements badge. We put the certificate on the wall next to the bed, and she's currently deciding where she'd like to sew on the badge. We don't have a special gym bag for her yet, but it would seem wise to acquire one at this juncture.

Gymnastics ends in the middle of lunchtime, so I put the children in the car with their snacks to tide them over until we got home. About a mile and a half down the road, I suddenly felt something go wrong with the car. It felt like I'd abruptly shifted from fourth into neutral, though of course I had done no such thing. There was, unusually, a car behind me, so I put on my hazards, downshifted to second (not that it made any difference) and coasted into a layby next to a gate featuring a large hand-painted "BULL IN FIELD" sign, where the car promptly died. And wouldn't restart.

Did I mention it was snowing? And distinctly below freezing outside?

I took deep breaths. I rang the bloke, because I couldn't find my RAC (roadside assistance) membership card. The bloke texted me the necessary information. Some people on horseback went by and kindly told me the name of the lane we were in, as even though I drive the route every other week, I didn't know that particular one as it has no sign. I rang the RAC and ascertained that it was going to take at least two hours for them to get to us.

I took some more deep breaths and rang the bloke again. We agreed that him getting in a taxi to swap places with us was a good idea, as Humuhumu was very upset about the broken car and being hungry and cold. (Keiki went to sleep, being blissfully untroubled by any emotional attachment to the car.)

Our knight in shining silver Peugeot turned up with his woolly jumper, book, and crisps. We gratefully clambered into the functioning car and went home, where we all had hot chocolate with marshmallows in. And a good thing too, because it took the RAC nearly three hours to get to the bloke.

The RAC mechanic diagnosed the car as terminal. Our usual garage seems more hopeful. Fingers crossed we don't have to say goodbye to Sophie (our much-loved Citroën) just yet.

* Names have been changed.

On a more soothing note, here are two photos.

20170211_162938
Keiki and Humuhumu wrapped up in a fuzzy grey blanket, pretending to sleep on the kitchen floor.

Longcat
Longcat Telstar is astonished at his own length.
So that one thing that could have proved a tiny act of redemption for the shitshow that this year has been - not electing the racist, sexist, orange bigot with no clearly defined sensible policies as president - has not happened.

In a few months, the USA's first black president will be handing over the stewardship of the nation to a man who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

This is, to put it mildly, not good news for anyone who isn't white, rich and privileged. It is not good news for the rest of the world. I can't do anything other than apologise to my friends and colleagues. I am devastated that this is happening. I am sorry. Very sorry. So, so sorry.

I am not as blindsided by this result as I was by the Brexit vote. Perhaps it's because I lived through the Reagan and both Bush administrations. We didn't think things could get worse then, either. But they can. This is a man who who lies constantly and seemingly with impunity. With a compliant GOP in legislative majority and at least one Supreme Court nomination at his disposal, the damage he can do could well last far beyond the term of his appointment. This is a probability that I must recognise and come to terms with in the following months. And, coming out the other side, be willing to fight, through monetary donations to organisations whose work I believe in, by writing to my congressional representatives and through whatever other means I can of being politically active (suggestions welcome). I am a relatively affluent and privileged person. I can summon up the resources and the energy to fight for the rights and causes of the people who don't have those advantages, and I must do it.
Halloween is great. It is the thing that has always buoyed me up at least part way through November, aka the eleventh twelfth of a weariness. And now, because it falls very near my daughter’s birthday, it gets combined with her annual solar-orbit-completion celebrations, and is even better.

This year, we invited a few of her friends over and threw a party. We carved pumpkins, passed the parcel, ate cookies, played hide and seek, and of course, the all-time favourite: ran around the house screaming joyfully. Humuhumu showed everyone her new room and 90% of the toys in it. Keiki trailed around after the bigger children, eating M&Ms. It was brilliant.


Humuhumu in her Elsa (from Frozen) costume, flopped out on the living room floor. And this was *before* the party started!

+4 )
The Rosetta mission to Comet 67P came to an end today, with the orbital spacecraft landing on the surface of the comet and switching off.


Cartoon of Rosetta with its busted solar panels, clutching its Mission Achievements log. *sniff*


Cartoon of the Philae lander going to sleep forever on the comet's surface. *wibble*

Poll #17682 Rosetta's Grand Finale
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 41


The saddest cartoon spacecraft image ever is:

View Answers

Rosetta with its busted solar panels, clutching its Mission Achievements log
17 (45.9%)

Philae going to sleep forever on the comet's surface
20 (54.1%)

I shed a tear over Rosetta's demise.

View Answers

Yes, I did. I'm not ashamed.
22 (56.4%)

That's cometary dust. Dust, I tell you.
12 (30.8%)

Yes, but that's a tear of rage because now the aliens will find our space junk and come to DESTROY US.
2 (5.1%)

I have no idea what you're talking about, but here, have a tissue.
7 (17.9%)

nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Sep. 22nd, 2016 10:16 am)
Autumnal or vernal, depending on your hemispherical orientation.

Also, it is my birthday and this morning I opened my gifts with two eager assistants. We were all very pleased by the cuddly Jupiter which arrived without sender designation. Mystery sender has since been identified as Dear Friend Josh. \o/


Me, Humuhumu and cuddly Jupiter. Two of the three of us sporting some outstanding bedhead. Photo processed with the "Saturn" filter in Google Photos.
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