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.
A visit to the California Academy of Sciences, located in SF’s Golden Gate Park needs no excuse other than the place itself. However, in this case, there is a story behind our trip there.

We chose our temporary place of abode in SF based on the accessibility it afforded to the park. The N-Judah tram line stopped a mere block and a half away, and dropped us off about as close to the front door of the Cal Academy as it’s possible to get if you’re not already on foot.

On my previous trip to San Francisco in December of 2013, I was privileged to be shown around the Cal Academy by [personal profile] emelbe, who volunteers there regularly. [personal profile] emelbe drew my attention to the book Pierre the Penguin and suggested I take it home to the then-13-month-old Humuhumu. I did.

I have read Pierre the Penguin to her, and then to Keiki, at least once a week ever since. She has the book memorised.

Pierre is an African penguin who lives at the Cal Academy along with 19 other penguins. One day, Pierre moulted as usual. Less usual was the fear he developed of going into the water, a necessary step to stimulate the re-growth of his feathers. He stayed bare. The other penguins began to pick on him. Aquatic biologist Pam tried a heater and medication to get Pierre back into the water, but it didn’t work. Eventually, she hit on the idea of making Pierre a tiny neoprene wetsuit. (The wetsuit is on display in the Academy bookshop.) Not only did this keep Pierre warm in the water, it also made him appear more like a feathered penguin, which stopped the other penguins from bullying him. He was able to resume diving and a few weeks later, his feathers had regrown.

When we told Humuhumu that we would be able to visit Pierre on our trip to the USA, it became her main focus. Every day she would ask, “Are we going to see Pierre?” Finally the day arrived when we could say yes.

It was a tremendous joy to watch her tear from one end to the other of African Hall toward the penguin enclosure, crowing, “Pierre! Pierre! Pierre! Pierre!” If I ever forget to be grateful, I need only remember this event to recall the level of privilege I’m able to afford to my child: to travel from one side of the globe to the other to visit a penguin she’s been reading about since she was one. OK, so that wasn’t the only reason we made the journey, but to be able to include it was still remarkably fortunate.

If that weren’t enough, we got to see Pam (nb: I think it was actually an Amy, but never mind) pop out of the hidden door in the sky-painted wall with fish in her pail, and feed the penguins (twice a day without fail).

On the day Humuhumu returned to nursery, her key worker asked her who she met on her trip to the USA. Her first answer: “Pierre!” The nursery staff asked who Pierre was: perhaps a member of the family? She shook her head. Who is Pierre, then? “A penguin!”

They thought she was joking and asked me about it when I picked her up, so I got to explain to them that yes, Pierre is literally a penguin and yes, that was the highlight of her trip.


Penguins!

Picspam, +25 )
I recently scored tickets to a recording of the long-running BBC Radio 4 programme "Just a Minute". For those who are unfamiliar with it, four panelists are given, in turn, a random topic by the host and must speak for one minute on it without repetition, hesitation or deviation. The other three panelists try to catch them out, and if they score a correct challenge, they take over the topic and continue speaking. A single round can take quite a lot longer than one minute whilst the panelists and host argue over whether or not the challenges are in fact correct. Or end up chatting about something else entirely.

This was the first recording I'd attended that wasn't at Broadcasting House. It was in the Shaw Theatre, between Euston and Kings Cross stations, and it has greater capacity than Broadcasting House. Unfortunately, it isn't air-conditioned. It was also packed full, because "Just a Minute" is a cultural institution and is still very popular. Nicholas Parsons has been hosting the show for almost fifty years, and the adulation he received at the start and end of the recording made it practically impossible to hear his greetings and farewell.

We had a little unintentional pre-show entertainment. The ticketing system works thus: You turn up an hour before the doors open, present your ticket and are given a sticker with a number on it. When the doors open, the production guests (wearing wristbands) file in first, and then the ticket holders are allowed entry in groups of fifty. It all works in quite a civilised fashion despite the crush in the lobby, because British people love queuing.

However, once we'd (nearly) all sat down, it became evident that there'd been some sort of cock-up involving the seating of the production guests. Four people wearing viridescent wristbands were stood at the front, looking up at the full rows of seats with evident displeasure. One was a blonde woman in a white jacket with a formidable aspect. I should not like to have been the young production assistant attempting to mollify her and receiving the pointy end of said displeasure. Hands were waved about. The small number of solitary seats scattered about the theatre were indicated and obviously rejected. Eventually, some audience members were convinced to shift around slightly to permit the foursome to sit in pairs on opposite sides of the theatre.

This had all taken a good ten minutes, by which point the ostensible start time of the recording had passed. The drama had now attracted the attention of literally every person in the audience. When the formidable woman sat down, the entire theatre broke into a cheer. She stood up a few seconds later to hand her empty drink cup (two will get you seven that it was a large gin and tonic) to a frazzled usher. The audience booed. Unfased, she turned around, smiled beautifully and resumed her seat gracefully. I was impressed, as I suspect most of the rest of the audience would have died of embarrassment right then.

It was not until the very end of the show when Nicholas Parsons was bidding us farewell that we had the measure of what had transpired. "If," he said, with a twinkle in his eye "you happen to run across the fellow who tore the sign reading 'Reserved for Nicholas Parson's wife' off the seats in the front..." He made a small, meaningful gesture with his cane.

The four panelists were Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Zoë Lyons and Julian Clary. I shall say no more of the two very funny shows that were recorded, but I think I can safely share another pre-recording anecdote. Nicholas Parsons asked each panelist to speak into their microphone for the sake of the sound engineer at the back. Not one to pass up an opportunity for innuendo, Julian Clary put on his most deliberately camp voice and said, "Hello, David, are you receiving me in the rear?" Nicholas Parsons: "Yes, I think so. Poor David. He can't hear anything now."

After departing the Shaw, I arrived at my place of sleep around 22:30. I walked in the door and was greeted by the smell of freshly baked apple & rhubarb crumble and vanilla custard heating on the hob. A whisky glass was placed in my hand and unopened bottles of Lagavulin and Scapa presented upon the kitchen island for my perusal and selection.

Sometimes, I am a very lucky Nanila indeed.
Humuhumu had her first proper birthday party this weekend, on Halloween. We invited two of her friends, both of whom she's known pretty much from birth and both of whom have little brothers who are about Keiki's age. We also invited another friend who just turned one.

We went as full-on as we could manage with the decorations, with Halloween streamers and table decorations and cupcakes. We planned lots of activities, most of which turned out to be unnecessary once the first packet of Haribo was breached. Fortunately the weather was good enough for everyone to play outside, where "playing" for the three year olds mostly meant running around in circles screaming incoherently with joy.


Frankenstein's monster and his creatrix.

+14, including many adorable child photos )

In conclusion, children's parties are exhausting to prepare, but a lot of fun to run, mostly because of the pure, unconcealed delight taken in the proceedings by the participants.
.