Friday, December 30, 2011

It's the holidays, and I'm feeling just a little cranky, or, are the holidays over yet?

Apparently, someone in the neighborhood thinks tonight is New Year's Eve, judging by the noise they were just making outside. They got the timing just about right; it's 11:58 p.m. local time as I write this, but they're off by a day.

Although, actually, I'd be just as happy if this was New Year's Eve. I'm ready for a new year to start. Of course, because New Year's Day is on a Sunday this year, they're dragging the whole thing out an extra day. Personally, I think it is lame to have the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game on Monday when the first is on Sunday, but then I guess I don't get a vote.

You may have gotten the impression, from the preceding two paragraphs, that I'm feeling a little cranky around the whole New Year's thing. That impression would be correct. Some of the crankiness has to do with just wanting 2011 to be over with, but most of it has to do with the fact that I hate the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day with a a passion the temperature of molten rock.

I might have written about this issue here before, but just in case I haven't, the short version is this: The week between Christmas and the end of the year always seems like a week of wasted days, with one holiday just over and the other one hovering just over the horizon, waiting to happen. Also, to be completely frank, it's just an arbitrary date. A good excuse to have a party, some would say. Me? Not so much. We need a good party in, say, August, where there are no holidays. It's warmer then. A much better time for a party, in my opinion.

Let me be clear. I know the reasons why we in the Western World celebrate New Year's when we do. I know no one is going to change the date we celebrate the New Year. Except when in falls on a Sunday, and then only by one day. But two holidays seven days apart is just too much for me. It's bad enough that Halloween and Thanksgiving fall roughly a month apart, with Christmas following about a month after Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, if Samoa could jump the International Date Line, as it did this year, and lose December 30 altogether, and if my cousin's family could celebrate her birthday, which falls on Christmas Day, on the Fourth of July instead, couldn't we just move New Year's Day a little farther away from Christmas? Please?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One of "those" days...

I think I'm working on a head cold. Yippee!

On the positive side, I'm on furlough from work this week and next, so I don't have to try to work through the lack of ambition that always comes along with any cold I get. It's really difficult to generate any enthusiasm for writing about the crappy economy (or even a good economy) when I don't even feel much like dragging my happy butt out of bed in the morning, but I don't get sick days from work. So, even though my bank account isn't happy about two unpaid weeks off work, if I'm going to get sick, this is probably the optimum time to do it.

Also, I don't have any real plans for the holidays, aside from watching the Doctor Who Christmas special on Christmas night and then having some kind of a DVD-watching marathon over New Year's Eve/New Year's Day - maybe Doctor Who, maybe not - so, getting a cold now isn't really going to interfere with anything social that I really wanted to do over the holidays.

But then there's the negative side of the equation.

I'm working on a couple of writing projects - one the completion of the first draft of my novel that I started last month for NaNoWriMo and the other a short guide for beginning anthropology students (or maybe three short guides, one for cultural anthropology, one for physical anthropology, and one for archaeology) that I aim to e-publish. I had planned to get a lot of work done on these while I'm off work. I'm having fun working on them. But, even if it's something I'm really having fun doing, it's not nearly as much fun in the middle of sneezing fits, headaches, and achy ears from my backed-up sinuses. Oops! Maybe should have put in a TMI warning there. Sorry.

The point is, I'm not getting nearly as much done so far as I'd hoped. Maybe it's just because my brain has decided that furlough from work = no work at all. A significant part of me would be perfectly happy to sit down in front of the television and watch movies all day. In fact, I was getting a good start on that while I ate lunch, watching Marley and Me while I ate the leftovers from last night's mac'n'cheese dinner. But I couldn't even enjoy that because I knew I was wasting time that I could be writing on a day that I didn't have to write anything for work. So, I came in and turned on the computer (again, for the third time today), determined to get something productive done.

I don't know if I can rationalize writing this post as "something productive" or not. Probably not. So, I'm going to post this and try to get some work done.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It was 39 years ago today...

December 19 - On this day in 1972 the last Apollo mission to the Moon ended as the Apollo 17 command module and its three astronauts splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

This makes me kind of sad. There were just six successful flights in the Apollo that resulted in landings on the Moon. Only 12 human beings, thus far, have walked on another world, and none have done that in 39 years.

Apollo 17 wasn't the last flight in the program, of course. In July 1975, an Apollo module rendezvoused with a Soviet Soyuz craft in orbit around the Earth. And of course, there were many flights in the US Space Shuttle program and construction of the International Space Station, which is so far still staffed despite the recent end of the shuttle program.

There is talk about going to Mars in twenty years or so - the target date seems to shift depending on the day and on who is talking. But there is also a faction of the scientific community that believes we should only explore space remotely, sending out probes but no people.

My feeling is that we need to send people out into space. Sure, it's dangerous. The two space shuttles that were lost along with their crews showed that. Sure, it's expensive. But I believe it is also essential. We are a species that needs to have somewhere to explore. We have been doing that for as long as we have existed, and we miss something important if we don't have somewhere new to go, something new to see and, perhaps most important, something new to learn.

There is also, in this time of economic chaos, the reality that a vibrant space program creates jobs. Not all of those jobs are for engineers and technicians. There are also jobs for secretaries and constructions workers and food service workers, just to name a few of the job categories that would get a boost from a ramped-up space program.

There is a whole universe of stuff out there to learn, and we will miss a lot of it if we tie ourselves to the Earth, which is what we are doing by not going any farther than orbiting our own planet. That's like only stepping out onto the front porch, like never even going all the way out to the sidewalk..