2011 Recap, of sorts

I have been struggling with how I wanted to do a “New Year” type post this year. There’s kind of a lot to sum up, but at the same time, it’s hard to place it all into context. Then I saw TJ’s post, inspired by Sundry‘s, and I figured the internet was nothing if not a haven for creative borrowing. So I’m creatively borrowing.

2011 Recap

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

A lot of therapy related things. A lot of self-compassion related things. I also had the same job in January 2011 as I had in December 2011, which hasn’t happened before.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don’t really make “resolutions”, or haven’t in the past. My one goal for 2011 was to get better at asking for help when I need it, and to be more compassionate with myself, as an extension of taking care of my mental health, and I think I did both of those things pretty well.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My best friend gave birth to a little boy, Caden, in October, and my coworker had her second little boy in mid-December.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My great-aunt Helen (Auntie) passed away in April, and a close friend of my family passed away very suddenly in December.

5. What countries did you visit?

None other than my own this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

A better paying, career-oriented job, and more mental stability.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

No dates, but a couple of weeks and month-long spans are pretty well cemented, thanks to pharmacy roulette. I’m not sure exactly which date my doctors changed me from “Major Depression” to Bipolar Disorder (Classic, Mixed type), but the resulting change in medications was pretty dramatic and created a space where I’m now functioning better than I have in years.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I stuck with therapy, held down my job, and managed to stick it through all the craziness. I also hosted Thanksgiving for 10 and Christmas for 8, both of which I’m proud of, AND I threw parties for Halloween and New Years.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I’m honestly not sure I have a good answer to this question. There are some things I did that didn’t go as well as I’d like, but overall, I handled 2011 proactively and with as much grace as I could muster, and I’m pretty proud of that, even if it was kind of ugly sometimes.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Ongoing mental struggles aside, 2011 was the year of figuring out my joint pain. I was diagnosed with a very mild case of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (either classic or hypermobility) and am now operating 90-95% joint pain free most days. This is a big improvement over June, where I could barely walk and doing simple things like writing with a pencil or brushing my hair was excruciating.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Technically I bought my iPhone at the very tail end of 2010, but that’s probably been the best gadget of the year.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage (duh), though I did also spend a good bit of money on clothing, thanks to the weight gain.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Star Wars: The Old Republic, Updating my Laptop, hosting holidays and parties, my little brother’s graduation with his Master’s degree. Having people come visit, especially my family. Lots of small things, really.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Yael Naim’s New Soul

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? much happier, though I still fight the depression and anxiety battles on a regular basis
– thinner or fatter? quite a bit fatter, thanks to the medicines
– richer or poorer? about the same.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Meditation, spiritual seeking, and self care. Also, going to the gym (which is hard, because I don’t get that “woo I feel awesome!” thing from exercise). Also playing the piano.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Doing nothing, while wishing I wanted to be doing something (especially something I used to enjoy)

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With my family, here at my house and then up with my brother and sister in law in Waco. It was wonderful, even if it did push the boundaries of my “amount of craziness I can handle” levels.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Um. I don’t watch much TV? So probably Mythbusters or Dirty Jobs.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

I really liked David Allen’s Get Things Done, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are, and rereading some of my favorite children’s and young adult books.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I didn’t listen to very much new music this year, and if anything, I spent more time listening to Audio Books (in my car) than I did listening to music. This is unusual, and I hope 2012 is more musical.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

I saw only one film this year, so it gets to be my favorite (and it’d probably be my favorite anyway): The Muppets

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 27, and I had my mom here visiting. For my birthday, we put in my spring garden, and it was immensely fun.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Finding the right meds sooner. I’d like to say “not being crazy in the brainpan”, but I’m not sure that’s one of those things I can really change.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

I vacillate back and forth between “eclectic graduate student” and “nerdy bookstore clerk”. I’m slowly learning to be more grown up, and I’ve branched out most of the time from t-shirts and jeans, or at least I’ve started wearing fun and geeky t-shirts (mostly from Threadless or ThinkGeek) instead of just plain solid colored ones. I hope 2012 sees me learning more about style and putting together outfits, because I really enjoy doing it.

26. What kept you sane?

My husband, my friends, my cats, and my family. And my therapist. She’s pretty awesome.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

That if you’re comfortable sharing your stories, it’s almost always worth doing so – supportive people are everywhere, and I’ve found so many to offer support and empathy that it’s made everything so much easier. So many people don’t talk about the ugly parts of their past or themselves, and I’ve found that sharing that – even though it makes me more vulnerable – nearly always brings me closer to the people around me who care and who matter.

Constellations – Let’s Play Connect the Dots

(I apologize to anyone who is not expecting political talk on this blog. I rarely go there, and if you hate me for it, you can pretend this post doesn’t exist. 🙂 )

Let me start this off by saying that I am not a rocket scientist. I don’t claim to be one, but I am married to one. My rocket scientist spouse is a contractor for NASA working on the Space program – both with the Shuttle and with the International Space Station.

Today, President Obama released his proposed budget for 2011. You can read all of it online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/– the part I want to talk about is here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2011/assets/trs.pdf – specifically page 18, “Termination: Constellation Systems Program”.  You can read all of it, if you like. I did.

In the words of a very famous person… “Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

The President’s 2011 Budget proposes to cancel the Constellation program, allow the current Orbiter/Shuttle program to die of natural causes when it terminates sometime in the next 1-2 years, and replace it with a yet unnamed, yet undetermined, “bold new approach” with “game changing technologies” that “embraces the commercial space industry.” Constellation is being canceled because it costs too much money and because it “doesn’t meet our national priorities.” This budget will, instead, accelerate work in “climate science, green aviation, science education, and other priorities,” all with money previously slotted for space exploration.

There are a lot of problems with this, not least of which is “And what are you going to do with all the people whose living depends on these programs, considering we’re in the midst of a very large economic recession and that job futures are extremely dim for just about all of the aerospace and defense sectors already?”, but I’ll let that go for a minute and focus on that last sentence.

The President wants to increase funding for science education… and get rid of the only active space exploration program (Constellation) to do it, with no actual replacement in mind.

To put it in other words: the President wants to spend lots of money promoting young scientists into making robots, aerospace engineering, all of the specific and technical fields that make Space possible… and then cancel the program that puts those scientists to work, in favor of some amorphous “new and awesome thing that we’ve not decided on yet.” Everyone thinks that it is great! when someone features a young group of scientists that make a robot that will find, pick up, take apart, and store tennis balls. As soon as those scientists grow up, go to college, get jobs, and make a robot that will find, pick up, take apart, and store molecules and objects from other planets, asteroids, or whatever… nobody cares.

It’s as though they don’t see the connection.

We instill in our youth the joy of space exploration – go see a movie like October Sky – only to take away their opportunities to follow that career later in life to greater fund “green aviation” and funnel more kids into math and science careers. (I’m sorry, I don’t work in the field, but even this pea-brained Anna can tell you that it’s a lot cooler to say “I ran data for that project that went into space” than it is to say “I ran the data on those fuel efficiency cells on an airplane that nobody’s ever heard of” not to mention the buzzword “green” thing.)

As for embracing the commercial space industry…

“… investment in a well-designed and adequately funded space technology program is critical to enable progress in exploration, that increased international cooperation could lead to substantial benefits, and that commercial services to launch astronauts to space could potentially arrive sooner and be less expensive than Government-owned rockets.”

When I read that, this is what I hear: “We think that commercial space programs are going to get here sooner, so we’re not going to bother, because it’s expensive. Instead we’re going to do a Bold New Thing like make all our people that are here to work in space exploration into R&D scientists in buzzword technology like “green aviation”. All those kids that we’re spending all that money on can either pray that they get picked up as a corporate shill or come join the lab rats working at NASA.”

To add a layer of complexity, there is currently one commercial space exploration company in the United States – SpaceX. To some extent, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, The United Launch Alliance (which is both Boeing and Lockheed Martin) and Orbital Sciences all operate rockets as well, but currently SpaceX is the only US company actively entering the manned spaceflight field. All other commercial manned spaceflight is foreign, and that – combined with the phrase “increased international cooperation” smacks too close to outsourcing to make me really thrilled, especially considering the constant pushing of “science education” and the number of engineers already trained and working in the US.

The other possibility with this statement involves the government purchasing spaceflight technology from those companies instead of developing it themselves… which probably doesn’t do a lot in the saving money department, or will end up screwing over the engineers that developed it in the first place. (I bet they don’t tell students about that when they’re doing all that “science education” promotion.)

Don’t get me wrong. It’s 2010, we’re at the ass end of a NASTY bit of economic downturn, and though the “end is nigh”, we’re not seeing a lot of bounceback yet. I get that it’s all about the dollars.

But if it’s all about the dollars, why bother funneling millions into creating new aerospace and robotics engineers at the expense of the jobs of an entire generation or two of existing aerospace and robotics engineers that really would like to continue working in that field.

It doesn’t make any sense.