Chapter Seven of Geometry Of Chance by sharelle.
Low Key Summer Exchange : a multifandom gift exchange with a wild card.
Meta on Buffy Summers by sunclouds33.
Buffyverse icons by effulgent_girl.
Buzzfeed talks Spike, Angel & Buffy.
5 “Deleted Scenes” from “Joss Whedon: The Biography” by Amy Pascale .
- I have started eating porridge for breakfast*. It is YUMMY.
- We went to a different church this week, which was awesome. Our regular church is quiet, solemn, and rather lifeless - as well as being quite challenging to meet people. This church is friendly, enthusiastic, and SINGS WITH GUSTO, which we've missed a great deal. (Not a comment on worship style, precisely. But when your church service feels more like a funeral, it becomes rather wearying.)
- The internet went down yesterday, taking away half my possible activities. *pines* Thankfully, it has now returned.
- Brought a huge amount of wool to Germany with me, with the intention of making a huge blanket that would
a) keep me warm
b) occupy my crocheting time for several months, in case I couldn't find more wool here.
I am now utterly sick of my half-finished blanket, and am plotting trips to wool shops to buy supplies for making baby things. It would be rather ludicrous to teach myself to crochet and not make my baby crocheted things, after all.
- Have finished Veronica Mars (except the movie). It's rather fun.
- Am getting kicked awake at 3am every morning, and thus missing out on a proper night's sleep. Can't wait until this kid is born, so that it can actually be put down away from my internal organs once in a while.
* My appetite being somewhat increased by pregnancy, it's actually my third breakfast of the day, following yoghurt and cereal.
[The 2014 Alpbach Space Summer School participants. Photo not mine - pinched from Paxi the ESA mascot's home page. I made this picture a bit bigger than I normally do for posted photos. Can you see me?]
I missed a day of posting. This was a tactical mistake, as a day in Alpbach time is more like a week in terms of eventfulness. I'm up super-early on Wednesday morning in order to catch up, as today will be more of the same. The four student teams have until midnight tonight to hand in their final reports and presentations, after which neither can be altered. They go before the jury tomorrow and the winners are announced at Thursday's dinner.
Fished from what now feels like the dark recesses of distant memory, Day 7.
Monday began with the last set of lectures. These were rather thinly attended compared to the previous week, as around half of each team decided to skip them in favour of preparing for the preliminary design review. I found this a bit sad as the lectures were quite good. The first lecture was given by a very prominent French scientist, who, despite his habit of muttering through his beard, gave a rather beautifully structured overview of the last fifty-odd years of space exploration of the terrestrial planets (including the Moon). The slides were so good I've pinched them and asked permission to use some of them for future outreach talks. The penultimate and final lectures were given by a nearly as prominent but very shy German scientist, who talked about the outer planet's moons and the study of exoplanets. I was pleasantly surprised later to learn that the students found these inspiring, since neither of them were helpful in an immediate sense for their mission design for this school.
During the coffee break, our school's photographer took the group photo above, which (I believe) has been sent to the ISS. Alexander Gerst, the German astronaut currently aboard the space station, is an alumnus of the Summer School and headed a team while he was here.
When the last lecture finished, the students dispersed to wolf down their lunches and continue preparing for their Preliminary Design Reviews*, which took place at 1630. I was on a review panel with a fellow roving tutor and the French lecturer from the morning. During the review, the lecturer got out his laptop and started typing. Even I found this slightly unnerving, and I wasn't the presenter. What the students would've found even more unnerving is that he wasn't answering e-mail or even updating his Facebook status. Oh no. He was correcting their orbit calculations. With hindsight, we probably did the review in reverse order. We (said lecturer and I) began by giving them a lot of critical feedback, which was positively phrased, but also probably didn't help their nervousness. This is a fault of mine. I tend to jump straight into problem-solving. The third juror, a quiet and lovely man, didn't speak until we were nearly finished. He praised them both for the strength and originality of their scientific idea and for the quality of their presentation. This was good because it bolstered their confidence, on top of making them realise how much work they still had to do.
We dashed back to the hotel after the review for our tutor meeting at 18:00. The feedback was largely positive apart from one team. Flushed with the success of their requirements review (the one that I had attended on Day 4), they presented only two slides much too quickly and therefore missed a step in preparing for the final presentation, which lasts an hour. All of the team tutors are invested in their teams' success, but the two tutors for this team are so much so that they're practically part of the team and they looked gutted. (If you're finding yourself distressed on their behalf, don't worry; the team and their tutors have since recovered!)
We went to dinner to find a significant proportion of the students missing (mostly from that team), since they'd decided to stay in the Schoolhouse and prepare for their delta review. It transpired that it was the birthday of one of the team tutors. Every night one representative from each team has to stand up and describe briefly the team's progress. The teams are called in random order. His team (the one that featured strongly in my early posts and has gone from having the worst to probably the best team dynamics in five days) decided to break the rules by requesting to go last, and by all standing up together and rapping a poem they'd written in his honour. It was adorable.
We returned to the Schoolhouse after dinner. The tutors finally exited after midnight. Sadly, since it was Monday we couldn't find anywhere to have a beer in honour of the birthday boy. But I wouldn't say he came off too badly, given that he now has his very own song, immortalised forever on the Summer School's Facebook page.
Extracted from the fog of my underslept brain, Day 8.
Although the church bells woke me at 7 AM, I needed to get some work done so I didn't head to the Schoolhouse until nearly 10 AM. I visited each team in turn, but they were all so intent upon their individual tasks that I just sat quietly in the rooms working unless asked a question. Having been chastised by a member of one team who thought I hadn't spent enough time with them (true, but this is because every time I went in and offered to help, no one took me up on it!), I sat in their room with parts of their engineering group for a while in the afternoon prior to the Final Design Review.
I left shortly before the review, as I was part of their review panel, along with the head of the Summer School, who is also the head of the Austrian Space Agency. (I bet that wasn't intimidating for them at all, oh no.) They did pretty well, although for some mysterious reason they still had an abundance of speakers when it's plain that they only need one - the chap whom they appointed their spokesperson on the very first day. He has all the qualities and the complete vision of the mission that a leader needs, and I think their failure to recognise it stems from the relative youth of this team. We gave them plenty of feedback on their presentation. I stressed to them that if they performed a duty cycle calculation a lot of the problems with incorrect budgets and assumptions in their presentation would magically disappear. I also (after some discussion with the team tutors, who were wary of appearing biased), returned later in the evening to suggest to them that they appoint a single spokesperson for their final presentation and hinted strongly at the identity of the person they should consider appointing. They seemed to take it well, but who knows what they will decide in the end - one of the fun things about this process is the unpredictability of the students!
* Just to give you some perspective on how accelerated this timetable is, the JUICE mission was selected in 2012. We had our first requirements review last year. We have two more reviews before PDR, which is still over a year away.
Blindfold , Willow/Angel by velvetwhip.
Footsies , Cordelia/Angel by samsom.
Let the World See , Willow/Tara by katleept.
Chapter Eleven of Shattered Remains by xspike4evax.
Buffyverse video by kikimay.
Level Up , BtVS video by such_heights. Thanks to lynnenne for the link.
Giles wallpapers by angelus2hot.
Buffyverse icons by gettingdrastic.
Season Five AtS icons by xclaire_delunex.
The Beggar's Banquet: Round Opens August 2nd
AKA Basically Blindfold. I've always been sad I missed blindfold_spn; I juuust missed it on its way out as I was getting into the kinkier side of the fandom. I don't know that I'll write anything for this, but I will definitely prompt in hopes of inspiring other people.
Click the banner for more info!
Mirrored from Twisting Vines.
Hurrah, another story out.
(Only just realised this, despite having looked before, due to their website being a bit counter-intuitive.)
In other news, I have begun revising the novel I’m working on at the moment. It is a bit like trying to put together a really big jigsaw puzzle in several dimensions, when you keep discovering that some of the pieces are missing, and other pieces that aren’t missing are actually from another puzzle altogether.
[Image of one of many small cherubs in the church graveyard. I will hazard a guess at the translation of the German inscription "Die Seele ist nie ohne Geleit der Engel" as, "A soul is never without the company of angels."]
So. Sunday. Having a little difficulty summing up Sunday. For a start, I was particularly homesick for my family. We talked on Skype a few times over the course of the day. I watched Humuhumu bibble around her daddy in one of the new dresses her grandparents bought for her, playing with the new teddy bear her grandparents bought for her. (I sense a theme here.) She isn't too well, poor thing, as three of her canines are coming in at once and she's getting over a bad cold and an eye infection. Her voice was hoarse and she whimpered now and again because of the pain in her teeth, but, being an even-tempered child, she rallied on. I desperately wanted to give her a cuddle, and the five days I have to wait before I can do that weighed heavily on my heart.
I forced myself to go down to the Schoolhouse at 10 AM. Many of the students went to the church services at 9, so I didn't think it was worth heading in too much earlier. It was a quiet morning. The lack of urgency gave me a strong feeling that they still didn't seem to have a grasp on how much work they needed to do before Monday's review. My hunch was borne out as the afternoon progressed. They didn't start working properly until much later in the evening, after dinner, when at last the tutors lost patience and spelled out for them that "mission profile" means you have to have a full mission scenario from launch to end of mission defined, complete with orbit trajectories (and that means specific altitudes, please). You also have to know the mass of your spacecraft(s), an estimate of the power budget, daily data rate, communication band, ground station coverage, etc. And you need to have your payload defined, to ensure that you can deliver the science you have promised. They had a few of these numbers here and there, but others they hadn't even considered yet. It was finally enough to shock them into taking drastic action.
We left them to it at 12:30 AM and went in search of beer, forgetting that this is a small village and it was Sunday. Disappointed, we dispersed to our rooms just before it began to rain.
Summary: Gibbs and the NCIS Major Case Response Team investigate the brutal murder of a Marine and the trail leads them first to a Congolese immigrant named Cierre LuaLua, working for a secret Air Force project, and then to a deadly, seemingly invulnerable, assassin who might be a literal devil. Chapter 8 is 8,470 words, rating 15. After this there is only an Epilogue to come.
( The King of Elfland’s Daughter 8 )
Today I have sort of been reduced to staring straight ahead and not remembering how to put words together and playing a monthly game of "Is this depression or PMS or straight up laziness" and reminding myself that if my friends judged me on my ability to get things done when I said I would get them done I would have already lost all of my friends. So.
Ask me a question about one of my fics or series. It can be absolutely anything in any project and I will tell you the honest-to-goodness answer. Don’t hold back. Whatever you ask, I’ll answer as truthfully and as completely as possible. You can also ask about my writing as a whole, if you like.
That is if there's anybody hanging out in journalspace who remembers when I used to write stuff enough to have something to ask me? Stories are here anyway.
If that meme is too complicated then ... tell me what I should learn to cook next or tell me something you associate with me or what you did this weekend or validate my existence in some way, I'm not really picky right now.
* Kevin Feige also addressed the Edgar Wright/Ant-Man thing. I will say, I think he is sincere that it wasn't "the big evil studio" being "too scared at the outside-the-box creative vision." I imagine that any limiting of Wright's ~vision was simply that Wright wanted to do something that didn't fit with the direction of the larger MCU.
* Marvel Comics also had a big news week (including the female Thor announcement), but The Colbert Report's introduction of Sam Wilson as the new Captain America is especially worth watching.
* Here's a teaser for Homeland season 4. Also, the show's executive producers are delusional: "I'm biased, but I don't know how you can look at the last six or seven episodes we did last season and not say Homeland is one of the best shows on television." O RLY?
* Julie Plec talks about what to expect in season 6 of The Vampire Diaries.
* Great piece on the "weird beauty" of Snowpiercer. Spoilery, but also contains this truth: "It turns moviegoers into proselytizers: Once you’ve seen it, you can’t shut the fuck up." LOL yep. Except you can't really talk about it without spoiling it, so you're basically like, "FUCK. JUST GO SEE IT OKAY."
* I did not even realize a thing called American Ninja Warrior existed, but Kacy Catanzaro is a motherfucking badass, yo.
[View over my outstretched legs as I relax on a lounge chair in the hotel garden.]
Most of the students and a fair number of tutors went on alpine hikes yesterday. Given that hauling my pregnant self from the Schoolhouse to the hotel, a distance of about 400 metres at an incline of OMG STEEP, leaves me breathless in the current heat wave (30+ degrees C), I decided not to go. I spent the morning and early afternoon alternately working and resting.
Just before 16:00 I headed back to the Schoolhouse. A team tutor (science) for one of the teams had not yet returned from the hike, and their science team was in disarray. With the permission of the other (engineering) tutor, I stepped in to marshal them to order. I put all their science objectives up on the blackboard and assigned the requirements to the members of the science team according to their interests. Some of them were already working on them, but no one knew what anyone else was doing, so there were both gaps and overlaps. One of them wanted to rewrite the objectives (not just the requirements, the original science objectives). I had to give my speech again about it being far too late for that and needing to move forward because they must have a payload (and spacecraft(s) and mission scenario e.g. orbits) by Monday. They settled down to do some serious work.
Once the scientists got organised, they started putting some numbers up on the board, which gave the payload and mission (orbit) analysis teams something to work with. After dinner, the team reconvened and each scientist took it in turn to explain and defend their numbers to everyone else.
All of this took most of the afternoon and the evening and I'm deliberately glossing over the details, but it was wonderful to watch the transformation from utter chaos and despair to order and optimism. Their leader, whom it was obvious to the tutors should have been the leader from the first day, had agreed very reluctantly to do so that morning. By the evening, he was in control, with the full backing of his peers. He called for a engineering review at 12:15 AM to ensure that the payload team were getting the interpretation of the science team's requirements right, and they identified where they'd need to have discussions or rethink the need for the given measurement range or resolution given available technologies.
I'm afraid I didn't rove much as a tutor yesterday since I got caught up in this team's struggle, so my goal for today is to wander more freely!
It's like these shows take place in some horrible alternate universe where art is totally non-democratized. Vermeer in private collections, and - what was it, Picasso? Monet? - lost on James Cameron's Titanic.
(Am enjoying Leverage, but I wish it would play a bit harder. Watched Hannibal over the last few weeks, and wow it plays so hard. Whither happy mediums?)
[Image of ripe raspberries peeking out from beneath young green leaves. They grow wild at the roadsides in the village and are tiny and delicious.]
Let me see if I can gather my scattered wits enough to summarise yesterday's events.
The mood at breakfast was somewhat subdued due to the arrival of one of the lecturers from ESTEC, bringing news that one of our ESA colleagues lost his mother in the downing of Flight MH17. She was returning home to Malaysia after three weeks with her children and grandchildren.
We had to carry on regardless, so we marched down to the Schoolhouse for the morning lectures, which were all about mission design and operations. The students were just beginning to look a bit haggard, most of them having been in the Schoolhouse until at least 1 AM preparing for their first reviews, which took place at 16:30.
The reviews ran in parallel for the four teams, with a set of roving tutors assigned to each team to ask questions and decide if the science case was solid enough for them to carry on drilling down from the science requirements into observational and payload requirements. We had learned earlier that all four teams had selected Venus as their target planet. The general reasoning appeared to be:
- Mercury is difficult to get to. Also, BepiColombo, which launches in 2016 and is targeting Mercury, is carrying multiple spacecraft (though not a lander or a rover) and a comprehensive payload which should advance considerably the state of knowledge about the planet.
- Mars' geophysical parameters have well characterised by many missions, mostly from NASA, and a lot of these are ongoing or soon to be launched. The students didn't feel confident enough that they could come up with a unique science question to justify a Mars mission, despite the lecturers that included very strong (sometimes blatantly obvious) hints in this direction.
- They applied similar reasoning to Earth as to Mars.
- The lecturer who spoke on Venus was far and away the best at selling the planet as an interesting target. He's also one of the tutors and the students really like him - he's engaging, approachable and knowledgeable. Additionally, so little is known about Venus' surface, atmosphere and interior (because it is such a harsh environment) that it is much easier to come up with a unique science mission.
Back to the reviews. The group I reviewed (with two others) had a really good science question and derived set of science requirements. We quizzed them in lots of different ways and their case stood up to the questioning well. They hadn't yet moved through to the next step (observational requirements), which they were supposed to have done, but I believe this was to their benefit as it meant they'd done a much better job of defining their science requirements that it seemed the other teams had done. They didn't need a delta review, although they decided to give themselves one anyway.
It was also fun to watch the dynamics of the team take shape. Their spokesperson, a charming and articulate young woman, knew when to defer to her science and engineering leads. The engineering lead is a shy Irish chap who had explicitly stated earlier that he didn't want to get up and speak. But later in the evening during the delta review (at 11:00 PM), he got up and presented a slide. It was informative and well researched, would help them move from their observational requirements into payload definition, and he did it quite well. We (one of the other roving tutors and I) made sure to compliment him on it afterward, and he positively glowed.
The first implosion took place last night as well. I returned to the Schoolhouse after dinner and moved from room to room, observing and trying to help. I walked into one room at 10:30 PM just as one of the team tutors was leaving with a face like thunder. "Meltdown," he said, "I need a walk." It transpired that the science team were in disarray. They have one particularly combative personality, and she was at the throats of the others (metaphorically). I'm not normally one for this kind of heavy-handed intervention, but it seemed to me to be required. I went in, stood by the table and said, "Hello" in my brightest, chirpiest American. They all stared at me. Confident that I had their attention, I picked up their requirements matrix and began to talk them through it. Occasionally they tried to say, "But we aren't doing X," or "Doing Y is too hard," and I said, no, it is too late to change or add things now (exactly what I'd watched their team tutor tell them an hour earlier). You have to move forward. (I must have said this five times in half an hour.) They had been stalled for too long and were achieving nothing. They needed to stop squabbling over whether they could achieve their science objectives with the instruments they had in mind. The science requirements needed to be turned into observational requirements and given to the engineers. The engineers needed to know which quantities were to be measured, to what precision and for how long. They are the ones who will worry about whether the instruments could achieve this and then whether or no they could afford it (in terms of mass, power, lifetime of the spacecraft, etc).
I have no idea if they actually took all that on board. I'll find out later today. Most of the students are on a hike and will return to the Schoolhouse at 16:00. I really hope I return to find that this team has produced an Observational Requirements matrix, or they're going to be badly behind. The next review (the Preliminary Design Review, which requires payload definition) takes place on Monday afternoon.
So Rested He By the Tumtum Tree , Willow/Angel by eclectic_tongue.
Five Willow/Angel drabbles by pickamix.
Chapter Three of Together We Stand by spuffy_noelle.
Chapter Twenty Five of Zeppo No More by forsaken2003.
Thinky thoughts on trimming scenes. Thanks to pickamix for the link.
Outdoor Trek is a community project which celebrates the diversity of the original series, while at the same time adapting it to the 21st century, outdoor theater, and community. The inspiration is half sci-fi, half Shakespeare. Shakespeare in the park is a well-loved tradition, offering free theater, a social gathering in the sunshine, and a familiar, classic story. Hello Earth presents a new classic, just as beloved, only this time in outer space.
Hello Earth Productions produced the Star Trek episode “The Naked Time” in 2010, “This Side of Paradise” in 2011, and "The Devil In The Dark," in 2013. The company happily accepts donations during the performances, but there is no charge. It is recommended for spectators to bring cushions, as the amphitheater seating is concrete. You can learn more at www.helloearthproductions.org or on Twitter at @hello_earth.
It is, you see, a terribly hot day, and they're all worried about surviving the awful heat.
...of 30 degrees. *faints dramatically at such dreadfully warm weather*
(Americans: this is 86 Fahrenheit)
I'm just going to sit here in my non-air-conditioned house, happily lettting the wonderfully cool breeze waft fresh summer air through every room. Later, I might go for a walk.
(Note my lack of blocking up every door and window, blasting air-conditioned coolness into every corner, stocking up on icecubes, realising some rooms are a lost cause and blocking them off so the air-con can cope with a smaller space, wishing I could remove several layers of skin, sleeping naked on the floor of the living room, and cowering from the horrible skin-searing sun. Because this is not Australia.)
Remember the knife scene from Crocodile Dundee? Right now, I feel kinda like that. "You call that summer? THIS is summer."
[Sign for a bar I probably won't see the inside of on this trip, as it's only open from 10 PM to 3 AM and I can't drink - or stay vertical that late. But I like the look of it.]
(I was awakened this morning by the person upstairs who apparently couldn't figure out how to shut and lock their door when they went out for a run/swim/whatever at 6 AM. Bang! Bang! Bang! BANG! >.< Also, the baby is ill and I'm hundreds of miles away. The bloke has everything under control but it's still worrisome. Apologies, therefore, if this is less coherent than optimal.)
Despite the unnecessarily early banging-door alarm call, I was alert throughout the morning lecture session, because all three of them were extremely good. They covered Mars, Venus and Mercury geophysics in succession, and they were structured very well to spark the interest of the students in their mission design. They presented the state of known science, walked through a quick history of space-based measurement and modelling of geophysical properties, and then gave a list of unknown/desirable items that would be exciting to explore in future. We broke for lunch,after which the students returned to their four teams to begin narrowing down their options in earnest.
I spent the afternoon going from room to room, mostly observing the student discussions but occasionally being asked for information, some of it quite specific technical information about magnetometers, which worried me a bit since at this point they should not be focused on how they'll do the measurements but rather why they want to do them in the first place. I tried to steer them away from this, but it's hard, especially when they get so excited delving into the nitty gritty details.
While the teams are going through similar personnel-based challenges (e.g. Who is going to be the team leader? A: Not necessarily the person who thinks they should be...), they are taking radically different approaches to deciding their mission topic. One group, which is strangely composed entirely of shy people and barely spoke yesterday, has split into three groups and is now amongst the most animated and, I dare say, coming up with some of the most interesting science cases as a result. In contrast, another group, which had firmly decided a mission on the first day, determined that they didn't have a strong science case and had to go back to the drawing board and start again. This group also suffer from a lack of leadership but in a completely different way. There are three who want to lead and none of them are listening to each other. Or their fellow students. Or their team tutors. All three of them are fixated on their own ideas. It's a lot more difficult to manage.
By the end of the night, the teams need to have selected a target planet and written a (set of) science objective(s). Tomorrow afternoon they will go through their first design review. I get to attend one of these, because the reviews run simultaneously. I predict that we're looking at two missions to Venus and one to either Mars or Earth. I suspect they've all ruled out Mercury as too much of a challenge, given both the trajectory analysis headache and the fact that BepiColombo is going there with multiple spacecraft and a fairly comprehensive payload in 2016. But we'll see!
His mother (my sister) attempted a dairy-free, egg-free cake for him, and despite heroic efforts, it ... did not go well.
Anyone got useful tips on cooking, baking in particular? Flaxseed as an egg subsitute won't work because of the possibility that he's allergic to nuts and seeds, and many non-dairy recipes seem to use a lot of soya ...
Recipes for "treat" foods would be particularly appreciated.
Perhaps surprisingly, he doesn't seem to have problems with gluten.
ETA: Thank you thank you everyone for all the great answers coming in -- this is very much appreciated.
Four drabbles and three ficlets by pickamix.
Chapter Eighteen and Chapter Nineteen of One Mistake Changes Everything by tld8of9.
Meta on the Buffy/Willow friendship by sunclouds33.
iconsoleander talks about what made BtVS great .
Review of the London Film and Comic Con 2014.
Anyway: it is very soothing, like watching a nature documentary. And now I know what "riparian" and "playa" and "gypsum" means in this context! W00t!
( notes and process for this fic - possibly better read after reading the fic )
Base Notes (16505 words) by Snickfic
Fandom: Hockey RPF
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin, Evgeni Malkin/Maxime Talbot
Characters: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Maxime Talbot, Sergei Gonchar
Additional Tags: Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics, Pittsburgh Penguins, Scents & Smells, Romance, Language Barrier
In which Evgeni Malkin comes to America as one of the few omegas in pro hockey, lights up the NHL, and spends a lot of time wondering why Sidney Crosby is so damn weird.
As one of my scientist friends pointed out, however, since I didn't actually open up his grave, I still can't be certain he's really in there. For all I know, it could be occupied by a cat. I have yet to observe a cat in this village. Note to self: Remember to bring shovel next time.
[Schrödinger's grave marker, with wave equation.]
[Schrödinger's grave in context in the churchyard.]
Additional anecdote: Today's evening meal included a dessert called "Mohr im Hemd". ( content note for residual linguistic racism and AWKWARD )
Now I must return to the Schoolhouse for the night's mission planning session.