So this is Christmas

... or near enough to it, anyway.  Finished shopping last night (yes, I always wait until the last few days).  Still haven't wrapped anything, but that will be tonight.  Tomorrow, I'm going to my parents' house early to open presents, then staying all day for dinner.  Then back again on the 26th for my step-dad's birthday.  It's the same routine, every year.  I think my mom's likely to be a little more weepy this year, since my step-dad almost didn't make it to this one.  She mostly won't let it show, of course, but it'll be there just under the surface.

"... and what have you done?"

Not much, really.  There was my step-dad's accident, and trying to keep my mother sane throughout it.  I planted a garden on my patio (much of which is still growing).  I went to the Big Island for the first (and possibly last) time.  I did some minor stuff at work.  All in all, a year without much to say for it.

I still haven't gone to the South Pacific, or to the Caribbean like I wanted.  I still haven't really figured out how to balance everything out financially yet (I swing a fair bit).  I tried dating a bit, but haven't had a second date with pretty much anyone (and pretty few first dates).  Still not in the shape I want to be in (though improving).

"Another year over..."

Typically, this time of year, I head off to Guerneville to get away for a few days.  I'm not this year; I'm not going anywhere, actually.  I'm also not telling a certain friend this, because he'll insist on going out for NYE to some restaurant or something and I really don't want to.  No, I'm saving money and vacation time and just staying in.  I'll probably wander over to the Rose Parade, since it's a couple blocks from my apartment and I've never seen it live. 

"... And a new one just begun."

I don't really do resolutions.  I don't really try to plan things out for the new year.  It just seems like so much can happen that anything more than a vague direction is setting yourself up for failure.

All that being said, I'll have slightly more vacation time (I've got basically three weeks of time-off right now), so I may try taking a longer trip or a couple of trips (I'd like to hit the caribbean, but that needs to be in spring before hurricane season starts).  I'd like to keep improving my physical condition.  I'd also like to pick up more consulting work, but that's hard to come by for a DBA and sysadmin.

Not sure if I'll go to Hawaii for my birthday this year.  I told my coworker (who actually has the same birthday, though he's a few years older) that he could take it off this year if he wants (we're actually on a Saturday).  So, we'll see what he plans, if anything.  Some of it may depend on how much I can afford.

I might need to buy a new car this year, too.  Mine's finally starting to show some signs of age, though I don't think it's going to collapse any time soon.  But it's something I need to start planning for in general.

Anyway, happy holidays to everyone out there who cares about them.

Unless we go to the stars

A bunch of friends of mine started re-watching Babylon 5 recently, so I picked up the seasons to run through it a fifth (or 10th, or whatever; I stopped counting) time.  It's probably been 5 or 6 years since the last time I watched it.

And I got to the end of fourth episode of Season 1 - "Infection" - and had to stop for a moment.

Sinclair's being interviewed by a reporter.  Here's the exchange:

Mary Ann Cramer: Is it worth it? Should we just pull back? Forget the whole thing as a bad idea, and take care of our own problems, at home.
Sinclair: No. We have to stay here. And there's a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes… and all of this… all of this… was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars.
That was first broadcast on television in 1994.  I was 16 at the time (I turned 17 a couple months later).  I had, by then, figured out that I was capable of really terrible things - and, in a way, was searching for reasons why I should or shouldn't do them.  I had a basic formulation of an idea, the initial shape of it in my mind - a kind of virtual lump of marble within which was still hidden the statue that I could only reveal by chipping away at the stone.  It took me probably 10 years to realize it - the first time I went back and re-watched the series - but this speech was, and is, a big part of what shaped that eventual reason.

It probably seems pretty grandiose to say so, but if you ever want to know my motivation for anything - literally, anything - start with this notion: that, in a few million years, our sun will die and with it everything in the solar system.  And that's only if we last that long - there's the "cosmic bullet" notion as well, some comet or x-ray beam coming our way that will wipe out all life on the planet.  If we're still here - and only here - then we'll be wiped out, and everything we've done will have been for naught.

I often use the phrase "to teach the world to save itself"; while I'm sure most people think I'm being poetic, I'm really not.  Every little step - every dollar for the homeless, every shoulder offered to cry on, every pleasant smile for a stranger, every encouragement given, every dream fulfilled - is a little step on the path towards the goal of getting us off this planet and out there into space.  On, literally, the path towards saving all known life in the universe.

Progress isn't constant; for every step forward, there's a half step back.  We only progress by averages, but we still progress.  Most of us only ever get a chance to do small things, but the small things add up: to either hold us, as a species, back or help nudge us forward if only a little.  But if "small things" are all I ever get a chance to do, I'll make them as positive as I can.