I've been off shift for the last week and a half, and clearly something changed. When I show up to drive Opportunity, I'm confronted by a closed door with a cipher lock on it. I knock, but there's no answer.
Turns out this is part of our ongoing effort to protect ourselves against those evil, thieving, dirty, despicable foreign nationals. MRO has space on Opportunity's floor now, and they have FNs working for them, so we have to keep the door locked when nobody's home. Federal law. Oy.
Cooper's RP-1 thisol, and he likes to get things to a certain point before anybody else takes a look, so I spin my wheels for a little while. We're going to RAT thisol, and the RAT guys get their grind timings by subtracting the IDD movement overhead from the total time allocated for the observation, so Cooper works out the timings and goes to lunch. A few minutes later I look up at the clock and think, "I'm hungry; I should go to lunch, too," and just then there's a controversy about Cooper's answer. So I have to redo his work, starting from scratch, which I finish just about the same moment he walks in (thus not saving anybody any time). I never do get lunch. D'oh!
But that's nothing new -- I often don't get lunch.1] I don't get much vacation time, either, and I'm not alone in that. Albert Yen's applying for yet another waiver to allow him time to accumulate more vacation than is normally allowed. Cooper's taking three weeks around Christmas, not because he wants to but because he's already way over the maximum and they won't give him another waiver. I haven't bothered with the paperwork to get credit for the JPL holidays I worked this year, and I'm still going to hit the maximum soon.
Then again, I don't care that I don't get vacation. What am I going to do on my vacation that's anywhere near this cool? And besides, it's not like I'm going house to house in Fallujah -- my job is to play with an extraterrestrial Erector set. What the heck could I possibly need a vacation from, even if I wanted one?
Andy says it would be interesting to study the mixed signals JPL as an institution gives us -- "you have to work 80 hours a week to get the mission done, but don't miss any of your vacation."
You don't even get a vacation if you're injured, or so you'd judge by seeing Geoffrey Lake. He broke his clavicle in four places snowboarding, but he's here today playing TAP/SIE all the same. I tell him I did the same after I fractured my clavicle at aikido, and then Rich pipes up to say he broke his, too. Skiing. An odd coincidence, but not as odd as the other one -- it turns out that Geoff is an aikidoka, too. Me, him, and Cooper. Small world, I guess.
Emily sometimes leads off the CAM with "the picture of the sol" -- in this case, it's a picture of Ken Jennings, who just recently ended his 74-game Jeopardy winning streak. (Ken Jennings is the Babe Ruth of geekdom, I think.) In yet another coincidence, it turns out Craig Leff knows him; they used to compete in the College Bowl.
Emily poses the Final Jeopardy answer that lost Ken his crown; since I saw the show, I know the question already ("What is H&R Block?"). I jokingly dismiss Ken as a bonehead, then grudgingly admit he's smarter than I am. "Not smart enough to drive a Mars rover," says Emily.
 Since then, MER's gotten really good about this, in the name of making ops sustainable. People who don't ever get a chance to have lunch tend to get grouchy about it and find other things to do.