|A little pre-flight lunch with the girls - Jenny and little Hannah pictured, and Laura and Sue too!|
I've been back for 4 days now. Even though my life is far from organized, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I had the relaxed and calm feeling of being "at home" pretty much as soon as I walked through the door. Which considering I had such a fantastic visit to Hawaii was nice. I didn't make many "good friends" out there (the kind you hang onto forever), but this trip really reminded me of how much I miss those people. Despite that, Maine is home, and it feels good to be home. Even if only for a few short weeks before I head south on my Antarctic cruise (and man what a bear the organization of that is turning out to be.....but i'm going to spare you there....).
The big news here of course is that the government could go into shut-down mode tonight if they don't come to a budget consensus soon. I'm not a federally funded employee, so i'm not worried about not being paid, but the majority of my research grants are federal, not to mention the several I have in review right now, that will be in stasis until this gets figured out. Our cruise to the Antarctic is federally funded, and though we think we're all okay, impacts are not quite certain right now. The biggest impact is with my collaborators - Kathy from Woods Hole, who works for USGS and Bob in Alaska, who works for NOAA could well be in limbo next week, without pay. If the government goes into shut down, they're not just told not to work, they are physically locked out of their buildings, out of their email, out of their phones - they are literally not allowed to work.
So i'm in two minds. Kathy and I have dreamed up a scheme that if this really happens she's going to truck up to Maine next week and come and hang out up here. We'll work on some "non-USGS" things together, and it'd be great to see her. I even went out and bought a bed and bedding tonight for my spare room just in case (so that pretty much guarantees it's not going to happen....). On the other hand though, Bob being locked out of his office means our live corals have no-one to look after them, all that hard work put into collecting them could go to waste. They're doing well so far too, but the big plankton bloom has just begun up there, meaning the water gets thick and sludgy, clogging up the corals - in the past this is the time of year the live corals suffer and often die if not looked after carefully. So we're concerned.
All this talk of government cut-backs included a large cut to science spending in the US, but it seems right now as if the government has conceded on most things except funding for Planned Parenthood - an organization here in the US that provides reproductive health care for low income families. This is the most stupid debate to me, coming from the UK, where both healthcare and contraceptives are free, as they should be. You should never have to decide between contraceptives and food in my opinion (~$10-$20 a month for the cheaper ones, with insurance), but many do, which is why Planned Parenthood, who charge less, is so important. Why is this even an arguing point? The Tea Party stresses it doesn't want federal funding to go to abortions and that is why it is not conceding, yet abortions provided by Planned Parenthood are not subsidized by federal money, those are charged at cost, so it's not even a true statement. What's more, if funding were increased for Planned Parenthood, to a level where contraceptives could be made free to those on low incomes, we would save a considerable amount of federal money not supporting single unemployed mothers and their children, likely more savings than shutting down the service. But we don't want to encourage people to have sex do we. That wouldn't be very republican. I love being in this country, but some things drive me nuts, this week has been full of them. Let's hope Obama doesn't back down on this one.
So in the end what's happening with science spending? I guess we'll find out soon. I hope I haven't just found my lot in life to have to give it up because science funding has tanked.....