For any non-astrophysicists out there, all Z Cam(elopardalis)-type stars are wildly erratic and highly unpredictable, as can be seen in the light curve for RX Andromedae: Note the irregular high- and low-amplitude periods over the course of more than a half-century of observations (light curve courtesy of the AAVSO, for which I used to work):

RX And(romedae), a Z Cam star


  • Oldest daughter's marriage: Given that middle daughter Ner's marriage qualified as the top highlight for 2013, it is only fitting that the Embot's marriage should top the list for this past year. It was a lovely wedding in a lovely setting.
  • Music: Not long after starting work in Grenoble, I joined a local choir and discovered how much I'd missed choral singing. I currently belong to three such French choirs, all of which have brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction.
  • Old friends and new: Since returning to Grenoble, it has been a pleasure to renew several friendships, particularly the one with my Italian doctor friend and her family. I have also been very fortunate to have found myself among friendly people both at work and outside of work; even more important, I have made a good friend at work and another good friend outside of work (the latter thanks to a very serendipitous set of circumstances that led me to join her choir). For this latter friend, getting to sing a couple of duets with her at her father's 80th birthday celebration was one of the highlights of my summer.
  • Most humorous moment: This past fall while at Tuesday night rehearsal, the conductor started us all laughing… and then, just as we were beginning to recover, one of the sopranos piped up and said that she thought it a shame that our emphasis on a couple of onomatopoeic syllables in the overture to La Petite Suite Québécoise (having to do with the sound of a windmill — "ti-qui ta-que, ti-qui ta-que") sounded to her as though we were singing "ta queue" … which means quite literally "pee-pee tail" (as Oldest called that part of the male anatomy when she was about 3 years old). I cannot remember when the last time was that I laughed so hard, tears streaming, and we were all completely helpless for a good long 5 minutes or more. (I do not know even now if that soprano said what she did innocently, but if not, her deadpan delivery was totally perfect.)
  • Runner-up for most humorous moment: the "brown lace" incident (in one of the episodes of Cranford, a marvelous BBC adaptation of several short novels by Elizabeth Gaskell).
  • And speaking of Elizabeth Gaskell, having my new musical friend introduce me to her (both via the several BBC series and via her books) was certainly the literary highlight of my year.
  • Snooker also qualifies as a highlight, even if my 30(+)-game winning streak was broken this week. Rrrr!


  • Oldest daughter's accident: I think I aged 10 years in an instant when I saw this email subject line in early December: "Embot has been hit by a car." Fortunately (and miraculously, given the speed of the car when it hit her), Oldest's injuries were nowhere near as severe as they could have been, and she is on the road to recovery.
  • My paragliding disaster: My new friend at work paraglides, and after a couple of trips up and down the mountain (ferrying fliers up and then picking them up at the bottom), I had earned myself a tandem flight with an expert. I was already dubious about flying conditions even before going up the mountain in early September — it seemed too windy to me. But I suited up and was attached to the expert pilot, and then… two aborted take-offs should have been enough to convince both of us to stop, but alas, for some unknown reason on the third try, I tripped and slid along on my stomach. The sail had actually gone aloft this time and was dragging us forward. I'm told that the pilot kept to his feet and that we almost managed to take off despite my position.
    … And had we taken off, would that have been before or after I broke my right wrist? All things considered, I was/we were very lucky: we came awfully close to the edge of the first "junior" cliff, stopped by the shrubs and trees. The drop was not as significant as the real cliff, but I've no doubt that we would have been far more seriously injured, possibly even killed, had we gone over. (The pilot came away with bumps and bruises; in addition to my wrist, I had a slight concussion, minor whiplash, and was black and blue all over.)
    My wrist is still not 100% recovered, and it looks like I've got a couple more months of unpleasant physical therapy to deal with, but I can type and play the piano and eat normally and even floss again. (I ended up doing all of my professional work left-hand-only for about a month. Fun! — Not.)
  • Exile and overwork and emotional turbulence: I was dreading having to live in Grenoble by myself. While renewing old friendships and making new friends and finding interesting things to do has been very helpful, being away from Mr Mo and family has been much more emotionally difficult than I expected. And having a huge amount of work from Paris — almost full-time for about 2.5 months this fall — on top of my already full-time Grenoble-based job… was financially a good thing, yes, but otherwise horrible.
  • Bureaucratic… idiocies: This is a late-comer for 2014: Yes, it sucks to have to go through two agencies to be able to work for the giant company that I do in Grenoble, and while I didn't have a very high opinion in the first place of the man who in theory "supervises" me in the one agency, my opinion of his professionalism plummeted when he made trouble for me by contacting my manager to object to my working from Berlin during the holidays. Rrrrrrr. The immediate situation got resolved, but at some cost to me and my family, and likely to my ability to work long-distance in the future. I hear that this guy has been "promoted" — and that he will not be around to meddle this year. To which I say: Yes!

In summary, it is my hope that 2015 will be a bit less chaotically variable and a whole lot less stressful. Happy New Year to one and all!