Sunday, February 1, 2009
This is a telling of the goodbye party we had last night for Brent at my home. I'm guilty of changing the setting and putting it into one of my worlds and for that I apologize, but it is a written gift from me to Brent and a thank you for his years of service to the Space Center.
Thank you Brent. Any now your story.......
The Guests Assembled
Last evening the Great Hall glowed in torch and candle light when the guests arrived from all parts of the Kingdom to bid adieu to Sir Brent Anderson, a member of our troupe of troubadours for many years. The lord of the manor was in particularly good spirits and remained with his guests until the twenty second hour. Such a night of levity was unusual for him at the end of a week. The pressing duties of the manor weigh heavily on him. At week’s end the burden forces him to take to his bed for an early evening’s rest.
The banquet table was crowned with delicious foods from all parts of the kingdom creating a festival of colors, smells and tastes. Many suspect this enticement was the reason for the lord’s stamina. We are familiar with the lord’s weakness for fine dishes and their effect on his palette; therefore we noticed that, as the evening progressed, the lord never strayed far from the feast. He beckoned his guests to him rather than the opposite to spare him from missing a newly arrived dish from the cookhouse. The servants brought platters of new cuisine from the cook house across the courtyard in a never ending stream to insure his spirits remained high.
Earlier in the day at chapel, the King knighted Sir Anderson into the Order of Saints for his technical creations bringing the castle new masterworks of thought and craftsmanship. His creations were evident everywhere one traveled in the castle. His newly designed serving carts carried twice the amount of food the old carts could carry, and kept the dishes warmer between the cookhouse and Hall. His invention of multi wicked candles and chandeliers suspended by pulleys for ease in lighting brought savings in time for the castle’s staff. His works in pipe and fittings brought fresh running water from the wells into the castle’s rooms. Sir Anderson credited the Romans for that innovation.
Sir Anderson’s mixings of powders and liquids, derived from his herb and vegetable gardens, along with fungi and weed gathered in expeditions in the lord’s forests, brought relief to many afflicted with sickness and melancholy. All assembled in the hall could testify to cures after ingesting one of his remedies.
Sir Anderson’s greatest contribution to the Kingdom came from alchemy. In his never ending search to find the relationship between iron and gold he found new ways to strengthen brass and iron, thus strengthening the King’s swords and cannon. These inventions brought security to the land and stability to the crown.
Sir Brent Anderson's Arrival at the Feast
“Sir Anderson,” the Footman announced in a loud commanding voice. Sir Anderson’s arrival into the hall brought hushed silence from those assembled. All stood standing as the lord departed company with the banquet table and moved through his maze of subjects toward the double oak doors framing the figure of one so well respected by a Kingdom. The Lord embraced him and then turned toward the assembly.
“Here is a gentleman this manor and kingdom owe great gratitude,” spoke the lord as he raised his arm and swept it across the room to demonstrate everyone’s indebtedness. “We gather this evening to bid him adieu as he leaves the Kingdom to answer a call from His Holiness to carry the words of salvation to God's children living in the lands of the Czech.”
The assembled gathering gasped upon hearing his destination. It was assumed that Sir Anderson would be accompanying the Cardinal to Rome to take a position in the Office of the Holy See. All expected him to exchange his black cloak for one of Cardinal Scarlet. Now, instead of power and glory, their Knight would wear the simple wool of the traveling friar and bring risk and perhaps even death upon himself laboring in the land of the Czechs. Many women in the room drew handkerchiefs to their eyes. Men grasped the hilts of their swords in a jester of kinsmanship to the great task that laid before him.
“All will be well my friends,” The lord said to comfort the hushed room. “Why would God want to take Sir Anderson away from this Earth? If he died he would go straight to heaven and want to change everything from the rotation of celestial bodies to the size and shape of the clouds in our blue sky. God would grow quite weary of this I think,” The stillness broke into laughter and the somber mood lifted. Scores of well wishers pushed forward to embrace this Knight of God. The musicians broke into song and couples took to the floor in dance.
Sir Anderson worked his way across the Hall toward us, his fellow troubadours. We waited patiently for his company. A quarter candle later he sat and took food and drink. Sir Anderson was first and foremost one of us. A lover of story and song. In his short nineteen years he traveled beside us across the length and width of the land bringing joy to village and hamlet. His nature kept him behind the curtain providing the support and expertise to ensure each presentation went flawlessly. His creations made the life of a troubadour bearable, and for that , we presented him our thanks.
“Entertainment,” shouted the lord from his High Chair while waving a leg of turkey in each hand. His voice bellowed across his audience of delicious dishes to the crowd assembled.
Maidens Emily, Stacy, Lorraine, Aleta and Brittany rose from our table and walked to the center of the hall. The chief musician stuck the tune and the ladies took to pose. On the second chord they began to move with the music. The step was identified as The Rave. Their arms moved gracefully overhead as their hips traveled in extended circles causing their dresses to sway in motion to the melody. This display of flexibility caused several of the ladies present to turn to each other and engage in critical whispering, the nature of which was not understood because of covered mouth. The men kept their gaze fixed on the performance, bringing new rounds of whispering from their fair ladies.
At the end of the dance we joined the maidens. With me stood Masters Maxwell, Long and Alex the Younger. Our combined voices filled the hall with song. With an approving nod from the Cardinal, Sir Anderson joined us for one last performance.
At the end of the banquet table sat our friends, brothers Daymont, Master Hadley and Master Clegg. They were completely ignorant to our entertainment. They were in deep thought as they discussed the news of the Kingdom and other such things. There was occasional laughter which spoke of the levity of some topics.
The evening drew to a close. The entertainment was complete. The cook house closed and all that remained eating were the lord’s dogs, finishing the remains of a great feast. Sir Anderson rose to leave. All stood with him. He walked toward the towering doors and stopped at the same place where he entered hours before. He turned toward us, his fellows, and surveyed a scene he would not see again for two years.
“God Bless you all,” he said in spirited voice.
“May God Bless You,” we all answered. Silence followed the closing of the oak doors. He was gone. His horse was heard galloping away into the cold winter’s night toward the Salty Sea and from there - onward to the Land of the Czechs.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I'm told it can hold all the Mormons in the Republic. Well, not for long. Elder Brent Anderson is about to unleash religious fury throughout the land.
A special announcement. Brent Anderson will be going into the MTC on Wednesday. He was called to serve a mission in the Czech Republic (its in Europe for those not educated in Pleasant Grove). We will have a humble open house for him at my home in Pleasant Grove Saturday afternoon / evening. Wits End (my home's name) will welcome you no earlier than 5:45 P.M. We will wrap things up at 9:00 P.M.
I know for many 9:00 P.M. is when the party should be starting but remember my age and the fact that I’ll be coming home after 21 hours at the Space Center nonstop.
I’m exhausted on a Saturday night but can keep my mental facilities until 9:00 P.M. after which I collapse into a semi liquid ball of gelatinous matter and remain that way until Sunday morning when I congeal into a solid shape for worship (and no you may not stay and watch. I’ve been told it can get gruesome as my ligaments release their hold on my bones).
This Open House is open to all Space Center staff, volunteers and past staff and volunteers that know Brent and who are high school seniors and older. Sorry younglings, but adults only. There is one exemption to the age rule. If you are a younger brother or sister of an adult worker you may attend with them.
So stop by and say goodbye to Brent anytime between 5:45 and 9:00 P.M. Of course there will be refreshments and engaging conversation as always at a Space Center gathering.
Monday, January 26, 2009
by Lorriane Houston
Space Center Educator
Teaching in the classroom is like giving a performance on stage. Each day the afternoon class comes in with full tummies and an attitude. The simulation is over and thirty small bodies enter into the classroom, They glare at me and I sense their thoughts; " nothing you can do will ever be better than the space ships. I dare you to teach me something!"
The lesson begins with the usual spill on Christa McAuliffe first teacher in space. Some adults ask questions but most of the time they settle in for a long nap. I then introduce them to Edwin Hubble an recite his words: "equipped with his five senses man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure science." I tell them to sit up straight, buckle their set belts and stare into the main screen. We are going to take an adventure into space. By this time most of them are listening and ready to see what the classroom has to offer. I turn up the volume as loud as I dare and push the button. On the screen stars appear, Star Wars music plays while the words "LONG AGO IN A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY" roll across the screen. The words continue " WAIT, HOW LONG AGO? HOW FAR WAY? WHAT ARE GALAXIES? WHERE DO THEY COME FROM? DO WE LIVE IN A GALAXY? The last question asked is,"WHAT HAPPENED IN THAT GALAXY FAR FAR WAY, ANYWAY?
I can always tell by their reaction what kind of class they will be.
Once in a great while the class will respond by laughing and be ready to learn all about galaxies. One day last week I had a class really enjoy the lesson, they were asking questions and participating. Their expressions of awe where gratifying, the way you flight directors feel when you have a crew that listens, learns and screams at the right time. At the end of the lesson the teacher had the students give me a round of applause, a standing ovation.
It happened with two classes on the same day, it was an unprecedented first. The classroom has begun to rise in competition with the simulators!
Maybe I did exaggerate just a bit. I had the students standing ready to leave when the teacher had them clap. Still, It was a standing ovation!
The awesome teachers and classroom lessons are beginning to compete with the simulators!
This is Mr. Herring, not Mr. W.
Many comments have come in for Mr. W. to stop his endless stream of crazy rants about loons in Rapid City, South Dakota and to start talking more about the awesome projects we are working on at the Space Center, especially the new Galileo, Mark VI.
The Galileo, Mark V was built over 12 years ago in the Provo School District as an experimental "portable" simulator. The Galileo history is a long story for another time but the short version is 10 years ago the Space Center bought the simulator and renamed it the Galileo.
I built the Galileo and I was the first and only flight director for the Galileo for over 4 years, until Mr. Billings arrived on the scene. Now the Galileo has had over 10 Flight Directors and countless thousands of flights!
If you take the approximate cost for the Galileo the Space Center has spent over 10 years, about $10,000.00. Divide it by 10 getting = $1000.00 per year. Running Approximately 200 + Missions per year. Costing the center about $5.00 or less per mission to run. The Galileo has been a whale of a deal in my opinion.
Six years ago Alex Debirk and I began working on designing the new Galileo, we affectionately named the "Mark VI". We had a grand vision for the new ship, one that would require a lot more expertise then both of us has.
Two years ago I discovered the BYU Capstone Projects and the possibilities for our design to come to life with their help. For the next year I worked at getting the monies and permissions to begin the Fall of 08'.
The Capstone Team has taken our design and polished it, worked it to fit within budget constraints, made it much more portable and put it through simulations testing. Next week they will start construction with a scheduled completion of the structure, shell and doors by April 1st were then it will be on display at BYU and then transported to Scenic Service Specialists for painting, completion of the interior and electrical.
The new Mark VI in my opinion is awesome! It has an aluminum exterior, steel bulkheads, sleeping for 4, Torpedo launching tube (yes you will have to manually put in the accessories for your probe or torpedo in the casing, place it in a tube and lock it in, to be fired!), has a crew of 6, custom designed chairs, interior like a jet aircraft except for the diamond plate aluminum floor, sliding interior door, drawbridge exit aft door, emergency escape hatch in the front, and touch screen controls! I think that is most of the key features…
Some of the builders of the new Galileo will be visiting the Space Center for the upcoming Voyager Club Meeting with blue prints and first hand accounts of their efforts! If you can't come to the meeting, keep you Internet browser on this blog as we will be posting pictures of some of the construction efforts.
All the Best!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The Glass Ceiling (a term commonly used to describe a situation where a woman can see the top of an organization but can't reach it because of a male dominated workforce) shattered this weekend. All males at the Space Center dove for cover from the flying shards.
“It was ghastly,” reported Bradyn Lystrup, still shaking after the explosion. Paths of dried blood etched down his cheeks. The number of injuries overwhelmed the Space Center’s two first aide kits. Todd was dispatched to our local WalMart to pick up new supplies of bandages.
Many that escaped physical injury were effected emotionally. The Odyssey’s beds were full of volunteers and staff suffering from shock. I nearly called for an ambulance but wanted to keep this from hitting the local news.
I moved from bed to bed assuring the casualties that all was being done to stabilize the situation. I found Kyle Herring on the bottom bed. I knelt down. He grabbed my hand and asked me if all was lost. “Can we make this right again?” he whispered through his cracked lips. His skin was cold and clammy - a sure sign of extreme shock. I lied and told him everything would be just like it was. It seemed to calm him. I took out my Star Trek Commemorative Coin to give him something to hold onto. I motioned for Emily Perry, our EMT, to come take his blood pressure. He pulled back into a fetal position upon sight of her. She backed away realizing from her training that he may be beyond hope of saving. She needed to treat those that still had a chance.
I walked to my desk wondering if I had done the right thing. Look at what my decision had wrought? So many affected. So much blood. Such sadness. I sat down and put my head in my hands.
“It will be OK,” a weak voice said in front of me. I looked up. It was Carson. He seemed unscathed by the event. He was helping Spenser D to one of the chairs that run the length of my long wooden desk. Spenser’s arm was in a sling. I later learned it was a dislocated shoulder.
“Will you be OK?” I asked them both. They nodded . “I’m sorry this happened without warning. I take full responsibility.” I sat back and watched as broken glass was picked up buy the few remaining males that could still stand.
“You did the right thing,” Stacy Carroll said as she carried in a just emptied trash can.
“It had to happen. That glass ceiling was growing weaker and weaker.”
I agreed. It was the right thing.
The explosion of the glass ceiling was the direct result of one thing. Emily Perry, a female, flight directing a paid private mission by herself without a coach on Saturday. This day will go down in infamy - January 24, 2009. After 18 years the last remaining male stronghold of the Space Center fell to the advancing female column. The white flag was raised over the Fortress at 11:30 A.M. The glass ceiling exploded at 2:00 P.M. just as Emily finished the mission and placed the microphone in the stand.
My Friends, according to many males who survived the event, the Fat Lady Sang and Hell Froze Over.
I apologize to all my fellow males for allowing this ‘abomination’ as you put it. But I say this once again - it is time to leave the 19th century. Girls can vote. They can own property and they are allowed out of the kitchen. We have many fine female flight directors. They can hold their own in a mission to mission face off with any male. Trust me on this.
Some of you may feel I’ve lost my bearings and turned my back on my gender but once again I say - GOOD JOB EMILY! YOU DID IT! YOU RAN THE VOYAGER’S FIRST MISSION DIRECTED ENTIRELY BY A FEMALE. The glass ceiling is shattered. We live in a time of change and change can be good.
I want to thank Emily’s supervisors Spencer D and Carson M. for helping with this special event. They did their jobs well giving Emily the supported needed to pull it off.
Now, I’m sure emails and comments of congratulations will come pouring in from all. I’m also ready for the backlash from our unhappy males. I can live with that but I warn you against toilet papering. Oh yes...... you don’t want to go down that road.
Your Progressive Sleepless Leader,
P.S. Emily did a great job and was supported by everyone. I do like to exaggerate but it makes for interesting reading and writing. Good Job Emily.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
We are happy to announce, and in the same post congratulate, Sheila Powell - teacher extraordinaire at the Space Education Center on her accomplishment. Mrs. Powell has been officially upgraded, certificated, renewed and licensed (with an endorsement in geography) to teach K-8 grade in Utah. This is a level II certificate (she already has a level I certificate). This makes her a "Highly Qualified" educator that knows not only how to teach....but, according to Sheila, "how to jump through the numerous and tangled hoops of governmental licensing departments & their discombobulated websites....shesh."
Sheila and Lorraine, our two classroom instructors, are the very essence of awesomeness. They teach and entertain hundreds of students weekly and are still sane enough to appear normal in public. Be sure to congratulate Sheila (The Saint of Lehi) when you see her next. Bowing and ring kissing is optional but appreciated.
Monday, January 19, 2009
- Mountainville Academy
- Cedar Ridge Elementary
- Westvale Elementary
- Santaquin Elementary
- Orem Elementary
Private Mission Attendance: 158 students
Total Number of Mission Run this Week: 57
Total Weekly Attendance: 504 students.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
It has been another week at the Space Education Center. What a stupid thing to write. Of course another week has passed. There are some things you write because ..... well just because.
Things move along nicely this time of year. We are well into the groove. It is nice to come to work and jump into a routine. My body functions without conscious thought. I’m like a puppet at the end of several strings. Routine pulls the strings and I move. Soon this day to day routine will be indigestible. I'll be living on Pepto Bismal. By summer we will be ready for something different. We pass our time in Space Center seasons.
We had a network hick up on Thursday. This happens every time I think how lucky I am the Voyager has been glitch free. It is like the simulator can sense my feelings. Freaky isn’t it?
Back to the point..... It was Thursday. I was in a hurry because I had enough on my plate to choke a crocodile. I walked to school and nearly slipped on a skiff of ice. I was saved because of the wild flapping of my arms. I’m sure it looked comical to the innocent bystander but I saw my life flash before my eyes and swore I heard the sound of long deceased grandmother laughing. She enjoyed seeing people succumb to comical injuries. A second later my frame stabilized and I was firm on two feet. I didn't go down. The adrenaline not used in my hyper arm flapping surged through my veins causing my heart to continue the stomping in my chest. I adjusted my side bag, straightened my coat and replaced my near death facial expression with one that told anyone watching that I meant to look that foolish.
I got to school and went straight to the Voyager to crank her into life. I started the computers. Everything seemed normal. I remembered wondering how long it had been since the Voyager had a temper tantrum. That brief thought was all it took. Suddenly the network slowed to an intolerable ably speed. Everything electronic was in slow motion. I tried flapping my arms wildly about. It worked earlier in the morning to save me from disaster but didn't work in this situation. The Voyager wasn't bothered. We had a school coming in 90 minutes so I had to do something. Its called having the buck stop at your desk when you would prefer it found a nesting place somewhere else.
I put on my moth eaten thinking cap and went into problem solving mode. The computers all started correctly. Suddenly everything was wrong. What would cause that?
I remember my computer geek high school programmers taught me to look up at the switcher to see if the lights were blinking. They were, in various shades of amber but I couldn’t make out the code. Did the flashing mean something? Perhaps a close, more sophisticated 21st century cousin of Morse Code? Soon I found myself lost in the symphony of light and rhythm. Minutes passed yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the intricate patterns. I was being pulled into the Matrix. “Get Hold of yourself man!” I remember hearing myself shout. Suddenly I was back in the land of the living. My lightheadedness compelled me to take a chair for support. I was never going to do that again. The switcher, like the sun, is something not to be stared at.
I moved to the Voyager’s Bridge and paused. “Talk to me girl,” I whispered. I put my hands on the Damage Control desk and waited. I’m convinced inanimate objects can pass messages to the living if you are properly tuned and in a submissive state. I wiped my mind of all thoughts (which is very easy to do the older I get). I stood motionless..... waiting for something....... anything....... please....... wait, movement. I felt something shift - false alarm. I’d eaten a couple bowls of chili the night before. That movement could be ignored. It was too nebulous.
I heard something else, very faint. It WAS my trans dimensional grandmother laughing from some other plane of existence. Of course enjoying my misery without the slightest helpful prompting. She wouldn't be any good at a computer problem anyway. She had trouble with letter openers, and we won't even talk about manual transmissions!
The Voyager wasn’t in the mood to participate in this poor attempt at a Vulcan Mind Meld. I was left with one option. You know the “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” option. I positioned myself next to Sensors and rose my foot. A swift kick in the chops should get results. Then it came to me. Bad Network....Slow Network.....could mean excessive traffic. The sun rose on my problem. The dark night was fading into memory. A light from beyond descended on the Right Wing Power Station. "Thanks Grandma," I said to the ceiling. I knew the old gal would find someone over 'there' to help me in the end. I walked toward the light. There was the problem! The wire from the keyboard into the computer was frayed just at the point of entry into the keyboard. This had happened before. I jumped into action, rushed into the Briefing Room, fetched another keyboard, swapped them and restarted the ship. Beautiful was the only word to describe the moment when all computers flashed in unison. I leaned back in my control chair smoking a pen and sipping my Diet Coke. The planets were in alignment. The glitch in the Matrix was resolved.
Protesters in Space
I’m sorry. I did it again didn’t I? I was going to tell you a quick story about protesters in space and got side tracked on a something else. What I meant to say in the epistle above was this, “I had a computer network problem in the Voyager, discovered it was a faulty wire from a keyboard, replaced it and all was well.” There told. Now I’ll move on.
A few weeks ago I was telling Intolerance in the Voyager. You know the plot; they encounter an escaped slave running for freedom. They bring him into the ship. His owner arrives through a wormhole in space. He demands the Voyager return the slave. The Voyager refuses. They fight. The Voyager is seriously damaged and runs (why do my stories all have the Voyager losing their first battles but winning in the end?). They run into a nebula cloud to hide.
This particular mission had one of the best Sensors / Scanner officers in recent memory. He was sharp and did his job with precision. His reading was clear and enunciated. He kept up with the Scanning papers - which is very unusual. He was a joy to work with.
We reached the point in the story where the Pennou moves into the cloud to finish them off. I pushed the ‘forward’ button on my computer to advanced the Sensors screen to the next scene. The text on the screen read: “There are protostars in this area........”. Protostars are newly forming stars which are fusing hydrogen atoms into helium to produce light and heat (now you can say you learned something from this article). If the Captain was worth his pay he’d realize a protostar could be an excellent place to hide, as long as you had full shields.
This young fifth grade sensors officer started reading. I held my microphone ready to say my next part as Tex, the overly obnoxious engineer know it all.
“Captain, there are protesters in this area......!” He stopped in mid sentence. I stopped and turned toward the camera. “Protesters?” I thought. He didn't read the word right. I expected him to reread the sentence so we could move on. He didn’t.
“What the heck!” he said loudly. He turned to find the captain. “Captain,” he shouted. The Captain walked over. “There are protesters here. What the heck are they doing here?” he said looking truly perplexed.
In my mind’s eye I could see what he was seeing. A large group of people carrying signs reading “Down with Slavery” or “Pennou Go Home” or “Citizens for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pennae” and “Pennou Stink” floating in a large colorful nebula cloud shouting rude and abusive obscenities at the Pennou. I started to laugh. The Bridge Staff Officer bent over and corrected the boy’s error. It didn’t make a difference. He didn’t know what a protostar was anyway. I thought protesters were more interesting than a protostar any day.
Well Troops, a couple stories for you. We have more news coming on the new Galileo soon.
Cedar Ridge Elementary
Total Field Trip Attendance: 346 students
Total Overnight Camp Attendance: 45 students
Private Mission Attendance: 158 students
Total Number of Mission Run this Week: 57
Total Weekly Attendance: 504 students.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Voyager Alpha Club News:
On Saturday January 17th the Voyager Alpha Club has a Mission in the Voyager Simulator scheduled at 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM. This mission is open to current Alpha Team members only. Mr. Herring will be the Flight Director and will have the Rank Advancement cards to hand out to those that have paid for them. The Alpha club has earned this mission by incredible participation in and discipline during club meetings. Alpha Club members please RSVP by sending an email to Mr. Williamson (firstname.lastname@example.org). There is not charge for this club mission.
Voyager Alpha and Beta Club News:
Next Club Meeting
Thursday February 12th will be the next meeting of the Alpha and Beta Voyager Clubs. Meeting times will be announced later (the clubs may have a joint meeting). The topic of discussion will be the New Galileo, Mark VI shuttle. We will have the students from BYU that are building the new Galileo as guest speakers and the Odyssey Flight Directors will be telling us about their new upcoming summer mission!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Thank you so much for a wonderful experience at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center. Our students enjoyed the Space Center so much they wanted to go back the next day. When I asked the entire group to rate their experience with a thumbs up for "gas tank" full or thumbs down for "gas tank" empty, every student except one had their thumbs straight up. Many of the students were jumping up and down, holding their hands across their mouths as if to control the shouts of joy. I even had one student say that the experience, "changed my life". Wondering why one of the students had his hand at "half full", I ask him if there was anything wrong. He told me he got a little sick on the bus ride and didn't feel very well the rest of the field trip.
I enjoyed accompanying the students on this field trip. I was so curious to see how the students would do and what they would think about the experience. I had a great time watching the students in action and in their individual roles. It was a treat to see them all engaged in a 'mission' and figuring out how to work together 'for real'. However, the biggest treat was to see how excited they were on the bus home. I thought they would be exhausted! However, the bus was buzzing with excitement about their mission, position on the ship, what decisions they had to make, and what they think they will do next time.
As educators, we usually don't hear what the students say when they go home. Therefore, I wanted to take a minute to let you all know that what you do is phenomenal. The Space Education Center may be quite routine for you and your staff, however the students who visited on Dec 4 discovered a new world of opportunities. Thank you!
Thanks for all you do!
Monday, January 12, 2009
I walk to school.
The sidewalk is covered with snow.
I see something at my feet.
Cheerios. Dozens of Cheerios.
I look up.
A church building on my left.
I smile and walk on.
Mr. Williamson (It happened this morning. I'm still smiling)
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Several of you asked me to continue the story I started in December. So, here is the third installment. Please read the first two chapters before this one if you haven't already. This story continues this school year's story "The Children of Perikoi". Let me know what you think. I'll keep writing if the interest is there. Just remember, I don't have time to really polish these installments so you take them the way they are - mistakes and all. Also, Blopspot will not let me indent the paragraphs so just imagine the paragraphs indented. You get the picture.
“Please come in and sit down,” Admiral Meredith said as he led his command officers into the McAuliffe Station’s Briefing Room. Admiral Mark Daymont of the Magellan Station was waiting in the room studying the holographs on the wall. He was home for the holidays. Behind Admiral Meredith were the Captains of the USS Lexington and USS Omar Bradley. Captain Brady Young of the Voyager walked into the room with Admiral Williamson. The last to enter were the Captains of station's training ships; Megan Warner of the Phoenix, Emily Perry of the Odyssey and Stacy Carol of the Galileo. They each found a seat at the large rectangular table in the center of the room.
The Briefing Room of the station was located directly off the Command Deck. Along one wall were holographic pictures of military ships dating back 500 years. Large windows occupied the entire opposite wall. The vivid blue and white of Earth filled the first three windows. The other two showed the stark blackness of space dotted with glimmering diamond stars.
“Lights half,” Meredith said. The lights in the room dimmed to half brightness automatically.
“Thank you all for coming. You all realize the situation. Farpoint Station was attacked. A surprise attack. News is coming in on the military net but very spotty at best. This is what we know if you discount the rumors. Multiple alien ships arrived through wormholes. The station had no warning. The radio traffic was full of battle updates and then suddenly went silent. We must assume the station is destroyed.”
Meredith pushed a button on the computer screen embedded into the table’s surface near his chair. A holographic view ring rose from the table top to a height of three inches. Hundreds of pinpoint lights appeared, emitting millions of colors around the circle. A ring of color rose slowly to the ceiling. A moment later the color condensed into a sharply focused picture of one of the attacking ships.
“This is a picture of what is believed to be the command ship. Now compare this ship to the one I’m about to bring up,” Meredith pushed another button on the table top screen. The color’s changed bringing another ship into view.
“This is a picture sent to us by your ship Captain Young. Do you recognize it?” Meredith turned to Brady Young of the Voyager.
“I do. It is the alien ship we engaged at Perikoi,” Brady responded.
“Yes it is,” the Admiral said. “I’ve reread the report you filed. We all know the general story. Perikoi is a planet inhabited by a primitive race of humanoids. The gods they worship are really alien life forms pretending to be gods. These ‘gods’ visit the planet every twelve years and kidnap hundreds if not thousands of children. These children are turned into slaves. You and the gods had a run in. The USS Copernicus was lost. You barely escaped with your lives. And if I’m not mistaken, the large alien ship was destroyed when the Copernicus exploded. Is there anything else to add?” Meredith looked at Brady. There was a pause while Brady reviewed all the omitted facts.
“No Sir,” Brady responded. “You covered it very well.”
“Their weapons were superior?”
“Yes Sir, very much so. We escaped because of the sacrifice of the Copernicus.”
“Thank you,” Meredith ended the conversation and turned to the company assembled. “You’ll see from this hologram that the ship destroyed at Perikoi is the same design and size as the ship that led the attack at Farpoint. They have superior weapons. They can travel through wormholes. A science we are decades from achieving. We haven’t a clue how this is done or where they could possibly get the power to make it possible. Of course you realize the danger to the Federation. An attack could come without warning. That is why this station, along with all other stations, are at red alert.”
Meredith rose from his seat, turned and walked toward the windows. His hands were clasped behind his back. Worry was etched across his face as he looked down at the beautifully peaceful planet rotating below him. "What did you unleash upon us at Perikoi?" he asked as he glanced at Captain Brady Young from the corner of his eye. He held his hand up to silence a response.
“Lights full,” he said softly. The room brightened. He returned to his seat and looked at each member of his staff. “I’m not a politician so I won’t comment on the justification of the attack although I'm sure you can understand their point of view. We were in their space. We interfered in their governing of Perikoi and we destroyed one of their ships. They see this as just retribution which makes the fighting very personal. I don't fault your actions Captain Young. You were defending your ship. I only wish the outcome would have been less severe.”
Meredith rose from his seat. “We must be ready for war. A war that will, in an instant, turn day to night. Our lives may never be the same. We are going to institute the following actions, first.....”
An alarm sounded from the wall speaker bringing the station to battle readiness and stopping the Admiral in mid sentence. Meredith's heart raced with a sudden injection of adrenalin. He touched his comm badge. “Command,” he said to the automatic switchboard in the most unsteady voice anyone present in the room had ever heard from his lips.
“Command,” a small voice was heard.
“This is Meredith. Why the battle alarm?”
“We are picking up odd energy patterns in multiple places around Earth,” the voice answered.
“Wormholes?” Meredith asked. He knew the answer before he asked the question.
“Thank you,” Meredith said touching the badge to close the link. He closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them. There was despair in the lines time had drawn on his face.
“My God,” he said looking into the faces of those present. “Our fleet is still hours away. They attacked Farpoint to learn about our defenses. They know our weaknesses. They have come to strike a decisive blow.”
For a moment time seemed to stand still. Every eye was on the Admiral. Every ear waited for his orders. He ran his hands through his gray hair and then down his face, under his chin, stopping around his neck. He looked out the windows. “It has begun. Day turns to night,” he said.
Every eye in the room turned toward the view before them. Dozens of pinwheel lights were forming. Some closer to the station. Others far away.
“Something is coming toward us,” Stacy shouted as she jumped to her feet and pointed to several lengthening lines of glowing orange plasma exiting the nearest wormholes. Soon every wormhole in view was shedding the same orange arcing light trails. Each line trailed what appeared to be a missile. Several were streaking toward the station.
“Full Shields!” Meredith shouted into his comm badge. The station’s shield generators came on line instantaneously. A wall of metal slowly descended over the windows hiding their fate. “Gibbons and Andrews to your ships and launch at once, defend the station. Go Go,” he said to the captain’s of the Lexington and Omar Bradly. They were up and out of their seats before he finished the sentence. “Williamson, get your cadets into the Voyager. We can’t use the transporters with full shields. Perry and Carroll take your ships into the Voyager’s shuttle bay. Warner you will prepare to launch the Phoenix. Brady prepare the Voyager for launch. If I’m right this is going to be another Pearl Harbor. One more ship won’t make a difference. I’m thinking of the safety of the cadets. The Station is lost. Launch and warp to the Magellan Station. Take Admiral Daymont with you. Move!” he shouted. Everyone ran from the room leaving Admiral Meredith alone, a commander at the wheel of a floundering ship. The party crossed the Command Deck and into the turbolifts.
“Deck 12,” Williamson said as the turbolift doors closed. The lift began moving. Williamson tapped his comm badge. “Command Training,” Williamson said.
“Clegg here,” came the worried voice of Commander Aleta Clegg.
“We are on our way to you. Where is Lorraine,” Williamson asked.
“She and Shelia are helping the cadets get packed,” Aleta said. “This is getting bad isn’t it.”
The sound of the station’s weapons could be heard over the humming of the lift. “Yes,” Williamson said. “Get the cadets to the Voyager at once. They take only what they can carry. No more packing. Hurry.... we are under attack.”
“Yes Sir,” Aleta said. "Will you be joining th........"
There was an explosion. The station was hit near the Command Deck. It sounded like the outer hull of the station was being twisted and folded into a new shape. The lift shook violently and stopped. The lights failed momentarily.
“Come on Come on,” Brady shouted as he pounded the wall. He felt moisture near his mouth. Reached up he felt blood running from his nose. “We've got to get launched," he said looking for something to stop the flow.
“What happened to the shields?” Emily asked picking herself up off the floor. “They couldn’t fail so quickly.” There was another explosion. The sound was further away. The lift rocked again. Whatever was holding it in place was dislodged. It resumed its course. The deck numbers changed. The lift seemed to be running slower.
The screen above their heads flashed ‘12’. The lift doors partially opened. Smoke streamed in from the ceiling of the deck. Williamson and Brady moved toward the blocked doors. Each took a door and pulled. The doors parted with a grind. The deck ahead was littered with debris. The lights seemed unsure whether to stay on or off. Sparks from exposed wires flashed up and down the corridor like fireworks on the fourth of July.
“Go Go Go,” Brady shouted. Everyone ran from the lift coughing from the fumes. Another massive explosion rocked the station. The floor fell six inches beneath them. They struggled to regain their footing. They had to get to the Voyager. Hopefully the cadets would be there. The station was out of time.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Crime: Wanted for questioning for the murder of several poodles in the Hamilton section of the city. Reportedly the number one hit cat of the Felino Syndicate in Chicago.
Warning: Cuddly, cute, adorable - Murderer. Approach with extreme caution.
Reward: $200 for the successful capture - alive. This reward is offered by Miss Marple after discovering her poodle “Princess” was brutally gunned down in the back garden while being a ‘good girl’. Her expensive rhinestone collar was missing.
Contact: The Canine Protection League. 605-555-BARK. Your identity will be protected.
(Forgive Me.....One More. I Couldn't Resist. You're thinking "What do these posts have to do with the Space Center." Well, I'm just getting my Imaginary Workout and taking you along on the run. Join me. WRITE. THINK. DREAM. IMAGINE. Mr. Williamson.)
Friday, January 9, 2009
Rudolf didn't have a chance.
Santa escaped without injury but had to violently change course.
Over 35,000 Anchorage children had no Christmas
(Sorry, but another imagination seizure on my part...... Mr. Williamson)
P.S. You Irish better be ready. Santa let her down and St. Patrick's Day is next. Sara feels she is owed a favor. Guard your leprechauns. She is locked and loaded and has a flight booked to Dublin.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
We are going to pause a moment and celebrate The Savior of Lehi, our very own Sheila Powell, Teacher Extraordinary at the Space Center. While many in this small Utah town were buried under 90 inches of snow, huddling around their fires and praying for deliverance, Sheila took matters into her own hands. Realizing she would be facing Winter’s frigid wrath, Sheila layered herself in warm clothing and moved toward her front door only to discover it was blocked by several feet of snow. Winter had entombed her and was in no mood to entertain an early release. What old man winter didn’t know was Sheila’s stage name - Sheila ‘Houdini’ Powell. There isn’t a cage built that can hold Sheila Powell.
Sheila opened a second story window, braced herself in the windowsill and jumped. It was a belly flop into the powdery snow below. The force of impact left her four feet below the snow's surface. She fought and clawed her way to toward the light.
Her sun glasses surfaced first followed by a hand and then a knitted cap. A minute later a nose emerged searching for oxygen. With snow shoes in place she eventually surfaced like a submarine jumping free of the ocean.
Wind propelled ice darts swarmed around her and yet she continued toward her tractor. Darkness descended like death and yet she continued. Neighbors, watching from their windows, shouted at her to turn back - yet she continued. Soon word of Sheila’s act of heroism spread by telephone. Lehi’s phone exchange was overwhelmed. KSL’s news helicopter braved the storm and moved into place above her home to capture this epic struggle. Thousands watched. Candles were lit and prayers said in churches statewide. A local Las Vegas television station picked up the news feed. Soon every casino’s large screen televisions were tuned to the Sheila Channel. Bet’s were taken. The odds were against her.
“Forward girl Forward,” Sheila said to herself as she moved ahead one foot at a time. Her garage loomed before her - a large dark wall in the distance. She felt the cold penetrating the layers of her clothing. “My shields are down,” she shouted when she realized biting cold had broken through her defenses. Her fingers and toes screamed under the barrage. Then she stopped. The nation’s heart stopped with her. Everyone moved closer to their televisions.
“Mommy is she going to die,” Little Susie Walker said from her warm home in Little Rock Arkansas.
“I don’t know dear,” her mother replied, voicing what parents were saying to their children from coast to coast.
Sheila looked up into the spot light from the news helicopter. “This is it,” she thought. “Death is here. I see the light,” She remembered a sermon from a tent revival she attend as a little girl. She remember the preacher stomping back and forth on the stage, his arms in constant motion as he waved his Bible between heaven and the congregation. She remember him saying that when it was your time Jesus would send a light to show you the way home.
She moved toward the light. "If you want me Jesus I'm yours but not at Winter's hand!” she shouted into the wind. She reached out in prayerful supplication and thump! She hit the wall of her garage. Suddenly Sheila's senses were restored. She had reached the berth of her friend and tractor - Hercules. Her Olympic goal was in reach. “Thank you Jesus,” she said. She tried to open the garage door. It seemed frozen shut. “Lord, one more small favor. I’ll need your help with this door and then I won't bother you again."
The ice holding the door in place cracked and gave way. The garage door swung open. "Thank you," Sheila whispered. She slammed the door behind her to hold back the cold wind. She disappeared from the camera. The world watched and waited. Some used the time for a quick trip to the bathroom and kitchen.
Suddenly the large garage door pulled upward. The roar of an engine was heard moving through the howling wind. Out burst Sheila on her tractor named ‘Hercules’. She looked like a bundled cowboy on a very unhappy bull. The blade was down and in position. Smoke poured from the exhaust pipe. She surged forward at maximum warp. The tractor’s blade slammed into the snow bank. The power of the collision nearly sent Sheila over the steering wheel and into the maelstrom. She retreated. Once back in the garage she firmly belted herself into the seat and reached under the seat to find her mouth guard. She spent a fortune on her chompers and wasn't going to risk them getting damaged. She took a moment to regain her wits. She looked into Winter's wrath billowing in front of her. It was beautiful in its own way like the Siren's song but she wouldn't be deterred. She powered up the engine and slowly took her foot off the clutch. Again she attacked. The blade dug into the white wall. It budged! Almost imperceptibly but it did move.
Winter's dam was breached. The snow was in retreat. Sheila had done it. She conquered the storm of the century.
Friends, Sheila is an example of the kind of people we have working at the Space Center. And you thought we were all just average Joes. Shame on you.
Your penance is one snow angel.
Now take a minute and book one mission in your favorite simulator. Have a nice day and may the road rise up to meet you.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I've been going back recently to the previous posts we've had on the goals, vision, or finding a mantra for the Space Center. In doing so I was reminded of a conversation with Victor Williamson from a long time ago, which has stuck with me all this time. This was from the early days, when the Space Center was really just the Voyager and the classroom (which now has 2 simulators in it!). It was a time when Vic, Bill Schuler, Dave Wall and I used to get together for brainstorming sessions.
Sometimes Vic would refer to his original ideas for the Space Center's development, and one time he made a profound statement about the real, true purpose of why he built the Space Center and what he hoped it would do. Besides the obvious benefit of inspiring kids to learn about space, science, and mathematics, there was a higher, more subliminal goal: he wanted kids to become space- enthusiast voters!
There's been a saying around NASA ever since its early days: No Bucks, No Buck Rogers. Which means to say, that without the funding, there would be no space program and no astronaut heroes. Vic's idea, which I totally supported, was that we wanted kids to retain their enthusiasm for space exploration even up to their adulthood, when they would become voters who would elect officials friendly to the space program. These days, that vision of Vic's has become even more vital. Because today, there is a war being waged over the relatively little funding that is set aside for space exploration. It can only be won on the political battlefield through the efforts of
participating, and voting, space supporters.
Over a series of posts I want to help all of you understand this battle, how it affects the Space Center, and how you can play a part. Although many of you are not voters yet, this is not going to be a short struggle and you will have your chance to be heard!
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
(Sent to me by email. Great lesson to be learned Thank you. Mr. Williamson)
Mr. Kyle Herring was walking with me down the corridor. A class marched by following one of our new teachers. They appeared to be seven years old judging by their size. Their faces were expressionless as they marched in a straight line noses forward. We stopped and watched. One young boy glanced in my direction. I looked back at him wondering what had caught his eye. He smiled! What would cause such a reaction in a small human so well trained?
Time in the White Room was the punishment for not having your nose forward. The White Room was rumored to be the place where children’s souls and spirits were bleached. Once all color was exorcised the child was returned to class - nose forward. Mind you, I’ve not see this room but know of it from stories passed around in hushed tones in the lunchroom.
They say that undisciplined children are taken downstairs into the White Room and given a series of state approved books. They are held in the White Room until all books are read and exams passed. Electronic shocks are administered if your reading pace slackens or you mispronounce words. Your voice must show enthusiasm while reading. The state knows what every student should read; government approved stale sanitized material which can be tested in standardized form . These books contain political correct stories populated by cardboard characters in controlled situations.
Concerned for this smiling child’s future, I directed him to return his gaze back to the back of Susie’s head. He responded just before the hallway cameras turned in his direction. It was close call.
“I wonder what made him look and smile at me,” I asked.
“Maybe it was your tie,” Kyle answered. I glanced down. I was wearing my Marvin the Martian tie.
“No Wonder,” I muttered. The state censors banned Marvin the Martian because he uses a ray gun to shoot rabbits. Marvin’s character was doubted because he wore a green plastic skirt. What kind of astronaut, human or alien, would wear a green plastic skirt? The latest theory said that children, seeing a Marvin the Martian cartoon, could experience creative thought which would spiral into antisocial behavior. This thinking might encourage children to seek out firearms and shoot rabbits.
“Remind me not to wear this tie again,” I said as we continued to walk toward the outer door. Just as we passed the west corridor I heard a commotion. I looked down the hall and saw a teacher reaching out for a another small boy. He was wearing red, already an indicator of possible communist influences. I believe he was being taken to the White Room to begin a long series of correction interventions. I discovered later he was being punished for stating an unapproved opinion in class.
This boy in red broke free. H e began running in my direction. “You Won’t Take Me Alive!” He shouted as his pace increased. What was I to do? No one escapes our institutions. Our new schools are escape proof, complete with security alarms at every door and the constant patrolling of the Literacy Gestapo slithering around the halls with clip boards in hand listening in teacher’s doorways for independent thoughts and lessons not mandated by the state curriculum for that date and time.
Did this little six year old think he had a chance? The boy ran past us in a race for the outside door. I turned toward the teacher. “Grab Him,” she shouted. I heard the sound of a dropped clip board further up the hall. The gestapo had been alerted. I had to act. I went after the boy. He was at freedom’s doorstep. His hands were on the crash bar. The door flew open. He could smell the fresh air and feel the light from the sun. He tasted freedom and it wasn’t from a book - It was real. He was George Washington. He was the slave freed from his master. It was real and I could see the determination in his face not to let it go.
My arms wrapped around the boy just before he jumped down the steps to the open road. He screamed and thrashed about. I pulled him away from the light and back into the long cold brick corridor. The open door closed behind me. The teacher took the boy from me. He was rushed away before his screams disturbed the other children.
What has happened to the spirit of a free education? Do we still have freedom from oppression. Do we still have freedom of thought? May we learn from gifted teachers who use imagination and creativity to make their lessons come alive? Are there still teachers who mold their curriculum to meet the needs of the class as well as the needs of the state?
I stepped outside, flashed my pass toward the guard tower, got the nod to proceed and drove away. I thought how lucky we were to have our Space Center, a little island of imagination in a dark sea.
Schools nationwide are struggling with national legislation titled “No Child Left Behind”. Schools are modifying their curriculum to match the national tests. This is forcing teachers to teach to those tests. There seems to be a one size fits all approach in teaching methods and style.
I was thinking about how education has changed since I started teaching 25 years ago. Then I remembered an event that happened to me at school. A young boy tried to escape. I stopped him. That was the source of the story you just read. Writing this highly exaggerated account gave me a chance to drive home a point. Some (not all) of the changes made in education over the last several years should be reconsidered - especially now because of a new administration coming to power.
What I’ve written is my opinion. It may not be yours. That is the glory of our way of life. Freedom of expression!