Saturday, March 14, 2009
There is something mysterious about a closed door. What lies beyond is the wooden barrier's secret?
Perhaps a new discovery.
Perhaps a hidden danger.
Perhaps an adventure never taken.
Or a story sad in its telling.
Starting a new mission at the Space Center is like approaching a mysteriously closed door. I stand in the portal and hear children's voices on the other side. My adventure is about to begin. I pause for a moment and wonder. How might this telling be different than the others? What challenges will this mission offer? It is unknown and hence - the mystery.
My pause at the door is too long. The voices sound impatient. I gather my wits, take a deep breath and reach for the handle. With fingers crossed for a smooth journey I turn the handle until I feel the door give way. The voices grow louder. I clear my throat and step through.........
"Hello Troops, Welcome to the Space Center. My name is Mr. Williamson. I'll be your Flight Director. Let's Go!"
Monday, March 9, 2009
Emboldened by their success in declaring Pluto not a planet, the International Astronomical Union determined this week by a close vote that February is too short to be considered a true month. It has, however, been granted the newly created status of “dwarf month.” It shares this dubious distinction with several other calendar time spans, including Labor Day Weekend, Christmas Vacation, and the Time Between When You Were Supposed to Get Your Oil Changed and When You Actually Did.
“It only seems fair,” said IAU President Ron Eckers. “February reaches a peak size of 29 days, averaging only 28 days for 75 percent of the time. Recent research has shown that other periods, such as the Time Between When You Were Supposed to Get Your Oil Changed and When You Actually Did, often exceed this meager time frame. In fact, this erratic behavior only strengthens our case that February does not belong in the same classification as the eleven ‘true’ months.”
Eckers also warned that the crop of 30-day “so-called” months should be careful to maintain their number of days. “They’re already cutting it pretty close in my book.”
by Michael Haber
Early April Fool's!
From Aleta Clegg
Space Center Educator
All personnel will now be required to look happy while working. Space Center approved supplies will be provided to each employee at little or no cost.
- Workloads getting to you?
- Feeling stressed?
- Too many priorities and assignments?
Each staff member will be supplied 2 paper clips and rubber bands. (See Fig 1.)
Assemble items as shown in Fig 2.
Apply as shown in Fig 3.
Enjoy your day. This happiness device will help you to reach the end of a mission with a smile on your face!
(I already have mine and it works very well. The 3:30 P.M. staff and volunteers gave me an odd look but other than that I carried the smile all mission long and all without any effort on the part of my face muscles).
Thanks to Debbie Wallis for this Post.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Thank you for the feedback received from previous posts. I understand from the emails that many of you enjoy the stories of day to day operations at the Center. Well, you asked for it and here they are again - last week's interesting stories from my perspective.
A Day off of School (For Most)
There are many happy children out there in the Alpine School District today. They get Monday off from school. While they sleep, the foot soldiers in the Teacher’s Army will be in the classroom brushing up on our teaching skills and supposedly learning new techniques to take the world’s knowledge and force it into the locked brains of the children in our care.
Teaching is a lot like trying to feed a baby his mushed carrots. You begin by putting junior into the high chair. Straps are attached to his waist, legs and arms to ‘prevent him from falling’. Yea right, prevent him from falling......... Don’t we all know what the straps are really for? Think about it, ever since man learned to lie we’ve created tools of pain to discover the truth. Every truth gathering device involved a series of restraints to keep your victim from escaping while you carried out your nervous system 'stimulations'.
The high chair is very similar to ancient torture devices. We strap the baby in and begin the programmed course of torture for that day - the ingestion of matter into the child’s mouth for the sole purpose of getting him to swallow it. The child may sit calmly watching mother looking for something in the cupboard. He knows the cupboard is where the good food is kept for the family. He also knows something else comes from the cupboard.
Think about the difference between Chinese water torture and disemboweling. If mother appears with the apple sauce then the chair is tolerable. A death sentence is spared. If the mushed carrots are produced then in goes the knife and junior's bowels spill out.
I compare teaching with pulling out the mushed carrots. First the child’s eyes grow large, not understanding what he did to deserve this fate. He'd plead for his life if he could speak, but because he can’t, his only course of action is a soul shattering scream. Of course mother and teacher know that 'knowledge / mushed carrots' is good for the child and no amount of screaming, kicking and spitting will deter us from our responsiblity to deliver.
Each day we fight the good battle. Mother pries the spoon between baby’s clenched teeth and attempts to force a swallow before baby spews the orange substance back onto his face, her face and the waiting spoon. Mother learns to be gifted with the spoon. In the mouth it goes and then it is pulled out and placed strategically in front of the mouth to capture the excreted mush. Then with a swirl of the wrist combined with two wipes, she has captured it all back onto the spoon and pushes it right back into baby’s mouth.
I stand in front of my math class and do everything I can to get the learning into their clenched brains. Arm swirls, voice inflection and copious amounts of colored equations on the white board combined with doses of sugar are sometimes useful to make the students forget they're learning. It works for the most part and when it doesn’t, I position myself to capture the spray of pre digested confusion hurled in my direction. I take the confusion and questions, perform a few wrist swirls with a marker on the white board, chant a few magical incantations and transform the confusion into order. Then I shoot it back to the students in an attempt to get it into their heads.
It is a never ending battle. Some days I win and some days I loose. Lately I feel like I’m loosing. I’ve gone from mushed carrots to partially digested, stewed liver (equations with variables on both sides). Every day last week I’d have to leave math early to change my shirt before starting my field trip space mission. My shirt would be covered with the most disgusting brown, nose curdling, fibrous meaty substance an upset child’s mind could produce and spew out half way across a classroom. I’ll make another attempt to scale the fortress’s walls this Tuesday when the children return from the three day weekend. I’ll wear an apron to save on washing. I'm determined they're going to understand variables on both sides. I will not surrender. Nuts.......
(for those that understand their World War II history).
His Unforgettable Face
Yesterday was another Super Saturday. Twenty two children attended the five hour program. Now remember, I see around 500 children a week, so by week’s end I find it difficult to distinguish one child from another. The children all start looking alike to me. There are noses, eyes, ears, and mouths. The mouths are permanently in the open position producing sound. Only when a child’s face strays radically away from the norm do I notice. That happened on Saturday.
One boy walked up to my table with rank paper in hand. He held it out for my inspection. I looked up and saw eyes, ears, a nose and then something out of the ordinary. I saw a closed mouth. This mouth was widely deformed when compared to the other children’s. This closed mouth’s ends were drooping downward in what struck me as a very noticeable frown! I said something funny to see if my humor would act like a hydraulic lift and move the two ends upward into something normal for a Space Center attendee. I don’t remember what I said but whatever it was fell flat right in front of me on the table. My best material couldn’t even raise a smile. I knew this boy was going to be a real kill joy no matter what ship I put him in.
I glanced over at Christine and Brittney, the two flight directors assigned to the Super Saturday, and wondered who had upset me recently and needed a bit of pay back. Neither saw me looking in their direction. Neither saw the gleam in my eye. Dispensing real challenges to unsuspecting Flight Directors makes running the Space Center a real joy. I thought for another moment and decided to let fate make the decision. I handed the boy back his rank paper and asked him to sit on the gym steps. He obeyed and found a corner to darken near the Utah flag. I wondered if the citizens of Utah understood why the sun over Utah suddenly dimmed at that moment. I read that many took it to be an unannounced partial eclipse. Others passed if off as a very large cloud. Still others removed their glasses and reached for a wipe.
The Super Saturday started. All children were present and accounted for. I got up and positioned myself in front of the crowd. I took in a breath and blew my whistle to get their attention. Once it was quiet I started my monologue. I started with the joke on the school’s restrooms. My audience laughed, except for that boy. His stoic nature unnerved me. My voice began to quiver. I growing unsure of my material. OK, time for the heavy guns........ I rearranged my welcoming speech and moved the vomit segment right up into second place. With another deep breath I started, moving from being sick to describing the act of exploding all over everyone and then took the discussion right into the Happy Bucket. Yes, yes, the normal laughter was there from everyone except HIM. He looked bored. He looked at me like I was some poor pathetic middle aged, slightly off my prime weight, partly balding, white socked looser.
I was done. I rushed through the rest of the speech and divided them into their ships and dismissed them to their fate. I stood near the table as they filed out the gym door. I watched my nemesis as he shuffled out. I waited for him to look in my direction so I could turn away and show him what a real cold shoulder looked like. HE DIDN’T EVEN GIVE ME THAT PLEASURE. He stared ahead and walked like a man on the path to his executioner.
The rest of the day passed. It was time to send them home. I had their new Rank Papers ready on the table. The missions ended and the children came to get their papers and return to reality. I saw the boy. I was surprised he made it to the end of the camp. He picked up his paper, looked up and saw me. Ah Ha! I had my chance. I turned away and dipped my left shoulder in his direction. “Take That,” I thought. Well, he took it just fine and moved right in front of my face. I looked down and straighten my back. His lips were parting. He was going to speak.
“That was the best thing I’ve ever done. Thank you,” he said. The words were spoken without a smile but with feeling.
“Did you have fun?” I questioned as I reached for the table to steady myself from the shock. He nodded his head and then, for a brief moment, I saw what I was after the whole camp. The left corner of his mouth rose by a fraction of a millimeter. “YES, YES, YES, YES,” my brain screamed. What was once an emotionless Vulcan child turned out to be a less emotionless Vulcan child. Chalk up another victory for the Space Center and its awesome staff.
BJ Warner and Electrons. Alike yet Different
We were seriously short handed on Thursday’s Daytime Field Trip. Metta and Megan were out of state doing something with the Air Force and Saint Sheila of Lehi was in Salt Lake City rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful - and that included the Ambassador of South Africa. Saint Sheila was wined and dined. Afterwards there were serious, under the table, political deals agreed upon completely without the approval our current Secretary of State.
I was left behind in Pleasant Grove scrambling to fill positions at Star Fleet Headquarters. BJ was called in to help. He was gracious and accepted the call.
We were running Perikoi for a class of sixth graders from Westfield Elementary. It was the afternoon mission. They were doing OK but we were running out of time. Their bus was waiting and I was determined to get to the end of the story. The climax was approaching. The USS Copernicus was about to explode. The shock wave would ring outward vaporizing the alien ship and then the Voyager. If things weren't done at just the ring time between the Engineer and the two Left Wing Officers, the entire scene would fall apart.
The Copernicus was about to explode. That’s when I noticed the Engineer had put the Dilithium Crystals into the cool down positions. The Left Wing Power Officer no longer had enough power to give the warp engines the ability to go warp 9. They couldn't escape the incoming blast. I was bouncing in my seat shouting at the television monitors thinking the Engineer would hear me through the glass. Of course he didn’t. All was lost......... And then something happened........
Suddenly I saw BJ at the engineering station getting the problem corrected. I looked up and saw the shock wave approaching the ship. I looked back at the monitor and saw BJ at the Left Wing Power Station. I blinked and he had shifted his position and was hovering over the Left Wing Tactical Officer. I looked down. The power was restored. They were moving to Warp 9. I hit the special effect sound. The wave approached. The ship jumped forward at just the right time complete with matching sound. The class went bananas. BJ fell back onto the Records Station. It was over.
Still to this day I don’t know how BJ was in three places at nearly the same time!? It was physically impossible yet he did it. They say electrons have the same ability. They can pop in and out of our reality and therefore be in two places at the same time. Between you and I, I believe BJ has learned to master the power of the electrons in his own body thus making it possible for him to be in two places at the same time. If this is true, then think of the possibilities! BJ can go on his mission and work at the Space Center all at the same time. Aren’t physics wonderful?
Tough Times for Economy
I heard on the radio today that 8 out of 10 Americans are stressed because of the current economic situation. We are not immune from these tough times at the Space Center. Many of our staff and volunteer’s families are experiencing them first hand. The Center itself has seen a reduction in the number of private missions and camps booked. It is hard to send a child to camp when you may not have enough money to pay all the bills.
The point I'm making about sacrifice sprang from something I saw on a recent overnight camp. Most of the campers checking in at my table were dressed in their fine, fashionable clothes complete with trendy footwear. However, in the room of 43 sixth graders I noticed two boys wearing clothes that didn't compare to the others. It was obvious their clothes had been handed down multiple times.
The pants and T-shirts were in bad shape. You may be thinking they dressed that way for style's sake (the grudge look). Listen troops, I know that look. I've seen the jeans that have the holes for coolness sake and those clothes were not the ones on these two boys. Besides, kids that dress grudge for fashion sake still have nice shoes. These boys didn’t. They were two boys from different families that didn’t have a lot of money and yet they were at our Space Camp. I wondered what kind of sacrifice their parents made to get them there. I wondered if the boys earned the money themselves doing house hold chores. The Space Center means that much to many of our campers.
Staff and Volunteers, please remember the sacrifice many are making to come to the Space Center. Make their sacrifice meaningful by the experiences you provide. Always do your best. That is all I can expect. If you do your best then I feel confident we will always give our campers a few hours of real joy, fun, and imagination - just what the doctor ordered for tough times.
A physiologist said that in difficult economic times stress levels drop if people pull together as family and friends; therefore surviving this economic situation is a team, not an individual sport.
We all have our days when we're one trick ponies - we do our thing and that's about all we can do. We all have our days when just getting through it is like a three legged dog struggling down the street. They call it a recession and times are tough but there is always something left at the bottom of our emotional barrel to draw upon, the vapors that remind us that others depend on us. So we buck up, put the straps around each shoulder, wipe the blood from our noses and start pulling again because that is what we do. A set back or two can't stop us.
Banks may fail and jobs will be lost. Homes will be foreclosed and soup lines may form, but in our little corner of the universe we have our families, our friends and our work mates. Hold on to what matters and remember, we are all in this together.
Be there for each other.
I'll keep the lights on for you here at the Space Center ;)
Voyager Club News
Note: The Voyager Club meets monthly at the Space Center. It is open to all Space Education Center fans between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. If you attend our camps and private missions and would like to get more involved (and earn extra class hour for your rank) you are welcome to attend. Contact the Space Center for more information or just show up at one of the meetings. Club news and meeting times are announced on this blog.
Voyager Alpha and Beta Club News:
Next Club Meeting
Thursday March 12th will be the next meeting of the Alpha and Beta Voyager Clubs. Alpha Club: 4:30 - 6:00 and the Beta Club 7:00 - 8:30 PM. Please remember to wear your Space Center Tee Shirt to the meetings. The topics of discussion will be: Creating 3D Animations, Summer Camps, the New Galileo, Mark VI shuttle, Model Rockets and the solution for our Voyager Rank Card problem. (Be sure to bring your card if you have one!)
See you all soon!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
This entry covers two satellite launches from Fifty Years Ago. On February 28, 1959, the Air Force launched Discoverer I into a polar orbit on a Thor-Agena A booster from the Pacific Missile Range. Evidently there was trouble tracking the 1,450 pound satellite. Well, it was the early days, after all.
Posted by Mark Daymont.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
There is one fact of life that is as constant as the rising and setting sun. A little sugar a day keeps the blues away.
Did you know that sugar plays a vital role at the Space Education Center? It is the grease that keeps the Center's wheels turning. It keeps our volunteers and staff happy even when I'm in a disagreeable mood usually brought on by a worker's inability to follow procedures or a camper bent on pushing me over the edge by constantly operating the Transporter Controls on the Right Wing Station ( I get an annoying signal on my FD computer).
Our sugar is dispensed over a counter in the Discovery Room. The counter is filled with a variety of confectionery delights. The sugar is a reward given at the end of every mission to our volunteers and staff for a job well done ( If they work hard and eat their vegtables). There will always be sugar because we know that children love sugar. Teens love sugar. Adults love sugar. Heck, lets face it - I love sugar.
At the end of a mission you'll hear the cattle call, "Sugar!". Spain's running of the bulls doesn't compare to the scene of multitudes of staff and volunteers racing to the pharmacy to collect their favorite form of sugar, be it M and Ms, Snickers, Yorks, Hershey's etc. The youngest volunteers know to get out of the way and hug the school's walls to avoid getting knocked down by the older staff during the sugar stampede. Teachers still in the building cower in their rooms until the all clear is sounded and the dust in the hallways settle.
Its amusing to watch the staff crowd the counter taking time to select just the right taste for their mood. Watch me do my best to speed them along so we can finish the cleaning and go home. Later that night watch our custodian curse us when he finds the wrappers scattered from one end of the building to the other. Yes, its a daily ritual.
So, lets take a moment to celebrate one aspect of the Space Center that is never mentioned, yet is so important to our day to day operations - the dispensing of sugar from the Candy Rx in Discovery. Sugar we never sell, not even if tempted with real American money or that phony Canadian stuff. Our prescriptions are available because of hard work and positive attitudes, thus making our sweets more desirable than those found in any store or gas station.
A special thanks to our staff and volunteers for their hard work on behalf of the students of Utah........ and sugar, of course!
Monday, March 2, 2009
I received this email from Andrew, a camper that did a five hour Odyssey mission on Saturday. Aleta Clegg was the Flight Director. It is always good to get feedback on your performance (both good and bad). I thought I'd share this email with everyone as a public thanks to the Odyssey team for their hard work.
And Now Andrew's Email:
Ok, I just went on a 5 hour Odyssey mission today with my friends, and it was AWESOME! Tell your Odyssey staff that it was a job well done! I think Mrs. Clegg or someone was our flight director... anyway, it was a way awesome mission. We did Ghost Ship, and to tell you the truth, I never did find out what the Ghost Ship was exactly... I think our first officer somehow changed the outcome of the mission by shooting a doctor that came onboard... and those Paklids trading us that spoon that we never really used! It was way awesome. Sorry if this is sounding weird; you can probably ask Mrs. Clegg (I think that's her name) about the mission; it was way cool.
Anyway, I am just rambling now. I definitely plan to come back soon, probably in the summer! The Space Simulator is awesome!!!!
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Am I dreaming or is it really warm outside today? If I didn’t know better I’d think we were experiencing another bout of Global Warming. I’m tempted to write this post from the comfort of my deck overlooking Utah County - our little corner of the universe full of an assortment of interesting people.
Vomit and Other Tales
The week got off to a semi fluid start on Monday. I was in my Flight Director’s Chair. My Bridge speech was finished. My mission started and my Tex character was in full voice. I believe I was introducing the Left Wing Power Officer to the rest of the Bridge Crew. In mid explanation of the Left Wing Power Officer’s strange habit of screaming whenever the engine temperatures reached 90 I saw the classroom teacher spring to her feet from her chair next to the Ambassador. Something was said that got Lorraine’s attention. Lorraine’s quick sprint across the Bridge toward the Record’s Office meant someone was in trouble. Not knowing the facts I continued my introductions. I was explaining the reasons for the Engineers smile (because he was sitting so high above everyone else - you all have heard my speech a thousand times) when it dawned on me what may have happened. VOMIT. Yes, what I was witnessing had all the signs that a gastric explosion had occurred on my Bridge. My first instinct was to dive under my counter and pretend nothing had happened but after 18 years of training I’ve learned that it is impossible to wish VOMIT away. It is ever present, both eye and nose testify of it. I realized I had to either stop the mission and fetch the hazard control cart or let Lorraine and Metta deal with it while I forged ahead a full warp. Lorraine burst through the Control Room Door confirming what my senses had already told me.
“The Happy Bucket - The Happy Bucket. In the name of all that’s Holy GET THE HAPPY BUCKET!” I said in a very calm tone. Well, those present might argue the opposite but at least I said it from my chair and not on my knees while pounding the carpetted floor with both fists.
“She has a trash can,” Lorraine said. Lorraine is a wonderful mom that has an intimate knowledge of VOMIT. I’m told all mothers do. It comes with their training. After all, aren’t mothers the ones with the primary responsibility of putting food into the mouths of their children and then cleaning up what comes out? I think so, and so I was more than happy to let Lorraine deal with the situation.
“Metta, go get the custodian and let him bring his cleaning equipment,” I said while still in character as Tex.
“There isn’t much,” Lorraine said. “She caught most of it in her hands.”
Well, I thought that was a better place for ‘most if it’. Much better indeed if the alternative option would have been my carpet or my uniform.
I want to thank Lorraine and Metta for their help in taking care of our Monday morning explosion. What great help they are. I also want to thank that girl’s mother for feeding her a light breakfast ,the remains of which were very easy to clean up.
The rest of the day went well. How could it not. If you start your day with a gastric explosion of course the rest of the day must get better!
Emily Stabs my White Board
On Thursday I forwarded an email to Emily from a patron who flew on the private mission the night before. It was very complimentary - a real credit to Emily and her staff. The email ended with a few suggestions to improve the experience. Emily read the email and was ready to give me her thoughts after our field trip. Well, that discussion resulted in me making a verbal mistake. I asked Emily to list the Odyssey’s needs on the white board behind my desk so I could get them addressed by our maintenance folks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Emily move so fast. She vaulted over my desk, snatched a red marker from the white board’s tray and started a list that fills the entire left side of the board. Now every time I turn on the Briefing Room’s lights and walk to my desk I’m met by a white board that appears to have been stabbed in a duel and is hemorrhaging from an sword thrust through a major artery.
Don’t offer sympathy. I know you kind readers feel my pain but I refuse your condolences. I asked for the list and sometimes forget that what you ask for you may get. Especially from Emily! Spencer Robinson is assigned to give the Odyssey all the TLC it deserves. That will make Emily happy and that will result in me reclaiming half of my white board. We all win.
Was It a Stoke or was I Going Deaf ?
Earlier on Thursday I thought I experienced another sign of advancing age. I started the Bridge like I do every morning when I noticed I wasn’t hearing sound from half the room.
“Danger Will Robinson, Danger,” flashed through my mind. I immediately began my Stroke Awareness Training. I raised both arms - OK. I rolled my tongue - OK. I pinched myself on both arms - OK. I said the Pledge of Allegiance without slurring - OK. I ruled out a stroke.
Then it was either deafness in one ear or half the Bridge’s speakers were on the blink. I thought for a moment allowing my common sense chip to engage. Of the two remaining options I felt it was EARLY DEAFNESS! I could just see myself with one hearing aid on my right ear weighing down that side of my head causing me to forever walk with my head tilted toward the right as if always trying to listen to my right shoulder (as if it ever said anything interesting. No, if you want a good conversation talk to my left shoulder. It knows what's what).
I clicked my fingers over my left ear. Perfect hearing. I clicked my fingers over my right ear. Perfect hearing. A sense of relief flooded over me. Of course it was the Bridge speakers! Why is it always the very last thing that comes to mind ends up being the cause of the problem? Strange that...... I called Kyle. He arrived quickly and corrected the problem before the morning mission. He claimed the amp was getting old and needed a bit of TLC. Don’t we all. Don’t we all.
Lower Overnight Numbers and My Obama Stimulus Money
Our overnight camp was short again this weekend. Cherry Hill filled 33 of the 44 camper spots. For the first time in 18 years the Space Center is experiencing partially filled camps.
Of course it is the economy. I understand the fact that when it comes down to a choice of feeding the family or sending junior to a Space Camp a family must choose food over EdVentures. Of course with Obama’s Economic Recovery Act money should start flowing from Washington directly into the pockets of every American man, woman and child. Be it known to all you kind readers that this American, who shall remain nameless (but is the author of this post), plans on being first in line for my stimulus money. My wallet has needed a bit of stimulating for quit some time. By the way, I’m offering to pay a very small portion of my stimulus money to anyone willing to stand in line for me so I can run my missions and use the restroom from time to time. I’m restricting my fluid intake but can’t hold it forever. I am only human, which may come as a surprise to many.
The Space Center's Upcoming Online Curriculum
Saturday morning I met with Shelley Kaiser. Shelley is graciously going to write an online Space Education Textbook for teachers and students. The curriculum will appear on our web site in the Field Trip Section. It will consist of two parts:
The Primer. This is a small booklet that teaches the very basics of space. We will start with Pleasant Grove and work outward to the universe itself. I decided we needed a space primer after Sheila Powell told me of a teacher that asked her a question in the Starlab that nearly sent her to the floor. This nameless teacher asked Sheila if there were other galaxies in space beside our own. Her students laugh at her lack of knowledge. Sheila reached for the back of her chair to keep her from fainting. To education the children of America we start with the teachers.
The State Core. This part of the curriculum with have lesson plans on Space that match the Utah State Educational Core. Teachers won’t have to search the internet for good lesson plans on space. We will provide them on our web site as a public service.
The Worksheets. This part of the curriculum will contain all the worksheets and activity pages that correspond to the lesson plans.This is something I’ve wanted to do for Utah’s teachers for a long time. Shelley will make it happen.
Mr. Daymont’s and Todd R. Have A Birthday.
Happy Birthday Mr. Daymont. Happy Birthday Todd R. May you both live long and prosper. May the wind be at your back. May camel fleas never infest your nostrils. May the sun always brighten your paths. May you continue to work for the Space Center out of devotion (because we know it isn’t because of the phenomenally high pay).
Thank you both for your service.
Alex A. and His Effect on Women
We close with a side note. I’ve been impressed with Alex A’s talent both as a programmer but also as a Flight Director. This weekend I was witness to another undiscovered talent . Alex A’s effect on females.
I returned from running an errand in Orem and found a woman wearing a Phoenix uniform sitting in the Briefing Room. A man was standing beside her, also in uniform. Of course I guessed they were part of the Phoenix crew. Alex was their Flight Director. They were on a five hour mission. The woman didn’t look well. The man was beside her as if offering additional support.
“I’m feeling better,” I heard her say. I turned around to ask about the circumstances and found the Phoenix Control Room empty. The crew was on a break. A few moments later Alex appeared.
“We had a woman faint on the bridge,” he said innocently. “ I was in the middle of the mission and she just fainted. It was the craziest thing.”
I looked at him in amazement.
“Alex, are you telling me that this woman, not girl, a WOMAN fainted during one of your missions? What effect to you have on women anyway? Was it your voice? Was it your inflection? Perhaps it was a combination of the music and your voice. I’ve heard such a thing was possible but never in my 18 years as a Flight Director have I ever brought light headedness to a woman. I’ve caused multiple cases of vomiting but never fainting. What a Casanova. You stud!”
It was dark so I couldn’t see the multiple shades of red parading across Alex’s face but he did laugh. I told him this was something I had to write about in this week’s Troubadour Post.
“Why do you think I told you,” he responded. With that he disappeared into the Phoenix’s Control Room.
I noticed a moment later his Engineer character suddenly had a very suave voice. I mentioned to his second chair, Dave Daymont, to keep an eye on him and not let him get carried away.
Have a Great Week Troops!
Friday, February 27, 2009
As mentioned in an earlier post, the Space Center is unveiling our new ship pins. A few posts earlier you saw the Odyssey's. Today I present THE GALILEO! (pretend you hear an orchestra going at full throttle, drums banging, cymbals clashing and fireworks exploding over head. You should duck. Have you ever been hit in the head with the shredded casing of a firework? I have. Stadium of Fire several years ago. I won't labor you with the details. I just wanted you to know why I suggested you duck)
Enough of the celebration. Now let's get down to details. This beautiful pin was designed by Stacy Carrol, Set Director of the Galileo. The stars were added by Dave Daymont. I provided support and enormous amounts of encouragement. I was there in spirit almost offering opinions on the design and very nearly giving my thoughts on the color scheme. I just wanted everyone to know how much of this pin could have been my own design had I taken the time to collaborate with Stacy.
This beautiful pin is on sale at the Space Center for $5.00. I can't imagine not owning one. Can you? Don't be the last on your block to buy a Galileo pin. Be with the 'in' crowd. Purchase your pin today.
Coming up next....... THE VOYAGER PIN. The excitement may be too much for our younger readers.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Many of you have requested more information on the new Galileo. I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your requests. This is what I know, which is overshadowed by what I don’t know. You may think it odd that the Director of the Space Center is in the nearly dark about a new simulator in development but I practice a management principle called ‘delegation’.
I’ve delegated the development and oversight of the new Galileo to Kyle Herring. Kyle has been with the Center for many years and was involved in the design and construction of the current Galileo, the Magellan and the Phoenix. He knows his way around a new simulator and is doing a fine job with the new Galileo. So, in a nutshell, this is what I know.
1. The Galileo is being built by BYU engineers as part of the Capstone Project.
2. Once BYU finishes their responsibilities the partially built simulator will be moved to
a company in Vineyard that will finish construction.
3. The new Galileo will be delivered sometime in the Spring or Summer of this year.
Well, there you have it. Wait.... I remember something else. It is being built in sections so it can be dismantled and taken to other locations if needed. I also know the budget. Believe me, I really know all about the budget - painfully so.
Now, as for a picture, I found this one Kyle sent me several months ago. Of course we are building the new ship off much more detailed plans but this is the original concept.
There may be a few cosmetic changes but the final, finished product will resemble this.
I’ll make a promise to post more about the new Galileo as I learn it from my team.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
This is the last week of February. The call for March volunteering is out. Staff and volunteers, please send your requests back to me as soon as possible.
We had a good week for the most part. There was a glitch with the Odyssey’s Junior Simulator Controls. I suppose it was more than a glitch. They wouldn’t work at all. I should have described it as a cascade failure. I don’t know exactly why the word ‘cascade’ seems to make the word failure more horrible than it is but it does, don’t you agree? Christine was the Flight Director. She continued merrily (as Christine always does) and had two staff in the simulator calling out what the youngsters were doing so she could make the correct effects. If you work here long enough you soon learn the skill of dealing with no network. Your bridge officer says something like, “Oh look at that, you went to WARP 3 so well. I liked the way you clicked on that button. Such skill and wrist action. Good for you for taking the ship to WARP 3.” Of course if you’re working with an older group they give you a look of disbelief when you talk like that. I’m sure they think the Space Center is a place like Deseret Industries - you know - offering employment to special people.
On Wednesday I asked Alex A. to revise the Junior Controls so they are at best reliable and at worst semi reliable. He agreed. Results are forthcoming, which will make every Odyssey Flight Director happy, especially Aleta our Junior Flight Specialist. “Look at Aleta, She is Happy. Happy is Aleta. Good Job Aleta being so Happy!” OK , I’ll stop now and move on.
On Friday I had a real treat. I watched Saint Sheila of Lehi play football with a group of our young third graders before the 9:00 A.M. bell rang. You’re wondering why that would be considered a real treat? What if I told you she was wearing her Star Trek Uniform. Oddly funny is a better way to describe it. Every one of her throws wobbled to the point of almost being non-aerodynamic but they traveled far enough to get caught. Sheila kept apologizing for “Throwing like a girl”. The boys didn’t mind. Kids like a teacher’s attention, even if she is wearing a Star Trek uniform and standing on the school’s front lawn at the busiest time of the morning so every car pulling up to the school gets a full vision of life at Central Elementary. Yep.......... you got it. Of course I don’t know what is the stranger sight, Sheila in her Star Trek uniform or me in my bright Florescent orange pumpkin suit (Crossing Guard vest) complete with Space Center emblem?
We had Honor’s Night on Thursday evening in the Discovery Room. Not a very big turn out. That was OK by me - all the more cake for those of us that attended. Many of our staff and volunteers were awarded their 1 and 5 year service pins. Others received their pillowcases and blankets. And others got their simulator pins for passing off the stations. We have pins for every simulator. You wear the ship pin on your lanyard if you have its passes. Patrons may purchase the pins in the gift shop. A special thanks to Dave Daymont for his work on pin design. Dave says others helped, Stacy for instance, but I don’t know who all of them are so I’ll say thanks to all of you in a generic sort of way. Thanks.
We watched Megan’s slide show at the end of the evening. I’d never seen it and was impressed. Megan did a great job. If you’ve not seen it ask to see it. I think we will show it at all gatherings
Did you know there are some things you will never hear at the Space Center? Here are some examples only our employees and volunteers will appreciate. All others reading this post can go to sleep, browse elsewhere, get up for a drink, use the toilet or just go to bed.
THINGS YOU’LL NEVER HEAR SPOKEN AT THE SPACE CENTER IN A MILLION BILLION YEARS.
Mark Daymont: "We're going to do a different mission today in the Magellan. No Death Trap
Bill Schuler: “That was a great story on first reading. No further editing is required. Your story is good to be told. What skill, what writing. You are a credit to your family and nation. A new Ernest Hemmingway.”
Dave Daymont: “Thank you for calling me at the last second and asking me to take another Phoenix mission. I had plans to do something else but last minute missions are my specialty. Golly I’m lucky.”
Mr. Williamson: “If you’re going to Harts please pick me up a bottled water. One must watch one’s health. Don’t you agree?”
Aleta Clegg: “Perikoi is my best mission. I’m so excited when I get to tell it to our visiting sixth grade classes.”
Lorraine Houston: “I brought a cake from WalMart’s bakery. They are so much better than anything I can do at home. You know me in the kitchen - all thumbs I’m afraid. Well, thumbs and a bit of blood if you let me near the knifes.”
Metta Smith: “Please leave those shirts untucked. I mean right now! Don’t you make me come over there and untuck it for you. Listen all of you, you’ll get the sharp edge of my tongue if you don’t listen to me.”
Megan Warner: “ Please lean back in the chairs. Please leave your personal belongings in my Control Room and Briefing Room.”
Megan Warner: “Hello Children, this is our transporter room. Aren’t we excited? I can see it in your eyes you little darling. Now, we are all going to go into this room and wait for the transporter sound. You will be magically transported to the Phoenix waiting for you way up there in the sky. Also, be sure to touch the walls when you go in. There will be a shock but well worth the experience. Everyone in. Isn’t this fun? Are we all ready? “
Bradyn Lystrup: “Shadows is my mission. I own Shadows. I’ve always owned Shadows. Did I mention it was MY mission. Yes, I’m all that and more.”
Kyle Herring: “OK, I finished everything on the repair list. The Space Center is in tip top shape."
Christine G: “I’m so depressed. Nothing works right. I can’t get through this. Oh the humanity. I’m going to lay down right here on the control room floor and sleep. I can’t cope. I can’t go on.”
Rachel H: “Me too”
Stacy Carroll: “I know I’m early to work. It shouldn’t surprise you. I’m what’s known as a morning person. I thrive in the morning. I’m awake before dawn busy as a bee.”
Sheila Powell: “I’ve never met a child I didn’t like. Children are angels. If they are disrespectful in class its my fault. I must not be doing the right things to entertain them. Children can’t be expected to show self control. Its not in their nature.”
Bill Schuler: “Please let me offer you my work space here in the Briefing Room. I’m working at the school today but see you need a place to work yourself. I’m perfectly willing to work right here beside you on the floor. I only need a little corner and access to electricity.
If there is anything else I can do to make you more comfortable at my desk please don’t hesitate to ask.”
Kyle Herring: “I’m changing my hair style to something more natural for my age. I think I’m going for a Victor Williamson hair cut. It has worked well for him for the last 50 years so learn from the best - that’s what I always say.”
Victor Williamson: “Wasn’t that fun having me spend the entire overnight camp in your ship watching you fly. I learned so much. This week I plan on spending all my free time in the simulators watching mission after mission after mission. I just can’t get enough. Hey everybody, let’s get together and discuss your mission ideas as well.”
Warren N.: “Socialism is the only real form of government. The government has a responsibility to care for the weak and lazy. We all need a rock solid safety net under us for hard times.”
Kyle Herring: “Ditto”
Jace (Central): ‘silence’
Brock B: “Mr. Williamson, I’d love to spend more time in the Magellan but you keep putting me in the Voyager. Please can I get to do what I want to do sometime?”
Spencer M: “I’m nothing. I worthless. I’m the worst player on my church ball team. I don’t know why they put up with me. If I could only make one basket. Oh what’s the use?”
Spenser D: “I really enjoy all the kids you send into the Voyager to work with me. They are so full of life and energy. It makes my day to get to train them how to do the acting parts. I get a kick out of the cute things they say. Oh, and if they refuse to do what I say as Supervisor, I’ll forgive them because, after all, they are just kids. We can’t expect them to accept responsibility and the value of a job well done, can we?”
Mr. Williamson: “The best part of my job is dealing with personality issues. I love to mediate conflict between staff and volunteers. I thrive on staff misunderstandings. I get a kick out of ironing out the petty issues that arise from any organization staffed with multiple humans.”
Yes my friends, those are things you’ll never, ever hear spoken at the Space Center.
Now let’s have a great week at school, at work, and at home. Remember, the Space Center is a home to all of us. Let’s work hard to help it achieve its potential and an influence for good and learning not only for the students but our staff and volunteers as well.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
This is the new pin designed by Dave Daymont with input from several other staff that happened to be passing the computer when he unveiled it to the universe. It arrived just in time for Honor's Night, held last Thursday. The package came from China. I got its tracking number from the Internet and had a semi enjoyable time watching it make the hop skip and jump from China to Hong Kong to Alaska to Seattle to Salt Lake and then finally Pleasant Grove. All in two days (and they say faster than light speed travel is impossible. NASA isn't consulting the right people. I say bring UPS on board. They'll show you how to get things delivered quickly. If NASA can get a probe to Mars in less than a years time UPS should be able to do it in a week. Remember, Brown can do it!)
Odyssey's Set Director is Emily Perry. She has a team of flight directors that do an excellent job keeping the Space Center's busiest simulator in tip top shape.
The Odyssey pin is available for sale in our small gift corner located in the Discover Room. Buy a pin and make Emily and her staff smile. Buy two pins and you get a hand shake and a two minute audience. Three pins and you've made friends for life!
Friday, February 20, 2009
This is a Blast Post from the Past. For many years I posted updates, news and comment on the Space Center's YahooGroup. Now we have this blog. I've decided to repost some of our YahooGroup's posts to the Blog for safe keeping. This is a post I wrote on September 2, 2007.
Background: That week in September I decided to scrap our problematic Phoenix simulator controls and install the Odyssey's simulator's controls in their place. The Odyssey's controls were stable and reliable. I felt it would make life easier for everyone and bring a sense of uniformity to the Center.
The reaction I got to my decision was quick and severe from many staff and volunteers. That reaction forced me to rethink my decision. In the end I relented and the Phoenix was given new controls programmed by Alex A.
This post was written at the height of the conflict when it looked like a lynching was in my immediate future. It was my way to attempt to bring a bit of humor into a tense situation.
And now, a Blast Post from the Past. September 2, 2007
It was rather chilly at the Space Center. The temperature at my desk was a good ten degrees lower than the rest of the room. It wasn't an atmospheric abnormality
that caused the difference but rather a human generated Arctic breeze, like a cold
front from Canada, powered by the bitter looks and icy purpose from many of the staff pushed in my direction by the toss of a head or the glance of an eye half covered with a dropped eyebrow. Accompanying the evil eye was a wrinkled nose associated with a putrid smell.
Lately I've been afraid to leave the safety of my extended desk. It was my fortress of solitude. I sat at my chair wearing my winter coat and double stitched long johns. I would watch for a drop in traffic to make a dash for the toilet or quench my thirst with an icy cola from the faculty room.
Friday afternoon I saw a chance to escape. It happened before the overnight camp. I moved from my desk toward the door. I took all precautions before making my move. I looked both directions and saw the coast was clear. I got down on all fours and put my ear to the carpet to listen for approaching footfalls. I heard nothing but found a quarter and two M&M's. They were quickly ingested to quiet a stomach left untended for several hours. I stood up, reached for the "Enforcer" and walked to the edge of the desk . I licked my finger and held it over my head to detect an approaching cold front - Nothing. I moved. I moved around the desk and raced for the Briefing Room's Door. I made the corner around the Phoenix and felt the air chill to the point my breath was visible. In the doorway stood Megan and Alex. They were backed by Dave, Stacy, Matt, and what appeared to be a mob of smaller humans all wearing black t-shirts with anchors on their back.
"Going somewhere?" Megan asked. The smile was penetratingly cold. I was still. My first instinct was to retreat to my desk. I began moving backward but stopped when I felt the chill rotate to my back indicating my escape was blocked by a human glacier.
"Get Him," she shouted. Alex moved quickly diving forward and taking me down with a thud. The back of my head hit the carpeted floor knocking several of my senses loose thus causing the temporary loss of movement in my arms and legs.
"Bring Him," was the next thing I heard half dazed from the trauma. I was half carried and half pushed down the hall to Discovery.
"Put him in the docket," I heard Dave say. My head was clearing. I was able to make
out my surroundings. It was the Discovery Room - but different. I was led to a roped off area. At the front of the room I saw a large statue of a blindfolded woman holding scales in her outstretched hand and a sword in the other. Along the far wall, half
obscured by darkness, sat a jury of twelve staff and volunteers. I was placed in the
defendants box, guarded by two members of the Programming Guild armed with phasers. Discovery's door closed behind me with a bang. There was mumbling. Heads turned from me - toward the front of the room and back to me. One person walked toward the cage. It was Mr. Mark Daymont wearing black legal robes. The white wig of an English Barrister rested awkwardly on his head. I leaned forward to tell him to take the stupid thing off but was cut off when he placed a finger to his mouth motioning that I should remain quiet.
"I'm your defense attorney," he whispered.
"Nice wig," I replied forgetting his admonition to stay quiet.
"Get Serious," he said sternly looking around the room as if trying to find a sympathetic face. "You are in a lot of trouble and I don't know If I can get you out of it. Luckily my brother is one of the judges."
"Its about the new Odyssey controls being installed in the Phoenix isn't it," I said,
already knowing the answer to my own question. He looked at me as if I were stupid and nodded his head. "I knew I should of consulted the Phoenix staff and others but
..." he stopped me from continuing.
"That `but' you were about to add, will be your defense and possibly save you from Madam Guillotine," he moved from my cage, took two steps forward, and sat at one of the tables reserved for the defense. I peered across the dimly lit room trying to
recognize the prosecutor. It was a female. It was Megan! Her table was covered by Space Center Law books, legal pads, and pens. She was surrounded by well wishers. The looks on their faces provided the meaning to the words I saw them speaking but couldn't hear because of the distance. At that moment I fully realized how my decision to replace the Phoenix Controls with Odyssey Controls had upset so many people.
I noticed that my defense table was empty except for Mr. Daymont pouring over copious notes while shaking his head as if in pain. The head motion was accompanied by an occasional hissing sound as he took in air through clenched teeth.
The room grew quiet. The hour had arrived. I felt I had made the right decision but
executed it poorly. Now it was time to pay the piper. Would the staff let me keep my head or was this it. A sound was heard outside. It was he sound of wood sliding
across wood and then a loud CHOP followed by a pause then repeated two or three more times. The `Madam' was being prepared. A few minutes later Discovery's door opened. In walked two of our new volunteers each wearing red armbands. They held trays of newly cut watermelon.
Dave Daymont, the head judge, nodded his head giving them permission to pass the fruit out to the spectators. My heart sank as Mr Daymont's head dropped to the table amidst the sound of slurping.
"This is good. Look very few seeds," Kyle Herring said as he studied his slice.There were a few grunts of agreement from those around him.
"Sometimes the best of intentions can go wrong," I thought. I leaned back in my seat
thinking what I would say in my defense. My thought was interrupted by the sound of the gavel. Everyone sat up and faced the front. The trial of the century was about
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Are we guilty of spreading humanism in Shangra La, our valley that time has forgotten? According to a phone call I received this week we may be. If so, the penalty is swift and severe. First, a knock at your door. This usually comes in the middle of the night. A car is kept running in the drive waiting to take you to the inquisition. From there you become a number in someone’s logbook kept in a dusty desk drawer.
The phone rang on Thursday. I answered. A kindly woman’s voice was heard on the other end. “I’d like to speak to someone about a concern,” she said. My hear rate increased. We receive compliments on a regular basis. I’m use to those. But complaints are a different matter. They are rare and when they surface my entire body reacts in a primal way. I’m guessing its in the genes. My glands pour adrenaline into my veins as I prepare to fight or run.
“Go ahead,” I answered, waiting eagerly to find out the cause of the phone call.
She explained that her 12 year old son visited the Center the night before with a group of home schoolers and did the mission ‘Perikoi’. He came home very excited and began telling her the story of the primitive planet with people that couldn’t learn science because the Gods wouldn’t let them. The Gods wanted to keep the people naive and stupid. He explained that they destroyed the Gods so the poor unenlightened people of Perikoi could study science and advance.
“I was shocked when I heard him tell this story,” the mother continued. “Who writes these stories?” she asked.
“I do,” I replied. My heart was beating faster. I knew where the conversation was going. I knew I was talking to a very religious mother who believed I was on some kind of public school crusade to root religion and its apparent numbing effect on the masses out of the children that visited the Center and replace their faith with the false religion of science.
“Is that what your son got out of the mission?” I asked.
“No, he had a great time.” she continued. “The message didn’t sink in but it could have. I’m wondering what the purpose of that mission was. You must understand that it seems your telling the children that President Hinkley could be a false prophet and using religion to take tithing from the people for his own use.”
I wondered why she was using President Hinckley instead of President Monson but I let that go.
My first reaction to something like this is to attack back. I explained to her that ‘Perikoi’ has been told to thousands of people, most of them LDS and not one complaint. Missionaries did this mission. So have church youth groups. All left without a complaint or concern. All had a great time.
After a few minutes I realized she wasn’t calling to nail me to the wall but to simply voice her concern that the message of Perikoi may not be the one I think it is. She listened cordially as I explained the plot of the story. I told her that from a religious viewpoint the story had a very good lesson - beware of false prophets. Aren’t we told that by their fruit ye shall know them? The ‘fruit’ of the false Gods of Perikoi was evident in the story. I explained that the story was one of greed and the abuse of a primitive people by others more advanced. It is a story of slavery, it is a story of European colonialism. In Perikoi the student astronauts liberate a planet from false prophets and slave traders.
Once again, she was very pleasant in voice and was kind enough to listen to everything I said. I told her I would consider her feed back. The call ended with both of us thanking each other for listening.
When I wrote Perikoi I had a gut feeling deep inside that someone may misunderstand its message. This happens whenever a mission encroaches into something controversial - be it politics or faith. But you realize that history is messy for it is an account of the good, bad, and ugly in humanity. History is something I can't change and it is best we face it head on and not skirt around its edges in fear we may not be PC or offensive to a segment of the population. Let's face the facts, Europeans were considered Gods by some of the primitive inhabitants of America when they arrived and abused that position of respect and worship. This story of the strong unjustly enforcing their will on the weak is as old as humanity itself. It is something our young people should understand.
I won’t change Perikoi. It is a good story with a strong moral; however I want everyone to understand that I’m not on a crusade to replace religion with the faith of science and Darwinism. I don’t think the God I worship would appreciate that and he is someone I don’t want to displease. Perikoi teaches students to respect and study science for what it is and can do for them. Science is a driving force for change and has both radically improved our lives and in some cases made life more difficult. We are surrounded today by the by products of science It is in everything we touch, see, feel, and smell. Science is our way of understanding the universe and that, in my believe, is the essence of God himself. I believe that science and religion need not be enemies. How can they be? To me they are one and the same. If they seem to be at odds then something isn't understood fully - and that can be something from both disciplines.
So, Perikoi continues to be told in its present state but with the acknowledgement that a few may misunderstand its message. I urge all flight directors to be mindful of their students. It may be wise to review the message of Perikoi with the leaders of religious youth groups and let them debrief the kids at the end of their missions. We should emphasize the true meaning of the mission - education can be a protection against devils in sheep’s clothing and that we have a moral responsibility to look after, support, and defend the weak.
Now, I’ll swab my front door with lamb’s blood and hope the angel of death passes me by in the night.