Saturday, March 21, 2009
One last reminder about BJ Warner's Missionary Open House tonight at my home. BJ leaves for the MTC on Wednesday. All Space Center staff and volunteers 18 years old and older may attend (and those that may be 17 and are seniors in High School). Sorry for the restrictions but there are 180 staff and volunteers and there just isn't enough room. Former staff and volunteers are invited as well. Come say your last goodbyes before he leaves for Provo and then on to Japan.
The door opens at 5:30 P.M. You can drop by until 9:00 P.M. Unfortunately, we stop at 9:00 P.M. My bodily functions grow unpredictable after that due to extreme exhaustion from the Overnight Camp.
There will be food so come hungry. I can't promise intelligent conversation. If it was like Brent's farewell we were all so exhausted from the camp we just sat and stared at each other for two hours. There was an occasional attempt at communication, but what promised to be a sentence came out a few grunts and a groan. Everyone seems more rested this morning so it should be better for BJ. So, come by and bid BJ farewell.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Spitzer Telescope's image of Galaxy NGC 6240, which is 400 million light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus, highlights the bursts of infrared radiation as the dust and gas from the two galaxies slam together. All that pressure creates new generations of hot stars, blazing away in infrared wavelengths even though the radiation in visible wavelengths is obscured by dust clouds. Because of this phenomenon, these starry swirls are known as luminous infrared galaxies.
In the news release, the Spitzer science team point to the streams of stars being ripped off the galaxies - "tidal tails" that extend into space in all directions. And this is just the warmup act: Bush and her colleagues expect the galactic black holes to hit head-on. That would upgrade NGC 6240's status to that of an ultra-luminous infrared galaxy, thousands of times as bright in infrared as our own Milky Way.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Well, here goes my second post of the day. I just finished a fun post for my Cloverdale Blog about a young Mormon boy’s baptism. Give it a read if you have a moment.
And remember, I’m always looking for interesting pictures. I like the challenge of looking at a picture and then creating a story about it in Cloverdale. Send me what you find in your browsing. If it tickles my fancy you could see it in a post.
And, not to neglect The Troubadour, here is a post updating you on The Space Center.
The Standing Ovation!
On Monday a thunderous sound was heard coming from Discovery. It was so loud the third grade teacher in Discovery’s adjoining room thought it was an earthquake and ordered her students to take cover under their desks. I believe I heard it while I was neck deep in telling “The Children Of Perikoi”. At the time I thought Aleta had turned up the Odyssey’s speaker volume just to upset our school librarian. Our librarian, Mrs. Schiller, unhappily shares a common wall with the Odyssey and complains about the slightest sounds penetrating the cinder block wall and piercing the deadly quiet of her library.
Only in an email sent to me that night did I discover the sound we all heard was wild and enthusiastic applause for our very own Saint Sheila Powell of Lehi. Apparently her A.M. field trip class (Bonneville six graders) stood and applauded her lesson when she finished. The teacher told Sheila it was the best lesson she had ever heard at the Space Center. Sheila’s email was humble in the story’s telling and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. She knew I taught the field trip lesson for a couple years some time ago. So let me take a moment to remind Sheila that I don’t have an ego to bruise so no offense was taken. Although a standing ovation at the end of a lesson is the dream of every teacher. I’ve never gotten one. I’ve been teaching for twenty six years and never once received a standing ovation. Do I mind? No, why should I? I’ve been slaving over kids all this time and not once did I get that kind of appreciation for my efforts....... well, I’m taking the higher ground on this one. I don’t do it for applause. I do it because I want to make the world a better place. I’ll martyr myself for the common good asking nothing in return except warm food, a place to sleep and a room with a view. Hand me my rosary, its time for meditation and prayer.
If I can't get it one way I'll get it another.
OK, all kidding aside...... GREAT JOB SHEILA. That kind of ‘shoot from the hip’ teaching makes us all look good. Let’s give it up for Saint Sheila of Lehi.
Oh, by the way, Sheila is available for weddings, funerals, and Bar Mitzvah's. For an extra fee (which she promises to donate to the charity of her choice - the Space Center) she will attempt healings. There are reports spreading through Alpine District’s sixth grades, of possible healings at the Space Center.
“My toothache disappeared right after her lesson,” one boy from Rocky Mountain Elementary testified.
“My headache was gone thirty minutes into her lesson,” a girl wrote in an email.
“I was starving during her lesson,” another boy from Orem Elementary reported to his teacher. “We had lunch and then I realized my hunger was gone. Thanks Saint Sheila.”
Yes, thank you Sheila and thank you to all those who work hard to make the Space Center a special place. I’m forever in your debt (just don’t ask for a raise until I get some of Obama’s stimulus money. I’ve asked but it doesn’t come. What’s up with that?)
The Cake Pan. A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma Shrouded in a Riddle.
This last week I noticed this strange cake pan sitting on my desk. The bottom was coated in what appeared to be year old hardened frosting. It was an ordinary cake pan, the kind you could buy from any local WalMart. I picked it up in an attempt to jog the memory of who brought the last batch of cupcakes. My memory was blank. That worried me because my memory is pretty good with it comes to food - especially sweets. Well, I couldn’t remember the last time someone brought homemade cupcakes. I put the pan in the back of the room hoping the owner would pick it up so I wouldn’t have to stare at it all week.
Every day this week that pan stared at me from a different place in the room. First my desk, then the back of the room, then on Bill’s desk. No one puts things on Bill’s desk if you value your self esteem. Bill can destroy the self esteem parents, friends, and family have carefully nurtured in you with one glance. Of course, Bill uses this ultimate weapon rarely. Usually when someone encroaches in his work place by putting unwanted items on his desk - like power screwdrivers, uneaten food, wrappers, school assignments, etc..
That pan bothered me during the overnight camp. No one claimed it. It seemed orphaned. Now how could that be? The pan had signs it was once loved and used in some woman’s kitchen - its bottom was coated in dried frosting dripped from a dozen or so cupcakes from long ago. Surely some mom somewhere in Utah County was desperate to find it.
Yesterday I found the cake pan had been moved (don’t ask me how) to the Discovery Room. It sat motionless next to the sink. I picked it up and went on a quest to find its owner. I asked everyone within sight. No one knew anything about it. Then Emily came along.
“Oh, that’s Caity’s,” Emily said. Her voice sounded sure. The mystery was solved.
“She says it isn’t hers,” someone else added. The mystery deepened.
“Crap,” I said so no one would hear. I’m good at saying things no one hears. It is a trait teachers pick up quickly. If you don’t, you’ll spend hours in principal’s offices explaining why you said what you said about lazy Johnny and the disability that causes him to forget, or not even do, his homework. You know what I’m talking about - I believe the medical term is Videoitis. A terrible thing that can ruin what could have been a wonderful student with a bright future. Tragic.
“Who owns this pan!” I asked again while standing in the school’s lobby at 5:20 P.M. yesterday.
“OK, here is the story,” Emily said hoping to shed light on the mystery. “Caity brought cupcakes in that pan last summer during one of the camps. The pan sat in the Odyssey Control Room for a few months. I wanted it gone so Stacy said she would take it home and give it to Caity because they both live in Lehi. Stacy put the pan in the trunk of her car.”
I was following the story closely as Emily told it. In fact, a small crowd of volunteers and staff waiting for their rides started gathering to hear the sad tale. Emily continued, “Last weekend Stacy found the pan in her trunk. She brought it back into the school so Caity could pick it up the next time she came in to work.”
“So, you’re telling me that cake pan has been floating around northern Utah in Stacy’s trunk for the last eight months?” I asked.
“Yes,” Emily answered.
“And now its back where it started?” I answered my own question.
I was left with one alternative. “Who wants a cake pan,” I asked everyone in the gathering.
No one took me up on the offer. Emily's was on her way to a wedding reception. “Perfect,” I thought. “Emily take the pan and give it to the bride and groom as your wedding gift.” The suggestion got a laugh from the group but went no further.
Please............ Let me know.
The Old Girl is Showing Her Age.
The Voyager showed her age again this week. On Wednesday Metta and I heard an unusual sound coming from her speakers as we were resetting the ship for the 11:30 A.M. mission. I called Kyle. He diagnosed the problem immediately. “The Amp is going out. I’m surprised that amp has lasted as long as it has,” he added. The sound resembles ...... well, its like a higher pitch hum.
“Crap,” I said. Of course under my breath. That night I purchase two new amps online. One for the Voyager and one for the Magellan. More money out the door.
On Thursday I left my math class in Lorraine’s capable hands to start the 9:45 A.M. field trip. I entered the Control Room and was told the Voyager’s video projector wouldn’t turn on. We were running late so we loaded the kids into the simulators and started to train. I left the Bridge with Lorraine and fetched the school’s ladder. I knew what had worked in the past to get the projector to wake up and do its job. I unplugged it. I plugged it back in after a few moments. That always did the trick. Not that time. No matter what I did I couldn’t get the thing to turn on.
“Crap,” I said. Of course, under my breath.
I made a quick phone call to Kyle Herring who luckily was available to make a house call to replace the projector.
To make a long story short (since when have I ever done that?) Kyle arrived just as I was staring the mission. He swapped projectors. The Voyager is running on our spare. The other projector had its lamp replaced (I think that was the problem) and is now our new spare. The projector problem is solved.
On Friday morning I noticed one other problem. The Long Range Communications computer’s screen was partially condensed after start up. Not a good sign. The video card was going out.
“Crap, “ I said out loud. It was 8:00 A.M. and there were no students, staff, or volunteers present.
Yes, the 18 year old Voyager is showing her age.
Now For Something Completely Random
Just as I finished writing that last sentence above, someone knocked on my front door. My nephew was too preoccupied to get up to answer it, he would miss a moment of the basketball game, so I stopped typing and answered the door.
A young boy stood on my doorstep holding a puppy with a bright silver dog bone ID tag.
I’d never seen the boy before. “Oh great, he’s trying to find a home for this puppy,” I thought. I was ready to say no but he spoke first.
“Look at my new puppy,” he said as he pushed the puppy forward for me to hold and admire.
I picked up the dog. It looked at me with the same questioning eyes I was looking at it with. The tags had a name and phone number. That was a relief. He wasn’t trying to give it away.
“What a nice dog,” I said. His smile grew larger as I searched for every adjective in my vocabulary useful in that situation. I stopped when my mind drew a blank and handed the puppy back to the proud owner. He took it back with a new found pride. I’m guessing he didn’t know how special his dog was until he heard the praises I showered on it.
“Thanks for bringing it by,” I said as the boy cradled his pet and walked away, disappearing down the street.
Well, I’ve nothing to add to that except to wish all of you a great week. Another special thanks for the support and dedication all our volunteers and staff give the Space Center every week.
“You’re Sick,” I say to all of you. (I’m hoping that’s the right word of praise in today’s youthspeak. I’m sure you’ll let me know if I got that wrong.)
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.