Tuesday, April 14, 2009
It’s Spring Break! I’m writing to you from the very heart of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center - my desk. I’m not the only one working during the vacation. With me out here in space are.
He is working on video. He has a new program for star effects. All of us give him a double thumbs up for his discovery and the go ahead to begin the process of recording and using in the ships.
Jon P. and Spencer R.
Jon and Spencer are working on the Odyssey refit. The Odyssey was brought into Space Dock on Monday. The old girl was desperate for a little TLC. She’s been stripped down to her supports and new desks are being installed. New bunk coverings are going in as well. Its not a major re- architecture but enough work is being done to give the ship a breath of new life.
Arriving at the crack of noon is Mr. Dave Daymont. He is working in Discovery on the Phoenix’s new summer story. It has the Borg! Yes, I’m feeling all of you shudder with excitement. Another Space Center story with the Borg.
Stacy is in the Animation Studio working on computer graphics for the Galileo. She will transition from the old Galileo to the new one sometime this summer. The new Galileo will need new material and she is working hard to create it.
Emily is on her computer working on the tactical screens for her new summer story “Plague” and “The Lost Throne” Imagine that, 2 stories from the Odyssey.
There you have it. While all of you enjoy days of carefree fun and frolic know that your Space Center friends are hard at work creating new and exciting EdVentures for your summer. I’ll keep you posted on developments.
And now, I need to beam up to the mother ship to have my human mask refitted. It was wrinkling in the warm weather we experienced over the last couple days.
(Emily taught me how to use the camera on my Mac. I'm having too much fun)
Sunday, April 12, 2009
All of us in the Alpine School District will enjoy our Easter Break this week. Some of you already had your break and some may have theirs after us. I’ve looked forward to this vacation since returning back to work from the Christmas vacation. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy working. Some say I live to work but honestly, if I don’t get the occasional break from mission after mission, flight after flight I think the repetition would drive me either to drink or to a more prolonged stay at a certain institution in Provo that specializes in treating people who’ve misplaced their sanity and can’t find it for the life of them.
I knew I was ready for this vacation last Friday. I finished teaching my 9:00 A.M. pre-algebra class. The students left the room leaving a quiet behind that I decided to stay and enjoy for a few minutes. My bag of peppermint mints, used to bribe students to focus on their work and not on their daydreams, sat on the desk needing to be put away. I opened the top drawer where I keep my bribes side by side with the teacher’s manual to put the bag of mints away. I reached into the bag to take one out, closed the bag and put it away. I sat on my cushioned chair and spun around a few times while sucking on the mint. I’m not one to leave things in my mouth too long so I went right to chewing. The swallowing when wrong. The mint bits didn’t all go down. I needed a drink.
The Discovery Room has a sink, faucet / drinking fountain combination. I stood over the drinking fountain, bent down and positioned my mouth over the nozzle and pressed the button.
Its a wonder how your memory works. I’m fascinated with what it chooses to remember and what it chooses to forget. My memory failed me at that moment. If it was working properly , like it was designed to do, I would have remember that drinking fountain’s twisted sense of humor. Instead of releasing a nice arc of water it shoots the water at you with the force of a fire hose. The water isn’t aimed at your open mouth. The fountain shoots it at your eyes.
I pressed on the button and was on the receiving end of 9000 pounds of pressurized water right into my face nearly washing my contacts out of my eyes. I stood dazed for a moment while the water ran down my face and onto my shirt. I thought I heard the pipes under the sink rattle in a form of perverted pipe humor. It was right then and there I knew I needed a vacation. My last remaining finger holding me to the cliff overlooking the chasm of chaos and delirium released its hold. I felt myself falling.
A few rolls of paper towels later I was ready to shut off the lights and return to my office. I still had my wits about me - which surprised me. I’m glad because I’d need them for the overnighter and a full day of flights on Saturday that awaited.
What Will I Do?
That is a good question. I considered a trip to Vegas to visit my brother. Decided against it. There is something about Vegas that bothers me. It could be the heat. Or maybe the sound and look 0f all that money flushed down the gambling toilet every day. I think of what I could do with some of that money at the Space Center.
Several in the family wanted to go and spend the week at my house in South Dakota. It sits on the hillside overlooking the town of Deadwood in a beautiful nestled pine covered valley in the Black Hills. I was raised in South Dakota and it is nice to go back for R and R. My mind was changed on the matter when I found out South Dakota was buried in snow from recent storms. Why would I want to go stay someplace where the snow drifts are ten feet high?
Instead I think I’ll stay right in in Pleasant Grove. After all, it is pleasant in Pleasant Grove. Besides, there is enough work to do at the Space Center to keep me busy all week. And there I go again - I have a week off and I still go in to keep up. At least there are no students in the building and there are no missions. I can actually work at my desk in peace and quiet.
Have you ever looked at where my desk is located? I work right in the middle of commotion. I have the Voyager in front, the Odyssey to my left and the Phoenix to my right. All day and all night I hear clashing music and explosions from the three ships. Add a never ending stream of staff and visitors that swarm around my desk all day and all night long out of necessity to move from ship to ship etc. and its a wonder I get anything done at all.
Think of it this way, imagine you are the manager of a factory that uses noisy machines and employees lots of people. Now take your office and put it right smack dab in the middle of all the machines and people. Now, I dare you to get anything done. Go ahead, just try. Now you understand how hard it is for me to focus sometimes and why there are times you see me crouched in the corner with my eyes shut and hands over my ears ;)
Yet...... I still love my job and the people I work with. You are all fantastic and I appreciate the hard work and dedication you give to your job. I know many of you have things you’d like to do at the Center this week so I’ll send out an email with the times I’ll be in every day.
So, lets enjoy this week. Work if we must and play whenever possible. Let’s let our brains recharge and imaginations run amuck.
I attended Bryson Lystrup's wedding reception yesterday. Bryson worked at the Space Center for years and years. It was very nice. Kyle Herring took the pictures below. Bryson looked happy and his new wife was beautiful. Bryson is a lucky young man.
Braydn Lystrup, the Young Brother and Voyager FD. I asked him to bring me a fork.
He had someone else do it. That's gratitude for you.
I enjoy a reception with good food and I must hand it to the Lystrups for the spread at this reception. They had a cheese cake bar complete with two chocolate fountains! While most people stood in the reception line I kept myself in the refreshment line. Brock, Spenser Dauwalder and I couldn't leave until we had taste tested the offerings multiple times.
Good Luck Bryson!
And now troops, I’ll see you all in the trenches.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
At this time we have several missions in in various stages of development. I just want to give everyone and update. Two Student missions are now in phase 2 development. That is the submissions have been reviewed and deemed suitable for further story development. This means rewriting the mission incorporating changes suggested by the editor. Those missions are The Chase (Galileo) by Josh Anderson and Eureka 124 (Phoenix) by Kevin Roberts. Congratulations!
I am also happy to say that one staff submission has just been moved up to stage 3 status, that is, the mission has been rewritten with the required editorial changes made and accepted. At stage 3 the author will now develop a mission stack, Messages, etc. When they feel everything is ready the mission will be test flown. That mission is Alpha (Magellan) by Warren Nuila. Congradulation Warren! I am really looking forward to seeing this mission flown.
We have a second story in stage 3 development as well. That mission would be Pakled Princess (Phoenix) by Aleta Clegg. Yes even the adult staff need their missions approved by the editor. However since she has twenty plus years of writing experience her mission was accepted without a second rewrite. Her mission is a little out of the ordinary. It is designed for crews that have "done" everything. It is a comedy, which is a very difficult medium to pull off well. Congratulations Aleda!
Additionally I have completed the suggested Science Fiction reading and viewing list for would be mission writers. They will be posted on the Space Center Blog. I strongly suggest all interested in writing missions make use of these reference materials to get a feel for the Star Trek universe. I am not asking you to read and view all the material posted but pick and choose. All suggested video can be found on netflix and most can be found at Hollywood or Blockbuster video. Additionally a huge resource available to you is Star Trek Wikipedia. The site is huge with many, many threads. Better yet it is free.
Also, if you (staff and volunteers only) possibly can, please attend the writers workshop on Wednesday April 8th, 5:00pm-8:00pm we will dissect 2 Star Trek, Original Series episodes to see what make them tick. Please RSVP as ther will be Pizza.
Thank you for your time
Supervising Story editor
Christa McAulliffe Space Education Center.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Its an old saying. One of those phrases passed from generation to generation. You use it when you want to describe a condition where you leave the comfort and safety of routine and enter a situation that forces you to exceed your grasp from the sitting position.
This weekend we threw two unsuspecting innocents into the fire. They were clueless to the danger waiting for them when they left their mother’s loving embraces and journeyed forth to the Space Center. I waited for them at 6:15 P.M. in the gym where we were gathering for our pre camp staff meeting. They were both on time and planted themselves on the top riser. I sat at the Sign In Table thinking of of the terror I was about to unleash. I was moments away from creating a memory for these two young teenagers that would stay with them throughout their life, and there they sat - completely clueless. They current stress free condition, thinking this camp would be like the countless others they’ve worked, was about to end. It was 6:15 P.M.
“Adam,” I said. He looked at me thinking I was asking him where he wanted to work.
“Odyssey,” came his reply to the question I didn’t ask.
“Yes, you’re in the Odyssey. In fact, you’re running the Odyssey on this camp. You’ll be the Flight Director.”
An interesting thing happens to humans when backed into a corner with no escape. The face muscles force the tissue around the eyes to expand, thus making one's eyes ‘pop out’. The mouth forms the the first sound of the word “What?”. The neck muscles turn the head slightly back and forth in the negative. I saw all of those reactions in Adam. He mumbled something about not being ready. I’d heard all the excuses from other current flight directors when they were drafted and thrust in the FD’s chair. The excuses wash off me like water off a duck’s back. Adam didn’t have a choice. I’d made the decision for him and that was that.
“Adam, You’ll have Emily there beside you in the Second Chair. She’s an EMT. I’ll have her monitor your blood pressure and take your temperature throughout the camp. If you go septic she will step in but ......You'll need to be so ill that Emily must hear death rapping on the Control Room door before she intervenes and takes the mission from you.” Adam nodded. He understood it was time to step up to the plate and bat. You can stay in the bullpen only so long before its time to show the team what you’ve got.
There was a faint rosey color returning to his deathly white cheeks. I could tell he was calming down. I had complete faith in Adam. I’d heard him multiple times acting in the Odyssey while sitting at my desk and felt he had the talent to be Flight Direct - even if he was only fifteen years old.
My next victim would take the news I was about to give him differently. “Spencer,” I said to Spencer M. “I’m making you a supervisor in the Voyager for this camp.”
He looked at me and smiled. The smile disappeared as quickly as it formed when he realized he had displayed emotion. Spencer is a half breed - half human / half vulcan. He has emotions but chooses not to show them. He thinks that displaying feelings gives your opponents an advantage over you, so he lives his life like he's playing million dollar poker at a Vegas casino. His hands are played without a twitch - win or lose - Spencer always looks the same to the casual bystander.
Spencer shrugged his shoulders to signify his indifference to the promotion. He had to show a true English attitude to those sitting around him. I knew better. I’ve known Spencer for three years. I’ve learned to read him by looking for the right combination of expressions . Happiness is shown with a momentary flicker of a smile accompanied by a supersonic glance of his eyes in one direction. If you blink you’ll miss it. Sadness and boredom are harder to differentiate.
I wanted to force a smile out of Spencer after giving him the news. Getting an emotional response out of him is the ultimate challenge for anyone that likes to think of themselves as an amateur comedian. I turned to the rest of the staff and said, “I tried all the Supervisors and none of them could take the camp. So.... when you’re desperate you have to do things you would never do. I’m having to scrape the bottom of the barrel on this assignment. Hence, Spencer is the Supervisor tonight.”
Spencer favored me with a normal smile that lasted 2.3 seconds. He appreciates a more refined humor, sugared heavily in satire and topped with whipped cynicism. It is his drink of choice. He respects anyone that can prepare and deliver it to his exacting taste.
Adam and Spencer started the evening as boys and ended the camp as .... well, I want to say men but that would be a lie. Let’s say they ended the camp as bigger boys. Boys that can now feed themselves and can use the potty. They are boys that can tie their own shoes and look both directions before crossing the street. Yes, they matured during this camp. I’m proud of their performance and want to thank them for their hard work.
The Chocolate Doughnut Test
I did something unusual on Saturday morning. In addition to the six dozen vitamin rings (glazed doughnuts) I buy at WalMart at 6:00 A.M. every other Saturday morning (Mr. Daymont collects them on the Saturday’s he works the overnight camps) I decided to treat the staff to something different. I looked for the day olds bakery display but found it hadn’t been restocked, so I looked at the bakery's fresh offerings. The blueberry doughnuts looked reasonably digestible so I purchased a dozen.
I woke the staff up at 6:40 A.M. The boys (staff and campers) were sleeping in the gym. There were more girls on this camp so they were sleeping in the Voyager and Odyssey. The staff boys had instructions to quietly gather their belongings from the stage where they were sleeping. Quietly was the stated goal. Quietly wasn’t what I got. A moment later I heard the crashing sound of several hula hoops hitting the stage floor. One of our young volunteers wasn’t quiet awake as he navigated his way off the dark stage. That misstep woke him up for sure, not to mention several of the slumbering campers sleeping on the gym floor. Drats!
Every Saturday morning the staff and volunteers get together in Discovery at 6:50 A.M. for doughnuts and stories of the night before. Everyone was perplexed by the change in routine when I opened the blueberry doughnuts. Standard procedure dictated the staff receive glazed doughnuts. Today they had something different. I assured them the sky wasn’t falling and hell hadn’t frozen over during the night. They looked at me oddly, wondering why I would spend a little extra for the fancy blueberries, given how I pinch pennies whenever I can. I’m a believer you can get water from a rock and a profit from a camp.
I sat in the back of the room and listened to them talk. The conversations bored me. I thought I’d interject a little humor into the gathering, of course at someone’s expense. I waited for my victim to walk through the classroom door. It didn’t take long. Twelve year old Houston stumbled into the room, saw the doughnuts, walked to the box and stared at the selection. He was confused.
“Houston, they’re all chocolate doughnuts. Take one,” I said. The rest of the staff stopped chewing the blueberry doughnuts and stared at me wondering what I was talking about. “They’re chocolate doughnuts,” I said again while giving them that look you give when you don’t want someone to let the cat out of the bag and spoil the joke. They understood.
Houston sat down. Looked again at the doughnut and took a bite. No reaction. He took another bite. Again, no reaction. What was up with that? Couldn’t he tell the difference between a chocolate blueberry doughnut or were the WalMart doughnuts really that tasteless?
“Houston, those are blueberry doughnuts,” I said. The staff broke into laughter. Houston blamed a serious lack of sleep for his inability to taste. The joke worked - somewhat. I wanted another victim.
Josh A. walked into Discovery. Selected a blueberry doughnut from the box and sat down. This time everyone was in on the joke. “Josh,” I said. “I bought chocolate doughnuts for the staff this morning.” Josh noticed everyone was staring at him.
“What?” he asked the thirteen pairs of eyes. No one spoke. He took a bite of the ‘chocolate’ doughnut. No reaction. He took another bite.
“What?” he asked again. The unwanted attention was unnerving him.
“Josh, that’s a blueberry doughnut,” I said. Everyone laughed. Josh used the same excuse as Houston for not knowing the difference between chocolate and blueberry. What started as an innocent joke on two unsuspecting staff turned into a study of early morning awareness. Were sleep deprived teenagers unable to taste food? Further testing is required. The results will be posted when the study is complete.
A Knife in. A Knife out and my Bleeding Ego
Last Tuesday was hard on my ego. I met my nemesis on the 11:30 A.M. mission. His name is forgotten but his attitude will never be. I noticed something different about the class when they ascended the spiral stairs to the Voyager Bridge. Instead of hearing overwhelming "Ohhhs and Ahhhhs" I heard nothing. Some had a look of total indifference. Several of the boys had that serious ‘skater’ look to them - long hair and the bone crushing tight girl’s jeans. I’ve worked long enough to realize a tough audience when I saw one.
My nemesis was on the Right Wing Power Station. He reeked of distaste. You could see from his body language that he didn’t want to be there. When he finished training I took his mp3 player. He asked me how long this ‘thing’ would last. I told him another hour or so. He gave me that painfully contoured teenage look you get when you tell them they have to do something they regard as totally uncool.
“I don’t what to be here,” he said.
“Would you like to go to another room during the mission?” I asked, wondering just how serious he was about not wanting to go on the mission. He surprise me by jumping out of his chair ready to go. “You can’t leave without your teacher’s permission,” I said walking away. He went to his teacher and begged to be taken off the ship. The teacher wouldn’t hear of it and promised him it would be fantastic. He didn’t look convinced and went back to his seat. He slumped down in the chair to the point where the top of his head was the only visible part of his body.
He wasn’t the first to display such an attitude. Many times in the past I’ve had to deal with teenagecoolitus, and in nearly every case I successfully brought them around by the end of the mission. This boy was going to be a tough nut to crack but I’m the great OZ. I can dazzle anyone. Can't I? The mission started. My back was against the wall the moment the Captain spoke. He was another one that didn’t want to be there. His voice displayed a lack of respect for the adventure. I will give him one star for at least doing his job. I was afraid my nemesis wouldn’t. The boy’s first order came from the captain. He carried it out. I was surprised by that. At least the boy wasn’t going to try to sabotage the mission for the others.
The mission went painfully slow. I was doing everything in my power to make the experience fun for the Sith Lord. I just couldn't wipe his attitude away no matter how many alerts and intruders I threw at him. I was loosing the battle.
Perikoi ends with a fantastic chase scene and escape from certain death. Almost all crews give me a rousing cheer at the end as they escape vaporization from the exploding USS Copernicus. This one didn’t. The red alert lights were switched to white when the mission ended.
“Captain and crew, our time is up,” I said. I watched my nemesis for his reaction. Would he display any sign of enjoyment?
He didn’t. He was the first to jump from his chair and remove his uniform. He was rushing to get off the ship. His teacher had to sit on him to keep him from running everyone else down. I had failed in my attempt to turn him from the dark side.
The school departed leaving me sitting alone in the Voyager's Control Room surprised one class could have so many imagination dead children. It was the worst case I’d ever seen in a sixth grade class. I wondered if we were living in a time when children were growing up faster then in previous generations. Was the magic of childhood being replaced with the desire to be cool and 'fit in' sooner than it should? I took my bruised ego, bandaged it and went about my business. “One defeat among how many success?” I told myself.
The next day Valley View Elementary arrived for their field trip. I waited for the sixth grades at the top of the spiral stairs. I was still nursing my injury from the day before. The first few came up from the Crew Quarters.
“Wow......” the first boy said as his eyes took in the sights and sounds of the Bridge. He was enthralled. A scab began to form on my open wound.
“This is soooooo cooool!” several others said as they handed me their boarding passes. My wound was now completely scabbed over.
Then, my healer ascended the stairway in the form of a twelve year old boy with brown hair. He stopped at the top of the stairs and stared in rapture at his surroundings. I asked him for his pass. He looked at me, mumbled something that made my heart jump, and walked forward to give me his Boarding Pass. “What did you say,” I asked him. I needed to hear what he said.
“Nothing,” he answered as he stood there waiting for me to take his pass. I wasn’t about to let his statement slip away. I had to hear what he said.
“No... you said something about being here. What was it?” I prodded not willing to drop the subject. He looked at me almost embarrassed to repeat the comment. I could see he was at the time in life when what he felt and what he said needed to be filtered. Its a teenage thing. We all lived through it and most of us luckily grew out of it.
He could see I wasn’t going to drop it. “I said I’ve waited my whole life to be here,” he said with a sense of wonderment in his voice. The scab on my ego dropped off that instant. I was healed. I’m sure my nemesis felt my satisfication all the way to South Jordan.
“Thank you,” I said as I took his Pass and showed him to his seat. “That made my day,” I added as he sat down.
The magic was back. The darkness lifted. My faith in childhood restored. Imagination was vindicated. With my healing came a sadness that there are hundreds of thousands of children in this world that are growing up far faster than they should. Blame it on the internet or television or poor parenting or whatever....... the fact remains true.
Hold on to the magic of childhood to the end of your days. You’ll live a richer, fuller life and that is the Williamson guarantee.
News on the New Galileo
I want to thank Kyle Herring and the Capstone students at BYU for their work on the new Galileo. It was presented to the public last Thursday. I’m told that our little ship was the Belle of the Ball and the favorite of the attendees.
We even made the newspapers! Check out the following stories and photographs.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Well I just finished a post for my Cloverdale Blog on Otis Fleeber and his alien abduction. Give it a read if you have some spare time. http://ourcloverdale.blogspot.com/
Now, I’ll turn my attention to the Space Center’s news of the week. I’m hoping to stay away as I write. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. Match that with the little sleep I got on Friday night and you've got a walking zombie. Overnight camps are not good for sleeping. I’m on duty all night long so I sleep lightly. I'm always listening for the sound of campers needing help, screaming in their sleep, or attempting an escape ;)
Its all OK. Isn’t sleep entirely over rated anyway? Look at how many hours, days, weeks, even years are lost to sleep. Why aren’t we looking at the genetic code that forces us to sleep and find a way to sequence it out of our DNA? Is there anyone out there with me on this one? Anyone? Oh, I see how it is. You’ll all leave me hanging on this one. What........? You enjoy your sleep? So let me get this straight. You wouldn’t trade your sleep for an additional six to ten hours of productive work time every day? Well, I’m getting nowhere with this point so I’ll drop it.
The Odyssey Bites Megan Warner.
The Odyssey’s computers all shut themselves down on Monday toward the end of the field trip. Megan was the Flight Director. Being the professional she is, Megan went into crisis story telling mode and brought the downed computers into the mission - claiming they went down because of battle damage. Once the kids were convinced it was their fault the computers were down, Megan had to figure a way for the crew to operate the ship without computers. The benefit of experience gave her a solution. Instead of clicking their commands into a computer, the crew spoke their commands to the Odyssey’s main computer. Megan insisted they say their commands just as if they were working their station. If they phrased their instructions correctly she responded with the proper action. It worked and they finished the mission with a cheer. Great Job Megan!
The Voyager Can Read Your Mind.
I had a similar problem on Monday with the Voyager’s computers. At 10:30 A.M. I sat in my Flight Director’s chair to start the mission. I felt good about the day so far. Then, I made a mistake. I thought how good it was that the Voyager was running so perfectly on a day when I’d be telling three missions back to back. As soon as the thought crossed my mind I knew I was in trouble for thinking it. The Voyager can read my mind and if it thinks I’m pleased with it’s performance it will bite. It bit. My FD computer froze. That rarely happens. I restarted it and when right into my Tex welcome speech. I hoped that would be then end of it. It wasn’t.
The climatic ending of Perikoi involves a chase sequence involving the Voyager and an alien ship. We were moving into that scene. Suddenly my computer decided to ‘Slow Down’. It froze for several seconds and then unfroze for a moment before refreezing. The cycle of freezing and unfreezing wasn't stopping. That cycle forced me to sit completely glued to the computer to catch it when it unfroze so I could advance the screens and break or repair things. It was nerve racking trying to get through an action packed sequence with a computer on a partial strike.
We got through the mission without the crew knowing the problem. In the five minutes I had to reset the ship for the 11:40 A.M. mission I found the source of the slow down. The First Officer from the 9:30 A.M. mission tried to print her computer log. The First Officer’s computer wasn't set to print to the Bridge printer and that put the computer into some kind of looping network clogging mess. One restart and the issue was resolved.
You know, there is a lot of stress that comes from running these mini theaters with live presentations. If a ride goes down in an amusement park people can simply move to the other rides. At the Space Center, if one simulator goes down we have no choice but to send the school home without the option of returning. For that reason, we have duplicate pieces of equipment for almost everything. That requires a large financial obligation and a large amount of storage - both of which the Space Center has very little of.
Over Booked Woes
I think I may have overbooked the Center for 2:00 - 6:00 P.M. field trips this year. We are running after school field trips nearly every day in April and May. That involves telling three to four missions per day. My staff think I’m crazy for booking that many missions but the alternative was to turn even more schools away and I can’t do that. As the founder and creator of the Space Center I honestly feel a great deal of accomplishment whenever a school comes for a Field Trip. Their attendance is a compliment for the program, the concept, and the wonderful hard working staff . My gratitude to them makes it nearly impossible to turn a teacher and school away. It is like turning down praise. We all like to be praised. If someone was giving you an honest compliment for a job well down would you tell them to shut up and go away? I know there are some holes in that comparison but I believe you get the picture. We will find a way to survived the avalanche of missions about to befall us. The key is a good positive attitude and lots of support from great volunteers. And we all know the best volunteers in the state work at the Space Center.
Will the Galileo Fall Apart in Mid Flight?
I’ve got to hand it to Stacy Carroll and her staff of Flight Directors (Rachel H. and Taylor T) for keeping our present Galileo operational. It isn’t easy. The current Galileo should have been replaced a long time ago. The new Galileo is nearly complete and should be at the Space Center sometime at the end of this school year or the beginning of summer. Until delivery, we must keep the current simulator operational. That's the problem Stacy and her staff face.
Stacy Carroll is the Galileo Set Director. It is her responsibility to keep the ship operational until the new Galileo arrives and she takes that responsibility seriously. Stacy and her staff work many unpaid hours repairing, taping, replacing and debugging a ship that just wants to be put out to pasture. This week alone they were solving multiple problems with the simulator’s sound system. On Friday they had a flight waiting in the lobby while they worked to repair a main viewer in the ship that wouldn’t display correctly. The television was affected by a build up of static electricity. They solved the problem just before the crew boarded the ship. Another bullet missed. Thanks Stacy, Rachel and Taylor. We all owe you one!
I want to welcome three new Supervisors into the Supervisor’s Guild. Maren H. finished her required passes on the Voyager. Zach H. got his Magellan 2nd Chair pass during the overnighter and Kevin R. got his Voyager pass on Saturday. All of them have now finished their Voyager and Magellan passes and will receive their blue Supervisor shirts after the next overnight camp.
Bridger Maxwell Wins Science Fair
Bridger Maxwell, our very own Programming Guild Master, won first place in the Computer Science Division of the regional science fair at BYU on Thursday. His project was based on the new programming he is doing on the Galileo simulator.
Bridger spoke highly of the Center and me during the judging. His ‘plug’ led to my selection as Mentor of the Year. Neither Bridger nor I knew there was such an award but I’m happy I won. I got a nice certificate for my 'Love Me Wall' and a terabyte external drive from Symantic (sp?). I don’t know a lot about a terabyte drive but they tell me I can download my entire mind into it and it would still have plenty of room for a few hundred thousand MP3’s. Imagine bringing a spare brain with me where ever I go. Imagine the possibilities!
Bridger will receive a $10,000 scholarship to a Utah school and an all expense paid trip to the International Science Fair in Reno, Nevada at the end of April.
We’ve had very good programmers at the Center over the years and Bridger proudly keeps up that tradition.
Well Troops, That’s about it. There are other things I could write but you’re getting bored so I’ll stop. Take care and thanks for your support in labor. And thank you for spreading the good word about the Space Center to people in your social circles. Positive praise maintains our reputation as a place that cares about our product and the students we serve.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
From my favorite chair I see a storm blowing in across the valley. My view of Lehi disappeared first. As I watched, American Fork vanished from view, swallowed in a wall of white resembling a curtain starting on the ground and ascending into the sky and out of view. This white opaque curtain is rolling closer and closer to my home up on Pleasant Grove’s hillside. It’s an eerie sight. I feel like I’m in a some kind of an’ end of the world’ movie. I have a powerful but controllable urge to grab a flashlight, a first aide kit, and my emergency backpack and hunker down in the cement walled pantry. Instead I’ll sit here and type. If my home starts disintegrating around me this post will come to abrupt end. At least I went down in mid sentence. Taken to my reward in mid thought. Isn’t that nice to know? The last thing on my mind will be a hopeful question concerning what I’ll write after this sentence.
Well, I’m still here. I'm still thinking......... my mind’s drawn a blank - just as blank as this wall of white that has now passed. It had gale force winds for awhile but calm has returned.
It was fun sitting here watching members of the Grovecreek 8th Ward run by my home. One dad has his daughter in one arm, his scriptures in the other and looked like a real dunce running down the sidewalk. I wondered why he was running . It wasn’t that cold. It wasn’t raining. It was just a good wind. Perhaps he was concerned about his hair. I doubt it. There wasn’t much left on top of his head. Again, just another thing to add to my every growing list of things that confuse me.
Humans........ I’ll never figure you out.
I may have said too much.
Moving along, let’s discuss a few things concerning the Space Center since that ‘s why your reading this on the Space Center’s Blog.
What A Dunce !
Earlier I used that word to describe the grown man running in fear of a little wind. Now I use it to describe myself. I’m a Fool! At least when it comes to some things. Take the microphone in the Voyager Control Room.
For two weeks my mic’s cable has been shorting out. During a mission I’d be in mid sentence as Tex or the computer and suddenly I’d find myself talking to me and my fellow Troubadours in the Control Room. My characters weren’t being heard on the Bridge because of a short in the mic cable. With a twist of the cord the connection would be reestablished and I’d continue where I left off. Irritating was the word to describe the situation.
Emily Perry was about to start a mission in the Voyager Friday afternoon. I decided to do her a favor and replace the cable. I found one in storage, went to the sound mixer and started unplugging what I thought was the old cable. Once it was out of the way I plugged in the new one. I sat back in my Flight Director’s chair beaming with pride at my technological accomplishment.
What a Dunce! The mic didn’t work. I’d messed up somewhere. I pulled the mixer out and took a look in the back. What I found sent a humbling shiver down my spine. Mine eyes beheld a spaghetti bowl full of black cables and wires. going every direction, including a few in extra dimensions of time and space. I tried to unplug a few more. Nothing. Panic set in. Not only was I making a fool out of myself in front of the two Supervisors but also the volunteers. Here he is, the Master of the Space Center, unable to change a simple microphone cable.
I had no other choice but to call Kyle Herring - our resident genius. The mission was 30 minutes from starting. He didn’t answer. I called again and again. Finally an answer. He was just out of the shower dripping wet. Kyle had returned from Chicago an hour or so earlier. I explained the problem. I told him he could have anything up to half my kingdom if he would just put on a hat and get over to the Center right away.
“OK, well I’m standing here dripping from the shower. Shall I just put on a hat and rush over?” he questioned.
“Yes,” I insisted.
“Just a hat?” he continued in a very calm voice. He could of dropped the whole matter, dressed, and came over but he just had to see this one through. “Just A Hat?” he questioned again. “You really want me coming to the Space Center wearing nothing but a hat?”
Well, I got it. After another sentence to clarify I hung up. Kyle made it just in time. He corrected my mistake with out belittling me in front of the staff. He gets a ‘Get Out of Jail Card’ for saving my bacon on Friday.
An Opening in the Space Time Continuum
We hosted seventh and eighth grade students from Lakeridge Junior High’s STY (Smarter than You.... the Gifted) class this weekend. They were a great group. Dallin was one of the boys on the mission and a rabid fan of the Space Center, not to mention, a regular reader of this Blog (hello Dallin, here is what you wanted - something about your mission).
Dallin is one of the two happiest, most cheerful, bubbly, friendly, outgoing, optimistic people I know in this world. The other person is Christine Grosland, one of our Odyssey Flight Directors. She is the Poster Child of the Worldwide Optimists Club. Now let me get the picture straight for you - we had, under the same roof , the two happiest people on the planet and therefore possibly in the universe. I wondered what the result would be if they got too close together. The consequences were beyond my ability to calculate. It was best to keep them separated.
Well, my best laid plan of segregation failed on Saturday morning. It was breakfast time. Everyone was in the Cafeteria except for Christine. Dallin was full of energy and natural joy and was moving around the room sharing it with everyone. I myself was the beneficiary of two blessings. My day was made better because of it.
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Christine. She was walking toward the window to pick up something to eat. I searched the room for Dallin. He was on the move. I quickly did the math. They were on a collision course. Destiny had brought them together. Like two trains racing toward each other on the same track, their paths were about to collide. I turned to Brittany, Magellan’s Flight Director, who was sitting on my left. “Oh No, they are going to touch,” I said. Brittany looked over to where I was pointing. I started to jump up from the desk I was sitting on but realized there was nothing I could do to prevent what destiny had appointed. I sat back down wondering if the world would be the same once their hands met. I pictured a bubble of brilliant white joy starting from their joined hands and expanding outward at supersonic speed encasing everyone on the planet in pure happiness. Could I live with myself if I was happy all the time? What about my sarcasm? What about my dry wit? What about my evil sense of humor that drives me to laugh at other people’s misfortune? Would the very essence of who I was get stripped away? I sat back down to await my fate.
Their hands both went up at the same time to give each other a High 5. Six inches of separation changed to 5, then 4, 3, 2, 1............ I held my arms out in supplication, asking my creator to spare at least something of the old Mr. Williamson. They touched. They laughed. They separated. I looked around. Everything seemed to be normal. I turned to Brittany and asked if I was wearing a smile. She assured me I looked like I always did - slightly ill.
“Yes!” I shouted. The space time continuum was not broken. Brittany started to laugh. Bradyn Lystrup didn’t understand the commotion and waved off an explanation. It was going to be a good day after all.
One Great Worker
I want to take a moment of your time to publicly thank one of our staff for always going the extra mile. His name is Spencer Robinson. He comes in when needed to do our repairs.
He is working on new set pieces of the Odyssey. He also recently painted the blue trim on the Voyager’s desks and will soon start on repairs to the Voyager’s Captain’s Loft. Spencer has a fantastic attitude about work. He enjoys to be busy and we are the beneficiaries of that work ethic. Thanks Spencer for a job well done.
Saint Sheila on BYU Television
Yes, our very own Saint Sheila of Lehi appeared on BYU television last week. They ran a piece on the Space Center as part of their nightly news. The reporter spent nearly an hour at the Center. Most of the time was with Aleta Clegg. A few minutes of the reporter’s time was with Sheila. Well, what did the reported choose to do? She decided to use the Saint Sheila footage and nothing from Aleta.
Aleta admitted defeat the following day. Up until then Aleta privately doubted the sainthood of Shiela. She ignored the growing evidence claiming it was all random occurrences brought on by statistical chance. Not any more. Aleta is now suggesting we have an official portrait painted of Sheila to hang in the Discovery Room. Small prints of the portrait could be sold in the Center’s Gift Shop along with candles. Surely a portrait of Saint Sheila with a candle or two on any home’s mantle would bring blessings.
Aleta, we welcome you to the growing congregation of Sheila admirers. She is one great gal.
And yes, you may keep all the proceeds from the sale of the pictures and candles. That will be your blessing.
Well, have a great week everyone. Thanks for reading, and to our staff and volunteers -thank you for your dedication. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the fantastic people that work here. I’m am your greatest fan.
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.)