Monday, December 7, 2009
Ever sit outside and look at the stars in the night sky and wonder where you belong in the grand scheme of things? You may feel you are a very small cog in the great gears of multiple bureaucracies. And you may be. You may feel you have very little control of your life. And you may not. You may feel no one has your back. And they may not. You lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, worrying about things that seem overwhelmingly important to you - but are they really?
Your perspective of the world and universe revolves around a few family members, a few close friends, school mates, work mates, and perhaps a few others here and there in a club, church, or some other social organization. This little circle of people you 'hang out' with play a large roll in your understanding of who and what you are.
Take a moment and think of the people in this "Who I Am" circle. They have power over you because you've given it to them. These people help you create your self concept - the feeling of who you are. They help you form your self image. When they talk you listen. If they are upset, you are upset. In other words, you really care about what they think when it comes to you.
Now, how many people are on that list? Compare that number with the number of people in your town, county, state and nation? There are 6 billion people on this planet and your self image is dictated by how many people?
A word of advice. If your "Who Am I" circle is really big (as it can be for teenagers that freak out of anyone at school mentions the pimple on the end of their nose) may I suggest you rethink your perspective. A well grounded person pulls his self image from inside rather than outside. His "Who Am I" circle of people that help him form his self perception is very small. Their self image isn't dictated by the large group. It comes from inside - from a small group of people.
Now, let's take YOU and put YOU in the grand scheme of things.
Here YOU are on Earth. Asleep in bed, dreaming of lands far away. Look how our world compares to our nearest neighboring planets.
And now you see YOU compared to all the other planets of the solar system.
Wow, add the sun and look how small the Earth is.
Our sun is a light weight compared to several other stars.
And how about comparing our sun to some of the largest stars in the universe. Our sun is only 1 pixel is size!
There are more stars in our galaxy than grains of sand on all the Earth's beaches. And how many galaxies are there?
This is the Hubble Deep Space Field. Take a penny outside at night. Hold it as far from your eye as possible toward an empty section of the night sky. Imagine how small Lincoln's eye is against that empty night sky. The picture you see above is a picture of what really exists in that tiny space occupied by Lincoln's eye on the penny. Each one of those lights is an entire galaxy!!
And in all the wonder and grandeur of the universe please remember there is only one YOU!
So, be kind to yourself and don't let yourself get beat up over small things. You are unique. You are a human. You have self awareness. You can comprehend the universe. And as far as we know, we are the only intelligent life in the universe. If there are others, then they are rare, very rare indeed. You are a miracle so don't forget that the next time you freak out because someone gave you a funny look.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Saturday was a bitter sweet day. I’ll get right to it. (by the way, Saturday was yesterday for those of you that sleep most of the day and get up only to eat and..... well.... you know).
45 fifth graders attended our overnight camp. Many of the them came from the school’s ALL class (the we’re smart and you’re not class). The flight directors, for the most part, reported great kids. I'm happy to hear things like that. If the kids are good then the staff has fun and if the staff have fun then they continue to volunteer.
I was woken up in the middle of the night by a vomit discharge. Luckily the boy made it to the trash can in time. Jon P. took care of it for me, leaving me to my slumber (or the sorry excuse you call the kind of sleep I get at the Space Center). I did a bit of math a few months ago to calculate how many nights I’ve actually spent at the Space Center chaperoning younglings over the last 19 + years. Are you ready for this? A LITTLE OVER 3 SOLID YEARS WORTH. That’s right friends, we are talking nearly 1,200 days of sleeping on the floor in front of my desk! You may wonder what drives me to do it? Well........ I’ll tell you what drives me........ or I will once I get it figured out.
OK, back to Saturday. During our short ten minute wake up meeting in Discovery several of the staff were shocked to see multiple boxes of chocolate covered donuts (nutrition rings as I like to call them) for the staff and camper's breakfast. Last week I wrote about my switch from purchasing glazed only donuts (as I did religiously for 19 years) to a mix of glazed and chocolate donuts. I asked the surprised staff if they read the post I wrote on the subject in The Troubadour (the Space Center’s Blog). To my surprise many of them said they didn't read the Blog. One of the junior high staff said, “I’ll go awhile and not read the blog and when I finally get to it there are so many posts I just go to something else.” He said it bluntly and then stuffed his face with another bite of chocolate donut. I wanted to slap him up alongside the head.
Another teen staff said, “I’d read it but you use big words.” BIG WORDS! I just about lost it. I apologized to the assembled staff, promising I’d be careful in my choice of words in the future. In my apology I said, ”I’m sorry for using more than one syllable words. I’m sorry for writing posts longer than two paragraphs. I’m sorry for wanting to keep you updated on news. I’m sorry for taking rather boring news and fictionalizing it up a bit for interest’s sake, I’m sorry for even attempting to take a portion of your internet game time, I’m sorry for our failing schools and lousy teachers. After all the years you’ve all been in school and you can’t sit still still long enough to get thorough a post? Well it has to be the teacher’s fault. It can’t be yours, can it? I’m sorry America is producing a new generation that must be entertained all the time.
Does this generation have the attention span of a goldfish? Is this a generation that can tell you the history of every Mario Brothers game produced but can’t identify the person on the five dollar bill? Very well. I'll surrender? I'll write future posts in a style more fitting several members of my staff? Here goes nothing..........................
My News, by Mr. Williamson
Characters in my Saturday News:
Kyle: Builder of the New Galileo, the Old Galileo and almost everything else at the Space Center)
Brittney: Set Director of the Magellan simulator.
Stacy: Set Director of the Galileo simulator.
Ben: New Galileo Flight Director.
Megan: Set Director of the Phoenix. Leaving on a mission in two weeks to South Korea.
Emily: Set Director of the Odyssey.
Bracken: Flight Director of all our ships.
Brady: Flight Director of the Voyager.
Bradyn: Flight Director of the Voyager.
Matt Long: Guild Master for the Programmers.
Spencer: Space Center Maintenance.
The camp ended at 10:00 A.M. We had a nice meeting. We talked about the campers scores. The Voyager won the prize for best scores. Brady cheered. Bradyn cheered. All were happy. I was happy.
I did paperwork. I did lots of paperwork. I don’t like paperwork. Do you like paperwork? If you like paperwork then you should come to the school and do my paperwork. I’d like that.
It was cold on Saturday. Were you cold? I was cold. I think everyone was cold. Emily told me she was cold. She shivered. You would have felt sorry for her if you were here. You could of given her a hug to warm her up. Emily would slap you if you gave her a hug. Maybe you shouldn't give her a hug.
We have people that like to program computers. They have their own club. They call it the Programmer’s Club. Matt Long runs the Programming Club. Can you say Programmer’s Club? They meet at the school every Saturday. They are writing new programs for the new Galileo ship. I think they are doing a good job. They showed me their new programs. I thought they were good. I told them they were good. I said,
"I think your programs are good," They smiled and said I was a good person to say that their programs were good. I felt good about being a good person. Are you a good person? I like good people.
Kyle and Spencer worked on the new Galileo all day today. The new Galileo will open next week. I'm excited. Are you excited? I know, let's all be excited together! Ready........... one........two...........three.......... HURRAY. WE ARE ALL EXCITED TOGETHER.
I was sitting at my desk doing paperwork. Kyle came in and said a bad word. I was sad when Kyle said the bad word. I said, "Kyle, why did you say a bad word?" He said, "I said a bad word because this 4 channel HDMI switcher doesn't work. It is the second one we bought from the store and I'm mad. That's the reason I said a bad word."
"Kyle, you can be mad and not say bad words. Would you like to know how?" I asked. Kyle nodded his head. "Would I ever, Can you really teach me how to be mad and not say bad words Mr. Williamson?" Kyle asked while clapping his hands.
"Yes you can," I said. "Now, when you get mad I want you to think happy thoughts. If you think happy thoughts you won't want to say bad words," I said.
"Can we try?" Kyle asked.
"I'd like to very much," I replied. "OK, you pretend you don't know this is broken. I'll bring it to you and tell you its broken. The minute I say its broken you start thinking happy thoughts. Are you ready?"
"Can I get someone to help me?" Kyle asked. I said yes. Kyle ran out of the room. I did more paperwork. He didn't come back for a long time. I was worried. I stood up to go find him.
Then he came in with Brittney Vanders (she has a foreign last name that you might not know how to say so I made her name American so you can say it easier and wouldn't be sad).
"Where were you Kyle?" I asked. "I was getting worried."
"I'm sorry but I had to go potty. I found Brittney on my way back. She said she wanted to play so we held hands and skipped back. Brittney will help me not say bad words."
"I'm happy to play," Brittney said as she curtsied.
"Oh no, I forgot to wash my hands after going poo poo," Kyle said. "I'll be right back."
Kyle ran out of the room. Brittney looked at her hand. Then she looked at me. Her face was turning green.
"Brittney, your face is all green. What's wrong?" I asked. Brittney put her hand over her mouth. I could tell she was sick. She ran out of the room. I heard a splashing sound in the hallway. Do you like splashing sounds? Splashing sounds remind me of swimming and swimming is fun. I heard someone shout my name. I think shouting is rude, don't you? I stood up. I was angry. Stacy walked into the room.
"Was that you shouting at me?" I asked. "Shouting is rude."
"Brittney threw up in the hall?" Stacy said.
"So that wasn't a happy splashing sound?" I asked. Stacy nodded no. I said a bad word.
Later in the day, after we had our graham crackers and milk, Kyle and Brittney came in so we could play the game.
"Kyle," I said. "the HDMI switch doesn't work."
"Happy Thoughts..... Happy Thoughts.....," Brittney said. She was bouncing up and down, hoping her playing made a difference. Kyle stopped and closed his eyes.
"Darn it," he said.
Brittney and I jumped up and down clapping our hands. The game worked. Kyle opened his eyes.
"I didn't swear did I?" he asked.
"No, you said darn it. You win!" I shouted.
"I won.... I won!" Kyle said while running around the room giving everyone a high five. I reached into my desk and gave him a handful of Magic Medicine. We really have a good time at the Space Center, don't we boys and girls?
Later in the day I took my camera and walked to the cafeteria to take pictures of everyone working on the new Galileo. Would you like to see the pictures? I'll put them right here for you to look at.
At 5:00 P.M. it was time to go home. I put on my coat. Everyone was putting on their coats. We were all putting on our coats because it was cold outside and when its cold outside you put on your coat. I said goodbye to everyone but Stacy and Ben.
"Where are Stacy and Ben?" I asked.
"We don't know where Stacy and Ben are," everyone answered.
"Let's all look for Stacy and Ben because its cold outside and if they went outside when its cold they could get into trouble."
Megan started crying. Everyone ran to her and made a happy circle to make her feel better.
"I don't want Stacy and Ben to be outside in the cold," Megan said. "They could freeze and Stacy is my friend."
"Don't worry, I found them," Bracken shouted from down the hall. I was angry because Bracken shouted but I didn't want to say anything because Megan was sad. We followed Bracken to the cafeteria. We found Stacy and Ben sitting behind the Galileo crying.
"We're sorry we scared everyone," Stacy said, while wiping a tear off her cheek.
"Yes, we are very sorry," Ben replied.
"Why are you sad?" Everyone asked at the same time.
"We are sad because this was the old Galileo's last overnight camp. We are sad because our old friend is going away," Stacy explained. Ben nodded his head up and down while Stacy talked.
"But you get a new Galileo," I said while pointing to the shining new Galileo parked on the other end of the room.
Stacy stared crying louder. Ben cried more too. Ben's nose started to run. Ben's face became all sticky.
"Please don't cry," Emily said. "It will make us all cry and I want to be happy because we have church tomorrow."
"Why did you have to say that?" Stacy and Ben both cried louder. Everyone started crying then. It was sad.
"Hey everyone!" Kyle shouted from the other side of the room. He was standing on top of the new Galileo. "Think Happy Thoughts?"
And you know what? It worked. We all started thinking happy thoughts and the sad went away.
That Kyle really knows how to make everyone feel good. We all like Kyle.
Well, that was my Saturday. I'm tired from all this writing. I think I'll lay down and take a nap.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Continued from Ch. 10 Posted in this Blog on November 23rd.
Carick sat in the quiet of the empty lift. The emergency lights were bright enough to ward off any fear of the dark. There was a perfect stillness. “The still before the storm,” Carick thought. He floated before the computer screen. His training taught him to stay at the lowest point in any room during an artificial gravity disruption should the gravity come on without warning. Every few minutes he’d tap his comm. badge in hopes of finding a connection to the world outside his small metal box. Each time resulted in more silence.
Carick’s frustration at his situation exploded in a loud outburst. He slammed both hands on the lift’s wall. The sudden eruption of temper accomplished three things: 1. It felt good to vent pent up anger. 2. It really hurt. and 3. It sent his weightless body propelling across the car (according to Sir Isaac Newton, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction).
After twenty minutes Carick ignored his training and pushed himself up to the lift’s ceiling. He figured there had to be a way to get out, he’d seen it done multiple times in the movies. Of course those were all building elevators. He found several bolts which secured a hatchway but without the proper tools he couldn’t undo them. He was back where he started. He moved back to the computer screen, spending the next several minutes tapping away, hoping to find a method to communicate, even by texting, with the bridge or any other place in the ship.
His concentration was suddenly interrupted by an alarm. He listened to the tone. The starship had different tones for different emergencies and notifications. The alarm system ran independent of the comm system in case the comm system was inoperable. Carick thought It could be an artificial gravity warning. He positioned himself for weight by placing both feet firmly on the lift’s floor.
An explosion violently rocked the ship sending him hard against the wall. His ship was being attacked. The ship they found on long range scans had arrived. Carick bounced around inside the lift several times, unable to grab onto something to stop himself. Another explosion sent the ship pitching hard to port. Carick's head and a wall came into hard contact. Blood flowed down his face and into his eyes. The last thing he remembered was flickering lights and the terrible sound of tearing metal........ then everything went dark. His body floated motionlessly in its prison.
Carick awoke to the sensation of motion. He remembered where he was. He sat up. His head throbbed with pain due to a concussion. He felt a dried liquid on his face. It was his own blood. He'd been unconscious long enough for the blood on his face to dry. He was relieved the bleeding stopped on its own. He picked the dried blood away from his eyes. His rear end was defiantly on the floor. The artificial gravity was back on.
The lift was moving slowly, very slowly. He struggled to his feet wondering how long he'd actually been out. The lift stopped. Then started. It moved for several feet than stopped again. Carick heard voices from outside the door. Two people were talking. They were male voices. Carick pushed his ear against the door to try to capture the exact words. He could tell the voices were above him. The voices were unrecognizable but he could tell they weren’t speaking English. The lift wasn’t in position for the doors to open.
“We’ve been boarded,” Carick whispered to himself. Carick understood by the starting and stopping of the lift that they were interested in getting the turbolifts operational. He also assumed they were the ones that got the artificial gravity back online. Carick knew Cadets Kevin and Nuila were gifted but most likely not experienced enough to repair a non functioning gravity generator.
The lift jerked forward again, only to stop immediately. The voices were closer. Carick knew he only had a few moments before coming face to face with whoever or whatever had attacked and taken his ship.
The lift jerked forward again. The doors slid open. Carick laid with his back to the lift's floor pretending to be unconscious. He wanted to open his eyes just a tick to see what they looked like but felt he couldn’t take the risk. He needed to make his false unconsciousness look real. He remembered his face was already a bloody mess. He counted on that to make his deception look even better.
“Toraksu Morlon,” Carick heard someone say. Their voices sounded human and younger - much like his own. He didn’t recognize the language. A moment passed. He felt fingers touch his neck. They were warm blooded and again, felt human.
“Dreepse. Morbidee,” said the voice of the one touching his neck. Carick understood that to mean, “He’s alive,” or something to that effect. Carick clenched his fist. It was time. He knew they would either take him as a prisoner or just kill him on the spot. He didn’t want to take any chances. He mentally prepared himself to open his eyes. He didn’t know what these aliens looked like and he didn’t have the luxury of loosing even a moment of surprise due to the shock of seeing something hideous for the first time.
He opened his eyes. Before his was the face of a young man - a human with blue eyes and dark hair. Carick struck out with all the force his 17 year old body could muster from the prone position, punching the intruder directly under his nose with the intent to break it. He was successful, considering the sound the alien's nose made upon contact. The alien shouted something and fell to the side of the car. Carick jumped to his feet. The second alien assumed a martial arts position. He looked younger than Carick, perhaps 14 years old - if he were human. He wore some kind of skirt, similar to a Scottish kilt. It was blue with white trim along the bottom hem just above his knees. Above the skirt he wore a well fitted white T-Shirt with some kind of emblem on the right sleeve.
“Spass tormka spelsee droom,” the boy shouted. With that said, he struck Carick with full force using a series of martial arts maneuvers. Carick warded off the blows and struck back when the boy hesitated. A full contact punch to the chest put the boy off balance and onto the hallway floor. Carick had a moment while the boy caught his breath and struggled to his feet. He tapped the computer screen giving the lift an order to move to the next level. He jumped out. The doors shut, trapping the other alien inside. The car moved several feet then stopped. It was jammed. One alien was out of the fight. One more to go.
“My name is Carick. I’m the captain of this ship,” Carick said calmly to the boy as they both took a stand and waited for someone to strike. The boy’s face was scarred. His looked like he’d been in several fights. In fact his whole appearance was that of someone that used his body a lot. He was muscular for someone his age. He'd had a lot of training. The boy lunched forward landing several blows to Carick's head and midsection. Carick fought back. After several blows, both ended up on the floor. The boy rolled over and put Carick in what appeared to be a sleeper wrestling hold. Carick had the advantage of height and weight. He broke free of the hold, scampered up and over the boy's body and put the boy into a sleeper hold of his own. The boy struggled but couldn’t break free. Carick tightened his forearm around the boy’s neck, cutting off his air supply. The boy kicked and squirmed violently and then stopped. Carick looked at the boy in his arms. He had a choice to make. Kill him or let him live.
Carick laid the unconscious boy's head on the floor. The boy would wake knowing his enemy spared his life. If the boy had honor, he’d realize he owed Carick a favor - a favor Carick figured he would need some day. Carick jumped to his feet and ran. He called for the computer. There was no response. The halls were dark, except for the emergency lights. Some of the walls showed definite blast marks, an indication his crew fought for control of the ship. Carick stopped at the second turbolift elevator. A sign near the doors indicated he was on Deck 12. Carick was three decks below the bridge. Carick decided to by pass the unreliable lifts and opened the door to the emergency access shaft located just the left of the lift's doors. Carick stood in the small room. It wasn’t any bigger than a closet. A second door was directly in front of him. A sign on the door read “Emergency Access Shaft.” He opened the door and looked into the vertical turbolift shaft. A ladder was attached to the shaft wall on Carick’s left. The shaft was large enough for one lift car and one person. Horizontal metal barriers were evenly spaced throughout the tunnel showing the barrier between ladder access and turbocar lane. You were safe if you stayed on your side of the barriers. Stick an arm, leg or head out and a turbocar would take it off in passing.
Carick jumped onto the ladder and pushed a button to close the access door. He thought for a moment to consider a direction. Should he go up to the bridge or down to engineering? A turbocar approached. Red LED lights illuminated his section of the tunnel warning anyone on the ladder to hold on. The car flew by accompanied by a great rush of wind. Someone was on their way to the bridge. That told Carick where to go. He started down. It would be twelve decks on a ladder to the engine room. He wasn’t in any hurry.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
(Three Years Before the End of the World According to a Certain Old Gentleman known as my father that eats like a bird thinking consuming 50 calories a day will keep him alive forever).
Dear Family and Friends,
Today finds us stuffing our faces with solid happiness. As the day progresses all of you will end up fat and happy (or I should say for some of us - fatter and happier). I'm hoping everyone is enjoying a good meal and pleasant company, or as pleasant as any of us can be considering the company we have to keep on this special day. Enjoy your day off. I know for many of you tomorrow means going back to work. For some, it will be the worse working day of the year. Yes, I'm talking about Black Friday. If you work in a store, or must go out shopping tomorrow, then you have my sympathies. May God bless and keep you safe from the savages that must have that special trinket for little Johnny and Mary and are willing to do anything (bribery, shoving, biting, kicking, eye gouging, pepper spraying) to get it. I suggest you wear a cross and keep a small flask of holy water handy in case you go down in battle and need Last Rites. I want you all to know that I'm available to come to the rescue if needed. My Battlestar can get into places your car can't if I need to do an emergency extraction (I drive a Lincoln Town Car - you know, the kind only old farts drive. I can get away with parking in the handicap stalls even without a Handicapp Sticker. Everyone just assumes that only those born during Hoover and Roosevelt's Administrations would drive one). I also have a pretty extensive first aid kit at the Space Center. I can do most things with it except perform heart and brain surgery. Oh, I'm a bit rusty with Gall Bladders and amputations so best to leave those types of injuries to professionals. Anyway, give me a call and I'll be right out.
Black Friday is the first official shopping day of the Christmas Season. Oops, according to my politically correct friends and some family that believe religion is yesterday's polyester bell bottoms, I shouldn't be saying or writing 'Christmas'. Instead I should refer to this time of year by its neutral name, the "Holiday Season". I was told that several national chains instructed their employees to drop the "Merry Christmas" salutation and replace it with the religiously neutral "Happy Holidays". Soon the words "Merry Christmas" will only be heard in churches and living rooms. Said anywhere else could cause the raising of eyebrows among those of other faiths and the non and anti religious. Let's not forget the effect of those words on atheists. They will will run from you weeping and wailing, clutching the Constitution as a shield against your verbal assault.
To many the Constitution is like the Bible. Both documents are considered sacred, never to be tampered with or interpreted outside of the age and time they were written. Others see them as fluid documents presenting guidelines that are flexible and should be interrupted for the our time. Both documents can be read and amazingly interpreted in multiple ways! It seems all sides to an argument, either political or religious, can find support through 'carefully guided' reading and the art of seeing only what they want to see.
I'm independent in such matters. On any given day my opinion may change based on who I'm listening to. I like to think its because I'm open minded, when in reality, I just can't remember what I should know from day to day. I call it selective memory syndrome. I remember just those things that will keep me employed and driving. Anything above and beyond that are luxuries. Costly luxuries mind you. For example, I don't know how many times I've purchased a DVD only to get it home and find I already own two copies! Frustrating! So, if I ever give you a DVD as a gift, don't consider it a miracle that I remembered your birthday or Christmas. It's just that, well......... you know.
So....... not to labor a point to death, may I wish my easily offended family members and friends a "Happy Holiday" and those that are religious and conveniently religious a "Merry Christmas". No one should be offended........ Oops. May I also wish you a Happy Hanuka. Oh, and I can't forget a Happy Festivus (for you Senfield fans). Wait, I suppose there may be a few that are offended and ready to sue because I used the word 'Happy'. I apologise if my using that word offends your right to be miserable. I'll do better next time.
Your Ever Kind and Gracious,
Mr. Williamson to some, Victor to others, Bossman to certain staff and Sir to all the rest.
P.S. The Williamson Thanksgiving in Cloverdale. http://ourcloverdale.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Carick stepped into the Turbolift, called up the ships schematics and tapped on the Engine Room. The screen flashed red. The turboshaft on the map remained red after the screen returned to normal color. Carick understood that to mean a blockage of some kind within the turbo system.
“Computer,” Carick hesitated to ask the computer to calculate the best route to the Engine Room but time was of the essence.
“Working,” came the standard programmed female voice of the main computer.
“Engine Room,” Carick requested.
The car started moving. Carick wondered about the route the car would take with the standard shaft blocked. He noticed the lift was moving vertically. He thought it strange with the Engine Room below him.
“Roberts to Carick,” It was the voice of Cadet Kevin Robers coming from a speaker within the turbolift.
“Captain, we’ve got a serious problem.”
“There seems to be a build up of plasma running from the main engine core to the impulse drives on the saucer section,” In the background Carick could hear alarms ringing. Then a strong electronic male voice sounded a warning. “Vent Now. Vent Now. Vent Now.”
“Warren, I don’t know how to vent plasma get over here and help m......”
An explosion rocked the ship. Carick was thrown against the wall of the turbolift. The car stopped moving. Carick found himself in complete darkness for a few seconds until the emergency lights flickered on. He was floating. The ship’s artificial gravity was off line.
He tapped his com badge. No computer response. He pushed himself away from the ceiling toward the floor. He stabilized his movement with the hand rails. The computer screen was working. His attempts to access ship communications failed. A few more taps brought up the ship schematics.
“Oh God no,” he whispered to himself. The screen showed an entire section of the port bulkhead between decks 4 and 6 gone. The ship was exposed to open space.
“If they didn’t know we were here, they do now,” Carick said to himself, referring to the alien ship spotted earlier nearby. Its funny the strange things that pass through someone’s mind in a disaster. Carick thought about the Titanic. Ever since he was a boy the story of the greatest ship of its time sinking on its maiden voyager through a series of unfortunate events fascinated him. He thought about Captain Smith, standing on the bridge of the White Star Line’s Flagship, watching the water boil over the bow and onto the deck. Carick always wondered what the old captain was thinking about as his ship sank from beneath him taking him and 1500 of his passengers to their deaths. Now, for the first time, he thought he knew the answer.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Yesterday was 15 seconds longer than it should have been.
Today scientists are searching for the cause. What would cause the sun to stand still? What would cause the Earth to briefly pause in its never ending cycle of day and night? Some speculate that something with a very large gravitational pull must have come close enough to the Earth to slow the planet’s rotation. The Institute of Science says it may have been a passing, rogue miniature black hole. We know they are out there. What happened yesterday might be the proof scientists have sought for decades.
Of course, there are others who see phenomena this as a message sent by a vengeful God warning humans that the end is near and repentance is the key to unlock salvation and safety from the coming apocalypse. In many parts of the world churches are the fullest they’ve been in years.
Today we have another mystery. If the Earth’s rotation slowed by 15 seconds yesterday then logic dictates today would also be extended by 15 seconds. As of the writing of this post, Sunday is on time. The delay seems to have been a one day occurrence - making it all the more mysterious.
I’m sure there will be conferences on this subject. I’m sure heads of state the world over are consulting their greatest scientific minds on the subject and I’m sure theories will spread like a pandemic.
Such a reaction for something I understand.
Yes, I understand why yesterday was 15 seconds longer than it should have been. I’m tempted to notify the authorities but fear I wouldn’t be believed. The reason, my friends, may have to stay within our Space Center family and friends.
Yesterday, for the first time in 19 years, the Space Center served our overnight campers a breakfast with chocolate covered donuts alongside our normal glazed donuts. I ordered the change in our WalMart weekly donut order on Friday morning after realizing the price of a dozen chocolate covered donuts was the same as glazed. It always had been. I just never asked.
Opening those chocolate covered donuts for the staff’s early morning gathering created such a shock the Earth itself paused momentarily to regain its senses. So many our staff inhaled in shock (as humans tend to do) when I opened that first box and offered them chocolate covered donuts that a temporary vacuum was created in the Discovery Room. A wind, strong enough to blow the napkins off the front desk, rushed in from the hallway to fill the sudden low pressure system. Two of our older veteran staffed fainted. One hurt her head when it came down forcefully onto the tabletop. There were reports of lights flickering throughout the school and the surrounding neighborhood.
I blame myself for everything that’s happened and apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused. I didn’t expect such a reaction. I knew this was a dramatic shift in our normal operating procedures but didn't think it would be the cause for all this unpleasantness.
I’ll finish this post now. I've decided to come clean. I have several phone calls to make. I’ll start with the Astronomical Union. They will help notify others once I send them the proof. I sat one of the WalMart chocolate covered donuts aside in case something like this happened. I’ll take it down to the UPS store, have it wrapped in a box, then wrapped again in bubble wrap before sending it to Washington for analyses.
I’m hoping this won’t frighten people away from sending their children to us for camps, classes and field trips. It was all a mistake and I’m sorry for it.
Friday, November 20, 2009
The Space Center has a YahooGroup that is open to our volunteers and staff only. There are several good historical posts on the YahooGroup that I'll be posted here on the Blog over the next several months. I hope you enjoy reading them. They should bring back memories of your time here.
June 11, 2007
The Space Center's First EdVenture Camp for Summer 2007.
It is 21:58 ship time. We are well into the first evening of our second EdVenture Camp. All the ships are working. At my 12 oclock - the Voyager is running Greenpeace. They had a few network glitches at the beginning but we stalled sooo well that the problem was corrected and the kids didn't know they lost a good 10 minutes off their mission. We are so good - aren't we?
To my 9 oclock - the Odyssey. Chris is running Stakeout. I'm hearing the voices of multiple kids debating their situation. Right now a Phoenix staff officer is standing by the Odyssey's replicator hatch testing phasers. They are preparing for an attack. Lots of noise now from the Odyssey's transporter. They are debating with someone.
To my 6 oclock is the Phoenix running Curahee. "Everyone hold still!" was just heard from the bridge. There is a motion scan in progress. One of the volunteers just passed my desk all decked out as a Paklid. I wonder who is going to be really annoyed in just a minute. Stacy just passed with a bag of cookies from Subway. She just stopped and offered me a portion which I gladly accepted. The Paklid just walked by again. I got a good look at Abram's face. He has blacked out his eyes. He looks like a Paklid just finished with ascrape over his lunch money!
Red Alert sounds from the Phoenix echo around the Briefing Room.
"Captain, we got to get out of here right now!" Cally (Megan) shouted in character. BJ just tumbled out of the Phoenix in character. Hewas shouting that they had to escape right now! I'm hearing "Shoot, Shoot, Fire Fire..." Another voice is saying "I'm trying - stop shouting at me!".
One of the ship's doctors just passed. It is the Voyager's. It is Jennifer Halverson. She was a volunteer a few years back and is now attending BYU. Her little brother is volunteering on this mission so she decided to come back for the evening for old time's sake. Stacy has plopped down at the staff computer at my 10:00 oclock.
"Get up there and tell them to go, go , go.... freaking go!" Megan just said to BJ. He is going in as his character. "What are you doing here!" BJ is shouting at the captain. He is good - really good. I'd be jumping if I were the captain.
It is now 22:09. Explosions. I'm assuming large space battles are in progress. Some of the staff are in the Discovery Room admiring the new spot lights we installed in the ceiling this morning. It really makes the room!
"Whitney, fire the thrusters!"
"Impact in Five, Four, Three, Torepdos have missed!"
"Warning, imcoming weapon's fire."
The missions continue all around me. The Voyager is strangely silent right now. Our two staff photographers just walked by. They play Federation Reporters in the ships talking pictures. We sell the CD's after the camps. Two campers ran into the Odyssey's transporter laughing. They were rushing to get back into the story after a quick
trip to the toilet.
I'm looking at a stack of letters waiting to be opened. I'm looking at a new script for the Canada mission submitted by Kyle this morning. It is long and detailed. I need to reserve some time to digest that. The answer machine is blinking 5 messages. My spiral binder on my right indicates 12 calls to return for private mission bookings.
"Engines are overheating! 30 Seconds!" Phaser fire from the Phoenix. It is 22:16. This first rotation ends at 22:30. I'll meet the kids in the cafeteria for ice cream. I'll enjoy their stories of heroism. I'll enjoy their tales of bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.
Megan killed the Phoenix crew. They are getting a friendly lecture right now. Emily stopped at the wire basket to pick up the post flight survey's.
At 00:30 (12:30 A.M.)I'll settle down for a bit of sleep. I'll sign off now. I've got to get all the ship's their surveys. Enjoy your evening all.
and Space Center Flight Director.
‘Twas late in the evening. Frost hung in the air. Leaves crackled underfoot as I paced through the camp, too restless to sleep. The magic of the clipboard wore on me, but our esteemed leader, Sir Williamson, looked so much more rested and refreshed. I paused near his tent.
“Ah, Mistress Aleta, come in. I have a new wonder to show you.” He beckoned me to his tent.
I approached warily. Only a few months past he had purchased the magic clipboard from a traveling peddler. I dreaded seeing what he had purchased this time.
Sir Williamson reverently unwrapped a bundle of green velvet to reveal a gleaming bottle of clouded blue glass. Its shape was odd–long neck and wide bulb at the base. Swirls of glass that looked like candle wax dribbled down the sides.
“What is that, pray tell?” I asked, doing my best to hide my fears.
“A magic bottle. The peddler spoke of a genie trapped within, a genie that will do my bidding. I but have to whisper the task into the bottle.” He held the bottle close, his lips moving silently. I strained my ears but could not tell what secret he whispered to the genie of the bottle. Sir Williamson smiled. “It shall be done by morning.”
We bid each other good evening. I stepped back out into the stillness of the night camp. I waited for magic to stir me to action. The clipboard was empty, no parchments rattled my pockets. I waited, knowing it was only a matter of time.
A figure stumbled from the troupe’s tent. He clutched a hammer in his hand. His eyes were wide. Moonlight illuminated his features. I grasped his tunic sleeve as he passed. “Master Parker? What evil has been wrought this night?”
He turned to me, his eyes terror-stricken. “Forsooth, I know not what evil spell hath possessed me, but I must repair the wagons or die!” He tugged his sleeve from my hold, lurching to the wagons.
I shook my head, pity filling my heart. Poor soul, to be so bound by magic. Parchment crackled in my pocket. We two shared a burden. Green light flashed from Sir Williamson’s tent.
For those who want to know: Jon Parker has taken over much of the maintenance at the space center. Mr. Williamson tells him what needs to be done, and Jon does his bidding. It is sort of like being a genie slave some days.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Practice missions with volunteer crews are necessary in the training of new Flight Directors. Are you interested in being on a test / training mission?
1. No Cost. They're free!
2. You get to come to the Center again.
1. The mission may have problems. Remember, your flight director is learning how to be a flight director. The mission may not run smoothly. You must be forgiving and willing to give good feedback at the end of the mission.
I'm looking for 6 volunteers to go on a test mission in the Phoenix this Saturday evening. The mission is called Currahee.
This isn't a new mission. You might have done it. You may not repeat it if you have.
When: Saturday, November 21
Time: 4:30 - 7:00 P.M.
Where: At the Space Center
Ages: You must be between 10 and 14 years old and A READER OF THE SPACE CENTER'S BLOG. We like to take care of our regular Blog Readers.
Rule: One spot per family.
If you're interested, please respond by email with the following information:
Your favorite Blog Post from the last Month:
Monday, November 16, 2009
“Extra, Extra, Read All About It,” shouted the freckle face red haired urchin standing on the street corner in pants that showed his sockless ankles and hat that let more rain in than out.
Space Center fans were streaming out of the dark subway stations rushing home through the rain, appearing and disappearing as they moved in and out of light circles drawn on the cracked pavement by the street lamps. They were rushing home in search of a nice hot meal, a bit of piece and quiet for their homework and, to top off a perfect night, a relaxing read of the latest Space Center news before their bath and bed.
They stopped to drop a penny into the dripping hand of the newspaper boy. His hand was blackened because of the newsprint mixed with the moisture. They tucked the folded newspapers under their arms and rushed away to their apartments and row houses.
What will they read in tonight’s edition?
BEN MURDOCK HIRED FOR THE GALILEO.
Ben Michael Murdock was hired today by Space Center Director Victor Williamson to flight direct missions in the Galileo Simulator. The paperwork was filled out and signed at 3:30 P.M. All cheered while Ben was rushed away into the Space Center’s ‘Room for Special Occasions’. He was led to the darkened room’s center. When the light’s came on Mr. Murdock found himself surrounded by the Center’s Collective. Each member of the Collective was dressed in their hooded robes. Their heads bowed to conceal their identity. No one spoke. A desk rose from the center of the room. On the desk was a parchment. Next to the document stood an ink well and quill pen.
“Read,” spoke a deep voice that rumbled through the room. Each member of the collective pointed to the parchment with boney index finger. Ben, noticeably distraught by the experience, stammered a moment and then began reading.
“By signing this document you swear to the Collective hear gathered your full devotion and allegiance to the exploration of Space and the mission of the Space Center. You are bound by this oath for life. You are duty bound to return to Space Center employment when called upon, even after you leave to pursue life's other life’s......”
The document was long and detailed. By its end Ben understood what employment at the Space Center entailed. Total devotion of time, talent and a willingness to work for dirt cheap wages.
“Sign, or leave,” the deep voice rang out once more. Ben gulped. He looked at the figures surrounding him and thought about the life he had, and wondered if he had what it took to give it all up for the Center.
The room remained deathly quiet while all waited on his decision. Then, a cell phone rang. Someone in the Collective had left their phone on. The hooded figure at 2:00 o’clock fumbled with her robe searching for the phone that had fallen into the woolen cloak’s hem through a poorly stitched seam in the cloak’s pocket. Ben recognized the ring tone. It was Stacy Carroll’s. She trained him in the Galileo. She taught him everything he knew. He couldn’t let her down and not sign. He grabbed the quill and scratched his name on the parchment.
It was done. He was now a member of the Collective. The Fellowship raised their arms in unison to welcome their newest member, then quickly exited the dark room for refreshments and home.
Welcome Ben to your new life. You’ll never be the same again.
MRS. HOUSTON DISAPPEARS. RUMORS SPREAD.
Mrs. Lorraine Houston didn’t go to work today at the Center. There was word she was preparing to be admitted to the hospital tomorrow for a few procedures to help with severe pain she’s suffered with for several months.
Everyone at the Space Center, along with our numerous readers, all wish Mrs. Houston a speedy recovery. She may be gone four to six weeks. What shall we do without her?
“I’ll starve to death,” Mr. Williamson was overheard saying while standing near the pen box in the Briefing Room. He looked hungrily at the empty counter where Mrs. Houston normally placed fresh baked treats for the daytime field trip staff when she arrived at work in the mornings. Luckily Mrs. Clegg was there to offer condolences along with the other daytime staff, Sheila, Jon, Bracken, and Stacy. Suddenly, Mr Williamson dropped to the carpet suffering from delicious carbo withdrawal.
Mrs. Clegg knew someone had to act quickly or the Center’s operations would grind to a halt. There was a class waiting in the loading hallway for their 9:45 A.M. mission. She rushed into the Discovery Room, opened the gift shop, grabbed a package of peanut butter crackers, returned ot the Briefing Room. Mr. Williamson was in a full withdrawal seizure. He was sprawled out on the floor shaking uncontrollably. The rest of the staff were too afraid to constrain him.
Aleta barked out orders, “Hold his arms and legs down!” The staff hesitated for a moment then carried out her orders. “Jon, hold down his head,” she said while unwrapping the crackers. Once the head was fairly immobile she pried open his mouth and shoved the crackers in. The effect was immediate. The carbos rushed through his body bringing equilibrium to his mind and body. Mr. Williamson, embarrassed by his complete lack of self control, thanked everyone and ordered the ships loaded. The rest of the day went fairly normal.
Sheila Powell is a teacher at the Space Center. She is also the State Chairwoman for the National Geography Bee. She also founded the new Lehi's Farmer's Market. What a gal!
From Mrs. Powell,
THIS IS COOL NEWS!!! I WAS SELECTED TO BE A GUEST BLOGGER ON THE
MYWONDERFULWORLD.ORG WEBSITE DURING GEOGRAPHY AWARENESS WEEK sponsored by National Geographic!!!
Look for my blog about "farmers' market geography" Monday Nov 16th!!!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Snow fell yesterday in the Shire. I awoke missing the sun. My window framed a picture of the approaching winter. The canvas held the dark gray and white oils of a sad sky. The black branches of a leafless oak divided the scene into smaller parts. I watched the small branches shiver in the wind as the clouds blew by, driven by a gale from the Great Salt Sea. The scene brought memories of last year's cold. I remembered my aching bones. I remembered the dark mornings. I remembered the sun leaving us to the dark of night earlier each passing day. It was hard to conjure the spark of merry thought. I turned away to search the castle’s stone hallways for my fellow Troubadours. It was the week’s end. We entertained the noble’s guests until Friday’s late hours. They would soon be gathering for breakfast and then calling upon to conclude the tales and song begun the night before.
I found my fellows in their sleeping quarters. They sat cold in their seats waiting for a fire’s warmth.
“This room is too frigid for sleep,” Master Merryweather complained. “My spit hath frozen in my mouth. I can barely speak,” The others agreed. Merry rose to speak for all gathered. “We must have better accommodations if we are to be asked to entertained so early. How can I sing when I can hardly mouth a sentence?”
Pastries were delivered from the cook house. I thought the treat would lift the dark spirit in the room. Most partook. Others sat motionless, except for the pronounced chattering of their teeth.
“I shall look into providing a sustainable fire,” I promised. Thanks were given and accepted. We could now move ahead.
I spoke when all were gathered. “Soon our guests will be rising. They will have their breakfast in the great hall. We will then entertain. Let us make haste with preparation.”
Our troupe sprang to action. Our stages and equipment were uncovered. Our instruments tuned and fires lit. Our oil backdrops of lands far away were unrolled. In the half of an hour our band of Troubadours were on their marks, ready to perform. The noble expected our performances to replace the missing sun. He wanted the hall filled with music, story and laughter. He needn't worry. We knew what was expected and performed in full voice.
We entertained throughout Saturday’s afternoon. All five stages performing for noble and peasant alike. The sunless court was warm in spirit as those gathered drew hands together to applaud our tales of danger and woe. I was pleased with my fellows. Our reputation was well earned. We are the best band of Troubadours in the Shire, nay, I will be bold and further my statement to include the entire Kingdom. Some in the village may argue and I welcome the debate. Let them show me other Troubadours that do what we do. Let them bring them hither and show my troupe their talents. If their talent exceeds ours, then I will be the first to surrender the argument. If not, then I beg their voices silent so we may continue.
Before the first curtains parted we gathered to bid adieu to Madam Lorraine. The first lady of our Band had horse and cart waiting. Her health has been a demon to suffer. The Nobleman’s best surgeon’s examined her. After countless attempts to find a cure using tonics, trinkets and leeches they informed our noble lord that a treatment was beyond their understanding. A special doctor skilled with knifes and stitches lived in a village near. Lady Lorraine was leaving to seek his treatment. Her journey back to health will take four to six weeks. We watched as her cart rocked back and forth over the cobblestones and out the castle’s gate. A moment later it disappeared into the gently falling snow of a gray fog.
Masters Kyle and Spencer spent much of the day working on our new stage. It was commissioned some time ago and is nearing completion. It will make a good addition to our other sets. It has been costly, draining a great deal of the troupe’s reserves but all who see it marvel at its beauty. Instead of wood the stage is supported by polished metal. Its designed incorporates movement, allowing this stage to turn and move. Our Noble Lord wishes it ready in a fortnight for Thanksgiving’s feast. Masters Kyle and Spencer offer their word that it shall.
Lady Stacy and Master Bracken spent the day engaged in the creation of new art for our canvases. Master Long and his small band of artists spent the day on the mathematics of movable set. A feature no other band of Troubadours offer. Their imaginations, along with the melody of voice and the spoken word, combine to transport our audiences to distant lands.
Our day ended at the stroke of 5. The peasants thanked us with applause then bowed to the noble lord in gratitude for his hospitality. The Great Hall’s doors opened giving them escape to the village and their suppers and bed. Our band worked diligently to pack our props and instruments away. Some went to their rooms. Others stayed in the Hall to talk near the fire. While others disappeared into the dark of night with invitations to enjoy meals elsewhere in the village.
I along with others sat near the flame of three candles to hear a new story told by a visiting Troubadour, not of our Troupe. This story captivated my imagination, holding me spellbound for the better part of an hour. It was the story of a magical round gate of stone on a great ship lost on the black sea around the stars of the night sky. The sailors passed through the gate and carried away by magic to a distant land in search of food. Their journey turned deadly when a small snakelike creatures was discovered roaming the land. These creatures attacked in the dark of night, moving with such speed our hero's arrows could not find their marks.
I wont’ go further in this retelling. Perhaps it is a story we may tell on our own stages.
I bid my fellows adieu and retired to bed. Tomorrow was the sabbath and our day of rest. I put out the candle and drifted away through the magical gate in search of new tales to tell, heroes to praise, songs to sing and demons to thwart. Such is the life of a Troubadour.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
There are many similarities between Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker. In fact, I sometimes wonder if JK Rowling’s world of fantasy wasn’t somehow based on Star Wars.
In both Harry Potter and Star Wars we find children of light facing dark enemies of frightening power. Both are orphans. Both had parents killed by ‘the Dark Side’. In Harry, The Dark Side is made up of an army of witches and wizards commanded by a Dark Lord. They are intent on extinguishing good and replacing it with evil. In Star Wars we see the same plot. The Dark Side in Star Wars is made up of an evil empire commanded by a different, yet remarkably similar Dark Lord. Instead of magic, Star Wars uses the ‘magic’ of technology and the Force.
Harry and Luke have extraordinary powers for their age. One uses Magic and the other the Force and technology. I believe they are essentially the same thing for story telling purposes. One power requires a wand. The other uses a pronounced mental discipline, the right DNA and a collection of cool Blasters!
The popularity and profitability of these two franchises proves the power of myth in today's society. Today we search for escapism in our entertainment. We look for a release from the common day to day grind of life. We seek parole from the Science and Discovery Channels. Millions of us spend our entertainment dollars on expeditions to the simpler days of multiple gods, demons, sorcerers, vampires and others - all spiced with magic and mystery.
The mysteries of the world and universe are plucked, dressed, and neatly served to us by science on a silver platter. Many mysteries of the past, once explained with magic and faith, are no longer mysteries. We have a good understanding of our place in the universe. We have a good understand of outer and inner space. We understand there is no Zeus on high Olympus hurling lighting bolts at the disobedient or a Poseidon deep in the depths of the sea. Science has stripped the world of these things. And strangely, we miss them.
Many come to the Space Center seeking a disconnect from the ever present world. They want the magic, mystery and fantasy of myth and story. And that is something we can deliver. We can take a youngling, put him in a uniform, and give him an imaginary starship as fantastic as any magic carpet. We give them a ship that travels to the stars at speeds once only available to the gods. Our younglings have the power of Zeus’s lightening bolts. They have the ability to transport themselves from the heavens and down to any planet. They face the overwhelming powers of darkness and, with the imaginary technology we give them, protect the good and defend the weak.
Story is the magic and myth and we are story tellers. We are the Troubadours of modern society. We nourish imagination. We take our younglings out of a world where their lives are governed by adults to a world where they have the power to make decisions and experience the consequences.
Staff and volunteers, we have five small theaters. You are on stage every time you come to work. Tell good stories. Make them magical. Think about the power of myth as you create future stories. Consider why myth is so powerful in today’s world. Recreate that magic in our ships. Our stories can be as powerful as any movie or book. It only takes you and your vivid imaginations.
Consider the following. I don't know the author but find it interesting in this discussion:
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Kyle Herring sent this link. Read it. It's good.
As for your questions about the Galileo.
- Yes, it comes with all its equipment (at least as of right now. I may have to keep the sound mixer if I can't get another one).
- Yes, you must take it apart. It won't exit the school in its current state. Too Big.
- This Galileo cost far more than its current bid. My guess..... to rebuild and equip the simulator just as it is now would run you around $15,000.
- Yes, the Galileo is in need of some TLC. We are building a new one just because of that. You should be fairly handy if you want to buy it, or at least know someone who is and would be willing to help you in the take apart and the reconstruction.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Left to Right. Landon Hemsley, Soren Seibach, Charlie Heaton, Bryson Lystrup, Randy Jepperson, Brady Young, Matt Long and Bryce Redd.
And of course, the old entrance to the Odyssey.
Nineteen Years have come and gone. The Space Center celebrated the event yesterday. I remember November 8, 1990 very well. I was nervous. I had doubts. I questioned whether I knew what I was doing. Others I felt had thoughts concerning my sanity.
It all started with a Young Astronaut Club and a trip to Japan. I saw a school with a small shuttle simulator and wanted one for my club at Central. Suddenly the dream took on its own life. The little ship Pegasus, destined to be built where the Odyssey is now, had exploded into the Voyager – a new addition build onto the school. So many
people were drawn into the project. Great amounts of money and manpower were spent. It had to succeed but I didn't know what `it' was. Failure wasn't an option. I didn't sleep well those first years. My health suffered. My poor heart never completely recovered. The anxiety attacks, I'm happy to say, lasted three years and ended.
I had a building but no real understanding what to do with it. I envisioned a science lab on board a futuristic spaceship but that idea never took root. I experimented with a scientific mission to Mars. There are people that remember that first school mission. We flew at warp speed using HyperCard controls I programmed. Once there we used a Mars laserdisc for special effects. We flew around the planet learning about its climate and features. I stood on the bridge next to the Tactical screen. My 6th grade staff (2 kids) sat in the control room listening and waiting for clues on when to play and pause. How primitive it was compared to what we do now. After a few Mars missions I felt something was missing. The students showed little excitement. They were just bodies sitting at the computers listening to me. I was in command giving the captain orders on where to go and what to do. It wasn't working.
I thought back to my days in the classroom with the overhead projector, boom box, and paper controls. Then the idea came – do what you've proven successful. Introduce some drama. I quickly pulled a few of my "Star Trek" videos and, using two of the school's VCR's, I edited an ending with of a Romulan warbird showing up orbiting Mars. It was a crazy idea but crazy ideas built the Center. I guess being
willing to act on crazy impulses is a character trait I should be proud of.
The idea of adding the Romulan scene at the end of the mission worked well. The kids got excited to see the Romulan ship. The little battle thrown into the end of the Mars mission was successful. It convinced me that my original idea of taking a class on an EdVenture into space would work with the general public like it did with my captive class. I quickly sat down and wrote another mission. I believe it was called "Epsilon". It was a story of a planet in the Klingon Neutral Zone. Half the planet was under Federation control and the other was under Klingon control. The treaty, allowing joint
control of the planet, was soon to be reviewed. The planet would be awarded to the government that demonstrated it could best care for the planet's population.
The story had the Voyager entering the Neutral Zone bringing a new kind of wheat to the planet. This new wheat was genetically engineered to grow well in the planet's harsh climate. The Voyager had a few close calls on the way to the planet and a few others while in orbit. At the end of the mission our classes left the Voyager so excited. I knew I had found the formula and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now here we are 19 years later. The one ship is five. Our stories are much more complicated. Our simulators are ten times more sophisticated. Our work force has exploded but here I am – still sitting at the helm of the Voyager with microphone in hand. The years have taken their toll. I'm getting older and gray but the magic is
still there. Someone once asked me If I would ever move on. I've thought about that many times over the years. Sometimes, when everyone is gone, I go onto the Voyager's Bridge and sit under the dim lights in the Captain's chair. I look at the walls. I imagine the voices of 225,000 children swirling around the room - in the very fabric of the ship. I look over at the left wing and see the original staff, training crews before the days of training tapes. I see Jacob over in the corner asleep when he should be doing his job as a bridge staff. I hear Russell downstairs playing the blind doctor. I watch a much younger Mr. Schuler coming up the stairs in full Star Trek uniform. I
hear a child's voice shout, "Admiral on the Bridge!" I still see that silly mask popping up over the loft and staring at Security. I hear the screams, the laughing, and the quiet that came from sadness when Blossom died in a fiery crash into a planet so many years ago. The memories are happy and so I think I'll stay awhile longer.
Perhaps some day video game technology will become so evolved that children will do one of our missions at home connected to some kind of virtual reality machine. The computer will play my part, telling the story and reacting to the kid's decisions. The class will sit with goggles covering their eyes showing them the bridge of some futuristic ship. Gloves will give them the feel of working the controls. Perhaps the Voyager will still be around. A museum they will visit with their grandparents. As they tour the simulator the sounds of our voices and the blaring music with red alerts will mix with their grandparents stories of when they flew the Voyager to places far distant.
Thank you everyone for Nineteen years. Thank you volunteers for volunteering hours of your time each month. Thank you staff. The pay isn't great but you're creating lasting memories that will stay with our students forever. Finally, thank you students, campers and parents for your constant support! We are here because of you.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Whew...... Last week we had one of those days.
Renaissance and Freedom Charter Schools were on the schedule for the 9:30 A.M. field trip last Wednesday. Renaissance called the day before to request the 9:30 A.M. mission. There was an issue with one boy leaving early. I agreed. We also had a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune coming at 10:30 A.M. to take pictures of the Renaissance kids for an article they are writing on our sale of the old Galileo.
I informed the staff that Renaissance would fly first, Freedom second. Everything seemed fine. What followed next had be my fault. For some reason I forgot Space Center Rule One:
- Space Center Rule 1: If everything seems to be fine - BEWARE. A catastrophe will be forth coming.
Two hours later Aleta came into my math class to relieved me so I could load the first class on the Bridge. I stood on the Bridge waiting. I heard the children's voices. The first ones rounded the spiral staircase. I saw a problem. This crew was wearing red school shirts. Renaissance wore white shirts. Why were Freedom students coming up my stairs? Where was Renaissance? I stopped the loading and removed everyone from the ship. I 'fast walked' to the Starlab to fetch Renaissance while Lorraine followed behind with the now confused and bewildered Freedom students. Precious minutes disappeared from the day's mission times as I tried to sort the mess out. I knocked on the Starlab dome and told Shiela she had the wrong class. The Renaissance teacher chimed in and told me it was OK. They would take the afternoon mission.
Now, thoroughly embarrassed, I took the Freedom kids back to the simulators. Loading started once again. This time the students ascended the winding staircase without their Voyager and Odyssey uniforms. There was no one in the crew quarters dressing and organizing the campers.
"Oh Fortuna, you vixen," I thought with a growing sense of respect for this Goddess of Fate.
We got the mess sorted out and the mission commenced very late. I did everything I could to speed the crew through the story, only to find resistance from the command officers. They were indecisive. They seemed like deer in the headlights. We worked the story and reworked the story doing everything we could to push them.
The 11:30 A.M. flight started late because of the extra time I gave Freedom. The Renaissance command officers also seemed shell shocked by the experience. It was slow going all through Midnight Rescue. By 1:40 P.M. it was all done. We sent both groups home.
That's when I noticed one of my tension ear aches coming on. Some people get headaches, others get sour stomachs - I get an earache in my right ear when I'm stressed - and that ear ache was a doozey! At 2:00 P.M. another bus arrived, bringing two classes of sixth graders from J.A. Taylor Elementary. I had the 2:00 P.M. mission. Bracken was scheduled to take the 4:00 P.M. Midnight Rescue was their choice of mission. That meant four tellings of that story that day. We were all sick of it.
Training went slowly. I was once again pressed for time. I did my best to push them through the mission. It was 4:00 P.M. I was suppose to stop. I wouldn't. I was determined to finish this mission come heck or high water. The Voyager was at the Federation border. The mission was at its climax. Tension was everywhere. I clicked my mouse to advance to the next card and that's when she struck again! My computer shut off. Luckily the tactical showed an 'Intruder Alert'. I stalled for time as I restarted the computer. A few minutes later I was running again. I logged on and once again clicked the mouse to move the Tactical forward. My computer shut off a second time! SHE STRUCK AGAIN. NOW IT WAS GETTING OLD. It was 4:10 P.M. I had no choice but to stop the mission. The other class was lined up in the hallway waiting to board and I had an flight computer that wouldn't stay on.
We removed the disappointed crew the Voyager. I sat perplexed, wondering why my computer kept shutting down every time I clicked the mouse. That's when I remembered Space Center Rule 5:
- Space Center Rule 5: When facing a problem, always start with the easiest solution first.
That's when I remembered Space Center Rule 21:
- Space Center Rule 21: Old flight directors are required to wear their reading glasses when running a mission.
At a bit passed 6:00 P.M. J.A. Taylor Elementary pulled away. We had less than 30 minutes before 50 teenagers were scheduled to arrived from some LDS ward in Orem. All the simulators were either started or reset for the new arrivals.
"Come on Fortuna, you can't be finished with me yet," I mumbled from my desk. "There has to be more. I know you all too well."
At 6:15 P.M. Brittney, Magellan's Set Director, approached my desk and stood there. Of course, that meant a problem.
"The Admiral's computer is dead. It won't stay on," she reported. There was the faint sound of a woman's laughter. It was a voice from Mt. Olympus, carried on the winds of Fate. Fortuna made her presence known once again.
From memory, I reminded Brittney of Space Center Rule 32:
- Space Center Rule 32: Deal With It.
Bracken stepped up to the plate and attempted to organize the mass confusion. He took everyone into the Discover Room for sorting. I stayed out of it. My ear hurt. A few minutes passed. One of my flight directors came by my desk.
"How many are here?" I asked.
"57," came the reply.
"57!" I shouted. Now, we all know 45 is the maximum number we take for private missions. I got up and went into Discovery to help with the mob. I informed the chaperons that there wasn't enough room in the simulators for them to take positions. Most of them would have to wait in the lobby or the Discovery. I left all other problems to be sorted by my capable staff.
I grabbed my coat and walked out. It was time to unwind during my long walk home in the dark. I knew they had a tough crowd. Now don't get me wrong. The teens were really great people, but...... put that many teenagers together, on a school night, after having been shut up in school all day, and ask them to role play a space opera...... see what I mean? You have the potential for disaster.
As I walked home I wondered if a message would be waiting on my answering machine. There was. Why didn't it surprise me?
"Mr. Williamson, this is Jon. One of the girls on the Magellan threw up. Emily is trying to clean it up. We can't find Rosa. Thought you might want to come down. Well, bye..."
Later I discovered the truth behind the vomit. One of our own staff hurled. That was followed by one of the campers vomiting twice.
My apologies to Emily, but I didn't go back. I went to bed and hid under the covers - except for one outstretched arm waving a white shirt. I surrendered to Fortuna on behalf of the entire Space Center staff. I proclaimed her absolute Victor and vowed my staff and I would never again take a string of good luck for granted.