Visit SpaceCampUtah.org to learn more about the Space Education Centers in Utah. Visit SpaceGuard.org and ProjectVoyager.org for information on joining a simulator based school space and science club.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I'm Addicted.


The slide into addiction is a solitary journey through a tunnel dark and dreary. It begins with a taste. Just a taste in a fraction of time that, given any other circumstance, would be forgotten once lived. Suddenly a mysterious world you’ve only read about is unveiled before you. Like Alice, you step lightly through the Looking Glass.
I’m between worlds, looking back into what I know, and with a turn of the head, look into the mist both tempting and beaconing. I hear the song of the Siren captivating the sense of sound. Like a spreading cancer, the sound develops taste. Colors from a crystal rain accompany the melody. I find myself moving, inch by inch, into this new world and yet, memories acting like an anchor, refuse to yield my foundation in the old. It is epic.
My journey began at the start of the week. I was on the Voyager’s Bridge speaking to a teacher I've known since our days together teaching hieroglyphics to the Pharaohs children.
“What’s the hardest part of your job?” he questioned.
“The repetition is challenging but there is a close second,” I said, realizing the top ten list of why running a Space Education Center is hard has items so close it is hard to list them from most to least.
“Is it the kids,” he asked, attempting a guess.
“No, it is the ever nagging fear we will lose a piece of equipment that would force me to cancel a field trip. That's a disaster for a teacher . Your class is all ready to go to the Space Center and suddenly it is canceled because such and such broke and can’t be fixed in time. Imagine said teacher facing his class with that kind of news? There would be a modern day tar and feathering of spit wads and pencil shavings. It haunts me.”
“Well, that can’t be avoided,” my friend said to bring reason to the discussion.
“We try,” I replied. “We have duplicate equipment for most things so if something breaks we drop in the spare. That makes running this Center expensive. That takes me to the third item in my ‘stress’ factor list for running a Space Education Center.”
“Have you ever had to send a school back because of a break down,” was the next question.
“Never, we’ve been lucky. This year has been very good. Our equipment has been trustworthy,” I said with a feathering of pride.
Suddenly I realized boasting of good fortune may cause Fortuna, the Goddess of Fortune, to abandon you to the Fates. I quickly found the nearest piece of furniture and touched it to ground any misfortune.
The mission started. We were running “Intolerance”. Toward the end of the mission I heard Metta at the other end of the Control Room. She was saying something about our primary DVD player. The Primary DVD Player is used to play the story DVD. These are the DVD players impossible to find today. They have an option to cancel the on-screen display of the play and pause feature.
“What’s wrong?” I said in a pause in the action.
“The DVD player won’t play the DVD. It keeps switching off when I put the DVD in. The other DVD players won’t pause.”
I knew we were in a small crisis but nothing professionals couldn't handle. I had to continue the mission. We all know the show must go on. My faith in Metta’s ability to perform miracles would be put to the test. I watched with fascination as she skillfully used the reverse feature on the working DVD player to prep the upcoming scene. Her timing was perfect. Just as I said the key words her hands began moving like the hands of an organist playing a five keyboard instrument. She switched from the science screens to the effects just as the play display disappeared and switched back at the end of the scene. Then, back to the reverse - backing the DVD to a point where it would play up to the next scene just as I called for it.
Metta earned her Space Center Purple Heart for what I saw that day.
The school went home. I sat at my desk watching an approaching storm of epic proportions. Panasonic doesn’t make the S29 or S35 model. The only current DVD player with our required features is the S97 model and they are several hundred dollars each. I turned to my computer to make the necessary keystrokes to spend money I regretted to spend. I felt the tempest about to break down my defenses.
I was about to be carried away by a situation. A situation was in control instead of me controlling the situation - as I prefer to run things. I am a proactive manager - I anticipate the worst. I believe you should prepare for the worst and then expect the best. I felt myself being pulled off my chair into the mouth of a swirling vortex braced by bolts of white lightening. Suddenly - a word entered my mind. It was inspiration. I was saved.
“EBAY!” I shouted. The room settled into quiet. The hurricane was gone replaced by the shocked look of the staff sitting around me. I ignored their looks and began the process of joining this mysterious club of bargain hunters connected together in the world of Cyberspace. In a few minutes I found seven used DVD players with the proper sequence of letter and number: S29. S35. S97.
Within one hour I navigated the uncharted waters of Ebay and Paypal. I earned my captain’s hat. I saved hundreds of dollars. I was dumbstruck.
That was this addict’s first taste of the forbidden fruit. Later that day when my defenses were at their lowest, I stepped through the Looking Glass by searching for other things I needed at home and at the Space Center. As if by magic the items were there - pictured with full descriptions. The prices were perfect. I wanted to stop but there was always something else I knew we needed. Buying cheap is the enticement of Ebay but the addiction comes from the bidding. On some of the DVD players I was locked into a bidding war with other Ebay warriors. It was mortal combat and I’m a competitor. I would crush all who dared to challenge the supremacy of the new player in town: CMSEC.
Several days have passed. I won my bids and two of the players arrived. One is safely in the Voyager working perfectly. The other, a spare, was installed in the Phoenix on Saturday when their effects DVD player went on the fritz.
This week I look forward to taking mental inventory of the Center. I’ll be looking for other equipment I’ve hesitated to buy because of cost. Now, as a member of Ebay, I no longer fear the dark.

So, Im addicted to Ebay. Is there an Ebay Anonymous? I’m only into this addiction one week. I can beat it. I’ve got determination to use Ebay responsibly, but ........... Christmas is coming. Think of the gifts I could buy cheap. No one needs to know my gifts were ‘broken in’ by someone else. It would be our little secret.
Well troops, keep me in your thoughts. Staff and volunteers, check on me when you come in to work. If you see me on Ebay you have permission to fill one of the custodian’s buckets with ice cold drinking fountain water and douse the fires of bargain passion.
OK, enough of this. I have two sisters in California that need a little something for Christmas from their suddenly generous big brother. I’ll see you all in the trenches. Have a great week.

Mr. Williamson
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