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Friday, February 20, 2009

Weighed, Measured, and Found Wanting

Hello Troops,
This is a Blast Post from the Past. For many years I posted updates, news and comment on the Space Center's YahooGroup. Now we have this blog. I've decided to repost some of our YahooGroup's posts to the Blog for safe keeping. This is a post I wrote on September 2, 2007.
Background: That week in September I decided to scrap our problematic Phoenix simulator controls and install the Odyssey's simulator's controls in their place. The Odyssey's controls were stable and reliable. I felt it would make life easier for everyone and bring a sense of uniformity to the Center.
The reaction I got to my decision was quick and severe from many staff and volunteers. That reaction forced me to rethink my decision. In the end I relented and the Phoenix was given new controls programmed by Alex A.
This post was written at the height of the conflict when it looked like a lynching was in my immediate future. It was my way to attempt to bring a bit of humor into a tense situation.

Mr. Williamson

And now, a Blast Post from the Past. September 2, 2007


It was rather chilly at the Space Center. The temperature at my desk was a good ten degrees lower than the rest of the room. It wasn't an atmospheric abnormality
that caused the difference but rather a human generated Arctic breeze, like a cold
front from Canada, powered by the bitter looks and icy purpose from many of the staff pushed in my direction by the toss of a head or the glance of an eye half covered with a dropped eyebrow. Accompanying the evil eye was a wrinkled nose associated with a putrid smell.

Lately I've been afraid to leave the safety of my extended desk. It was my fortress of solitude. I sat at my chair wearing my winter coat and double stitched long johns. I would watch for a drop in traffic to make a dash for the toilet or quench my thirst with an icy cola from the faculty room.

Friday afternoon I saw a chance to escape. It happened before the overnight camp. I moved from my desk toward the door. I took all precautions before making my move. I looked both directions and saw the coast was clear. I got down on all fours and put my ear to the carpet to listen for approaching footfalls. I heard nothing but found a quarter and two M&M's. They were quickly ingested to quiet a stomach left untended for several hours. I stood up, reached for the "Enforcer" and walked to the edge of the desk . I licked my finger and held it over my head to detect an approaching cold front - Nothing. I moved. I moved around the desk and raced for the Briefing Room's Door. I made the corner around the Phoenix and felt the air chill to the point my breath was visible. In the doorway stood Megan and Alex. They were backed by Dave, Stacy, Matt, and what appeared to be a mob of smaller humans all wearing black t-shirts with anchors on their back.

"Going somewhere?" Megan asked. The smile was penetratingly cold. I was still. My first instinct was to retreat to my desk. I began moving backward but stopped when I felt the chill rotate to my back indicating my escape was blocked by a human glacier.
"Get Him," she shouted. Alex moved quickly diving forward and taking me down with a thud. The back of my head hit the carpeted floor knocking several of my senses loose thus causing the temporary loss of movement in my arms and legs.
"Bring Him," was the next thing I heard half dazed from the trauma. I was half carried and half pushed down the hall to Discovery.
"Put him in the docket," I heard Dave say. My head was clearing. I was able to make
out my surroundings. It was the Discovery Room - but different. I was led to a roped off area. At the front of the room I saw a large statue of a blindfolded woman holding scales in her outstretched hand and a sword in the other. Along the far wall, half
obscured by darkness, sat a jury of twelve staff and volunteers. I was placed in the
defendants box, guarded by two members of the Programming Guild armed with phasers. Discovery's door closed behind me with a bang. There was mumbling. Heads turned from me - toward the front of the room and back to me. One person walked toward the cage. It was Mr. Mark Daymont wearing black legal robes. The white wig of an English Barrister rested awkwardly on his head. I leaned forward to tell him to take the stupid thing off but was cut off when he placed a finger to his mouth motioning that I should remain quiet.
"I'm your defense attorney," he whispered.
"Nice wig," I replied forgetting his admonition to stay quiet.
"Get Serious," he said sternly looking around the room as if trying to find a sympathetic face. "You are in a lot of trouble and I don't know If I can get you out of it. Luckily my brother is one of the judges."
"Its about the new Odyssey controls being installed in the Phoenix isn't it," I said,
already knowing the answer to my own question. He looked at me as if I were stupid and nodded his head. "I knew I should of consulted the Phoenix staff and others but
..." he stopped me from continuing.
"That `but' you were about to add, will be your defense and possibly save you from Madam Guillotine," he moved from my cage, took two steps forward, and sat at one of the tables reserved for the defense. I peered across the dimly lit room trying to
recognize the prosecutor. It was a female. It was Megan! Her table was covered by Space Center Law books, legal pads, and pens. She was surrounded by well wishers. The looks on their faces provided the meaning to the words I saw them speaking but couldn't hear because of the distance. At that moment I fully realized how my decision to replace the Phoenix Controls with Odyssey Controls had upset so many people.

I noticed that my defense table was empty except for Mr. Daymont pouring over copious notes while shaking his head as if in pain. The head motion was accompanied by an occasional hissing sound as he took in air through clenched teeth.

The room grew quiet. The hour had arrived. I felt I had made the right decision but
executed it poorly. Now it was time to pay the piper. Would the staff let me keep my head or was this it. A sound was heard outside. It was he sound of wood sliding
across wood and then a loud CHOP followed by a pause then repeated two or three more times. The `Madam' was being prepared. A few minutes later Discovery's door opened. In walked two of our new volunteers each wearing red armbands. They held trays of newly cut watermelon.

Dave Daymont, the head judge, nodded his head giving them permission to pass the fruit out to the spectators. My heart sank as Mr Daymont's head dropped to the table amidst the sound of slurping.
"This is good. Look very few seeds," Kyle Herring said as he studied his slice.There were a few grunts of agreement from those around him.
"Sometimes the best of intentions can go wrong," I thought. I leaned back in my seat
thinking what I would say in my defense. My thought was interrupted by the sound of the gavel. Everyone sat up and faced the front. The trial of the century was about
to start.
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