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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Last Week's Space Center News and Water Cooler Stories.

Hello Troops,
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.

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!

New Supervisors!

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.

Mr. Williamson
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