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, May 31, 2009

My Dream for the Captain's Quarters


Hello Troops,
Its Sunday and I’m sitting in my second favorite chair composing this post. You may be wondering why I’m not sitting in my favorite chair. It is occupied by my nephew. He seems to think he has the right to sit in my chair whenever he wants. No other family members or friends sit in my chair so why him? I’m not sure. It might be because its comfortable and reclines and rocks and has a foot rest. No matter, I’ll be a good sport about it. After all, Chaz needs to see the rewards of good hard work. I’ve told him many times that a life of hard work and frugal saving brings rewards, like a Laz e Boy Recliner. If you say it enough people believe it, at least that’s what they tell me.

You’re wondering why I put this picture on the blog? It’s here because I like it.. Would I have a living room designed like this? Well, its clean but I like the way my own living room is decorated. I call it English Hodge Podge with a bit of “I don’t know what what I’m doing” thrown in for good measure. Besides, I have too much junk for a room like this. Set out one of my collectible Thomas Kincaid Seaside Village miniatures, and you’ve destroyed the whole feel of the room. So I guess the answer is no, I wouldn’t decorate my living room like this, but I know a place where this design would be spot on - our Voyager simulator!

Wouldn’t this make an excellent Captain’s Quarters? Our current Captain’s Quarters is a small room at the top of a ladder with a tiny balcony overlooking the Bridge's Security Station. It has a cheap carpet, a bean bag chair and a fold out love seat with splitting vinyl upholstery.

This is my dream Captain's Quarters. It is a place I could call my home away from home. During the camps I’d kick the command officers out of their own quarters, give them a few pads and tell them to sleep on the Bridge floor. This would become my personal sleeping quarters. I could seriously grow to like this.

Let’s get serious. Can we afford this kind of upgrade? Are you kidding! I’d have to sell both kidneys and still be short a thousand or two, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. So...... let’s dream, and if you happen to have several (and I mean several) thousands of dollars that you’d like to donate then please do. It will be your own sleeping quarters whenever you come to camp.

So, time to crack open your piggy bank and see what you’ve got. While you count your pennies I’ll get to work on duct taping the upholstery on our current Captain's Quarters old splitting love seat.... :)

See you at Camp!

Mr. Willamson

Friday, May 29, 2009

Our Long Journey

A Note to Praise the Staff and Volunteers of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center.

Dear Staff and Volunteers!
Our long journey is drawing to an end. It has been quite a trek. Our school year attendance was 16, 423! Wow, what an achievement. We worked many missions. We taught many classes. We can look back with satisfaction on a job well done. I'm pleased to work with the finest people in Utah County. Each of you bring a unique
perspective to your work. You flavor the Center with your personality and enrich the lives of our students. Your dedication and willingness to extend yourself and go that little bit extra has made the difference between success and mediocrity. We are unusual troubadours. We perform for our audiences without their acknowledgment. We create magic without their applause. We are the makers of smiles. We wave the wands of our voices to take our customers on fantastic voyages through the cosmos bringing them to a better understanding of themselves and the universe.

We sit at the back of our starships manning the rudder. We do all this unseen, for if we stood for recognition, some of the essence of the experience would be lost. So we hide behind our walls - surrounding our passengers with sound and lights and music and story. I acknowledge your work. I appreciate your efforts. I applaud your talent.

Some day when the history of space travel is written, I hope a there is a small paragraph telling of a place in Utah that, long ago, inspired children to take their eyes off the ground and look far into the distance to see what could be.

Imagination is our fuel and Wonder is our language. So troubadours...... we sit together around the campfire and plan our next campaign. There is a summer ahead and more children counting the days to their EdVenture. Let's sleep for a bit and rise refreshed. There is more to do.

Mr. Williamson

Monday, May 25, 2009

The 20,000th Mission's Virtual Celebration!


Hello Troops,
A milestone was reached last week and went almost unreported. Last Tuesday afternoon the Space Center ran our 20,000 mission! I’m not sure which mission it was because it happened during an afternoon school field trip when the Voyager, Odyssey and Phoenix were running. simultaneously. I intended to make it a big deal with some kind of celebration but didn't. I'm a bore, according to my staff. My idea of a party is staying up past 10:00 P.M. on a weeknight and 11:00 P.M. on a Saturday. A knock your socks off celebration is a good movie with diet coke and large, yes I said large, popcorn. My excuse for letting the event slip by uncelebrated was the Magellan projector bulb drama (posted earlier. Go find it and read it. It's too fresh in my mind to repeat it here). My attention was off the mark. You see, I like to worry about things. I especially like to worry about thing I have no control over. I plan on getting a good sized ulcer and taking some of my 180 days of built up sick leave. Anyway, the event came and it went. Two days later I realized the lost opportunity and felt bad about it, for a moment.

Forgetting things that should be celebrated is one way to trim a leaking budget. Yes, I said leaking. The Space Center's accounts sprang a leak. We are sending money into other people's pockets instead of the other way around, the way it should be. The new Galileo is the reason. I'd like to say it keeps me up at night but it doesn't. Come to think about it, the Swine Flu didn't keep me up either. I'm guessing the only thing that would keep me up past 10:30 P.M. would be an impending disaster capable of wiping out mankind. Of course, if that was going to happen I wouldn't go to bed. I'd invite family and friends over for light refreshments. Then we would have one of those interventions and tell each other what we really think about them. Once the air was clear we'd go out onto my deck, look out over Utah Valley and wait for impact.
There I go again, getting off topic. Forgive me. Let's get back to the 20,000th celebration.

So, in order to make amends and save a buck or two (we all know how I am with Space Center funds) I want to congratulate the staff and volunteers of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center on reaching 20,000 missions!

To start off the celebration I want you to sit down in your favorite chair. We are going to attend a virtual party. Visualize massive amounts of balloons, party favors, and noise makers creating a symphony of ear shattering tones. Imagine handfuls of confetti descending on you like a fog, some going down the back of your neck, others landing in your mouth and still others up your nose. While we're at it, lets conjure up a table full of your favorite snacks and a punch with a real kick.

Wait a minute, who is that getting out of the Hummer Limo pulling up to the front of the school? No way! It is!
Friends may I introduce you to the the cast of the new Star Trek movie - flown in from Hollywood for this very cranial event. Yes they want to talk to you. Yes Spock will find you fascinating. Girls, that young and handsome Captain Kirk really wants to dance with you so go for it. Boys, Lt. Uhura will be manning the kissing booth with the green Orion girl. Wait, what's that sound coming from the gym? They are setting up a replica of the Romulan ship’s engineering section. Everyone gets a phaser that shoots paint balls. Its every man for himself as we attempt to save Captain Pike.

Come on...... admit it. Isn’t this the best Space Center party you’ve ever attended? It’s awesome, and not costing me a dime.

Now visual that for several minutes and then consider yourself partied out. You can tell everyone you attended the Space Center’s 20,000th mission’s virtual party and had a great time.
I know you’re tuckered out and need to go into your bedroom, throw yourself on the bed and sleep for several hours.

Go for it........ and Congratulations to everyone on reaching 20,000 mission!

Mr. Williamson

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Requiem for a Park City Class....

One month ago a class of gifted fifth graders from Park City’s three elementary schools were scheduled to come to the Space Center for a field trip. It was a select group. Only a few were chosen from each school to make up their numbers. Then........it struck.

Swine flu was found in one Park City school two days before their field trip. The day before their trip the Superintendent canceled school to prevent an outbreak. I got a call that day canceling the field trip to the Space Center. One week later we rescheduled the trip for May 20th.

Today is May 20th. Twenty very excited Park City students arrived at the Space Center at 3:15 P.M. with Boarding Passes in hand. They were ready for the EdVenture of a lifetime. I was excited to see them. I knew they had to go the extra mile to be chosen to attend this special field trip. It was an honor to have them with us.

At 4:00 P.M. I was finishing my Bridge speech. I was explaining their role as actors in our unscripted play. Suddenly I heard a snap. It was the sound an electrical breaker makes when its tripped. The main viewer disappeared along with the televisions. In a second I realized we were experiencing a power outage. Just as I understood the consequences the rest of the electrical equipment went out. We were in a partial dark. The only visible light came from the emergency battery lights on the exit signs.
“OK everyone stay seated,” I said to the class. I heard my staff laughing from the control room. The door to the bridge opened and my two Supervisors came up the stairs.
“The power went out,” Spencer explained. I look at him wondering if he realized the stupidity of what he had just said. Of course I knew the power was out. There was no question the power was out. Isn’t it interesting that people always state the obvious?

I told the class we were in good shape. Our power outages were usually short lived. They arrived early so we had a buffer zone. If the power was restored within 45 minutes we could still get through the mission. My plan was to take them outside to wait on the playground. My staff pointed something out I didn’t know - It was storming outside. Cancel plan 1. Move on to plan 2. We went to the gym. We gave them basketballs while we waited. Twenty minutes later they were getting board. The power was still off so we had to switch gears. We took out the Space Center’s Honor’s Night Bingo. Emily, Stacy, Megan, Rachel and other younger staff led them in several games of Bingo. The Space Center’s Candy Counter provided the rewards.

It was 5:00 P.M. The bewitching hour had arrived. The 45 minute buffer zone was expired. The power was out. A phone call to Rocky Mountain Power suggested the power would be off until 11:00 P.M. I walked onto the stage and gave them the bad news. We were sending them back to Park City. I was upset. First the Swine Flu and now a power outage. These poor kids couldn’t cut a break.

Oh Fortuna........... you are a crafty one. From your ruined temples you send the Fates to deal harshly with us. What have we done to incur your wrath? Last week it was the Magellan’s bulb. This week your mischief appeared in many places:

  • The Magellan’s air conditioner broke on Monday. The repairman says the condenser was cracked. I had to close the simulator.
  • Today I heard the crackled laugh of the Fates when I started the Voyager’s morning mission for fifth graders from Rowland Hall / St. Marks School. The Voyager’s primary CD player broke just before the mission. The Command Officer’s MP3 player went on the fritz. The Engineer’s MP3 player broke in mid training. Yes Fortuna, kick me when I’m down and then kick me again.

I walked the Park City kids out to their bus and sent them on their way. No one was happy about the turn of events but it was out of our hands. I can’t shake the feeling that some universal power has turned its attention to our little school and Space Center in the middle of back water Utah. My first concern is to find the mischievous Imp and send him on his way. Surely it must be someone else’s turn to be on the receiving end of irritating events. I hate to wish misfortune on anyone because of my Christian nature but when your back is to the wall, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Tonight I’m consulting my Roman mythology. Somewhere there must be information on appeasing the wrath of an forgotten Goddess. Maybe a sacrifice of some kind? I’d be happy to sacrifice an old computer if necessary. We could take one of the spare Imacs up to the school roof and toss it off while shouting “Fortuna is Blessed!” Or better yet let us find favor with another immortal. Perhaps we could persuade Jupiter to take up our cause?

Fortuna, Roman Goddess of Fortune
or in our case - misfortune.

I’ll work on this. A note to my staff and volunteers. Watch what you say and do at the Space Center. Don’t take our success for granted. There is nothing Fortuna loves more than to squash the hopes and dreams of any mortal feeling proud and boastful of his accomplishments. We will continue to do what we do best - provide the best field trip experience in the State of Utah and do it humbly. I stress Humbly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mr. Williamson's Quest. A Day by Day Account of my Battle with Fortuna, Goddess of Fortune.

The Quest. Day 1

Friday.
We had a Magellan mission arriving at 4:00 P.M. Brittney V. walks up to my desk at 3:45 P.M. That was the moment the Quest began. One minute all is right with the world. Then, in an instance things change - for the better or the worse.
“The Magellan projector is doing that flashing thing again and it won’t come on,” she said. The news itself wasn’t a deal breaker. We always keep a spare bulb for every Space Center projector. I went into the Magellan and tested the projector myself. The bulb was dead. In an effort to speed things along because of the impending Magellan crew I called Kyle and asked him to come down and switch projectors. The Space Center owns two of he NEC special projectors that throw a large picture from a short distance. One is used in the Magellan and the other is kept in the faculty room.

I fetched the spare projector, opened the cupboard and took out the spare bulb. My plan was to install the spare bulb in the bulbless spare projector and have it ready for installation when Kyle arrived. I opened the spare bulb and attempted to slide it into place.
Houston, we have a problem. The bulb wouldn’t lock into place inside the projector. Kyle arrived and confirmed the problem. The spare bulb was missing something on the bulb’s casing. I purchased a defective bulb off Ebay in an failed attempted to save money. We were in a pickle.

In came our superstaff! The Voyager was open. I started shuffling Flight Directors. I moved Taylor into the Galileo. I moved Rachel from the Galileo into the Odyssey. I moved Emily out of the Odyssey into the Voyager. Our missions would be unaffected by this mishap. I had other things to do to get things ready for the overnight camp. Alpine was sending just enough kids to run the Odyssey and Galileo. I had a test group coming in for the Phoenix. My plan was to get the camp started and then purchase two new replacement lamps and have them shipped next day delivery so we’d have them by Tuesday.

The Quest. Day 2

Saturday
Without the Magellan projector the two Magellan private missions had to either be canceled or switched to the Voyager. I successfully transferred the 11:30 A.M. Magellan into the Voyager. The 2:30 mission wouldn’t work. The Voyager was booked. I phoned the Magellan crew and explained the situation. It was a special mission for the woman’s husband’s 40th birthday party and they couldn’t reschedule. I told Brittney to prepare to fly without the projector. She assured me they could pull off ‘Death Trap’ reasonably well projector less. The crew was given half off. The Space Center operated that mission at a loss. What else can you do? Take care of your customers and keep your reputation strong in the community.

Later that day I found a replacement bulb from a company somewhere in the Eastern half of the US. I ordered it online and paid extra for next day shipping. I realized they wouldn’t get the order until Monday so expected the bulb on Tuesday.

The Quest. Day 3

Tuesday
The bulb hadn’t arrived when I finished the field trip missions. Realizing that many people are inept at their jobs and couldn’t give an owl’s hoot for customer care I called the toll free number of the bulb company and spoke to customer service. A young man’s voice answered. He spoke American English. That was a good sign. He checked into the order and discovered it had come in too late for a Monday ship out even though I ordered it on Saturday. He assured me it would go out that afternoon. I could expect delivery Wednesday. That was still OK. We didn’t have another Magellan until Thursday.

The Quest. Day 4

Wednesday
The bulb hadn’t arrived when I finished the field trip missions. Sound familiar? Now surprised someone could be THAT inept at their job I called customer service again. This time I spoke to a young man named Brooks. I explained the situation and made it clear I was getting hot under the collar. He blamed the situation on the warehouse, said there was a real clerical screw up and said he would resolved the matter personally. He gave me his direct line and said to call him on Thursday if the bulb hadn’t come.
“Brook’’s,” I said in a tone serious yet understanding, “I need this bulb, that is why I ordered it next day delivery. I have a theater out of commission and I need this resolved. May I trust you to resolve my problem for me? Will you look at this as your personal mission in life to make me happy?”
“You can count on me Sir,” he replied. “We value our customers and want their loyalty.”
I felt I had a friend in some office building somewhere east of the Mississippi. I looked to Brooks to restore my faith in humans.

The Quest. Day 5

Thursday
The bulb hadn’t arrived when i finished the field trip missions. Sound excruciatingly familiar? I was back on the phone. Brooks didn’t answer so I called customer service. I explained the situation to someone new. He said he would find out what happened and have Brooks call me. He also explained that the problem was never at their warehouse. They never had the bulb in stock. They were having it drop shipped from NEC and that is where the problem was.

I called Brooks back. No answer. I left a message telling him my faith in humanity was in his hands and to call and give me good news. I reminded him to leave a message if I didn’t answer. I hung up.

Now what would you do? I sat at my desk suffering through a record breaking foul mood. I had to make quick decisions. What would I do with a 4:30 P.M. Magellan mission. What would I do about a 4:00 P.M. mission the following day? What about the overnight camp? What about the two Magellan missions on Saturday? I know how upset people get when their best made plans of several months go down the toilet with one phone call from me explaining I don’t have a simulator for them and to find some other venue for their party - oh, at last minute as well. Yes........ I’m in the crapper covered in something hitting the fan over my head. You get the unsavory picture I trust?

The Voyager was open for that day’s Magellan’s crew. I had already done three missions that day and didn’t want to do a fourth but Kyle couldn’t take the mission and Emily was already in mid flight in the Odyssey. Suddenly my foul mood took a darker turn. Ask anyone about my pleasant nature last Thursday. You’ll see their face take a serious turn, their eyes enlarge to twice their normal size and their index finger drawn across their throat.
I had a few moments before the 2:00 P.M. mission so I got on the internet and searched for another company. Minutes before my mission, with my group waiting at the revolving door I found a company called CDW. Instead of placing an online order I decided to place it over the phone. I called sales.

A pleasant, faceless voice answered. Suddenly it seemed my luck would change. He asked if the Space Center was part of the Alpine School District. If so, they had a Utah State contract. I could buy the bulb at a discount - $100 to be exact. I told him at that price I’d take two. I reached in my wallet to produce the credit card. It wasn’t there. Kyle had it.
I put him on hold, went into the office and took the school’s credit card out of the safe. I charged the amount, hung up the phone and did my 2:00 P.M. mission feeling I had completed my Quest!

At 4:00 P.M. the mission ended. I sat at my desk regaining my sanity. A thought crossed my mind. It couldn’t be as easy as that. Something was wrong. Fortuna, the goddess of luck and fortune wouldn’t be cutting me a bit of slack would she? No, she’s been on my case lately with one thing and another. I had a sudden feeling that my contentment was false. Fortuna had lured me into the belief that she had caste her hook into someone else's pond.
“Think you got me do you?” I said to her under my breath. The room was full of staff and I didn’t want them to think I had reached level 5 on the Space Center Madness Scale. I reached for the phone to call CDW to confirm my order. The phone crew cold. She was unhappy I was on to her game.

I got a woman this time. I gave her my order number.
“Im sorry sir but that order is not placed. Your credit card was declined.” I put her on hold, walked into the office and asked the secretary why the school’s credit card had been declined. A few questions later I was back on the phone telling CDW the school’s credit card had a limit of $500. I was up the creek. The Space Center’s credit card was with Kyle and I had no way to pay for the order. I felt Fortuna’s staff jab me in the ribs. She thought she had me. Oh Fortuna, do you really think I’m that easily defeated? I pulled out my own American Express card and charged it to my own account. After all, what’s $750 when you’re at war with one of Olympia’s Gods? I hung up and went about my business. Victory tasted sweet.

Thirty minutes later an uneasiness found a place in my mind. What had she been up to in that hour? I called CDW again. I gave the agent the order number. She told me the order was placed and shipping. I was about to end the call when a thought crossed my mind.
“Please tell me where the package is being shipped?”
“No problem sir, It is address to Alpine School District Accounts Payable. The address is 575 North 100 East in American Fork Utah.”
My heart skipped a beat. Just at that moment a crack of thunder from Mount Olympus was heard across Greece. Fortuna was celebrating.

The Quest. Day 6

Friday
I got to school at 8:00 A.M. and promptly called the District Office. I explained the situation to the receptionist. She said she would watch for the package and notify me when it came in. At 1:40 P.M. I called back. No package. A panic set in. I called CDW and had them track the package. They confirmed it has been delivered. WHERE WERE MY BULBS?
I called back. The receptionist said to try Accounts Payable because they were the ones it was address to. I called Accounts Payable. The woman who answered assured me they didn’t have the package.
“Try Printing. They get packages delivered there all the time,” she suggested. I called printing.
“Only FEDEX delivers here,” Shelley told me. “UPS delivers to the warehouse in Lindon.”
“What if the package says the District Office?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” she replied. “All UPS packages go there.” She gave me the number of someone named Clark.

It was 3:00 P.M. The Magellan mission was schedule to start at 4;00 P.M. The Overnight Camp was after that. The following day (Saturday) there were two Magellan private missions. I was back into panic mode. Fortuna had the knife in and was about to turn it.
I called the number.
“Is this Clark?”
“Yes,”
“This is Victor Williamson at the Space Center. I’m looking for a package that was delivered by UPS.”
“So its yours! What does it say on the package?”
“It says deliver to Account’s Payable.”
“Yes, I’ve got it. I was thinking that if someone wanted this bad enough to have it next day shipped they would call and come pick it up.”
“I’ll have someone there right away to pick it up.”

Bill was up and walking out the Briefing Room door volunteering to drive to the warehouse to pick up our package. Kyle was on hand to put the bulb into the projector. Bill came back with a package with two bulbs. Kyle took one and quickly put it into the open projector. A moment later it was mounted onto the wall and WORKING. My Quest was at an end. The week from heck seemed to be over.

A few minutes later Brittney came into the room and told me half the Magellan wasn’t reading the network. The Magellan crew was there getting briefed on their mission. It was Fortuna’s parting shot as she left Pleasant Grove looking for bigger fish to fry. Kyle spent some time in the wiring closet and resolved the problem. We were good to go.

And so my friends, that was my week. It wasn’t a pretty one. It caused stress and a few very unpleasant moods but we won in the end. The Magellan worked well as a ship and, to everyone surprise, took the Flight Director’s Trophy after the overnight camp. Perhaps it was Fortuna’s way of acknowledging the fact that I stayed in the battle and fought a good fight.

We are starting a new week. I’m wondering what challenge is waiting. Life at the Space Center means never a dull moment.

Mr. Williamson

Sunday, May 10, 2009

News of the Week and My Thoughts on the New Star Trek Movie

Spencer D. at Star Trek

Hello Troops,
I’m writing from my sanctuary in Cloverdale. A beautiful hamlet in the Confederacy of Dunces.

Do You Know What Time It Is?
It was early Tuesday morning. The phone rang at 1:36 A.M.
“Mr. Williamson. This is Matt. We triggered an alarm or something and the police are here at the school. Can you come down and reset the alarm?”
I recognized the voice. I remembered Matt was overseeing the filming of a university student’s video project at the Space Center.
“What are you doing there at this time?” I asked in a semi lucid state.
“We finished early. We triggered an alarm while we were leaving the school.” he explained.
“You were suppose to be out of the building by 10:30,” I said trying to sound angry but controlled.
“Did you think I meant 10:30 P.M.? I meant 10:30 A.M. We were planning on staying here filming all night long. This was designed to be a twelve hour shoot. We finished early.”
“You didn’t say 10:30 A.M. I asked you when you’d be out and you said 10:30 at the latest!”

And there it was, another fantastic misunderstanding at the Space Center.
A film student at some university wrote a space story and needed a place to film. I gave permission and arranged to have the Center staffed by one of our people during the event. Matt knows the world of film so I asked him to ‘baby-sit’ them during the shoot. He agreed. When they arrived Monday late afternoon to set up, Matt and I had the conversation on the length of the shoot. If one of us had added an A.M. or P.M. in the conversation I would have been spared a call at 1:36 A.M. and a trip down to the school to reset a security alarm. There is a lesson to be learned here. It is obvious so I won’t spell it out. Let’s just say I learned it and I hope all of you do as well.
Oh, and thanks to my former 6th grade student, Ryan Armistead, for being understanding. He was the policeman waiting from me at the school. Small world isn’t it.

Small Overnight
On Wednesday Alpine Elementary called to report their overnight camp numbers. I expected lower numbers. This recession is taking its toll and families are watching their spending.
“Mr. Williamson, we have eight students signed up for this weekend,” the teacher reported. I tried to contain my surprise. It wasn’t just the recession, it was also the Swine Flu that concerned parents as well. I made a decision to cancel the overnighter.

The next day he called back and said the number rose to 13. I told him we could do it for 13. The camp moved ahead as scheduled. By Friday the number hit 14. I added six of our staff to crew the Phoenix and went ahead with the overnight camp planning.

I was tempted to cancel the camp but tradition got the best of me. I’ve never canceled a camp due to numbers in the entire history of the Space Center. That’s 18 years of camps! I wasn’t about to let it happen now. GM may be nearly bankrupt. Companies nationwide may be going out of business and homes foreclosed but by golly the Space Center will continue as normal come recession or depression.

Brady Young Married

Yes troops, our very own Brady Young got married on Friday. Brady is a flight director in the Voyager, a student at UVU and a member of the Geek Squad at Best Buy. He recently returned from a mission in Florida.
The reception was held at the Alpine Center on Friday evening. I couldn’t attend because of the camp and one hundred other things but I’m told it was fantastic. Congratulations Brady and may you and your new misses live long and prosper.

Bulb Woes
Brittany V. gave me bad news Friday afternoon.
“Mr. Williamson, the Magellan’s projector is flashing red and yellow again,” she said while I worked on my computer. It was 3:45 P.M. and the Magellan had a private mission coming at 4:00 P.M. I knew that combination of flashing indicated a burned out bulb. I called Kyle and went to work looking for the spare bulb.

Kyle arrived and pulled the projector off the ceiling. I found the spare bulb , unpackaged it but couldn’t get it to fit into the projector. It was the right bulb but was missing a small plastic piece. Kyle did some switching of housing and got the new bulb to fit into the projector. He hit the ‘on’ button and waited. Nothing but the red and yellow flashing indicator of death. The bulb was defective! I cussed under my breath. That was the last time I purchased a bulb from Ebay. Yes, I saved money on the purchase but lost out in the end.
“You get what you pay for,” I was told by more than one person in the room. You know, being responsible for the Space Center really sucks sometimes. Its really bad when you have a simulator without a main viewer and a 15 person party waiting in the lobby for their mission. In situations like this you rely on your fantastic staff. I starting reassigning people.
Taylor took over for Rachel in the Galileo.
Rachel took over for Emily in the Odyssey.
Emily started the Voyager and we switched the Magellan crew into the open Voyager. That solved that problem. Then I had to deal with the Magellan crews on Saturday and Monday.

In the end all groups but one were reassigned to the Voyager. The one group that I couldn’t rebook came on Saturday and flew a Main Viewerless Magellan at 2:00 P.M. It was a 40th birthday party. I gave the group a 50% discount. I believe they had a good time.

I ordered a brand new bulb. It will e delivered on Monday or Tuesday. Wow bulbs are expensive. Nearly $500!! This place costs a lot of money to run.

Star Trek Laughs and Woes
We went to see the new Star Trek movie Saturday evening at Thanksgiving Point. My sister Jilane and her husband came along. My mother wanted to come as well although she knows nothing about Star Trek. She likes getting out of the house. I laughed when she called me at the Space Center.
“Can I come to that Space Battle ...... ah....Star Wars movie you’re going to today?”
“Mother, its called Star Trek. Yes you can come as long as you behave and refrain from talking to me during the movie. Remember, this will be a religious experience for me and all the other Trekkers in the theater so I’ll trust you’ll be on your best behavior.”
Mother agreed to be good. I actually enjoy taking her to the movies. She buys the drinks and popcorn for everyone. Then on the way home we get to review the movie as we explain the plot and characters to her. She can get a bit lost with the digital sound and pictures, not to mention the jerky camera movement they use these days.

I gave mother the seat at the end of the row. Its easier for her to get out to use the restroom halfway through the show. Bradyn L., Spencer D., and my nephew Brock occupied the end of our row. Spencer D came in after we were all seated. He rushed to the theater after his Voyager mission.
He warned me he was going to do something stupid. He didn’t disappoint.
He came into the theater wearing somebody’s nerd glasses and a pointed aluminum foil cap fashioned after the ones the kids wore in the ‘Signs’ movie. We had a good laugh. He has no fear of people. That is a real sign of someone very confident of himself. I admire that.

OK, what did I think of the movie? Well, I ‘ll start by warning everyone that I will be talking about the plot so if you haven’t seen the move and don’t want me to ruin it for you then stop reading now.

I’m going to go through the movie point by point. If you disagree let me know.
1. The USS Keplar scene. OK. Good effects but I don’t like the jerky camera.
2. I’m sick to death of the time travel trick Star Trek uses to change history or bring back characters from the original series. Enough is enough.
3. Having said that, I like the feel of this new incarnation of Star Trek in a timeline change.
4. Young Jim Kirk and Spock are very well done.
5. Problem 1. Why are they building a Star Ship in Iowa?
6. Problem 2. Why are they holding a disciplinary hearing for Jim Kirk in front of the entire student body of StarFleet Academy?
7. Great job with Dr. McCoy.
8. Problem 3. Why do Academy Cadets need to staff the starships leaving for Vulcan? Going along for experience? Perhaps but wouldn’t the ships be staffed by members of the fleet?
9. Problem 4. Was it just be or was travel time to Vulcan done in minutes?
10. Problem 5. The Enterprise got behind the rest of the fleet by a minute or two because Sulu forgot to turn on something. Yet when they arrived at Vulcan the entire fleet was destroyed. Now, how did that happen when they were a couple minutes behind the fleet in take off?
11. Problem 6. WHERE ARE VULCAN’S DEFENSES? Doesn’t the mighty planet Vulcan have planetary defenses? Why are Vulcan’s just sitting there while their planet is getting gored by the drill beam? If they can’t fight then why aren’t they evacuating their planet?
12. If Jim Kirk and Sulu can disable the drill beam with machine guns why couldn’t one photon torpedo fired by anything on Vulcan do the same?
13. Good trick Chekov used to beam them while at speed.
14. Problem 7. WHAT THE HECK IS THE RED LIQUID AND HOW CAN A DROP OF THIS CREATE A BLACK HOLE. COME ON FOLKS. I KNOW ITS SCI FI BUT THIS IS SCI FI AND FANTASY. TOO MUCH.
15. Once they realized the planet was lost why didn’t the Enterprise start beaming hundreds and hundreds of Vulcans into the ship?
16. They said only 10,000 or so Vulcans were left in the universe. Where are the Vulcan starships, cargo ships, embassies, students at off planet universities, tourists, etc etc etc. There should be a lot more than that!
17. The Enterprise was at warp speed when Spock and Jim fought. At the end of the fight Spock ordered Jim into a life pod and ejected off the ship onto another world. Now remember, they got to Vulcan in a manner of minutes from Earth and yet Jim Kirk was ejected onto a moon of Vulcan! How do I know? Well, it shows Spock watching Vulcan get swallowed into the black hole from the moon.
18. Too convenient to have Jim Kirk meet Spock in a snow cave on a moon
19. Laughable to use an equation just presented to Scotty by Spock and have him use that equation to beam Jim and Scotty back to the Enterprise while it travels away from them at warp speed. What were the writer’s thinking? Come on, up until then they kept people to
“Stand Still” before beaming.
20. Problem 7. They figured out how to turn off Earth’s defenses from Capt. Pike? What a crappy planetary defense system if one starship captain knows enough to have it shut completely down! Laughable.
21. Again, the drill starts drilling in San Fransico Bay. Surely somewhere on Earth there must still be an F15 fighter with a sidewinder missile that could take out that drill? Come on!
22. They send only 2 into the Romulan ship? Why not an entire attack force? Where are the Seals?

OK, that’s enough. Multiple plot holes.
Did I like the movie. Yes, very much. I just wish the writers would give their audience some credit for intelligence. All of these things could have been taken care of with some thought and imagination.

Should you go see it if you haven’t? YES. I really hope they start a new television series or at least several new movies.

Take Care Troops,
Have a great week.

Mr. Williamson

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Astro Pal Slinky's Last Black Hole


Hi All, I sent along these photos....our poor little "slinky" astronaut officially was torn apart yesterday as she gave her last hurrah during a classroom demonstration of being spaghettified and pulled into a blackhole.....a short memorial services will be held Friday before field trip groups arrive. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the CMSEC center for Space Teachers Science Honors Evolving into Ludicis Annedotes (St. Sheila fund).

Our deceased, but heroic little astro-pal is symbolic of what it is like to teach second-half school year sixth graders. Sixth graders this time of the year are morphing (really the best way to describe their condition) into: discombobulated, distractable, hormone-poisoned, semi-a "dolts", trying to find their way in life. Teachers and students both are "stretched to their limits" trying to teach and learn.

Being "Saint Sheila" and According to Kyle Herring, apparently I have powers that would help here.....I hereby deliver to all teachers of teenagers AND teenagers trying to learn with an extra "patience potion"...to somehow manage & complete the 2008-2009 school year successfully.

And now our final thoughts on our Slinky Astronaut:

CMSEC DISCOVERY CLASSROOM
ASTRO-PAL
2008-2009

Our Astro-Pal was stretched too tight.
SHE SNAPPED AND BROKE….
JUST LIKE A KITE.

We’ll miss her daily exhibition of Science.
“TO INFINITY AND BEYOND”….
YOU WENT WITH DEFINACE!!!!!!!

To the “Final Frontier” we out send your
“ pattern”……
We think you’ll end up encircling Saturn!!

Adios, dear Astro-Pal!!
Thanks for the memories!


DONE. patience potion delivered.
Sheila Keller-Powell
Space Center Educator

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Summer Stories, The Flu and Star Trek the Movie!

Hello Troops,
It’s May! How many of you are like me and wondering where the school year went? Summer starts on June 21st astronomically. The Space Center summer starts the first week of June. I want all of you in Blogland to know how excited I am for our new summer stories. Your Space Center Set and Flight Directors are working morning, noon and night with me to make this the best summer ever. The Space Center is staffed by some of the finest people in Utah. These people aren’t paid very much for what they do, and what they are paid doesn’t come close to compensating them for the extra time and effort they put into maintaining the simulators and creating the missions you enjoy when you do one of our missions. Now add in the time donated on your behalf by our scores of volunteers and you’ll see the effort this community of learners and doers is doing just for you. The Space Education Center is truly a community effort. Thank you for doing your part in helping us change the very definition of education. Your support both in positive word of mouth advertising and financially through attending camps and outright donations is appreciated. We are totally dependent on the people of this community and we hope we show that appreciation every time you come for our programs.

The Slime Flu!
Wow, what about this H1N1 flu spreading around the world? I don’t know what's worse, the actually flu or the panic it seems to be causing. I personally believe shutting down an entire school system because of three suspected cases is going too far. Is our society so afraid of a bump or bruise that we need to pad everything that stands upright? I see the panic and wonder if it isn't’ the Bubonic Plague roaming the world like death itself slashing down entire populations.

Word is that some European cities are researching how communities of eight hundred years ago dealt with plague. I’m guessing they are already digging enormous pits for the dead. Tons of lime will be on standby to pour over the dead to reduce the stench of decay. Special trucks are on standby to canvas the neighborhoods for the dead. Each is equipped with a loudspeaker so the driver can shout out the same admonition shouted by the town criers of the Middle Ages, “Bring Out your Dead!”

Soon the rabid Christians and Doomsdayists will be walking our streets with sandwich boards warning us to “Repent for the End is Near”. The old timers guarding WalMart’s exits for shoplifters will be armed with semiautomatic weapons to ensure order when society begins to break down and riotous crowds descend to ransack the store to take supplies in preparation to hunker down in their basements and await the end. I’m warning you be take great care in approaching someone’s front door. One knock may result in a shotgun blast through the wood and right through your abdomen. It won’t be pretty when law and order, the pillars of society, break down and the rule of jungle becomes normal.

So, I urge all to watch the news carefully and track the flu but remember, the current virus is no worse than all other flu viruses currently killing people every day in the world. Panic is ridiculous and only demonstrates a lack of common sense and intelligence but hey, we know those are in serious short supply in this modern world - don’t we? Listen, when you see me panic then you can panic. If you see me wearing a mask then it is time to wear one. If you see me walking the streets of Pleasant Grove armed to the teeth then you know the end has already arrived. Be prepared and with preparation comes a sense of calm.

Here are the preparations I’m taking. I wash my hands several times per day. I use hand sanitizes whenever I finish working. I avoid getting too close to students or campers. if I see a student coughing I hand them either tissue or several paper towels. I definitely don’t want to catch the flu. Who has time to be sick for a week? Raise your hands.

New Missions Tested
The Phoenix, Odyssey, Galileo and Magellan tested their new missions this last weekend. The Phoenix and Galileo used staff as their guinea pigs. The Odyssey and Magellan used read overnight camp students. I’m happy with the post mission surveys. Each mission ran reasonably well. Each mission has several places where improvements are necessary. Those have been identified and will be dealt with this week. We will run the missions again this week on the Overnight Camp for students from Alpine Elementary School.

The Odyssey, Magellan and Phoenix will have two new missions for the summer. The Voyager and Galileo will each have one. Have you signed up for summer camp yet? If not what are you waiting for? Let’s get on the ball. Don’t miss these new stories.

Why Doesn’t Anyone Answer the Phone?
I’ve been asked why the Space Center doesn’t have someone at the phones during business hours. We do on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. Aleta Clegg is the Center’s office assistant You can reach her on those days between 9:00 A.M. and Noon. You’ll have to take your chance with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Also, I’m usually at my desk to answer the phone after 1:50 P.M. unless I have an after school field trip (which we’ve had many of lately).

Prom Season
We are in the thick of Prom Season! Every weekend brings new Prom dates to the Center for their Day Dates. Its fun watching these young couples navigate the treacherous waters of dating, especially if this is their first date. Dating veterans are very comfortable with their dates. You’ll see them joking and looking relaxed. New daters are visibly stressed. They are doing their best too look cool. You see it in their body language. The boys stand with legs slightly apart and arms either folded or hands are in the pockets. Gum in the mouth is part of that cool and false relaxed look. They chew with their mouths open and hope to heaven they didn’t make a mistake in asking the girl standing uncomfortably next to them to Prom.

The missions go reasonably well remembering we aren’t structured for people that age. The Center’s focus group are 10 to 14 year olds. Many teens still enjoy the missions. Others find them a bit beneath them - or so they think. It is all good. The Day Dates are bringing in a steady stream of cash and that’s what the Center needs right now as we work hard on the new Galileo.

Your Questions!
OK, I’d like to add questions and answers to this weekly news update. If you have questions about the Space Center or its staff please email them to me (director@spacecamputah.org) and I’ll select the best from the emails to answer publicly each week right hear on the Blog. This is your chance to ask the questions that have been bothering you for some time.
Questions regarding age (especially that of the ladies) will be ignored.
I will also be careful not to discuss in detail what happens behind the scenes as we create the experience you enjoy.

Star Trek the Movie!
May 8th is opening day for the new Star Trek movie. Needless to say, Star Trek is almost a religion for many of us who work at the Space Center so you can be sure we will see the movie.
I urge everyone to see the movie. I hear it is really good from those that have already seen it. It has cool special effects but the foundation of the movie is character driven. That gives the movie a sense of something other than an effects driven movie.

Challenge. I’d like all our Space Center fans to wear their Space Center T-shirts to the movie. I’ll be looking for you in the crowds. I won’t tell you which theaters I’ll be going to (I’ll see it twice at two different theaters) but if I see a Space Center T-shirt I’ll give you a pin from your favorite Space Center ship! The pins sell in our gift shop for $5.00 each so wear that shirt and hope your in the theater at the same time I am.

Thanks Troops,
Mr. Williamson

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Today's Rocket Launch Postponed

A Notice to all those in the Space Center's Space Exploration Merit Badge Class.
The Rocket Launch schedule for today is postponed due to weather. The launch will be reschedule for next Saturday, May 9th from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. weather permitting. Further notices on the launch will be posted on this blog.

Mr. Williamson