Contact Victor Williamson with your questions about simulator based experiential education programs for your school.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

She's Listing to Port, It's Every Man for Himself!

Hello Troops,
The Battlestar took a direct hit to the engine this afternoon just off the I15 main trading route just off the Provo Transpace Cluster. One moment all was well and the next an unsettling sound, followed by a thumping the likes of which have never been heard on this ship before. The engine was hit and failing fast. The ship cascaded out of hyperspace and cartwheeled in zero gravity. I luckily managed to coax the ship to a nearby Chevron Starbase. And there sat stranded far from the stars of home and surrounded by aliens calling themselves Provans. It was unsettling but I've faced worse. My years of training came to mind as I pondered by options.

I tried to look like I belonged. Being identified in Provo space as an alien has been known to be deadly. They are ones who do not take to 'outsiders' and my appearance all but screamed 'alien'. I began drawing attention. No matter how relaxed I looked I knew it wasn't often they saw a crippled Battlestar smelling ripe for the pickings.

In a matter of minutes I noticed one, then two then four were looking. I ordered a restart of the impulse drive, crossed myself, rubbed my lucky rabbit's foot and ordered 1/4 speed. The thumping grew louder then stabilized. The Battlestar maneuvered out of dock and entered the slower Geneva Trading Route.

It was ever so slow going but the old gal made it as far as the Central Port where she sits, a shadow of her former glory in a large empty lot. I left her there for the night, unable to get her up to home port. The climb would be too much for what once was an engine that could handle Warp 9 without breaking a sweat.

Tomorrow will be another day. The fleet mechanics will have their way with her and hopefully will have good news to report. If not, I'm afraid another ship will be joining the list of others that bravely went before to that great dry dock in the sky. Sigh......

Mr. W.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

And Now, A Few Observations

Hello Troops,
The Space Center is safely tucked away for the weekend and all our campers have returned home to tell their tales of heroism and courage. We've had a good and busy week. How about a few things to ponder over to end your week?

We start our Saturday evening read with two things from the "True That" Department.

Did you know that the world's dictators are terrified of white mice?

And from our political desk....

Republicans, what happened?

And something from the closet of whimsical mysteries.....

Have a restful weekend Troops,

Mr. W.

A Problem in Design

Hello Troops,
A question of economy and energy savings compared to safety. I've see these cars buzzing around town. They not only look peculiar and out of place on our roads but completely unsafe. The picture below proves my point.

I was rear ended once in brand new 1996 Saturn. The Saturn handled the impact well. Everyone in the car was OK but our Hart's Big Chills didn't fare so well. Everyone in the car got a free sugar shower. The car's trunk took the brunt force of a lady more concerned with her cell phone conversation than the red light above her.

I think of the Smart Car and shudder at the thought of exposing my health and life, and the safety of my passengers to something that looks like it belongs in a Play School Wombles Set. Don't get me wrong, I trust my driving but can I trust the drivers around me?

In summary, I'll keep my Lincoln Battlestar that gets a mile or two per gallon of gas. You can have your Smart Car delivered in an egg carton. Think of the gas you're saving every day as you venture out onto Utah's highways where the big cars play, risking life and limb.

Mr. W.

Dark matter theory challenged by gassy galaxies result

Hello Troops,
An interesting article on Dark Matter, not to be confused with the magical Red Matter from the last Star Trek movie. You know the stuff, able to produce a black hole when exposed to the vacuum of space. Sometimes I think the writers working the Star Trek franchise should give up any pretense of science and just say the ship and all its equipment works on magic. The buttons and screens are only there for show. We all know it isn't cool to be seen waving a wand in the 23rd century. Instead, the magic is embedded into buttons and touch screens.

Anyway, click here

Dark Matter Theory Challenge by Gassy Galaxies Findings

for an interesting read submitted by Nathan R, a loyal Troubadour reader.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hey ET, Are You Out There? Kepler Helps SETI Tune In

From AOL News.

The needle-in-a-haystack search for extraterrestrial signals has narrowed a bit, thanks to NASA's Kepler spacecraft.

Scientists announced that, of the 1,235 candidate planets discovered by Kepler, 54 of them were in what's known as the Goldilocks zone, a region close enough to its home sun where a planet may harbor life.

When NASA informed the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) of these possibilities, the California-based institute turned the Allen Telescope Array in the location of those planets and began listening for any signs or signals of intelligent life.

Hubble telescope star view
NASA / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

This picture released Oct. 4, 2006, by the European Space Agency shows half of the Hubble Space Telescope field of view revealing millions of stars, including nine that are orbited by planets with periods of a few days. Planets so close to their stars with such short orbital periods are called "hot Jupiters." These are considered "candidate" exoplanets -- planets that orbit stars other than our own.

SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak says he and his colleagues were thrilled about the prospect of 54 possible habitable planets.

"Well, that is obviously great! Although we've known about planets, the big question is always how many of those planets are, in fact, possibly cousins of Earth, that could support life?

"It's nice to know that they're not extraordinarily rare. If you'd asked this question 50 years ago -- and it was asked -- they had to sort of guess at whether planets like Earth were common or otherwise," Shostak told AOL News.

All of the data gathered from the Kepler mission suggests that Earth-like planets are not as rare as once thought. Shostak explains that the candidate numbers are pretty huge.

"It's the percentage of star systems that might have a world something like Earth. It's not one in a million, it's not one in 100,000, it's not even one in 1,000. Every 100 star systems are going to have a couple of these guys, and maybe more."

Kepler spacecraft

This artist's composite shows the Kepler spacecraft in a star field with the sun, moon and Earth. For those of us who are eager to learn about the discovery of life on another planet, Shostak reminds us that, even though Kepler has given us an initial 54 to consider, there's no guarantee of finding an alien civilization on any of them.

"All it means is that maybe a lot of them have life, but how much of that life is at the stage of being technically able to get in touch with you?" he pointed out.

"Of course, we will look at every planet that they find that has any chance of having some sort of complex life on it. But to me, the big picture is something else: Since these sorts of worlds occur on the percent level, that means there are literally billions of candidates for being Earth's cousins in the Milky Way. And billions is a big number!"

So far, after their initial telescopic survey of the planets found by Kepler, SETI scientists haven't yet detected that smoking-gun alien signal.

"It could've turned out that planets were rare -- well, that's not true. It could've turned out that Earth-like planets are rare -- there's no indication that's true, either," said Shostak.

"For 50 years, we've been saying intelligent life might be reasonably common. It might not be a miracle, and we might not be the only kids on the block."

Snow, Again

Hello Troops,
My glance at the weather put me in a foul mood, and that's not a good way to start a day. Snow, yes it's more snow headed our way just in time for the weekend.

The only way to rescue the good mood I had is to see what's happening in the Imaginarium.

The first step in feeling much better about the coming snow is to treat yourself to a cupcake or two. Take these for instance from Dr. Who.

Let's not forget germs. With the winter comes the flu, bronchitis and the common cold. It is recommended you wash your hands regularly, or use hand sanitizer. If neither is available there is always a third option.
(and in the interest if safety, do not try this at home. Boiling water will burn you and then your hand will fall off. Just a note for those of you that suffer from a serious lack of common sense).

And finally, the best way to walk through mountains of newly fallen snow. Take this lesson from the Imperial Forces and the planet Hoth.

Have a Great Day Troops and don't let the snow get you down.

Mr. W.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Engineering Week. News from Utah's Top Engineering School

Hello Troops,
It's Engineering Week nationwide. Engineering students from coast to coast are celebrating the only way engineering students can - creatively.

Julie Anna is a volunteer at the Space Center and an engineering student at USU in Logan. I asked Julie to send regular updates for The Troubadour, realizing many of you may choose engineering as your career choice, and might like a glimpse into the world of an engineering student. Please take a moment to read and appreciate the field of engineering. Engineering is an expanding field that needs bright students like you.

Thanks Julie for taking the time to keep our readers updated on USU's activities.

Mr. W.

Report on Engineering Week. Utah State University

~Julie of the North

This is Julie of the North, special on site reporter for the Troubadour, reporting live from Utah State University. Today marks the opening day of Engineering Week, and it has been fabulous so far. Free breakfast consisting of muffins, bananas and milk was provided for all the brave souls willing to venture up to the third floor of the Engineering Building.

Throughout the day, massive amounts of ferrous fluid were found in the engineering atrium for all the engineers to experiment with, examine, and play with. Ferrous fluid is liquid that is magnetic. When it is introduced to a magnetic field the density of the liquid changes. The surface of the ferrous fluid provides an almost frictionless surface for magnets, so it is possible to sling magnets across a table incredibly fast. When I squirted ferrous fluid onto a magnet it formed spikes and interesting patterns. It is also possible to gather the ferrous fluid together and form a sort of gel with it due to the magnetic properties. When I touched these gel masses, they felt like gummy candies. The one bad thing about ferrous liquids is that they stain really badly, so there are many engineers wandering through the halls with brown spots on their hands and arms. I feel like I got turned into a Dalmatian.

The next stop for the day was going to my engineering class. I am taking Thermodynamics and we started learning about what happens when a gas or liquid is pushed through a chamber with inlets and outlets, like a nozzle or a turbine. Although classes aren’t always as much fun as some of the more social activities of an engineer, they teach us the building blocks in order to do what we do best, create and imagine. My classes remind me that engineering is a way of life, not just something fun every now and then. After class, I was treated to free Aggie ice cream, once again provided by the College of Engineering, and I got my favorite flavor, Aggie Blue Mint! For all of you down in Utah County who have never had Aggie Blue Mint, it is worth the trip to Logan just to eat it.

The day continued with club competitions. Today the competitions were Paper Tower sponsored by ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) and the Edible Car sponsored by ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). My roommate and I participated in both of them. The rules for the Paper Tower are that you get two Statesmans (the on-campus newspaper) and a yard of tape and you get to build for 10 minutes. There are prizes for the tallest tower and the most aesthetically pleasing. We made a pyramid shaped tower, but we ran out of paper before we could complete the pyramid, so our tower didn’t really support itself. Later, there were some engineers on the floor who were analyzing the structure of our tower, and they decided that if we had more paper, then it would have been an awesome structure.

We were going to make our car out of rice crispies, but we didn’t make it to the store, so we made it out of materials provided by ASME. We made the body of our car out of a carrot. We also carved axels out of carrots, but they were incredibly flimsy and started bending so we switched to pasta noodles instead. We used cookies for the wheels, life savers for supports, and gummy strawberries for the wheel caps. Our car completed the race in 3 seconds (which is somewhere between 3rd and 4th place), but we were most excited that our car actually survived the race to the finish line! Another cool feature about our carrot car, lovingly named Han Solo II (Han Solo I was made during last year’s engineering week, and didn’t survive out of the freezer), is that it is equally good upside down as it is right side up.

Tonight will be the first episode of nerds vs. zombies, an epic battle taking place inside the engineering buildings on campus. I will be sure to let you know all about it.

Happy Engineering Week! Make sure that you all do something nerdy to celebrate!

Tuesday, the Start of a New Week.

Hello Troops,
Well, we enjoyed our two day weekend and now its time to uniform up, grab our weapons and reengage ignorance from the trenches. Having too many days off can lead to psychosis with unrealistic visions of what life should be like. No, we have to work for a living like everyone else. So, back to the battle and don't even think for a minute our enemy is taking a holiday. While we were closed for two days, Ignorance reclaimed hundreds in Pleasant Grove alone - taken by the dark forces of mindless hours of television, video games and Facebooking.

Another good week lies ahead, and to start it off correctly, we need to ponder a few things.
First, let me remind many of you why you're in school. Without a good education you will find the following event cancelled.

And that means spending the rest of your life in jobs that won't fulfill you. Remember, you only live once. Make the most of what God has given. Get an education, then find someone that will pay you to follow your dreams. No small task indeed.

And finally, something amazing from the Imaginarium. This is a one man show extrordinaire.
You know, I'd bet with a bit of computer help from a friend or two you could pull this off.

Enjoy, and I'll see many of you in the trenches. I'll be the one hunkered down in the mud, next to the fire enjoying a can of pork and beans. Oh, and remind me to clean my glasses before we get orders to go over the top.

Mr. W.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday's Sum Up

Hello Troops,
It's a snowy Sunday and I'm good with that because we have a two day weekend! You might be thinking my stating we had a "two day weekend" was odd considering most people have two day weekends (or at least two days off from work each week). Well, two day weekends are odd for those of us that work at the Space Center. We work six days a week, with Sundays our only dark day. So, those Monday holiday's that roll around once a month or so are blessings for us. They are reminders of how most people live. Please don't get me wrong, I enjoy what I do or I wouldn't be doing it, and I'm grateful I have work - especially work I love, but it is nice to experience life with two days off a week.

We had a fantastic overnight camp with awesome fifth graders from Cedar Ridge Elementary School. The kids were generous in their post camp survey praise, awarding perfect scores of 1 to the Odyssey and Galileo. Congratulations to the Odyssey for taking the much coveted "Director's Trophy" for the camp (the trophy given to each week to the simulator with the best scores from the campers). Adam was shocked to the point of shouting during our post camp meeting when the results were posted on the Discovery's white board. He thought he'd bombed.

And we also praise Christina and her staff of the Galileo. Although the two ships tied with perfect 1's, the Odyssey took the trophy because it takes 8 campers to the Galileo's 6. I'm compelled to apologise to Christine for the method used in posting the scores. I put the Galileo's scores on the board first, leaving all believing the Galileo took the trophy. I put the Odyssey's scores second to last. Adam shouted in disbelief as many cheered. Others booed because I'd led them to believe the Galileo had taken it. What can I say but "guilty".

I want to officially welcome Ashleigh to the Space Center. She is our newest volunteer. I also wanted to congratulate Jason F. on doing an awesome job as 'doctor' in the Odyssey on one of the Odyssey's Saturday missions. His character was played brilliantly.

The only bad news to report is the death of the Odyssey's new printer (new might not be an inappropriate term, I bought the printer on Ebay - hoping to save a buck or two). The printer gave up the ghost Saturday morning. It kept messaging that it was too busy to print the papers being fed to it from the Odyssey's Control Room. We checked the network cable - ok. We turned it off and on again, we reloaded the software, we did everything possible to bring it back to purpose but nothing worked. Its now been given a proper reward for its services. It sits in the dumpster at the back of the school. Another couple hundred dollars tossed down the gullet of that dumpster. I'll think twice about ordering printers from Ebay. Sometimes it isn't worth trying to go cheap. A lesson to be learned.

How about something cheerful? I'm not one for video games, even though many classify what we do at the Space Center is an elaborate video game. But I confess a weakness for Mario Kart. I tried other games and failed. Take Halo for example. I played it once in multiplayer mode. There were too many buttons on the controller to push and I got confused. My opponents took advantage of my handicap and took delight in slithering behind me and shooting me point blank in the back of the head as I struggled to back away from the rocky cliff. I just gave up.

Mario Kart is my one true video game weakness. I've played it on every system and became proficient enough to hold my own and occasionally come in third or fourth. So, imagine my delight when I found this new version of my beloved game.

I'd pay good hard earned American money to play this version of the game and have just the opponents in mind I'd like to play against.

And how about these selections from the Imaginarium?

This might be something to take to heart. Remember, the vast majority of people you interact with on a daily basis (except your mother) are not interested in your ponderings, so in a social situation remember the poster above. Think more and talk less.

This will help the next time you immerse yourself in that piece of fantasy. I'm wondering where we would find the Imaginarium. Suggestions?
The only other thing missing from this poster is Clovershire, home of my home away from home - Cloverdale.
Oh, I can't find South Dakota either. Yes, its my home state and deserves Fantasy status (I'd be careful if you're tempted to voice a contrary opinion, especially if you've never been to South Dakota - home of Mr. Rushmore, the Black Hills, the Badlands, Wall Drug, Devils Tower and the number one attraction - the guided tour of Mr. Williamson's childhood and teen haunts).

Finally, someone the dictators in the Middle East wish was on their side.

I'll see you in the trenches Troops. Enjoy your day off from school and try to do something constructive.

Mr. W.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

An Email from a Friend of the Space Center.

Dear Mr. Williamson,

I had some spare time and I really like writing so I wrote this for you and your staff
When I look at the stars I think big of starships and warp-drives, places far away. Of Alpha and Delta, Beta and Gamma. I think of Romulans, Klingons and honor, Orion Pirates and Borg, The Federation and Starfleet. I think of war and peace,danger and death, cheers and silence,lies and threats. Of bombs and mines, explosions and radiation, chaos and racing against time. I think of Shadows, the best time of my life. I think of Guardians, the hardest decision of all. I think of the future as well as the past. But most of all I think of a dream, a spark of imagination... A reality.
Dedicated to the space center and it's wonderful staff.


Friday, February 18, 2011

I's Early Saturday Morning at Camp. Time for Bed.

It's 11:55 P.M. Our 45 fifth grade campers from Cedar Ridge are settling down for the night. I finished typing their Rank Certificates an hour ago. They sit on my desk top waiting to be signed. Pandora is playing the Enya channel as I type this last entry for Friday ( or the first for Saturday).

A few of the male staff are finishing up a game of cards in Discovery. The rest are finding places in the Magellan to unroll their sleeping bags and bed down for the night. The female staff are in the gym. Mrs. Houston prefers chaperoning in the gym. I prefer it that way as well. If the boys are in the Voyager and Odyssey, I get to sleep in front of my desk. It's quieter, meaning I might be able to squeeze a few more minutes for zzzzzzzzz's before waking up at 5:45 A.M. to get ready for my Saturday morning doughnut run to WalMart.

It's been an interesting and busy week at the Space Center. Mrs. Powell's father passed away at the beginning of the week, Emily contracted some strange flu that put her straight down. The rest of us managed to keep the ship afloat. We were short staffed so we survivors rolled up our sleeves and mucked in to get the job done. Thanks to all those that went the extra mile!

OK, Pandora is playing something resembling music - a collection of sour notes played by two or three winded bagpipes, although I can't be sure.

I think it's time to go to bed.

Mr. W.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What the Space Center Experience can do for a Kid

Hello Troops,
Although we don't see students this young, this photo pretty much sums up the experience for the vast majority of students who visit the Space Center. You hear it as they descend the stairs from the Voyager's bridge at the end of the mission...

"Dude that was so sick."
"I saved us."
"At the last second I ....."

I hear it all the time. Students explaining how they saved the ship from certain death. Students talking about how they pulled off the impossible with seconds to go. Students, put into situations that required them to think quickly, make decisions based on presented information, and held accountable for those decisions all agreeing that it was the best field trip ever. Students given the chance to be Superheros for the first time in their lives.

Yep, that's what we do.

See you in the trenches. There be more coming today. Not to mention our overnight camp with 45 students from Cedar Ridge and then a full slate of missions on Saturday. The weekend is upon us.

Mr. W.

P.S. Did you really think I'd let a post get by without something from the Imaginarium?

And Finally, Isn't this just about one of the coolest bridges you've seen? It demonstrates real imagination and creativity in design and function. I'd love to take the Battlestar over this at excessive speeds not recommended for causal driving. Going airborne over that last curve might get a bit dicey though....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday and All Hands on Deck!

Hello Troops,
We start today's news by offering our condolences to Sheila Powell on the death of her father yesterday.

Many of our staff and volunteers do not know Sheila. She is a field trip teacher working the A.M. session from 9:30 to 11:45 A.M. Sheila has been with us for three years now and does a fantastic job working with our visiting teachers and students.

Our thoughts are with you Sheila and we anxiously await your return to the classroom.

It's All Hands On Deck!

With Sheila absent the full duty of running the Space Center's classroom falls on Lorraine and Aleta. With Lorraine in the classroom full time we found ourselves short staffed in the simulators. I sent out the alarm yesterday for help and, true to the Space Center spirit, our staff rose to the occasion.

Aleta stayed for the full day, putting aside the work she had to do for scouts. Aleta will also be going the extra mile and helping with the extended field trip today.
Thanks Aleta!

Casey gave up much needed sleep (he works the graveyard shift at a local motel) to come in and help. Thanks Casey!

Ben came in to help even though it was a school day. Ben has the option of doing many of his high school lessons online. Thanks Ben!

Lorraine will be working exclusively in the classroom which is very difficult. The students aren't always well behaved and the repetition of doing everything (same lesson and star show)over and over again up to four times a day for 8 hours isn't good.
Thanks Lorraine!

Today we have double field trips (9:30 - 1:30 and 2:00 - 6:00). Everyone will be rolling up their sleeves to get the job done.

Here's a few thoughts for today.

Fresh ideas. It's what we are all about.

If you're wondering when is the best time to get things done. This is your answer.
This is so true. I remember as a young boy my depression era grandmother would take us to JB's Big Boy for lunch in Rapid City, South Dakota. She always put several of these things in her purse.
"You never know," I remember her saying.

Well, me for one sure enjoys my refrigerated air, but I see the point.

Have a great day Troops,

Mr. W.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday's Chatter

Hello Troops,

We had a good Monday. I want to thank Alex Anderson for coming in with no notice to fill in for poor Emily. While we enjoyed a sunny warm day, Emily was under a dark cloud. She looked like death warmed over and was promptly sent home. We're hoping for a speedy recovery. Casey and Ben volunteered to come in today to make sure we are properly staffed for the two large classes coming for a field trip.

This is another example of the quality of people that work and volunteer at the Space Center. They understand our Center is a community effort. Each of us stand side by side to provide our visiting students with an outstanding experience. And when a musket ball takes one of us down, another steps in to keep the line strong.

I appreciate the extra mile everyone gives.

How about a few items from the Imaginarium to get this day started right?

Apple can improve anything. Right? It's all in how its packaged and sold.

Another high school event sponsored by the "Whatever Club" ruined by members of the "Killjoys". Any other life long members out there besides me and Spencer Merryweather?

I thought for a moment what a perfect sticker this would make and distribute. Think of all the places you could leave one? How about sending one to that High Councilman who kept everyone in a stupor for forty minutes. How about sticking one on your parent's bathroom mirror after spending an hour or so with them, trapped in the car, as they reminisced about their childhood and the lessons they learned that you somehow are not getting?

Or what about sticking one on the forehead of the kid you were asked to babysit for an hour or so. You know the type, never stops talking about things that make no sense. Oh and mesmerizing you with her full doll collection with accessories.

But then I realized I'd be sure to find one or two or more left for me by my math class and decided against it.

Have a Great Day,
Mr. W.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Outcasts and the Dreamers (From the Space Center's Archives)

Hello Troops,
John Martellaro wrote this article. It discusses Macs and PCs (a modern debate with a flavor of the Crusades) and introduces us to revolutionizing the mainstream by pushing the envelope - thus moving the establishment forward. Our work at the Center does just that. I enjoyed the article and encourage you to read it. Share your thoughts by commenting.

Mr. W.
P.S. Thanks Bill for bringing it to my attention.

Utopia Planitia
I recall the proposition by the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) that the first starship will never be built by Earthlings. Heinlein maintained that only the children of the Lunar colonists or Martian colonists, having been born in space or Earth colonies, would have the vision to reach for the stars. Earthlings, on the other hand, would remain steadfastly mired in the mud of Earth politics - war, poverty, and taxes.

Heinlein doubted that the governments of Earth, having only an Earthly focus and
orientation will ever have the vision, courage, and money to build starships. Today, 37 years after the Apollo missions, we remain unprepared to make the commitment to building a space- faring infrastructure. Our first space station, the International Space Station (ISS), is not designed for the fabrication of additional space vessels in space. The Shuttle conducts routine tasks in low Earth orbit, but cannot even travel to the Moon and service a colony there. So how does this apply to computers?

The point here is that one can seldom make a quantum leap by being absorbed into the mainstream. Innovation, by definition, means something out of the ordinary. Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times, January 21, 1998, "Actually, Microsoft has been a force for greed in the economy, more brilliant at marketing and purloining and crushing than it has been at innovating." (Note: I will, generally, in this column, follow the company line set by Steve Jobs: Apple must succeed by building brilliant products, not by insisting that Microsoft is the enemy and must lose for Apple to win.) But I quote Ms.Dowd to make the point that if the general culture is moving in one direction, then it is almost surely due to human nature and human foibles. On the other hand, the people who have made the most impact on our culture, for the good of mankind, have almost always been courageous outcasts and renegades. Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Madam Currie, George Patton, Amelia Earhart, Harry Truman, just to name a few at random.

So if you are part of the mainstream, then you have been absorbed into what every one else is doing. (The whole point on Apple's 1984 commercial.) By default, you will always see things their way. You can never make a contribution to the group as a whole by giving up your individuality and going along with the group. You wear the blinders of the group. You care only for the passions of the group. But to step outside is to see the group in perspective.

Robert Heinlein saw the same effect in the governments of the world attitude towards space travel. (In his day, a slide rule and space travel were the absorbing interest of young scientists. Today, computers seem to have taken over that preoccupation.) He predicted that only those pioneers who left the Earth would be tough enough and
courageous enough to build a space-faring infrastructure.

To all those people who say, "Microsoft has won the war. Give in and go with the flow," we say, "You should go about your business. Those of us who work with the MacOS (and BeOS, Unix, and Linux) are the outcasts and the dreamers. We will pave the way with a different way of thinking and a different agenda. We want our freedom to create, and we enjoy the excellence of our systems. We will remain steadfastly on the outside while we invent the future."

If the time ever does come when technology enables us to leave the planet and build
a homestead on the Moon, Titan or Mars, you can bet that it will also be the renegades and outcasts that will be first in line to leave. The rest of mankind will remain, dwelling on the Green Hills of Earth, content to stay at home and be satisfied with what everyone else is doing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Space Center Stories from the Past. November 5, 2006

Space Center Journal
November 5, 2006

Kids Comments

Every morning I stand at the top of the spiral staircase waiting for crews to make their climb to the bridge. Every morning I get the same response. Overwhelmed and unbridled joy is the only way I can describe it.

"Wow, this is Star Trek," a boy said this week as he stopped two steps from me and dissected every part of the bridge with his eyes. He was holding up the line. I stepped forward, pulled him toward me and asked for his Boarding Pass. I got the glazed

"Your Boarding Pass," I asked again. It was produced and taken. I showed him where to sit. He moved one step and stopped, "Chad, this is sooo cool. It's Star Trek," he
exclaimed. I'm not sure who Chad was for no one responded, perhaps Chad was at the bottom of the steps unable to move because of the blockage caused by this young admirer.

Later in the week we had another crew overcome by the experience. During the 'Cry
From the Dark' asteroid sequence a boy at Left Wing Power jumped out of his chair as the Captain was shouting "Thrusters! Use the Thrusters!" and the alarms rang.

"My heart is beating so fast I can't stand it. It is going to pop out of my chest! THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER!" he shouted so all could here. That young man gave this old teacher a moment of pure satisfaction. Stacy and I looked at each other in the Control Room and grinned.

"Now that is what I'm talking about," I said as I prepared to take the crew deeper and
deeper into my web. At the end of the mission the Engineer stopped and looked at the bridge one last time. You could see he was reluctant to leave.

"Are you coming," the teacher asked.

"This is the best field trip in the whole world," he pronounced. "It was so exciting my
heart still won't stop beating."

Friends, this is what is being said about what we do. We tell stories that will never be forgotten. These children will take this experience with them to the grave. It will be a story they will tell and retell for years to come. It will be their story of courage and bravery against overwhelming odds.

Before their visit to the Center, courage and bravery are things they've only read about in books and seen in movies. Now, they experienced it first hand and are alive to tell the tale to unsuspecting parents waiting at home. Friends, It Is Magic. Don't you fell awesome to be a part of this?

Is It Chocolate?

Last week I was on the bridge doing what I do - calming the excited and showing them where to sit. Halfway through placing the morning class I noticed a young man standing beside me. It was someone I'd met at the beginning of the line and instructed to sit at the Record's Station. He had the hood of his hoodie up and had his hands cupped in front of his mouth.

"Sir," he said quietly. I usually don't allow interruptions during the seating of a class. If I do I'm bombarded with questions about the set, the decor, and how one's job is to be performed. I felt him getting closer to me. "Sir," he said again. His voice was urgent. I stopped the line and turned to help him. I saw two large eyes looking up at me from the shadows of hood. The boy had his hands to his face. I noticed his mouth was covered with something brown.

"Chocolate?" I wondered. "Doesn't this boy know how to eat? He spread chocolate all over his face. What a mess." I looked into his cupped hands. Brown also. "I'm throwing up," he said spitting onto his palms. There is nothing that gets a big guy like me moving faster then those words. I sprang into action reaching for the trash can at the First Officer's Station. I set him down on the Security platform with the can between his legs. A box of kleenex was luckily available. A quick examination of the carpet and his uniform gave relief. We caught the eruption in time.

For many of our campers walking up to the bridge is overwhelming. To us - nothing.
To them this is something quite frightening. It is one thing to play a video game but to be completely immersed into a game is something different. The two most spoken
responses to seeing the Voyager's Bridge for the first time are, "This is so cool," and
"This is so scary."

Metta's Workout

Last week we had our share of surprises. On Thursday the visiting school arrived with
35 in each class. Teachers are instructed to notify me if their class size is larger than 32 so we can have the Galileo ready to accommodate the large numbers. This teacher
neglected to do so and was apologetic. The apology was welcome but we still faced the same problem. Would there be enough staff. Stacy was needed to fly the Phoenix. With Aleta home, recovering from surgery, that left Metta and I in the Voyager. The
working schedule showed it was an A day for our high school interns. Casey was due in so the catastrophe was avoided.

Training and briefing was finished. I gave my `blast off' speech and left the bridge at
10:35 A.M. I walked into the Control Room expecting to see Metta and Casey . I
walked into the Control Room finding Metta alone at the helm. I sent Metta to
Discovery to ask Lorraine to come in and help us as soon as she had the morning class to lunch. Lorraine's help would save us for the last ten minutes of the mission but what about the other fifty?

Metta understood what was being asked of her. We sprang into action. I did everything I could as Tex to verbally help kids struggling at their stations. Metta
ran back and forth between the Bridge and the Control Room doing both jobs. Luckily she knew the mission well enough to know when she was free for a minute or two to help the kids. I also used the Captain and First Officers as Bridge helpers. The
Captain moved around the bridge solving problems as they arose with me talking him through them in his ear.

Near the end of the mission Casey arrived. He was late due to illness. He ran up to the
bridge. With him in place I was able to speed up the mission. The students finished the flight.

Metta was fantastic and earned her title of `Miracle Worker'.

Friday, February 11, 2011

We Survived. And Now, the Weekend.

Hello Troops,
What an awesome staff!
Earlier this week I wrote about the perfect storm due to hit the Center on Wednesday and Thursday. It came, we stood firm and it blew through without so much as a single sail ripped from the Voyager's masts.

The wind started picking up around 2:00 P.M. Wednesday, quickly followed by sheets of nearly vertical rain. The boiling gray ocean threw itself against the Center's hull. We felt the deck give way beneath our feet, tossing us like rag dolls port side and nearly over the banister into certain death. The ship pulled itself from the brink, straighted out long enough for us to get our footing and bunker down for 48 hours of unrelenting turbulence. The alert was sounded and it was all hands on deck.
My thanks to everyone for their efforts, especially Lorraine and Sheila in the classroom and everyone in the simulators. Our work was appreciated by our visitors.
We gave them near perfect performances (near perfect because I wasn't running every mission ;)

So, as a reward for two days of going above and beyond, I present a bit of fun to help us unwind and relax for the overnight camp tonight and a full slate of missions and classes tomorrow.


Mr. W.

Horror flicks on Planet Zlob. Bleck finds the sight of humans so disgusting he hides behind the Concession Stand to avoid looking at them.

Moss is the poster child for all IT nerds. I know many of the Space Center staff love the British comedy "The IT Crowd". If you haven't seen it, I suggest you give it a try.

The Empire is looking for a few good Clones! Join Today and Save the Empire from the Rebel Alliance. (We sound do a poster like this for the Orion Pirates with Bill as Mad Dog in the place of Darth Vader).

A quiet moment as dad leaves for work.

They are out there, many lurking in the nation's graveyards waiting and watching for the unsuspecting teenagers out looking for a good time in what they think is a deserted place (for you Dr. Who fans).

And finally, a quick stop on the way home from work for a coffee and a warm sticky bun. Join us the next time you're in town.

And finally a 'steam driven' retro computer. Wouldn't you like one of these sitting on your desk at work or home?