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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stories from the Front Lines

Hello Troops,
This post was received yesterday, sent by carrier pigeon from Fresno, California. Bracken Funk spent his University Spring Break with us in the trenches on the front lines. I'm happy to report that his skills are as sharp today as they when he left for civilian life. Mind you, the tinned sardines, tack bread, and beans kept his fighting close to the latrine.

Bracken was kind enough to write this post to share a few of his observations.

Thanks Bracken!
Mr. W.

My Time on the Front Lines
Bracken Funk, Field Commander.
Received on the South Perch, Carrier Pigeon Landing Facility.

I just thought I’d share a few quick funnies from my experience back home this past week. I absolutely loved being home for the week, and tried my best to take as many missions as my flight director conditioning would allow. It’s like playing basketball. You have to stay in condition in order to be successful. I hadn’t flown in a while, and after flying 3 missions in one day, I was pooped. It took me a bit to get my second wind so I could fly like a real boy.
During one of the after school field trips, I was flying the Voyager, and whilst being upon the bridge, I was collecting the mp3 players for the Right Wing officers, who both looked at me with a puppy-dog face, and the girl said in a sweet voice, “Who is that man that is speaking, is that you?”
I paused a moment, shocked by the question, “No, his name is Tex, he’s supposedly the best engineer in all of Starfleet,” I answered as officially as I could.
“Do you know him?”
I was trying to anticipate where she was going. I suppose that is the most important part of our job as space center employees. We are master liars... no, story tellers. In order to weave a story together in a short amount of time, we attempt to have the story written before the question was asked. I could not get ahead of this girl, I didn’t know where she was going.
“Yes, I have worked with him a few times,” I gave her a reassuring nod. I was sure this was the end of the conversation.
“Could you tell him that he has the most calming voice I’ve ever heard?”
Now... Now I was flabbergasted. I had never heard such a thing in all my years of volunteer work, work and any other form of time I’d put in at the Center.
“Sir,” she said again, “I was very, very nervous coming in here today. I was scared about my job, I was scared I would kill my crew, I was scared that aliens would get me- but now, because of his voice, I am calm, and ready for anything,” she smiled, and I was just about to tell her that I would do it, when the boy next to her chimed in.
“I agree. His voice is just... relaxing and calming. I have never felt more sure of myself sitting in front of computer,” he beamed like he was a professional hacker, and the voice he’d heard telling him how to run the right wing had given him new light.
“I will,” I said, “I will make sure that Tex knows that you guys are at ease because of his voice.
I promise that Mr. Williamson will never let anyone live that down.
The next flight, I was assigned to fly the Phoenix. I must add that the crew that I had in the Phoenix for that flight was my favorite crew ever. I had so much fun with that group. If they should by chance read this- THEY MUST COME BACK and fly with me again. I don’t know if I can live without them :P
The girl at Operations was your typical little girl. Unicorns and rainbows, dresses and tea, princesses and Disney. She made me laugh on several occasions. We were in Perikoi, right after they’d been hit with the torpedo from the surface. They shook around with the impact of the torpedo a little bit (they were incredible actors too, by the way). They all took care of any immediate threat, and then Operations raised her hand, and said “Captain,”. I knew I hadn’t sent a message, and I knew that there was nothing going on at her station. I looked at the camera, and waited for it. I was excited. But what came out of her mouth next had me on the floor in stitches.
“Yes?” The captain responded.
“Does my hair look alright?”
There were four of us in the control room. We all laughed for a minute. After taking a torpedo, getting yelled at by Gods, and having Perikoi threatened- she knew where her priorities lied.. With her hair

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Space Center Scare

Hello Troops,
Bronson wrote the following poem and gave permission for me to share it with you.
Bronson is one of our junior high volunteers.

Thanks Bronson!
Mr. W.

A Space Center Scare!

Children scream in absolute terror,
All because of a Space Center Scare!
Shadows, Borg, and Drashnoks too,
All make the mission seem horrible true.

Odyssey’s in Cardassian space,
Magellan’s met the Guardian race.
Voyager’s crew is going insane,
Phoenix is dying, computer to blame.

Galileo’s fighting off Borg with torpedoes,
While Stacy and Ben kick back with burritos.
Everyone makes fun of how their crew’s doing,
Unless there are no cheers, replaced by rare booing.

Soviets are back in Red Storm Risin’,
While Adam freaks out, flying Scarlet Horizon.
Voyager’s dealing with angry tree-huggers,
While Odyssey’s hunting for blood-thirsty buggers.

Magellan blows up Romulus for no reason,
While Galileo goes rogue, getting charged for high treason.
The volunteers laugh bout’ the terror they sow,
What happens next, only R’karr would know...

End of the day, we all go home thinking:
We will return, in just a short winking.
Then they will scream in absolute terror,
All because of a Space Center Scare!

End of the day, we all go home thinking:
We will return, in just a short winking.
Then they will scream in absolute terror,
All because of a Space Center Scare!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Please Fortuna, Look the Other Way

Would you like to see something shocking?
I got hold of this classified xray of Kermit the Frog.
Something doesn't look quite right.

Hello Troops,
Yesterday was a cake walk. Double field trips and private missons afterwords. I'm told the staff and volunteers were still in good spirits at 9:00 P.M. when the last groups left. Come on, you folks out there need to give us a real challenge. Its time to book more private missions and sign up for more camps.

Today we repeat the whole thing with double field trips and private missions. Do you see fear in our our eyes? Do you see sweating any more than normal? Do you see us in consultations with school district mental health specialists? Do you see American Forks's Catholic Priest sitting on the bench in the school's foyer ready to administer the last rites to an overworked and over stressed space center staffer or volunteer who's knocking on Heaven's door? All to be answered No, No and Double No. We are hyped, we are caffeinated and we are ready for nearly anything.

Now, I need to be careful. Every time I write that things are fine, Fortuna, the Goddess of Fate, gets her dander up and figures out ways to slam us. She loves to deal harshly with us at times but lately she seems to be preoccupied with other concerns. Let's see if I can get this post off without retribution. Let's enjoy our good fortune while it lasts!

And now, a few thoughts from the Imaginarium's Department of Etiquette.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Our Busy Week

Hello Troops,
We are out of the gate running. This is our busiest week at the Space Center. We've got double field trips every day (ending at 6:00 P.M. when the last bus leaves) then private missions in most of the ships afterwords. I may have gone slightly overboard with the scheduling but not to worry, with the staff and volunteers we've got, a week like this is easily managed. Its the recovery over the weekend that will be rough - but that's done at home so no real concern of mine :)

Finally, a few things from the Imaginarium in hopes that your day will be as productive as ours. Remember, if something needs doing, do it with imagination.

If you need to take Puddgy on a walk, do it with imagination. Strap on this "Silence of the Lambs" mask and enjoy people's reactions. Warn them to stay back though. He's cute from a distance, but they won't like seeing their future reflection in a mirror if the mask were to slip off.

If you need to search for the droids, do it with imagination. Google can find anything.

If you're told to put a bench near the light post, do it with imagination. Who wouldn't want to enjoy your lunch from that vantage point?

Now go change the world, one thought at a time. And remember to stay positive.

Mr. Williamson

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's Easter! A Few Thoughts and the Imaginarium.

Hello Troops,
Had enough sugar for one day, or are you just beginning? I'm real old school when it comes to my candy of choice for Easter. You can have the jelly bean eggs. You can keep the Cadbury chocolate delights. I'll be your friend for life if you save me the marshmallow Peeps and the Brach's Easter Eggs with the colored candy shell and that white marshmallow interior. It's comfort candy to me - a reminder of my Easters in South Dakota as a kid.

My parents didn't put a lot of time into Easter, as evident in our traditional "Easter Egg Hunt". Every Easter afternoon my seven brothers and sister and I would be ordered to the basement after Sunday School to take off our church clothes and wait for the arrival and departure of the "Bunny". Maybe it was because we were the poor kids on the block, or maybe Rapid City, South Dakota was always the Bunny's last stop, but that darn Bunny didn't put a lot of effort into the hiding of our eggs. His haste always led to concussions and spilt blood.

Imagine eight children on a very narrow staircase, huddled with pillowcases (we couldn't afford the nicely woven, colorful baskets). We sat close to each other and waited for the upstair's door to open - the signal that the Hunt was on. My older sister and I sat at the bottom of the stairway on my parent's orders. Putting us at the end of the line was intended to give our younger siblings first dibs on the pickings. It never did and always led to disaster. Sometimes parents never learn.

We all jumped up and pressed forward when the door opened. Our hearts pounded in our chests, feeding off the thought of pure sugar.
"You can come up!" Suddenly the words we waited for were spoken. It was time to put brotherly love aside or go without the good stuff for another year.

First blood was always drawn on the rush up the stairs. It was usually the youngest's bloody nose. My sister and I, having had more experience at that kind of thing and carrying more mass, easily pushed and shoved the other six out of the to make it outside first.

The Bunny's haste usually meant most of the eggs were located in one central area on the back lawn.
"There they are!" was the shout we all listened for. Once the stash was located, it was like two football teams descending on a fumbled football. We all piled in, pushing and shoving, swinging and missing, swinging and hitting, biting and punching - it didn't matter. There were no rules in this evolutionary sport of survival of the fittest.

Now that I'm older I understand why our neighbors were always outside at their back fences. Watching the Williamson's Easter Egg raucous was better than anything on TV. Some of them joined in the fun by waiting until our collecting was finished and then shouted that we had missed a few. We watched while they threw several eggs by the tree. They laughed as the whole rugby scrum formed and fur, hair and teeth flew all over again. It was like tossing a whole piece of bread into a gaggle of ducks on the pond. Feathers flew and camera's snapped.

At the end, we four oldest had most of the candy eggs and Peeps while the youngest had the strangely colored hard boiled eggs we'd dyed the night before. Then came the tears and screams. The four of us knew that Mom would make us share the candy and Peeps if we didn't eat them right then and there. We ran to the side of the house and shoved them into our mouths as fast as we could (or rehid them for retrieval at 11:00 P.M when everyone was in bed).

The Holy Grail of our Easter was finding the one that got away. Remember finding that one candy egg or marshmallow Peep that escaped the search lights and blood hounds? There it quietly sat, hiding up high on the window ledge behind the living room curtain for a month or so until discovered. The thrill of finding the "One that Got Away" was intoxicating. The screaming would be followed by a parade through the house where the delicious morsel would be held out like a captive general of an opposing army. Your pride would swell from hearing "I can't believe it," said over and over again.

The Easter trophy would sometimes be eaten in front of everyone right after the parade. We believed that it's craftiness and cunning could be transferred into our own being through digestion. Other times the candy would be kept as a trophy to be taken out, dusted and shown to company for the next several months.

Yes, those are my Easter memories........ Happy days.......

Speaking of Eggs.. How about a few things from the Imaginarium?

Two of my favorite public service ads. They are only 30 seconds long and meant to remind us about the power of words. Please watch them and think. Words are very powerful both in building up and tearing down.

Have a Happy Easter!
Mr. W.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Troops are Settled for the Night.

Hello Troops,
A letter from the front lines, brought by carrier pigeon. It's 12:03 A.M. on Saturday. We are back in camp after a week of rest and relaxation.

There's a calm blanketing the front, carried in on the night's chill. The smell of camp fires sweetens the air with smoky pine.

The campers are in their sleeping bags settled down for the night. Still some talking but at a respectful level so as not to disturb the others around them. The officers may still be up playing cards. It's a distraction to take their minds off a day's combat.

Word from headquarters is that we should expect a full day of skirmishes starting around 11:00 A.M. and stretching to 5:00 P.M. I should hit the sack myself, considering I'll be up before the sun getting things ready for the troop's breakfast. By the way, they're griping about the food again. I think they'd enjoy eating eggs and sausage only. Well, they can wish all they want but "It ain't gonna happin!"

Mr. W.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Busy Thursday

Hello Troops,
Thursday was a busy day. Legacy Elementary was here for the 9:30 - 1:30 Field Trip. Cedar Valley Elementary from Cedar Fort was here for the 2:00 - 6:00 P.M. field trip and the Odyssey had a private after that.

Today will be even busier. We have our normal field trip, then Vineyard Elementary will be here for a 2:00 - 6:00 P.M. field trip, then our overnight camp. I'm worried the staff may not even have the time to stop for the potty. I may need to purchase a few port - a - potties and keep them near the simulator's control rooms. A wise precaution to prevent unintended accidents... :)

I'd like to thank our outstanding staff for their willingness to work long hours during these double field trip days. I'd especially like to thank Mrs. Houston for teaching four classes on the double field trip days. After teaching two classes you're beat. After three one can expect delirium and after four...? Well, after four we usually call for a designated driver to ensure you get home safely.

I thought the poster above would be beneficial to those of you getting ready for your college finals and end of year testing. Worrying really isn't beneficial but can't be helped. It is part of the human condition. At least try to understand that time spent fretting won't change anything. Best to analyse the situation and if something can be done - then do it.

And finally for today...... anyone in the mood for Bar-B-Q?
I'll see you in the trenches,

Mr. W.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back to Work

A Colorized Portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865

Hello Troops,
It's back to the trenches! The return from an extended vacation can be rough and the last couple of days were bumpy. The Phoenix threw a few tacks onto the highway but those programming issues have been addressed. We had problems with the Odyssey but those are solved as well.

Today is a busy day with double field trips (9:30 - 1:30 and 2:00 - 6:00), then the Voyager and Magellan have private missions afterwords. Hugh classes as well. All is OK. We have an outstanding staff able to jump right in and get the job done.

The Odyssey and Phoenix ran test missions of their new summer stories during the vacation. Both Alex and Christine report they went well. We will have a fun summer. If you're not signed up for camp, get 'er done right away. You don't want to miss these new missions!

Well, its about time to get this Wednesday out of the gate and down the track. Let's enjoy a shot of imagination before we get too serious about the day...

Mr. W.

Here we see them in their natural habitat.

I get a kick out of all the "Keep Calm" variations.

This is for our many Peanuts /Space Center / Dr. Who fans out there.

If you ever feel inclined to give flowers to a man, may I suggest Bacon Blossoms.

A fund raising poster from the Empire. Send all donations to the Space Center. I'll be sure they get to the right place.

Mario Propaganda Posters.

Now time to get to work....

Mr. W.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Friday and the Simulators Miss Us.

Hello Troops,
Yes, I'm here working at the Center on a vacation Friday. I've no choice. We have the new Magellan plastic coming this morning. The days of cracked and broken black plastic covering the Magellan's computers are over!

I'm not use to working in silence.... The Voyager, Odyssey and Phoenix are dark. Forced air from the air ducts is the only sound I hear . The simulators miss us. They're not happy unless their walls are rumbling with mission sounds and the vibration of children's voices. They don't have long to wait. We hit the ground running on Monday.

I thought I'd start this post with the image above. It shows all the potential alien planets discovered by the Kepler Telescope as they pass in front of their host stars. The following is a more detailed explanation from
A photo may be worth 1,000 words, but a new depiction of NASA's Kepler mission is worth 1,235 potential alien planets. Created by a devoted mission scientist, the image takes stock of the Kepler observatory's prolific planet-hunting results so far.

The illustration shows all of Kepler's candidate planets — which await confirmation by follow-up observations — crossing the face of their host stars. This provides scale, and it's also a nod to Kepler's planet-hunting strategy: The spacecraft detects alien worlds by measuring the telltale dips in a star's brightness that occur during these planetary "transits." [See the alien planet graphic]

The graphic is the brainchild of scientist Jason Rowe, who created it in an attempt convey Kepler's exoplanet discoveries to the masses in a clear, concise manner.

I'm convinced we are on the threshold of discovering life on another world. It is an exciting time to be alive.

I'm happy we've found a small part to play in the education and exploration of space here at the Space Center. I'm hoping all of you that have been to the Center will continue to further our dream of encouraging civilization to venture forward and outward into space through education and the wonder of imagination. I believe we should also support America's space initiatives on both the local and national level by encouraging schools to teach space science.

And now........ Let's step through Imagination's looking glass and see what there is to see.

And you thought your room was a mess? At least he doesn't have to waste his valuable time with a broom, brush or vacuum. Mind you, I'd keep a can of air freshener on hand for the day's new deliveries.

The Japanese really know how to provide mass shelter in the wake of disaster. You can give individuals and / or families much needed privacy cheaply and efficiently. This is another example of thinking outside the box.

This is for all of you that are Lord of the Rings fans.

Now why would anyone want to drive anything other than this? The coolness factor is off the scale (spoken by a true nerd). Of course there is the problem of finding a girl that would tolerate being picked up on a date in this.

The following is a lesson in Reverse Psychology It's only a few seconds long so watch and learn, watch and learn.......

And just in case you were wondering how I was going to spend the rest of my day...

Let's enjoy our last weekend off until July 1. Sobering isn't it?

Mr. Williamson

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bill Shuler "On the Road Again" Somewhere in Colorado

Bill Schuler
On America's Road

Spring Break and I am on the road again. This year my annual road trip takes me to Colorado. I had been meaning to do this state for a while but never got around to it, until now. This is the last destination I can get to easily by car, so next year I will have to fly. Haven’t decided yet but I have narrowed it down to Tennessee, where I served my mission, or New York/Washington, where the flights are cheap an I have family I haven’t seen in years.

Anyway, back to Colorado. Friday afternoon, after work I headed out of town. The weather was nasty rain, wind, and snow in the higher elevations. My destination for the night was Grand Junction Colorado, about 4 hours from home. I arrived and checked into my hovel at the KOA Campground. These are referred to a “Kozy Cabins”. They are log structures large enough to sleep 4. Additionally they have electric lights, heating and air conditioning. Showers and restrooms are in a central building. They are pretty comfortable and cost about half what a cheap hotel room goes for.

Next morning was pretty clear but still chilly. I drove east on Interstate 70 through the Rocky Mountains. This is one of the more scenic stretches of interstate highway around. About an hour out of Denver my truck starts dying. Losing power an dogging along. What could be wrong. Then I pass an elevation sign telling me I am at 11,100 feet above sea level! Descending the east face of the Rockies I stop at Golden Colorado, Home of the Colorado School of Mines, but best known as the home of Coors Beer brewery. The brewery complex itself is larger than the city of Golden itself. It is also home of the Colorado Railroad Museum, An excellent facility that gives a great historical perspective on the impact of railroads on america, particularly the late 19th and early 20th Century when parents routinely mailed their children parcel post because it was cheaper than a regular train ticket.

Stayed the night in a Motel 6, no KOA’s, and the next morning drove into downtown Denver to block out a city tour. I am going to be doing more tours of Colorado in the future so I figured it was time to nail down the tour. This takes a bit of doing. First you get a decent map then make a route passing all the sights you want to point out, then you drive it. This can be endlessly frustrating because trying to read sloppy writing while navigating city traffic is not good for your insurance rating. Inevitably, the route selected may need adjustment, this is hard to do while on the fly behind the wheel. Following this course of action usually leads me to use a significant number of words not considered socially acceptable.

If possible, what I like to do is what I like to do, is walk the route. From head high level you can make adjustments quickly without seriously endangering your or other people. This tack was really successful when I had to figure a way to get to Molly Brown’s house (look it up!). Denver like most large cities has gone to one way streets. This impacts a tours routing through a given area to see the sights and sometimes problems arise that don’t appear on a map.

Anyway after some adjustment I had what appeared to be a viable tour. I covered almost 10 miles of foot. Fortunately I am addicted to walking so the actual distance wasn’t that big of a deal, I usually walk that far daily for exercise. One thing that was different was the constant stopping and starting required when coming to intersections, that stop and start really fatigues you relative to a constant loose walk.

Once back in the truck I drove the route, and it came off perfectly without once getting lost, One run and I had it down. When I do this again in June I will be doing it in a 60 foot motorcoach, giving commentary to the passengers while giving subtle instructions to the driver on where to turn. No pressure!

That finished I had some fun for myself, I stopped by the Downtown Aquarium. Not one of your larger aquariums as aquariums go but laid out better than most. Fresh water exhibits outnumbered the salt water exhibits which was great, I have seen so much salt water stuff that I usually just walk past them. But the fresh water stuff was amazing because you don’t usually see them so well thought out. One even included a Sumatran Tiger!, Not Tiger fish, a Tiger, as in cat!

After my visit with the fishes I headed out of the big city. My destination for the next several nights is Colorado Springs, about 70 mines south of Denver. This morning I visited the US Air Force Academy. It was a beautiful clear, if cool day. The facility is very impressive and you can visit much of the campus. Only the lower quad is off limits to visitors. I arrived on monday to view the weekly parade ceremony. I participated in this ceremony 4 times while in Air Force basic training and once while on active duty during a change of command. Air Force Cadets do it once a week for 4 years! At first glance the whole thing seems rather silly given this sort of thing was dreamed up by the Romans. What use is it today. As one who has participated in this ceremony, it is to develop teamwork, confidence, pride, attention to detail, and snap an precision. It also looks really cool.

In the afternoon I spent my time wandering around Garden of the Gods park. The place looks like one big Star Trek set. Tomorrow I am going to hike down Pikes Peak. I would rather hike up it but there is no guarantee of the train meeting you once you get there and doing a round trip in a day isn’t fun, 13 miles is fine but 26 I would rather not do, not that I couldn’t, it just ain’t fun. Pray for me, If you never hear from me again, a bear must have gotten me.

City of Golden

Colorado School of Mines

Denver under a cloud

I do the same thing with my aquarium.

I dare you to say that on THIS side of the glass!

Air Force Cadets forming ranks.

Pass and review

Snap and Precision

Lunch Time!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday. It Can't Be

Hello Troops,
We are on the third day of our week long Spring Break. I'm at the Center getting caught up on this, that and the other. How many of you have been trapped in the bottomless pit of This,That and the Other? Just when you think you've got This conquered, That emerges from the murky depth. And when you're sure you've vanquished That, out from the ethereal vapors of the Endless Swamp forms The Other.

At least I'm working in peace. Absent are the endless explosions, character voices, music, alert klaxons and children shouting, screaming and cheering from the simulators surrounding me. In fact, the only people here today are Jon (working in the downstairs shop on some repair) and Alex (typing feverishly on a computer in the Phoenix Control Room). Alex is playing something with a fast electronic beat. I can't detect a melody so I'll be putting on my headphones in a moment to block out the sound (and the term sound is being used generously).

The Magellan is being fitted with new black plastic computer desk screens today. As many of you know, the black plastic screens covering the Magellan's computer stations are badly cracked, some sections have missing bits of plastic broken off.
Our campers have generously overlooked the blemishes but those days are behind us.
I found a new plastic company in Salt Lake that is good to work with and prompt in their deliveries.

Now, Let's take a detour from This, That and the Other and see what the Imaginarium has to offer......

A sidewalk sign outside a coffee shop. Again, it is clever and imaginative. The wording is simple and gets people's attention. If I drank coffee, this is a shop I'd frequent.

Where would you be to see this in your rear view mirror? Perhaps its the expressway on the Moon of Endor?

A perfect gate sign on a cemetery, wouldn't you agree? Come on, you've got to give it up to whoever imagined that.

Assignment, come up with a picture or essay that solves the modern day mystery of where that odd sock goes that never escapes the dryer. Only a student classically trained in the Imaginarium could produce this......

Oh, a warning to the wise, be careful to never stick your hand too far into the dryer. Your Sockaleer may want to enlarge its diet beyond cotton.

The chair waited until it's owner drove away, then using all the effort it could muster, struggled to free itself from the 49th street dumpster. Once free, it paused for a moment to get its bearings before shuffling down the alley in hopes of finding a new home where it could be loved and appreciated.

Yes...... Let's see if out little Junior Houdini can get out of this! The perfect tool for the babysitter that can't be bothered :)

And finally, look at this bottle found in a Japanese shop. Read the label. Are you curious? If so, then the imagineer who designed and wrote it did his or her job well.
I believe the bottle contains sake, a Japanese rice alcohol. That would explain the wording in its proper context :)

OK troops, you have a fantastic Wednesday!

Mr. W.