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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Comet Elenin. Our Doomsday Comet?

Elenin is Coming!

Hello Troops,
We've survived the alignment of death with the mysterious Elenin, the comet of death, or is it the brown star of the Apocalypse? Regardless, the internet rumor mill has been churning out videos and articles on NASA's supposed big cover up concerning a very dangerous (disappointing) comet heading to within 22 million miles of Earth. The comet finished its swing around the sun and is heading this way! (screaming allowed at this point. Please be sure not to faint of fright without checking for sharp objects in your fall zone).

What the fear mongers can't or won't tell you is that the Sun had its way with poor Elenin, leaving it a snowflake of its former self. It will continue on its way, obliviously to the panic it inspired on Earth's gullible who believe that if they see it on the internet and YouTube, then it must be real.

"I seen it!" is their typical response when their facts are challenged by those of us who are baptized true blue skeptics and take the time to check facts before jumping to conclusions.

One such video posted earlier this week reported that many high ranking government officials were on vacation this week. Could it be that this is the normal September vacation for Congress, or could they know something we don't? That must be it. Why believe the obvious? Surely the most complicated explanation for "their" actions must be correct because reasonable explanations are boring and don't sell ads on web sites or hits on the YouTube.

So, to my friends and associates who are frantically digging their backyard survival shelters, please stop and relax. All will be well. Call me when you see or hear an internet story of something coming to rain death and destruction on Earth. I'll check it out and get back to you. And if I don't get back to you, then you have my permission to panic.

And now, how about a few items from the Imaginarium.

Brilliant in design and imagination.

The moral of this story is.
1. Don't spend money you haven't earned. How do you think we got into this recession anyway?
2 Don't buy things you don't need. What a waste of resources. Give up trying to keep up with the neighbors. Let THEM go to bed worrying how they're going to pay for their expensive home and toys. Remember, you really don't like them anyway.

Just leave it.

"Will you slow down! Where's the Fire!!"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Walter Sends in his Registration Form. He's Going to the Space Center (and other items from the Imaginarium).

Walter Pickle saved his $2.00 per week allowance for several months. He wanted to do an Overnight Camp, a Super Saturday, and several of the Academy Classes at the Space Education Center. Of course, his allowance wasn't enough, so Walter canvased the neighborhood looking for odd jobs to supplement his income. Finally he earned enough from mowing lawns, trimming hedges, babysitting unruly brats and washing dozens of windows. He printed the Registration Form, filled it out with his best handwriting, had his mother double check to be sure every question was answered, stamped the envelope and dropped it in the corner mail box.

Every afternoon after school Walter checks the mail for his Confirmation Forms. He's hoping Mr. Williamson has the time to take care of his registration quickly, but understands if he can't. Walter knows poor Mr. Willamson is overwhelmed with the day to day running of the Space Center, not to mention taking care of the staff and volunteers.

Walter wishes he'd followed his instincts and added an additional dollar paper clipped to a 3 by 5 card with "Buy a Diet Dew on Me, Mr. Williamson" written on it in red ink. He heard from his best friend Max, who heard from his cousin Alfie, who heard from a former volunteer at the Space Center, that the best way to get Mr. Williamson's attention is to bribe with him with a Diet Dew.
( I Realize some of The Troubadour's readers take everything I write literally, so please do not send me money for Diet Dew's. I'm only kidding)

Walter also knows the importance of imagination from reading The Troubadour. He tries to look outside the box whenever he's faced with a problem or task.

Walter is another fantastic Space Center camper. You must be too. How do I know? I know because you're reading this, aren't you?

And now, a few things from the Imaginarium.

You've heard of Polo Shirts? Well, this is something nearly the same, but with an imaginative twist. Just the kind of thing you'd find here in the Men's Department at Wonderland's Imagination Emporium of All Things Weird and Unexplained, my favorite place to shop.

Another example of awesome creativity, the kind usually found in Space Center fans. A moment of silence for the poor pigeons unlucky enough to seek a moment's rest from flight on this razor blade factory's sign.

And now, Something Completely Different.

Random? Yes.
Creative? Yes.
A perfect example of teenage thought pattens? Yes, Yes and double Yes. We hear this kind of Randomspeak daily at the Space Center.

Radomspeak was heard by Christine and her Odyssey staff on Thursday. During a confrontation with the mission's antagonists, a 6th grade crew member offered the following solution to the Captain, "Why don't we hit them with the shrink ray!"

Awesome idea if the Odyssey had a Shrink Ray, which it doesn't, and never had. Where did that come from? The randomness of the statement sent Christine into hysterics - which happens on a regular basis. Christine is known for seeing and encouraging the best in everything and everyone. A good person to have on your team in a crisis.

I think we should send Christine to Greece to help with their government's austerity program. The Greek Government is desperately searching for ways to balance their nation's books which are awash in red ink from decades of over spending on social programs. Put Christine on Greek television and within one hour the government's phone lines will ignite with pledges of money from every Greek tax payer, coast to coast.

Problem solved, the Christine way.

The one meal I kept waiting to see at Hogwarts. Finally we discover there are days when the kitchen elves take a break.

I find this very true. I've been suckered multiple time by these 'tiny leaves'. It happens at Blockbuster. I scan the shelves looking for a good DVD. My eye stops at every case displaying the olive branches because I know olive branches indicated A Winner!


Just because the film has the words "Winner, Best Picture. North Dakota Film Festival" braced by olive branches doesn't mean the movie is any good.

We could put olive branches around the name of the Space Center. Or better yet, give all the paid staff business cards with their names bracketed with olive leaves instead of this month's pay checks. They'll thank me for it.

That's the power of olive branches.

Have a Great Monday!

Mr. W.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jorden's Day on the Voyager's Bridge.

Jorden's Request for a new uniform to the replace
the Blue Supervisor's Shirt.

Hello Troops,
Remember that mental picture I conjured up during the post camp meeting yesterday after discovering Jorden received 0 votes for his work on the bridge. Well, this is my theory as to what really happened.
Mr. W.

Jorden stood near the spiral stairs on the Voyager's Bridge. It was the furthest place possible from the campers. His bottom lip quivered with nerves. His eyes darted from one child to the next. His nose tested the air for scents indicative of uncleanliness. The Communications Officer looked at him. Jorden notice and turned away. Jorden's survival code required minimal eye contact. Eye contact could lead to conversation and conversation might lead to proximity, proximity would lead to the sharing of air molecules, and Jorden knew that sharing air with other humans could lead to disease - sickness - and possible death.

The young boy raised his hand. Jorden was practicing selective observing and therefore pretended not to notice. The boy became impatient. "Mister," he shouted. Jorden was compelled to answer. Jon might notice and he desperately needed his Voyager Bridge Pass.

"Can I help you?" He tried to sound sincere. Sincerity was foreign to his nature. He'd been practicing sincerity at home in front of his bathroom mirror and thought after several months he could pull off a believable performance. The boy, not wanting to shout, rose from his seat and starting walking toward Jorden. "Stay where you are, don't come closer." Jorden backed further into the wall and pointed to the boy's empty chair, "Back to your seat." The boy stopped cold, confused at the Bridge Supervisor's reaction. Jorden had noticed something shiny draining from his nose.

"I need a tissue." The boy inhaled through his congested nose to stop the drainage. He sounded like a walrus snoring.

"God Help Me!" Jorden's eyes watered as he sought divine assistance. Jordan unzipped his fanny pac, removed a moist towelette and disinfected his hands, arms and face. Once sterilized, he regained his composure and answered the boy's question. "Tissues are kept by the Security Station. Hurry; you're dripping on the carpet!".

The boy walked to Security, took a tissue and wiped his nose. Jorden turned away to take an unwelcomed question from the First Officer.

"Where's the trash can?" Jorden recognized the boy with the snotty nose's voice. He stood and turned. There the boy stood, well inside Jorden's comfort zone, presenting the moist tissue cradling his nose drippings.

"Get it away!" Jorden tripped over the Captain's platform as he tried to get away. "What's wrong with you. That's disgusting?"

"Where do I put this?" the boy asked. He was surprise at Jorden's strong aversion to a simple tissue. The only other time he'd seen such a reaction was when he held a spider close to his sister's head.

"The trash can is over there." Jorden pointed to the trash can under the printer. Sweat formed on his upper lip. Was the room too warm or was the sweat the first sign his immune system had been compromised and exposed to a potentially new and deadly virus. Another towelette was removed from his side mounted fanny pack and rubbed liberally over his face and hands. He wondered if he should use his inhaler but decided against it. His doctor told him in no uncertain terms to stop using the inhaler as a lung disinfectant.

Another hand went up as the mission started. The girl at the Tactical Station was clueless about loading and firing the ship's phasers.

"What is it?" Jorden questioned from a distance of ten feet.

"I don't get this?" the girl answered. "Can you help me?"

"Did you listen to your training?"

"Yes, but I don't get it."

Jorden took three steps before encountering the smell of human perspiration mixed with your average run of the mill Utah dirt. The boy sitting between him and the Tactical Officer was definitely in need of a good scrub down. His unwashed hair triggered Jordan's gagging reflex. He took several steps back, unzipped his Fanny Pack and removed a heavily perfumed, monogrammed handkerchief. Holding the handkerchief closely to his nose, Jorden walked around the boy, giving him the widest berth possible to reach the Tactical Station.

"You need to click there to charge the phasers?" Jorden instructed after surveying the screen.

"How?" the girl questioned.

"Click on that button." Jorden pointed, but did not touch the screen. She might have touched it during training.

"What button?" she asked.

"That button?" he responded with his finger hovering one inch over the icon on the screen.

"I don't' get it." The girl was at her frustration level and stubbornly refused to continue unless he actually pointed to the button she was suppose to click.

Jorden removed another towelette, thoroughly cleaned the mouse and her keyboard and rezipped his Fanny Pack.

"This button." Jorden took the mouse and demonstrated the correct procedure to charge the phasers.

"I get it." She reached out and took the mouse. Their fingers briefly touched.

"God Help Me!" Jorden cried as if he'd accidentally broken open a laboratory vile containing smallpox. "Get back, everyone get back!" he shouted. The panic in his voice frightened the campers, causing them to jump over the desks and each other to get to the lowest level of the Voyager. Jorden pulled a bottle of alcohol from his Fanny Pack, poured half its contents over his contaminated hand and struck a match. The alcohol ignited into flame. Jordan wildly waved his burning hand back and forth to put out the fire. Applause erupted from the Voyager crew.

"This is the bestest mission ever," one of the campers exclaimed, his eyes wide with wonder at the human torch before him.

The flame quickly burned itself out.
"Back to your seats everyone," Jorden urged as he rubbed his stinging hand.

The mission resumed. Jorden stood in his corner. His right hand held the perfumed handkerchief near his nose, warding off the smell of children in an enclosed room with poor air conditioning. His left hand rested on his fanny pack, always ready when needed. It was going to be a long mission.

The Changing of the Season and Will We Get Hit?

Hello Troops,
We've just sped into the first day of Autumn on our blue spacecraft called Earth.  NASA has a video showing the changing of the seasons from space.  The video is labeled from the Northern Hemisphere's perspective.  You'll notice the reduced amount of sunlight during Winter and vice verse in the Summer.

It's 11:56 P.M. on Friday.  Once again you find me at the Space Center for an Overnight Camp. This evening's group is fantastic.  Groups like this make 21 years of running Overnight Camps bearable.

To be honest, I'm a bit weary about going to bed with that satellite circling overhead looking for a place to crash land.  I'm considering sleeping under my desk (just for added protection).  I know the odds of the Space Center getting hit by the falling debris are astronomical, but only you regular readers of The Troubadour know how Fortuna, the Mischievous Goddess of Fortune, likes to toy with us.  I can see her up there riding that satellite like a cowgirl on a disagreeable bull.  With a few correctly placed jabs she could maneuver that satellite into perfect position to put Pleasant Grove on the map. 

The age of the school works in my favor.  This part of the school was built in 1956.  It is designated a Fallout Shelter, able to provide protection in the unlikely event the United States and some other nation decided to toss a few of those nuclear forget me nots at each other.  I'm thinking, if the school can weather a nuclear blast reasonably well, then why wouldn't it hold up during a space debris party?

I think I'll be fine.  And on that note, its off to bed.

Mr. W. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

UARS Satellite Coming Down!


It's Duck-and-Cover time, folks, as a big piece of space junk is headed our way and just may hit someone! Sure, the chances of it hitting YOU in particular are about 1 in a trillion, but hey, you're on the planet, aintcha?

UARS in orbit.

NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is expected now to re-enter the atmosphere sometime late Friday the 23rd or early Saturday the 24th. As the trajectory becomes more clear, it seems that we Americans may be in it's probable fall zone. That zone could be an estimated 500 miles long.

UARS has had a good life, performing its research since 1991 in orbit of the Earth. It's a big boy, though, about 6.5 tons and the size of a school bus (why are things always related to the size of a bus or Rhode Island?) and it won't all burn up during re-entry. Scientists have estimated that about 26 pieces will survive to land on the ground. The fall through the atmosphere will cool the pieces so it shouldn't be hot when it lands. However, there are some coolants and reactants that could be harmful to human flesh so if you should find a piece, don't touch it(!) but rather notify local police and take lots of awesome pictures.

Mr. Daymont
Space Center Educator

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Diet Dew did the Trick.

Hello Troops,
I fired everyone including myself yesterday. Afterwords, I went to Harts, bought a Bill Chill, 32 ounces of Diet Dew with one squirt of cherry for extra flavoring, returned to the Center and rehired everyone - including myself. The Dew, did the trick and made things better.

I remember a verse from a Primary song, "If I had a wish then it would be.....". It goes on wishing the listener a Happy Birthday. IF I had a wish then it would be..... schools that give me accurate student counts!

An example, we had a school arrive with two classes of 27 and 28. They sent an email saying their classes were both 26. We use the Voyager and Odyssey for classes of 26. We open the Phoenix if for classes over 26. We had to scramble to get the Phoenix up and running and staffed for two missions. Of course, the school arrived late making thing more difficult.

So, if you're a teacher coming to visit the Space Center, I urge you to give us accurate student counts before you arrive so we can be prepared. We want to deliver the best possible field trip. That's only possible with accurate numbers and students well briefed on their missions before they arrive.

Thanks teachers in advance for helping!

How about a few Wonders of the Imagination from our favorite place, the Imaginarium....

Just in case you needed to

My favorite of the day

Again, we take care of our Dr. Who / Space Center fans.

Have a great day troops.

Mr. W.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tatooine, Real? Perhaps it all Happened in Our Galaxy and Not a Galaxy Far Away!

Luke watching a double sun set on Tatooine.

Hello Troops,
I'm blown away by Kepler's newest discoveries, like the first known planet to orbit a binary star system. Yes, this is a real Tatooine like planet straight from Star Wars found by the Kepler Space Telescope.

Please take a moment and read the short article below. Then watch the two short videos showing the planet in motion around the double star.

Space is truly the final frontier. We live in interesting times. You gotta love technology!

Mr. W.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Friday I Want to Forget, But Can't.

Hello Troops,
It's been one of those days when the fool wakes up, opens the curtains and exclaims, "What a beautiful day! What could go wrong?"
His neighbor wakes up, sees the same sun kissed early morning clouds, hears his neighbor jinxing himself by drawing the Fortuna's attention and smiles, knowing what is spoken is heard and what is thought is private. Being wise to her ways, he silently marvels at nature's grandeur, knowing full well what the Madam of Mischief is capable of doing to those with sparkly optimistic dispositions.

I was the foolish man today. I spoke when I should have kept silent. We paid the price this evening with two power outages at the Space Center.

Le Madame de Mischief's first strike occurred at 5:00 P.M. just as our 4:00 and 4:30 P.M. missions were getting underway. Central school and its surrounding neighborhood was plunged into darkness after a lightning bolt hurled from Olympus struck a nearby transmission tower. I risked life and limb to step outside to survey the situation. There was nothing but cold pounding rain and wind. I quickly retreated back into the relative safety of the school, not wanting to give Fortuna another tempting target.

At 5:45 P.M. we told our crews to go home and returned their money. Returning money is difficult, its our life blood, but what could I do? They came to fly and we couldn't deliver - regardless of fault. The Center took nothing in yet had to paid the staff.

And just as we all predicted, the power came on just as we sent our campers home. Fortuna has a wicked sense of humor. At least we had electricity and the 7:00 P.M. Overnight Camp wouldn't be affected.

It was 6:40 P.M. The staff were in their loading places. I was about to give the order to open the doors and let the Overnight Campers in when the gym lights flickered and went out. We were once again plunged into darkness.

"Perfect, just perfect," I mumbled to myself and the demons swirling overhead. Not once in the Space Education Center's 21 year history have we ever had a power outage during one of our Friday night Overnight Camps. Action needed to be taken. I didn't want parents dropping their kids off and driving away. What if I had to cancel the camp? I asked Dave Daymont and Jon Parker to gather the campers and their parents in the lobby and front sidewalk while I went in search of Rocky Mountain Power's telephone number.

We had over 100 people mulling around the front of the school at 7:00 P.M., all waiting for a miracle. I hate being in charge during times like these. I prayed for a blessing. Someone up there took pity on us. At 7:05 P.M. the power returned! We started the simulators to check for damaged equipment (which happens on a regular basis with power spikes). At 7:10 P.M. I gave the "All Clear". The ships were in good condition. The doors opened and the camp was underway. We dodged another bullet aimed directly at us by "you know who, she who shall not be mentioned".

Update. It is now Saturday morning. I'm sitting in the Discovery Room with the staff enjoying our chocolate covered Walmart donuts. Rachel walks in with hands held together in front of her in prayer.

"The Galileo won't start right. It comes on then switches off. What do we do?"
My nose recoiled at the stench of Fortuna's perfume, Parfum de la Carcasse en Décomposition. Mischief was again afoot. Rachel and I fiddled with a few of the power strips under the Galileo's left bunk while Stacy shouted orders over Rachel's phone. We discovered a faulty power strip. I jiggled it a bit while promising Fortuna her pick of any of our new young volunteers as a sacrifice. Suddenly the power strip lit up. We were back in business. Now, who do I select as Fortuna's next whipping boy or girl? I promised her a new young volunteer. I hate being in charge........

Enough depression for one day. How about a few things from the Imaginarium? (you may click on them to enlarge the picture).

This poster is perfect. It reminds me that no matter how difficult our lifes, there are billions that have it worse.

And now a Star Wars reference or two.

My definition of "The Perfect Desk".

I won't forget. Will you? Something must be done

And finally, Mr. Hans Solo Bean and his sidekick, Gingerbocka.

We've got a great bunch of campers tonight. They've gone to bed and fallen fast asleep. I appear to be the only one awake at 12:24 A.M. Jon and Casey are the Voyager chaperons. They may be up but I don't care. It is time to collapse.

Mr. W.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Was that her, or a Foretaste of Things to Come?

Hello Troops,
Was it opening day equipment malfunctions or something more sinister? Was that the Mistress of Mischief I glimpsed near the Voyager's water closet or an illusion generated from an over excited imagination? Was the smell smelt while starting the ship her noxious perfume condensed from the corpses of the recent dead, or the rotting carcass of some dead bird caught in the rafters over the captain's chair? Where those her bony fingerprints on my station's computer screen? Was that her whispering, "Tis the wind, and nothing more..." or the escaping breeze from the air conditioner rushing through an open door?

Tuesday was opening day for field trips. Everything seemed to be going well, if you exclude the paranormal explained in the previous paragraph. I should have taken the omens seriously and doubled checked everything. My failure to understand Fortuna's addiction to attention led to a very messy first mission.

I tend to attribute equipment malfunctions to The Mistress of Mischief. Some of that blame is rightfully deserved. Fortuna can try one's patience. But to be fair, I should acknowledge and accept partial blame. Is it Fortuna that caused my newly installed iPod mixer to fail at the start of our first field trip mission? If yes, then I share no responsibility. If no, then what?

Could my decision to purchase Ebay equipment be the reason for the odd malfunction? Purchasing Ebay gently used saves the Space Center a few bucks (an understatement - which is unusual for me). The only problem is trying to decipher what the advertiser means when using the word 'used'. The term 'used' can mean anything from "sat in grandma's curio cabinet for several years, never touched except for an occasional dusting" to "stored in the kids' playroom and used for batting practice".

Opening day, my Bridge speech was finished. I confidently walk down the stairs from the Bridge, assured in the knowledge that the master of the ship was back in the control chair.

"Let's go to work." Four simple words that tell my staff to set aside all distractions, batten down the hatches and prepare for a whirlwind of perfection radiating from my station. They know concentration is the key to surviving a Mr. Williamson mission. Taking their eye off the ball, even for a second, might mean a missed command. A missed command could lead to a breech in the Space / Time Continuum. What was perfect is now blemished. A breech in the Continuum, even so slight, might let our sharper campers look through the barrier and into the internal workings of the Center.

I sat in my chair, put the walkie talkie into my left shirt pocket, took hold of the microphone and began.

"You've got Tex......"

I knew something was wrong while addressing the Left Wing students in character. I was multitasking (speaking in character while preparing the sound and music for an upcoming scene. Our flight directors are professional multitaskers. Luckily the school district doesn't base its pay on multitasking!). The music was set. I was using an ipod two station dock with fade in and out recently purchased used on Ebay. The dock was working fine when I started the ship.

I reached for the transition lever and slid it to the right. There was nothing, no sound whatsoever. What was perfect was blemished. The problem distracted me. I went off task. Tex began to babble incoherently. I noticed shocked expressions from the other side of the control room. My credibility was on the line. I was shaken up. I couldn't get my new purchase to work correctly, which meant the music wasn't going to flow like the Nile.

I struggled through the mission, cursing the day I bought that mixer.

The P.M. mission went better. I knew what to expect and made the necessary mental adjustments.

It is now Thursday. I've flown with the mixer for three days now. I discovered it is much like my Battlestar (Lincoln Town Car). It has its own personality. I discovered that the mixer will work if you connect the iPod slowly while lifting the devise gently forward. This must be done while tapping your left foot four times and reciting the alphabet backwards - repeating the letter M three times.

Its the story of one old biological unit learning to work with a similar old piece of electronic equipment.

I'm getting the hang of it :)

Mr. W.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our First Bus of the 2011/12 Field Trip Season

Hello Troops,
Well, ready or not, here they come. Today is the day the Space Center receives its first school bus full of over excited to the point of hyper exhausted school children. The simulators are dusted and scrubbed, the equipment seems to be working (pending my arrival this morning and the overwhelming dread that Fortuna may see this as the perfect day to strike) and the staff properly medicated.

There is one staff chair that won't be occupied this school year. Sheila Powell won't be returning. Our Saint Sheila is facing another battle with her health. She will truly be missed by our staff and visitors and we all wish her well. Remember her in your prayers.

And now, forward troops. The whistle has sounded. Leap from the trenches with swords drawn and attack the forces of inspirational darkness. You'll find me there out in front, except of course when I'm at my desk struggling with registrations, emails, phone calls and the never ending curse of accounting paperwork.....

Wish Us Luck!
Mr. W.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Brief History on the Space Center's Simulators.

Hello Troops,
I'd like to thank Kyle Herring (David Kyle to many) for taking the time and writing this piece for The Troubadour outlining the early history of the Space Center's missions and simulators.

The Voyager's history is well documented from the year 2000 on. Unfortunately I wasn't writing a blog or posting things to the Internet during the years 1990 to 1999. I was too busy running a Space Center. The history must come from the memories of those who lived through those founding years.

Kyle was and is the Space Center's best friend. His contributions to the Center have made the Center what it is today. I rest easier at night knowing Kyle's 'got my back'.

Thanks Kyle!
Mr. W.

David Kyle
Sorry, its the only picture I have somewhat complimentary :)

And Now, the Early History
David Kyle Herring
I’d like to take a moment of your time and explain from my memory how the center got where it is, what actually makes the magic, and the traditions now taken for granted or discarded because it's the old way of doing things and/or takes a lot more work.

We all know the Space Center didn’t just appear out of thin air, and very few people know all the fun stories, sacrifice, stress, and hard work done by Victor, Lorraine Houston, Bill Schuller, Mark Daymont, Dave Wall and other staff members and volunteers who set a written and unwritten standard of what makes a bad, good or great simulation and overall experience.

It's time to write the Space Center’s early history so new staff and volunteers will understand that they are part of long line of succession and tradition that evolved over the past 21years.
I realize I can't tell everyone’s stories, but I can share an extremely abbreviated version of my experience over the past 21 years.

I really loved bringing back the long Overnight Missions the Center told during the 1990’s, now called "Super Overnight". It was in 2005 when I convinced Vic to let me do it. My goal was to recreate the magic I experienced back then for the younger Space Center fans of today.

When I was a kid. Overnight Missions were 18 hrs long - you even received 18 rank credits for attending. Kids arrived at the center at 5pm, picked our bunk and placed our gear on it, ate pizza in the briefing room, stood at attention every 5 minutes when Bill (Admiral Schuler) walked in the room, did push ups if we didn't take it seriously, went to bed at 12 midnight with threat of slime devil eggs in our sleeping bags and woke up to alarms at 6am. We ate breakfast on deck 2, while the mission was in progress and went home at 11. The only part I was not able to recreate was the $25 price tag.

I did not want to be 'just another volunteer' when I set out to work at the Space Center. It was to build, build, build. I wanted to build simulators because I wanted more students to experience what I was experiencing. For years the Space Center was very difficult to get into if you didn't live in Alpine School District - Getting in on a Overnight Missions was almost impossible.

I worked around the clock starting with the Galileo, once that was finished I turned my attention to the unfinished set “Magellan”. Vic asked me to help Mark get running it up and running. I installed the video, sound, and wired most of the control room just in time for summer camps in 1999. Then I was asked to work on the Voyager’s last major refit (Fall of 2000). The Voyager got new color computers and Principal Dan Adams and I built new desks. It took pulling Vic’s yellowing teeth to get him to put in a half way decent sound system and mixer in the Voyager (Vic was always preoccupied with the cost. It’s taken awhile but today I believe he understands that if you go cheap you get what you pay for).

After the Voyager, our attention shifted back to the Magellan to make a new Space Center Class room and hall way (transition) and experimental sliding door. At about the same time, the Space Center acquired a grant to buy two new star labs, one of them was destined to be the Falcon. That simulator was a huge pain my in side. I was glad to see it go and for the record I didn't design it but I had to help build it, wire it and equip it. I hated it.

A year later we remodeled the Odyssey for the 3rd time. Next was the expansion of the Magellan control room, that was no tea party. I had to come up with a compromise between Vic and Ryan over a door or wall to the hallway from the control room. The compromise is the Hatch you see there now. Then Vic went on vacation and left me with replacing the Voyager carpet in 2 weeks! I literally had to break the whole ship down, get carpet picked out, put in and all back together before summer camps started... Unfortunately 2 days prior to our drop dead finish date I was in the hospital on death’s door - literally. My dad and former principal Dan Adams came in for me to put things together the best they could. I lied about how I felt to the doctors, nurses and Mr. Williamson and got out of the Hospital early with just enough time to finish putting the video and sound system together before the first summer camp.

Next we rebuilt the Voyager’s Decon, and started plans for the Phoenix. The Phoenix was a fun ship to build, except for the endless 14 hour days. Keep in mind. the space center doesn't pay overtime, if they did I might not have had to start a business to keep a decent income. The Phoenix’s computer controls held up its opening. We had new OS10 machines that wouldn't run HyperCard .... Matt Long came through in the end.

I tried a lot of new ideas in the Phoenix, including using aluminum plating on the floors, rounded ceilings, shakers under the floor, FRP pannels, large wire conduits, indirect lighting, and lighting the floors with rope lighting. It was about this time I found space in the basement for a "workshop" and it was good timing because the Magellan needed a new look badly...I also had something new, a helper! Tyson Kaylor, the 14 year old son of a new teacher at Central, came in as my apprentice.

We worked with Lone Peak students to design the new Magellan. I thought it was a great educational opportunity for the students of Lone Peak and a chance to work with Mr. Sanderson, the person Vic had draw up the Voyager’s original deck plans. The folks at the District Maintenance fought me tooth and nail. They didn’t trust student designed plans. We just didn’t have the thousands of dollars to have professionally designed plans drawn up. I do want to point out that the plans were supervised and approved by Mr. Sanderson, the Lone Peak Drafting teacher. I spent nearly half my time during the 6 months of construction fighting for hallways, double sound walls, extra sound insulation, tunnels, hatches, the use of FRP, maintenance access, ceiling height and design, desk design and materials, special lighting, aluminum plating on the floors, I even had to fight to get the right electrical connections throughout the station. The whole thing was a nightmare for both Vic and I. Building a simulator while relying on donated labor was something the district maintenance struggled with.

Shortly after finishing the Magellan in June of 06 I again ended up in the hospital. The original Iworlds was underway. I was hired to help build their simulators in Murray. I guess it was good money at the time but looking back, I wish I hadn't been involved.

In ‘07 I believe we refitted the Odyssey again, gave the Voyager new kitchen cabinets, a sink and built in microwave. We started really focusing on improvements all around the Space Center. I had one big goal Alex DeBirk and I had been working on since 2004. I lobbied Vic for new Galileo. The original was slowly falling apart. Something had to be done. Vic hesitated to spend the money but there was really no choice. It took me several years working with engineers from BYU, Scenic Solutions - company that specializes in set design, donations from countless individuals, and a lot of extremely long unpaid hours to get the new Galileo built. In fact we wouldn't have Kyle Jones at the Space Center now if it wasn’t for us taking the new Galileo down to the Utah Co. Fair. That's where Stacy and I first met Kyle and introduced him to the Space Center. Thank heavens we found him, because life came calling and I had to move on and make real money (not that phony Canadian stuff they pay us with at the Space Center :)

I couldn’t be successful in a new career and maintain my hours at the Space Center.

I know that once a Space Center inductee always a Space Center inductee. I’m happy to help whenever time allows. Now that I think about it, we haven't even smacked a bottle on the side of the Galileo yet.

David Kyle Herring.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Thought or Two on a Late Friday Evening at Camp.

Hello Troops, and you to Jon (Jon is waiting for this post as he chaperones on the Voyager's Bridge with Abram).

The picture above is funny in several ways. It shows our helpless condition as infants and reminds us of what lies ahead if we live long enough. I see myself standing near the stop light outside Orem's Costco a few decades from now, derelict, unshaven, unkempt, nearly toothless, still wearing my once blue Space Center shirt - heavily stained with large white blotches testifying to my frequent memory lapses concerning bleach and colors. In my shaking hands I hold a cardboard sign reading "Can't speak, can't walk, no teeth, no job, full diaper. God Bless".

I see you before you see me. Our eyes meet. You look confused, wondering if I'm really the person you think I am. You drive up and stop at the red light.

"Oh how the mighty have fallen," you mutter in disbelief to your firstborn beside you. "He was something else in his day. Now look at him."

"Gross," he replies and returns to his texting.

You roll down your window and wave me over. I struggle to my feet. You notice my black tennis shoes, split open at the toes. I approach as you search your wallet for spare change. You wonder if I'll spend the money on food or liquid comfort. You take out a $5, thinking its enough to purchase a candy bar, but not enough for something refreshing at the PG pool hall. Seeing the $5.00 bill in your hand adds pep to my step. I reach your window and smelling distance. Your firstborn pulls the collar of his t-shirt up over his nose to block the smell of damp rot.

"Mr. Williamson, how are you?" you hope my answer short, considering the light might change any moment. I look confused. I'm searching my memory.

"No ma'am. You got Tex," I reply. I take the money from your outstretched hand. "This is real American money?" I ask holding it up to the light to see the watermark and security band. "It ain't that phony Canadian stuff?"

"Can we go? I'm going to ralph!" your child inserts into the dialog. The light changes and we say our farewells. You to your life and me to the company of senility.

Yes, that's what crossed my mind when I saw that picture above. Life is one great cycle.

Speaking of old age......... How many times have you heard someone of advanced years say "Back in my day?" Well,

Something else from the Imaginarium, a triangle diagram worthy of a passing glance. I tried and tried to prove it more wrong than right but couldn't. Of course that means only one thing - emotional stability and beauty! Right?

I used to stststststst stutter as a child. Certain words sent me into a tongue spasm. The worst was "Victor". Yep, anytime I had to say my name I'd barely get through the first consonant.

They had me in speech therapy in first grade to help with the stuttering and helping me pronounce the letter "r". I spoke my "r" as "w".

And finally, a new sign for the Space Center. Please be kind enough to comply. Those of you who use the Force on those of us born lacking any connection to the supernatural is down right inconsiderate and, frankly rude.

Have a great night.

Mr. W.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Letting the Children Enter. The Simulators Open Today for Field Trips.

Hello Troops,
Today is the day we open the curtain and take down the "Keep Out" partitions. The Space Center opens for our first school year 2011-12 field trip missions. We start with Central Elementary School's fifth graders. They are very excited and have been peeking in on the simulators and asking questions for weeks now. Their patience will be rewarded. We are ready to go!

Yesterday Lorraine, Aleta and Megan spent the day teaching the science curriculum and briefing the students on their mission. I spent the day answering calls and emails and getting acquainted with the new Voyager Control Room lay out. Last month, Bracken spent several days changing things around - all of which takes some getting use to. He threw out my CD players forcing me to modernize and use iPods instead. That alone will be a bit of a challenge - but nothing I can't handle, after all, this will be my 21st year of flying missions in the Voyager. If I haven't got it down now, I never will :)

Today we will be telling "A Cry from the Dark". It will be a bit rough, considering I haven't sat in the Flight Director's seat for three months and missed it.

Yesterday we held our second Open Mission (read the top of the blog's right side bar) in the Phoenix, flight directed by Megan Warner. Brent Anderson and Matt Ricks taught the first lesson for this year's Revolution Programming Class in the school's computer lab. We had a good turn out; you can't beat a free class!

Let's get this day started with a couple items from the Imaginarium.

From the Space Center,
Mr. W.

Advice I'm taking to heart. I'm a bit worried about my first day back in the Flight Director's chair after three months.

I'm tempted to issue this as Space Center currency. Pretty cool.

One Epic Library!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to the Flight Director's Chair.

Hello Troops,
Nearly time to crank up the old Battlestar and head to the Space Center. Today will be spent answering emails, booking schools, researching where to put another simulator and registering students for Super Saturdays, Overnight Camps, Academy Classes, Computer Classes and Parties. Mrs. Houston, Megan Warner and Casey Voeks will work in Discovery on this year's Field Trips lessons and Starlab Planetarium presentation. I've also got to spend a little time in the Voyager reacquainting myself with the ship in preparation to fly at the end of this week. Yes, Mr. Williamson will be back in the Flight Director's Chair for another season of chills and thrills.

Before I lumber down the hill to school, I thought I'd share a few things from the Imaginarium to get your day either started or ended correctly (depending on when you read this).

See You in the Trenches,
Mr. W.

Behind every good Storm Trooper is a good woman

Every day is a challenge. Attitude determines the outcome.

Attitude determines whether failure defeats you or teaches a lesson. Failure just means you, like the rest of us, are human. We try, we fail, we learn and go on. Give yourself a break. Do you think the success we've had at the Space Center was the result of pure genius!? What you see is twenty years of trying, failing, succeeding, trying, failing, succeeding, frustration, victory, and then all over again.

Here are the results of the question. Sad isn't it.

The Perfect Book Sandwich