What you won't hear in today's news is the true cause of that strong earthquake in Japan yesterday. Using The Troubadour as my confessional, I will stand and take partial responsibility for the trembler. The burden of guilt also rests squarely on the shoulders of Matt Ricks (sorry to throw you under the bus Matt, but you did give me control of the mouse).
Yesterday I coerced my way into the heart of the Universe's Central Command Center (UCCC) at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center's planetarium. Matt Ricks was in the Crow's Nest monitoring an unusual movement of dark matter around Saturn's rings. The UCCC dome was brilliantly illuminated by the planet. I watched for a moment as he skillfully manipulated the Digistar 7's massive computer. We navigated up, down, and around the gas giant and its moons in search of the faintest whisper of dark energy and the even more elusive wrinkle in spacetime such an event would produce.
"Come on up." Matt spoke in hushed tones. "I'll let you have a go."
"I'm here to learn the ropes," I explained. "I've been recalled to duty". I was the latest victim of that very same reactivation clause I had written into the Release of Duty contract all Space Center employees had to sign when they retired from Starfleet and into civilian life.
"So I've been told," Matt responded.
I climbed the carpeted steps, higher and higher until I found the Universe's controls. Matt invited me to take a seat. Over the next hour he explained the controls as he worked his way through a stack of work orders. The last order in the file was an examination of an incoming comet. Just as we finished the flyby another order flashed on the screen. Matt gave it a quick read and mumbled. "Not this one again. NASA wants us to head to the sun."
"Problems?" I asked as the Digistar sped us across the fabric of spacetime to the center of the solar system. Matt was focused on the computer screen. After a moment he spoke.
"This work order wants us to add a few more sunspots. I mean, I can give them more if they really want them, but that would disrupt the 11 year sunspot cycle and I don't have orders from above to do that."
I understood. Any tinkering with the cosmos's natural cycles required permission from the very top - and upon examining the work order, such a signature was absent.
"This is a waste of your training time." Matt printed the work order, and with a stroke of his red pen quickly dispatched it to his supervisors for review. "We're going back to earth and let you have a go at the controls." In the blink of an eye the Digistar 7 had us orbiting our home planet. "Take the mouse and I'll show you how to orbit," Matt said as he pushed the mouse in my direction. I hesitated.
"Are you sure?"
"No, but you need to start somewhere." He pointed to the dome. "Look, we're over the Pacific Ocean. You can't cause much trouble here."
I don't know how it happened. It may have been the disorientation caused by the camera's flash but I clicked the wrong button. An alarm sounded.
My moment of distraction. The flash and earthquake - a separation of 3 seconds.
"What did you do?" Matt was panicked.
I jumped up from the chair. "I don't know," I answered. With two keyboard strokes Matt stabilized the Pacific plate and just as quickly as it started, it was done.
A tone sounded from the Digistar's computer. Matt turned and whispered. "They're calling from upstairs. Quick, out you go. Hurry up they don't like to wait." I grabbed my phone and nearly empty Diet Mt. Dew with grape flavoring and rushed out of the planetarium into the safety of the lobby. Mason Perry sat at the welcome desk.
"Was that you?" he smirked.
"Maybe," I answered. "What happened?"
"A 7.1 earthquake off the coast of Japan..... that's a real screwup for sure. Best to make yourself scarce and let Matt deal with it. He's good at that."
I exited the Space Center's double doors. It was a dark, overcast, rainy winter afternoon. So much for my lesson on the Space Center's new planetarium controls. I think I'll give it a week before going back.
From the Space Center's Archives. Twelve Years Ago
My Week at the Space Education Center and Other Things. Really. I'm not Kidding.
Where is this place of Perfect Children?
It’s the kind of Sunday I enjoy. It's cloudy, it's spitting with rain but not too cold. It reminds me of an unsettled early spring day. I was out and about today. While driving I noticed Pleasant Groves’ roads were getting cratered with blemishes. Some of them were large enough to feel in spite of my Battlestar’s (my Lincoln’s) luxurious feather bed suspension system. Dodging the potholes meant dodging the other cars around me. It made driving entertaining. I think I’ll go out and drive some more once I finish this post.
People usually steer clear of my Battlestar. Its big, its heavy and it's something they don’t want to mess with in their little shrink wrapped cars. And if the Battlestar’s size doesn’t convince them to give me a wide berth - one look at me will. I wear my aviator’s leather cap with goggles and my Nottingham Forest Soccer Team scarf wrapped around my neck. I drive with the window down and head stuck part way out so the scarf flaps behind me in the wind. If I’m feeling lucky I’ll open the sunroof, straddle the center armrest, and stick my head and shoulders up through it. I steer with my knee. The cruise control provides thrust. What a rush. The locals call me the Red Baron of PG as I dodge the potholes in a beautifully choreographed dance of rubber on pavement.
OK, back to reality. Forgive the way my brain works. It's the potholes in my brain. They are the result of age and the company of 600 hyper kids a week. One day I’ll take a long rest in Willowing Acres Rest Home for Teetering Teachers. I’m paying a little bit monthly so the Home will reserve a room for me on the third floor. My family and friends know my thoughts on having a room with a view. Willowing Acres is a nice place - known for peaceful quiet and green gardens.
OK there i went again. I’ve got to get focused on what I sat down to write about............. What did I want to write about? If you know send an email and I’ll write about it next week. Until then I’ll talk about a few things that happened this week.
We had Monday off from school so no field trip. I sat through teacher training meetings. They took us into the gym to show off Central Elementary’s new PE equipment. I got to stand near a cone and jump on one foot. After that they said to gallop like a horse in circles. Wait, it gets worse. I was handed a hockey stick and plastic puck. We stood in the four squares painted on the gym floor and had to pass the puck around the square to the other three players. Kind of hard to do when the stick is designed for midgets. I may have slipped a disk in my back. After five minutes of that I used my stick as a cane and kicked the puck with my foot. What was the inservice instructor going to say? Willowing Acres was looking better and better.
I don’t remember a thing about Tuesday at the Space Center; funny to live through 24 full hours and not remember anything about it. It's kind of like driving to the store and realizing you drove the entire way unaware of anything.
Wait, something is coming through. There is a memory from Tuesday emerging from the fog in my head. I remember telling Kyle Herring he had the Voyager private mission that day. Of course he had forgotten. He is the only person I know with a memory worse than mine.
Wednesday and Thursday:
Parent Teacher Conferences both nights. I’ll get a parent or two of one of my pre-algebra students wanting to visit. I’ve got a great class this year so the conversations were pleasant. We ran a few Odyssey missions in the evenings. One was a junior mission. Poor Emily, Aleta and BJ. They truly distress over Junior Missions. You want to see what someone looks like after getting run over a car? Come look at Emily, Aleta, or BJ after a Junior Mission and witness what an adult looks like after being savaged by 9 hyperactive, uncontrolled pre-humans! I feel for them. CAUTION, they shouldn't mistake my sympathy for a desire to give them battle pay for Junior Missions.
Overnight camp. We hosted 37 students from Cedar Hills Elementary. They were great kids. No throw up - thank you Fortuna! They were kids from the school’s STY sixth grade class - you know, the gifted A.L.L kids. (I call them STY standing for ‘Smarter than You’).
Brittney and I had a laugh Saturday morning as the kids ate breakfast in the cafeteria. I usually hover over the kids to keep them from escaping to the rest rooms. If you let one go you’ve lost the group. We keep them in the cafeteria until they finish eating. The flight directors take them to the rest rooms for hand washing and drinks afterwards.
I saw one boy holding a banana sitting at the table nearest to me. Now remember, this is an STY child. The boy was staring at the banana in apparent confusion. He turned it one way and then another. He smelt it and ran it over his face to feel its texture. He started to peel it and stopped. He noticed that the peeled portion of the fruit would flap as he moved the banana up and down. He was totally engrossed in this wondrous work of mother nature. Wanting to capitalize on this bit of humor, I walked over to talk to him.
“That is what we call a banana,” I said. “It's fruit and you can eat it.” He looked at me like I was stupid. Then came the smile. He understood what I was talking about. I turned away and started laughing. Brittney was sitting on a small table near the serving line. She was laughing as well. She saw and heard the whole thing. Sometimes Kids say and do the craziest things.
I Love My Job.
Take Care Troops and Have a Great Week,
The Imaginarium Theater
This Week's Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.
Imaginarium Theater February 14, 2021 from SpaceCampUtah's Imaginarium on Vimeo.