Saturday, November 16, 2013

Time flies whilst gainfully employed

The weeks are already clipping by at a rapid pace, now that some sort of routine has been established at and away from work.  It has been a long while since I’ve had this out in “the world”, as I usually conceptualized non-South Pole living over the preceding years.  I have not really done anything much of interest away from work, since weekends have been made use of to attend to the necessities of living and the recharging of my own internal batteries outside of the work week.

I have regularly been walking to and from work, which is a pleasant way to begin and end the workday hours.  It ensures I am definitely awake by the time I arrive and provides a nice (active) contrast to the sedentary interval spent on base at JSC.  I have yet to start riding my bike, since the best practice of wearing a helmet conflicts with the marginally vain goal of having decently presentable hair freshly showered.  I certainly have challenge enough in that regard these days.  On occasion, I drive my car, but that is usually reserved for picking up groceries on the weekends.  As the months have progressed, the temperatures have generally cooled to a very pleasant range, and this week I had the pleasure of walking to work a couple days with temperatures in the 30-Fahrenheit range, which was a welcome contrast to the heat and stickiness I typically associate with weather in Houston.

My training at work has steadily progressed, though the pace should pick up greatly starting this coming week.  I have been reading a lot of technical documents in preparation for a lot of training, and hope to keep the progression clipping along toward official recognition that I have internalized enough information to be of practical use to the team.  I have also gotten to observe and play a minor part in a number of spacecraft rendezvous and capture simulations, which have been interesting and presage the activities I will someday be allowed to take part in with actual spaceships flying about in the heavens.  At some point I will share photographic evidence of my new activities and environs, but it has eluded me thus far, having had plenty of other responsibilities to which I have had to attend.

In conclusion, life is good, and I feel most wholeheartedly fortunate to be in the straits that I am in at present.  Though, I am at wits’ end to understand why I rendered this missive in such a stilted idiom.
“Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong.”
~Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let there be Normal!

Tomorrow will hopefully be day one of the first normal full week of work I will have in the Visiting Vehicles group since I started, nearly three weeks ago.  We got to go back on JSC property starting Thursday, which made for a quick couple days to try and settle into the new stomping grounds.  With luck I will be able to start walking to work now that the whole level of uncertainty about the situation will be reduced substantially.  A big part of this week will be my appointment on Tuesday morning to go submit my background check information to the security folks, which will hopefully get the ball rolling to get me a lot of the computer and facility access I need to be a fully-functioning employee on-site.  Other than that, I imagine I will be doing a lot of reading and training and who knows what else.  It feels good to have a job and some stability once again.
“A man doesn’t begin to attain wisdom until he recognizes that he is no longer indispensable.”
~Richard E. Byrd, “Alone”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

waiting for a GO

Since Congress passed the bill last night, I assume I am headed back to work today.  However, at this hour of the morning there is still no definitive statement that we should report to JSC like "normal".  It would be fantastic if we could avoid doing this again.  It has been great, but...
“To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.”

Thursday, October 10, 2013

the slopey bit

Indeed, I'm going to have steep going to climb this learning curve for my job for a good long while.  However, I am making progress, despite the extra challenges the last weeks have held.  We continue to meet for training sessions at the library, and I’m getting in plenty of studying at home as well.  I haven not set foot on JSC since a week ago Tuesday, so it will be a little weird to do that again (at some point).

Something here that gets joked about a lot, but is a real phenomenon to which a neophyte must adapt, is the lingo.  We talk in acronyms, and even sometimes nested acronyms, that stretch to several levels of encryption.  The whole operational culture is different than that in which I worked for three years with the SOHO spacecraft.  The scale of the organization is orders of magnitudes larger as well.  Of course a lot of that has to do with the scope of the vehicles involved (a space station with an area footprint the size of a football field…hello, big!) and the added concerns about safety since human beings get to go fly on a number of those vehicles.  I have a lot to learn, and I’m looking forward to it.

On the home front, I feel pretty much settled in and continue to revise how I have my junk arrayed in my apartment.  I actually got a folding lawn chair and some new pillows last weekend, so I feel I’m living pretty large now.  But, with the uncertainties about the work situation, I have been maintaining a frugal budget.  I did get my first paycheck today (hooray!), and hopefully that will continue to be a weekly event.

My heart goes out to the researchers and support personnel of the United States Antarctic Program that are being hit hard by this manufactured disruption to normal business.  With a bit of luck the abbreviated summer season and premature redeployment of hundreds of people will come off safely and leave the stations squared away for next winter.
“Valor is of no service, chance rules all, and the bravest often fall by the hands of cowards.”

Saturday, October 5, 2013

a memorable inauguration

This first week of work has been mostly me studying materials at home, with a couple trips to meet co-workers to receive training at the local library branch.  I have made incremental progress, but I think the learning for this job will probably never cease.  There is a lot to know about flying these vehicles and doing so safely.  For now, we are still being paid for our time.  I fill my time card out online, and keep in touch with my manager via email.  It certainly is a bizarre way to start a new job, but there is nothing we can do to change it.  At some point, however much further down the road, we will get to resume. 

Apropos to this ongoing situation, I got my new voter registration certificate in the mail this week.
“Beware the fury of a patient man.”
~John Dryden

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fraught first foray

Well, nothing worth doing is ever easy, correct?  Good, because I think this new job is going to be pretty doggone challenging.  I got through my initial bout of HR business this morning without any big issues, including getting my first badge for the day for USA.

I then headed over to JSC and got my temporary access badge to enter the base and got myself up to the offices whence I'll base myself for the foreseeable future.  It is kind of a rabbits' warren of partitions and doors and narrow walkways.  It became quickly apparent that getting through the next round of security screenings and obtaining permission to use IT resources was going to take a bit, which might actually take even longer (more below) given current events.  I got the whirlwind tour and gauntlet of introductions, and I think some names and roles sunk in after the first immersion.  I eventually got some hard copies of training materials I need to start learning for my various levels of certification for the hierarchy of positions within the Grappling Visiting Vehicle Officer (VVO) Group.  Reading that material and intermittently trying to find out how to get IT access and sort out other bureaucratic issues consumed the rest of the day save for about 30 minutes spent touring the attached building with the actual operations rooms/flight control rooms.  Learning acronyms is going to be a long-term effort, which comes as no surprise.

Soooo, my initiation into this challenging position is being made all the more tough by the looming issue of the government shutdown and potential furloughs that could go into effect as early as tomorrow.  Great, just great.  Contractors like me won't be unable to work, but we may be kept out of JSC proper and have to work elsewhere.  Regardless, this will neither get me my badges any more rapidly, nor will it get me into and through the background check process any swifter.  The plan is to go to work at the normal hour tomorrow and see what happens.  It'd be nice not to have to worry about this, but it is what it is (way above my pay grade).

So, my plate is pretty full for the time being.  I think it will be from now on, period.
“Man does what he can and bears what he must.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Turning the crank

Since I last wrote, I have continued to get acclimated to my new digs and environs.  The weather has been fair, despite some rains that rolled through over the weekend.  I have kept myself busy with continuing to research my past for the big upcoming background check, as well as taking care of sundry address changes and such for my bureaucratic entanglements.  Some of the bigger tasks that are almost completed are now just waiting for others to mail me final versions of titles, driver’s licenses, etc.

My apartment complex is quite nice, rather nicer than any I have been in before.  Of course I would not mind an uncluttered vista like the view from my folks’ place back home, but that is not really possible here.  So it is and so it goes for a country mouse in a city house.  After a week in the apartment I am getting used to some of the rhythms of the place.  The gurgle and spurt of sprinklers turning on late woke me up the first few nights.  I also seem to be coming to grips with my paranoia about mold, but will remain vigilant to keep that at bay.

All in all, things are going well and I think I will be well and ready for work to start next Monday. 
“Like many introverts, I'm capable of adopting a persona and going out into a public place if there's a reason to."
~Neal Stephenson, Eurogamer interview pub. 7/5/2012

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dislocation, relocation, & now this location

I got myself moved down to Houston over the weekend and Monday with the assistance of my folks, and thankfully with no mishaps.  The truck I was given was a 16' one, not a 10' one like I'd ordered, so I had plenty of extra space in the cargo box.  After getting my folks to the airport I started the process of unpacking and doing the multitude of errands involved in resettling someplace urban like this.

There are already things I miss about home, for sure.  But, it has been alright here, and I've probably not suffered any more than my usual fair share of trepidations upon embarking on something new.  I know I have to make a long-term home here, and I think it will be doable.  It's mostly going to be a mind game, like so much of life is it seems.

A few niceties of the experience thus far are that I seem to be able to navigate pretty well, though I haven't been here much since an internship during the summer of 2000.  My apartment is pretty close to a lot of the places I've needed or will need to visit to take care of the relocation errands.  The public library nearby is pretty big/extensive.  I will have a succinct commute to work, as well.  My apartment is also very livable, though I'm going to have to deal with some paranoia regarding mold in the swampy environment here.  All in all (knock on wood), the process of becoming a Texas resident is going pretty decently so far.

"Turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese!  I really think so."
~The Vapors

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Guy Who Came in from the Cold

Once again I will be heading south to work, but not THAT far south.  I have actually accepted an actual offer for an aerospace-related position in Houston, TX.  I will work at National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Johnson Space Center (JSC) in mission control as a Visiting Vehicle Officer (VVO), supporting flights to and from the International Space Station (ISS).  I will not start until later next month, but am already in the thick of doing hiring paperwork, background check data collection (daunting), and the usual interstate relocation song and dance.  It feels great to have gotten this opportunity at long last, and I look forward to much learning and professional development in years to come.  A door has certainly opened at an opportune time.
“Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Northward, ho the wagons!

I had a nice little road trip and visit to Omaha, Nebraska last week.  It was a new destination for me, and having some local friends from the Ice to see the sights with was certainly fun.

The first big destination was the Strategic Air and Space Museum, which had many remarkable vehicles on display.  Getting to see a B-29, let alone go in the cockpit of a B-36 was pretty novel.

Downtown Omaha with its NPS visitor’s center for the Lewis and Clark Trail, multiple monuments to organized labor, relatively new pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River, and proximity to my most newly visited state of the Union (Iowa) was a fun outing for day two.

The last day there we went to the really big and excellent zoo.  I didn’t really photograph anything there, but really enjoyed the day.  Animals of note for me were a giant Japanese salamander (head the size of a large cantaloupe), sleepy aardvarks, snow leopards, and pygmy hippopotami.

The drive to and from was nice as well.  We visited the Atomic Cannon above I-70 at Fort Riley, the Pony Express barn (last home station in existence) in Marysville, and the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice (that’s pronounced be-AT-tris, FYI) on the way up.  On the way back we had lunch in the oldest restaurant west of the Mississippi (Hays House in Council Grove), visited the verdant National Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, and watched muddy flood waters of the Cottonwood River at Cottonwood Falls.

“The slow cavalcade of horsemen armed to the teeth has disappeared before parlor cars and the effeminate comforts of modern travel.”
~Francis Parkman, “The Oregon Trail”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Home & Away

Unfortunately my plans for what comes next are still in flux around that familiar acronym, TBD.  One of these days that will change.

Here at home we had a visitor one day a while back: the second horned toad I’ve ever encountered.  He/she was quite fleet of foot, and certainly lived up to its name.  It didn’t spit any blood out of its eyeballs, though.
Over the Independence Day weekend I took a quick road trip to St. Louis.  My venerable chariot “El Civ” knocked down 42.8 miles per gallon going and coming, which was reassuring.  It was nice to get away, and I had some lovely company for the duration.  I also espied 43 states’ (and one Canadian province) license plates, which seemed pretty darn good for the brevity of the journey!

The savior of the Union and 18th President of the United States figured largely in two of the places we visited.  The first was the Ulysses S. GrantNational Historic Site, which was the home of his wife’s family.  It was a slave plantation; and-yes-that issue did create strife with Grant’s in-laws (should come as little surprise).  Across the contemporary street is the Grant’s Farm facility, which includes the humble cabin U.S.G. built for his Hardscrabble Farm, as well as some of the herd of Clydesdale horses.  The place is owned/operated by Anheuser-Busch, and has a bunch of other animals in its menagerie as well.
The Sandy Creek Covered Bridge was also on the itinerary, which is just one of four remaining such structures in the state of Missouri.  It turns out covered bridges were primarily enclosed to protect their wooden truss structures.  That practical means just serendipitously led to a rather picturesque end.
The Mastodon State Historic Site had an interesting museum, as well as a nice walk down the bluff to the site of the historically significant Kimmswick Bone Bed.  It was here that not only were a bunch of fossil bones found, but that some Folsom spear points were found in contact with the bones.  This pretty well established the contact between megafauna (like mastodons and 8-foot-long giant beavers) and early human residents of the neighborhood.  Cool, huh?
On the way home I made a quick stop in Jefferson City to stroll through the state capitol building and Missouri State Museum therein.  I would have gone through the buildings down at the Jefferson Landing site at the bottom of the hill on the Missouri River, but they were closed on Mondays.  At least I got to see an Amtrak train arrive and depart from the little station there.  It was cool to see one of the multitude of places the Corps of Discovery, headed by Lewis and Clark, passed on their way to/from the Pacific.
"The world is old, and no doubt plenty of people have lived in it and been forgotten."
~Allan's Wife by H. Rider Haggard

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hanging in there

Well, summer is gorgeous so far here in Kansas.  Things are still green, but the wheat has gone golden in the last week, so harvest is shortly going to get underway.  Lightning bugs, bats, skinks, all manner of birds, snakes, mosquitoes, and the other cast of billions have made their appearance.  That includes the usual arrival of the armada of buzzards that roost on one of the water towers in town, which does not bother me as much as it does some people.

I’m still searching for some clarity regarding what comes next for yours truly, but have a bunch of proverbial irons in the proverbial fire.  Sometimes it seems like reporting on what I’m doing would sound like the guy’s paper on what he did during his summer vacation in Cheech and Chong’s Sister Mary Elephant sketch.  Something will coalesce here pretty soon, I’m sure, even if it ends up just being for a few months.  Regardless, it will be nice to have a purpose once again.  One evening this week I took a several-hour basic first aid refresher class down in Wichita, which made me feel pretty decent about my knowledge on the subjects covered and then some.  Next week I have an appointment for a little work to be done on my car to make sure I have a steed ready to ride off into the sunset upon whenever the time comes.  With luck by the time I’m all said and done I’ll have put together a biography as varied and interesting as Louis L’Amour’s.  One step at a time…

Eight folks got a nice, big step this week with NASA’s new astronaut candidates being selected.  One is an “ice person”, so it is nice to know the door is open, though it looks like military backgrounds are a lot more desirable.  I certainly will apply whenever the next selection begins again.
‘Despair, or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.’
~Gandalf (Council of Elrond), LOTR by J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Getting lush, still not flush

The wildlife diversity is gradually on the rise here as things continue to warm and turn green.  In the last couple weeks there have been first appearances of hummingbirds, toads, and for a first time in memory yellow-headed blackbirds.  This evening a lanky raccoon ambling into the yard at dusk was the first sighting of one of them in a long while.  I guess distemper laid many of them low in the last year or so.  The sound of frogs croaking down in the creek is a pleasant accompaniment to all the visual stimuli.

The grass is green and growing, but I guess the grass of prime importance in this region-wheat-is being largely assessed at lower qualities.  I imagine it is largely due to the dearth of moisture over most of the winter.  We have started to get more regular precipitation, but it might be too little too late.

What comes next has yet to reveal itself.  Unfortunately it is not my own (desired) timeline that drives most of that process of discovery.  I just keep at it and do what I can.  I have plenty of company, in that regard, despite the record highs on Wall Street.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Green wave breaks

Even though the cooler temperatures have managed to persist here, the green wave of spring has certainly arrived.  There have been a few days of really nice and warm weather, but for the most part it has remained cool thus far.  That is fine with me.  The blistering heat of summer will be here soon enough, and with a few nice rains under our belt, perhaps we will be on our way to recouping some of the precipitation deficit of the last few years.  Hopefully.

We got to have my brother’s kids here for a few days of long-weekend fun.  It is interesting to see them both mature and interact with each other.  I find it strange, but fun, to see the wee lad doing similar things around the house that I remember his father doing.  Pulling things out of the kitchen cabinets to play with really rang a bell!

The question of figuring out what comes next remains unsolved.  I am still assessing available options, and trying to figure out a timeline for my own actions while remaining flexible for whatever might arise sooner versus later.  My spirits are still doing fine.  I guess this is a skill honed with plenty of practice.

My best wishes and thoughts are for you, Boston.
“There are people who observe the rules of honor as we observe the stars: from a distance.”
~Victor Hugo

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Like (the) Ike (Center)

The job hunt rolls on, but hopefully something will materialize in relatively short order.  In the meantime, I’m just doing what I have to do.

A while back I did get to have a little day trip up to Abilene for a visit to the Eisenhower Center.  The have a good museum, with lots of interesting artifacts.  One that stood out to me (despite being only a couple feet from a piece of real Moon rock) was the actual teleprompter scroll DDE used during his speech that mentioned the “military industrial complex”.

On the grounds are a number of buildings, including a house DDE lived in growing up.  I was surprised to find out that it was still in the original location, not relocated from elsewhere in town.  It had a very nice front parlor room.

DDE and Mamie are buried in the chapel also on the ground of the center.

I read an excellent biography about Eisenhower (by Michael Korda) a few months back, which helped make this a very interesting little visit to a place I had not been to since high school.  Though DDE is not commonly mentioned in the pantheon of the greatest U.S. Presidents, I think he was an intelligent fellow that understood compromise and devotion to duty.  It would be nice if more of that could be injected into government today.
"Of men who have a sense of honor, more come through alive than are slain, but from those who flee comes neither glory nor any help."
~Homer, The Iliad

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Winter Clings to KS

Well, we’re have gotten some precipitation at long last.  Of course, it is the wintry and white sort.  Around a foot fell a couple days ago, but yesterday was sunny and some melting got to happen.  It is sunny again today, so hopefully we can get some more melting done before the next storm rolls in Sunday-Monday.  As always, since I have spent significant amounts of time around the Antarctic version of snow, the stuff that falls here seems very wet and heavy in comparison.  Regardless of those characteristics, it all translates into moisture much needed.

There is not really anything regarding what’s next work-wise to report.  I suppose patience should be one of the answers to the usual interview question I could begin including in my description of positive attributes I have!  I think a big social cleavage (Yea, I retained something from those political science courses I took in grad school!) that probably lurks out there now is between those people who have remained gainfully employed throughout the economic downturn since 2008, versus those of us who have been faced with seeking professional employment in the challenging climate since then.  I know I certainly have been molded by my experiences in that regard, and I suppose in some ways (certainly not economically) I have been strengthened.  With luck, the government/Congress won’t set us all back with these budget cuts next week.  Even if that foolishness comes to pass, I will carry on, but it would be great if such titanic forces would not be added to what so many of us face already.
“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins; we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”
~D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Working toward work

So, as you might have surmised by now, I have not had any big news about the astronaut candidate selection.  With January 2013 in the history books, it looks like that door has closed for this option for now.  I have thusly pivoted to investigating other fruitful, professional opportunities, and it has been interesting seeing what all is out there these days.  In general, things seem more hopeful than years past.

The weather remains dry here in Kansas with 104 of 105 counties being declared drought disaster areas.  Allegedly there is some rain in the forecast for tonight, but who knows whether any will really materialize.

With no dog here at home for several years, the critters have certainly made themselves more at home.  Last night we used a live trap cage and relocated the first of several opossums that have taken up residence in a burrow under the concrete slab of our driveway.  There are several more to deal with, but hopefully we’ll be able to remove them permanently without much trouble.
“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.”
~General George Washington

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Prodigal poster returns

Sorry for the hiatus, if anybody still checks this, but things have been pretty domestic/less-than-swashbuckling of late.  I've been TCOB here at home and keeping myself available for whatever might present itself regarding that prospective interview in Houston.  This week will be the last week I might likely be contacted for that, if what I've read about a 2-week notice is actually true (I read it on the internet...).  In general, things are the same as years past.  The big question to be answered was and is: What's next? 

Best of luck to us all in 2013.
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”
~Thomas Paine, The American Crisis