Alpha Delta Delta

Me: “I think I have adult onset attention deficit disorder.”

Shrink: “Why do you say that?”

Me: (long stream of sideways conscious thought about how I always chalked it up to my mental illness, but now that we’ve mostly stripped that away, — SQUIRREL!)

Him: “Okay, we can do something about that.”

Me: “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna Tom Cruise this chair and demand pills.” (Note, I didn’t say this at the time, but man, that would’ve been funny as hell.)

Him: “We’ll give you some testing.” It’s called TOVA. I can guess the acronym. I can guess how it’s designed. (I took enough Design of Experiments and Statistical Quality Control in the fourth time I did graduate school before failing out to make those semi-educated guesses.)

Me: “Cool.” (This is the first test that I’ve ever wanted to fail.)

Real talk: sometimes I think that I like real-time console operations because it narrows the option set and gives me just enough of a juice to focus my mind. (Cue my old boss nodding slowly.)

(Cue my nine long-time readers nodding less slowly.)

Knology/WOW Still Kinda Sucks

I was testing the cache on this here site — I’m working on a passive soak, thanks — and I found this entry that I ended with, “Fuck Knology”. Yeah, that’s about right. I never did much with the DSL modem, though — I had both running for a while, but the DSL modem was flaky (yep, BellSouth/AT&T sucked, too). Admittedly, this was 13 years ago, when the reliability of these things generally vacillated between “hold your mouth right and it’ll work” and “held together with broomsticks, bailing wire, and chewing gum”.

[These kinds of folksy sayings are lost upon my Yankee wife. She just looks at me when I say them. City girls.]

That said about WOW: the impolite fiction of open competition in last-mile telecommunications allows them to maintain a footprint and a market share. The only competitors on my street — in a neighborhood with houses built in the last decade — are Over-the-Air TV and AT&T’s fiber Internet + U-Verse offerings. The AT&T stuff is new in the last two years. Bi-directional high-speed internet would be awesome, but I know I’d loathe U-Verse. TiVo is actually sorta innovating again, and I want to ride the wave as long as I can. (I <3 cTiVo.)

That Job Actually Didn’t Last Long

Remember when I was super-excited about being back in aerospace after 1,508 days gone? That job lasted four months. I didn’t really talk about it back then, but it’s true. That was a fun job, actually, although I was under-utilized — either because I didn’t hawk the work hard enough or because the project manager was incompetent. (You may choose 2 draw whichever conclusion you like.)

What was the job? I supported the development of a second glovebox for the International Space Station. What’s a glovebox? That’s a great question! How about letting Dr. Peggy Whitson tell us!

We now have two gloveboxes on ISS. One is the venerable Microgravity Science Glovebox, shown above; the other is the Life Sciences Glovebox, which is still in its shakeout phase. You can see Lee Jordan and Yancy Young about why we have two now.

NASA Marshall (where I work) wanted to take a ground unit of the MSG and fly it to ISS. Changes to that scope at the program level saw us finish out the partially-complete LSG and fly it to orbit for assembly. I was on the team of people helping to make that trade study into a reality. Marshall really wanted that work, spending engineering funds to do it. Sadly, it didn’t go the way we wanted, and the funds that we paying me dried up before we could get to executing the LSG project. The week before Thanksgiving, I was out the door.

That job’s ending just set the stage for me to start working in ISS payload operations a few weeks later. Less than two years later, I was operating MSG in addition to other duties. Now, less than two years after that, I was the Payload Operations Director on console for some LSG troubleshooting, which amused me greatly.

But the ops story is best told in a small series of anecdotes…

Why I Dropped Off of Social Media

This is not some think-piece about why you should do as I did or any such shit as that. People have a right to spend their time and energy however they want. I totally get why my mom spends a lot of time on Facebook, and I think that it’s a net positive for her.

With that said, I canned my two major social media streams, Facebook and Twitter, in 2018. For both, the shortest rationale is the benefits that I drew from participating in each medium were outweighed by the frustrations that they caused me. Social media has been a boon for disadvantaged/suppressed communities to have a way to find each other, and as long as that attraction is for a positive end, I think that’s fucking awesome.

Facebook

I got tired of the pettiness, the stalking, the willingness to be nasty and combative about whatever you disagree about, and the desire to be showy. All of those things just reflected back to me each of those various shitty behaviors. Leaving let me not amplify them.

Twitter

Twitter just soaked up all the time that I would give it. It was often fun — I actually knew over half of the people that I consistently followed from non-Twitter environments — but the outrage machine just didn’t need to be fed that much. Couple that with the company’s inability or unwillingness to combat abuse problems — striking down the concept that muting Twitter is a freedom of speech violation, and not taking the Pinterest approach to “freedom of reach” — and I was just done.

In both cases, I really did just up and leave both platforms. I said it, I did it, and I haven’t looked back. I never tried to keep Facebook from deleting my account, and I didn’t create a new Twitter account. [I still have three that support side projects. I don’t stay logged in to any of them.]

Instead

Instead, to be honest, I just play a shit-ton of tower defense games. I do it to clear my head. I do it to kill time. I do it to procrastinate. I’m still processing why this was the result, but I guess the only person that I’m pissing off with this crappy behavior is my wife. This is not a net positive exchange.

Do what you want

Go and Internet how you will. But for fuck’s sake, I’m not going to like and follow back.

Around the Clock

I’m 40. I’ve been in aerospace engineering since I was 20, less that period of time that I try not to think about very much. It’s safe to say that I’ve been Doing This Shit for a while.

Regardless, I’m 40 and married with a dog, and I do shift work.

One of my now-former colleagues once told me (multiple times!), “When you do shift work, your family does shift work with you.” She was right — just ask my wife. You can also ask my dog, although all he’d really do if you came over tonight would be to bark like crazy until the police came, as you’d have set off the burglar alarm. Also, asking him is probably not going to be super-productive. You don’t speak Lucky.

I really like my job (even when it irritates the shit out of me). I just certified two months ago as a NASA Payload Operations Director, and I’m nearing the end of my burn-in period, which is a bit like hazing but with shift differentials and FERS contributions. This is my fourth (!) certificate at POIC, and I intend for it to be my last. We do important work, and I do all I can on every shift to try and make it fun.

That said, when your wife is away visiting family and your dog isn’t feeling well, midnight shifts are lonely and disconnecting. Tonight is shift 36 of 38 during my burn-in (yep, I’ve been in the control room pretty much every other day since 02-Jan), and I’m tired and really not feeling it. I think that we all have those days, but I find them a little harder when it’s 21:10L and I’m staring not being home again for another 10 hours.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a puppy who needs belly rubs.

Beginning again

“I should get back into writing on my blog. I need to prove that meeting my wife didn’t kill my blog.” [Really, it didn’t.]

“But I have so many things to write about, that I don’t know where to start.”

“I don’t blather on social media anymore. All those words have to be dammed up, right?”

“Damn right they’re dammed up. Again, I have too many thoughts to get out.”

“But I should write about something, right? Something to break the ice?”

“You tried that almost two years ago and it got you nowhere.”

“Hey, I wrote that one piece in September.”

“You’re proving your own point.”

“Cool. We’re not losing out to Wilson right now.”

“Are you going to engage with what Misty wrote?”

“You mean with …”

I’ve spent a lot of time with my fear. I call it by different names. Sometimes it looks like working on a different project. Sometimes it looks like cleaning up my studio space. Sometimes it looks like sitting on the couch watching tv and crocheting. Sometimes it looks like me spending too much time on social media. But there’s always an oozing puddle of fear languishing nearby waiting for me to fall in if I’m not paying enough attention to skirt it appropriately and do the scary task at hand.

My fear is always willing to tell me specifically that no one cares about what I have to say. That I will die in art obscurity because what I make is banal or laughable or unintelligible or all of those things. My fear is also pretty invested in moving the goal posts of whatever success I do gain so that I will get discouraged and quit.

“Yeah, go wrestle with that.”

“Okay, dude, but we’re about to go AOS.”

“A-O-What now?”

“Don’t be coy. You know that I fly the International Space Station now.”

“But they don’t know.”

“They do now. Oh, and it’s the only job that I’ve ever had that doesn’t have me with near-crippling imposter syndrome.”

“Oh, do you want to unpack that?”

“YOU ARE NOT MY THERAPIST, YOU ASSHOLE.”

Stephen Granade on the Hyperloop

My good friend Stephen has more to say about the whole Hyperloop project set, which seems to be marching forward.  He was skeptical before, but he sounds more hopeful these days, weighing in as needed on a great article by Alissa Walker at Gizmodo.  I agree, although my biggest concern is still how they’re going to maintain a credible, useful vacuum over that great of a distance.

Stephen Granade: armchair Hyperloop commentator and the guy who officiated my wedding.

The First Time I Ever Saw Her Face

So back last July, I started my new job and returned to aerospace.  It was a great time, and I was truly excited to be a part of it.  I was so excited that I started keeping a work journal.  Every day, I would jot down a few sentences on what I’d done / thought that day.  I generally did this at the end of the day as a way to set myself up for the next day, as it was a great chance to leave myself a note or similar.  OmniFocus does really make me happy, but a few thoughts in Day One were good, too.  [Yes, I had a recurring OmniFocus task to remind me to write the notes.]

Anyhow, here’s the note for Thursday, July 17th — my fourth day at work:

20140171-dayone-log

That first line documented the first time I’d ever seen her face.  She came into the meeting late, which I found a little surprising.  Junior people aren’t supposed to be that busy, and she couldn’t be much more than 30.  I didn’t really pay any attention to her, because the meeting was indeed talking about things that interested me — mainly the integration of improved avionics air assembly fans that could be used at a lower voltage while still providing the throughput that we needed.

But then the meeting turned to other things, and then I grew disinterested.  It was then that I looked in front of me and really took her in.

“Wow, she’s really pretty.”

“Wow, she has a lot of freckles.”

Wow, she doesn’t wear any makeup at all — not even eye makeup or mascara.  Yes, those eyelashes are red.”

Then, because she was busy, she left the meeting with a wave that trailed from her arm near her waist, a meek offering of exit that I’ve come to know well in the year since.

I saw that face this past Wednesday when we were driving around looking for wedding venues.  Because it was mid-day, she was driving and I was the passenger; she was focused on the road, and I looked over and saw her as I had 363 days earlier.  It was the same face, the same studied look, the same no-frills appearance.  She was even more beautiful to me, mainly because of all that we’ve shared over the last year and how well we’ve come to know each other — better than I’d have ever expected to in just a year.

I could tell you a bunch of things about her, but I’ll go with these:

  • She doesn’t wear makeup because of one day in her last job down at NASA Johnson Space Center.  You can’t wear makeup inside of a space suit, because you’d have all of that mess gumming things up.  She decided that she felt like she looked great without it, so she stopped wearing it.  Thank you, spacesuit regulations, from letting her go from “adorable strawberry blonde” to “adorable natural strawberry blonde” before I came to know her.  (As she says, she switched from foundation to sunscreen.)
  • We look upon our failings as things to work with and not things to constantly trip over.
  • She loves her family so very well and enjoys spending time with mine.
  • She’s fun.  (You’ll have to meet her to prove me out on that one.)

I didn’t know her name when she left.  It was a couple of weeks before I’d know thanks to a couple of group emails that I could cross-reference with LinkedIn.  I befriended her, although that was probably a bit under false pretenses, as she thought that I was new to town.  (Ahem.  I moved here in 1997, went to college here, and worked in aerospace for eight years before leaving for a few years.)

One Friday in mid-August, she asked me to come and play board games with her friends.  Although I don’t really play them other than to be sociable, that’s exactly what I wanted to be doing.  It proved to be a long, fun weekend that preceded her leaving town for a long, agonizing phone-call-filled week.  She came back, and then we threw it all on the line.  Then it went from there.

For nearly 11 months, she’s been my near-constant companion.  As much as the work trip I’ll take next week — new job, more about that later — will be very good for my training, it’ll take me away from her for nearly five days, and that already feels like an eternity.  We just fit together, and while I do lament the time that I previously had to read books with impunity, the wonder of this new and amazing love eclipses any frustrations I may have over losing my old life.

In two months, we will be wed.  She will be Danielle Morris, and I will be forever hers.  In so many ways, I already am; I welcome this new stage of life.

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