Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Simple Life

Isn't it funny how sometimes the simplest things can be the most interesting?

In January I mentioned my focus for this year: simplicity. 
I have the words "live simply" written on my bathroom mirror in the hopes that I remember to reflect an image of simplicity and in all my daily happenings focus on clearing clutter and rejoicing over even the simplest victories. 
[Side note: how many times can I use the root "simple" in a sentence, a lot apparently.]

To this end, Chris and I have made some changes in our lives. 
Instead of spending lots of money (and calories) eating out often, we now make a menu on Sunday afternoons and go to the grocery store once a week. Not only does this simplify our precious after-work time, but it lets us spend more stress free time together...cooking and eating! 
We also gave up our gym membership last year and instead use online workout videos in combination with the great outdoors to get our exercise in. 
We planted a garden and enjoy watching our efforts grow!
I've been playing my piano a lot more and working on the ukulele. 
Chris has found joy in working on his RX-7 and organizing the garage. 

Life can get so hectic with finances, work schedules, social pressure, meetings, bills, commitments, travelling, rocket science, what-ifs, and should-do's. 

I like making room for the simple. 

How are your New Year's Resolutions or Goals going?

The "Field of Light" in downtown Houston. It's funny how blobs of color changing lights can be so beautiful. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Catching My Breath

Hi blog!

I have probably started this post 5 times now, but something always got in the way of me finishing it! Let's just make it easier on all of us with some bullets!

NASA Bullets:
  • BIG NASA news! BLUF (bottom line up front): I am now in the Integrated Sim!! Woot! I apologize for the delay in telling you, but I have now completed 2 integrated simulations, with 2 more scheduled for next week. Please, send me all of your powerful, nerdy, positive energy as I will definitely need it over the next few months! 
  • Also, also BIG NASA news: I have passed all of my technical knowledge and planning oral exams! Phhewwwwww, that's such a relief. Now I can do fun stuff like use a database to plan activities and put my awesome powerpoint skills to use! [sarcasm aside, there is a lot of fun stuff to do here!
Diabetes Bullets:
  • Dangit, shortly after my embarrassing Dexcom-in-the-washer story, my transmitter's battery died. So, here again I sit, Dexcom-less. 
  • My attempts to lose weight are working! Agonizingly slow, but working. More later?
Life Bullets: 
  • Chris and I used our tax refund to pay off the miata, hurray for no more car payments!
  • I guess this is the year of the weddings, we have 3 coming up, each in a different geographic location! But I think we finally figured out all of the logistics!
  • We have been busy with house projects and Chris has been working hard on the RX-7!

Hopefully my next posts will be less boring!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Birthday Thoughts

It may be my birthday, but a couple weeks ago I proved I am definitely not ready for 28. As in...I put my Continuous Glucose Monitor in the washing machine. After the cycle completed, and after I exhausted my rogue CGM search party, I came face to face with said CGM...he was vibrating spastically with no sign of life from the color screen. Poor thing.

But that wasn't even the most embarrassing part. I also had to explain to multiple representatives on the phone at Dexcom how much of an idiot I was...while at work...so now my husband, family, Dexcom people and co-workers know that I am truly incapable of taking care of myself/things. Oh boy.

We're all better now save my wallet and dignity.

Also, I'm no good at receiving surprises, but Chris disregarded that history and surprised me anyway with a quaint getaway for two at the historic Hotel Galvez on Galveston Island. We had a gorgeous beach view, woke up to watch the sunrise, and relaxed with a couples massage! I love him so gosh darn much, and I'm thankful that he's been a huge part of my life for the past 7.5 years!


And thank you, random jetty message, for the sweet reminder. 
Here's to going into year 28 with all my heart.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ad astra per aspera

"A rough road leads to the stars."


48 years ago today, they climbed into the command module perched atop a Saturn IB rocket. 

It was just a test. 

In a coincidental twist of fate I found myself in almost the same place as those flight controllers 48 years ago - in a test, or a "sim" in NASA speak. No, we weren't preparing a crew for launch, but we were sustaining 6 crewmembers in concert with our European Space Agency partners. As the simulation models spooled up all of the players gathered on the loops for a prebrief. 

"COL Flight, Houston Flight on ISS AFD 2." No response.

"COL Flight, Houston Flight on ISS AFD 2." Again, no response. 

"Houston Flight, COL Flight on ISS FD 2, we are not hearing you on ISS AFD 2."

I couldn't help but think back to the Apollo 1 plugs out test. After some communication problems between the operations and checkout building and launch complex 34 Gus Grissom remarked, "How are we going to get to the Moon if we can’t talk between three buildings?" 

Today's sim was eerily similar. I was just waiting for, "How can we fly a multi-billion dollar International Space Station if we can't even talk across continents?!"

The Flight Director called on communication specialists to rectify the situation, and eventually we established good comm on all the voice loops, including between Houston and Munich. I guess talking between continents seems much more benign than talking to the crew about to launch on a spacecraft's first test flight. 

But here's the thing about space: it's hard, sometimes unpredictable, incredibly unforgiving. It was in 1967 when Grissom, White, and Chaffee suited up for a plugs out test, and it is now, when international crewmembers meet together on the most complex machine ever built. It's an amazingly rewarding job, but the margin for error is infinitesimally small. It requires the right words, the right decision, the right coordination, the right diligence, the right forward plan, all at the right time. No room for "oopsies" or "takebacks" in this business. 

As much as I cringe on sim days (because I know my brain is going to be working in overdrive), I always feel a sense of relief afterwards. I always learn something, I always see something I didn't expect to happen, and I always feel accomplished that I was able to maintain calm and push through the (sometimes unrealistic) number of failures. I always had a profound respect for the men and women in mission control, but now that I'm here I realize that respect is just the tip of the iceberg. We all practice so much for the worst possible scenarios, and so much is required to be a "certified" flight controller. 

I had no idea it would be this hard - but I'm glad it is. 

Here I am after today's sim, manning the "HAWKI" console. 2 mice, 2 keyboards, and 6 monitors. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Space Books in the New Year!

Since the holidays are over and I'm finally settling in to 2015, it's time for another "Space Publication Critical Evaluation" or SP[A]CE. I'm reviewing two books today, both about space, but each exploring a very different topic.



New Space Frontiers by Piers Bizony

The subtitle of this book is "Venturing Into Earth Orbit and Beyond". I tried to like this book, I really did. You may notice the now [maybe] defunct Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser gracing the cover, and with the recent commercial crew decision which choose the Boeing and SpaceX designs over Sierra Nevada it points to the need for timeliness in publications about vehicle designs. In my opinion, real-time discussions about space vehicles and such should be just that - real time, not hard cover books with pretty dust jackets at a price of $35. Consumers who are interested in this information are looking for internet articles and maybe timely magazine articles, not already out-of-date coffee table books.

That being said, after chapter 1 the book moves in a different direction. Subsequent chapters lay out ideas about civilian space stations, moon bases, and interplanetary adventures - the details of which may be a little far fetched, but content that is more suited for longer term audiences. Some of these ideas would make great elementary or junior high "space report" references.

The book does contain some great photographs and graphics of future space endeavors, and the layout makes for easy reading or browsing. I felt compelled to sign my copy and hand it off to a high schooler gearing up to enter engineering school - maybe it will provide some motivation for her in the coming years.

New Space Frontiers receives 2/5 stars overall, 5/5 Hubble Space Telescopes for pretty pictures and engaging layouts, and 2/5 orbital mechanics equations for lack of timeliness and hard science.



The Art of Space by Ron Miller

First impression: what a neat book! To be honest, I would never have picked this book up for myself. I'm really no artist, and generally prefer to study real pictures to better understand new discoveries or detailed space missions. Sadly, I would have missed out on an amazing experience.

When you sit down with a book like this hard science goes out the window because it has to. But allowing yourself to temporarily suspend that innate need for accurate depictions enables you to get more "feels" from space. Not surprisingly, my favorite pieces in the book were pictures that included astronauts and/or cosmonauts or were created by them. I especially loved a piece by Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov depicting three cosmonaut shapes approaching the rocket that will take them to space. He's quoted in the book, "The start of the cosmic trip is one of the most intense moments. They are the last minutes on the earth before a long flight." The three silhouettes are looking up in awe at their rocket bathed in light. In that moment man and machine meet with an uneasy, but required trust.

Overall I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book, and I think it is a great addition to any space nerd's collection. Sometimes art can tell stories words can't.

The Art of Space receives a solid 4/5 stars overall, 5/5 Hubble Space Telescopes for amazing interpretations of astronauts and space, and -/- orbital mechanics equations because art doesn't give a crap about orbital mechanics equations.


_____________________________________________________

Full Disclosure: I was provided with review copies of The Art of Space and New Space Frontiers from Zenith Press. Also, these reviews are entirely my opinion, feel free to make your own! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Recent Diabetes Decision

"Hey mom, I have something I want to talk over with you."

For some reason I default to my mom when I have Diabetes related decisions to make. She is logical, Diabetes knowledgeable and easy to talk to. And after mulling over the pros and cons of "upgrading" (you'll see why I used quotation marks there later) I decided to call her and discuss. 

The pump in question: "upgrading" from the Animas Ping to the recently-FDA-approved Animas Vibe System. Currently, I use an Animas One Touch Ping insulin pump combined with a Dexcom G4 system (recently upgraded with the new 505 software). This means I have two "devices" (pump + CGM receiver) and two sites (things stuck to my skin, inserted with needles, yuck). The new Animas Vibe system combines the pump and CGM receiver into one unit while still requiring separate "sites". I put together a little graphic showing the pros/cons of each system that were most important to me. 


This may sound dumb, but the biggest issues I saw with the new Animas Vibe system were (1) no remote receiver (other than the Dexcom receiver I already have, both the pump and Dexcom receiver can be active at the same time), and (2) no ability to upgrade to Dexcom's new CGM software algorithm. I normally wear my insulin pump "hidden" under clothes, so the new system really provides no benefit when the CGM data is not easily accessed. I will admit I miss the "smart" bolus feature (I don't know if that's the right terminology) from my Medtronic pump, but having it available on the Vibe system is not enough to sway me.

Much to my Diabetes Educator's dismay, I have decided to stick the Animas One Touch Ping course until my warranty runs out (about 2 more years), hopefully there will be advancements in that time that give me reason to switch to a different system. Also, I'm still dying for a CGM watch, just saying. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

NASA in 2015

First NASA update of 2015!!

Ok, so as you all know, I am patiently waiting my turn to officially start integrated simulations. I'm done, done, done with the mini simulations and I'm ready, ready, ready to get my feet wet in the "big room". Unfortunately there are only 1 or 2 integrated simulation runs per week, so I have to wait until one of the other guys is complete (which keeps getting pushed back, now looking like mid-Feb). It usually takes 8-12 integrated simulations to get certified, so I am looking at around 3-ish months of simulation time once I actually start...ugh, so frustrating. 

Ok / rant over. 

I'm trying to think positive thoughts like, "Let them get certified first so they have to work more late night shifts," or "Wait until the summer when its warmer out at midnight." But its hard to stay motivated when you are just sitting in this holding pattern. 

I keep reminding myself that even if I'm not a certified ADCO yet, I still have a pretty cool job. I get to hang out at NASA with lots of smart people, OJT (on-the-job-train) during complex ops like dockings or EVAs (spacewalks), help create new lessons for future ADCOs, and mentor the new classes coming in. It's fun to be in a place where I can openly watch NASA TV on my work computer and where taking time out to watch launches is encouraged. I still run into plenty of astronauts and get to practice my backroom skills as "Hawki" (Hawki is the call sign of our backroom, similar to how ADCO is the call sign for the front room). 

But most of all I just love the "buzz" around this place. There are always people in these halls and there are always controllers in FCR-1. There are always astronauts up in space and plenty around JSC getting ready for their turn. There are lectures and presentations, failure meetings and planning meetings. There's always an open seat in the FCR-1 viewing room for space nerds like me who just like the "feels" they get sitting face to face with the room that controls a multi-billion dollar, multi-nation asset, with brave people on board! 

All of these things help to keep me motivated. Truly they all hearken back to my kindergarten yearning to be an astronaut and to someday work at NASA. I have to keep pinching myself that this is really where I am...I have [just about] made it! 

Checking out the new room I will be simming in. Mission Control is upgrading their workstations, so there will be some room shuffling in the next few months. I will be simming out of this room, the White FCR, for a few months, then this will become the actual ISS mission control room for a few months while the old one gets renovated and upgraded.