A New Day Has Dawned

19 October 2015
11:23 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

It's been 12 years since I started working in America’s greatest space agency. I never thought it would be that long. I thought I’d be there a few months at most: not 12 years. Throughout those years, I often thought I would end up being a lifer: someone who spent an entire career in one organization, never experiencing the joys and thrills of working somewhere else. I was convinced I would say good night to my coworkers one Friday afternoon as they shuffled out and headed home for the weekend, and at some point before I, too, took off, fate would hit me, and I would be found Monday morning, a bloated, cold carcass still sitting in front of my computer and staring at the screen of my computer thanks to the creepy effects of rigor mortis.

This past Friday, I walked out of NASA Headquarters for the last time as a NASA employee. As of this morning, I am officially a civilian employee of the United States Coast Guard. It’s very exciting and scary. I can’t believe that I am starting a new job with a completely different organization. What if I'm really not as good as I think and they decide that they made a mistake hiring me (technically, I’m on a probationary period because I'm now a supervisor…but I think it’s formality since I'm already vested in the government). I’m sure I’ll be fine, but just thinking about all the new faces, names, titles, topics, acronyms…it’s all so overwhelming. But then I stop and think; how bad can it really be? I mean it’s not like I’m going back to my old job today, right? Change is always good. It may not be the right change, and it may be something that I’ll regret, but at least I'm trying something new; I’ll never know if I'm good at it or if this is a great job if I don’t try. And so, with that in mind, I’m super excited to be heading into my new office with new people, new gossip, new drama, new adventures, new everything!

To be honest, I had no idea I was actually going to get the job. My first interview was back at the end of May when I was in Hawaii. It was a horrible interview. I was holed up inside a tiny car sweating (I had closed the windows to deaden the noise of traffic all around me). I was in excruciating pain from my tumble into the Waimea River…but that’s a completely different story. I felt that I wasn’t prepared for the interview. Then, a few weeks later, I got a call asking if I was still interested in the position and if I’d like to call in for a phone interview. This was kind of odd, but I said sure. I got an email a few hours later saying they had made a mistake (I figured…they accidentally put a check by my name instead of an X). Would I like to come in for a face-to-face interview? Seriously? Yes, of course (but I was convinced they were just trying to save face at this point since they accidentally called me). Again, I was as prepared as I could be, but I felt I was a bit too flippant with some answers and too aggressive with others. That was it; I thanked them and walked out the door, destined to remain at NASA forever.

A few weeks later, I got an email offering me the position. What?? But, yea, here I am in my brand spanking new office with my brand spanking new job. I’ve already made a friend or two, found my new stapler, arranged my thumbtacks and generally inhaled and enjoyed that new cubical smell…oh, not such a good smell actually…but it’s my new cubical at my new job!

NASA Press Release

24 December 2011
12:25 EST (-05:00 GMT)

As a public affairs officer at NASA, one of the major functions of my job is to write and edit press releases that are distributed to news media outlets in hopes that they will be enticed to write a story on what we believe is important news concerning the agency.

Since the holiday time is slow in the government, it is a time when we can relax a bit and have some fun with our jobs. For example, KSC puts out a press release every year about Santa coming to the center on Christmas Eve. Why? I have no idea, but they've been doing it for years. In government parlance, that means that it must continue. I personally think it's absurd. This is not because I'm a Scrooge, a Grinch, or a mere humbug. No, it is much simpler than that. Santa does not fall under NASA's purview. Many think that he does. I guess because Santa is a Near Earth Object. My first thought actually was the Federal Aviation Administration. They, too, are not responsible. In fact, the responsibility of tracking Jolly Ole Saint Nick falls to Norad. Odd, but true.

In reaction to a recent press release that NASA put out announcing a contract modification and the "annual" Santa release from KSC, we were making a number of jokes in the office the other day. The head of the program I support suggested that we should put out a piece about how we're partnering with Santa to bring jobs to Florida. The result of our smart aleck banter is what you see below. It is all in fun, and I hope you enjoy.

Happy Holidays to all!

Here’s another pretty useless list I’ve come up with. These are the mission patches for each of the Interntional Space Station Expedition missions that have occurred since I joined America’s greatest space agency:

Interntional Space Station Expedition

Expedition 6
November 25, 2002—May 3, 2003

Expedition 7
April 28, 2003—October 27, 2003

Expedition 8
October 20, 2003—April 29, 2004

Expedition 9
April 21, 2004—October 23, 2004

Expedition 10
October 15, 2004—April 24, 2005

Expedition 11
April 17, 2005—October 10, 2005

Expedition 12
October 3, 2005—April 8, 2006

Expedition 13
March 30, 2006—July 4, 2006

Expedition 14
September 18, 2008—June 22, 2007

Expedition 15
April 7, 2007—November 3, 2007

Expedition 16
October 10, 2007—June 14, 2008

Expedition 17
April 8, 2008—November 30, 2008

Expedition 18
May 31, 2008—April 8, 2009

Expedition 19
March 28, 2009—May 29, 2009

Expedition 20
May 29, 2009—October 11, 2009

Expedition 21
October 30, 2009—December 1, 2009

Expedition 22
November 30, 2009—March 17, 2010

Expedition 23
March 17, 2010—June 2, 2010

Expedition 24
June 1, 2010—September 25, 2010

Expedition 25
September 25, 2010—Novemeber 26, 2010

Expedition 26
26 November 2010—March 16, 2011

Expedition 27
March 16, 2011—May 23, 2011

Expedition 28
May 23, 2011—September 16, 2011

Expedition 29
September 16, 2011—November 21, 2011

Expedition 30
November 21, 2011—April 27, 2012

Expedition 31
April 27, 2012—July 1, 2012

Expedition 32
July 1, 2012—Sept. 16, 2012

Expedition 33
Sept. 16, 2012—Nov. 18, 2012

Expedition 34
Nov. 18, 2012—March 13, 2013

Expedition 35
March 13, 2013—May 13, 2013

Expedition 36
May 13, 2013—Sept. 10, 2013

Expedition 37
Sept. 10, 2013—Nov. 10, 2013

Expedition 38
Nov. 10, 2013—March 10, 2014

Expedition 39
March 10, 2014—May 13, 2014

Expedition 40
May 13, 2014—Sept. 10, 2014

Expedition 41
Sept. 10, 2014—Nov. 10, 2014

Expedition 42
Nov. 10, 2014—??

13:48 EST (-05:00 GMT)

When I began working, I did my best to clean out my email inbox at work before I left the office on Friday afternoons. I enjoyed this ritual of mine because it was cathartic knowing that I had completed my tasks for the week. When I arrived on Monday mornings, I knew that whatever emails were waiting for me were new news or actions that needed to be addressed during the coming week. It was a system that allowed me to keep track of everything so I could manage my work. I wouldn't delete the email until I had completed the project. It was a good system, and it worked well.

Like the Right Honourable Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. (First Lord of the Admiralty), I started right at the bottom of the rung. While I did not polish up any handles, I did begin my professional career as a temporary employee. And just like Sir Joseph, I applied myself and moved from temp to secretary to legislative affairs specialist to public affairs specialist. So it seems my system must have worked. I heeded Sir Joseph's system of how to rise to the top:

Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.
. . .
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navee!

Unfortunately, as I have accumulated more responsibility with each promotion, so too have I accumulated more emails. Today, I am no longer able to leave on a Friday on time, let alone with an empty inbox. I still do my best to delete emails only when the task is completed, but as my tasks have become more complex and long-term, emails sit in my inbox for longer periods of time than when I was still a secretary. Also, with greater responsibility comes more email. In my current position, I'm inundated daily with hundreds of emails that I've been cc:ed on—that is, emails that aren't even important to me, but that others feel that I should be privy to. In all, I average in the hundreds daily.

I do my best to keep up with them. I try to read as much as I can so that I'm current on the goings-on of NASA, but often it's overwhelming. It's hard enough just to keep track of the emails I have to read, let alone the ones I want to read. Sometimes the important ones seem to get lost in the shuffle with all the junk that I receive. And my system does help, but with so many emails flooding in, it's impossible to maintain this system to the level I would like.

As such, I feel that I need a new system. One that will help me even better than the previous one. And I think I found it. I call it the "Leftovers in the Freezer" system. When I make food, I feel guilty throwing it away. I paid for the ingredients. I slaved over the stove (or oven) to make said food. I can't just throw the leftovers away. So, I place them in a storage container and stick them in the freezer. Every few months, I go into the icebox and pull out the leftovers that have been sitting there long enough to become inedible. It's amazing how easy and guilt-free it is to trash freezer-burnt food. So too, with my "Leftovers in the Freezer" system, it is very easy to get rid of emails. All you have to do is just let the emails sit long enough to become obsolete. At that point, feel free to delete them without reading them. After all, they are now out-of-date and inconsequential.

To Scrub or Not to Scrub

5 November 2010
15:55 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

Around launch time, there are a great many acronyms and specialized words from the NASA lexicon that get bandied around. One of my personal favorites is the word nominal. NASA uses this word as defines it in its 8th entry:

Aerospace. performing or achieved within expected, acceptable limits; normal and satisfactory: The mission was nominal throughout.

Why we can't just say The mission was normal throughout is one of those mysteries. Although we are using the word properly (albeit a rather obscure definition), it just seems to me that it would be so much more nominal to use the word normal instead of nominal.

I like words, and I like etymology. So, when someone at the Kennedy Space Center explained to me the proper use of the term scrub, I was very interested. According to a number of people, NASA only "scrubs" a mission after the rocket has been fueled. If the mission is stopped for any reason before the fuel is put onboard, it has been delayed. If the mission is stopped for any reason after the engines are filled (or even partially filled), then the mission is "scrubbed." I was also given the caveat that not everyone agrees, and some say that anytime you stop a mission (regardless where in the timeline), it is scrubbed.

This of course leads to the inevitable question of when was this term first used. Good question, and there is really only one place to find such an answer: the Oxford English Dictionary. During World War II, apparently, members of the RAF would receive their orders on paper. When orders were changed, they were erased from, or "scrubbed" off, the paper. The term stuck in military circles, and since there have been a great number of military people working at NASA, the term seems to have slipped into the NASA vernacular.

Given this, it seems that it is correct to say that a mission has been scrubbed regardless of where in the timeline it is stopped.


New Job

19 April 2010
15:35 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

After being in my now old position for a whopping 4½ months, the big boss called me into his office and offered me a job on the other side of the office. Now, I was very excited to get my now old position; however, I feel very strongly that when the big boss offers you an opportunity, it's bad form to turn it down.

So, as of today, I am now a public affairs officer. That's pretty darn cool, but I'm pretty scared that I have them all fooled and they're going to realize that I don't know jack about what I'm doing. Oh, well. At least it will be an adventure.

9:21 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

Today is my last day in this office. After 5 long, grueling years, I am moving on. I planned to come in late, leave early, and wear jeans today.

Unfortunately, my current boss had other plans. On Tuesday, he told us that we all needed to support the LCROSS event at the Newseum this morning. This morning. At 6:30 this morning.

I am not much of a fan of The Office, but I did want to see Jim and Pam's wedding. Oh, well. It was lights out at 9:30 (I did see Jim slip during his toast). Of course with the snorer in the apartment below us, I was up about 3 am and didn't really fall back to sleep. So, I was in the shower by 4:30 this morning.

I left the house about 10 after 5 to head out to the Metro. It was absolutely beautiful. It was crisp, yet pleasant (I didn't wear a jacket). It was so still and peaceful. The only sound was a bus that passed me as I stood motionless just outside my apartment and soaked in the beauty of the predawn.

As I looked up, I saw a perfect 1/2 moon as the clouds parted, and all I could think was, "Boy, you have no idea what you're in for later this morning, do you?"


17 September 2009
16:24 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

So, after 5 grueling years in my current office at America's finest space agency, I can now officially say that I am moving on!

Last week, HR called me and offered me a position I had applied for and interviewed for in Public Affairs. True, I am only moving down 4 floors from where I am now, but I feel that I will be moving a world away from where I am now!

I recognize that there will be drama and all kinds of BS in the new office, but it will all be new drama and BS for me to learn, and that will be fun (until it's not anymore). I have been trying to get into this office in Public Affairs pretty much the entire 5 years that I have been in my current office. Sadly, it took a very lovely woman's death to open a slot for me, so that's sort of bittersweet. I'm not typically into the whole "better place" thing, but this woman was in a lot of pain, and she truly is in a better place now.

I'm not 100% sure what I will be doing in this position, but I know that I will be working with guest operations, exhibits, events, and astronauts (pretty much a lot of what I'm doing now, but in a different office, and in Public Affairs).

I officially begin on October 11.

I'm so excited!


NOLA Rocks

4 August 2008
15:20 EDT (-04:00 GMT)

I was in New Orleans a few weeks ago on business. I flew in on Sunday (July 20) and left the following Saturday. Sunday night, I walked the 2 blocks from my hotel to the start of Bourbon Street. I walked from Canal Street all the way down Bourbon StreetRue Bourbon until I got into the gay part of town. It was still light out, but even so, you could tell that not too much was going to happen. It was, after all Sunday.

I got a Po’ Boy at some random establishment that actually had jazz. Then, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the next day—I had to be at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to set up our exhibit. After the exhibit was set up, we had the rest of the day to goof off. So, I pulled out my camera, and my buddy and I walked all over New Orleans and, of course, the French Quarter.

I was surprised to see that every corner didn’t have some dude on a trumpet…that is how I have always envisioned the Crescent City. I was saddened to see (hear, actually) nothing but loud (and I mean really loud) rock & roll and dance music spewing into the street as forcefully as the air conditioning. We did pass a few joints where you could hear jazz, but they were few and far between, and they were competing with the melodic chords of Van Halen and some rave remix. What little jazz I did hear was great. I love jazz.

We went to a bunch of restaurants including Red Fish Grill, Cochon Restaurant, Ralph & Kacoo’s, Crescent City Brew house, Mulate’s, and Café Beignet. Of course, we had Hurricanes at the famous Pat O’Brien’s (although we were there early, so there were no dueling pianos. That was kind of sad). Even though I ate well, and paid dearly for it (both figuratively and literally), I have to be honest…I was rather disappointed in the food. I mean it was tasty and all, but I felt that I have had better “Cajun” cuisine up here in the District.

The rest of the time was dedicated to actual work, but in the evenings, we ended up back on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Overall, it was a fun experience. I got to see New Orleans, which I’ve always wanted to do. I had my first taste of moonshine. I had a shot of Catdaddy first, but it tasted like Tequila, so the waiter brought me a shot of Virginia White Lightening. Man, did that taste fantastic. I also rode on a mechanical bull at the Bourbon Cowboy. So, now I have scratched 2 more things off my Things To Do Before I Die list.

As calm as it was (given that I was there during the week and it’s not Mardi Gras), it was clear that debauchery is still a constant, and that people still party all day and all night. New Orleans definitely missed out when it came to taglines. I think that “What happens in Nahlins stays in Nahlins” is much more apropos than Vegas (granted, I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but still).

All in all, I had a good time. I was disappointed that there wasn’t as much jazz as the city is known for. I was also sad that I didn’t get decent, proper Creole and Cajun food. I understand that after Hurricane Katrina the Crescent City ain’t what she used to be, but at the same time, things are happening again down there. I can only hope that the next time I go, even more folks will have returned.

Some more rude mofos!

31 December 2007
10:46 EST (-05:00 GMT)

When I was little, I always wanted to go to my father’s work. He was a career civil servant, and he never felt that it was appropriate taking children to his place of employment. Of course, this always made me very sad. I wanted so much to be with him, to spend time with him, and it hurt to think that he didn’t want to share his time at work with me. Likewise, he never wanted us to call him at work unless it was an emergency. This, too, was not a pleasant feeling. Why? How could such a wonderful, loving father as mine not want to be with his son? Not want to talk to his son?

In all fairness to posterity, I must confess that I did get to go see his office on rare occasions, and from the span of 20-odd years, my limited memory recalls that my father’s desk was by a window. He had a flat desk with papers and books piled high. On the right-hand side, across from the window, was a long return that was rounded at the end. The other important feature that I can recall from the mist of memory is that the walls of his office didn’t reach the ceiling. How weird I thought that was. I didn’t know from cubes and open space layouts at that time.

Now, as a civil servant myself working in a cube in an open space layout, I understand that it wasn’t that my father didn’t love me or that he didn’t want to talk to me, but rather, he didn’t think it was appropriate for children to be in a space that would disturb others. He didn’t like to talk on the phone about personal things because there was no privacy. I feel like I owe him an apology.

Today, thanks to the cube environment, it all became clear to me that this was the truth of the matter. The woman in the cube on one side of me has her daughter here. This daughter has not yet learned inside and outside voice and talks entirely too loudly. I think it’s wonderful that she has such a creative mind, but a grown-up office is not the place for her to express her creativity or bang on the desk or run up and down the hall or run into and out of other people’s cubes.

I should mention that this disrespect for others working so closely together is not limited to children who don’t know any better (indeed, the child’s mother should have known better than to bring the child in the first place). The odious woman on the other side of me is on a teleconference and is using her speakerphone. When I politely asked her to take it off of speakerphone because it was disturbing me, she said that she was on a conference call. I said I understood that, but it was still a distraction to others in the office. She said, “I’m going to go ahead and leave it on speaker.”

In the immortal words of Jar Jar Binks: “How wude!”