Tuesday, April 8, 2014

[sitting on] Pins and Needles, mostly just needles

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending two doctor's appointments. Yipee!

First, I had to get checked out for my job at NASA. I had no idea how involved these tests were going to be. After the ease of the FAA's medical appointments (not the process, just the appointment), I was shocked when NASA asked me to pee in a cup, take 3 tubes of blood, take an honest-to-God eye test, sit in a soundproof hearing booth, get stuck with a TB skin test and finally complete an EKG. Dang! Even though it sounds like a rough morning, everything went fine. I will go back tomorrow morning for them to check the TB test and then again in about a month for "Part 2"...dun dun dun.


After that fun, I also had an endo appointment in the afternoon. I went back to the first clinic I tried in Texas but asked to see a different doctor. She was, well, ok. I wasn't exactly impressed, but I also wasn't afraid of her doing what happened last time. I was happy with my A1c at 6.8 (this is one of my best so far), but she was a little scared that I was "taking too much insulin." I tried to explain how I use the CGM to avoid lows, so this A1c is not a consequence of too many low blood sugars. Not sure if she believed me, but we moved on. She also didn't say, "WOW!!! Great A1c!!!" like I was hoping for, but whatevs. She asked that I get some lab work done, so I marched out to the calming waiting room and waited for my pager to go off.

After nearly an hour it buzzed, so I trotted back to pee in a cup again and give more blood. I guess my veins weren't cooperating, so after bruising up my right arm the tech went back into my left (remember, I had already done bloodwork that morning). So, I have some colorful elbow areas, oh well.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Learning Curve

Yesterday was my second mini-sim, even though it was label "Mini Sim 3" ...go figure. I'm getting more comfortable setting up my console and getting organized, but it's still a new environment. It reminds me a lot of my first few helicopter flights at my old job. I was clumsy at putting in my ear plugs and pulling on the giant helmet. It was awkward the first few times I tried to climb in the jump seat, and it took several flights before my hand writing became legible. And mini sims are just the same. It takes me a few seconds to get my ear piece adjusted and several minutes to make sure I have all the right displays up. I have talked on the wrong loop more than once, and stumbled over my words on the Flight loop. But its all a learning curve, and I'm getting there. 

Yesterday I found a software bug that I wasn't familiar with, so I had to react to a system that was not performing the way I thought it should be performing. And when I figured all that out, my other, "good" GPS failed. So, I made a systematic approach for rectifying the situation, sent a detailed flight note to the Flight Director and started down the path I had laid out. It wasn't the most ideal situation, but I dealt with it, and eventually figured out where the bug was. I am still upset at myself for my first decision, but that's what these sims are for: to learn. 

Thought you guys might like to see what a Mini Sim console looks like, this was yesterday, prior to my sim. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Paps

These last few weeks have sort of been a whirlwind. About two weeks ago we received word that Chris's grandfather had suffered a severe stroke, and the doctors weren't sure how long he had. So we made the decision to fly back to Huntsville and share a few precious moments with him. We are glad that we had this opportunity, because last Thursday he passed away and this weekend we found ourselves in Huntsville again, for his funeral.

"Pedro" or "Paps" was a tremendous person; his unwritten philosophy was to teach through actions instead of words and his kind heart was always willing to give with whatever means were necessary. And, although it may sound harsh, I have never been so relieved at a funeral before. Paps had struggled with so many health problems the entire 7 years I have known him, and even before that. I was so thankful that he was finally at peace!

I mentioned these thoughts to Chris as we drove back to Huntsville in his grandfather's truck (he was so proud of it!), and Chris concurred. No doubt, we will miss the crap out of him, his genuine care and witty humor, but we can rejoice knowing he is free of the body that caused so much pain.

We love you Paps.



Friday, March 28, 2014

Family Time

This week we had the greatest pleasure of hosting some very special family members! Chris's grandma and grandpa, aunt and cousin came to visit for their spring break!! Even though we still had to work it was super fun. Today we had fun visiting Mission Control and the beach in Galveston! 

Since we have moved to Texas family has become even more important to us, and we really cherish these special moments we have to share together. Sometimes it's lonely with just Chris and I and the dogs, so having all these voices fill up our house truly warms our hearts. Plus, granny makes incredible fudge ;-)

We can't wait until the next time! 

Grandpa, Grandma, Chris, Aunt T, and Cousin H in the Flight Control Room - 1 viewing room!

Cousin H by the famous Mission Control doors!

A sand doodle of our little family, Izzy, Me, Chris and Al. Note sure why Gus didn't make it!

Beach selfie! Love these girls!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Clock is Running: 8 Months at NASA and Counting!

It's been a little over 8 months since I started my job at NASA, so I thought this would be a great time for an update! If you have been following along, you know that I recently passed a significant milestone - the Navigation Segment Review! This means that I am on to the next segment, "Attitude Control". Basically I am learning a lot about the ISS's 4 huge control moment gyroscopes and the software loops that control them.

In addition to studying a ton, I have also started "mini-sims" as of yesterday! Mini sims are a way for new operators like me to get their feet wet, build their console skills and teamwork, and strengthen confidence before graduating to the full-scale "Integrated Sims". I have included a picture below which may help explain who is involved in a Mini Sim. Basically, the "four-core" systems are included since we interact with each other heavily in day-to-day operations and during station emergencies. ADCO (that's me) is top left and is responsible for vehicle attitude and control. SPARTAN is responsible for the space station's power (those big solar arrays) and thermal control (heat rejection and outside cooling loops). ETHOS is responsible for the environment within the station and thermal control inside. Emergencies which may endanger the astronauts are often recovered by ETHOS. CRONUS is in charge of the computers on board the station and all of the communications (S-band, Ku-band video, etc). And the Flight Director, obviously is in charge of the flight control team as a whole.

During a Mini-Sim these are the positions that are represented and failures are presented to help us learn to interact and coordinate with each other before complexity is added with the entire flight control team. I will go through about 25 weeks of these types of sims before getting a "GO" to continue on with Integrated Sims.


Yesterday's mini-sim was fairly simple. It was a chance to get used to talking on the "loops", running procedures and responding to a simple failure. It was a great confidence builder and I'm so excited to see how I can handle more advanced failures!

Do you have a question about my job as a Flight Controller in Mission Control? Shoot me an email at nerdyapril@gmail.com!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Huntsville Homesick

Last Wednesday night we learned the sad news that Chris's grandpa had experienced a severe stroke. While he has had a great deal of health problems over the years, I think everyone was a bit surprised something happened so suddenly. We quickly got on the phone with Delta and flew out to Huntsville early the next morning. Thankfully we had a great friend and my aunt to look after our animals!

We don't know exactly what is going to happen or when, so we decided that I would fly home last night in order to continue with my work studies and Chris would stay a few more days to help support his family. These situations are so difficult. It's difficult as the wife to see your husband and his family in such distress, but I can tell prayers have been coming our way. God has a way of blessing us with grace and strength during these times. After I typed this post up yesterday Chris called to say that his grandfather has made significant improvement since I left. They are looking into options for rehab since he has passed the swallow test!

We haven't been back to Huntsville since October when we sold our house, and even though the circumstances aren't the best, all the feelings of why I loved the city rushed back to me as we drove down 565. There are rolling hills and rockets, laughable "traffic", and incredible restaurants. I'm thankful for the gentle reminder that we are always welcome in Huntsville.

It sucks to hang out in the hospital, but this view was incredible. 
We took a break by riding on the monorail tram with Chris's grandma, Kay. 
I had to snap this photo when I saw "like father, like son." These two crack me up. 
Like I said, can't get enough of the rockets!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Acronym Dyslexia

SO MANY ACRONYMS!!!

It's taken me awhile to learn all of the NASA acronyms for my job (and, lets be honest, I still don't know all of them), but I learned that a Control Moment Gyroscope was abbreviated "CMG" within the first couple of days. Control moment gyroscopes, "CMGs" from now on, are these big, heavy, spinning wheels which help to keep the International Space Station in a stable attitude. And, as an ADCO, it is my job to know everything I can about these spinning behemoths. Tomorrow morning I have a three hour class all about them!

As it turns out, I have another huge part of my life that also abbreviates itself with those three letters - "CGM". I use a Continue Glucose Monitor to watch blood sugar trends and adjust insulin doses, and I never say "Continuous Glucose Monitor", rather I always call it a CGM.


So, these two acronyms get a bit confusing at times.

Me: "I was looking at my CGM at work and noticed a pattern of highs after lunch."
Chris: "They were over-speeding?"
Me: "Overspeeding? Maybe the carbs were overspeeding into my bloodstream."
Chris: "Oh, you meant CGM, not CMGs."
Me: "Yes, but we also had a CMG loss of communication today."
Chris: "What? Your sensor failed again?"
Me: "I don't think it was a sensor problem, it went offline but was regained by the fault detection, isolation and recovery software."
Chris: "What was your number after that?"
Me: "CMG babe, not CGM."
Chris: "Crap."

The term "acronym soup" has never been more appropriate. CMGs and CGMs are part of life, at least for a Type 1 Diabetic Attitude Determination and Control Officer ;-)