Friday, December 16, 2016

Last Minute [Nerdy] Book Gifts

Is there someone on your Christmas list in need of an amazing gift? Look no further than my [nerdy] Christmas book list recommendations!!


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The Big Book of X-Bombers and X-Fighters would make an x-cellent gift for anyone who can appreciate beautiful airplane pictures and startling specs. Steve Pace x-cellently compiles a history of experimental and prototype aircraft on the cutting edge of technology. Your giftee won't want to x-change this beauty, she will be too x-cited navigating its pages! X-ceed her wildest imaginations with pure facts - sometimes reality is more interesting than fantasy! [There are so many X's in this paragraph it may be X-rated....oh geez, I'm full of terrible puns today!]

$25.21 on Amazon
Santa may travel in a sleigh now, but judging by that white beard I bet he flew a fighter plane in World War II (with a younger Mrs. Claus painted on the front no doubt). Fighter! Ten Killer Planes of World War II is the perfect gift for the Santa-aged man in your life - grandpa, dad, uncle, WWII enthusiast, veteran, retiree, etc. And since we are right at the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor this gift couldn't be more timely! Give this to someone with time on their hands so they really get the most out of ingesting the history Laurier has so carefully put together!

$40.00 on Amazon

Kelly Johnson is one of my favorite Aerospace geniuses to read about - he made deals with handshakes, not dollars. For a while he personally cashed checks from the government to Skunk Works due to the extreme sensitivity of the organization's projects! The Projects of Skunk Works spans the gamut from 1943 jet fighters to stealth technology and even the present day stealth boat - Sea Shadow. There are sketches for patents, specifications and interesting flight test stories (downward ejection seat anyone?). This book is for the "Kelly Johnson" in your life - that person who has their own great ideas and tries to convince others they have problems his solution can fix. It's for the person who has unconventional tactics and a thirst for legacy only a book about Skunk Works can provide.

$22.54 on Amazon

This book is a humdinger - SR-71 Flight Manual. Literally it is about 2 inches thick and weighs over 5 pounds (of course I measured that, I'm an engineer). When I pulled this book out of the box Chris and I geeked out pretty hard. There were airfoil plots and lift curves galore, lots of typewriter notes and warnings plus a pretty neat commentary section in the front. This book is for the true aerospace nerd who isn't afraid of numbers or a lack of swoopy graphics. Find that special someone in your life who still carries around a flip phone "because it works" or criticizes the equations in the background on the "Big Bang Theory"...you have Nerdy April's guarantee that this is the book for them!

$46.84 on Amazon

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Full Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of each of these books from Zenith Press. All opinions, including successful launches (yays) and exploding failures (nays) are purely mine, feel free to engineer your own!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Their Halls are My Halls Too

At work I have been plugging away at my "Specialist" training. Once certified as an ADCO Specialist I will be able to sit in the front room (FCR-1) for dockings, spacewalks and other dynamic activities. The training itself is simply a course of simulations that now include talking to a back room ADCO, following a challenging timeline AND dealing with system malfunctions. My job now is less of the down-in-the-weeds technical knowledge (that's what the back room is for!) and more of the "big picture", general situational awareness piece - it's not as easy as it sounds!

Which brings me to my next point - for the first time in my NASA career I failed an evaluation simulation. Whomp, whomp. It's been a couple months now since that happened and last week I was able to get back on the horse and push through with a PASS! It will take a few more sims after the new year and a successful "Final" before I am ready for my new ADCO Specialist title but I can't wait to step up and take more of a leadership role in the group - plus moving the space station and being the woman-in-charge of attitude control sounds like a dream come true for this humble rocket scientist!

Beyond all of these exciting adventures however, my mind has been swirling lately. I've been a little down about my Specialist progression, the election, my contractor-status, financial decisions, mental health, Diabetes health, Christmas stress, acne (ugh, what the heck?), an impending insulin pump switch, foreign travel, etc.... But as strange as it sounds, working console is an excellent way to decompress. In those moments where I am at the helm of ISS I have to tune everything else out and focus. And when we have breaks (as satellite coverage transitions) I walk through the halls and remind myself how lucky I am to be here.

A glimpse down the hall to Flight Control Room 1. 

The floor is worn and creaky but the ISS assembly and astronaut pictures paint the historical nature of this site. Just upstairs sits the consoles that took us to the moon and down the hall is the control room that the Shuttle was flown from. Astronauts and Flight Directors are frequent travelers down these halls - and I am one lucky duck to be among them. Their halls are my halls too.

I love seeing the "Johnson Space Center" sign every morning (or night, depending on the shift), and my head grows three sizes pulling into that reserved "ADCO" parking spot of the "Christopher Kraft Mission Control Center". I live and breathe spaceflight...my "never-give-up" attitude has brought me this far and will keep challenging me to push ahead - even in times of self doubt.

It's a crazy world out there - but these storied halls are part of what brings me peace.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Decembrrr

It's been a long time since I've had the gumption to hit "Publish" on this here blog. I literally have 38 half written drafts, rambles, and meaningless notes. To be honest I'm not even sure this combination of words will make the cut - we'll see.

Lately I have felt busy and overwhelmed, but at the same time boring and predictable. Life is charging full steam ahead and sometimes I feel like I am running after the caboose - baby on the hip and to-do list on the brain. Even my endocrinologist noticed, "It's not going to get easier to manage Diabetes as your daughter gets older, in fact it will probably be more difficult." Yeah, yeah, I know...this disease and this kid are strapped to me for the long haul so I should make more of an effort to manage them both ;-) Thing is - the kid is way more fun than pesky ol' Diabetes.

Case in point:



But a lot has happened lately and I want to keep you all in the know! What has been happening in your life?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Watching the Squiggles

It's the middle of the night in the MCC,
But on orbit early morning...GMT. 
ADCOs watch the squiggles with hawk-like eyes, 
With hopes of nice trends - no surprise. 

But on these special nights there's one more plot, 
It hangs out near the space data in its special spot. 
The readings don't come from the I-S-S, 
Their source has a 'within 20 feet' address. 

The user is an expert at detecting adverse trends, 
Night after night - even on weekends. 
Her pancreas is busted, but not her resolve, 
She's armed with glucose tabs - easy to dissolve. 

Diabetes doesn't come with a set of procedures,
The user is simply forced to deal with it's "features".
Everything can change from one day to the next,
It's the nature of the beast - Diabetes is complex.

But machine and disease DO share some traits,
i.e. Malfunctions are sometimes hard to correlate.
The initial response, however, is often the same,
First safe the system - don't worry about the blame.

Solving problems with logic is an engineer's work,
But applying logic to Diabetes can drive one berserk!
So we do the best we can, with our CGM squiggles,
Reacting to excursions - but it's just never that simple.

'Insulin on board' and 'glucose correction factors',
It feels more complicated than a fusion reactor.
The equations are simple, the theory quite clean,
But the unexplained fluctuations verge on obscene.

And when the squiggles are compared side by side,
It may be hard for a novice eye to recognize.
One set is a lifeless machine floating in space,
The other a mess of living cells ... part of the human race.

Even with this disease I'm alive, I'm alive!
And reading those pesky squiggles helps me survive.
I'm sure if she could, ISS would also thank me,
For watching all her squiggles - daily and nightly!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Nerdy April's Nerdy Baby

It's Friday y'all!
After a long week of challenging simulations, mentoring younger ADCO's, lots of meetings, and Chris on work travel I am ready for the weekend!!

Looking forward to: sleeping in a little, watching my sappy Netflix show, Pokemon-ing, 
gourmet mac n cheese, relaxing before starting overnight shifts next week, 
and maybe a date with Mr. Blackwell!

Oh, also, hanging out with this nerdy nugget:


Dangit baby, stop melting my heart with your adorable onesies! 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Learning About Learning, and Sims

It's funny the threads life weaves together. 
My baby is growing up - nearing the 5 month mark. She is so, so active! Her legs never stop kicking and her eyes are constantly looking for something new to lock onto. She still loves being outside and has recently picked up "reading". 


Through watching her I am learning so much about learning. She doesn't let a waking second slip by - she has so much to soak in. I love watching her practice her coordination or feel a new texture or experience new foods. Her coos and grunts and squeals distinguish what she finds interesting and what she finds terrible!

At work I have been selected for a new path. Before becoming pregnant I was marching down the path to become an instructor, but I have shifted gears and will instead start training to become an ADCO Specialist. I am grateful for this selection since it theoretically means less overnight shifts and more fun activities (think spacewalks, dockings, etc), but it is not without its challenges. I am starting sims again, and now the timing will be more difficult since I will still be working overnights at times and now throw in tending to a new baby. 

Our new sim setup - shorter ceiling and cozy quarters.
Life isn't always easy - especially when it comes to learning. Sometimes Zara shows frustration (lately it's been about her lack of mobility), and its obvious all of these new skills take time and practice for her. I just need to remember that my new ADCO Specialist skills will take time too, and I surely will experience frustration. But learning is important, necessary. Stretching myself for this assignment will be worth it - and in the process, Zara and I can both have fun watching each other learn. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Our Little Firecracker

In true 4-month-old baby fashion, Zara slept through her first 4th of July fireworks experience!
We had fun getting half price shakes at Sonic and "enjoying" the Texas humidity. 
Hopefully our little firecracker will be able to partake in the patriotic festivities next year!

Oh yes, and she can never stay still for a picture! 
I have probably 17 million pictures of her cute face and blurry legs, lol. 


Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend and great fourth!