I was invited to attend a NASA Budget Briefing as part of a recent NASATweetup held at NASA Headquarters on 13 February 2012. I’ve been to other NASA Tweetups, but this was a new type of event for both attendees and NASA. First, the topic was more administrative than any others. No fire or sound waves. No Florida hair. Heck, one of the people I hadn’t seen for a while said "You look different". My response: "You’ve never seen me in work clothes".
The first two NASATweetups I attended were launches (STS-134 and Juno). Both of these had 150 attendees with a two-day program of speakers and presentations, then a launch. This meeting was part of an existing event, a media briefing about the 2013 Fiscal Year Budget. Yes, this was PowerPoint and spreadsheets, for the most part. However, the content of those presentation materials was going to show us which programs were moving forward and which ones were going to have to change or be dropped completely. Being a data professional, this was my type of event. I wanted the data and the budget wasn’t going to be released until one hour before the event. That’s a fast read of a set of slides and some large documents. I went for the slides.
The second thing that was different: this tweetup was much smaller. The original registration limited attendees to 20 and I think we had just under that. The most important difference was that we were going to be part of the media, able to ask questions along with the traditional media. This is a first for NASATweetups and I’m not sure how many other US Federal media briefings have involved a mix of traditional and social media. I was excited that I could be part of this new approach to media, especially because it brought together two of my passions: space and social media. More on that mixing later.
The first thing that was different from other NASATweeups: We received no badges or swag bags…because traditional media don’t get those, either. If I do one of these again, I’ll bring my own badge or credentials.
In the opening statements, Bob Jacobs announced this new era and took our photo, which was posted to Twitter.
You can see him pause to take the photo in the video below. I think that was our second sign that this press briefing was going to be different.
This year, we are trying something a little different. As well as traditional media representatives, for the first time we have invited members of the social media community to be a part of today’s presentation, and we will be taking questions via Twitter using the #AskNASA. So we thank everyone for joining us for today’s presentation.
We will go over some of the ground rules first, but well, wait a second. I want to make sure I capture this. If we are going to be social media, I need to do it from here too.
MR. JACOBS: Okay. Got a Photo.
I’ve listed some links in the related section below of the analyses of the impact of the new budget, but the ones that were of note to me:
- STEM education and outreach was cut from $138 million dollars in 2012 to $100 million. That’s a significant cutback to this program, but only a tiny portion of a tiny portion of the overall US Federal budget. This is going to make it more difficult to find and retain qualified people in the future. I’m also guessing that other organizations are having their STEM budgets cut as well.
- ExoMars program will need to be re-programmed, meaning that we will not be collaborating with the European agencies for these Mars exploration programs . This has left ESA scrambling to find other countries to help with these programs, most likely Roscosmos.
DataChick’s Question on Open Government and Open Data
I was fortunate to be called upon to ask a question:
Let’s take one more question over here, and then we will take a couple from Twitter, and then we will go to the field centers.
QUESTIONER (Karen Lopez): Hi. I am Karen Lopez. I am Datachick on Twitter.
One of the ways that the public, the rest of us, can benefit from all these NASA missions is via access to open government transparency and open data initiatives, like at data.NASA.gov. Have budget pressures made any changes to those programs? Will they continue to expand?
ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: Do you want to take that?
DR. ROBINSON: Okay. So NASA couple things. One is you know the administration has a very vigorous Open Government Initiative, and NASA is a participant in that. And it recently went international, and we have an international event coming up in April April, thank you April, where we will be gathering together folks from around the world, virtually, of course, to work on things. So we have very vigorous programs.
And a large part of what we do in Open Government is, as you said, we leverage off of things that the programs do already, make their data available, make it accessible, Open Government a little bit more just to point them in the right direction. So it’s really Open Government is really a philosophy at NASA that we try to put as much as we can out into the public in the most understandable way possible, and so we are doing that.
The Open Government Initiative has taken us in a few different directions, and we will continue that. We plan to keep going forward, but it is always when you talk about Open Government, it is really it is hard to predict, because we are going to do so much, right? We are going to have so much data coming in and all of that. NASA is a very exciting place to work, because now we have apps on our iPhones from NASA and a whole bunch of things, so we are already out there in terms of Open Government
QUESTIONER (Karen Lopez): [Speaking off mic.]
[Here I followed up with "So no immediate changes?" ]
DR. ROBINSON: Well, not in the near future. We’re going to assess I am looking at my partner here. I am the senior accountable official for Open Government, and then our CIO over there
ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: We are both looking at the CIO.
DR. ROBINSON: Yeah, we are both looking at the CIO, and it is her folks mainly who do it. And so I think we are really going to assess up to this international event, how to keep those kind of things going or not.
And with that question I was able to add my third passion: Data. As in, Love Your Data. The terms data or information was mentioned 21 times during the briefing, twice in NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s opening remarks.
This budget supports more than 80 science missions, 56 currently in operation and 28 now under development, that cover the vital data we need to understand our own planet, diverse missions reaching farther into our solar system, and the next generation of observatories peering beyond the reaches of our neighborhood to other galaxies and their solar systems and undiscovered phenomena
The missions currently at Mars the Mars Science Laboratory, on its way, and MAVEN, well into development will provide many years of data to help us understand the Red Planet and our needs in future years to meet the President’s challenge to send humans to Mars in the mid 2030s.
No, we weren’t. In some of the descriptions of the event, including the announcement of the Tweetup, we were described as "Twitter Fans" of NASA. One of the issues I can see with trying to mix fans and journalism is that…they shouldn’t mix. Sure, it’s not unheard of for a journalist to be excited about interviewing someone, but in theory they aren’t supposed to be fans. I don’t think my role there was as a citizen journalist. However, I think we Tweetup attendees did a good job not gushing all over Bolden and Robinson in our questions. In fact, I was impressed by the lack of fanboi attitude in any of our questions.
You can really tell the difference when you see this still taken from This Week at NASA coverage:
Three laptops, all running Tweetdeck in that photo. That’s me tweeting in the upper center of the frame. Most of the traditional media attendees brought digital recorders and paper. So while they were taking notes, we were sharing live. That’s not necessarily better. It’s different. Mixing social media and traditional media can work. They don’t have to compete.
Some of the traditional media people from major media organizations even retweeted my question and told me afterwards that our questions were good. I think that means the new era of mixing traditional and social media may continue. I look forward to future NASATweetups for these types of events.
In talking to people after the event I think this experiment was a success. The Tweetup crowd came up with some great questions, as did the Twitterverse via the #AskNASA hashtag. I am happy that I was selected to be part of this new era of social media, NASA…and Data.
NASATweetup Video from C-SPAN
The entire event was just over an hour. You can watch the whole thing via this C-SPAN feed.
Or if you prefer the shorter briefing of the briefing, you can watch the one minute version on TW@N at the very beginning of this video.
Updated with a new technique for filtering: the Global Filter. See half way down.
I tweet a lot. According to Twitter I’ve posted more than
50,000 60,000 tweets since I joined. I happen to know that Twitter lost a few thousand more last year, so yeah, I tweet a lot. I even use the phrase "avid Tweeter" in some of my bios.
Some people started following me and exchanging Tweets with me because I tweeted about NoSQL, big data, open data, open government, data modeling, normalization, databases, SQL Server, DB2, database design, data architecture, the Zachman Framework, or other data-centric topics. And then there are those who followed me because I shared information about Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-134, Atlantis, STS-135, Juno, Ariane rockets and my attendance at various NASATweetups and SpaceTweetups. Others decided to follow me because I shared information about Technical Barbies, specifically @venusbarbie and @data_model. These girls travel with me as I attend events and meet interesting people. Others followed me as I covered live events about Toronto’s government failing local citizens. Some people have followed me because I’ve worked with them in the past, attended school with them, or met them at a family event. The point is that people follow others because they are interested in what the other person is sharing at some point in time.
Some Twitter users create many accounts and tweet only about a single subject from those accounts. They mainly broadcast information from those accounts and rarely converse with others. Think of these accounts specialized Twitter accounts. To a degree, the Technical Barbie accounts are like that. But that’s not how I use Twitter. I use Twitter to build relationships with people, to share interesting things that I come across in my travels, and to share links to stories about things I think others would be interested in. If I Tweeted only in only about one topic, I’d meet fewer interesting people and I’d discover fewer connections to a variety of people.
Someone today complained to me about the fact that I sometimes tweet or retweet posts that are not in English. They want to be protected from having to see a foreign language in their Tweet stream. Personally, I find that a bit sad, but I pointed out that they could use a feature of their Twitter client to translate foreign language Tweets into English, which I cover below. Another person complained to me because I tweet on topics other than data. I’m not sure what to do with those complaints because I’m not just an English Data Robot. I think that sound incredibly boring, too. However, I have met a non-trivial number of data-space-government people who share an awful lot of similar interests as I do. In fact, some of us are planning a NASASpaceSQLPASSTweetup in the near future.
Having said all that, I do recognize that not everyone is interested in all the things I’m interested. I’m pretty sure my spacetweeps generally don’t care about normalizations and that my data friends don’t want to see more than one or two astronaut photos a year. You do want to see at least that much, right? That’s why the Twitterverse invented some nifty features and approaches to allow people to manage some of the overload of Tweets coming their way.
Hashtags aren’t an official part of Twitter, but early on Twitter users realized that they need a way of tagging and filtering the fire hose of Tweets in their stream. When I attend events, I try to use a hashtag to add some useful meta data to my Tweets. This tagging allows follower to do a few things:
- Find Tweets from the event, even from people they don’t follow
- Filter out tweets they don’t want to even see
- Archive or repost Tweets someplace else about one topic.
Last week I was a-Twittering like crazy, as were 59 other Twitter users, at #SpaceTweetup, an invitation-only event hosted by the European Space Agency in Cologne Germany. There was indeed a fire hose of information coming at us and we were making ourselves busy by posting photos, videos, and messages about all we were seeing and doing. Most of use included the word #SpaceTweetup in our messages so that we could easily see what others were sharing on Twitter. If you had an interest in space, this was a treasure trove of AWESOME stuff about ESA and their missions. Plus astronauts — lots and lots of astronauts. If your attitude about space stops at Tang and space pens, then this hashtag could have been your friend as well. Almost all Twitter clients have a way to filter out tweets from a specific person or with a specific word. I primarily use Tweetdeck as my Twitter client, so the examples below are from there. If your client doesn’t have a similar feature I suggest you find a client that does.
The button with the downward arrow is the column filter button in Tweetdeck. It allows you to include or exclude Tweets within a column based on criteria you supply. You can choose to filter on accounts, text, the source, or time of day.
To filter in or out content, use the plus sign or the minus sign. For filtering out Tweets with certain hashtags, you’d want to choose TEXT from the first field, then the minus sign from the second, then fill in the hashtag in the third. Let’s say for some crazy, crazy reason you didn’t want to see any Tweets about #spacetweetup:
The above is what your filter setup would look like: TEXT – spacetweetup.
From that point on, you just wouldn’t see any tweets that had that word, spelled exactly that way, in that column. If someone is on a rant (Who, me?) and you just want to temporarily stop seeing all her Tweets, you could use the Name field plus her Twitter ID to filter out her rants for a while. Once the coast is clear, you could just click on the X to remove the filter.
Of course, if you really, really need to see tweets only containing a certain phrase, you’d set up an inclusive filter and you’d see only Tweets containing that one phrase.
Our blog uses categories on posts. You can use these similarly to hashtags to find posts on a single topic or to filter out posts on topics you don’t want to read about. How you do this is dependent on your RSS feed reader. I’ll try to put together a post with one example soon.
New: Global Filter
In addition to the column filters, you can add a global filter to Tweetdeck to stop all tweets meeting certain criteria.
Here you can put words like NASATweetup, or runmeter (my running application) and you’ll never see them again in any column. You can also hide users, but I’m not sure why you’d want to do that rather than just unfollow someone. I guess perhaps if you wanted to give the appearance of following someone while not having to see their Tweets. I still recommend you just unfollow them, though.
The From Sources criterion would let you block things like Tweets from Foursquare if you feel they are useless or silly.
For my friend who complained about my non-English Tweets I told him to use the Translate feature of his Twitter client to do the heavy lifting of participating in the conversations I was having and retweeting. Unfortunately for him, he decided that this was too much work, so he still wanted me to stop my non-English Tweets. I can’t help him. But you have the magic right in front of you to be part of the global community.
Here’s a sample Tweet coming from ESA Italia and it’s in…wait for it…Italian.
I could make a decent guess at what it says, but instead, I just go to the Translate feature of Tweetdeck to see what it does say:
And what do you know, it isn’t a Tweet about fat attractive alien pasta, but a Tweet about photos taken with 3D glasses:
My anti-multi-lingual friend feels that all of Twitter should be in English or stay the heck away from his Twitter stream. And you know what? He can work on doing that by not following people who share in multiple languages, which is what he chose to do.
Saying Sayonara When None of That Works
How do I know my two friends chose not to use these features? Because they chose to tell me they thought my Tweets were not meeting their needs and they needed to let me know they were unfollowing me. The great thing about Twitter is that it isn’t a friend model, like Facebook where both parties need to agree to be BFFs in order to see each other’s posts. Twitter works on following model: you follow people and they may or may not follow back. So you can unfollow people without affecting them at all. It’s poor etiquette to announce your unfollows. If you have good friends and you want to let them know you think their inadvertent crotch pics are starting to look intentional, then by all means contact them to ask if they need a new phone case or some intervention. But announcing that you are leaving is not cool. I keep using the cocktail party analogy to explain Twitter. If you were at a gathering with several discussions going on, you wouldn’t turn to the others and say "your conversations are non-value-add. I’m going to leave this conversation and go on to another one that caters to my needs only." Well, if you would do that, then good thing you are leaving. Normally you’d either try to steer the conversation in other direction or you’d wander off to another. Only jerks would say "your conversation sucks, so I’m leaving" in front of everyone else.
So to summarize:
- Use a Twitter client. You’ll never "get" Twitter if you don’t.
- Use the hashtag and filter features to tailor the tweets you see. Adjust those filters as needed.
- Follow people when they are interesting, filter them if they are doing something right now that isn’t, and unfollow them if it turns permanently uninteresting to you.
- Don’t announce you are unfollowing. Just do it. Don’t feel guilty and don’t ask the other person to stop being complex humans.
- If you need to read only single topic information, go with mailing lists, forums, or RSS feeds from curated sources. Twitter isn’t any of those.
- Use the features of your RSS reader to filter blog posts, too.
This afternoon I’m presenting at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Professional Development virtual chapter. My topic today is about how to ensure that you are doing the right things now to support job and project search efforts when you need them. Join me at 1PM EDT
A workshop on issues and ideas that today’s data professionals can do to build their careers and networking skills with other data management professionals.
Workshop topics will include:
• Demonstrating your expertise
• Building a portfolio of your success stories
• Getting others to sell your skills and business value
• Building & extending your data management skill set
• 10 Steps to highlighting you and your work
Bring your thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
As a virtual presentation, I’ll be relying heavily on Q&A from the audience, as well as input from Twitter to ensure that this is the most interactive it can be. Please join us as we talk about how we as a profession can best ensure that we are all working and our projects have the right resources to be successful.
The hashtag to use during this talk is #PASSProfDev
A recording of the presentation should be available on 24 Sept 2011 at http://prof-dev.sqlpass.org/ .
We had great interaction for a Live Meeting. Great job, everyone.
Information Management Magazine published a list of 17 females on Twitter to follow, drawn primarily from the data and information sector…and I’m one of them. A great group to be part of. Note that 3 of us are part of the DAMA International Board.
I was recently contacted by a friend who is taking a database design course for some help in understanding an assignment. His first task was to create a conceptual data model and then prepare entity instance diagrams for that data model. He was wondering what an entity instance diagram was. So was I, as I had not heard that term before. So I fired off a search and came up with only one hit:
I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve every unintentionally found only one returned result for a search term before. Unfortunately that one webpage has broken images, so I couldn’t see what one looked like. So I told my friend:
I was thinking of examples such as the ones in Simsion & Witt’s Data Modeling Essentials [aff link]:
I did some more looking around and using Bing, found one more result which pointed to a PowerPoint slide deck by Ellis Cohen from his course on Theory, Practice & Methodology of Relational Database Design and Programming. In this deck I found an example of what he calls an entity instance diagram, which pretty much is what I thought it was. I’ve been creating an using these sorts of things to explain how a data model should be used but I never had a name for them. I called them sample data, data prototypes, data validation , worked examples, or just examples. Now we have a name and a TLA!
In Cohen’s slide, he’s using an Entity Instance Diagram (EID) to to demonstrate weak entities:
I usually use Excel to prepare these, as I can reuse the data for each one. I even have an ER/Studio macro to generate the tabs in a spreadsheet (one for each entity/table selected in a submodel). This makes preparing the sample data go much faster.
So it looks like we have an answer now for what the heck is an entity instance diagram….and I have a name for a technique that I use all the time. If you have other examples of this term, I’d love to see them.
For those of you who read our blog and don’t frequent SQL Server community events, you might find this post a bit surprising. I found similar posts odd when I first came across them, but now I understand the role they play in the SQL Speaker community.
Speakers at SQLPASS and related events often post the evaluation results they received, good or bad, along with the presenter’s analysis of how the presentation went and how the evaluations cause them to enhance their future presentations. I’ve learned a lot from reading how other speakers have responded to their evaluation data, so I’m going to start sharing mine.
SQLRally was held just a few weeks ago in Orlando, which fit perfectly into my schedule of waiting around for Endeavour to lift off. I had already been scheduled to speak, so I didn’t have to travel far from Cocoa Beach to Orlando to attend. My presentation was a Deep Dive, meaning I had a 90 minute time slot to present. I had submitted a couple of proposals, but the one that was voted on by the SQL community was my professional development topic, Career Success in the Data Profession During Turbulent Times. I forgot to count how many people attended, but I’m pretty sure there were more than 40 people, probably more. Nineteen people completed and turned in evaluations for the presentation, which I think is about the expected number.
The data (scale of 1-5, with 5 being best):
- Overall Average: 4.754
- Lowest Evaluation: 3.5, but evaluator gave no comments, so I’m not sure why he or she felt that way or what I could do to make the attendee happier.
- Highest Evaluation: 5.0 (12 people gave this score)
The questions asked on the evaluation and my average for each:
- How would you rate the Speaker’s ability to convey information and control the presentation? 4.737
- How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject? 4.895
- How would you rate the accuracy of the session title and description to the actual session? 4.632
- How would you rate the speaker’s use of the allocated time to cover the topic/session? 4.684
- How would you rate your ability to follow along with the speaker’s examples/demonstrations? 4.842
- Please rate the practicality of the information presented. 4.737
I’m happy with those results. The lowest one, about the session title, is one that I struggle with. For technical presentations, I find titles and abstracts can be really clear. For professional development, I think that it’s harder to get a clear title that covers all the nuances of "how to do something better, regardless of what its". So I work hard on the abstract. I have a slide with the same title of each of the points in the abstract to make sure there’s a good link to help people understand what we will be talking about. A 4.6 is still good, but I’ll work on making that better.
Time allocation is tough. I make ending on time a very high priority. It was funny that the speaker before me went more than 20 minutes over in his session. I ended on time. We covered all the material and had a huge amount of audience discussion, which is how I rate the success of my sessions. That’s just my style. I’m not much of a lecturer.
Since this presentation focused somewhat on social media and getting others to market for you, I was glad that I didn’t have people feeling that was too much non-SQL content. It’s always a risk when giving professional development topics at technical conferences.
The comments evaluators gave were very encouraging, too.
Great Structured vs. unstructured presentation. Most audience involvement in a session I’ve seen here.
Like I said, that’s my style of presentation. So it works well people audience members enjoy that. I know some people don’t. I have had evaluations that complained about the time wasted with audience people asking questions or offering different opinions. Sure, sometimes presentations get derailed by those things, but I allocate a significant portion of my presentation time for these discussions. I’ve always wondered how to set people’s expectations about that.
Excellent slides. Focus on topical ideas, not text in bullets. Kept focus on stories. Great presentation.
Also good to hear. I’ve had people complain in the past that they don’t like my Zen-like simple slides; they want lots of text to use as a reference later. I’ve considered adding notes to my slides in PowerPoint to meet those people’s needs.
She explained everything well.
I’m glad. I was glad I had 90 minutes so that I could spend extra time explaining the social networks and what I meant by "networking".
Got off topic for a while at the beginning.
I’m not sure which part that was. There were some discussions that went on for a while I and I had to move on to other topics. But I was happy to see such an engaged audience. I will work harder at focus.
Discussed a lot of how to hire instead of how to position yourself for advancing your career.
That is excellent feedback. I did talk a lot about hiring people, as did some audience members. I can’t tell many stories about advancing through employment opportunities, though, because I’m in the services industries and have been my own boss for more than 15 years. My intent on telling interviewer stories was to show how hard it is to hire someone if they can’t explain well what they know and what they do. Next time I’ll work harder at making that distinction.
Knowledge is power. Know your profession’s mandate.
I like this statement, but it was giving as a comment under "what could the speaker do to improve future presentations" and I don’t know what it means. If you gave this comment and want to explain it a bit more, I’d love to hear more.
Not enough of this is being discussed in "DBA-dom"
I think it is great that SQLPASS and SQLRally have professional development tracks, so some of it is being talked about at these events. Many user group and SQL Saturday organizers are worried about putting professional development topics on their schedules, since some members don’t like non-technical presentations. If you do, you should talk to your local organizers to tell them you think it is important.
As with other presenters, Karen seems to be the leader in data architecting and IT resource field. Kudos.
Great natural speaker.
Could discuss all day, very thought provoking.
There’s a tremendous demand and a need or this. There’s a business here. Most valuable presentation of SQLRally.
Those makes me smile. It’s always nice to get this sort of feedback. Share some love if you enjoyed the presentation you spent time at.
So thank you for all of you who took the time to share your thoughts about the presentation. Speakers crave this sort of feedback. As other speakers have blogged, speakers have traveled away from the families, taken days to prepare for their presentations, rehearsed them, fretted about them, planned for them, and generally spent a great deal of time trying to make that 60-90 minutes the best session of your day. Do them a favour by spending 5 minutes filling out the evaluations. And please do the hard part: If you didn’t rate them a 5, tell them why. We really do want to know.
I haven’t blogged yet about my NASA Tweetup experiences, for the most part because I’m worried about coming across as too emotional about the entire experience. As I previously posted, I’m attending a special NASA program that brings 150 Twitter users from around the world to Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch of the Shuttle Endeavour on her last mission, STS-134. I started this post hoping to keep it as a short overview. It’s not.
Pre-Tweetup – Level Green
The launch was originally scheduled for mid-April, then that was moved to 29 April due to a traffic jam in space. No worries. I arrived here in Florida on 26 April. Wednesday I picked up my credentials and then went over to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to add to my space brain, the term I’ve been using for being inundated with science about space exploration. I also met up with my house mates of Venus House for the first time.
Thursday – Level Orange
Thursday we headed over to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to get settled in the Tweetup Tent (affectionately referred to as the twent). I new we were going to be close to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building, but I had no idea we’d be parking right next to it. That was just awe-inspiring. There we met our fellow Tweetup attendees. We started with the obligatory “everybody introduce yourselves, tell us where you are from and something interesting about you”. Crap. Interesting? Okay, I’ll say that I’m a…well, let’s wait to see what everyone else says. I was sitting on the far end, near the air conditioners. They started on the other side. As people stood up to say who they were I sat there stunned by the number of accomplishments and backgrounds. Quick…what the hell can I say that is interesting? Somehow “I like data” just didn’t seem to be that interesting with this group. Attendees came from all walks of life: 3 -time Jeopardy champion, Internet company founders, Twitter staff, rocket scientists, TV and film stars, musicians, pilots, journalists…well, you can read what most said about themselves at http://nasatweet.com/wiki/STS134_Fun_facts …but I think that most people were a bit too humble about their interesting things. So I finally settled on “I’m a former national spokesperson for Women in IT. I help encourage girls to take more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)” That seemed to go over well, with this crowd being STEM friendly. I mentioned that I had brought the technical Barbies with me to enjoy the launch, too. I was already starting to have the overwhelming feeling that this Tweetup was going to be something like I’ve never experienced before. Emotions were at Alert Level Orange by that point.
We did a tour of the KSC property, including the inside of the VAB. There we got to see Atlantis being prepped for her last voyage soon after Endeavour’s trip. Did I tell you we got to go inside? That’s insane. There aren’t normal tours for going inside the VAB. I guess to other people it’s just where they work. For me it was just amazing. I need to find another word. Someone find me a thesaurus.
Thursday was a full program of speakers from NASA, including astronauts and staff. More on that later. We were supposed to go out near the pad to watch the retraction, but freaky storm weather cancelled that. My first disappointment. Emotions still at Level Orange, but barely.
Friday – Level Red
On Friday we headed back over to KSC ready to experience an opportunity of a lifetime — to see the launch from just over 3 miles away. To put this in perspective, if you were 400 yards from the launch the heat and flame would kill you. If you were 800 yards from the launch, the sound would kill you. So 3 miles is close. It’s as close as non-workers can get. Emotion Levels were Reddish Orange, sort of like a tequila sunrise. I set up my tripod to reserve a space. Right next to a tripod from an international camera crew. My tripod looked sad next to theirs, but it was setup and ready to go. More exciting program inside the twent happened, and I’ll post pictures of that in a later post.
Every presenter over the two days spoke of the emotion and the feeling of awe of what they did for a living. It was all about STEM, but overall the most blow-me-away thoughts were about humanity, peace, the meaning of life, and…emotions. As each person spoke, I could see the passion they had about the work they did; they were changing the world and they loved every minute of it.
Sadly, as Rob blogged, the launch was scrubbed about noon on Friday due to a mechanical failure. We were terribly disappointed, but all of us understood that safety first is the key phrase. We watched the Astronaut Van drive slowly past, it made an unexpected turn into the VAB drive. We were hoping that it was just making a special drive by of the special observation area, but it wasn’t to be. I was interviewed by NPR’s All Things Considered about this disappointment. I found out that interview made it to the air because people all over the US started tweeting that they heard me on their drives home from work. How wonderful is that?
I have to say that seeing that Astro Van take a turn when it wasn’t supposed to was heartbreaking. It wasn’t a crushing blow because I was by then riding a full RED ALERT emotionally already. I had experienced so many amazing things up to then it didn’t matter. The launch would happen when Endeavour was ready for it to happen.
Later in the afternoon President Obama arrived, even though the launch had been scrubbed, to meet the astronauts and their families. We were able to wave to him as he waved back at us, a bunch of Twitter Space-crazed photographers.
And then there was more: NASA Tweetup attendee Chris Cardinal proposed to attendee Nina Tallman, right in front of the Countdown Clock. As a fellow geek, that was so amazing to see. My emotions were now just going crazy. I took a bazillion pictures.
Most of us stayed in the twent, listening to ad hoc program presentations, chatting about everything that had been happening so far, and talking about making extended travel arrangements. We looked forward to a launch in the next 48 hours. All was fine.
Saturday – SQLSaturday
When the scrub was announced, Kendal van Dyke (twitter and another former NASATweetup attendee) reminded me there was a SQLSaturday happening in Jacksonville. I caught a ride with him and two other great SQL community members Bradley Ball (twitter) and Dan Taylor( twitter). So I got to spend time with the rocking SQL Community at the last minute. What a great opportunity. For the ride back we were all really tired and we had great gut-busting laughs, the kind that are hilarious if you are tired, entirely stoked from being with a great community and punchy from getting only a couple of hours of sleep. Thanks, guys, for taking care of me and the Technical Barbies. Oh, and for letting me be part of your SQLRoadtrip.
Now – Back to Tequila Red Orange
I have many photos and blog posts to share and am struggling with how to not overly spam this blog with them. I have lots of potential blog posts that talk about data, project management, decisions, and costs, benefits and risks. But my main concern is that I’m still GUSHING with emotions and I don’t think my posts will come across as anything but completely insane. I’ve been struggling with this post, trying not to fill it with #FTW #AWESOMESAUCE #ZOMG and 10,000 exclamation points. Did I tell you have pictures?
I so wish I could have taken every single girl that I talk to about taking more science, technology, math and engineering along with me to see an hear just how freaking rewarding STEM careers are. I’d show them how these careers change the world and make lives better. I’d show them the fabulous role models, how much fun they have, and how being in a community of insanely smart people can make every minute count.
As I am putting the finishing touches on this, NASA just announced that the current date (more about that coming, too) will be pushed back again. I was doing okay travel-wise because I was already planning on being in Orlando for SQLRally on this Saturday. Staying over a few extra days was cheaper and easier, so that’s what I’m doing. As of right now, it will be later and not 10 May as last announced. You know what? I’m still at EMOTION LEVEL RED…ish. All things considered.
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