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Downslide Saturday

Posted by James Dubois in Personal.

Another week of tests and medical says up to 17% of the North American contingent could be affected by ARS. Jay had to be placed back into cryonics. I’m not sure whether we’re going to be able to revive him. Others are sure to follow. We’re not ready for this.

I’ve been talking to myself a lot. Or to no one.


Wakey Wakey Tuesday

Posted by James Dubois in CHOIRS, Personal, Travel.
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I know the big question (or one of them) is going to be about the cryonics process. These kinds of messages dominate the flood. All I can say is I don’t know… I was “asleep.” It’s a little creepy to think about what happened and some of the other settlers have formed support groups to talk about it. It was Dr. Faizabahd who suggested it to help assuage some of our fears and worries. I’m doing okay with the whole thing, but some people have had a difficult time. There are an inordinate number of atheists aboard the lifeboats, though that wasn’t a limiting factor in the selection process. The others I’ve spoken to were definitely shaken by the procedure. I know Parvin is Muslim… how does one bring up religion in this environment? Does she pray to Mecca? How does that work a half-billion miles away from the Earth?

I met this one guy I knew from the training camp in Évry named Michel from the ESA. Devout agnostic, he called himself. He’s on another ship right now but the last time we spoke he said that he had an “experience” while in cryonics. Not sure what that means.

Three months into it and my body still hasn’t adjusted. I’m taking calcium magnesium supplements as well as other medications. Doing lots of physical therapy and general exercises. It’s ridiculously hard to work out in space! Lifting weights is more or less a futile activity. It’s all about rubber bands up here. Big, thick rubber bands.

The one good thing is that we do have is plenty of room. Not as much as on Liberty, sure. But more than the old days of space travel. This is but one advantage of space construction. The frames of the lifeboats are super-strong but super-light. And because we don’t have to escape the gravity well, we can build larger living quarters without too many problems. Don’t get me wrong, this is no palace but it’s not bad. Good for us, because once we dock at CHOIRS we’re going to reconfig the lifeboats to act as dorms. As soon as we’re able to do so, we’ll move out into the final living areas. By that time, we might even have lawns. GREEN LAWNS. Can you believe it? Speaking of which, when not exercising or working I’ve been doodling robot lawnmower designs. I’ll upload those to the CHOIRSproject site when I get some inspiration. 🙂

Work continues at an accelerated pace on CHOIRS. I get feedback from the construction drones on a regular basis (dry, dry technical data that I won’t bore you with). Qiong is here with me and we talk a lot about having a community vegetable garden in addition to the aeroponics that will provide us with most of our food. You don’t want to know what we’re eating right now. Gray foil packets with the contents stamped on the outside. The coffee, to my eternal gratitude, is fantastic. Adelmo and his wife made sure of that.

Life is good, life is strange. I see the stars on the monitor and I think of home. We’re doing okay, everyone. Everything is going according to the plan. I guess if I can thank anyone for that simple mercy it’s all of you back on Earth charting the path ahead.

Burt and Kevin just challenged me to speed-Scrabble. I’m logging off for now.

– Hersh

See you soon. Friday

Posted by James Dubois in CHOIRS, Personal, Travel.

I won’t ever see my parents again.

I won’t ever see Luna shining in the sky.

I won’t see the sunrise or sunset.

I won’t watch the winds carrying clouds over Ohio.

Seven years.

I don’t know how to feel about all of this. So much emotion…hope, sadness, loss, and yeah…a little fear. What waits out there beyond the reach of our little blue world? Beyond the spinning wheels of Liberty? The red dust of Mars?

Nobody knows.

I’m afraid, but I’m not too afraid to go. I’m not too afraid to take that step across the threshold. It was my first trip to the candy store in Dayton, the last one in the neighborhood. They had those chocolates that the Amish people made. Licorice wheels and penny candy (that really cost 5 cents). My skinny little hand clutching a few dollars. Those tentative footsteps off the curb and across the street, Dad’s outstretched hand nowhere to be found. My first day out alone.

But I’m not alone. Hundreds go with me. Qiong, my friends and co-workers. Some of the brightest minds I’ve ever known. And we’re not alone, either. We go with the thoughts and prayers of billions. I heard the President’s speech. I heard all the speeches. Our last days were spent reading all the letters that came up through the feed. Lots of tears. Tears and cake.

Cake. God, I’m hungry. Haven’t eaten in eighteen hours. It’s almost time.

I’m off to be prepped. It’s scary. Exhilarating. Strange. Part of me doesn’t want to go. I’ve seen amazing things out here, down there. Done amazing things. But there’s something else that needs to be done before my time is up.

The signal remains strong. It’s out there. I’m going home.

– Hersh out.

Surprise…! Monday

Posted by James Dubois in Personal.
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Q, Marsh and some of the other folks here threw me a surprise party.

I have no idea where they got all that stuff. I really don’t! Do I want to know? Is there a black market party supply store on Liberty that I don’t know about? But thanks so much to everyone. It’s weird to think that 40 is closer than 30…

It’s beautiful up here. I wish you all could see the starlight.

Nobody expects the… Sunday

Posted by James Dubois in CHOIRS, Personal.
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Lame joke?

I have to apologize for not posting about this earlier but between the trip back to L5, the deluge of catch-up work and now this thing, it’s a struggle to keep my head above the water.

I’m penning this on my workpad here outside a scary-looking door. I feel like I’ve been sent to the principal’s office and I’m stuck awaiting my fate. Inside is the company doctor Leona Flores. With her is Bo, some people from InfraCorp’s insurance overwriters and a few suits I don’t know (well, virtually…most of the people in the room are on remote feeds). Qiong is in there too, acting as a character witness. As soon as they’re done grilling her it’ll be my ass that’s put to the fire.

It’s unclear how much of this I can divulge but I figure it won’t hurt to talk about it, especially when the outcome is a foregone conclusion. There’s been some talk that I falsified records in order to conceal my health problems (which is ridiculous) and that not only is this going to cost me a trip to CHOIRS’ Phase I (which is a given) but it might cost me my job as well. Even if I’m cleared of those erroneous charges, Dr. Flores says that there’s no way to safely transport me with the first wave without my bones turning into swiss cheese en route. That means I can’t join the first wave of travelers to CHOIRS, which means I’m going to be planetside when they leave, which means I’m not ever going to see this project through to completion (I mean, not that there was any guarantee in the first place, as the Phase III milestone falls somewhere in my 60’s…and there’s no way there’s going to ship someone approaching septegenerian status to Titan). The good news is that my contract affords me excellent benefits (including life and disability, which I think this covers if I lose the project — have to talk to my lawyer). So I’ll be okay financially… just not spiritually, emotionally, professionally, etc. etc. etc.

Sorry if I’m rambling.

Marshall just brought me a sandwich. Thanks Marsh!

Oh yeah! Irony: as one of the primaries on the transport/cargo ship design team, Qiong is going to have to go BACK into the scary room to tell everyone that her system is not able to safely transport her invalid husband. Can you believe that? She wasn’t going to do it but they shook some legalese in her direction and she caved. Not that I blame her. My hazard pay and life insurance stated in my idemnity clause is not insubstantial. Not that I-Corp would feel anything…

Legal just IM’ed me so I’m going to close for now and head in. Wish me luck. – Hersh

Disaster means “bad star” Tuesday

Posted by James Dubois in Personal.

I give up.

I really do. Maybe it’s just not in the cards for me.


I really can’t talk now. I just wanted to vent.

GOOD NEWS!!! Tuesday

Posted by James Dubois in Luna, Ouch, Personal.
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I’m back to work! 🙂

Doctor Flores (InfraCorp’s chief physician) said that I need to take it easy and keep on top of my supplements but I’m heading off Luna and returning to the office on Liberty. I have buckets of work to slog through and may be pulling some all-nighters so don’t be surprised if you see me posting less than usual. I have a lot less time on my hands. Can’t wait to see Qiong again and all my co-workers. By the time this gets posted to the Net I should be en route.

– Hersh

Hersh at the movies… Wednesday

Posted by James Dubois in Ouch, Personal.
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Because when you’re laid up in bed covered in plaster and steel pins, nothing passes the time better than a good movie.

Of course, I get a feed into the med bay here on Luna but it’s digital. Remember celluloid? Projection cameras? Sprockets and gears and motors? Jay and I were squirting messages back and forth about this subject. He’s a programmer so of course he sees the beauty of binary. I’m more traditional, a hands-on mechanical engineering type. I want to see the parts move, be able to take it apart and turn each piece over in my hands. Maybe that’s why I got into robotics?

Back when I was stationed at McMurdo we used to have movie marathons so that we wouldn’t go crazy(er). The favorite was the Thing double-feature… the old 50’s Thing and the remake from about 30 years back. 198? Anyway, that’s always fun.

Been watching a lot of movies about builders for some reason, maybe because I’m not working on CHOIRS at the moment. Bridge on the River Kwai is in right now (I know how it ends but it’s really good despite that!). Every time I think Bridge is about to jump the shark, it twists and I’m captivated. That lead actor’s freaking amazing.

I just finished McCabe and Mrs. Miller, which was recommended to me by my doctor. I have never seen a film like this and I suspect I never will again. It looks like a standard western, but it’s not what you think! I also have a film in the queue about a guy who hauls a steamboat up a mountain in the Amazon (that looks nuts… I believe it was actually done in the movie, no special effects).

I have access privileges to lots of stuff up here. Any suggestions from you lot? Please please please no science fiction. I’m on the moon for Pete’s sake! And I’ve seen 2001 about that many times already. 🙂 BTW, thanks for all the letters and well wishes! They’re really keeping my spirits up. Qiong says thanks as well.

– Hersh

The accident-prone tourist Thursday

Posted by James Dubois in Luna, Ouch, Personal.
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First of all, to all my friends and family who haven’t heard from me: I’m okay. There was an accident while we were running some exercises out on the surface and now I’m recovering in a medical bay here on Luna. It’s nothing life threatening but my professional future is in doubt.

We were working on testing a docking system on the mining rig and something got all fouled up. I climbed up the gantry to check it out and I slipped and fell about twenty feet (I forgot to tie off). Thankfully, my suit, the low-g and the powdery surface lessened the impact and I just got the wind knocked out of me. Kind of amazing, really. The breaks occurred when one of the Garret guys helped me up to my feet after we did some initial, “Are you okay? Can you wiggle your toes?” kind of questions. He grabbed my arm in kind of an awkward way and when he pulled me up, I felt this stabbing pain shoot through my arm to my shoulder and across my chest. Honestly, I don’t remember much after that. They brought me inside, put my arm and upper torso in an inflatable cast and doped me with NOA. Long story short, I’m laid up with a spiral fracture in my humerus, some cracked ribs (I think from the fall) and a compound fracture in my radius.

Despite my mineral supplements and regular exercise sessions, my bone density has dropped by almost 17% in some areas of my body. Also, due to some genetic deficiency that went undiscovered, while my osteoclasts were eliminating old bone growth, my osteoblasts (esp. in my cortical bones) were not keeping up with the construction of new growth. In other words, my body was eating bone and not replacing any. The doc said a cross section of my arm looked like it had been attacked by termites. The other bones in my body have hairline fractures and microscopic stress breaks. Not terrible, but they’re not being repaired well or quickly. My spine and skull are fine but my load-bearing supports (arms, legs, hips) are swiss cheese. There’s no way I’d be able to go on a long distance space flight and continued orbital life is in question.

I feel like such an idiot right now. And I feel terrible for the guy that inadvertently caused the break. It’s not his fault at all and I know he’s beating himself for it. Just a stupid mistake, some bad luck and a pre-existing condition that nobody knew about (myself included). The docs have me on hormone therapy and calcium/magnesium to try and counteract the bone loss but I’m not sure InfraCorp will allow me to continue work on Liberty Station. I suspect someone else will end up taking the wheel from me completely once we start transporting construction modules and equipment. Then it’s on to the next project. Just not CHOIRS. My baby.

The worst part is that Q is on Liberty and can’t get clearance to visit me while I recuperate. I have a video monitor so that we can talk but the lack of physical proximity and the signal delay are maddening. It’ll be even more so when I’m in the gravity well and she’s soaring higher than the angels. That and the skin under this cast itches like crazy.

BTW, Jayesh has been a great friend over the last week. He helped me rig up a voice-to-text interface to my key implant so that I don’t have to type one-handed. The thing works like a dream, though I’m not sure how much he had to hack into the software to make it work (Jay: “Oh, it was an idea I had while on the john.”). He’s quite the character.

Thanks again for all the wonderful emails. I’d say “you can send cards and flowers here…” but, well… you know! 🙂 I’m a bit sick of “Vermillion Sands” re-runs on the feed up here so send me email. – Hersh

JPL blues Thursday

Posted by James Dubois in Personal.
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Being back in California is a little strange. It’s where I got my start in the industry and I met so many excellent people out here but still, a little weird. I visited JPL and nosed around a bit (though not as much as I could when I was an employee) and chatted with a few friends that are still working there.

Boring post, I know. Just kind of sad. I wish memories were like suitcases that you could pack and unpack instead of having to lug everything around, all the time, everywhere.