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Happy Birthday to…me? Wednesday

Posted by James Dubois in Uncategorized.
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It nearly went by without me realizing what day it was. 

Life’s been amazing. Here’s to another 45…

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Rotation Tuesday

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It’s all over the system news feeds. We’re getting transmissions in  (+1.5 hours delay, of course). This just means you now know what we know. CHOIRS Project’s phase 1 is officially complete. Rotation of 0.6992818708006628 RPM was achieved after 17 days of spin-up. The SRBs were jettisoned to be repurposed by retrieval drones. The inner hub is stationary relative to the main structure so there no complications docking the lifeboat modules. All seven modules were successfully attached and all active personnel are onboard.

The place is incredibly spartan, but HUGE compared to the cramped modules where we’ve lived for the past seven years. We have lights, pressure, gravity, fresh air, water, sanitation. We’re moving our greenhouses to the agricultural bloc. Operations is ahead of the game on that front thanks to the Garden Party MRCZ’s work in that field (no pun intended). This place is like an empty warehouse right now. Several empty warehouses — cavernous, echoing chambers. We’ll be working to get our facilities up and running. Estimated time? Four months minimum with seven weeks after that reserved as schedule padding. When Phase II is finished, we’ll be welcoming the next group of settlers – another 3,000 people. Our projected timeline puts this at the end of the next decade. We’re already taking applications for new settlers.

Reactions have been all over the place: crying, laughing, screaming. Some people are on walkers or braces to assist in movement. Some are confined to wheelchairs until their bodies recover. Me? I’m exhilarated to be standing and walking again. My body’s been wrecked by the travel, which was a known risk. I’m using a cane at the moment and Saif is surprised that I can stand, much less walk around. Medical is starting its gravity rehabilitation program by week’s end once things are unpacked. The pods are already unloaded and stacked in the medical bays. Leona and her staff are going through research papers downloaded from Earth detailing recent advances in radiation de-toxification, gene therapy, neural grafting… all technologies that were developed during the mission flight. The clean-room will be the next internal project. With the research done on-flight and back on Earth, she confirms a positive prognosis for those people suffering from ARS.

Re-org II Wednesday

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Quick update.

Restructuring = success. Jürgen is back working in the nanomaterials lab. The MRCZ system seems to be working, although it’s a weirdly hands-off style that I’m not used to. I’m actually working in the “greenhouse” lab with Qiong for the next day or so while Wilma is assisting Saif with the nutritional plans. Neat.

User Flow Wednesday

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People never fail to surprise me. News of the incident traveled fast throughout the lifeboats. We feared the worst, especially with all the backlash from Earth. Lots of questions, of course… people asking what happened, me trying to dispel rumors. But what’s strange is that nobody openly rebelled against the captains’ authority, nor did they protest Sasha’s arrest. People are just pitching in to help out where they can. Guy took on Sasha’s duties in the communications workgroup as well as his own and Sjon stepped in to volunteer his free time. I hear that a couple others from Operations are helping as well. Sjon calls this meta-workgroup a “micro-national, regional cooperative zone.” Hell, if people are getting their work done they can call it anything they want. They even printed out a “flag” of the CHOIRS mission patch to hang up on the wall.

And now that the initial flood of personal video correspondence to Earth has quieted down, I’ve seen people giving over their relay time to Sasha. I expect her to talk to the media to give statements once she’s released. Guy’s team wrote an app to track the data flow people are donating and it’s now an unofficial part of our intranet. People login to the site using their key and distribute their relay time to specific people. What’s really interesting is that the users of this data flow tracking system don’t give away their personal relay time. The system aggregates unused time on the relay and that’s parceled out as needed, with priority given to the person with the most data flow.

Imagine you’re in a big house, and you can’t leave. And there’s only one phone. What this system does is let users nominate who can use the phone and for how long. If the person with phone privileges isn’t available, then the phone usage rights shifts to the next person on the list.

Users nominate other users and tag their nominations with comments or categorizations. Sasha alone has been nominated for bonus time from several hundred people so she has priority. Most of the tags are related to her incarceration. Since she’s not using her time, it goes back into the system aggregator for others to use but she retains priority for when she does become available.

I was too curious not to check it out and made an account (I had to, just to make sure Guy wasn’t doing anything malicious… due diligence and all) and found out that people aboard the lifeboats had nominated me, despite my part in the Russian Incident. It seems I’m not the bad guy after all, at least in other peoples’ esteem. As of right now, more than half the people aboard are using this new time-sharing system. We’ll see how that works.

Confined to quarters Monday

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Alexandra is currently confined to quarters. Her access privileges are suspended. She refused to return to her workstation and get back to task, we gave her verbal and written warnings. We did as much as we could do using corporate policy and it was by her actions (or should I say inaction) that escalated the situation.

I arranged a meeting with Dr. Henneman and the captains of the Brahmagupta, the Stephen Hawking and the Zeno. The Russian consul general was in attendance but only as a witness because of the delay (we expect to hear the Consulate’s official recommendation soon). Psychological specialists were present and informed us of how to best proceed.

The Universal Conduct Code governing life in transit from Liberty Station to CHOIRS is quite clear as it pertains to insubordination. Our options are limited at this point. The committee decided unanimously that this was not “mutiny” in the strict sense. Nobody was prepared to carry out a capital sentence. Sasha’s behavior has yet to put anyone in jeopardy (including herself) and although she’s angry, she’s perfectly rational and lucid. Everyone likes her, including me, and it hurts us all terribly to watch this unfold. But we can’t have anarchy, especially not at this critical time.

An unpleasant consequence is that I had to convert unused sleeping quarters into a makeshift brig. We de-authorized her personal key implant from being able to access the doors. The engineer in me is screaming about wasted time, energy and space but there’s no alternative, least not until the lifeboat modules are permanently locked into the station’s superstructure. For what it’s worth, she’s got the nicest quarters on ship right now. Certainly the roomiest.

One last thing: you probably saw her tirade about being Saturnian. She really did renounce her Russian citizenship. Qiong told me that her papers were filed with the Minister of Tax and Duties. She’s claiming CHOIRS citizenship. Clever girl, she sent a packet of information down the pipe before her arrest. The media back on Earth is running with it. Of course, none of this solves the basic manpower problem and now it’s even worse, being down one information architect.

Managing Wednesday

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I had to discipline someone on the communications team today. This is something I’ve never relished and it’s one of the more bothersome jobs I have as the project lead. When someone on the managerial team comes to me with a problem, I have to do something. Even if I don’t necessarily agree.

Anyway, Peter (the acting communications workgroup manager) floats into my office with some issues, voices some concerns about one of his people. Everyone’s under a lot of stress, and I know there may be some resentment involved. After all, Adelmo is in stasis and we’re not sure if he’s going to recover, which is both depressing and scary, and there’s some griping about his replacement. The team is losing focus when focus is exactly what we need!

The problem is with a specific person. Now, this individual is doing great things, but it’s all peripheral, sometimes even unrelated to the tasks that need to be done. On the one hand, they’re going above and beyond to help people aboard the ships. But I keep looking at their workstation and finding it conspicuously absent, or I find other people there working on other projects. Its taking up non-trivial amounts of time. So, exit Hersh the Friendly Co-Worker, enter Hersh the Bad Guy. The three of us are going to have a sit-down in a few minutes and try and work things out.

Reflections Sunday

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Just spoke with Dr. Flores. Adelmo had to be put in the Ripley pods. His vitals were shutting down and we don’t have time to do a transplant, nor do we have a suitable donor in our small pool of possibles. He’s in his sixties. Leona estimates that without a transplant he would die within a week or so, but there’s only a 20% chance of him being able to be revived from cryonics. His wife is beside herself. There’s a cloud hanging over everyone aboard my boat. I hear overall the mood is grim across the other six lifeboats as well.

Progress is made every week on CHOIRS. We’ve reached the halfway mark and will be able to permanently fix the lifeboat modules into the docking hub within the coming month (if all goes well). We continue to suffer from tempering issues with the glass processing plant. We’re using a synthetic fused silica, not the stuff we used terrestrially in windows (that’s soda-lime glass), and due to gravitational interference, temperature fluctuations, programming glitches and the whims of the Universe, the glass is being formed with a high degree of friability. This means when we form the large panels and try to move them into the mirror array, they shatter.

I need to re-program the robotic handlers (ugh) and see if I can make them a bit more delicate. Gregor’s team is going to try adding some chemical additives to the fusing process. Normally this wouldn’t fly for environmental health and safety factors but a) robots are doing the work and b) we’re in space. A few parts per kazillion of chlorine and HCl floating around up here is not going to bother anyone.

With Adelmo’s absence, it falls to Gregor and me to manage that project (despite our already crushing workload). Dr. Begovic agreed to assist on the regolith team, leaving me some time to fix the problem with the foundry robots. Of course, this sets Jürgen back on his own research for at least twenty days while he babysits the excavators and moon-crete production facilities.

BTW, we’re going to open the pipe over the next week or so for transmissions from ‘Del’s family in Argentina and Spain. His wife could use the support if you want to send well-wishes to the Engineering workgroup.

Wish us luck.

Damage Wednesday

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Monthly physicals were up and the results across the ships is consistent. We have quite a few people with post-cryonics health concerns. Jayesh continues to be in and out of the infirmary with nagging problems. He’s not the only one. Acute radiation syndrome is what Dr. Flores called it. She told me that creeping doses of GCR’s that penetrated the mass shielding of the lifeboats caused tissue damage to those people who started the mission as active passengers (rather than staying in the pods).

There’s something else she explained to me called radiation hormesis. It’s the idea that low-levels of constant radiation can actually strengthen the body’s defense systems, kind of like a vaccine against radiation poisoning. I looked through the numbers and did some mental calculations, figured out most of us have exceeded our safe limit of radiation exposure. This is doubly concerning because for whatever reason, the American team (including myself) seems to posses a statistically high number of people who went the opposite way, cells that are not being repaired or worse, tumor-resisting genes that are undergoing mutation. Ionizing radiation sickness was anticipated as a possible hazard, but not at this level of severity. Our stays in the Ripley pods helped to mitigate some of the exposure and the present levels (while constant) are not extreme. Passing through the Van Allen Belt, for example, was fairly quick and the active crew and passengers were fairly protected by mass shielding in specially-designed quarters (this is in and around the med bay, where extra precaution was taken to keep the blood supply free of mrem contamination).

We’re wearing badges that gauge mrem levels and undergoing weekly blood tests to check our blood cell counts. We’re not in immediate danger, the existing damage plus prolonged exposure could lead to what she calls chronic radiation syndrome, which will most assuredly cause deaths, especially in the older population. Treatment in the form of androstenediol and immune system boosters found in some kinds of fungus are available but we’ll need to find other solutions. One is to use stem cells stored in the medical bay to promote haematopoiesis. Qiong and Leona are talking about the synthetic polymers used to keep our blood from crystallizing during the cryonics process. If these can be used to supplement existing blood cell counts in active patients, there’s potential for great things. But this is all theoretical. Any actual progress will take time and might be beyond our abilities. The med bays on our lifeboats aren’t capable of supporting this level of research and development. We’d need personnel dedicated to this task (which we don’t have at the moment) and a base of operations larger and better equipped than our current facilities. And because we’d be engaging in delicate biotech operations, we need to set up a ISO 4 (Class 10) sterile clean room, which we could have to built off-spec as the current blue-prints for Phase I of CHOIRS are limited to ISO 5 standards (Class 100 in terms of particulate concentration — suitable for microchip fabrication and other industry but way too dirty for what we’ll need).

Moon-crete Monday

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As the boats are connected with the superstructure, people are feeling tense. After seven years in space, we’re not moving and although we have no physical sense of this, there’s a feeling of being still. The center of CHOIRS is a half-built docking center with plug-in ports for the the lifeboat modules. The plan is to use these as temporary dwellings over the next year while the mass shielding is built. I should explain.

One of the biggest problems with living out in space is that while the Earth has atmosphere and an electromagnetic field, space does not. That means harmful radiation that doesn’t reach the ground on Earth has no problem moving through vacuum. The result is that we’re constantly bombarded with GCR’s. Cosmic rays. The lifeboats get around this with some clever engineering and design: the bulk of the ship, not requiring much in the way of heat-shielding like the old space shuttle, is composed on titanium with a shell of hydrogen-rich plastic. This helps a lot in absorbing radiation that would normally pass through our fragile fleshy selves. The other form of shielding lies in our fuel and water supplies.

CHOIRS is going to last a long time and needs to have the needs of generations of inhabitants taken into consideration. To this end its going to have a mass shield encircling it. Dr. Wernick’s regolith team is building the shield from particulate from the moon of Tethys. Huge (and I mean huge) excavation machines have been pulling material from the moon’s surface, breaking it down and mixing into a kind of super-strong concrete. The lunar concrete (“moon-crete”) is launched from mass drivers on the surface of Tethys at super-slow velocity, just enough to send it to our “catchers,” robotic tugs that haul the slabs into position on the wireframe where they’re bolted on. I’m amazed at the grace and beauty involved in this operations. Chunks of moon-crete that would cover half a city block grabbed by gnat-sized robots and gently maneuvered into the frame. Thankfully this is all happening within the constraints of a rigid safety protocol. It would not be good for us if the catchers missed it crashed into us.

I believe the shell will be completed soon after CHOIRS spins up. Gregor says everything is going according to schedule. I worked with him on Luna (years ago!) and he and his wife are good people to have on the team. No nonsense, practical and brilliant (Janice is a classically-trained musician and she and a materials engineer on Wernick’s team have started a quartet of some kind).

Speaking of teams, the organizational structures in place shifted again. We’re now on a mandate from the CHOIRS Project backing nations to install representatives. Now that we’re officially here we need to set up some governmental entities above and beyond the ship/crew protocols. The captains of each of the ships are still in charge but there’s been discussion about when they’re to relinquish control and hand it over to a governing body. I guess because we’re still at sea and we need one steady hand on the wheel? Of course, this means my workload is going to increase. Not only am I still building this thing but now I’m one of the “city council” members. This was all put into place years ago in the initial charter but it still weirds me out. We’re already talking about elections once we’ve achieved spin. Some of the settlers are quite conservative (politically, not socially… you can’t really be when you’re locked in a tin can with strangers for seven years) and are looking for a traditional governmental structure. There are more than a few people of a socialist or libertarian mindset because of the nationalities involved. We have over a thousand voices that must be heard so I’m doing lots of research, reading a lot of papers on the subject by Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, et al. Sasha is devouring this stuff. I think because she was born during the end of the cold war and she saw the chaos of the Russian state. We’ve been having lively debates in the galley. Her personal history is enlightening/frightening (at least to a boring scientist like myself). She is (was?) a member of the Pirate Party? And she gave me stick loaded with all sorts of articles and movies of art shows and rallies (some very strange things).

The Pipe Thursday

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In space, nobody can hear you scream at the system administrator.

The current data-rationing plan is stupid. We have people in stasis that are getting time allotted to them and they can’t use it. Meanwhile, I need to download massive compressed files three times a day and parse through reams of data. And if a transmission isn’t downloaded on time because of server problems, I have to wait three to six hours twiddling my thumbs. I’m the project manager, for crying out loud. I shouldn’t have to beg to get access to my own damn relay. Ah, rant over. Thanks for “loaning” me your minutes, ‘Del. I really need to get a new wireless provider!

Oh and in answer one of the questions I received, a science teacher gave me my nickname in junior high. There were two James in his class.

– Hersh