Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another EVA!

A few weeks ago I wrote about Pumplemas, the failure of the External Thermal Control System pump that caused a few spacewalks (EVA= Extravehicular Activity, or as I like to call it "stepping outside") in order to replace the broken pump.
Since then, US-airlock based spacewalks have been pretty rare. (There is also a Russian airlock from which Russian crew-members conduct spacewalks.) US EVAs used to be done routinely during space shuttle flights, with each flight having 3-4 spacewalks planned, often to assemble some part of the ISS. For those, the crew trained on the specific task for many months in the pool before trying it out on the real vehicle.
Stage EVAs, which are EVAs without a shuttle docked, are more rare and usually more complicated. Like with the pump, they are often done to respond to a failure, rather than to accomplish assembly tasks. Also, station crews have rarely been trained on the exact task, and if so it was many many months previously.

Today will be US Stage EVA 18. The primary task is to replace a broken power box called MBSU 1. A Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) is like a giant space circuit breaker. It contains 14 switches that allow it to route power from 2 power channels down to several downstream loads. If any of those switches senses an overdraw of current then, like the circuit breaker in your house, it will trip the switch open to disconnect the power.  As there are 8 power channels, there are 4 MBSUs, each responsible for feeding roughly a quarter of the total loads on the space station. Here's more on the EPS Architecture and the MBSU's place in it. Last year it developed some corrupted firmware and eventually stopped communicating. It was providing power just fine, but we can't command to it or get telemetry from it. I was actually on console (in the middle of the night) the day it decided to quit talking for good!

To replace it, we have to turn it off, which makes this EVA a little tricky- we have to do it without a quarter of the space station power. MBSU 1 powers several core loads, such as life support, computers for station control, and cooling. Over the last two days, the ground and crew worked together to install two power jumpers. Think of it like a big extension cord that you use to power your television with the outlet across the room. In this case we have rerouted the core loads to be powered off of other MBSUs so we can remove MBSU 1. This at least allows us to keep all the important things on, but there is still a cost... being down a quarter of the total power on the space station still requires major powerdowns of less critical equipment.

It's gonna be pretty exciting, and I am looking forward to talking to MBSU 1 again. (I've had a bit of a complex since it gave me the silent treatment a year ago!) You can watch the EVA live on NASA TV and learn more about it on NASA's website.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Disneyland Half Week 14 Training

Only one week to go til the race! Let's check out the weather:
64 degrees? Wonderful!
This week I was struggling with getting back on a usual sleep schedule. In fact Thursday night was the first night I slept most of the night without the help of NyQuil. Not only that, but I felt tired, sluggish, and headache-y during "waking" hours. We had planned to get up and run Tuesday, but I got around 4 hours of sleep, spending most of the night lying awake wishing I could sleep, and just could not bring myself to get out of bed when the alarm went off, only about 2 hours after I had finally fallen asleep for real.  I usually can get myself to get up by saying that I don't need that extra hour, but that day, I really did need the extra hour.

Thursday- 6am wakeup call, 4.6 mile run
Planned for about 5 but I was missing my running buddy and just BORED. I think running might not be a good sport for me, because being alone on the road with my sneakers and my thoughts is not relaxing or therapeutic to me, but SO BORING.

Saturday- 5am wakeup call, 10ish mile run
I say "ish" because the Garmin died about a mile in. I charged it before my run Thursday and figured it had to have enough juice for a 10 mile run after only being on for about an hour. But I don't know if I accidentally left it on or if the batteries are just shot, but it was dying when I turned it on.
As usual we headed to Memorial Park for our long run, to have shade, water fountains, and bathrooms along the way. Towards the end of the 9th mile I started getting a little lightheaded so we walked extra, ate our last chews, and stopped at every water fountain along the way.  Luckily, as we finished up, we passed this happy occasion:
The Houston Area Road Runners Association had set up snacks and drinks, to kickoff the winter/spring race season (and remind me that only crazy people train through the summer for a Labor Day race when they live in Houston). We grabbed watermelon, Gatorade, beer, and a bagel to scarf down. It was like we had just run a race instead of a training run!
Even though I felt kinda bad towards the end of the run, I think that if we had more chews it would have gone better so I'm not too apprehensive about the race next weekend. My plan is to bring enough fuel to snack at each of the 3 walk breaks and hit all the water stops I can. I also tested out my new belt pack with the camera and it went ok so I know I can carry that during the race too.

We hurried home so I could shower and turn right around to leave again, this time for a hair consultation for the wedding. Check, another thing off the wedding to-do list. Then I met Dan and his sister (who is visiting us from New Orleans) for lunch at one of our favorite spots, Beavers!
That, my friends, is Heaven on a plate.
 This coming week is a few short shakeout runs, then we leave for the race early Saturday morning. Dan's sister is with us for a couple days- she came for the weekend, but her home is about to be hit by Tropical Storm Isaac, so she's gonna stay a little longer.
Goofy goofballs get attacked by a Beaver.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Disneyland Half Week 12&13 Training

Only two weeks to our big race and, unfortunately, I did only half my runs for the two weeks. Week 12 was a busy week at work (several late nights AND a couple early mornings... no-win combo!) and then I had to swap my sleep around to work the overnight shift, from which I am still recovering (not very well).

Week 12:
Should have been a step back week, three 4-mile runs.
Wednesday: 5:30am wakeup call, 3.6 crappy miles
Unmotivated and buddy free. I was too sleepy to think to grab my ipod. It was about a mile in that I even woke up enough to think of it, so that ought to demonstrate how that first mile went. In the middle there I was trudging along and it was a slow run, then a slow jog, then a shamble, and then, finally, I just started walking. Went home and took a nice nap before my afternoon sim.

Thursday: Stayed up all night to sleep shift for my Friday overnight shift, made it to 5am! Usually I pass out on the couch around 3, so that's pretty good. Every time I started getting droopy, I would get up and do 5 crunches, 5 girly push-ups, and a 5 second plank. Then I'd be awake for a little bit,  before having to repeat.

Week 13:
Should have been 4 miles easy, 5 miles with 3 tempo, and a 10 mile run.
Tuesday: After work, went to the JSC running trail and ran 3 miles, 2 tempo with some walking.
I was hoping to do 4 with 3 tempo (0.5 warm, 3 tempo, 0.5 cool), but I was really kidding myself about how hot it would be. I wore my most reflective light colored shirt. I hydrated... It was 84, feels like 95, with 87% humidity and ruthlessly sunny. I did keep up a really nice tempo for those 2 tempo miles, both below 11:30 and I often looked down to see myself really booking it at 10:40ish pace which is really fast for me, and especially so considering the heat. I think my legs were really looking forward to the run after so many nights tied to a chair. Around 2 miles I started feeling kinda bad, and not sure whether it was regular exhaustion or heat exhaustion, I stopped to walk at the end of the second tempo mile and called it quits when I finished the route rather than double back for an extra mile.

Friday: 4.25 miles on the dreadmill, 1.5 tempo (a "blistering" 11:15 min/mile)
Since I can't possibly get to the trail any earlier than they let me out of work, and since it was so brutal Tuesday, I gave the treadmill a chance. I rarely run on treadmills. Part is access (I don't own one and don't frequent a gym) and part is hatred. I much prefer the open air, even if it comes with swelter, to being a hamster on a wheel.
Alas, there's a difference between swelter and dangerously hot, and Texas summer at 9am has crossed that line, so treadmill it was. It was pretty awful, mostly because my TV choices were: Today show (Did you know colorful stilettos and purple eyeshadow are in? Now I do!), Fox News, CNN, and CW "News." Ew ew ew and ew.

And... that's it. I planned to get up Sunday for the 10 miler, but it didn't happen for a variety of reasons- thunder, lightning, pouring rain, exhaustion, and sleep shift problems (basically couldn't eat anything Saturday because of nausea; was awake from 1:30 to 5 am Sunday morning, just because).  Sigh.

So what's next?
One more week of training, then an easy week... the race is in 14 days!
Tuesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 5 miles
Saturday: 10 miles or bust!

Monday: Chicken Stew
Tuesday: Wedding appointments all over town and then Houston Restaurant Week for dinner
Wednesday: Risotto- found this recipe awhile back, haven't had a chance to make it
Thursday: Sesame Soba Noodle Salad (perfect for leftovers to take to Friday, I have an all day sim and will need something easy with no heating required!)
Friday: Dan's sister is coming to town! Maybe I'll make what I make all my guests, Anne's Healthy Chicken Enchiladas!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Morning Runs

I am an avowed sleeper-inner. I don't put on makeup, I don't blow-dry my hair. I wake up at the last moment necessary to shower, dress, grab breakfast and lunch to go, and get to work. I hated the idea of morning workouts. We did afternoon runs on the shadiest possible trail as long as possible before it just got too hot. And then, because I signed up for a fall race (what was I thinking?) we had to become morning runners.

We've been at it for 3 months now, as our Disneyland Half training comes to an end. The biggest challenge I've had with the morning runs is my changing schedule. Everything is fine when I'm working 8am to 5pm like a normal human. But working until midnight makes it impossible to get up at 6am for a morning run... I tried, but it was not going to happen. The overnights present a different problem. Every minute of exercise I put in, I wonder if I am taking away energy I will need later to make it through my shift. So instead I try to exercise after my shift, if there's any energy left. For the first few days, there isn't. (Not so fun fact: I've actually fallen asleep at a stoplight on my way home from an overnight shift before. It was only a couple minutes, I jolted awake to find the light green and the car that had been in front of me long gone. Its hard to even describe that kind of tired which comes from willingly defying one's inner clock.)

But, when my schedule stays normal, we managed to be pretty regular morning runners. Here's what I've learned:
1. People say if you do something for 2 weeks it becomes a habit. They're right.
Except for a few late shifts leading to lazy mornings, I actually began thinking of run mornings as my usual wake-up time and days when I didn't run as getting to sleep in. Even days when I had to be in to work early, it was easy because the time I wake up to run is the same time as I need to get up to get to work by 7. This doesn't mean that a few times the early morning alarm was met with contempt, and it doesn't mean I got up every time. But for the most part, it was not so bad.

2. Leisurely mornings are pretty pleasant.
When we don't have to be in until later (I've mentioned many negatives of my weird work schedule, but a positive is that- unless you are scheduled for something- nobody looks at you funny for strolling in around 9am) we cool off from our run by lounging under the ceiling fan, catching up on the blogs, and gulping down water. We might even eat breakfast at the table, rather than taking it to go. It's nice to hang out and start the day relaxed instead of rushed.

3. It's really nice to be done with your workout early and not have it hanging over your head at the end of a long crappy workday.
I'm sure you've been there too! Sometimes after a long day at work the last thing you want is to be all upbeat and exercisey. It's nice to be able to go home, cook dinner, chill on the couch, and go to bed early. Just like mornings are rushed normally, so are afternoons: fight rush hour traffic, fit in an hour workout, cook, eat, clean up... by the time you look up it's bedtime and you never felt relaxed for a second.

4. It still sucks to have to go to bed early on a weekend night to get up super early and run.
This impacted us in a major way when we had a visitor the weekend of our first 10 mile run. Due to my work schedule and impending overnight shift there wasn't a way to move the run without impacting training. So instead of going out on the town Saturday night, we stayed in, rented a movie, went to bed later than we'd like, and got up at 5am anyways to go for a run. Even without guests, going to bed before 10pm on a weekend is really lame.

The burden on your nights (weeknights and especially weekends) to go to bed early is really a struggle. I look forward to having a little more freedom to snooze without the weight of a training plan and an expensive destination race weighing on me. But I think, in general, I'm a fan of the occasional morning run and will be bringing them back (in moderation) next spring when the days get long and the heat gets ridiculous again.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Deep Thoughts Monday

Well it's Monday for you. I'm on the overnights this week so who really knows what day it is to me. This morning was 3 of 7 and tonight is #4, which makes it... well whatever it is. Tuesday maybe?

Sleep deprivation and late nights browsing the internet lead you to plenty of interesting places. Here are my deep thoughts from the overnight shift:

1. Beware the guy that calls you crazy

I just got done reading this article. It's long, but it is a must read. The short version is: two different women write in to say that there is a creeper in their circle of friends. He makes inappropriate sexual comments or advances at the girls in the group, and makes the girls feel uncomfortable. Rather than come to their aid and banish this guy, the men in their group (including their significant others) use a variant of the "girl, you crazy" shtick in order to minimize the legitimate concerns of the girl and stick up for the guy.

What follows is an analysis of our rape culture. How men, even normal non-rapist men, convince women to keep quiet about the sexual misconduct (it's harmless, you asked for it, you're overreacting, etc.), and thereby create a world in which acquaintance rapes happen all the time and are seldom reported. There's also this related piece about how not to be a creeper. Tell your friends. Even the not-creepy ones. (Because, as this follow-on article discusses, creepiness is subjective.)

2. Does supporting an Eagle Scout mean I don't support gay rights?

I woke up Saturday night with a flyer on my front door. It was from a local Eagle Scout candidate collecting school supply donations for a local children's shelter. It also mentioned a fundraiser, taking place at the nearby Chik-Fil-A where a portion of proceeds would help the shelter. Oy!

I am really conflicted on what to do here. On one hand, I was a proud Girl Scout so I support scouting in general. My fiancé (and all these Astronauts) are Eagle Scouts. Boy Scouts as an organization and as individuals have done plenty of good things. But. But but but. Their policy on gays is short sighted, its discriminatory, and it is sending a message to young boys that hate and discrimination are ok, and that what they could be feeling is wrong. I guess it's fitting that he's teamed up with Chik-Fil-A. (Not the main topic but here's my POV in brief: Cathy can have his opinions and he can give his money to whatever hateful organization. But if I buy from Chik-Fil-A then I'm helping fund an agenda I disagree with, and that's not ok.)

As for the children's shelter, I don't want to refuse to help them if I otherwise would because of the Boy Scout business, but would I? It's not like a person can support every charity because there are millions and I have not won the lottery recently. But might I have participated in this were it not for the politics? I don't know.
So what should I do? Ignore it? Make some kind of statement? Donate separately to the children's shelter? What would you do?

3. The Last Name Project

A joint project by two feminist bloggers: From Two to One and The Feminist Mystique. It will take me quite awhile to read through all the posts, which detail all the different factors of changing (or keeping) one's last name when getting married. It is complex, and concerns not just feminism, not just allegiance to one's old family or the founding of a new one but all of these things and more. It's about personal identity, societal expectations, familial expectations... possibly the entirety of what it's like to be a woman in modern times wrapped up in a single act (or decision not to act). I'll be changing my name when I get married, but that does not come without some fear, some sadness, some wonder. But that is for another day, another post.

I also love that these two bloggers are giving a new face to feminism. The stereotype of militant, man-hating, bra-burning is a terrible one. Women should be allowed to stand up for themselves and their rights without being demonized by men or mass media. It is possible to be intelligent, thoughtful, and even love a man while also being a feminist. And as From Two to One is demonstrating, you can even be a person of faith in a seemingly patriarchal religion and still be a feminist. Interesting.

And there you have it, some deep night-shift-brain thoughts. What do you think of these topics?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Disneyland Half Week 11 Training

Tuesday: 5:30 wakeup, 4 mile run
Had to be in to work at 8, so we got up extra early! We run in the morning to beat the heat, but then there's the humidity. However, if we get out the door by 6:15 then we get to take advantage of the magic moment right after sunrise and before the sun has risen too far... the streets are still shaded by trees and houses, but the humidity has cooked off a bit. It actually gets cooler (feel-wise, if not actual temp wise) before it gets hotter. Magic!

Thursday: 6am wakeup, 4 mile speedwork
So didn't want to do this, but I thought of coming back on here and telling you I blew off my run two weeks in a row. No way. So thanks for the push to get out there. I also ran alone, because Dan had to be at work at 7. I missed my running buddy but it was kinda nice to run with my headphones in. Especially for speedwork, the songs gave me a little extra boost/distraction to run fast.

Sunday: 5am wakeup, 10 mile run
Early (we went to bed way late... like midnight. Ooh party animals!), hot, far. I have blisters on both pinky toes (not too gruesome yet) and my legs are way sore. Weirdly, there was no soreness really last weekend when we went 9 miles, took a nap right after, and then I sat on console all night. But this week.. eesh. Hobbling a little bit.

In non-running news: My friend Ali was here all weekend. We bridesmaid dress shopped, hung out in mission control, and had more Houston fun. We met about 20 years ago in first grade and were best friends since... we even were college roommates many years later. Sadly, we now live 1200 miles apart and don't get to see each other very often. It was nice to hang out without a crazy agenda- trips back home involve seeing her as well as my whole family; busy busy! This weekend we got to hang out like old times... drink some wine (actually, we weren't 21 when we lived together so that was kinda new), watch a bunch of movies, etc. We also did some wedding stuff- picked out her bridesmaid dress for my wedding and I went to pick up my dress for her wedding which had just come in to David's Bridal.

In non-planetary news: Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover lands on Mars tonight (technically Monday, since it's just after midnight if you're in Central time or more east). Curiosity will be looking for signs of past life, present life, or conditions that could sustain life. Maybe he'll be able to tell us if we're alone in the universe. Don't expect little green men with eye stalks and antlers though, if there was or is life on mars, its probably of the microscopic, bacterial variety.
How far is Mars? Really freaking far. Curiosity left earth last November, and has been flying towards Mars for the past 9 months. More on Curiosity

That's all. No time for Sunday Set-up since I had company. Friday night I start 7 overnights, so we'll probably have a Thursday set-up. It's step back week, which is good since starting my run at 8am (when I get off work) I would swelter to death if I tried to go more than 4.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Disneyland Half Plan

One month until the race! (And until my birthday. Also, 6 months until our wedding. The 2nd is a totally exciting day lately!)

So we talked a little about snacks last week. We started working fuel into our long runs so we could get an idea what works for us. I love the taste of sport beans but I don't think they like me so much. We are both good with shot blocks. And I definitely loved the Chocolate Gu!

Updated race plan:

4 miles run, 0.5 walk: snack and water break during that walk break
(there is a water stop just before 4 and around 4.5 so we'll see how we feel then whether to stop early or wait)
3 miles run, 0.5 walk: water break
(perfect timed water stop at 7.5 miles)
3 miles run, 0.5 walk: snack and water break during the walk break
(last water stop is at ~11.75 miles, which is slightly inconvenient for our plan... may walk break, run again, and walk the water stop to snack and drink)

2.6 miles to finish!
...stumble back to hotel and have a good, long nap,

Naps are my favorite part!

I'm getting really excited. Not just because its a half marathon but also because... I love Disney! And I haven't been to Disney in about 2 years. Which is possibly the longest time I've ever gone, since my family moved to Florida when I was 4.
In college, just a short drive from the House of Mouse, Ali and I would go every year for our birthdays (2 days apart, on Labor Day weekend). You can go to guest services and get a big ol' pin that declares it's your birthday. Then all the people say Happy Birthday to you. (Fun fact, you can also get them for other events like "Just Married," "Anniversary," and "First Time." It's free... and so fun to be special. Highly recommend.) It's my birthday and Dan's first time so we are totally gonna get all buttoned out.. plus race medals (hopefully!)!

See, so excited!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wedding Planning Update -6 months to go!

Oy, got so very little done last month.

At the 7 month update there were these to-do items
  • Find an officiant (still)
  • Look for a Florist, bus for the family from hotel to wedding and back, and hairdresser
  • Honeymoon planning! 

What did I do?
  • Find an officiant, maybe: The venue actually has one that can be used, but we were trying to find our own from out own religions. Of course, at the end of the day we really need to be married so if the Deacon can't sign the marriage license and the Jews won't come, then we just need a person allowed by the state of Texas to perform our marriage. We're going to meet with him on August 18th and see if he is amenable to our interfaith, written from scratch, visit from a Deacon, mostly custom ceremony.
  • Find a hairdresser. She'll be coming to the hotel before the wedding to do our hairs, and going with us to the venue (we can arrive at 1pm) to finish things up in the bridal suite. I also found a couple good salons near the place who, while they don't do on-site stuff like we wanted, would be useful for other relatives looking for hair appointments (moms, grandma, etc.)
  • And that's about it. We went to the bridal show so I got plenty of flyers for different florists and buses, just need to start contacting them and comparing... I had briefly contemplated doing our own flowers- buying wholesale and assembling- but I'm thinking its probably not worth the stress. I can do some DIY that will not have to be done the day before the wedding, instead.
 What needs to be done this month?
  • Honeymoon! Transportation! Florist!
  • Invitations- they are included with our reception package, but we need to go set them up with the printer.
  • Officiant... finally. I wish I were done with this. My bff Meg says that a wedding is a success as long as you're married at the end, so it is the only real, actual problem that we don't have one locked down. Everything else is frosting, right?
Things start getting interesting now... it's time to start with all the specifics. Our place is very inclusive, which saved us plenty of shopping, but we still have to pick things. Like cake flavors. And appetizers. And linen colors. So in the next couple months is when we do all that.