Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Overnight Report

a fictionalization

     Might as well start with what I'm eating now: an omelet of genuinely impressive weight and density: filled with diced pork roast, carrots, chives, some leftover -- and sans dressing -- broccoli coleslaw mix and a little random hot pickle, topped with a slice of Swiss cheese.  A truly fridge-clearing garbage omelet and I don;t care what your option of it is.  It's ambrosia!

     And I earned it.

     Some months ago, when the boys from the Power Room pointed out to Dr. Schmid, Lupine's 2/O and my boss's boss some irregularities in the assignment, designation and projected end-of-life of the UPSs (and one in particular) serving the Engineering control-type areas (Drive Control, RF/Reaction, the large electronics-rack compartment betwixt 'em and trailing off into Jump Control, that worthy nodded sagely and allowed as how we'd have to set a time to put it right after having made proper arrangements to, and I quote, "Minimize the impact."

     The Chief decided that the "impact-minimizing" part of the three-ring foofraw should fall to -- or perhaps on -- Gale Grinnell (he's a tough old dude, don't be fooled by the gender-neutral name) and little ol' me.  My first thought was along the lines of "Ejectejecteject!" but from out here where the starlight is runnin' thin it's still an awfully long trip home even if I were to steal a bicycle, so instead I tried to look sanguine, sagacious and mildly curious while asking if we were going to be doing this in Jump?

     The Chief asked if I was taking up making faces as a hobby and allowed as how that would be a darned poor notion; the work scheduled for the run-in to approximately-neutral Smitty's World, next stop in our little show-the-flag tour and a little over six weeks away.  Not a bad choice -- lacking the usual sort of star, Smitty's is a wandering planet, a frozen ball of (it says here) carbonaceous chondrite, thorium ores (!) assorted frozen gases accreted from Ghu knows where, and a whole lot of ice-type ice: it's hard to see, despite radio beacons, honkin' overpowered transponders and assorted other tricks you'd like to know about, which means starships drop out of 'Drive early and sort of feel their way in, leaving plenty of extra time.

     Time for things like, oh, I dunno, shoving a huge lot of load from uninterruptable power supplies  U4A and U3A onto U1C and "unprotected power."  Because aw, hell, what's all that junk do besides help us avoid stuff we might run into?  Plus U1C is nearly at capacity and U2FGP,* we do not even consider adding more load to.

     So, plenty of time for prep, plenty of time for the job, right?

     Riiiiight.  Also, we're sellin' vacuum, two jars for $20, you want to buy in?  I kept getting other "#1 priority!" projects, along with the usual parade of broken small things; Tech Grinnell (an old USSF hand, one of the men adrift in time from too much FTL service during the War) was in the same fix.  Tick-tock, and suddenly there was a week left.  I made a list' checked it twice, and handed it off to Gale, who added a half-dozen things and handed it right back.  Along about then, Doc Schmid got in the act with another half-dozen items to add to the must-be-repowered list....

     From, it's a skip, a hop and a lot of cadging parts to me, sitting at a bench, frantically wiring up receptacle strips to power cords for temporary use, making 1.5X as many of each type as I think were gonna need, while the erstwhile Grinnel, G. and Conan the Objectivist scrounge extension cords.

     Comes the day -- actually, an "overnight" watch, which means Conan (t. O.) gets swept up in fun, that being his normal shift, more or less -- and there we are, having already moved everything we could square with our consciences to leave unsupervised over to plain, un-backed-up power, checklists in hand, temporary power strips and quad boxes tie-wrapped and Velcro'ed in position, finishing up the last of the must-dos when a moon-faced kid from the Power Room shoes up carrying to radios.

     "Kid," I say, and Joe is young; but he looks younger and talks like the huntin', fishin' country boy he was and still is, and never you mind about the EE (power) degree, or the reactor-engineering certification.  He's the 2200-to-0600 el Supremo down where the fusion roars and the MHD units run ripplin' to the stern, and he's here to put us in the loop, with a hearty, "Heya, tube-rats.  Bobbi."

     "That's us," I told him, like he didn't know.  "Are your guys ready?"

     He snorted,  "We've been ready.  Question is, are you?"

     "Just about.  Gale?  Ask the big boss if we're good."

     Doc Schmid himself came around the corner, looking as harried as he ever does (not much) and took a radio.  "We're ready.  Pull the switch."

     ...Of course something went "BLOOoooooop."  Half the monitors went out and I heard Sol West in Drive Control splutter, "Hey!"

     The 2/O didn't even blink, just keyed the radio, "Back on.  Back on."  He let up on the switch, fixed Gale and me with a beady eye: "Find it."

     We did, stupid Dansteel data-buffer frame in rack 70 plugged into an unlikely circuit, and the go-command was given again.

     Noting important went out that time, though a half-dozen alarms started beeping from the things with two power supplies we'd left half on the now-unpowered UPS.  I made a quick walk-through of RF/Reaction and through the rows and rows of racks, ending up at Drive Control where Sol looked resolute but gave me a thumbs-up.  The row of second-priority monitors at the top of the bulkhead his the DQ console faces were all out, items being monitored elsewhere or low-pri enough we were letting the slide.  I made my way back trough the racks -- meeting Gale, Conan (the Obj.) and the 2/O along the way, and through RF/Reax, across the passageway and into the Engineering Shop.  Nothing to do but wait!

     ...I was just about snoozing when the seldom-used PA clicked on.  "Need an engineer in DQ.  Engineer to DQ!"

     Strolled out the long way and met Conan and Gale at the hatch.  Beyond, Sol was fuming.  "I don't have no censoredly-deleted intercom!  Navs says they've been yellin' at me for five minutes and there's no way to even tell!"

     Couldn't be in his panel; that's just controls and some basic audio.  Off to Rack 15, Operations-commo, and looky!  A whole row of, oh, call them crosspoints, dark!  --But don't they have dual power supplies per row?

     No.  No they do not.  The have bright, shiny lights that I had assumed indicated dual supplies but really only let you know the two (count them, two) DC power rails are live -- and it takes both of them to tango. (I know that now.)  Ah, but sometime long ago, we'd been careful!  We'd moved the critical intercom stations to one row, and put it on -- guess, oh, just guess! -- the UPSThe the US, the one that is presently off.  Easy enough to correct and so I did.

     There were a few more brushfires and then Sol found me to announce he wasn't getting any data from the 'Drive finals, idling just enough to modulate Lupine's effective mass, and the other data he was seeing indicated a problem.

     A real problem: "Are you feelin' kinda light, Bobbi?"

     Maybe I was, at that.  I sat down at the RF/Reax data terminal and started digging and eventually figured out a serial-to-ip tunnel interface wasn't talkin', a Harlington-Straker ESD1400 (if you're taking notes).  The more I messed with it, the worse it got; and I was really feeling light.  I weant back to the Shop and grabbed a laptop, called up the manual, headed back to the terminal  and dug in; about then the new, improved UPS configuration came online but I hardly noticed.  I did notice when Doc Schmid slipped in behind m and leaned against a rack; when I looked back, he asked me how it was going.

     "Not well, sir.  Not well.  It's got data coming in -- good data -- but it's not pushing packets out."

     "So put in the spare."

     Awkward: "D- Sir, that is the spare.  The spare."  He just nodded.  I'll hear about that later, probably after The Chief has.  Oh, my burning ears!

     I finally thought to bring up the "Notes" tab.  One line popped up on the page I was at: DO NOT REBOOT WITH SERIAL INPUTS ACTIVE.  IT'S NOT SMART ENOUGH TO RESTART WITH LIVE DATA."

     Could it be that simple?  Really?

     I tried.  It was. You could feel the effective thrust pick up as the 'Drive finals resynchronized.

     ...After that, a couple of  relatively-easy hours returning power plugs to the (new) normal condition, restowing and cleaning-up, and I was free.

     And ravenously hungry.

     The nice thing about being in Engineering is that your card key gets you just about anywhere it's safe to go unescorted (and many places that aren't).  The kitchens, for instance.  The kitchens where the chefs and lower food-service ranks were using up odds and ends to feed -- and amuse -- themselves.

     Which takes me right back to the great big garbage omelet where started this tale of daring-do.  Its down now, plate licked clean, coffee cup empty.  I'm turning the dishes over to the dishwasher, hopping on a slidewalk and heading home, where I will sleep like a hibernating log -- sleep and with any luck, not dream of UPSes
* It doesn't really have ancillary letters but  someone who didn't want it to feel left out very carefully painted "FGP" right after "U2" on the hatch not all that long after deciding to make her career on Lupine.  Er, that is--




Jeffro said...

Sometimes work provides more than a paycheck! Great story!

Rob said...

Things can truly come apart in amazing ways. There was ths sea story about the old Poncho's black gang deciding to do overdue maintainance on both steering motors at the same time. Needless to say they woke up the chief pumpkicker in a hurry. I would have never believed the story except I was standing the after steering watch at the time and got to watch the yelling and screaming. BTW it took an E-2 to recognize the problem and turn a steering motor back on. I don't think he got an omlet. You tell a story like you've been there 73 R

Rob said...

Things can truly come apart in amazing ways. There was ths sea story about the old Poncho's black gang deciding to do overdue maintainance on both steering motors at the same time. Needless to say they woke up the chief pumpkicker in a hurry. I would have never believed the story except I was standing the after steering watch at the time and got to watch the yelling and screaming. BTW it took an E-2 to recognize the problem and turn a steering motor back on. I don't think he got an omlet. You tell a story like you've been there 73 R

BGMiller said...


As one of the cook and bottle washer types for the last *mumblemumble* years I can honestly say that any of the folks with grungy coveralls and assorted tools that keep us supplied with heat, light, and a proper orientation are always welcome to come scrounge a meal. Just keep an eye out for the FBD.

Further pro tip...
Ignore the menu. If you're there mid shift (a good idea, avoid shift changes)just ask to see who is feeling playful and has a little something going on the side.


*Applies in the hidden frontier and in any plant or campus stuck on a rock.

BGMiller said...

I should go order one of those Lupine hoodies. If Engineering gets red what color does the egg shell and potato peel brigade get?


Roberta X said...


BGMiller said...


Your lodger is rubbing off on you methinks.



Chuck Pergiel said...

Yee haw!

Roberta X said...

Actually, shirt/hoodie color is more a matter of taste, since they have department names across the back. (E&PP/CULINARY, for instance, 'cos "FOOD SERVICE" is too long). That said, the old-timer types tend to wear USSF baby-blue jumpsuits or T-shirts/shorts and a lot of E&PP agronomists (and related jobs) wear spring green.

Exceptions are workers in cargo holds (screamin' safety yellow required!) and anyone in a pressure suit -- you can wear your fancy odd-colored Edger-built MCP suit, but you have to wear a red/yellow striped overtunic. With goofy little corner reflectors on the shoulders and your name across the front and back in 3" letters.

Officer-type officers -- not quote a dozen, total -- have nifty Merchant Marine type uniforms. I think it's to impress the passengers. And the USSF reservists have uniforms, too, For Official Use Only, in sable/gold/off-white rather than Regular Space Force midnight blue/baby blue/white. (Dress uniform uses all three just like you'd expect, jumpsuit is the middle color; shirt/singlet always the lightest color.) There's a good reason for the distinction between regulars and reservists.

Have I put too much thought into this? Or just put in too many years aboard a starship?

BGMiller said...

And they've got some interesting options besides t-shirts...

And I do need to make it to a blogmeet...

And it would make me more recognizable than "look for the lost looking guy from Iowa."

Maybe one in Red or yellow with Damage Control or something similar as well....