Week 2: The Case of the Missing IT Access

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Monday, June 10, 2013


Darren McKinnon

The tail end of the second week caught me by surprise; I was the overconfident gazelle to it’s stealthy, hungry lion. As of Monday morning, my IT access had still not come through. There are numerous security measures taken before you can get IT access at NASA, which left me in a difficult position. You see, one of the things that I needed to do in these first couple of weeks was learn IDL (Interactive Data Language) a program designed to help process and display data. Upon arriving at work Monday morning, my mentor handed me three thick books about IDL. My Task: Learn IDL. The Challenge: Do it without computer access.

Along with this, I still had my numerous works on Eta Car that I was still working through. So I plopped down at my desk and began flipping through pages. The next three days consisted of weaving my way through numerous contacts and IT services to try and gain access. When I wasn’t doing that, I was at my desk, reading about IDL or Eta Car. The majority of the group studying Eta Car was gone. Some of them were in Greece presenting some of their work [Insert jealousy here]. Finally, Thursday morning happened upon me. My mentor called in sick; I was abandoned in the Goddard IT wasteland. Reaching deep into my core, I managed to gather the courage to take on the task of finally getting my IT access. I discovered the great joy of making phone call after phone call while trying to track down the right person. Through this endeavor I realized Mario’s frustration as he battled past koopas and worse. “I’m sorry, the IT service you need isn’t here. It’s in another castle.” Finally, after things had gone on long enough that I had most of the IT numbers memorized… it happened. My computer logged on, my IDL license was connected… I could begin actually learning IDL.

Following my triumphant return from the jungle of technical assistance, I began working through many of the IDL practice demos that were strung throughout the stack of IDL reference books my mentor had lent me. Having already been familiar with writing computer code, it was a quick language to pick up. Things were finally moving along.

Home-life continued to entertain. Almost every night we have gone out adventuring. The Air and Space Museum was fantastic. Jamie and Nicole wandered through most of it with Alec and I at the helm. They were loaded with “Fun Fact” after “Fun Fact” as Alec and I offered up tidbits of knowledge. Though I’m sure that the real entertainment was watching Alec and I as we stared wide-eyed at the wonders around us. It seems odd that it has only been two weeks, but already I feel like we’ve settled into the city. I have already picked out the place with the best wings and delicious, cheap burgers. Now that I’m getting settled down both at home and at work, the real fun can begin. I fear the summer will pass too soon.

Darren McKinnon