“Nobody knew anything about what was buried in the ground.”

Sorting old files today, discovered this clipping from the UT student newspaper dated 2002-10-15. I noticed the buried capsule and wrote to the inscribed address to satisfy my own curiosity, then mailed the packet of stuff they sent me to the Texan mostly so I’d have something to do with it. I had never worked as a journalist at that time, so I had no idea how easy it was to feed one a story.

The Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory
11100 Johns Hopkins Road
Laurel, Maryland 20723-6099

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am a Chemistry student at the University of Texas at Austin. I am writing because my curiosity has been piqued by a bronze plaque affixed to the top of a small underground concrete installation I’ve recently noticed beside the University’s moldering old WPA-era exhibit of “A Texas Dinosaur Trackway.”

The plaque, which I have reproduced photographically herein, identifies the installation as “Transit Satellite Tracking Station 002”; the fields provided to indicate the operational lifetime of the station are conspicuously blank. The last lines implore the curious, “For information write to the director.”

I am curious. I would like information: What does this installation do, and how does it do it? What function does it serve, and for whom? If it operates under the auspices of a particular government agency, to whom might I address a FOIA request?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours truly,
Sean Michael Ragan

I kind of hope they’ll dig it up. It’s not clear to me if the plaque was intended to mark some kind of larger installation that is no longer present, or if the “tracking station” itself is still contained in the concrete somewhere below the identifying plaque. It’s also not clear to me whether the equipment the station might contain is or is not still operational. If I were to put on a hardhat, carry an official-looking clipboard, rent a jackhammer, and go dig it up, would anyone notice or complain? If so, who?

FEMA will admit of no plans for alien contact

Per a random FOIA request I filed back around the end of 2009, Office of Records Management of the Federal Emergency Management Agency claims to be “unable to locate or identify any responsive records” to my request for “budget summaries from the years 1979 to the present, inclusive, that will indicate how much money FEMA has allocated and/or spent in preparation for, or analysis of, the possibility of emergencies that might be caused by contact with extraterrestrial life, sentiment [sp] or otherwise.”

When I sent it to them, of course, I typed “sentient” instead of “sentiment.” I am not yet so paranoid as to suspect their typo is part of the conspiracy. They claim to have conducted a “comprehensive search of files within the Chief Financial Office.”

I was not expecting them to admit that they had prepared for an alien invasion, but I thought there might be an outside chance that they had dedicated some resources to analysis of the possibility. And “sentient or otherwise” was intended to include the possibility of a “space plague.” I suppose I should really ask the CDC about that one.

Mystery Edison Giocattoli “LR” ray gun from Germany

In April I was contacted via e-mail by a German woman who had seen this page on my old site and was interested in selling some EG ray guns in her possession.  This happens occasionally, and more often than not the sellers have mistaken me for a wealthy, eccentric collector, when in fact only the last two descriptors are accurate.  But this seller turned out to be fair-dealing, and best of all, she had something I had never seen before, specifically, this “rifle” style ray gun, clearly an EG, which is apparently a variation on their Thitan model Spacematic cap gun, a fine specimen of which I already own.

This, however, appears to be an “LR” variant of the Thitan, which term I adopt by analogy to the Super Thur LR.  I have never actually seen an EG ray gun with a stock before, yet alone been offered one for sale.  But this seller had two of this model, and I got the one pictured above shipped to my door for what was, to my mind, quite a reasonable price. Still trying to figure out the best way to display my growing collection.

Most exciting about this find was that I had no idea this model even existed before it was offered to me. The seller, intriguingly, claimed in one e-mail that “there are more space guns,” but her English was poor and I could never get her to elaborate.

Star Trek – Attitude Problem

Every instance of the phrase “attitude control” from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager (that I am aware of), cut together in the most amusing arrangement I could find. Please let me know if I missed any.